Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Let those who will

Let those who will buy lands and horde money. We will have our memories, glad memories of golden experiences together.

-From the 1920's journals of Margaret Gehrke regarding her visits to U.S. national parks, as quoted on Ken Burns' documentaries on that same subject

(Don't worry... we're not really "done" yet...)

the end

So here we are.

Last week I heard someone on the local Michigan NPR station mention a program that would "help us understand our state better." I let the words pass over me as an outsider, as I've been doing for years, feeling only partially obligated or occasionally compelled by the concerns of my neighbors. It was quite literally with a start that I realized I was included in that statement. I was in that "us" and "our." I could listen, even let myself be affected, with a larger sense of future relationship with the place on topic, the place in which I reside. I could learn the names of my state representatives, consider school districts, and anticipate events happening beyond the immediate future.

So here we are. I began working at an architecture firm in Grand Rapids over a month ago, and Josh is following up on leads in youth work at churches in the area while he quite happily works with my father, helping the asparagus grow. So that's the end of the story. Grand Rapids. Full circle, nearly, for both of us.

We are looking at homes in Cherry Hill and Eastown and may well end up in one early next year. We look forward to seeing what's inside the un-opened vacuum cleaner box from our wedding. I think there are coasters in that closet somewhere, too, and a mixer and another set of plates. Such goodies. Such goodies we've had little trouble living without for six years.

It's been quite the journey, and this blog has helped us share it along the way. We can honestly say that it wouldn't have been nearly as much fun without your comments and followings. Almost. But not quite... everything is better shared, and these last few years are no exception. That being said, we don't entirely understand blogging without far-off adventures to chronicle or distant grandparents in need of updating, so we're calling it quits. It was never our intent to let our writing fizzle out, but as we kept waiting for our lives to settle down so that we could make our big exit, we were reminded that things rarely end as scripted.

The blog will remain for your vacation-research and our memory-jogging perusal as long as they let it.

Finally, it feels fitting to harken back to our very first post, dated February 6, 2006:

Now, as for the adventure itself... In brief, Josh and I quit our stable and decent-paying jobs in New York, NY at the end of 2006 to finally do what we had been talking and dreaming about since we got married. Our original excuse for "taking time off" was to get reacquainted with each other after living as two poor grad students in one of the most stressful cities in the world, but it's since grown into a whole lot of other reasons. From January to April, we are working as kids ski instructors in Colorado, using our days off to explore other ski resorts and to recover from days filled with I-want-my-mommy-syndrome and I-can't-get-up-disease. In April, we will be heading to Michigan and Texas for two weddings before flying off to SE Asia and India for about 5 months. Crazy? Yes. Terrifying? You bet. Exciting? Absolutely!

We could say so many things about the last three years, but as I'm already getting a bit too sentimental, I think we'll just call it at that.

Time of death: midnight 12.09.09

Thursday, December 03, 2009

A new passport

Got a new passport in the mail the other day... I feel a bit like I have to leave a dear, old friend at home next I travel. In honor of the well-worn and faithful thing, here are a few of my favorite pages. The new guy's got big shoes to fill.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Here's a few things we've been noticing lately.

Here's a few things we've been noticing lately.

Some people in West Michigan have a very thick accent. It seems to be concentrated in the Jenison/Grandville area.

My, but customer service is good here. And my, but that fake niceness present in so many Midwestern phone calls, store greetings, and exchanged pleasantries is irritating.

I miss the train. Gas may be cheap here, and it sure is convenient to control your coming and going times, but driving in a semi-awake state in early morning traffic is frustrating for me and a waste of good mental energy.

Drip coffee = fantastic. And to think that nearly everyone has a coffee maker in their home!

People here/Michigan, generally women, put too many smiley faces in their emails. I know you're joking. People there/England, generally women, put too many xx's in their emails. I know you are sending a friendly email without a kiss by your name.

We really don't say please a whole lot here. Thank you is a must, but please is implied after a child turns about 14. Very curious.

Why is Grand Rapids too small a city for a subway/light rail system? I've heard this a few times and find it a strange logic.

In a small way, we miss the comraderie of holidays far away. When you have no family nearby and your friends have no family nearby either, you make family of each other, and it makes for awfully pleasant holidays. Of course, you are all (secretly or audibly) missing your family in one way or another. I think it just makes it more meaningful to finally be able to be here.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Fruit flies and time

Every now and then (and I mean every now and then), Josh shares something very wise, drawing on an obscure knowledge of ancient religious sects or training in pastoral counseling. Last time, it was Koine Greek applied to fruit flies.

We were having a pint (or the somewhat lacking American version of one) at the Cottage Bar in Grand Rapids on Saturday evening when a few bothersome fruit flies fluttered around my face. As I fruitlessly (sorry, couldn't resist) swatted in the general direction of their drunken flight paths, I was instantly transported to the perpetually-fruit-fly-full Tilley's, my "work pub" in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, chatting with coworkers, drinking British ale (probably Deuchars IPA), enjoying the well-worn Englishness of it all. But I wasn't there, I was here, in a smoke-filled American bar, a New Holland amber in hand. My eyes smarted with tears.

And that frustrated me. It has been three days shy of seven months since I left England, so why should it still illicit these emotions, for both myself and Josh, as I soon discovered?

Now comes the wisdom. Josh told me about the two words for "time" in ancient Greek, chronos and kairos. Chronos refers to time as it passes, minute by minute, day by day. Kairos refers to time as it feels, event to event, change to change. We may have left England some chronos ago, and we may have traveled the Mediterranean, driven from South Dakota to New York City, visited a state fair, a holiday fireworks display, and a nephew's saturday morning soccer match, but not a whole lot has happened to progress our lives further, to push us into the next big thing. Kairos is moving awfully slow for us.

With that in mind, I now hope that recent life changes and those predicted for the weeks to come (we'll tell you more about that soon... sorry to be so cyberly absent lately) will do something to replace the heartache for the things we've left or lost. "In times of transition / there is an irresistible urge to look back...", writes Julie Chen in an exquisite book I saw recently. I think (hope?) that such urges lessen as transition comes to fruition.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Funny Photo Friday:

Checking our UK bank accounts and moved the last of our savings to checking. We heard 'nil' used our whole time abroad, but this is the first time it's shown up in a bank account!

Friday, October 09, 2009

Funny Photo Friday: I think they are a little optimistic

This is taken from from the owner's manual of our Citroen Saxo. Don't forget we are talking about a car with a 1.1 liter engine (maybe the size of a basketball), that didn't like going over 75 without overheating, and whose brakes worked just enough to avoid ramming the car in front of you.

I would have loved to see someone try it though.

Just another photo or two to give you a size comparison of the good ol' Saxo.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Missing England

Some time ago, I wrote this about missing New York City:

Sometimes I miss New York as if it were a person. It's as if the city has its own character and disposition and certain things (scenes/actions/encounters/events) remind me of this. It feels very unlike how I miss "home" home (Michigan). It is neither nostalgic nor wistful nor vague but a distinct sadness that I forget until I am reminded of it.

The same is not true of Durham. England is too unobtrusive, too even-tempered and polite, to cause me to miss its personality. So how, then, do I describe this sense of loss I feel?

Perhaps Durham is for me like a lost hat or a favorite sweater now too worn to wear. It is warm and comfortable, familiar, an easy choice. When I catch myself in the mirror, I am, at times, taken aback by its presence about me. Other times, it fits so well that I forget it's there. Wistfully and with a certain measure of regret, I let it leave me (or let myself leave it), and I am surprised that such bittersweet feelings of tenderness, quite simply but aptly explained with a childish "I feel sad," could develop in a fraction of the time spent wearing other things.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Funny Photo Friday: what you won't find for sale in the paper

We visited Megan's sister in NW Iowa this week and found a few strange things in her newspaper. Actually, we went to the Dairy Dandy and the entire experience was weird, but we didn't bring the camera with us. Too bad. It meant all we could do was laugh at the "Vegetable Burger" on the menu. Meant "for veggie lovers," it came with one beef patty, lettuce and tomato, with the option of making it a double...

We wondered if it meant the meat sandwiches slept around or just the meat...

The "noon lunch" is a little funny, but so are the fact that they serve "taverns" as food. Are there payment plans? (Jennie tells us these are like sloppy joes)

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Funny Photo Friday: It means something else here, but still kind of funny...

This one may only be funny to our English friends, but for those of you that aren't quite as up to speed on your British parlance, here is a refresher.