Sunday, January 20, 2013

Reflections on US Travels

It´s a lazy Sunday afternoon, and I´m trying this from Swork Coffee in Eagle Rock, a suburb of Los Angeles.

Swork is an independent coffee shop that is about a 20 minute walk from my alma mater, Occidental College.  Not having a car in college or grad school, it was always a nice escape to get some hot chocolate (I don´t drink coffee!), catch up with a friend, but more often I used it as a change of scenery while doing work.  Despite the arrival of a Starbucks about 6 years ago in the shopping center next door, Swork is still here and doing well.

A few years ago I made the conscious decision that traveling was more of a priority for me than living in a fancy apartment or having excessive clothes or material goods.  I have made wonderful friends traveling and through high school and college, and combining traveling with seeing them is something I find incredibly rewarding and fulfilling.

My brother and sister in law moved to North Carolina, so I visited them for a long weekend last weekend.  Their new house is beautiful, and I enjoyed spending time with them.  The weekend included delicious homemade Chinese food, relaxing on the back deck with unusually warm weather for January, playing Wii, and cuddling with the cats while we watched movies.

During my time down there I also got to meet up with two friends.  A friend I made in Santiago moved back to North Carolina in December 2010, and this was our first time seeing each other since then.  We met up at Texas Roadhouse and caught up on what has been happening for the past few years.

I also got to see another friend that I made in Granada, Spain.  We both studied abroad there in 2004, and while we kept in contact via email, phone, and Facebook, we hadn´t seen each other since then.  She has since become a doctor and is enjoying life.  We met up at Panera Bread and then got some dessert at Coldstone before she dropped me off at the airport.

Now I´m in Los Angeles with the same plan of visiting friends.

The plan hasn´t worked out as well as I hoped.  I had plans to stay with a friend, and we had everything confirmed three days before my arrival.  The night before I texted him reminding him and thought it was strange that he didn´t respond, so I sent him an email  reminding him of the time and asking about his cell phone number and giving him mine.  No answer that night either.

So I texted him when I got off the plane in LA and didn´t hear anything so I called him only to find out the number was no longer in service.  At this point I was already on the Flyaway bus from the airport to Union Station in downtown LA and had to figure out what to do.

I called a friend and when she didn´t pick up I left a message explaining the situation and that I wasn´t sure what to do.  Then I called another friend, and he offered to do a search for his phone number and address and said he could drive me there or I could crash at his place in Culver City.

The person in front of me on the bus overheard me and lent me her phone to send an email.  I sent an email in hopes of hearing back and that he had just overslept or something.

Then my other friend called back, and after talking for a few minutes we decided the best course of action was for her to pick me up at Union Station and then crash at her place (with her husband and baby daughter) for the night.

During the night I checked my emails in hopes of hearing what happened, but no word.

My friends opened their home to me and made me as comfortable as possible on such short notice.  I also met their daughter, and I ended up staying with them for 3 days.

During those 3 days I talked with other friends to see where I could stay, as I felt that I shouldn´t stay longer than that with such short notice.  Luckily another friend in Glendale let me spend last night, and I´ll be in Culver City for my last two nights here.

Well that was a bit of a tangent, but it all comes back to my connections with friends.

I didn´t come to LA to party or go to Disney or Universal Studios.  I came to reconnect with friends, see my alma mater, and relive the memories of my time there.  So far I´ve enjoyed visiting Oxy, a walk around the Rose Bowl, hanging out at the Americana in Glendale and at Olvera Street.  It was great seeing friends that I saw since my last visit as well as some I haven´t seen since in about 8 years.  A friend from Chile moved to Los Angeles to work for a year, and we got to meet up too.  While I was typing this I ran into another alum from Occidental who was actually my Orientation Team Leader.

So what does the rest of my time in the States look like?

  • Hopefully catching up with some more friends down in the Culver City/West LA area.
  • Some relaxation and well deserved free time in Las Vegas.  This will hopefully include catching up with a few friends in the area too, but given the short visit I´m not expecting it.
  • 3 days back in Jersey, including a family party to celebrate birthdays
  • 3 days in Miami as a birthday gift to myself before returning to Santiago.  Of course I´ll be doing it on a budget by traveling with a friend and staying in a hostel.
I´ll have one more update before I leave, and I´ll be sure to post pictures to make up for the lack of them in the past few posts.  Off to Culver City soon!

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