Desierto norte de Chile

Monday, October 31, 2005

The Freshmen Fifteen [yikes!]

I have been bitten by the bug. A drastic change in lifestyle - toward the sedentary, not the active - has hit me hard. Couple that with a eat-to-kill-time mentality, add in a healthy dose of boredom, and viola, you've got the "freshmen fifteen".

Some of the students here at the Met. Institute hadn't seen me in a few weeks, and today they asked me if I had gained weight. YIKES! It shows. Unfortunately, I've added just about exactly 15 pounds since arriving in Barbados, blossoming from a slim 210 to a chunky 225.

So you've heard it here: I am officially commiting to a diet. (Mike French, STOP LAUGHING! lol) I have to cease and desist with my dreadful eating habits, and adopt a more Brad-friendly exercise routine: runs and walks, combined with situps and pushups. I am already engaged in all of the above (save the healthy eating), so augmentation is the name of the game (instead of invention!)

Stay tuned, I have 6.5 weeks until my family visits. We'll see how close to 210 I can get..... [yikes, and double-yikes! how did these 15 lbs "slip up" on me?!]

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Reality check

**Warning, this is a commentary - and like any good journalist, I am using hyperbole!**

The U.S. mainland has been hit by 4 major (Saffir-Simpson category 3+) hurricanes this year, and while the deaths, damage to personal property, and disruption to the business cycle have been very unfortunate, I must say I am appalled by the reaction of some of my fellow compatriots. Fortunately, the hurricane specialists at the U.S. National Hurricane Center issued good track forecasts for Dennis, Katrina, Rita, and now Wilma, otherwise there would be an entirely separate firestorm brewing! I am proud of their tireless efforts to alert the public of each storm's approach.

My frustrations are being stoked by what I'll term America's growing sense of entitlement. Every day, millions of Americans fill up their cars with gas, take their kids to school, go to work, come home, eat dinner [often it's take-out, which I admit to missing here in Barbados!], watch television, and plan their tomorrow. Our streets are - for the most part - clean, our buildings decked out in the latest architectural trends, and for at least 50% of the country, the most annoying part of the day is gridlock from our commutes [or perhaps an error in our take-out order]. And, by golly, we have had this lifestyle for such a long time, we feel entitled to it. It is ours by birth!

So, of course, when a trivially small thing - like a hurricane, for instance - disrupts our way of life, we get upset. We are no longer comforted by our material possessions (that don't work without electricity). We cannot get take-out to ameliorate our hunger pangs. Our sense of independence - provided by our 4-wheeled friends - is taken away when the fuel pumps cease working.

And the media, America's first-amendment-created giant of an industry, is there to stick a microphone in our mouth and let us vent our frustrations. Notice this report filed by Allen Breed, AP writer (note: as of post time, I cannot locate Mr. Breed's employer) in Ft. Lauderdale, 2 days after Hurricane Wilma made landfall:

Trucks carrying the first wave of relief in Florida — food, ice and water — either arrived much later than local officials expected, or simply didn't show up at all. Hundreds of people lined up outside one home-supply store, desperate for cleanup and other items. Drivers waited five hours at gas stations, and at a handful of fast-food restaurants open in the Miami area, burgers were available — to those willing to endure two-hour waits.

Nine hours after she first got on line at one of the designated relief-supply locations, Fanie Aristil, 23, of North Miami wearily left for home with 28 pounds of ice and six liters of bottled water.

"All that time," Aristil said. "This is all we get?"

To me, Mr. Breed's tone is downright disparaging. Almost as if he is accusing someone / some group of failing to meet "local officials' expectations" for food, ice and water deliveries. But is his reporting that off-base? Could we not have gone to the store *before* the hurricane and bought food? Was it impossible to fill empty milk jugs, or even tupperware containers, with water prior to Wilma's onslaught? Oh no, as Americans, we seemingly cannot be troubled by such things. Especially when expect the mighty savior, GOVERNMENT, to come to our rescue. Immediately.

The next part of the story gets crazier! Either Mr. Breed is engaging a journalist's favorite friend - hyperbole - or our American sense of entitlement goes even further than immediate government hand-outs of food, water, and ice. Are we really "desperate" for cleanup supplies from the nearest home supply store? And those who waited "five hours" at gas stations -- what on earth was in their minds? Was their sense of independence so threatened that they had to wait 5 hours to get gas? And once they filled up, where did they think they were going?? Did they use up all their fuel from before the hurricane hit?

