Wasting away in paradise

So it turns out a sojourn in paradise does not mean everything is perfect.  I just went on honeymoon in the Maldives, and it looked like this:

We stayed in one of these:

And they did things for us like this:

It was exactly what you would imagine paradise to be.  I’ve never been steeped in beauty like that before.  Of course I’ve been a lot of beautiful places, some unexpectedly idyllic (like the visitors center in Concord, Massachusetts).  But I’ve never stayed in one place that is so aesthetically pleasing all the time.  Everything was perfect-looking, unspoiled.  Of course, there was a staff on the island which worked like elves (sometimes camouflaged in green uniforms) to preserve this, but nature did a pretty good job on her own with crystal clear aqua water and deep blue skies.  That is what is relaxing about going someplace beautiful that is the middle of nowhere.  We had nothing to do but enjoy the scenery.

Some people might be bored on such a holiday.  Even I couldn’t go to the beach every time.  But for a honeymoon, it was perfect.  I love museums, but didn’t want to spend a week scurrying through them.  Cities fascinate me, but I didn’t want to be dead on my feet.  I wanted to enjoy time with my new husband, and the respite of it being just the two of us after all the wedding frenzy.

Well, we certainly did grow closer, but not in the way you’d expect.  We caught a stomach bug and were both down for the count for a couple of days.  Even after we recovered, it was mostly chicken and rice at the buffet, passing over the tempting carving station, cheese board and unlimited desserts.

It was disappointing, but it didn’t ruin our vacation in the way I thought it would.  Firstly, when there’s nothing to do but lay around and look at the ocean, it was hard to feel like we were missing out.  Our water villa was gorgeous inside, and we didn’t pay to upgrade and not spend any time there.  And ok, when we left I thought we would be engaging in honeymoon activities and packed appropriately, but it turns out that being sick together brought us closer in another way.  We wound up taking care of each other (I think he was better at it than me, but he’s British and a boy and therefore doesn’t embrace coddling very well), and let me tell you, having a stomach bug together tore down any fair-like illusions that were left, any ideas that we could somehow be perfect people for each other.  We found out how much the other person’s crap stunk and we loved each other anyway.

And at the end of it, we rallied enough to snorkel and go on a sunset cruise and do some lazing around in other locations, like the pool.  I’ll always remember how beautiful Komandoo is, but what I’ll also take away is that this little sojourn in an ethereal paradise was the beginning of a very real marriage, with all the thorns and warts that make it somehow lovelier.

Has it been that long already?

It seems the fiance and I passed an important milestone yesterday and both of us forgot all about it.  We’ve been dating a whole year.

This is a pretty important milestone.  After the first year, things seem more a part of your life, as though that’s the way things have always been.  We can’t look at each other now and say with wonder–just think!  A year ago we didn’t know if we’d ever find someone.  A year ago now we did–we already had each other.  And so the permanence of us has set in, and I struggle now to remember what life was like before I was in this with him.  I know there was a lot of pain and loneliness, but it’s harder to remember.

Which is all very romantic, and lovely to think of.  In fact, it deserves some sort of celebration.  Except we both completely forgot.  I’m a bit surprised at myself, frankly.  I love a little ceremony in life, and this really is the only time we’ll celebrate our dating anniversary.  I know some couples continue to celebrate that, but it seems a bit superfluous when our wedding anniversary will be only two weeks later.

I suppose that’s the reason–we actually don’t have much time to celebrate now.  He’s just got back from a trip to China, and in less than a week my family arrives, and in less than two (11 days in fact, according to my countdown widget), we’re going to be married.  I don’t have time for dating anniversaries.  I’m placing rush orders on place cards and debating chair covers.

When we were apart for so long, it seemed like every moment together was something special to be treasured and celebrated.  Now we don’t have to say goodbye to each other for any time in the foreseeable future, so I’m sitting on the couch at my computer and he at the table on his.  We have the luxury of taking each other for granted a little bit because at last, we have an embarrassing richness of moments together.

Ok, maybe that’s a reach, saying I don’t have to celebrate.  I might be trying to find some excuses for forgetting my anniversary.

