Monday, November 12, 2012

Just the beginning...

I wrote this blog post back in August 2012 while I was part of a research team in northern Uganda. I am just now publishing it for many reasons but primarily because I have not yet had the chance to edit it to my liking. The thoughts are free-flowing, at times sounding naive, and not yet up to my standards and typical expectations. However, here were my thoughts while I was in the formerly war-torn northern Uganda... 

This past week has been quite the experience. I am working up in the way north regions of Uganda with the people of the Acholi tribe. Some of the towns and villages are just near the border of Sudan in close territory to the people of the nomadic Karamojong tribe. Over the past week I have been conducting research with a former professor and a team of Ugandan researchers. We are carrying out a cross-cultural research study on Women's Well-Being in post-conflict, northern Uganda and how their well-being affects their involvement in the peace process. The research is carrying over into Burundi and Nepal, which are also both post-conflict zones that recently have begun peace talks. Earlier today we were in the tiny town of Pedibe, roughly an hour from the town of Kitgum, which is just near the Sudanese border, Each village we have spent time in is far, far, far from Kampala...at least 8 or so hours. Considering the condition of the roads, it takes several hours to travel from our guesthouse to the village sites each morning and each evening. We have been spending our days 'in the bush' as Ugandans would say, about two hours away at least from any town center. Then at the end of each day we return to the main town centers, which have populations ranging from about 5,000 to about 20,0000, depending on the number of cows, goats, chickens..and people. The villages in which we are working during daylight hours are much, much smaller. We are spending most of our time with the women in former Internally Displaced Persons Camps (IDP), which now have been converted to pseudo-villages where the Acholi people have settled since the rebels left Uganda in 2006. Many of the people that are living in these newly formed villages are from other regions of northern Uganda but since they were displaced due to the rebels, many of them chose to stay in the camp to which they fled. Others left their IDP Camp after the war and settled in a neighboring area, typically not near their original homeland where they had lived, farmed and prospered 20+ years earlier. Some of these areas consist of hundreds or thousands of mud and brick huts that were once surrounded by the supposed security of the Ugandan military forces, during the 26 years while Kony and his rebels terrorized northern Uganda. About 6 years ago, when Kony and his army of forced child soldiers, bush wives and followers left to hide in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic and Sudan, Uganda was officially declared war-free and the military left their posts guarding IDP camps. As the military withdrew, the unrecognizable north was devastated, almost beyond recognition. A once thriving region, known throughout Uganda as having a strong and ethical business oriented culture, was now torn apart and nearly abandoned. Most of the citizens lost countless family members in addition to losing their former land during the 26 yearlong war. While working up north, we spent our days travelling into these small villages, sitting with Women's Groups, Key Informants, and Community Leaders. Together we spoke about the women's ideas of well-being and how they would ideally envision their futures or the futures of their young children. Additionally we ask about a typical day in the life of an Acholi woman, their support groups, their social lives. So many of the women can't even try to visualize their children's futures since they own lives are so difficult. Most of the young and middle aged women farm from 5am-5pm and then spend the evenings cooking, cleaning and caring for their children and sometimes their husbands. Since leaving the camps they must re-establish farms, where they grow sweet potatoes, groundnuts, millet, cotton, corn, eggplant, mushrooms, rice, bananas, and so many other grains/veg/fruits. After spending so many years in these internal camps, many people became completely disenfranchised and dis-empowered. The older women told us stories of how their children had been killed, abducted or became disabled from the violence of the rebel attacks. They now had no choice but to maintain their farmland even as their bodies became frail and tired. I was surprised by how the elderly looked ancient, although they were at most 65 years old. One woman broke down as she shared her only wish in life which was to bury her children who were brutally killed by the rebels. Since she had to flee during the rebel attack, she never had a chance to bury them in her yard, which is the local tradition. This was the only thing in life that she wished for. The younger women we spoke with repeatedly mentioned the juggle of caring for their babies, sending their older kids to school, maintaining their farmland and also keeping their homes (huts) clean. The discussions kicked off with expected responses from the women. They emphasized the hardships they dealt with and how they had very little reason to be hopeful. Before I could check my assumptions, I quickly nodded in agreement of their struggles, especially from what I know of how hard women work here in Uganda. However, as the hours went by their anecdotes became very surprising. While living in these IDP camps, people became extremely dis-empowered, and the idle time often allowed for men to engage in heavy drinking. For 26 years they felt that their lives had became meaningless, imprisoned in a military protected compound with little to do, while they received inadequate and often times irrelevant food hand-outs from the World Food Program and other NGOs. The women took on caring for the kids and keeping the over-inhabited huts clean but since they also had little to do, many of them began brewing local alcohol, which they could trade for other goods in the camps. The barter system regained its strength, with any type of alcohol being a hot commodity. This cycle led to a high alcoholism rate, which has continued into the villages today. We even met a few men early in the week, who decided to invite themselves to these women's group meetings, the majority of whom were drunk. The following day, an older lady interrupted one of our meetings to ask a young women if she could buy alcohol...all of this happening around 12 noon. On a brighter note, it soon became apparent that not all wellness was lost. Many of the women spoke about the best part of their day being the time in the evenings when they would sit around the fire with their children, husband and neighbors and tell stories, and share ideas. A few women even gave us great details on how their favorite part of the day being when they went to bed with their husbands, after they both bathe. All the women in the groups found this to be hilarious and all started chiming in about their intimate relationships with their husband, whether good or bad! The translators we have with us surprised us when he started to explain about one woman and her explicite sexual relationship...especially since she was quite an elderly woman. Asking the women about the positive aspects of their lives was something that no organization or individual has yet asked them. Most were so used to speaking about their problems that they didn't know how to talk about future dreams and aspirations. Farming is their life and all they want is to resume peace and stability for their families and communities. They no longer want to fear their children being abducted, tortured and terrorized by rebels...or having the military contain them in camps. They want to feel at peace and they want to feel as though they have support in their rehabilitation efforts...support from the government, from their neighbors, from their husbands. When we were in Gulu, Uganda earlier at the beginning of the week...prior to going into the villages, we met with a woman named Joyce. Joyce is a 60 something year old woman who leads peace talks and encourages women's involvement in the peace process in northern Uganda. She is a political leader and advocate for women's rights. She told us about how many years ago she sat down with the parents of warlord, Joseph Kony, who live in Gulu. Kony, who is one of the most sought after war criminals and human rights abusers of all time, and is wanted by the International Criminal Court, also has a mom & dad...like most people. Joyce told us that while talking to the mother of Joseph Kony, she explained that she gave her son an ultimatum that only a mother could make. She told him, "You must either surrender now, give up the fighting and the terrorizing and come home to see me, your mother, before I die and then face your punishment....or take your fighting and your war and leave our country. Stop torturing our people and just leave and never come back." Right after he spoke to her on the phone, he chose to leave Uganda and headed into Dem. Republic of Congo and then to South Sudan. Her words must have had some impact... The roads here are horrendous and therefore accidents or car sickness are very possible. On day three our car got stuck in deep mud on a very rocky dirt road. We slipped into a ditch and couldn't get out. We had about 13 village men push and pull our car out with their bare hands. we gave them the equivalent of $4 as a 'thank you' and were on our way. Of course that $4 was split 13 ways...probably spent that money on soap to clean the mud off of themselves or drinks to warm up the rainy night. The following day we drove deep into another small village, crossing a small bridge over wetlands to get there. After our meeting with the women, and about 2 hours of heavy rain later we got back in our car to leave. when we were approaching the small bridge we noticed about 50 or so people standing around. Then we noticed that the bridge was gone. In fact, the swampland had turned into a full on river with white water rapids covering the bridge and flowing very fast. We were stranded, since there was no other route to exit the village which didn't also take us to other bridges that were also flooded and submerged by many feet of water. After hours of standing, laughing, and slightly stressing...and coming up with impossible solutions, we finally had a four-wheel drive vehicle come from our partner organization and drive straight through the deep river rapids to pick us up. ...and that was just the beginning.



