Tag Archives: travel

Costa Rica Trip, Day 7 – Hanging Bridges


We spent Friday exploring the hanging bridges at Arenal Sky Adventures.

It was a very warm day, and there was a lot of hiking to get to each bridge. We saw many cool trees and plants, and we even saw capuchin monkeys! The hanging bridges were neat, since they let you walk up in the tree canopy.

After we’d gone over the bridges, we came to a trail that went down to a beautiful waterfall.

We ate lunch in the restaurant on site. The view was breathtaking. It looked out over the volcano and Lake Arenal.

I can’t recall much else about that day (this is what happens when you try to blog about something 3 months after the fact…), so I will let the pictures do the talking.

Costa Rica Trip, Day 6 – Thanksgiving with Hurricane Otto


Thanksgiving has long been a favorite holiday of mine. Getting together with my loved ones and sharing massive quantities of food – what’s not to love?

Thanksgiving 2016 strayed a bit from tradition for us. Not only were we in a foreign country, far away from family, but said country was expecting to be hit with it’s first hurricane on record.

Great….

That morning we ventured out to stock up on drinks and snacks. We got powdered milk and cereal and lots of water, just in case we lost power or got stuck in the hotel room for a long time.

The storm wasn’t supposed to make landfall until later in the day, so we wandered around town in the rain. It was eerily quiet and empty. Many of the stores were closed, and the big plate-glass windows had tape crisscrossed over them. The only people who were out and about were other tourists who were waiting out the storm just like us.

We checked out a couple of souvenir shops at the far edge of town, had lunch and then headed back to bunker down in the hotel room. We slept, ate snacks and watched TV while the rain pummeled the roof. The hurricane ended up making landfall in Nicaragua instead of Costa Rica, so other than a lot of rain and wind, La Fortuna was  just that – fortunate.

In the evening, after the rains quieted down, we went into town to get some dinner. (We really weren’t looking forward to having powdered milk and cereal.) All in all, it was a very quiet day, but of course we were very glad that we were not severely impacted by the storm.

We would resume our adventures the next day by checking out the Arenal Hanging Bridges.

Costa Rica Trip, Day 5 – Baldi Hot Springs


So many hot springs, so little time…

Ecotermales, Tabacon, Baldi, The Springs Resort, or the free springs by the side of the road?

We decided to go to Baldi Hot Springs because a.) it was the cheapest, and b.) it offered so many different pools (supposedly 25, but that’s counting the little cooling-off pools next to the big heated pools), with temperatures varying from ‘bath water’ to ‘hot as hades’.

We’d stopped by the previous day just to have a look, and they gave us a tour of the place. Then, the travel agent at our hotel hooked us up with day passes that included dinner, so we were good to go.

It was a drizzly, overcast day (Hurricane Otto was on his way) and Baldi was practically empty when we got there in the late morning. The resort is built on a hill, with the geothermally heated water filling the pools at the top and then cooling the further down you go. We started at one of the lowest pools, which was mildly warm.

We progressed up the hill, spending varying amounts of time in each pool, depending on how much we liked it. Each pool had a different vibe to it – some were quieter and offered more secluded areas, while others were bigger and more open. One even had three water slides going into it!

I was glad it was an overcast day, because I am sure I would have felt sick being in the hot sun in a hot pool. Instead, the drizzly, cool day made it just right for soaking in warm water.

The pool at the very top was unbearably hot, in my opinion. Dave liked it – he laid down on the built-in lounge chairs, but I could hardly even stick my foot into it. At one point, I bit my lip and put my feet in for probably 30 seconds. When I took them out, they were bright red!

I decided to take a walk around while Dave boiled himself in the water. There are some trails around the edge of the property, so I checked out the tropical plants, and at one point, I peeped through the foliage at the edge of the park and discovered a view over a big field with cattle grazing in it.

We decided that the next pool down from the top was the most agreeable temperature to us both, and spent a lot of time in there. It had a swim-up bar, but unfortunately for us, that was closed. I’m not sure if it was because it was the off-season, or because there was a hurricane coming in the next day, or what. It was probably a good thing, because we didn’t spend any money on drinks.

