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Sunday, October 2nd, 2005
6:20 pm - Starvin' Marvin in Mauritania Contest Results
As it turns out the Swearing-in ceremony was in Kaedi, not Nouakchott, so I did not have access to a scale. However, due to medical problems (see a later post) I came to Nouakchott last Monday and was able to weigh myself.

And the results are...
150lbs in shoes and clothes, which would put me at 147-148lbs in my underwear. In three months I lost 20lbs, transforming me from a fat porker into a svelte African. Actually, when I went back to the United States in August I regained 9lbs that I had lost, bringing me to 164lbs when I came back in mid-August. In five weeks I lost 16lbs. That's healthy, right?

It appears that we have a tie. Steve predicted my weight to be 150lbs after 3 months, and Sarah predicted me to weigh 146lbs. Really Sarah edged out Steve, but with the uncertainty involved in the results I declare you both winners.

And what do our winners receive? Both Sarah and Steve will be mailed directly from Mauritania a nice big pile of sand, because that's about all that this country has in terms of prizes or souvenirs. To collect the prize, the winners should post or e-mail me directly their mailing addresses..

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Thursday, September 15th, 2005
3:19 am - Staaj Ovur
Today was swearing-in, and I stopped being a stagier and officially became a Peace Corps volunteer.

Abda, Haddu, and I left M'Beidia on Monday to come into Kaedi for the last set of Center days and language testing. I had mixed feelings about leaving my host family. The Uld Abades and the villagers as a whole are incredibly nice and generous people, but at the same time it was awful food and very difficult conditions. Plus, I'm ready to get to N'Beika and get settled and start working on projects.

Right before we left, Alyen my host father was supposed to come back from the fields to say goodbye. He was late, and only stayed a few minutes becuase he was in a hurry. As it turns out some guy in the village died of malaria that morning. Malaria, seems like a good going-away present for the village to give to me.

For the swear-in ceremony I bought a really nice and expensive white and gold-embroidered boubou. 10000 UM well spent in my opinion, much better quality than the cheap one I had before. The nice white boubou combined with the white howlie and the sunglasses definately made me look like a Saudi Oil Baron, or in Grace's words "a scary White Moor." I out-Mauritaniaed the Mauritanians, as I had the best boubou there, and most of hte officials wore Western clothing.

Another plus is that the Ambassador is definately going to remember who I am. His wife even tracked me down after the ceremony to talk about the Saharan crocodiles near my site. I invited them to come visit me up there whenever they want. They came by at least once while Andy was there, maybe they'll come agian.

I leave Kaedi, and James and Amy and everyone else not going to the Tagant for posting on Sunday morning. They're going to leave me alone in the middle of the desert with a bunch of people unfriendly to foreigners. The real adventure is about to begin.

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Tuesday, September 6th, 2005
7:12 pm - The Beidia Boys' Epic Adventure
It all started out harmlessly enough on Sunday. I was doing the Peace Corps Mauritania version of meet the parents. Amy's host sister has been pushing Amy to have me over for lunch ever since the middle of July when she saw the two of us alone together in the market, walking around buying things. In Mauritania, two unrelated people of the opposite sex paying any attention whatsoever to eachother is pretty scandelous. After the infamous July 30 "Mutederribaat stuck in M'Beidia" incident where she was escorted home after dark in the Peace Corps car, her family made me come. I was supposed to come that next weekend, but I ended up leaving the country on Tuesday. Things only finally became settled enough that James and I finally went over there on Sunday for lunch.

The food was excellant there. It was marro we hutte (rice and fish) just like we get in M'Beidia, except it was completely different. There were vegetables, and fish that had meat on it, and flavor. I couldn't hope to et that well every day. All the while we were eating the host mother and sister were talking about me and us. I could understnd some of it. The best part came during tea after the meal when the host sister got up to pray. James was sitting by the pot and noticed that it was boiling. Instead of letting it go and waiting for the sister to finish praying, James took off te tea and started making it. The host family went wild, because for weeks they've been pressuring Amy to make it. After I told them that I also make tea, the went really crazy. I think Amy's going to hear about this for the rest of her time there.

