Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Rescuers Up North

This is the a really crazy video, but the people in it are amazing! A great example of shared social responsibility.

Monday, July 13, 2009

PC (?)

I was out tonight with some friends and the topics of religion, affirmative action, race, and disabilities came up. I shared my feelings toward my experience with an individual whom I knew for some time who had muscular dystrophy. When I expressed that I did not like the individual and I thought him to be a rude, heartless, and manipulative person, the reaction around the table was one of shock, disbelief, and possibly disgust. It was as if I had said that I enjoyed punching babies. My attempts to explain myself were in vain. One friend said, “Awe, no, come on. He has every right in the world to be that way.” This is not the first time I have received this type of reaction when discussing such topics and I think this type of reaction is an interesting social phenomena.

In general I would say our society teaches a few things:
We must be nice to all people who are different than the proclaimed majority or ourselves.
We must not treat anyone who is different than the proclaimed majority or ourselves as if they are different.

If someone is different than yourself, physically financially, spiritually, etc, etc. it is not acceptable to express any type of dislike toward or about that individual.

I would first like to say that I do agree that it is important to make people feel included. In my daily activities and encounters I am always trying to be aware of others feelings and trying to ensure that I am being inclusive of those around me. I would also like to emphasize the fact that

I had (obviously) a very personal experience with the individual to whom I was referring. It was not my intent to persuade others to dislike the specific individual; it was only to give an example. I am not certain that I can name the example I was trying to make in a few words, but I will try and describe my position here.

I am a very genuine person. I don’t expect everyone to understand or agree with me and I don’t change things about myself to make others feel more comfortable. I also would never expect someone to do the same for me. When determining what type of person I think someone is, I evaluate his or her personality only. I don’t like people because they are tall, or thin, or intelligent, or black, or white, or Asian, or because they speak Dutch, or because they have one leg, or because they volunteer at a local shelter. I like people because they are genuine and honest about who they are, what they are doing, and how they feel about the world. The people I appreciate the most are those who are not afraid to disagree with the majority and have personal experience to support their position. I don’t believe that people should be made to feel bad or guilty that they don’t like a disable person, or a black person, or a Mexican person, or whatever type of person just because that person may or may not have had a worse time at life than themselves. I think it is less honest and more of an insult to publicly treat a person differently than I feel about them and would express to those closest to me.

The individual in question was not a nice person. I have been acquainted with this person for some time and at one point in our relationship we were very close. The longer I knew this individual the more I began to see the person’s true colors. The person was a rude, manipulative, ungrateful, hateful, nasty, spoiled, hypocritical prick. I felt more empathy for the individual’s mother, family, classmates, teachers, doctors, etc than I did fore the individual. There were moments when I could see nothing but greed in the person’s eyes. It was almost as if making “friends” and winning the favor of others was a sort of game to this person. It seemed as if the mission of the person’s life was to see how far the disability could carry the individual. These are the reasons I did not like this person. The person was exploiting the compassion, caring, empathy, guilt, morality, and sense of responsibility of others. The person knew that most people feel as if they need to share the burdens of less fortunate people in any way they can, and the person took full advantage of this and enjoyed it. It was a sport to this person—collecting as much pity as possible, feeding off of the weakest and most conforming members of society.
I don’t expect every disable person to be nice and to just be grateful that they are alive. I don’t even expect every able person to be as such. My life experience, though short, has taught me that what I think I know about people is usually incorrect. Likewise, people think they know me and know what my life has been like, but they are usually wrong. This is because I made a choice long ago to not let negative things in my life affect me negatively. I have taken the negative things in my life and tried to use them in a positive and constructive manner. Of course, this is not always so easy, and I do still have downs, but for the most part I am an incredibly happy and appreciative person. I know that this is a very personal decision and not all people choose to, or perhaps are able, to make it. All I do know is that I truly do try to boil people down to personalities and to evaluate them on that alone, especially if I will be spending any significant amount of time with them.

I am not trying to convince anyone to begin disliking disabled people. Rather, I would just like it to not be taboo to dislike people in general. It is part of the human experience to dislike people, places, and things and because of this I don’t think it should be such a social faux pas to express dislike of things that are sensitive. One should try and understand the level of dislike before assuming the disliker is harsh, evil, rude, inconsiderate, or what have you.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Bastille Days and Dangdut

Today we went to Milwaukee for Bastille Days. It was the usual BFC plus Caitlin and Saku. As there were seven of us we had to take two cars. I didn’t want to be subjected to the torture that is Frank’s music, so I quickly volunteered to ride with Steve and Caitlin, and Saku.

Milwaukee was an interesting city. It wasn’t as interesting as Chicago, but the lake was beautiful and some of the architecture was spectacular. Though, it was obvious the city had gone through some rough financial times.

We parked the cars and walked over to Bastille Days. I’m not sure what exactly Bastille Days is supposed to be, but this was a big street fair with some “French” accents, and by some I mean “cancan” dancers and one guy singing in French. I did have some good lemonade though, and there were other performers worth listening to, even if they weren’t French. One was this group of little old men in white pants, red polos, white shoes, and red socks. They played a type of bluegrass (or something) that was quite entertaining and enjoyable. One of the men played a tuba that looked as if they had rescued it from an abandoned well. Another of the men played a washboard with black gloves that had metal tips on the fingers. He was probably the most entertaining.