For lunch, we changed back into our clothes and drove back to town to grab a bite at La Parada. Then, we found an electronics store where we bought a new SD card for the GoPro. Dave had figured out that all the problems we were having with the GoPro was because we didn’t have the proper rated SD card! The poor little SD card just couldn’t keep up with our adventurous, high-definition lifestyle, apparently.

laparadapup
Dave snuck some scraps to this pup at La Parada.

After we’d taken care of that business, we headed back to Baldi. By then it was late afternoon and there were more people there. We put our wet bathing suits back on (ick!) and hit the pools again.  It was pretty cool looking once it started to get dark and all the lights in the pools came on.

nightpool
One of the few pics we took!

We lounged about for another few hours. Dave even tried one of the water slides. By then, it had been drizzling constantly for a while. Our towels were soaking wet because there weren’t really any covered areas to hide them. So, we changed back into our dry clothes and set out for the dinner buffet. It took us a while to figure out where it was – they had changed the location due to the oncoming storm.

DCIM100GOPROGOPR0305.JPG
It was easy to forget the time of year in the tropical climate – thank goodness for cultural reminders.

We ate in a big dining hall with a brightly decorated Christmas tree. I had almost forgotten that it was Thanksgiving eve! Definitely the first time I’ve spent that day in my bathing suit.

Up next – Day 6 – Hurricane Otto!

Costa Rica Trip, Day 4 – Arenal Volcano & Ecocentro Danaus


The main attraction of La Fortuna is Volcan Arenal – the tall, nearly-perfect cone that lurks just west of town. The history of the volcano is so interesting to me – people used to live and farm at the base of it, either not realizing it was a volcano, or thinking that it was dormant.

On the morning of July 29, 1968, the volcano spontaneously erupted, and continued to erupt for several days. The ash, lava and rocks from Arenal covered an area of about 6 square miles. It destroyed three small villages and killed many people, livestock and crops. You can read more in-depth about it here: http://www.arenal.net/arenal-volcano-1968-eruption.htm

Arenal remained active until 2010. It was a huge tourist draw – people wanted to stay in hotels with a lava view! By the time Dave and I heard about Arenal, it had stopped spewing rocks and lava, although apparently it still releases hazardous gases, so hiking up to the crater is prohibited.

On Tuesday, we headed over to Arenal National Park to check out the hiking trails. There are two hiking options that take you around the lava flows from the 1968 eruption. The landscape is prehistoric looking – I kind of felt like we were walking around in Jurassic Park, except without the dinosaurs.

We took a lot of GoPro videos, which I haven’t yet compiled and edited, except for this little cameo right here:

Towards the end of the hike, we came across a couple of capuchin monkeys. They had been in the middle of the trail, but then they hid themselves as soon as I saw them. We were trying to get a peek at them, and we could hear them making scary growling noises, but we could not see them! For a moment, I was afraid they might jump out of the grass and attack us, but luckily they aren’t those kind of primates.

We grabbed casados for lunch in La Parada, which became one of our regular restaurants for a quick, delicious meal. Then, we spent the afternoon chilling by the pool at the hotel. Oh yeah.

That evening we went back to Ecocentro Danaus for our night rainforest tour. Our guide was a young guy named Elias who spoke perfect English, which I appreciated. Right away he showed us a momma and baby sloth and told us all about how the green algae that grows on sloths is a symbiotic relationship. The algae gets passed on from the mother to baby during the baby’s first months of life. Not only does it help to camouflage the sloths, but they can obtain nutrients by licking it! He also explained how the sloths will climb up or down in the trees, depending on the temperature. And here I just thought they were super lazy.

In addition to the sloth, we saw all kinds of frogs, insects and even a little caiman. Elias apologized for there not being more animals to see – he had hoped to show us the big caiman and some snakes, but I was happy with what we saw.

After the tour, we had dinner at Life House, which was the place we’d eaten lunch at the day before. It was kind of late, so we were one of the only customers in the place, which made it feel a little awkward. But the food was good!

Costa Rica Trip, Day 2 – Exploring Fortuna


On Sunday morning, we woke to the sounds of exotic birds and animals chirping and calling in the trees outside our room. Ah, vacation.

room2
Note the non-light blocking curtains
room1
Our room was a tad smaller than what I’m used to. Or maybe we overpacked…

More adventurous folk may have chosen to rise early and run off to explore the volcano, or glide through the canopy on a zipline, but not us. We leisurely woke up, got dressed, and walked 30 feet to the outdoor dining room, where our hosts were preparing breakfast.

