Relation Relations: More Transcripts from My Life

Posted on June 16, 2011


Many of you know (or at least those who know me well will know) that my relationship with my father (well, hell, most of my family) is less than traditional. If ever I’ve been around you when I got a message from my father, I’ve probably showed it to you–the little texts that arrive now and then saying simply, “Alive?”

To which one pops off a quick, “Yep.”

And receives a curt, but honest and relieved, “Good. Talk to you later.”

I do not know how to communicate much about my father, but I’ll try to say a few things to preface what I’m about to post:

My father picked up texting long before I did. A rather anti-social man (I’m considered the social butterfly of the family, which should surprise many who know me as a bit of a recluse at times), he likes to keep the talking to a minimum with most people. I’ve never understood whether that’s more discomfort with others, or a part of the distrust he’s developed prosecuting sex criminals, murders, and child abusers without exposure to the better elements of humanity for over two decades. He will call me, he will call his mother, he will call his girlfriend, and talk for a time. But if ever he feels that he just needs to communicate one piece of information, phones be damned. Text limits the amount of conversation he can have with you and you can have with him, and that is golden.

During some of our harder times, some of the dark moments for my family (you all know of them already, I’m sure, and I’ll not air them more publicly than I already have–often), my father and I did not get along well. The man can have a bit of a short fuse about a few touchy matters. He is a complicated being emotionally, and when I was a bit of a powder keg myself, well, the combination could raise some serious fire. And I was never the one winning any of our arguments (although at times I thought I was).

Time and distance from those events (and from each other) have mellowed us both. We’ve learned what angers the other, how much control we can expect to have over each other (I am chronically independent, often to my own detriment, as has been and will be discussed again). We respect each other’s space, don’t question too much of what the other does, and instead focus on our similarities: caustic humor, good conversation, movies and such things.

It’s not a very parental relationship in some ways. We both know that the other is there in case of emergencies and we both think in the end we could probably stand to fall back on each other. But I like to be independent and he’s pretty fine with that, thinks it’s a very good thing. I have a sense of duty which is foreign to him, but he understand duty well enough. And in the end we’ve cultivated this strange mode of communication, but it works for us.

I received another e-mail form my father today and looked back at the e-mails we’ve sent to each other since I’ve come to Kenya (more e-mails than we usually exchange) and thought that it might be instructive to those who wonder to post some illustrative parts of our interactions.

Note the trends that tell you the most about how we relate to each other–remarks about economics, politics, and observations about our surroundings. Note what types of interactions are present, which are lacking, and you’ll get a good idea of our relationship:

May 29, Mark to Edward

I’m on the Shipol Wifi, and I don’t want to pay 3 euros for 15 minutes, so I’m using the slow free stuff, but I only get an hour of that. At the gate for my flight, which is reliably about 3/4 Kenyans/other East Africans going home and 1/4 wealthy kids or elders waiting for their flight off to safari land. Might see if I can get some money changed while I’m here … take a piss, etc. etc. Alright, we’ll I just wanted to check in, say all is well, and I’ll talk to you later.

May 29, Edward to Mark

What movies did they offer on the transoceanic flight?
It’s quiet here.
Take care. Let me know your progress.

May 30, Mark to Edward

Great variety of films on both. Am settled in well and just taught my first class, which was a bit nerve-wracking.

June 2, Edward to Mark

From your e-mail times I’d guess you don’t have ready internet access in your living quarters, but that you do to some degree at work. How will that work for Skyping, and the like? Will you run out of reading material soon? If so, perhaps you can download the Nook soft ware to your Mac and I can put you on my Barnes and Noble account. Maybe you can find a good bookstore or library.
Paul Langston, says Baton Rouge would have flooded had the Army Corps of Engineers not opened the Morganza spill way When you consider the height of Baton Rouge’s levees, that’s remarkable.

