Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Recent News

I’m not doing a very good job at keeping this updated. I guess the things I do day to day in the States just don’t seem as worthy of a blog entry as the weekend adventures I had in Bolivia.

I will soon enter my ninth month of pregnancy, so I’m duly inflated and it’s now obvious to all passerbys that I am indeed pregnant. I recently had to order my third, and hopefully last, set of maternity clothing after a very rapid growth spurt. We had the second of our two baby showers and are pretty close to acquiring all the goods we think we need to care for baby. We each have quite a list of other things to decide and take care of in the next month, including pretty critical things, like settling upon a name. There are also more menial tasks to manage, like deciding what kind of diaper to get. Who would have guessed that I could spend four or five hours researching cloth diapers? Admittedly, after the first few hours, it definitely feels like a waste of time. If you have the stamina to try it, it’s much more difficult than it sounds. There is an incredible variety of goods, brands and models – so much that it’s quite overwhelming.

My parents recently came out and we took them to visit Cape May, the bed and breakfast capital of the country. Even off-season, the small ocean-side town is still busy on weekends. We stayed in an ocean front motel and took a trolley tour of the town. The guide pointed out the highlights among the numerous Victorian houses and painted ladies. The best part of our visit was eating. We enjoyed a spectacular meal of boiled lobsters, shrimp, mussels and clams at The Lobster House Raw Bar, eaten with fingers and pincers and bibs. The next morning, we made our leisurely way through a five course brunch at The Alexander Inn, a bed and breakfast oozing Victorian decoration.

This evening I attended a performance of the Georgian National dance troupe. I’ve always wanted to go to Georgia and watching the performances only heightened that desire. I wanted to bring out a bottle of Georgian wine, drink it to the sounds of the accompanying three accordions, and dance the night away in merriment.

The dance troupe was so large it looked like an army was taking over the stage. Sometimes, with their boots, sashes and swords, the male dancers did look like an army, swashbuckling across the stage with amazing grace and precision. The bright costumes and emphatic movements made it look like scenes from a storybook being created onstage. The women moved with such grace I imagined they had wheels under their long gowns rather than feet. The men could jump and leap from their toes, their knees and their hips.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Reaction to Tragedy

Today I walked a half hour to an appointment. As I neared my destination, I saw that one road was closed, blocked with cones and a truck and guarded by a man in a vest whose job it was to direct traffic away.

I imagine it might have been hard for some of the drivers to understand where they needed to go and some of them might have complained. I heard the white-bearded man in the reflective vest scream at one driver. “Take a left, then another left, and another left and maybe you won’t die!” he yelled, so loud I could hear him a half block away.

When I walked through the closed area, I saw a bicycle with a crumpled front tire lying on its side in the middle of the road, as well as several dropped plastic bags that had broken at the bottom from the pressure of a fall. An empty red Jeep was on the side of the road.

It looked like all the people involved in the accident had already been removed. But the block was crawling with police and men taking photographs and using what looked like land survey equipment to measure the scene. Perhaps someone had died and thus upset the guard.

It was amazing to me to see the entire street blocked off for over an hour and what looked like a small army mapping out all the details, which will probably later be used in court. I imagined what would happen had there been a similar accident in Bolivia. I’d guess the victims would be lucky if medical care arrived quickly to take them to the hospital. Maybe there would be an exchange of contact information, maybe the driver of the car would cover the medical expenses. But it’s hard to imagine that cars would stop for long, that there would be so many public servants available to spend time documenting the situation, or that the victims would receive any compensation for pain and suffering.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Into the Heartland

Today I traveled to the Midwest, taking my last journey by plane during this pregnancy. I transferred in Detroit and was impressed by that airport. It has a great indoor fountain where water shoots up out of holes and across the fountain into others, looking like thin silver minnows jumping across a pond of black water. The number and pattern of jumping sprays varies, allowing one to stare, mesmerized, at the dance.

I had a long walk between gates, but I enjoyed looking at the art, the shops, and the restaurants. One shop sold nothing but dog-themed items. I wonder how such stores are able to stay in business. Or are there really so many people who love dogs that they want to buy the dog-o-poly boardgame or fancy bones during their airport layover?

In Chicago I rented a car and got another General Motors. This was the same car I got last time I chose the cheapest rental model. It feels to me like a hearse, long and tall and dark, hard to see out of and with the feel that it’s made out of plastic. It makes me wonder who the target buyership was for this car when the engineers presented the model to management.

The outskirts of Chicago don’t excite me too much. I drove at least 15 minutes from the airport down a road filled with stoplights every block or so. An endless array of shops, fast food, gas stations, and box warehouse stores lined both sides of the street the entire way. It was flat, developed, commercialized and ugly. I longed to go past a block of parkland or a pond or lake. The freeway took me into farming country, but as soon as I reached my destination, I again drove down roads lined with traffic lights and shops, an endless strip of consumer.

I stopped at one of the box bookstores, Barnes and Noble. There I was surprised by the size of the religion section. It took up almost a full wall, plus several racks. There were rows of Christian Inspiration books, as well as a full two shelves on Religious Fiction in addition to the much smaller non-fiction section on eastern religions and other, more analytical texts. I gathered that was a sign of the reading tastes of the local population, hungry for Christian spiritualism and for novels that promote their values and worldviews in their characters.