Everything is Upside Down

Everything is upside down because you are not here.  It hits me in the most unexpected places, on the most unexpected days and today is one of those.  I can’t call you and tell you about the books I’m reading, about the speakers I’m hearing, or about the big thoughts I’m thinking.

I thought about you as I slid into the cab and the driver spoke in a thick Eastern European accent.  His voice was so deep, so low that I had to lean forward in my seat to hear.

“Where to?”

“MGM Grand Conference Center, please.”  I hold my bag on my lap and look out the window at the drizzle raining down on the Strip.  It’s not enough to fill puddles, just enough to give the street the illusion of being clean.  It’s the quiet of morning, no flashing signs, no men snapping fistfuls of paper women at passerby.

“Where are you from?”  I ask, watching the corners of the windows etch with steam.

“I live here.  Where are you from?”

“California.”

“Los Angeles?”

“No, Northern California, the pretty part of the state-with lakes and mountains.”

“I lived in California many years ago.”  He waits for the light to turn from red to green.

“But where are you from?”

“Romania.”  He clips the word and I hesitate for a moment, wondering why he left Romania, wondering what he isn’t saying, always wondering, always wanting to know the rest of the story.

“I’ve been to Romania.  My grandmother took me on a bus tour of Eastern Europe for my thirtieth birthday.  Romania is beautiful.  I always had my nose pressed to the bus window when we drove through Romania.”  My rush of words fog up the cab window.

“What towns did you visit?”

“Oh, I’m terrible with names.  Say some of the names and I’ll tell you if we visited the towns.”

“Romania isn’t very big.  Only the size of Oregon.”  His eyes meet mine in the rearview mirror.  His are brown almost black and mine are turquoise today.  “Of course there’s Bucharest.  And there’s Brashov.”

“We visited Bucharest, but Brashov was my favorite.  I prefer smaller towns.”

“I am from Brashov.”

“Do you visit Romania often?”

“I haven’t been back there in twenty-six years.”  He says, the decades stacking in his throat, the lapse of time thick in his tone.  He pauses and I don’t say anything.  “But I’m going back in March.”

“This March?”  I resist the urge to ask this stranger about the long stretch of years between homecomings.

He leaves me wondering and asks another question instead, “Why did your grandmother take you there?”

“For my birthday.” I repeat.

“But why Romania?”

“She loves,um, loved-” I correct your life to past tense and it stops my heart for a moment.  “She loved to travel to places she hadn’t been before.  She had a heart for meeting people all over the world.”

“She gave this to you.”

“Yes, it was a present for my birthday.”  I fiddle with my wallet, slipping out cash, guessing at the number of bills I’ll need to pay when we arrive at my destination.

“No,” his eyes smile in the mirror.  “You’re here.  She gave you a love of travel.”

“Yes, I suppose she did.”  I smile back.

“Her heart is your heart.  Her blood is your blood.”

The taxi comes to a stop at the curb.  I hand a wad of folded up bills over the seat, more bills than I’d first counted out, still a paltry offering for this taxi driver who has walked the same streets you and I walked, an entire ocean and calendars of years away.

I think about how the cash I give him isn’t nearly enough for the man who reminded me that you’re still here, that my blood is your blood, that your heart is my heart.

“Thank you.  Have a safe trip home.”  I say to him.

“You, too.”  He tucks the bills in his back pocket and flashes a last smile.

I step out onto the curb and I no longer feel so upside down.  The rain holds its breath and I begin to feel righted again.

A Room With A View

I left CSI: Bathroom on the second day in Gulu, moving up two floors into the only other vacant room in the hotel.

This room isn’t perfect either, but I no longer fear that my shower is going to come alive at night or that the toilet is going to inflict a disease on me.

My sink doesn’t work, but at least the faucet is attached to the wall so that I hold out hope that it will work one of these days.  It makes a great bathroom storage area for flowery headbands and other bathroomly things.

There’s no electricity in my bathroom which is actually okay, because even the thought of makeup vanishes in the sweat that begins each morning and only ceases when I lay down on top of the cool sheet at night.

The other benefit of no electricity in the bathroom is that I can’t be bothered to even attempt to tame my curls, which have taken on a life, and perhaps a solar system, of their own.  From what I can see out of my peripheral vision, the force grows stronger with my hair every day.  Only time will tell if it remains fairly well-behaved or if it turns to the dark side.  I think it’s going to be the dark side because anytime one clearly sees their hair from the periphery, that hair is clearly up to no good.

