Saturday, September 29, 2007

Defenestration(n), the act of throwing something out a window

As the weather here begins to take a turn towards the cold, a realization begins to grow that there are fundamental differences between the countryside home where I grew up, the rented home in town where I lived the past year and a half before my arrival here. There are the activities that I now miss participating in because of my geographic relocation. But in a subtle vein than that, there are other changes that edge their way around the fringes of the senses. The familiar autumnal smells, of leaves and burning stubble, are not to be found. In their place, a sickly reminder of the city and its pollution, dustiness, and overcrowded roads. The sights, of a golden wonderland, replaced by the gray-brown sterility that permeates our existence. There cannot be found the comfortable crispness of a fresh September breeze, the cool shock of a light rain during Saturday morning soccer or Friday night football. Unseen, the green hills slowly fading to their muted winter pallor.

But not all here is as discomfited as may seem. The cold that is coming is still not much more than a promise during the day. The moon is waning, shedding bright dimness upon the night sky. The evergreens stand tall as ever, the sun casts a bevy of strong rays during the day. The mornings come with expressive promises, and the earth refuses to stop turning, as though its inexorable course had been fixed at the Beginning of time.

In the midst of this expansive landscape, the choices that it highlights are uncomplicated enough - either we can choose to see the Glory in that which is around us, or we can complain and wish for the embellishments of our memory to come to pass. We can recall simpler times, childhood in more ways than one, idealize it and put it on the pedestal of our archetypal daydream, or we can look to the growth and solid food that we can now eat.

The places, faces, smells, situations, all that in some fashion we can hold dear, all this has no place of worth next to this Treasure, this which cannot be bound up as the things of this world that we seek to hold in our hands. He cannot be simply put aside by our unhappiness, our desire, our designation of our current circumstances as undesirable.

Two things reminded me of this in recent days. First, last night I absconded myself over to the ladies' house, crouching in the shadows with the denizens of said house and some of my fellow non-denizens, all to surprise one of our number whose birthday fell on that day. I was reminded that even though we may be far away from those in our family, from those we love, we are not far away from one set of Hands. Second, as I was returning tonight from a friendly game of cards* with the cool air and moonlight bringing me into their soft embrace, I am reminded that even when we face uncertainty and doubt, there is no reason to let it linger. There is Reason enough to have faith that this shall pass away, yet the things that matter shall never. For the glow of the moon is but a pale reflection of the greater Glory, just as we see now. The Glory is veiled, for could we see it, we would be overcome, undone.

When comes the time, I must ask myself, what is it that I must throw out the window? How is it that I must be broken, pulled down from the idealizations I hold in memory still fresh, undone as a man of unclean lips. Not that I am claiming to have had a vision, but what I am claiming is to be walking down a path that seeks to see that which could redeem a wretch like me. For when I contemplate the Truly Amazing, I see that I have nothing that is of worth. I see not the explanation for my arrival here. I see the Light which shines down upon the righteous and the wicked in equal measure, irrespective of kind or harsh judgments from our fellow men. The next few days hold what I hope is a signpost for the plans to prosper, not to harm. The situations of recent days have made for uncertainty in my heart, but I know there is no uncertainty in the hands I seek to be guided by.

There's a choice. The choice to seek and follow, the choice to hide and cower. A choice to be sad because of the scenery, a choice to see the glory in the work of my Father. Choices to be dreaded, choices to be embraced. My choice to be ordinary, my choice to be distinctive. A choice in what to throw out the window. And as I listen for the Guidance in this choice, I know that maybe there's an answer that I don't want to hear. That maybe the choice is not really about the future plans, but about giving up control over those plans for a better one. About seeing what it is that I really need.

Empty out entirely what's standing, now...

* (and was in a situation that made me want to punch my old roommate in the face [Yeah, what are nights like this for again, buddy? *BAM* {I am kidding about the violence here. This aside is totally out of tine with the rest of the post, and you may want to ignore it if it breaks the mood too much.}])

Friday, September 28, 2007

There's a feet short of a lobster.

This picture makes me happy and sad, it shows the good and bad.  If you understand this, you shall understand what I don't want to talk about.
So, I've been busy the past few days, in a lot of different ways. Spent a decent amount of time away from the compound yesterday and today, which is kind of nice some of the time. We went hiking yesterday morning (that's where the cool picture came from), and really had a good time. It was serene and beautiful at the top, and we stopped for a moment to reflect on the city before coming back down.

Then, a number of the guys went out. I wasn't really happy about going or about the circumstances that necessitate us going out, but it was good to go for reasons which will hopefully never enter in conjunction with circumstances. Sorry if that seems opaque, but if you can bend that and break it down, you'll understand.

Went out to a coffeeshop for a while yesterday afternoon with a couple of the teachers. That just isn't the thing for me, and I don't know why I keep going. After that, played some basketball for an hour or so, went and did some work-related e-mail and other stuff, had supper, washed dishes since our kitchen staff leaves early for Ramazan, then went and worked out. After working out, we watched The Departed. We probably should not have, it was a pervasively obscene movie. I will say that I really... not enjoyed, precisely, the ending 15 minutes of the movie, but was really satisfied with the conclusion as it related to the rest of the movie.

And today, we played Ultimate. It was fun, even if I got traded around a lot, got burnt a couple of times, slipped in the mud, missed a couple catches I should have had, made a couple nice defensive plays, snagged a couple that it didn't look like I should have had, etc.

