Archive for July, 2011

bookshelf

July 31, 2011

Do you judge a book by its cover? Do you judge a person by the books on their shelves? I know I do – at least in the “could we be kindred spirits?” sense – if judgment, in this case, can mean making an assessment about who they are, how they think, what their priorities and interests are.

I took these photos yesterday of the books I had shipped here from the US (although a couple were mailed by friends or family). Not pictured: one shelf of Albanian-English dictionaries & grammars, and about 100 children’s books. You are welcome to judge me as much as you like – and make lots of comments especially on the parenting-books shelf! If nothing else, it demonstrates my lack of clear focus. Oh, and can you spot the ALI blogger books?

What are you reading? (I promise I won’t judge you!) 🙂

dissertation books 1

dissertation books 2

personal and parenting books

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Something old, part 2

July 30, 2011

Riding a boat upriver is mesmerizing.  The steady gliding motion with its gentle up and down swell, the rackety hum of the outboard motor, and the breeze that fans your hair out behind you are soothing.  You can watch the brown water slap the side of the boat or foam and splash in a V behind you.  You can watch the silent jungle gliding by, and look for anacondas or parrots in the trees.  The sun is hot, but the breeze created by your motion keeps you cool.  If mom’s not watching you can slip one hand into the cool water and feel the tug of the river on your arm.

At last we came to the aguano muyuna, as it is called in Quechua, the spinning water.  This was a place in the river where the current went both ways at once—on one side, it flowed in the normal direction, but on the other, it curiously reversed for no apparent reason.  We slipped into the current that was going our direction, careful to stay away from the churning center of the opposing currents.  Just beyond that, we pulled over to the shore and climbed out, at our destination.

A small crowd had gathered to meet us, black haired and barefoot.  A couple men picked up our bags and we climbed the bank to the cluster of little houses just beyond, just far enough from the bank to be out of danger of being flooded in rainy season.

My little sister and I were taken to a room in one house to rest while my parents went with our hosts somewhere else.  The room was perfect—quiet, private.  The thatch roof and cane walls let in strips of sunlight that fell across a wooden bed built into one wall.  No mattress, just a blanket over bare boards and a burlap bag stuffed with straw for a hard and lumpy pillow.  But I was perfectly happy.  I found a little hand mirror on one wall and admired my swollen eye.  My sister went to find my parents, and I lay down on the bed and fell asleep.

I must have slept a long time (ah, Benadryl!), while my parents met with the people of Aguano Muyuna.  What I remember next is getting up in the chilly dawn with my mother and sister and crossing a grassy open space—wet and cold with dew—to find a place in the trees to relieve ourselves in the morning.  I saw an empty bird’s nest lying on the ground.

Later we were fed a breakfast of coffee, boiled manioc, and dried salt fish.  The fish was so salty we could not choke it down.  While our hosts ate their own breakfast squatting around the fire in the separate kitchen hut, my family sat alone at a table in the main room and shame-facedly slipped the precious protein to the skeletal dogs that lurked under the table.  We prayed our hosts could not hear the dogs crunching down the dried fish that we could not eat.

During the day my sister and I amused ourselves while our parents visited with folks.  That night we slept on the beach to wait for the boat that would pass at 4:00 in the morning.  It was exciting to snuggle into our sleeping bags in the sand under the stars, with the river rushing quietly nearby and a bonfire flickering near us to keep the mosquitoes away.

As I drifted into the inert stages just before sleep, I could hear my mother talking with a small crowd of children who had come down to watch us settle down for the night.  She talked with them about Jesus, then led them in a unison prayer of repentance for sin and acceptance of Jesus as savior.  “Wow,” I thought, drifting off into sleep.  “My mom doesn’t miss a chance.”

Something old

July 29, 2011

This is something I wrote a long time ago, a memory from my childhood in the Peruvian Amazon. I’m falling behind on my 3x-a-week posting goal so I thought I’d dredge something up from the past – my sister calls this “playing in the residue.” I think I was about 11 years old when this story happened. 

