Thursday, July 31, 2008

Grey Roads

I go to where heroes live.

This family I'm in was bred for facing this struggle, why do so many run or avoid it?

Flight 1 complete. I'm in Chicago, on the way home/not home.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Stellar Mechanics (The Color Theft)

The toughest thing about my blog titles is sometimes, I want to choose one that seems to be packed with a complex analogy that I get right now but won't in a week, and sometimes I just randomly have a bunch of words come into my head, and sometimes I want to make a joke or allusion that only one or two of my readers will get.

Anyway. I would talk about how I really like the Oh Sleeper album, but since The Guy-Who-Is-Avoiding-Buying-A-Couch-So-She-Can't-Kick-Him-Out-Of-The-Bed is probably the only person who reads this who would like them and he told me about them, I'll avoid doing so, simply saying that The Color Theft makes me sad that I soon won't be in a country where I can drive through the rural countryside with the windows down, yelling lyrics.

Any-Anyway. I leave tomorrow.

We were reminiscing today about our old life, my mother, sister, and I. And I was reminiscing about our old mailman. Now, we live out in the country, and the mailman drove a jeep to deliver our mail. He was really reliable, was always there about the same time. He also liked kids, and if we were out by the mailbox when he came to deliver, he gave us Smarties out of this little green rubbermaid tub that was probably fifteen years old. We used to stare out the window until we saw him driving by on the highway, and then we would run and get our shoes, run out toward the mailbox, and then start walking when we saw him driving down the road so he wouldn't think we were waiting for him. Sometimes, we would just be going out to get the mail and he would be there as we went out (co-incidentally).

I find that there are other figures in my life who are like this. Sometimes, I have to wait and wait and wait to catch a glimpse, and then I run out, ready for the prize. Other times, I have no chance for the prize because my instructions and directions are already in the mailbox. Yet other times, the prize comes when I wasn't expecting it. I'm not sure where the prize is going to come to me, but I'm waiting expectantly for that day.

I'm leaving tomorrow. I leave home, I go home, I still have to find home, but I'm getting ready to go Home through it all.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Viceroys like visions

I am slightly sore. Why? This morning, I accomplished my goal of running to Ottawa county and back in around 40 minutes. For the (apparently increasingly large) group of you who don't know where I live or what that means, it means I ran a shade under 5 miles in about an 8 minute mile pace, and that I'm not sore indicates I managed to get a decent amount of running (and therefore stayed in shape) in this summer. This is a good thing. I have been told several times that I look like I've lost a lot of weight since last time someone saw me, which I guess is good but it apparently means I used to be fat. (I think?)

It's the time now that I'm saying goodbye again. I hate saying goodbye. It's not the people, it's me and my weirdness. I'll try to keep saying goodbye right, because it's important.

2 days!

Monday, July 28, 2008

Chasing quintessence of shovels

I realized that I've been whining about change and things being different this whole summer. I really came to realize that when my dad brought home a PT Cruiser tonight that he's driving for a business trip, and, see, I grew up driving older (80's-mid 90's) GM Sedans, so to have a look at the dash new Chrysler... I think that car is really weird. It has the window controls on the center console, how weird is that? Anyway, I just got to thinking how I was used to one thing, and then having something totally different around feels really weird, when in reality it probably isn't that weird, compared with the larger sample set of all cars, and I got to thinking how that there are a number of parallels with cultural adjustment... and came back to the issue that all I think about this summer is change. Maybe this is normal, maybe I'm a sociopath... ok, I am a sociopath, but either way, I think about change a lot.

I got more new music today, which shows how change is a strange process, because I got new As I Lay Dying and the Oh Sleeper record. So I guess my musical tastes don't exactly change. I also got UHF on DVD, and we are going to have a 'Back To School Wierd Al' night in the 'Stan before classes start back up. It's going to be a blast.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Scale these arterial walls

Have I mentioned how much I love driving? Open country, in some traffic, fast, slow, I just love it. I may be incurably inane, and I wouldn't want to do it permanently as my job, but I love driving. I didn't realize how much I missed it, and now I hope I don't miss it when I go back in four days.

I change as much as I ever did before, and I stay the same as much as I ever did before. I've come to view these things not so much as changes, but becoming even more myself. I'm the same guy I was before, just moreso. Frustration, as this concept is probably another one of these things that I grok and can't really explain to people. It's all about the tender years, the fire, the refining. It's all about that which I try to open my lungs to more and more each day. It's about me becoming as dust, and letting breath move me again. It's about the final words before my death. It's nothing less and nothing more than the incomprehensibility of what I am is preparing me for in the future. As I look back, as I talk to new and old friends, I realize that I hold on, I need to let go, and as I let go, I need to hold on.

