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Whew. It’s nice to have 11 seconds to sit down by myself and process stuff. I’ve been bouncing around the Coast with a rotating posse of awesome PCV peeps for 2 weeks or thereabouts (what day is it again?) in a delightful interval of not-being-a-neurotic-altruist for a little while but I’m getting exhausted. Forgive the lack of bloggery. But in these 11 free seconds I now have before turning my attention to the many joys of New Year’s Eve among relatively young people who live in small villages the rest of the year and therefore don’t get out enough, I should take some time to contemplate everything that’s happened in the past 12 months. It’s been one of the most – if not the most – dynamic year of my life. I tried to prepare a little “year in review” entry for you wherein I sprinted through the highlights of each season, but it was two pages single-spaced before I got to Kenya, so it seems impractical. I’ll save that for my infinitely patient Moleskine journal. If you’ve been following along the blog, you already know the basics: thesis, coursework, Las Vegas, graduation, leaving old friends 10,000 miles behind, leaping into the arms of new friends who are just as rattled as I am, moving to a place with entirely too much sand, language angst and hilarious muck-ups, cockroaches the size of matchbox cars, a plucky little 4 year old who simultaneously endears children in general to me while making me terrified that if I had some they’d turn out like her and beat me up, deciding that you can be a humanitarian federal employee grown-up extraordinaire and still occasionally eat gelato for breakfast, etcetcetc. There have been unblogged low points, too. There always are. And I’m enthusiastic about doing my best to leave those at the door and welcome 2011 as an opportunity for a reasonably clean slate. I don’t have resolutions yet. I’m sure I will soon enough. Overall, it’s been a damn good year. A great one.

But tell me: what are your high/low points? Is there anything you’ve wanted to share but haven’t yet? Have you taken a moment to sit down and compose your mental Best Of highlight reel?

While you’re thinking of that, I’m going to post a slightly nifty poem that was recently featured on The Writer’s Almanac. If you’re a dork like I am, you’ll agree that there’s rarely a wrong time to read poetry, especially as a marker of major events like the starting of a New Year. (I tend to use it in comparable ways to how a lot of people use theological texts, but that’s a whole ‘nother discussion.) So … here. We’ll be back to the regularly scheduled drivel of beach pictures and stories about burning things next week. I have some good entries plotted. In the meantime, cleanse your palette, gird your loins, tip your hat to your personal 2010 journey(s), and be prepared for whatever comes next.

by Tony Hoagland

I feel as if we opened a book about great ocean voyages
and found ourselves on a great ocean voyage:
sailing through December, around the horn of Christmas
and into the January Sea, and sailing on and on

in a novel without a moral but one in which
all the characters who died in the middle chapters
make the sunsets near the book’s end more beautiful.

—And someone is spreading a map upon a table,
and someone is hanging a lantern from the stern,
and someone else says, “I’m only sorry
that I forgot my blue parka; It’s turning cold.”

Sunset like a burning wagon train
Sunrise like a dish of cantaloupe
Clouds like two armies clashing in the sky;
Icebergs and tropical storms,
That’s the kind of thing that happens on our ocean voyage—

And in one of the chapters I was blinded by love
And in another, anger made us sick like swallowed glass
& I lay in my bunk and slept for so long,

I forgot about the ocean,
Which all the time was going by, right there, outside my cabin window.

And the sides of the ship were green as money,
and the water made a sound like memory when we sailed.

Then it was summer. Under the constellation of the swan,
under the constellation of the horse.

At night we consoled ourselves
By discussing the meaning of homesickness.
But there was no home to go home to.
There was no getting around the ocean.
We had to go on finding out the story
by pushing into it—

The sea was no longer a metaphor.
The book was no longer a book.
That was the plot.
That was our marvelous punishment.

Now, if I wanted to be a real buzzkill, I could get out my metaphorical knife o’ colonial deconstruction and tear this song apart – its gross inaccuracies, its uncomfortable paternalism, its irksome generalizations, its deeply neocolonial undertones. I could launch into my well-worn treatise on the scholarly maelstrom of debate regarding the efficacy of famine relief and the sociopolitical context of Ethiopia’s famines. I could even point out that there is INDEED snow in Africa this Christmas: on top of Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, and in the mountains in South Africa. I could even take a shot at the 1980s and their predilection for unfortunate hair.

But it’s Christmas time. Let’s put it aside, just for now. How about I leave all that for next year, and instead post a good video of an historic event, and let us all be lifted just a little by the sentiment that even when we’re at our most celebratory we still need to spare a thought (or a hand!) for our fellow human beings who aren’t as blessed as we?

So please excuse the mullets. Take it away, Boy George.

Kenyan Flag

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Yours truly