Yebo - Joey and the Deltones

In a way, this song kind of represents me at my best. It is a snapshot of me at my most idealistic, dreamy, and hopeful.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

An Introduction to Setswana

I received an email a few days ago from the Peace Corps informing me that for the first two months of training, myself and the 90 or so other volunteers will be learning the language of Setswana. Setswana is a Bantu language - spoken primarily in Southern Africa, including Botswana, Namibia and South Africa. Though it is only one of 11 official langauges of South Africa, it is the national language of Botswana. The PC said we should get lessons 1 - 4 under our belts before we arrive. So far it hasn't been too bad. I am posting some basics of the lessons below not only so you may get a sense of this new language, but also because it will probably help me to write it down and say it as I type.

Lesson 1: Pronunciation

The basics are as follows - there is no such thing as letters Q, V or Z.
R's are rolled.
T's and P's are usually said with aspiration.
G's are pronounced as if you are hocking a lougie. (Actually written in the language booklet)
And the most interesting for those of us who have never been exposed to Bantu languages - there are approximately 4 different click noises, all indicated in different ways.

tl = cluck (like calling for a dog to come)
tlh = almost sounding like "Kuh" (scleroisis)
ts = as in mats
x = click that is laterally released (between tongue and cheek) I think this is usually accompanied by a pronounced N in front of it, but that's probably too big of an assumption to make at this point.

Lesson 2: Greetings

Dumela rra/mma = Good day/evening/nite sir/ma'am
(doo-MAY-lah rrah/mmah)
O tsogile jang? = How are you? (formal)
- literal translation = How have you risen?
(oh TSO-gee-lay jahng)
Ke tsogile sentle wena o tsogile jang = I am fine, and how are you?
(kay TSO-gee-lay SEN-tle, WAY-nah, oh TSO-gee-lay jahng)
Ke tsogile sentle = I am fine.
Ke a le boga = Thank you
(kay AH lay BO-gha)

Informal greeting
Le kae? = How are you?
(lay KAHI) (like tie with a K)
Re teng a lona le teng? = I'm fine and how are you?
(rred TEHNG ah LO-nah lay TEHNG)
Re teng = I am fine.

Lesson 3: Introductions

Leina lame ke Joey = My name is Joey
(LEE-na LAH-me KAY)
Sefane same ke Cardella = My last name is Cardella.
(se-FA-nay SA-may KAY)
Leina le gago ke mang? = What is your name?
(LEE-na le GHa-gho ke mahng)
O tswa kae? = Where are you from?
(Oh tswah kahi)
Ke tswa kwa New York = I am from New York.
(KAY tswah KWAH)
Leina le gagwe ke Aaron = His name is Aaron.
(LEE-na le GHAU-way KAY)
a o tswa kwa Botswana? = Are you from Botswana?
(ah oh tswah KWAH)
Ke moithaopi = I am a volunteer.
(keh MWEH-tie-OH-pee)

Lesson 4: Saying Goodbye

Go siame = Good-bye
(gho si-AH-mee)
Ke tla go bona = See ya
(kay TLA gho BO-nah)
Tlhola sentle = Have a good day
(KAH-lah SEHN-kle) (with click number 2 on first syllable, click 1 on last)
Robala sentle / boroko = Good night
(rrroh-BA-la SEHN-kle / bo-RO-ko)
Ke tla go bona kamoso = See you tomorrow
(kay TLA gho BO-nah kah-MO-so)
Ke tla go bona kgantele = See you later
(kay TLA gho BO-nah kan-TAY-leh)

Those are the basics. I'm going to get that under my belt and then write an entire entry in Setswana.

In about a year.

Tlhola sentle.
Ke tla go bona kgantele.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Gramps (again) and a laptop

At this juncture, I am officially dedicating this blog to my Grandpa JoJo.

I’m writing this current entry on my new laptop. And let me tell you, it’s a doozy. I don’t know if that’s a good thing or bad thing yet…. Actually, yes I do. It’s a good thing. I have been saving up some bucks for a laptop for about a month or two now, not really knowing exactly how much I would spring for. Turns out that I had a stroke of good luck, and a whole lotta love shining my way from my Grandpa. For those of you not familiar with Gramps, I wrote a short post on him a few weeks ago. You can find that post here.

