Tanzania 2018

June 2018: I wrote most of the below and forgot to publish it as anyone who has visited East Africa the network is a mercurial and not always reliable thing. So here you are…. a month later – the thoughts all still stand, my readers. I just didn’t officially state it live time. I know life isn’t a fairy tale, but it’s nice to be looking around the next bend at a happy what’s next – I don’t live to think of endings or ever after, life certainly isn’t so tidy, at least mine isn’t. It’s a happy right now for me. It’s a building of the house where there was once just me and is now an us. Here’s to us and all of you. It’s also pre-summer in the Berkshires, in Massachusetts where I live and the greener than green came with me back from Tanzania… I don’t mind it, I don’t mind it at all.

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April 2018: I have been in Tanzania during the dry season or just at the start of the short rains, never at the end of the rainy season when the land is so gloriously green everywhere – greener than the greenest green.

It’s also dangerous and muddy, with floods and broken roads but let’s set that aside for a moment and focus on the endless emerald fields and hillsides. I have to say I have learned to love this confusing country in all conditions.

This is my first time traveling free – not quite a local, a mzungu never is going to be that.  I have replaced the blur from a 4 x 4 vehicle window, a more than curated experience., with street food, Masai nightclubs, the Dar “lux” express bus (it’s not so lux but it’s also not so not lux – that’s a puzzle 12 hours on that bus will solve for you). I may have even drunk the water (ok, you all know, I did but I swear my gut appreciates it now).

When does the tourist become the traveler? When is it just visiting your guy where he lives and going to the village where he was born? Does it matter that the village where I was born was Chicago? I don’t know.  Somehow by accident of fate, my global citizenship has changed and I have to carve out a spot here as well as there – there will always be a bit different when I am here and it’s a weird and unsettling mix of complicated and simple.

When I get on my plane back to the USA this time, I am not just taking memories with me. I am leaving someone behind. What was once a one way, becomes a new life plan and roundtrips. My heart couldn’t be more full,

As my father told me long ago, shoot for the stars, just remember to find the potatoes on the ground too. So with stars in my eyes and potatoes in my pockets, let the next chapter begin.

2018: Newer New Year

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Month and a half in and already, while my feet may be firmly planted in my cow town, I have been moving mental mountains. I haven’t really been anywhere but I feel like it’s been not an Everest sized trek, maybe a trek to a smaller kind of craggy peak. I can see the top, I am just not there yet. Oh but the view, it’s going to be glorious.

I am going to state it here, there’s going to be a heap ton of metaphors in this one and maybe even some cliches – you can do it, it will be ok. It won’t be my best work but it’s going to be perhaps the most honest, painfully earnest (ugh, right?) one in a while. A gal like me fears earnest behavior, I cover up my uncomfortableness at that with a lot of goony behavior.

We can do this together.

For the last ten years, all my travel and movement has been a lot of great and amazing noise, wanderlust filled adventures – big trips to exotic destinations, with shots needed and long plane rides. Then, circumstances made me stay here in this town and when not, on the road to a job that hadn’t been fulfilling me in a long time. I am hesitant to speak on that part of my life much, except to state I work in a confusing place that was never supposed to be such a long thing, I was just doing it for a little while and then I kind of got stuck. I am not sure I have ever been able to write about it. It’s a lot of the best of times, the worst of times stuff. I’ll save it for another day except to say – I have been mired in work muck, life muck too.

Well, friends, family, people in China reading this blog, I am getting myself unstuck – think of that noise your shoe makes when you pry it out of the mud, like a loud smack. And when I go in, I go big. I said to someone I am quitting everything in 2018 but I was wrong. I am not quitting me. I am looking for her. The job will be morphed, re-formed, re-tooled – the end is in sight after such a long run. And so I have found my mountain, I have found my road up it, where there is one. It was pretty foggy for a long long time.

There’s so much in a person who falls in and out of depression that can take us off our road. For some, the constant movement of travel takes that edge off. Before you can connect, you’re on the move again. Shifting and dancing around the issues and globe. I see no shame in discussing the cloud of darkness, the haze of numbness once and for all. I have read some fairly inspiring posts, that may not be this one for all of you but I can at least explain my view and as this is my space, perhaps I am explaining it to myself at the same time. I know when I start thinking and writing about this topic, my fingers fly across the keys so my thoughts clearly want out.

