Thursday, December 28, 2006


time to pack. time to get on a plane. time for travel into the unknown. my first time to cross the atlantic. flying into the night and arriving with the dawn in a new country where at least some of my ancestry lies. i've done the research, made a car rental. gathered a pile of books to read, and an empty journal. now it's time to just experience what unfolds--rain or wind, solitude or serendipitous encounters, pubs or open spaces.

i don't really feel mentally prepared, or even excited yet. i'm still quite anxious. let me pack my bags, then perhaps i'll feel ready.

Monday, December 25, 2006


...and peace.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

solitary saturday

a walk in the rain last night (while talking on the phone) was nice. a dead phone this morning, and finding that i need to buy a new one is not so nice.

in the solitude that this situation has granted me, i am organizing my photo files and working on getting some photos framed (getting the glass spotless is hard!).

this photo was taken in a friend's kitchen (anybody recognize it?). more to come.

Friday, December 22, 2006

one day left

one day of school left. things are going really well, except for the dream last night which contained nightmares about my test being wayyyy too hard for the students (and them rebelling), and a swirly amazing visual of clouds in the most amazing tempest, running towards us as we watched in fear and fascination. as a result, i'm up before 5.

this photo was taken out the window of a taxi in lima, peru. for some reason, i love it.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006


at the corner deli, a guy with a reflective vest is loading up on snacks. i ask, and sure enough, he's gearing up for an all-night 14 hour shift working construction on route 18.

"stay in school", he says, with a look that conveys the fatigue, long, cold hours, and hard work.

"i'm done with school", i say. "i've got the cushy job, teaching, but i'm sick of it." (feeling like a spoiled brat, complaining...)

in the parking lot i pass him on my way out to the car. he's in a huge truck. as i walk by, he asks "do your students act up in class?"

"yeah." i guess he realized we have something in common.

"i'm over 60 men, and they don't behave either. they don't give me any respect."

wow. i just don't find that suprising at all. but it would suck majorly to have to be in charge of them. the guy looks really tired, lines under his eyes.

"do you hate your job?" i ask.

"yeah, i do.... what do you think is wrong with young people today?"

uhhh..."i think once people stopped believing in god, nothing matters anymore."

"yeah, they need to start going to church again."

"well, i don't go to church, but i believe in god. it means that things happen for a reason, there is a reason for everything."

as i walk away, he calls after me, "say a prayer for me."

i turn and face him. "i will."

"my name is timmie."

"ok timmie. good night."

i walk slowly back to my car. i vow to say a prayer for all the timmies trapped in soul-destroying jobs, but especially this one.

Sunday, December 17, 2006


i had a rather nightmarish morning with a sick feeling in my stomach that the trip to ireland would be a disaster & all would fail and i'd hide in the airport.

cracked eggs into a frying pan, got one whose white was greenish tinged. more evidence.

having a pleasant roommate is helpful when this darkness descends. sometimes all you need is another human to say normal, unremarkable yet sane things. i'm glad i have her.

tried going to a church service, but it was too hyper and praise and hip. i prefer small groups, living room-sized. however, only the pastor seemed over the top. the audience seemed normal & cool. the entire congregation were young adults. i was recommended this place as a cure for my single blues.

i bought a yellow raincoat for ireland. i bought frames & hung 4 prints in my place. i'm pleased with how they look. i bought some christmas presents and am starting to conjure up some christmas spirit.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

a verse

Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow. (James 1:17)

Thursday, December 07, 2006

progress report

signed up for ceramics this spring. what i really need is practice. the fact that i can have unlimited use of the kiln and the glazes for the teeny tiny price tag of $100 for the entire semester is unbelievable [faculty tuition waver rocks!]. my only cost is clay.

i want to work on finding a style, a groove. then maybe one day, one day, i can try to sell some at a coffee shop or art fair. i don't feel like i will ever achieve flawless wheel technique. i don't really want to either--i'm too impatient. i'd rather work on it meditatively but embrace the imperfection.

as far as the search, the quest...

there are classes i'd like to take next summer in building skills. after my sister is successfully hitched, i may dive headfirst into that. i'm not sure exactly where that is heading--making tables, a log-cabin, or what. but when i discovered this place in vermont, i was enthralled and relieved. someone understands this urge...and they've got it right.

there are all these other things...philosophy...father l. gave me a course on cd about the history of ethics...and it's's opened up a lot for me. i need to crack some books but for now it keeps rolling through my mind as i drive.

photography--i ordered prints of some of my good photos to see how good they looked in large format. i almost never order prints--high time that changed.

i'm debating with myself whether to give hitchhiking a try while in ireland. the car rental is unbelievably expensive. i could spent $300-$800 depending. i know, it's going to be cold, rainy, and hitchhiking is dangerous. just sounds so real, so in touch with the actual reality of the place.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

my cooking revolution and fried eggplant

At the end of the summer I spent some time reading an italian cookbook that has significantly changed the way I think about food. It taught me that good food doesn't have to be complicated--in fact, complicated gets in the way of experiencing nature's gifts the way they were created.

Never being a person to embrace the middle ground, I went to my fridge and took out everything (well almost--i saved the ketchup and the chocolate ice-cream syrup for old-times sake) that had ingredients i couldn't decipher. No more fake modified starches, preservatives, blah blah into my body. This makes shopping for insta-food basically impossible. All the snack foods and pre-packaged meals are full of this stuff.

So--I cook more. But the recipes I cook are simpler. I started keeping track of some good recipes on another blog. It's "eating simply", and it's linked at right.

Anyway, Viana LaPlace's "Unplugged Kitchen" changed my thinking on a whole lot more than just cooking--she presented a vision to me of a more old fashioned, slow, sensual way of preparing and enjoying food.

Fried Eggplant:

some bread got stale: I food processed it into crumbs. If that's too over the top for you, just buy some crumbs. But FYI--check how many incomprehensible ingredients are listed.

-wash an eggplant.
-cut 1/2 inch thick slices.
-beat 2 eggs into a bowl with a fork.
-put crumbs, spices, salt, and pepper into another bowl. (suggested spices: oregano, sage, thyme--i really had no idea...)
-put olive oil into a frying pan & heat (but not too hot--don't let it smoke)
-dip slices into egg, coating both sides, then into crumb mixture, coating both sides.
-put in the pan.
-turn after a bit. don't burn them (like i did).
-when the outside of the slice is crisp and the inside seems soft when tested with a fork, or when the slice is cooked golden brown, put the slice on a plate w/ a napkin for the grease. you get to eat greasy today.
-let the slices cool, don't burn your tongue (like i did).
-use the slices to make an eggplant sandwich for school the next day. mmmm. or a midnight snack.


Sunday, December 03, 2006

saturday in new york

i went with a new friend to the japan society (a block away from the UN, and across the street from dag hammarskjold park) to see this ceramics exhibit. it was fabulous. apparently japan is the new ceramics center. there was a lot of that was not only genius, but i actually really liked it. highly recommended. admission $10.

Friday, December 01, 2006

The Humpbacks

Listen, whatever it is you try
to do with your life, nothing will ever dazzle you
like the dreams of your body,

its spirit
longing to fly while the dead-weight bones

toss their dark mane and hurry
back into the fields of glittering fire

where everything,
even the great whale,
throbs with song.
- Mary Oliver
[via Whiskey River]

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

characteristics of truth...

so...what's your do you sense when you've found some?

a burst of joy?
deep peace?

how about this:
truth unifies formerly disparate areas of your life. it unites people. it brings ideas together into a grander whole. rather than contradicting pieces floating around in your mind, there is a simpler overarching vision.

truth gives me permission to hope: for resolution to the conflict in my head.

what a lovely thing.

the truth sets you free.

Ars Poetica

I've always loved this poem.

A poem should be palpable and mute
As a globed fruit

As old medallions to the thumb

Silent as the sleeve-worn stone
Of casement ledges where the moss has grown -

A poem should be wordless
As the flight of birds

A poem should be motionless in time
As the moon climbs

Leaving, as the moon releases
Twig by twig the night-entangled trees,

Leaving, as the moon behind the winter leaves,
Memory by memory the mind -

A poem should be motionless in time
As the moon climbs

A poem should be equal to:
Not true

For all the history of grief
An empty doorway and a maple leaf

For love
The leaning grasses and two lights above the sea -

A poem should not mean
But be.

--Archibald MacLeish

Tuesday, November 28, 2006


i found this picture and named it "engrossed" as i saved it in my inspiration folder.

i came across this on another blog and have been contemplating it:

Conscious faith is freedom.
Instinctive faith is slavery.
Mechanical faith is madness.

Conscious hope is strength.
Emotional hope is cowardice.
Mechanical hope is sickness.