***

Aguano Muyuna

My family sat on the bank of the Urubamba river, waiting for the boat that would take us upstream to Aguano Muyuna.  The sun was hot and bright, reflecting off the sand of the riverbank and sparkling in the pebble-bottomed rivulet that ran into the murky brown rushing river.  On the opposite bank, a wall of jungle rose into the sky, slender trees holding up a green canopy and trailing vines and other climbing plants.  Close by, two women from the nearby village of Chazuta were washing their clothes in the rivulet.  We sat on our bags and waited.

I had to go to the bathroom, but there was no bathroom, no outhouse or latrine, so my mother told me to go into a clump of bushes just up the shore from where we sat.  I meandered over, picking my way around knee-high scrub into the higher bushes.  Around the back of the bushes I saw a man cutting coconuts from a palm tree, up on a ladder thwacking away with his machete.  I carefully made my way into the middle of the bushes, peering in all directions to make sure no line of sight would penetrate my shield.  Finally satisfied with my spot, I started to unzip my pants—when a buzzing swarm rose up from the grass at my feet and enveloped my head.  I screamed and ran out of the bushes, zipping up my pants as I ran towards the coconut man, waving my arms wildly around my head and face, feeling the burning sting on my hands.  “Al agua, al agua,” he shouted, waving his machete towards the river.  I stumbled down the bank to where my parents were rising to their feet anxiously.  I had left the cloud of bees behind me but my mother swiftly began to pull live bees and dripping stingers from my hair.  I was sobbing from the pain.  The clothes-washing women hovered around offering advice and clucking sympathetically.

I heard my father say, “maybe we shouldn’t go after all,” in his worried voice.  I didn’t understand.  Because of the bees, we wouldn’t go to Aguano Muyuna?  Was it really possible to cancel a trip?  How could we not go?  Weren’t we all packed and waiting for the boat?  Weren’t people waiting for us to arrive?

The pain had subsided and my crying calmed.  I looked at my arms, wondering how many times I had been stung, trying to count the welts.  I saw big red welts, and between them a whole rash of tiny little bumps.  “Look, Mommy, they must have just barely stung there without leaving the stinger,” I said.  She looked more closely, afraid now.

“Those aren’t stings,” she said.  “That’s a rash.”  She pulled out her toiletry bag and fished for a bottle of antihistamines.  “Take this,” she ordered, handing me a pill with a tall plastic cup filled with boiled water for drinking.  I obeyed.

Evidently my folks decided to go ahead with the trip, because the next I remember we were on the boat heading upriver.  I was no longer in pain, except for my right eye; despite my flailing, one bee had managed to sting me just at the corner of my eye, and the whole eyelid was swelling in a comically lopsided way.  I felt relieved that my accident with the bees hadn’t prevented the trip.

***

To be continued…

checking in

July 27, 2011

So, not much computer time this week; our nanny, Dhurata, is away on a spiritual retreat with her family so I don’t have much writing time – and what I have I’ve been using for sleep.

Gimli was away on a work trip all day Monday – just popped over to Rome for the day – how strange (and kind of cool) is that? He’s looking at taking on another consultancy and I’m a little apprehensive, since he did a job for this same organization last year and it was the job from hell. I told him no amount of money made that kind of grief worthwhile and I would make sure he never agreed to work for them again… and yet, here he goes. It’s not the same kind of job this time (a much smaller proposition) but still. I fear the stress.

I have a bunch of draft posts sitting around – some stuff about money, more on friendship, we’ll see when it gets done.

Passport

July 22, 2011

I went to the US Embassy in Tirana yesterday just past noon to renew my passport, which will expire in December, inside the six months recommended. As I walked up towards the high yellow walls along Rruga e Elbasanit, I could feel the sweat start to trickle down my back, and I couldn’t help but think how different this was from my visit last November, when I went for an affidavit of something or other as part of my residency visa application. Then it was cold, wet, and windy; I was wrapped up in warm woolen layers (scarf, hat, sweater, coat). Yesterday was a warm, clear summer day, and this change of seasons more than anything else makes me feel like we’ve been here for a solidly long time.

