Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Grand Isle

Roxi and I spent the weekend in Grand Isle, LA for a large birthday party for a good friend of ours. We were only planning to stay through Sunday night but were having so much fun, we had to stay an extra night. We spent Friday night hanging out with our friend Ryan at his parents' camp (what we Louisianians call a weekend getaway such as a beach house or hunting lodge). It was a really nice place that they just finished building in January.

"The Mellu 2": Ryan's parents' camp on Grand Isle.

View from camp

Hanging at the camp with Captain Ryan.

On Saturday, after a little rain in the afternoon, we hit the beach with some new arrivals to go crabing. We had a lot of fun out in the surf but it must have been mating season because at least half the crabs were pregnant females which have to be released. In the end, we collectively caught a couple of dozen crabs. That alone would not have been enough to feed all the party guests, thankfully food was in no short supply for the whole weekend as we had some amazing cooks who seemed to revel in making massive quantities of delicious stuff!

Preparing the crab traps and drop lines.

Emily and Roxi taking the drop lines into the surf.

Not a bad catch!

Crab boil!

We stayed up pretty late Saturday drinking beer, hanging out and even playing a little guitar, something I haven't done since we went to the Netherlands. It was nice to place again especially with some old friends. We got up Sunday thinking that we would be heading home later that afternoon so we took a drive around the island just to show our friend Charles around. Back at the camp, our new friend John was planning on moving his boat from one side of the island to the other and offered to give us a ride. So we took a really pleasant boat trip from the east side of the island over to Caminada Pass on the west side where we hung out on a beach for a little while before getting dropped off at the marina.

Taking the boat out of the marina on the east side of Grand Isle.

Fifi Island on the north side of Grand Isle.

Love forever!

Hanging out on a beach in Caminada Pass.

Sunset at Bridge Side Marina on the west side of Grand Isle.

While we were on the boat, Roxi and I decided that we should probably stay one more night because we were having such a great time and we didn't have any jobs to get back to...

Back at the camp and Roxi decided to check her email. To her surprise, she received a message informing her that she had been chosen for a post-doc at the University of Memphis! We were so excited it was as if we were meant to stay to celebrate the news! After a few drinks and another fantastic dinner, John took Roxi, Charles and I to a dock on the east side of the island for some night fishing. We had a lot of fun and caught several catfish but threw them back as none of us really wanted to clean them.

A good catch!

Another good one!

Charles caught some fish too, but we didn't get chance to get a photo.

Back at the camp, we cleaned up and had a few more drinks before calling it a night. Monday we got up really early and made the drive back to Lafayette.

We had a great time and really got a nice big dose of Louisiana this weekend. It really served as a good welcome home from Europe and in a way it will become the beginning of our goodbye to Louisiana. Roxi talked to her post-doc adviser today and it looks like we will be moving to Memphis in September. We're planning a trip there late next week to scout out the city and see if we can find me a job and a place for us to live. I'm so proud of Roxi's accomplishments up to this point and am so glad she has gotten this opportunity to do something she is really interested in. More exciting times are in our future!

Saturday, August 08, 2009

A Non-Musical Hek-Atomic Cherries Reunion

Last night I had the opportunity to reconnect with both Steve and Charles, my best friends from high school and band mates in the Hek-Atomic Cherries. We weren't playing one of our sporadic reunion shows last night, but we did get have dinner together for the first time in more than a year. It was a great time of silliness, watermelon smashing and Facebook fan page updating. Here's to hoping we can do it again before another year goes by.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Back in the USA

Roxi, her cat Jupiter and I spent the past two days traveling back to the United States and as of last night we are back! We ended a hectic two weeks of hosting visitors and traveling back and forth across the Netherlands with one final train trip from Enschede to Dusseldorf on Sunday and two flights on Monday. Our trip to Dusseldorf was no problem and Jupiter was extremely well behaved although not exactly excited to spend four hours in her cat carrier. Little did she know that it was only the beginning! Roxi and I enjoyed a leisurely dinner at our hotel in Dusseldorf on Sunday night while Jupiter recovered from her trip by hiding under the bed. After that we were all pretty tired so we went to bed to prepare ourselves for the coming long day.

On Sunday we arrived very early at the airport knowing that it would take a little extra time to buy Jupiter's plane ticket. Thankfully we had allowed for a lot of extra time because we learned upon check-in that not one, but two of our four bags to be checked were over the weight limit. (I'm not sure how we ended up with so much stuff in only seven months in Europe!) Rather than pay an exorbitant 400 euros in over-sized luggage fees, Roxi and the check-in agent convinced me to let Roxi go to a luggage store in the airport and buy an extra bag to spread out our luggage weight. She found a large, cheap and sturdy duffel bag that we were able to use to get all of our checked luggage under the individual weight limits and save hundreds of euros. We still had to pay for the extra checked bag, but it could have been so much more expensive.

After that, we really didn't have too much time to go through passport control and security, which always takes a little longer with a cat. Before we knew it, we were boarding our flight bound for Chicago. For most of our time in the airport, Roxi had kept one of the pet carrier's windows open so that Jupiter could stick her head out to look around and survey the overwhelming situation. There were no problems until Jupiter got on the plane when she decided to make a break for it! Catching her was not as easy as her last escape on our trip over to Europe, but after chasing her up and down aisles and under rows of seats, we cornered her at one of the bulkheads and got her back into her carrier. My brother Garrett will have to make us a new movie poster as a sequel to the "Cats on a Plane" parody he made in January.

Jupiter was very well behaved for the remainder of our trip, but Roxi and I both felt so terrible for her since she was obviously not happy. But Jupiter is a trooper and she sat quietly during the nine hours of our flight to Chicago. Upon arrival in Chicago, we had to go through the usual immigration and customs. At the immigration desk, the border agent was even nice enough to stamp Jupiter's pet passport! Next we picked up our bags to take through customs but found out that we had to make a visit to the CDC desk so that they could clear Jupiter through customs. This was the part that I had been dreading. I had of course done my homework and had taken care of getting all of her immigration paperwork filled out by the vet in Hengelo, but I was worried that there might be something that I had missed that would result in Jupiter being quarantined or worse. Of course, things were much easier than that. I was prepared to give the documentation to the CDC officer but she told me she didn't needed it and simply entered a brief note in a logbook and stamped our customs form. I only hope that they would have used more scrutiny if we were not American citizens, otherwise what's the point of even having importation restrictions?

We rechecked our bags after customs and set out to find our gate for the final flight to Houston. We had just enough time during our layover to clear immigration and customs and make it to our next gate with about twenty minutes to spare. It really couldn't have worked out better after our long flight to Chicago. We boarded the flight and Jupiter continued to behave well but she was starting to get restless. I couldn't blame her after the more than fifteen hours she had already spent in the cat carrier. I can only imagine that she was probably thinking that she would spend the rest of her life in that carrier!

We arrived right on time in Houston where my parents were waiting for us. Of course not everything can go just right; two of our five bags didn't make it back from Chicago, but we were promised that we should have them some time this morning. No problem though. We were just glad to be done with the day of traveling and ready to let Jupiter out of the carrier back at my parents' apartment. We thought she might spend several hours hiding under the bed, but she happily got out and explored the apartment. Unfortunately for her, she has another four hour stay in the carrier scheduled for today when we drive back to Lafayette, but after everything she's already been through, it should be nothing for her!

After relaxing for a little while and getting cleaned up, my parents took Roxi and I out for some margaritas and Tex-Mex food. Although they do have it in the Netherlands, it doesn't really compare to the way they do it here. The first thing that Roxi and I noticed was that we were all given large unsolicited glasses of ice water...two things that you don't get in Europe. In fact, getting tap water almost always takes persistence and "ice water" usually only consists of two or three cubes. Next came the complimentary bountiful baskets of chips and cups of salsa, something else that would come in a smaller quantity and larger cost overseas. Dinner was great and helped me take care of the Tex-Mex craving I've been having. I've realized that the biggest pitfall I will have to try to avoid here in the States is to not let myself overindulge in my various American cravings!

I enjoyed our time in the Netherlands and Europe and it taught me quite about myself. I will miss our home for the past seven months, but right now, I am glad to be back in the USA. In the coming days, I will reflect on our time there but I will always have very fond memories of Enschede and the Netherlands.