Wednesday, October 24, 2007
The Boy Scout Law has twelve points- A Scout is:
Little known but true fact: When the Boy Scouts of America was created, a 13th point to the Law was hotly debated. This was:
Not A Fool
It was finally decided that the 12 points indicated in the affirmative everything implied in the negative of the 13th. To put it another way, it was redundant.
Regardless, this bit of wisdom is passed around from troop to troop from time to time. I know that I was warned more than once not to be a Fool when I was growing up.
But, it's our nature to be foolish, isn't it? We make decisions every day, and they aren't always good ones. Even our good decisions aren't always made for good reasons.
For whatever reason, this is what's been on my mind lately:
What makes for the bigger fool?
Is it better for a person to be damned for the opportunities they've missed through indecision or ignorance?
Is it better to be damned for the opportunities they lose out on with the decisions they are making?
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
I have been advised to bone up on my Q'ran.
I'm nearing completion on a project I started inadvertantly four years ago when I gean what would become a series of trips in and around the world. I have titled the project, "The World And How To Get There". It would be nice if I could publish this someday- a comilation of my travel logs over that year. Recently, I've gone back and written a very brief introduction to teh book. I've been taking time, like I did this morning, to transcribe more of the journals from my handwritten notebooks into a single electronic volume. Most of the Introducation reads as follows:
In the 367 days that passed between February 13th, 2004 and February 14th, 2005, a full leap year and a day, I traveled across the country and across the world. I saw the Southern Cross and the Midnight Sun. In between I fell in love, twice, broke up, once, and got married, by almost all accounts, on accident.
And there was so much more…
One man, one world, one year. These are those stories.
(Arbolus Kodakus Africanus)
Which does a fair job of summing up the plot. For the cast of characters, conflict, theme and setting, you'll have to wait at least until the transcription is complete.
I don't take enough time to acknowledge the people in my life who've supported me, inspired me, and helped grow me. One person in particular insisted that I purchase a journal the day I left for Africa. We made a special stop while running my last minute errands to do this, and she selected a notebook for me with a quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson screened accross the cover.
"Do not go where the path may lead. Instead, go where there is no path and leave a Trail."
She also purchased two small lapel buttons that she slipped into my bags, not telling me about them till we were on our way to the airport to drop me off. The first, I was instructed, was to be given to a deserving native of the African bush that I may come accross in my journey. She reasoned (correctly, as it turned out) that the rest of the world paid more attention to our politics and news than we did as Americans. She insisted that I find, in her words, "some tribal chieftan", and offer it to him as a token of friendship. It was a campaign parody button that read, "Re-defeat Bush".
The other button I was supposed to keep with me. It was a timely quote by J. R. R. Tolkien:
"Not All Who Wander Are Lost"
It's still in my wallet.
The same woman, four months later, while visiting one morning, turned to me without warning and convicted me, "It's the first day of summer. Start writing your book."
Sometimes life is just that simple.
Everything I've written in the last four eyars- all the stories I've started, the fewer I've completed, the many more I've dreamed- are the result of the momentum developed writing these logs. These are the people we need to remember to thank for the blessings they give and are.
I'll post more about the project as stages are completed. Right now, I've completely written and transcribed my trip to Spain, need to edit and completly transcribe my journals for Africa, Alaska, Memphis, and Venice. I need to finish the draft of the trip to Vegas that concluded that amazing year.
I'll conclude this entry with one grain of wisdom I've learned on those journeys.
It's not about where you're coming from. It's about who you are, and where you're going to.
Monday, October 22, 2007
His name will change from Shahid to Zishan to Shawn, depending on the temperment of the speaker (including how he refers to himself). There's no real rule to this, it's just something that you get a feel for as you get to know him.
Shawn's putting in a bid on some property near the University. He has an Uncle that comes to Tucson from England every year from January through June, and I think the idea is that he will be staying in one of the rooms in the guest house while Shawn rents out the front building to students. It's a pretty straightforward business investment that keeps Uncle from having to stay in the spare room of the office Shawn rents to run his businesses out of.
I know that Uncle has at least one other name. I was given one of them when we first met last year, but was imediately told to call him Uncle. Everybody calls him Uncle. Old cab drivers, young mechanics, every member of Shahid's family that I've met regardless of generation, every other employee and business contact Shawn has brought through the office calls him Uncle.
Uncle is 6' 4" tall with dark skin and a hawk's nose. Born in Pakistan, he spend the last several decades of his eighty plus years in England, which has given him an accent that lands somewhere between Sean Connery and Morgan Freeman. He is a devout Muslum.
Uncle is one of those interesting people who walks into a room and dominates it with his age, height, and silence. For six months last year I would be at my desk working on projects for Shahid, and Uncle would just wander in and out of the room throughout the course of his day. He managed to do this in a way that let you know you were noticed and not ignored, even though he would often not say a word to you in passing.
