December 17, 2016

real emotional trash, more very short stories

Welly well well. It looks like another dead sea scrolls post that I've found squirreld away. This one written sometime in 2011 or 2012. I don't remember any of the context that went into it, though judging by the cynicism toward international aid it probably came late in my service.

I'm sitting outside the parish right now thinking. It's cool, a rain is coming. I hear young boys yelling as they play football in front of the primary school. It's dusk. Mosquitoes nip at my feet and the parish cat is licking my arm. Somewhere a baby is crying. I can't write now...I don't know how to start.

International aid and charity artificially incentivize destitution while presupposing that impoverished countries cannot solve their own problems sans outside assistance. If you prefer a fine balance  between brevity and depth you can try this New Yorker article (about a 20 minute read). The long form of that argument can be found in several books like White Man's Burden by William Easterly or Michael Maren's polemic Road to Hell.

I live in a rural trading center. The main drag is a single road dotted with homemade brick buildings and tin roofs. The population is probably around 8,000. There is no electricity though several shops have solar panels hooked up to car batteries. There are three small generators in the center owned by businessmen to power two refrigerators, three televisions, and a twice weekly dance hall. As a "volunteer", I may be one of the wealthiest people in the township. The surrounding area is scattered with homesteads, clustered mud huts with grass thatch organized by extended-family units.

People that live in mud huts are usually referred to as "villagers" by my teaching colleagues and typically have one change of clothes and eat one meal a day. They plant and harvest their crops by hand. They don't wear shoes but they sometimes wear sandals made of re-purposed tires.

On the dusty ride home I saw a village woman with her face smashed in. She was bleeding and staggering down the road being led by another woman. We zipped by. One hundred meters down the road was an intoxicated uninjured man staggering in the opposite direction. What had happened in the just recent past crystallized in my mind. And we zipped by.

Ricky Rubio broke his ankle or tore his ACL or something like that. He's done for the season.

While walking to school today I cut through the primary school and came across one of my students from last year. She's a teacher at the school now, teaching math. She was proud and I was proud and it's because that's something to be proud of.

i am not tom ford sunglasses

Huh. I unearthed this old post from my time rambling around India after I left Peace Corps in 2012. Figured I'd post it up.

If I had to describe New Delhi in one word it would be "dirty".  In two words it would "dirty" and "uric."  Uric as in urea. Urea as in urine. Urine as in the whole city smells like urine. But that's neither here nor there at the moment. I didn't come for the aroma, I came for mountains and eye surgery.

I was interested in eye surgery for all the obvious reasons; basketball, surfing, and kissing someone are all done easier without the mechanical interference of glasses.  The price of the surgery, much like everything else in India, is significantly cheaper than in America.  Like a quarter of the cost cheaper. So here I am right now with freshly lasered corneas and I couldn't be happier with how it all worked out.

Naturally one of the first post-op stops was the sun glass store. I wanted a quality pair of shades, I had after all saved quite a bit of money, a pair that would last me for a long time. I was ready to make a sun glass investment. The hunt began in earnest and I made several laps around the store all the while honing in on that perfect pair. I didn't want any branding on the side of the frames, something I find tacky, and I wanted a gentle gradient from light to dark from the bottom to the top of the lens.

Finally settling on the perfect pair I checked the price tag: $450.  Four hundred and fifty dollars? Tom Ford, apparently, can get away with these sorts of things.

I sat there. I marinated. No.  I don't think I can bring myself to do that.  

But I did marinate. I congratulated myself on my impeccable taste, having blindly picked out the most expensive pair of sunglasses in the store. My second choice turned out to be a $300 of Paul Smiths. Which again was three times too much for my liking. It seems that if you don't want someone's name on the side of your frames you have to pay a bunch of money to make that happen. Which is kind of odd right? Spending a bunch of money to keep people from knowing how much you have spent? Well at least people, the majority I would assume, who don't keep up with the subtle branding of high end men's sunglasses.

And this frightens me. I'm frightened by my consideration to actually do something as stupid as pay four hundred and fifty dollars for a pair of sunglasses when I'm unemployed and wandering. I'm frightened that my taste was validated by the price, that I derived satisfaction in my "expensive taste." I'm frightened that I'm still thinking about those sunglasses even after I begrudgingly bought a $40 pair. I'm frightened to once again be a consumer.

Being free from the American consumer influence has been one of the quiet pleasures of my time in Uganda and carrying that experience forward is proving an uncomfortable challenge. I'm once again reminded that without Product This or Product That I am not good enough. Strangers will overlook me and women will find me boring, bland and undesirable. Changing cultures means changing parts of myself. Where once my white skin was adornment enough, now I'm weighed by my choices of clothes, watches, sunglasses and consumer electronics.  

How do you find the balance between style and substance? Appearance and essence?