Thursday, December 09, 2004

It's hard work

I've been thinking about hard work ever since the September 30, 2004 Presidential debate when President Bush used the phrase "hard work" 11 times. He was talking about the war in Iraq but it got me to thinking about hard work in general.

The Presidency is hard work. Usually the pace is exhausting and the many issues which must be dealt with in depth, immediately, are many. But nobody is forced to become President of the United States (POTUS). President Bush chose to run for the office, leaving behind his wealthy non-presidential life, and spent millions to achieve the office. Somewhere there may be jobs that are not hard work but I can't think of what they might be.

Many jobs are difficult in their own ways although not what are traditionally thought of as hard. Picking tomatoes is hard work - backache, sunburned, finger cut, aching joint, bugbitten hard. Childcare is hard - backache, swollen foot, long day, hordes of germs, dry skin from washing so much, stinky diaper and vomit clean up hard. Being a jewelry artisan is hard work - sweating over the tools, trying to get idea from brain to metal after multiple failures and not usre how much more materials you can afford to ruin, pinched, cut, burned, putting yourself out to talk to total strangers and being open for rejection, living in your mom's basement when you are 32, struggling to pay the bills and taking other jobs so you can eat hard. Teaching is hard - planning for hours late at night, figuring out what you can do to help the kid in trouble, dealing with the hurt feelings and emotions of a 2nd grader, scrounging for 1.75 for a missing lunch, talking for hours, listening for hours, standing for hours, dealing with bureaucracy hard.

Many jobs include heavy lifting, hours on our feet, isolation or its equally exhausting counterpart unending interaction with other people. We take these jobs because we need to support ourselves and our families. We need to supplement the family income so that we can eat meat or have heat during the winter or pay for the car/gas/insurance that we need to keep healthcare and groceries in reach.

Sometimes the hard jobs have significant payoffs either monetary or emotional that make them worth the hard work or at least palatable.

When you have a hard job sometimes you gripe about the work. You whine about how unappreciated you are, you feel abandoned by your community, you feel bone tired and cannot imagine that a meal and good sleep will leave you feeling any better. I'm sure even the President feels that way. However, when you have the chance of a good meal and sleep then you are already doing better than millions of people in the world.

I acknowledge that the jobs I've had were hard and other people have even harder jobs and that I'm lucky to have had a job at all and that I've had food enough to keep working and a roof over my head. When I find myself chronically whining about work, I set myself two choices...shutup or move on to another job; I have choices of jobs and can move on, so does the President.

Saturday, December 04, 2004

Supper tonight was Chicken with Lentils. It was delicious and the family wiped the pot clean. This is adapted from a Madhur Jaffrey recipe. I served it with Idli (frozen, microwaveable) and various pickles on the side.

Chicken and Lentils

4-6 Tb. oil, divided
3 bay leaves
5 whole cloves
6 cardamom pods
a 2" stick of cinnamon
A dried chili or some sprinkles of crushed red peppers
I used about 1.5 lbs of b/s chicken thighs, cut into bite sized pieces
2 cans of lentils
1/2 tsp turmeric
2 tsp salt
Juice of 1 lemon
8 oz of green beans - I used frozen
1 can of diced tomatoes or half a can of tomato pureePinch of asafetida (optional but good)
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1.5 tsp garam masala
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
ground chilies (optional)

In a large pan heat 3 Tb. oil or more as needed. Throw in the bay, cloves, cardamom pods, cinnamon, and red pepper sprinkles. Sizzle for a minute. Put in chicken and brown it all over. Add lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Stir. Add turmeric, lentils, beans, and tomatoes. Simmer for 20 minutes. After the 20 minutes is up, in a separate small pan, heat 1-2 Tb oil, add in asafetida, cumin, garlic, ground coriander,garam masala, and ground chilies if you are using them. Sizzle for a minute or two while stirring. Stir the spice mix into the chicken and lentils and serve.

Friday, October 15, 2004

During this time of "High Alert" I drive pas the electronic signs entreating us to report suspicious activity. What exactly is suspicious activity? I've seen all sorts of things as I drive along inside the Beltway: people eating bowls of chili, putting on makeup, performing oral sex, shaving, curling their hair, talking on cell phones while drinking a cup of coffee, hitting their children, filling in the crossword puzzle, using both hands to speak in sign language, and counting large amounts of money. Those are common things; common can't be suspicious. Right?

Today I saw something NEW. Could it be suspicious enough to call the 1-800 number to Homeland Security? The guy next to me was picking his nose but he wasn't eating the boogers or wiping them on his car door. He was carefully putting each one inside his briefcase. Was he placing them on a special file folder to hide in the files of some unsuspecting coworker? Is this some sort of dirty bomb?

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Why, Yes, that was a whiney complaint by a woman with bronchitis.

Monday, October 04, 2004

If there was a part of my body that I could change it wouldn't be my thighs or my toes or my nose. I would adjust my immune system and the way my body protects itself. I do understand the way the system is supposed to work to keep me healthy. I do! It's just that my system is hypersensitive. One of the technical descriptions includes the word spastic which says a lot about the whole thing. My main affected system is breathing though my skin also reacts swiftly and out of proportion to irritants.

It goes like this: I breathe in sharply or the air is dry or I laugh too hard and it irritates my lungs. They start to cough to expel the irritant. The cough that is supposed to expel the irritant is perceived by my body as an irritant; it coughs even harder. The irritant/cough escalates until I am gasping or gagging and my throat and chest hurt.

It sucks. It's tiring. And no, I don't smoke.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

I was working at the computer today and I had a gingerbeer nearby because I have a strangulating cough that I'm trying to get rid of. So the gingerbeer was on my right because the desk was crowded and as I was reading I reached out with my left hand (because I'm left-handed) and took up the can and had a swig. Several things were wrong with that gingerbeer:

1) It contained real sugar
2) It was warm and flat
3) It had a live spider in it

The spider was in my mouth in a mouthful of soda. It's legs wriggled on my tongue. I spewed the soda and spider all over the carpet and there it was! A 1/4" spider running in wobbly ellipses by my feet.

I smushed it. I rarely kill spiders but this one had been in my mouth and I had to find out if it was poisonous. It was not, to my knowledge, poisonous and it didn't bite me or spew anything that I could tell - that is a particularly gross thought.

I broke into the other book I was reading when In the Shadow of No Towers arrived in the mail. This book of only 42 pages, including 10 double page comix style, took me two hours to read. After each page I had to take a break...go do some dishes or make a cup of tea.

I've talked about my experiences on 9/11/2001 many times. The first few monthes every get together seemed to make its way to what happened and what we did and what we saw. I was living in Maryland, just inside the Beltway, and my family and friends in DC and Virginia, well, we all were horrified and scared, and grieving. I had friends who were in Manhattan that day and their focus on detail of what they did helped distance the horror and yet made it even more clear. There were also the media reports of what happened; tv and radio reports in first and 3rd voice giving details and emotions. It all trickled away with followup stories on "where are they now" and the stories aren't told much anymore except on the anniversaries or when the gathering is the first since the attacks. In the Shadow of No Towers is that person-to-person telling of sequence and feeling magnified by Art Spiegelman's graphics.

In The Shadow of No Towers deals not only with the actual happenings of 9/11/2001 but with the domino effect of discrimination, Homeland Security, laws, paranoia, and politics that followed. The pressure to either appear extra-patriotic or seem a traitor was something I remember well and still feel on occasion.

I haven't read a wide range of Art Spiegelman's work; I've only read Maus I and II but they are masterpieces. They, like In The Shadow of No Towers, are intensely personal yet speak globally. They also speak specifically about Spiegelman's parents experiences in Auschwitz but the story is applicable to prejudice, hatred, and genocide worldwide.

I think this book is not one to recommend. If asked, then I would talk about it and recommend it (and would certainly lend it) but readiness is something personal that I could not gauge for someone else.

Saturday, September 18, 2004

Listen nephews. When your Auntie tells you stories about how it is at our house, remember what I am telling you. This is not a haven of peace and quiet where everyone behaves and things work smoothly. We do not sit every evening after dinner and play educational games and everyone is a good sport. Our bedtimes are not always early and embraced. Your cousins do not fall into bed and to sleep right away with prayer still on their lips. It may have seemed that way to Auntie but she only saw us for a few days.

Our house is much like yours. Some nights I do not have dinner ready until some children should have already been asleep. Sometimes your cousins cry or stamp their feet when they are losing at cards. We spend many more evenings struggling over homework, baths, and cleaning up the messy playroom than we do playing

Auntie was our guest. We set aside time for her, we planned activities that all of us could do with her.

We are more like you than she realizes.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

We were at the farm today picking tomatoes and the girls asked me how I know which tomatoes to pick. "Picking tomatoes is like picking men", I said, "I avoid those with big visible rotten spots". What could those be on men, they wondered. "Big rotten buggy spots like ripe track marks and fresh beer breath at 11am." I paint an ugly picture. There is more to choosing than looks, "unless he is eager to leap to my hand, I don't want him. On the other hand, I don't want any that falls to the ground just because I walk nearby."

