Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Kenyan Memory

One day it was announced that we were going far out on Kuku Game Ranch to visit some people in a small boma. We were going to bring them gifts and the women there were going to teach us how to bead the Maasai way.

Though Kuku was the adjacent group ranch (we were on Kimana) there was no easy way to get there. You had to trek to Kimana, a three mile drive on terrible roads, then off-road until you got to the edge of the electric fence. Once you crossed over the border into Kuku, you kind of drove aimlessly for an hour. There weren't really car tracks, because no one has a car out there, and the only visitors who go out there have to know the way without a road to guide them. It's so dusty that your car is instantly filled with red cattle and game dung-smelling dust, and it's pointless to close the windows in the land cruiser because they don't close all the way and the dust permeates every crevice of the vehicle. Sometimes on the way to Kuku, we'd just ride with our eyes shut and noses covered with t-shirts or bandanas, which was hard for us because there was always something to see out the window, cattle, maybe a giraffe or two, a kori bustard, or maybe some herdboys with their goats or a Maasai man on his bicycle riding with his staff in hand. Sometimes we would drive for what seemed like miles, but was probably ony 1 or 2, and not see a soul, and then on an outcropping we'd see Maasai men walking their property, or boxes strung in the branches of a tree for collecting honey, or a child walking home from school.

I had been out to Kuku before this occasion, but it was for research. We had done an intense yet fruitful bird survey through there. I remember that day vividly, better than I remember most days in Africa. hen we arrived on Kuku, we saw some great wood hoopoes, then identified an unusual vagrant cuckoo. We trekked through a marsh with fresh hippo tracks, and Kristy and I clung to each other with ecstatic fear, listening to hippos calling each other through the reeds the whole time we walked across the swamp, fitting our hiking boots in each hippo footprint to compare the sizes of our feet. I also remember identifying one of those "african lbj" birds (little brown job). These birds are incredibly hard to identify without extensive study, but luckily we found one that had some unusual behavior characteristic, and after an intent search in my field guide, I found the small thrush making all the racket in the swamp. My teacher was so elated I remember him clapping me on the back, hard. Usually an extremely reserved man, I recall soaking up his praise. Later in the afternoon, we climed a tree overlooking a tributary of a larger river and watched hippo babies wallowing alongside their mothers.

We returned to Kuku not to survey the wildlife, but to learn things from the Maasai mamas living out in the bush. We planned to haul some water for them, beading, and talking about life in the boma. We knew that we were heading to a boma that was fairly poor, so we planned to trade goods for our education. We went into Oloitokitok on market day and bought huge plastic tubs in an assortment of bright colors. We filled them with flour, sugar, rice, beans, cocoa, cornmeal, tea, beads, thread and other staples. The tubs themselves were huge assets and could be used for everything from hauling water to bathing babies, feeding livestock, cooking and storing food. We hoped the staples would last the families a bit too. I remember that I had to contribute less than 500 KSh to buy the supplies, less than $6.00. I was always amazed how far my money would go in Kenya, and how little the Kenyans had to spend on groceries while I didn't think twice about spending a couple hundred shillings on some tea or cookies.

The trek to Kuku was long and dusty, and since we were going to a remote location, we had to drive past our old bird survey site and past some of the more local settlements we had visited before. When we finally arrived at the boma, women and children made the long trek out to the car. We were in the middle of nowhere. There's a part in one of my favorite movies, A Town Like Alice, where Jean Paget arrives in Willstown, Australia and realizes she is nowhere, nowhere, nowhere. In the movie, the camera pans out with each beat of the music to emphasize the nothingness. That's exactly how I felt. Nothing. Nothing. Nowhere.

That's probably why visitors were welcomed, especially ones bearing gifts as we were, and looking back I am guessing the gifts weren't welcome because the people were destitute or starving or anything severe and extreme like that, but because it was such a damn nuisance to get supplies that this saved a lot of women a long, dusty walk. The beads we had purchased were put to use immediately as the Masai mammas tried to teach us how to bead. Little kids and babies wandered around the boma. The kids did sweet things, like walk up to you shyly and touch your face. The mammas laughed at those who were not crafty and had trouble beading. My mamma loved me because I could bead, and while she could not speak english, she would pat me on the back, a smile cracking her wrinkled face. I wondered how old she was. Sometimes it was hard to discern who was 50 and who was 100.

We hauled water later. We had to walk up a hill to a tap, and then carry a five gallon bucked strapped to our head with a piece of leather. It was heavy and hurt my neck. Again there was much laughter as we stumbled and spilled our way down the hill. I hoped we had saved the women some time and effort, but I doubt we were anywhere near as efficient as the Masai ladies. At the end of the day, we bought their beadwork, though a fight started when I didn't have any change, but we worked it out in the end through an interpreter.

One day I was telling someone, who had traveled with indigenous tribes in Guyana, about my experiences in Kenya. He waved me off "Africa," he said "is so tourist-oriented. Everything is manicured and artificial and choreographed, every dance, every costume. The authenticity is totally gone." This irritated me immensely. In addition to being mostly untrue (of course there are 'tourist traps' as there should be) why would you invalidate my experience before I even had a chance to explain it? There was nothing inauthentic about this settlement - no one did dances or sang songs or had on "costumes."

I think about that boma often. I can't believe it's been seven years since I visited there (I am finishing this post in 2010, after it lay dormant for years). I wonder about those kids toddling around. Are they big? Did they survive to adolescence? Is the boma even still there? How I wish I could go back and visit...but I know I'd never find it again.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Order! There will be order in this courtroom!

Starting grad school has seriously eliminated any sort of logical order from my day. Hell it's starting to even make my life unordered!

I get up at 5:20am and inevitably hit the snooze on my phone. When I 'm lucky, the my cell phone, which I use as an alarm clock because yes, the alarm clock just doesn't wake me up anymore and it's prolonged beeping causes extreme rage in my father, falls between the bed and the wall where I can't reach it. It goes through a ring cycle and for a split second pauses, so you think "yes, I shall go back to sleep now', but starts right back up again, and repeats itself, to infinity I think. I'm not sure because on those mornings I haul my ass up and fetch the phone, and once you've squished your arm to your shoulder and your boobies between the headboard of your bed and the wall, you may as well get up already! Those are the days I'm fairly on schedule.

Most days, I get up at 5:20 and hit the snooze. Gary LaPierre on WBZNEWSRADIOTENTHIRTY tries to wake me up, but usually he doesn't. It's usually Bob Larson and his traffic report, or perhaps Joe Morgan in the BZ 'copter. If traffic is f*cked, I guarantee you I will get up. But if I hear "well it's not looking too bad yet" I will sleep for another 20 minutes. Sometimes, especially recently, my body, hungry for sleep, falls into another REM cycle where I have weird and vivid dreams which cause me to sleep til 6:40. This is especially bad, because I am supposed to be at work around 7ish. On those mornings I literally scream "oh sh8t" at the clock. In my mental fog I calculate the last time I took a shower. Yesterday? All clear, get dressed! Two days ago? Well.....how bad does your hair look? Three days? Ok that's effing nasty, BATHE! I do have the sense to lay out and outfit the night before, usually with underwear if I need a thong or something, so I jump into close, run like a whirlwind to the second floor. I throw on minimal makeup and some moisturizer, brush my teeth while I run down cellar to get a yogurt, spit, rinse, run to the fridge, throw some fruit on the counter, look through the cabinets for something carbolicious and then out the door to sit in traffic for any time ranging from 20 minutes to 90 minutes depending.

On Mondays and Wednesdays I work close to a full day. I then jump on a bus, a train, and then another bus to get to school. That takes an hour minimum, usually an hour and change. I then go to class for an hour and 15 minutes, then take a bus to the train and go home and collapse.
Tuesdays and Thursdays it's the same deal, only if I am being a deliquent employee, I go back to work. Ugh.

