Home.

I’ve been back home almost a week now, and I have to say that the process of re-entry into my life in Portland, Oregon, US of A has been full of unexpected surprises and unlooked-for realizations.  Allow me to go off on numerous tangents for a few moments, if you will…

When I set out to embark on this trip, all of my thoughts were focused 100% on the preparation; saving the money, the vacation time, the airline miles, the coordination of keeping my bills paid and my dog happy and arriving at the same time as my brother’s family, not to mention managing the cobweb levels in my house to a sub-haunted level.  Also, there was the matter of finding the right place, the right school, the right situation, to make the experience a non-sucky one.  All in all, I have to say that I’m quite happy with all my choices and preparations; I did one bang-up job, if I do say so myself.  I am good at organizing and managing chaos, after all. 

Then, during my three months, I was focused 100% on making the most of my time there; learning as much Portuguese as my brain could handle (which was less than I hoped), and immersing myself in as much culture, activity, and life as I could handle (and afford).  I’d give myself an 84% on that one.  I think I could have done more, learned more, if I’d spent less time hanging out in my room hiding from the sun in the last few weeks, but am still rocking an amazing tan, and never turned down an opportunity to go do stuff, and have some truly amazing and treasured memories (some of which were documented in video!) as well as some great new friends.

But with the prospect of going home in front of me, I was only focused on getting in the last few times out on the beach, having that last tapioca, that last tall glass of caldo, my last classes in Capoeira and with my MMA gym, the last times with my friends, the last bit of shopping for gifts and cachaca.  I thought about how happy I was to be going home, and how I missed my house and my friends and my dog and my routines.  But I never thought about how being gone for three months in a foreign country with a foreign language would impact me when I did return.  And to my surprise, amazement and (slight) consternation, I find that the culture shock of coming home quite outstripped the culture shock of living in Brazil for three months.

The first thing I experienced was having to intentionally remove the mental blocks I had apparently placed on my ‘You are permitted to speak English all the time’ neural pathways.  Odd, since I did speak English at times, quite a bit occasionally; but I always felt guilty about it looking back, as if I was robbing myself of an opportunity to get just a little bit more fluent.  Now, that excuse was gone, but the mental block was still there.  It felt weird, allowing myself to speak English.  I miss speaking Portuguese.  I find myself wanting to go to all the Brazilian stuff I can, just for an opportunity to continue speaking it.

The next thing I noticed is how all of my prior habits, routines, and proclivities were, if not gone, then certainly greatly weakened.  It’s as if I hit a reset button on my life, and I could pick and choose which ideas, habits and propensities I wished to take up again, and which I decided to toss in the trash, with not a single emotional thread (or very few) to bias my decisions.  And while that has been a truly awesome unlooked for blessing, it also caught me off guard, because I did not see it coming AT ALL.  It’s like getting hit upside the head with a lucky stick.  It still smarts!  Kinda like this:

It’s also acted like oxygen on the fires of my love of travel.  You’d think that after three months I’d be all like “Dayum that was a long ass trip and I am stayin’ HOME for a while!!”, but I’m already looking forward to my next trip.  Most likely I’ll be returning to Amsterdam and London in May again.

I feel like there’s a ‘lastly’ here as well, but I’m not sure what it is.  Like I should be able to sum up my trip in a pithy sentence, like many of my coworkers and friends seem to hope I will when they ask me ‘how was your trip?’, but I’m not sure I can; nor do I think I’d want to.  There was a lot happening there.  I learned a lot.  I learned a lot about teaching, about myself, about my values and how they affect me.  I thought about language and culture and the impacts they have on each other, and how they can affect the interaction between other cultures.  I thought about how important art is to a community, and realized how proud I am of mine.

If I were to come up with a ‘lastly’, it would be this:  I now have offers of a place to hang my hat for a few days in five different countries.  That’s something special, and is always in the back of my mind.  And it means I need to find a better way to generate a metric fuck ton of airline miles.

Paint.

