30 March 2012


I woke up on the plane as the horizon turned red over the North Atlantic. I was sleeping against the window, and the beginning of the sunrise was right there when I opened my eyes. It looked so familiar that I had to make a mental list of how many times I have flown this route in the last twelve years, since I first went back to Africa in 2000.

My first trip back across the Atlantic was to Kenya in January of 2000. I had so little sense of what Kenya might be like that I was convinced that my plane was going to crash on the way there.

I am still not sure why I got on the plane.

But by the time I got to the airport, I had forgotten that I thought I was going to die, which was good, because our plane was delayed into Detroit because of high winds. Do you know what high winds will do? Knock a plane off the runway. Kill you, basically.

After a great deal of chaos in Detroit, all twenty of us, or however many of us there were, ended up in the middle seats of a DC-10. DC-10s have two seats, an aisle, five seats, an aisle, and two seats again. It's a recipe for deep vein thrombosis in the middle seat. I was actually only one seat into the middle five, and the woman in the very middle was a woman from the Caribbean going to London for her brother's funeral.

I hate not sitting by the window, because how will I will the plane to stay in the air if there are problems if I can't see what is happening?

And yet, somehow, it all worked out fine. I went to Kenya. I went home. And then I just kept going, until I moved to Gone West.

I've got to get back to it.

26 March 2012

I went to the Hunger Games movie with three guys, which is why I had to pull my hair forward to hide my face when Katniss covered Rue with flowers and saluted District 11. It was Rue, yes, but it was also the faces of the people in District 11.* I am a sucker for the people who stand up against injustice.

I never used to cry in movies. I never used to cry at all, except when I was mad.

And then sometime in my early twenties, all those grown-up lady hormones kicked in. I am still not a cryer. I don't cry at sappy movies. But I do, sometimes, cry. I almost cried when Katniss volunteered for Prim, and I did cry for Rue.

I still remember the first movie in which I cried: Rules of Engagement. That doesn't seem like a crying type movie, but it was the embassy, and the evacuation, and the people left behind.

I had just barely gotten to a place in life where I could allow myself to remember that I had a life before trying to fit into an almost entirely all-white suburban high school. It had been ten years since we left Liberia on 48 hours notice, but in all that time, I didn't think about Liberia much. I couldn't afford to, not if I wanted to survive high school with anything resembling friends.

It wasn't until I got to college and met people who were not All The Same that I dared to remember that I, too, had once been someone else, someone not from just exactly the same place as everyone else.

The leaving that other place I came from was hard. So was the shutting down of the person I was.

And so, when I let myself start to remember and then I saw a movie where people were evacuating a country, I cried.


* And then there is this. Really, people? REALLY? Sometimes, I am left speechless. That casting was perfect.

24 March 2012


One of the downsides of being not a morning person, in this part of the world, is that the days are tricksy. They like to start out beautiful, and then descend into clouds, wind, and rain as the day goes on.

This happened today. A friend and I had agreed to go for a wee little hike up a wee little mountain, but I spent the morning trying to decide whether to wash my hair today (what? I don't wash my hair every day and I am trying to plan for traveling to the Netherlands so that I am not all greasy and disgusting on the plane), and she spent the morning doing important things, and by the time we headed out, it was 2 pm.

By the time we got up on the mountain, the wind was blowing and freezing. I had to borrow S-K's gloves and hat. We didn't even stay to enjoy the view. We just turned around and marched back down.

Sometimes I wish I was a morning person, and then I remember how wonderful it feels to lie in bed in the morning, doing nothing.

23 March 2012


Last weekend, we went cross-country skiing again, this time on a slightly more non-beginner trail, and I was just fine on the uphill, but, well, it turns out that I am a failure at going downhill. My return trip was pretty much fall, stand up, ski, fall, stand up, ski, repeat ad infinitum. I have a bigger bruise from skiing than I have ever had from fighting class, which is saying something. I clearly need more practice.

I didn't go to fighting class at all this week. I thought I was being incredibly rebellious - Monday I chose to see a friend instead, Wednesday was the snow, and Thursday I was just too tired - but it turns out that fighting class was canceled on Wednesday and Thursday due to snow, so I wasn't rebellious, I was just clueless.

I have now spent 75 minutes intending to get up and do some situps or something, due to lack of exercise this week, but see above re. wow. Tired. Still. STILL. Isn't it almost April? Shouldn't the winter exhaustion be passing by now?

Except that spring lasts until July here, so it won't feel like summer until approximately, oh, never.

22 March 2012

snowed in

It snowed about six inches two nights ago, and I woke up to a delightful world of white. It was pretty.

Then the power went out, which was fine. I don't mind getting ready for work in the dark. I have a headlamp.

(I know no power. I am familiar with no power. I had power about 40 minutes a day for the last few months I lived in Rwanda. I would leave the light on in my room so that when the power went on at, say, 2:10 am, I could get up and plug in all my electronics to take advantage of every minute I had power. And remember these days?)

So I got ready in the dark, thinking, "Adventure!" Life is so boring here, sometimes.

I had smartly started parking my car in the garage the last few weeks so that it would not be snowed/sleeted upon. We live just high enough in the hills that a sprinkling of snow or ice on a winter morning is not uncommon.

When I was all ready for the day, I piled things into my arms, hit the garage door button, and stepped outside.

Oh, ha. Ha and ha.

My house, I may have mentioned, is built into a steep hill. It is on stilts, essentially, and it goes down so fast from the road that even the driveway is a deck out over nothing. The garage is detached from the house, and the only door to it is the car-sized door, on the garage door opener.

"Just detach the chain!" people told me all day, and I had to explain again and again that the problem was not that I couldn't get the car out of the garage. I know how to detach the garage door opener. The problem was that I couldn't get into the garage. My car and I were parted by the garage door.

As I layered on my rain pants and gaiters and skiing gloves, I was infinitely grateful for the privilege of having spent money on waterproof gear. SHO and/or I commented earlier this week that money does not buy happiness, but not having it can make you miserable. On cold days, being warm and dry can feel a whole lot like happiness.

I set out by foot through a maze of snow and downed tree branches. It took me a while of walking to figure out that this warm, wet snow is heavy, and the trees here are not accustomed to snow, and so the pieces break off much more easily than they would in the Mitten.

A little girl showed me her snow child and snow animals in her driveway. A guy came snowboarding past me, all the way down the long hill. A wire hung low over the road in one spot, and the snowboarder, after offering me a chance at his snowboard, told me that the road had been blocked by a fallen tree on the longer, less steep route out of the neighborhood.

My coworker with traction tires and all-wheel drive (people in this part of the world have no idea how to handle snow) picked me up exactly 1.1 miles into my walk in the direction of work. We arrived almost two hours late. Most people didn't make it at all.

At 9 pm, after I'd gone home to pick up the stuff I would need to stay at a friend's house, my neighbor called me to tell me that the lights were back.

I haven't been that excited about lights since Liberia c. 2006, when Ma Ellen turned the streetlights on. Admittedly, it isn't so much about the lights here as it is about 1. sleeping in my own bed instead of someone's futon, 2. accessing my vehicle and being once again independent, and 3. warm water in the middle of winter. Cold showers in Liberia are not a problem. Cold showers in a house without heat while there is snow on the ground are an entirely different prospect.

15 March 2012


You know how sometimes you come home from work + fighting class and you sit down on your bed, fulling intending to get up in a few minutes and do some useful things, like maybe brush your teeth and put some dishes in the dishwasher but then suddenly an hour has passed and you are no longer sure that you are capable of getting out of bed again at all and maybe you might just fall asleep right there, sitting up, with your computer on your lap?

I've had that kind of day. Night.

Actually, every day is like that, lately. I'm not sure if it is me or the world or the season or the fact that I never can quite climb out of the hole of everything I should be doing and don't have time to get done.

I don't have any delightful little stories, because there is no time for diversion. Every minute needs to have a purpose, even if that purpose is sitting against the headboard of my bed staring blankly at the wall and trying to remember what it feels like not to have a pit of anxiety in my stomach.

It will get better, because it has to get better, because the days are getting longer, because summer is coming, because these things go in cycles, because two weeks from now I will collapse onto a plane.

It's sad when 18 hours of airplane travel seems like a beacon of restfulness in my future.

12 March 2012


This is bluster. The rain beats on the windows, and the house creaks, and the trees rising high above the house groan in the wind. I hear noises that startle me. I go to bed early - just two days ago this was 8:18 pm - so that I can make it through another day of talk and bargain and dread. The daylight lasted just a little bit longer today. I might make it. I am counting days until the Netherlands and gezellig and tea and boats on the canal, because thinking of that might keep me going through the bluster just long enough to catch that plane.

10 March 2012

door frame

Coming home from a conference, I dropped various baggages just inside the front door, and turned around to get the rest of the stuff out of the car.

I pulled the door shut behind me, to keep the warm air in.

Unfortunately, I pulled it shut without first extricating my left pointer finger.

That'll sting.

There was swearing.

It's been about an hour now, and the tingling has dissipated. A blood blister has formed. I can even bend it again.

But wow.

I will remove my finger from the door frame before closing the door next time.

no room for improvement

I had my annual physical yesterday, which was fine. A little blood work, a little "deep breath," and a little chatting with the doctor.

At the end, they gave me a printout about my visit. It had my medications on it, and the doctor's advices. I scanned it and then stopped.

In the middle of the page, there were values and then ranges of average values. Heart rate, blood pressure, weight, etc. All of them were things that one can change. Not easily, but with exercise and/or diet, they can theoretically be changed a little. One can aim for improvement, up or down. Changing them might affect one's health.

Except one, and that was the only one on which I was abnormal.

Apparently I am abnormally tall.

Thanks for telling me, I guess. Except that there isn't much I can do about it, so why bother? It will not improve my health for me to cut off the top of my head or the bottom of my feet, and that is about the only way I am going to make it into the average range on that one.

04 March 2012


When the sun came out halfway between Universe City and the coast, I very nearly revolted. I was driving, after all. I could have just kept going, and dragged the whole carload with me to the beach to bask in the sunshine.

It was only because other cars were meeting us that I turned down the side road to the trail along the waterfall.

"I was willing the sun to stay out the whole time we were hiking," I said, after we cut the hike short and started toward the beach.

Usually I love the moss and water of walk along a State of Happiness creek, but not on the first Saturday in March, not when the sky is clearing to that pure shade of blue, not when the sun is actually warm.

We bought wine and cheese and crackers and walked out the rocky jetty to a sheltered spot, in the sun and out of the wind, and there we sat and ate and drank.

"This rock feels perfectly shaped for my butt!" J. said.

"Does that mean you are a hardass?" the other J. said.

A wall of bright white fog billowed in, and we were caught in a world of rock and water. The shore disappeared, until we clambered all the way back over the rocks, whereupon it reappeared in sand and blue sky.

In town, the sky was still blue, but the fog lingered just past the bridge over the mouth of the river. A few tentacles reached into the blue above us.

We stopped for candy. We stopped for coffee. We stopped for a walk. We stopped to drink in the sunshine like dehydrated people gasp for water.

01 March 2012

dregs of winter, cont.

Let us just consider February a wash. It is over. Let us forget that it occurred.

My basic strategy is to grit my teeth and hang on until April. April will be better. The sun will shine a little bit more, or at least, the sun when it shines will be stronger.

Summer will arrive, eventually.

I have begun to suspect that one's levels of Vitamin D just continue to go down each year that you live in a place this destitute of direct sunlight. This would explain a lot, including why it took ten years for me to really feel the burden of Mitten winters, and why each winter here seems more exhausting than the last.


Random things that rock:

I brought my car in to have its oil changed today, and to have the mechanics dig down into its depths to see if the timing belt has ever been changed, and when I picked it up again, I felt a swell of affection for the little beast. It's so nice to be able to go places. And the timing belt does not need an investment of $400.

Cross-country skiing.

Realizing that the reason my bank account never has money is because the money for my retirement account is coming from my checking account and not, as I thought, my savings account. Even though this means that I am constantly broke, it also means that my savings account is still slowly growing. I thought it was stagnant, or shrinking.