I leave in four days. I don't as yet know what I will leave behind, and what I will gain. Here we go.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Reggae has tarantulas

I went to a wedding reception for one of my friends from the 'Stan yesterday, and so I drove halfway, met some other 'Stan folks (our science teacher and his two sons, ages 6 and 3), and drove the rest of the way. The kids were in the back seat and the three year old (as children are sometimes wont to do) began to tell us stories. One of them, I am sure, was a good story, but when he started it out, "Back when I was a little kid..." we didn't hear the rest of it because we were laughing too much.

I like driving out in the country. I miss it when I can't.

4 days until it all changes to be the same and not the same again.

Friday, July 25, 2008

The silent registration desk to umbrage

The stark realization dawns - I wasn't meant to be that way. All the things that guys like me are 'supposed to do.' Yeah, all of them were never to be me. I look back and see clearly now, the wife, the mini-van, the 2.1 children... Billboards and pillars, all that I see. I judged my own book by staring at what I wanted the cover to be. And what happened instead? I got shaken (not just stirred), and I saw that I couldn't do those things. The stability, the familiarity, the lifestyle I thought I always wanted wasn't really what I was designed for. The complexities of all of the things I was consumed with, they became one simple fact - I was not meant to do that anymore.

And the thing that I didn't realize until today is this: I never actually wanted to be that kind of person in the first place. I never truly wanted the wife, the mini-van, the house, the stable job, the kids, the suburban American Dream. Nothing wrong with it, and probably what other people are meant to do, meant to have. Just not me. I didn't really want it, I suppose the truth is that I didn't know (still don't know) what it is that I actually want, but that matters less and less to me now. I say this not as in it matters to me less today than yesterday, but less today than it did a year ago. At the same time, I have to be careful whose wants I give in to. I must be what people need, not what they want, and not at the expense of the directives I have been given in life.

This post became more serious than I desired, so I leave you with one final thought - I was looking at pics from earlier in my childhood today, and some of them are truly, truly scary. I think I'll scan a couple and post them just so you can see that I really did have a long way to come to get to be who I am today.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Never trip over the antecedent

Well, a few more days have gone by, and still I'll fly away.

I'm slowly losing the ability to remember that I still need to find solace in my own silence. I'm slowly finding the ability to look around and see that I still need to have an admission of regret. I'm slowly hearing that there's a whole world out there, but I've grown to love this bed too much to leave it.

I went out with my family on a mini-vacation today, my dad took the day off and we went to a museum, had lunch, just like we used to do. Nostalgia was the internal order of the day, as I realize that life just keeps on staying the same while it passes me by, that I am fundamentally who I have always been, just more so (if that makes sense.) and that so is everyone around me, by and large. There are things about me that I wish I could change, there are things that are changing, but none of them profound or stark, just more ropes being untied, just more of a little growth.

Give me a servant's heart.

I leave in a week. I'm excited.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Wheat defeats you. No rethrow.

My older sister is now visiting, and we are now torturing her in a very familial sense.

I haven't slept well in a while, and I'm really sore for no particular reason.

I don't have enough words to express anything anymore. Suffice to say, I'm ready to get back to structure, to routine, to what I came to be used to. Therefore, since nothing will be the same next year as it was last year (oh, there will be similarities, I'm not that dumb), I have to get my head around that and be prepared for disappointment, change, turmoil, conflict. Still, I know I'm supposed to be there, know that this future is planned, and so, I worry as little as possible. I want to be strong enough to not let fear plan my way.

Likewise I have no news on the redaction of the Kentucky incident.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

For granted, traipsing through.

To warn you, basically, this post is about the new Batman movie. If you haven't seen it, and are going to see it, I'm going to have a paragraph about the rest of my life, and then all The Dark Knight. Don't read.

I've got the house to myself at the moment, as my family is picking up my older sister from the airport. Family, I love you all, but there are times when being alone in a safe, comfortable place with music going fairly loud (Thrice - Alchemy Index Vol. III, in case you are curious about my listening habits) is pretty much entirely enjoyable to me. I've realized something about myself these last couple weeks. I really was made to be in Kabul. My challenges there seem to be fairly different from a lot of the challenges that other people enumerate. I don't mind being stuck on the compound, even though I say that just because it seems like I'm supposed to. I rarely got really, really lonely, most of the time, I transmuted other emotions into loneliness because that's what seemed right. I feel like I could be in that situation for a long, long time. Which is why I half expect things to change. Growth happens, and you don't usually grow through the same situation twice, I find. So I know next year will be different, and I can't prepare for the differences, on the fact that it will be different.

