Monday, November 28, 2011

That Person

That Person

by James Shelley, November 3, 2011
Readability | Instapaper

That person. The one you keep running into and your conversation always goes like this: “We really should grab a coffee sometime and catch up.”
That person. You know you share something in common with them, but you’re not exactly sure what that commonality is yet.
That person. You have no agenda other than a stirring curiosity about the way they think and the way they look at the world.
That person. Somehow you’ve both let iCal, Outlook, Blackberry, and Quo Vadis get in the way of actually being together.
That person. This is just a little reminder that today you need to…
☑ Contact that person.

Our Hearts and Thoughts

On Sunday morning my fellow volunteer, Emily Balog, was driving home with her boyfriend after spending the weekend celebrating Thanksgiving with her Training groupsmates.  Their car somehow went out of control, hitting a minivan containing a music group headed towards the capital.  Emily died instantly, several others are still in the hospital in critical condition.

I didn’t know Emily well, we chatted a couple of weeks ago when she asked me for material about nutrition and health classes she wanted to start in her community.  I did know her well enough to know she was a talented, passionate, creative person.  She will be greatly missed by the Peace Corps  family.

Even those volunteers who don’t know her have been profoundly affected by this loss.  Peace Corps Paraguay is an great extended family.  Your g-mates and vac mates become your immediate family, RPCVs are like grandparents and great aunts and uncles, and everyone else in-country will back you up at the first word if the need arises.

It is astounding the amount of trust that instantly develops between volunteers.  I like to joke that the only people on earth who can actually understand what I’m saying at all times are other volunteers.  During our darkest and most challenging times during our service, our volunteer network pulls us through.  Whether it is having 2 hours conversations in 10 minutes increments (we get the 1st 10 minutes free a call, so we set timers to cut the call just before then), dropping everything to go visit a friend in need, hosting a friend and binging on True Blood, Arrested Development…, we do whatever is needed to take care of one another.  Losing part of that community is devastating.

Tomorrow is the memorial service at the Peace Corps office.  The admin team is being very generous and offering to reimburse travel and hotel expenses for volunteers who would like to attend.  I am really thankful  to live at a post that takes care of us so well.

Good bye Emily.  You will be missed.

PS: I’m pretty sure a considerable number of volunteers knew about the accident before it was announced to the family.  Most volunteers have the sense of courtesy to transmit this information via phone, but some posted took to Facebook.  Those posts were removed when volunteers realized the family hadn’t been informed, but the Spanish ones on her wall stayed posted.  I can only hope the family didn’t see the messages before hearing from Peace Corps. 

Since online culture and etiquette is still being developed, I’d like to put it out there that perhaps in the future people should avoid outing a story like this for at least 24 hours.  The family and close friends are going to need at least that amount of time to be contacted and start making their own calls.  Personally, I waited to post until I saw there was a new story in one of the Paraguayan papers.

I will say I'm happy that people have been good about distributing the various news stories without linking them to her profile.  It would be very irritating if the same story describing the accident was posted repeatedly on her wall.  That or her privacy settings are keeping it from happening.  Either way, puntos for everyone using facebook tagging respectfully.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

I'm Boycotting Hoopla

Christmas scented air fresheners being advertised before Halloween!  Black Friday starting on Thanksgiving evening! People rioting and getting maced!

What the heck is going on up there!?

And you wonder why I avoid the holiday season.  I wish everyone could spend at least one holiday season not in the US or any place that celebrates like the US so you could see how not miserably crazy and stressful things can be.

Bad Movies

Julia and Casey stayed with me for a few days for Thanksgiving.  As generally happens when any number of volunteers get together, we made amazing food and watch way too many movies.
I made a cinnamon bun bread that was positively amazing.  We also made hamburgers and French fries, success here as well.  The hummus, potatoes, and apply pie, were equally amazing.

Sadly the moving watching did not turn out as well.

We watched Breaking Dawn, Cowboys and Aliens, and Red Riding Hood.  All of which were as bad as the critics have said.
Breaking Dawn suffers from it usual bad acting in all Twilight films and the fact that I don’t completely understand why all of the menfolk are so twitterpated with such a shell of a female character.  There was no independent plot and its clear parts 1 and 2 should not have been separated since their isn’t enough substance in BD#1 to actually sustain an independent movie.

