I have now been in America a month and the adjustment process has been both easier and harder than I expected. So much of America is the same, but it is different too. Things that I loved before, I now dislike and visa versa. I am now annoyed by things that didn't use to bother me, or these annoyances have been heightened. A couple days ago as I stood in the shampoo aisle at Target trying to decide on conditioner, I almost burst into tears because the Target was packed and there were so many options, I couldn't do it and walked out of the store without conditioner.
But now I am getting a but ahead of myself talking about what America is like and the last time you left me, I was in Macedonia and had just become an RPCV. Our story continues there.
I completed my service before Phil, so we hung out in Skopje and Kumanovo with a friend and did some last minute gift shopping. The day Phil completed his service, we hopped on out last bus in Macedonia and went to Berovo (where our final Peace Corps conference back in August was) for the night. We stayed with my American host sister (the PCV who had my Losovo family after me). She was the best host ever! Erika met us at the bus stop to help us with all our luggage, made us an amazing multi-course dinner, had hot water heated up for showers, and gave us her big comfy bed to sleep in. She had breakfast ready in the morning and fun cats to play with.
In the morning, Erika's neighbor came to pick us up to drive us to Sofia for our flight. The weather was starting to get bad as we left, but luckily we made it out before the blizzard hit. In Sofia, our bags were extremely overweight, but we got lucky and the Wizz Air staff didn't care (we had paid a lot of money already just to check bags, so that might have helped). Our flight from Sofia to Barcelona was a breeze and we arrived on time with all our luggage.
Since we were only in Barcelona for about 20 hours, we rushed to the hostel (Phil having to break out his rusty and selective Spanish to get there), then met up with some other RPCVs going on the boat with us for dinner.
|Cool buildings were all around us|
|Gaudi is the architect of Barcelona, so his buildings can be seen all over|
|The outside of La Sagrada Familia|
|Inside- the colors from the stained glass were nothing short of amazing.|
|One side was filled with blues and greens|
|The other side lots of reds, yellows, and oranges|
|The organ pipes are one the side|
|The other tourist attraction we saw in Barcelona- sangria!|
|Our first real view of the ship as we embarked.|
|Our ship (taken from the Bahamas actually)|
|The captain of our boat|
|View of the boat from the top deck|
|At lunch, we would request Alex as our waiter if he had a large enough table.|
|In the dining room at dinner.|
|The walking/jogging track on the top deck.|
|The indoor pool|
|The outdoor pool and hot tubs. There was an outdoor movie screen so you could watch the movie of the day in the pool. This is also where they held the belly-flop competition.|
|Julie demonstrating how to work out in the gym.|
|The Centrum- the inside stage area of the ship.|
|The table of gluttony.|
|Part of Julie's "set your camera on timed rapid fire and take seven pictures in the span on 10 seconds and insist people move around"|
|This photo gives a scale as to how big the ship was.|
|A monument in Plaza de Espana.|
|Julie likes to take surprise photos.|
|The narrow, cobble stoned streets|
|My PST Lozovo group in Cadiz.|
|When we got off the boat, there were musicians playing traditional music and dancers dancing a traditional dance.|
|The view of Tenerife from the docks.|
|Starting our drive up the volcano.|
|The moonscape look has started thanks to the volcano.|
|Once again, we used Julie's rapid shot to get some group photos.|
|Andres always takes the "move quick" to a whole new level.|
|Our first formal night|
|Formal night one|
|Formal night two|
|Formal night two|
|Just having some fun with the decorations|
|Black and white night|
|Having fun on the helipad|
|The view from the boat- pretty amazing!|
|The waters in the Bahamas are too shallow for a ship as large as a cruise ship to dock, so we were tendered into the island and this was our first site.|
|The island was filled with bright, colorful buildings.|
|Looking out at the blue waters.|
|This is what you picture when you think of tropical island paradise.|
|Group picture #1|
|Group picture #2|
|Phil and I decided to take a picture in the hammock....it seemed safe enough...|
|Then Stephen thought it would be funny to do a headstand behind us, however, he lost his balance.|
|Julie, Shannon, and I decided to take a picture too, but we not going to allow anyone to do headstands near us.|
|There were two performances each day, except for port days. We saw singers, dancers, jugglers, magicians, and hypnotists.|
|Sometimes there were additional performances in the centrum that featured dancers flying above our heads.|
|Watching the sunset on the top deck.|
|Our housekeeper was a master at making towel animals. We had an elephant...|
|and a dog to name just a few.|
Enough about the about, even though it was fantastic. When we arrived in New Orleans, we were met by Julie's parents. They waited outside in the cold for hours for us, but the site of the Macedonian flag in America was exciting. We went to their hotel to leave our luggage while we travelled around the city. The site of 10 people struggling to walk down the sidewalk while being loaded down with two years worth of luggage was quite an unusual site in New Orleans, so we got many inquisitive looks.
We were only in New Orleans until the morning (we have become pros at the 20 hours in a city), so off we all went to eat poboys and jambalaya and drink the local specialty drinks (horny alligator, atomic itch, and hand grenade). We ended the night at Pat O'Brien's piano bar, which was a ton of fun. You could request songs (any songs) and the pianists would try to play and sing them and they certainly achieved that (anyone who can make Sisqo's thong song sound good on the piano has major talent).
*All New Orleans photos are courtesy of Andres
|St. Louis Cathedral|
|Home of the famous beignets|
|Pat O'Brien's Piano Bar|
From Minnesota, we headed to Tucson to spend Christmas with Phil's family. I had met them all on Skype, but never in person. They were all lovely and welcoming. We hung out in Tucson for 5 days, then went to San Antonio with Phil's sister and brother-in-law. Lori and Vance were fantastic and took us to meet lots of their friends and we ate tons of good food. After a few days with them, we headed back to Tucson to get ready for the big move to DC.
We cleaned, sorted, and packed up everything for the movers and successfully completed our first of many pack outs. After a few more days in Tucson, we boarded planes to DC (where I am writing this post), and set off to start book 2 of Phillip and Sara's Overseas Adventures.
That said, it is now time to end book 1: A Peace Corps Journey, and with that comes the conclusion of this blog. I intend to write a blog for our Foreign Service life, however it's creation is still in the works. I will post on here once more with information about book.