Like grant proposals through the hands of USAID, these are the projects of my life!

Peace Corps Response 2011-2012
Peace Corps Response 2010-2011
University for Peace! 2008-2009
Supercross08! 2008
Peace Corps! 2005-2007

An obligatory disclaimer: Everything I have written, has been written by me. All of my own views, expressed hereinafter, are my own views. If you needed to read this disclaimer to know these things, you're a silly goose!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

So Tired Of Working, But I'm Out, I'm On The Road Again!

Aside from my long, dirty days of collecting waste paper and late nights in the office planning a community resource center, I actually got to do a quick bit of backpacking this year.

Went to Berlin for New Year's Eve and met some friends for an amazing celebration! I think Germans take a lot of canned heat for suppressed emotions, but a party of 1.5 million people tends to open up a can of excitement! German sausages and beer booths for as far as your eyes could see! Which actually wasn't too far on account of said beer. But trust me, it was an incredible display of festivity!

There were three or four stages along a 2-kilometer strip. In between each stage were all the opportunities for food and refreshments. We tried listening to the bands and really getting into the music - but the bands were awful! We weren't in their moment - because we were laughing too hard in ours. I think our favorite band sang a rap song with the following chorus: "If you don't want to party, then you should go home." Those lyrics were the bulk of their song, repeated over and over again. And people loved them. Ha!

In any case, after midnight, I seemed to have lost my friends, but was having a ton of fun with one Russian guy and a German girl. We danced and danced, and drank, and then the Russian guy stole my hat. The German girl gave me hers cause it was pretty cold. And now I have a very cute hat.

After Berlin, I trekked a bit and saw some beautiful European cities, with all their glorious art and architecture. Wearing my life on my back was a feeling I'd not had in a while, and I really, really enjoyed the thrill!
I think my favorite experience was at one of the public baths in Budapest. There were many different pools, each with different temperatures. We started in the giant outdoor pool that was loaded with lots of people. It wasn't very hot, though so we went to explore the indoor pools. Inside, I also found a sauna! I love saunas so I was hanging out in there a lot.

At one moment, it was just me and a crazy looking little old man. He asked in very broken English where I was from. I proudly told him, USA! And we had a very rough conversation about his time in Portland. He was from Romania but living in Hungary for his construction business. I told him that I'm living in Bulgaria at the moment and he switched to speaking to me in Russian. In Bulgarian I told him that the two languages are pretty close and he waved off any differences and told me they were absolutely the same. =)

I couldn't completely understand our conversation because his English was not very good and I don't speak Russian. We made do, though, between the three languages. He told me to follow him out of the sauna to a small pool and we went in. It was freezing! He told me it's important to go in the cold after the hot, but didn't explain why. Just that it's good. In the freezing pool, his fat friend joined us. He was like an old bull in Budapest bath! The original guy told his buddy that I spoke Bulgarian, and the fat one proceeded to tell me that he speaks Italian, Hungarian, Romanian, and Gypsy - but he stressed that he wasn't himself a Gypsy. Just that he could speak the language. And he's telling me all this in German. Ughh.
We all went back into the sauna together and talked about life. I was getting a pretty strange vibe from them, but I was loving the situation. The little crazy one asked me about my religion. He couldn't understand my answer of not having a religion. He asked if I was an Atheist, and I tried to explain that I was agnostic. He showed me his confused look, and then directly asked me if I drink alcohol! There we go - the bottom line of any conversation with old men in any country!

We took breaks from the sauna to take shots of their homemade plum brandy. It was impressively smooth and deceptively strong. I loved every second of the experience! So unplanned, so unexpected, so pure and fun! They were good guys just out doing their weekly public bath routine, and for whatever reason, they decided to include me in their fun! It was perfect!

I spent the rest of my very little time on the road by visiting friends in different places. Friends I'd not seen in many years. Friends from my travels, with whom at one time we were on the same page in life. My, how time and experiences change that page.

They're still beautiful people, and I'm very happy to call them my friends, but finding other common ground was a bit more difficult than it had been when we met. But, as I learned from the drunk old men in Budapest, you don't really need too much common ground to have a great time with someone.

Two of the friends I visited lived in very small, super cute villages. Far away from pretty much everything. It was incredible! Just like the Bulgarian villages - but clean!

I kept bragging about the benches I've been building out of waste pallets and how I've started gifting them to schools. Well, my German buddy called me out, and pulled out an old pallet he had covered behind a shed. So, we spent a couple days making it into a bench. This one had a German-inspired innovative addition: two beer bottle holders!

In the last month, I've gotten food poisoning twice, and have been twice otherwise sick with normal winter bugs. I'm hoping my remaining days are nice to me as I try to get through all the projects I started!


Barry said...

I thought it wasn't safe to re-use wood pallets for furniture, because they often get soaked in nasty stuff? I imagine you're using your chemistry skills to tell the good ones from the bad, though.

Andrew! said...

Well, not so much chemistry as general observation. After seeing hundreds and hundreds of pallets thrown away over the years, ya kinda get a feel for which have been taken care of and which ones haven't.

Hard to find a substitute for good safety practices, though. I always work under optimal ventilated conditions, and all of my products are sealed under a thick shield of polyurethane (like, 10+ coats).

Or, consider the words of the father of toxicology, Paracelsus, when he said that everything is a poison, and nothing is without poison; or the dose makes the poison. If you take that into account, along with the modern day Hygiene Theory, and trends like first world problems, then you can see how sometimes the media's fear of sickness is too much alive and well.

That said, I still don't want fluoride in my water. =)

Barry said...

It looks like at least some of the methyl bromide they use to treat pallets against pests can filter through polyurethane.

Think of the children! We're all gonna have flipper babies, thanks for upcycled pallet furniture. Oh, the humanity! If only it weren't for *chemicals.* :)

Andrew! said...

Well, polyethylene (from your link) is not polyurethane (on my benches). That's a big difference at the start, but ends up being minuscule when you consider the fumigant of concern: methyl bromide.

Super toxic, which is why it's used - and super small, which is why it's used. It permeates into the wood to reach all insects/fungus, but it's size and state also causes it to diffuse out easily. After a great deal of exposure to the elements, little if any methyl bromide is left behind. More likely none, than even an insignificant amount if said pallet has any contact with water/washing since methyl bromide is readily hydrolyzed.