After tea, around 3pm, James got the bright idea that we should visit Stephanie before we go back to the beidia (bush). Three slight problems: one being that we didnt know where she lived, but knew she lived somewhere in the same neighborhood as Grace; two, that Grace lives on the other side of town as Amy; and three, that we would have to cross town at 3pm when the sun was still high in the sky and it was about a million degrees out. It wasnt until after we left that James told us he had only been to Graces house once, at night, and he wasnt only sort of sure of the way to go. Needless to say we took the long, long indirect route to her house. When we got there, we were told that Grace was not there, but had gone to Jowol for the day. We ended up having a group of children lead us to Stephanie's house. Turns out she wasnt there either, but was at another Mauritanian friend's house. We got another group of children to lead us the way this time. By the time we found Stephanie there were about 20 children following us.

After tea at the friend's house, it was another long, shadeless walk to the paved road where James and I could find a taxi brousse back. Mauritania would do well to invest in tree-lined boulevards. I'd say we walked at least 5km around Kaedi in the afternoon heat that day.

So we're standing on the road going west to M'Beidia trying t pck up a car. In over 20 min, we got nothing, not even cars passing that direction. Looking back, I'm not sure why I suggested it, but I asked James, "How longs the walk to MBeidia?"
"25km or so. Maybe about 5 hours."
For some reason, a 5:20pm in the afternoon, we decided to walk back to M'Beidia from Kaedi.

It started out well. The day was cooling off, and we could still see houses and the environment around us. At about 7pm we passed Rinjiao, where the next furthest west stagieres are located. We waved to Andy and Jake who were working in their garden as we passed. After that it was just us, no possibility of seeing another stagier for the rest of the trip.

At 7:30pm the sun set. It was then that we began wondering what phase the moon was in. It had been cloudy for the past several nights, so niether of us knew. We found out that it was a new moon, as it didn't come out at all while we were walking.

For a good half-hour stretch James and I were completely alone. No houses, no people, no campfires of people cooking or making tea in the brousse, not even any cars passing us in either direction.

It is wrth noting that along the walk, we turned down two offers for rides. By 9pm, with our legs tiring, backpacks getting heavier, we were regretting it. We were also getting worried by the lightning in the distance...in every direction. Usually one sees lighnting in the distance in one direction on any given night. Pretty harmless, as storms happen quickly here and come out of nowhere. That was the worrying part, as the lightning from the north was quickly getting brighter and closer.

At about 9:30pm we arrived at the sign for Foundou, the town next to M'Beidia to the east. This was a positive landmark. Now all that was left was the hour walk to our village. The only problem was that niether of us could see more than 5ft beyond the road and would have little chance of actually seeing our village. Also, the sign marking our tozn on the road was pretty small and easy to miss. So we started walking on the shoulder hoping that we'd at least run into the sign even if we didn't see it.

Then a car passes us, slows down, and then turns around. A white car. An SUV. Is that a Peace Corps car? We were doubtlessly breaking some rule by walking along the highway at night, so this was not a good thing. As it turns out, the person driving the car is the Waali for the Gorgol region, who turned around to see why two white guys were wlaking along the main road alone on a moonless night in the region that he's incharge of. He told us basically that we shouldn't do such things except when there's a full moon out and gave us a ride back to our village. So, the eauivelent of the governer of our state picked us up wlking along on the main interstate and gave us a ride home. We'll be seeing him again in a week for swearin, as hes invited. Im sure hes going to call someone about this.

Turns out we were only about a 2min drive from our village when we were picked up by the Walli, about a 20 min walk. We made it back alive from a long walk in the brousse. Good times.

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Saturday, September 3rd, 2005
6:29 pm - Back to M'Beidia
After a month of traveling around te world, it felt good to finally get back to M'Beidia last week. For the first two days I even had good food because the agfo/health PACA demonstration for Hassaniya was there. After that it been back to the normal class, watering the garden, and pretending to eat.

My Hassaniya is coming back pretty well. We've had to accelerate class because I missed so much. 7 competences in 4 days no sweat. Abda and I tried to schedule more days of language so I could have more time to catch up, but PC wasn't so keen on the idea. So only three more days left of language class.

So, the jelli or hanger in front of my house blew down in the big storm a few days ago. They rebuilt it the next day with the same materials. Now it's like a demi-jelli, very small. I do not want to sit under it anymore because I question how soundly it was constructed. Now I sit under the thorn tree. The family does too now.

