Lent FAIL the First

March 5th, 2017

So I’m using Lent as an excuse to jettison some bad habits and jump-start some good ones, and thus far it’s mostly gone well: I’m off Facebook and I’m back on the fitness plan I started in October 2015 (which included going for a four-mile run yesterday when it was 21°F outside with 25 mph winds). But astute observers may have noticed… well… that I didn’t post anything yesterday.

I don’t have a good excuse. The day wasn’t particularly busy, though warming up after the run did take a good while. I didn’t really do much else, including six of the other 11 items on my “Things I Really Should Do Today (But Probably Won’t)” list. I did make soup, and I did shoot whipped cream directly out of the can into my mouth, which is objectively the best way to eat canned whipped cream. (And yes, this shooting of whipped cream did comply with my fitness plan, because dammit I ran four miles in weather so cold my phone shut itself off, which is a thing that I didn’t even know could happen before yesterday.) I guess I was feeling intimidated, reasons for some of which feelings are in the immediately preceding post.*

So… yeah. This is a make-up post. I admit my failure, and am soldiering on.

For funsies: In case you want a visual representation of the effects of yesterday’s temperatures, here’s a shot of the gorgeous ice patterns I was treated to when I turned off the kitchen light last night.

Mr. J. Frost has taken a large bite out of my kitchen window.

*One other reason: The taste/skill gap. Though one could argue that I’ve been writing for so long, the gap should be closed by now. Sigh.

A lot of writing around the bush instead of just asking for support, FFS.

March 5th, 2017

Note: I don’t like the way my posts are shared on my Facebook wall, so I’m turning off that feature after this post.

Geez. This is hard, yo.

When I was writing before, lo these two and a half years ago, it was much easier to be earnest and open and vulnerable. I felt like I knew what I was writing about—and that my audience (both of you) would understand it. Or at least you would assume good intent. I’ve become much more guarded in some ways over the past two years or so; I feel even more strongly than before about certain things, but I struggle with how to express those strong feelings without alienating, well, most people.

The thing is, I’m kind of cranky a lot these days. Anger is one of the stages of grief, and I’ve been grieving over a major life upheaval for a while. And that was before the presidential election in November; I don’t know that I’ve felt “normal” since I woke up at 3:00 AM November 9 and read the horrific news on the BBC (I’d gone to bed at 9:30—not because I had any doubts about the outcome, but because I didn’t want to have to watch the incremental roll-in of the totals). Although I’ve been more politically active over the past few months than ever before in my life, I still feel frustrated and powerless*. And exhausted, and guilty for not doing more, and overwhelmed.

Add to that an ever-increasing awareness of social justice issues and the very real consequences these issues have on specific people I care about as well as the public at large. Black lives do matter; systemic discrimination does happen; gay people do love their partners and deserve to be able to marry them (and call it marriage!) every bit as much as straight people, and marriage equality is not going to cause the downfall of society. White privilege exists, climate change and evolution are real, the refugee vetting process is already extreme, and Muslims are no more likely to be terrorists than you are. People can have tattoos (I don’t, yet) and wear more than one pair of earrings and dye their hair rainbow colors and go to protests and swear a lot and still be genuinely good people. These are all things I believed—or professed to believe—before October 2014, but I always felt vaguely uneasy about them, because they didn’t fit the narrative I heard most frequently. There was a lot of cognitive dissonance. Now I believe them wholeheartedly, without reservation, and I feel frustrated and angry that the narrative I had tried to believe in with all my heart turned out to be untrue.

Which means that of the several stereotypes that now fit, the one that many people will choose to see if I write about what’s frequently on my mind is the bitter (or at best misguided/deceived) former Mormon. I know the mindset that will interpret my current life this way quite well, as it used to be my own. And how can I profess to be happier (OMG, immeasurably happier) outside the LDS church than in it if most of my posts are negative?

