Monday, October 26, 2015

Oinki Fadeout

[Cue quiet snork.]

Three years ago it was all over.

I've photographed it dozens of times in dozens of places.

Sometimes only a pair of nostrils in an ellipse, sometimes a circle with two eyes, two nostrils, and a mouth line. Sometimes one or the other accompanied by an OINK!

I read the last as oinki. Whatever, exclamation mark or the letter I, it works.

My pal was everywhere, including a couple of feet below the second-floor roof of Mercado 10 de Agosto. That's a public market. It's full of people all day, and when it isn't, it's locked up tight.

I don't know how Oinki got there but there Oinki was. (Gone now. Painted over.)

Gone from a lot of places now. Faded. Washed out. Washed off. Hidden under corrective layers of new paint.

Whatever — however, my friend is fast fading from the scene.

So I was happy today to see Oinki again on Avenida Loja. But hurting. And it's only a matter of time before Oinki is no more.

Like all the rest of us.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Side Hazards Walk Hazards

Rest in peace.

Is not an option here.

And not just at night while the fireworks are going off for no rational reasons whatsoever.

It happens whenever and wherever you are. The not-resting thing. The no-peace-ness.

Because you can't relax, switch off your mind, and crooz.

Especially while walking. No croozing while walking here. Too dangerous. Too crazy. Plain nutso.

Because you'd quickly you'd die, you. Or worse, like get your butt mangled. Or your neck wrapped around a madly spinning axle.

Me? Me no want. Me want safe to be.

So I stay alert, watchful for the lumpy, grumpy, angry, and dumpy things around here. And there are many, the five just mentioned all being found among sidewalk features. (I'm not going into detailed mentions of dog poo this time around — that's covered in every other post I've done and will do, but not this one right here.)

But just for instance, should you want a concrete so-to-speak example in another sense of that metaphor, there is this: the open drainage trench off the south end of Calle Padre Agquirre.

It's still there. After three years.

And it should be there, because it was cast into the walkway. Anywhere else, most other places, it would still have its metal grating in place. Y'know — the metal grating part we're supposed to walk on so's we don't drop one leg or t'other into the drainage trench cutting across the whole width of the walkway and snap it off. (The leg.)

But there is no metal grating there. Without it, water still flows into the trench (which is about eight inches across and eight inches deep), but so can one of your feet.

Somehow, the site is not littered with the dead and dying, and not me either, even though I was not brought up here and should know better than to look where I'm going 24-seven (that's 24 times a second or seven inches of travel, whichever seems more reasonable).

But if you do see me there, lying on the ground, writhing, with the lower part of one leg chewed away by the infrastructure, it's OK if you step over me and keep going. That's what you're supposed to be doing. But if it isn't' too much trouble, send flowers, 'K? At least a few.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Change Me Change

How do you look?

I know I'm getting old. It happens.

But I still have hair. And it's still the right color.

Got a bit of gray in my beard but I can grow one. A beard. Which is nice. Hides my face.

I waited all my life to grow a beard, waited all my life until I could, and I'd hate to go chin-bald right when I got enough fuzz to make it happen.

But I'm OK there. Things are decent on my underside. And like I said, I still got hair on the other end of my head too.

And I don't have to work any more, but I'm still interested in lots of things and there are many things I want to do, and quite a few of them are new. I hear that there is an endless supply of things to learn and do, so I don't feel rushed. They can come along as they will and I'll pick and choose. Grow into this or explore that or become the other thing.

As I see fit.

As I change. Morph. Grow. And age some more.

Though it isn't just me. I know people. Have known people. Have picked up friendships along the way, starting wayback, somewise back to second grade. That's about since age six in human years. At least that far back. And funny thing.

A lot of those people haven't changed hardly.

They got older and bigger and eventually got jobs and marriages and houses and wrinkles and stinky feet and drinking habits but mostly they became simply different versions of what they'd been as small children.

Even the people who moved to my home town as adults from outside somewhere. I had some friends like that too.

Ted Q and Steve S go way back, to the beginning of my gradeschool days. Ted: loud, boastful, obnoxious. Steve: funny, gregarious, needy of attention. Still the same. Even now. Steve has to be the center, Ted must have the best lie to tell. They both stayed. They became adults and assumed responsible positions and haven't grown much at all.

I just looked up John B. I first worked with him back in 1970. Dang. He's still painting the same paintings he was painting then, and the same ones he has been painting since. Still insists that he's "out of the loop". Still plays at being a farmer and a rugged individualist and a home mechanic and knows the correct answer to every question. Still wears the same clothes and has exactly the same ideas as he did then. Has been going to the same events with the same people for decades.

