Wonderful three week vacation in the USA!
Trip Start Mar 21, 2006
55Trip End Oct 05, 2008
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I have arrived safely back to the Philippines after a wonderful three week vacation in the States! I cannot begin to express how wonderful it was to spend time with my family and friends that I love and have greatly missed seeing over the last year and a half! For all of you that I saw, thank you for making my vacation so very special and helping me re-charge my battery for my last seven months here in the Peace Corps!
I moved around the West quite a bit on my trip so I will do my best to briefly re-cap the highlights of my wonderful vacation. I left the Philippines on October 17th and after a short flight from Manila to Taipei Taiwan I had a nine-hour layover to pass before my flight to Seattle. I decided that leaving the airport would be fun so after consulting with an airline official about the logistics of doing this I was off! I boarded a bus heading to downtown Taipei. While on the bus I met a fellow lone traveler named Flyn, Chinese by heritage but was raised in the Philippines his entire life. We ended up touring the tallest building in the world together in downtown Taipei. Properly named for the number of floors, Taipei 101 is a true engineering feat. Or so Flyn kept telling me, he is an engineer by trade. Touring Taipei 101 and most of all having someone to do this with was a wonderful way to pass a nine-hour layover. It was especially nice to be with someone who had also just come from the Philippines and could understand my amazement and starry-eyed looks at the clean streets, fresh air (seemingly diesel free), and ease of public transportation. Needless to say a wonderful nine hours in Taipei and I have now been to the tallest building in the world!
I arrived to Seattle the same day I left the Philippines, so Wednesday October 17th, however at that point I had been traveling for nearly 24 hours so my internal clock was tweaked to say the least. In fact it took one week for my body to fully adjust back to US time after the long journey. It was wonderful to be greeted by my smiling and yes of course a little teary-eyed Mama Manning at the airport in Seattle!! I spent four wonderful days in Snoqualmie with my parents in their new condo, which I had not seen yet! It is such a wonderful small community and while they are still adjusting to living in a smaller space, I am so happy that they are out of the city (25 miles). Enjoying a peaceful retirement in a beautiful community at the base of Mount Si with amazing views of the Cascade Mountain Range. I picked a perfect time to come home simply for the amazing fall colors everywhere and brilliant leaves lining the streets! I often found myself in three year-old mode walking the streets playing in the fall leaves. One of the highlights of being back in the Seattle area was getting to see my family. My Mom was wonderful and organized a family gathering so that I could see family that I otherwise would not have seen, being home for such a short visit. The party was Sunday Oct. 21st and was a huge success. Some might call it the family gathering of the year, being that my Mom's, Dad's and Sisters family were all there. Even two major surprises were there, my sister Heidi and her boyfriend Dave! It was so wonderful to see family and hear in person how much you all enjoy reading my Blogs and staying up to date with what I am doing here. I know that many of you made extra special effort to be there for the party so I want you to know how much I appreciated it and enjoyed seeing each of you.
On Monday October 22nd I flew to Denver to spend three wonderful days with Lindsay (best friend from Redlands)! I love that no matter how much time true friends spend apart when they re-unite they pick up right where they left off and this was indeed the case with Lindsay!! It was so wonderful to have three days in Denver and not that it takes much to sell the beautiful Rocky Mountain town but Lindsay did an incredible job and I am indeed sold!! I love Denver, we wandered around great little neighborhoods, poked though funky bookstores, of course checked out the REI in town (a major necessity of any city I will live in), enjoyed wonderful meals and gabbed and gabbed in ways only girl friends can. Some of the highlights of Colorado were having high tea at a wonderful Turkish tea house in Boulder, making a snow ball with the remainder of snow fall left from the day before I arrived, getting my fix of delicious Colorado Micro-Brews and touring Denver University's campus. Lindsay recently graduated from their school of International Studies and I am considering going there for my Masters post Peace Corps. They have a wonderful Peace Corps Fellowship program where returned PCV's get tuition remission and credit reduction, in fact I think I can finish my master's in half the usually required time. It was wonderful to have a recent alumnus as a personal tour guide and being back on a college campus bought up many questions I was not expecting to ask. DU's campus is beautiful and paved in windy red brick pathways; they have an incredible athletic facility for both collegiate athletes as well as students and one of the few Natural Resource Environmental Management Law Degrees in the country. Seeing their Gold rated Green Law Building and recalling this wonderful law program put thoughts of law school back in my mind... time will tell. Needless to say Denver was wonderful and while all my visits with friends and family were too short three wonderful days with Lindsay was better then none at all! Thank you for such a special visit Lindsay!
