Goodbye, L.A.

September 18, 2012

It was a quiet car ride to the airport. Amissa was crying most of the way after parting with Giuseppe.  I felt just as strong about leaving the boy but was driving and could not release.  We arrived at LAX.

Last photo in L.A.

Even with all my research and planning, we overlooked one detail.  Amissa was unable to travel on a one way ticket. Forced to purchase a $780 return ticket, we were allowed to proceed. I parted ways with my father.  It was not as emotional as I thought it would be but there were still tears.  We walked up the stairs towards the security check.  I imagined what we looked like as we disappeared into the crowd.

We waited no more that 15 minutes to board our plane. Row 36.  A 24 german-physicist sat on the aisle seat of our row.  His name was Toby, short for Tobias.  He was returning to Berlin from a three-month research internship in Washington D.C.. Amissa sat by the window as Toby and I got to know each other.  I asked him about his favorite sites in Europe.  Throughout the flight, he told me about top spots.  Dresden, Germany: A once beautiful city, now rebuilt, bombed by the Allies in WWII as revenge for the Germans for destroying one of their cities.

He said not to miss the Grunes Gewolbe in Dresden.  A museum that houses precious gems and manmade wonders — such as, a cherry seed carved with hundreds of different faces.  He then went on to talk about Middle Age Hanze cities, supposedly the first cities in the world, considered so because of innovative trade routes. Tallinn, Estonia was also highly recommended. The Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaria. The Hostel Castle in the Black Forest, Sachische-Schwaz-Bastei, and Villa Borghese, Rome.

We also spoke about his internship in synthetic biology.  he spoke about STEM and their achievements transplanting DNA.  He also told me that there is now the technology to create a vaccine for a swine/bird flu-like virus within 24-72 hours of a breakout.

Aside with conversing with Toby, I watched Brave, Curb Your Enthusiasm, The Intouchables, and started the Avengers with Amissa.  The entertainment system on the airplane was very impressive.  Definitely enough content to keep you entertained for a ten-hour flight.  We constantly drank water. I had a tea. We ate roasted almonds, spaghetti, salad, cheese & crackers, and bread for our first meal. Amissa did not wake me up for ice cream.  We had goldfish/ tortilla chips. Two hours before landing, we were served breakfast — eggs, potatoes, yogurt, fruit, cheese, and bread.  Our flight with KLM was a positive one. During the ten-hour flight, we saw the sun set and rise.

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Three Days Left

Our two red suitcases lie on our bed. Hershel and Giuseppe each lie on a separate suitcase completely clueless that we will be leaving for 8 months.  Amissa sits on the bed entertained by the internet on her phone.  Pelusa sleeps. This is us counting down the days.  Excited and nervous.  Happy yet sad. These last few days will be spent with friends, family, and our beloved pets.

Poor little spickler

A few weeks ago, a small black and white kitten with a crooked Chaplin/Hitler mustache came into our backyard crying for attention.  We fed and gave her water.  She has not left since then.  As cute as she is, we can’t keep her.  We’ve attempted to find a home for Little Hitler (bad name, I know) but will be forced to take her to a shelter.  There has not been enough time to better approach this situation.

Sunday, family and friends will come over the house to help us celebrate this journey.  I know there will be tears and maybe some nausea but c’est la vie.  Below is an animation I made last year for my chihuahua Giuseppe. Enjoy!

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Couchsurfing Experience #1 – Helge

My first couchsurfing experience was as a host. The couchsurfer was Helge Ebinger, a 22-year old music student from Stuttgart, Germany.  He arrived at my place Sunday, August 19th at 11:00 pm.

We hung out with a few of my friends and got to know each other.  He said he was from “The Black Forest” and we can call him “HEL” (short for Helge).  We all got a good laugh out of that because he didn’t realize how dark that sounded.  Helge stayed four nights until he eventually found a temporary room to rent.

He will be studying music at CSUN until July 2013.

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One Month Left

Well… a little less than a month now.

For the last three weeks, I have been working at an elementary school processing lunch applications.  A desk job. Monday to Friday. Six hour days. The work is simple but tedious.  The environment is relaxed (I’m writing this at work) and friendly.  It’s definitely better than a retail job!  Being part of the cafeteria staff entitles me to free lunches and unlimited Snapples and Vitamin Waters — oh yeah!  I’ve already discussed my leave with my supervisors.  We’ve settled that my last day will be September 7th if not earlier.  In total, this temp job should add around a grand to my travel budget.

This summer has been composed of working, swimming, and drinking vino with buddies.  This has been definitely one of the most active summers — not necessarily productive.  Good ol’ summer fun though.

I have been reading Rick Steeves’ Europe Through the Back Door 2007 for some time now (especially on my 30-minute work breaks).  The book is very helpful in preparing for a European life.  It has definitely taught me a thing or two about planning, making the best of this trip, and becoming “cultural chameleons.”