The meal consisted of an initial dish of fruit – a banana and a slice of melon. Then, the cook brought out a dish of mixed rice and beans (called gallo pinto), scrambled eggs, toast, and a slice of cheese. Of course there was also fresh juice and coffee or tea to drink. We sat and enjoyed the food while looking out over the gardens.

After we ate, we took a walk around the hotel gardens. They were nicely kept, but gave the impression of being entirely natural, like the groundskeeper did nothing more than mow the grass and trim everything to keep it from growing uncontrollably. I saw many familiar plants – much healthier versions of the  poor, longsuffering houseplants we keep here in the north.

We found impressive trails of leafcutter ants – so dedicated to their work that they had worn deep paths in the thick groundcover. (I’ll post videos later.)

After strolling for a while, Dave suddenly clapped his hand on his neck. “There’s something biting me, can you get it off?” he asked. I looked and saw nothing on his neck. Then, a moment later he was bitten again. And then whatever it was bit me on the face! We ran back to our room to get away from the violence. Our bites stung so badly – like a wasp sting, but there was nothing more than a little pink dot to show for it!

Once we recovered from the insect attack, we took a walk into town to explore. We wandered down the main street and looked at all the shops and restaurants, and we strolled through the park in the center of town.

We ate lunch at the Lava Lounge, which, it turns out, is a popular tourist restaurant. The food was good though – Dave very much enjoyed his arroz con pollo. It was here that we first noticed how dogs would just casually walk into restaurants and hang around waiting for handouts.

lava-lounge
At first we were charmed by the volcano-shaped rice until we realized that EVERY restaurant in town did the same thing.

After lunch, we wandered around town some more before we went back to the hotel to rest and figure out what we were going to do next. We brainstormed ideas for activities to do in the area, and then ranked everything according to how much we really wanted to do it (and how much money we wanted to spend!)

For dinner, we went to a place called La Choza de Laurel, which was also a bit of a tourist spot. It was “typical” Costa Rican food, served by women in traditional dresses. Dave got fish and I got some kind of veggie and rice platter. Oh, and a pina colada in an anthropomorphized pineapple.

pinacolada
After drinking this entire thing, I realized it had no rum in it. Boo!

After our meal, we headed back to the hotel. It was a low-key first day, but we were both so tired from working so much and sleeping so little in the days before the vacation that we were fine with a chill day. There’d be plenty of time for adventures in the days ahead!

 

Costa Rica Trip, Day 1 – Getting There


Getting to La Fortuna de San Carlos, Costa Rica is no simple trip. After staying up until 11:30 to pack, we had to get up again at 1:30 am to go to the airport. We got there so early that the check-in counter wasn’t even open yet, which meant that we stood in line for a half an hour waiting to check our bags. The plus side was that we were third in line, so once they did open we got through quickly.

plane2
Naptime is about to commence.
byect
Goodbye, Connecticut!

We flew to Atlanta, barely maintaining consciousness. I’m telling you, we probably looked like two bobble-head dolls with our heads lolling to and fro. In Atlanta, we had to walk from A to F  because the “Plane Train” broke down. Which was actually ok, because it gave us some exercise and helped us wake up a bit.

plane3
Halfway there – HAH! Little did I know…


The second flight seemed unnecessarily long – probably because we weren’t sleeping through it. We landed in Liberia at about 1pm. Getting through customs was quick and easy.

hicr
Hello, Costa Rica!

 

We rented a Hyundai Accent Blue through Adobe Rental Cars. The guys there were really nice and got us on our way quickly. The road by the airport was a mess because it was being repaired. It was so holey and bumpy I thought for sure we were going to destroy the car in the first 10 minutes of having it.

Being the cheapskates that we are, we didn’t want to pay extra for a GPS, and of course we didn’t want our phones to be roaming, so we had to rely on maps to find our way around. By this point we were pretty hungry, so we stopped at one of the first places we saw. It turned out to be some kind of Costa Rican/Asian Fusion place. Not the best first impression of Costa Rican food.

After we ate, we were quick to get back on the road. I had read that you don’t want to be driving at night in Costa Rica if you’re not familiar with where you’re going.

drivingincr1
This is the jolly good time part.