Gramps decided he wanted to contribute to something before I left for South Africa, he heard I was saving up for a laptop, and so told me that he was going to pay for it. The only restriction was that it had to be a really good one, and one which I would be happy with.

Damn you and your kind heart Gramps!

In light of recent developments, I have decided to extrapolate a bit on Grandpa JoJo. Gramps was down for about 5 or 6 days. He had come a few days before Father’s Day and spent Father’s Day at a big family picnic we had with the other side of the family. The rest of the time here, he spends reading whatever material is in front of him. In the mornings, after taking an hour to eat one egg, a piece of toast, 5 and a half pills, and a cup of coffee with one sugar and half and half, he’ll read the paper. But when Gramps reads the paper, he reads the entire paper. Every headline, every tagline, every article, and I believe most of the advertisements that find their way into his line of vision. Cover to cover. It’s a daunting task, but he says he’s got nothing else to do.

Grandpa has been living on his own now for 21 years. My Grandma Edy died early in my life. I was just about 2 at the time, and she had died of ovarian cancer, on Mother’s Day 1986. Gramps always kept busy after that - mainly through travel. Grandma Edy was a social butterfly like no other, and a lot of that wore off on Grandpa in his later years. He would take trips anywhere, from Africa, to India, to Italy and Antartica. He would go with a travel group and meet people thru there, or he would go on his own and make the effort to befriend another adventurous spirit.

At 91 years old, you can imagine life gets pretty lonely. That’s why he comes down about once a month, and we go up to see him every so often. It’s tough because for him, there is no rush at ALL for ANYTHING. He doesn’t care if it takes 4 hours to complete dinner with other people. He doesn’t care if totty time goes from 5:00 to 7:30 and he’s still only on his second drink. He doesn’t like to be rushed, and you can tell that he’s soaking up everything around him. The way he delicately forms a forkful of food, combining tattered broccoli pieces with scattered onions, a small piece of meat and that little bit of gravy that has collected in one corner of the plate. It’s as if he knows exactly what flavour combination he wants to experience at the moment, or just the opposite, he thinks, “Now what other delights can I form with this generous palate in front of me?”.

Gramps loves the outdoors, and always has. This past week he sat outside on the swing in the backyard, tilted on his right side, and was just staring at the trees. He wanted nothing. He was content to let his eyes wander, and take in sights that he probably had seen many times before, but never grew tired of looking at.

Anything we ever needed as a family, Grandpa would not hesitate to do for us. Nothing is as important to him as his family. It’s obvious from the pictures we have watched together - always as slides, almost never as print. Why? “This way many people can view the pictures at once.” His slides show how much he valued family. Camping trips, boating and fishing, birthday parties, communions, graduations - all standard topics for family photos. But it’s in the way he posed everyone - waiting for the right smile, the right feel, the right time. It’s also in the way he organized his photos that shows how much he cherished these memories. Every photograph he’s taken since 1947 is organized by year in tidy rectangular boxes made for slides. These rectangular boxes are in larger boxes and each large box is accompanied by a black and white composition notebook that has a description of every single slide in the order they appear. It’s pretty incredible.

I’ll get to the point. I could probably write pages and pages if not a book on my Gramps. But I’ve been in a funk the last few days and you may be able to understand why if you do the math. Gramps = 91, Joey = South Africa 2+ years, Gramps - hearing - health - energy = unknown. I hadn’t thought about the drastic changes I will come back to after 2 years of service abroad. I can only hope upon hope that Gramps will still be ok until I come back, but I can only afford to be cautiously optimistic, and nothing more.

The best thing I can do for Grandpa JoJo is to update him frequently on what it is I’m doing, and to have him read not just the newspaper, but blog entries and emails that I send out. If he knows I’m doing what makes me happy, it gives him cause to smile. On top of it all, I will update him via the internet, the complexity of which and the ease of which information can be passed along absolutely boggles his mind.

I will be able to do this with ease when I arrive thanks to Gramps. After all, he was the one who bought me this laptop.

Cheers Gramps….

