30 September 2008

quite possibly the best (political mockery) line ever

In the SNL parody of that Katie Couric interview in which Sarah Palin gave up on saying anything remotely substantive and just tipped her head to the side and smiled as if her charm and looks have never yet failed her and she thinks surely they will not fail her now:

"Forgive me, Mrs. Palin, but it seems to me that when cornered, you become increasingly adorable. Is that fair to say?"

29 September 2008


Is it technically illegal to drive on the wrong side of those double lines? Because I drove back through the mountains yesterday, and what feels right to me, when driving through mountains (thank you, Rwanda) is to take the inside of the curve, as long as I can do so without crashing into an oncoming car. Handily, this also requires less movement of the steering wheel. But it occurred to me that those double solid lines are there for a reason and law enforcement might look unkindly on my crossing them so as to improve my curve-taking.


I am a whiner, when it doesn't matter, and I come through surprisingly well when it does. I surprise even myself sometimes. One thing you should know is that I despise carrying heavy backpacks, to the point where I simply refuse to do that "backpacking through Europe/Asia/Africa" thing. I will take a suitcase, thank you very much, with wheels, and I will roll it. I am not a snail, carrying my world around on my back.

All the way up the trail on Saturday, I whined about my heavy backpack. It hurt me. It hurt the small of my back where the hip strap is and my shoulders where the shoulder straps are and my chest bone where the front clasp is.

I recovered when we got to the campsite where warm chicken stew and rice awaited and we sat by the fire with faces feeling crispy from the heat and backs stinging from cold. We had highly mature conversations, tending toward things like, "Would you rather puke on yourself or poop your pants?" (inspired by the baby that one couple brought along). There was consumption of copious quantities of gatoritas (not by me; I hate the taste of tequila). The creek rustled along down below and the fire snapped and popped.

After a while, we made our way in the dark to the hot baths. I looked back along the trail and saw a stream of elvish bobbing lights following me, and we took off our clothes in the dim light of oil lamps and scurried two or three at a time into deep hollowed logs filled with steaming sulfur water, ignoring the invitation of two slightly creepy men hogging the big pool. Someone passed a flask of whiskey from tub to tub.

One of our number was overcome by the heat and the dehydration and the whiskey, and we helped her into her clothes and carried her down the trail, which seemed much much longer when navigated three across in achingly slow steps over tree roots and rocks, with a steep drop on the right side.

In the morning, I took all the heavy stuff in my pack, to lighten hers, and cinched it up tight. I marched along down the trail, utterly unperturbed by the stopping for puking or by the weight on my back. Funny. The weight didn't seem so painful when carrying it helped someone else.

27 September 2008

cheese. yum.

I just ate a delicious grilled cheese sandwich and this is what I have to say about it: I do not eat enough grilled cheese. I know, cheese is full of fat and we are sad for the poor cowies who are kept in unpleasant conditions and milked even though their udders are infected but still. Cheese. Yum.

I am about to go camping. I like camping. The only problem is that I despise being cold, and camping at the end of September somewhere in the northerly part of this country is inevitably going to involve being cold. The first intended location involved a pool and also a creek, both of which were going to be cold. I was not planning to immerse myself in cold mountain water in late September. Even in August the temperature of the mountain streams and lakes is the only part I dislike about hiking here. When my sister and I were hiking in August, I kept saying, "If this were Africa, that waterfall would be WARM, and we'd be SWIMMING in it." As it is, one can only look, unless one likes numb limbs. I don't.

But there was/is a forest fire. So the new location involves hot springs. Did I mention that the water is warm? I am so there.

The other good news is that the sleeping bag which has been borrowed for my use is 1. for tall people, and 2. a cold-weather bag, good down to -15 degrees. I probably will still be cold, because I am always cold, but that ups my chances of comfort. I will need a sleeping bag designed for Antarctic expeditions if I'm ever to hike in the actual winter.

23 September 2008


I daydreamed about it all day.

When I had to work overtime, I sat and stared out the window and thought about it.

On the bus, I glanced at my watch again and again, counting the minutes.

