Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Losing fish

Today was a momentous day. I packed up my office of six years and removed every bit of me form that office, said goodbye to a day-full of patients and walked away. There had been a farewell luncheon with my colleagues two weeks ago, where I was able to talk about the year in Ecuador and thank everyone. I felt very appreciative that day; my colleagues have been helpful allies these past years, referring patients, sharing advice, offering an ear when I sorely needed to be heard. It is odd that while individually I have excellent relationships with my colleagues, as a group we have not been particularly functional, especially in the past three years. When overwhelmed with frustration, one year ago, I opened a new office a few miles away, where I work three days a week. I have loved my new office, where I have no employees, and I take care of every role in the office, from secretary to receptionist to billing person to medical doctor, and I have been very happy and never frustrated in this new kingdom of mine. When I return to Baltimore, I will not join my former group. I really have no idea what I will do when I return, but one certainty is that I have left my old office permanently. I am not sad today, although saying good -bye to patients is difficult, and I have experienced some tears through this process. This is not the first time I have closed a practice, so I have learned from past efforts and this transition has been smooth.

I killed one of our fish today. The goldfish are four years old; at Maya's fifth birthday, we had a magician who conjured up five goldfish out of his tie. We kept them and three died almost immediately, but we have nurtured the last two, with Eric's expertise in fish. Amazing that with all our travels and other concerns, the fish have thrived until today. I ahve not changed the fish water for the weeks that Eric has been gone. The tank is simply too disgusting to clean, so I was waiting for Eric's arrival nest week to change the water. unfortunately it was too late for one fish. the other remains alive, and I have him in a glass bowl. I threw the other fish in the garbage and am not waiting to muster up the courage to dispense with the dirty tank. I am not sure I can stomach it but it should not remain in the kitchen. I am not sure what I will do with the other fish. It needs a new home. I have tears for the fish; I feel this move has coincided with too many losses. Pippi died in February and now we have lost a fish. So much sadness.

Maya hardly paid attention. She has her friend over playing ballet camp. After a day of dancing, she and Sarah are reliving the day, from ballet lesson to comtemporary to make-up lesson ( I was upset with her when I found more make-up on the window-seat cover than anywhere else). I am the only one wanting a funeral for the fish. We did not have a funeral for Pippi, we were all so very sad.

Elmer came over for his 'conjugal' visit yesterday. He seemed to feel quite at home, eating scraps off the table and licking up plates in the dishwasher. He is thinner than when with us. He is getting more exercise at the Benichous, and is absolutely mellow and content. I was worried that May would have difficulty with having him come over and then leave, but she was easy, was happy to see Belina and Marius, and was delighted to watch 'StarWars'.

Daphne and I made some progress last night and Maya and Sarah are in bed, so I have no more excuses, time to pack some more

Monday, June 29, 2009


I am existing in at least two realities at present. On the one hand, all the disparate pieces involved in our move to Ecuador are coming together and we are on track to leave in early August. On the other hand, I am feeling overwhelmed and astonished at how far behind I am in readying the house and wonder if I can actually do it. When I am away in Canada or Cape Cod or wherever I manage to escape for a short time, I look at our progress from afar and we seem to be fine. Occasionally Eric gets that 'deer in the headlights' look and I panic momentarily and feel paralyzed. I could not sleep last night after coming home late and finding myself behind on my own personal schedule. My friend Daphne volunteered to come over and help pack tonight while the children watched 'Starwars' and that seemed like a good idea. I bought boxes at our storage unit and was home when Maya finished ballet. I cooked lasagna while Maya practiced violin and had the table set and ready when Daphne and Belina and Marius arrived. The children were happy to watch the movie while sitting on rolled up carpets in the dining room, the computer on a chair and the lights dimmed. Daphne and I made some progress in Maya's room and the upstairs den, but in truth moved forward just a tiny bit. I had hoped to have the house essentially ready for emptying when Eric arrives next Monday, but he will be disappointed when he realizes how much more we have to do. We will have a week to finish--we have a deadline and that helps, and I am thankful for that. I cannot wait for the day when I can choose to do anything but packing for the evening.

I have piled up my Spanish and Ecuador books in a corner, ready for what I wonder. I will not have time to read about anything or learn Spanish before I go. I had planned to be far better prepared, but work and Maya and packing and everyday life has filled up the hours in the day. I wonder if it is better to be prepared or just to 'wing it', to experience a new place without a plan or any expectation. I will learn about Ecuador when I am there and living it.

Not having books to read is worrisome. I looked online at the 'kindle' machine from Amazon, which can store some 1500 books at one time. Perfect for me; I will not have to bring any books with me, just load them up before I go, and read them at my leisure. Sounds like the perfect idea, but then I hesitate; having my computer and my camera and my iphone and a kindle, so many electronics to keep track of, and will I be so noticeable that I will be a target for thieves? And what if something does not work with the little machine and I will not be able to get it fixed? But perhaps the same machine is available in Ecuador? It appears that everything available in the US is also available to Ecuadorians who have the means. I am not sure what first world and third world mean anymore. There are parts of Baltimore that are third world environments and segments of Ecuadorian society that are as first world as any other. Presumably every technological gadget we have here will be available in Quito. My parents gave me money for my birthday with precise instructions to use only for myself, so this may be the perfect acquisition.

My sense is that everything that I may want or need is possible in Quito. We will not necessarily have the means to purchase all that I want, but whatever is essential will be available. We will live simply, but we will not feel deprived or too limited. I will have to adjust to living with less, which Eric believes is a good lesson for all of us. I feel prepared for that; I have been limiting my purchases for months and months and usually do not feel too horribly deprived. Life is remarkably possible with far far less.

Everyone asks me how Maya is managing with the impending move. She seems just her usual self. Occasionally she will express concern about not seeing her friends, but mostly she lives day to day, not really thinking about the move, or at least not saying much. She lives her life in Baltimore, and one day she will be living her life in Ecuador and she will live day to day there too. She seems neither happy or sad about the move, it just is. She is prepared, having heard about it for months now, watching her belongings disappear, her bed dismantled, her room closed down. She does not seem distressed in any way, her life just happens to include a move to Ecuador for a year. She does not worry about speaking the language. I want her to study before she goes, and have bought workbooks and storybooks, but she is uninterested. She appears to have no doubts that she will learn the language when she gets there. I wish I was as calm about it all; how lucky she is to have such faith and so little concern.

Sunday, June 28, 2009


Another long journey home. I have taken Airtran to and from Boston these past two weekends and every flight has been delayed. Either it is the weather or a medical problem in the prior flight or some other excuse. I guess you get what you pay for, since I did get remarkably good prices for these flights. I am trying to train myself to adjust to a world where time does not have the significance that it has in the life I have been accustomed to. Traveling to Ecuador has always required a suspension of any expectation that schedules will be followed or that we will arrive anywhere on time. With the students we are woken up incredibly early with the expectation that we will catch a plane at a particular hour, and invariably we will arrive at the airport and wait. No one ever knows what the schedule really is, and we must simply accept that eventually we will arrive at our destination. Nothing ever happens as expected, but often the waiting can be entertaining and we can see and experience the unexpected. Eric reminds me that I must become comfortable with people and events and meetings not happening when expected, to be willing and relaxed about the uncertainties and irregularities of time. This will certainly be a challenge because I am used to sticking to a tight schedule. I make it a point not to be late for my patients and am somewhat less of a stickler for other appointments, but am not tolerant of waiting or lateness or carelessness about time.

I must recalibrate for this year in Ecuador. I must accept that time has different significance in this unique culture. Ecuadorians are known to be late to everything. There are jokes about a former president who made a point of being tardy to all appointments and meetings, so much so that it was embarrassing for the government and the newer president is trying to change the culture of tardiness and make Ecuador more like a 'western' country. Although it will be a stretch for me to let go of concerns about timeliness, I look forward to living with less of a schedule and enjoying the journey. Today I got through most of my Sunday New York Times, which is quite a feat. Lately I have been giving up on buying the Times because I never have the hours on Sunday that are required to get through it all. I remember the days that Eric and I would work on the crossword together and I would not give up 'til late Sunday night or early Monday morning to finish it. Those hours reading the newspaper were sacrosanct for years, but somehow that precious time evaporated. So the three extra hours the Airtran delay gave me were put to good use reading my favourite newspaper, which only feels good.

I am looking forward to the time that I will have in Ecuador. I will have no office to go to, nopeople to see and take care of. I love my work and I appreciate my patients and all they teach me, but how wonderful it will feel to be able to wake up and face my day without anywhere to go and nothing I must do. I will ready my daughter for school and get her on her bus, Eric will go to his office, and I will do whatever I wish to do. I have no idea yet what it will be but I like the idea of not having an agenda, of being entirely free to be or do or not do. I plan to appreciate the feeling, to enjoy it. I want to read books. In my ordinary everyday life I have no time for books and am embarrassed that I am so behind on reading. It will take another lifetime to catch up. I am not sure how many English books I will find there. One of my fellow passengers waiting in line for our flight had an Amazon 'kindle' machine, which may be the perfect way to go to Ecuador with all the 'great books' in one small space. I have my list of the hundred greatest books in Western literature. I wonder how many I will read. The first one on the list is James Joyce's 'Ulysses', which I have tried and failed to read many times, but plan to try again. The next on the list is 'The Great Gatsby', which I read a long long time ago, so it is time to reread it. The list goes on. For the first time in my life I will have the time to read.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

In control

I have made a final decision about our departure date for Ecuador. August 5, a little over a month from now. I wanted to leave earlier and focus a few weeks on learning Spanish and finding a place to live before Eric arrives mid-August. But with my passport arriving the third week of July, I did not want to be desperate if it arrives late, and I have been advised that it is better to get my visa before I go, and that it will take just a drive to DC and back in a day to accomplish that. I will have a few more days to make final arrangements and then Maya and I will drive to Tampa to drop off the car and then fly to Miami to catch our flight to Quito. I have purchased the tickets, we are committed.

