Posts Tagged With: love

Dark Tidings…

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In loving memory of Friederike Stark (7/13/1937-7/3/2016)..

It has been a very rough month; you see, I was told that my mom had died on July the 3rd, just ten days before her seventy-ninth birthday. I hope you never get to deal with the grim details involved with having to perform funeral arrangements from a distance, which is what I’ve been doing for a while.

I had to travel to Houston urgently, mainly because that’s where my home country’s consulate is. There was a lot of paperwork to be done, especially a document that would allow one of my mom’s oldest friends to represent me in my affairs back in that accursed land. Kathryn and I traveled there by bus (airfare proved prohibitive) and we spent two days in Houston until all the legal knots were neatly tied and everything was A-OK (a cozy illusion into which we deluded ourselves; there never is an A-OK state whenever my country is concerned).

All in all, the trip represented a $600 expenditure, including fares, hotel room and the legal costs of composing the document, having it stamped and sending it to my mom’s friend back home. We were lucky that one of our writer friends lived in Houston and could be bothered with driving us around town, which proved of great help. Thanks, Julie.

And thanks to my wife, too, for being there when I needed her. Love you, mi gatita…

Kath and I then returned home, and we paid an exorbitant fee of $75 to send just one sheet of paper to South America. Finally, my mom was laid to rest on July 29th, after almost four weeks of legal wrangling.

But the problem doesn’t end there; my mom died without any kind of insurance, leaving behind her an absolute legal and economic mess. My mom’s friend incurred into a ton of expenses while helping me in this terrible affair; I was able to wire her some money, but I have the strong suspicion that whatever sum I sent her will not suffice. And there’s the additional matter of all my mom’s stuff, the house in the middle of the rainforest and several other assorted knickknacks and legal issues that lay in the wake of someone’s demise while residing in my country.

Sigh.

This just represents a ton of present and future expenses that I can not even begin to fathom at this point. I guess I should consider myself satisfied that my mom has been at least buried, but the feeling of impotence concerning all these extra unfinished business will gnaw at my brain for the longest time.

Anyhow, I set up a crowdfunding campaign to help me cover a few of these expenses. If you guys are willing to assist me, you can share the link ( http://www.gofundme.com/2gzwmxt8 ) around through your social media. That little click you can do to Tweet or Facebook it will be greatly appreciated.

Edwin Stark

Signing Off

 

 

 

 

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A matter of routine…

Oh my…. Three months since my last post…

It’s not that I’m being particularly lazy about writing something to put on my blog; there are at least a couple of dozen false starts for potential posts residing in my computer’s hard drive, posts that I began to compose but somehow managed to lose steam as I wrote them (this one almost went into the Recycling Bin).

It happens that I’m currently leading a lifestyle with only a few minor details to complain about (and I already did on an earlier post), and none of them relate to the The times and life of an author who lives in a rainforest motto, which is now a complete thing of the past.

To be honest, I don’t really know what to do with this blog anymore, as it was a way to vent my frustration of being stuck in the middle of a tropical jungle.

Anyway, my hands are full as I do my best to get acclimated to my new, more civilized life. Most of it is getting used to do things. My daily routine in the jungle was getting off bed at sunrise, go outside to either hit the road to scavenge metal or hack my way through overgrown greenery to see if I could find something to eat… then take a break when the heat was too oppressive to continue and then resume activity when the temperature reached more manageable levels.

These days my routine involves tinkering about the house, tightening loose screws, unloading the dishwasher, exercising, pulling crabgrass and try to grow some vegetables in the backyard (the soil here looks very fertile in spite of its desert-like qualities but I’m on a wait-and-see attitude here, folks).

Yeah, I know it doesn’t sound much of a routine but it’s a hundred times better than the one I was doomed to carry while living in the tropics.

One thing worth to mention, though, is the fact that I’m slowly adapting to deal with people again. This specially true whenever I go outside for a walk or with the goal of buying something in the supermarket. You see, while living in Cholondron, every time someone popped in my neighborhood, be it a stranger or someone I knew, it usually meant baaaad news.

Presently, whenever I interact with somebody, I keep telling myself: “okay, cool now… not everyone is a backstabbing sunofaB that wants to exploit you, like everybody back in the jungle… take a deep breath…”

What am I aiming for here?

