Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The Road Trip in Retrospect

There’s something about the first cup of tea in the morning that is just heavenly. Just like there is writing in the morning when the world is quiet. The added bonus was that my sublettor Sasha has already left for the day so I can be in peace with my tea and my blog. She has gone off to do yoga in Times Square and study all day at the NY Public Library for her upcoming CPA exam.
I didn’t get to scribing much along the road trip, as you can see. Mainly because we were driving long days and so in the morning there wasn’t much time to sit down and write. Plus we had a mandatory road trip rule about exercising every morning and that came first. I can’t believe the trip is already over and I’m back in New York for a week before the next adventure begins. I wont tell you about that now but will reveal it later on.
At the last writing we were awaiting G’s brother’s arrival in Calgary, which happened late one Tuesday night. We spent another full day with him in Banff before heading on to Vancouver. I must tell you that the Canadian Rockies are absolutely gorgeous, much more so majestic than the US side. After leaving Edmonton, G and I drove over to Jasper and down the Icefields Parkway to Banff. The weather was perfect and the scenery was just fantastic. The winter was one of the biggest on record and so there was still a lot of snow covering the lakes and closing many a campground. We “ooh-ed” and “aah-ed” at every turn as the scenery just got more amazing. We made Banff our home for 3 nights and it was so worth it.
After three nights in Banff, we made our way up over the Rockies to Vancouver, the Canadian gem on the Pacific Ocean. My friend Jon got us four nights free at a hotel downtown, which saved the budget and was a nice little reward for all the driving we had managed to do. Canada is a big country and it takes some time to traverse it. Ironically, after all that driving, I was not able to enjoy a weekend in Vancouver but merely one full day, for I had to attend a graduation in Baltimore on the weekend. So in true world traveler style, I hopped on a plane early Saturday morning to Baltimore and returned Sunday evening to continue the road trip. Most people would think I’m mad doing such a thing but hey what are frequent flyer miles good for if you don’t use them, right? More importantly this was a special graduation that I promised to be at, and a promise is a promise.
The graduation in question was a high school graduation for one of my Afghan students who has become like a daughter to me. I was her local coordinator in New York where she spent her exchange year in Queens and I helped get her this scholarship to this excellent all-girls high school two years ago. I promised her father in Kabul that I would watch out for her while she was in the U.S. and I felt I needed to be there for her as she walked onto the stage to take part in the graduation ceremonies. I’m glad I wore sunglasses that day for I had tears of joy streaming out of my eyes—so proud of my little girl. Next to me was an empty seat and I imagined how proud her father would be if he was sititng there and I felt his presence and could see the pride in his eyes too. It was a powerful event for me, for I was reminded of the long road that Afghan girls have, compared to boys, and the power of women as an entity. I came away from that graduation with new ideas for empowering my Afghan girls and a refreshed respect for the opposite sex.
It was a nice break from the road trip, albeit a long way to travel, and by the time I got back to Vancouver, I missed G and our adventure and was ready to continue the trip. It also gave him some time to be with his brother since he is moving away to go to grad school in the fall. Monday morning, after a breakfast with Jon, we made our way down to Seattle tocomplete the loop back to Toronto on the US side. The border crossing was less annoying than the one in Michigan but still we were delayed as they made us wait. Homeland Security definitely needs some cultural sensitivity training and needs to relax a bit and not suspect everyone of something and interrogate as if the person is a criminal. Not a pleasant way to begin a trip into our country.
Once we were free of the border, we made our way to Seattle for lunch with my dear friend Lisa. I haven’t seen her in about 7 years so it was great to catch up, eventhough it was just over lunch. She and I go way back to studying Russian together in San Francisco and living together in Russia for many years. She’s one of those friends that you pick up where you left off, no matter how many years have gone on in between. There are a handful of people like that in my life and I cherish them very much. After a delicious Vietnamese lunch with Lisa, G and I hit the road east towards Montana. Lightening and pouring rain marked our way as the road unfolded before us, giving G an experience of driving in crazy weather conditions. We made it as far as Missoula before calling it a night at one of the fanciest Motel 6’s I’ve ever seen. Morning will come and we will be on our way again eastward toward the next destination, with sights to see and talks to have as the journey continues.

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