the Long's Strange Trip

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~  What a Long, Strange Trip It's Been ~
January 13 through February 17, 2001
$1 U.S. = 9500 Indonesian Rupiah
$1 U.S. = $1 U.S.
(Remember to click on the thumbnails for enlargements of the photos)

Ubud, Bali, Indonesia
January 13 through February 17, 2001

(ccl)  It seems like eons ago that Wiley and me were walking through our old neighborhood in Atlanta after work one day, casually discussing an appropriate tag to bestow upon our impending world journey and our web site.  Now the last days of the trip are extinguishing themselves with blazing speed, and the future looms before us, like a thundering heard of elephants on the horizon.  In just six days we leave Bali to fly to San Francisco, touching American soil for the first time in over a year.

OK, OK - for you purists out there, I did go home late last February in hopes of retrieving our computer, only to find that a Mexican customs official was probably enjoying its sleek design and its exceptional speed at dealing solitaire.  After buying a new computer, I was back on my way, joining up with Wiley in Mexico City before flying to Peru to continue to trip.  Lots of water under the bridge since then - Peru, Bolivia, Spain, Morocco, Egypt, Turkey, Greece, India, Nepal, Thailand, and now, finally, the tropical paradise of Bali.  We often congratulate ourselves on the stroke of genius that made us choose Bali as our ultimate stop on the trip.  Beautiful surroundings, wonderful people with remarkably intact cultural and religious practices, incredible shopping, great food, and rock-bottom prices.  We've liked it so much, we've stayed well past what we originally planned. 

Our Balinese paradise  Our stay in Bali wouldn't have been as close to perfect as it has been had we not found the villa we stayed in at Sayan Terrace.  Perched on the edge of the Agung River gorge, Sayan Terrace is the kind of place you dream about finding when you're traveling the world on the budget.  Situated on prime real-estate and surrounded by more upmarket places, Sayan Terrace had everything we wanted - our own house with phone and kitchen, astounding views, and a pool.  But finding it wasn't easy, even though it turned out that Sayan Terrace is listed in Lonely Planet Bali.  We tracked down leads in the local free paper, trekking for miles outside of Ubud to look at several places.  We turned into one place on a whim, because it looked interesting.  We were getting ready to turn the motorbike around when we saw the security guard booth and the gate, but he gave us a friendly smile and a wave, raised the gate, and encouraged us to "have a look!".  Turns out it was the newest super luxury hotel in Sayan, where rooms start at $450 per night and go up above $1000.  They only had one guest - couldn't have been the high prices keeping the tourists away, I'm sure - so the staff were sufficiently bored to insist that they show us a room.  We boarded the courtesy golf cart, always a sure sign of an upscale place, and were shown to the most sumptuous hotel room I've ever seen.  We once stayed at the Ritz-Carlton on Maui when Wiley's company took us to Hawaii.  Wiley had had a really good year, and we were given a gorgeous suite.  The little framed price list in the closet (one of the closets - there were several) said the room went for $2500 per night.   I've never quite understood how people bring themselves to pay that kind of money for a room.  Apparently, the manager of this hotel didn't either, because he indicated to us that the price was "flexible", if we were interested.  We ended up getting a great place with an even better view for lots less money.  

And right over there is where the Wal-Mart's going  Ah, the view.  I hope I stared out at it for a sufficiently long period of time so that it is indelibly imprinted on my brain.  The view here is so amazing that tour guides bring their charges in front of our house to see it.  It's fun to watch people stand there, open-mouthed, making little "ooooh"- and "aaaah"-type noises.  They inevitably look up at us and no doubt wonder what we're paying.  

After five or six days at Sayan Terrace, I began to understand how people go to tropical islands on vacations and end up staying a lifetime.  There's no rush to do anything.  You can sleep as much as you want and no one cares.  You have breakfast cooked and brought to you, and you sip your fabulous island-grown coffee while staring out at the view.  You might go into town for some lunch at a little restaurant, or you might fix yourself a tuna sandwich and dive into yet another book, or swim a few laps and then sun yourself on the side of the pool.  Or you might browse in the shops, or write in your journal.  In the late afternoon you call up the staff for some beers, then you watch night fall like black velvet around you.  The next day's pretty much like the last, and they go by surprisingly quickly that way.

