Oh, The Places You’ll Go!

As The Girl boarded a bus in San Diego, headed for Mexico, it washed over me like a cold shower – “The next time i see her, she will be changed.”  A day later, she started her Semester at Sea, sailing around the world on a ship with 700 undergraduate students.  Six weeks later, i watched her disembark from that ship as it docked in Saigon Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.  We spent a week knocking around Vietnam and Cambodia together – and seeing her confidence, i realized that i had been right.

We spent our last night there drinking beer in a cowboy bar, listening to a Vietnamese country and western band knock out respectable covers, including a memorable version of “Stand By Your Man”.  Her adventures continued the next day, and i began my journey home.  At 20 years old, she was well on her way to becoming an engaged, contributing citizen of Planet Earth.

She was changed.  She was broader, and deeper, and stronger, and smarter…

Six weeks ago, i watched as The Boy boarded a plane for basic training.  The exact same feeling – “The next time i see him, he will be changed.”  He’d signed an eight year commitment.  All in.  A very challenging, and unknown path ahead of him.  Much like the Semester at Sea, i also knew that he would have very limited opportunities to communicate – adding to the parental anxiety.

Yesterday, i stood at the airport awaiting his arrival.  Two weeks of leave for Christmas break.  Happy holiday travelers filled the exit chute.  i hopped around in the coffee shop, nervously scanning the crowd, looking for military uniforms.  A few soldiers came by, but not mine…

“Oh, I just want to hug them all, don’t you?” said the sweet woman standing next to me.  She told me she was waiting for her mother to arrive for the holidays, but she just loved seeing the young soldiers in uniform.  i agreed, and continued to bop around nervously, waiting for the next pack to walk down the hallway.

i saw him.  Not breaking his bearing, he spotted me and cracked a tiny smile.  i bounced around the coffee bar and gave him a hug. “How did you get taller?  And what did they do with the rest of your hair?”  

“It’s the boots”.

As we turned to head for the exit, i spotted my coffee bar companion.

“And by the way, this lovely lady wants to hug you, too!”

We headed for the car, where i had secured his ‘welcome basket’ – a good India Pale Ale and a pack of smokes.  Non-stop conversation on the drive home.  Tales of bureaucracy, head games, physical challenges and “Shit My Drill Sergeant Said”.  Sick Bay and Hand Grenades.  Running his first seven minute mile (he was at nine minutes just a few weeks back).  And leaning forward into what lies ahead.

He is changed.  He is broader, and deeper, and stronger, and smarter…

Coming Home

No Passing

My business trip to Lyon, France in 2003 was at the height of the politically driven “Freedom Fries” shit-storm. This led to my first attempt to pass for a Canadian abroad. i stopped just short of sewing a maple leaf on my backpack.

i was embarrassed that many of my country-mates – led by members of the U.S. Congress – thought that we could punish those poor, misguided French people by changing the name of a food item they don’t actually claim.  A food item which is the greatest contributor to our collective obesity.

As we navigated the tourist gauntlets of Istanbul earlier this month, we got pretty tired of the touts – men trying to fill seats in cafes or sell us all manner of goods. Practiced in the art of commerce, they’d try to strike up conversation in English as we rushed past.

“We have the best rugs in Turkey! We ship to the United States!”

“Are you from Texas? I’m from Texas, too!”

i went back to a half-hearted attempt to pass for Canadian. Not for any political reasons, just to amuse myself…

“We’re from Ontario! Oot and aboot on holiday!”

When an overly aggressive restaurateur tackled Studley, he joined in the fun, making an attempt to pass for German.

Tout [with menu]: “You American? You won’t find a better meal! Here…”

Studley: Nein…

Tout [in fluent German]: Sumptink sumptink der sumptink sumptink!

We don’t speak German, but it sounded pretty good…

Having been schooled by a linguistically skilled restaurant promoter, we’d given it up by the time we got to Ürgüp for our adventures in Cappadocia. Rather than rent a car and drive off the side of a mountain, or join an organized tour and risk actually LEARNING something, we opted to hire a driver for our time there.  Başar spoke very good English, and with The Girl’s Turkish skills, we were good to go.

The first morning, Başar took us to a nearby mosque. The Girl wanted to buy water and went across the street to small store. Studley and i wandered in the shaded courtyard, waiting for her to return.

We watched a crowd gather around her – if you can call three older gentlemen a crowd. When she returned with the water, she was laughing.

