Archive for the ‘observations’ Category

i recently stole something, and i have no intention of giving it back. First, some context: I am a HUGE fan of rooftops and balconies, which I imagine will be well-documented in my memoirs some day.  and despite the relatively spartan guest house I live in here, I was thrilled to find it came with a world class balcony, on the fourth floor, looking out at the surrounding campus.  So naturally I spend a good deal of my guesthousetime on the balcony, watching the scene below and pretending its my own little fiefdom.  Since the balcony did not come with a hammock, I have been using the chair that came with the room as my primary balcony sitting vessel.  here it is:

kind-of comfy chair + cushion

Its a fine chair, the woven stitching breathes nicely in the heat, and offers decent support despite lacking a premium features such as cupholders, satellite phones, or an ability to rock.  and my latest room (i’m on #3 now) came with a semi-comfy cushion to go with my just-kinda comfy chair.

but my recent good fortune (theft) has doubled my seating asset count to 2, and changed the way I preside over the balcony.  In the lobby that connects the 8 rooms in “block B,” there are a couple armchairs and a little sofa, and sometimes a few other random chairs that pop up from time to time.  fairly recently, i spied a temptingly padded blue chair that looked really nice.  here it is:

and now from the chair’s good side

so i swiped it, and immediately whisked it away to my balcony.  in no short order, it has changed my balcony user experience.  this is great because it relieves me from moving my desk chair from outside to inside and lets it stay near the desk where it belongs and feels safe.  but the new blue chair has made sitting outside immensely more enjoyable, as its plushly padded and has a little bit of reclinability to it.  so i can spend a good hour or so on the balcony, with my feet up on the rail, experiencing zero soreness and 100% more clarity of thought.

i feel a little bit guilty for swiping this comfy chair from the lobby, but it seldom gets used from what I can see, and I dont think anyone will notice.  and since i’ve been here a couple months, i think i’ve rightfully earned the comfy chair.  in fact, i’m thinking of putting a little placard on my room door that says “mayor of Block B” just to inform everyone of my seniority and tenure within the block.

i’m going to thailand for about 5 days soon, and my dilemma is whether i keep hoarding the comfy chair in my room, or return it to the lobby and risk another opportunistic resident stealing it for their own balcony loafing.  I’m pretty sure that I’ll put it back in the lobby and then just re-steal it when I get back.

I think I’ll file this observation under “Little things that give me pleasure,” a new category that i’m starting right meow after my recent triumph in acquiring a key bathroom asset, my western toilet.

and as for now I’ll continue to enjoy the spoils of being ensconced in this padded and luxurious throne, which has definitely increased my balcony loungeability time by 60-70%.

ah the joys of the little things….

this blog post was conceived and composed in its entirety from the comfy chair described above.


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similar to my alter-ego that seemed to be of interest to people before, times square brian, i think i’ve discovered a new self in the last year or so.  his name is south asian brain.

after spending aroundish 5 months in Sri Lanka and now arriving to the Indian state of Bihar, i’m racking up my south asian experience.  and an alter-ego is emerging.

the letter combination i-a doesn’t seem to really exist in the languages across this region, whereas a-i is very popular.  upon following up on the matter, i was told in hindi, there IS no sound for i-a, its simply a-y, or something….

so basically this grammar lesson is the reason that nearly everyone here calls me “Brain” instead of brian.  it has always happened when people type it and mix up the keys, but i started noticing it more than a few times in sri lanka when it was “brain, brain, brain.” so i’ve come to embrace it.

south asian brain has a few idiosyncracies not shared with north american brian.  for one he wakes up much earlier than normal.  I’m always awake by 6:30 or 7:00 here and have trouble falling back asleep if I try.  and those who know me can attest, I enjoy sleeping, and have never been what the pundits like to call a “morning person.”

burping: burping is totally acceptable and almost expected here.  its not impolite, rude, or offensive.  its simply not noticed.  to burp mid-sentence in a meeting would be completely acceptable.  so in the spirit of cultural learning, i’m trying to burp in public as much as possible.

hand eating…as mentioned in the SL days, cutlery is pretty absent round these parts.  i made the cultural mistake the first time around of eating with my left hand (lefties are persecuted in many parts of the world and forbidden to let their true awesomeness shine – its a cause i’m passionate about), which is viewed as very odd and slightly gross (think of the hand you use to wipe with)……so i’m starting anew here and learning to do it with the right hand.  its not pretty, but its my life.  whenever i’m eating with my hands, all eyes immediately start watching the spectacle with great entertainment.

I’m sure there are other little aspects to my south asian brain existence i’m not even noticing at this point. i’ll continue to keep updates coming as i notice them.



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so i wrote a while ago about the mysterious loss of a package sent to armenia somewhere in the vicinity of november 16th.  well it finally mosey’d its way to the SRI, just on its own terms. evidently this package was fond of ferris bueller and took an extra few months to stop and look around at life, for fear of missing it. i guess first class mail moves at an uncomfortably brisk velocity for ferris.