But cold water, and on rare occasions even hot water, flows freely from the shower head and the toilet no longer causes me nightmares.

And check out my dresser/closet/pantry/medicine cabinet/table complete with chair.

Perhaps my favorite thing about my new room is the view.  I look out on Gulu now, out onto buildings under construction.  The rhythm of hammers is the heartbeat of a town rebuilding herself, one nail at a time.

From my window I see houses and huts side by side, the new and the old married here.

Gulu is up to become a city this year.  She would be the second official city in Uganda.  Gulu residents are excited at the prospect of more industry and municipalities that reach the outskirts of town.  They hope Gulu will become like Kampala, a polluted, crowded, noisy racket of a city.  I want what’s best for Gulu and I’m just not sure bigger is always better.  So for now, I’ll relish the clink of hammers and enjoy my view of small, kindhearted Gulu.

Conversations with Christine

My streak for meeting amazing people en route to Uganda continued on my flight from Washington DC to Brussels where I had the pleasure of meeting Christine, a Congolese kidney doctor who has made the United States her home for over 20 years.  Christine is amazing in a lot of ways.  For example, she speaks multiple languages.  She’s also an equestrian with a soft spot for her horse, AJ.  Her job allows her to travel the US filling in for various kidney doctors when they go on vacation.

Oh, and here’s a big one, for the past decade or so she’s been working on establishing a kidney transplant and dialysis center in Kenshasa, her hometown in the Congo.  She spends her days pouring her time, money, heart and everything else she has into providing care for those in need.  This means doing things like hauling equipment instead of clothing in her luggage.  It means translating protocol and training nurses.  For Christine, it also meant giving up her crowning jewel, giving up her private practice in the States in order to devote more time to her bigger calling.

I can’t fathom the faith it took to make a leap like that.  And yet, when Christine and I found ourselves sandwiched together in the middlest seats in the middle row, Christine talked about how she struggles with letting go of control and turning things over to God.

Boy, there’s nothing like having someone hold a mirror to your face on a transatlantic flight where there’s nothing but time, recycled air and plenty of leg room.  Wait, that last one was just wishful thinking.

I could so relate to Christine and her fear of letting God take the wheel.  It’s a fear I face down all the time.  My own hubris wins out far more than I care to admit.  I told Christine about how God has been sending me some unlikely messengers as of late to convey that he’s in the broad strokes and in the finest details as well.  I told her about D’s words and about Santa’s gift and about how since I decided to listen to God for once and go to Africa to write with kids, God is proving his steadfastness in my life in wild ways.

There was a time in my life when prayer was just natural conversations with God, when praying was like filling my best friend in on the details of my life.  Somewhere in the last few years, my prayer life has waned into a list of gratitude or a list of wants.  Hear me out, both of those have their place.  The Bible says a thankful heart prepares the way for God and that we’re to ask for the desires of our hearts, but somehow the part where I just talked to God got lost.

Planning and taking this trip to Uganda has forced me to be real with God, to lay down the platitudes.  This isn’t easy for me because often times it means admitting weakness where I want to portray strength.  From small things like admitting I was nervous about taking photos for the book I’ll be writing with the kids to bigger things like being lonely, I’ve been laying it all out on the table.

And then trying hard to listen.

I’m not one who hears an audible voice of God, although I firmly believe that if I did, He would sound like James Earl Jones.

Instead God speaks to me most often through the actions of other people.  When I admitted I was uncertain about doing the writing and photography part of the book, Colin a teacher from Oklahoma City, who also happens to be a photographer, signed up to volunteer at the school, too.  When I told him about the book I want to write with the students, he jumped in with both feet to help with the photography side.

When I left my house at 3am and began the two and a half hour drive to the airport that began this wild journey, loneliness and homesickness settled like stones in my stomach.  For the first half hour of the drive, I didn’t see a single car or even a semi truck heading either direction on the interstate.  All was quiet and dark and even a happy playlist couldn’t help me from thinking about turning back around at every exit and speeding back to my warm bed to curl into the crook of Terry’s arms.  At 3:45am my phone rang.  It was That Laura, awake and itching courtesy of a nasty case of poison oak.  We chatted about regular old life stuff and the next thing I knew I was pulling into long-term parking at the airport.

