Sunday, June 28, 2009

Self Validation via some survey done by the Daily Telegraph

Women Happiest at 28

The title is a bit misleading, as the rest of the article goes on to say that women have the best SEX at 28, but "women are happiest in their career at 29 and most content with their relationships one year later at 30"...

However, "all is not lost for the over 30s, as women feel most content with their financial situation at 33 and at ease with their home and family life at 32."

Soooooo basically, I'm on track.


Does is say anywhere in here when I get to take over the world?

Saturday, June 27, 2009

A Day Off

Today I was finally able to squeeze in a full night's sleep, a jog, and some pool-time. I actually find I get more done when I'm relaxed poolside, sipping a double gin-tonic under a bao tree than when I'm frazzled, hunched over my computer in grey cubicle. I'm sure most people feel that way, which leads me to wonder why more offices aren't under bao trees, but I digress. Probably lack of bao trees. Anyway, I was able to finish off one report and get a good start on another and still have an hour to swim before fun time.

Susan, my Sri Lankan colleague, had agreed to take me around Colombo for some shopping and sightseeing. We started out at a craft shop, then a gem store, then to a shopping center where I scored some seriously cheap clothes. Like many developing nations, Sri Lanka is heavily into the textile industry, sewing some of the top brands for the US markets. So, I was able to score a GAP skirt and a few Ann Taylor Loft blouses for less than fifteen USD - total.

After that, Susan surprised me by taking me to the Gangaramaya Buddhist Temple. There are several spread out parts of this compound, including the Seema Malaka (shrine) situated in nearby Beira Lake. The best part about the shrine were the signs up all over saying "Do Not Make Love Here" in Singalese. Apparently, it's a happening night spot!

Incidentally, we did go at night, when everything was lit up by torches and tea lights (we didn't see any amorous couples, though). According to my out-dated guidebook, the temple itself is a "strange hotch-potch of Buddhist arts and architecture from Sri Lanka, Thailand, China...with an unusually strong dash of Hindu influence thrown in." I'm not a religious scholar, but I can recognize my favorite Hindu god, Ganesh, when I see him (he's the one with the elephant head); and I saw him in the entryway. Beautiful, but strangely out of place, I thought.

Asking Susan about this, she succinctly stated, "Buddhism is open to all thoughts. It is a philosophy; not a religion."

The entryway opened up into a cavernous room with an enormous (thirty feet tall) orange Buddha. The walls were covered in elaborate paintings, carvings and mini-Buddha's. It was breathtaking. People were lighting incense, chanting and listening the loudspeakers, which were piping in a live "sermon" from another area of the temple.

From there, we walked into a courtyard dominating by a huge white dagoba, which basically looks like a white bell (click link for picture). Off to one side, stood a large boa tree tied low with strips of colored cloths. Susan mentioned that people believed that if they circled the tree, watering it, their prayers would be answered. I've had a few prayers of my own lately, so I grabbed a silver chalice and watered my heart out. Answers or not, I certainly felt better afterwards.

Lastly, in the back, behind the museum, the most breathtaking sight of the evening was the slope of rows upon rows of smiling buddhas, casting peaceful shadows far into the night. It was calming just to be there.

After sneaking a few more pictures in, Susan and I hopped back in the car where Raja (the driver) had purchased egg hoppers for all of us. Basically a crispy pancake with fried egg in the middle, it was super-delish (see previous post about me and fried food) and an excellent end to an excellent afternoon.

Tomorrow - the spa!

Friday, June 26, 2009

A Week's Worth

I haven't felt very verbose lately, so here's a quick week's worth of updates:

- eleven interviews = one very long day
- hot showers are only as available as your ability (and lucidity) to know which way the knob should turn;
- two eight hour car rides in as many days
- one of those hours locating an office space that ends up being a bombed out farmhouse
- repeat performance with another bombed out farmhouse, this one with squatters
- the "good" road is the one under construction
- hot is feeling the backs of your knees sweat
- cows are a) pedestrians b) decoration c) family members d) all of the above
- whoops? should I be taking malarial pills?
- deep fried and carbs = me likey (fried manioc is delish!)
- observed pujah at a hindu shrine on a mountain top
- watched a monkey throw up in his mouth
- visited Lover's Leap, but stood firm
- swam in the Indian Ocean at dusk;
- tried to read emails at the beach, ended up picking sand from my laptop;
- watched my underwear being fondled at a military checkpoint;
- denied access to "marble beach"
- got photo with cute military guy instead
- promised I wasn't going to post it on a website
-...but can still talk about it!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Oh Caffeine, I'll Never Forsake You Again

It's taken me three days, but I've finally arrived in Sri Lanka. While I still maintain that East Timor is as close to the end of the earth as you can get (and pretty hard to get to), Sri Lanka gives it a run for its money. One 13 hour flight to Tokyo (2 hours sitting at the gate, trying to get the cargo door to close); then, upon arrival 15 minutes to run to the bathroom and board my 6 hour flight to Bangkok.

