Tuesday, March 28, 2006

not for long

I've been drawing cave maps for a SE Alaska caving publication. I am sadly coming to terms with the fact that I'm retarded about envisioning spatial dimensions more complex than the typical cubic pit of archaeology. For my woes, the man I'm helping cooked me some moose and venison to try for the first time ever. They were marinated in red wine and were pretty good, but I think I'll stick to filet mignon. Although in Alaska, the deer and moose meat are probably fresher than beef.

I am deliciously happy today. I feel so good I almost feel guilty about it. And I almost feel like I shouldn't admit it, in case it's used against me by unhappy people who may get resentful or suspicious. Like I found some buried treasure, and I'm gleefully hoarding it. It's not like that at all. But it is from an unexpected source.

Recently finished: Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit ~Jeanette Winterson (one of my favorite authors)

An excerpt: “One thing I am certain of, I do not want to be betrayed, but that’s quite hard to say, casually, in the beginning of a relationship. It’s not a word people use very often, which confuses me, because there are different kinds of infidelity, but betrayal is betrayal wherever you find it. By betrayal, I mean promising to be on your side, then being on somebody else’s.”

Monday, March 27, 2006

the two most foul-mouthed people in juneau...

are my roommate and neighbor. and they are hilarious. and creative with their foul usage. my roommate is dirty in a George Carlin kind of way. I overheard a bit of his phone conversation one day, and he literally said, "So yeah, just f**king call me sometime. We'll go on a f*cking hike." and my neighbor is dirty in a Dirty Sanchez kind of way. 15 minutes with him, and you've got a preview of The Aristocrats.

Two choice comments they made this weekend:
"Let's save Terry Schiavo! Let's save a f**king bag of water on a table!" -roommate in explosive reaction to Christian conservative crusaders protesting a Christian Afghan's predicament while thousands of people have died in Iraq from the war

"You're gonna make me venir!" -neighbor after Cristina touched his necklace

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

lessons from sex & the city

i get sad when women keep trying really hard to catch someone's attention despite no signs of give from the other party. when they complain about what a jerk this guy has been recently, i want to say no, he's not being an asshole because he still hasn't asked you out on an actual date. like buerger from sex & the city, i want to say, "HE'S JUST NOT THAT INTO YOU!"

but it just makes me irritated if they use me as a negative comparison to bolster their own image. you can use whatever tricks you want to pull to trap the guy--just don't use putting down your own friends as one of them. i don't think miranda ever gossiped to a guy, "but carrie throws all her money away on ridiculous $400 shoes, so don't tease me about frivolous spending!"

i'm not mad. just saying, be careful before your insecurities shine through.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Alaska Folk Festival

On a more upbeat note... we have our 32nd annual country/bluegrass music fest coming up:

"The Alaska Folk Festival is a unique event and can be compared more to a folk life festival then to the Folk Festivals that many of us have experienced. For the most part, no one gets paid. Performers on the main stage have 15 minute sets. Dance sets in the dance hall Thursday - Saturday nights are one hour in length... Performers come from all over Alaska and also from other Northwest States as well as from just about everywhere else. Performances range from school groups to professionals. Many come from hundreds or thousands of miles away, every year. The Festival is a non profit organization funded mostly from memberships. Admittance to the festival itself is free. We do bring up one guest artist and dance caller every year."

I've heard a lot of bruhaha about this. Not about the music or the quality of performances but about the city-wide cabin fever that explodes with the heralding of spring. The week of free music and the parties that accompany it just happen to be a pretty damn good backdrop.

Monday, March 20, 2006

this month is one long day

the days are better, the nights are still so lonely

I facilitated my second high school retreat last Thurs-Fri, and its theme was Diversity and Conflict Resolution. It was surprisingly more subdued than the first one about healthy relationships, despite a number of them who make regular racist or sexist remarks, so it was a pleasant and less stressful experience than expected. My biggest problem actually came from my co-facilitator who was questionably appropriate for the job, considering he taught the kids that it was okay to make discriminatory comments/jokes as long as they were told to friends who understood that intent wasn't serious. And he dropped the "n" word on occasion because he assumed a) if it ends with -a instead of -er, it's cool and b) as a white frat boy in Juneau, he felt himself an exception to white frat boys down south who would get their asses kicked for using that lingo in the wrong place with the wrong crowd. I also presented on Filipino heritage and discrimination in Juneau and made sure to highlight that Asians don't belong to one homogenous culture, typically viewed as having Chinese and Japanese traits. In the Philippines alone, there are 156 languages spoken--not counting English or Spanish.

..I'm still struggling with my grandmother's illness and precarious situation. I don't talk much about it to people because I keep the dearest things silent, and I tend to withdraw from "whining". I don't think anyone really understands how miserable I've been about it, even my own family. I practically slept from 7pm Friday to Sunday noon. I skipped out on going tubing and a CPR training. I missed my roommate's opera and seeing the Northern Lights. I worry that people think I'm being lazy or purposefully anti-social. But I should stop worrying about what other people think; there are enough, larger concerns.

...I used to count the days, but I don't anymore. They feel less and less disparate. I wake up and two days have passed. I wake up and only 2 hours have. I wake up, and I'm still here and not where I should be, and the ache from this stretches indiscriminately from one moment to the next. He asks me every other morning if I'm feeling any better, and my answer has been, "It comes and goes." But that's not really true. It's always there; it's just my ability to mask it that fluctuates.


Tuesday, March 14, 2006

You Got Served

For the first time, I went to the Alaskan for Monday Night Raw - a weekly hip hop event - with my neighbor last night. The Taku winds have been ridiculously fierce this week, blowing 60mph, shredding my face and knocking me down and sideways as I struggle to walk up the mountain. In my opinion, Chicago doesn't deserve "the Windy City" after this experience. So we're about 10 feet from the door, and the wind suddenly blacks out all the power for the entire lower downtown area. I have been in lots of power outages before but always at my home or someone else's, so I got a kick out of hanging out in a brothel-turned-bar, where they improvised light with tea candles and kept serving people drinks on tabs anyway.

Finally after an hour and a half, when the novelty had worn thin, and we're all re-bundled in scarves and bubble jackets, the electric turns back on. There was a DJ battle that was harsh, but hilarious, and then some MCs and Random Super Drunk Guy got on stage to freestyle, so I ended up having a really good time overall.

Unfortunately, I have really bad luck running into creeps at the Alaskan because this guy I blew off awhile ago tricked me by acting cool at first, then suddenly unleashing a tirade of bitterness. "I'm over it though," he claimed after his surprise verbal onslaught, maintaining a flippant smile the whole time. I apologized anyway because I was cornered, and my nails aren't long enough to scratch his eyes out. He laughed, and I was really confused if he was joking or messing around with me or just plain crazy. "That's fine," he shrugged, "because I told everyone I f*cked you." I was speechless. All I could think was, 'Where are the MTV reality cameras? Because the weird guys my roommate and I have met this past year rivals a Real World cast. If Puck were in the same season as the 2 Vegas man-whores.' I make light of it now, but if it weren't for my neighbor fortuitously appearing and asking me to go upstairs at that moment, I would have ended up breaking my bottle on the side of the bar and shivving the asshole.

Monday, March 13, 2006

he says i'm a ball not a burrito

some things made me happy to finally socialize this weekend. there was a moment where i was again reminded of how much i love living here. a group of us was standing outside a birthday party, and we were all looking up at the alaskan skies hoping to glimpse the aurora. oh well if a pyro had just set fire to the front yard foosball table, reminiscent of USC frat parties my freshman year. or that the reason we had our hopes up to begin with was because some guy had just arrived proclaiming it loudly, and he, in all likelihood, was stoned. but i was standing out there with my girl friends realizing that i don't look up enough. i spend too much time looking at the ground, making sure i don't slip on the ice or get too much snow in shoes clearly not made for winter but i suck at dressing for the weather that way. so even though we still didn't see those evading northern lights, it was nice to be reminded of beauty and potential. not to mention that the typical juneau house party involves free crab. score!

sunday morning, i felt a different kind of special moment. the kind when i really want a sex change operation if it meant i'd stop overanalyzing every pause and muscle twitch. then again if i changed sex, i'd be a philandering jerk instead. not because i'm sexist. but because it runs in my family.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

no woman is an island

you know what i love? friends who cheer me up while i'm working at the stripclub gym. they're inviting me to go out to open mic tonight. i've holed myself up for 2 months, drowning in tv and cigarettes, so i guess it'd be good for me to revive social connections at a time when i feel most alone. oh who am i kidding, the two offers of buying me a drink sold me.

p.s. so this guy just tried to hit on me, awkwardly. no matter that i'm looking pissed as i'm typing intently on my laptop and avoiding eye contact. in steroid land, these are obviously come hither signs. he's so pumped up it looks like he's constantly carrying invisible children under each arm. and it's a good thing you can't see them because they're crying and screaming for help. apparently he hit on my roommate last night too.

