Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Laundry... A DIRTY Process

I hated when I needed to do laundry my sophomore year in college. The apartment complex I lived in was divided into two open air quads. I lived on the third floor of the east quad, the only laundry facilities in this outdated building were on the second floor of the west quad. East quad third floor residents loathed laundry day, quietly and more often than not, not so quietly complaining on the treacherous trek with our laundry baskets filled to capacity. Never did I imagine I would look back on this nightmare of a system and think as I do today, what I would give to have those luxuries back.

Laundry is a complex thing here in Chile if only because it is so darn simple. While most of our neighbors use little and effective machines we Associates do it the old fashioned way. Step one, fill the outdoor sink up with warm water. Step two, sprinkle in detergent. Step three, locate the hand washboard. After that, life gets dirty.

The basic idea is you take whatever item of clothing you have, scrunch it up, and scrub and grind until the odor and whatever stains once existed are removed. After we scrub all the clothes in soapy water you have to drain the sink, refill it with clean water, and then “rinse” the clothes. After the rinsing is complete, we go into spin cycle mode. Given our technology we have been working with to this point I will put your mind at ease. Spin cycle is not, as the simple living image might suggest, spinning in circles really really fast with your clothing. Rather, we take the clothes three shirts or four pairs of boxers (with a pair of sox or two mixed in to push the envelope) over to a tiny contraption known as the spinner which, true to its name, spins the clothes so much so that a large amount of the water drains out of the side of the spinner. For some reason I get a kick out of seeing how much water can drain out of my clothes, the most entertaining is my fleece jacket and jeans, at the same time! After that, we pin the clothes up on the clothes line and wait until they dry.

I would have never guessed it but a machine is much more gentile than human hands ever could be and obviously much more effective. My jeans are slowly wearing away where I scrub the hardest. My socks are no longer snuggly soft and my shirts are stretching out and slowly changing colors. As for effectiveness, I have learned that human hands are prone to cheating, trying to wash less than needed. I have paid the price one too many times with clean shirts that smell dirty, because, well, they still are dirty, even though “I washed them!”

And yet, like doing the dishes, I have sickly started to take a minor amount of enjoyment out of this archaic chore. Don’t get me wrong, the moment I see a washing machine I am hitting that thing up, if nothing more than for the sake of my poor clothes. But in the past, doing laundry was a chore because of the 10 minutes it took to take the clothes to the machines and back. Worst of all, God forbid, was the time I had to pass in the comforts of my apartment as the machine did its work. Now, laundry takes a large investment of laborious time, sometimes a couple hours. But it is a couple hours of good old fashioned elbow grease intermixed with some moments of silent solitude to reflect. Like the dishes, it requires much time and little thought, giving way to moments of silence, solitude, and if done right, solid reflection and clean clothes! Done wrong, well, let’s not talk about it…

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Home Sweet Home?

I loved working as a resident advisor but at times it became too much. The stresses of school and extracurricular activities, in general the day to day crisis that life could be had a way of piling up at my doorstep such that the nights I was on duty, I dreaded the four or five hours of open door policy where someone might drop by for a visit. The majority of the time the visitors were residents I enjoyed (oddly enough the troublemakers never would stop by) but there were those times where I just wanted peace and quiet. A home becomes a man’s sanctuary, his private hideaway from his public responsibilities, and for the last two years of my life, my home was my job, my private life more and more public. Graduating signaled the end of this life, a return to normality where my home could be where the introvert in me recharged to be the extrovert everyone else expected me to be.

“Alo” (think hello with an accent) ruptures the silence. We have no doorbell, and so this greeting serves as an announcement that someone is paying our house a visit. It usually comes as I am sitting on my couch journaling, writing a letter to a friend, or having a good conversation with one of my housemates. But it’s a rupture that happens day in and day out, and more often than not, when you are not ready for it.

I thought it was hard as an RA having a wide open door to my peers for 10 hours a week, but here, it’s a whole other ballgame. Our house is an open forum to anyone who wants to drop by to say hello, hunt out English lessons, or just sit in awkward silence for hours at a time as some people do. They come as early as 9 AM and as late as 11 PM, and have no days which they deem as days off. And unlike my college peers, they speak a language I am still struggling to grasp, a language that after a long day or during stressful times my brain is not always the best equipped to handle.

