Being as there are now over 900 entries here, I thought I'd make a tag index for the unlikely circumstance that someone other than myself might want to look for something here ;)
Unfortunately everything is going to be listed from most recent to oldest so if you start at the top it'll be "reverse order" -- I don't know how to fix this.
I'm sure there are entries that lack the proper tags. The travelogues at least are pretty well tagged I believe.
Introductions - I've introduced myself a few times, typically for LJ Idol, here's the ones that are correctly tagged.
LJ Idol - Nonfiction LJ Idol entries
America - Only a few of the most travelogue-like posts tagged, since I've lived most of my life there.
Brisvegas! (AKA Brisbane)
The Bundaberg Gulag
Life in and around Moorepark (outskirts of Bundaberg)
Birregurra - Life in and around my quaint little village
Science Fiction - I know there's more that could be here, it seems I haven't been using this tag diligently
LJ Idol Entries - Mostly fiction, a wide variety of topics. I think only about 75% of these entries are correctly tagged.
LJ Idol Season Indexes - used to be a thing I did, though I stopped doing it in later seasons because it was kind of tedious to put together.
The Coming Zombie Apocalypse - Continuing coverage of the coming zombie apocalypse
The Clone Series!
Podcast! - "Tales of a Wandering Beekeeper" -- travelogues from Africa.
And most important: www.beedev.org
Being as there are now over 900 entries here, I thought I'd make a tag index for the unlikely circumstance that someone other than myself might want to look for something here ;)
Just a short scene today. Recall that our protagonist has just arrived in Nigeria and spent the previous day in the capital, Abuja.
February 14th, 2012 – “There’s a dead man there in the road!” the driver exclaims in surprise.
“What, where?” Michael the Country Director peers into the crowd behind us, as do I. We’re driving from the airport into Ibadan city, and it’s already very different from Abuja. The road is lined with decrepit-looking cinderblock buildings, pedestrians throng the edges of the road and the dirt beside it, and frequently weave between the steady flow of cars to cross the road. I don’t see the body but Michael does, turning back tsking in disappointment, “Why do these people just leave it there?”
The flight from Abuja had only been forty minutes on a small plane. Seeing the outskirts of Abuja for the first time by daylight, during the drive and as we took off, I found the land outside the city to be a savanna of intermittent trees punctuated by almost Dr Suessian abrupt hills rising suddenly out of the flat land, no doubt more giant rock escarpments of which Aso and Zuma rock are particularly big examples. The flat lands are thoroughly peppered with little houses and small fields.
During the short flight they served us complimentary hot sandwiches and beverages, which I noted even multi hour flights in the United States no longer do. It seemed a perfectly safe flight at the time, though the fact that one of three such aircraft operated by that small airline crashed a month later into the “Mountain of Fire” church with the loss of all aboard leaves me feeling I’ve come closer than I ever wanted to to a plane crash.
Presently, over a rise, the city spreads before us, an endless sea of rust-red roofs draped over uneven terrain. The vehicular traffic gets thick and viscous, as do the crowds of pedestrians flowing around and amongst the cars. Many aren’t afraid to stare upon noticing me in the car, which makes me feel a bit self-conscious, and among the babble of voices I can hear even through the windows, “oyinbo!” can occasionally be heard. Nigeria, the most populous country in Africa, has half the population the United States does, all crammed into a land the size of Texas, and sometimes it really feels crowded.
“Goll!” Doug exclaims over the phone that evening, “Blessing’s driving! I’m scared for my life!” I too had noticed driving seems to be a wild adventure here, though Blessing hadn’t seemed to me to be particularly worse than anyone else.
The reference to the later plane crash might be moved elsewhere. I thought about wriitng about the hotel check in because once again they showed me all the lightswitches, turned on the tv, and set the AC to blast, but altogether it seemed too mundane and similar to the previous hotel check in only a few pages earlier.
In other other news, in real life yesterday we had an earthquake! Here! In Australia. All my coworkers attested to not figuring out what was going on until after it was over, even though two were in the warehouse where tall shelving swayed alarmingly. Being from California I stopped what I was doing the moment it started and was like an earthquake? no it can't be??. I looked around for hanging lamps or other items that might be swinging, but there were none in the vicinity. A nearby coworker was workign away as if nothing was happening, so I was just starting to wonder if maybe I'd just had a random feeling of vertigo when the coworker asked me why water was spurting out of a hole in a water-tank, that must have been just above the waterline. Finally I had my proof that it was an actual earthquake! How exciting!
It was apparently 5.9 on the richter scale, and just about 200 km away from me, I'm really surprised by how strongly it could be felt at such distance.
And now, Abuja by daylight!
