Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Teen Mom Story-Waiting for Maria Feb. 21, 2012

Waiting for Maria

Since the day of my birth, I’ve been waiting for Maria to start acting like my mom.
            I began waiting when Maria was 18 and I was born. I waited for her to take me in her arms and bring me home from the hospital with her. Instead she ran off to Jackson, Wyoming with a boyfriend, not my dad, and left her parents, Anna and Jake, to take me home and care for me. I guess she knew they would.
            Eleven months later, Anna and Jake had a son, my Ubncle Christopher. My grandparents had their hands full. They too were waiting for Maria to come home and be my mom, and one day she did. She found a place to live on her own. “As soon as I get on my feet, Lucy, you can come and live with me,” she said. But Maria never kept a job for more than a few weeks.
            When Anna was ready to return to her job at LaBelle’s Department Store, she asked Maria to babysit for Christopher and me. I was too small to remember the days when my mother took care of Christopher and me while her mother went to work, but I am glad to know that she did that for us.
            I remember thinking, when I was a little older, just how beautiful my mom was. I loved her creamy smooth skin, green eyes, and thick, flowing brown hair. My eyes are dark brown too, and people say we look alike.
            My grandparents treated me like their own child, and along with Christopher, I called them Mom and Poppa. No one ever kept from me the fact that Maria was my mother, but when I was three, I was confused about the mom word and what it meant. How many moms could a person have, I wondered? What made a mom a mom. I had to wait to find out.
            I’d been waiting for Maria to tell me it was time to come and live with her. Anna and Jake were kind and loving, but something inside me said I needed to be with Maria. I waited until I was five. Then one day I asked.  “Mom, is it time for me to live with you now?”
            She had to think about it for what seemed like a long time to me. Finally she said, “Yes. I think it is time.”
            And so, I moved in with her. I did lots of waiting when I lived with Maria. I waited for her to take me to school, and to pick me up. I waited for her to buy me clothes I needed, and to take me to the doctor when I was sick. Maria always said she’d do these things for me, but it was hard for her to get them done.
            I remember looking forward to visiting Anna, Jake and Christopher, and my great grandmother Melendez. My great grandmother took me to church with her on Sundays and she made sure I was confirmed before I was ten.
            Sometimes I didn’t want to go back to Maria’s house because of Tim. He and Maria lived together for a long time, but they fought, and sometimes he hit her. I hated it when that happened. As their fighting got worse, they would not let me go to my friends’ houses to play, I think they were afraid of what I might tell my friends.
            The longest time I ever waited for Maria was a few days before my tenth birthday. She and Tim had just had a huge fight and he left. This time he did not come back. I admit, I was glad. I thought that maybe now Maria would stay home at night and get up in the morning before I left for school. I hated it most when I was home alone at night.
            “Mom,” I begged. “Please be home when I get home from school. I hate being alone, and most of all, I hate going to bed when I’m alone. I know I’m almost ten, and it’s silly, but I’m scared of the dark.”
            “Okay, honey, I’ll be home when you get home,” she promised. But it hardly ever happened.
            That is why, when she disappeared, I didn’t even know it for two days. I got up in the morning, went to school, came home and went to bed. I kept doing that until the food ran out. Then I called my grandparents, because I didn’t know what else to do.
            Jake came over to our house with a bucket of spaghetti and I dug into it like I hadn’t seen food in a week. Spaghetti had never tasted so good.
            “Come on Lucy,” Jake said when I’d finished eating. “Pack up some clothes. You’re coming to our house.”
            Every day I waited for a call from Maria. In a week it finally came, and by then I had a hard time speaking to her. I could not imagine what she had been thinking. Didn’t she care about me, her only kid?
            I didn’t understand her behavior then, and I’m not sure I do now. But I do know that by this time Maria had developed a crack cocaine habit. I know that taking drugs alters people’s minds. That does not excuse her, but it helps me to understand a little.
            Maria did not come home. Instead she went I’m not sure where, pursuing her habit and the money she needed to maintain it. A year or so later my grandparents discovered that she had been withdrawing money from their bank account. She took so much that they had no choice but to press charges against her. I fell apart because I was so torn between worrying about my mom and loyalty to the grandparents who were taking care of me.
