Fast three weeks in the States!

Itinerary: 

RTW Trip 2014: Peru→ Chile → Argentina → Antarctica → Argentina → Uruguay → Argentina→  Chile→ England → Morocco → Spain → France → Belgium → Netherlands → Germany → Czech Republic → Austria → Hungary → Croatia → Italy → Thailand → United States → Thailand → Laos → Vietnam → Cambodia → Australia → Taiwan

Dates: August 30-September 19, 2014

Our Odyssey: 

What a whirlwind of a trip back to the States! After nearly 30 hours of travel from Bangkok through Tokyo, we made it to Minneapolis on September 1, and I headed onward to Richmond, Virginia where my family lives, and Tim drove to Tomahawk, Wisconsin to visit his.

As many of you know already, the reason for this mid-round-the-world-trip voyage home was my best friend’s wedding. Tara and I have known each other since we were 18 months old, we were born on the same day (I’m 6 hours older), our moms have the same first name and our dads were born one day apart. This is the spiel we would go through as kids when we would tell people about our friendship, and I am so lucky to be able to call her my best friend to this day!

The wedding was not until September 13, so Tim and I each had a few weeks apart leading up to the event. This was our first time being separated for any substantial length of time since January- and while we used to spend weeks apart regularly while we were working, we’ve gotten so used to having the other around and dividing daily tasks between us that we joked about whether we’d be able to function without the other. For example, I’ve implicitly become the sign-reader in the relationship- when it comes to navigating by signage, I’m your girl, while Tim is the map-reader. Unfortunately, I am lousy at maps and Tim is lousy at signs and sometimes you need both to get around a new place successfully.

While in Richmond, I caught up with family and friends, and also bought a car. Now, I realize initially it sounds absurd to make a major purchase while only in the States for a few weeks, but here’s my rationale- my parents and grandparents don’t have a spare vehicle I could have used, and the cost of a rental car for three weeks would have been over a grand. If I was going to spend that much money, I wanted to spend it into an investment I can use longterm, since I would need to buy a vehicle in Madison in December anyway. So, I bought a used 2001 Jeep Grand Cherokee for a fair value. The body is in flawless condition, and needs just a bit of mechanical work in December to have it all squared away. This is the first time I have purchased a vehicle with the intention of it being a long-term vehicle- the only one I have bought since high school was super cheap and super old with the intention of just having it for a year or two.

The following weekend I flew up to Madison to visit friends there and also get clothing and shoes for Tara’s wedding from my closet. This was a great weekend catching up with friends I have not seen since January. Friday night was spent with a small group of friends getting drinks, and Saturday was brunch with Amy, one of my best friends in Madison, followed by dinner with Keiana and then a mini bar crawl with a larger group. Sunday Tim was back in Madison (he had been in Chicago with friends that weekend), and we went boating on the lake with our friend Paul and his wife and daughter. That night we got dinner with some friends and Monday I flew back to Richmond. Such a great weekend! Traveling has been great, but I am definitely excited to get back to Madison in December.

The following weekend was Tara’s wedding. Festivities started Friday with a bridesmaid luncheon at her parents’ home, which was very lovely and very southern. That afternoon I checked in to a hotel in Richmond closer to where the events would be taking place. We all met at the Westin hotel where Tara and many others in town for the wedding were staying to head to the rehearsal at St John’s United Church of Christ downtown. After the rehearsal, Tara’s aunt hosted a mehndi, which is a tradition in Hindu culture where the night before a bride’s wedding, there’s an evening of food, dancing and henna for the bride’s family and friends. After the party, I went to the airport to pick up Tim, who landed around midnight. We crashed back at the hotel right away, since the next morning, bright and early at 8am, was the Hindu wedding ceremony.

The Hindu ceremony was pretty amazing. It was colorful, loud and at times chaotic- very different from the structure of a Christian wedding. The ceremony had theatric elements, complete with story line. Arjun, the groom, sat on a platform in the front with his parents and her parents. In the ceremony, he is looking for a bride but is unable to find one, so he decides to leave and become a saint. Just in the nick of time, Tara is brought in, carried by her male cousins. They carry her in a circle around Arjun seven times, all the while sheilded from seeing each other with a veil. After the seventh round, the sheet is dropped and they see each for the first time. At this point Tara joined the rest of the group on the platform in the front while the priest continued reading through the ceremony in Sanskrit. All in all, it took about two hours, and included fire, water and a lot of rice (Tara and Arjun had to dump cooked rice on each other’s heads in a literal food fight- whoever won, tradition holds, will be the more dominant partner in the wedding. Tara won.).

After the ceremony was a brunch, after which Tim and I took a nap before I had to go get ready at the Westin with the other bridesmaids. I got to spend some quality time in the bridal suite with Tara as she started getting ready before having my hair done. After about an hour and a half, we were all ready and loaded up in our car pools to head to the church. Yikes!

Meanwhile, Tim was a huge help by driving out to Colonial Heights to pick up my grandmother (Baba) so she could attend. My parents weren’t able to attend due to my dad’s health issues.

The ceremony went beautifully- nobody tripped or fell, Tara looked amazing, and the officiant pronounced Tara’s name correctly (“tar” like star, then “uh”). One of the most meaningful parts of the ceremony for me was getting to read a poem Tara and I had chosen together- excerpts we arranged from Walt Whitman’s Song of the Open Road. This poem carried a lot of meaning for both of us- the journey of our lives we have been on together for the past 25 years, the literal journey I have been on this year, and the step she and Arjun took in their journey together on their wedding day. Before the last stanza, I looked over at Tara and saw she had tears in her eyes, which of course made me choke up. I later learned from various people who came up to me throughout the evening that this was the point where everyone in the church started crying.

After some photos at the church, we limoed to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts for the reception. The food was delicious (and I was starving), and the dancing and celebrations were a lot of fun.

After the reception I rode in the limo with the groomsmen and Tara to the Westin (Tim drove my Jeep) for some final drinks before heading to bed. It was such a wonderful day, one I feel so lucky to be able to have been a part of!

The next morning, my best guy friend from high school, Jon, came and met up with me and Tim and we headed to Busch Gardens, an amusement park about an hour away. The park is Europe themed, with each section a different country, so it was a lot of fun drawing the parallels between the real Europe and the Busch Gardens one. Also, being a Sunday in September, there were no lines, and their Halloween haunted houses were open in the evenings, and the park was fully decked out for the occasion.

The rest of the week in Richmond went by way too fast. Tim and I stayed at my Baba’s house, spending lots of time with her and my step-grandfather Earl, making a day trip up to DC to get our visas for Vietnam and dinner with my best friend from high school, Zehra, and her husband, and seeing friends and family one last time before making another 30+ hour journey back to Thailand this past Thursday.

We have been in Bangkok for a few days now, and neither of us have fully adjusted back to the time change. Just writing this has about wore me out…nap time!

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