Friday, December 12, 2008

On Our Way!

With the recommended dosage of Immodium in my belly, Joe and I got in a cab and journeyed on to our Globe Aware meeting point. In the cab, I was amazed by all of the people on the street selling goods – everything from hairbrushes to snacks. When the cab stopped at a red light, the car was quickly surrounded by people selling their goods/products. Beautifully balancing their items on their head, they’d try to sell their goods to anyone willing. Although it took some time to get used to being surrounded by people whenever the car came to a halt, neither Joe or I felt accosted or anything like that. In some ways, one can see how practical this commerce system is. I think of it as their version of the drive-thru. I wonder though, if the practicality goes both ways. For the driver, it is a very convenient system, but is that true for the seller, stuck outside in the rain and trying to get interest in their sliced fruit? I don’t know.

Our cab driver took us to the Pink Hostel in a different neighborhood in Accra. Again, the lack of familiar addresses made it difficult to ask to go somewhere, but our driver got us their quickly and with ease. Joe and I were the first to arrive at the meeting spot. The small mini-van was waiting, but none of the participants, nor the head of the Globe Aware program in Ghana, Richard, were there. We were told Richard had gone to pick up some of the participants and was on his way back.

The quiet, serene street was in opposition to my mounting excitement. I wanted to be on our way. I wanted to see the Volta region – where we were staying, who we’d be working with, what we’d be doing. Not long after we’d arrived, a cab pulled up and out came a man with a backpack. This was Scott. Not on the original list of participants, Scott, in a constant state of wanderlust, had decided to come at the last minute. In just a few minutes of conversation, I discovered that he’d been to many, many places in the world for work and for recreation. I was immediately envious. What would life be like spending 6 months here, 6 months there? Nervously, I told Scott the project that I was embarking on. Quickly he agreed to be a part of it and said he didn’t mind being filmed. Whew! One down!

A short while after Scott arrived, another cab pulled up and out came Richard – greeting Joe and I with a warm hug and kind eyes. Also exiting the cab were Jodee, Wayne and their son, Wyatt. A family filled with energy and wrapped in bug-sprayed bandannas, they loquaciously described the problems they encountered in getting to Accra. How they were stuck in Nigeria for a time, how Wyatt had gotten sick on the journey and how they didn’t know if they were going to get to the meeting place on time. Joe and I then explained our project and all 3 seemed excited by the prospect.

Richard interrupted our conversation to explain that we were still waiting for two more participants – a writer, George, and his son Eamon. George was delayed at a jewlers, so Richard said it would be easier to pick him up there.

We packed the van and then crowded in. Joe and I sat in the back and observed everyone else. A short drive later, we arrived at the meeting place to pick George and his son up. With two more in tow, we smushed into the now, very tightly packed van and began our journey to the Volta Region.

I had to steal myself thinking about how amazing it was that this was happening. Joe and I had our press passes, Richard had had a long talk with a representative at the Ministry of Information’s Office and cleared our trip and all but George and Eamon had agreed to be on film.

I was in Africa. I was in Ghana. This was happening.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Globe Aware Begins

[note: once again my apologies for the lateness of this next installment... work has been crazy but it's been all good things!]

Finally! Globe Aware’s official start day arrives! I woke up with such anticipation for the days to come. What would we be doing? What would the group be like? Would they be open to the documentary? Globe Aware had said that they were going to mention it to the other volunteers, but I wasn’t counting on anything. That morning, Joe and I had a hearty breakfast in the hotel’s dining room and made our way back to our room to gather all of our things. The butterflies in my stomach were whirling like nobody’s business as the time ticked by. I continued packing, Joe continued organizing the equipment and my butterflies seemed to be reproducing. Wow! I guess I’m really nervous, I thought. Very quickly I realized that it was not butterflies at all. I ran passed Joe and made my way to the bathroom. (For those of you who are now rolling your eyes at my potty recollections, too bad – you wanted an honest account so here goes!) I’m sure I don’t have to go into more detail than simply noting that I got to know the bathroom quite well that morning. I believe it’s a universal enough feeling to be able to stop there, don’t you.

