Jay Lake (jaylake) wrote,
Jay Lake

[travel] My mom, on getting to know you

tillyjane, a/k/a my mom, recently spent three weeks traveling around the West, much of at the Grand Canyon doing trail maintenance and habitat restoration as a volunteer. When she returned to Portland, she began writing up her days as a sort of irregular journal. The emails were so delightful that with her permission, I'm going to post them here as guest blogs — mediations on people, travel, nature and the American West.

This is her fourth installment, from an email dated September 22nd, shortly after her return.

I'd Like to Get to Know You

The Sierra Club sponsored and organized and provided all the logistical support for our week of volunteer work at Grand Canyon. All we really had to do was get there and put up our tents and provide our own eating utensils. Bruce and Larry managed the rest. All we knew about Bruce and Larry was that they are life partners and coleaders of Sierra Club outings such as this one. This much was made clear in the info sent out prior to the trip.

Bruce was our liaison to the park staff, Larry was keeper of the commissary, chief cook and shopper. Both were in charge of safety and sanitation. The only rules they had for us were to drink lots of water, use hand sanitizer before touching communal food, and go in groups of at least three when tipping the rim. Nice phrase, isn't that? Everything else was by mutual agreement.

The first evening as we gathered we agreed to their suggestion that we not talk to each other about how we made our living... or how we had done in the case of the many retirees. We decided we would reveal all on Wednesday at suppertime.

How do we know who to salute and who salutes us? We determine age, gender, and occupation/education of our new interlocutor, then we know our relative status. I aint sayin' this is right or good, just that its what we usually do. So here we were pretty much in the dark. Well it was pretty obvious everyone was well educated, a little conversation was all it took. It was pretty obvious everyone had a lot of varied interests...Jim played baroque music on his recorder in the evenings. Jane took close up pictures of plants. Tom and Rich liked to sing 60s songs. Larry cooked up excellent meals to suit every possible dietary requirement of a group largely made up of folks over 60. Sarah went out early by herself to maximize solitude and opportunities to see the wildlife. Mia was on her way to a bug show after we were finished. She had driven her classic VW bus (a mid sixties model) from Ontario, and was going on to a VW rally where she expected to win in her class.

On Wed evening we all looked forward to knowing more about each other, but we already had made friends and knew we liked each other, and who we liked best. (Jane, and her husband Ira in my case... a couple in their 70s) So we did a truth and a lie and tried to figure out whether Marshall was a producer of adult movies or a radiologist. Whether Larry was a tax attorney or a slumlord. Jane claimed to be either a garden photographer or a scuba instructor. Jim's wife Pam was either a museum curator or a small business owner. Sue was a salesperson at the largest Mercedes dealer in LA or else a medical administrator. Jessie was a high school teacher or a jazz singer. Sarah was a linguist for the State Department or a fact checker and copy editor for a major scifi publisher.

Turned out we all sort of mixed up our truths and lies, much like I did. Neither was actually true, but both had to do with my background and interests. They voted me a linguist because I had worn my Sofia shirt with Cyrillic letters, and no one believed that scifi needs fact checking. Hehehe. And I won a goth baseball cap with GCNP spelled out in rivets for telling the most interesting lie. Wheeee!

Then we all actually did introduce ourselves in a more ordinary way. We had a professional gardener who runs her own business, retired doctors and lawyers. A hospital administrator, teachers, social worker, college professor (Ira, of course). And dear Jane, who was born in the blitz of London is actually both a garden photographer and a scuba instructor and underwater photographer who works with Scripps.

About who you would expect on a trip that requires a certain sort of financial resource and a certain worldview that is larger than the block we live on.

Nice people, nice week, good for the Sierra Club.

tillyjane's previous installment, "On the Kindness of Strangers", is here: [ jlake.com | LiveJournal ]

Tags: family, guest, personal, travel

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