I’ve been noticing in the Facebook statuses my friends and I post, in many of the blogs I read, that we all tend to show the sunny side of things. We post the happy vacation pictures and the happy status changes: “Engaged!” “Eating at …” (insert favorite restaurant). “Fun day with …” (insert happy friends). “Ran a marathon!” “My kid just (insert accolades). Etc. I get it; I’m guilty of doing it too. Who wants to hear that you woke up cranky? That you drank to much last night? (I might have) That your marriage isn’t going quite the way you think it should be going… despite the happy anniversary status update? That it’s the first day of school, but your kid was snarky on his way out, or that you argued with your husband over breakfast (none of this happened… today)? Really. We all put the sunny side up; not just in eggs. We want our lives to look as good as we hope they can be, sometimes as happy as we wish they were.
Yet that leads to all kinds of misinterpretations and misguided beliefs: Man, she has a lot more friends than me… They go on much nicer vacations than us… Her blessings are much better than mine… Their kids are smarter/more adventurous/more successful… (insert other platitude that leads you to compare). Here kids let her snap first day of school photos, and she’s so organized that she did it. She’s always with other people. There’s always a better vacation, a thinner friend, a better marriage, a happier life, that is being posted somewhere. And still we generally post our status updates and in my case, my blog posts, in the best possible light. I write what I’m feeling or what’s happening and I try not to filter it too much, as I’ve said in previous posts. However, there are plenty of things I leave out, and I have come to believe that there is plenty of sugar coating going on on Facebook and in general.
If you read the Peru series, then you know we had one of THE best vacations ever! No sugar coating. You know that I overcame enormous anxiety and did a three day trek that kicked me around, but did not kick me down. The first day alone was huge (No Pain…)! I managed to get through that and enjoy an amazing trek (Santa Teresa…), adopted a dog for a couple of days (Machu, The Inca Dog), and eventually got to Machu Picchu. We saw lots of spectacular history and landscape in the Sacred Valley (It’s All Old in Peru…) and attended a very special wedding (Weddings and Animal Parts). Just when we thought we couldn’t be more impressed, or more blow away by Peru, we headed to The Amazon (A is for Amazing…) and got a heaping dose of Wow! We saw snakes (Is That A Snake In Your Pocket…) and I fell hopelessly in love and decided I want to adopt… a sloth (Call Me Kristen Bell). Aside from blatantly pushing my posts (in case you were busy doing summer stuff, and missed any?), I bring this all up to remind you of the distinctly sunny and upbeat tone to those posts.
It was an amazing trip, however, there is plenty that I left out. While it was the best vacation our family has ever had together, there were good and bad moments. There were times when I wanted to get on a plane and fly home, and times when I wanted to stay longer. In writing the initial blog posts, I was focused on the high points, the good stuff. These are the outtakes: a post where the details are less shiny.
The players: Principessa (P)-22 yr old daughter, just out of college (this trip was to celebrate her graduation); Middle Man (MM)-20 yr old Jr in college; Little Man (LM)- just 16, a Jr in high school; Smart Guy (SG)- the super organized, Type-A dad; and Me (in italics)… the writer of this blog and distorter of reality. So, the Peru trip… What I didn’t post:
We worked very hard to make arrangements with a group that promised to arrange kosher food for our daughter, and make sure that her Conservative (Jewish) religious needs would be met. This was all left in the hands of Smart Guy, who (to his credit) arranged pretty much all of the trip. Principessa was anxious about this, as she was worried about maintaining her religious needs, while trekking in the wilds of Peru. Well founded concerns I should note, but again, in the name of not sugar coating, she did push our buttons in the planning stages. “I’m not sure I should go… I don’t think you can really make sure things are kosher there… You don’t really understand how important x, y, or z is…” Frankly, the lists of details was mind numbing, and while we tried to be supportive parents, concerned for her needs, it drove me (I won’t speak for SG)
a little crazy.
