09 July 2008


I present you with one of the proudest moments of my life:

Yes, that is a couch floating royally on the Charles. What a magnificent way to watch the fireworks.

Jona, Sean, Becky, and I worked like dogs to pull it off. Completely worth it for the looks people gave us when we carried it to the water (think about 6 people trundling down the street with this beauty), and for all the cheeky comments from other people in canoes, rafts, rowboats, and kayaks.

I can die happy now, I captained a floating coach, I can't ask for much more than that.

03 July 2008

Sunny Days

There's a man in my life. Tall...dark...handsome...47...married...with kids...and did I mention he lives in the Republic of Guinea? I've never met him face to face, but I can spot his voice in a heartbeat because we yell at each other on the phone every day.

Cellphone rings at 6 am, there's a long string of numbers on the display
[groggy, wiping sleep from eyes]
{crackle crackle hiss crackle}
"Hallo, Miss Lo-rah?"
"MISS LO-RAH? I NEED {crackle FIZZ FIZZcrackle crackle} EMBASSY {crackle} PAS{hiss} PLEASE, MISS LO-RAH."
"IT IS VERY BAD HERE. I AM SUFFERING. THE EMBASSY {fizzyhisshiss} VISA WON'T{cracklefizz}...."
"PLEASE, MS. LO-RAH, {hissycracklefizz}..." and so forth.

Craziness. Pure madness.

I tried to mail him some important papers from MIT for his visa application through DHL. Then the troops in Guinea decided to riot because they weren't being paid, and DHL stopped delivering to Guinea. Lamine had to travel 800 km from his home to Conakry where violence was the worst, and he was stuck there in limbo, waiting for my stupid papers that DHL was holding.

Man, I nearly went to bits. I couldn't talk to him on the phone. I couldn't tell if he was reading my emails with all the power outages. None of my text messages were reaching him, although his flowed in every day--"ms laura the solders catch the son of the president", "laura i wait for you .lamine diakite".

And you know what? After 3 months of shuddering with frustration and guilt at the sound of my phone, LAMINE GOT HIS VISA!!!!!! The guy is clearly brilliant. I knew before that he speaks 22 languages, but anyone who can navigate the bureaucracy at an American Embassy and wrestle out a US visa in those conditions is a bloody magician.

It's true, I can finally say he's coming to IDDS now, I booked his ticket. I feel very strangely entangled for a person I've never met. It seems like I've thought about him constantly for weeks on end, even in my dreams I can't escape him. So I figure we're either going to be best friends or worst enemies. I can't help wondering if he's a complete charlatan who conned his way into a free ticket to the US.

Meanwhile, the first of the international organizers have arrived and IDDS kicks off full blast ummm...1.5 weeks from now!!!

And finally, a few more lingering thoughts on consumption. An MIT class calculated that even homeless people in US have carbon footprints that are twice the global average. (They divided the footprint of the infrastructure in the US --roads, schools, military, libraries--equally among everyone.) So, hey, even if you make no money and spend no money, you're still wrecking the environment.

Woon showed me the Happy Planet Index, which calculates the countries that have the happiest people with the lowest footprints. Apparently, island nations win this game, with Vanuatu at the top of the pile (7.4 happiness rating, 68.6 years life expectancy, and if everyone lived by their standards, we would need 1.1 Earths worth of resources. In comparison, the US and Germany have similar ratings but the US needs 9.5 friggin planets, while Germany needs 4.8 planets--half of the US impact.)

So maybe all the eco-puritans should flee to Vanuatu?

In the mean time, I still cling to my belief that individuals make a difference, whether it's through choosing to live lightly on no funds, fund your favorite world-changing charities, create/run your favorite world-changing business, or enjoy your own life heartily.