Sunday, December 30, 2007

Hello from Cape Town

Woooo, it's time for an in-vacation blog! I'm in Cape Town at the moment, with the Boy and really enjoying it. What's been most shocking for me, even though it obviously shouldn't be, is how much diversity there is everywhere. We just had dinner on the V&A Waterfront surrounded by people of all colors and it's tremendous to see. It's so normal in my real life and so alien to my Peace Corps life (aside from our PCVs of color). Cape Town has been a real awakening to how much has changed and how much progress has been made. I know I always tell people how hard it is to constantly jump between the "third world" in the village and the "first world" in Polokwane or Pretoria, but Cape Town is absolutely incredible. I can't believe that this is the same country as my village.

We've kind of made this first part of the trip the "deal with South Africa's depressing recent history" section. Two days ago was the Soweto tour, which included visits to the Apartheid Museum (ok, but very "great men did this" retelling of the story without too much depth or focus on ordinary people) and the Hector Peterson memorial/museum (which is excellent and deals with the Soweto uprising of 1976). I wasn't so impressed by Soweto, mostly because it didn't feel alien to me at all! I guess I've acclimated more than I think. Today we went to Robben Island, where the government stashed all of the male political prisoners of color (black, Indian, coloured). It was a very interesting experience, not the least because of the queue for tickets. They're fully booked until Jan. 10, so there were a lot of crazed people trying to buy standby tickets. Luckily, I booked a couple of months ago! It was an interesting, very choreographed tour. You got herded on to a bus for a 45 minute drive around the island, then a 45 minute tour of the maximum security prison, including the reverent filing past of the cell where Mandela spent 18 years. I can't say it was a particularly emotional experience, however, and I somehow thought that it would be. On the up side, there were penguins!

I'm also simply more confused about this place. I get so frustrated with its potential and the things that are so, so bad and then feel guilty when I remember how much the people in my community have struggled. And I think about how much has changed, which is incredible, against a pessimistic niggling that nothing will ever get better.

I guess I just have a few other random thoughts:
1) The Johannesburg domestic terminal is fantastic! We checked-in at a kiosk and dropped off our bags without ever waiting in a queue and no one ever harassed us before we got on the plane! I'm usually completely stripped of my dignity and ready to kill someone at airports, so this was fantastic. On the two hour (and $100) flight to Cape Town, they even gave us sandwiches. Veggie Boy got a whole chocolate bar with his cheese sandwich, but the rest of us got one sad cookie.

2) For Christmas, I received a beanie bear wearing the uniform of the Boy's rugby team (Harley is the mascot's name, since the club is the Harlequins). I have now purchased a miniature springbok wearing a South Africa rugby jersey. Harley has been retaliating, beating up said Bokkie (and the Boy has helped, although he swears he's over England losing in the World Cup final).

3) Christmas was amazing. Another PCV and I went to the nearby Dutch Reform Church for their Dutch services, which was great, and we met some really nice people afterwards. Then, 13 of us SA-16ers all gathered at one of the backpackers (hostels) to cook more food than two times that number could have eaten! It was fantastic. Wonderful food and so many friends. I really do love my PCV family.

Possibly more to come.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Finally! Candidates on the ICC

There may be readers out there who, like me, care very much what their Presidential candidates are saying on the International Criminal Court. My friend from Chicago and I wrote to Obama a very long time ago asking about his position, but we never heard back (and were a bit peeved about it, considering that he's her US Senator). We finally decided to do the research ourself and turned up this gem from the (UNA-USA sponsored) American NGO Coalition for the International Criminal Court (AMICC). It's a fact sheet giving candidate's actual answers to ICC-related questions.

I have to say, I'm not excited about Obama's responses, which basically give some cautious optimism, before noting that the Court is still young and "it is premature to commit the US to any course of action at this time." He also expresses concerns for American service personnel. Frankly, I think that if our servicemen and women can't behave themselves (and remember, in this case, not behaving means committing war crimes, genocide or crimes against humanity), they should be just as subject to anyone else to the Court's jurisdiction. Of course, the reality is that they would almost undoubtedly be court-marshaled and tried under the Uniform Code of Military Justice in US military courts. This would eliminate the Court's jurisdiction because the US would have shown itself both willing and able to deal with these crimes. Ahem.

Where was I? Ahhh, Hilary. Her answer: Bush's unsigning has been really bad for us, the ICC has really behaved itself admirably since its establishment and "I will as President evaluate the record of the Court, and reassess how we can best engage with this institution and hold the worst abusers of human rights to account." I like this answer better. She doesn't say that she'll sign right up again, but makes it pretty clear that she'd like to be a partner for the ICC, in its investigations, and avoid being an obstructionist force on the Security Council. I don't think the Senate would ratify the Rome Statute in a million years, so I think this is as good a compromise as we're likely to see.

And, finally, Bill Richardson, just because he made me happy. I think this pretty much says it all: "The US should join the ICC as a full-fledged member. We have nothing to fear." Again, not in a million years, but wouldn't that be nice? Happy Joyce. :-)

All in all, I might use my worthless primary vote (NO ONE will care what happens by the time the Indiana primary rolls around in May) to show support for Richardson and maybe help him get the VP nod. On the other hand, I've been often torn between Obama & Clinton and this is the sort of thing that could tip the table. I'll be honest, it's a lot harder to be inspired by Obama when, unlike most US voters, all your news about the race comes in print format. Populism doesn't work as well when it isn't being delivered in speeches and definitely doesn't work when reported dryly by the Economist. On the other hand, am I a one issue voter? Sigh! I need to find out more about their opinions on the UN.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Things I think I will not get used to....

1) People being rude. Two days ago, a group of primary school kids yelled at me, in English: "Your vagina is beautiful!" While that's hysterical, it's also just tiring.

2) Screaming. The adults that I've lived with scream at their kids all the time in tones that I only associate with something being really, really wrong, even though it might just be to check on them or to ask for a cup of tea. It really bothers me.

3) Gasto-intestinal distress. Yes, I'm sick again. At least today there's no fever, it's cooler and I can do more than collapse on my bed again after every trip to the latrine.

Yesterday, I officially "quit" my job, as in I went in to the office to tell them what PC and I had decided. The Director of the Department was very kind about the whole thing. My supervisor gave me the limpest handshake I've ever recieved.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Update on the site situation

Alright, Peace Corps came to visit, we talked and they've released me from working at the municipality. I am absolutely over the moon about this. Even better (as if it could get much better), I've been given permission to go looking for my own new site. I told my APCD (program director person) about a meeting that I had set up for January with an NGO that runs provincial and a national Model UN and I'm hoping to meet with them before then, now (have permission to go to Pretoria and everything). I've sent e-mails to everyone I can think of who might have contacts in South Africa and am open to suggestions! Although I love this family and I will continue to stay in contact and visit them, my APCD also gave me permission to move and I am really, really hoping to be a city girl again sometime in the next few months. I'll keep you posted.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Christmas & the immediate future

First, um, and I feel really tacky doing this, but I thought I might make some Christmas/Solstace/Winter Festive Season suggestions for, er, presents.

Because, I'd really, really like some kind of specific things to share with my host family. Primarily, I'd like: children's picture books and magazines or books with lots and lots of photos. I feel a little bad giving them copies of the Economist, see, to "read" along with me. The kids here are 7 & 8 and none of them can read yet, but I'd like some age appropriate stuff that we can practice on or that they/we can at least look at together. And the littlest one (he's 2), love trucks. Granny & Gogo would probably love anything that's from the US, maybe decorative sorts of items (they're both in their 70s and gogo can't walk). Thanks!

Um, and because I'm a little selfish (and bored), I love entertainment: books, magazines, DVDs, that sort of thing. I do get the Economist and the Christian Science Monitor and would still LOVE trashy gossip stuff (People), as would the girls in my village.

As for the work situation, I'm on a stoppage right now (supervisor approved), until my organization authorizes payment for my transport. Peace Corps is coming out to talk on Tuesday about the entire work situation. I'm looking forward to our discussion and hope that it'll help alleviate some of the stuff that I've been dealing with since arriving at site. More on that later.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Anyone who's ever been or known a Peace Corps volunteer (and gotten an honest assessment out of them) or who has a decent sense of imagination, probably knows or has heard that life as a volunteer can involve a LOT of ups and downs. You might not hear about the downs, especially in a public forum like this, but I'm trying to write about the things that have gone well. Whether it's an event or something I've done or a relationship I've made, these are the things that make me think that I could be effective and survive for two years. These are the good days. Read what you want into the fact that blog posts have been pretty sporadic.

Anyway, today was a good day. I helped the local home based care organization recreate a really, really complicated reporting form. They worked closely with the last volunteer in my village and I was super impressed that, after I made all the tables that were needed, the staff member took back the computer to enter all of the labels and the data. It was very "thanks for your help and I can totally do the rest of this!" I sat with her to help dictate the data and with tweaking the tables (and taught her how to put shading in some of the boxes), but it was really gratifying to see someone here be so very independent. Their old volunteer really taught sustainability. Sometimes it's nice not to be needed. :-)

My second engagement of the day was to attend the ward committee meeting for the villages that surround mine. It was so exciting to be in an environment that I actually know something about. Thanks to my time with the Lib Dems, I feel like I do understand how local government can and should engage with its constituents. I feel like I have something to offer if I work with these ward committees, which is a big change from my usual job. Plus, they asked for my help! Which, for me, is huge. Anyway, the ward councillor is a cool guy and he actually reminds me of my friends (who are about the same age as him) who are councillors back in the UK.

Ok, that's about it. I'll keep you posted on how it goes with the ward committee. Now, I've just got to convince my supervisor that I'll get a lot more done if I'm deployed to them, rather than being forced to sit in the office.

