26 June 2011

**Mozart and Gonzo update-it's not cheery news. While in America waiting for my UK visa to be granted I tried to find Mozart and Gonzo. Their new people prefer not to share-when I asked for pictures they declined saying I needed to let go. I have lost contact with my mogs forever. I feel terrible, as though I abandoned two trusting companions, and I feel so badly that I wonder if I have the right to bring a new mog into my life. Paul wants to start searching the rescue facility, and I am holding back. Things change, I've found-what if I have to abandon yet another poor soul?

So I compartmentalize, I don't think of it. Until I see a ginger or a tuxie. Then I start to cry.

Back in the UK since the 18th of June, I'm watching world events unfold (gotta love cliches when they fit) with some apprehension missed in with the interest. Having friends all over the world will do that for you, and thanks primarily to the cyber world I have friends literally everywhere on the face of the planet. Not to mention the friends met through travel and assignments to 'divers foreign spaces'.

I've 'met' people from all corners of the globe since going online back in '04; through attending university online, through current events forums, through the cat's blog. Some I've met in person but most are still cyber-friends no less dear. So the increasingly frequent and higher magnitude of earthquakes and volcano eruptions have personal importance to me; the tsunamis, the tornadoes, the cyclones, hurricanes, and of course, the endless wars-I know people affected and sometimes open the inbox with hesitation.

I have a dear friend in New Zealand who has suffered terrible loss in the Christchurch earthquakes-her nephew was first listed as dead, then alive but missing in the hospital chaos, then finally and sadly found-dead in the rubble of his office. Now she is sitting at what is her mother's deathbed, and struggling with the ambiguity of loving someone who is dying with whom the lifelong relationship was fraught with the mother's 'eccentricities' as regards child-rearing. My friend told me about a month ago, when it looked as though her 92yo mother would last forever, that as a child she was afraid to be home alone with her mother because of the constant verbal (intense) and physical (relatively mild) abuse. The abusive nature of her mother continued into my friend's adulthood so naturally my friend is the only person in the family who took the job of designated family carer of the mother.

Last Thursday afternoon my friend's mum had a massive stroke and isn't expected to survive. Meanwhile aftershocks continue to jostle the inhabitants-imagine sitting in a hospital room at the deathbed of someone who made your life miserable and enduring constant earthquakes. It must feel like being trapped in a war zone.

I have friends who do volunteer work in Haiti-they too endure the war zone atmosphere. Friends in Africa-the same; friends in Latin America-the same; friends in Japan who are coping with what must be the ultimate triple whammy of the quake, the tsunami, and the nuclear horror unfolding at Fukushima.

Closer to the personal hearth, I was in Alabama about 150 miles south of Tuscaloosa when the tornadoes shredded the town and all points north. Neighbours in the southern AL town my son lives in parked pick-up trucks on the neighbourhood streets with signs saying "For Tuscaloosa", and we loaded those trucks as full as we could with things we knew from experience would be of the most value to the stricken. The trucks filled, would depart and simply drive north until they hit a neighbourhood in need.

One afternoon I was making an early supper for my grandson, he informed me daintily that he didn't care for the meal I was about to provide. I looked at him for a second, debating if it was time to remind him how very fortunate he was to have a meal at all, much less a choice. I decided it was and asked him if he had ever in his life gone to bed hungry.

Of course the answer was "No ma'am", and I got as far as "Well, there are children.." when he interrupted to say "...in China, I know, I know..."

So I sat him down, looked him straight in the eye, and said "No, 'Bas, there are children right here in this town who go to bed hungry every night, wake up hungry every morning, and are unsure if they will have anything to eat at all in any given day."

I told him there are children at his school who never ever have enough to eat, who are ALWAYS hungry-ALWAYS. Yeah, he ate everything on his plate, and yeah, he tried to figure out how to help those kids in his own town as he ate, and yeah, I felt pretty good about the whole 'raising my grandson's awareness factor' thing.

I made it out on the last Continental flight to go airborne before the United-Continental computer system crash. I almost didn't, but thanks to a very determined United-Continental gate agent, a place was found for me on a United flight into Newark with bare minutes to spare before my flight to the UK lifted off. My bags caught up with me the very next day, and yes, I have written Continental to tell them how very grateful I am to their team.

The flight across the Atlantic was made miserable by the airhead seated in front of me who insisted since her seat reclined and she'd paid for her ticket, she bloody well would recline into my lap for the entire seven hour flight. She further insisted on leaving her seat back reclined when she made the restroom trip, making it perilous to try making the same trip myself. Made worse when the landing cards were handed out, and it turned out the row ahead of mine (all of whom travelled with their seats reclined whether or not they were in those seats) were all Americans.

The Scots I sat next too murmured to themselves "Oh, right, that explains it" when the Ugly Americans raised their hands for landing cards. When I raised my hand for mine my row mates looked at me in shock, and I apologized for my ejit countrymen.

FFS, when flying economy, please DO NOT recline your seat unless the seat behind you is somehow miraculously unoccupied!

Things are going insane everywhere, be careful out there! While in America I walked softly and tried not to attract attention, lol, hard to do when I walked everywhere in an area where between heat, humidity, and social status, walking anywhere is considered stupid, eccentric, and dangerous. Can't tell you how many times I was swerved at as I negotiated neighbourhoods where strangers are not welcome.

