Thursday, November 30, 2006



NaBloPoMo is officially over in about 22 minutes. It's been fun posting every day - perhaps because it's human instinct to enjoy talking about ourselves, or maybe it was just because I felt like I had an outlet, or even just to get some creative juices flowing. Or maybe even all of the above.

Anyways it's been fun. I'm not sure I'll be able to come up with a post every day, but NaBloPoMo has defintely encouraged me to try and write more, to visit random people's blogs and to NOT fear the comment! Some new people commented on my blog and made me feel great - I then realized that commenting is not creepy or stalkerish (I thought at first that it was!) and actually I loved knowing that people were reading, because without comments, you just have no idea!

So here's to you NaBloPoMo! I'd raise to you one of the Captain Morgan nips I have stashed in my desk drawer, but alas, the killer heartburn from the sausage and meatball arabiatta is rearing its ugly head thus preventing me from consuming liquor, but CHEERS nonetheless!

Tomorrow: the post wherein I complain about my itchy boobs. No lie.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006


I'm sure everyone has annoying coworkers. EVERYONE. I know I'm in no way unique when I say "I have irksome coworkers." They are, however, a special kind of annoying.

The anorexic one is the worst. She kills my soul because she's got it in her head somehow that were "close friends." Is she serious? How can she possibly think I want to be her friend after the first year that we worked here together, when she deconstructed every food that passed my lips into "fattening" "yummy, but bad for you" or "healthy today?!" It's enough to drive a woman insane. At first I thought "Oh she's super health-conscious," but I soon realized that she was commenting on EVERY SINGLE thing I was eating. I'd go to Dunkin Donuts for a latte and a muffin. "ooooh" she'd say when I walked in "you went to Dunks!" "Yep" I'd reply shortly, trying to end the conversation there. She'd turn in her chair, "Whadya get?" "Blueberry muffin, Iced latte" "Did you get the latte with skim?" I'd think 'who are you, my mom?' and then 'wait, my MOM wouldn't even grill me like this!' "Yep," I'd reply. "Too bad the muffin is still fattening. Or did you get low fat?" EEEEK! I really knew that she had some sort of eating disorder when she talked endlessly about food but wouldn't eat any. She eats an apple a day, though sometimes I'm not sure she eats anything while at work, she just drinks her little Poland Spring bottle. She would talk obsessively about going to Bertucci's and eating pizza, but then we'd never go. She'd talk about how good the fries smelled at McDonald's but would never get any. She'd tell me that we needed to make plans to walk to Coldstone to get ice cream, but every time I suggested a day, she'd veto. I've wised up since then, and never suggest getting food. The only thing she really knows I eat is my cereal in the morning, I don't let her see anything else. Some people say that it's so wrong for me not to eat around her, that I should do what I want, but honestly, the thought of seeing this girl everyday almost gave me an ulcer a while back. It's waaay easier just to handle it this way.

The second issue is the heat, and almost all my coworkers, save one, are causing this problem. I have another annoying coworker, but she's only mildly irritating, who's originally from Jamaica. She uses this as an excuse to jack up the thermostat to 90 degrees, summer, winter, spring and fall. I turn it down every day, but every morning when I come in, it's found it's way back up to 90. Now the room doesn't actually get to be 90 degrees because the heat can't keep up with that kind of strain, but in the summer, this prevents the air conditioning from running. Massachusetts is a motherf*cker when it comes to weather, and while it can get damn cold in the winter, it's HOT in the summer. I can't tell you how many time I came to work this summer in a sundress and a light sweater, only to be greeted by a wall of humidity when I opened the door to my office. Anorexia, who claims to have a circulation disorder (maybe she should just eat some food so her fat layer can grow back and keep her warm) and Constantly Cold Coworker were huddled in coats, with CCC wrapped in a fleece blanket with a space heater at her feet, because her feet were like "blocks of ice." Are you kidding me? I understand that everyone's thermoregulation meter is set at a slightly different temperature, but it's 90 DEGREES OUT! and it's 90 in our office! One day it was 110 out. It was one of those days where it feels like very air is invading your body and rendering you unable to breathe. With the allergies, I was miserable and gasping for breath like a fish out of water. We walked across the street to gather medical records, Anorexia lifts her face to the sky and breathes deeply. She says "I love this weather. Love it. I can't wait to run 10 miles in it when I get home. Nothing says 'I burned calories today' like a lot of sweat." After vomiting in my mouth and wiping the sweat from my brow I asked her if she was really going to run 10 miles in this. The weathermen on TV tell you not to go OUTSIDE in this weather, never mind RUN! She looked at me and says "I've been waiting all year for a day like this to go running, of course I'm going to run in it!" Sigh.

Today it's 42 out. It was 30 when I woke up, plus it's overcast and rainy, so I threw on a button down and a wool sweater. I walked into my office and found it to be fairly comfortable. It's probably around 68 or so, but if you don't move too much, it's not that hot. Anorexia is here in her wool coat with a fur hood and she's bundled herself up in that. Fine. I've had countless conversations with all my coworkers about how I can only get so naked when removing layers from being overheated, and it's much easier for them to add another if they're really that cold. Yeah, they respect that for like, A DAY, then go right back to jacking the heat. For once I thought it would be a good day, then CCC comes in. She's been in Florida, visiting her mom. "HA!" she exclaims, "I don't know why I came back only to be cold!!!" She whips her space heater down from the top shelf and turns it on full blast. "Let's warm up this room!" she says. I groan, silently. Good thing I dressed in layers again today :P blah.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006


I'm failing genetics. It's official. After failing my second exam, I have realized that there is no way I can pass the class. There's just no way, unless I get a 100.

I could go on and on about freezing on exams and being bad at mulitple choice, though I would like to take a moment to point out that every "word-based" question that required a mini-essay type answer I got correct. 100% too bad the whole test wasn't like that, I'd be a genetics ACE, but alas, it's multiple choice and true false, and I suck at it. Anyways I'm not going to go on about that. I'm not going to go on and on about how I'm smart and went to Smith and I've never failed a class and that I can write A quality papers but am crapass at exams. Why? There's just no point. The point is that I'm failing. I'm failing UNDERGRAD genetics. I'm getting an A in ECOLOGICAL MODELING. Who does that? Who fails an undergrad class and gets an A in their impossibly hard calculus based engineering flavored first grad class of graduate career? errrrr!

Anyways, after crying for a bit (because you have to admit, as fruitless as it is to cry like that, it makes you feel a hell of a lot better. kinda. sorta.) I decided that there's no getting out of this one. I'm Allison. I don't fail. Usually. But I have now and I have to face it. I emailed my advisor, because if anyone can help me now, I think it's him. Plus I emailed him because when I told him the only way I'd be allowed to go to Tufts was to take undergrad genetics to be "well rounded" his response was "that's stupid." If anyone will have a lick of sympathy, it'll be him, plus it's his class I'm getting an "A" in, so that's ammunition right there. With the help of my sister, I just fired him an email. We'll see what happens.

Of course, throughout this whole ordeal, there's been this nagging in my head "what if I get kicked out of the program." The more I think about that possibility, the less it makes sense. The only requirements for staying IN the program is maintaining a 3.0. And I wouldn't think that undergrad classes would be factored in, that'd just be stoooopid. So I should just assure myself that I'm in it. Besides, aren't schools a lot harder to get out of than in because they want to maintain that retention percentage? eeek, I hope Tufts is like that. At this point I am so panicked about everything that I've totally ignored the fact that this class is costing me $3,600, which in all of this is the scary part: I'm so worried about academics I'm ignoring THIRTY SIX HUNDRED DOLLARS! AAAAHHHHHHHHHHH!

Oh God. I hope my advisor gets back to me soon. I can't take this stress. It's giving me arthralgias and palpitations. Ha, see I'm smart, I speak hospital and hypochondriac ;) Plus in all of this crap, I have to remember that this isn't so bad. My mom got me back into perspective. She said to me "if you have your health, you can work out everything else" which is so true. I should know better, especially from working where I work. Helloooo I should be grateful for being lucky enough to go to SCHOOL for the sheer ability to fail a class! eck.

I'll update the situation later. I hope tomorrow is panini day in the hospital cafeteria. That will surely lift some spirits. Amen.

Monday, November 27, 2006


I am posting this from the floor of my bedroom. Why?
Because my bird is out. 'trollin the floor for something good.

I let Lily out of his cage because he makes an incredible fuss while I do Pilates. Mostly because he is an attention mongerer and is needy and will screech until you respond to him, but the anthropomorphic part of me hopes and wishes and thinks that it is because he sees me lying on the floor, groaning occasionally and believes that I am wounded or ill and is trying to contact help by screeching as loudly as possible. I think that this is probably unlikely, but it helps me tolerate his incessant noise. He also attracts attention to himself by pretending to be mortally wounded. When I stand just outside my bedroom door, talking to someone, he hangs off his perch and makes his pathetic screech sound, the one he makes when he's terrified. He lets one of his wings hang as if it's broken, and launches his body off the side of the perch, literally hanging by a toenail. This worked for a long time. I'd turn and see him there, half-dead, and run into my room, panicked. I would make a fuss after him, ask him in a high pitched voice "Is my little baby bird OK?" and give him a piece of spinach because he had clearly just been through some sort of "ordeal." I finally realized one day that everytime he pulls that stunt and I run to his cage, he rights himself on the perch, fluffs out his feathers so he looks nice and plump, and then grinds his beak, a sign of cockatiel contentment. CONTENTMENT! Content that his little game worked indeed! Smart bird.

