Sunday, February 21, 2010

Ode to procrastination

Procrastination has a bad rap. Some would say procrastinators are lazy. I say we're sparing ourselves undue stress. We know that the inevitable event, whether it's moving, a term paper, making that dreaded phone call, setting up that appointment, if it is lofty enough will eventually get done. As we all know, there are much more fun things in life to pursue to distract us like tv, games, reading a book, taking a hike and if you're desperate enough, even cleaning the toilets can look pretty appealing (accounting for the dread level of the thing that you're avoiding of course).

When the Peace Corps calls you to say, "How would you like to move directly to Morocco and not go to Senegal at all?" you know it's not a true inquiry of your personal preferences. And really, this wasn't a question at all, but a directive sent down by the higher-ups. The call came a week to the day before our move to Senegal, where we were supposed to spend a few months before moving to Morocco in late summer. I say "supposed" and if you've ever worked for a government agency you know why I used quotes. I can't go into the details on the urgency of the situation, that would require you to have a top secret security clearance and a super cool peace keeping decoder ring. So yada, yada, yada....Morocco here we come.

Thankfully I am a procrastinator. Did I bother to whittle away my time learning French? No. Did I research Dakar to find out the cultural hotspots? No. (I only researched whether the Black Mamba snake lives there which is the deadliest snake in the world. I saw it on the Discovery Channel and I'm now petrified we will encounter and be stalked by one.) We sent an air shipment ahead to Senegal which is supposed to arrive in a week. Yeah...right! I've moved to Germany and Hawaii and back and that shipment won't arrive for a month at least. So with this in mind, I waited til the last second and then threw a few shorts and t-shirts in a pile in the middle of the floor and voila....the movers came, packed it in 2 boxes and sent it to Senegal. Now that we're not going there, I'm sure that they will have a nice tour of the world. I don't expect to be reunited with them anytime soon and hopefully they end up being worn by a very nice family in Thailand or Papua New Guinea. No big loss. We are now in the midst of packing for the hotel and sea freight shipment. Both Senegal and Morocco are on the west coast, but Senegal is sunny and in the 70s and 80s this time of year and Morocco is 50s and 60s and rainy. They say Rabat is the Paris of Africa, but looking at the forecast it kinda looks it's the Seattle of Africa. So good thing I didn't pack! Out with the bikini and sandals and in with the coats and umbrellas.

Oh, I skipped the best part! We've been working our butts off to enroll the kids in school, obtain visas and passports. How can we move to Morocco now and possibly get this all done in less than a week? Crisis management has it's perks. Apparently all these things can get done in a week when you have the State Department helping you to get it done! Who knew right? We will get someone assigned to our family to "make things happen". I think this Happen Maker is my new best friend. Now someone else is responsible to stress about how we get there and we get to sit back, relax and enjoy happy hour at the hotel every night til we get on the plane. I was going to do that anyway. Shhhh...don't tell anyone.

So see kids, don't let your parents tell you procrastination is some big ugly monster. It can save you time, stress and maybe you can even clothe some needy families around the world in the process. Now I have time to google whether the Black Mamba snake is in Morocco or not.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Happy, fun candy day!!!

It is a sign of one of two things when mom says "Hey lets go to the Corner Store and you can choose any candy you like" 1. She's really lost it this time and this euphoric high is going to end in something bad or 2. She has an intricate plan to manipulate you and its going to end in something bad. I think at this stage in the move I can honestly admit that I am serving up the combo platter. Equal parts crazy and manipulation served straight up on a big heaping platter with an Outback sized fork (and you know how big those forks are). Yeah honey, you can have the king size candy bar. Would you like to wash that down with a coke or a mountain dew? And when the bad bites you in the ass you's shot day. Yellow Fever, Typhoid and Malaria, oh my!

The five minute time limit set on candy selection was "won" by Jade and Ember who targeted the gargantuan portion sizes within 20 seconds while Sky and River pondered every candy option and then scrambled to finalize their choices at the bell which resulted in them not even considering quantity. I wonder if the boys ever figured out that the girls got more candy than they did? I think this pretty definitively answers the age old anthrolpological question "are girls smarter than boys?" Or maybe girls are just hungrier than boys?

The travel clinic had a wonderful nurse who gave the kids the run down on rabies risks in Africa. River interjected and raised his right hand, pledging he wasn't an animal lover, so therefore should not be subjected to promising not to pet an unknown animal. As you may be able to tell, he is our budding lawyer of the family. Ember had to give an extra pledge, cause well...she's five and prone to some erratic behaviors that would not behoove the animal, herself, or others around her. We're hoping she learns to channel her boisterousness for "good", such as champion sumo wrestler and away from total world domination. Now Sky would be the most likely to remind (and when I say remind, I really mean physically restrain) everyone not to pet the animal and would be most likely to get bit himself in the process. I see a police officer in his future. And Jade, well she would be the one searching for the closest animal clinic and formulating a plan to safely get the creature there to make sure the poor thing was healthy and taken care of. Can you say the next Jane Goodall? (Just remember don't pet the monkey!)