Conscious love arouses love.
Emotional love arouses mistrust.
Mechanical love arouses hate.

the past few years i have learned the power of intuition. but there is a fine line between calling on intuition and being ruled by emotion/feelings. conscious and mindful choosing: freedom, strength, love. this is what i desire for myself.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

my take

the net effect of the international interwoven plots in the movie babel was crushing. iñarritu directed amorres perros, also intense, but for some reason it didn't suffocate me with helpless despair in quite the same way. i realized 2/3 of the way through that most of the tragedies occurring (as the audience tensely gets quieter) are a result of men being bull-headed, arrogant, thoughtless, drunk, or heroic.

i don't believe it's that way in real life. we women create our own special brand of tragedy. but in this movie it was just the men. i wonder what that says about the director's outlook on the world.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

at last

a [fragile] vision emerges.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

this week's events

-last night a coworker (we went on the orleans trip together) caught me going to class and said "mahatma ghandi's grandson is speaking here at 7:30". turns out it was a broadcast of a speech in kansas or something, but it was cool. "lessons learned from my grandfather"

-i've been thinking: if we could study how lebanon got peace after the 80's, we might have a clue how to begin to travel towards peace in iraq. ghandi spoke of something he thought might work: a council consisting of representatives--one from each ethnic group--headed up by a chairperson appointed by the u.n. he said that iraq is not ready for traditional democratically elected leadership yet.

-walking at night i saw what appeared to be two notebooks lying in the road. they were 2007 agendas, with month style layout. father. l. & i both like these--on the day we met we discovered we had the exact same agendas--so now we have the same agendas every year. this time, for free, found waiting in the street.

-i wrote a table of contents for a math textbook. it's been in my head for a while. don't know if i want to write it or not.

heavy weight championship

when i saw this posted in a doorway in arequipa, i started to laugh and took out my camera. a very helpful young man asked me if i would like a poster, and started to get me one. i said thank you very much, but i probably wouldn't hang this on my wall.

the names of the fighters are great: steel, black assasin, the crazy one from the plains

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

my gripe

perhaps there are two purposes to education:
-you need this for your life. this will help you as you navigate life.
-this is to make you a cultured person. you may not need it but it is beautiful and significant.

i feel like the majority of the mathematics i teach lies in a lukewarm, murky puddle between the rushing, vibrant, ever-changing stream of today's numbers, and the icy crystals (more beautiful yet upon magnification) of pure math.

i think i could be happy with either extreme. but this middle ground that at times masquerades as useful and other times as beautiful (and is mostly neither) just irritates me and bores my students.

there have been many situations where mysteriously beautiful mathematics has been discovered (years later) to have an amazing and unexpected application.

however when textbooks take a topic that has traditionally (for more than a century) been a part of the curriculum, and force an application to it, the laughably contrived "examples" that result are downright embarassing to the teacher. she has no choice but to skip over them, or to tell the students she thinks they are silly.

can math education ever change? i just had an idea driving home tonight of writing a book which shows a traditional approach to a topic on one page and contrasts it on a facing page with what might be so much more interesting, useful, or beautiful.

but stories about how many nickels and dimes Susie has! or perfectly parabolic supply and demand functions? please!!

Monday, November 13, 2006

monday afternoon

it's a fabulous dreary day. perfect in every way. my windows are cracked, and candles burning. i'd take a walk but my body is completely exhausted. the quality of light, the smell of leaves, the slight drizzle on the glass.

i want to write a few things before i fall asleep (at 4:20 pm).

yesterday i was in montreal. the day began in the lovely breakfast shop--i was so happy that i understood the waiter's question "quel qu' chose a boire?" and could say "un cafe". the music was spectacular and i sat alone and drank coffee, watched the rain. this november is fabulous for rain.

i drove slowly home, enjoying the scenery after i finally conquered the montreal highways. they kept conspiring to keep me driving endlessly in circles, exiting at the wrong places and saying bad words in my complete befuddlement. i was truly amazed at my ability to get distracted right at the moment when my last chance exit was at hand, and then cruise blissfully and with great expectations into the country side before becoming suspicious that i'd missed something. french teeny-boppers at the gas station weren't much help.

upstate new york is lovely, especially in the fog. i decided to see what the back roads looked like. i guess i'd had the exact same urge about a year ago while driving the same route...and saw the restaurant "the black bear" or something like that--that i ate at last time.

continuing, i followed signs deep into the boonies that promised "fawn ridge pottery". at one point, the road became a one lane deal and as it forked left, i saw a horse with its reins dragging on the ground crossing the other fork. the man carrying a bucket across a yard didn't seem to notice.

since one of my fantasies is living far from civilization and being a potter, i was eager, yet shy, to chat up whoever was at this place. if it was open. well, it was, and the owner & potter was very friendly.

he gave me a tour of his studio, gave me a little advice, and told me that a kiln costs about $2000 but the electric bills aren't prohibitive. he said my best bet is to get lots of experience and since I have access to the studio at school i've got a great situation. he & his wife gave ski lessons to pay the bills while they got their studio off the ground.

then he mentioned that he'd apprenticed with another local potter, and sent me over to red truck pottery. i was welcomed into and liked the large, warm workroom with jade plants, classical music at full volume, and a quiet, intelligent dog at the door. bill fixed a pottery wheel as we chatted a bit. what i recall that he said is that there's plenty of boredom in his job too--the items that pay the bills aren't the ones that require great creativity, but the ones that are ordered by the 1000's that are cranked out mindlessly. i could see that this guy's work was wonderful. he had some interesting metallic oxides decorating some of his pots. i did one thing like that and really liked the effect. his was brilliant, though. a real master.

i asked him if it was a lonely job, and he said yes. it's also long hours, and you have to do what needs doing when the clay is ready, and not necessarily when you are.

i could have purchased the newly repaired wheel for $700, but instead i think i'll get involved at the studio at school or the one a few blocks from my place. he advised me to volunteer help with the firings at school to get experience with that. i asked if he studied chemistry to help him understand the science of glazes and oxides...he said he'd studied it but it didn't really help, as there are way too many variables involved. apparently he even uses some materials he digs out of the ground--he doesn't really even know what it is.

after all these excursions, it was nearly dark as i pulled back onto the highway. the coffee i picked up later to help my droopy eyes unfortunately had the effect of not letting me sleep much last night even though my body was collapsing with fatigue. instead my mind whirled with ideas for my new coffee shop. like a. suggests, i can make mugs and offer them for sale. my yellow sofa can live in the shop, along with my stylish retro red chairs, since i'll be living in a tiny little room to try to get by. then my brain informed me that i'll have a chalkboard on which my regulars can make requests for the daily bakings--which will be done twice a day. a few loaves of buttered fresh bread, oozing chocolate chip cookies. oh, and i'll bring back real organic chocolate from peru or somewhere. joel has already offered to make sure i have a fabulous selection of music appropriate for every mood. paintings and framed photography for sale on the walls.

i'm still committment phobic. i'm still scared of making a mistake. does the fact that i can SEE what is wrong with math education mean that i'm the one that needs to stick around and make changes? because it's so completely wrong that it would probably take YEARS for me to be even remotely happy with the curriculum, at least at my school. it's SO wrong right now.

is it bad that i just don't want to deal with it any more?

is it bad that i want to dedicate myself to beauty and comfort?

Thursday, November 09, 2006

despite my attitude, and the fact that hours before heading into teach today, i contacted an ecolodge in remote ecuador that wants a live-in manager...i had a great day teaching. freakin' confusing. i had FUN. and the students were into it. wtf?

off to montreal for a very short weekend. must sleep, pack, shower, get some audio books, and FLY. on the road, i mean.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

hard to believe...

..but i'm the west coast of ireland, for 11 days, over christmas vacation. wow. uncharted territory. in a way, much more of an adventure than south america treks. i have no idea what this will be like.

i am planning long walks and lots of reading. time alone. i've been thinking that i needed to take a vacation for myself and by i guess this is it! i'm grateful.

what i could be

some ideas:
coffee shop owner
professional organizer
house builder (alternative, environmentally friendly only)
ceramic artist/creator of bowls and cups
importer of handcrafts
owner of a hostel in south america
vagabond with philosophy & novels in backpack

math textbook author
math teacher
do math in industry
go back to school to get a ph.d. in math
the bureaucracy
traffic & commuting

Monday, November 06, 2006

we went to see matthew kelly, the author of a great "how to fix your life" book. however, we were disappointed. has he sold out? is he in the speaking circuit just for the money, just as a job? is he saying the same words he's said thousands of times? he seemed tired, and overweight.

i'm glad i didn't go alone. i'm glad m. & i were in agreement in our reactions to his talk. i'm also glad i went. living the dream isn't easy--sometimes you get off track.

