31 January 2011

Icarus Would Be A Bad Name For A Plane

Yet more from the Mostly Annoying But Also Slightly Gross files: I discovered not one, but two nests of the local breed of sugar ant in my house last weekend.  One was hidden (are you ready for this?...) in the spine of a book on my bookshelf.  The little maniacs had gotten in Friedman's The World Is Flat sometime in the last two months and started nesting in there!  I wouldn't have noticed it, either, if I had not seen more than a few ants surreptitiously winding their ways to the book on the end and away from it.  So I Raided both nests and continued about my way.  Not to be outdone, after lounging and reading (something else) in my hammock for a while, I got up only to find a very young specimen of the same orange spider that has been haunting my steps lately lounging along with me in the hammock.  It met an abrupt and unceremonious demise.  Then, as if things could not get any more ghastly, I was enjoying the last runs of Stargate: SG-1 while they were still available on Hulu, only to feel something gently tickling my leg. (!!) A millipede had somehow found its way nearly up to my knee before being detected.  A poor choice, perhaps – its remains are currently being harvested by ants in the garden.  Okay, that's enough of that; I'm holding my breath for more soon! (or just because the pesticide smells like poison)

Thanks for your patience; here's the January highlight video.

28 January 2011

Funnyquote Friday

Your quote this week comes from one Dominican student who, starting last week at the Dr. William Connor Primary School despite speaking nearly zero English, explained to me her difficulties in understanding those around her:

"No podría comprender al profesor, 
porque pronuncía mal."

I couldn't help but chuckle at this – the Caribbean accent was even getting in the way of a Spanish speaker understanding.  Hilarity!

I gave my apartment a good cleaning yesterday, which in light of the recent exhibition put on by insectoid residents of the premises was a good idea.  Between Tuesday and Thursday of this week I found another spider of the same species as the New Year's culprit, though this one was much earlier in its life cycle, being only about 2.5 inches and much more manageable.  I removed it from my ceiling with a fly-swatter.  Not moments after laying its deceased remains in the garbage can, I retired to my bedroom to find a large black cockroach about 1.5 inches long climbing on the curtains.  What was it doing there?  There were no survivors left to inform the council.  Finally, yesterday in my kitchen, I was approached by an inexperienced but highly persistent centipede, measuring only about 3 inches.  I was not as impressed with its number of thoracic segments so much as its unwillingness to die for its cause.  Squishing its multifaceted exterior between the rubber sole of my shoe and the tile floor dealt it no apparent bodily damage, and only served to pin it in place.  After half-a-dozen similar attempts, I even tried to sever its southeasterly half from its northwesterly half with a steak knife, but to no avail.  This guy... is a survivor!  Anyway, a solid pounding and Kleenex removal later, my apartment is presumably carnivorous critter free – if you don't count the dozen-or-so daddy long legs camped out in my bathroom, presumably getting an early start on the next Harry Potter release.

I don't think there's any other big news here.  I've never seen a post on this blog earn so many hits so fast before the last one, which is either a testament to its interestingatude, or just a natural offshoot of having an increased readership from previous months.  And yet no comments?  What up with that?

26 January 2011

Do You See What I See?

I've been meaning to add this themed post for some time now.  Basically, it seeks to take you, the reader, who may not have any personal blogging experience, "backstage."  Obviously, if you are a current PCV with your own blog, this post will be pretty boring to you, so I won't be offended if you check out now.  For everyone else, here we go...

This is what I see when I log in to my Blogger account.  As you can tell, there's a new post up at Vivos Voco, one of the many Volunteer Blogs I am currently following.  Further, including this new post, I can see that I am currently at 69 Blog posts, and I have 17 Googlers following my blog.  Granted, the bottom of this page currently (as of this post) reads 16 followers, which means that one of them is secretly following privately (intrigue!).  I already had this idea for a post some time ago, as I mentioned, so I head over to "Edit Posts" to find and update it.

Here I can peruse the somewhat extensive list of all my previous Blog posts and any I have currently in the works, which right now totals zero, save for this very post which will soon jump to the top upon publishing it.  I can also add/remove tags to current posts without having to navigate to them, and check comments for each one as well.  It's all very convenient.  So I choose "Edit" next to the post entitled, "Do You See What I See?" and begin writing this post.

