Tuesday, October 11, 2011

A Typical Evening

It was a typical evening in the Barlow household. Mom was in the kitchen cooking up a steamy dinner in the wok over the stove with the aroma of stir-fry filling the entire house. I was in the music room stumbling over some Mozart on my flute, Carl was in his room practicing for his next voice lesson by singing a few scales on different vowels. James and Michael were sitting in their dank bedroom with the feverish glow of a Nintendo game on their faces, Miriam was sitting on the couch rumpling some papers around and studying for her next Bio-Chemistry test. Tom was downstairs in the garage clanging, tinkering, and banging on an old Ford, Marie was cleaning her bedroom while listening to some Sarah McLachlan, and Dad was upstairs shuffling through some bills and junk-mail that had been scattered around in his briefcase.

Then it happened. In less than a second the lights in the house and the glow of the television went out, the steam over the stove had stopped, the vibrating notes of my flute came to a rest, the shuffling and clanging stopped, and Sarah McLachlan and Carl had come to a rest as well. Just as it happened you could hear, ”Hey, what’s going on?” and, “What happened?”

Every one of us at the same time emerged from our personal business and informally gathered in the family room, all spouting off various opinions about the loss our electricity.

“The rice isn’t finished cooking.”, Mom piped in.

“I was going to watch Pirates of Penzance.”, said Michael.

We began rummaging on the top of the refrigerator for some flashlights. After we had discovered that the batteries in each of them were bumt out, Marie hauled out from her immaculately clean bedroom s potpourri candles in little glass containers that she had made just last week and began lighting them around the house. Meanwhile, my littlest brother kept complaining about wanting to watch The Pirates of Penzance. My innovative sister, Miriam, had a solution to his problem.

“I’m sure that I have the script somewhere.”

Upon her suggestion she scampered to her room and started throwing books and papers every which way. She finally appeared out from her candle-lit bedroom holding a stapled packet of wrinkled papers high above her head.

“I found the script!”, she elated.

We all situated ourselves at the table andchose parts. I got to be Mabel and the Major General, Carl assumed most major male roles being that he is really the only boy in our family that sings, Marie and Miriam double-cast themselves as Ruth and were all of the Major General’s Daughters, James and Michael assumed the male chorus roles as the pirates and the policemen, and Tom, Mom, and Dad were all going to be too busy to stay awake and sing, so they wished us well and went to bed.

James and Michael began by singing,

“Pour, oh pour the pirate sherry- Fill, oh fill
the pirate glass! . . ..”

By the-time the first scene was through, we had mostly forgotten or simply ignored that we had assigned parts. When it was time for the Major General’s entrance and song, James and Michael were both lying asleep on the Family Room floor.

I, Carl, Marie, and Miriam kept singing all through the night. When we had finished the last scene when everyone gets married, it was about three o’clock in the morning, but none of us were very tired. We all Wanted to keep singing, but of course we needed to sleep to be ready for school the next morning. So everyone went in their own direction once again by brushing their teeth and preparing to go to bed in their own busy way.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010


I am now publishing my nerdy writings on Factoidz.com.  Here is my first entry.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Bat cave

I think I'm becoming a bit like a bat these days.  I tend to wear black quite a bit and I start and end my days hanging upside down in an inversion table.  The life I live in also has some resemblance to a cave these days, and the solitude of that situation is doing me some good.  Now it isn't any sort of absolute solitude that anyone needs to worry about.  I still see friends and I spent a wonderful weekend with Tom and his family, and I am certainly not depressed.  It's just that I am thinking a lot these days about myself, society, my family, my perceptions and my interactions with everyone.  I am not really ready to talk about any of it yet.  It's all still too uncertain and kind of big, like a dark cave still unexplored.  Sometimes, as I venture a little farther into that space, I feel myself change a bit and expand.  I'm figuring things out. In those moments, when I feel myself grow, the cave transforms into a chrysalis, or perhaps a whale's belly.  When I am either sufficiently developed, of simply tired of where I am at,  I'll emerge, perhaps somewhat changed and hopefully for the better.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Miriam's eye view of Bolivia

I could fall into the easy pace of time in Bolivia where the people sleep until it's warm enough to wake, work hard, eat and sleep again.  There are schedules in Bolivia, but they run according to the body and the sun, rather than the clock.  It's perhaps the thing I miss most about being there.

I showed up to work today thinking it's Thursday and it's actually Friday and I am still a bit sleepy, perhaps from the jet lag, but more likely from the fatigue of working long days followed by a very long flight home. I had a great time in Bolivia.  I am already getting teased about my pictures.  I guess in some ways, the photographs I took are more revealing the photographs taken of me. So anyway, here is a Miriam's eye view of the experience.

Dead Baby Llamas in the market.
A Happy Wall

Excellent dental services

Scary mannequins
Ministry of work
Church where we went to get pipe for water project
View from the top of the hill where we hiked to actually start the project.
It was a very long hike. That is Wade looking at the valley below.

I found two of these flowers while we were digging.  
They seemed very happy to me when I found them.

Tyler Berg sitting on his shovel while I reapplied sunscreen.
It did not prevent sunburn, it only limited how bad the sunburns were.
Chris Peel explaining to me where the adobe bricks came from.

Scenic view
The shovel balancing act and proof that there were girls besides me on the trip. 
From front to back: Jordin, Richard, Chalyce, Megan and Tyler Berg.
I did interact with girls.  There just isn't much photographic evidence of that.
Jordin and I washed each others hair and talked ballet (she is a dancer).
Chalyce and I spent a lot of time figuring out iphoto and milling around La Paz together.
Megan and I talked digital textbooks.
I did spend time with girls*.

