Desierto norte de Chile

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Barrett Christmas 2005

I had a great time with my family this Christmas (in spite of catching a cold and losing my voice ... a difficult situation for a talker like me!) I'm way behind in posting photos, but when I get back to Barbados, I'll post stories & photos from the family visit, my time in the states, and my adventures in Colombia & Peru.

For now, here is a photo of the extended Barrett family on Dec 26. Happy New Year everyone. Any specific party plans? I'm going to celebrate in the "coffee-growing region" of Colombia :)

Friday, December 23, 2005

Out on the town with Mom

Tonight Mom and I went out to dinner at Outback (my first steak in 4 months, it was scrumptuous) and then did some Christmas shopping. Back in October, I ordered a sport jacket that was on super clearance from Landsend ($25 + $5 shipping), and had it delivered to my folks' place in the states. I usually don't get excited about clothing, but tonight I was excited to wear my new jacket - and also a shirt that I had left behind when I left for Barbados in August. Mom decided to get her hair braided in Barbados, and while the style is popular in the islands, she received some strange looks tonight. But I think she enjoyed the attention - and the opportunity to sport some culture to the locals :)

Merry Christmas (Eve)!

America, America . . .

. . . God shed his grace on thee.

I am back in the USA tonight :) I barely caught my connecting flight in Miami, but after praying a lot, I made it by just a few minutes. It didn't hurt that my connection was delayed about 30 minutes! :) My parents took a different flight (Delta, thru Atlanta) and they missed their connection. They are currently snuggled up at the Holiday Inn Hartsfield, though, so I don't think they are too upset. Granted, those of us who have not done our Christmas shopping early are not going to be able to avoid the rush. Yikes.

Did I mention that it is FREEZING here? My body is already achy, and I've only been in the cold an hour. Of course, 25 minutes of that was spent actually standing outside - while wearing my flip-flops b/c my shoes were packed - while waiting for the shuttle bus and then while wandering back and forth between Park and Ride lot sections A3 and A5 (the car was not in A4, as dad swore, but rather between A5 and A6 ... a full 4 rows over from A4! Grr my toes have still not forgiven his memory lapse!)

I'll post more of our family adventures- Bajan style -later. Enjoy the hectic holiday, and also enjoy pondering the significance ("For God so loved the world, that he gave his only son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life." Jn 3:16).

Monday, December 19, 2005

Family time in Barbados

My parents and brother Charles safely arrived in Barbados on Saturday :) We have a rented car, and I took it to the airport to pick them up. Driving to the airport was an adventure in itself -- being that it was the first time I've driven in 4 months, and also everything is backwards: the steering wheel, the wipers/turn signal/lights, the side of the road, etc. But I survived without incident. As for the rest of our adventures, stay tuned :)

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Barbados Christmas traditions

From chatting with the locals, I've uncovered some Bajan Christmas traditions.

1- Gift-giving is not as extreme as in the USA. Barbadians usually give each family member one gift. The gifts are often opened Christmas Eve.

2- "Christmas cleaning" is a common occurrence in Barbados. It is customary to change the curtains at Christmas, and many families also buy a new rug and one piece of furniture / appliance. Unfortunately, littering is also common, so on my jogging route I now have to dodge an old stove, a table, and other odds & ends.

3- Church services. Almost all Bajans attend a church service on Christmas day. Many services start at 5 a.m.!

4- After church, it is customary to have meals with family, and usually the eldest family member hosts (i.e., a grandparent, or oldest sibling). Although I don't believe it, I hear that turkey is the main dish at Christmas dinner. (And this from the same people who told me just last month that turkey did not exist on the island).

While I am really excited to return to the U.S., I am saddened to leave Barbados. In some ways I even feel slightly guilty for leaving - that my place is here and I shouldn't return so soon. But I am really excited to visit Freddy in Medellin (Colombia) and Jose in Lima (Peru), and that trip originates from the states!

**EDIT** I re-read this post, and it sounds like I am leaving Barbados permanently. That is not the case-- I will return in January for the remainder of my year - which ends at the start of June. Sorry for the confusion!

What are your Christmas traditions? Leave some comments!

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

I love this crazy tragic, sometimes almost magic, awful, beautiful life


** A brief update to Part 1. More to follow. **

At age 11, my parents offered me the chance of a lifetime: a week-long visit to Space Camp at Cape Canaveral, Fla. (Please, keep the "one time, at space camp" jokes to a minimum. Lol.) In mid-september, I joined my friend Josh Armstrong (whose parents also decided to give him the same chance) for seven action-packed days in the sunshine state. Under the expert guidance of a college-aged kid named Luke, we trained for and planned out our project. We had to go into orbit to repair a damaged satellite. (What else do you expect? They are always breaking!) At week's end, our mission was upon us. My job was to coordinate the repairs from mission control. Did we succeed? Well, the satellite didn't crash, that's all I'll say (though we were very happy to hear that more kids would be coming next week to continue the repairs). To top it all off, the space camp people put together a nice video of our performance and our training - and it, too, occupies a spot in the Barrett Family collection.

