Back in Urbana

27 01 2009

My 3 and a half months of traveling have come to an end. What an experience! In that time I’ve been in 4 countries, 15 States, and can’t even start to count the amount of beds I’ve crashed on. Its been a truly priceless time getting to catch up with so many friends and family members, and experience so many new things.

So, if my traveling has come to an end, does this mean I’m no longer ‘stuck in transition’? Not really. But here’s whats up.

I signed a five month lease in Urbana. I already moved into my place and am ecstatic to have an apartment. Even though its far less than perfect it brings me much happiness to have a space that’s all mine! I am living in East Urbana, right across the street from the middle school off of Vine St. I have a roommate. His name is Badr and he is a 19 year old Intensive English Institute student from Saudi Arabia. So far so good (apart from the *minor* heating issue where he was keeping the thermostat at 75+ degrees. Yikes!) I feel all settled in, comfortable and enjoying spending time there. I am eager now to share the wonderful hospitality that was extended to me during my travels, so come visit. Everyone is welcome to invite yourself over for tea, a meal, a weekend… Please come!

As far as employment goes its looking like I will be starting to Substitute Teach in Urbana Schools as soon as next week. I’m told that there is a need and that I will be kept busy. I really like the idea that its temporary, though. It suits my personality to leave room for daydreaming about a much broader range of trips and interests and whatnot’s to pursue than a traditional 9-5 job would. So thats cool. Plus I’m eager to start working with the kiddies again (this sentiment will likely be reevaluated after day one, but for now I’m looking forward to it).

Then there’s the Dan factor. We’ve done a great job meshing our two lives together (now that I’m back and actually have one!) We take turns cooking for each other and spending evenings at the other one’s apartment. We’ve been having a lot of really focused talks about our future and our spirituality. And we joined a gym. Yay!

The Baha’is are keeping me quite busy, too. Of course.

It feels good to be back.

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Tennessee Family New Year

23 01 2009

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After a fantastic Christmas/Hanukkah with Dan’s family in Chicagoland we headed down to Tennessee to spend the week of New Year’s with mine. It had been YEARS since all 6 Quinlan family members were able to vacation together, and a lot had changed since the last time. Its quite different vacationing with a bunch of adult sisters, versus adolescent sisters if you get the picture. It was also a nice bonus to have Dan along. He did great going along with the flow (always Mr. easygoing), hydrating everyone with his famous french pressed coffee, entertaining us with his guitar playing, and keeping up with us crazy Quinlans. It was amazing to have all those people I love so much get to spend some real quality time together.

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So, what did we do while we were there? When we were hanging around the condo we did hottubbing, yoga, visits to the fitness center to work out or play ping pong, movie and TV watching, cooking and snacking galore, knitting, dance parties, a fashion show, and LOTS of listening to John Legend. When we ventured out of the condo it was usually to go hiking, on a scenic drive, or out to eat. We also spent a really fun day at Dollywood. Yes, that’s right, Dolly Parton’s theme park. Who would have thought?

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To see a few more photos from the Quinlan family reunion in the Tennessee Smokey Mountains check out my album here.





baltimore, MD to washington, DC

12 01 2009

n1933777_46931719_7826Once I had covered the essentials on the West Coast, it was time to head east. I went next to visit my big sis, Martha, who lives in Baltimore.  We were met there by Dan for 10 days of adapted happy camp.

I got to see Martha’s apartment that she moved into while I was in Korea. I loved it! It was in a historic neighborhood and had ceilings that were two stories high. It also had a beautiful fireplace and mantel. Just a whole lot of character. It was nice walking around the neighborhood and seeing all of the beautiful row houses. I had been to Baltimore before, but each time was just for day trips. This was the first time that she was living there, and I got a better feel for the place. We ate at a lot of great restaurants, and cooked some great meals (Martha is quite the foodie). We also checked out a lot of cool cafes and neighborhoods within Bmore. Probably my favorite thing that we did in the city was spend an afternoon at the American Visionary Art Museum. Part of what made the place so fascinating was that all of the art included artist bios, and the lives of these artists were often as interesting as the art itself. It is one of the most amazing museums that I have ever been too, and is an absolute must if you’re ever in Baltimore. Another really cool thing that we got to do was volunteer at Our Daily Bread soup kitchen. Martha has volunteer days that she can take off from work, so we spend one afternoon doing just that.