My last few weeks in Brazil have been gradually increasing in epicness.  There was the beginning of my teaching at a place called Lar São Domingo, a sort of school type place for kids from the local favelas.  There was the discovery of my favorite beach, which is off the beaten path and fairly sparsely populated even on beautiful weekend, complete with 4 beach bars in a row.  There was watching one of my new friends, a fantastic musician originally from Virginia named Atiba play at a fancy little beach bar named Lopana, and having him call me up to play bass with him on a little blues number.  The list goes on, and culminates in this, which happened just last weekend:

That’s my friend Suel, his wife Carol and me live painting a new mural at a beach bar called Milk Beach Bar, where I learned to pay attention to which cup holds the beer and which cup holds the paint, to my cost.  And also found out that water based paint, initially, tastes kinda watery.  Suel is an artist, and Carol teaches art history at the local university.  And all of it was fabulously documented by my other new friend Matias, all of whom will hopefully visit me in Portland someday.

There are still a few more days in Brazil, but the end is soon and I will shortly be reunited with my friends, my dog, my house and my city on Thanksgiving day.  A perfect end to an amazing experience.  And while I still have much I’d like to show you all about brazilian life (and yes, food) those posts may come after I’ve returned and have time to organize all the photos and video I’ve taken – which is a hell of a lot, have no fear!  I’d like to put together a couple of videos and will be posting those up as well.  As for my feelings, they are mixed; I look forward to going home.  I miss my home, and my life and everyone and everything in it tremendously. But I will also miss the people and things that have touched me here, and feel certain that I will have to return soon.

Cheesebread.

I help out in some classes at an English school across the street from my Portuguese school. (There are, in fact, approximately 5 English schools in walking distance around here.  I’m surprised more people can’t speak it!)  It’s one of the highlights of my week, not just because I have a chance to speak English for a while and give my mushy brain a break, but the students and teachers are all super awesome people and I have a lot of fun with them both in and out of the school.

During one of the classes, we came up with the fabulous idea to have a cooking-themed class, and one of the students, Marcos, offered to teach us how to make the original Minas Gerais pão de queijo - one of the iconic Brazilian foods.  And luckily for you all (sort of, because you might find yourself addicted), I managed to get a copy of the recipe in English!

Minas Gerais Pão de Queijo (Cheese bread)

Ingredients:
3 cups sour mandioca flour (polvilho azedo)
2 cups of grated semi-aged cheese (If you can get it, get the cheese from Minas Gerais; otherwise, a semi aged cheddar should suffice)
1 cup of milk
1/4 cup of vegetable oil
1 tablespoon of salt
2 eggs

Directions:
Preheat the oven to about 350 degrees.
Put the flour in a bowl. Heat the milk, oil and salt until it just starts to boil. Pour the heated milk mixture over the flour to scald it and then mix them to start forming a dough. Mix in the eggs until combined, followed by the cheese and mix thoroughly. The dough should not be too sticky; add more flour if necessary.
Roll the dough into small 1 inch balls and place in a baking pan or cookie sheet. Heat until they start to turn brown on the bottom and are the consistency of bread on the top. Remove from oven, let cool a few moments and eat! For a truly cheesy experience, add some of any leftover grated cheese inside one of the rolls.

The trick to this recipe I think is getting the right flour. It is a very fine sour flour called ‘polvilho azedo’ (Hikari makes a decent one, and you can find it on Amazon). I’m not sure exactly what it’s made from. The cheese is cheddar-like but white; a white cheddar or similar aged cheese should work if you can’t find ‘Minas cheese’ from Minas Gerais (although Marcos insisted that it was the key ingredient!)

Here’s a couple pictures of the cheese bread making:

Language.

original_headache-cat

I have apparently broken my brain.

No really, it’s broken.  I imagine it was all resilient and springy a month ago, soaking up new information happily and processing it with alacrity.  But it got fuller, and fuller, and more and more new information – absolutely necessary information for continued and improved human interaction – kept being added.  Kind of like when you put more and more and more sugar in your tea until the tea just won’t get any sweeter and really tastes like liquid teeth rot by this time and you still have clumps of sugar floating around in your tea laughing at you.  My brain has developed soft spots that refuse to learn anything more.  I can sort of feel them, one in front of my right ear, and another one all the way in the back on the left.  These spots flop down on the ground and hold their breath until they turn purple and when that doesn’t work they just turn their back on me and stick fingers in their ears and cry “LALALALALALA I’M NOT LISTENING LALALALALAAAAA”.