Parting is such sweet sorrow

A couple of months ago, I would have scoffed at Juliet’s sentiment.  There is nothing sweet about parting, I would have said.  It is hard and miserable, and the only thing to do when standing in front of the security line at the airport is to think about the next time we’re going to see each other and swallow tears.

I spent a good ten months in a long distance relationship, and it was very hard to pull through.  At the beginning and end there were huge stretches of nearly 100 days where we couldn’t be together, and that’s a very long time.  There’s so much of a romantic relationship that comes from physical proximity.  And you get your mind out of the gutter!  I’m not (only) referring to that.  Although there is that.  But there is also being able to do things together, or just curling up on the couch and watch tv together.  Or doing totally different things, and then getting up to get a drink and, in passing, giving a kiss or touch.

When I was grappling with the decision to up sticks and move to England for love, a lot of people advised me to stay.  “Nine months is a drop in the bucket,” I heard.  And by way of additional comfort “You can talk through Skype!”

But let me tell you something–Skype sucks.  Ok, that’s not really fair.  Skype has been a great boon in a lot of ways, and the fiance and I used it to the hilt.  I sent my Skype conversation records to the British consulate for my visa approval and they showed conversations of 6, 8, 10 hours routinely.  It was good because we felt like we could be able to talk to each other all day, for free.

Still, though…while Skype is good for keeping the channels of communication open, it’s not very intimate.  And, if I’m honest, after awhile it gets boring.  Think about it–how much time do you spend actually conversing with your partner?  You probably talk to them most of all, but even so, two solid hours of conversation every single day?  That’s a lot of talking.  Plus there’s the fact that we were staring at a computer screen.  We couldn’t go for a walk together, or even go into the other room (my laptop at the time was 5 years old and had no battery life).

So Skype helps, but it’s not a remedy.  Long distance relationships are still hard, because as nice as seeing each other’s face is, we were still living largely separate lives, and at the end of the day we still went to bed alone.  That is particularly painful when I had been waiting so long to be in a relationship and stop feeling lonely.

It gets so painful that eventually we both started to shut down a bit.  It’s impossible to miss someone constantly for days and weeks on end, so it’s easier to build a little wall around that feeling, keep my head down, and carry on.  I suspect this is the death knell for most long distance relationships, because it’s all too easy for that protective wall to be a real wall, and pretty soon you’ve blocked the other person out.  I think in my case, the fact that our long distance stint was relatively brief and that we were both so stubbornly and tenaciously committed got us through.  It’s not possible to date long distance casually.  By the time we got to see each other again, the joy of reunion had faded with too much anticipation, and the moment was instead full of weary relief, a sigh of at last.

In the midst of the last long stretch (mid April to the second week of July), my best friend’s husband went on a week-long bike ride through England.  Before his departure, she was fretting about being alone and how much she’d miss him.  At the time, I had very little sympathy.  A week? I thought.  What I wouldn’t give to only be separated for a week.  I was alone in the house every night.

Eventually though, I was forced to eat my words (thoughts?).  The fiance has had a trip to China planned for ages, since the week we first got together.  I couldn’t really complain about his departure, although the stuff we planned afterwards (like our wedding) made the timing less than ideal.  As the trip approached though, I found myself growing bluer and bluer about having to say goodbye.  There may have been some tears.  What’s more, these past nine days I’ve missed him more than I’ve missed him in all those long six week stretches.  I am so excited about seeing him tomorrow I’m practically vibrating, and I’m going to give him the biggest, most joyful hug.

At first I wondered why I had turned into such a hypocrite.  But then I realized–it’s not hypocritical.  When Juliet says “parting is such sweet sorrow” she adds “That I shall say goodnight till it be morrow,” fully intending to see Romeo the next day.  The melancholy of being separated is a novelty, an indulgence in emo romanticism.  A week is long enough for a separation to be noticeable, but not long enough for it to be real, or truly painful.  I have to say, it’s rather nice to have that luxury.

The BBC is Swifter, Higher, and Stronger

These Olympics are in some city in Europe. But they are brought to you by the PEACOCK!