When I boarded the plane from DC to Brussels and settled in next to Christine, I realized that I’m not alone in struggling with letting go.  I’m not alone in feeling nervous or lonely at times.  Time and again on this trip, God is making sure I know I’m not alone.  So now I’m starting to think that the voice of God isn’t that of James Earl Jones.  Maybe I hear God best when he talks to me through the chipper voice of a faithful friend calling.  I’m even beginning to think that the voice of God may even have a Congolese accent.

I guess the point is to keep listening because God speaks in surprising ways.  For me the point may be to keep listening because God speaks.  Period.

I love…

Sometimes after a challenging day at work I need to remember that there really is a lot to like in this world, a lot to love even.  This was one of those days and so turning the corner into this blissful three-day weekend, I’m focusing on the parts of my life I love.  It is not a comprehensive list by any stretch of the imagination.  In fact, I’m going to come back and add more over the weekend.  I hope you’ll let me know about all the things you love in the comments section.

  • I love the smell of Terry just out of the shower, wrapped in steam with stray drips of water still behind his ears.
  • I love when we’re laying in bed and Terry reaches over and touches my leg, acknowledging I’m there with him.
  • I love the steady beat of my heart.
  • I love reading blogs in the morning before work to see how friends in other parts of the world are starting the day.
  • I love tucking under a blanket with a good book as the rain streams down my windows.
  • I love riding my bike the long way up to Shasta Dam just because I can.
  • I love the pink casing on my bike that matches my jersey and my water bottles.
  • I love going to church and closing my eyes to worship.
  • I love praying with Terry as we part ways in the morning.
  • I love when my nephew begs for more tickles and kisses me with crackers in his mouth.
  • I love when one of my students says, “I love writing.”
  • I love eating summer blackberries from my backyard.
  • I love writing.
  • I love writing so much I’m putting it on the list twice.
  • I love talking to other teachers about how to foster young writers.
  • I love visiting new places, but I love coming home even more.
  • I love Abby and her candy drawer.
  • I love Nick because he believes I’m a better person than I really am.
  • I love my Gramma because she understands the worst parts of my life and doesn’t judge me for them.
  • I love green vegetables.
  • I love when my principal has my back.
  • I love my grade level team for making me a better teacher.I love my home.
  • I love burritos.
  • I love parasailing over the turquoise Caribbean ocean.
  • I love the Olympics.

No Touching, Red Shorts!

The breeze was slight and the ocean was a blue blanket spread in front of me.  I was sprawled out in a lounge chair writing away on my laptop.  I was in the zone.  My fingers couldn’t keep up. Joggers and walkers sped around me like horses on a carousel, but I paid them no mind.  I was writing on a ship somewhere off the coast of Cabo San Lucas. It was blissful.

Out of the corner of my eye I spotted a speed walker heading my direction.  She was clad in a t-shirt and squat red shorts that, let’s say, didn’t suit her body type.  Earbuds tucked into her ears, she swung her arms vigorously to the beat.  As she passed me she looked my way and let out a disdainful “Tsk!” and kept on walking.  I looked around wondering what had warranted such a reaction.  I didn’t see anything out of the ordinary.  Maybe it was a special exercise breathing thing.  Other than riding my bike, I’m not really up on fitness type things like breathing and fancy stuff like that.  I shrugged it off and continued typing.

The second time Red Shorts passed me she slowed, leaned down, slapped my ankle, and motored away.  Was there a bug on me?  Was my lounge chair in the middle of the walkway and I didn’t realize it?  Was this some sort of joke I wasn’t in on?  I so did not understand what was going on here, but I didn’t want to slip out of the ever shrinking writing zone, so dropped my head and tapped away on my keyboard.

When I saw Red Shorts making her third approach, I stopped typing ready to solve the mystery I like to call “What is your problem?”  She came in for a third pass.  This time she stopped and grabbed my ankle.  My mind quickly reverted back to my childhood, but before I could even force the words “Stranger danger!” out of my mouth, Red Shorts began to scold me.  With music blasting into her ears, her voice at a volume appropriate only for rock concerts, she said, “You’d better not be working.  You’re on vacation.”  I assured her that I was not working.  I was writing and I like to write.  Sometimes I even call myself a writer.  She said “You’re a writer?  Then that’s working and you shouldn’t work on vacation.”  I explained that my profession is teaching and that I write for pleasure.  This didn’t compute.  She continued barking at me.  “Well my daughter brought her laptop with her because she just started up a new business and has to check up on it.  She was on that internet so much that I had to hide her computer from her!”

