Thursday, October 30, 2008
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
**A wise friend pointed out that the following comment could possibly be interpreted in two ways. One way would be "Yes good for him for trying against the odds to educate these young folks, and let's not forget about the brave teachers too", and the other way this comment could be interpreted could be "What a waste of time, he's ploughing money into building schools, without any thought for the teachers that will go on and teach there and subsequently their lives will be in danger. He's an idiot"
Thank you friend for pointing that out to me. The way I read the following comment is the second option (the "he's an idiot" option) and that is what I have formed my response to.
Yeah. Build schools. Nevermind those guys who will happily put a bullet in the teacher's head for trying to educate girls.My response to Anonymous is this:
Thank you so much for putting your insight and comment. I appreciate it. I'm glad that people are reading my blog.
I think what you are referring to are the Muslim extremists who twist the words of the Koran to justify killing people who dare go against Allah's work. I agree that those types of people exist and they are present in our world.
What you have to remember is that not everyone who is a Muslim is an extremist. Perhaps this is my ignorant opinion of the world, and perhaps I put too much trust that there are still good people out there, but not all Muslims are hell-bent on blowing up anyone who isn't Muslim. The American and world media does a great job of showing us images of men and women screaming and burning American flags. The media doesn’t hesitate to show terrorists holding M16s threatening someone who is blindfolded. We hear stories daily of roadside bombs and attacks against our military. Yet the media doesn't tell us the story of a man who has dedicated 15 years of his life to living with and working alongside Muslim men and women to improve their quality of life. The power of the media is great and has successfully instilled a fear in many people of anyone named Ali or Mohammed. I find it amazing and disgusting that many people refuse to vote for Barack Obama because his middle name is..gulp...Hussein!
The basic tenets of Islam are not to kill and to murder and destroy but to be loving, generous, kind and live life in a way in which Allah would approve. It isn't written in the Koran that all Muslims must kill everyone that isn't Muslim. Unfortunately, the media has done a great job of focusing attention on the handful of extremists who have interpreted the Koran to justify and sanctify killings.
On one trip back to Pakistan Mortensen sees huge magnificent buildings called madrasses erected in some of the villages he passes through. Mortensen explains that after years of neglect from the Pakistani government and after years of promised aid the people in the rural areas have become so desperate for education and assistance that they have no other choice than to allow the extremists (who are backed by Saudi money) to build these schools in their villages. Not all madrasses promote an extremist education. However, there are many that do and the education the BOYS receive there is most times an extremist education and the cycle continues. As Mortensen claims, one of the ways to change a culture is to make sure they have clean water and to educate the women. These are two things that many rural people in Pakistan and Afghanistan are in desperate need of.
Two separate times in the book Mortensen has a fatwah (a religious ruling) declared against him in an attempt to stop his work. Both times he appeals to a higher religious courts and both times high-ranking Islamic religious officials deem his work honorable and what he does as following Islamic values and tenets. They go on to say that what Mortensen is doing is valuable for ALL (boys and girls) children of Islam. They then decree that nobody is allowed to prevent Mortensen from doing his job and they also say that what Mortensen's mission reflects the ideals of Islam.
So what keeps Mortensen from getting a bullet in his head? The answer is simple. He listens. He listens to the people and what they need. He lives with them. He wears the customary dress of the men. He works alongside them. He has spent a lot of time learning and embracing the culture and customs of the people. He practices tolerance and although he may not agree with some of the customs he knows his place as a guest and as a guest he has to respect the people. The people, in turn, have forged a respect for Mortensen. Many have pledged their lives to making Mortensen safe and to make his mission a success. It has taken him over 15 years to get to that point but it can be done. Perhaps once we befriend and respect the people they will be willing to protect us from the extremist willing to put a bullet in our heads.
Also, if people were dropping bombs on America on a daily basis and maiming children and killing innocent civilians just trying to survive wouldn't we hate them as well? Just a thought.
