Wednesday, August 31, 2011

An (Open) Letter to My First Language Teacher

Estimado Señor Vallar,
Hoy estaba en mi segunda clase de Kriolu, aqui en Cabo Verde, cuando mi amiga me llamó “Teacher’s Pet.” Sin pensar, respondí “Claro, siempre he sido como así en las clases de idioma." La verdad es que las clases de idioma siempre han sido mis favoritos, empezando con su clase. Su clase era la primera (y la ultima) vez que yo pedí tarea extra para el verano, porque reconocí que quería saber más sobre el tenso subjuntivo—para , no para una marca.
Mis amigos y colegas siempre dicen que yo tengo una habilidad natural y místico de aprender las idiomas. Ahora yo estoy aprendiendo mi quinta idioma (si no cuenta Ebonics). Aunque yo quisiera sentir ou ser especial, yo sé que tengo suerte. He tenido más que diez maestros y profesores de idioma en mi vida, y casi todos eran exelentes (lo siento, pero no puedo recordar algunos). Por eso, estaba pensando que debo decir “gracias” a Ustedes.
Quiero empezar con Usted porque Usted empezó tudo para mí (estoy hablando de las idiomas, Señor—recuerdes todo que te enseñé sobre Basketball, Hip Hop, etc?). Como maestro de jovenes también, yo creo que nuestro trabajo es encender la luz a dentro. Este luz no es la habilidad ou el talento. La lúz es la interés—el “querer ser” que inspira el trabajo duro y la energia para aprender. Yo encontré esa interés en su clase, y por eso digo “Gracias!”
Andrew F. Williams
July 19, 2011
Cabo Verde

*This post is the text of a letter that I mailed home during my first week here in Cabo Verde. I wanted to wait until my first Spanish teacher actually received the letter and gave me permission before posting it, hence the one-month delay.
Pura Vida,

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Halfway Home

Please don’t be deceived by the title of this post... I am not “going back to Cali” any time soon. Even though I plan to stay away from Oakland for more than two years, I still have two reasons to claim that I am "halway home".

First, I’ve just completed the fifth week of my nine-week Pre-Service Training, which officially puts me over the hump. I found the first few weeks to be helpful, but heavy on the theory. In other words, if I have to do another role-play or case study I may just vomit on myself. Luckily, we are into the meat of the training, which means more hands-on work, and more preparation that is specific to my assignment area and placement.

Just over a week ago, my 24 cohorts and I crowded into a classroom at the Escola Tecnica to get the answer to the question that each of us (and our families back home) have been asking for: "where exactly is the Peace Corps putting us for the next two years?” The walls of the room hosted illustrated maps of four of Cape Verde’s ten islands. On the floor in the middle of our circle rested 25 inflated balloons, each with a message waiting inside, fortune-cookie style. After taking a moment to get our minds right, we all stepped forward, grabbed our respective balloons, and got to poppin’. This may sound like pure fun, but take a second to imagine the anxiety that you might feel if you were in our shoes. Have you ever had a fortune cookie tell you what you next job would be, where you would be living for the next two years, or who you would be living with? Is that how you picked out your college, your major, or your last apartment? If you answered yes to any of the above questions, then you are strange, but I still love you. As for my assignment, I was hardly surprised when my bubble burst—after all, I am the Luckiest Man Alive™. Here’s what my “fortune cookie-balloon” said:

“Andrew Williams - São Vicente”

After a week of basking in the glory of my luck, I got focused for a three-day Counterpart Conference. This event brought all of the Small Enterprise Development Volunteers (Trainees) together with our future parceiros (counterparts). Most importantly, I had a chance to sit down with the professionals with whom I’ll be working to learn more about the CEJ (Centro de Juventude), and to draft my job description. In this respect, I am blessed (again), and looking forward to working with my new team. I finally feel like I know where my next home will be (for work and for life), and as I enter week six, I can confidently say that I am halfway there.

The sad part about being a step closer to São Vicente is that it means I am a step closer to leaving my family here on the island of Santiago. Without a doubt, I will be adding Lucia, Fatinha, Antonio and Mauro, et. al., to my International Extended Family Hall of Fame, which currently boasts chapters in Guam, New Zealand, South Africa, and Costa Rica.

