Friday, May 29, 2009

2 days and counting: yipes....

The day after tomorrow is take off. Today was my last day of school. We had popsicles and a party just for me going away. I guess a lot of people are going to miss me. I had a grape popsicle. They were the kind with two sticks. You know the kind that you pull both sticks and that one popsicle you had is now two. That's the kind we had today. They were from the drug store. They were actually really good. They didn't taste like cough medicine. It would be really weird if they did. 

Right now I'm watching T.V. in my basement because the T.V. in the living room wasn't cooperating. The picture kept disappearing during really important parts of the show. (Even though I'd only saw the first couple minutes). Right now I'm watching Avatar (awesome show that I fell in love with it, then fell out of love with it, then back in. Weird I now,) with little blurbs telling you about the show. Like audio commentary without the talking, and a lot of words. Anyway, up next is Iron Man: Armored Adventures. I didn't like the movie Iron Man. It was way to violent. Also, the people next to me talked a lot. The dude next to the woman I was sitting next to were having a conversation. The dude's voice was very low and loud. He was disturbing me while I was trying to sleep.  That was very rude. 

I feel very scared right now. I'm all packed, which is good. But right now I wish I could take a mental vacation. Deep breaths, Lizzie, Deep breaths.  AHHHH!

Lizzie >_<


Day after Tomorrow

I think Lizzie got the better trip haircut.

You be the judge:

It's layerriffic but makes me vaguely irritated. Like I want to jump into the shower and start over again. But then I'd come out wet and the same silly person I was when I got in.

Our email server at school went down on Saturday and I haven't been able to get into my personal folders, where I stored all the emails specific to the Philippines. So I could never make the master list of "things to take" -- that means that Lizzie and I will get on the plane early on Sunday morning and there's a 5% chance that we'll be forgetting to take something with us that we'll need. (I posted this and then noticed that I'd already written about this technology nightmare in the last entry. See? I can't remember what I've said from one post to the next. This means the brain is FULL. Or the attention is short.)

What's an adventure without uncertainty? Is it even an adventure?

Nana Peterson has asked us to take lots of lots of photos while we're over there, and you can bet that we'll comply. KC asked me to give a slide show when we get back. "I don't know," I said, "I loved my grandmother dearly but she gave slide shows of her trips and I remember wanting to kill myself during them." So while I can't promise a slide show, I can promise some sort of to-do when we get back, maybe a Day of the Dead blow out.

KC just returned from Canada. It took her 24 hours longer to get home than she'd anticipated because of travel snafus. I'm crossing my fingers and toes that this luck is not universal. Lizzie and I will leave early on Sunday morning, May 31, and should arrive in the Philippines at 10:30 PM on Monday, June 1. That's barring any Bermuda triangle action.

Starting tomorrow, I am going to pretend to be Ms. Calm and Collected. Maybe seeming will become being.

(Concluding question: Can one be Calm and Collected whilst wearing the dreaded travel fanny pack?)

Monday, May 25, 2009

I Agree with Lizzie

I'm really scared about the trip now. I got it into my head last night that if I made a master list of all the stuff we'd need to take with us (the important documents we'll need to get the visa, and the application materials for Lizzie's school), I'd have something of a handle on it and that clenched fist feeling in my stomach would unclench for a bit.

I've saved all the emails with the lists of things we'll need on them in a special folder. But wouldn't you know it? There's a "significant problem" on the server at school that holds the email program--so email's been down since Saturday. Now it's Monday and I feel like a floundering woman in deep sea water, cut off from those lists, unable to get control of her life.

This panic is ridiculous. I know that. But knowing and feeling are two different things.

I could try to reconstruct the lists from memory (I've done that, anyway) but the problem is that I don't trust my memory. All this trip preparation, this anxiety, has fuddled me up. I made dinner on Saturday. In the process, I opened a can. Twenty minutes later, I needed to open another but couldn't find the opener. I looked in every single drawer and cupboard, cursing myself for the lapse in attention. I called Dave in on the case, a pair of fresh eyes. Finally, I opened the drawer under the telephone, the one where we throw the checkbook and ledger, pens, bits of paper, receipts. And there it was, of course--the last possible place it could have been.

I feel like one of those painfully pathetic women wandering the streets, wringing their hands, going "uh uh uh" as they roll their eyes skyward, expecting it to fall on them momentarily.

