Sunday, April 29, 2012

Do you think SCA knows about eleven monthses?

As a misanthropic introvert who gets bored* traveling alone, I find I'm in kind of a bind when it comes to R&R.  Especially second R&R, which sounds like something Merry and Pippin would take after being assigned to a post in Mordor, but is actually a real thing given to all us troopers in AIP.  The idea is that AIP is SO stressful and there's SO much work to do that you should spend not three but a full SIX weeks out of your tour making your colleagues do all of your duties in addition to their own so that you can have a chance to relax (and therefore will return to post refreshed enough to take on all of their duties while they go on R&R.  Genius.).  Much like The Trilogy, this vicious cycle never does seem to come to an end.

I also find that, somewhere between 'looking forward to one's vacation' and 'longing to flee one's circumstances', there is a point where you start having horrible, tension-filled dreams of being caught in the midst of clandestine departure and then chastised by your pregnant colleague for "trying to leave her alone." That's the point I happen to have reached. The colleague in question, meanwhile, is all but pushing me out the door. Honestly, it's not like I ever do anything for her in the office but eat the snacks she leaves out in her candy dish. I'll bring her back something nice from Laos.

*My sister says that boredom is a combination of a misplaced sense of entitlement and lack of imagination, but I can't figure out what she's talking about and plus she owes me a dollar.

Why not then? Moose.

I still remember one of my friends telling me before leaving Post, "I don't know if I like it here, or if I just tell myself I like it here." I'm not convinced that those two things are ever any different, if we're honest with ourselves.

Earlier this week, one of the evaluators for my annual performance report told me that my self-assessment of accomplishments sounded 'joyless'. Not considering myself a particularly mirth-y person in the best of circumstances, I wasn't really sure how to respond. This is work, right? Shouldn't we be striving more for 'responsibly productive' than 'blithely chipper'? Sometimes you're just gritting your teeth and enjoying the poetry -- but that's not a moral failing. That's just life. At any rate...

That same day, the staff told me that they've already started planning my good-bye party. "Uh, you guys know I'm not leaving for two months, right?" "Oh, sure, but officers always get busy in the last month. We'd thought we'd do it early." I am taking this plan totally at face value. Here's hoping for a trip to Food Street or the local bowling alley. Either one of of those would make me pretty happy.

I'd be up for a return trip to Shalimar Gardens, too.

Thursday, April 05, 2012

More more more

"Would it be OKAY if I started DANCING?" I'm screaming not two inches from his ear so that my staff member can hear me over the noise. The band had nearly fallen to their knees in joy when they saw the set up: all the amps and speakers in Punjab* had been piled on the stage and rock music was now flowing freely from them. Kind of an American version of the azan.

"WHAT??" The poor guy had the dubious task of watching what I resolutely refuse to call my purse while I ran around doing various band-related things to justify my largely unnecessary presence. He was perched up at the top of the stairs, surveying the audience which was seated in carefully padded, fabric-draped chairs, the kind you might see at a high school prom. They'd been arranged on top of the concrete theater tiers in lieu of stadium seating. The non-purse was lumped at his feet, folders and cameras and water bottles poking out at odd angles.

"DANCING! If I went down front and started DANCING, would that be OKAY? WOULD ANYONE BE OFFENDED?" There wasn't a lot of crowd movement, and I could tell it was getting to the band. I thought I might be able to draw some people to the front of the stage if I led by example.

He looked at me blankly and shook his head to show lack of comprehension. Frustrated, I rushed down the stairs, figuring whatever cultural taboos I might break would only add to the American rock 'n roll counter culture mystique. It wasn't till I was standing at the stage edge that I realized he'd followed me, dragging the bag in one hand. "SORRY, I DIDN'T UNDERSTAND." The music was deafening, but he managed to shout just over it. "HOW DO YOU DANCE TO THIS?"

How do you dance to rock music? It was my turn for a blank stare. Isn't that something that people just do instinctively, like eating ice cream or producing offspring or not getting in elevators with Gary Busey? But looking up at the crowd, it suddenly made sense why so few were out of their chairs: the look of incomprehension was universal. They were as clueless as he was.

"FIRST YOUR HANDS." I raised mine over my head and clapped in time with the beat. He copied me, watching carefully, bag forgotten. "NOW YOUR FEET." I stepped from side to side, letting my hips jerk, and he joined in unison. A few more from the audience came down to watch. "AND THE REST OF YOUR BODY!" I figured for a crash course, I didn't need to be much more specific. Besides, 'Rebel Yell' was almost over and we had a proper crowd around us now. Most were doing some combination of bangla and Michael Jackson circa 'Dangerous'. But at least they were out of their seats.

His jacket strained at his shoulders as he clapped his hands and grinned triumphantly. "I THINK I'VE GOT IT!"

Another heart and mind won. I'm sure that's just what Billy Idol intended.

*all six of them.

Sunday, April 01, 2012


What to say to the study tour returnee who reported, "Before I went there, I had thought that in America there would be open nudity and sex on the streets"?

"Did you find that to be the case?" I asked him.


I couldn't determine if his reaction was one of merely amazement, or if perhaps he hadn't been a tad disappointed.