Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thankful to be Hopping on a Plane

Santa Ana, CA

In six hours, I'll be on my way to Cambodia. My parents invited me to join them on their trip, and I couldn't refuse. It's been eight years since my first visit. Currently, the plan is to stay for three months. I'll be traveling with my parents for the first month, then I'll be on my own for months two and three. I haven't decided exactly what I'll be doing yet. Maybe I'll hole up on my uncle's farm far from internet and electricity. Maybe I'll take a trip to a climbers camp in Laos. I'm hoping to visit Vietnam and see Applesauce. Definitely want to meet the Tiny Toones youth and staff my friend Ryan has been working with in Phnom Penh. Hopefully I'll do all of these. I'll also still be on the job prowl. Who knows what could happen?
For reading, writing, and sharing.
I'm bringing a few copies of my chapbooks with me for potential sharing. I look forward to reading Yumi's long-form zine about her trip to Europe last year (follow her tumblr, she's lovely) on the plane as I get ready for my own trip. Traveling is good for an artistic reset, which really feels needed for me right now. I'm halfway through Cadillac Desert and properly fired up about water development in the west; hopefully I'll finish the book long before the trip is over. Techniques of the Selling Writer was a gift that has some great insight into fiction writing, and I'll use it to give myself a sort of DIY Grad School experience while I'm away. I'm bringing the Rough Guide to Southeast Asia on a Budget just in case I decide to do more traveling and don't have the easy access to the web that has kept me from perusing the book deeply until now. 

And two notebooks. The dark blue one on the right is my thick everything-notebook, which replaced the one I lost in DC earlier this year. It's heavier, but I'm hoping that means it will also be harder to lose.  I found the green notebook in my old room at my parents house, and decided to use it as a diary of what I do each day, so that at least I'll have a log of things I do. Hopefully the everything-notebook will fill up with heartier bits of writing. The last time I took a notebook to Cambodia, I stopped writing in it very much after the first week or two, and regret that I didn't try harder to at least record things. I'm going to try harder this time.

Now, off I go for a full day in transition. Making good on my blog name.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Veterans Day, Economics, and Climbing

I was curious to find many pieces referring to the military in the current issue of Climbing Magazine-- and then realized that Sunday is Veterans Day. Climbing has a great article called "Invisible Wounds" by Chris Kassar which covers a Colorado-based organization called Veteran Expeditions, or VetEx. (Unfortunately the article is not yet available online.) It states: "At least one million military personnel will return home in the next five years," and "at least one in five of them will suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), yet only 35 percent will seek treatment." VetEx takes veterans on expeditions during which they get to practice some of the survival skills and feel a similar camaraderie to what they had in the military, and they're adamant that "the whole goal has really always been that therapy is a byproduct."

VetEx states on their FAQ page that they:
Don't have a set therapy agenda other than the outdoors. VetEx gets veterans outside into physically challenging, team settings. VetEx is not a wilderness therapy organization. We recognize that in the veteran community, many veterans bristle at the thought of needing healing or needing some alternative activity to begin to sort through the complex feelings of their actions and experiences when they were in uniform. The truth is, and the statistics and our own personal experiences and relationships back it up, veterans are an at risk population, and whether or not you want healing or not, you’ll get a lot out of our trips, simply by spending time with other veterans and challenging yourselves.
Their perspective on healing:
We won’t tell you what you want or what will happen on the trip, that’s your decision to figure out what you want and to create your own experience. What we’ve found, however, is that many of our participants have said that they felt the trip was a ‘healing experience’. This means something different for every participant, which is why we do not have an agenda, other than getting you outside and challenging you in a team setting with other veterans. We hope when you get home, you’ll make whatever positive steps in life make sense for you, and to the best of our ability, we’ll help you take those steps.
Will a second-term Obama Presidency see the United States engaging in fewer military efforts? Unfortunately, that seems unlikely; it seems that warfare is written into the DNA of this country. I think a part of changing that, a part of our evolution as a country, is to change our ideas about growth as a measurement of prosperity. The urge to grow is what sends us around the globe looking for resources to tap in order to feed our behemoth of an economy.
This economy is crazy and poisonous. I am an economist, and I have been fighting against the economy that is taught the way it is being taught and being practiced. I have been fighting it for almost 40 years of my life, because it’s an absurd economy that has nothing to do with real life. - Manfred Max Neef on Democracy Now
The interview I linked to is fantastic. The question is, how? What do we do to change the system we're in, when we can't see any other way? I don't have an answer for that. I have a feeling similar to what my friend Justin Woo describes in this recent post:
Our generation has no workable blueprint for struggle. The oft-imitated, never-replicated 1960s has proven to be an unworkable model – The Iraq War proceeded unabated, and Obama has left many thousands of private contractors in Iraq. The Afghanistan War continues to claim lives, despite rosy predictions to the contrary. ...  
But hey, maybe the lack of blueprint is a strength. You can’t tell us we’re doing it wrong. You can’t tell us that this doesn’t fit pre-existing models – through trial and error, we’ve found that they don’t work. Maybe the key is keeping our moral and intellectual compasses active and engaged. Maybe we just need to keep listening, and trying new things, until we find something that works. And hopefully, we’ll do it before it’s too late.
His post really resonated with me because I've been spending the last few months trying hard to find a way to build a sustainable, peaceful, humane life, and feeling like I keep coming up against a wall of "this is the way the world is." And I keep thinking "but so many people are unhappy, why don't we change it?" I'm still looking for the answer to that. Along the way, I'm climbing as much as I can.