Now, I've got to attend to my dinner (I've eaten more Ramen in a month and a half of Peace Corps than I did in four years of college) and figure out how to ignore mentally disturbed drunk guy from next door, who has a habit of showing up at all hours of the day and night and loves to talk "to gogo," no matter how often he's told to go away (and stay away). Ugh.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

A food question

Um, this is a little weird, but just about ever since my day of horrific food poisoning two weeks ago, I've been reluctant to eat. Thinking about food makes my stomach go queasy, as does thinking about the actual taste. And I'm not really hungry, which is in HUGE contrast to training, when I could never eat enough. I even have a bar of chocolate that I have absolutely no desire to eat, which is WRONG!

Any ideas what's going on or what I can do to fix it?

Also, because I'm interested: what do you find most interesting about me? I'm doing a poll. :-)

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Senior Citizens Parliament

Yesterday was a very good day. Last week I spent most of one day in a pre-workshop for the Limpopo Senior Citizen's Parliament and, knowing that my supervisor was scheduled to be away at a workshop, I asked if I could go along. The big day was yesterday.

I was "supposed" to get picked up at 7:30 for the 9:00 event. (My village is straight south of Lebowagkomo, where the Provincial Parliament meets and about 45 min or an hour away.) I totally knew that no one would be there for some time, but I went early because there was NO WAY I was going to miss the taxi! It eventually got me at 9:00, but some of the others had been waiting since 6:00! I just stayed out of the sun, read my book, and ROASTED in my suit jacket (the choice was between being hot and being sunburnt). We had a really nice taxi. It even had a DVD player! So, we alternated between watching a miracle preacher save some kid who hadn't walked for 15 years and the previews for a Nigerian movie (and anyone whose seen those can tell you that they're...special). We couldn't watch much of either because I don't think the driver could drive and manipulate the DVD controls at the same time. It was so amazingly bizarre.

I absolutely loved the group that went from our Municipality. I sat with one tate (lit. father) for a long time during the event. We couldn't really talk, but he was so kind and lovely. Two women from a village west of Jane Furse spoke (there were loads of observers and carefully limited speakers) and I was so, so impressed by their candor, their bravery and their insights. I mean, to get up in front of a full house in your legislature and talk about sexual abuse against old women? I thought they were amazing. And I told them so, afterwards! One of them was so excited by it all that she took me by the hand and we talked all the way to the food tent. I'm going to go and visit their pensioners club soon, hopefully.

Four topics were discussed: 1) pensions and pension pay points (many people go to a certain place on a certain day of the month to get their money in cash and sometimes have to wait for hours and hours and get harassed by vendors, funeral parlors, etc.); 2) Care and services for the elderly (Home Based Care, old age homes, etc.); 3) impact of HIV/AIDS on seniors (many of whom end up caring for dying children and the orphaned grandchildren, some become infected because their children haven't disclosed their status, they don't know about proper handling for people with HIV/AIDS, or they don't have gloves); and 4) Contributions of seniors to the quality of life (lots seemed to be about sharing culture and morals).

There were some fantastic ideas. Like: little care packages with wipes and water for the people waiting for their pensions (not to mention making toilets available) or giving away GLOVES at the government clinics, the way condoms are available. Lots of people called for more education, whether about HIV/AIDS or better ways to manage your pension income. Of course, one of the biggest rounds of applause for the day came when someone suggested more corporal punishment was the way to stop the spread of HIV. I got a lot out of it, because someone gave me a translation device! Now if only those worked in the village....

It was also an interesting cultural day. Everyone was wearing their best clothes and it was so much fun to look at the different ones: Venda, Southern Sotho, Pedi, Swati and so on. Awesome! And they even had a special table of food for people on a no salt diet...which was so me! Of course, I'd only just recovered from a very, very bad "running stomach" (yes, that means what you think it does) so I was taking it easy.

I think the part that I liked best of all came at the beginning. Someone (who I think was important, but I'm not sure who he was) spoke for a long time to open the event. And he made a point that I thought was important, but probably blindingly obvious to everyone there. He talked a lot about how these older people were the ones who have the most to tell us kids about life under apartheid, how they were the ones who lived through it the longest and fought against it. I think that my favorite people here are the old ones and I can't wait to get to know them better. (Bonus: if they worked in Joberg (which many did), they tend to speak great English!)

Oh, yeah, and I'm pretty psyched that I got to visit the Provincial Parliament (that's like the State Legislature). It was a lot like a college campus, really, with lots of government agencies in different buildings. And pretty much no ornamentation (but then, the Indiana General Assembly doesn't have to spend much on translating equipment). It was such a great day and one of the best I've had in South Africa.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Alright, have made three batches of chocolate muffins and taken in a baby chick. My radio's not getting a signal, so I don't have to listen to boasting Springboks. So, on to the match!!!


Friday, October 19, 2007

Hello blog world

I know, I know, it’s been awhile (as usual) since I updated you on my Peace Corps (hereafter PC) adventure. I suppose that’s mostly because of the old adage: “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” And you are all probably internet savvy enough to know that maintaining a blog involves a good deal of self-censorship. There are things that could be written here that could easily be misinterpreted or just involve airing things far more publicly than they should be. But for anyone who thinks that PC volunteers have it easy: guess again. This ‘work’ is filled with frustration and a lot of wondering as to whether you made the right choices along the way. It makes you wonder if your being here makes any difference and if external events will ever allow you to be effective.

But, I’m going to try to keep the rest of this light.

I’ve been gradually increasing my cooking repertoire, which has been a lot of fun. My work’s got internet and I have COPIOUS amounts of time to surf it, so I’ve been able to do a fair amount of recipe hunting. So far, I’ve managed a lovely aloo gobi (even tasted the way I meant it to, amazingly enough!) and two kinds of muffins (banana and chocolate/oatmeal/raisin). Two nights ago I used the soya mince that they sell in the stores to make a nice sauce by grating in four tomatoes. It strikes me as odd that this vegetarian meat product should be so readily available in SA, but I think it’s supposed to be used when you can’t afford to buy any meat. I’m not a vegetarian, never fear, but I don’t really enjoy or practice the cooking of meat. Call me lazy. Also lacking a refrigerator. Oh, and I bought 2% milk yesterday (I’ve only ever seen whole milk before) and it was such a treat!

I was having a chat with my host siblings last weekend, as we sat and I read my new Sepedi book (for 1st graders). (On a side note: the kids are all in either grade 1 or 2 and none of them could read it. They either pretended or simply repeated what I read out loud to them.) Jumpo (the girl) was peering around me (I was sitting on the stoop) and asked where my baby was. She was utterly shocked when I told her that I didn’t have one. I suspect it was because of a combination of my age and gender. I’m not knocking anyone who chooses to have children at an early age (and that’s certainly the norm here), but I was really sad that she simply expected all young women to have a baby and couldn’t seem to fathom someone NOT having a child. Young unmarried women with children are a very high risk group for AIDS, if only by virtue of the fact that they’re obviously practicing unsafe sex. I don’t want my little sister to assume that there aren’t alternatives.

And we had a TORRENTIAL downpour earlier in the week. I’ve got some photos that I can upload at some point, but it was insane! The usually dry river beds were absolutely full and moving SO fast. Anything that could be a channel for the water was and there was blueberry sized hail. My taxi had to turn around in Mamone and take the tar road to Marishane because the road had been washed out. I now completely understand the idea of flash floods. And one think that I enjoy is that there are always rainbows afterwards, because the sun is out as soon as the clouds clear away. Many nights I can see the lighting in the distance, enveloped in clouds, and that’s also beautiful.

And finally, we’re having an at-site party at another volunteer’s house tomorrow night for the rugby match. I don’t know how many of the others are coming, but I’m looking forward to hanging out and not watching it by myself! The Boy has been nervous from yesterday and I’m worried about the state of his stomach. Oh, and Mandela recorded a very nice message to the Springboks that they replayed on the radio. But, I'm still not cheering for them.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

A comment on Genocide

This blog will take a rare break from talking about me to make a comment on the kerfuffle surrounding Congress’ proposed condemnation of the Armenian Genocide. This isn’t a new story, by any means, and now it is looking increasingly unlikely that the full House will actually vote on the matter. BUT, I have LOVED watching Turkey get in a snit and the diplomatic delicacy that the executive branch has been using to try and avert a disaster that could have serious consequences for the supplying of the war in Iraq.

I’m not particularly bothered if the House doesn’t vote (although, Congresswoman Carson: vote for it). I know that it would mean a great deal to the few remaining, now extremely elderly, survivors. Judgement has already been rendered and I can’t believe that anyone would think that an up or down vote on a non-binding resolution would suddenly make those events real (or, conversely, that its failure would mean that the Genocide never happened). I think that the discussion the resolution has sparked is a victory for those people around the world who believe that genocide should never be swept under the carpet.

And, most importantly, I think it illustrates what we sometimes forget in the human rights community, when our discipline is under constant attack. No matter how bad they are at respecting, protecting and fulfilling human rights, no one wants to be called out on it (even if the incidents in question happened almost 100 years ago)! We see it in the Human Rights Council now, with the difficulty it took to set up a process for the Universal Periodic Review, and with the other review mechanisms set up by the principle human rights treaties. And, haven’t we all observed states getting upset by unfavourable reviews from the big NGOs, i.e. the US’ perpetual reaction to the assessments by Amnesty and Human Rights Watch? This language is powerful, even if the US and others usually want to pretend that it is not.

I am so proud of the House for taking up this issue and for fighting for it. I am proud of the media for devoting so much attention to this story. It’s one of those very, very, very rare moments when I can actually believe that my home country is a force for good in the world. At the same time, I understand the realities of international relations and understand why the Bush Administration would oppose the resolution (even if I don’t approve of their actions…what else is new?).

Whatever happens, the point has been made. The Ottoman Empire did commit genocide against the Armenians. Turkey has been reprehensible in not only failing to acknowledge or apologise for the events, but in continuing to be hostile towards survivors who want their story to be told (one representative called it ‘genocide denial’). And thanks to the actions taken by members of the House of Representatives, the Armenians have finally won.