Monday, October 30, 2006


once upon a time, almost everyone was an artist. the butcher (ok, maybe not him), the baker, and the candlestick maker. the shoemaker, the tailor, the cheese maker.

maybe one reason many of us are so dissatisfied with our jobs is because man's task is now to manage machines that perform tasks that should have been ours.

once upon a time, i could have made bowls for a living. there was a village and a village musician.

even education seems like an assembly line process--no creativity left in it.

well, mike is brilliant at what he does. and it gives me great joy to know he is doing his thing in the classroom.

yesterday we made homemade bread and then created art together.

and today, it is time for me to work with my hands presenting the laws of exponents to my students.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

it was great to have bethy spend the weekend with me. as i told her, it was the best possible way i could have chosen to celebrate my birthday. mmm! thank you for coming, little sister!

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

la verace via

-after listening to my oreja cd a bazillion times i finally decode this lyric:
"Lo que hace bello al desierto es que guarda agua en su interior."
which today i can take to mean that sometimes things must be kept to ones self.

-last night i translated micro-loan documents & sent them to alex
-i found cheap tickets both to ireland and peru for next year
-today i checked 8 books out of the library in a whirlwind of whimsy & curiosity
-instead of grading i'm going to curl up with hot chocolate and this book, which i have a very good feeling about:

p.s. i turn 30 on oct. 31. if you feel compelled to look at my wishlist, it is here.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006


bleakness has come over me. i don't feel optimism in any direction.

dreams are fragile things. when you express a hope, and someone counsels you: "well, you know, you would probably still feel frustrated even if you __________________ [moved elsewhere, found a different job, met a significant other]."

not to mention that getting any of these things seems so elusive anyway!

is the message to simply accept a dissatisfactory existence and not go for better?

this is not the full source of my melancholy. other things make me paranoid--has something shifted? have the planets aligned themselves so that i am now entering a dark phase? did i bring upon myself a double dose of 'the shadow'? it's this vague unease. i don't feel free to love generously, and when you withdraw that generosity, that hope, things change in your heart.

i don't like being superstitious. i hope this passes.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Sunday, October 22, 2006

this photo brings back memories of my very happy days in arequipa. there was something magical about walking the streets alone, aimlessly, with no pressure or obligations. looking through them again i see many more great shots i'd forgotten about. i'll be posting them.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

i was supposed to go visit b. today, but the forces of traffic at the holland tunnel and no cash when i tried to park at metropark to catch a train later, overcame me and i ended up staying home, reading, thinking, journalling, making fried potato pancakes, and now drinking decaf. still thinking. i can only call this my midlife crisis in full swing.

Maybe i just don't believe in the educational system any more. But if that's what we're stuck with, is it better to leave it or to try to work within its flawed structure? I feel stifled by the requirements put on me by it. I feel like a pawn of a system that I don't believe in.

I want to drop out of the system.

Questions (from It's Only Too Late If You Don't Start Now)
Where am I going?
Did I do the right thing with my time so far?
What's ahead?
What are my greatest fears?
Why do I really want in my future?
What do I definitely not want any more of?
What regrets would I hate to have when I look back on my life in later years?
Why am I on this planet?

-I'm not going to do anyone any good if I'm not doing what my heart of hearts wants.

"It is from our parents that we learn how to think for ourselves or how not to, how to have relationships or how not to, and how to succeed or how to live a life of "quiet desperation"...The main injunctions...tend to come from one of the parents, and the parent of the opposite sex is often the source. The parent of the same sex then teaches the youngster how to comply with these injunctions and attributions."
--from Do What You Love, The Money Will Follow

as you can see i'm reading all the 'fix your life' books i can get my hands on. some of them seem directed at bored 40 year old men who are married and work in a cubicle. it doesn't really matter. i'm turning thirty and i want freedom and a different life.

Thursday, October 19, 2006


i've really enjoyed the daily prayer on this site yesterday and today.

today is the first day that i get to teach in the "smart" classrooms, with a computer & projector for the computer. i'm hoping i'm able to find things online to make class more engaging & colorful.

i think i'll show them the trailer for the movie flatland.

also, even though our class is stuck in 2 dimensions finding where two lines intersect, i spoke to them the other day about finding where planes intersect, in three dimensions.

i think they could even do this algebraically. mmm. i feel some life in my veins.

Monday, October 16, 2006

my job is making me feel very middle-aged today. i want something more dramatic, intellectually engaging. today, i don't feel like making young adults pay attention while i explain long, complicated things (boring things) to them.

i say today because every day my mood seems to shift. but the unhappy voice is getting more and more insistent. i don't believe in what i do.

i want a free-thinking, unstructured artist's job. perhaps in a foreign country.

or i want a high-tech, brainiac brilliance job. very glamourous.

oh....the conflict! do i quit or no?

Sunday, October 15, 2006


friday night i had dinner with my favorite (and only) priest friend. he mentioned that his brother has a house on the west coast of ireland which is not used very much, especially in the winter. he suggested that it might be an ideal place for a solitary reading & thinking escape. he mentioned rough weather, walks on beaches, and reading by the (peat) fire.

wow! i already looked at tickets. awesome!


yesterday i decided to go to a town that i thought would have some fun artsy shops. i drove north about 45 minutes. wandered through an international bead shop, where i inquired about how they get their foreign merchandise. i avoided the used bookstore and went into an interior design shop instead, but ended up getting a book i've admired before online:

after eating dinner alone at a mexican restaurant that was quite full (and repeatedly convincing myself that it was ok that i was using a table by myself), i went to see the movie "the science of sleep" with gael garcia bernal, who starred as che guevara in motorcycle diaries. the movie was so poignantly human and honest, while quite funny and strange at the same time. it's been a while since i've seen such a vulnerable portrayal of the confusion that is our experience.

to round out the evening, i came back to my car and realized the battery was almost dead, and the engine wouldn't start. the cold evening and my low gas tank together were what did it. i'm not sure why low gas makes my car struggle to start, but it does. so...i eventually got a guy to stop and help...fortunately his battery was located in his trunk, because i was parked on the street and pulling up nose to nose with my car was a logistical problem. i've never heard of a battery in the trunk before, either.

i drove home and slept well.


i spent a lot of time today looking for fun math things online to use in my classes which as of this coming week are moving to rooms equipped with a computer and a big projector and internet access.

mixed success.

then i started looking for things to use tomorrow night at grad group with the catholics. they were at a loss for a topic, and i mentioned that i'd been really excited by my discovery of the euthyphro by Plato. so i guess i'm 'leading' a discussion on that and faith and reason. i'm also going to photocopy excerpts of the pope's controversial speech and a little bit out of the catechism, and maybe some m. scott peck. i love weaving bits together. i have no idea how it will go over.

finally, tonight, after intervarsity (non-catholic) bible study, beer and a stromboli and excited discourse about the gospels with tony.

though i seem to be coming down with something, i feel full of surprises and blessings.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

this week

sometimes we have experiences that bring our shortcomings right up to our noses, unavoidably in our faces. no escaping, and they are smelly, too.

it's so much nicer to live with the illusions about ourselves that we so carefully cultivate.

Saturday, October 07, 2006


this poorly lit picture doesn't do it justice, but i find the image of a woman standing with such grandeur around her, and opening a book--so powerful. according the caption (i tore this out of the patagonia catalog & taped it by my bed) she is studying for an alpinism exam.

i'm exhausted--it was a full day. 4 of us drove up to a conference, then went for a hike in the fall woods. mongolian grill for supper, and home for a shower & hot tea. time with a good friend rounded out a long, but surprisingly balanced day.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

i am foolish

1. decide to make chocolate milk at 11:40 pm.
2. don't make it in the microwave. make it on the stove, with the really good mexican chocolate bars.
3. leave it cooking on high for about 40 minutes.
4. be in your room with the door closed, blissfully updating your online planner & feeling really accomplished and organized
5. catch a whiff of a foul black smell, and have a lightbulb moment
6. dash into the kitchen, which is thick with black smoke, and turn off the burner
7. open all the windows in the house, wishing like mad for a howling gale.
8. hope the roommate is already asleep, so she won't find out how dumb you are.
9. realize you have no fan, and the smoke is not leaving.
10. realize that when she goes to the bathroom in the night, she will think the building is burning.
11. feel relief when you realize she is still awake. borrow a fan. explain your stupidity.
12. go to bed.
13. wake in the morning to the lingering wretched smell still there.
14. attempt to clean stove top & chip black carbon chuncks out of the pan
15. while scrubbing & chipping vigorously with a fork, get a carbon particle in your eye.
16. slosh big glasses of water into your eye, moan, slosh more, hold your eyelid up, cry, look in mirror, slosh some more, pray, cry.
17. call mom because i am utterly wretched.
18. go to the doctor and get numbing drops & find out the offending black particle is now gone.
19. come home. feel utterly exhausted. and relieved.
20. vow NEVER to leave the kitchen while something is cooking, EVER.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

the fear of beginning

i found this list in an amazon review of the book Uncommon Genius. #8, especially.

