Oh, and just to make Maryann happy:

Painting at Maryann’s:

self-portrait while painting

Final/First Party pictures:

under the mistletoe

And because my cat is really weird:

squeak in sink

Peace Corps year 1

less than two months to go…

In less than two months, I’ll be at Peace Corps staging (in Philadelphia, I’m guessing), probably playing goofy get-to-know-you games and sweating the gazillion shots I’ll be about to get.

This is ok with me. I can picture the packing and the repacking and the drive to the airport and the goodbyes and the flights and the other soon-to-be Volunteers, smiling and nervous. I can picture approaching Dakar from the air, nose pressed to the airplane window, and the first moments on African soil. I can even picture the two hour drive to Thies and the late-night stumble into the training center, backpacks and bags and perhaps bunkbeds.

But after that—language training and planting seedlings and a host family and traveling through African streets and towns, wide-eyed and pretending to be as brave as everyone else seems? It gets vaguer.

But even that doesn’t worry me—the first days, weeks, even months of new places, new people, new air and new skies I can deal with. I worry what will happen when the newness fades away and the days become routine. What will that routine be? Will I be happy or desperately searching for my original motivations for setting off for two years in a foreign country, on a foreign continent?

Naturally, I can’t answer any of these questions until I’m there in my dusty room, fighting off spiders the size of my head (or so I’ve heard). Somehow, though, my anxiety about the unknown doesn’t diminish its attraction.

In the meantime, I’ve got a ridiculously long packing list. That, and a ridiculous amount of crap to get from Austin to Baton Rouge on Friday. Who knew a person could “need” this much stuff. I’ve been doing my best to get rid of as much as possible, I swear, but not only am I a packrat (props to my father on that one) I’m also emotionally attached to the dumbest things. Blankets, pillows, mugs, posters, toys, books, even plants. Though if anyone in Austin needs a full size bed, I’ve got just the one for you.


capturing the liberal zeitgeist

From The Onion—“Nation’s Liberals Suffering From Outrage Fatigue”:

…Of the liberals afflicted with fatigue, many said they are still haunted by the specters of their former outrage.

“I can’t even look at the back of my Volvo anymore,” said one Syracuse, NY liberal who wished to remain anonymous. “My ‘Lick Bush’ and ‘Four More Wars’ bumper stickers just remind me of the angry feelings I can’t sustain. I still have a sign hanging up in my cubicle at work, but if someone starts to talk about Cheney, I can’t take it. I’m like, ‘Yes, we all hate Cheney. He’s an evil puppet-master. Yes, Bush is dumb. This is obvious. How many times can we say it? Now, excuse me, will you let me through so I can microwave my burrito?'”


suburban canoeing

My parents and their friends, the Snyders, have gone canoeing off and on since the seventies, usually in very nice wilderness areas where you can enjoy Deliverance-esque isolation, without the whole rape and murder bit. Or the banjos.

I’ve gone along twice before and had a lot of fun, in part because it was always someone else who tipped over / ripped a hole in their canoe that was successfully patched with duct tape / wrapped their canoe around a rock.

So Steven and I join my parents in Baton Rouge, where we pack up enough gear for four nights on the river and set off through the Dirty South, bound for Pennsylvania and the Allegheny River. Newly-christened Dennis the Penguin of course comes along.

Dennis and the Subarus

We join up with the Snyder crowd (my parents’ friends Ron and Marsha plus two of Ron’s brothers and members of their families) at the outfitter’s in scenic Tionesta, PA. It promptly starts raining, sending us all under a questionably-stable tarp structure.

group under tarp

The structure on the right is a teepee and that’s the top of a miniature lighthouse peeking over the tarp. Apparently some guy donated money to build a museum on an island, but his dad really liked lighthouses and so a condition of the donation was that this lighthouse be built. On a river. In rural Pennsylvania.

Now, when I say “enough gear,” for us that’s a very reasonable two-Subarus-full. Tents, sleeping bags, stove, food, ice chest, even some fold-up chairs and an air mattress for my parents, now that they’ve reached that age where they feel justified in indulging themselves with a bit of extra comfort while out in nature.

Not so for the Snyders. They bring everything. Everything. Giant tents, giant ice chests, folding chairs, folding tables, stoves, grills, a port-o-potty with its own tent… seriously everything but the kitchen sink. Plus, a 20-foot canoe to hold it all (normal canoes are 17 feet long—theirs is a “touring” canoe). The outfitters always find us extremely amusing: “How long are you going to be out there?”

loaded trailer

In total, we were twelve people, five canoes, two kayaks, one penguin, and a metric assload of gear.

We set off bright and early Tuesday afternoon and then had to hurry 16 miles down a rather calm river (we could’ve walked most of the way, it was so shallow) to make it to the first National-Forest-Service-owned island to camp.

Now, the islands we camped on were perfectly nice (if occasionally muddy and/or lumpy) wilderness-ish areas. The banks of the river were a different story. On that first stretch we passed towns, bridge construction (there was an actual detour on the river), countless summer homes with lawnmower-obsessed residents, and, yes, an oil refinery.

passing refinery

Naturally, we stopped and took pictures (and also to bail water out of the canoes after the only good-sized standing waves we hit the entire trip).

So we did lazy 7 or 8 mile days for the rest of the trip, built campfires, ate, played in the river, spied on the river’s residents (who were usually burning things or mowing their lawns), and battled mosquitos. I also kicked some ass in various cardgames.

campsite during day


Oh, and if you were Steven, you inexplicably climbed trees.

Steven climbing tree

He also jumped out of the canoe in the middle of the river once, but those pictures are on the disposable waterproof camera, which hasn’t been brought in for processing yet.

All in all, it was an interesting trip, despite the somewhat suburban redneck aura of the river. Because, really, who flies a Confederate flag in Pennsylvania?

On the way back to Louisiana, we stopped in Columbus to visit one of my mom’s sisters and some of Steven’s family, too. It was nice to see family, but all my pictures are of cats because my aunt has four and Steven’s uncle has ten or eleven.

cats on porch

Then, finally, there were the roadside attractions on the drive back down:

giant chicken

Boobie Bungalow

Boobie Bungalow. God bless America.