This summer was a first. I didn’t have to work. I’ve never done that. So, I wasn’t quite sure about what to do with my time. I left Alaska in the the middle of May. The plan was to be in Los Angeles, when someone I knew was purchasing their first home. I ended up flying back and forth, from Las Vegas to Los Angeles, waiting for the deal to close. Two days after I flew to Ohio, they finally got the keys. I never saw the house. In the end, I had two trips to Las Vegas and three California beach vacations, El Segundo, Venice, and the Big Sur Coast. This was not a relaxing vacation, but it was a great reentry to the lower 48. After ten months in Alaska, three months in Hawaii, nine months in Ethiopia, and two years in Armenia, I was finally able to catch up where I left off.
My first stop east was in Ohio. My godson lives outside of Dayton. Before leaving for Peace Corps Armenia, in 2017, I left a large Eddie Bauer suitcase, under a pool table, in the basement of his home. The bag (and one small box) held everything that I didn’t give away, but didn’t want to take with me. All my other belongings were donated, given to charity, to friends, or tossed. My car went to UNC TV, part of their donation drive. Household items were left in my apartment. The head maintenance man offered to give away the items to his workers. Now that I’m back in Alaska, it’s the first time, in four years, that everything I own is in one place. Being able to travel, by plane, carrying almost all my worldly goods, has not been lost on me. Oddly, or not, I feel like I still have too much stuff. I’m going to give it a month or two and then do a big sort.
By the time I arrived in North Carolina, I had done some shopping. I purchased a few things in California that I thought would be good for my return to Alaska. I shopped for shorts, in Las Vegas, to get me through the heat there. The small backpack that I traveled with from Alaska, now included the Eddie Bauer suitcase, a duffle from REI, and a thirty year old bag from my time in Kenya, as a Peace Corps volunteer. In the Peace Corps, you are allowed two checked bag, not to exceed 100 pounds or 107 inches (length + width + height) and two carry-on bags. That’s exactly what I had, when I landed in North Carolina. The weight of the four bags stayed with me. I had to get them out of the Raleigh – Durham Airport, then into my friend’s car and up the stairs of her apartment. Then, after my time in North Carolina was over, all the items had to go back to the airport and flown to Alaska, picked up, and lugged to my second floor dorm room. I flew to and from first class. Going back, I used the extra pounds offered and checked two 70 pound bags. I walked on the plane with just my backpack.
My trip to North Carolina was to complete my Welcome to Medicare Medical exam. Last month, I turned sixty five. After two turns in the Peace Corps, I decided to use the medical facility that knew me best, I worked at Duke University from 2002 until my retirement in 2017. So, although there’s a hospital where I serve in Alaska, I wanted to do my first Medicare exam where I had a longer medical history. I’m so glad that I did. It took some doing, but I was able to get everything scheduled. Between exams, I house sat and made friends with a cat. I was also able to see a few friends. I had to be careful. The COVID-19 cases in Alaska were growing. Being in and out of hospitals and clinics, I couldn’t take the risk. Plus, I knew that I was coming back to work at a school. It just made sense to be as careful as I could. While in Durham, there really wasn’t a safe way to visit everyone. I was able to run across people, while I was there, but had no way to do any sort of “I’m Back” event. I slipped in and slipped back out. The first leg of my flight back took me to Seattle.
A week ago Saturday, I flew out of North Carolina at 7:20 am. I arrived in Seattle at 10:13 am. I planned on killing time by visiting with an old Peace Corps Kenya friend. We met, ran a few errands, (I packed my phone charger my mistake), and had lunch. I made it back to the airport with two hours to kill, before my flight to Juneau. Then, the delays started. The flight was pushed back so far that all passengers with connectons from Juneau were pulled from the flight. The airline was unsure if the airport in Juneau would be able to find accommodations. I was emailed a food voucher and confirmation for the Hilton – Seattle Airport & Conference Center. And so, as I should have been landing, back in Sitka, I was waiting for a hotel shuttle in Seattle.
That’s the thing about travel. You can pack your bags, thinking you have it all figured out. Then, BAM … you’re doing that long walk to the other side of a hotel, where they ALWAYS place the folks getting free rooms. Talk about miles to go before you sleep! –GGT