27 February 2011


I was obsessively watching Prison Break last night when my computer started its screen saver. The first photo that pops up is always the same one, for some unknown reason, and it is a rather bad photo of T., an Italian-Swiss guy who worked in Rwanda, and me. The photo is fuzzy and from a terrible angle, and we both have red eyes. We had birthdays right close together, and so we celebrated both of them at the Kibuye Guest House. T. and M., his girlfriend, gave me a Swiss chocolate bar wrapped in kitenge fabric and tied with bright pink string, and I took the cloth and tied it around my head flower-child style, and someone snapped a photo, with my camera, of the two birthday people.

Watching the photos go by, starting, as always, with that one, I thought about the two years I spent in Rwanda. I was 23 when I moved to Rwanda. Thinking about it now, I realize how much I missed during those years. I was there, but I was always waiting for something.

Is this just a factor of being young? When I was 23, I thought my life was going to turn into something big, and everything until then was just waiting time. Now I wish that I had just been able to enjoy it. I wish I had known that life is nothing more or less than a string of moments, and there is no use wishing them away.

If I could do it again, I would spend those walks out the peninsula just enjoying the sunset instead of wishing for the big things to happen. I would stop at E.'s shop more often, just to sit with her. I would let playing with little Zu be my only goal for the hour. I would play tennis (badly) without worrying if anyone was watching, for the pure joy of hitting the ball. I would wake up early to listen to the fishermen sing as they rowed their canoes back in.

If I could do it again, I would brush my fingers gently along each moment as it came. I would try my best not to wish for anything but what I had there, in those beautiful moments that are fading away now.

But I cannot regret that time. That is what it means to be 23: to rush madly into what life sends, believing that your life is going to be something great, hoping for the great things to come as soon as possible. I don't think I could have gotten here without there.

Now I can hold moments lightly in my hand, but the moments I'm missing are on a whole different continent, seven years away, and I can't regret them because they made me who I am.

25 February 2011


I had grand plans to go up to Gone West this afternoon to go to a movie that is playing at one of Gone West's many special events for indie movies (I seriously cannot even think about that city without being sad that I don't live there), but my plans were felled by two things: 1. the guest room at the K.s' house was taken (taken!), and 2. all of my attention is required for breathing through the phlegm that has installed itself in my sinuses. I couldn't face the idea of sleeping on S.'s couch. I either can be sick or I can sleep on the couch in the middle of the living room to be interrupted by every person who gets up early for any reason and the cat that starts bustling around at 6 am wanting to be fed and petted. The two concepts cannot coexist.

And so I'm at my house in Universe City, loading up on ginger-honey tea (I added lemon until my mouth started hurting) and Season One of Prison Break. ("I don't watch tv," I often say, and it's true that we don't get any channels in our house, but in the last month or so I have rediscovered dvds and Bl0ckbuster and the library, and I'm catching up on tv shows that I didn't really know existed. This one could become as much of an obsession as the Pretender was a decade ago. And, if you do not know, I was thus obsessed with the Pretender: I videotaped every episode on Saturday nights and watched it repeatedly. I own all four seasons on dvd. I like the escaping and running shows.)

After watching ridiculous numbers of episodes of Prison Break, I'm going to sleep in my own bed. Hmm, yum. My own bed. Going to bed sounds blissful, except for that horrible head-full-of-snot feeling that keeps one from sleeping when infected by a bad cold.

24 February 2011


I got everything ready so that things will run smoothly if I am too sick to go to work tomorrow. That's pretty much a guarantee that I will feel fine when I wake up.

When I came home, armed with lemon and ginger and honey, my lovely roommate was here, ready to start a movie, and she put off pressing play until she had whipped up a nice pot of chicken noodle soup for me. Everyone should have such a roommate.

22 February 2011

cafe sua da

I ordered the Vietnamese coffee and the teenage girl selling it said, "You are brave. Not very many people are willing to try it."

"I love Vietnamese coffee!" I said.

"We made it just like in Vietnam," she told me, and she was right. I could have gone through several glasses of it, but I settled for sipping one slowly, waiting for the ice to melt.

17 February 2011

that person

Tonight in advanced fighting class, we sparred with rubber knives. I pretty much love that class.