After Hadu left for the week to visit his "friend" in Kaedi for the weekend, I busted out some of the stuff I brought back with me from the US. Best Friday afternoon in M'Beidia ever. Maybe I'll post about it after swear-in.

They gave us the evaluation forms for our PST sites this last week. I recommended the site for future volunteers with some major reservations. I think my favorite line from my response is "The food is so bad that it eats away at your soul," and if "they don't believe me then they are invited for lunch at Daar Abade." I hope they actually type up what I wrote, because I meant every word of what I wrote.

12 days left of Stage. Good times.

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Thursday, August 25th, 2005
11:13 am - stage
I am so over stage. Granted I have missed most of it, but still I cannot wait until swear-in in mid-September.

I should't have taken the language test. I haven't been in language class in four weeks, and during most of that time I have not even thought about Hassaniya. So I already know I can't speak it. Plus, I got sick in Tadjikja on my last day of site visit, and I still wasn't feeling so hot the day of the test. Not the makings for a good result.

Yeah, the test confirmed that I have in fact forgotten most of the Hassaniya I picked up at the beginning of stage. The highlight of the test was when, after I stumbled through the basics of the greetings and my name and the like, the tester asked me "so, where does your mother in America live?" There was a long pause. I tried to answer in Hassaniya and somehow got throuh another 5-10 min of conversation. After the test I went to lunch and I was done for the rest of the day, done for the rest of center days, done for the rest of stage.

It has been a really, really long two months, and all I want is for the rest of it to be over.

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Wednesday, August 24th, 2005
2:27 pm - site visit
So last week we stagiers got our site announcments for where we will be for the next two years. I will be stationed in N'Beika, an oasis town of about 3000 in the Soutern Tagant.

Unfortunantely, for the first time the Peace Corps has broken up James and me. He's going to M'Bout, about 1.5 hours east of Kaedi while I'm going about 6 or so hours north. Amy's going far too, to a small town outside of Rosso, in the far southwestern part of the country. I wonder what places I'm going to be visiting often.

About N'Beika. Physically, it's incredibly beautiful. Most of my region is up on the Tagant Plateau, and to get there one has to mount the 1000 foot vertical cliff that rises out of the sea of sand dunes. On top of the plateau, it looks like you landed on Mars. The desolate fields of red rocks stretches on to the horizon in all directions. My town is the first settlement on the plateau coming on the road from the south about 18km from the escarpment. It's in a basin surrounded by 500 foot sand dunes, and is filled with sesonal pools and lush date palmeries. This basin and the valeey next to it apparently collect all the water form the seasonal rivers that flow in the Tagant, so it is pretty fertile. The water table in N'Beika is only 1-3m deep there as opposed to 25m deep in M'Beidia. It collects enough water that the pools don't dry up until several months after the rainy season. About 30 min walk away there is a secluded pool where I can go swimming and not have to worry about having a Mauritanian audience. Legend also has it in the next valley over there are pygmy desert crocodiles living in another secluded pool.

So, the place is gorgeous. Too bad the people aren't. I knew I was in trouble when everyone kept telling me how beautiful it was instead of the usual "it's a great place." My impression of them while I was there was that they were very unwelcoming and unfriendly. I'm replacing a volunteer, a guy named Andy, and he hated the place mostly because of the people. I figure that it's partly his fualt, as he had a pretty negative attitude. But that can't explain all of it, as the people that I met were pretty rude and unhospitable. His host family was the worst. They pretended basically that we didn't exist while we were there, which goes completely against Mauritanian cultural norms for guests. They served food so bad that cat wouldn't eat it, and doubled the rent for a leaky room when our Mauritanian facilitator tried to negotiate with him for me to live there. (I sincerely hope that my counterpart is wrong when he said that that family was "the best family in N'Beika.")

My counterpart seems like a good guy at least. His name is Mohammad IIsmaiah (sp) and he runs one of the pharmacies intown, though he is also apparently some big agriculture person working for the government. He should be pretty helpful in getting me community contacts, and I'm going to crash at his house for a few weeks untl I find a family to live with permanently. I can't stay there permanently because his family lives en brousse and he just keeps a house intown, so no meals and no lang practice.

