After departing Bucharest, I spent home leave in both Washington, DC, and up at my little camp in Burlington, Maine. I landed at Washington's Dulles Airport on June 14 and made my way laboriously by bus, Metro, and suburban train to Odenton, MD, where my sister was supposed to be waiting. Do to a miscommunication, she had gone to the next station up the line, and I had a half hour to spend sitting on a bench, looking out on a typical suburban scene as commuters came and went.
I got out my Romanian cell phone. Unexpectedly, it has been my tie, my lifeline to friends in Bucharest. My Vodafone service with roaming works very nicely in the US. I wouldn't use it for phone calls, but as I discovered during those thirty minutes in Odenton, texting is a wonderful way to stay close with friends and family from whom I am now separated by an ocean. In the weeks since, that phone has been a constant friend and companion.
Those first days of home leave in Washington were a whirlwind. First there was reunion with two of my sisters and the extended U.S. family. There were medical appointments to attend to. The highlight, however, was the Pride event at the State Department on June 19. Secretary of State John Kerry was the keynote speaker and was accompanied to the podium by Congressman John Lewis and by Mara Keisling from the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE). Everyone was in a celebratory mood in expectation that the U.S. Supreme Court would soon overturn the Defense of Marriage Act, but Mara reflected soberly that there is much more to LGBT rights than marriage equality.
|With Mara Keisling at State Department Pride Event|
|My Little Burlington Camp|
It felt strange those first days to walk around the camp that had been the scene of my coming to terms in 2010. There were still a few guy slacks and guy shirts in the closet, the only pieces of clothing from my former life that had not gone to aid Romanian flood victims. Ironically, I found I had to wear some of them those first days, as none of the clothing I had brought with me was suited to the lively mosquito social life of Maine. My neighbor promised not to spread rumors that I had begun cross dressing as a man.
The weather was gorgeous when I arrived in Maine, but it quickly turned rainy and cool. I was stuck indoors. The cabin's pseudo-solar system that provides 12V through cigarette lighter outlets gave barely enough electricity to power my netbook, and I spent the evenings by lamplight. I began to feel rather lonely, wishing like anything to be back in Bucharest.
After several days of this, I put my FSO skills to work. I may have bought my Maine property as a place to disappear, but one skill an FSO develops quickly is the ability to find and meet new people. It was time to put those skills to work in Maine, not just overseas.
|With Members of MaineTransNet|
|A Traditional July 4 in Burlington|
Biking and kayaking. I did these in quantity, my legs getting used to hills again after over two and a half years on the flat streets of Bucharest. On Saponac Pond I crossed to the creek that feeds the lake and ran up it a distance. When my son came to visit for a weekend, we borrowed a tandem kayak from a friend and used it to go down the creek as it empties from the lake, exhilarated going downstream over a small set of rapids and fighting for all we were worth to get over them again as we returned upstream.
Katahdin. I climbed it in 2010 just as the reality of my situation had begun to dawn on me. It's not an easy climb to Maine's highest peak. In fact, it's one of the hardest I have ever done. In 2010 another hiker took a nice photo of me on the summit. Would I repeat the climb? I debated with myself for days before throwing the tent in the car and heading to Baxter State Park. It rained hard through my one night of camping, and I thought it doubtful I would make the climb. In the morning, however, the ranger on duty said the forecast had improved and that the weather would only get better through the day. I threw on my day pack and headed for the trail.
Five weeks after leaving Romania, I am again in the Washington, DC, area. A language exam awaits me at the Foreign Service Institute on Monday, and I start my new work assignment on Wednesday. My year in Washington is about to start. When I move into my apartment later this week, the two Katahdin photos will be on display. Like bookends, they bracket the greatest three years of my life, the years when the impossible became reality.