Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Count on me for all your var- Hey, was that Dean Smith?

Well, these past few days, after 5, I have had lots and lots of energy. I attribute this to two things. First off, I've been working out more, and so I just generally have more energy. Secondly, it's cold in the morning, and it warms up in the evenings, and so I feel the energy and excitement, and need to go out and do with the warmth.

For example, this evening, we went out to eat. When we got back around 8:15, I felt the energy to go out and do, so I grabbed my wind-up torch, a basketball, and went out and shot baskets. Several people thought I was crazy, but it was fun! Especially since when it's dark, you can't tell if it's going in or not, so everything is a make. Obviously that's not true, but I did feel in the zone for a while, and made a good bit more of the outside shots than I usually do.

So, you remember the other day (Saturday, to be exact) my complaining about how I was going to have to get up early the next day to try to get this internet-based test hopefully running for our students that hopefully got registered? As it so occurred, they didn't get registered, so from about 5:30, after I got the test all ready to go, until about 6:45, I drafted this massive flame to the people that run the test, about how frustrated I was that we had been (to my mind, very) clear about wanting to get our kids registered for the earlier date, that didn't happen, and they why in the world would they schedule us a time, but not register our students for that time? I proceeded to delete most of the flame, but kept all the pertinent information about what had happened, and how they'd messed it up. Then, I went and scoured the testing service's website for the president's e-mail address, found what it probably would be, and after colleague review, sent the e-mail to all of our contacts and the president. I got back an e-mail, from the president promising to correct the situation. And so, now we have a test date, and all our kids registered! It's on Friday, which disappoints me because it means no Ultimate (and that I'm working on my nominal day off), but at least we'll get the kids tested, and get all of this out of the way for now. That makes me happy. The principal told me I could take part of the day off Wednesday, but I asked her would I would do then?

I walk by the ball court earlier today during Sophomore PE, and one of the kids wants to 'take [me] on!'. I'm wearing khakis, a long-sleeved shirt, and my crummy, no traction shoes. I set down the gear I was carrying, and promptly thrash him 3-0, while commenting on what he could have done to stop me, and how I was beating him. It was kind of a wicked little pleasure.

I have a funny-ish story from earlier today, but explaining the context would take perhaps too long and be more transparent than I think I want to be at this point in time. I'll just leave it at this - people who are trying to be sneaky shouldn't giggle when they run.

Trying to force something out of this thought, but I can't, so instead, I'll just reveal the thought, and leave you to meditate on it. The sneaky person above left me with a pointer, redirecting to an address, ps90. I leave you with this same pointer, probably what it points to will be better for you than any random statements that I could come up with.

I have lots of other thoughts and processes running through my head, most of which aren't suitable for posting up here, just because they are way too intertwined with things going on around here, and trying to explain them would require a lot of context.

So, I leave you with this closing thought - Abased and Abound.

Monday, October 29, 2007

We walk in vivid coloration

One of the things that I've been forced to adjust to here is the inability to compartmentalize my life. Back in the States, I had my work, my home, my friends, my different sets of activities, and each of them stayed in their nice little box, rarely to interfere with the other. This was the way I liked my life, it enabled me to usually leave things from one box in that box and not get in the way of the other boxes. This compartmentalization is nearly impossible to do here - I work with the same people I eat with, I eat with the same people I relax with, I live with the people I relax with, I live with the people I work with. While it is possible to get off campus and do things with other groups of people, if you know me well, you'll understand that I don't do that very well, and if a ready-made social support group exists for me, I'll take advantage of and use that.

This forced integration can make life uncomfortable sometimes. One thing I have generally tried to do in life is be friends with everyone. I don't always succeed at this, and I don't think I'm expressing myself properly, so let me say it another way. I have, to an extent, the ability to see things from other people's perspective without having to work hard at understanding them. Consequently, I generally find it easy to understand where people are coming from, and I do my best to get along with them. Usually this leads to being a likable, non-confrontational person. It also usually leads to a functioning non-avoidance of the political rivalries and factions that come with anywhere. I still think I'm not explaining myself properly, but I think you get what I mean. I try not to be too overly connected to one specific group or alliance, which works in a compartmentalized life. It can be more difficult in an integrated life, when you personally like someone as a friend, but aren't thrilled with some of the things they do as your co-worker. Does this make sense? I had a situation or two today where I was reminded of the difficulties of this integration.

In semi-related over-transparency, sometimes I feel like I don't actually understand people or what is going on, and despite the fact I think I can see things from their perspective, that usually only applies to simple things like actions, philosophical beliefs, or statements. It doesn't apply to the rest of life, and I find that not only can I not understand others, I don't understand myself. When you're an analytical person who wants to make everyone happy and make everyone like him, the inability to read people can make life frustrating, as you don't know if a statement will be taken the way that you want it to be, or if the way that you think you want it to be taken is actually the way that you want it to be taken. Can you tell I've had some frustrating conversations and thought processes today? Yeah, I have.

Something I've been learning through this, however, is a greater appreciation of the talents that we all have, and that through my own struggles to relate and communicate, still all was placed long ago, and we have only to follow the Path to come safe back home.

In other news, I'm doing a 10k run on Thanksgiving, so I've changed my work-out routine from being mostly on weights to more running. We've got this elliptical machine that I use because it's low-impact, and I ran 7.5k in 17 and change on it tonight. I figure if I can get up to 15k and 30 minutes on the elliptical, the 10k will be doable. Maybe this is just vanity, but it's nice to now have a goal to my working out, instead of just 'staying healthy' and (since I'm practicing a form of coded transparency tonight) 'gaining muscle definition.'

We had our guys group tonight, and further I wish I could take and bear the burdens of my friends here. Since I can't, I cast them elsewhere, to the greater.