            I managed to graduate from elementary school and move on to junior high school. My attendance had never been very good, yet I was a good student when I was present. But now I felt a great anger inside and it had to go somewhere. I learned to fight and fight well. I fought for myself, and I fought to defend my friends. I fought so many times that I got kicked out of school permanently.
            Because I could not stay in the regular public school system, I attended a school at the Attention Home where classes were small and the staff watched over you as if you were a criminal. My grades were good there.
            By the time I was ready to enroll in Triumph, the alternative high school, Maria had finished serving time for her crime and was living at home with us. I’d waited so long for her to come home. By now I looked so much like her and she still looked so young, that lots of people thought we were sisters.
            We started going out in the afternoons, after I got home from school We drank, and partied, and got high together, and often we didn’t get home until the early morning hours. Even so, I’d get up at six every morning and go off to school while Maria slept. That routine didn’t last for long. My attendance, and then my grades, began to slip. I wasn’t fooling anyone. A school counselor asked Anna and Jake to come to school for a talk. Maria was not invited.
            “Lucy, don’t ruin your life,” Anna said to me. “There isn’t much I can do to help your mom to change, but I refuse to watch you follow in her path.”
            Grandma didn’t often talk like that. She gave me something to think about, and when I was through thinking, I told Maria that I wasn’t going to go out with her any more.
            “Okay,” Maria said. “I’ll miss you.”
            In a few days she was gone again, and in a few weeks, we learned that she was in California. By that time I had discovered that half the contents of my jewelry box had disappeared with her. Grandma understood. It wasn’t the first time Maria had stolen family jewelry.
            Now, while a part of me waited for Maria to come back, another, bigger part knew that I had to get on with my life. Louis and I met when I was 15 and he 17. It took a while before we realized that this was more than a casual relationship. I was the one who realized it first. He was the guy I wanted. I called his house so often that I drove his mom crazy. She made it painfully obvious that she didn’t like me hanging around with her son.
            By the time I was 16, despite the fact that I’d been careful and was on birth control, Louis and I had become parents. Little Juan became the light of our lives. After she became a grandmother, Louis’s mother softened up and decided I wasn’t so bad after all.
            I returned to school after Juan was born, but I soon got sick of hassling with the administration about my credits. I quit and decided to enter a program where I could work on my GED.
            When Juan was two, his little brother, Isiah arrived—a second testimony to failed birth control. I’d always said I didn’t want children, not ever, and now I had two sons. When Louis and I married last spring, we did so holding Juan and Isiah in our arms. Anna and Jake welcomed us all into their home where we lived until two months ago when we were able to move into our own town home.
            Louis has a good job driving a truck for the local Budweiser distributor. He dropped out of high school before I did, but he has plans to work on his GED. As I began to work on mine, I surprised myself with a perfect score on the reading test. I squeaked by the math test with a barely passing grade. I’m so proud to have my GED. In the fall, I begin college classes and plan to earn an associates’ degree in radiography.
            I’m nearly 20 now, but I still don’t like to be alone. At long last, I have given up waiting for Maria, but I’m still scared of the dark. The dark doesn’t scare my boys, though. They like to tease their mom for being a scaredy cat. Maria missed out on phase one of motherhood when she left me in the hospital hours after I was born. She didn't come back in time to catch up. I waited and waited for a mom she could never be. But Maria taught me to put my kids first. To give them unconditional love. To value and nurture my relationship with Louis.
         Because they are her parents, Anna and Jake will always be there for Maria, whatever happens in her life. They are the people who taught me what being a parent means. And that confusing mom word? Now that I am one, the meaning has become completely clear.   is home from California now. At age 38 she looks as young and beautiful as she ever did. But I don't wait for her any more.          

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Teen Mom Story--You Can't Tell Me What to Do Feb. 15, 2012

Teen moms—You Can’t Tell Me What to Do
By Emily

I remember when I was five, slurping up the sweet milk left from my Frosted Flakes. I looked up when Dad came to the table, bent down and told me he’d be leaving for a while. ‘A business trip,” he explained. I started to cry. I don’t know why. There was no way I could have known he wasn’t coming back.
            Because of my dad’s out-of-control drinking, my parents divorced that year. My older brother and sister were seven and nine. Dad stepped out of our lives leaving Mom to explain to us what was happening.
            I have only vague memories of the years when Dad lived with us. My brother, sister, and I were raised single-handedly by my mom. She drove a Federal Express truck to support us. When I was seven, she was promoted to a management position and we moved from Boulder, Colorado to Lander, Wyoming.
            Up until that time, I had looked forward to going to school and always had lots of friends. In Lander my life changed drastically. I couldn’t settle down. I didn’t fit in. I had trouble making friends. During the six years we spent in that small town, I never felt at home. After a while, I gave up trying to make friends and learned to be content alone. I decided that I must be different from other kids my age.
            Eventually Mom met the man who is now my step-dad.  When they married, our family expanded. My step-dad adopted Mom’s children and she adopted his daughter, and we all lived together.
            When I learned that my mom had been made Federal Express manager for the state of Wyoming and that we were moving to Cheyenne, I cheered. I liked the idea of living in a bigger town where there would be more action and more opportunity to make friends.
            At age 13, my days of spending lots of time alone and feeling isolated were over. My social life blossomed and took precedence over everything else. I worked as hard as I could to keep up with my newfound friends and do everything they were doing plus a little bit more.
            There were other changes, too. As I grew older and became more assertive, I developed “an attitude.” I still have difficulty with authority figures, but back then I went beserk when anyone, especially a teacher, tried to tell me what t do.
            I know lots about the three junior high schools in Cheyenne because I attended them all. I’d get kicked out of one and then move on to the next.
            By the time I was an eighth grader, I’d become a committed smoker along with most of my buddies. I thought I was so cool. Smoking is an addictive habit I still haven’t been able to break, as hard as I have tried.
            At ninth grade parties, I willingly joined in with any drinking that was going on. At one of those parties, I met a guy—a 19-year-old high school dropout who showed an interest in me. Heady stuff for a ninth grader. My friends were experimenting with sex, and along came someone ready to experiment with me. I began having sex with him, not because I really wanted to, but because I was curious and I wanted to fit in—to do what everybody else was doing. At that time in my life, I didn’t see myself as an individual capable of making my own decisions and resisting the pressure I felt from my peers. Going along with the crowd was all-important to me.
            In the spring of my ninth grade year, a teacher caught me in the hall with a can of soda in my hand. “Emily, you know that’s against the rules. Throw the soda away.” I looked at her in disgust and instead of throwing the can in the trash, I placed it carefully on a shelf in my locker, slammed the door and walked away. The teacher glared at me.
            Without thinking, I raised my hand and hit her. With that defiant act, I closed the door on my traditional public school career. I was permanently expelled from school which meant that I would not be able to graduate from junior high school.
             Knowing that I had to have more education, I enrolled in a program at the alternative high school that required lots of individual study on a computer. While a part of me wanted to learn, I had very little self-discipline. The program demanded much more motivation than I had. I dropped out after a few weeks.
            I didn’t know then that I’d have more pressing issues to deal with than completing my education. I’d been responsible enough to get on birth control pills so it came as a shock when I learned that I was pregnant. I learned too late that birth control pills often become ineffective when they are used in combination with an antibiotic.
            It didn’t seem fair. I’d just been fooling around, the way everyone else I knew fooled around, and now there were huge consequences. All I’d ever wanted was to be like everyone else.
            We’ll manage somehow,” my mom said when I told her. But it took me a long time to adjust to the fact that I would be a parent before my sixteenth birthday.  I respected my mom for saying she would support whatever decision I made about my pregnancy, but she added, “I must remind you that whatever decision you make, this will not be my baby. It’s yours.”
            Unlike some grandmas I know, my mom has stuck by her statement. I have always had total responsibility for Maggie who will soon be three. I never considered an abortion. I knew in my heart that I had to follow through and deliver and care for the child I had conceived.
            Taking responsibility for a tiny new life at such a young age forced me to make radical changes in my behavior. At first, I continued to hang out with my friends whenever I could, but in time I realized that I had to move on with my life and I couldn’t do it with them.
            It hasn’t been easy. There have been ups and downs along the way. Every day I deal with the consequences of some stupid decisions I made without giving them any thought at the time. Someone once said to me, “What you do comes back to you by two.” I believe it.
            I knew from the early days of my pregnancy that that I would not continue in a relationship with my baby’s dad. He hadn’t finished school, was not working, wasn’t interested in finding a job, and lived at home with his mother. Three years later nothing has changed for him. Even at age 15, I understood that he could not be part of the life I wanted for myself and my child.
