all good times come to an end i guess... even after a stressful check-in (why do the states make it so difficult flying?) our month of new friends, welcoming locals, tasty southern food and coffee, broad, tall and short stories, inspirational experiences and a special time seeing my cousin Annalisa is all very warm on my heels.
i've already regaled you with the experience of the Vipassana course, but now 10 days after the 10 days, the real experience is beginning. partly due to the encouragement Philipe and I can give eachother to keep up the practice, we've been able to maintain meditation for (usually) an hour each morning and evening. but it's not quite as 'easy' as it was on the course - it takes sometimes 30mins to slow down the barrage of thoughts and sometimes, like this morning, i think i just thought about stuff, then half napped, then went off for a meditative jog 40mins in. i guess this is part of understanding the practice, but regardless of 'how successful' the meditations are, I am really enjoying the time to myself each day, just to connect with what is there right then with my body. it's also time to contemplate some of the thoughts that come in, and just let them sit there and see how I am reacting to them.
two days ago we flew to Fort Lauderdale, and in about 1 hour, boarding the flight to Peru. Flying to Lima, then down to Arequipa for me for a bit more dentistry that I can't resist, then Arica to sell my bike. I'm really looking forward to going back - to be back speaking Spanish (there was a surreal moment in country Texas that we walked into a Mexican supermarket - within 1 minute we were speaking Spanish, chatting getting bread recommendations and hunting out our old favourite snacks), also looking forward to be back traveling at our own pace and also meeting other travelers. I guess I feel that travels are coming to an end, and so I'm clinging onto the good times ahead!
but before I get into New Orleans, on our way back there to meet Annalisa and Philipe's mum Gerlinde, we couchsurfed with Arica and her family 1 night in Texas, then at Cameron's family home in Bossier City and finally, Matt's place in Baton Rouge, Lousiana. The morning we left Arica, we went to her mum's 4th day class and did a show and tell - the kids asked loads of questions and shared their own hiking stories, one girl was even taking notes! It was a very special way to bring home the travels we are doing and how exciting it is.
Cameron, our host in Bossier City was a young, cool guy and great cook - who's definitely going places! he also introduced us to his friend Deep - and I got to try Acroyoga - a partner yoga that was amazingly fluid and that allowed the body to relax into natural positions off the ground.
spending the last week with my cousin in New Orleans was wonderful too - wandering around the French Quarter, admiring the colourful, dressed up clapboard homes, searching for carousels in City Park, visiting 2 very different plantations - Gone with the Wind Oak Alley, and rather different 'real' Creole stories from Laura Plantation, and of course indulging in the odd (or two) cocktail and southern food while listening to blues and jazz.
mardi gras is also just around the corner, and the houses are starting to get dolled up in their green, gold and purple outfits. this makes for a really colourful city - and just gives a certain relaxed, up for anything feeling that the locals certainly support.
in more tranquil moments we also visited the beautiful houses in the garden district, and spent an afternoon in the National World War II museum. Although starting with a Tom Hanks produced, slightly American centric movie on the war, the exhibits themselves were amazingly detailed and gave a play by play account of both the European and Pacific sides of the war. For me, seeing the paper tags of the bombs dropped over cities in Japan - although not one where my mother was at the time (Osaka) was a very touching moment of closeness to my own family history from a very different time and place.
so, the flight is boarding and i'm going to just send this off a little unfinished... but bye bye USA and i'm going back with a very happy smile for South America too!