Well, if you keep a car parked on your driveway for a year, you wouldn’t just board it and hit the road without first checking if everything is in working order, would you? You’d charge the battery, check the tire pressure and oil levels and that squirrels hadn’t decide to make a nest out of one of the back seats.

That’s exactly what I’m doing with my life at this moment; slowly revving up a piece of machinery that had been left to rust in the jungle for almost seventeen years.

Just be patient… the ride will be amazing once I’m done with my checklist.

Edwin Stark

Signing Off

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The Great Paper Chase (Part I)

In exactly six days (and 8 hours) I’ll have to wake up at 2 AM in the morning, as I’ll have to board a bus headed for Caracas so I can go to my Embassy interview and fulfill the last step of the road Kathryn and I started nearly a year ago: my K-1 Fiancé Visa.

Yeah, I know it sounds like a great milestone… but what did it entail?

Well, my inner Accountant has kept track of every detail. It took:

16 failed trips to the local bus station from Jan through May, 2015… mostly done through bad roads and bad weather (I nearly caught a cold a couple of times). And when I mean failed I really mean it. I walked the distance between my house and the bus depot only to find out I wouldn’t really make it: if my bus didn’t get out of the station by 4:30 AM, well, just forget it (I recall mentioning somewhere that if I didn’t arrive to the San José Registry before sunrise to start queue-ing, to pick up one of the only 20 numbers those SOBs distributed to citizens who require a Birth or Death Certificate, it would be completely useless trip). @10 miles each trip, you can add up 160 miles walked.

4 succesful trips to the bus station, when I was able to board a bus at 4AM and it departed Caucagua at 4:15 or less…. But which doesn’t mean that I was able to reach the Registry on time… @10 miles each, equals 40 miles walked, plus 100 miles aboard a bus per trip, it represents 200 miles walked + 400 miles on board a bus, equaling 600 miles of travel.

1 successful trip (May 11th) in which I managed to catch one of those measly 20 spots in queue for my Birth Certificate… YAY!!!   @10 miles walked +100 miles by bus, which brings it all up to 710 miles traveled just for a piece of paper.

Wait! It doesn’t stop there! I also had to request a Police Background Check (30 miles by foot to find a cybercafé to print a letter) + 10 more miles walked + 100 miles by bus just to pickup the actual document, totaling 850 miles (250 walked + 600 by bus).

Luckily, I had most of the other documentation at hand in my house: I had taken care of the boarding passes early on, by making some preventive Xerox copies (though one faded a bit because it was printed on thermal paper), plus my High School diploma to prove they weren’t going to bring a completely uneducated moron into America the Beautiful, plus my grades plus plus plus whatever piece of paper that I could think about…. However, what was missing were my vaccination records, for which I can really thank my dad (the SOB actually destroyed them). Finding a decent place in Caucagua to copy all these paper took me another 5 trips to town, adding 50 miles walked to my total score…

Grand total so far: 300 miles walked + 600 miles by bus = 900 miles.

Well, that sort of covers it for this blog post.

Stay tuned to discover how much mileage I did rack up in the end of this oddysey!

Edwin Stark

Signing Off

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A very bad week…

Last weekend started ominously; I scalded myself with hot water while brewing coffee (I presently sport a niceeee blister in the space between the index and middle finger of my left hand)… next, I spotted a tick trying to creep up on me and attach itself to the one of my calves…

What next, I rhetorically asked as we all know that misery loves company and bad things usually come in threes, don’t we?

Well, at 3:45 AM last Saturday, the answer came loud and clear: the last remaining power transformer of my block blew up, leaving me without electric power for the past 6 days, 10 hours as I write this blog for later posting.

When I bought property in this area, the street had three nice power transformers online, but they were slowly decreasing in number like nice little Indians in a deranged cowboy movie… The first one was killed about 12 years ago during a major storm, when a large tree was uprooted by powerful buffeting wings and the damn thing tore down the power lines and causing a large electrical explosion (I had to hack the branches all by myself while high voltage lines were buzzing all around me, since no one in the power company wanted to come here and shut down the system).