So I arrived at the back entrance to the complex, the entrance for visa and citizen services, and had to wait in a narrow alley in the hot sun with about thirty other people – all Albanians, as far as I could tell – since the office was still closed for lunch. It was moderately interesting to see how different people reacted differently to the situation; the woman whose swollen feet strained in her cheap black shoes humbly took her place in line; the woman carrying an expensive purse and the prosperous-looking man with his cell phone in a belt holster stood in the shade near the wall until the security guard told them to move; then they stood at the edge of the sidewalk (still in the shade) about six inches closer to the rest of us but nowhere near the rest of us, on the other side of the alley where they’d been told to go.

At five minutes to 1:00, the guard (heavy night-stick, but no gun) motioned me over towards the entrance and asked “citizen?” I said yes, and he nodded and opened the heavy door for me. At the security booth I relinquished my cell phone, went through the metal detector, and was in. As I walked across a small, shaded courtyard, I could see obliquely the long line of Albanians watching me through the gate.

It’s a weird feeling, getting shunted to the front of the line. I remember the same thing happening to me in Peru when I was 19 and had to renew my US passport while there on a break from college. The difference is that I am also a Peruvian citizen, and the long line of people I walked past that time were all Peruvians. And it felt wrong. It felt wrong to have a privilege that these men, women, and children didn’t have, as I walked past them feeling in the pit of my being “I am one of you, too!” and knowing at the same time that in many ways I am not.

If you think the DMV is a strange place, the visa application office at the US Embassy in Albania is even stranger. It’s a small room, with six glassed-in windows. 1-4 are for visa services, 5 is for citizen services and the sixth is the teller where you pay the fees. There are eleven chairs, but the ebb and flow of people means that up to 25 or so can stuff themselves in at once. Framed photos on the wall of Barak Obama, Joe Biden, and Hilary Clinton smile with shining teeth across from a painting of an girl in traditional Albanian costume holding a sheep, her long flowing brown hair enveloping a dove. You wonder if staunch Republicans waiting in this room for citizenship services feel more, or less, at home when they see the photos.

There is no real privacy. You can hear every conversation that takes place. The woman trying to explain to the visa officer where she actually lives, since she spends part of the year in her home in Albania and part of the year in her home in Macedonia (where her husband lives and works); the man applying for a visa for his young wife and three-month-old baby who is told he has to “bring proof that you were in Albania during the dates you say you were,” even though he has everything the web site said he should bring; the family of three who talk in nearly-perfect English with the visa officers but in Albanian with each other; the man answering extremely personal questions about his relationship history with his American wife; you can hear everything they say, and it feels awkward and wrong to be privy to the complexities of these strangers’ lives.

You think about the performance each interaction entails; wondering how people decided what to wear that day; noting body language, tone of voice, the phrasing of responses. You notice yourself acting more American – using colloquialisms, making unabashed eye contact with a strange man to show you are a liberated American woman. Even with the security guard, you say “thank you” when you retrieve your cell phone, not “Faleminderit.” Like every other applicant there, you are extremely polite.

I left the Embassy just short of an hour after I had arrived, with a receipt to pick up my new passport in a couple of weeks. I realized I was hungry since I’d left for my 1:15 appointment (which is kind of a joke, since up to four people can have an appointment for the same time slot, and they just take you in the order you show up; but since everybody wants to be on time, it’s a weird mad little scramble as all four jockey for their place in line) without eating. Dealing with bureaucrats is always unnerving, even when you have in your hand that magical talisman, that blue and gold passport; even when you know that the minute you open your mouth to speak the American officer behind the window will smile and you will see him relax just the tiniest little bit and he will meet your gaze with friendliness and regard, and you know he will be thinking “oh, she’s American; she’s an expat in Albania, like me,” and you will let him think that you are just like him, because it will help you get what you want.