I have heard all the metaphors (here come the cliches) – it’s like being in a house with no windows, you can’t protect yourself against the weather so it blows in and blows out with no control. I have heard of it as a boat in stormy and then calm sea, with a broken rudder. Both are good pictures of what it feels like sometimes. It’s never taken me down, but it’s taken me to my bloodied knees. I am not sure you lovely even keeled folks get how much of my energy can go to holding myself together, getting myself up, all while attempting to appear normal and capable. I don’t think people know how tough and fierce this makes parts of us in the depression chain gang. We can wield a pretty intense hammer on those rocks, in the hottest of life’s sun.

When I was younger, I would let it win – so many, so many times, I let it win. Pretty much most of my twenties, I was definitely living and making memories, as I was being chased down by something else. I can still pick out the pictures where my eyes look dull and the going through the motions days.

Good news, being over forty, maybe my fear of wasting time has gotten to me. I don’t do that anymore. Now when I feel the darkness lurking, I go into battle mode. I give up alcohol, I give up messy dramatic friends who normally are a sparkly addition to my day to day, not forever, just a time out, I go inward and I plan the attack back. I don’t even consider a life without this cycle of ok and not ok. I don’t crave the life that isn’t mine. Therapy, physical activity, friend and family love, medication, coping mechanisms – they all do work but be warned that the chemistry of depression is something no one on the other side can properly understand. You can think you finally fixed it, a little less of this, more of that but it changes, as I grow stronger here, I find new weaknesses and I have to go back to work. I am just so grateful that my form allows me to try and that my heart and mind agree on this task together. An aside here, don’t you dare pity me, don’t ever ever do that. I pity you for feeling that way as it’s going to speak to your fear more than it speaks to my perceived damage. Know I wouldn’t choose this life either but it’s mine so please don’t judge it. Judgement is crappy. Like a bird making her nest, I just weave this straw in with the rest.

2018. I don’t know where all this change will lead me but it won’t be where I have been. Every year a newer new me, newer new lessons. The universe likes to play a lot of games with all of us but I have cracked one major thing – the journey won’t change unless I do. I know, that lesson was just painfully right in front of my face. Did I hear it yelling over here? Did I see it? Yeah, not so much.

Did I mention my will of iron? Yeah, that will is pretty stubborn and owns a fantastic set of ear muffs and blinders.

This year, I’ll get back on some planes, but there won’t be a devil on my back chasing me. I go this time as me, unapologetically and complicated me to face that newer new world out there. It’s a crap shoot really – but from what I can see from these trees, the view from the top of this current mountain…. heaven on earth.

PS. Please, for those of you on top of my annoying proverbial mountain, let’s just not mention that there’s a bigger grander mountain behind it, that you can only see from up there, it won’t help me get out of these trees.

HAPPY 2018. Thanks for wading through the metaphors and cliches. Wishing you all the very best year.

2017: Iceland, again (and again!)

Don’t everyone get excited at the same time. I left the country – I have been grounded for ages here in my cow town, dealing with some real life stuff. All is now well but it was not well most of 2017. Here’s a real deal travel update with some links, some pictures. Maybe I can get back into the swing of things in 2018? I know my cousins (thanks ladies for reading this) and my five other followers might enjoy it? I have lots of deeply personal things to say as well – I’ll get there. It’s been a bucking horse ride of a year. I stayed on but barely.

Moving on…. You all need to know I really really love Iceland. I know it’s all the rage now that those Kardashians have gone there and everyone has realized it’s that much closer than Europe, but I feel like I loved it first. It’s the Nordic Ireland feel to it – and also that they are Vikings and stand up to the world in a way that is often unexpected (google their language rules and then google their female PM who seems very cool indeed). But way back when in February 1999 – yes, also when it was cold and dark out – I went for the first time and it was wild and weird and lovely.