Thursday, August 19, 2004

There are people in the world with whom I disagree about basic matters. Sometimes those people and I run into each other online or in person. I'm not talking about Republican vs Democrat or Breastfeeding vs Formula or even Legal Abortion vs No Legal Abortion though that does fit into the dignity of all human beings for me. The differences I have in mind are truely fundamental to me: the dignity of all human beings, the global picture as important in making local choices, my relatively insignificant (though dear to me) position in the world. It's like I hit a brick wall when I start talking to one of these persons, I'm shocked at the unwavering way they hold their beliefs. I admit I'm unwavering on these issues but I feel that I've come to them from a studied path and I do reevaluate the data I built them on to make sure I'm still good with the process. In good faith I assume that other people have also studied their beliefs and the basis of them. Sometimes as we chat and then get deeper I find that they do not want to listen to other views, hear other facts, or examine what these things might mean to their beliefs and stands. Sometimes one or another person will say that they don't care about the science or facts, they want to believe this and so they do.

Some years ago I entered a community which included a woman who had nothing in common with me other than that we are American women with children and internet access. In my opinion this woman does not want to hear or examine anything that challenges her position. I'm sure she has similar feelings about me and my ideology. That's fine for her and I just left her alone as much as possible (meaning as long as she didn't enter a conversation with me or post anything I just couldn't stand not to refute). At one point post Sept. 11 2001, she was part of a contingent of people who verbally espoused tying Osama bin Laden to a car and dragging him through the streets while dogs ate him. I understand the anger and fear, hell I live in DC and was terrified. I agree in no way with the terrorists or their actions but dragging behind a car is not treatment for a human. This man, horrible and twisted though he is and as much as he has drawn people into violence in the name of God, is a father, a son, a husband. Someone loves him. He deserves judgment for his actions and instigations but he has not given up his humanity. It is not possible to give up humanity, it remains when brain waves are flat and after the heart has stopped. Our perceived inhumanity towards men is part of our humanity isn't it? We are shocked by acts of genocide, rape, abuse but they are a part of our present and history so they must be part of greater humanity. That doesn't mean we must accept or cultivate horrible actions rather we should try to halt them but pretending they are not part of us removes from us the ability to nip them in the bud.

This particular woman is a breast cancer survivor. She has several children including 5 year old twins. She makes choices I wouldn't make and, of course, makes some I've never had to make not having been in her situations. I've left the community although I still hear from some of the people there. Recently, thinking she had gallstones, she had a checkup where her doctors found breast cancer metastasized in her liver. This is apparently not curable but is treatable in the long term. I'm filled with sorrow for her and her family. She is a wife, mother, lover, people love her, she is full of passion and fury, her life is important, she does not deserve this. Nobody does. The ravages of cancer, the stress even after you think you are cures, the pain and struggle, the cost to family, self, and budget are as awful as being dragged through the streets behind a car.

Support Breast Cancer Research:

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

It could have happened like this:

I am camping and one night I heard wonderful music from the next campsite. A womans beautiful voice dipping and rising, snatches of melody, but only a few words come through.

The next day I talked to our camping neighbours and they say "Oh, that was Jolie Holland! Isn't she great? She has an album out."

I look Jolie up on the internet and listen to a sample that sounds different, more bluesy, but still wonderful. I do not listen to all the samples or read any reviews. Silly me.

I bought the CD and pop it in the player. It is EXACTLY like the night at the campground. Exactly! Beautiful but not all there. Her diction reminds me of Jody Foster in Nell...if you let it wash over you you can make out most of the words but if you concentrate all is lost.

Monday, June 14, 2004

Tidbits from Nairobi Primary:

Houses: The students were divided into 4 houses (yes, just like Hogwarts) and my sisters and I were in "Impala". This meant that when we had swimming meets 1/4 of the stands would cheer "Im-Pa-La, Im-Pa-La!" as I swam my flailing crawl the length of the pool. One other house was Simba but I don't remember the other two. Maybe Tembo? As far as I was aware there wasn't any stigma or particular pride attached to any house other than that my house was best. We didn't wear special colours but we sat in separate areas of the stands. Like Hogwarts, any personal triumphs or disciplinary slips counted for the whole house.

Food: For several years we ate in the dining hall with the boarding students for lunch. We did not get afternoon snack for which we were grateful as it was comprised of bread with shortening spread on it and weak tea. We ate family style around large rectangular wooden tables. Each table had a faculty member at the head and an older student at the foot. One girl from each table was assigned to pick up food and clear plates. We all had to eat one serving of everything served. The food, as I remember it was filling but featured oversalted, overcooked vegetables and mushy meat. We drank milk and water. We were allowed to decline dessert which was often custard or puddings of different sorts. The worst, in my mind, was tapioca pudding made with giant tapiocas that did look like albino frog eggs about to hatch into see-through tadpoles. One time the dessert was jello, a big treat, which came to the table in a large bowl dotted with whipped cream. Several students wrinkled their noses against the whipped cream so I volunteered to scrape their cream onto my jello. I should have know better; it was mayonnaise not whipped cream. Cold mayo on jello! Disgusting! The dining room was always loud and steamy.

Start of School: Every morning we started school with Assembly. We gathered in the courtyard and stood with our classes in orderly rows. We were led in prayer and song from a nifty little songbook/prayerbook (picture several hundred earnest British and Kenyan accented voices singing "All Things Bright and Beautiful"), we sand the National Anthem in English and Swahili, the flag was raised and there were announcements. I don't think I ever actually heard an announcement just that Peanuts' adult blahblahblah. When dismissed we marched in line behind our teachers to our classrooms. I can still sing the first verse of the Kenyan National Anthem in both languages.

Sunday, June 13, 2004

Love and marriage? LOL! You thought I forgot love. No, I just ran out of time. Love alone is not enough for marriage. Yes, love overcomes many blockages in a good marriage but love by itself is not reason to enter into a lifetime contract of marriage...even if you know 25% of marriages end in divorce (It's probably much higher than that but I'm not looking for statistical accuracy but instead the general odds).

I've loved many people in my life, some as deeply as the man I married. And the love didn't always fade although sometimes it changed with time and growth. I still love those men and women but they were not for me to marry. It wasn't until several of the things I've talked about came together.

So, 'love and marriage' go together but so do 'love and non-marriage' and 'respect and marriage'.
What is a good reason for getting married?

Are there bad reasons for getting married? The first answer that jumps to my mind is force. Nobody should get married because they are being forced to marry. We think that in America people aren't forced to marry anymore but that is not true. There are still parents who arrange and enforce marriages as contracts between families or because of sexual activity or pregnancy. After force is necessity. Some people marry because they need protection or to escape an abusive parental household or for monetary support. Necessity is not, IMO, a good reason for marriage...understandable sometimes but not good. And there are still women sold into marriage (which to my mind is more of a sexual slavery than a marriage but I suppose that legally the contrat is marriage).

Is sex a good reason to marry? Well, I like sex and it is certainly a good part of my marriage but it isn't the driving cause. If a man or woman will not have sex with a partner until they are married, I do not think that is a good reason to marry. That is certainly a fine personal standard if you choose not to have sex outside of marriage but wanting to have sex with someone is not sufficient reason to marry them.

Social stricture? Nope, not a good reason in my mind. That the community cares whether or not a man or woman is married is not strong. Will that community support the couple, care about their welfare as a married pair, or will the piece of paper satisfy their requirements? Will the community work to keep strong partnerships or assume that the blessing of the state is enough. What motivation is there for a couple to stay married or to keep working if the partnership was not their idea in the first place?

What does work? Well wanting to get married is important. A couple that wants to bond in public partnership gets a checkmark. This does not, of course, have any negative marking for people who prefer not to get married. Common general goals get a checkmark. We both want to settle down or travel the world, we have generally similar views on the accumulation of wealth and goods and children. A willingness to give and take to strengthen the partnership gets a checkmark. Not that I will erase my selfhood to let someone else's take primary position but that I will see that my singular desires are only part of the whole. Mutual respect for ideas and beliefs gets a checkmark. Knowing that we will not always see things exactly the same way and that our backgrounds and structures are different but that different is not bad and that there is valid reasoning there that we can listen to and think about for ourselves. We may not have the same or any religion but a mutual respect for how we came to those places and the ability to refrain from "conversion" eases that difference. Seeing each person as fluid gets a checkmark. I am not now the same person I was 14 years ago nor is my partner. I hope that in the future we will both continue to grow as whole people. Are we williong to trust the growth and not try to keep each other the same? Are we willing to see growth as positive and to acknowledge that our growth may not be parralel in terms of time or paths. Can we see our paths separate and come back together without ruiing everything? I suppose this means that we do not rest all the responsibility for the relationship on just one thing/way. Not just sexual activity or similar hobbies or even political stances.

Friday, June 11, 2004

Swim team is for rich people. The pool fees are reasonable at $360 per family for the summer because I know we will be there, swimming and playing, 4-5 days a week. Having a cool shady place with a pool is worth that much money. Then there are team fees of $35 per child, competition suits at $37 a piece, practice suits $17 each (I sigh for the days I could buy them $2 thrift store suits), goggles $13 each, caps $3 each.

