Thursday, September 29, 2011

Random Observations: AUN and Nigeria

Working at AUN is a little like being newlywed Jimmy Stewart in It's a Wonderful Life. Every day I come "home" to work and AUN plays the part of Donna Reed, asking me if I can guess what surprise she prepared for me today. Here are just a few of things that have happened in only the last two weeks:
  • Yes, I saw you working on the drainage system in the parking lot yesterday. Is that done already? Wow.
  • Oh my, is that hallway open to the public again? How nice.
  • That bathroom has someone regularly checking to make sure it has toilet paper. I really appreciate that.
  • The new logo looks wonderful over our building. Now it has a name everyone can see. Thank you.
  • I like the paint job.
  • New flowers? How lovely.
  • Oh dear, I can tell you got that coffee machine working. Now the whole floor smells of coffee. Ah well, the Dean will be happy.
Every day is a surprise. Yes, it's still the old Buster House, or whatever its name was, but it's less and less like it every day.

I fully expected that the music in Nigeria would be heavily influenced by hip hop and electronica/techno/dance/pop. It is. I had not expected quite so much reggae.

I can also add that Nigerian pop relies much more heavily on Autotune than US pop and has a few other distinctly Nigerian stylings I have not been able to pinpoint.

The four TV shows I see regularly on the cafeteria monitors when I bother to glance up from my food and the work I brought with me:
  1. Football. (No, the other one. The one Nigerians call football. As long as I'm out here, it gets the title.) Gooooooooaaaaaaaal!
  2. Music videos. They look just like ours, more's the pity.
  3. Reality TV shows, particularly of the Nigeria's Next Supermodel variety.
  4. Moralizing Drama? Imagine Saturday morning specials rated M -- blood, gore, violence, bad language, and the potential for nudity, then at the end of the program they have a notice on the screen that "Many people in the real world actually have to deal with HIV/AIDS" or "sexual violence" or whatever the topic is today. "If someone you know ... call this hotline ..." It is a very curious phenomenon that I am doing my best to not find out more about.
Anything I was warned about before I came here has come true. Anything I was told not to worry about hasn't. It's been nice to have expectations largely met.

Nigerian fashion is wonderful. The students wandering around campus are far more tastefully and fashionably dressed by large margins than students at Cornell. (That doesn't mean all are modestly dressed by my standards either, but there is no desire to look grungy.) Though most people around town clearly cannot afford the same scale of tailoring, a surprising percentage are very well dressed given what I know the poverty statistics to be.

I have had very little trouble identifying the Mosques, which you can find all over the town along the main roads scattered at semi-regular intervals. Churches seemed far fewer until this week when I found five congregated next to each other on one side road - Catholic, Anglican, Baptist, and a couple more. I would wager this has something to do with frequency of use and the availability of transportation, but I don't have enough data yet to speculate on the exact relationships.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Blessed with Water

We have been blessed with water and we will be blessed again. Our water dispenser was leaking and the AC technician could not get it to work. Since it has been leaking we have left the water out of it and have been drinking our bottled water. Now our bottled water is gone…. and to fix the dispenser the technician took it away. So, since we don’t drink water out of the tap we have no water to drink right now. We do have two weeks worth of juice and some Fanta soda that I am sure will get us through today. I sure hope we can get the dispenser back soon, or I guess a run to the store may be in order.
I love you all---Joy

Derrill adds: We got our water dispenser back the same day. It works fine. I also showed Joy how we can use the 5 gallon drums for water even when we don't have a dispenser.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

3 months old

Princess has now lived in Nigeria longer than she has in America.

She is a little sweetheart who loves to see us. When I come home from work, she gives me her wide-mouthed, toothless smile of Joy.

When she wants attention, she tries cooing. Among her favorite games are when I lean over her and make various vowel sounds. So she knows the way to get Daddy's attention is to try talking back. This is also her favorite stalling technique for not going to bed, because I find it very hard to ignore her.

Quite in contrast to the Prince, Princess loves having her diaper changed. Neither of them particularly complain(ed) when their diapers are full, but while baby Prince screamed at us every time we changed him, she smiles just to see the diaper come out.

Princess is determined to learn how to walk. For more than a month, she puts all her effort into holding herself upright any chance we give her. It's clear that she's getting stronger at it, too, because we have to support her noticeably less.

Yesterday she grabbed a toy Mommy had set out for her and moved it around for the first time.

She can comfort herself by sucking her thumb.

When Prince needed to burp up, he burped up right after eating. Princess burps up right before eating.

