Friday, December 30, 2011


"Is there anything you want to say to 2011 while you still have the chance?"

The question fell out of the radio speakers and landed on Our Hero's lap one Boxing Day afternoon; The Host, driving the car and utterly oblivious to what had happened in the passenger seat, continued flipping through the stations.

Our Hero stared at the question as it wrapped its tendrils around his stomach, settled into a comfortable position, and looked up into the traveler's eyes as if to say,

This might take a while.


"If you could, what would you change about yourself?"

"You mean, right now?  Like, if I had a switch for it?"

The Host took a drag on his cigarette, blew it into a stream away from Our Hero, and nodded.

Our Hero paused for a moment to recollect the quote he had seen a few weeks ago, and recited, 

"There once was a man who became unstuck in the world.
He took the wind for a map,
He took the sky for a clock,
And he set off with no destination.
He was never lost."

"Where did you hear that?"

"Someone wrote it on a pillar in the hostel kitchen back in Byron Bay," Our Hero said, squinting off and staring into the garden, "I really liked it.  Still do."

The Host took another drag, waiting for Our Hero to continue.

"Philip, I want to become unstuck.  In light of everything we talked about, I just want to stop caring."

"Stop caring?"

"About what people think.  You were right when you said that I hold myself back.  A lot.  It sucks."

"And you know its keeping you from growing, from changing."

"... Yeah.  I know."

"Joshua, it's time to let go."


"So we're pretty set on heading to the beach on New Years Eve?  Probably 7 or so in the evening?" Jesse asked.  

Matt nodded in agreement, and Our Hero agreed by rubbing in more sunblock.

"And what about afterwards?"

"I don't know," Matt said, "I think we were pretty keen on getting back into town and probably going to a pub.  Josh has been to Mars a few times, how about we go there?"

"Look at you, Josh.  You have a haunt here already."

It was true, Our Hero had been to that bar on several occasions since he had arrived in Adelaide.  He couldn't help it; the bar was the first to which he was introduced in Australia, and the one in which he had met a considerably diverse collection of characters [including an ex-circus performer in a wheelchair, a part-time go go dancer and first year dance student, a woman who had moved to Adelaide because the job market in Chicago was terrible, and a drag queen named Malt Biscuit].  Our Hero wouldn't turn down the chance of going back to Mars, although Jesse's choice of words had slapped him across the face at the last second.

You have a haunt.

As expressed before, Our Hero had despised the idea of developing habits, running in circles, becoming predictable.  The idea of anchoring himself to one place during a year like this was more than undesirable and embarrassing, it was 


Maybe this would be the first year he would follow his resolution, whatever he decided it would be.  

He didn't want this feeling to stop, whatever this feeling was.  Feeling like he was in the right place at the right time, doing the things and meeting the people he needed to, hearing, seeing, and learning things that would help sculpt him into the Prince he was destined to become.  worldlyfearlessconfidentsereneexperiencedknowledgedserene.  Feeling that fire inside rage every day, every time he practiced, every time he saw a performance, every time he felt the hard wooden floor beneath his feet vibrate from too much bass.

He wondered what it would be like when this would all stop.
That is, if it would.

He, Our Hero, The Boy, The One who would lose then find his way in India, who was adopted and beloved in Uganda, who smelled of sunblock and tasted of sea salt in Australia hoped this would never end.  The destiny he had chosen had taken him this far, and for the first time in his life, he would dare to see how much farther this rabbit hole would go.


When 2011 would leave, he wasn't exactly sure what he would say.  Goodbye?  Thanks for the ride?  Call me?  2011 would always be a landmark; he had always known it would be the year he left college, entered the real world.  But what came after that?  What happened after the end?  He never would have guessed he would be traveling, dancing, living.

This past year was all about knowing what would happen next, having a plan, and watching as it all fell into place.  2012 should be different.  And it would.  Everything was already changing; why should he let it stop now?  If there was any time to let it all go...

... it would be now.


Tuesday, December 27, 2011


"You've already made a choice." Adriano, director of Ranters Theatre, said over a glass of Cooper's Dark Ale.

This, the Boy had never heard before.

"There is no 'choosing between dancer or doctor' at this point, mate.  You're traveling for a year studying dance, not how to become a doctor.  Spend it learning as much as you can, and see where it takes you.  At the end of the year, you'll be in a place where you know whether or not you'll continue down this road.  By then, there'll be no more 'I'll have to make a choice between this or that,' but more of a 'I've already gone down this path, so I'll go a little further' or 'I might backtrack a bit.'"

The Boy nodded, and reached for a salt and vinegar potato chip.

"I can see that this is something you really want to do.  That much is obvious.  So why keep questioning what you want?  You made the choice when you took on this year.  Let yourself explore it as much as you can."


Saturday, December 24, 2011

If The Fates Allow

To play whilst reading.  [ I know, I know.  The Frank Sinatra version is my favorite, and in my opinion the best.  But hey, why not go for something a little alternative this year? ]:

| Far Away |

He knew his troubles were far, somewhere beyond the sea.  Wherever he was now, [ uncle: "Hello joshua. Where are you this time?" ], he was living.  Living.  As much as he didn't want to admit it, he would.

I don't remember being this happy.

Yes, this year had plenty of setbacks.  But wasn't that all part of the experience?  Missed appointments, wandering for kilometers, questionable healthcare, shattered self-confidence, and insecure isolation were all absorbed and relished.  In the long run.  Sure, he could have gotten this back at home, but instead, it was all in india/uganda/australia.  For the first time in his life, he could do everything without regret.  Win and lose, it was everything he ever wanted and more.