I like to sit with him on the floor because if I don't he could eat something that fell there and get sick or choke. He could also quietly and quickly destroy something - you name it, he can wreck it. I bet you wouldn't guess that a mere cockatiel could break a Smith College Wedgewood china plate from 1932, would you? Oh but he can - and did, which resulted in my Smith College plate collection's migration to storage. He also chews things, like electrical cords, though he did chew a metal chain literally off my neck, bending and twisting the loop of metal until it gave way. He has also mastered the art of disconnecting the chain to my fan, though we let him do this for the sheer entertainment of it. Lily (who is a boy, by despite the "House of Mirth" reference) has even sampled some of my houseplants in the past. He has an affinity for lettuce, so if he sees anything green and leafy, his little cockatiel brain automatically registers "lettuce," and he goes for it. Though my houseplants are all bird-friendly, I don't like the idea of my bird eating an exotic plant, so this has resulted in my grabbing a cranky bird and fishing the bits of leaf out of his beak, something he really hates. He once stepped on my cactus, which I thought inaccessible, but he somehow managed to take flight and land on top of it. Luckily my hand had come in contact with said cactus MANY times before (never put a cactus near your alarm clock. EVER) so I knew to look for the tiny, nearly invisible cacti hairs that had embedded themselves in his foot - I had to pick them out, one at a time, with my tweezermans. Unlike my evil parakeet, Lucy (who stabbed herself in the head with a piece of stray wire and bled over the upper half of her body, then sprayed blood on my wall, curtains, and blinds, all hours before leaving for a 12 horu road trip), Lily has spared me of any true first aid fiasco...knock on wood.

Despite his mischievous tendencies, Lily is a great pet. He's a sweet little thing, and very intelligent. He has funny habits, like a foot and shoe obsession. Right now he is singing to my slipper, sneaking up, touching it quickly with his beak and then running away to see what happens. Demented. He also seems to know when someone is naked. I run into my room from the shower and he's climb to the top of his cage and wolf whistle. Perverted, yet hilarious. He whistles "Charge" "Gaudeamus Igitur" and the first line of "Dixie" as well as his own little tunes. His vocabulary is impressive for a cockatiel - they usually can't talk, but Lily says "Hi bird" "Hi birdy" "Hi pretty birdy" "Hi Lily" and "Hi pretty Lily" He can say "How are you" and "I love you" but he mostly says these to himself when he thinks no one is listening cause he's bitchy like that. He used to say "Hi Benny" when my wee parakeet Ben was alive, but she has died, and Lily has forgotten how to say "Ben."

Now Lily has made up a game that consists of him flying to out-of-reach places in my room and me trying to chase him. When I get close enough to him, he bites me. Awesome. A day in the life with Lily bird :)

Sunday, November 26, 2006


Today I bought new sneakers.
I know, to most people, this is a pretty mundane event, but for me it was the end of a sort-of era.

The last time I bought new sneakers was probably a year and a half ago, when I started training for a half marathon. I am a New Balance whore - I ran cross country all four years in high school and after a number of not so great experiences with Nike and Reebok and Adidas running shoes, I discovered the glory of New Balance. When a New Balance sneaker says it's a size 10, it fits my size 10 feet perfectly. While the other shoes left me with blackened toenails and blisters, my New Balance sneaks fit my foot like a glove and would never rub my skin the wrong way, even when wearing them barefoot. Even after I stopped running I wore New Balance - the all terrain shoes I wore all through college, and I brought them to Kenya with me. I left them there though, feeling benevolent and beyond wordly goods, wondering whose feet they may grace next. I bought another pair to go to Kenya last January, intending to take them home this time around, but because I got incredibly sick at the hotel we stayed at and the SFS intern had to pack my bag (he was a great guy but totally mortified to have to pack for me and touch my underwear and stuff) because I was so incapacitated by vomiting and diarrhea (VD for short) he rushed to put everything in my bag and get me out to the car, and in that hurry he left a shoe behind. So here I am at home, still with one perfectly good New Balance shoe, wondering what to do with it.

ANYWAYS. When it came time to start my half marathon training I turned instantly to New Balance. I purchased a pair of hideously ugly yet amazingly comfortable white and bright orange sneakers. I felt like I was walking on a cloud when I wore them, and they saw me through five months of training without a hitch. They were seriously like an extension of my body, and when I packed my bags for the car ride to Portland, Maine, where the half marathon was held, I spoke to them in my head "you and me shoes, we're gonna go those 13.1 miles. we're gonna be great." I thought things went fairly well during the race. I was running for charity, partaking in the "Team in Training" program run by the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. An ad for Team in Training piqued my interest as I was riding the MBTA. I work with in the Hematological Malignancies section of The Cancer Hospital, and I had often felt somewhat helpless when interacting with patients - I'm not a nurse or a doctor, and though my research has already helped some people, I wanted to do more. I felt like I was running those 13 miles for every patient I'd ever met, and they were my focus during the race. I'd try and think of a patient for every mile, and when I passed the mile marker, I'd say their name in my head. This was a great motivator, but it made me ignore any ache or pain I had. Normally this would be a good thing, ignore the muscle cramp or the side stitch til the end of the race, but I wasn't ignoring that. I was ignoring the electronic parole-esque bracelet I was wearing around my ankle that was keeping track of my number (in case I collapsed on the course, they'd know I was missing) and my race time. It was digging into my skin. Actually, a more accurate description of what it was doing would be EATING my skin. Right down to my achilles tendon. While there's not a lot of skin there to begin with, there's enough that if something starts eating it, you bleed, kind of a lot. I didn't realize this until I crossed the finish line. I felt so triumphant, standing there, wrapped in my tinfoil blanket to keep me warm. When I put my leg up on an upturned milk crate to have the band removed by a race official, I STILL didn't realize anything was wrong. Then she glanced over her shoulder "we need gloves for this one." As she snapped on a pair of latex gloves I looked down and said "sweet jesus." I had bled all over the back of my shoe and sock. It was nasty. The race official pointed me in the direction of the first aid tent, but they were busy taking care of someone who had collapsed at the finish line, and had come to very confused, actually hysterical, probably because of dehydration. I figured they were more important, so I took off my shoe, walked barefoot to the car and my mom just drove us home without fanfare.

My leg healed fine, though there's a funky scar there now. The blood never really came out of my sneakers, so every time I put on my right shoe, I'd glance down at the dark stain and fondly remember the Team in Training days. I never wanted to retire the shoes, as they were evidence of my battle scars. Today my sister, mother and I went to Decathalon Sports, just down the road, to see if we could find any bargains at there going-out-of-business sale. I found a gorgeous pair of Saucony "Hurricanes" a silver shoe with blue accents. The New Balances were long gone, but I had known many runners who were Saucony whores just as much as I was a New Balance whore. Besides, I still have to replace my NB all terrains one day, so buying a new brand of running shoe didn't seem to be too adulterous. I slipped out of my ridiculous Chinese Laundry slingback and slid my foot into the Saucony. I could feel the gel-filled soles cushion my foot with every step. I had plenty of room to wiggle my toes, yet the shoe wasn't too loose in the heel. The laces didn't cut off my circulation, and the weight of the shoe didn't drag down my foot. They were perfect. And 40% off the marked down price.

As we walked through the parking lot I contemplated the fate of the trusty orange and white shoes. They're not ready for a full retirement yet, and I think I'll still wear them when street running, and save the hurricanes for the gym. When it does come time for retirement I joked that I'd put the shoes in a glass case, along with my Team in Training singlet and half-marathon medal. Though I laughed when I said this, I think I'm kind of serious. My orange shoes and I WERE a team, after all....

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Lazy Saturday

Usually my Saturdays are pretty hardcore. I get up around 8:30am usually after about 20 minutes of wishing I could sleep longer, throw on some old clothes and head over to Foster Parrots to volunteer for a few hours. Then I try and do everything I miss out on during the week: fill up the gas tank, pick up dry cleaning, go to the library, go to Wal-Mart to buy the various bath and body products I've run out of, run to the post office, get pet food, etc etc blah blah. Then once I'm home, I'll extensively clean my room, do a load of laundry and then maybe I'll do something outside, like wash my car or tidy my garden. Then I collapse into bed when I'm done. I don't usually go out like a normal 24 year old would. Why? BECAUSE I AM EXHAUSTED!

Today was different. I got a ton done on Wednesday, Thursday morning and Friday, and decided that after I went to FosterParrots, I'd dedicate the entire day to crafting, mostly so I could finish my ornaments for the cake+pie/freshly blended ornament swap. And so I did - I crafted for nine hours today and finished my lovely snowmen. I'll post pictures when Amy has uploaded them, as I'm depending on her digital camera for pictures, rather than my cameraphone.

Of course, with any long-term project, especially crafting project, comes movie watching. I always watch movies while crafting, and I usually like to pull out my miniseries. Yesterday I started with "A Town Like Alice," one of my favorite movies of ALL TIME. It's sooo so long, it must be 6 or 7 hours long, but I just get so wrapped up in it every time. I wouldn't have even known the movie existed if it hadn't been for a small ad in "USA Today" years ago - just the ad was so inspiring that I had to check out the movie. I think I ordered it sight unseen from amazon and killed the time waiting for it to be shipped by reading the original Nevil Shute novel "The Legacy." Oh, I remember crying midway through the book wondering if I had made a mistake ordering such a sad movie, but soon things set itself to right. I'm not giving anything away in case someone reading this wants to see it. It's really fabulous, and I can rewatch it and rewatch it and it never gets old.

Today I was watching the PBS Mystery series "Heat of the Sun." It takes place in 1930's Kenya, and is another wonderful miniseries. I love the hard edge of Trevor Eve's character Chief Inspector Tyburn, and his rejection of the rules and Nairobi's societal hierarchy (and of course, his silent adoration of Emma Fitzgerald) and I think if I could play any person in a movie or go back in time I would choose to be Emma Fitzgerald, the daring aviatrix who wasn't afraid of anything, was completely badass, yet managed to remain utterly gorgeous throughout even the stickiest situations. When I watch this series, I escape back to Kenya in an instant, it's glorious.

Tomorrow I might try and get through another favorite, "The Flame Trees of Thika," based on Elspeth Huxley's memoirs of her childhood in Kenya. It's so endearing, the actress who plays little Elspeth is wise beyond her years, and Tilly, her mother, played by Hayley Mills, is the embodiment of the strong independent frontierswoman.

Hmm. I've just noticed a pattern. Each one of these movies features an incredibly strong and independent female main character. No wonder I like them all so much! Sigh. I want to watch them all over again writing about them, but I'm actually writing this while Jam is on the phone with me, so I'd best be wrapping up this post and turning my attentions back to the man, since he can't multitask like I can ;)

Friday, November 24, 2006

How Thanksgiving Started

Yesterday morning, I was sitting up in bed, contemplating whether or not I wanted to actually get up, when I heard a low rumble. I wondered what it was and turned my attention to the window in time to see our fancy red ambulance moving up the street at a fast clip with its lights on. Then I remembered: our neighbor's holiday overdose was due up.

Our street is very small - there are only 14 houses on it, and the street is a cul-de-sac 1/1oth of a mile long. We all know each other well. As on any street, there's that one house that's trouble. This is where the OD-ing neighbor lives. He's done it countless times before, either from alcohol, drugs or a combination of the two. I can't recall exactly how many times the ambulance has been up to that house, which is scary considering my neighbor is only 23.

Anyways, I ran downstairs to spread the word, and went outside to make sure they were going to the trouble house. They were. My father and I stood in the driveway, and as we were trying to figure things out, a firetruck came. Then two police cars. Then another. Finally dad put on the police scanner. He said "is there an unmarked coming up the street right now?" I looked, and an unmarked crown vic was flying up the street. I looked at him and said "someone must be dead." Our neighbor and the arrival of another town cruiser, a state trooper and the sheriff's department confirmed it: he had finally killed himself. Heroin.

I have to say that his suicidal overdose did not come as a shock. My sister and I were talking about it. This kid was one of those kids who you knew was not going to live a long time. I used to wait for the bus with his brother, who tried his best to torment me throughout our bus-riding middle school days. He started smoking in 6th grade. I used to stare at him while he smoked, waiting for the bus to come and think "he's not going to live long." It's sad and scary to have that kind of mindset, but it's true. It's just the way things were.

What's sad to me is not so much this person's death, though it's certainly tragic and hard for the family, I feel that this boy was so miserable here that he has to be better off now, but the fact that the neighborhood and perhaps the whole town breathed a sigh of relief. When his brother finally left town, that took away some of the stress the family caused, but the younger brother was the one with the real drug problem. He was spaced out most of the time, but the people he sold to were troublemakers. They threw things at teachers, were disruptive in class. One tried to run my neighbor over with his car, and then assaulted him. Another made false claims against my father in an attempt to get him into big trouble at work. Their cars sped up our small street, a threat to the children that played there. The boys abused their dog and fed him chicken bones on purpose so they could watch the dog try and cough them up. The dog started walking through the woods to eat at the local Petco after a while, having outwitted them at their own game. The boys lit fires in the woods, one time the older one set himself on fire and had to have a skin graft on his leg. They were arrested countless times, in trouble countless times, suspended countless times. They were not nice people. Period. It's sad to me that the death of someone so misguided, so troubled, and so young would bring that much relief to an entire town, but that's what it's done. What a sad way to leave this Earth, leaving a trail of people behind you, grateful that you are finally gone.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

My life flows on in endless song
Above earth's lamentation.
I hear the real, though far off hymn
That hails the new creation
Above the tumult and the strife,
I hear the music ringing;
It sounds an echo in my soul
How can I keep from singing?

What though the tempest loudly roars,
I hear the truth, it liveth.
What though the darkness round me close,
Songs in the night it giveth.
No storm can shake my inmost calm
While to that rock I'm clinging.

Since love is lord of Heaven and earth
How can I keep from singing?

When tyrants tremble, sick with fear,
And hear their death-knell ringing,
When friends rejoice both far and near,
How can I keep from singing?

In prison cell and dungeon vile
Our thoughts to t
hem are winging.
When friends by shame are undefiled,
How can I keep from singing?

My life flows on in endless song
Above earth's lamentation.
I hear the real, thought far off hymn
That hails the new creation
Above the tumult and the strife,
I hear the music ringing;
It sounds an echo in my soul
How can I keep from singing?

Happy Thanksgiving

*How Can I Keep from Singing? by Robert Lowry, 1860

Wednesday, November 22, 2006


So today's post was a wee bit sad, so in honor of Thanksgiving tomorrow, I'm going to write about thing for which I am thankful. Since it's November 22nd, I'll write 22, in no particular order, and I'll be brief. Here we go:

1. Family. They're so amazing. I'm so lucky that we're close, especially me and Ame. I know siblings that don't even speak. I'm happy that Amy's always there to chat with, especially if we're being evil :)
2. Friends. They're there for me like a second family, through thick and thin.
3. Jam. Because he's my love.
4. Comfort. I am comfortable because I am safe and happy. I truly want for nothing, which I find a blessing. I lust for things, oh yes, like a digital rebel camera body, but truly, I want for nothing.
5. Happiness. I am a happy person. I feel very little sadness about me. Sometimes I do feel depressed about things, but on the whole I am happy, and I'm so grateful that when I sit down to the table on Thanksgiving, I see other happy faces that do not have to dwell on sadness or pain because someone is sick, or lives far far away, or is gone.
6. Wee birds.I never thought that three little birds could be such a joy, but they are. They never fail to make me laugh or amaze me with their intelligence.
7. My brain. It's getting me through Tufts. If this brain got me through Smith, I know it can get me through Tufts.
8. Freedom. As I write this, millions of people are living lives of oppression in the most unbearable circumstance. As much as people complain about the loss of civil liberties, I think of the people who have no liberties. About girls who can't go to sleep at night because the militia might invade their refugee camp and kidnap them. About women who can't vote or work or drive. I am a free woman living in America; the world is at my feet.
9. Sense of humor. I laugh at everything, and that's what gets me through it - I make other people laugh too, which is sometimes more important than anything to me, just so I can see them smile.
10. Home. Ok, it's not exactly my home, it's my parents. The point is that I don't have to think twice about where I go after work, or where I'm going to be during Grey's Anatomy or America's Next Top model. I have a home that is warm, has electricity, running water and heat. That alone is more than some people have.
11. Job. I grumble about it yes, but I am doing important work that might make a difference to someone someday. Plus I get benefits!
12. Clean air. My allergies are so bad these days, I love it when I can get out of the city and go up the hill to Tufts and take a deep sneeze-free breath.
13. Sense of adventure. It's taken me all over, including Kenya, my travel love of all time. I want to go more places too. I can't wait!
14. Bookclub. It's taught me to expand my mind and read nonfiction.
15. This computer. Heck, I wouldn't be writing my post without it! Seriously though, it's made life so much easier for me.
16. Sophia Smith. For showing the world it's worth it to educate women.
17. Kenyan family. They are as dear to my heart as my own family and friends are. I am thankful that I had an opportunity to go beyond my little circle into the great unknown and meet such wonderful people.
18. Hope. Because despite how badly things in the world are going, I read an article or watch the news and am reminded that for every bad unfeeling person there is in the world, there are three who care enough to want to make a difference. I am one of them.
19. Craftiness. I have loved discovering my secret talents and having an excuse to buy "Martha Stewart Living"
20. Our troops. Every day they are putting their lives on the line for us. Whether or not you believe in what they are doing, you cannot deny that they are standing up for us because they were told it was their duty, and they are dying for us without complaint or protest. Bless them, indeed.
21. Seriously, did I mention my sister yet? We're super-close, like "i'm in your head" close. If I didn't have her to talk to, I would probalby lose my mind and have to get a cat or a dog to talk to.
22. Grandma's cooking because GOOD LORD we are gonna eat tomorrow!


I recently read an inspiring article in Tufts Alumni magazine, which is posted below this post. Today I found out that the man featured, Father Angelo D'Agostino, died on Tuesday. I visited the website of the organization he started, Nyumbani, and watched the video a volunteer made for the Gap Inspi(red) campaign. All I have to say is that Kenya is one of the most beautiful and most difficult and heart-wrenching places I've ever seen, but today even I cannot understand its cruelty.

Alma Matters-Plus : Alumni

Medicine Man

They named the boy Moses.