Monday, October 08, 2007

A PC question

Here's an argument that my girl in Niger and I were having yesterday:
Which is better (Peace Corps amenities-wise): internet at home or running water? We've each got one and both envy the other.

I finally got to meet many of the councilors today when they came in to get some information after their meeting. I have to say, they seemed really impressive and I can't wait to be formally introduced!

Sunday, October 07, 2007

New photos!

Well, I was wrong. France won. And apparently it was an even better match than the England-Australia one! If anyone sees fit to put it on a CD for me, I'd probably not mind seeing it.... South Africa did win today (*groan*), but I thought Fiji put in an amazing effort and even looked capable of taking the match for awhile.

I mostly just wanted to let you know that I've uploaded a few more photos on Flickr. Unfortunately, yesterday's photo session means that my little host brothers won't stop asking "Cata?", which is apparently the verb for "take photo." My Sepedi is fuzzy, but I DO know the word for "no" and it isn't working! (Aowa, for the record.) And for some reason, one of them keeps asking for my glasses and asking how much they cost. I think he thinks that they're a fashion accessory, despite both my and his grandmother's explanations. Frankly, they're kind of annoying. Boys! Ack.

So, here's the family, minus Mma:
Gogo & the kids

Saturday, October 06, 2007


England wins! England wins! England wins!

AAAAAAAHHHH, that match was NOT good for my blood pressure, but it was fantastic! I got nervous every time Australia had the ball, but England's defense held up and were able to put the Aussies on the back foot. If Jonny Wilkinson had gotten all of his penalties, I might even have promised to stop making fun of his pre-kick constipation pose. But, as he only managed 4 of the 7, I reserve the right to do so. Still, this match involved an awful lot of me waving my hands at the television. I can't believe they did it.

For those of you wondering what on earth I'm talking was the England-Australia semi-final of the Rugby World Cup. Basically, Australia=awesome, England...well, they lost 36-0 against South Africa. Does that explain? Everyone thought this was a 'one horse race' (and one commentator even said so) and were predicting at least a 10-15 point margin for the Aussies. But, ENGLAND held them and WON!!! On to the All Blacks (New Zealand, for the uninitiated), she said with a sigh (unless France pulls an upset tonight). I thought I was going to cry with relief.

Otherwise, the week's been frustrating. I'm not going to air everything in such a public forum (especially now that we've had to submit our URLs to the Country Director), but I'm trying to cope with some work-culture shock at the moment. Government efficiency in the US/UK and in South Africa are two VERY different things, let's say. I've been really frustrated and wondering what on earth I'm doing here. Don't worry, this is normal for Peace Corps volunteers, and I just have to keep telling myself that things will get better. After all, it's only the end of week 2.

I've used a little of my spare time to get in touch with UNA-SA (sorry, that the United Nations Association here in South Africa) and Education Africa, who run provincial and a national MUN. I can't imagine not having MUN in my life and would love to spend some time on a secondary project. If anything, I have to cut the people I work with some slack, because they didn't grow up practicing government the way we did. Even student council, I now realise, was practice for when we grew up and I think that it would be really great to help students here practice the same thing. Of course, because it's me, I want to do MUN.

I was going to insert some anecdote from the week here, but I can't remember any. Anyway, I just wanted to tell you that my area may be a bit on the god-forsaken side, but it's actually amazingly beautiful. I love the rocks and the color that the purple trees give it. And my gogo (grandmother) continues to bring up God and his creator-ness in every conversation we've had after I told her that I didn't go to church and believed in evolution. She's amazingly lovable and lively, so I don't mind. And the littlest one and I tell each other "Shop!" a lot and touch thumbs. He makes me smile and laugh so much.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

First week at site

Well, I'm settling in at site now for real. I have my own little room outside the house and am gradually buying things to build up my own little kitchen on a wee table. So far, I have a kettle, which means I can only eat instant noodles and instant oatmeal. And tea. But very soon, I'll get a hot plate and be in business! It's all rather cute, if I must say.

My family is FANTASTIC. I never really interacted with my training host family, but I love hanging out with this one. The house is owned by an old woman, but her sister (who can only walk with a walker), 6-year-old grandson and 2-year-old great-grandson also stay here. It's hard to describe, but they're fantastic. The sister, especially, is so full of life and stories from her life in Jo'berg. She sits on a little porch all day and sells little packets of snacks and frozen koolaid to school kids. She always busy and never quiet and I love hanging out, except when she starts talking about God (which happens a lot, because I think she's trying to convince me of something). The 6-year-old, Neo, is super curious and always trying to spy on me or sneak into my room if the door's open. He was good about being more polite when I asked him, though. There's been a ton of extended family visiting, too. Mostly, young women, who I've spent hours talking with and who I can't wait to spend more time with!

Work is a little confusing. I don't really know what's going on or what I'm supposed to be doing. Partially, that's because no one else does either. These first three months are about finding a niche. Personally, I'm hoping that they'll find me a desk before the three months are over. There's been some scandals and now the municipal manager is suspended and there's no one to make decisions. Oh, and salaries weren't paid last month, so there might be a strike. Who knows? Meanwhile, I sit in my boss' office studying a book on Access. Because if I have to read another bit of law that is as badly edited as the Municipal Structures Act, it might be problematic. I really wanted to mark it up. Such bad alignment! And the punctuation! And the inconsistant use of bold & italics! I know some people in the State of Indiana who would have fainted at the sight.

Finally, I feel it is my duty to warn you against cat ownership. Wizards can use them to kill you. Or make you blind. Glad I asked my pet-loving gogo whether she liked cats before I asked if I could have one in my room.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Bring me the finest muffins & bagels in the land!

Victory is mine! I have triumphed over the gods of language testing and scored an intermediate high on ye olde Sepedi (Northern Sotho). I can only assume that the Harry Potter reference tipped me over the edge (as opposed to the scenario which I completely bombed). Either that, or, as I suspect may well be the case, the evaluator was generous.

Regardless, my host family LOVED the photos that I gave them as a thank you present and I am almost entirely packed (the rest doesn't have to be ready until Wednesday morning). It's all very strange.

Oh, and I made tuna noodle "casserole" for my family. My sister was not impressed (but, then, she so rarely is with my cooking).

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Woo! I have internets!

Yes, this isn't the most exciting day of my life, but it ranks pretty high up there! (Hmmm...I should think about what the most exciting day was.) But, I've managed to make my computer (lovely, lovely mactop) talk to my mobile phone (which I guess it already did, because that's how I got cool ringtones) so that I can have internet anywhere I want! So, now I can blog from the comfort of my very own rural village! If only my phone could also provide showers....

There's also so much to say that I don't have a very clear idea of where to start. I've had some incredible high points, some incredible lows and a lot of more moderate oscillations. My host family sometimes drives me nuts, but as we get closer to leaving, I find myself really kind of upset about not seeing them every day. I am so looking forward to training being finished, but I don't really know what I'll do with my days once I'm at site and relatively alone. And, I had a terrible placement originally that made me burst into tears every time I thought about it, but ended up with one that sounds like an incredible challenge that I'm super-eager to take on!

My permanent site will be in an area called Jane Furse, located here. My job will be to work with the local municipality in their department of community services, which doesn't really exist right now. They've just hired someone new (who's worked with PCVs before and is fantastic) and want me to help her. I'm very excited because it fits in with some of my interests (human rights, government reform, politics) and sounds like such a huge challenge. But, I can't wait to get to work!

We swear in on Thursday and then I'll be a real PCV. Hurrahs! And, I'm sure I could give you some funny stories if you wanted. I'll have to think of some.

Until then, think of me in my language test trying to figure out how to describe the plot of Harry Potter in a language I barely speak (Sepedi, for the record, and I'll know the results soon). Um. "Harry nna...wizard le o ya sekolo...Hogwarts." Oh, yes. That really happened. Or you can think of me greeting the cows that roam pretty freely here: "Dumela, kgomo!" They don't answer back. Sad.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Joyce leaves for the Peace Corps

Well, it's nearly time. Here's a copy of the letter than I sent to my friends & family, because I don't feel like doing another version:

Hello from Indiana (although not for long)!

The bags are (almost) packed and I've eaten more ice cream in the last two weeks than you can imagine. There was a Harry Potter marathon with my best friend and her family (including a sneak preview screening of the latest movie); an insane trip to Cleveland for a concert, sojourns to see family & friends in Arizona, Chicago, Philadelphia, and Washington DC; a stamp show; and a whole lot of shopping! After five weeks, I even finally managed to adjust enough to be nice strangers who wanted to strike up a conversation (a weird American tendency).

But, now it's time to go. I've had a lot of conflicting feelings over this assignment, but have kind of come to terms with it. I do think I've been given an exciting chance to do interesting work in a fascinating country. For the record, that's NGO Capacity Building (working with little non-profit organisations (as we say in the US) to help them be more effective) in the Republic of South Africa. I don't know who I'll be working with or where in the country and won't for at least another month.

South Africa Group 16 (as we're called) will leave the US on July 19 and arrive in Johannesburg on July 21, at which point we will be engaged in subversive tactics to try and get ahold of the new Harry Potter book. We will spend a week in Rustenburg and then move to home stays in the Zeerust area for the next 7 weeks. Both places are in the North West, part of the former Orange Free State. You can find a halfway decent map of South Africa here: (click on the NW province for more detail).

Until we swear in (tenatively scheduled for 20 September), I won't have any access to e-mail or a cell/mobile phone, so please don't be offended by the long periods of silence. I can, however, receive mail at the following address until then:

Joyce Adams, PCT
Peace Corps
PO Box 9536
Pretoria 0001
South Africa

I would love to hear from any (or all) of you, since letters will be my one connection with the friends & family that I've accumulated from all over the world and I'm counting on there being some pretty lonely, homesick moments. And, my birthday's (still) on August 13, so I'll celebrate it during training!