As my eyes water with the thought of moving on, I remember that I promised myself I wouldn’t do this, so talk amongst yourselves while I get it together. I promised you two explanations for the title of this post, so enough about the first reason. Most of you loyal (or half-assed) “followers” of Live From Tomorrow are familiar with my reading habit and my serious dependency on books. Unfortunately, last year I feel two titles short of my book-a-week goal, so in January I pledged to step my game up. This being late August, I an technically a bit behind schedule, but I am still proud to announce that I am halfway home to my 2011 reading goal. For those that are interested, below is a list of what I have soaked up so far this year:

Books Read in 2011

What Went Wrong? The Clash Between Islam and Modernity in the Middle East - Bernard Lewis (2002)

Middlesex - Jeffrey Eugenides (2002)

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People - Stephen R. Covey (1989)

American Gods - Neil Gaiman (2002)

A General Theory of Love - Thomas Lewis, Fari Amini & Richard Lennan (2000)

Palace Walk (Between the Two Palaces) - Naguib Mahfouz (1956)

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption - Laura Hillenbrand (2002)

Devil in a Blue Dress - Walter Mosley (1990)

Meant to Be: The Story of a Son Who Discovers He is his Mother’s Deepest Secret - Walter Anderson (2004)

The Known World - Edward P. Jones (2003)

The World is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century - Thomas Friedman (2003)

Martyr’s Crossing - Amy Wilentz (2002)

New News Out of Africa: Uncovering Africa’s Renaissance - Charlayne Hunter-Gault (2007)

My Wild Irish Rogues - Vivian Moore Hallinan (1952)

The Fortune Catcher - Susanne Pari (2002)

The Bonesetter’s Daughter - Amy Tan (2001)

Negro President: Jefferson and the Slave Power - ??? (2005)

Women of the Silk - Gail Sukiyama (1993)

Soul on Ice - Eldridge Cleaver (1965)

Bacardi and the Long Fight for Cuba: The Biography of a Cause - Tom Gjelten (2008)

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone - J.K. Rowling (1997)

Motherless Brooklyn - Jonathan Lethem (1999)

The Ugly American - Eugene Burdict & William Lederer (1958)

Small Business in the Third World - Malcolm Harper (1984)

Dark Star Safari: Overland from Cairo to Cape Town - Paul Theroux (2003)

Slaughterhouse-Five - Kurt Vonnegut (1969)

War Talk - Arundhati Roy (2003)

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1892)

Thanks for reading, until the next post...

Pura Vida,

Drew & Djanilo

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The Process

The keyword in my life right now is “process.” As in: applying to the Peace Corps and getting accepted was a process. Or: after almost a month in Cape Verde, I am just now starting to process the new world around me, and the experiences that each day brings. The nine-week Pre-Service Training program that I am currently enduring is certainly a process. This is the third entry I’ve posted on Live From Tomorrow since I arrived, but the first two were admittedly—and deliberately—short on details about my life here. So I guess I owe you, so here goes...

My flight out out Oakland International Airport on July 14th landed me in Boston for 24 hours of staging. This orientation included everything from signing more forms to role-playing what to do if someone tries to feed you monkey brains (hasn’t happened yet, and I’m not holding my breath). One of the best parts of staging was the few free hours I had to walk around downtown Boston. Somehow, I had managed to forget that I hadn’t visited BeanTown since 2001, when my mom was living in Massachusetts. The food and buzz at Faneuil Hall was about as good as I remember, and the music was, well... diverse.

During my lunch break the next day I came across a rack of books sitting in Post Office Square, which turned out to be the Library on the Lawn at Norman B. Leventhal Park. The “library” works completely on the honor system, so I grabbed a copy of the first Harry Potter book. I hesitated to "check out" a book for 27 months, but I fancy myself an honorable man—plus, everyone else on the planet has already read the damn thing. Just to be safe, I powered through the end of the book I was already reading—Bacardi and the Long Fight for Cuba—so I could leave it as collateral for my honor. In my final hours in America I enjoyed my last long, hot shower, then proceeded to take the Langham Hotel for every ounce of complimentary toiletries in sight—including the shower cap, sewing kit, and shoe sponge. As the doorman loaded my bags onto the luggage cart I stopped to have a personal moment with the beautiful grand piano in the lobby.

