Saturday, August 8, 2009

"you a real white girl?" and other tales

To paraphrase (or quote?) my mother, I'm excited about being able to 'live forward' again soon. The last eight months have been about processing and finishing -- recovering from dengue, processing HNGR, finishing college, wrapping up my jobs, sorting through and packing up both my belongings and family memories, saying goodbye to Chicago (in the summer! not a good idea...better to wait to the depths of February), saying goodbye to friends, and soon family too. I'm excited to know I will be living in one place for the (seemingly) long span of 11 months, and to start living forward again, to dig in to stay.

The last week has been particularly transitory. I've spent at least a night in each of five states (and will make that six in a week and a half on Monday). Still, it's been a rich time. In no particular order, I have enjoyed:

1. Dirt bike lessons from my brother. I promise I was riding just like in the video after 5 minutes. Oh, and the bike is for sale.

2. Finding and playing two pieces of music composed by my grandfather who died long before I was born
3. Packing made somewhat bearable by listening to the wonderful documentary series Five Farms. They followed five American farm families (dairy farmers in the Northeast, an African-American hog farmer, a Hopi farmer, an organic farm in California (!) and a farm in Iowa) for a year and produced 5 hour-long shows, each with a specific theme, corresponding roughly to some point in the growing season. The shows are about both agriculture and the people themselves and their stories (think Ira Glass on a farm minus a bit of the sass).

4. Packing made even more bearable by friends who brought me homemade spinach and Parmesan pizza and wine, or showed up to meet up one last time in Chicago.

5. Taking the scenic route from North Carolina to Pennsylvania via a camping trip in Monongahela National Forest in West Virginia, planned entirely by my brother. Non-essential items like plates and pancake syrup, of course, didn't make it. We ate these with our hands, along with ripe-to-bursting white farmstand peaches.

The camping was great except for being awakened repeatedly in the night by the rummaging of an unknown small animal around our tent. The next morning we discovered not one, but four acorns 'buried' under our tent.

6. More than my fair share of Bush's baked beans. My meat-and-potatoes Mennonite family doesn't always know what to do with a vegetarian, but they try!

7. Hearing stories from both sides of my extended family.

8. And finally...One afternoon my brother and I were perusing the Goodwill fashions when I heard three women talking in Cambodian in the aisle next to me. I got up my courage (I haven't spoken Khmer to any native speakers in person since the end of November) and greeted them in Cambodian. One spoke a bit of English and her first response was "you a real white girl?" They proceeded to ask me (in Khmer) if I had a husband yet.

Ah, yes...

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