While Red Shorts railed on her daughter, I tried to figure out how to flee the scene.  The woman was standing directly in front of my chair with a Vulcan death grip on my ankle.  What was that my kickboxing instructor used to tell me?  Was it jab the eyes first?  Or was it a finger in the windpipe?  Should I kick free first and then knee her in the stomach?  Darn it, I should have stuck with those classes!  As I was debating self-defense maneuvers, Red Shorts took a breath.  Aha!  My opportunity to escape!  I calmly assured her that I was not working, but that I appreciated her concern and I hoped she had a lovely cruise with her daughter.  She admonished, “I just don’t want you getting into bad habits like that when you’re young.”  Then she bustled on down the deck not to be seen again.

‘Bad habits like that’?  Did Red Shorts really just give me a lesson on bad habits?  She’s the one who violated my perfectly calm writing zone.  Want a bad habit to break?  How about not grabbing strangers?  Just a thought.  I was a little miffed at first, but then I realized Red Shorts would make a great little story.  I’m sure she’d be very pleased knowing she’s supporting my ‘bad habit’.

You Had Me At ‘Hole In My Pants’

I have a gift for doing embarrassing things. I call it a gift because it seems like something that has been bestowed upon me. No matter how hard I try, I simply can’t avoid committing acts of humiliation. I live in the land of mortification, but as much as I’d like to think otherwise, this time it was all my fault.

From day one on this cruise to Mexico with Terry I’ve tried extra hard not to do anything that might cause me to be shamefaced in any way. I daresay I’ve been vigilant. I’ve taken smaller bites at meals, so as not to choke or spit anything on anyone. I’ve been careful only to carry one thing in each hand so I don’t drop stuff. I’ve checked my teeth at least nine times each day for stray bits of food. I’ve scrutinized the bottom of my shoes each and every time I’ve left the bathroom. I’ve been walking at a slower pace to prevent unwarranted tripping.

Other than one tiny slip up, when ice cream dribbled out of the cone and onto my shirt, I’ve been doing pretty well. Wait, there was also the time when I tried to exit a lounge chair and it clamped down on my leg, but only Terry was there to see that and the bruise will vanish soon enough, so it doesn’t really count. Oh, there was also the bathrobe in the toilet mishap, but I was alone so that definitely doesn’t count. There was also that time the old lady grouched at me for walking the wrong direction on the promenade, but I’m pretty sure she was just in a mood. That definitely doesn’t count. Overall, I’d say I’m doing pretty well. I’m proud to report that I haven’t tripped once or dropped a single thing during the four days we’ve been on board. I should have known that humiliation was saving the big guns for later.

It all began with packing for the trip. I hate packing. I hate packing so much that a friend gave me a shirt with a tag that says “I hate packing.” It has a suitcase with clothes dropping into it. All the clothes are shaped like Tetris pieces. And I LOVE Tetris. I feel giddy when I’m playing Tetris and I’ve built a rectangular crevasse and that long, skinny piece floats down, saving the day. It’s nirvana. I sometimes dream in Tetris.

Anyway, back to the necessary evil of packing. I am a chronic over packer. I pack everything under the sun and then cajole a little more into the suitcase. Even my Grandma makes fun of my packing gluttony. This trip Terry urged me to pack lighter. Terry is wise. Terry is organized. His things always fit into a tidy little suitcase, without any weird bulges or zipper strain. In fact, as we were packing he said “There’s too much room in my suitcase. My things are going to shift around.” Yes, he’s that good. I was inspired.

Clad in my awesome Tetris shirt, I sifted through my suitcase and started tossing superfluous items. I tossed my jacket and a second pair of black dress shoes. I nixed a handful of t-shirts. I tossed one of five books. I placed an extra pair of pants back into the closet. I threw out my second pair of workout clothes because, seriously, who was I kidding? Yes, I even sorted through my underwear and threw out my granny panties in lieu of sexier, and therefore smaller panties.

Then I came to my two most favorite clothing items, two pairs of cropped tuxedo pants. They fit me perfectly. When I found them in Target a couple of years ago, I bought them in both black and gray and felt a touch of sadness that they weren’t available in more colors. I laid out each pair on my bed, considering which pair would make the cut. Black goes with everything. I hung the gray pair back in the closet and tucked the black ones back into my now roomy suitcase. I didn’t even have to use the extended zipper area. Job well done, McCauley, job well done.