1. Find your talent.
2. Commit to it and make it shine
3. Don't be afraid of risk. Or even failure, which if seen in its proper light, brings insight and opportunity.
4. Find courage by looking to something stronger and better than your puny vulnerable self.
5. No lusting after quick resolutions. Relax. Stay loose.
6. Get to know yourself; understand your needs and the specific conditions you favor.
7. Respect, too, your culture. We can't, any of us, escape the twenty-first century. It's tucked up around our collective chin as snugly and as firmly as the bedsheet.
8. Then, finally, break free from the seductive pull of book learning and research and the million other preparatory steps that could delay the entire span of a life and immerse yourself in the doing.


then also a very striking (&scary, for me) parable about pottery:

“The ceramics teacher announced on opening day that he was dividing the class into two groups. All those on the left side of the studio, he said, would be graded solely on the quantity of work they produced, all those on the right solely on its quality. His procedure was simple: on the final day of class he would bring in his bathroom scales and weigh the work of the ‘quantity’ group: fifty pounds of pots rated an ‘A’, forty pounds a ‘B’, and so on. Those being graded on ‘quality’, however, needed to produce only one pot—albeit a perfect one—to get an ‘A’.

Well, came grading time and a curious fact emerged: the works of highest quality were all produced by the group being graded for quantity. It seems that while the ‘quantity’ group was busily churning out piles of work—and learning from their mistakes—the ‘quality’ group had sat theorizing about perfection, and in the end had little more to show for their efforts than grandiose theories and a pile of dead clay.”


i was really struck by this. not intellectually, but on an emotional level.

Monday, October 02, 2006

on the hunt

what does the truth smell like? how do you know when you're getting "warmer" (remember that game)?

recently a person was heard to say "i know it's the truth because it makes me happy." while the reasoning sounds like it falls short, i can relate. there is a certain peaceful, free feeling that comes. and if you're holding something really, really tightly, then i don't think you can have that sense.

perhaps part of the game is to let go of the need to know you're right all the time (mike's big thing). not that there is no absolute truth--reality is definitely there to crash into all the time... sometimes there is no knowing, just taking steps with a heart open to guidance.

i'm reminded of a quote bethy copied into a book somewhere: a big belly laugh is a way of saying "ain't that the truth".

i have to run off to do you recognize the truth?

Sunday, October 01, 2006

kindred spirits

i wandered into a restaurant in arequipa & found a tree painted on the ceiling. delight! this is not the exact tree i want in my living room, but it's thrilling that someone else feels similarly.

Friday, September 29, 2006

friday night fragments

i get so overwhelmed so easily--i have to jealously guard my time alone...say no frequently, and get used to disappointing those who want to hang out...haven't been alone all day, till now.

tonight--theological discussions over thai food, and "the illusionist", a satisfying movie...with nice twists.

tony said something interesting: the dividing line between protestants and catholics is that protestants believe that the bible is the sole source of truth, and catholics rely both on the bible and tradition. (i'm not sure i got that down exactly, but that's the jist of it.)

i'm not sure i'd put myself in either category. i think there are truths that aren't in any texts. truths that are uncaptured, mystical, and waiting to be discovered first-hand from personal experience. truths revealed to us in spirit. truths discovered from walking on the way.

and the tradition thing really irritates me, but maybe that's because i'm an upstart, rebellious protestant--a maverick that wants my logic to be the final judge. i'm open to learning.


i also asked...does Christ work differently through believers & non-believers?

it doesn't seem to be so in my experience. it seems that all encounters could be pleasant or un-pleasant, and in each case i can choose to have faith that some good can come: not because of the individual, but because God wills it.


in the movie, the illusionist rescued the woman he loved.

does that ever happen in real life?

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

oh, the humanity!

where did i read that exclamation? it springs to mind sometimes, when i'm overcome with the beauty of a small gesture: a little child's expression unnoticed by the adult who is pushing the stroller, the way a thin little old woman watches all of us checking out at the grocery store, while tightly gripping her little bag of groceries and waiting on a bench for her ride. she seems caught off guard when i smile at her.

at the produce market, i was waiting in line for checkout and behind me a south american grandmother told her grandson "tengo guineo, huevos, tomate...". i was charmed because most spanish speakers say platano or banana, not guineo.

unrelated, but cool: monday night i went to a catholic meeting for rutgers graduate students. i met a girl whose sister LIVES IN MONTERO. Montero is the town we grew up in, in Bolivia. It is not a major town--no one knows about it. Her sister is a nun there, and she visited there this past summer. Wow.

Monday, September 25, 2006

pages 392-393

ex‧e‧ge‧sis  n.
critical explanation or interpretation, esp. of a text.

Used as a stage direction to indicate that two or more performers leave the stage.
[Latin, third person pl. of exire, to go out. See exit.]

ex‧is‧ten‧tial‧ism  n.
a philosophical attitude associated esp. with Heidegger, Jaspers, Marcel, and Sartre, and opposed to rationalism and empiricism, that stresses the individual's unique position as a self-determining agent responsible for the authenticity of his or her choices.

[alternate definition]

ex‧is‧ten‧tial‧ism  n.
A philosophy that emphasizes the uniqueness and isolation of the individual experience in a hostile or indifferent universe, regards human existence as unexplainable, and stresses freedom of choice and responsibility for the consequences of one's acts.

ex ni·hi·lo adv. & adj.
Out of nothing.


i'd like to have a more precise vocabulary. does the idea come first, and then the need for a word with which to express it? maybe not always.

at any rate, learning words with which i can express nuanced thoughts might encourage me to speak more carefully.

Friday, September 22, 2006

friday evening

tylenol codeine is good stuff. i went from feeling lightheaded and utterly wretched to feeling human again. of course, i am home, and had milk and cookies, too.

the lump is not cancer. it is a mysterious infection for which antibiotics are hopefully the cure. my insurance & medical professions are on it.

meanwhile--my book on underground houses arrived in the mail--nice timing. written by a guy who seems like a hippie, in the 70's, the opening paragraph gets my attention immediately:

"This is a highly personal book, perhaps too much so. I can't help it. I could no more write a dry technical manual than i could dance the Swan Lake Ballet. I have strong opinions, likes and dislikes. They are bound to find their way into these pages. If at times this book sounds like the drunk bellowing at the end of the bar, it was written, after all, by the drunk who is often seen at the end of the bar, bellowing.

"My dislikes may offend you. Tisk tisk. So that you may brace yourself, or so that we may start off on the wrong foot--whichever--I'll list a few here. I dislike businessmen, the American medical profession, "liberated" women, most architecture, agri-business, 90 percent of industry, cities, pavement, the American philosophy of self-indulgence, strip mining, clear-cutting, nuclear reactors, and anything having to do with recombinant DNA research and development. I consider television and the automobile two of the nation's greatest curses; the former beacuse it rots the mind, the latter because it rots the body and destroys the land."

for some reason this reminds me of House, mike.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

a bump

there is a little bump on the roof of my mouth. it is getting bigger, and it hurts now when i eat. i am going to the dentist tomorrow. he may send me to an oral surgeon to get a biopsy.

i have no idea how scary this is. it's weird, not knowing if it is nothing, or everything.

Monday, September 18, 2006


if you were locked in a room that had
-unlimited cable internet access
-cable tv with a bazillion channels
-food in unlimited variety and quantity
-unlimited alcohol

hmm...what other possible addictive substances to list...what have i been addicted to...

-unlimited cool fashion magazines
-unlimited great books

what would happen? what vices would you gorge yourself on first, second? Would you gorge? or would you happily create a balanced regimen of reading, eating, and internetting?

Sunday, September 17, 2006

my art

i'm pretty sure mom & dad never check this blog--besides, they're on a trip. i made them an anniversary card.

i reorganized my art supplies and instead of having them boxed up, they are visible. this makes it a lot more likely that i will use what i have and make stuff. i found that the same principle applies in the kitchen...

Saturday, September 16, 2006

i just bought this. as usual, each day i have radical new ideas. they're always exciting. i am getting embarassed about all my radical ideas, because i'm not doing them. maybe i should stop talking until i actually do them.

but safe...inside my head....i keep scheming and planning and making lists and drawing pictures. endlessly.

taking the plunge

"some of us are born with unrealizable and unnattainable dreams. they push and pull our beings through life like a pack of wild dogs on the end of a hundred straining leashes. but just coming to realize that some of those dreams could be a reality can be the first big step in a person's coming of age. then comes an even scarier part, where those subtle voices that emanate from hidden pockets in the universe all around, ask you to step off cliffs! Having the guts to do that may be the biggest test of all....

