Thursday, August 23, 2007

sharpened pencils, a new lunchbox, and....

My first day of grad school started yesterday. I will share my many thoughts on this later. For now, I give you my back-to-school picture, obligingly taken by my live-in school photographer, Kat.
I've come a long way in the last 15 years (below, 6th grade Wendy, easily the worst school picture I ever, ever took. How delighted I am to share it with you now!).

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

truth revealed

Nuns and ninjas are guerrilla warriors of the same cloth.
Please consider:

the vows!
the honor!
the silence!

They contemplate, they meditate.

The costuming: so dark and fluid. Think of all you could hide beneath that habit, beneath that headdress.

And, oh, the concealment! They live apart from society, moving stealthily, fluidly, quietly amidst it only as necessary. The training it takes to reach this level of silent effectiveness is reserved solely for the most committed of the elite.

Ninjas use NUNchuks. Nuns employ the Armor of God.

And, amidst all else their other labors, they find time to cultivate an appreciation for the arts. Sister Wendy and Splinter are two good examples of this.
Unconvinced? A rare glimpse of nuninja combat in Ireland:

Friday, August 10, 2007

related to the fourth dimension

I'm saving my thoughts on Einstein and time travel for another day. Today, I just have three things from the past that I stumbled on this week to share with you, beloved reader.

Time Heals All Wounds
I went on an extended international adventure during the summer of 2003. One day in September, I climbed a mountain in the Polish Tatras. That night, after wolfing down some curry banana pizza, I retired to the room I'd bartered for (in German!) earlier in the day. As I sat at the foot of the bed removing my muddy pants, I noticed a weird gray insect hanging out in a newly formed little depression on my shin. I carelessly flicked him away. A couple weeks later, on my flight back to Ireland on my way home to the states, my shin started to itch. A lot. By the time I'd made it back to Cali, the itchiness had given way to a full-blown Purple Circle Of Fright. I decided to go to a doctor, despite an ill-timed lack of medical insurance. The doctor said - spider bite! I went home, researched a little more on my parents' dial-up, and decided - no! gasp! Lyme disease! I returned to the doctor, got some different medication, and was cured (per blood test results a year later). The large circle on my shin, however, took about 14 months to fade away.

Some things never change...and some things do.
This was USC, round one. Yes, that's me.

The man who renamed January
This isn't my past, exactly (except in the way that it's everyone's collective past), but I still thought it was crazy. Who knew Turkmenistan was such a secretive and strange place? Read this article.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

there are too many guineas.

French Guinea
Papua New Guinea
Spanish Guinea
New Guinea
Equatorial Guinea
Gulf of Guinea
French Guiana
British Guyana
not to mention guineas (old British money), guinea fowl, guinea pigs, guinea grass, and (my favorite) Guiness.

I’ve been confused by the abundance of Guineas in the world for a long time. Today, I decided to do a bit of research and figure out 1. why there are so dang prolific, and 2. how to differentiate between ‘em all.

I present to you my findings:

Etymology of Guinea: possibly from the Susu language spoken by inhabitants of coastal Guinea. The English comes from the Portuguese Guiné, a presumably indigenous African name. That, or it comes from a Berber term aguinaoui, which means ‘black’.


That’s the Gulf of Guinea. Guinea is the indigenous name for this region right about where the perimeter of the country gets really bendy, south of the Sahara and north of the Gulf.

There are 3 African countries in the area that still keep the name Guinea:

- Guinea (formerly French Guinea)
- Guinea-Bissau (formerly Portuguese Guinea; Bissau is this Guinea’s capital)
- Equatorial Guinea (formerly Spanish Guinea)

Papua New Guinea (the eastern half of the island New Guinea) is that one famous for its cannibals, just north of Australia. The country acquired its name in the 19th century; the word "Papua" derives from Malay papuah describing the frizzy Melanesian hair. "New Guinea" comes from the Spanish explorer Íñigo Ortiz de Retes, who noted the resemblance of the local people to those he had earlier seen along the Guinea coast of Africa.

The Guyanas aren’t related to the Guineas, but they’re commonly confused anyways. The word Guyana is Amerindian and means ‘land of many waters’. There are two Guyanas in South America:
- Guyana (formerly British Guyana)
- French Guiana

So, there are really just 3 Guinea countries that come from 1 Guinea gulf region, 1 Guinea in the Pacific whose people looked kinda coastal Guinea-like, and 2 Guyanas on the other side of the world that get mixed up in the mess occasionally.