The Girl: I asked for water, and the guy at the shop was surprised that I was speaking in Turkish. The other guys gathered around wondering where I was from, and how I learned it. The older guy offered me a cracker as I was leaving – I tried to refuse it, but he was very insistent!

daisyfae: Seems you made quite an impression! You could have been a unicorn!

The Girl: And THIS is why you guys should stop trying to pass yourselves off as travelers from other countries. I always let people know where I’m from – without apology.  You’re polite travelers, and you make an attempt to speak the language! It’s a perfect chance to let people in other countries know that not all Americans are assholes!

ambassador

Spice Girls

When i was her age i was working full-time, while pursuing my graduate degree.  i was married, had a house in the suburbs, two small children, two dogs and a mini-van.  The concept of ‘free time’ was beyond my comprehension – let alone travel.  That there was a world beyond my schedule-driven existence barely registered.

She started taking Arabic while still in high school, on top of three years of Spanish.  As an undergraduate student, she was baptized as a citizen of earth during her Semester at Sea.  A solo trip to Morocco the following summer, and a semester studying in Beirut before graduation.

It was in January of 2011 that she decided to get her teaching certification, which she’d completed by the end of May.  She had accepted a job offer in Turkey and left the country two months later.  Knowing no one there, she was up and running in no time. A few bumps and glitches along the way, she navigated them all without much assistance from the parental units.

Studley’s daughter is cut from the same cloth.  Spent two years in a remote village in South Africa working for the Peace Corps, she’s now doing a graduate internship in Laos.  With just about a month notice, she loaded a backpack and left the country – not knowing the language, or what the summer would bring.

On the trip to Istanbul, we compared notes on having “Danger Monkeys” for daughters.

Studley:  Don’t you worry about her?

daisyfae:  Of course i worry!  There’s just nothing to do about it.  It’s her life.  One of the main reasons for this trip is to meet her friends, get a feel for what it’s like there… and get a feel for whether she’s really happy.

Studley:  I had to press my daughter to provide me with contact information for the organization she’s working for this summer!  Explained to her “Look, I’m no Liam Neeson!  I need to know where you’ll be!”

For the past two weeks, The Girl has been out front again – this time with Studley and i as her “Turkish Toddlers”. Translating menus, ordering food, teaching us basics in Turkish, haggling with vendors… and keeping us from getting hit by speeding taxis.

It was on one of our excursions that we needed to grab a taxi to get back within reasonable walking distance of the hotel.  Studley and i hopped in back, and The Girl rode shotgun.  She let the driver know where we were headed, and we pulled away from the curb.  They continued to converse in Turkish, but of course Studley and i were pretty clueless.  i realized something might be up when the driver half-heartedly whacked the meter and shrugged.

The Girl became more vocal, gesturing toward the meter.  She finally told us “We’re getting out!” as the driver pulled to the curb, still protesting.  She handed him a five Lire note then slammed the door in disgust.

The Girl:  Bastard was ripping us off!  He never turned on the meter.  I kept asking him how much it would cost to take us to the bridge, but he wouldn’t answer me directly.  He finally said “Thirty-five, forty lire…” which is BULLSHIT!  Should have cost us no more than ten!  God DAMN it, i hate it when they pull that shit.

She flagged down the next available taxi, and we continued on our way. i looked at Studley – “Do you see why i don’t really need to worry?”

Spice Girls

The timing of our visit in Istanbul worked out for us to meet up with a friend of hers, Jackie.  Having spent time teaching English in South America, she decided to take a job in Istanbul as a nanny for the summer, before returning to the U.S. to go back to school.  Another “Danger Monkey”…

The Girl and Jackie had only met briefly, but bonded instantly.  They are members of the same tribe.  Sharing stories, offering insights and advice to each other, they were fun to watch.

As they led us into the crowd at the Spice Market, it occurred to me that i want to be just like them when i grow up…

all growed up...

We sat at dinner one night, at a table filled with her friends.  Lively conversation, laughter and good food shared at a table by the sea.  In that moment i realized that it’s highly unlikely she will ever move back to the United States.

daisyfae:  You can’t live in the U.S. again, can you?

The Girl:  Doubtful…

i am proud of, and amazed by, my daughter. Here’s to all of the adventurous young women of the world!  Long may you run!

A word from a broad…

One word? Magic.

Delightful company*, delicious adventures, and decadent relaxation.

Declared a ‘down day’ while staying with The Girl in Izmir, Turkey. This, after four days in Istanbul, three in Capadoccia, and a weekend by the sea in Bodrum.

Several epiphanies – large and small. Mostly enjoying spending time with the woman i birthed almost 27 years ago. Trying to figure out how i can be just like her when i grow up.

