Archive for January, 2004

day two hundred twenty one a

Spent today wandering around the food market searching for food items one might eat in Mexico. I managed to find some peppers and beans. I got some random French cheese that tastes sort of like swiss. I think it will work well on top of the refried beans I am going to make. Carl is of the opinion he can produce tortillas from scratch. We’ll see how that comes out.


I’ve started in with sitting meditation again. I think that Steph and I breaking up hit her hard and fast. She understood the loss and the pain pretty quickly. It is in my life and affecting me, but I have to sit and be quiet to really start to understand it. I am not as connected to the experience of my emotional life as she is, but that is hardly news.

I feel a little odd talking about this pain because I know that my general life philosophy differs a bit from some of the people I am talking to. The most important thing to me is fullness of experience. The sense for me is like looking at paintings.

Picasso did a piece called The Old Guitarist. I got to see it in Chicago one time. The painting has a definite blue teint to it. Not only in the clothes of the man and the paint on the walls, but the air seems tinged with blue. The sense of sadness and depression is very poignant in the painting and it is beautiful because it expresses this element of life so well.

At the same time the ability to understand the despair comes only from the ability to stand outside of it. If everything I saw every day had the blue tinge to it then the old guitarist wouldn’t be anything special. It is only coming from a world with more colors that seeing the guitarist in blue meaning.

I want to have a set of rich colors from which to work on my life. Right now I think I am working on my blues; deepening and richening them. Some time later I will get to work on my yellows or my greens; inshallah. I can’t cut out a color without limiting my ability to paint properly.

The metaphor used for the sort of meditation I do is a chair sitting in a room with two doors. Feelings and thoughts come in through one door and leave through the other. My job is to sit in the chair. I accept the things coming in from the one door and allow them to leave when it is time. Right now I think that I try and close the door coming in because I fear losing control to my feelings. My goal is to go and sit down and let go of trying to pretend being in control. At the same time not to get attached to my suffering and follow it out the other door because I think that it will make me a deeper person.

Balance. Always about balance…

So anyhow I think I am still headed down rather than up, but I am alright with that because it feels natural. It was four and a half years. If I just forgot about something that was such an important part of my life it would be pathological I think.


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day two hundred and twenty a

I went the other night with Marc to see Freddy vs. Jason at the theater here. It was my first time in there and it is pretty nice. It has stadium seating and the chairs are in better shape than in Cookeville (which isn’t saying a whole lot).

I discovered that even when I can’t understand anything that is going on I am still a big wuss. I spent most of the movie with my knees pulled up to my chest watching the bottom five inches of the screen under the bill of my baseball cap.

Fortunately the near complete lack of plot made the translation easy. I didn’t understand much of anything said, but Marc could say two sentences to me and that would generally be sufficient to explain the plot for twenty minutes. I was generally able to pick out cauchemar (nightmare), peur (fear) and enfant (child). Somehow those three words seemed to comprise about 10% of the dialog.

There were only six people who came to see the movie and two of them got up and left pretty close to the beginning. It managed to have nudity, promiscuity, substance abuse, violence, profanity and child mutilation all within the first fifteen minutes or so. Marc was wondering what exactly Mauritanians think of American life given our films. It doesn’t exactly counter the image of us as an indulgent and violent people.

It was fun to get to see a movie on a real screen though. Once a week they do a movie in English. Maybe they’ll get a good one in soon. Watching in French was an entertaining exercise, but I wouldn’t have been able to follow a movie with any real plot.


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One of the issues that is en vogue in my profession currently is outsourcing, specifically to India. I have just been reading an article on the subject and contemplating:

As someone living in the third world I know that from a cost perspective there is no way I could compete from the US with someone living in this environment. I live on less that $3 a day here and I live pretty well. Last night I had a plate of rice and peanut sauce with meat for about $.50 (150um).

Back home I can’t live on that little money and I’m not going to be able to compete with someone who can.

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day two hundred and eighteen b

> sacrifice one of his sons and sacrificed a ram instead. There is a > discrepancy between the Jewish and Muslim accounts as to who was up for > sacrifice (Jews saw Isaac and Muslims Ishmael).

whoever “your guy” is, i guess – don’t some of the mythologies say that “arab people” and/or “muslim people” are from the line of Ishmael?

