Wednesday, 28 January 2009

I think I can hear the choir now...

About a year ago, I finished a marathon and I am very, very proud of that accomplishment. I still feel that my head goes a bit higher when I tell people about it, when they see my photos and when I show my medal off. Sure, my time wasn’t fast but I finished didn’t I?

This year I feel like I’m finishing another marathon, of sorts. In a few days I will, if all goes well, give birth to a little girl and these last few weeks have been like the last stretch in the marathon. You know, you start off strong and confident (but a little queasy inside), until you find your pace. Slowly you feel that you can definitely do this, it’s actually easy and you’ve already covered so much mileage. You feel yourself smiling and think “hey, I look quite good!” Everyone cheers you on.

But somewhere in the last third you start flagging again: suddenly not only your legs hurt but everything seems to. The really comfortable pace you’d set is becoming too much so you slow down. You feel heavier and heavier. The miles are going by slower and slower. You don’t look quite so good anymore. People still cheer you on but it can almost become annoying: “you’re nearly there!” they say, and you know that you’re nowhere near there, really. And you keep going.

The last mile is the longest… everything really hurts by now, even breathing. You know you can’t stop because you can’t wait to get to the finish line and get this over and done with. Your pace is all over the place by now: sometimes you slow waaaaay down; sometimes you can even come up with a burst of speed. Just to get to the finish line. People still cheer you on and this time you KNOW you are nearly there, so these shouts are encouraging. But the tiredness has made you cranky and you can find them irritating at the same time. But the real determination to get there has to come from within. You’ve come this far – what’s a few more steps? All that pain and toll on your body will be worth it in the end.

Suddenly, you hear a choir, you turn a corner and there it is – the finish line! The last few meters go by in a blur, almost too quickly and before you know it, you are finished and you have your reward… now is a time to celebrate, to rest and, of course, to recover. You did it! Sure, you won’t be able to walk for a while but your life will never be the same again.

The difference is that when I finished the marathon I thought “Never again!” which is in fact the same thing I thought when I had my first baby. I was eventually convinced to get pregnant again but this time I can guarantee that I won’t do it again, two kids is enough… but a marathon? I think I’ll do it at least once more… one can never have too many medals!

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

What keeps me awake at night

It’s true what they say – ignorance is bliss.

I am about 4 days away from going into hospital to have a baby and I’m worried, in some cases even terrified. So much so that I’m struggling to clear my mind enough to sleep (or is that just another one of those pregnancy symptoms that make women’s lives so much nicer?) and I sometimes find myself over-worrying which is so unlike me.

While I am looking forward to losing some of this weight I’ve been carrying in my front for a few months now and look forward to not feeling awkward, clumsy and round, I am not so sure about the bit that comes after. You know, the whole recovery from surgery, the pain and lack of comfort and of course the whole life-with-newborn part.

Last time, with my first, I of course didn’t know any of this and throughout my pregnancy and subsequent periods I kept waiting for things to get better. It was a long time before they did but I was hopeful every day that it would happen. Now I know better and that little bit of hope is gone. So I have to get through this on reality alone which is a sobering thought.

It’s not all bad though – the experience has given me some confidence which I suppose can go some way towards replacing hope. At least this time I know what to expect and plan accordingly, and any improvement on last time is bound to be good news! This time at least I know how to change a diaper, make formula and pick up an infant: all things I had no idea how to do the last time.

So maybe this time will be better and I need to be more optimistic. I’ll check back in a few weeks and I’ll confirm whether or not ignorance truly is bliss!

Friday, 16 January 2009

The food is still better here though

I've been back in Monterrey now two weeks and while time seems to have stood still at the same time I still feel so much like an outsider in my own home city!

It really is a feeling of 'neither here nor there' as I have been living in the UK for nearly 12 years now and a lot of the more practical things I've done I've only ever done over there, like buy a house, pay my bills, manage a bank account, shop for groceries, etc. So things I've never really noticed over here and take for granted in the UK - like direct debits - are practically unheard of here and it makes me wonder how people cope.

So being here isn't just about how much better things are here (like food and weather) and there are lots of things that I've now noticed here that I only notice because I live in the UK and have experienced a different way. The biggest thing that is bugging me all the time is in terms of environmental awareness. Here in Mexico, like in the USA, environmental concerns are there but certainly not in the way they are in the UK, where it is so engrained it is almost a part of life, especially when it comes to waste.

Everytime I go shopping for groceries here I get help packing (now, this bit I do miss!) and the packer gives me too many bags - in some cases he or she only puts ONE thing inside a whole bag! It may be a bottle of bleach or something and I understand the concern but it still strikes me as incredibly wasteful. In the UK it is becoming more and more common for people to use their own bags, fuelled in part by retailers making a charge for each bag. But the net result is that fewer bags get used and it's all good.

Reusable bags are available here but they are TINY. It almost seems like retailers make them available but don't really expect anyone to actually use them... and compared to even the most modest of reusable bags available nearly everywhere, the bags here are laughable. No wonder people do not switch over, the reusables are a joke.

I probably would have never really noticed just how many plastic shopping bags get used if I didn't live in a place where these things matter. I am trying my best to make my mom understand that she doesn't need the packer to give her a dozen bags for a modest shop but she doesn't get it. Sure, she understands the global environmental issues but doesn't really tie that back to the plastic bag waste and I'm pretty sure that is cultural. People here just don't understand these issues at all.

Examples like these are many and it does make me feel like such a foreigner when I notice that people around here love to drive and switch lanes constantly, or watch television programs that have no value to them whatsoever or do not seem to notice senseless waste. I only hope I can manage to pass on the best of both worlds to my kids!

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

The same yet different

I've now spent nearly a week back home and, as always, it's a weird experience. On the one hand I'm back to the place where I was born and pretty much had all my growing up adventures so I should know it like the back of my hand... but it is a huge progressive city and of course a lot changes in a short time so there are many parts that I can barely recognize.

I hadn't been back in 3 years and everything is so familiar yet so strange: roads that I know very well look nothing like I remember them but at the same time they take me to the same places. It's almost like a half-remembered dream. It is both fascinating and frustrating to find that what I remember is not quite right or was right but has changed so much that it isn't right anymore.

The one thing that has remained unchanged are my friends: they are still here, still loving and still very much my friends. It has been amazing to catch up with old friends and, even thought we live thousands of miles apart, as soon as we are in the same room again it's like nothing's changed. I do have technology to thank because that of course makes keeping in touch easier, but that doesn't change the fact that our friendships are strong and have stood the test of time. And no matter how many years go by between visits, nothing at all changes.

I am very lucky to have such good friends. They don't even laugh when I get lost trying to find the restaurant that we used to frequent all the time!

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