At first, the drive was a jolly good time and we were only slightly confused by the complete lack of road signage. We were excited to take everything in. The scenery was amazing and we were loving life.

windturbs
We came across a huge wind farm at dusk. It’s at the opposite end of Lake Arenal from where we were heading. 

After several hours, I figured we must be getting close to our destination, but no. If you look at the map of Laguna Arenal, it’s a huge lake. At one point we had to make a turn and we were confused about which way to go (again – complete lack of road signage!)

We stopped to ask a kid for directions and he said he was going our way. So Dave invited him to hop in. He only spoke Spanish, so I just listened to their conversation and thought about what I would do if he pulled a knife or a gun and tried to rob us. Because, America.

He rode with us for half an hour or so before we dropped him off. By then, it was completely dark. The road around the lake has a lot switchbacks – I guess because the terrain is too variable to put in a nice smooth road – so it was really rough going. Then it started to rain. In the dark and rain it felt like we just kept going around the same curves over and over and I was beginning to think we were in some kind of twilight zone. Or that I was going insane.

laguna1
Laguna de Arenal is the largest lake in Costa Rica.
smallsection
A close up, so you can see the switchbacks.


After what seemed like eternity, we arrived in La Fortuna around 7. We checked into Hotel Tangara and I was ready to lie down and sleep the minute we walked into our room. We managed to steel ourselves enough to go back out and get a quick dinner.

When we finally did get back to the room and lie down to sleep, we noticed that the curtains did not block out any light from the outside. Our room was right next to the reception area, so it was very bright. Luckily we had eye masks that we’d used to snooze on the plane, so we ended up sleeping with those over our eyes every night we were there.

Stay tuned for Day 2!

California Dreaming


California recap – continued from my last post.

Saturday morning, I woke up and hit the trail. I had my eye on it all week, as it was right across the street from the hotel. Dave and I walk on the rail trail near us quite often, so I thought it would be cool to check out this Southern California edition. It was quite different from the woodsy Connecticut trail I am used to.

img_8153

I guess they never have to worry about snow and ice, or even that much rain, deteriorating the carving or messing up the stone path. It waas cool to walk along and look at all the funky plants.

I walked about a mile but it was so bright and sunny, I was starting to feel over-sunned, so I went back to my room. The freckles on my legs were popping out like crazy. Annoying.

That afternoon, I went up to Encinitas, which was just a couple of miles north of Solana Beach. My aunt Dotty was going to be in town, so we made arrangements to meet up for lunch.

We ate at the Lotus Cafe, which had lots of yummy vegetarian options. We sat and talked for a long time, which was really nice. We had only met once before, and this was our first one-on-one. I’m so glad we were able to talk and get to know each other better. The time flew by, and I think we would have kept talking for hours if we could have!

img_8158
Post-lunch selfie!

I had thought I would spend my afternoon at the San Diego Botanic Gardens, but Dotty pointed out that they had been having such a drought lately that the plants might not be looking their best. She mentioned that there was a meditation garden in Encinitas that was free, so I decided to check that out instead.

img_8166
It had beautiful ocean views. I stood and watched the surfers for a while.
img_8181
Nice shady trees in the garden

img_8163

Lots of plants I don’t see back East!

img_8183
A bee’s work is never done

I would have liked to have stayed at the gardens for longer, but they closed at 5, so I was kindly asked to leave. Oh well. It’s definitely a place I would visit again if/when I get to go back out there!

I drove back to Solana Beach (seriously, it was like less than 5 miles away), and I walked down to the beach to watch my final Pacific Ocean Sunset. *wipes tear*

I took approximately 500 photos, but I’ll just show you one of the cool ones:

img_8262
Would I watch the sunset every night if I lived there?

The next day, it was time to pack my bags and move on. Next stop: Anaheim. I drove up early in the day, because I was told that traffic would be hideous if I waited until afternoon. I got to my hotel just before lunchtime. So I grabbed a bite to eat and then settled into my room. If it hadn’t been 104° F, I may have taken a walk around and looked at the sights, but I wanted nothing more than to be indoors.

A few months back, when I posted on Facebook that I was going to be out in California, quite a few people messaged me asking if I wanted to hang out. Of course, I would have liked to hang out with everyone, but I didn’t have that much free time!