In the meantime, we keep having parties with our friends, eating and drinking together, taking scads of pictures to commemorate the occasions, reassuring ourselves that this is not good-bye, we have plenty of time together, and anyway, it's not like we're not going to see each other again soon for another Sunday night dinner, or at church, or walking down the hallways at school. All this anxiety and hilarity--we're riding a pendulum, speeding from fear to exhilaration and back again in minutes.

This, too, shall pass. In a week, we'll be in Manila, breathing a different kind of air, faced with a new set of challenges, joys, and puzzlements. For all I know, we won't have regular or reliable access to the internet, and email outages will have to be handled with smiling aplomb, the sort of "go with the flow" shoulder shrugs we needed to perfect, years and years ago, when we lived in Mexico and the power went out regularly, right in the middle of our favorite soap opera.

6 days and counting: EEP!

I leave on Sunday. Thats scary. 

Scarier than being swallowed by a tiger. That scary. People have been asking me about the trip. That just makes me even more nervous. I don't know if I can sit on a plane for like 16 hours, from Chicago to Tokyo. That will definitely kill me. But I'm going to try to get Pokemon Platinum. That will really help with the trip. Really help. And my mama-san said she'd get Juno and Napoleon Dynamite for her iPod touch to help. Hopefully, the plane will have those seat back personal t.v. movie things. 

I really can't wait to go but I don't know if I'm ready to go. Lets just say I am and then maybe I'll start believing that my self. I don't know what to pack and whether or not I have enough to pack. And I have to get up early. Lots of work. Lots of work....  

Friday, May 22, 2009

Writer in Progress or Jr. Photographer?

Hmmm. Am I a writer in progress or a Jr. Photographer? Am I what what my mom said, or what?
Because according to the picture to the left, I did a pretty good job capturing Willow's true essence. 

Well, its STILL 9 days 'til take off. AHH!!!! I'm not ready. There's a Japanese restaurant across the street from our apartment, but we can't cross the street to get there because its way to dangerous. The Philippines doesn't call the fridge the fridge. They call the fridge the ref, and the bathroom the CR or Comfort Room. I need to learn the slang. 'Til then my friend! Bye Bye!

Lizzie =3 

The Author at Work

Don't you just love Lizzie's first official blog entry?

Here's photographic documentation (so you don't think I've invented her character):

Actually, she's at her computer, typing away, in this picture. But you can't quite see that. I don't know why. Maybe I came in too close to take it.

But that's her new hair do, and everything.

What did I do to prepare for the trip today? I went to campus and got the books I need to teach my classes at the University of the Philippines. I'll be teaching Fiction Writing and an American Literature Survey (1900-present). I've got the books in my briefcase now, ready to go. I also got a few lanyards with St. Norbert on them, and some St. Norbert pens, for the pasalubong tradition (giving gifts to people who matter). I just googled the custom and found out that I needed to get "fine" pens for the gift giving. Ugh. I don't think that the 1.00 models I found will be good enough.

Here's how I feel:

9 days and counting: AHH!!

Guess what.    Gotta haircut. 

But its nine days 'til take off. That means I'll miss 11 days of school, I think they're just putting us people in a cramped room with like 22 other people on a really nice day just to torture us. Yeah, I guess you could say I'm lucky. I thought that too 'til I found out I was only getting like 2 weeks of summer vacation while my friends and are getting almost 3 months of summer vacation. It's not fair!! But I guess I'm still lucky because most 12 year olds I know aren't going half way around the world for 5 months anytime soon. Yeah... ok so I guess I'm lucky.

Still, only 2 weeks of vacation everyone else gets 13 more weeks of summer vacation than me! I have to wear a uniform at my school. A uniform! It probably means that I can't wear my bracelets and that will slowly and painfully be killed bit by bit each day. 'Til I slowly wither away and I'm just an empty shell of me. It'll be so sad.

My haircut is cute. I really like it. But I really hacked it off. At least 2 inches came off. And to top it all off, Greg (my hairdresser) dropped the cut part like right in front of my face. My mom thought that I was going to freak out and that I wasn't ready for the change, but it was really SHE was the one who wasn't ready for the change. But I guess parents just have to get ready for changes. Even if they are REALLY big. Like me getting my hair whacked off. See ya!

