Sunday, March 16, 2008

Help Support My Sister!

Don't worry, this is totally related to travel.

It just happens to involve traveling via foot and by someone other than me. My older sister is running The Relay, a 199 mile race from Calistoga (yes of spring water fame) to Santa Cruz, California. She doesn't run the whole thing--a team of 12 splits it up into 36 segments over two days of non-stop running.

Last year my younger sister and I saw her trucking along through Napa, but it sounded like the coolest part was her midnight run over the Golden Gate Bridge under a full moon. Pretty sweet scenic views.

The point of all of this is not to get as many blisters as possible or avoid showering after exercising, though both are inevitable. She's raising money for Organs 'R' Us, a non-profit dedicated to--you guessed it--promoting organ donation. Her goal is to raise $1500, so I thought I'd help spread the word.

If you're interested, go to to read more, pay by credit card, and wish her well. You can also donate anonymously if that's your preference. And even if you can't help financially right now, you can still do your part by making sure your drivers license says you're an organ donor. Also be sure to talk to your family too so they know what your wishes are.

Thanks everyone!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

DC in a Night

And oh what a night it was.

I was back in DC earlier this week for a last minute call-back interview with a firm. In a very persuasive effort to woo us potential candidates to the cause, I was given a room in the illustrious Hay-Adams Hotel. Where, as I quickly discovered, "nothing is overlooked but the White House." My top floor room was probably its simplest offering, but it was still by leaps and bounds the nicest place I've ever slept.

Impeccable service in general overwhelms me. I am not accustomed to other people being at my beck and call, opening all doors, and wheeling my very manageable roller bag for me. In fact, I sometimes find it stressful worrying about when and how much to tip or how to politely decline services without being rude and accept them without feeling overly self-important. But they took my inexperience with luxury in stride, always smiling and gently pointing me towards the main hall when I accidentally attempted to take the freight elevator.

The weather in DC was also much more amenable. I walked around the hotel a great deal when I first arrived, cursing CVS for closing every store in reach by 6pm on a Sunday. I realized rather at the last minute that my chipped red fingernail polish would look very unprofessional. But thankfully a friend was able to meet me for dinner and lead me to Dupont Circle where the streets are lively outside of business hours and the CVS's are open until a more reasonable time.

I was also able to talk a long walk later that night around the White House and accompanying monuments. The more time I spend in DC, the more I want to try living there for a while. I don't know the right way to describe it. Everything is infused with politics and government and bureaucracy, but flowing through it all is very raw sense of patriotism, sincere and unadulterated. Maybe I'm just naive, but I'm curious to find out. What I do know is that I can't wait to be at the center of all the action this summer.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Spring Break in the Hospital?

No joke, I'm in the hospital right now. Somewhere in Chicago. I won't get more specific because I'm not sure how legit this is, but basically an old friend is on call tonight and rather than send me back to her heatless apartment alone she suggested I stay in the student dorm room with her. So here I sit, dressed in scrubs to "blend in" hanging out while she's off responding to a Code Yellow page in the emergency room.

Sorry if that's not very exciting, but that's sorta what my spring break has been like this year. No beaches, no snowy mountains, no lazy mornings sleeping in. And if you know me, you know how much I love not waking up before noon. But don't get me wrong, I've been having a lot of fun. My Aunt in Minnesota drove down to Nashville for the week, so I flew to Chicago where she picked me up so we could make the journey together. Every five seconds she'd point out another hawk perched on a fence or tree next to the highway just waiting for a little field mouse to come out to play. I was also forced to consume multiple raspberry "concrete mixers" from Culver's, a more extensive fast food restaurant I had never heard of before, as well as several pounds of bacon, pork chops, and the best steaks ever once we arrived in Nashville. If my Aunt wasn't so against flying she'd cure world hunger using the combination of bacon and peer pressure alone.

Coming to Nashville is always a bit of a homecoming. Remarkably almost all of my high school friends are still in the area. Plus with amazing family friends that let my Aunt and me invade their house everytime we're there, it's starting to feel ironically a bit more like home now that we finally sold our home. Which has been torn down. People always apologize when I say that like there's been a death in the family. For us, it was a bit more like finally purging a bad disease. But like most of my recent trips to Nashville, this one still included logging the requisite hours sorting through boxes of old stuff. Starting at 7am. Did I mention my Aunt was a morning person?

Now I'm back in Chicago for the weekend before returning to Ann Arbor. Hopefully I'll finally get a few chances to sleep in. Assuming of course the pager doesn't go off...

Sunday, February 24, 2008

DC in a Day

I woke up in my room, and I fell asleep that same night in my room. Just like any other day, right? Only difference was I spent the entire time in Washington, DC. If you’re a seasoned business traveler this won’t seem that exciting or strange to you. But this was the first time I’d ever taken an entire round trip flight in one day.

Do I recommend it? Nope. If airlines were reliably on time, and if the Detroit airport wasn’t a high risk for bad weather, then maybe it would be fine. But they aren’t and it is. I wanted a ticket that would give me plenty of buffer time before my 2pm interview. That meant waking up at 4am to arrive in DC by 8. Dressed in a suit (with an extra pair of panty hose), I felt naked going to the airport with just my purse.