360+35+35+35+37+37+37+17+17+17+13+13+13+3+3= $672

Perhaps there are sliding scale fees I'm not aware of. Maybe I can find someone to pass the swimsuits down and on.

We've just sort of stumbled into this. Oldest m'toto was aiming for swim team 2 years ago but an emergency appendectomy put her out for the season. This year all three wanted to get involved. It is a healthy exercise. They have practice for an hour 4 nights a week and optional hour of practice during the days (with more personal instruction).

You may have noticed the booklist to the right and the proliferation of Dick Francis books recently. I enjoy Dick Francis' books. He writes mysteries that generally are about characters in the British racing system. The books are very easy to read; most of them can be read in 2-3 hours. I have all his books in either hard or softback and I reread them all every year usually on lazy summer days at the pool or winter snow days when I can read 2 in an afternoon.

Monday is Payday and I have spending money left from last time! Today I took $100 and went to the bookstore. I came out with $3.69. It was terribly easy and I could have spent triple that amount if I had the money. I rationalize that the DVD is for the family and that my children will read some of the books and that I will send "Dead to the World" to a friend as soon as I'm done with it. Yeah, that makes me feel better.

My booty:

Dead to the World by Charlaine Harris
The Warrior's Apprentice by Lois McMaster Bujold If only I had known it was available as an ebook! (sigh)
Tthe house of the scorpion by Nancy Farmer
Queen's Own Fool by Jane Yolen
Tithe by Holly Black
Zazoo by Richard Mosher

and last but not least even if it isn't a book...

Tokyo Godfathers

Thursday, June 10, 2004

School: Standard 3 (This is my understanding of what happened; I was in 3rd grade)

1969 was a difficult year for non-African Kenyans and non-citizen residents. In Uganda, Idi Amin was deporting non-Ugandans and his definition was very strict. Indians, from India, who had been born in Uganda had their citizenship stripped and were forced to leave the country on short notice. First or second generation, their living was built at the expense of Ugandans. Any property unsold and which could not be carried out became property of the State. Businessmen sold their family stores and businesses at rock bottom prices so that they would have some chance of starting anew in another country. Some people were escorted to the border in trucks and had only what they could carry with them. People took advantage of the State led attitude that Uganda should be for Ugandans and that non-native Ugandans were taking jobs and keeping Ugandans subservient and took the opportunity to get as much as possible for as little in return. There were people who with dignity bought property at decent prices or else promised to hold property until it could be sold for a reasonable return. These helpful friends then sent what they could to help the deportees.

Some deportees were forced out of the country before receiving a visa for another country. Stripped on their citizenship and without permission to enter another country they wobbled from port to airport. Sometimes they would be allowed to stay for a week or two before being sent out again. Several countries set strict limitations on the number of immigrants they would allow from Uganda. Some friends of my father, men in their 50's, knew nothing but shopkeeping in Uganda; there was no place for them in India and with their trail of family members they tried to think of a niche for themselves or resigned themselves to starting over in a totally new country and business.

The eyes of many in Kenya focused on their Indian neighbours, coworkers, shopkeepers. People started pointing fingers and placing economic blame.

My teacher in Standard 3 was expelled from the country with her mother and father. We heard from her several times...Holland, Spain, England but we never found out where or when she found a place to try again to be a citizen.

And me? Born in Kenya, I was told over and over that I was not a true Kenyan. One day, I was assured, I would be forced from the country. No matter how often my sisters explained that I was being baited or how many times I was lectured on "turning the other cheek" I could not stop from answering back. I AM a true Kenyan! I was born here! I go to school! I am learning Swahili just like my classmates! There is no difference between me and my friends in the Post Office flats. We children are all the same when we dance girba and walk on the house walls. I have walked up Longanot and swum at Nakuru. My parents are just like yours: we may not eat many sweets, we must wash our hands and sit quietly, we are swatted and sent to eat out of sight of those with good table manners. I am a Kenyan.
I was a Kenyan but Kenya didn't want me. I am more loyal to her than she to me.
This week's list of the military dead:

Cpl. Bum R. Lee, 21, of Sunnyvale, Calif
Lance Cpl. Todd J. Bolding, 23, of Manvel, Texas
Sgt. Melvin Y. Mora, 27, of Columbia, Mo
1st Lt. Erik. S. McCrae, 25, of Portland, Ore.
Sgt. Justin L. Eyerly, 23, of Salem, Ore.
Spc. Justin W. Linden, 22, of Portland, Ore.
Sgt. Frank T. Carvill, 51, of Carlstadt, N.J.
Spc. Christopher M. Duffy, 26, of Brick, N.J.
Sgt. Humberto F. Timoteo, 25, of Newark, N.J
Spc. Ryan E. Doltz, 26, of Mine Hill, N.J
Pfc. Melissa J. Hobart, 22, of Ladson, S.C
Sgt. Jamie A. Gray, 29, of Montpelier, Vt
Lance Cpl. Jeremy L. Bohlman, 21, of Sioux Falls, S.D
Cpl. David M. Fraise, 24, of New Orleans, La
Capt. Humayun S. M. Khan, 27, of Bristow, Va

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Here's how I found out that a place I worked had ridiculous gender based salary guidelines. A man who graduated from the same school I did, a year after I did, with the same degree (snarkily I add that I had higher grades and more experience), who took the job I had held the year before as I moved into a different position, who was having his first year in the workforce, who had the same responsibilities that I had, was making significantly more than I. I was shocked! I was barely making enough to pay my rent and had taken a second job to pay for clothes and groceries and he was making almost 50% more in his first year than I was in my second. He was also shocked.

I asked a few other people in the organization if my experience mirrored their own (maybe the admin didn't like me or thought I wasn't doing a good job although my assessments wer top notch). It turned out that men were making significantly more than women across the board in this job regardless of years on the job, educational level, or competancy.

Several women with more time on the job than I brought this situation up with the admin and were told that those men had families to support. However, some of the men were single and several of the women were widows raising families.

At a staff meeting, the women were lectured that they were hired for their wages and the wages of others were not their concern. My concern was that their salary policy was not made known to us so that we could know what we were getting into.

What I had gotten myself into turned out to be a whole other can of worms. But that is how I found out that I was valued less because I was a woman.

Saturday, June 05, 2004

School Thoughts: Standard 2 (2nd Grade)

I have little to say about this year. My teacher was Miss Davies a petite redhaired Welsh woman with a terrible temper. At least I call it temper but it was truely violence. If we blotted our books or made mistakes, Miss Davies would slap the back of our heads so that our foreheads bounced against the desktops. I had bruises and lumps on my forehead the whole year. I developed a fear of Mathematics and cheated or claimed stomach sickness to work around learning my times tables. The walk to the infirmary, sitting in line, and drinking the tablespoon of medicine covered all of the allotted Math time for a day. My parents did nothing to stop the abuse; they weren't sure what to do. My parents went to India for a month and left us with another family who were shocked by the bruises, which were obviously happening at school. The other family asked if my parents knew and then decided to follow my parents' example.

I was very glad when that year ended.

Nairobi Primary Uniforms Posted by Hello

LOL! I remember blue cardigans but I see they were red.

Thursday, June 03, 2004

As part of my job, I access the Department of Defense once a week and make a list of military dead who have been announced since the last week.

Today's list:

Pfc. Daniel P. Unger, 19, of Exeter, Calif
Lance Cpl. Kyle W. Codner, 19, of Wood River, Neb.
Cpl. Matthew C. Henderson, 25, of Lincoln, Neb.
Pfc. Richard H. Rosas, 21, of Saint Louis, Mich.
Pfc. James P. Lambert, 23, of New Orleans, La
Lance Cpl. Benjamin R. Gonzalez, 23, of Los Angeles, Calif
Capt. Daniel W. Eggers, 28, of Cape Coral, Fla
Sgt. 1st Class Sgt. Robert J. Mogensen, 26, of Leesville, La
Pfc. Joseph A. Jeffries, 21, of Beaverton, Ore
Spc. Michael J. Wiesemann, 20, of North Judson, Ind
Petty Officer 1st Class Brian J. Ouellette, 37, of Needham, Mass
Pfc. Cody S. Calavan, 19, of Lake Stevens, Wash
Lance Cpl. Rafael Reynosasuarez, 28, of Santa Ana, Calif
Cpl. Dominique J. Nicolas, 25, of Maricopa, Ariz.
Pfc. Nicholaus E. Zimmer, 20, of Columbus, Ohio
Sgt. Aaron C. Elandt, 23, of Lowell, Mich
Pvt. Bradli N. Coleman, 19, of Ford City, Pa.,
Spc. Charles E. Odums II, 22, of Sandusky, Ohio
1st Lt. Kenneth Michael Ballard, 26, of Mountain View, Calif
Lance Cpl. Dustin L. Sides, 22, of Yakima, Wash
Pfc. Markus J. Johnson, 20, of Springfield, Mass
Capt. Robert C. Scheetz Jr., 31, of Dothan, Ala

