Entries: Latest (We're Home!)
A Year Away...Home at Last
Donna, Kirk's Dad, his Mom, and Kirk
By the way, Donna and I collectively lost 94 pounds over the course of the trip.
Our Friends & Family (Home church) Group
(click for full size)
Kirk fixing the car.
Have you wondered what happened to us? Whether we made it home? Are we safe and back in LA? Why haven't we written? Well...we've been BUSY!
On September 8, at 2:15PM, our plane arrived in Los Angeles, California. We were home at last after almost a full year away! We made it through customs and immigration without much problem. The lines were a little slow perhaps, but believe me...NOTHING like some of the other places we'd been! After retrieving our bags and clearing through the red tape, we were met by Kirk's mom. What a blessing to be met by family, after a year away! Kirk's sister, Kelley was near at hand too, circling the airport driveways, waiting for us to come out. She pulled up a few minutes later in her Ford Excursion, ready to take us wherever we needed to go. After travelling throughout Asia and Europe, that vehicle, which we had ridden in many times before, and seen on California highways over and over, seemed HUGE! But, we gladly piled our backpacks in the back and climbed in the backseat with our nephews, Bradley and Jeffrey (age 4 and 3). We'd been gone long enough that Jeffrey didn't really remember us; Bradley did, though!
We ran some errands and then stopped to see our friend, Sue. She and her husband had taken care of our mail and other administrative stuff while we were gone. It was a big job -- probably bigger than any of us had anticipated. But they were amazing and we are very thankful to have such good friends! We picked up a box full of stuff they had collected for us and stayed and chatted for a while. We even got to see their new baby, Emma (she's beautiful) and take away an armload of clothes that were destined for the thrift store, but which are a great fit for me (all of my clothes are too big now).
We spent our first evening back home at Kelley's house, visiting with family. It was so great to see everyone (we have a ton of nephews - our niece was out of town at a soccer tournament), have a home-cooked meal and just soak up being back among family again. This is what we missed so much while we were traveling!
The next day, we went to see Kirk's father, who has spent the last year in a board & care, due to his Alzheimers/Lewy Body Disease. Although we have heard reports that he has deteriorated rapidly throughout our trip and were prepared for him not to recognize us at all, he did recognize Kirk. We sat with him for a while and told him about our trip and talked to him about what we had been doing. It was nice to see him after such a very long time.
Our next few days were a whirlwind. We spent time getting the car and motorcycle out of storage, and getting them running again. First, we had to replace the motorcycle battery. The car seemed to be running fairly well. But, then I noticed that it wasn't really running so great. It seemed to be doing something that it was doing before we left. As we were in the process of driving it to a friend's garage to see if he had the equipment to test it for us (everything we needed was buried in the storage unit SOMEWHERE), it died...completely. Eventually, with the help of our friend Garret, we got it started again and to a place where Kirk could work on it and see what was wrong. The generator (i.e., 1968 Triumph version of an alternator) needed to be replaced. He decided to convert the car to use an alternator instead. That took a couple of days. Then, he discovered a leak in the oilpan which was caused by some muffler work that had been done a few years ago. That took some time to fix. Kirk's mom graciously rented a car for us to drive until we got the Spitfire running again.
Wednesday night (September 10), we got to attend our first Friends & Family (home church) group meeting since our return from our trip! What a thrill that was, to see everyone! The group has grown immensely since we left, too! There were people there that we hadn't met, but who had kept up with our travels along with everyone else. We were in the "hot seat" for a while... we were peppered with questions about how the trip impacted our life and how God worked on us during our year away. Surprisingly, we were quite comfortable talking about it. Had we been asked to talk to the group (particularly a group that size) about something like that before we left, I think both of us would have been uncomfortable doing so. Yet another change God has made in our lives!
On Saturday, Kirk, Garret and Steve
(the best man in our wedding) drove up to Forest Home to attend the King's Harbor Men's Retreat
. The retreat was actually an entire weekend affair, but for various reasons, none of these guys could attend for the whole weekend, so they went together just for the main day. I was so glad that Kirk was able to go for a day! It gave him a great chance to reconnect with men in our church!
We have been thoroughly blessed with places to stay. Initially, we stayed with Kirk's mom. She was thrilled to have us stay there and we were happy to stay with her, as well. It gave us a chance to catch up with her and spend time with her. Unfortunately, she lives a good distance (about an hour) from where we plan to live, so it is not a convenient place from which to do our apartment-hunting. We had two different couples from our Friends & Family Group offer for us to stay in their houses through the end of September, initially, while we did our apartment-hunting. Steve & Dina and Garret & Amber opened their homes and totally made us a part of their families; for that, we are totally grateful. In addition, other families have subsequently offered for us to stay with them, housesit or babysit for varying lengths of time. We are amazed at, and thankful for, how blessed we truly are!
Our first two weeks were taken up by the car/motorcycle work and house-hunting. On the very last weekend before Kirk had to go back to work, (it was my birthday, in fact), we found out that we had gotten an apartment we had applied for! It was totally a God-thing, and we both knew it! There were a number of reasons we might not have gotten the apartment, and yet we did. Praise God! I was so thankful that I wouldn't have to go househunting on my own, while Kirk was working!
That weekend, we went to see Kirk's niece, Meghan, in a home-game soccer tournament. Her team won. It was the first time we had gotten to see her play. As a sophomore, she is the goalie at Long Beach State University and is doing quite well (See "Hartwyk Posts Another Shutout"
)! Afterwards, we went to see Kirk's nephew, Corey, in his surfing competition. He still had several events left when we arrived, so we were glad that we went! However, while we were standing around on the beach, waiting for the awards ceremony, someone stole my Tevas...the same exact pair that I had worn for the last year...around the world. The smelly pair. The well-traveled pair. I'm STILL in mourning... (Well, not really...I just bought a new pair, and I really like them, but c'mon!! Who wants a smelly pair of Tevas?!)
Then on Monday, Kirk went back to work. It was a bit of a shock, I suppose; possibly more because we no longer were together 24/7 than because he had to "work" -- he enjoys his job. And I had a new focus -- income tax returns. I now had to get our taxes filed by October 15th. Yuck!
We spent the next week or two tracking down clothes to fit my new, slimmer husband (he went from a size 34 waist to a 31), doing our taxes, catching up with friends, and slowly immersing ourselves into a society that we now only partially felt we belong to. Life in America is significantly different than what we experienced abroad -- even in Europe. Here, people just don't WALK places. They drive. They don't make food from scratch (or rarely) -- they buy things already partially processed or boxed (it's easier and faster, but less healthy). Everything here seems to be about convenience, time-saving, short-cuts, getting it over with. What about enjoying the process, spending time with one another, doing things together as a family? When things are labor-intensive, people tend to work together and spend time together; it knits a family and a community closer.
As we prepare to move into our apartment on Saturday (October 18th), we are enjoying our time with friends and family, and slowly immersing ourselves back into local culture. Kirk is taking a class at the church
on Wednesday mornings before work. I'm involved in a study
on Tuesday mornings. Our Wednesday night group, which had grown so much while we were gone, has split into three more manageable-sized groups in order to work through a study our church is doing of The Purpose-Driven Life, by Rick Warren
We've posted the last batch of photos (from Egypt and Europe)! We hope you enjoy them!
Kirk and Donna