Tuesday, December 28, 2004

*Watch these rentals*

We rented a crapload of movies this weekend, but my two favorite (sorry Napoleon Dynamite) were (1) Saved! and (2) Dirty Pretty Things. If you haven't seen them already, make haste to the video store and pick them up. (1) funny, satirical, true...(2) honest and lovely. I'm terrible at reviews, but hell, I do think both of these are worth picking up.

Early morning flight tomorrow back home and just know that I am going to be awoken at 3:30 am to begin the 5 hour trek to the Dallas airport. Happy birthday, Charlie! Your gift will be in the mail when I get home (Eragon and my laptop...some surprise, huh?).

Monday, December 27, 2004

Sunshine and waves...here I come!

What did Santa bring this merry blogger? A trip to Puerto Rico! 5 days at the end of January spent learning to surf, kayaking the ocean, and roaming the streets of old San Juan. I am so psyched! I don't expect a tan, but some old fashioned R&R and fun in the sun is definitely in order. Some salsa at night with a cute Puerto Rican wouldn't hurt either : ) I just have to pick up my ticket at the airport when I fly back to DC tomorrow. Ahhhhh (the sound of stress leaving my body).

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Retreated, rested and back

I'm back, and I have the say the retreat turned out to be a smashing success from a staff bonding perspective. I work with some really great people who are freaking hilarious. There was much poker, dancing, and falling down (and whacking one's head against the stairs). My body is still sore from that last night.

I also came to the realization on the drive home with Steve yesterday that I need to do something about BN. I need to either (1) drastically cut back my hours or (2) start making the job work for me. If I'm going to working there so many hours, then I need to start spending my money on things that will make me happy (surfing lessons, a new canoe, some vacation time, spa visits, a trip to Africa, grad school). Once I start grad school, I'll have to cut back on my hours anyway, but in the meantime, I need to cut back on the books and focus on other things I want out of life. Life is too short, and while I'm working hard, I'm seriously slacking in the 'play hard' arena.

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

A snippet of new fiction by raven_ous1278...

Let me know if you like it, and I'll see if he'll give me more to post...

Dusk rolled swiftly into night and the pale moon flirted aimlessly among the clouds dancing in and out of sight teasing the watchful eyes of on lookers below. In full glory it cast an eerie silver hue about us as we walked hand in hand, my warmth flowing into her and hers into mine. Avoiding all care of the world around us seemed to be the most important mission of the evening. We wrapped ourselves in each others presence hoping only for this moment or the next to last forever. Nothing lasts forever. I recall now the sounds of the world around me, the shallow river rolling over stone, the breeze that tossed about the trees above. The cold night air caused her cheeks to flush, and she stopped, drew me in close to feel the warmth of my body. Her breathing was swift and shallow, and as we touched I could feel her heart beating swiftly even through her sweater. I loved that sweater. She laid her head against my chest and wrapped her arms around me, her auburn hair just above my chin flowing gently in the breeze. The scent of berries and spices overcame me and at that moment I felt alive.

I felt her tug gently and pull her head back, resting her weight in the cradle of my arms. She looked at me and a smile came. She had a lot of different smiles as many of us do, both devious and stern, sad and contemplative, warm and forgiving, but this smile was mine and only mine, I saw it on occasion and it filled me with warmth every time, it was real not forced, it was emotion, it was love and it was just for me.

She took a step back, now grasping my hands in hers and I could quickly feel the warmth drain from them as they were embraced by the wind. She looked into my eyes and I looked into hers and I was suddenly compelled to speak. The words “I love you” came only seconds too late, for at that moment as I drew my breath; she spoke, “I love someone else.” Nothing lasts forever.

The rush of emotions that followed need not be mentioned in full for they are far too many to list and it would read like a chapter of Numbers in the Bible; sadness beget depression, depression beget pity, pity beget anger, so on and so forth. Let’s just say I was overwhelmed. I would like to say at this point I was shocked, that I hadn’t seen it coming, that I was blindsided by this obvious act of malice. That of course would be untrue; there are always signs that point to such things, pointing to the “inevitable” as I like to call it.

Monday, November 29, 2004


Ahhh...a long weekend with lots of sleep on Thursday and Friday. I love sleep. I skipped the traditional Thanksgiving activities (i.e., eating) and spent the day at the movies. My fave of the day was Finding Neverland (so good). It was a magical movie that reaffirmed my love for Johnny Depp, reading, and holding onto a youthful spirit no matter your age.

It's been a week (or almost) since I mentioned the crush, so I don't feel too bad about drafting a wee post on the subject. Said crush still continues to say all of the right things...it's disturbing. However, I have a very real grasp on the fact that this is simply a fantasy of mine that keeps me occupied and will never come to reality. I don't need to read He's Just Not That Into You to figure that out. Besides, I'm looking for a guy who can approach me properly. I'm waiting for someone who's bold enough to step up to the plate and lay it on the line. And...I've finally discovered two flaws...ha! His reading material (which was an original positive, since he actually decided to read one of my favorite books and really liked it) has become a current negative. The last book he read was a bestseller I can't mention b/c it might narrow down who he is. This could actually cut both ways...he's sensitive and sentimental or he's into sappy bestselling novels (what does that say about him...wow, I sound like the book snobs that get on my nerves). Unfortunately, I can't mention the second flaw because that could totally give away his identity to some. (A...I'm ready to reveal but not via blogland or at BN.)

