Underthecurrent


Write/delete
June 28, 2010, 4:20 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

[experiments with email posting continue – typos on the up]

At the office. Trying to force work.

Missing L.G. like I can’t even explain.

Packed. The dry run is done, forcing me to recognize what will need to go to my parent’s house. In the apartment in the middle of my bedroom sits a small backpack and a large one. They are pretty much it. It doesn’t feel liberating at this moment, more so maybe insane.

The questions have started. Is there some point to answers? It’s probably safer not to answer, because the questions aren’t looking for information. And I am, admittedly, a little anxious and I get a little annoyed, too easily.

Right and wrong used to come out like sedimentary layers in a science experiment. Shake and wait. There was basic right and wrongness, then advanced level catagorization about utilitarianism and social contracts, and then, for the those with a lot of time or frustration, the critical theories. The basic remains – like how inflicting pain on another person blindly is wrong. But the rest of it is a confusing mix.

Travel, in itself, is both good and evil. On one hand, there’s an argument it produces more responsible people – exposed to difference, engaged in cultural exchange, worldly and open to different solutions. In fact, many of the most promising nations, like Brazil and Canada, are comprised mostly of immigrants – representing a certain kind of semi-permanent travel. The diverse backgrounds of the children of these nations create a sort of global super-citizen.

On the other, travel consumes resources (fuel alone), creates potentially unstable or harmful economies, pollutes ‘unspoiled’ areas, and can replicate colonial relations: it is often “whiter” nations, or the whiter inhabitants of those nations, that are able to afford the most travel and the greatest swath of a kind of travelling racial immunity. There is a fine line between creating a job for the man who carries your bag and play acting a master-servant relationship. Maybe it’s this: when the people you are creating jobs for are forced to attune to your comforts by culturally adapting, you are both potentially re-colonizing. However, these adaptations can also be considered simple innovation – selling what the market demands. Who are you to say the way any given people are choosing to participate in the market are wrong? Are you going to save them from themselves by refusing to be a patron? Do you even really know what you are preserving? All indigenous ways of life are not pleasant or desirable for the people living them.

It gets more complicated, as it often does, when the entrance to a market is facilitated by a foreigner. It might be easier to swallow a colonial-styled resort on a far flung island if the proprietors are locals who have grasped a particular sense visitors like to have for an era we probably shouldn’t have much affection for (though some of the aesthetics – beauties. It’s why I like giving Pier 1 a solid wander once in awhile). They get television, you get a gin and tonic and your affectations. But what if the business is started by a foreigner who takes a modest cut – enough to live off – and is aiding the people who live on the island through his knowledge of (a) capitalism and (b) the preferences of people with money to spend. Should the foreigner be working for free? Does it make them morally better if they do? If foreigners are expected to set things up for free to better the people living there, isn’t there a blind judgment about the quality of their life and likely some loss of autonomy by the community? Should the foreigner return home as soon as the operation is running because they are able to earn an income elsewhere and what they are doing is simply using some of what is generated that is better left to the people living there who likely do not have the opportunity to seek other income opportunities? There are only questions and few answers.

It’s a whole mixed up thing. Travel anywhere, of course, has value. Another city in the same country, another country on the same continent. Small town versus big city life. But travel to a radically different culture for long enough to start to feel it is mind altering and verges on transcedent.

[Aside from all of the above rambling, I offer only one observance I’ve made: if you are going to go at all, you may have to go for a sufficiently long enough time to adapt.

Different people adapt at different rates. Some people meet others and immerse more quickly. But the fact is, my favorite place outside of my own country isn’t really liked by anyone who spends less than three months there, as a rule. The typical evaluation is “it was good, but I wouldn’t go back.” Yet the cohort who volley back and forth are all members of the three-months-and-up club. Every last one. The oddest part is how much this has affected future plans – I don’t want to spend three weeks anywhere, afraid of the same effect in a potentially brilliant place.]

This procrastination has gone on long enough.



24 June, 2010 19:14
June 24, 2010, 7:14 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

I’m self conscious about this. About writing. So self conscious it took me years to get around to publishing poetry and despite constant prodding from professors, total absence from the academic arena

[Although part of this is because I don’t really believe in the academe as being something that worthwhile. Today’s academics are yesterday’s scribes. Genius does not require refereed journals for dissemination, if anything academia today lends credence to a lot of stuff that isn’t that worthwhile. And degree inflation is an increasing problem – why is a Masters required for the kind of rigourous study that should make up a Bachelors? Because Masters equals money, for both the professor and the school. The only one who loses in the equation may be the student – but this is all open to debate.]

But back to writing. Just because someone’s writing is sort of cliche and overwrought, that doesn’t make it inauthentic, it makes it… annoying? I’m not a writer, but I write a lot, I guess, periodically anyways, and I worry my voice is too bland at best and annoying at worst. This comes up when I read a particular travelogue of someone I used to know, whose writing style is simultaneously raw and not very self aware. The sort of zero-sum stuff that feels pretentious and embarrassing in retrospect. It takes one to know one.

I’d like to put together something that I felt comfortable sharing more but I’m not sure that will ever happen. Hilariously, the other week, my technically non adept mother mentioned she found blogggin, I forget the exact phrase, but it was something like narcissistic. Then she looked at me with wide eyes and said “wait, you’ve never had a blog, have you?”

*

This year may go down as the year a lot of people I know stopped drinking or admitted drinking problems. Through my life I’ve known so many people with substance abuse issues that I don’t react to it in absolutes anymore. As in, I now believe, controversial as it is, there are sort-of alcoholics, and full blown raging ones. I think there are some people who should never get involved with hard drugs, some people who develop unhealthy flirtations with them for awhile, and some people who can step in and out of that scene as easily has changing hair colour.

I may take a lot of crap for this, but one common thread I’ve found among people I’ve known who tend to develop debilitating drinking problems is incredible selfishness. Not all, but many. Whether it’s cause or effect remains an open question, based on the variable prefrontal lobe effects of long term aggressive alcohol consumption, but the result is consistent. It’s why, for me, it’s hard to stamp “disease” on the thing and call it a day, it absolves people too much of the ability to make choices. Typically, the drinking problem personality I’ve met is golden and gracious when they’re not being self centered, almost magnetic, but whenever life is even a little hard lapses into a mode of thinking lacking any self reflection. They ruminate endlessly and become relatively unable to have interest in anyone outside themselves. Of course, it’s possible I attract a certain kind of person and no generalizations are without exceptions, but the similarities strike me over and over again.

(I think for most people cognitive behavioral approaches are an option. It’s why people can be happy in places with relatively difficult circumstances – framing, reactions and responses. It’s also why desensitization is so profound in treating and managing anxiety.)

Everyone needs different things in life, we all cultivate our own fields; each has it’s own characteristics. I remember driving with my grandfather where he would pull over and point out, as a result of the scrub in the ditch, the likely quality of the soil, how easily it would produce a certain kind of crop. You can’t change yourself anymore than you can change dirt, but you can fertilize your mind in preparation, recognize capacity and plant the right crops, consider rotation to provide rest, and pray for just the right amount of precipitation. Luck and rain, luck and rain.

Smoky Robinson – The Tracks of My Tears



the plunge
June 23, 2010, 11:14 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

The last leg is booked. Done. It’s a red eye, for the effect of stepping on a plane in a place so familiar and waking up somewhere brand new. This is maybe not an awesome idea considering all the time changes and two plane switches, but it has this sort-of romantic quality.

For the sake of closure, marking the transition is probably important. Closure, of course, isn’t important for any kind of mental stability or emotional wholeness; humans aren’t that special or that frail. It’s just a nice thing to have, a sort of human pleasure, like the smell of different kinds of smoke depending on the season, or being in a warm crowd of foreign bodies but feeling really close to them through music or some great speech.

Work goes. I’ve had my worst month ever in terms of productivity and keep trying to come up with ways to trick myself into doing what I’m supposed to do. When you’re a self indulgent libertine I guess it’s hard to come up with your own personal bribes?

Journey – Don’t Stop Believin’



When Yer Twenty Two / The Law of the Vital Few / Diagnostics
June 23, 2010, 12:47 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

[One of my favorite irrational thoughts is that I am totally unemployable if I leave my current position. I picture myself resigned to work at my first job, in a drab polyester uniform surrounded by high school students. This exact thought makes it apparent I need to go; something about this perspective is really, really warped.]

Getting out of the shower this morning, something clarified, again. I don’t feel like I’m growing or learning, and I feel to young for this to happen yet. The happiest times of my life are marked by challenge met with rapid growth, the 80 percent phase. And yet in the final twenty percent portion, thus far, not as much satisfaction. Not to be mistaken for burn out, this is boredom.

