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Posts Tagged ‘postcards’

I have a photo of me in Ray Bans and a bright green bikini top, climbing sandstone rocks on a beach in Costa Rica. I’m smiling, teeth white against my dark skin. On the back of the photo, these words in my handwriting: March 1996, for Dee, so you’ll know what your mama was up to six months after you were born.

Rosa from work snapped the shot. She and Kevin and I were on a two-week trip to Central America. Guatemala and El Salvador the first week, weekend at Manuel Antonio, and the second week in San José. Rosa and Kevin went on to Honduras and Panamá, while I flew back home to be with my baby.

It’s a long story, how I ended up in Central America when Dee was only six months old. Suffice to say that it had to do with a grant proposal I submitted on behalf of the university I worked for when I was pregnant. The proposal was funded, and I had to follow through with the trip or risk losing the money.

As with most international travel, it was Hell getting mentally prepared. A jet plane crashed in the region weeks before I left, killing everyone on board. All I could think was, I’m going to die and never see my baby grow up. Of course, once I got there I was pulled into the color and smells and sounds. I loved it.

Between appointments, I had to run to my hotel room and power on my little battery-operated breast pump. Waoo-waoo-waoo-waoo, it went, like a sick cow, for twenty minutes. I sat on the bed with my blouse unbuttoned and tried not to worry about whether I’d dry up by the time I got home.

Later, walking past indigenous women sitting on the sidewalk, infants in bundles on their backs or in their arms, I pictured my watery milk running down the sink and wished I could pick up a baby and feed it.

“Ew, that’s disgusting!” Rosa said when I told her what I wanted to do.

That trip, Dee refused to take the bottle. Typical conversation those first days I called home:

     Has she taken it yet?
     Nope, just spits it out.
     My God, what are you gonna do?
     Everyone says she’ll take it when she gets hungry enough.
     Have you tried other nipples?
     Yeah, went through four new ones today.
     I’m sorry.
     It’s alright. She’ll be fine. Don’t worry.
Click.

Everyone was wrong. Dee never took the bottle. No other options left, Jim finally introduced rice cereal.






I was thinking about that trip yesterday. The postcards I’d sent from Vietnam had just arrived, and I remembered how before I left for Central America I prepared a postcard a day for Jim to read to Dee. I didn’t actually send them; I left them for him to show her, a new one each day.

I went on a lot of trips while both my babies were young. I left the university when Dee was about a year old; new job yet one thing remained the same—still plenty of travel.

I remember sending baggies of frozen breast milk over dry ice for Em when I took a week-long training course in Eugene, Oregon. I became expert at pumping in mothers’ rooms at work and in airports. Life revolved around finding the best place and time to run my little machine.


I pumped milk in the Portland airport. I used the private kiddy bathroom, which had a plug so I could use electric. After 15 minutes, someone jiggled the door and it turned out to be a cleaning woman. At first she scolded me for using the kiddy bathroom; apparently a woman had complained about not having access to the changing table. But when I explained that I was pumping and that I appreciated the privacy, she seemed to understand.

I’m coming home with something for everyone: Em’s milk, a watch with a floating dinosaur for Dee, a Nike fleece sweatshirt for Jim.


Before we had kids, Jim and I made the decision that one of us would stay home full-time to take care of them. We both came from families where a parent stayed home, and we wanted to do the same thing for our kids if we could afford it. Which we could, barely at first. Jim got the role of stay-at-home Dad, and I got to pursue my dream of working in a job where I could travel.

But it wasn’t easy being away from my children. All the time I was on the road, I wondered if they would grow up and resent my being gone. Yet when I was home I was a present parent, more so, I imagined, than dads in my same situation. Bone tired, I took over the moment I got home. Evenings and weekends were always mine.

My girls are both old enough now that I can see they’ve not been damaged. On the contrary, they are bold and adventurous from spending formative years with a parent who let them walk on roofs versus one with a fear of heights. They love being outdoors, think nothing of catching snakes and frogs, and are up for long hikes.

They also want to get to know this world. “Take me to Vietnam,” they tell me. I promise them that I will. Hopefully next summer.

They’re in for a wild experience.




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Viet Nam 9000 -- Stamp Of Approval, postcard from ybonesy, Minneapolis, Minnesota, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Viet Nam 9000 — Stamp Of Approval, postcard from ybonesy, Saigon to Minneapolis, Minnesota, September 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.






After a long day at work, I opened the mouth of the black mailbox this afternoon to find ybonesy’s beautiful postcard. It is dated 2 Sept 08 and postmarked 05-09-2008. I guess that means it took 16 days and nights to float from ybonesy’s hand in Saigon to a little white cottage just outside Minneapolis.

Thanks, ybonesy. You made my day. I’m bananas for you, friend!






         Postcard From Vietnam. Woman Rides A Cycle In Ho Chi Minh City, original photographer Radhika Chalasani, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.    Postcard From Vietnam. Woman Rides A Cycle In Ho Chi Minh City, original photographer Radhika Chalasani, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

        Postcard From Vietnam, Woman Rides A Cycle In Ho Chi Minh City,
        original photographer © Radhika Chalasani, photo of postcard 
        © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


        Soon The Sun Will Be Up, postcard from ybonesy, Minneapolis, Minnesota, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Soon The Sun Will Be Up, postcard from ybonesy, Minneapolis, Minnesota, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Soon The Sun Will Be Up, postcard from ybonesy, Minneapolis, Minnesota, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


-posted on red Ravine, Thursday, September 18th, 2008

-related to posts: The Dying Art Of Letter Writing (Postcards From The Edge), Thank You For Keeping An Eye On Me, Mary

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Its Time For Mr. Stripey Pants To Come For A Visit!, Minneapolis, Minnesota, September 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

It’s Time For Mr. Stripey Pants To Come In For A Visit!, Minneapolis, Minnesota, September 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



Right after I did the piece on postcards and letter writing, this arrived for Mr. Stripey Pants — a personal note from Dick Van Dyke himself (did you know Mr. Van Dyke was born in Missouri?). I remember Dick Van Dyke most for The Dick Van Dyke Show, Mary Poppins, and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. But why is he writing to Mr. Stripey Pants?

Well, it’s time for Pants to go in for his Senior Exam. It’s true what Mary Poppins says — a spoonful of sugar really does helps the medicine go down. But Pants doesn’t mind the vet. It’s Chaco who gets freaked out.

Anyway, as Mr. Stripey Pants prepares for the fall elections, we’ll be taking him in for his Senior Exam. He’ll be 11 years old in November. And when cats start to age, it’s more important than ever to catch things early.

But what about this mail thing? Pets are becoming so important in our electronic (and increasingly isolated) day-to-day lives, that we’re receiving slick, 4-color magazines as appointment reminders from veterinarians. But is it really right that Mr. Stripey Pants receives more personal mail than I do?




Mr. Stripey Pants Goes Postal, Minneapolis, Minnesota, September 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Mr. Stripey Pants Goes Postal, Pants preparing to read his mail from Dick Van Dyke, Minneapolis, Minnesota, September 2008, all photos © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



      Pants Paw-ses To Read His Mail, Minneapolis, Minnesota, September 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Stripey Pants Snuggles Up To Dick Van Dyke, Minneapolis, Minnesota, September 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Its Time For Mr. Stripey Pants To Come In For A Visit!, Minneapolis, Minnesota, September 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



-posted on red Ravine, Sunday, September 7th, 2008

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My Whites, laundry on the line on my rooftop terraces, downtown Granada, Spain, photo © 1987-2008 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.



The first time I got on a plane I was 17. Mom said to dress up for the occasion; she normally wore a skirt and heels for plane rides, and she sometimes took a Valium right before the flight. I wore jeans and clogs and acted like I’d been flying all my life.

The travel bug bit me on that trip. I was like the kid whose parents never let her eat candy. Awake for the first time to its pleasures, I couldn’t get my fill. I vowed I would become a world traveler.


