Small surprises

Venezuela pasta co-op staffI’m going to let you in on a little surprise. Not super exciting, but something unexpected by those around me. See, today is my birthday. (That’s not the surprise.) That means that a year ago today I was in Venezuela, talking to local organizers, seeing what people can do when they work together, and learning about a system other than neo-liberal capitalism, trying to understand the advantages and disadvantages of every approach.

And it means that two years ago today I was in Malaysia, walking into the world’s oldest rainforest, precisely unprepared but ready for the hard bed, primordial claustrophobia, and hungry denizens of the Taman Negara jungle. The leeches weren’t the worst part.

Which means it was three years ago that I was in Ecuador, waking to the birthday song of hostel denizens, then walking the streets of old town Cuenca with K.

Nepal temple readSo it was four years ago today that I was in Nepal, chanting to Ganesh in the morning, teaching bright-eyed Bhaktapur kids, and eating a special dal bhat paneer curry for dinner.

Which means it was five years ago when I met the milestone in Madrid, packed and ready for South Africa, Botswana, Zambia, Tanzania, and Morocco, aware of how little I could predict from that trip.

So it’s back six years to southern Mexico, where I learned just how powerful the habanero really is, and swam with sea turtles whose eyes were every bit as sagacious as I’d dreamed they’d be.

Pan dulce in MexicoWhich makes it seven years since I had a birthday in my native land. I remember cupcakes with siblings, probably talking about my upcoming travel plans. “Two or three months in Europe. Then I’ll be back. Back at my old job, back in my old life…” I had no idea that it would be seven years of wandering before I’d wake to this day under an American roof. That’s the surprise: I’m here. I’m home. This home. Everyone is posting “Happy birthday, wherever you are!” on my facebook page, unprepared for the sneak attack of my domesticity.

So how is it? Well… I paid my electric bill (which had lapsed while I was working, sometime around Venice, I think). And there’s no food in my apartment besides some old granola and an inch of wilted spinach, but that’s to be expected, and easily remedied once I get around to it. Then two of my FriendsAndFamily network are in various levels of crisis, and I’m not positive how helpful I can be. And finally, I wasted the entire morning frozen into inefficacy by the myriad and formless tasks on my docket.

Bhairav agreesBut, and here’s my surprise, that’s all…good. All of that is exactly why I should be here today, not wandering off in Mongolia, the way a lot of me wishes I was. The quotidian tasks of bills and errands are what I need to be doing, anchoring my roots in this place with every envelope licked and grocery bag filled. And the crises of my kin? That is even more important, touching the web that I need in order to have a home in this world, a place where people know me and I am something more than a passerby. And finally, my own challenges, the amorphous strain of an irregular life, are better faced here, where I actually have to address them, than shielding myself from them in the easy swirl of daily urgency that comes when you don’t know where you’ll sleep or what you’ll eat.

So with all that in mind, this is an excellent birthday. Even without the passport.

(And don’t worry, the fun stuff started after work. My lady has a way of bringing the party with her.)