I have agreed to do sound for meeting for a while, so I had training on that today. It was OK, although it was pretty clear I knew more about what goes on than did the person training me. That's ok, though, I really tried not to be too in your face about it. Didn't do the best job, but that's how it goes.

I have other things here that I don't want to talk about. Don't feel like I'm keeping secrets. What do we strive for that will bring us any closer? Some days I wish there was a soma that I could take that would make certain things go away, at least for the time being. But this is a foolishness, a vanity. We have been made who we are for the reasons that we cannot see.

I am led by this thought to mention again the hike we took, as part of it involves going by this old defensive structure, built to keep the city safe in olden times, in elder days. It's still standing strong in some spots, yet in other places, completely dilapidated and little more than a could stones piled on top of each other. If there had been a statue, and could I have called the words to mind, spoken would have I the poem of Shelley, recalling the works of Ozymandias. This fallen defense, this work that was entrusted to keep the city safe, it reminds me of the moth and rust. In this place, in this time, I am reminded to put my faith in more than steel, more than that which sand will bury.

All else failed. There is none other given among men whereby they might be.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Travel light, like a birdie

It's 4:10 on Friday, and I'm not knocking off for the day quite yet, but I am taking time to blog a little.

I had an interesting experience today. Right near my office is the girl's bathroom, and the 4-6th graders use it, along with kindergarten girls and the girls in the computer lab. I heard two girls, of indeterminate grade come up earlier today, around lunch. There was already someone in the bathroom, so they were waiting outside, giggling, talking. They're clearly local from their accents. Suddenly, one of them gets this very serious expression in her voice, and says, "I want to get married to a husband who is kind to me." The other one says, "Yeah, that would be really nice." Then they giggle as the door opens, and the occupant of the bathroom walks out.

I think to myself, "... .... What did I just hear?"

What does that say about a culture where a kid makes that their dream? How could you ever respond to that? This is just totally bizarre to me. That a culture could indoctrinate their young daughters into thinking that having a kind husband is not a right, is not an expectation? The Western, American mind boggles.

In other news, another week is down, and I have the weekend to look forward to... I think. Weekends here sometimes find me at loose ends. What to do, who to do it with...

We're the ordinary here, in more ways than I could describe. We're extraordinary people here, in more ways than meet the eye.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Minute in Q

It appears I haven't been blogging the past couple days. Actually, I've composed posts a coupe of times, then not posted them. Somewhat strange for me, and it wasn't that I said a bunch of dumb stuff in there, I just didn't post them.

Anyway, work has been. I've been trying to ninja this grading system into working, and I'm really thinking it wouldn't be a half bad idea for me to just roll one, but I know that would probably take longer than I think it would. So, I just deal with the problem and try to fix it. I ended up just manually typing stuff for half an hour.

Other things are going fine. My programming club is ok, except I keep taking detours for things I remember, and not getting as far as I think I should, more accurately, as far as I originally planned. But that's ok. Basketball is going as well as can be expected for playing an hour a week on a dinky little court. There could be a good team here with 5 days of practice a week on a real court.

The rest of life is also fine. We had a guys meeting the other night, talked about ps36-3,4 It was good stuff. I find myself in between 3 and 4 right now, trying to work more that way. I'm mostly over being sick, it's getting cold at night here which wasn't supposed to happen this soon but ya'll know how life goes.

I am kicking around ideas for a new SF story, I kind of hope maybe over fall break in a couple weeks I could get a lot done on it.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Sureal Viscosity

One of my frustrations at being here today is revealed...

I got a call to fix a problem someone was having with an import/export between our grading software and our administration/report card software (no, they aren't linked and yes I do think it's silly and no, I don't have three hands.), which I didn't think it was necessarily likely I would be able to fix quickly. So what I did was observe that it seemed to export some of the grades fine, then I went and got a copy of SysInternals' Filemon, and figured out which file it was dying on, deduced that it was dying because it was an old file with an improper extension, so I gave it a different extension, and the stuff started working.

What's the frustration? I can't explain to anyone here how cool that was, or how I did it without spending minutes explaining what Filemon is and why I could figure out what was going on from the output of the various programs. before hand.

But, that's ok. I survive if that's my only frustration.

I'm going to play cranium with some people. Good and bad. I don't know why I do this.

I played volleyball last night and lost my temper at myself because I was playing so bad. I about just walked off. I am frustrated because I had been keeping my cool even when I was playing poorly at things, but sometimes I just snap. At least I didn't yell or anything.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Oh, and I haven't shaved in a month.

If only I had skin three tones darker, I could almost pass for a local!

Names are grown into.

I think I'm getting better and better at Ultimate Frisbee. As it is kind of embarrassing to be poor at Ultimate, this is an encouraging sign. I am also starting to understand better how to play two on two basketball on a 18X40 court, this also is encouraging. The basketball is, in many ways, more difficult than the Ultimate, since we only play half court, and due to the length of the court, it's like one step and boom you're under the basket, so you really have to time your cuts right. And since it's two on two, it really exposes my poor shooting and one-on-one skills. One the plus side, I'm learning better and better post defense skills, since I'm about 2-3 inches shorter than a couple of the other guys that play.

