Monday, July 28, 2008

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Snarky versus sincere

I recently saw a request for new bloggers and the announcement gave advice to potential bloggers. “Be snarky,” it said. “Sincerity might come back, but my guess is that it won’t for a long time.”

Come back? Did sincerity go somewhere without my knowing about it? What the heck does snarky even mean?

I looked it up. The American Heritage Dictionary describes it as:

1. Rudely sarcastic or disrespectful; snide.
2. Irritable or short-tempered; irascible.

Good news for those not in the mood for disrespectful or irritable writing. Sincerity hasn’t disappeared entirely. You can find some right here.

The Ganja Queen

Yesterday I saw a fascinating documentary about a 27-year-old Australian arrested upon entering Bali. While she was going through customs, a bag of marijuana was found in her boogie board bag. The penalty for drug smuggling in Indonesia is death by firing squad.

The movie covered the trial and its effect on this woman, her family, Australians and Indonesians.

The woman arrested, Schapelle Corby, claimed she was innocent and that someone had put the drugs in her bag. She and her legal team theorized it was done by baggage handlers within Australia, or by Indonesian customs agents.

What made the film interesting is that I really couldn’t tell whether or not she was innocent. She seemed to make a convincing case for herself. And the investigation was poorly done, making it look like she was an innocent victim. However, some facts were odd – such as the fact that the drugs were shaped perfectly to fit a boogie board. And I had a bad feeling both about her brother (who drove the family to the airport and traveled with her) and her father. They both seemed strange to me, and perhaps a bit drugged.

Today I found recent information on Wikipedia (don’t click on this until you’ve seen the movie, unless you want a spoiler) that makes her and her family’s guilt (or lack of it) easier to see. A strange and fascinating story.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Death of My Babushka

Yesterday I received the sad news from Babushka Adoption that my adopted babushka, Natalya Vasielievna, died back in February. She lived exactly one year after I departed from Kyrgyzstan.

Just recently I’d been recalling her tears when I left and my promises to send her letters and photos. I’d never gotten around to it and I reminded myself again. Now it’s too late and I feel guilty.

I’d given her a substantial amount of money when I left. I wondered whether she was able to use it to make her last year more comfortable, whether she saved it and it ended up some random neighbor, or if someone was able to con her out of it, as had happened to her before.

I think of how she survived on $20 a month, how she lived alone, selling chicken eggs to make a little money. How she had no family to turn to, despite her advanced age.

I’ve been in the States almost a year now and have started to get used to spending the amounts of money an average American does. Thinking of her make me remember the need in the world and my responsibility to do something. I’ll start by sponsoring another babushka. This woman’s name is Masha and she is 71 years ago. She’s a little bit better off in that she has children. But her daughter is in Russia and doesn’t contact her. Her 22-year-old son lives with her, but is handicapped.

This is her description:

Masha Sergeyevna was born in Frunze city, finished school there and entered the Road-transport College. From 1957 the babushka started working as a technician in the “Frunze” factory, as a secretary in the “Iron” factory then as a methodologist at Road-transport, Pedagogical and Energetic-Construction Colleges in Russia. From 1987 she worked as a manager of household in Tokmok town and from there got retired. At the moment babushka Masha lives with her son (22years), who is handicapped. She lost her husband in 2006. Babushka has a daughter in Russia, but she does not keep contact. Masha Sergeyevna suffers from high blood pressure, ischemia, arthritis, heart and other senile diseases. The apartment, where she lives has 2 rooms and needs minor repairs. The babushka’s pension is pension is not enough to purchase sufficient food, medicine and pay for public utilities.

Life is calm and pleasant these days. But I miss living in a place like Kyrgyzstan, where I learned so much every day and where I felt my work made a positive difference.