I wondered for a while if I was avoiding the move to Ecuador. Of course there are always reasons to stay at home longer and prepare more and organize our lives. In truth, with the renters moving in on July 15, I could have left anytime after that, except for my passport problem. And the tasks to be finished before we leave could be done more efficiently and we could have left earlier. I question my motives and the unconscious motivations for the decisions I make. Most of the time I have not made decisions these last months; I have chosen to wait and see what happens, and more often than not, Eric has made the decision and by not being proactive, my choice has been to go along with his decision. I am not sure what that is about, because I usually make decisions and choices and Eric or the family go along with the moves I make. I wonder if by surrendering so much in leaving my life in Baltimore, I have chosen to be passive. Being passive means making a decision too, however.

I am struggling; letting go of my illusion of control. I have believed that I have had control over my life, have made decisions, (right or wrong, but still my decisions) and made things happen. Now I have an opportunity for the first time in my adult life, to let someone else take control, to follow Eric's lead, to support him in his pursuits. This new role does not quite fit me yet. It will take some time to be comfortable as the new me!

So being in Cape Cod is being in Eric's territory. It is his place, his refuge. I am a guest here, it is not my space. The cabin that the MBL provides for Eric has housed all sorts of people, including his graduate students, guest lecturers, family, friends. Eric is the provider of shelter, and this time his PhD student and her chinchilla are there. There is room for Maya and I, but we are clearly visitors who will be tolerated for a couple of days until the household reverts to normal. Eric and his student leave for the lab early in the morning, and Maya and I are free to explore. The best way to go to Woods Hole form our cabin is by bike, and our first stop is 'Pie in the Sky' bakery for breakfast. We find our favourite beach and rush back to the cabin for bathing suits and spend our morning warming up enough to plunge in the cold water for a swim. We meet Eric and his colleagues for lunch and return to the beach to soak up the sun and meet other scientists and their wives and children. I forgot sunscreen (actually the weatehr forecast was for rain and cold so I did nto think we needed sunscreen) so I burn, and I never get back into the water, it simply feels colder as the day progresses. We enjoy the gorgeous sunny day even more because it is unexpected.

Maya is in heaven. She loves the beach, and meets friends to play with. Scientists' children come here every year, so they know each other and attend camps together and expect to meet yearly. I think Eric wants to make the MBL his yearly summer event, and would like Maya and I to come yearly and integrate ourselves in the community. I could never see that happen in our former life, at lease when I am running two practices, that would never happen, but now that I have given up my former life, it is entirely possible that we will spend each summer in this gorgeous place.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Summer Place

I am back in Cape Cod for the weekend. Eric has been working at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole for five summers. He stays for eight or more weeks and I try to visit him for long weekends. For the first two years, Eric arranged for very special visits for Maya and I. We would stay at wonderful Bed and Breakfast inns and sailed and biked and took the ferry to Martha's Vineyard and visited the beach. Tara was always busy with other summer travels and projects. She came the third year when Eric had a large cabin with more than enough room for us. My nephew Edouard stayed with Eric for several weeks as well. Maya loved fishing and biking best, and we rode to Falmouth and to town regularly, and took the ferry to Martha's Vineyard for more biking. Tara was not at all enthused with the place and was uninterested in visiting more than the one time. We had the same cabin last year, and each year we have had more time with Eric. He is busy with his work in the course he teaches and until this year, he has had projects going on in his lab as well. He usually brings all his fish and his equipment from Johns Hopkins, and for the two months here, he is in science heaven. The town of Woods Hole is brimming with PHDs and students and when Maya and I are not here, Eric spends all his time working in the lab or with his students.

This year, Maya and I will be here each weekend while Eric is working, and will spend a week or so here when ballet camp is over. I wonder why I have not spent more time here. I find it absolutely lovely and relaxing, and when here, I can forget about the office and everything I feel pressured to do in Baltimore and I can simply play each day with Maya. The weather is often rainy and stormy, so the beach is not always an option. Maya loves to fish, so we will be fishing. We have bikes for all of us, so if the rain stops, we will be biking tomorrow.

I have celebrated my birthday here most years, since July 16 is always in the middle of Eric's summer program. Last year we sailed in Boston harbour with Monica and Thierry. Tara was acting at a rep theatre in Princeton last summer, so most of my weekends were spent in Princeton to see her on stage. She took the bus from New York to celebrate with us. The year before, just Eric and Maya organized a 'spa day' in Falmouth, when I had a top to toe indulgent extravaganza to start my year fresh and clean and energized. The year before that, we sailed out of Chatham with a very colourful character, and Maya was able to steer the boat and go fishing for 'bluefish'. Eric remembers that the year before that was a spa day too, and I cannot remember what we did the year before. So Woods Hole has been my birthday place for years now. I turn a year older whenever I visit Woods Hole.

My 'summer place' used to be my sister's home in Tuscany. From the time that Tara was a few months old, we would return every summer and occasionally in the fall, and when Maya was born, we continued, until Poggio Ventoso was sold five years ago. It was in Poggio Ventoso that I would celebrate all my birthdays, that I would often connect with family, with my sisters, with my parents. I was at a loss when we could no longer plan our summers around Italy and the Maremma. The year we lost Poggio Ventoso happened to be the year that Eric started working at Woods Hole but it took several years until I realized that it had become our 'summer place'. I lamented the loss of Poggio Ventoso and was not ready to replace Tuscany with Cape Cod. Meanwhile Eric could not understand why I was less enthusiastic than he about Woods Hole. I was mourning Italy and the experiences we had had there and was not ready to move on. I find myself resistant to change at every turn! But over the years, Cape Cod has grown on me. My first impressions of the area were very positive, and I have had repeated wonderful experiences, so I do understand his delight in the place. I am now equally enthusiastic, and look forward to calling Woods Hole our 'summer place'.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Living for Today

Michael Jackson and Farrah Fawcett died today. Not that I felt connected to either, but they were icons, celebrities, and everyone knew who they were. Jackson was only 50 years old, Fawcett 62. When I was at the John Lennon-Yoko Ono exhibition in Montreal, I was stunned to learn that Lennon was only 40 when he died. He was such a significant figure when I was growing up, and my impression was that he had contributed so much memorable and meaningful music, which we still hear regularly on the radio. Of course we hear Michael Jackson's music too, but he was so odd and unseemly, it was difficult for me to understand his fans and their devotion to him. Fawcett was odd too, and not a great actress, but has been in the news alot lately with regard to her struggle with cancer. The deaths remind me of the fragility of human existence. Life is now, it makes no sense to live for tomorrow. I am so lucky to be living my life day to day, to be taking advantage of this opportunity to live in Ecuador.

These last three months have been entirely geared toward our year in Ecuador. I am still getting our house organized, closing the offices, waiting on my passport, arranging for our flights, getting my papers in order. And moving to Ecuador has been at the forefront of my mind for so many weeks. I suppose much of the pleasure ought to be in the anticipation, but my anxiety about everything has obscured the joy of looking forward to this incredible year. I am not always sure what I am supposed to be looking forward to. I am so accustomed to telling people what a wonderful opportunity this is, but I am not always feeling that. So my extensive preparation will be for a year that will fly by and before I know it I will be back and preparing to move into life. Except that I am feeling that I will never return to the life that I have had. I will be forever changed by this unusual year, and I will not 'fit' back in the mold of my prior existence. It feels that I am moving away forever, that there is no going back. I may be in Baltimore again in a years' time, but nothing in my life will ever be the same. And I am fine with that. The planning and preparing and organizing and purging of this life of mine compels me to move forward.

Leaving our relatively secure existence in Baltimore has been painful and exhausting. Every aspect of the move has been perceived and interpreted as a loss. Losing the dogs and the house (albeit to renters for just a year), losing my work and my patients and my identity and my purpose, losing my friends and my hobbies and my acquaintances and my habits. Losing my income and my security and my sense of control. Letting go entirely of who I am and how I operate. I could go on and on. For weeks and weeks I fought the sense of loss, and then one day it was absolutely fine and I no longer feel loss ( at least most of the time), and now it is anticipation and eagerness. Time to get on with it - no delays- just do it! This is my life, this is me, let's go! I want to live now, in this moment, I want to live for today.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Passport Hopes

I called the Canadian passport 1-877 number and checked on the status of my passport. Not only had it arrived at the passport facility, the file was opened and appeared to be acceptable and I should have a passport send out by July 21. I was assured that it would be sent fedex and I will receive it by July 23 (I had written on the application that my date of departure was July 23). How wonderfully friendly and efficient the French Canadian/ heavily accented but precise English/ officiant was at the other end of the line. I realized how infrequently I have positive experiences when I try to call an office and have to wade through several levels of voice commands before I give up or reach an unhelpful clerk at the other end. I fell so much better after that phone call, and hopeful that my plans to leave at the end of July remain intact. No more excuses to hold off on any decision!

So many months of waiting and anticipating and worrying and enthusiasm peaking and plunging and we are almost there. Maya had her first video violin lesson today and it went reasonably well ( I may send Eric to New York to help Maya's teacher manage her technology). We are on skype almost nightly with my parents, my mother remains skeptical, my father very intent on learning how to maneuver the mouse and intuit the behaviour of the computer.

The house holds onto me, it resists my efforts to pack up and leave. I wait til late in the evening and the darkness to box up our lives. I keep running out of boxes; tomorrow is the day to visit Starbucks to pick up the boxes they put aside for me. It may be that the only way I can make progress is to ask a friend to come over and help me; we will push each other to move forward, to make decisions about purging. For now, it is clear when I have to stop; I begin to question throwing away anything the garbage pile gets smaller.

