Friday, August 31, 2007

All of us

It's the weekend, and sometimes you don't expect anything to happen, yet it does. I got a dresser yesterday, here is a picture. It was only 4000 afs, (that's ~$80). I haggled the vendor down from 4500, I was not inordinately proud of myself, but I thought it kind of neat.

So, I got all my clothes out of the suitcases, and fit them in. I also did laundry, and so caused cleanliness and orderliness to reign in my room. Well, mostly. I still would like an end table or some sort of little desk-like thing, so I didn't have a couple books and other random papers on the floor. But I'm patient. I thought it would be more psychologically validating to get the wardrobe/dresser, but that really doesn't make me feel much different.

I played volleyball today for a couple hours. Didn't win a game again. Started getting more frustrated that I should have. I didn't yell or anything, I was just way too intense. Oh well.

I did actually do some work this weekend, so it wasn't all goofing off.

There are other things that I wish I could talk about, but this really isn't an appropriate context for them. Please don't worry, it is nothing alarming, it's just things that I need more time and Conversation to process, and... well. Some things people have said remind me that I'm not forgotten.

Neither are you. Neither are you.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Of Dust and Nations

What is intelligent consuming, and how does it relate to agriculture?

This article raises a lot of interesting questions, but it is still American and rural focused. Many parts of the world do live on the local market, and there are many drawbacks to this model, despite the claims of the proponents. For starters, many of the local farms (outside of America) do not necessarily operate on a sustainable model. Secondly, there is a lot to be said for the efficiency and quality of being able to focus on growing only one things (such as wheat or corn) instead of having to grow soybeans, corn, wheat, and raise animals. Next, what does this mean in an international context? One has to realize that part of the reason that many areas depend on the local model is the lack of a functioning transportation infrastructure. And as a result, the local market is the only option. Another consideration is the urban areas - a place like Chicago, Los Angeles, or Kabul, they can't depend on the local market because there is no agriculture going on in the city on the scale necessary to sustain the city. So their food has to be imported in some fashion, whether that's from the suburban farm areas, or some overseas processing plant, the food has to come into the city. If it does not, the mass urbanization that has taken place over the years in America, in Europe, Japan, what sounds like is happening in China... even Kabul, the population here is exploding. So if these cities begin to have to resort to locally produced food, the problems will begin to be extensive, and the urbanization trend will reverse. Of course, this article is talking about a gradual change, as a river wears it's new course into the landscape rather than a sea change, a wave sweeping over the land. Nevertheless, these are think that necessitate a careful understanding, and require more than a simple pastoral urge to return to the countryside for a worthwhile effect to be made.

I had already done some thinking about this today as we took a hike. We had to walk through some of the mountainside houses to get to the real hike. As we walked through here, I thought about the needs that these people have, clean water, clean food, improved sewer systems. All of the infrastructure needs of the city. Would having small patches of land dedicated to agricultre be a sustainable model here? Would there be able to be enough of an industry to support the city? Or would it be a sick parasite on the host, as more and more agricultural workers were needed to support the city, ensuring a constant increase in the population of the city as more agricultural workers were needed to support the agricultural workers that moved in to support the city? Or would there develop a ring of farms around the city, one that supplied the needs of the cty? Then what happens when they can effectively supply the city, and more people move to the city since the landscape can support it? The city size increases, and the farmers lose some of their arable land. Or even worse, the farms stay where they are, but the city grows around them, and what kind of implications does that have on the crops as it relates to pollution, cleanliness of water, etc?

Questions like this aren't easy, especially for one like me who has no real knowledge or experience in this area previously. One of the things that one begins to learn whilst living here is that many of the models that we have adopted in America can't be globally transported, perhaps because of geographical issues, maybe cultural or language issues. One other thing to realize is that America grew into it's geographical boundaries, and many other countries (I would say Australia is about the only exception to this outside of the Americas) don't have that luxury. There weren't large populations to consider when American cities were initially built (a good and bad thing, a factor that shows itself in the growth and development of cities like Los Angeles, Phoenix, or LA.), most of the country was uninhabited (largely, compared to the density of Asian or African countries), and the geography was far more arable and allowed for large scale growth, compared to somewhere like Afghanistan. Furthermore, the areas of America that share similarities with Afghanistan (like Arizona) had the rest of America to depend on for agricultural and other industrial needs. Somewhere like here does not have that fallback position.

Ok, well, I've pontificated for long enough, and it's about time to go play basketball. Take care, all.

And I remember I'll...

I got shot today. Three times. Three vaccinations. Didn't hurt a bit. Immediately went and disregarded the "Don't lift anything" suggestion when we got back to school, and moved boxes o' stuff that had just arrived.

I volunteered to do more stuff today. I think it'll be nice, get me some more involved with the kids.

Learned some more about how things work in this country, especially in regards to international funding. It raises some interesting questions about equal participation, validity of ideas, and spending oversight. More to think about.

Things change and things stay the same.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

became over and over

The computer teacher last year ordered 18 copies of a certain computer program for our lab. It's a photo manipulation program that our students are going to use for making the year book. It came in two boxes, they were approximately 1ftx1ftx2f. They felt pretty light, but I opened them up to reveal the software boxes. The boxes are usual size for software, and I proceed to open one.

Well, since these are 'education' editions, the manuals are online. Which means that the boxes contain nothing more than a CD in a paper sleeve, and a CD-sized piece of paper on which is printed the serial number for the software. The entire package could have fit into a single one of the software boxes, with plenty of room left over. The fact is that all we needed was one CD and a sheet of paper that had the 18 serial numbers. Instead, we were shipped approximated 1x2x2 of empty air and worthless cardboard!

