Home for the summer, then gone, then back home again, then leave again!

I think I can safely say we’ve never had a summer quite like this past one. Wow…What a ride! Our school year ended on 30 June in Bulgaria and we knew that we needed to be in Bali by 27 July. We also knew that we needed to go home to visit family. While there, we also wanted to consolidate some of our important possessions from various family members’ attics and basements into one central place. It was also time for doctors appointments and check-ups. On top of that, my dear friend Franky was getting married in Mexico and we wanted to make sure we could be there to support him and his (now) wife Kris in this next chapter of their lives. Quite a tall order for only having about 3 weeks off! Here’s how we broke it down…

After many heartfelt “see you later’s” we left Sofia the day after school ended. Two quick, un-interrupted flights found us landing in Boston to be picked up by Laura and Glenn. Those of you following along might remember that Alison and Laura met in college and are BFFs to this day. The older I get, the more I realize the only constant thing in life is change. Things change, people change, and the times change. (God, I miss the 90s). As our lives are changing in a very big way by moving to Indonesia, so are the lives of our friends and families. Laura and Glenn are expecting to have a baby in August and while we were home this summer it was important to pay them a visit before their lives get VERY busy. Gracious hosts as always, it was great to hang out and catch up with them for a couple of days before we made our way to Vermont. They took us to Start Line Brewery in Hopkinton, MA for some drinks and great food. Hopkinton is the official starting place for the Boston Marathon so naturally we had to stop and see the actual ‘starting line’. It was too short a visit but we had wonderful walks and chats with them during our few days there. We miss them greatly but wish them the absolute best in the coming weeks as they prepare for the arrival of their little one.

Our next stop was spending a few days with Alison’s dad Dave and his partner Robyn. Their home became the staging area for our big move to Bali. So we emptied all our suitcases and started playing the game of “what’s coming with and what’s being left behind.” One of our traditions with Dave is to do some kind of fishing excursion. We never know what we’re in for but we always find the fish and eat well afterwards; those are Dave’s guarantees! We had a great day walking up a secluded stream in the middle of the Vermont wilderness in search of native brook trout. There’s something zen about alone in the wilds, hearing nothing but the babble of the brook, and feeling a soft wind blowing through the trees. Afterwards, we had quite a fest!

The next few days we had scheduled all our appointments for general doctors check-ups, routine blood work, and a visit to the eye doctor for me. (I’m sure Alison would like me to take a moment to remind all of our readers that she has perfect vision.) After all that fun stuff we had a lovely get together with Alison’s mom’s side of the family just over the border in New Hampshire. One of the hardest parts of living abroad is not seeing everyone you want to and needing to rely on technology. Sitting on a porch in the New England sun, sharing stories and laughs is something you can’t easily replicate over a computer. It was lovely to see everyone and catch up after such a long time!

Before we left to teach internationally both Alison and I had put some of our important items and possessions in various places; at my parents’ place in Georgia, Alison’s mom’s in Montpelier, her dad’s in Williamstown, or at my brother and sister’s place in Grand Isle. Over the next few days, we began and completed our big consolidation project; moving all of these items into one central place in my sister’s basement in Grand Isle. It required a lot of running around, picking up and dropping off, and having little visits with people in between. It can be rather difficult to decide what things you’d like to keep and what things you’ve been hauling around that you really don’t need to carry anymore. It took a bit of time and a few tears along the way, but we managed to complete our goal and consolidate our lives into one place. Honestly, it feels really good to have that finished so we can start this next chapter fresh.

During all this running around, we were also dropping off our dive gear to get cleaned and checked, getting new batteries put into our aging laptops, and picking up a few odds and ends that we knew we would be needing down the road. We stopped and had lunch with our dear friends Zach and Christiana, both former colleagues from our U-32 days. They’re wonderful humans and great friends! We also had a nice little BBQ at my parents’ house in Georgia, joined by Zach, Megan, and neighbors. It was nice to spend some quality time with them after so long apart.