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

Italicize=started but not finished
Underline=not yet started but own

The Lord of the Rings, JRR Tolkien
Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen
His Dark Materials, Philip Pullman
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, JK Rowling
To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee
Winnie the Pooh, AA Milne
1984, George Orwell
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, CS Lewis
Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte
Catch-22, Joseph Heller
Wuthering Heights, Emily Bronte

Birdsong, Sebastian Faulks
Rebecca, Daphne du Maurier
The Catcher in the Rye, JD Salinger
The Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Grahame
Great Expectations, Charles Dickens
Little Women, Louisa May Alcott
Captain Corelli's Mandolin, Louis de Bernieres
War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy
Gone with the Wind, Margaret Mitchell
Harry Potter And The Sorcerer's Philosopher's Stone, JK Rowling
Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets, JK Rowling
Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban, JK Rowling
The Hobbit, JRR Tolkien
Tess Of The D'Urbervilles, Thomas Hardy
Middlemarch, George Eliot

A Prayer For Owen Meany, John Irving
The Grapes Of Wrath, John Steinbeck
Alice's Adventures In Wonderland, Lewis Carroll

The Story Of Tracy Beaker, Jacqueline Wilson
One Hundred Years Of Solitude, Gabriel Garcia Marquez
The Pillars Of The Earth, Ken Follett
David Copperfield, Charles Dickens
Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, Roald Dahl
Treasure Island, Robert Louis Stevenson

A Town Like Alice, Nevil Shute
Persuasion, Jane Austen
Dune, Frank Herbert
Emma, Jane Austen
Anne Of Green Gables, LM Montgomery
Watership Down, Richard Adams
The Great Gatsby, F Scott Fitzgerald
The Count Of Monte Cristo, Alexandre Dumas
Brideshead Revisited, Evelyn Waugh
Animal Farm, George Orwell
A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens

Far From The Madding Crowd, Thomas Hardy
Goodnight Mister Tom, Michelle Magorian
The Shell Seekers, Rosamunde Pilcher
The Secret Garden, Frances Hodgson Burnett
Of Mice And Men, John Steinbeck

The Stand, Stephen King
Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy
A Suitable Boy, Vikram Seth
The BFG, Roald Dahl

Swallows And Amazons, Arthur Ransome
Black Beauty, Anna Sewell
Artemis Fowl, Eoin Colfer
Crime And Punishment, Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Noughts And Crosses, Malorie Blackman
Memoirs Of A Geisha, Arthur Golden
A Tale Of Two Cities, Charles Dickens
The Thorn Birds, Colleen McCollough
Mort, Terry Pratchett
The Magic Faraway Tree, Enid Blyton
The Magus, John Fowles
Good Omens, Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman
Guards! Guards!, Terry Pratchett
Lord Of The Flies, William Golding

Perfume, Patrick Susskind
The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists, Robert Tressell
Night Watch, Terry Pratchett
Matilda, Roald Dahl
Bridget Jones's Diary, Helen Fielding

The Secret History, Donna Tartt
The Woman In White, Wilkie Collins
Ulysses, James Joyce
Bleak House, Charles Dickens

Double Act, Jacqueline Wilson
The Twits, Roald Dahl
I Capture The Castle, Dodie Smith
Holes, Louis Sachar
Gormenghast, Mervyn Peake
The God Of Small Things, Arundhati Roy
Vicky Angel, Jacqueline Wilson
Brave New World, Aldous Huxley
Cold Comfort Farm, Stella Gibbons
Magician, Raymond E Feist
On The Road, Jack Kerouac
The Godfather, Mario Puzo
The Clan Of The Cave Bear, Jean M Auel
The Colour Of Magic, Terry Pratchett

The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho
Katherine, Anya Seton
Kane And Abel, Jeffrey Archer
Love In The Time Of Cholera, Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Girls In Love, Jacqueline Wilson
The Princess Diaries, Meg Cabot
Midnight's Children, Salman Rushdie
Three Men In A Boat, Jerome K. Jerome
Small Gods, Terry Pratchett
The Beach, Alex Garland
Dracula, Bram Stoker
Point Blanc, Anthony Horowitz
The Pickwick Papers, Charles Dickens
Stormbreaker, Anthony Horowitz
The Wasp Factory, Iain Banks
The Day Of The Jackal, Frederick Forsyth
The Illustrated Mum, Jacqueline Wilson
Jude The Obscure, Thomas Hardy
The Secret Diary Of Adrian Mole Aged 13 1/2, Sue Townsend
The Cruel Sea, Nicholas Monsarrat
Les Miserables, Victor Hugo
The Mayor Of Casterbridge, Thomas Hardy
The Dare Game, Jacqueline Wilson
Bad Girls, Jacqueline Wilson
The Picture Of Dorian Gray, Oscar Wilde
Shogun, James Clavell
The Day Of The Triffids, John Wyndham

Lola Rose, Jacqueline Wilson
Vanity Fair, William Makepeace Thackeray
The Forsyte Saga, John Galsworthy
House Of Leaves, Mark Z. Danielewski
The Poisonwood Bible, Barbara Kingsolver
Reaper Man, Terry Pratchett

Angus, Thongs And Full-Frontal Snogging, Louise Rennison
The Hound Of The Baskervilles, Arthur Conan Doyle
Possession, A. S. Byatt
The Master And Margarita, Mikhail Bulgakov
The Handmaid's Tale, Margaret Atwood
Danny The Champion Of The World, Roald Dahl

East Of Eden, John Steinbeck
George's Marvellous Medicine, Roald Dahl
Wyrd Sisters, Terry Pratchett
The Color Purple, Alice Walker

Hogfather, Terry Pratchett
The Thirty-Nine Steps, John Buchan
Girls In Tears, Jacqueline Wilson
Sleepovers, Jacqueline Wilson
All Quiet On The Western Front, Erich Maria Remarque
Behind The Scenes At The Museum, Kate Atkinson
High Fidelity, Nick Hornby
It, Stephen King
James And The Giant Peach, Roald Dahl
The Green Mile, Stephen King
Papillon, Henri Charriere
Men At Arms, Terry Pratchett

Master And Commander, Patrick O'Brian
Skeleton Key, Anthony Horowitz
Soul Music, Terry Pratchett
Thief Of Time, Terry Pratchett
The Fifth Elephant, Terry Pratchett
Atonement, Ian McEwan

Secrets, Jacqueline Wilson
The Silver Sword, Ian Serraillier
One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest, Ken Kesey
Heart Of Darkness, Joseph Conrad
Kim, Rudyard Kipling
Cross Stitch, Diana Gabaldon
Moby Dick, Herman Melville (and I never will finish it)
River God, Wilbur Smith
Sunset Song, Lewis Grassic Gibbon
The Shipping News, Annie Proulx
The World According To Garp, John Irving
Lorna Doone, R. D. Blackmore

Girls Out Late, Jacqueline Wilson
The Far Pavilions, M. M. Kaye
The Witches, Roald Dahl
Charlotte's Web, E. B. White
Frankenstein, Mary Shelley

They Used To Play On Grass, Terry Venables and Gordon Williams
The Old Man And The Sea, Ernest Hemingway
The Name Of The Rose, Umberto Eco
Sophie's World, Jostein Gaarder
Dustbin Baby, Jacqueline Wilson
Fantastic Mr. Fox, Roald Dahl
Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov
Jonathan Livingstone Seagull, Richard Bach
The Little Prince, Antoine De Saint-Exupery

The Suitcase Kid, Jacqueline Wilson
Oliver Twist, Charles Dickens
The Power Of One, Bryce Courtenay
Silas Marner, George Eliot
American Psycho, Bret Easton Ellis
The Diary Of A Nobody, George and Weedon Gross-mith
Trainspotting, Irvine Welsh
Goosebumps, R. L. Stine
Heidi, Johanna Spyri

Sons And Lovers, D. H. Lawrence
The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Milan Kundera
Man And Boy, Tony Parsons
The Truth, Terry Pratchett
The War Of The Worlds, H. G. Wells
The Horse Whisperer, Nicholas Evans

A Fine Balance, Rohinton Mistry
Witches Abroad, Terry Pratchett
The Once And Future King, T. H. White
The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Eric Carle
Flowers In The Attic, Virginia Andrews
The Silmarillion, J.R.R. Tolkien

The Eye of the World, Robert Jordan
The Great Hunt, Robert Jordan
The Dragon Reborn, Robert Jordan
Fires of Heaven, Robert Jordan
Lord of Chaos, Robert Jordan

Winter's Heart, Robert Jordan
A Crown of Swords, Robert Jordan
Crossroads of Twilight, Robert Jordan
A Path of Daggers, Robert Jordan
As Nature Made Him, John Colapinto
Microserfs, Douglas Coupland
The Married Man, Edmund White
Winter's Tale, Mark Helprin
The History of Sexuality, Michel Foucault
Cry to Heaven, Anne Rice
Same-Sex Unions in Premodern Europe, John Boswell
Equus, Peter Shaffer
The Man Who Ate Everything, Jeffrey Steingarten
Letters To A Young Poet, Rainer Maria Rilke
Ella Minnow Pea, Mark Dunn
The Vampire Lestat, Anne Rice
Anthem, Ayn Rand
The Bridge To Terabithia, Katherine Paterson

