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Komarr civilian jump station

Jul. 31st, 2007 | 07:46 pm

Tamu smiled over her father's note. As if she didn't know the affection that lay behind his gentle chiding. But it was like him to make sure.

All of her belongings had been whisked away into the baggage system. Her shuttle wouldn't leave for a good while yet, all she had to do was show up at the appointed time. Meanwhile she could keep herself amused by wandering about the station and engaging in her perennial pursuit, people watching. It went far beyond mere hobby or pastime; what was an anthropologist, after all, but an over-educated people-watcher?

She caught the scent of a bakery. They vented their ovens into the corridor so that it filled with the rich smell of spicy Barrayaran bread. Clever! Well, she might as well start sampling the local cuisine. Plus, deep-set instincts would make her appear more innocuous to others if she were eating. You had to know such things if your hobbies involved staring at people. She grinned at herself and went in.

The person behind the counter was a tall youth, with what she'd come to recognize as typically Barrayaran brown eyes and hair, and a distinct resemblace to the stout middle-aged woman who bustled around with bread and cakes and muffins and other delectable items a few steps back in the tiny shop. Neither of them so much as glanced twice at the small woman in her exotic-looking head scarf and long dress. After all, they lived on a space station and saw all kinds.

Tamu gazed at the list of offerings posted above the counter. Ma Babochkin's Barrayar Bakery, the sign proclaimed. Indeed. "Spice bread...a Barrayaran specialty!" That sounded promising. Ooh, and a meat pastie. And some coffee. Everywhere in the Nexus had coffee. It was a human universal. Even the overbred Cetagandans drank it.

She drew a logical conclusion. "Can I get some cinnamon in my coffee?" Yes, she could. She stepped out again with a small sack full of goodies and a steaming cup of universal human food culture. Barrayar had milk cows as well, it turned out.

Tamu settled in on a bench with the best view, nibbled on her prizes, and watched the human variety walk by. There were a few Barrayaran military types, though most of those she assumed would be over on the other station. There were many more Komarran citizens in the loose trousers they favored, and more Barrayarans, some dressed in civilian clothes and a very few in what she recognized as House uniforms. She didn't know enough yet to instantly know which ones were which, but she did recognize a Vorsmythe uniform from when she'd been socializing with the Vorthys' and some of their friends. Vorsmythe, she understood, was an industrialist and it made sense that some of his people would be travelling between Barrayar and Komarr. The presence of one of his Armsmen might mean that Vorsmythe himself or one of his family were here, or it might just mean that he had a pressing need for a very trusted agent.

This sent her thinking about the peculiar Barrayaran system of neo-feudalism. How did it continue to survive under the pressures of contact with the galactic civilization? And yet, it did. Changing, no doubt, but maintaining its basic structure. Was that inertia, a desire to minimize social chaos (of which the Barrayarans had had plenty in the last hundred and fifty years) or did it offer some intrinsic benefit which made it worth preserving? She hoped to find out, or at least to form a more elaborate theory...

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Personal correspondance

Oct. 17th, 2006 | 12:59 pm

My dearest Tamu,

I do not wish to imply any doubt of your judgement. You have always been astute and thoughtful, and if you think Barrayar is a better place for you than Eta Ceta, then there is no doubt that it is so. I am merely indulging my fatherly prerogative of worry...and, I must admit, a bit of envy. I dream of knocking about the Nexus with you! I am content with what I have accomplished here, and yet....the universe is so very large, and our time in it far too brief to understand or even see all that one might wish.

I hope that I have timed this message correctly so that it will reach you at the jump station on the Komarr side. I have sent you a few things from home, but they will not arrive for many weeks of course. Your grandmother sends her love and her firm belief in you, as do I.

with love,

Hassam

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Personal journal...

Aug. 29th, 2006 | 09:59 pm

Jump lag is what they call it...the constant shifting from local time zone to local time zone is starting to get to me. Fortunately, being on shipboard where there's no day or night and everything is "open" all the time means that I could try to adjust to Barrayaran time before I actully reach Barrayar. The hardest thing is adjusting to their 26 hour day. I used to wish for more time in my day, but I have discovered that it just means you get more tired.

Now I'm on the Komarr station for my layover. I'll be here long enough that I could have gone down to the planet but it was extra expense and frankly, I just want to get there. I'm tired and cranky and all the adventure has been traveled out of me for now. Once I get settled I'll feel differently, I know. I'll be alright.

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Personal journal

Aug. 2nd, 2006 | 09:59 pm

The further away from home I get, the more I sometimes catch people staring at me covertly. Less so in the busy Hegen Hub, where there are people from all sorts of places, but even there...More than one bored gatekeeper, customs bureaucrat, or officer in charge of boarding passengers has taken a look at my identification and then gazed at me like I was some exotic creature. I suppose in a way I am.

Terrans need to get out more. I swear, it's just like your maiden aunt who never ventures outside because everything she wants is at home. It's downright unhealthy.

As I'm approaching Barrayar....well, the Komarrans are traders, and they go everywhere. Now that Barrayar is, I gather, guarding their fleets, Barrayarans must perforce go with them. They are seeing more of the Nexus as a result. Barrayarans at home however stared at me plenty while I was there.

My skin is a bit dark for Barrayar. I don't look too far off from the Greek-speaking ethnic group, though; something I might keep in mind, should I decide I want to blend in. Not speaking their dialect of Greek would be something of a handicap, but I'm a quick study with languages. I'm on the short side of average on Terra, but Barrayarans run tall. I might as well resign myself to looking up at people all the time.

I don't dress like any Barrayaran. I could, of course; they don't have the Cetagandans' complex sartorial rules for me to trip over. I am reluctant...Apparently, being stared at doesn't bother me that much.

