Travel

Twins Go To Colombia

Before the twins were born, I swore I wouldn’t let them stop me from getting out of my comfort zone and traveling. What I didn’t realize was that sometimes a trip to the grocery store would qualify for both counts. Nevertheless, when Mom asked if I wanted to take the boys and join her for a week in Medellin, Colombia, of all places, I decided to commit and then figure out the rest later.

That strategy–commit, then figure it out–sometimes works, and it sometimes backfires.

Say you’re at the grocery store, and on a whim you buy all 30 ounces of cream cheese for a cheesecake. No matter how you feel about it later, you’ve got to actually bake it. Because there’s no way you’re eating enough bagels to excuse that purchase. You bake the cake and act like it was totally planned.

When you buy airline tickets to Colombia, you go. Even if, as the days before the trip approach, you find yourself wondering what on earth you’ve signed yourself up for.

In this case, the strategy was a good one. I’m glad I went, I’m glad the babies had the experience–even though they’ll never remember it–and I’m glad I got out of my comfort zone enough to make it happen. With that said, there were many moments during the trip that I longed for a childproofed playroom, for a husband to dump the babies on long enough for me to take a nap, and for wonderful English-speaking baristas at familiar local coffee shops.

The following are some of those moments.

  1. When stuck on the metro wearing a screaming baby while sandwiched between 25,734 complete strangers.
  2. When on the metro alone with one twin, after Mom got off the metro at an unknown previous stop with his brother.
  3. When desperately trying to explain that I want a hazelnut latte, not a cafe americano con leche.
  4. When trying to remember the Spanish word for “upstairs,” drawing a blank, and feeling like an entire university Spanish minor course of study is failing me.
  5. When fumbling with Colombian pesos and trying to disguise the fact that I have no idea how much the jumble of coins in my hand is worth.
  6. When staring blankly at a menu of traditional Colombian food and realizing that none of it is remotely appetizing.
  7. When the standard, already-annoying twin questions (how old are they? are they twins? which one is older? are they walking yet? are they identical? are you through having kids now? you must have your hands full? is this one bigger? are their eyes more like yours or their dad’s?) are even worse when presented in rapid-fire Spanish but blending in is impossible with blue-eyed, fair-skinned babies.

My memories of Colombia will forever be misty mountains, lush flora, gently swinging cable cars, plywood “beds,” incredibly kind locals, and various iterations of the above seven situations. I would go back in a heartbeat–but I’d definitely arm myself with more mental preparedness and basically just prepare to function in survival mode for the duration of the trip, should that become necessary.

In other news, I’m still recuperating, because some vacations are relaxing and some vacations are exhausting and this was the latter.

Visiting Concord, MA

When you get odd opportunities to visit a new place, you take full advantage. Yesterday Manny had an appointment at Hanscom AFB, so I tagged along with the twins and we wandered around Concord a bit afterward.

Somehow I grew to adulthood without realizing what incredible historical and literary significance lives in that little town. Having realized what talent (and, arguably, genius) came from there, I seriously want to go sit under a tree in the Minute Man Historic Park for awhile and hope that whatever inspired Hawthorne, Emerson, Thoreau, and Alcott seeps into my pores just a little bit.

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Yesterday we just had time to visit the Old North Bridge and the Old Manse before heading back home to get the twins to bed. But I’m definitely planning to go back to visit Orchard House (where Louisa May Alcott lived and wrote and set Little Women), the Wayside (home to Louisa May Alcott, Margaret Sidney, and Nathaniel Hawthorne), Walden pond, and Sleepy Hollow Cemetery’s Authors’ Ridge.

The Old North Bridge’s significance is more historical than literary. It was the site where the first shots of the Revolutionary War were fired when British troops came to confiscate settlers’ firearms.  They met unexpected resistance from the colonists, who occupied the hill overlooking the Old North Bridge and fired on the British troops below.

Later, Emerson wrote the Concord Hymn for a ceremony dedicating the Old North Bridge. Today, a statue of one of the Minutemen and a stanza of the hymn stand directly in front of a replica of the Old North Bridge that crosses the Concord River in the same spot.

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It was a little eerie to stand in this spot and remember reading the Concord Hymn back in grade school, when all that history seemed so far away.

It was also a little surreal to take the short walk to the Old Manse and its peaceful garden plot, and to walk down to the boat dock–just minutes away at a slow walk–that was a popular picnic spot, swimming hole, and boat dock for Emerson, Thoreau, the Alcotts, and many other colonists around the time of the Revolution.

