Friday, June 04, 2010

Baggage, Lost

soundtrack to this entry: Indigo Girls, Rarities

Since returning from my Habitat trip I have had two dreams that I was back in Tajikistan trying to leave, but finding it logistically difficult or close to impossible. I'm sure the psychological symbolism of that sounds pretty straightforward. On the other hand, I suspect it's not as much about Tajikistan per se as it is about my wanting to be internationally traveling and doing volunteer and other humanitarian work right now.

In the first dream a few days ago, I was packing my suitcases (yes, plural! so not real life) in my hotel room (also much bigger than in real life) when Ezra, the team leader, showed up with the entire rest of the team, ready to depart for the airport. I had said that I would be ready at 2 o'clock, but it was 2:01 and I was still trying to pack. I promised them I'd be only a few more minutes, so they sat down to wait. I kept trying to hurriedly pack, but I kept finding more and more belongings of mine in the hotel room. I would open the closet and find an entire row of shoes I didn't know were there, etc. As ten minutes went by, then twenty, I was so nervous and the suitcases were full and there was still SO much stuff to pack, and Ezra and everyone were really mad at me. I kept promising them "Just one more minute! Just thirty more seconds!" Then, my sister and an old friend from teenage years through the present day appeared, and I tried to get them to help me by taking some of my stuff and packing it in their bags to take home.

In last night's dream, I was trying to get out of the Dushanbe airport. It was kind of like the real life Dushanbe airport in that it had bizarre layers of security checks by various random workers but it was also bigger, and it was daylight (as opposed to the middle of the night, which is mainly when we hung out at that airport in real life), and after getting my boarding pass torn at the gate, I went back into the airport to do some last thing I wanted to do. Then, I lost my boarding pass stub and was trying to convince them I really had been validated to go on the plane, because now I didn't have time to go through all the shenanigans again.

"If I stay here just a little bit longer,
if I stay here won't you listen to my heart?"

Like I said, I think Tajikistan is a readily available symbol right now. In the second dream, I think the telling part is that the official powers-that-be, if you will, had approved my departure but I was chaotically holding myself back. In the first dream, I think the main point is that everyone else was ready to go and I wasn't, because of all these things from my home life preventing me from just going. I even tried to get some people from back home to just take the things off my hands temporarily by taking responsibility for them, but I couldn't just leave them behind.

I may not have yet made clear on this blog how much the personal theme of my trip became the desire to keep seeing the world right now. It started on my Bosphorus ferry cruise in Istanbul. I happened to meet some bad-ass traveling Texans and I chatted with them for a long time about it. These two fifty-something men had seen a lot of the world and were seeing more of it, departing from Istanbul to drive through Turkey next, then go to Lebanon and Syria, that kind of thing).

"I thank the lord for the people that I have found..."

We got to talking about why I am not still out there right now, since I'm young, unencumbered, and the like. I had no answers. All I could say is that Brian and I signed a lease in Chicago. Chicago because...? It was the nearest major/walkable city to Michigan, and cheaper than New York. And I am working there...? Actually, freelancing, work I can literally do from anywhere with an internet connection. And Brian is working as...? Nope. So we don't go because...? Um - because Brian doesn't want to? It's hard to even say those words out loud. It's hard to type them out loud, too.

rink from that wishing well but it may never quench your thirst..."

Later in the week, in Tajikistan, I talked extensively about this with two new Habitat friends. The three of us had a moment in time where we clicked, and we had late evening chats over a few beers, discussing life and travels. I became friendly with them separately, and they two were close friends separate from me, but at that life moment I was just really tapped into their thoughts on this matter and we all understood one another. Even if I never see those two again, which after all is somewhat likely, they will have contributed something to me just by those couple nights of conversation.

"For a moment, stand real still and you'll feel me movin' on
You go ahead with your plans, you won't be seeing me again,
But you'll feel me in the hand, the hand that holds the plow.
Let me go easy..."

I mentioned to them my conversation with the Texan-traveler-friends met in Istanbul, who had asked me why didn't I just go, then, out into the world, and for whom I had no good answer. I talked about how I lived with Brian and despite my (best?) efforts I have been unable to convince him that we should just go to Japan and teach English for a year and see where the world takes us. I do have sympathy for Brian's position: I remember how it was before I went to Korea, when going to live in Asia seemed like an impossibly big deal, and when it seemed like all the ducks had to be in a row (financially and otherwise) before I could possibly leave the country. But that's simply not true, and the only way you really learn that is by just doing it (as Nike would say - we totally learned about the Roman-god-origins of the swoosh in Istanbul, by the way). I suppose it was inevitable that in these conversations with fellow travelers, as many things were discussed, that someone would gently suggest that one cannot continue to cling to everything and everyone at home forever without disappointing oneself. I suppose I was in some way looking for someone to suggest that.

"For all that we've been through, for all that we've promised,
your wayward direction seems insensible..."

When I came back to Chicago, one of the first items on my re-entry agenda was to watch the next-to-last episode and the series finale episode of Lost, which I had missed while I was halfway around the world. I really enjoyed watching the finale with Brian. A lot of Lost fans didn't love it, but it was perfect for where my head was at. I was really moved by the idea of the Losties creating a space where they could all find one another. Also, I loved how important love was. After the episode ended, Brian and I just lay there in silence processing it for probably fifteen minutes. People in that show are totally torn apart by their lives, their loves, and their journeys, but these things that are most important to them are always going to be with them, and always going to be found, not lost.

"When we get back to Winthrop, a few miles from the airport,
on a plastic chair on a deck where my friends live,
I watch the taking off airplanes, I watch the ocean waves crashing,
I know with all of this movement, something's got to give."

Brian and I had a bunch of plans in place for the week of my re-entry. Sadly, our plans to watch the Suns beat the Lakers didn't pan out, but other gatherings with friends and family did. We went to the housewarming at our friends' new condo. After midnight, when my fatigue was turning me into a pumpkin, I suddenly felt rather detached from the group of friends as we tried to have a sing-along to someone's iPod. Why wasn't I in Central Asia anymore, I suddenly asked myself?

On my flight home from London to Chicago, on which I joyously had a two-seat patch to myself, I had pondered all of these things: plans, travels, life, love, journeys, destinations, and going one's way in the world. I mentally committed to working my way through my Lonely Planet Chicago and "traveling" and discovering my new and still-very-new-to-me city before becoming entirely restless to live somewhere else just yet. I can live with that, until I worry that I am wasting time.

"We talk about time, we talk about tides
under the moon with the deep night coffee black
I hear the dim roar of the last flight out
and for someone there is someone never coming back."


Kim Diaz said...

How do you rate the Lonely Planet Chicago? Yet another friend of mine - good friend - is moving there......or I should say, moving back.

linda said...

I like Lonely Planet Chicago so far. It's very sassy-hip-twentysomething in its feel. I adore 99.9% of Lonely Planet books. It's my go-to travel guide.