28 April 2011


One experience that I am currently having that I have never before had in my life except on long hikes is this: I cannot eat enough on fighting class + kung fu days. I physically cannot put enough calories in my body (without feeling sick) to get through three hours of hard core working out. No matter what I do, I am dizzy and shaking by the end.*

It's sort of counter-intuitive for our diet obsessed society to find myself, on fighting/kung fu days, deliberately choosing the higher calorie food item. It makes a difference, I've found, even to get coffee with 2% milk in the morning instead of skim. I always used to order the full-fat coffee drinks, because I had some weird little thought that ordering the coffee drink with skim milk was like acknowledging that you wanted to weigh less than you weighed, and my pridefulness wanted not to acknowledge that. About the time I moved to Gone West, though, I got over that, and I've been a skim latte person ever since.

It feels very weird and counter-cultural to purposefully order a more fat-filled item. I'm doing it, though, because I literally can barely see due to hypoglycemia by the end of kung fu. Everyone spends the last twenty minutes or so practicing forms, and I barely know them, mostly because by the time we get to the forms, it is all I can do to stand my ground on two feet and not stumble toward the door.

I complained about the exhaustion at the end of the 3 hours of workout and how I can barely push through it to the ex-Marine today (he also does both classes), and he said, "That's the point."

There are reasons why I never even attempted anything like the Marines.

He did proceed to show me the forms, on this, a Thursday, the easy day, when we just do a one hour class. It's amazing what being able to hold your head upright does for your ability to learn them.

* Let us not, however, think that this means that I am losing weight. If anything, the opposite. I am gaining muscle, yes I am, but I think my body is still in shock from adding kung fu. It is still clinging to every little calorie I throw its way.

26 April 2011

littlest bit

I'm still surprised by how much easier things are with a car. On Saturday, after paying my hard-earned money for a new tire, I decided to stop at Target. I drove over to Target, parked, and went in, and the whole time I was marveling at how easy it is to get to that Target in a car. When I lived in Gone West, I would have to take an entire afternoon or evening to get there: the train to the nearest stop, a ten or so minute walk, and then all the way across the parking lot, still. And when I was done, I had to make the trip in reverse, carrying whatever I had purchased. Owning a car still feels the littlest bit miraculous.

25 April 2011

tire problem noises

I was driving merrily up to Gone West on Friday, talking to my momma on the phone on the occasion of her birthday, and when I hung up the phone, I noticed a certain suspicious noise.

I am, by now, very familiar with the tire-problem noises of my car. That valve issue last fall has been resolved, but my tire went flat enough times back then that I recognize a problem when I hear it. I pulled off the highway in a suburb of Gone West known for its hoityness, and drove for miles without seeing anything resembling a fuel station. (It seemed nearly pointless to stop without a fuel station, since my dad tells me that my car is light enough to drive on a flat for a while without destroying the wheel, and I couldn't fill it up without the air at a station.)

After several miles, I finally ended up in downtown Hoity Town, where I stopped at a fuel station and found my tire still fully inflated. I checked the pressure of both rear tires, which were perfectly at 32 PSI, so I got back in my car, confused, and drove a little slower than normal the rest of the way to the K.s'.

My car, though, had a distinct... problem. It limped. Every time the wheels went around, it made a little lurch. When I drove slowly in traffic and sang along with a slow song, my voice oscillated and I warbled "ahAHahAHahAHahAH" on purpose just to hear it. (Warbled is possibly generous for my singing ability. This is my blog. On here, I have a fantastic singing voice.)

I almost forgot about my car's little limp, but right before I was going to head downtown the next morning, I recalled it and decided to figure it out before I hit the highway. I enlisted N. to the endeavor. He jogged alongside the car while I drove on their little road. Sure enough, still limping.

"Your tire," N. said when I parked it back in front of the shop, "is not a circle. It is shaped like an egg."

Perfect for Easter!

The lady at the tire place took one look and said, "You need a new tire. I wouldn't even have driven it here like that."

Well, thanks for that. That was helpful. Apparently the metal mesh in tires can separate due to potholes and such. Considering that I live in Pothole Central, with roads that literally have tracks out of which you sometimes cannot steer your car, I suppose that was inevitable, eventually.

I did not make it downtown, and I was considerably less endowed with money by the end of the afternoon.

After the tire fiasco, I met S. for a hike, and she asked me if I wanted a cat.

"I cannot afford a pet animal," I told her. "I have a pet car, and it's costing me too much already."

If only it would stop eating.

21 April 2011

so much for that

Advanced fighting class was canceled tonight, which was unfortunately because 1. I wanted to beat someone up (if only I had known about fighting class during high school. I could have saved myself those twitching-on-the-floor-on-purpose sessions if I'd had somewhere else to feed my can't-sit-still.), and 2. without fighting class to propel me out the door, I stayed at work well into the evening. Oops. Boundaries I do not have. I'm working on that.