Day 2 - Abuja
February 14th, 2012 – The next morning, I’m in the hotel lobby reading the newspaper (“Director of Information Ministry Shot at Government House”) when an elderly Caucasian man coming from the stairs greets me in a midwestern accent.
“Hi! Are you Kris?”
“Yes, you must be Doug” I say, extending my hand. He is a lean fellow who looks to be in about his mid sixties, with mischievous laughing eyes and white hair sticking out from under his fluorescent yellow baseball cap.
“Hey we have some time before Blessing is picking us up, want to check out the local market with me?” he proposes. I look anxiously out the gates of the hotel, where an armed guard is in the process of using a mirror to check underneath a car for bombs. Out there? I remember all the stories of violence, the police don’t go out at night because they’re not safe. I look at his ensemble, a subdued hawaiian shirt, cargo shorts, and sandals with socks. My self identity definitely does not include being less brave than someone who wears socks with sandals.
“Okay yeah, let's go” steeling myself, I put down the newspaper.
The streets are broad, with only light traffic. Locals walk past us in a purposeful manner without a second look. Some wear business suits, some wear patterned traditional outfits with colorful brimless hats. As we walk down a block of three story buildings full of shops and little restaurants, Doug cheerfully tells me about his recent adventures in Ethiopia. He had ridden camels through sand storms in the Afar badlands to visit salt flats, sulphur springs and remote volcanoes. I feel envious and inspired, I want to do things like this, but how does one do that?
“Is that.. safe?” I ask, addressing my first concern.
“Oh, yeah,” he cheerfully answers, “a tourist was killed last month and they wanted to make sure it didn't happen again, so the army was out with kalashnikovs.”
“How do you even arrange that?” I ask.
“Oh, I don't know, it just kind of fell into place.”
We arrive at a smallish grocery store, and go inside. I had been expecting something more exotic, big baskets of colorful spices and piles of strange fruits, because, again, that’s all that’s ever shown on TV as an “African market,” and what I had seen in a previous trip to Egypt at the famous Khan El Khalili bazaar; instead I find a fairly typical grocery store of orderly straight aisles stocked with packaged foods. We make our way to the aisle of glass jars of jam, jelly and honey.
“Ah here's the honey... let's see... product of Texas!” Doug rolls his eyes.
During the drive to the Organization’s headquarters I see more of the city in the daylight for the first time, the streets are broad with only light traffic, bordered by tree-lined sidewalks, and yet it’s also distinctly different from a typical American city. For one thing, where most commercial buildings in American cities follow a basic and unimaginative boxy design, save for the occasional postmodernist library or corporate headquarters building, nearly every building in Abuja seems to have been custom designed as if a plain box shape is simply unacceptable. Simple rotundas, stepped entrances and distinct building wings break up building shapes in an elegant manner. I finally see some semblance of a hut -- a restaurant with a stylized large conical thatched roof, more a fancy design conceit than building expediency. From many places in the city one can see a huge rock rising 1200 feet out of the center of the city.
“That’s Aso Rock” Blessing points to it. “You see that building on top, that’s the president’s house.” While Doug and I are oohing-and-awing at it he continues “there’s actually an even bigger rock just outside of town, called Zuma Rock, it’s also on the 100 naira note.”
We drive through intersections with traffic signals that aren’t on, cars just weaving through the cross traffic as best they can.
Arriving at the Organization’s compound, Blessing noses up to the solid iron gate and gives the horn a quick toot, a boy of about 15 pops his head up in the window of a little kiosk-sized guardhouse built into the wall beside the gate, and then disappears to appear a moment later pushing open the gate and then closing it behind us. There’s a dirt parking area with a few land-cruisers and a two story building with a few sets of stairs leading to different entrances, evidently other organizations or companies.
The Organization’s Nigeria field office is just a small cluster of three or four offices and a conference room. Though its international headquarters is in Little Rock, Arkansas, all their field staff are locals of the countries in which they operate. In addition to the driver Blessing; we meet the accountant, a skinny young man; the secretary, a quiet young woman; John, a “Program Associate” who accompanies volunteers out into the field, a charismatic young man around my own age; and Mike the country director. Mike is a kindly middle-aged fellow, who worked for the World Bank before working for the Organization. While we’re talking to him he gets a notification on his phone and suddenly looks very troubled. After a moment he tells us
“A bomb just went off in Kaduna, which is just north of here. My family is in Kaduna.” After a moment he gets another notification and informs us “my family is okay” but he still seems a bit shaken. We’re told the plan is that John will accompany Doug to his project, but as to me, Mike will accompany me on a short in-country flight to the city of Ibadan and leave me there in the hands of a local partner organization.