I had to stop referring to fighting class as "my self-defense class" and start referring to it as "my fighting class" because people kept assuming that a self-defense class was all women learning multiple ways to kick a guy in the balls and yell help.

I think it should go without saying that we do not yell help in my fighting class. Instead, we learn to temper the deadly moves. There is a former Marine and a current law enforcement person in my fighting class. And yesterday I was the only girl.

That would have intimidated me the first couple of weeks, but now that I am one of the longer-term students, I don't mind at all. I just beat up the nearest guy. One day I was practicing some scenario on the former Marine (former makes him sound old - I think he's actually younger than me - he seems to be studying at the university, anyway), and he kept saying, "I am going to have bruises from your bony arms tomorrow."

"That's fine," I said. "Just tell everyone that a girl beat you up."

"Oh," he said, "I do. Often."

I'm sure he does, too, because the other women who have taken the class for a while are tough.

This is a prime opportunity for me to do exactly what I promised not to do yesterday: brag about my muscles. People. I am not going to go on about this, except to say that I can now see the muscles in my arms, both above and below the elbow. That is all.

Now I'm going to go do some guy push-ups before I go to bed, because I am, in fact, that person. How annoying.

16 February 2011


There is possibly nothing more boring in the world than a blog that becomes an exercise blog (except possibly blogging about blogging, which I am now doing). I myself have been known to unsubscribe from blogs that are suddenly all about the person's exercise regime and how skinny and fit said person is becoming. No normal human being, sitting slothfully on their couch as normal human beings do, wants to read about some insane person whose new idea of fun is running marathons or showing off their six-pack abs. (Also: no one should have six-pack abs. It's not right.)

Except, uh, I can't really think of anything else to write about. Life is so boring when you have a car and a job. Going to the store is no longer an adventure, because there are no people to jump out in front of you (and if they did, there would be a much bigger story, like, "Woman Strikes, Kills Man With Car." Not good.) There are no little interactions with the woman collecting cans or the firemen sitting in the garage of the station. There are no shared human moments on the bus. You just get in your car and go, and then you come home.

This is what has always bothered me about living in this country: the sheer tedium. I do not mean that life is more interesting in other countries because oooh, exotic. That is not it at all. What I mean is that most parts of the world involve more interaction with other people than we get here in suburbia, and people are interesting.

Meanwhile, all I do is drive to work, drive to fighting class/kung fu, and drive home.

I'm getting bored here. Other than work, which I can't really talk about and I make a deliberate practice of forgetting as soon as I walk out the door, things are really very dull in Universe City.

The good news is that this blog post has veered away from discussion of exercise.

Now I can save that for another day when I can't think of anything to say.

15 February 2011


I don't want to know what it says about me that it took me more than a month to notice that the reason the radio station was coming in so fuzzily from one town north of here was that the antenna on my car was pushed in. For some reason, I was ready to blame it on the station changing the strength of their signal rather than the logical explanation that it was my car.

14 February 2011

boxing gloves

Kung fu is still kicking my @ss. I can hardly move. After fighting class today, I seriously considered leaving, just to have the evening free instead of full of punches and kicks. I didn't, though. I stayed, and I stood in ma bu and xu bu and crane stance. I jabbed and crossed and hooked and round kicked. "You've gotten a lot better," the instructor said, "just in the last week."

It turns out that the advanced fighting class is more like a boxing class, and last week I spent the whole class practicing my stance and then jab-jab-jabbing at a dummy. I jabbed until I could no longer lift my arm, and then I cross-cross-crossed until the end of class. My left arm feels bruised from all the jabbing. I need to buy boxing gloves, and headgear, and a mouth guard.

I never really pictured myself as a boxing kind of girl.

One of the girls in my kung fu class has pink boxing gloves. And one thing I can tell you: it looks like I actually may be a boxing kind of girl, but my gloves will be black, not pink.

10 February 2011


I walked out the door in the morning, a few days ago, and the walkway to the road was covered in what looked like tiny yellow flowers. I looked closer, and they were little gold stars scattered all over the wooden path out to the street. The people from the other half of our duplex must have had a party, because there was a balloon on the mailbox, too.