Why am I writing this?

Because once upon a time (aka 3 weeks ago when I wasn't in grad school) I felt in CONTROL. Now I've lost it.
And this is my vow to get it back, dammit.

I'm going to come up with a schedule. A schedule that lets me go to the gym, I really miss exercise. I'm going to come up with a grocery list of food for lunch, so I don't have to plow through the fridge every morning, or worse, like today, go to Starbucks for breakfast (ok that wasn't too bad, but it cost me 6 bucks!) and the cafeteria for lunch where I inevitably get something wretched like I did today: hotdog, fries, mac and cheese. Give me a heart attack please! As far as getting dressed in the morning, I'm actually working on that, switching seasonal clothes from storage and all is hanging me up, it's not quite time yet, but I'll handle that. I'd also like to come up with some sort of project calendar. That'd be great. I love having a craft project going, but I don't even know what I have, what I've started, and what I need to do for gifts. I need to organize that and work on my scrapbook.

Whew, it seems I have a full plate, but for the first time in 3 weeks, I actually feel like I can kick some ass! IT's a good feeling, especially after being down so long about stress and school and everything. I can totally handle it.
Does it suck?
Can I deal?
Can I be badass?Enjoy Grey's Anatomy. Cause it's on tomorrow, and it's HAWT. The End.
Hells yes, bitches.

Friday, September 15, 2006


Ok, so I try to keep this blog pretty a-political. This is for a couple reasons:

1. usually politics isn't something I loooove discussing. Unless it's the politics of reality TV such as Project Runway or America's Next Top Model (I know, soooo bad)

2. I try to see both sides of the coin and this gets people mad sometimes because they just want me to hate George Bush/Al Gore/Donald Trump/Gloria Steinem (hahhah not really, who doesn't love that fantastic biatch?!) or whomever, and though I may not like these people, I don't necessarily hate them because in general I try not to judge people whose jobs I would hate so much I'd've jumped out of a 9th story window a long time ago (any politician or business person basically, mad love to those who can do it though).

3. you can look at so many other blogs for political shit.

that being said


I've avoided it for a long time. I've read a few of her articles which I found extremely right-wing but laughable. She wrote it about how the NYTimes had become so leftist liberal it should be blown up. Definitely not cool, but I was like 'whatev, let her have her little rant, we all can't be liberals' When she came to Smith, there was protest and outrage, but I ignored it. I didn't go see her cause I wasn't interested, but I actually thought it was kind of cool to have an ultra-conservative on a liberal campus. It's America, it's freedom baby!

THEN. TODAY. I went to amazon.com to look up a book that a recent Tufts grad wrote. It sounds really fabulous. I will probably buy it, actually. Then out of boredom and the need to find a new book to read (even though I am rereading the fabulous Isabel Allende's "Daughter of Fortune") I clicked on the New York Times bestseller list. Fiction looked crappy, so I cruised down to the non-fiction section, since book club has really turned me on to non-fiction. So I see Ann Coulter's "Godless: The Church of Liberalism" and decide to read a little excerpt. She makes these broad statements about "liberal" people, things I think are on the whole untrue, but have maybe a teeny basis in some groups of hyper-liberal people. whatev, they're pretty funny. Then I read THIS:

Our book is Genesis. Their book is Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, the original environmental hoax. Carson brainwashed an entire generation into imagining a world without birds, killed by DDT. Because of liberals’ druidical religious beliefs, they won’t allow us to save Africans dying in droves of malaria with DDT because DDT might hurt the birds. A few years after oil drilling began in Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, a saboteur set off an explosion blowing a hole in the pipeline and releasing an estimated 550,000 gallons of oil. It was one of the most devastating environmental disasters in recent history. Six weeks later, all the birds were back. Birds are like rats—you couldn’t get rid of them if you tried.

