Archive for June, 2010

Just because I wander, doesn’t mean I’m lost.

I wonder how my life would have panned out if I had stayed on the little island where I grew up. Coronado is a special place. What was once an island off the coast of San Diego is now a man-made peninsula, connected to downtown San Diego by a two-mile long bridge resembling a blue Brontosaurus. Coronado is the typical small town from American films, with its perfectly aligned and gridded street blocks boasting beautiful homes and well-kept gardens. There are awards for the best gardens, and everyone wants a blue ribbon to hang proudly in their front window, just beside the post from which the American flag hangs proud. There are concerts in the park each and every summer, where everyone gathers religiously. Children play in the sprinklers and soccer moms lug their children in their SUVs to Spreckles Park for practice. Cut up orange slices and brownies for treats! Though everyone drives cars, it is not really necessary as you can bike ride from one end of town to the other in approximately 10 minutes.

As a peninsula, Coronado is naturally surrounded by water. There is the San Diego Bay to the east, full of sailboats and seals, windsurfers and wakeboarders. Across the bay towers the “toolbox” of variously shaped and shiny financial buildings and hotels of downtown San Diego. To the west of the island, waves from the more furious Pacific Ocean crash, where the sun sets just above the horizon and dolphins dance in the pounding waves, playing with the surfers and my Dad’s ashes.

I think if I had stayed in Coronado I would have been happy there. But I left. And as everyone knows, once you have taken a bite of the apple there is no going back. My first trip out of the USA was to Europe to visit my sister that was living in Germany at the time. We traveled around Europe for two weeks and then I met up with my Spanish high school teacher, and fifteen friends, in Spain for a summer language immersion trip. I fell in love with Spain. The second I stepped foot on her soil I knew deep down I would be back. I was only sixteen at the time.

Two years later, with a U-Haul packed full of my high school keepsakes and must-haves, my Dad drove me up to Berkeley, California to start my first year of college. If such a thing as “black and white” existed, the contrast between Coronado and Berkeley would come awfully close.

Coronado: Population – 24,100 people. Military town housing two major US naval and amphibious bases. Right-wing conservatives. In 2000 84.4% of the total population was white. Petty theft was the major crime.

Berkeley: Population – 102,743 people. College town known for its political activism and hippie movement in the 1960s. Radically left-wing. In 2000 59.17% of the total population was white. Homicide was right around the corner.

Reality check.
Everything and everyone was different.
It was scary.
And very, very exciting.
I found the differences fascinating …
… and wanted more.

With ants in my pants, I spent two college summers working in Germany and England, and traveled all over Europe on the Eurail pass – back when backpacking through Europe happened in sketchy overnight trains when you could not fall asleep for fear that someone would rob your bag. Nowadays these cheap charter flights make it much, much easier. Then I headed down south to visit my best friend in Buenos Aires, Argentina, where I learned to get over my fear of speaking Spanish. That was when I realized I needed to live in a Spanish-speaking country. It made me feel really alive for some unknown reason. After “graduation” I moved to Barcelona on a total whim to study for one year, slightly upsetting my Dad when he asked to see my diploma at my graduation ceremony. “Uh, there isn’t one. I actually have one more year of school left…in Spain.” Just pack my bag, and go.

Pack my bag and go. Seems to me I am constantly packing my bag, and going.

Visiting a village in the north of Ghana while working with OrphanAid Africa (www.oafrica.org)

Barcelona has been my base for the past eight years, not my anchor. I move around quite a lot, sometimes out of need, sometimes out of want. Twice I have moved back to California, and twice I returned to Barcelona. I have been fortunate to explore other fascinating places, like Ghana, Costa Rica, Thailand, Senegal, and lived/worked in the south of Mexico just recently for five months. I returned from each of those places with a yearning to move there permanently. But of course I never do. I always return to my base. To Barcelona.

I first learned the word wanderlust through my good friend, and amazingly talented and open-hearted human being, Suzanne Hansen. It is her favorite word, and she was the one who finally named that uncontrollable, raging desire to pack my bag and go (minus the actual packing part. I hate packing. I am a horrible packer.).

Then there is wanderlost. I am sure that someone has coined this word before me, but it sprang to mind today as a new thought tends to do. And I started to think about the implication of wandering…it sounds a lot like moving without a purpose. Like being lost. Hence wanderlOst.

After giving it quite a lot of thought, I have come to the conclusion that I suffer from wanderlUst, and not wanderlOst. I base this decision on another word: “going.” This verb can be so easily misunderstood when used alone. “Going” usually implies “leaving.” But used as a phrasal verb it can imply something else entirely. My “going” of preference is when joined with another word, such as “forward” or “to” or “up”. It is a motion moving forward and upward, and not backward. It is positive, not negative. It means “searching for” and not “running from.”

Without a doubt, I am wandering, in the sense that my interests pull me in various directions, and that I am trying to work out quite a lot of things on both personal and professional levels. But I am not lost. I have direction, and each day just a little bit more. But there is no map and there are lots of little side roads that distract me from time to time. Side roads that end up adding to my life much more than if I had followed the signs and walked straight ahead.

Slowly and surely I am becoming more conscious of what I want. And when I want it. The problem, and where I struggle, is with the where? So until I figure it out, I just keep packing my bag, and going.


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To Do List

And I wonder why sometimes I feel so scatter-brained.

The “You Can Do It!” List, in no particular order.

1. Sign up for the doula training course 2010-2011
2. Translate all my school records and get it all notarized
3. Study for the “Prueba de mayores de 25 an(y)os” – the test for people over 25 years old that want to go back to school in Spain
4. Figure out which nursing school to apply for the years 2011-2015
5. Get married to an EU citizen
6. If #5 works out, then scratch #3 and #4, and skip to #7
7. Research three-year midwifery programs in England starting in the Fall of 2012
8. Find an apartment
9. Write poems for the Poetry Brothel
10. Finish my novel (I’m only three chapters in)
11. Wax my legs
12. Learn how to sew (and then sew up all the designs that I dream about)
13. Organize Burning Man trip
14. Fulfill my 120 hours of work that I owe to the NGO in Mexico
15. Build up my business and hire some help (intern only)
16. Start up yoga classes again
17. Figure how to get to Brazil for Carnival next year
18. Find temporary work for the summer
19. Figure out date and location for the Annual Virgo Party 2010
20. Write down my dreams
21. Go to Ghana in October for a project with OrphanAid Africa
22. Call my three grandmas more often!
23. Remember to check Suzanne’s emails!!
24. Stop making plans
25. Find badly needed solitude in nature

Oh yeah, and…

26. Start working on the list

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Today is my mom’s sixtieth birthday. She gave birth to me at thirty years old, and therefore has always been thirty years older than me. But for the first time in our lives she is now exactly double my age, making this particular birthday extra special! And I want her to know that she is double the woman that I am and she should feel proud!

Years ago I would have said sixty was old, but I know better now. Age is always so relative. I used to think that thirty was old too, and here I am about to knock off my twenties and I still have a hard time thinking of myself as an adult. My mom is in amazing shape. She can kick my butt in a spin class, see and hear better than me, and she is just as feisty and wild as she was thirty years ago. I have friends that refer to her as a MILF (which slightly disturbs me). The truth is, she is a total hottie! The only difference is that now she is wiser, and “just a little bit funn[ier].” Maybe she can no longer tan in the midday sun, but nor should I at thirty years either!

My mom raised four girls and now is sitting upon an empty nest. I am in Spain, two sisters are in Kansas City and the twenty-three year old baby may very well be moving to London this Fall. But each in her own way is a version of my mom. Her influence pours through our pores, albeit in different forms, and we are the women we are today thanks to her.

Mom, embrace sixty. You have earned it. Just think, the older you are, the more acceptable it is to be inappropriate at all times 😉

Love you, mean it! Wish I was there to celebrate with you!

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I have pedestrian road rage. Nothing makes me more nervous and on edge then walking behind people who walk slowly. Not sure what it is, but my legs have a mind of their own and physically I do not know how to stroll. Yesterday I met a friend on the beach to catch up over a brisk morning walk, and she ended up renting a bicycle to keep up with me. For years my friends have complained about my pace and I am reminded daily to please slow down!

Living in the center of Barcelona can be very convenient on a social and logistical level. But living amidst the masses of tourists and narrow streets, I have to fight the daily urge to drop kick people who slow me down. While they enjoy the flower pots on balconies, wait in line for the Picasso Museum, and kiss on the street corners, I am just trying to get from Point A to Point B. They slow me down. I seem to always be on a mission.

The other day I spent a few hours on the beach, attempting to read my book while every five minutes or so a football whacked me in the head. Enough that I finally looked up to find a bronzed Brazilian man, topless just like me, making up a round of mojitos for the rowdy British crowd hovering closer and closer to my 1×1 square of sand on the man-made, dusty beach of the Barceloneta. After a few friendly nods – “really, it’s ok that your ball game keeps bruising my forehead” – the makeshift bartender came over to introduce himself. I indulged myself – in his mojitos and nothing more, unfortunately – put my top back on and headed my way down the long, crowded boardwalk lining the port of Barcelona, Passeig Joan de Borbo.

