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Il était une fois … le grand nez
Jan 25th, 2006 by teragram

While suffering an immense hangover yesterday, I was bitten on the nose by a moquito. The little monster woke me up with her horrifying sqeal. Oh the thought of that sound makes my spine shiver, like nails on a blackboard. It never developed into a big itchy lump, but it did make the tip of my nose weirdly tingly and numb at the same time. I tried to take a picture, but as you can see, it didn’t work.

What it did do was remind me of an animation series I used to watch when I was a kid. “Once upon a time … life”. It was a clever series that snuck education into entertainment. The only episode I remember in any detail was about tetanus. I can picture all the little white blood cells with their big noses heroically fighting the infection. It was great. So I looked it up, and found that Amazon.fr are selling the boxed set. So I bought it 🙂

It would be nice if there were English subtitles or something, but I’d be surprised. Still, it’ll help me practice my French.

Delhi is smelly
Jan 23rd, 2006 by teragram

But we had fun there, despite our breathing difficulties. Four of us headed up there for the weekend, and we had a very enjoyable time. I’ve posted a bunch of new photos from the trip on flickr.

One of the highlights was a trip to a Sikh temple. It was basically evangelism on the part of our rickshaw driver. He showed us around the temple, and explained some things to us. He showed us the area where they serve free food every meal, every day, for anyone who wants it. That was striking. There’s a large area where they roll out mats as they’re needed for diners. Then there’s the area where the bread is made, and the area where the vegetables are cooked. He pointed out repeatedly that Sikhs don’t believe in castes at all. Every who eats the food there eats together on the floor. He gave us a little leaflet explaining some things about Sikhism. I hadn’t realised just how little I knew about the religion before going there. Not that I’m that well-informed now, but at least I know some basics.

We ate lunch in a place called Kalim’s, right by the big mosque near the red fort (which was “100% closed” as we were informed by hawkers trying to convince us to take a cycle rickshaw). We ended up walking right around the mosque to get there and back. On the way back a random guy saw me looking at a cat and said “bildi, bildi, meow, meow”. He said it a few times, and I said “cat, bildi” and he was chuffed. So then he pointed to a goat and said something like “bakalak”. I think he got bored then, because he went away. I think it was S who said that if he ever had a pet goat he’d call it Burt (as in Burt Bakalak).

After that we went into the Tibetan Refugee Wollen Association Tibetan Refugee Wollen Association Exhibition cum Sale of Himalayan region. I bought two shawls of the softest wool I’ve ever felt. I think they might be Yak wool. I’ve washed one, hoping that doesn’t ruin it. If it doesn’t I’ll wash the other the same way.

C had to stay an extra day to do some work in Dehli, but he stayed in a different hotel, because it was organised by The Company. We went for a drink there on our way to the airport. It was the kind of hotel where the bar has a box of cigars on display. It’s funny that, no matter how luxurious a hotel bar gets, it can never wash off that slight smell of lonliness.

So anyway, we had a great time. The air in Delhi is pretty bad though. If I was going to spend any more than a couple of days there I’d definitely want to wear a mask. It’s surprising that we never saw anyone wearing one. Makes you wonder what Beijing will be like. *shudder*.

Tg

Is it really too much to ask?
Jan 20th, 2006 by teragram

We have one key to our apartment. As you might imagine, it can be quite a pain. There have been multiple occasions where one of us had to wake the other to get in. I had intended to get a copy cut when we were back for Christmas, but it slipped my mind. Apparently, the owner of the apartments has asked that no duplicates be made. Well, I couldn’t give a rat’s arse whether he approves or not. A key for each resident of the apartment is really not too much to ask.

So, having asked in vain for several months for a second key, I decided yesterday to go and get one cut. I discovered that key-cutting here is not the same as it is at home. Maybe there are shops here with big key cutting machines, but I didn’t see any on my little expedition. Instead, I saw guys sitting on the side of the road with big key shaped signs cut from metal and bunches of uncut keys hanging above them.

The first guy offered to copy it for 250 rupees (about 5 euro), but my driver thought that was exorbitant. What really made me uncomfortable was that he wanted to hold onto the key for an hour. So we went to another road-side key-cutter who offered to do it for 100 rupees. Now, the apartments we’re living in are … somewhat exclusive. There are some very wealthy people living here, from what I can make out. So the keys are not your common-or-garden jaggedy edge kind of key. They have sort of dents bored into them, of various depths. Suffice it to say that I doubted this guys ability to make a copy of my key. He looks through his stock though, and seemed to find a suitable uncut-key, so I handed mine over. The driver parked the car and walked back to the guy with my hundred rupees.

I had to stifle a laugh when my driver handed me this:

New keyNew key (back)

I could have done a better job!

I think the thing I love most about it is that he didn’t say “you know what: I can’t copy that key”. He just did his best – which he must have known was never in a milllion years going to open my door – and passed it on down the line.

Classic.

