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)