Sunday, June 21, 2009

Photos at last!

I have finally been able to post some of my photos from my travels. I split them up into four groups:

-Doha, Paris, Berlin, & Chartreuse

Walk On

And now my trip is over. Well, it's been over for over a month now. I start my classes tomorrow (ah!), but I'm excited for what's ahead. I really like my house, I love my neighborhood, my roommates are great, I'm glad to be near my L'Arche family, and I already enjoy my professors and fellow students. (There are 32 people in my cohort. We're going to get very, very close.)

I've been so busy packing, driving across the country, and moving into my new house that I haven't had too much time to sit and reflect on my experiences. But maybe that's a good thing. When I complete something in my life (school, work, traveling, etc.), I have a tendency to prematurely write an ending to the story, as it were, and then put it on a shelf, not to look at it again. But I don't want to do that. I don't want to preemptively come up with a list of lessons I've learned and leave it at that. I want to leave this "book" open so that it can still speak to me weeks, months, and years afterwards.

Nevertheless, I think it's okay to come up with a list of "things to take home," while recognizing that this isn't exhaustive:

-Find pockets of stillness, solitude, and silence (thanks to the Maasai and the Camino)
-Take my's all about the journey not the destination (Camino)
-Don't forget to have some frivolous fun every now and then (Berlin, Camino, Ireland)
-Don't get caught up in the "should"s and "have to"s...only do something because I want to do it (Berlin)
-Never get too comfortable...find something new and unknown to experience. It brings me closer to God (Kenya, Doha, Berlin, Camino)
-Exercise (Paris, Camino)
-Dance (Berlin)
-Love myself (Berlin, Camino)

And there's much, much more that I will take (and have taken) with me. I'm excited to see how my travels will shape me and my personal journey. Thank you for sharing this with me.

If you want an adventure of your own, please come visit me in Seattle! I'm going to be here for a VERY long time. (If I stay on my current academic path, I will finish school in four-and-a-half years.)

I hope you've enjoyed reading my travel blog. Thank you for sharing this with me.

Quality Mother-Son Time

Two weeks after I returned to the States, my mom and I drove all the way from Atlanta to Seattle. Essentially, it was a repeat of my first road trip from Hotlanta to Tacoma in 2005. Bally Boo and I basically drove straight west and then straight north. We made the following stops:

-Little Rock...Ice cream with my aunt and uncle.

-Santa Fe...Adobe ALL OVER THE PLACE. It's city law that the buildings have to look traditionally Southwestern. Even the Shell stations and McDonald's look like little pueblos.

-Petrified National Forest (AZ)...Really cool dinosaur-age trees that had become rocks over time thanks to the silica from volcanic eruptions. Those were some scared trees.

-Grand Canyon National Park (AZ)...It's breathtaking, especially at sunset.

-Red Rocks State Park (AZ)...It's what I imagine the Australian Outback to look like. Really beautiful.

-Las Vegas!...We stayed at Paris Las Vegas (with fake storefronts and cobble-stoned streets inside), saw Cirque du Soleil at the Bellagio, won thirty dollars at Blackjack, lost ten dollars at slots, and went to a strip show (and by "strip show," I mean we drove up and down the Las Vegas Strip at night). I've now been to two of the most sinful places in the world--Las Vegas and Amsterdam's Red Light District--with my teetotaling, Southern Baptist mother. I have a feeling that I didn't quite get the WHOLE experience in Vegas or Amsterdam. Oh well. We still had fun.

-Death Valley National Park (CA)...HOT. Got up to 103 degrees.

-Yosemite National Park (CA)...Stunning. Half Dome is one of the most amazing mountains in the world. It got down to the 50s...a 50-degree drop from our morning in Death Valley. Crazy. It's my favorite national park.

-San Francisco...Wonderful. My mom's co-worker's brother gave us a fantastic tour of the city, and we had dinner with Amanda, my friend from the Krista Foundation. Fantastic.

-Crater Lake National Park (OR)...Really, really beautiful. It was the bluest water I had ever seen. (Supposedly, it's the cleanest water in the U.S.) It was my mom's favorite national park.

We had a lot of good food, but the best may have been at In-N-Out in California and Burgerville in Oregon.

In Search of Leprechauns

Wow. It's been over a month since I've returned to the states, and I've yet to update (and complete) my travel blog. My apologies.

I spent the last week of my adventures in Ireland with my nephew Ben. It was amazing and so incredibly fun. I knew it was going to be a good week as soon as I stepped off the bus from the airport. With a map in my hand, I was trying--unsuccessfully--to find my hostel when an Irish guy (Declan) came up to me and asked, "Do you know where we are?" I replied, "No idea," to which Declan said, "I didn't think you did. Let's go to this pub over here and look at your map together. I'll buy you a pint." AWESOME! Declan was the man. He bought me some Guinness (so much better in Ireland), and he gave me some suggestions for my week in the country.

The next day, I met up with Ben at the airport, and we toured Dublin for a bit, which included the Guinness Factory. Dublin was definitely fun, but Ben and I were really excited to see the rest of the country, so we rented a car for five days, which was a blast. Ben is too young to drive in Ireland, so I did all the driving, which was fine. It was my first time driving on the lefthand side of the road, but it wasn't as bad as I thought. I got used to it pretty quickly, except for two things: First, I'm so used to lining myself up with the lefthand side of the lane, so there were several close calls when our side mirrors nearly scraped against walls, cars, cows, etc. The other tricky bit was remembering that the gear shift is on the left, not the right. It's second nature for me to put the car in park using my right hand. There were many times that I would find myself reaching for something with my right hand but not remembering what I wanted to do, and if I didn't remember, then I wouldn't put the car in park. Oops. Luckily, there were no car issues, except for one flat tire, which I'll come back to later...

Basically, our week consisted of driving around Ireland, exploring, and playing like 7-year-old boys. Whenever Ben and I saw an abandoned castle or church, we would stop and check it out. The best was Blarney Castle, which not only has the Blarney Stone, but also lots of caves and even a giant tire swing.

We also searched for leprechauns... I went to the Blarney Castle five years ago, and while I was there, I found a cave and walked inside, while repeating, "Leprechaun! Leprechaun!" As soon as I get deep enough in the cave and could only see pitch black in front of me, a deep voice from within the cave said, "Who goes there?!" Needless to say, I freaked out a bit and quickly ran back into the light. We didn't find any leprechauns in Blarney, but we think a leprechaun lived in one of the abandoned castles we visited. After we had played around for a bit in the castle, we got back in the car and drove back on the road, but before we knew it, we had a flat tire. Our theory is that a xenophobic leprechaun slashed our tires while we were climbing up the turrets. Luckily, Ben's a pro, and it didn't take us long to put the spare on and then buy a new tire.

Ben and I ended up driving to Cork, Killarney, Dingle, Galway, and then back to Dublin. We spent quite a bit of time on the Ring of Kerry (on the Kerry Peninsula) and the Dingle Peninsula. It was so incredibly green, with stunning hills, mountains, cliffs, and beaches. Every night, we'd find a pub and have a pint or two. The Guinness was delicious, the countryside was beautiful, and the people were wonderful. We're definitely going back.