Sometimes, you just want silence. You just want your house to really be home sweet home. And yet, it is impossible here. My moments of true solitude and peace are when I hop on the metro, travel to some distant part of the city, and lay down in the grass of some foreign park. The people hustle and bustle all around me, but it’s like when I am there, I am no one. I am not an associate trying to live up to the expectations of my neighbors, the stories of my predecessors from years and years before. I am just another person enjoying the park, and the peaceful easiness that accompanies nothingness permeates my soul.

But as quickly as I find the peace, it disappears the moment I step back into the associate world. I no longer run just to run, I run to run away, a reality I am not proud of, but a reality that is nonetheless present. When the winter months come, and the rain barrels out of the sky, I wonder where I will find my space, my moment to be who I am at the core so I can be whom everyone else expects me to be, who wrong or right, I desperately want to be able to be.

I have no solutions, no turn around Disney ending for this one. It is hard to be present to others when I struggle to find the space to be present to myself. But in the end, I guess the reality of volunteering is that the romance of it all is harder to find than we’d like to admit. At times, it’s downright hard. I don’t know what to do about this one, I have a desire to be more present to our house visitors but often fail to turn desire into action. Sink or swim, if only life were that black or white how easy this would be.

Sunday, March 11, 2007


Nothing substantial to write just wanted to let everyone know I have a new mailing address. Please send mail now to the following address and delete the old address you had...

Asociados de Santa Cruz
Attn: Patrick Furlong
Casilla 8
Correo 59
Santiago, Chile

Have a blessed day! (=

Monday, March 05, 2007

On the Run... Again

Authors note: This is from a journal entry a couple months ago. Also, big congrats to all the members of the MAGIS Marathon Team for completing the LA Marathon March 4th, 2007!


I felt like a little kid the night before Christmas. I kept turning over in bed to look in the dark at the various items on my desk. I would take a quick peak, size up the gifts I was leaving for myself to wake up to the next morning, and roll back over smiling.

Every runner can understand me when I say it had been too long. It had been a good couple of months without a run, and my body was crying out to me, infuriated and deflated at the betrayal. It was like I had forgotten what it was to wake up in the morning and just run... To lace up the shoes, anxiously cut short pre-run stretching and then take off with the music pumping through the ears and go wherever the legs will take me and until they won’t take me anymore. As a sport I was never good at it, but as a hobby, a passion, it has become the way I deal with the world that sometimes crushes too pressingly on my willingness to push back. Running is my response, my way to handle life outside of my running sneakers.

And so the disappointment was almost too much to handle as I rose two hours too late, a restless night of little sleep getting the best of me. Walking to the living room I passed the running gear I set aside the night, resigned to leave it cast aside one more night.

It’s the time you pass in between miles 19 and 24 that intrigue me the most in the marathon. You have passed the limit a body can adequately train for and yet you are still too far away from the finish to find the adrenaline needed to push you through. And so the battle of your physical needs clash with the mental aspirations that got you to the start line so many hours before. You get through it not with adrenaline or with the imminent taste of success, but something entirely indescribably different. As I lay there on the couch that day content to let another day pass by with my nose in the book, it was that feeling that crept into my veins.

I did hit the streets of Santiago that day and discovered every nook and cranny I had passed so often in speeding busses. I ran over highways, under bridges through poor neighborhoods and rich, it was through these city streets and tree lined parks that I allowed my feet to conduct a minitour of Santiago.

It was nothing phenomenal. No personal records were made, no “you can’t believe it” incredible stories about 17 miles without proper training or hydration. Only a 10 mile jog that was nothing but a gesture to a neglected runner’s soul. It wasn’t until the ritual of taking off the shoes and socks, drinking a big glass of water, hitting the shower, and returning to the couch to do what I was hours before content to only do that I realized just how much I truly missed it, the rush of it all, and God willing, it will take a while longer to forget how much it means. If nothing else, it will take at least until April 1st, when I participate in my first international marathon!