Sunday, January 24, 2010
Okay, I'm complaining.
Our documentation to apply for New Zealand work visas consisted of hundreds of sheets of white paper repeatedly stating the obvious: there are five of us, we are all related, we have no criminal record, and we don't have any known communicable diseases. Each must included a signed photo. Our name, passport number, and date of birth must be written on each and every page. IN ALL CAPS.
Now when we filled out all this paperwork, I experienced a deeply uneasy feeling that it wasn't going to work. No matter how good the government -- and New Zealand is ranked number 1 as the least corrupt country in the world -- submitting three solid inches of paperwork can not be good. It was inevitable that Bad Juju would happen.
At first, the problem was simple. New Zealand's medical authorizing agency didn't agree that DrC was a doctor. Now this might raise eyebrows, but we figured it was probably a tit for tat measure. Somewhere along the line, the United States got snooty about the qualifications of some Kiwi doctors so in retaliation, the Medical College said, "Hey… well if you don't think our docs know an ass from a hole in the knee, then we're fairly well convinced your docs don't either." We could be wrong. That's wild speculation. But it makes sense.
So we stood on one foot, jumped up and down singing a kumbya mantra, resubmitted roughly two thirds of his credentials going back to prove that he did emerge from a human womb, continuing with validation that he did drink the Koolaid in kindergarten and finishing up with a dance number in which DrC did -not- wear lace panties but he did wear the Do Me heels. With these slight changes, />poof/< It turns out that DrC is actually a doctor. Good to know.
So our agent then dutifully trundles off to the New Zealand embassy with our visa applications. And everything is complete. Right? Of course not. First, New Zealand is highly suspicious of the fact that the doctor doing our medical examination is the same individual who evaluated our chest X-rays. I'm betting our somewhat sarcastic and nearly automatic response to a situation of this nature -- This is Mexico -- isn't going to work. So because this IS Mexico, we trundled off to get a radiology friend of our doctor to reprint the reports on his letterhead.
New Zealand also understandably did not appreciate that the lab results were in Spanish. Off we go to get the lab director to retype up the report in English -- where in he must change words such as PSA to PSA and glucosa to glucose. It's a big deal.
But the bottom line is that we still do not have visas. We have plane tickets, jobs, and a resident hotel reservation, but no visas. Fingers crossed people!
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
Historically, every time we go through these radical pruning sessions, we move our family into a smaller space. First, it was a mental dust out which nevertheless resulted in nearly 9 van loads to the dump, Salvation Army or freecycle. Next came the first true scrunching into smaller space when we moved from a 3000 sq. ft. house to an 800 sq. ft. walk out apartment. After six months later, we moved on to the boat as liveaboards, but we were still stuffed to the gills and overflowing on to the docks and into our land cars. Our next hack was considerably more harsh as we dispensed with cars and dock and floated away. Nevertheless, after a few months cruising we elected to trade stuff for speed and threw roughly another 1000 pounds off the boat.
This has got to be the penultimate purge, however. I say this because I can't see how we can possibly reduce ourselves more than we will in this instance. We are moving to New Zealand with quite literally the clothes on our back and two suitcases each. Our total household goods will amount to 500 pounds, a guitar and a cat. And the cat goes to Seattle.
This round is both easier and harder than any prior purging effort. The easy part is that we don't really care too much about things any more. Except for a few books that DrC and Mera refuse to let go of and all Jaime's jewelry, there is almost nothing left to which we feel emotionally bound. We are also old hands at getting rid of stuff. We have already sold nearly $800 worth of this and that at the swap meet, gave away nearly a truckload of things to the charitable group that raises money for children in the area. The boat is three inches up on the bows, two inches up on the stern which according to the Lagoon figures represents roughly 2,000 pounds of personal and nautical gear. We look around and we still see stuff that we just do not want anymore.
But in other ways, we're finding this process more challenging than prior purges because of the physical constraints of our suitcases. We all have a few things that we've held on to over the years that we hand carried from location to location. DrC looks at all his tools and boat mechanic books. He rearranges them to try to make them look smaller and weigh less, but ultimately they don't get smaller or weigh less. With Jaime and Aeron, the problem is simply one of organization. Those two are like electronics taken out of a box. You can't take them back; They don't stuff back down into the box again. I don't see how we fold them into two suitcases each with out first muzzling them, tying their hands behind their back and chaining them to the salon table.
My problem is -- not atypically -- electronic. Four hard drives, three computers, a wireless router/firewall, two notebook computers, a 24" monitor, a sewing machine, five iPods, an iTouch, an external DVD drive and a printer all beacon to me. They want to go to New Zealand. They really do. Pretty please…
While Don Quixote still looks like a combination auto parts store and day care center, she's actually emptying out. Peek in the lockers or under the beds and you hear the echoing sounds of a family abandoning ship. One thing is absolutely certain…after her paint job next week, we will finally be able to cruise at 8 knots.