Turns out said delinquent package arrived to Armenia around mid-March, putting it at around 4 months late, give or take 37 armenian cigarette breaks.  After notification at my old organization that it was ready for me at the post office, a friend tried to pick it up.  of course this wasn’t possible, and power of attorney was required.  luckily after a week or two it was returned to the US…..intact.

My wonderful parents were determined to get the package to me, so off they sent it again to the Sri…..and luckily within about 5 or 6 days, it arrived, as evidenced below.  but what armenia lacks in punctuality apparently sri lanka lacks in keeping-packages-intact’itness.  nevertheless it was thrilling to get this mysteriously devious package, finally, and read the — yes pre-thanksgiving — “well its almost the holidays” card enclosed inside.  anyway, after enjoying my care package that was sent to me during the previous decade, i realized i was just lucky to receive it at all. especially when i tasted the bacon infused chocolate that this care package contained.

moral of the story, never mail anything important to armenia.

that, and dont trust that swindling ups spokesman with synthetic hair who makes commercials trying to convince you that mailing things is easy, efficient, or cute.

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aaaand moving along with the hands theme, i had some real difficulties when i first arrived to sri lanka and moved into my apartment.  obviously its pretty hot here.  also, i’m not being paid a six figure salary by kiva so naturally coming by AC for me is a rarity.  so my primary means of cooling, or sweat damage control, is by overhead ceiling fans.  they are ubiquitous in sri lanka, in every office and apartment, constantly humming away. (more…)

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OK, so this blog is going to have  a heavy time delay from the postings and the actual events transpiring in my life.  Unfortunately I’m on the move and way behind, but definitely want to chronicle everything I’ve seen and done, as well as wrap up the packaging on the Armenia experiment, so bear with my delays.

I am going to pretend it’s the 1820s and that these blog posts have to travel across oceans in wooden ships to be delivered to the internet, and then my tardiness starts to sound a lot more reasonable, and intriguingly exotic.  So, posts to come…..

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i was warned before I came here that the mail could be very unreliable in armenia.  i was told that things could get held up in customs, take months, or just not arrive at all.  these words of warning all sounded like old wive’s tales to me, and I had a few very eager people in the states (ok just my mom, but whatever) to send me something from home.

so i decided to risk it and let them try and send me a package.  well its turning out to have been a big mistake.  said package was sent on something like november 16th and there is still no sign that it has arrived in the country.  i’ve gone to the post office at least 3 times (with an armenian to help) and they love to say

“no we dont have a package.”

“well can you look?”

“if we get a package we will deliver it to you”

ohhhh ok, so thats how the mail works?! thanks for describing how the process should happen.  acknowledging otherwise would be ludicrous, so helping must be out of the question.  so to go one step higher we decided to try and pursue the customs office, which apparently isnt able to communicate with the post office, or at least according to the helpful post office man who told us he couldn’t check with them.

So we called customs.  the first couple times they didnt answer.  next day, we tried again.  they gave us a number.  ok, we tried that number. another number. another number. and another.  seriously, at the end of this we had 6 telephone numbers written on the piece of paper, and at the end of the chain……surprise surprise, no answer.  What do these 6 different people do?

I probably sound like a whiny westerner complaining about this, as this isn’t uncommon in most of the world.  And i knew that going in, but i really thought it would at least arrive, if even a month or so late.  and i continue to maintain hope (take that obama!), that it will arrive before I depart from the land of stones….

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Before leaving the States, a friend asked me if i was going to start dabbling in the musical genre of ‘deep techno’ while in Armenia.  I hadn’t even really considered the role of deep techno in Armenia at the time, thinking of it more as an inhabitant of 5 story dance clubs in places like prague, or the dojo where you fight morpheus.  nevertheless i decided to keep my eyes out for deep techno and see if i could make friends with it here in Yerevan.

Well, I have to report that while out and about a few weeks ago deep techno was spotted.  Its not exactly prevalent here, but one night i went with some friends to one of the more popular clubs here in Yerevan.  After walking through the black-painted double doors, it got insane.  Strobes, and sirens, and bears oh my!  Deep techno had been found.

It was pretty much as to be expected, with lots of double-raised-fist-dancing, and the the occasional guy by himself in an extra-small tshirt and fedora hopping around and doing those weird cross-step dance moves that were popular at middle school dances, in the 1990s.  And apparently, we went on the ‘international student day,’ so at 11 pm promptly, everyone started filing out for the exits.  they all had curfews and needed to be home.  after realizing this I felt immediately uncomfortable.  But I have to give credit to the people there that night.  They were entering the club with more flair than anyone I’ve ever seen.  They would storm in, go fishing for the beat, catch it, and start riding the pony a la ginuwine, slapping their imaginary tanto (and flipping the lasso) as they circled the dance floor to the bass of the deep techno.  The instantaneous transformation in enthusiasm and energy after passing through the club doors was impressive.

But the kicker was when I looked up and saw wesley snipes suspended upside-down from the rafters in a black leather trenchcoat and sunglasses with his arm cocked, holding a shiny ninja star.  I officially knew it was time to get out…

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