There was another band playing that was sort of Reggae at first, but then switched in the middle. We had a good time standing around and admiring all of the different ways people found to dance to the music, some inconspicuously, some not. We also made our way down to Lake Michigan. It was beautiful and the weather was cool and breezy. There were about 3 or 4 weddings going on and every one of the groups was having pictures taken in front of the unusual, white structure that formed a bridge over the road to the lake.

We were all starving, so we slowly made our way to some Thai food, thanks to Frank’s incredible sense of direction (GPS). The meal was decent, but Christy and Frank did their arguing thing, which is always funny, and that is when we decided to start calling Saku Pocket. It just seemed like the right thing to do. After dinner we made our way back over to the festival where Frank purchased his African mask. We hung around a bit long and witnessed some oddly dressed people, men-women, and tiger dogs.

On the drive home we sped past Frank, Christy, and Gilles only to be passed by them shortly after while Frank was wearing his horrifying mask and flipping us off. We passed them again later, and when they retaliated it was with Frank’s big, white ass in the front passenger’s window. Saku threatened to sun them, but alas the threats were idle. For the remainder of the ride I enjoyed playing a million questions with Saku, and found out some interesting things about his family life.

Once we were back in Madison we managed to make our way over to the Eagle Heights Community Center for the Dangdut. It was dark and spooky, and we had to ask a questionable stranger for directions, but we managed to find it at last. We walked in and it turned out they were moving the party over to Arti’s place. We grabbed some things and helped make the move. Arti’s place was panas sekali dan there were banyak orang, but it was still fun. We hung around for a bit, dancing, talking, laughing, and drinking “watermelon jus” but we were tired and so left pretty quickly. All in all it was a great day and I managed to keep both shoes!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Botchi, Beer, and Best Friends

The BFC went to DeKalb/ Chicago this weekend for the 4th. We left on Friday around 3:00 pm. It was supposed to be 2:30, but Gilles was still without a working cell, so it took some time to round everyone up. Almost as soon as we got on the road the music wars began. Ipods are great, but they make for incredible music snobs. Steve's was the only ipod everyone seemed to agree upon, so for a bit we traveled back to the golden days of the 90s. All in all the ride was short and sweet, but I was riding bitch (which is never that great) so I was smashed a lot.

We arrived to Frank's place, got the quick tour, then were off again, this time to the kantor pos to pick up Frank's mail. On the way there we honked at some Vets that were standing on the corner being proud and all and were acknowledged with jeers of appreciation. Since Dekalb is void of a night life we settled on a cook-out at Frank's. For this we had to make a stop at the WalBillie.

The trip was anything but quick, but what else can you expect going to the cheapest place in town for grub? It was clear from the start that some people (Gilles and Christy) were confused as to what a cook-out was exactly. We were in the produce section, shucking our corn, when the Canadian suggested we buy some "cakes and breads." We all laughed hysterically, and again when he asked "what?"

We were deciding on the proper way to make the burgers and there were many suggestions. The men just wanted to roll the meat into a ball and then press it over a grill. Gilles wanted to mix in oatmeal, and Christy and I had the only sensible suggestion of worcestershire, an egg, spices, and maybe some onions and bread crumbs. At least we all agreed it should be beef...

When we moved on to sides, Christy suggested beans, which we all happily agreed upon, until she clarified "black beans." Who eats black beans at a cook-out!? Frank, Steve, and I laughed as we brushed past her to grab the maple baked beans. During all of this we sent the Frenchy to grab the cheese. All that was left to buy was the grill, which cost us a whopping $6 and Gilles HP which was about $20. Yay, for megacorporations!

After our checkout, which when split between the 5 of us came to about $13 each, we were on to Petco to fetch a live mouse. While we were waiting on an employee to assist us, Frank was hit on by a large man at the counter who offered him "the mouse in his pants." (I think it was). The mouse was too cute and we were all gawking at him in his little cardboard box, which he peed in, on the way home. I guess he knew what was coming next.

Once we were back at Frank's it was snakey's dinner time. We all went in to watch the show. It was brutal and lasted about 15min total! Christy only stuck around for about 1min of it.

After that appetizing display, we were all starving, so we got started on dinner. The boys fired up the grill on the deck and Christy and I worked on the corn, beans, and cucumber salad. I don't know how the final decision was made, but the burgers were delish. Gilles taught us all a valuable Canadian trick- folding the corners of the slice of cheese inward so all the cheese stays on the burger, and doesn't melt onto the plate, or grill, or what have you. We all sat down on the deck with our burgers, hot dogs, and sides- the boys with their Moosehead and Christy and I with our wine (we are so much more sophisticated) and enjoyed the evening.