Well, I guess I’ll just have to try not to care what people think. (Wish me luck with that.) And hope that most of my Lenten posts won’t be negative; in reality, they probably won’t be, because they’ll be too short to say very much. And hope that posting these thoughts in a public place will help me get some of this frustration out of my system. And hope, as well, that readers will understand—or at least try to—why I feel the way I do, and that relationships will remain intact, though some may change.


*Before anyone says something truly idiotic like “Now you know how we felt for 8 years under Obama”: That is not a valid comparison. The way you felt under Obama is similar to the way we durn lib’ruls felt for 8 years under Bush, and the way you felt under Clinton, and the way we felt under Reagan/Bush I. P45—I seriously hate the look and sound of his name—is far, far removed from anything the country has experienced before, and is equal parts nauseating and terrifying.

To thee all angels cry aloud

March 3rd, 2017

I was six or seven the first time my heart thrilled to music. I was in the back of our yellow 1977 Toyota Corolla hatchback, laying down (and probably drawing in the fog on the back window, even though we weren’t supposed to do that because it damaged the defroster wires), listening to ABBA’s “Waterloo”—and the lead-in to the final chorus, with its swinging four-note descending scale, made me feel trembly in a way I hadn’t felt before. I didn’t know music could do that.

Of course, I’ve since had countless breathless musical moments, and a number of full-on tearful ones as well. (The tearful ones are quite inconvenient if I’m, like, singing.) One piece that never fails to move me is the “Tibi omnes” movement of the Hector Berlioz Te Deum. I sang it with the Cascadian Chorale and the Seattle Choral Company in 2000 or 2001. To be honest, I didn’t love it, or even like it, the first few times I listened to or sang it—the dynamic contrasts felt too dramatic, and the grand “pleni sunt coeli” choruses after each quiet “sanctus” seemed abrupt. But gradually that changed, and now it’s a hymn that I prefer to listen to with eyes closed, muscles tense because I want to hold on to every moment.

There’s so much to love here:

So much tension and release with each verse; so much emotion in the heart-breaking quiet moments and the heart-pounding triumphant, brass-undergirded climaxes (especially the massive one that starts at 7:50—swooooon).

Here’s an abbreviated version, with commentary that made me hear things I hadn’t realized before (and wonder how Berlioz thought of all of the subtle, and non-subtle, touches that make this so riveting):

Someday I hope to sing this again. Last year the Boston Symphony Orchestra and Tanglewood Festival Chorus performed it the day after my birthday, and I got to go to the working rehearsal two days before the performance. The chance to hear this colossal work live not once but twice, first in rehearsal and then in performance, by a fantastically talented group of musicians, and in Boston’s gorgeous Symphony Hall, was an extraordinary 40th birthday present. I’m pretty agnostic these days, but if there’s a God, I’m grateful to that deity for orchestrating (heh) such a wonderful experience.

Short, not unlike life itself

March 2nd, 2017

Today’s post will be short because Thursdays are busy for me.

A while back, I decided that life is just too short for cheap bread and cheap ice cream. Earlier this week, I realized that this list should also include paper products of all kinds—napkins, plates, writing paper, tissues. Because when you use thin, crappy paper products, not only is the experience of using them thoroughly unpleasant, but you have to use twice as many (even in the case of writing paper, since ink bleeds through to the other side). So really, THERE’S NO POINT.

A thought I had at work this afternoon: People who have to work in open offices should be provided with noise-canceling headphones free of charge. (When I communicated this thought to a friend of mine earlier today, it included many more capital letters and some well-placed profanity, as I was v. cranky.)

And something that delighted me: When I got home shortly after 10:00 PM, my 83-year-old landlord, who lives downstairs, was blasting “Waterloo” by ABBA.

Lent

March 1st, 2017

So… it’s been a while.

It’s hard to come back from such a long absence. I feel like I should write a long, explanatory post about why I haven’t written in two and a half years, and why I’m writing again, and what’s changed. But that’s a lot of things, and they’re complicated.

