Monday, October 09, 2006

Oh yeah...

My new blog, now that I'm in Thailand, may be found here. Enjoy!

Sunday, July 23, 2006

The greatest thing ever...

My thesis is done! Now I may resume a life of alternating corporate slavery and semi-bankrupt travel. Yay!

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

I'm home!

And I'm going back to bed!

Monday, July 17, 2006

Paul sleepy...

But I'm coming home tomorrow (hopefully without my thesis tagging along).

Ye gods, I need a vacation.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

With but nine days to go...

I have 17,000 words written on my thesis, the weather is rainy and lovely, and the local social life has become an increasingly maudlin series of farewell parties for departing students. Perhaps two-thirds of the student body have departed, and the remainder are scrambling to wrap up theses. Good times!

Most of the students wrapped up their courses in early May and turned in their theses by the end of June. for these lucky souls, the graduation ceremony and subsequent nifty party were a real turning point. For those of us whose courses ended the week before graduation, and whose theses are due at the end of July, however, the long, anticlimactic month of July has become a bit the downer. Everybody's leaving, we're still slogging through the work, and Ciudad Colon and the University are becoming ghost towns. It's my turn soon enough...I handed in an incomplete draft yesterday, while belatedly realizing that this bloody thesis may be the most intellectually demanding thing I've ever done.

To celebrate my ongoing academic progress. I accomplished nothing of value today. I played videogames, watched Shaun of the Dead and Dodgeball. I earned it, dagnabit! I had four hours of one-on-one Spanish instruction every morning last week, and then slogged through my studies (in accursed English, no less!) in the afternoons and evenings. I spent my Saturday rearranging my incomprehensible 60-page opus into something marginally legible, and finally fired off the draft to my adviser at 1:30 AM this morning. (She leaves for Iraq on Tuesday, hence my rush). I realized as the clock passed midnight that my brain and body whad been grinding to an ugly halt all week... so today, I wasted the entire day! Yay! Totally worth it, too.

Okay, enough of this exceptionally dull post. Back to the grind tomorrow! More news on my return as it looms nearer.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

More importantly...

I graduate tomorrow!!!

Not graduate in the sense of actually finishing school, but graduate in the sense that they will fork over a blank sheet of paper simulating an actual diploma! You see, my program finished 6 weeks after everyone else's (just the way of things here) and our theses aren't done. Once that minor 23,000 word hurdle is vaulted, my time here will be complete and my academic career finally, thoroughly, irreversibly over (for now).

Ah, the thesis. I have but 8,000 words left to pen, and each comes slower than the last. But gradually daylight is beginning to creep over yonder hills... I'll be done soon enough. Anybody who actually wants to read the dang thing (80 pages on the evolutionary psychology of suicide terrorism! Joy!) is more than welcome to do so.

But wait- there's more! On Monday I'll start two weeks of intensive Spanish classes, wherein I'll attempt to achieve in 10 meager days what I should have focused squarely on for the last ten months - Spanish fluency. Wish me luck!

Still more! In less than three short weeks I'll make my triumphant return, having exchanged a year and thirty thousand dollars (not counting opportunity cost) for a piece of paper that will hopefully serve me well. I'll be back on July 19th... and starting work on the 20th, oddly enough. The same PR shop that helped fund this trip will thankfully be sponsoring my next one...

... to sunny Thailand! In mid-September, subsequent to Bree and Will's nuptials, I'll be departing for Chiang Mai,Northern Thailand, to begin a job teaching Burmese activists. Good times, and it'll do wonders for my development street cred! But I'll need a new blog name... any suggestions?

Ok, much to do, and graduation starts in 8 hours. Up next - pics! Joy!

In which I return to the world's most neglected blog...

Wow, it's been a while. I make no apologies, however: school's been sucking up my brain and little of particular interest has happened in the last three months other than a procession of classes of wildly varying quality. Watched a bunch of movies, went to a handful of birthday parties (including my own) and toiled away on my thesis. Not exactly the stuff bloggy dreams are made of.

Let's see... classes...

Understanding Terrorism: The name says it all. Taught by two profs: one for Islamic terrorism, and one for everything else. The "everything else" prof presented a pleasantly comprehensive picture of terrorism the world over, but the Islamist terror guru really shied away from answering my questions, preferring instead to give a general history of the Middle East from the days of Isaac and Ishmael. A minor disappointment.

Middle Eastern Studies: Pretty much what you'd expect, but taught by a trio of profs (Iraqi/American/French) with some impressive experience between them. All of them have been to Iraq lately - one even served there with the US military... just the kind of perspective you can't really get from the news. Well worthwhile.

Urban Violence: Utter drivel in which our prof explained in droning detail that there was some sort of a "Cold War" between so-called "Superpowers" during the latter half of the last century.

Conflict Resolution and Mediation: Downright nifty class on negotiation and makin' folks get along, by a visiting professor from Israel/Turkey. Good times - highly inventive, lots of different techniques covered, and oodles of video clips from the Emperor's New Groove. Should have done this at the beginning of the year.

More news to follow!

Thursday, April 06, 2006

I miss my dignity...

Yesterday was a very dignified day for me at school. In the midst of a discussion about the roots of Islamic terrorism, I attempted to turn my head and yawn quietly to myself – I was up too late the night before reading about things I no longer remember. Would that it had ended there.

In the middle of the yawn, without warning or choice, a great wrenching burp tore loose from somewhere deep inside my lungs, and forced itself out my throat. I had no option in the matter – my muscles were otherwise occupied with the yawn. I had a split second to think “Perhaps that only sounded loud in my head. Perhaps no one else in the class is even vaguely aware of my crudeness.

Then the student next to me slumped quietly in his seat, hiding his head. The lecture stopped, and all eyes latched onto me. The teacher, mid-word, swiveled to face me, asking “Was that what I think it was” while the rest of the class detonated into awkward laughter. I pleaded for clemency, tried to explain to everyone that this was a biological glitch, no more an act of rudeness or will than a heartbeat. Then I simply suggested that, as everyone had had their laughs, it was time to move on and salvage what we could from the smoking wreckage of the class.

Two hours later, some of my classmates were still laughing so hard they had to periodically flee the room and cackle in the hallway. This morning, my professor made three separate references to the incident in the first eight minutes of class. I’m fairly certain someone will make a speech about my burp at graduation.