November Splendor

This month and the last half of last month were pretty kickin’. Here, in a nutshell, is what I did. It will serve as an outline for this post.

Since I last blogged I…

  1. went on vacation to California;
  2. went to a conference in Italy;
  3. celebrated my first anniversary at my job in New York;
  4. road-tripped to spend time with some wonderful people in Northeastern Ohio;
  5. began a 365 photography project;
  6. saw lots of lovely friends and family at thanksgiving;
  7. went on my first NJ hike.

Whew! That’s a lot to chronicle. I have myriad pictures documenting all of those events, but I’ll post here only the ones of which I am most proud. Safe to say, this will probably get a little long.

| California |

(I’m experimenting with headings in this post…they’re a little weird)

My first real vacation that was completely unconnected with work was completely worth the wait through my first year of working. Ironically, I don’t even know if I would have thought to take a 6-day trip across the country had it not been for work. I thought, back in August, I was going to get to go out there to help with an orientation, but at the last minute it turned out that they didn’t have need of my assistance after all. I was disappointed…but then it occurred to me that I could make an even more fun trip to the West Coast all by myself!

A fine mammoth specimen excavated from the La Brea Tar Pits.

It took minimal arranging to get everyone concerned on board and pretty soon I had an exciting trip lined up. My first stop was in LA to visit family friends, Shela and Kumar. I had not seen these lovely people for nearly eight years. In my short life, that is quite a stretch of time. Shela and Kumar housed me for a night before my AFS exchange to Australia in February 2004; in that short time, Shela and I became good friends. In spite of…a fairly significant generational gap…we get along like a house on fire and never run out of things to say. Shela kept me very entertained and well-fed for my 2-ish-day visit with her. We went to the La Brea Tar Pits/Page Museum, the LACMA and to the Getty. It was all splendid. The last night of my stay, Miss. Amytza joined us for dinner–it was lovely to see her and bring wonderful people together.

From LA I took a couple of buses to get myself to Santa Barbara and the next part of my visit. Emily, John and Meaghan picked me up at the bus stop. As can be expected with wonderful, long-time friends, whether we were wine tasting, going on a hike, walking around the (really cute) downtown area, eating delicious food, or simply lounging around the apartment watching Dexter (the dog) acting princely in his domain, (and we did all of that and more!) the fun never ceased. It was a great way to relax and have a good time.

There are so many pictures from Santa Barbara (it’s a beautiful place) that I’ll just leave you with this one:

Hummingbird in flight with the clouds hovering over Santa Barbara behind.

| Italy |

My final work travel experience (I think) for the year, found me on a plane, two trains and a bus to Colle Val d’Elsa, Italy (roughly 30 minutes north of Siena). There I attending a fascinating conference about host family Intercultural learning during a study abroad experience. I thought lots of thoughts I had never thought before :-S and met some truly amazing colleagues and experts in the field. Additionally, I learned the hard way that Colle Val d’Elsa installed an elevator to assist people in navigating the mountainhill upon which part of the city sits. I discovered this after hiking up said hill and finding the elevator…at the top. Sigh. At least I got some great pictures and exercise…for which I was exceedingly grateful as I consumed stunning quantities of delicious Italian food in the days that followed.

The hill up which I laboriously climbed with a suitcase and a backpack.

After an intense weekend of learning I returned to Rome and spent a Sunday exploring with some familiar faces. Chiara, with whom I lived in Spain, came up from Naples with her boyfriend to visit. Lovely Irene had agreed to host me for the night; even though eventually we decided that staying at the airport hotel was more practical for me, I still consider her my host for the day. After meeting up at the train station, Chiara and Irene worked out a very ambitious plan for the day in which we hit many of the major fountains and monuments in the city. My feet were killing me by the time we retired to a lovely bar/cafe on the other side of the Tiber. Never made it to the Vatican, but that’s just a reason to come back.

The cool kids taking care of the dopey tourist.

I could not resist. Me at il Colsseo. The image enlarges sideways. Sorry.

