Sunday, July 18, 2010

Academic Recap



Next week at about this time, I will be on an airplane going back to Virginia (UPDATE:  just changed my flight plans, so that sentence isn't true anymore).  I'm actually sitting in the exact spot that I was sitting when I made the decision to go out there in the first place - 5 years ago.

A QUICK ACADEMIC RECAP

BYU

Upon graduating from high school in 2004, I left about 4 days later (eager to get the hell out of Walnut Creek California) to go to BYU as a visiting student.  I lived in a dorm.  It was a lot more pleasant than I was expecting it to be.  I was expecting some crazy religious fanaticism, but I saw more drugs and fighting than I ever have anywhere else in my life.  The first time I saw cocaine was in the dorms of BYU.  I knew a guy that celebrated getting his mission call by smoking a bag of weed.  Mormons are extreme, let me tell you what!

I had Puerto Rican roommate that would talk on the phone with his girlfriend until about 11 at night, and then he'd call up the girl that he was cheating on his girlfriend with and talk to her until about 4 in the morning (morally fine with him).  Normally, I have very little patience for a) cheating and b) keeping me awake, but I kept my cool pretty well (outwardly.  inwardly, I had dreams about separating his head from his thorax).  I'd get annoyed with him and tell him to stop talking, so then he would talk is Spanish (as if that helped any).  I was really trying to fit in and be a peaceful person, so I let it slide most of the time.  There was one instance where I ripped the phone out from the wall (after typing this, I'm amazed at the temper I used to have).  He didn't appreciate that much.

I'm also pretty sure that he would pee in the sink when he was too lazy to go down the hall to the bathroom, but I never caught him in the act (which I'm grateful for.  How would you even handle that situation?  "Uh... hi.  Your schlong is out and you're pissing where I brush my teeth."  "Yeah... sorry about that.").  I never had any evidence for thinking he did that beyond my own paranoia and me thinking the sink smelled funny sometimes.  I'm paranoid.  We get it.  Let's not dwell on that.

UPDATE:  Who's "we" in the last idea?

One of the highlights of that summer was there being a full-on gang war between the guys from Heritage Halls and Budge Hall (me being from Budge).  Knives and fire were involved, yelling and pushing, punching and kicking, mayhem and destruction, and I distinctly remember a guy riding a unicycle for some reason.  I was at the center of it in Royal Rumble mode, pretty much taking out anyone I wanted, disregarding affiliation in some cases.  No one got seriously hurt because a campus police guy showed up about 2 minutes into it.  If there's one thing I've learned in my life, it's that you don't mess with the guy with the tight spandex shorts on - ESPECIALLY if he has a flashlight and a mountain bike.  He was ready to bring the pain judging by the way he had that walkie-talkie pressed up against his lips - almost as if he had a bunch of snipers hiding in the bushes with their guns pointed at our hearts. You don't mess with snipers.  Especially snipers wearing tight spandex shorts on mountain bikes.

When I eventually found out what the war was about, I felt foolish.  Apparently someone's girlfriend sat on some other dude's lap in a car ride somewhere.  I understand the whole jealousy thing pretty well, but when a girl sits on a dude's lap on a packed car ride somewhere, you just tell the girl that you're uncomfortable with that.  You don't try and lop the dude's ear off.  Be cool, not rash (says the guy that joined a brawl without knowing why).

Other highlights of BYU include:

Going jet skiing and mooching off of a really cute girl's aunt and uncle for two days.

Placing 3rd in a Battle of the Bands with me just solo-playing the piano and singing.

Having my heart broken by a cute girl that got hives every time she blushed.

Running into the French dude that made my life hell for a week 3 years earlier and watching as he made out with my hivey, blushy girlfriend.

Bowling every tuesday night by myself.

UVSC


After that summer at BYU, I went to the school formerly known as Utah Valley State College.  I lived with my older brother, one of his friends, and Ben.

If I were allowed to go back in time and punch two people in the back of the head, Ben would be the second punch (I'll probably write about the first one later). He would sneak into my room, steal my stuff, and when I'd notice it, he'd claim it was his even though it had my name clearly printed on the bottom-side.

I'm not talking about him stealing small, minor things like staplers or clothes or anything like that.  Among other extremely noticeable things, the man ganked my mattress.  MY MATTRESS!!  Who steals a mattress and then denies doing it?  He wasn't messing with me, either.  He was dead serious.  He claimed it was his before we moved in.  It wasn't.  I had to sleep a night with no mattress because he was passed out drunk in his room with the door locked.

He'd come in with his fake-baked girlfriend, drink like an entire gallon of milk while she watched in unnatural awe, and then they'd go back into his bedroom (which was right next to mine) and giggle like children all night and occasionally make that disgusting slurping sound.  You know the sound, right?  It's the sound of college romance, or so they say.  

I lied.  No one says that.  Just me.

I'd wake up in the morning and go out to use the bathroom and his door would be WIDE open, exposing the world to himself and his girlfriend experiencing moments that should only be experienced intimately.  Every morning, I had to make the decision to either pee, or hurl.  I couldn't have both.  After doing one, I wasn't in the mood for the other.

School itself was kinda crappy.  The college was built a lot like my high school - It was basically a giant cinder block with no windows.  

I had to get on the bus every day that was just outside of my apartment complex.  If I missed the bus, I missed my first class (which I missed a lot but still ended up with a B+ in because it was music theory and I'm really good at music theory even though I'm not a music major or a music minor.  Just sayin).

The highlight of my day was seeing The Hot Girl on the bus ride home.  I'd try and coordinate my schedule so that I'd end up on the same bus as her.  I talked to her once, but was just to stricken with awe to continue talking.  She had lots of piercings.  Mmmmmm... Piercings.  SO hot!

Throughout this time, I was dating a girl named Megan.  I was a jerk to Megan and I deeply regret the way that I treated her.  On a brighter note, she's married and just had her second child (yay Mego!).


SVU

I love Southern Virginia University.  So much.  Except for that it's a place that's difficult to get to.  It's about 3 hours south of Washington DC and the closest sorta big city is about 45 minutes in any direction.  It's in the middle of nowhere, which is both really nice and really inconvenient when you want to leave.

I made the decision to go to SVU the summer I was 19 and working in a grocery store.  My job really sucked.  First, I started in the deli section, where employees and souls go to die.  It was there that I lost the will to live.  

It was me, another guy about my age, and a bunch of old women that complained about every single thing ever and thought that deli meat was the most important thing in the world.  To them, working in the deli section of a Safeway was like working in a fine jewelry store.  To me, working in the deli section of a Safeway is a step down from being a janitor at a movie theater.  Meat is meat.  Can you see where the worlds collided?

My dad knows the CEO of Safeway.  He told him that I worked in the deli section.  The CEO cringed and said, "A bunch of fat old women that have worked themselves into a hole and will never get themselves out.  I feel for him."  Just sayin...

After talking to the store owner, he agreed to put me in the bakery.  Working in the bakery section was a little better, but I had to be at work at 4am.  My personal opinion is that 4:30am is the most ungodly time of the day, and it was just when things were getting started for me.  The store didn't even have a place to bake anything.  We had to drive to another store 15 minutes away and steal their bakery stuff.

I worked with a woman from Brazil who thought that I was stupid or something.  She would tell me that men are worthless and that she hated cleaning bathrooms because men piss all over the floor.  She was really hard to understand.

UPDATE:  after reading this over, I realize I talk about urine a lot in this post.  I'm sorry for that.

The highlight of working in the Safeway was the blonde girl that worked in the flower section.  She would call me up front and ask me to carry the heavy boxes to the trash for her because she had recently been in a car accident and it hurt her back.  Looking back on that, I'm pretty sure she was lying to me.  But I got to flirt with a hot girl, so that was a plus.

So those were the events leading up to deciding to go to SVU.  I got a call from a nice man named Mike Flood, who offered to make my education practically free if I went to the school.  I like money, so I agreed to go.  Just a few days later, I was on a plane from Oakland to DC.

Red-eye Flight of Hell

No, the title is NOT overly dramatic.  It was one of the worst airplane experiences I've ever had.  Flying east sucks.  I left late at night and arrived early in the morning.  I had $300 in my pocket and a couple hundred on my card.  I had a plane flight to Dulles airport in DC, and I had no idea how I was going to make the rest of the journey into southern Virginia.  I'm terrible at planning things ahead of time and much prefer to just figure it out as I go.  Here's the step-by-step solution that I came up with:

On the flight, I wanted so badly to sleep, but with the combination of extreme, puke-worthy turbulence (the kind that makes your weener feel funny) and a baby with the crying power of a train whistle, I got no sleep.  I actually think I encountered a form of anti-sleep, where my body became tired twice as fast as the normal rate of exhaustion.

I remember not having enough space on the plane to really do anything.  My knees were against the seat in front of me, there was a fat man to my side, I had no movies or shows on my laptop, I had no iPod.  I just had a CD player with dead batteries.  I sat there with my head in my arms on top of the tray table and wept, regretting my decision to adventure across the country by myself.