Tommy taking pictures of everyone while he is standing directly in from of the water source.
After the water project, we went to Lake Titicaca.

Jeff paid my way and claimed me as his date.  He jumped in four times.  It was freezing cold.  I know.  He got me very wet.

Tyler Delange also jumped in three times.
And here they both are warming up.

We went to some ruins where I hung out with Nick and his sister Megan (not in photo).

This is a picture Megan took of me at the ruins.

And Tommy again back at camp.

There are a zillion more pictures on Facebook and whenever Tommy uploads his 8000 or so, there will be zillions more.

*I would like to add at this point, that I went to school with mostly men and I work mostly with men, and I have figured out how to participate in male bonding (by discussing making bombs and blowing stuff up) and I am much more comfortable hanging out with men, than discussing them with the girls.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Battleground in Bolivia

So, I  have spent the last week battling poverty in Bolivia and I am covered in battlewounds.  I look a bit like an over ripe and bruised piece of fruit when naked.  There is a bruise developing on my foot from where a jumper seat in a van got slammed down on me, my legs are covered in bruises as are my arms.  I think most of them are from shovels and rocks while digging and filling trenches for the water project we worked on. 

Everyone here wants me to say something profound about this experience, and I think that will come, but right now, I am worn down and beat up and there isn´t much I can think of to say.  I am leaving La Paz in an hour and when I am done with the flight, I will see Tom.

We hiked a mountain here that reminded me of Tom some.  Day 2 in Huancuyo started with a three mile hike that began at 13,000 ft and ended somewhere closer to 14,000 ft.  We didn´t know we would be hiking that far.  We were going to lay pipe and fill trenches and we thought we would just have to go about .5 miles from camp to a white church where the pipe was stored.  When we got there we were told we had to hike to a farther point and when we got there, we had to go to the top of the mountain right to the water source.  I was slathered in sunscreen and covered in layers of clothing, but I still got burnt.  I am in pretty good shape, but still found it hard to breathe.  I didn´t know we would be gone so long and I had no water.  I worked for a few hours like that and found myself thinking of Tom.  

The specific instance I remembered was a hike up above Yosemite when we climbed to the top of a mountain and there was no trail.  I got stuck in a rockslide and everytime I moved, the ground fell out from under me.  I called for help and Tom started working his way over to where I was.  We were too far apart for me to see him and I didn´t know he was coming.  I got tunnel vision.  That is the only time that has ever happened and I don´t like it, but it did make it so my entire focus was centered on boulders stably embedded in the ground and I made my way from one to the other with the ground falling out from under me as I went.  Just as I was about safely out of it, Tom appeared and took my hand and teased me about finding the most fun way up the mountain.  He stayed with me while I was at the top and the helped me pick a safer path down.  As I thought about Tom, I knew I would survive the hike and the trench digging.

As I filled in trenches, I thought about a decision I made a while ago to bury my weapons like the Lamanites.  As I looked at my bruises, I thought about that decision again. And I thought about Michael a bit and how when we got in a bike crash, his first thought was about my safety even though his own hand got smashed.  He was more concerned about my own bruises than his own.

 There are big enough battles that leave bad enough wounds that we don´t need to create any more.  It is not really the place of one person to fight with another.  We have disease and poverty and hunger to fight.  Maybe the best way we can fight them is simply through kindness.

I am grateful to have brothers who show me how this is done.

Friday, August 6, 2010


I am in La Paz and I´ll post pictures when I have a camera cable again.  It is crazy here.  They sell dried out dead baby Llamas in the markets.  I do not know what one is supposed to do with those.  There are clothes on some of them.

I am tired and I should be hungry, but I´m not.  It may be from having no sleep for two days or from altitude sickness.  I am leaning towards the tiredness.  I did get some sleep in the Lima airport, and I was impressed that no one balked when I blew up my air mattress.

I have avoided any major catastrophes so far!

Mostly I am incoherent and so I will stop before my typing denegrates to the same level as my Spanish.

More later!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Finding control

I am learning to swim laps.  I like it except not when I get water in the back of my throat and start choking.  It all goes to pieces at that point.  But,  that is happening less frequently.  So there is hope for me yet.

I have started doing physical therapy on my knee.  It just wasn't getting totally better and then I saw how my kneecap was a bit out of place.  So I crunched it around a bit and got it back to where it looks like the other knee cap.  There is some ligament that is really sore after that, but the physical therapy exercises don't feel harmful now, so I might be able to get back to kick boxing soon.

I am reading dating books.  They are annoying but possibly useful.  I have learned that it does me little to no good to be nice to guys.  I just have to be sassy and interesting.  I don't think that I can muster being a jerk face, but I am becoming sassier.  It is fun.  I annoy people now more than they annoy me.  I briefly considered trying to adopt a sexy persona when I go to Bolivia since I will be hanging out with a bunch of people I don't know yet, but I decided that I am probably just not that kind of girl because I am prioritizing protecting myself from mosquitoes and the sun over flaunting my sex appeal.  So maybe there is no hope for me.

I was reading about basic business planning in developing countries and they said that you must consider what goods and services you can offer and what resources you have to start a business providing those goods and services.  For people with few material possessions and barely enough money to feed themselves, prostitution immediately came to mind.  Low start-up costs and immediately available goods and services.  For some reason, microcredit has not been emphasized in our business planning classes.  I am  making sure it makes it in though.  I do not think prostitution is the means of escaping poverty that I would like to impress upon anyone.