[being that both peoples are ‘sons of abraham’… that’s how i remember this going.]


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day two hundred and eighteen b

We have been doing the second semester of the Cisco teacher training this week. By “we” I mean Matt, myself and one other guy. We haven’t actually had any instructors or other students show up yet. It makes it a little tougher going through the curriculum by ourselves, but for me the teaching was in French and nigh incomprehensible anyhow.

This weekend is Tabaski. It commemorates when Abraham was supposed to sacrifice one of his sons and sacrificed a ram instead. There is a discrepancy between the Jewish and Muslim accounts as to who was up for sacrifice (Jews saw Isaac and Muslims Ishmael). The basic idea is the same though.

Tabaski is celebrated with the killing and consumption of lots and lots of sheep. Also the obligatory visiting different people’s houses and drinking tea and sitting around.

Apparently it also requires sufficient prep time that no one could come to class this week.

So, we have been hanging out and reading through the course and taking the exams. We have a couple routers to plug up and play with. Nothing too complicated, but I think I am learning it well enough to teach it in a bit.

Still struggling with the purpose of my life and all that jazz. Coming out of mine and Steph’s relationship cut at alot of really fundamental stuff for me and I am still piecing together the aftermath…


P.S. Went and picked up some French books yesterday finally. Trying to get back on the wagon of studying frequently. I’ve decided that for Lent I should give up speaking English with those who speak French better than I do. That should be an interesting experience.

P.P.S. Mark Hitchcock has been in town and I’ve been hanging out with him. He is just a nice guy. I’m thinking about trying to visit Morocco briefly with him before going to France in June. According to most reports it is wise to get any traveling in before the hot season hits and makes it interminable.

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day two hundred and eighteen a

Mauritania was in the news again. For some reason they rarely seem to get flattering coverage…

“Mauritania’s ‘wife-fattening’ farm” by Pascale Harter

“Obesity is so revered among Mauritania’s white Moor Arab population
that the young girls are sometimes force-fed to obtain a weight the
government has described as ‘life-threatening’.”


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re: sj: crazy

will, part of the joy and feeling of deep meaning comes from really committing your whole self to something. you got your body there… can you find more ways to help those people? work on better computer projects, find a way to help outside the computer aspect of the work there? something that lets you put your whole self into it?

Yeah. I have work projects I know I ought to work on. Right before I left I was working for the education department on a project that was too big for me to finish. I really threw myself into it and tried to get through it, but couldn’t. As it was I left unfinished something important and there wasn’t much I could do to avoid it.

The whole bit left me pretty disillusioned. I’ve been doing little things in the interim, but I’ve been lax to settle in on a project that I know will take six months to a year.

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sj: crazy

I’ve been passing the last little bit on my journal list processing through my breakup with S. I got a message from my brother today telling me I sounded crazy and I needed to get over it.

Thinking about how to respond to him left me thinking about a recent trend in my life toward estrangement. I think a proper metaphor would be that the different drummer I was marching to and I’m left not hearing any beat at all.

I wrote a while ago of it feeling like indolence, but I don’t think that is right. Indolence suggests that I get a deep satisfaction out of my leisure. In reality though my leisure is simply a way to pass the time that I have no real drive to pass otherwise.

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day two hundred and twelve b

Ok, relationship. What was it and why isn’t it now… I am still pretty sick and so this may be a bit muted since I feel like I was hit by a truck, but I want to get it written out.

Backstory for those unfamiliar: Stephanie Horne and I dated from July 8, 1998 to January 6, 2004. Those four and a half years are far too complex to codify simply, in no small part because we both did alot of growing and changing in that time.

My biggest changes were probably in the areas of self-esteem and professional identity. I learned quite a bit about the experience of emotion from Steph in particular. For her part her self-confidence increased quite a bit and she picked up some of detachment.

We lived together between when she moved to Huntsville in the the winter of 2000 until I left for Mauritania in summer 2003. We have since been keeping in fairly regular contact via email.

I suppose the obvious question is “what changed?” We obviously decided to give an international relationship a try and so why have I decided at this point to break things off.

