Saturday, November 28, 2009

Turning 68

A good book, coffee, warm bathrobe, your mother's afghan, a bowl of mini frosted shredded wheat.

Today is my 68th birthday. Sixty eight is just one of those birthdays of little importance or significance. It is not a prime number, square root, nor does it mark getting a driver's license, being able to buy liquor legally, a new decade. It has no hidden occult meanings, double andante, or even a tee hee. It is like Pooh Bear. It just is. But that is what makes being sixty eight such a wonderful experience. It just is. Something to enjoy the essence of being.

A person can't get enough of "just is's" in life.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Blood Pressure Monitors


Today a shipment of twelve Blood Pressure Monitors with large cuffs arrived for me to transport to Samoa. These were donated by Homedics, Inc. of Commerce, Michigan as arranged by Jim Metz, a current Peace Corps Volunteer on Samoa.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thankful for Acid Rain


This Thanksgiving Day, just before the US Senate's Health Care Reform debate and the upcoming Copenhagen Summit on Global Warming, I wondered what happened to acid rain? For those old enough to remember the panic 1970's, acid rain was changing the composition of our lakes and threatening to destroy the forests of the entire world. The United States was one of the main culprits in SO2 emissions, the main chemical in producing acid rain from coal burning power plants.

In 1980 the U.S. enacted a study of acid rain which produced amendments in 1990 to the Clean Air Act requiring gaseous reductions and established a cap and trade system designed to reduce emissions in a series of phases by 10 million tons by the year 2010.

Overall, the Program's cap and trade program has been successful in achieving its goals. Since the 1990s, SO2 emissions have dropped 40%, and acid rain levels have dropped 65% since 1976. In 2007, total SO2 emissions were 8.9 million tons, achieving the program's long term goal ahead of the 2010 statutory deadline.

The EPA estimates that by 2010, the overall costs of complying with the program for businesses and consumers will be $1 billion to $2 billion a year, only one fourth of what was originally predicted.

What does acid rain have to do with Thanksgiving Day, you may ask? I guess it is to be thankful that there are some people in government with the capacity for the social good and the courage to do the right thing, may they not rest in peace.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Besieged by Sales


America is besieged by sales. Everyday has become a Black Friday. My mailbox is stuffed with offers one can't refuse. It is as if the more you spend the farther ahead you are. Everyday the media burps coupons, discounts, rebates, two for ones, and free offers than I have ever experienced in my lifetime.

My quest now is not to get the lowest price, but to see if I can find anything at retail.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Jimmy Fatso's Call for Help


Jimmy Fatso, aka Jim Metz, before going he went "Samoan" at a visit to Mt. Matavanu which erupted from 1905-1911. Samoans say "Not to worry".

(They said the same about tsnumais)

I couldn't help but reprint Jim Metz's email about his efforts to "help" Samoans learn about the relationship between weight and health.

"Subject: Jimmy Fatso

Greetings Friends and Family,

Who's ready for Thanksgiving! I know I am. It's one of the few days where I am on one mission and one mission only. TO EAT AND EAT AND EAT, then EAT AGAIN!

Most of you are aware that my physical appearance has not changed much since high school. I still weigh about 150 lbs and those who know me well know that I have no shame when it comes to putting down some calories. But I never gained weight. Until about a month ago. For two weeks every night I ate with the village pastor, his family, and about ten chiefs. And we ate "real" Samoan food which is typically high in protein, fat, and starch. Let's just say that my personal buffet I received didn't include many vegetables. Nevertheless, I decided a long time ago to live by this code, or cliche. "When in Samoa, do as the Samoans." So that I did, I ate just like they did.I went straight for the pork, taro (root crop), and coconut cream baked in leaves. Bear in mind that this is extremely tasty food and while my taste buds are going crazy my body tells my mind to keep eating. I can feel my stomach expanding so I take a short break and wash it down with some high octane tea which has been filled with about 3 or 4 heaping spoons of sugar. I don't stop until after I am full. In other words I keep eating until they have stopped. After washing my hands I lean back and take a breath full of second-hand smoke from the smoking chief sitting upwind from me. It actually relaxes me a little bit and I go into a slight state of delirium.

It was Thanksgiving every day. I gained seven pounds. It was a miracle. Well not quite. That's what happens when you overeat. So what did I learn from my experiment? I learned that I can't hang with the big boys like I use to. Ha, what else? I saw for myself the cause of one of the fastest growing problems here in Samoa. Diabetes and Hypertension. The correlation between weight and health is for real and we all know it. But there are still some who haven't had the proper health education to make better choices regarding their diet.I have decided to make this my new priority for my last 9 months in Samoa. Along with about 4 other volunteers and local nurses we are going to be doing diabetes/hypertension awareness seminars starting next year. This is of course if we get approval from the government.In the meantime I am trying to do some fund-raising for the seminars as well as assist the hospitals get some new blood pressure and blood sugar testing equipment. I am asking for your help in making this possible. If you would like to know how you can assist with this project please email me back with the following information.

