So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
Ethnicity. that of my father and his father before him
Location Cherry Hills Vil, CO
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The Link To Zanzibar's Past
This is my page in the beloved art community that my sister got me into:
Extra points for people who know what Samarinda is.
The Phases of the Moon Module
The Tree and the Telephone Pole
I Do Not Know Their Names
Today I am Young
A Night Poem
Siren of the Sea
If I Were a Dragon
To the Dreamers Leave the Sky
The Honor of the Oyster
Return From San Diego
A Late Summer's Night
Of Dragons and Men
The Edge of the World
The Snake's Terror
Metaphysics and the Middaymoon
Of Adventures in Foreign Lands
The Rogue Wave: The Unedited Version
Adventures in the PRC
Voyage of Discovery
Drinking the Blood of Goats
Ticket for a Phantom Bus
Os peixes nadam o mar
Three Villages Far Away
The River Weser
Children I Should Have Kidnapped, Part I
Let's Get You Out of Those Clothes
If Underwear Could Speak
Croc Hunter/Combat Wombat
Only My Favorite Baseball Player EVER
Aw, Larry Walker, how I loved thee.
M: Science and Exploration
T: Cook a nice dinner
Th: Parties, movies, dinners
F: Picnics, the Louvre
S: Read books, go for walks, PARKOUR
Su: Philosophy, Religion
The Reading List
This list starts Summer 2006
A Crocodile on the Sandbank
Tales of the Alhambra (in progress)
Dark Lord of Derkholm
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
The Lost Years of Merlin
Harry Potter a l'ecole des sorciers (in progress)
Atlas Shrugged (in progress)
A Long Way Gone (story of a boy soldier in Sierra Leone- met the author! w00t!)
The Eye of the World: Book One of the Wheel of Time
From Magma to Tephra (in progress)
Lady Chatterley's Lover
Harry Potter 7
The No. 1 Lady's Detective Agency
Introduction to Planetary Volcanism
A Child Called "It"
Is Multi-Culturalism Bad for Women?
Americans in Southeast Asia: Roots of Commitment (in progress)
What's So Great About Christianity?
Aeolian Dust and Dust Deposits
The City of Ember
The People of Sparks
When I was in Cuba, I was a German Shepard
The Golden Compass
Clan of the Cave Bear
The 9/11 Commission Report (2nd time through, graphic novel format this time, ip)
The Incredible Shrinking Man
The Elves of Cintra
The Gypsy Morph
Animorphs #23: The Pretender
Animorphs #25: The Extreme
Animorphs #26: The Attack
A Journey to the Center of the Earth
A Great and Terrible Beauty
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
To Sir, With Love
Alice in Wonderland
Through the Looking Glass
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
The Hunger Games
Shadows and Strongholds
The Jungle Book
Beatrice and Virgil
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
No One Ever Told Us We Were Defeated
The Name of the Wind
Tao Te Ching
What Paul Meant
Lao Tzu and Taoism
Sand and Sandstones
Lost Christianites: The Battles for Scripture and the Faiths We Never Knew
The Science of God
Great Contemporaries, by Winston Churchill
City of Bones
Around the World in 80 Days, by Jules Verne
Stranger in a Strange Land
The Old Man and the Sea
Flowers for Algernon
Au Bonheur des Ogres
The Road to Serfdom
De La Terre à la Lune (ip)
In the Light of What We Know
Devil in the White City
The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August
How to Be a Good Wife
A Mote in God's Eye
want to read: Last Hunger Games Book, Honeybee Democracy, The Bell Jar
Adventures in Bureaucracy
Tuesday. 8.14.12 11:04 am
Having been turned away in a most cold and unfriendly manner from the last french health services office that I visited, I was understandably wary as I attempted my second approach.
The man at the door of the last health services office had asked me my business, affirmed that I was in the right place, and given me a ticket. I sat in the waiting room for about 40 minutes. During this time a hassled woman appeared one number after her number was called. They turned her away, even though she explained that she had had to run out to make photocopies (there was no available photocopier in the building). I was finally called to a window, where I explained my situation to the a woman. She looked through my papers and fell eventually upon my birth certificate. She said that it was not acceptable. "NEXT!" I quickly showed her that an official translation of the certificate was stapled onto the back. Affronted, she gave a cursory glance to the translation.
"No," she said immediately, "This is not acceptable." I pointed out that it was an official translation, complete with a stamp. "No," she said, casting her eye around the page. "See here? Where it says, 'name'? It does not say 'first name' or 'last name'. How are we supposed to have any idea which name is which? She read out my family and Christian names like they were the most unintelligible words ever written on a piece of paper, despite the fact that they are fairly common names, even in France, and they are designated as first and last names on the other seven pieces of justification that I was required to give her. She said that it wasn't she who was rejecting it, she was just rejecting it because she knew that the people a level above her would reject it. "NEXT!"
