Miami Beach: December 15-21

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21 December, 7:30pm (on the plane)

My week in the luxurious and tourist-y surroundings of Miami Beach was as uneventful as I had hoped. I found myself coping surprisingly well with the radical change from poverty to consumerism (there was a lot of shopping, starting with warm clothes because the weather was considerably cooler than I’d expected when getting rid of most of my clothes in Jacmel) – but relating to people proved more challenging.

I did not seek out company from anyone, preferring to go for walks (along the beach, to the Botanical Garden and the Holocaust Memorial) or curl up in bed with a book, my laptop or American TV (which is almost unwatchable due to the high frequency of commercial breaks). It just felt like the most natural thing to do, giving me time to get used to the prospect of re-joining “normal” life and people. After seven days of this I’m still feeling somewhat reluctant at the thought of having to put my experiences in Haiti into words, trying to connect them to the life experiences of my family and friends.

There’s some serious disconnect in my mind, which I noticed most clearly when I went on a bus and boat tour of Miami – the city and historical bits were fine (although everything feels so much less vibrant, so very civilised), but the boat trip around the artificial islands in Biscayne Bay with the celebrity villas just made me feel like an alien. How can anyone seriously care about where JLo and Ricky Martin live, standing there gawking as if rich people’s houses were of any relevance at all? I have rarely felt more disconnected from my surroundings before.

Having this week was definitely helpful and will hopefully help me acclimatise to life at home at bit more quickly. Being in frequent Facebook contact with my GVN family helps, too – just knowing that there’s other people in the same situation feels good. And I love knowing that a number of them will go back next year, keeping alive the connection with Jacmel and the people I’ve come to love there.

On a more cheerful note, today at the airport I managed to upload my Miami photos to Flickr.

South Beach South Beach South Beach South Beach

21. Dezember, 19.30 Uhr (im Flugzeug)

Meine Woche im luxuriösen und touristischen Miami Beach war so ereignislos wie erhofft. Der krasse Übergang von Armut zu Konsum fiel mir überraschend leicht (es gab viel Shopping, angefangen mit warmen Kleidern, da das Wetter um einiges kühler war als erwartet wenn ich die meisten meiner Kleider in Jacmel liess) – aber der Umgang mit Menschen fiel mir schwerer.

Ich blieb für mich, ging spazieren (den Strand entlang, zum botanischen Garten und dem Holocaust-Denkmal) oder machte es mir im Bett mit einem Buch, meinem Laptop oder amerikanischem Fernsehen gemütlich. Es fühlte sich natürlich an, gab mir Zeit, mich an den Gedanken zu gewöhnen, wieder Teil des “normalen” Lebens zu werden. Nach sieben solchen Tagen fällt mir der Gedanke immer noch nicht ganz leicht, meine Erlebnisse in Haiti in Worte zu fassen, sie mit den Erfahrungen meiner Familie und Freunde zu vereinbaren.

Diese Unvereinbarkeit in meinem Kopf wurde mir besonders klar auf der Bus- und Boottour von Miami, auf die ich am Montag ging: Die Stadt und Geschichte waren okay (obwohl alles weniger farbenfroh wirkt, so zivilisiert), aber während der Bootstour um die künstlichen Inseln in der Bucht von Biscayne mit den Villen der Stars fühlte ich mich wie eine Ausserirdische. Wie kann es jemandem wichtig sein, wo JLo und Ricky Martin leben, wie kann man da stehen und die Häuser von reichen Leuten anstarren, als ob sie irgendwie relevant wären? Ich habe mich selten so fremd in meinem Umfeld gefühlt.

Diese Woche war definitiv gut für mich und wird mir hoffentlich dabei helfen, mich etwas schneller an das Leben daheim zu gewöhnen. Häufiger Facebook-Kontakt mit meiner GVN-Familie hilft auch – schon zu wissen, dass es andere Menschen in der gleichen Situation gibt, fühlt sich gut an. Und es ist toll zu wissen, dass mehrere von ihnen nächstes Jahr zurückgehen werden und so die Verbindung mit Jacmel und den Menschen, die ich dort schätzen gelernt habe, aufrecht zu erhalten.