On friendship

July 17, 2011

I’ve been pondering, as I tentatively attempt to make new friends here while maintaining ties with friends in the US, how much I suck at friendship as well as how I’m good at it. Funny that Mel posted something about friendship too just as I was thinking through some of this. But rather than try to enumerate the ways in which I both suck and rock, I thought I’d start with a story about my high school frenemy – Jessica (not her real name) – from a time long before that term was coined.

I think I was in 9th grade when Jessica and I became best friends. I needed a place to stay for a few weeks while my parents were traveling for work, and her family offered me a room. Jessica was a year older than me – tiny, blonde, cute, with enormous blue eyes and the kind of personality that is usually described as “bubbly.” She had a cute Texas accent, played the flute and piano, and had recently returned to Peru from the US with a suitcase full of the latest fashions and hair accessories. At school, she was generally considered to be an “air-head,” so I guess I was surprised to learn when I stayed with her that she loved to read, composed piano accompaniment to songs she wrote, and had some interesting observations to make about the social scene at our tiny high school (five in my graduating class). So I was amenable when, one evening, she said “Hey, let’s be Best Friends next year.”

Being “Best Friends” meant, apparently, spending nearly all our free time together. Actually, as far back as 7th grade we used to hang out on a regular basis; every Saturday we would buy two bottles of pop (and in Peru in the ‘80s, pop still came in returnable glass bottles) and a bag of animal crackers, borrow a rowboat, and spend the day rowing around and swimming in the lake near the mission center where we both grew up. At the time I probably considered Rachel to be my actual Best Friend, but she didn’t care if I hung out with Jessica as well. Rachel was a lot more like me than Jessica – brown-eyed and nerdy, we both played the violin and pondered growing up to be English teachers. But in 9th grade I started going with Rachel’s older brother, and I think she felt a little betrayed because he’d used to spend a lot more time with his sister before he started going out with me.

Anyway. I guess I had a best friend vacancy in my life when Blue-Eyed Jessica suggested we be Besties, and I said, “okay.”

I call her my frenemy, though, because of the envy I always felt, that in the end poisoned our friendship and led me to abandon her about the time I graduated from high school. Next to Jessica, I felt big and awkward and dark and fat. And more masculine, somehow. Which I hated. And I think this envy had deep roots; I remember when we were in elementary school (I think I was in third grade, she in fourth) we were playing at my house with another friend, Sara. Jessica was playing the piano downstairs and I think Sara and I got annoyed because we thought she was showing off, so somehow we convinced her to get into an empty barrel in the attic and then we put the lid on and ran away. Jessica couldn’t get out and started crying. I feel awful about it now, just imagining how she must have felt, and I don’t think we left her there very long; but see, the envy was already there.

But in high school, something clicked, at least for a while. I remember how just by being sarcastic I could make her laugh until she was rolling on the floor, clutching her stomach, her face red and tears streaming down her cheeks, and that was fun. And we liked a lot of the same books. We would lie on the floor side by side, our heads on the same pillow, each reading a different page in the same actual, physical book – usually Daphne DuMaurier. We liked the same music – Christian contemporary, which I absolutely cannot stomach anymore – and sang together a lot. We harmonized really well, and recorded two cassette tapes of songs she wrote with her playing the keyboard and me singing alto to her soprano. She had a little motor-scooter (a Honda 50) and I’d ride behind her for hours around and around the mission center (I could write several thousand words about the role of motorcycles in our high school social life but that’s, as they say, another story). So, most of the time I could ignore the fact that she got about 2,000x more attention from boys than I did, or that she looked way cuter in my stretch jeans than I did, or that she was somewhat tone-deaf to certain things.

Like this one time, my mom had sewed a fancy dress for my cousin who lived with us – Margarita, who had been adopted from a Quechua family at age 7 by my aunt and uncle and then was sent to live with us when she was 16 and her parents couldn’t handle her (yet another long story that I won’t go into here). Anyway, Jessica said to me later, after the event where my cousin had worn the dress, “Margarita’s dress was pretty and all, but it just looked so Peruvian.”

Do I need to spell out how much – and why – that hurt and enraged me?