On Thursday October 25th I flew to Southern California and thankfully the fires did not interfere with my flight, only my ability to breath deeply for a few days. My alma matter the University of Redlands has been celebrating their Centennial and this weekend was the closing of the events and award ceremony for those receiving Centennial Awards. I did not want to miss receiving my award in person and most importantly this was a wonderful time to re-connect with more friends and mentors and Redlands. The afternoon I arrived I gave a short talk about Peace Corps to 15 current Redlands students interested in Peace Corps. It was wonderful to get to share some of my experiences over the last year and a half and answer questions from possible future PCV's. As I was giving my presentation I remembered sitting in that very room three years ago asking those same questions to my Peace Corps Recruiter and there I was three years later sharing about my PC experience!
My highlight of being back in Redlands was spending time with more of my amazing friends from college! Matt (best friend from Redlands) planned a wonderful trip for me and did his best to get us out of Redlands and out into nature. We spent a wonderful day in Idyllwild, Matt's mountain hometown above Palm Springs. While there were no fires there the air was still smoky but we managed to take the dog for a walk and enjoyed a wonderful morning and day of talking and re-connecting in the peace of the Mountains. It was also wonderful to re-connect with Julia or Little as I call her. Julia was a Freshmen when I was a Senior at Redlands and while our relationship began as a mentorship it has formed into a wonderful friendship. It was so fun to see her now as a Senior and after she too had an incredible abroad experience studying in Aussie. My senior year college roommate Shannon and her husband Jason drove out from AZ for the weekend and it was so wonderful to see them!! On Sunday October 28th Matt, Shannon, Jason and I headed to Joshua Tree National Mounement and enjoyed a perfect afternoon of bouldering, a delicious picnic and continued wonderful catching up. Matt and I camped out that night and enjoyed the howl of the nearby coyotes, harmonica playing and sharing my many "vinyets" of my life here in the Philippines. While in many ways it felt strange to be back in Redlands I am so glad I went and was able to see so many people that have helped me get to where I am today through their love, support and friendship! Thanks to all of you for making my return to Redlands so very special!! ADIVAY to you Matt!!
On Monday October 29th I headed to Portland and re-connected with my friend Brighid from college. We had not seen each other in two years and it was wonderful to see her and hear some of her stories from studying abroad in Senegal and again enjoy good Northwest Micro-Brews and McMiniman's in Hawthorne. Every time I am in Portland I have a blast and especially in the funky hipster neighborhood of Hawthorne. Nothing is set in stone but I really think I will end up in Portland for the year between getting back from Peace Corps and starting Graduate School. Portland is a wonderful environmentally sound city and the center of green development for the entire country, sounds like a Sherry town to me!
The next day my sister Heidi and her boyfriend Dave picked me up in Portland and we had a beautiful drive east to their mountain paradise in the Blue Mountains. It was yet another beautiful fall morning and we had clear views of the Mount St. Helens and Mt. Adams the entire drive. We saw packs of Big Horn Sheep along the highway and took a beautiful detour off the Gorge up to the fruit orchiards paralleling I-84. Needless to say everyone ordered beautiful fall weather the entire time I was home!! Heidi and Dave's home is such an incredible space. They have blended their two lives together so well in and it is a true heaven to relax, re-juvinate and re-connect with the incredible power of nature that is abundant there. Heidi kept me well fed, the monster muffaletta sandwich on the top of my found memory list! We enjoyed great drives and hikes to amazing views, picked the last of the season organic veggies from their garden, enjoyed wonderful conversations as always, and continued fantastic wildlife spoting. Packs of Elk, and Heidi wins the ticket for bird watcher of the year. She must have spotted 20 plus Red Tail Hawk on our drive from Weston back to Snoqualmie, WA on November 3rd. Heidi and Dave thank you both for sharing your amazing space and home with so many people and recognizing the healing power your home and sorounding nature has. It was the perfect place to end my wonderful visit home at and re-juvinate for my last months here! Thank you both!
Needless to say I had a very busy and wonderful three-week visit at home. It was so special to get to see many of you in person, hear your voices on the phone and as I mentioned before re-charge my battery. I am blessed beyond words to have all of you in my life and thank you all for your continued support, love and being a small piece of this journey though reading my updates and sending love through the computer and snail mail.
All my love and Peace!