Thursday, May 12, 2005

Every Day is Like Sunday

I'm currently in Portland, Oregon, visiting my sister and father (and his wife). It has been rainy, which is no surprise, but tomorrow it should clear up. We plan to drive up to Mount Saint Helens to the observation area nearby. This, on almost the 25th anniversary of the eruption. It will be interesting.

Indeed, I remember St. Helens erupting back in May 18, 1980. At the time I was nine years old and living in Spokane, Washington. On the day of the eruption we were driving out to the Air Force base west of Spokane for an air show, and I remember the loooooooong line of cars leading up to the place. Then for some reason air-raid sirens began to howl everywhere and the base guards started turning people away. On the horizon a massive black wall of clouds was filling the sky. I thought it was a nasty storm, but Dad turned on the radio and we heard the news about the huge eruption and that a cloud of ash was stretching across the state. Everyone should get indoors, they said, cover your faces, and get ready for the ash to fall. Sure enough, in a few hours the clouds had totally covered Spokane and everything was eerily dark. It was the kind of dark people report before tornadoes hit, or when there's an eclipse -- just a ghostly half-light left over. And small flakes of what looked like snow began to fall, only these were slightly greyish and didn't really drift down as much as sift.

In the morning, the world was blanketed with a few inches of the stuff. It had the look of snow, but outside it was 60 degrees, and as soon as you touched it you could tell the difference. It was grainy and left an afterimpression on the skin, much like that one gets when one touches fiberglass insulation. Makes sense, since like fiberglass, this was made of tiny shards of earth fused into glass. For the next few weeks (I don't recall how long, because when you're in 4th grade a week seems a lifetime) we had to go about everywhere with masks on, just like the kind you saw Chinese people wearing during the SARS scare. I remember riding my bike through the ash and leaving a trail behind me, and being afraid to step off the bike because of all the admonishions from my folks.

Anyhow, so tomorrow I'll go up to St. Helens and see how 25 years have changed it. I can't believe it's been that long -- stuff like that makes me feel so old.

After Portland, I'm off to spend a couple of days more in Bellingham, up by the Canadian border. That's where my dad lives with his wife, whom he met while working in Venezuela. She has been to Guyana a couple times and is from the general area of northern S. America, so she is full of all kinds of information. She is very excited about my going there. Today we went to Powell's World of Books (the largest and most wonderful bookstore I've ever been in, and a staple for the readers in our family whenever we come out here to Portland) and we scoured it for books on Guyana. She found an interesting one about the area where she and my father used to work, a place called El Dorado, in eastern Venezuela, not but 80 miles from the border with Guyana. I didn't find much else, but I did find an excellent map of Guyana that shows lots of information. At last! Most of what I bought, to tell the truth, had to do with Hawai`i, my first love in this world. Lots of great books on politics, language, and history. I ended up forking over $65 for some books and a CD set which will teach me Hawaiian language. It was about a quarter what I could have spent if I didn't stop myself. But the Hawaiian language lessons I'll try to rip and put on my...

...New iPod! Yes, I got a 30 gig picture iPod as well today. A major splurge, but this was my thinking: I would like to be able to continue writing the novel I'm working on (about 3/5ths of the way through) and I'm sure my computer won't last all that long in Guyana. Big bonus if it does. But if it fails, I can still access all the files because my iPod is compatible with both Mac and PC. So I can use just about any computer, and so maybe can continue writing my book even sans my iBook. Plus journal and write the other stuff I want to write. Needless to say, I'll keep this on the D.L. once I'm in country, get it insured, and generally protect it like a treasure. There's been a lot of discussion on the peacecorps2 Yahoo group about how much technology is too much, and I tend to agree that bringing all kinds of cool technology can not only distract one from the cultural environment around you, but also is uncool because you have all these goodies your HCNs don't have. I probably wouldn't bother to bring a computer, in fact, but for the fact that I'm a writer and do by far my best work by keyboard. If it weren't for my need to keep writing and not lose two more years toward my ultimate career as novelist, I'd eschew the laptop. But I'll definitely not rely on it and come to expect it.

I'll cut this entry off here, as it is long enough. More rainy Puget Sound weather to come, and I'll let you know how all that goes.


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