Dude: So, are you Peace Corps too?
Me: No, I'm an Americorps VISTA. It's like a domestic Peace Corps.
Dude: You guys are everywhere here!
Me: Yep... we're like cicadas that way.
Dude: Uhh.. so where are you from?
Me: Ohio
Dude: Oh there's a lake there with my family name on it.
Me: Is that so? ... Where is it?
Dude: North of Cleveland somewhere.
Me: Funny. Huffman doesn't sound like Erie.

the futile pursuit of happiness

Currently marinating on this:
I was flipping through The Best American NonRequired Reading last night and happened upon an interesting article about happiness. Originally published in the New York Times, the journalist discussed a team of Harvard psychologists and economists who were researching this abstract emotion and finding interesting results. For example, counter-intuitive though it may seem, people are happier with closure than with choice. Students in a photography class were asked to choose their two favorite pictures--one for the teacher and one to keep. One group had the option to switch after a few days. Which group was happier? The one who had to stick with what they originally decided. It's no wonder arranged marriages are as equally un/successful as love-based ones. Other studies proved how consistently lousy we all are at predicting what will make us happy in the future; therefore, we're constantly making poor life decisions hoping to reach that ephemeral state. A basic example was thinking a spacious house is what you always wanted without factoring in the psychological/emotional cost of distance from neighbors and a lacking sense of community. Or another: the majority of people choosing to have a trick knee over a broken wrist. Or another: the idea that having kids will make for a better life despite evidence that people without children lead just as happy (or unhappy) lives, not to mention a dramatic drop in marital happiness. Basically, we're opting for low-key but chronic suffering because the immediate acute pain or sense of loss seems overwhelming. Which economically speaking, they say, is pretty stupid of us.

An excerpt from Harvard News:
"People believe they can predict their happiness more accurately without drawing on the experience of others," Gilbert says. "I dare say that living next door to a family with ill-behaved, undisciplined kids never stopped people from having their own children."

So what are the secrets to a happy life? Gilbert recommends starting with the fact that happiness is not a permanent possession. It's a state that you move in and out of. "The fact that you're not always happy is not a problem," he says. "So don't look for a solution when there is no problem."

Next, develop your own philosophy of happiness. Don't accept the consumerism philosophy delivered in ads that tout new cars, more fashionable clothes, or better restaurants. "Look at your own life, and ask what has brought you the most joy," Gilbert notes. "Most times the answer lies in people, in friends and family. It comes mainly from relationships, not from stuff. "Finally, in trying to determine what will make you happiest, look to others who have already made the decisions you face. Try to honestly figure out how happy they are."

Monday, March 06, 2006

everyone else is struggling too

i was a mess at work this afternoon. luckily, it was past 5pm so most people were already gone, and i just closed my office door and bawled and talked to my sister on the phone. my lola (tagalog for grandmother) has terminal leukemia and is still hospitalized. my mom and i got in a stupid fight talking about it because we're both so stressed. my lola pretty much raised me as a child when my dad was in the US and my mom was working in bahrain. she's always been so proud of me, more than my own parents. she always bragged about my achievements to my other cousins and has constantly made me feel like the world was mine, that i could do anything, even when others doubted or condescended. now i am freaking out that i'm so far away, and i don't know if i should visit her soon for a significantly shorter amount of time (2 weeks or less) or wait until this summer when i can be there for 3 months but risk it being too late. i hate how money can limit something this crucial. if i could, i'd go twice. but one ticket's already $1200. there's no way of predicting the future, and nobody wants to tell me what to do, when to go, what i can live with... i don't even want to decide myself.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

post-conference fiesta

I am really happy with what happened at our session and excited about the possibilities. The professor earnestly thinks I would get published. Graduate scholarships will rain down upon me, and Harvard will be knocking at the door, he teased. I felt an instinctive pang of anxiety, remembering USC's silver plattered future and how I threw it back in their face. Anyway, at the very least, I have a head start on my master's thesis, if the cultural anthro transnationalism/migration path is what I choose over archaeology. I'm still torn.

Afterward, the family I'm staying with had a food bonanza: salad with fresh chunks of crabmeat; prime rib roast with au jus; another entree with beef in tomato-based sauce, red peppers, and potatoes; baked white fish; Hawaiian bread rolls; corn, rice, baked potatoes, spaghetti, cheesecake, and local red wine.

I was so much more excited about that dinner than the actual anthropology meeting. I really think I'd like to be a chef. There goes that academic death-wish again.

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Friday, March 03, 2006

Midnight on 5 Cups of Coffee

i can get wireless here in kodiak if i kneel on a lumpy couch facing east with the laptop propped precariously on a window ledge. that's when it's not raining or snowing or between the hours of 5-11p.m. my first day here, the resident representatives of the God squad rescued me at the airport and expressed serious qualms about dropping me off at some strangers' house. that's because i didn't know who i was staying with, which is often the case when i travel. they turned out to be wonderful and extraordinarily hospitable people, which is often the case with strangers i meet in my travels.

my presentation has morphed considerably since its conception. hell, it's a totally different creature from sunday afternoon at rehearsal. it's also much longer than 15 minutes but luckily for me, and maybe not so much for the audience, the person scheduled after me is a no-show so if/when i do run long, nobody's going to stab me with a prehistoric bone artifact after the conference. i do feel really awkward about my topic now because i am a lone cultural anthropology paper - about filipinos no less - in a sea of alaskan archaeology and native heritage preservation. i have a feeling my "audience" is going to be the filipino janitor. and that's probably just because he's mopping up the mess from the last ass whose presentation ran long. @!#$%

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