Eric is pushing me to commit to a date for our departure. I have no home after July 15, except that I do have friends who offer me their homes. Maya wants to stay for another week of ballet school, she has a violin recital August 1. Is that a good reason to stay? Originally I planned to fly to Ecuador the second half of July to look for a home and have Maya learn Spanish and get to know friends from her new school and her new home. Eric has indicated that I should work a little more to have a 'cushion' in the bank when we go. That makes sense, so should I stay longer to work? He has a cabin in Woods Hole until August 2, so I do have a 'home' for another several weeks. What would I do in Cape Cod? It would be a vacation, why not take time off and just be? Ecept that Ecuador is calling. The sooner I move to my new home and begin to put our new lives together the better, but I would be alone with Maya until the mid-August, when Eric arrives one day before our anniversary. I have been giving him a hard time about forgetting our anniversary. Last summer on our anniversary we were in Paris with the children, and I bought tickets for opera arias in 'the oldest church in Paris -St. Julien Le Pauvre' and we ate at a less than stellar Indian restaruant around the corner from the church, where Maya listened intently to Bollywood films. I waited for Eric to remember that it was a special day, for the children to remark on it. Only after another two weeks, once we arrived home, did Eric suddenly remember that he had forgotten our anniversary. Anyway, I have reminded him often enough so that he is not planning to forget it this year. This is a repeat of our past life; we married on August 17 and Eric moved to Balitmore August 19. I stayed in Salt Lake City with the children and closed my practice and supervised the movers for the next two weeks, and flew to join Eric in early September. In retrospect I often wonder if the way we made the move created obstacles and 'karma' issues, that we should have moved together and started our new lives as a couple rather that separately. If I move to Ecuador alone with Maya, will I feel overwhelmed and alone? Would we do better if we arrive as a family? I cannot decide.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Winding Down

I am avoiding paperwork, but that is not unusual. I prefer to see patients, to talk to my colleagues, to check my email, to call people, to do almost anything rather than attack the pile of paper that faces me as I walk into work. I am making the most of my minimalist office, with three uncomfortable chairs and my computer and printer siting precariously on two old file cabinets. I have to twist around and contort my body to type on my keyboard, so it is literally a stretch to use the computer anyway. I was reminded today that the new physician wants to move in July 1, so I have to use the last two days I am in the office to get everything out. That is in between the scheduled patients, who come every hour or half hour. My day is less hectic than it ordinarily is as I wind down my practice and say goodbye. I am not unhappy or stressed, just do not want to go file my papers. I am at my other office tomorrow where filing is not the issue, but I am behind on billing and I will have to send out all my bills so I can get paid and them pay my own bills. I am looking forward to the day that I am not making any money at all and can forget about paying bills; I cannot believe I am actually thinking of the relief I will feel when I am dependent entirely on someone else for my existence.

I came home from my workday to face the even more ominous task of organizing and boxing our belongings. Once again, I encounter all sorts of other more important tasks to avoid what I absolutely must do. I took a ballet class, I picked up Maya and practiced violin with her and put her to bed and then washed dishes and prepared for the day tomorrow and watched Bill Maher and now I think I have no valid excuses and will start on my boxes.

I am finally looking at flights to Ecuador. The prices have been increasing over the past weeks, and I realize that I should have made a decision a month ago. Now I am hesitant because I do not have a passport and am not sure if or when I will have one. I am delaying again. I have agreed to call the passport office in Canada tomorrow to see if my application has been accepted. I will choose a date and commit to a flight by this time tomorrow!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Home With a Plan

We left rainy misty Boston for hot and humid Baltimore. I did not want to leave our very comfortable hotel, which turned out to be a very entertaining place to stay in Boston. I had booked and paid for four nights, so my niece Lorna is having a hotel stay tonight in the former jail, which is now a party and restaurant scene. My original plan was to stay in the cottage in Woods Hole, which is very basic, almost rustic, but it was not ready for us until last night. The Liberty Hotel was several steps up. I am not sure that it made a difference to Eric, but Maya and I liked all the extra touches. She is particular about hotels, and likes to make her own bed and wear the bathrobe and try out all the bath products. When we travel up next weekend, we will take the bus to the Cape and check out the cabin.

Our plane was several hours late, so Maya missed half of her ballet camp today. I was relieved that I had not booked any patients. I had little time between dropping Maya off at ballet and picking her up when it was done. I have booked a trip to Boston every weekend with Airtran, and the prices are right, but the service lags, so far each plane we have taken was over an hour late. My choice is to take Southwest to Providence and get a ride to Woods Hole, or fly Airtran to Boston and catch the bus,which can be a hour and a half ride or several hours depending on the traffic. We arrive around 7 next Friday and I expect the bus ride will be long as we compete with all the other weekend travelers heading for the beach. I am now remembering why I always have great plans to visit Eric when he is in Cape Cod, but lose my enthusiasm after a few weekends when it feels as if it takes as much time to get there as we have at the cabin, and then we have to head back for the long trek by bus, plane and car. We will stay there for a week this year later in July and will be able to take our time and enjoy our visit. I have two more weeks of work and then I have more availability; actually without work I am free to do whatever I wish. Staying in Woods Hole is easier that going back and forth, and I will enjoy it more if I get into the rhythm of the place. Maya is happy at the beach, fishing, or riding her bike, and is mostly happy to have her family together, although she is also very keen on her ballet camp and does not want to miss it.

My plans while home are to tackle one room at a time and pack up as much as I can manage, and when Eric returns for a week between the courses he teaches, he will remove what I have packed to the storage area, and we will have the house thoroughly empty and clean for the renters who move in on July 15. Tonight I will start with the easiest and emptiest rooms and that will be quick and hopefully feel like an accomplishment. I still have full days at work, but there is an end in sight, and the transition to new physicians is going well.

I continue to worry about my passport and my visa. Eric will go ahead and get his special working visa for himself and Maya, but I am not sure I will be able to add my name to his visa and may have a struggle to get a visa of my own. I may have to leave after 90 days and find another way to stay. It may not be as simple as I thought it would be. Not having a passport makes my life rather uncertain for a while and I am not sure Eric realizes how serious this problem may be. His attitude is that everything is both impossible and possible in Ecuador. It is a country of great contradictions. Corruption is against the law, but it happens all the time in all sorts of ways, from simple encounters with the police on the street to huge and complicated pay off schemes. When the answer appears to be no, there are often ways to get around obstacles. When yes is the answer, it is not always so, sometimes yes is said to please when the answer is in fact no, or it will take time to get what one wants. I am often confused, but have learned to be patient and wait, and somehow everything always seems to work out. When my passport fiasco happened, Eric was clearly perturbed, but appears to have have recovered and expects there to be a way to manage my visa problem. Eric has been to Ecuador at least ten times now, and has overcome all sorts of difficulties or found a way around the barriers, even when the language is an obstacle.

So I try to have faith, and hope that my passport will come soon, that I will somehow get on the visa before it is too late, that my status in Ecuador will not be an issue, that before too long we will be looking for a new home and exploring our new city.

Sunday, June 21, 2009


I had planned for rain and cold weather and had been unprepared for the heat and humidity in Boston the last few days. Yesterday was sunny and gorgeous, today it was rainy and misty and cool all day. We walked the length and breadth of the city for the last two days. Yesterday we crossed the Charles River from our very interesting hotel. We are staying at a converted jail called the 'Liberty Hotel', and an effort has made to preserve much of the character of the prison. The hotel is very popular and on both Friday and Saturday night, the lobby has been packed with revelers. Maya and I had a drink at the bar Friday after we arrived and the crowds at the bar were six to eight people deep! Maya was uncomfortable trying to balance her Shirley Temple with all the jostling enthusiasm around her, so I joined her in our room with my mojito. The room has floor to ceiling windows with views of hte Boston skyline.

Monica and Thierry joined us with Kaspar and Lorna after breakfast yesterday, and then we walked through the MIT campus with an architecture guide, reading about the interesting buildings by IM Pei and Frank Gehry. My favourite was a science lab building by the latter, with all sorts of interesting colours and shapes and teetering windows. I wonder how anyone can concentrate in such a building, which reminded me of Toontown in Disneyland. I found a Neurocomputational lab in the building and called Eric to look at the possibliity of working in such a structure. Even the furniture inside matched the cacophany of shapes outside. It was very entertaining. The school reacted to the boldness of the Gehry design by buiding an opposite sort of structure across the street, plain and staid and innovatingly ordinary. There was construction for new buildings all over the campus. My favourite part of MIT were the original buidlings which wer first conceived of in a neoclassical style with names of famous scientists carved all along the frieze. We had to cross back over the river to get to Monica's flat on Marlborough and after a quick sandwich wandered over to the Apple Store, where I wanted to check on a workshop I signed Maya up for in July. Apple stores are having these free workshops all over the country,but I could not find one she could attend near Baltimore, so I put her on a waiting list for the store on Boylston Street, which came through for her on July 14. We will be in Woods Hole at the time and will drive up for the morning. Eric and I palnned this for Maya and she was not informed or consulting about it so she objected when I first brought it up, but I think she will enjoy it, or at least I will try to learn as much from her as possible, since it is I that has so much to learn about regarding what my computer can do. It is of course a music workshop that she is attending; how to take advantage of the computer so you can make music with it. So much fun.

Dragging Maya out of the Apple store is a challenge. Our next stop was the Sheraton and ballroom dancing, and then on to the South End for a look at the area, followed by a visit to the First Church of Scientist, which I knew nothing about, but was started in Boston by a woman named Mary Eddy, who wanted to offer an alternative to medicine for treatment of various illnesses through prayer. She started the Christian Science Monitor, and the church and church buildings occupy a huge square and offer a small museum with a 'Mapparium', a stained glass representation of the planet large enough to walk through and admire. I was confused by the religion and was ignorant enough to ask if it was the same as scientology; the response was that this religion was 'bible based' whereas scientology was based on a theory about aliens, as if I should have known that. I guess I was suitably ignorant and unknowing. We walked past the Copley Plaza Hotel, where I had met my first husband at a board review conference. It brought back all sorts of memories. The city has changed so much in the 22 years since that fateful meeting.

Eric arrived from Woods Hole and met us back in our jail hotel where we ate at the basement restaurant 'Scampo' before dropping off Maya for a night wiht Lorna while we went dancing. What a wonderful day we had in Boston!

The city was shrouded in mist and fog when we woke up today. We had a huge yummy brunch and planned to walk to Monica's in the mist, but ventured into the subway instead, where the whole city was on its way to Fenwick Park and the Red Sox game against the Atlanta Braves. We joined them in their journey and found our way to Marlborough Street after a few false moves. From the rooftop we could see the baseball stadium, and then we joined the fans in their march and joined the hawkers and the scalpers selling tickets. It seemed as though all the Bostonians from all walks of life were on their way to the game. We walked on to Emmanuel College ( and passed more colleges, there are more colleges in this town thant anywhere!) and checked on Edouard's new appartment near the school. We were on our way to the Isabel Gardner museum, her own private collection of paintings and objets d'art; quite an amazing collection presented in a house she built to show off her works of art. Remarkable woman. We ran into wild turkeys on our way to the museum, very ugly creatures who appeared aggressive, ready to stike anyone who came too near. I wondered where they came from. The rain and the mist continued all day, never so bad we could not walk, but never letting up either. We saw so much of Boston today. I have decided that we must look for a job here in Boston, being that it is such an interesting and entertaining city. I am adding Boston to our list; Montreal, then Boston.

It was Father's day today, so we celebrated with Thierry and Eric. Thierry received dancing lessons for the occasion. He will have three private ones and three with Monica. What a wonderful idea. I am inspired,and will find a way to get Eric out on the dancefloor far more often. Ecuador is perfect for that I hope! I have bee skyping my parents daily and they are definitely getting ot be more adn more comfortable with the technology. I want them to be 'hooked' so that they keep up with it. Edouard leaves them tomorrow and I am not sure they are ready to handle the iMac on their own. I am certainly hopeful, but it helps to have a knowlegable person around to help them when necessary. My mother prefers the phone, perhaps because seeing each other could jut be too much for her. I am surprised how comfortable I am in being seen anywhere anytime for the videochat. I talked to Karen in Paris today as well as Tara in Italy and my parents in Edmonton, how utterly amazing!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Music and Dancing

Today was a preparation for Ecuador. We went dancing at a club in Cambridge and had a salsa lesson to start. Eric and I have learned the salsa before and so it will not take long to get our dancing legs back. We plan to dance regularly in Ecuador!

I dragged Eric to his first dance class when I just met him in Salt Lake City, and he absolutely hated it. I was intrigued with the tango, but it was not the first type of dance to introduce to a novice who does not feel the rhythm. Pregnancy and a baby gave him a year or two reprieve, but when we moved to Baltimore we took a salsa class together and Eric enjoyed himself. Every several weeks the class would meet at a club and dance freely. I loved dressing up in my three inch heels and a flouncy dress, Eric in proper shoes and attire, and move with the music. Eric did well and kept adding more and more moves to his repertoire. I am not sure what happened, perhaps just life happened and we stopped going to clubs and improving our dance. Later I tried again to get him back into salsa, but he objected to the teacher and for a while I went alone and tried tango again,which continued to interest me but Eric refused to consider tango at all. Except once for Valentine's Day he took me to a tango demonstration/show with dinner which was amazing. We tried a ballroom dance class through Peabody in the fall of 2007, but again, Eric felt overwhelmed, and although he really did well, the teacher was confusing and was regularly frustrated with us for not learning as quickly or as well as she expected. That was the end of our dancing efforts until Monica brought us to Ryles in Cambridge for a lesson in 'East Coast Swing' and the salsa. The teacher was not inspiring, but once the dancing started, Eric and I began to remember a little and explored a bit and had fun.

This is one of my goals in Ecuador; we must dance and learn not just the salsa, but the cumbia, the rhumba, the merengue, the cha cha. I will insist that Maya learn too, since it is so much easier when one starts young, not so late in life. We were meant to dance, all cultures dance, it is a wonderful way to express oneself, and I have not been dancing enough lately.

Earlier in the day we had checked up on the ballroom competition in the Sheraton Hotel. The costumes were a hoot, but it was entertaining. I believe it was the teachers and their students competing, the men being the instructors and the women in sequins and bare backs ranging in age from 20's to 70's, certainly proving that dancing is possible into your late years!

So our year in Ecuador will include exposure to as much dance and music as possible, both traditional and folk as well as more current and modern. Part of our exploration of the culture and understanding of the 'soul' of Ecuador. I have listened to traditional Ecuadorian music and much of what I heard is very moving and anguished and sad. But I know so little and have so much to learn.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Choosing to be Calm

I am choosing to be calm for today. I sent my passport forms with photo via fedex and am trusting that in four weeks I will receive a new passport and will preserve my Brasil visa and be ready to go. If that does not work I will drive to Canada once again to go through the appropriate steps to acquire a new passport. And we will travel to Ecuador by the end of July as per our original plans. When I have to get a visa I will simply travel to Peru or Columbia and apply for one and everything will work out. In the interim, I will finish packing up the house (will this ordeal ever be over?), finalize the details of transferring all my patients and closing all accounts at the office, say good-bye to friends and colleagues and patients and finish up my life here.

Sometimes it feels as if the concluding of my life here is the adventure, as much as the year in Eucador is. I have been preparing in some way for months and months, and now with the move to Ecuador so near, of course there is an obstacle, but not so much that we will have to alter our plans too much. Eric is not going to Ecuador until early August anyway. I was going to go a few weeks earlier to find a place to live and to familiarize Maya with Spanish before school starts. I still plan to do that, but it may not be much earlier than when Eric arrives. So be it.

Meanwhile, life continues. Eric drove to Woods Hole yesterday evening and had an easy drive. I had to answer question after question from our exterminator about the rainforest. How much 'primary forest' is there left? How soon will it be gone? Does he need to see it within five or ten years? When will it in fact disappear? Would he be able to go on his own? How much would it cost for a trip including airfare? Does it matter that he does not speak Spanish? Is Ecuador the best place to see 'primary forest" or is it better in Peru or Brasil? Would Eric and I help him put together a trip? What are the trees like? How tall are they? I found myself making up answers as I went along, he clearly knew far more aobut the jungle than I had, having watched alot of National Geographic and Discovery Channel and was very interested. I just wanted him to exterminate rodents.

I find that today people know so much from watching television. There is keen interest in the rainforest and the jungle and nowadays one does not necessarily have to travel anywhere except to the TV room and use your remote and you can go anywhere and see everything. There are so many places I have not been to, but I feel that I know them, from reading my favourite magazine, National Geiographic, which I received for years and years and have never thrown away an issue until this recent overhaul of my boxes. I cannot bear to throw them away, but Eric has no attachment to paper or magazines and has no qualms about discarding them. I will return from Ecuador with my National Geographic bibles gone. This exterminator knew so very much about the jungle, he has been there in his mind many times. I wonder if the real thing will not compare to the imagined place he has created in his dreams.

I had no idea what to expect about the rainforest when I first accompanied Eric to the jungle. I knew he preferred the forest to the Galapagos or anywhere else for that matter, and I was prepared to feel uncomfortable and simply tolerate it. Instead, I was entranced and fell in love with the forest and am always eager to return. Eric warns me that he will be in the jungle regularly when I am left behind in Quito watching Maya and I have to be prepared and not get too envious of his freedom and my limitations. I never really thought of that until he repeated it a few times. He loves the jungle and imagines that I will hate him for being there more than I will. I have not been to Yasuni or Lago Agrio or Cuyabeno; I would like to accompany Eric as much as possible and see more and do more than I have done. Near the end of our time in Ecuador, we will take a long trip down the Napo from Tena to Sacha by boat, perhaps further than that. The more involved I am with Eric's research, the more I will see of the jungle.

Maya and I am in Boston tonight. We were planning to surprise Eric tomorrow in Woods Hole, but last night I learned that he could not move into the cabin until late Sunday, so Eric will sleep with his colleague Maurice, and drive up to Boston to spend Father's Day with Maya and I and my sister and her family. I found a hotel that was once a jail and has been renovated as a hotel. It is a very happening place, with crowds of people in the lobby. Maya and I managed to squeeze our way to the bar and order a Shirley Temple and a Mojito to bring upstairs and admire our view of the city lights. We will have a couple of days of reprieve, and then it is back home for packing and preparing.

Thursday, June 18, 2009


Tonight was the night for extermination. Our renters will not be happy if there are mice scurrying all over, or ant armies trailing through the kitchen. The rodents have truly taken over, and Eric and I have long ago given up the fight and tolerated their presence. Our new property manager ( the real estate agent in her new role) was firm with us; the mice had to go. With Elmer away from the house, we can use more toxic methods to eliminate our pests. Our neighbours across the street had struggled for years with their pesky mice and had found this particular fellow who had worked all of one night and scared all the mice away permanently (perhaps they moved over to our house). 'At Once Termite and Pest Control' was unable to guarantee me success forever, but felt they could make a difference, at least through the winter while the renters were in the house, but that was good enough. I am regularly horrified to hear them scrambling around in the walls while I am sleeping or running across the kitchen floor as I open the door. I would call Eric and insist that he "DO SOMETHING!!!!" and he would put out traps and catch a few, but invariably he would lose interest in after a few days and the mice would return to take over their space (our space?) again. This is it!!!! Extermination!