I wondered what the staff thought of us.  They probably don't get that many long term guests, and most people typically rush out of their rooms in the morning to diligently complete a packed sight-seeing agenda.  Whoever brought our breakfast would inevitably ask, "You have program today?", (I think this is one of the "stock" questions they teach them to ask in school of tourists, like, "Where are you from?" and "How much you pay for that?") and we would usually reply, "Well, no not really.  We may work on the computer, or we may read, or we might do some shopping.".  Maybe thinking that it was time we got out and saw his island, Ketut, one of the staff members at Sayan Terrace, invited us to come to his parent's home with him on his day off.  We accepted, knowing that he was from a small village, and thinking that we would have a chance to see the real Bali.

Ketut had told us that the trip would take a couple of hours by motobike, plus he had planned a couple of stops along the way at some interesting sites.  We first stopped in the town of Klungkung, once the center of Bali's most important kingdom.  Klungkung has an interesting palace complex, which we stopped briefly to tour.  Ketut is still learning English, so he wasn't able to tell us much about the significance of the place.  We hired a local man as a guide, a colorful old character who made the history of the place come alive.  He told us about how in the Kertha Gosa, or "Hall of Justice", where Balinese kings, priests, and eventually Dutch governors heard criminal and civil cases from the surrounding villages.  The ceilings of the pavillion were painted with various scenes depicting the punishments that would be given for certain crimes.  I especially liked the scene depicting the man who had been cruel to animals.  He looked to be in agony as a vicious dog was allowed to chew on his leg as if it were a large beef bone.  Most of the punishments seemed to correspond to the Biblical mandate of an eye-for-an-eye.  For example, the crimes of prostitution and adultery involved the application of a flaming torch to those "areas" of the body that had been directly involved in the transgressions.  

Another pavillion, known as the Floating Pavillion, sat in the middle of a lake of Japanese koi fish and stunning lotus blooms.  This building was used by the king for rest and relaxation, and the ceilings were painted with scenes from traditional Balinese life.  Our guide explained the panels that dealt with how Balinese marry.  Things haven't changed much, as the groom's family essentially "courts" the bride's family.  They all go over to the bride's house, and if everybody gets along, and the couple likes each other, there is a huge wedding celebration.  Since this celebration is expensive, many Balinese have taken to elopment today.

An interesting museum in the complex shows scenes from a hopeless battle fought by the Balinese kings in 1906 against Dutch domination.  The Dutch had been on the island since the late 16th century, and had profited greatly from the spice trade.  Dutch interests became entangled with the local kingdoms, and battles began.  Finally, the Dutch took Denpasar (now the capital).  Defeat for the Balinese royalty was inevitable, as the Dutch heavily outnumbered and outgunned them, but believing that death in battle was preferable to surrender, the kings burned their palaces and marched into battle in full ceremonial attire.  The pleas of the Dutch for surrender went unheeded, and the Balinese were slaughtered.  Since they believed that death during battle resulted in instant nirvana, and release from the continual cycle of reincarnation, one can understand why the Balinese were all too willing to die this way.

Ketut then told us we were going to the Bat Cave.  I expected superheros, proper English butlers named Albert, and a slightly effeminate sidekick, but was instead treated to one of the oddest worship rituals we have witnessed on the trip.  The Bat Cave is actually a Hindu temple called Pura Goa Lawah, and the faithful go there to pray and make offerings to send the recently cremated souls of their family and friends on their journey.  This ceremony is typically held a week after the cremation, and family members bring offerings like fruit, live chickens, and sweets to the mouth of a large cave while a Brahmin priest chants and shakes holy water over their heads.  On the day we visited, there were fifty men, women, and children sitting cross-legged at the mouth of the cave, chanting and praying and making offerings.  The deceased's family sat in the front row and was the focus of the activity.  Inside the mouth of the cave hung hundreds, maybe thousands is screeching bats.  The little shrines inside the cave were coated with bat droppings and around the top of one of them was coiled a huge snake.  Supposedly the snake, which the Hindus believe is sacred, only comes out on ceremony days, and no doubt enjoys throttling the live chickens left for his enjoyment.

On the way to Ketut's village we ran up against one of the many police roadblocks that seem to spring up on Bali.  Are they looking for a criminal?  No!  Making sure everyone is wearing his or her seatbelt?  Hah!  They're doing nothing more than hassling motorists, looking to find somebody without his registration or with a cracked tail light, in hopes of extracting a bribe.  In our case, we had been pulled over before, and knew that we'd have to pay a (relatively) heavy fine for the fact that Wiley didn't have an international driver's license (a requirement that somehow doesn't get mentioned by the person you rent the motorbike from).  This cop wanted to play coy with us, and told us that in our country, an offense like this would cost us $100.  We wanted to get on our way, and attempted to speed up the process by handing the guy some money, but he wanted more out of us, obviously, because we were tourists.  If it hadn't been for Ketut, we'd probably have paid much more than the 50,000 rupiah he finally got out of us.  Ketut must have apologized five or six times for the corrupt nature of the police force in his country, but we told him it was OK, we knew we were in the wrong and would have to pay.  I guess it's the way of the world in some areas. 

We finally reached Ketut's parent's house, and met them and his brother, who's also named Ketut.  I quickly calculated that this meant there were eight children in the family, and Ketut explained that four of them had died.  Imagine - having half of your children die before you - so much sadness in your lifetime.  Ketut's parents were sweet, simple people, who grow rice and live a quiet life.  Ketut's brother and sister live close by, and he explained that as the youngest son, it is his responsibility to one day come home and take care of his parents.  He doesn't look forward to this, because he feels he'll be bored in the village, but it's his duty, and he will do it.

After a lunch of fish satay and steamed rice, which we ate with our hands, we said goodbye to Ketut's family and headed back to Sayan.  We stopped on the way at a gorge with a pounding waterfall.  Ketut proposed that we hike down and take a swim.  We had both worn our flip-flops, not knowing that there would be strenuous activities on the day's "program", but we clambered down the muddy, nearly vertical hillside, half stepping, half sliding.  At the bottom there was a raging river to cross before the waterfall could be reached.  Wiley and Ketut made the trip over, as I didn't trust my wounded leg to get me across.  A farmer shimmied up a nearby coconut tree and we all drank fresh, delicious coconut water before scrambling back up the bank and starting for home.  On the way back to the main road, we passed through several small villages, where children and adults alike called out cheerful "Hello!"s to us as we motored past.

Ketut has a brother, Nyoman, who works at a four-star hotel just down the road from Sayan Terrace.  We stopped by there for a drink one night as he was tending bar.  Nyoman has been in the tourism industry several more years than Ketut, and has worked in the frenzied tourist haven of Kuta, so he speaks English very well.  He told us about how last fall he responded to an add in the paper for opportunities to get jobs in hotels in Finland.  Nyoman and 200 other local Balinese men applied, going through physicals and interviews and English tests in the process.  Fifty-three men were selected, and Nyoman was one of them.  Though you might be thinking, "Finland?  Why would move north to the frozen tundra when you live in tropical paradise?", Nyoman saw it as the opportunity of a lifetime, because there just aren't many chances for advancement in Bali.  He was ecstatic, and eagerly paid his $1200 to the "agency" for his plane ticket and work visa.  After selling his motorcycle to buy a warm coat and other clothes, he and the fifty-two other lucky applicants arrived at the office at 6:00 A.M. on the appointed morning to pick up their plane tickets.  The office was locked and bare, and the two people who had conducted the "interviews" had vanished.  Nyoman had lost all the money he had in the world, and had to crawl back to his previous employer begging for his job, which he was given, minus his seniority that he had previously earned. 

I have thought so much about Nyoman's story.  That these people from Finland could take advantage of such sweet, trusting humans as the Balinese makes me embarrassed to be from the West.  I never cease to be amazed at the friendliness they display towards strangers, and their innocent ways.  I have worried for most of this trip about being robbed, and have never left a hotel room without locking up the computer because of it.  In Bali, I haven't given it a second thought, because I know that no one will steal it.  The Balinese firmly believe that bad deeds will come back to haunt you.  One day Ketut came into our house with an envelope and handed it to me.  He explained that they had found 60,000 rupiah in the pocket of Wiley's shorts, and he was bringing it back.  Most places, you would never have even known you left the money in there.

Kecak singers and dancer  I mentioned in 2001: A Gutter Odyssey that the Balinese are quite famous for their tradition of cultural dance.   Our new world-traveling friends, Ed and Linda Hawkins, had highly recommended the Kecak dance, and had even left tickets for us at their hotel that they couldn't use before they left town.  We went one Saturday night, and it was one of the most entertaining and remarkable performances I've seen and heard on this trip.  The dance is accompanied not by the typical gamelan band, as are most Balinese dances, but by a group of about fifty men who chant and sing.  Different men chant different parts, and the result is something like the noise of a steam locomotive barreling down the tracks.  One guy starts it with:


Then some more guys join in with:

"Chak-a chak-a chak-a..."

