Wouldn’t Miss it for the World (literally)

Originally, it was our plan to not touch down on US soil for all of 2009. As it turned out though, there was an event we felt we just didn’t want to miss out on. I mean, how often does your grandpa join the centenarian club? So we hit the pause button in Southeast Asia and flew to Oahu for 6 days to join with friends and family.
We stayed in Waikiki in a beautiful hotel. That’s right, that’s “H-O-T-E-L,” not “h-o-s-t-e-l.” Fresh flowers on our bathroom towels welcomed us. Come to think of it, we were geeked even that bathroom towels welcomed us. We flushed toilet paper right down the toilet with seemingly reckless abandon. There was wonderful refrigeration and we bought juice and poke to take full advantage. But the best part about the hotel was that it was 2 blocks from my sister and parents. After not seeing them for nine months, I now saw them daily. And I got to see my sister at least this once during her pregnancy.
We all, along with other family, flew in to celebrate my grandpa’s 100th birthday, which is really just an excuse to celebrate my grandpa. He’s a gentle man with an endearing, playful sense of humor. And though living to 100 is a feat in itself, it’s my grandpa’s quality of life that makes me smile. For one, he out ate me at my aunt’s dinner. And he needs all of that fuel, since he still dances and gardens. And into his nineties he swam, played tennis and drove a stick shift car with a spoiler in the back. It’s that never-ending lack of activity that I usually think of when I need to shoot down my own self-doubts. When I ran my marathon a few years ago, he was the inspiration.
After a family dinner, we sat around my aunt’s dining table. The grandkids made party favors for the upcoming celebration, and my mom and her 2 sisters were doing the seating chart. I remember thinking that I love seeing my mom interacting with her sisters. It all seems so happy and effortless. I get a glimpse into another part of her-as a sister. Maybe that’s why I think she looks even more complete whenever I see her with my aunts. I looked over to my grandpa and realized I wasn’t the only one whose attention they had caught. My mom’s and aunt’s laughter filled the area just as the house was filled with my grandpa’s daughters, son-in-laws and grandchildren. And as my grandpa looked on at his daughters and family that surrounded him, his eyes blurred from tears that swelled in them. But even they couldn’t obscure for him his legacy, our family patriarch.
Happy Birthday Grandpa.

Posted: October 9th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Hawaii | Tags: , , , , | 6 Comments »

Stepping into the Unknown

We met a photographer in Guatemala a couple of months ago. During conversation she wanted to move past the usual traveler small talk of the, “where are you from?” and “what did you like the most so far?” type of questions. Instead, she thought we should be discovering why it is people travel. What are we getting away from, what are we trying to discover? You ask people why they travel and the answers are as varied as the faces that respond.
The last 2 weeks (in Barcelona, Leucate in the south of France, and Turkey), have offered me small, deeper understandings of my own answers. Barcelona reminded me that I travel for feelings of familiarity and not just for what is new. There’s happiness in a place that you’ve remembered in fondness welcoming you back. Eating at the same restaurants, feeling the city’s pulse late at night, seeing its Gothic and Modernist architecture brought back memories of times past. This time however, there also was an added feeling, that of pride—mostly unwarranted, as I was able to share the city I had learned to love before, with Mari and her parents. And by seeing them see the city with fresh eyes I once again saw the city’s offerings. I felt fortunate to spend time with the Yaos as I got to know them better, and in turn Mari.
The familiarity of Barcelona became less familiar as we stopped over in the south of France, and stepped back in time. Whatever you conjure in your mind of the south of France…picturesque vineyards…medieval castles and French village life…the Pyrenees—It’s all accurate. And sometimes traveling is about that—seeing something with your own eyes. Confirmation of the world’s beauty.
We stayed in France with some friends whom we originally met in Central America. Traveling had allowed us to develop a friendship with this amazing couple whom we would have never met otherwise. They were warm hosts and have become good friends.
From our friends in France, we took another step towards the unfamiliar and entered Turkey, a country neither Mari nor I had any idea what to expect from. It was another step back in time, as we have traded the medieval ages for the Greek/Roman eras and exchanged the warmth of family and friends for the random kindnesses of strangers. And initial impressions of Turkey have been all really positive. So much so, that we are postponing our step to the next country, staying here 2 ½ extra weeks, and if we’re lucky—continue to be given those little truths of why we travel.

pondering traveling over the nargile

pondering traveling over the nargile

Posted: May 15th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Turkey | Tags: , , , , | 3 Comments »

Getting Carried Away

Double fisting at the dessert buffet

Double fisting at the dessert buffet

We spent the past 12 days crossing the Atlantic on a cruise ship in order to get to Europe. It is amazing how easy it has been to fall back into old habits. After over three months of adjusting to a backpacker lifestyle, I experienced a moderate degree of culture shock upon boarding. At first I felt like the proverbial kid in a candy store. I enthusiastically commented on everything–the hot water that came out in an even stream with adequate pressure in a spotless shower, the fluffy bleached white towels that were changed twice daily, and of course the fabulously ridiculous excess of the buffet, among many other of the ship’s amenities. I am ashamed to say that a mere few days into the cruise, these luxuries quickly became expected. We joked about how “deprived” we had been, and I had to make a conscious effort to remind myself that no matter what our travel style or budget, we have not been and are no where near deprived, especially compared to people we have encountered during our travels-people who would justifiably take offense as being described as such, as many are just living simply and within their means.

Cruising is just a completely different reality. However, what made this cruise meaningful and worthwhile, was the fact that my parents were able to join us on the cruise and for a few days in Barcelona. They also brought us replenishment in the form of new toiletries, clothing, and other odds and ends that we had requested from home sweet home. So as embarrassing as it is to admit to doing “the cruise thing”, and as much as it diminishes our street cred as backpackers, it was more than worth it for me to be able to spend so much time with my mom and dad.

Now that the luxury portion of the trip is over, the next challenge for me is to make the conscious readjustment back to living like a traveler.

Posted: May 8th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: cruise | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments »