Two celebrations in one

Trip Start May 10, 2013
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Trip End May 21, 2013

Flag of United States  , California
Sunday, May 12, 2013

What a wonderful day yesterday was! I got to see most of my closest people all in one place - that happens so rarely that, at one point, I was just about in full blown tears! 

It all started very early with Commencement breakfast at school. It was nice to be there early and have some time to catch my breadth - I had been playing tour guide from morning to evening, and it felt great to just be able to take in the fact that I am actually graduating!!! Chris was adorable as usual and arrived with flowers for both me and my mom, and my dear friend Kimber made the drive all the way from San Diego on that very morning. I was so touched by everyone's gestures of love and support! 

When it was finally time, my family and friends went to sit down, while the rest of us graduates lined up in front of our beloved Hilton building, where most of the b-school torture occurred. Everyone was happy and smiling, taking pictures, adjusting each other's caps and gowns, just taking it all in! The processional took us all to our seats right in front of the stage, where we listened to the university President, the Vice Provost and the commencement speaker all congratulate us. Then it was time for the conferral, and our school went first. It all went by so quickly! We lined up, walked across the stage and shook some hands, then walked back to our seats. The whole thing took no more than 30 seconds! I vaguely remember walking across that stage, grinning like a fool! 

After the ceremony, I somehow managed to get all my people gathered in one place - some friends and co-workers had arrived after I had to line up with my fellow graduates, so after the ceremony was the first time I saw them. After lots of pictures, I finally turned in my graduation gown, which was really hot in the sun, then had some time to sit down and talk with everyone. 

In the afternoon, it was back to full blown sight-seeing mode! I took my parents to Getty Villa in Malibu. This place is much smaller than the Getty Center and feels much more intimate. We sat down for a quick double espresso at the coffee shop, then perused the collection of Greek, Roman and Etruscan statues that J. Paul Getty himself bought over the years. We watched the little intro movie that explained how the Villa was modeled after the house of Julius Ceasar's father-in-law in the village of Herculaneum, which was destroyed over 2000 years ago when Vesuvius erupted. We marveled at the pool and herb garden, and the gorgeous ocean view that we finally could see once the marine layer burned off in the late afternoon. I was excited that the afternoon cleared up because I had a special place in mind for dinner with great views of Santa Monica Bay. However, no first-time visit to Santa Monica was complete without a visit to the pier and Pacific Park. 

The Pier was insanely busy with people. I showed my parents the marker for the end point of the famous Route 66, then took my mom up on the Ferris wheel while dad found a seat to people watch. It was Mother's day here in the US, so my mom got a free ride on the wheel and a free photo after - what a treat that was! We figured out that she hadn't been on a Ferris wheel since my brother and I were little (my dad doesn't like them), so she was excited to go! We loved the views of the bay from up there, and the ride was so gentle and relaxing that mom, who can occasionally dislike heights, enjoyed it immensely!

From there, it was a short walk to the Huntley Hotel. Its top-floor restaurant is my favorite place in LA, and we had dinner reservations just in time to see the sunset.  We took the external elevator, which was a first for me also - the back of it is all glass and you get to enjoy a sweeping view of Santa Monica as you go up to the 18th floor. My mom enjoyed my favorite drink there - e Mello Mojito, and dad' braised lamb was to die for! I loved being able to share this with them. 

Our last stop was Third Street Promenenade - a pedestrian shopping street in Santa Monica that I was sure would delight my parents, as it would remind them of its counterpart in Sofia. We even stumbled upon some people dancing salsa on the street in front of Monsoon cafe! 

I am so happy my parents were able to see me graduate! It almost makes me want to get my PhD, so they can come see another graduation ceremony. Almost. 
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