Several people have asked me what I want for X-mas. This poses a difficult question for me, as I am now an adult, not a kid - really, I have everything I need. I can always think of things that I want, and I know it makes some people happy/glad to give gifts (and, ok, if I'm honest about it, I like getting gifts when they're what I want) so I present to you My Amazon.com Wishlist. I think the link should work so it's prioritized in the order I picked, otherwise choose sort by priority. There's some books, DVDs, misc software on there. Other popular gift ideas will include the following - IBC cream soda, cream-filled hostess cupcakes, Greek's Pizza (or coupons to that effect), home made chocolate chip cookies (hot, soft, and moist.), an outing to see I Am Legend, the chance to see at least one College Basketball game all the way through, and finally and most importantly, 15 or 30 minutes of your time to talk, and tell me how your life has been going.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Not in the wind

I don't really have a lot to say tonight. Posting anyway for some reason.

I find that the still, small voice carries so much more weight than the earthquake. It's been a good but long day, I talked to my folks this morning, made a bakery run, and then settled in to deal with the day. I was cold today, for the first time. I mainlined hot water all day, along with the accompanying endocrine system-related trips that entails. We have this foreign language test that I have disparaged several other times on the blog. They goofed and didn't re-register our kids for our last test, so I sent a fairly intractable e-mail saying that they needed to give us a test date before the end of the month so our kids could test. Well, we got a date, tomorrow morning at 6:30 A.M. But guess what! As of now, our kids aren't registered! This makes me angry, but there's not a lot I can do about it, especially seeing as how it is Saturday morning in U.S. land, so I have no confidence that we're going to have registered kids tomorrow. But I'm getting up at 5:00 A.M. anyway to see if the kids got registered, and I'll go ahead and set the test up if they did. I don't know if we'll make the kids take the test then, but at least I'll have been ready.

Not in the fire. It hurts to see my friends hurt. I know folks from home that are encountering difficulties. My uncle's family is still adjusting to new realities. My friends here are facing struggles, too. One of my fellow staff members just had a death in her family. Joel still has to walk with a crutch because his knee isn't better yet. Seeing all these situations, I wish there was something I could do, some way to help. Some way to ease the load. There is, just not in the way I would perhaps like it to be. And while at times, this help, it feels like just words, nothing of substance, not in the fire, not in the wind, but in the still small voice.

Last night, I had people over for supper, I made (what turned out to be an insufficient amount of) spaghetti. Before the main meal, we broke bread together. Such a simple thing, such a reminder.

Not in the fire.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Stick figures from the aggregate

Ah, Fridays. A day to recharge, retune and and refocus. We talked about the seals at meeting. Some of that is tough to hear about and think about, but it is necessary to hear and think about. The white horse is coming to conquer, just as the others come to destroy. And one day the numbers will be fulfilled.

The nice thing about this Friday is that while it has been both active and relaxing (Frisbee and Volleyball, along with making spaghetti for folks), there's been a good chunk of time to be Alone, but not lonely. One thing that I have been thinking about is something that Doug M said a couple months ago - that none of us would care to know the whole truth about any of us. Yet, One does know the whole truth, and made his decision in our favor anyway. As I reflect back upon my week, there are times when I'm ashamed or afraid to have been alone with mine own thoughts. I'm sure there are many of you who can identify with this as well.

Yet still, I am here. The incongruity of this situation strikes me daily. I learn many things through my journey here, and one of them is that there is no one else who could be here. I don't mean this ridiculously egotistically, like I am so unique that no one else could perform my functions. Rather, I mean that somehow, before the foundation of the world, the choice I made was known, planned for, designed. I have buckled the belt, taken up the shield, and so while I am far from perfect, I am far from who I should be... that doesn't matter. Rather, I am to be some anthropomorphic jack-o-lantern. Emptied out and illuminated.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Cycle Above

(Note - I can't tell if this is the complete story yet, a part of one, or just some random stuff I typed up. Also note, I posted life content earlier today.)

Daniel walked through the sliding airlock door, connecting the two buildings in perfect harmony. As he entered the room, he heard the proud soliloquy cease, and the undertone in the room change from a rushing tide to a stunned acquiescence to his presence. He nodded once to the group, before striding towards the colonel's office, and knocking shortly.
"Enter." More than permission, less than a command, the colonel's clipped tone revealed that he knew exactly who was knocking, and what the reasons were for Daniel's presence.
As Daniel thumbed the button, a groaning mechanism slid the heavy door open, revealing the spartan office of Colonel Jansen.
"Sir." Daniel's tone was respectful, but behind it was the cold from a hundred missions to the Belt.
"I have no words for you, Taylor. Take this. Don't expect anything for your actions. None will commend you, none will molest you." Jansen held out a small data stick.
"Very good, sir."
"Get out of here, Taylor. May you die tenfold for your cowardice."
"Very good, sir."

Daniel Taylor left the Mars Colonial Authority base on Demios on 13 August, 2178, three years after the MCA Bresnik left for Titan on an exploration mission. He took a civilian transport to Phobos, and rode the elevator down to the surface. On the surface, he rented a powered suit, walked to a certain hillock in Arabia Terra, broadcasted a specified set of packets on a pre-specified frequency, and walked back to the elevator. On 16 September, 2178, he bought a personal transport capable of deep range missions, filed a flight plan for the L5 station, and left on an outbound trajectory. His ship was found passing the Kuiper Belt on 28 March, 2913. He was not aboard.

Who refracted the rabbits?

Yesterday was a kind of weird, good day. In a strange way. It was parent teacher conferences at school, so no kids, just a stream of unfamiliar faces and vehicles, and no one that wanted to see me. It was kind of nice, I didn't really get interrupted all day, and I got a couple things done that I don't know if I would have gotten done in a normal day, with its interruptions. I made a French Bakery run in the morning, I'm trying to confine myself to Saturday (the first day of the week) and Wednesday (the last day of the week). But fresh croissants or donuts are really good, and it is a lot of fun to put them in people's rooms or desks before they get to work in the morning.

Also, as you might be able to tell from the picture, I got a haircut. The interesting thing about this haircut is that, as far as I can remember, this is the first haircut that I've gotten from someone not in my immediate family. One of the folks here cuts hair, so it only cost me a little bribe. I didn't realize this before I got my haircut, but she went to cosmetology school for a couple years, so I guess this is my first professional haircut. It definitely looks different than normal, but I think I like it.

