Tuesday, February 26, 2008

sitting on the back porch in afternoon

I'm reading in the shade while my clothes, the ones I just worked over an hour to wash by hand, bake in the sun. (So it must be that our house faces east.) The back yard is more of a gulley of dust, rocks, and roosters than a yard. And there are enough banana trees, with their hearts hanging out, to wrap a clothesline around so that it zig-zags once, twice, three times toward the place where we throw our biodegradable trash.

A wind just came through, gusting across the tops of the banana trees, and I worried about my laundry that I can't see. It's blocked by the white wall of the porch, with its garlic growing in cut-off bottoms of plastic pop bottles. But I can see through the break in the wall, where the steps are, that my skirt didn't even flinch at the wind.

As I watch it dry faster than I've ever seen clothes dry in the sun, I remember "helping" Nana when I was a kid, putting out the laundry and gathering it back up again. I didn't know then that it meant she was -- we were -- poor. We might have been saving electricity, but it wasn't to save the environment. No, there was nothing green about us, especially not the insides of our pockets. Green. I guess I was. I just liked running through the damp, billowing sheets, like they were the walls of a palace labyrinth. So we were as rich as I thought we were, as happy and as high as these bananas and mangoes that won't be ready to be picked for another few weeks.

02/23/08, 3 pm

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

This is just to say

I'm in Honduras.

The people are beautiful.

I start teaching English next week.

I don't know how often I will be able to update.

Email is more personal.

I hope everyone is well.

I am.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

How much stuff does it take to make a gringa feel safe?

Apparently, a lot. I mean, I know I have a stuff problem. I know I'm taking too much with me, but after several rounds of elimination, I can't pare it down any more. Something tells me this needing stuff thing is going to change soon. I hope so anyway.

If I'm lucky, three hours of sleep, and then I'm off.

Friday, February 15, 2008

thawed out

Yesterday was our third day without power. Ice dragged down trees and power lines while we slept on Monday night so that, on Tuesday, we woke up without lights or, more importantly, heat. We all complained about it. Oh, the inconvenience, the cold, the unwashed hair.

Several people joked with me that it would be good practice for Honduras, which has frequent power outages.

During the day, we took refuge in the houses of family members with power (ie, hot water, American Idol) or at the Poole Restaurant, whose owners seemd not to mind that we used their electrical outlets to charge our cell phones. But at night, we would come home, light the kerosene heater upstairs to keep the pipes from freezing, and crawl under the covers in the basement, where the temperature remained, due to some fact of geothermal science, a steady 55 degrees.

At about 5:45 yesterday morning, Mom's shuffling around to get ready for work for the first time in a few days woke me up, and I had to pee. I went upstairs, where I had to bypass the kerosene heater on the way to the bathroom. On my way back, I couldn't convince myself to go back downstairs when I could stay by the heater. While I hovered around the heat, I noticed the sky getting pink around the edges of the fields. The sun was going to be up soon.

Instead of going back to bed like I would have done if the whole house had been warm and cozy, I stayed up and watched the sunrise. Everyone knows the sunrise is beautiful, magical, something almost miraculous that, when you actually see it, you can't believe it happens every day. So my description would be superfluous.

At 1:17 yesterday afternoon, the power came back on. I was sitting upstairs beside the heater with two layers of clothes on and reading the newspaper. I was quite comfortable, so the lights popping on, which I hardly noticed because the natural light was sufficient, was sort of anticlimactic. Needless to say, we were grateful, though. I wasted no time to get in the shower once the hot water heater recovered.

However, I have to admit that I was also a teensy bit grateful for the power being out. It was humbling because it reminded me of how incredibly spoiled I am. Though unpleasant, a gently wake-up call is much appreciated. And it got me just uncomfortable enough to get up to see the sun rise over the snow-covered fields and the ice-coated trees. How could I be upset about that?

Sunday, February 10, 2008

And then there was one.

One week, like the Barenaked Ladies' song.

I've spent most of this past one trying not to be sick. I've almost succeeded. In the relaxation part of my self-medication, I have seen quite a few movies. I've watched Benny & Joon on Encore more times than I could count. So many times, in fact, that I even started writing a blog entry about how, even though I don't call myself a rabid Johnny Depp fan, I think he's a fantastic actor. Thank goodness I came to my senses and didn't publish that one. I blame it on all the honey intake.

Some of you might be relieved to learn that I have finally watched Sliding Doors. I had heard enough about the theory to have the movie figured out, but it was worth watching. But as I was watching it today, I was reminded of something I realized last night.

Now, I am certain this is unoriginal. It might even be obvious. I don't think, though, that it had ever actually occurred to me. Last night, something clicked in my brain about why we love Story -- and by Story, I mean books, movies, sitcoms, whatever. At least in a traditional sense, a story is complete. It has a beginning, a middle, and an end. Of course, it might begin in media res and the resolution might insinuate a future, but by necessity of its medium, a story is going to finish (in 312 pages, in two hours, in thirty minutes). And here's the kicker: as a reader/viewer, we get to experience that. We get to behold something complete, something whole. And that's more than any of us can ask for in real life.

I think the same reason we love Story is the same reason I find romantic movies completely frustrating: the illusion of the Big Picture. (This is where I know I'm not saying anything new here.) When we watch a movie, we see the whole plot, and in many instance, we know more than the protagonist does about his or her story. Also, because we're watching a movie, we even have a sense of a coming resolution because we know it's supposed to end in twenty five minutes. The character doesn't have that luxury. What I'm hitting at here is omniscience.

In "real life" (I dislike that term), we don't have omniscience. We can only see as far as we are, and we don't even perceive that very well. Story, though, lets us be omniscient for a little while. We at least are allowed to have faith that everything will turn out okay. In our own actual experience, it's not that easy.

As an occupational hazard of living a life, we don't actually get to see it in its entirety until, well, the end. And who knows if we will ever have the opportunity for ultimate hindsight, some posthumous Big Picture feature presentation? At that point, I guess it doesn't matter anymore.

The point, I suppose, is that Story is almost like glimpsing the Eternal. (Not always, I realize. Otherwise, there sure would be a lot of crappy eternity out there.) So stories are frustrating because we can never immediately liken our own lives to them. Time doesn't allow us that. But neat little plots are maybe smudgy reflections of reality. They give us hope of wholeness, of everything working out for the good. We can see that perfection in the stories that we read and watch, and for a moment, we know that our story is like that, too, even if we can't yet see it.

For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. (1 Corinthians 13:12)

Monday, February 04, 2008

Getting it all together.

It's now less than two weeks before I go to Honduras. I am, of course, making a last minute scramble to collect all the things I need for the trip. Here are the highlights of my collection thus far:

  • Plane tickets
  • Malaria pills
  • Hand-crank flashlight
  • Craft supplies
  • Chest-tightening cough

One of these things is not like the others. One of these things just doesn't belong.

Of course, I have quite a few more things to get a hold of. And a few to get rid of, too.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

groundhog day

It's five minutes to six when we drop onto the lower road, when the hairpin turns us toward the sun that we couldn't see before and can't see now. At dusk, the world is instead lit by an unseen source that has turned it all to black and white -- all but the yellow stripes that slide alongside the car, pulling us home. Everything else has gone grayscale between the chalk sky and the charcoal trees. (The three houses visible from this spot in the road were meant to be white; I can see that now.) By the time we reach the crossroads, the light will have changed again. I will, for just a second, put my hand between my eyes and the windshield, and I will, for just a second, be surprised to find that it's only a silhouette.