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Shoe String Living, with a Ugandan twist

It's amazing how everything can be going so smoothly in life but the stress of finances, or lack of finances, can sneak up and remind you not to get too comfortable. How can we forget about paying student loans, rent, utility bills, transport... Unfortunately, most of the people in the world today, including myself are struggling to get by. Its not a good feeling, in fact, it can cause a great deal of stress and anxiety. So I decided to make a list of easy ways to save on money while living in Uganda. Some smart, some not. How to make ends meet while living your dream life: Find a partner who is wealthy...but where is the fun in that? Better to struggle with someone who can commiserate. Survive off a diet of road side popcorn and pineapple...done and done. Find ways to save on bills...not owning a fridge and dining by candlelight help! Carpool to work, or Boda-boda pool...the more the merrier. With helmets of course! Spend less money on clothes...easy when the only good clothes shopping is at second hand markets, like Owino or Nawaka market, prices rarely going above $5. Try not to eat out for meals....or stick to street meat. For upscale occasions go to a local hole-in-the-wall restaurant where the kitchen is a woman crouching in the back room with a giant pot. Eat leftovers...hard to do when you don't have a fridge. However, a good diet tip... Spend less money on drinks...or find someone who will pay for them! Go on inexpensive holidays...as long as you can handle sharing the public transportation with chickens and goats, then an island getaway in a 1 star campsite Use less hot water...umm...no thanks, will splurge on this one!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Noise.