So why ask for anything this Christmas?

| Golden Days |

All was golden.  He realized, as soon as he had landed in Australia, that the fuzzy heartwarming feeling of Christmas wasn't going to come, not this year.  What he didn't expect, however, was how fine he'd be without it.  Maybe it had something to do with the trips to the beach, the optimistic sun constantly blaring, the moments in which his nasal cavities had enough ocean water, the hilarious accents, and the incredible talent he had seen onstage, offstage, and everywhere in between.  Although he didn't want to say it out loud, he knew that somewhere deep down, he missed snow, Christmas trees, and hot cocoa.

He was getting everything he needed, that much was obvious.

What he wanted, however, was certainly lacking.

| The Fates |

He remembered his mom always telling him, "If it doesn't happen, it's wasn't meant to happen.  It will when it does."  And although there was more than enough pressure from his host parents to have an Aussie Flame before he left - and remember, the Christmas season is during the summer; ergo, it would be considered a summer fling - he just didn't see that happening.

Really, he was okay with that.

Cutting back on expectations was a HUGE part of the things he'd learned during his few months abroad, and it was proving to make this trip even more incredible than it already was.  In addition to decreasing his chances of disappointment, it was teaching him how to deal with it.  And to be honest, the world was chock full of it.

What he needed would come to him, and what didn't come to him taught him to wait.  Everything would get better in time.  And the interesting thing was, as soon as he didn't get what he'd want...  Something else would fall out of the blue and tell him that it happened

| Near to Us |

He knew that his back was always covered.  The invisible hands of friends and family back home and around the world would always be there to catch him.  Small messages here and there were more than enough to remind him that somewhere, someone was waiting for him.

Everyone deserves to know that.

They would tell him what he needed to hear, not what he wanted.  He would be told the right thing at the right time.  It was the ones who mattered the most that ended up surprising him.  And it was these for whom he would momentarily allow himself to feel homesick.

| Now |

This wasn't the most well thought out post, but I guess I haven't really been writing in this very often.  It's not that nothing is happening right now... things are always happening.  I guess it's just that I haven't really been interested in writing in this.  It's kind of exhausting.  And as with most people who keep a blog while they're abroad, there's always a sudden decline in how much they write.  To wriggle against that, I guess I've just decided to slap together something in honor of the holidays.  Sorry for the inconsistency/lack of comprehension/elements of a train of thought.  But if you've gotten this far, hey, I think I've entertained you enough.

In short, I'm still having an incredible time.  Difficult, hilarious, gut-wrenching, smile-making, but most of all incredible.  

Merry Christmas, Friends.

[ Gifted ]

p.s. Oh, I took a day of dance workshops a couple of weeks ago, and this was a song used by one of the teachers at Adelaide College of the Arts.  A new addition to my growing list of favorite life songs.  Enjoy.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Hitch Hikers

|| one ||

"I used to do it all the time," Philip said, "It was how I got around Australia when I was your age."

The Boy and his friend, The Companion, looked at each other.

"So, are you going to do it?" Philip asked.

The Boy and The Companion shrugged shoulders.  They were in Pottsville [no association with marijuana, actually] for the next five days with next to nothing planned before the dance workshop with Restless and Heartbeat would take place.  Why not?

"Yeah, we'll hitchhike today.  All the way to Byron Bay, and back.  It'll be today's adventure."

|| two ||

The Boy and The Companion had been waiting for half an hour on the side of the road, thumbs sore from being held erect for an unusually uncomfortable amount of time.  Philip had dropped them off at the midway point between Pottsville and Byron Bay, just to get a 'running start.'

"This is humiliating," The Boy said, "It's like all of my attempts at relationships in college.  All rejected before they even get to know me, based on just a passing moment."

"I don't know," The Companion replied, "Isn't it kind of exciting?  It's like an adventure!"

The Boy did not share the same opinion about rejection as The Companion.  "Maybe we should make a cardboard sign like they do in the movies."

The two searched the side of the road before finding a reasonably-sized piece, which The Boy picked up.

The cardboard already had the words "Byron Bay" written across it.  Whether this was [literally] a good or bad sign, they would find out soon.

|| three ||

"So you're a carpenter?" The Companion asked Driver the First, who bore an uncanny resemblance to John Locke on Lost.  A business card lay on the dashboard, and The Companion had taken the opportunity to strike up conversation with the kind man who had offered both travelers a ride to Byron Bay.

"Nope." He replied.  

Silence followed, and an awkward one at that.

"Oh.  So you're a farmer?" The Companion asked, noticing a second set of business cards on the dashboard.

"Nope." Driver the First replied again.

Another silence followed, more awkward than the last.

Please, please, please stop asking him questions.  The Boy mentally shot at his friend.  This guy clearly does not want to converse with strangers, [even though he did pick us up].

"... But you do like chocolate?" The Boy realized this came out of his own mouth, regardless of what he had been begging his friend to do.  Driver the First looked down at the dashboard, and there lay a semi-full wrapper of chocolate.

"Actually, no." He replied.

|| Four ||

Driver the Second was a delightful man from Copenhagen, Denmark, and moved to Australia with his wife three years ago.  He just had to move to Byron Bay, as he had momentarily saw it years ago when he traveled as an flight representative.  In addition to Australia, Driver the Second had been to the Philippines, Malaysia, and generally a good part all over eastern Asia.

He had never been happier in his life.

|| five ||

It had started to rain, and The Boy and The Companion had been standing on the side of the road for twenty minutes.  It was decided that the weather was the reason she had picked them up.

