Sunday, November 30, 2008

The President is a TCK

I have been following Barack Obama's career with interest ever since I first heard of him. Part of that is the Kenya connection, which of course attracted my attention. But another part is that I identify with him as a third culture kid, someone who spent part of the developmental years living in a country other than the passport country. I have been thinking of him as the first TCK president, but I hadn't heard anybody else say that until I read this blog post. And just now I read an article written by Ruth Van Reken, one of the co-authors of Third Culture Kids: The Experience of Growing Up Among Worlds, where she details some of the TCK characteristics of Obama. It's a fascinating read.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Just Stay Home

In the wake of the terrible attacks in Mumbai, the Telegraph has an article in its travel section on twenty places you really shouldn't travel. It was interesting to me to see how many of these countries I have friends in. (And one of the twenty is quite well-known to me.)

Message from the travel section today: don't travel. Stay home. Preferably under your bed.


Every year I read about people getting hurt and killed in stampedes at religious shrines in different places in the world. When I read about yesterday's Wal Mart deaths, I thought that at least when people are killed during those religious festivals, they die doing something they believe in, something that matters to them.

Then it hit me. Consumerism is a religion. And Wal Mart is one of its temples.

Saturday Review of Books

Here's today's Saturday Review of Books.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Poetry Friday - My Deliverer

I remember the first time I heard this song, sung by true poet Rich Mullins and written by him with Mitch McVicker, and realized that Jesus went to Africa. I knew that before, of course, having heard the story my whole life, but somehow hearing these words brought it home to me. He went to Africa.

As Advent approaches, and suffering abounds in this world, and not only in Africa, I am listening to this song and affirming, "I will never doubt His promise, though I doubt my heart, though I doubt my eyes..."

My Deliverer

Joseph took his wife and her child and they went to Africa
To escape the rage of a deadly king
There along the banks of the Nile,
Jesus listened to the song
That the captive children used to sing
They were singing

My Deliverer is coming
My Deliverer is standing by...

Through a dry and thirsty land
Water from the Kenyan heights
Pours itself out of Lake Sangra's broken heart
There in the Sahara winds
Jesus heard the whole world cry
For the healing that would flow from His own scars
The world was singing

My Deliverer is coming
My Deliverer is standing by...

He will never break His promise -
He has written it upon the sky...

I will never doubt His promise
Though I doubt my heart, I doubt my eyes...

My Deliverer is coming
My Deliverer is standing by...

He will never break His promise
though the stars should break faith with the sky...

My Deliverer is coming
My Deliverer is standing by...

My Deliverer is coming.

Here's today's Poetry Friday roundup.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Psalm 107

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good,
and his mercy endures for ever.

Let all those whom the LORD has redeemed proclaim
that he redeemed them from the hand of the foe.

He gathered them out of the lands;
from the east and from the west,
from the north and from the south.

Some wandered in desert wastes;
they found no way to a city where they might dwell.

They were hungry and thirsty;
their spirits languished within them.

Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble,
and he delivered them from their distress.

He put their feet on a straight path
to go to a city where they might dwell.

Let them give thanks to the LORD for his mercy
and the wonders he does for his children.

For he satisfies the thirsty
and fills the hungry with good things.

Some sat in darkness and deep gloom,
bound fast in misery and iron;

Because they rebelled against the words of God
and despised the counsel of the Most High.

So he humbled their spirits with hard labor;
they stumbled, and there was none to help.

Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble,
and he delivered them from their distress.

He led them out of darkness and deep gloom
and broke their bonds asunder.

Let them give thanks to the LORD for his mercy
and the wonders he does for his children.

For he shatters the doors of bronze
and breaks in two the iron bars.

Some were fools and took to rebellious ways;
they were afflicted because of their sins.

They abhorred all manner of food
and drew near to death's door.

Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble,
and he delivered them from their distress.

He sent forth his word and healed them
and saved them from the grave.

Let them give thanks to the LORD for his mercy
and the wonders he does for his children.

Let them offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving
and tell of his acts with shouts of joy.

Some went down to the sea in ships
and plied their trade in deep waters;

They beheld the works of the LORD
and his wonders in the deep.