Jakki and I have been FB friends for a long time now. I don’t remember exactly how we met – it may have been on a FB group for people with ectrodactyly. Jakki also has EEC. She was still in high school when we met, and I have watched her go through college, find a man, and settle down. (Wow, that sounds like I am the ultimate FB stalker, doesn’t it?)

Well, anyway – Jakki and her boyfriend live close enough to Anaheim that they came and picked me up and took me out for the night! It was the first time that Jakki met another person with EEC, so it was a bit emotional. It’s always neat to meet someone else with EEC and see just how similar we are. Like long-lost cousins or something.

We went to Laguna Beach, which turns out has a lot of cool art galleries. We kept popping into them, mostly so we could cool down (it was still like 100° there, believe it or not!).

img_8298
Hanging with Jakki in the Dr. Seuss exhibit!
img_8300
This one spoke to me.
img_8301
We were posing in front of a dolphin, but he didn’t quite make the photo.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After we explored a bunch of galleries, we had dinner at an Italian restaurant. It was yummy and gave us some more time to talk.

img_8286
The Mona Lisa watched me tinkle in the restaurant bathroom!

After dinner, we got gelato and ate it down by the beach, but by then the sun had already gone down. I was happy to see some stars though, as I was thinking it would be nice to see the stars over the ocean, but I never stuck around long enough after a sunset to see them.

So that was fun, getting to meet Jakki and her boyfriend. I hope she can make it to one of the NFED conferences so she can meet the rest of the EEC gang!

The next day, I was working from my hotel room and checking in on the booth setup for the trade show. I was pretty excited to get upgraded to a suite at the Marriott. It was hands down, the nicest hotel room I have ever stayed in. It felt pretty weird being in it alone though. It would have been fun to have had Dave there with me. It was too much space for just one person! Not to mention, I really didn’t want to leave it to go down to the tradeshow. haha!

I won’t bore you with talk of the trade show. Blah blah blah. Does anyone actually enjoy these things?

Tuesday evening arrived, and it was time to head home. Despite enjoying my time out there, I was missing Dave and my furballs, and the thought of fall back home. So I headed to the John Wayne Airport to wait for my flight.

I had a few hours to kill, so I figured I’d try out Ruby’s Diner, which is supposed to be a SoCal staple.

 

It was barely 7pm when I went in, and they were already closing up shop. I was able to get a sandwich and fries, and of course, a chocolate shake. I figured I would stuff myself before I got on the plane so that I could sleep without getting hungry.

Another two hours later, and I was on the plane! I should have taken a picture of my ridiculous getup – extra-thick neck pillow, light-blocking eye cover, and earplugs. By the grace of all that is holy, the seat next to me was unoccupied, so I was able to relax even more and not worry about bumping elbows with some shmuck next to me.

I wouldn’t say it was a deep, restful sleep, but it passed the time. Before long, it was 4:50 am, and we were taxiing into Newark.

While I was wandering around Newark waiting for my flight to Hartford, I stumbled into the MET store. I saw they had a little Spirograph kit for $25. I held it. I looked at it. I put it back. I went out to the gate, sat down, and ordered one on Amazon instead.

img_8365
Because I am 12 at heart.

I had this idea that I could use the spirographs to start a zentangle design. So that’s what I played with this weekend.

img_8369
Attempt 1
img_8371
Attempt 2

I think there’s some promise there! But the Spirograph is still hard to use. I had one as a kid and I was always getting frustrated because I would lose control of the pen and ruin the design. Maybe now I will have the patience to master it. Maybe.

Well, that wraps up my California experience. I hope I can go back again before too long! It’s one of those places I’ve always wanted to go, but it took a work trip to actually get me out there!

Now I am sick – I picked up a cold or something on the plane, I assume. I was going to go to bed early tonight, so I guess I should get on that before “early” turns into “late”.

Au revoir!

 

Good Morning!


I am currently sitting in the Newark airport, trying to keep my eyes open. I had a red-eye flight from Santa Ana, CA that landed here at 4:50 am. My flight to Hartford isn’t until 8:05. I had a hearty breakfast, even though I wasn’t really hungry. I figured it might jump start my body into comprehending that it’s a new day. 

There is a lot to post about my trip to California! I meant to do daily updates, or at least a couple of updates while I was out there, but as you can see, I did not. 

