Friday, June 24, 2005

Once upon a time, three lifetimes ago...


…there was a girl named Erica who lived in a far off place called Bealanana, Madagascar.


But then her fairy godmother, in the form of the US Government came along and offered her a round-trip ticket to her home in the United States and spending money for 30 days’ stay in paradise. Unfortunately, the fairy godmother forgot that life is much more expensive in that glorious land, but that’s when Erica’s magical parents took over to fill the gap between governmental godmothers and reality, to help her trip home truly seem like kind of dream come true. They picked her up from the magical, world-touring chariot station and whisked her off through the night on miraculously smooth roads in a carriage ride so silent they could actually have a conversation as they went. Over the course of the next weeks, Erica was treated to an unending spectacle of amazing events, including, but certainly not limited to:


·         Attending her sister’s college graduation, cousin’s high school graduation and spending magical hours together with her family

·         Driving down to her alma mater to see her mentor celebrate her retirement and to discover her own name on a door dear to her heart

·         Just driving period (and covering more miles in an hour than she could in a day in Madagascar)

·         Seeing her best friend’s beautiful new home and other friends together as husband and wife (and Dr. and Professor!) for the first time

·         Canoeing down the much-loved waters of Eagle Creek (after getting her and her sister lost because she is turned upside down from living in the southern hemisphere for two years and is convinced north is south)

·         Sharing her story with several amazingly patient audiences who were resigned to listen to a babbling sentimentalist going on about two years in the middle of nowhere

·         Enjoying lots and lots and lots (and lots) of really, really good food in even better company

·         Shopping for good shoes that will last the next year (or at least more than a couple of weeks)

·         Viewing in a huge, comfortable theater both Star Wars III and Madagascar, the Movie (verdict: first one, good; second, depressingly bad  – don’t see it)

·         Experienced the absolute miracle of LASIK eye surgery, transforming her nearly -6 nearsightedness into 20/20 vision in a matter of minutes (oh, wow) and bought her first pair of good sunglasses in celebration (and hasn’t lost them yet!)

·         Was diagnosed with both mononucleosis and giardia (an intestinal bug that usually causes a lot of problems and isn’t easily convinced to go away) – who would’ve known except that she just had a physical and had to have her blood drawn?    


So Erica had an absolutely wonderful time in the magical kingdom of whole-wheat bread, good candy/granola bars, smooth roads, an efficient and reliable postal system (thanks, Bob!), durable shoes and more choices in cosmetics than she ever cares to face again; but all too soon it was time to move beyond “happily ever after...”


Because that magical, world-touring chariot came back to whisk her away once again, back to the bottom, right-hand side of the world, and back to real life (which isn’t so bad, just not Disneyland).

But our little girl didn’t go back to her old life - she grew up and moved to Fianarantsoa, a big town with a big name and a big job waiting for her. No more sitting on the steps watching the chickens peck at invisible grains of rice in her yard; no more leisurely walks to and from the market chatting with everybody she sees on the way; no more heckling the school children as they walk by in the mornings, noon and night; no more long nights by candlelight hand-writing long aerogrammes home to the family.

Now she is a member of a team, she has a desk with a roll-y chair, in an office, complete with electricity, printer, photocopier (okay, an all-in-one machine) and Internet access.

Now she has 2 bedroom (not just 2 room) apartment with running water, reliable electricity, sofa, chairs and coffee table, CD player stereo, refrigerator, gas stove and (*gasp*) a water heater connected to a fantastic shower!

Now she can walk down the street and buy olive oil and tea in teabags. And go get a hamburger.

AND – she has a cell phone!!!

Honestly, with all of this, who needs happily ever after?