October 2010

On the other side.

In simplest terms, it’s a triumph of good over evil.  This particular version of that iconic theme go like this: the Demon King of Lanka, Ravana, gets ticked off at the royal family and steals away the princess.  Her husband, Rama, and his brother, Lakshmana, go off and rescue her in a huge battle involving earth, water, and sky.   This battle is celebrated by Hindus (and non-Hindus alike) in many countries as the 10-day Navaratri festival.  The culmination of it all is Dasara, a big night of dancing and music, with marigold-draped cars (and horses!) drawing platforms of festively-decorated deities through streets, passengers tossing brightly colored fistfuls of dust into the crowd as they pass.

This particular holiday was last night.  We arrived in Mumbai right at the height of the evenings’ festivities.  Now that we know what, exactly, was going on, we feel awfully badly for our driver missing out on it all to retrieve our sorry selves from the airport!  From the terminal, we wove through the streets, appreciating the celebration even if we did not yet appreciate the context.  My memorized Hindi phrases and words don’t lend themselves to conversations around Hindu festivals and even if I could truly converse in Hindi, understanding the ins and outs of the Ramayana requires the accompaniment of family charts, maps, timeline histories, and full-color illustrations.

We’re in India for my new job.  I have students completing semester long field placements in Mumbai, based out of a Social Justice program at a partner University based in the city.  The last time I’d seen India was 8 years ago, but there was never any doubt that we would all go again.  If you’re open to adventure and willing to be tested, India is unlimited in its opportunities.

The timing of a hundred things coincided perfectly to support and justify this trip.  We’re in Mumbai for a week with the students and the University (we’re staying on campus in the lovely guesthouse) and then will move on to North India, flying to Delhi to visit friends and do sight-seeing up north.  In total, the trip is just under 4 weeks.  In one of the beautiful synergies that formed in the planning for this trip, a few days before we left, a colleague from India flew into town to teach a course in the School of Social Work.  She is living in our home while we travel, scheduled to depart on the very day we get back.

We’ve been in the country for less than 24 hours and are slowly adjusting to being almost exactly on the other side of the earth.  More to come as our trip unfolds…


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Just Posts, September 2010

Here are the Just Posts for September 2010.

The Just Posts for a Just World are a joint effort between Alejna and me — together, and with your nominations, we try to find posts on personal blogs about relevant social issues. Regular people thinking about important stuff. Ways we can inspire each other to think, do, and be all that we want to see in the world. Click for more information about the JPs here.

Thank you thank you thank you and thank you for your support of the Just Posts.


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Songs to Grow By

My parents gave Will and Kate MP3 players.  The idea is that this is the kids’ “traveling music” for our upcoming trip.  The following is a list of 136 songs, with input by both parents and actual implementation by me and Paul.

I haven’t figured out how to change the ordering (currently it is in alpha order by “artist”) and the variety may induce seizures, but so far the kids love it.

Keeping in mind that this collection is for a 6 year old and 4 year old… and that they will be doing a lot of listening to it in confined spaces… what did we leave out?

Take a look.  What would (or does?) your kids’ MP3 player hold?