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Saturday, August 13th, 2005
4:05 pm - Peace Corps Mauritania take two
I arrived safely in Nouakchott about an hour or so ago. I'll be staying the night here a local hotel, and will leave tomorrow for Kaedi.

On the plane ride from Paris to Nouakchott I watched the movie Sahara. Yeah, the Peace Corps should totally issue Penelope Cruz on a motorboat to all the volunteers. Or, at least to those who trained in M'Beidia. Just a suggestion.

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Thursday, August 11th, 2005
9:21 am - Note
I started reading TE Lawrence's Seven Pillars of Wisdom, and I identified with the opening paragraph. I'm not sure how much of an authority he is on Arab culture, but the dude used to sport a howlie, so he must know something.

"Some of the evil of my tale may have been inherent in our circumstances. For years we lived anyhow with one another in the naked desert, under the indifferent heaven. By day the hot sun fermented us; and we were dizzied by the beating wind. At night we were stained by dew, and shamed into pettiness by the innumerable silences of stars. We were a self-centered army without parade or gesture, devoted to freedom, the second of man's creeds, a purpose so ravenous that it devoured all of our strength, a hope so transcendant that our earlier ambitions faded in its glare."

I come back with all these fantastic, otherworldly tales of oppressive heat and constant sun, sand everywhere and in everything, spiky trees, houses made of mud that melt in the rain, black people, terrible food*, four hour siestas, being marrooned by my government in the shael with one other guy, huge families, isolation, desolation. It sounds like complaining, but it's not that exactly. It's a completely foriegn culture and an extreme environment, but so far I have enjoyed being there.

I leave tomorrow morning to head back to Mauritania.


* Ok, so I really am complaining about the food. I think it's really gross, and I can't imagine how it could be at all nutritious.

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Wednesday, August 10th, 2005
11:05 pm - Interesting day
The day started out well. Michael drove up last night from Georgia to visit for a few days. That was really nice of him.

Then, this afternoon Michael, Chris, and I went on the AB brewery tour. As it turns out, the clydesdales live better than I do. They have air-conditioning, individual stalls that are bigger than the village daar (house), and they have better food. That made me sad.

Marge made turkey for dinner. It was just like for Thanksgiving, with stuffing and pumpkin pie and everything. I forgot about the stupid horses.

And then I found my leather necklace thing that I got at the culture fair. I had been looking for that all week.

All in all, a good day.

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Sunday, August 7th, 2005
7:56 pm - Stranger in a Strange Land (reconstructed)
(Note - This is a reconstruction and expansion of a post I wrote after my first week of Community Based training in mid-July. The original post that I wrote in Kaedi did not work because I ran out of time. I decided that I should take advantage of high-speed, reliable internet access while I have it.)

So, we were finally taken to our homestays where we will be for the rest of training. I am in the tiny Black Moor village of M'Beidia, about 25km west of Kaedi off the road to Nouakchott. My sitemate James and I are learning Hassaniya Arabic.

There were three groups of us in the Peace Corps car going to the CBT sites west of the city. The first two villages were really close to the city, within a five minute drive. After the other groups were squared away, we drove out to our site. And drove. And drove. In the 25 minutes it took to drive to M'Beidia, we passed maybe two other villages, and a whole lot of nothing else. As we went along I noticed that there were fewer and fewer trees and vegetation and a lot more brown as we went west away from Kaedi. We are the farthest out of the training sites this year.

At first there were three of out here. We pulled up to M'Beidia and sat under a tree to meet our host families and drink the first of many rounds of tea. Luke was named Abu. I was named Siddi, which they told me is a popular name which means Master or Sir. They named James Abdarathman, slave of God. Abu, Siddi, and Abdarathman. Can you spot the one that is not like the others?

So we go home with our families, and it turns out I do not actually live in the village of 200 people. I live in the suburbs east of the village of 200 people. My house is a good 50 feet from the next house, where the average is probably less than 10, and there is a good 500 feet of open space between my house and the village proper. A little closer to Mecca I suppose. Beyond my house there is nothing, only brousse for miles until the next village. I've renamed the area around my house Town and Country East. Makes it feel a little bit more like home. Except for the sand, houses made of dirt, and the abject poverty, it's exactly like the original Town and Country.