The recent meeting series has been on the Apocalypse, one big number per week. We were on 3 this week, and I had been having a difficult time concentrating during the earlier section of the session today. However, I did a much better time during the lecture. I feel a certain kinship to the first group discussed, little kinship toward the second, and I wonder how much I share with the third group. I have minor questions some of the time, that stem from mine own pride and duplicity. I have also been reading personally, and I am in the second of the missives to those in the city known for leather, around 6. Lots of further questions this generates, but namely one that I ask is how to continually be renewed in the fashion talked about. In many ways, the myriad environmental factors here make that simultaneously easier and more difficult. But that's ok, I knew what kind of challenge I would be facing here, and how just being here wasn't going to make better all of the things that I felt I lacked.

Speaking of things I lack, I... no, maybe not.

I am sitting upstairs in my house, listening to ZAO on my laptop speakers for the first time since I have been here. I wonder how horrified the locals would be if they came by right now?

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

I get the peeling

Well, it's Thursday morning, and another week has concluded. We've reached midterms, teachers are all doing grades... I'm glad I don't have to worry about that. I'm going to play basketball this morning, see if I can just slam what's hanging around of this sore throat out.

In news of the rest of life, I'm really struggling to schedule my priorities accurately. Since I really don't have a 'boss', or established long-term goals/projects, I really have to force myself to try to develop them. But since I haven't been around here long, and I don't have a good understanding of the educational environment yet, it's kind of hard.

I went out to this coffee shop/cafe place with a couple other people last night, because I thought it would be a good idea to get out for a while. And once there, I'm thinking, "Why did I come here again? I don't like these kinds of places?" But it turned out OK, life is fine. I can back, and worked out to work off the milkshake I had, then watched a Louis L'Amour movie with some other folks. I love old westerns, they're so simple, uncomplicated, you can tell who's a bad guy and who's a good guy straight away. Nice, simple.

There are things in life I wish were nice and simple like that, but I guess that's just a false hope. In fact, in many ways it is probably better that life isn't simple and straightforward, because wouldn't that be kind of boring? Besides, wouldn't it also require zero trust to make it through? This way, I know I'm not making it on mine own.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Through this, redress the rich and spoiled one.

I'm not the grateful son.

I'm slightly sick, a little sore throat. It's ok, this is the first I've gotten sick here, so no big deal. I had programming club yesterday, only one participant, but that's OK, it balanced out by having 24 for basketball in a court about 20 feet wide and 40 feet long. We're going to split into two groups, two days. Hopefully that gets more kids more chance to do stuff, and we're splitting it up by age, so I'll get a chance to do more drills and skill work with the younger guys.

I did some geeky stuff today, I almost bricked a Linksys router the other night, and today I reflashed the firmware on it to fix it. That involved opening it up, and earthing pin 16 (google for Linksys revival if you're really interested) and reloading firmware, then reconfiguring. That was fun.

There's a whole other set of things to talk about that I wish I could speak of here, but just isn't wise to for various and sundry reasons. We had a guys meeting tonight, and we talked about frustrations, why they are here, and our response to them. I am unable to convey some of my frustrations here (because I don't know what they are), and am unwilling to convey some of them that I do recognize. But the following I can share... you may not like it because it doesn't seem straightforward, what I can tell you is that this is how I process things in my head, so consider this an open book.

Unsealed is the gift here, but the prime examples stare me in the face and I don't know how to respond. The things I miss aren't really worth missing, and the things I should wish to feel again don't come to mind much. It occurs to me that once I am here, I forget that I ever wasn't here, and the silence is not a concern to me. Every morning, I go some place that I may already have been, just to go by, and every time I do, I want to turn and run, or stop for a while. Neither wins in fact, although the running just doesn't happen as energetically. Unsealed is the gift here, and yet it is and is not as we would wish it to be from our perspective. I wake up with questions, I go to bed with questions, and in between, it feels as though I do nothing...

I'm not the grateful son, I'm the rich and spoiled one. I feel this frustration because it feels like I changed my life to go serve, and this nagging pride, this nagging sense of entitlement comes upon me, demanding that I get what I want for my sacrifice. I feel this frustration as I work myself up over how I feel out of place. Sparrows and hair. I feel this frustration because I don't feel close to the One that I wish to know better.

One of the things that I don't have to give now is answers, real answers. I know the ones that you would expect a spoiled one to know, but I hate that I own the ability to not get back on track. I hate that I think of it that way. I hate that all of this has been about me. I hate that everything is always about me to me.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Maybe the... the... the... excess

Another day in the books. Today was long... long. I feel like I worked twelve hours today, hey, mainly because I did... I'm not even entirely sure what I did the whole time. I know I bolted both my lunch and my supper because it seemed like things needed to get done RIGHT THEN... but do they, did they really? Probably not. I guess if I'm really honest, I bolted supper because I decided I didn't want the good and the bad of sitting there while other people were around. I need to come to grips with that one of these days, get it all sorted out. But there's too much other processes to finish their decision tree before that can happen.

On the plus side, once I finally did finish work, I got to talk to my sister, which was nice. We tried to conference with my other sister also, but that wasn't working, I think she was having bandwidth issues (yes, you were.) I worked out some tonight, I'm kind of out of shape. On the plus side, I'm under 70kg, which qualifies as cool.

Sparrows and hair. Every time that I feel alone, you know that I could never be.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Even when you don't feel the best.

Peradventure I should not be exciting you by blogging twice in a day.

