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My caffeine-love-affair-du-jour, two hours before closing, discounts everything for their version of a happy hour. I didn’t plan ahead, and I found myself in need of breaking down a bill before paying bus fare on my way out the office. These two completely normal events combined into something strange for me, since I try to limit my sweet tooth to chocolate,  in that I just devoured an apple-cinnamon bear claw the size of my face. This is a sizeable measure, in that my forehead alone is considered prime advertising space by the car-wrapping  industry.
So, it is with an escalating sugar high that I introduce you to a topic I’ve wanted to write about for quite some time – failure. I actually have many thoughts on the subject of failure, since I think our society (individually and collectively) is under-equipped to deal with it, but I will space it out over the blog. The specific thing I want to focus on here is what I call “the other ADD” – sure, neither Attention Deficit Disorder nor it’s Hyperactive cousin should be overlooked as serious issues (and, if properly supported, gifts), but I want to talk about another framework. In what I consider to be extensive experience with failure and distraction (and yes, with success, too, but that’s not important), I’ve noticed that people, organizations, and general “things” fail for one of three specific reasons: Aversion, Diversion, or Delusion.
There it is, the other ADD. Yes, this framework focuses on the power of the individual, because that’s where I believe useful discussions of failure reside. If it is not within the power of the individual to succeed, then I don’t call it failure – it’s a stacked playing field, it’s unfair, it’s an impossibility, but it is not failure. This is, ostensibly, one of the finer points of terminology I use to exemplify our inability to handle the idea of failure: if someone “fails” out of school, the first question needs to be “Were they given an equal playing field” not “What did they do wrong”. Failure goes both ways – if the student fails the school, then the school itself has failed to perform. Most things in society, especially education, are not a doctrine – they’re a dialogue. If we as individuals are given the opportunity to take a part in that dialogue, this is where my ADD comes in to play.
Let’s start with “aversion” – what is it? To be “averse” to something, I must really not want to do it, be near it, partake of it, etc. I avoid it, not necessarily out of any sense of reason but typically because I just don’t like it. It may not even be a conscious aversion  – many people with intimidating letters after their name make big money from this fact alone. Many times our aversions aren’t even our own – society tells us to hate something, and for some reason we find that agreeable. Fat-shaming, racism, ageism, and bullying are some of the by-products of this, and the victims are too numerous and depressing to count; but this works no less effectively on the level of the individual than it does in society. How many dreams of your own, or how many of your opportunities, have been missed because the path to success had a few objects of your aversion?
One of the examples I have for this is correspondence – yes, I love the idea of writing and receiving actual, physical letters, but for some reason I can’t stand the idea of going to the post office to mail things, or even making the effort to go to a mailbox. I haven’t been able to figure this out, and I struggle with it weekly as I write. I’ve had addressed envelopes in my bag for three weeks now, and stamps in my desk, and for some reason I do not get around to it. Certainly, this is an unusual focus for aversion, but I think the mechanics and end results might sound familiar to most people. Even once I finally send a batch of letters, I don’t feel some modicum of success – rather, I’m just exasperated at myself for taking so long. In younger children, we see this a lot with chores and homework – actually, in pretty much anyone under the age of 25 this is a distinct possibility, with many college students not wanting to do work or go to class (to the point of failure), and we’ve all heard stories about the college roommate nightmare-beast who never cleaned anything.
In the professional world, it’s a bit trickier: what actually constitute smart management practices may look like aversion, and sometimes playing along with aversion is a smart management practice. There are thousands of different frameworks and terms and diagrams and courses and, well, information junk that deal with motivation practices and policies for employees or customers or volunteers or whatever. Different ones work in different environments, and some are popularly accepted as “true” – but in each instance, they deal with understanding and altering the object of aversion. Whichever candle you light in a person, the end goal is to keep the darkness away.
In the interest of actually getting this blog post out there, albeit weeks late, I’m going to be a tease and save “Diversion” and “Delusion” for another day.

“You, like every human being, are a storyteller by birthright. You are born with an endless supply of personal and universal themes. It is important to open yourself to receive the vast wealth of imagery that lives within you. Build a hearth within you and let it become a circle of protection. In it your heart’s wisdom may ignite and burn. Ask that all who gather at your fire from your own inner skies, lands, and waters come with goodwill to share their truths in its warmth.” – Nancy Mellon, “Storytelling & the Art of Imagination”

Storytelling is one of my dedicated passions–at least for the next three weeks, and then we’ll see. Let me clarify: my job is all about supporting my boss’ incredible ability to tell a story, yes, but my personal life is being governed by an event I’m planning for November 6th, and that’s the stressful side of things.

Last summer, I spent a week in Hiroshima, visiting one of my role models and third-grade teacher, JoAnn. She and her husband were serving the end of their two-year term as the head of the World Friendship Center, a small but impressive organization that championed the rights and cause of the “hibakusha” – survivors of the atomic bomb. I can (and will) write much more about the history of the hibakusha and my experience with them during my visit, but for now suffice to say that all of this culminated in agreeing to help plan a keynote address on the Willamette campus come September. That planning process turned out to be a very enlightening journey in itself, one that was plagued by my absolute inexperience with event planning on this scale and in the Willamette community, but which benefited greatly from the sheer level of interest that people had in the stories of the hibakusha. The World Friendship Center organized a trip like this every three years, but to different locations around the world, so we were incredibly lucky to have this opportunity.

Building on that success, we’re putting together another speaking event at the start of next month that focuses on the stories of those who were involved with the Minidoka Relocation Center, of the Japanese-American internment camps during World War II. We have an interned speaking, as well as the son of Reverend Emery Andrews (the name should be familiar to anyone who took a WA state history class), and the current head of interpretation and education at the Minidoka Historical Site. It’s going to be fantastic, and it’s going to be timely: there have been an increasing number of performances of topical plays such as Gordon Hirabayashi’s “Hold These Truths” in the Pacific Northwest; there is the upcoming release of the movie adaptation of Laura Hillebrand’s riveting biopic “Unbroken”; and just in Salem the Halle Ford Museum is bringing in an exhibit about the artist’s life in interment camps and how it affects his identity even today. Willamette University’s Office of Multicultural Affairs is focusing on the internment as part of their theme for the entire year. George Takei, who was in two separate internment camps as a young child, is speaking on campus on November 11th. There is widespread interest amongst people in the area.