After a seven-hour flight our group of 25 Peace Corps Trainees landed together in Praia, Cape Verde on Saturday morning. We were met at the Immigration Desk by the Peace Corps Cape Verde Country Director and the Safety & Security Coordinator, along with a small mob of currently-serving Volunteers and miscellaneous nice folks holding welcome signs and giving out bolaxa (cookies). We spent the better part of the next two days at a dorm in the Santo Antão area of the capital, where we started to get used to the long-but-valuable days of information sessions, team-building, and language instruction. To cap off the weekend, the Peace Corps staff indulged us with a delicious feast at the U.S. Embassy Recreation Center, where we met more Volunteers and got our first Cape Verdean dancing lessons—you’ll be hearing plenty more about “non-formal/adult education” in future posts. And just to clarify, I am still not a “Volunteer,” just a lowly Trainee—kinda like the difference between a maggot and a Marine.

On Monday we piled into two Hiaces (vans) and headed for the various towns and villages that would be our homes for the following nine weeks. I know you might be tired of me going on and on about being the Luckiest Man Alive™, but the truth hurts, so disaraska (deal with it)! My host family is perfect, and my three-person Kriolu class is often held across the street from our house. Most Trainees walk or take a Hilux— a converted, covered pickup truck—to class.

Twice a week we all meet together in town for Center Day, which is held at the local Escola Tecnica (Technical Secondary School). These days (Tuesdays and Fridays) normally consist of five block sessions that cover cultural integration, safety and security, health and nutrition, general tools of development work, and training specific to our area or sector of service. All Volunteers in Cape Verde work in either the Education or Small Enterprise Development sector, and each sector is divided into more specific Assignment Areas. The ED Volunteers focus on either TEFL, Teacher Training, or Vocational Education, while the SED volunteers focus on either Community Development, Information Technology, or Business Advising. I’m in the last group, affectionately known as Peace Corps Assignment Area #140.

Our structured training sessions normally run from 8:00am to 5:00pm with a break for lunch. After the sessions, I head back to my neighborhood (or back across the street). Unfortunately, for security reasons I’m not allowed to disclose exactly where my ‘hood is in this blog, but it is definitely The Spot.

Each Saturday, we take a group “field trip” to a different destination. The first weekend we visited Cidade Velha, the first city founded in Africa by the Portuguese. The centerpiece of this UNESCO Heritage Site is the massive fort that was constructed to fend off French and British Pirates (often unsuccessfully), including Francis Drake. We checked out the ruins of the Catholic Church, which took over one hundred years to complete, and about one day to destroy (see previous sentence). For me, the highlight of this adventure was visiting the grogue factory, tucked under the canopy of trees in the valley. If you are not sure what grogue is, then click of the link above, or play some Monkey Island. And lest you make any assumptions about my high life in the islands, I should point out that I haven’t had a drink since my last night/morning at Lucky Lounge before heading for Oakland Airport.

Our second Saturday outing was actually a safety and security tour of the capital, including a visit to the Police Station and a Jurassic Park-style ride through all the areas of Praia where we should not hang out. Fortunately, the back end of our tour was more positive—a delicious Senegalese lunch, including actual green vegetables (not exactly a staple of my diet here in thirsty Cape Verde), and a visit to the beach at Prainha. I’m not really big on swimming at “urban” beaches (e.g. Alameda), so I passed the hour reading Bumbalo’s copy of Motherless Brooklyn, with a side of chocolate ice cream from a local shop called Artica.

Last weekend we headed to the north of Santiago Island to visit Tarrafal—oh, the highs and the lows. Let’s just say it can be a little bit awkward to visit a Portuguese Campo de Concentracão for a couple of hours, and then head for the beach—but I’m glad we did both. The prison at Tarrafal was originally constructed in the 1930’s to house relocated Portuguese dissidents, but was later used to jail revolutionary members of the PAIGC. The complex, and my time spen there, reminded me in many ways of Robben Island. Like my visit to the more-infamous prison off the coast of Cape Town, I again had the privilege of meeting, and being toured by a former inmate, Fernando Dos Reis Tavares—or “Toco.” I felt lucky to hear his story, but the part of the visit that hit me the hardest was when I ducked into a little room that once served as an excuse for a medical building. One plaque in the mini-exhibit told the anecdotal story of the Portuguese doctor who was appointed to serve as the medical officer for the prison. Upon his arrival at Tarrafal—a year after his appointment—the doctor announced that he had not come to cure anyone, but instead to issue death certificates.

Like the previous Saturdays, this outing ended on a more positive note—again at the beach. Only this time the water was a little more inviting so I was one of the first ones in. After a quick dip, I dried off and found a spot to crack open Paul Theroux’s Dark Star Safari. The reading was going a little slow, so I was glad when my Training Director asked me if I was up for a short walk. The walk was good, the chat was better, and after paying a lady 20 escudos (about 27¢) for a quick fresh-water shower, I loaded back in the van with the the other Trainees and headed back home.

On that note, I’ll wrap up this entry in Live From Tomorrow. But before I go, I’d like to leave you with a moment of Zen, a la Keith Olberman. Here’s my nephew / lil’ homie, Mauro, getting down on a manga (mango)...

Pura Vida,


Friday, August 5, 2011

"The Guest" - A Short Story - by A. Foster Williams

As she pulled up to the curb underneath the sign labeled “Arrivals,” she shut off the motor and glanced into the rearview mirror. German, she thought. For too many reason, even his name rattled her. Her thoughts were interrupted by a soft knocking on the passenger side window as a boy leaned over awkwardly from the curb. His face loomed uncomfortably close, but the first thing the mother noticed was his bag—a large duffle, faded but clean, with a gaudy patch that advertised NBA All-Star Weekend ’95. After a pause, she unlocked her door and stepped out into the street. As she walked around to the back of the car to open the trunk, she managed a smile in the boy’s direction.

“Welcome,” she said.

“You’ll be staying in Jeremy’s room,” said the mother as the odd couple walked through the front door of the house. “It’s upstairs on the left.” 

German responded with a shy “thank you.” It was the first time she had actually heard him speak. The twenty-six minutes between the airport and home were filled only with her rehearsed questions and his nods and mutters. She walked away, contemplating how bad the boy’s accent actually was.
German lugged his bag up the stairs, eyeing the walls on either side cluttered with family portraits. Every picture was the same: the girl and the boy sat side by side in front, slightly angled toward each other with inside knees barely touching, while the mother and father stood just behind. He wondered what was the point of taking and hanging the same photo so many times, like a flip-photo book where the scene never actually changed. As he entered the room at the top of the stairs German was taken by an eerie feeling—while he was here in this room, its owner was probably in his, a few thousand miles away. He soon became lost in the myriad of paper images torn from random magazines and stapled to every wall, completely hiding the color of the paint. He already wanted to be back home.

German unzipped his bag, unpacking and refolding each article of clothing it contained. By the time he was finished, the brother’s bed displayed four piles: socks and underwear, shirts, pants, and an assortment of outdated accessories, including a yellow and black Walkman and a Reebok fanny-pack. 

With his things in order, German turned to leave the room, but found himself face to face with the girl from the family portrait(s). He retreated a half-step, unconsciously dropping his head a little. The girl held out a bath towel. 
“Hi, I’m Lisbeth. You can use Jeremy’s shower. It’s down the hall.”

“Thank you,” said the boy, almost to himself. He took the towel, but instead of continuing down the hall, he turned to go back into his room. He already felt naked enough—he wasn’t ready for a shower.
The daughter entered the bedroom and watched from behind as her mother rummaged through top drawer of the dresser.

“Where’s our guest?” the mother asked, without turning.

“I think he’s in the shower. What are you doing?”

“Just getting some of my things together.” The mother’s answer was sung, not spoken.

“Getting your things together?” The daughter approached, and when the two stood almost side by side facing the dresser, her mother stiffened. Looking down, the daughter noticed her mother stuffing a handful of jewelry—some priceless and some worthless, but all equally steal-able—into a small box secured by an even smaller lock. “What are you doing?”

The mother struggled do defend herself. “I’m just taking some precautions.” This was not sung.

“Against what?” pried the daughter. There was a pause as the daughter struggled to hide a grin. “This wouldn’t have anything to do with German, would it?”

“With who?” The daughter couldn’t decide if her mother was in complete denial or if she had already forgotten their guest’s name. If the two were beasts in the wild, they would have locked horns at this point. 