"there are a few new pioneers however. souls who feel the pull of the cliff's edge more keenly and when no one is looking, leap off, falling, falling."

he's not talking about suicide--he's talking about taking the plunge and moving toward a radically different life. how frightening that is to me.

[oh--the writer is Dan Price, a modern-day Thoreau, who made a house with his own hands, stones, scrap lumber, etc, and lived comfortably and simply with very little. i enjoyed reading about his journey in Radical Simplicity: Creating an Authentic Life.]

"the answer"

i'm seeing a common theme in a lot of people's writing. they found a way to make their life meaningful/good/trancendent.

-i sold my house, car, and furniture and now i live on a boat
-i simplified my life and de-cluttered and now i am happy
-i followed my dreams, quit my high paying job, and am an artist now
-i found true love and it changed my life
-i lost 45 pounds
-i moved across the country
-i decided to go back to school

and on and on. it seems like we're all on a quest to find happiness, and when we do find it, we are eager to share with everyone what worked for us.

today, i am here to tell you that i am dusting my bookshelves, and i'm getting stressed out at all the books i've bought/borrowed/had forever that i have not read and will probably not get to this year. it is nice to have neat bookshelves, though.

lots of these books are telling me how to have a good life, but all i'm capable of aspiring to is neat bookshelves.

Friday, September 15, 2006

frayed nerves

what a day...

-an unbelievable traffic jam/construction combined with rain on the way to work, so that instead of being 20 minutes early, i was 10 minutes late to class. this was really embarassing.
-in my rush to enter the building, i left my lunch in the car, so had to go back out in the rain to get it later.
-they're out of handouts again so i spend time copying a bunch of them myself
-a very very talkative student comes to my office after class and starts telling me her entire educational history, and talks very loud, and seems generally quite fascinated with herself. none of my not-so-subtle signs of indifference seem to cue her to leave.
-people stream by, stopping to chat at regular intervals so that trying to eat lunch, relax, and focus on the class i'm about to teach becomes a terrible struggle. i put in earplugs but people can't tell. i sigh, pull them out, and wish like &#$* for an office with a door.
-i meet with the new teacher i'm mentoring, and seeing as he is older than me, he seems to be showing signs of knowing better than I about the course, even though I have taught it 13 times.
-i'm so fried that i forget all about plans i'd made for the afternoon & evening, and come home and crash. i decide a bath is what's needed, but about 5 minutes after settling into the tub, roommate gets home and needs to pee.

i actually had a very stressful day yesterday too.

but tonight got better. I stopped at the library and rented 2 movies and finished a bottle of wine.
Zelary was a pleasure to watch.

I don't know if there is a way I can manage my rat-race of an existence into something tolerable. I don't want to just survive. I'm not a grad student any more.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

peru project

i love this little girl. she looks exactly like bani. only one person who read this blog knows who i mean. bani was this little boy in montero, where we grew up, who was a little wild thing. a fighter, a huck fin, he'd punch a random innocent kid and then sprint away. he had this look in his eyes--and then he'd smile and it was absolutely dazzling.

so--i have to give you the scoop on the peru project. these kids live in a shanty town on the farthest outskirts of lima--at least an hour away from the center of town where the tourists hang out. their parents have moved here from the rural areas in hopes of making a better life. i wish they wouldn't come--it MUST be better where they were before--less polluted, more natural, etc. but i really don't know. i want to find out. perhaps if they knew what they were getting into they wouldn't have come.

but that's a project for another day. [i want to make a documentary of what life is like in the lima slums and take it to the towns everyone is coming from and show them and say, please stay where you are!!]

anyway these impoverished families are already stuck. there are many single moms. as you know, teenage pregnancy is a terrible but effective way to create a vicious cycle of poverty. another case: we met a woman who came to pachacutec with her husband and 2 sons. the husband abandoned her after they arrived. (i mentioned it here.)

so--let me give you the scoop. i don't like to ask for money but i guess i feel obliged to put the facts out here at least once.

For $30, 150 kids can get a lentils & rice meal (an economic but nutritionally balanced option). Right now, what they are getting is a runny oatmeal hot drink with bread and butter or jam, which costs about $7/meal for all 150 kids.

The name of Alex's organization is Idukay Peru. This means Educating Peru, in Quechua, the indigenous language of Peru (and the Incas). This fledgling organization is currently working in three different communities. I visited Fertiza when I was in Peru 2 years ago. This past summer I got to meet people from the Pachacutec community.

In Fertiza, there is a little school that has opened its doors to idukay peru. In exchange, idukay peru fixed up their bathrooms, which formerly were squatting models. Now they have flush toilets. Also, 150 of the poorest kids in the school, as well as a few older people who have no source of support, are fed breakfast and lunch. Finally, the kids get help with their homework after school. Also, there was a Christmas party with a clown show, hot chocolate, and presents for the kids. I know that Alex took some of the kids on an outing to a park one time too.

There are ladies from the community who make the food and serve the kids.

Fertiza needs:
-steady income to keep up the meal program
-money for books for the school
-a micro loan so that someone can set up a bakery, and maybe get other little businesses started, so there can be a local economy.
-medical & nutritional help would be great, but this weird doctor that we thought was going to come turned out to be really strange, so we scratched that plan. people in spain sent medicine, though.
-people to volunteer. you could stay at alex's house, like i did. it was fun.

There's also Pachacutec. Pictures here. View them as a slideshow but speed it up, because there are 106 photos. The funny thing about the kids is that a lot of them frowned for the picture, but afterwards they'd give these adorable huge grins. So you missed the best part!

My dream is to go back and get the women in Pachacutec making some crafts: hats, scarves, jewelry, embroidered stuff. And then import it here, and sell it--fair trade style. I am doing some research. I have no idea how many barriers there are between now & doing it. I will have to dedicate myself seriously to this project if I decide to take it on--and maybe give up other interests, forget the ceramics studio membership, rock climbing, french books. Can I make this type of commitment? Maybe, just maybe.

I found some websites of others who have had the same idea, and I even got an emailed response from one of them: Rebecca of Nest. If you are inclined to shop, please look around there, and support this excellent project. She is in St. Louis, and sounded excited to hear from me.

Another organization sounded great too...Mad Imports...but they work with women in Africa.

Besides the fair trade idea, there are also micro loans. Kiva is a new website that enables people in the u.s. to give small ($25) to big amounts to help people in developing countries make the money go a lot farther--buy a sewing machine, an oven, so they can start a business, generate income, and repay the loan.

I guess my strategy is to communicate with as many people as I can who seem like they are connected to something like this or know something about it. I will make phone calls, do internet research, etc. Perhaps for once I have to go for it with a blind determination, because that's how things get done.

If you have any helpful input, please share! Thanks.

update: Ten Thousand Villages.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

living with limits

"To live within limits. To want one thing. Or a few things very much and love them dearly. Cling to them, survey them from every angle. Become one with them--that is what makes the poet, the artist, the human being."
--Johann Goethe

this quote really jumped out at me. i've been struggling with wanting too many different things in my life. i could make a list--i've made so many lists. let me not detour into that. the point is, i feel that if i could be more single minded, or even just pick five things to focus on, i'd be so much more successful, i could excel, i'd be more fulfilled. it's just that i can't pick!

so then i look up this goethe fellow to see what he's all about, and here's what i find:

Johann Wolfgang Goethe (28 August 1749 – 22 March 1832) was a German polymath: he was a poet, novelist, dramatist, humanist, scientist, theorist, painter, and for ten years chief minister of state for the duchy of Weimar.

Goethe was one of the key figures of German literature and the movement of Weimar Classicism in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.... The author of Faust and Theory of Colours, he inspired Darwin with his independent discovery of the human intermaxillary jaw bones and focus on evolutionary ideas. Goethe's influence spread across Europe, and for the next century his works were a primary source of inspiration in music, drama, poetry, and philosophy.

dang! this guy doesn't sound like someone who narrowed his vision to a few key things. or maybe he did.

i think i need to pick 5 things--or less. i'll find 5 that are rich, interesting, and inspiring, and live mindfully, deliberately, within those limits.

an excerpt from "the complete idiot's guide to simple living"

I've been choosing not to listen to the news lately. (Well, I did yesterday, and got not only a big dose of 9-11 New York political coverage, but news of New Orleans houses being bulldozed.) I've been thinking that not listening to the news is one tiny step back to the primitive life I've been desiring, where the thing you are most aware of is today's weather, your family, and your neighbors.

I decided that I could only care about one big 'cause' at a time without getting really stressed out. So I care about living healthily for myself, I care about my family, and as far as the world is concerned, I will pay attention to South America. Otherwise--it's way too much, and I feel like the radio wants me to worry and take responsibility for each one of the disasters it details for me.

