In case you were wondering, yes, Steve and I are still traveling. And yes, we’re really tired. And yes, it’s about to be over very soon.
About a week ago, Steve and I said goodbye to Steve’s parents in Greenville and lit out for Charleston by the sea for three days. We hung out with many friends, worked some sand into our luggage, and had some spanking good barbecue (along with the most deliciously creamy and tangy coleslaw I’ve ever had in my life) before driving back up north. We stopped in Columbia, in the middle of the state, where Steve went to college for lunch. I had the distinct pleasure of sampling the bibimbap at Blue Cactus, a Korean joint, where Steve used to walk in and ask for “the regular”. We picked up some coffee (Steve) and an iced chai latte (me) at Immaculate Consumption, and were back to Greenville by the end of the day. Saying goodbye to Stella at the airport the next day was so hard! Karen drove us to the airport and brought her along in the car, and she wanted to follow us so badly! Luckily, we’ll see her again really soon.
Despite one late flight, my parents picked us up in Boston and drove us back to their house in Watertown. We spent four days hanging out with them and being plied with all kinds of fruit and produce from the garden (large cherry tomatoes, long beans, cucumbers, aramanth, and chives). My parents are pretty fanatical about their garden! We also did tech support, reviving their tablet and teaching both of them how to use Skype and getting Dropbox for my mom. (Grown-up kids: they’re so useful for everything!) And the four of us spent a very happy evening putting together a 500-piece puzzle, since doing puzzles is a thing they picked up on their Alaskan cruise earlier this year. Finally, I also introduced Steve to the joys of Crazy Dough and the Garage, which we used to haunt in high school, Mr. Bartley’s Burgers, People’s Republik, and much more. We roamed around Harvard Square, went to the Museum of Science with my friend Helen, saw the Arnold Arboretum, and . The only shadow on our lovely few days in Boston was the fact that my cat Lydia, who has been staying with my mom, seems to have disappeared. She does love to roam the neighborhood, but usually not for days at a time. Nonetheless, it was hard to do much more than scour a few blocks for her. Oh, and Steve also learned a lot more Chinese and earned Brownie points from my parents for being such a good student. It was a great visit, and the cherry on top was finding out that my parents were planning on visiting Taiwan for Christmas, after our rave reviews!!
Yesterday, we flew into Chicago, bringing our circumnavacation full circle. Almost a year ago on September 8, we began our trip westward by taking the Southwest Chief Amtrak train out of Chicago’s Union Station and toward Los Angeles. At this point, we have finally succeeded in circumnavigating the world! We wrapped it all up with dinner and drinks at Skylark with our friends, just as we had done at our goodbye party almost a year ago. I think Steve and I honestly have the greatest bunch of friends on earth. We saw over a dozen people last night. It felt like I was standing up every ten minutes to eagerly hug someone else that we hadn’t seen in a long time! There were a few friends with whom we’d shared parts of our trip (like Gene and Kate in Taiwan and Lele in France), and all were friends that we missed very much. It felt a little bittersweet to know we weren’t quite going to return to our lives in Chicago, and wouldn’t be able to pick up where we had left off with these people, but we were touched to see all of them again and to be welcomed back so warmly.
This morning, our moving adventure got off to a rocky start, because the Budget location closest to where we were staying (at Monika and Henri’s Oak Park home) did not have the truck that we reserved! Steve ended up having to call around and walked two miles to another Budget location. It set us back nearly two hours, but by noon, we were at our storage unit in Summit, IL. We were pleasantly surprised by how well our packing job last summer had gone, and aside from cobwebs, all of our belongings were in the same condition. Working steadily, we loaded everything up by 3 pm, and rewarded ourselves with a late lunch at the Grand Duke’s Restaurant, a place we discovered last summer when we were moving into this storage unit. It’s a delicious Lithuanian restaurant with the most wonderful sauerkraut soup, and exactly the kind of place we never would have discovered on our own! So we got another bite to eat there, and headed out of Chicago.
So far, sitting in the truck hasn’t been too bad. Steve is one of the most capable drivers I have ever known, and he is handling this 16-foot monster like a pro. I am sad that the seat doesn’t recline, as one of my favorite things to do in a car is to take naps. However, our airline neck pillows are coming in handy. Tomorrow, we’ll get breakfast with Steve’s friends Rob and Sophie, who are hosting us in Cincinnati, and then gird ourselves for an eight-hour drive down to North Carolina.
We arrive in Durham tomorrow, next Tuesday is graduate orientation, and next next Monday is the first day of classes. The future is rushing upon us fast, and I apologize to the world in advance because I have been taking thousands of pictures without any time to upload them on Flickr! I hope to at least finish our English photos before I have to start school. Thanks for following along, and we’ll have a few more updates before we put this blog to bed!