A Fine Balance

(Post 77 of 233. Thanks again to those who participated in the Fundrazr!)

Recently, the world lost the great Sir Sean Connery. My best friend Bast and I are movie buffs, so of course we started reminiscing about our fondest memories of his roles. Top of mind for me was as Henry Jones Sr. in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. We both love the scene on the beach in which Jones Sr. shows emotion before sacrificing a bunch of birds to save himself and Indy. That scene was filmed on a beach outside of Almería. When I was in Almería, I thought that it might be cool to go out and visit the beach, but couldn’t justify the time away from work to make the excursion possible.

l I made a lot of decisions like that when I was in Europe. My European adventure was not at all what it was supposed to have been, a voyage without end, a time of living in the present. But I had no sooner landed than my future was written out for me. And little did I know during those months that I was making the the right choices for the events that would follow.

The future of travel is so uncertain right now. I can’t think too hard about it lest I go mad with grief at such an unexpected cutting short of my adventures. All I can do is focus on the present. And it was the sacrifices I made during my nine months in Europe that are making it possible for me to ride so easily through this crisis. Somehow, as though I could see the events of the next few years written out for me, I struck a balance in Europe between living for the present while at the same time building in resiliency for pandemic. I learned to hunker down and focus on my business and I grew reaccustomed to finding my pleasures in a simple domestic routine.

And most important of all, I discovered that travel isn’t just about going out and exploring and having adventures every day. It is also about learning the local rhythm of life. And for me especially, those months on the shores of the Mediterranean, Africa so close and yet still so far away, meant a breakthrough in my Spanish fluency that I’m not convinced could have happened anywhere so quickly but in Andalusia, as that’s the accent I first learned. I am so grateful right now to be able to converse so easily in Spanish with the few people who populate my days. Whether I’m explaining potential solutions to electrical and plumbing problems to my handyman, conversing with an Uber driver about the social debt of large corporations, or laughing with a neighbour about something silly my dog did, I feel like this fluency roots me to the world in which I’ve chosen to live out this crisis.

And so, these pandemic days continue to march on relentlessly and unapologetically. There are little bits of normalcy again, like the one Sunday a month when Juan comes to do the yard work and “La Jefe” has fun supervising, but those days are brief and fleeting.

It’s hard to get time off (for which I am not complaining!), but when I do, I try to be on my feet and away from screens. A couple of nights ago, I started building a new cupboard I bought for my kitchen, finishing it over the course of the following day.

I’m quite chuffed at how perfectly everything fits and that I now have a proper broom cupboard.

My handyman was back today to install a light fixture above my kitchen sink.

(His next jobs will be unblocking the kitchen sink, doing maintenance on my bedroom AC (both of which he knows about), and installing a pressure flow thingamabob in my master shower (feasibility to be discussed).)

He timed his arrival today perfectly as I was literally just minutes away from completing a gruelling afternoon of making homemade pasta! Why all that effort, he asked me.

Because I get a stomachache from fresh pasta made with chicken eggs. But these beautiful duck eggs magically don’t cause me any issues (omelettes are DA BOMB, by the way).

He did quick and very clean work, so I had time to throw together a quick ragù sauce (hint: wine and sausage replace the need to cook the sauce for hours!).

Dinner was welcome because I hadn’t eaten since a breakfast of homemade waffles (I’m nearly through my list of eggy things I need to catch up on!). I bought a mini waffle maker that I still need to play around with. A friend assures me I could have gotten these a lot darker brown, so I’ll keep playing till I get it right. But they were still delicious! And that’s fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice, something that is no longer a travel treat but something I have a few times a week. There could be worst vices!

All this time cooking is a way to nurture myself. I’m paying attention to where my ingredients come from and planning meals with intent and an aim of nourishing myself. I don’t think I’ve ever since my adolescence had so much time to spend in the kitchen (I was cooking professionally in those days!). And I’ve noticed that the more time I spend in the kitchen in a day, the less time I spend in the kitchen over the week. It’s really great to pull a portion of chicken curry with rice out of the freezer for those nights when you have unexpected overtime because I took downtime to cook in bulk.

There is so much uncertainty right now. I choose to focus on what I can count on right now, like business continuing to grow and a house of my own being within reach. I’m not thinking (too much) about how I had planned to go to Japan for my ten-year business anniversary next year (a lovely bookend to the five-year anniversary in London) or that I haven’t been more than five kilometres from my house since March. There’s no reason to make myself sad over things I can’t control and what has been taken from me. Instead, I choose to focus on what this pandemic has given me, an economic certainty that was so very much out of reach that day in Almería when I decided on an amble through the city centre instead of an excursion out of town.