I think it is time that Americans start educating themselves about Islam and the Islamic way of life. We trust in our media to tell us about these things and the answer isn’t in watching CNN or the nightly news. The answer comes when we begin to try to understand cultures and customs of the people we feel are our “enemies”. How many of you have prayed with a Muslim? How many of you have visited a Mosque? How many of you have befriended a Muslim and been invited into their homes? I also, need to educate myself more and to become more knowledgeable in this area. The books I read are just a scratch on the surface. There is much more to learn. Perhaps before we denounce this way of life we should get to know it and get to know the millions of Muslims who aren’t going to put a bullet in our heads and who may just prove to be allies in our fight against the extremists. As Abraham Lincoln said, “I destroy my enemy when I make him my friend.” Perhaps that is what we need to be focusing on, how can we get the people of Pakistan and Afghanistan to be our allies and how can we work together to make life better for them? Perhaps once we have become allies with the people they will feel supported enough and have enough help to stop looking toward the Taliban and other extremists for aid. If we take that power away from the extremists we can then defeat them.
Please read Mortensen’s book and check out his website. I think all people should be aware of the efforts and lengths he has gone to in order to promote peace in the world. Also, read The Places in Between by Rory Stewart. His story tells of a walk across Afghanistan only 6 weeks after the fall of the Taliban. What Stewart discovers about the people he meets along the way is that they are not extremists set out to kill all infidels. Many of the people who live in such extreme poverty welcome him into their homes and treat him as an honored guest. Throughout the book Stewart is amazed by the warmth and hospitality he receives. Not once though out his walk does he feel like his life is in danger. In fact, it is quite the opposite. In every town and village he enters he is welcomed into the homes of the people and taken care of as if he were one of their own.
I do believe that the world is full of good people and it is unfortunate that many times the good people get stereotyped as bad people because of the actions of a few.
I wish I could be more eloquent and organized in my thoughts. Everyone is entitled to their opinion and we need to continue to educate ourselves about world issues.
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
I just finished reading an amazing and wonderful book called Three Cups of Tea. Numerous people have recommended it to me and I finally took the time to sit down and read it.
I don't even know where to begin talking about this book. It's one of those books where you realize the power and influence one man can have in the world and it makes you sit back and say, "What the hell am I doing for humanity?"
Three Cups of Tea is the story of Greg Mortensen, an ex-army medic and mountaineer. In 1993 Mortensen attempted to summit K2 in Pakistan in honor of his 25 year old sister who had recently passed away. Instead of summiting though, Mortensen has to assist an injured climber and is too worn out and it is too late in the season to attempt to summit again. Defeated, Mortensen wanders back toward civilization. As Mortensen wanders back down the glacier he becomes separated from his porter and spends a cold night reflecting on his failure. The next day Mortensen find the trail again and meets up with his porter who refuses to allow him out of his sight. Mortesen and his porter become separated again and Mortensen wanders into what he believes is the village he started his journey from. Soon, he realizes that he is lost and is alone amongst complete strangers in a strange land.
In this instant, Mortensen's life changes and begins to take another path. Although the people that he has come into contact with have nothing and in economic poverty they take care of Mortensen as if he were family. He arrives at their village weak and sick and leaves on a mission. The villagers tell Mortensen of how the Pakistani government funds have not reached the village in a long time and as he watches school children scratch their lessons into the frozen dirt he vows to return to this village and build a school for the children.
Over the next year Mortensen writes 580 to celebrities and people of wealth and he receives one check, from Tom Brokaw, for $100. Mortensen lives as simply as he can in order to save money for the school in Pakistan. He lives out of his car and drives the streets every night looking for a place to park and sleep. He scrimps and saves the $12,000 he needs to build the school. Word of Mortensen's mission reaches Jean Hoerni and together they found the Central Asia Institute. With Jean's money backing his dream, Mortensen returns to Pakistan with the necessary materials to build the school. He rides into the village only to find that he first has to facilitate the building of a bridge across the river before they can bring the materials and erect the school. Finally the school is built and Mortensen's mission of fighting terrorism through education (especially girls) is underway.