On Saturday (we’d been back in the USA for 7 days at this point) we flew to Mexico for Franky and Kris’ wedding in Tulum. It was awesome to be able to hang out with Franky and Kris again after so long. Both their families are wonderful and funny; we had a nice time with all of them. Our lodgings, as well as the actual wedding, were at a resort in Tulum. Alison and I used this homebase to plan a few excursions of our own. We knew that this area of the world is home to thousands of cenotes which are incredible for diving. We went out for one day with a Tulum-based dive shop. A cenote is a hardened sinkhole, complete with stalactites and stalagmites, which over time fills with fresh water. These are incredibly unique formations and they make for magical diving experiences. Both our dives were unique and as close to cave diving as either of us have experienced. The second dive involved a line (literally a small yellow string attached to the floor) that we followed through an underground passageway of tunnels and underground caverns. At one point on this dive, the guide instructed us all to turn off our flashlights. It was completely black. The darkness was consuming, but also comforting at the same time; like a heavy blanket. Both dives were amazing, but we both agreed that we wouldn’t want to do more cave diving than this! 

The next day we organized a day trip to one of the seven wonders of the world, Chichen Itza. When people think of this wonder in their minds, they think of the large temple in Mexico. However, the wonder is actually an entire ancient city! Chichen Itza is a large pre-Columbian city built by the Maya people around 600 AD. We had such a great time learning the history and unique features of this ancient city as we walked around and examined the many structures and carvings that tell the story of this incredible place. We learned much about the Maya religion and calendar, the game of Ulama, and the purpose of human sacrifice while our guide answered all of our many questions. If you’re in the Yucatan, it’s a must see!

As part of the Chichen Itza tour, we also swam in the Hubiku cenote run by local Maya people, and walked around the colonial city of Valladolid. It was a long day after we arrived back at the resort, but well worth it! 

In the following days, we celebrated Franky and Kris’ wedding. It was nice to be part of such a special event and we couldn’t be happier for those two. Franky has been a dear friend of mine for a long time and to see him so happy in a place that he loves makes my heart feel full. It’s wild to think back now at how much we crammed into this past summer but I’m so thankful we were able to make the Mexico trip work within our schedule. 

Upon our return to Vermont, we stayed a couple of days with my mom and dad at their place in Georgia. They bought the place about 10 years ago and looking at it now, you wouldn’t believe the difference! Their backyard has gone from an overgrown, unkempt plot, to now looking like something out of Better Homes and Gardens. It’s a paradise of greenery, birds, and the most entertaining set of dogs you could imagine. It’s always lovely to hang out there and spend time with them. We were also able to get a tour of my father’s newly built veterinary clinic in St. Albans. It’s a remarkable change from the clinic he had while I was growing up there. Freshly built with all the modern bells and whistles you can think of, it’s really nice and we’re very happy for him. 

The following days saw me recovering from a minor (planned) surgery. In an effort to de-stigmatize the issue, I’ll tell you all now; I got a vasectomy. It’s a personal choice that Alison and I have talked about at great length. Anyone who wants to know what that’s like can reach out as I’m happy to share my experience regarding the process. While in recovery, we spent a few days at my brother and sister’s place in Grand Isle. I never get to see them enough and it was really nice to share any time I could with them. We ate well and had a bunch of laughs but ultimately it ended far too quickly. They’ll just have to come to Bali, I suppose. 

Alison’s mom, Cindy, wanted to throw us a little “Welcome Home/Goodbye Again” party at her place in Montpelier. A bunch of our Vermont people like Yasser, Emmanuel, Brooke (and boyfriend Jordyn), and my parents came out to see us as well as friends/former colleagues from U-32 like Geoff, Janine, Randy, and Brian (and lovely wife Claire). Great food, good vibes, and beautiful people. Thanks Cindy for throwing us a great shindig! We’ll see you all again soon! 

Our last few hours in Vermont saw us back at Alison’s dad’s place for a final packing session before we left for the airport. Sarah, Brooke, and Jordyn came over for Dave’s famous venison phillies. It’s always so nice to catch up with our former students (turned friend in this case) and see them living their *best lives*. Not long after, we were packing up the truck and heading to Boston to catch our flight. 

It’s always nice to see our loved ones in Vermont. Unfortunately, this was a very quick trip home. A little too quick. But we’re thankful for the days we did get and people who made it so special. We love you all and wish you nothing but the best in the days to come. “Long days and pleasant nights” as one of my favorite authors writes. We’ll be seeing you.

Peace & Love,

Grant & Alison

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