Instead, I spent pretty much every evening on the beach, watching the sun go down and the seagulls and plovers and surfers all doing their thing. Then I would go back to my room and eat dinner. And… I got caught up watching Fuller House. I guess nostalgia really gets ahold of me. I loved Full House when I was a kid so seeing all the same characters return as adults was fun. And honestly, the show was making me laugh a lot. 

Ok, so to sum up my California experience:

I flew into San Diego last Sunday. I quickly picked up my rental car (a Ford Fiesta, which was not nearly as much fun to drive as the name would suggest) and headed up to Solana Beach. The first thing I noticed, aside from all the palm trees, was how wide the highway (sorry – freeway) was. And everyone drives so fast! I never did figure out what the speed limit was, but I was going over 70 and cars were flying past me like I was a turtle. 

Solana Beach was beautiful. I stayed at the Courtyard Marriott, which I wasn’t all that impressed with at first, but it grew on me as the week went by. I liked that everything was walkable. The office where I was doing my training was only about a mile from the hotel. Each day we would just walk to a restaurant for lunch. There was only one other person in the training class – a woman from New Jersey named Nanci. She was very nice, so we went to lunch together each day and even to dinner one night. 

Each day after the class, I went back to the hotel and did a little work. Then I would head to the beach, watch the sunset and come back. I can never eat very much food in one sitting, so most nights I just had leftovers for dinner. It probably sounds lame, but I also hate eating in restaurants by myself. It’s like eating alone in the school cafeteria. It’s not so bad at an airport, because a lot of people are traveling alone, but in a regular restaurant everyone’s either on a date or dining with friends or family. So it’s weird.  

On Friday, there was no training, so I worked in my hotel room. It was pretty agonizing because I really wanted to go out and explore. But I managed to get caught up on a bunch of stuff and then I let myself go play. 

I decided to check out Torrey Pines State Park. It was a short drive from Solana Beach. Here are some of the pics I took that day. 


It was really neat to see what the natural landscape of the coast looks like. It seems like everywhere else is built up with fancy houses or resorts. To see just how fragile the landscape is was a bit unnerving. These sandstone cliffs aren’t exactly the most stable. 

There’s more to write about the trip, but I will stop here  for now because all this rehydrating is giving me an urgent need to find a bathroom. 

Up next: my lunch date with Dotty and my dinner date with Jakki!

15 Years Ago…


In September 2001, my friend Sarah and I took a trip to Oregon to visit her family, who had just relocated there. It was my first time traveling further west than the Mississippi River, and my first time on a plane since I was 16. Dave and I had only recently started dating, and I cried when he dropped me off for the shuttle to the Newark Airport. I was nervous about flying and being so far from home.

I don’t remember what it was like to go through security, or if there even was security. I just remember meeting Sarah at the gate and commencing the trip. We kept joking about the scene in Meet the Parents where Greg Focker has an altercation with a stewardess over his luggage and keeps saying the word “bomb” over and over. Bomb bomb bomb. You gonna arrest me? Bomb bomb bomb bomb! During the war I was a BOMBadier! Hilarious, right?

As the plane took off, the pilot pointed out how we’d be able to see Manhattan and the Twin Towers as we flew over New York City. The flight seemed like it took forever. We had a layover in Minneapolis which was foreign and weird to my young self. When we finally got to Portland, it was dark and felt like it must have been 2 am, though it was probably more like 7 pm. Sarah’s parents met us at the gate – you could do that then – and drove us another 2+ hours to Newport.

The Oregon coast did not disappoint. We spent the trip exploring the beaches and various scenic overlooks along Route 101. We hung out with Sarah’s family and met other Christadelphians in their area. I played Nintendo with her little brothers. We visited the Tillamook Cheese Factory. It felt a lot like Vermont, if Vermont had been plopped next to the ocean.

sarahs-birthday
Celebrating Sarah’s birthday!

Jet lag hit me hard out there. I was always one for staying up half the night and sleeping in late the next morning, and every night we were staying up so late, it was getting to be early morning at home. My internal clock had no idea what was going on. The day before our flight home, I woke up to one of Sarah’s brothers shaking me and saying my name. I rolled over groggily and somewhat confused. He quickly told me how planes had crashed into the World Trade Center and into the Pentagon, and another one had crashed in a field in PA.