I landed at DC, got my two big bags from the merry-go-round, and got in line for a cab.  I got in the cab, excited to finally have space to sit and not be uncomfortable.  My cab driver was from Jamaica.  We spoke the same language - supposedly.  I couldn't understand a word he said.  After asking "what?" a few times and him repeating the same thing over and over, I told him I wanted to go to the nearest Greyhound station, so he began to take me there.  I was too tired to notice until the very end, but we took a lot of twisty detours on the way.  I watched as the meter ticked up at an alarming rate.  I didn't know cab rides were so freaking expensive... PLUS the guy was trying to inflate the number by taking wrong turns and stuff.

We got to the Greyhound station and he told me the fare was $100.  I stared at him and said, "How about I give you $60 and I don't tell your boss about the extremely long route that you took to get here?" He agreed, surprised that someone so young was calling him out.  I felt accomplished for not letting myself get taken advantage of.  This trip was a learning experience for me in that regard.

I hauled my two huge suitcases and my overstuffed backpack into the station.  I immediately realized that I stood out.  I was some punk kid from east bay California surrounded by huge men and women waddling around in clothing large enough to house small children - AND conceal dangerous weapons.  People sat on the floor and stretched out their hands, begging me for money and grabbing at my feet and suitcases.  Women made suggestive comments about my "white boy ass."  While I appreciated feeling attractive, they weren't my cup of tea.  I'm more the kind of guy that enjoys a nice, normal sized glass of water.  Some of these women were super-sized soft drinks, if you get what I'm saying.

I approached the counter, still lugging my massive suitcases with a death grip that made my knuckles white - afraid to let go or leave them out of my sight.  I asked exhaustedly for a ticket to Buena Vista (where SVU was located).  The old guy at the counter told me that the bus service to Buena Vista had stopped just a week earlier.  He told me that the closest he could get me was to Lynchburg - about 45 minutes PAST Buena Vista.  

I bought the ticket and asked him if he had two AA batteries for my CD player.  He pulled out a purse and gave me two batteries.  Thanks, Teddy.  You're a good man.  I'm sorry for judging you for being a huge black man with a purse.  Please forgive me.  If you ever read this, know that you saved my life.

I felt extremely guilty for buying a ticket whose destination was named after a form of murder, but I didn't really have any other options.

My bus didn't leave for another two hours.  I had to pee.  Badly.  I also had all of my possessions stuffed into the huge suitcases (that wouldn't fit in the bathroom) that I was now sitting on in the middle of an overcrowded and shady bus station.  I had a choice.  I could either stay with my stuff and hold it, or pee and leave my things out of my sight in probably the most ghetto Greyhound station ever.  

I debated in my head for the entire two hours, coming close to deciding to just go, but then someone would make some obscene comment to me and then I'd reconsider.  I ended up holding it.


Greyhound Bus Ride of Hell

My bus came, I silently rejoiced, put my bags in the little baggage line, told them to play nice, and got on the bus.  I chose a seat near the back left of the bus, sat down, put my backpack on the seat next to me (trying to deter people from sitting next to me), put on my headphones, leaned against the window and fell asleep.  My headphones weren't actually turned on at this point.  I've just noticed that wearing headphones is the universal sign for "@$!# OFF!" which was exactly what I wanted to communicate to anyone who dared sit next to me.  I had been awake for a day and a half and I was emotional and moody.

I was only asleep for like 3 minutes when the bus made another stop at a place on the other side of the city.  I was awoken by an asian girl about my age asking if she could sit next to me.  There were plenty of other seats on the bus - even ones that she wouldn't have to share with someone.  I try and be kind to strangers, so I moved my backpack and let her sit next to me.  I made a huge mistake in selfishly holding on to the window seat.  The spot where the window was attached to the bus was the exact height of my head, mxaking it impossible for me to sleep on it because of the pain the dip caused me.

The asian chick had severe track marks on her arms and smelled strongly of piss and gasoline with a faint scent of what I think was Halo by Victoria's Secret.  I tried to imagine what her day had been like to come in contact with all three of those substances and laughed to myself when the thought of her shooting up at a gas station and getting sprayed with gas by someone watching (like when someone sprays a cat in the face with water when they do something bad) and her retaliating by trying to pee on them crossed my mind.  The image in my head was a lot funnier than the description.  I promise.

She passed out on me within seconds of sitting down.  She drooled on my arm.  Gross gasoline-piss-heroin drool.  She snored a little and breathed heavily.  Her breath smelled strongly of pretzels and coffee - both things that I don't enjoy all that much.  I couldn't mutually fall asleep on her because she had pins in her hair that would have impaled my cheek.  I turned on my Ben Folds CD and stared out the window, trying to adjust my tired eyes on the landscape.  It was all really just a blur.