I miss Elmer and Pippi. It is amazing how empty the house feels without two one-hundred pound dogs taking up space. No more wads of fur in every corner, no more wagging tails, no sad eyes and unconditional love. We have been making 'conjugal visits' to give Elmer hugs and attention, but he is perfectly happy in his new home and his babysitters may not give him up; they adore him. I felt the loss of Pippi more acutely and did not think that it would so difficult to give up Elmer. Except that I like that our grass in the yard is growing back. It began to improve when we went from two dogs to one, and even moreso when we went to none. Eric is so pleased and would be happy not to have any more dogs in the house, but Maya and I both want Elmer back. I began thinking of having another dog, perhaps a smaller one, but Eric will definitely object. He only barely tolerates the dogs.

It feels as if Maya and I are just wandering through the hosue trying to get our bearings. So odd without furniture and personal effects. It simply does not feel much like my house. What makes a house a home? The family, the dogs, the items reflecting the personalities of the inhabitants. There is none of that now, just big rooms with empty, half full and overflowing boxes. I had friends over for dinner, the original plan was to picnic on the floor, but Eric had set up a table and chairs, so we had a reasonably elegant evening dinner amidst the cardboard forest. Having friends over was once a regular part of our lives, but with all the packing, we have ceased living our ordinary lives. We have been held hostage by the house for months now. It is interesting that by entertaining friends and family, the house becomes more like a home. The packing experience has become quite isolating. Of course, while the house was being shown to renters, we had to keep it clean and neat, and having people over would potentially mess things up, so it is with great relief that I can open the house up again. It is also a bit of an adventure to live this way, without all the usual paraphernalia.

Maya is having fun with the space. She spends almost no time in her room. She has set up her mattress on the floor in the guest room, with a few of her prize possessions nearby, but sleeps most nights in my bed, especially now that Eric is gone, and runs in circles around the spacious living room and hides upstairs in Tara's attic whenever she has friends over. Every room of the house has become more of a 'playspace' and more accessible to her. I feel as if I have lost control of my house. There is no room that looks like it once did, or serves the same purpose. I have lost my house already. It hardly belongs to me anymore.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009


I have been distraught all day. Why did I not think to get a new passport in Canada? We were in Ottawa and Montreal, on weekdays when passport offices were open and I could have had a passport in 24 hours! Instead, I have run all over Baltimore simply to get a photograph that will fit the very stringent Canadian specifications ( or at least I hope so), and will fedex it back to Gatineau (right across the river from Ottawa) and will wait 'up to four weeks' for my passport. Eric will not be able to put me on his visa, I have to wait a little longer to buy a ticket for Quito, when I am in Ecuador I will have to try to get a visa by leaving the country and re-entering. Just makes our lives complicated. Not sure why I had not thought to take care of this when it would have been easy! I can see that Eric is frustrated with me, with himself...we did not need more stress!

Meanwhile we continue to pack up more and more boxes. I pack up everything I see and then ask for more boxes and pack up some more and then find another room full of more stuff. I am beginning to worry that we will not be able to fit everything in our storage unit. There is simply too much in this house of ours. All the big furniture is gone, but somehow there is an endless supply of stuff (junk?) to find a place for. I ordinarily have difficulty throwing anything away, but perhaps that will change in the next few weeks. I will try to pack an hour or so a day over the next few weeks, so that when Eric returns from his six week sojourn at the Marine Biological Laboratory, he will just have to move the boxes away. That is the plan.

The house is perfectly serviceable with a few chairs, a table and a bed. I wonder if we need anything else? I can sleep on the bed, read on the bed, eat on the bed, check out the internet on the bed. I wonder if we need any more furniture--we need just a bed! The house is more spacious, bigger, but not less inviting. I will have to consider a more minimalist home when we return.

We will rent a home in Eucador, and I would prefer a non furnished appartment, but I am not sure we can furnish a whole appartment. Perhaps we will jsut have a huge bed, and that will be in the center of the home, and Maya Eric and I will live all aspects of our life on the bed. No need for anything else. When we were in Montreal, Karen and I visited the Montreal Museum of Art, which presented an exhibit of John Lennon and Yoko Ono when they had their 'bed-in' for peace in Montreal in 1969. They had just got married and wanted to make a statement in New York but were denied entry because of Lennon's former drug charge, so they chose to go with their entourage to Montreal and stayed at the Fairmount Queen Elizabeth Hotel and brought in media and photographers to publicize their resistance to the war in Vietnam, and their wish for peace. They felt that because the papparazzi would be following them everywhere anyway, they may as well manipulate it for their own purposes. It was a fun exhibit, mostly for the nostalgia, the music, the memories of a more innocent time. Lennon's music in the background was essential to the expereience. That a museum could focus an entire exhibit on the time Ono and Lennon spent in Montreal on a bed is remarkable. The exhibition worked and was the only part of the museum that was entirely packed with people.

Part of this transition for me is to adjust to living with less; less furniture, less income, minimal clothing, few books. I wonder if for now I am just practicing. I am living in an empty house, working in an empty office, keeping a minimal amount of food in the refrigerator, wearing the same clothes every day, spending less, doing less. In my former life I would have been far more frustrated with so many limitations. Instead, I feel unburdened and freer without all the 'stuff'. The empty house feels so much more relaxing and spacious.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Passport Woes

I have just picked up the absolute worst passport photograph I have ever seen. Do I really look that frightfully awful?. This is the second time I have been horrified by my photograph. I ripped the first version up four weeks ago and returned for another try at the only photo place for Canadian passports nearby, and would have ripped this one up but we have to get our visa and the only thing that is holding us up is my passport, which expires in March of 2010, but has to be valid throughout our stay. I had Eric pick it up and when we met he advised me not to look at the photo; of course I had to and have been depressed ever since. I look in the mirror and see a decent looking middle aged woman; then I look at this nightmarish person who will grace my passport for the next five years and I cringe.

Is this about not accepting that I am old and deteriorating? Or is it simply that I cannot tolerate such an offensive representation of me? Or am I simply vain and self conscious? I spent an an inordinate amount of time online looking up locations for Canadian passport photos, and discovered not only that the photo I am so dissatisfied with is not up to specifications anyway, and that there are very few (none as far as I have found thus far) locations that advertise for Canadian passport photos.

I simply cannot accept the photo. I have my passport application ready to fedex to Canada, and Eric is pushing me to 'just do it'. Tomorrow, although booked all day in the office, I will have to find a way to get this photo redone and delay getting the new passport and therefore delay acquiring our visa and delay our travel to Ecuador. This is a disaster! My vanity is preventing our move to Ecuador! I am entirely embarrassed.

I am willing to find a service to expedite the process of getting the passport, but I have yet to find the right photographer. Eric pointed out that having been in Canada for a week, it would have been simple to get a photo anywhere there. Why was I not thinking of that? Am I avoiding our move to Ecuador? It never occurred to me while there to pursue this, when it would likely have been far more uncomplicated!

I cannot think of anything else this evening, although it has been a momentous day in other ways. We had movers transport all the large items in the house and the office to the storage unit today. I expected the house to look much better, but there are so many boxes half filled and piles of junk in too many corners. My office requires hours of organization and filing, and I am uncertain that I will have the time to do finish it all. This would all be entirely acceptable and doable if not for this looming passport problem!

Monday, June 15, 2009


We met the new renter today, at least one fifth to one third of the renters ( husband, wife and son will be at the house year-round and college age daughter and son will visit throughout the year). Stu came bouncing up the driveway, unfazed by the piles of detritus in the yard, the garage crammed in every corner with unimpressive junk, boxes open and overflowing in every room. It was clear that he empathized with our struggles, he and his wife having started the process of 'dejunkifying' their home in Connecticut. He wanted to be sure there was enough room in the our home for his furniture and belongings. I think we almost passed the examination, but there is some concern that if there is not enough room because we have left too much behind, that we will be expected to provide them with a storage unit!

Tonight will be an allnighter as we pack up enough so the movers can do their job tomorrow. Eric is out now discussing writing a book about Ecuador with Carlos, who was a Woodrow Wilson Center scholar in DC for a year and is returning to Quito tomorrow. Carlos is a sociologist and I am not entirely sure what the book project is, but I will likely find out soon enough since I expect to be involved in the process in some way. Eric has proposed several book projects. At first my role was to photograph for the books. I am an amateur photographer and not good enough to photograph for a book, but I will be happy to take photographs and perhaps one out of three thousand will be worthy. I will offer my services as editor perhaps, I can certainly read and critique and perhaps make suggestions. Eric has so many ideas and proposals and plans for his year in Ecuador. From a research station in the jungle to the books to exchange programs with students...I imagine reality will bring one or two to fruition, and after a year, Eric will have to plan for a second sabbatical and then a third and a fourth. I wonder if part of my purpose in Eucador will be to ensure that his projects move forward. Eric dreams and has great ideas, I am a doer, I get things done. But during my year in Ecuador I don't necessarily want to be a 'doer', I want to leave that part of me behind for the year while I live and absorb and feel the experience. I have stopped telling people what I plan to do while away. I am working daily to stop 'doing', to close down the practice and the projects and the house, to wind down my life. I do not want to 'crank' it up for the next year, perhaps not ever.

I have been so worried about my purpose in Ecuador, but I am letting go of the need to perform and to accomplish. I am more and more comfortable about just 'being' and living my life without a profession and a job to go to and perform at ( and it has been a struggle to let go of the roles that define me). I am finally feeling free and calm about moving forward without a plan. It is an odd feeling to be an 'aide', a supporter without my own kingdom. My purpose is to support Eric, to make sure things happen as he plans, to support Maya and her adjustment to her new environment, to be sure that Tara is safe while she asserts her independence in a new world. And to figure out who I am outside of my 'box'. I am fearful that I may discover that I will disappear and be nothing without my job, my house, my role, my income, my position, my usual purpose.