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Thank you...

Since Thanksgiving is tomorrow and the likelihood of me actually posting is slim, I thought I'd share with you a few things I'm thankful for. Everytime I start to get down about the way things are going, it's nice to reflect on how good I actually have it.

I'm thankful for...

1) ...the way God continually saves my ass. His love keeps me strong.
2) ...an awesome family that, even though we may all have our quirks and have a little trouble sharing our inner thoughts, loves me unconditionally.
3) ...friends that have my back.
4) ...a warm, cocoon-like bed and a good book.
5) ...people who are willing to stand up and fight to make a difference.
6) ...Diet Coke.
7) ...my soul mate. I know you're out there.
8) ...the jobs I have and the peace they give me.
9) ...rainy days...a cool breeze...and fresh mountain air.
10) ...bubble bath.
11) ...Thailand and Taiwan. What an amazing experience! I'm not sure I would have found myself as quickly had it not been for these two places.
12) ...Shiloh Baptist Church.

Monday, November 22, 2004

I swear I'm not always this lame.

Ok, I promise that this will be my last blog about this topic for at least a week. I didn't start blogging to talk about boys, and I don't want it to seem like that all I care about (it's really not). But...I am seriously crushing. I mean...it's painful...it makes me ache (ok, not quite in the way your dirty, dirty mind is taking you). Every day I find out some new bit of info that makes him seem more and more perfect, and so, of course, I start getting more and more skeptical. I mean...it all has to be an act, right? Anyway, in addition to my skeptical mistrust of others kicking in, so does the self doubt. I'm not "cute" enough...I'm too fat. Do I think these things should matter? No. Do I believe them every day? No. Is that stopping me from thinking them now? No. See how self-absorbed this post is? Anyway, did I mention I'm seriously crushing on someone?

Friday, November 19, 2004

Monday, November 15, 2004

Am I in over my head?

November is a crazy month, and I'm beginning to stress. Sometimes I feel like I'm swinging from a rope that is dangling from a helicopter flying over a cliff...and my hands are sweaty. Am I trying to do too much only to fail at everything? I have to ask myself why I feel the need to work two 40-hour jobs when I could keep one full-time job and be content to sell a few books at BN a couple of days a week. Why do I continue to stress myself by taking a lead position when I could just ride it out? In my *free* time this month, I still have to (1) study for and take the GRE; (2) finish my personal statement for grad school; (3) meet some major deadlines at AmRivers that I'm not motivated to meet; (4) work with Tyree to prepare a long-term funding plan for Victim to Victory and somehow manage to lobby and secure a new line-item in the approps bill through Rep. Moran; (5) finish a 50,000-word novel for NaNoWriMo; and (6) sleep. Right now, I'd just be happy to accomplish #6 and have all but failed at #5.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Are we all destined to follow?

I've been thinking a lot lately about how it seems many of us need to be so like others. More specifically, this post was spurred by the buzz about red and blue states going on all around me. Why is this now the latest craze in labeling? Red and blue this...red and blue that...red state jokes. It's driving me crazy! The trend continues with food. Why do people eat at chain restaurants when they visit new places? Given the opportunity, I'd rather eat bad food at someplace new than bore myself to death with the same old thing. And shopping...why is Old Navy or Abercrombie and Fitch so cool? Because they dress everyone the same! I thought I was above the fray. Being fat, I could always use the excuse that I had limited places to shop; however, the other day I discovered well-designed fleece in my size. I bought this fleece because, yes, it's soft and warm but mostly because it's what practically everyone at AmRivers wears and would allow me to fit in better. I realized at the time this was why I was doing it and was deeply ashamed...yet I still walked out of the store with my fleece. I really don't want to be like everyone else.

Monday, November 08, 2004

Moral authority...is it just for the republicans?

WARNING--I'm going to rant here, and I'm going to talk about religion. If these bother you, you may want to stop reading here.

I've been scanning various articles and reading emails zipping back and forth at work talking about virtual hugs and how religion and morals won Bush his re-election, and to tell you truth, I'm so freaking sick of it. Virtual hug...give me a break. We need to get up off of our sappy liberal butts and DO SOMETHING. I'm Christian. I try to live a moral life. And, I'm liberal and tend to vote democrat. Abortion and gay rights are not the only issues that matter or SHOULD matter to people claiming to vote the moral high road. What about looking for a candidate who actively works to help the poor and homeless, develops policies that promote sound stewardship of the planet, seeks creative solutions for foreign policy that don't involve war, looks at tackling the civil rights abuses happening all over our country rather than eroding our individual freedoms (God gave us free will...who is the president to take it away?)...? I have to stop because the more I write the more drained I get. Democrats need to co-opt a bit from the republicans and start talking about their issues in terms of doing what's morally right.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Aged like a fine wine...not!

I've been doing the election thing and the sick thing for the past couple of days but was going through blog withdrawal.

Going through this election and reading everyone's blog posts is really making me feel my age. Lots of people voting for the first time in a presidential race...poor hopeful souls. Sad to believe it's my 3rd presidential race to vote. And, while I am as anti-Bush as they come, I can't say I'm shocked. Very sad though--I allowed myself a glimmer of hope when I saw the high election turnout. One credo I know to be true is to never underestimate the stupidity of the American public. For the most part, we are not a country of free thinkers. We think and vote the way we were raised and the way our communities want us to. I forget the statistic, but one's political leanings are largely determined by the political leanings of one's parents. It's a vicious cycle that needs to be stopped in order to affect real change in this country.