Of course, my attempts to time warp myself back to a simpler life won't be too effective until I stop listening to the Spanish pop album I'm addicted to. The impulse stop at KFC for 2 twisters? And I have no idea how the internet fits in here, but the internet brought me the following:


"In seeking more quiet in your life, try speaking less. When you do speak, make a conscious effort to communicate more honestly. Make greater eye contact. Really look at someone when you speak to him or her and allow silent spaces. Truly listen. Start eliminating garbage from your communication. By garbage, I mean all the meaningless chatter we use to fill the spaces between others and ourselves instead of allowing for intimacy and authenticity.

"Clean up your language and pay attention to the words you use. Be more precise. Stay away from jargon or catch phrases and develop a broader vocabulary. I catch myself when I respond to someone relating an experience with a shallow "great"...I know I'm just being lazy when I resort to this kind of speech and don't really participate fully in the conversation.

"Watch what happens around you when you make the change to more careful speech, even in a small way. Living simply is about living consciously. Plain speaking is about the same thing. In an age of disingenuous and downright dishonest speech in so many areas of our lives, honest, thoughtful speech is always refreshing and contributes to everyone's sense of simple well being."

"Quiet has a way of putting us in the present like nothing else. As Ram Dass said, "Be, here, now." It's hard to do that when were' constantly chattering, recounting stories from the past, or sharing future plans. There's a place for these, of course, but being in the previous present is easier when we seek silence daily."


I like this idea so much--that in cutting *noise* we can actually achieve more genuine connections. That I need to stop using catch-phrases that are actually my way of avoiding an encounter with another.

So here's to paring down.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

feverish wanderlust

for some reason, watching a pretty bad movie last night has touched a nerve and i am filled with longing for the grimy colonial streets and soaring andean vistas of south america.

the movie was "the dancer upstairs". it tried to describe the drama surrounding the shining path guerrila movement in the 80's and what it felt like to be in lima. the central character was a detective attempting to find the leader behind the violent attacks and terror tactics.

the feeling of latin american culture was completely absent. the characters didn't have any peruvianness to them. they seemed like americans who were cluelessly bungling around peru not even pretending to be locals. i usually am not one to find fault with movies but this one failed completely at least in its portrayal of what it feels like to be in peru. i guess it wouldn't be such a big deal if movies set in south america weren't so rare.

so what was it that sparked this melancholy & longing to be back? let me try to put a finger on it. glimpses of those beautiful mountains and the loneliness of the landscape. the sense of tragedy and history that pervades. the very recent political turbulence. the reality that the story is still unfolding. the sense of urgency and excitement and unpredictability when the lights go out, your bus is stopped at an army checkpoint, or when strikes shut down cities for days.

i like the fact that the knowledge is on the street. that the best way to find out what is going on is to ask the person next to you. it's easier than trying to look things up online or in a book. the knowledge isn't always terribly reliable, but it's fresh, and eventually you get the story straight.

i'm aching to be back there, feeling my way through the chaotic, colorful, people-thronged streets. making my way across an unreliable, lovely continent. light and free, with only a bag on my back and the rattling busses under foot.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

2 stories with no moral

i take a walk on a wet night. tiny water droplets mist down; trees harbor moisture that rain on me when i shake a branch over myself.

i walk down quiet residential streets. i hear tv sets in some houses; otherwise, all is quiet.

as i pass under a tree, i see a leaf fluttering down, lit by a street lamp. only--the leaf's motion reminds me of a butterfly...i look again. its fall stops as it lands on a branch...then it falls to another branch...hesitates, falls the street at my feet.

it is a large moth. its wings are laden with weakly flails about on the asphalt, trying in vain to get some lift. i watch is beautiful, in a way...large as a butterfly, and yet i am vaguely creeped out by its furry abdomen. i guess that is what makes butterflies lovely and moths...noctural and eerie? you'd welcome a butterfly that landed on your finger...but as this moth flapped its wings and moved toward me, i stepped back quickly.

a car turned onto the street and headed straight for the poor creature. i motioned the car to stop and attempted to herd the moth to the side of the road with a branch. it didn't really work, so i stepped back, and the impatient driver drove by, leaving the moth untouched. finally i got it to the side of the road, up the curb...and suddenly its wings were lighter, the droplets shaken off, and it danced into the air, higher and higher...back toward the streetlamp...where perhaps the story began.

Friday, September 08, 2006

completely wiped. teaching is tiring. but i'm officially started and that's good. i've been reading some c. s. lewis, and some other stuff--found good quotes but will have to share them later.

my goal is to stay awake until 8 pm. i don't think i even have the strength to go for a walk, or to stay awake & watch a movie...

Sunday, September 03, 2006

projects & ideas

-sell earrings for a profit--for a good cause (let me know if you want any of these, or click here to see more with prices)
-look into a "fair trade" set up for importing jewelry or knitted goods from women in peru & selling them here. this could evolve into my designing arty things.
-research non-profit third-world-helping organizations and try to find one that can donate food for alex's projects.

-get into rock climbing
-read an intro to philosophy text as a way to find out more about a potential change in career plans
-read mario vargas llosa and the biography of che guevara to learn more about latin america's more recent history.
-eat more healthily, walk regularly, get sufficient rest
-practice saying no

-attempt to be innovative in my teaching of math. if it's still not fulfilling, look to find something different

-learn to make hand-made soap
-make more pottery
-open a hotel in a small coastal town in south america. serve coffee & fresh bread. talk to travelers.
-get a degree from a university somewhere in latin america.

Friday, September 01, 2006

There is a pleasure in the pathless woods,
There is a rapture on the lonely shore,
There is society, where none intrudes,
By the deep sea, and music in its roar:

I love not man the less, but Nature more,
From these our interviews, in which I steal
From all I may be, or have been before,
To mingle with the Universe, and feel
What I can ne'er express, yet cannot all conceal.

-- Lord Byron, (George Gordon)

Thursday, August 31, 2006

a new 17 inch monitor makes me see everything differently. digital photography will be completely different. the dusty old 13 inch fatscreen was a gift from a friend that carried me through the failure of my laptop monitor's screen. the laptop got replaced by a real computer a while ago...i finally caved into material desire and got this.

(this picture is of the old monitor.)

Tuesday, August 29, 2006


i've been mulling over the human vulnerability to the notion of a hero. our modern cynicism has crusted it over...and we back away from anyone who takes a stand, believes strongly in an ideal, or even just says something with conviction.

as a child of this generation, i do the same.

but underneath that there is something else. you can catch glimpses of hope and longing on the faces of those who watch...if they aren't guarding themselves...but you must be quick, for the moment passes and they quickly lose hope in the would-be messiah. the legend: a person of character who can be trusted completely--does he even exist?

we may speak our scepticism loudly--but in the silent pauses there is evidence to the contrary. we do want a hero, and we are looking for him, all the time.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

a seattle kind of day

i spent the day with a friend who lived in seattle, among other places. today was rainy, umbrella weather as we walked to the bookstore in search of a book. we also spotted this:

Monday, August 21, 2006

my latest obsession... to live very naturally: free of unnecessary complications, chemicals, and products. doing some research and reading a wonderful italian cookbook inspired me further. now, i am simplifying my kitchen, eliminating products with too many unrecognizable products added. i'm trying to go back to a simpler time, trying to go low-tech.

the italian cookbook reinforced what has been at the edge of my consciousness for a while: avoid the supermarket, buy locally grown when possible, eat pure products, avoid additives, preservatives, pesticides, hormones. it's not only healthier, it's yummier and better for the world and the community.

the amazing thing is that i actually managed to get almost everything i wanted fairly close to home, without stepping into a supermarket. it's fun to shop in ethnic stores and try to read russian or italian (i don't try chinese). in the asian store i watched as a hispanic-looking employee unlocked the knife case for two guys who seemed to be polish. i got a knife too.

the diversity is so good. [oh! i also found an african restaurant (nigerian) not too far away.]

the israeli tomatoes actually smell the way tomatoes smell when you are in a vegetable garden--so fragrant!

the ginger honey is going to be my new favorite thing, i just know it.

i found cage-free eggs for 99 cents per dozen!

my best moment was the last thing i bought. when i checked the ingredients on the russian butter, it merely said: cream. ahhh.

click here to see photos of my new religion.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

peru photographs

click here to visit my favorite photos from the trip.

almost home

the plane touched down here wednesday morning. amazingly, i slept most of the night. usually i can't at all, but i was so tired that not long after i rested my head back i was wondering what that bright light was coming in the eastern windows.

my apartment isn't mine again until today. s.'s hospitality has been wonderful.

