Wednesday, April 29, 2009

TTU Wants Me!!! Yippee!!!

The news is definitely good, all the way around. But there is a big monkey wrench in the middle of it all. I cannot believe I am going to have to make this HUGE decision without Leo's input! I am so afraid!

I left Houston about 2:30 in order to get home in plenty of time to attend the annual "Bevo Bash". This is an event where the Calhoun County Texas Exes (those of us who graduated from the University of Texas) get together and visit, conduct a bit of business, and prepare to distribute scholarship money to one (or more) Calhoun seniors. Other than the fact that Leo was not with me, since he REALLY would have enjoyed it, I had an absolute blast. But, that's not my story tonight. So, let me back up just a bit. After I arrived in the parking lot of the restaurant, I decided to check my email on my iPhone. I couldn't believe I had a message waiting on me from Texas Tech. I sat in my truck a few minutes while I tried to open and read the Word document on my tiny iPhone screen. Here's how the message started...

29 April 2009. Dear Belinda, I am pleased to write you with the news that the technical communication and rhetoric faculty has decided to admit you into our online PhD program. We chose you from a large and talented pool of applicants, rejecting 79% of this round's group. Congratulations.

WHOO HOO! I can't believe it! I made the cut! They want me!

I was on cloud 9 throughout the entire meal. I tried to focus on having a good time with my new UT neighbors, but on the way home, all by myself in the truck, I was really whooping it up. I just couldn't believe it.

But, wait for the punchline. You see, there's more.

I made a few phone calls, to daughters and sis, and I headed straight for Jesse's to share the news with him. Since he watches my twitter posts here, he already knew. He was almost as pleased as I was. He reminded me that the really good part, the part where they let me know that want me, was the easy part. Now I have to decide whether I'm really up for the challenge, whether I really want to take it on, and whether or not I can (want to) pay for it. Yup. He's definitely right.

Hang on. I'm getting to the monkey wrench.

Finally I sit down at a computer and log in to my email and read the message properly. No mistake, they want me, but they also want me to decide quickly. No problem...I've almost decided.

Then I notice that there is a second attachment. Hmm...what's this? Just a few minutes ago I opened the second letter. I had to pick myself up off the floor after that one. Here is a [long] excerpt:

Your qualities and scholarly promise stand out in your application materials; accordingly, Technical Communication and Rhetoric faculty is excited to offer you a $25,000 fellowship as part of a newly created university initiative.

According to the university rules, the fellowship recipients must be new doctoral students who attend courses on the Lubbock campus. Therefore, in order to accept this fellowship, you would have to be in a position to take a 1‐year leave of absence from your current situation; in this case, you would join this fall's on‐campus doctoral class.

This fellowship will be given with no requirement or expectation that you teach, thereby allowing you the possibility of completing most of your doctoral coursework in one year, accelerating your degree progress by a full year over your online classmates. If you choose to accept this fellowship, you will be expected to make rapid progress on the degree in the first year, taking 12 hours of courses in the fall and spring semesters. Also in this year, you will be expected to apply for external grants/ residencies/ fellowships/ prizes (training will be provided for this effort) that might provide support for subsequent semesters of study. If external funding is unavailable, you will have a guaranteed graduate teaching appointment in years two through four at the going stipend rate if you choose to stay on campus, or you may return to your online cohort to finish your coursework, qualifying exams, and dissertation...

Now can you see my problem? I am so VERY HONORED to have been offered this. I mean, a "fellowship"? Me? That is absolutely incredible! But many of you have been following me closely enough to know that I also have other fish to fry. I mean, I am expecting to be living and working overseas before the end of the year. I expect to have a lot more work come up in the next few months. I expect that I will put a great deal of effort into my studies AND my work, just as I did while at the University of Texas. But to commit to an accelerated program, on campus in Lubbock? Oh my. Oh my, oh my, oh my. I do NOT know what to do!

Hope you'll keep me in your thoughts and prayers as I struggle to make sense of this. I do not have a clue what I am going to do. Not a clue.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Random Thoughts

I just got another phone call from Leo. That makes 3 already this rotation. This might be a record month for communication. He is also getting my emails, but can only sign on every few days or so. He sends me short messages as well. All of this while he is EXTREMELY busy means [to me, at least] that he is getting antsy to come home. What a shame. With 24 days left, he has a LONG way to go. It was nice to hear his voice though.