The second power transformer lasted about 5 years before it exploded… Its lid flew 40 yards before landing in dry kindling and starting a brush fire. Back on those days I was without electric power for almost 5 days. Luckily I was then between grocery restocking cycles and was savvy enough to have 4 one-litter bottles of water in the freezer side of my fridge to act as ice blocks to prevent spoilage.

Now, after seven years of praying for the last transformer wouldn’t let its ghost go…. sigh… well, that didn’t work well, I guess. I’m a bit depressed, as this has brought tons of crazy and dire consequences.

First of all, I lost about $200 in groceries that were supposed to last until the end of November. If things were rather bad and lean till now, well, now they look desperate. I have no clue of will I manage to overcome this small economic disaster.

But worse is my current emotional state, as I haven’t been able to chat with Kathryn for almost a week now, being only able to leave brief messages on Facebook as the charge of my battery slowly runs down. I’m trying to save as much power as possible, since I’ve yet to find a suitable way to recharge my PC’s battery.

Gosh… I really do miss her…

Edwin Stark
Signing Off
(Battery currently at 20%)

 

 

 

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Another small step on my way to love

Two weeks ago, I made another trip to meet with Kathryn in Curacao. It was a rather uneventful trip, if we ignore the little scare that I went through at the airport, concerning about my flight (stupid airline didn’t display the proper data in the departure screens).

The driver of the cab I hailed was quite talkative on my way to the hotel… and even more so when he found out about which country I came from. He sounded a bit annoyed when he explained how my fellow countrymen abused the benefits of the local migration laws by staying less than 30 days while they performed odd jobs. Then they would return to our home country to reset the cycle. I suspect that very soon I’ll be required to apply for a visitor’s visa the next time.

Sigh.

I arrived to the hotel room without incident and checked in. The room was neat and comfy, though I had some minor issues getting the hang of the electronic keycard, which was a type which I had never met before. You had to hold it in front of the card reader in certain funny way, but I soon mastered it.

I unpacked (which in my case it’s just tossing my travel bag and most of its contents into a drawer or some other convenient spot) and took a shower. A blessed shower, even though there was no hot water; the one back at home is just a miserable trickle… when it decides to work at all. I changed clothes and then went to bed while checking what was on the old movies channel. I recall falling sleep halfway through True Grit (the original one, not the craptacular new one with Jeff Bridges).

Five hours later (or so), Kathryn finally showed up at my doorstep. She was a bit dismayed that I was thinner than the last time we met. Well, she didn’t exactly say it with other words than “You’re so thin” but I could read the concern in her eyes.

Well, there’s not much that she do about it since it’s harder and harder to find something edible in my home country but stuff me like a Thanksgiving turkey at every chance she got. She even brought me a slice of a delicious cake that she had baked for me. Just to remember it makes my stomach growl right now.

Our first major goal on this trip was to finally get a %$@! passport photo to continue filing the paperwork that will finally allow us to be together. We inquired on the front desk on this subject, and the clerks kindly provided us directions to a place where we could achieve this. I must confess that I felt as a complete idiot, having to travel 250 miles and to another country just to have my passport photo taken.

Well, with that annoying detail out of the way, Kathryn and I spent the next three days revisiting the old familiar places, having lunch at the Iguana Café (highly recommended) and widening the extension of the areas we explored by foot. We even spent a pleasant morning in the local Maritime Museum (I even managed to fill a few gaps of the Caribbean’s pirating era, proving that old adage about being able to learn something new everyday; I didn’t know that Blackbeard stuck smoldering candlewicks in his beard to look even terrifying. Sickly Dude!)

Alas, our trip together finally ended; at least this time I was able to stay with Kathryn in the international area of the airport until she boarded her plane. I kissed her goodbye and walked backwards toward my gate, looking back at her until she finally disappeared beyond the security gate. It was a very bittersweet moment, since we’re not sure when we will able to meet again. Not that any of you care, but that’s the life we have to deal with.

By the way, I think I caught a nasty bug from being exposed to 20 straight hours of lousy air conditioning systems set at full blast. But as they say, that’s another story.