Recall how earlier I talked about all of the extra processes running in my head? I guess it may be hard that I mention them without describing the things that are running, but sorry, that's all you are getting. But what I do wish to comment on is the fact that sometimes, I get distracted, I get distracted, wait, what was the winning percentage of the Sox in '35?

This can make it hard to sit in meeting sometime. Good stuff is being presented, I should listen, but I just can't make myself focus. Even starting to write this, I thought I was going to stay focused on it, and I've not. Part of it is what's running already, part of it is new threads spawning off. Sometimes, it makes me very tired of being this way, and wishing I had been Wired differently.

So, I went out to eat with some folks after playing Volleyball this night. Now, I am almost endemically frustrated with me who I was and who I am. Sometimes, realizing that I have agreed to interact with people in such a fashion, I have this strong desire to curl up, wishing for the Saturdays of my youth, with their uncomplicated patterns. I feel alien in a place such as this.

Sometimes I can't keep the frustration from seeping out, from relating to the things people say, the things people sing, the way people talk or don't. I envy others with their easy, seemingly effortless interactions, their ability to have social skills without having to really try. I envy, but yet I recognize the following things as well. Firstly, many people have the same inevitable sense of personal rightness that I do about things, but just in different areas. So just as I, they feel their sense of inexorability about social situations, instead of about their own thoughts. Secondarily, I can do things other people can't. I can shut down, shut people and things out, and ninja something into a working fashion, whether it is machines, code, my thoughts, I can close the windows to the outside world, get my head around a problem or system, and fix it. Other people don't have that luxury. Thirdly, it's a mistake to assume that since I don't conform to the models or the patterns that others have established, it means that I am incompetent or whatever. Rather, my metrics of social competency have a fundamentally different point of view than the metrics of someone else.

Around now, we have come to the questions at hand, namely, what is probably my problem? It's that the standards that I hold are often diametrically opposed to those that I should hold. The questions that I ask are usually the wrong ones. The conclusions that I draw are self-seeking, the courses of action that I take selfish. Presently as you ponder, these problems reveal themselves to be not much different than the rest of humanity. My problem is that they think they are, and so my pride takes hold yet again. The truth is that I am no different from anyone else, no more or less than they are. People are the same all over. I may not understand them, I may agree with them, I may not appreciate them, I may hold different philosophies, I may not be in the same place as them, I may feel differently about them than they do about me, but we're the same. We have the same defects, the same Decay.

I wish, today, to take arms against myself. Set me up, knock down. Change, rearrange, clean out the double-paned window, find Freedom. I wish, today, to be the grateful son, not the rich and spoiled one. I hope you do as well.

You needed whisks? But why?

Played Ultimate Frisbee today. I got on a really good team, so we won both times pretty big. It was pretty fun, but it was hot. Ultimate is a really interesting game, there is a real combination of skill and athletic ability needed. It's also a game that you can jump into without a lot of skill, if your teammates are willing to help you along.

I have more to hassle with with this internet based test, that does not make me happy. But whatever. It's my job, so I deal with it.

Yesterday was an ok but good day, in several ways. We're working on accreditation, so we had some committee meetings in the morning. Since I'm lacking the educational background that a lot of the other folks have, some of the things we did really didn't make sense to me. I guess I have to just learn on my feet and learn fast. Those meetings were OK. Then, I spent a good chunk of the rest of the morning working on programming club. I wrote a couple things from scratch, modified old programs that I had for others, and generally had a pretty fun time, hacking away at code and compiler. I don't think anyone else here would understand if I told them it was fun, but that's just what I do. I went over and did some lazy work, decided I was going to stop, then I played some more games. Went got supper, read some, then went and watched "The Good Shepard" I can't really recommend the movie, it was pretty boring, there was some content that could have been avoided, but one of the things that really stuck out to me was the way that the main character made mistakes that really affected his life, long term. And tried to deal with those mistakes, not always in the most constructive of fashions, and often with bad results. I liked the fact that it didn't have the happiest ending, and that in the end, it shows what we stoop to when we fail.

I may be doing some consulting work for a local engineering company. We'll see how that develops, I had some difficulty understand the gentleman over the phone the other day.

Hm... if you ran a ps -aux on my head right now, you'd see a couple user processes spawning lots of threads. Every day, it seems like instead of things becoming more clear, things become more obfuscated, that another layer of abstraction gets added on to them. There are things that I wish I could just change owner on, and that I wouldn't have to deal with anymore. But the abdication of responsibility is something that I am very familiar with, and I can't do in these cases. So instead of abdicating, I am evaluating, seeking Counsel, trying to be shown where or why things are to go and to take place.

A Place, a Place is set up on the hills. This could be the Place.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Can we right this in such a lime?

Well, Ramazan didn't actually start on 9/12 like we thought it would. Or did it? It got announced that it did, but it didn't, we don't think. Nobody was quite sure yesterday afternoon, which was the last time I really talked to anyone.