Tg

Bye bye, RedBrick
Jan 18th, 2006 by teragram

I have finally let my RedBrick account die. (RedBrick is the computer society at Dublin City University). I first got the account way back in 1997 during my brief sojourn at DCU. You could say RB is where I first met C, and it’s certainly where I got to know a lot of my friends. RedBrick gave me my first email address, my first introduction to Unix, my first website. It (because of the people I met there) made my time in DCU bearable. Not bearable enough to stay there, of course.

The email address will still work until October or so, but it’s set to forward everything to another account of mine. I spent a long time downloading all the data from the account onto my laptop. I’ll have to got through it all, and delete what I don’t need. There’s some stuff I’ll keep for nostalgia’s sake though: like the instructions C gave me for using ftp the first time.

It’s such a strange feeling, letting go of old stuff like that. I was seriously tempted to renew the account, once I realised it had expired. But I have too many email addresses, and it really is time to let it go. It feels a bit like throwing out old pieces of paper that you never look at except when you tidy your room and agonise over whether or not to throw them out. There’s something cleansing about it.

Unfortunately, the hours spent nursing WinSCP through the download of 8 and half years of accumulated files – while it was being hampered by our ultra-shitty ‘net connection – have aggravated my already-acting-up RSI. Less Internet for me! So not only is this entry rather short, but it probably won’t be replaced for at least a few days.

See you when the pain and numbness recede,
Tg

A niggling question
Jan 11th, 2006 by teragram

YellowSnow’s recent foray into theology has inspired me to post a question that’s been on my mind pretty much since I got here. Unfortunately, it’s not something I can offer an answer to just yet; at least, not one that satisfies me.

Why did God create this world at all? If He’s going to re-create the world in such a way that there will be no more tears, then why didn’t He just create it that way in the first place? My first instinct is that this world prepares us in some way for heaven, but that can’t be right. Each person’s experience is so different: some people never make it out of their mother’s womb alive, some people are surrounded by all that’s worst about this world, some surrounded by all that’s best. Since coming here I’ve seen people who live in such abject poverty that they can’t afford to wash their hair. I’ve seen slums that are, relatively speaking, well off – because the tents there are waterproof. And yet I grew up in such a different world. I don’t know what hunger is. I don’t know what it is to really have to work.

What I’m trying to say is: if this is some sort of preparation for heaven, why don’t we all get the same training?

Okay, so I guess the classic response to all that is: we brought this suffering on ourselves, in some collective sense, through sin. In heaven there will be no sin, and therefore no suffering. Well what will be different about heaven that will prevent sin, and why didn’t God just make this like that in the first place? We’ll still have free will, right?

Is the difference that we’ll be in God’s immediate presence, and that will prevent us from sinning? If so, then why did He go “walking in the garden in the cool of the day” (Gen 3:8), so that Adam and Eve were able to hide from Him? If the answer to that is that He didn’t want to impede their free will, then I have to ask, will our free will not be complete in heaven?

I guess when it comes down to it, what I’m struggling with is related to predestination. If we are not palpably in the presence of God, can we really choose between spending eternity with Him, and spending eternity without Him? If we had experienced His immediate presence, would we choose anything else?

The idea that we as individuals have no part in whether we go to heaven or hell, that God made us to go to one or the other, doesn’t fit with my understanding of God. Our God “wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” (1 Tim 2:4). So the decision is, at least in some way, ours. But then, how can we make an informed decision about him in this life?

Why should this whole continent be so steeped in idolatry, so that so very few people even know who Jesus is? Are the people here able to make an informed decision between Jesus and they idols they grew up with? And are people in “the west” any better off? They’ve heard the stories, but how many of them have met God? Does hearing a distorted view of the Gospel count as hearing the Gospel? Had I ever really heard the Gospel before I understood it and accepted it?

Answers on a postcard to the usual address.

Tg

Back in the land of house-boys
Jan 10th, 2006 by teragram

Now that I’ve gotten a couple of hours work done (before lunch!) I feel I can write a blog entry: not only without feeling guilty, but also without sounding whiney. Yesterday’s attempt was too whiney to post, I’m afraid.

Christmas was wonderful. It was everything Christmas should be. We spent lots of time with both our families. We saw more of our friends than we’d hoped, though less than we would have liked. We ate more Christmas dinners than anyone could reasonably ask for, all of them excellent. It was full of good food and warmth and gentle, relaxing comfort.

It’s strange but good to be back here, with such familiar strangeness. I expect we’ll know within the next couple of weeks whether we’ll be going to China (or anywhere else) after we’re finished here. I definitely want to spend a couple of months at home first if we do, but I’m really excited about the possibility.

I sure hope I pass my driving test the first time. I’m expecting to get a date in May, which means I won’t have a lot of time to practice. But I’d really like to have it before we head off anywhere else. Even if I don’t end up driving in any other countries, I’d like to have all that out of the way.

Well, short as this entry is, I should get back to work. Miracle of miracles! I actually feel like working. God is good.

Tg

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