Friday, December 10, 2010
12am. Bedtime! Drifting... CLAMOR! Americans. Young. Drunk. Celebrating. Outside my door. LAUGH! Sigh... 2am... Quiet.... SCREAM!! Foreigner? Street. Look! Thai woman. Friend. Drunk. Fighting. "DON'T TOUCH! NO! WHERE MY FRIENDS!" Go! Rescue! "YOU! LEAVE! WALK!" Saved! What? Alley? Friends? No! Inside! Sleeping! Danger! No?! Sigh... Wandering. Stumbling. Carrying. Heavy Thai. 3am. Please, inside! Ok! Carry. Pull. Drag. Upstairs... Inarticulate. Immobile. Collapse. Night-guard: Wide-eyed. Megan: "What the hell?!" Team-Carry! OUF! On bed! SPLUNK! Off bed... OUF! On bed. CLINK! Megan's ring. Search. Vanished. Sigh... Leave. Click. Bedtime! Drifting... KNOCK!!! Night-guard: "Key?" "?" "Listen"... Drumming?... Thai kicking. Inside locked room. 4am. Sigh...
Tuesday, November 30, 2010
Yet somehow I'm more determined than ever to write. I don't know what, or how, or who will care, but in my darkest moments I'm always reminded that someone somewhere is listening. That's you, you who are reading this now. You who take the time to read my writing, who send me thoughtful and helpful feedback, who express excitement over my future book or even offer to help edit and translate it! You strangers I've met on the road who expressed heartfelt interest in my experiences (strangers no more!), and you who drop me a note just to tell me you admire what I'm doing and how I strive to live. I so thankful for you. Let me be absolutely clear: you are the ONLY thing that keeps me moving forward. Your support, encouragement, and interest are the only things that convince me that the last four years of my life can be turned into something meaningful and useful. This month especially you have encouraged me powerfully, when I needed it most. This blog has received more visitors this month than any two previous months combined (even assuming that all the Tanzanian visits are actually me, which I'm reasonably sure is the case). Yes, I'm easy to please, but that's not the point! Your visits, notes, and comments have reassured me that maybe people could be interested in what I have to say, and maybe all this actually has some sense. For that I thank you deeply. I wouldn't be able to keep the spark alive for long without you.
|This months' visitor locations|
Friday, November 26, 2010
|Someone sure is thrilled to see tourists...|
|Look at that body language!|
|At least the expectations are clear...|
She almost didn't make it out alive.
|Too much culture. We are NOT amused.|
Future leaders of a bright new tomorrow, or simply not part of problem in a world of a billion little wars? I don’t know, but they have managed to divest themselves of the borders and boundaries that toss most of us against each other, so there’s hope in that at least.
For myself I am just as susceptible to frustration and knee-jerk reactions against those who are different than me as anyone, if not more so. I’m not writing to reveal the answers, I don’t have any. But we all need to be part of the discussion on this one, to observe, consider, explore, and one by one to discover a way for our billions of new worlds to exist on one shrinking planet. If we fail, as a society, as cultures, as individuals, there can only one alternative.
Thursday, November 25, 2010
|Medical student. Probably |
not the first person you'd
ask about Muslim merchants
on Zanzibar... but he just
might surprise you.
|Mario is Spanish, with a fascination for Sikh culture and |
fashion, even here in the deserts of Rajasthan.
Anachronistic? Sure! Unique and interesting? I think so!
|Me with my Japanese "bride" at|
our "wedding" with 400 of our
closest Indian "friends."
Some experiences leave you
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
Western society has achieved something that no species or other group of people has ever achieved, a result of effort greater than any ever expended. Not the construction of the Great Wall or the Pyramids, the conquest of lost civilizations, nor any religious fervor to transform humanity, none have been as single-minded, exhaustive, and successful as the western world's resolve to be comfortable. Have we so quickly become ashamed of ourselves that we must prove we still feel pain, or is life so empty without hardship that we take such pride in every sign that our blood was spilt? I don't know, but I know this need digs deep into me. Somehow I feel a lack of pain and hardship to be a lack of masculinity, and an absence of scars stands as a negation of the challenging life I try to live, a betrayal of my claims of adventure and difficulty. What would she say about that, the woman sitting across from me on this ancient dusty bus?
The scars I do have are mostly from India, living in a village and collecting firewood from a thorny forest daily. There was no escape from scratches, even cuts, but my body heals quickly and well, as it’s intended to do. I knew none of these would leave the faintest mark, leaving me with no silent proof of what a difficult experience I was surviving. Months later I remember telling a friend “Yes, you see my arms? Here, and here? Most of my scars are from India.” And that was all I needed to prove I’d done something real and brave. I didn’t explain that the children I was living with carried wounds that would reveal mine to be what they are, scratches. I didn’t point out that after two months I was free to leave that perilously thorny environment and head to the beach, which I did. And I certainly didn’t say that I was “scared by the experience” only because I’d meticulously picked away at the scabs of every scratch and scrape for weeks, with the sole purpose of making sure that my body would prove I live the kind of life I claim to live. That’s not an easy thing to confess, by the way. But I’m trying hard to not protect myself behind my usual mask of honesty. Truthfully, this behavior is insane, and shameful in a much more real way than the shame that provoked it... and yet I don’t expect to be committed to an asylum for these confessions. It’s not enough of a deviation from our culture, and I believe there are more than a few people reading this who can understand and even relate to this behavior, this insanity. Why?
