A Whirlwind of a Trip:
Part 1...
January 28, 2007

After stepping foot into 36 different countries, I arrived back at SFO yesterday. The little piece of paper I was given on-board the plane
wasn’t big enough to list everywhere so I just listed an abridged version. When I was going through Passport Control, however, he wanted
unabridged version. I stood there listing every country out while he sat there typing away. That was the extent of it. Well, he was
interested in hearing about purchases I made along the way…but that was just out of personal curiosity.

The next step was passing through customs. I had to go through a special line. I thought that I was for sure going to have my bags looked
through. This would have been a slight issue as the four bottles of wine I bought in New Zealand definitely exceeds the 1 liter allotment
that we are allowed to bring into the country. The guy ended up only asking me what my job was before leaving the country and what the
purpose was for my trip. Seconds later I was given the clearance to walk through the doors into the Arrivals Hall.

And there was Karen waiting for me.

Other than the fact that I can barely remember a time when somebody has actually come
into an airport to meet me, this was beyond
great because I was going to have to befriend somebody to use their cell phone to call her since I had no phone of my own, no American
currency and definitely no American change to use a payphone.

She drove me to my storage locker where I picked up clothes that would keep me warm enough and have me look presentable for the
next few days. Jeans, boots, heels, sweaters – things that I was not privy to traveling with. But why stop there? I grabbed a bit of make-
up, some jewelry and a couple purses. Thank God Karen was with me or else I know I would have stayed longer to explore more
unnecessary options of things to bring along with me for my three days in town. But since Karen is an ‘in-and-out’ kind of woman I put
pressure on myself to be in-and-out. We left my storage locker. In those few minutes I managed to double the amount of stuff I had come
from the airport with.

We went to Karen’s house to pick up Kim and Dena. As if I didn’t already feel like a scruff-ball…everybody was in country club attire.
Technically I was in country club attire, as well, since I wasn’t wearing jeans. But since I didn’t want to tarnish Karen’s image at the club
by bringing some stray-looking girl with her, I did a quick change and applied a bit of make-up. When I came out of the room, the change
was noticed by all. However, while I was in the room the plan changed from going to the club for lunch to going to a restaurant. Thinking
about it, Karen probably wasn’t aware I was changing and had concerns about bringing me to the club with my appearance. Rightfully so…

This was my first exposure to friends at home while being home (as opposed to friends who have traveled with me along the way). I was
nervous about this. I knew I didn’t want to monopolize conversations by talking about my trip and I knew I was going to make a conscious
effort not to do that…but was it going to work? Was I going to feel like I had other stuff to talk about? Or would I feel like the trip was
going to be all-consuming to me? There was no way to actually predict how I was going to be/feel in these situations. After all, nine
months had passed since I had been home and seen most of these people.

The strangest thing that I felt when I arrived was the complete normalcy of everything. I was with Kim, Karen and Dena – in the same
exact place that we were over nine months ago when they had a good-bye dinner for me – and it felt like I was there just two weeks ago.
No exaggeration. Not a day longer. Everything I have seen and done in the months in between feels like a distant memory – a dream of
sorts. That being said, I had absolutely nothing to worry about regarding coming home. This is still ‘home’ to me and I can’t imagine it
ever not being that way. The four of us going to lunch was the same as it has always been. I didn’t feel the need to talk about my trip. I
realize that by doing my journals and posting them,
that is my way of talking about the trip. Now that I was home and face-to-face with
friends, it was my chance to hear what has been going on with
them for the past nine months. Even though they same ‘same old, same
old’, once I pry I come to find out that’s not the case at all.

Dena had to run an errand to the bookstore and I asked if I could come with her. I thought it sounded fun to ‘run an errand’ with a friend.
After all, when was the last time I did that? Plus it was to a bookstore. Of course Dena didn’t have a problem with this. Afterwards we
even met up with Karen and Bob at the movie theater to go see Babel. I’ve seen many o’ movies with Dena and there is one problem about
going with her. For some reason, we always seem to be cursed when we’re together of sitting near people with some phlegm-hacking,
throat-clearing issues. It really sucks. I like Dena a lot…but if this is what is going to happen every time I see a movie with her, I might
have to stop going.

Karen lent me her car last night so that I could meet up with my friend Boodie (aka Christine) at a bar in San Mateo for a friend’s
stepfather’s retirement party. Now that I was so used to driving in New Zealand, I kept messing up when it came time to turn my
blinkers on – I kept turning the windshield wipers on instead. I finally got the hang of it by the time I got to the bar. I was happy that I
was driving as this was what made it possible to not give into Boodie’s typical pressure tactics to have me get wasted. I was a bit tired
from my flight and didn’t want to have too late of a night. It was great seeing Boodie’s family and friends.

The time came for me to head home (i.e. Karen and Bob’s) because what I really wanted to do before going to bed was to take a bath.
Mission was accomplished. Ahhh.

This morning I started the day with a nice walk around Hillsborough. It was nice to actually take notice of my surroundings for once.
Normally I just ‘walk’. This time I took in how beautiful the trees were…how beautiful the homes were…how wonderful this entire town is.
Talk about taking this for granted when I was growing up! But I am taking it upon myself to appreciate the things (both big and small)
that somewhere along the way I stopped noticing.

Jen P. picked me up and we made our way to Burlingame Avenue where Tara and Mary met us for brunch. The last time I saw all of them
was my last night in town before leaving when they had a dinner for me at Jen’s house. Once again, it felt like only weeks ago that I saw
them last. It was so cool of all of them to come down from the South Bay to come hang out.

My friend Lauren came down to pick me up in Burlingame to take me up to San Francisco. She had no problem with my suggestion for
dinner – Pluto’s! At this point, all I wanted was a good salad. It was great hanging out with her. She also gave into my craving for frozen
yogurt on Union Street. I was saddened to see that my normal place had closed down. I had to go to the place that was always my ‘second
option’. Guess it has now moved up the ranks to being my ‘first option’.

Once again, it feels as if I did nothing more than spent time on a short vacation in between now and the last time I had seen any of these

My last stop was at Ari’s where Lauren dropped me off. This was my home for the night. We sat and caught up for a while. I was about to
go to bed but quickly emailed my friend who lives a few blocks away to see if he happened to be in town (he was supposed to be gone this
week). He emailed me back right away and said he was in town! His work project went longer than expected so he couldn’t leave on his
trip yet. This sucks for him but it worked out great for me. I headed back out and went to Dave’s and then we went to grab a drink. So
great to see this guy. After all, this is my friend that even put the idea of doing this ‘trip’ in my mind. I might not owe it all to him…but I
definitely owe a good chunk of it to him.

I am now back at Ari’s and about to go to bed. Tomorrow I head to my old office and get to see my work peeps. Hopefully I’ll get a chance
to do some other city things as well…
Back to United States.
Annette, Kellie and me.
Kim, me and Dena..