The Mark of the Jandal

Friday, March 16, 2007

Statistically Challenged

A student I help quite often was in my office and we had the following conversation:

Student: How come when the boats come it rains?

Me: Excuse me?

Student: My grandfather says that it always rains when the boats with the people [cruise ships] come.

Me: You do realize it's the rainy season?

Student: Yes, but when it rains when the boats come.

Me: Yes, but it also rains when they don't come... it rains every day... it's the rainy season

Student: Yes, but it sometimes happens in the dry season.

Me: It's called the dry season because it doesn't rain as much. We live in the tropics, and it rains all the time.

[conversation proceeds]

Student: Are you telling me that you don't believe the Samoan superstition

Me: Do you know what that word means?
--

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Practical Jokes on Peace Corps Volunteers

I was talking to a fellow volunteer about packages. She mentioned that
every time she picks up a package from a particular friend she is worried
that the customs officer is going to pull out a dildo. I thought: wouldn't
it be funny to select volunteers randomly off the internet and send them
odd sexual amenities: inflatable dolls, ball gags, a silicone fists or two.
Imagine the look on the volunteers face as the Moroccan customs agent pulls
out a two foot long, 3.5 inch wide phallace --- and to think the packing
slip said school supplies.

--

Friday, March 02, 2007

Multiculturalism

A secondary effect of living abroad is that I'm blessed with the exposure to people from other countries. In this regard, I'm speaking more of fellow expatriates living here for a variety of reasons. The irony of these encounters is that many times they consist solely of criticism of the US. I don't think my country farts pixie dust, I know we're fallible. I'm even willing to discuss the various faults. However having an Australian lecture me on the treatment of minorities in the US, especially the Native Americans, with no digression toward the treatment of their own indigenous folks makes the individual seem like they are trying to take down the rich kid on the playground with very little regard for the truthiness of their argument. Heck, I'm no fan of Bush, but Howard is little more than a clone of Bush with loosely wound DNA -- though some how he seems to be a better speaker.

It isn't just criticism of verifiable actions of the US. I'm just as likely to hear criticism for conspiracy theories. I mean how can one have a conversation about something when the basis for the conversation is:

o Moon landing was a hoax
or
o The US government allowed the attacks on Pearl Harbor to facilitate our entry into WWII

One evening I was having a conversation with an Australian Youth Ambassador, the Australian counterpart to the Peace Corps. This was about the same time that a school in England was telling a teacher that she couldn't wear a vale in class. The AYA was appalled at how culturally insensitive her fellow commonwealthers were acting. This is a paraphrase of the conversation we had:

Me: I think it can be hard for someone who grew up in the west to pay attention to someone and follow them when they can only see their eyes.

Her: Don't you think it would be great for your kids to be exposed to another culture; wouldn't it be great to expand their minds like that.

Me: I think it would be great for my kids to learn English, math, science, history, perhaps a foreign language. I think school should focus more on teaching kids and less on cultural tolerance.

Her: Shouldn't children learn more than just facts, shouldn't they grow as individuals.

Me: It's not the governments job to help kids "grow" and it's especially not their job to help kids "grow" at the expense of their education. If children don't feel comfortable being taught by a someone in a vale, it's it's not a failure of them or their parents. Heck some kids are scared shitless by clowns [I know this I was a birthday clown at Mc Donalds].

Her: How are kids supposed to learn about other cultures?

Me: If kids are interested in Islam they can take a class on religion. Then the teacher can bring someone in who can talk about the virtues of wearing a black tent in the desert so that men don't get too aroused and accidentally rape her -- a crime for which she may be stoned to death.

I'm a live and let live kind of guy. I personally believe that abortion kills a person. I understand that this is my belief and that there is no scientific basis for this. I mainly chose this belief to be on the safe side of things. However, because there is no way to define the moment that life begins, I'm willing to concede that I may be wrong. So I have a set of morals that define my behavior, and there is a set that I think should be applied to others. Sometimes these two sets overlap -- murder for instance is something I think is wrong and something I think the government should try to prevent. In my mind, forcing kids to be culturally sensitive for their own good is not one of these areas of overlap. If one person wants their children to be enlightened then they can expose their kids to what they as parents judge to be appropriate.

This conversation with the AYA was interesting. I had heard and read about multiculturalism before, but this was one of my first experiences with it. From the perspective of this ignorant and culturally insensitive American (where America defines two continents but I use it to define my country which is a small subset of those continents) it seems strange to see a countries strangled to death in their own political correctness.