Don't read this next part if you don't want The Dark Knight spoiled.

This was seriously the best theather experience I have ever had. That movie, in the theater, makes almost every other movie I have seen feel like a weak-kneed, bright happy kids movie. The acting, except for a few places, was fantastic, the pacing amazing, the plot phenomenal. This was a dark, intense movie, and not for someone who didn't like where Batman Begins took the Batman character. OK, this has so far been generic, but seriously, this is your last chance to not read about The Dark Knight.

The moral complexity of this movie was amazing for a pop-culture, comic book summer blockbuster movie. There are so many questions to think of about the heights and depths of depravity, redemption, heroism, justice, valor. Batman was borderline phsycotic in the last movie, but in this one, the Joker was a flat out insane sociopath. But in creating the character, they didn't just turn him into a cackling nutcase, like they made Tommy Lee Jones as Two-Face in Batman Forever. No, they made him a very intelligent, methodical, sociopath. His questions about the nature of Batman, the nature of himself, the nature of who they were together, created a lot of really great and deep opportunities to think about human nature, and what it means to be fallen. Harvey Dent, D.A. and then Two-Face, created a truly complex character. Do you judge him by what he became, or by what he was? Do you account him any less because of his fall at the end, or do you account him a great man who did not respond to tragedy well. And outside of the 'hero' or 'villian' characters, the conflict, the moral conflict inside of Lucius Fox, Rachel Dawes, Jim Gordon, even Alfred, was brilliant. I can't say enough good about this movie. Yes, it was dark, as dark as any movie I've seen. It was intense, not in a scary way, but in a 'this isn't going to let up' kind of way. It was violent, not gory, but violent. It's not a movie for everyone. Yet, it showed a complicated picture of Batman, and in doing so, there is a resonating element of truth with how we all struggle with our darker, fallen nature. Is Batman perfect? Not by a long shot. He makes mistakes, wrong choices. Lets his emotions rule him, lets them decieve him. And yet, when you think about it, he is human to the core. These kind of issues are the issues that everyone faces. In the end, it is how you respond to them. Batman has no framework outside of himself, and a fragile grip on 'decent morality', to handle these things that come up. I know a better framework. That's one of the fundamental things this movie shows me. One righteous man only makes it so far, one good man only makes it so far before being caught up in the same things he wars against. Often the one who screams the most screams about himself. But somehow, there is something we can hold on to to save, to redeem us. In the movie, it's this imagine Batman has of himself. In me, it's an entirely different image.

All that said, seriously, this is one of the best, darkest, most intense movies you'll see, if you think you can handle it. It is violent. It's not overly profane (that I remember). It's not rampantly indecent. It's just a picture of humanity at its darkest, with only itself to turn to. Highly recommended.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Well known

Exciting news - my visa finally came today! Most of the delay was my fault, some of it was theirs, but either way, it's here! Yay! Now all that's left is finishing the last two weeks.

I went and saw Wall-E yesterday. (I realized I've been seeing a lot of movies recently, and with another planned [Dark Knight. Oh yeah], I'm not sure how to take this.) I thought it rather good, but I'm a sucker for minimalist SF movies (vis a vis, 2001). I didn't mind the low amount of dialog, unlike some of my other 'friends' that went.

There are some interesting things happening in the 'Stan and around. Lots to consider and Remember. One day, they will be a memory. Oh, for that day to be soon.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Why you wore Stamford colors in October

Russ : "You like this drill, don't you?"

Player : "Yeah, bring it!"

Russ : "Never tell me you like a drill."

At least he was in high school. After 40 seconds and 4 up downs, he was ready to quit.

I like coaching, really coaching, a lot. This makes me really miss my old ball team, but it's OK. The loss and gain goes on and on and on and on, until I'm just me with no one else in between. Mirror dimly, but someday, face to face.

This day marks the beginning of a two week countdown. Soon enough, I'll be remembered and forgotten, which is entirely OK with me. I know just enough to know that I was more and less than what I thought I was. I'm more content with just being me now.

Maybe this all seems even more cryptic than normal, when it seems things should be getting clearer. I find that life takes on a greater aspect like a fog - because you can't see far, you have to focus on what's immediate. I focus on what is near, and I grow more because what is near has more relevance. Then the fog lifts, and I get to see more of what's out there. But I wouldn't appreciate the big picture if I didn't care about the details. Yeah, that's probably not making any more sense to you now.

