Thursday, December 27, 2012

Turning the Page

It's that time of year again. Before I look forward to next year, I have to take a moment to look back at the one we're wrapping up. It's been another year of movement for me—from Cape Verde to Senegal and back... home in the USA for a week, then onto my new nest in Barranquilla, Colombia. Peace Corps—and life in general—has been treating me right, so all I can say is "thank you."

Despite all the moves and changes—both expected and unexpected—I've haven't lost my sanity yet. That's largely due to the consistent things in my life being there for me. One of those things is writing—i.e. this blog—so thank you for reading and coming along on the journey with me. But if I had to choose between writing and reading, I would reluctantly through down my pen, pick up my book, and dig in. The book-a-week program continues through hell, high water, and Grad school applications. I'm happy to say that I just finished turning over the last page of book number 52 on the year... five days ahead of schedule... woo hoo! Here's a look back what I've enjoyed this year, in the order that I read them.

  • Bastard Out of Carolina - Dorothy Allison (1992)
  • The English Patient - Michael Ondaatje (1992)
  • Too Big to Fail: The Inside Story of How Wall Street and Washington Fought to Save the Financial System from Crisis—and Themselves - Andrew Ross Sorkin (2009)
  • Galápagos - Kurt Vonnegut (1985)
  • Africa United: Soccer, Passion, Politics and the First World Cup in Africa - Steve Bloomfield (2010)
  • Zone One - Colson Whitehead (2011)
  • Jazz - Toni Morrison (1992)
  • 1776 - David McCullough (2005)
  • Down the Nile: Alone in a Fisherman’s Skiff - Rosemary Mahoney (2007)
  • The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration - Isabel Wilkerson (2010)
  • Love Goes to Buildings on Fire: Five Years in New York That Changed Music Forever - Will Hermes (2011)
  • The Appointment - Herta Müller (1997)
  • Malcom X: A Life of Reinvention - Manning Marable (2011)
  • For Whom the Bell Tolls - Ernest Hemingway (1940)
  • Parable of the Talents (Earthseed #2) - Octavia E. Butler (1998)
  • An Equal Music - Vikram Seth (1999)
  • Steve Jobs - Walter Isaacson (2011)
  • Star of the Sea - Joseph O’Conner (2003)
  • Is Marriage for White People?: How the African American Marriage Decline Affects Everyone - Ralph Richard Banks (2011)
  • Bossypants - Tina Fey (2011)
  • The Dark Room - Rachel Seiffert (2001)
  • Boomerang: Travels in the New Third World - Michael Lewis (2011)
  • The Pickup - Nadine Gordimer (2002)
  • Blink: The Power Of Thinking Without Thinking - Malcolm Gladwell (2005)
  • Greaseless: How to Thrive Without Bribes in Developing Countries - Loretta Graziano Breuning (2004)
  • The Historian - Elizabeth Kostova (2003)
  • Drop City - T.C. Boyle (2003)
  • Creation: Darwin, His Daughter & Human Evolution - Randal Keynes (2001)
  • The Elegance of the Hedgehog - Muriel Barbery (2006)
  • Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil - John Berendt (1994)
  • The Two Gentlemen of Verona - Williams Shakespeare (1623)
  • Blood, Bones, and Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef - Gabrielle Hamilton (2011)
  • A Tale of Two Cities - Charles Dickens (1859)
  • Noticia de un Secuestro - Gabriel García Márquez (1991)
  • The Idiot - Fyodor Dostoyevsky (1868)
  • The Big Burn: Teddy Roosevelt and the Fire That Saved America - Timothy Egan (2009)
  • La Casa Verde - Mario Vargas Llosa (1965)
  • Major: A Black Athlete, a White Era, and the Fight to Be the World’s Fastest Human Being - Todd Balf (2008)
  • The Hobbit - J.R.R. Tolkien (1937)
  • Cuentos Chinos - Andres Oppenheimer (2005)
  • Bridge of Sighs - Richard Russo (2007)
  • Rebuild the Dream - Van Jones (2012)
  • La Casa de los Espíritus - Isabel Allende (1982)
  • The Next IQ: The Next Level of Intelligence for 21st Century Leaders - Arin N. Reeves (2012)
  • The Prophet - Khalil Gibran (1923)
  • La Revolución Perdida: Memorias III - Ernesto Cardenal (2005)
  • The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox - Maggie O’Farrell (2006)
  • The Tuskegee Syphilis Study - Fred D. Gray (1998)
  • Candide - Voltaire (1758)
  • Me Talk Pretty One Day - David Sedaris (2000)
  • El Síndrome de Ulises - Santiago Gamboa (2005)
  • The Time of Our Lives: A Conversation About America - Tom Brokaw (2012)