Sunday, June 14, 2009


I have been anticipating this feeling of freedom, which is (finally) lifting my spirits and moving me forward. Moving to Ecuador is so much more for me than taking a year off work or exploring a new culture and language. I am leaving my life behind and starting an entirely new one, one in which I have all sorts of choices to be whomever or pursue whatever direction I want. I feel unburdened by so many details of the life I spent my adulthood building, a life I was mostly quite satisfied with. I see the next several months as being entirely open to all sorts of possibilities and am eager for the challenges waiting for me.

So it no longer feels burdensome to pack boxes. I feel a surge of relief with every box I tape shut. And I am entertained. I found a DVD of Tara when she was about three and visiting Disneyland with my friend Susan and another of Maya at the Montreal Jazz Festival in 2000 with Susan and Noel. I wish I had videotaped more events in their lives; I have photographed regularly, but have never made movies, so I am especially thankful that Susan was always busy with her video camera and I have these precious recordings of my children when they were young and adorable. Susan also videotaped our wedding surreptitiously, which is entertaining to watch, because I am so unsettled I cannot stop moving and I am constantly scanning my surroundings as if I was ready to escape at any moment. And Eric is calm and peaceful and making an effort to reassure me, and Maya is the flower girl and throwing flower petals on the floor and then picking them up and putting them back in the basket and then trying to take off my hat and wear it during the ceremony. I became focused on looking for the videotape and could not find it; I think my parents had a copy and now I want to make it into a DVD so I can have another copy. It is so easy to get distracted, especially with photographs and letters and cards. I am constantly reminding myself to get back to work and get more boxes packed and sealed.

The next two weeks of organizing and packing and leaving no longer feels overwhelming. I wonder if the agony of these past weeks has been about letting go of what is known and fear of my unknown future. I see myself moving forward, but I have no idea what is next, and that does not worry me much. I feel no pressure to accomplish anything or do anything in particular and if I do nothing but absorb as much about Ecuador as I can, that is fine. I do not feel distressed about what I am leaving behind. Perhaps because I have a home to return to, I do not feel displaced or disconnected. I am back on track as far as seeing this move to Ecuador as a great adventure for me, for my children, for Eric, for us as a family. This is how this journey started, many many months ago, when Eric and I started getting excited about it. It feels as if I fell into a abyss for a while and have scrambled out and find myself back on terra firma, still unknown, but an inviting place. I like this sense of freedom.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Up All Night

Eric drove most of the way, Maya slept soundly, and I drifted in and out of consciousness and felt good enough to drive that last three hours while Eric snored. Perhaps this drive was not a great idea, because both Eric and I were exhausted when we got home and I did not feel like doing much. Eric made an appointment with the Apple store (again) to have his phone replaced (the fourth one I think) and my computer needs major repairs at great cost, but perhaps worth it because buying a new one is far more expensive. I pushed myself to take a ninety minute hot yoga class to start sweating off the results of all the yummy food we have been eating. When I got home, Eric was napping, Maya was reading Harry Potter and I found myself less enthusiastic about packing up the house ( a familiar feeling). We have developed a pattern whereby when I am eager to work, Eric wants to rest, when he is ready to go, I find other more important things to do, somehow we are not in tune when it comes to the house. We have no choice this weekend, I would think, but we are both so tired, we are rather useless. I did get ten boxes of books packed away and am most of the way through the CDs. Yes, I still have oodles of CDs, and in my parents' house I have boxes of LPs (records) which I think will never be used again. I still have a 20 year old Bang adn Olafson stereo, which looks great and I am not yet ready to retire. However, in Ecuador I plan to educate myself with regard to the internet and use the ipod and computer for music, which I have not yet done.

My sister found a remarkable music program in Venezuela called 'La Systema' which teaches children classical instruments and to play in a symphony. The children have grown into quite amazing musicians and have been a hit all over the world, and of course I wanted to know if there was something similar in Ecuador, and there is an Ecuador Youth Symphony Orchestra, which I must try to contact. Odd that when we were visiting with Maya, I asked so many people about what was available for Maya, and no one mentioned how much music is actually happening there. I did run into a clarinetist from Texas who was visiting and helping improve the symphony along with a Swiss conductor, but I have misplaced his card and will have to pursue that when I get there. I did visit two conservatories, but no one mentioned the youth symphony. A woman from my pilates class had a niece who played the cello in the Ecuadorian symphony for a year and emailed me some contacts. I am feeling more hopeful about the possibilities. We see Maya's teacher for the first time in many weeks tomorrow, and so far seh has not been positive about our move and its impact on Maya's violin, but I am more and more confident that we will find what we need, or at least something that will open up possibilities for Maya and her music. She is remarkably devoted to her violin and tells my sister she plans to be a violinist when she grows up. There is an excellent music school at McGill, so Maya has already decided that she will go to college in Montreal.

We are moving to Ecuador in a month or so! This is it! I have said good-bye to my parents and my sisters and most of my patients and the house is rented and the dog is placed; it is so very strange to come home to a house without a dog to greet us. First I noticed that the lawn is growing back and looks green and healthy without a dog doing his thing all over, and the house is empty and quiet and missing part of its soul. Maya seemed a little unsettled today, although it may also be because she is reading the fourth Harry Potter book after reading the third one about seven times during our trip to Canada. I miss Elmer, although I know he is perfectly happy at the Benichous and getting alot of attention and adjusting. I miss his presence, his greeting when I come home, and I like having to worry about him getting his exercise and enough love from us. Maya wanted to visit him, but I am not sure that is good for him or for her.

Skype and videochat is part of our lives. I spoke to Tara in Italy and my parents in Canada. My mother seems to be less negative about the technology and my father is still excited about it. Maya seems unimpressed; it is simply part of her life today and not particularly special. I expect that to be a daily event in our lives to Ecuador.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Where is home?

Driving back to Baltimore in the dead of night. Fog, long wait at the border with lots of odd questions too, staying awake or taking cat-naps.

Edouard has set up the computer for my parents and my father seems absolutely delighted. It took so much convincing and pushing to make this happen, and my mother remains skeptical, but so far we have video-chatted twice and my father is involved and interested and happy about it. Whew! My mother remains resistant and I doubt she will take the time to learn how to use the computer, but she is enjoying the video-chat already. I wish we had done this years ago, but Eric reminds me that the video-chat/skype technology has been available only six months now, so we made it happen at exactly the right time. Edouard has gone through the various steps over and over with my father, but I believe that as long as it all goes well, he will be fine, but as soon as there is a serious glitch, it will be too hard to make it work again. We will use it regularly when we are in Ecuador, to communicate with all the family and to reassure me that my parents are doing well and vice versa. Skype will keep us in touch with all our family members without the usual obstacles.

We had an overdose of family this past week. For me, it was the last time in months and months to see them. I am not sure it will be possible for any of them to visit. Travel is strenuous for both my parents, I can see that they are much happier at home in a familiar environment.

I wonder about where home is anymore. My parents feel at home in Edmonton; they are connected to the place through friends and memories and the house. I have lived in Baltimore for eight years, and it is where my children have gone to school and where I have worked and made friends and had my home. But during the last few days I have been asking Eric what are the chances of getting a job in Montreal. The city was so full of energy and very appealing and I have wonderful memories of the years of internship and general practice in the early eighties. Perhaps because I am closing up the practices and moving out of the house, it feels as if we are leaving Baltimore behind and that it is no longer home, and that after the year in Ecuador, we may never return. Home is where your family is, but my family is scattered all over, so where do we belong after this great adventure of ours? What if Quito feels like home and we do not return. Moving from Baltimore feels so very final. I am not burning any bridges, but this move feels like it only goes one way.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Making Choices

We walked and walked all day today, first for a good coffee (my mother always advises us to try a Canadian coffee shop called 'Second Cup') and then down St. Catherine's to the Apple store to have my computer looked at (I dropped it) and Eric's cell phone replaced (it is his third lemon in the year since he bought it but we are still devoted Apple fans). Our next destination was St. Laurent for lunch at Schwarz's; I don't think Maya or Eric or Karen were too impressed. I once lived not far from St. Laurent, so it was familiar territory. My favorite deli was Ben's, which was in an entirely different part of the city, but closed a few years ago. It was an all night diner and served a huge and varied menu including yummy cheese blintzes. St Laurent was popular not only for smoked meat, but also for the best bagels ever. Funny how one remembers places for the food one ate!

There is so much construction going on in Montreal. Many corners have changed,  yet so much remains familiar. We walked down St. Denis and to Old Montreal and the Old Port, which is new in the sense that it was not developed when I lived here. I showed Karen the Hotel Saint Sulpice, where Tara and Maya stayed when I was showing Tara McGill and trying to convince her to like Montreal as much as I once did. Ultimately Tara chose NYU and New York instead. Eric, Maya and I had once stayed at Hotel XIX, also in Old Montreal. We had driven up one Thursday afternoon for a long weekend in late February, and it was brutally cold and I was worried that my Prius would freeze and not start again. We stored it in a garage all weekend and luckily it started when we were ready to go and did just fine driving back to Baltimore.