Instead I came home and ate too many malted milk eggs, and then I felt sick. You know how when you are young the older people are all, "That candy is going to make you feel sick," and you are all, "Seriously, what on earth are you talking about?" because candy does not make you feel any sicker than Nacho Cheesier Doritos and Mountain Dew at 5:30 am in the back seat of the van on the way down to your service project. You feel fine, GREAT, after eating a whole box of candy.

And then one day you wake up and you are 31 and a few too many malted milk eggs eaten while you wait for your salad dressing to warm up (homemade; it was in the fridge) make you feel sick, and you realize that you are old. Officially.

Fighting class, you are all that stands between me and too much Easter candy. Come back to me.

P.S. I may be the only person who noticed, but malted milk eggs have chocolate in them, and I ate them anyway. The only thing I can say about that is that yesterday, in all its horror, beat down my will, and I took, and I ate. Lenten fail.

20 April 2011


You know how some days you would just totally erase if you could, and by the way, does anyone have a rock? Because the underside of a rock looks pleasant to stare up at like a ceiling right now, could I crawl under that one you have there? Please? And possibly never come out?

The only solution, I have found, is to go to bed. Things really do look better after some sleep. Nothing is really fixed by sleep, but I can handle it all so much better in the brilliance of morning than I can at night.

19 April 2011

I was late to fighting class yesterday due to finishing my taxes. (I never do feel like I've done them right, even after literally googling revised statutes to try to figure out what on earth things mean. It's all so complicated, and written in such convoluted language that I want to shake someone and say, "We are not all accountants, people! Use English!" But, I finished them, such as they were, with only the bare minimum required amount of weeping and gnashing of teeth (the bare minimum is still significantly large), and I mailed them, at 5:50 pm. The last pick-up from the downtown post office in this I-no-longer-live-in-anything-resembling-a-city-curse-it-all is 6:00 pm. How I do miss trundling downtown in Gone West at 10:30 to catch the midnight pickup.)

I went to fighting class anyway, half an hour late, because 1. I might as well, and 2. kung fu is immediately afterward. I got there just in time to be changing in the bathroom as the class did the last 25 of their 100 push-ups. One of the two instructors is on a 100 push-ups per day binge. We did 100 push-ups during the advanced class last week, right before trying to throw people off of ourselves. My arms were a little shaky, and I almost dropped my partner on my head again, but I managed not to drop him, out of sheer willpower, mostly because I know how badly that hurts.

But, having escaped 100 push-ups yesterday, I somehow decided to do 100 push-ups today.

I have ten to go. Hold on.


Yeah, I don't know who I am anymore, either. I am reassured by the fact that my self-discipline to do anything exercise-like still comes and goes (mostly goes) and the days when I actually do working out that does not involve someone else correcting my stance are as few as they ever were. Probably fewer. So that's a relief.

17 April 2011


This awesome series of photos on Boston.com was taken by Olivier Grunewald inside the crater of Mt. Nyiragongo, the volcano on the header of this blog, the one I could see smoking from the hill above my house in Rwanda: Nyiragongo Crater.

(more: here.)

16 April 2011


I fully intended to wear a skirt and heels for Work Thing Day 1 on Thursday, but on Wednesday night at fighting class I was running across the mat and caught my toe and jammed it, hard. I only managed not to fall flat down on my face because I was almost to the row of people waiting to run, and I grabbed at them and thus held myself up.

By the next morning, my toe was swollen and painful. This isn't the first time this has happened on the studio's mats, and I know that it takes a while before I can wear heels. I wore trousers, instead, and flats, against every rule I've read, but I didn't care. I was comfortable, thanks to the flats and some ibuprofen, and when I was in front of the crowd, I didn't feel the least bit self-conscious about any of it, including the fact that I was also wearing big earrings, against every rule I've read.


Between Work Thing Day 1 and Work Thing Day 2, I went to advanced fighting class, where we are still doing ground survival. I love ground survival. I especially love it when I get to work against someone who knows what they are doing and therefore does not damage me. I am instead the damager, unfortunately, due to clumsiness, but the experienced student went and got a mouth guard after about the fifth time I hit him in the mouth by accident, and then all was well.

I need to find a way to do more grappeling (I might actually have to take jiu jitsu at some point), because I love it when I work against a more experienced person and we actually grappel rather than just practicing the motions over and over. What I mean is that with the experienced people, if you pause for too long and they know you can handle it, they fight back instead of just lying there as a practice tool.

Most of the time, this devolves into me tucking my head and trying not to end up squashed like a bug, and it ends with me being squashed like a bug. It's so much fun. I just wish I were better at reacting with the correct response, immediately. I might get squashed less often and possibly even be the squasher on occasion. (The whole upper body strength factor in being a girl, though, and being shorter and lighter than these guys makes it likely that I will probably usually be the one who is squashed unless I actually do employ some of the shock and awe hits that we practice. We generally try not to actively hurt our practice partners.)

It doesn't hurt, the squashing, but I did notice, when I took off my suit jacket the next day, that I had bruises up and down my arms.

All that beating people up was the perfect stress reliever between two very stressful days.

12 April 2011


I am having the sort of day in which you leave work at 7 pm, stop at two stores to find some Sweetarts (neither store had the chewy kind. harumph.), and then come home and put some rice on to cook, only to find 30 minutes later that you forgot to turn the heat on under the rice.



