The prompt for this flashback Friday post was “your proudest moment thus far”. For a guy who is in bed with at least 4 of the 7 deadly sins, Pride is really not one from which I suffer. Either I can do a thing and it is therefore within my capacity and thus not nothing special or I can’t do the thing at all. Neither is really worth writing home about. But there was one time I basically had to write home. When I graduated from college I sent the following invitation out to my family and friends. It was written in the traditional collegiate format: night before with no editing. I’ve included two pictures because I know better than to submit an unillustrated wall of text. One is me at my Eagle Scout ceremony and the other is my arrival in Bangladesh (I’ll let you figure out which is which). I’m now twice the age and twice the size of the idealistic kid in the pictures. I don’t think the kid would be proud of the life I’ve lived since then as it’s been 15 years and I haven’t even eradicated global poverty yet. While that’s a fair criticism, that kid wrote the sentence “Everyone should visit a developing country to get a real perspective on life” and meant it. So we’re even.

Hey Everyone,

I know most people send out nice and fancy graduation invitations. Unfortunately, I did not know until today that I will be graduating on Saturday. I would send the fancy snail mail version but overnight postage is a killer. I also know that graduation invitations aren’t so much an invitation as they are an informative thing. I would hope nobody would hop an airplane to watch me walk across a stage as one of hundreds (by “hundreds” I mean 126). That would be kind of silly. But I also don’t want anyone to feel left out because I did not send them a graduation invitation. Please do not perceive it as a slight that nobody got a formal invitation. For the record I’m graduating with a Bachelor of Science at 10 am Saturday morning at Centenary’s Gold Dome.