I raced through the door to my apartment, ready, poured it into its perfect little glass, and drank it down.

My new addiction: children's cold medicine.

The only thing that keeps me from wanting to claw out my own throat from the pain.

21 September 2008

vegetable quest

When I first arrived in Rwanda in 2004, the Canadian couple who had come to check up on the program and give me some orientation took me to a restaurant called Exxotica. No, I am not kidding. This was the name, and it was not a strip club but a nice restaurant, one of the nicest in town, filled with Lebanese families dressed in suits and flowing dresses. It has since closed, but it was just near the lower roundabout downtown, next to one of the closest things Rwanda then had to a supermarket.

Exxotica was an Indian restaurant, sort of, when it wasn't a Lebanese restaurant. It served the best dal makhani I have ever had, and when I was in Kigali, I would buy dal makhani with garlic naan for takeaway and then go sit in the Prado in the parking lot and eat the garlic naan immediately, prying open the tin foil and burning my fingers on the hot butter. The dal I took back to Kibuye and ate for several dinners in a row with fluffy basmati rice.

I had a great life in Rwanda, really.

J. and E., the Canadians, took me to Exxotica that first week and introduced me to salt-and-pepper vegetables, vegetables breaded and fried ever so deliciously. We ate them rapturously. I only had them a few times, in all, because I could not justify buying them if I was eating alone and would be staying in Kigali without a fridge for leftovers, but I have been searching for them ever since I left Rwanda. Unsuccessfully.

This afternoon, I went to lunch with a friend and my eyes suddenly popped out of my head because I saw them! I saw salt-and-pepper vegetables! They were being brought out in a big basket to the table in the corner! Only they turn out to be Thai tempura vegetables (which throws a whole new loop into what genre of restaurant Exxotica was, exactly). We ordered them as an appetizer, crunchy fried spinach and carrots and cauliflower, and I stuffed myself before my cashew chicken ever arrived.

Now they are lost to me again, though, because the salt-and-pepper vegetables were a special called Summer In a Basket, and summer ended today along with the special. These vegetables are an elusive thing, made more valuable by their rarity.

20 September 2008

here we are

The bus is a place to meet interesting people. I sat next to an older man reading a library book one day, and he looked over and said, "I like your bookbag." I was holding a little brown-paper shampoo-bottle bag from Aveda, just the size of three small books or two big ones, just the size to be easily carried along with my purse and other work paraphernalia. In a city full of environmentalists and readers, a good book bag is a treasure.


A few months ago, I had coffee with another lawyer who went to law school in Colorado. "I actually found it a relief to move out here," she told me, "It was so sunny all the time in Colorado. I felt this pressure to be cheerful all the time."

I thought she was nuts, at the time, but when the air cooled off a few days ago and the sky clouded, I looked up at it with relief. In a place with such a short summer, sunshine creates such pressure to be out enjoying it, making the most of it. A few days of cool and clouds are a pleasant change.

Unfortunately, this is the start of about 9 months of cool and clouds. "We really only have three seasons here," someone told me today. "There is no real spring."

"No," I said, "there is a spring. There is no real summer. This whole summer has seemed like spring." And it has.

I could use a bit more mixing of my clouds and sun. Why must they be so separate?

12 September 2008


Last week someone asked me if it's true that Barack Obama is or once was a Muslim.
For. Real.

I wanted to splutter, but I answered "No," calmly because, well, because.

I suggested that she read Dreams from My Father.

I should have asked, Why does it matter?

And more importantly, Who is spreading these rumors and why is there so much hatred behind it?

But it isn't her fault, not hers specifically. She is trying to the the Right Thing, whatever she thinks that is. I probably disagree on what the Right Thing is.

Right now, we are in the month of Ramadan. There are two men who meet to break their fast every evening in my building's lobby. At the beginning of Ramadan, someone put up a sign in the elevator that said, in Arabic and English, "May you have a blessed Ramadan," and my heart swelled with joy.

I am more afraid of Christian hatred, Christian fundamentalism, than of Islam.