Since I'm ahead of schedule, I may not be doing too much reading in between now and the New Year. Instead, I plan on soaking up more of the sights and sounds of the holiday season in a what is still, for me, a new country. Here's a quick taste what it's been like so far...

An event for the children of Puerto Colombia, including gifts, a clown show, and a little Christmas cumbia from the Orquesta Sinfónica de Barranquilla...

Midnight Christmas Eve Dinner with the extended family...


Entonces... felicidades, desde el mejor familia, del mejor barrio, de la mejor ciudad, del mejor departamento de Colombia!!! 

Happy New Year to everyone, and as always...

Pura Vida,

Monday, December 10, 2012

Why I'm Smiling

I’ll tell you why I’m smiling. It’s easy to take things for granted, no matter how good you have it. During the last two weeks, I’ve had more than a few good reasons to take a step back and appreciate the goodness. I’ll start with the relatively boring stuff.

At the end of November I headed to Bogotá to take the GRE. As I mentioned before, I’m knee-deep in the process of applying to graduate schools to chase a Master’s degree in Education. The test went really well—definitely well enough that I won’t be taking it again, and that’s a big reason to give thanks.

After taking the test, I had a few days to kick back and enjoy Bogotá, and a whole new side of the country where I live. Some highlights: enjoying the hospitality of Shay, a friend of Javi’s from waaaaaaay back.... Nick’s restaurant in Chapinero, including the Chapinero Porter from the Bogotá Beer Company... experiencing the madness of a Copa Sudamericana semifinal match between Millonarios and Tigre at El Campín...

Honestly, none of that compares to the pleasure of reconnecting with my brother from another, Mr. Taylor, who's recently relocated to Bogotá. We’ve done San Francisco, Oakland, Washington D.C., Costa Rica, and Mexico, so why not try to conquer Colombia

After a strong week in the capital, I returned to the Caribbean Coast. The first thing I did was stuff my jacket back in my suitcase under the bed—won’t be needing that in Barranquilla. Then I set my focus on taking another huge step in the grad school process—I actually and finally turned in my application to UC Berkeley. If you’re one of the many people who think the job description for my current work was specifically written with me in mind, then you’ll probably feel the same way about this program at Berkeley’s Graduate School of Education. I just hope the powers-that-be in the ivory tower will feel the same way. It’s an M.A. in Education, with a concentration in Cultural Studies of Sport in Education. I’m applying to several other programs, but until I actually complete another application, this one will remain my top choice.

Sticking with the theme of academic milestones: my 11 year old host-brother graduated from ? grade, giving the grown folks another good reason to smile (and party).

As if the relocation of Mr. Taylor wasn’t enough, I was blessed this week with a visit from my cousin Rodger. Before I go any further, I should clarify something. I share absolutely no blood with Eli and Rodger, but they are still my family.* Mr. Taylor is my bruh bruh, and Rodger is my cuz-cuz.** Anyway, Rodger made a cameo in Barranquilla over the weekend before heading on to Cartagena to connect with some of our old friends from the high school days who are in-country for a vacation. A good time was had by all.

Honestly, the only low-point came last Friday during our weekly friendly football game. About twenty minutes into the game I received a pass and made a quick move to shake the defender. Just then I heard and felt it—the rip, the tear that every athlete fears. The sound of a career-ending injury. Fortunately, I have no playing career, and even more fortunately, it was only the sound of my turf shoes finally giving out. They’ve served me well, through six countries and billions of hours of coaching and playing. Luckily, I had just picked up my replacements from Eli, imported directly from the States. Hopefully, this pair will bring me as much joy as the last one.

Pura Vida,


* I do actually have a "real" cousin named Roger, but he spells his name without the "d" and he's probably reading this from Martha's Vineyard, MA, not Colombia.

** Not to be confused with the famous North African dish, or the small village in Peru