it's weird to be back in the u.s., where things are simultaneously organized, civilized, sanitized, and annoyingly complicated. when i went out to buy a white t-shirt, i ended up driving for about an hour because i went to the wrong mall and the highways were not cooperating. simple task, nightmare of roads.

i'm sure once i'm back in my own place, my own neighborhood, my own roads--i'll be home, finally. the memory of my latin american roots will fade once again.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Monday, August 14, 2006

alex's house

so the trip winds down here, in the suburbs of lima, in a non-descript 4 story house where alex lives with his extended family.

the solo stay in arequipa was fabulously indulgent, shopping, eating, shopping and eating...not to mention extended reading and thinking about my life and its direction....and lots of fun conversations with local shop keepers. i was actually writing a detailed account of it 2 days ago when the power went out, so that was the end of that.

anyway, it´s fun to stay with a peruvian family and get the real experience. yesterday, a friend of alex's drove he & i out to a very shabby, unbelievably poor neighborhood perched in the sand dunes on the coast north of lima. we met, among others, a single mom whose husband brought her there and abandoned her. her only source of income for she and her 2 teenage sons is selling candy on buses. her knees are very arthritic and climbing up and down is very painful. when i looked at her legs i saw a lot of varicose veins as well, which i believe are quite painful too.

her teenage sons have the typical preoccupation with being cool. it is likely that they don´t appreciate the struggle their mother has to support them.

alex´s project wants to bring basic meals to 50 of the poorest kids in the community 2 days a week. well, they actually signed of 80 of them. yesterday i brought my camera and took pictures of a lot of kids so that they could get sponsors. apparently alex has some connections in spain that want to sponsor.

today i am hoping we get out and go buy oatmeal for the meal project. i actually wanted to buy books for the kids so that they can do their homework. maybe that can happen too. apparently the teacher assigns homework but the kids don´t have textbooks and so unless they can borrow them from a library (non-existent) or purchase photocopies (at 50 cents per page) they are stuck. it would be great to buy a few of each book so they could have that resource.

the cool thing about alex's project is that it is a tiny organization so very little money gets wasted on bureaucratic stuff. alex has a job and supports himself.

well, more on that later.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

The Splendor Falls

from The Princess

The splendor falls on castle walls
And snowy summits old in story:
The long light shakes across the lakes
And the wild cataract leaps in glory.
Blow, bugle, blow, set the wild echoes flying,
Blow, bugle; answer, echoes dying, dying, dying.

O hark, O hear! how thin and clear,
And thinner, clearer, farther going!
O sweet and far from cliff and scar
The horns of Elfland faintly blowing!
Blow, let us hear the purple glens replying,
Blow, bugle; answer, echoes dying, dying, dying.

O love they die in yon rich sky,
They faint on hill or field, or river:
Our echoes roll from soul to soul,
And grow forever and forever.
Blow, bugle, blow, set the wild echoes flying,
And answer, echoes, answer, dying, dying, dying.

Alfred Lord Tennyson

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

arequipa, peru

after two days of bussing, i arrived here last night, with legs twitching with unhappiness at being cooped up.

travelling solo has suited me fine, especially with my big stash of reading material. however it was a nice break to travel the last leg of the journey (of a 13 hour trip) with a young german guy. i thought he´d be annoying, but we actually had a lot of fun talking. the bus showed the movie "finding private ryan" and it was really cool to hear tom hanks speaking spanish fluently.

i switched hotels this morning. my new hotel doesn´t have a private bathroom, but it has amazing views of the volcano and the mountains that surround arequipa, and closer by, the mysterious convento that used to be very, very secretive. i´m sure i´ll have more to say about it after i explore it at length tomorrow.

it feels very luxurious to not plan to go do anything outside the city; just chill and eat meals and walk around and shop and see the lovely buildings. today i happened onto a restaurant that had old colonial architecture juxtaposed with a classic rock theme. since my schedule is all confused, i was lunching at 11:30 and got to chat with the mother of the chef. she was quite pleased when i told her the chicken in almond and peanut sauce was delicious. her son went to chef school in lima, she told me, proudly. i asked her how to make it and she gave me detailed instructions, which i wrote in my journal. then she said, if you have a special request, he could make it for tomorrow's lunch. but--i´m too ignorant of the local cuisine to know what to request. i said, i'll come back--i'm sure whatever he makes will be good.

then--she brought me a rocoto relleno (stuffed hot pepper), just for fun, and for free. i was already stuffed but it was delicious.

what i really want to know about arequipa is if there are any mario vargas llosa sites for me to make a pilgrimage to.

but back to my inability to ask for something interesting for tomorrow's lunch: it reminded me of my life, and my wants in life. when i look back on the best events or relationships in my life, they almost never were things that i was actively looking for or even knew enough to desire. they were surprises, gifts. so here's to the big chef: "I´m sure whatever you make will be good."

Saturday, August 05, 2006

mind travel

i{ve had thoughts, too. i{m hoping that the rest of my trip is full of them. recent developments mean that the last 10 days or so of the trip will be solo.

fortunately, lots of books will go with me...and ideas are swirling quite madly lately.

s. decided to go home early...someone needed her, and also: she was tired and sick of being sick. so plans changed. it{s ok. i{m glad she is back in the heat and i get to be cold a little longer.

when your mind is bursting with connections, ideas, possibilities, and you can{t find the time or the means to satisfy your curiosity because the only way to do it would be to read 10 books at once...that's a kind of euphoria.

Monday, July 31, 2006

puno, copacabana, la paz, cochabamba

the heart strings drew me back to coch. i didn{t plan to, really, but i couldn{t resist. being a mere 10 hours away by bus was too much. i convinced s. that it would be restful and good to be in our little home here, with mom and all the old friends and memories.

puno is on the peru side of lake titicaca and it was freezing. we only stayed there long enough to recover from the 10 hour train ride from cuzco and to spend a day in a sauna that we were providentially led to to steam out our dried, freezing bodies.

then we caught a bus to the other side of the lake, to copacabana. on the way we crossed the border and got bolivia stamps in our passports. ahhhhh. things are just better in bolivia.

in copa we chilled out and hiked isla del sol like tradition would dictate. i also got to make a little pilgrimage to my favorite beach of all time (all pebbles and clear water). the 2.5 hour hike back to the south end of the island nearly killed s., as she is my kindred spirit and had foolishly picked up a large rock that was truly lovely and HAD to be brought back with us.

we met some nice colombian guys that sell handmade jewelry itinerantly. sharon got to dance and i got to try to dance. a fun game of pool. some austrian lads who had stuff in common with us: one went to the same high school as s. while on an exchange to the u.s., the other lived in ecuador on an exchange the same year that i did (the year that 9-11 happened).

i had to make a run back to puno to get our bags because we had originally planned to only make a quick 2 day trip to copacabana and then continue on into southern peru and arequipa. but then the pull toward bolivia was too much so the bags we{d left at the hotel had to be retrieved. the result was that the day after i entered bolivia, i returned to peru and then returned to bolivia. as a result i spent almost the whole day (3.5 hours each way) on the bus. when i got back to puno i strangely was offered a tricycle (sorta like a rickshaw) ride by the same guy who showed us to our hotel room the day before. he remembered me and offered to take me back to get the bags. what a hair-raising ride, dodging cars, making right turns from left lanes, near misses...

so we got the bags (s. and i have been shopping too much, i guess, even though i decided against the wonderful red poncho).

back to the bus station, board the bus, but when the bus drove away, we weren{t 4 blocks out from the station when i heard a terrible crunch.

turns out we{d just hit one of those tricycles that clog the streets of puno (they{re not that common anywhere else, strangely). the driver-pedaler was knocked to the street. the cop and his dog who were the passengers were unharmed. as i peeked out the back window of the bus i saw them climbing out, unharmed, but the driver was reeling, holding his head as he tried to stand up.

our bus driver seemed to be trying to sneak away, but eventually we returned to the scene of the accident and he got out and went to talk to someone. was the driver ok? some people said that he died, others that he had been taken to the hospital. i couldn{t see anything from my seat.

i said a prayer for the poor man who had either lost his means of income, or else his life.

but i was also concerned for myself, since i was in a race against time to get back to the border before the immigration office closed.

eventually we had to return to the station and board a new bus, since the one we}d been on was held up indefinitely. the passengers were bonding and chatting as a result of this common misfortune and the disaster we{d witnessed. i liked the girls i{d been sitting by but on the second bus a guy decided that he should sit by me and get to know me even better. i responded to some of his questions but soon had to halt the inquisition by handing him the novel by mario vargas llosa that i{d just finished. he read obediently until it got dark. then i got him to explain the peruvian political situation to me.

it was dark by the time i made it back to the border. i got the peru exit stamp but on the bolivia side the officials were locking the stamps in their desks and said i would have to come back tomorrow. well, at least i was allowed to physically enter the country. i didn{t really know what the rules were.

