South Carolina summer.

It is a sleepy mid-afternoon in Greenville, South Carolina. The air is thick and warm in the screened back patio, like honey, and in the woods behind the house, insects are starting the eternal hum and drone that will forever sound like summer to me. The dogs were with me on the back porch, lying in the sunshine, but have now decided to retreat into the house and lounge about there instead. This is our treat, after so many hectic days of travel, to wake up and not have anything in particular to do, to eat anything we want and to get an offer to drive us to Bruegger’s or Trader Joe’s. And to stay in a wonderful house which has a backyard and a wealth of air-conditioning. (Really, people in Europe have an inexplicable grudge against A/C and fans.) Steve’s parents Rich and Karen gave us the kindest, most enthusiastic welcome home last Tuesday which was just fabulous. We even got some banners with Stella’s face on them!

And of course, the dogs. Rich and Karen’s charges (better known as the Dogs of Woodstone) are Chudleigh (their grave, older golden retriever), Taco (Steve’s brother’s 3 year-old quiet but rambunctious Chow mix), and of course, our Stella (3 year-old irrepressibly cute and sassy corgi mix). I have been speculating this whole trip about whether Stella will remember us. The answer is: yes! It just took a little while. When we first got back a week ago, Stella barked around and sniffed us and licked us and was quite enthusiastic, but simmered down quickly. Within a few days, however, she came to find us at night and stopped sleeping at the foot of Steve’s parents’ bed! She’s most certainly readapted to having us around, and it is beautiful. I’ve really missed having this dog around, though both Steve and I know she is the most spoiled thing in existence. Expect the reappearance of Stella photos on the Flickr!

We have spent the last week in a mixture of activities, going from the leisurely to the urgently mundane. By “leisurely”, I mean being driven around greater Greenville, which is a really lovely city, and strolling around the Falls Park after having had a delicious meal of Southern barbecue at Smoke on the River or one of the other dozen great restaurants around here. I swear, Karen is trying to feed us all of Greenville, and I’m not exactly averse to it. By “urgently mundane”,  I also mean the serious business of getting a new phone, researching mobile providers, switching motor vehicle registrations and license plates, paying tuition, figuring out federal loans, booking flights to Boston and Chicago, and getting an apartment in Durham (for which we did an overnight trip and stayed with Anneke, my high school friend). It’s this weird mixture of trying to knit our old life in Chicago back up with our new life in Durham, and also trying to interweave all the beautiful things about our year abroad. It’s hard to hold all three things conceptually in your mind, and to go back and forth between them. We also find it more than a bit frustrating that we’re settling back into doing everyday things in the US again as though nothing has changed.

At the same time, we’ve also found ourselves in the middle of an unintentional victory lap. Everywhere we go in this town, from Steve’s grandmother’s continuing care community to Karen’s hair salon, we have been introduced to people who have heard about our trip, are readers of the blog, or enjoy our photos. It’s a little head-turning, but I reassure everyone that our dog Stella will stay the only diva in this family. Steve and I are simply touched by how kind everyone has been and very glad that we’ve been able to share our adventures with a wider audience.

While we’re back in the US, our travels have not ended, and I hope to write more here about our future plans. Meanwhile, I’m going to work hard on uploading UK photos (we’re currently at Stoke-On-Trent), writing about our last day in London, and becoming a Southerner (off to get another glass of sweet tea!)…


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