Atchoo!
Edwin Stark
Signing Off

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Red Tape, Red Tape Everywhere

Puzzled by red tape

Puzzled by red tape

For those of you wondering about the progress of the relationship between Kathryn and me, well, everything is doing great in the emotional department. We long to be with each other and I’ve never seen a couple that’s so well integrated in the intellectual level. But the distance that separates the two of us is a killer, though.

But that’s something we must endure to be finally together in the end,

However, we’re not doing that well in the red tape department. And regrettably, it’s my home country that’s just throwing inventive stumbling blocks in our direction to blanket the road ahead with nearly insurmountable hurdles: it took me 5 months to get my Birth Certificate (1 month just to find out where the hell I had to make the bloody request!!!), 4 weeks to access my background check (the government’s website hilariously called it 5 working days… and it was quite finicky with the e-mail address I used to register into it. For some unexplained reason there was a disclaimer that they won’t be accepting addresses that end with a Hotmail dot com domain. Doh!) … and now 3 weeks to get my passport photo taken.

Okay, you can laugh now.

Finished?

Dudes and dudettes: You can’t find coffee, sugar and soap in this country anymore; is it too much to expect that I won’t be able to have a lousy picture taken in the right format?

Well, the pictures are required for us to kickstart the immigration filing process, but it happens now that the passport photo (2” x 2”) format has apparently gone the way of the dodo in my home country. Usually, you needed it in the past to apply for one at the Identification Office of your choice and well, that was it. However, nowadays this agency is doing all their photo requirements in-house, digitalizing your ugly mug and embedding it directly into the passport… so this practice of having your passport photo taken has fallen into disuse. Now they seem only able to offer you a carnet-sized shot, which is unsuitable since the framing doesn’t cover the basic passport format standard, as it’s taller than wider and it crops the shoulders.

And so started my quest,

I began my search in Caucagua; I wasted two days combing the area, asking everyone I knew where it was ever possible to perform this seemingly easy task with no results. No one made passport photos; only ID cards shots.

I then extended my search to the nearest couple of cities/towns.

That took me the best part of two weeks, with no results

I swallowed hard, realizing that this would require a visit to Caracas.

So, I made a lot of early work and spend three hours online searching for potential places to go (had to handwrite the addresses on a sheet of paper since my printer is bust) and made a lot of preparations for the trip. (I won’t go into the elaborate torture that using the local bus system is; you can read all about it in the “Venezuelan Bus Oddysey” series of blog posts.)

Of course, the day began badly as the first thing that went wrong was that I forgot the list, something which I realized when I was already boarding the bus. I also had issues with illegal operators that dared to charge me double fare. Sigh.

When I arrived to Caracas, I found out my folly; most of the places in my lists were either out of business (as online lists down here are hardly properly updated) or didn’t do the passport thing anymore. Well, just not to simply give up, I had my picture taken in the last place I went (a very ugly one that could put any police mug shot to shame) as a token attempt to prove that at least I tried, and I paid something extra to have it cropped in a way that somewhat resembled a passport photo.

Well, it didn’t work. I sent the scans to Kathryn the other day and no matter how much the pictures were tweaked, we couldn’t pass them as passport photos.

Double sigh.

Well, back to square one.

Edwin Stark

Signing Off

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Five Days in Aruba…

All this week I was in a funky and mean, cynical mood, feeling so ready to leave in the dark all those curious of how the five days I spent in Aruba with Kathryn went. However, after four posts chronicling my airport pilgrimage, any of you folks who are still around to find out what happened, sorta deserve it…

Well, Kathryn and I met that same day and she was a bit jet-lagged (which is reasonable as it took her about yen, maybe eleven hours of travel time to get there). I had arrived six hours earlier, had time to take a shower and a nap and had scouted the area a bit, locating all the potential supermarkets (more on this later) and takeout places beforehand. Since it was ages since the last time I had some meat, I had settled for a BBQ locale known as Carnivorous (neat name!) and had myself an order of churrasco. So, if you are into good meat and ever go to Eagle Beach in Aruba (particularly if you stay in the Bubali area), I’d recommend you to check out this place.

The meat portions were humongous (which generated a ton of leftovers) and I had a side order of rice and some extra lentil soup, along with the salad of the day; I never had the notion that beets and mayonnaise could mix that way… but it did, which is something I certainly tried the moment I returned back to my home, crappy home.

