Today was a day just like other days, but not.

::QuietLight throws confetti in the air::

Today, I learned that I have been hired to work for the first time in my life. I got a job as a spotlight boy at the nearby Broadhollow Theater for a play by the name of "Saturday Night at the Grossingers". It's an original play, so I doubt anyone has heard of it. I have always been interested in stagecrew, and now I am finally getting the chance to mature from doing little highschool and camp plays to the real thing- professional theater.

Sound (as in the sound technician for a play) has always been my passion. To me, it's the one position in stagecrew that lets me watch the show from the audience's point of view, and gives me the most control over the audiences' experience at the same time. I like sound, but it's a very competitive job, and I don't know if I have a good enough ear for it.

Then again, I like pretty much all of the stage jobs. I have done it all- I have been a spotlight boy many times in the past, carpenter/painter of sets and props, prop boy, lighting, runner (lost props, coffee, etc.), and costumes. It all seems like fun to me... I dont know why, but I get a happy feeling on the first night of the show, when I get to sit back and say "Wow...I was a part of something magical." Well, I guess that is something everyone has a different opinion on.

Today was a happy day... for me, anyway.

As the newly-crowned spotlight boy, I say LET THERE BE LIGHT!

Now, I guess I am not so much of a QuietLight, but more of a Spotlight. (Yuk...yuk...)

All ye actors out there, just remember- Screw with crew, you dance in the dark!
The Great Road Trip of Summer 2003: Part Deux

Right now I'm in Banff, Alberta, in the poshest hostel I've ever seen: the Banff International Hostel. I highly recommend it.

The last few days have taken us all the way across South Dakota, Wyoming, and Montana, and into Alberta. Here's how we got there.

Day 5 took us from St. Cloud, MN down to I-90, whence we proceeded to hightail it across South Dakota to the town of Wall, home of the famous Wall Drug. Wall Drug, sadly, is not as cool as you might think. Yes, it's big, but I was expecting much bigger; and they have very little of value for sale. Fortunately, there is a life-sized statue of a brontosaurus marking the exit for Wall. This is the best part of the town. We stayed in a cheap motel in Wall that night. Evening came, and morning followed: the fifth day.

Day 6 was the hardest day we've had so far in terms of driving; this takes into account a speeding ticket near Cody, Wyoming. From Wall it was an all-day haul, starting at about 7 AM, across South Dakota, down to Mt. Rushmore, which is well worth the $8 parking fee, and to the Crazy Horse memorial, which is bigger than Rushmore, but also mroe than twice as expensive. We then picked up what I suspect was I-90 again to cross Wyoming, until we hit US-20, which took us to Cody and thence into Yellowstone. Cody appears to be a fairly cool town; we stopped at the Buffalo Bill museum there, which is an excellent collection of Old West history, much grander in scope than Bill Cody himself. The drive was all sorts of fun; you see, I've never been out west before, and it was a revelation to me to see the sky open up and become enormous as we crossed South Dakota, and then to see the Rockies rising in front of us. It was a spectacular and humbling sight. We got into Yellowstone, exhausted, at about 8 PM, pitched camp at Bridge Bay, made dinner, and watched the light of the setting sun reflect off the mountains across Lake Yellowstone. That sunset is one of the most beautiful things I have ever beheld; it's God's own country.

On the seventh day, God rested, and so did we, sort of. That was our day for touring Yellowstone; we summitted Mt Washburn, which was an easy 6 mile hike, and watched Old Faithful erupt. We basically tried to take in as much as we could. After Justin was exhausted, I took off on a short hike of my own, and saw an interesting natural bridge. All in all, Yellowstone is a rewarding park if you're looking for beautiful vistas without too much physical punishment.

Day 8 took us from Yellowstone to Glacier, mostly along Highway 93. Glacier puts Yellowstone to shame; I might as well jsut go ahead and say that. Yellowstone is like a playground for the kindergarteners, and Glacier is where the big kids go to play. There's only one main road through the park, and hundreds of miles of backcountry trails. The drive along Going-to-the-sun road is breathtaking; the road is aptly named. I have to sign off now, cause I'm out of time

Monday, 7 am: Wake up.

7:15: Pull out the spreadsheet you prepared containing all the classes you want to take. Relax. Get tired of relaxing. Double check the spreadsheet. Reflect on what a great schedule you’re gunna have. Think about how great it’s going to be to not have any night classes, be able to sleep until 11 every day, and not have any class Friday. Only 45 more minutes until registration opens.

8 am: Finally, the time has arrived. Try to log in. Server Busy. Operation timed out. The system is down. Curse to yourself. Call to wake up all your friends. Remember that they are all going through the same crap as you. Yell with your friends about how much your school sucks.

