Saturday, August 19, 2006

Lately I have been reading about the lives of many modernist artists, mainly Ezra Pound, T. S. Eliot, James Joyce and Nietzsche. I am sure you read some of their writings in college, maybe even some excerpts from The Genealogy of Morals, The Wasteland, Finnegan’s Wake and The Cantos. I’ve really enjoyed reading parts of them. In parts, they are beautiful, tragic, and powerful. But together, as whole pieces they can be jarring, frustrating, and just fucking senseless. Have you ever tried to read Finnegan’s Wake??? There is copy on the bottom of my bookshelf with maybe ten pages read.

These artists were writing in the aftermath of world wars, civil wars, and as communist, fascist and anarchist movements were spreading across parts of Europe and Russia like a burning rash. Think about it, civilization was at its zenith (if one is to believe we are forever moving forward), it was an age of enlightenment, industrialization, and innovation. Yet entire ways of life were being destroyed or fundamentally altered. Modern life was a life of unrelenting dissonance, psychoses, disillusionment.

Modernist writings reflected these changes. Passages are non-linear and fragmented. Their writings contain numerous allusions to other works and even use different languages; they are disjoined and cacophonous like life in 20th century.

Though, I have to wonder if they became too wrapped up in themselves and their work, losing perspective on who they were and what they were writing. I have to wonder if their works reflect more of their personal pain and narcissistic obsessions that greater cultural upheaval. These authors were all connected through study, or friendships, or correspondences; some even shared lovers. Nietzsche was suicidal, unsuccessfully searched for a wife, felt dejected by his lack of peer acclimation and died clinically insane. Eliot lamented about being a virgin into his late twenties and later married a woman who never made him happy. Pound married the lover of his mentor W. B. Yeats, later brought in another woman into his marriage and had an “uneasy ménage a trois” and too died clinically insane (some dispute the diagnosis). Plus, if we look at Andre Gide, he never consummated his marriage, fathered a bastard child with another woman, and exulted the life of being a pederast. Maybe their lives were perfect little chaotic microcosms of the world at large. Maybe they became too entangled in their studies, in their lives, in their own problems, obsessions and perversions to write anything wholly coherent.

My dad had this to say when I asked him how he felt about The Cantos: I have been reading an excellent biography of Samuel Beckett, in which he comments of both Finnegan's Wake and the Cantos, that at some point the reader of some celebrated "modernists" can only retreat in respectful puzzlement. To be blunt about it I think that Pound's life became a long deterioration into narcissistic isolation and that the Cantos, while beginning strongly and containing some beautiful passages, became a grab-bag or garbage receptacle for whatever obsessions Pound wanted to throw into it. I believe that toward the end of his somewhat disgraceful (in the later stages) life Pound took the same view.

My last day of Peace Corps Moldova is October 19th. Believe me, I am counting down the days. It is two months exactly today. I want to enjoy the few remaining weeks I have here but it is hard not to obsess about the next stage of my life: will I get a job right away? What job? Where? How will things be with my girlfriend? My friends? My family? Have I changed? What has changed in the States in the last two years? The best time to be in Moldova is in the summer. People are happier. It is green. There are fruits and vegetables everywhere. In fact, I can go out in my garden and pick fresh apples, plums, tomatoes, and peppers whenever I want. But my mind is preoccupied with leaving. Through out my life one my problems is that I can never focus on the “now” and instead always focus on the “next.”

I did recently take a day trip to Iasi. Iasi is capital city of Moldavia (not Moldova), the third largest city in all of Romania and is conveniently located just about 22 kilometers from the Moldovan border. I’d like to say that I went with the goal to see museums, the park where Mihai Eminescu wrote, and the many monuments which dot the city. Sadly, the primary reason for the trip was to eat at the Pizza Hut located in the new Moldovan Mall. Ohhhh, and the 5 hours that I waited at customs was worth my delicious Supreme Pan Pizza with garlic bread. I devoured it. The trip was ridiculous. I left from the Moldovan regional city of Falesti. Falesti to Iasi is only about 45 kilometers. But due to the shitty bus and mired customs officers, a trip that should take no more than two hours took over four hours. Not only did we arrive late, around one, but the return bus left at 3. So, it was a pleasant two hours in Iasi.

