Friday, December 01, 2006

Mutha f*n Climate Change

It's December 1 and it's cruddy cruddy CRUDDY outside. It's gray and drizzly, which I wouldn't mind if it wasn't 70 degrees outside. It feels like mid-April. Where are the cherry blossoms? This isn't the best weather for revving up my Christmas spirit. I want freezing cold, knit-hat-and-mittens-and-hot-cocoa-and-extra-blankets weather. To make matters worse, I can't control the heat in my apartment, which blows constant hot, dry air and makes me feel sick and feverish all night long.

All of this confused and foul weather makes me lethargic, depressed and overly-analytical. Why is happiness so elusive?

Oh - and while I'm complaining, I'm going to add a big fat @#$% off to the customer service culture of our great nation's capital. I went Christmas shopping last night and pushed through the sweaty crowds at Pentagon City Mall trying to find gifts. To add insult to injury, here's an example of the sweet, thoughtful ways of the D.C. cashier:

Location: The Discovery Channel Store
Me: "Excuse me, do you have any interactive maps of the US?"
Cashier (leaning lazily on the counter with a glazed over look of "do-I-look-like-I-give-a-flying-#$%^" in her eyes): "Um, shit I don't should go to that America store. I don't think we have that stuff here."

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot is WRONG with these people?

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Giving Thanks

I just finished reading Long Walk to Freedom, the autobiography of Nelson Mandela, which has been a bedfellow for the past month. My obsessive reading of African history started back in June. I began reading so that I wouldn't lose the intense feeling of action, discomfort and confusion that I felt upon returning from Uganda. The readings have taken the amorphous shape of guide-less travel - a kind of literary and historical wandering around the continent. From selfish humanitarianism in Sudan (Acts of Faith and Emma's War), to brutal colonialism in Congo (King Leopold's Ghost), to genocide in Rwanda (We Wish to Inform You...), to child soldiers in West Africa (Beasts of No Nation), to AIDS in South Africa (We Are All The Same)... I always find new histories to uncover; new perspectives to ponder. It is all new to me, and the deepening complexities run parallel to my inner struggles about what my role might be.

Without fail, I find myself amazed and inspired by the stories of individuals like Nelson Mandela - those who fought and continue to fight for humanity.

So this year I'm thankful for so much - more than I ever imagined - but mostly the capacity of human strength and endurance in the face of suffering.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Daylight Savings Time

I am ambivalent towards Sundays. While they readily lend themselves to activities like laying around, eating oreos and taking care of laundry and grocery shopping, they also hold the ominous quality of being the day before Monday. However, if there is ever a Sunday to be savored, it is surely the one in which you awaken and remember that the clocks moved back an hour. An extra hour of life. What a wonderful way to start the day. Maybe I won't even wear black to work tomorrow.

I found out this week that I will be returning to Uganda in January - this time to co-lead the Global Kimeeza sponsored by Global Youth Partnership for Africa in Kampala, Uganda. Life is good.

Friday, October 13, 2006

The character flaw of shoppers

"What we collectively choose to buy, or not to buy, can change the course of life and history on this planet."

Some time last year, during a shameful shopping binge, I decided to use my GAP credit card. When the salesperson handed me my receipt, it showed that my last purchase on the GAP card had been on September 12, 2001. The day after 9/11 and I was shopping at GAP. I wanted to go home and shower with Clorox, I felt so crappy about my past choices and behavior. But wasn't it me that always joked about how I would "singlehandedly keep the American economy going strong"? While I still feel my penchant for shopping and acquiring material goods is a serious character flaw, it seems that others have found a positive spin.

Bono and Bobby Shriver got together to start (PRODUCT) RED, a group that markets products to shopaholics in the first world, so that we can continue our rampant consumerism and at the same time wipe out AIDS in Africa. I'm not complaining - I think it's a fantastic idea, and the campaign has already raised millions to get medicines and testing to those that need it the most. 70% of cases of HIV/AIDS are in Africa. That's a crime. So click on the icon above and learn more - GAP has an especially cool line with some shirts made from 100% organic cotton grown in Africa. I can guarantee I'll be using my GAP card to pick up some new stuff.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

All things Uganda...

I've spent the past few days with some close friends from the Uganda trip. We watched videos and drank wine, spent twelve hours at a conference here in DC on the peace process in Northern Uganda, watched the DC premier of Uganda Rising and went to see The Last King of Scotland last night.
On top of this, I'm in the thick of Beasts of No Nation, which so far has completely blown my mind and given me nightmares. I'm all Uganda'd out. In fact, I feel completely and utterly exhausted.
After completing my Fulbright interview panel yesterday afternoon, I'm now about to embark on yet another academic [masochistic] endeavor - re-writing my research design yet again, this time attempting to analyze through the lens of "urban planning." This throws me back into the old question "What the f* is urban planning?" that haunted me so ruthlessly during graduate school. But I guess I couldn't quite say that during my interview. My starting point will be the collision of violent conflict and the city of the developing world. And then I'm stuck.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

The ol' tugging at the ankles

The quarter-life crisis is real. Why isn't it comforting to know that other 25-year-olds are going through the same period of turmoil and confusion? I'm finishing up Mountains Beyond Mountains, the biography of infectious disease specialist and humanitarian Paul Farmer. The book talks incessantly about the conflict between being comfortable in the life you know and taking the chance to do what you know will have real meaning.

Another autumn is fast approaching, which means another season of self-reflection, apple cobbler, stealing pumpkins and permission to listen to very mellow music.

From Mary Oliver's "The Journey"

...But little by little,
As you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world...

Sunday, September 17, 2006

And yes, Life is beautiful

It's a beautiful Sunday morning. Looking through photos again for inspiration, I came across this one - it's actually my favorite photo from Uganda, taken at Sanyu Babies Home for Abandoned Babies in Kampala, Uganda.

I've determined that writing a personal history and fitting it on one page is the most frustrating, nerve-wracking experience. At this point I'd rather do interpretive dance to convince the committee to send me back to Uganda.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

The Nigerian voyeur

I'd like to introduce you to the newest addition to my red wall - very close to Bakuba, the Congolese engagement mask, and at the side of my [increasingly dusty] classical guitar - a Nigerian wedding mask, purchased from a new friend at Eastern Market last weekend. As a result of my feverish wanderlust in the past few years, I've begun what I fear will be a consuming passion for collecting masks and maps. I'm now on the hunt for pre-colonial maps of Africa.

Why post it?

Because I'm captivated by his squinty glare over my left shoulder as I try and write my personal history in application for the Fulbright. It's quite distracting.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Oh how I do miss the loo with a view

It's just a rainy, nasty September day in Washington, D.C., which is the perfect excuse to sit at the computer all day and get some thinking done. And the perfect day for "working from home." Coffee and pajamas and rain all... day... long. I just took a break from writing and spent the past hour or so sifting through my photo collection from traveling. The loo with a view was an easy choice - set up by Arthur on our very small island about thirty miles off the coast of Belize - the vacation home for Venessa and I for a week in April of this year.

Why post it?

Because it's not everyday you experience sheer beauty while using the loo. And on this drizzly day you actually appreciate that you can't always be in Belize. Maybe that's what makes it so memorable. And that you're being spied on by large sea birds and nosy sand crabs dancing around your toes while you're trying to pee.

Belize 2006