Um mit einer froheren Note zu enden: Heute am Flughafen schaffte ich es, meine Miami-Fotos auf Flickr hochzuladen.

California 2007 photos

With my internet finally working at full speed again, I can share the photos I took since I left home, starting with the two weeks with Bronwyn in San Jose.

Click to access the photo album on Flickr:

Leaving San Jose

This afternoon I’m leaving California – Bronwyn and I just came home from lunch with Molly and her husband Jon, and Jon’s going to drive me to the airport in a little while (thank you!). This morning we went to the mall so I could buy a DVD, a journal and two pairs of tennis shoes – it was a lovely surprise that Bronwyn got the day off work, as we hadn’t really been able to spend much more than weekends and evenings together. I’ll miss her so much! *hearts*

The highlight of my time here was probably the Halloween party organized by Corli (one of Bronwyn’s friends) and held here in the apartment building. Everyone was dressed up, including myself (as a hobbit lad, including ears, foothair and a pipe, courtesy of no less than four people donating costume parts *g*), and I’ll be sure to post my photos soon, as we were all very pretty!

Other than that I’ve been to San Francisco (I seriously love that city!), and here in San Jose to the very interesting Egyptian museum (which has a very cool replica of a rock tomb as its main attraction), to The Tech (which has fun hands-on exhibits as well as an IMAX cinema) and, with Bronwyn, to the Winchester Mystery House, the weirdest house I’ve ever been to, with stairs that lead into ceilings, windows that lead nowhere and doors that lead into thin air… Also, Bronwyn’s flatmate Kathy took me to Santa Cruz on Halloween. It was already dark when we got there, but the whole town was out and about celebrating, so it was a lot of fun.

Overall I haven’t really done all that much, but I’ve met so many awesomely nice people: Molly, Jon and their son Zach, Kel, Corli, Ronnie, Glen, Avi, Mira (in San Francisco, which was great fun – such a lovely lady!), Kathy and her brother Kris (who took us to dinner in the Apple cafeteria, which made my Mac lovin’ heart happy) and several more. Thanks to all of you for making these two weeks special – most of all of course my darling Bronwyn! *hugs*

Now I’m quite nervous about going to New Zealand – I really dislike long distance flight, and I’m just hoping that things will go smoothly once I’m in Wellington. The people from Victoria University are supposed to pick me up and drop me off at the youth hostel, and I have to find out the whens, wheres and hows of moving into my residence hall and the orientation week for international students… Yes, definitely nervous, but I’ll be sure to check back with you guys when I’ve arrived!

Quick update

Because some of you might be worried after hearing about the fires in California on the news: Here in San Jose there doesn’t seem to be any danger. We’re quite a bit higher north than Los Angeles, at the foot of the San Francisco bay. It’s summer-y (almost 30°C) but not extremely hot – apparently it was cool and raining until I arrived on Friday night.

Other than that we haven’t been doing all that much so far, because of my jetlag, headaches (I’ve had them pretty much every day, probably because of the weather, but Bronwyn had an actual migraine this weekend) and today a stomach bug of some kind. So we’re mostly just enjoying each other’s company and I love meeting some of my online friends and hanging out with them.

I’ve seen parts of San Jose (the 10th biggest city in the US, but it doesn’t feel that way) and will go explore Bronwyn’s neighbourhood on foot in a little while. We’re also planning trips to the beach in Santa Cruz and (of course!) to San Francisco, and I’m looking forward to meeting some more of my online friends face-to-face. Truth be told, after all the stress of preparing for New Zealand, I’m enjoying the pressure-free life very much…


This has been a REALLY long day, seeing that I left home over 24 hours ago with my parents, but I’ve now reached my friend Bronwyn’s place in San Jose (near San Francisco). I’m exhausted but not really sleepy – gotta love jetlag… Also, my luggage didn’t make it here, probably because it took forever to clear customs in Los Angeles – there were only 40 minutes to spare before my connecting flight left. It should be delivered tomorrow. Or rather, today. *crosses fingers*