The bus that I took was a Balti – Iasi bus which stops to pick up passengers in Falesti on its journey. When it arrived in Falesti it was already packed. But I still got on with a mob of other passengers. I felt for sure the bus was going to tip over on some of the curves. I can’t believe Romanian border guards let these Moldovan buses through. What they must think when they see these clowns pull up to customs in buses built before 1950 with 40 passengers over the maximum occupancy.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

This week I will be in the Stefan Voda region of Moldova. It is located on the Ukrainean border in the south-east of Moldova. There will be three-day seminar on leadership and community activism. I will be doing a short lesson on public speaking and community problem solving. It should be fun; there will a few volunteers present who I have not seen in months and it will be nice to catch up. AJ just returned from visiting his girlfriend in Niger and others have also been on vacation.

A great poing about this leadership camp is that it is requisite for all participants after the camp to organize a "social marketing campaign" in their respective villages. A large problem in Moldova is citizen apathy. It's nice to see some active kids willing to do something for their communities

Friday, July 21, 2006

Mary and I helped out the local Baimaclia scouts about a month ago. We did a lesson on the importance on water. The scouts' trip felt more like a base effort at army recruitment and propaganda than a camping trip. Every day of the camp we all walked to a nearby army base from lessons on history how to disassemble and reassemble weapons, as you can see by the picture.

This is my last year in Peace Corps. My tentative COS (Close-of-Service) date is October 19th. It's been.....interesting. How does one describe living two years of their life abroad in a completely foreign country. Interesting does not really cover it. As trite as it sounds, it really has been "the toughest job you'll ever love."

Until this past February, I was working at an NGO financed by DFID (the Deparment for International Development) from the UK. Its approach to rural development was broad but mainly focused on the social sphere and the agricultural sphere. Despite being an agricultural volunteer, most of my time was spent working with the social sphere coordinator. We organized seminars in my village and others about how to develop to community strategic plans along with writing grants, and business plans.

Since the closure of my office, I have stayed busy with various projects, the latest being a two-week long fitness/health camp with kids entering the 6th, 7th, and 8th graders. My site-mate and I organized it and won a small grant from the US Embassy to fund it. The camp was only three hours long, from nine to 12. But believe me, three hours was more than sufficient. Are all children so difficult or is it only Moldovan kids? Let me clarify: Moldovan boys. The camp was broken down as so: morning warm-ups/stretching; a lesson related to fitness/health; water and snack break; depending on the day, President's Fitness Challenges; and then fun games and sports. These boys, or maimuţe (monkeys), as I called them would fight, not pay attention and just argue and argue and argue. The girls on the other hand were paragons of well-behaved children. All in all, it was fun and the kids really enjoyed it. I had a good time was well, plus it was good for my Romanian. I learned a lot of new words and phrases.

Peace Corps has alotted me a great deal of free time. Sometimes I take this time for deep reflection. Most of the other times I read or explore the world wide web, at 7 banuţi a minute I can afford to surf for an hour or two a day. My site-mite, Mary, got me into iTunes about 8 months ago and I have become quite attached (addicted) to my podcasts (KEXP free song of the day, NBC - Meet the Press, the Onion News, and The President's Weekly Radio Address), album release updates, and the weekly free download. Sadly, with my poor Moldtelecom internet connection, it takes about an hour to download a four minute song.

I am currently a Peace Corps volunteer in the Republica Moldova. Moldova is a former Soviet republica (Moldavia) located west of Ukraine and east of Romania. It is a very small and poor country. In fact, it is the poorest country in Europe.

I am an agricultural/agribusiness volunteer. I have been "bombed out" in the south in a tiny village called Baimaclia.