I didn’t really comprehend what he was telling me – I thought maybe he was just pulling my leg to get me to wake up. When I headed into the living room, I saw Sarah’s whole family was gathered there, eyes fixed to the TV. On the screen, black smoke billowed from the towers. It was surreal. It looked like something from a movie, but from the emotions in the reporters voices, it was clearly real and happening live.

The shock of something like this happening in our country was immense. Our plans for that day fell to the wayside. Our flight home the next day was cancelled. The jolly mood we’d been enjoying came to a screeching halt. Personally, I was absolutely terrified.

If you are a Christadelphian, or ever were one, you will get what I am about to say. There was excitement in the air among the group. Christadelphians are constantly on the watch for “signs of the times” pointing to the return of Christ. Usually, to read these signs you needed to be a dedicated student of bible prophecy and have a keen understanding of foreign politics (neither of which I was interested in doing). Well, this particular sign was written in smoke and flames, so even the lowliest among us would see it.

That night, we went to a bible study group at the home of a Christadelphian family nearby. I sat silently as the others chatted excitedly about the possibility of these attacks meaning that the end was near. Maybe this would be the beginning of World War III? Christ’s return was just around the corner! Christadelphians love to fantasize about the Kingdom. “It will be just like being at Bible school!” they always say.

Well, I certainly hoped that wasn’t true that Christ was about to make his way down through the clouds. I had already been questioning my faith and thinking about leaving the Christadelphians, although it would take me several years before I would finally cut the cord. I was still very much afraid of the wrath of the Lord Jesus Himself if he returned.

Since our return flight was cancelled, along with every other flight in the nation, we weren’t sure how we were going to get back to the east coast. No one knew when flights would resume, or if we we’d be able to get on one right away once they did. We looked into renting a car, thinking we could make it a cross-country adventure. But we were too young to drive a rental car across state lines.

I emailed my family and Dave, and my friends back home. I wished I could transport myself through the phone lines somehow. Not knowing what was going to happen was stressful. My mom told me that my Uncle Bill was stuck in Alaska, and my Uncle Brian was stuck in Boston. He had actually been scheduled to fly out the next day on the same flight as the one that hit the north tower.

We were able to get a flight home on the 16th. We left Sarah’s parents house at 12:30 am. We had to arrive at the airport really early because security was expected to be extremely tight. We got there at 2am and got in line. I can’t remember how long it took to get through security – I wrote surprisingly little about it all in my journal. I do remember that once we got through, we bought bagels and they wouldn’t even give us plastic knives to spread the cream cheese. We had to use spoons. And of course there was no joking about bombs this time. Everyone was on edge, but at the same time, it felt like we were all in this together. People actually looked at each other and made small talk.

The flight was direct to Newark. One thing I did write in my journal was that they let us watch movies for free, so we saw Dr. Doolittle and Bridget Jones’ Diary, and I was glad that there was something to keep my mind occupied. As the plane descended into Newark, the scene in lower Manhattan was visible. Smoke was still rising from the rubble.

Sarah and I parted ways and I took a shuttle back up to Connecticut. It was a somber scene as we drove across the George Washington Bridge and looked towards where the towers had been. There was a haze of smoke and dust where just a week before, I had seen the two towers standing. Again, the feeling was surreal.

I was so glad to be home again. I held so tightly to Dave in the days thereafter. We watched so much news coverage and cried so much in those days. I had nightmares about it being the end of the world. I felt sick with grief and worry, even though no one I knew had been directly impacted. The following weekend I drove up to Vermont so I could see my family and hug them all tightly. Everyone was so emotionally raw at that time. It really made you think about what was important, and what wasn’t.

Of course I am grateful that nobody close to me was directly impacted by the events that day. Inconvenienced, maybe. Frightened, definitely. My still heart aches for all the families who lost loved ones that day. In reflecting on the past 15 years, it saddens me to think that we really haven’t come very far, in terms of feeling safe, or unified as a nation. In fact, it seems that we are more divided than ever, and that animosity towards “the others” is growing stronger every day.

Next week, I fly out west again. This time for a business trip. I think I will make more of an effort to keep my head up and look people in the eye. It is so easy to pretend to be occupied on the phone, or so busy with responding to emails that you can’t possibly make small talk. But it helps to remember that we are all just fragile human beings. You never know what difference one small, kind gesture can make.