26 Hours later in Ibadan, I would see Mike looking a lot more troubled after getting off his phone -- “There’s been an incident with Doug’s team”
I must admit, while the rest is undeniably true, I can't say I remember with absolute certainty that Doug was wearing socks with his sandals and am vaguely afraid that if I write that he was I'll be slandering him with such a salacious imprecation. :X
As with everything else, please let me know if anything here just isn't working for you and/or if the entire thing is getting off track or any such!
Alright this next scene of the memoir is a bit different. I intend for it to be in a slightly different font, I don't know if this livejournal supports the "android sans" font but in my word document I'm using it for this section becaues I can put it all in italics in that font and it doesn't seem too tedious to read. Anyway, more discussion afterwords:
They say that mefloquine, which I was taking to prevent malaria, can cause vivid dreams, so let us in dreamland journey through quininated delirium to the proud Hausa kingdom of Zazzau in 1804. Zazzau Town is a collection of mud-brick buildings surrounded by a defensive wall in the hot savanna just south of the Sahara, we watch camel caravans come in from across the great deserts. 200 years earlier the legendary warrior queen Amina had led Zazzau to greatness, but now its leaders stand on the wall and eye the dusty horizons in fear, for another power has risen up in the expanses of the sahel -- the nomadic herders, wanderers and raiders, the Fulani, are now the ones to be united under a powerful leader, and they have formed the Sokoto Caliphate, conquering everything in their path and selling their captives into slavery. Indeed Sokoto has at this time the second largest number of slaves in the world, second only to that new empire across the seas to which captives are taken on wooden boats never to be seen again. It is whispered that the oyinbos, the “peeled skin people” actually eat the slaves they buy -- how else could you explain why they take away an endless stream with never a one to ever be heard from again?
And so when King Muhammed Makau sees the dust of the armies of the Fulani Jihad he gathers up his people and they flee south to safety. Over the next 24 years this process repeats itself over and over again, as the Sokoto Caliphate expands and the weary refugees of Zazzau again move further south. Finally it is 1828 and the current king, Abu Ja (Abu the Red) finds himself gazing up at a massive rock, steep and grey like a sitting elephant, rising nearly a thousand feet above the surrounding forests. The local Gbagyi people have themselves fled the Zazzau Hausa, scrambling up secret paths to unassailable refuge atop the rock.
In this fever dream, we find King Abu Ja to be the security guard I saw before going to bed, and, lo, I find myself his right-hand-man, his otunba. He is wearing not the avocado green uniform but flowing robes and sitting atop his rosey-brown head like a pristine white cake, a turban wound tightly into a circle with flat sides and top. We peer up at the tiny figures just visible on top of the enormous rock. A stone comes hurtling down from above and clatters among the rocks, Abu Ja in a dignified manner walks back a bit to stand under a nearby mango tree.
“Your majesty, we can’t climb the rock, they’re completely unassailable up there” I tell him.
“A completely unassailable position?” he smiles “now that’s what I think we’ve been looking for.”
And so a peaceful conclusion is negotiated with the locals, and Abu Ja founds his city there, just west of Zuma Rock, and it came to be known as Abuja. His people settled with the Gbagyi people, and the Sokoto Caliphate expanded around them but did not conquer them.
In 1902 a military force of a thousand men in British Khaki and pith helmets arrived in Abuja, led by white men with bristley mustaches proudly sitting atop their horses. Some Abujan warriors had rifles, but every member of this force had a modern gun, plus several huge weapons carried in carts, resistance clearly was suicide. Plus this force, it was explained, was on its way to defeat the Sokoto Caliphate, so the leaders readily agreed they recognized British sovereignty, whatever that means. At the Battle of Kano the British force unpacked their big guns, field howitzers which reduced the walls of the Sokotan fort, and maxim machine guns that unleashed a chattering death that felled the Sokotan cavalry as they charged. The sovereignty of the British “Northern Nigeria Protectorate” was now uncontested.
Nigeria declared independence from the UK in 1960 and in 1975 it was decided to move the capital from Lagos in the far south-west corner of the country to somewhere in the middle, like, say, Abuja. The new federal planned city was laid out in rural land east of Zuma Rock and the previously existing city, displacing local Gbagyi people living in the area. The current city of Abuja therefore rises up only recently as a modern planned city.
Soo, how do you think that worked? Ii really wanted to get the history of the places in, becaues I feel like most Westerners tend to think Africa was just a jumble of huts before colonization and I want to put our current time clearly in context of no there was as much history here as anywhere else. Yes this section adopts a second-person not found elsewhere in the piece, which is part of my trying to make the "mefliquinated fever dream sequence" bits clearly different, but if you loathe and despise the second person usage please let me know. In general I'm really particularly interested in how you think this is working?
