Friday, October 21, 2016

8,365 miles, just the one way.

I have a fairly extensive bucket list of places I want to visit.

Domestically, there's the Grand Canyon, Monument Valley, the Redwoods in California, New York for the Met and Broadway and the food, Chicago (I used to want to move there, once upon a time) and Savannah and Charleston (it's nuts I've been to neither) are the ones that immediately come to mind.

Of course, internationally, the list is vast and extends far beyond the ability of my bank account: Neuschwanstein in Bavaria, Paris and Normandy and Lourdes (St. Bernadette is my confirmation saint), pretty much everywhere in England, Hay-on-Wye in Wales (Sigh. A whole town of bookstores...), back to both Scotland (I didn't make it to Dunnotar Castle or Aberdeen) and Italy (to much-loved Rome and Florence again, especially the latter where I only spent a day. I'm really hoping to visit a college friend who's husband was recently stationed at a base in Vincenza for the next three years), Ireland, Morocco, the Great Pyramids and Valley of the Kings in Egypt (I've been fascinated by Egypt since I was little. I had a book on mummies and grave robbing when I was 6...which is a bit strange, when you think about it. Who bought that for me?), Greece, Poland (I've long wanted to visit Auschwitz, if that doesn't seem too strange, to see and mourn and pray where St. Maximillian Kolbe and so many others died), the undisturbed old-world charm of Prague, various countries in South America, Bora Bora (partly because of its WWII connection), Belgium (Vielsalm, specifically, because of another family WWII connection, Spain to see the Prado and Sagrada Familia among other sites, Australia and New Zealand....

I could keep on going. What you'll notice about the above (frankly still abbreviated) list is that there aren't any Asian countries on it. If pressed, I'd say Japan would be my first choice. China was never really in the picture.

So guess where I'm headed the day after Christmas and will ring in 2017?

As it turns out, both of my younger brothers will be getting married next (I joked to my mom that, barring a very quick courtship that commences incredibly soon, I won't be getting married next year, too. She laughed and said she could use the break.). My brother Ethan (after he returns from his deployment) I've already mentioned, but my brother Daniel will be marrying his fiance, Mira, January 1, 2017, in China.

They met in grad school and dated for several years, countinuing their relationship even after her program ended (it was a year shorter than his), her student visa expired and she had to return to China, her home country. Earlier this year, they became engaged. Because of all the variations possible in order to get her a green card, after much research, they decided the best way to expedite that -- and it could still take between nine and 18 months -- is to get married in China first.

It will be beyond interesting, because, first of all, we're not headed to Beijing (although we have a layover there on the way) or Shanghai, but to Chengdu, the capital of the Sichuan province and the closest city to where her family lives in Western China. It's where the pandas come from, where there is some of the spiciest food in the world (I'm not sure how my mother will cope, as she doesn't do spicy food much at all) and also has more tea houses (allegedly) than anywhere else in the world. :)

The wedding itself will take place on New Year's Day (apparently less of a big deal in the East, where Chinese New Year several weeks later is the real celebration) and then, the next day, we'll travel about an hour and a half southeast to Lezhi, where Mira's family is from, for another -- smaller -- celebratory dinner. We're staying in Chengdu in a flat her family owns at the top of a 15-20 story apartment building.

The more I've looked into things, the more excited I've become about this adventure I never expected to take. It's also going to be a complete fish-out-of-water experience. Although Mira speaks perfect English, her parents don't beyond 10 or 15 words, apparently, and her grandparents none at all. And it won't be like going to Europe, where in Italy, for example, I could understand quite a bit based only on my Spanish language background alone. I've bought a Lonely Planet phrase book that contains some basics on both Mandarin and Sichuanese, but I'm probably slaughtering the pronunciation... Note to self: watch some videos for help with that!

