Yesterday afternoon and evening were pretty cool. Collins came to visit, and we just hung around. I made good food: skirt steak seasoned with adobo and garlic powder, puerto rican style white rice, and fried ripe plantains. *drool* Oh, those were yummy... y'see, I don't go all out and cook that often, but when I do, it always turns out at least halfway decent. Thank you, Grandma! Your good cook genes live in me!

We sat around, and he gave me a present that I won't mention for fear of offending some people and arousing others. *mischeivous giggle* Oh, he's evil. And I love him.

Because of last night, today I'm in a wonderful mood and don't feel so horrible that my birthday is tomorrow. Crap. in approximately 25.75 hours, it'll be 19 years from the moment I was born. The 6,940th day of my life. I'm getting old. Damn, it'll be SO weird to turn 20. I remember when I turned 10. I thought it was SO cool that my age was now two digits.

It's been SO long since I last had a real birthday party, with my whole family. Four years, I think. Yeah. I don't remember my 16th birthday, nor my 17th. My 18th birthday I only remember because I got my camera. My 15th birthday was very interesting.

First of all, in Latin American cultures, a girl's 15th birthday is a huge deal. They do a cute ceremony in church, where they change from flat shoes to high heels, put a little tiara on the girl, and declare her a young adult. Girls wear awesome dresses, some of them way too bride-like, but, hey, to each her own. I remember, I wanted a nice light purple long dress, with a low back, A-line skirt, ever since I was... 10, probably. Then, as the date neared... I realized that my Dad wasn't going to be able to go. Mom and Dad don't get along at ALL. So, a couple of months before my 15th birthday, I told mom that I didn't want a Quinceañero if Dad wasn't going to be invited. Mom said she wouldn't invite him. I said, "But, Mom, what about my high school graduation, and my wedding, and all those other occasions when I'll want you both there?" She said something about not wanting to breathe in the same room that he was in, and him not drinking one soda that she paid for, and not caring if it was my birthday or my wedding or whatever day it was, she didn't want to see him. I called her selfish, and she slapped me.

"I'll never forgive you for saying that, Jen"

"It's okay... I forgive you."

She was shocked. After a couple of seconds of silence, "I don't want or need your forgiveness."

"I forgive you anyway."

After that, it was a long, silent drive home. I think my words probably stung her about as much as her hand stung on my cheek.

It's really weird, but sometimes I feel that when dealing with my parents, I'm actually dealing with little kids. I mean, Mom with her childish temper tantrums, Dad with his careless and carefree way of living, and his way of dealing with relationships that remind me of myself when I was 15. And they're not even old enough to be senile yet...

Anyway, back to my 15th birthday. There were no plans for a big party, which means that there was no big party. I had told Mom I didn't want a party at all. I just wanted Jose (the psycho boyfriend who seemed sweet at the time, as we had only been dating for 2.5 months) to visit me, and maybe we could go and rent a movie or something. But when I talked to Jose, he said that he wouldn't be able to come see me on my birthday. One of his cousins was getting married in some town across the island. So I was bummed, an suddenly out of nowhere come Isa, Carmen, and Julio, three of my best friends from school. Then Giselle, and Eva. Then some family members, and slowly people started showing up. I went and changed into a pretty green dress because, whether I liked it or not, I was having a party. I was sad that Dad wouldn't be there, but at least it wasn't like "well, I'm having this huge party and I can't invite you, sorry." My friends distracted me in my room for a minute, and when I went back to the living room, there was Jose with his whole family, his father holding a huge birthday cake, and him with a beautiful rag doll (I love rag dolls), and an arrangement of 15 pink roses, and balloons. Cute. I was happily surprised. I don't remember much more about it.

So, if even that birthday, which was probably the most intense one, has faded from my memory, it shouldn't matter what I do tomorrow, because I won't remember it in a year anyway. Right? Right.

I'm just going to go to my aunt's. We're going to watch a movie. She said they'd sing happy birthday to me and get a small cake, and it'll be great. Yeah.

So, why do I feel like crying?

Back to: The city that never sleeps, part 1

Forward to: Marvelling at the Falls and Marvelling at the BAP

I woke up on Sunday morning before Stella so I was able to wrap her present before she got up and lie in wait for her. She liked her present, a Mark Rothko calendar, and we set off to find some pancakes for her birthday breakfast.