Not my photo...

* Studley has accompanied me on this trip, as The Boy is working. We have become “Turkish Toddlers, 2.0″, since The Girl has had to keep us from bickering, make sure we have enough beer, and keep us from walking out into traffic.

Driving Toward Istanbul

It was only 60 miles, but i drove The Girl closer to Istanbul last night.  She was spending the night with The Boy, and then catching a flight home today.

Home.

Yep.  It’s her home now.  She’s been living there since July.  Her bed is there.  Most of her friends are there.

The only incentives i offer?  A large brown dog and a surly orange cat.

Her dad bought the ticket.  Since he’s busy with work and hates travel, it seemed a reasonable solution.  She spent a few days with The Boy in the big university town, hanging out with her best gal pal there.  The Boy drove them north to visit their dad for a few days.

They arrived at my place last Thursday night.  As always, there was an ‘over/under’ bet involved.  This time?  They bet on Mr. Pickles abilities as a guard dog.

The Girl:  How long do you think we’ll be in the house before he wakes up?

The Boy:  Two minutes.

The Girl:  I’ll take “over”.

The Boy actually won this round, as the sleepy old brown dog shot out of my bed like a rocket as soon as the front door opened.  Even the cat went to investigate.  The Boy had been chauffeur for the week, driving her where she needed to go.  He needed to get back to work.  And by then, they’d had more than enough “brother-sister bonding time”.

Four days.  We made the most of it…

Friday night was “My Drunk Kitchen” night.  The Girl and her best gal pal went with me to a big downtown hipster bash, and we stopped for supplies on the way home.  i made “Froot Loop Russians”* while they baked S’more brownies from scratch.  It was a good night.

Saturday morning?  Off to the local market for crepes, cheese, veggies and people-watching.  She got in lots of shopping – access to a car, rather than public transportation, made it far easier for picking up gifts, and essentials.

The Girl:  I’m buying America.  I need to find things to bring back that are inherently American.  Do you think they’d have Busch beer coozies at the gas station?  Belt buckle beer bottle openers?

Studley and i took her out to dinner at a Turkish restaurant that night – in case she was missing the cuisine of home.  i’d been using my pigeon Turkish on the poor servers at this restaurant since my trip in December, and was excited to show them how cool my daughter was, being comfortably conversant in their native language.

We never stop being proud of our children.  Or coming up with new ways to embarrass them…

We stopped at the liquor store on the way back home.  Mostly to get more Froot Loop vodka, as she knew she wouldn’t be able to get that in Turkey.  Still jazzed from the chance to let her show off her language skills, i continued to brag on her to Studley.

daisyfae:  That’s my kid!

Studley:  Yup!  You made her!

daisyfae:  She came out of my vagina.

The Girl:  It was a c-section.  Technically, out of your stomach.

liquor store clerk: Do you want all this in a bag?

daisyfae:  Nah.  We’re just going to drink it in the parking lot.

These kids are remarkably tough to embarrass…

We both sort of dreaded it, but Sunday was the visit to The Park.  She wanted to see Mom, but it was when i told her that the entire Clampett Clan would be descending upon the ol’ Hibachi Grill and Buffet** that we both cringed.

The Girl:  I really want to see Granny.  And Aunt S is ok.  Would be great to see Uncle T, too.  But DQ?  BJ?  Their spawn?

We made it through.  She had a good time talking with Granny.  And Granny loved her gifts… And the time with a functional grandchild.  Who doesn’t ask her for money.

We also listened to BJs tales of training for “Mixed Martial Arts” cage fighting.  Of their newest 4-wheeler toy.  Their four-year old saying “I’m gonna fart on you and give you pink eye”.

Yay.

The Girl managed to get all the liquor her gifts packed up, and we drove eastward last night.  Met up with The Boy at his place around 11:30 when he got home from work.

Seeing as i’d missed Easter for both of them, i was prepared.  There is a history of coming up with ridiculously blasphemous easter basket inclusions.  This year?  i think i outdid myself.

The Boy found this in his kitchen when he came in from a long day at the factory.

i left shortly afterwards.  Drove westward in the rain.  Only cried for the first 20 miles.  i’m getting better…

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

* From the “I can’t make this up” files.  Three Olives Loopy Vodka.  If you mix it with milk?  Tastes like the leftover stuff in the bowl after you finish your Froot Loops We were hammered before the brownies came out of the oven…

** Pronounced “boo-FAY”.

Merry Christmas

i have many tales to tell. But not just yet…

The Boy and i have started our journey home, and The Girl is back at her apartment, recovering from our visit.