Saturday, January 09, 2010
For some, this itinerant life poses no great challenge. Either their relationships with their boat family are so strong and sufficient as to require no supplemental entertainment, or they don't like people anyway. DrC falls into this category. It's not that he's asocial. Exactly. He's just very self-contained. Mera, too, finds very little trouble drifting from one set of people to another. Neither of them easily or quickly create strong bonds so we rarely spend enough time with any boat to build the kind of trust and closeness required to make our departure difficult for my husband and middle child. When they do place their trust in someone, the relationship is forever. DrC can still go on a rant because kids he knew in high school are not responding to his friends request on Facebook. He is an incredibly loyal and persistent friend for whom distance, time and absence mean exactly nothing. Noey, Uncle Glenn, Hbunny and Greg better keep this in mind. A similar pattern is evolving in Mera.
Other cruisers become social butterflies, making friends rapidly through exchanged confidences and culinary tidbits but easily trading one group of friends and boats for another. This is a highly adaptive approach which opens the decks of many boats to new conversations and ideas. Jaime and I fit this mold. While for the most part, we do not develop deep or lasting relationships, we sincerely appreciate and enjoy the people we meet. We regret saying good bye to friends, but we know that we'll either see them again... or we won't. It's not a problem. We delight in each other's company for the time that we have and when it's time to leave, we simply move on. This is not to say that either Jaime and I have not developed strong relationships with some of our fellow cruisers. However, these are actually the exception which prove the generally fickle rule. And most of those friends for whom we feel a lasting bond are those we can easily and readily access via the Internet. Jaime and I are truly digital natives.
Another group of cruisers find a compromise solution in the buddy boat. These cruisers identify like minded traveling souls with at least roughly similar interests and boat performance and travel together everywhere they go. You frequently see this pattern with kid boats who will move in groups of two, three or even more, but you see it in the older couples as well. The advantage is that the comfort and stability of your ongoing relationship with your buddy boat offsets the temporary sadness and loneliness engendered by leaving friends behind over and over again. I think that in the long run, even DrC would have to come to grips with this model if we were going to continue cruising, because on our boat we have one of the most challenging personality types.
Unfortunately, Aeron falls into another category of cruiser entirely. She loves deeply, immediately, and passionately. She is loyal and generous with her heart. Her charm and ready smile endear her to cruisers of all ages, and she rewards their time and attention with her trust and wit. However, each departure rips her apart. It's not just the kid boats, the little girls friends like Skylar (Ocean Blue) or Caroline (Windfall). She cried when we left Meerkat, Endless Summer, Victory Cat, and Profligate last spring. She was nearly hysterical leaving behind Beach Access and Precious Metal last week. These weeks leading up to leaving Don Quixote and Mexico behind – probably forever as a family – are chipping away at her soul leaving her a sad parody of her normal bubbly self. Each time we leave a port, I brace myself for the tears and the deep sadness. It wrenches the heart to see our baby so horribly off kilter.
Friday, January 08, 2010
Everyone must eventually stop cruising on their boat.
Most cruising books fail to discuss this phase of the cruising life. It's as though the author is afraid that if you -- the voyeur -- learn that the last chapter is not a sail disappearing over a pink and orange laced horizon complete with swelling music and the muffled sounds of theater goers rummaging around in the goo and popcorn detritus around their seats for keys and bags -- well you won't buy the book. Clearly part of what we travel bloggers, authors, and literary wannabes do is sell a dream. And the dream doesn't include stopping.
Yet nevertheless, we all stop. Whether a cruiser stops because the children get too old, the money runs out, family obligations, their boat falls apart, or they simply get sick of the lifestyle, eventually we all return to land. It may not be glamorous or exciting, but it is an important part of the cruising experience. And perhaps we would all be better prepared as cruisers and cruiser-dreamers if we thought of a graceful way to get off the boat prior to cutting the lines.
I don't think DrC and I thought it out carefully enough, to be honest. So once again -- through the Power of Blogging -- I'm going to treat you to an opportunity to sequentially and virtually experience the bumbling and fumbling of the Conger Clan as we attempt to completely upend everything we know and love and replace it with something Exciting and New.
This is an excellent opportunity for long time readers, first time callers to write in with questions. Don't be shy! I was recently told by a reader that I make it very difficult to send me email... probably a hold over from my days in network security. Nevertheless, I'll brace for spambots and offer the following:
toastfloats at gmail dot com
Looking forward to hearing from you.