I am living with the Abade family, which makes me Siddi ould Abade, Master son of Abade. Strangely, my host father is named Aleyn, not Abade. I have no idea who this Abade character is. My host mother is named Izza. I have 7ish brothers (not sure exactly who all the children are who run around the house yet) and one sister. The sister's name is Kumba. Don't ask me the brothers' names, all I know is that one of them is named Abu, one is Hammad, and another Mohammad...and five or so more. I'm pretty sure Izza is pregnant with a nineth sibling. That's a lot of babies. Maybe I should ditch the mini Gateway Arch and coloring books as gifts for the family, and give them some condoms.

What is my village really like? Well, imagine going camping for three months ... in an oven. Or a tanning bed. I'm not sure how it works out scientifically, but out here we're about a mile from the sun. I busted out my temp guage one day to see how hot it really gets, and I stopped looking when it reached 119 degrees F. As far as I can tell it hasn't gotten below the low 80s. I'm glad that the heat broke it, because it suddenly gets a lot hotter every time I looked at it. After a few days, the weather stopped being so bad though. It's amazing how quickly your body adjusts.

Or imagine the village as a sort of time travel. Aside from the flip-flops, a few random plastic items, the US-surplus wheat that my family eats, and the ancient radio and flashlight that my family uses, this place could very easily be 500 years ago. There's no electricity, running water only in the sense that there are a few public faucets around town to supplement the well water, and people commute to work in the fields on donkey carts. The houses are made of mud brick and most of the roofs are branchs. I doubt that anything done in that village has changed (or been improved upon) since the Medieval period. Even the language they speak is the closest modern dialect to Classical Arabic.

With such extreme conditions, it is not surprising that our numbers dwindled. Luke took one week at this place, and he was gone. He waited a few days to be polite, but all our convincing couldn't get him to stay. He missed his girlfriend and family and such things, and out here, if you have anything like that back home, then you're gone. I don't blame him for going, but it sucks that his quitting leaves just James and me out here in somebody's version of Hell. We can't even play Monopoly anymore. I see many a boring day ahead for CD and Abda.

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Wednesday, August 3rd, 2005
10:07 pm - saddness
Monday morning my mother died after a prolonged illness. I just got back to St. Louis this evening from Africa to attend the funeral. I will be here until next Thursday.

As it turns out, my cell phone was not canelled, so you may call that if you like. Or, you can call my house at (314)-878-6434, and say that you are a friend of mine.

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Thursday, July 28th, 2005
3:52 am - I came to Africa to help the starving children...
...and instead I have become one of them.

So yeah the food really sucks here. Mauritania is a shame of a former French colony.

My training site, M'Beidia, about thirty min west of Kaedi along the Road of Hope, is just about the worst in terms of food for the stagieres. Turns out the Black Moors in this area are all really poor. My vilage of 200 is no different. They cannot afford things like meat, vegetables, or flavor.

What exactly do I eat every day? Well for lunch it is usually gruel, a nasty amalgamation of rice, US surplus wheat, an oil. Maybe half a fish or some beans thrown in if we are lucky. Bissap (hibiscus) leaves if we re really lucky. for dinner, more oil with couscous that looks and tastyes like sand (and not only because some of it is sand) and mabye some beans or fish. Every day.

Lunch and dinner are now my least favorite times of day. I love my host family, except at meals. I have gotten of not eating very much so far beause I convinced my family thqt I have not yet learned how to eat with my hand. That cannot last forever though, but I will milk it until it stops convining them.

I feel bad eating a lot anyway because the family needs the food more than me. I am the tallest person for miles around. I am pretty sure the youngest two brohters have protein defiecincy, zith the realy small bodies and distended stomaches. I throw little Abu most opf the stuff they thro me.

Ok, I have 5 min left so I should post this because I posted my last one too late and it didn't work.

PS Letters are coming in good. Keep sending them.

