Thirty days in the States and the following has come to my attention: It’s super weird to wear shoes inside the house. Ranch is the best flavor. It’s nice to feel like a normal-sized person. It’s nice to wave and greet every person you walk past. It’s nice not hearing anyone aggressively clear their throats of phlegm. There is so/too much on television. There are only five songs on the car radio and somehow all of them feature Justin Bieber. Driving is stressful but I love buying things in bulk and not having to worry about how I will carry it all up six flights of stairs in one go.
This trip has been a whirlwind. Coming off of the end of my first year in Hong Kong, besties visiting, two incredible weeks in Thailand (blogs forthcoming), I felt ready to get on a 15 hour plane and head into the bosom of my family. LOLz when am I ever ready to get on a plane. Or do anything at all.
I had about 10 hours to pack for my summer after coming home from my Thailand trip. I won’t be back in the States for a year, so I threw in leggings and some dresses and thought that should do it, as everyone who’s lived abroad knows that you come with empty suitcases so that you may fill them up with all the things. The nice thing about living in HK versus Brazil is that I’m not so desperate to bring back tortillas, frosting, iced coffee packets, and the other backbones of any good nutrition plan. But I do need clothes. Your typical clothing store in Asia doesn’t carry sizes up to “girl who eats a lot of Mexican food” so I anticipated shopping.
I took off at about 12:30pm Hong Kong time, after an hour on the tarmac, during which we were told that there was so much bad weather over Japan that they were working on a new flight plan. Oh goody. Then that took so long, they had to refuel. Such a confidence builder. I was seated next to a VERY excited guy from China who clapped a LOT and I’m not sure had ever worn deodorant. Despite our new flight plan meant to avoid turbulence, the ride was so bumpy that there was no service for the first two-something hours. They kept stopping beverages and starting again and then stopping. Which would be okay, if new regulations for America-bound flights hadn’t required us to throw away all our newly purchased snacks and waters. It made for a cranky and thirsty few hours. And for some reason I couldn’t settle on a movie . . . I watched movies I had already seen over other people’s shoulders though. Not even with subtitles. Why do we do that?!
But none of that mattered when I was greeted by the best dogs EVER at baggage claim. It was also nice to see the humans that drove them there – my mom and sisters. We did the traditional In-N-Out lunch before heading home, where I attempted to stay awake for the entire day. Hong Kong is 15-16 hours ahead of California, so my body was like “heeyyyy whatcha doing awake now” but I kept throwing bean dip and craft beer at it to acclimate. I saw fam from Washington and Reno and facetimed Virginia people, all while completely delirious with jetlag.
The next few days got weird – some nights I stayed up until 6am, enthralled with OnDemand. I took early morning walks. I fell asleep in the middle of the day. But I managed to do my part to keep Target in business, saw fam, had a sleepover with my bestie in the city. It was so nice to walk on my trail, understand the currency, not have anyone run into me. And no humidity! Praise be!
Within days of landing, I was blessed with a visit from the Pithers, my friends since Rio, who now live in Hong Kong. They stayed with my family, and Elsie made best friends with my dog, much to everyone’s delight. We spent a day in the city and then I dropped them off to get an RV, as they were headed on an epic family road trip California-Oregon-Idaho-Yellowstone-Utah-Nevada-San Diego that made me quite green with envy. Anyone up for that adventure in the next few years?
I went to a Giants game, had pool days, chilled with the dogs, had my Hk roommate visit on her way to San Francisco for the weekend (she lives in Colorado), and then headed for an epic weekend of camping with my sisters. The following is best reenacted in person, alas . . .
Outdoorsy girls as we are, we like to take annual camping trips. Something about climate change, high gas prices, heat waves, wildfires, droughts, and no running water might have something to do with the very cheap prices we found this summer. But we went for it. We had to. It’s tradition.