My challenge is to put those “people in the area” in a specific area at a specific time – Willamette’s Hudson Hall at 7pm on Thursday the 6th. Unlike last year’s event, which was generously funded in advance of my involvement, I’m tasked with raising a certain amount of funds and selling tickets is one of my limited number of options for the timeline and organizational structure with which we’re working; the other is getting sponsorship. I have experience with neither, and this is a great example of why I termed my blog “We’ll See Where This Takes Me” – the answer is always some sort of an adventure.

What’s the next step after the Minidoka event? That’s where I see the most relevance in the above quote. I have been thinking on and off about taking these two successful events – this one will be successful, I have no doubt – and starting an event-planning nonprofit. Everyone is a storyteller by birthright, and I think that there will never be a shortage of experiences to share – especially those which can educate our communities and their leaders. In fact, I’ve almost finished the first draft of the business plan for such an organization, but I’m going to have to bench it until the right opportunity arises. I know it will, but I need to get my own life in order first.


[I actually had an introduction to this post, but it didn’t fit well with the rest of the text, so here it is (anachronistically) for your viewing pleasure:]

I just chugged a hefty cup of coffee, so now is as good a time as any to start writing.


As one of the many facets of my job, I’ve been laying the foundation of the next book my boss is set on writing. This mostly consists of researching a specific type of quote–no, I won’t divulge any more details about products currently in development–and during my slog through the sound bites I started picking out quotes that don’t necessarily qualify in his framework but seem to inspire mine. Being a philosophy major (and you’re welcome to roll your eyes in exasperation every time I say that) and specifically interested in language and the mind, many quotes, declarations, one-liners, and especially manifestos tend to strike me as either energetic fluff or distillation of once-important concepts that have been reduced past the point of coherence. At least, they did, until I started working for a motivational speaker – his job is to infuse meaning into words and experience, so I imagine that him hiring me is akin to a structural engineer hiring a demolitions crew to help run things.


In all of this, though, I’ve decided that these quotes I’ve been pulling out will serve as intermittent inspiration for my writing. Let’s give it a try…

First off, I must apologize for ceasing to exist. It’s a hobby of mine. Over the past few semesters, I’ve found myself so inundated by not just school and work, but unfathomable anxiety with which I’m just beginning to come to terms; but I would rather show you than tell you, so here follows an excerpt from a letter I recently sent to a few of my friends:

“So, I’m halfway through my junior year at Willamette. Yay! No, really, save for the last semester-and-a-half, it’s been mostly enjoyable. The two biggest changes for me are that I changed my major from physics to comparative literature, and that I joined the fraternity Phi Delta Theta. I’m going to let those sink in for a moment, since in all honesty they are probably more of a surprise than anything else I’ve written. In terms of my major, I found that my class in Quantum Physics was very educating (sometimes even in terms of physics!) and I’m applying what I learned to create a nice, large escape velocity. Since I’ve taken a good amount of courses in the sciences, I’m concentrating on modern scientific understanding in society and government, and comp. lit will allow me to finally take some more humanities courses to round out my education. As for the fraternity, they’ve been very respectful of my position on Greek life for two years (‘hahahaNO’), and after they supported me through a lot of last semester, I decided that joining the friends I had made independently was absolutely worth it.

But what would life be without a little irony? Comparative literature was the example major I used when I was explaining to the Dean ‘which crazy majors should be cut’; and within Phi Delt, I’m serving as the recruitment chair after having rejected colleges during the decision process based on their Greek system. Now that I’ve decided to take Chinese, I’m in charge of a program where studying Japanese again would have been a much better choice socially and even professionally. Sometimes, I like to think that I hold the esteemed position of ‘karma’s chew toy.'”

I feel that this paints a fairly clear picture of where I am right now, and yes, there are some juicy parts missing from that excerpt – but I can’t just give away all the good stuff! One of my New Year’s resolutions was to write daily, maybe not on the blog, but daily nonetheless; so expect a better showing, albeit much shorter than my previous posting habit.


Vienna – the Fifth

Things you don’t hear every morning: “Good luck at the graveyard!”

While some mornings, much like yesterday, I feel as though indeed there is nothing but a metaphorical graveyard waiting for me if I leave the tender embrace of my covers, this morning there is an actual, real graveyard that I’m heading to today (as a visitor). I’m going to save the long story for a rainy day (today it’s just snowing), but I should tell you that my genealogy is well established on my father’s side of the family, and for my mother’s dad – but on my mother’s mother’s side it gets murky, and my goal today is to achieve one more step towards clarification; namely, locating my great-grandparents’ graves.

Here is what I know: My great-grandfather’s name was George Felix Bume, changed from Baum for obvious reasons during the holocaust and WWI; he passed in 1936. His first wife’s name was Grete Katarina Bume; his second wife was also Grete Bume, and she passed in either 1963 or 64. A little confusing with the two Grete Bumes, but otherwise fairly straightforward.

Here’s the only clue I have to finding their graves: “Both of your grandparents are buried somewhere in Vienna.”

Let me make something clear: Vienna, as a city, is gigantic. 1.7 million in the city, with 2.3 million in the overall metropolitan area, which makes it the tenth largest city in the EU. Seattle, by comparison, has a little over 600,000 in the city, with, yes, 3.3 million in the metro area (go us, being 15th largest in the U.S. based on population). In terms of land area though, the city of Seattle is 83.87 square miles; Vienna, 152.7. In that space there are not one, not two, but twelve different and well-spaced cemeteries on the map have; in reality there are fifty distinct cemeteries in Vienna.

And I’m looking for two graves. Maybe. If, in the course of your studies, you are required to define or give an example of “a fool’s errand”, please, feel free to cite this one.

Where to begin? Zentralfriedhof, or “Central Cemetery”, located absolutely nowhere near the center of anything. Here’s how you reach it: Take the orange (U4) line to the very last station (Simmering); get off, climb up the stairs, and walk for two kilometers through the city.

For those of you that haven’t already brought up the Wikipedia article on “Zentralfriedhof”, let me give you the juicy parts:

-the cemetery spans over 2.4 square kilometers, with over 3.3 million interred here. That makes it the second largest cemetery in Europe, and more creepily, it holds the entire population of the Seattle metro area dead and buried.

-the musician Wolfgang Ambros wrote a song called “Long Live the Zentralfriedhof”… Just think about that for a moment.

-there are two Jewish sections in the cemetery (which is where I’m searching, in case you couldn’t guess by the “Baum”), one of which was mostly destroyed by the Nazis during Kristallnacht.

Right now my plan consists of going to the cemetery, and running around the Jewish sections until my hands freeze. Never, ever, put me in charge of search and rescue unless you don’t want to get found.


