Monday, December 29, 2008

Back in the Land of the Free

Despite the long lapse here in blog entries, I do have full intentions of keeping the blog going indefinitely, even if they are a bit more irregular. So Joo and I arrived safely back into the U.S. on December 9. Considering the current political administration rife with growing anti-immigration legislation, we were a bit nervous re-entering the country after five months. Of course we had done our legal research and knew that we were allowed up to six months of travel on JooYeon's green card, but you never know. Thankfully, and completely unexpectedly, the immigration official assigned to us just happened to grow up in a missionary family in South Korea and was fluent in Korean (and loved Koreans) so it went very smoothly. Our friends Wes and Jenny were waiting for us with huge hugs at the Chicago airport and we collapsed in our bed that night with a wonderful feeling of accomplishment.

The Christmas spirit was in full swing at the Strickler residence as Craig (Wes' dad) had been playing Christmas music in the store since early November and we jumped right in with caroling, attending an elementary Christmas musical, and of course Christmas cookies!

The Strickler household is somewhat of a flowing intentional community with people always coming and going. Jenny's kids were there and impressed us with their musical and artistic skills.

And we also enjoyed the ongoing Monday night philosophy group where a different speaker is invited in each week to speak to the crowd of 15-20 Kokomonians. This week was Reverend Lee, a pastor who talked about Kwansaa, an African American holiday that falls right after Christmas and is intended to remind them about their African roots in terms of cuisine, stories, and values. One value I found particularly interesting was his description of cooperative economics. For example, growing up in his neighborhood everyone on the block shared their tools, their utilities, and their services. It was refreshing to hear them discuss several subjects in a positive light, brainstorming how they could infuse a cultural spirit into the "dying" town of Kokomo (as rated by Forbes).

I was in a peaceful state of ecstasy, just being back. As much as I may some times be at odds with certain American governmental policies, I have to admit that there are many many things I love about the American culture. Being back around good friends like the Stricklers (and Jenny) filled me with a sense of love and I had several quality "family conferences" with Wes out in the hot tub to catch up on the past six months. Joo was elated with the cleanliness, comfort, and convenience (such as having a laptop to work on our translation assignments instead of rushing around to cybercafes in an unknown city at midnight). One thing that was a high for both of us was the ability to eat exactly what we wanted to, which was rarely the case on our travels (for instance, if we wanted to maintain a low-sugar diet, eat lots of fresh vegetables, or mix certain foods from various parts of the world).

One crucial choice about living in America (or anywhere really) is whether to actively pursue a healthy lifestyle or fall into a routine of sloth. We're provided with a wealth of opportunity - plenty of public nature to exercise in safely, loads of healthy food and drink options in the stores, and little clubs and seminars on all sorts of healthy practices. In our case, we took a lovely walk through the forest for starters...
Jalen was amazed to catch a sight of Wes' superhuman rock heaving powers...
After years of practicing yoga, Jenny is starting to actually teach and so Joo and I were more than happy to sit in on a few of her classes. Weston is an expert vegetarian chef and so we took full advantage of his cooking. I also attended a meditation meeting with Wes and Tammy (his mom) at the house of Krishna, a very sociable guy from India who lives down the street. And let's not forget the mental health to be gained through laughter which we did plenty of...
We also indulged in some raw entertainment like a batman movie marathon. In general, it just felt good to be back and allow our five months of South American adventures to melt into a pool of memories, always waiting for us whenever we decide to take a swim :)