The time ticked by...

I finally opened the door and almost slammed into the camera – leering at me. Seems while I was busy taking care of my business, Joe was busy taking care of his. He’d waited in the room, red record light flashing, beckoning me to well... Flush.

I. Had. The. Poops.

Downing the recommended amount of Immodium, I yelled at Joe to turn the camera off and checked out of the hotel. Goodbye bathroom... Hello long journey to Ho.

I hope it’s not a bumpy ride.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Best Laid Plans (Part 12)


Although I think both Joe and I felt that we could’ve slept the day away, we got up early in the morning so that we could be at the Ministry of Information’s Office first thing. We needed to get our press passes and were told not to begin filming without them.

One of the first things I found most interesting about Ghana is that there are no real addresses – PO Boxes yes – but addresses, no. You can’t say to a cab driver, take me to 145 Prospect Street b/w whatever and whatever. And being somewhat anal, before I left, I’d tried to map the distance between my hotel and the Ministry so that I could have some idea of how far it was and how much time we’d need to get there – but alas, one cannot find a PO Box on mapquest.

For some reason, government people (regardless of the country) make me nervous. I always immediately find myself itching to confess a crime that I don’t even know exists. I also find that I have to keep myself from blurting out inane information that, while wouldn’t necessarily make me a criminal, would definitely make me seem like a nutter... Such as ‘when I was 15 I told my sister that there were no more brownies when, in fact, I had the last one hidden away in a cabinet for my own selfish consumption!’ So along with my official paperwork, I also carried with me my odd compulsion to admit idiotic wrongdoings. Joe on the other hand, was simply itching to start filming whatever possible. At least one of us was focused.

Thankfully, we were seen right away and the official that we spoke with was very nice while also putting the fear of god in me. She explained a number of reasons why, if we didn’t follow the rules, we could be arrested. She wanted an explicit rundown of where we were going to be filming, which would have been fine but for the fact that I had no idea. She said that if we were discovered to be filming outside of where we said we were going to be, our equipment would be confiscated and we could be arrested. I suddenly found my confession compulsion and my visions of a Ghanian prison merging into one holy-hell nightmare of epic proportions. I looked over at Joe so that we could share each others fears silently but he looked so relaxed that I became concerned he was gonna fall asleep. Apparently, the sound of the Officer’s voice, while making me quiver with anxiety, was like a lullaby for Joe. When she turned her attention away from us to find a typist that could put together our press passes, Joe smirked at me and said that she was just trying to scare us. I reminded him that they don’t serve pancakes in prison but he was unshakeable.

After informing us that the typist was not in the building and would be coming in from a different location, she asked again where we wanted to film. The Volta Region was too general for her. I explained that we would be in Ho and then in surrounding villages that we didn’t yet know the names of, to which she reminded me of confiscation and imprisonment. I was worried that we were at an impasse. I gave her Richard’s number – he was the Globe Aware contact in Ghana but her attempts to reach him were unsuccessful. Would we get our press passes? If she refused us would we shoot anyway? I looked over at Joe and, as if he knew what I was wondering, he winked at me. Well, maybe he and I would share a cell.

Amazingly, after about 20 minutes, without specifics on where we were going to be filming, we were handed our press passes. I hate when Joe is right.

Along with our press passes, she sent us away with her assistant in tow. I had asked her whether she knew of any good markets in Ho and she said that the best markets are in Accra. She also said that her assistant would accompany us to them (for a fee) and we could film it.

Well, well, well... At least I knew we wouldn’t be arrested (at least not that day) and Joe knew that we’d get some great footage. We both got what we wanted.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

I'll admit... its been awhile...

Whew! Its been awhile since any of you have heard from me. I wish I could say that it’s because I’ve been busy with the editing process, or because I was thrown into some adventure relating to the documentary, but alas, that would not be the case (and I am a terrible liar). So here we are in October and its been many weeks since I’ve last written. I think the reason is three-fold.

