419: Staying Put

I am reading a book about religion. I have had this book for more than five years, and I am less than half-way through with it. That is a profound indication of how difficult this book is for me. I can read five books or more in a single day, easily. I am the speed-reading paragon of reading books. Except for this one.

This one is about giving up on being offended. OUCH. Twinged my toes just typing it.

Being offended comes, according to this author, from a few sources: feeling that someone owes you something you are not getting, knowing you owe someone something you are not giving, and finally, feeling that God (who is the One who ultimately controls everything) owes you something you are not getting. Most of it, therefore, is the fact that I am not getting something I think I deserve, or that I want, whether I think I deserve it or not. The rest is knowing that I owe something to someone that I am not willing to give to them – mostly forgiveness for something they did to me, but occasionally it is an abject apology, or restitution, for something I did I am not particularly proud about having done to them.

I have discovered, reading this book, that I have a world view of an ordered, logical existence. Regardless of the inescapable fact that this world in which we live is not that sort of world, I WANT it to be that sort of world, and I am offended when people in positions of leadership are idiots. Particularly when they are in positions of leadership over ME.

I want a calm life, and I am not getting it, dammit.  *sigh*

Back to the book……….

One of the things it says is that God has you in the position where you are, to help you learn the lessons He wants you to learn, so you are not supposed to bail when things get tough, you are supposed to buckle down and learn your lessons. If you flee, you will just have to learn your lessons in another place and time. God is very patient, unfortunately. And here I was, filling out job applications for another school in  another country, looking forward to being able to bail on this current position (and country, for that matter).




418: Whipper-snipper and other local colloquiliaisms

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Today in Panama, outside my office window, I heard the unmistakable sound of a two-cycle internal combustion engine, commonly used to operate motor scooters and lawn trimming machines: weed whackers, weed eaters, whipper-snippers, and other imaginative names for a fairly functional device. Taking a peek out the window confirmed the sound – seven, count ém, SEVEN men, dressed like Muslim women in pants (completely hijabéd in fabric from any contact with grass – in 95 degree weather) were busily mowing, by hand, with these weed eaters, an area of ground I estimated conservatively at five ACRES.

While this is a fairly common sight in Panama, it would be a very uncommon sight in America. In America, where the minimum wage for a laborer is over 7 bucks an hour and rising, there is the impetus to mow maximum grass in minimum time, and equipment is acquired which facilitates that aim. This is not a concept that has penetrated the Panamanian psyche. In fact, maximum work in minimum time is not a concept that has even introduced itself to the Panamanian psyche, much less cozied up to it and taken it to bed. Panamanian work psyche is still virgin territory, totally unpenetrated by anything approximating a work ethic – much less an ethic of efficiency.

It is perfectly reasonable, when you pay a worker twenty dollars a day (or LESS), to give him the cheapest piece of equipment you can find (I have seen men cutting grass on the roadside with machetes – I kid you not), expecting it to take him three or four days to mow what one Kubota triple-swath tractor could cut in two hours.

This attitude of it takes as long as it takes, using the cheapest equipment we can find, permeates this society. It is one reason I ride to and from work in a 20 year-old reconditioned BlueBird school bus, shipped down from America once it was retired from school service there, smartened up with a wild coat of paint (Jesus and a busty, suggestively posed bikini-clad girl jostling for the prime space on the back), tricked out with flashing neon lights and outfitted with a blasting turbo-charged horn, since that is what Panamanians drive with, anyway.

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Well. It does make life interesting, in a drop-your-jaw and stare sort of way…………






417: For Your Own Good

Nobody likes hearing those words. It means

there is some bitter medicine coming, and no sugar

to sweeten the aftertaste.

For your own good is painful, truthful, bitter, ugly,

bright and beautiful – too beautiful to appreciate or look at up close. It takes

some distance to appreciate for your own good. It

is the sort of winnowing God does to those whom he loves,

that a parent does for a child,

that a teacher does for a prized student.

For your own good is hard

and usually necessary. And it is neither fun receiving it, nor giving it.


it is necessary. Needful.

Doing it is not fun.

From either side.


416: Being Earnest

I have the opportunity to go see a production of Oscar Wilde’s play, “The Importance of Being Earnest,” here in Panama City, at an educator’s discount on the tickets. Sounds like a nice evening out, and I like the play, anyway. It actually has a moral. *GASP*

I don’t understand what is so wrong with an entertainment production having a moral. It used to be that, from TV shows to the evening news, the entertainment industry emphasized the betterment of mankind. They taught the good and proper way things should be done, and portrayed the people who did not respect those values as the bad guys, ultimately punished by fate or the law (or both). Now, just between you and me and the bedpost, we all know that real life is not like that in every case. Often, it is like that, but we all know of cases where the bad guy profits by his crimes, and escapes the reckoning of justice – at least during this life, where the rest of us can watch.