My first six weeks back in Uganda and I have already found myself in familiar territory. A new home, which Isaac and I will soon inhabit, new ideas, and many new faces. All of which have kept me busy during my most recent return to Uganda. As always, during my returns to the Pearl of Africa, I find myself having internal dialogues on many different levels. As someone who typically thrives off of the company of others, and in the past has openly expressed my frustration towards the sometimes cold and harsh anonymity of certain cities in the USA, I now find myself longing for moments of alone time. Time and space where I can just be without distractions or company. If you crave solitude, then Kampala is not the place for you. If you notice, I said Kampala, and not Uganda as a whole...because each region of Uganda is very unique. Each district brings with it different cultures, diverse landscapes and varying population densities. So in some areas of Uganda it may be possible to be "alone." With all that said, Kampala is not one of those places. Being a highly overpopulated city, Kampala is defined by its sounds (and maybe also its smells...and sights. But more on those senses another time). From the revving engines in constant traffic jams, car breaks screeching, street preachers shouting the words of God as they stroll through the rolling city hills, street dogs howling to eachother throughout the night, vicious cat fights at midnight, roosters waking at up daybreak, and finally the constant inquiry of neighbors, friends, co-workers, strangers and boda-boda drivers asking "how are you?" While in Uganda I rarely feel lonely. However, I often feel overwhelmed. Its a feeling I often felt while living in Harlem this past year and a half. I realize that the word 'overwhelmed' often has a negative connotation, but in my case, I think I enjoy that feeling. If not, then why do I seek it out? The idea of not knowing how to fit in somewhere...not knowing how to speak a language...not knowing all the social customs. All of which I go through on a daily basis...and yet, I keep coming back for more. I guess I would prefer to be overwhelmed, than underwhelmed. Ironically, as I write this I am sitting in silence. There are no cat fights, dogs howling, or car horns outside my open window. It is just quiet...with a very low rumbling of neighbors voices beyond the gate, in the far distance. Maybe that is what has inspired me to write this evening, after such a long time with no words. Perhaps I have been using all my words to talk, question, inquire, learn...in an attempt to be less anonymous and more in sync with my surroundings.

My Place.

As I began to write this evening I came across a draft of a blog post that I never posted. It doesn't necessarily have a beginning, middle, or end but its a stream of consciousness I had one winter night in NYC about 6 months ago. Here is a piece of my mind... from February 2012: My orange and yellow swirled comforter is strewn with text books, printed journal articles, one mini laptop, and a growing pile of dirty clothes, or are they clean? With barely enough room to squeeze in by the head of the bed, I look around at the mountain around me with blurred vision while mentally calculating the number of days, hours and minutes remaining this semester. As I complete my final semester of graduate school, I wonder how I got here in the first place. School never came first for me. It was always a distant 2nd, 3rd or 4th to a social life, travelling, my interest in all things Africa, and pretty much anything else I could find to do outside of the classroom. So how did I end up back in the classroom?? While diving head first into my last semester of my Masters in Global Social Work the light at the end of the tunnel is finally growing brighter. This program focuses on social relationships, eradicating societal oppression, understanding concepts of privilege and power, recognizing the incredible power of human resilience as well as individual and communal coping mechanisms, and last but not least, how to be a good listener. On May 29th, 2012 Hunter College School of Social Work will let loose dozens of overtly empathetic Social Work graduates who will attempt to make the world a better place. After countless lectures, papers and discussions revolving around the client-clinician relationship, the importance of cultural relativism, and initiating conversations with our clients that may not be 'comfortable', it has become clear that if you don't care about other people, this is probably not the right career for you. As one professor boldly stated, "you don't have to like all of your clients, but you have to care about them." Turns out I do care...at times a little too much. I realized this trend years ago. As a young child I lost sleep over the starving trivialized babies I saw on infomercials; I worried about the zoo animals which weren't free to live on their natural Savannah's; as a young adult I was baffled by racism and sexism and all the "isms"; I grew frustrated by what I saw on the news, the biased, flawed, insensitive words coming from the mouths of the ridiculously glamorized media personalities; I felt the need to explore each and every catastrophic human rights offense that teachers barely skimmed over in class. For a young person, notions of global injustice weighed heavy on my mind and I didn't know how to sit with it and I didn't know how to change it. Always searching for my place in the world, my big dreams led me to follow the path less taken and eventually roam continents. I steadily increased my financial debt, filled and refilled my passport pages, and consciously disregarded any need for a comfort zone, which most people unknowingly crave. As you can see from my previous blogging...I have taken over a dozen transcontinental flights over the biggest oceans and the smallest countries, and I have seen the most shocking, the most stunning and the most incredible hidden treasures that this world has to offer. Yet, there is still so much more that I need to see and do. Despite my families artistic eye and love for modern architecture, my interests somehow lie elsewhere. My love for visual beauty lies in landscapes and faces, not necessarily the structures in which they inhabit, worship, or work. My love for social relationships thrives on in-depth conversations with new friends, casual small talk with local shop owners, and sharing a genuine hug or a long-lasting hand shake with someone who I may not share a language with.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Equator Bound