The short version about why I’m writing now is that I’m copying a friend of mine from a few years ago, who gave up not writing for Lent. As in, it’s much easier not to write than to write, so she gave up doing what was easy. One wouldn’t think this would have much to do with me, since Mormons don’t do Lent—but I no longer affiliate with Mormonism. (It’s interesting that my last post was during those excruciating final months when I was trying oh my God so desperately to fit myself into Mormonism, and failing, and going home in tears every week after the first hour of Sunday meetings.) I still sing with a choir at an Episcopal church, however, and Episcopalians do Lent, so I kind of started doing it a couple of years ago with friends. But lately I’m not particularly devout and I have no idea what I believe, so I’m not keeping Lent as an act of devotion or contrition. Mostly it’s just as good an excuse as any to start writing again. I’m also using it as an excuse to get the h*ll off Facebook for a while, because Facebook was sucking away my time and making me nuts, yo.

So, yeah. One post every day from now until Easter. Most of them will probably be short. A couple of them might even be interesting. I hope.

 

A seriously awesome surprise

July 20th, 2014

I have to share the wonderful talk that our high council speaker gave today. I walked into church feeling resigned to the usual three hours of indifferent meetings, wondering if the resolution I made yesterday to stay and be calm throughout services was going to be hard to implement. (Our last high council speaker talked about the dangers of “so-called intellectuals” and basically said teachers should just stick with the manuals instead of trying to make the gospel “complicated”; I remember staring ahead dully during his talk, feeling deflated, wishing I had the guts to just get up and leave.)

This speaker, though, was completely different. He said that when he was a bishop, he would tell members to draw a hypothetical circle that included Mormons, and then draw an X where they thought they would be. He said that almost all of them placed themselves outside the circle, citing a variety of reasons: they had part-member families or non-temple marriages, or they were single, or they struggled with the Word of Wisdom or pornography. But these and other things don’t keep us outside the church. We need to draw the circle of Mormonism bigger, he said—not just for the benefit of others, but for ourselves. We need to stop judging. He said that if Jephtha (who sacrificed his daughter because of a foolish oath that he’d made) can have hope for a place in heaven, so can the person sitting next to you.

He then talked about Christ’s ministry. He pointed out that Christ wasn’t a particularly good missionary; he only had 200-300 followers when he died, and he told people not to talk about the miracles he performed. He also didn’t follow the rules—we all know that he was frequently in trouble with leaders for doing things like healing on the Sabbath day. But he did live a Christian life: He spent time with outcasts and loved individuals regardless of their “righteousness.” The speaker said that we can know we’re a member of God’s church if we’re following this example of Christ.

The speaker concluded by reiterating that we need to draw a bigger circle for Mormonism—and that being a Christian is less about the church that lists our name on its records, and more about living a Christian life, accepting others and ourselves.

I was blown away. I talked to the high councilman for probably 10-15 minutes after Sacrament Meeting, thanking him for his thoughts. He told me that when he was called to be on the high council, he was very up-front with the stake presidency, telling them that he was willing to accept the calling, but they should know that he was going to be who he is. I’m so glad the stake presidency was fine with that.

I’m giving a talk in a few weeks (was originally going to speak today) and I’ve been planning to say many of the same things, but I’ve been nervous about it. I was afraid people were going to think I’m an apostate. Today’s meeting showed me that I don’t have to worry.

Reverse effectiveness

May 12th, 2014

So at work we moved to a different office about three months ago. Over those three months I’ve thought quite a bit about decorating my cubicle, since it’s, like, four stunted gray walls with the personality of, well, four stunted gray walls. About two months ago I briefly checked out ideas on Pinterest (and by “briefly” I mean “probably spent a total of 90 minutes over the course of a week,” because I get sucked into Facebook so terribly easily and thus was firmly on my guard against the seductive wiles of cute decor) and came up with a tentative plan that involved hanging up some fabric and pictures. Probably six weeks ago I bought some fabric. It took me another month to get around to selecting and ordering pictures. Finally, last Friday afternoon, I heroically summoned the remaining wherewithal necessary to actually, like, hang up the fabric and pictures. I was quite pleased with the result.

