Three weeks back I watched Elite Troop, the English title for Tropa de Elite, about BOPE, the special forces of Rio de Janeiro. It is a disturbing movie on many levels: violent crime, extrajudicial killings, pervasive corruption, citizens abused by both gangs and BOPE. Yet it is also quite interesting for many of those same points. My Brazilian friend had recommended it to me, but only recently did it show up on Amazon Prime.
Two weeks back I watched The Second Mother, which is Que Horas Ela Volta? A mother from the poor Northeast, a Nordestina, who is in fact from Pernambuco State, is a live-in maid for a wealthy São Paulo family. The arrival of the maid's daughter, however, causes various problems that reflect the employer-employee, old vs new generations, and notable Brazilian demographics. The daughter is a bit annoying, but the mother who has lived apart from her for over a decade, sending money back the whole time, ultimately chooses her own daughter over the security of her maid position.
I have become an Electrical Engineer II. Nice!
On Wednesday the 27th, I volunteered as a judge for an 8th grace science contest at Imago Dei Middle School. There were three groups for whom my input was particularly important. One involved people's fear of robots, another involved human-powered electricity generation, and the last involved crown gall, a bacterial infection of plants. I also talked with two girls who did a presentation on aromatherapy (lavender and peppermint) and relaxation.
All the kids did a good job, and I enjoyed judging. It was interesting to see what the students put on their posters versus what they had to say about their projects.
This project, Your Own Electricity, was done by a group of three young men who went through five different generators in an attempt to charge a cellphone.
This project, Crown Gall, was about a bacterial infection of plants and was a solo project. Unfortunately for the student, someone who had a collection of crown gall-infected roses never delivered them to her, so she wasn’t able to perform her experiments.
The final project, Robotics, mainly involved building and programming two kit robots, but the two young men who did this researched who fears their possible future robot overlords.
Everyone did a good job, but I regret that I didn't spend more time at others' presentations.
This morning I volunteered for a second day with Habitat for Humanity. We were supposed to paint the outside of a house to which we applied primer two weeks ago; however, it was raining—brief lightning, too—so we wound up working on the interior. The future Habitat homeowners putting in their required hours mainly worked on painting the doors. I wound up doing much caulking of baseboards and shelves, but I also sawed some boards to become shelves and secured shelves with a nail gun. Good stuff!
Helping people build homes is enjoyable, and it also gives exposure to a number of tools, methods, and people. The Tucson branch doesn't have any volunteering during July, because it is too hot. If more openings come up, I will volunteer again later this year.
My friend and I towed his boat up to Saguaro Lake this Thursday. We quickly found that the work he had had done was inadequate: Every time we turned off the engine or ran at near-idle speed for more than a few minutes, one cylinder would quit firing. Thankfully we had multiple spares, so we could rotate through them and generally maintain performance.
But the throttle linkage seemed wonky as well, with irregular fluctuations, one of which tossed me backward from the bow. My rear still hurts from that fall.
Our first night was spent camping on a floating dock without cleats about midway to the dam at the opposite end of the lake. Early Friday morning I woke to feel four steps on my chest followed by a flop flop of wings right by my ear. Some largish bird had used me as a runway. Shortly thereafter we pulled over to the secured dock to check out the campground, which was very nice: at least twenty sites, ample shade trees, and a toilet. But someone else had set up their boat in preparation for a horde of revelers that would arrive throughout the day.
After cruising up and down the lake and refueling, we met my father and step-mother for Fish Friday at the marina's restaurant. Not bad at all! But when we returned to the campground dock, there was barely an opening. We managed to squeeze in, which brought some people convinced our boat was going to bump into theirs. We apparently defused the tension, but probably the revelers' drinking helped them forget all about us. They cranked music until midnight, but the Mr. Microphone sessions thankfully ended around 10. Few had expected the night temps to drop into the 50s, so there was a late-night exodus back to the marina and onward to homes and hotels.
Saturday was a repeat at the campsite, with even more boats tied three abreast. This time, however, people were prepared for the cold. During the day, a Phoenix friend came and we drove him up to the dam. On the way back, we stopped at a party beach where we met, unexpectedly, another Tucson acquaintance. Drinks in buggies had driven overland to the beach, and one poor guy managed to roll his on the beach. People got together to right it, only to find his head gashed badly. Thankfully another boater and hockey enthusiast had superglue on hand, which was used in lieu of stitches. On our way back to the marina, we saw the State Patrol boat stop at least one boat for unknown transgressions.
Sunday morning we decided to call it quits, but we had learned it will be worth going up for the campground on non-holiday weekends.
I greatly enjoyed most of my Japanese students and colleagues, but I have retained contact with only a few of them. Most of my acquaintances are from my Tokushima University days, during which my Japanese ability began to improve and the size of the city, smaller than Sapporo and Tokyo, helped me get to know people better. My last unwed student recently sent photos of the man to whom she is now engaged, who proposed by writing "Please Marry Me Rie" in fruit syrup on a dessert plate at dinner.
Slowly I am acquiring the tools for home maintenance, but the knowledge is still a ways off. Only today did I realize the true value of a 1/2"-wide flathead screwdriver.
Recently I sent a photo to my friends and family. Those I knew from my time in Japan all, with the exception of one, noted that I had gained gravitas or become a bit more American size. It is true but also amusing.
Recently I made a trip to the Northwest to see a friend who runs two restaurant franchises. He and his wife welcomed us warmly! Since they work long hours, we were left to our own devices, which mainly meant our rental car and my GPS unit. Despite the haze from the many forest fires, the skies were pleasantly overcast, the air was refreshingly moist, and there was green everywhere but in the grass.
We drove around the Bremerton area but visited just two state parks: Scenic Beach and Illahee. Both had ample forest filled with tall trees and curious ferns. Views across still bodies of water are plentiful, but I did not smell the omnipresent faint turpentine that marked my first trip up there. We strolled the short main drag of Poulsbo and bought tasty breads at its Scandinavian bakery. The tiny town's Safeway has a fireplace!
After a few days we were ready for the ferry from Port Angeles to Victoria, British Columbia. Just two hours long, the ferry was very dull as the weather left little to see. There was also minimal space in the hold, so getting in and out of my car was miserable. However, Canadian immigration was speedy and we made our way to our hotel at the foot of Craigdarroch Castle with no trouble. We visited the Royal Museum after a tasty late seafood lunch downtown. The next day we visited the Castle and chatted with a well-travelled photographer. That was followed with a trip to Butchart Gardens, which was truly delightful and loaded with international visitors. After dinner at Fishhook, where our waitress was a sweet lass from Regina, an odd fellow asked if I would continue being loud on his bus, to which I replied I would not. He then asked if we were tourists and apologized on the behalf of Victoria. The next day we drove about until it was time to queue for the ferry back. A trio of women from Astoria, Oregon, made the 90 minute wait go quickly. Our return trip was under a blue sky with broad views of the Sound and its encircling mountains. US immigration was astoundingly fast!
Soon we were in Port Townsend, with its nifty Victorian buildings and superb views over the Windmere Islands. I was miffed at missing the Hoosier owner of the 1020 Café but we did eat a bit at Aldritch's before returning to my friend's house.
Construction and accidents did not prevent our making our flight home to Arizona.