Why was this never a question I asked myself until today, stuffed into a stifling rattling African bus across from a middle-aged village woman? She’s Maasai, as evidenced by the stretched holes in her earlobes that would easily accommodate my big toe... should there ever be a need for such unlikely acrobatics. Her head is shaven beyond the mere suggestion that hair every existed there, and small bits of metal hang from her ears, nose, and neck. She is wrapped up in the bright and multi-colored fabrics that somehow defy the African dust, and left bare against these happy colors are her thick, dark arms. My God, her arms.
As hollow as my experience may be, I do know something about scars, or at least what it takes to create one. The ones I'd reopened again and again, trying so hard to turn them into something impressive, had still eventually faded to almost nothing, and now it needs a certain light to even know they're there. So when I saw her arms, more covered than not with dark, deep, eternal marks, I could at least begin to read the story there. Burns, long thick ones from boiling water, and small sharp ones from brushing against red-hot pots, were scattered thickly from shoulder to fingertips. Dark shadows of holes from pointed sticks in the night, short marks from the edge of knives or razors - is that a jagged saw cut across her hand? - and a half-circle left by angry teeth - could it be human? - draw the eyes from one dim window of tragedy to the next. A fine network of straight angles across her left shoulder might mean broken window glass or jagged metal scraps, and a mesh of lines covering her right arm like a sleeve speaks of hurried passage through thorns or a daily journey pressed close to barbed-wire fences. Over every new inch I could almost feel the pain, see the blood, smell the melting flesh, and hear the cries of shock, fear, agony, and despair. And I was filled with a shame so intense I wanted to cover myself and hide.
And then, after a long time, I looked into her face. You expect scars like these to go deep, and I mean deeper than flesh. You expect to see a haunted shadow of recognition that pain will come again, or a bright purity of acceptance. You expect to see an impact; how could trauma such as this not shape one's whole understanding of life? But somehow, inexplicably, it wasn't there. Except for her neck and shoulders, I could find nothing that connected this woman's face to her arms. Her face was smooth, unwrinkled and unblemished, without the spark of a smile or the cringe of concern. I could not see any clear sign of the shy timidity common in Japan or the smiling confidence of Americans, not the blank emptiness in Indian stares nor the eager cheerfulness of many Africans. There was no clear sign of wisdom or stupidity, no clue whether she is haunted or cheerful, an expression not engaged with the world around her but not particularly disinterested either. She was just, simply, human. Just living her life, same as me, lives absolutely, completely, unfathomably different.
I cannot imagine what those scars, real scars, would do to me. Should I ever survive such experiences I know I'd loose all desire to display them or speak about them. It would change me, that kind of life, that kind of pain on a regular inescapable basis. For her, they mean nothing, not good or bad, not significant or remarkable or shameful, it’s just life, her life, her real life.
I do have a few scars, actually. My scars are in my mind, the result of conflict between pride and guilt, confusion and certainty, the conflict of a culture that values everything and nothing, that demands self-construction and despises it, that despises self-destruction and glorifies it. I find myself crying out desperately "Look at me, I am real!" And I try to prove it with yet another construction. Her scars are on her body, the result of living real life in the real world, no more no less. Looking at her scars - looking at her life - I don't envy her, not at all. And truthfully, seemingly, hopefully, she doesn't envy me.
“Make no mistake, my friend, we are all scared and scarred. The only difference between us is what we choose to do with it.”
Saturday, November 13, 2010
-Present -Feb 2011: Finish my projects and travels in East Africa.
France, CZ (can’t hurt to ask!), and mainly Universities and Language Schools in Western Germany.
-June-August 2011: Fly to South Korea and teach at an intensive English summer camp to save some money.
-October 2011- May 2012: ... studying at one of Germany’s many Master’s Programs taught in English, ideally in something along the lines of “Intercultural Communication” or “International Media.”
During the first year Celine will still be in France and we’ll be trying to visit often, though after the first three months I won’t technically be allowed to LEGALLY enter France...
-June - August 2012: Possible summer travel or work, depending.
-September 2012 - May 2013: There’s a strong chance that Celine will be able to transfer to Germany to join me, hopefully at least in the same city, for my second and final year of studies.
-June 2013 - 2015: Then Celine will be free to transfer to another continent for a few years, and we both want to experience living in a foreign culture together, so we’re eager to take advantage of this! The location for that hasn’t been discussed in any detail, but the sky’s the limit (literally, in fact, I don’t think the moon holds much appeal).
That’s what’s next in the life of Caleb! Drop me a comment, and please catch me if you can!!
Wednesday, November 3, 2010
Friday, October 22, 2010
Monday, October 11, 2010
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
Thursday, September 2, 2010
First impressions of Africa? Looking out the plane window past the runway to warm red hills fading into the morning, a richness in the air, not hot or humid even, just full; full of something else… another world, again, and this one stirred excitement in my chest, like a kind-eyed stranger it wiped away my love-tears and with a wordless wave revealed all the beauty and hope around me. The first words? Not even through the gate, the grinning WC cleaner exclaims “Welcome to Kenya!” with a smile to rival Christmas morning. A subtle request for change? Perhaps, but warm nonetheless. No haggling with the taxi driver, no commission scams in sight. When I finally ask for guest house recommendations he just points out the cheapest and lets me be. Such a friendly guy helps me find my guesthouse, and after initial reservations from the reception my US passport provokes jokes about Obama and “you must take me to America! Problem? You married?”
Rest of the day spent sleeping, thinking of what I’ve left behind, walking the streets and enjoying not getting stared at… when people do look here it’s discrete, with a curiosity and creativity that is… human.
Of course this is Mombasa, the most touristy place that is not Nairobi, but it could not give a better first impression of Kenya. I’m still very pleased Honza is coming, and very curious about this hospital project; I would be quite aimless alone! This first month should be a blast!