Sudah makan malam, Frank left to visit his advisor and the rest of us hung out on the porch chatting for a while about school, work, research, and life. After a while we decided it was time to play botchi ball. Of course it was dark by this time, but we agreed it was light enough near the sidewalk where there was a lamp (lamp post? street lamp?). All but Gilles were pretty terrible at the game. We went on a bit like this until Frank showed up and joined.

We had been down near the light playing for a while when someone looked behind us and saw a raccoon standing near the corner of one of the buildings. It was just standing there watching us all creepy like. We tried making noise to scare it away, but it just moved closer. The guys decided it would be fun to mess with it, so Steve bowled a botchi ball toward it. The ball rolled right toward the raccoon, bounced up and nailed it square in the face! It jumped, we laughed hysterically, and then it ran off. Or so we thought...

About 10 min later we turned around and saw it watching us again! The guys walked toward it again to try and scare it off, but it just wouldn't leave! Gilles got maybe 3 feet away from it and was clapping and trying to catch it, and then it decided to saunter away. We didn't see it after that, but it was the strangest raccoon I had ever seen.

It was getting chilly and we were getting delirious so we went inside. We stayed in the living room and chatted a bit. Steve fell asleep once on the floor and then twice while sitting up, so we decided it was time to call it a night. We all went to our respective sleeping places. Mine was the Cambodian guy's bed... I dreamt spiders were crawling over me all night. At least I hope it was a dream...

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Popeye's and others.

I had Popeye's for the first time today. I have to say, it was quite enak. I would say better than KFC, but still just a fast food, fried chicken joint. The cashier girl thought Pittsburgh was in Newyork, and there was a crazy guy who victoriously locked his bike before entering the restaurant, but other than that is was a nice dinning experience. It was a nice comforting meal and great conversation after a rather confusing and frustrating day in class. We learned about sudah dan baru today and I did not really understand all of the concepts until the last 3 minutes of class! Too, the classes were combined today (because Bu Ameila sudah kurang enak badan), which was not the greatest because it is difficult to concentrate with so many people asking ridiculous questions and wasting so much time. I felt bad for Bu Melisa too. She had to put up with a lot of crap today. Thankfully, tomorrow is the weekend and I'm going to Chicago for the 4th with the BFC! It should be another montage of super fun activities and adventures!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009


I'm now in the third week of my Indonesian learning/ Wisconsin adventure and things have been going splendidly so far.

I have made some really good friends. We are such good friends, that we have in fact formed a club, the Best Friends' Club. Current members include: Me :-) Frank Chappell, Gilles Maillet, Steve Myers, and Christina Pomianek. We do pretty much everything together, including mandi grup.

Our first official BF event was kayaking on lake Mendota. After driving around Madison for about an hour (which always happens when we try to go anywhere in this freaking city) Christina and I had a tandem kayak and Frank and Steve had singles (Gilles was passed out from the night before, so he missed out on this one). We set out on the lake around 1ish (I think) and we were in route to the "island." It was taking forever to get there and Steve and Frank (mostly Steve) were jacking around.

Frank eventually caught up to Christy and I, and the three of us were approaching the island at a reasonable pace. Christy and I moved a little ahead of Frank and the next thing we knew, his kayak was upside down and he was bobbing in the water beside it. We turned back to "help" him, but when we got near him we mysteriously flipped (it was Christy's fault). Our life jackets were extremely awkward and we were laughing so much that we "nearly" drowned. We spent the next 30 or so minutes collecting all of the paddles, shoes, hats, kayaks, and life jackets while also attempting to climb back into the boats. Meanwhile, a kind, but strange windsurfer wondered by and offered a helping hand, but we were prideful and he was a windsurfer! What was he going to do? Too, Steve was nowhere to be found. He showed up at about the 30 minute marker and took over Frank's kayak for us. After about 10 more minutes of struggling, Frank, Christy, and I managed to climb back onto the tandem kayak, but the wind was not cooperating and Steve had drifted away from us with the other kayak and the paddles. By some miracle we reunited with Steve, but Frank's kayak was full of water. However, our sharp minds told us to pull the kayak onto the other two and dump the water out. Once that crisis was dealt with, Frank managed to climb in and everyone collected their various belongings. Though we were not far from the island, we were exhausted and starving, so we decided to head back to shore. After what felt like hours, we washed up onto shore and crawled to the car.

We were soaked, smelly, and dirty, but we needed nourishment. Luckily, we (minus Frank) are also part of the water bottle club, and so dehydration was averted. It probably had something to do with the music that was playing at the rental shop, but we were all craving Mexican, so Frank hooked us up with places on his GPS. A million places showed up, but we settled on Eldorado (spell?) Grill. We drove off, after Frank "bumped" the car behind us for the second time, but we were all a little delirious. At one point we all began to laugh for no apparent reason.

Again we drove around for about an hour until we reached the restaurant, El Pastor. However, it was a little too "fancy" for us bums, so we headed for another Mexican restaurant on Park. Luckily the second place was a little more "authentic" and forgiving of our appearances, so it was a good match. With our stomachs aching we each ordered a two pound burrito. Thinking that wouldn't be sufficient (and just wanting a tamale) Steve ordered a taco and I ordered a tamale to accompany our meals.