This is the dialogue entry interface, where I can input all of my thoughts, pictures, video, or artwork.  I am currently editing this very Blog post (ooh, how meta!).  Then, after I'm done editing the post and I want to check up on any pageview stats and milestones, I can just head over to the Stats page, like so:

I spend probably about equal time here, composing posts, and viewing my Blog in its traditional format.  This page alone can tell me (1) all the pageviews for my Blog since inception, by minute, hour, day, week, or month, (2) the most popular posts by pageview, (3) the most common sources of links to this blog from sites that particularly allow this information to be extended to Blogger, and (4) the regions from whence the majority of pageviews originate.  To no one's surprise, the most common countries in this blog's audience are the US, St. Kitts/Nevis, St. Vincent & the Grenadines, and St. Lucia, in that order.  This is all very fascinating to me, and every now and then I stumble across curious gems like this one:

A list of the keywords that were entered into a common search engine immediately before selecting a link to some page in this Blog.  If you don't get why my blog popped up on the last search, double check this post from the recent past.  Anyway, that sure made me chuckle when I saw that.

Well, that's about it.  I hope you enjoyed this tour of the inner-workings of my Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.  This month's highlight video should be ready on schedule, and it will probably be appropriately brief – just the way you like it!

24 January 2011

A Lesson Five Months in the Making

I went into Sunday a bit despondent, aware of my pervasive discontent with circumstances surrounding a handful of my priorities for the last week.  Namely, I tried to bring actualization to my goal of diversifying my social circles by participating in a friendly soccer match on Tuesday, but the experience was leagues from my expectations.  Then, on Thursday, I visited a sixth grade classroom for the morning on the promise that I would help a new student, who spoke only Spanish, with her classroom instruction and with some integration assistance.  This went well enough by my estimation, but at the end of my time there the student had grown more comfortable with our interaction and she began to tease me about how little Spanish I was able to communicate in.  To readers, this probably seems very thin-skinned of me, to be affronted by the presumptions of a sixth grader, but anyone who has tried to speak a foreign language with a native speaker knows that it is a very sensitive task.  Further, that afternoon, I had to give an impromptu speech to the school's PTA, to ask if there was an interest for an Iron Band after-school program and if the parents would themselves support it by sending selected students to school with an instrument (e.g. a steel pot, a box, a kettle, a teacup...).  This was met with little to no enthusiastic response, so now I am not sure if acquiring instruments from home is the right first step to getting this program off the ground.  Any other ideas?

All of these things have served to make me feel very inadequate.  That is the feeling that was nagging at me all morning, and when I went into church wanting to talk to God about it, I found myself instead guilty of... well... mentally checking out of the service.  Granted, it is a long service at 2 hours, and I have grown accustomed to the Anglican liturgy to the point that I can recite portions of it by memory, but at one point I found myself wishing there was some place I could go to just sit and commune with God.  (!) That's when it hit me: I'm in church!  What on earth did I come here for but to spend time with God?  So after communion I settled into the kneeling pad and asked God to speak to me about these feelings of inadequacies.  And He did; He introduced me to a different point of view, one that every Peace Corps Volunteer has to learn at some point.  What if I'm not here just to serve others, but also to learn about myself as well?  Seems obvious enough, certainly.  And the topic certainly came up in training, which began 5 months ago to the day, incidentally.  But I guess it's just one of those lessons that have to be learned experientially, for oneself.  I mean, either that, or I'm just a slow learner.  But the fact is that when one is taken up with the prospect of spending two years of one's life in a developing country with the mandate to promote a spirit of peace and friendship between nationalities as well as social and economic community development, it is natural to assume that all that time is going to be taken up in giving to the cause.  I can't help but think that this notion is further ingrained and supported by a culture that sanctions taking by whatever means: the simplest defense mechanism I know of is to give freely without thought of return, lest I be disappointed.

So apparently I still have a lot to learn about myself, a concept that alone has never sat well with my self-image, and even now feels uncomfortable for me to say.  So maybe a better prayer request would be for God to ease the growing pains somewhat while I am down here, and to continue to give me the courage to strive for the goals in front of me despite adversity in the forms of internal struggles as well as the natural external ones.