Our main trip of the day was to the Bronx Zoo. The zoo is in a huge park right in the heart of the Bronx and when you are in it is easy to forget you are still right in the middle of one of the biggest cities in the world. We really enjoyed our day wandering around checking out the ostriches, penguins, monkeys and the like. The zoo has a weird atmosphere because it was quite empty and loads of the cafes and food stalls were shut. A lot of the rides had space for huge long queues where only two or three people waited. Here we were in peak season and the place was nigh on empty.

We finished our day at the zoo around 5pm and hauled our exhausted bodies back towards Manhattan. We got back to discover our host in a cleaning frenzy scrubbing and scouring the apartment. He had a girl coming round, a girl he had been going on about non-stop since we met him. We though it best to make ourselves scarce and so we headed off to the cinema to see Men in Black II. It was quite good, not as funny as the first but still good. We arrived home to find our host and his girl quite drunk and so we hid out of the way until we could get to sleep on the floor in the living room. She eventually left, taking him with her, so we were free to get to bed.

On Tuesday we headed off to see the New York Stock Exchange but discovered that it was still closed following 9/11. Instead we wandered down to South Street Seaport to take a look at the Brooklyn Bridge and grab some lunch. Our other mission was to find an Abercrombie and Fitch store as Stella wanted to get a birthday present for a friend. After a great deal of walking backwards and forwards and around in circles we found it and were able to get a top for her friend. I wasn't very impressed with the store myself, if ever a clothes store traded on its brand name this was one, the clothes themselves weren't that hot.

Finally we headed out to the village to try and find some sunglasses for Stella since hers broke. We got some nice ones despite being accosted by the most disgusting gay guy I have ever seen. He had weird silvery gray highlights that made him look like he had dandruff, his excessive bear like chest hair was bursting out from his partially unbuttoned shirt, his large ugly sunglasses looked more like comic accessories than style items and his tight jeans just added to the horror. I suppose if you venture into the Village you must be able to take what it throws at you.

We headed home and packed as the main part of my birthday present to Stella was a night at the Plaza hotel at the corner of Central Park. We checked in and headed to our room on the 16th floor, the floor below the penthouse. We nipped out for a quick supper and headed back to enjoy the luxury we had paid for. We opened a bottle of wine that our host had given to Stella for her birthday and laid back, sipping our drinks and watching trash on cable TV. What more could money buy you?

After our amazing evening we were forced to stir at 7:00am to meet our host for breakfast at 7:30. We had managed to get him to agree not to take us to the Plaza restaurant since he was insisting on paying and we refused to pay $25 for bacon and sausage. After half an hour of manouevering around the streets of Manhattan we ended up at a different almost equally expensive hotel. Unable to discourage him we sat down to breakfast, enjoyed and thanked him profusely for his kindness before heading back to the Plaza to catch up on some sleep.

We're in Buffalo right now and we arrive in Boston on Saturday evening, hope to meet up with some of you guys.

Oh yeah, power points on trains are life savers.

Aviate, Navigate, Communicate.

    Smitty

    Born to Enoch and Nollie of Lometa (TX) and brother to Glenna May,Tiana, Day Alva, Ruth, Lillian, Beulah, Riely and May Dell.

    Went to Long Cove School and graduated from Lometa High. Graduated from Texas A&M and entered Soil Conservation Service until called to active duty as a Second Lt. in 1952 at Amarillo AFB.

    Married and has two daughters, one granddaughter and three grandsons. Finished pilot training and instructed flying in the B-25 for four years at San Angelo, TX.

    Trained navigators in the T-29 Convair and was Squadron Commander at Sacramento, CA.

    In 1959 transferred to a station near Taipei, Taiwan as Station Administrative Officer in the Security Service for two years. A tour at Atlanta, GA flying VIP's in C-131 and C-47 aircraft followed by a classified assignment at Tampa FL.

    After a short tour flying VIPs at Chanute AFB, IL was sent to Cantho and Cam Rahn Bay, Vietnam flying C-47 aircraft transporting troops, cargo and direct support of Special Forces Units in small isolated camps.

    Transitioned into jets, KC-135 aerial refuelers and served three years in northern Michigan before being assigned to Wichita, KS to establish a new KC-135 Wing. In 1973 was assigned to the 12th Air Division Operations in Tucson, AZ and in 1974 after 23years service, retired as a Lt Colonel.