I’m very glad to be here and am looking forward to two weeks in beautiful California…

Btw, during the day the only connection to the world I had was via Twitter, which can be updated by text message. You’ll see round-up posts of my Twitter postings here once a day (if I make any, that is). But boy, that old tri-band mobile phone sure has its kinks – I can’t wait to get to New Zealand and use my pretty new one (bought in Singapore) again. /end randomness

Almost gone…

Checked in my luggage (one big suitcase, one big backpack) at the train station today. This makes it all the more real, but, occasional anxiety attacks aside, it still feels not very different from my usual trips. Except that I’m not coming home this time – at least not to this home, as my parents are moving while I’m gone. Which adds a whole other level of strange to the experience.

But first I have to actually get there – I’ve now booked hostel accomodation for the week before university orientation and announced my intention to visit my friend Denise and her family in New Plymouth (where I spent six weeks in 2003 and fell in love with beautiful New Zealand). So now all I’m missing is final word on uni accomodation – let’s hope it comes soon, but first I’m looking forward to spending two weeks with my friend Bronwyn near San Jose, California!


Okay, it's over – I'm sitting at my own laptop again… *sniff*

I had such a great time, specially the last week in Florida and I really didn't want to go home – but still, it always feels good to be back in my own room, with my own family, in my own country (even if it's rainy and cold…).

Since I'm trying to beat jet lag as quickly as possible I didn't go to bed at all, instead I worked on my class schedule and helped my brother with his. On top of that we got DSL installed – not without problems, but at least it seems to work.

I should try to get in touch with people (missed y'all A LOT, folks!), but I guess that has to wait till tomorrow… The lists will have to wait a bit longer – too much on my mind at the moment.

I'll send off my six roles of film (195 pictures!!) tomorrow – so stay tuned for when I'll post some of them here… Hugs, peeps! *g*


Something I've dreamed of for years has come true – I got to see the Everglades!

We're staying at the best hostel imaginable, in Homestead, and did a canoe tour through part of that incredible national park. The people are really wonderful and, except for the terrible nuisance that are moskitos, today was amazing!

I'd love to stay longer, but time's running out.

Tomorrow we're going to Key West, just for the afternoon and night – Saturday we have to finally definitely head to Miami for our flight home on Sunday. DON'T WANT TO!!! *g*

I'll catch up with y'all when I'm home – and stay tuned for some great pictures! Hugs!

Florida!!! (Clearwater Beach)

Okay, we've been in beautiful sunny Florida since Sunday – and we're enjoying every single minute!!! It's amazingly warm and the beach here in Clearwater is a dream! Nik and Deb – now I understand completely why you both miss Florida so much…

Don't really have time, but just wanted to let you know what a wonderful time we have here. Tomorrow we're heading for the Everglades – a dream of mine – and then to Key West before going to Miami. Our flight leaves from there on Sunday – I can't believe it's almost over… *sniff*

Okay, I hope everyone is doing fine – don't have the time to really read my email, sorry! Promise to get back to everyone as soon as possible! Hugs!

Cary, North Carolina

I know I've been somewhat MIA this week, but finding time and opportunities to update hasn't been easy…

We left New York on Tuesday night – truth be told I'd had about enough of the Big Apple… I've spent 10 1/2 days there, and with all the problems we experienced at our crappy hostel I felt relieved when we sat on the bus to Raleigh.

That's not to say that I didn't enjoy my stay – specially the last three days were really good. Among other things Sibylle and I went to see the Broadway musical 'Rent' (with Joey Fatone for those interested…), which was really great!

Now we're taking it easy in this small town outside of Raleigh – we're staying with Sibylle's former host family and enjoy not having to rush around for a change. And since I got an ugly cold I'm specially grateful for the comforts of a home – and a room of my own! *g*

Okay, that's about it for now – tomorrow night we'll head South, towards Florida! I want to check out Gainesville, the home of the university of Florida, and we both die to see Cape Canaveral (where they launch the space ships) and to catch some relaxing beach time…

Hugs everyone!!