I explained to her that I paid 60 euros for the translation to be done by an official, government-approved translator, and that it had been acceptable to the people who had made out my residency card, the most official and difficult-to-obtain document in French immigration, which itself had required perhaps twelve pieces of justification. She was unmoved. I asked if I could just write "first name" and "last name" on the translation to help her superiors identify which was which. She was affronted, even though in my tone and word choice I did everything possible to remain earnest and humble and conciliatory. She shuffled my papers together. "You don't even have the FORM," she said suddenly, and a form that I had never heard of materialized beneath her fingertips. "You came here without even filling out this form." Ah yes, now I was sloppy, me with my carefully prepared folder with exactly the right number of duplicates, staples, and supplementary forms.
"Besides," she added, "you are at the wrong office. When you finally get all of your appropriate paperwork together, you have to send it by registered mail to an address. NEXT!"
She didn't give me the address. It was probably the same one as the one on the outside of the building. I supposed that it was normal protocol to verify multiple times that I was in the right office and to carefully look through my paperwork only to announce that I was in the wrong office after all. I wanted to fight with her, but I was already visibly near tears, so I shoved all of my papers back into my bag and left the building. I felt keen sympathy for whoever in the queue of hopeful immigrants had to follow me to her desk. I second-guessed myself--- I like to think that when things don't work out it is because I misunderstood or mishandled the situation rather than because the other person was unreasonable.
But I remembered the advice of countless foreigners who had come before: if you are turned down by one agent of the french government, come back another day and try your luck with another.
This time I went to a health services office across town. The man at the door verified my intentions and gave me a number. Within five minutes I was talking to an agent at the counter, a friendly black girl. Not to generalize, but while french black people are culturally similar to french white people in almost every way, french black women tend to be about an order of magnitude lower on the "uppity bitch" scale. She looked through my paperwork and complimented me on how orderly it was and how many copies of things that I had. She made some copies using the copier in the back when it looked like I only had originals. She even added some of her own staples.
"That should do it," she said after about two minutes. I stood agape.
"This is unrelated," she continued, "But since you are American, can I ask you how hard it is to get a visa to work in America?"
I fumbled... one thing I've learned is that citizens of a country know almost nothing about their own immigration processes. I tried to remember the experiences of my friends. I explained what I knew, that it was hard to get a visa unless you already had a job lined up, that it was easier to get a student visa, but that the student visa was expensive and didn't always allow you (or your spouse) to work. She asked me if it was true that our health care was crazy expensive, and I fumbled through the answer to that, too. The short answer was yes.
She told me to have a nice day. I stumbled out of the building, in awe of how easy it was, in awe of what a heinous, arbitrary, mean-spirited harpy the other lady had been, in awe that those sorts of bureaucrats are so common in this government that foreigners passed down handbooks about them.
I, too, had encountered the mythical beast, the french bureaucrat. I, too, had survived.
Sunday. 8.12.12 2:17 pm
I've had a lot on my mind lately. I've been distracted. Living through one of those hazes where your mind's eye is sitting quietly back in the darkness several meters behind your real eyes, refusing to be present in the here and now.
I've been reading the Tao Te Ching, finally. Learning about the Tao and The Way. It's pretty weird how similar the Tao is to the teachings of Jesus in places. In order to lead you must follow, in order to be great you must be lowly, to be whole, you must be broken. The only way that the Tao can be defined is in terms of itself... that is, the The Way is itself. I am what I am.
"All that you grasp will be thrown away. All you hoard will be utterly lost"
"Whatever you lose, you've won,
Whatever you win, you've lost."
"To know what endures
is to be openhearted,
following the Tao,
the way that endures forever.
The body comes to its ending,
but there is nothing to fear."
"Why was the Way honored
in the old days?
Wasn't it said:
Seek, you'll find it.
Hide, it will shelter you.
So it was honored under heaven."
"Treat the small as large,
the few as many.
with the power of goodness"
I always thought it was kind of unfair that the Israelites should get Jesus but the rest of the world just has to figure it out somehow on their own. Maybe God did send Prophets everywhere, just cloaked in the language and metaphors of the target audience.
And of course I've been thinking about the usual stuff: the ideal government, the ideal tax system, the ideal health system, the absurdity of war, the speech that I would give if I could address all of the American people, etc etc etc. I might have to use this blog to sort some of these things out in my head.
I have an Indian friend who is going home to get married, his marriage is arranged but he was like, "Don't worry, we've totally met once before. It isn't like in Northern India where only the parents get to choose, they let us meet and then we have to agree to it of course." He was making it sound like his version of the arranged marriage was so very free and modern, but it still sounded very weird to us. He said that he told his bride that he expected GOOD FOOD, and she responded that she was a good cook. "We'll see," he said.