We also spent a day on the Mall in D.C. We went with Azul and Sugeet, two of Martha’s international interns at work. The were both really cool and all of us had a fun day popping in and out of the Smithsonian museums, and seeing the White House, Congress, and other governmental buildings.

n1933777_46931792_7138I got to know quite a few of Martha’s co-workers because Dan and I visited her at work, went out to lunch, and attended a house party with a bunch of them. Plus, Martha let me be her date to her company holiday party, which was of course really fun.

It was a nice visit. Most of all I was happy that Dan and Martha got a chance to get to know each other better.

Click Here for some more photos from our time in Baltimore/D.C.





Seattle

11 01 2009

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After visiting Mona in SF I headed north to Seattle where a few of my favorite people in the world call home. I’m not sure what I was thinking trying to pack so much goodness into 5 days, and wish that I would have had longer there, but I sure did make the most of it.

First stop was visiting my U of I friend, Oliver, who is now a phD student at U Wash in Psychology. We had less than a day and a half, but we packed quite a bit in. I got to see his school, working space, and meet quite a few of his colleagues.¬† I even got to attend a seminar and his department holiday party. It was really cool seeing him in his element, and seeing how great of a fit it was for him. We also spent some time downtown, visited the famous Pike Place Market, and window shopped. The evening was finished off in boystown, where we took in a darn good “cabaret show,” if you know what I mean.

Early the next morning I was picked up by my other dear friends in Seattle, the Bishops- Nathan, Katie, and little darling Elsa. We went to Portland for the weekend for a big regional Baha’i Conference, then returned for only one more day at their place. Highlights from our time together, other than the conference, included hearing about their recent Pilgrimage to the Baha’i Holly Land, everything Elsa–especially playing tea and singing songs, and most of all seeing Katie and Nathan as parents. They are so loving and patient and simply amazing. I know for certain that some day when I start a family I will turn to them for support and inspiration. It really touched my heart listing to Katie reflect on her journey thus far as a mother, and seeing her put her tender words into action as a parent. And Nathan seemed happier and calmer than I’ve ever seen him before, especially while interacting with Elsa.

Even though my time in Seattle was so short, I feel that it was very significant on my journey of reconnecting with friends after my time in Korea. I feel blessed that I got the chance to make a stop there.

For a few snapshots from San Francisco and Seattle check out my facebook album.





My Mona Visit

10 01 2009

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So that cross country train ride that I took was leading me to my little sister Mona. Mona is currently living in San Francisco (just a block off of the historic Haight & Ashburry) where she is doing her Nutritionist Residency at the UC San Francisco  Medical Center. I had ten glorious days with here. A unique experience for just the two of us to have so much one-on-one time (I am blessed to be getting so many of these opportunities with friends and family lately). I feel closer to Mona now than ever, its really wonderful transitioning into adult relationships with my siblings.

Her residency is quite intense, but we were able to find plenty of quality time to get out and do things, along with a handful of quiet nights at home. Mona was a wonderful hostess, and I felt so happy to be a guest in my sister’s home.

Although we were sad to not be with the rest of the family, one of the highlights for me was getting to be one of the head cooks for Thanksgiving dinner. Mona and I cooked dinner for seven. We were joined by her boyfriend Jiongyi, his sister and cousin, one of Mona’s intern friends, and a U of I friend Caryn.

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Mona and I did a lot of cooking during our time together which was great. Other highlights of the visit were the Academy of Science Museum, a day trip to Sanford campus and downtown Palo Alto, Mona teaching me how to knitt, the downstairs spa shower, and our Gingerspap photo shoot (click on the link if you don’t know what I mean).

I love you Mona!

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