Disclaimer: this is a personal website. All views and information presented herein are my own and do not represent the views of the Fulbright Program or the U.S. Department of State.
My car sits in a blanket of snow. We’ve just had the 5th largest snowfall in Chicago history after Monday’s blizzard, and I know that soon I’ll be on my way to Michelle Obama arms after I manage to shovel my Pontiac from its white cocoon. It’s hard to think that just a few weeks ago, I was sitting in the blazing warmth of a sunny Sydney summer, and now I am checking my cupboards to make sure I have enough hot cocoa to help defrost my fingers later this afternoon.
The end of my official Fulbright experience was a wonderful blur. Sometimes, it’s not until we say goodbye to a place that we realize how much that place has impacted us. As I gave my final hugs and my final gazes at places that have become security blankets, I realized just how grateful I was to have this experience.
When I arrived home from the Milford track, I only had three days in Wellington before I left the country, as Fulbright granted me the dream opportunity to spend two days in Sydney, Australia (blog post to come). It was a crazy three days attempting to sardine in all of the suitcase packing and goodbye hugs that I wanted to do. And on top of it all, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary to the Minister of Education read this very blog you are reading now and called me in for a meeting to gain my perspective on New Zealand partnership schools (again, blog post to come). These events all led to a very exciting homestretch of my Fulbright experience.
But it wasn’t without an interesting finish.
One of my goals while I was living in my beautiful apartment on Oriental Parade was to walk out of my apartment one sunny morning, cross the quiet street, walk across the golden sand, and run out into the sea, arms outstretched to embrace the watery soul of the earth. But then it never got quite warm enough for me to want to venture into the ocean. If I’m honest, I barely dipped my toes in. It felt so much more beautiful (and comfortable!) to look the ocean from the warmth of my apartment.
After a wonderful farewell dinner, a couple of my Fulbright buddies decided to come back to my apartment, partly because I didn’t want to say goodbye, but mostly because I needed people to sit on my suitcases so I could get them shut. As we chatted in my living room, I started to feel some pangs of regret. How is it that I lived on the ocean for over four months and never swam in it? What kind of adventurer am I?
So, while my friends continued their chatter, I slipped into my bedroom to sneak on a bathing suit. When I came out in a towel, my friend Sarah exclaimed, “You’re doing it?!” And I was.
Sarah and Max braved the rain and wind–Wellington’s retaliation of my departure was to withhold drops of sunshine in my final days–to witness my venture into the sea.
They thought I was just going to prance around in the water and run right back inside. But oh no, if I was going to run into the sea, I was going to run. into. the. sea. And it was pretty much how I always anticipated. There I was, running out into the ocean, arms outstretched, traveling deep enough to submerge myself, and then…
OUCH! BLOODY HECK! WHAT WAS THAT?
A sharp pain shot up my left leg. Thinking I stepped on a sharp rock, I paused for another second in the water to complete one more pseudo-doggie paddle, and then I turned around to limp back to shore.
As I high knee-d in, shivering and smiling, Sarah and Max wore impressed expressions on their faces. I felt proud that I had accomplished a personal goal, but I was worried about my left foot. As we walked back up the four flights of stairs to my apartment, I favored my left leg, not wanting to look to see if there was blood. I really, really don’t do well at the sight of blood. I hopped immediately into the shower to wash the sticky salt and sand from me, giving me a clear picture of what happened to my foot during my dip in the ocean.
There was definitely blood, enough that I had to slump against the glass side of the shower to collect myself. And it was more than just a scrape or a cut– inside my foot were about 15 puncture wounds with little brown tips sticking out of them. It could only be one thing: a sea urchin.