Adventures in Culture and Travel

27 July, 2012

How to say goodbye.

How to say goodbye?
It's interesting to me that the thing I'm least looking forward to is saying goodbye to my love, Shannon. In about twenty days, I'll have to do it. I'll have to say goodbye for four months. In reality that doesn't seem very long but in the heightened state that love so often is, it's a bloody eternity! Perhaps it's a good sign that after twelve years of our relationship, I'm questioning my capability of holding any bit of emotional stability together the day of departure?

As positive and wonderful of an experience this is to go abroad, each day comes crawling to me closer to closer. It's like knowing you're going to die, a sense of impending doom, and knowing with each passing minute you've lost something of value not being with the person, not sharing your love 100%.

This week we did a lot. We went swimming in a lake, took a couple of road trips. Went out to dinner and had more cuddles and private time than we had in a long time. In essence, this trip has already made us love one another more than we did. There's an appreciation of what we have, and what we will have to live without after saying goodbye on the 19th.

I had high hopes that my typical tearful hysterics were generally from a lack of sleep on our travels, and that I'd manage our farewells stoically without remorse when it comes time. Yesterday, however, we drove out to Raleigh-Durham Airport where I'll be leaving from, to pick up some Euro coins for the trip at the Money Exchange. There, waiting at arrivals was a family with a sign that said "Welcome Back" on one side, and "We Love You" on the other. As their family member arrived to the final hallway of security, and upon reading the sign, the individual's face lit up, and so began a total disregard for TSA security measures as everyone began running for each other with open arms and tears. I of course, lost it. It was in this instance I knew that my goodbye, no matter how well planned would be a horrible mess of emotions. I quite likely won't stop crying the entire flight, I know that now.

Airports are such wonderfully weird places. It's like a bottle of emotions, a stage of reality drama. It's where we say goodbye to love ones, or perhaps in that moment discover exactly how much we really do love someone when we're forced to say goodbye to them. It's a purgatory between two worlds, where the hearts of the traveler serve as payment due to a trial by fire with your love's worth at stake. Douglas Horton is noted for saying "If you love something, let it go free. If it doesn't comeback, you never had it."

I of course hope, despite having no idea how I'll manage to say goodbye, that our two worlds (Shannon's and mine) collide upon my return when I come running down that security hallways. It's only then will we both know the truth in Horton's final line, "if it comes back to you,  love it forever."


12 July, 2012

The Never Ending Story of Moving to Europe

I imagine that this is my first "real" post since arriving home from Egypt last year. The last post, titled Busking in a Brussels Metro Station: The Future and Beyond, pretty much summed up every intention I had for the last year. Then Sheep Under The Sea hit the book-shelves which pretty much explained everything. The book was sold without any mark-up (at-cost), because I felt the message was that important. It has become more popular than I ever expected. Life, as we say it, went on. I became consumed with school, graduating at GTCC, and transferring to UNCG. Upon arrival, I immediately pursued their International Program Center about going to school in Brussels. After a bit of paperwork, and a ton of money, I now sit waiting for adventure with a Belgian visa, and a airline ticket to Belgium on the August 19th.

I'm less than forty days from now, I'm moving to Europe, and I should be excited as can be (which I am), however a persistent atmosphere of unease is around me. Money being the huge issue. While my studies are paid for through student loans, I still have to come up with transportation (Le Metro), books, and an art fee not included in the exchange, and what little financial aid is left over, is unlikely to be available to me until several weeks after arriving. I'm officially in Top-Ramen mode.

Then there's the family. My spouse and kids are staying behind. There's been several indicators from friends and family that what I'm doing is nothing short of family abandonment. While certainly there is a value to the time I will lose with those, it is my hopes- that what we gain as a family is far greater. More importantly, there is no going back, there is not "out" now even if I wanted to. Indeed even if I did (which I don't) how could I wake each morning and look at my children, knowing I failed to be the best parent I could to them by becoming the best person I could be? Every day they'd look at me like I look at others, a shell of broken dreams, un-fulfilled, because they were to scared to sacrifice that which they hold the dearest for the possibility of something amazing. Life is about living, not about safety. Living is in the risk. Risk is a gift.

Yet it's a gift, a gift from my children and my spouse. The experience could break us, or make us stronger. However if love can bring us this far together, I do not believe the poverty, or moving to Europe will divide us. So here it is, we all are running into the future. Blindly galloping, blinded by the light- our arms extended, not knowing what's before us. It's this running that makes me happy despite the risk, it's the hope that the destination contains reward.

In just over a month, I'll board a plane in Europe and I'll say goodbye to my spouse and two kids as I board an American Airlines plane for Belgium. I don't know what to expect, or what will come of it all. Will I love it, hate it? Will I cry constantly?

None of it seems real right now. It's all like the cover of a un-read book. I know what the story is about, where it takes place, and who is the main character, but Liv's Moving To Europe, like the Never Ending Story, has a plot which eludes the reader till they become a participant in it.

If you want to read it, stay tuned right here. If you have sackfuls of money laying around, email me.

09 July, 2012

The Diner | Norman Oklahoma



You may remember that last years vacation included a stop in Brussels Belgium where we met Christie. Christie who originally hails from Norman, Oklahoma suggested we give Norman a visit on our most recent American road trip. Home of Oklahoma University, and the Sooners (meaning settlers). It's also home to a 110 year old restaurant called The Diner.

Norman is just outside of Oklahoma City and just a few short hours north of Dallas. We ended up staying at the Holiday Inn with its salt-water indoor pool, just three miles from the casinos, and about five minutes from downtown Norman where there's a place called 'The Diner'. The Diner was featured on Guy Fieri's Food Network Show, Diners Drive-Ins & Dives a few years back. In 2010, the owner passed away, but the award winning recipes continue to get dished out for locals and fans to this day. Mark Amspacher's legacy continues to live on, not only in Norman but in kitchens across America with his two-times state championship chili. Considering Mark passed in his mid-50's, perhaps his food should come with a regulatory warning. It's amazing food, but likely isn't the healthiest thing in the world. It's soul food, it's comfort food, it's darn good food.



So we pulled into downtown Norman, and found a parking spot down in front of the police department. Walked a block and entered the Diner. It's a neon-diner, with an aroma of goodness that leaks out on to the street with each door opening. Hungry as could be, we arrived about 11 AM and sat right down. I ordered the chicken fried steak and scrambled eggs with hash-browns, and Shannon ordered the grilled tamales with ranchero sauce and fried onions. Let's not forget the biscuits and gravy. Needless to say, it's more than enough food to fill you up and mounds of cheese and sauce, with deliciousness everywhere, we finally had an answer to our question. Does Guy really like the food he eats, or is it all show? Considering the food was awesome and the wait staff was too, the answer was clear.



Norman is the center of America, it literally is the Main Street of America. It's a college town, that takes a bit of everything in America, and fits it into its mid-west self. Indeed, all roads lead to The Diner, where the food mirrors the charm of corn fields and red barns with it's Tex-mex chili and southern style breakfasts.

If you're anywhere near Oklahoma, I highly recommend visiting The Diner.