Saturday, December 26, 2009


Seasons. Change. This year has been full of it, a year ago we left the States with little more than what we could carry and we set up a home here in a small village and aside from one scary medical issue it's been fine, it's been fine as spun sugar dripping off the cone. I've learned some things, things I'd never known about heat and dirt and bugs and third world markets, of concrete bungalows with Cuban doctors who fix you better than your doctors in the States. Of hand washing laundry and learning to make do. I've learned about the dark, about the full of the moon. Of community and what it means to look out for one another when there is no one else to call. And along the way we've had a few breaks, a good gig in the US that enabled us to keep on doing what we are doing even if it meant a bit of back and forth for me.

But change is coming, another one thought out carefully and with our goals firmly in mind but require an unconventional situation. One I embrace and one I do not. It's simple really, when the Man offers you a longer gig in what has proven to be a very uncertain economy you say yes, you say yes even if it means that half of us will need to leave the jungle and come back to the States temporarily, for several months in a row. You say yes and then realize you cannot be away from your child so she must come with you. You say yes and realize that you also cannot leave what you've started here. You say yes and realize how much you will miss J. But J will stay and we will go, and he will build our house while we are gone.

You see how this is a good thing, a once in a lifetime sort of opportunity to allow for both income and construction. You see how if we focus, if we really focus, we can maybe actually pull it off. But it means half of us are leaving and the rest is staying here. It's a distance I can't quite fathom, one where visits are already planned and life is already in motion.

But today I watched the toucans and I cried. I listened to the magnificent howler monkeys screaming in the trees and I cried some more. I do and do not want to go. It requires an extra dose of courage and trust to make this next move.

Our friends have come round today, hugs and small tokens and lots of goodbyes. A few months is a long time here, the mamitas in the village have already offered weekly meals, fry jacks and johnny cakes and rice and beans for J. He is awkward in response, he's not quite like the men here, he is more accustomed in domesticity and doesn't need the help but it's touching all the same and it's quite lovely knowing they'll be here just like it's calming knowing our village there awaits, friends and family who support our next chapter have circled the wagons there too, assisting with odd bits of child care and books for M and a warm embrace for me.

So tomorrow M and I will hug J tight and then get on a plane and start something new and we'll do it together and apart and there is grace in that, in knowing that our small family is it's own little village, that we will watch over each other as we go and that in a short while if all goes as planned we'll be back again soon and move into a place of our own.
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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

coming on christmas

I'm sure it feels like this everywhere but it certainly feels like the holidays have completely surprised us by how fast they've arrived. The enormous difference this year is here in the jungle things are much (as much as much can be) less commercial. I haven't noticed more advertising, more sales, more stuff. There's a lack of stuff here, a lack of stuff and a lack of money to buy it.

So instead people focus on their families and their holiday meals. Everyone here has a different way, some spring for some holiday liquor, some make special meats, some bake special breads. It's slightly cheerier, occasionally we'll see buildings lit up with lights and when we do it's like magic lighting up the night. Spirity-spirit, M calls it. And it is. As the days progress neighbors occasionally stop by with treats and we've been doing the same, a family near us has had a series of challenges this year, their already meager existence has been threatened even more with illness and injury and as such we've tried to do a few things to assist.

And this year is lacking another former constant in my life: spending holidays at the shelter. Prior to this year I'd spent more holidays than I can count inside shelters, doing my part to make it okay for guests and volunteers alike and this year I am relieved of that burden and the blessing too, there is no one who needs me this year beyond my family and it's quieter and easier and feels just about right. I did my time and I loved all of it but this year it's been for M, a year where she isn't coming in second and that's meant more magic for her. She's been very worried that Santa won't know to find her here, that it's too far for him to come and there are no chimneys to speak of but we've assured her he's gotten her letter and he knows what's what.

So it's good, this thing. We are warm but not hot, we are mostly dry and only have a few bug bites. We found some simple things we'll turn into a meal, not like holidays of past but of a holiday present, one that is simple and good and simply good enough.

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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

we would if we could

Healthcare is free where I live. It's not excellent, it's probably not where you want to be if you get into a serious accident. But it's here. And it's free. A friend of mine has a father, he's 99 (go, him) and he was sick over the weekend, sick enough to warrant hospitalization and so hospital they went. She's Canadian so she's used to the mecca of free health care, and her standards are not low. She described a rather comprehensive effort to help her father, the one criticism she had was the lack of food so she had to bring meals in for him to eat. She mentioned the nurses feeling bad about it but cited a lack of funding that made providing meals very difficult. They would if they could, she said. Her father was discharged yesterday, the interventions provided were good and now he's on the mend.

And I've thought about that all night. They Would If They Could. But wow, they sure did a lot and it was all for free.

It's such a contrast to what I am reading about America's fight for health care reform. How it's a bunch of fat cats who have health insurance cutting and cutting and trimming and reducing and making it into a bill that might mean something, but it's clearly not Reform.

They Would If They Could.

Where is that ethic? Where is the ethic that we should do what it takes. That the environment and housing and food and healthcare should not victims of oh well, we tried, it's a good compromise after all. Where is the Yes We Can? The Yes We Will?

It's doubly disheartening for me because this President is the first one I've actually believed in. The others I expected nothing much from and got nothing much and that was to be expected after all, and we are left screaming and grumbling and carrying on. But this one, this one I believed in. I still believe in. So when I hear it's the best we can do right now I call Bullshit. Bullshit Mr. President. And I mean that with respect, because I do respect you. But I am worrying about you now. About things. About what it all means and wondering where the fight has gone.

Because it's not enough. It's just not. And I think you know it no matter how it's spun so I have to hope we are still mid-game here, that this is part of your strategy, but it's not really feeling that way right now. So I'll keep watching and I'll wait. But we need you to show up.

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Wednesday, December 09, 2009

lashing out

The practical and fanciful opinions of M's school collide on a rather frequent basis. One on hand I am appreciative of the opportunity she's having, learning in a rural environment filled with diversity and social sciences based on the broader parts of our world. On the other hand I struggle with what seems to be a much slower pace with big chunks filled up by religion. In this country most of the schools have churches on site and that means Mass. Mass and more mass. If I was her I'd be going batshit but blessedly (pun intended) it's all she knows so far so she seems to manage it okay.

But then the other thing happened. The thing that made my blood boil right off the charts.

M comes home happy, my kid is relentlessly happy, we've been given this enormous gift without fully knowing why but we take it with gratitude, our kid practically no matter the situation she is full of joy. So as we talk about her day it finally winds around and it winds around carefully because my kid, along with being happy she's also pretty smart and she knows what makes her mama freak out. But as we talk it becomes clear, her teacher is smacking kids with a ruler when they don't listen to her. She smacks them with a fucking ruler.

It's called lashing here, it's a practice that is used but I was told that it doesn't happen in her school which is one of the main reasons we chose it. We were told this doesn't happen here. So I find myself starting to go apeshit but I reigned it in, getting the full story mattered the most. So we talk about it more and she tells me that her teacher sometimes smacks kids on their hands when they aren't listening and wait, oh wait good lord almighty you know it yes She's Hit My Kid.

I asked M all kinds of questions, did it hurt (a little) did it make her cry (no) how many times (only once) do other kids cry (no) can you show me how teacher does it (she does and it seems rather benign) but still, what the fuck. What the fuck.

