far far away

I departed the country a bit over a week ago en route to a far away place. The country of Ukraine is a great physical distance from home, but quite possibly even more distant culturally. Kiev, the capital and largest city, was a tad touristy. Seeing nearly every church and monument in the city was a bit exhausting.
... you've seen one gold dome, you've seen 'em all.

But, only a day was spent here, as the purpose of this trip was not to be a tourist.

I tagged along with my step-dad Jere and some other members of the Friedman family in attempts to trace some of their family roots to a small 'shtetl' in the western part of the country.
The 4 brothers at their ancestors' hometown - Verbovetz

It was quite eye opening. Meeting possible (and probable) long lost cousins who's family somehow slipped through the cracks during the mass murdering of Jews during WWII was very moving. These people who barely survived were still barely surviving. Living on next to nothing by our standards was plenty.
Cemeteries and mass graves filled with Jews were visited. It hit me hard.

Off to another Ukrainian city we headed, back to being tourists. We stayed at a very nice hotel, equipped with complementary awesome breakfast and spa amenities for only 175 grivna ($22!) a night! That gives an idea of what people earn around here. I learned that a medical doctor earns only about $200/month.

More churches, temples, monasteries, and castles were seen in Kamianets-Podilskyi.
From western Ukraine, I took a train to my new home, in eastern Hungary. A distance of only 600 km or so if one was driving wouldn't take terribly long. However, due to gross, dirty, smelly, slow, rickety Soviet trains, travel time to my new home neared 20 hours.

Debrecen, pop. ~200,000, is the second largest city in Hungary next to Budapest. A nice city centered around a university known for great medicine, and leading research. I am staying in a neat little hostel/hotel/dorm nestled to the north of the university right up against the forest.

I already made it to Budapest where I had to send my mother off who embarked on the adventure from Ukraine to Hungary with me. Though I was a bit overwhelmed by the things to do and places to see in Budapest, it seems quite worthy of a return trip. After all, 2.5 hr train ride is nothing after some of the traveling I've done lately!
After my second night on my new, firm mattress, I feel good. I don't like feeling like a foreigner, but I can't control that I am. I feel that not knowing any Hungarian language besides hello, thank you, and counting to 10 is a little pathetic. Even the most sheltered Hungarian can say a few more words in English. Hopefully that will change a bit as time goes on.

BA - out



I got "home" from my road trip adventure just in time to do laundry and repack my bags.

I put home in quotation marks because at this time in my life, I am not quite sure where my home is.
According to Edward Sharpe, "Home is wherever I'm with you..." That of course leads to another question. Who is "YOU"?

My YOU isn't in Tucson... nor is it in Phoenix. Nevertheless, this is where I am. Confusing.

T minus 2+ days until I'm in my new "home". Debrecen (pronounced Debretzen), Hungary.
Weather... a tad cooler than what I'm used to (maybe not after my summer road trip however).
Economy... a tad cheaper than what I am used to.

I know that I will be working hard and playing harder during my indefinite stay at my new home.

As excited as I may be to "peel this layer from my onion," I am pretty freakin' nervous. But, I think that filling my summer with new experiences has prepared me well for this step (more like LEAP) in my life. Stay tuned.



Is it really August already?

Oh, where to begin. Let's add to the theme of the summer. Adventures.

Almost too much adventure was had on my way to Lake Tahoe last week when I decided to stop and ride my bike. It was a beautiful, awesome, nearly perfect trail.
To make a long story short, I got lost. Very lost. In the absolute middle of nowhere. I found myself climbing up forest roads until they dead ended, descending mountains until they were undescendable, and becoming delirious due to lack of food and water. My 3 hour ride slowly turned into a 6 hour panic attack which left my legs annihilated and my stomach empty. All the while I was thinking of the irony of being lost somewhere near Donner Pass, contemplating eating myself as the sun was setting.
Trying to look panicked...

Tahoe. Oooooh Lake Tahoe. So beautiful and so relaxing.
Besides hiking Mt. Rose, I didn't do much besides stare at the sun and take a couple of dips in the lake. It was awesome.
Caitlyn... loving every second of it.
Nick... being a sherpa.
Me... and the lake.
Is the weather this perfect all summer in Tahoe? Probably.

I left Tahoe very excited for my next stop. It was my first time to Yosemite. Another absolutely amazing national park. I was like a kid in a candy store, along with the thousands of other people enjoying the beauty. I lucked out and found a camping spot within the park and got to bed early. I woke up at 3 AM enjoyed some of the most amazing stars I have seen as I packed up and headed to the trail. It was about 5:30 AM and still quite dark when I got going on the trail, which seemed to be the popular time to start hiking. I assume most were headed to the same destination as I; Half Dome. 4,800 ft and 8 miles of beauty would stand between myself and this prominent rock.
Vernal falls, from the aptly named 'Mist Trail.'
Up and up.
Nevada falls.
I hiked quickly, but no view was left unseen.
Allllllmost there...
She's in sight.
Squirrels up here were pretty smart... and fat.
Ascending the cables was unreal. One lazy step could easily send anyone sliding hundreds of feet down the rock face.
Atop the summit, I was mesmerized by the views. I was pretty proud of my 3 hour ascent.
It was about 8:30 AM when I reached the summit. Many early birds were up there already. Some told me that they had started at 1:00 AM to catch the sunrise... including this guy.
I hustled my way down as well, but was slowed down a bit by human (and bear!) traffic on the trail.
Some of the views were much more amazing with the sun up.
A much needed creek bath.
After a little creek time, I headed westward through Cali. I hit the coast at Monterey and hopped on HWY 1 heading south. I was excited to see this section of Coast, around Big Sur. Another amazing part of the coast that I had not yet seen.

Having been up since 3, I was a bit exhausted after my long day of hiking and driving. Unfortunately, despite an abundance of campgrounds in this region, there was no open space for me to pitch my tent for the night. I kept driving south into the dark night.
I pulled off the road once my eyelids became a bit too heavy to hold up, and slept in the car... surprisingly well. I guess if you're tired enough, you can sleep anywhere.

More costal cruising on this lovely day. Through San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara as I make my way to the city of angels.

It's bitter sweet, but my adventure filled summer seems to be coming down the home stretch as I head into SoCal.

BA - out