8:30: Finally get into the system. All the 11am’s are full. Try to convince yourself that 9am classes aren’t so bad.

8:45: Discover that the one class you really need to take isn’t being offered at all. Call your advisor, make an appointment for next Monday at 8am.

9 am: Kiss your dreams of permanent three day weekends goodbye as you sign up for a class from 6-9pm Friday night.

Tuesday, 10 am: Get e-mail that one of the sections you signed up for was cancelled.

10:05: Log in and discover that you must re-do your entire schedule and that all the sections you need to be in are full.

10:30: Call your advisor. He reminds you of your appointment the following Monday. Resist the urge to curse at him.

Wednesday, 10am: Get another e-mail. They un-cancelled the section they had cancelled the previous day. Curse really loud.

10:30: Try to get back into your original sections. They are all full. Resign yourself to having night class three days a week and having class at 9 am the other two days.

Monday, 8 am: Meet with your advisor. He tells you that he can’t override the system and that your schedule is “fine the way it is”. When informed about the mandatory class that isn’t offered, he looks dumbfounded and says he’ll get back to you.


Darl's adventures in India, part one in an occasional series.

Trying to describe India is as impossible a task as you could set me.

I arrived in Chennai (Madras) at 6 am on Saturday morning last week. Having declared myself SARS-free (I don’t know to what effect: you just signed to say you were and that was it. The sneezing didn’t help) I immigrated. There to meet me was a guy called Ramesh, who’d been waiting a cool 25 hours, poor guy. When I told TPA in England that my flight was on the 16th and got in at 6am, I neglected to say and they neglected to infer that I would arrive on the 17th. All things considered, he was very nice about it.

The first thing that hits you about India as you walk outside is, inevitably, the heat. It is high summer here. It really is quite stonkingly hot. You’d be surprised. Trust me on this.

We then left Madras airport in the ubiquitous Indian Car: a funny sort of 1950s thing, called the Ambassador Deluxe or variations on the theme, that looks like it’s from La Dolce Vita.

Speeding along at 60kmph, all my airy Western notions of road regulations were dreamily abandoned as a complex whimsy. Sides of the road are treated with a resentful acquiescence, most of the time, otherwise it's every vehicle for themselves. When you're driving along a rural B-road and there're two buses coming right at you, side by side, with no spare road left and enormous cacti either side of you, it gets exciting.

From Chennai airport we went to a place called the Raj Residency by the train station, where I was informed that my train was 'not available' and that we'd be getting an overnight bus to Sivakasi, the apparent location of my placement, the next morning. Ok. Never in my life have I had to fend off so many people wanting to do my laundry. A curt discussion through my door (Your laundry please sir. 25 rupees. Back tomorrow afternoon. / I'm going at 6 this evening. / Ok sir. Tomorrow morning.... etc) would then be reprised on the telephone. Anyhow, we left Madras at about 8 and journeyed down to Sivakasi.

At about 2am, the bus stopped. Many other buses were also stopped on that stretch of road. There was a large crowd up ahead. My bus soon emptied excepting myself and Ramesh as everyone went off to join the commotion. Turned out that the road was blocked for half a mile either way with people ghoulishly staring at a road accident.

We got to Sivakasi at about 8 am. The experience of being on an Indian bus, even a luxury overnight one, is extraordinary. After even the shortest of journeys, you can feel your skin covered in a layer of grime that shifts and streches around uncomfortably as you move it. It is unutterably nasty.

Similarly, when the air is hotter than your blood, not only do you sweat at a rate that is frankly impressive, you accrue dirt in fantastic quantities, all the time. How, I don't know. It's just all over you. It's getting a little cooler now that May is finishing, but it's still 2 or 3 showers a day weather.

Having got to Sivakasi, I showered, was breakfasted, did some VISA-type paperwork, and was then told that I would be taken to my placement. 5 hours drive north. Oh.

That done, I finally met my host family, and saw the school in which I am now teaching. The family I'm with, it turns out, actually founded the school last year. The architecture from the outside it attractively modern; inside all is concrete floors and metal benches. The pupils are very eager to learn, which is nice.

The family live in a very well to do two floored house. They are, it seems, the town's Respected Family. Suresh, the head of the family, takes me everywhere with him and knows everyone. I've learnt a couple of words of the local language, Tamil, which goes down very well with people, and is fiendishly difficult to pronounce correctly.

