On Friday morning, the four of us woke up at varying times but all before 4:40 am, which was when we left our house and cat for the airport. Ethan drove us.
Our first flight was from Eugene to San Francisco. In San Francisco, we went to the United lounge for a few minutes, where I had a banana, a boiled egg with capers, and yogurt with granola and strawberries. (I’m a fast eater.) Soon, we were flying across the United States with lots to do (watch The Martian and do homework) only a Stroopwaffel to eat. (Those are United’s new morning domestic flight snacks. According to Mom, they are gross. I did not eat one.) We finally touched down in Newark at around 6 pm local time. Then came a long and daunting journey: the search for supper.
We hauled our four suitcases and four backpacks through the terminal, looking for the Ben & Jerry’s, the old food court, less expensive macarons–anything, really. In the end, we went to the United lounge for salad, hummus with pita and vegetables, and chocolate-covered graham crackers. For dessert, Mom, Ethan, and I got frozen yogurt from the Red Mango kiosk right by our gate. Immediately after Mom and I finished our yogurt, we boarded the six-hour flight from Newark to Lisbon. The captain left the seatbelt sign on the whole flight, the sunrise was unimpressive (even though it was our second in 18 hours), and breakfast was a hard croissant with jam.
Within two hours of landing in Lisbon, we were in our rental car with working mobile phones, maps, and an idea of where to spend our morning and afternoon (we landed around 7 am local time). An hour later, we had gone eight kilometers and finally found a parking spot, after almost colliding with trolleys, parking in a no-parking zone, and struggling with understanding Portuguese. We left our car and walked by a church with a view on our way to Castelo de S. Jorge Monumento Nacional.
Unlike most European castles, this one was not created as a residence. It was built to house military troops in the 11th century. However, it eventually became a residence for the local royals, then became military barracks again in the 1800s. Finally, last century, the castle became a national monument. Now, hundreds of tourists visit the castle daily, and peacocks and pigeons terrify those who choose to eat at the outdoor café. It was at that café that I discovered pink Magnums (reminiscent of our time in Thailand), which would play a role later in the day.
After the castle, we went to lunch at a distinctly touristy location. Dad and Ethan shared vegetable spaghetti and a cheese, tomato, and lettuce baguette. Mom and I shared a vegetable salad and cod. Though cod is considered one of Lisbon’s most traditional dishes (especially bacalhau, or salted cod), I did not enjoy the fish. Neither did Mom. But we ate most of it anyway before heading to the Olive Tree House at 3 pm. Mom and Dad went grocery shopping after we had been checked in, while Ethan and I showered. The parents came back with pizza, ice cream (pink and black Magnums!!), shampoo, bread, and chocolate bars–a healthy diet, yes?
I’m glad you asked.
Since Christmas Eve, we’ve been quite busy. Let’s start at the beginning.
On Wednesday, January 1, we piled into the car for an eleven-hour ride to Schweitzer Ski Resort, where we spent four nights with my aunt, uncle, and cousins. Five of the nine of us skied on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. Saturday was by far the best day, as it was sunny and clear. Meanwhile, back in the cabin, my dad cooked all day. On Greek night (Saturday night), he made everything from tzatziki and pita bread to stuffed peppers and white and milk chocolate mousse with dark chocolate ganache, strawberry coulis, and a raspberry on top.
It was delicious.
Soon, it was back to school. On January 25, Ethan’s 8th grade class had a talent show/auction fundraiser, and I contributed to both parts. For the cake auction, I baked a dozen chocolate-zucchini cupcakes with cinnamon buttercream. They sold for $60- up $20 from my cookies of 2012. I also asked my friend Charlotte to play the piano while I played the flute. Our song “Let It Go” from Disney’s Frozen won first place.
The following week was filled with tests, as it was end-of-semester finals for me. On the last day (Wednesday), I was thrilled when my band teacher asked me to join the school’s symphony, which is the most advanced instrumental group at my school. The next week was nerve-wracking, as I hardly knew anyone in the group and had to sight-read all the music. It’s been over a month-and-a-half since then, however, and I know that I have improved.