            Soon after Maggie was born, I swung into action. I enrolled in a teen parent program that made it possible for me to complete Certified Nursing Assistant training and pass the state licensing exam. That qualified me for a job that paid enough to support me and Maggie.
            When I was 17, I returned to the young parent program and earned my GED. I am especially proud that I received a perfect score on the reading section of the test. Soon I will be a college student beginning work toward a degree in physical therapy.
            My interest in this field comes directly from personal experience. I received treatment for a back injury from a therapist at the nursing home where I work. She contributed to my recovery from a painful injury in a way that made me feel valued and cared about. I want to be able to do the same for the population I work with.
            I am a person who has always liked my work and taken it seriously—well—almost always. Last summer I took a little time off from my new responsible self. For whatever reason, I got sick and tired of behaving like an adults. It felt so good to just forget about money and go wild I began eating out all the time with friends and buying expensive clothes and other stupid stuff. Like a car that cost too much. The bills piled up and I didn’t care. I called work to say I wouldn’t be coming in so many times that they had to fire me.
            Things were going from bad to worse when the opportunity arose to rejoin the teen parent program That decision helped me come to my senses and realize that it was time to get control of my life again. I found another job and used my tax refund to get my finances under control.
            Don’t get me wrong. I’m still a little wild at times. I love to shop and, you know, it costs money to look good. I still have my nails done and my hair colored. But these days I’m happy to shop at Wal-Mart. No more $70 jeans for this girl.
            As I get older, I’m finding more positive ways to deal with authority. I still have a problem at work sometimes, but now my reactions are more calm and reasonable. Recently I became frustrated with the administration at the care center because they place more importance on the bottom line that on the residents. They’re not available after hour and on weekends when crises arise. Instead of exploding about this issue, I found myself able to express my feelings in a rational way and avoid what would in the past have become an unpleasant confrontation.
            I’m becoming more mature in other ways as well. A few months ago I met Tad, a sophomore in college, and we developed a close relationship. He was the kindest and most considerate guy I’d ever dated. For the first time in my life, I felt good about my relationship with a man.
            Except for one problem. Tad had to know where I was and who I was with every moment of my life. He had to be in control of my life as well as his own. I’m a person who must have my own space. Even though I cared a great deal for Tad and I still have feelings for him, I had to let the relationship go. I couldn’t meet his demands, and I knew it. The relationship was a learning experience for me and I don’t regret it.
            The next few years of my lie will be busy, with school, raising my daughter, and earning a living for both of us. Perhaps there isn’t time in my life for a man right now. I think I have the experience now to recognize the right one when he comes along.
            He’ll have to be pretty special. And he’ll have a good job, a dependable car, a love of kids, and a desire for some of our own. His standards will be high and he will have a commitment to family life. I know, I expect a lot. But I’ve learned the hard way that to expect less is to ask for trouble.
            I’m kind of a bossy person. I admit, I’m not always easy to live with. I know what I want, and I speak my mind. I make my own decisions and I don’t accept much in the way of input from other people.
            Do I have regrets about my life so far? I do.
            “Hi Daddy,” my daughter said to a friendly man sitting across from us at McDonald’s the other day. He looked a little surprised, smiled back at her and said, “Hi. What’s your name?” It makes me sad when I hear Maggie call every adult male she meets “Daddy.” She doesn’t understand that kids have a dad, one person in their lives to whom that name applies, and for that I’m sorry. She’s too young to explain to right now, but I’ve decided that as she grows older, I must be absolutely honest with her about who her dad is and why he doesn’t live with us. If the day comes when she wants to meet him, I will encourage her. But for now, it’s Maggie and me.
            These days I see my own dad occasionally. He lives in the mountains of Colorado and has a successful contracting business. “Too bad you didn’t make it through high school and get a diploma,” was his only comment when I told him about earning my GED.
            That took the fun out of sharing my good news with him. My brother and sister haven’t finished high school and nether of them have much interest in earning a GED. I thought perhaps Dad would be proud of my accomplishment. But he’s a perfectionist, as hard on himself as he is on others. Whatever I accomplish, will never be good enough for him.