✓    Tipitina And Me    2:52    Allen Toussaint    Our New Orleans: A Benefit Album
✓    Sister Golden Hair    3:20    America    History (Greatest Hits)
✓    City of New Orleans    4:33    Arlo Guthrie    The Best of Arlo Guthrie
✓    Handel: Water Music Suite #2 In D, HWV 349 – Alla Hornpipe    3:28    August Wenzinger
✓    Love Shack    5:22    The B-52’s    Cosmic Thing
✓    Solo Un Segundo    3:59    Bacilos    Caraluna
✓    People    3:27    Barbra Streisand    Funny Girl – Original Broadway Cast Recording
✓    If I Had $1,000,000    4:27    Barenaked Ladies
✓    Black Bird    2:18    The Beatles    The Beatles (Disc 1)
✓    Love Me Do    2:21    The Beatles
✓    We Can Work It Out    2:15    The Beatles
✓    Penny Lane    3:00    The Beatles
✓    All You Need Is Love    3:48    The Beatles
✓    Let It Be    3:51    The Beatles
✓    In A Big Country    3:55    Big Country
✓    No Rain    3:35    Blind Melon
✓    The Bare Necessities    4:50    Bruce Reitherman & Phil Harris    Classic Disney Volume II
✓    Thunder Road    4:49    Bruce Springsteen
✓    The Ugly Bug Ball    2:59    Burl Ives    Classic Disney Vol. 1
✓    Morning Has Broken    3:19    Cat Stevens
✓    Wild World    3:20    Cat Stevens
✓    Suite: Judy Blue Eyes    7:29    Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young
✓    Marrakesh Express    2:37    Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young
✓    Jack’s Lament    3:17    Danny Elfman    Classic Disney, Vol. 3
✓    What’s This?    3:08    Danny Elfman    Classic Disney, Vol. 5
✓    So Much To Say    4:06    Dave Matthews Band    Crash
✓    Best Of Whats Around    4:17    Dave Matthews Band    Under The Table And Dreaming
✓    Ain’t No Mountain High Enough    3:32    Diana Ross
✓    I Hear A Symphony    2:45    Diana Ross & The Supremes
✓    You’ve Got A Friend In Me    2:05    Disney    Disney’s Greatest, Vol. 1
✓    I Wan’na Be Like You (The Monkey Song)    4:40    Disney    Disney’s Greatest, Vol. 1
✓    Bibbidi-bobbidi-boo    1:18    Disney    Disney’s Greatest, Vol. 1
✓    Bella Notte    2:41    Disney    Disney’s Greatest, Vol. 1
✓    When You Wish Upon A Star    3:15    Disney    Disney’s Greatest, Vol. 1
✓    Winnie-the-pooh    2:20    Disney    Disney’s Greatest, Vol. 2
✓    A Dream Is A Wish Your Heart Makes    4:36    Disney    Disney’s Greatest, Vol. 2
✓    Heffalumps And Woozles    2:05    The Disney Chorus    Classic Disney, Vol. 3
✓    Little April Shower    3:56    The Disney Chorus    Classic Disney, Vol. 3
✓    The Rain Rain Rain Came Down Down Down    1:40    The Disney Chorus
✓    Yo Ho (A Pirate’s Life For Me)    4:46    The Disney Chorus
✓    Cruella De Vil    4:08    Dr. John    Classic Disney, Vol. 5
✓    World I Never Made    4:02    Dr. John    Our New Orleans: A Benefit Album
✓    Beethoven: Bagatelle In A Minor, WoO 59, “Für Elise”    4:20    Elyso Bolkvadze
✓    Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)    3:39    Eurythmics
✓    It’s The Same Old Song    2:46    The Four Tops
✓    Etude In E, Op. 10, No. 3 (Tri    4:27    Frederic Chopin
✓    Dog & Butterfly    5:24    Heart
✓    Candle On The Water    2:59    Helen Reddy
✓    Brahms: Hungarian Dance #5 In G Minor    2:33    Herbert Von Karajan
✓    Clean My Room    2:35    Imagination Movers    Calling All Movers
✓    I Want My Mommy (time for Bed)    2:28    Imagination Movers
✓    The Medicine Song    1:26    Imagination Movers    Good Ideas
✓    Nina’s Song    2:17    Imagination Movers    Imagination Movers
✓    Closer To Fine    4:02    Indigo Girls    Indigo Girls
✓    Watershed    5:46    Indigo Girls    Nomads – Indians – Saints
✓    Galileo    4:14    Indigo Girls    Rites Of Passage    Folk
✓    Strange Fire    5:30    Indigo Girls    Strange Fire    Folk
✓    Least Complicated    4:12    Indigo Girls    Swamp Ophelia
✓    Back Water Blues    3:32    Irma Thomas
✓    I Want You Back    3:01    Jackson 5
✓    Abc    2:59    Jackson 5
✓    You’ve Got A Friend    4:33    James Taylor
✓    Me And Bobby Mcgee    4:34    Janis Joplin
✓    Take Me Home, Country Roads    3:12    John Denver
✓    Annie’s Song    3:02    John Denver
✓    Thank God I’m A Country Boy     3:30    John Denver
✓    Grandma’s Feather Bed    2:13    John Denver
✓    Rocky Mountain High    4:44    John Denver
✓    Imagine    3:08    John Lennon    Imagine (Remastered)
✓    Star Wars Main Theme    5:53    John Williams    Star Wars Trilogy