“Hello-o—the random person in my brother’s room,” sneered the daughter. The mother turned around, clutching a half-handful of necklaces to her chest and glared back with the look of a cornered animal. “What are you doing with all that jewelry!?” the daughter teased in mock surprise, as if it was news to her that her mother even owned any.

“Don’t be so fucking naïve!” snapped the mother without yelling. Immediately, the daughter realized her mistake, but it was too late. “Am I supposed sit here looking stupid while a complete stranger is wandering through my house? This wasn’t my idea you know, it was your father’s. He was the one who wanted to send your brother away and now I’m stuck here playing host to some kid from Mexico or wherever! Do you have any idea how much he could get for one of these?” 
The daughter hardly heard the question, but would not have had an answer anyway.

“His name is German.”

“Well... German could probably feed his family for a month with this,” she pointed out while delicately holding up a thin gold chain by its clasp. “Look, I’m all for loving thy neighbor, but nobody said I had had to be a damn a fool while I’m doing it!” The daughter had never heard her mother talk like this, and she wasn’t sure if she was embarrassed, scared or impressed by the outbreak. The mother seemed to loosen her grip on the necklaces a little and when it was apparent that her daughter had nothing more to say, she turned her back and went back to hiding her booty.
As he sat on the bed in the brother’s room, German tried to ignore the conversation he had just overheard, For the first time in his life, he wished he didn’t understand English so well. He had so many ideas, and knew so many things about this place, some things that even he doubted were true. America had always seemed to be a part of his life, yet after seventeen years, today was his first day here. His eyes again reverted to the cluttered walls of the brother’s room. Somehow, the mosaic of magazine pages seemed more American to him than any exported TV show or song that had ever reached him before. There were more torn-out pages reassembled together than the wall actually had room for. The different layers seemed to hint at changing fads—a clean cut boy band peeked out from behind the corner of a fully visible, diamond-clad rapper. What did the mother think of that guy? The girls—in swimsuits, on cars, in almost nothing—made German want sex without actually noticing it. As he stared into America, he decided that he didn’t actually care what the mom said or thought about the wall, or about him.
Days and weeks passed, and although German managed to shelter his ears from most conversations between his hosts, he still felt the weight of the mother’s eyes resting on his back, even when she wasn’t home. Aside from her suspicions, German had his hands full with the daughter. With each day she became more comfortable talking to him, even though she never received much more than a one- or two-word reply. Her attempts at conversation seemed to be a sales pitch for a friendship that neither of them actually wanted. It wasn’t that he disliked her, but that she made him feel more awkward, if that was possible. He saw through her increasingly frequent attention and thought he glimpsed a fifteen year old girl looking for a new and creative way to irritate her mother. Their interactions became like a one-sided game of Truth, where she prodded him with questions that never seemed to draw out the answers that she needed or wanted to hear.

On most evenings, German would lie on the brother’s bed with his eyes closed, trying in his imagination to draw the details of his life back home. This time he was working on a mental inventory of his mother’s bathroom cabinet when the brother’s bedroom door creaked open and the daughter into the frame. “Jeremy never really lets me come in here.” Laying artificially stiff, German silently prayed that the she would respect her brother’s wishes. “But it’s kinda your room now, so whatever, right?”

Feigning sleep would not work. German sat up on the bed, blinking and rubbing his eyes to give the impression that he had been inches away from dozing off. His eyes met the daughters as she entered with short, quiet steps. As she approached the side of the bed, German saw that she was carrying a small brown paper bag. She pulled up a chair from the brother’s desk and placed the bag on the nightstand by the bed. Suddenly the small bag felt like the biggest thing in the room—bigger than either of them. 
She started to ask, “Do you drink?” but instead she reached over and slowly rolled down the edges of the bag, eventually revealing the blue and white “Royal Gate Vodka” label. Instead of taking out the bottle, the daughter sat in the chair and rested both hands in her lap. She strained, but it was impossible for her to see through his expression into his thoughts. Eventually, she reached for the bottle and slowly unscrewed the cap. She brought its glass opening to her lips and tilted both her head and the bottle back, but her tightly clenched mouth stopped any vodka from entering. After a few seconds in this posture, she pulled the bottle away and exhaled with her mouth wide open, just like she had seen her brother do once. She placed the bottled back on the table, crumpling the bag, and to finish off the effect, she licked her lips thoroughly. She immediately regretted it. The stinging taste on her tongue made her glad that she had not actually taken a sip.  
It was his turn, but the daughter made no move to pass him the bottle. Even though German had never tasted alcohol and didn’t particularly want to now, he knew that he was about to pick up the clear bottle. The liquid’s visible likeness to water fooled his mind, but not his tongue— he was not prepared for the bitter, burning flow of vodka unleashed on his mouth, throat, and stomach. His grip on the bottle loosened and it fell, splashing the daughter’s bare ankles with vodka before he half-caught it at their feet. He was relieved that the bottle didn’t break, but wished he had spilled more first. There was still plenty left.

