A sort of homecoming

Trip Start Feb 18, 2004
Trip End Dec 05, 2005

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Flag of United States  , Washington
Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Yes, I did make a visit back to the U.S. I tried to keep it a secret from most people in Portland so that I could surprise them. That sorta worked.
I flew out of Hong Kong around 4:30pm August 30 and arrived in at LAX at 2:30pm the same day. So if I arrived before I took off, couldn't I have just skipped that 13.5 hour plane ride? This time travel stuff confuses me. Don't think I really slept on the plane so I had been awake for about 25 hours at this point. While waiting for Tony to pick me up, I saw the sign that I definately wasn't in Asia anymore - a "supersized" family shuffling across the road together into the airport. Tony got me and we went back to his apartment in El Segundo so I could drop off my stuff before we went for a bite to eat. Had some reasonable Mexican food (better than any in Asia!) and Dos Equis before Tony had to go to class. I walked down to the beach for sunset since he only lives a few blocks away. No Baywatch babes out. :( Back at the apartment my eyes were like weights so I was in bed by 9pm. Up and awake around 3am and took some sleeping pills to get me back to sleep. Slept in quite a bit after that. Tony wanted to throw me back into the US culture so took me to Venice Beach. Venice Beach is more like another planet than the real US. Plenty o' freaks out. Tony had to work that night so I went out to dinner with my friends, Jen & Jeff, who were recently married. They took me down to Hermosa Beach for some fish n' chips. They got to give me the full quiz on the trip before I got sick of talking about it with everybody else.

News of Hurricane Katrina and the damage it caused was now all over the news. It's sad so many people lost their lives and homes, especially when it could have been prevented. The goverment obviously should have responded more quickly...there was even advance warning that the hurricane was coming so they should have already been prepared. After survivors were stuck in squallid conditions in the SuperDome for a few days, I loved hearing the head of FEMA saying he just became aware of the situation. Ummm, hellloooo, it's on every freakin' channel! You'd have to be a hermit not to know what's going on. Government genius in action... Someone should put some research into why Americans left homeless and hungry resort to violence and even shoot at the people trying to help them. There were no reports of that kind of violence following the tsunami or during the monsoon in India (20 million people's lives "disrupted" in the Mumbai area).

Back in LALA-land, Tony drove us south to Huntington Beach to check out the area and have some lunch. Gas prices were at an incredibly high $3/gal. Costs over $40 to fill up. Oy! Continued south to Las Floras to see my friend, Hayes. I originally met him in London when I studied there 10 years ago. He took us out for dinner and drinks with some of his Claim Jumper gift cards. Claim Jumper gives you HUGE portions. I realized my belly isn't up to American standards and is going to need some work while home. The next morning we went for breakfast and I had a waffle with strawberries and whip cream. No country does breakfast as good as America.

We left Hayes, and Tony drove us further south to Chula Vista where we met up with my lovely friend, Marcela, at her aunt's house. If you remember waaaayyy back to Ireland, you'll recall that I met Marcela in Kilkenny while trying to get over my cold. She drove us across the border to her hometown, Tijuana! First thing to do was get Spanky's picture with the Mexican flag.

After that, Marcela took us to Ave Revolucion - the touristy main street of Tijuana. This is apparently where Americans come and think they're experiencing the "real" Mexico. She gave us a bit more of a tour, had some dinner then out to where the Mexicans go. We went to a cantina with mariachi bands for entertainment/music. Tony was impressed by all the varieties of tequila available and insisted we have a [double] shot while in Mexico. Can't say I'm a big fan of tequila. We hung out there a while and chatted then decided we needed somewhere to move n' groove. Plaza Fiesta was the place to go. It has various clubs though most were just music with people standing around. We eventually found a happenin' one and crammed ourselves onto the dancefloor (it was packed). Kinda hard to dance when you're squished. It was still fun and we stayed 'til about 1:30am. Stopped by a late-night taquitos stand for munchies before going home (apparently Ricky Martin goes to this taquitos stand when he's in town).
In the morning we went out and gathered ingredients to make breakfast - kind of a little soft taco (pork, avocado, sour cream). Quite good. Marcela drove us down the coast for a tour with a stop at the Calafia Hotel. The hotel has info on the early missions and patios with great views of the ocean. We had a drink there and enjoyed the sunshine. A nice place for chillin' by the sea. Back to TJ to gather our stuff before heading back across the border to Chula Vista. Tony had to leave to get back to El Segundo for work. It was great of him to drive me all around to see my friends. Marcela and I went to the marina for sunset. It got a bit cold out (I thought California was supposed to be warm!). Had a late dinner then back to her aunt's house.
Woke up really freakin' early (4:45am) to get ready for flight. Marcela took me to the airport and had us there by 5:30am. She came in with me and we had breakfast before I had to catch my flight. It's hard saying goodbye to such a cute, young woman.

I made it into Portland about 9am and MO was waiting for me. I had to let her know I was coming to town as she was going to Europe in a couple days and I might not have been able to see her. First stop - Fred Meyer to pick up some sugar-frosted cereal. Dropped my stuff off at her place and we went out to visit my brother, John, a little while later. I got to see how much my niece, Micaela, has grown. She's getting taller, more hair and can talk reasonably well. She was shy at first but was soon playing around. Back to MO's and I took a nap while she and Eric got things ready (I'm a good helper). MO and I planned a bbq at her place and invited a bunch of people over without telling them I was there. Nick was very surprised and giving me big hugs. Teeter seemed at a momentary loss while his brain tried to process who I was ("wait, he's not supposed to be here!"). Shelly said I looked skinny...must be because I haven't been working out and my HUGE pectoral muscles and big guns (biceps) have withered. ;) The others hid their overwhelming excitement better. It was great to see everybody again and hang out.
The next couple days were spent hanging out at MO's, visiting people at Nike and doing a couple errands. Wednesday evening Eric drove us up to Seattle and dropped me off at Sissy's before he and MO were off to Europe. My sister and the nephew were already asleep when I arrived.