Too soon it was time to go home. Overall it was a very productive trip. I even revived some of my long-dormant Italian skills and communicated quite well! I got back to the US on Halloween and then, on November 1, I celebrated my first anniversary by working from home :).

| Ohio |

I never thought I would be so excited to go to Northeastern Ohio, but by the time mid-November rolled around, I had put my first cold of this winter behind me and I was chomping at the bit to get out to the middle of the country. Oren and I were both excited for the long car trip and Mom generously switched cars with me to spare my 12-year-old Honda the extra miles (on top of its 238,000. It’s a good car, but no car is that good).

This road trip marked the longest road trip Oren and I have taken together to date as well as the very first annual WWAFSerD Weekend (in which my AFS friends–returnees all–got together and hung out). It was a whirlwind weekend and altogether too short. Objectively, was probably not strictly worth the seven hours in the car…but also it was entirely worth the seven hours in the car. It may not be logical, but it made sense to us.

Northeastern Ohio has an Amish population and the local AFS team was holding their annual Amish day in which the exchange student (et al) learn about some of the local culture. We did some serious eating (including much cheese, fudge, fried chicken and mashed potatoes…), walking, picture-taking, laughing, talking and not very much sleeping.

I did not take this photo. Credit goes to Lisa's liaison student from Belgium. It's the one that best captures the joy and camaraderie of the weekend.

It was in Ohio that I was inspired to begin my very own 365 photo project that has been appearing on this blog for ten days now.

| 365 Project |

So here is what has been going on. I’ve thought of doing this for a while, but I’ve only just taken the leap and made a commitment. The idea of a 365 project is, fundamentally speaking, to take one photo a day. Some people take a self portrait a day and watch themselves change over a year. Other people set up different themes or try to develop certain techniques. For my 365 project I…

  1. will take at least one photo each day and post it on my blog with a title, general location, and little anecdote, if applicable;
  2. will only use photos taken by me;
  3. promise I will only backdate posts if I absolutely do not have an internet connection and only if I actually took the photo the day before.
    After all, I travel for work and it wouldn’t be culturally sensitive to assume that I will have internet every place in the world;
  4. may or may not use Photoshop to make my images look cooler.

For this project, my only real goal is to do it every day…to see if I can do something every day for a year. Maybe after that I’ll add some outside purpose. I will take my photos with one of three (yes, three) cameras: Nikon D40 (DSLR), Cannon PowerShot SD1000, or my iPhone…I will probably usually use my iPhone. Let’s be real.

This project will be in effect until November 20, 2012. Wish me luck and stay tuned.

| Thanksgiving Weekend |

Thanksgiving 2011 took place at my parents’ house. We’ve done Thanksgiving there before, and always with great success, but this year I feel with particularly successful. We had two turkeys–one roasted and one fried (yes, fried). Those two turkeys supplied our roughly 30 dinner guests with enough tryptophan to knock everyone sluggish for a week. Still the rest of the weekend was full of fun and activity. Oren and I drove up and down NJ, meeting friends in Princeton for the tree lighting in Palmer Square before joining his family for Shabbat dinner on Friday and jetting back down southward to meet my high school besties for brunch on Saturday. Shopping and Indian food finished Saturday off with a flourish and we said goodbye to most of my relatives who were about to scatter back all over the country. On Sunday, Oren and I enjoyed our first ever hike together in New Jersey–the first of many, I hope.

In part as an homage to my Grandpa's family picture style and also because this picture didn't turn out that well, I offer you an indexed image of our Thanksgiving feast. Click the image to enlarge.

An image from our Sunday hike. It was a perfect day and still pretty even if all the leaves are on the ground now.

My word count is totaling over 1500 words, so I better stop. Kudos for making it this far. Hopefully December will be calmer, so the post won’t be as intense, but thanks to my photo project, you can look forward to constant posts coming out of this little corner of the ‘net.


One response to “November Splendor

  1. The mystery dish is margarine. Your mother dressed it up a bit by putting the store-bought container in a brass bowl!

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