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It’s easy to imagine stepping back into that world of farming, picnics, gardens, poetry, and transcendentalism. It’s hard to imagine wrapping your mind around something like a revolution–and the fact that those settlers were essentially going about their everyday lives–when shots rang out over that peaceful, winding river, and everything changed.

Babies’ First Ren Faire, Poetry, and Very Expensive Boots

Over the long weekend we packed everything up for a quick jaunt to spend a weekend in PA, including a day at the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire. This was my second time visiting the fair. Manny took me to the fair for the first time a year ago when I was pregnant with the twins. I spent much of this visit relishing the cooler weather and the fact that I’m about 40 lbs. lighter than I was back then.

But my first impressions were generally the same.

Smells: Pine trees, roasting meat, and whiffs of handmade soaps, candles, and leather from the many stands.

Sounds: Laughter, “G’day, Lady” x100, strains of bagpipes and small vocal groups from different directions, the click of stilts and performers assuring guests that the more they drink, the better the performances.

Sights: people wearing tails, very large skirts, chain mail bras, kilts, masquerade masks, and all the staged buildings and vendors set up to look extremely old-world-ish.

100 Great Poems for Boys CoverFrom the stationer, I bought 100 Great Poems for Boysdespite the title. It’s a brilliant collection for kids. Actually, it’s a brilliant collection for me. Since the purchase, I’ve driven Manny crazy with dramatic readings of Poe’s “The Bells,” Christopher Smart’s “For My Cat Jeoffrey,” and Henley’s “Invictus.”

And from Catskill Mountain Moccassins, I bought $700 shoes.

Hopefully this is the first and last episode of Major Purchases That I Might Regret Later you’ll read about on this blog. They aren’t Jimmy Choos or Prada or any other brand that garners that kind of price tag (I mean, seriously, who has those at a ren fair?) But they are custom leather boot-ish footwear made to fit the foot of each individual buyer, trimmed and finished to completely custom specifications. And because Manny has a pair (received his joyfully, in fact, a few days before he proposed four years ago), he insisted I order some. They’ll last for twenty years, he said–and they’re the only shoes you’ll ever have MADE for your foot, so you should indulge.

So after staring at color swatches, conferring with a friend (who had been convinced to order a knee-high pair of her own), and agonizing over all the button choices, I stepped up on a little platform for my feet to be traced, ensconced in a sock, then taped with gaffer’s tape to create a comfortably snug pattern that would form the basis for the soft leather mocc.

The sad part? Even after they’re fully paid (we put a third down for the pattern tracing and design), I still won’t get them for the better part of a year–and by that time I might not even remember what they’re supposed to look like. But what’s done is done, and in the meantime, I’m going to try not to think too much about how many poetry books or skeins of sock yarn I could have bought with that money.

I am a bad blogger. And a bad traveller.

They say the golden rule of blogging is to blog regularly.

Judging by that benchmark, I’d say I fail pretty profoundly, seeing as I’ve published all of two? three? posts since the first of this year.

I’m not without excuses. For the last month and a half, life has been one big international move. On March 2nd, the hubster and I flew out of Guam, travelled for something like 27 hours, then landed in Hartford, Connecticut. The only really consolatory part of that trip? Knowing that I wouldn’t have to travel it again anytime soon.

So, apparently the hubster has a sketchy travel history.

At four different airports, the conversation with the TSA began like this:

Excuse me, sir, I need to pull you aside for a moment and unpack every item of your carry on while you tell me everywhere you have travelled in the last five years. 

The hubster is in the Air Force. He has an extensive travel history. I don’t know that I could name every country I’ve visited or flown through in the last five years, and he’s traveled five times as much as me.

“I’ve been to Turkey, Quatar, Japan, the U.S. a few times, Hawaii, Russia, Uzbekibekibekistan…”

“And what was the purpose of your visit to Turkey?”

“I am in the military. I was deployed there.”

“But what were you doing there? And what dates were you in Turkey?”

….

Then, you know, you get to the domestic side of things after getting off a 14-hour-long transoceanic flight. And you overhear fellow travellers having the most edifying phone conversations:

Oh, you know, I just got off the longest flight everrr from Seattle to Detroit. …yeah, it was awful. The guy sitting beside me slept, like, half the time and I couldn’t even get up to walk around. I hate flying.

And then you watch the same passenger go up to the ticket counter and ask for an upgrade to first-class because of all the travel they’re having to endure that day.

Ma’am, you don’t understand. I have been in transit for FIVE HOURS now. 

One day it’ll be funny. Right?

In other news, we are here, we haven’t frozen yet, our poor Guam boonie dog, Frank, survived the trip (although he discovered a very entitled, needy disposition somewhere along the way), we found a house we love and are waiting to close on it, and in the meantime we’re living out of a hotel.