Then he spoke, and a stormy wind arose,
which tossed high the waves of the sea.

They mounted up to the heavens and fell back to the depths;
their hearts melted because of their peril.

They reeled and staggered like drunkards
and were at their wits' end.

Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble,
and he delivered them from their distress.

He stilled the storm to a whisper
and quieted the waves of the sea.

They were glad because of the calm,
and he brought them to the harbor they were bound for.

Let them give thanks to the LORD for his mercy
and the wonders he does for his children.

Let them exalt him in the congregation of the people
and praise him in the council of the elders.

The LORD changed rivers into deserts,
and water-springs into thirsty ground.

A fruitful land into salt flats,
because of the wickedness of those who dwell there.

He changed deserts into pools of water
and dry land into water-springs.

He settled the hungry there,
and they founded a city to dwell in.

They sowed fields, and planted vineyards,
and brought in a fruitful harvest.

He blessed them, so that they increased greatly;
he did not let their herds decrease.

Yet when they were diminished and brought low,
through stress of adversity and sorrow,

(He pours contempt on princes
and makes them wander in trackless wastes)

He lifted up the poor out of misery
and multiplied their families like flocks of sheep.

The upright will see this and rejoice,
but all wickedness will shut its mouth.

Whoever is wise will ponder these things,
and consider well the mercies of the LORD.

Monday, November 24, 2008

You Are a Tuna Fish Sandwich

Some people just don't have a taste for you. You are highly unusual.

And admit it, you've developed some pretty weird habits over the years.

You may seem a bit unsavory from a distance, but anyone who gives you a chance is hooked!

Your best friend: The Club Sandwich

Your mortal enemy: The Turkey Sandwich

I think it's pretty funny that a tuna sandwich is "highly unusual." If you want something slightly unusual for lunch (by American standards), try inarizushi, or gimyet, or ceviche. A tuna sandwich is just plain and ordinary.

The rest of it is probably true, though - about how weird I am.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Reading Update

Book #49 was The Group, by Mary McCarthy. This book came out in 1963 and was already a bit of a historical novel at that time, since it deals with the lives and preoccupations of eight classmates at Vassar, the class of 1933. I found it a bit turgid in places. (Here's a sample passage: "Her eyes, which were a light golden brown, were habitually narrowed, and her handsome, blowzy face had a plethoric look, as though darkened by clots of thought. She rarely showed her emotions, which appeared to have been burned out by the continual short-circuiting of her attention. All her statements, cursory and abbreviated, had a topical resonance, even when she touched on the intimate; today she made Helena think of the old riddle of the newspaper - black and white and red all over. She spoke absently and with an air of preoccupation, as though conducting a briefing session from memorized notes.") Still, it is a fascinating look at the ideas, attitudes, and concerns of a particular class of women at that time, touching as it does on birth control, mental illness, infant routines, and many other topics. I read that McCarthy based several of the characters on her own friends, and when they recognized themselves they were understandably put out. 


Book #50 was The Hunger Games. This was recommended on someone's blog and I ordered it because it sounded like something my students would like. After reading it I saw that Stephenie Meyer is recommending it for readers of her books who are now hunting for something else to read. It's not much like the Twilight books but it's just as absorbing. The story is set in a dystopian future United States, now called Panem and divided into twelve districts. Once a year, two "tributes" are chosen from each district to appear in a televised contest called the "Hunger Games." It's the ultimate reality show, a combination of entertainment and punishment for a long-ago uprising against the Capitol. Many of my eighth graders are enjoying this book and already asking when the next one is coming out (it's supposed to be the first of a trilogy). I'm surprised by how many errors have made it into the text - pronoun errors, problems with mixed-up tenses, that kind of thing - but I have a feeling there will be many more reprintings where these can be corrected.


Book #51 was What Child is This?, by Caroline Cooney, whose books are popular in my classroom. This is different from her others I've read. It's a sweet Christmas story about foster kids. I liked it very much - a quick read and an uplifting one.


Book #52 was Elizabeth George's latest, Careless in Red. While the last book in the series was a virtuoso performance, I'm glad to be back with the familiar characters. Great stuff, as always.


