Friday, June 24, 2005


Coming home

Which end is up?

I awoke this morning at 5 a.m. My sleep patterns are disturbed by jet lag from yesterday's 24-hour marathon of westbound air travel, yet the dawn was beautiful and its a delicious summer morning in my hometown. I'm sad my trip is over, but the summer is full of promise and I'm euphoric about being home.

Jet lag and time zone change are very disorienting. And my grip on what day and time it is has been badly shaken by this: B and I didn't make phone calls or call in for messages from Europe, assuming, I guess, that anyone who really needed to get in touch would send email. When I got home, there was a message on my answering machine from the sister of my friend R: "I have some news about R-- please call. We're at R's apartment. It's Wednesday the 25th."

R was diagnosed with breast cancer several years ago. I have known her since 4th grade. She was the first girl to break my heart in high school. She was in remission.

"Wednesday the 25th," of course, was last month. I called R's apartment -- the number was disconnected. I called R's sister's cell phone and got voice mail.

I googled "R--" and found her obituary. She died "of cerebral hemorrhage due to complications from cancer treatment" a few days after I left the country.

So the "world" I left behind last May is now very different.

This morning I walked to Grandma Moses, my favorite coffee shop, and got there just after 6:30, when it's supposed to be open. It was dark and locked, and I wondered if maybe I had set my watch to the wrong time zone.

Then a familiar face, riding up on a bike. A former student. Yes, it's after 6:30 and the place is supposed to be open. We chat: Where can we go at this hour and get both coffee and free internet? I think about it for a minute and rattle off the names of three places.

Then the barista shows up. I sort of know her -- I clap and say "woo! hoo!" and we banter. She doesn't want a lot of people coming in and demanding coffee before she's set the place up for business, but she says we can come in and use the wifi while she gets the coffee going, as long was we lock the door behind us.

It occurs to me that it's so nice to have that kind of rapport after three days of scowling Dutch tourism-jaded waitrons. It occurs to me that I not only speak the local language fluently, but I know my way around well enough to give directions. It occurs to me that I should get a bike. And the iced coffee is delicious.


Oscar - sorry to learn about the passing of your your friend. I spent the lasyt weekend with a close friend, whose brave little boy lost his battle against brain cancer. Sorry.
Oscar - my condolences to you for your loss. I just had a cousin pass away recently and, even though we weren't super close, it's still painful.
On a lighter note, I stumbled upon your blog a little while ago (I'm from Poland) and really enjoy living vicariously through you! Thanks for all the picture - they're great! It's a great little break - and I usually end up laughing and my co-workers have started to look at me funny. so, thanks! :)
I'm so sorry to hear that you lost your friend.

Thanks again for the marvellous travel blogging. I'm addicted to travel literature, and yours ranks with the best.
Oscar, I'm very sorry for your loss. I am thankful for you to have known your friend for so long. Fond memories, I'm sure.

Many thanks, too, for sharing your great travel blogging and pictures!!! A most excellent adventure! ~jlp
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