23 August 2011

I feel old

Yesterday we had training for graduate resident tutors, in which we learned all about the nuances of what incoming freshmen will go through as they navigate their first year of MIT.  I already met one of my fresh(wo)men, and the other will be moving in this coming weekend.  To get into their psyche, one of the administrators in charge of the 'First Year Experience' sent us "The Mindset List" for the class of 2015 ... which instantly made me feel old.  Some items aren't very significant to me, but the ones of note include:
  • Ferris Bueller and Sloane Peterson could be their parents.
  • Amazon has never been just a river in South America.
  • Life has always been like a box of chocolates.
  • They’ve often broken up with their significant others via texting, Facebook, or MySpace.
  • Frasier, Sam, Woody and Rebecca have never Cheerfully frequented a bar in Boston during primetime.
  • “PC” has come to mean Personal Computer, not Political Correctness.

20 August 2011

[ayiti] How to summarize a week in Haiti

The short answer is: You can't.

Some people told me I didn't need to go in order to have a perfectly proper thesis.  Others urged me see the place for myself - that it would change everything.  I ignored the naysayers and knew that I needed to somehow get to Port-au-Prince, and only when God made a way for that did I understand instantly - maybe even just as I saw the coast loom into view from the plane window - that this was so true.

The thing that hit me - overwhelmed me, and still overwhelms me - is how Haiti engages your senses.  Just reading news stories or seeing pictures isn't enough - it's not simply visual, but also intensely seizes your ears, nose, tastebuds, and even skin (because it was about 115 degrees F and humid everyday - and dusty).

On the flight over there, I was puzzled by the number of Haitian men who had boomboxes as their second carry-ons.  What an odd piece of luggage, I thought.  Once we landed and were launched into the midst of the chaos called baggage claim, I realized what they were for: mood music, of course!  They turned up the calypso and became instant DJs - perhaps to lighten the frustration that came with an hour of searching for our bags.

Who is big in Haiti?  The media says NGOs, the UN, and everyone who is there to help bring the country back on its feet.  Tap-taps, the local bus transport, say it's God ("L'Eternel est grand"), and I would also have to say it's the people and those who stand alongside them.

I still find it hard to tell people in a "nutshell" how was my weeklong trip to Haiti.  There's a lot to process, but hopefully little gems will come out from the sifting of thoughts, emotions, and memories - not to mention images, sketches, and notes made along the way.  I'll try to write at least one post per day I was there, in the hopes of somehow piecing out the experience.

11 August 2011

More than first travel blues

I don't remember where I found this photo, but it's one of my favorites of live revived in PaP
I recently read an article by the Frugal Traveler about the 'blues' typically faced by travelers on the first day, when you're bumbling around in a new city, not understanding the language, and nothing seems to be going right.  I have certainly faced those times, but typically it just gets better and, as he concludes, it's these 'trying out' times that make one feel actually familiar with a new place.

I can't help but think how different visiting Port-au-Prince for the first time.  It will likely be filled with a certain level of confusion and discomfort, but not because of the typical traveler's dilemmas.  Instead, it is the first-hand experience of a havoc only read about in the news or heard about second-hand.  Some say it's horrible, lamenting the slowness of recovery.  Others say it's a beautiful place - and my, how the beaches are lovely!  (A Haitian woman told me this, and I smiled.  Maybe next time?)

I'm actually tired of using the word 'disaster' because it is a term devoid of hope, although there are few alternative ways to phrase it without resorting to euphemisms.  But who knows what my first reaction will be?  I asked one of my friends how to mentally prepare.  She told me to be ready for some level of shock, but that it would be individual to the person.

So I won't get lost because I will always be with a driver or someone who knows their way around.  I might not get to wander the city at night because of a 10pm curfew and safety measures.  I will meet other travelers, but not ones who somehow "stumbled upon" the destination but rather those who came knowing they were risking their lives to a certain extent.  Will it be overly somber?  Exuberant in the resilience?  It's hard to say now, with two feet firmly planted on American soil.

I'll let you know tomorrow.

09 August 2011

Food for thought

While writing a Katerva blog post about the Oxfam GROW campaign, I came across this fun video that is basically a brainstorm of favorite foods from people interviewed all over the world.

What are yours?

I would agree with the noodles person, particularly if they were 'soup' noodles.  Cheese would also be another, yum!

05 August 2011

[foodage] Grilling and toasting

Somehow, this picture's colors remind me of the '50s
Food verbs are so fun, especially when they are tasty.  The other night, M and I tried out two of them: grilling and toasting (and some saute-ing).  Instead of going out as per our summer Thursdays ritual, we decided to cook to save a bit of cash.  However, we quickly discovered that going to Whole Foods and letting the die-hard meat lover pick out the main dish are not good strategies for being frugal... but it ended up being quite the delicious home-cooked meal with:
  • grilled marbled ribeye steak generously flavored with The Spice House's Bronzeville Rib Rub (thanks Jenny!) and kosher salt
  • grilled onions with the same spice
  • sauteed broccoli with lemon
We didn't buy anything for dessert, so I searched online for some quick and easy ones and found this great recipe for toasted oats with fruit.  It had just the right combination of sweetness and crunchiness, with the nutty flavors of walnuts and coconut to accompany the fruit.  Instead of yogurt or raspberries, I sprinkled the oats on top of a few slices of canned peaches for a simple version of peach crisp without the hour-long wait time - and I already had all the ingredients, so it was affordable, too!

via Everybody Likes Sandwiches

Next time we'll try some other combination of food verbs, yum.

04 August 2011

Stepping out

"... Our journeys of faith, it seems to me, are just like that. We respond to the call of God by stepping out, one graced step at a time, into a luminous darkness. Our direction is clear, but the route reveals itself only as we put one foot in front of the other. We cannot know beforehand exactly where we are heading or how we will get there.  Nevertheless we trust in God to show us—and to be for us—the way.

- Deborah Smith Douglas
Weavings, July/August 2002

I'm a planner.  I like to know what's going on and what steps I need to take to get there.  There are situations in which I'm not exactly sure what to do, but there are few times in which I absolutely have no clue.  This is the case right now, in light of going to Haiti.  On one hand, I sense that God has told me and is still telling me that I will be going.  On the other hand... the question, then, is when?  And how?  With whom?  Realistically, time is running short.  I find myself doing things aligned with normal preparation: getting my vaccines, buying hand sanitizer, packing my travel towel.  This seems funny because I have no flight nor a definite group to be going with.  I have, by now, a whole bundle of leads and connections thanks to kind colleagues and responsive NGOs, but no actual plug-ins.  In it all, I can still be thankful for the pieces that have been coming together, while being reminded to keep trusting even when it seems either illogical or uncontrollable.  May my character and faith be all the more refined in the end.

03 August 2011

Food's flight patterns

via irresistable
A recent grad in graphic design, James Reynolds devised an alternative to traditional produce labels that inform consumers about just how far those Argentinian tomatoes really traveled to get to your store - and plate.  Would the "Far Food" project change people's buying habits?

02 August 2011

A storm by any other name ...

via NOAA's storm tracker - see the website for a larger image
I recently made the discovery that I'm a tropical storm threatening the Caribbean and Florida.

I also was reassured that despite that, I am not - in fact - a Rhino command.  Phew.

courtesy of jo'c