5 Diplomats, Barefoot, drinking whiskey and talking politics

After 7 years of my early life being abroad, my first experience of Canadian wilderness was at our family cottage. Having had no freedoms, having never seen a forest or a clean lake, we spent a hot ride in our Ford Ltd, packed to the brim with bedding, food, water and books. My Father would be anxious to get up there, wanting to leave the house as early as possible. My Mother, dragging behind slightly, needing to make sure we didn’t forget anything, including dog food. The first time, my first view of this beutiful piece of land, I noticed how quiet it was, how, how dark it seemed with the clouds rolled in, and just how happy my parents seemed. My Father, happily away from phones, electricity and politics, would unwind with a stack of books. The book pile would decrease in size each day, and my Father would get more cheerful by the minute. He wouldn’t put on shoes, would wear old shorts, and t-shirts. He would shed his diplomatic distance and let go, just a little bit.

It would happen mid week. Another diplomat, who my Father was good friends with would show up to fish, and stay at the next cottage, another would join. Soon there would be 5 senior diplomats. 4 happened to be newly retired, except for my Father, who wwould sit politely asking about the fish, full well knowing, they weren’t there to fish. They would laugh, then break out the whiskey. My Mother would get us all down to the dock, to keep swimming. We could hear the laughter from the dock. My Father rarely let go, always slightly guarded, worried that someone would overhear. The cottage was different, there was no one around, no electricity, no way anyone could hear.

I would take breaks to run up and get Oreos, or water, and hear bits and pieces of war stories that no one knew about. Wild stories of defections of famous people, incidences that would make your blood curdle. Between the laughter, would be serious conversations about loss, about stress, about safety and security.

The first time I did it, I felt rather guilty, like I was eavesdropping on something so intimate, I crouched beside the open window that looked onto the screened-in porch, and overheard them all talking about guilt. The guilt that no one outside of the diplomatic circle would ever understand, keeping secrets crippled them, made them hard, made them unable to bond with their kids or wives. They had split personalities, and were relieved when they could retire, but also missed their sense of belonging in the department. My Father, never saying anything, listened. I had wondered if that is what he felt. He was distant, and often times, sentimental yet removed at the same time. A strange combination for me to understand as a child.

There it was, 5 men, dressed in cottage clothing, no suits, no shoes, sharing whiskey’s, while talking about their experience. From an early age, I knew this yearly ritual was important. I didn’t understand why, until later in life. It was group therapy. The only kind of therapy a group of ex diplomats and a then current one could have, away from civilization, away from ears (except for mine), away from the department. They never fished, they would bring their bottles of whiskey in their tackle boxes. The ice that they claimed would be for their caught fish, was for their whiskey.

As I get older, I realize how much more important those times were for my Father. Being able to let go, and express some sort of emotion as a release. I wonder if there are groups of diplomats today that meet, and do the same thing up at a cottage somewhere!

Dip Kid

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Leaving on a Jet Plane

I knew eventually, that the day would come that my husband and I would have an adventure together, alone, minus our child and dog. I just had no idea that it would be as emotional as it was.

Since it was our 10th anniversary, we decided, no gifts, just a trip. An adult only trip, to reconnect. You see, neither of us have ever been away from our son at the same time. We each have taken small trips here and there, but never together. I had somehow vowed, that I would never leave him alone with family to take a break. Maybe because I had been scared once at the age of 12, and I was terrified my son would feel the same sense of loneliness and abandonment. I worked it out. I made a plan.

My in-laws came in, we had packed up our carry-ons, and had left lots of instructions, i spent a week baking and making all my son’s favourite foods. I told he we wouldn’t be gone for long, and that he would have a blast building Lego and going swimming with his grandparents. It didn’t seem to faze him. He was going to get his grandfather all to himself, he told us he wanted us to go.

I was happy, he was in his own house, he had his routine, and he was good.

The day we left, he didn’t even hug us, he was busy downstairs in the basement building, and telling us he was fine.

I on the other hand, spent 6 1/2 hours on the flight to Lisboa, Portugal, praying we weren’t going to die. I have no idea who the heck I was praying to, but there I was, clutching my husband’s hand, tear-stained, and thinking every “what if” scenery if I died.

We landed, my husband had thought ahead and had arranged a driver to pick us up at the airport, I hadn’t slept a wink. The moment I looked out to the beautiful city, my worries, and fears, just disappeared. I was instantly, and completely in love with the city. I was charmed by an unknown pull. We were dropped off at our hotel, and handed some port at 8:30 in the morning. I don’t often drink, and have never had a glass of port, so I willingly took the glass and drank it down like it was water, only, it wasn’t water. It went straight to my head. So there I was, first time away from my child ever, and I was already morning tipsy in a foreign land, and told that our room wasn’t ready.

Oh dear, I hadn’t thought that one through!

My husband and I left our bags at the hotel, and decided to just wander the streets. It is rare for us to have this kind of alone time. To be honest, when we had our son with us, we mostly steal glances, squeeze each other’s hands, and then home our son falls asleep before us! Having actual time, that was all ours, was a culture shock we were ill prepared for.

We held hands, then we argued, we then sat down for food, and realized, without our son dictating our meals, we in fact had forgotten to eat for more than 12 hours, between the heat and the hunger, our emotions were running high! 10 minutes after eating, we laughed, and realized we were fine, we were clearly not used to making our own schedule. But, that is the beauty of taking a break, and travelling once again as a couple, and not as a family. For 4 glorious days, we hiked, walked, ate and drank our way through Lisboa, and frankly, it was so nice to be an adult, and not be a parent for that time.

Have you taken a trip without your kids?

Dip Kid