Sunday, April 29, 2007

Surprise Party


"The essential is unsayable and the unsayable is the essential". This observation of life expresses the experience as the elevator doors opened at Stella's Restaurant in Minneapolis last night into a semi-darkened room and eighty voices yelled, "Surprise".

Mary and I entered into a room, a night filled with people with whom we hold dear. Each who has contributed to the richness of our life. Each who took the time to say, "Surprise".

More can be written and shall be written about the evening, but at this moment the essentials of last night remain unsayable.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Baffling Paradox

Life is still confusing to me. It seems to be filled with baffling paradoxes. One example, a the newspaper headline reads, is "A Labor of Love".

A local church planned an expansion. Where the new addition was to be built, stood a 150 year old oak tree. The decision to cut down the tree created somewhat of a moral dilemma for the congregation. Should they cut down this majestic living tree or forgo the expansion? They decided to gather around the tree and acknowledge it with a blessing ceremony afterwards cutting it down with chain saws. They then had the tree "relive" by making it into a church conference table and cutting boards for expansion donors.

This incident got me thinking about how we can rationalize our own self-interests and its resultant cruelty with token acts of kindness or humanity. How can we give a person the choice of foods before execution? How can we destroy at the same time professing to save? Why can we not recognize the beings we are, both kind and cruel? I do not reject our cruelties. It is the illusion that kindness absolves us from our damaging acts, which bothers me.

I am tired of those who think I am joining the Peace Corps to "save" or "improve" some distant land. What exists, the interests of the United States, humanity, my own quest for adventure, or all of the above? Maybe my simple presence causes consequences I can not imagine. I don't want to destroy, yet I might. If I do, please forgive me. I am a human being, a paradox all in itself.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Local Crime Report

Samoa may be an exotic place, but we have our share of the unbelievable too. Below are some crime reports published in our local Southwest Minneapolis newspaper.

April 4, 11;05 am
An unknown suspect allegedly robbed and assaulted a 33-year-old woman. The victim was walking home from a bar when the suspect punched her in the face five or six times, causing a bloody nose, and then stole her purse. Police checked the victim's probation status and found the woman to be in violation of her fourth degree assault probation by consuming alcohol. She was arrested and transported to Hennepin County Jail.

April 5, 4:55 am
Two unknown suspects allegedly robbed and assaulted a 35-year-old man. The victim had been walking along when the suspects kicked him in the knee, knocking him to the ground. The suspects then went through the victim's pockets and stole $120 in cash before kicking him in the back multiple times. The victim described the suspects as two white males, but stated that he would be unable to later identify them. Paramedics at the scene were unable to locate the alleged injury.

April 9, 12:17-12:45 am
A 57-year-old man picked up two women, a 28-year-old and a 22-year-old, to perform sex for money. After completing the sex act, the 28-year-old woman grabbed the man's wallet and car keys and ran out of the hotel room. The suspect then stole the man's vehicle. Police located her and the stolen vehicle and arrested her for auto theft. The 22-year-old was arrested for two felony narcotics warrants. The victim was charged with intent to commit prostitution.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Soft Boiled Eggs & the Quest for Perfection

For years I have tried to cook the perfect soft boiled egg, an egg where all the white albumin is firm and all of the yolk is runny. I have come close, but never perfect.

A soft boiled egg presents problems not encountered in preparing other foods. The shell can not be seen into nor can any instruments be inserted to test whether it is done or not. You can use a timer, although time is only one of hundreds of variables in the process. You can read books and listen to elders. As last resort, you can try the force, intuition, and faith. All these techniques may get you close, but never perfect.

Maybe I should give up my quest and simply let the water boil until there is no possibility of a runny yolk. I could crack the egg and prepare it in a thousand of other ways. I mean, after all, aren't they all just eggs?

Wednesday, April 18, 2007


Waiting is that conscious period of time before an expected event. Almost everything we do, except a few moments of terror, can be classified as waiting. The word seems paltry in comparison to impact it has on life.

Here I sit at the computer waiting for the time to pass before our departure to Samoa while waiting for the right words to express my thoughts on waiting. Yet within this wait are hundreds of other waits just waiting to happen. If waiting wasn't so important, it could drive you crazy, or maybe it already has.

So I will make this incoherent blog entry short as you wait to read about our travails on Samoa and I wait for some better words about this "Before Departure" time in our lives.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Our New Neighborhood

Linden Hills is the name of our new neighborhood within the City of Minneapolis. Linden Hills can be described as a small city within the city, with its own characteristics and subculture.

Physically, Linden Hills is rather isolated from the madding crowd. There is no easy access to freeways, shopping malls, or gas station. To the east of our building is Lake Harriet, a magnet for walkers, bicyclists, perambulators, roller bladers, scooters, joggers, canoeists, etc. Somehow Linden Hills seems like a liveable place with a small town feel in the midst of the city.

