Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Boar

I'm on the Hawaiian island of Oahu visiting my uncle for spring break. He lives near the main city of Honolulu on the southeastern shore, about a mile from the beach up a verdant canyon. The street he lives on is the furthest one up the canyon wall on this side, so his backyard is essentially wilderness. It's a really gorgeous place where it rains a few minutes a day and usually stays above 70, even at night. Needless to say, it's a perfect place for a break.

My activities here so far have been pretty laid back. I've spent a lot of time playing with my uncle's Korg Kaoss Pad, which is basically a touchpad synthesizer/sampler, loopdigging through my music. A couple of days ago we took a day trip to Kauai and saw some of the famous vistas. Trips to the beach have been interspersed throughout. I expected to spend the rest of my time here doing the same sorts of things, ironing out the stress I have accumulated recently.

But then something funny happened. Last night, a little after sundown, my uncle's next door neighbor Kono came over. He's a warm and funny guy with a Hawaiian accent and a goatee. He told us that he saw a boar in the upper part of his backyard eating some food he left out for it. He told us that he snuck into his house, grabbed his crossbow, came back outside and shot it. Kono said he got it square in he shoulder, but it ran off up the hill. He asked us to help him look for it, as the brush was pretty thick up there. We immediately agreed.

I got my boots on and grabbed a flashlight and a machete. Kono estimated that the boar was over 100 pounds, and a boar of that size can do a lot of damage. We hiked up the steep incline about 10 yards until we reached a large path that ran parallel to the street. There were about five of us, and we split up to look for a trail of any kind. For about ten minutes, none of us could find anything. All of a sudden, my uncle called out to us. He found a small spot of blood on a rock a little further up the hill. Three of us went up the hill directly from that spot, including me. I was following a trail obviously made by animals through the thick brush, and decided to get on my hands an knees. 10 yards up from the parallel path, I found it.

The boar was clearly dead. I saw it through what was essentially a tunnel through the brush, formed by weeks of animals' use. Its hair was dark with some silver tinges in places, and no wound was visible. I called out to the others that I had found it once I was sure, and Kono came running. He grabbed the beast by its hind leg and dragged it into the open. He rolled it over and exposed the arrow, buried almost to the feathers. Kono's face lit up: "Hooooooo. Look at the size of him." And with good reason. The boar must have been over 130.

We worked it down to the open space of the path, and Kono found a good rock to pose the animal on. Then he chopped down a length of some tree, and quickly whittled down a 3 inch stick. He pulled open the jaws and stuck the stick in to prop them open. Then he posed the pig with some rocks, and we took some pictures. Once the photoshoot was over, Kono proceeded to gut the animal. He did it quickly with only a few cuts, his hands protected by latex gloves. Two of the four razors that made up the arrow point sheared off in the boar, so he had to be especially careful. Once the animal was gutted, he tied some rope around the back legs and the snout, and carried the boar with his friend down to his backyard. He found a branch of a tree that suited him, and tied the boar snout down to it.

At this point I decided to go home. Kono told us he would skin the boar, then butcher it and debone it in preparation for smoking. His friend has a smoker built in his back yard, and it can be done in less than 48 hours. I thanked him for the adventure, and headed to bed. All I could think about as I drifted to sleep was how good the smoked boar was going to taste. About a month ago, me and some friends got together and ordered a suckling pig, around 30 pounds, and roasted it in a backyard. That was absolutely delicious, and I can only imagine this will be better. I'll let you know.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

A Quick One While It's Away

I find it somewhat funny that I can feel guilty about not writing in something that nobody reads anyway. It's as though writing in here is a continuous investment of some sorts, but I don't know what I am hoping to get out of it in the end. Sometimes, like now, it is just a nice activity to let my brain decompress between studying, gritting my teeth because I can't remember how to solve a differential equation, and shooting off terse emails to my professor who I've never actually met.

I'm in the North Reading Room in our main library. It's a huge cavernous space that echoes more than anywhere I have ever been. This makes people especially silent, and on a relatively clear day like today the big windows let a lot of light in. I like that. It took me a while to realize it, but florescent lights drive me crazy. Most of our library is underground and that awful unnatural florescent color pervades every nook. The problem is that I have a very tough time putting my nose to the grindstone when the sun is up, so most of my work gets done under those demon lamps in the wee hours of the morning. This dilemma haunts my every step. It's a really tragic catch-22 that will likely end up costing me thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours in therapy at some point in the future.