I spent most of election day in this weird, sad reminiscent state. I couldn't help thinking about election night four years ago...the night I began to lose my idealism. Don't get me wrong...I still believe in change and that we can make this country a better place, but I am so much more cynical and cautious. Four years ago I had taken a leave of absence from my job and moved to Nashville for 2 months to work on the Gore campaign. It was exciting and empowering...heady stuff. I remember spending most of the day calling radio stations and trying to get them to talk about the election abuses going on...people being turned away from the polls. I remember watching the results come in on election night and screaming with joy and whooping it up as we began to hear we had won key swing states like Michigan and Pennsylvania. There was joy and bonding in knowing we had all worked 15-hour days for weeks to make this happen. We hadn't slept in the past 2 days at all and were wired on caffeine. We had our passes to the victory party, and I had friends who had flown into Nashville to join me in the celebration. We thought we had won. Next thing I know something has happened...Florida is not ours...they're calling the election differently. Gore is about to concede. Everyone is either in a state of shock or in tears. This one woman (Candy), who has been heading up radio ops at the DNC forever, was sobbing. Wait...we're not conceding because something fishy is going on. A light of hope=more hugging. Looks like we're not going to the party but hanging by the TV at headquarters. We're there for hours. There is no resolution. We all role back to the apartment around 4 am. My poor friends have finally made it back there, too, after not having seen me all day. We all crash. The next day headquarters is like a ghost town. We're scheduled to leave in a couple of days, and we don't know what to do. I feel like a zombie...this feeling does not go away over the next couple of weeks. Lots of counting...lots of bickering...a court fight...asshole takes office.

And, if we thought it would be bad, we had no idea how bad he'd make it. So, you see, I just couldn't get excited or involved in this election. I couldn't find the hope within me to see that saner minds would prevail. I promise you this...I will spend the next four years fighting for something better, fighting for what's right, fighting for a new beginning. To quote Edward Abbey, "I promise you this: you will outlive the bastards."

Monday, November 01, 2004

Weekend Update

At the moment I feel pretty crappy because I'm caught the cold/flu thing that has been going around and am not happy about that. I'm noshing on breakfast right now, but I might as well be having gruel b/c it hurts to chew and everything tastes the same.

In Halloween news, the wings fell through (I, evidently, am a sucky wing maker), but I did color the hair blue. I ended up going as a Jesus Freak! (as in the christian band DC Talk's Jesus Freak). The inspiration came during church as I was searching for a way to legitimize having blue hair. I ended up tagging (for all of you down with the graffiti lingo out there) one of my skirts with things like 'Jesus rocks!' and 'God's girl'. While the hair was way to helmet-headish, I was pleased with the overall costume. If I can remember to bring my usb cable, I'll post pictures of everyone tomorrow.

In other weekend news, as Vivi says in Divine Secrets of the YaYa Sisterhood, I completely 'dropped my basket' on Saturday. I just broke down at work and couldn't stop crying for a good 45 minutes. I can't even point to a specific incident. I'm guessing it was a combination of things. I've been working a LOT, and I'm sure there are repercussions from that. Plus, I get so angry at BN lazy people (customers and employees), and I hate being angry, so I needed relief from my anger. I've also been worrying about my family...and everything I should be doing and don't have time to do and don't know HOW I'm ever going to get it all done...all of this has just been building up, so I probably just needed to release some of that pressure. I feel better...still stressed but better.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Junior League Lemmings

A friend of mine recently returned from her 15-year reunion with scary tales even too frightful for Halloween. Our hometown--San Angelo, TX--could never be mistaken for a thriving metropolis. It's a sprawling community on the cusp of the Texas desert that is known for its farmers, retirees, and military base. While liberalism has not fared well here, I really wasn't fully cognizant of what conservativism run rampant looks like. Well, let me tell you, it looks like San Angelo, TX.

My friend's reunion was attended by your usual smattering of TX high school heroes, the football players, cheerleaders, and drill team. Surprisingly, though, the new click of choice at the reunion was the junior leaguers. These are women who have never left San Angelo (or moved back quickly, if they did) and upon marrying and popping out a couple of kids chose to give up working (if they ever did), join the Junior League, and do "volunteer" work. Now, if I sound a bit snarky here, I apologize. I have nothing against women who choose to give up a career or job and raise their children, but it does make me wonder how these families are supporting themselves. San Angelo is not a hot job market, and while the cost of living is fairly low, so is the pay. Turns out their husbands sell insurance or own small businesses or whatever. Anyway, the truly scary part is coming up. Not only do these women all tend to look alike and talk alike, they all seem to think alike. Want to know what the current topic of concern is? They are deathly afraid that, if Kerry is elected president, armageddon will begin. They, evidently, have been preached to about Revelations and how the election of Kerry would be another sign of the end times coming. Now, I wasn't there, so I don't know if they were insinuating that Kerry is the antichrist or what, but I do know that evidently they all claimed they should just move to Israel if Kerry wins.

