Thursday, March 27, 2014

Storied Past: Namibia Volume 2

Read Volume 1 here

Alright. Where was I? Ah yes, meeting the other students. 

I don't remember much because of the zero sleep I'd had the past 72 hours, but I do remember sitting next to a girl with curly brown hair who said, "I'm not really sure why I'm here." I suspected that all the rest of these people were impulsive and crazy like me. I was right. 

So the whole crazy lot of us headed to the bush where the Himba dwell. We got to work pitching a tent, digging a latrine (seriously), and a third thing that would make this sentence feel complete. My big, and likely only, contribution of the day was donating some reading material, my copy of the latest issue of Vogue, to the latrine.

I like camping just as much as the next guy, so long as the next guy doesn't really care for camping. Again, I'll remind you that I had merely a vague idea of what our adventure would entail, and failed to realize that three weeks in a sleeping bag on the ground was part of it. Three weeks is too many weeks in a sleeping bag.

Three weeks is also too long to eat the same breakfast, lunch and dinner every bloomin' day. Oatmeal for breakfast. Rice for lunch. Some sort of potato nonsense for dinner. Oh, also some crackers to be eaten at a rationed, steady pace. I polished mine off the first day. 

Toward the end of the three weeks things started getting a little Lord of the Flies, and when a Himba tribesman gifted us a goat, the men of the group (all four of them), immediately murdered the beast and we feasted for dinner. By "feasted" I mean took one bit and wished we hadn't because goat meat is not delicious.

But we did more than just toss and turn listening to the scorpions beneath our tent at night and complain about the food. We spent our days with translators, researching the Himba for the paper we were to write at the term's end. Research sometimes looked like building manure domes:

Or herding livestock:

Please note: This was not a high point for me ascetically. The strict starch-only diet and no-shower lifestyle really took a toll. 

Or whatever odd job a given member of the Himba tribe thought it might be entertaining to watch us try and accomplish. One day I spent two hours trying to carry three watermelons across a field. 

I hesitate to post too many pictures of the Himba because Himba women don't really wear clothes, and while that's fine, I'm not sure a snarky blog is the best place for photo evidence. 

But look at these adorable children who borrowed my glasses:

I wish I remembered more about the Himba. I remember being surprised by how content they seemed to be living in mud huts and eating only sour milk and corn. I remember thinking that not a lot happened day to day, but families spent the whole day together, sitting by the fire. Some Himba were really nice, some were not. Some wanted to ask us all the questions instead of answering ours. Some had stories of fighting off lions, and still others of witchcraft. It was a fascinating research project, but also three weeks of camping, so when it was time to leave the bush, I was definitely ready.  


Next week on Namibia Volume 3: A long-awaited shower and zebra spotting.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Like the tattooed mormon but no tattoos and I didn't actually read that article so I don't really know if it's like the tattooed mormon at all.

I went to a hair salon in Boulder for a new cut. In hindsight I recognize this as one of the worst ideas I've ever had. Boulder is known for a few things. Aggressively peaceful hippies, marijuana, old rich people wearing goofy winter hats, and health food. When you think of aggressively peaceful hippies, marijuana, old rich people wearing goofy winter hats and health food, do you think of individuals with good hair? Me neither. Yet in a delusional state I sat in the salon chair, expecting to get the latest and greatest in hair care from a woman wearing cargo pants tucked into combat boots. She explained the minimal carbon footprint of the line of products the salon carries and I pretended to understand what a carbon footprint is. She taught me all kinds of new curse word variations, described her thirteen year relationship with a woman and shampooed my hair so hard I thought my scalp might rip right off my skull. I told her I was from Utah and she said, "[Expletive] people must always assume you're mormon" and I tried not to sound defensive when I said, "Well, they assume correctly. I am mormon." "[Expletive]! What is your religion about? Like, what the [expletive] do you believe?" The missionary in me wanted to start with "There once was a young boy named Joseph Smith" but I kind of don't know how to do that in any language beside Latvian, a language not many Boulderites understand, and suddenly I was tongue tied so I said something about families and being nice to people. She said "Respect," which was a rad thing to say, and made a hilarious effort to reign in the swearing for the rest of the conversation. She was nice. I liked her. But I did not like what she did to my hair, which was hack at it with a razor until, I kid you not, she said, "I better stop there," then styled it to look like Farrah Fawcett circa whenever Farrah Fawcett had super crazy hair.