✓    The Imperial March    3:06    John Williams    Star Wars Trilogy
✓    Chelsea Morning    2:32    Joni Mitchell    Hits
✓    The Circle Game    4:52    Joni Mitchell    Hits
✓    Both Sides, Now    4:35    Joni Mitchell    Hits
✓    For Me And My Gal For Me And My Gal    4:23    Judy Garland And Gene Kelly
✓    Feed The Birds (Tuppence A Bag)    3:51    Julie Andrews    Classic Disney Volume II
✓    Stay Awake    1:46    Julie Andrews    Classic Disney, Vol. 3
✓    Walking On Sunshine    3:59    Katrina & The Waves
✓    Oogie Boogie’s Song    3:18    Ken Page & Ed Ivory    Classic Disney, Vol. 4  Soundtrack
✓    This Is It    3:59    Kenny Loggins    Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow
✓    Stormy Weather Stormy Weather    3:54    Lena Horne
✓    Ev’rybody Wants To Be A Cat    2:03    Liz English, Phil Harris, Scatman Crothers & Thurl Ravenscroft
✓    Do You Know What It Means To Miss New Orleans    3:01    Louis Armstrong
✓    Basin Street Blues    2:06    Louis Prima    New Orleans
✓    Dancing In The Street    2:41    Martha Reeves & The Vandellas
✓    Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)    3:15    Marvin Gaye    Greatest Hits
✓    Ain’t No Mountain High Enough    2:29    Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell
✓    Once Upon A Dream    2:47    Mary Costa & Bill Shirley    Classic Disney, Vol. 3
✓    My Guy    2:50    Mary Wells    Motown Singles Collection 1959-1971 – Disc 1
✓    Be My Life’s Companion    3:13    Mills Brothers    The Best Of The Decca Years
✓    Glow Worm    2:41    Mills Brothers    The Best Of The Decca Years
✓    Stardust    3:16    Nat King Cole    Greatest Hits
✓    (I Love You) For Sentimental R    2:55    Nat King Cole
✓    Straighten Up And Fly Right    2:26    Nat King Cole
✓    Tchaikovsky: The Nutcracker Suite, Op. 71A – Dance Of The Sugar Plum Fairy
✓    (I Wish I Could) Shimmy Like My Sister Kate    4:50    Preservation Hall Jazz Band
✓    We Will Rock You    2:02    Queen
✓    We Are The Champions    3:02    Queen
✓    Crazy Little Thing Called Love    2:44    Queen
✓    Try Not To Breathe    3:51    R.E.M.    Automatic For The People
✓    Man On The Moon    5:14    R.E.M.    Automatic For The People
✓    Nightswimming    4:18    R.E.M.    Automatic For The People
✓    Shiny Happy People    3:46    R.E.M.    Out Of Time
✓    Half A World Away    3:28    R.E.M.    Out Of Time
✓    I Will Go Sailing No More    2:58    Randy Newman
✓    Strange Things    3:20    Randy Newman    Classic Disney, Vol. 5
✓    Ya Got Trouble    3:59    Robert Preston & Ensemble    The Music Man
✓    Building A Mystery    4:07    Sarah Mclachlan    Surfacing
✓    Adia    4:05    Sarah Mclachlan    Surfacing
✓    Sunny Came Home    4:24    Shawn Colvin    A Few Small Repairs
✓    Goodnight My Someone    2:52    Shirley Jones    The Music Man
✓    Till There Was You    2:59    Shirley Jones    The Music Man    Soundtrack
✓    Lida Rose / Will I Ever Tell You?    4:15    Shirley Jones & The Buffalo Bills
✓    Ol Man River    4:08    Showtunes    The Best Of Broadway – The 30’s
✓    Tears Of A Clown    3:00    Smokey Robinson & The Miracles
✓    My Cherie Amour    2:53    Stevie Wonder    Motown 40 Forever – Disc 1
✓    You Are The Sunshine Of My Live    2:53    Stevie Wonder
✓    You Can’t Hurry Love    2:52    The Supremes
✓    And She Was    3:39    Talking Heads    Little Creatures
✓    Mad World    3:29    Tears For Fears    Tears Roll Down (Greatest Hits)
✓    Everbody Wants To Rule The World    4:14    Tears For Fears
✓    My Girl    2:46    Temptations    Greatest Hits    Motown
✓    Papa Was A Rollin’ Stone    6:58    Temptations
✓    Lie To Me    3:28    Theresa Andersson
✓    Birdhouse In Your Soul    3:21    They Might Be Giants    Flood
✓    Istanbul (Not Constantinople)    2:38    They Might Be Giants    Flood
✓    Mozart: Piano Sonata No. 11 in A major, K. 331    2:52
✓    One    4:36    U2    Achtung Baby    Rock
✓    Who’s Gonna Ride Your Wild Hor    5:17    U2    Achtung Baby
✓    Pride    3:50    U2
✓    With Or Without You    4:59    U2
✓    Where The Streets Have No Name    5:38    U2    The Joshua Tree
✓    William Tell Overture    3:10    Various Artists    Symphony on the Green [Disc 3]
✓    Barber of Seville Overture    2:12    Various Artists    Symphony on the Green [Disc 3]
✓    The Tiki, Tiki, Tiki Room    2:41    Wally Boag, Fulton Burley, Thurl Ravenscroft & The Mellomen
✓    Treaty    3:37    Yothu Yindi    Tribal Voice