Don't get me wrong...I'm a God-fearing Christian who believes in Revelations and the end times, but give me a break. Do they really think John Kerry has the charisma to garner millions of followers around the world into following him to their doom? He can't even charm the democrats into getting enthusiastic about voting for him. And, if we're looking at a track record of anti-Christian behavior, hasn't our current leader been responsible for his own bevy of bad decisions (generally speaking...war, poor stewardship, worshipping mamman, failing to look out for the common man)?

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

The absolute best GOTV effort I've seen is Eminem's Mosh video (http://www.gnn.tv/content/eminem_mosh.html). I know I'm a geek, but the use of art (be it painting, photography, poetry, song) for social change gives me the shivers. In fact, I've been searching for a copy of either Minstrels of the Dawn: the Folk-Protest Singer as a Cultural Hero or Songs of Protest and Civil Rights and would love any advice on getting a copy. They're on my list of books to search for while trolling used book stores, but I'm not optimistic.

Another of my favorite GOTV pushes is Hip-Hop Team Vote (www.hiphopsummitactionnetwork.org). They've been touring the country getting young people signed up and pumped about voting in '04. I sometimes catch a little late night Oprah when I get home from work and caught a little of her Vote! episode. Maybe I'm a sap, but I was moved when Sean "Puffy" Combs broke down when talking about his run-in with a politician.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Funny asides

Ok, I was so intent on trying to recreate my travel journal yesterday that I forgot some truly funny stories.

What may qualify as my most embarassing moment involves the infamous "squat" toilets. For those totally confused, most of the toilets in Taiwan are nothing more than porcelain holes in the ground. They flush, but you have to squat over them to do the do. Now, my initial concern was flexibility and balance. Wrong concern...I should have been worried about aim. It's a fairly small hole, and who knew targetting would be an issue. At one of the rest stops early on in the trip (while I was still getting the skills down) my aim failed me, and unfortunately, there was a downward slope out of the bathroom. So, as I'm squatting (I really dislike that word) there peeing, I notice I've missed the hole and my pee is rushing downhill and out of the stall! Total mortification. The only thing that saved me was no one was waiting around outside the stall (whew). Oh yeah, turns out Lonely Planet was right in that you also have to bring your own toilet paper with you everywhere.

I also think I came close to being a Korean bride. There was this congress-type person from Korea that traveled with our group, and he was totally out there. Definitely not my type, but he kept sitting behind me and guessing my age. I swear he spent a good 2 hours telling me why Korea was so great and why I should just go back there with him and not go home. Ummm....not. I have a business card with his pic on it that I'll scan in at a later date.

Monday, October 25, 2004

Laptop glitches and other desperate measures

Okay, so evidently the laptop I used to journal on my Taiwan trip may be permanently corrupted. I have a notoriously bad memory, but I guess I'll just have to dredge around and see what I can recall. Below are general highlights, ramblings, and photos from my trip to Taiwan.

Day 1
After surviving more than 20 hours of flying (it was better than expected), I finally landed in Taipei. I have to admit I was a little nervous relying on others to pick me up at the airport and get me to the hotel. Needless to say, I worried for nothing because there were signs (with smiling faces behind them) waiting for me as soon as I exited customs. It didn't take long, however, for me to inadvertently experience my first bit of Taiwanese culture. The driver, who didn't speak English, kept chewing on these nuts. After about 20 minutes, he offered the other passengers in the car one saying it was like chewing gum. Not wanting to appear like the American who was afraid to try new things, I hesitantly said okay. Needless to say it was the first of many gross things in Taiwan that would eventually make their way into my mouth. This "chewing gum" is otherwise known as betel nut. Betel nut tastes like chewing a cigarette or tobacco (though I've never tried chewing tobacco others have compared it to this). You don't swallow it, simply spit it out. Evidently, it also results in a high similar to smoking to cigarettes and is also unhealthy. Needless to say, naive old me gagged after a couple of chews and immediately spit it out.

Day 2
My first full day in Taipei marked the beginning of the Beyond Dams conference and my continued initiation into Taiwanese culture. At breakfast I met the rest of the conference speakers who I would be traveling around Taiwan with...activists from Japan, Korea, Vietnam, Hong Kong, Philippines, Thailand, Cambodia, and Burma.

Beyond Dams group at the hotel in Taipei

We took the Taipei metro to the conference site, a local university. It reminded me a lot of the DC metrorail system (clean, easy to use) with the exception of everything being in Mandarin. The conference itself went over well. I managed to get through my first speech of the trip and fielded a number of questions from the participants. Many of the questions seemed to involve how my organization, American Rivers, obtained both political and financial support to run our campaigns...a true sign of the obstacles activists in other countries are up against. Unfortunately, they only had translators available for those who were presenting in English. This meant I didn't understand a thing when the presentations were in Chinese and no translation was offered.

It's also hard to forget the EARTHQUAKE that rocked the middle of the conference. All of a sudden the building starts shaking and doesn't stop. In fact, it continues for over a minute and only gets more violent. I just sat there confused at first, then thinking (great) I'm going to die of a natural disaster in a place like Taiwan. The people from Thailand were diving under the table. Needless to say, it ended and no one was hurt. While it was Taiwan's biggest earthquake since 1999 (7.something), it was centered in the ocean and only caused real damage up in the mountains.

The ubiquitous box lunch...my first Taiwanese meal. Forgetting I was in Taiwan for a brief second, I expected a sandwich. Ha! I opened my box to find a fish (complete with head, tail, skin, and bones) on a bed of rice. Let me digress for a moment. For those of you who don't know, it's best to learn now that I don't really like fish and really don't like to eat food served in its original form...reminding me that it was once alive. Needless to say, I ate the rice.

Continuing on the theme of meals, that evening's dinner only got more challenging and exotic. The dinner was an elaborate 7-8 course affair that was served family style. They just kept bringing these huge dishes of things I really didn't want to eat. But, as I mentioned earlier, I was determined to try many things and broaden my experiences (by try, I mean one bite...maybe two). Again, there was another whole fish, something we surmised as squid, some kind of shrimp with eyes, a jiggly, slimy brown mold of something we think was pork.


Some images of Taipei and the hotel where I stayed...



Day 3
This morning everyone boarded a bus for Kaohsiung. First stop along the way is a local dam. The recent series of typhoons have filled in the water supply reservoir with sediment and rendered it useless. As a solution, the government is going to build a new dam further upstream because obviously (insert sarcasm here) it will be immune to the same sediment problems. Evidently, my picture was taken at this dam by a reporter and appeared in one of the local papers (pretty sad they don't have anything better to write about).

Shihmen Dam, first stop in travels to Kaohsiung 

Sedimented in reservoir behind the dam 

Concrete banks of river downstream of dam 

The second stop of the day was at the small village of Yulin, site of a proposed dam. Local activists talked with us about their fight to prevent the Hushan Dam from being built and students performed a skit about the plight of the animals that would be affected. Hushan Dam is said to be needed to supply water for coastal industry. The presentation part of the meeting was at a small restaurant that really made an effort at incorporating the outdoors into the design. The lunch we were served was another elaborate 7-course meal. Additions to the menu included whole mini squid, bugs, and chicken (complete with the severed claws and head right on the plate). Atsuko, a woman from Japan who sat by me during the meal, called the fare "exotic". And, yes, because I had pledged to try everything I ate a bug. This is not a misprint. The bug phobic herself steeled her nerves and ate a bug! To tell you the truth, it was crunchy and flavored with spices, but I still had to work not to gag because I knew what it was.

Site of the potential Hushan Dam 

By the time we rolled into Kaohsiung, it was dinner, and we again went in search of a meal. At this point in the trip, any thought of having to eat practically drove me to tears.

Day 4
Day 4 was all about the second session of the conference. I began my morning once again by presenting...this time about alternatives to dams and our Beyond Dams report. Unfortunately, I discovered during breakfast that the disc with my presentation on it had snapped in my bag, so I had to speak without the benefit of a PowerPoint presentation. Luckily, I lived and breathed this alternatives report for more than two years and could present on it in my sleep. It was a bit unnerving having nothing to distract the attention away from me. In general, I really enjoyed the presentations on the second day of the conference because the rest of my traveling companions were able to present about their experiences fighting dams in their countries, and I feel like I really learned something. I was especially impressed by Korea and Japan because I never knew how, despite their continued battles, successful their campaigns are.

After the conference ended, the rest of the group continued on to Meinung and the RWESA meeting. I was left to my own devices in Kaohsiung until the morning, when I was being picked up by some activists from Tainan for another speech and tour. While I was a little nervous being left to my own devices in a country where very few people spoke English, I was also very excited and actually had a really good time. Up until now, all of my time has been very scheduled, and I really hadn't had an opportunity to truly see any of the towns I had been in. In Kaohsiung, I was able to walk back to the hotel after the conference and really experience the streets. It was a Sunday night and they were definitely alive. All of the street shops were open and a ton of people were out (very different from the states on a Sunday night). I walked by night markets and street fairs and had an opportunity to window shop. Kaohsiung, like Taipei, is a very big city, so most of the goods for sale are similar to what you would find in America. There were no stores with traditional Chinese handicrafts, at least on the streets where I was. On my walk back, I also ended up catching the tail end of a parade and fireworks show. Very cool. Plus, for once I was able to choose my own meal, and I decided not to eat. I just had some black milk tea, which I really liked.

Once back at the hotel, I flipped on the TV, lay on the hard bed, and scrolled through Taiwanese soap operas, anime, and finally landed on some version of HBO.

Day 5
I was a bit worried about whether anyone would actually pick me up for Tainan, but it was all for nought. A group of the nicest activists picked me up outside of my hotel and drove me 1 1/2 hours north to Tainan and thus began my favorite part of my Taiwan trip. The group of Tainan were wonderful. They were extremely gracious and giving, making it their job to experience all Taiwan had to offer. Eric, Homer, Ivy, and Tracy (who had given themselves English names for the day to, I guess, make it easier for me...weird, I know) were dedicated activists trying to clean up the rivers around Tainan.

Once we arrived in Tainan, we set off to look at a local river that was polluted hog farm. Blood and other hog waste has been regularly dumped in the channelized river (which eventually flows into the nearby ocean). I had to force myself not to gag at the stench coming off of the water.


We continued to follow the river downstream, past many industrial pollution points. The water eventually began to take on a rainbow hew. What we typically found was industry along one bank and area farms along the other side.