The bus stopped in Charlotesville (I don't know how it's really spelled and I don't care enough to Google it).  I stepped off the bus after having the asian chick apologize for falling asleep on me.  She wiped the drool off of my arm for me and then pinched my butt.  Thanks, asian chick.  Greatly appreciated.  I love being sexually assaulted by piss-gasoline-heroin-Halo-pretzel-coffee stench girls.  You don't even know!

I got off the bus and grabbed my bags.  This new bus station looked much safer, so I didn't mind leaving my stuff out for the world to steal.

I finally got to pee after like a bajillion hours of holding it.  As a side note, I've asked many of my male friends about this and they all, after thinking about it for a second, agree.  When I step up to a urinal to do my thing and there's a guy at the next urinal over already doing his thing, I feel like less of a man if I finish before he does.  Don't ask me why.  There's no good explanation.

Anyway, after my much needed trip to the bathroom, I sat down and waited for my next bus to come in to go to Murdertown.  After like a half hour of waiting, I stepped up to the counter and asked when the bus was going to leave.  The lady pointed out the window and told me, like I was 3, that the bus was leaving right now.  "Oh, sweetie..."

I grabbed my stuff and stumbled outside just in time to catch the guy close the bag-cage under the bus.  What I wanted to say was, "Excuse me, sir.  I'm sorry I'm late coming out of the station, but I didn't know the bus was already here.  Could you please open up the baggage section and put my things in so that I can get on the bus and go to Lynchburg?"  What I really said was, "BLAGRFNARTMUCNOOOO!!"  He didn't react like I had hoped.  He told me to try again, and I explained to him desperately that I needed my bags on the bus.  He said there wasn't any room left underneath the bus and that I'd have to wait for the next bus which left tomorrow at the same time.

"The hell with that" I thought to myself.  He left to go back inside, I opened the bag cave myself, stuffed my stuff inside (myself), closed the bag cave (myself), and snuck on the bus.  Success.  I was so sneaky. Like a sneaky ninja-squirrel... that was big and smart enough to do human things.

I chose the same seat on this bus that I chose on the last bus.  I actually slept on this bus ride.  It was about an hour and a half.  I woke up as the bus pulled up to city hall in Lynchburg.  I guess there was no bus station.  I went inside and asked how I could get into Buena Vista.  They had no idea.  I told them to call me a cab and that I'd figure it out from there.  They looked at me weird and then called one.

The old man's name was Harold and his cab was blue.  I told him I wanted to go to Buena Vista and he laughed at me.  I told him I'd give him $60 and he stopped laughing and told me to get in.  I thought back to the short cab ride in DC and compared it to this long cab ride in southern Virginia and cursed my nation's capital for screwing me over on cab fare.

Harold talked about his childhood and the mistakes he made growing up and what I should do to avoid making the same mistakes.  Note to self:  Never try to rob a bank.  Never rape a woman, get her pregnant, then decide to marry her out of guilt.  Never spend my entire life savings on beer and then beat my child while drunk.  Never let a police man see me drowning possessed kittens in the river.  Never slap the mayor.  If I avoid those things, I won't end up driving some California boy 45 minutes one-way for $60.

Harold was a nice man to me, though.  He drove me right up to the admissions office of the school where they had a neat little table set up for students to check in.  It was about 6pm at this point.  They stared at me incredulously (nailed it.  no spellcheck needed) as I pulled up in a blue cab from Lynchburg.  I left my stuff sitting on the grass and gave them my name.

Apparently, Mr. Mike Flood from before failed to let them know that I was coming.  They had no record of me.  I told them they should, and they said that if they should, then the would.  I countered their logic by recounting my events of the day and then concluded that if I wasn't supposed to be there, then I wouldn't have gone through all of that to be there.  I told them to give me a place to stay because I had already paid for it.  Now!

They did.  I guess they didn't want trouble.  I'm such a scary person, ya know?

I went to my new dorm room, discovered there was no AC, and that I was crammed into a room with two other dudes.  I had the great pleasure of having the top bunk.  One of my roommates, whose name I can't recall, introduced himself while packing tobacco under his lip.  The other roommate, Jared, was doing something on his ancient computer.  They left to go to the rest of orientation.  I was too hungry and tired to do anything.  I sat on the top bunk on a bare mattress and cried a little because I didn't know where the cafeteria was and I was too paranoid to ask the huge tongans out in the hall for fear of somehow offending them (paranoia... we get it).  I ate the rest of my granola bars that I had brought along and passed out for the rest of the night.

UPDATE:  I'm still not sure who "we" is (are?)