I spent most of my non-blogging time over the past several weeks not making much progress on the 2015 reading list, because I was reading Bleak HouseMore on that later.

Moving back across the pond

Looks like I won’t have to dream about autumn–or seasons–for too much longer. The Air Force has finally granted my little family an assignment. This coming March, our family of four (hubster + me + Niño + dog) are moving from Guam to New England.

Is it sad that the thing I’m looking forward to the most is cold weather?

We had been hoping for another overseas assignment. Now I’m thinking that Massachusetts will be foreign enough for me–I’ve always felt more at home in the South.

People keep telling me that I’m going to freeze. No, I tell them. I’m going to be comfortable for the first time in two years. Maybe for once my body won’t cry in protest every time I walk out my front door.

I’m going to miss Guam, though. The people here, the Christian community, the brilliant greens and blues around almost every bend of the road, and being able to climb up onto my roof to watch the sun set over the ocean will all turn into those memories that you can only try to relive once they’re gone.

Guam gave me my first taste of the islands, even when I was on my way to Saipan to teach English three summers ago. I had no idea I’d meet the man I’d marry while I was teaching English at Eucon International School in Saipan. Or that when I sat in a 747 heading back home and watched the cliffs of Guam drifting further out of sight, I’d be going back surprisingly soon.

Several months later, I was shipping my book collection overseas, saying goodbye to my small but precious family in South Carolina, then flying out myself with a wedding dress in my carry-on.

The hubster and I have been dreaming about New England. There will be farms that grow all kinds of real food! There will be snow in the winter and hiking and kayaking the lakes and rivers in the summer. Family will be within a day’s drive. Suddenly travel will be so much easier because flying out of Boston costs a third as much as flying out of Guam to just about anywhere.

We’ll have to bring Baby Jacoby back one day to meet the little island where the story began.

Craving Autumn

This is what autumn on Guam looks like.

Autumn on Guam.

I love Guam. I don’t  love that when seasons are supposed to change, they don’t.

Everybody on Facebook is like, “Finally! It’s jacket weather!”

Everybody on Instagram is like, “Look how delectable this pumpkin spice latte is!”

And, of course, everyone on Pinterest is pinning harvest-inspired recipes, fall-weather styles, and autumn decor advice.

Here in Guam, the rainy season is weathering its way across the island. Today, a 7.1 earthquake interrupted the otherwise consistently drippy weather with a rumble that woke me from a dead sleep and made the house shake for over a minute. But that’s a rare variation. Temperatures are still in the mid 80’s (surprise!), and they will be through October, November, December, and ever, ever after.

Local coffee shops have pumpkin spice stuff, but it seems pointless to try to enjoy one in light of the atmospheric conditions. As I write this, I’m nursing a virgin strawberry tropical mojito (featuring calamansi, mint, strawberry syrup, and club soda), and fanning myself because even the air conditioning at Infusion isn’t quite cutting through my pregnancy-induced hot flashes.

Ah, well, maybe next year the good ol’ Air Force will send us somewhere that’s home to the seasons I’ve missed.

7,000 miles pregnant.

Almost three months since my last post. After about 60 days of non-blogging (and not much writing at all of any kind), I almost forgot that I actually enjoy writing. One side effect of turning a pastime into a job is that once your passion becomes your job, it’s… work. Should be obvious, I guess, but it’s not until it happens.

So when I found out I was pregnant in April, I kind of felt like I had no mental energy to spare for something as mundane as writing another blog post. I all but quit copywriting, and that led to a sabbatical from blogging, which I’m not sure was as much of a break as I thought it would be.

Pregnancy converged with grad school classes (which I’m still woefully behind in) and a six-week trip to the states that turned into a 7,000-mile road trip from Philadelphia to Colorado and back again, lots of detours in between. That trip might have spawned lots of great blog posts.

Instead, that epic 20-state road trip will go down in history as a few Instagram pictures and snatches of memories, as well as a few stories for my yet-to-be-born child: “When I was pregnant with you, your dad and I almost drove off the edge of a mountain just outside of Cripple Creek, Colorado….”

Stories are so much more exciting when there’s no written evidence to water the action down with too much reality.

As I type this, I’m sitting in the Atlanta airport waiting to board a very long flight to Tokyo (which will be made longer, I can tell already, by my 14-week-pregnant body).

I’ll get to Guam sometime, longer from now than I’d like to think about. In the midnight/early morning hours. And then real life will start again, and I’m pretty sure I won’t be able to pretend anymore that I’m still on vacation or that life isn’t meant to be written down.