The flights have been booked, I've had a photo taken for the visa application (I look tired in it, but that will no doubt be the state of affairs after a ridiculous amount of time on planes -- the flight from LAX to Beijing alone is more than 13 hours) and I've completed most of the four-page travel visa application.

The trip will involve more than a little time travel, without a Delorean and its flux capacitor, or a TARDIS, traveling a day ahead in time and going so far east we have to go west to get there. We -- at least Mom and I; Daniel's staying a month beyond -- are slated to fly home Jan. 8, 2017. We will arrive back in the states while it's still the same day.

And while it will be a grand adventure, involving strange new places and a both new-to-me and ancient civilization, I am so very happy my brother has found someone with whom he can share his life, and that I will be there to see his marriage take place.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

A small update

Last month, I wrote about my friend's marriage difficulties and how I felt utterly unable to do anything to help her beyond being a listening ear and offering up daily prayers for God's grace to help both her and her husband find their way back to each other.

Recently, she told me that things between them have become a little better -- at least she and her husband are communicating again -- although she knows there is a lot of work still to be done on both their parts.

I was beyond grateful to hear her news. The stresses on both of them, as well as their children, have lessened. I'm relieved and hopeful that things will continue to improve.

I can only praise God and offer thanks to Him and to the Blessed Mother that my prayers for my friend's family have been heard, and keep those prayers going. And if any the few of you who actually read this prayed for them, too, well, thank you so much. Truly.

"Praying to Christ for your friend, and longing to be heard by Christ for your friend's sake, you reach out with devotion and desire to Christ himself. And suddenly and insensibly, as though touched by the gentleness of Christ close at hand, you begin to taste how sweet he is and how lovely he is."  - St. Aelred of Rievaulx

Saturday, October 01, 2016

The perfect age?

Today a priest asked me if I was married, and when I said no, asked me why not.

Oh, if I had a dime for every time someone's asked that question...

Anyway, while it was asked kindly, it was unexpected, as we weren't talking about that topic. So I rambled through my typical responses: "bad timing," "haven't met the right guy yet, I guess," "I certainly want to be married but I suppose its not God's will at the moment," "I don't want to marry just anyone..." and then drifted into silence.

Then he asked me how old I was. Not having any idea where he was going with this (was he going to say I'm too old, or that I should pack for the convent?), I told him the truth about being 38 because A, (duh) he's a priest; B, it was in a confessional (ergo, honesty required); and C, my age is not something I lie about. Doing so just seems vain and silly.

Anyway, his response surprised me.

"Oh, that's the perfect age. You know who you are and what you want, you're solid in what you do."

The perfect age? Ok, I'll take that. :) Although I certainly don't feel like I have it all together some (most?) of the time. That may be a lifelong work in progress!

Father continued, "But don't wait too long. Just expand your search a little."

Expand my search, huh? Having tried the online thing several times, with no success (I was too Catholic for most, or, on one of the Catholic sites, sometimes not Catholic enough, believe it or not), so I'm not sure what else I can do, aside from move...which I should probably do anyway. Anyone have any suggestions?

I did give the modern way of doing things a try recently. Some younger friends who are all about dating apps like Tinder and Bumble suggested I try one of those. Tinder just seemed too tawdry, so I gave Bumble a shot, briefly, but it, too, was so incredibly superficial, just lots of swiping in one direction or another based on nothing but looks  I admit to doing some judging -- the multitude of men with gym mirror selfies, and the seemingly vast swathes of them shirtless on boats holding large, dead fish (is it just because I'm in Florida? Because it reached the ridiculous stage so quickly) was beyond disheartening -- being healthy is important, and it's not that I dislike fishing, but you can't base a relationship on that, regardless of how much I might like sushi. There was just no concrete information about who these men really are or what, if anything, they believe in, and I need more to go on. I suppose, really, I'm just too old-fashioned (old school?) for dating apps.

But, apparently -- dating apps aside -- I am the perfect age, and now have at least one other person praying for me. That's always a good thing.