I wondered today again what my life would have been like had I stayed in Montreal. Eric has colleagues/collaborators here and one of the possibilities for a sabbatical would have been to come to Montreal for a year, in fact in many ways it would have been a practical sort of choice for Eric. Instead, when Eric suggested Montreal rather than Ecuador to me, my response was that there was no question it had to be Ecuador, since Ecuador was a once in a lifetime opportunity that could not be missed. We discussed it over dinner at a Portugese restaurant tonight. He tells me that it is my choice that we are going to Ecuador, that he gave me several chances to back out and that each time I insisted that the only choice was Ecuador. Of course it is my choice, I have had every possible chance to change my mind and not rent our house or close my practice. This is not a move I would have suggested or initiated, but once it was presented to me as a possibility, I was insistent that we had to do it.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

More Good-Byes

I am sitting on a bed in our hotel room in Montreal listening to Maya learn a new violin piece with my sister. My sister once played the violin, so they speak the same language. Maya gets so frustrated with me and vice versa whenever we practice together, so this is a treat for both of us. We left Kingston this morning to meet my parents in Ottawa for another few hours and ate more food and said our good-byes again and again. We dreamed about meeting in Cuba next February, but that is unlikely. I cannot imagine my parents will travel much anymore. This visit was a stretch for them.

Montreal beckons. We are staying on Sherbrooke near McGill, and the streets of full of people on a Wednesday night. We were referred to '3 Brasseurs' on Ste Catherine's for dinner; not very good food but according to Eric and Karen the beer was excellent. We have eaten so well these past three days, not just well but huge amounts, so we had hoped for a small bit of 'good enough' food. Eric tried 'poutine', a Quebecois dish of french fries, meat sauce and chunks of cheese, really rather disgusting. We had another version in Ottawa at the Murray Street bistro, but it was a gourmet attempt with spatzle and duck liver and was an entirely different experience. We have been indulged with incredible wine and wonderful food for the graduation extravaganza; I am relieved to eat fruit and salad for the next several weeks.

Ecuador food is simple, and I am looking forward to it. There are many different and interesting fruits and vegetables that we do not see in the United States. Ecuadorians eat corn and bananas and beans in all sorts of varieties, and lots of chicken and pork and rarely guinea pig. I have not tried the guinea pig, but my understanding is that it is just for special occasions and not eaten on a daily basis. Certainly it has not been offered at any meal when I have visited in the past. I like going to the market and trying the unfamiliar fruits that I see. I am anticipating healthy food choices and a healthier lifestyle altogether!

I am wondering about life without a job to go to daily. Will I be overwhelmed with all the time I will have to myself when Eric is at the lab and Maya will be at school? I am expecting it to be such a relief that I will not be able or willing to return to work when we are back in Baltimore. I look at my mother and sisters and find it remarkable that they have all had full and productive lives but have chosen not to work outside of the home. I have always justified my work because I felt I had no choice. I had to provide for my family, and I felt lucky to have a profession I found rewarding and never dull. I also felt defined by my work. I was a doctor, I helped people, I made them better, or so I thought and hoped and felt purposeful about. It has been difficult to end my practice and say good-bye to my patients, but now that it is almost over, I am excited about this year without the responsibility of so many lives. Just a few more weeks until I will be waking up each morning and making a decision to read a book or take a walk or bike with my daughter or whatever sounds interesting or compelling. I am beginning to question the years of intense work and my focus on my patients; was it for the income or was there a greater purpose? Will I have an identity without my work? What will I say when people ask me what I do for a living? Do I say I am retired? I guess that answer is that I am taking a sabbatical. Eric seemed perfectly comfortable with the idea of me not returning to work, as long as I can manage on his income. I have no idea if I can do that. Would I work if it was not necessary for survival?

Our move to Ecuador is leading me to question so many of my life choices, but perhaps it is also because of other factors that have come together now. My parents are aging, my daughter is leaving home, the balance of power in my marriage is changing, I am questioning my purpose and my identity, the list goes on and on. And I am writing about it, forcing myself to stop and think and reflect. In my ordinary life, I was running too fast and unable or unwilling to take the time to question anything. My life was a whirlwind of activity, with more added all the time, never slowing down or stopping to wonder why. When I met Eric, he asked me several times about what I was running from, but after a while he ran with me, or at least did not question the pace too much. The move to Ecuador offers me the possibility to quiet down, to find a place of peace I am convinced is somewhere inside of me. I do not regret the incredible pace of my life, but I welcome the new places I am going.

The limited income worries me. I am accustommed to more than enough to live on, to indulge myself, particularly enough to travel wherever I want (actually I could travel much much more that I do if I had no children or no work and far more income). Living off of half Eric's salary for a year sounds daunting. I will have to adjust to living with far less that I am used to. It feels like a major challenge and I hope I can prevail. I hope it ends up being a romantic experience, or at least that a life lesson will be to learn how to live with only the necessities. I feel supported by Eric who does not imply that I will be limited or restricted. There will simply be a finite amout to live on and we will work together to provide for our lives. I guess I have never felt 'poor'in my life, where the focus will be to have enough to eat. So many people in the world focus entirely on getting enough sustenance. What is one's life like when procuring enough to eat is the major focus of one's life?

I am definitely feeling less scared about the move. All the hard work devoted to moving and closing the practices is almost over. Ecuador is weeks away and we are almost ready to go!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009


I had a discussion with my sister about our experiences as young adults. Our parents were proud of us but not excessively so. None of our graduations were celebrated, as if they were just routine. My niece Lorna called her family in France and there too the event is not as marked an occasion as it is here in North America. Perhaps this is the way it should be. My father looked so proud to see his grand-daughter graduate from Queen's University. Perhaps it is a different time of his life, when everything that happens with the family is more precious and memorable. My sister and her husband made the occasion momentous. I found myself simply pleased to see the three sisters and the three generations together. Maya was ecstatic to have so much family around her. She asked me tonight if I would let her stay with her grandparents for longer and I wish I could put her on a plane for a few extra days with them. My mother kept asking if this was the last time that I would see them, and certainly it will be the last time in many months, and it does not feel good to say good-bye to them. It may well be the last time ever, that feels so final and makes me so very sad.

Ecuador is so much further away than anywhere I have lived. I cannot jump in a car or a train or a plane and be with them in a short time. My parents are older and less mobile and are missing me more and more. It seems impossible for them to visit us while we are there. So this is good-bye and it is final. We talked about meeting in Cuba for my father's 90th birthday. I imagine there lots of affordable flights to Cuba from Quito, and it is a major destination for Canadians. My parents speak often of breaking up the winter with a trip to the Dominican Republic or Cuba, both very popular destinations for frozen Edmontonians in the dead of winter. Celebrating my father's 90th birthday in Cuba sounds perfect, but looking at the frailty of my father and my mother's challenges suggests that Cuba is unrealistic for them. We will try to come home for Christmas, but that may not happen.

My parents will fly home tomorrow with Edouard, Thierry will fly to San Francisco for work, Monica and Lorna will drive to Boston where Lorna will interview for jobs, and Eric, Maya, Karen and I will visit Montreal for a few days. Montreal was home for me for a few years after medical school. I did my internship and practiced on an emergency psychiatry unit. I decided after a couple of years to do a residency in psychiatry and returned to Edmonton to do that. I have visited Montreal a dozen times since I left in 1995. There is a wonderful Jazz festival in early July each year which we will miss this visit. It began when I lived in Montreal and has grown huge over the years. I brought Tara and Maya to McGill for a college visit three years ago and was unable to convince Tara to consider the university at all, but Maya assured me she would attend McGill when she was ready to go to college! We do not have an agenda for Montreal this time. Wandering around Old Montreal and the port is a start. Eric will visit colleagues at McGill, while the girls explore.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Family Celebrations

I found myself to be an excellent 'guesser' today. My brother-in-law had compiled a list of twelve questions about the Rideau Canal, which we were to learn about as we drove and visited the sites and museums along the way. Eric, Maya, and I stayed in Ottawa for the day and missed the leisurely drive. Eric had appointments with colleagues at the University and Maya and I visited the Museum of Civilization and marveled at the towering totem poles from the coastal Indian tribes. I was born in Vancouver, British Columbia and lived the first several years of my life there and again wondered what my life would have been like had we stayed there. Who would I be and what would I be doing with my life? Would I have studied medicine and practiced as a psychiatrist? I imagine I would not be moving to Ecuador next month!

Maya was impressed with the exhibitions at the museum (it is not so easy to impress nine year olds, I have discovered). I was intrigued by the architecture (Cardinal has designed many such buildings) and the collection of native artifacts. I wanted to spend so much more time there. Maya was more interested in an exhibit of Egyptian mummies, and we watched an IMAX movie about the same subject. There was so much more to see in the museum, but we met Eric and decided to have a sushi snack (I love Unagi-eel) and start our journey along the Rideau Canal to Kingston. Thierry had organized a scenic drive with several stops along the way. We picked up our list of questions but did not stop at the places that would have provided the answers ( and had no opportunity to check things on the internet). We met at the 'Keg', a steakhouse that I remember from teenage years. There we entered a competition regarding the questions, and my guesses were remarkable! I have never studied or read about Canadian history, and the questions that arose today certainly piqued my interest. I wonder if what I really want to do in Ecuador is read everything I have not read since my first two years of college. I have so much to catch up on! I always read bits and pieces, but never enough; I can fake it and pretend that I have read everything that is current, but I have not taken the time to be 'well read'. At this point I will never catch up, but perhaps I can just a little. I wonder if after a year off work I will want to stay unemployed while I catch up on all the things I have no time for now. I may enjoy it so much that I will never want to return to the office. Eric is convinced I will want to work, as much because I enjoy the freedom of having an income, as the fun of interacting with people everyday. I am confident that I will be perfectly happy not working. The toughest adjustment may be the limited income. I still find myself resistent to the idea of a budget, but I am confident that I will manage whatever our limitations are and may in fact feel lighter with less.