Once again here is the more or less first draft of my travel memoir, any feedback is much appreciated. This is the second scene of the second chapter (or you could consider it a continuation of the first scene, they're not very seperated).
In the warm humid darkness just outside the terminal, there’s a rich scent of plant life in the air, as if one’s stuck one’s nose into a hedge. From the moment I grab my bag from the luggage conveyor, porters begin weedling me to employ them to carry it, but aside from it being easy enough for me to carry myself I have no local currency to pay them with, so the importuning makes me feel set upon and increasingly anxious as I desperately look for my contact. As usual just outside the baggage claim there’s a crowd of people with signs or hawking taxi or hotel services. I scan the crowd trying not to encouragingly make eyecontact with any of the service hawkers and add them to my porters. Ah but there’s a man with a sign with my name no it. The man holding it is stocky, with a hairless head, and might have looked tough if he’d stop grinning for a moment. He extends a hand with a gold-looking watch hanging loosely from the wrist.
“Hi, I’m Blessing, I’m the driver” He says cheerfully in a thick Nigerian accent. I grasp his hand like a lifeline -- henceforth I should be in the Organization’s capable hands. If I had known 48 hours later he’d be under arrest for a potential murder charge I probably would have been a lot more uneasy. The porters melt away as we walk a short distance across the parking lot to the white landcruiser. I try to stare into the empty darkness around the airport, are there giraffes out there? Elephants? Zebras?
Soon we’re out of the airport and zipping along a broad divided highway. It seems about three lanes wide per side though there are no lane markers, and though it appears to be a freeway, there are occasional speed bumps. The Abuja airport, it turns out, is about half an hour out of town. Peering out into the darkness in hopes of seeing zebras or maybe some quaint huts, I see only the occasional blocky modern building, and a crashed car left on the side of the road … and a mile or two later another one … and another...
“The tow trucks won’t come out at night” Blessing explains, after noticing my head swiveling to watch each wreck go by, “because it’s not safe at night. So crashed cars remain till morning.” I wondered if the same goes for ambulances.
A pair of headlights approaches on our side of the median. Surely I’m not seeing this right. Blessing steers us to the far left of the laneless roadway as a car zipps past on the right side, clearly going the wrong direction on our side of the median.
Instead of commenting on this Blessing says.
“There is another American beekeeping volunteer here”
“Yes, his name is Doug. He just came from Ethiopia, he is a very interesting man”
“Oh, I hope I will meet him.”
“He is at the hotel where you are staying, you will surely meet him tomorrow.”
Another oncoming car hurdles past.
“Umm,” I say, raising a finger questioningly.
“They wouldn't do that during the day, they would be arrested,” Blessing chuckles, “but there's no police at night. Probably they want to get somewhere on this side of the highway and rather than drive to the next break in the median they take an earlier one and drive down this side,” he explains in his heavily accented English.
Presently we are driving in the city of Abuja, and from what I can tell it looks indistinguishable from an American town -- parking lots and multi story buildings and illuminated billboards, though none of the traffic signals seem to be operational. All my life African cities have always been portrayed in one of two ways on TV: miserable overcrowded shanty towns in the news and movies, and, in national geographic, full of quaint huts. Had I just traveled halfway around the world for a thoroughly mundane experience?
Arriving at the hotel, uniformed guards with AK-47 machine guns casually slung over their shoulders use a mirror on a pole to look under the car for bombs and look in our trunk before lifting the boomgate and allowing us to proceed to the hotel entrance.
“I’ll be back at 9am to take you to the office” he says as I get out and thank him.
“The police don’t go out at night, you probably shouldn’t either.” he adds as a warning before smiling and bidding me goodnight.
Having only ever stayed in budget hotels before, I marvel at the broad glamorous hotel lobby. The porter takes me up the broad stairs, there’s a uniformed guard on the 2nd floor landing and another at the 3rd. He’s a young man with a friendly face, in a solid avocado green uniform, and he nods to me as I pass.
The porter shows me to a room that is huge and luxurious compared to the Motel 6es I am accustomed to. A white mosquito net hangs like a veil around the bed. The porter sets the AC to blasting and turns on the TV before leaving me. I hurry to turn down the AC before freezing to death, and then spend a few minutes trying to figure out how to turn off the TV. Exhausted from the 27 hour journey, I climb under the mosquito veil and am soon asleep.
As you can see in this scene and yesterday's I'm trying hard to introduce my feelings about it all as a plot arc themselves, so it's not just a recounting of what happened in Nigeria.