the shared taxi from the border to copa was filled with a bunch of men, which made me quite nervous. once i felt comfortable that i wasn{t going to be kidnapped, i started eavesdropping on their conversation. i didn{t really get it but it sounded like they were just coming from some sort of lefty conspiratorial meeting. they discussed the politics and leadership of the group and their next "action" and how soon it should come.

interestingly, the next day when i travelled back to the border to get the passport stamped, the bus encountered a road blockade, which consisted of small and very large boulders pushed into the road by lots of campesinos. the taxi driver managed to talk to a couple of the people and they obliged and rolled a couple of rocks out of the way. i asked the driver what the road block was protesting, and he told me it was because the catholic leadership had forbidden smaller communities to exist independently, and made them merge into a larger unit (or something).

so i think i got to see what the "action" was that those men had been discussing the day before.

other highlights:
-finding the streets of la paz almost completely blocked by a massive, day-long parade for "la entrada universitaria"
-looking for our colombian friends in the calle de las brujas (a touristy street that was probably more famous in the past for its witchcrafty wares including llama fetuses--which can still be found for sale)
-taking a bus from la paz to cochabamba, and YES! they played a rambo movie!! and a van damme movie too!!
-there was a darling little puppy across the aisle from us on the bus and the owners let us hold him and we got doggie kisses!
-the trip was made even more adventurous by a drug bust. apparently a woman tipped off the police at a checkpoint and the next thing you know the bus was swarming with police, their drug detecting equipment, and a sniffing dog. later, i got to see the three bags of stuff get cut open and checked, too. i have never seen anything like this before.

now we are in cochabamba and it is so nice to be here. it is dusk. from this internet cafe, i can look down into the valley and see the lights twinkle. dogs are barking, and it is not very cold. in fact, i am wearing shorts because i just washed my very filthy and only pair of jeans.

(sorry i cannot post pictures--i will have a huge job cut out for me when i return to civilization. also, sorry this post is long and not terribly well-written.)

hasta luego.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

from aguas calientes

aguas calientes means hot waters and it is the town at the base of macchu picchu.

we hiked m.p. today. tomorrow, very early, we take the train back to ollantaytambo and cuzco. the following day we will be on a train to puno, on lake titicaca. by tuesday we may have bolivian stamps in our passports and be trinket hunting in copacabana. we will also be freezing.

there is this magnificent red poncho in cuzco that i keep waffling about. would i be a freak or would i look so amazingly cultural and artsy?

exploring m.p. today felt like discovering a huge castle and having the run of the place, looking for secret passageways and rooms. at one point, i went into a room which led to another and another. i sat down on a stone and relished the solitude.

then...another soul had the same idea and came upon my sanctuary. when she found me there, she was so startled that she turned and hurried away. :)

tonight s. and i were starving and ordered a large pizza. we were thrilled when a one-man band by the name of tonio zampoña came in and performed beautifully and with all his limbs! zampoña, charrango, drum, shaky things, and two percussion things i don´t know the names of. the best part was that s. got to perform with him on the charrango and guitar, and in the end even i joined in stamping one foot that had the shakers on it, and thumping the drum with the other foot. it was exhausting!

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

a surprising sunday in lima and a monday arrival in cuzco

it{s hard to believe we{ve been here less than a week. we arrived in lima and spent a lot of time walking around and eating. downtown lima is charming with colonial architecture, but it{s a dirty city, with lots of cars, honking, and pollution. taking long walks was somewhat difficult, since there are always so many people to dodge on the sidewalk. being conspicuously foreigners meant that we got compliments or cat calls from passing men. our favorite pickup line was "hello! macchu picchu!" i guess they thought that was a phrase we might understand. people assume you don{t speak spanish.

this past sunday was a day full of surprises. i wanted to go to a certain church, and really enjoyed the sermon. unfortunately, about two-thirds of the way through the service, i heard an incredible din outside. saxophones and loud drums. finally temptation overcame me and i snuck outside to see what was up. it was a massive parade. costumes, dancing, bands. ladies in huge skirts and others in colorful peruvian outfits. a few devils scattered in for good measure. and leading the huge procession as it made its way slowly around the plaza: La Virgen Del Carmen.

i ran back to the hotel to get s., and we watched with glee all the bizarre costumes, dances, and props. this guy with a shrunken green money-seeming head got excited when he saw me taking a picture of him and he ran out of the parade and posed with s. this had us both laughing.

there were so many beautiful cholitas in matching outfits swirling their polleras in unison.

the most bizarre cluster of costumes was a bunch of guys dressed as mafiosos: leather coats, dark sunglasses, and big guns. dancing joyfully??

it all was very confusing. is this a pagan thing, or a catholic thing, or just a crazy free-for-all? but it was super entertaining.

after leaving to find breakfast in a suitable hole in the wall, we got caught up in getting s. some new glasses for about one fifth of what she would normally pay. they are very hip too! she is super psyched about her new look.

when we went back to the plaza we were amazed to find that the dance was STILL going on, with even MORE people flooding the plaza and watching and cheering. the people dancing seemed to be having a lot of fun.

we also had the good fortune on this day of meeting two VERY cute dogs. i usually don{t even notice dogs. but s. has doggie radar that spots them miles away. then i have to get the camera out and photograph them. on this day, the dogs we met were so charming and loveable. since they were pets, not strays, we petted them and got some doggie kisses. i was intoxicated with glee when the tiny little white puppy stuck out his pink tongue and kissed my nose.

later, we decided to grab a bus to Barrancos, a nearby town that the guidebook said had an artsy community with writers and poets (mario vargas llosa wrote here). we fell in love with the atmosphere there. maybe we{ll stay there instead of in lima on the return. so quiet and idyllic, with views of the pacific: long rollers coming in slowly from a long, long way out. we caught a food festival by chance, as well as a group of young brazillians demonstrating/performing capoeira, a martial art from brazil. it was mesmerizing, because they got in a circle and sang and chanted in unison while two at a time dueled with slow, elegant motions.

monday morning we had to get up at 3:30 a.m. to catch a plane to cuzco. lucky us: a bus to cuzco would take about 24 hours, if not longer. the plane took an hour. i think after this we are going to do a lot of bus and train rides. but we cheated on this leg of the journey.

we have no plan yet of what is next. however i think bolivia is going to be part of the plan. i initially didn{t want to go the jungle, but now i think that it may well be an experience i don{t want s. to miss.

we are in cuzco now. i need another hour to write about the cuteness of the man who greeted us at our darling little hotel. it is a bit ramshackle, with a very old courtyard. we got a tip at the airport, when i insisted that i wanted a hotel with a private bath & hot water for $10 a night, not more. they balked at first (it{s busy season here--the town is packed with tourists), but then gave us a name. we were greeted by the most adorable old man, porfidio. he was wearing blue coveralls, which only added to the charm. when we filled out our forms, and he noticed it was s.{s birthday, he opened his arms wide to give her a hug! then we were offered coca leaf tea--what hospitality! i have never been greeted with a cup of tea upon arrival before. coca leaf tea is supposed to help you adjust to the altitude. i think cuzco is about 9000 feet high.

after a big nap, we started exploring. we found the non-touristy local market and have been eating breakfast there, as it{s really cheap--like $2 for hot milk and egg and cheese sandwiches for both of us. it{s the essential experience, as lots of people drop in there for breakfast on their way to work.

since it was s{s birthday we celebrated with a fancy supper of alpaca meat. even though s. is an animal lover, and we had met some beautiful alpacas earlier in a narrow cobblestoned street, we enjoyed eating it. it was seasoned with cumin, garlic, and something else i couldn{t catch. i also got to taste peru{s famous alcoholic beverage, pisco.

right now we are going to go scope out more of cuzco{s historical sites. it is hard for me to keep up with reading the guide book to find not only the typical sites, but how to do them the non-touristy way, on the off-peak days, on the cheap. cuzco is SOOOO touristy that it is kind of bad. of course we want to do all the traditional stuff and see macchu picchu. (we have heard the words macchu picchu so much from overly eager tour guides and tourists i am now calling it m.p.) but there are other less-known ruins that we want to go to. i want to try to go stay in some smaller, less touristy towns soon to get a more authentic experience.

there IS a certain appeal to getting completely immersed in the whole touristy experience, shopping for trinkets obsessively (i might buy a lovely poncho & i already got a chullo with earflaps), and watching the good-looking foreign backpackers in their hippie attire and hiking books. but part of me says, NO. i am not a gringo. i{m a true bolivian and i don{t want to be treated like a tourist.

i also have a book on the incas which i haven{t been able to read fast enough, and now we are in cuzco where it all went down. i have read several good books before but my retention is about 2%. oh well. ready or not, inca ruins, here we come!