Monday, June 18, 2012

"Appetizer" for Ecuador Trip

Saturday was a day for Baltimore. The Inner Harbor was filled with gigantic ships for the Star-Spangled Sailabration. Lots of goings on, but my party and I were most interested in taking a look at the Ecuador ship.
See the Condor?
See the Ecuador flag and "love life" motif
Before boarding we received some safety instructions:

Very endearing and insightful stuff. It truly was a task getting up the ramp onto the ship, especially for the ladies of the party who wore stylish sandals instead of gripping soled shoes. The sailors stood at the top to take our hands and assist us aboard. 

It is interesting that they warn you in advance that the tour is only for the external vessel, because within minutes of getting our bearings on deck, Jhonny had sweet-talked our group of 5 (including 3 Ecuadorians) into a private tour of the vessel's interior. 

You can't really use words to describe the majesty of these ships. They are so complex and ornate, and they travel the ocean, which is so mysteriously frightening to me with it's unknown depths and unpredictable temper. This ship in particular symbolized national pride as well as hope -- for I saw in all those sailors the hope for a career that was worthy of a little boasting and yielding in some adventure. Many of them were equivalent to what we know as Midshipmen at the US Naval Academy, studying and preparing to become officers. 

Our "tour guide" spoke mostly to Jhonny and his brother in Spanish, and they would occasionally explain to us "gringas" what we were seeing. I couldn't help but compare their experience with my dad's young adulthood as a US Navy enlisted, submariner. I don't know all the lingo, but I know the challenges of military dependency, and I possess a deep pride in all military service. The things I saw on this ship were precious to me, and beautiful, because they related to my life and memories, but also because I knew how special it was for the men to see something like this from their home country in their second country.
Love this!!


We were able to see many ornate things, from walls to floors of the interior cabin. Every detail was polished to perfection. My photography is not the most professional, but it does the job.

Replica of the sword of Simon Bolivar







One of the most moving areas was the "school room." We saw a couple of students studying, and our "tour guide" for the moment showed us a box where the sailors keep records of their hopes and dreams. They will revisit these at a 25-year reunion. He also shared with us from a photo album containing photos of the 1978 tour. 

I glimpsed an interesting sight before we left the school room: an anchor with a crucifix centered on it. What an interesting image.

Thank you to my companions for making this tour happen, and thanks to our tour guide for taking the opportunity to show off a little piece of Ecuadorian pride! Too bad we couldn't stay aboard and head for Ecuador! We'll have to wait until July for that.

Vamos a Ecuador

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Saturday in Annapolis -- in which old places are made new again

Yesterday deserves a little celebration.

The week was a long one for me and Jhonny. We were trying to move my belongings every day after work, and everyone knows how stressful moving can be. On top of that, it seemed like every day some additional drama would hit the fan, and we would try our best to deal with it using our already depleted resources. I would declare that we were successful, by the grace of God, but we were also tired and in need of rest. Yesterday we got it.

While I waited for Jhonny to complete his triathlon training I worked on unpacking, organizing and "making tough decisions" (delicate term for throwing away crap that I just moved). When he was finished we met up, ate lunch, packed up our two dogs and got ready for some fun with little to no pre-planning.
Our original intent was to visit New York City yesterday, but that was before this week happened. The lovely pups came with us and wound up staying with Jhonny's little brother. 

We headed to Annapolis to see what we could find, and if those findings might include free parking.

First stop: neighborhood in Eastport. Landing place: a park bench overlooking someone's private dock.


The bench reads "In Memory of Daniel C. Roper, 1995-1995." We were startled by this extremely short lifespan, and used the iPhone to look up his name. We found this poem, written by his mother. Absolutely tragic. How does a person recover, we wondered. Maybe one never does. It was a sobering moment, but it also made us even more thankful for the moment we were experiencing just then, and all the blessings we have been allowed to keep for our whole lifetimes. You never know how long somebody will be yours, and we are all just on loan to one another anyway.

Spent some time enjoying the small beach in front of the small bench.



Jhonny said it smelled like fish, which of course any beach often does. The smell truly seems like home to me, perhaps because of how many beaches I've visited in my life, and because I've lived so close to one beach or another for the majority of my days. Perks of being a Navy brat?

Eventually we decided to move on, but not before dreaming a little bit about owning a condo like those surrounding us. We watched a nice lady setting up her patio with wine glasses and bottles to choose from. Jhonny was hoping she would notices us and invite us in, but alas, she seemed selfishly distracted by the gorgeous view just beyond her private dock. Maybe next time...

Remember that free parking I mentioned earlier? Yeah, well, Jhonny found some. And it was in a super convenient location, to boot! We were just down the street from the City Dock area of Annapolis, parallel to the Naval Academy, and we didn't get towed or anything! Jhonny has impressed me one million times with his ability to find free street parking and claim it, in the midst of every busy city we've ever visited together. I assured him that his parking skills are the only reason I am marrying him. He said he'll take it.

Immediately upon disembarking from the car, we heard the sounds of partying happening over a mysterious stone fence. Jhonny tried to climb over, but was halted by the accusing eyes of a self-righteous elementary-aged girl, who seemed to recognize that we were uninvited guests. Oh well, no harm done.

