Number of People with Nothing Better to Do

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Velada Artistica (The Talent Show)

My friend and socio Munañte picking up a donated cake to be raffled.

Horsing around with some kids before the event.

Send in the clowns

Jess and Nikki singing.

We held a talent show here in Big River to raise funds for a single mom who has cancer. Around 150 people showed up to watch several singing and dancing acts put on by the various schools and institutions of Rio Grande. The community really came together and donated their time, effort and money to help out one of their own. Some of the highlights included a clown and his son doing acrobatics, dancing and telling jokes (Peruvian clowns still creep me out a little but the crowd really liked it). Teachers from the inicial (kindergarten) danced a hilarious routine. The kids from primaria (elementary school) and secundaria (high school) danced traditional numbers. A little girl from an elementary school in a different town danced to a popular cumbia song called La Loba (The She Wolf). Another little girl from Rio Grande wasn’t going to let the out-of-towner get all the attention so she jumped into the middle of her act and the little girls had a dance-off. The girl from Palpa got served.

A few Peace Corps Volunteers that live in the area also performed. Caitlin from Nasca did a juggling/pantomime act. Nikki and Jess from Palpa played guitar and sang. But Vivaan from El Ingenio stole the show. The clown tried to pull me out to dance in front of everyone but since I have two left feet and a tin ear I told the clown to pick on Vivaan instead. Vivaan got up reluctantly, looked a little pissed, and walked slowly up to the clown. The music started, the clown started dancing, and Vivaan stood there a second with his hands in his pockets. All of a sudden he busted into his famous, high energy Vivaan dance moves. Everyone was clapping and cheering and laughing their asses off. He also made a substantial donation to the cause.

The lowlights of the event were me singing Hotel California and the clown making me dance in front of everyone anyway.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

America!! F*ck Yeah!! (Part II)

Giving a Peace Corps presentation at HUB International, my former employer.

The next morning after bombing the Oral Assessments, I woke up early and was over the little pity party I’d thrown for myself the night before without so much as pity party hangover (there was no drinking at this party by the way).

Thursday – I went in to visit my old boss and old work companions at HUB International and to give a presentation on my life and times as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Peru (Peace Corps Goal 3). About 20-30 people came by and the presentation went great. People asked a ton of great questions and one of my former co-workers said that she learned a lot making it all worthwhile. After, the Risk Consulting boys and I went out for a late lunch and beers and others came by after work to chill out a bit. It was really great to see everyone at my old place of employment and they told me they’d welcome me back at HUB when I was finished with the Peace Corps. Later, I went to hang out with my old basketball team, Scoregasm (formerly known as "I'd Hit That"), at Durkin’s after they had just won the league championship. It was a complete surprise to most of the guys and they welcomed me with open, albeit sweaty, arms.

The HUB International crew - Tom Heebner, Rene Rosa, and Maranda Haluska.

League Champion Scoregasm - Ivan, Storm, Tom, Gary, Sherwin

Friday – Cubs game! My buddy Nick Albu wrangled up some excellent free tickets to the Cubs vs. Yankees game so me, Chris, Nick, and one of Nick’s clients went to the game. I bought my scorecard and pencil from John who’s been selling them at Wrigley Field since the place was built in 1914. We had a few beers, saw the Cubs beat the Yankees and got to hang out with Chris’ carpenter buddies in carpenter shop in the bowels of Wrigley, a place most fans don’t get to go. Afterwards we went to my old watering hole Monsignor Murphys to have a couple of pints. The whole gang was there and up to the same old shenanigans. Apparently, though, hardly anyone ever hangs out there anymore.

At the Cubs game with Nick and the Mity One

Saturday – Cubs game & Monsignor Murphys Part II. Basically a replay from the day before except the Cubs lost and I did get to see a bunch of folks I didn't see the night before.

At Monsignor Murphys with Joan and Sexy Johnny.

Sunday – Father’s Day. Started off by playing some softball with the old co-rec softball team. After, I went out to the mean streets of Arlington Heights to hang out at Nick’s beautiful house in the burbs. Who knew my friends were such prolific breeders?! There I saw my extended surrogate family - Chris and his fam, Chris and Nick’s parents, cousins, all the kids, the Paulsons, and Greg Carlson’s family with the twins and their two week old baby girl. It was a great time! Nick’s wife Sandra brought a ton of beef tenderloin from Morton’s Steak House, Nick grilled them masterfully and everyone brought sides and deserts. Absolutely delicious. It was a great time and great to see everyone. Chris and Krissa dropped me off at the El Station and that’s when it hit me that I was going back to Peru and won’t see everyone for a bit. It’s wrong for a man to cry in the arms of another man unless one of them is dying in a foxhole but I almost did cry hugging it out with the Mity Albu (I didn’t though so LAY OFF!)