It's not you, it's me. So when you disappear...?

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Nocturnal Power Cordwainer

I mostly took the day out today, and went to a quiet place, Read, wrote, reflected. I learned a lot this last year. I'd like to learn more next year. Sometimes, these exercises are frustrating, but it was good.

Honestly, as I look out across the windswept prairies of my homeland, I know that I love this place, and I have to be somewhere else. The realization of a lot more of what that means snuck up and reminded me today, I am not my own. I lift my eyes from the base of the hill, and I see that it should be me, made cold and crippled. Instead, I am not my own.

My dad and I watch movies together in the living room with surround sound and the projector (the popcorn is really cool too, Dad pops it on the stove, makes me feel right traditional), and we watched Flushed Away tonight. Not a terrific movie, but totally worth it for three seconds at the end where one slug says to another slug, "High Five! [pause while slugs look uncomfortably at each other] Oh, yeah." I laughed all three times we rewound to watch it.

I have the last line of White Christmas in my head, mixed with Foo Fighters. I need to make fewer left turns.

*Edit* This is my 361st post on this iteration of the blog. I think that feels weird, but only by a matter of degree. Thanks, I'm here all week. Try the veal.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Halfway to surface tension

So, I’m sitting here and typing, again. Partly as practice for this new keyboard, and partly because I just like to write. While I’m never exactly sure what to type about, that usually doesn’t stop me from starting in the first place. I’m trying to decide if that’s because I suffer from mental incontinence, or if I just have this need to just ramble because I’m a weirdo. Yeah, probably the weirdo thing.

Something I have been contemplating of late is my ability, or lack thereof, to get things done. I think a large part of why I was not thrilled to have this large chunk of time off during the summer, because I don’t have any real pressure to get things done. So all this stuff that I should get done isn’t getting done at the proper pace, because I lack motivation (such an aggravation). This frustrates me, and while I can, from time to time, mitigate my procrastination, it’s difficult for me to clamp it down for a long period of time. This leads to procrastination after procrastination, and the eventuality of a large amount of pressure to get something done. Which usually then leads me to get something done, but in a sort of hasty and not necessarily high quality fashion. I need to work to fix this, but I keep putting that off.

Yesterday, I finally got a hold of the ‘Stan embassy and discovered that, since I had sent in a personal check instead of a money order (Genius boy here needs to learn to read and follow fine print from foreign government websites), my visa application was not processed and that I needed to send in a money order. Why they didn’t just return my app (and passport), I don’t exactly follow, but I overnighted a money order, and I should hopefully have my visa at the end of the week. Moral of the story? When dealing with important things, always carefully read all directions. Including the ones that look like they are for something else.

I was going to share a story that described in some poignant and touching fashion exactly where my mental state is, was, has been, and will be, but since I’m an insensitive jerk, there isn’t a story that works.

I really like my new laptop. It's really small, sleek, quiet, good screen, good wireless. I almost wish it was lighter, but at the same time, this feels solid, not chintzy.

Monday, July 14, 2008


Alright, so I succumbed to some consumerist impulses, and I bought a new laptop. Actually, it’s more of a subnotebook than a laptop, my new device has a 9 inch screen, weighs less than a kilo, runs Windows XP. It’s an ASUS Eee pc, and while I am not going to get used to this keyboard right away, I think I will eventually, and I think I will like it. It’ll be really nice when I get it somewhere with a good wireless connection, and I can use it as a quick-surf web browser. I also got it because I’m going to be getting 60 of these for the school to use as a portable computer lab, and I think it will work well. It’s really light, has a flash-based hard drive (actually, two drives), a 1ghz celeron and 1 gig of ram. It’s no speed demon, and it doesn’t exactly do anything new, but it’s just cool and I think it will be really useful. The battery life doesn’t seem to be quite as good as I would like it to be, but I haven’t really tested it out in that regard. I’m starting to get used to this keyboard, this may actually work OK. I’ll have to see what all I end up doing with this. I can’t see myself typing the Great American novel on this (realistically, I can’t see myself typing it on any keyboard...) but for e-mails, web surfing, and some other general stuff, I think it’ll be great. The screen is really pretty good, and the other nice thing about this is the fact that it uses a fairly low-power consumption chipset, and so the fan hardly runs. So this thing runs silent, runs deep.