Broken.

Most of this past week has been like this.  I think my teachers are starting to worry about me, but they keep saying it’s normal and this sort of thing happens and it’ll pass.

But until then I could really use some aspirin.

CatDogManRat

Hello my little intertribe!

Intertribe (n): the internet tribe of lovely talented fabulous people who read my blog.

I have a Very Special Treat for you today!  It’s not often that I have a guest blog post.  Actually, it’s pretty much never.  At least up until now it’s been never.  Because, you know, everyone I know already has their own blog.  You have one, don’t you?  You’d tell me about it if you did, right?  Because I want to read it!  I’m always looking for new fun blogs to read.  Hook a girl up!

Where was I?  Ah, yes.  MY VERY FIRST GUEST BLOG POST!

Now I wouldn’t have just *anyone* write  a blog post on my own very dear to my heart blog.  Oh no.  But this story was hilarious, and has a great message, and is TRUE.  It happened in my house while I was away doing work-type things in far off places, but I wish I could’ve been here to see it all go down.  So without further (verging on excessive, I know) ado, let me introduce my very own roomie, Louie, and his recounting  of this fine tale of inter-species partnership.

Author’s Note: YES I use capitol letters in some funny ways. Just imagine I am from the 1820′s.

A Man, a Cat, a Dog, a Rat.
Adventures in organic pest control.

“Lo in some cave long ago, there died a caveman who did not listen when his dog suggested they were all about to be eaten by a Giant Bear. We are NOT his descendants.”

It was Jessie that noticed first. She seemed sure that there was something interesting behind the china cabinet.

“hey!” says Jessie, “over here over here! something is interesting!” she said in fluent Dog. However, interesting for Jessie might be scraps – once stuffing – of some dearly departed stuffed toy. Plush Guts.

I glanced at the cats, especially Her Mu-Ness, Puffy the Slayer, the Murderous Muffin, Scourge and God of mice and voles and terror even unto the very squirrels.

Nothing. She said “Wuh, huh? Oh no, nothing about, not for days, the dog is daft.” Amazing what a cat can say with one open eye and a body loaded with cat comfort.

I saw nothing, the cats ears were not swiveling and the toy focused canine returned to her investigation of the underside of the china hutch.

“hey hey hey!” her eyes and face say.
Oh be still jessie be still.
*wiggle wiggle wag wag* “but but come see come see come see!”
hush, puppy.
*Yip* “I am Not Kidding”
oh alright, I’ll come look, remove the Object of Attention, peace will reign.

Except it wasn’t plush guts.

It was not a big rat as rats go, ordinary, not even old enough to have developed evil genius cunning. But a pretty professional rat just the same.

>Insert Classical symphonic scores here, Peter and the Wolf meets Night on Bald Mountain<

To get a better look I slid the china hutch a bit. The rat flipped me off and shot as though from rat-gun across the floor wall edge.

Lets clear the air a minute. I enjoyed The Secret of NIMH, Flushed Away and Ratatouille. But real rats (not the caged kind) are not cute, not funny, not “just trying to live their lives”. They do not live happily in Nature. They are devoted to eating what we have, living in our houses crapping and peeing on every thing they walk on or by. They have evolved to Live Off of Us. The bring us plague, Leptospira, Rat-Bite fever , Salmonellosis and several forms of Typhus. Fleas and intestinal parasites come with them as well. A pair of rats can produce enough offspring to fill your house in a mighty small spot of time. They are dangerous to your pets, your home and your self.  They will bite your baby and kill your chickens. Rat traps and rat poison are dangerous to use, and they have not yet come up with that better rat trap we all hear about.

>Sports announcer over the dramatic soundtrack<

“And Jessie moves to Intercept, she’s on it, No, Rat has backflipped to duck under the curtain edge. The Murderous Mu has exploded onto the field, and is in hot pursuit!”