Sitting at breakfast, doing my eating thing. I’m sitting at a table with three other lovely ladies; two of them are talking to each other, and the third is just sitting quietly on the other side of the table with her breakfast. I don’t know any of them, nor am I planning on striking up a conversation – instead, during the lunchroom game this morning, I asked myself how I wanted to start the day, and decided I would rather at least be sitting at a table with people than at a table by myself. And these ladies look friendly enough. Let’s eat.

During the course of my breakfast (which was almost identical to yesterday’s, save for two kiwis), Andrew and Rachel showed up. I hadn’t factored them into my lunchroom game before because it was already 8:30 when I got there (breakfast ends at 9 o’clock sharp) and I thought I had missed them; needless to say, I was pleasantly surprised when they showed up.


Honestly, it’s probably the coldest I’ve ever experienced, which might make me sound like a wuss, but I fully welcome you to bask in the glorious bone-shattering chill. I’m wearing my heavy pants, a sweater over my shirt, and my heavier jacket, and I am quite cold – and I’m less bundled than most of the natives we’re seeing.

Andrew, Rachel and I are trekking to Media Markt (no “e”). Andrew and I are on a mission: He needs to buy a new cord for his netbook (it short-circuited courtesy of Venetian floods) and I need a new flash drive (I already have 4-gig and 16-gig sticks, but I have maxed them out with all my music, pictures and videos). What I really need is a 1.5 terabyte drive – of my 14 gigs of pictures and recordings, I took 12 gigs of that since December 17th (that converts to just under 6 gigs a week) and I am picky about deleting (of the pictures I take each week, I’ll delete maybe 5%, not counting the pictures that I put in multiple albums). Granted, at that rate it would take me a while to fill up a terabyte and a half, but that doesn’t include my music collection, my videos, or my design work. So Santa, I’m getting a head start on my list this year.

Anyway, we’re in Media Markt, which is a risky proposition for me – I tend to be an impulsive shopper. Fortunately, I have two tricks at my disposal as I peruse the 32-gig flash drives or the even more awesome 32-gig Extreme (TM) San Disk camera cards (did I mention it sounds amazing?): one, I multiply every price by 1.5, which is only a little higher than the current exchange rate (ouch) and two, I’m only carrying roughly 25 Euro on me.

Fifteen minutes later, now, and we’re just leaving – me with an 8-gig drive and some more batteries (they keep on freezing), and Andrew with the knowledge that he could technically run the computer with cord, without the battery, since the cord is actually not broken (he tested it).

Now to test a hypothesis: I have no more cash on me. There is ATM outside the Media Markt. I am going to Prague tomorrow (surprise!) so I don’t need that much more to survive – let’s say 50 Euro for whatever may happen. Remember the “Theory of Moody ATMs” posited in my previous entry? Yeah, it’s been proven. One bill, a 50, ejected from the slot. Oh well.


Rachel, Andrew, and I parted ways at Karlsplatz, where they left to go to a cafe and find the opera house; I continued on the U3 line to the transfer point to the U4 at Landestrasse, went to Simmering, and took the aforementioned trek down to my current location, the Zentralfriedhof.

It’s big.

From my location in the corner (my point of entry, closest to the Jewish area) I am staring down fairly wide roads, and am unable to see the far walls – its just a forest of tombstones and other instances of funereal remembrance. More than creepy it is elegant; the quiet I am now enfolded in is not that of death, per se, but of regality; I am a visitor at millions of palaces, each with their lone regent beneath the frozen ground.

A moment of silence for those who have passed.

Now it’s time to begin the search. I am purposely not looking at a map yet so not to get discouraged (yet). I’m doing a loop around the outside of the first group of tombstones I see – ten squares of tombstones, laid twenty by twenty. Round, around, then in and out, across and back – always stepping right behind the head of the tombstones in the previous row so as to carefully and respectfully avoid trespassing on someone’s throne. Back, forth, up down, back forth, across, again.

Two thousand tombstones later, I am starting to get discouraged, and more than that I am beginning to chill. My messenger bag is frozen, as is my map and my enthusiasm for this task. I still manage to push on, muttering something to myself about how this is family, and how I shouldn’t give up; a thousand tombstones ago it wasn’t a mutter, but a fresh reprimand for even thinking about stopping – but most things are dead in a cemetery, and my resolve was quickly joining their ranks.

Finally, I look at the map of the Jewish section – in terms of my foolish enthusiasm, this is the death blow. Those ten squares comprised roughly one-fifth of “Area 6.” There are, according to the map, twelve areas remaining, some larger than this. By rough approximation, I have one-hundred-and-eighteen thousand tombstones left. In this cemetery



I was absolutely freezing while my resolve lay on its death bed; a such, we held the funeral in the heated church at the front entrance to the entire Zentralfriedhof. The body was carried down the long road for twenty minutes, from the side wall to the main entrance; laid to rest in the main church; and then buried in my memory. I was the only one in attendance.


Best idea ever? Catching the tram back to the Simmering subway station rather than walking another two and a half kilometers. next best idea? Food. Broke that 50 like a glass bowling ball, and received two excellent melts from one of the bakeries inside the station. Caught the subway back to Landestrasse; then on to Hutteldorf. Got a bottle of water on the way back to the hostel.

Now I’m packing for my inadvertent foray to Prague. I had initially taken over all my allotted space (I do that well) so getting all of my animals back in their respective cages is a difficult task. I’ve already pulled out the singular outfit that I’m wearing tonight and tomorrow, and have set aside my shower gear and other toiletries; the rest of my mess is being systematically removed from my bed, the platform at the head of my bed, the platform at the foot of my bed, the bed underneath mine, the floor, the communal table, two of the communal chairs, and my closet. I came, I saw, I conquered, and now I’m retreating, making a clean international getaway.


To put the rest of my day in the style of one of my favorite alternative periodicals: nothing really happened today, except that Andrew and I grabbed various packages of tortellinis and dumplings from the nearby Spar for dinner, used a microwave (for what purpose, I’m not sure), and settled down with Rachel in the lounge to eat our cold dinner and discuss the details of the next leg of our now-aligned journeys: Prague.


Vienna – the Fourth

Today was just simply great. It was simple; it was great. I’ve been trying to find some way of adjudicating my day using big words and long-winded sentences, but really, that defeats the entire purpose.

This morning started off with a bang. And a crash, a few scrapes, and one or two “thuds.” One of my roommates is not exactly quiet when it comes to rifling through his stuff at seven in the morning, and by “rifling” I mean “throwing his backpack against the floor, table, walls, window, and most likely the ceiling”. Needless to say, I was solidly awake by the time he finished, and ready to greet the brand new day with a smile on my face!

If you know me, you know exactly what kind of animal dropped that last steaming pile of words.