Last Friday (March 14, Pi Day) was the start of what I dubbed Music Week. On that day, I got to school early to join the symphony at South Eugene High School to play in a festival. It was our first attempt to qualify for the OSAA State Championships. We didn’t make it, unfortunately, but we had played well and our scores reflected that. Monday had piano lessons (as usual), and on Tuesday Ethan had his guitar lesson (also as usual). I was excited for Wednesday, which was the 12-hour trip to Ashland, Oregon, for the symphony’s second chance at states. We performed sub-par, and we returned home dejected. However, Thursday night’s amazing orchestra/symphony/band/jazz band concert more than made up for it, even though we knew our scores (which we hadn’t yet received) wouldn’t be good.
Then we found out today that we won districts by one point and had automatically qualified for the state championships, which are in May. As the only flute player in the symphony, I am terrified.
But I made a cake!
And it was pretty darn good.
I meant to write a post four days ago (December 20, 2013). I really did. I wanted to point out that we’ve been home a whopping six months. I wanted to remember how a year ago we thought we were tough because we’d passed the halfway mark. I wanted to say how good it is to have a real, 12-foot Noble fir Christmas tree instead of a plastic tree my height.
But I didn’t. And I’m sorry. So I’ll do one now.
We’re at home, not in Cape Town. The view out our dining room window is of our dying grass instead of the promenade and the Atlantic Ocean. We have large presents under (beside, rather) our tree in place of the very small ones last Christmas. The best difference of all, though, is that my grandparents are going to spend Christmas with us.
In the last year, we touched thirteen countries on four continents. In the last six months, we’ve adjusted to “normal” life and lost our tans (that was a big tragedy). We didn’t go camping in the summer (silent rejoicing) but Ethan and I did go to camp. We may not have used our canoe at all but we hiked to multiple lakes.
Cupcakes and gelato have become dietary staples, and pizza drowned in vinegar has become the norm (at least for me).
The second half of the trip was probably more stressful for us, between worrying about jobs and cars and school when we returned, to the Amazon trip, Morocco, and our house in Semur-en-Auxois being flooded.
But who’s to say it wasn’t the better half?
Springfield is my home, but I love Bend, Oregon. Two hours’ drive from our house lies the city of Bend, which we visit annually. Usually, this visit falls in the lovely month of October (only the best month), but this time it was in December. We are staying (as usual) in the Seventh Mountain Resort, which features an ice skating rink, multiple pools and hot tubs, a basketball court, a spider web, and wi-fi– saving the best for last.
While these are certainly perks, one of my favorite parts of Bend is Zydeco, a restaurant in downtown that serves amazing food- probably my favorite anywhere (except maybe Taco Bell). It is to die for. I usually get the steelhead, which comes with mashed potatoes, green beans, pearl onions, and plenty of capers. Delicious. So I ordered the steelhead tonight– but it came with red quinoa, asparagus, and more than plenty of capers. The pearl onions were definitely missed, but the dessert more than made up for that: chocolate pot de crème, which is basically a very rich chocolate mousse. Mom and I shared a serving, while somehow Dad and Ethan managed to polish off a jar (that’s how the dessert was served) each. It was rather incredible, really, watching them put away that much food.
We got back to the hotel too late to go swimming, so we retired to our room, which is roomy enough to have separate bedrooms for Ethan and me.
It’s snowy/slushy/icy here, but not more than Springfield: for those of you who may not have noticed, the Willamette Valley was blasted by an Arctic cold front for two weeks, giving us lovely temperatures, ranging, on the average day, from -2 to 22. And yes, that is Fahrenheit. Since it was so dry for most of the time, school wasn’t delayed because there were no icy roads– it was just super cold. Tuesday, December 3, was very exciting because it snowed. At school. Like, in the middle of the day. It snowed about half an inch at our house and stuck until Friday, which had snow predicted.
All my teachers were banking on a snow day, and my friends put spoons under their pillows and wore their pajamas inside-out.
And it must have worked, because on Friday there was no school. When I woke up at 6 am, we had two inches of snow at our house. By four o’clock there were eight inches and counting, and somehow Dad had driven home from the Eugene airport. (Actually, it’s not somehow– it’s four-wheel-drive.)
Saturday, we were four of the very few who braved the roads to church. On Sunday, we ventured into town for a piano recital at Barnes & Noble (featuring, due to weather, ONLY Ethan and me) and necessary shopping. Monday, the schools were once again closed. I went over to a friend’s house, and we walked to my school to pick up band music. There’s hardly any ice, I thought.