>crowds cheer<

“Rat to the corner, pressure is on, Man to the left, Dog to the right, looks like.. NO! Rat has evaded behind the couch but that is not stopping our Miss Muffin Mu! Man and Dog are flanking the couch, Rat runs for it and slips past Jessie, narrowly missing the snap of teeth. Pressing from Jessie, troublesome shelving. Jessie looks like she wants the score for herself!”

“Yeah but Rat’s extreme maneuverability lets him scoot back to the couch, scuffling, fierce squeaking tell us that he has run into … The Power-Puff! But this Rat is not down! Spectacular Acro-Ratics – who thought that rats could fly! Rat Looks Rat-tled though, signs of intimate contact with the claws of Mu. Rat has found every spot the cats paw and dogs maw cannot reach.”

“The Man has gotten a Stick! The Man has gotten a Stick! Comments Jim?”

“Well the Man is clearly the underdog here, no offense Jessie, and a stick is a traditional tactic. He will probably use it to displace the opposition from those claw and snout proof positions. My guess is it may also be useful in the Terminal Moment. Rat is making a move! A bold attempt! Feint to the curtains, a mad dash for the china hutch! But man has beaten Rat to the Hutch and slides it out far enough for the Power team of Mu and Jessie to get right inside! the crowd (all 2 of them) is Going wild!”

“Jim, this classic grudge match was first fought about 5,000 BC. That was about the time Cats joined up. Till then, man and dog played against the rodent team without this specialized player.”

“Well times may have changed Bob, but these are tried and true plays, first developed in the early days of the game and OH Boy the break seems to be over! Looks like rat is fully cornered… MU moving up Jessie is on guard. Man and stick are closing in and..

Thats it! the 967 millionth Rat bowl is over!

>crowd of two cheering<

Our lives are covered with technology, much of it unseen and subtle, some of it overt and obvious. In spite of the recent invention of Laser mosquito killers, I feel we are far from replacing the exquisite intricacy and infinite flexibility of one of our oldest technologies, other species. In this advanced world, we would do well to remember that most of our problems are still best addressed with what millions and billions of years of biological adaptation can give us.

The three of us bonded during this adventure. When all was over and the offensive carcass removed, Miss Muffin Mu, Jessie the Bold and Your Author had the most satisfying mutual pet-rub-snuggle session. Man and Dog and Cat all in a happy pile of purring and wiggling and self congRATulations.

We humans did not get here alone. We had help. Man and Dog and Cat evolved together. In mutual support, we have come to a future where dog and cat can largely retire and enjoy being pets.
I am fine with that, they have paid their dues. Again.

Should Auld Acquaintance Be Forgot…

Well, there goes another year, internets. Another year of trials, tribulations, happiness and heartache, highs and lows and everything in between.

The highs of this year? Easy. Meeting and getting to know the most amazing community I’ve ever had the honor, luck and pleasure of being a part of. Thanks to the pdx tech community, I have new ideas, new activities, and most importantly, new friends and connections which enrich my life in ways I could never have imagined (*cough* igniteportland and 30hourday *cough*), and will continue to enrich my life in ways I can only dream. So whether or not I follow you on Twitter, friend you on Facebook, or we hook up on LinkedIn, I’m glad I met each and every last one of you.

But it’s not all about the pdx tech scene! There’s been old friends reuniting, new activities ventured, and new friends made in other areas of my life as well!

In reviewing my year, I decided to steal copy borrow an end-of-year blog post idea from my friend Rick Turoczy, the Silicon Florist, and see what my blog posts from the past year say about me (That Rick, he’s big on the word clouds, isn’t he?):

Wordle of words from the titles of my blog over the year 2009.

I see hope there, my friends.  Spring fires and hope.  And also vampires.

Have a safe and happy New Year.  May you find the courage to make your life what you want it to be.

No Sleep For The Wicked

See what being Internet Famous will get you?

Actually, see what being Internet Famous and not saying no will get you?

It gets you involved in amazing, fabulous, inspiring projects which suck all the sleep out of you.

Like this one.