Now I will begin with Chapter 2: Nigeria, of the travel memoir I'm working on. Unlike Chapter 1 which has been through numerous drafts already and I'm pretty happy with the general shape of, this chapter is all still basically an early draft and I'm not sure about the pacing and shape of the whole thing ... in fact as of this writing the end of it isn't even written yet. Anyway, here's the first scene:
Day 1 - Arrival
February 13th, 2012 – It had been a clear sunny morning in Los Angeles, 15 hours later it’s a dim and snowy winter morning in Amsterdam. Out the terminal windows, big snowflakes drift down like falling feathers, and an inch of snow like white frosting covers the tops of the boarding bridges. Arriving at the gate for my flight to Nigeria I find that nearly all the passengers are clearly Nigerian -- mostly men in business suits with multi-colored brimless hats, but some serious looking women, or families in matching patterned clothes. I feel suddenly self-conscious, very obviously unlike everyone else. There are a handful of young white guys in suits sitting loungingly together in the front row, laughing loudly about whatever they’re talking about. Oil industry folks I suspect, from the look of them and what I know of the Nigerian economy. The way they associate only with each other and laugh like they are kings of the world, I find myself hoping I will never be like them, and sit by myself in the back of the seating area for the six hour layover.
I had previously been mainly preoccupied with just getting there but now that I am almost there, already surrounded by Nigerians, a new concern begins to settle in in the back of my mind -- who am I to come here and teach anyone anything? I’ve been a professional beekeeper just most of five years. Will I be able to contribute enough knowledge to justify the USAID Farmer-to-Farmer program funding which is sending me to Nigeria? Will I even justify the Nigerian farmers taking time out of their busy farming to attend my training, or will everyone loathe me for wasting their time?
A six hour flight takes me south to the squarish Texas-sized country of Nigeria tucked in under the Western bulge of Africa. I don’t have a window seat but for a lot of the flight we’re skimming high over the endless expanse of the Sahara desert, which extends into northern Nigeria. Somewhere to the south would be tropical jungles but what does Nigeria itself look like? I look forward to finding out.
By the time we smoothly roll to a stop on the runway in Abuja in the middle of Nigeria, heavy darkness hangs beyond the sepiatone lights of the tarmac, so I can’t yet sate my curiosity -- Nigeria is a set with the curtains still drawn. Stepping out of the plane onto the jetway bridge. the steamy tropical heat immediately hits me. Ninety fahrenheit at 9pm. Was I really watching snow six hours earlier?
We passengers descend the escalator into the passport hall. We pass a framed photograph of Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathon, smiling cheerily under a fedora, and the green-white-green Nigerian flag, and then a big Nigerian coat of arms on the wall: two white horses supporting a black shield with a white Y shape on it, representing the great rivers Niger and Benue which combine in Nigeria, and also, perhaps, the three major ethnic groups of Nigeria, the Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba. Next, there is a big sign, again patriotically in green-and-white, with the picture of a decidedly scrofulous looking character, and the words “BEWARE OF INTERNET FRAUDSTERS” emblazoned across the top. It contains some fraud avoidance advice and the logo of the “Economic & Financial Crimes Commission” and finally the rather unsettling motto “EFCC will get you … anywhere … any time!”
Welcome to Nigeria!
Someone wise like Paul Theroux once said to never inclued the flight to a place as it's boring nad no one wants to read that. I think of that advice every time I flagrantly disregard it ;D
Yikes no comments at all on the last post. Everyone loathes me! ::wails::
I may have to redo my research on best times to post. I'd done a substantial amount of number crunching a few years ago and I deeply regert having lost my spreadsheet in the ensuing computer crashes. Friday mornings (US) were supposed to be good like all weekday mornings. Weekends are generally bad but there's a window in the US Saturday morning that's good that I hope this will land in.
Anyway, this is the last piece of the first chapter. What I post here will overlap by one line with the previous.
At sea at night the sky is an endless canopy of twinkling stars, the broad brighter streak of the milky way clearly visible. As the hours go by the four of us on watch take turns at the wheel or stand quietly beside it gazing out into the darkness. Our watch is led by Pony, the bosun, a stolid fellow with his straw-blonde hair held back in a bun and his cheeks ruddy in the cold. The fourth member of our watch has stayed up all night helping the previous watch and is now all but useless. An amber glow ahead marking San Francisco slowly grows and the sky gradually lightens until they merge in the grey pre-dawn as the Golden Gate comes into sight.
Captain Larsen is standing behind us again, Pony looks small beside him. On a stormy passage the captain never truly sleeps, appearing silently as a ghost at your shoulder, eyeing the sails, sniffing the wind, perhaps quietly ordering a subtle course change, and vanishing again just as mysteriously.
“Can you brace the sails around to run in under the bridge please?” he tells us, blowing on his hands in the cold.