As we traveled along this stretch of stream, they began to talk about lunch and asked me whether I would like American food or a traditional Asian meal. As hard as it was, I told them I wanted Asian food (I vowed to eat no American food on this trip). I'm sure I don't need to tell you how worried I was at this point, especially after seeing the kinds of water their fish had to live in and their crops were grown with. As it turns out, the restaurant was like a breath of fresh air and provided me with the best meal of the entire trip. Ivy, who seemed to be my personal cultural attache, made it her job to make sure I experienced everything, and while she ordered for me, she actually gave me a choice of fish or chicken, spicy, etc. I had an amazing spicy chicken with rice, miso soup, some vegetables, etc. She also ordered sides of spicy tofu, Taiwanese sausage, and sour/sugared plums for us to try. Everything was really great. And let me not forget the tea. I had cold oolong tea that was amazing...sweet, frothy. The thing I like about tea in Asian countries is that they seem to like it sweet. I also what in English is called Pearl Cream Tea. This tea is "chewy" tea that combines black milk tea with starch balls. As scary as this traditional Taiwanese tea sounded, it was actually quite good.

My favorite restaurant in Tainan 

After lunch, they told me the story (and later took me on a tour) of another river and site in town. Evidently, a now defunct company that was once owned by Japan and later taken over by the Taiwanese government when Japan left had polluted a local river and fishing ponds with dioxins and mercury for many, many years. These fishing ponds were owned by local citizens who fished them for subsistence and to sell at market. Slowly, these villagers began dying from cancer. The group I was with is trying to hold the Taiwanese government, who knew of the polluting, accountable for cleaning up the site and paying restitution to the victims. They took me to the site of the abandoned factory, marching across polluted land and by the polluted fishing ponds. I met villagers dying of cancer, yet still forced to fish in ponds where fish rich in mercury and dioxins reside. They asked my advice. It was at this point that I realized they didn't need me to talk about dam removal during tonight's speech (as I had been led to believe) but needed to hear about the Clean Water Act and how ordinary activists in the United States have fought industry pollution for several years now.

Where the two polluted rivers meet the ocean in Tainan 

Part of site polluted with dioxins 

Fishing pond at the polluted site 

At the speech that night, I did talk about dam removal because they insisted they wanted to hear about it and ended the night talking a little about the CWA and the work we did on the Hudson River. Overall, it was an amazing experience. Not only did I meet an amazing group of people, I really became comfortable speaking in front of people, especially extemporaneously.

Day 6
Because we saw so many polluted sites the previous day, my new friends in Tainan wanted me to see the beautiful part of the island and decided to take me east across the country to the mountains and the highest point in Taiwan. Talk about another awesome day. Being in the mountains was such a completely different experience from the rest of the country. It was breathtaking and sometimes scary (we'll get to that part in a minute).

On the way to the mountains we kept passing all of these smaller villages where one particular crop dominated the economy. For example, we passed miles and miles of mango trees, and one small town, which exports mangoes all over the world, had a statue of a mango. Further down the road, we passed a town famous for taro root and stopped for taro ice cream and taro cakes (fabulous). By the time we arrived at the entrance to the Meishan-Yakou Recreation Area, I was lulled into a quiet, blissful state.

Temple on the way to mountain range 


Once we began our true ascent, you could really see the effects of the typhoons and earthquakes. Landslides were frequent, with sides of the mountain just sliding away into the abyss and sometimes taking part of the highway with it. I actually got a bit frightened (I believe the term 'oh shit' kept running through my mind) at one point as we had to off-road it a bit since part of the "highway" (basically 1 1/2 lanes winding along the edge of the mountains) was gone. In fact, the recent earthquake had taken out part of bridge, and we had to use a new portion of the road recently dug out of the mountain.


We also saw some amazing waterfalls and headwater streams cascading down the mountain. The pictures below don't do it justice, but they are far more adequate than my humble words could ever be.

Headwater stream cutting through a landslide 

View from the top 




As we made our way back down the mountain, I tried one last bit of local cuisine, stinky tofu. It did smell while cooking but was basically deep-fried tofu in a tasty sauce with cabbage...good. I wound down my trip with a quick nap before Kwang Kwang (Eric) picked me up at 1 am to deposit me on a bus for Taipei and my plane home. I got so much from this trip that it's hard to quantify it all here, but just trust me that it was an amazing (if sometimes trying) experience. It reaffirmed yet again that I love to travel and truly believe immersing yourself in different cultures is essential to truly understanding life.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Lonely Planet

I have to say I'm a bit disappointed with the Lonely Planet travel guide I'm reading on Taiwan. While the history and travel information in the general section was quite good, I was dismayed to see repeated references in the specific city writeups on where you can get American food and hang out with a bunch of expats. If I'm traveling overseas, why would I want to eat the same things I do at home and hang out with the same kinds of people? Traveling for me is all about immersing oneself in new cultures. I had always thought of Lonely Planet as a travel guide that looked outside the box. Evidently, I was mistaken.

Monday, October 11, 2004

Political burn out

I'm completely burned out when it comes to politics. It's not that I've given up hope or refuse to continue to fight, but I have to admit that what I really feel like doing is sitting down and having a good cry or moving to another country. During the 2000 elections, I was working at the Gore headquarters in Nashville doing satellite media, and I didn't think my feelings for politics could sink any lower after the election fiasco. Little did I know what heartache the next four years would bring...lies, manipulation, the Patriot Act, 9/11, war, unemployment, environmental mismanagement. I can't list any more without falling into a deep depression. The two most important things we can do to affect change over the next month are to vote on November 2 and to pray. Regime change must happen for the good of the country and the world for that matter.