21 January 2011

Funnyquote Friday

Last night I visited the Ackee Restaurant, home of Team Trivia on Thursday nights, with my neighbors.  We had a good time, and after all 6 rounds tied for 1st place!  But the big news came when the owner made the announcement that due to the heightened cost of electricity and other expenses associated with the VAT, he would be forced to close that location and move his services into a smaller beach bar on the Southern Peninsula.  This was going to be the last Thursday Night Trivia!  When the patrons expressed their condolences for the decision, he waved them off, citing a clever point of view:

"The way I see it, if I fall on my face, 
it won't be on concrete, it'll be on the sand." 

Maybe I should take something from this idea; I've been trying to deal with at least three new high-stress undertakings this week.  And each one I agreed to on a somewhat spur-of-the-moment fashion, something I don't particularly take to.  Thankfully they're not things that the stress will last past this weekend, but it was still a lot to process in just a week's time.  I think it really helped being able to unwind at the restaurant last night.  But I still have some things to look forward to: a weekend of house chores and a funeral I've been asked to film...

Ophiuchus is a funny word.

Hey check out the new Archive page as well, especially if you're new and need to catch up on previous posts.

19 January 2011

Moral Victories After All

I was fortunate to have a number of things go well yesterday, partly in response to my devoted attention to them.  First was my school attachment: I visited yesterday to check on the statuses of the two projects I have going right now, namely (1) the collection of ideas for classroom math activities, and (2) phase II of the library reorganization project – designating students to take responsibility for managing library activities and maintenance.

For the first, I met with the teacher in charge of math curricula, who informed me that he had brought up at the last staff meeting his intention to divvy up activities to other teachers in order to field test them.  Unfortunately, it seemed that the Carnival troupe that had prepped for the parade in his very classroom earlier this month had wreaked some havoc on it, scattering desks, papers, brooms, mops, and various implements of destruction until the original printout of activities was nary to be found.  That's okay; I'll acquire a new copy, this time at the school's expense, to replace the old one.  Hopefully the program will get off the ground soon.

For the second, I met with the teacher in charge of Student Council elections, who informed me that she had begun the nominating process, but elections are not scheduled until the end of this month, and may be pushed back due to schedule conflicts.  But she assured me that as soon as it is nearing completion, the students that will be designated Library Monitors for the term will be selected and announced, at which point I will be expected to orient them as to their duties and scheduling for the remainder of the school year.  So this project is also on track, if subject to the timetabling of another related activity.

Also a decision of mine was to get in touch with a gentleman on island who was a footballer and who would have inroads to weekly pickup games in town.  So at 8:30 on Tuesday night I visited the fields on the other side of town to partake in a weekly get-together of guys, many who had either played or were currently playing on the national team or on their respective high school team.  It was, in short, very intimidating.  I was mostly outclassed, and such an offense can hardly go unpunished.  I bruised my ankle early in the evening, and to add further insult to injury, I was frequently confronted with my poor ball handling skills, slowness to react and inability to make sufficient space.  In essence, the speed of play far exceeded what I was used to in the States, and the arrangement hardly qualified as a friendly game when all was said and done.  So I'm currently debating if attending again is in my best interests.

Lastly, I was returning home from work on Monday, and my route happened to pass by a gathering of twenty-something boys.  But I was inadvertently following behind another twenty-something guy who was walking to work at the brewery.  So when I passed, they did not yell to me, but instead asked the guy in front of me for "a dollar."  I could tell he wasn't just fooling, or being sarcastic, because of the guy's response: "Naw, man, you know my pockets empty."  No grin or laugh, just a polite dismissal.  But the fantastically unforeseeable part was that he didn't ask me!

17 January 2011

More Goings Than Comings, It Would Seem

Here are some pictures from a dinner a few weekends ago at Fisherman's Wharf.  We volunteers wanted to wish our friend Pilar goodbye; she was visiting on vacation and her time had been exhausted.  So we gathered at "The Best Catch In Town" to thank her for her friendliness, positive attitude, and generosity of spirit.  Overall the food was okay, though certainly pricey.  But it's a well known attraction for tourists and locals alike, so it's nice just to say that I've been there.  Some say the lobster is the best on island – maybe one day I'll find out.

The lasagna dinner on Friday night went well; it was a delight to spend time with friends.  I fear the lasagna itself could have used more seasoning, though.  Mom caught my error: Italian seasoning alone wasn't enough to bring out the tangy sauce flavor, it needed some singular herbs like Oregano or Basil as well.  Anyway, I'll know for next time, and hopefully when that time comes I won't have to warm up the pre- cooked dish in the oven like this time.  Anyway, as with so many of the dishes that I have been experimenting with, there's certainly room for improvement.