Finally, I do feel bad for Ms. Aristil who waited on line for 9 hours for ice and water. Clean, safe drinking water is essential to life, and that should engender a sense of entitlement (but from the government? see the above rant!) Perhaps she comes from a poor family and could not afford to "stock up" before the storm. Maybe she was the family representative, and thus knew 5 litres of water would only last a few hours. But heaven forbid she complain about the government for any ineptitude that would infringe on her sense of entitlement ["this is all we get?"].

She lives in America, the land of plenty, where our daily routine shouldn't dare be disrupted by something as trivial as a hurricane. And of course, if such a thing should chance to occur, we ought to demand immediate restoration from our mighty savior, GOVERNMENT. So we can get back to eating take-out and sitting in gridlock.

I am sure there was at least one person in that nine-hour line who was very grateful to receive rations. However, did Mr. Breed report their attitude? Not in this story. Perhaps because graciousness and thankfulness, the great emotions they are, aren't sellers. They don't promote controversy. And, of course, they don't fit with our principal theme of entitlement.

PS: as a corollary, Will Weissert filed this Associated Press report from Cancun, Mexico, 3 days after Wilma's landfall:

"People are desperate. They are nervous," [Mexican President Vicente] Fox said. He said the country's first priority was to get enough food and water to the coast, and he dispatched Mexican military ships, planes and trucks to bring supplies. He said the second priority was to get tourists home.

"I feel the Mexican government is helping here to an extent, doing the best they can," said Kevin Riley, town finance administrator for Paw Paw, Mich. "But the U.S. has done nothing. Where is our government? They are only preparing for Florida. They forgot about us."

Honestly, Mr. Riley, what do you really expect? Government is not your momma, it is not there to scoop you up and kiss your "boo boos" and make everything better. You are not even in the U.S.! But of course, it is hard to lose that sense of American entitlement in just a few days, even if you are fully under the jurisdiction of a Mexican government that is dealing with people who really do not have the opportunity to "stock up" before the storm, people who would be forced to drink whatever they could find [yikes] if government-supplied trucks of water did not arrive. I hope that your airline is soon able to get you on a flight back to Michigan and return you to normalcy. Because, of course, you're entitled to it!

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Which Napoleon Dynamite character are YOU?

So, yea, even though I've only seen half of this insane movie, I am Pedro Sanchez. Too bad I don't know who he is. But he sounds like a ladies man, and I definitely hope my cousins have my back!!

You can take the test yourself: Which Napoleon Dynamite character are you?

Monday, October 24, 2005

Tourist for a day: Bridgetown and beyond

Welcome to the last installment of the "Tourist for a day" series. Now that you've seen my house/apartment, my neighborhood, and learned about the public transportation, it's time to venture into "town". Bridgetown is the capital city of Barbados, and is the hub for shopping, tourism, and also public transportation (just about every bus route starts in Bridgetown and heads out to the rest of the island in a hub-and-spoke fashion).

This series of photographs will give you an idea of what it's like in Bridgetown. The caption will appear ABOVE the photograph. Enjoy!

A local cricket pitch. Cricket is a game, somewhat like American baseball, that is quite popular in the nations of the former British empire ... except in the US and Canada.

Houses along the bus route into town:

The entrance to the main university in Barbados, the University of the West Indies:

One of the streets leading from the "drop-off" point for the bus, on the outskirts of Bridgetown.

Remind you of home?

The main shopping street, Swan St., is closed to vehicles. Here you can buy groceries, clothes, hardware, appliances, home furnishings, etc., but almost everything is imported from the US or the UK.

One of the stores, Cave Shepherd, tries to promote its multinationalism. If you look closely, atop its awnings are flags from Barbados, the US, France, the UK, Canada, and Germany.

An outdoor market where locals sell fruit, vegetables, and nick-knacks.

Broad Street is the main street of Bridgetown. The embassies of several countries (Brasil, Finland, the U.S. are those I have found so far!) are located on Broad St., along with a small shopping mall, some fast food restaurants, and several outlet stores.

Xinan, this photo is for you buddy! (It's the entrance to the American Embassy ... notice the security camera pointed away from me. After choosing my location carefully, I had to wait for the guard to go around the corner before I could take this shot.)

Yikes! Where did they come from (Mormon missionaries)? So yea, I followed them to their lunch spot and talked to them. One is from Arizona (Univ of AZ), the other from Montgomery Co., Maryland (not in school yet, wants to go to BYU).

I ate a tasty bar-b-que chicken lunch at a fast food joint called "Big John's".