Tuesday was another snow day. Friday and Monday were the two snow days for which my school had allowed– Tuesday started filling up our two furlough days. When Wednesday proved hopeless, all I could do was hope that Thursday would be a school day. Also on Wednesday, there was a voluntary band rehearsal to which about twenty of the ninety-nine involved in the concert come this Tuesday showed up.
Thursday there was no school.
And then, lo and behold–
There was school today! (Which was a really good thing, because how would they be able to explain keeping school closed in 40-degree (Fahrenheit) weather when their only excuse for school closure was ice on the roads?)
It may have been a Friday schedule, with all of our eight classes meeting forty-four minutes each, but it was school!
And yes, there is a good chance I was the only one of sixteen hundred students who was absolutely thrilled to have school.
Well, it’s been a considerable time since any of us have written posts. I may as well do the first for August 2013.
Since returning to the US, we have seen no fewer than seven family members, a dozen deer (including five new fawns), and a black bear. The black bear was up in the mountains, and it ran across the road right in front of our car shortly after we found several bear bones on the side of the road. Last week, my parents saw a bobcat and have photographic evidence.
Right now, my cousin and aunt from Texas are visiting. Yesterday we made two types of cupcakes for a grand total of 22: nine apple-almond with cinnamon ganache and thirteen (surprisingly bland) dark chocolate with peppermint frosting and dark chocolate-mint M&Ms. I’ve also made lemon-blueberry cupcakes, chocolate-orange, and chocolate-zucchini (with a to-die-for cinnamon buttercream), and a few days ago we made lavender cupcakes with a whipped cream frosting.
Ethan and I spent last week at camp and had a very good time. It only rained once and then for only ten minutes on Friday morning. Ethan managed to get a very bad sunburn while wakeboarding, but for all my playing basketball in the sun I came away tan as ever. The only bad thing about camp was that, the day after we left, One Direction’s new single came out and the third in line for the throne was born in the UK. Those Brits. Couldn’t wait for us to get back.
We haven’t gotten poison oak yet, which is rather surprising considering our rather cross-country hike three days ago and the little rainy excursion we went on yesterday.
But I’m okay with that.
Poison oak isn’t necessary.
I’m not sure if we’re technically ‘back to normal’ yet. It is a normal Oregon summer, though: rainy in June, with hope for sun in July and August. Naturally, it was quite warm until school got out.
We’ve unpacked and unpacked and unpacked some more. As a result, we have piles of things to take to Goodwill and to sell at a used bookstore. Also, my room is completely unpacked, and only a few items remain in my suitcase.
Mom is just outside my room, in the hall, putting away boxes and boxes of Christmas lights, ornaments, and decorations. And she calls–
What shall we do today?
Oh, let’s unpack!
And unpack some more.
Last night it was too late to post, as we had done a lot of unpacking to make the house livable, but right now it’s a bright, sunny, Friday afternoon in Oregon. Dishes, linens, and clothes have been completely brought down from upstairs (I think). We came home yesterday afternoon after stopping by Costco, our grandparents’ house, and Safeway to piles of mail, Amazon boxes, and our own belongings. Everything’s still totally disorganized, but I think that everything will start to settle down by next week.
Call the press, someone: I have found a way to comfortably sit in Economy class on an airplane.
It only works if you’re small, flexible, and comfortable on airplanes. It involves sitting with your legs crossed and your head down on one knee. In this way, I slept well for a grand total of three hours on our two flights today. So I was awake for… drum roll… twenty-five hours today. We are deadxhausted.
Our first flight, from Athens to Frankfurt, was only about three hours. We were shocked when we were not put through another security clearance to get on our USA-bound flight from gate Z25. We finally got to the gate after a surprisingly lengthy bus ride and going up several flights of stairs. If you look at our passports, we didn’t visit Greece and Switzerland: we got our passports stamped in Portugal (since we entered the European part of the airport to get food), in Morocco, and then entering France. We only got another stamp leaving Germany.
The flight was super super long, but we were wide awake when we landed and got through Immigration and our luggage was in our hands. It doesn’t look like we lost anything on that leg of our trip.