Sunday softball team

Men and meat!

The Carlson clan.

Monday – One last lunch with the HUB Risk Consulting boys, off to the airport, and 1st Class all the way back to the 3rd World. Having some flight attendant past her prime handing you a hot towlette and repeatedly refilling your wine glass helped ease back into Peru.

Although I was bummed about bombing the shit out of the Oral Assessment, it was great to see my second home and all my friends.

Chicago I love you. I miss you.

America!! F*ck Yeah!! (Part I)

Air Force One in Miami International Airport. I hope Obama raised a hell of alot of money because he created one huge pain in my ass.

View from my suite in downtown Chicago.

Every time I go to Chicago, I’m more and more convinced that it’s the greatest city in the universe! I travelled to Chicago to take the Oral Assessment, one of the final hurdles to being accepted as a Foreign Service Officer by the State Department. I planned the trip back in February so I’d have a little taste of summer time in Chicago.

Monday – I flew out of Lima at 7:30 in the morning en route to Miami. I was a little nervous about the flight because a regular seat on an airplane is like being crammed into a Peruvian tico taxi for me – especially when the ahole in front of you wants to recline his seat all the way. I got to the airport early though and flirted a bit with the girl at the ticket counter and she booked me exit rows all the way to Chicago! Now as a kid I spent many, many hours at Miami International Airport going back and forth from Venezuela to Texas. Most of those hours were spent making my mom’s life a living hell and checking payphones for change with my kid brother. I did look around for some payphones to check them for old time sake but couldn’t find any anywhere - so I called my mom to give her shit instead.

President Obama and his entourage were in Miami for a fund raiser and all flights in and out were delayed until Obama left the airport. It was very cool to see Air Force One but not cool that it delayed my flight for over two hours causing me to miss my connection in Atlanta. I wound up getting put on a different airline to Midway instead of O’Hare and of course my bags were nowhere to be found when I landed. Highlight – my good buddy Chris Albu made the perfect pick up at the airport at midnight complete with a couple of welcome cans of Old Style and we hit the White Palace for a late dinner. People speak English in America which is cool.

Tuesday – I spent most of the day trying to track down my luggage and a suit for my Oral Assessments the next day (just in case my shit didn’t show up). I called a buddy of mine Seth who is about my height and build and he lent me a very nice stockbrokery-type suit and tie. His fiancée Rosa, a sister of a good buddy of mine who lives here in Peru (an it’s small world story), was kind enough to help me pick out and try on various suits. We found one that fit perfectly except the pants were just a wee bit short. I also ran into Chris’ wife Krissa at a TJ Max downtown while I was buying socks and underwear. I should have spent the day preparing for my Oral Assessments but I couldn’t very well go in looking and smelling like I’d been wearing the same Peace Corps clothes for the last two weeks (which I had).

Wednesday – The big day - Oral Assessment for the State Department. The moment I’d been preparing for. The Oral Assessment is more than just an interview – it is an all day event. The first challenge was a group exercise where six other candidates were in a room, we each had to read a big packet of information and give a six minute presentation to the group defending our particular scenario. Bombed it because I didn’t read the directions carefully enough and I’d prepared with different types of scenarios. Challenge 2 – the structured interview. I sat with two interviewers who read from a script, wrote the whole time, didn’t make any eye contact and barely acknowledged what I was saying. Did OK there. Challenge 3 – The case management exercise. Again, they give you a big packet of information and you have to read it and write a 2 page memo. I could have said what I needed to say in one so I had to throw extra, unneeded, wordy, superfluous bullshit in there (it is the US government after all). And the results… Bombed the shit out of everything. I walked out of the building after receiving results I didn’t want to hear and it was pouring outside. At least four of the six candidates with me failed too.

I was quite upset that I’d prepared and travelled all this way to fail. That evening I should have gone to hang out with Albu and his family but I was feeling pretty devastated and antisocial so I wandered the streets of Wrigleyville aimlessly trying to get my mind around everything.