Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Night in Despair

Last night was rough. My despair had its roots in more than one troubled soil. As you know, the past few weeks have been a challenge, mentally and physically. The cold symptoms that have lingered for weeks linger still. But this weekend a new problem sufaced. A boil on my forhead, right between my eyes that had been dormant for years suddenly went active, very active. It swelled up so that my face started to change - my eyes found themselves surrounded by puffy collars that made them appear like the eyes of an animal of some sort. And the boil itself hurt. So Monday morning I sat waiting at the local clinic for the doctor and when I finally saw her she lanced the boil but only managed to squeeze out a bit of puss. She prescribed antibiotics and told me to apply cold compresses. Today marks day three of the treatment. The swelling is down, although it was up this morning when I woke. Now it's down again after my morning dose. The boil itself is the size of the end of my pinky, like a third eye that badly wants to open but is swollen shut. The very end looks a bit gangren. But perhaps it's readying itself to burst. The doctor said I should come back today. If I go in the afternoon, there'll be a wait. Hungarian clinics don't have things lke receptionists who call your name, so you have to wait and remember when your turn has come. And others often remember differently. So if you get lost in a book you may not get in at all.

But the medicine is giving indications that it's working. And the cold also seems to be abating somewhat, likely helped by the antibiotics. So I'll stay the course and remain hopeful.

Of course, a big part of me doesn't want to take antibiotics, although I have had success with them in the past. Out friend Joan, a retired nurse and champion of raw food and yoga, advises against antibiotics unless perhaps one is in the grips of death. Her husband suggested that death itself might be better. Hmm. The infection was getting worse. I had fasted for two days a couple of weeks back and had noticed some improvement with the cold, but perhaps a longer fast was required. I reasoned that with all the work I had, I should go back to eating. My thinking now is that once these antibiotics rid my system of disease, I'll give myself a couple weeks of healthy eating, meditation and Yoga and then set off on a seven-day fast to cleanse myself.

So illness was on my mind as I lay awake. But so were my relationships with my wife and son. I want to return to an invigorating sexual relationship with Lucia. But I've felt rather emasculated around her. I've found myself blaming her for this. It doesn't have to be so. I could set time aside for us and focus on showing her a good time. This could require sending Eldar to a friend's for a night. But it's worth a shot. Soon.

Eldar I just have to spend more time with. Time is such an issue. If I get up early, then I'll have time for meditation and Yoga. No? After Vipassana I meditated at least twice a day for an hour at each sitting. And I got all that work done. Of course my cold persisted. And I didn't have time for Yoga. I suppose the solution is to get up and meditate for a half-hour, practice Yoga, work diligently and meditate for an hour in the afternoon. That sounds promising. And with work done, meditation and Yoga supporitng me, I can spend quality time with Eldar in the afternoon. We can walk outside, play in the playground, talk, build lego, etc. Promising plan.

Now is a challenging period for me. I'm 39. My life priorities are changing fast, or should be changing. My work has had me a bit befuddled. It's been challenging, but it hasn't always been comfortable. And it hasn't exactly been the product of my heart or of my choosing. And then there's the issue of insecurity as I've been living from project to project instead of going on the retainer that my lead client has spoken of many times and was the subject of my meeting with him in Sweden this past June. This was why I went and it seemed this was what was resolved. But no, it wasn't and while he's given me regular work since then, it's all been on a project-to-project basis and not scheduled or planned. And not the sort of work I can easily oursource, either. And it coflicts with other work. But I have to give it priority because it pays so much better. But I miss classroom teaching. It seems I'll have the opportunity to do more of that next semester. And of course I still pine to be involved with a world-improving project that will make everyone smile and give me a sense of worthiness.

The weather is still warm, but winter is on its way and that my add to my gloom.

But I bet a reinvigorated sex life with Lucia would improve things all round.