On our very first night in Peru, Smart Guy called the tour director and as we all listened (and threw out groans and comments) from the back seat, it became very clear that
very little NONE of the things we thought we’d paid for were actually done! No kosher meals arranged, no guides who were aware of Shabbat and special travel needs, no pots/dishes/etc that were safe for cooking kosher meals… Nada. I’d love to write that we managed this with compassion and understanding, but we didn’t. We immediately jumped all over Smart Guy! “Are you kidding! What am I supposed to eat?” Principessa jumped in immediately. “I thought it was all set up…” Smart Guy responded, clearly upset. What! Thought? I thought you arranged all of this? Great! I commented snarkily and sanctimoniously (not a hint of compassion). “Really Dad, you did say this was covered…” Middle Man threw in, in case Dad wasn’t already feeling badly enough. And then we deteriorated into back and forth bickering about how Smart Guy could let this happen (How did you pick this tour company? “What did they tell you?” “Did you ask specifically about kosher?” “Now what are we going to do?” etc)… all of us completely ignoring the fact that he was feeling just as let down as anyone else in that van, probably worse. We hissed at each other, we lowered our voices… as if the Guide, sitting beside Smart Guy couldn’t hear us. This was our first night. Sunny.
I did admit in the post No Pain, No gain that I was resentful of having been duped into a trek that was much harder than I would ever agree to, and a trek that I had very clearly said I did not want to do. I left out the weeks of BS that led up to that. The cajoling on SG’s part, the bending of truths and then the out and out ignoring what I said and booking the trek when I’d said no. I left out how I behaved from the time I found out he’d booked it until we left. I was pretty bitchy about the whole thing. Initially, I took no responsibility for the fact that I could have put my foot down and just not gone. Instead, I passively-aggressively went along, knowing it would be all his fault if I was miserable. I was far too focused on how it would not work, than what I could do to make it work. Whiny and bitchy: I wore it
out well for a few weeks. I managed to pull it together and get it, about a mile and a half into the trek, but I was certainly not a good bunk mate the night before.
Smart Guy is not good at going with the flow. He needs a decisive plan of action. Flow is not really in his bag of tricks. He is absolutely an Order Muppet: Bert to the enth. Nearly every meal or outing went something like this: Smart Guy: “So, where do you want to eat tonight?” I don’t know. I’ve been reading the guide and this one sounds pretty good (read Lonely Planet entry). “I don’t think I want to go all the way over there.” Ok, how about this one ____? This could be decent. “I’m not really in the mood for a nice restaurant.” MM: “Dad, why do you ask? You don’t like any of the suggestions.” LM: “I really want to try cuy (guinea pig) tonight.” MM: “Yeah, you say you want cuy, but I don’t see you ordering it when we’re out.” LM: “I haven’t seen it on the menu! I do want to try it!” MM: “Doesn’t seem like you’re that determined…” It’s really none of your business– LM: “Shut up Middle Man! You don’t know what I’m trying to do…” SG: “Stop it! Let’s go to dinner. Just stop arguing!” MM: “So where are we going?” SG: “I saw a place by the square. Where do you want to go (speaking to me)?” Let’s try this one in the book. The menu looks good and they have music. SG: The music will probably be loud, let’s just go to the one by the square that I saw.” So why even ask me? SG: “Don’t be like that…” And so it went, pretty much every night… except when it was a buffet in The Amazon.
Pretty much every day there was some version of “Shut up!” “Mind your own business!” “Whatever.” “Please don’t speak to ____ that way.” And a few expletives. There were siblings taunting one another and ribbing each other, parents barking at each other,
adult mostly grown-kids and parents arguing over control of anything and everything. “I’m 22, 20, 16! I can handle it myself.”
In the Sacred Valley, things got pretty un-sacred. Fighting between Middle Man and Little Man was endless. While Principessa and MM managed to forge new bonds this trip, brothers found new ways to insult and harass each other, culminating in the blow up of blow ups and a minor chipped tooth. Lots of hurt feelings on all sides, mean things said and apologies rejected. It was a true low for the vacation, a true low in brotherly love.
Not every adventure went smoothly. There were a few bumps and bruises, and Smart Guy had his requisite bike crash, during his day of Mountain biking with Middle Man. To his credit, Smart Guy doesn’t whine much about scrapes and cuts, but the rest of us gave him plenty of lip about why he should give up cycling.
