After 2.5 years in Taiwan, I hadn’t spent much time going home to the states. This was by design. I wanted and needed to soak up this new life and culture while I had the chance (it’s not forever after-all). We’re lucky, because our families have made the long voyage to visit us here, some even twice! With my sister wrapping up her two year teaching assignment in China and heading home for the summer, Pickles’ work trip in Portland and me craving quality time with family I packed up the freelance laptop and hit the road for a tri-state tour of my three home away from homes: Oregon, Montana and Pennsylvania.
1st Stop: Oregon
Activities: friends, feast, repeat
Oodles of new babies and dear friends to see
Rose season in the “city of Roses”
We didn’t miss a chance to indulge in some favorite eats like Por Que No and Broder. I also meandered down many grocery stores aisles, giddy with all the options and ENGLISH labels.
We enjoyed a weekend in the Gorge with our rad kiteboarder friends. We biked for beer. We lounged on the Columbia River’s grassy beach and took in all the colors and sunshine while they got their first surf of the season on. It’s a rough life having such cool friends.
One thing that was noticeable upon landing in the USA is the ability to eavesdrop. This is something that I don’t partake in in Taiwan due to the lack of Mandarin fluency. I pick up words, but it’s a far cry from the brain-drain that eavesdropping in your native language (intentional or not) has on the mind. On the flip side, it was euphoric to communicate and read with such ease.
2nd Stop: Montana
Activities: hikes, corgi snugs, happy hours, bears, ping pong & hammocking
Next stop on the tri-state tour: Pickles and I spent a week in Montana with my folks. I then stayed on for the entire month of June. I’ve never spent this much time here and it’s been my home away from home for 24 years! I have never seen it this lush and green either – truly a breathtaking time to visit with all the wildflowers in bloom.
We spent copious amounts of time snuggling THE corgi and hiking in Yellowstone Park. Enjoyed a couple 5-6 hour hikes following game trails. It’s just us and you name it… the occasional grizzly, black bear, antelope, elk, bison, golden eagle or sandhill crane. And because we’re Norwegian and my dad loves to see wildlife, we don’t yak much (rule #1 in bear country is to make some noise) which adds an element of thrill.
When we weren’t sneaking up on wildlife in the park, we were social and mobile visiting with friends (they know everyone), baking bread (or rather us eating Wendy’s homemade bread), playing ping pong (my dad’s kinda good), backyard hammocking, setting up honeybee drinking stations (google it), playing mahjong (I can teach you), and connect four (I will beat you), flying a hot pink box kite, watching all the cool kids at the new skate park which just opened (designed and made by a Portland company) and of course going on lots and lots of corgi walks along the Yellowstone River. It doesn’t suck having parents in this part of the world one bit.
New Bike Friends
It seems every time we’re in Livingston we cross paths with touring cyclists. My dad and Wendy inevitably invite them over for dinner and offer them to stay the night (comfy beds always beat camping). Last time it was two young Dutch guys who were floored at how big and energy consuming American cars are. True. This time we met the recently retired Hank and Kathy on their 16 month, lower 48 state bike tour. Follow their blog and offer them a warm meal and place to stay if they’re in your hood – they’re great people. They’re in PA as of this writing.
Short weekend jaunt to cowboy country. My sister’s husband, Joe, is from this part of the world. Aside from hiking in the Bighorn mountains, there are 4 places I recommend: The Brinton Museum, King’s Saddlery and Museum, The Mint Bar and El Tapitio Dos.
3rd Stop: Pennsylvania
Activities: Amish corn, shoo fly pie, pygmy goats, lightening bugs & dance
To complete the family tour, my sis and I flew to PA to see our mum and our youngest sister (Shawnee, and her family). We stayed at my mom’s place in deep Amish country, an old schoolhouse built in 1841 surrounded by a massive lily garden, raspberry bushes, tomatoes and a plethora of more edibles. She makes a mean roast beef with garden onions and tomatoes which we ate at sunset amongst the flickering lightening bugs. It’s a slice of paradise.
My mom’s neighbors (l to r): Nick, Tati (my sister), Jonathan, Abigail, Michelle (mom), Katy (my mom), Theo and Hannah. These kids are the sweetest! They help my mom out a lot on her property too. It was great to finally meet all of them.
They were kind enough to invite us to their annual Fourth of July parade. This is a big family production that includes costumes, acting, music, “sponsors” and a proper flag folding ceremony for the “Grand Marshall” (their great-grandfather). It’s the real-deal Americana Fourth of July experience that brought tears of joy to my eyes. Thank you for inviting us!
Our youngest sister, Shawnee, lives in Lancaster and has two boys: Sammy and Kieran. Auntie Passionfruit finally got to meet Kieran, the youngest! I definitely don’t win any Auntie awards, but I do make up for it real good when I’m around in person. I will push a swing or bicycle and snuggle for endless amounts of hours.
It was so heart filling to see these peeps! Shawnee, aside from having the best sense of humor and attitude of anyone I know, also has her own legal practice (family and criminal law). Phil is the accountant for Lancaster’s baseball team, the Barnstormers, which explains the love of sports in these children.
The Lancaster Scene
We danced our bums off!
The music scene is out of this world in Lancaster! Back when I was teen it was just Rick’s Place (which is still there, but you have to be UNDER 20 to get in). No biggy. We found three music venues within walking distance and danced like maniacs all night.
The Pygmy Goats. Finally.
If you made it this far… thank you. Here’s your treat:
That my friends & family is the end of my “homes away from home” summer camp edition. Every time I get homesick I will fire this post up and think about how lucky I am to have all of you in my life. You may be out of sight, but NEVER out of mind.
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