I can’t believe that it is New Years Eve. December 31, 2012. The year has flown by so quickly. It seems like just yesterday I was finishing my job at Buddle Findlay in Wellington, getting on the ferry to drive down to Christchurch, saying goodbye to my home for a year. Researching and preparing for my round the world trip, and then again saying goodbye to my boyfriend, my Mom, and my friends.
Little did I know, at the beginning of this year, what 2012 would bring. It exceeded all my expectations – just blew them out of the water. 2012 will probably be one of the most memorable of my life, a year I will truly cherish. Not merely due to my experiences and the places I visited, but because of the people I met along the way. When I talk about my travels, especially through Vietnam, I focus on the people I met, not what temples or museums I visited. The people. Both tourists and locals.Mr Tien, my motorbike driver in Hue, who drove off road through the rice paddies, past small villages, and taught me all about the culture of central Vietnam. Luna and Tom, Hanoi locals who introduced El and me to the local activity of drinking lemon tea and eating sunflower seeds by the side of the road, whilst sitting on child size plastic seats. And I will never forget Abdul, our whiskey-drinking joyful guide in Tanzania, who had a personality larger than my Dad’s personality and mine combined. I will never forget seeing a warthog at the end of our first day, me yelling out ‘Pumba!’, and Abdul driving after him, rhythmically repeating Pumba Pumba Pumba. And driving through the savannahs, listening to ‘Circle of Life’, while he taught us all about the animals, the local culture, and his experiences as a park ranger. It was my very own Lion King.
And this year really helped me realize who I am as a person. I learned a lot about myself along my travels, and became more confident and stronger. I moved to San Diego, to a brand new law school, where I didn’t know a single soul. I had never even been to San Diego – I had no idea what to expect. I thought it could be an opportunity to reinvent myself – no one knew me, so I could be anyone I wanted to! However I soon found that I was the exact same person here. Just improved. I had no constraints on my personality based on prior high school dramas. It was refreshing, and reaffirming.
And as I said above, this year has really been the best year of my life. San Diego has been, and still is, the most amazing, beautiful city to live in. I found it hard at first. My first day of law school, when I ended up crying because I couldn’t decide what to wear. Going to a law organization mixer, not knowing a single person, but leaving having met over a handful of people, one of whom has become a very close friend. Trying to hold my own in law classes, where preparation is vital, participation is mandatory, and expectations are high. I spent more time in the library this year than my previous 4 years combined. But I have met the most amazing people, and had the best American experience a 23 (now 24!) year old American-Kiwi could have hoped for.
I flew to Ohio to spend Thanksgiving with a friend’s family, and experienced true Midwest hospitality. I got to visit her college, met her college friends, and even saw her college football team play, and dominate, their rival team. I dressed up for Halloween on three different nights. I went to Disneyland, learned to play flip cup and participated in a Color Run. I took the most interesting legal courses of my law school career, and really felt like part of a community. I was adopted for Christmas, and made to feel welcome and at home amongst a family I had never met.
And all my experiences are thanks to the wonderful people I met here, who will always hold a place in my heart. I was meant to leave the USA on December 23, but I then postponed my departure until January 18. I am now staying until February 13. I don’t want to say goodbye to America, because that means I return to New Zealand, have to start work, and resume my mundane life without 3 story bars, the ocean on my doorstep and sunshine year round. However the real reason I don’t want to leave, the reason I kept delaying my departure, is that I don’t want to say goodbye. Goodbye to the wonderful people here. My amazing friends. My new family. They are the reason that despite 3 months of traveling through 13 countries, San Diego is really what made this year the best year of my life. Friends are the family you choose for yourself. And once I leave, once I return to New Zealand, I don’t know when I will see my San Diego family again. I know there will be many tears when I leave, and I may have to be dragged onto the plane against my will. Of course I am excited to return, and excited to see what 2013 brings, but I doubt any year will ever top this last year.
So here is my year in review. The places, and people, that shaped my year.
So thank you to my San Diego family. I will visit you soon. Never forget you. I love you all.