At about 9:45 this morning, I got an e-mail from the office manager: We’re reorganizing the office today. You’ll be moving to a different cubicle effective immediately, it said.

Apparently my hidden superpower is effecting transience by taking definitive steps toward permanence. What steps could I take toward encouraging Rush Limbaugh and his ilk to remain fixtures of the airwaves?

The Poison Ivy Chronicles

September 19th, 2013

Day 1: Exposure.

Saturday, August 31, 2013. I’m at a service project, helping clear some land of some green and leafy stuff. After about 15 minutes of helping, I see something that looks like it might be poison ivy. (Internal chant: Leaves of three–let it be!) I don’t seem to be itching, however, so I decide it must not be poison ivy. I help for about 15 more minutes before remembering (by a general creeping itchy sensation [note: this is not from the poison ivy]) that I’m, like, allergic to like, almost everything green and leafy. I decide to help with food prep instead.

 

Days 2-3: Blissful ignorance.

Sunday and Monday, September 1 and 2. La la la.

 

Day 4: Discovery.

Tuesday, September 3. Happen to be getting my allergy shots when my doctor spies a one-inch-wide itchy spot on my knee: Hey, that looks like poison ivy. She makes me wash the area with Tecnu. I think she’s overreacting; besides, even if it is poison ivy, how bad can it be? La la la.

 

Day 5: More blissful ignorance.

Wednesday, September 4. Hmm… Yeah, my knee is a little itchy, and it looks like I might have a couple of tiny spots on my arm as well. I send an e-mail to friends: Hey, look out, you might have poison ivy.

 

Day 6: Slightly less bliss, slightly less ignorance.

Thursday, September 5. The knee and arm are a bit itchy; I wear a long-sleeved shirt so the poison ivy won’t spread further. Receive e-mail from C_H–she’s covered with a nasty rash. Wow, C_H, that looks terrible. I’m glad mine isn’t bad like that. Decide to change sheets as a precaution (have to buy extra set); still only expecting a couple of small patches.

 

Day 7: Less and less bliss. Growing realization. Slight apprehension.

Friday, September 6. Small patch on left knee now covers entire knee and has spread to other knee. Realize wearing long-sleeved shirt yesterday was a very bad idea, as rash has spread from upper arm to forearm and is getting very very itchy. Cover rash with 3-inch band-aids. Still, expect all to be well very soon. Wash more sheets and all clothes.

 

Day 8: Ever-growing realization.

Saturday, September 7. This stuff is getting out of control. My upper left arm is an itchy mess (I cover it with bandages and tape); my left forearm is an itchy mess (I cover it with bandages); both my knees are bright pink and terrible, especially the left one. Weeping blisters on knee have begun to, like, weep. (UGH.) Swelling has commenced. Itching has become nearly unbearable. I visit C_H; we commiserate, shop for creams together, and bandage each other (mummy-style wrappings). We try scrubbing with oatmeal. Doesn’t really do much. I change bedclothes again.

 

Day 9: Terrible reality.

Sunday, September 8. Rash continues to spread. Weeping blisters are weeping. Both knees, entire left arm completely covered in angry pink with amber-colored weeping blisters. (Have I mentioned the weeping blisters? They’re weeping.) Itching is unbearable. Calamine does nothing; hydrocortisone is effective for a while. Have to wrap arm and knees before going to church. (At church, see recipient of service project. He is very very sorry. We discuss poison ivy avoidance strategies [too late]). Get lots of sympathy from cute boys. Maybe there’s an upside to this? I change the sheets and wash all my clothes again.

 

Day 10: ZOMFG. (Grandma, do not look up this acronym.) FREAKING ARMAGEDDON.