At age 13, my camp-going experiences continued. This time, a week at marine biology camp at UNC-Wilmington. Aren't you dying of envy? :) Trapsing through estuaries, observing an ocean sea-wall at low tide, and - of course - nightly visits to Golden Corral. My strongest memory from MB camp comes at week's end: I had a serious crush on this girl from Canton (a small town in the NC mountains). At our last dinner at CG, I sat across from her. During dessert, and right after I had placed a big spoonful of strawberry ice cream in my mouth, this girl tells a joke. I struggled for about 2 seconds, but the battle was too much. She got sprayed, yes, by me, as I laughed at her joke and couldnt keep the ice cream in. Of course, that ruined the final 12 hrs at camp ... she didnt speak to me again (even though I apologized at every turn). Why are girls so mean?


Thursday, December 08, 2005

I love this crazy tragic, sometimes almost magic, awful, beautiful life

(credit: Darryl Worley)


I have concluded my life embodies such a lyric. Que the lights as I itemize:

- In kindergarten, I learned to program in BASIC. Yes. At age 5. My nerdiness has deep roots. We used APPLE computers to make a "turtle" (i.e., a pixel on the screen) draw lines of various lengths.

- At age 7, my parents decided to try growing cucumbers, you know, to earn a little extra cash. (What? Your parents never had such an idea? Well they should have!) So for several weeks that summer, I woke before dawn and picked for a few hours each morning. It was not fun, let me say. Total summer income (for me): ~ $100. That was a big haul for an seven-year-old (FYI: $100 in 1987 is worth $176 in 2005, according to the Oregon State University Consumer Price Index converter.)

- At age 11, I - along with my brothers Mike & Charles and cousins Rebecca Ruth, Mary Beth, & Tim - wrote and starred in the inaugural Barrett Family Play. We had at least 8 Acts, and the storyline went something like this: King Brad and Queen Rebecca lived quite a posh life, with LEGO jewels and constant grape-eating. However, they neglected their fiefdom, and one day Royal Messenger Mike rushed in to announce that the peasants were revolting. Prince Charles and Princess Mary Beth were aghast at such an event; Princess MB even wondered if the kingdom would be crushed! But, everyone still managed to find time to eat their grapes and wear their fasionable jewels, and they tried to ignore the growing peril. At the play's climax, Peasant Tim overcame the palace guard and stabbed King Brad with his sword. While suffering an agonizing death, King Brad was attacked by Angel, a local dog. The play ended after Prince Charles slew Peasant Tim. Prince Charles became King, and ruled the ruined kingdom with Queen Rebecca and Princess Mary Beth. (FYI: this play had only one performance, but it is forever archived in the film section of the Barrett Family collection.)

- Also at age 11, I "graduated" into the Brown (mom's) family tradition: tobacco farming. My first summer I "topped & suckered" at half pay (YES, I KNOW, CAN YOU BELIEVE I WAS EAGER FOR SUCH LOUSY WORK AT ONLY *HALF PAY*?!!) We started at 6 a.m. and worked until 11 a.m. Our principal, and only, job while walking up and down the rows of tobacco plants, was to break the flowers off the top of the 6'-tall stalk ("topping") and remove new shoots of growth from between the main stalk and the big leaves ("suckering").

- At age 12, in the summer before eighth grade, I advanced up the tobacco farming ladder -- to "putting in" at "the shelter". That involved standing between the tobacco truck and the turn-table, "throwing" (that was my title, a "thrower") the leaves onto the turntable, all day long. We started each day at 7 a.m. and usually ended by 4 p.m. (although some days went longer, esp. if we had grass/weeds to pick out of the tobacco leaves before throwing them). I worked as a thrower for at least 3 summers, then moved to be a Racker ("rack" up the tobacco that the throwers throw onto the turntable, and then hang it in the barn using the pulley) and finally a trucker. Truckers generally had it the easiest, but they had the most responsibility - usually hauling over $10,000 worth of crop each day from the field to the shelter. The field crew usually consisted of the primer driver - almost always my Uncle Bill - and a "seat boy" - a position held by Mike & Charles for at least 5 years, and Henry before them. It took me several years to realize that a "seat boy" was something invented by my frugal (penny-pinching?) uncles to make sure any leaves dropped by the machine were picked back up. The shelter crew consisted of 6: the crew leader (almost always Uncle John or Uncle Greg), a racker, three throwers, and a trucker.