I awoke covered in sweat, realizing what humidity meant, and the tobacco roommate's stuff was gone.  I took his bed, and that was that.  I'm still not sure where he disappeared to.  It's entirely possible that cancer from chewing tobacco kicked in so quickly that he immediately decayed while sitting on the toilet and someone accidently flushed him down after peeing on his stank, never to be seen again.  Don't write me off as crazy!  It could happen!  And when it does, you'll be sorry you questioned me!

That's my story of my first trip to SVU.  Wild, I know.  Now I have friends that will pick me up at the airport (thanks, Sorensen!), so I don't have to worry about any of that.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

KABOOM!

UPDATE:  This post isn't all that funny.  Feel free to skip it if you're looking for funny stuff.

Here's another post about why I am the way that I am.  This post covers "traumatic but kind-of funny stories" and at the same time, helps explain why I value alone time so much.


TRAUMATIC BUT KIND-OF FUNNY STORIES

  We'll start with my experiences abroad.  I lived in the Dominican Republic for a year.  I was a missionary.  I spent something like 14 hours a day locked away in a freezing classroom that was too well-lit and learned to speak Spanish in 6 weeks.  Then I flew to the Dominican Republic and discovered that they don't really speak Spanish there.  The Spanish I learned was like the kind of English you would encounter at a nice formal party with British royalty.  The kind of Spanish they speak there is like the kind of English you'd find in a back-alley drug deal in Harlem. I spent the first 2 months completely lost and totally dependent on my trainer for everything.

For those of you unfamiliar with the system, it goes like this:

   -A single mission contains anywhere from 50-200 missionaries (give or take).  The organization is set up like a corporation - you have a man at the top, he has assistants.  The mission is split up into zones.  Zones are split up into districts.  Missionaries report to their district leader.  District leaders report to their zone leaders.  Zone leaders report to the assistants.  Assistants report to the president.

   -You are paired with another person of your same gender and are required to be around them 24/7 for at least 6 weeks, often up to 3+ months.  You don't get to choose who this person is, the mission president does.  Often, his pairings are interesting (to say the least), and when you ask him about it, he says he "felt right about it" which you can't really challenge in an extremely religious environment like that because feelings are very important and challenging them is like challenging God Himself.  My companions ranged from a 3-times convicted felon to an ex-terrorist, to a male nurse and various others.  

   -When your companion eats, you eat.  When they go to the bathroom, you wait right outside the door.  If you're in someone's home and they go into the other room, you go into the other room.  You never leave each other's side, which is very unfortunate if you happen to dislike your assigned companion.  It's like being forced into a marriage with an ugly person you can't have sex with.

   -There are very strict and specific rules and if you break them, they tell you that God is unhappy with you.  You are never alone and you have pretty much zero privacy outside of pooping and showering.  They are always watching you and if you sleep in late or don't shave or anything like that, they tell on you and you get guilted.

-You work 6 1/2 days a week.  You wake up at 6:30 and go to bed at 10.  Every.  Single.  Day.  It's like being stuck in the movie Groundhog Day.  Every day is exactly the same as the last day.  You don't get to play on the internet.  You don't get to watch TV.  You don't get to listen to music.  You don't get to take naps.  You don't get to visit or talk to your friends.  You don't get to leave your assigned area (which is usually a couple miles wide).  You only get to call home on Christmas and Mother's Day.  You don't get to play sports.  You wear a white shirt and a tie every single day.  You do your laundry once a week on the day they tell you to do it.  You clean your house once a week on the day they tell you to do it.  You are never referred to by your first name - only your last name.  You are never alone and you never get to do what you want to do.

   -You wake up at 6:30 (I feel it's important to emphasize that point) every day, study for two or three hours, and then you're out on the street at about 9, trying to talk to people about God.  Sometimes you go in their home and share a lesson and invite them to church.  You eat lunch at 11:30 and during siesta - when the rest of the latin world is sleeping - you're still studying (language, stuff about God, etc.)  You do this until like 2 or 2:30, and then go back out and come home at 9:30.  There is no rest.  No breaks.  It's all you do.  If you're sick, you still try to go out because they make you feel guilty if you stay in.  If it's raining, tough.

   -In most of the places I lived, there was no electricity or water.

   -Missions are supposed to last for 2 years.  I only lasted 1.

   -If you don't say you had the time of your life, you're labeled as a bad missionary and people assume that you suck and you are ostracized for the rest of your life from the religious community.

   -I hated nearly every second of it and it was a very slow and painful descent into insanity for me that took me several years to recover from and I still have nightmares about it.

   -Don't worry.  I'm happy now.