I'm still skirting around things here: the immensity of change in my enviroment just defies description. The streets alone deserve an email. Oddanchatram has one main street, and on it more fruit is sold than you would believe. Speaking of which, the fruit here is not like the fruit in England. In that it is smaller, and actually tastes of something. the bananas, for example, that most banal of fruits, are a veritable treat: tangy and sweet with a taste that's almost lemony. The mangos are just astonishing. And I still haven't been really ill.

My accommodation is very good indeed. I had tried (doubtless ineffectually) to steel myself for a caked earth floor, a bucket shower and cockroaches galore. What I have instead is my own fully unfurnished flat with granite floors, a sometimes functioning WESTERN TOILET, and a real shower, that runs very cold indeed, just as it should. The cockroaches are infrequent (in fact, I've only had a really close encounter with one that sprang out of the tap at high speed when I was doing my washing) and I have fans on my ceiling, which make sleep possible.

Having met up with a group of the other volunteers on a fortnightly organised weekend just yesterday, I now appreciate a little more how fortunate I am here. Other people DO have caked earth floors, and they DO share with indian children, and they DON'T have any privacy at all at all. Privacy is something that I have a lot of, if I choose. This is nice.

I almost, infact, have too much privacy. I realised on Friday that what I was feeling right then was something that I hadn't felt since I was 7 years old. I was, and still am a little, homesick. It's not that I'm not happy here: I love India (and hate it). It's just that I'm tired of having, every day, to confront all my presuppositions and ideas about how things work. Everyday, I am taken aback. And when my Western Toilet doesn't work, things get bad.

When I first arrived, the WT wasn't in the mood for working, and there was no toilet paper. I won't attempt to describe the arrangements that I was left with, because nothing can prepare you for them. I soon discovered why you eat with your right hand. Then I got toilet paper, and everything was ok.

The little things however, like eating with your right hand and your right hand only, and being very careful not even to brush a member of the opposite sex when you pass them, actually make just as much of a difference as bigger things, like the heat or the language barrier, which soon fade into the cultural background noise of your life.

Yesterday we had the first rain for weeks. According to Suresh, it was the biggest single rainfall he'd experienced in 6 years. You could, and did, actually feel the thunder passing through your body. Many huts were just flattened.

I was unprepared for the standard of English out here. As with everything about India, I don't know what I had imagined, but this isn't it. Some people have no english at all at all, and then you're down to gesticulation, good will, and luck. On the other hand, though, I was taken to the annual pre-monsoon festival at a local farm, and the host shook my hand warmly and said 'So, you've come for your taste of rural India. How do you like cultural tourism?'. People on buses are very talkative. In the same mould, some say, 'Where you from, sir?' Whereas one guy last weekend wanted to discuss Milton, Bunyon and what Public sector reform Tony Blair had really effected.

My teaching is very erratic. When I'm well rested, and motivated, and really up for it, I genuinely believe that I'm a quite a good teacher for this kind of thing. When that isn't the case, I'm awful. I get impatient and exasperated, or pitch the lesson at the best pupils. Being a teacher makes you think a lot, too, about what kind of pupil you were. I was a terrible pupil, it transpires. When people are disruptive, it irritates to a degree that took me back. So, the teachers of mine who are reading this, thanks. Anyhow, I'm being chucked out now, so, later.

18 working days and counting. My contract is almost up. I'm happy about that. Korea was great for my first year, but now, 23 months after first setting foot on the peninsula, the honeymoon is over. July 25, 2003, will be my last day at Evan-Moor School, Suncheon, South Korea. Two days later, my little sister, not so little anymore (now 19 years old, and turning into quite a beautiful, intelligent young woman), will arrive at Incheon International Airport, just outside of Seoul. I'll spend about two and a half weeks showing her around Korea (I plan to hit Gyongju and Gwangju at the very least, possibly Busan and/or Daejeon as well) and then the two of us will fly back to Canada together on August 12, 2003.

Today I feel like a bag of smashed assholes, though, due to too much partying. Friday night, I met an interesting Brit by the name of Stuart. Twice my age, but I always get along better with my elders than my peers. He, a Texan named Billy (also twice my age) and I spent the evening chatting and drinking beer. Billy was trying to get people to agree to come over to his house for beer and pizza the next afternoon. Stuart was once a very serious chess player, so when he found out how obsessed I am with Go, we quickly agreed that I would have to teach him. Since he lives in the same apartment complex as Billy, we decided that the logical thing to do would be to take Billy up on his offer, and for me to bring my goban and stones over, and teach him to play.

Saturday, we all met at Billy's place at 2 PM and proceeded to drink for about 12 hours straight. Around 9 PM, we switched over to Stuarts house, because he has an impressive CD collection and at some point after midnight, I passed out on his floor. Billy left, but was so drunk that he forgot to put on his shoes, and walked home barefoot.