 

I am a self-confessed Olympics junkie.  When I saw the parade of nations in Albertville in 1992, I was hooked, and it continued right through.  I’ve watched all the Olympics—Barcelona, Lillehammer, Atlanta, Nagano, Sydney, Salt Lake City, Athens, Torino, Beijing, and now London.  I love everything about it—the mere idea that for two weeks the world can come together for something as simple as sport, that feats of human strength unite us all, that it is open to everyone to create a miracle.  And of course, there is the dazzling pageantry.  I love pageantry.

I also thought I loved NBC’s Olympic coverage.  Since 1992, the genial Bob Costas

The face of all my Olympics

with his alien blue eyes and preternaturally preserved features has narrated me through every record, every fall, every triumph.  I know the tune of “Bugler’s Dream,” NBC’s Olympic theme tune, better than the Olympic hymn.  I looked forward to the athlete profiles, and even the cheesy commentary of the deeply involved commentaries, in particular gymnastics and diving, where the commentators love to hiss and coo as they play enthusiastic judges.  I even got used to the ethnocentric coverage where it became easy to think that Team USA was the only team in the Games.

 

I grew used to it, but it always did bother me, that unless an athlete was nominated as worthy of a four minute profile which showed the difficulties of growing up in post-Soviet Ukraine, or communist China, or unless an athlete did something as amazing as Usain Bolt, I never saw them.  I also have a penchant for knowing everything about an Olympic event, crawling behind the scenes.  I wanted so badly to know what it’s like to actually be there.  But the NBC coverage is so frenetically paced and carefully packaged, there is none of that raw realness in the coverage.  I forgave them this, figuring that was how televised Olympics were always meant to be.  Witness the video from Sydney below, which has it all: sweeping aerial views of the city to the ubiquitous Bugler’s Dream, Bob Costas, and lots and lots of drama.  Doesn’t he just make you want to shout “Yes, Bob!  *I* am ready!”?

 

Until I started watching BBC coverage.  It is amazing.  The BBC has no less than 20 channels devoted to Olympic coverage.  Not only is this all live, but there are no commercials.  Not a one.  British people pay for tv licenses, and this tax goes to funding the BBC, and means that it doesn’t have commercials.  This is amazing enough, but the other beauty of the coverage is there is no packaging.  They turn on the cameras and let them roll.  If I turn on swimming, I get to see the entire meet as if I were there, each race in the order it comes, each heat and semifinal.  I get to see the athletes get introduced, not already standing on the blocks, and at the end they show the medals ceremony in full, and I can hear them play the theme to “Chariots of Fire” as the champions walk out.  Watching gymnastics, I get to see the athletes warm up, the Olympic volunteer coming out with a hook to stop the rings from swinging.  It is actually as good as being there.

Even better, the commentators are much more about giving necessary information without any of the cheesiness of American sportscasters.  As I write this I’m watching the Men’s Individual All Around in gymnastics, and on the dismount from the rings the British gymnast took a huge step.  I can hear the commentators in America saying “Oh, *big* step on the landing—that will cost him.”  But the British commentators instead focused on the fact that he did a double twist instead of one and a half twists.  Despite the British propensity for self deprecation and caution, these announcers are particularly optimistic, which is really nice to hear.  When Michael Phelps lost to South African Chad le Clos, they focused on the Le Clos’s tears and pride in his own stunning victory rather than the fact that Michael Phelps lost.

Look at that face! If you are not crying along with him you have no soul.

I’ve had the amazing good luck to actually go to an Olympic event—football (soccer) in Coventry.  It wasn’t the best game—a rather lacklustre showing from New Zealand and Belarus, but it was still pretty fantastic to go.  They’ve opened more tickets, and if I weren’t getting married and going on a very expensive honeymoon, I would spend every spare penny to go.  But at the same time, I feel like I don’t really need to.  The only thing I’m missing is actually being there and cheering along with everyone else.

And for the record, in my living room I’m cheering as hard for my newly adopted country as I am for my native country.  Although I do miss Bob Costas.

Let’s give NBC some credit here–this is way classier than the actual London 2012 logo

…which may or may not look like certain animated characters doing certain things to their animated brothers.