Now that you're familiar with the system, I'd like to tell you about one of my companions, Alalkaid.  Everything I'm about to say is true and he has pictures and documents to prove it.  Even if you don't believe me, it's still a pretty funny story.

His real name (spelt phonetically because it looks like he cancelled his Facebook account so I can't look up how it's actually spelled) is Leuris Hal-alkaidh, but we just called him Alalkaid (all-all-kai-EED).  

Alalkaid was from Riyadh Saudi Arabia and was a former member of the terrorist organization Al Qaeda.  He witnessed the airplanes crash into the twin towers.  

He went to "terrorist university" to become a chemical weapons specialist.  While in school, he set off some sort of biological bomb as a prank that made everyone in the school really sick.  His government saw this as an act of treason and banished him from the country and threw his family in jail.

In Saudi Arabia, they do a lot of desalinization of water, which requires some pretty heavy expertise to engineer.  The government told him that if he got a degree in potable water engineering that he could return.  He went to the Dominican Republic to get the degree and that's where he decided to become a Christian, betraying everything he knew.

Alalkaid was extremely friendly to me.  You'd think that two people that were raised to hate each other would do exactly that, but we didn't.  We were buddies.  He walked around in shirt, tie and turban, and I didn't think anything of it.  I'm sure people were confused when they saw a tiny Arabian with a turban bouncing around the streets of La Vega a few steps in front of a big slow-moving American.  Dominicans told me to be careful because he was going to blow me up.

There were a few conversations that we couldn't have with each other such as the war in Iraq.  It wasn't your normal discussion of "should we have done it" vs. "should we not have done it."  It was more, "your civilization will not survive this horrid mistake" vs. "we're America and we do what we want, bitch."  It was conversations like that that we avoided.

He didn't speak English and I didn't speak any of the other 5 languages that he knew, so we talked solely in Spanish.  Humor from one language to another doesn't translate all that well.  Humor from two different languages funneled into one language is even worse.

He taught me some Arabic words - at least I think he taught me Arabic words.  Looking back at it, it's entirely possible that he was just messing with me.  He told me that "matar" is "airport" in Arabic.  "Matar" is "to kill" in Spanish.  True or not, I'll probably never know, but it's still funny.

When we first moved into our house, the previous missionaries left it a complete mess.  It was like walking into a tiny Wal-Mart warehouse after a massive earthquake.  We began cleaning.

While sifting through the aftermath, we found an old camera (the kind that takes film and stuff) and he said (in Spanish), "This would make a great bomb!"

I thought he was joking.

The neighbors had a dog that would not shut up.  It wasn't a tiny, yappy rat-dog.  It was a big, blackish brownish dog that looked like a German Shepherd, but I don't think it was one.  

In the Dominican Republic, dogs are viewed as rats.  They're everywhere and they're a nuisance.  People throw rocks at them for fun.  The idea of someone having one as a pet wasn't unheard of, but it was a little weird.

This dog would not shut up.  All night, barking barking barking in that half-low, half-whine sound that makes you twitch every time you hear it.  Normally, I wouldn't mind too much considering I don't sleep anyway.  But back then, I enjoyed my sleep and it was very precious, considering you went to bed at 10 and woke up at 6:30.  For those of you that have never experienced it firsthand, 6:30 in the morning sucks and I would never wish it upon even my worst enemies.

We didn't sleep for about two weeks.  At night, we would yell at the dog.  It would bark even more as if it knew it was pissing us off.  Its barking would cause all of the other dogs in the neighborhood to bark, elevating the problem even more and nudging me a little further down the insanity meter.

We were talking one evening over a game of Dominos (instead of sleeping because of the stupid dog) about what we could do with the dog.  Praying to God that the thing would shut up wasn't enough.  It was time to take matters into our own hands.  I kept suggesting things like talking to the neighbors and seeing if they could bring it inside at night or something.  He made a joke about blowing the dog up with the camera that we found.  

I decided it was a funny joke, so I played along and said, "Yeah, you should put meat grease on the bomb so the dog comes up and sniffs it before it goes off!"  He thought it was a great idea and we laughed for a good while about it.

Turns out it wasn't a joke.

One night, after having dinner (which included some meat), the dog was doing its annoying doggy thing.  I got up and yelled at the dog in the 2 languages that I knew (feeling proud of myself for successfully learning a language).  Then Alalkaid got up, yelled in his 5 languages (totally showing me up) and then went staggering out of the room mumbling something Arabic.  I figured he was going to the bathroom, so I didn't think much of it.

About a half hour later, there was a bright flash and a loud bang outside my window and the dog never barked again.




The end.




Now let's look at it from everyone's point of view (that I made up).  We'll start with me (which isn't made up).