Yesterday, hm. It was a long day. Some of you might be wondering (or might have wondered in the past), "Exactly how many [cell phone] units do you consume on a three hour call to tech support in Dubai and Johannesburg?" The correct answer is somewhere around 11000. I now have 46 units on my phone. The plus side of that is that people have to call me. The downside of that is that I spent 11000 units and a total of about 4 hours with support for this internet-dependent test that we do, because they overloaded their servers and their tech support guy (who was a nice guy) had me do a bunch of semi-ridiculous things to compensate for the fact that their server was overloaded. Why... sure... I'm getting no connectivity to your site (even though I can hit other internet sites just fine), and I was on it with this machine two hours ago, but I'll uninstall all the versions of Java I have loaded for your test to try, and then download the one off of your website so we know we have the right version of Java loaded because that's obviously the root of the connectivity problems. Oh, Mr. Support person? I would just like to point out that I can't access your site to download the new version of Java. Is there an alternate location? Can I get it from Sun? No? Ok, well, let me try to install this version from the JDK I just downloaded this morning for my programming club , and we'll see if that works. Oh, it installed, I can start to get in, but it's really slow. (Repeat similar ad naseum.) Finally, it started to work, but I was in that computer lab from about 1:45 until 10:45. And I hadn't just lazed around the morning or anything. Long day. Anyway...

Lots of other things going on around here. I start basketball and programming club next week, I think they'll be fun. I can fix some things and not others. I... yeah.

A couple weeks ago, I was wondering what was going on with all of this. In my guys group the other night, one of the things brought up was who we are in who we Know. Sometimes I'm kicking and screaming, I think sometimes everyone is. But perspective opens new doors, and I don't perhaps always know what I will be doing or where I should be, but I know who I am. I hope you do to. You can hide it, you can fight it, but you're not a copy of a copy.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Right hand, meet left hand. No, I don't think you know each other.

Today, I am frustrated. I am frustrated because of the things that I did not get done. I am frustrated because of the things that break that I am unable to fix. I am frustrated at the lack of change in me, at the shadow on me. I am frustrated because even as I know all the things I have, I get greedy, get irresponsible, become what I despise.

Today, I am happy. I am happy because I know that I was able to help two people. I am happy because I at least know what I need to do tomorrow. I am happy because the floor is clean, the stable is swept, I didn't have to cook and still got good food to eat, and I don't have to wake up cold and hungry. I am happy because I had fun going over to eat at one of the teacher's houses along with other teachers yesterday. I am happy because I have cool, clean water to drink, running water to shower in, power to run my computer, and internet access to talk to you all.

Sometimes, we don't have a lot. But even in not having much, we are richer than we could ever imagine.

I made a kid do push-ups in car line today. He was acting up a little, causing some trouble, throwing other kid's backpacks at yet other kids. I had tried moving him, talking nicely, so I told him to do ten pushups. I wasn't overly strict about it, I let him do little girly pushups (sorry to all the little girls who can do real push-ups.) That didn't solve the problem so about 5 minutes later, I made him do 5 real pushups. That did solve the problem. We'll see if it works tomorrow or not. I'm also pretty sure most of the highschool kids think I'm mean, since I don't let them go around and congregate with all their friends when they're not in the spots they are supposed to be in. I guess I am mean. Wait until we start doing basketball. BWHAHAHAHHAHA. *cough, cough* Excuse me, I had something caught in my throat. Anyway...

I ate supper in like ten minutes and then left to come back over to my office to make sure a file I needed downloaded. I'm thinking of going back and just sitting for a while, just to have company with other people. I think this is a good and a bad thing, and if you can download and decipher the reasons why I say it's a good thing and a bad thing, then you'll also further understand why it is that I might be frustrated. So while it's a good thing that I am attempting to engage other people, it's also a bad thing. Yeah. I'll leave that there, and you can take it for what it's worth.

In semi-technical news that probably won't interest most of my readers, I am going to do some new software development using InstantRails, a framework for Ruby on Rails. There are some simple things that I think I can do that will make some people's lives around here a lot easier, and InstantRails should let me do it in a platform independent way that will be most excellent. I have been trying to download it for ages, so the fact that I finally got it makes me excited.

This brings up one frustration that I have, that I don't really have anyone here that I can talk to about this kind of stuff. I really don't think anyone else here at the school is technically inclined enough to be able to have a conversation about this without me having to explain everything in a fairly non-technical manner. Like, back in the states, I could have a conversation with my roommate about (how are ya?), "Yeah, I was working on this system today, and it's a classic three-tier architecture with .NET as the client-side and the middleware, and there was some esoteric bug where with version .8202 of .NET 1.1 that caused the middleware to crash, but the client needed to be .8202, so we registered the DLL from .8467 since the client didn't use that, and it was all ok." (Please note, he actually ended up having to do something similar once.) OK, most of that was probably something you could parse, but not really understand. But if I started talking about the fact that I am using Ruby because I like the interpreted language features, the fact that InstantRails provides me with the whole stack for rapid development, and that I can eventually use LAMP to serve the solution, you just lost it. That makes me frustrated sometimes, but I live with it.

Speaking of frustrations and what I talked about earlier, I have to thank you folks, because talking to you means that I am probably not going back to supper to revel in the good and bad of the company of others. So really, thanks.

Guys group tonight. I'm really trying to resist the option of getting out where it seems the grass is greener. No need to make it like all was right, were I to leave, where else would I go? The physical is not the concern.

Sunday, September 09, 2007


Sometimes, I have more fun than I truly deserve. Friday night was ok, we went out to eat at a restaurant where I had enough food to last me a few days. It was kind of a party atmosphere, and we all know that I am unendingly thrilled with participating in parties. Still, it wasn't absolutely horrific, although the drive there in the coffin was less than comforting. I really hate riding in that thing.

