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.

Bookmark and Share

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.

Bookmark and Share

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.

Bookmark and Share

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.

Bookmark and Share

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.

Bookmark and Share