She has slept through the night most nights for about 2-3 weeks now and one night this week she comforted herself to sleep.

She smiles when her brother plays with her - hugging and kissing, tickling her chin, or rubbing her head.

She loves it when we stick a finger in her mouth and brush her gums.

Two of the best ways to help her stop crying are to walk around with her or bounce her on our knees. She has fallen asleep before to the bounce of the knee.

"Derrill, if you're going to put that picture up, you really need to explain why she's smiling. That's a really cute part of her personality. She didn't start smiling until she started falling, and the less grip she had on the leg you can't see, the bigger her smile got until just after this picture -- down she went. Cause I'm not holding onto her. Course, I caught her when she went down."

Friday, September 23, 2011


Weeee have a Wiiiii! It woooorks!

Thanks, Mom and Dad.

(For those who don't remember, our "240V" plug wasn't manufactured by Nintendo and so when we got here it didn't work. We didn't know if we had fried the machine or not and wouldn't ever know because we got rid of the original 110V cord when we bought the new one. But my parents sent us a new cord and IT WORKS! After the 2 weeks I've had, this is much needed.)

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Prince has something to share

"Daddy, I Love oatmeal. Tell the people I love oatmeal."

... Tell what people?

"Tell the people at work that I love oatmeal. And cookies. I love oatmeal and I love cookies."

Maybe someday you'll like oatmeal cookies!

"... I do not think I like That. I don't want that. So just tell the people at work I love oatmeal."

I got permission to use Prince as one of my first examples in my microeconomics courses, making decisions between buying peanut butter and pears. So he knew that I regularly talked about him at work.

Friday, September 16, 2011

School Pictures

Presenting the Prince on his first day of school
in Nigeria.
Prince gets to school by a bus that parks at our complex overnight. So we have a nice front-row seat to know when the bus driver is getting ready to go. The first day I accompanied him to school (playing Mario DS on the bus) and Joy went to the school the first two days to pick him up. Now our neighbors' children watch him to make sure he stays on the bus all the way home.

We lucked out today. School ends early on Friday and we forgot about it. Joy had gone to take Princess to the doctor for shots and I had gone to the bank to finally cash my first paycheck. Joy made it home in time but forgot the bus would come early. I arrived at the same time as his bus, so I was standing right there to welcome him home. ... Good thing the bus driver called out to me that he had "one of yours here" since I hadn't recognized it as the school bus. ... Oh dear.

Overall his first week has been a success. He loves his Mario-red uniform, enjoys playing with the toys ("I play with all of them!") and is starting to work on his empathy ("I was sad the other children cried so much. It hurt my ears.")

The rest of these pictures are from my earlier trip to AUN in May. Right now it's a touch or three greener.

Recess happens at the beginning of day before it gets amazingly hot. Since the children wear shorts, I was worried about that -- even the LA sun was enough to fry through my corduroys on the metal slides I played on back in the day.

His classroom is just to the right of this picture, though at the time the students his age met in the room pictured on the left.

Proof of intelligent life

Joy took Princess to the doctor again today for her shots. I'm sure she'll tell the full story, but the short story is that Princess remembers the doctor from last month.

"She was only a month and a half old" when they met. "Now she's two and a half months old."

She remembered him. She saw him again and started crying. She was not happy to be back in his office. It was the doctor who posited that Princess remembered him and Joy realized he must be right. "She doesn't throw those kind of fits very often and she was looking Straight at him with those fiery daggers."

If Carroll Wrote Dickens

The Mome Raths were outgrabe, to begin with. This must be distinctly understood, or nothing mimsy can come of the come of the slithy tove I am going to gyre and gimble.....

Oh, but he was a bandersnatch at the brillig, the Jabberwock! a frumious, chortling, uffish, vorpal, manxome, tulgey, old galumpher!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Happy half-birthday

Okay, so it was a few days ago, but still, happy half-birthday, Prince, old man.

He always was a happy fellow.

Hard to believe it was two years ago we went to Italy.

Haven't watched the Bob the Builder cartoon we brought for him yet. But last week he rediscovered the Smurfs. He decided he spins around to become Handy Smurf.

Dancing to the music this week. What a happy, energetic, wonderful boy.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

My Isengaard

Ah, my impressive fortress! Who could ever scale your battlements?

And notice how camouflaged it is on a cloudy day!

Among the things that impresses me is that despite being the largest building around by a fair piece, it doesn't stand out markedly because it's well-surrounded by trees.

The guardhouse, where the guards are housed who guard our house.

