I am writing this at 4am, where I am deep in the throes of jetlag. And while I know I'm supposed to hunker down and tough it out and try to visualize each part of my body relaxing one after the other so that I can fall back asleep again like they tell you to do in those meditation tapes, I have been awake since 1:30am at this point, and between you and me, it ain't gonna happen.
It is very discombobulating to wake up at 1:30am, by the way. It doesn't feel right. In my life, I am pretty sure I have gone to sleep at 1:30am way more times than I have woken up at 1:30am, and so I wasn't quite sure, when I leaned over a few hours ago and saw those unexpected numbers glowing back at me from my phone, what to do with that information. Sean was asleep like a normal person who does not wake up unbidden at 1:30am, so I considered getting on Twitter and finding someone to talk to. "Where my jetlagged peeps at?" I might have written. But then I realized I'd have to expand it to "where my half-drunk college peeps pulling an all-nighter at?" and "where my exhausted breastfeeding mothers at?" and "where my people who live in other countries where it isn't the middle of the night at?" and by that time I had exhausted both my tolerance for the word "peeps" and my willingness to end a sentence with a preposition.
So, I am back from South Africa. Sorry for the radio silence over the last two weeks, and also for leaving up a super depressing blog post for the duration so that we might all be bummed out anew every time we happened to accidentally glance at it, but Internet access while we were away was mostly limited to what we could type hastily with one finger on an iPhone while navigating a tenuous wireless connection. Back in some dusty, super-organized part of my brain, I'd planned to write a bunch of posts in advance and just set them to publish every so often so you wouldn't even know I was gone, but in the last few days leading up to our departure, I became, instead, beset with anxiety that I wouldn't be allowed to enter South Africa, and instead spent the time in a Google wormhole, reading about people who had been turned away at immigration by unrelenting authorities and deported back to their countries on the next departing plane.
To enter South Africa, you see, the official party line is that you need to have two blank pages in your passport, a fact I didn't discover—god knows why, since I researched the hell out of everything else—until a couple of days before we left. I had exactly two blank pages, fortuitously enough, but on the back of one of them, a particularly exuberant immigration officer in Barbados had stamped my passport so vigorously that the ink bled through to the other side. Technically, it was blank—as in, it was unstamped—but to the naked eye, it had a big old ink blot on it, which was not the kind of thing I was looking forward to debating with a uniformed official in a foreign country after 36 hours of travel. Thus, I spent the last two days before we left San Francisco frantically googling highly specific things like "ink shows through on passport page, is it still considered blank?" and leaving anxious questions on TripAdvisor message boards to which a number of gleeful people replied super helpful things like "well, I guess you're about to find out!"
Not to spoil the ending for you, but I made it into South Africa just fine; the immigration officer didn't even flip through my passport, just stamped it on a page that was crowded with stamps already and welcomed me into the country.
Hey, turns out I was worrying about the wrong thing the whole time! Should have been expending all that energy on hoping my cat wouldn't die unexpectedly instead!
Thank you, sincerely and from the bottom of my heart, for all your kind condolences on Charlie. Reading each comment and knowing that someone was thinking of us (and him) was a huge comfort while we were still reeling from the loss. I probably could have done without the one from the woman who told me I should "get some perspective" and that "he probably died because you made him wear that sweater"—no, actually, he died from severe pancreatitis and a complete shutdown of his liver and kidneys, and we had to make the agonizing decision to let him go via a series of devastating transatlantic phone calls with my distraught parents, but hey, I hope you feel better for kicking me while I'm down!—but the rest of you understood so compassionately why it might be upsetting to lose an adored pet unexpectedly when you're thousands of miles away and can't hold him in your arms and say goodbye, and I am so grateful for that.
(Another part of this woman's comment, which flummoxed me entirely, was that she asked "how many people can afford to go to Paris or Cape Town right now?", a strange and accusatory non-sequitur that seemed to suggest she'd be more tolerant of my grieving if I was doing it from my own home, where I belonged, and not on a vacation for which we'd worked hard, created a careful budget, and done lots of good old-fashioned saving up. Look, I know I'm supposed to ignore incendiary comments like this and not let them tarnish the genuine goodwill of most people, and I am all about constructive criticism and lively debate as long as we can all be respectful of one another, but you know what, I really have trouble with someone coming into my space, hidden behind the anonymity of the Internet—although really, your traceable IP address paired with my tech-savvy husband means you are not as anonymous as you think—and saying something intentionally cruel and designed to hurt. I just don't want that here.)
Oh look at that, the sun is rising and I'm still awake, and I haven't even started telling you about South Africa yet. If you are interested—and trust me, I will not be offended in the least if you want to sit out the 21st-century equivalent of me forcing you to view my vacation slides on the dusty screen in my poorly-ventilated basement—I have lots and lots of stories and photos and recaps to share, which will probably take us all the way through December. In the meantime, though, what have you been up to for the last two weeks? What have I missed?