Monday, June 30, 2008

i LOVE the vintage wallpaper that adorned my bathroom up until this weekend. it was so super cool, but it was peeling in the worst way... so it had to go. let me tell you, taking wallpaper down from the wall is no easy task. goodbye lovely little butterflies on yellowed background...
and then i painted, which was also a bit of a task... mostly because i had no step ladder so i did all kinds of acrobatics to get from one high corner to the next. painting has always been a social event for me, usually helping friends, but this time i was going it alone, and that was quite nice too. i kept thinking, 'i'm doing this just for me.' sounds silly, but it's a rare occasion that i put that much effort into anything that's only going to benefit me. i'm still debating if i like this blue, though...

Friday, June 27, 2008

go cats!

sometimes my mom likes to remind me that i was a cheerleader by thrusting her finger up in the air and shouting, "go keeaaaatts!" because that's how we used to say it in high school.

this is a different kind of cats. this is the city bus.

after my woe-is-me-i-have-no-social-life moment yesterday, i did indeed email some friends to see what was going on this weekend (the answer is EVERYone is leaving town), and someone tipped me off about an outdoor music venue downtown. so i pulled out my bus map and went downtown. easiest thing ever. even coming back in the dark and rain wasn't a problem. i kept thinking, i'm on a reputable city bus with lots of people, and that's got to be safer than riding on the back of a motorcycle with a stranger in benin, right? i am lovin' me some public transportation.

not to mention... i met someone last night that likes both biodiesel AND salsa. i mean, what are the odds. thank you city bus, for expanding my social horizons.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

where the hell is matt?

how cool is this video...

totally reminds me of an impromptu village dancing party in northern benin with peace corps friends.

snails pace social life

well i never thought the day would come when i was bored on nights and weekends... but it has. i am meeting lots of people and i have at least one social activity a week, but i'm spending even more time alone here than i did in benin. part of me knows i ought to enjoy the respite. in two months' time i'll be longing for the days when i could come home and do nothing but read. but when it's almost every day? it gets old. my eyes hurt from reading. last night i thought i'd give myself a break by watching a movie... but i only have one... love actually... yeah... great movie to watch when you're already feeling a bit lonely. yesterday, in a moment of weakness, i even agreed to babysit on a saturday night. this is serious.

ok. i will stop whining at start being proactive. i'm going to email my new acquaintances and make plans. right. now.

Monday, June 23, 2008

small town america

i went to home depot this morning to pick up paint supplies with my landlord. i'm in a really unique situation, where instead of having to track down my landlord and wait months for anything to be accomplished, i see mine every day. and every day he smiles and says, "how's the house? anything you need?" (tip for the day: if ever you can rent from the church... do it!)

while i was waiting at the paint counter, i noticed a slightly funny, slightly familiar, very friendly guy mixing paint. i thought to myself, 'huh. that guy looks just like mason... haven't seen him since high school.' then i looked at the guy's orange smock, which said: "my name is MASON" in big magic marker letters. no way.

yes way. an old friend from rockbridge county. because the world really is that small.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

soooo not in africa anymore

i spent most of yesterday at a theme park with 25 middle schoolers. i'll be honest and say i could have sat at a table in the shade all day and been happy... i'm not the biggest fan of rides and such. not that i mind them, it's just not my idea of a rockin' good time. but i did go on rides... lots of them. all of them. even the worst i'm-gonna-puke-my-brains-out rides. why? because i'm earning my stripes. those middle schoolers went home thinking i was cool, and i went home feeling a little queezy.

so i ate some week-old pizza, cold, and i didn't get sick. (i was making sure it was safe before telling everyone else at the church to help themselves).

at some point last night, i got a little bored... so i walked to the grocery store. it gave me some time to reflect on how FAR from africa i am.

1. there are no fences. everyone has big welcoming front yards, unencumbered by walls topped with broken glass. there are also no guards. you can look directly into most neighbors windows, and that's okay.

2. there is grass and it's pretty. in africa, grass is considered a messy yard. my guard was constantly pulling up my grass. granted, grass can look messy when you cut it with a machete. no machetes here.

3. there are street lights.

4. despite all the comforts of the outdoors... the safety, the grass, the lighting... everyone shuts themselves up inside. no one is out on the streets talking to each other. def not africa.

5. no one stares at me or sings the whitey "yovo" song.

6. the grocery store... ooooh, the grocery store! i don't even know where to start on that one. luckily, my grocery store is a smaller "express" version, so i don't get TOO overwhelmed.

7. lots of cars. no motorcycles. less pollution. more trees. no beach. fireflies.

i'm still far from all my close friends, though. peeps here are super friendly, but i know it will take 6 months to a year before i have any really intimate friendships, and that's kinda sad. but do-able.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

dc by storm

last thursday 29 9th graders, 5 adults and i all made our way to our nation's capitol via the overnight train. a little "urban adventure" of sorts. all 35 of us crammed into a youth hostel, toured the holocaust museum (after hearing a survivor describe his experiences the night before), rode a bus to the national cathedral (that was an experience... you try cramming 35 peeps onto a city bus during rush hour on a friday!), and then ate at the very chic "marrakesh" moroccan restaurant... complete with belly dancing... which the kids joined in on. of course.
the following day, we split up into 4 groups and sent the kids on a scavenger hunt... where they had to find various points of interest using only a map and public transportation. the boys started off "surfing" in the metro, thinking it was fun to be thrown around... but later were too cool for such childish games. i gotta say, i was impressed. the kids mastered the maps and metro, they walked for miles, the saw tons... they even protested in front of the white house. (that's one of my kids behind the bush mask). all in all, it was an extremely exhausting but very awesome 48hr trip!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

where it's at: american healthcare

i know there's a lot of hullabaloo about health care in the US, but i have to say i had the most pleasant, efficient, even surreal experience at the doc's office yesterday.