I know it was helpful when another friend left for the Peace Corps that she sent a list of package suggestions. Please don't interpret this as a plea for packages at all! But, here goes: photos, letters, books (quality fiction, human rights-related, classics, young adult, anything set in London, international law), DVDs, cross-stitch kits (later, I'm pretty stocked right now), and magazines (celebrity/gossip, the Economist, New World, New Yorker).

Alas, I've got to go and finish the packing. It's nearly there, but I might just have to give in to all my critics and take out the can of pumpkin-pie filling that I packed for Thanksgiving.

Love to you all,
Joyce :-)

Sunday, July 08, 2007

News from the stamp world

Well, my exhibit (which I haven't seen in two years) had its first outing as an actual 'adult' exhibit (you're still considered a youth until your 22nd birthday) and recieved a gold (the highest medal level) in what was a massive surprise to me. Egads. And here I was thinking that I would have something to aim for again.

I did get back from the trip to Chicago, Philly, DC & Baltimore last Tuesday and have been pretty non-stop busy since then. It was great to see friends and family and the BABY PANDA at the National Zoo in DC! I'm sure I'll find time to put up some photos...eventually!

Thursday, June 28, 2007

The farewell tour continues...

Well, I'm almost finished with the Philadelphia/grandma portion of this trip and looking forward to heading down to DC for friends and a wedding. I was going to type a whole thing, but the internet is being funky at Panera (thank god for them and kudos for the free wifi, which has turned out to be a much bigger incentive for me to visit their stores than the food (not that it isn't good, too)). Some quick observations:

1) When Americans offer you tea, it is iced and really, super sweet. This is both odd and a little icky. Twice now, I have made this mistake.

2) People here look funny in shorts. I hadn't realised that I'd stopped wearing them, like most people in Britain. Also, they're super short and look a little hooker-ish. What up, style-less country?

3) Root beer is the best thing about the United States. Chicago isn't bad, either.

4) Anyone remember when I moved to the UK and thought that the NHS perfunctory doctor style was tacky? Now it's weird that they want to have a conversation about unrelated matters.

5) Top Gear should be added to the list (which also includes Duchess & Bill Bryson) of things that have been able to make me a little less funked.

6) I'm actually sick of talking about Peace Corps. And, duck it, I still would rather go to EE/CA and am secretly (well, maybe not so secretly now) not especially excited about leaving. I am hoping this changes and can stop envying the people who are going to Macedonia soon to do the same things that I am supposed to do in SA.

7) I'm still in grief mode and it sucks. I'm really tired of faking cheeriness, because no one would understand. I just want to go back to England and get a hug from the boy.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

I know, I know, again with the hiding. I've been away and doing my best to heal my broken heart/jet lag with anti-social behavior. On the other hand, you really know who is your best friend when you're in such a crappy mood that she's pretty much the only person you want to hang out with and she constantly reminds you, in ways she probably doesn't even notice, why you're still best friends after all these years. Thanks, Duchiepoo. We've been doing lots of laughing together (Avast, ye cookie!) and attempting to put right the years-long losing record of her family card game.

I spent last week with my wonderful, adorable, perfect nephew Jerry-bear, my sister and her husband out in the middle of the Navajo Reservation in Arizona. Seriously, it shouldn't be possible to live four hours from an airport, but it was great. I kind of loved being where no one could find me and nothing's more fulfilling than the knowledge that you can take care of a child (and give his mom a break). Jerry had his first fever and was a total crankpot, but recovered nicely and has turned (quite literally before my eyes) into a little crawling explorer who couldn't see enough of the world. I love watching him grow up and change and am super, super sad that he won't be a baby and won't remember me when I get back. We also spent some time tooling around Canyon de Chelle, the country's second largest canyon system. Stunning! I loved the morning that we got up really early to hike the one public trail down to the 1000 year old Pueblo ruins before it got hot and while the light was interesting.

And after that, it's been a series of serious shopping (so bored!), appointments and a short trip to Richmond to see one of my awesome Earlham professors and my guardian angel. Really, drive to Richmond is so short now! I can totally zone it out, especially now that the speed limit on I-70 is set to 70. Oh! And Duchie helped me with dress shopping! Tomorrow I'm off to Chicago after another PACKED day and then on to Philly, a friend's wedding, a side trip down to Baltimore and back to Indianapolis for the final countdown. Egads!

I haven't been using my computer, so I don't have the photos from Arizona to upload, but will try to do that when there's wireless this weekend.

Monday, June 11, 2007

It was suggested to me that I should at least update this blog to tell the world that I'm in Indiana. And no, I don't want to talk about it.

I miss London and my friends there so much, even after only a few days. Heck, I didn't have to make it out of the departures lounge for that (and OMG, there were American service personnel in desert fatigues EVERYWHERE in Shannon airport). I am so glad that there are people to pick me up and try to hold the pieces that are left together. I always knew this process would closely mimic the grieving process and that's proving to be rather accurate.

Two things that I've been thinking about lately, though:

1) A cab driver asked me what I thought I'd miss the most about London. And I think that I came a little closer to figuring it out (apart from the obvious close friends). What I love about that city is that I feel like I really can be a citizen of the world there: people come from everywhere and bring their cultures with them. It all sort of dumps in to this amazing melting pot that doesn't exclude people from outside their communities and Londoners LOVE experiencing other food, music, art, dance, culture. That stuff is always on offer and I adore how London is a really safe space to be, celebrate and share who you are.

2) We drove to Cleveland to see a Prodigals concert as part of a big family festival. Before them was a group called 'African Soul,' which was sort of educational music & dance troupe that's main goal was to teach kids and audiences about real (West) African culture (and Maya Angelou, which is always appropriate and should be done more often). Duchie asked me later if I'd felt any white guilt afterwards (slavery came up and celebrating a culture that hasn't always been allowed to thrive in this country) and I didn't. I still don't. What's happened to my liberal middle-class white guilt?!?

Monday, June 04, 2007

w00t for Race for Life!

Well, Race for Life was fun again this year, although I did notice the bits of silliness a bit more the second time around. And it was nice to run with a friend, too.

Anyway, the big news is that I finished in 35:38, which is basically three minutes faster than last year. Looks like I managed that goal! And my awesome, wonderful friends donated more money than last year, too, my other goal! If you'd still like to donate to Cancer Research UK, then my page is here!

Otherwise, packing up my life continues and I'm tidying up the loose ends. It stinks. But, the England Saxons (basically, the second-string England team) won a really great match against New Zealand Maori at Twickenham (home of England rugby) on Saturday! It was so much fun! Oh, and the US (which, incidentally has a national rugby team) got HAMMERED by Canada. They were really rather rubbish.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

I'm back in London 'for good' after all that galavanting around Cyprus and the Balkans. What a great set of trips, which I'm sure I'll recap at some point soon.

Still, I just wanted to drop a note that the internet in the flat has died and I'm having to rely on coffee shops for the time being. Perhaps it's good practice for South Africa which I'm clearly going to need. I was going NUTS yesterday. On the other hand, I spent a lot more time being productive and reading. There's just so much to do! My flatmate has already gone back to Spain, which means I'm going to have to finish taking care of the little things she left behind and do all the cleaning. Arrrgh. I hate being the person who has to do the final details again, although at least this time it's for a very, very good reason and I'm glad she's back in Spain with her family.

I'm also excited about seeing a lot of my friends for what will probably be the last time in a long time. (The seeing them part, not the last time part.) I just can't believe I'm leaving. I certainly don't want to.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

As always, I've been a little quiet...

This time it's because of travel. I was at home for a little more than 12 hours between flying home from Cyprus and leaving for Kosovo. I'm still in Kosovo and am gradually getting sleepy after a long day of travelling back from Macedonia. And The Boy (who was gleeful at finally getting some stamps because we're outside the EU) called me a passport whore. The nerve! Did I mention our 'visit' to Albania that didn't actually involve us taking the long way around the immigration plaza?

It's been fantastic and I am certainly not ready to face up to the reality of going back to London tomorrow and having to pack up and tidy up my life in preparation for returning to the US.

Also, Kosovo has lovely mountains. And Skopje's a bit of dump, but has an AMAZING vegetarian restaurant. And the Boy and I have a great deal to write to Brandt guides about. Which are nice, because no one else does guides to this part of the world (well, except the Serbian tourism agency and they're...biased), but lacking a bit for the independent traveller. Le sigh. Stream of conciousness. I'm going to grab the Boy so we can work on that now.

Friday, May 11, 2007


I'm fascinated by the different ways in which people have attempted to define and name my generation. It's a little weird because, as a 1983 baby, I'm generally thought to be right at the start of the Millenials/Generation Y (shudder, hate that name) and don't think I have a whole lot in common with the kids who were born as I was entering (or perhaps finishing high school).

I must note that I speak particularly about my friends: the upper-middle & middle class kids (predominately white, I'll admit) who I went to (public) school with in suburban Indianapolis and liberal Earlham College.

I obviously can't speak for everyone, but I think that my friends and I were particularly shaped by the optimism of the post-Cold War years, those years when universal peace and prosperity seemed possible. We're internationalists, in part because of the spirit of cooperation that dominated, and have (I think) had a very difficult time dealing with the state of the world today because we'd gotten used to being optimistic about the world and everyone in it. I think it's atrocious that the actions of the Bush administration shattered the worldview of so many young Americans by proclaiming that there were EVIL people and places and that we shouldn't be their friend; rather, we should go to war against them! We grew up believing that evil was something like what happened in Kosovo or Rwanda or Somalia and that we should stage humanitarian interventions to protect human rights (even if we didn't realise that that's what we were aiming for at the time). Regime change was a factor of our parent's foreign policy and not ours.