            But I have learned that the only person I really need to measure up to is me.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Teen Mom Story # I My Way February 13, 2012

It has been six years since I retired from a job I loved—helping low income single teen parents as they struggled to complete their high school educations, prepare themselves for jobs, and raise their children on very little money. I became close to many of these women and decided that each of them had a story that needed to be told. Their stories follow, with minor changes to protect their privacy. The first three are in my words. The rest are told by the women who experienced them.


I’m thankful for Lindsey because knowing her makes me grow in my job, keeps me humble, and prevents me from becoming complacent about what I do.
            Lindsey is 19 and the mother of Derrick, age one. She quit school in the ninth grade, had a stillborn child at 17, married at 18, and is now sometimes separated from her husband, sometimes not. She has an open lovely face and long curly, all-encompassing brown hair highlighted with blonde streaks. Dark piercing eyes sparkle behind gold-rimmed glasses. Two pregnancies and a fondness for Mountain Dew and Snickers bars probably account for her turtle-like roundness which she disguises behind baggy shirts and mismatched pants.
            One day she brought a pale pink, lavishly-frosted, homemade cake to share with her classmates. She listens intently when the other teen parents in the class talk about fights with boyfriends and problems with child care or transportation, and she offers advice freely.  She is the one who is willing to drive her fellow students to and from class when she has a car available.
            Ours is an intimate program where the emphasis is on intensive one-on-one help and self-paced academic study in a supportive atmosphere. Taking is allowed in class, and so is roving around, snacking “big gulping” and helping each other with school work. Because all the young women are preparing themselves to enter the world of work, our attendance policy is firm. If they don’t get to school consistently and on time, how can they expect to be successful in a job? No one goes to work until they have proved themselves.
            Lindsey is often late. Some days she doesn’t show at all. She schedules make-up times, and then doesn’t appear. She has so many hours to make up that her chances of being placed in a job are fading fast. She schedules GED tests, but to date has taken only one out of the five tests.
            When Lindsey does come to school, she’s disruptive. She has a hard time concentrating for more than a few minutes, and she loves to gossip. In a truck driver voice, she shares the juicy details of the latest bar brawls, arrests, separations, and liaisons with a captive audience who devours her words like open-mouthed baby birds.  I weary of asking them all to hold down the volume.
            No one, including me, likes to confront Lindsey. She’s angry, obstinate, threatening at times, and she’s bigger than I am. She tests me daily, and try as I might, there are times when her behavior forces me to change mine in ways I do not like. I hear myself arguing, cajoling, insisting, all the while knowing that I might as well be talking to a mound of red Jello.
            During her years in public school, Lindsey says she survived by fighting. “My teachers finally decided to ignore me just like my mom does. Here it is different, I’m not used to this,” she said to me. “I want my GED, and I want a job, but I want to do it my way.”
            I’m learning. I can be kind and polite, even sympathetic and understanding with Lindsey. She’s teaching me that cajoling and insisting do not work. She makes me realize that although I can crack open a door for her, I cannot drag her, or anyone else, through it.
            There have been special days at my job when I’ve felt that I’m pretty good at what I do. It’s not easy work, and I don’t expect miracles. Sometimes I congratulate myself as I see a young mom take the first steps on a long hard climb toward maturity, financial security, and good citizenship.
            Complacency can set in after you’ve been at a job for a while. What worked once will surely work again, you reason. Not with Lindsey. I’m stubborn enough to know that I am going to see Lindsey complete her GED if it takes until the last day of class.
            I’m thankful for Lindsey. Without her I might have just a job. As it is, I have a mission. That is more exciting.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

A Trip to Nepal

“No way,” I told my midwife friend as she made plans for her third medical mission to Nepal.  “I’d love to go, but I’m no good at medical stuff. I’d be hopeless.”
            “At least meet Narayan,” Dian Sparling insisted. After our meeting, I was hooked--by his smile, enthusiasm, and passion for his work. Now I understood how Narayan Shrestha was able to raise enough money to support his Helping Hands Health Education non-profit organization.
             Meeting with the nine-member volunteer group, I learned how much fast-dry underwear to pack, and decided to buy a fleece liner for my sleeping bag.  “You’ll never be colder,” Dian promised.