"Thanks heaps," The Boy said, trying out a recently learned Aussie mannerism.

"'Course," she said, "It started raining.  Felt bad for the two of ya."

"Yeah, it would've sucked to walk home all the way to Pottsville from here."

Since that morning, The Boy's learning curve for bringing up conversation with the drivers had improved exponentially.

By end of the relatively short drive, The Boy and The Companion knew all about Driver the Third's time in Byron Bay: how it was a fantastic place before the tourism made its way there, how she used to be able to sleep on the beach without having to worry about beach patrol, how she had gotten into seed collecting/agriculture, and what she was doing with a mysteriously large sack of goji berries [making jam], and how her boyfriend had come to live in the area [started an aboriginal artwork shop].

This was key: although part of the hitchhiking game was getting a driver to trust you in their car, the real trick was learning about as much of the driver as possible.  In the end, the one behind the wheel would be more interested in talking about themselves than learning about the crazy morning or weekend or month or year of travel you had.

|| six ||

Driver the Fourth and Last - a considerably free spirit with blonde dreadlocks - would bring them less than a couple of miles away from where The Boy and The Companion had started that day.  With The Companion in the passenger seat, The Boy found himself in the fetal position in the back amongst a propane tank and four dirty tires.

White shorts were a poor choice that day.

"Sorry about that, Man." Driver the Fourth and Last apologized, and The Boy only nodded and waved him away.

|| seven ||

"Hi," The Companion began, "Today's our first day hitchhiking, and we're actually really lost now because we can't get a ride, and we've already walked ten kilometers, and we're still a ton of kilometers away from Pottsville, and we were just wondering if we could use your phone so we could call a friend to pick us up at a pub nearby."

The Boy looked away from The Stranger's doorway and grimaced.  The introduction, the charm, the buildup, the explanation, and the request for a favor weren't as eloquently executed as he imagined, but then again, The Boy wasn't the one who was at the doorstep.  The Stranger tilted her head in suspicion, and led The Companion upstairs.

"I'll just stay here," The Boy said.  No one was going to offer him drugged water.

|| eight ||

"Sorry, Philip," The Boy and The Companion said, looking up from their half-empty glasses of beer, "We tried, and we failed.  We suck at hitching."

"No, no no no.  Today was good.  It was a good effort for a pair of first timers."

"Really?  Thanks, Philip.  You know, at one point, we were thinking of what it would be like to hitch around Australia for a year."

Philip shook his head.  "Yeah, at the rate you were going, it would be ten years before you made it around Australia."


COMING SOON:  Hitch Hiking, A How To!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Byron Bay

In short:

I'm off for the week in Byron Bay for workshops held by my host/the artistic director of Restless Dance.  Ergo, internet frequency and use may be close to none [Uganda].  Hurray!  To leave you with some food for thought, here's what I've learned/done during my last week in Adelaide, all of which may or may not be further described in later posts.
  • I've eaten kangaroo steak.
  • I've come to the conclusion that I am terribly behind in technical dance, but that doesn't mean much.
  • I've learned a considerable amount of Australian slang, but next to none of the accent.
  • I've watched the final performances of two classes at AC Arts, and left jealous.
  • I've gone to the South Australian Museum and Art Gallery.
  • I've eaten at Hungry Jack's [which bears an uncanny resemblance to Burger King] and people watched.
  • I've received public transportation advice from a bogan, who didn't try to rob or stab me.
  • I've heard meaningful life advice from professional dancers and actors.
  • I've performed with dancers with down syndrome.
  • I've sang in a group, not unlike a caroling group, in the middle of a mall.
  • I've cooked a dinner of pork loin roll, baked plums, and green beans with sunflower seeds, successfully and succulently.
  • I've frolicked around many black swans.
  • I've been to the Napa Valley of Australia, and most days of the week, I get to enjoy the wine this land offers.
  • Finally, I've lost the charger to my camera battery in Uganda.  Ergo, pictures and video documenting may be impaired for a bit.

[ Off ]

Saturday, December 10, 2011


Sometimes you wonder what could have been.

If your parents had enrolled you in dance classes instead of karate, if you had realized your dreams earlier, if you had gone to a different college, if you had not majored in neuroscience, if you had been born into a family that supported whatever you wanted to do instead of what you needed to do.  You realize, that down some other rabbit hole, on another earth, in a parallel universe, you live a life where you're more talented, funnier, and better looking.  You don't appear as sad, as in much doubt, or as financially in need as you do in this one, and the unavoidable pang of regret hits you in the stomach full-force, throwing off your motivation to keep doing whatever it is you do.

You wonder if you could ever become a tenth of the successful person/people you see before you, a tenth of whatever it was that sent you into this state of being in the first place.  To see someone your age doing something you couldn't fathom doing - performing on stage, for instance, professionally - is more than just a moment of amazement.  It a disappointment as well.

This cold slap of [questionable] reality sends you tumbling down a considerably dark path of regret, paralyzing you from realizing that there may be a version of you who's a lot happier now than you are right now.  Which, in some cases may be hard to imagine, but in most cases incredibly easy.  At times, you wonder if it's not too late to try changing the path you're on, to try becoming this other person you momentarily imagined in the back of your mind.

To learn why this isn't possible, please watch the following educational video:

I like to think that I'm living without regrets, that every choice and mistake and success I've experienced happened for a reason.  That being said, I can't say that I don't experience jealousy.  When I see incredibly talented dancers perform at my age, I immediately get a sense that somewhere, I'm doing that.  Instead, I'm living this version of myself, who apparently daydreams all the time of things he'll probably never be.  A friend once told me,

"When I look at you, 
I see something that didn't happen to me, 
and won't ever happen to me." 