After supper, I went over to the ladies' house for Game Night. However, game playing ended up being pretty low key, and we talked more than we played. I really think I preferred that to playing games. Lots of stories, thoughts, opinions. It was fun. We also watched the Princess Bride... no matter how many times I see that movie, it's still funny.

I played basketball this morning, and lost three games in a row. Then we decided to play some 3-3 volleyball, and we won 5 in a row before losing #6 by 3. It was enjoyable. Now, I have some work to do this afternoon, but I had a good morning, a good relaxing day so far. I also did laundry, which pleasingly enough, I got done early enough to actually have it dry today.

While I was at lunch, we had an interesting conversation about how many different socio-economic levels of local students we have at our school. We have some kids that are sponsored to come here that are definitely not rich, we have kids whose parents are making sacrifices so they can come here, we have kids whose parents are in government and can definitely afford to send their students, and finally, we have our international or expatriate kids. The thing to watch will be in twenty years, what kids have government or well-placed private-sector jobs because they went to school with some of these extremely connected kids. For better or worse, this country still has a fairly heavy emphasis on familiar relationships for determining social status. It will be interesting to see which kids are pulled up the social ladder because of the connections and associations they make at this school.

I wonder about a lot of things these days. I wonder what it is that I'm doing here, I wonder about the things going on in this country. I ponder the differences between what I used to do and what I do now, I ponder what this experience might mean to me in five or ten years. I think about the changes in me and the things that have stayed the same. Never to be the same, never to change in another way. As we were talking last night, some of the folks were recounting experiences where they just traveled Europe for a couple months. I thought about that, and while that doesn't exactly sound like my idea of a great time, but yet, here I am in a foreign and strange country. Oddly, even here I am a homebody. And the times and places have changed, but not the faces and stations.

People are the same all over. All in need of the same One.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Open up my eyes to see

As I write this, my uncle's funeral is taking place thousands of miles away. I can't be there. I don't even want to be there, at a funeral, and I wish I could be. I do the only thing I can, to remember them while I am away.

Death is the middle. Oh, that we could hold on to that.

As heavy as this seems to me, for my uncle's family, it is far heavier for them. I have friends here who are dealing with other things that are heavy as well.

I wish I had something profound to say here. Something that could make it all be better. But I don't. I wish I had the strength to bear up under all situations, to take the cares and concerns of these people that I love, and to put them on my shoulders. I don't have that strength. And the One who does, the One who does loves these people far more than I. He has, long before, already volunteered His shoulder to them for their load.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

My Ebenezer

I have a Robert Robinson song stuck in my head. It's been a good comfort today. Guess what it is for an unspecial prize of some abstract poetry.

Today was busy, and long. I had a computer based English test I had to set up for this morning, and then administer this afternoon, projectors people needed, we had some fairly important visitors that I had to set up some gear for, and generally clean for. Oh, and report cards had to go out today, and I hate the software Rube-Goldberg-esque system that we use to do it. That was a little bit of a frustrating day.

But between the song and just knowing it was going to be a long day, it wasn't bad.

To fill the four or so hours of time that I had today while monitoring the test, I borrowed Atlas Shrugged from the school library. It's a really interesting book, one of the things I notice is that there really aren't heroes, just protagonists. It's very much a political screed, and I'm not sure I'm going to finish it. I'm at page 350 of 1050 or so... But it reminds me as I read the emptiness of the ideals promoted by both sides in the book. The collectivist is bankrupted by the very human nature that he proclaims as the framework of his society. The 'objectivist' or individualist, or Randian protagonist is bankrupted by the fact that he ultimately has no reason other than to work. Atlas Shrugged seems to be the book before the Song of Songs, writ large. I never want to be either of those men. I reject both philosophies.

Here's my heart, O take and seal it
Seal it for thy courts above.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Hands aren't alone.

I climbed up on my roof this evening to take pictures. I need a tripod, so I can get some really cool long exposure pictures. I can set my camera on the wall and get a couple, but it's impossible to tilt the camera like that, and some of the best shots would be elevated. I think the morning after tomorrow, I'm going to get up early to jump on the roof and take sunrise pictures.

Today was the first day back for kids after fall break. I have to say, my fall break ended up rougher than I would have liked, which is partially my fault, partially the way things go. But while a lot of people were not necessarily looking forward to school starting again, I kind of was. Staying here but not having to work really caused a break to routine that was perhaps less welcome than it should have been. But I deal.

Also, I finally got our new building finally finished wired today. I was extremely happy, I only had to reterminate cables an average of 1.33 times per cable, and I think I finally have figured out what the dealy-o is on my cable crimper, so I shouldn't have problems in the future quite as pervasively. I just have to go tomorrow to nail the final router in place, as right now it is sitting on a chair in the hall. Class was going on while I was finishing, and so I didn't want to be a huge distraction by beating the living tar out of a nail to get it to go into the concrete while learning was being attempted.

I got to play with new gear today - we got a video camera for promotional stuff, and so I got to pull it out and look around at it. I'm pretty pumped, it's a Canon HV20, which can shoot 1080i hd. (!!!) I told our admin guy that's going to use it that I would show him how to use it and Final Cut on his new MacBookPro if I could borrow and use the camera occasionally.

Yesterday was a day that... I guess the only way to say it is that He knows what we need, and gives it to us. I had a good chunk of time in the morning to just be with Him, not worry about other things too much. As I conveyed in previous post, Thursday was just not the best day, and I had a lot on my mind from other things, too. The opportunity to spend time with Him was really welcome, and while it meant that I didn't participate in meeting, that was OK. Sometimes other people just get in the way. After that, I got to go play Ultimate, which was fun. It's still warm enough out to run around in shorts and still be comfortable. It was also nice to get away, in ways different than earlier in the morning, and just kind of relax in a fast-paced, frenetic fashion.

I came back from Ultimate and went down to the new building to work on the wiring stuff, which I did for a while, but started to get really frustrated at the fact that I couldn't make a good termination to save my life, apparently, and that I was still working on Friday afternoon, and all of the other things going on in life, and so I decided to quit, call it a day. I went and shot hoops for a while, childishly threw the ball around the court a couple times when a particular thought process would get me upset (it was not one of my more mature half-hours). Then played Volleyball, which was pretty enjoyable. I'm actually almost able to play that game. After VB, I changed and soaked my head to get ready to go out to eat with a bunch of other folks for a teacher's wife's birthday. The teacher and his wife are really great people, and he had gotten a bunch of roses out of their garden, and told everyone to come up with a quick little roses-are-red poem for his wife. It was a really nice time.

Even better that that, however, was the fifteen minutes after soaking my head and when we left. I was standing out on the road, waiting to go, and had a good conversation with one of my friends, a teacher who had been gone over fall break and asked me how mine had gone. I kind of unloaded on him, but he was really cool to know that what I really needed was someone to just listen. He knows what we need, and gives it to us.

I woke up early this morning, and walked down to the French Bakery before work, fresh croissants are just really good. I got some for some other teachers and semi-anonymously put them in their classrooms before school. I say semi because lots of people know I walk down to FB in the mornings, so at supper I got asked if I made an early morning walk. I neither confirmed nor denied my participation in such an activity. I like being me.

All of this has been a series of up and downs recently. The further information that I have is that my uncle passed away from a heart attack. I feel unhappy since I can't make it to the funeral. It isn't as though I enjoy funerals, but, when it's family, you just wish you could go. To support them, to let them know you're there. But I wouldn't have been able to get out before today, and it would have been about a 30 hour travel experience one-way, I would have rolled into town a couple hours before the funeral, and had to roll back shortly after, and I just didn't think I could make it work. It feels cold to make such a decision about such an event on such a practical level, but I don't know what else to do.

What else to do. In His hands, open we are. In His hands, secure we are.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

For what will envelop me?

The fall break is almost done. Just Friday before the school stuff starts again. While I've goofed off some this break, I mostly worked. I lazy-worked some, but unless I am really lazy tomorrow, I will work every day over break except last Friday. I know there are other people who have worked as much as I, but part of my irritation stems from the fact that I didn't plan to work this much, that I agreed to do some more work than I had initially planned on, that I couldn't get gear for this project that I needed to do until yesterday, and I planned poorly, so I have to work tomorrow, to get my school projects finished.

Today has been a day of heights and lows. We started out the day and hiked up the mountain. It was just a small group of us, and while we didn't get all the way to the top, we still made it a good way. We got up to the ridge line right as the sun was creeping over the far mountains. I think the teacher that brought her camera got some really nice pictures. We went a little way further, then stopped, and read 1 Jn out loud. That was really... awesome, and peaceful. He is Love, and the propitiation.

Then, I went and spent more time that I had initially agreed on helping someone that I have helped more this week than I had originally planned on. This leads me to become very frustrated, because I know I'm a pushover, and people who will will take advantage of that as far as they can. The further frustrating thing is that it wouldn't have had to happen if I hadn't left some things to be done by people who said they could take care of it. I should trust my own judgment on whether or not people are capable, rather than listen to them. Even further frustrating me was that I had said, "I need to leave by X to be back at school." And when X comes, I'm knee deep in solving the problem, and I could just leave, saying, "I was here at Y, said I could only be here until X, and you didn't tell me that this was the main problem you wanted me to fix until some time after (((X-Y)/2) + Y)" but what good does that do other than make me feel good? People don't get their problems solved, they get mad at me, and I have to explain to other people why I now have the people who they set me up to help mad at me. I finally extricate myself from the mess, and I have to remain patient while thinking, "I'm not going to get any of the cook's pizza because of this traffic in this stupid system where right of way is arbitrarily selected, the roads were designed for a fifth of the traffic it carries, and I'm in a Corolla with a timid driver instead of an SUV with our preternaturally awesome driver." I also have to not get angry over the fact that I know I have several hours of work to do this afternoon that are probably going to now have to get crunched in, or just worked on tomorrow, because I couldn't get gear and then didn't plan my time properly.

So, I get back, do actually get pizza (which is pretty good for an Afghan making western-style homemade pizza.), then get my clothes out of the stinking washing machine that decided not to drain the water or spin my clothes (so they are still soaking wet), and will finally drain, but won't spin. I hang my sopping wet clothes out at 1:00 P.M. instead of the 10:30 A.M. I had initially bargained on, meaning that when I go out to remove them from the line at 6:30 P.M., half of them stay up since they're still wet because they only got two and a half hours in the sun with the way the earth's axial tilt is going these days. Anyway, then I go down to our new building to start work on hanging conduit and running 20m of cable. That doesn't sound too complicated, Russ, you may think. Well, it is when you have to get the maintenance guys to drill holes in the concrete to screw the conduit to, drill holes through door frames because when you decided to change from wired connections to wireless APs you forgot to check if there was power where you wanted to but the APs, the ceilings are 3 meters instead of the normal 2.4 so you have to stand on rickety chairs, and you keep having bad terms somehow, even though you can definitely see that the wiring pattern is correct and the crimps look good. Yeah, around 6, I decided I was just done for the day, which I'll probably regret tomorrow, but I was getting tired, cranky, and irritable at the dumbest little things.

Come back to the kitchen, have little annoyances like almost all of the chicken lasagna being eaten, the pizza from lunch having been set out but all of the cheese was already taken so you're reduced to picking the mushrooms out of the piece you pick, having people ask work-related questions without greeting or other preamble as soon as you walk into the dining room, people wanting to watch a movie but deciding to watch a horror movie after saying that your choices are kind of silly (hey, folks, I think Vertigo is silly - what were you saying about Star Wars:Clone Wars again?), going to work out after supper because there's nothing else to do, but basically quitting halfway through to beat on the punching bag for a while after realizing that you don't care or really want to exercise since what does it matter how many KG I can lift or how long I can run. I let to much of these little things get to me, inexplicably, and so in a foul mood, I returned to my house and had a pudding cup, Sprite, and KitKat just because it was childish and stupid to eat them all at once.

