Monday, November 3, 2014

The Bucket List

I have never made a bucket list.
Part of me feels like I am supposed to.  Like I will miss out on something exciting and important in life if I don't make that list.
I remember first hearing the term "bucket list" and wondering "what the heck is that?"  "So, you make a list and stick it in a bucket??"
I did eventually figure it out.

When I have conversations with others about their lists, travel is typically one of the most important items.  
They want to visit different countries, and see historic sites.
Swim with dolphins, and stand under the Eiffel Tower.
They want to explore all the places they have yet to see.
While I enjoy exploring new places, I have found that travel typically is not a great experience for me.  Don't get me wrong...I have had some great trips.
In college, I went to Europe twice with the choir.
There really is nothing like touring Europe for two weeks with all of your friends.
We got to sing in some pretty amazing churches.  We occasionally stayed with families in the smaller towns and villages we visited, so we were able to immerse ourselves in the culture.  And we were all 19-23 years old, and it was legal to drink over how could you not have a good time?
My husband and I were also lucky enough to take two trips to Hawaii when he was a band director in the twin cities.  He was taking the band there for a tour, so we had to go over the summer for a "site inspection."  In other words, the two of us got a free trip to Hawaii to go check out all the places he would be taking the band on their tour...for a week.  And then, we went again four months later with the band.  Ah yes, the sacrifices you have to make for your job. ;)
Yep...that's Don Ho. 

(Believe me, we have NONE of those perks anymore.)
For some reason, as I got older, my traveling experiences took a turn for the worse.
It all began with a trip to New Jersey.
This was the trip I had written about a while back...the one I took right after my cousin died.  To begin with, I had to change the flight so I could be at the funeral.  Then, I had to change it again, because it didn't jive with the schedule of the woman who I was going there to plan the show with.  The third time I changed it, her schedule, luckily, my sweet friend Jenny came to the airport and picked me up.
However, on our descent, I suddenly started to feel icky.  REALLY icky.  I made a bee-line to the bathroom. (This was after we were preparing to land.)
And, I spent the entire landing with my head in the toilet.  
I really don't recommend this.  Ever.
I had never been sick on a plane before...and had no idea why I suddenly couldn't handle flying.  Unfortunately, that experience set me up for several days of what seemed like a bout of ongoing "car sickness," and I felt icky the whole time I was there.
My next trip was to Italy.
You can imagine my anxiety.  If I got sick going to New Jersey, surely I would die en route to Italy.
Half way there, sure enough, I woke up feeling horribly nauseous. 
I made my way back to the bathroom...and the next thing I remember was the flight attendant's voice saying "are you okay?"  It then occurred to me that my face was literally on the bathroom floor.  I must have passed out, and hit the door on the way it popped open a little.  I remember nothing.
Once we landed, the entire trip was like a combination of "The Amazing Race", and "National Lampoon's Family Vacation." After 24 hours of traveling, we dropped off our stuff at a monastery, and hit the ground running....for the next 8 hours.  And when I say running, I am barely exaggerating.
My in-laws had decided to take the whole family (the four of us, and Mark's brother's family, plus mom and dad made 10 people total.) 
We literally attempted to cram every single Italian landmark into the ten days we were there.  Between the blisters on my feet, and my miserable stomach (since we maybe sat down to eat once a day...otherwise is was "grab a slice of pizza, and keep walking to the next sight!") I actually considered throwing myself off the Leaning Tower of Pisa.
We started each day around 5:30 am (have I mentioned I'm not a morning person?) and took off running.  There was the occasional 4am departure, when we needed to catch the boat, to catch the train, to catch the bus, to catch the other train, to walk the 4 miles to get to that one church up on that hill.
Because it was soooo much better than any of the 600 other churches we had been to previously. ;) 
Everything really was amazing and that was wonderful.
However, if I ever go will NOT be with TEN people.  As if American tourists don't stick out enough already.  We were this huge group of idiots with gigantic backpacks (grandma wouldn't let us check any luggage) who stopped in the most inconvenient spots (like the bottom of an escalator) and caused traffic jams and such.  Thank God I have dark hair. (The rest were blonde.)  I had a "conversation" on a bus with an Italian woman who was obviously venting about the stupid Americans standing beside me with their damn backpacks.  She ranted on and on, and I shook my head and said "si'" a lot. (My husband was conveniently holding my backpack at this time.)  Now that I think about it....I did my best to hang back from the group a good 8-10 feet at all times.  I just felt a little better there. ;)
(Notice the dark haired "Italian woman" in the center of this photo.) ;)
It really was an amazing experience for our kids...something we never would have been able to do for them. Mark's parents are pretty incredible for taking us on this trip.  Even though his mother is the Energizer Bunny.