So this gives me some things to work on:

up early for meditation and Yoga (not stressful, but beneficial)
diligent work
afternoon meditation
quality time with Eldar
reinvigorated sex life with Lucia

And another thing: quality time with friends.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Train proves the right move

Last I remarked I was sitting in an Internet cafe waiting for the night trian from Istanbul to Ankara, bemoaning my fate, regretting that I'd not taken the bus and checked into an Ankara hotel. But as it turned out, the train was modern and comfortable. I had a bed in a couchette chamber with two very pleasant Turkish fellows, one of whom shared his breakfast of dried dates the next morning.

At 7:30 I was off the train, went to the station barber for a shave and a trim, then took a taxi to my meeting, which went excetptionally well. The planned interview was excellent and unplanned meetings with three other gentlemen hold great promise. My interviewee took me to lunch and had his driver take me to a private bus terminal where I caught a posh and spacious express bus back to Istanbul, where I am now. Once here I had a bit of trouble finding a room. The place I had in mind was fully booked and others were too expensive. I was all ready to either pay through the nose or take a tiny windowless room when I suddenly came across a lovely little place that had a spacious room with a big comfortable bed, great shower, view and a sofa, all for an excellent price. I was able to practice a good session of Yoga this morning and have gotten in a couple of good meditation sessions. I did some shopping, bought a shirt, a CD for Lucia, a dartboard for Eldar and some Turkish delicacies. Tomorrow I return to riot-racked Hungary, hoping all is well.

Monday, September 18, 2006

a lesson learned

I was flying down to Turkey from Budapest, thumbing through Lonely Planet Turkey and puzzling over whether or not to take a bus from Istanbul to Ankara (where my meeting ıs tomorrow) or to take a train. The puzzling thoughts came to me when I noticed how far away from the center of town the bus station ıs and how close the train station ıs. There was a passage on how there are now some nıce new buses going to Ankara from Istanbul. It even suggested to skip to the back of the book for a bus timetable. That is exactly what I didn't do and of course should have. I was turned off that the buses take 5-6 hours and became certain that these "new" trains take less circuitous routes, go faster and arrive sooner. I sorted out that I would take the Metro from the airport and the tram to the waterfront and catch a ferry to the domestic train station on the "Asıan" sıde of the cıty. This could take over an hour, but the reward would be a comfy rıde on a train arriving in the center of town right near my hotel at a very reasonable hour.

Well, ıt so happened that there was some greater delay than expected getting out of the airport (surprise), but I did get on the Metro and was headed toward the tram when I noticed that the train was pulling into the main Istanbul bus station. I checked the tıme to see ıt was just 2:03. With so many buses to Ankara, I could likely arrive around 8, plenty of time to shuttle in from suburban Ankara. Taking this as a sign, I exited the train and headed up the stairs. But no sooner had I reached the top that I started chiding myself for not stickıng to my decisions. So back down I went. Once the train started moving, I immediately sensed this was a mistake. But onward with the adventure, I thought. To the tram, to the ferry, across the Bosphoros. Very relaxıng. Then I hıked to the station to learn that the next train leaves at 10 p.m. and takes 9 and a quarter hours. I am somewhat consoled by th fact that I wıll save on a room for tonıght. Wıth luck I can convınce a hotel to let me shower and medıtate tomorrow mornıng for a bargaın price.

To top all this, as I was waiting for my number to be called at the train statıon ticket window, I read the train schedules ın the back of lonely planet: 9+ hours, leaves at 10. Further notes inform that the (Turkish) trains are ageing and are the "poor cousins" of buses and planes and "often crash". Wish me luck. Follow signs.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Over the hump

It's been nearly three weeks now since I came back from a ten-day Vipassana meditation course. My psoriasis has returned, the cold I picked up during the course persists. But I do nonetheless have good news to report. Before I went on the course, I was in fair enough health, but my economic standing was in question. Perhaps not too much question, but these sort of questions have a history of reducing me to a stressed out wreck. During the course, it came to me what sort of approach to take with my lead client to move things in the direction I needed them to move. Namely, I decided to invoice him for some work we had long talked about - even when I visited him in his home country way up North - but that had never actually been assigned, much less done. I would reason that since we had in principle reached agreements and work needed to begin, starting with the signing of documents and proceeding with the necessary ramp-up, it would be best to settle the initial payment first; thence keeping a good thing going. And my first working day back, this is just what I did.

