It looks like a vacation. It sounds like a vacation. It quacks like a vacation. It must be… a duck?
In fact, this past week was the hardest I’ve had in nearly a year.
Every day this week has been a struggle, but Thursday January 29th, 2015 was the worst, and I won’t soon forget that day. Okay, yes, I’m being overly melodramatic. In fact I had to look up the date, and it was barely a week ago. But it’s true that I won’t forget what happened or how I -felt- that day any time soon.
I awake at six-something am to get my last week’s rental car sorted before heading down to Nicaragua, and am rudely surprised to find that rental car prices have nearly quadrupled since I rented last month, and wonder what I’m going to do about it. Thanks, Tucson gem show! I start anxiously checking various rental sites and options, but have to stop and head off to see patients at the Flowing Wells clinic.
I haven’t seen patients here in several years, so I feel discombobulated trying to remember where things are and how differently they do things than I’m used to. It’s a pretty standard OH DEAR GOD THIS IS INTENSE 4 hours in clinic, with major problems jumping up right and left. Nothing I can’t handle, as I’ve been doing this a while, but stressful nonetheless.
As I am trying to race out the clinic’s back door at 1pm, several major conflagrations “suddenly” pop up that I absolutely have to deal with immediately. Had they been brought to my attention earlier, I could have easily dealt with them already. Instead, I am calming a freaking-out-anxious staff member who is questioning themselves and their decisions, and also sorting out the patient situation. I glance briefly but longingly at the clock, watching my chance of lunch and sanity slip away.
Despite scrambling out of the clinic after 1:30 pm, I convince myself to hit a buffet lunch (Indian food, yummy!). I scarf down as much rice, daal saag and samosa as I can shovel in without stopping, pay, and then rush out the door. I plop gracelessly into my chair at home and pop in my headphones just as my 2pm national faculty meeting starts in Florida, which I am attending virtually.
The instant the faculty meeting ends, one of my research job coworkers pings me to remind me of a meeting that we have in fifteen minutes… that I never heard about, even though it was organized for my benefit. I try to maintain my sanity and slow my hyperventilation, since I have to be about six places right now, and explain that I can’t make it, and never knew about it, and am terribly sorry but I have to GOOOO.
After sending off that message, I zip out the door to pick up my order at Summit Hut and zip in to the service desk, wild-eyed, and (politely) demand my order so I can zip right back out the door. However, there was a mistake, and the item in front of me looks nothing like on the website. It takes 20 minutes to figure out what happened, and that they can’t fix the problem (the item I ordered is apparently fictitious… they couldn’t even find it on the manufacturer’s website). I feel crushed, but finally am able to dash back out to my car.
I hop back in the car and rev the fire-engine red VW Beetle’s engine and hurtle toward the airport to trade in my rental for my last couple of days. As I’m zooming to the airport, my cell phone rings. Despite being in heavy traffic, I check my phone (I know, I know, don’t yell at me; I was already near the breaking point. I should have turned the damned thing off). I think it’s my friend from Australia that I’ve been chatting with about her trial, so despite the heavy traffic I tap the “answer” button and cheerily say: “Hey, how are ya?”
The man on the other end of the phone is not my friend, and starts barking heavily-accented phrases at me, but I can’t understand what he is saying at all. I do figure out that he is a potential client that called my official work line, and he is Not Happy with me… I keep asking him to “hold on for a second please, let me pull over so I can hear you and give you my full attention,” but he doesn’t understand me and keeps peppering me with questions, getting more impatient and insistent as the seconds tick on and I’m not correctly answering whatever he is asking.
I finally pull the car over and figure out that he worked with our company previously, and knows my boss, and assumed I would know him as well. I squelch further panic and comport myself reasonably well, and get him off the phone.
Eventually the manager comes and ploddingly figures out the problem, while I pace in front of the counter, trying not to glare at anyone. I know if I so much as glance at them they’re going to think I want to kill them. I don’t, though. It’s not their fault I’m having the day from hell. I do continue to check my phone every three point five four seconds, though. I’m too jittery to stop that part.
The instant the Avis manager says “Okay, that’s all…” I bound straight over to the Hertz counter to pick up my new rental ($150 cheaper than Avis). The man at the counter asks for my name and driver’s license, and hands me the keys in less than 30 seconds. Thank God for the Hertz Gold club. I’m driving away in my new rental in less than 3 minutes after presenting myself and my rapidly-pounding heart at the Hertz counter.
After inhaling a banana, some water and a granola bar, I sprint back out to the car and hustle to church for dress rehearsal. The choir director favors me with his patented Glare of Death when I walk in several minutes late (tardiness is universally verboten at dress rehearsals), and I scurry contritely to my seat.
With a sinking feeling, I realize I don’t have all of my music, so I have to take the walk of shame in front of the choir and director (between the two, actually) to the music cubby holes to grab it. However, my cubby is missing the music, too, so I guiltily steal someone else’s for my own nefarious purposes and dart back to my seat, feeling several dozen hot stares boring into my back as I do.