Of course I felt guilty.  I never wanted him, or anyone, to feel like that.  I'd like to believe that when I feel the same way, the person/people of whom I get jealous never wanted that to happen either.

However, a part of me is convinced they only feel pity.

Don't get me wrong, I wouldn't trade this year for anything.  I'm learning a ton, and I've made it all seem like it's all been one hilarious fleeting encounter after another.  But please please please remember that there's been a ton of dark times, and there'll continue to be a lot more.  I suppose I just don't like writing about them as much.

I'll finish with one comment: a lot of people have thanked me for the vicarious living I've apparently given them.  While I'm flattered, please don't think of it like that.  Don't try living through someone else's experiences, peeking through the rabbit hole, attempting to see the other version of you.  Live in the life you have right now, and make it as incredible as you possibly can.  You never know if a version of you is out there, wondering what could have been if they were living your life.

[ O|O ]

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Phoenix

"Wanna see it?" Matt asked.

Our Hero nodded, unsure if this was part of the workshop that the current actors, from Ranters Theatre, wanted the pair to discuss.  Regardless, Matt lifted his shirt.

"I designed it myself." he said, proudly.

Our Hero stared at the outline of black feathers that turned into flames, and at the center of its chest, a detailed heart surrounded by a  rib cage.

"It's a phoenix, you know.  You probably know the story, but it's a bird that dies and rises from its ashes.  I think I really do associate with this animal...  Every time I broke one of my bones, it healed."

When he was born, Matt had been diagnosed with osteogenesis imperfecta, or brittle bone disease.  Matt had spent a considerable part of his life in a wheelchair, until about 8 years ago when he had taught himself to walk.  Up until that point, he had "literally broken every bone in [his] body, and then some."

Ever since leaving the wheelchair, he's continued his studies in theater, performs and works at Restless, practices ninjutsu, and dresses in the occasional pimp suit or ninja garb.

Matt continued, "Sometimes it healed incorrectly, and sometimes it healed too much.  Like my shin; I have one hell of a shin."  To demonstrate, he rapped his knuckles against his left shin, and the sound of hollow wood echoed through the studio.  "I'm in no big hurry to get the rest of the details in.  Actually, I need reasons to keep adding on to this one.  Every time something big happens in my life, I add some more detail to this."

Our Hero asked if the tat made Matt happy.

"It does.  When I look in the mirror every morning, I'm reminded of why I got it done in the first place.  I was born with weak bones, but now look at me.  After breaking them and letting them heal a million times, my bones are too strong now.  I really am like the phoenix, you know?  Every time I die, I keep coming back stronger."


Monday, December 5, 2011


Of the first 4 days in Australia:

1.  Vegemite, contrary to popular belief, does not taste terrible on toast, or at all.

2.  Australia is not America Part 2: it has its own strange customs, quirks, and even slanguage [slang + language] that make it lovable, terrifying, and hilarious.

3.  If you live with someone that has a garden, prepare to de-snail and de-slug it at nighttime, which is the best time to pick up these almost-liquid things that you feed to the chickens that poop out eggs for you in the morning.

-| Tupperware full of snails and slugs.  Be glad it's of poor quality. |-

4.  Orion is also visible from here.

5.  The summers are also cold here, but that's just because of global warming/climate change.  I had to wear my L. L. Bean microfleece to bed one night.

6.  The amount of t.v. you watch skyrockets, but the quality remains the same [awful].  The music videos are just as terrible, the documentaries ["When Teenage Meets Old Age"] say just as little, and the British dramas ["Upstairs Downstairs"] don't make any more sense.

7.  Walking around without shoes is popular here.  Especially in grocery stores.

8.  Candy is expensive, even without the conversion rate.  i.e., Mentos for 2 AUD | 2.05 USD.  Sad.

9.  Slang is hilarious, and like most, doesn't make sense.  "Chucked a wobbly" means "flipped a sh*t," "gone off" means "gone crazy," and "look at that gullah" means "stare at that idiot."  More to come.

10.  The toilets flush in the opposite direction.  Video update soon to follow.

11.  Kindness abound.  i.e., Free copy of Paulo Coelho's "The Pilgrimmage" from store owners, kind directions from strangers at the airport, invitations to birthday retreats in the country of South Australia, and amazing rooms and meals from dance directors.

12.  The currency is plastic.  The bills are partially see-through.

13.  Australians apparently shoot their national animal.  Farmers believe them to be pests.

-| If you look reaaaal close, you can see the Joey hanging out! |-

-| Exhibit A |-

14.  The flight here is INCREDIBLE.  The blankets [one of which is now in my possession], the food [Haagen-Dazs for dessert and an asian-style breakfast in the morning?], and the entertainment [Batman Returns, Another Earth, Mean Bosses, and Friends With Benefits was all viewed in a span of 8.5 hours] are waaay above par.  And, you get a whole row to yourself.

15.  When you live with a fashion designer and a dance director, all conversations become witty, dry-humored, and overly cultured.  And filled with many glasses of wine.


17.  BONUS:  in Hong Kong, Nicholas Cage is still a thing.  And his forehead sells watches.

18:  BONUS:  in Hong Kong, you can get plenty of knock-offs.  Even Cloud Gate / the Bean.

