Monday, June 27, 2016

Journeys and Destinations; or, Wanderlust

Exciting, exciting news in GTMO.

Okay, it's GTMO-exciting, not real-life exciting. (It's the little things, y'all, that make the mundane an adventure in itself).

The Map of Lost Mail earned yet 2 more pins! Whoo-hoo! In case you have been following the oh-so-exciting movement of our mail through the worldwide APO/FPO/DPO system, we now have mail that was missent to an APO in Alconbury, England and an FPO in London, England. Mail detouring through England is exciting, as we haven't been there (yet). If I were a superstitious sort, I would see this as a sign. Well, I am not too superstitious, but I do see it as this: our mail system is not great. And if I ever run out of things to write about, I can have a blog where I explore online each of the amazing places my mail has seen without me.

The country count now is eight: Oman, Spain, Italy, Egypt, Qatar, Germany, Kuwait, England. As I always say, my mail is better traveled than I am.

We also got our international driver's permits in the mail recently (yay!). Also: a nice package from our Germany friends chock full of travel info including brochures and maps. It's so exciting! We're chipping away slowly but steadily at the pre-vacation to-do list. We leave Cuba for the US this weekend, and after a few brief days in New England we will spend about a month exploring Germany, Macedonia, and who knows where else. 

As one journey ends---high school education, living at home---another begins for our son. As I've been busy reading and researching about our summer destinations, I'm aware, too, of how our journey parallels our son's. 

His literal journey starts in July, as he'll backpack around Europe for a few months; high school graduation marked one of those milestones for his journey beginning adulthood. We can pack and prepare for a vacation, but how do you prepare yourself for the other journeys and detours of life? I don't know if high school so much prepared me for the real world, but it was a place to learn about dealing with other people (sometimes the difficult sort), and it was where I learned that I didn't want to be in one place forever. I think high school is about learning what you want in life as much as learning about what you don't want in life. 

If I could describe my high school self in one word, it would be "restless." I was ready to move, to get started with college. I loved New Orleans and dreamed of living there (or any other city). I am thankful that I had 12 years of school in one place, but my experience taught me that I am not one to set permanent roots. I love the peripatetic lifestyle and I am always looking forward to the next big adventure.  

I also found my love of travel in high school. I went to Mexico City (and Teotihuacan), Villahermosa (and Palenque), and Cancun with a group of students when I was 16. It was an amazing adventure and my first time out of the country. That was it---I was hooked. I still get that excited feeling every time I walk out of the airport and on to somewhere new. It's the smells that tell you that you are somewhere "foreign" long before you even take in the sights. It's the beautiful music of accents, including those I'll never master. Traffic, birds, even the wind blowing through the trees can be exotic sounds in a new place. I am excited about the prospects of going to more places this summer that I've never experienced and learning more about the world. I hope to continue fostering my children's love of travel during this trip, and I am excited about our oldest breaking out on his own. 

As he is taking his journey through Europe (and towards college), I hope he comes to some realizations on his own. My biggest realization through living abroad and traveling all over the world is that as a female, I am lucky to have been raised in the United States. I will never take that for granted. I also find that adventure bodes well with me, but all adventures have an end, and at the end of a long trip, I love coming home to my own bed. Sometimes that's the bed in my temporary home in Cuba; other times, it's the bed in my childhood home in Mississippi. Either way, it's getting back to where I can reflect (and plan the next trip) that inspires me to take more journeys. 

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Hot Child(ren) in the City; or, Celebrations and Happiness

June has been a very happy month thus far. The most spectacular cause of celebration is Boy 1's high school graduation last Friday night. We celebrated all weekend and my parents made the long, arduous trip on island for the occasion. There are always flight delays and weather issues and the chance you won't make one of the very limited number of flights here when you visit. Thankfully, this was the first time in three trips my parents didn't have some sort of weird travel issue that seems the norm when traveling to GTMO. I am so thankful they were able to be here and we had a too-short but fun visit.

A plus: Rodney even got in on the graduation fun. How awesome is Cuba's only squirrel?

WT Sampson has a tradition of all graduates making a short speech thanking people who have helped them in their journeys to graduation. This is what happens when you have a small graduating class (14). It was a very personal celebration for each and every kid. I was proud of my guy and the other kids who made funny, thoughtful, sweet speeches. The ceremony went off without a hitch and the slide show was a tear jerker. I love seeing pictures from all stages of their lives, and this group of graduates is very special to me---I taught most of them for at least one class, and I worked closely with them to put the prom together last year. I've known many of them all four years we've lived here. They are a creative, smart, and really special group of kids to me and I am going to miss them terribly next year.

One of my favorites from the slide show---Baby G and my Paw Dudley, c. 2000. 

Now that graduation is over, we are moving on to summer plans. Today is the last day of school for kids and Friday's my last day. Many colleagues are leaving island Friday, too. We always stay a week or two to get our bearings before the culture shock that ensues when you make the trip back to the States. On top of that, we are traveling to visit friends in Germany and Macedonia and we're making last minute preparations for our July overseas.

Yesterday we were celebrating the near-end of the year and Boy 2 and I had another fantastic moment in Cuban radio----Nick Gilder's 70's hit "Hot Child in the City" was blaring during our blistering fast race (at 25 mph) down Sherman Ave and I actually drove under the speed limit (not easy for me) so we could loudly sing along.  Then traditional Cuban music came back on. GTMO is like that---you find the strangest, weirdest moments where you shake your head and think, "Did I really just hear/see that?" It is hotter than seven hells right now so "Hot Child in the City" seems like an appropriate theme song for this week in GTMO.

Here's to summer vacation and more of life's moments that make you pause and smile.