So, as even a semi-dedicated reader of my blog will note,my best friend got married this last weekend. I had a lot of reflection time with the drive to and from, and with all the waiting for other things to happen. And I really didn’t reflect a lot on a ‘woe-is-me-why-can’t-my-wedding-be-happening-soon’ like I might have done a year or even six months ago. Instead, I thought a decent amount about who I am, who I’ve been, and what I see as still needing to change. While on the drive home, we were going through Wichita, and I was just struck by the surreal nature of the scene, the cars, colors, big buildings with mostly empty parking lots. I wrote the following up, and am now transcribing it.

The afternoon sun, my crimson sunglasses, and the tinted windows make the grass here an unnatural, vaguely neon green. It feels, at times, that I’m staring at life through all these layers and variances, making what should be a straight-forward picture into an altered, discolored approximation. In terms of material goods, everything that I need, everything that I could wish for, these two sets intersect far less than I wish they would. All the denigration I hold in my heart for those of my countrymen who do not disguise their desire for the newest stuff, my judgemental thoughts for how easily they spend their money or time on that which is frivolous, all my self-righteous internal dialogue about how I’m actually not wasting my life, all this should and does reflect the true state and nature of my heart. I just spent a solid chunk of money on a new computer that I don’t need. Sure, I can hand wave it away as a necessary expense for the IT guy to learn a new system, but that’s not really true. I wanted one, and so I spent my money on it. There’s more music and books that I want to spend money on, want to get before I go back. So truly, I am no different than those I disparage and judge. My scale may be different, my life circumstances may give me this aura that explains my judgementalism, but this is vanity. I am no different, I have the same human failings. I can maybe see those failings a little better, but even this statement reveals how far I have to go to get out of this rut. Sometimes, I do see myself growing. Other times, I’m just back here, where I’ve always been, just trying to start the cycle back up again.

P.S.- Royce, I put a $10 word in the title just for you. Thanks for letting me stop by today. :)

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Just me underneath the ragdoll

I think I'm developing an inner sense of somethingelseness that I need to pursue.

It seems that the longer I go towards the truth, the less I understand what it is that I am actually pursuing. Why would this being bother me, except for my overly frenetic desire to understand and make a difference with the sole action of myself, poorly regarding the Prime Mover and main promise in my life, exchanging it all for a single moment of ill-notified gain? Rather, the focus has to remain on the light and where it does not seem to fall for now. In making this my focus, I can more accurately see where it is that I need to cast the small measure of light that I have been given.

One of my new friends said to me recently that our friends here where we used to be don't always understand us. I find this true, but a greater sense of depth there than what the surface would suggest. I think that my old friends don't always understand what perspective and opinions I have come across on my journey. But my old friends don't always understand where I am coming from, what I have become from where I was, and why exactly I have become who am now, for indeed, I don't understand it myself.

There's just one constant relationship, and that's the one that has made me who I am today. As I wander on in this world, I find that so many relationships are transitory, so many change, so many don't stay the same, so many wear away from what I thought they were, but still one stays. Cycle goes up, cycle goes down, but nothing ever becomes more different than it was intended to be. Maybe put another way, everything in this world falls away. I might wish for my family to change with me, I might wish for my old friends to understand me, I might wish for my new friends to never have to leave, I might wish to meet my wife and carry out life with her. But all these relationships will fade away. One relationship won't. Hold fast hope.

Oceans of blue

I find that, upon reflection, I really was and am more of a judgmental person than I perhaps should have been and should be. I find this through realizing that I didn't want to stick around for an extra day after the wedding because I really didn't want to go to fellowship here. Why? Because while in America, I have a hard time a lot of the time with what I see as the 'lifestyle' of my fellows here. I went to a large group two weeks ago while at training, and they really seemed to emphasize the lifestyle over the relationship. That made me uncomfortable, and makes me uncomfortable that it made me uncomfortable.

I'm still learning lessons, it seems. Perhaps the one on my horizon now is to get that I live my own lifestyle where I'm at, and I am perhaps more enslaved and enmeshed in the lifestyle than I am the relationship myself sometimes. It's just easier to justify in my head (because it's in my head). I also find that I have censored myself a good deal from the contextual discussion of where I am and what I do, and that uncensoring myself feels forced and awkward at the current time.

As though I didn't have enough to say already, I just also wonder sometimes about the irreality of those parts of my personality that seem to have changed greatly over the past 12 months. Is this really me anymore? Is this the me that was always here, or the me that has emerged from the me that was? Is me changing a bad thing, or is it just more of the growth from the new situation?