June 13, 2012 I said my emotional goodbyes in New York to friends and family and I am now finally in transit on my way to Uganda...again. My final weekend in New York was spent with every shade of Gray...my dads family crossed the border from Canada into the US and spent the weekend celebrating with me, my parents, grandparents who came up from Florida, along with my brother and his girlfriend who flew in from Portland, Oregon. From pond walks, to simple hikes around Thatcher Park, to a giant dinner out with live music and a surprise song dedication from my grandma and guest guitar performance of Brown Eyed Girl by my uncle, the past weekend was a blur of people and activities. After a teary goodbye to my parents and some last minute phone conversations at JFK airport, and I was finally on my way. I am now three quarters of my way to Uganda, and the plane has a 10 hour layover in Cairo, Egypt. After an 11 hour overnight flight, our plane landed in this desert country and those of us who are passing through Egypt and heading to the next destination were given an option to be put in a hotel for the day or to go on a tour of the Pyramids and Sphinx. Since I have been to Cairo before, back in 2006, I opted to relax and shower at the hotel before boarding my 2nd leg of the trip to Uganda. However, after sitting in my hotel room for 5 minutes I decided to bargain for a cab ride around the city...I find it hard to sit still especially when the opportunity to to experience a new culture is right outside my window. Cairo is a vast sea of sand-washed buildings, layered with satellite dishes and laundry lines. The cars weave in and out of eachother without a single horn honk. The near misses that my bus made from hitting other cars caused me to brace myself at every turn, however none of the Egyptians in the vehicle seemed to flinch. I guess I'm reminded of my startle reflex and need to get used to the loose road rules again. After the intense driving and honking of NYC I find the silent tapestry of cars in Cairo welcoming. I bargained my way into an inexpensive ride to and from a beautiful new park that was just built in the center of Cairo. As I paid the 50 cent entrance fee and entered the green oasis, my eyes were drawn to the fountains, neat rows of palm trees lining paths that sprung in every direction like spider legs, and the patches of green grass that were so vibrant against the blue sky and sand beige buildings that were in the horizon. Everywhere I looked I saw school groups of young uniformed children laughing and shouting, couples with interlocked hands, women with young babies in their arms, and men chasing after toddlers. Not any different than Central Park. The only noticeable difference was the women dressed in burqa's, hijabs, and niqabs, plus the astounding dry heat that left me parched after walking around the park for 40+ minutes. On the drive back to the hotel my taxi driver offered to buy me Aseer Asab, which is a rich sugar cane juice, that is sold on the side of the road in class mugs. We each enjoyed our drink while sitting in the car and then were on our way, only to be blocked by a donkey and cart a few miles up the road. Cairo, being such a modern city, has massive highways and overpasses, however the occasional donkey can still slow down even the fastest drivers and fanciest cars. Tomorrow, at 3:30am I arrive in Uganda. The emotions and expectations behind this long awaited, long term landing are mixed, however even the shuttle driver in NYC could read the excitement on my face as he dropped me off at JFK airport. More to come....x

Friday, March 23, 2012

City of Lights



On Christmas Eve Eve we hopped on a plane and made our way to picturesque Paris (read: Paree). The best part of flying with a non discount airline (Ryan Air, Easy Jet) other than being allowed checked luggage is the complimentary drinks. Thank you for the crisp champagne Air France and for flying from Tegel to Charles de Gaule.