The rehearsal itself goes fine, though I still don’t have my voice back fully from my flu/bronchitis/not-pneumonia/whatever-it-was, go home and try to sleep so I can do it again tomorrow.
Let’s Get Outta Here… But Wait, There’s More!
1) The St Phillip’s First Sunday Mass saw our choir sing various movements from the Rheinberger Mass in E♭for Double Choir, which was frankly awesome. I missed singing in choir SO MUCH while I was in Okinawa.
2) I got in “one more visit” with at least a dozen friends, and ate at least half a dozen meals in great company.
3) I did almost all of the things I “needed” and most of the things I “wanted” to do before leaving town.
4) I attended my friend Kat’s baby shower, got to see Bob the Turtle and his little house, and got Kat all to myself after everyone else left so we could catch up. The great danes’ flatulence attempted (but failed) to mar our reunion and fun.
5) I got fully prepared and sorted out for showing up in Nicaragua
Welcome To Executive Class
The in-flight space, amenities and treatment definitely made up for getting misdirected to not one, not two but three incorrect terminals at LAX. I spent two hours walking around and catching shuttles to the various and sundry (wrong) terminals, and nearly missed my flight. It also made up for not being able to wear my shoes and having to wear sandals with toe-socks through the airports and airplanes. I still can’t wear my shoes, actually; I did something weird and my Achilles tendons hurt like hell when I put those shoes on. But that’s beside the point.
The point is I thoroughly enjoyed it. I got lots of extra room in the seat and also no one in front of me. I kind of sat there through most of the flight in a daze, thinking “wait, am I cool now? Am I, like, hot stuff or something? Nah. But this situation is certainly cool.” And I got off the plane feeling rested and ready for the next challenge, instead of cranky and sore and irritable like I normally would be after a five-hour flight. At six feet tall, most airplane seats are way too small for me.
The best part is the ticket only cost me ten bucks and sixty cents. Yup, $10.60, all in. Well, that and 30,000 United points, but those didn’t cost me any cash, and I can get more fairly easily. I am seriously digging this whole travel hacking thing, and it is starting to pay dividends now that I’ve been at it for 18 months.
To continue my Executive experience, I arrived at Managua airport, had my passport stamped, skipped baggage claim since I only had a carry-on, went through customs, and wandered out the airport door at 10pm. I felt horrified looking at the seething, wailing horde of friends, families, well-wishers, taxi drivers and touts just outside the doors, but my friend Eden immediately broke away from the wall-of-people and ran up to give me a hug, and I cranked down my fight-or-flight adrenaline rush. Now that was a sight for sore (and dry, and tired, and red) eyes. Thanks Eden!
Can I Have My Life Back, Please?
This is generally a good thing, but the timing was godawful-miserable, since I was booked to the gills (and then some) the days before and after my flights, and stressed-to-the-max as well. We (my coworkers and I) figured out why this timing happened a couple days later, but by then we just had to run with it and figure out how to guide the onslaught of interest in our services. We’re still running with it, and doing well, thankyouverymuch, but it has been a bumpy ride.
Therefore, my first two days in the beautiful colonial town of Granada, Nicaragua, “Paris of Central America,” “Oldest Town In The Americas,” were spent in a dark room with no windows staring intently at the soft glow of my laptop screen, tap-tap-tapping away on the keyboard, making call after Skype call to Australia, and striving mightily to keep my head above professional water. I barely took my nose out of my work, let alone enjoyed Granada. Disappointing, to say the least.
It barely even registered that I am staying in a gorgeous house until a friend demanded photographs. I snapped four shots with my iPhone in less than sixty seconds, uploaded them to Facebook over the next minute with an insipid, anti-clever comment of “my new place in Granada,” and promptly forgot about it as I buried my head back in the mountain of work and self-care I was desperately scrabbling to keep up with.
Within a couple hours, that picture-post had more likes than anything else I’ve ever put on Facebook. Go figure.
I Found My Vacation!
Have you heard of such a thing?!? I had heard of them before, and remember spending them on things other than work or logistics in the past, but it had been months since I had had one all to myself, to do with as I pleased.
I made the most of it, too. On Saturday I walked around. I lounged. I slept. I ate yummy Nicaraguan food (gallo pinto is the bomb). I gawked at the mesmerizing architecture in Granada, including the beautiful church in the main plaza in the top two pictures above. I stopped at random places for no reason and loitered unrepentantly. I sat down to Mexican food with my soon-to-be friend Anna, who just applied to nurse practitioner school, and her two British travel-buddies, and had a lovely time. Anna and I are going to meet again so we can swap stories about her Panamanian medical mission experience and my adventures.
And Sunday night, I finished this blog post, and sent it out to the world for all to see, ready for a new week and a new beginning tomorrow.