Other than the fact that I was exhausted from only having four hours of sleep and my stomach was in knots from drinking too much coffee without enough food, I actually had a great morning. I was able to get some work done and catch up with an old friend from college who lent me his fancy leather portfolio. I still can’t bring myself to buy one. I fully admit that I wanted one for this interview, but all it does is say, “I’m willing to spend big bucks to make me look professional.” Since when was a leather portfolio the standard by which we judge somebody’s professionalism? Kind of like when people insist that fancy resume paper really makes a difference. If I were on a hiring committee, those applicants would have a straight track to the garbage can.

DC is an incredible city. The metro takes you to and from the airport in ten minutes. And there’s no long shuttle from the airport to the metro either, you cross the street and there it is. It really does make business travel a snap. And if I had more confidence that there’d be no delays, I easily could have arrived at noon and made it to the firm in plenty of time. And the firm, well it was incredible. But I don’t want to jinx things because I still haven’t heard back. With any luck though this summer I’ll be posting about a return trip.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Topeka, Twelve Years Later

"I haven't been to Kansas in twelve years," I remarked to the woman next to me on the plane as we landed.

"You're in Missouri," she smiled politely back.

Yes, I know Kansas City is in Missouri. But just because Topeka's airport stopped serving commercial airlines a while ago doesn't change the final destination of my trip. Markell met me at the airport, we picked up our rental car, and off we went.

On my desk rests a family photo we took from our last trip to Kansas. We're out standing by the duck ponds on a cold fall day, our dad in a jacket three times heavier than necessary because his little toes were always cold, our mother and her insanely large owl glasses, Markell in a shade of purple they stopped making during Prince's heyday, I'm rocking my favorite green suede jacket, and Pauline still looks like an imp. Which of course means its around 1996 give or take a fashion season or two, not like it would have changed anything for us anyways.

This time around, it was just me and Markell. She's now old enough to rent a car, and I'm finally taller than she is. Like many last minute trips, our reason fell on the sad side of the coin and not the happy. Let's just say it has not been a good year for uncles. But at the same time, our trip was long over due and I was very excited to finally see our aunt after a several year gap. We passed the time cracking jokes and sharing old family stories. Our Aunt had a stash of old family photos we dusted off from the basement and got good practice with the family tree. Ethel? No, Doris. Is that Joe's first wife? Nope, his sister Ida.

Deep in the pile was a letter from my father two weeks after I was born announcing my arrival to his sister, along with two photos of a red-faced baby not too keen on opening her eyes just yet. Jean reads it out loud, after pointing out that he had to correct the spelling of my name because he too thought it should be Francis. He describes me as a "quiet, placid, and serene baby--" at which point Markell bursts out laughing. "That's the first and last time you've ever been called that!" Thanks Markell. But Jean chuckles and says to let her finish the sentence, "--no doubt she is up to something."

And I suppose I still am.

We forget sometimes to call or write. We forget birthdays and anniversaries and other important dates. We forget to visit while we still can. And to top it all off, what finally gets us to buy the plane ticket is news that what we forgot to do can't be done anymore. Only then do we drop everything and remember.

Here's to remembering more often.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Lewis of Arabia

The beauty of siblings is that they write blogs you can steal from.

Pauline covered our trip to the White Desert pretty well in two posts. Check them out.

Lewis of Arabia (part 1)

Lewis of Arabia (part 2)

She's even mastered the art of posting pictures!

I'm still getting there.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Happy New Year!

I liked 2007 a lot, but I'm willing to give 2008 a fair shot. At least I got to beat most of my friends to it, seeing as Cairo is seven hours ahead of the east coast at the moment. We spent it in Pauline's apartment with some friends and some wine, purchased of course from one of the few stores in Cairo that sells alcohol. Appropriately, it's named Drinkie's. They deliver.

I have also been rewarded for my sisterly looks. Pauline's neighborhood kiosk man did not charge us for the bottle of mango juice I had picked out. A gift for me, he said. Food seems to be regularly rained upon visitors as a welcome gesture. The downstairs neighbor fed us a dish called Fetah when we first arrived, consisting of ram, rice and tomato sauce. The ram, naturally, had been living in the courtyard up until Eid al-Kbir, the holiday commemorating Abraham's sacrifice. I'll let you put two and two together.

The food here is incredible. We ate at a delicious Lebanese restaurant on Markell's last night, a full feast of hummus, babaganoush, and grilled lamb and chicken skewers. I've had Koshri at least six times, a wonderful (and insanely cheap) form of fast food. Macaroni, lentils, rice, thin noodles, chickpeas, fried onions and tomato sauce all in a big bowl (that is called small when we order because the actual big bowl could cure world hunger). Followed by a tub of rice pudding and call me stuffed.

Only two more days and then on to Tel Aviv. I don't know if I'm ready for another round of school just yet, or the foot of snow that's waiting for me back at home, but I am looking forward to pedestrians having the right of way and air that isn't the equivalent of smoking twenty cigarettes a day. Call me crazy, but I like my lungs.