Ok, you're saying, I thought you were talking about fun? Yeah, see, Saturday was one of those days at work that is inexplicably good. It wasn't like I did a ton of great stuff or anything, it was just a good day. I mean, I even sat through an hour and a half meeting wherein I had to present for the last 10-15 minutes, and it was still a good day! I really like it when it works out like that.

As a plus, in the evening, my leg started to feel better, I walked down to the store and got stuff to eat today (since the cooks are off for Masood day), then played speed scrabble (which some of you might know as Pick-2) for a while before going to bed. While we were playing speed scrabble, there was a group in the adjacent room playing Taboo. I was having fun yelling random things when I heard them, such as calling out "Vampire!" when the description was, "This is a soft object that you put the part of your body above your neck on." There were a couple of really funny things that we heard from the other room, too, times when we were talking, and then started our game, going quiet right as they read some description from the other room that was fairly humorous when it was completely out of context.

Then I woke up really early this morning, installed the new UPS for the server, and then went with some folks out on a hike. Some of them jogged, and I had thought the night before that my leg might be up to it, but that proved to be false, so I just walked. It was about 6-7k, though, so it was nice and invigorating. After I got back, I had breakfast with the director of the new English training program affiliated with us. (He's actually been here two years already, just in different capacities.) Then I went and worked for a while, and now am blogging whilst waiting for some updates to download onto a computer I'm working on for one of the other staff members. We're playing volleyball most of the afternoon, and this evening, I am going out to eat with a couple teachers. May only have two more full days of work this week, depending on when Ramazan starts... We'll see.

A friend of mine sent me an e-mail the other day, saying that something good to do is to work on is finding one think to be grateful for everyday. I've been trying that, and also asking myself what is one thing that I Know today. Adding both of these to each other makes me begin to realize what it is that I miss, what it is that I really am longing for. It makes me remember to see that in the rain, the light from the sun still illuminates our world. It takes my eyes off of me, and onto the Road ahead, and where it leads. I want to be Someone else's point of view, and this may be a way to accomplish that.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Laugh at the silence

Lately, I've felt the need to develop some sort of pervasive theme to my blog entries before composing them. I don't know how well it has paid off for me and I haven't always been consistent at it, so I don't know if it has been a success or an undocumented feature.

Peradventure, however, this is beside the point in the face of the article which I am now composing. I discussed at supper yesterday that I had this desire to, when someone walked into the room, to say something like "And that's why I think we should varnish the table purple." Mainly I would wish to do this to observe the reactions of people, but also because I think doing such would be flat-out hilarious. Not necessarily to anyone but me, but then is there a point to amusing anyone besides myself?

Sometimes the realization comes that the limitations that we feel are simultaneously more acute and less burdensome than we might have thought otherwise. I was playing basketball yesterday, and took a knee to the thigh whilst attempting to drive for the winning basket (Point of clarification here - we did win, despite my newly discovered gimpy state. And I also won the next game. Then I quit.) Combine that with a bruise in roughly the same area that I had received the day before, and I have approximately 8 inches of bruised muscle on my left thigh. It hurts, especially when I try to stretch or traverse stairs.

Ah, now I can sense you waiting impatiently for the reason that I describe this. No, it is not for sympathy, although I know you feel bad for me, and I appreciate this. (If you don't feel bad, perhaps I just haven't made myself seem forlorn enough here.) Here, then, comes the payoff.

Yesterday, one of the teachers at the school had a party celebrating his wedding that had taken place this summer. For this party, he had asked if I could set up the portable sound system that we have at the school. Now, this sound system is a fairly convenient, self-contained Fender system. It's almost like a karaoke system, but without the corny special effects or replay system. Anyway, the speakers for the system clip onto the sides of the amp/board section, making for a semi-convenient package weighing about 65 pounds, and at about 2' by 3.5', it's not unreasonable to carry, just slightly awkward. It is stored in the basement of a building across campus. I had got it out storage to the stairs without much problem, but discovered that I wasn't going to get much farther without some adaptation. To get it upstairs to the first floor, then back down the landing to the ground outside, I had to unclip the speakers, and transport the amp and two speakers separately because my leg really couldn't support taking that huge, unwieldy package up stairs without really hurting.

Where's the point, now? I must have lost it along the way.

No, wait, here it is!

Just because we are hurting, just because we are weak, it doesn't mean that we can totally abdicate responsibility to accomplish something. Just because we don't exactly feel top of the line, does not mean that we are unable to be used, unable to do our work. Rather, precisely because we are weak sometimes is why we have been assigned the tasks before us. To run to gain the prize, not counting the hindrances or weights on us, but discarding them all. To return to the cold, rebuild, trample our own plans.

This week, I have thought about this often. When I can't fix things. When I'm panicking because of everything that I think I need to know or to do. When I don't talk at lunch again. When I struggle with the self-confidence and inexorable sense of rightness I feel others have sometimes. When I wonder why I'm here.

Then it is that I think that weakness is not to be discarded, but experienced, learned from, set apart. I'm glad for it at times, for it reminds me that my agency along is not sufficient to be or do or know. I'm glad that the song doesn't depend or end on my voice. That this is not just for others, but for me as well. I'm glad that I can be here, not just in this place, not only in this situation, but here. Where the water is safe, the tide is rising, the moon shines brighter every day.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

The Quiet to feel inside

Well, another week in the books. Also, today marks one month that I have been here. I arrived on the evening of August 5th, it is now September 6th. This means that I am more than a month out of the States, a month from home. But really, what is home? Is home an abstract concept, a feeling of familiarity, a physical place, a set of relationships, a geographical region? None of these things really are home, can never really be Home.