Why am I ranting about this? BECAUSE WE ARE IN AFGHANISTAN. This was shipped from the States. We could probably have bought another one or two copies of the software if it would have gotten shipped in an efficient manner. I'm not blaming our folks in the States that sent it, I'm blaming the software companies that package their stuff in such huge, useless boxes. I mean, I recognize that this is probably safer, but sheesh, couldn't you have sent 1 or 2 CDs and 18 serial keys instead? This is infuriating.


In a slightly unrelated piece of information that I wish to relate, I keep getting worried that I'm going to be the next person to get sick, with all the people that keep getting sick here. But I've been safe so far. I find this to be a good thing, and hope that the trend continues, because I think being sick would be really lame, and I don't want to have to deal with that. I guess we deal with what comes.

One of the other staff members here told me they thought I was doing I good job the other day, everyone was happy with me. I guess I didn't respond as positively to that as they thought I should, because they asked me if that was bad. I said, "I guess not, but my ideal is really that people are indifferent to me because they don't have much interaction with me. The more interaction people have with me, the more things have broken. While I'm happy to fix things and let people go about their job, if I were really good at this, they wouldn't have to worry about things breaking in the first place." Obviously, I am continuing to make friends in my own special little way.

The preceeding paragraph may put some of you off, so allow me to explain what it is that I mean by what I have stated. See, if I were really on top of things, people would not have to interact with me, because things would not be breaking. If I were on top of things, I would have added all of the appropriate printers to the teacher's computers before I had distributed them. I would have loaded all the proper software on teacher's computers before they went out. I would have already fixed the copiers that keep breaking. I would have identified the source of certain other issues, and put those issues to rest. I would have had all of the student logins and passwords created. But instead, I'm behind the eightball in a lot of things, and only through barely hanging on to the current situation am I keeping my head above water. I keep getting dunked by new things, not hugely, but it's like I need the tide to go down a little bit to catch my breath, get organized, and start proactively fixing the issues that exist that I know about.

Ok, so in addition to a work metaphor, this is a metaphor for the rest of my life. Not just here, but everywhere. I think that I am just short of the crest of the wave, unable to see over the top of the next precipice. So though I have nothing that's of worth, I hope to have it all Taken from me, and to leave it all behind.

Monday, August 27, 2007

From Condition

Resources, coordination and replete with ideas and reactions.

Expanding volumes of domains day by day.

More and more of that which is said by some to breed contempt.

Walking down the tightrope, struggling to keep eyes on the prize.

Ok, so life is going fine, I keep finding out more and more things that I need to do, more and more things that I apparently know about. The nice thing is that so far, I usually have actually known about them! I regard this as a plus, and otherwise all around good thing.

In other news, I had lunch duty today. This involves watching elementary kids while they eat, and trying to make sure they spend at least 15 minutes eating before they run around and play. I somewhat unsuccessfully tried to get all the boys to stop playing some highly disorganized version of "Tackle the guy with the ball", except their was no ball, so it basically involved running into other kids. You know, when there are 20-30 K-3rd graders running around, tackling each other, it's hard to get group attention without totally yelling. So, I would get one group stopped, only to turn around to another group to stop, then the first group would be going again. Fortunately, the end of their lunch bailed me out.

In other other news, I haven't seen a koala in days.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Aggregates, Dust and Emotional

I played volleyball for about three hours tonight. I think probably about 12 games all told. I won once. That's a great record. I am not really very good at that game. I'm not really very good at any sport. I'm not really very good at anything, I'm just competent in a lot of things. Jack of more trades than normal, that's me. We played on a dirt court, and mayhaps it would be more accurate to say a dust court. It's not just staff, but some of our other friends come also. Surprise, surprise, I'm about as social with them as I am with anyone else. I'm really struggling with that.

To be honest, I'm really struggling with a myriad of things related to that. I'm not an extroverted, socially dependent animal. I'm an introverted, socially... indifferent person. Lots of the things other people here talk of doing, I just can't imagine myself doing. What I'm really struggling to understand is if that's OK, or if I need to change. Am I selling my work here short by not taking advantage of more opportunities to interact with others? Or is it OK to just stay in my room, write, play games, read? What it seems to reduce itself to is that I a still trying to feel my way through my role here.

Today was Friday morning. And as I sat and listened, I was struck again with the thoughts I keep fighting, ones of inadequacy and bewilderment. Inadequacy compared to these people. Bewilderment at what I thought I could do here. Inadequacy in my thought processes as to why I am here. Bewilderment since I either lack the vision or refuse to see what could have been the reason for my arrival here. Inadequacy in how I relate to the ways these people Relate. Bewilderment at the fact that I am here. Inadequacy because I again couldn't bring myself to say anything in small group Talk about things that are going on because I can't put them at the same level as what is going on here. Bewilderment since I know that all is equally important.

Lest you become disturbed, I am not really bothered by these things that I work through in my head. Well, perhaps on the face of them, I am bothered by them. But I am not thrown into doubt over the Reason that I am here by them. It is more that it seems not to hold the justification that I thought it would. The realization is growing in me that what I am here for isn't something easily grasped or distilled. There are no pat answers, no convenient three step explanations for it. Rather, this is a process, another step in the journey. The difference in this situation could be likened to the second time the training wheels come off, and since it had seemed so easy with someone else's help to start off, it has to be easy by myself, right?

I don't really remember the first time I rode without training wheels. I do remember the second. I plotted my bicycle on an inexorable course with my destiny - a thirty foot tall apple tree. I hit the tree. I remember not being particularly frustrated, instead thought of how I could avoid such a situation in the future. I figured out how to steer away from the tree.

