14.08.2010 - 24.08.2010 26 °C
This was a week of firsts for me. The first time I met my Grandfather's sister. The first time I met her sons and the first time I found out I had a bunch of family members I never even really knew existed (pretty much most of my second cousins). It was also the first time in four months that I had been staying in a normal house, living a normal life for more than a few nights. Hot showers, home cooked meals and a bed that doesn't have springs that jump up and poke you in the ribs in the middle of the night. I was actually worried about how I was going to get used to the backpacking lifestyle again after being spoilt like this.
No one in my family in Australia had to (this) date met any of our American family. My grandfather was taken from his home in Poland by the German's during the second world war to a work camp (no you didn't need to be Jewish for this to happen, you had to be around). After the war finished he and my Grandmother married in Germany and had two little whipper-snappers of their own (my dad and my aunt). A few years later my family decided to head to Canada after the Germans turned around one day and basically said, 'right off you all go then'.
You would think after a few years of marriage my Grandmother would have learnt never send a man to do not only a woman's job (as the saying goes), but any job you want done correctly (I wish I could see just how many women reading this are nodding and thinking yeah you got that right). Well my Grandmother learnt this the hard way when she sent my Granddad to sign the family up for the boat.....and off my Granddad went to sign the family up for a boat for Canada and and back he came after putting the family's names down for Australia instead. Good job. My Grandmother still uses the words 'he bloody stupid' when she tells this story today.
My Grandfather never made it back to Poland or to the US and his sister never made it to Australia before he passed away a few years ago. She said she was 12 when he left. As no one else in my family has ever been travelling to the US (my Dad never even left Australia). I was the first person my Great Aunt had seen from my Granddad's part of the family. I imagine this is why she started crying when she saw me. I love the European part of my family. This was like the family I had always wanted, but never got growing up as we never had extended family around. The US family (this is how I will refer to them; I am Aussie, keep it simple) drove an hour and half to collect me from Rhode Island (despite never having met me), gave me the master bedroom to sleep in (!!!), fed me constantly, drove me to and from all the things I wanted to go to, fed me more, took me on a four hour road trip so I could go hiking, took me out to dinner, then fed me again, took me to the movies, and checked again to make sure I wasn't hungry. My own mum on the other hand has told me when I get to Victoria to make my own way from the airport to her house, three hours away, after nine months of travelling and constantly being on the move. And you wonder why I dreamed of another family!
I had the most incredible time visiting Wakefield. I can not ad too much from the touristy side, as this was more a family deal for me. I did go hiking through to the White Mountain National Forest which has probably been one of my favourite hikes so far. The hike we did took around five and a half hours and it varied from just normal flat bush tracks, to steep inclines to climbing up rocks. Wakefield is actually a great little spot as you are only a few hours away from the ski slopes, the National Park and the Canadian border.
I did a few day trips into Boston and saw Harvard, lots of people walking around wearing Red Sox caps and t-shirts, not quite as many people wearing Yankees t-shirts, a bar called Cheers, some funky old style churches (which looked more like they belonged in an old town in Europe) and ate gelati. I have met a few people since I left the US who are planning on going to Boston for a few nights to look around. I was a little surprised to hear that as I had never considered Boston when I started planning my itinerary a year ago and I don't think I would have gone if my family was not there. While I know some people would love it I would not need more than a night there as a backpacker because there is not all that much to see there that you can not find somewhere else.
Wakefield was where I got to play my first few games of basketball. And I don't completely suck! Yes it does help that I am 6'1. And yes I do wonder how I would go playing against people my own height because then I would need to develop some real skills. It turns out that all those years of playing defence in netball (if you don't know what it is google will have the answers) have meant I would be good at defence in basketball (weird how those two pair up). First my cousin and I beat my Uncle and another cousin in a game of girls vs the guys. Then I beat the same male cousin twice in a game of 21. I am sure he will love that I put that in my blog (beaten by a girl! One who is much older and much taller, but still a girl!). I really enjoyed playing (as you normally would if you are good at something). I just need to remember not to use the backboard to shoot and I am fine (netball reference). Now I have a sport I can play in the summer once I get home. And then finally my life becomes nicely balanced (for those of you who could not be bothered to look on google, netball is a winter sport).
I was sad to leave Wakefield and even had family suggesting that I should put back my flight to Miami and stay another week. One of my rules though for this holiday is not to get stuck in one place for too long as it means I miss out on seeing something else. I have met so many people while I have been travelling who have gotten stuck somewhere and just not continued on. I do wonder how many of these situations are because the person really fell in love with that place and how many are because the person had been travelling for so long that they were just craving the comfort of being in one place for an extended time. If there is anywhere I think I should be living I will know once I get back home and have time to process everything. I don't want to end up living somewhere because I was missing some of my creature comforts and found a place that just fit into my comfort zone. I would not have stayed in Wakefield more than another week, but if I had done that I would have missed out on meeting the people I did in Miami and on that wonderful Miami humidity! I have every intention of trying to get back to Wakefield next Christmas. For my second cold Christmas and hopefully my first white Christmas!! I wonder if anyone will be up for a BBQ and a game of cricket on the beach?