Let’s try this again:

It’s 6:10 and my watch is going off; oh joy. I had some trouble sleeping last night (does laying in bed wide awake for three hour sound fun?) so with the 6:10 alarm I’ve gotten exactly four hours and fifty minutes of sleep. My rule in these situations is that [(if hours unconscious < 6) then (the world = not worth it right now)]. This applies to the fact that I was planning on exercising this morning, which is the exact reason why I was in bed at ten o'clock – so I could up at 6:10, work out, and have my day.

Well that's not happening folks, sorry.

It's 7:00 and the civil war between my roommate, Jason, and his luggage has begun; from the sounds of it, both sides are taking heavy losses. My other roommate, Taylor, is gone, probably to forage some food from whatever the breakfast situation is downstairs. I roll over to try and block out the sound of battle, but my precious sleep has already been claimed as a casualty of war.

It's now 7:20 and the war has just been won by Jason; to celebrate, he threw a parade, out the door, with his laptop and a new outfit claimed from the enemy. I'm celebrating by turning on the little lamp over my bed to try and motivate myself into waking up. Baby steps, people.

It's 7:35 and I am crawling out of bed; after changing clothes and drinking some precious water, I continue working until Taylor comes back from the hunt and announces that breakfast consists of “yogurt, bread, jam, and some other stuff but no ham and no cheese.”


An interlude: In the short time I've been over here, I've had some sort of bread (be it a roll, croissant, or some other lump of baked dough) with cheese (generally swiss) and sliced meat (generally ham) **every** single morning, and I'm really starting to like that habit. It's tasty, generally cheap, and has carbs, dairy and protein.


With the idea of food having been established in my mind, I head downstairs to find that there is a smörgåsbord of urprisingly decent food considering this is a cheap hostel – to begin with I see that there are both plates and bowls, which means that there are at least two types of food. Further down the line I see gigantic punch bowls (for lack of a better descriptor) full of yogurt, strawberry jam, packets of butter, packets of liver spread (some people are into that), curds, and finally, orange slices; around the corner on the tables facing me are coffee, tea, and hot chocolate jugs, and across the gap are baskets and baskets of bread. As an added bonus, behind the bread table are containers of cornflakes and milk.

Let's do this. I begin by stocking up with every tool they have to offer – tray, plate, bowl, knife, spoon – and begin with the yogurt. I love yogurt. One of my favorite tv characters loves yogurt (Michael Westin from Burn Notice). Everybody should love yogurt. ANYWAY, this being some weird-looking yogurt that I have never tried before, naturally I filled up the entire bowl. Now, I should quickly describe these bowls – when I say “bowl” you're probably thinkin something along the lines of “something mostly round that-” but let me stop you right there. Height-wise, the rim of the bowl is maybe an inch and a half above the bottom; seriously, this piece of glass is only a bowl by nature of the fact that it would mke an even worse plate. So when I say that I filled up my bowl with yogurt, I mean I took maybe a spoonful and a half. Moving on from there, in anticipation of the bread to come I grabbed a few packets of butter, with an experimental liver spread packet just for kicks, got a mug with hot water and a mint teabag, and metaphorically dove into the bread baskets. One basket was full of white bread, while the ther one had pumpkin, multi-grain, and basic brown bread; there was a tray of some sort of weird pastry thing; and again, natrally I took one.

And this is when I was hit with the lunchroom dilemma. You know that little game that you play when you walk into a cafeteria and you try and decide where to sit, who to sit by, who looks friendly, who looks like they're going to eat you, etc etc etc? Well that game gets even more interesting when have the hostelling equivalent of the UN to choose from, in a strange country with strange people; not knowing who spoke what language, or who used what customs, I divebombed the last empty table and began to eat my yogurt.

Now I'm sitting here eating this yogurt (which is excellent, by the way) and watching the comings and goings of the arbitrary UN Council on Cafeteria Dynamics, when I see this American couple that I sort-of maybe had half a conversation with.


Definition: “Sort-of maybe half a conversation”
A period of time where dialogue exists between two parties, but nothing important gets said. Generally takes place before introductions are made.

e.g., I'm standing at the check-in counter yesterday, waiting for the luggage room key, when Mr. American (a moderately tall, black-haired bespectacled boy probably about the same age as myself) approached the counter to check in and also asked if they could break a fifty-euro bill. The clerk said, “No, sorry, I don't have any change” which is a whole lot nicer than “Well I did have enough, but that jerk standing next to you waiting for the luggage room key payed with a hundred-euro bill and cleaned me out.” For the record, you can tell when an ATM is on it's period because it only spits out the largest bills it can find – you would think it would be consistant, but so far I have gotten my money out in only tens, only twentys, and a few mixtures of things, but this last one just spit out a solid hundred-Euro note. This wouldn't be so bad if I was buying something pricey, but I'm on a student budget – my biggest expense besides lodging is the 5 Euro that I'll spend on my next meal, and who wouldn't feel like a jerk in that situation?

Anyway, so he obviously needed some change so I enacted the half-dialogue:

“Hey, you need change?” Restatement of the obvious in a feeble attempt to break the ice.
“…Yeah” Recognition that indeed, you did just state the obvious; but wait, who the heck are you anyway and why do you want to know?
“I can do that actually; it's sort of my fault since I'm the guy that just took all her change.”
Insert feeble smile from the clerk.
“Oh great, thanks!”
Insert me smiling awkwardly at Ms. American standing behind me.

Yup. That was exciting.


So I see this couple getting their food, and as they finish up I sort of half-wave (I don't think we need to define what that means) to try and get tehir attention. You know, nothing major, since I don't want to seem to desperate; but I'm not always so great at subtlty, and for some reason they didn't what really turned out to just be me looking like I was partially epileptic.

I love body language. Time to break out the bg guns – eye contact. So now in the midst of the UN Council of Food Consumption theres this American boy with his eyes locked on this couple and his eyebrows doing what can only be described as the funky chicken dance. Don't pretend you've never done that either. Eventually they saw that my table had lots of empty seats with one of them filled by someone who wouldn't eat them (see above note on the lunchroom game) and one simultaneous “Wouldyouliketositcanwejoinyouhere?” later, they sat down to eat.

At this point it would be typical to do introductions, but me being me I had to get cornflakes. Seriously. So I ran to go get another “bowl” and on my to get some milk I notice that in the refrigerated shelf where they're advertising soda and orange juice, they also had plates of salami and cheese for sale; not only was that exactly wht I was looking for, but 1,40 for six pieces of salami and five pieces of cheese isn't bad at all. So I dropped off my mound of corn flakes, ran upstairs to get a 2-Euro piece, ran back, bought the plate, and settled down to properly meet my compatriots.

