Monthly Archives: November 2011

A Homecoming Worth Celebrating: Part I – Florida

After eight months of living in the wilds of Europe, I finally had the chance to return home. Thanks to my college BFF inviting me to be a bridesmaid in her wedding party, I booked a ticket across the Atlantic for a 2 week trek through Florida, The Bahamas, and New York.

The week started out with a grand reunion with my mom at the West Palm Beach Airport 2 weeks ago. We hadn’t seen each other since March. We laughed, we cried, we hugged, and we ate at Cheesecake Factory (yum!) It was 5 days of total relaxation, shopping, good food, and working on our tans. I had to be nicely bronzed for the upcoming wedding, after all!

My Future

My grandma also lives down in Jupiter, (Hi, Grandma!) and we had plenty of time for nice dinners where she lives, and at nearby restaurants. It was so nice to be among people who really knew me! And of course to be showered with love and gifts from Mom and GJ. It was a great week, even despite my terrible jet lag which had me really living like a local, (read, senior citizen – sorry, Dad!) Up at 6, breakfast at 7, lunch by 11, and dinner before 5…all topped off with bedtime at 8! What was the world coming to?!

Of course, now that I am experiencing the reverse jet lag (having just returned from this whirlwind yesterday afternoon,) I find myself living the rebellious teenager’s lifestyle, fighting my bedtime by writing on my computer until 2 am, when I really should have been asleep 2 hours ago!

Anyway, I finally kicked my initial jet lag just in time to hop a flight over to the Bahamas for the long-anticipated wedding of the year! With my long purple gown and my new 6 inch Michael Kors pumps in tow, Mom and I battled traffic to Fort Lauderdale, where I boarded my next flight to Nassau, The Bahamas.

…To Be Continued…

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A Bridge to Belgrade

Post adapted from April, 2011:

Okay, so there was no real bridge crossing to enter Belgrade, though as I learned in my few days in the city, there most certainly is a lack of bridges from one part of the city to the other. It might be the only complaint I heard while there, that there are just not enough bridges, and the ones that are open don’t have enough lanes for all the traffic that attempts to flow through them.

Belgrade was a bridge of different sorts for me. It was a bridge to A’s childhood. A bridge to his family and friends, a bridge to a language and culture I know nothing about, and a history so foreign from my own.

But in spite of, or perhaps because of, all of the differences, it was without a doubt one of my favorite places I’ve ever visited. For all that is different about it, and for all that I learned and experienced being there in the comforts of a local, I am excited to plan the next visit back.

I arrived on Friday night to rainy weather, which pretty much stayed with us throughout the weekend, (but gave us slight hope every so often with breakthrough bursts of sunshine.) We went over to his cousin’s place, drank some of the wine his father makes at home, and headed to a club with a live band. I recognized most of the music, who doesn’t recognize American 80’s, and enjoyed the 35 Euro champagne we had delivered to our table until the smokey bar became too much, and the realization that I had a hair appointment bright and early in the morning and it was well after 2 sunk in.

The next day I was pampered by A’s hairdresser, who was terrified I had cut my skull in the bike accident I’d had just a week earlier, but who I had A calmly explain to was just a bad dye job from the day before, where for some reason they couldn’t figure out how to wash the red dye OUT of my hair before sending me on my way. A hundred curls and a couple hours later and we were on our way to the wedding! Stylishly 30 minutes late. (ouch)

The ceremony was completely different from any I’ve seen before. It was in a small Orthodox chapel and the bride and groom were surrounded on both sides of the room by family and friends, all standing. They were in the middle and performed rituals I didn’t quite understand, but that involved wearing a crown and walking in a circle three times with the priest in front and smoke (incense?) in hand the room.

At the Ceremony

Then once the Bride and Groom were pronounced, and every guest visiting had the opportunity for individual photos with the B&G you stepped outside to a beautiful courtyard where there was a live band! Okay, that might be a bit of an overstatement, as I later learned, since it was a gypsy band that would play as loud as they could and would stand directly in front of whoever looked like they might have some change to spare and blow their trumpet into your face until you gave in with a couple of rolled up bills, (having never seen this before, I still thought it was pretty cool!) We then headed off to the reception which was in a completely separate part of the city where we awaited the B&G with cocktails in hand and hor d’ourves.

Me and My Main Squeeze 🙂

The party lasted late into the night, with the Best Man pleading for another round at a club to follow. Of course as we were about to head out, it became evident that all the Best Man, (and any of us) needed was a comfy bed to spend the night…and probably a few less drinks than we had already had.

The wedding was just a part of the weekend, albeit a big one. But also included was the Serbian Open where A, his dad, and I watched national-hero Djokovic win gold, and a trip to a nearby bakery where we had delicious desserts with his mom.

Even though he was being a total diva, I guess he deserves to win in the stadium named after him!

I left this whirlwind weekend behind with thoughts and dreams of returning to get to the know the city and A’s family better one day. And until we returned a month and a half ago, just dreams they were.

Coming Home, or Something Like It

After returning from Paraguay last December, spending a couple of months in NY and then moving to Germany in March – I hadn’t yet had the opportunity to “come home again”. You know the feeling you get; goosebumps thinking about seeing your family and friends, the town you grew up in, your family pets. You anticipate what it will be like to be in the same place as the people you love, to eat mom’s homemade spaghetti and meatballs (or noodle pudding!)

Unfortunately, I still had one month to go before I could really go home again, to NY that is, but I was lucky enough to travel down to Paraguay for work in October, 2011 – for the first time in ten months. So in a way, it felt like going home again.

I remember leaving the country last December and being unsure if I wanted to go back. I knew I was leaving behind great people and lasting friendships, but the hardship of my daily life living in a home I didn’t feel welcome, in the poverty of the downtown made it difficult to get by each day. I remember suffering immensely at the homeless animals all over the streets and the indigenous children walking barefoot along Asuncion’s main Avenues, doing tricks or begging for change.

I can say happily that on this return trip I had none of the same emotions as last year. The overt poverty was still there, but I was staying with a great friend, in a town bordering Asuncion, in a lovely home where home cooked meals were prepared daily, if not twice daily – so I wasn’t as exposed as I had been previously. My great friends would drive out to pick me up and take me anywhere I wanted to go, and I was spared the agony of the Paraguayan public transport system (i.e. buses from 1965). I didn’t even feel like the animals were in as bad a condition as I had remembered. I went to work each day with a plan and a goal, and felt confident in my Spanish in a way I never had before.

Mi Beautiful Paraguayan Amigas

That’s not to say I was ignorant to the hardships of life in Asuncion, but I didn’t feel like I was suffering along with them, as I once had. Not that I was ever on the streets begging for food or pennies, but I tend to feel the pain and hurt of others in an overpowering way that sometimes I can’t turn away from. So when I am exposed to an environment where that is the norm, I find it difficult to function. This trip back to Paraguay made it feel like a nice place I’d happily come visit again, rather than being clouded by the dark memories I created there, (alongside some very nice ones.)

Needles to say, it wasn’t exactly “home”, but it definitely felt like a comfortable friend’s home where I was welcomed back with open arms, which was a welcome respite from learning the ropes in my new city.