Additionally, it seems that one of our Peace Corps Response Volunteers will be taking early leave from his post here in St. Kitts to pursue different undertakings back in the States.  So we'll be marking his leave with another get-together this upcoming weekend.  I, for one, will be disappointed to see him off early; I shared in some delightfully deep and occasionally tacky conversations with him the last few months.  You know, it occurred to me the other day that, when my close of service comes at the end of next year, there may not be any PCVs staying behind to wish me off!

14 January 2011

Funnyquote Friday

Today is a special 3-for-1 edition of your favorite Friday series.  These quotes come from the column "Readings from the Peace Corps Rulebook," a department of the EC's own Serious Ting, a periodical contributed to and published by the 100-or-so PCVs in the Eastern Caribbean.  Here are the quotes:

"It's okay to let spiders chill in your bathroom 
for months... until they are the size of 
a Susan B. Anthony."

" 'Silent Night' is followed by a j'ouvert."

"Everyone in your village has an uncle in 
New York or Miami."

Interestingly enough, I did have a monstrous spider attack in December of this year – a bright orange spider about 4.5 inches in diameter (mostly legs).  Don't go thinking it was just another Daddy Long Legs, I'm inundated with those; this guy was living under the couch in order to get in on some of the ant/mosquito action.  But despite its altruistic intent, I made it clear that it was not welcome to scavenge on the same 326 sq. ft. as me.  So here's hoping it's another very long while before one builds up the courage to show its unnatural mug again.

Yes, everyone here seems to have a relative in the States, or has visited the States in many cool places that I have not.  Even my landlord currently lives in the States.  One of my coworkers spent part of the month of August this year in Atlanta.  You can bet someone on this island has been to Helen, GA.  People here are telling me about how cool (and cold) New York is. 

Yesterday I was going through some of the notes in my Moleskine from Pre-Service Training, and I happened across some poignant entries: 
  • 8/25 It's funny that in a few days we've managed to redefine the word "overweight."
  • 8/27 Blogging the first of my "Funny Quote Fridays."  Hope it is a hit.
  • 8/28 Did Yoga in the evening.  Much more relaxed now.
  • 8/29 Slept well last night.  Musta been the yoga.
  • 9/03 I'm looking forward to not walking on eggshells around my host family.  It's a lot of emotional energy.
  • 9/04 Rode the bus home for the first time today.  Very empowering.  Looking forward to walking home on my own.
  • 9/05 Erica discovered the [Nintendo] DS so now I think the damage is done.
Ah, the things you say to yourself when you think no one else is looking.  FYI: Overweight, in this context, refers to the state of one's luggage per airline restrictions.  And don't take the wrong impression from my entry on Sept. 3rd: at the time I was still a little shy around my host family, but I am since quite comfortable around them and feel like I could talk to them about anything.  They have always been very accommodating, and continue to watch out for me from a distance.  I know I am welcome at their place any time the need arises.

For a time after the 5th, Erica would find herself outside my room if my door was open and she'd peek in and say, "You have de puzzle game?"  Since the system has a pretty simple touch-based user interface, she latched on to it instantly, and loved perusing the menus and moving blocks and changing their colors with no help from me.  I didn't mind the company, of course, but every now and then one of Erica's grandparents would query from the other room, "Erica, you are harassing Chris?" This always got a laugh from me.

I am looking forward to having friends over for dinner this evening: home-style lasagna and sauteed green beans.  Yum!

12 January 2011

The Name Game

This post is brought to you by Inspiration®, the newest unstoppable force since the last unstoppable force.

Never have I ever lived in a place where the mixer was more expensive than the rum... until now.

How is Carnival like your car keys?  Everybody lose it.

I am tickled every time this message pops up on Hulu: "Sorry, we're unable to load a message from our sponsors."  Oh no, no need to apologize; if only I was always so lucky.  Someone needs to tell Hulu that the the break in tempo, what with two ads at 30-45 seconds long each, four different times in a 45-minute episode, is starting to get grating.  (Am I getting spoiled?  Perhaps a little.)

I had a good enough experience with it this past season, I'll probably do Carnival again next year.  Maybe I can forgo paying for a costume and make one myself?  Or better yet, organize a float with a student iron band and roll it into town.