These countries all have really crazy colorful and interestingly colonial wikipedia histories, I discovered.

Guinea (formerly French Guinea) has at different times been part of various warring African empires. Portuguese slave started there in the 15th century; an Islamic state was founded in the 18th century, and then in 1890 France made it a colony. In 1958, Guinea became the first French African colony to gain independence, at the cost of the immediate ending of all French assistance. Since then – 50 years later – the country has had only 2 presidents, and it’s been messy, really messy.

Guinea-Bissau (formerly Portuguese Guinea) is a super tiny country (about the size of Maryland) and former Portuguese colony. In 1956, an armed rebellion against the Portuguese began, fueled by large quantities of arms from Cuba, China, and the Soviet Union. 17 years later, they finally managed to declare independence. They’ve had some civil wars and coups since then; G-B is one of the poorest countries in the world, with 2/3 of the population living below the poverty line. In G-B’s Bolama region, a matriarchal system is still in use; women choose husbands who are compelled to marry them, and religious affairs are controlled by a female priesthood.

Equatorial Guinea (formerly Spanish Guinea) – the only country in mainland Africa where Spanish is the official language. The first inhabitants of the region were probably Pygmies; the Fang and Bubi tribes are prominent now. Oil was just discovered there in the last decade, and EG has now become one of the largest oil producers in Africa – but most of the population still lives in poverty. The government is corrupt; diplomats and even ministers have been caught smuggling drugs (even using the president’s baggage on state trips). There are no daily newspapers, just radio – the president has declared that he is “in permanent contact with the Almighty” and “can decide to kill without anyone calling him to account and without going to hell because it is God himself...who gives him this strength”. Nice.

Papua New Guinea: follow closely – the island of New Guinea contains Papua New Guinea (its own independent country) on the eastern half, and then two Indonesian provinces (Papua and West Irian Jaya) in the west. PNG is one of the most diverse countries on Earth, with over 850 indigenous languages and at least as many traditional societies, out of a population of just under 6 million. It is also one of the most rural (only 18 per cent of its people live in urban centres) and one of the world's least explored. PNG gained independence from Australia in 1975 and is a member of the Commonwealth today. Other interesting things: cannibalism was practiced amongst some tribes until the early 1970s...seashells were abolished as currency in 1933...and the country has the highest incidence of HIV & AIDS in the Pacific region.

Guyana (formerly British Guyana): the only nation state of the Commonwealth of Nations on the mainland of South America (it gained its independence from the UK in 1966). The abolition of slavery in 1834 led to black settlement of urban areas and the importation of indentured laborers from Portugal, Germany, Ireland, Scotland, Malta, China and India to work on the sugar plantations. Today, the majority of the population are of East Indian ancestry.
Other facts to note:
- The murder rate in Guyana is three times higher than the murder rate in the United States.
- The 1856 British Guiana 1c magenta stamp is considered the rarest in the world, with only one copy known to exist (the other having been destroyed by a previous owner).
- On November 18, 1978, the Jonestown Massacre took place in the jungle of Northwest Guyana; 913 members (all American) of the Peoples Temple cult died in a mass suicide.

French Guiana is an ‘overseas department’ of France located in South America - this means it’s part of the European Union's territory, and its currency is the euro. Guianese Creoles and Haitians make up 60% to 70% of the population; roughly 14% are Europeans, the vast majority of whom are French. That’s all...just weird that there’s a bit of Europe in South America. I didn’t know that.

Monday, August 6, 2007

wendy wanders washingtonward

I met Mia Navarro during a summer orientation for soon-to-be freshmen at USC. We hit it off in record time, nanoseconds. In a very unusual display of commitment, I managed to actually keep in touch with her over email for the remainder of the summer. The week before school began, I bumped into her and her mother on campus; delighted with this happy accident, we shared a meal at the Sizzler on Figueroa, watched a movie in her mom's hotel room, and formally commenced a super great friendship that carried through all 4 years at USC, including many a music class shared, mucho hangout time at the Catholic Center, the beginnings of my donut addiction, varied and crazy boyfriends, and, finally, becoming bona fide roommates in the Sweetest Place Ever (even taking into account the whorehouse across the street, the multiple MazdaTron breakins and window theft, and our weird neighbor Gary).
In short, Mia is a GEM.

She just got married to a really really great guy named Joel on Saturday. I flew up to Washington for 24 hours in the name of 1. support for best friends getting married to great people, and 2. adventure.