1. I found it difficult to so quickly review my day’s events during my time in Ghana. The week was so jam-packed with experiences that, I don’t know, I think I felt like I was inserting a tone onto the experience rather than waiting for some perspective on it. Does that even make sense?

2. Before leaving for the trip, I was under the assumption that when I returned from this supposedly life-changing experience, I would be, well, changed somehow. However, in actually experiencing my homecoming, I found that while I did feel amazingly accomplished in having seen this trip through, I discovered that I was still basically the same person, with the same feelings. Heartbroken? Check. Somewhat lost? Check. Excited and cautious of what’s to come? Check and check. The trip didn’t replace anything for me, it merely added a new feeling – albeit a positive one, but it was addition, not substitution.

3. Lastly, the third thing that took me away from writing about my experiences is quite a major event. I’ve lost my director of photography and editor. Sadly, Joe is no longer a part of Best Laid Plans. He did great work in Ghana but I am now having to go about the rest of this experience on my own.

This year has given new meaning to the term, best laid plans for me - in multiple aspects of my life. So, Alicia and I have decided to simply go with it. Originally, I was to experience this volunteer vacation and go to Africa as a way to invite the things that I’d have had to put off had my husband not walked out, and had I had children with him. I was to be part of a two person team. But my best laid (original) plans for the documentary hadn’t worked out. Now it’s just me. So, with Alicia’s expert guidance I’ve decided to shift things again. The documentary will not end with my plane landing in the US. Life goes on and so does Best Laid Plans. Stay tuned as more information is to come...

And yeah, I’ll continue the journal entries of my time there... You’ve all asked for it and I promise that next time I write, it’ll be about day 2!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Best Laid Plans (Part 11)

Day 1

Joe and I made our way through JFK and the Kotoka International Airport (and flirted with Heathrow in-between). The US Customs official kindly helped us with the paperwork we needed to get back into the country without having to pay taxes on our equipment and one of the flight attendants en route to Heathrow gave me free wine (Joe doesn’t drink so I got to have his too!). So far, so good. Though neither of us could sleep during the overnight flight, we were happily distracted by the in-flight movies and television shows. Joe discovered my quiet obsession with Friday Night Lights and in particular, Mr. Tim Riggins. It’s true that I couldn’t tell you how in the hell you play a football game, but that’s besides the point. I say, if a girl wants to watch a little FNL before going to Africa she should be able to do that without someone (Joe) yammering in her ear.

Wait where was I?

Right, the flights. So, we made it through to Heathrow on time and without a hitch. The next flight was more of the same… watching the in-flight television, trying to sleep and Joe judging my entertainment choices.

Finally, Accra! It was a long two days of traveling but the minute we landed, Joe and I got our second wind. After all the planning, the interviewing, the applications and the arrangements, we had made it – along with most of our luggage. We were told that our tripod case was still in England and would be arriving the next night. Thankfully, Joe and I had packed the tripod case so that it only contained equipment that, if lost, wouldn’t keep us from shooting. Best laid plans I guess…

Joe and I, along with 3/4 of our luggage hopped in a taxi to go to our hotel. My second wind was very quickly fading and I longed for a bed. We were told that taxis often changed prices around and you had to be mindful of not getting ripped off. Our first taxi experience seemed to be no exception. We were quoted an initial price but then told that it was just for the car… apparently, driving is extra. One has to appreciate the ingenuity of a person that doesn’t just lump in the act of driving with the experience of sitting in a cab. That person belongs in capitalist America I think! Somebody get that guy a Visa! Once we arrived at the hotel, we were then asked for beer money. Neither Joe or I condone drinking and driving, so with a smile and a shake of our heads we made our way into the hotel.

Goodnight Accra. See you in the morning…

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Best Laid Plans (Part 10)

The Countdown Has Begun!