Drink waterWater is good for you.

I sure hope to get involved in a soccer club and/or steel pan band soon, so when I go back to the States and people say "Show me your muscle," I'll have something to show them.

And now the news from Peace Corps Land: I'm pleased to say that the meeting with my APCD and my IPP flew like an eagle today; I'm sure the report will go down as such.  Now I just have my current work and school projects to focus on, intermittent cooking for guests, and Inter-Service Training coming in a few months.

10 January 2011

2 Cups Flour, 1 Tbsp. Perspective

It's sad to say that, after only 5 months, I think I'm already at the point where I'm so inundated with the short-term, day-to-day, that it's hard to separate out the big picture of what I'm trying to accomplish here.  Where I should be thrilled with the notion that I am serving as a cog in a bigger machine (albeit of very slow-moving progress), content to make note of accomplishments when my time here is done, I can't help but wonder here and now if the small things I'm doing every day are making any real, permanent difference to the institutions I'm working with. 

I guess another way of putting the same thing is, I'm losing the battle with putting aside my own expectations of what progress is in social development work here in the Eastern Caribbean.  As I pointed out during PST, this is one of the top three challenges that I anticipated before starting my service, in conjunction with perpetual loneliness and being singled out or mistaken for a tourist or student because of my difference in appearance.  At the time, I identified two primary mechanisms for relieving these anxieties: spending time in prayer and the Word, and sharing in deep conversations with peers.  One has quickly dropped off in frequency (blame the Internet) and the other is lacking in several necessary parts.  The result is an unfortunate inability to appropriately deal with these psychological struggles, and a subsequent drop in efficiency in important things, like work and house maintenance.

This is, perhaps, an unfortunate realization coming up to my performance check-up scheduled for Wednesday.  I'm not particularly nervous, or anything, and I have my preparations for the meeting with my Institutional Point Person and my Assistant Peace Corps Director taken care of.  I'm just aware of my tendency to be very transparent, even when I try not to divulge certain details.  Heck, even my willingness to log these thoughts should be evidence of that.  But I chose long ago to err on the side of fully honest disclosure in all of my undertakings; a friend and mentor of mine once called this choice "a life without guilt."  There is some truth to this, to be sure.  I don't regret this guiding habit, but it would be untrue to suggest that it always leads me to the best option.  But that's a different post, perhaps.

There is a sign right across from my seat in my office, posted there by our Social & Life Skills adviser at the NSTP.  It reads, "Poverty of purpose is far worse than poverty of purse."  I don't know if you have to be in the Peace Corps to appreciate the wisdom of this reality, but I can say that all PCVs face this at some point in their service, perhaps those in the EC a little sooner than others.  It's part of the reality of working in the richest global region that the Peace Corps has any presence in: the perception that the good we can do here is, as often as not, regarded as limited.  And in my case, paired with an institution that has no cash flow to support daily operations, this can occasionally be doubly so.

The good side to all of this is that I've identified another method of achieving a temporary morale boost: cooking!  Thanks in large part to the hours I spent with my ex-fiancée in the kitchen, observing and participating where I could, I picked up a lot of helpful techniques to ensure some level of sustained success in my culinary endeavors, ambitions that I never knew I had.  But I've come to find out that I am so proud of my newly-evolving abilities that I have added a list of the dishes most deserving of praise to the front page of this blog.

Reservations for Château du CEC are now being accepted, but you'll have to call soon – seats are going fast!

07 January 2011

Funnyquote Friday

Good Friday morning; the quote for today is a spontaneous, inspirational witticism from a fellow volunteer during training:

"Life: remember to keep breathing."

I got to do a little breathing this past weekend, when a fellow PCV staying in Sandy Point and I hiked through the countryside in view of Mt. Liamuiga and Brimstone Hill.  We got rained on from time to time, but with trusty umbrella and groves of tamarind trees to hide underneath, we managed just fine.  The exercise was especially refreshing after spending the winter holidays mostly cooped up when not experiencing Carnival.

I got a lot of positive feedback with Monday's post.  I was inspired to put written word to my thoughts after having this conversation on a number of occasions with fellow volunteers.  Specifically, how different each of our experiences as volunteers in the EC will be with the countless volunteers who have served on other continents, how different our experience in St. Kitts will be from other EC volunteers, and even how different my experience is from other Kittitian volunteers.

