Tuesday, July 28, 2009

One big family again

Jorge and Milo got in yesterday. Hooray! Milo is getting so big and grown up, it was all I could do to keep from crying in the airport.

And good news: Milo still loves me. In fact, if I try to go anywhere away from him, he runs over and clings to my leg, apparently afraid I’m going to leave for another month. He is still the happiest, most smiley baby on the block, too. I’ll be walking around with him perched on my hip, and I’ll look down to see the little imp just grinning up at me. He cracks me up, that boy.

Jorge managed the flight alright as well. Milo was apparently very good, and did not cry or scream at all, and even slept pretty well. Jorge got in trouble with the flight attendants a few times for leaving Milo sitting on the floor of the airplane, but other than that, smooth sailing. (Our bags even showed up this time! We’re two for two in the last month!)

The poor bug, though – I can’t take pictures of him for a good while. Jorge was playing with him a few days ago and Milo bit it and fell down the porch stairs (“You mean you let him fall?!!” I said), taking a little bit off the end of his nose. It’s all scabby and red now. He’s still pretty, though, don’t worry.

I spent all last week out in the field, which accounts for the quietness on the blog. Power outages, cold showers, greasy French fries for breakfast…Ah, I love the rustic life. This is why, when I travel with my own money, I go for the luxury resorts.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Happy birthday to Jorge!

My dear husband turns 30 years old today. 30 years! I guess that makes him a grown-up now.

Someone once asked me, “So, how did he win you over?” I thought for a moment, and then responded, with no irony whatsoever: “Well, he just wouldn't go away.”

Yes, that’s the secret of our love: dogged perseverance. For Jorge’s part, although I don’t think he’ll admit it, he had his mind made up early on. Whereas I took some winning over at first. But I think I sealed my fate on our first date, when, standing on a romantic balcony in the French Quarter, the subject of marriage came up. In an abstract sense, of course; not “so, when do you want to get married?”, but just thoughts on marriage in general, friends getting married, and so on. But of course, to most men, the M-word is terrifying coming out of a first date’s mouth. So, to reassure him, I said, very emphatically:

“Don’t worry. I’m not going to marry you.”

Famous last words.

Fast-forward 8 years – has it really been that long? – and I’m even happier now than I was in that first flush of romance. My husband has become my best friend, the man who nursed me through my rough days of cancer, cooks me pizza when I’ve had a bad day, who plays our wedding song sometimes for no reason and asks me to dance, the man who still tries to protect me from the ugliness in the world, even after all I’ve seen. He is loyal, genuine, funny, and determined at everything he sets his mind to. He is playful, adventurous, and a terrific travel partner. And, of course, to put it in his own words, he is 'ridiculously good-looking'.

It has been a rough couple of days. Milo has been sick, and I have been even sicker with worry. (He is much better now, don't worry). Every maternal instinct inside me was screaming out to be able to hold and nurture my son, but I’m thousands of miles away. But then I remember that Jorge is with him; Jorge, who has become such a capable, caring father, and who loves my little boy like no one else in the world. Apparently he has been such a devoted caretaker that all the nurses have developed crushes on him.

Well, hands off ladies. He’s mine.

Happy birthday, baby. I love you.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Happy birthday to me!

It's my birthday! Yay for me being born! Thank God my parents weren't so fastidious with the birth control, ya know what I mean? (My mom, bless her heart for thinking I'd actually be concerned about this sort of thing, once told me: "You weren't an accident, honey. You were a pleasant surprise")

So what are the plans, you ask? Well, a few days ago I realized that my birthday was coming up, and fast, and I had a bit of a meltdown. For one thing, Jorge and Milo are still away, and I have spent every birthday with my husband for the last 7 years. But even worse, I suddenly realized I have almost no friend left here.

This has been the year of the friend diaspora. They're dropping like flies. First Cassandra - that was a blow - then Ann, Christine, Alisha, Emily...Each departure takes a little bit out of me. Then last week I got the news that Amy is leaving soon, too, and I just about lost it. While it's cool to have 'couple friends' and all that, I really need my girlfriends - people who know me as me, on my own, not as a mom or half of a married couple.

I was a bit lost - I sure didn't want to spend my birthday alone, but I didn't exaclty wan tto have to throw myself a party. That seems laml. And wouldn't you know it - my girls pulled through for me, with dinner, drinks, and hopefully dancing (there's a Michael Jackson tribute party tonight). And we've decided to suck in a few ladies that I don't know all that well, but who seem cool. The plan is to start rebuilding the ranks. So tonight is ladies night, people, and I plan to live it up. Hope you all have a fun weekend as well.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

I arrived back in Malawi last Tuesday, no worse for wear after the 2-day trip. I am back in my big townhouse, which is cold and lonely, not just because of the absence of my son’s happy squeals and babbles, but also because it is really, literally, cold. July and August are winter in the Southern Hemisphere, and typically the only two months of the year I ever get to wear a sweater.

So Jorge has absconded with my precious little Milo, and it’s very sad being here on my own. To fill the time, I have occupied myself with Projects. Projects used to be my life before I had a baby. My wedding was a Project. Photography and travel are Projects. I like binders and daily targets and color-coding. My current Projects are: 1) getting my butt in shape after consuming an average of 1,000 excess calories a day in New Orleans, 2) finally finishing “War and Peace”, and 3) finishing up editing the 1,000 or so of my mother’s slides that I scanned last summer in Seattle.

I’m making good progress on all three so far. I reckon I have about 250 more slides to edit, then of course I have to figure out in which order they should go, which will not be an easy task. Right now I’m working on the photos my mom took when we took our trip to Europe in 1987, our Grand Tour so to speak. Most of my childhood vacations were spent in the back on the Plymouth Volare (see photo) or in tents, and this was our big trip. Dad saved up money and vacation days for years, and mom took on her own major Project of planning the trip. I remember she mailed off to tourism offices and received hundreds of glossy brochures in the mail, which she would spread out all around her, finding hotels, plotting itineraries.

(The Volare - no doubt it had overheated again and that's why I'm sitting on the ground in the cold.)

It paid off – I still have such wonderful memories of that trip, and I believe it was the only 2-month stretch of my childhood where I did not bite, hit, or scream at my sisters. We were having too much fun to fight.

Now when I look back at those pictures, though, what strikes me is just how much love went into planning that trip, taking those photos, organizing them all into slide shows… The same way my love for my son seems to channel through my camera lens, I bet my mom was thinking that she loved us when she took these photos:

(Dad on a gondola in Venice)

(I put this one in just so you could mock my sister's outfit with me. Check out those shorts! And she accessorized it with a snazzy necklace! Mwahaha!)

(Me on my 10th birthday, in front of the Matterhorn)
Granted, there are a lot of duds in the slides, too. Mom was fond of landscapes, what we called her "Rocks, Trees, and Water" photos. What was she thinking when she snapped this one, for example?

But I scan, and edit, and restore all of them. It is my way of saying “Mom, I trust your judgment. If you thought this picture was worth taking, then I think it’s worth saving.” As I remove each speck of dust and brighten each color, it’s a long-delayed way for me to get to say “I love you too.”