We haul on the lines to rotate the squares and keep them in line with the southerly wind as the captain, who has taken the wheel, turns the ship in towards the Gate. As we approach, across the bay the horizon smoulders with the pinks and oranges of sunrise and above us the sails glow a rosy hue. The first sliver of the effulgent gold of the sun peaks above the Berkeley hills across the bay as we cross under the lofty bridge. To our right the skyscrapers of San Francisco sparkle like diamonds in the reflected sunrise. The small and distinct silhouette of Alcatraz lays just ahead enwrapped in wisps of morning mist, we turn away to head north into Sausalito bay.
The 8-12 watch has been roused an hour early to assist with putting the boat to bed.
“Hands aloft to furl” the Captain instructs us conversationally. I shed my peacoat as I bound toward the rigging and scurry to the top of the mast at a running pace. My heart pounds from the climb but I rejoice in the feeling of swinging through 20 degrees of arc in the fresh morning sky with the rocking of the ship. It’s like the freedom of flying, I can move freely up here in every dimension. They say the top of the mast is “the closest to heaven a sailor will ever get.” To our left the Marin Headlands glow orange in the morning light and to our right the broad hump of Angel Island, famous immigration station, still sleeps in shadow. Crewmates down below on the foredeck, looking small like mice, release the windlass break and the anchor plunges into the sea with a splash.
Back on deck, the Eos riding happily at anchor and the lines all coiled down, I take out my phone and see I have a new email.
“Hi Kris, the project is to go ahead, we have a flight for you tomorrow morning at 8:45 from LAX, are you able to make that?”
I excitedly do some quick searching on my phone, yes I can catch a morning train back south and easily make it.
Soon I’m climbing down fair Eos’s side into the ship’s small dinghy with my seabag. I carefully seat myself in front of Pony in the precarious little craft, just level with the green water lapping against the ship’s waterline “devil seam.” I look up at the entryport as Pony casts us off. Tarragon is standing there with the wind blowing her long tresses, looking like an island princess. She grins, and her large brown eyes sparkle, she saltily says
“Now don’t you get killed in Nigeria”
As Pony guns the outboard motor and we speed toward the empty Sausalito dock a sea shanty plays in my head:
I’m off on the morning train,
And won’t be back again,
For I’m taking a trip on a government ship,
Ten thousand miles away…
So there you go. Do you think it's an alright first chapter? Does it adequately make you interested in what will happen to the protagonist and inclined to keep reading?
I was thinking of titling the whole first chapter "Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea," which is why there's that reference to the devil seam which seems unnecessary without that being the chapter title. As with many things I attempt, it might all be too obscure a reference -- it's an established sailorly phrase meaning basically "between a rock and a hard place" but I'm not sure it would mean anything to most people.
I renamed the ship from it's actual "Hawaiian Chieftain" to Eos which seemed kind of short of a ship name but I couldn't think of an adjective I liked paired with it. I chose Eos specifically because she's the Greek goddess of the dawn which I really felt worked with how I intended to use the ship in the story. I'm actually trying _not_ to be too dedicated to recounting things exactly as they happened, for example in real life we arrived in the San Francisco Bay at around 2am. Things are still going to be generally how they happened but some tinkering will be done for narrative purposes.
Monday I'll start with Chapter II (:
Thanks again everyone who's been following along and giving me feedback about this first chapter of my travel memoir thing. There's one more scene in this first chapter, here's half of it and the second half I'll post tomorrow (:
This scene takes place almost exactly a year after the prior one, as one reading in a less disjointed manner would discern from the date stamps
February 13th 2012, 03:00am -- The ship heaves and creaks, bucks and groans around us. In the narrow ship’s-bunk, Tarragon and I lie wrapped in each other’s arms, unconsciously securing each other against the ship’s frequent approaches to zero gravity while cresting waves. Her long obsidian hair swirls around me, her soft Hawaiian nose nestles against my cheek, her breathing the even rhythmic ebb and flow of sleep. Red light streams into our bunk from the gap above a taut curtain secured tightly at the base and drawn upward to prevent occupants being flung out of the bunk by the boat’s capers.
There’s a heavy rumbling noise of something rolling across the deck above, and shouts. Normally I can sleep right through any storm but the feeling the call for “all hands” will sound any minute keeps me on edge.
As I lie there, it has been almost exactly a year since the DUI. A long depressing year of having to explain to everyone why I wasn’t doing the Peace Corps after all, and of not having a driving license for three months, and of spending three hours a week in a mandatory alcoholism class designed to convince me I was an alcoholic. But things are finally looking up.
