A Dear Jill Letter — No, Really!!!
Wow, that was quick!
I remember one of the first times we went out and I said I was interested in going to the Portland Beer Fest and you said it sounded like fun. Since we weren’t dating at the time, I didn’t give it too much thought, but a few months later, there we were at the Portland Beer Fest. Together. I’m still not sure how that happened, but damn was the beer good. I also remember there was a time you first floated the idea of taking a trip around the world. Again, I didn’t give it much thought since that’s the kind of trip people often talk about, but the obstacles to taking one (jobs, mortgages, kids) are often insurmountable and it becomes nothing more than a pipe dream. Next thing you know, I’m on a plane to Thailand. I’m not sure how that happened, but damn was the Thai street food good.
Did you know when you’re thinking of concentrating that you kind of purse your lips and rotate your mouth either to the left or right? I do, because I’ve seen you do it a few thousand times while planning out our year-long trip. Yes, we’ve talked about it ad nauseam (like most things) that you did the yeoman’s work on this trip, but I’m not sure I ever properly thanked you. Our exchanges typically went more like this: “Maybe you should try figuring out where we’re going, book a room, figure out how to get there, then actually how to get to our room using public transportation. Asshole (she would never use such language, but it certainly was implied).” I often didn’t respond to these rants because there wasn’t much I could say. So this letter is one long thank you for everything you did. It can’t make up for all the effort you put in while I played SpellTower, but I promise to share the workload on the next trip.
I know you’re not supposed to kick a person when he’s down, but I blame Steve Jobs. Had Apple continued to support the iPad, rather than force people to upgrade to a new iPad if they wanted the latest operating systems and apps, I could have done much more. Doing any research on this piece of crap was frustrating (as you know), though to give Apple some credit it’s amazing that the iPad screen never cracked from me punching it or throwing it across the room.
Also, going about things this way truly benefited you as you got to go to many places you wanted to go to that I probably wouldn’t have chosen. I’m by no means complaining about where we went because most were unbelievably fantastic, just pointing out there was an upside.
Anyway, I thought I’d make a list of some of my favorite things from each country we visited since unlike you I didn’t keep a journal and want to make sure I remember how great things were. Since this a letter to Jill there might be some inside things that people who are not Jill will not understand.
Thailand: Many, many bowls of Khao Soi, terrifying bus rides and swimming in the lake in Khao Sok National Park. getting the crap scared out of us when we ran across that wild pig; oh, and when you spotted all of those monkeys in the trees; also, wondering what the hell we just got ourselves into; freaking out after talking with Samath for the first time; Leah’s morning penguin exercise; throwing up before my bike ride while you were having the best day ever at cooking school; eating the food you made at cooking school; wondering when I might eat that food you made at cooking school again; didn’t you try to make something from it in Cambodia?
Cambodia: Too many to write all of them. First, the warmth and generosity and hope of the Cambodian people. Sophiep! Weekly gatherings with the rest of the AJWS group; First Friday at Kingdom Brewery; how you somehow discovered that huge wine sale in Phnom Penh and carrying a case out to our Tuk Tuk. Rote!!! Samath and Sokha and the rest of our great friends from our Cambodian organizations; playing basketball at Olympic Stadium, all the ramen we ate; playing badminton; watching Full House Take II and other Korean soap operas on TV; your superpawa learning Khmer; fresh pasta from the grocery store by my work; Ratanakiri Restaurant. Master Suki Soup; my bicycle; the weekend I went away with the YRDP group; the kids who took care of our apartment complex; our buddies who sold us Sim cards and helped unlock our iPhones (take that Jobs!); risking our lives by walking places; Siem Reap; dogs pooping in the outdoor restaurant at Koh Kong Island Resort; fresh calamari; Samath getting not one, but two scholarships; Oudam playing the guitar; Gangam! the dog across the street that never stopped barking; Richard’s pool!! Richard!! The hotel pools we went to to escape the heat; Tiger Beer!; our first introduction to Cambodia with the celebration for King Sihanouk; our “Cambodian Wedding Shoot.”
China: You panicking when you weren’t sure if they’d let us in to China since we were staying for longer than our 72-hour visa; the nice man at immigration who let us in with no hassle; clean streets in Shanghai; trying to eat 72 dumplings in those 72 hours; finding good beer!; the Bund at night; that cool museum that had the entire layout of Shanghai; tour of the brewery with the New Zealand brewer.
Japan: Takoyaki at our hostel! THE YURT!!!!; The Japanese alps; drinking beer and saki and sitting by the fire at the trail outpost; crazy foods; Hanshin Tigers baseball; seventh inning stretch balloons; Ramen!!!; seeing Jeff and his family; Ramen; HIGH SPEED TRAINS!!!; how happy the promptness of the subway trains made you; our great Tokyo neighborhood; those crazy cute kids at the school who wouldn’t stop talking to us; the Japanese Ministry of Education; drinking those individual serving glasses of saki.