I know the 20 percent point looms, the necessity of commitment, but I’m unsure what is worth the effort of attempted mastery. I don’t feel it here; logical examination, for me, has demonstrated there are too many castles made of sand. Not to say all good work must lead to construction of something, but uncomfortable work that produces something of substance is different from uncomfortable work in an insular community that provides questionable value to those relying upon it. Rationalize away, but, the fine point rules any society adopts don’t create any moral imperative, they simply reinforce broader decisions.

[The memorable careers in this field don’t appear to be plied by those who remain in it, but those who reject it and apply the knowledge and skills gained from it to something else. This, of course, is really bizarre if you think about it, and may be part of what is kindling this questioning.]

Sometimes I just think about making sandwiches and that I might be happy making beautiful sandwiches for people every day.

*

Last night I rounded up change in my apartment. I had created this idea in my mind that I wouldn’t spend any money electronically for the rest of the month. I generally suck at compliance with these types of things, so I keep trying, a small experiment. So, anyways, I was settled into the idea of living off what I had when the overwhelming urge to call L.G. hit me. I love his voice, I really do. The relaxed cadence, the tone, the alveolar trill that slips in periodically. It fits his personality so well. So I found $10 in coinage, sorting through purses and bags, and went out for a calling card.

*

I actually only have a week for the Final Pack, i.e. to figure out once and for all what comes with and what will be kept elsewhere and is coming home on the train with me. Anything that misses the train has to fit in the suitcase or carry on, and under 50 lbs, or it doesn’t go. The initial liberation fantasies have turned more practical; it’s unclear if this is good or bad.

As soon as the final pack is completed, it’s time to start seriously clearing stuff out. At this point, I’m relying on online classified ads to hopefully entice strangers to come pick up my stuff, and maybe even pay me for it – saving the trouble of having to haul much anywhere. We’ll see how that goes…



someday I will read this and be like… “why so serious?”
June 21, 2010, 1:25 am
Filed under: overtly political

A little crispy after some slurpee park reading action today, which is sort of funny because I almost never burn, leading me to believe I was as pasty as feared when I pulled on my Daisy Dukes and went to face the sunny humidity.

Strangers talk to me, or about me, regularly. I don’t know if this happens to everyone, if my exceptionally good hearing helps me figure it out; I just know it provides near endless entertainment on otherwise boring days. Last weekend, some guy told his friend I look “sort of like Wonderwoman” as we passed on the street. For the record, I was pleather and thigh high free. This week, rushing to work, I checked both ways and disobeyed the walk light. A guy who was g’up from the feet up passed me going the opposite direction, following my lead, and loudly whispered to me (in my skirt suit and ultra conservative trench) “you’re a rebel!” Today at the park some guys who probably weren’t legal to buy beer offered me some.

[I’ve been super distracted writing this. I can’t listen to music and write coherently.]

Summer notes.

I’m so into drinking out of stubbies yesterday when I found a rootbeer stubbie I was easily persuaded to pay about $2 for it. I don’t even really like Red Stripe.

I love how different people look. Summer reveals this, when the clothes start to come off. I like different skin tones and body shapes. The multitude of ways a similar subject can constitute itself.

Watching FIFA coverage has my mind back in Africa. I find myself thumbing the spectrum, from old issues of The Afropolitan and I Write What I Like to outsider travel books like Dark Star Safari. Heading to Africa as a foreigner is an inherently political thing, it just is, no matter the context.

Africa radicalized and unsettled my personal politics to the point I’m still trying to sort things out. As in. I believe in trade not aid because aid has offered all the wrong incentives, on both sides, and trade meets someone as an equal whereas aid always implies a greater and less than and we need to get past that. I don’t think the brand of feminism I believed in for so long is necessarily the best conclusion and most thought out end point, I’ve learned a lot about female power by heading past the highly individualized rights-oriented North American perspective. I’m not one hundred percent behind democracy anymore – I think there are a lot of viable ways to pick leadership. I’m not sure if expressing that approaches treason, but there it is.

So, applied.

I think Canada owes so-called developing countries some well trained medical aid because we’ve taken too many of their people. There should be more incentives for people to take their careers overseas for a couple of years – plus a lot of Doctors here could learn a few things from the approach taken in other places to treatment and care. It’s a totally different experience to go to a hospital or clinic abroad than it is to visit one here, rarely in a bad way. All work in other countries needs the presumption that the exchange is bilateral, something that’s oddly absent from a lot of discussion about international exchange.