In Africa, at least in most places I've lived, at least in Rwanda and Liberia, Christianity and Islam live together. My Christian friends say, "Inshallah," at the end of conversations, and my Muslim friends invite me to Eid al-Fitr parties. In Rwanda, Islam is growing, because it is the religion of peace. It was the Christians, not the Muslims, who opened the doors of the churches to let in the killers during the genocide.

It is here, in the land of supposed diversity, of supposed peace, where we live in fear and hatred, where we spread what are intended to be vicious rumors, I heard that he's Muslim, as if being Muslim were equivalent to molesting children. In fact, I've seen people who have molested children welcomed in the Christian church with open arms, their actions covered up, while Muslims must be fixed, converted.

There is something wrong in a country where a claim - a false claim, but does that even matter? why would it matter if it were true? - about a person's religious beliefs has such weight. There is something wrong when labeling someone as a member of an ancient, venerable religion that gives purpose and hope to millions of people makes the target bad and unfit to lead us. There is something wrong, and the wrong is in us.

10 September 2008


When I was little, I used to wake up crying and terrified from bad dreams in the middle of the night. I would dream about death and gore and monsters and wake up too scared to get out of my bed. Instead, I would shout for my mom, who always came to walk with me through the dark to the bathroom and who told me that my bad dreams came because I really had to pee and my body was telling me to wake up! wake up! so that I would get up and go to the bathroom instead of wetting the bed.

That hasn't happened to me in a really long time, but it happened last night. I dreamed that my friend S. and I were being stalked as we went to a pizza place and we ended up fending off the attacker with pizza rollers.* And then he got smushed disgustingly by a car. There was gore.

And then I woke up and realized how terribly I had to pee. Also, I was freezing.

*This has an actual basis in fact, because I went to pizza on Labor Day with a friend and the pizza place was out of knives, so they gave me one of their rolly pizza cutters instead, which made me really happy because I use that to chop up my pizza on my place at home as well, so that I can eat it in tiny little triangles starting with the crust. What? Why are you looking at your computer screen like that? This makes perfect sense. The middle of a pizza is the best part, all saucy, so I save it for last.


I am only capable of one project per evening. I can EITHER get exercise OR do dishes OR clean the apartment OR write a blog post OR get some groceries OR revise my resume OR... It's very weird. Also annoying. Last night, I set out to do the following: 1. get a plane ticket to MI for October, and 2. get some exercise. Obviously I only managed one of the two. Fortunately, I managed the plane ticket. Not so fortunately for my cardiovascular health, of course, but it is a relief to have my dirty little mitts on a ticket that will get me to the lovely Mitten State.

06 September 2008

heal the sick

I want to blather on for a moment about universal health care. I have a lot of respect for people who are conservative for fiscal and policy reasons and have really thought these things through, most of them much more thoroughly than I have. In my next life, I am going to be an economist, but I am not an economist now, and I completely understand not trusting the bureaucracy to run major systems. (Especially after the last eight years. Disaster after disaster. How can we trust the government ever again?)

BUT, I do not understand the arguments against universal health care, particularly at a primary care level. You the taxpayer pay for it right now anyway.

People who are uninsured (like me, at the moment, even with my J.D. and my job and my license to practice law) hold off on going to the doctor. I know I do. If I could go to the doctor and have my minor health concerns dealt with quickly and cheaply, I would. But I simply can't afford it. So I wait, and if things get really serious, I will do what most uninsured people do: I will go to the emergency room. They can't turn me away there.

Guess who pays then? Guess who pays my now-much larger bills? Hint: not me. I can't afford it. The way things look now, I will never be able to afford it.

So who pays for health care for people without insurance now?

YOU pay, because the hospital has to treat me, and they have to get paid somehow, so they raise the costs of all health care, and your insurance premiums and your copays go up.

YOU pay, because when a person is mentally ill and they have no insurance and can't get prescription drugs to keep them healthy, judges keep them in jail, on your tax dollar, as the only way to get them help.

YOU pay, because someone who could have gotten well with a simple antibiotic five months ago now needs that leg amputated, and again, where is the hospital getting that money? Your pocket, baby.

The problem is that insurance companies ARE bureaucracy, and the system is set up so that they have little to no accountability. They have, by and large, a monopoly on health care. They have made it impossible for people to pay on their own for health care, with their own hard-earned money. How would it be that much different to have a monopoly that, *gasp* helped everyone, even those who are not merrily middle-class?

I think universal health care would save everyone money. People would go to the doctor when they needed to go, and major problems would be averted. Very expensive major problems, problems that cost you and all other insured people a lot of money.

I am open to a logical economic argument why this is not true, but the charge that it is "socialist?" Why, that's just silly. Being against things because they are "socialist" is often code for being selfish. Just because I don't need it (well, I do, at the moment), just because you don't need it, doesn't mean it isn't necessary.

03 September 2008


I was amused, rereading my last post, to realize that I condemned personal attacks a mere sentence before saying McCain was a robot. I guess I was talking more about character attacks. Robotic behavior? Sorry, man. And woman. Fair game.

character witness

I am about to start a series of political posts. I just can't help it. Too much is boiling about in my head. Here is the first:

Eh hem. I'm watching Sarah Palin at the RNC and I am horrified. HORRIFIED. Sexism, blah, blah, blah, accusing women of not being nice, blah, blah, blah, but why is it that Barack Obama is the only one in this entire race, from the beginning until now, who isn't acting like an attack dog? I am struck, every time I see him, by the way he acts like a gentleman amongst the hordes of politicians. This woman isn't just critical of Obama. She is BRUTAL. Personal attacks all the way. I get the concept of disagreeing on politics, but the meanness is just too much for me.

Also, not to be petty, but John McCain is a robot. Watch him. He is. He turns like a robot, as if he is required by law to keep one foot on the same place on the floor. And Sarah Palin... well, I have a thing about mouths. I pretty much decide whether or not to like people by their mouths. And I don't like hers. She holds the corners too far out to the side in a constant fakey smile. I don't trust her because of that mouth. I also don't like her monotone voice. Robots one and two. Robotic potential president and robotic potential vice-president.

Finally: there is no EYE-RACK, people. EYE-RACK does not exist. There is an Iraq, which is actually a pretty word, but surely you cannot mean to be referring to it with your awful American accent. STOP WITH THE EYE-RACK ALREADY.

01 September 2008

the onset of fall

It somehow got cold while I was in the tea shop, allegedly working on job applications, and then my bus was late and I was early, so I stood at the bus stop blowing steam up at the stars and forcibly preventing myself from shivering. I thought summer weather was supposed to last into September, but this summer has proven everyone wrong over and over. "People move here for the summers," I've been told over and over. "They visit in the summer and the weather is perfect and glorious and dry and then they move here and they are disappointed by the long, cloudy winters." I guess it's a good thing that I moved here in the winter, then, because I've been disappointed by the cold, cloudy summer. The weather was better in parts of February than it was today.

Riding the bus at night is very different from riding it during the day, and slightly unnerving. The lights are on in the bus and all you can see of the outside, unless you press your face to the window, are the lights on the houses. The windows are imperfect mirrors, and sometimes you can't tell from which side of the bus the lights you see are coming.

I arrived home too hungry to pick something to eat and wandered back and forth between stove and computer and sink and closet trying to focus long enough to just start something. In desperation, I finally made macaroni and cheese, the perfect late-night food in all its cheesy orange deliciousness. Then I ate three popsicles in quick succession because I bought them on the way home, three flavors of pomegranate plus other fruit and I had to try them all.

It's one a.m. and I'm not tired because I didn't get out of bed until 1:30 p.m. because I was sleeping off some sort of stomach issue. I think I poisoned myself accidentally, but I don't know what I poisoned myself with. Food of some sort? Food poisoning? I have eaten nothing strange, unless that Mexican mocha yesterday morning was contaminated. Anyway, I slept for a good 12 hours last night. This is a lot, even for me, the girl with the 10-hour-a-night ideal.