Reverend Angelo D'Agostino, G53

Two local police officers found him lying in a small box on the banks of Kenya's Nairobi River. It was impossible to tell how long Moses had traveled or who he was, since he was discovered with little more than the clothes on his back and the box that carried him. Once they inspected the box, the officers reached into it, removed the boy, and carried him to their police car, which was parked nearby. As the car sped over the rough terrain and the Nairobi River faded into the rearview mirror, Moses embarked on the second leg of his journey. The first leg had brought him to the edge of a river on the other side of the world. The second one brought him into the waiting arms of Reverend Angelo D'Agostino, M49, G53, a Tufts University-trained surgeon who was running an orphanage for HIV+ children living in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Soon after he was delivered to Reverend D'Agostino, Moses was tested for HIV. He was found to be positive, and then the waiting began. Since three out of four newborn babies infected with HIV in Africa turn negative within a year following a positive test and Moses was in good health, Doctor D'Ag (or Fr. D'Ag as he is familiarly called), and his team delayed treating him for HIV. Moses, it turned out, was one of the lucky ones. He turned negative when he was a year old and was adopted by a well-wisher and her family. Today, Moses lives in California with his new family.

But for every happy ending, though, there are countless stories that end tragically. UNAIDS, a collaborative effort of the United Nations and several other organizations, estimated that, as of 2005, there were 12 million orphans whose parents had died of AIDS living in Sub-Saharan Africa, over 1 million of whom live in Kenya. And these numbers increase every day. Many of these orphans are HIV+ and if they are not taken in by family members, Reverend D'Agostino shares, they are either abandoned (which he believes was the case with Moses) or left to roam slums like Kibera, which was featured in the recent film The Constant Gardener.

Yet, some of these children end up somewhere else. It's located a mere 15-minute drive from some of the worst slums in Kenya. It's a place of life and laughter, a place where the broken become whole again. It's where you can find Reverend D'Agostino who, for the past 14 years, has given these orphans something many of them have never had–a family of their own.

Humble Beginnings
In 1991, Reverend Angelo D'Agostino was in Nairobi serving on the board of a large orphanage. At the time, HIV+ children were being abandoned at alarming rates.

"The children were often abandoned at hospitals because their mothers, knowing they were HIV+ and probably going to die, felt that if they took their children home they would die in the midst of slums and their children would be left completely abandoned there," says Reverend D'Agostino. "So, they would leave them at the hospital. The hospital, however, had no means of taking care of them and the children would often die of infection or malnutrition within a few months."

Recognizing that a problem existed, Reverend D'Agostino suggested that the orphanage set up a separate facility to meet the medical needs of HIV+ orphans. The board disagreed with his plan. Reverend D'Agostino then made a decision. He decided to start an orphanage on his own. This work was unprecedented at the time, since there were no facilities serving HIV+ orphans in existence in the country. But the reverend moved forward anyway.

The reverend meeting the first lady of Kenya.

One of his first steps was to meet with Kenya's Minister of Health. The meeting went well and Reverend D'Agostino left with a promise of doctors and nurses for the home. He then found a house to rent for the orphanage and admitted its first three HIV+ orphans. But then something unexpected happened. The doctors and nurses never came. The minister of health, who would become a key figure in the life of the orphanage as the president of Kenya a decade later, left his government post to start his own political party. All was not lost, though. Before he joined the Jesuits and became one of the first psychoanalyst priests in the history of Roman Catholicism, Reverend D'Agostino was a surgeon. He was trained at Tufts (earning his Doctor of Medicine degree from the Tufts School of Medicine in 1949 and a master's degree in Surgery from the university's Graduate School of Arts and Sciences in 1953*) and later served as a surgeon in the United States Air Force. This dense medical background proved critically important in the early days of the home.

"If not for my medical training nothing would have happened [with the home]," recalls Reverend D'Agostino during a recent phone interview. "I appreciated the severity of the problem facing the home and I noted that we had no other resources. I was able to put the lab together and get the proper instruments and people to run them. I was also able to get the social workers to do their part in getting the children set up. The nursing, of course, was very important and I had a hand in selecting and supervising them for a while."

The reverend relied on some of his other skills as well. Since he was essentially starting a non-profit organization from the ground up, he needed to both acquire the funding necessary to sustain the home and also lend a hand when necessary.

"I did a little bit of everything in the beginning," he says. "Hardware, plumbing, whatever. But now our work is bigger. We have maintenance people. We have an extraordinarily good manager who is just fantastically gifted in dealing with children. Now, my role is more like that of an executive director of a nonprofit."

While the orphanage is doing well in the present, Reverend D'Agostino and the home faced other challenges when they were starting out. As the number of children being served increased during the early to late 1990s, so did the number of funerals the reverend presided over. In the beginning, there were two to three funerals a month on the grounds of the home. But, with the advent of antiretroviral drug regimens in 2003, the number of deaths plummeted to the point where today funerals at the home are rare.

A Home for Everyone
The process for children who enter the home has been the same since its inception. Prior to being accepted, each orphan is tested for HIV. If they are positive, their blood work is then analyzed to see if they require medication.

"Whether or not the children start receiving medicine is determined by what the blood tests show," says Reverend D'Agostino. "If they are holding their own with their own resources, then we don't start it right away."

While each child undergoes a different treatment regimen when they come to the home, the reverend has noticed that all the children, regardless of their background, have something in common–their ability to adapt.

"It's extraordinary seeing how quickly the children adapt to the home," he says. "The other children take them in even if they can't speak the same language. Some even come from other countries. For example, we have a little girl from Somalia who was HIV positive like her parents and her clan wanted to kill her. Her grandmother used to have to tie her to a bed when she went out of the home because if she had gotten out they would have killed her. A doctor I knew told me about this girl. She was able to be evacuated by UNICEF and was brought to our orphanage. She could barely walk because she had been tied up all the time. But now she's happy and healthy and speaks English and Swahili. She's a totally different person than when she first came."

Outside the home, unfortunately, things are different for these children.

"There's still a lot of discrimination and stigmatization [of those with HIV] in Kenya," says Reverend D'Agostino. "The girls, even more than the boys, have to put up with it in the schools so they try to keep where they come from quiet. These children are pretty gifted musically and they've made some CD's, videos, and are often on television. Sometimes, the kids they're in school with see them on TV and say things like 'you're from that AIDS home and you have AIDS.' We help them cope with that. This is where my training in psychology comes in."

Reverend Angelo D'Agostino with children from the orphanage.

Planning for the Future
Today, the children's home provides housing, food, and medical care to 96 HIV+ orphans and is part of the larger nonprofit organization that Reverend D'Agostino runs. The organization is called Nyumbani, which in Swahili means "home."

"We have three main projects," he says. "We have the orphanage, but we also have a community-based program named Lea Toto (Swahili for "to raise the child"). In 1998, we decided that because there was something like 150,000 HIV+ orphans in Nairobi alone that we should do something. So, we started a program in which we go into some of the worst slums in the city and take care of these children, most of whom are cared for by their grandparents or some other caregiver. We have eight Lea Toto clinics in the city and have registered over 2,000 children so far and we were recently awarded a $2.5 million contract by USAID to expand the number of patients to 4,000 by 2009."

Children who are registered with the program receive, among other things, basic medical care, counseling and psychological support, spiritual guidance, and HIV transmission prevention education.

The organization's third project is the Nyumbani Village, an initiative which has involved everyone from the Kenyan government to the Vatican.

"The Kenyan government gave us 1,000 acres about three hours from Nairobi to build a village," says Reverend D'Agostino, who counts current Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki, the former Minster of Health, and his wife as strong proponents of the work of Nyumbani.

The financial support to construct the village came primarily from the Vatican and the Italian government.

"The Vatican put out a stamp for HIV+ children about two years ago and the receipts from it came to about half a million euro, which we received," says Reverend D'Agostino. "The Italian government matched this money and with the 1 million euro we received, and with a private donation from the United States, we built the village."

The village consists of 40 houses at the moment, but the goal is to have 100. Like the orphanage, it will house HIV+ orphans but these will be children who are under the care of a grandparent or other caregiver. In addition to the dwellings, the village will feature a clinic, school complex, a guest house, police post, a fifteen hundred person community center, and three vocational training centers which will help train the orphans in a variety of life-preparing paths.

As the Nyumbani website states, the village will help its occupants, "sustain themselves through agriculture, poultry, dairy projects as well as handicrafts and external services. The adolescents will benefit from the knowledge of the elderly occupants, who in turn will benefit from the support of the younger population. Vocational opportunity in the form of training, tools, and start-up financing for trades, cottage industry and agricultural endeavors will be provided with the goal of self-sustaining independence, financial security and stability for residents, particularly maturing young people."

Adds Reverend D'Agostino, "One of the goals of building the village was to help teach these children some gainful occupations. In Sub-Saharan Africa, there is something like 25 million orphans, not all of whom have HIV. Through training, we hope to impact this calamity."

In his current role, it would appear that Reverend D'Agostino has left medicine behind. But, in reality, the field remains a cornerstone of his work.

"I feel like I'm doing a kind of global medicine now," he replies, when asked if he misses the discipline. "In fact, I think I'm doing more medicine now than I did before when I was working in psychiatry with only a few patients. I think of my current work as administrative medicine."

Every 14 Seconds
With the exception of a few trips a year to the United States, Reverend D'Agostino spends most of his time on the grounds of the orphanage, where he has an office. At the end of each day, one that consists of answering e-mails, making fundraising calls, setting up meetings with government officials, and visiting with some of the children, he retires to a compound nearby.

