Friday, August 29, 2008

Dude, where's my car?

About 10 years ago, I was staying with my friend Mary in Washington D.C. Her boyfriend came over one night after having a couple drinks with his friends. He'd left something in his car, so I went out with him to get it. After wandering around a bit, I realized who was looking a bit perplexed. "Dude, did you forget where you parked your car?" I asked.

"No, I parked it here...I'm sure...I'm pretty sure..."

"Dude, you are so drunk. I can't believe you lost your car."

Well, as it turned out, in the 15 minutes he had been at Mary's apartment, his car had been stolen. I felt badly for mocking him.

So today, when my sister's boyfriend called and asked why my dad's car, which he generously loaned us for the summer, wasn't parked outside, we chuckled. It must be out there, he must have missed it somehow. We went out to check. No, not there. Not in the garage either...

So of course my sister and I then looked to Jorge. "Dude, seriously, what did you do with the car?" When it finally sunk in that this was not one of Jorge's pranks, we realized that my dad's car was indeed stolen from in front of our house last night. Crap.

This has not improved Jorge's impression of Seattle, naturally.

And the worst part? Tonight is our long-anticipated date night. Argh.

Oh, actually, the really worst part is that my dad was going to give the car to my sister after Jorge and I leave, because her boyfriend Tampa's car isn't working and they need it more than dad. Just three weeks more and she'd be the one getting that insurance payout, not him. Poor Miriam!

No wait, how about this: yesterday Jorge got the oil changed and filled up the tank! And Tampa just got a $35 parking ticket on the car, which he still has to pay...

Oy vey.

More piccies!

OK, I'm home and have had a chance to organize and edit my photos. It's late and I'm pooped, so you won't get too many editorial comments, I'm afraid.

This is one of the bridges through the forest canopy. It was a very nice hike.
We started our trip at Volcan Arenal, an active volcano. Unfortunately we didn't see the lava, but there was nice hiking in the forest there.
Here's one of the bridges that has been constructed in the forest for hiking. Long way up there!We spent a lovely afternoon lazing around at the Eco Thermales hot springs, which is a small reservations-only place. Milo loved the warm water.
After Arenal, we drove down notoriously bumpy roads to Monteverde, site of a very ecologically diverse cloud forest. Here we are hiking in the forest reserve. Milo was a little bored, I guess.
These little creatures hung around our hotel each morning, looking for handouts from the kitchen.
Jorge taking Milo for a dip in the ocean.
My little beach boys.And here they are in their matching outfits, tired after a long day.

Here's one of those pesky monkeys at Manuel Antonio beach.
Tired little baby!
We saw this sloth on the side of the road, trying to cross. He was slothful, indeed. It took about five minutes to move five feet, and we were concerned for the little guy's safety.
Fortunately, a Costa Rican guy working at a nearby restaurant had no qualms about picking up the wildlife and giving it a lift across the road.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Pics from Costa Rica

OK, so due to technical difficulties, I cannot find a way to resize my photos on the computer I'm working on, and I hate uploading big files. Instead of dealing with the hassles right now, I am posting a teaser of Milo surfing, and promise to post more tomorrow or the next day:

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Well, we've left Costa Rica, and are in Ft. Lauderdale again for the day. Milo's cousin Makayla is a beautiful, tiny little thing, and we're happy to have the chance to get the two babies together. It's amazing to see how much much Milo has grown in the last 3 months. Jorge stuck him on the luggage scale at the airport yesterday (classy, I know) and our litle chunk clocked in at almost 16 pounds.

Speaking of Milo, he was a big hit in Costa Rica. Everyone fussed over him and wanted to hold him - hotel staff, waitresses, flight attendants. It doesn't seem to have gone to his head just yet. Many of them commented on how big he is, and called him Gordito.

As for me, I managed to find another way to screw up a vacation. All the Baby-Bjorn wearing took a toll, and I threw my back out on Thursday. I spent Friday trying not to move at all, then Saturday we got come nice strong pain medications from the pharmacy, and I was able to walk again. Sunday, I thought I was doing much better, so I made the big step of going to the beach. The waves were a bit strong, and as one hit me hard, pushing me sideways, I felt something in my back snap and was wracked with pain all over again. I tried to lay in the sand and let the muscle spasms relax, but got surrounded by (I am not making this up) a pack of hungry monkeys. And a raccoon who kept trying to walk right over my towel.

Only in Gwynnie-land.

OK, I'm going to go grab photos and post some right away.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Eight now we're in Tamarindo, a beach town on the Pacific coast that the Lonely Planet guidebook describes as being heinously full of unimaginative American sun-worshipers, packed together like "beached whales." I take offense to being called a whale, and find their description totally at odds with what we've found here. Yep, it's becoming over-developed, but it's a beach town - what do you expect to find? Lots of locals fishing? Because I have been to plenty of "unspoiled" towns like that in Africa, and trust me, you don't want to go there on vacation unless you enjoy the smell of rotting fish.

Mostly there have been surfers and young couples here. It has rained every afternoon, so we get in a little beach and pool time in the morning, then watch Olympics on a staticky TV while Milo naps. Today I'm getting a treat and going for a massage, though, because my back is killing me from carrying Milo around.

Last night we had dinner at a very nice little place where there was just one waiter, who happened to be the boyfriend of the chef, who also worked as a hostess somehow. They are expecting a baby in November and we were so excited for them. Funny how you get so much more happy about babies once you have one yourself and know how great they are.

Just a few more days of vacation, then we are in the home stretch for heading back to Malawi!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Hi from Costa Rica

Just a quick post from an internet cafe. Right now we´re in Monteverde, thae aforementioned cloud forest. Although every guide book we´ve looked at said it isn´t possible to get here in a regular car during the rainy season, we scoffed (Hah!) and did it anyway. OK, we anxiously crawled along the crappy gravel road, hoping not to get a flat. But let me tell the guidebooks now - Hah! You think these roads are bad? Try driving the road from Mchinji to Luangwa in the rainy season, dude. You don´t even need to think about putting the car into 4WD on these roads here, let alone play chicken slalom while driving through a lake of mud.

Today I did the goofy zipline tour through the rainforest. As I went across a really long cable that stretched hundreds of feet over the forest, I felt the line bounce, and looked at the man waiting to meet me at the end. He was frantically waving his arms. Not a good sign. And I wasn´t slowing down, despite being told that I didn´t need to brake at all on this line. I grasped the line at the last moment with all my might, but still flew toward the platform at an alarming speed, where the man there threw himself at me to try to stop me, and I rammed against the tree holding the line with my feet. Thank goodness I was OK - the man had accidentally let go of the rope he uses to catch people at the end. Hey, great, Selvatura Canopy Tour. Can you please get your security $%& together before you let the new mom on?

We´re being rained on, but still having a good time. Tomorrow Jorge gets to do the canopy tour. (I hope he does not fall to his death.)

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Yeah, I guess it would be blog-worthy... mention that I am traveling again. We're in Ft. Lauderdale today, visiting Jorge's cousin Javier, who just had a baby girl two weeks ago. She is so tiny and delicate! It's hard to believe that Milo was ever that small. He looks like a monster in comparison.

Tomorrow we fly to Costa Rica. Yeah, it was sort of last-minute. Jorge really wanted to go somewhere before we head back to Malawi. We considered Alaska, Colombia, and Canada, but Jorge decided he wanted to go to Costa Rica. So I said fine, as long as he does the planning this time.

So I'm not even all that sure what we're doing. There's a couple days in the "cloud forest," which sounds cool, and several days at the beach, but otherwise I'm just along for the ride. If there's decent internet access I'll try to post updates.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

No wonder Americans suck at geography

I'm watching the Olympics this morning. I love the Olympics. I get excited about 6 months before they even start, then I try to watch as many obscure sports as I can, always chering for the underdog.

Right now I'm watching badminton. Cheering for the woman from Mauritius, naturally, as I always support African players when they are up.

And if I have to hear MSNBC call Africa a nation one more time, I am going to scream. Hello, major news service? Perhaps someone should inform you that Africa is actually a continent. With more than 50 separate countries, and vastly differing cultures and communities.

So I guess the news really is getting dumber and dumber each year. I guess that explains the election coverage.

Of all the rotten, lousy luck

Remember those opera tickets I was so excited about? Well, the performance was this week. The Seattle Opera, which I used to go to pretty often as a kid, is playing Aida right now, an opera by Verdi (my favorite - he's big on the tragic, murder-suicide endings. Classic.)

I went with Mary, one of my closest friends, who came out for a few days from D.C. to see me and meet the munchkin. I was a bit apprehensive, because I developed a bit of a cough earlier this week.

Well, as it turned out, it was really more like tuberculosis or whooping cough. I made it through the overture and about three minutes of singing, and I was racked by heaving, shuddering coughs. I think the people around me must have thought I was getting a little into the 18th century opera mode, what with having consumption and all.

So I made everyone in the row get up to let me out, and I went out to the lobby where I think I literally coughed up a piece of lung. As I settled down to watch the opera on a tiny TV screen, an usher took pity on me and came over to help me out.

"If you think your cough might last a while, I could take you to the quiet room." Oh heck yeah. So I spent the entire 3 and a half hours, minus intermission, hacking away behind a wall of plexiglass, with the opera piped in over a speaker. I bobbed my head up, trying to see over the heads of the audience in front me, then back down to read the translation over the stage, which was blocked by the window frame. Not exactly the experience I paid a small fortune for, but at least now I know how it ends.

Mary headed back to D.C. tonight, so Jorge and I have a couple days free before our trip.

Oh, didn't I mention? We're going to Costa Rica on Wednesday. Never a rest, I swear...

Friday, August 1, 2008

Women warriors

My favorite author is a woman named Anne Lamott. She writes the sort of funny, honest, and meaningful essays that make me feel like she really gets it, how challenging, ridiculous, and ultimately, how magical this world is. If I could have anyone over for dinner, it would be her.

In Traveling Mercies, she writes of visiting a beautiful church, I think maybe it was the Rothko chapel in Houston. In the beauty and presence of God that she feels there, she is surprised to feel overwhelmed by immense sadness. As she breaks down, she realizes that what she is feeling is grief and longing for her father, dead some ten years. Although she had believed that she had come to terms with his death, she finds that the shock of loss is just as fresh on that day as it had been many years earlier, and what she wishes for most is to just be with him once again.

I read this book a year after my mother died, and even though I cried through much of the book, it helped me tremendously. It was a weight lifted, being able to accept that I would always miss my mother, but that I could also come to a place, emotionally and spiritually, where I could feel whole again, when the anger and grief would loosen its grip on me and only emerge from time to time.

Ten years ago today, I saw mom for the last time, and I feel the weight of it again. After three years of amazing strength and inspiring courage, she finally succumbed to Leukemia. She never complained to us girls, even through everything that she suffered, and I believe that she came to a place of peace and acceptance before she died, but I know that she would have loved to stay. She told me once that her greatest sadness was that she wouldn't get to see how her three girls would turn out, never get to meet her grandchildren. That is my greatest sadness too. She would have been the best grandmother.

I had thought to have a contemplative quiet day, perhaps visit the ocean and go to a special place we went as a family. But instead, I will go to the boat races in Seattle, and celebrate with the throngs, and eat and drink and play with my beautiful baby boy. I think Anne Lamott would approve. And I think it's what mom, who truly appreciated how short and marvelous this life is, would want me to do.