As I’m telling you this story, I realize it didn’t actually start with the packing, but with a card game. The week before our trip was parent teacher conference week. I enjoy this week, but it makes for really long work days. One of the ways I like to unwind is to play cards. This was the case on Monday night. I’d taught and held six parent teacher conferences. I was drained. I asked Terry if he wanted to play cards. He plopped down on the living room floor. As I squatted to join him on the floor, I heard the distinct ripping of seams followed by a cool draft near my rear end. I reached down and, sure enough, I could poke three fingers right through the seat of my favorite black, cropped tuxedo pants. The thread had apparently lost all authority over the fabric. I was mildly embarrassed, but glad the pants had given out in the privacy of my home and not during class or worse yet at a parent teacher conference. I threw the pants in the hamper to be washed and then taken to the seamstress. My busy week continued and I forgot all about getting the tear repaired.

Thursday evening I did the wash and was laughing hysterically at 30 Rock as I folded the laundry. I didn’t pay any attention to the clothes in my hands. I folded my black tuxedo crops. Having erased the unfortunate seam incident completely from my mind, I tossed them in my suitcase, somehow totally missing the GIANT HOLE in the bottom. They made the final packing cut Friday afternoon. That’s right, I packed a pair of pants with a colossal hole in them.

I did not again become aware of the gaping hole in my pants until the following Thursday, Thanksgiving Day. As I took them out of the closet and laid them on the bed, I caught a glimpse of the gap in the seam. I picked them up and immediately turned three shades of crimson.

You see, in my zeal to become a more efficient packer, I’d planned on wearing some things multiple times. I’d already worn them one afternoon while reading on the deck and also the night before. The night before!?! Oh no, no, no, no! I replayed the events of the night before. I’d worn them to dinner last night. After dinner I’d raced up six flights of stairs for an ice cream cone. I zipped down seven flights of stairs and to the other end of the ship where Terry and I listened to some singers. (Yes, I know the ship has elevators.  In order to eat the ice cream, I have to climb the stairs. Plus I don’t like it when people wearing fanny packs bump up against me in the elevator. And trust me, fanny packers are a dime a dozen on this ship.) After the singers, we’d rushed to the other end of the ship to watch an Indonesian cultural show. Then back across the ship and up two flights of stairs to our room. I’d run all over the ship with a chasm in my pants.

On Thanksgiving morning, as I sat on the bed pondering my idiocy, I realized something else. My panties. Oh no, my panties! All my regular sized panties were at home tucked neatly in a drawer. I’m pretty sure the ones I was wearing that evening are scant enough that they can’t even be technically classified as underwear. As I paraded around the ship that night, chances are pink lace and a lot of skin were saying hello from the seat of my pants. Terry says he didn’t notice and nobody else said anything. I’m all about laughing at myself, but being the literal butt of the joke takes it to a whole new level. Maybe, just maybe nobody noticed. And that would be something to be truly thankful for.

As Thanksgiving evening approached, Terry and I watched the sunset together. I told him I loved him. He smiled and held my hand. Then I started laying it on thick, you know all that mushy stuff they say in movies. Barely keeping a straight face, I looked him in the eye and murmured, “You complete me.” Without missing a beat he replied, “You had me at ‘hole in my pants’.”

Good to see you again, Mexico.

A few hours from now, Terry and I will be driving to Sac to catch a flight to San Diego and hop a ship to cruise around Mexico for a week.  Some of my fondest memories from my teenage years and early adulthood are from trips to Mexico.  No, I’m not talking about those crazy high school drinking excursions you see on Dateline.  For eight or nine summers, I spent time in Mexico as a short-term missionary.  Yeah, God was surprised, too.

My first time in Mexico, I was part of the construction team.  We built a small church near Tijuana.  We mixed cement with shovels, hammered up black rolls of pungent tar paper, and rolled out miles of chicken wire to stucco the walls.  This was all very cool to my fourteen year old self.  My task for the majority of the build was to measure out all of the boards to be nailed into place.  I measured and marked all day long for my saw team.  (It helped that my saw team happened to be two cute boys.)