Joe and I head out in two days! Already packed and ready to go is our cancer in a bottle – better known as deet bug spray, some toilet paper for those ‘just in case’ moments, immodium, pepto, our visas, passports, customs letters, sunscreen, band aids, malaria pills, flashlights and a very sexy fanny pack. After much trial and error, Joe has also found a protein bar that doesn’t make him wince (for those of you picky eaters out there, your leader opted for the peanut butter flavored clif bars). We purchased lots of those, as well as some additional bars for me. At Alicia’s insistence, we also purchased some mosquito netting for our beds. Not yet sure what we’ll hang it on but I’ve realized that, folded up as it is, it’ll also double as a nice pillow on the plane. I know you might be feeling some major packing component is missing from this list, but not to worry, Joe and I will not be waltzing around Ghana naked. This, for me, is actually the most challenging part of the pre-trip preparation. How can I be sure that my 3-inch black heels won’t be needed at the volunteer site? Are chandelier earrings really excessive? There might be a very appropriate occasion for my sequin top and I would be so disappointed not to have it. Perhaps I can be clothed and Joe can go naked. I bought spf 50, so he should be fully protected as he carries the equipment in his skivvies. Kimberly from Globe Aware says that there is nothing you can’t live without for a week but I beg to differ. So if you happen to be watching CNN this week and here of a story about a naked tourist running around Ghana, know that I did indeed win the battle over bringing the sequined top!

Hopefully, the next time you hear from me, I’ll be in Accra, Ghana!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Best Laid Plans (Part 9)

I Can’t Fight This Feeling

I’m beginning to wonder if I’ve put too much expectation into this trip. Due to the fact that, after a long term relationship with someone, your worlds inevitably get smaller and more connected, I have discovered numerous things about my ex’s life these past few months. To be frank, it is information that sends a pretty clear message that I have long ago left any area of his brain. Disturbing though it may be at the speed with which this process has happened, I will put aside my thoughts on why and how this has occurred. As I’ve mentioned before, it wouldn’t be fair to him or me to try to map out a relationship on a blog. However, I can admit that I still carry him with me. This is my first major venture without his influence for about ten years. And as I make decisions about the project, I sometimes find myself imagining conversations that would have taken place had he not left. Now I realize of course, that had he not left I likely wouldn’t be going on this trip at all, and yet, there he is, like a squatter in my mind. Although people tell me that this is normal – that it is in fact, more useful and healthy to walk slowly toward your new life rather than to swiftly run in another direction – to either another person or another life choice – I must say, sometimes I wish I could sleep and wake up in 5 years. It’s not that I don’t want this trip – quite the contrary – I’m eager for it to begin – I just lately have been feeling the weight of the circumstances surrounding its birth. As the ‘what if’s’ associated with any project fall away into a more relaxed feeling of going with the flow, the burden of why the trip is even happening seems to be rearing its ugly head. And that’s what makes me wonder two things: just how many expectations have I put on this trip and why do people give up on each other so quickly?

Monday, August 25, 2008

Best Laid Plans (Part 8)

So, I’ve started doing these video journals at home since Joe simply refuses to follow me around where ever I go. I thought of dousing myself in pancake syrup as a lure, but thought better of it at the 11th hour. The idea of the video journals began when Alicia had the gumption to ask me what my story arc was. I know, nervy, right? The fact is, as much as this trip and the volunteer work will be at the center of the story, the true epicenter of the doc is supposed to be dealing with the life change that divorce thrusts upon you. Because of this, Alicia pointed out, it just isn’t enough to record the process of getting to Ghana, or interviewing others who participated in volunteer vacations, it requires something more intimate. Now, while I’m sure, if it was required, Joe would happily follow me around in order to record some thought that had crossed my brain if it fell into the documentary’s realm; the video journals provide a bit more intimacy. This offers Joe the added relief of not having to watch me cry (which, I’ll admit, I’ve done in some of my entries). They say that people’s pasts and/or baggage follows them around in life and lately, I’ve found that both my ex, and this trip to Ghana (let’s pretend it’s in human form) are leading my personal pack. Their presence finds their way into everything I do: from work, to having drinks with friends, to dating, to sleeping. I think of it as being like the Verizon commercials that show human representations of cell bars following Verizon customers around everywhere they go. I’m told other people feel this way too – here’s hoping that they weren’t just being nice and my posting this blog doesn’t result in some mental health professional coming to my home to “invite” me to their “farm” in the country. Crazy or not crazy, it’s how I’ve been feeling lately – like I’m being metaphorically followed. Whereas a month ago, I found that this trip was pulling my focus from the demise of my marriage, recently it feels as if the two are getting closer together. I’m not sure why that is. I’m wondering now if this trip is going to be less about me beginning anew with a grand jumping off point, and more about intertwining the failure of my marriage with my need to have something else succeed. This documentary and my relationship with my ex have been further connected in my head because, as I recently confessed to Alicia, I am weirded out by the idea that he is reading these blogs. I know the phrase ‘lack of forethought’ is probably crossing your brain right now, but caution and jumping head first into something rarely coincide. You know, perhaps I should be video journaling about this right now…

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Best Laid Plans (Part 7)

Alicia and I were recently in Times Square to change money. She for Canada and me for Ghana. Two things occurred on our little jaunt that were surprising. The first shocker was that, apparently, you are not allowed to get Ghanaian money outside of Ghana (surprise!). Doing this is, from what we were told, in fact, illegal. I have not even stepped foot into the country yet, and already I seem to be unwittingly attempting to break laws. The second eye-opener was that our teller – yes – the dude behind the counter – was actually from Ghana! I knew something was up when I asked if they changed US Dollars to Ghanaian Cedi’s and he looked at me like I had an arm growing out of my forehead. He politely asked why I wanted to do that and I looked at him with no small amount of bewilderment on my face and said, “Because I’m going to Ghana.” With that, a big smile crossed his face and he announced that he grew up there. After that, I had not a care in the world about not being able to fly to Ghana with a few Cedi’s already in my pocket because I had something better – an actual Ghanaian to talk to! He was wonderfully friendly and informative. He soothed my worries about Customs and we talked about food (fried fish, corn dishes), the weather (very hot, but lots of breezes) and he advised that Joe and I be on the doorstep of the Ministry’s Office when they open to get our press pass. He also recommended that we check out the Art Center in Accra but said to do my shopping on the roadside from the locals. I must say, if he is any indication, Ghana is going to be a very friendly place.

On a different note, I should also mention that I did my press pass dance today because (drum roll please), the documents arrived!! I even made Joe get up and dance a little. He attempted the poor man’s Macarena, but I’m sure he was dancing full out on the inside.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Best Laid Plans (Part 6)

Ode to the elusive Press Pass!

Why do you elude me?  You say that you are on your way and yet... why have you not arrived yet?  I promise to be good to you when you arrive... I will do a jig even, and, had I the skills to, I would happily perform a double-triple-loop-backflip.  Yet, here I am, with an empty hand, sitting by my mailbox, longing for it to be filled with some sort of official-looking paperwork.

While our visas arrived very quickly, it seemed that our application for the press pass was misplaced.  The people processing the information could not have been nicer or more helpful and have said that the information has been found now and is currently being processed.  However, the neurotic New Yorker in me will remain concerned until the actual document is in my shakey, nervous hands.  Joe, of course, is not concerned.  He merely shrugged, ordered another round of pancakes and sucked back his third can of root beer.  Joe has, it should be noted, informed me that we are in a marriage of convenience.  The convenience being that he figures, I worry so much, that he need not worry at all.  Convenient for him, stroke-inducing for me.  The truth is, I'm sure it will all work out.  The people I have spoken with have been great and want to help out, but I can also honestly say that I long for the day that I can talk about my want of the press pass in the past tense.  

If you're out there press pass, come home.  We promise to treat you well!!

Friday, August 1, 2008

Best Laid Plans (Part 5)

Embassies?  Consulates? Press Pass? Whaaa??