Through the years, it became a family tradition as we erected* the Christmas tree, for me to stand back and say (in my best June Cleaver voice) “It’s the most BEAUTIFUL Christmas tree EVER!”. The kids would play along with this saying “Yes, Mother! It really IS the most beautiful Christmas tree we’ve ever had!”

This year? We spent Christmas Eve in a very nice hotel room, thousands of miles away from the unopened box in the storage room at home that holds two decades worth of Christmas ornaments.

During the afternoon, The Boy and i were camped in the hotel room, waiting for The Girl to finish working for the day. Since i am a frequent visitor at this particular hotel chain, i had been granted access to the Executive Lounge. With an open bar. The mini-fridge up there was loaded with Carlsberg and Tuborg Gold!

Sipping free beer as we prepared for a siesta, The Boy asked if i’d ever seen a Heineken Christmas Tree. Googling it, we agreed that it might be possible to construct one. It would require some ingenuity, but we had a fridge full of free beer and an afternoon to kill…

We did it. By exploiting some odds and ends we swiped borrowed from the hotel bar, we built a tree. Even rigged the desk lamp to light it from below.

We were joined for the night by two of The Girl’s friends – they’d stayed too late to catch the last buses home, so we shuffled the sleeping arrangements and made some room on the floor for the menfolk.

Midnight arrived, and we toasted our Christmas in Turkey.

“It’s the most beautiful Christmas tree ever.”

And it was…

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* nhur, nhur, nhur…. “erected”…

Baby’s Day Out

We’ve been camping in Izmir, Turkey for about four days. The Boy and i crashing on sofas in the living room in the fairly small apartment The Girl shares with one of her fellow teachers here. Although she was able to get a substantial chunk of time off work to babysit entertain us, she had to go to work this afternoon.

She’s been a fabulous guide for the past two weeks, showing us some amazing sites while teaching the basics of life in Turkey. The plan for today? The Boy and i would have a “down day” in the apartment while she and her roomie went to work. Plus, it’s definitely time to do some laundry.

The Girl was scared shitless about leaving us alone.

This morning, she fussed over every detail. How to open the doors. Which keys go where. How to lock the doors. How to close the doors without making a terrible noise and annoying the neighbors. How to run the washing machine.

Our plan was to go to the grocery store next door, buy some basics, and spend the afternoon cleaning the apartment top to bottom. She coached us again on how to say “I don’t speak Turkish”, and that the cashier would ask if we wanted a store loyalty card. Reminded us how to say “No”.

As she was preparing to leave, The Boy and i noted that we felt like latch-key children, being left on their own for the first time.

The Girl: Yeah… Kinda like two giant toddlers who like beer and cigarettes.

As she left, we prepared our game plan, and grocery list, for the day. Venturing out, we were going over roles and responsibilities. It’s my job to work the conversational bits, and he’s got the key/door thing down.

The Boy: Between the two of us, we’re like one functional person.

daisyfae: Almost…

But we did it. Remembering the type of cheese The Girl likes. Sorting through the aisle of cleaning supplies and figuring out which is for windows and which is for countertops (cleverly marked with pictures of windows and countertops, by the way). Me asking for cigarettes at the checkout… Picked up a store loyalty card, and was even able to take advantage of a special on bananas! 2kg* for 1 Turkish Lire!

The Boy fixed lunch while i started cleaning. “Start at the top and work your way down”. Didn’t take too long, and we were pretty proud of the results. Plenty of time to shower and relax before we make our way to the bus stop, and wait for the 209 this evening… Hopefully finding our way to her office to meet her after work for drinks!

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Two very enterprising toddlers at Ephesus yesterday. Home to some seriously old shit…

* And that’s a metric shit ton of bananas, by the way…

Turkish delight

When my children were entering their ‘double digit’ years, i had an opportunity to take them to Germany to visit a niece living there. Wanting them to learn to be citizens of the world, it was a good opportunity to take them overseas.

My ex-husband was not particularly interested in going, so it was just the three of us. With assistance from my niece, i did the planning and logistics. Flying into Frankfurt, i rented a car. And the adventure began… It was up to me to get us there, and back.

Doing my crash course in “German for Tourists” in the weeks before the trip, i was reasonably prepared for navigating in a foreign country. Didn’t hurt that i’d been there a few times before. It also didn’t hurt that in southwestern Germany, most people speak English. Together, we worked on a few important vocabulary words. Mostly, the kids would tail behind me like ducklings, eyes wide open, taking it all in.