Book #53 was The Year of Fog, by Michelle Richmond. I expected this book to be a page-turner, but it was much better written than I thought it was going to be. It's about a child disappearing, yes, but also about memory and how people cope with loss. I saw a review comparing it to The Deep End of the Ocean, by Jacquelyn Mitchard (the book, not the movie, which wasn't nearly as good), and I think it's a good comparison. I stayed up very late finishing this one and then couldn't sleep for hours thinking about it.


Book #54 was the third in a trilogy about the Trojan War. The author died before finishing it so I had resigned myself to not getting to finish the trilogy, but his wife finished writing it. I was sorry that it had been so long since I had read the first two books, since they were not fresh in my mind at all, but I loved Troy: Fall of Kings. Again, I loved the way you see the myth developing even as the real events take place - Odysseus figuring out how he's going to retell the story, for example, and the discussion of Helen and how the soldiers remember her. Practically everyone in the story has a different fate from his or her namesake in the original story, so you have to keep reading to the very end instead of thinking you know what's going to happen. And the ending is the best part, with all the many, many threads brought together. Even the Trojan Horse isn't what you're expecting, and wait until you read what happens after the sack of Troy! My only complaint - way too much fighting - is an unfair one, given the subject of the book. And it's the same complaint I have about the next book...


Book #55: I finally finished reading The Iliad! I thought that since I keep holding forth about it with very little knowledge to go by (here, for example), I really should read the original. I'd read excerpts but this is my first time through the whole thing. And yeah, there's too much fighting. I got tired of reading exactly where the sword or spear went into every single person and how his innards fell out. Blech. However, there are wonderful, wonderful things in this book. I guess that's why it's still read about twenty seven hundred years after it was written. These characters, mortal and immortal, are finely drawn individuals. Helen points out all the Greeks to Priam and tells him all she knows about each one. Menelaus wants to show mercy, but his brother Agamemnon mocks him until he kills Adrestus. Andromache begs Hector not to go fight, leaving her a widow and their son Astyanax fatherless. Astyanax recoils in horror from his father,

terrified by the flashing bronze, the horsehair crest, the great ridge of the helmet nodding, bristling terror - so it struck his eyes. And his loving father laughed, his mother laughed as well, and glorious Hector, quickly lifting the helmet from his head, set it down on the ground, fiery in the sunlight, and raising his son he kissed him, tossed him in his arms, lifting a prayer to Zeus and the other deathless gods: "Zeus, all you immortals! Grant this boy, my son, may be like me, first in glory among the Trojans, strong and brave like me, and rule all Troy in power and one day let them say, 'He is a better man than his father!"
Zeus tells Hera how much she appeals to him by listing all the other women to whom she's superior, in a moment that made me laugh out loud. He even takes a moment to mention the "marvelous ankles" of one of his former loves, all to finish up, "That was nothing to how I hunger for you now!" We learn about the fine points of chariot racing, the burial customs of the Greeks and the Trojans, the amazing armor that Hephaestus makes for Achilles...a whole epic's worth of memorable moments. Not that I have anything to compare it to, but Robert Fagles' translation is readable and beautiful. I highly recommend that you read this, one of the original classics.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Future Shock

"This is a story with no clear outcome," I read last night.

Which story? Twilight? No. The story referred to in this article is the report just brought out by the Intelligence Council, which suggests that the influence that the United States has in the world will decrease in the future.

I don't know about you, but I'm not completely startled by this news. After all, from history we know that empires rise and fall, influence grows and shrinks, and countries that ruled the world 150 years ago have much less clout today. We also know that even a group of people with such an awe-inspiring name as Intelligence Council can't predict what will happen tomorrow, let alone in the next 20 years. Sure, they can look at trends, and they can use their knowledge of the present to infer things about the future. But ultimately, they don't know the details.

The part I thought was most interesting about the report (OK, about the article about the report - I didn't read the report itself, and judging it by the article is a bit like judging a novel on students' notes from a lecture on it, rather than by reading the novel, but never mind that) was that "while American power and influence are projected to decline, America's burdens are not." In other words, while the U.S. will be less able to control outcomes, everything that goes wrong on the planet will still be blamed on the U.S., so things will be pretty much the way they are now. (I know, I know, many of the world's problems are the fault of the U.S., but give us a break sometimes, world, OK? Not all evil is made in the U.S.A.!)