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Thursday, July 7th, 2005
7:20 pm - arrivé
So, I am here in Africa. (I am using q French keyboard and cannot find the apostrophe button.) It really was loooong week last week for ,*me to get here. I have told the story about q thousqnd times now qnd am tired of repeqting it, so you get the short version. Tuesdqy night I lost my wallet...zith qll of my trqvel money it...and all of my valid photo ids. Realizing this way qfter business hours, I sent untl 2Am looking for it eeryzhere in my house. No luck, qnd I had to miss my 7:45am flight to Philly to go to the DMV. I got my driver lisence qnd somehoz made it from Ellisville to the airport by 11:10am for the 12:25 flight out. Then I waited in line for 45 mins to get my bags checked. Oops, 2 mins too late, qnd they would not let me board. I was put on standby and told good luck for the rest of the dqy. I probqbly zould not have made it anyway because? by chqnging flights, I was tqgged qnd given the full "hey I barely know you search" at security. Apparently there was bad weather over the NE so all flights out to Philly were eventuqlly cancelled. I finally left St; Louis at 2:30pm Thursday and missed almost all of pre Stage orientqtion. For the next two years I will invqriqbly be known as "that guy who came late" (and missed all the insanely boring sessions). There, I am never going to tell that story again, and everyone zill be referred to this entry.

The travel probles didnot end there. Bad weather in NYC delqyed our flight to Paris by q few hours, and they hqd to hold our plane to Nouakchott. Naturally, our luggage did nt meet us at our destination. We were told we wold get it all Mondqy. I finally got mine Wednesday. For a few dqys we all bonded in our common stench and lack of stuff.

It is all good in Kaedi now. The city is on the southern border a few hundred miles of sand qnd trash inland from the Atlantic. It is pretty hot here, though the night we arrived was the first rain f the rainy season, so it is cooler than it had been. They havz been babying us, and the compo is like a little Disneyland Maurtitania because it is clean, has eectricity and runing water, and a few rooms have AC. That all stops Saturday when homestays start. I am going out to the village where I qm betting there will be not any of those things.

Ok, my internet time is running out, so I post later about all things good and bad.

Love,
Greg

PS send letters and/or emails

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Tuesday, June 28th, 2005
2:40 am - The Starvin' Marvin in Mauritania Contest
Anyone remember that South Park episode where the children sponsor an Ethiopian boy who is accidentally sent to them in Colorado? They named him "Starvin' Marvin" because he was so skinny. I have a feeling that Mauritania is going to turn me into a Starvin' Marvin.

The problem seems to be my metabolism. It is too fast. Despite eating my fair share of decadant and calorie-laden American cuisine, I have maintained a pretty lithe physique. I eat a lot and don't exercise often, but my weight stays normal or low-normal. What happens if I reduce my intake? Well, my mass does as well pretty qucikly. For example, my "freshman 15" was losing 15 pounds...each semester. In fact, every semester I've been in college except one, I have lost weight. (Usually I gain it all back during breaks at home where there is more to eat.) I appear to be in good company in this regard. The Peace Corps actually recommends that men take an extremely adjustable belt because of expected wight loss.

Being the dork that I am, I thought it would be interesting to see how my wieght changes while I'm over there. Even better, have a contest to see who can closest predict how much I will weigh in three months (end of training) and in a year. I will send some sort of prize to the winner of each.

I happen to have a scale handy because I am weighing my suitcases to make sure they are under the 80 lb limit. Weighing myself in my underwear (clothes as it turns out can be very heavy, introducing a lot of error. Without shoes and in shorts, my clothes still weighed more than three pounds) I am currently 167 lb (75 kg).

Please post your predictions, along with your name, by August 15, 2005. Good luck to all.

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Monday, June 27th, 2005
11:59 pm - Dispersal
It seems as though my whole family is dispersing right now. Really it doesn't seem so, it is so. Chris finally (sorry had to put that one in) graduated from Chicago two weekends ago, and started work as a financial analyst last week. He came back this weekend to see me off on my trip. He left Sunday afternoon, and officially moved into his new apartment full-time and into his new life. Kara and my dad are leaving tomorrow afternoon for Texas to attend freshman orientation at Baylor. I leave Wednesday morning for Philadelphia and ultimately Africa. Then there's my mom, who goes in on Thursday morning. Matt and Marge will be the only ones left in the house, at least until my father and sister get back late Thursday evening.

