Feelings of a Girl

It was my first, long deployment, I was a newlywed and new dog-mom too.  We were stationed in Alaska and my assignment team basically gave me a choice on where I would go (very unusual)—the desert or Bosnia.  Hmm…Europe or the Sandbox, tough choice.  It was after 9-11 but before OPERATION IRAQI FREEDOM.  There were whispers of what was about to happen in Iraq but I didn’t really know for sure and I knew the Bosnia gig was a peacekeeping effort since the war that tore this land apart had come to an end and Milosivec was out of power.  So, I chose Bosnia for the next 6 months.

I had no intention of keeping a journal of this time but my friend, Jill, gave me one at my farewell and inspired me to do so.  I’m forever grateful to her for this since so much happened that I would have forgotten.  It’s interesting to climb back into the cobwebs of your mind and revisit yourself years later.  I’m sharing this journal and putting myself in front of you now.  This is a much younger version of myself (15 years ago) in years and life experience, I wonder how the future me will read the pages of today.

4 October 2002

“Friendship is the bread of the heart.”  Mitford

That quote was on the lovely card Jill presented me tonight, along with this cute journal.  These gifts were truly heartfelt—these friends are gifts to us.  Jill and Cary are wonderful people and I’m glad we met them.

As I packed today I worried about forgetting something, not cleaning the house enough before I go, not calling everyone I’m supposed to, all kinds of little things but I never, for a second, worried about my relationship with Shane.  What a comfort and joy!  Our relationship is blessed and I thank God constantly for this incredible blessing.  I hardly feel worthy of such a blessing but I promise to cherish my sweet husband forever in an effort to show my thanks for this man I’ve been entrusted with—he trusted me with his heart.

So, I’m sitting at the airport in Anchorage, I’ve said my good-byes.  I was “fine” until Shane and Zoe-dog dropped me off at the airport.  Then, the small lump in my throat suddenly grew from the size of a bouncy ball to an orange and I found myself swallowing hard and blinking wildly to avoid a breakdown. I walked up to the ticket counter—unable to look back as they drove away and nearly lost it.  The man at the counter was so nice and helped me but I couldn’t smile or joke with him…it was all I could do to keep from crying.

I went and bought some water and sat in front of the magazines for a while to get my mind off my sadness.  It helped—funny how looking at stupid fashion and tabloid magazines can get your mind off everything.  I found myself picking apart the models, the stars, the ugly, expensive dresses and feeling much better (an escape).  I’m glad I avoided the temptation to go into a bathroom stall and cry my eyes out.  The orange in my throat is down to a lemon now…baby steps, right?

Well, time to board.  I put Enya in the CD player, I have my pillow and eye mask in hand and it’s off to Atlanta.  St. Francis of Assisi is on my mind.


Fast Forward:  All these years later and I read this thinking about how much I always avoided crying.  I was taught (by my tough-guy dad) that it made you stronger to stay angry or stoney faced when your emotions wanted to take control.  Ask me someday how many teeth I have lost over grinding them instead of just having a good cry.  Too many.  Ask me how many pills I’ve taken to avoid my emotions…I’ll tell you that not only have I damaged my kidneys, liver and stomach by swallowing pills and vodka instead of my pride, I also had stomach surgery to stop the heartburn, I bleed internally from my colon to my gut and still can’t cry.  I’m a fucking robot now.  What we teach our children can hurt them.  Take care.

PS.  I think it’s hilarious that I compared the lump in my throat to a bouncy ball.  New dog-mom for sure!  🙂

Can You Take Me to Agra?

Selfie with young girl in Delhi Station

Another rookie move, I thought I was “so hip” ordering an “Uber” driver to my Delhi hotel.  I gave the concierge a confident smile as I walked passed him with my luggage as he asked if I needed him to arrange transport today, “No, I have arranged my own transport, thank you.”

“Namaste, will you drive me to Agra?” I say to my punctual Uber driver. “Where? AGRA?!” he laughs…”too far, not uber!” “Oh, how about the train station?” “which one?” “Um, crap, any station that has a train going to Agra?” “You don’t have ticket?” “Um, no” “ok, get in.”