I pulled open my laptop to check my e-mail, reflecting on the fact that at dinner, all these people were talking about what they did on fall break, the places they went, the shopping they did (if they were girls), how relaxing it was to not work, and other than the work-related questions, no one talked to me without me initiating conversation, and even then they were short conversations. I further thought about how I was irritated, since I had kind of built up my hopes to going out to get a milkshake after supper (you know how you sometimes make up some goal/reward to get through a sub-par day?) only to hear at dinner that the place was closed, and how that just irritated me. I pondered the fact that I was really angry at a small combination of little things. I sort of thought about writing a blog entry about it, and how I see that I haven't changed any despite my expectations before I came here. How I was really frustrated at little things, when other people were doing pretty good, despite having things like emergency surgery for mysterious infections acquired under mysterious circumstances.

I checked my e-mail. Sometimes, you know, you read things that make you stop. My Dad's oldest brother died this morning. I had gotten an e-mail the other day saying he had had heart surgery to fix some fairly major arterial blockage, but he was going to get out of the hospital, and seemed to be doing OK. I don't know any specifics about the situation. Left in this world are his wife and three adult sons.

In Him is no darkness at all. Giveth and taketh away. Blessed be the name.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Teaching them to feel.

I remembered today that we have a chin-up bar between two of the buildings. It is now my goal to, where possible, do five chin ups every time I walk by. If I can do full chin ups, I should get buff pretty soon, right? I tried to do situps on the reclining bench tonight, but the bottom of the bench is too close to the ground, so after the second time I got done with random exclamations that sounded angry, I decided to quit. The thing I really need to do is cardiovascular workouts, but those take longer than I can sustain interest.

I walked down to the French Bakery with a couple of the other teachers who had stayed here over break this morning for fresh croissants, I got a chocolate and a cheese one. Those things are kind of expensive (40 afs, 80 cents), but they are so very good. I have to be careful or I'll be walking down there every morning. We had gone later in the morning the other day, and gotten them when they weren't fresh, and while they're good then, there's just something about freshly melted cheese or chocolate in a airy, warm, flaky croissant. I know, you're envious. If you could have one, you would be, too.

There's a kind of giddy guiltiness in eating junk food. I was feeling sorry for myself since I have semi-worked about every day this week almost as much as normal, and that all these people were coming back from fall break with neat stories of Delhi or wherever they went, so I over compensated by walking down to the corner store and buying real Kit-Kats, Apple Juice, and Pudding Cups, and having a pudding cup, a KitKat, and a couple glasses of Apple Juice. Then it struck me how bizarre it is to be typing up a post for my blog on my wirelessly connected MacBook, wearing a t-shirt in a fairly warm house, eating KitKats in this definitely third world country. I just... this place can be such a juxtaposition at times. I drive by and look at people that have nothing, but the person next to them is wearing a nice shirt and tie. I went shopping for computer stuff today as part of my consulting gig, and I'm struck by the fact that the people that are selling me the stuff probably really have no idea what they are selling me, they probably don't make enough money to buy the computers that they sell. You see people in their crummy cars, people in their mud brick houses, and I wonder how we can actually make a difference or a change. I sometimes feel guilty here of how much I have.

To the guessers, I played Ultimate at the U.S. Embassy last night. It was kind of neat, although some of the folks I went with were more stoked about it that I was. My team won, which was a plus. We ate at the Embassy afterwards, in the dining hall. Kind of like nice college dorm food. Highly Acceptable.

Oh, and I heard from Joel's wife today that he's doing a lot better. They still aren't entirely sure what was/is going on with his knee, but Joel feels a lot better. This is good news, and thanks be to the One who does all good things.

I wonder, if I look back in five or ten years, how this six month period in my life will look? Will this be a blip or a precursor? Will I understand the impact that this... I can't think what to call it other than an adventure. The impact that this adventure has had, or will I still be in the process of understanding it all? I know who I am in the depths of spirit and truth. But will that translate into understanding of what I am in this world? So, can't You take all of me, all of me, all of me?

I have got to say... no, maybe I don't.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Super Stereophonic

Today, I played Frisbee on U.S. soil. You guess how that's possible.

Anyway, it's almost the end of break, and it has and hasn't gone quite how I wanted it to. Honestly, I have felt almost guilty when I haven't been working. At the same time, I haven't really worked a whole lot in actuality. It's kind of been one of those weird, in between weeks where I sort of worked, but didn't really. I mean, I've taken off in the afternoon three times now, once to play Frisbee, once to go out to Chicken Street with some folks, and then today to go sort of work, doing more website design consulting for this local company. But I've been in and out of the lab and my office outside of those times, so it's not like I've been working, but I have been. I think you know what I mean, especially if you've ever had any kind of break thing like this...

I like Silage. They are just such a cool, happy, serious, rocking band.

I had something more profound to say, but it's gone now.

My socks are awesome.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Just use the key.

Day today.

Lazed around in the A.M. Did dishes from the Great nan Pizza Experience last night, which turned out semi-well. Went out to Chicken Street (think tchoctke row) with some of the other teachers. Decided not to eat with the starers in the Kebab shop. Got myself a winter coat. Had Lebanese for lunch. Tested some systems here. Installed CS3 on the rest of the lab computers. Had spaghetti for supper with some of the other folks that are still here. Played Uno. Started to watch the Shawshank Redemption, was dragging, came home, perked up enough to blog, but am starting to drag again. Won't blog long, going to bed soon. Doing consulting tomorrow, hoping to be done in time to play Frisbee.

I would like to ask for Remembrance for Joel, our Art Teacher. He's the one who has been having issues with his knee, it randomly started swelling about a week ago, preventing him from walking. They went back to the doc today, and he had to have surgery done on the knee today because of infection, it sounds like now he's going to be in the hospital a week. Please Remember him and his wife Becky.

Once and for all, not continually, but one price has been paid once for us. Purified.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Carrier of the Fortress

I'm breaking one of my own rules right now - it's Fall Break, there aren't very many people here, it's 9:00 AM on Sunday morning here, and K-State is playing a late game, so I'm listening online (KSAL, I love you guys!). They're playing Colorado, playing kind of uneven, defense could be better, but special teams is really doing it for them right now, it seems. I think we've had to settle for too many field goals.

I'm still slowing installing CS3 on the lab computers. Later today, we're going to play Frisbee, since it's still a holiday here, lots of other people have off, so hopefully there are lots of people there. I'm kind of sore from the other day, but that's fine - this will give me an opportunity to stretch out!

Tonight, I am having what I am currently terming the "Great Fall Break nan Pizza Experiment" at my house. I've invited all of the folks that are still on campus over for pizza. I was going to get delivery pizza (yes, there is a pizza delivery place here in Kabul!) but they aren't open until Monday, so I bought pizza sauce, cheese, and tonight I am going to go buy nan, smother it with sauce, put cheese on it, then put it in the oven. I've got to find some other toppings, but I don't know what I'm going to manage to come up with. Either way, it'll be fun as long as it turns out OK.

Boy, maybe K-State's defense is OK. They've got two INTs in the 4th, and they've held OK this quarter, except for that one drive. And now the offense, in the form of James Johnson, is doing pretty good. Wish they would have played better against Auburn and KU, we could be undefeated and solidly in the top 25. Maybe this win will bump them back up, as there should be a big shakeup in the Top 25 with the way this season is going. And Colorado has totally self-destructed, 3 turnovers in the 4th quarter!

Tonight, I'm also going to have a quick time of breaking bread beforehand. If you look at it, the early followers of the Way did that as part of their meals, not just during a formal meeting. It's good to come together to remember.

To remember. I'm not forgotten.

This break is good for lots of people, but in many ways, it's not good for me. When I don't have things to do, I think too much. I analyze, synthesize, and worry too much about certain things. As I told people recently, I'm not concerned about my future destinations, I'm anxious about the journeys. I know that I'm going to be OK, I'm going to be Led, and that He is the guarantor of my life. I do not doubt the Ultimate Reality, rather, I do not trust enough the Daily Presence. As I look back at my life, I see this pattern repeated long and wearily. I never doubt that He's there, I choose not to see that He's here.

Slowly, silently, the differences come creeping up, but even then they do not seem intertwined. Tides rise and fall, nations ebb and flow, people grow old and waste away, but never does He change. Never should we slip to the seductive lie of the deistic idealization of a Great Start that has made no further entrance into our lives. I fall victim to the very thing I decry, the one who screams screams about himself. Despite my failings, however, His faithfulness never wanes. To the patriarchs, he made a covenant, which they accepted through faith. (H11) Later, this covenant He fulfilled, being faithful in the face of our defiance and failings, our breaking of the covenant. So then we can do nothing, nothing that gains us the things that He has promised.

Yet men toil and strive, all of this is vanity. Long before the ordination of the world, I was made, predestined, known. The numbering of my days is not to be dreaded, but accepted and relished. The One is still here. Until He comes again.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Connected to a reticent Pteradactyl

Before you break the silence... allow me to say a few words.

Today is the first day of fall break. I decided not to go anywhere for fall break, so in some ways, I'm kind of at loose ends. In other ways, I have plenty to do. I have to sit in the lab for a while as I try to install AdobeCS3 on 17 computers. The rub is that I don't really have to do much, but each install takes about half an hour (the install is on DVD, and is about 4gb!), so I can kind of run and do other things and keep coming back, but it is not the most efficient solution. So, I decided to bring my laptop over, listen to tunes, do some writing and play with Photoshop some myself (since we got both Mac and Windows licenses, with teacher use licenses and the Yearbook teacher asked me if I could learn some too so I could maybe help them some... I think I'm going to play with InDesign and maybe write up a newsletter or something to send out to all y'all.

I have some other, while perhaps not entirely cogent thoughts about life, but instead of spitting them out in blog form, I think I'm going to work on a short story.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

To grow and decay, to slow along the way.

This is a post that I can't make make any sense outside of context. So for you long time readers, here's a chance to embrace the feel of the old tapestry, my seemingly disconnected and hopefully not too disconcerting word pictures.

Have you ever had one of those days that was fine but it wasn't fine? One of those days that just seemed weird? It turns out that wanting things doesn't make them real, but then, in this place and with this face, what would? A portion of the time, I can't even muster up the chutzpah to be insincere, so I'm just quiet. After a course, I realize what it means to be hungry even when your body is full.

You know, there are times that I'm here that I begin to grow angry. Angry at [], unfortunately. Angry because I think I had convinced myself that things would change. Angry for I can't stop the things that I feel from affecting me. Angry because of the darkness and the lack of light. Angry at the silence, because I had hoped to hear and I still don't.

There are times we go to a mountaintop, and there are more times that we inappropriately search for that mountaintop because it's what we want, we want the mountaintop instead of He who made the mountain. There are times that we want things not for the having, but for the wanting instead. Put another way, we idealize the process of wanting, and miss out on the actual receiving because we are to focused on the wanting to realize the acquisition of thing is the actual goal, the actual target. In my life, I too often place on a higher pedestal the journey instead of the destination.


Perhaps the way to say this is to keep up the transparency as much as possible. Then again, perhaps not. I think I'm going to stick with the cryptic.

Hopes, dreams, wishes and desires. None of them mean a thing without the One. To return to what I once was would be a shame. To break would be to not have bent. All that glitters is not gold, and one day, in this world, the one now seen as crownless shall again be King. That one such as I should be counted of worth to be subordinate, that I could be... to contemplate this leaves me nothing but skin. Leaves me to realize that sand will bury me. Makes it known that I exist and live in a place not easily arrived in by the one who became flesh, and stored up not where live moth and rust.

Many days, today in too many ways, I have been frustrated. I lost repeatedly at basketball. I wasted time. I couldn't get something to work. I... conversation can be hard sometimes, especially when I remember that wanting things doesn't make them real.


Take my life. Let it be a sweet, sweet sound.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

An uncommon comfort, and a somewhat less elegant phase.

Well, I am going to type fast in an attempt to finish this before city power kicks off around 11. I may not make it, in which case I will post this tomorrow morning.