Last thing, we bought our plane tickets. We leave September 18th.

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Pre-Spain Update

Two days away from my visa appointment with the Spanish consulate and I’ve gathered most of the required paperwork.

I’ve received two couchsurfing invites — each one by a 30-something year old male in a different part of Murcia.  I’m open to staying with one of them.  Although dangerous, this can be a good opportunity to meet a local and gain insight into the Spanish-Murcian culture.  I wonder what will be the creepiest thing to happen to us?

In preparation for the abundance of alcohol in Europe, Amissa and I have been building our wine tolerance with our dear friends Sammy, Melanie, and Nate.  These late night wine gatherings have birthed some peculiar memories.

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Let the documentation begin

Alright. I’ve spent too much time sitting in front of a blank screen trying to write the first sentence to this entry.  I’ve grown so  accustomed to writing structured essays that I’ve forgotten how to free write.  I really should’ve taken a creative writing course.

I suppose this will be a rather long entry since at this point there are a lot of things to address.  First, I will explain why I’ve decided to document this journey to Spain. Second, I will describe the status and details  of this trip.  Finally, I will express some of my concerns on leaving home.

The purpose of this “travel journal” is to help me remember this trip with as much detail as possible.  Everything will be recorded – people, places, food, wildlife – no memory left behind.  This is mainly due to the fact that I generally have a hard time recalling simple moments in my life.  Don’t get the wrong impression. I’m no Leonard Shelby.

As of right now, I’m currently collecting the paperwork necessary to claim my Spanish student visa.  I have two more weeks until my visa appointment with the Spanish consulate on July 30th.  Oh! Let me explain this trip.  I’ll be moving to Spain with Amissa, my girlfriend, for 8 months as a Language Assistant.  I’ve been assigned to what I think is an elementary school in the city of Jumilla within the region of Murcia.  I plan on leaving mid-September.  My return date would be sometime in June 2013.

My new home

Leaving home means leaving the people, animals, and comfort I love behind.  This isn’t easy for me to do  since breaking out of my comfort zone means breaking into a realm of nausea – eh, which is probably entirely psychosomatic.  I can already imagine my first two weeks in Spain – stressed, nauseous, and having the time of my life.  Amissa says I doom myself but this pessimism is just mental preparation for a likely situation.  I’m really not that worried about getting sick. I have a feeling that this trip will help me overcome my weak stomach.

My family makes me feel needed but I am sure they will be just fine without me.  I hate to leave my dad but somehow I feel this will better the relationship we have.  I will miss my sisters but won’t worry too much because they are great mothers.  Unfortunately, I will miss the first birthdays of my two new nephews, Roman and Dayjon.  I’m sure they’ll understand when they’re older… if they find out.  Jordan, Zamaya, Zictor, and Zahn, I’ll miss terribly.  Zictor and Zahn are too young too miss me but I’m sure they’ll still remember me when I return.  Jordan and Zamaya on the other hand still cry over my mother’s passing five years ago.  I hope my leave does not impact them in a negative way.  As for my extended family and close friends. I will miss them too.

Pelusa, Giuseppe, Hershel

Leaving my animals is the second hardest thing to do.  Amissa and I give Pelusa, Giuseppe, and Hershel so much attention.  It’s hard to imagine them without us.  Pelusa is in good hands. She will be moving with my sister Grace who I trust will care for her daily.  She’s got to be 13 by now and is epileptic.  I hope the changes wont upset her.  I hope she is still alive when I come back.  If she dies or is put down, I really hope my family tells me the day it happens.  I would hate to return home to bad news.

At this point, Giuseppe and Hershel will stay at home with my dad.  Giuseppe will move into the main house and hopefully be as spoiled as he is with us.  I know he will miss us.  I hope he won’t suffer too much.  More importantly,  I hope he will remember us after an 8 month absence. The same goes for Hershel except he will be living outside.  He will always have food, water, and Giuseppe.  My biggest fear is him wandering too far or getting hit by a car.  I’ve lost a cat like that before.  To lose Hershel would be devastating.  He is one special cat.

Tiffany the tarantula will be cared for by my friends, Melanie and Nate. I trust them to care for her.  In case of her death, I will provide her guardians with a jar of alcohol so she can be preserved.  My terrarium, I hope, will be watered by my dad.  I’m currently unintentionally rearing Vagrant Grasshoppers in there and hope they will mature while I’m gone.  I’m not too sure what I will do with Suzan, my hissing cockroach.

I was going to write about how much I’ll miss my room, technologies, food – but that’s all jejune compared to the concerns above.

Fortunately, I will have Amissa and Spain will be what we make it.

I can’t imagine writing anything else for now.  I’ll be back to update sooner to my departure date.

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