On Christmas eve, we were joined by a good friend and went for Raclette at a cute restaurant in Montmarte (home of Amelie Poulin and Moulin Rouge) and subsequently swore off cheese for the rest of 2009 (unsuccessfully).


Of course we walked around looking for all the tourist sights and architectural gems the city has to offer, but I'll let Lucas cover that story. We constantly got caught in the trap surrounding Notre Dame Cathedral, where we took our Christmas 2009 photo.


We saw lots of other stuff too, among our favorites, Le Centre Pompidou and Avatar in 3D.


After many exhausting days of walking the city, we twice sat down to a movie. The second was Max et Les Maximonstres (Where the Wild Things Are). those French, they have a new word for everything!
 


Thinking it would be a fun experiment, I only brought along our zoom lens (55-200) which Luke enjoyed at some times more than others (we practically had to walk to les Champs Elysees to get a full shot of the Eiffel Tower).



When all was said and done Paris was an amazing place. It is the perfect city for a walking holidays. Everything is pretty compact, the streets are beautiful, the lights glimmer and the food is wonderful. The architecture, both old and new, is captivating and the museums have incredible art of every style. Definitely consider it for your next destination.

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Thursday, March 8, 2012

Swiss Interlaken, the absolute destination



By TripandTravelBlog

The Swiss Interlaken is a city that belongs to the canton of Bern. It is one of the most popular travel destinations in the country and the major part of the inhabitants are engaged in businesses related to tourism.According to this travel blog, it is located in an idyllic location and specifically "between the lakes" (as the name implies) Brienzand Thun. It is one of the oldest tourist resorts in Switzerland and still the most popular because of the remarkable picturesque scenerey and its proximity to the always impressive and snowy mountains of Gioungkfraou.

Interlaken is also one of the main destinations specializing in alternative, sports and nature tourism. So each year thousands of sports enthusiasts and adventure come to practice every kind of activity like hiking, rafting, skiing, climbing, even anemopterismo freefall which looks like a well-made travel infographic. The most famous sporting event in the region but the marathon is the Jungfrau. So since 1993 and each September this mountain in the Swiss Alps with a height of 4158 feet hosts perhaps the largest mountain marathon in the world. Each time participants surpass their 35,000 and come from 35 different nationalities. The race covers 42.1 kilometers, starts from the town of Interlaken, through paths of rare beauty, reaches a height of 2205 meters and ends after a sharp and painful descent. So realize that the options for practicing sports and alternative activities are infinite simply obtain a good mood and depending on how much you choose the sport that suits you. If you are still no sportsman would not be bad to visit the city in September which is the time of the marathon since then the city comes alive from the huge crowd of visitors.


Thank you to our firends at The Trip and Travel Blog
also check out www.talkitect.com

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Monday, February 13, 2012

Winter's Call to Escape


As the long winter nears it's peak and spring is just around the corner, yet seems like ages to arrive, it is the time of year many of us dream of heading off to warmer climates. It's my second full winter since calling Portland home and I am starting to feel the itch to travel again. There are so many places I have yet to visit, cultures I have yet to experience, people I have yet to meet. Unfortunately commitments -  jobs, a new house, finances - keeps me grounded and close to home. Only the internet offers glimpses of far off destinations, chats with friends bring me back to places I once lived, old photographs remind me of travels once taken. Glimpses of sun have kept this winter relatively tame, mild weekends allow for being outdoors. Yet the cold still penetrates and the wind still rips through layers. Rain falls at unexpected hours, mid-commute and shelterless on my bike.

I am hoping to travel again soon. A trip to San Francisco beckons. Weekend adventures on the road await the not to distant future. Summer plans are starting to take shape. However, they all focus on the adjacent region, familiar landscapes. I still look to map and wonder where I should aspire to go next. Perhaps hiking in Peru, visiting family in Uganda, catching up with an old friend in South Africa or taking holidays in Lanzarote.

Until then I will enjoy exploring life in Portland. Seek out diversity in city that is greatly lacking it. Plan for adventures both close and distant.



also check out www.talkitect.com

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Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Storm.