Tartuffe, Moliere
The Metamorphosis, Franz Kafka
The Crucible, Arthur Miller
The Trial, Franz Kafka
Oedipus Rex, Sophocles
Oedipus at Colonus, Sophocles
Death Be Not Proud, John Gunther
A Doll's House, Henrik Ibsen
Hedda Gabler, Henrik Ibsen
Ethan Frome, Edith Wharton
A Raisin In The Sun, Lorraine Hansberry
ALIVE!, Piers Paul Read

Grapefruit, Yoko Ono
Trickster Makes This World, Lewis Hyde
The Mists of Avalon, Marion Zimmer Bradley
Chronicles of Thomas Convenant, Unbeliever, Stephen Donaldson
Lord of Light, Roger Zelazny

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, Michael Chabon
Summerland, Michael Chabon
A Confederacy of Dunces, John Kennedy Toole
Candide, Voltaire
The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar and Six More, Roald Dahl
Ringworld, Larry Niven
The King Must Die, Mary Renault
Stranger in a Strange Land, Robert Heinlein
A Wrinkle in Time, Madeline L'Engle

The Eyre Affair, Jasper Fforde
The House Of The Seven Gables, Nathaniel Hawthorne
The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne
The Joy Luck Club, Amy Tan
The Great Gilly Hopkins, Katherine Paterson
Chocolate Fever, Robert Kimmel Smith
Xanth: The Quest for Magic, Piers Anthony

The Lost Princess of Oz, L. Frank Baum
Wonder Boys, Michael Chabon

Lost In A Good Book, Jasper Fforde
Well Of Lost Plots, Jasper Fforde
Life Of Pi, Yann Martel
The Bean Trees, Barbara Kingsolver
A Yellow Rraft In Blue Water, Michael Dorris
Little House on the Prairie, Laura Ingalls Wilder
Where The Red Fern Grows, Wilson Rawls
Griffin & Sabine, Nick Bantock
Witch of Black Bird Pond, Joyce Friedland
Mrs. Frisby And The Rats Of NIMH, Robert C. O'Brien
Tuck Everlasting, Natalie Babbitt

The Cay, Theodore Taylor
From The Mixed-Up Files Of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, E.L. Konigsburg
The Phantom Tollbooth, Norton Jester (hated it!)
The Westing Game, Ellen Raskin
The Kitchen God's Wife, Amy Tan
The Bone Setter's Daughter, Amy Tan

Relic, Duglas Preston & Lincolon Child
Wicked, Gregory Maguire
American Gods, Neil Gaiman
Misty of Chincoteague, Marguerite Henry

The Girl Next Door, Jack Ketchum
Haunted, Judith St. George
Singularity, William Sleator
A Short History of Nearly Everything, Bill Bryson
Different Seasons, Stephen King
Fight Club, Chuck Palahniuk
About a Boy, Nick Hornby
The Bookman's Wake, John Dunning
The Church of Dead Girls, Stephen Dobyns
Illusions, Richard Bach
Magic's Pawn, Mercedes Lackey
Magic's Promise, Mercedes Lackey
Magic's Price, Mercedes Lackey
The Dancing Wu Li Masters, Gary Zukav
Spirits of Flux and Anchor, Jack L. Chalker
Interview with the Vampire, Anne Rice
The Encyclopedia of Unusual Sex Practices, Brenda Love
Infinite Jest, David Foster Wallace
The Bluest Eye, Toni Morrison.
The Cider House Rules, John Irving
Ender's Game, Orson Scott Card
Girlfriend in a Coma, Douglas Coupland
The Lion's Game, Nelson Demille
The Sun, The Moon, and the Stars, Stephen Brust
Cyteen, C. J. Cherryh

Foucault's Pendulum, Umberto Eco
Cryptonomicon, Neal Stephenson
Invisible Monsters, Chuck Palahniuk
Camber of Culdi, Kathryn Kurtz
The Fountainhead, Ayn Rand
War and Rememberance, Herman Wouk
The Art of War, Sun Tzu
The Giver, Lois Lowry
The Telling, Ursula Le Guin
Xenogenesis (or Lilith's Brood), Octavia Butler (Dawn, Adulthood Rites, Imago)
A Civil Campaign, Lois McMaster Bujold
The Curse of Chalion, Lois McMaster Bujold
The Aeneid, Publius Vergilius Maro (Vergil)

Hanta Yo, Ruth Beebe Hill
The Princess Bride, S. Morganstern (or William Goldman)
Beowulf, Anonymous

The Sparrow, Maria Doria Russell
Deerskin, Robin McKinley
Dragonsong, Anne McCaffrey
Passage, Connie Willis
Otherland, Tad Williams
Tigana, Guy Gavriel Kay
Number the Stars, Lois Lowry
Beloved, Toni Morrison
Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal, Christopher Moore
The mysterious disappearance of Leon, I mean Noel, Ellen Raskin
Summer Sisters, Judy Blume
The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Victor Hugo

The Island on Bird Street, Uri Orlev
Midnight in the Dollhouse, Marjorie Filley Stover
The Miracle Worker, William Gibson
The Genesis Code, John Case
The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Robert Louis Stevensen
Paradise Lost, John Milton
Phantom, Susan Kay
The Mummy or Ramses the Damned, Anne Rice
Anno Dracula, Kim Newman
The Dresden Files: Grave Peril, Jim Butcher
Tokyo Suckerpunch, Issac Adamson
The Winter of Magic's Return, Pamela Service
The Oddkins, Dean R. Koontz
My Name is Asher Lev, Chaim Potok
The Last Goodbye, Raymond Chandler
At Swim, Two Boys, Jaime O'Neill
Othello, by William Shakespeare
The Collected Poems of Dylan Thomas

The Collected Poems of William Butler Yeats
Sati, Christopher Pike
The Inferno, Dante

The Apology, Plato
The Small Rain, Madeline L'Engle
The Man Who Tasted Shapes, Richard E Cytowick
5 Novels, Daniel Pinkwater
The Sevenwaters Trilogy, Juliet Marillier

Girl with a Pearl Earring, Tracy Chevalier
To the Lighthouse, Virginia Woolf
Our Town, Thorton Wilder
Green Grass Running Water, Thomas King
The Interpreter, Suzanne Glass
The Moor's Last Sigh, Salman Rushdie
The Mother Tongue, Bill Bryson
A Passage to India, E.M. Forster
The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Stephen Chbosky
The Phantom of the Opera, Gaston Leroux
Pages for You, Sylvia Brownrigg
The Changeover, Margaret Mahy
Howl's Moving Castle, Diana Wynne Jones
Johnny Got His Gun, Dalton Trumbo
Angels and Demons, Dan Brown
Shosha, Isaac Bashevis Singer
Travels With Charley, John Steinbeck
The Diving-bell and the Butterfly by Jean-Dominique Bauby
The Lunatic at Large by J. Storer Clouston
Time for bed by David Baddiel
Barrayar by Lois McMaster Bujold
Quite Ugly One Morning by Christopher Brookmyre
The Bloody Sun by Marion Zimmer Bradley
Sewer, Gas, and Eletric by Matt Ruff
Jhereg by Steven Brust
So You Want To Be A Wizard by Diane Duane
Perdido Street Station, China Mieville

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, Anne Bronte
Road-side Dog, Czeslaw Milosz
The English Patient, Michael Ondaatje
Neuromancer, William Gibson
The Epistemology of the Closet, Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick
A Canticle for Liebowitz, Walter M. Miller, Jr
The Mask of Apollo, Mary Renault
The Gunslinger, Stephen King
Romeo and Juliet, William Shakespeare
Absalom, Absalom, William Faulkner
The Sun Also Rises, Ernest Hemingway

Dreamhouse, Alison Habens
Hyperion, by Dan Simmons
Prospero's Children, Jan Siegel
Gaudy Night, Dorothy Sayers
Guns, Germs, and Steel, Jared Diamond
Enchantment, Orson Scott Card
Cetaganda, Lois McMaster Bujold
Beauty, Sheri S. Tepper

The Hour of the Star, Clarice Lispector
The Patron Saint of Liars, Ann Patchett
Sexing the Cherry, Jeanette Winterson.
A wizard of Earthsea, Ursula Le'Guin.
Assassin's Apprentice, Robin Hobb.