Let it be known Iceland circa 1999 was not the flashy hipster Iceland of today. We did all the same things though, proving when you are in Iceland you ride ponies, you soak in the Blue Lagoon, you look for the Northern Lights, you eat a hot dog and you have soup because goodness it’s an expensive place and if you want a drink, you better eat some more soup because the beer is nearly $20. Some things are different – the Blue Lagoon is less geothermal puddle, more geothermal spa experience and some things the same, a mixed drink still pricey.

Here are some of my 2017 spots that I loved (for you future planners) – they are the normal run of the mill spots with some flash (DILL is amazing but very pricey) but I still loved them. Icelandair was my preferred airline – I know WOWAir and others fly the same route but I like not having to pay for water on the plane:

Here are some of my pictures because who doesn’t like to come along on the trip with me? I wasn’t a very good photographer this time but you get the sense of the place. I’ll go again, and again and again. March 2018? Who’s with me?

 

 

2017: Summer of Cows

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A summer of summertime days and nights – in my magical purple valley. New England has summer down. Fairs, swimming holes, ice cream stands, farmers markets, outside stuff. I don’t travel much when it’s hot outside. I stay here with my people and family – we have drinks outside, we sit around fires, we catch some frogs (if you’re 7 we do that), we look for fireflies in the meadows in our electric green hills and we store up memories for when it’s cold and gray and dark. It’s been an amazing summer this year and when February comes around, I’ll make sure to hold these days in and warm up my heart.

2017: Half Done

“And once the storm is over, you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about.”
Haruki MurakamiIMG_0978

2017: New Moon, Cow Town

The moon is a loyal companion. It never leaves. It’s always there, watching, steadfast, knowing us in our light and dark moments, changing forever just as we do. Every day it’s a different version of itself. Sometimes weak and wan, sometimes strong and full of light. The moon understands what it means to be human. Uncertain. Alone. Cratered by imperfections.”
― Tahereh Mafi

2017: Sunshine and Miami

This year didn’t wait until March to come in like a lion. Living in the USA, life as we knew it has been changed every day just a little bit since our new president took office.

Know this space isn’t for politics but be warned it’s going to come up for certain for me. Since I was a small girl, life has been about your stories, my stories, our stories. I think of my friend village as a collective of experiences and lifestyles. That’s going to open the door to sharing that in this space too as that rainbow is under some dark clouds. 

Stay the course. It will always get back to the lions, the cows and all the places they live. 

Life under the gun metal gray sky of January in my cow town always has been a bit soul crushing so headed south to see my Cuban family and the sun for a few days. Nothing warms the heart like a few days with all of them, doesn’t hurt that vitamin D shines down from the sky.  

Here comes the politics. Scroll down if you want to skip it. 

It’s hard to be a child of a political refugee that has at the same time never known a day of worry. If that was what my father wanted for his American girls, he got it. Leaving his beloved island for a new life in the land of the free, he guaranteed us, my sister and I, the chance to get all the way to middle age (almost) in safety and prosperity. That dream of his seems under attack. One side claiming victory for this and the other fighting like hell to expose that victory for all the misses and vulnerabilities. It’s complicated these days.

The loop that plays in my head is what if after being willing to give up everything, my father arrived at Miami Airport, where my plane will land in just a bit, and was sent back. My heart actually aches. I love my country, all of the faults and all of the amazing things that make us a resilient people but I am saddened at the direction immigration has taken these past weeks. I won’t get started on how I feel about being a woman. I do believe all lives matter but the reason that some need to cry from the rooftops that theirs do a bit more these days is that they feel they don’t, not at all. Not mention the wolves, the trees. It’s a strange and hard time. 

So. Sunshine. Cafe con leche. Being with my family can heal any hurt. The fierce and passionate love of a Cuban, even this Cuban American, shines as brightly as a day in July. 

Meanwhile…. plans firm for a return to East Africa. It’s a problem to leave one’s heart behind in a far away land. Love is not predictable. After years of joking around about it and having Cinderella style dreams about going to the life love ball, as cheesy as that may sound, I find myself at a life crossroads, one glass slipper in my hand and a real live prince out there with one in his. No one is more surprised than me. We will see what the fortunes hold for us. Faith and the ability to suspend my disbelief has never been more important.