I have two things coming up on the calendar for this month: the all-volunteer meeting to discuss what we will do in the Federation to celebrate the Peace Corps's 50th anniversary, and my APCD visit to my work site.  So I have to consolidate the progress statuses of my projects as well as come up with an interesting way, a new project, to honor the Peace Corps's 3 goals, possibly while also attending to the symbolism of 50.

It is more challenging than I expected to get back into the swing of a work routine; two weeks off from work is just enough time to get used to the laid back schedule of pursuing one's own goals.  It was helpful having a project to keep me busy, though, when I needed to feel productive.  I've nearly finished my first draft of the Financial Management unit for the Entrepreneurship curriculum coming out of the National Enterprise Development Division (NEDD).

P.S. A new milestone yesterday: 3,000 hits for the blog.

03 January 2011

What It Could Have Been Like

A topic of intrigue for myself of late has been how disparate and unique my Peace Corps experience will have been from all of the returned PCVs I meet in future travels, even from other PCVs here in the EC and on my island.  To wit: the nature of PC interactions and influence in our daily lives is, I have to imagine, several orders more prevalent than the non-island norm.  Since most readers are presumably aware, to some degree, of my situation here on St. Kitts, I'll start by laying out a fictional, but what I understand to be entirely plausible, alternative scenario were I stationed in, say, Niger of Africa.

Settled once-for-all in my home that is comparable in nearly every way to the expected basic living conditions of the average-income citizen, situated in the village I will be expected to work and live in for two years, the few hundred people that inhabit my village will become my second family in time.  They already know me in short order and recognize me from great distances, long before I will be able to recall everyone's names.  But as I am a welcome outsider, for a time my inability to recall names or even communicate well in both French and the local dialect is forgiven.  The village nearest to mine is 50 miles to the southwest, about an hour-and-a-half jeep ride over the sand and steppe on the way to the capital of Niamey, which is another 50 miles beyond that.  The nearest PCV to me, on the other hand, is about 300 miles north along the national highway, about an 8 hour trip counting in rest stops, meals, and passing livestock, and not including unforeseen obstacles like tire blowouts, road impasses, and sandstorms.  The other PCVs say I'm lucky to be just 100 miles from the Peace Corps office in the capital, since I can conceivably ride into town, take care of important business like collecting mail from home (it's been a month since I checked last) and filling out Peace Corps paperwork and trimesterly reports, and still get back to my village in the same day.  For most of them, it is a full day's commitment, an entire day devoted to almost non-stop travel, just to take care of an hour's worth of business, maybe see the capital again while the sun is still up, then head back home the next morning, all the while being forced to miss the usual Thursday pickup game of soccer with the village youth.  A final note: the most remarkable thing to me about taking up residence here is that, even when away from my village and around people who clearly don't know me, because of my obvious difference in appearance, I am treated with inviting curiosity and generally welcome interest by most host-country nationals.  I am not treated as an outsider, but as a visitor, which provides a unique opportunity to engage in the Corps's second goal: share a little bit of my culture with my new neighbors. 

This is diametrically opposed in many instances to my experience here in the Federation.  Even compared to my fellow PCVs on-island, I have a very short trip into the capital (seeing as how I live within eyeshot, and sometimes earshot, of it), so while others have to at least budget between EC$5 and EC$7.50 for a trip into town, I can just walk with nothing to lose but a few hours and some lactic acid buildup.  Similarly, if PC staff has to visit on site for any reason, instead of a more typical, say, two-weeks notice, they have the freedom to literally call on their way.  This is all forgoing the mention of just having running hot water, electricity, and the DSL internet connection I am using right now.  I sincerely look forward to the conversations I have with future RPCV acquaintances about the expanse of differences in our respective experiences.

I gather a few shout-outs are due here.  Happy 30th anniversary, Mom and Dad.  The gift may or may not, in fact, be in the mail.  And congratulations to Meagan and Ryan on their engagement.  I can't wait to find out the date!

Please continue to pray for me, specifically for a healthy diversity of social interactions.  Granted, it's only been four months, and things will probably start getting more hectic when work starts up again, but for the meantime, it's difficult to get away from the pressing feeling of loneliness.

If I haven't already said so, Happy New 2011 to everyone.  Here's a new blog header to celebrate!