We got our Avis rental car and drove south to Kelso, WA, where Dad got a sim chip at an AT&T store for his phone. Then Ethan, the luggage, and I were dropped off at Aunt Linda and Uncle Scott’s house while Mom and Dad left in the Chrysler to buy a car in Sandy, OR. They returned at around 8 pm, about five hours later. Ethan and I played Acquire with Uncle Scott, with four-month-old Guide Dog for the Blind puppy-in-training Navajo looking on.
Supper was, as we had hoped, hot dogs with brownies and Uncle Scott’s potato salad. Tomorrow morning we’ll be having American French toast.
It’s so good to be back in the US of A.
Just nineteen minutes into tomorrow marks the 31,536,000th second, the 525,600th minute, the 8,760th hour, the 52nd week, the 12th month, and the first year away from our house. That’s over 31-and-a-half million seconds. And I still can’t believe it.
My first of two posts on June 18, 2012, began, ‘Today we leave the house. Tomorrow we go to the airport. Wednesday we fly.’ So, if I were to write this thirteen hours ago: today we go to the airport. Tomorrow we fly. Thursday we reenter the house.
In those thirteen hours, we have flown for less than an hour across the Aegean Sea on Aegean Airlines, which actually served drinks and peanuts. I don’t know when I last was served a drink and peanuts—no more, no less—on a flight. I think that may have been back in 2009 or 2010.
At the airport, we got our luggage and took the long, long hike across the narrow, quiet street to our hotel. Ethan and I went swimming in the pool on the 9th floor, which is also a spa. Mom went with us. On our arrival, a woman greeted us with a smile and “No jumping and no diving.”
I had brought the goggles up, and we took turns throwing them into the pool and timing how long it took the other to find them. Dad came by, and we had him hide the goggles. It took me nine seconds to raise them above my head, but Ethan grabbed them from me and claimed victory.
As soon as Dad left to check in at the airport, one of the women who works at the spa came by and said, very quietly, that Ethan and I needed to be quieter. I heard her.
I got out and dried off. It’s no fun swimming when you can’t make noise and can’t jump in or anything.
Supper was at the airport at The Olive Tree. Mom and I shared a starter Greek salad (which was still quite sizeable) and a large plate of penne with chicken and sundried tomatoes. It was very good.
Over dinner, Dad and I phrased tomorrow these three ways:
- It will be a 34-hour day what with the time zone change.
- We’re already in bed (it’s 7:44 pm)—tomorrow (in Pacific Coast time), we’ll be awake from 5:30 pm to about 9:30 pm. Eep.
- In Athens time, we’ll be awake from 3:30 am to 7:30 am, on two different days. Eep again.
We only have three days left on our trip—one in Crete, one in Athens, and one in an airplane and Washington. In honor of this, here are my three favorite places on this trip:
1: Crete has been good to us. So good, in fact, that I am rather reluctant to leave—this seems odd since home is at the other end of this 12-hour journey. No matter; I’ll just stay on Crete and enjoy the summer warmth and the pool that comes with it. Not. I would enjoy staying just for the food, though. Especially the tzatziki, chocolate-coated baklava, grape leaf rolls, lemon chicken with chips and zucchini at Taverna Fantastico, and the chocolate cakes.
1: Yes, this is a second number 1. I would count Crete and South Africa as a tie. While similar in some ways (warm, with nice people and good food), there are so many differences. For example, we knew South Africans, such as Oom Dennis and Tannie Marietjie (and their dogs Dinky and Griet). Dad, Mom, and Ethan had already been to the country before and thus knew what it was like. Also, we got extremely lucky, seeing seven cheetahs, three leopards, ten African wild dogs, an African wild cat, two honey badgers, a handful of rhinos, a Cape cobra, both black and white, plenty of lions, ostriches, and spotted hyenas, and more than enough black-faced impala, springbok, gemsbok, elephant, kudu, and giraffe to go around. And everyone knows that Cape Town is the best city in the world.
3: Thailand gets the bronze medal in this competition. Like South Africa and Crete, Thailand was certainly memorable for its warmth. It also had Buotong Waterfall, Thai food (green curry and sweet-and-sour curry and banana pancakes, oh my!), six amazing pools, MBK Mall, Jatujak Market (can’t forget my cheap sandals, which have somehow lasted until now), tiger-petting, and elephant riding. Yes, Thailand is certainly a very good (and inexpensive) country. Plus, Thai Airlines is part of the Star Alliance and has really good food and magazines in their airport lounges.