Shots were a piece of cake. Manipulation was definitely the way to go. Of course, announcing "The first one that gets shots gets to eat their candy first" helped speed along the process. Never have my kids been more eager or more compliant. There is something to this candy as a reward stuff. Although I'm not planning to use this method again, I'm due for more shots. Hmmm...wouldn't the same work for me? Dove dark chocolates with almonds or Sangria Margarita from Salsa Brava?

Now that we've spent a small fortune getting some very expensive shots, I'd really like to sell that minivan with the engine light thats been on for the last year to come out even. Any takers?

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Groundhog Day

No, I'm not referring to the fuzzy little rodents. Groundhog know the movie where Bill Murray has to relive the same day until he gets it right. I totally get it. It's groundhog day here every day. The whining and bickering starts at the breakfast table....who gets to read the cereal box, followed by me nagging them to clear the table, get dressed for school, brush teeth (hair brushing is optional in our house), stop hitting your sister, don't forget your homework, and after a 7 hour reprieve the afternoon and evening session begins with the battle over homework , then on to the dinner wars ending in an all out bedtime struggle . The next day....well it's EXACTLY the same.

It's like we're on automatic pilot with the miniscule details on shuffle. How did we get here and become these creatures of habit? There is so much that we take for granted. Thus, so much meaningless stuff to fuss over. Most of the world doesn't have safe clean driking water let alone hot water that comes out of their faucets, heated homes, 2 cars per family, access to healthcare, etc. And this is going to sound trite compared to the big issues out there, but alot of the world does not have.......toilet paper! Yes....toilet paper.

The first time I experienced toiletpaperitis we were in Russia where we adopted our 4 children. As I've learned from my travels, you can go to all the touristy spots and think you know what the culture is like, but the truth about a country lies in its off the beaten' path toilets. And Russian restrooms have many stories to tell. They contain only the necessities, nothing frilly or aromatic here, purely function. Alot of public bathrooms have stand-up got it with a hole in the floor. Not only that, but you PAY to make a donation to the in the hole in the floor AND you must take the adequate amount of toilet paper you will need with you from the bathroom attendant located at the entrance. (This is an especially tricky calculation when you ate the chicken at the local market and aquired a particularly stubborn intestinal illness. But really, who's gonna take half the roll of sandpaper like tp, especially when you have to look the stern Russian attendant in the eye who I'm pretty sure could lay you out in a wrestling choke hold that you've never seen the likes of. But alas, I'm getting off track.) It's not only a humbling experience, but one that requires ample balance and aim to say the least. I took this to be the standard Russian bathroom experience until I saw that things could be even more "efficient" and "ecofriendly". This brings us to the toiletpaperless option.....

If you're in a bathroom in Russia and notice a metal bucket with a lid you're in for a treat. Warning to read on further may cause: nausea, dizziness, double vision, headaches, vomiting, vertigo, severe abdominal cramping and incontinence. If you are the curious sort (and you must be if you're reading this), you lift the lid off the bucket to discover wooden sticks with cloths secured on the end, each with a name written on it (thank god). They look like a q-tips broken in half. And guess what they're used for. got it the world's second most "green" way to wipe your butt. You can probably guess what number 1 is even if you haven't been to a 3rd world country (if you don't.... just remember never shake someone's LEFT hand as a general rule). It brings a whole new meaning to reduce, reuse and recycle! I don't know if there is a Russian name for these ingenious little crusty sticks, but that never stops me from creating my own, so I have dubbed them poo-tips. And how are poo-tips relavent? Well, how aren't they? This is one of the most basic bodily functions. We all have to do it once or twice a day. And if we take toilet paper for granted imagine all the other things we do. The bigger things. It's little things like poo-tips that bring us back to the basics. Food, water, shelter, hygeine. What could jolt you out of the groundhogness of daily life more than that?

So our challenge is to embrace the poo-tip moments. That's what this trip is about, experiencing life from another angle, learning from it, growing and hopefully making a difference in some way in the process. I know what you're thinking and I will not hoard wet wipes to avoid the harsher side of whatever West African toilets have to offer. I'm hoping the harsher side is not ecofriendly option #1. But next time you see me remember to shake with the RIGHT hand....just in case. Happy Groundhog Day!


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