It has been awhile since I’ve updated the blog, and I’ve been getting some worried emails about the it. I am indeed alive, and have been in New York City and Montreal, spending time with friends and family and getting myself back on track.
Despite not being too mobile (I am currently doing physical therapy for my ankle, which I sprained in Cape Town by turning my ankle into a pothole while carrying my big (18kg) pack, so the extra weight did a nice bit of damage), I’ve spent my days wandering around my area of Brooklyn Heights. I am determined to get from sickness to travel, to get back out there and continue with this trip that I have planned for so long.
Happily, my green zone has been expanded to a larger radius – I was very stir crazy with my mere 6 blocks! For those of you outside the East Coast, Brooklyn Heights is the area directly across the East River from Manhattan and is zoned primarily as a “landmark district” and thus the buildings – beautiful old carriage houses, ornate brownstones and distinguished mansions – are all protected by the landmarks department. The first “suburb” from New York City, it used to be connected by a ferry to Manhattan but is now reachable by subway (over 6 subway lines go under the river to stop in Brooklyn Heights). Montague Street, the main street in the area (and by “main” I mean “four blocks long”) leads from the Brooklyn Courthouse down to the East River, and was named after Lady Mary Wortley Montague, famous for vaccinating English children for smallpox after seeing it ravage Turkey while her husband served as ambassador for King George I.
After staying in New York for the better part of the month, I spent the past weekend in Montreal for my grandfather’s 90th birthday.
For those of you who know me well, you know how incredible this man truly is. At 90, he still works out at the Y twice a week, bowls an almost perfect game and volunteers to give out meals with Meals on Wheels – despite the fact that most of the recipients are far younger than he.
After a lifetime of raising a family and helping others, it was wonderful to see him summarize that full life in front of a room of his loved ones. And, in this era of cynicism and skepticism the story of how my grandparents met (fortuitously crossing paths on a Wednesday evening) continues to awe and amaze. I’ve told their story hundreds of times and every recipient of their fateful encounter has been equally moved by it. My grandfather, stationed in the South of England with the Canadian Air Force and my grandmother, a British woman from Southend-on-Sea, were each engaged to other people when they they stumbled upon each other as my grandfather was making his way to his weekly poker match “with the boys”. He was, he says, “stunned by her beauty” and stopped to talk to her. After an evening of walking on the beach, which bled into a white night of sharing their dreams and lives lived, he proposed to her as the sun came up. His eyes still tear up when he says he knew that she was his soulmate the second he laid eyes on her.
There is more to the story without which I would not exist: my grandfather was supposed to board a boat to Newfoundland before going to England but was put on a plane instead – the boat sunk, killing everyone on board; he was supposed to be stationed in the north of England but his friend managed to wrangle a post in the south on my grandfather’s behalf, where he ended up meeting my grandmother; and the factory where my grandmother worked part-time was bombed to the ground during the war, killing everyone inside…but she happened to be sick at home that day. As a product of this beautiful union, it’s hard not to shout this story from the rooftops (I suppose the blog will have to suffice, right?). They were married for over 52 years before my grandmother passed away, and spent most of their life in Montreal with their three children. Though I was supposed to be in Tanzania last weekend, Montreal was the only place I wanted to be on Saturday night….even if it took antibiotics, steroids and a whole lot of coughing to get me there.
I’m back in Brooklyn now and am heading to San Francisco for a wedding next week – my first time visiting that city. Post-wedding, I am excited to reunite with the lovely Neda (who we met in Argentina and who served as our “resident medical resident” in Chile and Bolivia), though I’ve warned her about my ankle doctor’s “hill veto” – trolleys it is!
For the rest of August, I’ll be staying put in NYC.