For thoughtful commentary, worthwhile bumper stickers and more, check out http://www.sojo.net.

Friday, October 08, 2004

Insert random header here

I began this post talking about a male co-worker who had expressed a desire for kids but no desire to ever be married or in a relationship because he didn't want anyone touching his stuff. I was doing the whole psychoanalytical thing when I had a gut check. Who am I to psychoanalyze anyone and comment on their problems? I have my own issues to deal with and wouldn't want someone pinning a diagnosis on me. So, Ben, guard your stuff wisely, but guard it out of pride or true desire, not out of fear.

Staying on the psycho track (insert comedic drum beat)... For some reason yesterday, I was pondering mental illness when I remembered hearing that one of my great grandmother's sisters lost it and tried to stab another sister. That got me to wondering whether this was singular episode or if she had a history of mental breaks. It also caused me to realize how effectively we ignored my great grandmother before she died. The elderly have such stories to tell and information to share, but we just placated her and feigned interest. It's too late for me to do anything to rectify this with my great grandmother, but it is a wakeup call to not neglect my grandmother and grandfather.

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Annoyed and not sure why...

I'm in a really annoyed state right now and, for the most part, am not sure why. I have noticed a pattern beginning to emerge. I have a real problem with arrogant men, and I live in D.C...home of the EGO. There are several in my life right now that are driving me crazy. They talk too loud, think they know everything, and can't handle criticism or direction (i.e., they PISS me off). I, of course, need to learn to deal with them constructively, rather than stifling the urge to punch them or enter bitch mode. According to the book Whatever Happened to Daddy's Little Girl, this is probably a direct result of being a fatherless daughter. I'm not sure I buy into that theory, but I'm sure there is some validity there. Maybe just recognizing that I have issues and airing them here will help. Besides, I'm sure kicking the VP of my department probably won't do much to help matters.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Warning: election post coming soon

Because I'm posting at the moment from my work computer, I will refrain from truly venting about the election, but tonight...watch out! As we draw closer to November 2, I feel I won't be worth my weight in 'radical' salt if I don't give at least one riff on the candidates. For now, I'll just post a random list.

my hobbies:

*reading (true bibliomaniac, current read: The Inner Circle by T.C. Boyle)
*volunteering (I was born to serve and hope to do my part to help others)
*knitting (took a summer hiatus but am back for the fall/winter)
*writing (trying to finish the first chapter of a book for my mom for Christmas)
*paddling (I don't get to do it very often, but I love being on the water...whitewater, esp.)
*anything creative (I love trying to paint, take photographs, and other random crafty things)

Monday, October 04, 2004

Flying fears...

Ok, so I'm definitely in the final countdown for my trip to Taiwan and am beginning to feel those early tinglings of dread at having to get on an airplane. I hate flying...it terrifies me. Of course, I do it because it allows me to do cool things like go to Asia and visit my family on a semi-regular basis. No matter how often I fly, though, it never gets any easier. I go to such lengths to avoid it that I've been known to take the bus to Texas for family visits. I've even taken the train to Texas and to Nova Scotia. Now I've gone and gotten sucked in to watching this new show, Lost, on ABC. It's a show dedicated to get trapped on an island in the middle of nowhere after their PLANE CRASHES! Not the most appropriate show for someone who is afraid of flying to watch. Any suggestions for getting over my fear of flying? So far, the best remedy I've found is being so tired that I sleep most of the trip.

Thursday, September 30, 2004

You're policy doesn't cover that

To be as inelloquent as possible, the state of health coverage in the U.S. sucks. I've become intimately aware of this problem over the past couple of years as I've seen my family impacted. My mom discovered she had cirrhosis more than a year ago. They don't know why she has it, but there it is...a bum liver. As you can imagine, this is a serious problem that will eventually require a transplant. Continuity of care is important to ensuring her health is being properly monitored; however, I swear that over the past couple of years her company (where she has worked for more than 20 years) has switched her health insurance 3 times. This means she has had to switch doctors 3 times. At one point, her insurance didn't even give her the option of seeing the only liver specialist in town. She has a freaking potential terminal illness people...doesn't she have the right to the best care available?! Got the idealism beaten out of me with that one. My grandmother, on the other hand, has been able to stay with the same doctor for many years but is finding the cost of prescription drugs is forcing her to choose which pills she can afford to take. Hmmm....should I get medicine for my blood pressure this month or do I want to get the pain pills for my arthritis? What the hell is wrong with this country?! Somehow we can find more than $150 billion to spend on the war in Iraq, but we can't manage to come up with a health care system that works. Now I, who religiously pays for my health insurance every month and rarely goes to the doctor, find out that a medical procedure I'm looking to have done is not covered. Why I found this surprising is beyond me.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Power tripping

