Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Elizabeth Bishop "Breakfast Song"

I Heard this poem on Terry Gross today.

Breakfast Song

"My love, my saving grace,
your eyes are awfully blue.
I kiss your funny face,
your coffee-flavored mouth.
Last night I slept with you.
Today I love you so
how can I bear to go
(as soon I must, I know)
to bed with ugly death
in that cold, filthy place,
to sleep there without you,
without the easy breath
and nightlong, limblong warmth
I've grown accustomed to?
—Nobody wants to die;
tell me it is a lie!
But no, I know it's true.
It's just the common case;
there's nothing one can do.
My love, my saving grace,
your eyes are awfully blue
early and instant blue."

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Thinking ahead. . .

Certain other Benin bloggers are causing me to start thinking ahead about what I need to pick up before the big Africa trip. A few PCVs that are already in Benin have provided us with some pretty good lists. Here's what I'm thinking. . .
  1. Backpack. I'd like to get a backpacking backpack, but not a huge overstuffed, I'm going hiking for the rest of my life sized back pack. One of my fellow volunteers picked up a Kelty. I like these.
  2. Leatherman. Eikon has made some suggestions. I'm just trying to decide how many tools I really need. I'm thinking just the basics, he's thinking a whole toolbox. I guess we'll see.
  3. Shoes - I need new black shoes, I'd like to get tennis shoe height hiking boots, good sandals
  4. Chef's Knife
  5. Clothes! The weight-loss (that I'm done talking about) has really done a number on my wardrobe. For teaching, and for training, I'm going to need business casual, formal clothes. At this point, all of my dress clothes are too big for me. I'm going to try not to take too much, and have some stuff tailored when I'm there. I'm not sure if I should stick with dress shirts or polo shirts.
More to come, I'm sure!

The Firm

I grew up in a Law Firm in small town Iowa. The firm was started in 1933. My father joined in 1963 after finishing his J.D. at the University of Iowa. The first office building was old enough to find its way into a museum. If mom, a dedicated stay-at-home mother, didn't send us to the office so she could have a break, we would beg dad to take us.

And what joy! My siblings and I were endlessly entertained by fondling expensive recording equipment, playing early DOS games, photocopying our hands, and rummaging through a basement full of antique typewriters, ancient law books, and years of divorce papers. Hoping that dad didn't notice, we would attack the candy dish full force, and sometimes even search his secretaries' desks for the sweets that were being hidden from us. Of course, we were caught every time. . . Dad would come home the next day, telling us that the secretaries were very unhappy that we had left a mess, stickying up their keyboards with stolen sweets.

They don't make lawyers like my father anymore. I suppose that is why the office is closing, rather, merging with a larger more successful firm. With Dad it's about helping people. Now it's about money and success.

I would occasionally join Dad on his trip to his sattelite office in a town, even smaller than mine, 20 minutes way. My usual excuse was that I needed to get my haircut from a barber who worked around the corner from the office. I remember once overhearing a conversation between my father and an old man in overalls , at the end of an hour-long appointment.

"How much do I owe you Bob?"

"Oh usually we charge about $30 for this." (mind you, a whole hour!)

"Well, I only have a five on me."

"That will be fine."

Dad has never been in it to make money. He's even been honored for pro-bono work for the community. He doesn't do it for show, or to feel better about himself, or to build a reputation. I think he earned the award because he's well grounded. His "moral center" is strong willed, and he knows right from wrong in the best sense. He knows when to help.

A while back I was at the office again. I like to go back when I'm home. The atomsphere, the smells, the experience never changes. I found his award. He doesn't think he deserves it. It was on the top of a shelf, laying flat so that no one could see it. I set it upright on a shelf. I imagine he's moved it back already. . .

“I don’t do enough of it,” he said,
speaking of his community service. “I
sense a great need for it and I would like
to do more of it, when, and if, I am able.”
One area for such help is for the needy in
certain family law cases, where a large
demand such help goes unmet. (Iowa Lawyer, Vol 65, No 8)

I love my father- A regular Abe Lincoln. Happy retirement Dad. I hope you enjoy it.

