Wednesday, December 10, 2003

A Curious Mix

Living where we do can really mess up a person. It often results in a near-constant state of confusion...should we stay?...should we go? It's your basic love/hate relationship, and as with all relationships, ours (both collectively and individually) with this place goes through all the typical ups/downs, peaks/valleys that one experiences in any relationship.

After work yesterday, boyfriend went to play golf and I was doing some surfing on the laptop. Typically, once I'm home from the office I don't feel like going anywhere--I'm a real homebody. But for some reason, I felt like going out after work yesterday. When I spotted the boyfriend just across the pond (which is below our balcony), I stepped outside so I could talk to him once he reached the green. There were no other golfers right behind him, so he was taking his time practicing his putting from various spots on the green. And as he was doing that, I was yelling down at him asking if he wanted to go to a movie or go out to eat, all while I kept going back and forth into the house to check the movie listings in the paper, look up a number for a restaurant we'd never tried to call and see if they were open, etc. And it hit me in those moments that we have a pretty cush life here...I mean not everyone can talk to their mate while he's playing golf as if he's in the front yard.

As I was calling what is supposed to be a recording at the movie complex listing the movies and times, I kept getting a message that said, "Leave your message at the tone." Those kinds of things drive me nuts. I was bitching out loud (to myself), "I wanna live in a 'real' place where things work!" We decided to pass on the movie but decided to try a new restaurant, a place where some friends had recently invited us to join them for a meal. We didn't go with our friends that night but thought that if they liked it, it must be okay. So we drove downtown to the restaurant, walked in and saw three people, all at the bar. This is a Japanese/Vietnamese restaurant--at least that's how they advertise it. The waitress walked over to greet us, grabbed a couple of menus, asked if we'd be having sushi (no) and told us to sit wherever we liked. She was joking how there wasn't exactly a rush on tables, so we should take any one we liked. I chose a table next to the window and said we'd sit there so it would look like they had some "bodies" in there. She said she had just been hanging out at the bar with her friends, making drinks for all of them. She was very pleasant, but we also got the impression that she would have been perfectly happy to spend her evening not having to wait on any tables.

The menu was not at all what we were expecting--it was a huge disappointment. I'm not a particularly finicky eater, and neither is my boyfriend. We'll eat pretty much anything, but we do like it to be GOOD...and this wasn't. It didn't taste bad, it was just...well, nothing. But we enjoyed ourselves anyway, talking and laughing a lot. Two other couples came in while we were there: an older couple related to someone who worked there and a couple who were clearly tourists (we saw them exit their cab). The tourists were seated, looked at the menu and then told the manager/waiter that they were terribly sorry but they'd forgotten their money and had to go back to their hotel. They asked if he could please call them a cab; he told them it would probably take 30-40 minutes for one to arrive and that they'd have better luck trying to flag one down in the street (failing to tell them that taxis here only answer radio calls and don't pick up flagging pedestrians). My guess was that they took one look at the menu (it's never a good sign when it contains pictures of all the dishes...and yet your dish looks absolutely nothing like the picture) and decided to try somewhere else.

As we were driving to dinner, coming down a steep hill with downtown and the harbor laid out in front of us, I was thinking how lovely that scene looks at night. There were two cruise ships in yesterday and curiously, they were still docked (they usually depart by 6:30). We could see one of them from our table in the restaurant and it was all lit up. We had "ooh-ed and ah-ed" as we drove past Emancipation Garden downtown because it was awash with Xmas lights of different colors. Over dinner, as the boyfriend was looking at the lit-up cruise ship, he commented how we take this place for granted, but it really is a pretty special place in some ways. I had to agree. I had had the same thought when I went out for a stroll yesterday at lunchtime. I get a kick out of seeing the excitement on the tourists' faces as they wander around the shopping always reminds me how excited I am to be on vacation somewhere. I try to remind myself (in my more dissatisfied moments) that people spend thousands of dollars to vacation here.

In my dissatisfied moments, it's the small things that get under my skin: the dearth of decent restaurants and the complete absence of any good ethnic food...a wacky movie complex where the box office never opens on time, the food's never ready and the movie you're watching will probably have Spanish good places to shop for clothes...the frequent power outages...a lack of abundant fresh produce, etc....all the conveniences we take for granted on the mainland. But on the flip side, we have so many enviable things here: world-class beaches, constant warm weather, a stress-free (spoiled) lifestyle, laid-back jobs, etc. And once again, I'm struck by what a curious mix of the pleasurable and irritating this place can be...and how we find ourselves in a real conundrum.

I keep coming back to the idea that maybe we're looking at the situation as too much of an either/or answer...maybe the answer isn't so cut-and-dried (i.e., should we live here or on the mainland). Maybe getting to the "right" answer requires us to change the question. Maybe the question isn't a cut-and-dried "Where do we live?" Maybe it's how can we create a life that allows us to enjoy the best parts of living here while still partaking of the things currently missing from our lives? Maybe we're starting from the wrong place to get to the right answer. Maybe we need to look at what we want the end result to be...and then backtrack from there. It's easy to say: if I go THERE, I'll have what I need (which may or may not turn out to be true). Maybe the more challenging--but ultimately more fulfilling--process is to ask what I want my life to look like...and then figure out how/where best to make that happen. Because it's never about PLACE...we often just think it Alex recently realized in her 12/8 post. It's about searching for the right elements to create my own beautiful, crazy-quilt life...wherever that might be. It doesn't have to be beautiful (or even understandable) to anyone long as my curious mix works for me.


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