My dad arrived here in Boston this morning, after getting delayed in LA for 12 hours yesterday, and having to take an overnight flight from west coast to east. So my duty today was to help my dad stay awake all day — so he can combat his jetlag, and adjust quickly to Boston time — by touring the city with him, and elbowing him at the firssigns of chluffing. An in this noble endeavour — i.e. in my "jetlag duty" — I believe I was quite successful. We managed to see a few of Boston's sights, and my dad lasted until the evening.
What can I say — he's my dad! And until today, I hadn't seen him for a ridiculously long time of 8 months, since I left Sydney back in February. This morning, my dad flew into Boston (after having a flight cancel on him, and getting stuck in LA for 12 hours), and we had a warm and heartfelt reunion. Like me, he's here for my cousin Adam's barmitzvah. And unlike me, he's not doing a crazy 12-month trip around the world: he's just on holiday for two weeks, and then he goes straight back to Sydney. It's very, very nice to see him again — as with all my family, I've missed him a lot during my time away from home.
The Goldsteins are my wonderful and adorable cousins who live here in Boston. Adam is 13, and is the star of the show for now — since it's his Barmitzvah on the weekend! Becca is 16, and is America's aspiring second female president (Hillary's gonna be the first, right? :P). Their "mom" (i.e. mum), Janine, is my Dad's first cousin, and was a professor at Boston's famous Harvard University for almost 10 years. And their dad, David, runs a software company here in the city. They're my favourite overseas cousins, and this is the first time I've seen them in seven years.
After nine nights at this place, I finally checked out and said goodbye to Patanuk today. I'm very sad to be leaving: it's the cosiest hostel I've ever stayed at, and I feel like the staff and guests that I've been with over the past week have become my family. It's also sad, because quite a few people are leaving today or tomorrow: Sarah and Jordan, along with Simon and Anna, are heading off west to Chile (yeah, I know — why? :P); and Ed is following my tracks to Buenos Aires pretty soon. So Patanuk is going to be a house with all the children gone. Ah well, I'm sure they'll have a whole new family of guests by next week. Chao, Patanuk: it's been great!
A very unique couple to be staying in a hostel in Argentina, if ever there was one. Simon's an English IT dude in his 30s, and Anna is his very sweet little 10-year-old daughter. They're in town (in Patanuk, along with the rest of us) for the remainder of the week, and they're hoping to do a bit of skiing and a bit of boarding up at the mountain, during their time here. Simon enjoys crazy snow runs, lots of beer, and rolling his own tobacco ciggies — he's also a vegetarian, when not in Argentina (where I believe vegetarianism is virtually impossible, perhaps even illegal :P).
Maria (known as "Meli") is a lady who lived in Sydney for quite a number of years, and who worked (as a nurse) taking care of my mother's partner's father a few years back. She's now returned to her home of Arica, Chile, where she's living with a crazy Pommy ex-pat called Phillip, and his family, and where she's retired. Today, I dragged Chris along for a Sunday lunch with these people, and we had a great day of eating, chatting, and hanging out.
The popular thing to do on the island of Amantaní, in Lake Titicaca, is to spend a night eating and sleeping with one of the local families on the island, in order to really experience life like they do. So that's what myself, Chris, and the rest of the crew from the morning's boat ride did. Myself and Chris got introduced to one of the Amantaní families, and taken to their farmhouse by the lake. We got well taken care of, and we thoroughly enjoyed our time living the simple life.
It wasn't short. It wasn't cheap. And it was a big chunk eaten out of my travelling and exploration time in South America. But it was definitely worth it. In my four weeks at Amigos, and with the Polar Covarrubias family, I learned a lot of Spanish, I made some great friends, and I got a lot of love (and plenty of food, too!). Plus, during the whole thing I was in Cusco, where I could party at night, explore the area on weekends, get by pretty cheap, and stay fairly safe. All up, a great experience, and one that will surely benefit me in the rest of my travels.
After four very quick and very memorable weeks with them, today I finally said goodbye to the Polar Covarrubias family, and "moved out of home". Lunch today was my last meal with the family, and it was a bit sad to have to say farewell to them; but it was also a relief to be ending my routine and getting-a-bit-too-comfortable life with them, and preparing to get back on the road again. They've been the best host family I could have asked for: after my time with them, I feel like I've gained a second family, for life. I know I'll always be welcome at their house in the future.
Buenas noticias (lit: "good news"), people: as of lunchtime today, Mario's back! Él Papá returned home at about 2:30pm this afternoon, in time for the all-important middle-of-the-day meal. He's still going to need at least another week of serious R&R at home; but he's looking happy and healthy, just like his old self. We welcomed him home with flowers, kisses, hugs, and plenty of good food (a welcome change from those hospital meals). He should be back at work within a week or so.