Monday, January 21, 2013


Last night I arrived home late from a weekend away in the coastal town of Almeria. Hannah (the same American friend who cooked Thanksgiving dinner with me) and I caught the bus from the train station into town, feeling weary after a long, sunny day whizzing around the stunning Cabo de Gata, a wild national park full of desert mountains and crashing waves. It was late, and the bus was empty save for us, the driver, and one other rider, a young guy who looked like he was probably arriving for another week at the technical university here.

The hum of the radio provided a pleasant white noise background for the first few minutes of the ride into town, but then I caught the words 'la casa blanca' in a news report--the White House-- and heard a recording of President Obama taking the oath of office earlier in the day. I turned to Hannah in surprise. "Was that today!?" I exclaimed; "Man, I totally forgot!"

For just a moment, I was transported to the east coast of Australia. Four years ago yesterday, I was just starting my trip around the world. I stopped for a few days in Elliot Heads, a small town huddled around a sandy strip of blue water, famous for its relaxed RV community and nesting sea turtles. The second night I stayed awake late, walking the beach looking for laying mothers under a sky I described in this blog as 'incandescent' with stars. The next day, I went into the town's small general store to buy breakfast and found the front page of the local paper festooned with Obama's face. I remember feeling a strange surge of emotion: pride at my country's step forward, plus the sudden weight of distance, the importance of all those things, large and small, happening while I was asleep.

Yesterday, four years later, I felt that same weight, as well as another pull, one of time. It's hard to believe that four years have elapsed since the beginning of my 2009 trip. And thinking about President Obama and his new beginning has me considering everything I've 'inaugurated' in the last four years: new friendships, new jobs, new apartments, new languages. These four years have taken me to more than 30 countries (just typing that feels momentous.) They've brought me incredible adventures (snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef, dancing with Aztecs at the equinox, and visiting Stonehenge just to name a few.) I've produced radio segments that aired on more than 20 radio stations in the USA. I've had articles optioned for translation and international publication. I've grown comfortable speaking another language on a daily basis. Who knows when I'll have another four years likes these?

Even further, who knows where I'll be for the next inauguration? Will I have to be reminded of the news in some other radio broadcast in a language I'm still learning? Will I wake to find the new important face on some strange newspaper's front page? What new adventures will I have faced? What new challenges will I be navigating? What new friends will I have made? It's easy to forget that, really, every day is an inauguration.

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