I am a narrative girl.  I make up stories.  I say... lets pretend that so-and-so meets so-and-so in a coffee shop and then...  Or, let's make believe that some girl meets some guy in the park and then...

I can for sure say that I've never uttered the words, "Can I document my travels as I traipse around Accra to sightsee, and then make my way to Ho to interview people and volunteer?" Nor have I ever asked my doctor if she wouldn't mind if I film myself getting a shot (and oh please god, let them not put me in the paper apron that opens in the front, while they administer my yellow fever vaccination and capture it for eternity on tape).  That is all very real.  Sure, I was never the type of writer that told far fetched stories.  You'd never catch me spinning a tale about a girl meeting a guy in the park, falling in love, and then combining forces to combat rockets shooting out some secret government bacteria.  My story would most likely entail my girl and my guy falling in love and then dealing with, oh, I don't know, relationship issues.  So, unless those rockets came with a surprise pregnancy, or a cheating boyfriend/girlfriend, it's not really a story I'm likely to tell.

I should say however, that just because my scripts are usually grounded in reality it does not mean that they are real, so now, my days of documenting the actual is throwing me off a bit.  My days consist of Joe's voice humming in the background saying things like: 'Julie's freaking out about plane tickets - let's get this on film!' Or 'Julie's freaking out about getting the press pass - let's get this on film!' 'Julie's freaking out - who cares about what! For godsakes get the freaking camera!'

It's all becoming real in a way that I never considered before: the budget, the plane tickets, the program, the interviews, the shots... yellow fever, hepatitis, malaria pills, tetanus, cipro for extreme diarrhea, an epi pen for my shellfish allergy... oh my... and while I've had many of these shots from previous trips or from swimming in the Hudson River (don't ask), hearing the list once again is, well, not a small thing.

Recently, I told my mother that I've been having anxiety dreams about forgetting to take care of something before Joe and I leave.  For example, my dream would have me forgetting something like the malaria pills only to then look down at my leg and see a smiling mosquito eating my ankle for lunch.  To this, my wise mother asked, "Then why are you doing this?"  I thought to myself, can I answer that it's because I'm getting a divorce?  Is that a legitimate response?  Should I even care if it's not?

From the stories I've heard, when relationships breakdown, most turn to the bottle, maybe have a lot of sex, refuse to leave the house, or bury their head into a huge tub of ice cream.  I don't know that I've heard the old tale of the person making their way to Africa.  Yet, I think the thought behind it is the same, and certainly I am not any different from anyone else.  You see, while I find myself having an anxiety dream about some Ghanian prison, I find that I'm not having a dream about my husband walking out again.  The rotation of ideas and thoughts and reasons for his leaving play less often in my head and is slowly being replaced by the trip.  I'd be lying if I said that I planned it this way, because I absolutely didn't.  I hoped for a distraction sure, but I never imagined how much this trip would consume me. And it's consumption in the best way possible.  Now I'm certainly not negating the building blocks of the drunken stupor, or the night of random sex, or the various flavors of a well-churned ice cream - it's just that that wouldn't do it for me.  I needed something more lasting, I guess.  I needed something that would match the pace of my racing mind.  

And I have to tell you... I think I've found it.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Best Laid Plans (Part 4)

Joe and Julie Go to Ghana

In order to do a documentary about going on a trip, you must have someone there doing the documenting.  This someone is a sweet-tart-eating, pancake-loving, root-beer-drinking dude named Joe.  Let me be clear on this - the list of foods and beverages that Joe will take into his body can be counted on one hand.  Pancakes: Yes. Sweet Tarts: Yes.  Root Beer: Yes.  Pizza: Yes.  Salmon: Yes.  Everything else: NO.  Many questions arise from this list, such as how salmon somehow got an acceptance letter to Joe's stomach but say, Milky Way bars didn't.  

Now, if Joe were standing over me as I wrote this, I'm sure he would throw some more foods and beverages onto this sad little pile, but there wouldn't be many.  In fact, a typical non-work conversation between Joe and I goes as follows:

Me: "Hey Joe, what about lasagna? Will you eat lasagna?" 
Joe: "No. Gross."
Me: "But you eat pizza and it has basically the same ingredients."
Joe: "But pizza's not gross."
Me: "What about vegetables? Don't you eat any vegetables?"
Joe: "No. I talk alfalfa pills."
Me: "Joe, you need to be studied by the AMA."
Joe: "Bring it on."

Somehow, every conversation degrades into me telling Joe that the American Medical Association should study him and Joe expounding on the power of alfalfa pills.

So, when I was first thinking about doing this documentary and initially talked to Joe about whether he was interested in going with me, my first question was not, 'are you interested?' or 'how do you envision this,' it was "what in the hell are you going to eat???"

Joe promises me that he will "iron man it" as he likes to say, but we've been planning this documentary for awhile now and I have yet to see him show the slightest bit of interest in any foods outside of his safety list.  So now on my Ghana 'to do' list I have: visas, shots, permissions  and ensuring that Joe doesn't whither away and die from lack of food and drink.  I have also promised him one carry-on bag filled with Sweet Tarts, but I'm not exaggerating when I say that I've wondered if Customs will assume that Joe and I are somehow carting drug laced candies with us, since nobody would understand needing to carry an entire bag of Sweet Tarts with them.  Though I also realize that I tend toward worrying... while Joe tends toward... relaxing.

Yes, this is going to be a great partnership.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Best Laid Plans (Part 3)

Planning to do a documentary  throughout my trip was never my intention.  I had really thought that I would just go to Ghana, have the experience of doing the volunteer work, immerse myself in another culture and well... sweat my arse off.  The feeling that I needed to plan something to leave where I was, was palpable.  However, as I started talking about my trip to friends, family and random subway riders, the idea of documenting things became more interesting to me.  The number of people that told me that they had always wanted to do something like I was planning, or that they'd wanted to travel to Africa or do a volunteer vacation was astounding.  I began to feel as if there was energy underneath me, propelling me forward toward this idea of not only getting myself out of my head and away from my comfort zone, but also showing others that they could to.  After all, I truly believe that the expression 'if I can, anyone can' absolutely applies here.  Let's face it, comforts are usually not far from my life. I'm not a huge nature person.  Don't get me wrong - I enjoy nature.  There is nothing like looking at a beautiful forest - from the passenger-side car window, and the expanse of the beautiful ocean - as you sip a cocktail on the deck of a restaurant.  Okay, to some extent, I kid, but to say that the jungle I've been most familiar with is an urban one is the absolute truth.  The main reason I've ever gone camping (and I can count these on one hand), is for the s'mores - and don't even get me started on campground bathrooms!  So, here I am, going to Ghana.  I have no idea what to expect, which usually quite frankly, makes me uncomfortable.  But the entire year has been unexpected, so why not just learn how to... well... expect it.  

Again, if I can, and you've always wanted to, then what's stopping you?

Monday, July 21, 2008

Best Laid Plans (Part 2)

Why Ghana?

Okay, multiple choice. If you had to couple your husband walking out on you with one of the following, would you choose:
a. in the same day, somebody makes a copy of your bank card and steals $2,000 from your accounts while your cell phone conks out and you have no land line in your apartment.

b. your cell phone bill spikes to over $500 because you no longer have rollover minutes from your husband's account

c. your dog requires a biopsy for a bump on her back

d. all of the above

Well folks, whether it was just a run of bad luck, a case of bad ju ju or the gods coming together to hit me with a can of whup ass, I was faced with choice d (though I struggle with the word "choice"). In the months after my husband left, I felt like I was surrounded by those weird black-liquidy spirits that took down the bad characters in "Ghost." Had I been approached by a cult in those days, I probably would've asked them to lead the way to the compound.  All I wanted was to escape somewhere and dive head first into the sand. To quiet my brain a bit, I began contemplating where I could escape to.  My family had a big trip planned, but that was planned with my husband in mind and was somewhere I'd been with him before.  Because of that, I knew I'd feel like he was still there - a hologram of him - following me around, reminding me that his actual body was decidedly absent.