So the next day I go in to talk to this teacher, to tell her unequivocally she is not to touch my kid and to talk to the principal too. To tell them if M is doing something in their minds worthy of being smacked to call me on the phone and I will go there right then and there. But no matter what, Do Not Touch My Kid.

So I go in and I go in calm, I am calm because I feel pretty confident we are all still okay and I walk in the classroom to find out that her teacher is gone, she gone as in not coming back and M has a new teacher starting today. So not knowing this teacher and not having any time to form a relationship (which is a big part of the culture here) I don't have a choice, I have to make it clear. So I tell the teacher and she says we don't do that here and I tell her well yes, some of you apparently do and and I am nice but firm, you don't do that to my kid and she hears me and I can tell she can tell this isn't a discussion point. This is just how it's going to be.

So I think we are good, I think things are going to be fine. I go home and think about it and think some more and talk to a few folks, several of whom don't see lashing as a big thing, they lash their own kids and it's just the way things are done but if they are judging my reaction I can't feel it, I can't feel it because again and at the end of the day we are all mothers here and we need to do what is right for us.

M knows what I did, she knows because we talk about all of it, how upset I was and how this isn't okay with me. She was there when I talked to the teacher, I don't shield her from it because I want her to see her mama standing up for her, that I have her back. She was happy I did it but also somewhat unconcerned, it was clearly a bigger deal to me.

But it makes me think about other stuff, about the way she's being assimilated and whether or not I can live with all the ways it happens. I can't live with all of it in the States and I can't live with all of it here, and the amusing thing that the things I can't live with here are very different than there. It's the stuff you don't think about, the stuff you hope you can turn your head to and assume it'll all turn out okay but to an extent we all know that's bullshit and yet we don't know what else to do but stand up when you have to and keep talking about it. Keep talking about all of it and hope some of it sticks.

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Thursday, December 03, 2009

dance sister dance

I've missed the full moon party for the last several months, either travelling or in between I didn't have the time to attend. But last night I was there with the others, gathered on a beautiful jungle mountaintop with fifteen or so other women of all ages and experiences with one common thread running between us - the love of this place.

So we gathered as we always do, sharing a jointly prepared meal and then as the conversation dwindles and the night moves along we move out to the fire, we gather our drums and our music and we sit in a circle and each do what moves us under the moon. This time after the circle closes our sha-woman, an aged yet utterly spry and pixie like woman turns up the music. Baile! she says Dance! and she started to move and I sit for a moment watching women of all ages and sizes shake their hips and move their arms and dance barefoot in front of the fire and I'm lost in it for a moment, these women who if you saw on the streets you'd never expect such sensuality and such grace. I am warm by the fire and smiling when the delightful pixie-sha-woman grabs my hands and pulls me up and we dance and we dance and all of a sudden I dance but on my own this time with eyes closed and I stop feeling self-conscious and I simply feel free.

There's a sacredness to it when women get together like this, when we come together in support of other women, of ourselves, when we let go, when we dance. The peacefulness and the rightness of it washes over me like rain.

As the evening ended I watched the fire for a moment more. I realize that we've been here almost a year now but it doesn't feel like it because for the last few months I've traveled back and forth and yet still, we are here and being right here is one of the reasons why I came and yet I feel like I've cheated, like I haven't embraced the opportunity as fully as I could have because no matter where you go there you are. And I wonder about 2010 and all the uncertainties yet to come and while it's a bit scary I realize I am still in this thing, I am still here and in this thing and the rest will just have to wait and see.

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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

in the air

I spend a lot of time on planes now, ever since August it's been a steady stream of back and forth and repeat. Airports fascinate me, this artificial hub of humanity where everyone is going somewhere at the mercy of others. I sit and I watch people go and go and go and I find it amazing really at how many people are out there in our world doing their own thing.

Flying itself is clearly less desirable, roped in like sheep at a forced rodeo all dressed up with places to go and no control of getting there. We all sit silently resenting the way in which we must get around while docilely submitting to the rules of the road. I've been lucky in this regard too, no big mishaps or you know, scary 30,000' sort of things yet and I keep hoping that I'll fly under the radar one more time.

I'm heading back to the jungle after a brief trip to the States, wrapping up a project and feeling the satisfaction in knowing I'll keep my feet on the ground through the holidays both, a pause in the rush and one I am deeply craving, a long time at home with nothing much to do but relish in the joy of my child and partner, since travelling as much I find myself trying to stand still. I watch them when they are busy just to see how their limbs work and what makes them smile. I hear the words of the tiniest Who and instead of screaming I Am Here I say I Am Blessed.

Happy Thanksgiving, friends.

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Monday, November 09, 2009

rainy days and mondays

Me and Karen C, we are driving through the rain. The one radio station here plays American 70's music all the time, an amusing juxtaposition as I slow down to avoid the big bull in the muddy road. I wonder what Karen C would make of all of this, of the kids in their often ill fitting uniforms and the ladies strolling with babies strapped to their chests maya-style.

I end up as I often do in the open air produce market, the only place in town where you can get fresh fruits and vegetables. Today I score some cauliflower which is a rare treat amidst the usual bananas and onions and occasional starfruit. But I need bread and I can't find it so Karen C and I, oh wait she's gotten off the bus and now it's me and Barry G and his brother or two and we are cruising, cruising. I hit three little markets and there's not a loaf to be seen. It's hard to describe, this way of living especially coming from a place where more is always more and there is always more of it. But shopping this way forces one to be sociable, you exchange this and that with folks you run into and the shopkeepers who are used to you by now.

I briefly contemplate making my own bread, but my schedule doesn't allow it and besides, I burn it more often than not so I hit bingo at the last stop and can't believe I'm buying white bread but I'm desperate and that makes me giggle too.

By the time I'm done it's time to get M for lunch, the afternoon break is already here. I pick her up and a neighbor kid and I eavesdrop as I often do on the closing minutes of her class. Time to say our prayers says the teacher. Shut your mouths children and I can't help but laugh, saying shut your mouths doesn't seem acceptable in any setting but somehow right before kindergarten prayers it's especially off limits but not knowing what else to do we drive home and it's still raining but now Donna S has joined our ride. We sing along, or at least I do and almost run over a chicken. Those dudes run really funny. I suppose everyone's just trying to get along.

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Thursday, November 05, 2009

the ants go marching

I'm cleaning up a few nights ago when J walks over to the verandah and opens the slider. Immediately he leaps back and streams of black ants come piling in covering his feet and crawling up his legs. He slams the door and starts jumping around, expletives abound.

I run over and flip on the outside light and the porch looks as if it's alive, a black swarming mass of moving floor space. Marching ants. Holy shit.

We quickly stomp on all the ants that made it inside and brush them out of J's hair and after some looking around, it appears that the ants are not only on the porch but climbing up the house. We've heard about these things in jungle folklore before, the marching ants come in the millions sweeping through areas eating everything in their wake. Some of our neighbors think they are a good thing because they clean out all the other bugs as they pass, the black swarm comes and goes in a short amount of time.