I was reading this blog post just now about some national park somewhere, involving hippos. I am not so much an animal person. I like them and all, but I am not fascinated like some people are. (Tell that to the 7 rolls of film I took while on the Masai-Mara in Kenya in 2000, however.)

When I took a break from my frantic working in Rwanda and took this trip to Queen Elizabeth National Park in Uganda, I didn't really do the animals thing. I hired a guide, but I asked him to take me to the salt farm in the park instead. I was interested in the development side of things, not the animals. (Now that I think about it, this made it not really a break in the way that it should have been, since development work was exactly what I was doing every day. Oops. I did a lot of reading and sleeping, too.)

I also took a hippo tour. A hippo tour involves trawling about in a flat-bottomed boat in the shallows of the lake, looking at hippos, naturally. Hippos are weirdly awesome. They are lumbering and awkward and flat-headed, and they have this tendency to pop out of the water without looking up, which means that you need the flat bottom of the boat because they are liable to come up right underneath you with a thud. You (ok, I) just have to love an animal that is so clumsy that it will ram its head into boats. That's like me, in animal form.

There be hippos.

10 April 2011


I barely scraped the edge of the international aid world when I was in Rwanda/Tanzania/Liberia/Sudan, but I know enough people involved in that industry that I feel a little flutter of worry when I check a list of people who died in the plane crash in DR Congo last week. (Update: one or two names that could be that guy who worked with ______, but no one I actually know. So far.)

The next thing I did, because what else is one to do after checking to see if anyone you know died in a plane crash, is start checking reliefweb for international jobs. UN planes are crashing in DR Congo? Look for a job that would allow you to fly on UN planes!

It comes in waves, the desire to move back overseas, but it never quite recedes into invisibility.

One cold winter day in late 2001 or early 2002, the winter before I moved to Rwanda, I remember walking through a slushy parking lot in Michigan and thinking to myself, "Someday, I will be living in a warm, tropical place, and when I do, I will remember this miserable, gray, soupy day." When I drag myself through yet another dark winter day here, I think that again. Someday, my life will be warmer and more interesting than this. This is a necessary step, but it is not the end of the road.

09 April 2011


I lived for 2.67 years in Gone West without any drawers but those in the kitchen and bathroom. The closet was really full. I used a laundry basket for socks and underwear, and dirty clothes I threw straight into the washing machine. Papers went on the shelf of my desk, and the stack of them grew greater and greater.

Today I got on some sort of organizing kick. It was as if, after eight months in Universe City, I just suddenly could no longer handle feeling half-moved in.

Okay, that wasn't it.

I was supposed to be getting ready for a Thing at work next week, and my reaction to the need to knuckle down and get ready for the Thing, eerily similarly to my reaction to the need to knuckle down and write a paper while in school, was to find other things to do, things that would generally top my Boring Ways to Spend a Saturday list but suddenly seemed downright cheery in comparison to working on getting ready for the Thing. (Was that sentence even comprehensible?)

Instead of getting ready for the Thing, I painted the dresser that I bought last fall that has been sitting in our garage since I moved into this house. Sanded, and TSP'd, and painted, and then painted a second coat. I went furniture shopping. I bought a bookshelf and a shoe rack and a filing cabinet, and I spent a good couple of hours putting the filing cabinet together. (People speak of 1ke@ as if its instructions for assembling things are the worst. I assure you, they are not. At least the 1ke@ people know how to draw. The filing cabinet people do not.) I unloaded the dishwasher. I organized things in my room. I brought out the recycling.

I had an extraordinarily productive Saturday. I just didn't get anything done that actually had to be done. Things are not looking good for Sunday.

07 April 2011

cool people clothes

I opened my suitcase in the middle of the night at the K.s' house, secure in the knowledge that I had planned my packing perfectly for traveling with only a carry-on, only to find that I had planned my packing perfectly but I had not executed it perfectly. I had forgotten my sweater and zip-up inside-out fleece. I had no sweatshirt type layer. I cursed and kicked the suitcase, and then resigned myself to buying a sweatshirt in the airport.

(Side note: how much do I love Gone West? When I went into the outdoor apparel store in the airport - first of all, there is an outdoor apparel store in the airport - the salesmen nodded and one said solemnly, "Oh, yes, you need your mid-weight layer." These are my people, ya'lls, and I do love the whole self-conscious, outdoorsy, organic, recycling lot of them.)

It was 80 degrees F and sunny when my plane landed in Denver, and I (metaphorically) cursed and (metaphorically) kicked my suitcase again over the wasted money on the mid-weight layer.

Good thing it snowed eight inches the next day in Ski City, where my sister now lives, and I was vindicated in my purchase of a full-price mid-weight layer with hood.

Also, it is orange. And it has thumb holes. That means I am officially one of the cool people. Me! I am one of the cool people! With thumb holes in my clothing! I may never take this thing off again, just so everyone can see how cool I am.


Yes, I do get this excited about new items of clothing. Frequently.

Blame it on how I was a missionary kid.