Name _________________ Phone ________________
Address ______________ Email ________________ ______________ ______________

A much more detailed project plan will be sent to those who wish to help. Feel free to forward this email to anyone you think might be interested. It's been great getting emails from most of you and I'm sorry to those that I haven't responded to personally. But I will do better I promise. I'll be thinking of you all over the holidays and to those of you with some extra cash, I only have 9 more months here so if you want to get away the time to plan is now!

Jim "

For those who wish to contact Jim directly, his email is: and his blog is: .

Paradise Closing

Here are some updates as to what is happening as my return to Samoa on December 1 gets closer:

-One of the current Peace Corps Volunteers, James Metz, has arranged for Homedics to donate twelve blood pressure cuffs to be delivered to me for transfer to Samoa.

- The Professor from Brown University, Dr. Stephen McGarvey, who is doing a research project on diabetes and hypertension is going to be in Samoa the same time as me. We plan to get together.

- Another extending Peace Corps Volunteer from my Group 78, Ben Harding, has asked me to help with the latest group of new volunteers. Training is held in the same village of Manunu as for my group. Deja Vue?

- Several Peace Corps have volunteered to house me in Apia during my stay.

- My host family in Iva has texted asking for money, kitchen knives, and a large bottle of ibuprophen. Of course, I shall oblige

- I have learned the school dedication, the initial reason for returning, is actually scheduled for December 22nd, not December 20th. I am leaving on December 21st. You just have got to love the place!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Return to Paradise


The call of the South Pacific, to drink Samoa's Vailima beer with current Peace Corps Volunteers, desire to have my picture taken with Samoa's Minister of Health, and the imminence of a Minnesota winter has compelled me to book a trip back to Samoa from December 1st-22nd.

Being a "Serious Man", other more sensible reasons must exist to justify the wanton spending of my Social Security dollars*. There is rumor of the new Iva Primary School dedication on December 20th (my official reason for going), but this is unconfirmed and, even if confirmed, probably totally unreliable. I want to check up on my garden, to see if the door for the sewing machines has ever been unlocked, and the status of bathroom scales. There is also the desire to influence a public awareness between health and weight among Samoans; so if they want to be obese, at least they can feel guilty about it.

My wife, Mary, has decided, rather than joining me, it is preferable to remain snuggled under a down comforter than to risk getting another hospitalizing infection and sweating 24/7 .

*(This statement sure to generate a comment from my faithful blog follower, Anonymous)

Sunday, November 8, 2009

What is it like?

People often want to know what it is like to live in a Third World country, to be part of some humanitarian effort, like the Peace Corps, USAID, or United Nations, . My efforts to explain the conflict between the frustration of trying to do "good" with love of trying are best described in Norman Rush's short story about an AID worker in Botswana, "Official Americans" .

"But you can't quite figure why you like it, am I right? ...Drought, poor people.. But, we still like it here. One night I figured it out. It's because it isn't our country and we can't help what happens. We can offer people advice and we get paid for it. We get good vacations, we eat off the top of the food chain chain, we get free housing. Hey!, but we're not responsible for what happens if Africa goes to hell, because we've done our best. Also, at the same time, we're not responsible for what happens in America, either, really- because, hey!, we weren't home when it happened. Say we get fifteen percent compliance on birth control here, which is what we do get and which is terrific by Third World standards. O.K., it's not enough. But what can we do, we tried. We told them. But, we're too late. We all know it, but somebody pays us to keep up the good work, so we say fine. Why am I telling you this? I forgot."

Friday, November 6, 2009

A Nice Fall Day


Every once in a while, Minnesota weather surprises you. Yesterday, cold and rainy. Today, warm (50's) and sunny. A good day for a long walk to Trader Joe's to restock my wine rack with "Three Buck Chuck".

There is something romantic about a walk on nice fall day, especially one in a Minnesota November. The leaves crunch beneath your feet on the sidewalk. Homeowners are out raking, more to enjoy the day then to tend to chores they should have done weeks ago. There is the perfume of vegetation just beginning to decompose and the overtone of thawing canine feces. The nearby lake is a resting spot for Canadian geese on their way south.

I am discovering sights of my new urban neighborhood for which I had no time before before departing to Samoa. There are small parks tucked away off the main streets, small churches, little homes with plantings instead of grass, schools with children playing outside during recess.

Returning to my condo with the low angled sun streaming through the window, I realize adventures come in many guises, some more subtle than others.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Halloween, Minnesota Style

Getting Ready
Heide, Nicholas' girlfriend, Yours truly, and Nicholas, my son.

The bowels of Hotel Amsterdam, Minneapolis

If you can't be in Samoa for Halloween, you have to bring Samoa to Minnesota. Well pretend anyway, but isn't that Halloween?

Dressed in my Samoan garb of lava lava, flip flops, and colored shirt, I ventured out into the 30 degree downtown Minneapolis night. The streets and clubs were filled to over flowing with witches, Viking football players, Cleopatra's, rock stars, and other contorted forms of humanity, but only one Samoan. Rock on old man! As the "Samoan" melded with the hedonistic masses.

I just love Halloween.