Sunday, I took Stuart out for kalbi tang (rib soup) to fight the hangover, then went back to his place. We dropped in on Billy to give him his shoes back and pick up my goban. We went back to Stuart's place again and played another game of Go. Two hours later, Billy showed up with some beer and around 4 PM we hit the booze again. Around 7 PM we went out for sam gyup sal (kind of bacon-like stuff that you wrap in a lettuce leaf with some garlic and red chile bean paste) and Stuart and I proceeded to drink our way through two orders of oship seju (a mixture of one bottle of bek seju (ginseng wine) and soju). Then we went over to Elvis, the local bar, for more beer. We went to the pool hall from there, but I (usually a pretty decent player) was too drunk to even hit my target ball, so I gave up, went home, puked, and dragged my sorry ass into work this morning with bags under my eyes the size of suitcases.

My first class in the morning was the mothers' class, a real pleasure to teach, since they're such sweet, conversational women. One of them said something even more shocking (and amusing once you figure out what she was really saying) than when my Korean boss told all the teachers about the "beautiful bitches" (mispronunciation of "beaches") of Yeosu. This woman (who chose "Storm" as her English name) said to me:

Storm: Alex, do you like cunt?
Me: Excuse me?
Storm: Do you like cunt?
Me: Uhhhh... (wondering if she knows what she's saying - I'd heard from other teachers that taught these mothers before that they sometimes try to embarrass the teacher, but this seemed a bit extreme)
Storm: Cunt.
Me: You shouldn't say that word. It's very bad.
Storm: No, no. You know. Cunt. From Germany.
Me: German cunt?
Storm: Yes. Philosophy.
Me: Oh. Kant. Be careful with your pronunciation.

I then tried to explain to her what she'd actually been saying, but I don't think she understood. Just as well, probably. It's funny, though, the kinds of misunderstandings one can encounter when learning a foreign language (see the danger of bilingual dictionaries for another such anecdote).

This was the last thing the computer said in its calm, feminine voice, before it immediately died. Funny moment for it to tell me that.

I was on my back, lying on the floor directly behind my little scout ship's pilot seat, with my hands embedded in the bottom of the engine status console. I was trying to fix the hyperdrive's flow regulator, a delicate process considering that one extra particle of antimatter here or there could blow a hole the size of a grapefruit in the side of my ship. Doesn't sound like much of a problem until your head gets sucked through it by the rapid depressurization and you end up wearing the side of your ship as an immense charm necklace.

I was also painfully aware that I had the authorities on my tail and that hiding in this dust cloud wouldn't save me forever. It's a bit ironic, actually - I'd be perfectly safe until I turned on my engines, at which point the drones they'd positioned outside the cloud would lock on, spiral in and blow my ship (and me) to bits as they watched from their cruisers further afield.

I'd be perfectly safe, that is, assuming of course I figure out how to live without breathing as I'd had to shut the life support systems down with the engines. My backup power had died thirty seconds ago with the computer's last message. I've got about 20 minutes of oxygen left in the cabin, give or take a few minutes.

I sit back and groan. If I'd had power this would be easy; the computer told me as much before grinding to a complete and utter halt. If I'd had the power to take care of one last kill on the guild's list I would only have to wait until it was approved by central command (an agonising few seconds) before all sorts of new and wonderous advances were automatically downloaded and installed into my ship.

What the hell, I think to myself, You're only young once, kiddo. Go for it. I reach up farther under the console and find the hyperspace drive ejection lever, close my eyes, and pull.

The mechanical and chemical ejection systems shoot the hyperdrive core out the back of the ship. It reaches the edge of the cloud where the low-power magnetic fields that keep the antimatter in check attract the attention of the drones. They quickly converge on it and detonate in a fireball that catches the closest patrolling cruiser totally off guard. Its fuel lines rupture, its engines lose integrity and implode, bits spinning off into the void. Finally, as though staying in one piece was simply took too much willpower, the ship drifted apart in hundreds of directions at once.

I wait impatiently for my upgrades from central command. I'd only managed to take out one of the two cruisers and the last thing I needed was for them to come barging into here, particularly with me in my state (crippled) and they in theirs (pissed).

Finally, a message comes through. Lights come up across the control board with a message blinking at the top.


I don't press the button; I smack it with all my might as the second cruiser comes hurtling out of the darkness behind me. My ship reacts like a pro; a pair of fuzzy dice drop from a compartment in the upper bulkhead as a new message scrolls under the other, still blinking one.


Not that I had time to absorb any of this; I was too busy dying to care.

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