Sunday, October 08, 2006

A day of mental and physical preparations...

Hanging out in Dunn Brothers (who knew the public library was closed on Sundays?) and doing more Africa prep via wireless. Uncle Paul met up with us to chat about visas, packing, insurance, safety etc. Lots to think about. Also chatted with Annie Barton the other day about some of the same issues and her experiences in Kenya. There are a lot of things to consider, but we are coming to the conclusion that we will have to deal with them when we arrive. It seems as if there are many contingencies that are difficult to plan for and that our flexibility/naiveté is a great asset. We don't know what we're getting into, and maybe that is a good thing!

The visa thing has been a tangled morass from the beginning. And we're discovering that most of the places we are looking to go have "on arrival visas" available which will make traveling sans itinerary possible. We can walk right up and buy a Kenyan visa in the airport and the Indian visa is attainable in a day from the Chicago embassy. So that leaves us time to find access to the Ugandan, Tanzanian and Ghanaian visas. But, this still leaves us with the problems of travelers health insurance and equipment insurance and of course plane tickets into Kenya. I think these will be our new priorities in the coming weeks...Along with packing, always my favorite endeavor before traveling. There is something so satisfying about the tangible preparation of laying out clothes on the floor and getting together your toiletries, passports and travel documents.

Back at Diane's we watched the tail end of "Sideways" again and I thought more about how much that movie resonated with me. It really shouldn't, since its about these two men in their late thirties or early forties who are dealing with mid-life crises. But it has this wonderful character development that takes you on a brilliant, hilarious, tragic ride that you could never go on without knowing what a pathetic looser Miles is, and what a sick egotist Jack is. They are both adults who are still not yet adults emotionally and are dealing with all the struggles of accepting reality and compromise and the hard work of real life.

I don't understand why this kind of story would resonate so much with me...a twenty three year old just finished with school and starting a marriage and on to a wonderful adventure. I suppose this is the first chance Eric and I have ever had to really take a risk, and it is nerve wracking. The possibility is just crushing somehow, and it could all end in nothing. We have a lot riding here and my hope and energy is going into making it work, but it could crash and burn.

So there is something so moving to me about Miles watching his last hopes fade away, and still searching for a way to move beyond the disappointment of letting his dream of becoming a novelist fade away. That isn't the end of his life, there are more possibilities open for him, yet the disappointment is a real one. And the future is unsecured. Who knows if Maya will take him back again, or if he will fail that relationship in all the same ways that he failed in his first marriage?

That scene where he drinks his one fabulous bottle of 1961 Cheval Blanc with a hamburger and onion rings out of a Styrofoam cup is so devastating. He's trying to savour something that may have already eluded him. "Sideways" for me, really summed up the way depression actually moves in people. It is slow and heavy and full of anger and frustration and disgust just simmering below the surface. It is an incredible numbness to life; the good and bad.

And perhaps that is the lesson I take from the film. It is not wanting to reach 35 or 40 feeling as though I didn't try to savour every moment and experience what I could. Not wanting to be an eighteen year old trapped in the body of a forty year old. Life has so much to offer; being an adult has so many rewards. You can take a chance and it could fail to work out. Being a novelist doesn't happen for everyone, but that is edited out of our collective cultural mythology. You never see a movie about an actress that doesn't make it big and waits tables her whole life. You rarely hear a story where the answer is not to pursue your dreams endlessly, but to accept compromise and the beauty of investing in another person. And maybe the trying it was the right thing to do, even if it didn't lead to fame and fortune. I'll let you know in twenty years.


Nick said...

I'm so glad you mentioned the scene where he drinks the Cheval with the burger and onion rings. That's the same scene that affected me the most. It's so sad, so tragic.

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