So, my kind driver took me to what I’ll call the main train station in Delhi and told me what to do, “ignore everyone who offers you a ride and ONLY speak with the ‘nice’ people who are at the ticket counter.” He was right; they were nice and treated me with such kindness. When they saw me standing in line, a man pulled me out of the long line and brought me into the office (where the employees sit) and told me exactly what time to wait in line for a seat on a train going to Agra. So, now I wait around, to wait again in line, to buy a ticket, to wait for a train…seriously? I’m just happy to have a plan.

Did I mention that on the way to the station I saw goats, cows,  monkeys and wild pigs on the side of the road? This is crazy, too bad my kid will never believe me since I, once again; don’t have photographic proof of my animal sightings!

I’m trying to look inconspicuous, like a well-traveled person would look—very purposeful yet casual–as I melt in million degree heat in a crowded, smelly station. I’m starting to think that I must be extraordinarily beautiful because everyone stares and points at me…yeah, that must be it. The sweat is literally running down my legs and back, its toasty here. I look at my phone again, only 40 more minutes before I can wait again, awesome.

I finally have my ticket and now I have to wait another 2 hours for my train. I figured out exactly where to go, I got some water and now I found a place to stand. Oh great, now I have to go to the bathroom, well, it had to happen, my first stop in a public toilet. I held it as long as possible…there’s no more holding back. I’ve traveled all over Europe, pee’d over holes in Bosnia, France and plenty of times in the woods, why am I anxious about this? Just go! I walk into the women’s toilet and the pungent odor hits my senses. I can’t accurately or properly articulate the rank smell but it’s enough to say that even after I wrapped my scarf around my entire head, I began to dry heave…

Back to the waiting…as I stood near the ‘women and children room’ (didn’t enter because, quite frankly, it was hot as hell and the air wasn’t moving in that space), several young women asked to take a selfie with me. I’m starting to wonder if I’m plastered all over India Facebook by now…and people are probably wondering, “who is this American?” I insisted on taking several of my own selfies with each person who took my photo—you can see a few favorites here. I must admit, I had a blast and it was a nice change from the toilet funk and the boredom of waiting. Finally, my train is here, off to Agra!

Selfie with Woman in Delhi Station

India Trip — On the way

My eyes are burning and my mind longs for sleep–rest, actually just rest.  We’ve been going non-stop for over a month now…maybe longer.  I’m pretty sure I could sleep for 2 days straight.  The move is hectic and confusing (our standard shit) and I have hardly enjoyed finishing my degree after years of hard work and months of stress…now India.  Now time to slow down now, my flight leaves tomorrow.

Amsterdam is a great place for a layover.  The Dutch are so perfectly chill, the airport is clean, not crowded and the coffee is stout.  Perfect.  I have a comfortable 2 hour layover, just the perfect amount of time to find my gate and window shop.  Tulips and wooden shoes–what’s not to love?

I watched a documentary about the mysterious photographer Vivian Maier on the way to Amsterdam.  Very interesting but I almost wished I hadn’t learned about what an asshole she was to everyone.  Too bad she wasn’t just a reclusive talent…instead of an abusive nanny.  Her work is still spectacular and it made me long for a camera like hers (Rollieflex) so could more discreetly capture street scenes since you don’t have hold the camera up to your face.  If I had that camera now, I’d photograph the woman across from me now.  Her flesh colored socks are wedged between her toes in her black and gold flip flops.  It looks uncomfortable.  I’d also shoot the little boy wearing gold bracelets who is squirming in his mothers arms.  Just like all moms, she is trying to keep her crying baby happy with a variety of snacks–he is holding a small pretzel now.  Then, I’d love to capture the gorgeous, little girl, happily sitting on her mom’s lap.  She has huge chocolate eyes and the whites look extra white next to her caramel colored skin.  She is beautiful and reminds me of a tiny version of a good friend (which makes me like her more).  The woman with the flip flops just removed her shoes but the wedge remains…this makes me smile.

I hope I am able to capture everything I want on this trip to India.  It will mean getting out of my comfort zone a bit but that’s the whole purpose of this trip–to jump into a new career.  To be free and happy…to follow a desire and make it happen.