The two continued on like this for at least an hour, passing the bottle between each other. Each sip became easier for German until the burning poison became nothing more than a slightly bitter juice sliding down his numb throat. He began to gain his reason and lose it all at once, half-realizing that while he subjected himself to the burn, the daughter kept letting the tilted bottle rest against her clenched lips with a small hand wrapped around its neck to disguise her act. He knew he had been taken advantage of,  but was unable to produce a second clear thought beyond that. At some point the daughter had abandoned the chair to sit next to him on her brother’s bed, and now her left thigh was flush against the outside of his right. He kept his eyes trained forward on the wall, as if the pages had been torn from his own favorite magazines, not the brother’s. 

As his eyes drifted from black athlete to white actress, the thought occurred to German that this would be a good time to practice his English. Gazing at the wall, he began silently to sound out the names of the pantheon of American celebrities. When he got to Kirsten Dunst, he realized that he had forgotten about the daughter sitting next to him—he couldn’t even remember what she looked like.

German rolled his head to the right, but before the daughter’s face came into sight he noticed the near-empty bottle resting between her legs. He reached for it, but was struck by a wave of dizziness, spilling himself into the daughter’s lap. She pushed him off and he slid from the bed onto the floor, where he remained for some seconds. The collision with the daughter had done something to him. With some trouble he regained his feet, only to fall back on top of the daughter, this time pinning her to the bed. Her body, mind, and voice screamed in unison in an attempt to free herself, but it was useless— German’s mind was quiet.
At eleven o’clock that night the mother returned home. All was quiet, but that was what she expected as the boy had always gone to bed early, and her daughter spent most nights in her room with her earbuds in, watching a muted television. The mother headed up the stairs, and as she passed the door to the her son’s bedroom she felt the familiar desire to peek inside. She may have told herself that she was checking to make sure that German didn’t need anything, but in truth she sought security in the knowledge that he was fast asleep and accounted for. She was disappointed to see the light leaking out from beneath the door, then frozen by the sound of weak sobs coming from inside. The second or third whimper hit her chest before it reached her ears and she knew immediately that the sound could not be coming from the boy. She opened the door, but before her second step could bring her fully into the room her knees buckled. There sat her daughter, with her feet hanging off the side of the brother’s bed. Her shirt was torn around the right shoulder, and her hair almost did enough to hide a tear-stained face. As her quiet sobs ebbed, the mother’s began to flow silently. Neither had ever been welcome in the brother’s room, and now both wished they had never entered. 
German followed the trail of street lamps down the empty suburban street, hoping they would lead him away from that house that was never his. Eventually, he began to feel like he was passing the same three houses over and over again, and he began to wish that the street lamps would go out, or at least not be so bright. It wasn’t until he reached the last lamp at the corner that he noticed the tangle of necklaces and bracelets clenched tightly in his own hand. Slowly, without breaking his stride, his grip loosened and the jewelry fell, piece by piece, onto the sidewalk. 
German kept walking.

I hope you enjoyed this short story. It is adapted from a story that I wrote for a high school class 1999. I´ve been meaning to dust it off and rewrite it for years, and now I finally have. Most importantly, this short story does not reflect my relationship with my host family here in Cape Verde, or any other family that has ever opened their home to me. And no, the Peace Corps did NOT make me include this disclaimer, I just wanted to be clear. Any feedback is welcome, unless you didn´t like it!
- Drew
August 5, 2011
NEW NOTE: Above is a re-revised version of this story was posted on May 8, 2013. Thank you to my editor and stepmother, Lalita Tademy, for your input!