quarta-feira, março 31, 2010

On the phone

When I first moved down here, cell phones were the newest thing.  It wasn't yet like it is now, where everyone has one, sometimes several, and may not be able to pay their electric bill but they do find a way to have this one essential extension.  Many I know have more than one, and each one is for calling very specific people, in certain circumstances, or to those with the same provider.  With this new found techno freedom, there is of course always the risk that someone will decide to point a knife or such at you and ask you to hand it over, as happened to me 6 months after I got my first one.  And when some unknown person ends up with your cellphone, they then can take it and use it to call your loved ones and try a "golpe" - try to convince the person they are calling that you have been kidnapped or otherwise compromised, asking for money or tricking you into giving valuable information for them to use at a later time.  My email box used to fill up with warnings about these golpes - how to not list phone numbers as "home" or "husband" or "mom" or what not, how to check if the person is okay in other manners, how never to take anyone's word for it that you can't see and don't know on the other end that what they say is true.  My second cell follows a lot of these indications (although as it is now so old and obsolete I doubt anyone would bother trying to steal it anyway) and I have learned to be extremely cautious on the phone when people call here.

All this caution has made it very difficult to communicate anything of use on the phone, however.  People call and want to know who called them from this number, but they don't want to give their name, and I don't want to give my name or the name of anyone else in the house, the conversation kind of going like this: "someone called me from this number, who am I talking to?" "It wasn't me that called, so I don't know." "Who are you?" "Who are you?" "I'm trying to find out who called me from this number."  "Well, it wasn't me, must have been someone else." "Who are you?"  "I prefer not to say, who are you?" "I just want to know who called me from this number."  "Sorry, it wasn't me." "Okay, thanks anyway. " "Yeah, sorry." And so what was the point of the phone call?  No one leaves voicemail because it counts against your very expensive credits to listen to it for many plans.  Many people figure if there is a number on their phone that called them, if it is that important, the person will call back, while at the same time you call and figure your number registered on the phone, so eventually someone will call to find out who that was that called and have a conversation much like that above.

I even had a golpe phone call once, after my maid's daughter's phone was stolen (for the second time).  About a month after or so I got a tearful phone call from a woman claiming to have been robbed.  Of course it caught me off guard and I accidentally gave the daughter's name before some guy got on the phone and wanted to know "what is the person at this number to her?", but luckily I figured out what was going on at that point and refused to answer.  I then called my maid and asked her to check on her daughter and make sure she was okay, which of course she was, but then I felt tremendously idiotic for having fallen for a golpe when I had always been so cautious before.  I hoped that by accidentally given the girl's name I had not done any damage that might enable the person with her phone to use this information to fool someone else in her phone list.  I never heard of anything happening after that, however.

At one point during college, some guy in Hawaii accidentally called my apartment in East Lansing looking for a girl who had previously been at that same number.  We got to chatting just for the heck of it and kept in contact for a few years after, occasionally writing letters and exchanging pictures, although we never did meet and lost track of each other once I moved off campus.  Still, for the bit it lasted, it was fun to think how I found a friend by accident just because he called what was my phone number.  (yes, I recognize that now with social media and whatever you wanna reference online, this kind of thing is quite common and not at all unusual)  I will never have that experience here.  You can't trust that unknown person on the other end of the phone.  Actually, you can't in East Lansing either, but it seemed much more productive to talk to people on the phone at that time than it does to me now here.  Or am I too paranoid?

**** Edit update ****

Apparently something similar is now happening on facebook.  Who knew?

domingo, março 14, 2010

If you were in my movie...

March has become an immensely horribly busy month for me.  I can't remember March ever being so distinctive before.  I have managed to pack (not by my own planning) two major school events and the MA course into a 3 week period, along with agreeing to sew 45 kimonos for my current students, 25 berets for my son and his classmates and teachers, traveling to São Paulo for a weekend training, not to mention taking a group of 23 students and almost as many parents to São Paulo at the end of the month for the DI Celebration which involves countless meetings with parents and students involved, and don't even get me started on the last minute additions to this trip.  Actually, I didn't pack any of this, it all seems to have packed itself.  I have been running on 4 hour sleep nights for the last three weeks, been sick twice (still recovering), and one of my bottom wisdom teeth has decided to break surface which has resulted in some of the worst tooth pain I have felt since I cracked my tooth two years ago and an extremely swollen face.  I'm hungry and I don't want to eat because even opening my mouth hurts, let alone chewing.  I have read almost all of our course text book in a matter of two weeks and only stopped reading because I found the first 60 pages of the last chapter are missing.  I'll have to chase those down tomorrow.  Today I took 5 quizzes online, wrote two papers, did 3 discussion questions and read two articles.  And I still have more to do.  Oh, and I cooked some soy chicken with carrots for our snack during the course tomorrow.  I'm not even going to go into what I have to do for the course this week, it's really not what I want to think about right now.  When I got home yesterday, I took a five hour nap and hid from all social contact for the entire day.  Then we watched a movie that was absolutely one of the worst movies I have watched in a long time.  It felt really good to not work for a bit.  Today was homework day as I neglected to do anything productive yesterday save dream of getting my PhD.

In the morning, I usually listen to my ipod in the van, rather than chat with my colleagues.  It's a good way to start the day, just watching the sun on the water on the way to school, and I can almost just feel optimistic about the possibilities for the day.  Sometimes I imagine I am in a movie and the music is the sound track, and what might be the next obstacle in the plot line.  Everyone's life seems a bit movie like I suppose.  Some more than others (my dear friend of the dourado mamão could sell her story for a novela, although unfortunately her experience is not far off the norm for new arrivals- come to think of it, I'm not sure when I got so passive about the things that really used to get to me).  I also think of very interesting things to write on this blog, although they seldom get written because I am in a van and no where near a computer with the necessary speed or time to write.  But I did remember the movie thing and I did take time out of my reading and writing to write about it, just so you all know I'm not dead.