While travelling home I kept a firm grip on my little rolling laptop bag and watched the TSA agents VERY closely-rumours abound but it is distinctly disconcerting to find there have been several convictions of TSA agents (including supervisors, in Newark) who helped themselves to valuables while the owners are separated from them in the security lines! I had about two hundred American dollars in my purse stuffed deeply into my carry-on, my laptop, my wristwatch, my passport and boarding passes-all manner of things stolen from carry-ons while riding the belt as the owners are being scanned and wanded and patted down. Apparently even carry-on food has been stolen by TSA agents, and I checked my bag carefully before leaving the security area to make sure everything was still there.

I foiled at least two attempts to steal my rolling bag (seriously!) when both would-be thieves dared to reach for my bag gripped firmly between my ankles and permanently fused to my right hand at the telescoping handle; I foiled at least three tries to pickpocket me by thieves using the distraction, and the bump methods. All this in the Atlanta airport, btw, and the would-be thieves were not people you would expect to be thieves. I've never travelled with such deep suspicions clouding the journey, it was upsetting, frankly.

But finally I was home, and with my husband:)

And now I feel guilty for having left my son behind. When I embarked on this newest expat career last summer, I hadn't had any contact with my son for over four years. Now I have got on a plane after spending four months getting to know my son again, and it was VERY hard to leave him! I feel torn-I love my husband, I love my son, and you know what, both have professed to needing me. I left Fox with paid up bills, a clean flat, clean clothes, organised budget, etc, but I still feel as though I should be closer to him, and to my grandson.

I came home to a clean-ish house, a garden ready to plant, and a husband who'd missed me so much he was sick with it and thought his cancer had returned. We went straightaway to his oncologist, had several tests and scans done, the upshot of which is that my husband should be getting back into shape instead of eating all the wrong things (if anything-apparently he didn't eat properly at all) and throwing himself into 18 mile bicycle rides and pulling out tree stumps! I looked at the doctor and said "Ah yes, weekend warrior syndrome!"

So we are on a steady exercise programme, and a proper diet again.

It's good to be home. Now, if I only felt confidant about Fox being OK, things would be as near perfect as things can be.

12 June 2011

Ah well, perhaps it's for the best. For the 32nd year in a row we've gone without a Triple Crown winner; Ruler on Ice beat the Derby and Preakness winners to win the third and final leg of this years Triple Crown of races.

I was so hoping-I tuned into the Preakness and was on my feet with the live crowd urging Animal Kingdom on, on, on...the disappointment was thick and I knew then I would leave the USA without seeing a Triple Crown winner.

I was tuned in that glorious early summer day 33 years ago when Affirmed thundered down the last stretch and won the Belmont Stakes-WOOHOO, a Triple Crown for the world to savour! I danced and shrieked and celebrated and my little daughter watched her mummy going deliriously, deliciously mad with American horse racing joy.

Every horse lover/rider/owner has that secret dream in us. Gelding, unbred mare, we still dream as we groom the glossy coat, check the hooves, parcel out the feed morning and night...we stand at the paddock watching our old nags and in our mind's eye see him or her decked out in Triple Crown glory. It's a beautiful dream no matter age of owner or horse, lol!

My visa has been granted and I am on my way back to Scotland to rejoin my beloved Paul-I leave early next week, and am, LOL, already packed to go.

My son, my grandson, and my husband have become acquainted via digital photos and emails, and vid chat-this modern age, how amazing it still is to me that a family is forged thanks to the Internet! But we are a family, and Grandpa is already rubbing his hands together at the thought of an architect in his newly acquired by marriage grandson

Dreams made possible by family ties-last night on an evening walk around the neighbourhood my grandson observed that a particular house didn't fit into the neighbourhood-right as rain, the adobe style house, while cute and doubtless energy efficient in this horrid heat and humidity, doesn't fit in with the rest of the houses in this area. My son lives in the historic district of an old Southern town. Most of the houses were built between 1890-1930, and are gorgeous little cottage gems. The mansions are in the next neighbourhood, lol, this section of the historic section is more modest.

Any road, when this intelligent and unsolicited observation by ahem, OUR grandson was reported, Grandpa rubbed his hands together in undisguised glee saying "We'll have an architect or urban planner out of our wee lad yet!"

Family=Dreams. We haz 'em:)

I am an official expat again, this time in a marriage made in joy and peace, and love and happiness, and every good thing. My husband in this latest expat adventure is a man of the country I am going to be an expat in, and in truth, I'm only two generations out of Caithness myself, so it's not as hard as it could be.

Not at all as hard as it was the first time I was an expat, those nightmare Guatemalan years when I and my son accompanied Crusty to a country hostile to Anglos owing to the ongoing civil war, kidnappings, the organs and orphans for sale scandals, and the nature of my then husband's work (US Embassy attachment). 190+ days without leaving our little compound because of all the car bombs. The rolling black-outs, the water shortages, the water contaminations, the e.coli laden fruits and vegetables...

This time I'll be an expat in an English speaking country-the country my own family has called home for over 1000 years. A country where I can walk safely (prudently but still, safely) alone to the butcher and green grocer for our few needs. A country where my husband and I don't need to own a car, where we found my treadle sewing machine in, as my darling calls it 'good nick' and working perfectly.

Where our wood stoves heat the house, the water in the kettle, and our meals-yes, I've learned to cook on a small wood stove, and I love it.

Expect to read more in the coming years of my expat experiences, and to see photos of our beautiful home. For now, in closing, I leave you with this: