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This July has been a month all about literal movement – an adventure in LA, seeing family in Fresno, showing my brother Arizona and even starting to really launch a big idea (after a lot of time just thinking about it). Then August turned out to be a month of life movement including big changes in my daily life and little but promising changes in my professional world (hello, freelancing!). There’s been so much movement, in fact, that it’s been a little tricky to pause and record all of it.
But one of the cool things about having people visit is that you get to play host – you may end up looking at where you live with new eyes, a traveler’s eyes and end up seeing, hearing or even tasting things about a familiar place that you never knew were there. We got two great examples of that in the last few months.
This July was my brother’s first visit to Phoenix since I moved here to start graduate school. If there’s one thing my brother is always up for, it’s a good sports event so we took him to see the Diamondbacks take on the New York Mets – and ended up literally right next to the Mets bullpen. While I’d briefly been to Chase Stadium once before for a company party, experiencing it filled with baseball fans, the sounds of the game and tempting food smells was a brand new experience and surprisingly comfortable for the triple digit heat thanks to the stadium cover. It’s something we probably never would have done without my brother and made the day an adventure instead of a regular weekend in town.
The same thing happened when Steven’s sister and nephew visited earlier in the summer. We hit the Desert Botanical Gardens with an active, inquisitive toddler. Once I got over my fear that he would run headlong into a cactus, I got the chance to see the desert through his eyes which made me so much more aware of details at ground level – and especially excited each time we saw a rabbit, chipmunk or lizard.
And no matter who they are or how long they’re here, we’ve kept our streak of getting all our guests to Rosita’s alive and well.
So it’s been crazy and interesting and I’ve gotten behind, but there’s a few more summer adventures I have to share that will be showing up here soon and hopefully new ones to come this fall, because even if I disappear for a bit, I always have my eyes open for what to share when I make it back…
Tags: Arizona, California, Chase Stadium, Desert Botanical Garden, Diamondbacks, family, Fresno, host, job changes, life changes, Los Angeles, New York Mets, Phoenix, siseter, summer, visit
You know that point in your life when you realize that the house you grew up in isn’t really your home anymore?…Maybe that’s all family really is: a group of people that miss the same imaginary place.
– Zach Braff as Andrew Largeman, Garden State
They say that nobody knows you like family and last weekend I went back to mine for a few days.
On Thursday evening we packed up and headed northwest to Fresno where I have a lot of relatives including five nieces and one nephew. Arriving Friday morning gave us three full days to spend with everyone.
It had been over a year since the last time I was there to see the kids and this was my first opportunity to meet the twins. They’re the youngest at the moment, but won’t be for long since there’s another niece on the way (scheduled to arrive sometime after Thanksgiving).
The first wave came Friday afternoon with a gathering at my aunt’s house.
Within minutes the house filled with people, chaos and food. It’s an atmosphere familiar from childhood holidays and one that I’ve missed much more than I expected to since moving to Arizona. A few things have changed – now I’m one of the tall people juggling dishes and kids instead of one of the little ones getting underfoot – but the sweet sense of belonging was the same that day and the next.
The kids are all water babies – they adore the ocean, spend hours in pools and flip like dolphins.
Saturday afternoon found me back by a pool full of splashing and giggling, amazed at how much energy kids can maintain for hours – and loving every moment of it.
Far from being tired as dusk darkened the sky, the girls switched from the backyard to the front yard and raced tiny cars up and down the looping driveway in silly scenes too fast for my phone to capture during fading light. (though yes – I tried anyway!)
Finally, far too soon on Sunday evening it was time to pack up our own car again and head south – back to the sun and heat and relative solitude of Arizona.
Tags: aunt, brothers, California, cousins, family, Fresno, nephew, nieces, road trip, sisters
Well. Last Thursday, things did not go as planned
Well, unless the plan was to spend 3 hours in the desert trying to reach my source and hoping he was just running late (he wasn’t), things did not go as planned.
The appointment had been to find out about an active search for a 21-year-old man who disappeared approximately 7 weeks ago. I’d spoken to the man leading that day’s trip and tracked down the phone number of the missing man’s father, who’d come to Tucson from Tennessee in hopes of finding answers, the original tip coming from a mass email:
“Could you please run on the [humanitarian organization] site a notice that there is a father here from [a southern state] who has been looking for his 21 yo son left by his group 5 weeks ago and please call and take him out if people have time?…He has been here in Tucson for five weeks, living on the street and searching daily…He’s been sent a map of where to look but it’s a very bad map from the person who was with his son and was apprehended and deported. The map maker would like to be paid for a better map……..BTW, he’s already checked the morgue (negative) and I will check hospitals today.”