Furthermore, when I survey the wondrous, I start to ask myself, "Would I have been content, for the rest of my life, in the way that I used to 'understand' it, had I not gone out?" Would I have changed the way that my beliefs manifest themselves in my life, had I just stayed in the little world that I had attempted to construct for myself? Maybe, but the truth is that I didn't construct that situation, I didn't construct that little world. I just let it come about, no, I watched it take shape around me. I didn't make it, nor did I make the one that I live in now. All of it seems to be like a piece of jazz - started out with a few instruments, just a piano and drums, playing a few simple notes. Then in came the clarinet and the oboe, adding a few more layers to the sound, a bass strumming a solid foundation. I can't wait to hear what comes in next.

So I tie this all in to the day's events by saying that I also can't wait to hear the two bands that are playing merge into one band, and hear the new instruments and beats that get integrated into their lives.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Congratulations, kids!

So, my best friend, Jonathan, is getting married to Leah tomorrow.

They're good people, and I just wanted to use this entire blog post to be serious, respectful, and say first to Leah:

"You're a wonderful woman, a good person, and way far better than a guy like Jonathan deserves. ;) I'm glad you're my new best friend's wife."

To Jonathan:

"Dude, don't mess this up. I've been Asking that all your junk works out OK."

Happy wedding, kiddos!

Not that far

And, I'm ready to be done with being in America. I wouldn't mind more time around family and friends, but I'm ready to be out of here and back to Kabul. I guess this perhaps means there is something wrong with me, but I'm entirely OK with that being wrong with me at this point in my life.

I suppose there's no escaping all of the damage that I have done to people over the last few years, which is perhaps part of why I want to get out of here (although there's a certain irony to wanting to go to Kabul to escape that, eh?) but I think it's more that I just can't stand America. The blatant consumerism the culture prompts, the idealization of happiness, the requisite folding of the hands to the twin idols of power and popularity... I would be fine with this place if it wasn't this place. A contradiction that is more of one than it seems to be.

I'd hold on to more of the inside of my head, but if I did, there wouldn't be anything there for y'all to see.

Thursday, July 10, 2008


What other observations can you have after driving across the perhaps most beautiful part of the country that you don't live in anymore with your best friend's family on the way to his wedding?

For example...

- The kid was overdosing on some unconventional blood thinner, forgoing common differential curves.
- Like some abstract, antiphonal bonding exercise, the moment approaches an objective tipping point.
- Sequins formed a pretty landscape on the shadows of vast irreality that permeate the sea.
- Like the piano of a cheap, mid 19th century saloon, my encryption scheme is missing a few keys.
- There is a single root to all the erosion and abandonment in the route - inarticulate roses.

Right. I definitely should not write in a van while randomly tired like jetlag, randomly napping in the middle of the page of a Gibson novel (Spook Country, in case anyone out there is a Gibson fan.)

Now, I have more serious observations about life, my purpose in it, and what has been happening to me recently, but it's about 11:30 P.M., I'm in a hotel suite, and the rest of the folks here are probably going to want to be going to bed. Suffice to say, there's a functional constant amidst all the simple changes, the complex waves, and little reflections that have adorned my life in the last year or so. The constant is my newfound lack of a handle on my role as an actor in my life story. Am I the one to take livid responsibility so that events occur in my life, or perhaps am I to wait for and simply react to times and situations as they arise. I do not have perhaps the vision in this that I should, and as such, this all becomes more of a struggle than it otherwise would be, obviously. If I knew that I had to take the active role to bring events to an occurance, I wouldn't have to doubt myself so much. If there were a river in the middle of my course, would I be carried by the current or swim against it? If this wasn't about growth, about being made acceptable, I think that I would perhaps have called all these things off long, long ago.

Bedtime. Maybe more posts tomorrow.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Four for forensic fortifications

And I officially ate too much today. My grandma made me roast, carrots, mashed potatoes, corn, rolls, ice cream and brownies (Thanks, Grandma!) for lunch, and then I had way too much pizza at the bachelor party. More on that in a moment.

I went to the eye doc, forked out for new contacts, and realized that in so many ways, I'm getting tired of answering this whole "So, what's it like in the 'Stan?" thing. I don't know how to explain it to people in 30 seconds or less. It's where I'm supposed to be, it's scary, it's exciting, it's fulfilling, it's weird, it's humbling, it's just life. It's like describing the colors of the sunrise to a blind man. You don't even know where to start and they've probably never seen it. You'll never be able to do it justice, but you try anyway, and maybe they feel like they've seen a glimspe, but you know all they've seen is your poor description. It's like looking in a mirror dimly - to really know it you have to see it face to face. Consequently, I have a better understanding of why I have to keep trying to explain it.

