Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Woe is Me

I'm becoming more Dutch every day. I had a bicycle accident this morning.

I was zooming to work listening to my ipod with my giant India Lonely Planet and a box of Swiss chocolates in the only bag I could find hanging from my handlebars. I got around the corner and BOOM. The bag got caught in the spokes of the front wheel, I ground to a halt, I flipped over the handlebars and dragged the bike and myself into the center of the intersection and landed on my face in the middle of the road.

Luckily, nothing was broken except my bike and my Lonely Planet (and tragically, the box of Swiss chocolates). I hurt my instep of my foot, scraped my knee and ripped a hole in my jeans, and destroyed my pride. A man walking to work rushed over to help me and helped me stand up. I limped with my destroyed bike to the bike shop that was conveniently located right where I fell. I then had to limp to work on foot feeling in complete shock and embarrassed.

When I got to work (it was really cold this morning), I had crystallized salt from the tears on my cheek.

But the bike store people were really nice and informed me that statistically it is very difficult to kill yourself in a bicycle accident. So I got that going for me.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

New Year's Resolutions

Well its a bit late for New Year's resolutions as we are 11 days into the new year but as this is the last day of my vacation, I'm officially counting the new year as starting tomorrow.

1. Treasure every moment I have with my family. It's killing me to leave South Carolina but my father is doing better and is fairly healthy right now. So I leave with a more calm state of mind than I had in September. I'm looking forward to the big family reunion in Iowa in July.

2. More connections with friends - I really enjoyed seeing some old friends on this last trip. Talking for hours seemed like we had never NOT been in touch. It's good to connect and it reminds me that human interaction is what its all about. It's not about making money, accumulating things, or even accumulating more countries on my "Where I've Traveled" list. It's about authentic human connections that make you laugh, cry, and think.

3. Less time on the internet. I've become addicted to reading blogs. I guess its the same as when I read magazines a bunch but with blogs, there's so much information coming at you all day long that I have to do something about it. I'm going to try to limit myself to 2 hours a day.

4. Being more active. My body is aging every day and while I feel like I'm still 16, the creaking in my knees when I squat down to fix the pilot light or the aches in my shoulders after raking the yard are reminders that I'm not. I have to appreciate my body and staying active will keep me younger longer!

5. Continuing 2008's resolution to be more creative. I started a painting class in 2008 which I love. I'm going to really hunker down and work on writing. I have an idea for a novel based on my experiences in West Africa. Also, some travel stories that I never really wrote down anywhere. More photography. More cooking. More viewing of art.

6. Less toxicity in my life. I have to start ignoring all the people who make me crazy. There are toxic people and organizations in this world. They suck up your time and energy. "That which does not destroy me makes me stronger" used to be my motto but phew - I'm tired of the struggle, constantly struggling to not be destroyed. It's not a challenge anymore to deliberately face off in battle with the destructive elements of the world. I am going to minimize the things which make me crazy and maximize the things I enjoy. If this means less prestige, less status, or being more isolated, so be it. At least I'll have more energy to focus on creativity, my family, and my close friends. "Living well is the best revenge" can be my new motto.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Goodbye 2008

Goodbye 2008! It was a hell of a year. Here's a few of the highlights and low points. Let's hope 2009 is a bit nicer to family Martin!

Highlights:
Learning how wonderful my family and friends were as they helped my family and me out during some stressful times. Thank you cousins Dorothy, Don, Catherine and Dickie, Mike, Michele D, Calvin, and Chip. Thanks to everyone else who looked after Simon and supported me.

Meeting new and interesting people, great concerts in Amsterdam, and some beach parties too!

The election of Barack Obama as US President which showed the world (and me too) that the US is still an extraordinary place where good things can happen.

Going to Papua New Guinea

Presenting my work at a conference in Uganda

Vacationing in Rome to see my friend Brian and attending my friend Diana's son's baptism.

Holidays in Berlin, Lisbon and Lake Naivasha, Kenya


Low points:
My father's accident where he broke his arm. This lead to a sudden decline where we had to move him out of my childhood home in Sumter, SC to live in Columbia with my sister.

Alyson's broken leg - while in the process of the move, she fell down some stairs and broke her ankle. About a day later, she found out that her company was being merged with Verizon and she might lose her job.

My father's illness - after moving to Columbia, he suddenly started experiencing terrible pains. They hospitalized him to perform tests. We suspected cancer. he developed pneumonia and they didn't think he'd make it. I flew 42 hours from Papua New Guinea to South Carolina but luckily he survived.

Helping him rehabilitate and learn how to walk again in some of the grimmest healthcare settings in the USA. Learning about what happens to you when you are a prisoner and develop cancer or need kidney dialysis.

The death of my friend Sunny.

New Year's Eve Rituals

On the Millennium new year's eve of 1999-2000, I was determined to have good luck so I tried to perform every ritual I could find. 2008 wasn't particularly lucky for me and my loved ones so maybe I'll try to recreate it again...

Here's a list that I'm compiling. Feel free to share yours!

* Drinking champagne at midnight
* Kissing a loved one at midnight
* Eating twelve grapes at midnight and making a wish after each of them
* Wearing yellow underwear at midnight
* Turning your underwear inside out at midnight
* Walking around the house with a suitcase to travel in the new year
* Wearing polka dots to bring good luck
* Setting off fireworks and banging pots and pans at midnight
* Have large denomination $ in your pocket at midnight to get money in the new year.
* Throwing water out of the windows to wash away evil spirits at midnight
* Throwing flowers in the water as an offering to the Brazilian goddess of love.
* Eating Collard Greens for money on new year's day
* Eating Hoppin' Johns for luck on new year's day