My pandemic is over

For me, the pandemic ended last week. Two things happened: 1) I spent a week with a family member who was testing positive and I didn’t get sick; and 2) Japan opened to tourists.

The first event came with a day’s warning before my husband and I took our first flight since 2019. Louise, his oldest sister, who lives in Oregon, said she had tested positive after being exposed to her husband, who lives in nursing care and had just gotten Covid. But Louise had no symptoms except a cough. We and another sister and her husband, who had planned to meet us in Oregon, decided to go ahead with the trip.

We were careful—everybody was triply vaccinated and wore N95 masks most of the time. We spent most of our time outside, walking and talking and eating. The weather was wonderful. The company was wonderful. Everybody felt fine and nobody got sick. End of story. I felt free of pandemic worry and more secure about handling Covid if I did contract it. This seemed like a real bottom line.

Maybe in the same way, Japan decided to ease out of its pandemic worry. It was shut tight to tourists for most of the last two-and-a-half years, then opened to very restricted, small, fully guided tours over the summer. But while it was still all but shut down, Japan experienced a sharp wave of the latest Omicron variety, which may have suggested that foreigners weren’t to blame. So in late August, under pressure from economic leaders, the government announced that on September 7 the country would open to most kinds of non-guided tourism, although requiring bookings to be made through travel agencies.

I’ve been tracking this closely because for the past year I have been planning a trip to Japan—planning, scheduling, and actually booking, with money down. It’s not just me—this will be a Myers Girls trip, with my daughter, daughter-in-law, and two granddaughters, ages 3 and 12. We scheduled it for November 2022, with many assurances that Japan would probably be open by then as well as contingencies for refunds or rescheduling if it wasn’t.

But we’ve been biting our nails because Japan has been the last major holdout, besides China.

Now my travel consultant assures me that our trip is 100% good to go, time to pay the rest of that considerable chunk of cash. And I am going back to renewing my Japanese fluency in preparation for a super, fully planned, self-guided, once-in-a-lifetime blast of a trip with my girls.

The end of my pandemic apparently inspires me to take up writing again.

Is your pandemic over? If so, how did it end? What did it inspire you to do?

Celebrating the end of the pandemic on Mary’s Peak, Oregon. Can you tell which one has Covid?

Soul travel 3

Since those last posts I have scratched my soul travel itch in several ways.

My husband and I flew to Phoenix for the wedding of a delightful young Congolese woman who is like a daughter to us—we’ve known Deborah and her family for ten years. This involved a weekend immersion in Congolese culture and being with Congolese friends old and new. It took me back to the color and joy of Congo without the hassle of Kinshasa traffic jams. It was even hot (much hotter than Congo ever was). Deborah married a handsome American, and he and his family were good sports about it all. Good vibes all around.

Continue reading

Soul travel 2

When I was a child in rural Indiana in the 1950s I wanted to learn foreign languages as soon as I learned that foreign languages existed. The first one I had the opportunity to study, when I enrolled in a newly established parochial high school, was Latin, so I took Latin for two years. And then a German teacher arrived, so I studied German. For some reason I shunned Spanish but the German teacher had a Francophone wife so I took French lessons from her in exchange for babysitting and enrolled in French and German classes at the local college, which I later attended, when I was still in high school. My goal became to spend a year in Europe in a study abroad but that wasn’t part of Goshen College’s program at the time and my parents said they wouldn’t pay for it; that I would have to wait till I was out of college and could go abroad on my own. Continue reading

Soul travel

Two experiences from yesterday: reading Owls of the Eastern Ice, by Jonathan Slaght, and watching a few episodes of “World’s Most Amazing Vacation Rentals” on Netflix. The former stirred longing in my soul. The latter did not.

First, the latter. The locations  three Millennials bop into and out of are exotic (whether in the USA or in any part of the world), unique, offering beauty and unusual experiences. This is travel as entertainment and consumption: eat, sleep, look, devour this place and this experience. This kind of travel asks nothing of you except your money, your sense of adventure, your stamina, and your need for something new. There is much to be said for it.

I know. I have been there, done that. A lot. I have been a tourist all over the world. However, I do not have a great desire to see more of the world in that way, especially as I am getting older and travel of any kind is more taxing. Continue reading

I lost a job

Everybody has lost something in this pandemic.

If we weigh our losses against others’, some of us could easily discount our individual losses, especially if we have been taught to count our blessings. I am alive, I am well, I have enough to eat, I have friends and family and the means to communicate with them, and I am financially secure. And it is spring. So why am I feeling sad today?

The universal experience of loss gives us an unprecedented opportunity to explore the nature of loss and mourn together. Okay, let’s have a cry now. Or a scream. Or a community howl. Or a banging of pots on porches. For everything we have lost.

Name your losses. I dare you. Think of at least one thing that you will probably never get back, even when this is over. Continue reading

Ready, set . . .

I have never been this ready to go on a trip so far in advance. One full day to go and my bags are packed, the last laundry is done, the house is clean. I even sat down with my husband this noon and helped him go over meal plans during my absence. My iPhone is loaded with escapist reading for long plane rides. I just checked us in online with Air France. Continue reading

Kafka before coffee

Recently I saw a video clip of Ellen DeGeneris receiving a multimillion-dollar contribution from Ashton Kutcher for her school in Africa. It was subsidized by a company that specializes in quick and easy global money transfers, and so to give the money Kutcher just gave his smartphone to Ellen and told her to push the button she saw onscreen. She did, and presumably the millions flowed instantly and painlessly into the right bank account.

It’s not so easy for us ordinary folks either to drum up millions or, heaven forbid, send it to Africa. Continue reading

Mbuji Mayi

Reflections during the adult literacy teacher training in Mbuji Mayi, DR Congo, April 2–8, 2018

Here is how you get your baggage at Mbuji Mayi. Passengers and guys whom you can hire to retrieve baggage crowd on one side of a low platform and the baggage is carried in through a door on the other side and stacked in a holding area while an agent examines each tag and calls a name. Or number. I can’t get close enough to tell. Continue reading

Notes from a long journey

O’Hare, 3 hours

The security line is long and slow. I have plenty of time. A baby on her mother’s shoulder smiles randomly at people. I catch her eye and smile. She smiles back.

After going through security I hold my passport and boarding pass in my hand while I put my jacket back on. As I am walking to my gate I feel something scratchy in my sleeve. It is the boarding pass. Continue reading

Miracles and uncertainties

IMG_1181I am pretty sure I will be in DR Congo two weeks from today. My plans have been playing Upset the Fruit Basket (anyone remember that game?) for the last few weeks– canceled flights and more canceled flights, schedule changes there, new plans here. My right knee decided to test my resolve by freezing up ten days ago but then came back online a few days later.

But the uncertainties on my end are minor. Continue reading