September 21, 2006

Where in the world are you??

Now when I talk to people, I get the same greeting. Instead of “How are you?”, I get “Whereare you?” This is said with a slight rising note of panic, as if they are half afraid of my answer.

Despite coming back to the US in mid April (as Jonathan was considering a business deal), I’ve continued to travel, a tourist in my own country. I’ve visited family, friends, colleagues, and people I haven’t seen in years since they moved away from Boston.

I got my first taste of life with newborns as 8 friends of ours recently had babies. I enjoyed seeing a little of the mid-Atlantic states for the first time, checking out Philadelphia with my mother (where she reunited with a woman that she hadn’t seen in FIFTY years), saw the most incredible botanical conservatory at Longwood Gardens in PA, got to see what the big deal was about the Jersey/Delaware Shore (who thinks to go to Delaware?), and a glimpse of life in Plainsboro, NJ (near epicenter of big pharma).


In order to try to figure out where to live, we took a trip to Austin, TX, a city that is consistently voted one of the top 5 places to live. And it is. We’ve never met friendlier people, or felt like we could become part of the city as newcomers. We nearly cried tears of joy and disbelief at how affordable the houses were. We nearly suffered heart attacks afterward as we looked seriously at San Diego housing prices. Alas, although I was charmed by Austin much more than I expected, there just didn’t seem much for me to do there, with only a few small biotech companies – guess I should have made the leap into computer science when I had the chance :)

So, we have been in San Diego enjoying the lovely weather, looking for houses, scouting out the job market and visiting friends and family on the west coast. We took a trip to Burning Man, a week long arts festival in the northern desert of Nevada. Burning Man is an amazing spectacle, where 35,000 people show up in the middle a desert for one week, celebrate and participate in art, and one week later, “leave no trace” that they were there. An incredible and awe inspiring accomplishment. Check out some of Jonathan’s many photos.

Jonathan heard that an RV (recreational vehicle) was the best way to brace for 7 days in the desert (you must bring all of your own food and water, as there is nothing for sale at Burning Man). It is also hot, dusty and susceptible to wind storms, with blistering 95 degree days and chilly 40 degree nights.

All of the RVs for rent near Reno and San Francisco had been rented for months, and the ones in San Diego really expensive, so online we went, and found a great deal for a one way trip to drive an RV to Los Angeles…from Albuquerque, New Mexico. This thus necessitated a drive of 1200 miles through New Mexico and its red rocks and endless skies, southern Utah and its national parks, up to Salt Lake City (and saw the famous salt lake it is situated next to – I didn’t realize it was dried up, it just looks like a thin layer of salt for miles and miles), then through northern Nevada to the desert.

Despite some initial snobbish scorn towards RVs, we came to really like it – what better than to have your house in your car? With a queen bed, refrigerator/freezer, a toilet and shower and gas range, it was better than some apartments I’ve stayed in. Driving a 30ft RV was also an experience not to soon be forgotten. I became acutely aware of bridge clearances, and how to park an RV in a parking lot in the least amount of space (especially at the Colima BART station outside San Francisco, where you pay per space taken.) It amazes me and fills me with horror that they let just about anyone with a regular driver’s license drive these behemoths.

Probably one of the most quintessential American experiences was visiting virtually every Home Depot, Costco and Wal-Mart along the way to pick up supplies, food, and lumber (for Jonathan’s art project for Burning Man, a “Shadow Wall“). We finally broke down and became Costco members, and found out what all the fuss was about. I felt very American, then. No where else in the world is there such amazing excess and consumerism.

And now, off to China and southeast Asia to finish off the world trip. I’m excited to experience China as an adult, and a little apprehensive about doing independent travel there, without being on one of those annoying yet efficient group tours where everyone wears a cap and a tour guide hustles you around with a bullhorn and a flag. The last time I was in Hong Kong and Beijing was in 1997, and I hear that the changes were simply amazing.

I look forward to seeing for myself. And to blogging (clearly I only blog when I am on foreign soil)…