Monday, March 05, 2007

Apartments, Africa, and Grad School

Well, we bought an apartment over the weekend. Or, we signed a Purchase Letter (carta de compra) and paid an initial deposit for the place. Assuming everything goes smoothly, we should receive the apartment by April 14th, or just after we return from the US.

We´re pretty happy about the place. It´s a 2 bedroom, 2 bathroom, 6th floor apartment with a nice design and plenty of light. Plus, it really was a bargain compared to other apartments in the area. The couple we´re buying it from decided that they wanted the cash to invest in a restaurant instead of keeping the place, so we´re getting a very good price since they need the money quick. Of course, they´ve made a tidy profit on the place as they purchased it when it was still in the design phase at a huge discount.

At any rate, whether the price appreciates or not (it will), we still come out winners in the end for two reasons. First, we´re no longer going to be throwing rent money down a bottomless hole. That money becomes an investment every month that we´ll be able to recoup down the road. More importantly, however, is that Colombia has a tax sheltered retirement program similar to a 401(k) except that if you use the money in that account for home ownership, you don´t ever pay taxes on it. So, we´ve been putting a very nice percentage into that account and now we get to use it to invest in property over the short-medium term, eventually converting it to cash without paying a penalty. We rule.


I´ve been thinking a lot about my career of late (for obvious reasons) and while I´m not exactly sure what´s going to develop, I believe it´s clear that I´m more interested in conflict (causes, effects, and resolution) than general development issues. My current job, while interesting from time to time, is something that I really have to fight with to keep focused. I find my attention span growing shorter as the day goes on and it´s difficult to stay focused on the task at hand. This, of course, has been a long term character flaw as I´m quite good at focusing on the things that I´m interested in, but have great trouble concentrating on things that I find f*cking boring (see Transcripts, Emory for more evidence).

That´s not to say that everything I do on my job falls into the "f*cking boring" category. In fact, I wrote something last week that I was really interested in and as far as I know, I kicked its ass. (There´s nothing like criticizing *ahem* shreddding a stupid ass USAID policy with the knowledge that your memo is going direct to USAID decision makers. Not that it will change anything, but at least I got to utterly destroy a bankrupt policy in such a way that only dogmatic jackass could deny the validity and power of my argument. I rule.)

At any rate, the other writing assignments that I have, while marginally interesting and definitely important, are not really holding my interest. Instead, I find myself job hunting and exploring other aspects of my career (or non-stop refreshing Fire Dog Lake to see if Libby has been convicted).

This investigation has led me to consider a variety of options (and discard most) but one that I just can´t shake is the idea of working in/with Africa, particularly in relation to Darfur. People who read this space know that I feel pretty passionately about shutting down "evil sh*t" and Darfur definitely qualifies. Now what could I do about it, really? Probably not much. The world pretty much doesn´t blink in the face of genocide unless something really important, like, uh, oil is endangered. But, I think I could be a powerful advocate for the truly disadvantaged people in Darfur and maybe that´s what captures my interest.

I feel that as I´ve developed as a writer and a thinker, I´ve become a much better and focused advocate for things that are really important to me. As always in life, sometimes I swing and miss. But, I think as I´ve developed, I´ve been hitting more than I´ve been missing. Anyway, I can´t help but think that I´m sitting on the sidelines while some of the greatest tragedies of our time are ongoing without the necessary attention they deserve (Caveat: Iraq is excluded from all future travel plans, I may be passionate, but I ain´t stupid).

What this means in the big picture is pretty much unknown. We just bought an apartment. We´re definitely staying in Colombia for another year if not longer. And as far as I can see, I´m locked into a work situation that, while helpful professionally, sidelines me on all pertinent conflict/refugee issues here in Colombia.

But, I have to start researching and developing a plan for accessing the passion that I have. Whether that means picking up and moving to Africa, going to get a PhD, or finding an NGO here or in the US (UK) to work at, I don´t know.

So, for the interim, I plan to keep working the best I can in this capacity while continuing to educate myself and write as much as I can about the things I want to write about. And if someone is kind enough to eventually publish some of my material, well, that would be sweet, now wouldn´t it.


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