Over the next few years word of Mortensen's mission spreads and supporters from all over the world contribute to his cause. His life consists of traveling to Pakistan for months at a time and then traveling the U.S. when he is home speaking on behalf of his organization and the people of Pakistan. Through it all his wife and children support and recognize the passion he has for his mission.
Throughout the next 10 years of his life Mortensen is embraced by the people of Pakistan. He comes to recognize them as a second family and word of his deeds and mission travel to villages all over the region. Mortensen finds himself welcome where ever he goes. The people of Pakistan recognize his good deeds and send
Early one morning, while in Pakistan, Mortensen is awoken by an excited and wild man. The man tells him that a village called New York in America has been bombed and Mortensen listens in disbelief to the radio broadcast as he pieces together the story. And he listens in shock and disbelief as reports come in over the airwaves of two towers falling in New York.
Surprisingly, Mortensen's first reaction is to not flee Pakistan, but to remain there. In fact, Mortensen says that during the days after 9/11 he finds comfort with his Pakistani family and where ever he goes the Pakistani people offer their sympathies and prayers to the people in New York. He later reflects that the safest place in the world for him directly after 9/11 was in the midst of his Pakistani friends and family.
One of the most significant moments in the book is when Mortensen addresses Congress and is asking them where all the aid money was going and how it wasn't reaching the people of Pakistan and Afghanistan. He passionately talks about how bombing people isn't the answer to stopping terrorism and how the answer lies in education. He goes on to explain for only a fraction of the cost of a war schools could have been providing non-extremist educations to the children of Afghanistan and Pakistan. Instead, the people who could help the most (the U.S.) spent million fighting a war that killed many innocent civilians. At one point, Mortensen reflects on how amazing he finds it that many of his strongest supporters are the people who have lost loved one and limbs to American bombs.
I could go on and on about this book but I won't. There are just too many things to talk about. I did find myself in tears numerous times throughout the book.
There are also numerous websites one can go to to donate money to Mortensen's cause. A teacher in Pakistan makes about $1 a day and students can attend school for only pennies.
Please take some time to read the book and visit the websites. What Greg Mortensen is doing is for a wonderful cause. He's an inspiration and his cause should be celebrated and supported by Americans.
I had to get that off my chest. In a perfect world people would look at the original email and see who it was already sent to and then refrain from sending it to those people again. However, we live in a world far from perfect and I guess I'll just have to put up with the numerous repeat emails that are forwarded to me throughout the day.
Monday, October 27, 2008
Ok..in all seriousness, Andre has a right to want to see a blog. I mean, the trip was so much fun and we had a really great time together. In fact, I bet if Andre had a blog he would already have a post about our trip for all to read. But, since he doesn't, I guess the blogging task falls onto my shoulders and well, I just have to deal with it and do it.
Although the Boston trip happened all the way back in August I still remember it like it was yesterday (Scooby Doo transition here)...
I arrived in Boston on the 6th of August. Since I had packed light I was easily able to maneuver through the airport and take the T downtown to the Youth Hostel I was going to stay at. Since Andre wasn't able to join me until the evening of the 7th I had a full day in Boston to see the sights and to explore. Andre has done the Boston thing numerous times so I told him I would get all the touristy stuff out of the way and that way he wouldn’t have to do all that again.
I checked in to the Hostel and immediately set out in the rain to visit a few places before nightfall. My first day in Boston consisted of walking around in the rain and then, after purchasing an umbrella, walking around in the nonexistent rain.
I went to the Boston Public Library. Sigh. I love libraries and this was wasn't any different. I love books. One of my favorite exhibits there was called movingline
from the BPL website:
movingline – Through Nov. 30, Popular Reading Room. movingline, Drawings by Channing is the outcome of a seven-year exploration of the science and humanity of movement. With pencil, Channing captures nature's energy, beauty, and rhythms in a series of sixty drawings. In this extraordinary body of work, the intimacy of her art is initially represented by images of crashing waves, birds in flight, and racing horses. Her pursuit of motion then evolves into renditions of dancers and musicians performing, and complex portrayals of the human face.
I really wish I had bought the book...I thought about it but then figured I could get it online but have yet to order it.