The compound was built for retired Jesuits, especially missionaries from India, and each night Reverend D'Agostino has dinner with those who share his mission of improving the world around them. When dinner ends, the reverend and his fellow Jesuits gather on the patio to watch the sun set over Nairobi's Ngong Hills. In the time it takes for the sun to depart and for darkness to settle in, many more children have become orphans. In fact, it's estimated that every 14 seconds a child is orphaned in Sub-Saharan Africa.

But for the briefest of moments each dusk, as Reverend D'Agostino watches the sun disappear behind the hills, there are no mothers, fathers, or children with HIV. There are no slums. There are no orphans. There are no children floating down a river in a box.

There is only the departing sun, the rolling hills, and the faint laughter of children somewhere in the distance.

To learn about the Children's Home or any of the other programs run through Nyumbani, go to

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

someone watching over me?

This morning was one of those mornings where nothing goes right.

My alarm clock went off at its usual 5:23. I hit snooze and reset my phone alarm for 5:40, then got up to pee. I left the door of my room ajar so the family's waking rumblings would keep me from falling into a deep sleep. Yeah right. I woke up to the 6:53 traffic report. I cursed, then hopped out of bed and into the shower, hopped out, pulled on my clothes (which luckily I had ironed the night before) and caught the 7:03 traffic report (I'm speedy). The traffic was only backed up to Derby Street - exit 15. That meant I had two exits at the speed limit before hitting a wall of traffic, and by the time I got there, the traffic may have dissipated slightly. It was worth the risk of taking the highway.

I gathered my keys and bag, then remembered that I was going to have to find the piece of paper with my Tufts access codes on it because I needed to email myself online journal articles from Tufts library to save cashmoney on copying. I fumbled and knocked a bunch of stuff off my craft table and onto the floor. Damn. I found the paper though, success. I took one final glance at my room and walked out into the hallway. I went to go down the stairs when something happened. I don't know what it was, I didn't trip and I didn't turn my ankle, but I fell, and hard. I tried to catch myself as I fell down the stairs because the tile floor at the bottom does not make a good cushion. As I fell, my legs turned out at the knee, and I could feel my knees taking the impact at every stair. I finally managed to throw my right hand out to my side and slowed my fall by dragging the heel of my hand along the wall. You know how you get a rug burn if you rub your skin against carpet? Yeah, well the same thing happens with wallpaper. I came to a stop just before the end of the stairs, and managed to land on my butt. I sat there for a minute, breathing heavily, pain radiating from my knees, shins, and my right hand, which surprisingly stung more than anything else. I was really still until I calmed down, then limped through the kitchen, grabbed lunch from the fridge, and went outside.

There was a thick layer of frost covering my Subaru Forester. I jumped in the car and pulled the seatbelt only to go flying backwards. The seatbelt had wrapped itself around the lever that reclines the seat, and when I pulled the seatbelt, the tension pulled the lever and the seat fully reclined. I untangled it, put the seat upright and looked through my frosted windshield. "Seriously, is this some sign I shouldn't be going to work?!" I asked. I started my car, and jacked the heat, but the car wasn't warm enough to defrost the windows. As I eased out of my driveway, I pounded the windshield wiper fluid button and sprayed washer fluid all over my window. It defrosted most of the window, except for the part in front of my face. I had to creep slowly down my street, and then drive slowly and carefully turn down Union Street while waiting for the window to defrost. Luckily by the time I was ready to merge onto the highway, my windshield was clear. Of course, as I made my way onto the onramp, someone pulled out of a gas station and cut me off, then proceeded to merge at a speed of 25mph. "RRRRRRRRR" was all I could say.

Since the breakdown lane is active in the mornings, I stayed in it - it's not the fastest moving lane, but I think it's the smoothest, plus if I stay in that lane, I don't have to cross one or two lanes of wall-like traffic to exit to the T garage. Of course, the drivers around me were moving painfully slow. I'm not a speed demon, my care hates going about 65, but when the road is clear, going 40 on the highway just isn't optimal. I was boxed in though, passing wasn't an option. I had only gone a few miles when I saw the State Police merging onto the highway. "Dammit," I thought, "What now?" I turned on WBZ to catch the traffic report - the timing was perfect "and now we're receiving reports of a right lane accident just before Derby Street. It's in the active breakdown lane with is NOT going to be helping anyone traffic-wise." Great. A box truck was kind enough to let me cut in front of him, but few other drivers were getting the message. They were flying down the breakdown lane until they nearly smacked the trooper's cruiser, then cut people off in the right lane. Five or six people did this to me. Just as I was ready to really lose it and either let the expletives fly or turn back around because clearly the higher powers were against me, I came upon the accident scene. One car was fairly undamaged, but the Subaru Forester involved was missing its front end. Yup. A Subaru Forester, same as mine, but red. I gaped at it, and glanced at the front in my rearview mirror. It appeared that the person driving it had made it out ok and was unhurt, but the car was totaled. I sat in my car thinking for a minute. Then I realized that today the higher powers weren't working against me. Despite the bruised knee and shins, the cut hand, the scrape on my leg, the higher powers were clearly working for me. Amazing.

Monday, November 20, 2006

do it for the parents

So generally my parents can be very hard to buy gifts for, my father especially. Every Christmas my sister and I put our heads together and try to think up something creative to give them. Usually we can come up with something for mom, but dad, who staunchly refuses to make a Christmas list because he'll only be disappointed when he doesn't get what's on it (1. Toyota Rav 4 2. John Deere tractor 3. Lexus 4. Kayak 5. meeting at the Oval Office - you get the idea) is always a struggle, especially because his birthday is December 19th. He spent his whole childhood celebrating his birthday and Christmas together (therefore only getting one gift. Not cool) so the three lovely and intelligent women who share his abode (me and my mom and sister, you pervs, he doesn't have 3 wives!) try to make a big deal out of his birthday AND Christmas. Two gifts for the most impossible recipient within 6 days! Unbelievable!

Amy has come up with some brilliant stuff before - last year she scoped out a model of Marine 1 on eBay. See the thing is, my dad likes everything. I swear. Ok, so not everything, not typical "man" things like golf and cigars, which makes buying him a gift on damn near impossible. He loves sports, aircraft, and the Beatles, and appreciates books about any of them. He collects license plates and model helicopters. He is the GRILL MASTER. He's obsessed with clean cars and neat yards. He loves movies. WHY IS HE SO HARD TO BUY FOR? grrr

Because of this difficulty, Ame and I usually try to get something really cool for our parents, a joint gift they can both enjoy. This year I started brainstorming early. Then the moment I wait for every year happened - a gift idea fell right into my lap. The local news station did a feature on turning your old VHS tapes into DVDs. Apparently, VHS recordings start to degrade about 10-15 years after they're shot, if not sooner, while DVDs can last 50 or even 100 years before degrading, depending on quality and how often they're played. That's what I like to hear. I told Ame about it and we agreed that we'd convert several of our favorite old movies to DVD.

We decided that we'd take the tapes to our local Ritz Camera. This way, we wouldn't have to send them out to some unknown company. This was due to the fact that we were taking our oldest VHS recordings- Christmas 1985 and Christmas 1986 - to be converted. Those two years my father rented a video camera the size of a Volkswagen and propped it up on a tripod to catch the Christmas memories. These tapes not only feature my sister and I at the tender ages of 1 and 3 and 2 and 4, but dearly departed family members: my Grandma Kitty, my great grandfather, my great uncle and my cousin. If anything happened to these tapes, Amy and I would probably not be having any kids if you get my drift. Not really....but we would have to move out, that's for sure.

We went to Ritz and discovered that the DVDs can only be 2 hours long. The woman there had a lot of trouble explaining what would happen if the VHS feature was over two hours. She said something about it going on to a second DVD, then said something about not having to pay more. It was a bit unclear. Then there was something about picking music, and how we should skip that part because it was cheesy. All in all my sister and I were a bit apprehensive about the whole deal, so we only left one tape with them and crossed our fingers. They said they'd call us when it was ready.

Well, today I realized that about 11 days had gone by since dropping the tape off. Knowing that the tan babies depend on me getting that tape back, I swung by Ritz after a long day at school. After a split second of panic when the girl behind the counter told me they'd call when it was ready and if I hadn't heard from them something weird was going on, she went to the bins of photos and pulled our the envelope containing my DVD. I was giddy, though annoyed at myself when I realized that there was only about 1 1/2 hours of home video on the tape, not the 4 hours Amy and I had guessed, and that the last 1/2 hour of the DVD is occupied by early 80's television and news broadcasts, though they'll be good for a laugh. I could hardly wait to see the thing, but braced myself for disappointment, because of the confusion we encountered when dropping off the tape, the weird music selection option, etc.

Oh. My. God. When I saw it, I laughed so hard I nearly cried. The DVD is perfect, just perfect. If you have old videos, I highly highly recommend getting them converted, even if it's just so you have an excuse to watch them. Seeing my three year old self on tape brought tears to my eyes - it was so funny and so heartbreaking to see how tiny I was - Amy too, she was even smaller at barely 17 months. My Grandma Kitty was there too, commenting on our antics, giving us kisses and hugs. It brought me back to such a happy place. My parents are probably gonna bawl when they see this stuff, but it's the greatest thing we could give them. What's even better is that the scenes are automatically set at 5 minute increments, so the recording is so easy to navigate. The quality is incredible too, I was so surprised considering the condition of the tapes, but the picture was more than decent. Oh I just can't wait til Christmas morning comes and they see those. We're going to have a film fest I'm sure, but considering everyone who'll be over my house for Christmas dinner has a feature role in the film (except my cousin Andrew, who hadn't been born yet!) I think the family will enjoy it, especially my cousin Jess, who was about 13 months old in the tape and stumbled drunkenly around our old living room, tripping over presents and getting tangled in wrapping paper. Classic.