Watch this spot.  No, this spot right here.  Right.  Here.

Video:

Streaming live video by Ustream

Chat:

Social:

I’ll be embedding the stream there for your viewing pleasure.  And if you tune in around 9:30am on Saturday, you’ll see me!  Yes, I’ll even be ON THE AIR.  Or the stream.  Whatever.  Followed by the variety show, which I’ll be running behind the scenes.  Only a fabulous charitable event such as this could get me in front of that many people and try to be funny.  And I will.  Try.  But please, I have a celebrity’s sensitive ego.  It squishes easily!  Because that’s what Internet Famous people do.  They have squishy egos.  Like a sponge, soaking up all the opinions about ME from everyone who of course is talking about ME.*

So, even though I’m permitted to sleep tonight (and really tomorrow night too, but don’t tell anyone)…I don’t think I’ll be able to.  Sometimes…it’s good to be wicked.  Famous.**

*You all do realize I’m joking, right?

**Just so you know, I don’t really think I’m famous.  Not in the least.  I know it might seem like I am, but I’m not.  Please, stop sending me money.  No really, you can stop.  Well ok, maybe after you send that last check.  THEN you can stop.  I mean it.

Internet Famous

Something fabulous happened last night, my dear internets. It was so strange and surreal and well… Here. Read.

I’m at the Bagdad Theatre last night, watching Word to the Wise(men), a festive storytelling event full of scantily clad elves, cupcakes and music. That in and of itself is fabulous, I know. Being at the Bagdad and not running an event is kinda strange for me now, but some friends of mine were represented in this effort in various ways, and I was being a fangirl supportive.

I see a friend of mine walking over with a few other people, so naturally I go over to say hello. Thats what you do in these social situations, acknowledge people you like, right? See I thought so. Anyway, my friend introduces me to the guy with him: “Morgan, this is AGuy.  AGuy, this is Morgan.”

AGuy (sorry, can’t remember his name, it takes me a minimum of 7 times before I can remember peoples names, seriously you don’t?) anyway, he says to me as he grips my hand Very Tightly (the same hand I nearly broke on Thanksgiving, ouchouchouch): “Morgan? Like as in morganpdx?” I nod affirmative, slightly bewildered. “Oh man I LOVE reading your blog! You’re so funny and awesome and amazing and I want to have your babies!!”. At least that’s what I think he said. That’s what I heard, anyway. Which means, of course, that I’M INTERNET FAMOUS!!! I’M A FUCKIN ROCK STAR!

Funny, my chauffer hasn’t arrived in my Morgan limo yet. You get one of those when you’re Internet Famous, right? And a personal chef and personal trainer? I expect the checks will start rolling in Any Day Now.

birth

yesterday was my birthday.

it was awesome.

i have more to say about that.  but not just right now.

i have the best friends.

and i am super lucky to have them.

if you have friends, and i hope you do…let them know they’re appreciated.

seriously.  do it.  you may not get another chance.  because tomorrow never knows.

In Defense of Dating.

Dating sucks.

No really, it does.  I know, I’ve been doing it a little over two years now.

It.  Sucks.  Ass.

Oh sure, you get to meet cool people.  Sure, there’s the prospect of that exciting first kiss, the quickening of breath, hearts racing and all that.  It still sucks, and I just don’t quite know why, or why I continue to do it.  I certainly don’t remember it being like this the last time I was single.  True, that was about 8 years ago, but still.  Maybe its the particular age group I’m dealing with now.  Maybe all the sane, stable, un-fucked up ones are taken.  Maybe I have old-fashioned ideas about dating.  Maybe I’m just looking in the wrong places.  Maybe “things are just done differently now”.  Whatever the case may be, I’m not Livin’ La Vida Loca, that’s for damn sure.  Dating seems to boil down to one thing: playing head games.

That is the one game that I really REALLY hate with a boiling passion am not fond of.

But what the hell.  Sign me up for that emotional roller coaster ride!  Yes, I ENJOY using my heart as a metal ball in the Dating Pinball machine.  If you’re not jaded and disillusioned, then you’re doin it wrong!  Hello, MultiBall!