What did Kathryn and I do in Aruba for five days? Well, we talked a lot, did some grocery shopping together, which I thought went fine (until a month later she confessed online that she was nearly having a panic attack), we did a lot of home cooking (which was our main intention on the first place), had romantic walks on the beach during the beautiful sunsets, did some more talking and then we talked some more. Yeah, I know… we’re just two talkative, boring nerds, and we meant to get to know each other in a better fashion than on our previous trip to Curacao, so what’s it to you?

On March the 9th Kathryn and I went downtown to a jewelry shop and I let her choose an engagement ring (her department, not mine; she knows a lot more about gems than I do) and I paid cash for it, as my credit card isn’t any good outside my home country. The sales clerk squealed with glee when she found out it was our engagement ring and advised me to kneel down and make my proposal as soon as possible.

To celebrate it, we went to have lunch while in the area; I had a broiled chicken sandwich with salad and French fries and Kathryn ate some fajitas. (As a child of her times, she went and posted all about the event on her Facebook wall, with pictures of the ring and everything). Of course, I did the whole kneeling and proposal thing afterwards, in private. Something I believe she truly appreciated.

So, during our stay in Aruba we found out we were compatible while shopping and also had similar values in the kitchen (no one got poisoned and no one got stabbed in the back with a butcher’s knife), we deepened our bonds further and even got engaged.

What more can a man ask?

Edwin Stark

Signing Off

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Aaaah-ruba (Part 4 and Last)

Okay, let’s wrap this tale up as it doesn’t seem to hold anyone’s attention. My final stretch in my trip to Aruba couldn’t be less anticlimactic and unexciting.

I arrived to Maiquetia (Caracas’ airport) sometime around 4:50 PM (yeah, I wasn’t paying attention to time at the moment; just feeling an immense relief from finally arriving alive at the airport without any bullet holes). My first task at hand was to locate a place to crash for the next ten hours, the most direct route to a safe, drinkable water supply and an even safer route to the restroom.

Wonder of wonders; I found a nice spot to sit… but unfortunately the airport’s air conditioning was working at full blast, lowering the air temperature to something little less than 50°F, which for someone as me (used to temperatures bordering the 110s) was murderously cold. So I spent the best part of the next 10 hours freezing my butt off, in constant fear that the next time I stood up my ass would remain glued to my seat.

Time passed and with it the night. At 3 AM I went to the Imbecile Airlines check-in desk (as I fondly call the guys who supposedly would fly me to Aruba) and I already met a 20-people long queue in place there. Which is cool, as I was expecting that; the problem was that the clerks running the desk didn’t show up until it was nearly 4 AM. Sigh.

And these were the same idiots who endearingly urged me to show up at 3 AM to check in- Double sigh. Well, check in went okay (hurrah!) but there was a small issue with the airport tax; the thugs-in-charge of my country’s government had decided a month earlier that the airport tax fee should be raised unilaterally and I still owed 200 bolivars… which I grudgingly paid just to move on.

See? I told you the money I earned scavenging cans back in Caracas would come in handy. I felt so smuuuug at the moment that day. *chuckles*

Well, I got my boarding pass, went through airport security (which is about 45-particularly-humiliating-minutes-long in my home country) and finally made it to the boarding area. There, my butt kept freezing for the next hour, half expecting a flood, earthquake or an Act of God to stop me in my tracks to meet Kathryn again.

Gaudy!

Gaudy!

At 7 AM I boarded my plane without any incidents (save for the strange looking guy who occasionally unglued his eyes from the smartphone he was using to check weird videos online) and let out a sigh of relief when I finally got to my seat.

There’s not much left to tell you about this small odyssey; flight took off on schedule, arrived the same to Aruba. I went through a more decent immigration procedure (just filling a visitor’s card that looked more like those warranty cards you found inside a VCR box in the past) and then I felt the urge to use the nearest restroom.

I was floored the moment I opened the door of the men’s room at the Queen Beatrix’ Airport; gaudy neon yellow wash sinks with junglish and tropical touches decorating the walls. I’ll spare you my description of the toilet bowl (I couldn’t help but take a picture of the sinks after I recovered my breath; yeah, the pervert you see reflected in a corner of the mirror is me).

I made it.

Civilization at last!

Edwin Stark

Signing Off

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Ahhhh-Ruba! (Part 3)

Okay, we’re did we left off?

Ah, yes, I was about to embark in my pilgrimage across Caracas (while scavenging aluminum cans), so I could burn off the fifteen or so hours I had before I was able to check-in for my plane to Aruba.

Sure, why not? Here we go.

I started in Petare, around the subway station area; it’s the usual filth, with raw sewage spewing out of broken pipes and demolished walkways. This sorry spectacle will last until you walk out of the neighborhood and you arrive to El Marques, a more higher-class place where the filth is, well… classier.

Mind you that I hadn’t done this for almost five years, and I’m a bit shocked after witnessing the many changes which the city of my birth has gone through in that same time period. They chopped down many of my favorite trees and they build a very inefficient, ugly overpass in the most inconvenient locations, robbing that physical spot of the very little personality it had. They renamed a park (just in spite) to a more patriotic denomination and have built many social interest apartment buildings in the most inconvenient of spaces. Ugh.

One incident of note: along the way, I picked up a sizeable amount of scrap metal, specially from a liquor store where a bunch of goons stared with amused grins of mirth as I stuck my head into a trashcan. These idiots merrily pointed a few obvious ones just for getting kicks of seeing this white boy scavenging aluminum cans; I could sense it in their voices. One made an ugly remark about me scraping enough money to eat that night. Bigmouthed as I am, I snapped back with a witty observation that perhaps he’d have a nice fantasy (about me picking up cans) that he could share with a bottle of his favorite brand of hand lotion. The startled expression in his face (and his flushed cheeks) openly told me that my snappy comeback wasn’t too off the mark

Ah, well, in the end I arrived to Plaza Venezuela, where I detoured from my intended route (by a few extra miles) to get rid of my newly-found cargo of scavenged scrap metal. Total amount of aluminum cans I collected: 13 pounds. I was paid a measly 150 bolivars for this, but the same as the bus fare hike earlier that day, this bit of money was destined to help me a little later down the road.

It goes without saying that I made the final stretch of my Caracas trip in the subway (both to avoid seeing a few cans that I may have missed along the way and to spare my trembling legs the tiresome walk)

Anyway, I reached the spot where I intended to board the bus to the airport sometime around 3:20 PM. And another bit of shock waited me there; I entered the Alba Caracas hotel to buy my pass and the female clerk who sold me my ticket kindly (kindly!) informed me that the bus would leave exactly at 3:30 PM. I admit that I was shocked by this… and the fact that the bus actually departed on schedule shocked me more.

I was flabbergasted beyond words!

(T minus 11 hours and 30 minutes to go…)

Well, that was it for now… see you around in a bit.

Edwin Stark

Signing Off

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Meanwhile in the jungle…

If you were wondering what am I up to lately (Nawwwt! Who am I kidding?), well,  I’m just busy constantly staring at this little on-screen notice:

Meet my little friend....

Meet my little friend….

For those blissfully unaware what this means in Spanish, this is the usual response that my Internet software gives me every time I try to go online: Error 718. Onine connection ended because the remote computer didn’t answer. Then I’m asked if I want to redial or just fuggetabotit…

It’s getting worse with each passing day and there’s nothing that can be done to address this issue (well, there is something that all of you can do but I won’t bother to spell it out for you anymore), as my ISP (Internet Service Provider) whimsically goes down the drain.

When this little sign decides to pop up, well that’s it. No more Internet for me. I then switch off the computer and walk away to something more productive, like counting angels dancing on the head of a pin or contemplating my navel… Perhaps for the next six or seven hours, as it signifies their server has just gone down for the day. Asking these guys to get his act straight is something akin to ask for rain to fall in the Sahara desert; it’s has been known to happen… but don’t hold your breath for it.

Things are so bad that Kath is thankful when the two of us are able to chat online for fifteen minutes or so (what I haven’t told her is that we actually had three 5-minute online chats; I was dropped from cyberspace and was just lucky to reconnect quickly without her noticing).

What does this mean to this blog? Well, it signifies that I’ll be having a harder time updating it and managing its content.

What else?

Meanwhile…

Edwin Stark

Signing Off

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