    Aircraft flown; PA-18, T-6, T-28, B-25, T-29, C-131, C-47,C-7A, KC-135 and U-3A

    Decorations; Air Medal with four oak leaf clusters, Meritorious Service Medal, and Air Force Outstanding Unit Award.

    Bought a photography business in 1975 and ran it for 25 years doing portraits and reproductions.

    "It was an honor to serve our great country and retire knowing my effort was appreciated. We must be successful in defending our way of life from these who try to destroy us. United we stand. "
    (Dad is being inducted into a Veteran’s Museum and this is a summary of his biography.)


If you push the stick forward, the houses get bigger, if you pull the stick back they get smaller.

Flying with Dad is always an adventure. Goodness! He was searched head to toe at the Tucson and Dallas Forth Worth airports--coming and going. On the way there he explained that the grid like pattern of clouds over El Paso, TX was from gas emitted from the oil wells on the ground. And how to tell our flight speed by using the one square mile quilted farm lands below as markers by using the edge of the planes window and timing how long it takes the aircraft to cross that area. We estimated we were traveling about 600 land miles per hour. He also said if I'm flying and ever get lost, to look for the names of towns on water towers.

It's a good landing if you can still get the doors open.

He shared a few anecdotes. When landing a C-47 at airports pilots had to be mindful of the airspeeds in jet traffic. Because the smaller plane has to slow down to land safely and a jet in coming in right behind them the guys in the control tower can at times get a little --over excited. One of his co pilots getting in some “stick time” landed and made a quick turn off the runway asking Dad if they were on the taxi way. While the control tower was up in arms, Dad said it was, if it was made out of grass, thanked him and gave him full credit for that landing!

Flying is the second greatest thrill known to man.... Landing is the first!

Landing in Brownwood TX. --well it was more like a corn field; the pilots cleared themselves for the landings and take offs by a trailer of sorts....where the same girl who unloaded our baggage and checked us in also helped park and refuel the little puddle jumper.


Some family trees bear an enormous crop of nuts.

Since 1984 we have had the Godwin Family Reunions and by now it's become an art. So well organized it practically runs itself. Each March family members get a packet in the mail that tells us what to bring, the activities, a schedule and a map of how to get there. For the past few years it's been held at the Brownwood Christian Retreat in Brownwood, TX. About little over an hour's drive from Lometa, Tx.


"There is no doubt that it is around the family and the home that all the greatest virtues, the most dominating virtues of human society, are created, strengthened and maintained." -Winston Churchill

This year’s theme was World War II. I was surprised to learn that because Grandfather had taught Aunt Ruth how to use a magnetometer, that qualified her to work on plans to adapt the magnetometer, one of the oldest geophysical tools, into an airborne method of locating submarines. Aunt May Dell worked on building airplanes by holding up a metal plates on one side of the aircraft hull while another Rosie installed rivets. To my dad who was a young teen at the time it meant trying to get gas, which was rationed, for the family Chevy for his date to the prom. Of most interest to me was my uncle's part in the war. To get sent home from the war a soldier had to have so many points. Their points were awarded based on if the man was married, had children etc. Uncle Riley had no points. Raised during the Great Depression, he was single and fresh off the farm. He spent most of his tour in Marseilles, France. He returned once to find his group shipping out for home, but alas since he had no points he was sent off to Ireland. He spent four years of his life over there as a machine gunner for the US Army, says that he was not harmed by the war, is proud to have served his country and gives his greatest respects to those who are fighting the war on terrorism today. He wishes you all Godspeed.*


Family faces are magic mirrors. Looking at people who belong to us, we see the past, present, and future. - Gail Lumet Buckley

Along with getting the stuffing hugged outta me. Sixty to seventy people came this year from all over. Dad, Sister and I shared a room with two bunks. I was nominated to sleep on the top bunk where I found a penny! I was trying to recall what scripture that the phrase pennies from heaven comes from because I had done a write up about it; but it refused to come to mind. We had a talent show, the winner was Shari, a beautiful red headed freckled faced "Godwin girl" with those "Godwin eyes"; a great great granddaughter and the fastest to eat through a pile of whipped cream and devour a big pile of bubble gum. Followed by the traditional White Elephant Auction to raise money for next year’s reunion. I took a brand new baby book and Uncle Paul (a preacher and grandfather) bid thirty dollars for it. When he discovered what he had bought he wanted to let us ALL know that he was NOT Abraham.