I also went to this building (I'm embarrassed I don't remember the name of it anymore).
I then became hungry. Those of you who have traveled with me before know that when I get hungry I get a little cranky (sorry for those of you who have traveled with me before). I wandered around downtown Boston looking for a place that wasn't packed with tourists and that looked like it had decent food for decent prices. I wandered around for quite awhile studying menus outside of restaurants and sighing at the overpriced food. I finally stopped in a bookstore and bought a Boston travel guide just so I could figure out what I was going to eat. By this time it was getting late and dark out and I needed food fast!
I then realized I was mere feet from one of the greatest food places on earth. I hurried over to...and walked into the middle of one of the greatest and eclectic collections of food on the face of the planet. It took another full hour of walking back and forth amongst the food stands for me to finally decide on a veggie burrito. It was the messiest, greasiest and best burrito of my entire life. I ate the whole damn thing and didn't feel one ounce of shame. (Okay -- I felt a bit gluttonous but figured my hours of walking around Boston canceled the burrito out.)
After eating I decided to head back to the hostel. It was getting late and many people had begun settling in for the evening. The common area was packed with people hanging out and talking and I soon struck up a conversation with two young men.
As we were talking the two young men were asking me where I was from, what I was doing in Boston and what I did for a living, standard questions really.
One young man (who happened to be from L.A) seemed quite interested in my occupation and my current residence. He asked me many questions about living in Alaska and especially, living in rural Alaska. In fact, he asked me all the standard questions that I get from pretty much everyone when I tell them where I live.
"Do you like it?"
"How long do you think you'll stay there?"
"What language do the people there speak?"
"Is it dark there all the time during the winter and light during the summer?"
"What kinds of food have you eaten?"
I patiently answered all his questions although I had already tired of him and his friend.
We were joined by a British girl and the other young man set his sights on her which then left his friend, the Questioner, to ask me a million more questions.
At one point, he again asked me what kinds of foods I had eaten. When I told him that I had eaten seal his response was, "Yeah, cause you look like you eat seal."
I feel silent for a second. I stared at him with an incredulous look on my face and replied, "And what does someone who eats seal look like?"
He then fell silent and struggled to work through his blunder without appearing to be an insensitive jackass. The look on my face pretty much made it clear that he was a jackass.
Shortly after, his friend and the British girl as well as a group from Belgium decided it was time to go out. We gathered out belongings and headed to a bar called Wally's Cafe.
The young people from Belgium admitted on the way to Wally's that they were only 19. They were aware that the legal drinking age in the U.S. was 21 but the bouncer at Wally's the previous night had some trouble reading their ages on their passports and they had gotten in. Apparently, according to the Belgium teens, the bouncer wasn't too smart.
We walked up to the bouncer and the kids from Belgium handed their passports over. The first three 19 year olds got in just fine. The bouncer kind of scanned the passports and then just waved them through. The last one though, got past the bouncer and then the bouncer stopped him.
"Hey, hey! You can't go in! Hey! Come back here! Dude, you're only 19!"
The 19 year old from Belgium put on his best innocent face and didn't say anything. He pulled out the old "I'm not from this country and I was unaware and I don't speak English very well defense". We ran in and got his friends and they all headed back to the hostel to drink the beers the guy at the liquor store had sold them earlier in the night.
Since there were only two open seats at first they were proffered the British girl (let's call her Helen -- I don't remember her name) and me. We sat and talked and listened to music and tried to ward off a Somolian dude who was really looking for a wife. The wife seeking Somolian was less creepy than the guys we can with and after a few hours Helen and I ditched those two and walked back to the Hostel.
In the morning I ate breakfast and took in a few more sights.
I went to the Fenway Victory Gardens. It really is a cool place. Each plot is unique and is quite personalized with fences, weeds, fountains and various plants. I stopped and chatted with this guy for a bit and he promised me that if I came back in the fall he would give me some tomatoes. I didn't have the heart to tell him there would be no way I would be back in the fall but I did tell him that sounded nice and continued on my way.
