Wednesday, September 30, 2009



News bulletins screaming of horrific natural disasters can hardly convey the suffering and aftermath of the events on people's lives. Sometimes you are swept into the disaster. Sometimes you have just escaped its wrath and are stuck with the burning mental images of people you know caught in the maelstrom. You are thankful. You are helpless. You can only write to yourself to relieve your conscience.

Samoan Tsunami
The full affects of the earthquake miles beneath the sea and its resultant wall of water may not be known for weeks. Already the news is of familiar places and people I may have known being washed away by the sea. The death toll continues to mount as we learn about no warnings being sounded in time, the low lying nature of the seaside villages, and of people being killed by a second wave as they followed the receding first wave to gather trapped fish in the lagoons.

Manila Typhoon
A heavy rain hit Manila during my recent visit there last month causing vast areas of floating sewage and garbage. I can only describe Manila as a cesspool of humanity. I have no idea what is the condition of those with whom I ate bulat and drank beer; of those who work so hard to have their lives dramatically altered by fate; of those who call this place home.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009



Just when I think my Peace Corps days were over and a faint sense of assimilation was in the air, POW!, a surprise smacked me in the kisser.

While visiting my daughter and her family this past weekend, I got an email from the Peace Corps in Washington, DC requesting a phone interview this Monday am for a 10 month assignment in Bulgaria. After talking with my wife, Mary, I responded in the affirmative.

The position was for a Business Development Officer with the Alumni Center of the Faculity of Economics and Business Administration at Sofia University with a desired start date of October, 2009. There was a detailed "Job Description" with goals, and a lot of MBA-type buzz words. I read it to mean they wanted someone to help them setup up business alliances to raise levs (Bulgarian money). The interviewer said I would know by next week whether to pack my bags or not.

As an aside, a retired couple from the nearby town of Hudson, Wisconsin contacted me after reading my blog before they joined the Peace Corps and recently were assigned as teachers in Bulgaria's second largest city of Plovdiv.

CIA link:

Monday, September 21, 2009

At this Moment

Some people want to know what it is like returning from the Peace Corps.

This morning I feel like an airline passenger trapped in a terminal by a sudden snowstorm while changing planes on a return flight home. The airport is like any other with familiar shops, lounges, bars, TVs, and chairs. My actions are predictabile as I wonder about trying to fill the empty hours, looking every few minutes at the electronic listings of cancelled flights, with no indication of when they begin again.

Thursday, September 17, 2009


For the past week I thought I was over the Samoa hump, on my way back to American acclimatization, then having to deal with cable TV tuners and companies, cell phone plans, 800#'s, life/health insurance, dog ladies, driving, dropping temperatures, purpose, political reasoning. an overabundance of trivia, erectile dysfunction, stress relief, incontinence ads, manufactured beauty, car alarms, dinner parties, and the web of metropolitan bike trails has left me homesick for Samoa and Peace Corps.
Can I be suffering from "overloaditis"?

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Kirby Puckett is Dead


Kirby Puckett inducted into Hall of Fame

The Kirby to be remembered, heading for home plate.

In the waning days of the Minnesota Twins playing baseball at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, built to make watching baseball in Minnesota more pleasurable in an expanded baseball season, to a new open air , baseball only stadium, I noticed several large banners of Twins with retired numbers and one of Jackie Robinson. I remarked to my son and his girlfriend, Heidi, that I didn't think Jackie Robinson was ever a Twin. They said that all major league teams retired Jackie Robinson's number 42. I then asked, "I wonder what Kirby Puckett is doing now?". Heidi, a girl who has lived almost her entire life in Iowa, looked mortified at me and said, "Kirby Puckett is dead". How could I have forgotten an event in 2006 akin to Minnesotans, as the moving in the dead of night of the Baltimore Colts to Indianapolis was to Marylanders?

Kirby Puckett Note:
Kirby never did fully recover from his shortened baseball career due to glaucoma. He became fat, had a meaningless job as a Twin promotional person, divorced, and had a lengthy trail for accosting and dragging a woman into a restaurant bathroom, for which he was acquitted.

Puckett Facts:
1) Died at age 42 from a stroke.
2) Second youngest player induced to the Hall of Fame. Lou Gehrig, the youngest.
3) Highest lifetime batting average of any major league player in second half of twentieth century.
4) One of two players to get 2,000 hits in first ten years of career.
5) Played for Twins his entire career.
6) Lead Twins to two World Championships.

This is my tribute to the passage of time, people, and events.

Monday, September 14, 2009



We all know the terror of being lost, but being lost and not being aware you are lost is a condition which can only strike terror in the minds of others. Alzheimer's is such a condition. To search for a person with Alzheimer's, who a few moments before seemed lucid, is an experience edging on panic. Such an event is what happened today on the St Paul Bike Tour, only the found "Lost" person enjoying the subsequent night's sleep.

I wonder whether Alzheimer's is a distinct condition or a more obvious manifestation of a condition from which we all suffer. Each of us lives within our own rational world, yet the behavior of others makes little sense to our own way of thinking. Maybe we all are "Lost" in a sea of our own cognition.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Where is the Sky?