My Bangkok hotel was nice, but my internal clock was so screwed up by that point, when I finally got there at 2am, I couldn't wind down to sleep and had to resort to tylenol pm, which leaves me sluggish and sleepy. Effectively, I didn't have enough energy to go explore the city during my 12 hour layover and subsequently was forced just to hit the spa, gym and pool (in that order). One more three hour flight that evening, landed me in Colombo around 10:30 pm.

In an effort to be "healthy", I had shunned caffeine during this time, so my internal clock could reset on its own (barring the tylenol pm, which I maintain was an emergency). I thought this was a smart idea, except by Sunday evening, an achy feeling had crept into the back of my skull. What began as a dull pain, soon turned into a shooting, blinding, hammering, by the time I had made it through customs in Colombo.

The swine flu is a big deal in Asia, especially since Sri Lanka just got its first case last week. They're screening everyone from "swine flu" countries, including the US, so I had to pass a health inspection wherein they make you fill out a little form regarding how you're feeling. How would you feel after 2 days of travelling? Luckily "like shit" wasn't one of the options, otherwise, I might have ended up in Sri Lankan quarantine. Also, thankfully, "hammering migraine" wasn't one of the symptoms listed either.

After an excruciating hour long car ride, I arrived at the hotel, made myself the strongest "breakfast tea" (ie with caffeine!) and promptly fell asleep.

I've learned my lesson. Next global pandemic, I might not be so lucky. "Screaming headache" might actually be on the list.

Caffeine, I'll never try to break up with you again. It's dangerous!

Tuesday, June 09, 2009


I've not covered this much here, but I've been following the news of Burma's Aung San Suu Kyi recent detention due to the ridiculous actions of American tourist John William Yettaw. Aung San Suu Kyi, a Nobel peace price winner and democracy advocate, has been under house arrest for the past several years for opposing the military junta. Op-Ed's in Washington Post and this article by Voice of America do a good job of summarizing the democracy activist, and her current trial for "violating house arrest" when Mr. Yettaw decided it would be a good idea to swim the moat for a visit (Suu Kyi does not know him). But she faces an additional 5 years of jail time because he felt he urgently needed to talk with her.

I have alot of opinions about the thoughtlessness of this man, but that's not the point of this post.

I am in DC this week, attending a seminar for work on aid, development and conflict. I had lunch with a Burmese gentleman today, and I asked him about the trial. He was not optimistic. He explained that the miltary junta keeps such tight controls over everything that if one wants to have a meeting of over five people, they must get government approval (verified by google). Can you imagine that? This extends to work, play, school, religious gatherings, as well as political rally's (if they have such a thing). This would even extend to such professional seminars similar to what we are both currently attending.


Because this was his first trip to the US, I asked him what his first impression was. His response was "Everything is very green here. In Burma, there are few trees. People cut them down to sell."

DC is a beautifully green place, with many public spaces, so I couldn't deny him that. But it wasn't what I expected. I expected something along the lines of free press, being able to say whatever he wanted, read what he wanted, gather a group of over five friends together and party til dawn without permission. Didn't he feel "free-er"?

Nope, he felt cleaner. The air smelled good.

I guess it's the small things - that which we so often take for granted - which makes the biggest difference.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Not to Pick on Zambia again but...

I went to the travel doctor this week for my upcoming trip to Sri Lanka. I hate travel doctors. They always tell me to wear sunscreen, drink plenty of water and wear bug spray. (Just once I'd like someone to teach me something useful, like CPR, or maybe some hand-to-hand combat moves.) I also hear alot about the scary diseases that I may or may not attract.

For those of you who know me, this does not go over well with my hypochondriac self.

This doctor was no different. While very nice, she was also big on pointing out which diseases I don't want to get (malaria) and which ones I DEFINITELY don't want (japanese encephalitis). In fact, I may go back and get the vaccine for that one.

Aaaaaanyway, what I thought was going to be a quick 30 minute appointment for malaria drugs turned into a two-hour ordeal, with me leaving certain that I was going to die of Chagas, or at the very least, had a case of worms.

I went back to the office and vented about my experience.

My coworker, a pleasantly plump conservative mid-thirties single gal guffawed. "That's nothing," she said, "when I went for my trip to Zambia, the nurse asked me if I was going to be having sexual relations."

(Note: business trips do not lend themselves to romance).

"When I told her no, she eyed me up and down again and said, "Are you sure?"

(Note: pretty sure. And by that I mean, ABSOLUTELY CONFIDENT.)

"When I again assured her I would not be having sexual relations, she still advised me to bring condoms."

(Note: In case any unplanned orgies breakout).

"And when I told her that I would not waste my time bringing condoms, she said, 'Well, they have AIDs in Zambia.'"

