Thursday, August 28, 2014
Tuesday, August 26, 2014
"I got noodle water on my shirt."
"You mean the broth?"
"No! Noodle water!"
The boys have made a vocation of coveting new Legos. Instead of caving to their pleas, they have been given chores, one each for every year they have been on planet Earth, and an allowance of exactly 100 Indian rupees each week paid on Pay Day, Fridays. I've also told them we don't need to buy anymore legos when we have 15 models that are completely disassembled and need to be put back together.
This is harder than it sounds, because every single lego brick we own has been combined into one large pile. So, we are painstakingly rebuilding all of our legos, made phenomenally difficult by the fact that we have to literally search for needles in haystacks in order to find the right piece to complete any one step.
Monday, August 25, 2014
Monday, August 18, 2014
* The following post was penned on our 10 hour flight home from London to Chennai just a week ago.
The truth is I feel more at home on a plane than I do at home in Washington. Or even in Florida. It's a place in between places which happens to be right where I've always lived in some place or another. A place without a place that I thrive.
Even though nothing about Chennai felt familiar in the beginning, or even in the first seven months, coming back here feels a lot more like coming home than leaving home. Like the last time.
I boarded the plane reluctantly, almost getting caught up in passengers boarding flights to Paris and Dublin. I may have threatened to stay in London, too.
We almost lost Peter, about five times. Once in the turnstiles of The Tube in London, once on the train to Terminal C and once down an escalator in Heathrow, but he was instinctively caught up in a sea of saris as we boarded our plane to Chennai. As if he'd finally been found.
It wasn't the swooshing saris for me or the raven black braids of my seat-mates, but instead the first taste of our mediocre Indian airplane food that brought me back. Curdling excitement in my belly for our return to India with spice, flavor memories that had been dampened in the USA.
We're all better for having travelled home. No matter where you are the grass is always greener somewhere else. Some people just believe that, we move. We pick up our fence posts and haul them to those greener pastures. But the thing about greener pastures is that there is always a catch: wind, storms, predators, heavy rains or year long droughts. Or maybe you're just allergic to the grass. This doesn't make it any less green, just difficult in a different way.
Pete stopped biting his nails this summer, my cuticles have healed and so has my head, Sam's hair is poofier, Clementine knows the names of so many family members that love her that she's forgotten all our names, "Whats a name?" And Paul is always Paul, something that never waivers, like the chirping of birds in the morning. No matter where we go or what language they chirp in, they're always there providing comfort.
I've got thousands of notes scribbled on the backs of magazines, in my planner and on Post It notes throughout my bags. I've got plans for the ideas that have been desperately and uncontrollably pinging around my head since we arrived in Chennai. This place creates a fire in my creative soul, but seethes the energy it takes to make them come to life.
All things get better with time, even airplane food. Nine hours into my ten hour flight I'm devouring my South Indian breakfast like I would a crispy bacon, egg and cheddar breakfast sandwich. I have hope that the things I initially found so amazing about Chennai, will remain amazing, and the things that held me back from achieving my goals and blowing the roof off of this two year tour have been beaten by a few months to regroup and get my thoughts in order.
My plans include finally beginning my garden and feeding our bodies it's greens with the fruits of our labors. Watching impossible seeds become possible tufts of lettuce. They include joining a gym and building muscle to support my heart and my mind. To run more and run confidently outside because I am only here and now. To pour more into myself to be a good example to my children about what a strong, healthy woman looks like and to all the women around me that are on the verge of setting themselves free. To love myself more for all I do instead of beat myself down for all I don't. To realize the places I can make a difference and learn to let go of the ones that I can't.
If this so starting to sound a little like the serenity prayer, well, so be it. India requires serenity, but even yoga isn't enough sometimes.
I want to drive more and listen to more music. I want to take more chances with my work and believe that other people will believe in the images that I am passionately creating in this place.
I've been more reluctant to lay down roots here than ever before because I know how quickly two years passes and how hard it is to dig them up. But having returned home to my old neighborhoods this summer and having seen how tall the trees have become, I'm thankful we planted them when we did. They now protect our home from the wind, provide shade and stability to the clay earth in the spring and the neighbor's homes who's owners have changed several times in the passing years.