My boss had been very supportive, pairing me with coworkers so I could keep working. It was hardly necessary to send two of us to collect an unwanted swarm of bees or to make the long drive to our beehives in the foothills, but my coworkers probably enjoyed the break from sticking their arms into walls full of bees -- seeing the other side, what happens to the bees once they’ve removed them. One by one during the long drives they each opened up to me their own DUI story. I was surprised they almost all had one -- people don’t generally volunteer their DUI stories and I certainly felt like burying my own shameful story as well. I looked forward to putting its inconveniences behind me and never mentioning it again, the world need never know it happened. I learned, as well, that I was the only one at the company who hadn’t called our boss from jail.
I had read about beekeeping projects conducted in exciting exotic locations, African jungles, Asian rainforests, Caribbean islands and the steppes of Central Asia. I wasn’t sure I had the expertise for this, having only been a professional beekeeper for most of five years, but it was worth a shot, and I applied to the non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that put on these projects. I heard no response, months went by.
And then, when I’d nearly forgotten about it, one of the organizations emailed me, would I like to do a two week project in Nigeria? Yes! They phone interviewed me and asked many questions to gauge my level of expertise, and planning for the project got underway … until a fiery explosion blew a hole in my plans.
The Boko Haram terrorist group in Nigeria exploded a car bomb outside a church, and then another at a school. They were said to be targeting “hotels Westerners frequent.” Religious fanatics gunned down crowds with kalashnikovs. “We cannot in good conscience send you just now” the Organization informed me.
I had already escaped the bee cave, and Tarragon was working back on the ship on which we’d met, the brigantine Eos, which was about to sail from Orange County up to San Francisco, so I had hopped aboard.
“Psst, Bees and Tars, are you awake?” a crewmember asks from the other side of the curtain
“What’s your favorite sail?” a more complex question to ensure I’m actually awake
“Uh, starboard stunsail?”
“Good, you and Tars are on watch in 15 minutes”
We roll out of the bunk into the red glow of the bunk room. Red light won’t ruin your night vision when you go on deck, but always makes me feel like I’m in a submarine. Tasks as simple as getting dressed are a slight challenge with the veering gravity. I pull my grandfather’s peacoat on over a traditional dark blue wool sweater while clinging to the edge of the bunk. Tars is more reasonable than I, and puts on modern gear with fluorescent patterns and reflective patches. If she were to fall overboard in the night there’d be a chance she would be rescued, if I were to fall overboard in my gear I’d be swallowed forever into the dark roiling void of sea we can hear gurgling just beyond a few inches of wood bulkhead.
Cha-chunk, cha-chunk, we pull the heavy levers to open the solid watertight doors and close them behind us, and climb the ladder to deck. The steamy warmth of belowdecks instantly gives way to the brisk coolness of night, a strong breeze and a soft salt spray on the cheeks. Above us the broad square sails that make the ship look like a “pirate ship” quietly strain and the rigging creaks. At sea at night the sky is an endless canopy of twinkling stars, the broad brighter streak of the milky way clearly visible. We are relatively galloping along at 11.25 knots under a light gale, the deck under our feet rhythmically rising in strong smooth lunges, followed by the seeming reversal of gravity on the descent, punctuated by the whispered crash of waves against the bow.
I quite rather feel there's a lot of exposition in this part but hey it's not the purpose of this project to wallow unduly long in 2011
Also interesting from an intrespection point of view is the fact that they did not actually call me bees, I actually in real life would quite avoid being called such a thing (I'm more than just a collection of bees!), but for the convenience of this narrative I decided to go with it.
Anyway, how do you feel about the ship name Eos, it's not too short is it?
Continuing to the third scene of the memoir I've been working on and posting here. Full first chapter can be found here.
I'm going to do away with the blockquote because it takes over the formatting, and generally puts the whole quote in italics which is not ideal since italics are slightly more tedious to read. So instead I'll put the part that's not part of the manuscript in italics! (:
Thanks again for your feedback thus far it's very encouraging (:
Monday, February 14th, 2011, ~ 10am --The morning sun streams into our cramped office. If it weren’t for the AC, which we can hear as a steady hum, the office would soon be stifling. I sit at the computer near the front windows, the one with a “don’t panic” fortune cookie slip taped to the monitor. I’m trying to update a page on the website about the absconding behavior of honeybees, but it’s hard to concentrate while awaiting a phone call that will radically determine my life for the next two years and beyond. At the middle desk Jeremy, one of our bee removal technicians, is idling away on the internet and in the far corner Amy, our tattoo-covered office manager, is working on her computer. There’s one other vacant chair against the wall by the front door. On the wall behind that chair there’s a whiteboard on which our boss had written “sweep/mop daily” but I had changed it to read “weep/mope daily,” and it’s remained this way for weeks.
My cell phone rings.
“This is Kris” I answer
“Hi this is Jim from the Peace Corps do you have a minute?”
