Saturday, January 26, 2008

Presidential Paintball

So the beginning of the semester was a slight shock. That is, a shock in a cultural sense as well as a shock to the weather and to my body (Thank you Carl Flink), and to my cognitive skills. I did, however, sit down in my Mass Communications 1001 course yesterday to this.

Games at - Presidential Paintball
Presidential Paintball

Hillary, Obama, Giuliani & more play paintball for the USA Presidency!

Play this free game now!!

My professor, TK Chang, a bubbly Chinese man in jeans and a navy blazer, didn't claim to be very good as he (as Barack Obama) was pelleted by Hillary Clinton. It was more apparent that his giggles were obscuring his aim. The freshman behind me was muttering, "f-this" and "f-that" under his breath in the lecture hall of 150 people and I began to remember how I'm not cut out for lecture classes with people who don't care. It could be a long semester.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

From "Four Quartets"

Burnt Norton


At the still point of the turning world. Neither flesh nor fleshless;
Neither from nor towards; at the still point, there the dance is,
But neither arrest nor movement. And do not call it fixity,
Where past and future are gathered. Neither movement from nor towards,
Neither ascent nor decline. Except for the point, the still point,
There would be no dance and there is only the dance.
I can only say, there we have been: but I cannot say where.
And I cannot say, how long, for that is to place it in time.
The inner freedom from the practical desire,
The release from action and suffering, release from the inner
And the outer compulsion, yet surrounded
By a grace of sense, a white light still and moving,
Erhebung without motion, concentration
Without elimination, both a new world
And the old made explicit, understood
In the completion of its partial ecstasy,
The resolution of its partial horror.
Yet the enchainment of past and future
Woven in the weakness of the changing body,
Protects mankind from heaven and damnation
Which flesh cannot endure.

Time past and time future
Allow but a little consciousness.
To be conscious is not to be in time
But only in time can the moment in the rose-garden,
The moment in the arbour where the rain beat,
The moment in the draughty church at smokefall
Be remembered; involved with past and future.
Only through time is time conquered.


T.S. Eliot

Monday, January 7, 2008

Double Stuffed?

I have this theory that if I keep sweet things in my apartment I won't be prone to eating them. My other option of course is to buy sugar only occasionally - though this usually results in a swift ingestion of their entirety. So I bought oreos the other day, and so far so good. This, along with the fact that I'll be leaving the country for a good ten days on Saturday, makes me feel sort of home free.

I am returning, however, to the land of brown faces, fresh tortillas and taquitos, helados y crema: the place where I gained an extra few pounds last spring. And I cannot wait.

I cannot wait for deteriorated roads, and stalls in traffic where people wait without question for the construction workers to reopen the roads. To see fellow Americans who have never been in the country scream as rock falls from construction around the busses, or to believe we are going to fall directly off the unguarded sides of CA-1 as we switchback into the mountains.

More still I cannot wait to travel through Chichicastenango on a Sunday - the largest day for market in the country and the largest market in its borders.

I can't wait to be mobbed by small children who call me gringa and hug me with runny noses as I read them El Arbol Generoso - The Giving Tree. They usually crawl into my lap and latch around my legs as I walk through the hospital. The last time this happened they wanted to take apart my glasses and wear them. I had to convince the kids that I wouldn't be able to see or do my job without their lenses. But they didn't seem to believe it would be a problem.

It is my idea of vacation - translating in the middle of nowhere, and I often forget how normal such an idea is for me. And because Guatemala has been in my family for so long, I sometimes forget that medical missions, traveling for purposes other than tourism or studying makes me sort of an anomaly. But the whole thing makes me feel less self absorbed, espeically in the midst of studying and a new semester. By nature to be in school is to be selfish. Hell, just yesterday I was wrapped up in an A- that affects my GPA and my potential as high honors graduate. I forget that being at a University makes me privilieged. I'm worried about the oreos in my cupboard. So what does that make me?

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Pistachios and Public Speaking.

Back in July, my grandmother called me and asked me - as I was still afresh from Guatemala - if I would like to be the January speaker for the St. Cloud Reading Room Society. Being that Gram is one of my best friends and she is head of the Speakers Committee, I obliged and only learned later I would receieve a stipend for my efforts. But as it turns out, this women's society has been around for some 100 years and made some big changes in the history of the little town in which I grew up. They began with a book collection for women near the end of the Civil War. While most would now consider St. Cloud the size of a suburb (and to this there may be relevance as it's almost entirely filled with things like Barnes and Noble and Starbucks), the local grocery chains prevail. Still, the downtown area is a far cry from the booming place it was back in the 20s. The origianl 44 women promoted literature among themselves, and Andrew Carnegie donated some $25,000 to the buildling of the St. Cloud public library that housed even a Shakespeare club in the late 19th century. While the original buildling was replaced in 1979, these women are responsible for the fact that I had a library in which to read when I was a kid. Reading, and well, old apple computers with word munchers.

A few weeks ago, I receieved an official letter signed, "Sincerely Yours, Helen Catton" in the mail. It cordially thanked me and breifly explained the meeting. The trouble now, is that January 10th is Thursday, and I'm alloted 45 minutes to speak and answer questions. And I'm the granddaugther of one of the leading ladies.

And I don't know what the hell I want to talk about.

I tend to let public speaking events fly slightly off the cuff - to write a "speech" for myself would be an excruciatingly long endeavor. And I supposed my casual attitude toward speaking events is probably the remnants of the speechie I was in High School. (I guess least 4th place in the State meet still does something for me, right?) This time - due to the duration of the talk - I feel like I should have some kind of direction. At the moment, though, I seem to have only directed my pacing between my desk and my kitchen counter, where I've opened a bag of pistachios - hoping the salt will do something more than make me thirsty.

But once I'm down to the nubby shells that I couldn't possibly pry open with my bare hands I'll have no other choice than to drink my water or go back to my book.

I'd like to be effective in my speaking as Tracy Kidder is writing. I'm reading Mountains Beyond Mountains, and while it's about Tuberculosis in Haiti, I feel like it's also about Guatemala. Kidder has the cabaility to infuse a reader with the feeling of traveling in a packed pickup through the mountains and their desolate, desperate confines. Babies living in shacks with TB are babies in Guatemala, malnourished and surviving on coffee because a mother won't lactate. Kidder underwhelms the nature of what he writes to effectively allow the reader to meet his text with his or her own sentiment. He is fantastic - and does well, what I seem to garble about Guatemala in my own writing.

Mostly I want to tell stories to these women. I guess it's time to begin scouring the journals again. I'm not out to hound some kind of message, but to talk about another place I tend to call home.