In many ways, I think that this is the process of hitting the tree. This is the process where an examination takes place. Hopefully, all of my notions of how this was supposed to work, of why, I will leave those behind. Instead, I think I am beginning to catch a glimpse of the Reason. Maybe if I get more than a corner of my eye on it, I'll tell you about it.

Thursday, August 23, 2007


*** I posted three times today, so make sure to read them all to get the full effect of Russ ***

So, some folks that work here but live off campus had a bbq for the staff at their compound. Since lots of people were going and the cook wasn't going to cook, I figured I might as well go. I couldn't help but think that proved to be a questionable move on my part. We all know (if you don't, trust me, we all do) how well I do at parties and things like that.

But, I spoke at length with a couple of gentlemen who are in various and sundry ways fairly involved with development and reconstruction efforts here. A lot of information to think about and process, but a couple things particularly stood out to me.

First, the cronyism that seems to be rampant in this culture does hamper the development efforts here. Local people frequently get jobs based on connections, not necessarily on ability. You may say, "Well, it's like that in the States," but it's not nearly as prevalent there as it sounds like it is here.

Secondly, with the fundamental cultural differences between here and the States, it is highly necessary that the people that plan and run projects are people that are on the ground. It was the opinion of several of the gentlemen that one major problem is that projects are not scaled appropriately for the country. One of them said that some of the major aid agencies won't look at projects under 1 million dollars. Well, when you're talking about a rural electrification project here, 1 million dollars goes a long way, and a project on that scale doesn't have the success probability that 20 $50,000 projects would.

Thirdly, the brain drain from the country is a huge problem. The higher educational institutes that are here seem to lack the ability to assist the country in a bootstrapping fashion to move and improve the economy.

Fourthly, the situation is getting better, but since the country had minimal infrastructure to begin with, the last 30 years have destroyed even that, and there is no 'golden age' for the citizenry to look back at to aspire to. And while their is an entrepreneurial spirit here, the cultural demands of connections, the apparent corruption, all of these work together to hamper development efforts.

This was about a 30 minute conversation at a party that I was at for an hour and a half. It made standing around looking lost the other hour that much more palpable.

I have my own thoughts to add to the general ideas expressed above.

I've only been in-country for two weeks, but I note that one of the problems is that the people seem to be short-sighted. Examples like the fair shopkeeper discussed in a previous post don't appear to be frequent. Many of the people are still in short-term survival mode. While I intellectually understand that 30 years of war is difficult to overcome, but it is necessary to look ahead for better things to happen on a rapid scale. And people don't seem to be doing that. Some of the economic and business decisions these gentlemen spoke of sound a poor note about an endemic world view that is concerned with my situation, right here in the present. And it's a catch 22, because for people to be able to see that, they need their worldview changed. And for their worldview to change, the development has to occur. But when the attitudes of the people who are in the position to affect that development is colored by that same world view, it takes a lot for positive development to occur.

Ok, rantings of a 23 year old computer nerd who has no political science or economic training. But seriously, some of the locals have to take ownership in the situation, and decide to bootstrap this country into a sustainable economic system, not one propped up with aid money and foreign intervention. One that is a partner in a regional or global economy, not a participant. It is happening. But so much cultural, political, and core value changes must be affected, it can't happen all at once. This is a darkened land, but one which must begin to see the light. Even if it's just a little bit at a time, some is better than none.

Three tones

Well - worked some today, goofed off some. Am now sitting out by the volleyball court, editing a short story I wrote a while ago. I decided the last three chapters (of ten) were worthless, and that there needs to either be one chapter, or about six. So, I'm trying to draft an appropriate ending. Decided I would post on la blog. I have observations. First, I really am not good at half-court basketball on a small court. No room to move or break. Second, I'm your usual suspect. Third, the work I should do, I decide to put off no matter where I am. Finally, I think I've talked today to more people (in number) outside of meals or during work today. (This number is artificially inflated by a kindergartener and a three year-old.) I guess I'm just not the highly social person. Like the other day, I went out to supper with some folks. I didn't really talk to them. I think I need to do a better job of speaking with other people when they are around.

Finally, after our team meeting the other day, we had a brief time of group Talking. And I was asked if there was anything I needed Talk about. And.... I had nothing. I guess this is probably bad since I'm not looking for things, but you know, I just don't. I guess I'm too physically inclined. I should work on that.

Back to editing. You all have a good evening.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Normally in vain

Well. The first week is done.

I think I've made it through. My stomach started churning today for a while. I downed some Pepto-Bismal and that helped me through the rest of the day. So that situation has been defused for the time being. I still don't feel terrific, but better than I did.

Some thoughts/observations in no particular order, they were supposed to be better, but this post got interrupted for an hour while I went and fixed our internet, which went down because we have some interesting power considerations here, and some people forget about the power issues sometimes. I didn't resist the temptation to let the person know I fixed the problem, however. I should have. Oh well. Now, fifteen minutes after I had thought I had fixed the problem, our internet connection dies again. It's 10:15, I should have gone to bed, I'm not going back over there to fix it again. You all can enjoy this post when I get around to fixing the satellite and posting this.

I should go get a dresser. And figure out how the washing machine works. I should have brought more t-shirts. I like the flexibility of being able to be flexible.

I got really embarrassed today. I'm not going to tell the story here el bloggo, because that would also be embarrassing, but it involves people having an inaccurate estimation of my abilities, and them letting me know that while I'm right there, and me getting embarrassed and leaving quickly. Like I said, it was embarrassing. I hope none of those people have found my blog. That would be further embarrassing. And funny. Like Abraham Lincoln at a rock concert.