I started to wonder how hard that would be to marry pretty much a perfect stranger. Then again, your expectations would be SooOOO much lower, it might not actually be that bad. You'd spend most of your time hanging out with your girlfriends and relatives, he would do the same, he'd know what roles he was expected to fulfill, you'd know what roles you were expected to fulfill... neither of you would be expected to fulfill every need of the your partner... you wouldn't have to be lovers and soul-mates and best friends and business colleagues and disciplinarians and golf partners and everything else, like I think we sometimes expect our spouses to be. ......still.
Shark Fin Soup
Saturday. 8.11.12 12:47 pm
J: "So what about this job at NASA?"
Z: "I'm probably going to take it."
J: "And what did your boyfriend say?"
Z: "Uh, we broke up."
MP: "FINALLY! Now you can eat all of the shark fin soup you want!"
Thanks, co-workers, for your support.
Thursday. 8.9.12 2:17 pm
I walked into the hardware store. They recently put readable signs on the floor, so the greeter, normally overwhelmed by customers, was at a loss for something to do.
I smiled at him and then followed the lines on the floor to hardware. As I made my way through drills I saw him again, standing there hopefully, and I deftly turned into an aisle of L-shaped brackets. What could I ask him, anyway? "Excuse me, sir, where are the things that turn the things in the thing?" I perused the L-shaped brackets and continued walking through the dowels.
There he was again! Was he following me around? Hopeful, smiling, nearly the same age as me....
The appropriate French word popped into my head. "Pardon me, sir," I said in my best french accent, smiling brightly, "Where are the screwdrivers?"
He showed me around the corner where there were several shelves of screwdrivers. "Do you know which kind you need?" he asked.
I didn't know how to say "Phillips head" in French... I doubted it was called that. He waited patiently as I fished the screw out of my purse.
"Ah," he said, studying it carefully. He selected a beautiful screwdriver with a comfortable handle and a magnetic tip. I thanked him in a way that signified that the conversation was over and he moved off. I put the screwdriver back, as it cost ten euros, and tried out a number of other Phillips head screwdrivers, waiting for him to leave for good so that I could pick the cheapest one. He came up uncertainly on my right-hand side before stopping mid-stride and going back. He came up on my left hand side, hesitated, took a step back, a step forward, turned his back, turned around, and then turned his back again. I pretended to be oblivious of him as I analyzed the screwdrivers with all of my attention. What did he want to do, tell me more about screwdrivers? He was acting like he was about to ask me out for coffee.
Would I say yes?
Without Sharkboy I had no good reason not to say yes.... though some part of me doubted that my true love worked as a greeter in a french department store hardware department..... I kept my attention firmly on the screwdrivers and at last he gave up, melting back towards plumbing.
Ah well, another possible life, quantum-mechanicked out of existence.
Thursday. 8.2.12 6:10 pm
Take; eat; this is my body which is given for you.
Drink of it, all of you: this is My Blood, which is shed for you and for many.
Champagne, Men, and the Eiffel Tower
Saturday. 7.28.12 3:10 am
On Thursday the Canadian convinced us all to go have a picnic at the Trocadero, overlooking the Eiffel Tower. It was hot, and everyone had decided that they should bathe in the giant fountain and sit on the grass despite the numerous "No bathing or sitting on the grass" signs. I have to admire the French people's strong spirit of not-giving-a-shit. We had baguettes and cured hams and cherry tomatoes and dark chocolate and several bottles of champagne. Some visiting Germans asked us if we do this every day, and we allowed them to think that we did, because everyone agreed that that was the impression Germany should have of France. I waded in the fountain and the boys tried to push me in, and I tried to pull them in after me, and it had been so long since I'd had boys trying to push me into a fountain that it gave my tender little heart a pair of wings. We were lucky that the fountains didn't turn on, because they turned on a half an hour later and soaked everyone in the general vicinity. On the hour the large water cannons turned on and soaked everyone that they had missed, including us at the top of the hill. Children ran everywhere in swimming suits, sliding down the concrete inclines into the fountains. We stayed another hour, drinking champagne and then beer and then rosé out of plastic champagne flutes, and when the giant fountains threatened to drown us again we moved off. I warned the people who hurried to take our place about the imminent fountains, and my Parisian friends told me that it was a very unParisian thing to do. They said that real Parisians would have just let them find out about the fountains by themselves and then laughed at them.
Just as the rest of us had suspected all along!
We rested along a wall and MP challenged me to climb all the way around a bench without touching the ground, which I did, and we challenged him to climb a wall as if he were wearing a skirt and could use nothing below his knee (to simulate what it would be like for the Canadian to climb the wall) and he did. The Eiffel Tower switched on as the light began to fade and then burst into a million sparkling lights. As my old friend Phil would say,
"This is how we should live."
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