[Aspiring Aussie]

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Mysterious Apple Gold Diggers

Before I part ways with Uganda tomorrow, I thought it'd be nice to give you an idea of the more popular songs that have been floating around the dance centers, the buses, and on television.  Note that these are all very popular, regardless of content and in which decade they were filmed.


-| Mysterious Girl |-

-| Apple |-

-| Gold Digger |-


Saturday, November 26, 2011

Happy Meal

Lacking Creativity!  Again!

Ugandan and American Thanksgiving meals, all in the same weekend!

-| Ugandan Thanksgiving: Ginger soda, pizza, vinegared cabbage and tomatoes, potatoes, plantains, burgers, and chicken! |-

-| 'Twas also Father Felix's farewell dinner... |-

-| No American Thanksgiving is complete without the Obamas or turkey-shaped rolls. |-

-| Pumpkin, rolls, stuffing, cranberry sauce, turkey, corn, chapatti chips/guacamole, mashed potatoes, and green beans. |-

-| Normal white wine [deliciously dry] and Ugandan pineapple wine [you can really taste the acetone!] |-

-| Pumpkin pie, apple crisp, and pumpkin cake. |-


Thursday, November 24, 2011

Afoyo Matec

In Acholi: Thank you so much.

Nothing creative today, just a list of what I'm thankful for.  You know, because it's that holiday.

[1]  Framilends. Family and Friends, because they're not really separate.  This one is obvious, at least in my book.  Really, everyone, thanks a ton for always keeping in touch, however much you can.  It makes this trip a lot less lonely, which it often does become.  I know the fellowship folks highly stress limiting the amount of time on facebook/email/skype/gchat, but the few times I do get in touch with you, it really does make you feel not so far away.

[2]  Eccentricity.  According to one professor who lives next to me, I have plenty of it.  Most likely, it got me where I am, which isn't really in a terrible place.  Additionally, children tend to love it, more likely laugh at it, and everyone just has a good time.

[3]  Electricity.  We don't get a lot of it here, and when we do, there's a small part of me that that prays to the power gods for granting us a few hours of non-candle, computer-charging, and vision-able shower time.  As I'm typing this, I have about half an hour left of battery, so the pressure's on to finish and publish this before I'm submerged in the dark vacuum of communication that is Uganda.

[4]  Pineapple.  It's incredible here.  Certainly puts American fruits to shame.

[5]  G-Nut Paste.  Essentially homemade peanut butter with sesame seeds.  Also incredible, and also puts American peanut butter to shame.

[6]  Music.  Keeps a part of America trucking along with me, but I'm also collecting a small pool of songs from the countries in which I'm staying.  Ergo, amazing life playlist is slowly but surely being constructed.

[7]  Anti-Diarrhea Pills and Non-Squat Toilets...  Self explanatory.

[8]  Sending Mail.  I LOVE THIS.  Whether it's snail, e, or messages on facebook, writing makes [and I'm repeating myself at this point] this trip a lot less lonely, and time is really killed faster.  I'm also having a crazy fun time attempting to send postcards, which I imagine to be kind of like shooting a shotgun at a flock of geese and doves and hoping the bullets make it to only the doves.  Not that I'm shooting you.  Maybe with love.  Which brings me to

[9]  Receiving Mail.  I don't want to compare, but this care package [also probably breaking the 'limit communication' rules of the fellowship, but hey, I'm sure it must happen all the time] came in yesterday.  Postcards, homemade brownies/fudge [I could never tell the difference between the two], a traditional Madeiran stock pouch [what? safety belt?], CHRISTMAS TINSEL, and FLOSS.  Ah, my hygiene has yet to be compromised on this trip.  Regardless, even if you don't send me an awesome spring-loaded cardboard box full of things I love, a simple email just telling me about what I'm missing in your life right now is enough.  I might be traveling, but I certainly don't want to be kept out of the loop while I'm away.

-| It's not that I now love Cassie more than you, but... |-

[10]  Travel.  I know this one's super obvious and also not very creative, but this has to be the craziest thing  I've done [so far] in my life.  And I'm loving every minute of it.  I'm changing in [what I think is] all the best ways possible, and I'm learning a TON about the world, myself, strangers, and how much people at home will always mean to me.

[11]  Water.  Whether its cold, hot, drinking, or flushing.  Travel to a third world country and you'll realize how much you need this fantastic fantastic liquid running through you.  Not that I didn't before.

[12]  Humility.  I guess I didn't really know what this was like until I started break dancing, and a flock of small Ugandan ten year-olds laughed at me just moving my feet.  Sure, there's that pang of frustration and wanting to stop immediately, but you learn to deal with it, ignore it, roll with it, not care about it, or even prove them wrong.  I'm a firm believer that knowing how to be super embarrassed is good for the soul, the mind, and the ego.

[13]  Hellos.  You'll never know how much a stranger will help you out, or will end up playing an incredibly important role until you greet them.  I've met photographers, doctors, firemen, nurses, surrogate families, teachers, friends, mentors, and incredible advice-givers because we decided to greet each other.  Try it sometime.  You'll be surprised how far it takes you.

[14]  Goodbyes.  You'll never know how much someone means to you until you say these, and realize how much you don't want to leave them.

UPDATE | [15]  Haircuts.  From nuns.  Losing the heat helmet, especially on the equator, is more than enough reason to celebrate by hopping on the next boda into town, feel the wind on your scalp, and be slightly jealous that the local hair style is shaved.

UPDATE | [16]  Insistent Surrogate Mothers.  Especially when they're really pushy to clean your backpack covered in dirt from India and Uganda.  Although the sentimentality is washed away, you can't help but appreciate that it's because of the maternal need for cleanliness that's keeping your bag looking like it's just been bought from the store.

UPDATE | [17]  Vision.  Oh, and I get to see things like the one below on a regular basis.  Of course the camera doesn't capture it perfectly, so imagine it to be 10,000x more awesome.


Wednesday, November 23, 2011

They Call Me Stacy

-| Advice |-

"You know," Charles said, "we pray for you go back home safely.  But we also pray for you to finish your studies, get a very good job, find a wife and have beautiful children.  Your Mama Beatrice and I would be so happy to have grandchildren.  And for Mary Kay to meet her nieces and nephews.  You have a very big journey ahead of you, but as long as you never forget your name and your family, you can never go wrong."

The advice floated in front of Our Hero, flattered at the blessings of strangers he knew for only a couple of months.  But... His name?

-| Multiple IDs |-

Long before his travels, Our Hero had been called by many names:  Magno, Mango, Magneto, Jorgon, Joshaaay, Joshie, Jorsh, Magnus, J-mags, Shmangs, Shmags, Shmagno, Jagno, Shua, Shazaam, and Todd.  Although the more popular ones were variations of the one with which he was born, he had become accustomed to responding to most names using any combination of the "j" "sh" "m" and "g" sounds.  At least, that was how things had rolled in America.

Since traveling, he had collected a fair number of nicknames, coming from social status or even personal jokes. For instance, in India, he had been called Sir by the children at Samarthanam [students are to call all adults Sir or Miss], Joshua Guda by his bharathanatyam teacher [from wearing a towel similar to the sweating working class, guda so prevalent in HSR Layout], and even This Focka by his host [in the most loving way, of course, because of all the shenanigans he had managed to survive].  In Uganda, the Catholic priests had called him Josh, Josh, Josh [head shaking, disbelieving more shenanigans], the cultural dance leader called him omera [brother], the shopkeeper and her husband called him My Son, and her baby daughter - Mary Kay - called him Ankah! [uncle].

-| The Sisters |-

A pair of nuns had once asked Our Hero the meaning of his given name.

Great Lion-Hearted Messenger of God
Magno | Leon | Joshua

"That's one hell of a name to live up to.  Good luck." they muttered.

-| Acholi Culture |-

All Acholi people have two names: the Christian name [the first name] and the Acholi name [the surname, however it is not inherited from the father or mother, but given at birth].  When someone [a foreigner] is taken into an Acholi family, it is the mother and father's duty to give this family member an Acholi name.  Interestingly, if one is given an Acholi name and that person happens to live with someone older of the same Acholi name, it is the younger person's duty to buy a chicken as a gift of respect for the elder.

-| Surrogate Parents |-

"Joshua," Charles said, "your Mama and I have decided on a name for you.  Now, you must know that you are surrounded by so much love.  When you first arrived in her shop, your Mama lovingly invited you to our house.  And you lovingly accepted.  We've gotten to know you, and we pray so much for your safe travels during your studies, and for your safe return home to your real parents.  Mary Kay now sees you as an uncle.  You are loved in this family, and we know that you are loved back home.  You are capable of so much love."

His left eyebrow twitched.  Previous attempts at relationships in high school and college did not support that claim, but Our Hero decided not to mention that.

"So we have decided to name you with the Acholi word for love." Charles continued, and Beatrice's eyebrows furrowed in a way that suggested she was about to cry.  "Loving.  Full of love.  Being loved.  Surrounded by love.  All about love.  You, Joshua, are all about love."

Our Hero nodded at this, and upon hearing his Acholi name, proceeded to hug his Acholi parents, his little sister/niece, and finished his bottle of Coca Cola.  It was funny - he had expected a name that meant of the other land or first born or one who travels, something that he believed would be fitting for this year.  This name, however, was not the first one that would've come to mind.  If you had asked Our Hero before his travels, he would not have used this name to describe himself.  Time away from America had convinced him otherwise.

Our Hero left later that night [after watching The Jungle Book with Mary Kay], knowing this last week in Uganda would be painful, just as much as it was in India.  But he knew Charles was right - armed with the knowledge of his name and prayers of his family, everything was going to be fine.


Monday, November 21, 2011

Last Monday Night

Ma·ru·a [mah-roo-ah] : noun, Ugandan alcoholic beverage from brewed from millet, grains, and yeast.  Mixed with hot water in a clay pot and swallowed through a long wooden straw and a metal filter, marua 'sessions' are commonly had for social gatherings, philosophical rants, discussions about cultural superstitions, and explanations for how to harvest sim sim [sesame] seeds.  Also known as la·coi [lah-choi].

Most experienced drinkers claim that first-time drinkers will not enjoy the taste or appearance or its effects on the stomach.  However, a small population of considerably thin and blue-shirted Filipino drinkers will say that if a wine were to be made of coffee beans instead of grapes, marua would be the final product, that it looks just like finely blended mate, and that no toilet-related problems will follow the initial drinking experience.

Some first time drinkers are observed to be overly excited about partaking in marua that the 'thumbs up' sign is frequently flashed to onlookers.  Luckily, surrogate older brothers [as pictured below] will keep these first timers grounded and acting within a sensible range of reason for the occasion.

At the end of the day, marua comes highly recommended not for its alcoholic content [one will arguably get more of a buzz from one bottle of Nile beer] but for the overall atmosphere it creates, especially that with strangers.  Take proper hesitiation, though, as locals are more than likely to go on rants about why watching cats have sex, having a tree branch break in front of you, and hitting your right leg on paths that go to the left is considered bad luck.