We're also liberal. We grew up being afraid...very afraid...of AIDS, but I think were also pretty well informed about its causes and ways to avoid it. Our health teachers knocked the myths about transmission out of our heads and I think we were the first generation to be exposed to openly gay/lesbian/bisexual, etc. people so young. I think that Rent was a watershed, at least among my friends and I (we were theatre dorks). Being gay was normal, the people were cool and had awesome songs and it was really no big deal when our friends came out of the closet, too. After all, we'd known them all our lives, so a realisation about sexual orientation didn't make them different people in any way. If anything, it made the boys more fun, in that way that women feel a special kinship with men who don't hold any designs on them as more than friends.

And, I think that the events of 9/11 represent a sort of capstone for the kids who remember the optimism and saw it crash to a close. That was a scary day that's been followed by feelings of betrayal (more aimed at our government and less at the rest of the world, where we recognise that we've done a lot of things that should be resented and where inequality and poverty is pervaisive and unacceptable). We're sort of bitter and it sucks to be both nostalgic and pessimistic at the age of 23. Still, I know that there are people and organisations that are doing good work and I'm determined to be one of them.

Plus, now I get to be a Kennedy kid and join the Peace Corps. His optimism in the face of the Cold War resonates pretty loudly, at least with me, and I think among the millions of others who are drawn to the things that Barak Obama 'preaches.' Maybe tomorrow will be better.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

New title soon!

Le Blog will have a new title soon: JOYCE GOES TO SOUTH AFRICA!!!

Yes, it's official (as soon as I ring up the Africa Placement Office); I've been invited to be an NGO Capacity Builder in South Africa with the Peace Corps. It's absolutely perfect! There are a whole bunch of dorky reasons why that I can elaborate on at some point (economic & social rights in the Consititution and Athol Fugard being just two of them), but I'm just excited.

I didn't actually realise how big a deal this was to me until I made my very first "Guess where I'm going" phone call to my beloved Juliet, on the home front in Niger, upon which I burst into tears. I suspect she understands. I just can't believe that all of this is ready to happen. I applied to the Peace Corps in September, so we're right at about eight months and I feel like I've been both working for this and waiting for it for so much longer. Of course, I've been thinking about Peace Corps for a lot longer than that and it's helped so much to talk to PCVs and RPCVs. Still! EEEEEEEEEEEEE! South Africa!!! They have rugby! (Boy's designated job is to help me figure out which team to support.) Wow.

After my trip to Norwich tomorrow (gotta squeeze in that pilgrimage to Earlham Hall) and a play tomorrow night, it's down to the hard core packing. Bring it!

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Can I gloat a bit?

Well, it was an eventful week spend on the seacoast...delivering Lib Dem propaganda. Lovely place Eastbourne, even the council estates (the ROUGHEST in Eastbourne, which, er, looked a bit like the nicer bits of Brent). We stayed in an absolutely amazing mansion with one of the now newly-elected candidates and I managed to bugger up my knee a bit with all the hills and stairs. It's feeling better now, but after delivering the good morning leaflets on election day itself, I was quite happy to sit in a chair all day and bother people by telephone. Still, it wasn't bad. Compared to Brent I could a) pronounce all the names and b) knew whether those names belonged to a male or a female! It was lovely! Later that night, there were a few council employees at the count who'd gotten calls from me. Hee! I guess it's not often that you get a call from a strangely American-sounding Lib Dem telling you 'for god's sake go and vote!'

It wasn't the best of nights around the country. My lovely friends from Lincoln both lost their seats, which made me very sad, and Newbury made even more losses. Still, we had a GREAT night in Eastbourne. On Wednesday, the numbers looked really bad, but on the night we managed to take 8 of the 9 target seats (at lost the 9th by only a handful of votes). The council went from 15 Tories & 11 Lib Dems (plus 1 Independent) to 20 Lib Dems & 7 Tories. w00t!! I have to say that one of the highlights of the evening was watching Brent East's very own Sarah Teather announcing the 'good news' from Eastbourne on the BBC.

Also awesome was that we got the triumphant Ming visit (because we were the best victory closest to London). I have to say the visuals looked quite good, if partially because four of us had an emergency run to find helium and we squatted around the end of Eastbourne Pier blowing up balloons!

Spot the Joyce:

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Race for Life

and w00t again!
As far as Peace Corps as concerned, I now know enough about my placement to know that I'll be in England long enough to take part in my second Race for Life, the 5K women-only races sponsored by Cancer Research UK. I did this last year in honour of my godsister Tricia (ok, TEB) and in memory of my Mommy. This year, it will be in both of their memories. I would love to raise more money than last year and to beat my time!

I would really, really appreciate any donations! If you'd like to contribute something to this awesome organisation, please visit my fundraising page at:!

Thank you so much!

What a lovely day!

Had a spot of shopping this morning with my dear boy, bought the rucksack I'd been planning to buy for quite some time, had a nice lunch along the Thames in Richmond (don't get too excited, we bought sandwiches at Tesco) and was reminded at how much of London I would a) love to see and b) haven't seen. Have decreed that the weekend after the elections is 'explore posh bits of southwest London day.'

Then, it was off to the Quins match where they TROUNCED Sale 49-0 in the last match of the season (and a grudge match for the Quins against the side that sent them into relegation two years ago). Boy has decreed that I officially became a fan when I sorted my own ticket and was absolutely happy to sit by myself to watch, instead of with him. On the other hand, I was quite happy to take the unoccupied seat next to him for the second half, as it was in the shade. And, he bought me my very own Quins shirt as an anniversary present! For no good reason I am wearing it now. :-)

Doctor Who was excellent tonight, if OTT on the cheesiness at times. Still, this episode was the first time that I've gotten chills from the Doctor since it was Ecclestone doing the acting. I was really impressed with Tennant, because he hasn't always been overly successful in convincing me that he had a dark side. Martha did a good job too and I LOVE Dalek 'acting', which consists of slight movements of the eyestalk and mini-rotations of the 'head'. When two of them had a 'chat,' I was dying with laughter (well, ok, I giggled). Errr, and then I defrosted the frozen-over seal of the freezer with a hair dryer. I am such a cool kid.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Mmmm, sushi.

I find myself on a sushi kick. Literally, I can't eat enough of it. And happily, there's a take-away sushi place nearby that's provided my lunch quite a few times over the past few weeks.

Partially, I think it's the weather. It's warming up and soup no longer sounds like the brillant idea that it did when it was cold. Also, I'm so OVER sandwiches. And maybe with all this working out, my body's been demanding protein (especially in salmon form, I find)?

Or, perhaps, I'm gearing up for moving to a land where sushi won't be available, much to my woe. Woooooeeeeeeeeee! :-)

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

I'm super excited!

Our tickets to Kosovo just arrived in the mail (for some reason we needed paper tickets) and I can't wait to go! I feel like I've been waiting for this trip for absolutely ages and I'm really looking forward to seeing Baaaaaaaahar again! Kosovo! Kosovo! Kosovo! Wheeeeeeeeee!

Still nothing from the Peace Corps. I've now been medically cleared for more than a month. They do have to give me at least six weeks warning.

And, I've had a smug couple of days. Yesterday, I sorted out my own ticket to the sold-out final home match of the season Quins game and I was vindicated by showing the world (well, the Boy and his friends) that I did, in fact, know what I was talking about when I was absolutely sure that an outlined country was Uganda and not Libya (as the quizmaster mistakenly identified it) at the pub quiz Sunday night. Go me, indeed. :-)

Monday, April 23, 2007

My marathon injury

One of the Boy's friends was telling me about her dad's marathon
injury, sustained while jogging ten feet across the living room to
watch the London Marathon on tv, and now commented upon annually on
its anniversary.

I too, think I may have sustained a marathon injury: a bruised or,
perhaps, strained muscle in my right forearm from clapping almost
continuously and vigorously for three and a half hours straight. Oops.

Still, the marathon IS my favourite annual London event. The weather
was much nicer (for the spectators) this year, but the costumes
weren't as good. Still, the atmosphere rocks and I especially love
yelling for the stragglers at the end (which is clearly where I would
be). Wooo! I'll miss you next year, Marathon!

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Dame Margaret Anstee

Last weekend, the NGO that I'm working for hosted their annual conference. I've been to enough stamp shows in my life to have a fairly good picture of the members before they arrived and wasn't disappointed. As usual, quite a few were a bit bonkers, they were almost uniformly old and a lot of the others turned out to be rather cool.

Anyway, the coolest thing was that I was put in charge of meeting and helping our keynote speaker, Dame Margaret Anstee, the first woman to be an Under-Secretary General at the UN. She was a representative of what is now UNDP throughout South America and in Morocco and Ethiopia and worked on the first (and perhaps most important) of the UN reform proposals in the late 1960s. She was also the first woman to lead a peacekeeping operation, in Angola. And, yes, I was in 'charge' of making sure she made it to events and helped her with her luggage. On an interesting note, all of her outfits, accessories and make-up were somehow UN blue. That's stylin'.

She spoke on being a woman at the UN, a lot of which are also in her book Never Learn to Type, but I got to ask her about being a woman doing development work in Africa. Her advice was to always take risks in your career, work with women, be yourself, and be discrete. I think that's all very sensible. Oooh, and I spent breakfast listening to her chat with old UN-types (quite a number of members seem to have worked for the organisation at one time or another) and gossiping. Did you know that lots of people didn't like Boutros Boutros-Gali? I certainly didn't. I have to admit that a lot of it was over my head, though. It was all really, really cool.

Yesterday was a great day, but I'll write about it later. It's time for me to get out of the house and walk up to Tower Bridge for the marathon! Woooo!

Thursday, April 19, 2007

An expat among the Peace Corps?

It dawns upon me, as I spend copious amounts of time reading Peace Corp welcome packs while I wait for my invitation, that I'm going to feel a certain amount of distance from my fellow volunteers. While most (if not all) of them are adjusting to living outside the United States, in particular, I'm going to be adjusting to living outside the United Kingdom (having more or less made my peace with being an American expat in the UK).