  Brandon's point of view - Upon witnessing the doom of a beloved pet, Alalkaid came back in, climbed in bed and immediately fell asleep.  I slowly brought my blanket up and covered half of my face and trembled silently while trying not to breathe or wet myself.

  Alalkaid's point of view - Upon witnessing the doom of the dog, he climbed back into bed and pleasantly dreamt of home - riding his favorite camel named Akmed through the sand dunes just outside of Riyadh while launching RPGs at his neighbor's dog and giggling like a small child.

  The dog's point of view - "BARK, BARK, BARK!"... *slight head turn in curiosity*... *trot trot trot*... sniff sniff sniff... "Ruh roh"...   *LIGHT AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL*.

  The neighbors' point of view - Upon coming outside in the morning and finding half a dog carcass leading up to a small crater in the ground, they puked their guts out and then mourned the loss of their precious dog, Tauki.  To this day, they think a meteor did it.




Stay tuned for other traumatic experiences such as teaching a lesson down the barrel of a gun, watching a machete go clear through a man, and watching a man's head get completely blown off by a shotgun.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

From Virginia to California

So since we last talked, I have relocated to California for the month and am now working in a "Relax the Back" store.  Basically, I make it so that Google thinks our store is awesome and puts us at the top of their list whenever someone types in certain words.  Other perks include sitting in massage chairs, falling asleep on tempur-pedic mattresses, and playing computer games with my boss when he tells me to (he literally tells me to stop what I'm doing and play with him or else I'm fired).  Sometimes I work on the sales floor.

I get a kick out of selling $6000 mattresses to people when my normal sleeping arrangement is an old mattress on a dusty hardwood floor.  I look forward to the day that I have $6000 extra so I can upgrade,  but there are so many things I want to upgrade before then.

I just lied.  I really only want to upgrade my computer.  Other than that, I'm pretty content.

Just lied to my own blog...


The Plane Flight

Let's go ahead and cover my experience traveling to California.

I flew out of Roanoke Virginia headed towards Oakland California.  Two friends of mine - Sorensen and JJ - drove me to Roanoke and we talked about girls and missions the whole way.  Hanging out with them is a lot like hanging out with what the equivalent of feminists for men would be.  They hate girls.  Strongly.  They feel oppressed by girls and their powers to emotionally manipulate them.  I play along because I think it's funny to be bitter towards 3 billion people because of the actions of 2 of them.  But for them, the hatred is real (especially for JJ).  Imagine someone eating your baby.  Now hate that person.  Same feeling, more or less.

After checking in at the airport and giving 47 pounds of my most precious belongings to strangers (who were kind enough to leave a note saying that sifted through my things), I stopped in the cafe.  I stood there for about 8 minutes while workers not more than 7 feet away from me made salads, saying, "We'll be right with you, sir." over and over.  They lied.  They weren't right with me.  Not by any interpretation of the phrase.  That 8 minutes is forever gone from my life and I'll never get them back.

I ordered a burger.  I waited for that burger for almost 45 minutes and got it during the final boarding call for my flight.  It's not like the restaurant was swamped - maybe 3 other people.  The airport only has 6 gates - not that many people go through it. 

 So after scarfing my burger like a starved refugee, I ran and got on my plane.  I sat next to a young guy with probably the biggest beard I've ever seen in my entire life PLUS it was braided.  I've always been proud of my facial hair-growing abilities, but this guy (who was about 27, I would guess) absolutely dwarfed me in every way.  I'm like a boulder covered in a healthy layer of moss.  He's like a boulder covered in the Amazon.  Staring at people is rude, but staring at beards shouldn't be rude.  I'm starting a beard-starers movement.

Anyway, I managed to sleep for most of the flight which is rare for me.  I usually have a tough time sleeping in anything that isn't my bed.

The Detroit airport should come with complimentary running shoes.  Everyone in that place is sprinting somewhere.  I was amazed with how everyone was running everywhere.  If the government wants to solve the nation-wide obesity problem, make all flights stop in Detroit.  I have this problem where my sense of urgency doesn't seem to be properly calibrated.  It wasn't until I had strolled my way into range of the magical speaker thingy saying "Last call for [your flight]" that I panicked a little and starting running.  I ran past my gate from panic, but quickly realized it and turned around.  I felt foolish, but I was on my plane.  I got on and I was all sweaty and tired and I felt bad for the lady sitting next to me, but I was on the flight and that's all that mattered.

I knew this was going to be the painful flight to Salt Lake, so I busted out my computer and watched episodes of Ed until the battery died.  Then I listened to music.  The flight absolutely sucked, but Ed is a good show, so I was kind of satisfied.  I wish my computer battery lasted longer than 3 hours.