We had a team meeting the other night where more people in the group told their life stories. The stories some of these people have to tell about where they came from are incredible, and just make me wonder what in the world I am doing here. I know I shouldn't compare myself to other people, but what in the world can I say next to what some of these people have? Maybe I don't have the confidence in myself that some of them do, maybe I am just to unsure of what's going on. Maybe I'm still unable to let go of myself, maybe I look at all this too much through my human eyes. Perhaps the comparisons are truly unfair, I still don't know. All of this further makes me really hope they forget it by the time the next meeting rolls around, because I really don't want to share my lame little story. I did redraw my picture, though. Whatever.

Continuing on the themes already established here, I'll talk about a couple other things I did today, perhaps in less of a narrative form. I got our satellite connection working in the morning. I fixed a couple copiers. Set up a projector. Made a test announcement on our woefully deficient "Announcement System" that can't be heard on half the campus. Yeah, that's getting fixed before we pay them. I fixed a couple other random problems. Added new users into the Active Directory. Whinged about our crummy gateway/firewall. Didn't get everything done. Got embarrassed. Further evaluated what needs to be done to make our announcement system effective. Goofed off online. Sent a couple long e-mails to folks back in the States. Fixed internet. Came back. Got annoyed internet went down again. Decided it is 10:20, I'm going to bed.

Thursday tomorrow. Playing some basketball in the morning, then probably work some in the afternoon. Maybe try to actually be social in the evening.


Well, it's now Thursday, I fixed our internet connexion this morning, did some research into some security-issues that had been brought to my attention, and I'm going to play basketball in a couple minutes. I'm feeling better today, although not perfect. Such is the life we lead.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Sing Me Alive (Do You What It Means)

Well, day the first. You know, not having to serve as a teacher, it really wasn't much more than a normal day at the office, except for the occasional loud noise of kids going to and from class. Except it was a little hectic, I had some things break that were not as simple to fix as they would have been the other day.

The kids seemed really excited to be back. Y'know, for a good number of these kids, school is their only real opportunity to see their friends. Since lots of them can't be mobile in the city, this is their chance. Consequently, we have a lot lower absentee rate than many other schools.

Yesterday was a holiday, one of the many Afghan independence days, and so it was a last, hurried yet relaxed day before the kids came in. I worked for an hour or two in the morning, then took off for a while and played basketball with a couple of the guys for about 2 hours. We played 2-2 to 11, with 5 minute breaks between games. There were 5 of us, so we just randomly subbed. It was kind of funny, I think one game, one of the guys scored 14, 15 points and still lost because he subbed from up 8-2 to down 10-4, and lost 11-9 (or something like that). Then I ate lunch, and went back to work and worked until about 6:00. I would have worked more, but city power went out, and while I was getting the generator on, some folks invited me to supper. Then we had a group meeting, so I just decided I was done for the day.

Today, today was why I came. I enjoy being able to just make stuff happen. The principal asked if I could set up the portable sound system for Assembly 10 minutes before. No problem! People need to be able to print to different printers? Can do! Copier needs unjammed? I'm there. Sure, I have projects I need to work on, but begin able to do things that people need done right then? That's what I am here to do.

So there were a couple things I didn't get done today. I'll try better tomorrow. It can't get any worse. Oh, and I got to play some with the new intercom system today. That was neat.

Oh, and my KC Royals moved out of last place in the AL Central!

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Pick up his to go.


I told the school I would sub if necessary. I am so doing this in Math class. Or Vampire Domestication if I get Life Science.

Did lots of running around today, setting things up, finalizing issues, figuring out what all needed to be ready. School begins in earnest this week, and so I've had to just get stuff ready. I don't know if I'm ready, but hey, it will be what it is. The start of school will be complicated, and there are other factors in the air now. Lots of things to Talk about from here, which are to be read of elsewhere. One of the teachers here is really concerned about it all, some are far less so (to the point of perhaps being generally unconcerned) but I'm learning that generally the people that do things like this are fairly extroverted and strong willed. I think that may be why they think I do a good job, because I'm laid back enough and usually don't over promise that they are ok with me.

Well. Even though tomorrow is a holiday, I need to wake up early. Still lots to do.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Space in the crowd

Went out today, Friday. It was crowded going and coming. Space is a little different here. After it was done, I needed to get out. Just too many people in a small space.

I didn't work all day today, though I did this morning. Got some stuff done. Assembly tomorrow.

The Marble Mansion is having a rooftop party tonight. I decided, start of school, I can parcel out 1/3rd of my M&M supply.

Though the land may seem dark, the Light will always overcome.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

A look in the cry

So, last day of orientation was today. School starts soon. I still have lots to do, but I think I'm going to be almost ready for the first day of school. Except for all the student accounts I just remembered I need to create.

And the over analysation continues, as I didn't have to talk about my drawing again today either. Maybe it won't happen. Wow, that would be actually pretty cool, in my opinion.

Today, we had to work on school goals. I was part of a team, and people didn't like my goal idea. It was pretty interesting, how to shoot down someone's idea on team unity (the goal group I was ironically assigned to. Maybe it's not ironic, because I really do care about this area) while appearing to do it in a unified and loving manner. I found that fun. I'm scribbling down my draft, while other people are talking about something else. Later, then, after we got done, I got one of my random sentences stuck in my head, and so I start writing it down on my notepad so it will leave my head, and the teacher next to me asks, "Are you still working on the goal?" I say, "Uh, no. See, I get these random sentences stuck in my head, and I have to write or type them out so they will leave." Teacher: "Oh, that's... ok." Yeah, I make my own kind of friends everywhere I go.

Speaking of friends, two other guys and I helped one of the teachers move some heavy stuff around the other day, so she repaid us with cookies. These are the best homemade cookies I have ever had in a foreign country.

