Monday, May 24, 2010

Minneapolis Heat Wave

5/24/10 Could this be what Minnesotans might be wearing soon?
Today we had our first summer day. Within hours the seasons changed. You took off your sweatshirt and just started to sweat. Air conditioners could be heard grinding away. For many, it seemed like a near death experience, another record setting day(aren't they all here) with a high of 92, low of 70 , and a dew point of 67 degrees.

I checked the weather in Samoa, a nice average fall day with a high of 88, low of 77, and dew point of 75 degrees.

Time for me to get out my lava lava and show these people how to keep cool.

P.S. My wife, Mary, did not quite share my enthusiam for warmer weather. She assumed a position on our coach with here Samoan fan, ili, and a finger on the Air Con remote control.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Scanning the past

5/19/10Who are these people? Where and when did this person look at his/her foot?

I don't recommend any sane person take on a project of scanning family photos and slides, or converting the "older" technologies of audio cassettes, 8mm movies, or VHS tape to CD/DVDs. It can only lead you or those yet to be born the task of reconverting your meticulous efforts to whatever the new technology, du jour.
Whatever the drawbacks in consumed days/weeks/months of your time, dollars, and what rational thought you may think you had, scanning the past can also produce surprises, joys, and mysteries.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Reconstructing my past


For over a month, I have been reconstructing my past. It started out by scanning pictures about our foreign exchange students and past travels for their and others amusement, then progressed to putting it on the Internet, . Since then, it has progressed into typing up my mother's memoirs and letters to her children and distributing copies to my immediate family. Like a cancer, it has generated more questions and the urgency to record my past with surprises all along the way.

So far, I have found out my father had two other brothers, and two sisters, only one of which, his youngest sister, survived childhood; a grandfather who died in Canada, and mysterious family friends/relatives. What narrative should I write to accompany this information? I have no idea where my scanning and questions may lead or what to include/exclude from my investigations on my yet to be published new website, .

For anyone who thinks an autobiography or constructing a biography in any way reflects reality should look first in the mirror and question who that person is. Do you really want to know? What should you reveal to others? What truths can you expect from others, from yourself?

Sunday, May 9, 2010


The MNRPCV stands for the "Minnesota Returned Peace Corps Volunteers" organization, a support group for Peace Corps Volunteers, which also is engaged in local community service projects. I joined at the suggestion of some other RPCVs (Returned Peace Corps Volunteers), received their mailer listing social events, to which Mary and I went to one at the Guayaquil Ecuadorian Restaurant. RPCVs were urged to practice their Spanish, but it seemed the only person speaking Spanish was the waitress who spoke no English. The main draw for me was that the restaurant served goat and a chance to learn about the readjustment process.

At our end of the table sat most of the RPCVs from the 1960s era. I asked a soon to retire math professor from Carleton College in Northfield, MN who served in Tanzania, how long it took him to readjust. He said eight years, but he was thinking of joining again. On the other side sat a couple, both about to retire. Her husband served in Paraguay after college. She was gung-ho to enlist as a couple. Her husband being somewhat relieved when Mary and I described our experience as a trying time for any couple and how physically demanding living in a different culture can be. Across from me sat a woman in her 30's, who had served as a teacher in Bulgaria and who said she had no trouble readjusting. Later she revealed that she returned to her Bulgarian host family every other year.

So much for answering my questions about readjustment. I don't think you ever do.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

A Letter to Myself


Soon upon arriving in Samoa, the Peace Corps had us write a personal, sealed letter to ourselves. It was to be handed back upon completion 27 months later. I think it was to be about what we wanted to accomplish and/or our expectations. I had completely forgotten about it, until I got it back.

Letters like these are like New Year's Resolutions, wedding vows, wills, and career objectives, projections into the future. Yet, in a way they reflect what we may want to happen or just how seriously we take our own words. It is like writing your own eulogy, but with the chance to rip it up before anyone else can read it.

Below is my letter. It is a worthwhile exercise for anyone.

"June 9, 2007
Dear Nick,

Every once in a while you get the opportunity to do something that really makes you anxious, a real challenge. Your being in the Peace Corps is just that.

My main objective is to enjoy the process and hope that somewhere along the line you can help someone.

Please keep in mind that you have an impact on others, intended or not, and not most are just trying to get along and make it through the day.

You must be careful of your dominating and cynical attitude about the ironies of life. Inconsistencies are the norm, most are unrecognized.

I also hope that this experience which I can happily share with my wife. We need to support each other, and others who may seek our opinions and help.

In the end, I hope they say he did a good job and we hate to see him leave.

Nick Shuraleff"

Monday, May 3, 2010

50 Year Old SPAM Virgin

It is hard to believe that a 50 year old person, who born and raised in Minnesota, living in London for the past 10 years, last week visiting the SPAM museum in Austin, MN, has never tasted SPAM. Yet she and others like her do exist.
At her 50th birthday party, I had the honor to present her with a SPAM birthday cake and the opportunity for her first taste of SPAM. She liked it! Thereupon, she received a can of "SPAM with Cheese" to celebrate the loss of her SPAM virginity. Other SPAM virgins broke abstinence by biting into that delicious combination of pork shoulder, ham, herbs and spices.
Laura Braley,
the 50 year old SPAM virgin deciding: Beer, cake, or SPAM

Her first bite of SPAM.

It may be noted that when given the choice between traditional birthday cake, topped with thick sugary buttery icing and a slice of SPAM, most selected the unhealthy layer cake. Habits are hard to break. I suggest at your next birthday you serve a healthy slice of SPAM.