Today was the last day of school before fall break, so it was only a half day. I felt sorry for the teachers, because they crammed all the regular classes into the day, so everyone had about a half-hour of classes. My day was a lot like my day has been the past couple of days - long periods of little perturbation punctuated by a half-hour or hour of running all over campus because three people need something in a short period of time.

Oh, and one of the H.S. teachers was offering his students a 1/10th of 1% bonus for dressing in traditional local clothing. He and one of the other male teachers wore their 'suits', and he offered me one of his to wear also. It was pretty neat, lots of the students told me I looked good. The one strange thing is that the pants here are made one size fits all - and I mean all. I think four or five people could easily, well not easily mechanically, but space wise, easily wear the same pair of pants. I took a picture or two, I will try to put one up tomorrow when I'm not trying to beat the power change.

After school, one of the teachers had a dinner for a group of students and their friends. It was a Mystery Dinner, one of those things where the kids get a menu with cryptic lists of items, and they have to decipher and pick what they get. They had asked a number of teachers to help serve, so a number of us had agreed - there were about 12 of us helping. Most of the teachers served tables, one or two were photographers, and I volunteered with another teacher to run the kitchen. Now, I'm sure the kids were fun for the servers, but I was much happier in the kitchen. I can usually grok logistical situations, much better than trying to interact with the kids. It was fun. I went out and hung out with a few of the folks afterwards, I enjoyed that also. One of the nice things about hanging around with people who like to talk is that I don't have to... I sound much smarter the less I say (which is why I seem less and less intelligent the more you read my blog.). One of the things we talked about was how kids often rebel against their parents' social mores. I said, "Well, just look at the 20th century. The early decades were pretty conservative, then you had the Roaring Twenties, pretty 'progressive', followed by the Depression, which, admittedly, was kind of a downer, then the War, which didn't help." I got a good chuckle out of that, and I wasn't even trying for one! If I were a lesser man, I'd be overly pleased. As it is, I'm just pretty pleased.

One thing I've been struck with here recently is how there exist seemingly prescribed scripts for interaction with others. Part of it is with the locals who don't speak much English, and since I don't speak much of their language, we have a couple of basic ways to speak with each other. But I've also noticed it in phone conversations I over hear our national staff have with other nationals. There are a couple phrases that I can pretty well predict the order of during the opening phases of a conversation, it seems more regularly than English. Does anyone else notice that in a foreign culture they've spent some time in?

One more funny. I'm not entirely sure, I've been asking people and they don't think so, but I'm wondering if shaving means, in this culture, that I'm about to be married. The reason I wonder this is that one of the guards saw me today, (I haven't seen him the past couple days, I think it's been his weekend), and he said, "oh, oh, Congratulations! Congratulations!" while rubbing his chin, pointing at me, and then giving me a thumbs up. Now, I know he's not trying to insult me with the thumbs up, because our guards don't do that, they know what it means to us. And I don't know how much English he exactly knows, so I don't know if Congratulations is the word he knows for "Looks Good!", but I'm kind of worried what will happen if I don't magick myself a wife pretty soon...

Well, I've finished eating my comfort food of nan and over-carbonated, locally bottled Sprite, and it's about 11:00 P.M. I'm going to post this out so it gets online. We are to follow.

(Edit note - right as I went to post last night, City Power went off. Timing, eh? Some people have said here it gets below freezing at night, but if it does, it must warm back up pretty fast because it's definitely above freezing now.)

Monday, October 08, 2007

The earth changing in my hands.

A friend e-mailed me with some comments about my previous post and the security/infrastructure situation in this country. The thing about the situation here is that security is so dependent on the rest of the infrastructure. If you can't get places fast, you have to have a large police force, which has its own issues. I mean, the U.S. really doesn't have a large number of police officers, because the infrastructure is capable enough to allow quick access to areas. But here, the city was never designed for roads, and so traffic bumps along on tiny roads built for 400000 people when there are 3-5 million in the city.... it's such a complex situation, you put one piece in and then another one won't fit. Further, I think that there are a number of regional issues going on that we don't fully understand, between the locals in the south of the country and many of the other ethnicities here. I think there are also struggles along the urban/rural divide.

I was reading, earlier today, a New York Times piece about some horrific things (WARNING - DISTURBING CONTENT IN THAT STORY) that are happening right now in the Congo. It reminds me of how far human depravity can go if left unchecked. It is not a pretty reminder, but it is a thing than is happening in our world today. Even so, come quickly.

I may have previously said this, but I've got this consulting gig I'm working on, designing a website for a local company which is owned by a parent of some of our students. I'm really not a web design guy, and I feel really inadequate to do this. I'm not entirely sure why I agreed to do it, but hopefully it turns out ok. I'm getting some gear out of the deal, so it should be good.

I had a meeting about it last night, and they invited me out to eat afterwards at a four star restaurant. Other people have said about going to this place that they feel like they're leaving Kabul. I didn't exactly feel like that, but it was definitely a far cleaner, far more... western place than anywhere else I've been in Kabul outside of the school. I really did not look forward to this part of the adventure, however, because part of the culturally and mannerly required thing to do is engage in small talk. And since I can interact with folks from my home country so well, imagine how I would do with people that don't pronounce my language in a fashion that I can quickly understand, and are from a culture I really don't have a lot of knowledge of. Fortunately, the conversation was fairly stimulating about some of the issues facing this country, and some of the cultural and social things that go on and should change. I was still not thrilled about the whole experience, but it wasn't as bad as it could have been.

We had a guys meeting tonight, and a number of us shared how we're feeling under the weather in many different ways. One of the guys has a knee that is badly swollen and can hardly walk, and has also been facing other trials recently. Another couple of the guys are having some school-related situations that make them frustrated. One of the guys is having difficulties with his wedding situations. I personally have been fighting a bout of depression, some about my feelings of inadequacy about this consulting/website job, some about things happening in this country that I feel powerless to affect, some about people I miss, some about things back home I've heard about, some about other things going on with me here. It is, for me, both frustrating and appropriate that some of the things I'm struggling with are things that I thought I would leave behind in coming here, which is something that one of the other guys shared tonight he also was dealing with. However, in this time, we also recognize the growth that is being brought about through [].