Anyways, like I said, if you have old tapes, convert them. It really will warm your soul. It did mine. My final thought is this: my parents always said that raising us was fun. I never really believed them. I figured that they said that to be nice, but really it was pretty challenging, and it made me sort of dread having kids in that way that you anticipate doing something because you know it's going to be the best thing you ever do, but incredibly challenging and difficult. After today, seeing these tapes, I know it's true, they really did have fun raising us. I watched us as little kids bumbling around on the floor, ripping open presents, spreading wrapping paper and toys all over the living room, and all you can hear in the background is laughter: my mother and father, aunt and uncle, grandmother and grandfather and Grandma Kitty all laughing. It's the sweetest sound. I hope someone records me laughing like that one the tan babies, of course. :)

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Movies, movies, movies

So I had to do a scraptastic post via cell yesterday - I'm just sad that my photo of Borat didn't come out!

So yes, Jamaal and I saw Borat yesterday. I hadn't heard much about Sacha Baron Cohen or the Borat character, though Jam had been kind enough to enlighten me - he actually had mentioned Borat waaay before the movie came out. He told me that he watched this show that had a zany character from Kazakhstan on it and he described the skits. It sounded funny enough, but I was sort of like "uhhh yeah, ok." When the movie came out and it got so much hype, I thought "oh honestly, how funny could this movie possibly be." Last night, as the tears of laughter were rolling down my face I realized that yes, Borat is actually THAT funny.

Don't get me wrong, there were some pretty crude parts, plus the parts where he offended everyone under the sun - but that was the beauty of it, the movie makes fun of everyone. Furthermore, it is outlandishly funny. Certain groups are very upset about the movie, saying that it's spreading lies about them, but I think that if you have a sense of humor and half a brain, you'll be amused, and if you can appreciate a little mockery, you might laugh so hard you cry.

After the movie, we decided to wind down a bit with cocktails and food. We wandered down the street towards the theater district and went back and forth a few times about where to land, but we finally chose a small Chinese food restaurant with a lounge upstairs. For a majority of the night we were the only ones there - we started out with tropical drinks and ended with strong martinis. I always get excited about using chopsticks too, and luckily Jam ordered a chicken dish that gave my chopstick skills a workout. To me, rice is the ultimate challenge, but I think I did ok. I can't use chopsticks without thinking of two things: one is Pam, with whom I went to Kenya. Her family emigrated to Taiwan from China during WWII, and then they moved on to the United States, and Pam was incredibly proud of her heritage, and willing to pass on certain things to the rest of us. She taught me the proper way to use chopsticks. The second thing is the Chinese wedding Jam and I attended about a year and a half ago - it was a bona fide Chinese wedding, complete with dress changes, 13 courses, and a bubble and snow-making machine. Oh! and a wedding cake that resembled the Great Wall of China. It was truly an event. Throughout the many courses of the meal, I struggled to properly utilize my chopsticks. Finally, I gave up to a hand cramp, and requested a fork. The waiter looked at me blankly for a minute. He rushed to the kitchen and quickly returned with a flimsy looking fork and placed it triumphantly in front of me, then proceeded to scoop large quantities of noodles onto my plate. I glanced at the spoon. It said "Aer Lingus" on it.

Anyways, after getting sufficiently drunk and using the posh bathroom, complete with paintings, two chairs and a table, we met up with my sister and her friend and my cousin's posse of friends in Faneuil Hall. We migrated to the Hong Kong, where there was much bitching about the cover charge. It was 5$ to go downstairs. It's nice enough down there, but it's super crowded and the music is provided by the crowd - you're at the mercy of a juke box. The upstairs was $10, where there's a better bar, a DJ, dance floor and less people. The group of my cousin's friends bitched about the price. My cousin loves to dance to hip hop and stuff like that, so we basically told her that upstairs was waaay better. "Cool," she said "Let's go up." Her friends pitched a fit. One girl said "we don't care what your cousins say, they make more money than us, we can't afford a $10 cover." Um ok, I understand not making a ton of money, but seriousy $5? COME ON. I guarantee you they had just spent most of their money at a liquor store to buy there "pregaming" liquor. Lame. Finally the manager was nice enough to negotiate a price, $8, cause there were 13 of us.

Let me tell you, I love the Hong Kong. They have big and strong scorpion bowls and a DJ that plays good stuff, and plenty of space for some dirty dancing, which I love (with Jamaal - there's nothing I hate more than strange men trying to grind with you!). We couldn't stay long as we were at the mercy of the T, but the dancing that was done was quali-taaaaaay - the DJ covered Fat Joe, Biggie, Kanye, and the dude who sings "Miss New Booty," a very nice mix. Though the bathrooms smelled like a horse stall, the Hong Kong is great fun. Plus you get to walk all through Faneuil on your way out of there, so you get to make fun of all of the drunken frat boys and sorority girls trying to make it home without breaking an ankle on the cobblestones. Midway through our journey to the T, my sister and I came to the consensus that our bras were driving us crazy and pulled a Girl Scout Camp take of your underwear without taking off your clothes move right in the middle of everything. It was great.

We finished our evening with some good ol' late night McDonalds, then nearly hit a deer on Rt 53, less than a mile from home, but luckily Amy's driving skills and the sweet brakes on her brand new Camry let us avoid it.

Basically the weekend was great and low key and just the thing I needed to recharge for the upcoming end of semester activities. Plus I love hanging out with Jam, we have a lot of fun together. We actually caught Casino Royale this afternoon before he headed back to New York. I loved it - while it's not going to be winning any Oscars I found it to be a great James Bond film, and thought that Daniel Craig made a fine 007 and Eva Green was a beautiful bond girl. The action was great - I guess a lot of people were complaining that in this Bond film there were less gadgets and more fist-to-fist fighting and mind games, but I have no complaints when it comes to that, maybe because the gadgets, while cool, don't interest me much because sometimes they can border on completely unrealistic (i know they're not supposed to be super-believable, but still). I loved the mind games, the action was still there, and the chase scenes were amazing. Borat and Casino Royale are two completely different and completely great films to see!

Well now it's 10pm and it's my bedtime....actually it's Jamaal phone time. Let's see how long we last, we're both wiped out! Pictures TC later.

Saturday's Mobile Post

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Multimedia message

So we're at the movies, jam and i. We tried getting into casino royale, but it was sold out. We settled on borat, but i wanted to see it anyways, since i heard borat chased a man through the streets of new work for his clothes. Awesome!

Friday, November 17, 2006


Normally I would be all pissy that the Prudential Center is already decorated for Christmas, Starbucks has its "Holiday Blend" on display, and the TV at the nail place was advertising the Boston Ballet's Nutcracker, all before Thanksgiving..............but I'm not!

This year I am really in the holiday spirit. I'm not sure why any more than any other year previous really. I suppose two years ago, I still didn't have a full time job and that was pretty stressful, and last year, I was signing my soul away to my credit card company to pay for my trip to Africa, and while worth it, the planning that had to go into that trip the month of December was positively exhausting. This year nothing is rushed or frantic - well school is, but I really see the arrival of the holidays as a release from school and stress and a time to celebrate.

I also think the ornament swap really helped me get in the mood - I was in such a funk the day I signed up for that, it seems that it was definitely the right thing to do.

Today, after getting a pedicure and chillaxin' with my sister, we headed to the Prudential Center to get our cousin a birthday present (gift card to Sephora, that lucky girl!) and on my way by Barnes and Noble, I snuck in to try and find the sewing magazine featuring a Hillary Lang ornament. Because I have slight BRAIN DAMAGE I totally forgot the name of the magazine she mentioned on her blog ("Cutting Edge", idiot!). I desperately searched through the craft section to no avail. It might not have been there but it probably was right in front of my face. I'll have to pick it up later....what I did buy, besides the People magazine featuring George Clooney (mmmm) that I spotted my sister for, were two Martha Stewart Living mags, the December issue and.....wait.....wait......the HOMEMADE HOLIDAY ISSUE!! I haven't even looked at it yet because I hadn't read the November issue, but I can't wait to crack it open. I have my holiday crafts planned already but you never know when something's gonna pop out! YAY!

Anyways, I am going to go put pants on (yup, blogging in my underwear. hey, at least my fly isn't down!) and pick up my 29-year old unlicensed therefore taking the bus from NYC but loveable nonetheless boyfriend, UNO's Menu in hand, because that's his way :) Tomorrow I'm gonna try to get him to parallel park on a dime and take him out driving just so he can have a bit of practice - it's not that he can't drive, he has assured me many times he's quite capable, but he doesn't have the opportunity to drive that often, and I am hoping he's gonna get that license soon, so high school parking lot, here we come!!

Thursday, November 16, 2006

sweet relief!

It's over! whether I passed it or not, the genetics exam is over and I'm gearing up for a weekend of lowkey fun times, which will include: JAMAAL, food, crafting, pedicures, partying, scorpion bowls, football aaanddd. well. you know.


In other news, the eBay buttons have arrived and I'm already planning to take the day after Thanksgiving off for the sole purpose of CRAFTING and doing Christmas-y planning.