Where the F*CK does she get off saying this BULLSH*T
Doesn't she know that people got f*cking cancer from DDT?
And does she not see that the Godless liberals abuse the environment like everyone else?
And that a lot of conservatives don't give a sh*t about Africa?
Maybe she'd prefer to spray Africa with DDT. That way, the birds would die, and so would the mosquitoes and a**holes like her wouldn't have to worry about sending aid to Africa anymore because all the people there would get lung diseases or cancer and die, thus wiping out the entire continent and making it available for America's capitalist needs, such as oil drilling and factory-building. Oh wait, I'm starting to sound like a God-less liberal. Shoot.

Well I do know one thing. Jesus still loves you, but he's totally disappointed with you, Ann.

Me - I just think you're a pretty ignorant biatch. bleck. I'm gonna sit back and thank the Lord for Rachel Carson now.

What Do Dreams Mean?

Last night and the night before, I had two incredibly strange dreams. I think it's because my sleep cycle/life cycle is very confused with the new school and sleeping schedule. Either that or my dreams are just getting weirder as time progresses, which is entirely possible.

The first dream:

I was in a mall somewhere, and I pushed a cart full of clothing into a store. Out of the corner of my eye I see my floozie neighbor (she had an affair with a guy in town. long dramatic story including wife of the guy punching neighbor in face, etc). Now in real life, I don't like this woman, so in my dream I want to avoid her. I start to manuever my cart, but it's totally malfunctioning. I try and figure out a way to get around her, and as I get closer I realize that she is GROWING A BEARD. And not a lady beard either, a bona fide stubble-in-chin-I shave every day beard. "Oh SHIT!!!" I think gleefully. Now I really need to go because I need to tell everyone that I saw the ho growing a beard. Just as I go to go behind her I crash into the very rack of clothes that she's looking at!! NO! She turns and I try to play it off like I just noticed her, all casual. "Oh hey Laurie" I say. She turns to me and I get a really good look at the beard. She looks me up and down and says "Don't pretend like you didn't see me, I know you saw me, I know you're trying to avoid me....." she pauses and glances at the bowl of ice cream that has suddenly appeared in my cart... "Ice cream bitch." I stare at her, manuever the cart around her finally and as I leave I say "yup, that's me, the ice cream bitch!!"

last night's dream was even stranger to me. I had a toothache in one of my right molars, and when I wiggled it, I realized it was loose. I started working the tooth out, thinking the whole time "this can't be good for my permanent molar!" I got it half way but then had to see a dentist about it. He started to pull, and though the whole time I was thinking "I really don't want a huge gap there" he yanked it out anyways. He looked at it and said "Wow, that's why it hurts." When he handed it to me, I saw this strange conglomeration of teeth, as if two had fused on top of each other. The bottom was also covered with some gunk, and the hygienist said "that's all the buildup from not flossing properly." I was annoyed because since my last check up I have become a religious flosser. I went to the sink to wash my tooth (it was not bloody. How strange.) and as I washed it, it began to change. At first it was clean and white, but then it started to turn brown, and by the time I had washed it, it had turned to wood. I held it up in front of me, shocked, and as the dentist walked by to another room he said, "that's why it had to come out. those are what caused so much pain." I looked to the spot he was pointing to with his pen. Suddenly, the wooden tooth was full of holes. "Termites?" I asked him. "Yes" he said, and nodded gravely.

How weird is that?

Monday, September 11, 2006

5 Year Reflection

I can hardly believe that we are marking the 5 year mark (I don't want to say "anniversary" it has too many happy connotations to me) since September 11, 2001.

I remember that day so vividly. It was a day in Northampton, MA much like it was today in Boston. Somewhere between Invertebrate Zoology and 19th Century European Art nearly 3,000 people in 3 locations lost their lives. Remember when you thought the worst tragedy of our time would be the death of Lady Di? Yeah, me too.

Since then the world has felt such an enormous amount of pain: there was 9/11 and its horrible aftermath, the invasion in Afghanistan, the Iraqi invasion, the tsunami, two terrible earthquakes, Hurricane Katrina, an escalation in the violence in Darfur, and senseless other acts that we try to understand but can't, loss and terrible pain.