Remember as far as anyone knows, we're a nice normal family. - Homer Simpson

Aunt Ruth who has written and published several books on the family genealogy was selling one on the Long Cove Cemetery* to help pay for maintaining it as a Historical Landmark. She has had the books archived that with the Mormon Church and rumor has it that she had to agree to allow the church to pray for us. Then she built a ramada next to the cemetery for funeral services and insists that everyone call it a tabernacle. hmmmmm so I call it a tabernacle and wonder…..


If you cannot get rid of the family skeleton, you may as well make it dance.- George Bernard Shaw

Cousin Jeanine was accused by most newlyweds of being the leader of the pack in the latest rounds of chivarees to which she vehemently denied while other family members backed her up. Apparently salt in the bed was TOO much for one couple. Ah well --we know how to welcome the new members into the family with style. Cousin Tom told us about his work on the musical score for the new movie Spy Kids II. Cousins Peggy and Trudy cornered me on a walk and asked me about hiking 60 miles of the Appalachian Trail with them sometime in the future.....something to think about, but packing everything in and out is a little more than I care to do on a hike. A pleasant jaunt between a trail of Bed and Breakfasts is more my style. Saturday we drove into Lometa and had lunch and we got a hard starin’ at in the local café. Once they knew we were one of the “Godwins" it was a friendly and warm welcome. I’ll bet they didn’t know they were in the presence of the infamous Lo from E2 tho;) We went out to The Place where my grandparents raised a passle of kids, built the school and church; and where I spent many peppermint candied summers.


"A healthy family is sacred territory" -Unknown

Sunday morning was the family meeting, next years officers were “elected unanimously by acclamation" and then we had church services. Our heritage is, for the most part, of a variety of Christian faiths. My grandparents were Southern Baptist so we enjoyed a hymn sing of several family favorites; In the Garden, the Battle Hymn of the Republic and How Great Thou Art. Uncle Paul gave the sermon; a story about a friend who had served in World War II. Their company was under fire for several days. All afternoon and through the night his friend watched as a sparrow perched nearby flying, tending to a nest preening and singing at times and he was reminded from Sunday School of a scripture about how God keeps his eye upon the sparrow. This thought gave him the courage to leaves his bunker gather supplies for the wounded and deliver them to the medics.


Pennies from heaven drop through my soul.

Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father.
Matthew 10:29

Devotion

*If you would like to order the video or book, it's five dollars plus shipping and handling with the proceeds going into a Certificate of Deposit to help pay for next years reunion. (j/k) .

flatline

weill in japan: day 37

On this day 57 years ago, the United States Army dropped a second atomic bomb on the western city of Nagasaki, prompting Japan to surrender the Pacific theater of World War II. Today in class, a surprisingly tolerable week came careening back to reality.

It's not the fall, it's the sudden stop at the end. The first three days of this week had been pretty good: little homework, but late nights due to games and miscellaneous slacking-like tasks. We had been exploring new material in class as per our suggestions last week, but today at 10:40 AM was when one of our professors stopped all of that in its tracks.

Before getting into the details, I should point out that the class's attitude as a whole has not improved visibly this week. We have been conditioned to expect very little, and we give less in return. Today we had 10 out of the 13 people present at 8:30 AM for the start of classes. One would arrive a few minutes late, another would arrive after the second hour, and a third was staying in the dorm, explicitly refusing to come to class. After the second hour, one student took the rest of the day off. We had no more than 11 students in the room during any point in class, and 1 1/2 of the two absences were voluntary. Earlier on in the program, I remarked that we were "losing students"; today, we were gone. I was likely unconscious for brief (less than one minute) sections due to a lack of caffeine and a less-than-full night's sleep.

That said, on with the horror story. The first two hours were with the more entertaining of our two professors, but even then the mood was very tired and lackadaisical. I blame my fatigue on insufficient sleep, and I don't think most of the class is getting their eight hours every night either. The first two hours were a bad sign of things to come. I should have bailed. The third hour began with students receiving a two-page article and being directed to read it. That made up the entirety of the third hour. Worse, most of the new vocabulary words had no readings presented, forcing students to bury themselves in dictionaries to look up the characters by their component parts. This is often a clumsy and time-consuming process. I zoned out completely, reading about halfway through before completely losing interest. The fourth hour was "discussion," which essentially consisted of a long sheet of questions which we were to spend 20 minutes answering and 30 minutes discussing collectively.

