endings

High Heels vs Chickens: The Lives we Lead

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Yeah, I know it's an odd title for a post, and no I'm not seeking some weird morbid revenge on the rooster that attacked me. I've been thinking about high heels and chickens because the time has come when Jon and I are thinking of our return home, what that will look like and what our lives will be like. Inevitably the return will involve going back to a day-to-day job and that (for me, not Jon) will probably involve high heels. But in my day to day here where I'm wondering how the new baby chicks are doing - I begin to think of all the various ways we can choose to use the time we have during our lives; and all the kinds of life we can lead. For me, I find myself at a crossroads of the different versions of my life and am as curious as anyone to see where life will take me next. Now that I've explained my bizarre train of thought, let me continue. This trip has offered an opportunity to "be" many things. I've been a traveler, a teacher, an actress (at camp), a consultant, a housesitter, a web developer, a farmer and most recently a window repair person. But is this "me"? Isn't all of it me? When we go back to Portland, will I "be" whatever my job title is - high heels or not? It's so easy for us, especially in America where our culture is career driven, to be defined by what we do for work. But if there's one thing I've learned over the last 9 months, it's that the  activities I do during my time on earth don't define me, I think they're absorbed into what creates my character.

What do you think?

Certainly moving away from a career-driving lifestyle offers perspective on where we think we're going with that drive. This time in Italy has shown me how wonderful a slower-paced, tied-to-the-land kind of life can be. And I do like the chickens, even if one of the roosters doesn't like me. They give the most wonderful eggs and the little chicks are fluffy and cute.

A different perspective

Jon has a different take on all of this, which I welcome. While my mind goes directly towards, "what will I do for work?" when thinking of "home," Jon thinks first of what makes home home: friends, family, food, lifestyle etc. Work is just the thing you do to make "home" possible. I know there are a lot of arguments against this: "Oh you should enjoy the way you spend  those 8 hours a day!" But I have to admire the guy for not being concerned with how the income is made, as long as you're happy and you live the lifestyle you want.

When we don the high heels (or the suit or whatever 'costume' your job requires) does it change you? I have mixed feelings about this, because the lines between my personal and professional life are often blurred, whereas Jon creates more rigid boundaries in his work life. I enjoy knowing the people I work with and often want to know more about them than just who they are at the office.

Going Home, Taking the World With Us

Regardless of what our work lives will bring us, this trip has afforded us glimpses into many different lifestyles, which we've enjoyed, been confused by, surprised by, loved and wanted to take with us. We both agree that taking the time to travel in the way we have, to be in places long enough to understand the cultures a bit has allowed us to learn how people all over the world live their lives, and how it's not better or worse, but how there are so many options for how people can use their time on earth. I like that. I like knowing that we can "be" one thing for a time and then "be" something else (of course I understand very well the privileged position I hold in being able to say that, and that there are many many people in the world who don't have the option to change their situation). In the end it makes me feel like I do not have to be defined solely by how I earn income, but that I can choose to be defined by other things: the relationships in my life, service to my community, and sure for me, the energy I put into work and how that effects those around me. Maybe I'm giving this more of a simplistic view than it deserves, but being able to "be" many things in a short time has opened our eyes. Life is long (incha'allah - god willing) and I hope that I have the courage to define my life by the experiences I have and how I share those with others. Whether that involves high heels or chickens, or both, I suppose it will be up to me to make it good.

What are your thoughts about work, life, and how you create your life? Is it based on what you do for a living? Or something else? As you ponder, enjoy these photos from our visits to the beautiful villages and towns of Umbria - they are stunning (the towns, probably not the photos so much).

Well, its been a nice ride…

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…no, I’m not referring to the terrifying journey across the Middle Atlas Mts by bus in which Jess and I were certain we would careen off the cliff (more on that from Jess’ post); it is almost time to leave Africa for France for our summer camp jobs (we're teaching english to french kiddos for 6 weeks). Tiny Jon in the Dades Gorge

A week or two ago I would have welcomed a night in France and the extra income, but it will be damned hard to leave Morocco. I finally feel like Jess and I are getting the swing of things here and starting to have some qualitative experiences with locals. We met an awesome guy in the Dade’s  Gorge and didn’t want to leave (again, more on this from Jess’ post) and are now in Essouaria at a riad-home of another cool Moroccan. We are definitely not having our best experiences in cities, and I’m glad we decided to have our last stay in Morocco in a smaller place than Fez or Meknes. We hope to get back to Morocco after we get back to France in May, after Jeremy’s (Jess’ brother) wedding.