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Paradise Awaits!

Somewhere over Quintana Roo, Mexico…

Belize!  This is the coastline north of Belize City.  The well-known islands (Cayes) are visible on the other side of the plane.  The water was so clear and still that it didn’t look at all like water… it looked like odd, Dr. Seuss-inspired, green desert.

I landed at the airport and waited around to see if, by chance, the last minute pick-up request I’d sent to my hotel in San Ignacio had been received.  After a good 15 minutes, I figured it was time for an adventure… and set off via taxi to the Belize City bus station.

As we pulled away…

Me: “What language were you speaking back there?”

Driver: “Creole.”

Me: “Is that a type of Spanish Creole?”

(laughing) “Oh, no.”

“A French Creole?”

(laughing harder) “No, no no nono…  It’s broken English!”

“English?!  And here I thought I spoke that language pretty good!”

“Yeah, you’re doing alright to me.”

“But I did not understand A WORD you said!”

Thus begun my introduction into Creole.  Best I could tell, you take an English sentence, cut every word in half, and them jam them all together.  Then I saw the Coca-cola ad: “Di One Dala Deal.”  And suddenly, the world of the Creole language opened up.

But it didn’t help me understand the friendly folks at the bus stop.  The bus stop itself was like any other I’d been to in Central America.  Except much, much more diverse — and diverse in its local population, I was the only gringa tourist there.  Mennonites.  Asians.  Mayans.  Guatemalans.  Rastafarians.  And more.

I would have loved to photograph it all, capture the moments in color perfection to go back and study the detail: the texture of the paint, the funny captions on the ads, the expressions on the kids faces as the sucked plastic bags of pureed fruit.  But if I’d done this, I would have become a voyeur in that space, turning it into something uncomfortable and suspicious.  Better to be there, than to take it away.