Which continues as other guys start up with a kind of an:

"Um-dup um-dup um-dup...",

on the off-beat.  When everybody's going good, they're all bouncing up and down and smiling at each other, like they're having the time of their lives - and they probably are.  Then one old man with a high, soft voice begins to sing over the whole melange of chanting, and I assume his song was telling some kind of story.  Some dancers eventually come out, but time and again my attention was drawn back to the chanting men, as they bounced and smiled and elbowed each other, swaying to and fro throughout.  The grand finale was when the dancers briefly went backstage, and one of them came back with a large sack full of coconut husks, which he dumped on the floor and squirted with something combustible.  When the husks were embers, the chanters came back out and sat cross-legged in two rows on each side of the fire, facing each other in front of the front row of the audience.  An old man came out riding something that I can only compare to a child's stick horse.  Before you even have time to think, "What the hell??", the old man begins "riding" his horse through the burning husks, stomping directly one some and kicking others to send a shower of sparks through the room.  Despite the fact that they seemed to be in danger of sustaining third-degree burns, the chanters continued to bounce and smile as they dodged flaming projectiles.  Eventually the old man on the stick horse collapsed from his "trance", and a priest revived him with holy water.  The crowd rose in unison, all of us gaping and clapping and thoroughly impressed.  

Wiley with Patrick, his surfing instructor, and Brian, owner of Naughty Nury's  We began to get a taste of what it would be like to "check out", like so many people seem to have done here, and live on Bali full time.  There's a definite ex-patriot "scene" in Ubud, and we were part of it on several occasions.  The local bars and restaurants seem to be aware of the fact that there aren't enough locals and tourists to sustain a crowd in their establishments seven days a week, so they seem to only try to stage events a couple of nights a week.  Hence, the crowd follows.  It's the Jazz Cafe for delicious food and live jazz on Tuesdays, then Naughty Nury's for fresh grilled tuna and tuna sashimi on Thursdays.  Exiles has a live band on Saturday nights starting at nine, making it the only "late night" place in town.  We found it fun seeing the same people again and again, and even got to know a few of them.  But I'm thinking that it could start to feel like the same old/same old if you lived here all year.  I suppose that's why many of the ex-pats we talked to go home for a couple of months once a year.  

It was on the way home from "live band night" at Exiles that we met Domino.  There was a back road that lead from Ubud to Sayan, where we lived, and we were taking it slowly, as the road was being re-surfaced and the road crew had left it in a major state of disarray (nothing happens quickly in Bali, especially not road or sidewalk work).  All of a sudden, a tiny puppy tarted out in front of our motorbike and stopped, cowering in front of the tire and refusing to move.  Bali has a terrible stray-dog population, and dark streets are filled with howling, snarling mongrels.  This puppy appeared to be terrified, and Wiley instinctively scooped her up.  We started back on our way, and after getting about 500 yards down the road asked ourselves just what we thought we were doing?  Bringing a puppy that we know we can't keep, that may still have a mother somewhere, back to our hotel??  So we turned the bike around and went back to where we found her and put her down.  By this time the neighborhood dogs were going full bore, fulfilling the universal truth that if one dog barks, every dog in the vicinity will bark.  The puppy scrunched herself under our bike and refused, again, to move.  We realized that we couldn't leave her in the middle of all of those snarling hounds, so we picked her up again and headed for home.

Back at the house we gave her a full inspection.  She was mangy and skinny, smelled terrible and had a number of ticks.  We got ready to give her a bath, and Wiley put on Van Morrison's "St. Dominick's Preview" disc.  When the song "Domino" came on, we knew that this tiny, two-spotted puppy had a name.  We cleaned her up and went to bed, not knowing what we'd do with her the next day.

A tiny, itchy puppy  Looking at Domino in the harsh light of day, we realized that this was one sick puppy.  Malnourished and seriously mangy, she needed some veterinarian care.  We remembered seeing a sign for a vet down the road, and we took her for a visit.  He didn't speak English, but showed us the insert from a package of an injection he gave her - guaranteed to kill skin and internal parasites on cows, sheep, and camels.  OK, maybe this guy didn't see many dogs, but it turned out he knew what he was doing.  He prescribed amoxycillin for secondary infections caused by her constantly chewing on herself, and a children's vitamin syrup to deal with nutritional deficiencies.