On the last day of the build, as we were packing up, we spotted a fire on the hillside across the road.  The hillside was brown with weeds and spotted with houses made from salvaged materials.  One home was made primarily of wooden Coldwell Banker signs.  As the fire devoured the weeds, a horde of us grabbed our shovels and ran up the hill.  We dug trenches to hold the fire, threw piles of dirt to extinguish it and pounded out hot spots.  After the fire was out, we put the shovel handles between our legs, sat on the mouths of the shovels and slid all the way back down the hill.  It was a fantastic ride.

That evening we were joined by many neighbors from the hillside at a candlelight service in the newborn church.  Whenever I hear the words “thinking globally” or “global community” or any of the other catchy phrases people throw around, I think of that candlelight services and the glowing faces in that little church near Tijuana.

The following summer I was on two teams.  The build team worked on an orphanage during the early hours.  Then in the afternoons and evenings I went out with the drama team to perform and give my testimony at church services and neighborhood gatherings.  At a training before the trip we had to audition for parts in one of the dramas.  The female part choices were a hypocrite and a glamorous girl.  I tried out for the hypocrite, but my movements weren’t crisp enough.  I auditioned for the glamorous girl, but as we were “walking gracefully”, I tripped and fell.  On my face.  I was embarrassed and turned a deep shade of red.  Luckily for me, there was one more part that hadn’t been announced; a clown.  When I tripped, the trainers handed me the clown mask immediately.

And so it was that on a sticky afternoon in Mexico, we were rehearsing for an evening performance.  Dressed in black we held our masks in place and a handsome stranger started our music.  As the drama unfolded, each character pulled a mask down to reveal their true self.  I pulled my mask down and locked eyes with the handsome stranger.  His eyes were limpid pools of chocolate.  My body did the motions of my part, but my mind was swimming in those eyes, oh those eyes.  I was a goner.  The stranger was Terry, whose eyes still turn me to jell-o.

On my third trip to Mexico, I chose to return to both teams.  I loved it all, but when the fire died down each night and it was time to retire to our tents, I laid awake until the sun announced it was time to get up and build again.  After several nights of reaching for sleep just outside my grasp, I was desperate for rest.  That night as I prayed, I pleaded with God to let me sleep.

I fell asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow.  I laid motionless in a deep, dreamless sleep unaware of the storm that rolled in.  More accurately, the storm that rolled in and wreaked havoc. The pelting rain collapsed many tents, causing people to seek refuge in cars, the kitchen, and even in the bathrooms.  Mud slides relocated some tents entirely.  Thunder and lightning caused nearby cattle to break through a fence and tromp around in the chaos.

I awoke the next morning to a steady drip, drip, drip between my eyes.  I looked up and saw that my tent had collected a large puddle of water directly above my head.  Huh, must have rained last night, I thought.  I unzipped my sleeping bag and it released water like I was squeezing a sponge.  Must have rained A LOT last night. I glanced over to the other side of the tent.  It had collapsed.  I dressed, grabbed my toothbrush, and unzipped my tent.  I looked out and saw the scars of the storm.

I wandered up to the kitchen and Terry filled me in on the events of the night, including the part when he came to rescue me, only to find me wrapped in the gentle arms of sleep.  As the sun cut the clouds, I stood outside brushing my teeth.  People hung their belongings out to dry, repaired tents, and herded cattle back to the neighboring ranch.  Everything I owned was wet.  My tent was plastered with red mud and only partially standing.  But me, I’d never been better.  I was rested and happy.

I returned to the same campsite year after year.  In one corner of the campsite there was a cement water tower with ladder up one side.  Each evening I would slip away from the group and sit on top of the water tower.  As the wind licked my sunburned ears, I would pray, meditate, and write.  On clear nights I gazed out over sleeping Mexico and in the distance I could see a faint triangle of ocean.  It was serene.  My experiences as a missionary and this humble campsite became home to me.

In a few hours, I’ll board a ship to visit some of the more polished cities of Mexico.  My days will be spent lounging on beaches and devouring piles of books.  Nights will be spent eating fancy cuisine with my favorite brown-eyed boy.  I’ll treasure every second of it, but at night on the deck as the wind licks my sunburned ears, I’ll gaze out over the vast ocean longing for my second home.  I miss the grit.  I miss the work.  I miss the glow.  I miss the faces.  But most of all I miss the serenity of the water tower and my tiny triangle of ocean.  I’ll return to it someday, but for now let me just say, it’s good to see you again, Mexico.