Meh.  Meh, I say.

A friend of mine told me that relationships are overrated. That if hers ended, she’d just date and be single and happy for the rest of her life. She also told me she’s heard of lots of couples splitting up recently.

Well for her, and all the people thinking the grass is greener on the single side, here’s what I’ve learned after two years.  A few tips, you might say.  Or words of warning.  Take them how you will.

  1. Don’t show any interest in someone you’re interested in. That makes you “needy”. Maintain an air of mild disdain for human connection, or risk being seen as weak. The more you like them, the less you can show it.  And the less you show it, the more they want you.
  2. If you’re not dating at least 5 other people, you’re dangerous. Too available.
  3. However, if  someone informs you that they’re dating 15 other people, you *might* want to consider leaving.
  4. If you’re looking for more than a casual hookup, give up. Committed relationships apparently are no longer cool.  Whoa there partner…do you have FEELINGS about me?  Whoa, I’m not cool with FEELINGS, you know.  Now come over and let’s fuck.
  5. Unless the connection is instant and overwhelming, it’s not worth your time. Slowly getting to know someone? Who’s got time for that?
  6. People say in their ads/profiles that they’re ‘looking for friends, maybe more’. THEY ARE LYING.  If they don’t think you’re hot on first meeting, no matter how much you have in common or how much you hit it off, you’ll never hear from them again.
  7. Speaking of friends: There’s no such thing as going directly from dating to friends if you’ve had sex.  Saying that “We can be friends!” is a lie created to distract you from the fact that you’re being broken up with.
  8. You’ll want to learn the art of the passive aggressive text message.  Text is this generation’s sticky note on the bathroom mirror.
  9. Never, under any circumstances, friend people you’re dating on Facebook .  Or Twitter.  Or LinkedIn, Tumblr, or any of the other 3 billion social networking sites.  If by some dumb stroke of luck you actually *do* end up in a long term relationship with someone, then MAAAAYYBBEEE you can consider the digital hookup.  Until then, however, keep it off the internets.  It’s safer.  Think of it as a digital condom.  Let’s be safe out there, people.
  10. Realize that this is going to be a huge pain in the ass. Dating is like trying to organize a multilevel marketing scam but with the possibility of STDs and more booze.

But seriously, internets.  Dating just seems to bring out the ugly side of people, myself included.  I can’t tell you how many people have reached out to me on the various dating sites, and I take one look at the picture and delete the message with a shudder.  That makes me feel shallow and cruel - but I know what I’m looking for, and they have not met my standards. I’m sure I’d like those people.  I bet we’d be great friends.  I’m sure I have a lot I could learn from them; I believe that of most anyone.  But I don’t claim to be looking for friendship on these sites.  My mission is clear and focused.  Find people I’d like to date, and date them.  If we click a little, have fun.  If we click a lot, explore that potential.

Even more worrisome is that this casual hookup society I find myself in has truly shaken my faith in love.  I view it as a force , as a meta-force if you will; most forces can be described in terms of love or attraction.  I have faith in its inevitability, its power, its universal application.  But the fact that my experiences in the past two years are casting shreds of doubt in that faith shakes me down to my very core.  It scares me more than anything I’ve ever been scared of.  It threatens my foundations.

So think again before you throw in your towel and decide to become a hunter again .  It is not for the faint or the weak. As another friend of mine told me, encouraging me to just spend more time with my friends instead:  “Dating sucks!  We’re way more fun!”

“But Morgan!” you say.  “This post was called ‘In Defense of Dating’!  Not ‘Dating Sucks’!”

Yes, well.  I know, I sound a bit jaded and bitter.  I’m just doing a bit of dredging.  Believe me,  I still hold out hope, internets.  I’m a very hopeful type.  Perhaps one of you can convince me that there’s value in this twisted dance?  That there are people who don’t view relationships as a sport, to be won at any cost?

Here’s hopin’.

Thanks to my good friend Aaron, who brought his prodigious experience to bear on this topic, and to Michelle and her amazing Miracle in July for the Apture suggestion.  You both rock my world.