I’m sitting in idle contemplation, and remembered that writing often makes me less anxious. Why not start using this blog my journalism course required I start several months ago?
Oh boy, this first one will be a long, boring doozy. I’ll have actual points to make in the future. Or maybe stories. Who knows? I never wanted a blog and have to keep this one until at least next year. Wowza. Maybe I’ll like it by then?
The idle contemplation is actually a mask that ‘completely unnerved’ is wearing about suddenly up and moving to Costa Rica for the summer. Which is a normal sort of nervous, probably, for anyone who likes to hop around the globe. Every time, there’ve come the thoughts that “This is madness! Why are you doing this?” There’s fear about leaving. This time, someone is coming with me, but weeks later. My boyfriend loves to travel, too. We’re the family we both need, he has the greatest laugh, and is adventurous as can be. How lucky am I? I’ll miss him terribly until he arrives.
Every time, the answers to “Why am I doing this?” have been different. I deployed to Kuwait in 2007, so that wasn’t a choice. It was unnerving, but it’s less alarming to go somewhere people don’t like you and it’s hotter than the surface of the sun when a bunch of people nearly identical to you in their uniforms and long, drawn faces are waving morosely to their loved ones, who’ve gathered on the corner to cry and wave until they can’t see us anymore.
That time a fellow soldier, one my then-boyfriend called my “bestgood friend” a la Forrest Gump in ‘Nam, grabbed my hand and looked at me with utter disbelief. “Is this really happening?”
“Yes,” I said, a little breathless. We were really going to the Middle East. I wondered if I looked as confused as he did, perplexed as to how a couple of folks from the sticks were suddenly on a bus to board a plane to drop us off on the other side of the world, in the desert, carrying encased rifles with their firing pins pulled and lugging massive, wheeled plastic footlockers through stubborn sand.
When we got off the plane, I hoped that the heat I felt was baking off of the plane’s… engine? Propeller? Down the stairs, the realisation that that was not the case made me sag considerably. Nor would it be the first time I stupidly hoped the plane was giving off heat, rather than the climate.
I jump around a lot, because nowhere is home. I have no roots. My time with the Army ended in 2011. Come 2012, I sold everything I owned and just left. New Zealand this time, and of my own volition. To attend university, and become a surgeon.
Which I did not. I left biomedicine and got a BSc in Psych instead. I think I hoped it’d help me understand myself and the people to whom I am related by blood. I believe a lot of psych students are simply trying to figure out what the fuck happened. Honestly, you don’t need a degree for that. Usually, the answers are as plain as can be.
Then, Los Angeles. It didn’t work out. Pretty sure you need to be a hot blond to function there. I mean, the motel that proudly displayed the list of TV shows it’d been featured in as the place hookers get murdered wouldn’t hire me to clean rooms.
Then, Colorado. Then, Cambodia. That was the second time I prayed that the heat was plane based and discovered it was not. Back to Colorado.
There was magic in New Zealand and Cambodia, and even a little in Kuwait. Moving around the states, often the only thing you have to accustom yourself to is a different climate and trying to figure out where the good pizza comes from. Finding a new radio station and figuring out where on the dial NPR can be found. Perhaps become accustomed to people who inexplicably call soda ‘pop.’ Learn that not every bartender is aware of what a Bahama Mama consists of. Get a new library card.
In a new country, there’s an experience after leaving the airport that is nearly holy. Or the closest I’ve come to spirituality. To look at everything with an alien eye, stepping into others comfort zone and well out of yours. The language or accents catch your ear, and the bustling city you’ve found yourself in, alone, is so deeply unknown–with the catch that in a few months, you’ll be ordering the meat pies and pasties and riding public transport with the best of them, traipsing down to the shore and paying your electric bill just like you belong.
Or you’ll be hustled into a tuk tuk, your baggage lifted with enviable ease by a man who could probably bench press you and with whom you share no language, who will drive as though he does not fear death and leave you in a hotel beside the Mekong River while you gawk at the bright lights and signage in lines and squiggles you’ll never be clever enough to suss. Then you can climb to the roof, order Khmer noodles and freshly squeezed juice of fruits you cannot name yet, staring out over a baking city expanse and wondering how in the world you’re going to figure this out. Yet four months later, there you are, zipping through traffic circles on a trusty bicycle, buying street food, and haggling at market like a fishwife. You’ll flee to Vietnam just because, and experience bahn mi for the first time from a grinning woman with a wheeled food cart.
I’ve never had much foresight. I couldn’t picture any country I’ve been to until actually standing in it. I understand Costa Rica exists. There are photos. Expat groups full of grumpy retirees bitch about pricing and Ticos, which doesn’t offer much in the way of helping a newbie. So next week, I get my holy moment. The day of looking at everything with the wide-eyed stare of someone who doesn’t know one single thing. And loves that.