I think we need combined projects with diverse countries, like Brazil and South Africa, looking at different ways to manage diversity, because all of us are rapidly coming up on opportunities and need progressive solutions and can trade ideas.

Most community organizations don’t need some clueless foreigner providing free labour. Full stop. Sorry. Organizations are best operated and controlled by stakeholders, and we, as a society, love formal bureaucracy way too much to fit in with models in other places.

I think the best thing foreigners offer to Africa is an education in what foreigners are like. So going there isn’t a bad thing at all. But they need to be more open to what Africa is like and less interested in categorizing it, e.g. tribal, authentic, rural, poor.

We lose sight of how strange our lives are – the oversanitization that is producing scary allergies and superbugs in hospitals, the wasteful silly ways we process and merchandise food.

We don’t see obvious comparators, how we warehouse poor people the same way other countries do but simply have less poor people to warehouse so the impact is less obvious.

And people visiting other places who want to have authority to speak to them even peripherally need to acknowledge: everything is authentic. The most “authentic” experience I had with African dancing wasn’t some gumboot performance for the benefit of donations, it was the clubs I went to full of people my age just doing their normal thing, some of who were my classmates. If you aren’t struck by the ordinariness of what you’re seeing, it may not be that real.

To illustrate how ridiculous the notion of “safaris” and getting with very rural black people to understand Africa is, imagine the same concept applied to Canada. If someone told you they had “had the Canadian experience” by virtue of going to Churchill and sleeping in an igloo with some Real Live Inuit people, and then going to Banff, would you agree they had a total understanding of the country, its politics and failures and challenges, and the people who inhabit it? What if they’d hit up a Ukrainian Dance competition on the prairies and maybe visited a traditional Maritimes watering hole? Good enough yet? Riiight.

Also, guilty pleasure – Flo Rida – Can’t Handle Me



TransCan
June 18, 2010, 10:58 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Living where I am right now has this remoteness that isn’t obvious until trying to get out. The timing, cost, connections; all poor. It’s not rural, just remote.

In a couple of weeks, roadtrip for a few days. It reminds me of a time when just saying yes to things worked out. A friend offered up an unoccupied house for a couple of days, another one mentioned a huge party at the next stop, the one way ticket went sufficiently on sale. So even though there’s this overarching objective of socking enough away for the inevitable rainy days of the next year… it was too good to pass up, too well timed, involved too many people I want to see.

This experience itself it sort of a head trip. All of it. Promise.

Despite living apart from friends and family for the past seven years, seeing people has happened. However, it’s mostly through my efforts. Stopovers in the USA, bombing home for Christmas, heading East or West as tickets and the wind blow right. Now, it’s not so clear. Along with packing stuff comes packing relationships, figuring which ones will travel well and recognizing some won’t survive.

It’s funny how you don’t know what will break in transit, but it’s rarely a surprise what does.



Why Vuvuzelas are Awesome
June 14, 2010, 2:47 am
Filed under: nomadisms, overtly political

Hey world, it’s Africa, what’s up? This is how we party here.

I like that people are being forced to contend with the vuvuzela because it’s too easy to pretend this event is somewhere else. FIFA has had more than enough control over everything – they’ve even, according to my sources, priced the black market out of beer in the stadiums thus far! South Africa is an in-your-face place, for better or worse, and once you get used to the horns, much like getting used to Africa, you might just calm down, like it and want it for your own.

The first strike goal was incredibly moving. The reaction of the fans and the players, one for the books. The first goal in the first African soil tournament scored by an African man.

I’m not a sports fiend but this tournament is important. It’s a game changer. Obviously there are tons of people writing about this out there. As a Canadian who believes that accepting multiculturalism is the truth, the way and the light, it’s important to acknowledge a game that represents not only the most watched event in the world, but something so accessible. England alongside Brazil and Zimbabwe. South Korea and Italy. That alone is impressive, modern gladiators sent in by their respective nations for glory. Millions of people holding their breath at once. Powerful stuff.

*

My nine year old Mary Janes finally busted a toe.

In two and a half weeks, I’ll return to life without television, about which I’m sort of ambivalent. It’s nice during a cold long winter but for other purposes it doesn’t provide as much satisfaction as other things for me, like reading or being outside or socializing.

In two and a half months, it’s over, I’m done. I’m roadtripping in July for a few days and otherwise heading to the lakes. This weekend suggested the long, hot prairie summer has arrived, with a Pride Parade and stacks of cheese burgers at the Farmer’s Market. I’m trying to remember the best parts of this country for a long time.