On the forefront of a discussion of home, I have to give the context that colors the musings, reveals more of why they are being made. On Tuesday, at our team meeting, I finally (almost three weeks later) presented the picture and spoke the narrative that composed what I felt of as my life story. I did honestly tell the folks that I redrew my paper since my first version contained silly little stories that were supposed to take up time and not actually have to share much about my life. Point of fact is, if people were then paying attention, they would realize that I did the same thing again in my presentation, just not to the extent that I had previously. Anyway, there was something uncomfortably like regret even after I finished. I didn't talk about some of the things that I think pushed me down the path to get here, I talked some about things that merely describe what I did, I bragged perhaps too much.

Ok, context and home, right? Talking about all of this made me realize what it is that I consider to be my home. I've never really considered some of the things that others do to be home. Yes, the house that I lived in for 20 years feels familiar, and when I talk about back home, that's what I usually mean in a physical sense. Yes, the set of relationships that I developed previously in my life feels familiar, and when I talk about most of you, I might phrase it, "One of my friends back home..."

But I find myself thinking less and less of these things as home. Not because I am growing distant, not because I want to forget them. But as I have uprooted and relocated thousands of miles away, I find that the reality is that home is not an abstract concept. Home is not a set of relationships, home is not a feeling of familiarity. Home is found in one set of Hands.

One of the greetings or farewells here (I've heard it used both ways, so I'm not sure which it is) says, "My home is your home." It's a testimony to the hospitality culture, and it's a phrase I'm not sure I can say with regularity. Not because I seek to deny others the hospitality, but because I don't have a physical home to give.

Rather, my home can be your home.

Well, now, for some news. The cook was making stir-fry last night, so I went out to eat with some other people. (Shocking, I know! I even invited some of them.) One of the teachers came with his wife and kids, (their kids, especially the youngest, really hadn't been out of the compound in the month that they've been here). During the course of the evening, he said, "Ok, now watching this, all of the rest of you are single. Doesn't this inspire you to stay single?" And she said, "Boy, we're probably the best birth control." The kids were a little wound up, but I didn't think that bad. But they aren't mine, so...

This morning, we're going to play some basketball, and then one of the teachers that got married over the summer is having a little ceremony here at school, so I'll go to that. I have a couple things I need to try to do today, but if I don't get them done, the world doesn't end. I'm trying to remember that. If I don't get everything done, the world doesn't end.

My home can be your home.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Play it to the left, wait, watch out for the Tentacle! No, Bobby, don't go into the woods!

So, it's about 4:52 P.M. here, and I'm deciding (for the second day in a row!) to knock off a little early. Yesterday I talked to my mother, today, I'm talking to all y'all. I trust you had a good weekend, with it being Labor day and all in the States. We get next Sunday off because it is Masood Day, and then next Wednesday off because it is the start of Ramadan. Except I don't really get Wednesday off, because I have a couple duties that I have to perform on that day. But it won't take all day, so it'll be a working holiday.

I've had car line duty this week, it has been somewhat interesting. There are kids that try to push the boundaries of what is acceptable behavior. I guess I should explain car line. All of the kids gather in an area by the street, and as their drivers come, we call out the kids' car numbers, and then once there car is here the kids get to go. Anyway, they are supposed to stay in spots grouped by number. The elementary kids are there first, they have to stay seated while they are waiting. The high school kids don't have to, which presents a challenge since then the elementary kids get up and jump around, and the High school kids (social animals that they are) try to congregate with their friends, regardless of where their number is. Anyway, there's these two brothers, 4th and Kindergarten, that I having been having running skirmishes with this week. They're not bad, like some of the other kids, they just push the limits. The younger one (pretty smart kid, good English) yesterday came over 4 times to fill up his water bottle. Then, he comes over and says, "I have to go to the toilet!" I just laughed, sent him to the portables instead of letting him go in the building, and then when he came back, asked him, "Now, what have we learned about water consumption and the toilet?" He says, "I drink alot, and then I have to go?" I congratulated him on his deduction skills. Then today, he asks to go in and fill up his water bottle. "And what did we learn about water consumption yesterday?" "I drink alot, then I have to go?" "Right. You're only going to get to go once here today, so choose wisely." He only filled his water bottle back up one more time. And went to the toilet right before his car came. I was so proud.

More news - I volunteered to help with student activities, I said I would help with futball and basketball, and volunteered to do a Computer Programming club. Once a week, an hour and a half, 10 weeks, I figure we can do plenty in that time.

Now today, today was diverse and divisive. Did lots of different things - took apart a laptop with a piece of hardware that freezes windows whenever it is enabled, took the part out, now the PC works fine. Needs a new Mini-PCI wireless card, but we've got some spare USB wireless nics for the time being. It also has an irrevocably damaged battery, so it will have to stay somewhere wired, but that's OK, it's a spare right now anyway. I also drafted some policies, troubleshot some issues, only had to look at the copiers twice, and finally, did some research into things that teachers had asked for.