Back home, I asked Ketut, the manager of our hotel, if he knew anyone who would like to have a puppy.  He said no problem, we could leave her here and they would look after her when we left.  We now had a pet for the next four weeks, and I had someone to practice my amateur vet skills on.

Quickly, with access to nutritious food, Domino began to thrive.  Her mange went away, she began to put on weight, and she developed a zest for life.  Domino was from the "eat first, ask questions later" school, and seemed to always be sniffing around looking for something to eat.  She tried rocks, pieces of roofing tile, flowers - you name it, it went in her mouth.  Some things got spit out, and others she judged safe for canine consumption.  She quickly learned how to fetch and slept through the nights on a pillow beside our bed.  The staff took a shine to her and promised to look after her when we left.  It was entirely rewarding to see this pitiful little creature transform into a beautiful, vibrant young dog.  I kind of felt like Cinderella's fairy godmother, and as I watched her tear around the house playing with Wiley, I thought of all of the dogs that are born on this island into treacherous circumstances, that never get to be loved by humans.  I hope that one day, when I'm a vet, I go to places like Bali and do something to improve the plight of these pathetic animals.   What a few weeks of regular grub will do for you

While we were on Bali, a day never passed that we didn't see a festival happening somewhere.  We tried to go to a cremation, but were too late and missed the procession of the body and the lighting of the pyre.  Cremations are a huge deal here - I have actually seen people wearing t-shirts that say such-and-such cremation and give the date, as if it were a rock concert or something.  Balinese cremations are very large and elaborate gatherings, often involving more than one dead person.  Everyone in the village attends, so they are very expensive, because all the guests have to be fed and an elaborate pyre must be built.  Because of this, many people have to bury their loved ones in cemeteries while they save money for the cremation, then dig mom or dad up for the "final' festivities. 

Another strange Balinese custom is the tooth-filing ceremony.  The pointy canine teeth are associated with evil spirits, so every good Balinese is supposed to have a large, expensive ceremony in the temple in which the priest files his teeth down to a straight, even smile.  Today the ceremony is symbolic only, with the priest making only one pass of the file, but we met one guy who had had it done, and he said it still hurt quite a bit!

Wiley emails his Hell's Angels friends around the world  Lest you think it was all play during the last month of the trip, let me assure you that we both had many tasks to accomplish in preparation for our return.  We had to buy our plane tickets to San Francisco and Atlanta, make appointments with professors at UC-Davis in the vet and nutrition schools, rearrange our (much dwindled) stock portfolio, pay bills, buy new health insurance, and email friends and family back home.  Plus we somehow managed to get in two workouts a week at a hotel gym in Ubud, so we will amaze and astound everyone with our top physical conditioning when we return.  Wiley even managed to check off an item on his Life Long Things-To-Do list: he learned to surf.

We met Patrick at Nury's one night.  Patrick was 55, used to own a surf shop in Australia, and fulfilled his dream of moving to Bali several years ago.  He now teaches tourists how to surf, promising that you'll stand up on the board by the end of the day, or your money back.  Wiley had tried surfing more than ten years ago in Hawaii, but needed more instruction.  Patrick first taught him to paddle, then to stand up on the board while on the beach, then they took off for the waves.  It was a windy day, and Wiley was exhausted just trying to stay in position while waiting for the waves.  But he caught several good ones and enjoyed the day, and feels that he can now add "surfer" to the continually burgeoning list of adjectives that can be used to describe him.

Patrick also told Wiley that the beach at Kuta gets really trashy this time of year because of a major current shift.  He said that usually it's really clean and beautiful, so I wanted to mention that, because I earlier deemed it the Nastiest Beach I've Ever Seen.

