lundi 22 février 2016

Santa Rosa

I went to Santa Rosa this weekend for the memorial service for Hal Mickens, a man who was like my second father for a large part of my life.  He was a profoundly good man, happy, wise, and a seemingly endless font of stories.  He had a remarkable ability to meet you where you were.  I knew him from age two until this year when he passed away, and yet I never remember Hal being patronizing, insincere, or treating me less equally for being a kid.  

Hal is in my first clear memories from about age two-and-a-half, when I called him "Hally."  I remember following him around the Mickens' house in Santa Rosa until my eyes and nose were running with allergies.  He taught me how to do some woodworking to make cut-out puzzles with a skill saw, and to create a peg-jumping game.  He and Nancy flew me down to Tijuana, Mexico with our church group when I was about 9.  In return, he only asked for hard work.  He didn't specify what that meant, and never made my efforts feel childish or foolish.  As I got older, our conversations evolved to feel like I was talking to someone who considered me a peer, despite having known me as a small child.  Hal always made me feel valuable and valid.  Hal was a good mentor, a good leader, a wise man, and endlessly funny.  I will miss him a lot.  There is a tangibility to his passing that I haven't experienced before.

It was interesting, too, being back in Santa Rosa.  I grew up there for 10 years, and in a lot of ways, it is one of the places I most associate with home.  I spent many summers in Santa Rosa after moving to Washington State.  It wasn't until Hal's memorial service, however, that I was faced with so many people from that period of time growing up there.  There were a number of people from our church at the time who I hadn't seen since I was 12 years old.  They all remarked on how I had grown up.  However, they seemed old to me at 12, so seeing them with the eyes of an adult, they didn't appear to have changed much to me.  It is as though my concurrent aging allowed my perspective to reset.  They stepped right out of my memory, names and all, and I made small talk with names from the past.

It was a great trip overall, though too brief.  It is a good reminder to not let go of the various pieces of my life.  Even though parts of my life move forward at differing speeds, it is important to me to maintain the disparate pieces.  Those myriad pieces are what have made me who I am.  I am grateful to have spent a weekend with my parents and my brother, even under sad circumstances.  I am so glad I saw Nancy and Deborah, and was able to meet more of their family.  I am happy we were able to laugh on Saturday night, even in the wake of the service.  There was a lot of love in that house on Saturday evening after the funeral, and it is probably that which sticks with me the most from the weekend.  I feel honored to be connected to such good people.

Que sigan viajando...

dimanche 3 janvier 2016

New Year, Familiar Resolve

This is the blog post where I again vow to post once per week. So here I go!  This, if successful, will be one of at least 52 posts in 2016.

Things are settling back in to normal after the holiday weeks.  I had a really good time with my parents in town.  I liked having them around for 10 days because it left room for them to see different parts of what we all do here in DC.  They got to spend more time with Lee's parents, and it was so nice to get that opportunity.  They got to meet some of my brother's friends, we did touristy things and we all got to spend time together.  Much of it was low key, and low stress.  Some of the more touristy activities were crowded over the holidays, but even those were great.  My parents, my brother, Lee and I attended mass (candle light carol service) at the National Cathedral, we went to a few of the Smithsonian museums, they saw the constitution and the declaration of independence at the National Archives, and we all went to the top of the Washington Monument.

I feel so lucky that I can now have my family spend time with Lee's family.  I feel grateful that I could go to Lee's family's Christmas celebrations.  For the last two years we tried to distill so many significant holidays, traditions, feelings, and moments into high pressure, high activity periods of time.  This year was special for just being able to be together for the holidays.  We decorated our first Christmas tree, decorated the apartment together, we made Christmas cookies for our super and our apartment manager, we went to holiday parties together and were able to enjoy so many facets (and so many stresses) that we had not been able to before.  It felt like we were constructing something of our own, and that felt great.

The new year is starting, and is bound to be a busy time.  I think that both Lee and I are traveling a lot for work this spring.  We are both headed to Mexico City next week for a few days of vacation (we didn't take any time at Christmas).  We will be there for 5 days to eat, drink, shop, and see art.  We found very cheap non-stop flights from DC, and very reasonable prices for a place to stay.  It will be a sunny, warm escape just as DC is really becoming gravely cold.  I hope to post from there.

I am excited to see what the new year holds.  I am excited for new adventures, more travels, more life lived with Lee, and new resolve for getting fit, cooking more, spending less, and reading more.  2016 promises to be a great year.  More soon.

Keep Traveling.

dimanche 29 novembre 2015

Flying Out: Lima

I am at DCA waiting for my flight to Houston.  In Houston I will connect to my flight to Lima.  It is pretty simple; I fly 3 hours to Houston, then 7 to Lima.  All told, it is a pretty easy flight route.  It certainly beats the 24 hour slog to East Africa, though I do miss the the frequent flier miles from those trips to Uganda and Kenya.  I also miss the chance to pop out of the airport in interesting and new places like Doha, Dubai, Amsterdam, among others.