We moved downtown and made a snap decision to board a tour boat. I lived in the Annapolis area for 8 years, and spent countless days and nights strolling around downtown, but I'd never enjoyed the view from one of the most important Annapolitan vantage points -- the water.

The boat offered snacks and "adult imbibements", as well as a very silly/jolly captain who coined the previously quoted phrase. All in all, it was a perfect ride with a non-annoying breeze and warm sunshine.


Sailboat on the Severn

Naval Adacademy Bridge

Chesapeake Bay Bridge
I think we left at possibly the most beautiful time of day, and enjoyed the very earliest part of sunset from the water. Maybe it was touristy, but I love love loved it.

We finished off the evening by visiting Buddy's Crabs and Ribs. I had often passed by in my many years as a resident of The Area, but had never actually paid a visit to the place, so again I had a brand new experience in a very familiar town. Joy! The food was good, the atmosphere was fun, and Jhonny ate a ton of ribs and huge crab arms (which I think are actually called "King Crab Legs" or something).

Walking back to our car (which had not even been towed!!), we happened upon a delicious summer night party of neighbors projecting a movie onto the side of a townhouse. The State House gleamed in the background, and we declared the Summer the best season ever.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Friday Fun-day

Yesterday started off rather nicely, with a little coffee and a bagel shared in the presence of the one I affectionately address as "Wall*e" (like the movie star robot, yes). The sun was bright, the breeze was perfect, and the day was Friday. Things seemed altogether perfect.

I headed to work, and as I was pulling into the parking garage, received on my phone a rather angry email from a resident. This resident had failed to pay a rather large portion of rent, and I was forced by my job description to hold said person accountable. This is an unfortunate part of my job, one that I try to conduct with the utmost sensitivity and care. However, sometimes people still yell at me for their own failures, and it only very terribly slowly gets easier to accept (for certain, it's never personal). So while I was still attempting to self-soothe my feelings of offense, I ended a short elevator ride and walked into the office.

I work at an apartment complex. For the past 7 months, I have also lived there. For the past 7 days, I have been working on shifting my residence to an apartment nearby in order to save money for my impending wedding. I had until Friday night (last night) to be fully out of my apartment, and was working on the shift every night after work. Exhausting, you say? Yes, I say. Although I honestly had been working on this all week, there were still a substantial number of items lopsidedly strewn about the apartment, including a couple of miniscule dog turds uncovered by the recent removal of my bed, which must've been left by a mischievous miniature pooch in a moment of reckless self-expression and had not yet been cleaned up by ... me.

When I entered my office hot on the heels of angry emails directed at yours truly, I found that painters had arrived to paint my apartment and get it ready for the next person to move into. Cleaners, too. My maintenance team was ready to get the turnover finished. My last day was essentially taken from me by some very eager leasing activity. My dignity was left in a steaming pile on the floor, as ridiculously large teams of workmen swarmed my 657 square feet, regardless of my piles of precious and not-so-precious belongings making a very awkward cameo in the middle, edges, and entire expanse of the apartment. (Also, dog turds. But the dogs weren't there, so for all these painters/cleaners/maintenance people knew, it was human turds, namely mine, cause I like to make tiny poops on the floor.)

This is the kind of moment where I don't shine. When it comes to standing up for other people, I am a stunner. A++, Student of the Month, Gold medalist defender of people I love. However, when it's myself that needs defending, especially at the expense of someone else (namely, the lady + cat trying to move into my apartment on Sunday), I suck. It just doesn't happen. So while I probably should've started wailing and waving my arms and yelling at everyone to get out of my apartment until my lease officially ended at midnight that night, I just stood there in shock and fury, tears streaming, senseless expressions being uttered, confused panic wafting over me as I tried to figure out how to handle this disaster plus the several mini-skirmishes awaiting me in my office. (Also I was wondering, "Should I try to pick up the dog turds with everyone watching me? Or hope if I do nothing, they won't notice?")

Somehow, in a daze of humiliation and with the help of my coworkers, I moved a packed dolly full of boxes and random items down into the storage area of my apartment complex. My maintenance guys found seaworthy boxes in the shop and expertly threw my remaining odds and ends into them. Essentially, they finished packing me up. The remaining lamps, kennels, blankets, baskets, boxes and books were moved into the middle of the floor so the painters could throw plastic over them and get their work done. Oven cleaning chemicals started to taint the air pungently.

I could be a real b-word about this if I wanted to. If the same had happened to a regular resident rather than an employee of the company, our office would have to worry about getting sued. I can exercise my right to be a real pill, if I want to. But I don't.

What happened was a result of humanity. Human fallibility, miscommunication, and fear of upsetting people (on my behalf, but also on the behalf of the people responsible for the debacle). These types of things I understand. I am in no high and mighty place to call someone to account for this. I didn't get injured, nothing was lost or broken, I had 4 people helping me move that I wouldn't have had otherwise, and my pride in my own privacy got taken down a notch.

Best of all, I got practice at really feeling justifiable emotions of anger, hurt, and humiliation, and shortly thereafter got to practice real forgiveness. It's not forgiveness unless you're wronged first. And learning what it was like for Jesus on earth is what forgiveness is all about. These moments, as dumb as they may be, are the everyday opportunity to identify and practice what Jesus was all about. Something for which to give thanks.