Karma (and God) sometimes is kind, and lets us watch the comeuppance of miscreants.  Sometimes, though, we have to trust that the wheels of God’s justice grind exceedingly small, and we have to have the faith that He is dealing with the do-badders once their earthly lives are over. And you know what? That is fine by me. It is like when I turn over a child to the principal who has severely misbehaved in my class – at that point, I have turned the problem over to a higher power – and however they choose to deal with the problem is their business, not mine any longer.  I look at God as the principal in the sky – an all-knowing, all-seeing, all-knowledgeable principal, judge and executioner of justice who is the wisest of them all.

Let’s face it, sometimes that is all the satisfaction I will get out of SOME situations – knowing by faith that God is gonna settle it, by and by.

415: My Country, T’is of Thee

I am American. I am  fiercely proud of my country, even when she is led by idiots. Americans give of their time, money and goods to the rest of the world, unlike many others. American politicians think they are the world’s policemen – and I already mentioned even when she is run by idiots. Proof positive. CHINA now has the world’s largest standing military – let THEM do the world policing for a few decades, and reap the un-thanks for doing it that we have harvested over the last double-handful of decades. It is time for America to close its doors and take care of its own – but first, she needs to shake a lot of illegal fleas off her back – back to their countries of origin, to get in line with the others who are filling out forms, paying fees, standing in line and waiting patiently (or less-than-patiently, as the case may be) to become American citizens legally.

Doing anything illegally is not how it is done, and the fact that America is being run by idiots right now does not change or mitigate or alter that truth in any way. I am not sure how it is possible to be so fiercely proud of my country and so completely, utterly and totally ashamed of her leadership – but there it is.

414: Life Uncertain

No one is promised a long and fulfilling life

Even though that is the expectation and the goal.

A twenty-nine year old teacher at my school

Died this weekend unexpectedly, throwing me

for a complete and total loop of uncertainty:

knowing that I am not promised tomorrow,

and knowing that I was expecting tomorrow anyway.

That is not a given, it is a gift

that one day, won’t be given

and I won’t know when that day will be.

I can prepare, and pray, and search my heart and do the best that I can do

and still….

one day, I won’t get my daily gift.

Love while you can and be prepared

for the day the gift does not come for you.

413: Barbados

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I adore Barbados. It is the Caribbean island that is located furthest east – or the closest one to Africa and Europe, even though it is closer to South America than either one of those. Being so far east, most hurricanes give it a pass.

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As a result of location (and its geography and climate, which made it ideal for growing sugar cane and making RUM), it spent quite some time as a British colony before peacefully earning its sovereignty as a nation. It’s a pretty small nation.  You can drive from one side of the island to the other in about a half hour, even with traffic. It is a longer island than it is wide, though – going end-to-end, long wise, would take, oh, maybe an hour and a half, with traffic.

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The interesting part of the history of Barbados, to me as an American, is that our first president, George Washington, took his only international trip there. While he was there, he got ill with smallpox, an often deadly disease during his day. He survived, of course, and therefore had immunity from smallpox during the American Revolution, especially during the winter encampment at Valley Forge. This meant the American military leadership suffered no disruptions when smallpox broke out – GW was immune.

The fun part of Barbados is that, being British, they all drive on the other side of the road. Note that I did not say the WRONG side of the road, BUT – I did nearly meet my maker there when I looked in the incorrect direction to check for traffic before stepping off the curb, and a BUS whiffled by a few millimeters from my nose. I needed to change my pants, and I had campmeeting right there on the sidewalk. I might have even spoken in tongues.

Near-death experiences aside (!!!), our trip was offered on http://www.travelzoo.com, a fantastic Website that scours thousands of tour companies looking for what they think are the best 20 deals for the week , and they send a Wednesday e-mail to subscribers (it is free) listing the great deals on trips world-wide. Our Barbados deal came with round-trip airfare from the USA, six nights at a beach-front resort that included a full breakfast every morning (YUMMY, too!), with pool, AC, and a kitchenette in the room, PLUS a 100 dollar gift card good nearly everywhere on the island (bought lots of gifts for friends and family) and a fifty-dollar voucher for a seafood meal at the weekly weekend grill-seafood-party place where everybody meets to have fun and pig out. All of this was less than 600 USD a person, and they STILL run deals like that on travelzoo years later. I adore travelzoo, too!

I had grilled fish at the weekend party place, and it was then (and even now) the best fish I have ever eaten. Bar none. And Barbados has something else to gush over…Mount Gay rum. WOW. WOW. WOW. They have been making rum on Barbados for several centuries, and it SHOWS.

I had a fabulous time there – even the fact that they bury their dead standing up (!!!!) did not freak me out too badly. There is an interesting Barbados burial site story in this group of top ten: http://listverse.com/2012/10/04/top-10-creepiest-graves/

I plan to return, if God lets me live long enough!!

For more background on GW in Barbados: http://www.coedu.usf.edu/culture/Story/Story_Barbados_Washington.htm