28 August 2012

catching up in houston

thouston01you make your obligatory houston stop. austin is skipped this year because every one you know has moved. houston is where the jobs are, so houston is where your friends are.

thouston15houston is also where mark sleeps. but one cannot spend her entire time being sad.

thouston23it helps to see mark’s bestie. and mark’s brother.  you all laugh about funnier times.

thouston02this visit is the most special yet. you finally catch up with two of your closest friends.

thouston03oh, not like you do every year where you talk about school and jobs and travels and updates like that.

thouston04a catch up that is much more important.

thouston05a catch up to 2012 because this friendship, for some odd reason, has remained stuck in 2001 or some other ancient dinosaur era year.

thouston22that’s right, you guys have finally left high school and junior high – it only took seven years to do it.

thouston24it feels good to finally be on the same page and in the same year. we were always a bit slower than the rest.

you always loved this friendship. but now you love it even more.

thouston25but then its time to wake up early and drive four hours north back to dallas.

a few days rest – then back into the skies.

26 August 2012

midwest yala yala

tmidwest01 you are now (now being a few weeks ago in early august)  in chicago. with a background you like but with no friends around. so it will remain people less. but how you wish you could have heads poking out behind some of those pillars for a fun photo.

tmidwest02 but what a great find – painted walls, pillars, and arches under a bridge. such are the advantages of walking. you mentally add this bridge to your list of great future backgrounds to revisit one day.

tmidwest03  the first few hours you wander on your own because that is when you want to visit mark and her exhibition. and you didn’t feel like being around others.

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this alone time doesn’t last long though. it’s one of your favorite yala yala buddies - along with his moustache – and a nalgene. the other yy buddy will join a few days later.

tmidwest04  a coup was not going to kill this friendship. and what better place to meet up than chicago? it’s the perfect meeting point for someone from indiana, iowa, and texas. oh, and a concert by amadou & miriam at a music festival helps too.

tmidwest05 by an odd stroke of luck, you have free tickets to the aquarium thanks to a power outage. so it’s off to there.

tmidwest06  jellyfish,

tmidwest07more jellyfish,

tmidwest08 and penguins are some of the animals you see. dolphins, belugas, whales, local fish, amazon insects, and coral reefs are also spotted here at the shedd aquarium.

tmidwest09  a break. updates are passed back and forth. you do love hearing about all these plans and ideas.

tmidwest10  time is spent walking and talking. just like in mali. just like in ghana. just like years from now. you just know it.

tmidwest11  the next day – a picnic! the strangest part of this malian friendship is that the friendship was rarely formed around food. oh, time was spent complaining, bragging, raving, and dreaming about food, but rarely did you three actually cook or eat together. so here in chicago, you are determined to change that. michigan blueberries, bacon quiche, and a salad do make for a perfect lunch.

tmidwest12more walking.  you make a comment about how you refuse to believe that lake michigan is a lake. it’s just too nice and too much like an ocean.

tmidwest13a break, again.

tmidwest14a visit to a zoo.

Back Cameraand then – with the arrival of the second yala yala buddy - just like that – the trio meets again.

at the bean, like real chicagoans.

suddenly your american names are dropped.  it is cekoro, madu, and mase who are hanging out. who are drinking beers. who are eating. who are cracking jokes. who are making fun of one another. who are gossiping about other peace corps volunteers. who are recounting a certain bullshit ice cream story with a 24 year old joke. who are momentarily back in mali.

sadly these moments don’t last long. the first yala yala buddy catches his flight out. so from three its back down to two. but in the end, you win – you got to spend the most time together with them individually and as a group.

Back Cameraso with the second, it’s off to visit a bird sanctuary.

Back Cameraas well as take a quick dip. such perfect water. perfect sand. perfect everything. except for the lifeguards in boats yelling at you to move from thigh high water to knee high water.

Back Cameraa ride on the ferris wheel.

then the second YY buddy has to return to iowa. but he extends an invitation to you as well.

“are you sure?” you ask, because “my flight still leaves from chicago and I don’t think I can change that.”

“i don’t mind,” is what he responds.

it looks like corn fields are on the agenda then.