Of course I was a little nervous about this – not because I don't feel comfortable meeting new people, I truly love it – but because they could turn out to be “my group” for the duration of my stay here, and hence my sanity is invested in this.

However, sometimes the ice breaks itself in these situations; for example, there's nothing quite like coming back to the table and hearing “I swear, Harry Potter **was** in our room last night” to really just set your mind at ease.

I'm going to enjoy these people's company, even if only for breakfast.

So there I am, standing with a quizzical look on my face, when Mr. American turns to me and just says, “Well he was!”

To which, of course, the only proper reply is, “Well it sounds like magic was happening.”

Yes, the delegates from America are just that awesome.


Over the course of breakfast, I learned that the Americans have names (Andrew and Rachel) and that they, too, are on a gap year – but unlike me they are using this year to study Spanish at a university in Granada. More specifically, Andrew is on a complete gap year, and has been already accepted and confirmed at Tufts; and Rachel is going to use the credit from her studies to transfer in as a Sophomore at the always popular TBD University (I was considering going there for most of my junior year). Both are originally from Chicago; both love music. Ironic because the last time I was in Chicago was for an orchestra competition, but it's always great to meet other musicians. Andrew plays the piano (pretty well, from what I gather) and Rachel sings (although she has tried her hand at various instruments, including the bassoon). This whole conversation came up from the question, “What are your plans for the day?” to which they responded, “We were going to see the Mozart House and then the Music Museum. What are yours?” to which I in turn responded to with a quizzical look (I'm good at that) and a “Oh, you must like music” (I'm also excellent at stating the obvious as well, in case that was not already…..obvious……damn it).

My plans for the day, as they stand now, are to see Schonbrunn Palace, a supposedly very beautiful sight that is the top of the tourist to-do list in Vienna. I invited them to come with me, but you know how musicians can be. Anyway, we discussed our individual plans for the rest of the week (and just so my mother knows, I have planned out what I am doing each day, when I am leaving, the subway route, my walking path, and the operating hours and admission at each venue I plan on visiting); but it turns out that these two are heading to Prague on Wednesday and now I am very tempted to scrap the aforementioned plan that took most of last night….more on that later.

I did discuss my plans for the reat of the week anyway though, and when gesturing wildly in the air (the always-handy and questionably-effecvtive 'air map') failed we went upstairs to find a real map twenty minutes, lots of storytelling, some planning, and a few pieces of Mozartkugeln later (you can't visit the Mozart House until you have Mozartkugeln), we parted ways – Andrew & Rachel to the Mozart House and myself to my room to gather my things, and then on to Scloss Schonbrunn.


Now I'm walking through the park trying to find the palace. “What park?” I hear you asking; and I can assure you that I'm asking myself the exact same question. Guess who left their map in their room; come on, one guess. Is it the guy who meticulously planned out each little detail of his day trips? Hm? Yep. He forgot to grab the map on the way out. Now I'm walking through a large, somewhat barren park – Schloss Schonbrunn is, according to the map, over one kilometer in ech direction and has a large park, and so logically I headed for the first large park I saw at the “Schonbrunn” subway stop. Something that large should be hard to miss; and yet, this is not the correct park. Go me.

It looks like there is a large somewhat ornate building up around the corner, maybe that's it.

Nope, that says…Technical Museum? Okay, where the heck am I now?? Wait I remember that the Technial Museum was a bit above the palace….so if I turn around and head south I should see it eventually. Let's try that.

Or I could just actually turn around, since the palace is now staring at me from across the river. I'm not usually this bad with orientation, I swear.


I'm just inside the palace now. I walked through a rather large courtyard, into a little side door, and was greeted by a massive line for tickets extending from the ticket booths at one end of the room all the way to the ticketing kiosks at the other. Yeah. So I bought my ticket, walked around the gigantic queue, and entered the museum no problem – and then got my audio guide and proceeded to waltz up the stairs, literally (because in Vienna, waltzes are the background music for everything).

But speaking of stairs, these were cool. Aptly named the “blue stairs” they were adorned with a royal blue carpet running down the middle of the marble steps that turned up to the second floor, Above us were tall windows with ornate framework (only one was restored to it's original gold covering) and above that there stretched a beautifully painted ceiling of some obscure reference to Austria's power (seriously, it was not described). The audio guide did say, however, that the palace was originally a hunting lodge that was later converted to a live-in palace; but even as a palace it was much less ornate until Maria Theresa and Queen Elizabeth of Austria (called Sissi) had it redecorated and maintained in a rococo style.

I'm not going to write a history paper here, so don't hold your breath, but I am going to go into detail so if you want to skip to the next part, scroll down until you see the dashes.

We worked our way through the Guard room, where four mannequins were on display in various military garb – this was the room where the guards protected the emperor's chambers, and it was where anyone who wanted an audience with the the emperor (Franz Joseph I) had to pass through. Next was the reception room, where, as named, people waited for the emperor; it had a rather large pool table to entertain the guards. attached to this, but closed save but for viewing, was the aides-de-camp room, where the emperor's aides would wait to help the emperor for whatever he might need; and then there was the emperor's study itself, a beautiful room made of what must have been chestnut, with bookshelves, a simple yet regal desk, and a series of beautiful gold candlesticks “scattered” about. Apparently Franz Joseph I gave audience to over 100 people almost every single morning, and had an excellent enough memory to not forget any details. I was impressed.

The next three rooms were unfortunately under constructions, with the walls covered and the furniture removed; apparently they were the bedchamber of Franz Joseph (where he died), his latrine, and one other thing that I'm not too sure about. Past that were a series of three rooms that belonged to Sissi, the emperor's cousin and wife, beginning with a “closet” (that's what they call smaller rooms in the palace, but the rooms themselves are still rather large) that had a door to a deck on the right, and a doorway to the “Staircase Room” on the left (going forward was not an option since this served as a corner of the palace). The Staircase Room was Sissi's study, but named for the large spiral staircase that went through the floor into the empress's private bedchamber – however, this staircase was removed after the deposition of the last emperor. An interesting fact that we learned at this point in the tour was that Sissi was considered to be one of the most beautiful women in Europe at this time – and took great pains to keep it that way. She would pursue physical activites that kept her in shape (which was a little unusual at the time), she would more often than not completely skip dinner with her family so that she wouldn't eat, and she spent hours each day maintaining her ankle-length hair; and in the next room, her makeup room, I saw some impressive combs to match that statement. Past there was the family dining room, a beautiful white room with a large central table, fully set as if for an impending meal using the silver pieces from the silver museum collection.