Through all this I am remained shocked and uplifted by the resilience of the human race. It perserveres despite the most oppressive situations imaginable. America has made it for 5 years, even though for a bit it seemed the world would truly end.

It's strange for me to think back on these last five years. They seemed to be marked with tragedy when you look at the bad, but when I think of my own life, these past five years have been nothing but glorious. I've graduated from college, travelled to Africa twice, fell in love, got my first "real" job, and started grad school. I bought my first car (seemingly minor, but a milestone). I've been to more weddings and baby showers than funerals. And my family and friends surround me, and we're pretty damn healthy and pretty damn happy. We're all so lucky and blessed.

In these last five years, I've learned so much about myself. I think I've become a better person. And in a way, I think I have 9/11 to thank for that. It was a smack in the face. It was a message, not of terror, the way the terrorists wanted it to be, though it did have me scared sh*tless for a long time and it still scares me. To me, it said "Go and Live." You never know what day could be your last. So f*cking live while you're alive. Don't waste time on the bullshit (hey even I do that, I admit it) but on the whole, get out there and make a difference to someone, to anyone.

In these last five years I have been overwhelmed by the desire to have a good life and to help anyone I can in need. I have also been overwhelmed by strong feelings about my personal right not to live in fear. F*ck fear, man. There's common sense type fear, like "I don't think I will jump off that cliff into the black abyss of the ocean today" and then there's the fear that terrorists want you to feel. That second thought before getting on the train to go to work. The refusal to fly. The fear of travelling, of seeing and doing new things. The fear of people different than you. I refuse to bow down to that fear. It's my right to live my life free from fear, and that is what I plan to do for the next five years and the five years after that and so on and so on. No one is gonna make me scared to live my life to the fullest.

Anyways, so this is my big post for today. Keep rockin' on America. Woot.

Starbucks Cup #165 Beth Israel Deaconess

The Way I See It #165

I was ahead in the slalom. But in
the second run, everyone fell on a
dangerous spot. I was beaten by a
woman who got up faster that I
did. I learned that people fall down,
winners get up, and gold medal
winners just get up faster.

--Bonnie St. John
In 1984, she was the second-fastest
amputee skier in the world, and the
first African-American Olympic ski

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Starbucks Cup #141 Beth Israel Deaconess

The Way I See It #141

I used to feel so alone in the city.
All those gazillions of people and
then me, on the outside. Because
how do you meet a new person?
I was very stumped by this for many
years. And then I realized, you just
say, "Hi." They may ignore you. Or
you may marry them. And that
possibility is worth that one word.

--Augusten Burroughs
Author of Running with Scissors.

Heh. cool.
This post is so short because I have to leave for class in a hour and a half. Yikes!!

Friday, September 01, 2006

Starbucks Cup #169 Beth Israel Deaconess

Yes folks, it's getting to be that season: grande latte HOT season and with grad school right around the corner, cough cough TUESDAY, cough cough, I think that there will be more grande lattes than ever consumed, though I do not feel guilty about this, because no matter what you have to say about Starbucks and it's chain-ness it 1. pays their employees' benefits as long as they work half time or more 2. they work with Kenyan coffee growers to grow a sustainable product 3. they generally do good stuff for deserving people. With that out of the way, I give you:

The Way I See It # 169

Life's too short to read a book you
don't love. At age 50 or younger,
give a book 50 pages to see if you
like it. Over 50, subtract your age
from 100 and that's the number of
pages to read before you bail on a
book you're not enjoying. And
when you turn 100, you get to
judge a book by its cover!

--Nancy Pearl
Librarian and author of Book Lust.

I found this to be a funny one, given the fact that everyone at book club last night desperately wanted to abadon Orhan Pamuk's Snow, which was a brutal read for most of us. Of course, I am glad that we do not abide by the above rule at my book club. We try to read the book to the end, even if it's torture and besides, everyone else would only have to read about 40 pages before bailing whereas I would have to read 76 if we use the 100 rule!!