I'm not home yet, but will be in a few short days, at my own discretion. There's no possible way that I can write about everything that has happened, much less remember it...but I'll try. Honestly, I'd rather get together with you and tell you all about it face-to-face. This piece of writing will be about the end of SARA, and will hopefully segue into another piece about the road trip that I am currently on, just to prevent this from becoming my first book. (Not to say that pieces of this won't go in my first book...hah)
When I had left you, I was leaving Atlanta. What I failed to mention later is that I turned right back around and headed back into Atlanta to see Jayne for the fourth. Her life is...lovely. She has a lovely family, a lovely home, a lovely dog, a lovely job. But the trip was eye-opening for me. Her life, her family, her friends, the things that are important to her are so different from what I've experienced in my bringing-up. It seemed for a moment that she was living in a cut-throat capitalist environment where everything was bargained and bribed and traded, and where nobody really felt any better in the end. However, that probably isn't fair. That's just Corporate America. Her parents are wonderful hosts, and I immediately felt warmly welcomed and appreciated from the start. Their hospitality was truly a blessing and I can't put into words how much I cherished being part of a family for the Fourth, having missed my Fourth Up North for three years in a row, now.
Since Amy was in Brevard for the summer, we spent some time together as well. She came down and we FINALLY went to Williamston, SC, stalked the high school, crashed a wedding, and played in the park at night. Then, of course, like true imitation-Southerners, wolfed down hush puppies at Cookout with several choruses of "Why don't we live here for real?"
In the morning, we headed to Charlotte to see Wally and his new church as a surprise. We had thought, initially, that the church would be comparable (in size, at least) to Trinity, but in reality as soon as we walked in the door, people immediately knew that we were visitors. It was amazing, though; these are the sweetest, most welcoming and genuine people. Such a great environment. It doesn't hurt that the music was phenomenal, too...
Wally's friend treated us to lunch and then Amy and I headed downtown. Now, when I say that Charlotte is beautiful, it's a gross understatement. We drove around for a while with our jaws dragging behind on the pavement. Parked in the Nascar district, went to Discovery Place, and found a brilliant sushi place. We came back a couple of weeks later, found another sushi place, and found an apartment. We're moving. (When we become real people, of course...)
I just realized that I haven't really said much about SARA, although this is supposed to be mostly about SARA. That's probably because the day-to-day office work isn't particularly blog-worthy, also I'm not quite published yet and I can't tell you all of my secrets! But it is important for the reader to know that it took until July for me to get a clear research goal, and I took that and ran. Ran all the way to Florida.
Just after I finally figured out what I was doing, SARA interns had a semi-reunion in Florida for the shuttle launch. I could type volumes about this. Long story short, we ended up in Melbourne around 8PM, in Cocoa around 1AM, and in Titusville (finally) around 2AM with a million other people. Seriously, one million. I still don't really know where the Space View Park is, because we parked our cars at the end of the line of chaos. We found a grassy nook to claim in the morning, and slept in stuffy, humid cars next to the highway. In the morning, we sat on the sweltering Causeway, infested with fire ants, and waited. We still weren't sure if the shuttle would go, but when the time came and we wandered down to the bank, Atlantis was only a minute delayed. Easily the most emotionally-saturated moment of my life. That sound. That sound. That, and all of the people there who care about things like this, as most people should. We were awed and happy and eaten alive, but it wasn't until after the fact that we realized that our future is now so much more in jeopardy than it had been. Hundreds of thousands of people just watched their jobs fly into space. Great stimulus plan. Great. (I'll stop now, since this is a rant for another conversation...)
So, then, back to the research. My own little cosmic scavenger hunt. My next adventure took me to Columbia and Charleston to see Nettie again, which was so good for many reasons, and shortly after that it was right back to Florida.
This time, all of the interns were at FIT for the last talks. We had fun, though, too. I mean, who doesn't love riding around swamps in airboats, searching for gators, and eating enough fried food to kill a person? After all of our talks were done, we beached it up for a while and then had a final grill-out and jam session. The previous evening, Dr. Webb and I accumulated a couple of fans at the Jameson Inn pool. It's such a great way to relax, finally, and I definitely ironically broke a string while singing New Strings by Miranda Lambert. It was a great ending.
Next day, a couple of us that didn't have immediate flights home went to Kennedy, where I definitely spent a fortune. It was worth it, though, by the end...even though it was mostly stressful and bitter because of the present situation. BUT I had my astronaut salt shaker signed by a real astronaut, who incidentally was definitely into me. (hah)
Then, I hopped back in the car...stay tuned.