There's more interesting information in the article. It is, I admit, a little bit scary to imagine the kind of world envisioned by these academics, where people fight over resources which are becoming increasingly scarce. (Already happening now, by the way.) However, reading this also makes me think of the guy who visited my elementary school many years ago and talked about the world in "the year 2000," which seemed to us inconceivably far away at the time, and how each person on earth would have about a square foot of space to stand in by then. Or the person who came to my husband's high school and talked about how in the future people would have so much leisure time that they would have no idea how to fill it all. (I'm still waiting eagerly for that problem to develop in my life.) So I'm not going to lose too much sleep worrying about this. I'm sure the future holds many exciting and wonderful surprises, too. And meanwhile, let's all continue to do whatever we can to make the world better.

The future is, indeed, a "story with no clear outcome." But really, couldn't all the best stories be described that way?

Poetry Friday - Steps

I've been reading Naomi Shihab Nye's collection Fuel and it has many wonderful poems in it (though I find the cover image quite creepy). One of these wonderful poems is called "Steps" and it begins this way:


A man letters the sign for his grocery in Arabic and English.
Paint dries more quickly in English.
The thick swoops and curls of Arabic letters stay moist
and glistening till tomorrow when the children show up
jingling their dimes.

My favorite lines are in the third stanza:

"One of these children will tell a story that keeps her people
Alive. We don't yet know which one she is."

Now I think of those lines when I look at my students. One of them will, we hope. We just don't know which one.

You can read the rest of the poem here, because a group called STEPS, which studies colonial and transnational studies in Switzerland, is using it on its home page. Very appropriate.

Here's today's Poetry Friday roundup.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Hey, Amy, Look What I Did!

Back in July Amy had a contest and I won! She said she'd make me a new header, but I fiddle-faddled about and didn't let her know what I wanted (because I had no clue) and hemmed and hawed when she sent me samples and dragged my feet about upgrading my blog to the new kind of templates, because I thought it would be too complicated...

Amy was very patient with this not-exactly-early-adopter person, and today, on my day off, look what I did! And look at Amy's great design for my header! Isn't it pretty? Thanks, Amy.

(There are still some things I don't get about this new-fangled template, like why it says that Jess hasn't updated her blog in three months, when really she wrote something on Saturday...)

Sunday, November 16, 2008

A Post-Racial Society?

Right after the election I read a comment online by a man who said he couldn't understand why people were getting so excited about the race of the winner. If we live in a post-racial society, he opined, it shouldn't matter.

I snorted and said to myself that anyone who lives in the United States and considers it a post-racial society is probably white. I later expressed this opinion to a friend whose skin color is darker than mine. She agreed and added, "And on crack!"

And then I read this profoundly discouraging article about the uptick in racially-motivated crime after the election.

A post-racial society? Maybe sometime in the future people will be judged, as Martin Luther King Jr. dreamed, not "by the color of their skin but by the content of their character." But I'm afraid that day is not yet.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Poetry Friday

Here is the roundup. I guess this wasn't the week for me to do my own post!

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Bwana Obama

Wednesday was a holiday in Kenya! People were celebrating the election of Barack Obama, whose father was from Kenya, to the office of the President of the United States. Here's an interesting article about the attitudes of Kenyans towards Obama. Here's an expat's view of all the hoopla (the last several posts are on the topic so I've just linked you to the main blog). And here's a photo essay that the BBC ran earlier this week.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Poetry Friday

Here's today's roundup. Some day I'm going to do a Poetry Friday post of my own again.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Theme Day - Books

I was away from my computer on the first of the month, so I missed the DP Blogs' theme day. And what a theme for me to miss: Books! Here's a link to the thumbnails of photos taken around the world of this lovely subject.

A Couple of Election Links

I've kept pretty quiet about the election so far, and I intend to continue that, but I just can't resist posting two links.

Here's what Jim Wallis has to say about Focus on the Family's "Letter from 2012 in Obama's America."

And here's John Piper's take on how Christians should vote.

I sent in my absentee ballot a couple of weeks ago and will be watching the results tomorrow with great interest.