US Trip 2009: In Retrospect

I’m home. It is 88 degrees. My room has been repainted and rearranged with new furniture –  I can’t find anything, including my new apartment keys. There is a strange dog  and a foreign exchange student downstairs. Coupled with the jetlag that makes everything spin, I’m not entirely sure where I am!

I’ve now scratched “live abroad for three months” off my bucket list, and I am so thankful I went and did it. I can’t say I’m a better person for it (too early to tell), but my life has definitely been enriched by the experience. Very quickly, I want to list down the things that I’ll miss / remember / love before my bad memory takes over. I can’t write everything, for different reasons, but to everyone and everything – thank you.

Three months of love and awesome

Feeling settled in. Honey Bunches of Oats (with real strawberries). Bacon. Yoga, NCIS, and Dr. Who. Walking 20 minutes to the downtown coffee shop with the geeky decor. Being greeted by strangers on the street. Books reviews through chance encounters. Running the dog in 50-degree weather, and the crunchy sound the leaves make as we pass over them. Every morning, the nephew yelling: “Tita’s AWAKE!” And how heavy he feels as he falls asleep in my arms in the dark. Rolling my eyes at the mayhem that is my family (but I do it with love).

Food and drink. The best chai tea latte found in two coffee shops in Costa Mesa and Palo Alto. The delicious chocolate souffle in Irvine (thanks, Chris Hood!). Trying out all sorts of beer – Shiner Bock in Austin is my favorite. Surprise toaster strudel from Jason. Learning how to cook. Setting off two fire alarms when I made fried chicken (BUT it was delicious). Sticking my hand into a 12-pound turkey.

The ridiculous transportation adventures. Taking eight planes in September (14 for the entire trip). Taking the Amtrak to Irvine, twice. Taking the Caltrain. The quiet bus rides around Redwood City. The loud and scary people on buses and subways in LA. Riding in my cousin’s golf cart across the Universal backlot at what seemed like death-defying speeds. Driving Jason’s car one block and screaming all the way.

Seattle. On my own. My old-smelling apartment. The weirdness and coolness of the Penny Arcade Expo. Trying to yell over Freezepop to have a conversation with Ross. Lining up for Bumbershoot in the rain. Watching the Yeah Yeah Yeahs live and wondering why nobody else was dancing. Rolling my suitcase around Pike Place Market.

Austin GDC. Making friends. Smuggling an illicit donut from Andy. Blowing bubbles and making faces during sessions. Drinking with new friends. Being called a Care Bear. Being called tiny. Jorge walking me home across the freeway every night: “1, 2, 3, run!” Publicly annoying Chris A. (I am good at it). The last night – dancing! Losing my phone. Finding it (thanks, Josh!). Blacking out after nine beers, but waking up in the apartment safe and sound.

SoCal. Hanging out with Annette. Nights spent watching Bones with the cousin. Screaming at Halloween Horror Night. Beer Wednesdays at Irvine. Touring Obsidian. My “evil” photo as a magnet on Jim’s wall. Him saying over lunch: “You’ve got independent down to a science.” Hanging with the students. Them autographing a coaster. Me not remembering the entire incident. Getting lost on the way home with Jason B. (thanks for the ride!). Taking off my glasses all night on a dare from Dave. Regretting it when I vomited. Jorge once again saving the day. I owe you, man.

The IGDA Leadership Forum. Speaking at an international conference – who knew? Getting to wear a blazer. Being too short for the podium. Knocking over the spotlight on stage, but feeling better when Don did it, too. Don giving me words of wisdom. Being shown around by the boss. Dragged by Toby A. to sing “I Want To Hold Your Hand” in Beatles Rock Band. Drinking with Toby M. and Jonny, and the weird looks they gave me when I assumed that since they were British they must like the Beatles. (Sorry :P)

Being on my own. Watching 500 Days of Summer with the theater almost entirely to myself, so I could laugh and cry all I wanted. The disaster that was my old laptop conking out, and the financial freedom to be able to purchase a new one within a week. Of course, now I’m poor. Figuring out how to commute to the Seattle and LA airports at the last minute. And when I couldn’t do things myself, swallowing my pride and relying on the kindness of friends and family to pick me up and take me home.

Lastly, my Redwood City friends. Being adopted by Jason, Hans, and Ted. Game nights, movie nights, German food. Card tricks and silly drinking games. Dressing up as Abby Sciuto for Halloween.Trying beer pong (harder than it looks). Feeling at home in their apartment. Hans cooking me a delicious meal. Quiet moments with Ted. Watching Jason play the piano. Tight hugs as I bid them goodbye. Of all the friends I made, I will miss them the most. Thanks, guys.

And now I’m home.

Pictures: Seattle | Austin | SoCal | Bay Area

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