So for now, huge relief, ready to have fun, ready to bust my ass for the end of the semester. Go ME!

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

feelin' weary

today's post is going to be brief for real.

I am studying for a genetics exam, and I have to pass it. In fact, I would like to get an 80, which would bring my not so lustrous grade up to a not that much more lustrous grade, but one that might actually have the sheen of tarnished silver rather than one that has the glow of cement or concrete. Yeah.

It's frustrating that I am even in genetics. I'm bad at it yeah, but yesterday in talking with my advisor (not the person who forced me to take genetics upon my admission to grad school) he basically implied with my work background, I should have been able to do a project to prove my molecular bio worthiness. This made me sad because not only does it make me feel as though I'm wasting time, taking an undergrad course when I could be taking a grad course and be 1/4 done with my degree, but I'm also wasting about $4,000 to do something that I'm really bad at and I hate. I guess I have to look at it from the perspective pointed out to me by a bookclub member: you're an adult, this is what we do, things that we don't think we have to, things that we don't want to.

Actually, what pisses me off most about genetics is my own ability not to grasp the concepts and excel at it. I'm not used to failing. Oh believe me, it's totally happened before (cough cough physics final 32% what? ) It's just that I didn't anticipate failing this completely. Of course, I should try to be optimistic, there's tomorrow's test and there's the final. There's time to bring the grade up. I can do it, I think, grrr. Another thing that pisses me off is that if you really think about it, genetics is pretty f*cking mind blowing. I sit in class and think "my cells know automatically that they need to make DNA to replicate. And the enzymes know where they need to go to do this. Then they know that they need to make RNA, and all of those enzymes know where to go. Then the RNA's know they need to move out of the nucleus into the cytoplasm to make proteins, and all those nucleotides know they need to be in a special order to be translated into proteins. Chemicals in my body know what to do when making DNA and they get to the end of the chromosome. They know how to end DNA synthesis without messing up. My cells know how to fix mistakes. My body is smart. Why isn't my brain??!!"

I guess if I get anything out of this class, at least I will have a renewed appreciation of the human body's intelligent design (which is not to say I believe in the intelligent design theory, just that whoever designed this biatch, whether it be God or the aliens, or maybe there's a single celled bacteria out there I owe this all to, who knows, frickin' KNEW WHAT THEY WERE DOING.) So I learned that. And I got to watch a LOT of pretty videos. Sweet.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Hell's Gate

I am taking a very VERY brief recess from protein translation to share a story.
We didn't get a spring break when we were students in Kenya because there was a State Department Travel Warning issued the previous November after a hotel bombing in Mombasa (a travel warning that is still in effect today, and negatively affecting Kenya, in my opinion, but I digress). This made the school very nervous, plus the US was on the verge of invading Iraq, putting all of us on edge. Because of these circumstances, our spring break was cancelled and we went on one big organized trip.

I hate organized fun. Our family jokes that we all have a genetic predisposition for rebellion, given our Scots/Irish blood. I had dreamed about going down to Gombe in Tanzania to see Jane Godall or heading out to Zanzibar, the Serengeti, or Madagascar on spring break. Now I was going to be forced to do organized activities with the same group of people I'd been hanging around with non-stop for two months. Crud, I thought.

Our organized break was actually a great time. I know I would never have visited most of those places on my own - we went to Marula Game Ranch, which was peaceful. Mary Wykstra, a cheetah conservationist came to visit us one night, giving an absolutely inspirational talk. I bought a wooden cheetah for my wall from her. It hangs above my bed and I think of her every time I look at it. That night, one of the foremen went out on the ranch and shot us an impala, which was delicious. We visited Lake Nakuru and saw our first and only white rhino. I had one of my best days in Kenya visiting Naivasha, wandering in the papyrus that surrounds the lake near the Adamson homestead, finding birds with Alice and Kioko and then having lunch at the Fisherman's Club, getting drunk on vodka and eating bacon and fries for the first time in months. I was so giddy and happy that I went and bought a stack of things on from the roadside vendor and then pranced down the dock that floated on top of tea-colored water and laid there with my friends watching the fish eagles. It turned out to be glorious.

The highlight of that week, however, was our camping trip in Hell's Gate National Park. I didn't really care much about going there - all anyone ever said about it was that it was the last stronghold of the Lammergaier, a rare African vulture, that the movie "Sheena, Queen of the Jungle" was filmed there, and that it was the only National Park in Kenya where you could explore on foot, as the big cats didn't live there. Woop-dee-doo I thought. The first time we drove in, I wasn't too impressed:

Fine, the landscape was dramatic, with cliffs and gorges and geothermic vents which spewed steam from the hillside - but where were the animals, the birds, the vast lakes and vibrant sunsets of the Kenya I knew? Here there seemed to be only dust. The only good thing was that here we were promised a bit of freedom. Our student affairs manager announced the second night that despite the fact that the United States invaded Iraq that day, we would not be going home, but on a hike around a lava cone. I slouched. I hate hiking as a rule. I'll do it to see something or to experience that once in a lifetime thing, but hiking up a lava cone to see Hell's Gate? No thanks. Luckily, my tent mates, Kristie and Boma (whose real name is Kim, but let's call her Boma, it makes me nostalgic) didn't want to go hiking either, so we approached our SAM. She was a great woman from New Zealand with a quirky sense of humor and an adventurer. She said "I'll print you some maps of Hell's Gate and you can go off alone tomorrow." Sweet.The Triangle of Trouble (Kristie, Boma and I had a reputation. We called ourselve the triangle of trouble and even had a sign. Believe it) plus Sally, a sweetheart of a girl from Signal Mountain Tennessee whom we were determined to CORRUPT, set out after sunrise the next morning with two liters of water apiece and a hearty lunch, a compass and our map, as well as cameras, binoculars and field guides. We were going to EXPLORE! We plotted our route on the map: we'd head towards the geothermic hills, then around the rock tower, and up to some rolling hills where we could look out over the park. Our SAM approved the route. "Just watch for buffalo," she reminded us "remember to run, split up, and climb a tree if you get charged." Heh, buffalo schmuffalo I thought.
For about an hour, we dallied along the main dirt road in the park. Eventually it split into a bushy area, so we took that smaller road. Midway up a hill I pause. "Guys? Do you hear....something like....a herd" "BUFFALO" someone screamed and we booked it up the hill. After about a minute I looked behind us. There was nothing there, nothing. We flopped down on the ground, sweat pouring off of us. We sit in silence. There's a sound from the forest. "WHO's THERE?" demands Sally. We wait, then collapse into giggles "A cape buffalo isn't gonna answer" I say. We all cackle, and of course, I laugh so hard I have to pee. I run to the trees and whip down my shants, and as I'm peeing, I see cattle through the trees. I return to tell the group about the "fierce buffalo." We laugh about our stupidity and joke that if we really lived in Kenya, we'd surely die from stupidity, then press on up the hill.

After walking a while, we encounter a Maasai woman. "Jambo," we say brightly. "Sijambo," she answers politely. Then she says "alskdjflaweoiausofjslakd ;als jfo;aweiurcoiaweur oaisjflaskdjf;laskdk fh;laskd f has;ldkhf " aka a whole bunch of Swahili we don't understand. We look at her and say "Habari!" (basically, how are you? literally "news") "Mzuri sana, asante" she says, and then breaks into more Swahili. She looks at our perplexed expressions and switches to Maa. She shakes her head at us. "Um ok, bye, kwaheri!" we wave. She stares at us and sort of lifts her hand to wave. We trek on.
Around noon we get a hankering for lunch. We wander into a sandy bottomed canyon littered with bones. "Shit" says Boma, "the elephant graveyard." We all laugh, but all I can think of is the elephant graveyard in the Lion King and how Simba gets cornered by the hyenas there. I look around the canyon walls, which rise higher as we progress into the canyon. Finally Kristie stops us so we can give the map a glance. "Oh shit" she says, "we've hiked a kilometer out of the park." "Surely not," I say. Then as I look at the map, it all makes sense, seeing someone herding cows on the park edge, the Maasai woman trying to tell us something - probably that we were leaving the park, the canyon not marked on the map. We stand in the canyon, the sun beating down on us. "I think I can get my bearings if I climb the hill. Then we can cut over it and climb down and cut off a couple of miles/kilometers" I say, nodding towards a canyon wall. I start to hike through the brush, Kristie, Sally and Boma follow. The bushes are impenetrable though, and the canyon "hill" soon becomes verticle. We battle it for a few minutes, the sweat pouring off of us. "Al," says Kristie, "we can't do this, we're gonna have to walk out." We agree to take a rest, we have miles ahead of us. We seek the shade of a tree in the canyon and get out our lunches, now warm and soggy. We eat in silence. I had to do something to lighten the mood. It was then I picked up the bone.

"Take my picture!" I demanded, picking up the bone. Thus started the bone photo shoot. It was reviving:

The photo shoot was precisely what we needed. It killed the hottest part of the day, and when the sun had started its move to the west, we packed up our limited water and headed for camp. This part of the trip was particularly difficult. We didn't anticipate hiking that far from camp, and our water had run very low. We knew where we could get water, but that was out of the way, plus we weren't too sure about our purification tablets. We chose to press on. We told stories to keep our spirits up, I told Sally about one of my favorite books/movies "A Town Like Alice" for inspiration. As we hiked towards the final hill, the one upon which our tiny camp was set, we separated out into a straight line, Kristie pumping her arms up the hill, me, determined in my shants, Boma, thirsty and pale, and finally Sally, her cheeks aflame. We came to rest by the water pump, and held it in the on position with a rock while we crawled under it.
"where've you been today?" asks Michelle. "All over" we reply.