Essaouira Riad

Upon arrival to our current Riad, we were invited to dine with our host and he taught me how to cook using the tangine.  I’ll practice a few more times and write another blog post on the details :). Another awesome thing is that since the rare rain in Morocco the last few days, Essouaria fisherman could catch lungfish for a short while, which we used in our tangine. The fish was amazing…it was very tender and creamy like eel but with a very light fishy taste. In the tangine with onions, garlic, tomato, preserved lemon, a medium pepper, olive oil and a chili spice mixture for fish, it was one of the best things I have had in months. I’m amazed at the depth of flavor we got with very little fat, zero stock, a pinch of salt, and lovely local veggies and spices.

Looking into our Essaouira Riad

Jess and I had a walk through the souk here and it is a wonderful gathering of color and smell. I feel like this is the experience I was hoping for in Morocco. The medina (usually the old fortified space in a city) seems vast and one can easily get lost, but unlike what we experienced in Marrakech, it is fairly easy to navigate. I’m hoping to get some pigeons later and make tangine again with our host. I might even see if the butchers can find some camel for us!

Only three more days! I’ve gotta get back to it and make the most of the freak’in awesome town and country. More soon!

Endings & Beginnings

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I’ve been thinking a lot this last week about beginnings and endings; about chapters in our lives and transitions from one to the next. Jon and I on the fast-track now, with one week until we leave Portland, two until international departure. Whether it’s jobs, where we live, and the people we see every day, there are endings, and new beginnings happening at rapid pace. We ended our jobs yesterday. I wrote in an earlier post that my job and my personal life had become a little too intertwined for comfort. And although the anticipation of the job ending was a long time coming (I gave notice almost 3 months in advance), the day came and went, the access to email and contact lists was gone, the work that was in progress is handed off, and the chapter was closed as swiftly as ever. Trust me, this is all a good thing. Having instant access to your work email all the time is a choice I made when allowing the smartphone to come into the house, and with its arrival the boundary between personal and professional time was even more blurred than before. More than just email, my job became my community, my lifestyle. And so been a long time and I got so accustomed to that line being blurred. My journey of searching for the me without the job has already begun. Now of course, the ending of a job doesn’t mean the ending of the relationships with the people - that for sure is one thing I’ll hold on to, regardless of wherever my new beginnings take me.

There are other chapters that are ending for me too – all with equally balanced beginnings on the other side. But I continue to believe that while things end, they don’t disappear or become less significant. I may leave the arts community for a short time, but the people I met, and the work we did certainly made a lasting impression on me – and I hope I contributed to it in return.

When I think back on my relatively short life, I think about the chapters, about the times that began and ended, only to begin again. As Jon put it while I was writing this, thinking about the past is a natural way of informing our present; and processing where we think we’re going in the future. Well said. What a change we have coming.

And so to stop boring you with my ramblings, since I’m apparently so deep in this mushy ending/beginning time I don’t actually have a point (other than to muse), I leave you with a reading from camp. It’s a reading that I jotted down many years ago in a quote/poetry journal that I kept for years. I realized the other day that the journal ended up in a recycle bin pile when I was cleaning out the basement. Bummer, talk about an ending. Anyway, thanks to Ruth Igoe from Clearwater for sending me the text. These are a few excerpts from “Beginnings & Endings” by Darcy Gruber, 1980 Counselor at Clearwater Camp.

“...If we stop to think about it, life is an endless stream of beginnings followed by endings, followed again, by beginnings. It is the beginnings and endings that make life really worth experiencing.

Here today, each and everyone of us faces an ending and a beginning…Some of us are ending one phase of our lives here and are approaching a new and different phase....This is the way of life and although it is difficult at times, perhaps, some endings are too hard to make - I would prefer life no other way.

Each one of us was touched by someone here and it is up to us to spread these new "touches," these feelings with others. Each one of us has also touched someone. We must continue on, gather more experiences and knowledge - so that, if we meet again, we will have that much more to share and learn. Everyone of us should realize the best thing we have to offer in this world is ourselves.

…I may never see you again, but we have found a place where we will always be together no matter how many miles separate us physically…And know that after every ending, there is always a new beginning.”