Culturally, Linden Hills is a haven for the latest societal, environmental, and nutritional trends. The local grocery store (a co-op) doesn't even sell Coco Pops, Oscar Meyer Wieners, Tostita Corn Chips, or Purina Cat Chow. The only food you can buy is organic, range fed, or grown in the backyard of local Hmong immigrants. There is a butcher shop, bakery (whole grain only), and a Creative Kids Stuff store. Posters promote wellness, and longevity techniques. Dog walkers proudly carrying their plastic bags of scat. It is a world of REI, and LL Bean.

This is a good transitional place for us. There are the street sounds of cars, buses, people walking, and children playing. There is music coming from some distant apartment. There is no need to drive for a loaf of bread. There is an engagement here with people. We are the strangers, the new comers.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Faces of Samoa

You may be wondering, as I am, what the people of Samoa look like. Here are some photos I lifted from Monkfish's blog (a current Peace Corps Volunteer).

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Walking the Dog

Bo, our dog, (deceased)

The great socializing activities I observe seem to be booze, work, children, weather, sports, death, and dogs. Just how dogs got into this mix is a mystery to me. Yet there is no greater source of instant camaraderie than the meeting of two people walking their dogs.
I have yet to see a picture of a Samoan dog that was not a Peace Corps volunteer's pet, let alone Samoans walking their dogs. I wonder how Samoans meet one another? Have they discovered that no love can be shared between a person with a dog and one without? Maybe a candle lit dinner of dog is more harmonious than feeding a dog?

My dog walking days are over for now. I can only watch dog lovers from my window as I try to pass the days before our departure.

Sunday, April 8, 2007

The ASKO WCAM 1812 Washer/Dryer Machine

It is said that God created the Gnu (Wildebeest) from the best parts of other animals. For surely, the gnu is the product of the most noble features of noble creatures. The end result is the ugliest of all hoofed animals whose sole purpose seems to be the main food for lions and hyenas.

Likewise, the ASKO Model WCAM 1812 combination washer/dryer in our apartment is the byproduct of Scandinavian minds, designed by the brightest engineers to save space and energy. The concept of the WCAM 1812 is simple, a machine that in one load both washes and drys. The problem is it does them either poorly or not at all.

You may ask, what do gnus and WCAM 1812s have to do with the Peace Corps and Samoa? I really don't know, except to ponder the effects of mixing good ideas and intentions, or how to successfully do one load of laundry.

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Should We be Happy or Sad

Mama said there would be days like this. Today is one of those days. It is not one of those habitual days which fill most of our lives, or a happy day we hope goes on forever, or a sad day we hope quickly passes. It is an ambiguous day. A day you don't know just how you should feel, but a day you know is significant.

Today we officially sold our house to an Indian Sikh hematologist, his pediatrician wife, and two small children. After looking for six months, they couldn't be happier about their purchase. They are about the same age as we were when we bought the house, our children about the same ages. We felt good about selling to them and wished them the same happiness as we experienced. At the same time there is a certain melancholy about today. A quiet knowledge that a part of life has passed.

This is a day not to dwell on the past or to be focused on the future. It is a day to savour Minnesota's weather. Is it spring or winter? It is an April day where the sun shines brightly and the temperature is below freezing. Life is filled with ambiguities.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

A Moving Experience

We have all moved at sometime in our lives, so moving itself is really not blogworthy. The packing, the loading, the fatigue, the items lost in transition from one place to the next are rather blase subjects. For the most part, moves are usually to larger or equally sized spaces. When you downsize, that is when the real moving experience begins.

Who, what, where, and how do you get rid of so much stuff? I mean dining room sets that seat 12, marble table, brass tables, wooden tables, valuable and cheap dressers, plants, pictures, garden tools, just to list a few. These days even the Goodwill is picky and our sanitation company has its standards too. The only reliable source for your cast off possessions is friends, neighbors, relatives, and work associates.

Yet, we still have one room in our condo completely full of memory stuff and a bulging storage closet. At least we squeezed in my rocking chair, my Turkish rug, a brass spittoon, a wooden tennis racket, and my family urn (some ashes of which are left at the old house). Our next downsizing to a single piece of luggage apiece for our 27 months in Samoa should be a piece of cake.

Sunday, April 1, 2007

Leaving Edina

We have officially purchased our condominium in the City of Minneapolis and are moving there tomorrow. Samoa is two months away. We are leaving, a place of being, a state of mind; the suburban City of Edina. Please indulge me a few transient thoughts.

Edina, "It's not good; it's not bad; it's just nice". Nice is comfortable, safe, and tidy. It is a place to raise your children, to protect them from harm, to nurture them to adulthood. Nice is special and above average. One works hard to achieve the state of niceness. It is not something to dismiss cavalierly.

Time forces us into the unknowns of retirement and empty nest. What we are leaving is the place in which we were parents and the world associated with parenting. This is hardly unique to us, but it is happening to us. We may be the vanguard for our younger friends as they approach this period in their lives. As the Book of Ecclesiastes says, "for every time, there is a season". This is our time, our season to leave Edina.