**Written August 2011


From the tropical Ugandan rain showers to the floods of New York's Hurricane Irene I have literally gone from one storm to the next. After a weekend trip to Jinja, Uganda, then a full day of flying across continents and through time zones, and finally a shuttle bus from the New York City airport up to Albany I eventually found myself in the comfort of my parents home. The jet-lag followed close behind as I enjoyed the ease and comforts of my parents clean house, washing machine, home cooking, and lots of attention. My final weeks in Kampala were a mash-up of wrapping up work projects, a going away party at always packed dive bar, a much needed trip to Jinja, a final dinner with good friends, and of course, one overly emotional goodbye at the Entebbe airport at 3:30am. As I passed through the luggage check and stopped by the Ugandan customs counter at 4am the overly energetic immigration officer told me that he was sad to see me leave and would welcome me back at anytime. This customary friendliness was all the reassurance I needed to move forward and realize that once again this wasn't a final goodbye, but merely another stamp to add to my crowded passport.

The tears didn't come immediately as they had in the past, not until I was flying over the Egyptian deserts did I feel a pang of loneliness, which I knew would pass with time. Luckily, I slept the second leg of my journey, a 13 hour flight from Egypt to NYC, and arrived in a daze.

My three months in Uganda, in combination with the expansive time I had spent there over the past 6 years, were extremely rewarding. My internship with the Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission of HIV (PMTCT) research, and my time living with Isaac and other friends, was interesting and comfortable. My colleagues at the internship were some of the warmest and most knowledgeable people I had ever met, and I will miss them immensely. They taught me so much about PMTCT, clinical research, community outreach, and more about Uganda than I had ever known.

My time with Isaac was of course, way too short, but until I finish school, the next chapter of our relationship will have to exist via phone, texts, skype, email, and every other possible form of transnational communication. There's the old saying that "If it's meant to be it will be" but I believe that if it is meant to be then both people will work very hard to make it be. Life is not easy. I have seen people struggling to survive with the bare minimum, and those who have it all yet fight within themselves. I wish I had the answers and knew how to overcome the tough times, but until I do, I will just try my best to be grateful for those things that inspire me, and keep the people I love close to me, whether it be in-person or in spirit.

Next week I will be visiting my sister and brother in the beautiful Portland, Oregon...then it's time to head back to New York City!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Global Love.

The Long Distance Relationship is now a pandemic, spreading through the human population at an alarming rate. Like a rampant disease, debilitating hearts and souls one by one.

As industrialized nations continue to breed generations of restless youth, who neglect paying off their university debts in favor of travelling to and living in the far corners of the globe, the probability of international love increases exponentially.

Over the past 7 years, since I started travelling extensively, I have met countless international couples madly in love, and heard innumerable stories of heart wrenching separations as partners were torn apart by visa expiration's, societal pressure, employment and grad school opportunities, or obligations at "home." Until I joined this elite, yet humble community of Long Distance Loves, I could not clearly understand what it was like to be living two completely separate lives at the same time.

The first thing I have learned is that 'I never am where I am.' No matter how hard I try to live in the present and enjoy the company around me, I am always somehow a bit detached. Whether it be daydreaming about the summer that I just spent living with my taller half, or dreading the looming grey winter months and when my partner and I will see each other next, I am always partially removed from my surroundings. My days are spent wishing he was preparing dinner for me at home, while my nights turn into garbled yet vivid dreams of reality mixed with illusive angst.

The second thing I have come to depend on is the constant stream of texting, emailing, skyping, calling, but most of all future planning, that envelopes a long distance relationship. The authoritative time zones are our "Great Wall" between my morning and his night, afternoon and twilight, awake and asleep. While the widening gap between the northern and southern hemisphere becomes exaggerated by unstable electricity, fluctuating currency rates in times of economic hardship, and incomparable technology advances, for some the mental connection can begin to erode. Compared to a long distance relationship from the 1970's, where letter writing and the occasional expensive phone call may have been the only source of transnational communication, we seemingly have it easy. However, for a relationship to survive in an era where we all feel the need to be constantly connected to everyone, a day of no text messages or emails feels like a month, and a week may even feel like a lifetime.

The most important thing I have come to realize over the past couple of years, is that above all, the one thing that has kept us strong, is trust. Despite the games that my mind can play, I have to remain sane and focus on the person I fell in love with, not the cautionary tales that plague the media or stories from others. I, along with dozens of friends who are also battling with the Long Distance blues, must remember that this is not 'fate' or 'by chance' that we are with who we are with. It is a choice we make, with our partners, and one we should bend with and grow with each and every day.

If cities, states, countries, time zones, oceans, great lakes, continents, languages, culture, visa's, technology, and 24 hour flights haven't weakened our bond, diluted our friendship, nor diminished our passion then maybe this is the real thing after all. Maybe this is what love is all about. Finding that person who is there when the infatuation begins and who will still be there day after day ...near or far...when daily life sets in.