We had a demi-bachelor party for my best friend, who gets married Saturday. We watched some episodes of The Office while eating, then played poker. I won. I've never won one of our poker games before. I would be fairly stoked if I were that sort of person, but since I'm not, I'm actually pretty stoked. We listened to Jars' Redemption Songs album for a while while playing. I guess that says something about us. I'm not exactly sure what, though.

In other news, I lost half of a pair of two pairs of socks. Is that annoying or what?

Tuesday, July 08, 2008


Er. I wish I could figure out where this title came from.

Anyway, today was another day. I don't need many more of these to occur in America. I did win my first game of Civ IV today. I'm trying to decide if I should take it back to the 'Stan with me. I need to keep interacting with people, and if I have some deep, immersive video game, I might get lost in that when times get hard, instead of really trying to grow.

I think the 'Stan embassy may have lost my passport, because my visa should have been here a week ago. I'm going to call and complain tomorrow, because if they lost my passport I have to deal with the hassle of getting a new one, getting a visa, and all that jazz. They may also be busy, so I think this may be an interesting process. I keep Asking for insecurity so I can trust, and keep regretting it too much.

Also, football camp started today. It was pretty cool, although I'm not as up to speed on all the technical details of football like I should be. I guess I just fake it.

I keep forgetting that there are other people in the house now, and I shouldn't sing really loud at 11:00 P.M. while I'm typing up a blog post. However, I'm finding that Far-less just rocks right now, and I want to sing. It's not me, it's you.

I'm planning on taking off for a day next week, going somewhere quiet for the day, taking my Book and my notebook and writing two position papers. The first paper, a position paper on what Growth I have experienced last year. The second paper, a position paper on what I feel like I am being Directed to do next year and in the future. One of the things my mentors talked with me about at the conference is long-term placement, and I just don't know what I'm being Directed to do in that area. There are lots of reasons to stay, reasons to leave, and I need to seek for Direction because I have these warring desires to be mobile and agile battling with my desire to deeply immerse myself in the place. So I'm going to check out for a day, go somewhere quiet, bright, and green, and remember Who else.

Between the river and the ravens, I'm fed. So since I just get the strength for each day, and mine is about worn through for this one, I'm heading for bed.

Monday, July 07, 2008


Around 3:30 P.M. today, my doorbell rang. We live way out in the country, so this is fairly unusual. It was my best friend from growing up, he is in town and for various and sundry reasons, was actually driving by, and so decided to stop by. Then, because I had nothing else to do and neither did he, we decided to hang out.

So, since 3:30 today, I have...

Gone to Fazolis (Breadsticks!)
Gone grocery shopping
Played Halo3
Gone to his little brother's baseball game.
Gone to his little sister's 14-under softball game.
Had the coach of his little sister's 14-under softball team say to him and I (we both know the coach), "Hey, none of my assistant coaches are here. Can one of you be the dugout coach and another the first base coach?"
Agreed to coach first base for a 14-under softball team.
Hung out with other friends.
Seen how strange we could be at Braums without getting kicked out.
Made "That's what she said" jokes for a couple minutes.
Hung out.

Moral of the story: Russ does random sstuff, including coaching 14-under softball teams!

Cooking is like erosion. Long and complicated.

I'm hoping to be able to run to Ottawa county two mornings in a row before the time I go back to the 'Stan. I got about half the way there this morning, and probably could have gone the distance. (Except I was going for speed.) (And I'm never all alone...) (Cake!)

So, I said goodbye to my new friends of two weeks, I did lots of fireworks, hung out with family, saw the new Will Smith movie Hancock (Verdict - neat concept, poor execution) and am now in a little bit more limbo, waiting for more things that are supposed to happen to happen, like weddings and the progress of time.

Well, I composed the initial draft of this part of the blog post on the front-back page of notebook paper before typing it, as a different, perhaps more guided exercise. And since, I'm going to be more direct about something than I usually am on this blog, I wanted the opportunity to have a built-in editing and revising time. See, I went to these two weeks of training knowing something about my field and organization. The ratio of single women to single men in the organization is roughly 5:1. I'm in a fairly atypical school with a 3:1 ratio, whereas two of the schools have ratios of over 10:1. In the past, this ratio might have freaked Russ out, since I/he have/had a pretty low opinion of my ability to interact with women of the opposite gender who are roughly my age. However, the changing Russ sees less reason to be freaked out about this ratio. Therefore, I saw lots of opportunities to investigate myself and the people at the training. While I definitely made a effort to hang out with the single guys and some of the married guys, I also did not shy away from or avoid the single girls. In the past and in different situations, I might have done that, because of my aforementioned low opinion towards my abilities to and fear of interacting with attractive single women who are about my age. And it would have been easy to make a mental model that would have convinced myself of the acceptability of hermit-ing up and not hang with the single women or with anyone, for that matter. So after the second day, I made a conscious decision to do two things. First, I was not going to avoid interaction with single girls. Sitting at lunch, talking in the halls, I was not going to avoid them specially. Second, I was going to embrace the fact that I am me, and I was not going to worry about making sure I didn't 'goof up' or say something dumb, because when I'm me, I do things that may seem ill-advised.