Monday, September 9. Furious hot pink fiery rash with weeping blisters (remember the weeping blisters?) covers entire arm and both knees and is creeping down both legs. I’ve begun a regimen that includes washing each affected area twice, rubbing with alcohol, adding Neosporin (to prevent infection), and finishing with giant blobs of hydrocortisone. Then comes the wrapping. Entire regimen takes about 30 minutes and an entire 4-yard roll of bandage. Manage to make it through work, then drive an hour (&^#$ Cambridge traffic) to see allergist. On the way, tear off knee bandages because itching is so COMPLETELY unbearable; weeping blisters weep all over pants. (Ugh.) At allergist, remove other bandages so she can see the horror that my skin has become. ZOMG. I told you it was poison ivy! Yes, thank you. She gives me a prescription for Prednisone but can’t re-wrap my arm and legs because the only gauze she has comes in 2-inch squares. Which means I have to drive back home, another hour, with blisters still weeping. Words cannot express how awful this is. On the way I have to stop and buy more creams and bandages. When I get home I don’t even go fill the prescription because once I’ve washed, anointed, and clothed the rash in the bandages of the holy dressings and have changed into more comfortable (and non-weeped-on) clothes I cannot bear to leave the house. Oh, and, of course, I have to change my sheets AGAIN. I post plaintive poison ivy complaint on Facebook. Replies are along the lines of “Oh, you’ll feel better soon.”

 

Day 11: More Armageddon.

Tuesday, September 10. I wake up at 5:30 AM and would gladly sell my soul for some topical morphine. I scratch and scratch and clean my skin and try to wrap myself up. I go to Target to fill my prescription and buy more bandages; Target doesn’t have enough Prednisone on hand to fill my prescription completely, so I’ll have to take what they have now and come back later. I buy every single 4-yard roll of bandages on the shelf. Pharmacist looks appropriately sympathetic. I wash, anoint, wrap, go to work. Everyone who didn’t ask about my mummified limbs yesterday asks today. Skin is still fiery pink and puffy. Weeping blisters are still weeping. Itching is still unbearable. Knees have swollen and look like elephant knees. I have many, many conversations about poison ivy; I admonish many, many people to find out everything they can about it BEFORE they have to learn by sad, miserable experience. Change sheets again; am SICK AND TIRED of changing the *&^%$ bedclothes.

 

Days 12-13: Still more Armageddon.

Wednesday and Thursday, September 11 and 12. One would think that the washing, anointing, and wrapping would be faster by now, but it still takes 30 minutes every time. (And it still has to happen several times each day.) Weeping blisters have mostly stopped weeping (progress!), but angry pink rash has paid a down payment on arm and legs and intends to stay until forcibly evicted. I think this is normal because I don’t know any better. Poison ivy can stick around for weeks, I read. The idea fills me with dread. People stare at me on the street. Because this is not enough misery, Prednisone is a powerful steroid and is making me eat like a massive truck driver (both massive person and driver of massive trucks). I down a half-pound steak and half a bag of Oreos in one sitting. WHAT IS HAPPENING TO ME?!?

 

Days 14-15: PLEASE MAKE IT STOP.

Friday and Saturday, September 13 and 14. Fiery rash is still so unbearably itchy that I come home on Friday and work from the couch, ice packs on both legs and left arm. Hydrocortisone is no longer working. Everything itches all the time. Skin of left arm and both knees is still bright pink and swollen. Rash has spread to right arm as well. Cannot get used to this hideous body I seem to be inhabiting. Saturday/night spent on the couch with ice packs. Both itch and duration of this trial are unbearable. I have literally scratched holes in my legs and arms.

 

Day 16: Level 5 meltdown.

Sunday, September 15. I go to church and sit through ward choir (an ordeal on the best of days) with ice packs on arm and legs. Rash is still angry pink and inflamed. I bring extra ice packs because I assume C_H is still suffering as well and I’m generous like that. I see C_H. … HER POISON IVY HAS HEALED.