What transpired:

Amy drove me to LAX at 0445. My 0610 flight was oversold - so I volunteered to give up my seat, and in exchange got a free r/t ticket! New York, here I come....
I flew to San Fran on a later flight. Despite my strong inclinations to sleep, I spent the whole hour talking to the man who'd pilot my next flight. I love love love getting to know people, and this man was super nice and interesting.

Arrived at SEATAC at 12:47. Ran like the wind to get to the Budget Car Rental desk (24-hour trips require very little by way of luggage!). I secured my very first rental ever, and, internet maps in tow, jetted out of the parking lot and onto the freeway: Mount Rainier ho!

A moment of praise to the little Ford Focus I drove: stereo! oh, music that cometh forth from speakers, yea, even loudly, how I love thee! (note: my stereo was stolen last November, and I have only had my iPod to keep me company musically since then.) oh, power windows! cruise control that i didn't know how to work! plethora of buttons! oh, air conditioner, even though i still preferred rolling the windows down, you were there - you were there for me! Little MazdaTron, i love thee still,

The drive to Mt. Rainier was GORGEOUS. So gorgeous. Washington is beautiful. My plans to hike around were curtailed by having taken the later flight...but the drive was stunning and satisfying regardless. The wildflowers were in bloom!!
Mount Rainier is here. Underneath that really big foggy cloud. Seeing so much beauty there and on the way back made up for the fact that my Rainier pilgrimage was one of faith that the mountain was there, unconfirmed by actual vision.
I also stopped at this super-cool iron sculpture garden i saw on the way back. love it.
I sped back to get to Tacoma in time for the wedding (and the timing was perfect - I changed in the car, and voila! ready!). The wedding was a traditional Catholic one, and the mass was interesting and beautiful. Mia was radiant. I was delighted that the final hymn we sang for the processional was 'Joyful Joyful, We Adore Thee' - the lyrics are so cool and the music super-inspiring. High five, Beethoven.

I wouldn't really recommend going to weddings solo, but I had a pretty great time regardless of my status. The reception took place at the Marriot; the dinner was excellent, the conversation at our table very engaging, and the dancing afterwards way fun.
When I left, I was delighted by the friendliness and humanity of the girl working the front desk at the hotel; she mailed a postcard to my dad for me, and, after chatting we chatted for a bit, gave me some bottled water from the gift shop because i was kinda dying of thirst.

I slept in the backseat of the rental car until 0417, when I woke up a bit foggy and cramped and proceeded to drive back to the airport.

Theme of the weekend: joy, for sure.

by the numbers

5: number of Sundays in a row that I wore this orange dress to church as a sort of spontaneous social experiment. conclusions: people are either way less observant than i expected, or too polite to make mention of my sudden fashion stagnation. some sadness was expressed, however, last week when i traded the orange dress in for something different.
7000 (approx): number of minutes I've spent looking for parking in my 90034 neighborhood over the last 4 years. I'm serious; I worked the numbers out. 7000 minutes = 4.9 days of my life driving around and around and around....but I'm pretty good at parallel parking now, as a result. Sniar says I park MazdaTron with exceptional grace.

21: years li'l Mushy has been alive. At least 11 high-fives to her for acquiring a 2-bd apartment in Moreno Valley and making it through 3 weeks of the Riverside Cty Sherriff's Department Academy. 30: number of songs we beat on Guitar Hero (her bday gift) the weekend Mom & I visited her. 1: number of songs Mom passed - high five for a valiant effort!
7 (approx): number of hours it took from 00:00 21 July to finish Harry Potter Book 7.

>30: number of lunches had with the lovely Sara Ellis.
>12: number of days in a row that I have been on cupcake lockdown. Turns out I can totally survive without them.

22:10: time Friday night when I saw The Bourne Ultimatum, the best threequel I've seen this summer by far. Bourne ROCKS. the action and combat and chasing in this movie - awesome.

49: number of years my daddy, aka PapaTron, has been around on this happy earth. 9568: number of days I've been alive since I was born. Also, number of days I've generally been really happy that Daryl Lee's ma' pa.
21: days left until classes begin at USC. Due to a very surprise twist in my life last Wednesday, it looks like I'll be starting a Masters program in Public Diplomacy there, in addition to keeping my present job (and social life). Uh.......what?? Life is crazy. By 'crazy', i mean, I'm sure there's Someone pulling the strings a bit, but it's fascinating to watch how it unfolds in such unexpected ways sometimes.