I wrote a check for an obscene amount of money and left, checking my reflection in all the store windows I passed to see if my head was as bad as I thought it was. It was. 

Then a crazy guy and the corner started yelling about Kabbalah and the murder of Jonbenet Ramsey. He looked right at me and said, "[Expletive] Kabbalah" as though I practice the mystical Judaism alongside Madonna, Britney, Paris Hilton, and a whole bunch of other celebrities I found listed on the Kabbalah Wikipedia page. 

I guess I just don't look very mormon. 

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Storied Past: Namibia Volume 1

Recently I was at a dinner and the topic of goat meat somehow organically arose in conversation. I chimed in, "we slaughtered a goat in Africa," and when the other diners looked at me with puzzled expressions I realized two things: 1. I am terrible at dinner conversation, and 2. There are huge stories from my life that I forget to tell people, like the story(ies) from the time I spent in Africa. I'll probably someday forget all of those stories if I don't write them down. THEREFORE, ERGO, ETC., I'm going to try and spend one day a week blogging my tales from days gone by.

So here we are. Story number 1. Or I guess the first part of story number one because I don't have the patience to write it all down at once. You probably wouldn't have the patience to read it all at once. I'll be impressed if you make it to the end of this post. I know how you millennials are.

In the early spring of 2006, I was feeling down, for whatever reason a 20-year-old female university student might be feeling down. I don't really remember. But I do remember thinking "I'm in the depth of despair so now feels like a really good time to make a completely impulsive and expensive decision." I saw a sign in the basement of the BYU humanities building advertising the Namibia summer study abroad, and that afternoon I signed up.

Even after meeting with the program director and attending the half-semester class meant to prep me and twenty other students for our departure, I  had no idea what I would be doing that summer. I knew we would be living among the Himba tribe conducting anthropology research. I knew at some point I might see an elephant. That was it. Other people assumed I was a better person than I really am and that I was performing some sort of service mission digging wells or feeding the hungry. I did not correct their misconceptions as quickly as I should have.

I did get way too much pleasure out of telling other people I was about to spend a significant amount of time on a foreign continent. In announcing my plans I would be sure to place a whole lot of emphasis on the word Africa. I loved watching jaws drop and eyes widen in reaction. I felt instantly interesting. I assumed I was the first ever white woman from Provo to make such a courageous journey and I was to be lauded for my bravery.

In June I flew from Salt Lake City to Johannesburg. Hell is an eighteen hour plan ride next to the bathroom with only a paperback copy of Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason to pass the time. The woman in the seat beside me spoke zero English and smelled long overdue for a shower.

I arrived in South Africa with bloodshot eyes and an aching back, just in time to catch my flight to Windhoek, Namibia. An hour later as the plane landed at the tiny Windhoek airport I looked out at the terrain and thought, somewhat disappointed, "This looks like Utah." It's amazing how most of the world looks pretty much the same with only slight variations.

I had never been more tired than when I retrieved my luggage from the airport's single baggage carousel, hopped in a taxi van, and headed to meet the rest of the students for the beginning of our adventure.


Next week on Namibia Volume 2: I touch cow poop

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Dr. Ivy Answers

Troy in Wisconsin asks,
Dr. Ivy- The authorities in my home are constantly telling me to share. What do you know about sharing and what cautions do you have?

Dr. Ivy says,
"My cautions are innumerable. Sharing is nothing more than a cute word for communism.  So unless you consider yourself a communist, in which case GET OUT OF MY COUNTRY, I urge you to avoid sharing at all costs.

I've recently found myself in situations such as the one you describe. I'm told to "be nice" and "share toys" with "my friends." Oh, you mean the toys I spent (mom's) hard-earned money on? Puh-lease. I don't need to be nice. My playmates need to get jobs.

It's time to silence the pro-sharers and their socialist agenda. History has taught us that niceness gets us nowhere and sharing only leads to misery. Do you think this great country was established on generosity? Did the founding fathers decide to "go halfsies" with the British on this land that we love? Absolutely not. We fought a freaking war to hold on to what was sort of rightfully ours. I encourage you to do the same with your legos."