I don't have an English-language dictionary on me, but if I did I would look up the meaning of the word "discussion." Today's debacle signaled by far the most horrific and pathetic exercise that this class has done to date. If you've been following these writings for the last five weeks, you would know that this class has been defined in my mind by pointless exercises and little actual learning. Today's "discussion" consisted of the professor reviewing the material by asking questions and expecting people to answer by reading the appropriate section of the text. Having zoned out for much of the reading period, I was completely clueless and tried to ad-lib my responses when asked. The professor, naturally, disapproved of this digression from the script. I didn't care. There were long periods when the teacher would ask a student a question, wait several seconds for a response, and then ask a second student the same question. Even with the air conditioner fan blowing, you could have heard a pin drop. It was absolutely terrible.

One other student was visibly upset by all of this, and responded -- in English -- "I don't know where we are" in response to a question. The teacher offered to clarify, but my classmate knew as well as the rest of us how poor the professor's explanations are and declined. He later excused himself from the classroom. I walked with him to the dining hall after class in complete silence, awed by the complete vacuum we had just left.

My post-secondary school experience has been humbling to say the least. However, today was completely inexcusable. I was so stunned by the way we pissed away two hours today that I couldn't complain to anyone in the program's administration. I don't know if I will personally, but I will happily reiterate these complaints on an evaluation form if one is provided.

As we began to eat lunch, my classmate and I began to vent our shock at the other ICU students from other classes with whom we sat. That was a form of therapy, at least until we could change the subject. The bitterness towards teaching methods seems to be concentrated in our class; nobody else is complaining about quite the same things as myself and my classmates. The most common complaint across the board has been a high homework volume and fast pace, but today was defined by a pace so slowly it was moving backwards at times. I write this some 12 hours after my last class concluded, and I still have trouble believing what went on there.

Tomorrow is Friday. Oh yeah, we also have a final exam (or a "second midterm exam" as the summary sheet describes it) this coming Monday. That test, announced four days in advance, will be our second in a span of two weeks. We don't have a final project like some classes, but we do have a presentation of some sort on Wednesday. My last weekend in Tokyo will likely be spent studying if I feel like passing these last few assignments.

game therapy

Rather than go home right away to whine in Japanese to my host family, I stayed on campus for a while. After taking care of some technical business by uploading 493 pictures from my laptop to an on-line photography site for future sharing, I left for the bright lights of Kichijoji. A friend of a friend offered to reimburse me for the cost and shipping for up to ten Dance Dance Revolution games if I could find them for less than $15 each. Kichijoji has a few used-game stores, so I checked them for DDR games. Most places didn't have any, but one store had the first four titles on the list (DDR 1st, 2nd, 2nd Append 1, and 2nd Append 2). The prices were right, too. The price for one of the discs I bought was ¥80, or about 67 cents U.S. That's cheaper than it costs to play DDR in an arcade! I could have sworn it was a typo or that the price was just for the soundtrack instead of the game. When my order was rung up, I was charged just ¥80 plus 5% sales tax for the full game, pre-owned. If that disc works, that could just be the best bargain I've found anywhere.

I'm really truly honestly done with my gift shopping now, having purchased a couple of small items and some trinkets to give away at a College Bowl tournament in November. I have purchased about 12 capsule toys while in Japan, at prices ranging from ¥100 to ¥200. Half of those will be gifts, while half are for my own use. I was overjoyed today to find a machine dispensing "tin badges" (usually called "buttons" in America) of scenes from classic Nintendo games. Since I didn't have any 100-yen coins, and since a friend of mine reported that such a machine mysteriously disappeared the day after he bought badges at it, I bought a cheap pen just to get change. I got four buttons: one shows Link fighting the first boss in The Legend of Zelda, one shows Toad saying "Thank you Mario! But our princess is in a different castle!" from Super Mario Brothers, and two have a generic-looking "Game over" screen that's supposedly from Donkey Kong. Maybe I can trade or give away one of them.

That little capsule machine saved the day. I also had fun playing through the first part of Riviera, an RPG for the SwanCrystal that I bought today. Released as a launch title on July 12, the game plays like a traditional RPG but has special moves during battles that look more like an SNK Versus Capcom game than a role-playing battle. Very, very sweet. The SwanCrystal is based around RPG franchises, and it does not disappoint there at all. I now have four games for it, three of which are RPGs. All are entirely in Japanese, but only Riviera includes Kanji characters on the low-resolution screen.

Bad day at school means good day at play. That's a good system. I really hope nothing catastrophic happens on Friday.

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