Week 36/37 – Home Again

This week I am going to do a post for 2 weeks because I was home for the 2 weeks and many of the days I was just chilling with my mom or shopping. I left Nate at the airport in Yangon and began an epic journey home. I had decided in February to come home a bit earlier in March to surprise my mom for her birthday. I emailed my dad and sister and we put a whole surprise plan in order. So, I left on March 23rd and was to arrive on March 24th around 6 with a 12 hour difference. So, I had around a 33 hour journey home to begin.

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Downtown Doha

First, I flew to Doha, Qatar. Did you know that you actually pronounce the country Qatar as “cutter?” I did not know this until I booked a flight that passed through. Since I had a 14 hour layover, I applied for a transit visa, which they award to those with long layover with Qatar airlines. They even offer a free city tour, but I did not do this. On the plane, I met a French Canadian girl named Marie. She was talking to the flight attendant about things to do in Doha, so naturally I asked her if she wanted to hang out with me for the day since we both had the same layover time.

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It was an amazing view in downtown Doha

We left the airport and hopped on the local bus going downtown. We asked the driver to let us off near the art museum and the market. The first thing that I noticed and which surprised me was that Doha was a very new city. It was a stark contrast to many of the cities I had visited in Southeast Asia and was a bit of a shock. It was very clean and had amazing roads and sidewalks. I had never seen so many people in Burkas and turbans so that was an interesting sight as well.

Animals in the Souq Waqif market

Once we were there, he told us that it was our stop and we hopped off. We first went to the market called Souq Waqif market. Online I had read that it was a really local market, but when we went it seemed really touristy. Many of the shops were closed. We found a local animal market, lots of fabric, and many spice stores. Both of us were starving so we went in search of food.

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The museum of Islamic Art

We wanted to eat local food, but that seemed very difficult. We asked around and people didn’t seem to know what we were talking about, so just ate Egyptian food. It was really good though we both ate way too much. After, we wandered over to the art museum. It was a gorgeous building and the front foyer was very open with a cafe that looked at the river. The exhibits looked at themes from the middle east district from textiles, paintings, bowls, and many other objects.

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View from the cafe as we drank our coffee

As we were looking through the exhibit, we were both just trying to stay awake because we were really tired. At this point it was only 4pm, but to us it felt like 9pm. Our flight wasn’t until 2am. We got a coffee at the cafe and enjoyed the wifi for awhile before heading back to the airport. Initially, we were going to try to catch the city tour at 6pm, but our visa only let us leave the airport once and we were both exhausted. So, we found a quiet room and she slept and I researched Africa. I tried to stay awake so I could sleep on the plane.

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Iconic teddy bear statue at the Doha airport

By the time I boarded I had been up for 26 hours, yet I couldn’t sleep well on the plane. My next stop was a 7 hour layover in NYC. This layover was rougher because I didn’t have a friend and I was just trying to pass time and stay awake until my final flight to Baltimore. I arrived in Baltimore and my sister Kelly picked me up from the airport, took me home to shower, and then we drove over to the restaurant where my dad took my mom for her birthday dinner. She had no idea that my sister or I would be joining her for dinner.

My sister entered the restaurant first and then I came in second. My mom was beyond thrilled that we had both surprised her for her birthday. She was giddy the whole of dinner. I am so happy I could come home and see my family.

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Infinity mirror exhibit at the Hirshhorn Museum

The following day, my sister, mom, and I went for a walk around the lake by the mall and then went out to lunch while my dad prepared the house for the second part of our surprise weekend for my mom. We had told her that we were going out to dinner for her birthday. So, we all sat down for happy hour at the house and in walks the whole family including her sister from NY. She was so excited. Bit by bit all of my mom’s good friends from both work and the pool group came over and we had quite a party. It was really fun!

The next morning we went to go see the new Beauty and the Beast movie as a family and I loved it! The rest of the day was a chill day and I had to say goodbye to my sister since she would be traveling for the remaining time that I was home.

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Orchid exhibit at the Hirshhorn

The rest of the week was a pretty logistical type of week. I had a list of about a million things that I needed to do to get ready for my trip to Africa and to complete to submit my Korean visa. My mom was such a trooper and as usual helped me out with all of my chores including my many shopping trips. I am always so thankful for all of her help when I go home and its a lot of fun to spend time with her.

On Friday, my mom drove me down to my friend Amy’s house. She had just moved into her new house that day and I was going to help her unpack and move in her stuff. My mom helped for awhile and then a lot of Amy’s friends from work came and helped as well. It was pretty fun to help arrange someone else’s house and figure out where to put everything. She bought a gorgeous old house and I think she is going to love it. She also has an amazing fenced in back yard with a deck which is perfect for her dog. It was so good to see her!

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More cool images from the Hirshhorn Museum

That night, Amy drove me to the metro station and I went in to my friend Lisa’s house. She had just moved to Eastern Market and it is such a cute area. I had never been before. After about an hour, my friend Jordan, who lives in NYC, joined us and we had a glass of wine to catch up. Then, we headed out for a late dinner. We found this restaurant that had fancy pub food and I had a really good burger. After, we ubered to a cool cocktail bar. Downstairs, it didn’t look like anything special, but upstairs was really fun even though it was crowded.