Barbados is famous for beaches, but the island is not one continuous beach. Here's a view of the more typical coastline and harbor port. The boat is proudly marked "Barbados Coast Guard".

Barbados has a few landmarks. This is "Trafalgar Square" in Bridgetown. I visited another, slightly more famous, Trafalgar Square in August, and I can testify that their similarities stop with their names.

This is one side of the "Parliament Buildings"

Broad St., heading back into downtown. Parliament is to my right; Trafalgar is behind me to my left.

Who says Bridgetown lacks culture?

Ahh, my old friend, the Barbados Post Office (main branch).

Hope you enjoyed your tour of Barbados and Bridgetown in our "Tourist for a day" series!

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Tourist for a day: Barbados public transportation

After snapping some photos of my house and my neighborhood, I made my way down to the street to catch the bus into town. Here is a good spot to discuss "public transportation" in Barbados. Essentially, we have 3 levels of transit: government-owned (big blue bus), private-owned bus (big yellow), private-owned van (white van). The fare is BDS$1.50 (US$0.75), no matter where you start or stop. The privately owned drivers are in stiff competition with each other to get passengers - and thus increase their salary. Thus, they don't care if they speed, pass on a curve, zoom past one another (especially if the van/yellow bus in front of them stops -- that is their big chance!)

While waiting for the bus to go into town, a yellow bus going the other way (out of town) stopped and asked me if I was going to town. Remember, I couldn't be dressed more like a tourist (flowered shirt, backpack, swim trunks, camera). Not wanting to "blow my cover", I ran across the road and boarded the bus going the wrong way. Of course, I knew that the terminus for the bus route by my house is just up the road, so I knew that this bus would turn around soon, so I didn't mind the extra wait.

I found out that the turn-around spot is at a gas station not far from the house. What I didn't realize is that the driver took the opportunity to rest - for TWENTY MINUTES! I was the only passenger on the bus, and he parked it in the corner of the gas station and went inside. Twenty minutes later, he came out and we were on our way!

The gas station at the yellow bus "turnaround":

Inside the yellow bus, after another passenger got on. I am 2 rows from the back on the left side.

Even though you are subject to the whims of the driver, there are several distinct advantages to the "capitalist" public transit system:

1- Unlimited pick-up points. The drivers are so competitive in their desire to get riders, all you have to do is signal (a distinctive "pointing" motion), and they will stop. And they'll wait for you, up to 5 minutes (as I found out last week, when this lady signaled and then went back inside, and came out 5 minutes later!). Drop-off points arent as numerous, but you can ask them, and usually they will stop wherever you want.

2- Breeze inside the van/bus. The faster the drivers complete their route, the more $$ they make. So, when traffic is not too bad, the vans and yellow buses can be found zooming down the back roads, always on the lookout for a prospective passenger. If it isnt raining, you get a nice refreshing breeze in the van/bus.

Disadvantages to the public transit system:

1- Crowds. There is "seating" (if you had no legs, then you would be free to call that space a "seat") for 12 people in the white vans, and 24 in the yellow busses. I can't remember the last time I rode in a white van with fewer than 12 people :)

2- Traffic. Barbados has no freeways, and with a population over 250,000 people crammed onto such a small island, the roads get very crowded. I live probably 4 miles from Bridgetown (the capital city - referred to as "town") but it takes between 45 minutes and an hour to get there on the transit system.

3- Heat. No leg room. Smells. Jerky ride. There's a cliche that says "you get what you pay for". In this case, amen to that! BDS$1.50 doesnt buy much, and it definitely doesnt buy you a luxurious ride into town or back home!

Here is a picture of the bus "station" where I catch either the white vans or the yellow busses back home. I have to get on the bus with the sign "Wanstead / Black Rock / Redmans".

Here is a photo of the public bus station (blue busses), but I haven't yet figured out which of these I can take home.

The yellow busses:

Finally, me crammed in the next-to-the-back seat in the white van. We had 18 passengers (remember, seating for 12!) at the time of this photo.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Tourist for a day: Where I live

Hello, it has been a few days since I last posted, so I owe you guys some new material! This will be the first of several posts chronicling my journey into Bridgetown last Friday. To set the stage: I have been wanting to take some photos of the island and town for a while, but in my stubborn desire to "fit in", I never took my camera with me for fear of being labeled a tourist. At the suggestion of a friend living abroad, I decided to shuck my stubbornness and photograph at will. So I donned my flowered shirt (bought in Hawaii, I might add!) and my swim trunks, and set out for an day's adventure.

