Like Eating Crab

Some journeys are a juicy strawberry, sweet and easy to enjoy. (Think beach vacation at an all exclusive.) Others are more like eating vegetables of which you are not all that fond. You know that hiking like this is good for you, but you’re not having that much fun. Then there are chocolate cake travels, and glass of champagne ones. Some of the best feel more like a bowl of popcorn and a root beer on a lazy afternoon.

I like them all. I love to travel, and I do my best to embrace the types of joys my current journey has to offer. Last week, I went on what had to be an Alaskan king crab sort of trip.

That would be a journey in which one has to work to get what one is after. Long flights, language difficulties, bumpy roads or high seas can make this a kind of vacation that many would be loathe to take. But the reward is seldom seen beauty and unusual wonders, and sometimes, a sense of personal accomplishment.

My trip to Kenya was months in the planning. The journey needed multiple immunizations, 18 days worth of Malaria tablets (still taking them) and a visa. Then came a thirty-six hour journey which included three flights, two of them over eight hours long. Fourteen crying babies, two long layovers, and five bad airline meals later left me and my friends in a position to take an eight hour drive which, we learned once we arrived, was mostly over a highly-rutted, single-lane dirt road.

Crab style journeys are prone to unexpected problems, and ours had car engine trouble seven hours into this eight hour drive. We stood in the afternoon sun while our tour guide tinkered with a mysterious electrical problem and distant zebras and wildebeests looked on. Finally, one fellow traveler began an impromptu stand up yoga class. Oh, it felt so good to stretch.

Our guide finally parceled us out into other passing vans, and bit by bit we all arrived at our destination. To our surprise, it was not the budget camp we had been promised, and had researched and deemed as okay. It was a last minute substitute.

We received the least friendly welcome any of us has ever had at a place we paid to stay, then we were shown to tents lacking a single amenity (by amenity I mean a towel, lamp, table, bench or chair –these tents had nothing) and attempted to use attached bathrooms in which neither sink, shower, nor toilet worked. When I pulled down the mosquito net to go over my bed, it was filled with fist-sized holes only partly covered by assorted pieces of old duct tape. My tent mate broke into hysterical, exhausted laughter. This journey clearly was not going to come easy.

Our trusty guide was back with our broken car having his own problems and unavailable to help us. So, options being what they were, we made ourselves a round of gin and tonics and hoped for a better day tomorrow.

The days did get better, and the total experience ended up including a wealth of high points. I’ve put some of my favorite photos from the trip throughout this post.

What do you think? Was the total experience worth the initial effort? It was to me. But then again, crab legs are one of my favorite foods.

(Read more about my trip to Kenya at Smiling my way across Kenya, Still a Sunrise?Replacing me with … and  Happy Peace Day, Chinese Person in Tent Number 59)

A feminist looks back at Valentine’s Day

candyIt always was a problem holiday, wrapped as it was in girlie expectations of flowers and candy. I understood that the female, of course, was expected to do for him also, usually by way of, wink wink, you know. It had enough of that underlying sex for treats aspect to it to make me cringe, but I couldn’t help wanting to acknowledge the day. I was still a member of my culture.

My friends always asked. Did he get you flowers? Take you out to dinner? Somewhere romantic? My answer was always a slightly sad no.

roseMy friends would sigh. “It wouldn’t have hurt him to at least, maybe, bought you a single rose or something.” No, it probably wouldn’t have. But I knew that I was sending out mixed signals. I was one of those girls who was usually in a relationship, and with the kind of boy who thought Valentine’s Day was stupid. Not surprising, really, given my own independent beliefs. Still, why couldn’t he make one tiny exception and buy me some dark chocolate? Then I would have had had something to tell my friends. Besides, I like dark chocolate a lot.

Finally, and to no one’s surprise, I married one of those independent thinking guys who had declared early on that no collective of greeting card salesmen and florists was going to tell him when to act romantic, dammit. And they didn’t. I got used to telling people that we didn’t celebrate February 14, and I focused on sending cute cards to relatives instead and just bought my own chocolate. Problem solved.

sparklyFunny thing. As the years went by, Valentine’s Day began to seem more and more like a contrived holiday to me as well. I bragged about how he was too smart to buy me $70 roses. Then one year he surprised me with a silly card. Just for fun, he said. It made him think of exchanging valentines at grade school class parties. I laughed and the next year I got him a silly card too. That became our little tradition, the exchange of a card, the goofier the better.

Then a few years after the card tradition started, we somehow got in habit of making a special meal sometime in mid-February, on a night that was convenient. It included lobster and sparkling wine and maybe even some sort of chocolate dessert. It became our own secret celebration of love, held on a day of our choosing and far from the crowded restaurants with their over-priced menus designed for the occasion. This worked for us, and all was well.

Then, this year happened. The fancy meal was had Saturday night. The cards were exchanged Sunday morning over coffee. By Sunday evening, I was done with Valentine’s Day and happily writing away on my blog when I was informed, with just a touch of petulance, that dinner had been ready for awhile.

You made dinner? Of course he had, I was told.  It was Valentine’s Day, so would I please get off of my computer and come eat the chili rellenos he had made for me because he knows how much I like them.

Why did you bother to do that? Because it is Valentine’s Day, he told me. And because I love you.

Oh. Well now. If that doesn’t just make up for all the flowers and candy I never got and said I never wanted, I don’t know what does.

So, Valentine’s Day. It’s a holiday about loving someone. If you celebrate it right, there isn’t a better occasion on the whole calendar.


(Text from “The Word Virus”)