Similarly to Norman P, who used to be my boss, and John's boss at the time.

Twenty-five years after, I visited Norman and he was still at the same job, still complaining about the same things, and though John wasn't working there any more, he was complaining right along, and so was Nick F.

Nick came in from the outside. Raised in Gary, Indiana, settled in Bismarck, North Dakota as a mid-aged adult, and stopped growing right about then. The same twenty-five years after I was no longer working with Norman and John and Nick, Nick and John and Norman were still doing the same things, spending their days the same way, complaining about the same damn things.

But I wasn't.

I wasn't in that scene any more. No longer a figure in that diorama. No longer subject to the rules of that universe.

I had moved away. I had been other places and seen other things and met other people and faced different challenges and kept moving in that direction.

Instead of living in one smallish city in the middle of an anonymous state separated from the rest of the world by long reaches of flat grassland, I had lived in a large city and then a smallish one and then another smallish one and had, having finally finished one college degree, turned away from it and had pursued another in a totally different field. I had left fishing and photography and had picked up backpacking, and then bicycling, big time. Both big time.

And then I moved on from there too.

I had gone from being an unemployed English major who delivered lumber and worked as a clerk-typist to being a mainframe computer programmer who then transitioned to client-server development and then into web development. I got a physics degree. A hybrid physics/computer science degree with minors in chemistry and math. Plus one quarter-hour in volleyball.

I changed.

Now I've changed some more. I'm here.

I'm on a whole nother continent, south of the equator, in a place where I don't speak the language and don't know hardly anybody and am not sure at all of the rules. It's different.

So am I.

Unlike all the people I used to know. Who haven't changed. Much. During the last half century.

Which is something to think about.

Being an expat. I think it changes you.

Or is it that if you can change and grow, then becoming an expat is a thing you can do.

Either way.

Either way you change and grow because of it.

I couldn't go back to that small stuffy life.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

The School-Prison Equivalence

Ever been to prison?

Me neither, unless you count that once.

Once, or twice, or three times, depending, etc. — once inside, twice on the grounds. Strictly business.

One tour, just me, Norman, and the loud sloppy not-so-bright guy whose name I can't remember from the local chapter of the Germans From Russia historical society. Let's call him Reiny. Close enough.

Norman was curator at the State Historical Society of North Dakota. I was his assistant for two and a half years.

Reiny gave us the tour of the state penitentiary. He worked there part-time. We got to see stuff.

And then again later Norman and I went out and documented the furniture in the warden's residence. All old stuff. We had been meaning to for quite a while, but you know Norman...

Anyway, suddenly it was a rush job. Get out there today. Just do it.

We had a nice chat with the warden's wife and tucked little notes about things all over the house in preparation for photography and detailed measuring and note taking the next day, and then the warden came home early. He had just been fired.

How convenient. And there we were. In his house. Sent to make sure that none of the furniture disappeared.

That's how we found out about that, our real purpose for being.

And it sort of fits in with the whole prison thing — you aren't in charge and if you ask too many questions, or the wrong ones, or any, then the train wrecks itself on top of you.

I'm reminded because the schools here are like prisons.

There is a big yard inside.

The front gate locks everyone in.

The inside world is cut off from the outside world.

Inmates wear uniforms.

Moving around has set hours, all locations are off-limits without specific permission, all activities are pre-determined and depend on approval, as does association with others for anything whatsoever.

Count on it being either mandatory or prohibited, whatever you're talking about.

And expect to know which questions are allowed. Or keep it shut. Mostly shut.

Your mouth. Your mind. Your imagination. Your consciousness.

And be invisible as much as you can.

I experienced a week at a Catholic college once. Until it blew up. I'm not good at following orders.

No, nope, and not.

I wouldn't do well here, in a Catholic grade school, and it's in no way related to me being 10 times older than some of the students.

But it seems to work well enough for them.

It seems to have worked well enough. In the past.

I wouldn't count on a prison-discipline regime turning out graduates of adequate caliber for global competition. Now that there is global competition.

And maybe that's why they haven't elected me king.

Because I'd change everything, doncha know. PDQ. Assuming I even wanted the job.

Sunday, October 11, 2015


You walk right up to one and there you are. Barred.

Whether you expect it or not.

Bars and locks — that's the way the cityscape goes around here. No way in, and sometimes no way out. Stalemate, checkmate, done up tight.

It's that way with the attorneys I'm seeing. The office is locked. You can't get in.

Unless, that is.

They are expecting you. And want to see you.

And then they come and open the door.

