Tuesday, July 21, 2009

A Week Back

... and a Weak Back. Why am I waking up with a sore back every day since I got home? Is this what 40 has in store for me? And just in case you're interested- 'back' (as in the part that hurts) is plural in Portuguese, whereas 'pants' is singular. Isn't that great???

So. I left the US a week ago, and as I figured, I've been too nuts to write anything here. I'm still too nuts to write anything, so I'm going to post what I wrote on the plane. And I'm not going to edit it either, which is always a dubious decision. I just don't have time right now. I didn't finish what I was writing, so here's hoping I get around to writing more about the trip before it vanishes from my consciousness.

Here ya go:
I'm on an airplane. Leaving the United States, after two very short weeks. I'm taking advantage of what I see as a very narrow window of opportunity to write something, between Lucas falling asleep and then myself falling asleep, and then getting home and then getting swept up in the current of what is my 'normal' life, including one of my frantic pushes to get as many hours worked as quickly as possible before the end of the month.

To be honest, I would be watching 'Monsters Vs. Aliens,' again, on the little video screen in the seat back in front of me, but it suddenly died on me and I opted to pull out the laptop. After I was unable to get it working again. I really only wanted to watch the beginning, since I missed it at the theater, but then the opportunity to see it in English was beginning to take hold and... you get the idea.

It's hard to know where to start, which is why I started with the nonsense you just read. A lot has happened, and I didn't keep pace with the posts. I don't really know how I should organize it- what to tell, what to skip- to write several long posts or to say very little. I think I won't even try a sequential narrative, but rather hit some tasty topics until I run out of time and/or fall asleep. Or until my battery dies.

Let me start with a mundane item, which is how little time I spent in front of the computer. Since I spend so much of my time planted in front of a computer screen, with a relatively fast and reliable connection to the internet, it was something of a rude shock to be at my parent's houses, which both rely on prehistoric dialup connectivity to go virtual. My mother's connection is so slow that I quickly abandoned most attempts to view anything at all. The flipside of this was that whenever I went somewhere that offered a high-speed connection, such as the town library, I went into a kind of cyber panic-mode, trying to get as much done as I possibly could before I had to leave and go back in to cyber exile. And that meant juggling all the things I normally do online, leaving many emails unanswered and work unfinished.

Okay, enough of the boring stuff. I realized a couple days ago what should have been obvious to me all along, which is that this particular trip was mostly about Lucas, and getting him to know the other half of his family and his alternate culture and exposing him to just as many things I could in two weeks without driving him and myself mad. It really sunk in just how important this was for me when I watched him saying goodbye to all his aunts, uncles, and cousins the other night. Rather than making the rounds and saying my own goodbyes while he said his, which is what I normally do to shorten the inevitably endless process of saying goodbye to a large group of people, a process I loathe at the best of times, I stood there and watched him say goodbye and give all his hugs to everyone before I set out to take care of my own. He's four now, and hopefully he's going to remember at least part of this trip for the rest of his life. I must have told ten people over the last two weeks that I remember lots of stuff from when I was four, and I'm hoping Lucas will have the same kind of memory. He was in the states two years ago, but he couldn't say anything yet and although I think it may have paved the way for this visit at least subconsciously I don't think he really remembers much of that trip.

Speaking of... speaking, one of my hopes for this trip was that Lucas would make a big jump in his english language skills, and he didn't disappoint in that department at all. I don't think I'd heard him speak a complete sentence in English before this trip, but after only a day or two he started coming out with them. And then he started with the new vocabulary. The most amusing words were 'dad' and then inexplicably 'daddy,' in reference to me. He started referring to me, to other people, as 'my dad,' and I have no idea where he even heard anyone refer to me as 'daddy' but I got that as well. Even more strangely, he insisted on calling my dad _his_ dad as well, and as far as I can tell not only because I was calling him dad myself. Every time I pointed out that he was his grandfather, and I was his dad, he would say that I was his dad, and my dad was his dad too, at which point I replied with the time tested catchall: "Whatever."

So let's write about something besides Lucas for a while- I'll come back to him and all the wonderful stuff I exposed him to shortly. My cousin opted to let me paint the hood of his car, the brave soul. I painted a pair of snakes, and it came out pretty well, at least from a distance. I'm still not a professional when it comes to the cans, but hopefully someday...

Let me tell you briefly about my arrival. As I said in my brief, previous post, it's really odd to arrive in the country you grew up in and start to experience culture shock. On second thought, rest areas on the Mass Pike should inspire culture shock in anyone who is really paying attention. Airports are places that aren't really places, unless you work there I suppose, and so are those damn rest areas- restaurants and bathrooms and gas stations tucked away in the middle of toll roads where everything is mown and nothing is natural.

Speaking of mowing, I received an odd and unexpected surprise when I arrived at my mother's house. Mom's big on gardening and tends to take the 'wild' approach to it. The house she bought had a number of well-tended flowerbeds, and a fair amount of lawn to go with them. Over the years, she has added more beds, and allowed the existing ones to overflow their boundaries so that the amount of lawn has gradually diminished. This year, however, there was no lawn at all. She hadn't pulled out the mower yet, and what grass was left had grown up to about two feet tall. I was more than a little dismayed. To understand why, you have to realize that I have no lawn at my house, indeed, no yard, no dirt except in flower pots. This means that getting Lucas to some place to play outdoors means mounting an expedition, too often by car. I had really been looking forward to Lucas being able to play in the yard, even though I hadn't realized just how important this was going to be to me.

Every time I go home I spend a day or two of my vacation beating back the chaos in my mother's life. Last visit, this meant tearing into the overflowing contents of the cramped eaves that pass for attic space in her house. This year, it meant reclaiming her lawn. It took some coaxing to get the lawnmower to cooperate, but I was rewarded by watching my son start playing in the mowed patches even before I had finished.

So now a bit more about Lucas. I had planned a bunch of activities for him, from walking in the woods to bringing him to some museums. We did both, although I wanted to do more of the walks than we actually got around to. There are not many options for a parent to get out with their kids in Salvador, at least when compared to a place like Amherst, Massachusetts. In addition to a primo library with a fantastic kid's room (and free WiFi), it has...

...and that's as far as I got. You'll just have to wonder about the museums and such, although I bet if you google 'amherst mass museums' you'd come up with the likely candidates. Oh what the hey- I'll post some pictures to add to the mystery.

That's pretty good. If a picture is worth a thousand words, there's another seven thousand words for ya, and maybe I don't have to write another post after all.


Stephanie said...

The pictures are SO good! Im sure Lucas had a fantastic time! The picture of him on the lawn moyer reminds me of one I have when i was his age with my grandfather! He will LOVE those memories, I know I do!

Glad that you all had a good time, sorry it was short! (the good trips always are) If you find a solution for the "weak back" let me know because ever since I came here I have been having back problems (my theory is the lack of cushions..for me, everything is rock hard..no cushions anywhere..including my bed, my husband bought an orthoflex..which is supposed to be good for you back, except mine hurts!)

Glad you all made it home safely!

Jesse said...

Man, I can relate to the (lower) back pain- it seems like that's going around these days. Chiropractor (sp?) seems to help me at times. Glad you had a good time. (Once again-) It was great to hang with you and Lucas (and Jason). The picture of Jason and Lucas on the paddle boat is very funny- they both look so serious! We still wanna get down there for a visit some day...