The next year, they wanted to do it again, so we went to England. On that trip – without a significant language barrier – we did a lot more improvisation. Four days in London as we decided where to go next. A conversation with a taxi driver led us to a train station, and a few days exploring Devon and Cornwall.

Our spring holidays continued, with visits to San Francisco, Santa Barbara, and Arizona before they were out of high school and far too cool old to travel with their mother. It was great fun to share some of my favorite places with my own spawn.

Arriving in Istanbul early Thursday morning, The Boy and i made it through the airport and found our driver at baggage claim. The Girl had arrived Wednesday, and was waiting at the hotel. After a short siesta, we headed out into the city.

Although she complains that after living in the country for six months, her Turkish should be better, The Girl is out front this time. Ordering meals, explaining the history of the Turks, navigating from a map in her iPod, translating ancient Ottoman hieroglyphics.

And teaching us important words and phrases…

“Hello”

“Good Morning”

“Thank You”

“Three beers, please”

Tonight, at the Grand Bazaar, The Boy fell in love with an incredibly goofy lovely hat. Taking advantage of closing time, and her newly acquired skills, she was able to haggle with the vendor. From his original offer of 110 Turkish Lire, she got him down to 70. And The Boy joyfully collected his wares.

Tomorrow? Another day out. Since it will be raining, she’s taking us to the Blue Mosque, and then off to see the art museums on the Asian side of the city.

i will continue to follow behind like a duckling. Practicing my new vocabulary. Eyes wide open. Taking it all in.

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not Constantinople…

And away we go…

i’ll be a bit scarce in your comment boxes* over the next bit…

happy holidays. may you not strangle your loved ones, or strangers in shopping malls. may you enjoy the down time at the office, fucking off for pay. may you eat yourself into a sugar coma and gain no weight.

and may we avoid finding out the joys of a Turkish prison…

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*not a euphemism. probably. well… except for you. and you know who you are.

The “Dream Team”

Although it’s become passé, i’ve long been a fan of the Zombie Apocalypse as a practical metaphor for disaster preparedness. Even the stodgy Center for Disease Control built a zombie survival plan to better market the need to take a modicum of responsibility for your own sorry arse when the shit hits the fan…

As we spent time on the gun range recently, and caught up on “stuff”, The Boy appeared to be at least mildly impressed with my interest in shoring up my skills in the survival department.

Backpacking, SCUBA, motorcycling,  Now adding horseback riding lessons to the mix. Already a “one and a half banana” mechanic with machines, rudimentary plumbing and electrical wiring. A master with duct tape. Power tools (including chainsaws) do not intimidate me. i might actually be useful should the undead rise from the dirt.

It bothered me a bit – thinking about The Girl. The Boy is armed, rugged and ruthless. The Girl’s got an amazing brain, is a trained linguist, and has a powerful intellect…

Travel-wise? None better! She escaped a fight in a Turkish brothel, rode trains in India, took an impromptu trip down a Chinese river and survived seven hours on camel-back en route to the Great Pyramids – all before she was 20 years old.

As a kid, she was the least comfortable with our outdoor adventures, and wasn’t a fan of “roughing it”.  Will her Ninja-like travel skills be enough?

i really want her on the team.  “Survival of the Species” and all that shit. When genetic proliferation is at stake, i can’t exactly go back to the drawing board. My two existing spawn are all i’ve got to support my quest for DNA-based immortality.

Recounting my conversation with The Boy to Studley, as he drove us back from our horseback riding lessons, i remembered a moment from a few years back.  And found a glimmer of hope…

[sound bite signifying flashback goes here…]

It was 2004. i was battling mono. Passed out at home, with a fever of 105 F. The Girl was in town for a few days, and had borrowed my car to purchase art supplies from a warehouse in a rough part of town.

In a fever-ravaged haze, i picked up the phone as she called…

The Girl: I hit a curb when i went into the art supply house! I have a flat!

daisyfae: i have a fever and no car. Call the auto club. i can’t do a damn thing to help. Is there a spare tire?

The Girl: Let me check. I’ll call you back.

She called me back within ten minutes.

The Girl: Yes, there’s a spare. I called the auto club – they’ll be here in about an hour.

daisyfae: Wait in the store, or in the car if you don’t feel comfortable.  It’s getting dark.

The Girl: I’m fine. Some creepy dude asked me for change when I was looking for the spare. I told him to fuck off. “Can’t you see I’m having issues here?!?”

She’s on the team…