Monday, October 30, 2006

Random Musical Recommendation...

I enjoy music. Especially when it's not pre-programmed drivel courtesy of Clear Channel. I mean when you've been gone over a year and the morning show you and the missus woke up to has the exact same playlist (which is supposed to be adult alternative but doesn't have anything in the playlist newer than five years ago...), that's not exactly progress, right?

That's why if you have a computer, are able to listen to music via the internet at work (or at home) and like having your musical boundaries stretched a little bit, check out The Current. Minnesota Public Radio's foray into non-classical music, The Current really runs the gamut of musical tastes. The Current describes it's playlist as follows:

89.3 The Current is a music station with a deep and wide playlist. The Current plays the best, authentic new music alongside music that explores roots and influences. The Current has a special emphasis on local musicians and groups, and will play local music in every hour. The Current will establish deep ties to the local music community and will serve as a positive force in building the creative economy of Minnesota.

They stay very true to this mission statement. Becca best described it as "a college radio station for people in the 25-49 age group". I just call it one of only two stops for me on the Minneapolis FM dial. Despite the local focus in their mission statement, there is plenty of national acts as well. Heck, I figure that any station whose playlist can bump from Uncle Tupelo to local rap wizards Atmopshere to The Brady Brunch's Sunshine Day is a winner in my book.

So if you have some time and want a little musical exploration added to your day check them out. Being the nice guy I am, I waited to do this recommendation until after the just completed membership drive, therefore maximizing your listening pleasure.


Tuesday, October 24, 2006

What was your favorite place on the trip?

As we reenter the US and have the opportunity to visit friends and family, this is the number one question we are asked. Though special props have to be given to a former co-worker of Becca’s who asked if we’d picked up any rare or tropical diseases. In case anyone is concerned, the answer is no.

The question of which was the favorite place on our trip is a difficult one to answer. There are just so many memorable moments and places after a trip like this that it is impossible to narrow it down to just one. My answer to date has been "horses for courses". (As an aside: is anyone familiar with this term? I've gotten more blank stares in using it that I feel like I'm using jive talk from old movies from the 30’s and 40’s) In short, I’ve had different favorite places depending on the type of activity; city v. outdoor activities v. cultural, etc.

The more I think about it though the more I realize there isn't really an answer to the question. I've already forgotten about more places from this trip than I'm bound to remember or realistically get to go to moving forward. Becca has no problem remembering every place we’ve been but for me they tend to come and go depending on my mood and what is currently on my mind. Think of it as Mensa v. ADD.

So for me, there isn’t a true answer to the question of what was my favorite place on the trip. But people still ask the question so it helps to have an answer for them instead of a blank stare (or so I’ve found). As a result, I’ve decided to focus on something different in coming up with an answer.

My brother-in-law and sister-in-law do a great thing after a trip where they ask themselves what was the most memorable thing for each of their five senses. This is a distinctly different approach that leads to some unique insight both into the trip itself as well as the person giving the answers. It works great for them and it's entertaining to ask "so what was the most memorable smell from your trip with us to Alaska?"

For me though the more I think about this opportunity we've had the more I think that the answer isn’t a particular thing or place. It's simply moments in time; just those opportunities where circumstances come together in a way where you're reminded what an adventure you're truly on.

For me, here’s an “I tried to narrow it down but failed miserably” list of the moments that continue to pop up in my mind again and again: (I could write another 5 such lists with no repeats between them)

-- Sitting on a silent beach in Nida, Lithuania just listening to the waves crashing in.

-- Holding Becca as we did a memorial for her Dad's one-year death anniversary in the Swiss Alps.

-- Watching the 250 Olympakios fans go absolutely bonkers when their team equalized vs. Lyon in the Champions League. Then to watch 50,000+ do the same thing when Lyon scored the game winner a few minutes later.

-- Seeing the gangly athleticism of the Camels racing in the Camel Cup in Alice Springs.

-- Having Becca find a blue and silver Xmas tree for me in Thailand, complete with decorations, Ferrero Roche “presents” and a Santa Claus "angel".

-- Our various travel adventures in SE Asia; sawngthaw, bus, moto, you name it we did it.

-- Watching the native Laos women go shoulder deep into a wicker basket of meat to find just the right piece to serve us.

-- Being overwhelmed at the number of smiles and friendly reactions we received from folks throughout the entire trip, with special mention to the folks in Laos and Cambodia

-- Eating raclette for the first time in the shadow of glaciers and Mt Blanc.

-- Seeing the shocked and pleased reactions we received once our translator let our Vietnamese hosts know we could play the local card game Ta-La.

-- Uniquely observing the Vietnamese war memorials from the unusual position of someone who wasn't able to write the history.

-- Getting taken in by the Shaq-loving monks in Xiahe, China.

-- Debating the merits of death by cigarette v. coal smoke in our hotel room in Datong, China.

-- Waking up under the sky to a breathtaking sunrise in the middle of the outback.

-- Having part of the Great Wall all to ourselves and realizing that it was one of those things in life that actually exceeded the tremendous expectation you had of it going in.

-- Having Melbourne still top my favorite city list after having visited 28 other countries.

-- Wanting to move to Wanaka, New Zealand at first glance and still feeling that way 6 months later.

-- The amazing hospitality of all of our friends during this trip. We were able to hook up with people we knew in almost half the countries we traveled it. We just consider ourselves extremely fortunate to have so many doors open for us and look forward to returning the favor somewhere down the road.

So for me, answering the question posed at the beginning of this entry really can’t be done in a traditional way. Obviously people are being social and are usually genuinely curious as to what our preferences were. Sure, I can mention places I want to return to at some point. But who knows where life will take us and when we’ll have the chance to make it back? And if we do make it back, it’ll never hold the same memories. That’s just part of living life.

In the meantime though I’m quite content with those moments in time that keep popping up in my head and continue to provide a bright spot in my day. For me that’s my favorite place I visited (and continue to visit) on this trip.


Friday, October 20, 2006

We're not dead yet...

Just dealing with the ever increasing reality that we'll be in Minnesota for a while.  As a result, we're looking for contract work, spending a ridiculous amount of time in the local library (free wi-fi!) and in the back of our minds just hoping that one person will see our place and fall in love with it as much as we have.
More entries will be coming, including thoughts on the one question everyone has asked us and what happens when you attend a Minnesota Nice party...

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

All the way around the world...

... just to end up in the same place.

Our return to Minnesota has been a, shall we say, difficult experience.  Having the opportunity to see our friends and remind ourselves what a lovely place the Twin Cities are remind us why we love this place so much.  And why it was such a difficult decision to leave.  Once that decision was made we've been shifting our mental focus and looking forward to starting our lives in Oregon.  Having the two weeks or so to visit the family and live in the NW again reminded us how sure we were of our decision. 

As a result, our trip to the Twin Cities has left us a bit unsettled.  Putting the house on the market, staying with Wade and Chelle, going back through all of our stuff, living out of a slightly larger suitcase and just living in a perpetual state of flux has certainly wreaked havoc on our general mental state.  Knowing that plans could change at an instance has left us wondering what each day might bring.  Plus being back someplace you've lived before always brings all sorts of mental uncertainties:

  • Did we make the right decision to move? We did. 
  • Is it a waste to not be taking advantage of the contacts we have here to find a job in Minneapolis? In some ways yes but we're both still very sure that our decision to move to Oregon and be a bit behind in the job search is the right one for the future.
  • When is our house going to sell?  When someone likes it as much as we do.  Until then we have to find a way to up our showings from their one-a-week average.
  • If it doesn't sell, can we survive another Minnesota winter?  Yes, but we don't necessarily have to like it :-).

So what?  Isn't that what the last 15 months was about?  Don't worry; we haven't forgotten that we got to travel to all of these countries, experience so many diverse cultures, eat deep fried spider, etc.  We wouldn't change a decision we made on the whole trip.  It's just that the reentry has been a bit more difficult than we expected.  To have those two weeks with our families after not seeing them for so long only to again have an extended physical separation is a difficult thing for us mentally.  We love our families and want to spend more time with them.  For now that seems very far away.

The harsh light of everyday life has hit.  Depending on what happens with the house in the next few weeks or so we may be looking at having to find contract work here in the Cities until the house sells and in a worse case scenario putting the house back on the market in the spring and spending one final winter in Minnesota.  Can't say this excites me at all but at some point a paycheck would be a much appreciated salve for our bleeding bank account.  We move back into the house (albeit with a skeleton unpacking job that allows us the basics such as cooking, taking showers, sleeping, etc.) tomorrow and while it some ways it will be very nice to be back into our own home, it also seems like a staggering defeat.  Physically we are ready to be back in our own home; we're just not sure we're ready for the psychological messages it seems to be sending.

Obviously we are in a completely different place as individuals and as a couple than we were 15 months ago.  We'd just like the physical part to match up so that the mental part can finally complete the journey.  Until then though we may have to go out an say a little non-religious ditty to St. Joseph and hope for the best.


Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Did we mention "Plan D"?


"Billionaire Michael Heisley announced an agreement Monday to sell his 70 percent share of the Memphis Grizzlies to an investment group headed by Brian Davis and including Christian Laettner."

Sunday, October 01, 2006

And now on to Plan C....

So....yeah, ok, so we were a little overly naive and optimistic.

The plan upon returning to the States was to check in with our family in Portland for 10 days while we started making some job contacts and sending resumes in response to job postings. After that we were going to head back to Minnesota. In the Twin Cities we planned to get our house on the market, and then spend time doing any needed projects on the house, taking care of other financial and logistical matters relating to moving, and saying goodbye to friends. We figured this would take us 3-4 weeks and then we'd be heading back to Portland to officially begin the next phase of our lives.

Okay. was a nice thought.

What we are discovering is that the housing market here in the Twin Cities is way bleaker than we had realized. The inventory is at record levels and the buyers just aren't out there. In 2.5 weeks on the market we've only had two viewings. Not exactly what we were hoping for. So now, as we see winter approaching, we have some hard choices to make.

We can continue as planned: packing up our house and moving self and belongings west. That allows us to start looking for our 'real'/permanent jobs (and the associated health insurance) as well as focusing on building a life and community in Oregon. However, it leaves our house empty and alone during the winter. Not only is this potentially risky in terms of possible freezing damage or other house breakdowns, but it makes it hard to keep it dusted, clear of snow and looking good for showings.

We could also move back into our house and hunker down here for the indeterminate future. That would allow us to keep on top of house maintenance and keep it looking as good as possible for showings. We're pretty hopeful that we could find some contract or retail work here to help offset the bills and help us knock the rust off of our job skills. The downside of course, is that this puts off our planting roots in the northwest and getting things like full health insurance coverage or job contacts.

The final option would be to divide and conquer. One of us could stay here to take care of the house for as long as it takes until it gets sold while the other heads back west to get started on our new life. This might be the most logical option, but after almost a year and a half of almost total togetherness, it would be awfully lonely.

So that's the fun and games happening here. Whenever we get frustrated by the ambiguity, lack of control, or lack of going-to-plan of events, we try and remind ourselves that we got a pretty darn neat trip and experience out of it.

Wish us luck (and tell people there's a cool house for sale in the Twin Cities.)


A huge thank you to Wade and Chelle for opening the doors of their house to us. The VanBetta Inn has been a wonderful base and home away from home for us.

Picture is from Kings Canyon, outback Australia