Monday, December 8, 2014


I stopped writing this blog almost as soon as I began it. This does not bother me much, both because I never considered the pause to be a permanent one, and because for months now I have been happily settled into life in Arequipa, busy with guests, new friends, the children's school, family and work. It's the same reason that I stopped blogging almost as soon as I began at law school - well, that and Facebook. I also stopped because many of the things I was experiencing weren't really for blogging. I have been making new friends and learning their stories, and the stories of my friends are not, usually, mine to tell online. Neither, increasingly, are my children's. And the sorts of things about myself that I wanted to share, I was happy to share through Facebook: that comfortable repository for all our daily qualms and affirmations.

There was another reason I stopped. I began to write a post that got me stumped, and I couldn't finish it. Instead of moving on to some other post or topic, I just let it go and didn't return to it. And then last week I flew to Lima, and a chance encounter with an author reminded me that I do like to write, and not just case summaries and insurance law updates. It wasn't just meeting a writer, either, that spurred my desire to write. It was the shaking-up of my routine that came with the day trip to Lima, putting on an old suit and an old persona, changing my perspective.

It has often seemed to me that human beings are not really equipped to handle the bafflingly long distances we travel by air. We invented air travel so recently, and for so long before then we had no way of moving at such speed from one side of the Earth to the other. Jet lag is the physical reaction to suddenly finding oneself in a completely different time zone, but even when we don't cross time zones it is physically and mentally jarring to go so far, so abruptly. Having traveled as I have, I've come to experience a sort of psychological pre jet lag, an emotional detachment, shortly before I travel, as though my mind has already begun the journey without my body. And in this detachment I find myself thinking about things that have not occurred to me in years, remembering past experiences, remembering myself as I imagined I was. The trip to Lima was the beginning of an upheaval, a temporary breaking away from the life we have already settled into here in Arequipa. We are, again, home here (as far as that goes), and now we are leaving again, albeit temporarily.

My husband's contract is set up in such away that, after he has worked for 11 months, he gets a month of ostensible home leave. This is called a "turnaround". And it happens to coincide with the children's summer vacation, so for them it is a summer break. For me, not working the long hours he does, not being here for my own work, the turnaround exists separately from the rhythms of my professional life. In fact, I will be bringing work with me in our travels, because I do not have a corresponding vacation.* I also still find it hard to square a summer break with the Christmas holiday, after so many years of living in the northern hemisphere. For me, the turnaround is a disruption, a largely welcome one, of the routine into which I've already settled. The word "turnaround" can mean many things. It can mean a sea change, or a reversal of circumstances. It can mean the time it takes to receive something, process it, and return it again. The trip with be a turnaround in all of these senses, I think. From south to north, from summer to winter, from overseas to home again. And it will be a chance to reassess, to evaluate, to revisit, and to in some ways start over. It will be an opportunity to refresh, to see new things and to see old things in another new light.

Maybe this is what we, or at least I, need to write. Change, upheaval, shifting perspectives. Without it, settled into a comfortable routine, the writing impulse falls dormant again. Maybe the very things I write about fall dormant again.

I don't really do New Year resolutions anymore, but I do hope that this turnaround will bring with it a renewed commitment to my writing, my music, and my studies. I hope it will be a chance to reconnect with many of my friends and family. If it brings me your way, I hope to see you soon.


*Some would say my whole life these days is a vacation, though, and I do know how good I've got it.

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