Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Reflections During These Last Few Days

Yesterday Amanda and I were running errands around Joliet and decided to get Jimmy John's one last time. I took Ryan's omnipresent advice and went big ordering the Gargantuan - I guess going home isn't really an option at this point. As we were eating I glanced at the little fold up display on our table, and it read:

Jimmy John

Two thoughts instantly ran through my head:
 - What the hell?! Are they talking about Peace Corps?
 - I need to steal this. (I did.)

Talk about confirmation. Pretty weird. Anyway, let me rewind back to last week.

We spent Wednesday through Friday at Turkey Run with family and close friends, taking some time to vacation and relax before what I expect to be a fairly chaotic next couple (weeks, months, years) officially start. It was exactly what I needed. A little hiking, a lot of wine, an 1000 piece puzzle, a bonfire, and a raccoon named Frank that wouldn't leave us alone.

We got back Friday, and I worked a final few hours at International Galleries before heading to dinner at some friends' house. The food was incredible, even if the sauce wasn't properly emulsified, and the company couldn't have been better.

Saturday morning I headed out with some friends for a last round of disc golf and afterward destroyed some Porgy's. Dat Sauce. Dat. Sauce. Dat... Sauce...

That night we had our going away party. It was most enjoyable, but it was also the first time we were really saying goodbye to anyone. Not that I thought it would be, but the experience of saying goodbye when you're the one leaving isn't quite the same as it is on the other side. You usually only have to say goodbye once. This was a whole evening of the same conversation over and over again, and as the night goes on, I became aware that I was paying less and less attention to what I was saying to people. Although I in no way minded telling people what little we do know about what we'll be doing in Peru, it's not surprising I found the interactions involving nothing Peace Corps related to be the most memorable. It's not as though I remember now what I said in those conversations either, but that's what I'll really remember of our last night in Urbana-Champaign, the meaningless conversations that ignored the rapidly approaching departure entirely, because it was in those conversations that I think the love and friendship was most apparent.

The following morning we had breakfast with my mom, grandma, and brother at the Courier (where my sister was hosting). It passed rapidly. I vaguely remember downing my biscuits and gravy, slowly sipping my cinnamon buttercream coffee, and nothing of the conversation. We then headed to my dad's house and visited with him briefly. It was our first "big" goodbye and still doesn't seem entirely real. We then headed to my mom's house, gave Blaine a hug, then went back to my brother's apartment (where we'd been staying since our lease ended), and gathered our packed bags to depart for Joliet, where we'll be staying with Amanda's mom until flying to D.C. for staging. Second "big" goodbye. No more real than the first.

Yesterday, in addition to going to Jimmy John's, we went a used bookstore, visited Amanda's (a)buela in the hospital, and met up with one of Amanda's former bosses who was always far more than a boss to her. Life mentor maybe. Constant encourager. Unbeatable reference on job applications. An incredible guy no matter how you word it and responsible for several of the many reasons Amanda and I are headed to Peru later this week.

I think one of the hardest things we'll face in Peru is the inability to find and eat whatever type of food we'd like whenever we like. In America, and I think particularly in Urbana-Champaign, there is an incredible variety of food, both in grocery stores and in restaurants. To prepare, we've been trying to hit all the big things we'll probably have to go without for the next 27 months (and we'll be taking them all with us in the extra belt notch we had to punch). Barbecue, Jimmy John's, falafel, chocolate cake, milk shakes, chocolate cake milk shakes, home-cooked Puerto Rican food, and so on. Tonight: pizza. And we still need to grab some Mexican before we go too, but we'll be in and out of Aurora, so there will be many opportunities. Of course, once we get to Peru, a whole "nother" world of food will be opened up to us: Afro-Peruvian, fresh caught seafood - not the Midwest's forte, and who knows what else? We'll be sure to document well all the new delicious things we eat.

Tomorrow night we stay in Aurora with Amanda's aunt and uncle, and we go to O'Hare early the next morning. Less than three days left in the country now. It's here.

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