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Toned Down and Reserved Lefty Musings

A few years ago I found myself absolutely absorbed with politics, the 2004 election, the Iraq War, and anything related to these topics. It's no secret that I'm a bit of a lefty in my political beliefs, but I realized that how I defined myself politically came to be who I was to the outside world. Some people are proud of the fact that they are die hard Republicans or Democrats, and I can understand the feelings they have about their positions. But after John Kerry [somehow] lost the 2004 election, I shut down for a long while, and months later, emerged a bit wiser and more mature in how I handled and expressed my political beliefs.

I still believe I was right in voting for Kerry at the time, and given W's approval ratings currently, I'm sure many people wish they hadn't voted for W the second time around, or at least had someone else to choose from. Let's be honest, neither man was the BEST man to lead this country. But while W ranks among the lower primates in governing efficiently, honestly, truthfully and according to his party's principles, at least Kerry was among the people who ranked among humans.

And it's not that I don't like W because he's a Republican. It's because he's divisive, secretive, foolish, immature and acts like a 12 year old spoiled rich kid who always gets what he wants - which is probably exactly what he was like when he was 12. More than that it's because of this war. Our maybe more appropriately, his own personal vendetta.

If you still believe the war in Iraq was a good idea, I still respect you as a person, but please please please wake up. There is too much evidence out there that all points to the same conclusion - that war was not inevitable, it could have been avoided, and there was no legitimate reason to go to war besides the fact that W and his neo-con buddies had an agenda. Even if you supported his actions going to war, virtually no one believes the way the war was handled is something to brag about.

Ok, enough lefty musings.

Two of my cousins, Corporal Matthew Currao - 3rd Battalion 5th Marines Weapons Company, and Lance Corporal Thomas Niemczyk - 3rd Battalion 3rd Marines India Company Weapons Platoon, are serving with the Marines, and another cousin of mine, Private Daniel O'Connor - 184 Military Intelligence Co. is serving in the Army. All of them signed up after the war had been going on, but all joined for different reasons.

Matt and Tommy have both completed one tour of duty in Iraq, and both are scheduled to go back in July. Just about the same time I am heading out for Africa. Matt is now a Vehicle Commander - meaning he will be in charge of all the men in his Humvee when they go out on patrol, diffusing IED's by day and nite. Tommy is a Mortarman - shooting off rockets from wherever he is, and lugging around 150 lbs of heavy machinery wherever he goes. Danny has not been to Iraq yet, but will most likely be scheduled to leave early next year, unless we start phasing down the US presence there.

The war is more than just a concept to me and my family, and this is as it should be. War should never be thought of as a concept. It should always be grounded in reality. Though there are thousands of our brothers and sisters serving in the military throughout the world, we are not all invested in war equally. Some of us will feel the loss if our brothers and sisters don't come back, some can only sympathize, but the tragedy in all of this is that some of us will not lose a wink of sleep over it. I don't want you to think that I believe everyone should have a family member involved in the war. Quite the opposite. I believe that NO ONE should have a family member involved in this war.

Tommy and Matt both do not mind being asked to go back to Iraq and serve their 8 months tours of duty. I'm sure they would go back as many times as they were asked if it came down to that. But that doesn't mean that we should ask them and every other member of the military to do so. Not in this war. Not with this "leadership".

War is viewed primarily as a national security issue, and not as a moral issue. War should always be viewed as a moral issue. One source says there have been over half a million Iraqi civilian deaths, and another, less than 100,000. You could probably find any number you wanted. The tragedy is three fold here.

1- The death toll may actually be over 650,00 civilians
2- No one cared enough to keep an accurate account of how many Iraqi civilians have been killed
3- When civilans are killed by US military operations they are not labeled as "innocent civilians killed" but rather they are labeled as "collateral damage".

This is a moral issue. It is a much more important and pressing moral issue than gay marriage. The difference being real people both American and non-American being killed everyday versus two people getting married and making homophobic people extremely uncomfortable, but otherwise, not causing any deaths that I know of.

I apologize for this being a political entry. There won't be too many of these. Sometimes there's too much going on to not say anything, and this is as good a forum (both private and public) that I have at the moment to say what's on my mind and not have to worry about being very centrist in my comments.