Back Cameraas well as a dam,

Back Cameracloudy skies,

Back Cameraa river,

Back Cameraand a snake. time to turn around on this iowan island.

tmidwest15back in illinois on the way to a state park, you spot wild turkeys with wild turkey chicks. by the time you pulled out the camera (and made the YY buddy reverse the car) the mother turkey had already sounded the alarm for the chicks to go into hiding.

tmidwest16  it’s an improvised camping trip here at starved rock state park.

a call from someone looking for peanuts. a cherry pit spitting contest. a hunt for a cork screw. a tent with missing poles. assembling s’mores. seeing stars for the first time since leaving mali. friendly neighbors. these are just some of your favorite moments.

tmidwest17then the next day it’s off to the actual state park.

tmidwest18here you learn why bald eagles can be found here in winter. it’s because when most lakes and rivers freeze over thus making dinner a bit hard to catch, the eagles flock to where non frozen water can be found. specifically, at dams.

tmidwest19stay on designated paths. if not, you can say hello to poison ivy.

tmidwest20then, a question. are these dents human made or by mother nature? he says human, you say nature. but neither of you two know. it will just remain a mystery.

tmidwest21you’re also on the hunt for a waterfall here as well.

tmidwest22except it’s the same as texas. summer. dry. hot. key word: seasonal waterfall. it’s okay – you came here without any expectations. and you still find this waterfall less area enchanting.

tmidwest23a river bed, but no river. it will return with the rains later.

Back Camerayou leave the park for some horseback riding.

tmidwest24then you’re dropped off at the airport.

and as you gape at this surprise sunset, you hope that as the YY buddy drives west back to iowa that he’s seeing something this stunning as well.

22 August 2012

dfw summer exploring: japanese gardens and a hidden waterfall in fort worth

metroplexing  it all begins with a blog you find. with a photo of a waterfall that you don’t believe really exists in fort worth.

so you do what you do best – you write an email. to your freshman roommate, and you simply send a link with the message, “we are going here. but you name the date. love you!”

you really treasure friends where you never have to ask because you know the answer ahead of time: yes.

tjgarden08 and here she is! with her husband. who is also always up for whatever random activity you think of.

tjgarden01 however, there is some sad news. they are moving to west virginia. it’s only sad because you’re a selfish person and you rather your friends stay near you. after all, who else will you drag to go find random waterfalls or swimming holes?

tjgarden03  there is also another bit of sad news. they’ve never been to the fort worth japanese gardens. and they’re about to move miles away without having ever seen them?

tjgarden07  fortunately that is very fixable. so before the waterfalls, it’s a visit to the gardens.

tjgarden15who could imagine that in an area full of construction and highways and gravel and posts and fences…

tjgarden16  there could be a wooden wall? a wall that costs $4.50 to cross, but a $4.50 well spent.

tjgarden02 because once you cross that wall, you’re in japan.

tjgarden09  seven and a half acres of it right next to downtown fort worth.

tjgarden04 one thing never changes with any of your friends: you turn them into models anytime you note a good background.

tjgarden05 but you do warn them to not fall in, however shallow these ponds might be.

tjgarden10 here in the gardens breaks are necessary. one should never rush a visit to a garden.

tjgarden11what might they be looking at?

tjgarden12 koi fish! hundreds of hungry koi fish.

tjgarden13  they break up the mirrored tree reflections on the surface of the water.

tjgarden14  then a good portion of time is spent critiquing the fish. colors, patterns, fins, swimming speed, size – no one is an expert here, but you can’t help but just discuss these moving watercolor paintings.

tjgarden17 after the gardens,  you all duck into a begonia greenhouse.

tjgarden18    a map of the world is found, and you give them the task of finding benin. it doesn’t take long, your friends are smart cookies.

tjgarden19    a house is found, and you try to convince them to drop their plans for west virginia and just live forever in the botanical gardens. unfortunately, it’s a tad too small for them.

then… off to the waterfalls! the excitement builds. the suspense builds. you can’t wait to go swimming and enjoy rushing water.

tjgarden20 except. except. except.

the waterfall is dried up because it is summer. dfw does not get enough rain to sustain a summer waterfall. it instead is a seasonal waterfall.

metroplexing    a refresher: this is what you were expecting.

tjgarden21 and this is what you got.

a trickle is all that remains from the cooler seasons. that’s it.

the disappointment doesn’t last long, as laughter and jokes replace any feelings of letdown. if anything, the story of the hidden trickle will make you all laugh for a long time. many years, that’s for sure.

and according to google, west virginia has plenty of waterfalls just waiting for you to find. you’re going to give your freshman roomie and her husband some exploring homework once they move.