Sobs. Hysterical sobs. Chest-heaving sobs. I-cannot-believe-this sobs. Body-wracking sobs. WHY-DO-YOU-THINK-I-CAN-HANDLE-THIS-GOD sobs. Kindly fatherly doctor happens to be sitting in front of me. This is the worst case of poison ivy I’ve seen in several years. (VALIDATION. This really IS awful; I’m entitled to be sobbing my guts out.) Have you tried Prednisone? Hydrocortisone? Yes and yes. Continue sobbing because what else can I do? You poor thing–you’ve been trying everything you can, and it’s just not working. On top of that, Prednisone really affects your emotions and doesn’t let you sleep. You must be so exhausted. Of course you’re having trouble coping. You really shouldn’t go to work tomorrow–you need to rest. Let me call some of my dermatologist friends. Also, let’s get you a blessing. I nod, shakily, tears still streaming. Someone understands. This is so hard. I have broken. Friends are patting me, stroking my back, expressing sympathy, trying to help. I express concern that I have no food at home (because I don’t–work caters lunch every day and has lots of free snacks so I mostly eat there); L?J the Earth-Confinèd Angel immediately starts arranging food deliveries for me. I have wonderful, wonderful friends.

So I get a blessing, and the doctor calls in two prescriptions for me. He gets an appointment for me with a dermatologist who is otherwise booked through March. (Bless him forever.) When I pick up the prescriptions, the pharmacist looks at me, looks at the prescriptions, looks back at me, and says, quote, “Oh, you poor thing.” (I’ve heard this a lot recently. That and “Holy &#^@! What happened to you?”) I pick up the prescriptions and immediately apply the Clobetasol and down four Atarax (the maximum I’m allowed). I also down two Benadryl. I slog through the work that I was going to do Monday morning because it has to be ready for a demo on Monday afternoon and go to bed.

 

Day 17: Coma  the First.

Monday, September 16. Thanks to the Benadryl I sleep until 2:00 PM. Thanks to the Clobetasol and the Atarax most of the itching is gone. So is a lot of the inflammation. My skin, instead of fiery hot pink, is now magenta and purple. Mostly quiet day. Wander around house, still a bit dazed.

 

Day 18: Back to work.

Tuesday, September 17. I go to work. I’m not as productive as usual but I’m there and I do manage to do a few things. Hooray for Clobetasol and Atarax!

 

Day 19: Coma the Second.

Wednesday, September 18. At 3:00 AM I wake up. The itching has returned so I stagger over to my desk and down three pills. Then I look at the bottle.

I’ve just taken three sedatives.

I normally take half of one of these sedatives when I need it to help me sleep.

F**K.

I have to be at the dermatologist’s office at 10:45 AM, for an appointment that I was incredibly lucky to get.

DOUBLEF**K.

At 10:00 I somehow manage to drag myself to the dermatologist. Walking to the T is heavy and slow and stumbling. I’m falling asleep on the T. I’m falling asleep in the waiting room. I’m falling asleep in the examination room. Two residents come in to look at me. WOW. The doctor comes in. This is a really bad case. To the residents: See those lines? See the coloring? Classic poison ivy. To me: Do you mind if I take pictures? Sigh–sure. I’d love for my freakishness to be featured in a textbook someday. We talk about why the Prednisone didn’t work, poison ivy sensitivity (one of the residents had a worse case than mine when she was a little kid [shudder]), drug interactions (I shouldn’t take my sedative and Atarax at the same time). I stagger home. A co-worker and friend texts me: I called the advice nurse about your overdose, and she thinks you should call 911. I decide this is way too much effort and anyway, it can’t possibly be that bad, but if she wants she can call me every couple of hours to make sure I’m still alive. Finally, I collapse into another coma, waking up at 6:30 PM. Feel groggy and drugged. Go back to bed relatively early.

 

Day 20: Relaxation.

Thursday, September 19. Drag self out of bed and to work. Still groggy and drugged from previous day’s OD. Make it through day. Spend two hours writing Poison Ivy Chronicles. Realize they’re not perfect and I really should go back and fix matters of style, perspective, et cetera. Cannot be bothered, because, dude, this experience has been freaking EXHAUSTING. Endless trips to pharmacies for prescriptions, creams, and bandages. Hours spent every day washing, anointing, and dressing arm and legs. Constant laundering and changing of sheets, comforter, clothes. Interminable itching and scratching. Steroids destroying sleep and making me eat twice as much as I normally do. Subsequent puffiness in addition to the rash-associated inflammation.

 

Seriously, this has been traumatic. Anytime anyone asks me about it I start talking way too much and too fast and go on for too long. I’ve written about it here more for my own records than anything else. Ugh. I’m really glad it seems to be mostly over–although I’ll still look like I have leprosy for a while, at least it doesn’t itch so badly–and that Clobetasol is such a wonder drug. I’m grateful for friendly fatherly doctors and dermatologists who squeeze me in and fantastically wonderful friends who prayed for me and helped me with my bandages and brought me food and comforted me. And for readers–all four of you. If that many even made it to the end of this.  🙂

[Catching up] Bermuda: Things that sucked

January 4th, 2013

So this is now almost four months overdue, but these two stories are worth telling. I think.

Thing That Sucked #1: The Henry VIII restaurant. As a once-and-future Anglophile, I’m attracted by the name, so we head over to this nice-looking restaurant. We decide to dine al fresco, so the host leads us to a table outside. Some tables have lanterns; ours doesn’t, which is kind of unhandy, but we peruse our options, holding our menus at odd angles to catch what light we can. A while after we order, someone brings us a lantern for our table.

Then, now that we can see, we wait for our food…

And we wait…

And we keep waiting…

After more than 45 minutes (!) the waiter returns, bearing plates. He sets my steak down in front of me. (YES! RED MEAT!) Famished because I was hungry before we arrived at the restaurant, and irritated that it’s taken almost a blessèd hour to get my food, but delighted at the prospect of RED MEAT!, I cut off a piece and take a bite…

And see something moving on my plate.

It’s a bug, about an inch long, wading through my gravy like he’s got nothing better to do.

So I flag down the waiter, with the expectation–not an unreasonable one, I think–that I’ll get a nice new plate of food, sans vermin, double-quick. However, this is not the United States. Here, the waiter explains that the restaurant is very busy, so they don’t have time to cook me another plate of food. (The restaurant is half-full at this time.) He also tells me that this happens sometimes, since we’re eating outside. I take a deep breath, then tell him I have eaten outside many times and this particular experience has NEVER before occurred. I ask him to kindly tell me, then, what he can do. He offers to take the food; he’ll just put it on a new plate. Problem solved!

Wait–WHAT?!?!?!?! (sanitized version)

Dumbstruck, thinking I must have misheard, I stare at the waiter. He takes my plate away while the bug continues lumbering through the sauce. I’m still dumbstruck when the waiter comes back, with the SAME FOOD, just on a new plate. I continue to sit and stare at it, still a bit confused. A couple of my companions are shifting uncomfortably; not wanting to be the psycho chick making a scene, I wonder if I’m being a picky tourist, making too big a deal of this.

And then I remember: THERE WAS A DAMN INSECT CRAWLING THROUGH MY FOOD.

Attempting to control what has become a breakneck slide toward Full Freak Out, I flag down the waiter again and tell him this is NOT OK. I can’t eat this. He asks me if I want anything else. I tell him no, I do not. He’s distressed, saying, “I can tell you’re not happy, and it’s my job to make you happy.”

(Too late, dude. That ship done sailed.)

Finally I agree to let him get me a cup of soup. I am still not happy. But at least the soup seems to be free of multi-leggèd wildlife–or if it isn’t, at least the multi-leggèd wildlife is dead and blends in well with the sausage.