One more thing I need to do tonight is go see if I can fix a TV. I'm pretty sure the picture tube isn't working, when I turn it on, I don't hear the electronic hum, and none of the guns seem to be firing (it's a CRT). It's the 'community' TV, so many people would be disappointed if it's out of commission. I'm not entirely sure in any way that I would be able to fix it, but it will be fun to try.

We're having hamburgers for supper tonight. Should be good.

Finally, tonight we have another team meeting. They're trying to finish up the life story presentations... part of me hopes I get to go tonight, just so the over-analyzing, repressive part of my personality will finally be sated like a squirrel with a nut. Another part of me hopes that they forget about me, and that I can just happily skate along without ever having to do this. It is becoming rather odd, I feel unsure of what I should share. As I continue to look back at my drawing, and back at it in relation with my life, I grow less and less confident that I understand what is important. I can think of few significant moments in my life, things that stand out to me since for the way that it changed my thinking, and I can't think of anything that would be categorized as a drastic realignment. Rather, a number of things in my life are not represented like an earthquake, but instead like the gradual way that a river etches its way through the landscape. Slowly, inexorably, the channels and currents have worn their way into my life, into who I am and what I have become. So I don't really know how to tell my story. I don't know what is the extent of significance, and what is the extent of memory.

Despite this uncertainty, however, I do know the content of my story. I can guess at who I was, who I am, and the only thing left which is uncertain is the future, and wither does that lead that any man can know? So the story I tell, this story won't be complete. It won't be entirely accurate, it may not always make sense, but it is what it has been, just my life. The pearl of great price is not to be found in the telling, but is found when it is searched for. This is what here I hope to find.

One day, one day that I dread and long for, I will recount that life. And when that day comes, I hope to hear the phrase that I don't deserve to hear through my own agency. I will hear it only through the agency of Another. The pearl of great price.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Come untie me

We had tacos tonight. Well, more accurately, afghan burritos. I have found that people think it is strange to have corn in tacos. I personally think it is good, and I always put corn in my tacos. I just fit in here in my own special little way.

Oh, and I've been told that people don't think I write as I talk (which is, in point of fact, true), and that I am, "Kind of weird." This is a recognized peculiarity of mine, with a proclivity toward incomprehensibility in times of certain mental processes. Look at it this way, you're getting to know the me that I sometimes think I know.

We had a guys meeting tonight that was really good, and brought up some things that I need to continue to consider. What if the pillars and heroes we thought stood firm as they were assailed really had the same human responses that we do? Does that make them any less of a pillar, any less of a hero? Or are they, in truth, a real hero because they stood even when racked with doubts, confused, frail and left to stand alone? Is it doubt alone that makes us less, or is it how we deal with the doubt?

What is love without trust, and what is love without sacrifice?

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Inner Pattern

Another week in swing. Yesterday was somewhat horrific, copiers didn't work right all day today. The copier guy came today to fix them. I had asked him to run a thorough test after he fixed it. He ran 1500 copies of the tardy slip page. 1500. There are at least 60 tardy slips to a page.


The copier definitely works. The administrative assistant said she didn't think we would use that many tardy slips in the next decade.

We had the most interesting main course I've had here yet tonight. It was roast chicken. But they were whole chickens. Stuffed with apples, cinnamon, butter and.... onions. ONIONS??? Yes, onions. And we had sugar and vinegar green beans and baked potatoes. It was an interesting dinner. The chicken would have been better without the mixed cinnamon and onion taste, but was pretty decent anyway.

I played spades with a couple folks the other day. It had been long enough since the last time I played that I forgot it was a partners game, and didn't realize it until midway through the second hand (after a practice hand) when my partner (who had bid nil) said, "Um, if you had the king of diamonds, why didn't you cover me earlier when
I put down the ten?" .... The best part of the story is that we still won, after I had a killer hand, bid 9, and he bid nil, so we stormed back from the jaws of defeat to snatch victory from the abyss.

Additionally, I've been working out. I was getting all mad at myself at the small amounts that were all I was able to lift, like I could only do 48 pounds on leg lifts, 70 pounds on the leg press. Yeah... Can you guess where this is going? In Afghanistan, they use the metric system. So... that's like 105 pounds on the leg lift, 150 some odd pounds on the leg press. And I did like 80 pounds of arm weights, press, lift, pull. Suddenly, I felt much better about myself. I worked out for around a half hour, nothing overly intense, just enough to start to knock the edges off.

As far as other news goes, work goes OK, still got lots to do, and life goes on. As I was helping one of the new female teachers with her computer today, she asked me how the adjustment process was going. I told her it was going fine, and I didn't think it has been that much of an adjustment. And really, it has and it hasn't been. I mean, I have little things to adjust to, like not wearing shorts, not flushing toilet paper, not having hand towels or paper towels in bathrooms. There are also big things to adjust to, like different job responsibilities, (Boy, that really is a long word) not always being able to communicate with people because of the language barrier. However, these don't really feel that difficult to me. And there are lots of things that I don't feel like have been an adjustment. Part of it is the fact that I see plenty of Americans, most people I deal with speak English pretty well, and we eat Westernized food and live in a semi-westernized compound. Part of it is the fact that I adjust to things pretty quickly. But most of it is that there isn't a lot to make me feel unadjusted.

Kind of hard to explain, but this simple question really helped me process a couple other things that I have been thinking on. Well, now, I can't talk about those things here yet. But really, things here are going pretty fine. Friday and Saturday were pretty rough, but today is better. Every day, in every way, better and better.