My new roommate moved in today. He's got the upstairs room, I've got one of them downstairs. Hopefully the maintenance staff prioritizes the stench in the hallway from the leaky bathroom. Maybe if he complains too, they'll fix it soon.

In other news...

Come to think of it, I don't really have lots of other news. I assembled AV carts today, and lugged them all over campus. I helped some people with computers. I worked on various and sundry things. One thing I'm going to try to come up with is two concrete, definable goals for the semester. One will be personal, one will be school-related. Something somewhat audacious. Like writing a procurement, ordering and shipping system, because the one they have now is pretty ridiculously bad. It's just fill out an excel spreadsheet, and who knows what gets ordered, how it gets shipped here, and where it is in the shipment. They need a more streamlined process, and a computer based one could make a lot of things better. There are a wide number of paper forms that flow around here that could be a lot simpler. I'm going to work on that. As far as personal goals, a couple of the guys here have decided to try getting together weekly. I am glad of this happening, and hope it will be cool.

Well, it's about nine, it's Friday tomorrow, and I have some things I want to try to do, so I think I'm going to sign out.

I would like to walk like I talk. I wish that I could stop being superman. I'm no superman.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Fear of forensics

"My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings! Look upon my works, ye mighty, and despair!"

Welp. More problems I wish I could solve right away, that turn out to be slightly more complicated because of the basic lack of infrastructure here. This proves to be frustrating to me. For example, instead of running CAT5 through the walls to wall plates as part of the construction, it gets afterwards, through holes drilled in the walls. So then, it means those cables that then get run under the carpet along the wall have a higher failure rate than a regular wall + patch cable setup would. And you have to rerun the cords through the wall.

And did I mention that there is not one single managed switch in this place, and the their is only one switch inside a cabinet, and several of them are just screwed or glued into the wall near an electrical outlet? And so when the electrical outlet (which might not have been wired to code? Wait, I don't know if there IS A CODE HERE!) starts developing problems, either we have to rip the switch off the wall, or someone (hopefully not in the Venn diagram representing me) has to rewire the outlet?

On the plus side, I two of my headaches have been lessened in the last day, and it seems that I get to figure out this new intercom/sound system that got installed while everyone was gone for the summer. Additionally, I got the computer lab finally set up, only to realize that the new AC they installed is... smack dab where the projector projected previously. Now, we either need to move the projector, or the AC register. I think we'll figure out how to move the projector.

On the ambivalent side, I didn't have to talk about my drawing today. This means I got another day to over-analyze how I present myself to these people. The joy of this is just beginning. Hopefully they forget about me doing my little presentation/talk tomorrow.

I went out to eat with a few of the other teachers tonight (since Wednesday = Friday). They called me and invited me. I find this exceedingly strange, and have decided to chalk it up to the fact that some people are far more hospitable and friendly like that than I.

Welp. I probably shouldn't have said hi to that fish back in West Germany on 7 October, 1923. It just looked like it needed a friend.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

They can't be mine.

We had all-staff meetings this morning, more tomorrow. Part of what we had to do was to take a large piece of paper (poster size) and crayons and draw significant events that happened in our life, things we can remember that helped to shape us. Well. You can imagine how enthused I would be to participate in such an activity. So, I begin to grid out my paper, and start filling in little pictures, things I can remember. I start with my family, with a couple of favorite childhood memories. I made enough space for (I think) 16 pictures, and I quickly realize that I am halfway through my childhood, and I'm about half done with my sheet. So I decide to speed it up a little, which I do. At this point, I have 4 panels left with which to go from about high school to now. I realize that this is impossible to do.

And as I look at the pictures, I also come to a realization on something. Lots of these pictures don't really tell you anything about me. They tell you things I remember. They tell you activities that I did, people I remember, events. They don't really tell you anything about me, and I drew them that way, maybe not fully consciously, but that's how I drew them. I drew a picture of my earliest memory, which is Jenna getting to sleep in a bed, and I had to sleep in the crib. (Paradoxically, because I slept like a rock, and she didn't.) I drew a picture of me jumping up and down in N & J's room when Mom and Dad brought in my cake the morning I turned four, because I was really, really excited to turn four. (Yes, I remember that.) Of my uncles throwing me back and forth what seemed like TWENTY FEET in Grandma and Grandpa's living room at 516, way back when. Of the family riding together in a station wagon everywhere. Shoveling snow with Grandpa at 516 while Mom and Dad and N were in Florida. A 4-H Clover. A Computer. Playing basketball. A basketball play. More I can't remember at the moment. All activities, all memories. Tells you what I did, not how I became what I am.

The truth? First off, I don't like to talk about me and my feelings. You say, "But you do it on your blog?" Strewth. But this isn't immediate, it isn't dialog. It's just me writing away, and you reading it. If you ask me about this in real life, I get uncomfortable. Talking, I don't like. And even here, I don't always talk about what drives me. And when I do talk about what drives me, one must realize that I am an unreliable narrator. Sometimes I even just write things because they are the word pattern that I am thinking about at the time, not because it actually has any longterm meaning.

The digression aside, back to the drawing. Several people got up and talked about their pictures. I quickly realized that most people had drawn either their life as a journey (roads, trains, maps), as a beautifully illustrated collage (that was the art teachers), or as some fundamental visual idea that integrates their life into a single theme. I had a bunch of pictures that were quickly chosen to make it sound like I was trying to describe the things that I had done, but without telling much about me.

The more significant thing here? We had to spend 4-6 minutes describing our drawing, and how it told our life story. So, imagine all these people giving a wonderful testimony to describe their life so far, how they had this passion ignited in them to go overseas when they were six, these great experiences that they had had, how they had been taken out of wretchedness and despair... and I'm going to talk about how I jumped on the trampoline when I took history tests when I was a kid?