When we finally got Principessa’s food all sorted out and found a Kosher caterer to prepare her meals for The Amazon, we were thrilled. During the trek, it had been a hit or miss debacle, as meals were prepared in the wrong pots, non-kosher food was added to kosher and our wonderful guides floundered under the requirements of preparing a kosher meal. I’ve left out the numerous disappointed grimaces or snarky comments that came about over meals. The wonderful guides who felt guilty and disappointed every time the prepared a meal for Principessa, putting in a good effort, only to hear that it wasn’t kosher. Principessa had gone hungry a lot, eating too many power bars, and was not always in the best of spirits because of it. So we were thrilled to find this woman who promised to prepare 4 days worth of food, “pack it in dry ice for our flight and boats up The Amazon,” so that it would all be good when we arrived. We paid a
small fortune for those meals. However when we arrived to Explorama Lodge and opened the large styrofoam cooler: No dry ice, no wet ice, nothing but poorly closed containers that had been without refrigeration for about 12 hours. A soup container had opened all over the cooler and the contents were everywhere. I’d love to say that Principessa dealt with all of this with grace, but she did not. “Sh^t! I can’t believe this!” The look of confusion and horror on the Peruvian guides was priceless. Some of the food was salvageable, but much of it was thrown away… flush. Oh, right, no flush toilets.
You can’t smell us in these wonderful vacation photos. We smell really bad. We were so dirty that some of our clothes may never be clean! I wrung my socks out in the sink… socks that smelled so bad I offended myself… but they were dirty the entire trip. That doesn’t show in the picture. We all look much cleaner than we are. We smile when someone holds up a camera and no matter what else is going on in the scene, we look happy but be glad there’s not a scratch and sniff option.
On the Canopy Tour, I hinted that Little Man’s siblings may have behaved less than stellar, but the sugar free version: Mean, mean, mean! Little Man was terrified. It was a distinctly ugly scared. Lots of horrified faces, some tears and plenty of complaining. A really good family would have lent lots of support in helping him through his fears. Not us. I tried not to laugh at his terror, but I’ve owned it before: I laugh at others’ discomfort. Running from a bee? I’m wetting my pants. So I tried not to laugh. I truly didn’t think it was funny. But I did laugh. And when Middle Man caught it on film and called me on it (while defending his extremely bad behavior…), I lied and said I was laughing at my own anxiety. Nope, I was laughing at my poor Little Man who was nearly paralyzed 100 feet up. Add to his horror: Middle Man taunted him mercilessly. Shook the bridges, jumped on them behind Middle Man (making them rock and shake). He made frequent comments like: “Wow, that support looks really loose…” It was ugly. Principessa laughed along. She threw out occasional comments like: “Oh come on Little Man, this is ridiculous.” She took photos. Really incriminating photos, of Little Man’s fear. I deleted those photos when we got home… just in case you thought I might actually post them here. And where was Smart Guy in all of this? He was busy being embarrassed. “Stop that Little Man! Quiet down, people can hear you!” For this brutal record: I was right there saying the same things. Family unity and support… ‘aint it sweet?
What you don’t hear when you see all those wonderful photos are the comments. “It’s so hot!” “It’s so cold!” “Let’s go!” “These mosquitoes are miserable!” “I’m starving.” “I can’t stand you.” “You’re a jerk.” “Shut up!” “Let’s go!” “My legs, feet, back, shoulders, hurt.” “Baby.” “Let’s get going here!” “Great! Now look where we are… great map reading.” “Stop whining!” “Hurry up and take the picture.” “Let’s Go! Seriously!” “I’m starving!” “How much further is it?” “Is it much further?” “When will we be there?”
There was me asking for a sip of Middle Man’s water, and him refusing… to teach me a lesson and make a point. I was very thirsty and really needed that water. It was about Mile 10 of the 13 hour trek day. I couldn’t believe he wouldn’t share his water, and this elephant will not soon forget. Some day, he will need some water…
There were arguments and cutting remarks most days. There were times when each of us felt hurt or disappointed, times when each of us was really angry. There were also the sunny faces you see in the previous posts. We are a family that laughs a lot and we all have fairly quick, sharp senses of humor. That saved many a bad day, or tough moment. Not all of them. There were a few moments, when I really did think a flight home would be better. But in the end: it was the best vacation we ever took. No sugar coating.
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