Lizzie ^.^ 

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

18 days and counting: Phew

The other day, I got an email from the woman who runs the exchange program on the UP end. She tells me that, indeed, despite the late hour of our arrival in Manila, a man named Norberto (who goes by BoBot) will meet us with a sign. We should wait for him in the airport lobby if we don't find him right away. He'll take us to our apartment, where they will be alerted to our arrival.

Phew. It's nice to know that they are prepared for our arrival. The next day, she writes me, I should try to show up in their offices, where they will get the paperwork going for our visas. In order to get those visas, we need 10 passport sized photos each (10? what are they going to do with that many? I picture a strange trading game, like Pokemon cards), Lizzie's birth certificate, and 9,000 pesos, which I figured out is about 180 dollars.

I better make a master list of all the things we'll need while we're there. We'll need all those photographs, and the birth certificate, and Lizzie's baptismal certificate (for the Catholic girls' school), and all kinds of cash for those fees, and towels, and comfy shoes, and Deet anti-mosquito spray, and tampons (I read somewhere that they're not the rage in the PI), and light clothing that's not shorts (because shorts are off the acceptable list; when I lived in Mexico City, a clueless tourist always stood out in his or her shorts, and I don't want to look like the clueless tourist that of course I am), and little gifts for the support staff...

Whenever I try to wrap my mind around this list I get dizzy. And disgruntled. (Are there people who are gruntled? Where can I find them?)

"You'll do okay in the Philippines," Cynch said on Monday, as we left dinner at Little Tokyo and headed out into the cool, clear evening. "You've got the right attitude. Take it as it comes. Go with the flow."

Inside, I'm a roiling mess of anxiety. My hamsters are running at 100 mph on their creaky wheels, spinning my eyeballs in their sockets. On the outside, I pretend to be a go with the flow cool customer, ready for action, hot for adventure.

"So," I asked Lizzie, driving back from her pre-trip visit to the orthdontist (looks like braces when we get back), "how do you feel about going to the Philippines today?" I thought I'd caught a look of momentary and complete panic on her face when the orthodontist said something about the fun of the long trip to the Philippines.

"Excited?" she said, after a beat.

We know the right answers. It's living them that may be a challenge.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Countdown: 21 days til liftoff

It's Mother's Day and we're lazing around the house after a delicious pancake and waffle and French (Freedom) toast breakfast at our local diner.

As YouTube agonizes over the uploading of a 1.45 minute video I made with my new camera, I begin the blog process for our trip, coming up with this name.

"Remember," Dave interrupts. "It has to be family friendly. If Lizzie's going to write on it."

Yeah. I remember.

With 3 weeks to go until we head halfway around the world, I'm a bundle of nerves and excitement. Put the emphasis on nerves, though.

"Are you ready?" Everyone wants to know.

No, I'm not ready. I'm not sure I'll have all the proper documentation. I'm a little freaked out by the lack of communication with my counterparts at the University of the Philippines. So far, this how it plays out: I send them emails asking questions about the two classes I'll be teaching and they don't send any emails back; I send Lizzie's potential school an email asking for a little clarification regarding the documentation we need to bring with us and they send no emails back; I email the woman running the exchange program to tell her when we'll be arriving and to ask about our pick up (at midnight on June 2) after over 18 hours of travel and I get no emails back.

I'm a little freaked out by some of the remarks Cynch, the exchange professor from the U of the Philippines who's finishing a semester at my college this week, has made in passing. "There's a great Japanese restaurant across the street from where you'll be staying. But you won't be able to cross the street. It's too dangerous." And "Oh? You like the beach. Well, let's see if we can get you there without getting you kidnapped."

I'm a little freaked out by the knowledge that I'll have to let go of some of my overpreparedness (I'm the kind of professor who likes to plan out her course schedule by the minute ahead of time); the students won't have books, I'm told.

Yesterday, Lizzie complained when I told her she had to take a shower before she went out for dinner with a friend and his family. "It's nice to look good," I said. "And with that flu running around the world, personal hygiene is key. If one of us gets the flu," and there are two confirmed cases at my college already, "then we're grounded. We're not going to the Philippines."

I'm mostly freaked out by the size of the world, and the multiplicity of languages it speaks, and the potential for disconnection and miscommunication. I'm freaked out by the passage of time, and by our human fragility.