Not that silence is bad. More than once I've gone through the scenario where Uncle would stand in the doorway of the room, having just gotten up and come through the kitchenette some morning. Like some monstrous middle eastern Willy Winky he'd be standing there in his nightshirt, barefooted. The image would be vaguely incomplete because there was no long tassled cap like in The Night Before Christmas, and instead of a candlestick, he'd be holding a bowl of fish curry.
He's come in and sit down on the couch in the office and eat his breakfast. Halfway through, his meal he would stop after chewing and say from out of nowhere something like, "So tell me, you are a Christian, if the Jews say that Moses wrote the first five books of the Torah, why is it that God takes him to heaven before entering Palastine at the end of the second book?"
I'd usually have something clever to say like, "Well Uncle... I'm not Jewish,". A clever answer like this would make him nod and finish his curry.
My lease in the studio is up in December. Zishan would like Uncle to have a roommate. Aparently he's already called England and made sure it was okay with Uncle. Uncle is very excited.
I like lists. They provide focus and give clarity through inventory of accomplishments and actions. I make them out of habit. When I was told that I would be rooming with Uncle I composed the following list.
In the past 5 years, my roommates have included:
(In no order)
An Iowa Farmboy
A wolf hybrid
A very grumpy cat
6 teenagers (who didn't actually live with me, but seemed to always be there)
A retired Pakistani guerrilla turned London shopkeeper; veteran of Kashmir
I think I have a better idea now why I only sleep about 5 1/2 hours a night.
Sunday, October 21, 2007
You would think that after two years I was pretty well focused on the idea of leaving the country. Fact is, shutting down your life takes quite a bit more work than you'd think. As it is, God's given me my fair share of challenges (read: 'opportunities') in the past year that have circuitously brought me around closer to this goal.
Thing is, that prideful part of me wants to take charge and streamline some of the craziness.
I know it won't work.
I'm cursed with beautiful friends.
I'm blessed with unusual acquaintances.
I'm driven by a desire to change the world.
I'm constantly reminded of God's sense of humor.
It makes for an interesting life.
Here's where I was at in the middle of the summer. I'll bring you up to speed, for the sake of context, and we'll be looking at the individual areas as the blog progresses. This'll give you an idea on what I'm looking at by way of focus.
Every Troll Needs A Cave
My quest for shelter began in February. Since May, 2006, I've lived in a large studio apartment as part of an adult transition program for young blind adults. I had to move from a 2 bedroom house with a yard and a cat to take the job, but I helped design the program, so this was my chance to direct it in its first year.
But, in February, I was told that a new non-profit had bought in on the project and taken over the reigns from the foundation that had initially administrated the program. I had originally planned on being in the apartment for the first year only, so told the new directors to start looking for my replacement then.
I heard nothing back from them about this until August, when I received a phone call asking if I could be out in two weeks, they'd hired my replacement.
I was ready to go. The kids were great, and I'm still in contact with many of them, but that's a whole other story. The job was demanding. Late nights in the emergency room. Phone calls 24 hours a day requesting information about everything from directions to local pharmacies, application for state and federal benefits for the disabled. Polite enquiries about how to get bean stains off the ceiling, repair industrial washing machines, and whether or not there is a God. It was all part of the job, and I was tired.
In addition, when I got back from a business trip in the middle of July- the height of monsoon season- I found that part of my kitchen ceiling were collapsing. By the middle of August I'd basically moved to the couch to avoid the drips at night, and most of my possesions were under plastic in a corner of the bedroom or in the process of being given away or sold.
That's how I found myself in my living room, surrounded by work crews, plastic, cieling dust, and piles of my remainingo possessins, talking to the owner of my complex one afternoon. He had just been informed that I was moving out in the next week, and had asked what my plans were for the Peace Corps.
Now see, that's what's impressive. He didn't ask where I was going, or what I was doing now that I had lost one of my second jobs. He asked about the Peace Corps, the big goal he knew I was working towards. I gave him a quick up to date, centering on how I was hoping to be on my way, or know when I was leaving at the very least, by the end of December.
He just thought for a moment and offered me a place to stay at $100 a month. About a week later, his staff helped me move into my new studio, a much, much, smaller apartment. At this point I had no furniture, but the place came furnished. He made sure to put me in a room that came with a tv and extra desk lamps. Wow.
So, I have this place until the end of December. I'm down to half a closet and four drawers of clothes, three bookshelves of books, and assorted computer bits that let me post this blog.
I don't know what's going to happen in December, whether I'll still be in Tucson or not. But, I have some interesting options. More on that later.
