Sunday Morning ~ Digging
Galu wamkota sakandira pa cabe. ~ An old dog does not dig where there is nothing to be found.
~ Chewa proverb
July 30, 2023
It has been several weeks since I’ve written anything. In my travels over the past nine weeks I kept a hand written journal and tried to make an entry every day, but didn’t. I decided not to bring my laptop with me to Indonesia and found I just couldn’t write a blog on my phone, wondering the whole while how I’d done that in the past. I felt a bit detached from myself and wondered what kind of transformation was happening. Writing every Sunday had become such a part of my life, and I finally had stories to tell. What was my problem? I felt small and insignificant. Every sentence I formed in my head seemed dumb. I decided to let it go and come back to it when it felt right, wondering if what I’d considered a discipline had turned into an obsession. After all, this is not my job. It’s my hobby. I wandered around Bali wondering what I’d do with my journals if I ever got a terminal diagnosis. Burn them? People do that.
I’m back in Maine, sitting on my porch swing, sipping my tea and feeling more grounded. The fog has lifted from this island and now hopefully the same will go for my brain. I’m feeling all kinds of ages now. I feel old when I think back to traveling without GPS, carrying travelers checks, and showing up in a strange place without a reservation. My youthful escapades in foreign lands seem like some character in a novel. How did she survive? Travel seems so easy now it hardly takes any adventurous spirit at all. No one has to wait for a bank to open, or look for a vacancy sign. This is all at our fingertips twenty four hours a day. It makes for less stress but fewer stories. I’m not sure where growth of character fits into all this. Cultures and languages blur; our phones can do it all for us.
My journey started with a train ride to a wedding. Did I even write about that? My godson, little Danny, is now a grown man with a bride. I was one of the old people at the event. Not the oldest, but pretty close. This was frightening. I had childhood flashbacks of stuffed souls sitting together, laughing as they reminisced about events transpiring long before, looking gay and content but, oh, so strange. They were like creatures in a zoo to my young eyes. They danced beautifully, as if they’d been fused together from birth, floating, floating in shoes designed to stabilize. I marveled at their grace. But they were a different species and I did not imagine it possible I’d be cross-bred into one of them. But here we are. I wonder what the children at this wedding thought of us…the elders. We didn’t float to romantic tunes, but tried (and failed) to keep up on the dance floor. I gave up when I did not recognize three songs in a row.
I felt sort of young again when I hit the road for the next month. The similarities between being young and free and old and free were reassuring. It was nice to be able to take extra days to travel by train. It was nicer yet to not have to rush back to work. I could be flexible like in my younger days, but this time with wisdom and more money. It was great.
I was heading for Bali for an international midwifery conference, held every three years. It was canceled in 2020 for obvious reasons and, always wanting to attend one of these, I’d decided to make it in 2023. I’d never been to Indonesia and it seemed a good reason to go. Since it was a long way for a four day conference, I decided to stay a month and visit a few friends along the way, so after my stay with friends in Santa Fe, I continued west to Phoenix.
Amtrak does not have a route from Santa Fe to Phoenix (an omission I hope will be rectified) so I took an overnight bus from Albuquerque. I desperately hope there are plans for more train routes. The bus got me there, but in much less comfort. The seats were small and full of passengers in various states of mental wellness. The frequent stops made sleeping difficult and I was nervous about my bags being underneath with little security. My bags and I made it safely and I was surprised at how good I felt when arriving. It must have been the excitement. I was so happy to reconnect with my BFF from Samoa days I barely felt the lack of sleep and was reassured I wasn’t totally over the hill by this ability to rally. After three great days of girlfriend time, my friend drove me to Flagstaff where I caught the night train to Los Angeles. I loved standing on that platform with other travelers, watching the train approach, boarding, settling in, and being rocked to sleep with the rhythmic rattling. Ten hours later I was at the end of the line and debarked at Union Station, a beautiful architectural specimen, where Peace Corps friends were waiting to greet me.
What took me so long to visit Los Angeles? I’d passed through the airport once. I’d spent one night there thirty-five years ago on my way up the coast, but I’d never stopped to visit the city. I am humbled at how wrong my image of the city turned out to be. I had always thought L.A. was one big traffic jam. Instead, it was one of the most pleasurable city visits I’ve ever had. Now, I know that having friends leading me by the hand, doing all the driving, selecting spectacular sights and venues had something to do with it. We went to little local restaurants where the food was amazing. The landscape was gorgeous, the air clear, the sidewalks a delight. I hadn’t even known they had sidewalks! I am still marveling about it. It was one of the best lessons of traveling: finding out how wrong I was about what it would be like. Three days, a botanical garden and tour of Warner Brothers Studios later, I was headed west again.
I flew from L.A. to Bali via Taiwan with a twelve hour layover in Taipei. This was another delight I hadn’t expected. We arrived at 9 p.m., losing a day in the crossing. I’d slept pretty well on the fourteen hour flight from California and didn’t feel the need to get a hotel for only a few hours so just hung out at the airport. I did not expect such a comfortable experience. In all the many airports I’ve spent time in, this was by far the most interesting and comfortable. Each gate was set up like a museum exhibit. It was fascinating! There were the Tribes of Taiwan exhibit, Birds of Taiwan exhibit, National Parks of Taiwan exhibit, Art exhibits, Spiritual exhibits, it was just amazing! I got a little cart and pushed my bag around for hours reading and learning about a country I knew very little about. It’s such a great model. Around 3 a.m. I curled up on a comfy bench in Gate 3 among the Birds of Taiwan and rested against a big stuffed egg and slept for a few hours. I woke when the airport came to life at six, washed my face, brushed my teeth, and checked out places to eat. I bought a meal for six dollars that consisted of soup, bean curd with fish sauce, cabbage salad, and tea. It was all delicious. All the walking had reduced the swelling in my feet and I was ready for the next leg of the trip. Five more hours to Bali, which, before this trip, I could not find on a map.
I’ll leave Bali stories for next week… something to dig for.
Love to all,