Or another time I had made myself a pair of earrings out of purple and blue electrical wire, and Jessica just seethed with embarrassment and refused to be around me when I wore them, because they “looked home-made.”

I finally dumped her, though, when she started going out with the guy that I wanted. That she knew I wanted. And you know why this was such a bad reason for me to dump her? Because I already had a boyfriend. My boyfriend, Rachel’s older brother, was in college in the US, and had been for the past 3 years (let me tell you about long-distance relationship… some other time), and in his absence I’d developed a crush on, um, let’s call him Dave. So I secretly wanted Dave (who had previously dated my sister – ugh, what an inbred little bunch we all were!), so when Jessica came back from a year in the States, with a spiral perm and trendy clothes and contacts in her huge blue eyes, Dave couldn’t hide his lust interest and they were an item within two weeks.

This was right before I graduated from high school and went to college in the States, myself. So all summer and into the fall I got letters from Jessica detailing the nuances of her romance with Dave, and I just stopped writing back. (Or did I write a “Dear Jane” letter? I don’t remember. I remember sitting in my dorm room, freshman year, with a letter in my hand, feeling grumpy and morose and it had something to do with the end of our friendship. But was it a letter from her? What did it say? And what did I write back? I have no idea.)

I have some vague and not-very-interesting memories of sporadic contact since then, so we must have maintained or restored amicability in some way. She even asked me to be her maid of honor in 1994, but I wasn’t able to since I was doing an internship in Bolivia (my understanding is that this was less about our friendship and more about forcing her sister out of that role for some reason). When we both got e-mail accounts, she wrote me of her infertility – endometriosis and low sperm count – eventually they decided to foster to adopt, and now have three little ones. I was sympathetic at the time but of course I didn’t really get it until we encountered our own roadblocks to family building. So we’ve kept in touch over the years, off and on, now pretty much exclusively through FB.

So that’s the story. I’m not sure now what the point was… I suppose it is that I could be really petty and jealous in high school, and that the way I dealt with it was to silently distance myself from Jessica instead of talking with her about the things that bothered me. I suppose what I most regret is how much I hated her sometime because of her looks – which had everything to do with how much I hated my own looks. Having a boyfriend helped, of course, even though he wasn’t even on the same continent – but how clearly I remember walking with Jessica up from swimming in the lake, hating how the breeze lifted her shining gold hair and how slender her torso and thighs were in that sparkling lavender bathing suit. How I felt fat and dark and ugly, and somehow, I blamed her.

little bits of random

July 13, 2011

This is just a little brain-dump.

  • I wrote an “About” page for this blog (see sidebar, at the top)
  • I’ve ratcheted up my anxiety levels thanks to bureaucratic requirements from the university for renewing my in absentia status. UGH. I hate this process so much, it makes me want to walk away from the whole thing. Then I think of all the work I’ve put in already (I’m guessing around 5,000 hours) and the time with me that my children have had to lose, and I know I have to stick with it and FINISH. DAMMIT.
  • It’s been really, really hot lately and the kids haven’t left the apartment since Wednesday. I’m just loathe to take them out into the swelter.
  • We did do a short hike on Saturday and got home so exhausted and wrung out we were all grumpy the whole rest of the day.
  • Right before I realized I need to renew my in absentia status, I had a really good day when I felt completely at peace and realized that I also feel at home now in our new apartment (after 5 months). It’s a good feeling, I guess it came just in time, and I know it will come back once I get all my “i”s dotted and “t”s crossed.
  • The kids have been a lot of fun to be around lately, and the mom-gig has felt more relaxing than ever before. NICE.
Ok, I’d better go – I have to get a new passport picture taken and I want to get home before six tonight.
xoxo! Thanks for reading!

home and belonging

July 12, 2011

This is some stuff I’ve been pondering and trying to write my way through as I dig into my dissertation material a bit. It’s very long, so I don’t really expect too many people to sit through the whole thing… but it has been helpful to me to write out some of my thoughts… and I need something to post if I’m going to meet my 3-posts-a-week goal!