June 3, Mark to Edward

That’d be correct–although I’m hoping I’ve found a way of getting internet into my living quarters within the next few days. Still have plenty of reading materials as I’ve been doing a lot of sleeping, walking, writing e-mails at home and then just sending them at work, but will let you know if I get dangerously low. I’ve seen a few bookstores but haven’t poked my head in yet to sample the available works.
I do remember those levees … that is a bit much. The Mississippi is really taking a pounding this year.

June 4, Edward to Mark (Note: This is where things get more typical.)

Google news indicates inflation and labour strife are concerns in Kenya. Is local media telling the same story? Do you see Nairobi newspapers or have access to a tv? I’m interested in how the Kenya see themselves and the world.—– US unemployment popped back up to 9.1%. The markets have dropped about 4% since you left. Economic unease wears a different guise here.

June 6, Mark to Edward

The news here is more about the gear-up to the presidential race next year. Then there’s a big scandal with the Catholic church, a Kenyan MP who was named by the US as a drug trafficker, and some Kenyan case in the ICC … so that’s sort of dominating the news right now. I’ve heard rumblings about inflation, but food still seems reasonably priced and labor hasn’t been on anyone’s mind (so far as I can tell). But I have heard that there’s a lot of discontent in the nation. Remember that election violence in 2007? Apparently the government still hasn’t resettled the thousands who were displaced, but it’s still sending aid money to other nations (Japan, etc.). That’s pissed off quite a few folks here, and my sources say that the camps are arming themselves, ready to turn the streets bloody in the next elections if things don’t go their way. But that’ll be long after I’ve left. I worry for the nation, though.

June 7, Edward to Mark

Are the groups gearing up for violence during and after the next election tribal or ethnic groups? Are they intending to rumble with competing groups, or do some mean to start an insurrection? — Ok here. There’s a flood warning for north eastern Washington, but I don’t expect any personal impact.

June 7, Mark to Edward

Not totally sure yet. Will let you know what I learn.
A flood warning for the northeast? That’s very odd. When I went to Chewelah, the creek was up way past the usual waterline. If waters are rising more, it’s like to flood over into the town. This is quite odd–I’m more used to drought than anything else in these areas.

June 8, Edward to Mark

I don’t think flooding poses a big risk to anyone here or in Chewelah. It’s just sort of amazing news.— Do the Kenyans follow an 8 hour a day, Monday through Friday schedule?

June 8, Mark to Edward

Apparently the creek in Chewelah did make it over the banks and blocked off the main road for a few days about a month ago, so who knows.–Kenyans follow the 9-5 as regularly as we do.

June 8, Edward to Mark

I remember feeling a bit surprised when Baolu said Chinese workers take long siestas during the work day. Then I reminded myself the American schedule certainly need not be universal.  Do you suppose the Saturday, Sunday weekend stems from English Christian influence, or its it just becoming an international standard? —– Representative. Anthony Weiner caused a big to do by sexting crotch shots of himself, then claiming he’d been hacked.  This morning I headline: .”Simple typo exposed Weiner”. I picture a group of chortling news people coming up with that.

June 8, Mark to Edward

I believe the schedule and such do tend to follow the English model, but in many places Friday and Saturday off are common, especially in the Muslim world, and the siesta model is popular in many places as well. It’s all in competition and kind of dependent on culture and climate I suppose.–Been following lightly with the Weiner stuff, amused by many of the headlines, that’s a goldmine for a copy writer. But honestly I’m not too disturbed by it considering it was much more consensual if a little pervy than most of the crotch shot scandals you hear of.

June 9, Edward to Mark

Our lilacs have fully blossomed. They’re a bit late, but still lovely. I enjoy late spring in Spokane.

June 10, Mark to Edward (Note: In these e-mails there’s usually a little back-and-forth about his girlfriend and what she and her kids are doing, but I don’t want to drag her into my blogging.)

Late spring is a good time–one of the only really green and pretty times.