Well, it didn't sort out exactly as I wanted - and I'm still not happy about that - he did quickly start feeding me other assignments - which tied in neatly with my other activities. This set the stage for three weeks of rather intense activity on my part: web research, telephone interviews, face-to-face interviews and the writing of two reports and three articles for publication. Moreover, all the organisational requirements behind all of this - and there was quite a bit - all had to be done by me. What's more, another revelation of mine over the course was how neat it could be to launch a bi-weekly collumn about energy issues for the Budapest Business Journal, something I also followed up on. So this landed me with more writing (two of the three articles mentioned above) and another face-to-face interview and a business lunch (more pleasure than pain).

Through the course of this all, my cold persisted. I wasn't getting enough sleep. On top of this work, I still had to prepare family meals and wash the dishes, put my son to bed 2-3 times a week and do the grocery shopping. I did however stick to the meditation, twice a day for an hour. I even attended a day-long mediation mini-workshop last Sunday. I worked diligently and effectively, maybe not as well as some, but very good for me. It felt all the while like I was climbing some very long ridge of mountains. I knew I would see no rest until I finished, but that the reward would be handsome once I did. OK, if not handsome, then decent enough to relax for a spell. And now I'm done.

My cold is still with me, although perhaps, hopefully not as bad as it was. Tonight I attend the 40th birthday party of an old boss. He's holding it at the big Mexican restaurant he partly owns and all the food and drinks are free. So I'm going. I won't overdo it, though. On Monday I leave for Turkey to work on another assignment for the same lead client. Once done and paid for, there will be some breating room. But not the breating room I had hoped for. But with luck, that can be negotiated in the days that follow.

Eldar continues to do well in school, although his enthusiasm has taken a bit of a dip. Today we go to the baths: Lucia, Eldar and I. Our friend Adriano arrives from Sweden this afternoon and will attend the party, too.

How nice it would be if my head cleared up and my ears stopped ringing!

Thursday, September 07, 2006

First week of school

This is my son Eldar's first week of school. After graduation from four years of kindergarted, he has moved on to first grade. A November baby, he's older than most of his classmates. It's a big adjustment, it's evident in how exhausted he's been at bedtime. But he's dealing with it well. Hungarian elementary school - esecially this one - is much more formal and rigorous than what I remember of elementary school in Fayetteville, Arkansas where I learned. Here they wear ties, have homework, learn foreign languages, play chess, all from the age of six. After the second day, Eldar's main teacher said that we should look for a different school for Eldar, that he was "dangerously hyperactive" and was distracting all the other students, that she's never seen such a disruptive child. My wife Lucia said she thought Eldar was being discriminated against because he's not technically a Hungarian - despite being born in Hungary. So we talked about a different school or transferring Eldar to another class within the school, but decided to wait until the end of the week before making any jumps. I asked Eldar what he would like to do most at the coming weekend.

"I don't know," he said thoughtfully, the smiling, "I want a lot of things."

He concluded that what he most wanted was to play with his old friends from kindergarten. So I told him if he were well behaved all week, we could have a small party for him on Saturday afternoon. So far, so good. On both Tuesday and Wednesday Eldar earned "red stars", symbols of good behavior. Red, I suppose, as a tribute to Hungary's Leninist past.

I myself have been doing my best to be on good behavior, too. Ploughing through projects to get our financial standing back for the months to come. It's meant swallowing my pride on a few things, accepting lower pay for certain gigs, stretching my patience with a certain client. but moving on without slacking. Yesterday when near my wits end, still suffering from this endless cold, Lucia advised me to take a walk. Excellent advice. It really turned me around. I came back and made a plan for the next few days. This morning I did a telephone interview with a property manager for an article I'm writing. I reached him on the third ring and the interview went smoothly and effectively over the phone. Now back to work . . . .