I discovered it's a bit hard to get a good night's rest at my sister's house with Cort waking up crying during the night, a dog jumping on me really early in the morning then Curt cranking the radio while he gets ready. So I had to sleep in extra each morning to recover from that. The nephew, Cort, is now about 2 1/2 and grown even more. He's talking now though he can be a bit hard to understand sometimes. Sissy and Curt seem to understand him ok. He's a moody little guy - he can go from playing and happy to silent and sulking in an instant (and of course fitting and screaming too). He's fun to play around with though.

The first thing to take care of in Seattle was getting the car going again. It wouldn't start so I had to jumpstart it and have the battery replaced (new battery + oil change + fill up with gas = $200!). The car window got stuck part way down and wouldn't go back up. Curt and I took a look at it, but it looked like we'd have to slide the window all the way out to get it back in the tracks. The stereo's faceplate motor stopped working so CDs can't eject. I had to live with the one CD that's in there and whatever radio had to offer. Then there was a flat tire so I took it in to Les Schwab to be patched up. Ugh!
The few days in Seattle were spent visiting people and doing some errands. My dad came over from Wenatchee so I got to spend time with him too. On Sunday I headed south with plastic over the window (since it wouldn't go all the way up) but that only lasted for about half an hour before it was coming apart. I had to pull over and take it off. I stopped in Olympia and saw my aunt, uncle and cousins. My cousin, Liz, was having her baby shower and is due soon.

Made it to Portland Sunday evening. Had a week in Portland to visit friends and family. I soon discovered I couldn't possibly see everyone in a week (sorry to those of you I didn't get to see!). [and sorry the rest of the entry is going to be more brief and leaves out some details. i'm tired of writing.]
I stayed with Teeter most the week. Sunday night Teeter fixed the window on the car and the antenna (I'd say I helped, but let's get real). Another day he fixed the side mirror and right before I left he checked out why the oil was leaking. Always good to have a friend that can fix cars. Thanks, Teeter!
Monday night I went over to my brother, John's, house for dinner. It was cute when I came in Nancy asked my niece, Micaela, what to get for Uncle Tom and she went to the fridge and grabbed a beer and brought it to me. :) Just gotta teach her to open it too! We had some peach cobbler for dinner which brought on my food allergy. Not sure what ingredient caused that. (I just had peaches and oats the day before with no problem.) Maybe there was some shellfish in there. ;)

Had lunches and dinners scheduled every day with various friends during the week. The reclusive Duane made it out for a happy hour, had an evening out at bog with Dana and Heather who've also been in hiding, did a little travel planning for Costa Rica with Julie, ...
Saturday (Sept 17) Janelle got married out in Sandy so I went out to see that. The groom's best friend also served as minister and made the ceremony fun and relaxed (like it was just amongst friends). Unfortunately, I had to skip out early and missed most of the band's show 'cuz I had to meet up with my sister-in-law to see Neil Diamond at the Rose Garden. She scored some free tix from a family friend. We rode the MAX down and got there right on time. There were plenty of older ladies all excited in the audience. Neil himself was looking a bit over-the-hill and was a little slow getting down the stage stairs. Nancy proved she's far more of a Neil fan than me by singing along to all the oldies. Neil poked some fun at himself during the show and even did a little rap during "red, red wine".
I'm sorry to say that I did not win $92 million in the Powerball lottery. I could've been travelin' in style with a real live monkey entourage. Damn.
Within a couple days of being in Portland it was all familiar and normal again, which is not really what I wanted. I was hoping it would actually feel like I was gone a year. Instead it just feels like I wasn't really gone that long. I guess people and places usually don't change that much in one year. And when leaving Portland it didn't really feel like I was leaving except maybe on a short vacation. Though I suppose I won't be gone that long compared to the what I just did.

The drive up to Seattle Sunday afternoon was full of bad traffic and took me four hours. Lots of idiots on the road causing accidents. I stayed with Sissy the first evening and got to play with the nephew. The next couple nights were spent at Ben & Julia's. Julia helped me with a bunch of Spanky designs as I sat behind and critiqued her work. I also discovered Reese's Peanut Butter Cups make my head feel funny and a bit numb (remember I'm allergic to peanuts).

It was great to get to see many friends and family back at home. A break from the regular travel routine was much needed after China. Just being somewhere "normal" and amongst friends was nice. Got myself all packed up in the bigger bag (need it since I have cold weather stuff to pack too), errands are done and I think I'm ready to go for the next leg of the journey.

So I was getting lots of questions about various things during my visit home. Here are a few:
> How is your eye? - it fell out. no, seriously, the eye seems to be doing fine. i still have double-vision at the peripheral of my vision, but i don't often look at the edges so that ain't so bad. there's no visible scar on the eye.
> Where are you going when you get back? - Portland
> What are you going to do when you get back? - try to find a job
> Where are you going in S. America? - (see below)

Here's my upcoming itinerary for Central and South America:
Sept 21: Seattle -> Dallas -> San Jose, Costa Rica
Sept 30: San Jose -> Miami -> Lima, Peru
overland to La Paz, Bolivia
Oct 14: La Paz -> Santiago, Chile
Oct 23: Santiago -> Easter Island
Oct 27: Easter Island -> Santiago -> Buenos Aires
overland to Rio, Brasil
Nov 23: Rio -> London (arrive Nov 24)
then visit people in England for a week or so before coming home.

I'll be back home in time for Christmas!!!
Slideshow Report as Spam
Where I stayed
Calafia Hotel
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