78 Hours in Minnesota: The Pros

My whirlwind of a weekend home is over and I already miss it. I mean, I don’t miss the utter exhaustion, my inability to tell which day of the week it was, or the distance from my husband (not the largest ocean, but a pretty big one none-the-less)…but on a whole, it was a pretty magical trip.

I’ve never traveled so far (24 hours there, 21 hours back) to be somewhere for such a short amount of time. So I guess I should explain why…

The real why goes back to July 3, 2016. My wedding day. And there, standing next to me (on the opposite side of my soon-to-be husband) was Nora. A woman who wrote out my invitations, shared a room with my sister and other bridesmaid, Erica (both strangers to her), and has been a source of comfort and conversation since we met in the early days of university.

She was my witness on our marriage license.

And on October 1, 2017, it was her turn to get married. Now, living halfway around the world, I couldn’t write out her invitations (and let’s be honest – she has better handwriting anyway), I couldn’t dye or tie her lovely keychains to mark the seating chart, and I couldn’t be with her to try on various wedding dresses (which she had done with me).

All I could do was be there. So I did.

And despite the travel hours logged, I am so happy that I did. Fun fact: I did not cry at my own wedding – I was not going to waste that professionally applied make-up! But I sobbed like a baby at Nora’s, my heart bursting with joy.

I finally got to meet Sumit, her now husband – the ocean between us preventing that from previously happening. And I got to steal small moments with her when she wasn’t taking a million photographs, greeting everyone that came to her wedding, and spending time with the man she will now be spending the rest of her life with.

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If that was all I got from my weekend home, it would have been enough.

But I got more.

After a three-hour delay in Amsterdam, turning my nine-hour flight into twelve hours, I finally got to see my parents and sister. Excepting my sister, they don’t get out much and so I hadn’t seen them in over a year. We immediately got into the swing of things: My father shouting at traffic, my sister getting exasperated by my mother, and me trying to Skype a medical appointment from the backseat. So little time.

I got to have dinner with the three of them, plus my grandparents and my first meal back in the states was a burrito (Chandler has trained me well). It was delicious, even if it was from the freezer section of Trader Joes.

The next day I got to visit with even more family as my grandparents opened up their home to anyone who could claim relation to me : ) A feast was laid before us and we spent the next six hours eating and catching up. Our time together was way too short, but I got all the most important updates: deaths, divorces, and new dogs. My family is a country song.

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I was a tourist

I just spent the last two weeks in Italy with my mom and sister. Despite the fact that I once called that country home, this time, I went as a tourist. It was the first time my mom or Brittany had ever left North America, so it seemed imperative that we spend at least part of our time as tourists. Not to mention that I have spent the last year in a foreign country, trying my hardest to appear as far from a tourist as possible. So it was nice to relax and not care so much for once.

Our first stop in Italy was Rome. It had been three years since I had been in Rome, but it still smelled the same…the subtle scent of water coming from fountains around every corner, the pizzerias just as numerous as the fountains, the salty sweat from tourists unprepared for the heat, the good, the bad. My first thought – God, I missed this place.

Our first day was fairly lazy. We wandered around the city until we could check into our hotel. Our first stop? Piazza Navona – my favourite spot in the city. Granted, I prefer it before 8 am when the tourists are still in their beds, but I love that piazza any time of the day.

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Day two we had a mini trip out of the city. We headed to Tivoli so I could show them my favourite villa – Villa d’Este. The house is beautiful, though similar to many other villas you could find in Italy, but it’s the gardens that set this place apart. The gatto del bagno that I met the last time I was there had disappeared, but I did find my favourite statue.

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Day three was our super tourist day. We did it all – and I mean it all. Campo di Fioria/Piazza Navona/the spot where Julius Caesar was killed aka the Cat Sanctuary/the Pantheon/the Trevi Fountain/Piazza Venezia/the Roman Forum/the Colosseum/Bocca del Varita (if you don’t know what this is, watch Roman Holiday). Sheesh. Quite the day. Quite a bit of walking.

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Day four was shopping, the Spanish Steps, and a picnic in the park. Followed by an adventure to find my favourite restaurant – Gusto. We were successful, and had a great view of Castel Saint Angelo in the process.

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Home

I recently stumbled across a line from Cutting for Stone that really clicked for me:

Home is not where you’re from,
it’s where you’re wanted.

I wasn’t sure if Ethiopia would ever feel like home, but 6 ½ weeks here in Hawassa, and it definitely does. And that’s probably because for the first time since arriving here, I feel wanted.

I’ve spent three nights this week hanging out with my compound sister Lucy – each night she was home alone and asked if I’d keep her company. We laughed over American movies, shared experiences, and the differences between American and Ethiopian culture. She even showed me how to wrap my hair in a scarf…

Each night, as her family filtered in and treated me like I belonged there, I began to feel like I was home. We’ve eaten meals together…I finally tried fïrfïr (think ïnjära chopped up, spiced up, and served with more ïnjära), which I wouldn’t recommend, as well as a number of delicious fresh breads, which I would most definitely recommend!

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