Well, back to work now. I have to read Macbeth and the sun is already starting to set. Thanks a lot, Daylight Savings.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Settled In

Being back home is strange and wonderful and all kinds of other shit simultaneously.

In some ways things went right back to normal as though I had never left, but other things are new and different. I'm in a new house with old friends, and am recently (painfully) aware of how little time is left for me here at Berkeley. I am going to try to get more out of this semester by managing my time better and seeing more of my friends more often.

With classes, research, and a job, it can be difficult to find enough time for anything else. Tons of students here, especially in the scientific majors, only spend their time studying. Not only do I think that's unhealthy, but it's also a total waste of a perfectly good college experience. I will leave Berkeley knowing that I could have gotten some better grades had I spent more time in the library. I'll also know that what I got in return for that sacrifice was completely worth it. I probably won't get into the very best medical schools, but the limited social life I have has kept me sane and centered.

Basically, it's going to be a bitching semester.

Saturday, January 10, 2009


I am currently flying over Iowa on my way to LAX. I was in JFK for a bit of a layover, but now it's the real home stretch. The last 36 hours have been hectic, boring, and painful all at the same time. I do not recommend dragging 80 kilos of luggage around the Paris metro system, in case you were thinking about it. I booked this flight so long ago that I had no idea where I was going to be right now. It turned out that I would be back in Leiden, outside Amsterdam, where my two traveling buddies have been living this semester. I was very close to splurging and changing my flight to be out of Amsterdam, but I didn't. Stupid decision. J. Alexander was on my flight from Paris though. I was pretty close to asking him something ridiculous and out of the blue like, "Does my ass look fat in these jeans?" but I didn't.

I can't be upset at the moment though. I have WiFi on my flight, and I am Going to California for the first time in almost six months, and there is a 3x3 animal style, fries, and a coke waiting for me at the In-N-Out near LAX. I have definitely have missed my favorite California food more than anything else. Is that bad?

I was informed (warned?) by my abroad program that there are two kinds of culture shock that people tend to experience when they live in another country for an extended amount of time. There is the shock of arriving in a foreign land, not knowing the people and the customs, and having to figure everything out on your own. It's frustrating, annoying, and eye-opening. After a month of Denmark I was settled. I never ceased to be annoyed with little things like how everything is closed on Sunday, but I adapted for the most part with no problem.

The second kind of culture shock is supposed to hit when you go home. Apparently a lot of people have such a fantastic time during their program that going home just sucks. This happened to my cousin when he went to Barcelona a few years ago. I have a feeling that, at least at Berkeley, this has to do with the fact that we do real work. According to the interwebs, the University of Copenhagen and the University of Leiden are both highly-regarded institutions internationally. Yet, my Berkeley friends and I haven't done so little work since elementary school. Go figure. Next semester is scheduled to be one of my lightest since coming to college, but I know it will be a lot more intense than this past six months. Frankly, I'm tired of not using my brain.

I doubt I will be feeling this reverse culture shock. I was tired of how small Copenhagen is, how horrible the weather is in that part of the world, and how expensive it was. I loved the place, but 6 months was just enough time. I have been fortunate enough on this trip that I have seen a ton of Europe. Since arriving in late July, I have been to France three times, Sweden twice, England, Germany, Holland four times, Spain twice, Morocco, and Portugal. I have seen more in my life than most people ever will, and feel like I am somewhat immune to whatever culture shock is. I get way more annoyed being in Texas than most other places.

This adventure is far from being completely sunk in and understood. I have seen more in these months than I usually do, and it flew by like you wouldn't believe. Some of the best stories I have were made along the way, and I haven't even realized it completely. There will never be anything else quite like it for me, and I am happy to say that I lived life to the fullest while I have been traveling. I made some great friends with couches in different parts of the world, and can't wait to see them again in who-knows-when.

At the same time, I have never appreciated my friends at home so much. For that matter, I have never appreciated my country so much, but that is 95% Obama. My friend Ryan and I recently spent an entire lunch just talking about our mutual close friends. We wondered how they are, if all the gossip that has filtered over the Pond is true, and how they have changed. I miss Leah's laugh, Pablo's wisdom, and Ben's politics.

But, seriously, I miss food the most.