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...