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I was so excited to see this girl!

The following morning we woke up really early, went and grabbed some bagels and coffee for breakfast, and ubered down to Hirshhorn museum because they were having an exhibit by Yayoi Kasama called infinity mirrors. I had never heard of this exhibit, but evidently it was the “thing” to do in DC at the time. The tickets were free, but you had to go early in the morning and stand in line for hours to be able to get a ticket. We arrived around 8:15 and there were probably around 200 people already in line. As we stood there, the line only increased in length to probably 500 people. They started distributing tickets around 10:00, but it took us to at least 11:00 to get to the front of the line for our tickets. Even then, we could only get tickets for 3:30. So, we got 4 tickets, one for our friend Sabala as well.

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French toast brunch was amazing!

We went home and rested for awhile and then headed down to U street to meet up with our friend Sabala for brunch. It was so good! I had French toast and just about died with every bite. We had very expensive mimosas as well, but its DC pricing so what could I expect. Brunch was so much fun and I have missed my friends so much. Its amazing to have friends that you can leave for awhile, but when you get together it feels like no time has passed. I am so blessed to have them in my life.

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Infinite pumpkins!

After brunch, we all piled into Sabala’s car and headed over to the exhibit. By the time we parked we were already late for our time slot, so the four of us start running across the mall to the museum. Lots of tourists were looking at us a bit funny, but we didn’t care. We arrived just in time and we went in with the 3:45 group, which would only give us and hour and 15 minutes to see the exhibit. We had to wait in line to get in, then we had to wait in line to get into each of the parts of the exhibit. Basically it was a day of waiting in lines. Yet, we had so much to catch up on that we really didn’t care.

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The exhibit was very interesting and totally worth the wait. It’s the idea of the juxtaposition of small spaces and the concept of infinity. You waited to enter a small room the size of a broom closet and they shut the door and give you 30 seconds inside. They only let you enter in groups of 2 or 3. Inside, there are different structures in each of the rooms with mirrors set up to look like the exhibit goes on forever. It is an instagramer’s dream.

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Living amongst the stars

We had a lot of fun in each of the rooms and two of the rooms were breathtaking. I wanted to enter the rooms again, but we were running out of time until the exhibit closed. The final room started out all white, but each person that enters they give circular stickers of different colors and sizes that people can stick up in the room. It gave the room a very interesting feel and we took some fun pictures in the room.

After the exhibit, Sabala and Jordan both headed home and I stayed with Lisa. We were exhausted from the day, so we just laid in her bed and talked, ordered pizza, and had a lazy night. It was wonderful and so good to catch up with her! The following morning, she made me some breakfast and coffee and then I gathered my stuff and headed back to the metro.

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Cuddled in for the night for our catch up session

Next, I headed to Arlington to meet up with my friend Jordan from college. She picked me up from the metro and we headed to Courthouse for brunch. We sat outside because it was a gorgeous day and we sat there for a couple of hours catching up. Then, we headed over to the Pentagon City mall to find her a hat for her upcoming trip to New Zealand. I was happy just to hang out with her because I hadn’t seen her since the previous summer and I missed her a lot.

We headed back to her house and then I headed across the street to have dinner with my friend Dave. He was also on a year off and wanted advice about teaching abroad. We caught up and talked for a couple of hours and then I headed back to Jordan’s house. She had to work the following day, but I was thankful she stayed up with me to talk.

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Nice to be back in Baltimore

The following morning, my mom drove down to Arlington to pick me up and we went over to get my teacher license certified by a Virginia Public Notary. Then, we headed over to the Italian store, which was one of my favorite places when I lived in Arlington, to get Italian subs. They were just as good as I remembered!

The rest of the week was spent continuing to finish everything and pack. It’s always stressful to get everything done in time while I am home because it seems I always have so many things to do while I’m home.

On Wednesday night, we went to pick up my cousin Alyssa for her birthday dinner and then all drove to downtown Baltimore. We went to Ruth Chris Steakhouse for dinner, which is probably the best steakhouse in Baltimore. It was amazing! The steaks are always melt in your mouth good. You can cut then with a fork. We also got lobster mac and cheese and mashed potatoes. So amazing!

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Light Festival in the Inner Harbour

Then, we went to walk around the Inner Harbour and it happened to be the light festival downtown. So, there were many strange lit up structures around. Then, there was a mini parade led by policemen on lit up bicycles, dancers and drummers, people on stilts in light up costumes, and then a bunch of random people. It was good fun. Then, there was a stage set up with live music that we watched for awhile.

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Parade for the Light Festival

All of the boats were lit up in the Harbor and made everything look very beautiful. Baltimore gets a bad reputation, but it can be very beautiful. One the way out we even saw the mast of a boat decorated in umbrellas that were all lit up. It was a great last night at home and I was happy to spend it with my family.

The following morning, my dad took off the morning as both my parents drove me down to Dulles to catch my flight. We were unsure about traffic and rain so we left super early and were lucky with the traffic. I got there 3 hours early, checked in, then hopped back in the car to go find breakfast. We had a nice breakfast at Cracker Barrel, then they brought me back to the airport. I was sad to see them go, but I will see them in a couple of months when I head home. Next stop, Africa!!!

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