There were two main things. The first was the planning of an upcoming trip to Paris. It was not to trip itself, but just that the trip will fall at about one year into my service. It served to mark the abstract concept of two years passing and help me to see that time is picking up for me faster and faster and I will be at the end of two years before I know it.

The crucial question for the last two years has been marriage. I want to have kids and I want to be married before I do. I’d like to stay married for at least 20 years to get those kids raised. Ideally I’ll be with this person for the rest of my life.

I plan on traveling some at the end of my service. I expect that by the time I get home I will be very close to seven years with Steph. Seven years, two and a half of them long distance, require a marriage proposal in my book. I know that marriage is important to both of us and I don’t think it would be at all fair to have her wait if I was certain that I wasn’t going to get married.

I have known about my uncertainty for a while. In Huntsville it was a really big issue for me. This relationship is the first big one for me. It is the first one where I got over being amazed that I was dating and really started getting into knowing the other person.

All in all I really liked what I found in Steph and what we had together. It was not how I had imagined it would be though and I didn’t know why. I have been hanging out for the last couple years hoping that I would change into the sort of person who relies on feelings. Stephanie knew well what to do enough based on how she felt. I wanted to be like that.

The second thing that happened was me spending time with girls. One girl in particular was just very different from almost anyone I had known and it left me wondering what it would be like to date her. (She is involved in a long term relationship herself and I won’t date her, but it was the question that was important.) As I thought more about it I could see that my doubts and uncertainties about marriage have stayed pretty much the same for the last two years.

The information that I need to know is that the relationships I would be giving up getting married are less fulfilling that the one I have. I had hoped to find this knowledge internally somewhere, but to no avail. I said in Huntsville that I thought we would have to break up before getting married. I decided about a month ago that was pretty certainly true.

I didn’t decide that I didn’t want to get married. I decided I didn’t know and what we are doing now is not teaching me. That means I am settings things up either for her to eventually get sick of it and dump me or for me to break up with her in 2005. Neither of those was preferable to doing what I knew needed to be done.

I didn’t push the subject either for myself or her. I was pretty sure the decision I would come to if forced to make it, but didn’t actually make the decision (if that makes sense). Right before Christmas just seemed a rotten time to end a relationship. I wanted her to have time with her family and to enjoy it.

So now we are broken up. It has been rougher on her than on me for a couple of reasons. She was always more open to emotional experiences and that gave depth to her suffering. I also don’t think that she really believes that I am doing this for the reasons I claim and her reasons are meaner and more vengeful (baser at the least).

From here, who knows what the future holds. We will not date again unless we plan on getting married. Maybe she will find someone who is sweeter to her. I have long though that she needed such a guy and if she finds him it would be petty to fault her that.

(I just realized I don’t think she ever told me a sort of girl I might find that would make me happier than her and I think that speaks a volume as to the differences in how we loved.)

I don’t have anyone here I especially want to date. There are people with individual characteristics that entertain me, but I’m pretty picky all in all. I suppose some time on my own would do me some good…


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day two hundred and twelve a

Something that I got to see while in Aioun that was pretty entertaining was the Paris-Dakar rally passing through town. It is a 11,000km (7000mi) race going between (obviously) Paris, France and Dakar, Senegal.

There are several classes of vehicles competing including motorcycles and cars. The most interesting ones though are the camions (semi-trucks). Parts of the race are closed to the support trucks, but racers are allowed to help each other. So, teams enter the semi-trucks into the race and there is a class to them all their own.

The race takes 18 days and at the time that we were talking to a rider on the 14th they had gone from 200 motorcyclists to about 60.

It is mostly a European thing. Apparently there is an all motorsports channel in the US now and it gets a little play there, but it is really a big deal in Europe. The guy that we talked to was a driver for an American motorcycle team that is new this year and is the first.

They were all gathered out at the airport where a little city had sprung up. Every team has lots of trucks and there is a whole big exposition area set up where everyone eats. There were about a dozen planes and as many helicopters helping to support the endeavor. It is a goal of mine now to try and work tech support on the Paris-Dakar now.

They’ve got an English website at:


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