Every Troll Needs A Bridge
The Bridge is where the Troll works, you see, and this one's no different. I have a number of bridges that I lurk under right now, and I need to pare those down before I go.
The old apartment job: 24/7 when I'm not doing anything else. (Finally replaced)
Full Time Teaching: Full-Time, three weeks a month. Currently about to begin second quarter.
Consult- Gas Station: 10-40 hours a week. This one's complicated, I'll explain it in a future post.
Consult- Crematorium: 2 hours a week+. New consult, more on this soon too.
AAABVI: Statewide recreation program for the blind in Arizona. I'm in the process of handing it over to new leadership.
Every Troll Needs a Goat To Chase
My Goat, right now, is the debt I'm in the process of agressively attacking. Peace Corps doesn't want to become the Foreign Legion of the New Millenium. They need you debt-free before you go. They perform background checks and make you account for individual creditors. As of July, 2007, I owed about $11,000. As of October, 2007, I'm down to about (hopefully) $4,500.
Every Troll Has A Story To Tell.
My writing has increased in volume in the past few years- my pace, my ideas, the scope of my projects. I am making a commitment to close out these projects and make more time for them as I tear some bridges down. Those who've read some of my work will understand much more of the references I'll be making in this area, but discussing my writing and crafting the story I'm living into words will be an important part of this blog.
So, Focus. I'm on a roller coaster ride heading towards the end of the year. I'm juggling the systematic dismantling of my life as I pare everything down to what can fit in a frame pack. Piece by piece I've got to take it apart. That's what I'm trying to focus on. Getting it done right in the right way in the right order.
More to come.
I suppose I should begin by answering this question: 'Why 'The Troll''?
'10 Weeks and Counting' is an attempt to put some focus on the things I want to be passionate about while I'm preparing to make some pretty substantial changes in my life.
The brief and misleading summary is that in about 10 weeks I hope to be out of a job, out of my apartment, and, God willing, out of the country.
About two years ago I felt a call to be somewhere else. I'd already traveled the world, and loved it, but I didn't want to just be a tourist. I wanted to go womewhere and put my God-given talents, skills, and education to a test. I wanted to stretch all of my muscles- body and soul, by finding opportunities for service outside of the place where I've been teaching and working for the past 12 years. I've been feeling like there was somehere else I've needed to be.
So I applied to the Peace Corps.
It took a year and a half to get my interviews and medical clearances. (Here's a fun fact that won't show up that much in the blog- I'm legally blind.) I'm now waiting for the last of my legal holds to clear.
Peace Corps wants me to clear all of my debt. I'm an American, so of course this was a daunting task. I've dropped my debt burden from $22,000 to about $4,500 in the past year and a half. I have plans in the works, you'll hear more about these later, to eliminate this debt and set my travel date. I've set an arbitrary deadline for the resolution of what's happening to me as December 31, 2007, 10 weeks from now.
So the name of the blog was easy to come up with. I've often talked with my students about needing to set goals in their lives and to always have a list of these goals to be working from to give their life direction. With more than a few things set on my list right now, all pointing to that brass ring of leaving the country for the next two years, I've found comfort in having a deadline, finally, for this project.
In fact, this may be a new direction for my life, setting that 10 week timeline. It's a good length to plan and execute any number of projects. So, this blog is more than just an experiment for writing and focus, it's an experiment to see if I can bring that focus I'm looking for into existence a little more clearly by giving myself these checkpoints for analysis.
BUT, Why adopt the monicker of 'The Troll?"
Because I finally gave up.
See, since I was a little kid, that's one of the more poignant epiphets that's been consistantly hurled at me. It's amazing really. Three elementary schools, two high schools, college, an ex-wife, the name keeps coming back. One summer when I was working a summer camp I was chosen to be the Troll in the Staff skit during bonding week. My performance was so well received I was known only as 'The Troll' for the rest of the summer to keep from confusing me with another less-Trollish counselor who had my same first name. Another summer I spent so much time visiting friends who had computer rigs set up all over their house that I was deemed 'The Garage Troll' for the duration, as that was where I ended up setting up shop for the months I was there.
Let's get some things clear first:
I don't grind children's bones into meal.
But I have eaten Goat.
I have spent time under my fair share of bridges.
And caves and trees.
But I've never terrorized a medieval village.
Annoyed, once, but never terrorized.
At any rate, I've given up.
I'm striking out into the world. I'm putting a new spin of focus and direction into my life. I am, in fact, reinventing myself.
So I figured I'd start by rediscovering myself. Warts and all. So I'm not fighting it anymore. I'll be The Troll. It's a place to start. I shall embrace my trollishness and bring forward everything good and trolly worth bringing forward.
Then I'll see if I'm still The Troll.
But, until then...
I've got a world to get at.