The Axis Trilogy, Sara Douglass
Peter Pan, J. M. Barrie
Sabriel, Garth Nix
Neverwhere, Neil Gaiman
The Silence of the Lambs, Robert Harris
The Hot Zone, Richard Preston
Talking to High Monks in the Snow, by Lydia Minatoya
The Women of Brewster Place, by Gloria Naylor
Their Eyes were Watching God, by Zora Neale Hurston

The Secret Life of Bees, Sue Monk Bird
The DaVinci Code, Dan Brown
Slaughterhouse Five, Kurt Vonnegut
Hannibal, Thomas Harris
Fires of the Faithful, Naomi Kritzer
Better Part of Valor, Tanya Huff
Rubicon, Tom Holland
The Hours, Michael Cunningham
A Home At the End of the World, Michel Cunningham
Roots, Alex Haley
A Season In Hell, Arthur Rimbaud
Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury
The Satanic Verses, Salman Rushdie
You Can't Go Home Again, Thomas Wolfe

Battle Cry of Freedom, James McPherson
Wide Open, Nicola Barker
The End of Eternity, Asimov
Brave New World, Aldous Huxley
Foundation, Asimov
Traveling Mercies, Anne LaMott

Living In Truth, Vaclav Havel
Queen Bees and Wannabees by Wiseman
Dark Star by Paul Theroux
Roads of Heaven by Melissa Scott

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

Thoughts on School II

I attended Nairobi Primary School; this is a picture of the building when it was the European Nairobi Boys School.Nairobi Primary School

My first teacher there, for Standard 1, was Ms. Edgar. Ms. Edgar was young and mod. She wore short tailored dresses, high heeled shoes, and her hair swept up and lacquered into a beehive. Oh, I thought her so glamorous! We dared to call her "Miss Eggs and Ham" behind our hands; the humour of 5 year olds is not deep. Miss Edgar's shining moment was during one of our swimming classes early that year. She was standing at edge of the shallow end of the pool watching us. I don't remember what kind of suits the boys wore but we girls wore black one piece suits with a white stripe down each side; if we passed proficiency tests the stripes were removed (one per test). Since this was an early class, we were all lined up, tallest to shortest, and then we paraded around the shallow end of the pool getting used to the water. I could already tread water and doggie paddle but some of my classmates had never been in a pool or large body of water before. Can you spot the potential disaster? Led by Anna Banana, the tallest girl in the class, we walked in ever expanding circles. The two shortest boys suddenly found themselves beyond their depth and panicked. Letting go of the conga line they grabbed at each other and went under. Everyone started screaming but none of us attempted a rescue; instead we all looked to Miss Edgar. Miss Edgar threw her purse to one side, kicked off her platform shoes, and jumped into the pool. She lifted a boy in each arm and helped them out of the water. We were amazed! She didn't even take off her watch before jumping in and it became ruined.

The building our class was in was like a cabin, there were three classrooms but each had an outside entrance. The older children had class in the "real" building; it had very high ceilings, marble floors, and sweeping stairs. I don't remember the bathrooms in that school at all. How strange. The grounds of the school were extensive; there were many playing fields, some woods with a stream, dormitories and a dining room, an infirmary, a swimming pool with bleachers and changing rooms, 3 or 4 sets of cabin classrooms, and the main building. My sisters and I were not boarding students but for several years we ate lunch in the dining room because our bag lunches were stolen on a daily basis. My mother felt very sad that there were children who were so hungry but she could not let us go without our midday meal. We wore red and white checked full skirted dresses with white collars, short sleeves, and white cuffs. Tan socks, brown or black buckled shoes, straw hats with navy ribbons, and navy blue cardigans completed the uniform.

I remember very little of the teaching...a hand writing lesson during which Miss Edgar intoned "Around, UP, and down" over and over, some work with rulers, swimming lessons and the school-wide competitions. My report cards note that I was a good reader and had original ideas but that my handwriting was terrible and my parents should enforce discipline to ensure I used my right hand for writing. Discipline at school was often physical. Small infractions like talking or fidgeting in line brought whacks on the palm of a hand with a ruler; repeated infractions brought a sprinkle of salt on my palm before the ruler. In my four years at Nairobi Primary I only once got into serious trouble, trouble that required intervention from up the administration scale. The problem, in my opinion, was Charles. Charles rode to school with us every morning and lived in the Post Office flats at the end of the block. Charles liked me; in particular, he liked to kiss me. It wasn't that I didn't like Charles but (like doomed relationships for hundreds of years) I did not like him "in that way". Charles took advantage of our reading groups. During reading group time half the class worked on paperwork while the other half sat and read with Miss Edgar. Miss Edgar liked to concentrate on the group at hand and asked the non-reading group to work quietly without disturbing her. While we were at our desks, Charles would kiss me, over and over. I told him not to, I told him to stop, I wiped his kisses off my cheeks, then I told the teacher and she told me to sit down and she told Charles to stop. This scenario was repeated over a week or two. Miss Edgar stopped intervening. I took my problem home and discussed it with my Mother who told me to "make" Charles stop; it seems she meant I should speak forcefully but at the time I thought she meant me to take action. The next day Charles kissed me and I hit him with my ruler; the ruler broke and Charles and I burst into tears. Miss Edgar stopped everything and made the class put their heads down while she penned a terse note. Charles and I were to take the note to the Headmaster's office. Nobody we knew had ever been sent to the Headmaster's office. Big boys, rowdy fighting big boys, were sometimes sent there. It was widely known that the Headmaster spanked with a stick or sometimes a leather belt. Charles and I slowly and silently (still crying) made our way through the long hallways and up the marble stairway. We sat on the great wooden bench outside the Headmaster's office, taking our places at the end of the line of older boys. Slowly the line moved up as the door would open and a hand would beckon in the next offender. Sometimes the student would come out with another note, would disappear and then reappear with his schoolbooks to wait for a ride home. Several times we heard the smacking sound of wood on flesh and then a red-faced boy would exit the office with his shoulders up and his head down. Finally it was our turn, Charles and I held hands shaking with fear. We shuffled into the office to face Miss Karimi. She took our note, read it to herself, looked at us, and said, "Yes, what have you to say for yourselves?" Charles and I started sobbing, we tried to explain, we each accepted all responsibility, we tried to say it was not important enough for her attention, we said Miss Edgar had misunderstood. I don't know how she kept from laughing. We were handed clean handkerchiefs and given a lecture on order in education. We promised to never misbehave again, ever, anywhere, for any reason. As far as I know neither of us was ever sent to the Headmaster again.

Monday, May 31, 2004

Thoughts on school I

I love school! If I had my choice with money as no stumbling block, I'd be a perpetual student.

I didn't go to Kindergarten; there weren't any in the area, maybe not even in the whole city. Two years later there was a neighbourhood Kindergarten; my sister attended and I was jealous of the fun they had. I did go to a small preschool for 1 year and I have a few memories of it. I remember playing in the courtyard, painting, singing, punishments, snack, and the day the government sent nurses to give us our BCG vaccinations. Preschool was held in a house (not used for living) across the highway from our neighbourhood on the outskirts of the next quardangle of the city. Either my mother or our housegirl walked me to school. At first they walked me to the door and watched me inside, exchanging "Jambo" with the teachers. Later my adult would cross the highway with me and then watch as I crossed the field and knocked on the door. I was the only white child in attendance and it was both a joy and a trial for the women who ran the preschool. Special care was taken to keep my clothes clean (if only they had known my terrible reputation for tearing and messing my clothes). Punishment, for the other children, was the application of wooden clothespins to fingers, lips, or ears. It may have been that I was a quiet and biddable child or that my skin colour protected me but I was never punished and was not allowed access to the clothespins. I thought the clothespins looked marvelous and spent my afternoons at home using them as earrings and creating fringe around the bottom of my skirt. Our snack was digestive biscuits and warm milk. Ugh! Warm milk! The pasteurized but not homogenized milk was brought to a boil in a large pan and then ladled into plastic mugs. The mugs were covered with waxed paper (to deter bugs) and set on a warming tray until snack time. By the time we were washed and seated a thick skin had set on top of each cup and the temperature of the milk was less than hot but several degrees warmer than room temperature. I was accustomed to having homogenized milk straight from the refridgerator and couldn't manage to drink the warm stuff without gagging. After several scenes and a note home, my mother visited and ensured that I was allowed to drink my milk pre-heated; I had to promise that I would drink it no matter how much nasty cream floated in it. There was quite a muttering about young mothers who just did not understand that cold milk was a danger to the health of m'totos (small children). The BSG is a vaccine for tuberculosis; it is given in the left arm breaking the skin just below the elbow. The needle used is, I assure you, humongous. We were all lined up in the courtyard and then funneled into the doorway to the livingroom of the school where nurses catalogued us and then administered the vaccine. It hurt. It hurt a lot. I did not get the promised lollipop for not crying. Life is not fair. The fallout from that vaccine is a growing allergic reaction to tine test for tuberculosis that has left me unable to be tested in simple ways for the disease (did you know that teachers and other public workers must be tested yearly and that health insurance is not happy to pay for x-rays when a cheap tine test is available?). When I lived in rural areas of America I could not convince doctors that I had been vaccinated against TB and was given several tests. The last time the site of the test swelled to the size of an apple, threw red streaks up and down my arm, and my breathing grew inhibited. The ER doctor in the large city nearby told me that next time I might die and I should vehemently refuse all attempts to administer a skin test.

To be continued....

Sunday, May 30, 2004

Jangled Thoughts on Marriage

The Bishop was in the newspaper yesterday. Our Bishop, the one who visited us last week. Next month he will be at the church closest to our home doing his yearly visitation. (It is not our church but it is a fine one; we still go to our old church in the city...a last holding on to our urban selves. Well, that and it is where I was baptized, married, and had my children baptized. It is home.) During that visit he will bless the union of the resident Priest and his partner. I think this is a wonderful thing for the Bishop to do...and brave because it will certainly bring anger upon him. The church itself must be thrilled their community will be strengthened by this validation and commitment of their priest.