Quick background for context: I’m working towards a degree in anthropology, but I did my field research in the US, in the city that is my home there. So that’s kind of my point or frame of reference for this pontificating here.

+++

One of the questions I asked my research collaborators (that’s the new word for research “subjects”) in interviews was to tell me about a time when they really felt they belonged in the Valley that is the site of my ethnographic research, and about a time when they felt they did not.

Recently I have felt compelled to turn this question back on myself, since I’m a relative newcomer to the Valley myself. The most powerful and established families in the Valley can trace their ancestry back to the Revolutionary War, after which tracts of land were awarded to soldiers who had fought the British. I moved there in 2000 a few months after getting married, a month after my husband was awarded a PhD and landed a job teaching at the same college he’d graduated from thirteen years before. We’re both “come-heres,” as they say over the mountain in West Virginia.

The time I felt most at home in the Valley (which may not be the same thing as belonging, per se, but to me they are closely intertwined notions) was when I realized that there were Mexican families living in simple, small homes and in trailer parks where I could step in and feel like I was in Latin America. I have never been to Mexico, but there is a deep current of Latino commonality that connected me, at least affectively, to the Peru where I grew up. I loved being part of that hidden world inside the trailer parks, being allowed to come in. I felt special, like I was being awarded privileged permission to cross those thresholds.

There’s a word in Spanish – confianza – that is more or less translatable as “trust,” but it is a special category of trust, denoting a quality of social closeness that is rarely defined in American English. Becoming a godparent is often a way to formalize a relationship of confianza since this establishes a life-long commitment to the well-being of someone else’s children, who may or may not be related to you by blood or marriage.

Through my professional position, bilingual/bicultural credentials and Latinidad, and through my personal approach to people (I’d like to think, at least, although my performance reviews at work allow me to believe that others think so too) I was able to establish relationships of confianza with most of the people I worked with. They trusted me with their children, knowledge of their documentation status, stories of their lives. They fed me taquitos and tortillas and can after can of cold Pepsi. They made me feel like I belonged where I was.

I felt like I belonged when I could interpret for people in schools, in medical situations, when I could guide a new family through the bewildering process of enrolling their children in school. Even though I was new to the Valley myself, and spent my first months on the job driving around with a city/county map in my glove compartment (and consulting it frequently), my English literacy and professional credentials – my slowly emerging habitus as a professional social worker – enabled me to provide support and assistance in a direct, material way for families who had only just arrived (in whole or in part) to the area.

They also taught me things; where to find cheap cuts of meat, the shortest path from the trailer park to the Mall. It wasn’t too long until I would get in the car with my husband, who had grown up in the area, and he would ask me “how do we get there from here?” because of course it wasn’t the same place he had grown up; he’d left after college in ’87 and only returned for short visits until we moved there in 2000 (thirteen years later)

+++

But now neither of us is current in our local knowledge. His job has sequestered him in the Mennonite “ghetto,” and my status as student has removed me from the immediacy of current localization.  When I least felt like I belonged was when I came home from graduate school to do my field research. In my mind, I had never really left, but when I came back, I realized that I really had been gone. The place had moved on without me; the social and professional landscapes had shifted as relationships formed and broke and networks evolved. People left jobs, moved into new jobs, moved away, moved in. Some people remembered me, others had no idea who I was, and it was disorienting and unsettling to go back because in my mind I hadn’t ever left. But I had.

I also realized how much of my connections to Latino families in the Valley were contingent on my work, and they weren’t, actually, my friends. One boss I had used to introduce me as “a member of the Latino community” in our city, and even then I had always felt a little embarrassed and disingenuous hearing this description, because even though I identify as Latina, I’m really what Ian Haney-Lopez calls “situationally” Latina. I can “pass” as vaguely ethnic but completely assimilated, and it may be that it is only in this profound longing to hear Spanish spoken and to see a certain style of home décor and to be served a can of cold Pepsi with a napkin wrapped around it that I am in any sense Latina. And can this kind of Latinidad reserve for me a space in “the Latino community” (as if there were only one, monolithic and united), if I don’t actually have any Latino friends (other than a few bilingual professionals with dark skin and Spanish surnames)?