The Ents nearly have me surrounded, but I'm assured they won't last into the summer months.

You can just make out at the bottom of the picture the Hobbit playground.

Bet you didn't know Isengaard had Two Towers, did you? This is the other one, but on a sunny day.

 And one of the majestic views looking down from our apartment.

AUN takes good care of us.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Registration for school

Prince will be going to the Community School that is run by AUN. We were told that the teachers would be available in their classes to meet students and to be introduced into their new classrooms Wednesday and Thursday. The school manager was kind enough to contact us to schedule an appointment since Derrill has no afternoon hours and the teachers were available for introduction in the afternoons. We met with four wonderful people, Prince’s teacher, the teacher’s aide, the school manager and the community school manager. We were able to discuss Prince’s strengths and weaknesses and had a good meeting where we both seemed to be able to pay a lot of attention even with Prince playing in the same room.
After meeting with the them, we went into Prince’s class and let him get comfortable with the room and some more balls (he had played with a ball during the meeting. I fed him some lunch. I think his favorite thing was when the teacher got out her stamps that she uses for the children’s work to let them know they have done well, one said “Way to go!” He was given paper and a stamping pad and had a very nice time using them. Even when he stamped one on the carpet, they didn’t get upset at him and they thought he was very cute when he said he was sorry.
After spending time in the class, Prince wanted to play outside again. We were waiting for a shuttle so he went out to play while we waited. I didn’t feel like the assistant to the teacher needed to watch Prince while he played outside, but she followed him around everywhere. I told her she didn’t need to, but I wasn’t going to argue the point, because I knew that her close proximity would be helpful in him getting used to his teachers and the environment, because it wasn’t bothering him and he was learning to as for her assistance when he needed it. I thought it was above and beyond the call of duty and I have to confess that it did ease my mind somewhat actually seeing him being cared for in my presents.
Prince tried on his new uniform. They have all of the students where a uniform at the school. The boys where a red polo shirt with AUN on it and navy shorts and the girls where a red polo shirt with navy pinafore or a skirt. Prince was thrilled with his uniform because it is a Mario (red) shirt to be worn every day. Their system is that you pay into their account at the bank, then you get the uniform after you give them verification from the bank that you have paid. They gave us the information, Derrill paid for the uniforms and the registration at the bank, and Prince receive his uniforms (two) on Monday which was the first day of school.
On the way out of school I also met other teachers that Prince would be working with, the PE teacher and other educators. It was a good introduction to the school. The Community school supervisor or manager is a delightful woman and I really appreciated everyone that I met.
Additionally on the way home, while Prince and I were waiting for a ride (the shuttle). A lady that lives in 16 flats where we live offered us a ride home. She, Grace, and her daughter, Praise, were very kind and enjoyable to visit with. Grace has a son who is 3 and one that just turned 5 last week. They were having a birthday party for the 5 year old in a couple of days and she invited us to attend. That was very kind after just meeting us. The more people I meet it seems that more comfortable I am here. I should not be so surprise, I am such a people oriented person.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Lovely Princess

Now with extra thumb-sucking action

When I was a Lad 2

As a stream of consciousness exercise, this is what each of us thinks about that title

My version:

When I was a lad I went to Yale.
Cause I knew then that I could never fail
For I studied very hard, and furthermore,
I polished up the apple for the professor.
    [He polished up the apple for the professor.]
I polished up the apple so frequently
That soon I had a Phi Beta Kappa key.
    [He soon had a Phi Beta Kappa key from polishing the apple very frequently.]

On graduation day I made a stop
At a very exclusive clothing shop
I opened up a charge account and asked them for
The best grey flannel in the clothing store.
   [The best grey flannel in the clothing store.]
That suit was a part of a great intrigue
For it proved I was a member of the Ivy League
   [It was part . of a great intrigue for it proved he was a member of the Ivy League.]

More of Allan Sherman's parody of Gilbert and Sullivan's lyrics here.

Joy's version:

When I was just a young boy, Christmas meant one thing:
That I'd be getting lots of toys that day.
I learned a whole lot different when mother sat me down
And taught me to spell Christmas this way:

C - is for the Christchild born on Christmasday
H - for herald angels in the sky
R - is for our Redeemer
I - means Israel, and
S - is for the star that shone so bright.
T - is for three wise men, they who traveled far, and
M - is for the manger where he lay.
A - is for all He stands for
S - means shepherds came.

And that's why there's a Christmas day.

When I was a Lad

Prince likes throwing rocks. In an attempt to help him stop, I told him about "back when I was a little boy." I threw a rock and unintentionally smashed a car window. I spent the next two+ years paying to have it replaced. I was very sad to have broken the window. 