Before church this morning, as I set up the coffee maker and got out the scissors for the Sunday School, I chatted briefly with a friend from church about this event. I was surprised by his outlook on gay marriage. He is in a committed relationship and thinks that a civil recognition of union and a religious blessing of commitment should be enough. I disagree but there really wasn't enough time to articulate just what it was that I disagreed on. I did say that I thought all marriages should be celebrated and that what made marriage strong and beautiful was not heterosexuality but the choice to enter into that commitment and that choice transcends sexual identity. A family that chooses to be a family is stronger than a family forced into the situation. A couple that chooses to enter a committed relationship is better off than a couple forced to put on the mask of the name.

Marriage is a complicated issue. Legally the state grants license to marry and priests/pastors are some of those the State licenses to oversee the signing and entering into contract. At the same time marriage is performed in churches by clergy as an entering into contract with the community. At our church (and at my wedding) the priest asks as part of the ceremony..."Will you who witness these vows support these two people in their lives...." and the people of the church thunder back "WE WILL". Our marriage is not just between the two of us but part of our whole community life. The priest married us as an agent of the State but he also joined us together in his role as agent for God and Church and I see marriage as a sacrament as well as a legal state.

One may get married legally in the US without involving church at all. That is fine with me, really, and suits many people including some members of my family. It would be oppressive to insist on invoking God's involvement in a marriage for people who do not believe or want God involved.

In some churches one may have a committed union blessed in church. This ceremony may be almost identical to a religious marriage ceremony barring only the use of the word marriage and the invoking of the power of the state.

At this time, in most places, neither ceremony is an open gate. Some people are barred from obtaining marriage licenses from the state and a religious blessing of a union is not offered to people who may obtain a license for marriage. Because I may obtain a marriage license from the State it is expected by my church that I will have a marriage ceremony. Blessing of unions is for second class citizens who may not get State approval (my interpretation). Well I don't want special privileges! I don't want to be held apart from other people and I don't want to receive benefits based on the gender of my partner. I don't want to be part of a system that denies the love and commitment of couples because it's tradition and we love our traditions.

If the choice to have a church sacrament of marriage without a legal license had been available to us 14 years ago, it would have been an appealing alternative. I don't think the State needs to have a concern or care with whom I marry as long as no laws are broken in the process; I don't think they need to gather information on my age or race or that of my spouse; I don't think they need to know when and where I plan to have the ceremony or what my religion is. If I choose to have my church bless my relationship and they agree to do it then the government should leave us alone. I would not consider us any less married or a family if we were lacking the license nor do I consider those who legally marry but have no religious ceremony less married than I. I also don't think the church should decline to bless the unions of heterosexual couples; this I take up within the community.

These days in this place, there is no stigma in not marrying and still having a family. The schools and government work well to administer to families of all sorts of configurations: married, divorced, remarried, several fathers per family, foster parents, grandparents with children. Does a marriage license make or unmake a family? Unmake a parent? No, and this has been settled firmly over the last few decades. By denying the same services and attentions to same sex couples, we do deny their familyhood just as denying them marriage licenses denies their full participation in the entity of "Marriage" implying thereby that their relationships are not meaningful or real or vital.

It annoys me no end that in order to get the church's blessing and sacrament I must first have the State's blessing.

It annoys me even more that those who are SEEKING the right to marry legally - which means that they VALUE the right - are being denied.

I see in gay couples who wish to marry some of the same reasons for wanting to marry that I had.

I wish to see us separate church and state in the matter of marriage. Make the legal contract open to everyone and the sacrament available at those churches which wish to offer it.

Saturday, May 22, 2004

Dinner on Wednesday Night:

Soba noodles (Every time I eat these I wonder why I even buy other pasta) cooked + 1 bottle of peanut sauce

Sauce: Spinach, sauteed with onion, bell peppers and garlic in olive oil, with spices: cumin, coriander, salt, pepper, cayenne. Then I pureed the spinach concoction with some fresh mint and cilantro.

Meat: 1.5" hamburger patties made with spices (similar to sauce spices) and chopped fresh cilantro and grilled.

Presentation: Bed of noodles on each plate, drizzled with peanut sauce, a couple scoops of spinach sauce, 3-4 meat patties on top of the sauce, drizzle all with a little more peanut sauce.

I started the noodle water and preheated the grill. Then just after the noodles went in, I put the meat on the grill and started the spinach. It took about 40 minutes all together.

Friday, May 21, 2004

Navigating by Compass: Orienteering comes in handy

9:42, 72 degrees, and I'm driving Northeast. That's good because I'm sure that where I live is North and East of where I am now. Even better is that a few minutes ago it was 9:35 and I was heading Northwest.

I'm lost but not hopelessly so because I have my compass.

9:54, 74 degrees, heading North. Really, even North is good. Sooner or later I'll run into the Beltway and I can get home from there.

10:04, 76 degrees, heading North. Woohoo! A landmark! The jubilation is quickly followed by the realization that this particular landmark can be seen for miles in every direction, looks the same from all sides, and being able to see it does not mean that the road I'm on will go anywhere near the landmark...or my destination.

10:06, 76 degrees, heading East. This is a temporary sidetrack to reach a bridge into the city.

10:09, 75 degrees, heading Northwest across a bridge into the city.

10:15, 74 degrees (why does the temperature keep changing?), heading South across a different bridge because I was cut off by a tourist laden taxi.

10:20, 74 degrees, heading North. I'm not too discouraged. Embarrassed but not discouraged. I suppose it is possible that someone noticed my quick circuit in and out of town (Homeland Security?) but anyone travelling beside me is probably as lost and distracted as I and, thankfully, my plates are from out of town. Blame it on a tourist.

10:27, 72 degrees (trees), heading South again!

10:33, 74 degrees, heading North into the city via a third bridge. Third time is the charm! No tricky turns this time, just rotten drivers who don't know what YIELD and MERGE mean.

10:45, 76 degrees, heading Northeast. I am at ease in the industrial jungle; neon glows on the North and South of the buildings. There are no complications between me and home.

10:59, 73 degrees, heading North. I have left the lights of the city and highway behind me. Crickets and my own tires are the only sounds; people are home early in this suburb and the glow of a television in a dark home is rare this close to Eleven p.m.

11:04, 71 degrees, heading West. I've made it into my driveway from the wilds of Northern Virginia with only my wits (oh lackaday!) and my compass. An urban orienteer.

Why, yes, I have been writing. I just haven't posted it here. I guess it is time to upload a few pieces and then remember to write directly here at the blog...which was the whole point.

Monday, March 29, 2004

Eighteen years ago I was introduced to the father of my boyfriend's friend. It was one of those 'doorman' introductions, the kind that parents like to get so they recognize the strange people coming in and out of their house. But with Richard it was so much more; he treated me as an equal, as someone who was worth talking to and not just as some kid's girlfriend soon to be replaced. Richard was like that. He and his wife often called to invite me to parties or plays even when my partner was out of state at college and their son had left home. They included our family in their celebrations and lives.

A few years ago Richard died after a long and painful illness. We were all hurt and sad and grieving but I felt that I could not grieve for myself because I needed to support and comfort the people who were closer to him like Richard's family and my partner. The appropriate time for contemplating all the parts of losing Richard's life seemed to get pushed further and further away from me. Until the funeral Mass. Here, in the familiar ritual, was the time and place and structure for celebrating a life and mourning a loss. We, corporately and individually, could remember how God was a part of Richard's life and how that life was eternal though the earthly part was over.

For none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself. For if we live, we live unto the Lord; and if we die, we die unto the Lord. Whether we live, therefore, of die, we are the Lord's.

We were lead by the priest to view a whole life coming to a natural transition (though not when we would have chosen it).

Thou only art immortal, the creator and maker of mankind; and we are mortal, formed of the earth, and unto earth shall we return. For so thou didst ordain when thou createdst me saying, "Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return." All we go down to the dust; yet even at the grave we make our song: Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.

The ritual of the Mass channeled my grief, it gave me a calm and familiar way to mourn the loss of a light in my life even while comforting me that Richard is still a part of the family of God.

Help us, we pray, in the midst of things we can not understand to believe and trust in the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, and the resurrection to life everlasting.

And so we left the graveside with sorrow but also in joy and peace. We saw how our lives could reflect the witness he had been; how we reflected him even if we didn't mean to.

Almighty and everlasting God, we yield unto thee most high praise and hearty thanks for the wonderful grace and virtue declared in all thy saints, who have been the choice vessels of they grace, and the lights of the world in their several generations; most humbly beseeching thee to give us grace so to follow the example of their steadfastness in thy faith, and obedience to thy holy commandments, that at the day of the general resurrection, we, with all those who are of the mystical body of the Son, may be set on his right hand, and hear that his most joyful voice: "Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world." Grant this, O Father, for the sake of the same thy Son Jesus Christ, our only Mediator and Advocate. Amen.

Thursday, March 25, 2004

Dear Sonda,

I am so sorry about the turmoil you find in yourself and your community! It strikes at places in me that are still sore.