At 26 I moved to Granada with $6,000 cash and two suitcases. I trusted everyone and made friends easily. Within weeks I was heading out with Teresa and Alicia to see the country. I became fond of saying, “I’m taking a vacation from my vacation.”

Within a year I’d been all over Spain and Portugal, plus France, Germany, and Denmark. And nary a picture to show for it. I had Dad’s old Kodak yet I brought home exactly seven photos—all grainy and dark. I do, however, have four filled notebooks. And a handful of postcards I never sent.



Yesterday we walked to El Torcal, an eerie rock mountain, and we got a ride down with a busload of little boys. They were singing songs and clapping.



           



When it comes to traveling abroad, I have a mental block about cameras. For as long as I can remember, I believed that a photograph could never do justice to reality. Cameras proved a poor attempt to capture something that defied ownership—the experience itself.

I also saw cameras, like maps, as the domain of tourists. (I have spent hours wandering lost in foreign cities, unable to ask for directions and too proud to consult a map.) In Spain I was ashamed of the loud, nasally, jogging-suit-wearing Americans who stood in front of cathedrals, snapping shot after shot, and then bothering passersby to take that final picture that contained the entire family.

I was a traveler. A world citizen, not a visitor.

And so my arrogance accompanied me to every place I visited (and every experience had) since. Standing amidst throngs of Vietnamese peering up at a Virgin Mary as tall as a building to see if we could tell whether it was rain or tears running down her cheeks. At the train station in Delhi, searching my purse to find change for an old woman with an open trachea cavity. Walking at dawn through an entryway that opened onto gardens and pools, the white marble of the Taj Mahal shimmering like an oasis.

I’ve been to Cuba, El Salvador, Nicaragua. Costa Rica, Mexico, and China several times each. Singapore, Ireland, Israel, South Africa. Most of the photos I have from those trips (if I have any) were taken by friends or co-workers. There I am, the only white person in a pub in Soweto. (I even took my camera to South Africa, pulled it out during a safari then put it away whenever people were around.)

I missed my opportunity to capture the phenomenon of “the Jeepni”—those long, open-air Jeep-buses—that dominate the streets of Manila, even though they captured me.



Only 7am yet it seems as though the city has been alive for hours. Everything is coated with a gray dust that goes from black at street level up to the color of light gray in the sky. Signs: U Want 2 B Rich? and Fish-Head Pet Store & Tire Repair. A man is cooking roadside and another bathing himself. People adorn their Jeepni’s: Gemini, Godspeed, Lady Rowena, The Born Winner, Something Special, Jesus the Provider, Jesus the Savior, Jesus Love, Holy Jesus. Jesus has a corner on Jeepni names.

Poverty looks the same in all the places I go. Too narrow roads lined with shacks selling snacks, fruits, peanuts, corn. Children and animals too close to the cars and buses and motorbikes that go careening through the streets. All things for sale, recycled, old mufflers, tires, plants. The Jeepnis choke out black smoke as they wind their way through the streets. Cheaper than buses, but to ride them you have to hold a handkerchief over your nose.


It’s been more than two years since I’ve traveled abroad. I’ve enjoyed the time off. I went to too many places. I hardly remember most of what I saw. It’s been good to stay home as my girls have gotten older.

But finally, it’s time to start up again. In less than two weeks, I’ll take a trip to Vietnam. It’s part of an assignment that will probably take me there at least one more time, maybe more, in the coming six months. I have zero photos from my prior two visits. This time I intend to whip out my camera, whether people notice or not.

I know what’s changed. It’s this blog and the opportunity to publish my photos and write about my trips. (I fear I’ve exchanged one form of arrogance for another.) But no matter the motivation, I aim to make up for lost time.

How about you? Do you do photos or do you just do?

 

 
 

 



(The top six photos were all taken by me in 1987-88 while living in Spain. I scanned them for use in this post. The four images at the bottom of the post are postcards I purchased that same period in Spain.)

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