Will I have to dredge up two-year-old memories of the US? And who will I talk to when I miss thing about the UK, especially if no one else has ever lived there? Will it be isolating? Will it be an advantage?

I'm reminded of the State Department publication I read on third culture kids, the children of people living abroad who have developed a hybrid identity based on their country of origin and the countries in which they have lived. It was called 'According to my Passport, I'm Going Home.' I'm not one of these third culture kids (mostly, because I acknowledge that at 23 I'm no longer a kid), but I completely recognize the sentiment. I can't pretend that the United States is 'home' at this point in my life (and I hope no one takes offence at that statement) and I wonder if it will be difficult for me to interact with people for whom it emphatically is?

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Mexico recap...finally!

Sorry for being so slow with are a few entries below and over at flickr.

Well, some people thought I went missing, but really, I went to Mexico! I’m so sorry that I didn’t keep my girls in loop (I really, honestly thought that I’d said something). But, yeah. My big sister V has been going on missions with her alma mater optometry school for 10 years now, but this time there was a very small person who had to go along with her! I leapt at the chance to take care of my adorable, wonderful, 5 month old nephew Jerry for the week. And let me add, as a side note, that despite everything that’s happened in my life, having a wonderful new family has made it so much easier. I don’t ever feel alone AND I get to be Aunt Joyce to some of the cutest kids on the planet. Not something I thought would ever happen to this only child. Plus, I have a sister. Which is something I think I totally missed out on for 20-some years.

I left London early last Saturday morning and flew to Dallas with an…interesting seatmate. Why do Americans (and really, just the men) think you want to talk on planes? Really, I’m not a fan. So when I pulled out my fairly hefty paperback book on genocide he said: “You like readin’?” Me: “Yes.” Him: “Yeah, I never got inna that.” After this follows an admiration of the thickness of the book and inquiries into how long it’d taken me to tackle such a behemoth. What do you say? Talk about a conversation stopper! Still, the movies were a HUGE improvement over USAir and the airline was better, too.

I had a bit of time in Dallas on my own (most of which I’d use talking on the phone, on both ends of the trip) and V&J got in an hour and a half later. I saw Jerry at Christmas, but OMG is he even cuter now! Especially as he’s learned some amazing new tricks. He’d discovered that he had a voice and could use it to make comments about the world (us walking down the terminal…Jerry: “Eeeee!”) AND (even better) he’d gained some motor control, which allowed him to grab things (beware the dining table) and stick out his little pink tongue. Ush! We were joined on our flight to Guanajuato by a whole bunch of students from the optometry school and even held the plane for them a little (Airline: “We, uh, don’t have a pilot…but we PROMISE they’ll be one soon!”). Customs was fine (new stamp!) and we got to the hotel pretty late.

We had long days all week, since the buses loaded to go to the clinic at 7am and, even though we left earlier than everyone else with the baby, there was an awful lot of exploring that needed to be done. Oh, and jet lag, which actually passed relatively quickly. For the most part, Jerry and I hung out in the director of the eye clinic’s office while the 40-some students and doctors sorted through 4000 patients in five days. Amazing! We’d have some tummy time, some playing on our backs time, some bouncing, some reading (Jerry’s an expert on genocide now), lots of diaper changes, a fair amount of singing, rocking and sleeping, have food, and go for walks. Jerry got cooed over every time he left the room and rather often when people popped by to get things. Can’t blame them, but my “he’s beautiful!” Spanish isn’t bad. (The rest of my Spanish, I assure you, is horrific.) I did spend a couple of hours pretending I knew how to dispense glasses, though, one day. OMG, totally made it up, but learned some, too, about glasses and prescriptions. It was fun and the rest of the students and doctors (may of whom were V’s good friends) were quite awesome. And I am now capable of fixing my crooked-feeling sunglasses.

There was a lot of talk before we went about ‘taking the baby the a third world country.’ Having been there and back, Guanajuato (the city, not the state) itself was hardly ‘developing’ (if you ignore the part about not drinking the water). The city was founded by the Spanish during the colonial era and is built in a bowl, surrounded by mountains. Or, rather, the ‘downtown’ is in the valley and a lot of the residential area (including where we were staying) was above it on the side of the hills. It made for a pretty spectacular view and I fell in love with the city itself, which unsurprisingly reminded me of Spain (um, dur, Joyce!). One interesting feature were the tunnels, built to save the World Heritage downtown from the scourge of too much traffic, which seemed to involve no lights and lots of blind turns. Wheeee! They were creepy.

The centre of Guanajuato revolves, more or less, around two adjacent plazas. The Jardin is a triangular pedestrian area with a garden in the middle that’s surrounded by outdoor cafes, the theatre and churches and flooded with mariachi bands (V noted at one point that it was a good thing I wasn’t a guy or we’d have been serenaded for sure). The other is Plaza de la Paz and is in front of the Cathedral. I did a quite stop in many of the downtown churches and they were fantastic. The Cathedral was especially nice and all were in fairly heavy use (thus, I don’t have interior photos because I think it’s rude to interrupt people’s prayers with a flash). I was creeped out by the massive wax statutes that serve as the main form of decoration (as opposed to dark paintings that you can’t actually make out), because they were so lifelike and surprising. Since the vast, vast majority of my church visits have been in Europe or North America, this was interesting in its newness (although it’s apparently fairly standard throughout Latin and South America).

Guanajuato is just a cool place to explore. They’ve done a great job preserving the city and it was amazing to wander around these tiny, squirmy streets that are still lined with 3-4 story buildings, painted different colors and decorated with the balconies and metal work that you think as traditionally Spanish. We’d go downtown for dinner most days and had some decent, if not amazing or remarkable, food. I didn’t get sick and also discovered that the Mexicans may give the Austrians a serious run for their money in the hot chocolate sweepstakes. Mmmmm, cinnamon!

On the free day, V, Jerry, two other doctors and I went to San Miguel, a town that’s known for its enormous American retiree population and artists markets about an hour away. San Miguel’s main plaza is huge and also bounded by markets and churches. Generally, though, the city didn’t feel as ‘undiscovered’ as Guanajuato; the streets were wide and there were older Americans everywhere! The markets, though, were fabulous. There were lots of rugs, paintings, and silver work. Plus, we stumbled across the shop where a family from Oaxaca were selling their wares; their son had come to the clinic the day before. Jerry really didn’t mind all the shopping. It was his five-month birthday AND he got to sit in the snuggley harness and ‘walk’ around all day. You could just see his huge eyes trying to take everything in! On the way home, we were forced by the schedule to take the ‘nice’ bus, which was INCREDIBLE. Think business class on the airplane and you’re probably picturing the right thing. I really wouldn’t have minded the 14-hour bus ride across Niger, if we’d been in one of these buses. And all for only USD $10 (the cheap bus was $6 and perfectly adequate, even equipped with a sign that lit up and buzzed if the driver decided to speed).

We left really early the next morning, which was sad. I would have loved to stay longer and I’m a whole lot more interested in going back to Mexico and other parts of South & Central America now. The worst part was saying goodbye to V & Jerry at the Dallas airport; he made me cry! Silly Jerry! I can’t believe that I might not see him again until I’m out of the Peace Corps, when he’ll be walking, talking, and almost 3 years old! It was a wonderful week, partially because of the setting, but mostly because I got to spend so much time with part of my new family. And because now I’ve got the most adorable photo of Jerry on my phone that I can proudly flash to anyone and everyone who doesn’t care, but is forced to admit how cute he is!

I spent the rest of my long lay-over taking a taxi to the nearest mall, loading up a bit at Old Navy and making extra sure that I consumed both barbeque and root beer at the airport. Heh. Oh, and the flight back was unremarkable, mostly because I didn’t get to give up my seat (and, yes, I sat in line to make sure I was the first one on the list!).

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

A Long Easter Weekend

Three things, just in case you were wondering:

1) I made it through Lent without eating any biscuits/cookies, except for that one I dreamed that I ate and then was very confused and felt guilty about it.

2) I did a 5K run this weekend, 2:25 faster than my Race for Life one last year. I wasn't pushing too hard, mostly wanting to make sure that I could. Having looked at the graph provided by my Nike+, I think I'm a freakishly well-paced runner.

3) I still haven't heard anything from Peace Corps.

Easter weekend was wonderful. The boy and I both took off of work on Thursday (Friday and Monday were holidays here) and travelled up for two days in the North. My lovely boy, as you may or may not know is a staunch Northerner, from Lancashire (NOT Yorkshire. They lost the War of the Roses, you know) and wanted to take me up there. I wasn't complaining, as I've seen so little of the rest of the country, and had never even been to the West of the country before. We stayed two nights in Manchester in an AMAZING hotel and went to Liverpool for the day on Thursday.

I have to say that I liked Liverpool best, but mostly because it has such an interesting history. This being the anniversary of the abolition of the slave trade and Liverpool's role as the biggest slaving port city in the country, there was a fair amount of that to be dealt with. The city later became THE hub for immigration to both Australia and North America and both of these histories were the subjects of good exhibits at the Merseyside Maritime Museum. Oh, and it played another huge role as the headquarters for the Atlantic shipping and protection thereof during World War II (and also had to put up with loads of bombing). The waterfront and a bit behind are all part of a World Heritage Site (me: "tick!") and are amazing. The Three Graces (the Liver Building, the Cunard Building, and the Port of Liverpool Building) really are spectacular and wonderful embodiments of the wealth and importance that trade brought to the city. According to Wikipedia, they're Romanesque, Italianate, and baroque respectively, and all built around the turn of the 20th Century (the first turn, not the second). I especially loved the Liver Building with its Liver birds on top. The best view had to be from the ferry ride that we took along the Mersey, during which we were both a bit cold and the boy complained about going 'soft and Southern.' Bless.

Me in front of the Three Graces

The Liver Bird

That night we went to see Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? at the Manchester Exchange, le Boy's favorite theatre in the Whole Wide World. It's a very cool space, with a theatre that looks a bit like a lunar landing craft crouching in the middle of the old corn exchange. The theatre itself is in the round and incredibly intimate (although I did feel a bit like I was being strapped in for a Disney ride) and the renovation of the hall was incredible. They managed to preserve the feel of the place and its beautiful, period touches, but also to integrate this new, vibrant arts feeling with colored glass in the skylights and funky chandeliers. Also, they had Magnum bars at the interval, which reminded me of Niger (and what doesn't?)!

The Manchester Exchange

The Theatre in the middle

I was a little worried going into the play, because I don't know anything about Virginia Woolf and hadn't read any of her work, but that didn't matter. I was, as I always am at well-written sniping domestic drama, of The Lion in Winter, which is high praise indeed. There were times when the events on stage were just so uncomfortable that you wanted to be able to jump up and get a drink, just like the characters seemed to do all through the play, and get as smashed as Honey so that what was going on wouldn't a) seem real or b) matter. I connected with Martha's vulnerability: I feel like I know what that means, needing to put a tough front up so that you can't be touched or hurt, but being devastated when someone figures out how to defeat it. And I was worried by George: I don't want to be one of those people who seem to show promise and then end up going nowhere. And I do know that I want someone to love me who understands me that well and with whom I can be challenged (hopefully not in such a psychologically manipulative way) for the rest of my life. It was a good night.

We spent most of the day on Friday wandering around the shopping area of Manchester. Manchester's legacy is as a town of the industrial revolution and of industrial uprisings, neither of which I'm especially well-versed in, although the boy did his best to fill me in. I was really impressed by the downtown, most of which underwent extensive renovation after the IRA detonated at 3,000 ton bomb in 1996 (the Royal Exchange was near the blast site and needed extensive work). The shops were the same (if not a bit larger), but definitely less stressful than London. We also had a wander to see the outside of the library (the largest in the world when it was built) and town hall (which proves itself to be an amazing double for the Palace of Westminster in movies and on tv). Sadly they were both shut for the bank holiday. I really regret not letting myself be talked into the Museum of Science and Industry (although, frankly, can you blame me for not wanting to find out how the cotton machines worked), because we MISSED the Doctor Who exhibition. Woes! I'm already angling to go back. It was lovely.

The lovely weekend was capped by a morning spent watching the BBC Parliament rerun of the 1992 Election Night returns (dorkitude at its best) and seeing John Gabriel Borkmann at the Donmar...where we just happened to be sitting in the middle of the Earlham study abroad group. That was WEIRD! (and cool).

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Mexico!, part 1

Have finally managed to upload my photos to Flickr. Visit the set here.

Some highlights:

Jerry bear on his 5 month birthday.

A Church in San Miguel

Guanajuato looking lovely.

The narrative's coming soon, but I have to retrieve it first.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Inside I'm Screaming

Think of this as a scream. A cyberscream.

I still haven't heard anything from Peace Corps. I recognize that it has only been just over a week since I was medically cleared, but I'm getting really impatient. If I'm leaving in June, then I have less than TWO MONTHS to pack up my life here and 'move' back to the States. Which is sort of pushing it, especially since I have to book plane flights home and for the last European adventure. I'm very aware that every single day that PC farts around, the prices go up. Plus, that's not a very long time to wrap up a life and prepare for two years away from easy access to things like bank accounts and the IRS website. Let's not even think about having to say goodbye to people for those two years. I'm already aware of the barrier it's putting between me and the boy.

I'm just annoyed at the limbo that I'm finding myself in right now. Grrrr. Arrgh.

Saturday, March 31, 2007

New Doctor Who!! *bounces*

I <3 David Tennant. And the Boy won't get me one! First the polar bear, now this! Bah!

The new companion is great. Rose was lovely, but I never really related to her. I like the dorkness factor of this one. Also, I was worried and highly amused by the rhinoceros men. Oh, dear. I know you have to suspend your disbelief, but, the Moon?

Also, every single person in London went...Oh, that's St. Thomas' (the hospital). Royal Hope, what?

And that's after tonight's lovely play at the National. Sisze Banzi is Dead was fantastic. I'm sure the boy will do better at describing it. Or I'll try again later. When I haven't had wine and can type (well).

Saturday, March 24, 2007

A PC update

Hi everyone.

After what seems like a million years, I received word that I've been medically cleared for Peace Corps. Seriously, I started on this process back in November and am just pretty relieved to have things finished. It's also exciting, but I'm also very concious of the way that this makes PC a REAL, basically done deal. Now, I'll get an invitation (possibly in the next week or so) and be heading to some unknown part of the world very shortly. It's suddenly scary.

I say shortly because I made a mistake and misread my nomination. According to my recruiter, I'm slated to leave in late May-early June, rather than the July, August, September that I'd been counting on ever since I was nominated. I don't know if I'd have done things very much differently, but it's still a bit of a shock. I have a plan, which works if I'm nominated and staging on a date that I think I am (I'll let you know for sure when I know), but it's still going to mean missing a lot of the things that I had planned to do this summer. I'm not going to be able to visit my sister and her baby on the reservation and I'm not going to be able to go to a Proddies concert or any of the Irish festivals. I'm not going to have very much time to be in Indianapolis and say goodbye to people. I'm going to miss Indypex. I'm probably going to miss the race, but mostly because I'll still be in Europe.

I am going to see a dear friend who'll be travelling around Britain this summer. I am going to see j00j one way or another. I am going to be able to spend time with my bestest friend and with my wonderful godparents. I am going to do that trip to Kosovo and North Cyprus to see Baaaa and my ECMUN co-hort in crime, Tanyel, who I've missed since last seeing her at our graduation from Earlham. I'm in real danger of being upset about the things that I'll be missing and just have to keep myself focused on the positives.

Worst of all, I'm going to have to leave my wonderful, wonderful boy behind. It's been almost a year now and it's going to suck to high heaven to leave. There's no real alternative. Even if I didn't go to PC, my visa would expire in July and I'd have to leave then. And it was going to hurt whenever the geographically induced split happened; really, I was delaying the inevitable because I was (and am) so happy. I have so much sympathy for my darling Juliet who just went through a similar situation when her boy finished his service in Niger and watching her struggle has really brought this whole situation home to me, even though it's a couple of months off.

I guess, it's going to suck to leave London as well. My mom hated the word 'suck' and forbid me to use it, but I think it's a good way to describe the way I'm going to feel for awhile. I love this city and feel so much at home here, as well as there being so much that I still haven't seen or want to do again. I'm going to go through a period of depression just about the National Theatre and all the amazing things that I'm going to miss seeing. I know that's silly, but it's really how I felt after study abroad, too. I just have to be determined to come back some day. For good. As long as I can import mac & cheese, I'm happy to be an expat.

There are good things to come, I know it. The country that I think I'm going to sounds like a dream assignment and SO MUCH LESS hardcore than Niger. Which, frankly, is ok by me (Jules, you will always be more hardcore than me, but we already knew that!). Still Africa, but with seasons and mountains and the possibility of seeing an occasional rugby match and Cadbury chocolate in the country 'next' door. Plus, the work sounds challenging but just like the sort of thing that I wanted to do in Peace Corps. And, I think that my adjustment won't be as crazy, given that I've not really lived in the US for a long time. Not using public transportation? What's that? You know. I think I'm more used to the less materialistic attitudes that places have outside the US and to damp and cold and to waiting for your clothes to dry on the line. And I'm certainly used to being away from friends and family. I don't always like being away from the people who are dear to me, but I'm definitely better at knowing when and how to say in touch than I was when I moved here and I'm better at missing them without it affecting the way that I live. Then again, I'll have a new set of dear friends to miss and that stinks.

Oh, and the blog'll get a new title when I find out for sure where I'm going. Just a head's up!

Thursday, March 15, 2007

You know what I've been realising, and it's awfully sad that I was never much for it before, is that I need to be more vocal about the issues I care about. So, I've e-mailed my state representative to vote in favour of the proposed hate crimes legislation (and let's not discuss why we don't have any yet) and against a constitutional amendment banning civil unions and non-heterosexual 'marriages.'

For an idea of what I'm up against, whether on issues or just in the state of Indiana, in general, check out this article from Nuvo (Indy's alternative newspaper. Many of you will want to bang your heads against the wall.

I think I need to dash off some letters to my US Senators about Darfur. After all, the main message of my genocide book seems to be that the US government won't give a flying fuck about people dying unless there's public pressure. If you can think of some other genocides that I've missed, let me know.

Oh, and I did start working on the Mexico report, so never fear! I'll do some more after we go out for root beer tonight!

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

How exciting do these sound?

Carla's List

Filmmaker Marcel Sch├╝pbach was given unprecedented access behind the scenes of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in The Hague. In an atmosphere of high tension, where everything plays out like a poker game, prosecutor Carla Del Ponte and her team relentlessly pursue notorious perpetrators of crimes against humanity, such as Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic, still at large. Both Serbia and Croatia – as well as the International Community – pledge total cooperation in helping locate the suspects, but this does not seem to produce any concrete results. And time is running out: in September 2007, Del Ponte's appointment as prosecutor ends. Moving between The Hague, New York, Zagreb, and Washington, Carla's List vividly brings to life Del Ponte's dogged race against the clock in pursuit of justice.