Dr. Ivy

Dr. Ivy, The World's Greatest Expert

Monday, March 17, 2014

Thieves R Us

While visiting Utah and having a very willing babysitter (MIL) at my disposal, I decided to have a "Treat. Yo. Self." afternoon.

But I'm poor so a massage was out, and I'm mormon so mimosas were too. I was, however, the proud new owner of some fine leather goods, a kick-A vegan (read: fake) leather jacket that Stephen gifted me for my birthday. I threw it on with my sassiest heals and drove Mary's (MIL's) car to Pinky Nail Salon for a manicure, and looking forward to some indulgence.

I enjoyed thirty minutes of listening to the manicurist cough up a lung and telling me how sick she felt while she held my hands and shared my oxygen. She also berated me when I accidentally chipped one of my nails on the side of the gel dryer thing. But she did do an excellent job turning my nails the perfect shade of pink, lending just the right amount of soft to my cut-a-b outfit. The overall effect was fierce. Like Angelina in ____________ (name an Angelina Jolie movie) but shorter and blonder and less cheek-boney and flat-chested. And without a gun. But totally fierce.

If there's any time when looking fierce will be a disservice, it's when you may be suspected of a crime. Which is kind of what happened next.

The thing about driving a car not your own is that it's usually full of surprises. Cup holders in weird places, a seat you don't know how to adjust, or an extremely sensitive alarm, like Mary's.

Mary has four sons, so the license plate on her Volvo reads "BOYSRUS". When I tried to unlock the car and the alarm blared, everyone in the crowded parking lot turned to see me dressed like a member of Hells Angels, trying to break into a car that obviously belongs to a mother.

After what felt like twenty minutes, I managed to unlock the car and turn the ignition, silencing the BEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEP. Then I took the jacket off so I wouldn't match the description of anyone who called the police reporting the burglary.

Maybe for Treat. Yo. Self. 2015 I'll stick with clothes and fragrances. And my own vehicle.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

The IJT Crew

So last week we were in Utah. Stephen for a weekend, Ivy and I for about ten days while I worked on a project. Ivy and I flew home and Stephen drove back to Colorado with Ollie. Actually he drove to Rawlins, Wyoming, and then the car broke down. The next morning a mechanic diagnosed our beloved Subaru with busted engine, and Stephen and Ollie were forced to ride in the cab of a tow truck while a man named Ed drove my husband, dog, and car home. Stephen described Ed as "swearing like a sailor" and "not a big fan our current president," but a friendly guy and competent tower. So my husband and my dog made it home and the car made it to the shop. 

Then yesterday we received this in the mail:



Something about "Please don't hesitate to call us again" strikes me as hilarious. The thought of someone thinking, "Should I call a tow truck today?" as though anyone ever has a choice. It is only the most desperate of circumstances that causes us to call a towing company, and I doubt many people spend much time, if any, choosing between crews. Honestly I don't think there are crews to choose from in Rawlins, Wyoming. John and Kathy most certainly have a corner on that market. 

But the card is a nice gesture, and if I ever find myself with a dead car in the middle of I-80, I will be sure to call IJT. I'll even ask for Ed. However Ed did mention to Stephen that Rawlins is getting too crowded for him, so he may not be available much longer.  

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Just an obnoxious mom post

I think Ivy is destined for a managerial career. Earlier she pulled out her coloring book, handed me a crayon, then pointed on the page where I was to color. Why do yourself what you can instruct someone to do for you, right?

Or perhaps work in the field of veterinary science. Today she asked the dog, "Ollie, what are you doing?" Then she berated him for napping. "Ollie! NO!" she said while pointing her finger sternly.

Maybe she'll be an actor. I asked her if she needed a new diaper and she started to say "yes," then remembered that she hates diaper changes, and quickly changed her answer to "no." It would have been convincing had she not made that earlier slip.

And let's hope that she continues to develop her already impressive musical abilities. Such rhythm. Such vocal talent.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Fried Day

I mean, right? What is it about this sixth day of the week?

I work from home. My Fridays are exactly the same as every other week day. Plus, it's not like my weekends are really anything to look forward to. Stephen and I spend most Friday nights browsing Netflix without ever deciding on a movie. Saturday usually involves attempting to clean the apartment before reaching that point of "eh, good enough" and throwing in the towel. The towel I used to clean half the bathtub, that is. And you wonder why I don't write a life style blog. Oh, who am I kidding? No one has ever wondered why I don't write a lifestyle blog. I guess I just have this fantasy that someone on the internet thinks to his/herself "You know whose weekends I would really love to read about? Meg Morley Walter's." But they assume that I'm too busy hiking Kilimanjaro and shopping at the hippest boutiques to write it all down, thereby increasing my mysterious coolness and only exacerbating this pretend person on the internet's desire to know more about my Friday, Saturday and Sunday outings. Fun fact, I accidentally typed "too busty" when I initially wrote that last sentence, which is also very very very far from the truth. Okay now I'm forgetting why I started writing any of this. Oh yeah. Now I remember. My weekends are exceptionally unremarkable, yet I still can't wait for them to arrive. By can't wait, what I mean is, I wake up Friday morning already feeling done with the day. I just spent two hours writing two paragraphs. Then of course I needed a break from all that exertion, so I spent, well I'm embarrassed to admit how much time I spent so I won't, reading an argument on Facebook. Now I keep checking back to see if person A or B has posted a rebuttal.

You've been there (here), right? Please say yes. Please say that by Friday you too have diminished brain activity and the productivity of a sloth on Ambien. If you say no, I really don't want to associate with you as a human being and kindly request you close this window, never to return to again. Go write a lifestyle blog or something. All the rest of you, let me know if you find anything good on Netflix.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

28 is great?

It feels a little silly to celebrate birthdays after18, right? Or maybe 16. I think 16 might be the pique of birthday greatness, and then it's all down hill from there. Perhaps society should take the Alcoholics Anonymous approach to birthday celebrations. Make a big deal about those first few years of sobriety/life, then start spreading it out. Chips for 25 years, 50 years, etc.

Or perhaps not. Because if I'm being totally honest, I like having one day a year when I feel no shame in eating a cupcake for breakfast, blowing off all responsibilities and going to lunch with friends, and splurging on a fun dinner out. Yes, every aspect of my birthday celebration revolves around food. And while I feel guilty for the added pressure one random day of the year places on family and friends, I am so grateful for the thought and consideration they put into making it my special random day. I'm especially grateful this year because I needed some distraction from the reality of turning one year old. I do not feel good about 28.

I remember last year saying, "I can't wait to get older so people will take me more seriously." But now I'm feeling older and realizing that people are going to start taking me more seriously. It's terrifying. I'm approaching 30 and I have no idea what I want to be when I grow up. Or maybe I'm not ready to accept that what I am as a grown up is not what I wanted to be when I grew up.

A couple years ago I sat down with a supervisor at work. He asked me what my career goals were. I told him I wanted to be a writer. He chuckled. Not because he's a mean-spirited man with any ill-intent, but because he's an adult living in the real world. To him hearing "I want to be a writer" is comparable to hearing "I want to sprout wings and fly."

Around that same time, Stephen and I were at lunch and eavesdropping on the two men at the table next to us. "I have to tell you about this short story I just wrote," said the man with the long hair to the man in the fedora, who I'm sure had no interest in listening. "It takes place in a coffee shop. The protagonist is a middle-aged blah blah blah pretentious nonsense blah blah blah." I saw my future and I felt sad. I did not want to be that guy. I did not want to be a writer.

But I want to write. I don't want to be a photographer, but I want to take pictures. I don't want to be a seamstress, but I want to sew. I don't want to be a master chef, but I want to cook.

Maybe getting older means changing ambitions from nouns to verbs.
Or maybe it means focusing on the descriptors that already apply to one's existence. Maybe at 28 I should just work on being a better mom. A better wife. A better employee. A better mormon. And maybe I should just keep writing, photographing, sewing, and cooking because maybe they'll make me better mom or wife or employee or mormon.

Or maybe not. Who knows. Do you know? No seriously. Do you? Help.