New Zealand: Four blissful weeks in a van; Bluff Oyster Festival; the beauty of Central Otago; the beauty of Central Otago Pinot Noir; Astrolabe!!!! Running into Scott Shirley at a winery; how expensive beer was; your cauliflower/pumpkin concoction; snow in Queenstown; drinking that special bottle at Cambridge Road Vineyard; Tom’s Cottages; barbecuing and drinking that bottle of Cabernet Franc; so much great Sauvignon Blanc; discovering how great Riesling can be; Abel Tasman; terrible Internet service; bad Wellington joggers; high-fiving like we won the lottery after returning the van when they didn’t notice the chipped windshield.
Australia: Nothing will top the warmth and generosity of Robyn, Michael, Lily and Charlotte, they truly made us feel like family from the start; going back a second time to Robyn’s house and it being just as good as the first; getting wood from the shed; walking Charlotte to school; Lily’s pancakes and popcorn; kangaroos and koalas!!; roo poo; the warmth and generosity of Peter Lehmann letting us stay in their guest house AND stocking said guest house with wine AND telling us where there was more wine if we ran out of that wine; being a little burned out on wine at the Peter Lehmann guest house; Kath and Kim; all of the great small wine producers we found; Shiraz and Riesling; Mount Langhi Ghiran Shiraz (thanks Michael), driving to that brewpub during a storm, then realizing there was no electricity in that town; camp fires!!!; our coffee/wine mugs; another crappy camper van for four weeks; free pancakes with strawberries; vanilla slices; pizza and taco night with Lily and Charlotte; Alpha Box & Dice; beach house in Prevelly!!!; finding cheap wines in Margaret River; having our glasses rinsed out by someone with a cold.
U.K.: Finally seeing friendly faces from family and friends; Heather Mitchell!; Beth leaving early; walking to every outdoor market in London; that porchetta sandwich; that brontosaurus rib we were treated to at Duke’s; cool pubs; the Baby George Whole Foods bag; craziness sleeping among thousands of people at the End of the Road music festival; finding cool new bands at the music festival; Anna and Sloane growing up too fast.
Norway: Unbelievable beauty, probably the most amazing place we visited on our trip; getting to hang out for 10 days with my parents; Riedel glasses!!!; that hike above the boat; winning gold for the Cambodian kayak team; Vigeland Statue park in Oslo; Leffe beer; French onion soup; you finally getting rid of those baggy jeans.
Belgium: MMMM, Beer; walking all the way to that restaurant for mussels; MMM, donuts; beer, beer and more beer; that crazy park in the industrial area where we….drank beer!; outdoor urinals; that beer store you found; breaking the Riedel glasses — so, so sad.
France: Good, cheap wine!; biking through Burgundy; hiking through Alsace; the opera in Paris; that crazy Paris market; watching the Bears game; crepe taste-off; best baguettes in the world; tart flambé not living up to the hype; speaking a little bit of French; underground sewer tour; sludgy hot chocolate; the TGV!.
Portugal: Finding Samath!; discovering beautiful Porto; walking the hill to our apartment; hiking the Roto Vicentina; meeting up with Andy and Tracey; that unbelievable dinner we had in Lisbon; fado singers; good, cheap wine; our amazing wine tasting day; more sausage and cheese than I could ever imagine; you emptying the sand out of your shoes; the beautiful Portuguese coast.
Hungary: Being blown away by Budapest. Buda is better, but Pest is pretty great as well; Hopfanatic; Soup!; our faces when we realized there were no subtitles for the opera; me racing down at the first intermission and paying whatever they asked for program that explained the opera.
Croatia: Bojan; Austrian guy who told stories; 55 kilometer bike ride; biking up the hills; Horst swimming; mish mash; “More kilometers!”; having Happy Birthday sung to me in German; Rock’n Rod!; the Austrians not bothering to include us in the tip for the boat workers; burek! cevapcici and ajvar; Zivjeli!!!!
Slovenia: Finding your grandmother’s cake; the unbelievable beauty of Slovenia; our hike around Plitvice Lakes; Lake Bled; bike ride to Slovenia’s Tourist Club; drinking beer at Slovenia’s Tourist Club; cream cake in Lake Bled.
Turkey: Pomegranate juice and pistachios; our incredible meal in Istanbul; Medusa; baklava; 18 shish kebabs being the only people at Hotel Nerissa; Cirali beach; Ephesus; going up and down and up and down on the Lycian Way; “fire, fire fire” on Mount Chimera.
Italy: St. Peter’s Square; pizza, gelato and two porchetta sandwiches; Pizzarium; our Tuscan home; our 10 Euro lunch at the San Gimignano winery; you making the best pasta meal of all time; wine tasting in Greve!; best gelato in the world!; bad Naples joggers; our wine dinner!; the hot springs; everything else that happened after I wrote this, but didn’t get to put in.
I know there are hundreds of things I’m missing, but it’s not easy to just sit down and come up with a list from memory, especially mine. Just know that I am eternally grateful for all that you did and for all of the experiences we got to share.
As the great adventurer Dora the Explorer once said, “We did it, we did it, we did it, YEAH!!!!