After that, we saw so many rooms that the order now escapes me; but they were all beautiful, especially the ones built with Chinese art (there were two beautiful blue and white Chinese rooms, and one room with black lacquer panels with Chinese art on them). There was also one room in the palace dedicated as the “Napolean Room” where he stayed during his two occupations – but more than Napolean, his son Flancy was the subject of that room. There was a large portrait of him in the garden, and a bust of him on his deathbed at the age of 21 (taken by lung disease) – but what I've never seen in a museum before is that they stuffed and mounted his pet bird on a desk in the center. It was interesting, but unusual.

Overall, the art in Schonbrunn palace was fantastic, with many gigantic paintings renowned for their detail and accuracy, mostly depicting large ceremonies (i.e. weddings) in its history. Additionally there was quite a lot of history attached to each room (as opposed to the palace as a whole); for example, the Napolean room; the recital hall, where the six-year-old Mozart performed for what I beliee was the first time, then ran over to the queen, jumped on her lap, threw his arms around her and kissed her on the cheek. One of the China rooms that I mentioned earlier was used as a secret meeting room for the queen and some of subordinates for certain political matters. There was simply a lot of character throughout the palace, and I would recommend seeing it if you get the chance.


Now I'm out front the palace again, and I need to figure out how to get to the back; there are supposed to be some impressive grounds, although the maze & labyrinth are both closed (that's what they call it, but I'm not quite sure of the difference between the two).


Impressive, despite being a reltively strong word in the English language, is not half as descriptive as necessary to define the grounds of Schloss Schonbrunn. There is a cafe called Gloriette; on the map it is in the middle of the grounds, but in reality it is fifteen minute walk from the palace, and then up a six-story hill, overlooking the entire city, and every single step of the way is a beautiful aspect of landscape and architecture. Seriously, look at the hundreds of pictures I took when I post them. Just the lighting was a sort of religious experience, solely illuminating the palace when I reached Gloriette. I could go on and on, there are seriously not the right words to describe this event.

And on that glorious note, a happy ending to my day, I traipsed back over to the subway station, back to the Hutteldorf station, grabbed my token Durum for lunch (more on that later) and got to the hostel to shower and relax.


A note about the showers at the hostel – you press the knob and have ten seconds of water. For a five minute shower, this translates to pressing the knob 30 times, at least; or at least that's what they want you to do. My way is a little nicer – take two shower curtain clips, link them together, snap one around the pipe that connects the front lateral pipe to the joint, and snap the other one around the handle, and take a nice 25 minute shower.


Post shower, which is the point I'm at now, is going well – I'm chilling in the lounge off the lobby of the hostel, a raher funky room with orange and red cushioned chairs, well-designed lamps, and a rather cheery paint job – and I've been working, and will continue working until much later tonight.

Hope you enjoyed this entry, I know I did. There will be more, both about my time spent in Frankfurt, and the rest of my travels throughout the year. I promise you this, as well as lots of pictures.

Happy New Years!s


The woman sitting next to me is a lovely, talkative lady by the name of Ms. Wiegand. I’m not exactly sure how to spell that (I’ll know when she adds me on Facebook) but until I’m 32 I’m not allowed to call her by her first name.

Let’s backtrack a bit. In fact, let’s go back an entire year and a half.

It’s two weeks before the end of our junior year in high school, and I’m saying a surprisingly emotional farewell to a good friend of mine I met approximately 37 weeks ago. In our short time together, he worked a lot with mystudent club, became a major contributor to the tech crew at Garfield, and even made an appearance or two on stage; and he worked his way into absolutely everybody’s hearts (some a particular bit more than others – you know who you are, ladies). He first experienced the joys of darkroom photography at Garfield; he became known for his graphic design work, doing posters and branding for multiple clubs and activities; and he had a unique sense of style that got him known as one of the best-dressed people on campus; he was a friendly, caring, outgoing person whose personality should have been writ as a model for the younger generation; and he had one of those laughs, the kind that you don’t forget easily, the one thing that would echo in my ears when I was reminded of him – he always laughed.

His name was Philipp Burckhardt, and we were losing him to Germany.

Now fast-forward a year and half: his exchange program took him back home from his year abroad; our mutual friends and I progressed another year, making th majority of us seniors and focused on our own escape; the club that he, I, and my friend Carol had worked so hard on had disbanded. He lived his life and we lived ours, with an occasional phone call or e-mail bridging that gap.

And then I began making my plans to travel for my year off, and the possibility of me visiting Phil became more and more solid. Eventually, we set a day (December 11th) and tentative plans (travelling around Switzerland and Austria) – and after changing the date three times, I left for the airport at 4:15 the morning of December 16th.


I just got to the gate, and found a crowd of people apprehensively waiting around the counter. I think that this flight has a lot of stand-by passengers, which isn’t unusual, Seattle to JFK is a popular flight; I’m not worried about getting on, though, because I’m at the top of the stand-by list – and as it goes, if there are any empty seats on the flight, I would be the first to board. This is unless there are what’s called “weight and balance” issues – where the aircraft is over the allowable weight. This might happen if there is particularly stormy weather, or if the plane’s commercial cargo (yes, private airliners sell cargo space to companies for shipping purposes) means that some passengers can’t be allowed on. If you’ve ever had the gate agent annuce that you have a completely full flight, but when you take off there are a few empty seats, thats because they’re carrying particularly large commercial cargo.


I was wrong; these people aren’t stand-bys. They’re volunteers, one of the banes of stand-by everywhere – there is now a next-to-zero chance of me getting on this flight. “Volunteers” are the people who, when the flight gets oversold, offer to give up their seat; technically most flights get oversold, so I’m sure you’ll run into this at some point. This isn’t a glitch in the system – the airlines want to cram as many people onboard as possible, so they calculate the percentage of people not likely to actually show up and they’re mostly right when they do that, but, as is the case with averages, sometimes the numbers change and suddenly they have more paying passengers than seats. Because the passengers are all paying, they can’t be kicked off; at this point the airline starts to offer deals for people to stay behind – and usually they’re good deals (average $400 credit per seat on the airline in addition to being put on the next flight, with a nice hotel coupon or two thrown in). If you have this opportunity, definitely take it if you don’t absolutely have to be at your destination at the allotted time – but wait first, as sometmes they sweeten the deal the longer they have the problem.

And speaking of problems, remember when I said that this only happens when they have more paying passengers than they have seats? And when I said I only get on empty seats? This is why volunteers are not good for me. At this point the only thing I can do is (wait and) hope that they take too many volunteers – maybe a 10% chance of that happening, not even.