NPR's Marketplace just finished an amazing series on lobbyist-funded trips for members of Congress. The final piece, which aired yesterday, features statistics that simply blew my mind. Senator Breaux abuses these "fact finding" missions more than anyone else. He has taken 56 "free" trips provided by lobbyists in the past 4 years at the cost of more than $158,000. The average amount spent on these Breaux trips each year is more than the median income in Louisiana. Evidently, the week following a key vote on the medicare bill (which passed by one vote), Breaux was given a trip to Palm Springs, Florida and the PGA National Resort and Spa...all at the expense of the a lobbying firm with a drug industry client. To listen to the full report and search NPR's database of Congressional trips, follow this link to the Marketplace archives and scroll down to the feature on Power Trips.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Noise as a status symbol

Why is it that some people are so freaking loud? I'm not talking about yelling and screaming here; I'm talking about how they talk in their everyday conversation. Talking louder doesn't make you more important and it doesn't make you more persuasive. It does annoy the hell out of those around you and make them want to pelt them with tennis balls. It makes you dread being around people you might actually like if they weren't so freaking loud.

Monday, September 27, 2004

Avoidance and more of my favorite pasttimes

Monday morning...that dreaded first day of the week where getting up and getting started is so hard. A week of possibilities or of the same old drama?

I've fallen into this habit that I really need to break. It's not like it is a recent addition to my personality but more something that has begun to emerge throughout the years...I'm an avoider. Whenever there is a reality I don't want to face, bill I don't think I can pay, goal I'm too lazy to accomplish, etc., I ignore it. I've become quite adept at putting these things in a lockbox in my mind and hiding the key. As I'm sure you can imagine, this has hurt me in the past, so I'm working on prying the lockbox open and trying to figure out why I felt the need to purchase it in the first place. Once clarity comes, I just may share.

Sunday, September 26, 2004

Witch hunt on the Apprentice

What the hell?! I was BLOWN away by the blatant racism that was the Apprentice on Thursday night. I know reality TV is only a mirrow on society, but the fact that Donald Trump out and out validated the racist witch hunt that was Thursday night made me see red. Yes, the Apprentice was racist last season (reality tv just keeps showing us how racist we really are), but this was my final straw. I refuse to watch the show and validate it with my "Neilsen Ratings" (if by some freak chance they're magically captured).

Did you see it? From the beginning none of the other girls have liked Stacy J. (the only African American female) and have used the fact that she got a little spastic (or at least was edited to appear that way) as a reason to get her kicked off first. During Thursday evening's boardroom, the other two people up on the chopping block started talking about how during the first task they all thought Stacy went a little crazy and how scared they were. Trump then calls all of the girls back in to the boardroom to validate this and talk about how crazy Stacy is and how scared they were. Then he fires Stacy J. because he "believes" the other girls?! No proof...no indepth questioning...just the word of a bunch of backstabbing bitches who can't seem to handle anyone who isn't like them. Unbelievable. A rubber stamp for that kind of fucking racism right on camera. I shouldn't be surprised...really I shouldn't, but I can't help it. Will this bullshit ever end?

Boycott the Apprentice. Write Trump and NBC.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Recent awesome reads

I've been on a nonfiction kick as of late and have come across reads that are sure to ignite the passion in others to go out and kick butt in the name of human rights. I know I'm not doing the books justice, but...

Emergency Sex and Other Desperate Measures
by Kenneth Cain, Heidi Postlewait, and Andrew Thomson
This book reignited my desire to save the world. Perhaps it was meant to serve as a reality check on the limit to what we human beings can accomplish, but it instead demonstrated how each of us can make a small impact on the situation of others. Emergency Sex is the story of three UN human rights workers on missions that land them in Cambodia, Haiti, Bosnia, and Somalia. Told more as a moving memoir than a political diatribe, the authors still manage to tell their story with a gritty reality that doesn't sugar coat the human rights atrocities going on around the world nor the oftentimes ineffectiveness of the the United States government and the United Nations. The book also manages to shine a light on the fact that these are real people with real flaws doing what they can to help others. They have sex, party hard, and still get up each morning to ensure others have the right to do the same.

Nine Hills to Nambonkaha
by Sarah Erdman
Nine Hills to Nambonkaha is the story of Sarah's two years as a Peace Corps volunteer in the African village of Nambonkaha. Sent as a health care worker, Erdman manages to stay away from preaching to us and to the villagers as she navigates a mine field of AIDS, female circumcision, childbirth, breast feeding, and preventive medicine. Instead, she allows herself to truly absorb their culture and use village traditions to affect change, both the village and Erdman walking away richer in the end. Having harbored a not so secret desire to join the Peace Corps for many years now, Sarah Erdman's book gave me hope.

Worrying out loud

It seems like all I have been doing lately is worrying. Worrying about Charlie (my brother)...worrying about my mom...about my grandmother...about paying both of these freaking car payments...about the IRS...about not praying enough...about the fact that we may have to put up with our fucking "president" for 4 more years. This kind of worrying takes over my brain and leaves a mere lump of coal. How can I let my radical flower power shine through when I my mind is flitting around like a hummingbird on crack?!

Thursday, September 09, 2004

A work in progress

When searching for a way to apologize for the blandness of this site , I couldn't help but be reminded that my life, like this site, is a work in progress. I struggle daily to make the right decisions, do the right thing. One day at a time sometimes feels like two steps forward, one step back.

Anyway...what I have to say probably won't get much more interesting, but I do hope there will be changes and growth in the coming days and weeks as I flex my Web skills and learn HTML. I am a work in progress.