In these days we expect the racism and bigotry we encounter to be at arms length: crotchety old men muttering in the Metro, hooded strangers around a barn in Pennsylvania, red-faced families hissing at people gathered to commit themselves in love. We do not expect to encounter such hate and ignorance in our own community among our friends and peers. We know these people, we care about things in common, we have similar stated goals and then BOOM a casual statement reveals a fundamental difference.

I've recently left an online community, which I was active in for four or five years, over circumstances similar to yours (though not the same). The main problem for me was not the acts/statements themselves but the rallying of the community to wave away or minimize the offensiveness of them. I could, and had, addressed the ignorance and offense in the statements as they occurred but the statements increased instead of decreasing. Would you not expect that the fallacy behind the statement having been pointed out the person would see the wrongness of the statement and change? Why would someone continue to spew lies and hurt when they knew that the basis was false? When people said they were hurt by the statements why would a person keep hurting them? Why did people in the community turn to the hurt people and tell them they should understand that the person meant no offense and to take offense where none is meant is petty? And why, why, didn't the bulk of people in the community speak up in love and correct the misunderstanding that everyone felt this way and anyone who spoke against it was just being "Politically Correct". Is their silence complicity?

I couldn't stay there, even though I knew I would miss some of them terribly. I couldn't be quiet and yet my speaking up was causing strife and division and deep anger in me. It may be that I am cowardly and a stronger woman would have stayed and insisted on justice and love. I did what I had to do for my own well being. I was becoming less than an equal part of the community; I felt like the enforcer or a one tone bell.

Oh Sonda, I have no answers for you. I have no answers for me. It grieves me.

What can we do that is healing and turns the mind and heart? We talk, we live in community, we love, and we celebrate the good that we encounter. In my teaching days we called that positive reinforcement and used it instead of rewarding negative acts with attention. We can send flowers to random couples waiting to get married at City Hall in San Francisco; saying that we might not know them but we support their love and commitment and their right to marriage. We can back people up when they speak against bigotry of any kind. It does not matter that we are not part of the maligned group, what hurts one, hurts us all and if any of us are not equal then we are none of us equal.

Let us know how you are.

Saturday, February 14, 2004

Touring museums always triggers in me the desire to converse in another language. I mentioned this to my dear while we were resting and people watching after viewing the Eckersberg exhibition. He just widened his eyes and said he doesn't speak any foreign languages well enough to converse. That is not necessary. My sister an I often carry on conversations that sound like Greek, Spanish, Italian, Hindi with appropriate hand gestures and intonation (and even some correct vocabulary thrown in).

Sunday, February 08, 2004

If you are kitchen geek, you can grate fresh nutmeg into your mac and cheese sauce for a great flavour. If you are a clutzy kitchen geek, like me, you can drop your whole nutmeg into the sauce, twice.

Tuesday, February 03, 2004

It's always something!

Today I was doing some painting and stopped at the kitchen sink to wash out my brush. I felt something wet on my foot and looked down to see green tinted water (from the paint) seeping into a puddle on the floor. A quick inspection found nothing wrong so I swiped up the puddle and continued. More green water on the floor. A thorough inspection with running water showed that the sink drain pipe has broken horizontally into two pieces that looked whole but leaked. I pushed at the leak and the pipe separated. Removing the two ends of the pipe took over an hour. I spent a good bit of that time trying to turn one not the wrong way. I learned "Left loosy, Righty tighty" but only one of the three was threaded in that manner. My hands hurt. In the U-trap I found a paintbrush and three very nasty looking popsicle sticks (and loads of disintegrating food bits). I took all the parts to the local hardware store and they gave me the new parts. I got home and started putting it together and found that a)the pipe needs to be shortened with a hacksaw and b)I was missing a washer. My problem is that a)I am horrible at straight line cutting and b)it had started sleeting and our driveway was a mess.

I'm cooking dinner and just realized that we have no paper plates.

Saturday, January 24, 2004

Cooking from Escoffier is a bit of a challenge since no temp or times are mentioned.

CĂ´tes de Porc a la Flamande (pork chops and apples)

Season both sides of the chops and brown them on both sides in fat or butter (mmm bacon fat). Peel and slice eating apples allowing 3oz per porkchop. I used enough apples for 6 chops since the chops were extremely thick. Throw the apples in an earthenware dish (or dutch oven). Put the half-cooked chops on top and drizzle with leftover cooking fat. Complete the cooking in the oven. "Serve the dish as it stands."

I cooked at 325 for 30 minutes+ (I lost track of time so it was good that the chops were very thick).

At least I didn't need to flip back and forth to sub-recipes for this one. Everyone loved it; the chops were nice and juicy.

Because it isn't about just me.

That is the answer to so many questions. Questions I ask and questions asked of me.

Thursday, January 22, 2004

You are probably asking "Mzungu, do talk about anything other than food?" The answer is that of course I think and talk about other things!

For instance: Safeway and a living wage

Our local Safeway is being picketed as part of a nationwide protest about wage negotiations. Safeway and their stores in CA, including Vons, are negotiating work contracts and want to cut benefits and wages. The company claims that they must cut costs to be able to compete with Wal*Mart and other box stores that are getting into the grocery business. Under the present contracts, full time grocery workers get full health benefits and a good wage that increases with years served. Grocery workers who work full-time are part of the middle class. Wal*Mart pays its workers considerably less and offers no paid health benefits for most workers.

I have been discussing this whole issue with my children, my SO, my coworkers, my religious leaders and community, pretty much everyone I'm in contact with.

If my SO and I both worked fulltime at Wal*MArt, we could not live in our current home or our previous home (2 bedrooms for 5 people). We could not afford two cars. We could not afford vacations. Almost one full salary would go toward health insurance.

If Safeway needs to compete with box groceries, why not cut their profit which is considerable instead of the worker's benefits? Why not? Because it is less obvious than raising grocery prices and less painful to the bottom line.

If the workers accept the new contract, even though the current workers retain their benefits and wage levels there are no guarantees that those workers will be kept on the job. What incentive is there to keeping current employees when new workers can be hired for much lower wages and lower benefit costs? Would management really work to edge current employees out? Of course they would; they care about the money not the people and they show that by making this move in the first place. Loss of health beneifts and lowered wage levels drop grocery workers to the edge of poverty.

In many situations I don't think Unions have a role anymmore but then I see situations like this and I think that if the workers didn't have the unions to rally them, living conditions would plummet and industry would treat people like shit.

It is easy for me to stop shopping at Safeway. Within a few miles of my home there are 2 Safeways, 2 Giants, a Sam's, a Shopper's Food Warehouse, and a Super Fresh; just a few more miles away are a Costco and My Organic Market (M.O.M.). The local Wal*MArt does not sell groceries. However, my old neighbourhood (where many people do not have cars) has only two grocery stores within walking distance and they are both Safeways (not very nice stores either! I used to hate sifting through the produce looking for something that wasn't moldy). Even using public transport or a car in the city there are only a handful of grocery stores and the majority are Safeways. There are a few Whole Food markets but they are expensive and an hour by public transport each way. So what choices do these neighbourhoods have?

Wednesday, January 21, 2004

I've been a persistant blogger but I could not get anything to publish during November and December.

What did you miss? There was my vent about Martha Stewart's "Easy" truffle recipe that was published in the paper while I was visiting my mother. Martha says truffles are easy and then gives a recipe with several complicated (and unnecessary) steps. I mean really! what is easy about adding corn syrup? It's an extra step and dilutes the chocolate.

My Easy Truffles that are easier and taste better than Martha's:

Single malt truffles

1/2 cup cream
12 oz chocolate, in bits (I use bittersweet)
4 tbs. butter, in bits, at room temp
1/4 cup single malt

Bring cream to a boil. Remove from heat and stir in chocolate until smooth. Stir in butter until blended. Stir in scotch.

Refrigerate for 1-2 hours. (or immediately pour over pound cake or ice cream)

Scoop into small balls. Roll in cocoa.

Options: replace the whiskey with chambord and add 1/2 cup of melted seedless raspberry jam.

There were other vents and aha moments. Perhaps they will stir in me with the power of the truffles and I'll try them again now that I can post and publish.
We got a lovely dutch oven as a late Christmas present so yesterday I looked for recipes that would use it. We had all the ingredients for beef bourguignon.

Dice 1/2 a pound of bacon and saute until crips. Remove bacon and drain on paper towels. Brown 3 lbs of beef (cubed) in the remaining bacon fat. Stir in 1 cup of chopped onions. Sprinkle meat and onions with 3 Tb flour and salt and pepper. Cook over med high heat for 5 minutes while stirring. Add 3 cups of stock, 3 cups of Burgandy, 1/2 cup of tomato sauce or 2Tb. tomato paster, 1 Tb. chopped fresh rosemary, and the bacon. Bring to a boil, cover, and place in 350 degree oven. Cook about 2 hours.

Cut and cook 2 cups of carrots, 2 cups of pearl onions, and saute 1/2 pound of mushrooms.

Place pan on stovetop, stir in vegetables and 1Tb. red currant jelly. Heat through and serve.

Tonight: Pumpkin soup and shrimp on a bed of leeks served with couscous.