Fortunately, I got out of it this morning. Enough people took more than their allotted time, so we're going to finish up tomorrow. Woohoo. Now that I've had an extra ten, twenty hours to overanalyze my drawing, I get to talk about it. What am I going to do? I think I'm not going to talk about it. I'm going to say that if people want to know more about what I drew, they can ask me. I'm going to flat out admit that I drew the drawing so that it would hopefully reveal as little as possible about me. Because I don't want people to be able to push my buttons. That nine months ago, if you would have told me that I was going to quit my job for a four month temp position overseas, I would have laughed. That I really don't understand why I am here. If I could figure that out, maybe I could tell you what was significant in my life.... but then again, I may just talk about my little pictures, my attempt at being engaging and shallow seen through, and people hopefully understanding why I didn't say more.

Ok, enough of the whining. I can lay awake and think about what I'm going to say for another hour, and all of you that read this are wondering if I actually did anything today other than process a silly little team building exercise.

News on what I did today. I got certified to run tests on this testing system we are offering tests on. It was more of an ordeal than it should have been, because I kept flipping past the seven pages on certification in the binder I had about the system. We got in power cables, so I plugged the computer lab computers in. Tomorrow, I need to turn all of them on when the generator is on, to see if it will work. I set up a couple computers in the library, scavenged some parts to get various pieces of equipment working, told dumb jokes at supper (they were talking about getting ten year visas to another country, and I asked, "If a college professor gets a ten year visa, are they set forever?" One of the teachers got it right away, and hit me. I had to explain it to all the others. Oh, you don't get it? Say year like yer.), went to the corner store for some stuff (the shopkeeper was, shall we say, impressed at my saying thank you in Dari. I hope I didn't insult his great aunt accidentally.), read some articles on Active Directory (fascinating), and have now been blogging for half an hour.

I don't know what tomorrow is going to bring. Maybe talking about my drawing won't be as painful of an experience as I imagine it will be.

Ok, to go back to that for just a moment before I sign out, there are other things that are going to make me uncomfortable. First, I am not a teacher. I came here because it's what came up, not because of any plan or intention. I did what I always do, vacillate for a while, then just decide. I don't know if it really was a call, or just my emotional outpouring at the moment. And where does that leave me? Just here. Just here.

Perhaps through an agency other than my own, I will learn the secret of being content in all situations.

Monday, August 13, 2007

I don't have issues...

... I have subscriptions.

Well, not really, at the moment. It's just a favorite saying of mine, made a favorite about a while ago.

I realized earlier today that next Monday will be the first full day I ever spend in a primary or secondary school while it is in session. Fact of the matter, I can't think of any significant time I've spent in a primary or secondary educational institution during a normal school day. This is going to be interesting.

Anyway, today not much happened, and yet a lot. The electrician finally finished wiring the computer lab, only for me to find out that there are apparently no power cables for any of the 17 computers or monitors. So either I have to find them, or we go buy them. The second option is not something I am looking forward too, but something we may have to deal with. Additionally, I have a dorm building to which the network has not been working for a couple of days, and I think I need to get new cable run. However, I haven't gotten it done yet. I really should. Finally, I've been taking a rather more relaxed attitude toward work. I work from about 7:00ish to 5:30ish, and haven't gone back in later the past two days. I don't know if that's the best attitude, but the way things are going, it's not all going to get done no matter how much I work. This way, I don't kill myself too early.

Additionally, we had new staff orientation today. Obviously, I can't talk about everything that we talked about, but it just reminded me how different this place is from home. Cultural things like, here it is impolite to ask someone to pass something to you at the table (it is rude to interrupt someone else's eating), and it is the height of politeness to reach across the table and grab something. Furthermore, appearance and honor are far different concepts here than home. Just things to think about as I continue on in life.

There's some stuff happening in country that has a different meaning to me than it did just a few weeks ago, for several reasons. In many ways, this land is dark and not getting lighter. Yet there is a Light that is flourishing in ways that we cannot see.

Finally, I received some somewhat depressing news from home. This was not entirely desirable, but in many ways, it serves as a reminder that not a thing in this life is permanent, and this life should be used in that knowledge.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Put your house arrest away...

This, such as it is, is my office. Sorry, the problem with pictures on the blog is that our oversubscribed satellite connection is horribly upstream limited, so it took 5 minutes just to upload that photo. So there it is. My office.

In other news, I don't have any. I feel like I'm swimming upstream with all the things I keep finding out. Trees, forest.

Oh, I did get to play architect sort of today. See, we're going into a new building, and I'm sort of in charge of getting the network coordinated. So, since we have to find out where everything is supposed to go, and how long the runs are supposed to be, and since apparently in Afghanistan, you don't get little things like blueprints, I got to measure all the rooms and stuff, and then draw it up roughly so we can figure out where the network drops go. It was a diversion away from all the other things I have to get done.

Orientation next couple of days.

Not a thing left to say.

Friday, August 10, 2007


Well, today was a day of rest, (Friday is Sunday here), and I actually didn't do any work. I'm kind of disappointed in myself, because there is a lot to do, but that's the way I guess it goes sometimes.

We went out this morning, and then went to lunch at a Thai place afterwards. We got back, I moved over to the new house that I'll be staying in (the place of the family of the gent I am replacing), then played volleyball for a couple hours, then went and had supper at one of the ladies' houses on campus, stayed and chatted for a while. Found out that I'm not the only one worried about fitting in, but for different reasons. Reassuring, in a way.

Lots to do the rest of the week. I took some pictures today, I may post one or two, but I'm kind of trying to be careful about what I take, and especially about what I post. I'll probably have lots of photos once I get back.