i hadn't been to the dr. in over a year (except for that little ekg back in benin), so it was time for a full physical, etc. i was reminded of the need for a dr's visit when my chest started hurting on monday--oh, not that again...

so i called up a medical office and got an appointment the very next morning. amazing!

once there, i was struck by the cleanliness of the building. and the privacy! no need to strip down in front of random non-medical peeps here! (as opposed to benin). my new doc handled all possible medical needs quickly and thoroughly. she even gave me an ekg right there in my room, which was a lot less scary than the last one.

then she (the doc) sent me over to do some labs and x-rays... and by "over" i don't mean across town... but across the hall! wow!

while i was waiting for my labs (like, all of 5 minutes) i noticed a woman come into the waiting room to check on the plants. live plants. she was checking the health of the leaves, watering them, dusting them... i mean, what is this place? with professional plant care-takers!?!

some peeps (or plants) don't know how good they have it.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

almost perfect camping

just about every year, graham and i go camping. this takes quite a bit of coordination, since neither of us have lived in the same state for 5 years now, but we all make time for what we think is important. we've camped the beaches of maryland, the mountains of virginia and north georgia, and now we can add north carolina to the mix.

after getting some advice, maps and books from my new favorite outdoors store (it's local) we decided the 2.5 hour drive to horsepasture river (which runs through gorges state park and nantahala national forest) was a bit far, but do-able. we had plenty to catch up on anyway.

typically, our camping trips, though awesome, have been marked by some kind of drama. usually in the form of rain... once with the added fun of a sand storm. but this time everything was just so beautiful and easy! our gear was ready, the weather was perfect, our pace was good, the sites were well worth the trek. there are 5 falls along horsepasture river, of which we saw two. turtleback falls is about 1.4 miles in from the trail head. it's easy to see why it's called turtleback, with a short round slide that provides a 15-foot drop (depending on where you start) for those brave enough to go over the edge. this would be an easy spot for a day trip-and-dip. rainbow falls is just 0.2 miles further, with a 125-foot drop. there's a swimming hole at the base, which also looked like fun... but we hiked on, leaving everyone else behind. really, i don't think we ran into anyone past rainbow falls (till the next morning). about 2 miles in, we decided to swim. it was a lot like goshen, va (my favorite swimming spot in the world) and the water was surprisingly warm for a mountain hike. we hiked on some more, thinking we might make it to the 3rd cascade, when we stumbled upon the best camp site ever. the ground was flat and clear, logs were placed as benches around a campfire spot, fire wood had been gathered and left behind... it was almost eerie. a stream about 10-yards away was great for washing up and collecting water. so we stopped, unloaded and set up camp in no time. when has it ever been this easy?!? we feasted on couscous, tuna and chicken noodle soup for dinner. we made a fire. we talked, told ghost stories, got a little scared, told jokes, laughed, and went to bed tired. pretty much perfect.

graham was slow getting up the next morning, so i chilled out on a log for a long time, which is the kind of thing i like to do. once he got up, we went for a swim and stretched out like lizards on rocks. graham wasn't feeling well at all, and it didn't look like he'd be feeling better any time soon, so we packed up to hike out. on our way out, we saw lots of people enjoying the various water holes and slides. this looks to be a popular spot in the summer. about 2/3 of the way out, we threw down our packs and sat on the side of the trail. graham waited for hikers to walk past before vomiting directly onto the trail. so much for perfect camping. miraculously, the vomit soaked right into the ground, totally unnoticeable in less than 2 minutes. in typical boot-and-rally fashion, we loaded up again and didn't stop walking till we got to the car. i drove home, graham rested... and continued to rest till he could drive home the following day. being sick sucks, but being sick while you travel sucks a little more.

still, it was an awesome weekend, and a great way to christen the mountains of north carolina, of which i hope to see a lot more.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

hello south

after a month of US travels and adventures (college reunion, texas family, preakness race, awesome baseball, lots of coffee, tea and conversation)... i've picked up my roots and moved back down south. and by south i mean--i have a huge magnolia tree in my front yard and even the gas stations are closed on sundays.

i still have no car, and i'm in no rush to get one, as i can walk or bike to most places. that's awesome.

i have no tv or internet at home, and i think that will remain the case as well. it's nice to disconnect at times.

my house is huge, and it took me an hour to sweep and mop just the upstairs last night. tonight i'll tackle the downstairs.

don't let my evening cleaning escapades deceive you... i do have a bit of a social life gaining momentum daily. it's a small world.

work is too cool. i wear flip flops every day!!

i'm may go back to school this fall (nothing major) at a seminary down the road, still in walking distance.

the ymca (in biking distance) is huge and cheap and even has dry cleaning services.

there are 2 libraries in walking distance, as well as a grocery store, bank and pizza place.

people couldn't be friendlier.

lets hope something crazy happens soon so my blog will be interesting again!