My flight landed in Salt Lake City and I (again) had very little time to get to my next flight.  Keep in mind my defective sense of urgency.  I called my mom on the phone and sauntered my way over to my gate, chattin about Caribbean cruises and whatnot - totally oblivious to the external urgency that the universe was trying to relay to me.

I don't know if other airports do this, but in Salt Lake, when flying on a smaller airplane, they scan your ticket and then tell you which door you're leaving from and send you down a big hallway with like 30 doors that lead to planes.  So the lady scanned my ticket and I'm guessing she told me the door number, but I didn't pay attention (still on the phone with mom) and I just followed people down the big dark corridor, chatting away with my mom and vacations and such.  Once I realized that I had followed the wrong people for like 5 minutes, I began to panic a little.

When I panic, I wander around (if you haven't figured that out yet).  I started asking people around me if they knew where the Oakland flight was while aimlessly walking through this huge hallway as the urgency began to set in, but of course they didn't know where it was because they were headed to Las Vegas and Idaho Falls and stuff like that.  I began running around asking people if they knew where the Oakland flight was and I'm guessing my panic was starting to show because people started to look scared of me.  Looking back on it, having a big guy running straight towards me shouting random words like "Where" and "Oakland" would have scared me, too (like a semi headed towards a smrt car with lights and horns blazing), so I guess I can't blame them for hiding their children and slowly shuffling their way past me.  Finally someone that actually worked at the airport pulled out a list and told me door 18, so I ran over to get on my small plane.  The sign above the door said "closed" but the door was open and the plane was still sitting there, so i just went on through and up the little staircase, determined to get on the plane.

I'm fairly confident that no one reading this has ever knocked on the door to a locked airplane, but I imagine it feels a lot like pounding on the door of a bomb shelter as an A-bomb drops in the background.  I felt desperate, and I kind of was, but I really wanted to get on that plane.  The door opened and I was greeted by flight attendants laughing hysterically at me.  I'm sure I was blushing, but at least I was on the plane.

I have this curse on me that every flight that I fly on, I somehow end up at the very back of the plane.  Also, apparently there's a rule that every single passenger on a plane needs to see the safety dance (which they had almost finished when I started my frantic pounding).  Now imagine everyone staring at me stumbling my way down the isle towards the back of the plane, accidently knocking people with my computer bag while the exasperated flight attendants began pulling out the fake seat belts and life vests that they had just put away after completing the safety show.  I felt foolish, but strangely proud and important because lots of people had to wait for me.

For the flight I sat next to a bald dude who was staring at colorful paper the whole time and writing questions on it.  I listened to music.  The flight felt longer than it really was, but that's because my back was tired from crappy Delta seats and my feet hurt from running around on concrete floors in $10 Walmart slippers.

I landed, left the gate, and rediscovered that Mexico has stealthily retaken California.  I hate Spanish.  So much.  I'm fluent in it, but I hate it.  However, in order to talk to anyone or answer people's questions, I had to speak it.  Simple questions such as, "what does this sign mean?" or "where is the bathroom?" make me cringe and moan a little before opening my mouth.  I felt like a sheep-herder, but with Mexicans.

I get to the bag claim and look at the little red blinking signs to find out where my flight was.  I eventually decided that the one blinking DELTA over and over (no city, no number) was mine and stood there, worried that my bag hadn't made the frantic transfers from flight to flight that I myself had almost missed.  My heart rejoiced like a chubby kid caught in a full pantry built out of fluffy marshmallows as my 47 pound bag came violently tumbling out of the bag-birther machine thingy.  I grabbed it and went outside to the curb and waited for my brother-in-law.

And waited.  And waited.  And waited.

Apparently my brother had better things to do and was running late to get me (he later told me what he was doing and I am not comfortable repeating it to anyone... use your imagination).  The weather outside was nice - not as humid or hot as Virginia - but the Spanish language was everywhere and it was driving me crazy because I was having a tough time thinking in English, my preferred language.  My thoughts were a lot like this - "I wonder que tipo de work I'm going to hacer at my trabajo?"  Good ol' Spanglish.

Then I got home and got like 3 hours of sleep before waking up to go to work.  When I awoke, I found out the plumber was over and had turned off the water.  Panic ensued, which led to me wandering around for like 10 minutes.  I eventually got the bright idea to jump in the frigid pool to wash myself, so I went out and took a really big bath.  I came back inside, towel still wrapped around me, and the plumber announced that he had just turned the water back on ("Good news, everyone...!").  In my mind, I strangled him to death.

Now I work in a back store.