Hope you all have a good weekend, I did. Feel free to send me e-mails (please just be cautious in what you send), ask someone who would know if you want my address.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Look! It's not a wildebeast!!!

Today has been an gradually more satisfactory day. I woke up at 2:48 A.M., and laid there until about 5:00 when I actually fell back asleep for about an hour and a half. The bad part about that was that then I was really, really wasted. I came over to work about 7:30, and didn't get much done this morning, because I was really out of it. About 11:00, things started going better, and once I had lunch, I really got on a roll, and did get a decent amount of stuff done. I'm finally to the point where I'm pretty sure I understand what I need to know and get done, and I have a couple of discrete tasks (computer fixing) to do, which will help me stay focused. So, morning poor, afternoon better.

Supper was good, man, I'm glad I don't have to cook for myself. I do that poorly enough in America, think how it would be in a foriegn country!

But the better news is that today, today was luggage day. Not only did most of the luggage that other folks were missing come in, but mine did too! Yay! I've never been so happy to carry nigh unto 80 pounds up a flight of stairs. I am pretty pleased, I'm wearing different pants, and different shoes! Heck, I even put on my baseball cap, just for the fun of it. (I know, this seems weird for me. Hey, I think it's wierd, and it's me doing it!)

Some folks have requested pictures - I'm sorry I don't have any yet. Tomorrow is functionally Saturday, so I might take some then... I don't know, lots to do.

Oh, and I might be moving, out of the men's dorm over to a house (still on campus), which is fine. They want to do some different stuff with the rooms, and since there's another guy coming who will probably be at the school temporarily, it makes sense to move him and I into the house, which is where the family of the gentlemen who I'm filling in for lives while they are here.

In other news, I think I might be able to fit in here, in my own way. Of course, I did oddly surprise some people earlier when they asked me what I did to fix the internet in their house, and I told them the cord was bad, so I put a new end on it. She asked me how I knew it was bad, and I told her that the wires are color-coded, and they were in the wrong order. Folks looked at me in a 'How do you know that' fashion, and someone said to my inquirer, "Well, I guess you know not to ask that question again!" I was amused.

Well, it's about 7:00 P.M., and one of the teachers is having folks to her house then, so I'd best be off.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Like a giant holiday tree

Outside my window, there is a mountain. The mountain is lit up like a holiday tree, what with all of the housing that is on it.

I didn't post yesterday, sorry. Went around Kabul some with the administrator, tried to take in as much as I could from e-mails and instructions. There is enough going on here that I can't just absorb it all in a day or two.

I thought we were pretty fast and loose with the way we did some of the network infrastructure things at my old job. Here, we have CAT5 stretched between buildings that has to be at about 299.9 feet, excuse me, 99.9 meters. There are no managed switches in the place, and lots of CAT5 just pushed through holes in the wall. Definitely different.

I went shopping yesterday, a couple times, a couple places. Since we have to take care of our own breakfast, I got a slightly out of date box of Frosted Flakes. (It will probably be better than the in-date Bran Fiber Flakes would have been). The interesting thing about this is that the shopkeeper wiped the dust off with a wet rag before selling it to me. I found this definitely different.

Day two of life in Kabul. Woke up early again. One interesting thing about Kabul is that their days are basically about an hour or two ahead of the states as far as daylight goes. It gets light enough to work by 5:00 or so, but here at 7:45, it is pretty close to as dark as it will get. This further makes my internal sleep schedule a little unraveled, but I think tonight may get me back on track. At 7:45, I'm not sleepy or anything, so I'm hoping I can stay up and read or do something for another hour, hour and a half. I figure if I can swing that, then I'll be well on the way to getting a normal sleep schedule.

Today started off interesting. Power went out around 5:45, and when I got over to the office around 7:10, 7:20ish, I was kinda freaked because the server had been running on batteries (don't worry, there's lots) the whole time, and the battery time indicator was getting close to zero. Right as I went to shut it down, they turned the generators on, and we were back up and going.

The rest of the day was just spent in more figuring out what is going on, and what needs to happen. I think I'm starting to get some handle on it. Not sure yet. More teachers came today, as did some of the other administration. It felt like a ghost school here today and yesterday, though. At least that gives me plenty of time to try to get up to speed as fast as I can.

I was talking to one of the male teachers here tonight, and one of the things that I got around to commenting on (I don't remember how, exactly) was that I haven't ever worked for a school before, and that that was going to... not present a difficulty, precisely, but just be a different experience for me. The subtle interplay between teacher and student. The differing desires of the teachers. The different priorities. However, one thing that I find is that once again, I am in a support role. Don't get me wrong, that is certainly the way that I prefer it, but it just makes for some fun times, because what I am doing is not the priority. I have to remember that.

Anyway, I think I'm adjusting fairly OK. I didn't go anywhere today, but we had lunch and supper in the dining hall. Even though the food isn't what I'm used too, I'm very thrilled about not having to worry about cooking. I'm pretty sure they do lunch and supper doing the school year also. About this, I am happy.

As I am sure others can identify with in their situation, it is pretty interesting coming into a place where most of the people have been here for a year or two, and so know each other, the environment, the paradigms and the pressures, the times and the tint of the landscape in the same way. When I don't have any real reference points for a lot of the things they discuss (about people, students, locale events), it makes being around for their conversations interesting. Another interesting thing is that since these folks haven't seen each other for a couple months, and have all gone and done their own interesting and exciting things in the interim, they all want to hear about what the others have done. Nothing wrong with it, just means that it gives me a lot of opportunities to sit, listen, and try to understand who these people are, what drives them, and what they are consumed by.

OK, I said that at 7:45 it was as dark as it was going to be. It's now 8:08, and it's even darker. And instead of a holiday tree, it looks like a gigantic colony sleeper ship which has grown new modules over thousands of years, cruising just outside my window.

Well, it's probably time to close this blog entry down. When you feel the mess, it just takes the time away from the chances that you had to be the singular identification of the things that you always wanted to be. What that means, I don't rightly now, but everyone thinks it sounds pretty. And by everyone, I mean the lemurs.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

The Bright Stars Shining

Well, I stayed up all night at JFK on... Friday, I guess it would have been. Oh, I micro-napped some, but mostly just stayed awake. Finally, I was able to get on the standby morning flight to Dubai, that was a long 13 hours. I mostly stayed awake, probably total of 2 hours of sleep. Read some, watched 3 movies (Stranger than Fiction [Very Good], Shooter [Decent], TMNT [Hey, I only had 2 hours left, and needed a short movie] Tried to figure out what how to get where in Dubai, was able to finally find the transfer desk from terminal 1 (Crowded Duty-Free, international terminal) to terminal 2 [Quiet, 'regional' terminal]. Got luggage supposedly transferred, took shuttle over to other terminal.

When I got into the gate at the second terminal for Kam Air to Kabul, I looked confused on what to do next, since I thought they told me they were boarding the plane, and lots of people were just sitting there. I looked really confused, I'm sure, and a nice young Caucasian woman helped me out. I was really glad, because I would have tried to board a plane when there was no plane, since you just hang out until everyone gets up to go to the bus to get on the plane. Weird. Anyway, I was further really glad when she asked me if it was my first time in Kabul, and then what I was doing there. As it so happens, she is a teacher for the school! That really occurred well for both of us, as it was good for her to have a trustworthy male nearby, and good for me since then I had some kind of guidance. Anyway, I'm at the school now, it's 5:30 P.M., and my plan is to try to stay up for another 3-4 hours, so then I might be on real Kabul time, or close to it. I don't know if that's going to happen.

Other little tidbits -

I was on the flight from Cinci to JFK with a couple that was also heading to Dubai, so we ran through the airport together, and tried to get on the standby list for the next flight. Then, on the flight, I was supposed to sit by the husband, but I swapped with him and his wife so they could sit together.

I have no checked luggage. I am trying to figure out if it even made it to Dubai, which it supposedly did. Fortunately, if it did get to Dubai, it should get to Kabul, and there are lots more people that are going to be getting picked up at the airport, so we should be able to get it.

Kabul is a very pedestrian, very crazy traffic city. I'm glad I don't have to drive.

I speak no Dari or Pashtun. This will be interesting.

All I can think of for now. First post from Kabul, first post from out of U.S. soil!

Saturday, August 04, 2007

I guess I don't mind hanging out with

Still at JFK. Might be finally getting to leave in about 2.75 hours. Don't know yet, and am not sure how the flight to Kabul is going to work out. But everything will work out ok in the end. I know this to be True.

The Zenith

Well, I'm back. An hour or two later, I have now visited every terminal, every terminal in JFK airport. I have discovered that there is only one place to find food, that is terminal 8/9, a little place that was open 24 hours where I got some gatorade and a ridiculously overpriced but healthy and tasty group of grapes.

Temporary digression. A gent just walked by whom, I kid you not, looked like he just gont done with a stint on Swiss Family Robinson.

So, I'm back again, surfing on the WiFi and blogging to kill time. It's about 4:00 A.M., I'm hoping to be able to make it another two or three hours until check-in for the other flights starts, and I can get into the more comfortable terminal area.

Until then, I'm going to end this post for now. I hope I don't fall asleep soon....


Flight was delayed out of Cinci for 1:20. I ended up getting to the gate as they were closing. So, after calling the 800 number, explaining that it wasn't my fault Delta didn't contact Emirates when I told them in Cinci that I was worried I was going to miss my flight, they swapped my reservation with the 11:15 tomorrow (wellllll, today, now.) for free. So, right now I'm basically delayed 24 hours, and since the delays were for weather, there's no hotel that I can really get for a realistic dollar amount. I'm hanging out in the concourse (since I couldn't even check in to get into the terminal), waiting for the place to open back up in five hours so I can get found, a couch to sit on, etc. I'm going to hang out online until my battery runs down (since I don't have electrical anywhere convenient that I've seen...), and then probably walk around the airport some more to stay awake. And maybe find food. Food would be good.

Great start to a day...

And since I don't have anything better to do, and I need to exercise my brain to stay awake, I am going to ramble for a couple moments about some things that I thought about whilst in the air over various American cities today.

Thought the first. I can tell roughly how new suburban subdivisions are from the air, and you can too, if you learn my new simple step. That simple step is to just look at trees. New subdivs don't have _any_ big trees along the raods or houses, because they haven't had time to grow.

Thought the second. There are lots of people traveling on airplanes to get places. Who knew?

Thought the third. I had a lot better thoughts earier, but somehow, I have lost most of them. This disappoints me.

Well, I'm off to read news as a last stab to keeping awake. Take care.

Friday, August 03, 2007


I made it to Cincinatti A-OK. Flights seem to be on schedule. My eardrums swelled up on the way here. I've never had that happen on a flight before.

Miles to go ere I sleep.


Well, my flight from Cinci to JFK has been delayed over an hour, so I don't know how this is going to work. I need to get to Dubai in the next 26 hours, so we'll hope I can get there...

Lots more miles to go.


This will probably be my last blog entry from America.

I'm leaving the house shortly, and will begin a two-day journey to Kabul.

Pins and needles.

I leave here a stranger. I go there a stranger. There is one who knows my name, and to Him, I am not a stranger.