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Stories from the USA

Washington, DC, USA

Preparing to Leave

bothSince we decided to go on this trip six months ago, we have been planning, researching, plotting our course, packing, and preparing. But now there are only a few short days to go and we are off! We have our belongings in storage, supplies bought, shots obtained (OW!), and are saying our good-byes. We are excited, a little nervous and very anxious not to work for a whole year! We will miss D.C., especially our family and friends, but we are very excited for the adventure in store for us! World here we come!

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Saying Goodbyes

timMy mother hugged me good-bye. "I'll be back in a year or so," I said. My father compared his feelings to the day that I left for college. I agreed.

My parents live almost 1000 miles away from me, so I don't see them very often. But I will miss them while I am abroad. I'll say good-bye to all my friends, family, and everyday life. Say good-bye to everything that feels comfortable and normal.

There is something magical about tearing apart the status quo. You know the times in your life. Maybe when you started fresh from the end of that long-term relationship? Or was it when you started that new job? You look forward with uncertainty. Your nerves feel raw, your mind is on alert, and a sense of excitement surrounds you. Years later you scan your memory to find out who you are, and these times shine through the haze as clear as though they had just happened. top

Honolulu, HI, USA

Waikiki Condo

timsurfboardsSeven days ago we touched down in Hawaii and started a whirlwind of family events centered around the wedding of Michelle's cousin Phillip. Like many of Michelle's relatives, Phillip and his family live here in Hawaii. And because a wedding is a great opportunity to get everyone together, Phillip and Christine's wedding became a huge extended reunion.

So I met Michelle's family - immediate relatives, 10 aunts and uncles, 26 cousins and spouses, and plenty of children. Over brunch, lunch, dinner, and dessert, I quickly discovered what holds a Hawaiian reunion together...food!

Thanks to the generosity of Michelle's family, I spent the week touring Hawaii with my taste buds. So far the scenery has been great: poke (Hawaiian - salad of raw fish), saimen (Japanese - noodle soup), malasadas (Portuguese - doughnuts, similar to ours but without a hole), fish (butterfish, mahi mahi, ahi, salmon, fish cake), haupia (Hawaiian - coconut pudding), mochi (Hawaiian - dessert made from rice flour), dim sum (Chinese - various dumplings), tropical juices, poi (Hawaiian - taro paste), shave ice, custard pie, plate lunch (with 2 scoop rice, 1 scoop macaroni salad), lilikoi (passion fruit) chiffon cake, sushi, papaya, mango, Kona coffee, and more Chinese dishes than I can remember.

We haven't neglected the tourist side of Oahu. In between meals, we walked through the tall hotels of Waikiki, sat on beautiful crowded beaches, swam with the fish of Hanauma Bay, enjoyed the view from the Pali lookout, and shopped for an aloha shirt. But the highlight of the trip so far is the food. And although Michelle is now poking my increasingly Pillsbury Doughboy-like stomach expecting me to giggle, I would like to thank everyone for a great introduction to the islands!

Next week, we take off on our own to explore the island in a cheap Daewoo compact.

Hawaiian Surf top

Aloha Spirit

michelleToday is our last day in Hawaii. In fact, we leave in a couple hours for Independent Samoa. It has been an exciting two weeks of family, food, and beautiful scenery.

Oahu Canoe

Tim and I have enjoyed soaking in the Aloha spirit of the islands. We basked on the beaches, snorkeled with turtles, and ate poke (raw fish).

Michelle in hula skirtAlthough I haven't lived in Hawaii for 17 years, when I visit I always feel I have returned home. I love the bright sunlight, the tradewinds, and how the fragrance of flowers surrounds me. I love the abundance of fruit, colorful fish when snorkeling, and relaxed attitudes. But most of all I love my extended family for their generosity, sense of humor, and kindness. My father was born and raised in Honolulu and I am so thankful that Hawaii is part of my heritage. top

Surfboards for rent in Waikiki. Waves crashing in the Lanai lookout, Oahu, Hawaii. The bow of an outrigger canoe, Oahu, Hawaii.

Washington, DC, USA

Flying Home

michelleMy forehead pressed against the small window as I studied the green earth below. Farms and houses grew larger as the plane descended over the familiar Virginia farmland. Thirteen months ago I had flown over these exact fields, except then I was going up, not down. I was at the beginning of an adventure to see the world. Now, hard as it was to believe, I was at the end. The plane's tires hit the runway with a loud thud andà I was home.

Thoughts swirled in my head as fast as the butterflies swirled in my stomach. After a year of adventure, where every day offered new sights, tastes, ideas, and people, I wondered how easily I would adjust to everyday American life again. The life of work, rush hour traffic, shopping malls, and a self-absorbed culture awaited me. None of them sounded too appealing. But other things did appeal to meà varying my wardrobe so I had more to wear than a couple of ratty t-shirts and two pair of pants, seeing loved ones, eating without fear of sickness, and no longer living out of a backpack. I looked forward to sleeping in a bed with a familiar pillow, driving a car, and jogging in the evening.

I feel different inside. The person returning is a different person from the one who left. More at peace and with a calmer spirit I return. More educated about history, religion, environment, and culture, I feel closer to humanity and more connected to the world.

In the last year I flew on over 20 flights and each time went through a similar routine upon landing - I got my passport stamped in immigration, waited patiently for my luggage in baggage claim, then cleared my bag through customs. This time the routine was the same but the situation was different. I knew the currency, understood the language spoken, and my father was waiting to take me home as I walked through the arrival gate.

It was the end of one adventure, sure not to be my last. top

Washington, DC, USA

Adjusting to Home

michelleI've been home for two days and little things fill me with amazement, things that I took for granted before I left. I feel like a small child walking into a toy store. In awe and excitement, I brush my teeth with tap water, wash my clothes in a washing machine (not a sink), and drink freshly brewed coffee. I use ice in my drinks, talk to friends on the phone, and use a hair dryer to dry my hair. Simple things and yet things I have lived without for the last year. I'm sure the novelty of it all will wear off with time. But until then, I will continue to "ooh" and "aah" with delight. top

Washington, DC, USA

Slacking?

timWhat do I have to say for myself? It has been five weeks since my last update and I appear to be slacking off, lazy, and missing in action. But since then I have been really busy, traveling through Barcelona, passing through London, driving around Ireland, and ending my trip reuniting with Michelle in Manhattan.

Ending, you say? Yes, you heard me right. I'm back home in Washington, D.C., facing another full time job in the nine-to-five world. But I have so much more to share about my trip - five weeks of stories (resurrected from the unfortunate accident with my Palm handheld), reflections of being home, help for people interested in taking similar journeys, and a new photo database with hundreds of photos fresh from the photolab. (I'm weeding these from over 3,500 - you should see the mess!) top