So back in my dreamscape, I thought about where I could go.  New factors that I was faced with regarding vacationing were:
1. Giving myself enough time to save money
2. Feeling at east with going by myself
2. Trying to find something that I'd always wanted to do but had never had the chance to due to compromising with someone else.

First, an Earthwatch vacation popped into my head.  I'd always wanted to do one and I figured that, since I'd be with a group of volunteers, traveling alone wouldn't really be an issue.  They're an environmental organization that offers volunteer vacations in which you learn and do work for any number of different projects.  You can search for butterflies in Vietnam, do marine research on a boat in Greece, work on an animal preserve in Africa, etc. You are limited only by your finances and your interests.  My personal idea was to try to become one with the dolphins. Me and Flipper, coasting the waters in Greece... can a human marry a dolphin? Has that been on the ballot recently?

Then I found an organization called Globe Aware.  They too offer volunteer vacations, but with a more Peace Corp-type bend to the work.  (By the way, in a moment of utter confusion, I looked into the actual Peace Corp, but then realized that two years without my dog would make me feel like my left arm had been cut off).  Globe Aware's projects span the world and in their list of destinations was Ghana.  I'd always wanted to go to Africa, and the idea of going half-way around the world to either teach or assist in building much needed facilities (ASSIST being the operative word), really excited me.  Their vacations are only a week long so it wouldn't require too much time off of work, and if I went in August I'd have plenty of time to save (provided I never set foot in any clothing stores in said time frame).  Globe Aware addresses lone female travelers on their website and they also focus on safety and security.  I was in.  All of my criteria were being met:
Could go by myself: Yes
Time to save: Yes
Could do something I'd always wanted to do: Yes, Yes, Yes

I was off...

Monday, July 14, 2008

Best Laid Plans (Part 1)

2007 was looking to be a pretty exciting year for me. My first feature film was being produced by On the Leesh and we were scheduled to go into production that spring.  I'd also penned a new webseries and we were looking to launch the show in late winter.  Professionally, both as a writer and actor, things were looking good and I felt like I'd reached new heights in my career.  Personally however, I'd been struggling.  My husband and I decided that we wanted to start a family in the near future, but needed to work some things out first.  However, in the time it would have taken to have a baby - approximately 9 months later, my husband wanted out. He wanted a new life. Now, to go into the details, to list here what I thought went wrong, what my impression was, what I thought his impression was, would not be worth it.  It would develop into a he said/she said that is neither fair nor informative.  It is only necessary to know that I felt abandoned and given up on.  As I'm sure most divorced people know, to be the one that is left, to be the one that is told you are not what the other person wants is unbearingly horrific.  I found myself falling into some abyss in which I was consumed with unanswered questions and encumbered with insecurities about myself and my own failures.  These thoughts can be a full time job.  Added to that grief were questions about my new (and sad) financial status, my solitary living situation and the responsibilities of my dog and cat that I could no longer share with someone. I felt cooked. I began to think about how the idea of planning in life can sometimes seem ridiculous - how preparing can seem akin to predicting mother nature.  By this time last year, I thought I'd be in babyland along with many of my other friends. But now, I find myself back in this single world that went from meeting people in bars to meeting people online.  The handshake went the way of the online "wink" and the first phone conversation has turned into the first email exchange.  I'm finding that your best laid plans are no plans at all.  So what do you do when you realize you're consumed with your own problems and your major plans have collapsed under your feet?  

You go to Ghana.

This entry marks the first of my weekly logs about flying half-way around the world to bring myself back to reality.  That while my heartache is real, there is a world out there that is in much more need of attention than just another newly single girl living in New York City. This is my first entry in my attempt to spend some time out of my own head and into a more hopeful world.  Stay tuned...