Friday, November 5, 2010

Here's MY sign.

I'm not a bible beating Christian. I'm not even a very good evangelical Christian. Hell, let's face it, sometimes I'm not a GOOD Christian at all. I even shut the door once on an evangelical Christian who thought 8:30 was an appropriate time to ring my doorbell and read me the Bible.

And, despite all the great things the good Lord has given me, I flaunt it back at him by drinking large amounts of alcohol, smoking cancer sticks (NOT treating my body like a temple), cuss like a sailor, forget to love my neighbor (especially the one with the screaming kids), and generally just act in a self-absorbed, narcissistic manner.

But I am a Christian.

And, lately, I've been feeling a little "woe is me" and "my life sucks", even though I'm truly blessed with a great life, a wonderful and loving husband, a deliriously supportive family, and a nice batch of dear friends.

So, I've found it necessary to turn inward and reflect a little on my relationship with God. Much to my distress, I've found it to be a bit on the waning side, whereas I would much prefer the waxing end. I recently watched "Eat, Pray, Love" (which I thought was a disaster, really), but I did manage to pull out a few spiritual gems from HER narcissistic life. Which inspired me to buy a book called "Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith" (is that supposed to be underlined? In quotes? Just italics? Whatever) which I am enjoying.

But, being a self-centered being, I also want a sign. You know? A sign from GOD, the ALMIGHTY. Because if I'm going to be doing all this soul searching, shouldn't he take time out of his busy schedule to at least acknowledge what I'm trying to do? (Heavy sarcasm here, for those who do not know me well).

Today, in a beautifully warm sixty-three degreed day with blue skies and sunlight reflecting off the Imperial buildings of Vienna, I went out for a walk and to run some errands, one of them being to buy travel books for Colombia. (Yes, we're going from here to Bogota. I'm not overly excited about the idea, so thought some travel guides might shine a happier light on it than kidnappings and drug lords, guns and taxi hijackings).

As I strolled out of the bookstore, there was an immense crowd below a balcony and a big, fat, gospel-ly singing black lady entertaining the crowd. (Not that this kind of thing happens everyday in Vienna, today was Voice Mania, an International a cappelo Festival, so all through the city singers were drawing crowds to their assigned balcony.) I had heard her singing while in the bookstore, and as I exited I stopped within this mass of people to enjoy the show for a minute.

The next song she belted out (beautifully, I must add) was "This Little Light of Mine" (again, with the usage here??? I know there's different ways for books, movies and songs. Too lazy to look it up). Soon the entire crowd was joining in, singing and clapping and swaying and alternating between English and German.

And, as I started clapping (with a little swaying), I realized "here is my sign". In a random city, on a random pavement, on a random day that just happens to be a cappello day, at a random time of exiting a random bookstore below a random balcony, I get to hear a crowd of people, led by a great singer, sing the most basic of hymns. A hymn that brings me back to being four years old and belting this song out in Sunday School.

It brought tears to my eyes and faith to my heart.

Thank you Lord.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

This one goes out ot all the ladies. . .

Hair. Love it or hate it, we all have it (well, MOST of us). And, eventually, darnnabitall, it needs to be cut. Or trimmed. Or colored. A trip to the salon can be a very rewarding outing. Usually when you know and like your stylist, feel comfortable in the chair with her, and most importantly, can convey your wants, wishes and desires (no matter how far reaching they may be) in ENGLISH.

You know how in the movies the heroine on the lam grabs a pair of kitchen scissors and a bottle of hair-dye and ducks into a public bathroom, only to emerge looking like she just spent $400 in a salon?

I'm about ready to give that a go.

Three months without a haircut lends to desperation in this household. Someone hide the manicure scissors.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

I am McDonald's

It's not a secret, I am not a big fan of McDonald's. Not for health reasons (although I suspect this is a good reason), and I will admit they make a pretty tasty french fry, but in general I just abhor Mickey D's. Now, I'm all about Taco Bell (and even Wendy's), so it's not a fast food thing. It's just a McDonald's thing.

And McDonald's? Is everywhere. Well, everywhere you'd want to be. My definition of a "bad country"? Is one with no McDonald's. If McDonald's doesn't want to be there, I probably do not, either.

And, I'll give McDonald's some credit. No matter where we are in this big ole world, if there's a McDonald's? The food? Is EXACTLY the same. The menu might vary a little, but the taste? Unlike many other international fast food chains, it is dead on. Plus, sometimes they are the only option for a clean and sanitary bathroom, which does come in handy and I thank them profusely for this.

I was discussing McDonald's (and Starbucks and Wal-Mart for that matter) with some Uruguayan guys the other night, and although I've blogged about my dislike for McDonald's (and Starbucks, I suspect), I gave serious thought about doing it again.

But then I realized, that I, MYSELF am a lot like McDonald's. I come from America, I've been a lot of places, yet I'm EXACTLY the same, wherever I am. And when we get to a place with no McDonald's, I have to say for the most part? I agree with them. You just don't want to be there (exceptions: Boracay, Albania and Cambodia). Some people travel to "find themselves", whereas I just keep encountering my same self.

Just like McDonald's.

Maybe that's why I hate them.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

First World Problems

FM and I? Not so much on the camping. We've done it before, even together. But in reality, our idea of "roughing it" is a 3 star hotel.

This weekend we went off to explore the northeast coast of Uruguay. Now mind you, it's winter here, and although the entire coast is dunes and beaches, it's far to cold for beaching it these days. Which means the population out there? Was a bit sparse.

As were open hotels or restaurants.

Saturday night, after six hours of driving through rain and blow, we were in Punta Del Diablo. With no apparent signs of life. MANY places for rent (signs up in Spanish), but nothing open. The closest place we KNEW was open was another hour back down the road.

Fortunately, we stumbled into the Apache Cabanas and encountered a very helpful man named Fernando who set us up in our own personal chalet for the night. Unbeknownst to us, overnight stays in this part of the world usually require you to bring your own sheets, towels, soap, TP - basically - CAMPING.

On Saturday night, however, it looked like paradise.

We had hot and cold running water, toilet, shower, electricity, heat via the fireplace (and wood provided by same helpful man!), a refrigerator, television, and possibly even a WiFi connection. And, we had brought our own coffee maker.

Basically, we were living better than 25% of the world population. And we considered it roughing it.

It's sad to think 12% of the world (and that's 803 MILLION people, almost three times the population of the US of A) do not have access to drinkable water, let alone a flush toilet or a SHOWER. 25% live without electricity. 14% are actually homeless. 25% live below the poverty level, which is ONE DOLLAR A DAY. Egads.

We have stayed in hotels in Africa one step below a Motel 6 and it was the nicest place in town. We've stayed in 4 star hotels in Cambodia where our NIGHTLY rate was the equivalent of TWO MONTHS SALARY for a local. We've drank away an average Burmese's monthly salary on a nightly basis.

Makes you think, eh?

Let us never forget how entirely blessed we are. No matter how much we want a new couch/car/kitchen, or even crab about the cost of electricity/gas/LAWNCARE, let's not forget all those people out there who would gladly trade lives with you RIGHT NOW. Who would think they hit the lotto. Who maybe might even appreciate it 1,600,000,000 times more than us.

On the other side of the coin, 25% of the world's population is considered obese. Hmmmm.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

You can't always get what you want. . .

Memorial Day weekend looms. We've toyed with several plans. My visa is NOT good for the entire time we're scheduled to be here. It's an easily solvable problem in country, but we initially thought a quick weekend trip to Buenos Aires would be fun.

That plan turned into a long weekend at Iguazu Falls. But then? Reality.

Sigh. Pesky reality is that for 2.5 days at Iguazu for the two of us = $2000 US.

And even though we are made of money (NOT), that just seems a bit high to look at falling water. Even if it's the most impressive falling water on the continent. Or in the world.

Those silly Argentinians have now made it pretty darn expensive just to land in their country, too. $131/per person just to leave the airport. For a weekend? Hmmmm.

So, after two weekends in a row of cruising around Uruguay, we decided to spend more of our money here, and head to the Rocha coastline and spend the weekend.

Although Buenos Aires and Iguazu both sound like fun, I think I'll keep (most) of my $ in my pocket this time around.

But, on the plus side? The water falling in my shower is now pressurized. I could look at that all day.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Six Weeks from Sunday. . .

Time. It's a funny thing. We waste it, pass it, bide it. Heck, sometimes we even KILL it.

Often, time seems long. When you're eight and waiting for Christmas. At work, when it's only 2:30 PM. Other times, it flies. When you're out with friends and suddenly its 2:30 AM. When you turn 40 and realize according to most actuary table, your life is HALF OVER.


But, FM and I tend to measure time differently. We refer to years by which country we were living in. Which, in our little universe, makes last year pretty much wasted time. And, although I can say I was in Macedonia, Croatia, Peru, Arizona and Vegas (and FM can add Mexico and Columbia), it still feels like we were home most of '09. And we WERE.

Now, It's been a year and a half since Beijing. Three years since Hong Kong. Five years since Rome. Seven years since Chad (shudder). Ten years since we were married.


Which means I've been married for 25% of my life. Have known FM for 37.5% (of course, his stats are different, he's only been married for 17.8%, known me for 25%. He started late. . . heehee).

And last year? That wasted year? I was able to reunionize with people I haven't seen in HALF OF MY LIFE. Talk about time flying by. . .

The stats themselves are not important or impressive, just a reminder of how fast time elapses.

In the words of William Shakespeare, "Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow, Creeps in this petty pace of day to day."

Petty pace? Often I muse upon the ways I spend my days. Is it a waste of time to do the things we enjoy? Is reading a book a waste of time? Does it depend on what you are reading? When DOES it become a waste of time? When you are doing it instead of something else? Is Facebooking (is that a verb?) a waste of time? Watching television? Sitting on the beach? Taking a walk? What if I decide to not even leave the house? It can assume a petty pace, but tomorrows always beckon.

But, eventually we run out of tomorrow. Sometimes suddenly. Or the people we love cannot count another day.

The passage of time just feels sad. Not only in what it physically does to us, but in the lost seconds, hours, days and years we can never respend.

How do we live in the moment? How do you pass the time? What makes your time "worthwhile"? Being paid? Helping others? Enjoying yourself? All three?

I've been pondering this concept of time. The only conclusion I have discovered is, even if I have a hard time filling it, I want more than what I have coming.

This Sunday, we'll have been in Montevideo for six weeks. A relatively short period of time, but a chunk of my life that has figuratively flown by. And, I kind of want it back to relive and enjoy again. Yet, I also look forward to the next six weeks. And the next.

Time. It's such a conundrum.

Men talk of killing time, while time quietly kills them. - Dion Boucicault.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

It's a WHAT?

One of the pitfalls of our kind of travel is adjusting to the "norm" in every country.

After three weeks in Montevideo, we finally found an apartment, had our cable television and WiFi installed, procured a coffee maker that, however slow, does produce drinkable coffee every morning and possess a "fully equipped" kitchen. So I can cook. And save a couple dollars. You know how I like to do that (save money, not cook)!

Our landlord, Daniel, is a very helpful guy who's English is about as good as my Spanish. We correspond via email using Google Translator, which can make for some very hilarious conversations. I got an email from him the other day regarding an extra key on my ring that said, "don't worry, the garage is undrinkable". I still haven't figured that one out. But, good to know, I guess!

But, my first day here I decided I would make some tuna salad. I started searching through the cupboards looking for a can opener. I saw this rusty, nasty THING and figured it was a broken can opener piece. So, I emailed Daniel and asked him to bring me a can opener. He emailed me back saying, there are two there. Hmmmmmm.

He arrived later that afternoon to bring our WiFi router, and I asked him to show me the can opener. He pulled this apparatus out (see above pic. I KNOW. It doesn't look like a can opener). Instead of admitting I'm an idiot and don't know how to use it, I just nodded and hoped FM had seen something like this before.

Turns out he had (it must be VERY old - LOL), and he proceeded to show me how to use it. It's not that easy. And very antiquated. But, it does open a can. Eventually. (FYI - I looked at the local supermarket for an upgrade, you know - like the one that's in YOUR drawer at home? $25. For $25 I can BITE open a can.)

Point being, traveling for extended periods of time makes you into a fairly adaptable person.

Or a person who just wants to go home. I'm opting for adaptation.

Other issues I'm struggling with:

  • WHY WHY WHY do we not have hot water in our KITCHEN. Seriously.
  • Our brand new updated bathroom shower? Dribbles water on you like an camel spitting.
  • I so hate not having a clothes dryer. Kirsten has one. NO FAIR.
  • That empty lot next door to our building? Never thought about it two weeks ago. It's now a CONSTRUCTION SIGHT. And the dudes showed up at 6:45 AM this morning. So peaceful.
  • Can't find feta cheese, an integral part of my diet.
BUT. The wine is fine, the steaks are always on the BBQ (this whole town smells like a BK - in a good way), the beer is lovely and every night I get to watch the sunset off my balcony.

I guess I can struggle with canned goods for a couple months.