While telling the story may not have stopped his rock throwing, it has given him a newfound interest in his parents.

"Daddy, what else did you do when you were a little boy?" he asked the other day. That led to a family time sharing of pictures of me as a little boy and stories of some of the less-violent things I did ... like play chess as a two year old, for instance.

Then yesterday he told Joy, "Mommy, once when you were a little boy, you threw a rock and broke a car. Pop was really mad."

Oh, did I, she asked.

He continued, "What did you do when you were a little kid? What next when you little kid?"

J: "I told him that I went out and made friends and brought lots of people home and sang and skipped to school. He asked me why I skipped school. I said, no, I didn't skip school, I skipped TO school, and I showed him how I skipped. ... Let's see, what else? I told him I liked to sing in the choirs."


Another interesting conversation happened when Prince bit the inside of his mouth. Joy expressed her empathy by telling him she was sorry.
"Did you do that to me?" he queried. "Then why do you say sorry?"

For some reason, Joy thinks he gets that from me. I think he gets it from her because I've had to learn to stop telling her I am sorry for her, but have to say, "I empathize," because she keeps trying to reassure me that life isn't my fault if I say "sorry." As a result, I find this comic hilarious. [On showing Joy the comic, she says that it was in reference to that that she thinks it's my fault.]
 -- Derrill

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

What's in a name?

Parents by other names may not sound as sweet.

Prince has learned to call Joy "mother", but only in certain circumstances:

"I'll do it your way, mother."
"I'll obey you, mother."
"Okay, mother."

Joy: It's always with a tone of resignation. Probably going to hear a lot of that during his little life, hunh?

Part of the reason of course is that on those rare occasions I have to come in and law down some Law, it is usually to remind him that he needs to "obey his mother." Mother is someone you Respect and Obey.

Yesterday morning, Joy was feeling very tired and wanted a short nap in the morning (blame the Princess). I had to go to work. Prince exclaimed, "I don't you to leave me all alone. Mommy is asleep, so she leaves me all alone. If you go to work, and I am all alone. I don't want my parents to leave me all alone." I empathized, particularly since it was the first time he called us "parents." He was very sweet about the whole thing and did let Mommy sleep another 15 minutes when our neighbors came over to play with him.

On my way out the door every day, he calls out, "I hope you come back, Daddy." I do not take this as a sign of any actual trepidation on his part, as if my coming home were in any doubt. He probably really means, "I look forward to when you're home again."

Joy also reports that he occasionally refers to me as Derrill. When I rarely hear him do it, it throws me. What did you say?? But he's usually3-4 sentences further on by the time I realize it, so it's too late to respond. But mostly, he refers to me as Derrill when speaking to Mommy, but again only in certain circumstances. "Let's ask Derrill." "Where is Derrill?" He asks, "What is daddy doing?" but he wants to know where "Derrill" is.

Prayer begins to click

Joy has been taking care of Prince's prayers as he goes to bed lately. Most of her attempts involve asking him before the prayer to think of good things that happened he could thank God for during his prayer. 

Tonight I had been playing Super Mario DS with Prince and we made some wonderful progress until bedtime. He left Very excited. It was all he wanted to talk about. It's all he wants to talk about anyway. So when I asked him what he was thankful for, it was all Mario, of course.

We started praying, and he said he was thankful for finding Luigi's hat and Wario's hat... and paused. I suggested to him, "Prince, do you want to tell God about your game?"

Ho boy, did he! I had almost expected he would continue where he left off before the prayer, asking God instead me, "Why did we find a Luigi hat in that level?" or explaining that "We found the Wario hat in the underground world. It used to be on the sea monster, but then it moved to a goomba. And when you hit him, it makes the hat fall to the ground." 

Instead, he came up with some of his first requests for his Heavenly Father: "Please help me to free Luigi from his cage, and Wario from his cage ... and Princess Peach from her cage, and Yoshi from his cage. Please help me to find the..." and just prayed from his little heart, asking God for help with his DS game.

It was a wonderful, beautiful, sacred moment.

Course, now I also feel that much more interested in making his prayer come true so he knows God hears and answers prayers.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Nibley on the Infinite Atonement, the Existence of Life, Temples, and the Second Law of Thermodynamics

This post has maintained a steady stream of visitors on our old family blog and I'd rather move them to this more public one, so I'm moving the post to here. The text consists of excerpts from Nibley's article and, except for my [insertions] are only his words.