June 13, Edward to Mark

Its been years since you had a kick back summer. I wonder if you want one, or if you prefer accomplishing things.

June 13, Mark to Edward

I find I prefer having something to do. Within about a week of doing absolutely nothing I start to go absolutely insane. But it can be somewhat calmer, even if there is work; that could be nice. I’m not sure where the balance sits though.

June 14, Edward to Mark

How is your financial plan working?

June 14, Mark to Edward

The most I have to pay for is transit, but that’s $5 a day, not that bad, and the Ksh just dropped to 90 to the dollar, so things are getting cheaper by the day … but sadly harder for Kenyans.

June 14, Edward to Mark

Debby Kurbitz always asks after you. She says Alex continues to slough off at L.C., but now wants to spend a year in Africa after graduation. Do you think that’s appropriate for an hard-to-motivate 18 year old?

June 15, Mark to Edward

Well I’m not so sure that’s a great idea. Does he know where he wants to go or what he wants to do. This isn’t exactly a homogeneous continent.

June 15, Edward to Mark

I suppose saying “I want to go to Africa for a year.” is a bit like declaring “I want to go to North America for a year.”  Too difuse to be useful.
The Pend Orielle rive has passed flod stage. Its interesting.

June 16, Mark to Edward

It truly is, but if he comes up with anything more specific, let me know and I’ll see what I can do for him.
What’s the flooding been doing?

June 16, Edward to Mark

The Spokesman reports flooding north of Newport. They illustrate with an anecdote about an underwater swing set at a Spokane family’s summer cabin. Surely there’s more impact, but I can’t tell what it might be from the newspaper.
Seems like N will stay in Bellingham to work part time and take summer classes. For her, too, finding a good summer job is harder than it once might have been. More people seem to compete for jobs which 40 years ago would have one to students.
A co worker claimed to have heard that 80% of college graduates now have to move home after graduation. Are you skeptical about the figure?

June 16, Mark to Edward

If there’s an entire swing set underwater, I’d imagine things are a little more significant than all that for everyone else who lives there year round. Another sloppy reporting job by the Spokesman, I suppose. The news about flooding in America has reached Kenya and I’m asked, do people make the connection that this has to do with global warming? I say some think it’s related, but most don’t see major ties. They look at me like I, and by extension all Americans, am and are insane.
Traditional stratification of jobs is breaking down. I’ve also come under the impression that job growth in the states is a little illusory, with fewer jobs being created in the last 40 years than they were really just shuffled around between states based on jobs, prices, and demographics, but that job growth relative to population and demographics has been uneven. So while there’s a component that has to do with the financial crisis, a good part of it is that opening level jobs are being phased out, skilled jobs increasing, and the competition for remaining opening jobs increasing such that the requirements for them become functionally the same as skilled jobs (i.e. most paid positions at prominent NGOs now require a masters degree and perhaps seven years of experience). And of the small and part time jobs, those are getting sloughed off by those looking for the experience to get the opening jobs or to fill gaps while the youth population rises. Not a good formula for youth, or for those youth looking for summer jobs.
I doubt that the 80% figure is correct. I know I’ve heard figures on this before, but I’m not sure I can recall them off the top of my head. I’d be more comfortable saying perhaps half of that, perhaps 40%, but I’d never believe any figure over 60%, of which I would be far too suspect. Though it’s true that even Ivy grads find themselves in that situation, but I recall stories on that little phenomenon far before the current trends started to take hold in a serious way. Again, you know me–always scheming, always planning. Hopefully I won’t wind up on your doorstep. As we’ve said, there’s not much opportunity or space in Spokane.


End Note: Odd as it is, I think I prefer this to anything else. He tried to hug me once and I ducked. Now, for me, it’s too odd to have that sort of relationship with him. And I must say, chatting about these things–nature, economics, and politics … I enjoy it well enough. That might tell you a bit about who I am at heart, how I turned out that way, and the background I came from.

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