Instead, I missed my express bus.

The local buses looked a bit daunting — crowded, and with the understanding that it would take almost 4 hours to get where I needed to go.  I needed another option.  After all, I was suppose to get be getting to work.

Admitting defeat, I went to study the ultra-confusing bus schedule, where once again, I broke into conversations.  First with a Mennonite who went out of his way to be helpful.  Then with a bus station employee.  She wasn’t feeling her best and wanted to go home… which just happened to be the very place I needed to go.  I paid her gas, she drove us West, into the jungle.


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How intimate, TRULY intimate, are you with the significant people in your life?

I’m talking about the stuff that is REALLY INTIMATE.  Passing gas.  Using the toilet.  Discussing bowel movements.  Seeing each other in highly unflattering bathroom moments.  Because when you really get down to it, the list of people we’d sleep with is way longer than those who we’re willing to let see us naked on the can, bearing down on a particularly hard nugget.  Amirite?

So you’ll understand then why it’s hard for me, one who is usually quite open and honest, to talk about my problems.  They involve nouns like “stool” and “rectum,” with illustration by adjectives like “watery” and “bloated.”  And then there’s the discussion of pain.  Everyone has abdominal pain from time to time, just like they have fevers and diarrhea.  So how can one explain this pain?   I could be dramatic: “like a rolling, roving object, splashing and thrashing in your gut, making a low, gurgling resonance that represents the inner lining of the colon opening up, starting to bleed as it quickly loses layers of protective mucosa…”  Or, be self-righteous in the status claim of this being high on the totem pole of pain: “like childbirth, except without the periodic rest periods between contractions.”

I hate myself a little for each of those descriptions above.  I mean, can she get over herself already…?

On the upside, writing about colitis offers endless scatological metaphor.  Explosive diarrhea, like a rocket ship upon lift-off.  Smells that suggest the entire city’s sewer line has been directed to out-gas in your bathroom.  Having an illness that is hard to get behind.  Feeling like you’ve got shitzopherenia (oh you know, fear of shitting) or worrying how you’ll pass off untimely flatulence.

A sense of humor may be required to appreciate that upside.

This dude gets it, though I advise to stop the video after his song.

Our first foray into this world began less than a month after Paul and I were married.  It fast-tracked us into old-married-couple territory.  We talk about poo more than Peace Corps volunteers.  Luckily, though, my problems were never firmly pinned down to anything specific, and I have spent the last 10 years without treatment and without incident.  We felt confident it would never happen again.

Until last Saturday.  (Refer to text above for more insight into Saturday.)

So that has been my week.  The upside is that insurance is covering this non-specific colitis (after our sizable deductible) and that today’s scope (while still waiting for news about the biopsies) showed a mild presentation that probably will not require treatment.  This is a very good thing.

For comparison’s to Magpie’s costs, today’s colonoscopy was $1000, total, including anesthesia.  Because this amount is lower than our deductible, we had to pay the whole amount before the procedure.  Another $21 was spent on the colon prep.  (Which, by-the-way, SUCKS way more than the old phospho- soda and magnesium citrate used just a decade ago and available for pennies over the counter.  Also, for those using HalfLyte, the orange flavor, if even detectable, tastes like salty feet.)  We paid for the procedure and meds out of our Health Care Savings Account (HSA) — which, in case you don’t have one, is an account with pre-tax dollars to pay for out-of-pocket health expenses.  It’s pretty much the greatest thing to medicine since the stethoscope.

My constitution is shaken a bit by the fact that this happened, but the outcome (so far) is so great that I feel nothing but thanks.  Also, Paul got in some good fart jokes in the doctor’s office.

I mean this from the bottom of my heart, that I wish you all lovely, gentle, post-coffee Zen moments each and everyday.

So… did I gross you out too much?  Can anyone bond with me over bowel issues?


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