I also stopped by the Museum of Fine Arts. I do love museums (almost as much as I love libraries) but this one was definitely a two or even three-day deal to see everything. I only got through Egyptian, Roman and Greek art before I had to call it quits.
By then it was pouring and I threw my umbrella open and made my way to a Whole Foods store to get some supplies and a bite to eat.
Since it had been raining for the two days I had been in Boston I had been noticing something a little odd. It seems that it is fashionable to wear high rubber boots with your fancy dresses and clothes. I could not believe the amount of rubber boots I saw on the feet of all the ladies. I had to laugh a little...I looked at those boots and thought "man, those would be great for pushing boats into water!" I'm sure that I was probably one of the only ladies in Boston who was thinking of that. I decided to keep my eyes peeled for a place where I could purchase some of those boots.
As I was walking to our hotel I noticed a huge bunch of rubber boots in a store window and made a mental note to go back and check them out.
I walked back to the Hostel and my stuff and then hiked back toward the downtown area to check into the fancy-pancy hotel I had booked. I got into the hotel and after getting ready I left Andre a note saying I would be back shortly and headed out to find those boots again and stop in at a promising store that said was called City Sports.
It was then I got lost. I'm not sure how it happened but it did. I was walking back to our hotel and my mind was racing and my heart was pumping. After all, I was seeing someone for the first time in almost two years and the anticipation was killing me. I just wanted to get back and see if he had arrived yet.
I first had to find the hotel though.
I found my hotel and walked in. The note I had left Andre said I would wait for him in the bar and it was there I found him waiting for me.
I can't even begin to describe how wonderful and comfortable it was to see him. He stood up and immediately enveloped me in a big Andre hug. After saying hello he then broke the news to me. It was official; Brett Favre had gone to the Jets. After weeks of anticipation and waiting I had to find out that Brett was no longer a Packer from a British man who had been in the country for three hours. However, Andre's heart was just as broken as mine and we held each other tight as he cried his heart out (he so loves Brett).
We then spent the next couple of hours just catching up and talking. It was finally so good to see that face and that voice all at once. For two years now we haven't been able to find a time to meet up and hang out and it was awesome that we finally were sitting next to each other eating French fries and drinking a few drinks.
The next day Andre, true to form, got up early and headed out to get breakfast and coffee. We then walked to the Farmer's Market and to the downtown area. Later that afternoon we rented a bike for me (Andre had brought his from the U.K) and Andre and I spent the afternoon riding along the Charles River. We rode up to Harvard and then back to our hotel. Andre made friends with a mounted police officer and his horse and it was a nice relaxing day.
I made friends with some of the hotel staff (was his name Roberto? Jose?) and they were more than happy to walk Andre and I and our bikes through the hotel lobby, past the grand piano and under the crystal chandeliers into the luggage storage area.
The next two days flew by. Andre explained to me that the rubber boots were all the rage in London and that a company called Hunter out of Scotland made them. (Why do the men in my life have more fashion sense than I?) Apparently the Royal family has been known to don some Hunter Wellies on their outdoor excursions. I immediately fell in love with them because they were not only in my size but also came up almost to my knees. I had been having trouble finding high boots in my size.
Andre and I spent our last day riding around Boston. The sun was out to stay and we enjoyed flying past the tourons (tourist+moron) that were in our way. We rode down to the harbor and sat by the water and enjoyed the view.
We rode my bike back to the bike rental place and then walked back to our hotel. We got ready for dinner and walked around trying to figure out which restaurant to go to. We finally decided on the first one that we had seen and went back to that one.
I ordered the salmon and then sent it back. It wasn't done.
After that, the fun was pretty much over. We got up early the next morning so I could make my flight to Green Bay. Andre was continuing to our friend Maggie's wedding and to spend some time in Vermont. I really wanted to go with him. I haven't been back to VT for a long time. However, teaching duty called and I had to get home.
Boston was pretty cool but seeing and spending time with such a great friend and person made the trip even better. It's so great that after so long Andre is still such a huge important part of my life. I can't wait to get back to the U.K. to spend some time with him over there. I really do miss him.