Then a week later, a notice that more help with the search was coming from San Diego “for his 21 year old son…who was left behind in the desert, ‘en mala condicion’ on April 18.”
My goal was to hike out with the searchers and find out how their location and recovery work is different from that of the volunteers who provide humanitarian aid through water drops and rescue patrol. It would be a bonus if I could also find out more about the stories of the missing man and his father – especially how he traced someone in the group to get a map.
But planning ahead was no match for crossed wires and cell signal issues – one phone went straight to voicemail, the other to a recording that the user could not get calls or take messages. (I’m still trying to get through on one line or the other, and am optimistic I’ll reach the expert from San Diego as we’d played telephone tag before a few years ago while I was finishing my original story for News21 – yet I regret to say that my hopes of reaching the father are rapidly diminishing.)
I was half an hour early for our 6am appointment. By 8am I’d counted over 30 Border Patrol vehicles alone – and I was realizing I would probably need to go back to my original posting plans. The break in the usual programming was not going to be necessary after all. A few phone calls and mobile google mappings and I pulled out of the parking lot half an hour later resigned to the 2.5 hour solo drive home, all if which with my tail between my legs and hoping no one would notice I was back more than a little early.
About a mile east I pulled over and looked at the map again. With my north Phoenix apartment as the starting point, I was over 75% of the way to Sasabe if I continued south on the 286 between BANWR and the Tohono O’odham Nation. And from there I could drive eastwards on the twisty Arrivaca Road to pick up the I19 which connects Nogales back to Phoenix through Tucson. And I already had the day off…
I decided to go exploring.
I’d come this way twice before, in winter and midsummer, and now the land was lusher and filled with the colors of thick bushes to slowly bleaching grasses. Diamond warning signs for floods and fire gave hints at the volatility of the valley landscape that rolled along either side of the highway beneath the eyes of parallel mountain ranges while border patrol checkpoints and white private security buses hinted at other kinds of volatility.
With no goals or appointments I was free to move slowly and notice details along the nearly empty like fully flowering trees or ringed roadside shrines.
I took the trip in pieces, regaining the familiar lines of the metro Phoenix skyline as the heavy summer sun begins to slide onto the horizon. Back in my apartment for the night with my shoes by the front door I checked the day’s mileage for this trip to and along a sliver of the U.S.-Mexico border between Arizona and Sonora and it clocked in at just over 460 miles.
View Larger Map
This post is cross posted with my other blog, Missing from Mexico.
Tags: Arivaca, Arizona, Border Patrol, checkpoints, environment, landscape, Robles Junction, Sasabe, spontaneous roadtrip, spring, Three Points, U.S. Customs and Border Patrol, U.S.-Mexico border
Another guest post from my mother, to go with the box she sent me from Hawaii.
I doubt that I’ve ever been in a place with “Resort” in the name. My husband and I have lived a bit more roughly on travels and moves around the world. But all that changed a month ago on our first trip to Hawaii. His conference on satellite imaging of hydrologic data was to be at Waikaloa Beach Resort on the Big Island and I went with him. I went under-prepared but not without preconception. So, the drive from the Kona Airport to Waikaloa was the first surprise – no lush, tropical land but instead, a barren lava flow, the land hardened black rock. While I intended to see afresh, to see what it is itself, the little comparison brain started ticking right away. It looked so much like the Desert Road, the road that goes across the eastern slopes of Mt Ruapehu just south of where we live in New Zealand.
I’m older. I’ve travelled a fair amount, and without a doubt more than I expected when twenty-two and afraid I would never get beyond Kansas where I grew up. So my challenge is to see afresh, not through eyes dulled by familiarity or eve comparisons of “this is like that.” I want to see with the eyes of a child, a whole world that is new to me. When headed to a tourist destination, all well-traveled and brochure, how does one see it without a frame constructed by others, carefully surrounding it?
I quickly found that I’m not, at heart, a resort person.
I found it pleasant, but was uncomfortable with too much service and also with the way I saw some of the guests treating those who worked there, sometimes rudely, sometimes not seeing them at all.
