Saturday, May 29, 2010

Just A Few More Days Here

There are only a few more hours to go state-side and then I am off to Africa. It still hasn't sunk in completely. Each step has been a theoretical leap, nothing changed about my life or my surroundings, just an update or a form to fill out and that was that.

Now it is getting a bit more real.

My apartment is becoming more barren as each hours slips by. The vehicles are sold, the accounts that I used to pay monthly (and take for granted) are now closed. I have books, some music, and a phone which also will be leaving my side very shortly to keep me company.

In addition to that, I still have my friends and an American culture that I am still quite comfortable with at my fingertips. That will be the scary part - seeing that disappear over the horizon.

I am anxious to get started but I understand one important thing, I am going to be returning some point in the future as a different creature. What I lose here I am sure I will gain on the other side of the Atlantic. Still, it is quite the unknown.

Just a few more hours to go then. If I manage to pack just half of what I need in Ghana then I will be happy.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

What To Do

Nothing is quite like packing up your life and figuring out what you will need for the next two years. I haven't figured it out just yet, but with some help I have a shopping list and a few great suggestions on what to take to Ghana.

The apartment is getting more vacant and everything that I look at lately gets categorized instantly again and again. Take, don't take, dumpster, sell, give away, etc. It feels as though nothing is really being condensed or narrowed down, but I imagine after a few more trips to the storage unit and the dumpster, things will be gone and I will be left with only what I need. Or rather, what I think I need. Probably my best guess now will look foolish in about three or four months. Part of the fun of it though.

One other problem is what to do with the time remaining. I want to spend it with everyone of course, but time doesn't quite permit everything. So I am doing the best I can with talking and seeing people where I go. When someone says, "See you next week," I now explain that this might not be the case. After a while that starts to wear a bit on the head; this may be the very last time I see this person. Should the handshake be extra firm? Should I just say 'later' and move along? Odd changes of the mental state keep coming back and sometimes I just go quiet thinking about it all.

When not stuck in deep contemplation I have enough sense to just try and enjoy and laugh and absorb the good times. Some good times are still left and in my better moments I realize there are some great times to come.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The British Petroleum Spill Senate Hearing

While on the road for a good long while yesterday I had the pleasure of tuning into C-SPAN II radio while passing through the Washington, D.C. area to listen to a hearing regarding the Gulf of Mexico oil spill / leak. Senator Lieberman chaired the hearing and Senator Collins sat as the ranking minority member of the committee. They brought out DHS Secretary Napolitano to answer questions and then the chairman of BP America, Lamar McKay. Both had answers for some questions but not others.

All-in-all, I thought that it was a rather enlightening session. A couple of points brought up struck me as significant: there are many deep water oil operations in the Gulf but at the outset of the meeting it was thought that they constituted less than 5% of the operations in the Gulf - more like 60% if I remember correctly; the contingency plans focused on clean-up were in effect presuming the spill was on top of the water, not from its source below the water's surface; that there hasn't been a catastrophe of this proportion earlier.

The idea that the U.S. government allowed businesses to secure rights to drill this deep yet have no real requirement to determine the means of containing a disastrous worst-case scenario such as this is baffling. This is not the first time a well has been drilled in 5,000 feet of water either. So by sheer luck and some forethought, most wells have gone in without incident. I then could completely understand the position of BP to paraphrase lightly - we really don't have a case history here to deal with an explosion and rupture so deep, so this is all an experiment. I gather some paper diagrams saying how they would contain the bleeding would have been sufficient to say they had thought about it, but there again that type of preparation wouldn't guarantee that it would work in reality.

It certainly struck me as I listened to this entire session that I was able to take it all in from the luxury of my four-wheeled vehicle that is always in need of some nice crude to be pumped or procured from somewhere else on earth. I am repulsed at the amount of damage that this leak has and will cause in the Gulf of Mexico, but I can't say that I want all off-shore drilling and production stopped.

Rather, I am more agreeable for costs such as this to be added to the price of oil products that we as a whole buy. Plastics, oil, gasoline, all of the hydrocarbon-based things that we buy should have an actual cost that covers the necessary destruction of the environment whether that is air, land, or sea pollution. That cost isn't to punish us but to make us aware that there are many unknown expenses associated with these modern-day conveniences. It seems more fair and makes all of us responsible for the world we leave behind.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Visiting The Family

I have spent the better part of the last nine days visiting family and it has been great. I had the chance to spend an entire day relaxing with my brother by the pool for his birthday party festivities, I had a chance to go to the beach with my mom and dip the toes into the Atlantic Ocean one more time, and then yesterday I was able to visit with all my extended family on the other side of the state and receive all the great well-wishes. You couldn't ask for a better time.

But with all that great time, you get to figure out what you will miss most. Twenty-seven months is a long time to go without a hug, but I am sure some family will have a chance to travel and visit me, so I will be counting down the days to those visits for sure.

Until that time, I enjoy these moments and get to hold on to them for quite a while!