Did these two resolutions work? I think so. I just hung out with whomever was around and wanted to hang. I had a good time with all sorts of people, large groups playing sports like Ultimate or Soccer, small groups playing cards, medium sized groups going places, the people I took to SONIC for ice cream (yay! for 99c shakes!), the random people that sat down at my table at meals. In fact, I got harassed once or twice because I sat down at a table for lunch and then had the table filled by girls, so it was me and 7 girls at a table. I got harassed, but what can you do when they choose to sit down by you? I certainly am not smooth. I think it might have been because I usually cleared the table so they didn't have to.

Perhaps you are wondering why I'm posting all of this on my blog. Firstly because this training was a subtly transforming experience for me in many little ways, including my interactions with attractive and interesting single women, i.e. freaking out less. Secondly because one f the girls I hung out with sent me a note via facebook (whereupon my profile I have the address to this blog emblazoned, and I am thinking it's a further good sign that it doesn't matter to me if any of the single women who are now my facebook friends read this) saying that she heard some of the women at the training say how much they respected me. Initially, this note caused me some concern, thinking maybe I had conveyed something I didn't mean to, or acted in some way that I shouldn't have. Then, the more I thought about it, the more that I thought through the word 'respected' and decided that this note was, in fact further affirmation that I did a pretty good job of interacting with the single female species, rather than a bad thing.

And I think this is in some ways a break through. I'm not exactly sure from what or to what, but I think it is one of some kind. I could be wrong. I see some things that are coming, but I can't look past them. And that's just fine. I think if I didn't have the insecurities in my life that I do, I would be way too bored.

One other thing that I have seen of late is that the nature of the Mercy that I have received is that I don't understand the depths of it, and I won't until I have the strength enough to stay on my knees while the tide rises around me.

It's time to work.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Boil it down

So, training continues. We've got two more days, and I'm really starting to feel the length of the sessions. I skipped two today (gasp!) that were totally education related to do other work. And the one I went to, I didn't get anything out of because I was totally zoned out. I did some other conference-related paperwork during it.

But there was some other really good stuff today. We've been having these small-group meetings with advisers who have been in the field long term, and who have been administering all the personality type things. Today, we had a 'final' meeting thing where they read a reflection paper that I wrote, and talked about some things. They told me that I seemed to be good to go, that I could handle this lifestyle long-term. I was kind of encouraged by that, because sometimes I wonder. They actually told me that if I ever wanted to head to their organization, maybe I could... That was more encouraging - it's one thing for someone to say you seem to be doing OK, another for them to want you to come do OK for them.

I drove around the city a little. One of my new friends here needed to mail some stuff that they brought back for a friend who wasn't returning to the school, so since I have a car, we went, found a post office, and mailed the stuff out. It was pretty cool to be able to stop at a store, ask someone for directions, and then get to where I needed to go.

After supper, we had the Training Talent Show! I ran sound, did stand-up comedy (my stories about getting accosted at Wal-Mart, along with a little bit of Kabul humor thrown in.), had a good time. There were some talented people, some really funny people, and just a good time with all your new close friends. After that, a bunch of us played Capture The Flag, which was also fun, except too stale-mated. And after that, as we were walking back from the field to our 'dorms' we saw someone shooting off fireworks. So what did I go do, with a couple other people? Yeah. More tomorrow.

All in all, I've realized some things about myself at this training, had a lot of opportunity to reflect, and had good growth. I've also made some really cool friends, learned some new things, and definitely not been bored for two weeks. I'm mostly ready to go home, and in many ways, more ready to go Home and more ready to realize I have to stay here for a while. And I'm more OK with that than I have been for a while. Funny how things that don't seem to make a difference in a lot of ways serve to change things.

Well, it's like 12:27, and even though I'm still wide awake, I need to try to get to bed. So good night, and good luck.