Passeig Joan de Borbo is the street that panics me the most. It is the busy street that leads from my house to the beach, so it is somewhat unavoidable. It becomes a video game and I see each human being as some sort of threat or obstacle. I’ve learned to walk with my arms tucked closely to my sides, so as to avoid the inevitable hand-slap from someone walking towards you too closely. It’s painful, especially when there are rings involved. People feel my overbearing presence breathing down on them from behind, and probably think they are getting robbed. They flash me nervous stares as I roll my eyes and push past them. I part the sea with teeth clucks and sometimes I just sing or edge on by. Frankly, I’m rude.

But the other day, after my mojito moment, I caught myself walking home at a calm pace. Slowly. Smiling. Stopping to look at what all the other slow pokes were staring at. Stopping to watch the street musicians. And to have a gelato.

And I got to thinking – Slow down, I’m moving too fast!

Fast legs. Fast walks. Fast dreams. Fast ideas. Fast plans. Fast decisions. Fast actions. Fast fast fast. My whole life is fast. And though I can sometimes be lazy and just sit around staring at my computer for a while, the second I choose a destination or a project there is no stopping me. I move forward with a crazy determination and expect fast results. Just like the vagabond tourists that keep me from moving forward at my chosen pace, I get frustrated with the obstacles that get in my way of what I want to do.

My mojito stroll made me realize that I need to slow down. Tourists and life obstacles are not attacking me. Quite the contrary, it is usually me running up quickly behind them before they have time to move out of the way or sort themselves out. It is time to slow down … and to feel groovy.

Click on image to watch video

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This week kicked off with Memorial Day on Monday. For most North Americans, this day means a three day weekend of BBQs to welcome the warm summer days and longer evenings. It also means that it is now officially acceptable to wear white pants in public.

For any foreigners that may not be familiar with this holiday, North Americans celebrate Memorial Day to commemorate U.S. soldiers who died while in the military service.

But I now have a new reason to celebrate Memorial Day: to commemorate both my Dad (who passed away two years ago on June 5th) and my Uncle Mike, who just passed away this past Monday. On Memorial Day.

Grandma Bernie on her 90th Birthday

They were brothers, the only two boys of my Grandma Bernie, who at 92 years old has now outlived her ex-husband AND her two sons. My father was 63 years old when he passed away. Cancer. My uncle was 62 years old. He was paraplegic, also suffered from cancer and other ailments. And they passed away in the same week. This week of Memorial Day.

This Watson Memorial Week.

I spent the first anniversary of my Dad’s death in the fisherman village of Cadaques, on the northeastern coast of Spain. I remember sitting in the Casino cafe, watching the water and writing about my Dad. Coincidentally enough, tomorrow, on the second anniversary of his death, I will once again find myself in Cadaques. Perhaps my Dad, who’s ashes were cast to sea off the Coast of San Diego, swims to visit me each year in this mystical pueblo. We visited Cadaques together, exactly two years to the date previous to his death, on the beginning of a two week European vacation. He got up early, and went to the sea for his morning coffee. He took pictures of pigeon’s nests that he found, and the boats. This weekend I’ll keep an eye out for nests. And I will have a coffee on the coast along with him.

Uncle Mike

My Uncle Mike had suffered quite a lot over the years, so I feel assured knowing that he really is much better off now. He used to fight for his life, but when my Dad died my uncle sort of threw in the towel as well. Everyone noticed a change in his health and character, and there was no bringing him back. He has slowly been getting worse and spent the last year in a hospital. So I really mean it that he is now resting in peace.

My Grandma Bernie visited Mike just 20 minutes before he died. He was in a coma. Mike’s wife, my aunt Tomomi, held his hand when he came to very briefly. She asked him if he saw Bob, my Dad. And he reacted and tried to say something. Who knows what he saw, or what he was trying to say, but I know that my sister and I like to picture them back together now. Wherever they are, I imagine them playing football and my Uncle Mike is back to running on two legs that work again.

There are no other living males in my immediate family on my Dad’s side. My sister now has a new last name. I feel like Tamenund, in The Last of the Mohicans. I’m the last Watson. For this reason, I hope to always keep my last name and somehow pass it down to my kids one day. We’ll see…

To both my Dad and Uncle Mike – I love you both. I promise to celebrate you, and not mourn. After all, during Memorial Week white pants is the new black veil.

My Dad

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