The sky this morning was blue in the middle and white around the edges, and the air smelled of smoke, and I couldn't place it, for a moment, until I realized that it was Rwanda, just forty degrees colder. In dry season in Rwanda, the sky is light blue like that in the middle and hazy on the edges. It's the time of year when the volcanoes are never visible, because the rain never clears off the haze on the horizon.

08 February 2011


Now that I am the proud owner of a fourteen year old Honda, I pay attention to the cars around me. I am no better at recognizing models than before, but now I see how expensive they all seem to be. Considering how little the people of this country are capable of saving, surely the majority of them are paying on loans for those cars. All those thousands and millions of people, all paying every month on car loans.

It's strange, when you think of it, all those un-owned cars swarming around. I mean, those cars don't belong to the people driving them around, not really. They belong to the bank, with nothing binding them to the person using them but a whole lot of obligation. Even I don't really own my car. (Here I want to insert my explanations: I have a loan, but it's not that much, and I'm paying it off fast, and I need the credit score. But. While that all makes me feel better, it is hardly relevant, except for the part where it makes me just one of those people who has a loan.)

It makes me think how disingenuous it is to say, "This is my new car," for most of the country, including me. And yet, everyone thinks of those cars as belonging to them. Even I do. And we are all, mostly, wrong.

06 February 2011


I stood in front of the map after church, just looking at all the countries in their pastel colors. They look so uniform, flat there on the wall. There is nothing real about them.

And yet, I run my fingers over them, remembering. There are people there, in those little flat blocks of color, people living and dying. There are mountains and rainforests. There are cities and beaches.

A woman from the church came over to talk to me, and then introduced me to the Church Traveler, a retired dentist. He showed me interesting itineraries all over Asia and Latin America.

"You can do all the traveling you want," he said. "You are young and single, and it's cheap once you buy the ticket."

His wife came over to chat. "When he proposed, I said, 'But you've been to Europe already, and I want to go.'"

"And I said, 'Well, I can go again,'" the Church Traveler laughed.

"All of my parents' friends planned for five years for their retirement trips to Europe," his wife told me, "and then they talked about it for years afterward. I had no idea that you could just travel."

"Yes, we've had some adventures," the Church Traveler said, smiling at her.

04 February 2011


Periodically I do something law-related and I realize again how very many men there are in this profession. The funny thing is that in my law school, and in the kind of law I do, there are about equal numbers of men and women (although the women in my kind of law skew younger than the men). But when I go to a training and they split us up into small groups and I am the only woman in mine, it comes back to me.

Maybe it isn't even so much that there are so many men, but more that the differences between men and women become evident in a small group that is all men except me. I have to interrupt and stand up and say that I want to go next, unless I want to be last. I don't think I ever feel quite that need in a mixed group, where things seem to sift out a little more evenly.

In a group of women and men, when each person has to stand up and talk individually do the men tend to go first? Because what I kept noticing was how entitled the men seemed to feel, how they had no problem interrupting one another to go next.

At least, I attributed this to the group being all men, but now that I think about it, I wonder whether it is the because they are all men and I am a woman, or if it is because lawyers tend to be so type A and I have some distinct slacker-ish tendencies, or if it is because lawyers tend to be assertive people and I, while I can be assertive one-on-one with people I know, am a little shy in groups or with people I don't know.

02 February 2011


When I was in law school, I was at the health center for some reason, and a doctor asked me something about food or nutrition, I forget, and I said, "Well, I'm not very good at eating."

She gave me that very careful look that health personnel at big universities cultivate and said, "Tell me what you mean by that."

What I meant, and what I told her, is that I'm not very good at knowing that I'm hungry until I'm so hungry that I'm shaky, and once I'm shaky it's impossible to think about what I'm eating. I just need to eat something, anything, immediately.

I might have wanted to remember this before I went to fighting class plus kung fu on a handful of almonds and two peppermint joe-joes.

The thing is that it doesn't happen that often, and so I forget about it. Most of the time, I eat on a fairly regular schedule, before things get to the point of shakiness. But then I climb a mountain or spend a whole morning and afternoon getting my hair cut or go to 2.5 hours of exercise in a row, and when I hold out my normally steady hand, it trembles.

Tonight, a very nice lady in my kung fu class gave me a little packet of almonds, and I sat and ate them before getting in my car, driving home, and stuffing everything I could find into my mouth.

Once again, not that good at eating.