I didn't anticipate going down this road when I started this either. My next entry will more appropriately address what I was intending to get at. But at least this served as a starting block for you to understand how I feel (to a limited extent) about some issues.

That's all for now.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Countdowns and the What's Next

I don't do countdowns anymore. I haven't really payed much attention to countdowns since the last day of classes in high school. Y'see, there's always supposed to be this big hurrah about "Senior Countdown" where all the seniors who are still eligible by that point in high school (usually only about half the honors kids) get together in the cafeteria for 9th period the last day of class and share in some tasteless cake, snack foods, and some red coloured beverage, and we all count down the seconds until the clock struck 2:57 pm the last time for us in that memorable yet soon forgettable place. My senior countdown did not involve myself or my good friends because by that point in time, we had had enough of high school rules and BS, and decided to skip out on some of our less enjoyable classes the last few weeks. So we were told we would be given the ever dreaded "cut" on our attendance record and if we had... I don't know, I guess 4 or 5 cuts, we would be ineligible for Senior Countdown.

Oh the horror. So instead, the high school Commons was buzzing with about 92% of the 12th grade class and those few weird kids form lower grades who thought they were just as cool as the seniors because they had friends who were there. (Newsflash to those kids - seniors aren't really all that cool, and so you hanging out with them on their moment to shine doesn't really make you all that awesome either.) The 92% of us were floating around and jibberjabbering and had our own senior countdown in plain sight of all the school authorities who would soon mean nothing to us. We felt pretty awesome at life by that point and as we said aloud "3...2...1" and then whooped and hollered I realized that I felt absolutely no different than I did just 5 seconds beforehand. I knew for the entire school year that this was the last bit of high school for me, and it was cemented in my head long beforehand with college applications and my acceptance into the school I would eventually choose to attend, the University of Delaware. So this whole Senior Countdown ordeal really had no effect on me.

Someone the other day asked me how many days until I leave for South Africa. I have no idea. I could count them, buuuutttt that wouldn't do me any good. I know I have approximately 6 weeks until I depart. Again, I could do the math and figure it out but I see no reason to. There's way too much to be concerned with at present.

I have been collecting thoughts of what I would like to bring. Certain books, pictures, memory items, electronics (if they're even usable), widgets, gidgets and gadgets, outdoor gear, clothes etc. But that's just about as far as I have gotten. Collecting thoughts. I haven't taken any definite steps towards packing because I know that when it comes down to it, it will all get done. There was a great Calvin and Hobbes cartoon that alluded to having to be in the right mindset to get something accomplished, whether it's a homework assignment, creative project, or packing up to live in a foreign country for the next 2 years of your life. You can enjoy the comic here.

So what am I doing with my time until then? The most important thing to me is tying up loose ends here. I want to see as many of my friends as I can at least once more before I ship out. For some, I've said my "See you later"s already. (We don't say good-bye, only See You Later). Mentally it's tough to grasp the concept that your friends who you've lived close to your entire life are now all of a sudden in the span of one or two years living all over the country and all over the world, and realistically, things will never go back to the way they were just a short while ago. Wow, that was hard to write. Things won't go back to how they were, and things won't be the same as your fondest memories and most wishful thinking would have you hope for. I've struggled with this for a long while - we all do, especially right after college. But I realized (with the help of a very good friend or six) that that's kind of what we should want.

Undoubtedly, if you have amazing memories of your life experiences with your friends at a certain point in your life, you would love to go back and relive those experiences. That sounds great, but looking at it from a larger perspective, it seems that to do such a thing means that that is where our friendships and fun have peaked, and if we live in that mindset, we block out opportunities to outdo ourselves.

College was beyond words amazing for me. It took me a while to realize such a thing, but it absolutely was. For most people this is the case. But I finally let go of the firm grasp I had on wanting to go back to college as it was and started getting into the mindset that "I can do more, and there is so much more out there for me".

There are better things than college waiting for me, and of course for whoever you are as well. To peak at college would be a tragedy. No one wants to end up like the "Trip McNeely" types - high school star athletes whose time came and went before they could legally buy beer to celebrate.

The next step is huge. Beyond that, the possibilities are seemingly endless.

But no more countdowns to the next stage. I'll just take it as it comes.