Saturday, September 27, 2008

Campaign in Columbus

I got into Columbus yesterday morning to work with the Ohio Democratic Party's Youth Vote Corps from now until Election Day. So far it's looking to be great fun except for occasional long hours. My legs hurt now because I walked around about five and a half miles yesterday since (a) I hadn't figured out the bus system yet and (b) it was a lovely day and perhaps most importantly (c) I didn't check the scale on the map and didn't fully appreciate how far it is to walk 4 miles.

We're based in the ODP headquarters, which as far as I can tell was at some point a church. I mean, what kind of office building has funky 1970s-era stained glass windows (not visible in this picture), a (now-converted) gym in the basement and signs for the "Fellowship Hall" and "Music Room"?

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Those old houses

After the conference, I drove around western Pennsylvania and northeast Ohio with my mom seeing the places she grew up. I loved being able to go to Johnstown, Youngstown and the Cleveland area and seeing the houses where she lived at various points in time. They all seemed to be in lovely areas and in the future I'll have to go back to spend more time in those areas. Of course, as referenced above, the great weather in Pittsburgh extended across the region, and it's easy for any place to seem nice when it's sunny and 73 out.

Pictures later.

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Weathering the conference


The weather in Pittsburgh earlier this week was just unbelievably wonderful. Sunny and 73 degrees Fahrenheit every day. Of course, people who've spent time in Pittsburgh know that this kind of thing is pretty rare.

One running joke throughout the conference was various speakers saying some ironic variation on the line "And of course, the weather is always like this!" This happened easily three times a day in different meetings. The most groan-worthy had to be at our closing event under the tent at Schenley Plaza where the chairman of the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy board said the obligatory remark. That was OK, but then Bill Peduto, a city councilman, arrived late from another event and, not ten minutes later, did it again.

There were a lot of eye rolls after that one.

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Regular readers here may have heard from me in one way or another about the Conference on Urban Parks sponsored by the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy that I was helping with last week. That was a lot of fun and, I'd say, a resounding success. We had some 600 people in attendance from ten countries (and it would have been eleven if the guy from Pakistan had his visa approved). I was in charge of collecting all the PowerPoint presentations (in .ppt, .pdf and .pptx format, which was difficult because I couldn't open .pptx files to check them for completeness). This was more epic a task than it might at first seem; I was downloading these files from sometimes-fickle FTP and Gmail servers. Then sorting through who was late with the presentation, who wanted to make changes, who just never got back to us on whether he or she was going to even have a presentation. Not to complain, but between the technical and the interpersonal difficulties, I had a few moments of frustration.

But in the end it worked out fine with no major (or even, I think, minor) issues. One attendee, who was asked to moderate a panel discussion after the scheduled moderator was unexpectedly unable to come, said that she had been to dozens of conferences over the years and this was the best-organized of them all. She also noted that she is not always so friendly and can sometimes be acid-tongued, so it was all the more rewarding to hear that. Praise from Caesar is praise indeed.


Thursday, September 18, 2008

Cultural interchange, kind of

Sometimes I can be very clever. I'm working today in the offices of the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy and since it is getting to be crunch time for the conference, they ordered in lunch for everyone working here, some items from a Chinese restaurant and a salad and some ziti from an Italian place. I was perusing my options when someone standing next to me said she wasn't sure if she wanted Chinese or Italian. So I said, "Why don't you have some of both--the 'Marco Polo special?'"

As I say, sometimes I can be very clever.

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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Some pictures

Things happen to me from time to time and I often like to document them with pictures so without further delay, here is some visual evidence of my life.

I turned 24 a few weeks back and my wonderfully generous Peace Corps colleagues Kate and Brody Weber threw baked me a birthday cake. Astute observers will note that my initials, IBE, are spelled out with exactly 24 chocolate chips. I was given a large piece of cake to take with me, which I did, but then left it in the refrigerator of these gringos living in La Campa, so it was lost, to me at least.

I said goodbye to people in San Manuel on August 27, including Asunción the municipal treasurer, one of the more competent people I dealt with, shown here helping some citizens with their financial questions.

On my last morning in San Manuel, August 28, I saw this woman outside Angélica's comedor sweeping the dirt. Not sweeping up the dirt or sweeping it off from some surface, but just sweeping the dirt on the dirt road from one place to another, nearby, place. There has got to be some metaphor for international development work in there somewhere.

This is me right before closing the gate to my house for the last time.

My friend from JICA helped me take some of my things from San Manuel to Santa Rosa and let me pose for a picture in the truck, as if I were driving.

There will be more to come, including more pictures from my last weeks in Honduras, once I have the time and motivation to put them online. Huzzah for high-speed Internet!

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Friday, September 05, 2008

Leaving on a jet plane

Tomorrow is the big day! I'm flying back to the U.S., from TGU to RDU via IAH. So I'll arrive in Raleigh-Durham at 10:32 p.m. EDT if everything goes according to plan.

I have to finish packing, which mostly involves deciding which things I am going to keep and which I am going to leave behind and/or donate. So that is causing me some stress but not enough to address it. Needless to say, I will be up late dealing with that and also partying with friends.

Dear Honduras: I'll see you later. Peace Corps bought me a round trip ticket, coming back on October 10, so maybe I'll be back then, but maybe not.

Dear U.S.A.: See you tomorrow.

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Tuesday, September 02, 2008


What are we going to do with all this stuff?
-- Howard Dean, contemplating the fate of his campaign merchandise after he ended his 2004 White House bid

Hi everyone, I haven't posted lately for a variety of reasons. I've been busy, primarily, doing odds and ends that one needs to do at the end of a time like this. I left San Manuel for the last time last Thursday, August 28, and got a ride from San Manuel from JICA, who brought me and Shannon onward to Tegucigalpa. I owe them big time.

As now-Chairman Dean contemplated four and a half years ago, I am asking myself what to do with the things that I had in my house in San Manuel. Some of them I gave away, others I sold, others I returned to their owners as I was just borrowing them (on long term lease) in any case but too many things I just brought with me. That was the dark side of the wonderful JICA jalóns; it didn't force me to pack light then so I have to do it now.

I also have to do all the COS (close of service) things like take a zillion medical tests (four stool samples!) and do a lot of paperwork. I also have to write my DOS (description of service), a semi-important official documentation of my time in Honduras which I will inevitably put off until the last minute. (Actually, I hope not.)

I have pictures that I'll upload later, perhaps after my return to the U.S. On Saturday I'm flying to Raleigh via Houston Intercontinental from Tegucigalpa; anyone who would like to visit at IAH should plan on being there between 4:19 p.m. and 6:55 p.m. The welcome party committee should plan for an arrival at RDU at 10:32 p.m.

Postscript to previous post: Also, I never found my backpack. I put up fliers and announcements on the radio but to no avail.

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