So we're all going our seperate ways. Within a month and a half, Kara will be down in Texas for good. Who knows how long Marge will be around. She's set to retire later this year, and seems pretty intent on following through with it. The Coordes household will shrink by more than half, and everyone will be beginning new phases of thier lives. Chris and I out in the "real world" (vastly different from each other as they may be), Kara into the independance of college, my parents as empty-nesters, Marge as a retiree, and Matt as ... well, I guess he'll keep on being Matt.

I leave in fewer than 36 hours. I think it's time to do some more packing.

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Wednesday, June 8th, 2005
10:43 pm - Torturing the dog
So, it's been kind of a lull period for me around here. Not really much to do around here until we leave for Chris's graduation on Friday. My brother's school is in Chicago, and the whole family is going, even Marge, so there will not be anyone home to watch the dogs while we're away. Since neither my uncle nor the Holiday Inn likes my family's dogs, that leaves two apparent solutions about what to do with them for the four days that we are away: 1. leave at home at let them fend for themselves for a few days, or 2. put them in a kennel. My dogs are about the size of bunnies, unferocious bunnies, and live about 99% of their lives indoors, and Max has literally 2 teeth, so I'd peg their odds at surviving the weekend alone in the wild at a million to one. Plus we don't want more complaints from the neighbors about our dead animals in their yards. Option 1 is a no go. That leaves option 2, the dreaded kennel.

One would think that my dogs would be prissy, clean animals. No, despite being the most frou-frou breed imaginable, breed to be the lap ornaments of French kings, Max and Savannah Coordes are nasty, dirty, disgusting creatures. Particularly Max, who had a nervous breakdown a few years ago and has incessantly licked his chest ever since. The constant licking has not stopped, even though we give him enough amitriptyline to take down a human 20 times his size, and put a giant blue doily around his neck to physically block the licking area. His chest and front limbs are dirty and natty as a result.

Before we can put the dogs in the kennel, they have to be washed. Since Kara and I are the resident unemployed and unbusy members of the household, the task of bathing them fell to us. Washing Savannah was easy enough. Despite her shaking and hiding whenever the word "bath" is uttered, I think she secretly enjoys it. Being scratched and petted all over, like during drying, is her idea of a good time. Max is a different story. He does not like being wet, being dried, being touched on his hind legs or on his ears, the blow dryer, or being anywhere near scissors. About the only part of the process that he doesn't dread is the treat fro going in his cage after he's dry.

The bathing process began on a high note this morning. We were able to catch him and put him on Kara's lap; it went downhill from there. Before bathing him, we needed to cut off all the knots in his fur. This should be easy, playing barber to a 7lb toothless dog. As soon as the scissors come out, he tensed up and showed his teeth (gums). With every clip or attempted clip, he snapped at the nearest hand. Somehow he got his tongue back in his mouth and out of the way long enough to get hold of a finger or two and bite down with his remaining tooth. It actually almost hurt, and was disruptive enough that we hardly got any fur knots off. We tried holding him and his head every which way, resorting to such extreme measures as putting his head in a sock to block him and rubber banding his muzzle shut. Nothing worked, and it took like 30 minutes to get to most of the tangles.

Thoroughly aggravated, it was time for the dog to actually be washed. I let Kara do this in the laundry room sink because she had earlier volunteered for the position thinking that would get her out of the real fun, drying. No such luck, as I made her stay around to comb Max while I manned the blow dryer. A sort of peace between the wet dog and the human dryers lasted all of thirty seconds before Max started biting (gumming) at Kara every time the brush got near him. Max tried pleading with me, climbing on my arm and pawing me in an attempt for me to pick him up and take him away from there. Every time he pulled that trick I pointed the dryer at his face to shoo him off, making him even madder. For a time he was so uncooperative we put everything down and tried towel-drying him. Yeah, that was a good idea for the first few minutes, until we realized that if we kept doing that until he was dry, he'd likely still be wet when we took him to the Kennel on Friday. So, back on with the blow dryer. After another twenty agonizing minutes, Maxy was finally dry. After putting on his brand new doily, we put him down to go in his cage to recover from this ordeal. Hopefully he’ll forgive me before I leave.

That’s been the highlight of my last few days. Thanks for enduring this post, as it was more for me in the future than for the blog-reading public. I thought I should post something today because it is exactly three weeks from today that I leave St. Louis for orientation. It’s really coming up.