I keep thinking about how things will be next year when Leo is done with all of this traveling. My neighbor Judy Bush brought me a salad from her garden on Saturday (which was VERY sweet of her). I thought it was a nice gesture but didn't dwell on it much until I opened the lid. Wow! I could smell those wonderful onions and almost taste the lettuce before taking the first bite. I had forgotten what it was like to eat a salad with FLAVOR. Well, that experience has me hoping that Leo and Jess follow up on earlier discussions and plant a nice garden next year. I can't wait! I'm hoping for some chickens too providing fresh eggs daily, but that might be too much change to expect in a single year.

I've made all my travel plans for my trip to D.C. I leave on May 4th and come back on the 6th. It's a really quick trip. I'm hoping to get a lot accomplished while I'm there, however. My project needs the buy-in from the folks in Fairfax and I think the best way to get it is to get them involved now. Long trip for 2 days worth of work, but I'm betting it will be worth it.

Jess finished the gazebo and is getting ready to leave for New Mexico again. The only thing left to do is paint it, but that will definitely wait. It looks FABULOUS and I can't wait to begin spending some time there. I'm thinking that by late summer the gazebo might be a favorite spot for the grandkids to hang out (or camp out). Can't wait to see if that turns out to be true.

Oh well. Need to finish the laundry now so I can get packed for a couple of days back in Houston. Just thought I'd take a few minutes to post some random thoughts.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Update on Zoe

I'm in Houston this week and things are as crazy as ever, but I thought I'd post an update. Zoe was sent home Monday evening (finally!) after her leg started making significant improvement. She is back at day care today, and mom and dad are back at work. I understand she is feeling just fine.

Leo just "pinged" me from Lagos, Nigeria. Seems he has arrived safe and sound as well. He'll sleep for a bit before boarding a small aircraft for his final leg of the journey.

I'm back to work on a couple of projects that have been waiting on me. I will be traveling to D.C. (visiting Fairfax, Virginia) the week after next, but only for a day and a half of work. The two days following that will find me at the Offshore Technology Conference in Houston. Until then, it's nose-to-the-grindstone once again. Yippee!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Weather, Work and Emergencies

For the first time in many years, Michelle drove down to our place for a visit. What fun we had! Rebecca and Madison showed up as well since Madison's Saturday morning ballgame was rained out. I was able to get some work done while the family visited, but not as much as I hoped since the weather caused us to lose our internet connection. Hopefully, we'll get back on track tomorrow.

Leo leaves on Monday, so I am starting to be just a bit moody. This is definitely typical behavior for me, and we've both come to expect it. I have weeks worth of work, on a variety of projects, lined up and waiting for me. So after he's gone, there won't be much time for moping or crying. Still, we have gotten to the point where we understand, expect, and accept the emotions that go along with his imminent departure. And although we are thrilled to be employed, we are definitely looking forward to Leo's work coming to an end in November.

There was one damper on the weekend when Rachael called to say that she was headed to the emergency room with Zoe. It seems our littlest granddaughter has some kind of an abscess on her leg. After spending much of Friday in the emergency room, the family arrived back at home sometime after midnight. However, it was clear by Saturday morning that things were not improving. Zoe is in Texas Children's Hospital now waiting to see if the latest round of antibiotics are going to work to bring her fever down and stop the spread of the infection in her leg. We are counting on her quick recovery, but worry about the strain (financial, emotional, work interruptions, etc.) that the situation is putting on the family. I'll be sure to post an update as soon as I have one.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Observations: Sex Trade Alive and Well

Although I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to the Philippines, and definitely got the business accomplished that I needed to, I'm guessing that anyone familiar with the country at all is really wondering whether or not I noticed the, um, anomalies (or abnormalities) of the place as compared to, say, Houston. I can answer this one easily. Yes, I noticed.

Although I will spare you the details of my "adventure" I am going to share a few of my observations. But before I do, I thought I should point out that at no time was I uncomfortable or afraid. While my Southern Baptist upbringing has provided me with a strong set of morals and ethics, I have traveled some, have worked in industry, and have not led a totally sheltered life. I have also learned over the years to be comfortable with where, who, and what I am and I have learned to be accepting of many things that go on in the world around me. So, I was able to keep my mind on the business at hand and accomplish what I needed to while in Makati. On the other hand, I was not totally oblivious to my surroundings.