This weekend, I'll be going Joshua Tree National Park for the first time as a climber. I'm attending an event called #JTreeTweetup, co-founded by RockGrrl, whom I met at Malibu Creek State Park earlier this year. I'll meet a bunch of people for the first time, and shortly thereafter we'll trust each other with our lives.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Reflections on CA Props 30, 34, 37

Today was not as emotional as the day after the 2008 election. After the presidential race (phew) and the historic victories for LGBT and Asian American communities across the nation, I was also watching closely for the results on California propositions 30, 34, and 37.

Prop 30 - Increase Education Tax - Passed

I'm excited at the margin with which this passed. The tides are turning, however slowly, toward more equitable taxation, and increased willingness to pour money into our education system. Now, the question of whether our education system is even effective is a whole other issue. When are we going to start reducing standardized testing (and the millions of dollars that go to the College Board, Princeton Review, and Kaplan), and spend more of that money on teachers, providing students with enrichment beyond the classroom (and, I daresay, beyond computers), and better food in schools? 

Prop 34 - Repeal Death Penalty - Failed

When I was a sophomore in high school, I wrote an impassioned essay about why I believed in capital punishment. My arguments were based mainly, I recognize now, on wanting vengeance. My feelings on how I would want to punish someone who badly hurt someone close to me haven't changed, but my perspective on whether the state ought to be allowed to do so has. I no longer believe in capital punishment. I don't even believe in our current prison system. Evidence shows a significant probability that innocent people are put to death. There's also the matter of the hypocrisy in criminalizing murder and then using murder as a punishment. I look forward to the day when California joins so many developed nations in abolishing capital punishment. 

Prop 37 - Label Genetically Modified Food - Failed

Big agriculture and companies like Monsanto have so much power that It didn't surprise me that this proposition didn't pass. I would have to see it pass, if only for the spectacle of stickers declaring genetic modification that would (likely) be slapped on to nearly everything in grocery stores. Since humans began practicing agriculture, we've employed genetic engineering; the difference (and problem) today is that the modifications are often made to increase productivity and transportability rather than for nutrition. Beyond getting the companies to employ these practices to stop, we have to begin to find other ways of feeding ourselves.

So there have been victories and setbacks, and the exhilaration of election night will fade, but it's not going to be one election or one ballot that will create the world we want. It happens every day, bit by bit, and it's happening constantly. It has to.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Tomorrow is Election Day

I mailed in my ballot on Saturday. This election has come so quickly. Hopefully Tuesday's results will lead us to four more years of Obama, and in California: GMO labeling on our food, more money for education, and no more death penalty

One voter guide I used to help me in my decision-making:

I'm sure we must, we can, and we will eventually change our two-party system, but I voted for Obama because I don't think that it can happen in this country from the top down. Is it possible to convince enough people to elect a Green Party or Independent President before there's a significant presence in the rest of our government?