“Yes ...yes” I answer as I get up and look for somewhere to go. I glance outside but there’s people out there, I know no one’s in the back so I dodge between the crowded desks to the door in the back leading into the garage. My coworkers know I’ve been expecting this call and glance up hopefully and scoot in to help me pass. The garage is dark, cold and cavernous, the bee removal trucks being out for the day.
“So they’ve discussed your case and … they are withdrawing your candidacy” the dark void around me seems to close in.
“What? Can I appeal?” I ask desperately
“The decision is final I’m sorry”
“But I’m not even charged with anything yet! I was only arrested and I’ve never had a legal or alcohol related problem before!” I try to argue, even though it’s clear I’m only talking to a messenger, not a decision maker.
“I’m sorry, that’s the decision,” he reiterates uncomfortably.
I numbly finish the call. I had been slated to ship out to tropical West Africa in two months. I look around the barren garage, no longer do I see in my near future quaint huts steaming in the morning sun,, cheerful greetings of beautifully dressed villagers, the silent blue flashes of lightning in the dark African sky; no, they crumble from my imagination and I just see my surroundings, a concrete floor, dingy walls, dusty equipment. Faintly there’s the muffled roar of the 15 lane freeway a block away.
I stumble from the icey garage back into the stuffy office. Jeremy and Amy look up hopefully and then look away in embarrassment after seeing my devastated face. I thread between the desks and plop down in the spare chair by the door with my head in my hands. The sun blazes through the window. Soon tears are streaming down my face.
“I’m never getting out of here!” I exclaim “I’m going to be stuck here forever!!” I’m vaguely aware it might hurt my coworkers feelings to hear my despair at being stuck with them but I’m well beyond caring at the moment if they see my tears or hear my lamentations.
I definitely have an actual picture of the "weep and mope daily" on the whiteboard I wanted to post here but I can't seem to find it.
Continuing the memoir, here is the second half of the second scene, in which our protagonist finds himself in jail.
The hours hang in eternity. There is no clock. Two of my cellmates said they had consumed entire bottles of liquor before driving that night. At 28, I am one of the oldest in the cell. A young African-American lad of about 18 who oozes cool is regaling us how he lost his virginity at 10 to his 15 year old babysitter, a general moral discussion ensues.
What will a DUI do to my life? Will the Peace Corps drop me? An officer brings us baloney sandwiches, the bread is dry and stale, they’re barely palatable.
I manage to sleep for a few hours, despite having no blanket or pillow on a concrete bench. Sleeping anywhere is my superpower.
With no clock it’s hard to judge the time, but we think morning is approaching. One of the younger guys --he looks about 16, and swears he’s innocent of attempting to steal a car, no one believes him-- gives us a running update of what television programs he believes are on at any given moment. He’s a living TV Guide. We all take a turn yelling at him to shut the hell up but he won’t. My cellmates are optimistic we’ll be released at some point mid morning because this is what they “usually” do.
The guards’ shift seems to have changed, they seem fresher as they stroll past the corridor outside. I wonder if anyone has missed me outside yet. My girlfriend would certainly have wondered why I never called her back. I’m probably late for work by now. The previous year I had taken a 7 month break from the bee mines to work on a traditionally-rigged (i.e. looks like a pirate ship) sailing vessel, the brigantine Eos, and I had promised to meet with my old captain this morning and show him beekeeping. Slowly the certainty that I’ve missed that appointment grows. I’ve managed to simultaneously shame myself before both my current and former bosses. I picture Captain Larsen with his fiery red beard kicking his tires in frustration after having driven up from San Diego, and cursing me under his breath.
Mr TV Guide is reporting on mid-morning programs, cellmates are all awake again, they don’t seem terribly concerned, for many this hasn’t been their first DUI.
Terrible baloney sandwiches come again. Does this mark lunch? Will I lose my license? Will I have to report this on future job applications? Will this torpedo my idea to maybe go to law school?
Finally, after ages, a guard swings open the door and announces “alright line up, time to go!”
“About time!” cracks the one cellmate older than me
“Oh yeah? would you like to stay longer?” asks the officer, pushing him back into the cell and closing the door on him after the rest of us are out and lined up on a yellow line on the floor. We’re led down a few corridors and line up to receive a plastic bag full of our things through a slot in a window. I receive mine, with my wallet, keys, cellphone and severed turks-head. It’s 2pm.
My parents don’t answer the phone, next I try work
“Heeey this is Kris, um, could one of you pick me up from the OC Central Jail?” I ask my coworker Jeremy. He laughs and says yes.
Two sailing ships have now been mentioned, I rather feel I probably ought to role them into one.
There's some internal monologue lines which should be in italics but depending on how your account is set up to render blockquotes the whole blockquote might be in italics which might make it a bit unclear what is internal monologue other than by context.
As always feedback is appreciated. (: