Thursday, December 13, 2012

family traditions

I'm getting ready to go home, to be home for a while.  And, while I pack and prepare to get on another couple of planes and lose a couple days of my life to airport limbo, I've been thinking about my heritage.

As an American, I identify with precious little else.  I've got some English/Scottish and a bunch of Eastern European block countries in my background somewhere, but I could not tell you where my ancestors came from.  I think I've got some German?  But I only think that because of how thoroughly I was taught to scrub things clean.  And I may have made up the Scottish heritage entirely, as I can't really abide the bagpipes.  So, I'm a American.  An American mutt, from the East Coast, right outside the Capitol, if anyone's asking, but mostly, staunchly American.

I've grown up very proud of that, and I've grown even more attached to it as an expat.  Americans are wanderers... or at least my Americans have been.  My family, whoever they are, wherever they come from, they have always been wanderers.

My great-grandmother, a Heil, lived in Baltimore long before I got there.  She held railroad stock, fiercely independent woman that she was.  And my grandmother Helen used to be walking through the streets of Irvington, a place none of us are likely to ever get back to, and would catch of glimpse of her mom on the train, going anywhere, reading the newspaper.

My grandfather was active-duty military for most of his life and each of his children were born in different states (and one in a different country)!  Not even the world was a big enough adventure for him.  He needed to see heaven too.

My aunt Carmen, who died just a few years ago, was a feisty old woman, whose walking club offered a farewell hike after her wake.  She told me a story once about being in a South American country during a political coup.  The tour guides packed all the visitors into a church until the fighting was over and then began making arrangements to send everyone home.  Carmen marched up to the folks in charge and asked "when will we go back out there and see it?"  The guides told her that she'd be on a plane shortly.  She asked why?  All the good stuff was still waiting for her, probably made better for the excitement.

My parents took a roadtrip around the country for their honeymoon.  My brother and I have our fond roadtrip memories, as children.  We've seen the United States from the ground.

I hold this heritage inside of me, so deeply that decisions made in this vein - running away to the beach, new-city adventures, strolling by myself through a park, solo roadtrips much longer than normal people would commit to - these aren't questioned, they are assumed.  Of course.  The people who have come before me have led me to these experiences, they followed this path first, to the wanderlust of my life.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

the holiday spirit

LOOK AT THIS! A garland that Elisabeth bought in Honduras almost a year ago and then bestowed on me without really understanding why she bought it FITS PERFECTLY above the mosquito net in my bedroom, making my (small) contribution to holiday decorating complete this year.

Tiny bits and pieces regularly reinforce that I am where I belong. Africa isn't home, but nonetheless, I am supposed to be here now. With my South American Christmas decorations and the ninety degree weather and the online ordering that defaults to Tanzanian shipping. Regardless, there are cookies (biscuits) baked by the neighbors, the best ever Vince Guaraldi piping through my computer, and an employee running around with a Santa cap and his normal neon orange jumpsuit. (Listen, I know it sounds like a prison, but it's hard to see people underground unless you stand out! And you want to seen underground.)

As a bonus, even nature gets decked out for Christmas in Africa.  I left my office the other night, under threat of rain, and found a rainbow.  Potentially the only rainbow that I will ever see that actually ends in gold. : ) Liz may be in Ireland, but I must have stolen the leprechaun!


Saturday, December 1, 2012

rainy season

We've having a hell of a time with lizards in the rainy season. Both Vitaliy and Janet have had lizards land on them while coming in the front door of the office, so we've taken to swinging the door wide and pausing to check for falling lizards. This is the craziness.

I feel responsible for this actually because I reported in an email to my little sister earlier this week that we needed more lizards to deal with the influx of very big bugs. Noting also that I have seem to have become accustomed to this way of life... I'm not even going to bother with spray or traps or a swatter. What I need is a lizard.

More on these very big bugs. They have arrived in force within the four walls of any building since the rainy season has begun, and I'm trying very hard to ignore them. They like to play dead and then jump up when you get close, which let me tell you is both really obnoxious and quite hard to ignore. There was a giant spider (the size of my hand, friends) which had stationed itself directly beside our front door, maybe three feet from the keyhole. This is not far enough away. I was taking a deep breath and ignoring it while unlocking the door, with the "I am bigger" mantra playing in my head, hoping that as long as I didn't make eye contact with it, it would be as good as dead. Janet took this monster on, by blowing on it until it moved away. During that exchange, I went to the other side of the office and pretended I didn't notice anything at all was happening.

It's so hot, a lot of things just stay still until their energy is needed... and then they POUNCE. I am glad that I learned this lesson a long time ago in the Blue Ridge Mountains... and that the moment before I learned it was slightly more traumatizing than the moment itself.

When the lizard fell on Janet, she managed to shake it off quickly, but it remained in our little vestibule, terrorizing us simply with its presence. I wrangled this seven foot lizard with a broom! (I felt I owed her for dealing with the spider.) Oh, did I say foot? I didn't mean foot, I meant inch. But it was a serious attack all the same, involving said broom, and a door, and some flailing and waving, and only a little shriek.

So I had to swat the lizard from the screen door, unfortunately causing it to run in my direction, instead of out the doorway.  I commenced to pushing it toward the doorway, complete with the door that doesn't stay open, so I was simultaneously pushing the door hard with the broom to let it swing wide and then pushing the lizard with the broom so that it didn't get me. As this lizard was bigger than the usual ones that run along the walls (though not as large as originally noted), it didn't move as fast as those guys and so I was able to push it out the door.  Of course, the lizard then showed great interest in the broom as perhaps something edible and I had to shake the broom vigorously to dislodge it. We stared each other down after that, but he eventually received the "I am bigger" message and wriggled off.