Cowboys and Aliens didn’t have to be bad.  The acting was good, but the plot was completely predicable.  You never got the sense the characters were actually in danger.  I think it would have been salvageable with the same basic plot if the movie had been funny, but as is, it too itself far too seriously.

I’m not sure what was wrong with Red Riding Hood.  Again, the acting wasn’t bad, but the was just something not engaging about the plot.  There is this whole mystery about who is the wolf, except they don’t do a good job procedurally of leading the viewer through the mystery.  Again, another bust.

So total fail with our movie watching experience, but made better by the company of good friends... and a few glasses of wine.

PS: Also found out there was an animated 3D movie called "Mars Needs Moms" that totally failed. Reeeeally, never could have seen that coming

Looking Fancy, Feeling like a Whale: Thanksgiving Mission Accomplished

After going to the local casino in San Ignacio for their Thursday Karoke night, my friend Casey and I decided it would be awesome to host a Thanksgiving dinner in San Ignacio.  We could have a big early dinner at my house or the office and then go to the casino for some singing, dancing fun.  Unfortunately I wasn’t able to get enough people to commit to coming, so I invited myself to my friend Melissa’s Thanksgiving in her site in Villa Florida.  Villa Florida is on a river and Melissa had already arranged to have her dinner at a hotel with a pool.  River/Pool is a very fair exchange for Karoke.

Casey made garlic potatoes, Julia made hummus, and I made apple pie that morning, caught one of the only double decker buses (with ac!) that will actually stop in San Ignacio without charging the full price all of the way to the capital, even if you want to get off sooner.  Amazingly they charged Casey and me the normal price (it was such a nice bus they could have charged up to 50% more), and they completely forgot to charge Julia at all.

(Pie and Potatoes on the Double Decker Bus)

We were all dressed up, so there was a lot of rubber necking going on while we waited at the bus stop, including 5-6 of the local police officers piled into their truck cruising around, and a set of guys in a truck who  let their vehicle roll back 4 car lengths so their car would be waiting in front of us instead of at the stoplight they were at.

We got to Villa Floriday around 3, having only picked at food around my house and finishing off the hamburgers I made the night before so we were getting hungry.  We found out dinner wasn’t going to  happen until about 7pm, so after a quick dip in the pool we heated up some pita bread and broke open some Lays and went to town on the hummus.  I have to say, it’s the best batch I’ve helped make.  I think I might just have to stop making it because I don’t think I’ll be able to top it.

In true Hora Paraguaya fashion, the locals didn’t start arriving for dinner until 9-10pm, after Melissa messaged them tell them to get to the hotel because the turkey was done and we were ready to eat.  Potluck style dinners aren’t really the norm, the host usually provides everything.  But Melissa’s friends did a good job of bringing additional dishes and we had a nice assortment of different meat dishes,  potato salad, empanadas, etc.

Julia, Casey and I had eaten so much hummus that we could hardly take advantage of the main course.  But we did our best.  Julia made a serious dent in the sausage plate in front of her, like there was an actual divot in the cut sausage pile.  Admittedly it was really good. 

Before we cut the turkey, we each went around the table saying what we were thankful for, a new tradition for the locals, who were very hesitant at first, especially the few stragglers that came after the main group had gone and started eating.  But Melissa held firm and told them they couldn’t eat until they shared.

I was surprised how some of the guests actually seemed ot like the hummus we made.  It had a really strong flavor, which usually Paraguayans don’t like.  The potatoes didn’t go over real well since we put a bunch of pepper and garlic.  The apple pie, which was very tart and cinnamon, didn’t go over very well either, since they prefer their desserts very sweet and sugary.  Not that Julia, Casey, and I were at all perturbed by this.  Casey ate the last half piece for breakfast the next morning, most of it was polished off while waiting for the bus that evening.

We left around 11pm to catch a bus back to San Ignacio, got charged the correct price again! Amazing! Got back into San Ignacio a little after midnight and started walking the 15minutes back to my house.  As we did a carful of guys offered us a ride, we declined, and declined, and declined again.  They even offered to get out of their car and walk with us.  No thanks gents.  They eventually got the message and went away.  Like I said ,we were looking pretty fancy, even if we felt like whales.