But there were interesting stories among the waiters, the cleaners, the man who fixed the malfunctioning lock on our door. How had they ended up here? What part of any American dream were they aiming for – many were from other countries. I like to collect stories from people as I travel. The stories remind me that my take on things is not the only one – like when listening to a woman from the Philippines tell me how much she loves Imelda Marcos, one of the more reviled women in history.
So, while my husband went to conferences, I walked along the lava-roughened shore, littered with white dead coral. I found sea turtles, watched humpback whales breaching, and snapped my tourist pictures of sunsets among the palms. I live a calm life in a relaxed town in New Zealand; Waikaloa Beach was an echo of that. I felt the Polynesian kinship between New Zealand and Hawaii. They both have the same word for Women – Wahine – and I thought yes, this is where my neighbor’s ancestors may have come from. The world could learn from both places.
The ukulele plays on and the good voices echo into the night.
Tags: big island, conference, coral, Hawaii, humpback whales, Kona Airport, lava, palms, Polynesian, resort, sea turtles, staff, sunsets, tourists, ukulele, Wahine, whale watching
For about two weeks I studied abroad in Dubai. It was winter break of the 2009-2010 school year and the trip included environmental, design and journalism students who rang the new year in together on a beach with expatriots from around the world.
Through the whole trip, one image dominated – literally. Even when we couldn’t see the tallest building in the world, we were surrounded by reminders. From the scale Lego model at Dubai World to the gift shop postcards and newspaper headlines, it was everywhere.
We couldn’t wait for the January 4th opening and a chance see the view from the top. We knew it would be spectacular – and we weren’t disappointed. From big lights to big noises, the event had everything. There was even the twist of a last minute name change from Burj Dubai to Burj khalifa.
What I didn’t expect were the little things – the individual voices and faces that made up the crowds pooling in streets and courtyards all over Dubai to gaze upwards together and form something even greater than the fireworks.
Tags: anniversary, Burj Dubai, Burj Khalifa, crowd, drummers, Dubai, fireworks, group experience, kids, luxury hotel, musicians, singers, UAE, United Arab Emirates
Tags: Arizona, aunts, Chanukah, Chanukkah, Christmas, Christmas Eve, cousins, family, family gathering, food, gifts, grandparents, Hanukkah, New Zealand, Ohope Beach, palm trees, Phoenix, presents, uncles
The holidays are always a time to think about family. When I was growing up, the holidays meant travel because we would go to family or family would come to us. And often, after dinner was eaten, dishes washed and presents opened, the downtime would slowly fill with family stories – and sometimes even family photos.
I’m thinking about family connections a lot for another reason too.
I’ve launched myself on a completely overwhelming project: to organize the boxes and albums of family photos in my guardianship as well as my own rolls and rolls of prints – then to scan, tag and upload them so that captions can be added and corrected and prints can be made for anyone who has been looking for a copy of that exact photo since forever.
Flipping through the stacks, I’m flooded with memories, realizing that it hasn’t been just me growing and changing each year but my entire family. The family portraits from the early 1900’s are followed by graduation portraits, wedding photos – and then first Christmases.
Even as I wade deeper and deeper through the boxes, wondering how I convinced myself this was a good idea, I’m grateful for the obsessive labeling habit I got into after helping with tornado clean up in high school and aunts, uncles and cousins who I hope will step in to help me correct and caption many of these images once I get them scanned and posted!
The thing is, this project isn’t just for me, or even for us. There’s a whole new generation of nieces and nephews having their first, second and third Christmases now. Their photo albums may be online instead of on the shelf. But the people, and the meaning, will be the same.
Tags: aunts, Chanukah, Chanukkah, childhood memories, Christmas, Christmas Eve, cousins, family, family gathering, family history, food, gifts, grandparents, Hanukkah, Kansas, Lawrence, memories, Pittsburg, presents, project, the next generation, uncles, Wichita
I’m grateful for a lot of things, but for this blog entry, I’ll just pick one to show you.
My parents came to visit last weekend – and since they’d already come about halfway around the world, we decided to go just a little further.
And then we headed home.
Tags: Bell Rock, Courthouse Butte, family, family trip, grateful, hike, hiking, Oak Creek, parents, red rocks, road trip, Sedona, Thanksgiving, visit