Actually, I think it's that I'm well aware that Barrayar has more subtle social rules for me to stub my toe on, and dressing like an outlandish foreigner, I hope, will buy me a bit of tolerance....Realistically, it might buy me a bit of intolerance. I was warned not to go in some parts of the city alone. Good thing I didn't pass that little bit of information along to my father.

Well, you know, at least they warned me. Cetagandans will just watch you walk into trouble and then smirk. I haven't told anyone that story...it didn't really seem a proper interview topic. Perhaps, if I related it to my father, he might become reconciled to me leaving Eta Ceta for Barrayar...though I suspect, it might also encourage him to keep pressing for me to come home.

It's good to be loved. And I miss them all, for certain. I don't know what it is that keeps my face turned away from home. I talk about my career and research, but really it's just that I have a wandering soul.

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Notes on Barrayar, preliminary

Jul. 28th, 2006 | 09:28 am

I've just been looking through some of the tapes and historical overviews I have about Barrayar. So far I've mostly been interested in what happened as they were coming out of their Time of Isolation...The difference between their accounts of what happened, the Cetagandans' account, and third party observers is....interesting. Though overall, allowing for a bit of patriotic propaganda, the Barrayarans' account seems more accurate than the Cetas. After all, the Cetagandans got routed, and that doesn't fit their self-image at all...

Still, as the saying goes, there's what you say, what I say, and the truth. My father used to say that history is stories, and that you can never know the past with one hundred percent accuracy...but that doesn't absolve you from trying.

Just now, I'm paying more attention to the material I have on modern Barrayar. After all, I'm about to walk into the middle of it.

One thing that strikes me is a picture of the Emperor, Gregor Vorbarra, and his family. You would never see a picture of Fletchir Giaja in a family group like that. For one thing, the Cetagandans arrange their family structure differently, at least among the haut. They have no marriage, and there are several Imperial sons and no strict rule of succession. But you never see him paired with the Empress, Rian, either. Part of that has to do with the way the haut women remain concealed...there are no photographs of her, period. But part of it also has to do with how the haut Emperor exercises power, and the whole power structure as a whole. The Emperor Fletchir is singular, alone, and...their word...celestial. He is above everyone. Not like them.

Gregor Vorbarra, on the other hand, has pictures made with his daughter sitting on his knee and his son close beside him. That doesn't necessarily mean that he's a good man, or a good father...though the way he holds his daughter, the set of his hands, in the photograph suggests to me that he's used to doing so. It does mean, at the very least, that he exercises power very differently. In contrast to Fletchir Giaja, he shows himself to be like his subjects.

I don't know, yet, what that means. The Cetagandans and the Barrayarans sometimes seem more alike to my eyes than either would wish to acknowledge. And yet...they can use the same word, Emperor, a very old title indeed, a position of authority that looks similar from the outside and with similar trappings...but at the heart it means something different.

I am not here to make a study of emperors. I am a social historian, not a military or even, except tangentially, a political one. However, the ways in which power is distributed, exercised, and perceived in any society make a difference to people on the ground, as it were. And there is something in Barrayaran society that is hinted at here, and perhaps explains how their odd neo-feudal structure works. It's personal.

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Personal journal

Jul. 27th, 2006 | 09:41 pm

Well, on to the next adventure. Scheherazade's next tale...

I wonder if my father knew what he was laying on me, with that nickname? I think my mother was wise to name me Tamu. That way, I can try to be Scheherazade only when I am up to the task. A woman who turned aside ultimate power and cruelty with sheer cleverness, with nothing more sharp or weighty than words...truly, a worthy model. But some days, I need room to be foolish, to be venal and concerned with my own wants.

I wonder what I will make of the Barrayarans? I wonder what they will make of me? They all seemed very stern, though Helen Vorthys and her husband were cheerful and friendly enough.

...Also, tall. Another planet full of tall people. The Cetagandans were bad enough, with all of their genetic tinkering. But it seems like all Barrayarans are tall. It's going to be hard to maintain authority in the classroom, when I barely come up to anyone's shoulder.

I shouldn't worry. I've been scaring undergrads since my teaching assistant days. They are the same anywhere, I expect.

As for the rest...I don't know. Time will tell, as time does.

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Personal correspondence

Jul. 27th, 2006 | 07:11 pm

Shahrzad,

Delight of my eyes, I am proud of all your accomplishments, as always, and I am pleased to hear that you have taken a full professorship. It is merely the appropriate reward for your merit and hard work.

But…..Barrayar? Why Barrayar? If you feel you must be so far away…and I understand that it’s much easier to do field research residing in the field…why couldn’t you go somewhere less…chaotic? Or, I must say it, barbaric? Barrayarans do not have a very savory reputation, my dear one. Could you not have secured a position on Beta Colony or Escobar? Even Eta Ceta IV…I worried about you there, but the Cetagandans guard their home turf well enough it seems. They mostly cause turmoil for other people.

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Whoever brought me here will have to take me home

Jul. 26th, 2006 | 04:41 pm

All day I think about it, then at night I say it.
Where did I come from, and what am I supposed to be doing?
I have no idea.
My soul is from elsewhere, I'm sure of that,
and I intend to end up there.

This drunkenness began in some other tavern.
When I get back around to that place,
I'll be completely sober. Meanwhile,
I'm like a bird from another continent, sitting in this aviary.
The day is coming when I fly off,
but who is it now in my ear who hears my voice?
Who says words with my mouth?

Who looks out with my eyes? What is the soul?
I cannot stop asking.
If I could taste one sip of an answer,
I could break out of this prison for drunks.
I didn't come here of my own accord, and I can't leave that way.
Whoever brought me here, will have to take me home.

-Jellaludin Rumi

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