            October 8, 2011 we left Denver for LA, and 17 hours later found ourselves in the glistening Bangkok airport. Soaring glass ceilings, live orchids all about, and enough shopping opportunities to make you dizzy made our wait easy. In Kathmandu, the airport is shabby but the welcome from our Helping Hands hosts was filled with warmth and marigold garlands. I could tell from the touching greetings exchanged between Dian and Dr. Sue Kozak, returning volunteers, and our hosts that, after a long time apart, they were back with dear friends.
            In Nepal, the mountains loom formidably above the clouds, thousands of feet higher than the Rockies. The countryside is vibrant green with steep slopes and manicured terraces, the shops enticing, the temples and stupas (Buddhist shrines) exotic, the food plentiful and spicy, but it is the people of this small mountainous land that made it memorable for me. The impact of being there expands each day since I’ve been home.
            A chaotic drive through the city to our hotel tossed us headlong into the craziness of a third world city of more than a million people. Bikes, rickshaws, motorcycles, vans, buses jammed with people inside, on top, and clinging  to the sides, and cars, all with overactive horns, did their best to avoid pedestrians--people, cows, goats and dogs. Yet we saw no road rage.
            Eco Resort Hotel is tucked away down what we’d call an alley, but in KTM is a one-lane city street with shops on one side and a tiny park on the other. We found ourselves in a quiet oasis, our hotel building surrounded by a lovely courtyard with a shrine, flowers, a little pool, and neatly-trimmed tiny hedges. Not until after our adventures would we appreciate the hotel’s toilets that could be sat upon, flushed, and were supplied with toilet paper. Running water, though it took forever to make its way through faraway pipes, made possible the welcome luxury of a hot shower.   
            We climbed into two sturdy four-wheel drive vehicles to travel to Sindhuli, 160 miles east and south of KTM. Nine and a half hours later, we arrived—survivors of endless jostling on rock-strewn, precipitous roadways; a flat tire; and a high-altitude scary-road traffic jam requiring vigorous discussion, hand-waving, and genuine fear for our lives.
Darkness had descended upon Sindhuli by the time we arrived to music, garlands of marigolds and a traditional lentil and rice dinner.  The next day. lines formed for medical camp and for eight days the people came.  Dental, gynecological, pediatric and general medicine practitioners listened, pondered, examined, and prescribed.  I helped by running errands and delivering and filling prescriptions.
Each night we returned to our lodgings with local families, a kindness I will always treasure. Every morning our hosts brought us steaming glasses of tea.  A bucket of hot water made “showers” possible by soaping up and pouring water over our bodies. 
We were thrilled to discover that beer and toilet paper could be purchased at the same little street-side shop in the village. After we’d bought five rolls of toilet paper, the shop’s entire inventory, we were out of luck. But the Tuborg beer held out for the duration, to the eternal gratitude of four of us who developed a late afternoon ritual around this special beer.
Volunteer work completed, we moved on to Pokara, jumping off place for trekkers from all over the world. Our trek began innocently on a rocky road bustling with trekkers and locals going about their business. By the end of day one, we had walked for five and a half hours and trudged up a couple thousand stone steps by the time we reached our guest house.
Three days and 18 hours of trekking later, the stupendous peaks of the Annapurna Range loomed close.  In the otherwise heat-free guest-house at base camp, we huddled around a long cloth-skirted table under which a kerosene burner gave off welcome, if slightly dangerous, blasts of heat.
At 5:30 a.m. next morning we shivered marveling as the sun rose slowly over the Annapurna Range, splashing vivid gold across the peaks. Cameras clicked in attempts to preserve those few elusive moments.
In Nepal you climb up in order to climb down, and then do it over again. This routine is interrupted only by slippery steep places, rushing rivers with iffy rope bridges, donkey trains, small bands of school children, overloaded porters, and an occasional cow, goat or yak. You plod along knowing there will be no “easy part” and that you’d better keep on trekking if you want a place to sleep that night.
But you’ll be well-fueled. I became addicted to creamy rice pudding, as good for breakfast as at any other meal. The eggs are so fresh that every omelet was delicious. French fried potatoes became a staple for lunch along with a bowl of steaming noodle soup. We drank tea made from fresh ginger and coffee or tea laced with foaming hot milk.
It took four days to reach AP Base Camp and another four to return. During the hours we walked, this group of mostly strangers became friends. We’ve been home a few months now, and we miss each other. We get together for beer even though we can’t find Tuborg in the U.S. None of us are the same,  because of the time we spent in Nepal.