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Aug 17, 2007
V 35 Issue 33

 
 
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Cost of the
War in Iraq
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Tour De Life by Beau Burriola
Moving
by Beau Burriola - SGN Foreign Correspondent

"You're a Seahawks fan then," declared the lady in the seat next to me when I mentioned that I was from Seattle. Since takeoff, she had been talking energetically of football, showing me snippets from two football magazines she carried, and quoting from a biography of an NFL coach, a story she insisted I go right out and buy. Not only was she a Buccaneers fan, she was on her way to three days of spring training and workshops this very flight.

"Not exactly," I started to answer, but then stopped. I didn't have the heart to tell her that I didn't care for football or stories about coaches or sports magazines. Explaining how I grew up in the maniacal football land of Texas, was forced to play it every year, and grew to despise the whole 'manliness' of its fans - and presumed anti-manliness of its detractors - seemed too much to relay to this unknown lady with the hair of a news anchor, the sun dress of a church organist, and the massive, gruff voice of a drill sergeant. Before I had to answer, the drink cart came around, she ordered a scotch and soda and returned anxiously to her book. Somewhere nearby, two earlier-acquainted passengers debated about the elections and Iraq. A baby cried. I put in my ear plugs and fell asleep.

Twelve hours later, when I boarded the flight from Miami to Port au Prince, Haiti, I knew right away there would be no more talk of football or elections. When I sat into my seat, a healthy older woman appeared right next to me in the aisle with a bundle of belongings about four feet tall and wide balanced neatly on her head. She gestured freely with her hands that the seat on the other side of me was hers and, before I could get up to let her in, barrelled right through to it. The conversation around me was a mix of Creole and French. I was clearly a foreigner.

The further I got from Seattle, I felt the reality of the distance from home envelop me. Trying to sleep, instead I was thinking of how I got here. One year ago, I had no plans to leave. Seattle was home. I was thinking about how it all changed, how taking my three-year relationship to the next level meant packing up my practical life and doing something totally impractical, like going to French Guiana for a long while and starting a new life closer to him in Florida.

I was thinking about how I used to travel with my dad around the country and how we used to hold our breath when we crossed a state line - how far I've gone on my own since then.

I was thinking about how, but for all the improbabilities in the universe lining up one night three years ago on February 6th, the last three years - Sicily, Greece, all those trips to France, all the maintenance of a very long distance relationship, and now going to a tiny place on the edge of the Amazon rainforest - would never have happened.

Surely there is a reason. The dreamer in me is counting on it. Only time will say if this was all a huge mistake. I fell asleep. Just over 36 hours after leaving Seattle, I arrived in Cayenne, French Guiana, among palm trees, thick forest, and boiling, sticky air. On my way through passport control, when it was my turn to step to the window, I briefly held my breath while I stepped over the yellow line. On the other side, with my bags, I was ready for a new start.

Some people never go far from home and are forever happy about it. Life is easy and predictable. They go to work, put away for retirement, and have nice homes and good health plans. Others - lunatics surely - give all that stability up for reasons they can't quite describe, with no more justification than what they feel in their gut or some hopeful, vague, unsure dream they throw all their time and money into. I am now a big, fat lunatic.

A little more sure and a lot more excited, I fell into the most reassuring hug of my life.

Beau Burriola is a writer slathered in mosquito spray just outside the Amazon. beaubrent@gmail.com
visit Beau at www.beaubrent.com
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