But despite the need to accomplish a number of tasks, we also felt the need to slow down, to absorb the last few days of what has been the most amazing year of both of our lives.  Sometimes I would be in the chaise lounge on the bottom floor of the house, and would put down my book and stare out at the view and think, "For Pete's sake, it's almost over!!  Am I taking all of this in??  Am I getting enough of this to carry me through the next several hectic years of my life??  Do I fully appreciate what I've gained this year??", and other such existential-type ruminations.  While I was looking forward to going home, to seeing friends and family, and our cats, and getting started on "what comes next", I wanted it all this trip, and everything it's been about, to never end.  One of the things that Wiley and I talked about in our last Sunday planning meeting was how to take some of this trip back with us.  How to incorporate our "world-traveler" selves into our "normal" selves.  We decided that the most important thing we could take home with us was our new sense of "awareness".  Whether it's noticing how you're sitting, or the simple beauty of a small blossom, or the business-like efficiency of a team of ants, or the reasons that people live differently from us, we both want to continue to see it all like we never did before the trip.  The sun begins to set on the Long's Strange Trip

Our last day in Bali dawned rainy, then cleared.  We puttered around the house, filling our packs for the last time, leaving behind some things that didn't seem necessary anymore, and adding others to the "Long's Strange Trip Time Capsule", to be opened in ten years.  Domino seemed to sense that something was up, although she was too preoccupied with when her next gourmet dog meal would be served to grasp that we were leaving, this time for good.  I had started feeding her out back by the staff quarters, and she knew that her food came from there now, and not our kitchen, as evidenced by her obsession with the back door.  When it was time to go we gathered our packs and headed back there, Domino in close pursuit.  I held the last of her dog food, and wild horses couldn't have kept her from me.  I gave it to Ketut, along with her chew toys and some bones we had picked up the night before at Nury's for her.  Wiley and I said a tearful goodbye to Domino, and quickly headed for the parking lot as the staff fed her her lunch.  I couldn't bear to watch her from the parking lot, I knew, so it was better to leave her there.  This way, my last memories of her will be of a healthy, energetic little puppy, struggling to be put down so that she can gobble her lunch, tail furiously wagging, voraciously licking anyone who got within tongue distance.  While it was nearly impossible to pull myself away, I knew that taking her with us would mean 19 hours in a cage in the cargo hold of the plane, then six months in quarantine with U.S. Customs.  It seemed that she'd live a much better life in Bali, and I trust that Ketut and the others will take good care of her.

Completing our impressive string of "Difficult Departures from Foreign Lands", we had to pay a $40 fine at the airport for staying one day over our sixty day visas.  I had miscounted when I was figuring what day we needed to fly home by counting 24-hour periods, when I should have just started counting at the first day we arrived on the island.  Oh well.  I have a sneaking suspicion that they money, or at least part of it, went into the pocket of the immigration officer and his boss, but I can't prove that.  

Our flight home had two legs, first from Denpasar to Taipei, then Taipei to San Francisco, all on China Airlines.  When we booked the tickets, I feared that China Airlines would be similar to Aeroflot, the old Soviet airline.  I figured the flight attendants would wear Mao Tse Tung jackets, the meal service wouldn't extend far past cold sticky rice and water, and the in-flight movie would be a chop-socky flick dubbed in such a way that no one's lips moved with the voice track.  But my fears were unfounded, as we quickly learned upon check-in.  China Airlines was modern and efficient, with new planes, great food, and friendly service.  We landed in San Francisco about 30 minutes late because of fog, but none the worse for wear after traveling from the other side of the world.

San Francisco, California, U.S.A.
February 17 through March 3, 2001

I had often wondered how I would feel when I stepped onto American soil for the first time in a year.  I wondered if goose bumps would appear on my arms, if a lump would form in my throat, and if a tear would well up in my eye, when I saw the Stars and Stripes.  In addition, I anticipated a lengthy session with the immigration or customs authorities, in which they'd scrutinize our passports, take scrapings from the insides of our backpacks, which they would subsequently examine under a microscope, and question us at length in a small, windowless room with poor ventilation and one glaring, bare light bulb. 

To my surprise, no one even looked at us twice.  They simply waved us through and collected our forms, smiling that gleaming California smile and welcoming us home.  I had no goose bumps and no tears, but I was happy to be back home.  Emerging from Customs I quickly located the faces of my sister, Nancy, and a strange man who turned out to be my 15-year-old nephew, Andrew, in the crowd.  Now taller than me, deep-voiced, and shaving, Andrew was evidence of the first of what I'm sure will be many changes in our friends and family.

Our trip through the city and into the town of Tiburon, where my sister and her family live, took less than an hour.  I didn't even notice when we went over the Golden Gate Bridge, which was dark due to the current power crunch in California.  Despite the fact that the state's deregulation had been fodder for international news magazines for several weeks, we didn't notice that it made much of an impact on the Californians we spent time with.  The first several days of our visit were uncharacteristically rainy, but we had that famous California sunshine for the second week of our trip, pretty much non-stop.