But I can't quite embrace their calmness. What the fuck is this I say over and over, watching the blackness puddle and swoon like a funhouse mirror gone very wrong. We realize this side of the house is fairly safe but we have no idea what cracks or holes exist in places we cannot see. After a while of sitting in somewhat bizarre stupor it hits me that the right side of the house, where the little buggers are heading, has no such reinforcements. The space between the door and the floor is ample enough for ants to come in riding on each other's backs. In triple. Shit. I say as much to J and so we head over and tentatively open the door and here they come, their blackness swarming towards us. Foolishly, I grab a towel like I was taught to do in those old fire safety movies back in the 70's. I wet it and stick it along the door jam to keep the smoke out. Or in this case, ants. I do this quickly and feel triumphant until the towel seems to slowly start to move. What happens if we can't stop them? Will they slowly overtake our bodies leaving only heaving black mounds of flesh?

Danger Will Robinson. Oh, and holy shit get me out of here.

M is asleep, thankfully and blissfully unaware that we are about to be consumed. J and I go on defense, I am spraying bug spray at the door frame and we are stomping in abandon. Somehow or perhaps it was never meant to be it works and the ants slightly shift course and we see them marching their massive way across the driveway. Our dog comes out of hiding. J looks at me and says you'll have to blog about this one and I laugh. Not until I'm sure we aren't waking up covered in ants I say.

I wake up the next morning ant free and nervously eye the porch. We tell M all about it at breakfast and she's filled with dismay at missing the escapades of the night before. She's a brave one, my kid. I tell a neighbor about it who laughs and says they came through her house a few days ago. Sprinkle water on them next time she says, they don't like the water. Later I come back from taking M to school and from the market and walk out onto the porch when I see them, a marching black wall coming over the lip of the porch from the ground, a good three feet long and about a foot onto the concrete turning it black. Being a secret double agent, I grab the hose and turn it on and let out a screech and a jet spray so powerful it's like washing thick mud off the side of a house, the blackness goes flying backwards onto the grass and I'm going Apocalypse Now on the little fuckers, spraying and spraying until the porch is clean and the fortress is intact. I peer over the edge of the porch and the ground beneath is fully alive, the marching ants are still marching. Several dogs have now taken refuge on my porch and they all look at me expectantly, watch the gringa, she's crazy and I think about spraying them too but I pull myself in check.

After way too much water I finally concede that maybe I've won this round, those little bastards are 0-2 now but I know and they know that they'll win sooner or later, whether it's 2am or when we aren't home, you can't stop nature from running it's course. So I can only hope that they've moved on down the village, making their way far away from here.

In other news we are bracing ourselves for the first real storm of the season, the hurricane to the south of us will bring us rain and I reminisce about last year when the entire village was flooded and I hope that like the ants, the rain will go easy on us too.

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Sunday, November 01, 2009


As many things go here, information regarding Very Important Events is often contradictory and somewhat loose. As Halloween approached, we tried to figure out customs and whatnot so as to allow M to have some sort of holiday while navigating the fact that Things Are Just Done Differently Here. So after several inquiries we thought we had it figured it and headed out to go to a few houses and trick or treat. The first two houses were practice, expat neighbors we know who were more than happy to offer a treat. But then we ventured over to our village friends, with our gorgeous little Dorothy with her dog Toto in tow. (Note to self: no one here has seen the Wizard of Oz).

We were welcomed heartily at our first stop but also with laughing. Oh no, we don't trick or treat till tomorrow night. And Monday night. But not tonight. Today of course was Halloween. Alright then, we shake our heads. Leave it to the gringos to get it wrong. So M is rather disappointed so we figure it can't hurt to see if other folks on on this same page. We stop at a restaurant a friend of ours runs and she being anglo has some candy to share. M now is energized and wants to make more stops so we go to another village friend who reiterates that trick or treating is tomorrow and laughs as we go. As we are heading back home with a rather meager bucket of candy we stop at a ramshackle little store on the off chance one out of three might come through and besides, it's a little tienda so I am pretty sure they have candy no matter the day. There's an old woman in the back and I see her making tortillas. She sees us and smiles and walks up to the front. Que quieres? she says and M says Trick or Treat! Que? So I lift M up and so the woman can see. She smiles and laughs. Quieres dulce? She asks and I smile Por favor. So the woman grabs a couple lollipops and hands them over even though I'm pretty sure that she's also of the This Doesn't Happen Till Tomorrow ilk. The funniest part of it all is a little boy was in the store at the same time, a shilling in hand probably there on an errand from his mom. The woman hands him the lollipops too and he looks in confusion and amazement and runs out the door. I am laughing now and we thank her and walk back outside. We end up calling it a night after that, M is ridiculously understanding about all of it and I've never loved her more.

So tonight, the day after Halloween we've had some visitors and they come in massive, massive amounts. The walk through the village swinging little lanterns going door to door, no bags to hold candy or a costume to be seen but high spirited and joyful just the same. I'd like to think it has more to do with Dia De La Muerta, I've noticed the cemetery across from our house has been bustling today, paying homage to ancestors and lighting candles with candy and costumes secondary if at all.

So as with anything we roll with it and when we shut the door we look at each other and laugh because everything continues to make no sense and be exactly fine all at once.

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Sunday, October 25, 2009

working the land

I've done a terrible job writing about the actual construction and transformation that's been going on at our land since we moved to the jungle. J spends backbreaking hours and days in the hot sun carefully planning, building, and creating our future home. While this doesn't do it justice, here are a few photos of our recently constructed earth bag structure. The whole thing was done by hand, the door and window frames were handmade, the bags will carefully filled with a mixture of sand and clay. J has spent countless, countless hours on this, not only in the building but in the art of learning how it's done.
While it looks simple, this took forever. Lots of dirt. We found pottery shards during the sifting which was pretty amazing. Earthbags are very heavy and the walls are thick. Thick walls means cooler temperatures. Natural respite from the heat. The round construction means it's not going anywhere. This will be here for a long, long time.
This may look like paint but it's actually a tint applied to the last coat of mud. Once the bags are done the whole building is covered w/ mud and then the final coat has some sort of magical mixture added to it. As you can see, J has spent an incredible amount of time on the details. It's been amazing to watch his passion and persistence unfold in so many ways. Every step of the process was looked at from a environmental lens, what materials are sustainable, what is the least harmful, etc. I am a particular fan of the window flare and the slate at the bottom which while beautiful, serves as a splash guard for those pesky thunderstorms.

We had to hire the roofing work out. Thatch is absolutely an art form, and the guys who did this spent several days cutting, weaving and then tying the leaves. It's an incredible process.
So there she is, our little jungle structure nestled on our little jungle property. We aren't planning to live in it right now for a number of reasons but we eventually might use it for guest lodging. We needed a practice structure before attempting to build any sort of living space and there were countless lessons learned. J's working on a different structure now that this one is finished, which will be the center of the garden. In the meantime we've planted over 50 trees, many of them fruit bearing.

It's a work in progress, but as it's progressed I've watched J become a botanist, an earth father, a laborer and a foreman. It's been a joy to watch his brain work in new ways and he's largely self-taught himself everything as he goes along. And there's no home depots here either. So he's been forced to think creatively and exercise his passion. It's not always easy but it's been amazing to watch. It's been an evolution of our partnership as well, in our former lives we both went off to the workplace, now so much more of our focus (at least when I'm not out of the country) is on meeting our basic daily needs and our land. We've both become more domesticated out of necessity. There is simply too much to do if we want to manage everything that needs to get done. But it feels more honest somehow, more deeply personal and less stressful.

This year has been a lot of things, ever since we took the leap and left our jobs and our lives and moved to the jungle but mainly it's been a year of discovery and of working things through.

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Friday, October 16, 2009

thirty nine

i can still taste
the sweetness of that cabin
long ago.
the discovery and blood and cement and the yes
that lit the fire that brought us here.

you, the human that makes it all seem sane
the one who held on even when the road
the road was lonely and long
and good and full of flowers
that one night in the casino
and the one right after we brought our girl home (the year they finally won)

and we
we made this, this life this one is ours
through the mountains of oregon
and florence
and bangkok
and suchitoto
and bayon
and now the jungle

it is you, i cleave here and there and in ways quiet and loud
and sometimes teary and mostly, yes mostly with gratitude
i celebrate you.

happy birthday to j

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Wednesday, October 07, 2009


I've been volunteering in M's school this week, an informal sort of thing. As you might imagine school here is mighty different, the rooms are crowded and supplies are nil. The teachers have a lot of kids and few resources to get the job done. I noticed her struggle and offered to come and help. She said OK and told me when to show up but I've yet to see her smile.

So I show up and the room is in a subdued chaos, the teachers here have no problem yelling at the kids, something I'd imagine I'd do too if stuck with this job. She handed me a stack of composition books and asked me to write the homework assignment in each. I dutifully sat at her desk and wrote and wrote while she taught the kids about 1,2 and 3. I watched M on and off and she was in heaven, somehow sitting in this crappy little room with an oh-so-strict teacher and the afternoon heat didn't seem to bother her or maybe she just doesn't know any better. Either way given the circumstances I count these blessings because this is what we've got to work with here.

I came home a bit depressed if she was in the US she'd probably be taking yoga or some shit and you know they'd have A/C and J just looks at me and says it's the sum not the parts that we need to focus on and yet I can't quite find the charm because I can't help but worry about what is best for her and we talk and we realize that while living here school is different and perhaps substandard but she is happy and safe and still learning even if there is a hole in the classroom floor.

So I went back again today, determined to not only volunteer but observe again and I have to admit it was better, the teacher had my work ready for me when I arrived and she was able to finish her lessons without worrying about the paperwork and I got to sit at the front and assign the homework and tease the kids when they came to collect their books. After closing prayer (hi hello there is a lot of jesus going on around here) she looked at me across the room Manana? I say and she nods and even smiles and M and I walk out hand in hand and happy, she's thrilled I show up and I'm thrilled I'm afforded the luxury of coming mid-day to my kid's class and hang out.

I decide I'll come whenever I can, tomorrow and the next and when I'm not running back and forth to the States because that's what this new gig affords me, long stretches at home and some time away, my id and superego and ego might just unite after all.

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Monday, October 05, 2009


I've been sticking rather close to home lately. I've got a gig that requires me to work from home, a blessing that is near indescribable. That and one car and a child whose school schedule has her popping in and out a record 4 times in 6 hours. It's okay though. I feel good. Really good. I've been a stay at home mom type for awhile now and the preciousness of that has yet to grow old.

But today I met some friends for breakfast, my voodoo priestess friend and another. We spent the time talking all things otherworldly, a place I am unafraid of but rarely visit. She's hungry, my friend, she's hungry to shake things up a bit and feeling subdued because few people speak her language even here.

I challenge her over our eggs and beans, I challenge her to do it anyways, to bring us to her land and work her magic. She laments and then comes around but not without asking me to have a role in the ceremony and I laugh, I can't help but laugh because I may be an alright sort of girl but I'm hardly tuned into the otherworld, the one that hums all around and over and under. She's undeterred, my friend and insists so I say okay as long as I can be from the East, I've found some Sufi writings lately I'd want to share. She agrees and works her magic even at the table and apparently the ancestors are on board. We are good to do this thing.

As I drive away I reflect on the past eight months, often spent hot and sweaty and itchy and weird and lately en route and I also think of all the blessings, that until this year I was a working girl who worked all the time and shopped at the box stores and drove to work and turned back around. It's like that here but different, there is a routine to our lives but it's untethered, it's random and frustrating and delicious and third-worldly, and I feel like I know more now, a kind of quiet knowing that things are different everywhere and there is grace in all things. I am slowly becoming less afraid.

I get home in time to watch a neighborhood dog kill an iguana right in front of me. It was a longish sort of battle and it made me want to cry and also want it to be over. I watched the dog turn and wander off, it's great battle over with barely a second glance and I looked at the dead thing and I thought of the cycle of life, of how it goes round and round and that I might not have thought of it this way if I hadn't come all the way down here. It's like I knew and did not know, and that doesn't make one thing better than the other but there's a quiet knowing in it, knowing our time here is short and we have to jump and grab those rings when we can.

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Friday, October 02, 2009


You'd think the auto registration center for the area would be rather official. You'd think it would have more than a shack-like quality with a couple dudes sitting behind desks so old you wouldn't believe with the A/C wall unit rattling behind them covered in dust. You'd think, but then you'd be thinking all wrong.

We pay our money and they give us a receipt. What about the plates I ask and the man smiles. Oh mon, we are out of plates. The entire country is out of plates. J starts to get nervous, we still don't know all the rules. We can't drive around without plates he says. Oh yes, mon. You aren't in America any more so you need to relax. Besides, everybody knows we are out of plates. Here, I'll write you a note. And he does.

So at the checkpoint we get stopped. You don't have any plates they say. Your country is out of plates we reply and we hand him our little note. He glances at it. Oh that's right he says. We are out of plates and smiles and waves us on. Everyone does know we say and we laugh. And we laugh extra hard and I keep saying The Country Is Out Of Plates! No Plates Anywhere! And I laugh some more.

I love the lunch time school pick up. Everyone goes home for lunch so all the mamas and the papas and the abuelas and abuelos and tias and tios gather under the shade, some with umbrellas, some in taxis, the old men laugh and the women gossip. We wait for the bell and wait some more for our own uniformed child to come racing out. Mine is easy to pick out of a crowd here and as she spots me she breaks out into a grin. She races over and we climb in the car while joyously turning on the A/C. The car is still the one place we are cool although with the fall has come cooler weather and it's getting harder to complain. We pass goats on the way home and a woman with a basket on her head and it starts to rain. A horse blocks my way and I have to honk and it tosses it's mane disdainfully as if to tell me he's been here long before me. I see my neighbor on the road and we wave.

I like it here, I like it here a lot.

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Monday, September 28, 2009

jiggety jig

I've been back in the jungle for a few days now, the shiny brightly painted landscape of the States replaced by the peeling and dilapidated and yet beautiful scenery of home. As I walked out of customs and into the arms of my family, feeling my child's legs wrap around me and kick with delight and teared up from the love and from the journey, from the teeter totter turbulence.

I can't believe how well they fared in my absence, something I swallow with such gratefulness, that M felt full and loved and J felt calm and happy, the two musketeers missing their third but getting along just the same.

After a sweet reunion and a lazy afternoon it was back to work, a different sort of work that is easily forgotten and so much more in the moment, the digital distractions cast aside.

The sky here is so big. So unfettered by buildings and lights. It's the stars and the glowbugs and the sounds of the jungle at night, a cozy and wild west sort of smell that reminds me of our smallness. It's so hot here and yet it's bearable now and I'm happy to see that everything I'd learned hadn't completely worn off.

I bought some cheese at the market yesterday and opened it to use in the tacos I was making for dinner. As I cut into the brand new package I saw it was already covered in mold, a phenomenon I can't quite understand. I yelp a bit and demonstrate my disgust and J looks over welcome home baby he says with a grin. And then we talked long into the night, a pastime of ours that has often fallen by the wayside in the name of sleep. We both acknowledged we still don't really know what we are doing or how we are going to pull this thing off. We talked about options and ideas and have agreed that we aren't ready to throw in the towel but have been humbled so entirely humbled by how impossible we've found it to sustain ourselves financially without seeking work far away. So we agree to let it ride, that this gig is doable for a few months more, we'll balance the balancing and take our kid to school (she is thriving you wouldn't believe how much she is loving her class) and make tortillas from scratch and sweat in the heat and we'll remain open to what comes next.

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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

hip hop you don't stop

So, she says, do you wear the same four outfits every week? I laugh a little and say I do. And in cubicle world I am sure it gets noticed. But you know, still. She cases me a little so, is what you have on one of your outfits? I'm wearing jeans and a shirt and after 12 hours I'm sloppy. After 2 hours I'm probably sloppy. Yes I say.

She runs up the stairs and comes back down. She's holding two dresses. I don't wear these anymore she says and hands them to me. They are lovely and casual and nice all at once. Really? I say and she smiles. Try them on she says. She hands them over and I understand again how you never really know till you know. How every day is a series of little gifts and sparkly rainbows. Of tears and longing. Of realizing how alive you are in the presence of others and outside of your usual routine.

And this is how it's been, this new world of couch surfing and depending on friends, of catching cabs and flights and morphing one world into the next. Of the kindness of strangers and also your friends. I'm busy and I'm lonely and I'm full and I miss my family and I like the work and I have fallen asleep on the floor and guest beds and once a bit tipsy after a long night of red wine and the most delicious chilean sea bass I've ever tasted.

I miss my home. I desperately miss my kid, a few weeks away from her has been like a gaping wound that no amount of skype or phone calls can cure. I miss her smell and her giggle and I miss the jungle and even the dirty heat. I feel like I'm the worst mom in the world. I fall in love with her father all over again without him even knowing it.

So I'll zig to my zag, this brave new world we've created, one foot in the first and the other in the third, there is no playbook for this and so we go day by day wondering if this is right or that is right or what it all means and in the end it means we are still living, one of us hasn't left the jungle and two of us have gone back and forth and the third, the girl third has been back and forth for two months now, an upside down sort of something that feels shaky and stable all at once.

So the radio silence has been just that. Of not knowing what to say and of having to say too much.

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Saturday, September 05, 2009


M turned five today, her most perfectly amazing self has turned another year. We've been excited about this for weeks, five is so much bigger than four and as such great merriment must be made. We also made a point of celebrating four, all the things that four brought that will never be again, things she's outgrown and also mastered and all the things yet to be.

We decided to have a small party at the house, she invited two or three friends and along with them comes a host of adults, village neighbors and surrogate aunties and the like. Every single person who has been invited has immediately asked me what they can bring and how they can help, something so common here and yet it still floors me every time, folks who have nothing still ready to give what they have. I also secretly think they think I am rather useless in the ways of jungle life, and as such if food is going to be prepared the way it should they'd better lend a hand.

We wanted to keep it simple, things here are done differently, there are no presents or goody bags, food is simple and there is no entertainment aside from each other. We talked about this a lot, how this party will be different than ones in the States, how we will have some presents for her but we won't open them at the party, having our own private breakfast celebration instead. M seems okay with all of it, she is nothing if not flexible, learning another way of life at an early age has had this very positive affect on her and I am so thankful, realizing how easily it could have gone the other way.

So today we celebrate our child, my child, my only-born, this great beaming bucket of sparkly rainbows who never stops laughing and is always ready for a hug. My big girl, my five year old magic maker, this little person I love more than I love anything else in this world, this sweet girl child who takes my heart outside of my chest with her everywhere she goes. I am so unfailingly in awe and delight and in love with her, I curve my hand around her still rounded belly and I hold her close and breathe her in and I know in this moment and in every moment that I am so richly blessed by her, that it is the supreme honor of my life to be the one she chose to guide her along her path and I do it with determination and with honor and sometimes with frustration and selfishness but no matter what I try and do my best because that's the least she deserves in this life and no matter where we raise her and no matter how we live she knows without a doubt how much she is loved and celebrated and on good days we even make it fun.

Happy Birthday, you magnificent, remarkable, bright and beaming girl. I love you always and in every way.

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Friday, September 04, 2009

bob marley has definitely left the building

This country is so lax about so many things, roads and stoplights, electricity and more and as such its been quite a shock seeing the seriousness with which they take their schools. All of the schools here are run by the catholic church, so certain things were expected like churches on site at each school, uniforms and prayers. But I didn't realize the full extent of things until yesterday at our first parent/teacher assembly.

We gathered right after lunch in one of the classrooms, the same stifling heat-filled rooms where we expect our children to learn. The heat and the lack of air circulation has been on my mind all week, M will come out of class with her face sweaty even though she's sitting still. There are ceiling fans in the room but the teacher is afraid to turn them on, they are so rickety she's worried they will fall down on the kids.

The principal runs the meeting, starting of course with prayers. She then goes over general rules (rules! lots of rules!) about things like mandatory pleats in the uniforms (there must be TWO! Not ONE. Not THREE! TWO!) and about how the kids can never, ever be late to class. I can't help it and I start to giggle and J looks at me sternly once or twice but I can't help it, the anti-authority vein in me takes over. Besides, it's very, very hot.

One of the other moms asks about the heat and what the school can do and unfortunately they can't do anything, there is no money and the catholics don't come back till January to do repairs. I mentally tick off the months in my head and realize we can't wait till then and we'll have to do something about it now. The principal ends by reminding folks they have stopped corporal punishment and I thank all that is holy because this principal scares me in a good way and I really don't want to have to fight with her but I would have over this.

After the meeting ends we walk outside and climb in the car. Let's go into town and buy a fan for M's classroom I say and J says right now? and I nod. So we head into town and I'm still giggling, we debate who is going to have to go to mass because we just learned we are supposed to go every week, something that god bless them I just don't see myself doing and wonder what the consequences of this inaction will be. Maybe the fan can serve as our advance penance but J just laughs, he was bred in parochial schools and if anything I think he finds all of this rather familiar and relatively okay.

We buy the fans and decide to get two, realizing the unfairness of things if I were to ask the teacher to only put a fan on M's side of the room. As we are driving back I wonder if this is going to make me seem like an asshole, the only foreigner in the school is already inserting herself in things and J says but that's exactly what you are doing and I agree and decide it can't be helped.

When we pick M up after class she's chattering happily. She actually loves her school and her teacher and is already starting to make friends, this first week has gone better than I could ever have imagined for her. She climbs up on the stool and watches me chop onions and asks me to look at her and she stands at prim attention and makes the sign of the cross and I look across the room at J and he starts to smirk. What's that baby I say It's the sign of the cross mama, I am Catholic now and I slowly and quietly rest my head on the table rocking it side to side. It's okay mama you can be Catholic too and I look at her and smile and I remind her about all the worlds religions and how some people are catholic and some are christian and some are buddhist and some are muslim and I remind her of people in her life who are each of these and she smiles and does her cross signing once more. I know mama but I want to be catholic.

And I know in this moment that I'm not anti-any of this but I am pro-openness and awareness and personal choice and I disagree with having things forced on her or anyone else and I realize that right now my ass has just been kicked by a force much bigger than I am, that unless we take her out of school completely this is just the way it's going to be and all of a sudden I realize how much more complicated things become as she gets older, how this is just the first of a thousand million things and how once again when you are a mother there is simply no going back. So I decide there will have to be some balance, a third pleat if you will, a way to calm the tide or at least slow it down long enough for her to find her own balance and for me to have time to continue to grow up.

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Monday, August 31, 2009

torn between two lovers feeling like a fool

(taps microphone softly)
(glances around, considers running away)

It's been nearly two weeks since I've posted, I think a one plus two record. I may have been serious when I said I forgot how to write.

I'm back in the jungle. We are back and not only back but my baby, my sweet, delicious, tiny girl child started kindergarten today. I quite tearily dropped her off and left her and picked her up afterwards, my amazing most beautiful kick ass kid. She did it, she did it with only a few tears, sweating in the heat, she came out smiling and even complaining that there wasn't very much learning going on around that place which I've decided to chalk up to first day settling in and not as an omen of things to come. She even wants to go back tomorrow. Score one for jungle school.

I've been a whirlwind of planes and work and heat, my project isn't winding down so I am due back next month, a blessing and a curse, a paycheck and a long distance road. I am really walking the line now, unsure of where I am supposed to be and even more quietly, where I want to be, unsure of a lot and confident in the rest. Somehow this is sort of what we planned and yet somehow when it's actually happening it feels a million times strange and a bit teary, I get a bit of a rush and I am in some ways proud of myself. I already miss my child and am not sure what kind of mother this leaving again makes me.

We talked about it quite a bit me and her, debating whether working every day all day and being apart in that way is better than being together constantly for six months and having two weeks apart. She's decided the latter is better except for the part when I'm gone and I completely agree. The career part of me feels so thankful, I've somehow landed a gig that suits me perfectly, working with non profit types instead of inside of them, helping things work themselves out. Being in the States meant a few other things, besides gaining a few pounds I reconnected with old friends, several of whom took me in and for one fantastic weekend, M and I both. We couch surfed and ate too much and drank in the luxury of being around people we love and who love us and we laughed and hugged and maybe cried once or twice.

And now we are back and feel fortunate again to be met with hugs and squeals and catching up with our new friends, the ones we've come to love here who are now part of us too. Down here they chide me for going up north to the unreal world and nod with understanding because they know why I must. The mothers here promise to help J and M any way they can because they know and we all know there is nothing like having a mother in the home and for that I am happy too. The village circles it's wagons once more. And I spin right round baby right round.

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Wednesday, August 19, 2009


Man, it's easy to get sucked in. You with your roads and your stoplights and your miles of produce all neatly stacked in rows. You with your convenience and your hot water and your surety that when you flip the light switch the light will indeed come on.

A week and a half to go and then I'm back in the jungle but the project will continue a bit longer so I'll be coming back again soon. I'm grateful and I am lost, I am straddling two sides of a very different fence and one is seductive and one is real while the other is seductive and the other is real.

I weave anonymously through the crowd both sure and unsure. Office politics make me giggle and I laugh in the elevator. I miss the sky. I can't hear the birds. I drink your wine and I sit in your comfortable chairs. I order a sandwich with the ease of someone who hasn't forgotten how. I'm soft in the middle. I'm using my brain. I like the project I'm working on but my life doesn't feel real.

I've forgotten how to write.

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Sunday, August 16, 2009

culture clash

Four airplane flights and a week of work under my belt, I'm starting to see how this might work over the next couple of months. The pace I'd expected and the entire thing is a blessing beyond words, being able to come back to my old life while in an entirely different capacity still feels familiar. I am in an amusing position, being brought in by The Boss to work on Special Projects, an out of the box type assignment that has the regular boxers on some sort of alert. But I am happy for it not only because of the work but because the special projects are for my old community, tackling the same problems from a different angle with hopefully some success.

I join the masses on the downward plunge on the midday elevator, groups of people fleeing incubation for the street. Every day I feel near hysterical in a manageable sort of way because this whole thing is so bizarre to me and I will never understand the culture of this type of place. Once the doors open and I'm out in the sun I inevitably stop and tilt my face towards the sky. I am here and I am not here and it creates an invisible barrier, my months of jungle village stay with me as I manage not to become swayed by the creatively lit restaurants and fast cars. Cubicles. I am not here for this.

I am walking down the street when I see him, he's manning the corner with his cup and his sign and I see the folks before me swerve around him as they go. As I approach I slow down and he shakes his cup at me and I start to laugh which gets his attention so he actually looks at me and breaks out in a grin. Girl! Where you been? and I tell him and we talk for a minute about how things are still rough and how there is still hope. I want to talk to him more, I want to bring him into one of those restaurants and buy him lunch and really hear how he's doing and catch up not only on the street but the heart, the news on who has found a place and who's been locked up, the cycle of poverty hasn't skipped a beat.

I tell him as much and he is in agreement. I want to hear all about this crazy jungle thing and next time bring pictures of your kid he says so we agree that next week I'll find him and we'll go have some lunch and he smiles broadly and he gives me a hug.

And in that moment I am back all the way, amidst the suits and the blackberries and the well stocked stores and the high speed connections I found my soul and I'll savor it, as I walk away I feel more sprightly as if all of a sudden the ground I am walking on makes a little sense after all.

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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

just like that

It's surreal. I'm back and within being back 48 hours jumped in full time at work, I'm sleeping at a friend's house while M stays with her grandparents. J is still in the jungle so like a little triangle we make three points on a map with she and I reuniting on the weekends and I already can't wait.

It's strange how we envisioned doing exactly this as part of the way we make the jungle work and I am grateful for every moment of it but it's still very, very strange.

I'd bundled up my work clothes and stowed them in a box in the jungle six months ago and last week I opened them up and realized I had no shoes so I went shopping the day after we arrived and got a kicky pair of heels. Ruby slippers M calls them and I wore them on my first day and within a half hour I was nearly crippled, blisters and suffering and now that I'm out of the jungle and even the shelter it's harder to walk around barefoot and so I suffered all day until the second it was time to leave.

As soon as I walked out of the elevator the shoes came off and I walked city blocks barefoot and as I did I noticed suits glancing down amidst the after work rush. The urban jungle makes me smile, I feel the rush of the bodies and the go go go and I smile at the man on the corner with the big sunglasses and the boombox on his shoulder, Cruel Summer blaring out of it with satisfying irony and I dance a little as I go.

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Thursday, August 06, 2009

art, dengue and leaving on a jet plane

Our little jungle art class has been going on for three weeks now. I have wrestled with what pictures I should post and after careful consideration it feels unfair of me to put ones of the kids themselves without asking the parents permission. So instead I'm posting a couple of pictures of the art that's coming out of the classes. I want to repeat again that every single bit of the supplies we are using were donated by the blogosphere, and without you we wouldn't have had a class, no class at all.

The first picture was taken from the first class. Each child got a large piece of paper and six colors and after a long discussion by the famously amazing artist jungle queen the kids were instructed to close their eyes. Then the teacher turned up some music and the kids went at it. Believe it or not, the below was done with eyes closed by a 12 year old. I like to think of it as a ceiba tree's roots with a sun in the sky.

The second class consisted of the kids learning about dye and how it works with fabric. Then the teacher led the kids through several exercises using the dyes in different ways. That pink and white one in the middle? Yep, that was M. She's dye-natural. The kids spent a few hours figuring it out in preparation for working with larger fabric and t-shirts.
At the end of each class the teacher has each child sit and write in their art journals. Each child has been given a sketch book and they write or draw their thoughts from the class. M always draws a parrot and writes the word THE. Am not sure what THE is about but she does it every time.

The kids made t-shirts and sarongs yesterday but unfortunately I missed the class. One of the other kids in the class was sick yesterday and since we've had a dengue fever epidemic raging through our little village we have been especially watchful. Since the mom didn't have a car I offered to take her and her daughter to the doctor while the class was in session. When I got back the kids were done and my eyes near popped out of my head in amazement. I forgot my camera so will have to take some pictures later but their work was gorgeous. Using the previous class to show the kids how the dyes worked and get them comfortable with it really paid off. We are still waiting to hear if the child has dengue. Dengue sounds like a horrible thing and it can be but generally folks fare okay after a rather nasty illness. So far 300 or so people have it and only 1 has died. I watch our mosquito bites and I say silent prayers every five minutes that the bastards that have bitten us are not the ones with the fever.

There are two more classes but unfortunately I'll be missing them since M and I are returning to the US for a few weeks. We fly out tomorrow and I start work on Monday so it'll be a whirlwind and also a blessing, this job has given us all a sigh of relief. But as the clock ticks I am on one hand happy to be temporarily leaving the land of dengue and on the other rather nervous about re-entry. Y'all move so fast up there and things all of a sudden seem very loud.

I've been absent lately due to a weeklong visit from my mother in law, a woman who has never left the US in her entire life. I was rather worried about how she'd feel about all of it but I can honestly say I am very proud of her, she's taken everything in stride and has really seemed to like her visit. I overheard her saying to J you know I thought I'd hate it but I see why you moved here, next time I come I want to stay longer and when I retire how would you feel if I lived here three months at a time and I smiled because she's our first, our first family member to see this place and somehow she gets it, in a short little span of time she's understood what we've done.

I'll see you on the flip side, friends. Back to the land of high speed internet and fast food. Of first rate hospitals and groceries. Of freeways and stoplights. I'm hoping that once I'm there I'll have time to write more clearly about some things that have been rattling around in my head for awhile. Because still and after six months I am still trying to make sense of it all.

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Thursday, July 30, 2009

american me

Being here for six months now has made me more deeply love and simultaneously more frequently shy away from America. It's odd seeing the random bits that are filtered through here, living without TV but still able to read news online keeps me plugged in in a way that is probably both good and bad. Those Birthers for example. I mean, that's just embarrassing for everyone. And is tonight's Beer Summit a real thing? I kind of like that one actually. But I digress.

There are many things I've developed a deeper appreciation for since moving here. Health care, although we've been extremely lucky and in fact probably have a MD who is equally or more astute than any MD we've seen in the States, especially given his lack of equipment (he routinely uses a magnifying glass which makes me think of a mad scientist but yet he seems to use it well). Roads are another one. Damn, America, you have roads down to a science, generally pothole free and labeled so nicely with stoplights that work. Public services in general, the safety net of those three little numbers is something too easy to take for granted till they are gone.

There are some things that I enjoy but are obviously unnecessary, such as convenience. Being able to go to one store and get what you need instead of six stores and still coming up zeros, places to get a decent pedicure and of course, a variety of food choices.

But then there are some things that distance has allowed enlightenment, things that frustrated me when I lived there full time that I find even more annoying now, like the media. It's salaciousness, it's need to grip onto a subject and shake it like a dog with an iguana (oh, just trust me on this) until nothing is left and everything smells like shit. And one that has been particularly annoying is the boohooing over gas prices. Simply put, until you routinely pay the equivalent of $5 US per gallon (and that's on a good day) you can't realize how nice 2.87 or even 3.42 actually is. And imagine doing that while living on substantially less income. Perhaps that's why public transportation, as rickety as it is here, effectively makes the world go round. And the thing is, I never hear anyone complain. That's the thing that strikes me the loudest. There is markedly less complaining here.

And that can be both a good and bad thing. One of the reasons America became so great is because people DID complain. They stood up, they rallied, they cried out when things were unfair. This form of protest has brought a host of important changes to America, from the obvious civil and gender rights to all sorts of other issues. But sometimes, America me thinks you doth protest too much. Taxes are okay. Higher gas prices are okay. The former gives us the roads and the public services and many other things. The latter...well, the latter is a problem no matter how it's sliced. But keeping people and big business happy comes at great costs, doesn't it?

I write this with trepidation. The last thing I want to do is to sound critical or cavalier, I am sensitive to both and to be honest, feel more American now than I probably ever have in my life. I am proud of it and honored by the opportunities it has afforded me. Grateful that I've had the privilege of growing up well. But one can't see that without seeing the excess. Everything see, is a blessing and a curse.

Here, people live on very little. They eat the same foods every day, day in and day out. And when you ask them what their favorite food is they will tell you it's what they eat every day. Even the kids. Beans and rice. But what if you could have anything you want I ask them and they say without a hint of irony beans and rice. Here working hard and spending time with your family is a measure of your life. It's smaller and to those of us who've grown hungry it's often hard to fathom. That this could be your life in it's entirety, travelling very small distances and living as generations before you have lived with of course, small and large advances like electricity or running water or now, the internet. Being able to sit for hours in the evening simply being still.

Imagining our lives like this is easier for me now and harder still. I am aware of the separation, of what having some money and a passport can do. How lucky I am and yet also aware that if the shit really hits the fan these folks in all of these little outposts all over the world will probably survive a lot longer than most of us domesticated types. They know hand to mouth existence. They suck it up every single day. It's just how it is and yet there is a great joy entwined inside of it that has touched me more deeply and has made me think harder than I'd ever imagined. I thought I understood poverty before coming here and perhaps in in the States I still do but here, they've got nothing on folks here and these folks have nothing on folks in Africa. It's all relative I suppose. It's harder and easier. It's scarier and safer. It's just different.

I write this also because I am coming back for a bit. I've gotten a consulting gig in California, something very important to our family's ability to survive here and so in a week or so I'll be returning for a few weeks or maybe longer, back to the land of More after finally getting used to the world of Less and I'm a bit scared, scared that my soft white underbelly will show itself and I'll quickly forget all I've learned. That I'll wander the big grocery stores and buy more than I need. That I'll take luxury for granted. That I'll like the order of stoplights and exit signs and affordable gas prices more than I should. That I'll forget how to sit still.

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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

recorded for posterity

My kid is really funny. I know all kids are really funny but this one's living here with me and I'm keeping her alive till she's grown and ready to do her thing so you know, she's special. And if I don't write it down somewhere I'll forget. Nearly five years old is a fantastic age, isn't it?

Proof positive:

M: Mama, do you still hate John McCain
Me: Well baby, I don't know that I hated him...
M: Oh, yes you did
Me: Bygones. Whatever, I don't hate him now.
M: So do you want to invite him to the jungle then?
Me: It's probably better we keep our distance honey. No offense to him.
M: Well, would you want to marry him then?
Me: What about daddy?
M: He won't mind.

Or this:

M: Grandma and grandpa love me a lot. I think they love me the most besides you and Daddy. I hope they never have their own daughter so they keep loving me best.
Me: Um, I am their daughter.
M: Oh, yeah. I forgot about you.

And here:

We were driving and discussing for the first time that Mommies and Daddies Sometimes Split Up M is watching it happen to a friend in the village. I am gripping the wheel tightly, thinking we are going to have one of Those Defining Moments when it dawns on her that this is something that can happen in the world.

Me: Well honey, sometimes mommies and daddies decide they can't live together anymore so they agree to live apart. But no matter what they love their kids and it has nothing to do with your friend.
M: So sometimes Mommies and Daddies stop living together?
Me: (heart sinking while puppies everywhere die) yes...
M: Well, if that happens I'm definitely going with you. Can I have some ice cream?

And my personal favorite:

Mama, when I grow up I want to work in a Pizza Parlour.
Me: That's great honey. Make sure to tell daddy, he'll love that.

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Monday, July 27, 2009

oh baby

The baby came Friday after stubbornly not coming for a week. The hospital room (family only so I missed the good stuff) was bustling with nurses and they seemed to take good care. They did insist on repeated ultrasounds to check the baby's position which seemed a bit odd when everyone there had fingers but otherwise all was fine and my beautiful village friend birthed an even more beautiful baby and she's perfect through and through. Tomorrow we go to the center of the village, there are doctors who come through once a month with immunizations for babies and kids and they've invited me to come along.

In other news, M was pretty sick for a bit. The rash made no sense and her bloodwork came back showing some sort of infection but our wonderful MD was very calm and reassuring even as I panicked test her for malaria test her for dengue and he smiled and said no no, she's not sick like that and I figured he would know much better than me. What this place lacks in money and fancy equipment is made up for in other ways, like when the doctor called later that night to see how M was and to remind me to give her her medicine. Like when he said if she gets worse no matter how late you call me I want you to call. It's made up for again when he texted me the next morning to check in once more. It was all the way over the top three days later when I texted him from far away to ask if M could resume eating dairy and he responded in moments no ice cream till Monday and somehow these little kindnesses add up to so much.

And now she's fine, whatever it was has left the building and my jungle pixie is back to normal, running wild in the yard and tackling the dogs. We went and visited the new baby today, the first time M has seen her and she stood so still, so angelic, and peered into her eyes. Was I ever small like that mama and I touched her cheek oh yes baby and smaller still and she smiled a big smile and turned back to the baby, the one who will grow up with chickens and iguanas and a dozen people mothering her at once all under one roof and I looked at her mama over their heads and she looked at me and we smiled, the one that says she knows what I know now, that nothing will ever be the same and she already can't imagine not being this little girl's mom and I realized it once more, it doesn't matter what village you grow up in, we are all mothers here.

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Tuesday, July 21, 2009

i hate sick

M is sick. I don't know what is wrong with her. She's covered in a terrible rash and hot to the touch. I took her to our jungle MD this morning early, I called him on his cell and he said to meet him at his office and we did. He took one look at her and said it was an allergic reaction but to what? So we trudged across the dirt road to the laboratory where they took a bit of blood for further exploring and after lunch we'll go back and wait our turn. We'll wait our turn in a roomful of people, there are no appointments but then again there is cell phones that get answered and she's in okay spirits so far.

We have friends in town, good friends who we love and have missed and who've come to visit. The rest of the party is in the middle of a jungle inside of a cave partially under water right now while I sit with my child and wonder what the prognosis will be. J wanted to stay behind, he thought I should go with our friends but it's funny, it's so funny it's not even a thought because it's just like air or water when your child is sick you are a mother and nothing else not anything else matters until you know they are okay and the thought of not being there is not even a thought because you'd never even think it because this is where no matter what this is where you need to be.

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Tuesday, July 14, 2009


We have a new neighbor, a retired American guy who has chosen this place like many who seem to be choosing this place as their new home. Feeling neighborly I invited him to dinner, remembering my first weeks of lostness and oh my god what the hell have we done. A major news flash I haven't yet mentioned is that I now have a working oven, not one we bought but one that was traded out of another house, my jedi patience paid off. So friends, I'd like to proclaim loudly: I can bake things. I can cook without using the top of my stove.

Not that I'm much of a baker. But still. And I had a precious tub of ricotta, one I found the same day I made my vegetable discovery so I figured no better way to break in the oven than to make a lasagna. Anyways, this is all rather boorish so let's get back to the new guy.

One of the things I've been startled to find here is that some of the expats I am meeting, (generally the older ones) have actually left America because of their disgust with the increasing liberalization of our nation. They have nearly exactly the opposite politics as I do which is often a conversation stopper and one I cannot reconcile in my head but hey, to each his own.

So when our neighbor came over, beers had been cracked and conversation started he began telling us about the things he's bringing down, from a big TV to a fancy BBQ. As he looked around at our sparseness he issued an invitation to come over anytime and watch TV to which I said well TV isn't really important to us but yes occasionally I'd love to watch CNN and was going to finish the sentence with when Obama is giving a speech when he interrupted me midway with ah so you like the Communist News Network and so I of course my sentence was left dangling with J smirking in the background. Being unsurprised at this point I started to laugh, look at us, neighbor, you can't imagine we'd be anything else, and since it's safe to say our politics are at opposite sides of the fence we should probably agree to disagree up front and he laughed and nodded and I couldn't help adding but I generally prefer baking lasagna for socialists and there was a bit less laughing that time (I never quite know when to stop) and the conversation moved on.

Over the course of a reasonably pleasant non-political evening I was struck by the mirror our neighborly neo-con held up for me. Newly here, he was trying to make this place like the place he is used to, a place this will never be. He wants the bugs gone and the electronics in. He wants it to be orderly and he wants it to be cool. I had different wants but I had wants all the same, the skittish what the hell have I done sort of thoughts that leave you with nothing else to do but try and find what you left. I didn't realize it until after he left, this thing he's doing that I did and everyone probably does and how it's just something he'll have to reconcile or he won't be able to stay.

And I was happy in realizing that while I'm nowhere near assimilated I am coping much better, I have stopped freaking out about bugs and am growing used to the heat. I find marvel in the rickety bits and find absolute glory in the length of the sky. I am calmer here.

Because when you strip away all the distractions, the TV and the restaurants the commerce and the convenience the hustle and flow you are left with more time to think about who you want to be and how you might find ways to find stillness in the rush. It's all a part of why we came but I lost that for awhile because one can lose herself when she's feeling lost and now I'm finding I'm slightly more found and no matter what comes next this place is starting to change me in ways that I suppose I expected but like a new coat you have no idea how it will fit until it's actually on.

And on a totally unrelated note: No Baby Yet!

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