The story goes downhill when we arrive back in the states.
Mark's mom had arranged for us to stay at a hotel the night before we left that would shuttle us to the airport, and also allow us to park our cars there while we were gone, free of charge.
After traveling for 24 hours, we finally arrived back in Minnesota at 9pm.  We just wanted to get in the car and make the 3 hour drive home.
I walked out to the parking lot to get the car....but it wasn't where Mark had left it.  I wandered around the lot, thinking someone had moved it...even though that made no sense.
It finally set in that our car had been stolen.  Our car that was not only the vehicle we had that was paid off (aka: future car for the kids) but it also had all of the stuff we didn't take on the trip with us in the trunk.  Cell phones, iPods, all of the clothes and shoes that we decided to leave behind to lighten the back packs.  Marks wallet and SOCIAL SECURITY CARD. (I know, I know...why the heck was that in his wallet??!)
An hour later, after talking to the cops, we got a call that our car had been found 3 days prior, in an alley in St. Paul.
This is what it looked like.

They had stripped it, and filled it up with garbage.
In the end, our "free trip" to Italy ended up costing us $15,000 for a new car.
We spent the rest of the summer making sure that the @#^$&#'@ who did this didn't also try to steal Mark's identity.  (They DID make charges on the debit card that was in his wallet.  Luckily we caught that right away.)
Needless to say, it was not a relaxing return home.
This past summer, Mark's parents asked if we wanted to go on another trip. (Cue the psycho violins)
This trip, however, would be a mission trip for two weeks in San Lucia.
All ten of us, once again. was in the Caribbean, so....YES!

This trip was SO much better than the previous one.
We stayed in ONE place the whole time.  We immersed ourselves in the culture, and got to know the people.  
We worked in a preschool each day with adorable kids.
This little beauty's name is Tiege.  She is three, and is hilarious.  She is also takes on the role of "mama" to the other kids when they are sad or crabby.  I LOVE THIS CHILD.
And we were right by the ocean.  It was beautiful.
I did have one miserable night of a weird stomach thing, but other than that, it was good.
Most days at the school were quiet and calm.  Just like any normal day in a room filled with 3 and 4 year olds, as you can see below.
Here I am being attacked by a whole gaggle of little monkeys.  Can you tell they LOVED taking selfies?
 Mark was the preschool "handyman."
He spent two weeks working on broken toilets and sinks.  If there had been a Home Depot anywhere on the island, this would have been an easy task.  Instead, he had to pretend he was MacGyver, and figure out how to make things work with bits and pieces of whatever they could find.
They hooked him up with Lincoln, the village plumber.
He was quite the character.  You never knew when he was going to show up...or what condition he would show up in.  It was pretty obvious he worked with a variety of "pipes," so it was best if you could track him down in the morning, before he been doing too much "plumbing." ;)
Watching these two work together was very entertaining.  Especially since everyone on the island has such a heavy Caribbean accent.  One day, they were taking the toilet apart, and water started spraying everywhere.  Lincoln was yelling to Mark, "Give the basin!  Give me the basin!"  Of course, Mark had no idea what he was we never use the word "basin" for bucket, and, with his accent, it didn't sound like basin anyway.  There was a lot of scrambling, and chaos, until Mark finally figured out what a "bah-seen" was.
These were the only little mishaps that were occurring, and they were funny, so we thought we would get through this trip without incident.
Yes...that is what we thought, until one morning Lexie kept complaining about how sore her wrists were.
We assumed it was from picking up kids all day.
I seriously wanted to bring about 5 kids home with me.  They were soooo adorable.

Then she came down with a 102 fever...that wouldn't go away.
Then, what we had thought were mosquito bites turned into a crazy rash that covered her entire body. (She literally looked like she had mosquito bites completely covering her).
Yes, in true Lakmann form, Lexie had contracted Chikunguna....the mosquito born virus that was making it's way around the Caribbean. 
Chikunguna, when translated, means: "doubled over in agony."
Sounds fun, huh?
Luckily, she is young...and bounced back in a couple of weeks.  Had one of the older volunteers been the one to have been bitten, it could have been much worse.  Sometimes the aching joints can last up to a year or more.
Lexie was fully back to normal in about a month.
If nothing else, she can always say that she was one of the very few Americans who had it.
Hopefully that won't be her only claim to fame. ;)
So....for now, we are just going to stay home, and enjoy the safety and comfort of our abode.

I can't think of anywhere else I'd rather be.
I don't need a fancy car, or annual vacations, or elegant dinners at a froufrou restaurant.  I would much rather spend my money on making my home cozy and beautiful.  I spend most of my time here, so I want it to be a place that I love.  Every once in awhile it's fun to get away for a weekend, or a few days, but there is nothing better than coming home, and sleeping in my own bed again.  This really is my happy place.
And if I can help it....I will keep both the car thieves and the mosquitos OUT!
Now....about that bucket list...

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