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
Many people don't really believe me when I tell them about bootlegging and how much alcohol goes for around here.
So here is the link to an article that was recently published in the New York Times.
Sunday, October 12, 2008
I walked into the store and realized that it was more than just a regular store. It sold stuff but it was also a cafe and had a ton of coffee choices. Then I noticed something that made my heart leap with joy.
A bulk food section. It really isn't a "food" section...just more spices and tea. But, nonetheless, it was there. Bulk. There were little scoopers to put my spices and tea into little bags that were weighed at the checkout counter. I got a couple ounces of Mango Green Tea that I am probably going to make some night when the wind is howling and the snow is blowing. Maybe I'll just make some tonight.
Then I noticed all sorts of goodies on the shelves.
It was heaven. Heaven is at Grant Air. I asked someone close to me, "Is this Heaven?" and they answered, "No, it's Grant Air."
Who ever would have thunk it? It made me happy and was the highlight of my weekend.
Friday, October 10, 2008
Need I say more? It is now a waiting game for the river to freeze and the snowmachines to start up. We had our first big storm this week. I awoke Thursday morning to howling wind and frigid temps and snow on the ground. This storm continued throughout the day Thursday and turned to freezing rain late Thursday evening. I awoke Friday morning to calm winds and frigid temps and glare ice on my windows and on the boardwalk.
All day today I watched the weather as I was heading up to Bethel for class tonight and tomorrow. I was torn all day about whether I should go or stay and finally hopped into a boat. It was a frigid 5 miles ride. Perhaps one of the coldest I've ever had on the river. But, I'm here. I'm still cold and am really wishing I had grabbed another sweatshirt before I left my house.
Tomorrow I'll wear my warmer socks and my bibs to class. I'll write a much more thoughtful post tomorrow when I've had some time to decompress from my week.
Tuesday, October 7, 2008
There is something magical about struggling to get the shrink wrap off just knowing that inside is a beautiful disk that will fill your ears and mind with lovely images and sounds...but... you.. can't ..get..the..stupid..shrink...wrap..OFF!!
Then, like magic one little piece tears off and you know you have defeated the shrink wrap. Eagerly, you become giddy with anticipation. It will only be a few moments now until you will be able to touch that perfect, unscratched disk. The jewel case is now open and you rush to put the CD into a CD playing device and as the first few wonderful notes hit your ears you grab the liner notes and begin flipping through, studying the lyrics, looking at the pictures, and appreciating the heck out whoever it is that you are listening to.
Of course, there are also those much anticipated albums that just don't live up to expectations when you receive them. It is those you wish you had downloaded off iTunes or another site. Those suck to get and are a major disappointment, especially when it is an artist you have already professed undying love for.
Yes, yes..there is still something magical about new CDs.
My most recent reads include..(Barbara hasn't read these...)
Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex by Mary Roach
Mary Roach is a personal hero of mine. I would love to have her babies but since I don't think that would work out too well I would settle just for her amazing ability to write scientific texts in a lighthearted and witty manner. In her first books, Stiff, Roach explored the science of death. She discussed what really happens to your body when you donate it to science, how cadavers are used in experiments and the history of research done about death. In Spook, Mary Roach explored various theories about ghosts and the afterlife through science.
After reading Stiff I wanted to discuss cadavers with everyone. I spewed out random information about how cadavers used in research and what happens to the human body after they die. Unfortunately I could never really convince people to read the book. However, Bonk is her masterpiece.
Bonk explores and discusses the history of research in the field of sex. Roach discusses Kinsey and how polyester may turn sexual partners off (amongst a slew of other topics). The beauty of Roach's writing style is that she approaches a normally taboo subject in a lighthearted and amusing manner. Roach is a great writer and all of her books have been great reads.
I also recently read Mrs. Frisby and the rats of NIMH. I'm not sure why I chose to read that book other than the fact that I never had read it and it seemed like I should read it. It was a good quick read. I really can't exalt this book too much. It's been read. That's all I really have to say about it. It's a pretty good young adult science fiction novel and those rats really are quite clever.