Friday, November 18, 2011

Network in 9 Hours!

An easy to follow step-by-step 'How To' tutorial for one of the most important skills necessary in life!  In nine hours and nine steps, you too can leave a third world country with an impressively thick stack of business cards [that aren't your own]!


Step 1:  Attend the 'Etiquette Dinner' offered at your college, hosted by the college president's wife [does that make her the First Lady of the college?] to learn proper dinner and social event manners and factoids, including how to butter your dinner roll, how to gather soup with your spoon, what to do if you need to use the bathroom, in what order to use the utensils, and what a sauce spoon looks like.

Step 2:  Graduate, avoid the real world by traveling it, and realize that you'll never use what you learned at the Etiquette Dinner, or that anyone will notice you eating ice cream with a soup spoon.

Step 3:  Live in a Catechist's Training Center in Gulu, Uganda, and have a deep and lengthy conversation with nuns who live next door about how you don't know what you're going to do with your life, how you're struggling choosing between passion and profession, and how you so desperately don't want to be the old man who's unhappy with his job and looks back and wonders about 'what could have been.'

Step 4:  Attend break dance classes as usual, and meet an Australian photographer, his wife an American manager, his friend a Kenyan traveler, and the Kenyan's friend a Ugandan clothes designer who are in Gulu to photograph women disfigured by the LRA dressed in high fashion [all to show that "they are still beautiful"].

Step 5:  Accept their offer of going back to their hotel for drinks, and ride on the back of a truck next to their their camera equipment and spare tire.  Partake in an hour or so of Waragi [fermented sugar cane juice, or the Ugandan equivalent of gin] and have a merry time explaining why you're traveling.  Take pictures, meet more of their traveling friends [one of whom was supposed to go to NYU for musical theater but instead chose UCSB for Ecology, Evolution, and Marine Biology], and excuse yourself to attend a farewell dinner party for a Spanish woman - a music therapist - you met through the cultural talent center, also of which you had been taking dance classes.

Step 6:  Before leaving, offer your business card [really just a torn piece of notebook paper with your name and email address on it; explain it's avant garde] to keep in touch, connect through facebook, and update each other on travels.  Expect to receive a business card in return, or at least their avant garde contact information.

Step 7:  Eat ensaladilla rossa [Russian salad] and guacamole with chapati chips and some kind of eggplant quiche dish with a hearty glass [or mug] of Ugandan wine.

Step 8:  Converse with incredibly good looking Spanish speakers [one of whom worked for NBC, and also covered a Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade and the New Year's Ball Drop in Times Square] and a delightfully dry-humored British woman - no, not you, Cassie - who graduated from Harvard ["With the big shiny 'H' under my belt and a British accent, I know I can hold my own in a conversation and at least have the audience's attention."] and is currently trying to empower youth through building a tennis court and an ice cream shop for a nearby high school.  Extra points if she knows someone who graduated from your college and knows how to spell it.

Step 9:  Repeat Step 6.  Particularly with the British woman, who may offer you a place to stay in Kampala before going back to Entebbe Airport in two weeks.

Update | Optional:  Get chased at high speed by a rabid dog on the back of a boda boda at midnight.


And there you have it, the nine steps of networking!  Good luck, young one!  Make me proud and get those business cards.  Remember, practice makes perfect, but since these fleeting encounters and brief meetings happen once in a lifetime, don't mess up too much.  That might cost you a possible connection to someone else in another country, a place to stay, or maybe even a lover...  

Note[s]:  Results may vary.  Actually, results are most likely to vary, especially if you're not filled with wanderlust, willing to go to a stranger's home, desperate to speak with English speakers, or just "so darn cute".  Additionally, just because you network and come home with a heaping stack of business cards does not mean you'll have a job, either right away or in the future.  That requires much  more work and attention I have yet to acquire.  Oh, and Step 1 and Step 2 may actually take more than 9 hours, but I felt as if they were crucial to learning proper networking skills.

[A Reference for the Rest of Us]

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Reckless, Restless

This was a well known fact:

He did not take risks.

Contrary to the rather portentously precarious year he had decided to embark on, the Boy considered himself a particularly conservative [...] person when it came to gambling.  When Lady Luck would make a pass at him while wearing considerably provocative dress, he would return to whatever nonsensical task he was tending to, most likely reading novels or peeling fruit or worrying about the future.

He needed information: price, price per unit, advantages, disadvantages, emotional stability, long-term benefits, short-term benefits, relationship status, color options, mortality rate, coolness factor, and the amount of time he spent weighing all these factors into making a decision.

Buy the Cheerios or the generic Honey Os?

Buy this awesome smoking jacket from Salvation Army?

Ride the Giant Drop, or just watch from the funnel cake stand?

The blue or the yellow shorts?

Box 1, 2, or 3?

Watch The Ring or Saw?

Keep talking with the roomies at dinner or go back and read articles?

Date you?

Every choice was calculated, planned, and executed, all results lying somewhere on the "mediocre" to "incredibly painful" to "blindingly awesome" spectrum.  Unfortunately, with the gathering of information came extremely long periods of decision-making, and restless frustration with both himself and the world for making things complicated.

With his time in Uganda swiftly coming to a close - two weeks left? - the Boy encountered a new decision: Where to next?

The dancers from Country X had never responded to his emails.  A relatively rude woman from Country Y had accused him of 'failing to answer our questions pertaining to [his] stay with our company' [not true], claimed that he 'barraged [her] staff with emails' [also not true], and promised that upon his response, 'we will further discuss your interaction with the company' [ESPECIALLY NOT TRUE].  The artistic director of Country Z - the Boy had so desperately wanted to go here sometime in his life - had offered him a place to stay for a reasonable price.

