Thursday, August 26, 2010

Northeastern Road Trip- Part III

So, we left off with our visit with Eric and Mahlet in Boston, where Eric and I stayed up til 3 am hashing out the buried issues of life. That meant that, when we drove west the next morning, I was more than happy to assent to Joo's desire to shop at Ikea (the Swedes know how to treat a weary traveller right; I fell asleep hard in a comfy sofa and no one bothered me until Joo called me 2 hours later to let me know she was done).

Gyu was still on his one-week solo excursion in New York (and was getting quite satiated with it... or overdosed on it- whatever implies that he had had too much of it) as we gave Kiwi the opposite extreme of a New York eperience (driving by on nearby highways so he could just barely zoom his camera in and catch a couple of the skyscrapers). We picked up my cousin Kathryn in Pennington and were able to catch up a bit on her life and exciting prospects for post-graduation until she crashed in the car (I guess they didn't have any of those Ikea couches where she was working that day).

The four of us pulled into the winding roads of Amish country (Lancaster, PA) after nightfall. As I child, I had read this book about an Amish buggy being struck by a car and how it devastated the Amish community. Ever since then, when I drive through Amish communities, I tend to slow down to a speed where there's probably more danger of a buggy speeding into me from behind. So we arrived somewhat later than planned, but in time to find everyone (Shawn, Victoria, Darlis, Larney, Julie, Allaire, and Selene) out on the screened porch in pitch darkness chatting away. (The pictures below are of the same porch, but on the following morning- even my flash isn't that bright).

In the spirit of couchsurfing, we did a bit of a cultural exchange... Joo and Kiwi prepared an Asian-type meal for everyone and then Larney introduced them to the tradition of old-fashioned ice cream making.

Nothing better than the anticipation of a delicious treat while overlooking Mother Nature's majestic spread...
Kiwi, Joo and I picked up Gyu at the Lancaster train station and we all spent one more night in Lancaster - this time in the Gallery. The Gallery was designed and built single-handedly by Victoria's father, who passed away a couple years ago. He was an extremely unique individual who I had felt a strong kinship with. For example, within the frame of a couple months, we both had the idea of writing down everyone's names we had ever met who we could remember- it only took him a couple weeks because he was in solitude whereas it took me months of laying awake at night going through the alphabet letter by letter to comb my memory for more names. He took it a step further then by going through each of those names and saying a prayer for them and making sure he felt at peace with each one. He also worked with the Amish for quite some time and, on one occasion, sprayed his boots bright silver just to jazz things up a bit. It felt good to fellowship with his energy in the cabin that he had built :)

From Lancaster, we drove Southwards towards Harrisonburg, Virginia... the Shenandoah Valley (Blue Ridge Mountains, Country Roads Take me Home material). As H-burg was my own home for two years of university, it's always a bit hard to choose who and what to visit in a short time there, but this time Grandma and the Trost boys won out.

Actually, maybe I should say the Trost GIRLS won out- we spent a lot of our time there with Lori and her (and Ben's) three daughters- Grace, Samantha, and Claire. It was so fun to see them in what seemed like a time warp. During our last visit Grace was 3 and Samantha was a baby, and after two years things had shifted quite a bit (with Samantha charging up to take a dominant social position!)
Ben, inspired by the Highlander series, tried to take the heads of me and Kiwi by challenging us to climb up the playset pole backwards. It's actually much harder than it appears!

Joo was a favorite on the hike up on Massanutten, especially after the boys sent Samantha into a shocked state by gasping when she crunched a caterpillar.

For whatever reason (I'm not sure if it's Korean custom or just these guys specifically), the boys hadn't been around little children much before and so they enjoyed playing with people who shared roughly their same level of the English language.

Lori made mothering look so easy as she wove in and out of her three daughters without ever seeming stressed. We'll definitely be making some phone calls in that direction for advice when we have children of our own.

Unfortunately, we didn't get to see Diron, but we did meet up with Matt for a healthy lunch at the L'il Grill.

It's always a bit dangerous to return to a place that's soaked in nostalgia because it will inevitably be speckled with disillusionment. One example was the Artful Dodger, a little cafe in downtown Harrisonburg that I had frequented almost 15 years ago as a university student. Although it was still there, the atmosphere was quite different and we ended up leaving after Gyu got in trouble for napping on a couch. They could learn some lessons from IKEA in terms of PR...

Our next drive was the shortest of the trip- just a 2 hour jaunt down to Richmond to Pete Allen's home (or technically, his family's home- I suppose he doesn't live there anymore). Incidentally, I just realized something very ironic. The three stops covered by this blog entry were made possible by my relationships with Shawn Ramer, Ben Trost, and Pete Allen. However, none of the three appear in any of these pictures! I wouldn't say that my friendships with these guys has faded, but rather a beautiful extension of my friendships with them has occurred over the years so that all of their families are now my friends. This is a healthy thought to keep in mind to balance out the mires of frustration I can sink into when I lose a friend to a wife (in other words, my friend's wife doesn't like me and so I end up losing even the original friendship over time).

The Allens seemed only semi-happy to see us which was a bit puzzling because they had always been such a warm and accepting family. Since I hadn't seen them in about 10 years, I attributed it to that same "nosfac" (my word for the added value one gives to people and places from their nostalgic past). However, the real reason was made evident as a police car pulled in behind our car a minute after we arrived... their youngest son had just been in a wreck. One thing I truly value about traveling in this fashion is the way in which you instantly are exposed to the most vulnerable moments of people's lives. Sure, they may clean the house up in a way that covers its natural state before you arrive, but the daily lives and touching events are certain to surface sooner or later. In Montreal, Alex received a call from a couple who had decided to get a divorce and was willing to share his thoughts on that with us. In Lancaster, Julie found out about a health problem her mother had and Darlis shared with us the ecstasy of a new relationship she was in. But it's not always so drastic; I'm touched when friends (or couchsurfers) share the little things of their lives with us like the TV shows they watch, the games they play, or their religious rituals. Luckily, by the way, the Allens' son wasn't hurt at all, just shaken by the wreck.

Earl and Kathy Allen are devoted Christians and shared with us some stories of how they had met, followed (and resisted) God's calling on their lives, and what they felt their current mission in life was. And with that stop, another page in our journey ended, to be continued with the final chapter of our week with my family...

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