We are in Kingston to celebrate my niece's graduation. It is quite the fanfare! I don't remember any such events when I graduated for my BS, MD or residency. Perhaps it was not the tradition then, but each degree came and went without much ado. I am not sure my parents or family attended any graduations or celebrated. Each time it was just a done deal and life went on. I know my parents valued education and were happy about our university accomplishments, but there was definitely nothing organized to mark the events. For me, it is the chance to see the whole family together again that is most special. Maya is thrilled to see her cousins, aunts and uncle and grandparents. I am not sure when we will have such an opportunity again. My mother is not enhusiastic about computers, but Edouard will transport my IMac to Edmonton and set it up so we will never have to miss a day of videochat with my parents. That will help keep us connected while we live in Ecuador; Maya will play violin for my father and I will be able to check on them regularly. Not that videochat will make up for the distance, but it will be better than phonecalls or letters or even email. Hurrah for technology.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Lucky Me

Ottawa is a beautiful city for five months of the year. Otherwise it is brutally cold. Of course, the natives are into winter sports and enjoy the canal and skating and cross country skiing and snowshoeing. For now, it is sunny and the sky is blue and the location of the city on the river/canal is stunning. The old parliament buildings are well preserved and very imposing. My parents and sisters are staying at the local Fairmont hotel, which looks like a castle near the government buildings. It is a lovely hotel from the times of the railroad barons, with a history of visits from royalty and celebrities; photos of past glory line every wall. The swimming pool in the basement is stately and in art deco style. Otherwise the style is late 1800's and early 1900's, updated but retaining the glory of the past.

We stayed at a perfectly acceptable Crowne Plaza ( and much less expensive) and walked to the Fairmont for breakfast and exploring. We passed the parliament buildings and scores of runners and walkers in pink who were participating in a fund drive/celebration for breast cancer. What Maya wanted all day was to go swimming in a pool. It did not matter if it was the pool at our hotel or at the Fairmont; swimming is what she wanted, and she waited all day to finally swim just before bed.

I had no idea what the agenda was. We had breakfast with my parents and then off we were to a lovely restaurant called 'Les Fougeres' across the river in Gatineau. Lorna's boyfriend is Colin, and his mother, her sister and grandmother all live off the Gatineau river in a wooded area; and the sister and brother in law have an excellent restaurant. We ate foie gras and confit de canard and strawberry shortcake and I sat next to the owner of the restaurant and we talked about our struggles with our young adult/teenage children. Afterward, we visited the homes of Colin's mother and her sister and took a walk along the river and the railroad tracks. A steam train takes tourists on a lazy ride along the tracks which have been there over a hundred years. The men of the party went golfing. Eric has not golfed in over twenty years and apparently played in his socks and did not embarrass himself too much. Maya had a trampoline to play on and basset hounds and a young lab and a cat to endear herself to, but was only waiting for her chance to go swimming all day.

We were celebrating Lorna's graduation. She finished her political science degree and is looking for work for a law firm to prepare for her application to law school. Her parents are planning to provide her with an apartment and help her get started, so I felt guilty about telling my daughter that she would have to provide for herself. I had this painful conversation before she left for Europe. Since she is not attending school, I insisted that she work and take care of herself and that I had no intention of supporting her. Now I am wondering if I was too harsh. I remember being so independent as a teenager and eager to work and pay my bills and be an adult. Are children today less capable of being independent financially? Am I pushing Tara too much to be on her own and manage her own apartment and her own finances? I certainly found myself questioning my words and wondering if Tara really needed more support for longer.

I had fun explaining our plans for Ecuador. The reaction continues to be surprise but also encouragement and excitement. There is no doubt that Eric and I are doing something amazing. We are jumping off a cliff and landing in an entirely different world. And although I am struggling with the loss of my familiar life, I feel less anxious about the unknowns next year. There is a part of me that is going on simple blind faith, that we will land on our feet, that we will face all our challenges and that this year will be a turning point in our lives together. There will be our lives before and our lives after Ecuador, and there will be no turning back to our lives before. We will be forever altered by the experience.

I expect to have more time for Eric and Maya and more time for myself. The forty plus hours I devote to my patients are now mine, to do with what I choose. The possibilities are many and I am feeling very lucky right now.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

New Beginnings

As much as yesterday felt like the end of all that was familiar in my life, today was a new beginning. Not that we did much today. We woke up later than usual, packed up, and headed for Ottawa. For the next ten hours! The Pennsylvania police were out in force, so we were stopped outside of Harrisburg going 13 miles per hour over the speed limit. The ticket itself was supposedly only $25, but added to that were all sorts of extra fees for different services, ending at $109. After that Eric slowed down, and the drive was endless.

I have no problem with long drives. I do not get irritable or agitated, which is what I would expect, considering that I am stuck in an uncomfortable seat and I can't sleep or read or entertain myself. And Maya keeps asking 'Are we there yet?'. I like that I am moving, that the scenery is gorgeous, That Eric and I can talk and neither of us can go anywhere or avoid the conversation. We are sitting next to each other and there are hours and hours to cover every topic and sort out every dilemma.

Of course Ecuador was the focus for most of the drive. I had Maya do page after page of Spanish exercises, and reviewed the words with both Eric and Maya, so we are starting to make some progress on the language. I am not sure that we will have such an opportunity until we drive back, but it felt like an accomplishment. The reward was Nintendo time (I absolutely hate that apparatus!) and movies.

I looked for healthy meal choices along the way but was repeatedly disappointed. I wondered what people who want to eat well choose on a road trip. In the end it was Subway and Dunkin' Donuts, neither particularly well rounded as far as food choices go.

Our plans for Ecuador are coming together. Our movers are coming June 15-16 to help Eric with the big pieces at he house and at the offices. Maya may be able to attend a music camp or hang out with her friend Belina. Eric leaves for Woods Hole on the 19th and Maya and I may go with him for the weekend and then return for dance camp for Maya and more work for me. I have two busy weeks booked until the end of June and then the one office closes June 30 and the other sputters through until July 11 and then closes. We travel to Cape Cod for July 4th weekend and again July 11. My birthday is July 16 and last year we spent it sailing with my sister and her family in Boston. I like to sail on my birthday, actually I would like to sail much more regularly. I am not much of a sailor but I love to be on a boat in the bay with the sun shining and the sea moving. We have spent several of my birthdays sailing around Baltimore, Cape Cod and now Boston. So I think that is what I want to do again on my birthday, so we will try to arrange it.

The renters move in on the 15th of July, so if when I return to Baltimore I will be camping o somebody's couch. I may drive my car to Florida to leave with Eric's parents, and then fly from Miami to Quito. Eric has to stay in Woods Hole until early August and will join me after he finishes up work in Baltimore. We discussed mail and banking and whether to rent furnished or unfurnished and how much money we have to live on (very little) and where in Quito we will live. I wanted to live closer to his university although Maya's school is far off in the north of the city, so I will have to rethink where would be the most practical place to be. Once I am actually there I can start to explore places to live. I have done that already once, so I am somewhat prepared for what to expect this time.

Our dog is at our Daphne and Julien's house. He moved Friday. He has been disturbed for weeks, wondering about all the activity in the house with the moving of boxes and clearing out rooms. I don't think he expected to be carted off to a strange house. We had brought him over for dinner on two occasions before, and he had been quite comfortable each time. But going without us and staying is new for him and I know he wandered through the house and whined a bit. I think the family will enjoy him and he will have a good experience with them. It is possible that after a year Belina and Marius and Daphne and Julien will not want to let him go, and I have tried to prepare Maya for that. I have had mixed feelings about Elmer since we had him. I loved Pippi so much I had no room for another dog in my heart, and did not give Elmer alot of slack. I was angry at him when he chewed and always compared him to my other dog and found him wanting. But he has matured and turned into a wonderful dog and now that he is gone I miss him too. The house is so empty. No Pippi, no Elmer, no Tara, the house is losing all that made it my home.

I like roadtrips. We took them as children quite regularly. When we lived in Rome, my father would pile us in his big grey Mercedes and head for the north of Italy (my grandmother lived in South Tyrol) or Germany ( my other grandparents) or Spain or Greece. I had my spot in the car behind my father in the driver's seat, Monica behind the passenger seat and Karen in the middle. When we lived in Canada, we would drive to Tucson from Edmonton, and in the big grey car, through Waterton, Yellowstone and Bryce and Zion and the Grand Canyon.

I drive regularly to New York, and grit my teeth when I hit the traffic; I just want to get to my destination. But there is something different about a long drive like today. The journey is the destination. The landscape is spectacular. Pennsylvania is different than New York State and the Thousand Islands area as we enter Canada is a place to revisit and spend much more time exploring. Ottawa is a cosmopolitan place. We met my parents and Karen and Monica and Lorna and Edouard and Lorna's beau Colin and his mother and had gourmet Quebecois food and good conversation and all sorts of plans for the next few days of celebration.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Packing, Losing and Gaining

My friend Emily came over this afternoon to help me pack up my crystal. Somehow with her encouragement, I was able to get motivated and actually accomplish something! The house does not look different, but I know that there is progress, so I feel a little better. Eric has arranged to have our movers come a few days after we return from Canada. Maya and I will be living with one bed and personal items, no furniture,; Eric will be at Woods Hole.

I expected to feel lighter, less burdened, more hopeful. That has not happened yet. I am depressed about losing my practice, losing my home, losing my daughter, losing my family, losing my income, what else am I losing?

I must start looking at what I am going to learn and experience and enjoy during my time in Ecuador. I have been wallowing in this place of loss for weeks now, and I am incapable of looking forward and anticipating the excitement of the move. Which is the only way to do this!

I will start by bringing my Spanish books with me on the ride to Ottawa. I hope I can get Maya involved and have her practice along with me, but she will be playing with her Nintendo and watching movies. I don't mind sitting in the car and watching the world go by. Eric loves to drive, and although I will offer to drive, he most likely will stay behind the wheel for the full eight hours.