Thing That Sucked #2. Scooter training. I was ill on Sunday, when my companions picked up scooters and completed the 30-minute pre-scooting training. Since I still wanted to drive a scooter, KME and I went to get me trained. I was totally looking forward to it. Scooting! More fun than biking, because you don’t have to, like, pedal, but you can still go fast and feel the breeze.

So the scooter rental attendant sat me down on what he specified was a less-powerful scooter and told me how to make it work. No problem, thinks I; I’m coordinated, I learn fast, I drive a stick shift, I got this. I turn on the scooter and start sputtering and jerking away. I’m not naturally good at it, which thing is embarrassing. and makes me feel self-conscious, which of course makes everything harder. Sputter, jerk, sputter, jerk.

After about 10 minutes (NOT the usual 30), the attendant stops me. “I think you just need to be a passenger today,” he says. I stare at him, once again dumbstruck, unable to process what he’s saying.

He continues, “Most people it takes maybe 30 minutes to learn to ride. You–well, I think you need at least two hours.”

?!?!?!?!

I didn’t even think about arguing with him–my brain doesn’t process surprises very well, but I did have the wherewithal to realize that begging wouldn’t make him change his mind and would only cause me to appear pathetic and/or petulant as well as incompetent. Stunned and humiliated, I climbed on the scooter behind KME, who of course didn’t know what to say but tried to be reassuring (ten thousand points to her), and we headed home.

The rest of the day turned out to be fantastic–see items 6-10 of the previous Bermuda post–so the trip was, all in all, a wonderful success.  And it was a great way to spend Labor Day weekend. I’ll just remember to bring my own food next time.

Guate 2: No hay problema

October 1st, 2012

There’s still so much to say about Guatemala—

about the dogs that roam the streets sin owners to clean up after them (one must watch one’s step) and then bark exuberantly with their friends all the blessèd night long;

the fireworks that one also hears at all hours (people like to wake their friends up at 5 AM on their birthdays by lighting a string of cuetes; I’m not sure what they’re doing with the ones that literally sound like cannons [I’m not exaggerating]);

my three adoptive families (love the people here!);

the service project wherein we’re making dolls (by hand, because who needs sewing machines that could get the job done in less than 10 minutes when one could spend several hours with a needle and thread?);

finding out the hard way that my jacket isn’t waterproof, so that I showed up unexpectedly on the doorstep of one of my adoptive families, wet and pitiful (they gave me herbal tea and loaned me some warm clothes, and we’ve had several good laughs about it);

my TOTAL brownie fail (I may have to turn in my American passport; there were difficulties with both the oven and the ingredients);

how I’m significantly taller than most people here, including the men, which thing is just bizarre (see below for my size relative to my siblings—I’m very much the runt in my family);

(See my little baby sister next to me?)

the hot water baths in a pueblito close to Quetzaltenango, where I was warm for the first time in a week and a half (this was before I realized that one can have hot water—as long as one is OK with no water pressure);

how I start classes at 8:00 every morning, which means I’ve been getting up at a reasonable hour, which thing is truly unSylvian;

traje, which makes everyone pretty (see below for evidence) (¡mira que bonitas somos!)—at least a quarter of the women I see wear it daily, and it may be closer to half; the colors and patterns of the traje show which area one is from, though I still don’t know any specifics;

(see how I’m a giant? Can you imagine my little baby sister next to my host mom?)

how my teacher lulls me into a false sense of security by talking slowly so I think I actually understand this language, but then I go out into the street;

the calling I received to be Sacrament Meeting pianist approximately 90 minutes after I first set foot in the church;

how there are no tree-lined streets, because the streets are paved and the houses are all joined together; one gets one’s dose of nature inside one’s residence;

the transportation, food, markets (I only thought Munch and Mingle was Introvert Hell because I hadn’t yet experienced the Mercado de Democracia), and this $&%# language (these will all be separate posts)—

and future posts will indeed be written. At present, I have a goal to find and ingest some street food, because I haven’t had any digestive problems thus far, for which reason a certain person called me a wuss. ACT, if I die, it’s completely your fault.