Total Denial

The inspiring story of fifteen villagers from the jungles of Burma whose quest for justice eventually leads them to bring a case to a US court against two oil giants – UNOCAL and TOTAL – for human rights abuse. For five years producer/director Milena Kaneva collected accounts from Burmese villagers of forced labour, relocation of villages, rape, and murder associated with construction of the Yadana pipeline. Her "guide" during this journey was Ka Hsaw Wa, a member of Burma's Karen ethnic minority, and one of the leaders of the student movement for democracy in Burma in 1988 which was violently suppressed by the Burmese government. For more than a decade, at considerable personal risk, he has gathered testimonies and other evidence on numerous cases of human rights and environmental abuse. In 1995, along with the co-founder of Earth Rights International, Katie Redford, Ka Hsaw Wa brought a landmark lawsuit against UNOCAL and TOTAL that drew international attention to the pervasive abuses in Burma.

Bring it on, Human Rights Watch International Film Festival! Anyone wanna come? The Boy just gave me evil glares....

I (still) can't spell

Hurrah! I have found a way to make my spelling's non-American! If I just search for the letter 'z' (or, ahem, 'zed') and replace it with an 's', then it's all better! w00t! I can't tell you how many spelling corrections I've gotten on my MUN briefings. Arrgh.
Maybe I should have done it on my dissertation, too....

Sunday, March 11, 2007

The Contents of my Wallet...

More on Mexico later (and sorry to all those people who thought I'd been eaten because I didn't actually bother telling them I'd be missing for a week), but I find the contents of my wallet interesting. No one else may, so move along if you're not interested in a 'Joyce thinks this is cool' post.

USD $63.71
3100 CFA
Pesos $88.50

3 Student ID cards (NUS, ISIC, Earlham)
5 Library cards (British Library, Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, Senate House, Indianapolis, Southwark)

2 Krakow tram tickets
What I think is a 24 hour Bratislava tram ticket

Some business cards

Ticket stubs from:
Vienna Synagogue
Reina Sofia
The Prado

And my sister made me promise to get a new wallet before I left the city, because the bus part of the London bus wallet's sort of fading fast. Good thing I know where to get a new one...!

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Whipping it Up

I have to admit that I was rather looking forward to last night's play, Whipping it Up, which was a find of the Boy's and a transfer from the Fringe. We'd actually tried to get tickets during the original run, but it was very much sold out after the amazing reviews and had to wait until the transfer to the West End. I couldn't really imagine a more perfect combination: my dorky politics self, my dorky politics Boy, and a political comedy set in had all the makings of a Yes, Minister marathon-like thing. In the end, my sides weren't splitting with laughter, but I was amused and generally glad we'd gone.

The essence of the story is that the Tories have secured a 3-seat majority in the Commons under Prime Minister Cameron. A leadership challenge masquerading as a rebellion on a Tent Poles Bill (don't ask) is keeping the whips busy, as they work to contain the threat, try and delay the vote until the PM is back in the country, unravel (create?) a sex scandal, deal with a particularly dogged journalist, and play tricks on the opposing party. I thought bits were quite inventive, until the Boy informed me at the intermission that a great number of the 'tricks' were copied out of a book written by a former Whip. Still, he was generally impressed at the play's accuracy.

The acting was excellent all around, but some of the characters did a much better job at hitting all of their punchlines and connecting with the audience. The Labour Whip, who hardly spends any time on stage, was absolutely fabulous. I was also highly amused by the little white Christmas tree (the play takes place a week before Christmas) decorated with blue glass balls and topped by a blue rosette. Nice touch. Less amusing were the elderly Tory and his deaf partner who were sitting next to me. I really didn't need every joke repeated, dears! And said Tory actually cried out at the revelation that everyone thinks that Tories are snobbish twats and take particular pleasure in their downfalls. Um, duh?

In all, it was funny. Not brilliant, but good. I'm glad we paid preview prices for seats in the back of the Stalls. I might not have been so amused at full price.

(On a side note, price is the reason we're not seeing Equus. As the Boy pointed out, we can see three shows at the National for the same price of only a half-decent ticket for nekkid Harry Potter. Shame, really, as the first night reviews were stunning. And because of his acting, not just his abs. Oh, and for this, I love the BBC. The EU Constitition will eat your BRAAAAAINS!)

Saturday, February 24, 2007

The boy and I went to see Hot Fuzz last night, done by the same guys who did Shaun of the Dead. Just as that one was a zombie movie spoof, this one was an action movie spoof, which (thankfully) you didn't have to actually have watched an action movie to 'get.' That's because so much of the humour was very much related to making fun of the English countryside, which I, as a Londoner, can very much enjoy. J/K. Countryside, you're lovely. Anyway, I was a huge fan until we got to the actual action part and then I was bored. Ooops. But, le boy, who apparently thought Bad Boys was the best movie EVAR at 16 was more amused. Mostly, I liked the swan. :-)

As for the rugby...well, I'm just glad I'm on my own tonight. The Quins pulled off a win by doing a great job on penalty kicks against the #2 team in the league, which totally wasn't supposed to happen. As for the England match, that one was all downhill after the very emotional playing of the anthems (the England-Ireland match was being held at the Croke in Dublin, home of Gaelic sports, and site of the first 'Bloody Sunday' where the British army opened fire during a match, so playing God Save teh Queen was a HUGE deal). Anyway, I couldn't bring myself to watch the second half. Disloyal? Maybe, but hey, it's his sport, not mine!

Tomorrow night, hopefully pub quiz! Hurrahs! And, then off to Mexico really, really soon!

Thursday, February 22, 2007

KB, LIMUN, Toby & the Oliviers

So many things to talk about, when one's a rather irregular blogger....

I really should deal with the one that's turned me into a bit of an emotional wreck today. Just when I got into work (which means it was sent in the 20 minutes that it takes me to get from home to the office), I had an e-mail from Earlham professor Bob letting me know that a fellow member of my London program had committed suicide. It was really, really upsetting news and I had to leave for awhile to cry and gather my thoughts. I sat by the Thames thinking about him and centering, because that's what an Earlham grad does when they're upset about something or someone related to their time at Earlham. I have such good memories of this man, who was the person who convinced me that I wouldn't turn into an alcoholic with one drink and who really took the time to make sure that I was ok in a really rough patch of my life. He had such great stories about his visits to the very, very gay clubs, pubs, and bars and always had fantastic insights into the books that we were made the rest of us VERY jealous. I remember tromping home together in the snow and the night we had to get him home from the pubs in Dublin and the few great conversations that we had back at Earlham, afterwards. I really don't want to get any more e-mails like that one. All of you, and all of my friends are too dear.

Moving on...our Model UN conference, LIMUN, went very well last weekend. We probably had 550 students (out of 650 registered) and a great time was had by all (with the possible exception of those who suffered from some Titanic-like scenes at the HMS Belfast). My committee was very small and did an excellent job. I was surprised that they wanted to talk about statelessness first, but am glad they did because the debate got really intense when we switched to human rights and sexual orientation on the third day. It was so bad at first that I had to lay the smack down and remind delegates that they needed to be representing their states and not themselves. The delegates even did some of that amongst themselves, most notably in shutting up the delegate from Brazil who wouldn't stop talking about "Adam & Eve, not Steve & John" (which isn't even the right annoying anti-gay rights slogan!). I had to remind Mali that he was 90% Muslim and he pointed out that he was 100% gay. We decided he could be an NGO instead, thus transforming his transition, while not as dramatic as from male to female, from a "small" African state to a huge international NGO (I paraphrase). Still, we never had to deal with an amendment, because they were so good at working out compromises and consensus and the work was pretty darn high quality (esp. on the sexual orientation, where I didn't think they'd really be able to get anything done). Oh, and a big thanks to the United States for this: "We have excellent homosexual laws. Massachusetts even allows gay marriage." Riiiiight.

Otherwise, last week was very busy getting ready for the conference, but the Boy did a lovely job with Valentine's Day and took me to see Underneath the Lintel, a one-man play featuring Richard Schiff (Toby! from West Wing). He's a older Dutch librarian who becomes obsessed with figuring out who returned a book 113 years late and ends up travelling around the world in search of the person he thinks might be the wandering Jew. He did a tremendous job, marked for me, at least, by the fact that after the first 30 seconds I was no longer thinking of him as Toby. Pretty impressive for an actor whom I've watched for seven years, no? The play resonated deeply, this hunt to find a place where we belong, displacement, and fascination with the mysteries that we simply can't solve. If you're in London, don't believe the critics. It was great. I'm sure the Boy wrote a beautiful review, but I'm not as insightful as he is. It was lovely and afterwards we took our now-traditional walk over Waterloo Bridge talking about a fantastic piece of theatre.

Finally for me, and speaking of theatre, the Olivier Awards were handed out last weekend. They're the West End's Tonys and I remember being annoyed with the nominations because I hadn't seen so many of the plays or actors/actresses. Turns out that I/we did pretty well after all, having seen Sunday in the Park with George (Best Actor/Actress and most of the techinical awards), Blackbird (Best New Play), and Caroline or Change (Best New Musical), and all of which I thought really deserved their awards. Although, I wasn't overly impressed by the actress in Sunday... and I think that either it or Coram Boy could have taken the technicals. But, perhaps, I'm biased.

This is long. I'm done for now.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007


I'm not sure that I can adequetly explain the extent to which Shashi Tharoor appearing as a guest on the Colbert Report is perhaps the coolest thing that has happened this decade. OMFG, awesome.

Shashi, I feel, is my own personal (not-resigned) UN Under-Secretary-General. He spoke at Earlham two years ago and even has an ECMUN shirt. Woo! He made me think. It was nice. Watch out, Stephen Colbert (and, yes, I love you, too).

Speaking of which: happy half-birthday to me! And happy early Valentine's Day to all of you. Le Boy is being mysterious about the whole thing, but I don't think anything can beat the creepiness of last year's not-date to see Blackbird. Child 'rape' and sexual psychology! What fun! Awesome play, though.

And, this weekend's LIMUN, so stayed tuned for more MUN fun. I might even update from committee, if I get bored, although it's unlikely.

Oh, and the other awesome thing? LSE didn't have power yesterday (flood...Holborn...power cut?) and had to cancel everything. It made me snort a bit.