As a German woman [a neighbor at the CTC] once told the Boy:  "Isn't the choice obvious?  There are signs pointing you in the direction you should take.  What's convincing you otherwise?"

Money, simply.  Travel to [and, probably, stay in] Country X and Y was painfully cheaper than Country Z.  Considering the European countries he would travel to afterwards, it would be wise and safe to save money now.

"I don't know," the German woman said, "If money is the only reason that's keeping you from going...  I'd say that's a pretty sad reason."

The Boy made his choice [no, not out of peer pressure].  This year was about change, about stretch, about doing things he had never done before.  So what if he was reckless this early in the game?  There'd be plenty of time to fix that later.

But for now, he was fine being so Restlessly Reckless.


Saturday, November 12, 2011

Just In Case

Mama Beatrice and Bridget have been ever so gracious to keep teaching me Acholi; as a matter of fact, they've even written down some phrases outside of our 'classes' [almost every morning, I go to Beatrice's shop near the CTC to drink her sodas, play with her daughter, and attempt to converse in Acholi, and most afternoons after break dance, I walk part of the way home with Bridget].  Here are a few they thought were important for me to know.

As per usual, I've taken the liberty of writing it phonetically.

ee ah-choh-lee mon pee-khee yeh nee-gooh beh-ree kom.
In Acholi, women are not allowed to sit in chairs.

ah-mee-roh deh khaow
I am looking for a woman [to marry].

ahn at-yieh oh-teh-ka
I am a hero.

chwee-nyah och-wher pee lohk mah eeh wah-koh nee
I was pissed at what you said.

wehk gooh-leh-ghee
Let them beg.

yeh-yah tyieh kah lee-veen-ee
The boat is sinking.

looh-tee-noh mah-ro moo-nee
Children love whites.

[White Unmarried Hero]

Wednesday, November 9, 2011


In a recent Ugandan newspaper [the Daily Monitor], an article entitled, "The Reasons You May Be Living a Single Life" was published.  In celebration of no particular reasons, I now share with you snippets of this article that apparently tell me a lot about myself.

-| Singlehood. |-
What are the errors that keep single people from attaining the relationships they feel they should have?

"Singlehood can be a pretty turbulent time for many individuals as they wonder why they are not hitched like everyone around them seems to be.  They run around groping in the dark trying to find the perfect mate and live happily ever after.  Many women prance around the idea of the Knight in Shining Armour riding on a horse and sweeping them off their feet to a magnificent castle..."

"In this search for love, many single people make mistakes along the way some of which can be have dire consequences.  Let's explore some of this issues and the effect they can have on your search for love."

"Expecting your partner to change. ... People are set in their ways of doing things and some of these behaviours form their personality making it almost impossible for them to change.  It therefore is important to ask yourself what aspects of your potential mate you are not willing to live with and which ones you cannot."

"Peer influence.  ... realising that most of their friends have gotten married, some women embark on a mission to find a partner with whom they too can start a family.  In this quest for love, they stoop too low and will compromise on some of the important factors necessary to  make a worthy partner.  They could neglect important aspects such as religion or trust and end up dating or possibly marrying someone only to realize later on they made a terrible mistake."

"Engaging in sex too early.  It is not advisable to get physical with a person you have just started dating...  Some people will simply take advantage of you and walk away after sleeping with you...  a couple that gets intimate too soon are more likely not to take the relationship seriously since they have already consummated their love.  Their relationship may end up becoming simply for sexual convenience...  by withholding from engaging in sex, you sieve out the genuine potential mate from the countless others who may simply be only interested in sex."

"Being too choosy.  ...Some people have very long lists of qualities that their dream mate should have and end up waiting in vain for someone who has all those qualities...  be liberal and understand that there is no person who is perfect so it's unwise to hold dearly onto such lists.  'If you are looking for 10 qualities and your potential suitor has six or seven then you could give them a chance.'...  You should try to get to know them and see what they have to offer.  You might be surprised to discover that they would make a good match for you.  Otherwise you may end up single for life if you religiously wait for someone who has all the endless qualities you so desire."

'Singlehood is a natural aspect of life and should be taken in that respect.  You should take your time as you search for a mate and not be pressured by unrealistic attitudes and beliefs."

-| Qualities to Look for in a Partner |-

"God fearing.  Spirituality is very important in any relationship because it can be the last point of reference when everything else in the relationship has failed."

"Trustworthiness.  A person that you can trust will keep you sane since you will not have be worried about what they are doing when you are not around.  Trust is crucial for any relationship."

"Financial prospects.  Money is key for any relationship since it determines the level of comfort that the couple will enjoy.  Ability and desire to work is much more important than tangible cash in hand."

"Chemistry.  Being attracted to you mate draws you close to them and is mainly the first thing that draws a couple together.  It is much easier to love someone you are attracted to than someone you're not."

-| Apologise to your woman |-

" 'I am sorry, I will make it up to you' translates into 'I cherish you.I don't want to do anything that makes you unhappy' It also says ' I am sorry I wasn't sensitive, I will make it up to you by being more sensitive . in the future'. Do you know how poweful the words 'I am sorry' are? They can melt the wall around a woman's hear, they can build back trust that was lost."

-| My Final Thought |-

Let's be honest: there are many.

Instead, try counting the grammatical errors - nothing was changed from the actual article.

[Single & Questionably Ready to Mingle]