Not long after we returned to an empty camp (everyone else had gone to the lava cone) the sun began to set. I was grateful we had made it back before sunset, as navigating in the dark would have been more than difficult, nevermind the worry we would've put everyone through. I sat quietly on our picnic bench rehydrating. I looked out over our tent on the edge of the cliff, to the vast expanse of dry grass and rolling hills. This place wasn't so bad, I thought.

Saturday's Post

As previously forsworn, I did post Saturday from New Hampshire. Of course I never figured out how to retrieve my blog with the whole beta deal (maybe you still can't do it? I dunno!) So I ended up creating a new mobile blog. Luckily I was home on Sunday, so I didn't make multiple mobile blogs due to my technology deficiencies. Here is the Saturday post. I like the fact that the autotext on my phone makes decisions for me, like using the word "me" instead of "of." It makes for a rather funny sentence.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Multimedia message

All me the sudden, i learned that i'll be leaving nh much earlier than anticipated. This is actually great because it means that my sister and i can now go to my friend rach's birthday. This also means that i must scramble to complete her birthday present, seen here

I would like to point out that I not only finished the stitching, but matted and framed it in a hand painted frame. It was my fastest work yet, made possible my a conair hairdryer with a cool setting. Ex-cell-ent. I really loved how this one turned out, hand-dyed threads are the greatest...well except when they run on the fabric, but in this case, I think the green dye that ran in the upper left corner gave the picture a bit of character. I hope Ms. Rachel enjoys it :)

PS. I am not counting this post as today's post because it's Saturday's post, DON'T WORRY!
off to Starbucks I go!

Monday, November 13, 2006

Second Monday Post Wherein I Request Niceness on the Internet

I read this lady's blog. She's frickin' hilarious too, or at least I think so.

I was sent to her blog by dooce, waaaay back around the time that whore Hurricane Katrina hit. This lady lives in the hurricane zone and her house was trashed. I found her strength of will incredible, plus it was one of the few accurate descriptions of life in post hurricanes one could find on the internet. Plus she had gratuitous shots of baby squirrels on her post.

I remained a stalker-post reader for a long time, mostly because I didn't want to be creepy and post out of nowhere, but I definitely visited her blog daily to see what she had to say, not only because she was funny and had squirrelets and kittens, but because she would post about interesting things - her Scottish pride, her struggles at work, her videos on YouTube, her life before marriage, rebuilding her house, and politics, which was great because I agree with her pretty much 100%, which given my random views on politics, is pretty hard etc etc blah blah. Today though, I had to put my foot down and comment.

Recently, she posted about being po' from rebuilding her house and insurance companies being jerkstores about money, etc. This woman's house was DESTROYED after Katrina. SHE PUT THE PICTURES ONLINE. Yes, it's more than a year after the face, but she posted about the financial difficulties and then, God forbid, asked for donations. She asked for donations. ON HER OWN BLOG.

I find the internet one of those "free spaces." Especially when it comes to blogging. Your blog is your free space to say whatever you want about whatever you want. I want to call John Kerry a jerk, I can do it here. I want to tell people I never zip my fly and fart more than the average person, I can do it here. I want to tell the world to check their boobs for irregularities because it's breast cancer awareness month, I DO IT HERE! So if this woman wants to ask for cashmoney, or allow advertising on her site to generate some income, who says she can't or shouldn't? Apparently a bunch of people, according to today's post, which is really low. If I asked for money and it made some reader uncomfortable, they should x out the screen and not visit anymore. That's the other great thing about the internet being a free space. No one is accosting you for a donation. You don't have to be rude in person. You can quietly sneak away, and no one ever knew you were there. It's anonymous. How someone can write hateful comments berating a person for something they put on their own blog is beyond me.

Anyways, if you want, click on the link and visit the blog. Click on a couple ads to help out. That'd be cool. If you don't want to, you don't have to. It's that easy. Too bad the rest of the world doesn't seem to understand that!

Baby friends so fly i can go fly

So I have a chronic problem. It's called FDS, also known as the tragic disease "Fly Down Syndrome."

It first became a part of my life in Kenya. I had these pants I wore all the time, literally ALL THE TIME. I still have them actually, one of the few pieces of clothing I couldn't bear to part with when it came time to leave Africa - I donated my monkey sheets, but dammit these pants stayed with me. They're pants from Cabela's, which automatically makes me feel hardcore, ooh, and they're MAN pants, yup, pants normally made for a man, but modified by me for a woman. They also have zip-on legs, so they can be shorts OR pants, shants, if you will. My shants are an olive green color and highly stain resistant, plus they dry in about 3 minutes. This was great while in Africa because you could wash the shants and wear them in about a 5 minute span - the quick-drying-ness fabric combined with the equatorial sun made that possible, and while people languished pantsless in their bandas, waiting for their jeans to dry on the clothesline, my shants and I would frolic in the shadow of Kilimanjaro or go on a bird watch. When we were on safari and didn't bathe or do laundry, I never had to worry about getting the shants wet or dirty - they'd dry fast and if I had to spot clean them, I could without having to worry about walking around with a wet spot on my butt all day. The shants basically kicked some ASS. Sometimes, I'd do a safari-style striptease for one of the more serious staff members. He feigned boredom at everything we did - he'd see a bird he'd never seen before and he'd shrug and be like "whatevah, is just a African golden crested tit. sigh" Kioko was particularly fun to harass, and when he was really looking bored, I'd say "Guess what's coming, SAFARI STYLE STRIPTEASE!" I'd take off my old button down, which I wore over everything in an attempt not to succumb to melanoma, and then unzip the pants portion of the shants, and dance around while swinging the pants around my head. Sometimes this would get him to crack a smile, and that alone made depantsing the shants worth it. But I digress....

Anyways, the one drawback of the shants was the fly mechanism. There was an inside button and two outside buttons as well as a a fly. See this is where you really get that they're manpants - the buttons are unnecessary as a man doesn't need to pull his pants down to pee - in fact, they're there as more of a reminder "hey pal, KEEP YOUR PANTS ON!" And the zipper is obvious, it provides the opening for peeing. For a girl, these 4 mechanisms, 3 buttons and a zipper, are just a pain in the ass, and if you're on the equator in Africa and drinking 3 liters of water a day minimum, it gets old unbuttoning, unbuttoning, unbuttoning, unzipping, zipping, buttoning buttoning buttoning all day long, but my love of the shants is what kept me going. After a while I came to realize that I had been missing a key part of the reassembling process for quite some time - the zipping.

One day I was lounging with my feet up on something, and I glanced down to notice my gaping fly and my Victoria's Secret big girl panties. "Good lord!" I said. See Kenyan men are very modest, and 99% of our staff members were men, so I knew I could walk around for days with an open fly and none of the staff would say anything, and the American students would mention it either because they thought it was THAT funny. I casually asked one of my professors "Um, so is my fly down a lot?" "AH-LEE-ZON!" he screamed, hitting the table. That's all he did, scream my name and hit the table (woah, sounds somewhat dirty, but it wasn't) and then he proceeded to giggle throughout dinner. Hmm, I thought, it must be true.

Oh how it was. You would think after that confrontation I would've been more conscientious about zipping my shants fly. Yeah, I wasn't. I had to do checks before we went out in public to make sure I wouldn't offend any Kenyans by showing them my underwear. If anyone looked at me and giggled, I automatically went for my fly. Usually it was down. It became a running joke amongst the Kenyan staff, probably because I wasn't really embarrassed about it. I'd say "Sweet Jesus, my fly is down again?" and they'd all laugh. It was funny, and not too big of a deal, I mean, and only my friends were witnessing the fly down, and this would stop being a chronic problem when I went home and wore the shants less right? Right?

WRONG. FDS is now a constant in my life. Several times since working at the hospital, I've stepped out into the sunlight of a beautiful day, my mind free and easy and clear because it's 4pm and time to go home. I start walking towards the bus stop, and if it's a good day and I took the time to match my clothing and put on nice shoes and am feeling just a little bit put together and kinda good, I'll let my booty swing just a little bit and walk with confidence down the street. The last time I did this, people were glancing my way. Heh heh, bitches!, I thought, I look good today! Today is a good day! Well I got to the street corner and noticed people were looking in that way that was not like "damn, that girl is put together" but more of a "poor disaster" way. I freeze for a moment, reading their expressions, and then I know. I look down. My zipper is not only open, but GAPING open, revealing my gold sparkly purple boyshorts to the city of Boston. Awesome.

These days I try and surreptitiously check my fly whenever I feel exposed - on the subway platform, at a meeting, at work, wherever. Of course, this presents an interesting challenge, because you can get categorized pretty fast if enough people see you touching your crotch on the subway. You have to be secretive about it, make it look like you're pulling up your pants. I've kind of become the master of this technique. Still, it's not failsafe. This morning, I went to pee after arriving at work and my fly was already down, which means I left the house without zipping it. Sweet, I thought, how many people saw my underwear (which of course are the infamous purple boyshorts) this morning? I'll probably never know, but I do hope I brightened someone's morning, made them laugh and say to themselves "heh heh she has purple underwear."

*I will try to find a shants photo and post it, I don't have old Kenya pics at work!