Let's start with me. As a traveler in Asia (not my first time) I know that as a tourist I tend to stand out. First and foremost, I am a tall woman, taller than even most of the men I encounter in that part of the world. Besides that, I am a rather large woman, and never has the word "petite" been applied to me, not even as a child. :-) So, I tend to stand out in an airport, and can, if I need or want to, stand tall, look people directly in the eye, and command notice if I am so inclined. However, I generally prefer not to do this. I find it easier traveling when I adopt an attitude that is quiet but confident, pleasant but not intrusive, and aware but not "nosy".

Now, on to my observations. I think I'll just list them as bullet points instead of ramblings. I'll try to keep them short an concise, although most people know I am not at all skilled at concision.

  • I did not see another European/American (E/A) woman while in the city except at the airport and a few in the green belt (where the nice restaurants are).
  • The streets of Makati were filled with E/A men, most of whom were older and, pardon me for saying so, unattractive to the extreme.
  • None of the Philippine people treated my presence at the hotel or in the city with any obvious attitude beyond being gracious and welcoming.
  • I did endure frank, open stares on more than one occasion by these E/A men.
  • An overwhelming majority of the E/A men I saw who were accompanied by female companions were much older than them.
  • On quite a few occasions these companions appeared to be teenagers.
  • I occasionally saw a mixed couple with a baby in tow although I don't remember seeing a single mixed family (with older children) in the area where I was.
  • One of the men sitting outside of the hotel when I arrived appeared to be in his 70s while the girl with him looked to be about 15.
  • The oddest thing of all that I noticed is that all of these E/A men were very comfortable, very confident, walking out in public with their young companions. They obviously felt no embarrassment about the situation since the streets were filled with such unusual couples. I just can't imagine seeing confidence in such a man with an obvious "companion" on his arm on the streets of Houston.
  • The E/A men tended to be gray or balding, overweight, and almost always scruffy in appearance. (Note: I can't for the life of me reason this observation out!)
  • It was unusual to see one of the Philippine companions without at least one shopping bag in her hand.
  • The hotel staff treated these women with deference and respect and never did I see a hint of any disdain.
  • On my trip home from Taipei to San Francisco, I sat on the plane behind an American man (65-70), his girlfriend (20-30) and their baby boy. The man was not in particularly good health, was traveling with 2 male friends (in their 70s), and did not appear to be married to the girl although he doted a bit on the child during the flight.

So, there you have it. These were my impressions of the area of Makati where I stayed for a few days. I would have no problem going again if business dictated it, but I honestly would not choose to go there again for any other reason. Although I don't travel internationally much, I have been around enough to be able to do so without problems. I have also learned to be accepting of the ways of others and not to condemn others based on my opinion or observation. However, I would be lying if I did not admit to being affected by what I saw. I came home a little sadder and a little wiser. Finally, I mean no offense to anyone with my comments or observations, but don't feel the need to lie about what I observed on my travels. The world is a magnificent place but obviously no longer perfect. I suppose the world is what we make it.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Supper in Green Belt 3

After a very long day of battling over documents and working through business details, my new business partner and I decided it was time for me to leave the hotel for just a bit. We went to a very nice area nearby called Green Belt 3. We strolled past restaurants of every nationality and flavor, but finally settled on one called the "Red Crab".

He started off by ordering shrimp fried rice, which sounded good to me, but the waiter talked us into adding a king crab to our order. I chose one that sounded a bit on the spicy side, described as being cooked in Worcestershire and tabasco sauces. It took no time at all to be prepared and it was absolutely delicious. It turned out the crab was not nearly as spicy as I am used to, but was very tasty.

I think we are going to try to see a bit more of the area tomorrow. We have accomplished what we wanted to, although we are both going home with very long "to-do" lists. Every conversation is pickled with references to our business plans, so even time spent over meals is not wasted. Still, we are only just getting started and activities could easily ramp up quickly. My current plan is to be ready to head to Papua New Guinea for anywhere from a few weeks to a few months starting the first of June. Although I have so much to accomplish between now and then, it is still exciting and is definitely holding my interest. It's 9:30 here now and I have a long 2-days of travel ahead. The bad news is I have a really long layover (6 hours) in San Francisco AFTER surviving a 20-hour flight. That is assuming I survive! So, wish me luck, but don't worry if you don't hear from me for a couple of days. I'll probably be SLEEPING.

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