But with windows...forget about that. Forget about any part of it. Anyway, are you really going to climb in through a window? Or even stand there and peer in?

Probably not recommended anywhere, least of all where the bars were put up long before they knew you were even in the neighborhood.

So what they hey, it's an observation. Don't expect me to go out railing and wailing, I just keep my eyes open, watch what happens, sometimes mention it, occasionally suck my thumb.

Bars and locks — that's the way it is around here. Amusing in a way.

Or not.

Depends on how you're feeling about things that day.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Detergent Stinks

Let us now wilt perceptibly.

I needed to do some laundry.

Fine. OK so far.

I found a self-service laundry. These are rare to non-existent here. Here, labor is cheap and machines are expensive.

Also, here, few people know how to operate these expensive and delicate machines. Which is why ordinary humans are not allowed to go into a shop or library and run off a few photocopies. Someone has to do it for you.

Someone who knows how, who has been trained, who will not hurt the machine.

It's the same with almost everything else: Don't touch, please. It may break from you. We do this for you, included in price.

But I found a self-service laundry (lavanderia autoservicio).

It may be the only one here, but OK. Fine so far. Just one more thing.


I needed some.

Luckily for me, Coral has a good supply. Lots and lotsa detergent. Comes in every color and all amounts. All are brands I've never heard of.

It all stinks.

It really stinks — all of it. I mean, really. Ninety-eight percent industrial nose-killer, two percent detergent.

Today, about two weeks after having bought some, and thinking back on it, my nose hairs quiver. They shrink and shiver, wilting even now, attempting to run and hide. Right outta my nose to somewhere sheltered and safe.

Well, the buying part is over. I bought some, and left. Got out of that store's aisle with my tiny, 61-cent bag of something-or-other, back into the reassuring relative freshness of diesel exhaust and dust on the street.

With my tiny bag.

With what I thought was maybe, possibly, the least stinky detergent available there, that day.

But who can say?

Who can say? Really?

At least the bag is small, and I try not to use much, and add in an extra rinse cycle, and hope that the dryer will burn off most of the residual stink, and convince myself that the atmosphere will deal with most of the rest, and believe, sincerely and ardently, that I can deal with what smell is left after that.

Without absolutely keeling over and croaking my last feeble croak.

I can hope, can't I? Can't I?

Monday, October 5, 2015

Crazed With Cleverness

Don't let me stop you.

Some locals are (a) crazy too, or (b) clever at business. Or just crazy.

You're an adult. You know what you want. You are aware that the universe is a strange place, including this part of it, and that the universe has teeth.

Nevertheless, let's have a language lesson. Right now. It will be quick.

precaución: noun, feminine
  1. caution, care (prudencia)
  2. precaution, preventive-measure (medida)
  3. foresight (previsión)

Get that?

Easy to understand — painless, right?

Makes sense, right?

Smooth and creamy with no bitter after-taste, right?


Now here it is from a different direction, with both barrels and subtitle-free. (Keep your emotions under control if at all possible.)

I am Dr. Uma Sabo, a traditional spiritual herbal doctor.

I can fix many questions or problems that come into your life.

l can make your ex-lover come back to your life.

l can make your marriage stable and, even if he/she has gone, l can make him/her be yours forever.

Some other problems I help/solve are: business problems, difficulty in birth, marriage problems, healing all type of sickness, stroke, any type of cancer, madness, witchcraft, financial problems, traveling issues, helping students, giving people magic, eye problems, broken bones, working on lotto numbers, infertility.

Contact me today and your problems will be solved,

Uma Sabo: d[something]spell[something-else]

(I've redacted the poisonous part. For my protection, not yours.) *

Add up the serious ability to make no sense in his/her/its declarations of potency, and you have a better-than-well-rounded practitioner. Let's call him/her/it decidedly over-round. Super-rotund? Flexed past the bounds of reality?

And of course like those psychics who work for minimum wage late at night on the other end of the phone line, Dr. Uma Sabo can give you the winning lotto numbers, but cannot supply them to him/her/itself, and so has to solicit random wretched shreds of business online.

Then again, does working on lotto numbers actually mean anything?

Only the Sabo knows.

Anyway, me. I got other ways to waste my time than being the recipient of worked-on lotto numbers, witchcraft-proofing, and/or emancipation from people magic.

Really though. Really.

I've been able to score all the important items on the Sabo list all by my lonesome. Leaving you to provide Sabo's next meal. Cuz I ain't gonna be it.

If you wish to be dinner.

As they say here then, Bon provecho.

And good luck with that.

* Originally seen at Gringo Post: No longer there. Heh.