Sunday, November 23, 2014

Four weddings, London and Boulder...

Three months of silence, and for that I apologize, but there are good reasons. As for the reasons, I'll leave those for a later post (but -- here's a teaser -- a hint can be found below) or in person, over a good beer.

Andrea and Ian with me officiating at their wedding on Oct. 25.
I began writing this to chronicle three weddings -- on three successive Saturdays: the first on Saturday, Oct. 25, of our wonderful son, Ian, to the equally wonderful Andrea Garcia aboard a big boat on San Francisco Bay (with the rehearsal dinner at my favorite SF eatery, The Stinking Rose, a garlic restaurant, where we hooked up with good friends Jerry and Valerie Rollison from Montana, Bill and Mary Garrison from North Carolina and, of course, Ian's sister, Jennifer, and grandson Adam); the second on the following Saturday at ("Yippee!") Boulevard Brewing in Kansas City with an Africa connection (former student Jack Weinstein and his lovely bride had just returned from two years in Swaziland), and the third shortly after our return to Uganda of two wonderful journalists who work at the Daily Monitor.

But this posting will concentrate on another wedding almost 43 years ago. A warning to anyone living in London: We've decided to spend our 43rd wedding anniversary in London. We'd like to see all we know there, as well as getting tips on what to see (and avoid). We arrive Dec. 10 and leave Dec. 16.

The latest chapter in this story began in September when Joyce and I unexpectedly (and somewhat stealthily) left Kampala for Lawrence (for reasons I will detail at some point when I've ultimately left this part of the world, but the issues were and are serious, which are underscored by this comment from the leadership of the Nation Media Group's operations in Tanzania at a meeting in Nairobi: When they found out who I was, the leader of the group said, "Oh, you're the guy ruffling feathers!" He was being euphemistic.)

After sneaking out of Uganda, I returned a week later, leaving Joyce in Lawrence to tend to things at home in Kansas. That resulted in something Joyce and I decided will never happen again: being separated. The three-plus weeks until my return in mid-October was the longest separation from each other in our almost 43 years of marriage. It was tougher than either of us had imagined. Chats, every day without fail, on Skype helped, but it simply wasn't good enough. We decided we depend -- and love -- each other too much to endure that long a time apart ever again. Perhaps, just perhaps, it was the distance (8,000 miles), the time difference (8 hours at the time), her being comfortably at home and me in a hotel (nice, but...) in a land far away with tumultuous, often disruptive, demands at work, and our ages (being in a routine at this point of our lives), but nevertheless we came to a decision: never again.

Gratefully, the separation came to an end on Oct. 17, when, on that Friday (shortly after midnight), I boarded British Air (a wholly unpleasant flying experience, BTW, the worse so far from Africa) for the flight home to reunite with Joyce.

I arrived late afternoon the same day (thanks to the 8-hour differential at the time). We drove home, ordered Tad's Pizza (supreme, of course; Ugandan pizza is OK, but not great), immediately drank some good IPA (which is absent in Uganda, as noted in earlier posts), and got some well-needed sleep (because I don't sleep on airplanes, unlike Joyce who's snoring before takeoff: "Ahh, a 12-hour nap.").

The next day, we ran some errands and greeted a few folks, including Brenna Hawley, whose wedding to Dennis I'll be officiating in March, before packing to catch the just-before-midnight departure from downtown Lawrence for the two-day relaxing ride (in a sleeper Roomette) on Amtrak to LA and, ultimately, San Jose for the big event the following Saturday: Ian and Andrea's wedding.

After a week of (for the most part) taking it easy, wedding day came -- with some hitches. When San Francisco played it's way into the unlikely pairing with the Kansas City Royals for the World Series, it caused a bit of a problem. Ian and Andrea had booked their wedding on a rather large boat/ship that would cruise San Francisco Bay. Unfortunately, the dock from which it was to depart was immediately next to the stadium where Game Four of the World Series was to be played. Booked months earlier, Ian and Andrea had no idea that the World Series would be playing that night. In fact, had the National League won the All-Star Game instead of the American League, the game that night would have been played in Kansas City, not San Francisco. (C'mon National League...you can't win even though you make their pitcher go to bat.)

So, two things: The point of departure had to be switched to across the Bay to Alameda, and we had to hire a bus to transport all the good folks who'd already committed to staying at hotels in downtown S.F.

Despite the World Series, the wedding went well (with excellent officiating, if I do say so myself, but endorsed by the wedding photog who said it was the best ever though he likely says that to everyone), and the cruise of the Bay was great, too, though we knew SF was winning because we were on the bay right outside the stadium where we could hear the cheers of delight as SF swamped KC that night.

The happy couple (Joyce and I) left the next day, another wonderful two-night trip by Amtrak (luxury bus to Santa Barbara, train from there to LA, then a larger bedroom suite on Amtrak for the trip back to Lawrence). Ian and Andrea left shortly thereafter for an 8-day cruise in the Caribbean.

So, what's this got to do with London? Well, Joyce and I were looking for a place to go for either our anniversary or Christmas, and we just sort of settled on London -- with a push from a Monitor board member and good friend who'll be there then.

So, London it is. And the journey there that began almost 43 years ago had, as with most relationships, it's ups and its downs, but for us mostly ups -- even joy -- with every twist and turn, including the challenging one we're experiencing now.

As for Uganda, still ruffling feathers, so not sure how long folks will endure that. But we will persist.

One thing's for certain. Feather or no feathers, ruffled or not, whether filled with ups or downs, Joyce and I won't be 8,000, 800 or even 80 miles apart for that long again.

P.S.: The folks at the University of Colorado host something called Conference on World Affairs each year, something they've been doing since 1948. The list of folks who've been invited and attended, over the years is, well, impressive. Eleanor Roosevelt, Molly Ivins, Norman Cousins, Roger Ebert, Joe Biden. The list goes on. Can't quite figure why -- other than good friend and former colleague Jeff Browne who teaches there laying it on thick about me -- but they've invited me to participate. So, Joyce (of course) and I will be in Boulder on April 6 for the week interacting with a bunch of folks a lot smarter than I. But it should be fun. And, yes, I'll bring my golf clubs, Jeff, who, perhaps, put my name forward because he needed someone to beat at golf, something he always does.

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