You are peace, man.
So may your children be.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Gratuitous Elias Photos

A certain blogger has inspired me to post a gratuitous Elias photo for the day.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Lots of Links

Just so you know, I've added a list of great blogs of fellow volunteers who are either already there, or going there on July 3rd with me. When you're longing to know how I am doing, you might enjoy checking in on what my friends are up to.

Which jeans do you like better?

The 40s. . .

or the 33s. . .

Ok I'm done bragging about my weightloss. Really. . . Get over yourself, RevMe. . .

No seriously. Today I vow to stop talking about my weight. I'm getting sick of myself doing it. I'm proud, but I'm done. I've lost 55-60 pounds. I want to lose 20 more. That's enough. . .

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Theory. . . Check!

I passed my much anticipated Music Theory proficiency test today. For those of you who aren't musicians, this involves some pretty difficult stuff. I've always felt fairly confident in the rudiments, key signatures, voice leading, that sort of thing. . . but the real pain (worry) for me was passing the Aural Skills section.

The proctor plays two notes on the piano, sometimes together, sometimes ascending, sometimes descending, and I have to name the interval. Here, try your hand at it. . .

I'm pretty bad at it, but I pulled through today with the help of my very generous proctor!

Next step. . . music history! eek!

Sunday, April 13, 2008


I've been doing more research on Benin. I'm just going to share a few things as I go along, in case any of my faithful readers are interested in finding out more about the country.

First of all, I've been lucky enough to run into a few other volunteers who will be staging for service at the same time. Of course, they have blogs!
At the same time I've run into some blogs of people ( and couples) who ARE serving in Benin. The Peace Corps has roll-over, thus I'll have experienced volunteers that can help me figure things out (I hope, at least). Anyway, Bonjour Benin and Sheena and Eric in Benin both have great packing lists. Mrs. Guervin in Africa, A'Frikan Good Time, and Jaren and Steve all offer a sense of Beninois Flavor.

This is all so helpful! I'm not sure what people did before the internet. Also, I've been reading through the Benin Volunteer Book. It gives a simple, but magnificent overview of the country, history, environment, and culture. A few things I've read so far. . .
  • Cities: Porto Novo is the official capitol, though it seems much of the government administration is in Cotonou, the largest city.
  • Government - Peaceful transition from communism to a multi-party democracy
  • Environment - quite the variety for a country the size of Pennsylvania. All tropical, Sandy shores, trees in thick forests and in savannas, hilly area up to 500meters in altitude (I don't really have a sense of how tall that is).
  • Economy - strong growth rate in economy (5%) offset by strong growth rate in population (2.5%), low GDP ($1,100 per cap and ranking 166th in the world)
  • People - 50 languages, 40 ethnic groups. Birthplace of Voodoo! I'm really excited to learn more about these practices.
That's what I've got for now. Communicating with other volunteers has made me even more excited. I've been spending lots of time on Rosetta Stone, a really awesome language aquisition program which the PC is providing free for three months preceding my departure. My goal is to get through 2 levels before I leave. . . Au revoir!

n.b. Those of you who were reading me last week, I made mention of keeping this blog anonymous. I've decided that I'm not going to keep it anonymous, and as a result, submit to the oversight of the PC while I'm in Africa. I get the impression they're not to stringent, they just encourage a lot of caution. I'm not planning on writing anything scandalous.

Friday, April 11, 2008

My last bitchy weather post. . .

GK said, "March is like a hangover for people who don't drink."

Then what is APRIL??!?!?

Ok folks. Here we go. I'm convinced that this will be my last bitchy weather post ever, because next week it will be in the sixties, thanks to my friend visiting from Florida. And then, of course, I'll be in Beautiful Benin where I am sure I will not have any complaints about the humid 80-90 degree weather, all year round. . .

So I woke up early this morning. This always happens during snow storms because my window treatments are not much to speak of, so the bright white lights up my room. So this is what Eli and I found at 7AM:

Yup. And it kept coming down. In typical Minnesota fashion, I decided to go to work and to the gym anyway- even though all the major universities and local school district are closed...The hardest part was getting out of my driveway, although the roads weren't exactly perfect...

Wow, seriously, how sick of this am I? I mean really. This is ridiculous. I'm so done with winter but it keeps kicking me in the butt. To top it all off certain friends closer to the big cities aren't getting anything but some slush. Bastards. . .

Thursday, April 10, 2008

My Photoworld. . .

I finally went and bought myself a new digital camera. I've been using my sister's broken kodak. I read some reviews, and bought a cute one (it's green) that should be hearty enough to make it through Africa.

Anyway, as a result I'm going to start using flickr, which if possible, I hope to continue in Africa. Right now, you can find some Chicago and St. Cloud pictures.

check it out!

Ah sweet spring!

From the weather feed. . .


If I could pick up and go to Africa RIGHT NOW, I would. I can't imagine a more miserable place to live than this wretched city with wretched weather. I'm sure I'll feel better next week when it's in the 60s.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Monday, April 7, 2008

Exit Strategy

Sorry to get you all ebullient about my news and then leave you hanging. As you can imagine, I've been going through a lot of stress as I try to figure out my exit strategy. I hope to be as careful getting out as I was getting. . . oh never mind.

So this is what I'm dealing with -
  • Learning French (I have a private tutor, and the peace corps is also sponsoring my usage of Rosetta Stone, I'm still waiting for my password there.)
  • Studying and passing my music theory test
  • Studying and passing my music history test (these two tests were supposed to be administrated upon entrance, but they weren't, so now I have to relearn undergrad, just to graduate, even though I've finished all my grad work successfully, sorry I'm bitter)
  • Closing up shop at church - I need to prepare for whoever replaces me. I want to plan a bit in advance, and I want to have lists of repertoire for her. Too bad I don't know who "her" is. My church has had ads out for 3+ weeks, and we've received 1 application. Sucks for them!
  • Seeing lots of friends and family
    • Mandi and I are going to Boston
    • Genevieve and I are going to go to Iowa to help mom paint the house
    • I want to go to St. Louis to see David
    • My sisters wedding is June 14th, and after that, we're going to my uncles cabin on Lake Wisconsin. Ellen is coming from Boston for the wedding! Yay
    • Of course, lots of time with Eikon, Genevieve, and all my other wonderful friends in Minnesota.
On another note, I want to make a few comments about how I plan to proceed with blogging over my service. First off, I intend to keep my blog anonymous. I originally did this because I am gay. Since I'm a church musician, that makes blogging openly a bit of a risk. If the church folk don't know, they will when I share this blog with them upon my departure. I sure hope it's not too big of a deal (ya think, Teri? I mean seriously, if they don't know yet. . .).

I am not sure what kind of internet access I will have in Benin. I am making arrangements with Genevieve and Eikon so that if I don't have internet, I can send one blog posts to transcribe, and the other photos to share.

Aren't you glad I'm thinking about all the important things?


P.S. Reflections on my new blog subtitle, "Happy Fault," to come. Yes it was inspired by the Easter Vigil.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008


I received my official invitation today. I'll be moving to Benin at the Beginning of July. I'm still feeling a bit confused about the whole thing. I've accepted the placement - now it's time for it to settle in.

So here's what I know so far:
  • My program duration will probably be from about July 1
  • I'll be teaching ESL to secondary (high school) students.
  • Secondary opportunities involve promoting HIV/AIDS initiatives and gender development.
  • They recommend bringing my own grammar books, dictionaries, and other materials that might help me in teaching. Resources are very limited.
  • After the training (2-3 months), my placement will most likely be in a village, where I might not have modern conveniences such as running water or electricity. I'm hoping for the beach. . .
More details to come as I do more reading and studying! For now, I need to focus on my music theory and history proficiencies so I can get my Masters!