I am headed to Lima for a week for work.  It is definitely going to be a busy trip.  There are a lot of important meetings, looking to move work forward for the next few years.  I am hopeful that my contributions this trip will amount to more than smiling and nodding.  I mean, I was brand new for the last trip, and would not have had much to add, but still.  I would like to speak.  Speaking is an attainable goal.

This morning I woke up at 7 to work out.  It was cold, grey and raining outside, but I did it anyway.  I felt like I was achieving something laudable by exercising this morning.  Just by getting out of bed I had basically patted myself on the back just for being awake.  I jogged a couple of miles in the rain, irritated that it was raining.  I came back and made a breakfast of toast and yogurt, then got ready.  Naturally, since it was 48 degrees outside, the heat in our apartment was auto-turned up to 80.  So I was sweating in the apartment after showering--probably more than when I was running in the cold rain.

I have come to accept that I will sweat when I get ready.  Even if I give myself 4 hours of leeway for getting to my destination, I will still sweat because I am alive and thinking.  That means that I just know I will sweat to the airport.  Every trip, pretty much ever.  So you are welcome future seatmates, I will be sweating next to you for a least the first 30 minutes of the flight.

Now I am here and I can hear the United staff trying to lure 11 people off this flight with $500 vouchers and a promise of a later flight out.  This always seems to happen when I cannot change my flight at all.  It is a total bummer.  But I am going to go see if there is anything they can do to still get me to Lima tonight and change my flight.  If they can guarantee that, I would for sure take $500.  We shall see!

Keep traveling!

jeudi 5 novembre 2015

Update and New Things

New job.  New jobs are tough.  I have only been at this one about 8 weeks, and I feel like I am just starting to know what questions to ask, when to ask them, and why I should ask them.  The next step is knowing what to do with the responses.  I catalog them in various ways.  I scribble them into a note pad, then I type them.  Then I look through them again.  They strain through my consciousness as though my brain were cheese cloth. I know I retain something but what is it that passes through the fine mesh?  That is the next next step--I need to figure out what I don't know I am not retaining.

Good people at this new job.  I love working with the Forest Service.  It is a totally different atmosphere than VE.  I miss my VE friends and family dearly, but I am excited to be in a new venture.  International Programs at the Forest Service sometimes has the feel of a start-up.  It is frenzied, fast-paced, high demand, and involves a lot of marketing and relationships.  Then sometimes you run into the standard government barriers: i.e. 3 weeks to get fingerprints to and from the FBI so I can get an ID badge with a chip that will allow me to log onto my computer outside the office.  There is a lot of papeleo that I am learning to process.  I have to be both flexible and detail oriented; I am standard form driven and able to improvise--or at least that is the goal I am shooting for.  In any case, it makes for an exciting work place.  Many of my colleagues are former PCVs and thus know the realities of living abroad for several years on end.  Many have lots of development experience, and love IP for its ability to eschew some of the rhetoric fatigue and get down to solid programming.  It is a very cool place.

I am loving living with Lee.  It has been the rightest move I have ever made.  I love to know what she thinks, what she does when she thinks she isn't doing anything at all.  I love the routines and the new types of adventures.  I love 9:00 pm after work when we decide to go to Mexico City for the hell of it.  We can, we do, we are learning together what works.  It is pretty remarkable.

All the while, DC is cooperating too.  The weather has not turned its back on us yet.  It is a bit of an Indian summer with warm temperatures, soft breezes and pleasant attitudes.  I love re-learning a place, and still having solid friends around with which to accomplish that task.

Certainly there are moments when I catch myself staring off and thinking of Uganda.  I miss it.  I miss the light there, I miss the smells.  I long for easy evenings on the porch with the dog and the donkey.  I even miss the loud neighboor up the street with his loud parties that I still was never invited too.  I miss the thrum of music, the whine of boda bodas, and the orchestrated semi functional calamity of the place.  Every day brought something unexpected and outside my frame of reference.  I think I feel that space in my day to day at times.  I don't need to go back right away, but it feels nice to think about it.
I was just in Chicago and New York, and I am headed to Peru at the end of this month.  I will certainly write between now and then.  And I hope to update from Peru this trip, too. The last trip was too busy to take time to write from there.

So, I guess all this is to say that I am happy and I am grateful.

More soon.

Keep Travelling.

jeudi 30 avril 2015


I am in the Nashville airport after 4 days of great food, good exploring, lovely weather, and some quality music.  I came down from DC with Evan for a couple of days.  I work remotely right now, and I can just as easily work from Nashville as I can from DC, so I figured I would try to see something new.