+++

How much of my fixation on this question of belonging comes from my own unsettledness, my own quest for belonging, my peripatetic life, my ability to “bond” with a place very quickly, at least on a superficial level, but in the long run not to be able to put down deep roots anywhere?

+++

And these questions bring me to another topic I’ve been musing about, on friendship; but that, my internet friends, is for another post.

birthday

July 7, 2011

Tomorrow is Oscar’s first birthday. It’s also our babysitter’s birthday, and the birthday of a good friend from grad school, so a good day all around. I’m going to bake a carrot cake for him and have the babysitter and her family over for supper. I think I might get her a small gift too although I’m not sure what. Maybe a simple necklace, or a plant (she loves plants). I may not have time to post tomorrow but I wanted to mark the day even though I don’t have anything really deep to say at the moment.

Just that I am so deeply thankful for this little boy, with his chubby thighs and gap-toothed smile and dimple in his right cheek. LOVE him!

Coffee

July 4, 2011

So I’m trying to figure out how you add tabs to the top of a wordpress blog. Anybody know? I go to Dashboard and I’m totally lost.

***

I updated my blog roll; if you’re a regular reader/lurker and want to be added, let me know!

***

About a month ago, my husband had a ten-day work trip in another city about 3.5 hours away by bus (although of course he went with his co-workers in the NGO vehicle). I took the kids to join him for a few days over the weekend, which he had off, so that we wouldn’t be apart for so long.

This is a beautiful country, and as we made our way through farm-land like this, I thought “I could love this place – but I hate Gimli’s job.”

It was a low point for me in the trajectory of adjusting to a new culture, new country, new social landscape; I’ve been struggling to come to terms with the shift in my sense of self, in our roles in the home, in our relationship, since we came here. I hate that he’s gone so much – barely home in time to see Oz before bedtime in the evenings, frequent work trips (although we have a summer respite – the next one’s not til November! Yay!) – and, let’s admit it I’m jealous.

Saturday morning at the hotel, once the kids were up and dressed and had eaten breakfast, we went back up to our suite overlooking the Adriatic (I know! I am so spoiled, I don’t know what I’m complaining about!) and Gimli looked down where we could see the veranda, sort of an outdoor cafe/restaurant where we took all our meals. His coworkers were all there, just beginning to straggle in for their morning coffee, talking over the previous week’s work and making plans for the weekend. He looked exactly like a dog does when it wants to go outside, the ears half-cocked, the tail down, the sort of restlessness and gaze of fixed longing, so when he asked if I was ok staying with the kids while he went down to check in with the crew, I said of course. And I saw how eagerly and quickly he grabbed his shoes and room key and then I saw him outside as he walked out to the veranda and sat down, and I saw how relaxed and happy he was with his macchiato, leaning back in his chair with an amused smile on his face some minutes later, and I just felt enraged.

Yes, I love my husband, and yes I’m glad he’s in a job that he likes fairly well (and is much, much less stressful than his job at the university back home) and I’m glad he can enjoy conviviality with his coworkers.

But I have none of that in my life right now.

Yes, I love my children, and I’m glad beyond measure to have them, to be able to play with them and teach them and enjoy them.

But it would be nice sometime to be able to talk “shop” with a real, live person once in a while – or, even better, to sit in a small group with a lively discussion going on, to feel like part of an intellectual or professional community, where I wasn’t responsible for the nutrition, health, safety, general welfare, and head-to-toe hygiene of every other person in the room.

***

I’m in a much better place right now than I was during that trip (really only a month ago? It feels much longer), and I don’t actively hate Gimli’s job at the moment. I’ve been doing better at working through some of my dissertation material in the past couple of weeks and that helps a lot. I think I still have a lot to process though about our new reality and how it has changed our family dynamic and how I feel about it all. So this is just another little piece of that mosaic.