I Wish I Were a Salmon Roll
Vancouver Travel Blog› entry 1 of 21 › view all entries
Here comes the yam tempura. Maybe this is a good time to mention that 6 week trip to Africa. Nope. Moment passed. Now they’re talking about MBAs and engineering degrees.
As I sit in a Japanese restaurant with my parents, my friend, Janelle, and her mother, I restlessly shift my position every 10 seconds, shake my leg and twitch in anticipation at the thought of finally revealing our plans to our poor, unsuspecting parents. Every few minutes, I’d lock a stare at Janelle saying, with just one look, ‘No, YOU do it! Do it now! Just pipe in the conversation. It’s easy’. Yet, each look didn’t end with “So we’re planning a trip…”, just a small snicker then a quick look down to our plates at the piece of sushi sitting contently in a puddle of soy sauce. You know you’re in trouble when you look at the sushi with jealousy. The sushi doesn’t have to subtly change the subject from foot surgery to volunteer programs in Ghana. The sushi doesn’t have to discreetly tell its parents that that’s the real reason they’re all having lunch. And the sushi doesn’t have to try to have a normal conversation and try to express a calm and organized persona when its head is buzzing with distractions about good times to tell them. The sushi only has to worry about getting too dizzy as the chef rolls it up. It’s times like these I wonder how I got myself into this situation.
* * *
About two months ago, during a bored lunch break at school, I happened to surf my way onto an internet site describing an organization, Cross-Cultural Solutions, that sends volunteers to developing countries to work in different fields aiding the community. I’ve been on this site before. It wasn’t the first time I’d been thinking about volunteering abroad. In fact, the ideas been in my head for a couple years, and by that time I knew the site like the back of my hand, preferring it over other programs I had looked at. I decided to email Janelle, in Pittsburgh at the time, telling her about the site and suggesting that we go, knowing that this once-in-a-lifetime experience would be that much greater shared with a friend.
From there, things escalated… fast. For the first week or so, it was all we talked about. We found out as much information as we could about Ghana and Cross-Cultural Solutions and waited impatiently for the information package to arrive in the mail. Of course, this was all going on without the notice of our parents, which was harder for me because I was living at home. What I didn’t expect, was that in requesting more information on the program, I received a phone call from their New York office to answer any questions I had. But being the committed University student that I am, I was at school, and my mom picked up the phone. She didn’t think much of it the first time, and left a message for me saying that they had called, but I wonder what she thought the second time… and the third time. It seemed they preferred to communicate by phone, since they’d only email me after they tried calling, even after I told them I wouldn’t be available. I wondered on the day the information package arrived, with the Cross-Cultural Solutions logo beaming proudly in the corner of the envelope, whether my mom recognized the name and wondered what I was up to. Bless her for her short memory.
The weeks leading up to the dreaded lunch were less Ghana-saturated, but the plan was still on. Despite being overloaded with schoolwork and exams, Ghana was always at the back of our minds. We were going and no one could stop us.
* * *
Yes, that’s right. We tricked our parents into going to lunch so we could give them the big news. We had planned to arrive at the restaurant, let everyone settle in, order, then gracefully tell our parents of our plan. But we arrived, settled in, ordered, were almost finished eating, and we had yet to get to the point. I watched the bowl of edename empty, the gyosa disappear and the chicken teriyaki come and go. With every bite, my stomach became pit of tumbling rocks. The thought came across my mind that maybe we wouldn’t even get a chance to tell them, that maybe we’d go through the whole lunch, pay the bill and leave without saying a word. I couldn’t let that happen. I just couldn’t.
“So speaking of trips overseas…” I blurted out. Oh my god. So much for being graceful. Were we even talking about trips overseas? We had been discussing Janelle’s trip to the Philippines… but that was five minutes ago. Could we have still been talking about that? I had a feeling we hadn’t, but it didn’t matter anymore.
For the next half an hour Janelle and I proceeded to describe the trip, explain our motives, and spit out all the facts we remembered about the program, no matter how useless they were (did you know that the official language in Ghana is English, but there are also 60 other different languages spoken?), to show how prepared and serious we were. Our parents reacted surprisingly well, despite my dad’s sarcasm (which I evidently inherited), my mom’s scepticism (what about EBOLI???), and Janelle’s mom’s insistence that she come to visit us as part of her vacation.
There were, of course, questions as to why we chose Africa out of all the places that Cross-Cultural Solutions offers. Our parents seemed to be pushing us to go to China to “rediscover our cultural roots”. But to Janelle and I, the fear of being given a live chicken as a token of thanks and catching the Avian flu was far too great.
“I miss you already.” My mom says with a sullen voice during a pause in the conversation. Even though she sometimes mistakenly calls me the dog’s name when talking to me, I knew she meant it.
The lunch was coming to an end. The check came, and being with the Asian parents we were with, fighting ensued for the right to treat. Janelle and I knew we were in the clear. They had asked all their pressing questions and were on to talking about other things. A lesson to future travel-suppressed hopefuls, this is a key indicator that their minds were okay with the idea enough to be able to stray for a few minutes… granted, it was never long.I looked at Janelle and breathed a heavy sigh of relief. We did it and survived with all protruding limbs still attached and functional. Walking out of the restaurant, it was obvious that a rather large anchor that we had been dragging through hardened concrete, had been cut loose. And so began our maiden voyage to Ghana.