Hugh Nibley, "The Meaning of the Temple," Temple and Cosmos, Ch. 1:

One basic proposition receives particular attention ... the well-known second law of thermodynamics: everything runs down. ... Let us quote [Lyall] Watson, the biologist:

Left to itself, everything tends to become more and more disorderly, until the final and natural state of things is completely random distribution of matter. Any kind of order ... is unnatural and happens only by chance encounters. ... The further combination of molecules into anything as highly organized as a living organism is wildly improbable. Life is a rare and unreasonable thing ... infinitesimal.
There is no chance of us being here at all. ... The nuclear physicist P. T. Matthews asks:
Why is the proton stable... [with a lifespan of 50 minutes vs. 10 to the -8 seconds]? There is no obvious reason why it should not disintegrate into, say, a positive pion and neutrino... . By relentless operation of the Second Law, essentially every proton would by now have decayed into lighter particles. Clearly the opposite is the case, and there must be some very exact law which is preventing this from happening. ... A human being is at very best ... quite unimaginabl[y] improbabl[e].
So the physical scientists and the naturalists agree that if nature has anything to say about it, we wouldn't be here. This is the paradox which Professor Wald of Harvard says, "The spontaneous generation of a living organism is impossible. ..." [Matthews continues]
If, after seeing a room in chaos, it is subsequently found in good order, the sensible inference is not that time is running backwards, but that some intelligent person has been in to tidy up. If you find the letters of the alphabet ordered on a piece of paper to form a beautiful sonnet, you do not deduce that teams of monkeys have been kept for millions of years strumming on typewriters, but rather that Shakespeare has passed this way.
It was the evolutionist who seriously put forth the claim that an ape strumming on a typewriter for a long enough time could produce, by mere chance, all the books in the British Museum, but did any religionist ever express such boundless faith? I don't know any religious person who ever had greater faith than that. ...

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Shakespearean Recommendations: in Full Color

Before we left for Nigeria, I discovered "Romeo X Juliet", an Anime version of the classic, on YouTube. The entire two season, 24 episode show is there for free (or was a few months ago). The first season is a very interesting reimagining of most of the story -- medieval fantasy with flying "dragon-steeds," a much better palace intrigue, and topped off with the usual environmental message of man's evil destroying the balance of nature. In this version, Juliet is the only survivor of the royal house of Capulet who were all murdered by Romeo's evil father in a bid to become king. The Bard himself is a character with a minor but important role. When they get to the second season, though, they've run out of Shakespeare and could have closed things off with 2-3 more episodes, ... but that wouldn't be enough for a whole new season, would it? So the second meanders a bit until the lovers are reunited for the dramatic climax. The title song uses the tune for "You Raise Me Up." Beautiful artistry, good retelling, worth watching again. [And remember, folks, this IS Shakespearean tragedy -- parental discretion advised.]

The last several weeks have also seen a very playful rendition of MacBeth (now how often do you hear MacBeth called playful?) by webcomic HousePets.  It has been so very entertaining that I picked up my collection just to read the original for the first time so I could appreciate the comic more. (Any time I've thought of it, it's always surprised me I've never seen or read either MB or King Lear, so I'm glad to get one out of the way. Of course I'm familiar with the plot, main characters and some choice lines - even wrote a Star Wars parody of the sisters' chanting - but it's different reading it in the original Klingon, as they say.) Reading it all has brought all my favorite parodies of it to mind, too, Peter Shickele's set of 'modern' Shakespeare songs top among them. My favorite line so far from the original is MacBeth's after his "discovery" of the murder: "Had I but died an hour before this chance, I had lived a blessed time...". Beautiful stuff. Or you can try the parody:

And then they make him king. Greeeeeat.

Not in full color, I can also recommend this rendition of Hamlet starring Groucho Marx. Any recommendations for other excellent renditions and parodies?
 -- Derrill

(For those wondering, some children who lived by us in our first apartment called anything animated "full color" to differentiate it from live action color movies, which did not suit their pallet.)

Prince Bore His Testimony

We laughed
We cried

We were duly admonished to "Obey Jesus"

Prince was named "Momma's little man" today for his dashing looks. As soon as I said we would all have the chance to bear our testimony, Prince rushed up to join me. When it was his turn, he said ... well, he said several things that were kind of garbled. He started by saying "Thank you that..." as if he were praying. He closed by saying "Obey Jesus." What happened in the middle is less well known. He was very excited.

We had hoped to be joined by another family today, but they sadly couldn't make it because of the inclement weather. Hopefully next week.