The only chance I have now is to take a later flight to New York – this flight is supposed to land at 2:15, and my flight to Frankfurt leaves approximately five hours later; if I could get on any flight to New York landing before 6:30 I could still make it to my connection.

This really doesn’t bode well…shoot. I hope they have another flight leaving soon.


Well, I’m on the flight.

Yeah, the one I was waiting for before; no, I’m not sure exactly what happened. I know the gate agent made a mistake; he told the volunteers (five of them) that he didn’t need them, and then proceeded to give them all first-class upgrades for just offering their seat. This created a really interesting scene: one of the volunteers, a larger black woman, got so excited that she started telling the gate agent that she wanted to kiss him; and after he gave in to her demands, to the cheers of the gatehouse audience, she gayly pranced aboard the aircraft behind the rest of the volunteers.

I, however, stayed behind, with the company a few more stand-bys to, y’know, party at the gate. After a few tense minutes, the agent called my name, and that of one other standby and said, “You two come with me” – words from above – and we traipsed down the jetway.

And now I’m on the plane, looking at seat 4B. A nice aisle seat, next to Ms. Wiegand. Oh, come on, you know who Ms. Wiegand is. Don’t pretend you don’t know. What’s that? You mean you didn’t guess that she was the friendly black woman?


We just landed and I’m absolutley starving. Food first, talk second.


Hi Everyone!

So as you’ve noticed, there have been no updates about Ghana since day six. I’m sorry to say that those entries (of which there are still nine and a half to write) will be written at a later date. Don’t worry, I took copious, er, bullet points about the rest of my time there so hopefully much detail won’t be lost.

In the interim between trips, I enjoyed working for YouthCare, a youth homeless shelter; hanging with friends; and preparing for an early Christmas-cum-grandfather’s-90th-birthday. A lot of fun was had by all.

Now, however, I’m in Frankfurt with a school friend of mine, and despite my best efforts to post everyday I’ve quite honestly been having way too much fun 🙂

To remedy this, I’m going to post Frankfurt Day Zero: Teaser which covers my adventure up to the point when I touched down in New York.

Enjoy, and more is definitely on the way! Happy Holidays too.

Sincerely, Matthew


Hi Everyone,

So, the good news is that I’ve been incredibly busy hanging with the volunteers & the kids, and having an all-around great time; the flip side of that is that I’ve had zero time to blog. I’ve taken down notes on every day so I won’t forget anything, but I unfortunately won’t be able to throw together coherent sentences before the next promised update on Friday. Please check back then!

Sorry for the delay; but thank you for your continued support!


Sincerely, Matthew


First of all, I want to profusely thank everyone that has started reading my blog – I’m not going to mention numbers but the amount of page views jumped much higher than I was expecting yesterday.

I’m sticking this blurb in here to let you know that I most likely won’t be updating absolutely everyday. Instead, I’m going to try and have a decent amount of new content up every, let’s say, three to four days, or in the immediate future, lets say Monday and next Friday.

Thanks again for all your support!


Ghana: Day Three

Last night was the best sleep I’ve gotten in days, which is saying something because it lasted approximately three hours and was full of crazy dreams (those could be the “night terrors” that come as side effects from taking the Mefloquin, but these aren’t actually scary, just really trippy). Additionally, I woke up sick again. My mouth still really hurts (more), my nose is running nonstop, and my right ear is still plugged. I’ve been sneezing and sniffling ever since I woke up.

Three more nights of this and I’m going to end up in seriously compromised health; we’ll see if I can’t nap today, but I doubt it since I still think I’m on for the beach with Nicholas at eleven o’clock. I might go get some breakfast from ChurCheese, depending on who is around (they have a huge American breakfast for 15 cedis).

Don’t get me wrong, I am glad that I’m here, but I’m not having fun yet. Yes, I’m blogging nonstop, but that’s not really fun nor social. My friends have only been free after I’m done tutoring, when I’m tired and approaching the end of my day. I am definitely enjoying myself to certain degree, but it’s not fun yet, and that is the distinction that I’m working to change by a) hanging with other volunteers, going to the beach and just doing things, and b) continually trying to devise a [better] way to sleep.

So right now I’m in limbo. These are the variables that will decide whether or not I return home early: how sick I get, which also relates to how much sleep I get; how my social life, both within the orphanage and without develops; and whether or not I can find a way to be more helpful. As it is, this morning I didn’t help the kids get ready for school because I was just so fatigued.

My plan right now is to just suck it up; I don’t need to complain about anything, seeing as my life is still great, and I now have new opportunities with the arrival of the new volunteers. I’m simply putting this out there so that you, reader, can better understand the choices I make and why I make them.

I’m going to try to back to sleep for a bit.


I have three places in my room where I blog, which is saying something considering the size of the space I have to work with. The first spot is the vantage point, sitting up on the top bunk; it is the closest to the window, and hence my previously favorite spot. The second spot is in bed, either sitting or laying, with which there is less space to comfortably blog but it’s where I previously wrote before bed. Now I have combined those two into the new spot – on the floor. This floor is only slightly less comfortable than the bed, and I cannot stretch out ll the way, but there is much more room to breathe, and sit.

It’s at this third spot I wrapped up the earlier woe-is-me section, shut off my netbbook, and fell into a peaceful, restful sleep for four hours.


I woke up with a significantly less runny nose, less painful mouth, and both my blocked ear and my general fatigue was gone. Three more nights of this and I’ll be invincible.

And so I woke up at 10:40, threw on some shorts, and met up with Nicholas; but not before getting yelled by an Auntie for inviting him into the Children’s Home – apparently outside boys are not allowed to visit, which makes all sorts of no sense if half the community was watching the football game on Sunday.

We left, and headed to the tro-tro stop; I still don’t completely understand how they work. You wait, possibly for a certain color tro-tro (they’re just really beaten up vans – ours was white both to and from the beach which is why I think color matters), make a few hand signals back and forth with the drivers without saying anything, and wait for a bunch of them to drive by; then you crowd on (“crowd” being the operative word), give the driver your money (0,25 cedis per person) and get delivered to your destination. It seems fairly straightforward (I watched Nicholas) except for the crazy hand signals and picking the van; in other words, I’m not trying on my own any time soon.

But we made it to the beach! You pay one cedis per person just to get access, and then you have to buy something at the beach-front cafe (we got cokes) before swimming. Apparently that was the tourist beach, because I saw white people there; Nicholas said the place gets packed on Sundays. It was generally fun, burning eyes, throat and all, but swimming among the routine pieces of trash took little getting used to; but overall, like I said, fun (and it was great to get soaked).

