One Last Return
It is mid August and hard to believe I was in the US a month and a half ago already. The time flew by so fast I only took photographs with my iphone, and very infrequently at that. Coming back the first week of July was my last time to fly back to South Africa. I only have little over four months left working for ECHO on Ukulima Farm. There is so much to recap on what I was able to do in June, this is just what I can remember.
Most of my time stateside was spent working at ECHO's Global Farm in Ft. Myers. While there I got to mix work with fun: ran soil nitrate tests from Foundations for Farming (FFF) research plots, also seeded maize into the FFF plots, reconnected with ECHO staff and met new staff members, assisted in digging and planting a demonstration FFF field, habitually hanging out with the new interns, weeded on the Mountain with Cody while trying to learn not to step on onions, did a walk through the semi-arid with Amiee and discovered interesting millet varieties, met my new coworker Rip and helped him make an Italian lunch for the interns, learned (and mastered) Cribbage, relished many an intern meal, attended at least three separate celebrations with one at the Price's house, said hi to Lily and goodbye to Masala, smores at the Cotarellos house. Playing cards at the Ward's house was definitely a highlight as we vied for the best Disney hat--El Presidente!
On the weekends I would head down to sunny Estero to hang with my Aunt Eileen and Uncle John. I saw downtown Ft. Myers for the first time with all its deco and limestone architecture, ate an awesome veggie burger at Ford's Garage, went to Lover's Key twice and enjoyed seeing dolphin and osprey and experiencing "the whip," family came down to visit, went popping tags at Goodwill, and got rained on at The Lake House. Finding gauges with Auntie E after months with one pair of earrings was great, as after visiting the scenic Edison Mall we took the back roads and drove by her old homes with fond regard.
When first touching down in the US however, I was able to spend a week across North Carolina. First up was visiting Asheville. Driving down the escarpment I got to spend time with my grandparents, stay at their house and see my pop's new paintings. Some good time was spent with Aunt Chris and Madison and Spencer chowing down on veggie dogs at the soda fountain downtown. I also had the pleasure to take my Nana up to Mt. Pisgah Inn
for lunch and a beautiful drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway.
The rest of the week was spent in Durham attending mon meilleur ami's, Tom Millay's, wedding to Laura Ziemer. The ceremony was beautiful, and the reception supper was amazing at a small restaurant in the Tobacco district stocked with local micro-brews and a hopping dance floor. My Uncle Scott and Aunt Amy, with Luke, Joshua, and Samuel, also came through town and we had fun hanging out at Guglhupf Bakery as they were on their way to Colorado. Stopping by NC State, I met with my thesis advisor and saw a few familiar faces around Williams Hall. I also got to see most of my dad's side of the family, including Grandma D'Aiuto and pregnant Laci, over breakfast in Raleigh's Farmer's Market Restaurant.
Lastly, I took a couple days off before flying back to South Africa to go home to Orlando for the first time in a year and a half. I got to see my cat, play the amazing Texas Instruments geography board game Passport ("You're going to...'Oh-shi-annie-a'"), visit my favorite dentist, see "the girls" at my dad's office, partake of Jeremiah's Italian Ice, swim and jacuzzi with Aunt Chris and the kids (round 2), and have pizza with my grandparents and cousins while playing South African accordion music.
Altogether, it was a whirlwind visit where I got to see my family, all grandparents, and most of the extended family. That means I accomplished the most important goals. The only one I didn't check off the entire time was some hiking! Hoping for more of that soon.