We pulled up to Glory Hole, on Lake Melones, and realized we’d booked a site on the edge of a cliff with zero percent shade, in 100+ degree temps, high fire warnings, afternoon windstorms. Neato. We quickly got in touch with Ranger Rick and negotiated a new campsite. It was easy because the campground was empty. Because no one else was dumb enough to be out in that heat. We picked a nice lil spot overlooking the lake and began set up.
Ranger Rick (actual name – Justin. Beer belly – adorable. Shirt – always untucked. Wife’s name – Joy.) came over and let us know that he had “relocated” 39 rattlesnakes so far this season and was hoping for an even 40 this weekend! So let us know when we found one on the site! I said several colorful things and then let him know that I had no desire to be there for number 40, thankyouverymuch. He then let us know about the fire that had swept through the neighboring campsite the weekend before, and the dry weather, and to keep hydrated, and the entire undertone of our conversation was that we were going to die out there.
Jenna and I went to work on setting up the tent, which is the greatest way to test the bonds of any relationship. Of course, on a cliff in a windstorm, it led to pee-your-pants hysterics, Jenna breaking her pinky toe, me needing a beer break, and general chaos. At some point on one of the several beer breaks (my sister broke her toe! Had to break!) we noticed these large flying bugs drooping around our campsite. I happened to check facebook, where someone had chimed in to my post about our campsite at Glory Hole and laughingly mentioned the flying spiders.
Um. Say what, now?
Turns out there is a thing known as the tarantula wasp, which is a tiny dragon that eats big spiders. And they were hunting around our campsite, because our site was known for being very tarantula-friendly.
We armed ourselves with liquid courage and waited for night to fall. Sophie arrived about eight and we had traditional premade spaghetti dinner, watched the campfire, and chatted happily away until a large family reunion started setting up in the dark in the campsite next to us. In an otherwise empty campground.
Okay, okay, we thought. No worries. Until their large rottweiler came bounding over and headbutted me (and later spent the night whining outside our tent). Until we learned everyone’s names because Rosa started screaming them at 6am to wake up so they could get ready for the lake with the abuelos, while bumping “Havana” on the stereo, which is a song that makes me want to take an icepick to my eardrums.
Being the totally chill people we are, we consulted the rules posted at the bathrooms (which by the way, were just port a potties baking in the sun as there was no running water. Yes. 100 degrees, no showers, pooping on other people’s hot poop) casually filed a complaint with Ranger Rick about the off-leash dog and mucho ruido outside of camp quiet hours. Then I added a little “not to sound high maintenance, but…..could we move campsites again???”
And so we found ourselves, on the surface of a dusty sun, relocating for the third time. Of course, the wind picked up and blew our mattress away, but this led to us meeting our neighbors, a pregnant couple from Colorado, recently relocated to Lodi, vacationing here in hell with us. When it was over, we just sat in chairs with cervezas, occasionally wandering to the spigot to gather water to pour over ourselves. We watched hawks and dragonflies chase each other, told stupid stories, and played cornhole. We went on stick hunts at night to make massive fires and set up wasp traps and watched them lure in the tiny flying demons. We ate a lot of bacon and used an app on my phone to map out unknown constellations. Someone on facebook said that peeing around your campsite keeps the rattlers away. We still don’t know if that’s true, but we did our best.
Another fun piece of advice that someone sent us via facebook was that the lake, which was supposed to be our sweet relief, was full of leeches. Another friend told of the baby rattler they found under their tent. Buzzards flew overhead constantly, apparently scoping out the remains of previous campers. At one point we drove into town for an ice chest refill, sweet sweet air conditioning, ice cream, and a side trip down the streets of Angels Camp. It’s where Mark Twain hid out while running from authorities, got the inspiration for his big break, “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County.” Angels Camp is also home to a big population of Bigfoot chasers, so I felt very known in my soul there.
I also feel known when people read this, despite their Bigfoot beliefs, or lack thereof. So thank you. If you haven’t heard it yet today, and you need to – thank you. So very much more happened this summer, so there is more to come. But I’m supposed to be packing (when there’s a blog, you know there’s something I should be doing . . . )