From age 11 to age 21 (that's 12 summers!), I worked on that family tobacco farm. Some of my fellow companions:

John Brown
Bill Brown
Greg Brown
Angie Brown
Henry Brown
Mike Barrett
Charles Barrett
Kevin Mayo
Robbie Wilson
Ryan Owens
Eva, Acho, Nip, & Pop Staton
Aunt (pronounced "Aint") Jonnie (Eva's sister)
David (? Henry's friend, part Asian, his mom drove him to work every day and even gave Uncle John a ham for Christmas as a present for "letting" her son work!)
Julie (? Another of Henry's friends)
Robbie (? I think he's now married to bridget buck from calico?)
David Myrick
Jimmy Heritage
Kevin Keel
Eddie Keel
Mike Rollins
Todd Rollins
David (Ag. extension agent's boy)
Kendall Paramore
Chris Wall
Trey Briley (3-leaves Trey! Haha!)

- At age 13, my future alma mater, UNC-Chapel Hill, won the NCAA men's basketball championship. My friend Marcus Carden came over to watch it with me the family, and during the game we ate Easter-colored M&Ms -- but not the light blue ones. Those we set aside for a victory celebration. When Carolina won, we threw them up in the air. We were finding random blue m&ms for weeks!

- Also at age 13, Charles and I came home from school one afternoon to find that our rat terrier, CoCo, had cornered a rather large black snake in the deck. Summoning the courage, I swooped in, saved CoCo (who had done a decent job of not getting bitten), and stepped on the snake's head. After my foot settled onto the snake, though, I realized I was in a quandry: what to do next? I reasoned that when I lifted my foot, the snake would bite me. I couldnt stay there forever, and I didn't want to kill the snake. So we waited a few minutes, and I decided I would make my move. Simultaneously balancing on one foot (having pulled my socks up as high as they would go!), I reached with my right hand for the snake's head and with my left hand for its body. Jump, shift, reach, grab. Heart pounding. Mission accomplished. We kept that snake for over a year, feeding it mice from the pet store and taking it out back for exercise in the grass. (Snakes need their exercise, too, otherwise they get fat and lazy.) I guess we got tired of the responsibility (can't remember the real reason), so one day we took the snake deep into the woods behind the house and let it go. Mom finally got her wish of being rid of it ... I can't believe she let us keep the snake IN the house, but she did. Not coincidentally, our next pets were 2 beagle dogs.

- At age 14, both of my grandparents on my mom's side, MeMa and Big Buck, died. Grandma had developed leukemia several years earlier and finally lost the struggle in early February. Granddaddy had a heart attack in early July and died two weeks later when taken off life support. That was a tough year, although I still look back with fond memories how all the family (over 50 extended family members lived within 10 miles of my grandparents) rallied around each other. My grandparents were quintessential southern farmers: they welcomed any and all into their home with great hospitality (even hosting a distant niece for a while when she had family troubles ... Sylvia now lives in New Hampshire with her husband Judd), and though they lived a frugal life to the end, they died wealthy as their once-rural farm lands became prime spots for suburban development.

- Also at age 14 I was introduced to the wonderful country and culture that is Brasil. I was befriended by a foreign exchange student from Natal: Carolina Trindade. She and I even shared a table in Mrs. Evans' freshman biology class (meaning we were lab partners). This fascination with Brasil carried into my college years, where I took Portuguese for 3 semesters. I have tried recently to reconnect with Carolina, but she has not (yet) answered my emails. Perhaps one day I'll visit.


Friday, December 02, 2005

Epsilon roars into a hurricane

(An update to my 30 November post)

Today Epsilon strengthened into a very-late-season hurricane, the 14th of 2005. That means that 54% of the named systems this year became hurricanes. The 30-yr average is somewhere around 62%. I wonder why - in this acutely active season - we are technically below average for hurricane formation? (yes, I know, you could argue statistical insignificance ... I didnt do a t-test or anything). My theory is that "average" is calculated from a period where we (probably) missed some tropical storms, or classified some strong tropical storms as weak hurricanes, when they really remained just below the threshold. This classification ambiguity - I believe - directly results from significant changes in observational technology over the last 100 years. I have applied for NSF funding to test such a theory.

As of Thu 8 Dec 1500Z, Epsilon - and almost certainly the 2005 season - has come to an end. Quite a season. Stay tuned for more thoughts.

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