Now I’m back and finishing this up before I go back to the library. I was there a bit ago, but no one is back from school yet, which strikes me as odd – not that I’m complaining.


I’m tired, which I feel sort of bad about because it’s not like I’m really exerting myself; granted, tutoring wasn’t easy. Auntie Stephanie, by far the best person every (read her excerpt in my cast list), left around four today, and I inadvertently got the job of holding down the fort for an hour, juggling both the kids and Dela (guess who found out the name of the mute girl) until Laura showed up – and then not much changed until I talked to Frank about the rest of the week.

The rest of the week. Right now, that’s such a nonissue for me; it doesn’t need to exist and yet it does – something abstract image to be dealt with by people who know how best to paint it. The point I’m at right now is far removed from that ideal: there are so many new things everyday – not just experiences, but rules, gossip, people and opportunities – that I  have my hands full finding time to breathe, much less plan. It’s not like I have a busy schedule – quite the opposite – but mentally my day is overflowing.

The point is, Frank and Laura and the children keep on making plans at me (which I greatly appreciate) but all I can manage is semi-coherent assent. As it stands, the rest of my week looks like this:

Wednesday: I’m going to breakfast at ChurCheese at 10AM sharp, and I’m honestly not going to get up until 8:30 at the earliest (I realize now that there is no way possible I’m going to be able to get up at 4 to help the kids get ready for school, have a day, and go to bed at 11, with either my current health or in this heat, if I want to be functional and pleasant). After that, some group involving Laura and/or Frank is going to head over to MTN to help me get a phone, and then Laura is going to take me to the internet cafe (which is supposedly cheap enough that she watches full episodes of 90210 on the regular).

Thursday: Some of the Projects Abroad people are going to an Irish pub in the evening, and they need the token American. Not actually, but it’s worth a shot (no pun intended); Laura said it would be alright if I joined them, and I would get to meet a bunch of the other volunteers.

Friday: Frank is taking me to some sort of golf activity around one in the afternoon; since he’s the guy who runs the library, I’m inclined to follow his lead (and it sounds fun). I’m not sure if I can bring other volunteers; I get the feeling that that’s not going to happen but I’ll ask.

Saturday: Laura says that a bunch of volunteers are going to the coast (or something I’llt clarify later) that’ll be really fun, and again I should be allowed to join them.

Sunday: I could either still be on the coast-thing or watching Daniel’s game, depending on the time conflicts.

How this, and my conversation with Frank, relate to the rest of my day is just that I simply slipped in a little something about escaping the little people (“Laura and I were going to get some food”) per her suggestion and off we went to ChurCheese for my breakfast, lunch, and dinner all rolled into one. This time, though, there were plenty more people, the service was much faster, and the tv was showing some soccer game. The only problem was that I couldn’t remember what I had ordered last time, and accidentally ordered it again – except this time was about three times spicier, now only slightly less incendiary than “The Soup That  Shall Not Be Named”. After a similar routine of taking a bite, drinking lots of water, and shoveling in the chips, Laura said that she’s not going to let me order anything spicy anymore – excellent idea, in my stomach’s opinion.

Laura was nice enough to give me a ride back in the taxi she had grabbed to go back to her house; we decided that ChurCheese was a repeat experience, hence tomorrow’s breakfast plans.


This is that part of the blog entry that I probably shouldn’t be writing, but I was advised to write the truth; and I believe that this is such an integral part to how things work around here that I can’t just not write about it. I will keep these observations as objective and unbiased as possible, and let the reader decide for themselves what is really going on.

The first incident in this theme was that of Andy at the front office. Long story short, he had asked if Nicholas (my friend from outside) was a child in the orphanage, and the woman sitting in the front office just ignored him completely; he continued to ask, when a Ghanain woman poked her head in to say hi, and this woman immediately looked up and asked, “Can I help you?” When the woman left, Andy asked again, with no avail, and then asked if there was a roster of all the children; to which the woman said yes, Andy asked if he could see it, the woman said no, Andy asked why, and the woman said, “Because I don’t want to! What are you even looking for?” Andy repeated his original query and the woman just exasperatedly went off about how no, there was no child named Nicholas, why would he think that, of course there was no child named Nicholas here, etc. to which Andy said, “Okay, that’s what I was asking!” walked to the door and added, “You know you don’t have to be so rude” and the woman just started again, “Oh thank you! Thank you so much! Thank you for that.” This is as best I understand this incident, relayed to me by Andy; he went on to claim that the staff, at least the administration, s racist and mostly extremely unpleasant to deal with in general.

The next point was just a simple conversation with Germany (I still don’t know her name, but she seems really nice now – I think the earlier issue is precisely what I’m going to outline here, since I met her when she was dealing with the special needs boy). I got to talking with her about the orphanage, and how her day was going; and then, “doing my research” I just brought it up that I heard that the staff and the volunteers don’t always get along. She confirmed this, and went on to explain how a lot of the Aunties don’t care as much as they should, especially since they’re getting paid (this last fact surprised me, I’m not sure why). For example, they know that Germany takes care of the handicap kid, and so they specifically don’t – they don’t clean him (which since he soils himself is an arduous and wholly disgusting task), and I’m not sure if they feed him. Her main complaint, though, is that she’ll be working with the kids, trying to deal with absolutely all of them, and the Aunties of the group she is working with (the younger boys) will be napping  th entire time (whilst on the clock). She confirmed that in her opinion, the staff does seem to be at least a little racist, and they and the volunteers are often at loggerheads.

These are the things that I’ve been told, and I’ll have to see how they develop. I have been the recipient of a colder treatment by the Auntie’s than that of other Ghanaians, but to be fair their job is neither easy nor rewarding, and the whole of the volunteers come from living situations much better than anything I have seen so far. The two questions I’m dealing with now are:

 1) At what point does a logical and completely understandable jealousy of the volunteers that they come into contact with on a daily basis combined with not only the fact that none of these volunteers are black, but moderate culture clash, result in something that could be undeniably be considered racism?

2) At what point do I actually care about whether or not they’re racist? I would be if I was in their position, and not only is anything I can do going to change their mind, but whatever their basis for the way they treat us is, at the end of the day, their choice.

It could very well be they only like people who actually significantly help; like my friend with the cribs or the woman I met earlier tonight, Sandy (a Delta flight attendant) who had adopted a boy out of the home. In this light, it makes perfect sense; but no college kid volunteering here will be able to match that level of contribution or even close, and if that is the basis of the problem there is no recourse that I care about enough to take.