Wiley and I both experienced mild culture shock during a brief stop at the grocery store that evening.  So much to choose from!  We weren't prepared!  My search for our favorite brand of toothpaste, Arm & Hammer Baking Soda Original, revealed FOUR new varieties of the stuff!  In America, we forget, or take for granted, that we have nearly infinite choice of so many consumer products.  In most countries we visited, there were only a couple of kinds of toothpaste to choose from.  Somehow, people seem not only to be able to deal with this phenomena, but many of them actually thrive.  Astounding...

We spent our first few days back in the country overcoming jet lag, talking with my sister, and adjusting to sticker shock.  We had no warm clothes, so we made a trip to Banana Republic to buy some jeans.  One hundred and twenty dollars bought us each one pair of jeans - it seemed exorbitant, but we had to remind ourselves that just over a year ago we readily paid prices like that.  Welcome to America, land of the ?? and home of the ??.

But we were glad to be home.  We had a pretty extensive agenda for our two weeks in San Francisco, which included visiting with my sister and brother-in-law and their two sons, hooking up with old friends, visiting the campus of the University of California in Davis, which has the only vet school in California, and Wiley's meeting with a longevity doctor from Berkeley whose book he had read while we were on the road.  We also managed to throw in a little sight-seeing.  We walked over the Golden Gate Bridge on an absolutely clear afternoon.  I couldn't recall ever having seen the San Francisco Bay so clear as it was that day.  You can't really get a feeling for the area until you can see the financial district of the city, the Presidio, Alcatraz, Angel Island, the Marina District, Sausalito, and the Marin Headlands from the bridge.  San Francisco is my favorite American city, and it was a wonderful place to select as our entrance back into the States.

Our time in San Francisco flew by.  We enjoyed many dinners with Nancy's family, and she and I spent many an early morning performing psychological assessments on various friends and family members.  Wiley and I spent a Saturday night in the Marina District at the home of our friends Doug Burkhardt and Anne O'Malley, two recently transplanted Atlantans who seem to be making the transition to West coast life just fine.  We also spent the night with my friend from high school, Rebecca Pearson and her family, and Wiley's cohort in crime from Franklin High, David Long.  Our final evening in town we went our with Nancy and her husband John to a great Italian restaurant in Mill Valley, courtesy of my parents.  When will I be old enough for my parents to stop sending money for me to dine out on?  Never, I hope..

Finally, it was time to board the plane for the last leg of the Long's Strange Trip.  Wiley remarked that if nothing else, we had proved that the world was round, because we had left Atlanta and traveled eastward, and had made it back.  When we stepped out of the jetway, there stood my parents, Wiley's parents, and Wiley's sister, all holding balloons and signs and shedding a couple of tears.  It was wonderful to see them all, and my father promptly informed me that I wouldn't "be doing that again".  Little does he know that the Long's Strange Trip II is already in the works.

So we are slowly settling in to life at home.  Wiley's father likes to tell everyone that we are "back where we started", because when we returned from our honeymoon over eleven years ago, we lived in his basement for a few weeks, and that's where we are now.  The food is good and the rent is low, so we may just stay a while.  We are beginning to insinuate ourselves back into Atlanta life, and it seems to be pretty much the same.  Friends have gotten married, had babies, changed jobs, and moved, but they are all still precious to us.

It looks like we've come to the end of the tale of the Long's Strange Trip, a story of a couple who left America in February of 2000 to embark on the task of circling the globe, and when they came back, they were changed.  We have so much to look forward to as we both embark on new careers, and in some ways it's like another trip.  It will be difficult and challenging, but we feel empowered by what we accomplished on our journey, and will take with us the inspiration provided by many people we met along the way.  I hope that those of you who followed along with us on this web site enjoyed our tales from the road, and that you all may one day expand your own travel horizons if you've never gotten our there, or if you have, that you'll continue to do so, and you'll look at people and places a little differently now.  Thanks for your friendship and your encouragement, and on whatever path you find yourself, may the road be straight and smooth, the air fresh and clean, and the lessons learned valuable but not too difficult.

Until next time, peace, love and understanding,

Christie and Wiley

Do not go where the path may lead; go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.
 - Ralph Waldo Emerson






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