(Note: part of our project in Zambia deals with people affected with AIDs.)

I get they have a duty to warn us of what we're walking into, but they must deal with some awfully stupid or dishonest people. Also, the world is a scary enough place without my having to worry if walking barefoot on beach will give me shingles. I realize that ignorance may not be the way to go here, but it is indeed, bliss.

I miss my DC travel doctor, who stuck me with needles, gave me my drugs, slapped a lollipop in my hand and let me run back to work.

M is for malaria.

Random Country : Sri Lanka

A new project is starting there, so I'll be leaving in about two weeks - and gone for about a month.

From our good friends at Wiki:

Sri Lanka is an island country in South Asia, located about 31 kilometres (19.3 mi) off the southern coast of India. It is home to around twenty million people.
Because of its location in the path of major sea routes, Sri Lanka is a strategic naval link between
West Asia and South East Asia, and has been a center of Buddhist religion and culture from ancient times. Today, the country is a multi-religious and multi-ethnic nation: more than a quarter of the population follows faiths other than Buddhism, notably Hinduism, Christianity and Islam.

The Sinhalese community forms the majority of the population; Tamils, who are concentrated in the north and east of the island, form the largest ethnic minority. Other communities include Moors, Burghers, Kaffirs and the Malays.

Famous for the production and export of
tea, coffee, coconuts and rubber, Sri Lanka boasts a progressive and modern industrial economy and the highest per capita income in South Asia. The natural beauty of Sri Lanka's tropical forests, beaches and landscape, as well as its rich cultural heritage, make it a world famous tourist destination.

After over two thousand years of rule by local kingdoms, parts of Sri Lanka were colonized by
Portugal and the Netherlands beginning in the 16th century, before control of the entire country was ceded to the British Empire in 1815. During World War II, Sri Lanka served as an important base for Allied forces in the fight against the Japanese Empire.[10] A nationalist political movement arose in the country in the early 20th century with the aim of obtaining political independence, which was eventually granted by the British after peaceful negotiations in 1948. In Sri Lanka about 15 % of the population live on less than US$ 1.25 per day. [11]

Excitingly enough, the 27 civil war between the LTTE (Tamil Tigers) and the Government ended in May, so that's a bit of good news. Of course, tensions don't just magically disappear overnight, so it's going to be interesting. I'm not sure if I'm going to post much about the conflict itself, for security reasons (both for myself and the project), but here's what wikipedia has to say:

From 1983 to 2009, there was an on-and-off civil war against the government by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), a separatist militant organization who fought to create an independent state named Tamil Eelam in the North and East of the island. This has in turn resulted in ethnic cleansing of Muslim and Shinhalese from the area which Tigers claim to be Tamil Eelam. Both the Sri Lankan government and LTTE has been accused for various human right violations. However, number of notorious atrocities committed by LTTE, including suicide bombing, forced conscription of child soldier and ethnic cleansing of non-Tamils cause many countries to classify LTTE as a terrorist organisation.[citation needed]

On May 19, 2009 the President of Sri Lanka officially claimed end of the insurgency and the defeat of the LTTE following the death of its leader and much of its senior leadership.[26]

Friday, June 05, 2009

Humph. All I get is an Advil.

By nature of my strange job, sometimes I come across some unusual practices from other countries. This includes Zambian labor law, which we reviewed in a meeting on Wednesday, and includes the following:

Chapter 268: Part VII: 54.2:
In addition to the leave prescribed in subsection (1), every female employee shall be entitled to one day’s absence from work each month without having to produce a valid medical certificate.

Gee, (scratches head) once per month? I wonder what THAT’s for?

///Hello, Zambia? I wish I was working for you today.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Note to File

In my early twenties, my brother warned me that someday, sooner or later, I'd find wanderlust addicting. At that point, I thought he was crazy. I'd only been out my parent's house two years, and already I'd moved four times. I craved home; I craved a place to call my own; nice things ; a job; and a community where I belonged. I was pretty sure that once I found all those awesome things, I'd find a way to hang on to them.

I wasn't wrong, exactly, but it dawned on me yesterday that finally I'd finally come full circle.

Yes, life is change; messy, inescapeable. My twenties have been a study of this. It's been exciting, heartbreaking, overwhelming and wonderful. Throughout them, I'd used change voluntarily or involuntarily as a chance to escape boredom, bad roommates, a low-paying job, see new countries, make new friends, whatever. Wait six months, I thought, and things will be different.

What I failed to grasp was that in and of itself, change is just a thing. It doesn't actually solve any problems. For example, I used to think that if I didn't like my job, there were other ones to have (still true). However, what I see now is that the things you change to escape from will more than likely follow you anyway. I could move, get married, have kids, live in Timbuctu, and still - still - there will be challenges. Stupid bosses. Ailing relatives. Crabby kids.

I'm not addicted anymore; I just am.

And for that, suddently I feel extremely tired.

///And old.