Nashville is a beautiful city.  It is green and lush.  The urban areas to not spoil the beauty of the setting.  That is partly because the urban areas are small, and fairly unobtrusive, and partly because there is a lot of open space around Nashville.  It is an interesting mix of southern hospitality, warm and welcome people, a modern urban food, art, and cocktail scene, honky-tonk and state capital.  It mixes all these things pretty well (I say as 4-day expert).  I enjoyed it very much.

We arrived on Sunday night and took a driving tour of Broadway and the downtown strip.  We went along 2nd street and the bars there, and then back through downtown.  We had dinner at a Tex-Mex place called El Chico.  It was not remarkable, but it was good.  I am not an aficionado of Tex-Mex, given that it is not so popular in the West.  It involves queso which is a definite Mexican tradition.  Check it out.  It is a funny cuisine.  It is like middle America ran headlong into Mexico.  After dinner we went to our hotel and then walked around the Gaylord Opryland Hotel.  We were staying next door to the Grand Old Opry concert hall.  It is an uninteresting brick building that is steeped in music history.  EVERYTHING around it is named Opry something rather.  The Gaylord Opryland Hotel is a massive hotel and conference center that is like Disneyland for southerners.  It is so strange and themed and landscaped and all indoors.  It smells like a casino and Disneyland were blended together with lots of southern accents.  After our walk we went to bed.

During the days we mostly would exercise in the morning, then have a delicious lunch, work more in the afternoons, then go out for excellent dinner food. On Monday we worked from the Dell offices on their sprawling compound by the airport.  We had massive burgers at Gabby's, worked more, then went for another walk prior to dinner at Peg Leg porker.  It was amazing bar-b-que.  The line at peg leg was long, but worth the wait.  We had bar b que nachos, and pulled pork.  The meat was so tender; sweet and savory with a delicious give to it.  It was almost buttery.  No one flavor dominated, not too seasoned or sauced, allowing the meat to speak for itself in concert with the other flavors.  IT was awesome.  I tried some local Yazoo beer, too.  It was crowded the whole time we were there, but there was space for seating and we never felt cramped.  It was in a cool part of town called The Gulch.  It was a great experience eating there.

From Peg Leg we went into downtown so I could see Broadway on foot, drink some beers and listen to music.  We walked out to the midway point of the foot bridge and we took some great photos of downtown.  We wandered into a bar and listen to Garth Brooks covers for a while.  Then we continued on to Mike's Ice Cream for delicious hand-made ice cream.  We walked out to the river and sat on benches along the river and ate our ice cream cones before heading back to the hotel for the night.

Tuesday I was able to hang out in East Nashville and go to Barista Parlor for incredible coffee and workspace.  I went into a shop called Fuselage where everything was expensive and too hip (4 sizes too small) for me.  It was a well-curated store though.  I just didn't need a $98 vintage union jack scarf, or $38 bespoke candles.  We stayed in East Nashville for dinner, drinks and trivia night at the Hop Stop where they had many many beers on tap, and great food.  It was a bar b cue centric menu with nouvelle takes on everything, but the food was still good.  I drank too many beers, but we took 3rd in trivia and had a great time while doing it.  My brother has some great friends and coworkers here.

Wednesday I was working out of the Dell offices all day again.  We took a trip back to East Nashville to eat incredibly delicious tacos at Mas Tacos Por Favor.  They are the best street tacos I have had outside of Mexico or Los Angeles.  I also had a rich and creamy cold-brewed iced coffee with horchata instead of milk.  It was fantastic.  I would say there are a few good cases of great coffee in Nashville, but overall the coffee game is lacking.  That evening I went for a run along the Cumberland river.  It was beautiful and green.  I got almost as many stares as in Africa (fitness must not be as common?  I had something on my face?  I don't know...)  But it was green and beautiful and the river made for a great backdrop.

That night we went to Bricktop's which was only okay.  But the best was having cocktails at Patterson house.  They make hand crafted cocktails that all include many expensive ingredients and liquers, and are generally cocktails dressed to impress.  The setting is a lovely old house with tin tile roofs inside, low dim lamps, ceiling fans, cozy booths, and hip people.  It was a chic spot to get to hang out with Evan and his friends.  We stayed for a couple of cocktails and then left before the place was too packed with well-heeled hipsters and Vanderbilt folks.  We cruised down music row and then headed back out to the hotel.

Now here I am at the airport, ready to fly back out.  It was a great trip!  I want to come back and dig in a little more.  I still can't get my head around the accents.  The southern drawl adds 3-7 extra syllables into everything and ranges from quaint to unintelligible.  I want to see more music and understand that scene a little better.   I would like to have hot chicken, which I missed this time.  I want to do a little more shopping and eating and drinking.  So, I am starting my next trip list now.  Hopefully Lee can be with me on the next one, too.