My first photo stop: my neighborhood. Here is my house, my cul-de-sac, and the main street where I catch the bus.

The kitchen:

The living room: (notice it is the same room as the kitchen!)

The views from our windows, looking north, east, and south:

The house:

Another view of the house. My bedroom is the open window in the foreground:

The cul-de-sac where Lot C sits:

The street leading to the cul-de-sac:

The main street, looking toward town:

The main street, looking away from town:

Stay tuned for the next post: The trip into town.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Pillows in the bathroom

The more time I spend in Barbados, the more I realize that I still have a lot of adjusting to do: public transportation (I go for the front-passenger seat whenever open so my knees arent squished in the back of the vans), heat and humidity (I've given up worrying about sweating, but compensate now with 2 showers/day [its amazing how refreshed you feel crawling into bed after a cold shower!]), sketchy internet (sorry to everyone I've skyped who only heard 3 of every 10 words), etc. But probably the most noticeable adjustment has been in my sleep-wake schedule. Before Xinan, I was an early riser. When he moved in, we ended up having some great conversations - but they always seemed to occur post-midnight. So I scrapped being an early riser. Here, the heat is draining, so I've found that I need at least 8, and nearly 9, hours per night to recover from the previous day. There's no problem with getting 9 hours of sleep, except that my morning runs must take place before 6 a.m. (to avoid the traffic and the sun). The past 4 days I've stayed up late watching TV and surfing the web (I really like reading the NY Times on-line now; you should give it a try!), and subsequently, my a.m. run has not happened. But, perhaps because I overestimate my will-power, I still set the alarm for 5:30 a.m. Last night, at 12:42 a.m., I remember thinking: oh yeah, 5 hrs, I'll be fine. Today at 8 a.m., after hitting the every-five-minute snooze [that is INCREDIBLY annoying...why can't it be 10 mins?] and finally turning it off about 6:30, I groaned and realized I was still 1+ hr short of sleep, hadnt been on my run, and ... my pillow was missing.

Now some of you don't sleep with pillows, and that is fine. Some of you have more pillows than you can count, in all shapes and sizes, and perhaps you burrow under them for a hibernation-like experience, and that is fine, too. But I sleep with one pillow. I have a double bed, so it has 2 pillows, but I like to sleep in a "full embrace" of my pillow, and the other one inevitably gets in the way, so off onto the floor it goes. This morning, though, I awoke to realize I didn't have a pillow. I looked around on the floor - and found the "spare" - and figured the other was just evading my eyesight. I dozed for 10 more minutes, and decided it was 8:10 so I should get on up. After eating breakfast, I wandered into the bathroom, only to find - to my great surprise - my pillow! I literally laughed out loud, and pondered "how did THAT get here?", only to realize that at some unknown point in the night, I must have stumbled out of bed and put it there. Strange, indeed! Don't get any wild home decor ideas, though; pillows really are best left out of the bathroom!

Monday, October 10, 2005


Today I am reminded of Paul's letter to the Romans (perhaps one of the most moving - and powerful - theological summaries of Christianity ... give it a read sometime!)
"... Hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not have, we wait for it patiently."

Here's to hoping...

Massacred by those burnt-orange Bevos

45 - 12. Ugh. If anyone remains who is a doubter, Texas is good.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Boomer Sooner!

OU-Texas. Saturday 8 Oct 2005. High noon. Like a scene from an old western shootout, Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday vs the McLaury boys. Only this time, Texas has the guns and the firepower to call OU's bluff. Check back next week for the obituary.

In other news, I was shocked to find that WABC - the ABC station in New York City - has opted for regional coverage of the OU-Texas game. That in itself is not shocking. But do you find it the least bit strange that NYC is televising OU-Texas when Boston College, Michigan, and Virginia are the alternative teams? In the words of Mr. Burns, V E R Y   I N T E R E S T I N G.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Run for Life

Yesterday I ventured into Bridgetown (the capital city of Barbados) to join over 500 athletes in the Digicel / Addidas Run for Life 5K. The 3.1-mile course took us through the eastern part of the city, by the main hospital, the prime minister's headquarters, and the southern beach of Carisle Bay. While I didn't set a personal record (22:31, vs 22:00 for my PR), I had a great time soaking up Bajan culture. I discovered that Barbadian runners are not unlike American runners; we both wear similar clothing, and we both train and run hard! For only $25, I got a t-shirt, water bottle, finisher's medal, and the chance to interact with 500 Bajans at the same time!

Hope your weekend was productive, restful, and fun!

    Newer›  ‹Older