I’ve been in college for a few years and thought I should let you all know what I spent some life doing. I studied in Dresden, Germany for a semester, visited Italy, the Czech Republic, and Austria then visited Bangladesh for a few weeks afterward. I drove a stick shift for the first time in Prague. It was a French Pugeot and my “teacher” was drunk and instructing in his second language. We made it back in time for class but only after I drove on a Czech train track. That was a fun trip. I went to Prague a second time and wound up having to walk back including a late night border crossing made all the more interesting b/c my companion had no passport. You see, we got Ankunft and Abfahrt confused. One means arrival and the other means departure. And if the last train Abfahrts without you on it then you get to walk. That’s what I get for being mono-lingual. Once on the German side we ran into a homeless man collecting cans. He was bi-lingual adding insult to injury. That was actually my second trip to Deutchland. On my first trip I was able to swap a dollar for a euro one for one at a pizza hut in Darmsdadt. While studying in Dresden years later, I would transfer funds from my American account into my German account in $500 increments and only get 400 Euro. My planned budget was a fairly meager existence. This conversion made my existence 20% more meager. It was rice and hackfleisch for me. Exchange rates make me cry. At least, they did until I went to Bangladesh. All the while in Germany I kept a $100 bill hidden just in case. When I got to Bangladesh this quickly became 6,000 taka. I was King again! I was in Bangladesh visiting my then and current girlfriends family and researching micro-banking. I’ll spare you the details of the research. I treated Laura (the aforementioned girlfriend) and her brother Everett to the nicest restaurant in town paid for the rickshaws both ways and spent 300 Taka which is about $5. Bangladesh is a wonderful country with great people. Everyone should visit a developing country to get a real perspective on life. It was a great experience although I certainly would have died if it weren’t for the Morgans watching out for me (A man can die from stupidity in a place like Bangladesh). On the way back I got to see London for a few hours. Did I mention that exchange rates make me cry? I also had the pleasure of being “randomly” searched at every single airport on the way back to the US. I guess I looked rather terroristy that day. I would go to Europe a third time with the choir this time to Switzerland, Germany, and France. I actually sang with the choir for 2 years (but half of one I was in Germany). And by “sang” I mean “drove the truck”. I did sing a bit on the side though. I also provided some comic relief when I had to play the “toe bone” in the “Dry Bones” song. It was a tiny percussion part that always ended with me hitting my finger instead of the the thing that made a sound. Did I mention I also worked with power tools for two years in the theater? I fell through the stage a few time but otherwise had no incident. So I’m neither a klutz nor a percussionist, but I can drive a truck. I can also drive Hyundai Accents. I’ve driven a Hyundai Accent from Shreveport to Key West and another from Shreveport to San Francisco. That’s coast to coast Accent style. On the California trip my friend Ben and I managed to put 9000 miles on that rental in 10 days. This was the first and only time I have ever driven in a sand storm. It’s strangely liberating to go 70mph and just pray you don’t hit a cacti. Ben and I had another painful traveling experience but this one involved no Hyundai. We decided to build a raft and sail/float 100 miles of the red river. On the way to the launch site our raft/barge flew to pieces on the highway. Undeterred, we pressed on. Ben’s grandfather insisted we bring along a 5hp john boat just in case. That turned out to be a good idea as our raft had a tendency to get blown up stream instead of floating down. The trip was scheduled for 5 days but took 7. I missed my first day of college because I was stranded on a river. Something odd happens when giving up is not an option. I would never decide to walk an unknown distance with 5 gallons of gas in each hand but that was the very best plan when we ran out. So Ben and I each grabbed a gas can and started walkin’ (Sparky, Ben’s brother stayed behind to “guard” the boat). After only a few hundred yards a police man picks us up and takes us to the gas station and back to the boat. How an officer of the law can help a couple of teenagers with empty gas cans and think nothing of it is beyond me. But I was glad for the ride and glad to not get arrested. I was reading Homers The Odyssey at the time. It was great. I did some stuff actually at college too. My first roommate was a guy named Joe Robideaux who gave up baseball to go into ministry. Our suite mates were both gay. One of them was always happy and the other was always depressed. The happy one hated the depressed one (who secretly had a crush on the happy one) (but the happy one knew so it wasn’t much of a secret). Needless to say, there was much hilarity. After they moved out we got a basketball player with a tendency to cheat on his girlfriends who had a tendency to find out and beat on his door at all hours of the night. He also had a tendency to have sex in the shared bathroom. I never got into the pernicious sex bit nor the drinking bit nor the smoking bit and, thankfully, not the dancing bit. I think part of that is because I’ve always had awesome roommates and a girlfriend I actually care about (although she would very much for me to get into the dancing bit) I keep telling her that Dancing is the gateway drug into Sin. But she won’t listen. She thinks I would come up with any pathetic excuse to get out of dancing. My only other roommate was Johnny and he was awesome. I own basically nothing but Johnny owned a giant TV. This worked out perfectly. While rooming with Johnny I actually had awesome suite mates, Jared and Chris. I was, by far, the least awesome person in the suite. I’m also a founding member of the Centenary College Lacrosse team and was president for two years and even played at the Berlin Open in, well, Berlin. The big thing I did for the Centenary team was secure funding for the team to get a team set of equipment. It was about $10K. During out first ever home game a player from the opposing team got into a fight with the referee. Naturally, attendance at the second game was way up. Centenary College Lacrosse also got some national coverage because no player had ever attempted to fight a referee before. The player was arrested. Laura and I also started an intercultural club named the International Society for Cultural Awareness or ISCA for short. We did some good things our first year. Then Laura graduated and Versha took over and the club has really blossomed under her leadership. Even I’m impressed and I started the dad-gum thing. This semester I interned with the Shreveport Symphony (good people) and wrote a semi decent paper on modern theories of poverty eradication to go with me semi decent paper on micro banking in Bangladesh. Over the years I’ve given a lot of speeches,written a lot of papers, and sung a lot of songs. In the end I’m great speaker, a mediocre writer, and can drive a truck for any choir in the country. I’m also long winded.

As for the Future, I don’t have any hard plans right now. I’m looking into a couple of jobs. What I would really like to do is put western products on rural eastern markets. There is a phenomenon called the poverty premium which basically means the global poor pay more for for goods than we pay for equivalent goods. While the poor individually don’t have much money, collectively they are a $12.4 trillion market so there is huge profit potential to anyone who can close the poverty premium. I think modern supply chain management is up to the task and would love to do the research to find out. The real bonus is that the global poor will see increased buying power and possibly increased income from the process. It would take a pretty hefty chunk of change to do the research and implement the needed systems of delivery in order to profitably operate on a large scale. But once it was rolling the profit would probably be big enough to entice other companies to compete. And that’s what the global poor really need: major companies competing for their business.

This is undoubtedly the longest graduation invitation anyone has ever received. I don’t think I could have fit this onto a fancy, formal mailing piece. I hope I did not bore you to death.

Thanks,

-Tom Scarlato