Samoan Sunrise

Dawn Brilliance

The Horizon
The Heavens are missing. At night only a few specks of hazy light exist replacing the brilliance of the Milky Way and the millions of lamps beckoning the unknown. The dawn is nondescript, no cloud layers to scatter Sol's spectrum. Horizons are of brick and stone, confining with no hint of the vastness of my existence. I float in a cube feeding on a diet of piped megabytes, yearning to see the firmaments again.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Wi-Fi Thief


"Thou shalt not steal" seems clear enough, but is surreptitiousl tapping into another's wi-fi stealing? How can it be stealing if the person/company whose network you are using is not really losing anything? Legally, I don't think so yet. And isn't sharing what you have already paid for and what you already know can be used by the entire universe the charitable thing to do? Then why does some neighbor of mine decide to turn off his/her wi-fi during working hours after more than two years of leaving it on?

You may say I should pay for my own internet connection and you probably would get a lot of support. But I say if he/she does not want a secure network, then why go through the extra effort of turning it on and off? After all it would give others (me) pleasure with no sweat of his/her back. Isn't it better to give...?

What does this have to do with my readjustment, you may ask? It is just the way the whole notion of what is mine is mine is creeping back into my life after trying to cope in a communal society for the past two years. As for what does "Thou shalt not steal" mean? It is for others more or less noble to ponder the question. In the meantime, I am just going to confine my internet usage to when my neighbor comes home, or walk across the street to the library, or heaven forbid, get my own internet service.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

I Miss the Children


As I walk and bicycle through the city and suburbs or listen to the sounds from my window, I realize something is missing- children. In Samoa children are everywhere, seemingly more numerous than flies. Their laughter and joy still ring in my ears as they enjoy a freedom of which they are unaware. The glee playing with a deflated ball, pushing a piece of wood with a stick, or robbing a neighbor's tree of mangoes is reflected in their smiles. They guard and protect one another in their unsupervised world, a world where they are considered "Gifts of God" rather than a financial liability by fearful parents who want to rush them to adulthood.

Mango raiding party.

Selling fish

Boys at play

Caring for a baby sibling

Samoan jewelry

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

What's Next?


The slogan on my Peace Corps ball point pen reads, "Life is calling. How far will you go?". Well, we went. Now what?

My feet feel frozen in concrete, unable to move in any direction. What difference does it make whether I attribute this state to retirement, Peace Corps, or my own reticence? Sure there are things to do, people to meet, activities to fill out the day. I may be riding my bicycle around the park bike paths, pushing the remote channel changer, or setting out to read every Pulitzer Prize winning novel, but these actions just fill the time between sleeps. Indeed there is pressure to step in where I was before, but of course time changes all things and what was in no more.

At one point in my life, I vowed to be a Taoist monk, somewhat in jest, somewhat seriously. Taoism espouses there is an unforced, natural way of things. Just show patience and the Tao (Way) naturally occurs. Well, here I sit with both Mary and me wondering "What's Next?" Just how far we will go is up to the Tao. The one sure thing is that something will happen. C'est la vie.

Macaroni & Cheese


For my son-in-law's 30th birthday, my family went to one of those pretentious restaurant's that play Italian language lessons in the restroom, Romano's Macaroni Grill. I really wanted macaroni and cheese, but it was not on the menu. The server said they do make macaroni & cheese for children; for adults they could make a double order of shell macaroni topped with Velveta cheese.

I have yet to get a handle on my native land.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Brown University


While researching past studies on obesity/diabetes/hypertension, I found similar work done in Samoa by a professor at Brown University. After seeing my data, he called. We spoke for over an hour about the results and people we had in common. He was in the process of getting approval from Samoan authorities to return to Samoa this fall to conduct further research on the genetic components of obesity/diabetes/hypertension. I said I was available. He said he might need someone to go to Samoa who has recent experience there. You never know, do you?

Ahoy Mate

38' Island Packet Sailboat

I have never spent more than one night at sea, yet the call of the Seven Seas beckons my fantasies. The memories of the "yachtees" and "cruisers" in the Apia harbor just reinforce my desires. Then I get a call from a Peace Corps Volunteer in Samoa saying he has found the boat for me. All I need to do is buy it, learn to sail, and he will join me for an epic voyage. Mary and I are ready to proceed, then I go to sleep.
What is it about sleep that crushes daydreams? Soon the forces of reason take over and the realities of living so far from the sea drop anchor on my hopes.
But alas, my friend encourages sailing lessons on Lake Superior. If you can sail Lake Superior, you can sail anywhere. The last class next week conflicts with a family event. I just have to wait till next spring or seek out an ice-free port to live.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009



Ah, the glut of late summer fruits! Strawberries, blueberries, plums, melons, sweet corn, and the queen of them all, peaches. It is as if the heavens opened, dropping all its bounty at once just before the winter winds blow.

This bowl in the morning, topped with a dollop of yogurt and banana as a reminder of the tropics, makes the road back a little bit easier.