There's more I would but won't say about... life. Really, it is going pretty well, which makes the depressive phase all the more a struggle. Fall Break comes for us in two days, and while I have plenty do scheduled during our week off, I also plan to spend some time on the roof. While this is kind of literal, in that I do plan to jump on my wall up to my roof again, it's also figurative in that I intend to spend some time up and looking around, surveying what has been happening with me and with [].

I wish to like a child, not unquestioning and with a lack of understanding, but totally dependent on my Father.

If you would, remember Joel and his knee the next couple of days. It's really painful for him and causing him problems sleeping. We've got break coming up, and it would be really good for him and his wife if he can be around to go a couple places and relax instead of sitting on a bed or couch in pain.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Are we really one of this?

I don't know if there was ever any doubt, but I personally don't like the mustache look. It's gone.

In case you are wondering, yes, this does mean that I managed to procure a razor. I went on an adventure downtown earlier today, actually to look for a camera for the school, and happened to see the razor. It was fairly inexpensive, and I needed one, so got it I did. I'm kind of wondering if I freak people out tomorrow. We'll see, but I doubt it.

As we were driving back from our shopping trip, we drove by a construction site. If you were here, you would realize that this is not an uncommon experience, and in fact site might not be the way to describe it. Maybe the better way to say it is that we drove by a building that men were going to work on. The were apparently adding a second story to a one story building in between two two story buildings. The way that they do this in this country is just build two walls in the front and back, since in many places the buildings are already adjacent.

How they were transporting the construction materials (bricks) to the second floor was standing in the back of a lorry (a big, open truck. Like a flatbed pickup, but bigger. And probably powered by a flat four that only runs on three cylinders.), reaching down, selecting a brick, and giving it the ol' heave-ho to the second floor, about 8 feet away and two feet higher. Now, I realize that bricks are construction material, and as such, some if not much durability is expected, but in addition to the damaged corners of bricks, there's also safety considerations (that pile did not have long-term stability, and people were walking under the throwers as they were throwing!), efficiency (do you realize how many bricks are in a wall?), structural concerns (it can't be good for the roof, which is soon to be a floor), and probably more that I am missing. But further differences are raised. The construction
is probably not all that well supervised or organized, there are no safety rules in place, there is no building code. It just further goes to show how the country isn't in the process of redevelopment. This is not the Reconstruction after the American Civil War, this is not a Marshall Plan country, this is not Occupied Japan. This country had no real industrial or economic footing before the Civil War started in the 80's. And it's been in a state of war since then, almost continuously. The reason it's in such horrible shape is the same reason that most American's can't run a marathon - all it's been doing for years has been destructive, and nothing to develop the necessary support or shape to do the things people want it to do fast.

Seriously, this country lacks so much, I can only guess how hard it would be to guess where to begin in the development cycle. Someone here told me they need clean water and reliable power. And that may be true on a personal level. But they also need a stable communications and transportation infrastructure. They need real roads and rails, they need physical telephone lines, not a cell network. They need a cultural readjustment that values honest, hard work. It's hard for me as an American (and an untrained observer in these things) to know where to start. I mean, the power and clean water has to get to the people somehow, right? So we need good, safe roads. Well, we need safety, so we need more military forces, which brings back the vicious cycle these people have to break...

But these thoughts do not discourage me. I know that [] is able to work in all times and places, regardless of situations or faces.

Speaking of times and places, I have to share that I really like our cook today. We got beef and potato hash for lunch, and pot roast with homemade bread for supper. Of course, Mom's pot roast is better, to say nothing of Grandma's, but just having Pot Roast... it was great.

Oh, and I shaved today! Now if only...

Well, I have a ton of work to do tomorrow, so I'm off to bed.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Sidereal Sea

Why, you may ask, am I featuring a picture of a wall on my blog today? It is a source of pride and shame. This is the 'courtyard' or 'Lounge' or whatever you want to call it, upstairs in my house. Yesterday, I was asked permission to get into my house, because a couple of the female teachers had been playing foamball (well, really, they were just hitting a foam baseball) in the field beside my house, and had hit the ball onto my roof. So, I went over there, went upstairs with them, and just jumped and scaled the wall, then up to the roof. Pride, because that wall is about 7 feet tall, and I just jumped and got up there. Shame, because I was pretty clearly (to my mind) doing it to show off. And it irritates me, since I am really trying to curb that side of my personality.

In other, semi-related news, yes, that wall is 7 feet, and I scaled it without ladder or anything. My weight is trending back up (I'm at 68kg, or 149 pounds) right now, which is up a kg from a week ago. I'm pretty happy about this, because it's mostly muscle mass. I've worked out almost every evening in the past three weeks, and I do situps every morning and most every evening - I'm doing about 200 a day. Of course, my abs are sore now, but they're pretty cool looking, if I do say so myself (No, you can't see a picture.)

We had guys group last night, and we talked about the companion to hope and lesser subordinate of love. One of the things we talked about was the healing of the apparently epileptic (and more) boy in Mk Nine, and the father's response about his belief. Where, following our discussion, I am more inclined to think about mine own. I find as I walk around in this place, I am more and more tempted to think in terms of the observable only. This is not what I expected when I came here, which would lend itself to be the precise reason why I am tempted in that way. It is easy here to become hide-bound and numb to the Glory. It is easy in this culture, with its emphasis on appearance, saving face, greasing palms, to forget the simple nature of the Message, and the unrelenting nature of the victory of grace over the law. I've been reading the letter to the Galat* and am struck in 3 at the imagery of imprisonment. For truly, the things I see here can be and are a form of such. There are little things, like walking down the street, and watching a worker preparing concrete by throwing shovelful after shovelful of dirt onto a screen to sift it out. Hearing frustration in my female colleagues' voices as they describe walking out in the city. A couple of kids having to sit out a lot during basketball these last few weeks. There are larger things, culturally, that I think you can extrapolate.