Sincerely,
Greg

PS- My brother’s have had a much more interesting time recently than I have. Chris was almost not going to graduate because of a missing PE credit that he had tested out of. Last word is that he really is going to get his diploma. Matt and his live-in friend Bill had a falling out and Bill finally left the house after over a year. Too bad these dramatic goings-on did not go on to me, so you’re stuck with reading about a wet dog. Talk to my brothers directly if you want to hear more.

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Saturday, June 4th, 2005
11:47 pm - Blockbuster
I just got back from Blockbuster, and it's thirty cents cheaper to rent a movie here than in Atlanta. Well, I can only reeally say that it's cheaper to rent in Des Peres than it is in DeKalb county. Strange. I thought I would post that for future reference.

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8:03 pm - short announcement on graduation
In case anyone had their doubts, I really did graduate from college on May 16, 2005. It was a nice ceremony, and the day was surprisingly cool. However, even I, the graduatee, found it tiresome after awhile, so I won't bore y'all with the gritty details. The important thing is that I received my diploma with a bachelor of arts. Even though it is a real diploma, it was only a fancy piece of paper until yesterday when the college got around to officially certifying my degree. Now I really am a college graduate.

My sister also graduated, from high school, the Saturday after I did. It was mercifully short, and I saw a surprising number of people from my year there supporting their younger siblings. Turns out Grace graduated from Concordia, so I'm not the only one from West to do the three-year plan. Since then I've seen a few of my high school friends, and I saw Caroline before she went off for study abroad in France and Santosh before he went off to Columbus. OH for his AB internship.

Since then, instead of posting on here, I've been packing and traveling mostly. I moved all of my possessions out of Clairmont and back home to MO to be stored in my room forever (or until I get around to throwing the junk away and packing the rest of it in boxes in the basement.) I traveled back down to the Southeast this last week to see friends. Stayed a few days at Mikey's place in Atlanta, and a few days at Ryan's in Orlando. On the way back I visited Steve in Huntsville, Alabama. All told I've driven about 3000 miles in the last few weeks.

Other than that, I've just been chilling out at home trying to capture a little more of that good life in Town and Country before I head off to Africa. It's getting pretty close to my departure, less than a month now. It became a lot more real for me on Thursday when I made my definite travel arrangements. I fly direct to Philadelphia early on June 29, 2005, and leave out of JFK for Mauritania late July 1, 2005. It's really happening now, not just some abstraction in the distant future. Maybe I should start packing.

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Wednesday, May 11th, 2005
7:08 pm - I'm done
...with classes! Forever! Well, at least until September 2007, but close enough. I took my last final this morning, and I'm pretty sure that I passes it. Now comes the wait for grades. In the meantime, I'm going out for some good times.
Sincerely,
Greg

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Tuesday, May 10th, 2005
10:17 pm - On Procrastination...
...yeah, I'm totally doing that right now. My final final is tomorrow morning, and I have absolutely no motivation to study for it. It seems a little bit ironic that my last test in college is for a freshman intro class. Stupid GERs, I really don't like Classics, or Greek or Roman epic poems. I love history, but only modern history. This ancient junk I just can't bing myself to read. Aye aye aye, I can't wait for 12 hours from now when I will be finished with college forever (assuming that I pass these two classes.)
Once tomorrow is over, I'm not sure what I'm going to do with myself. It seems that Ive spent most of my time in college procrastinating, specifically doing other things besides the work I need to do. Hands down, I've spent much more time procrastinating from studying than actually studying, or sleeping, or being even remotely productive. It's one of the few "useful" skills I've actually learned during my time here. Considering how useless procrastination is, it should tell you something about how many useful skills I've acquired here. I guess sleeping in class without the teacher noticing is a pretty good thing to know. And not reading all the books for a discussion class and discussing anyway. And doing all of those counter-productive things and still doing well. Maybe college isn't supposed to be useful, or build on the student's repertoire of skills. That's why they invented graduate/profesional schools. Maybe college is one las chance to goof off before skillsand productivity are needed. Hopefully, at least.
I need to get back to work. I have read one of the four books (the Argonautica, shortest and least important in the group), and those cliffnotes aren't going to read themselves.
Sincerely,
Greg

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