I want to be more patient with my children because seeing them
through our families eyes I see their perfection, their growth and they're potential more clearly. I'm thankful for my village, albeit far away, I learn more from watching you with your children and with mine than I do from any books.
I'm raising a big glass to the next year and five months. It's got a hell
of a lot of potential and thanks to our family and friends and they're generosity, for filling up our cups this summer until they overflowed.
Sunday, July 27, 2014
Once Peter made his way over the invisible barrier, I swept him up in my arms, and we were all back together again.
The next two weeks were a blur. There was a wedding on the beach a few days later. We rented a house in Tequesta with a swimming pool in the back yard, and there were several afternoons of poolside revelry, an extended family reunion with great-aunts and uncles, small boys flying through the air, splashing down into the water, and beers drunk in the sun.
A few days ago, the newlyweds headed home, and Elise's parents got on the road to head north to South Carolina. The house grew less hectic, but in this vacuum was an unwelcome quiet. The chaos suited all, and now there is too much space and not nearly enough bodies lounging about. The house was seemingly made to accommodate large numbers of people dripping in wet bathing suits. Fortunately, we look forward to filling it back up on Tuesday when more company arrives and the second half of our Florida beach vacation begins.
I was recently talking to a colleague at work in India about Florida. As my flight from LAX to West Palm taxied into the gate, I distinctly recall not feeling as though I were coming home, but that I was coming to Florida to visit family. It has been almost five years since we moved from Florida, and I don't know if I suspected this feeling to come sooner or later. Perhaps, five years is just about right to emotionally separate from a place. We still own our townhouse here, but that stopped feeling like home a long time ago. Certainly when we rented it out to complete strangers and unquestionably when we had--not one--but two floods in the unit to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars worth of damage.
I have a visceral disdain for South Florida. My colleague sensed this and asked why, and I could not clearly articulate my feelings. Don't get me wrong. Florida is a nice place to visit. The weather is generally good. It has nice beaches, good restaurants and Disney World, but perhaps not unlike a Nebraska farm boy who can't wait to get off the family farm, I had long ago outgrown Florida.
I grew up in Florida. I spent three years there right after I graduated from college and another ten after grad school. I ventured away. I went off to college in Baltimore and again wandered away to Colorado, but for some reason always came back. Maybe it was to return to my parents' safety net where I could regroup rent-free while plotting my next move. I was like a boomerang. Only no one had flung me far enough outside of Florida's gravitational pull until I took my present job.
I still do not really know why I left Boulder and came back to Florida in 2000, but I am glad I did. After meeting Elise, who is from Washington State, we quickly recognized that our joint fortunes lie west of the Rockies. Even before we left Florida in 2010 for my current job, I had been trying to move into a real estate job in Denver. I had one job offer in Portland to join the Department of the Interior, but the package wasn't quite enough to make the jump. A few months later, I'd be out of work.
Florida is still a nice place to visit. I just wouldn't want to live here. I have spent a lot of time in the last two weeks trying to figure out exactly what I don't like about Florida. That may sound like a negative pursuit, but it is important for me to know why I feel this way, and, perhaps in doing so, learn a little something about myself, because, on paper, Florida seems like a wonderful place. Sun, beaches, boats...who wouldn't want to live here?!
Therein lies part of the problem. Florida is paradise. So a large majority of the people around you are retired or on vacation. Especially in South Florida. So Florida becomes a stereotype of itself, and the tropical, Jimmy Buffet, "It's 5:00 Somewhere" facade replete with palm trees, boat drinks with tiny umbrellas, hammocks hung between coconut trees, cold Coronas, flip flops, and fishing boats that we sell vacationers and Snowbirds from the North becomes reality. Everyone lives the "Salt Life". I am not exactly sure what living the Salt Life entails, but imagine it has something to do with cleaning pools or waiting tables during the week, then anchoring the boat at Peanut Island on the weekends and drinking 27 cans of Miller High Life before passing out in the sun. To each his own, I suppose.
And after two weeks of serious contemplation, I think I have discovered it all just boils down to personal preference. I like the beach, but I like the cold better. I love snow, seasons changing, and leaves turning. I like the water, but I like to ski, hike, rock climb, camp more. I love to run, but running in Florida is miserable all but, perhaps, two days a year. I love coffee shops and dark beer.
I like mountains. Sorry, Florida.