Monday, December 31, 2007

Year in Review...Part Thee and a third

The Year 2007.
Year in review...another installment.
Well, let's see we've covered up to June.
In July there was some major celebrite (notice: blogger doesn't do accente gue) in the Rochester area. On July 4th acclaimed race horse Funny Cide took Finger Lakes Race Track by storm.

And yes, you guessed it...the horse lover in me just could not resist. Actually, I've always wanted to see a triple crown race...and seeing a triple crown contender run against horses here in my hometown is as close as I've come so far. Seriously, do you know how much tickets to the Derby cost? This baby. Anyway, at seven years of age this guy with the comical name was considered a senior citizen. The picture to the right is not great...but was taken literally balancing on tippy toe over the crowds around the paddock area. I swear he winked at me. I'm kidding folks...I'm kidding.
Anyway.... Before they called 'riders up' I went to a tent where the owners of Funny Cide were signing autographs for the public. Funny was quite busy and stamping hoofprints would have spoiled his pre-race concentration of course. These gentlemen were some of the most charming and gracious people I've ever had the pleasure to stand in line to meet. Spending most of my summers in Henderson Harbor, it was a delight to meet the hometown heroes; the pride of nearby Sackets Harbor. Yes, these blue collar boys took on the blue bloods and won. A bargain colt became the sensation to win the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness in 2002...just missing the Triple Crown ringer at Belmont. While in line I ran into a former student of mine. With camera in hand my mother snapped a photo for the two of us. Oh, yeah and the race? Funny won. Yep. The old timer proved he had one more win left in him. I will not include any video since I don't have any and basically I was screaming so loud I nearly blew my Mom's eardrums out. What a good sport she was. Shortly after his win at the Wadsworth Memorial...Funny Cide was retired. We saw his last career win...and it happened here.

Later on in July...I left the country...yeah...yeah...I got the heck out of Dodge. Just kidding it was just a three week green card. Here's how that all went down.

When I made it through cancer the second time around I knew I would have to make some big leaps to get me revved up to truly live again. It's hard to feel like you're living when you're trying to just live period.

I guess I could have done something less cliche (no accente gue again) but I believe in know...fate, the universe speaking to you. Does the universe speak to you...if you believe in it, yes it speaks.
After the New Year I got a letter in the mail inviting me to a reunion of the study abroad program I participated in back in college. Hello...Universe calling...At the time I opened the letter I was still a zombie and not capable of even thinking about travels or see ahead to the healthy future. I was in remission but far from recovered from what it took to put me there. Quietly I folded the letter, tucked it away and sighed. ...Leah..come you read? Yet things got better and several weeks later, feeling a little more like myself I wondered...what if? It didn't take much to realize this was something I needed to do.
Beat cancer. Will travel. Problem Numero Solution: use my savings...worry about rainy days later. Something was calling me back to Oxford and to see all the places I've always dreamt about beyond England. Europe.. this had not even been in the travel plan. With a mission I visited the travel agent, had a plan and hurriedly scrawled a letter to my cousins in Yorkshire. I'm coming to see you, I wrote.

Though I really envisioned this trip as a solo venture part of the way through my planning my friend Megan asked if she could go along. Thinking about it a little more, I realized it might be fun to have her along for part of it. Yet the rest of the trip I needed to do on my own. She joined me for 2 weeks while we toured European cities on a whirlwind bus tour with Contiki. I highly recommend this company if you want to travel abroad with people in the 20-30s demographic. The best part besides seeing all these places was truly in the people we shared it with on our bus. I met some of the coolest people from Australia, South Africa, Brazil, New Zealand and Canada...oh and America represented too.

Together we saw Paris, London, Amsterdam, the Rhine Valley and Munich, Innsbruck Austria, Venice and Lucerne Switzerland. In addition Megan and I also saw Brussels ourselves where we met up with a friend of my friend's friend named Julie. She showed us Brussels in a way we might never have seen it if going it as just your ordinary map toting tourists. Thank you Julie for your kindness to a friend of a friend of a friend. By the way, the book she is holding is a thick Bible style menu of the 2,000 available beer offerings at a hole-in-the wall pub in Bruxelles (let's be authentic here). I am one quarter Flemish afterall.
The remaining week I stayed...and just as I had orginally planned I hoofed it by myself in London and in the rest of England. I joined the Bonaventure crew at Oxford. The reunion wasn't as well attended as I had anticipated, but it was so good to be back at Somerville and see all the wonderful old haunts of my time in Oxford. Minus the maximum study power hours and pub crawls it was just like old times. After it was was time to head North for my cousins'. It was a good break from touristy fare. In Yorkshire, I had a chance to rest and I focused on catching up with them. Please see the video to really experience a spot of tea with this charming couple.

As you can see...Jack and Audrey are the two sweetest cousins, not to mention excellent hosts. I ate like a queen after many forrays on food and scarfed up take away on buses and trains. She even made lemon curd, muffins, cookies or biscuits. One night they treated me to Fish N' Chips in town. Though they are both in their 80s now, in their younger days they travelled to countries and places all over the world, including many visits to the U.S., which is how I became acquainted with them as a child. I used to hear about their adventures to far off places. I likened it then to the way Gobo from Fraggle Rock would get postcards from his Uncle, Travelling Matt. They call their desire to travel "itchy feet" and so too have I inherited this trait...perhaps not by nature...but more recently by nurture.

This adventure made me excited about life again...because life in and out of sterile hospital floors and infusion units had really thrown me into a funk. Travel seemed to be metaphorically related to the whole idea of overcoming cancer. Without really knowing if things would work out I felt I could roll with whatever came my way. Yet travel was a good escape from the practical and mundane bits of life. After years of hospitals and holding back on dreams this was my Everest, if you will. It was something that seemed impossible in the throws of all that life had thrown my way. I saw many things I had always dreamed about but just as important I revisited the place where I was happiest in a time when I was most at peace.When I was a junior in college...that summer in England was magical. Bryan Adams sang about the iconic summer of '69...mine was thirty years after that one. I wanted to believe that that summer of '99 could be back in my heart again. It was a dream I sometimes wondered if I would ever live to see. I even hope the chance to go back will come again... but if it doesn't I will always be grateful that I took it while it was here. You see, when you live knowing unequivocally that tomorrow is not assured... you have to pretend that today is all you have. I just hope there are many more tomorrows... And lots more adventure in the future.
I may or may not have a final end of the year post but in any case I want to wish you all a very happy New Year. May 2008 bring all of you the best that is in store!
Cue the hopeful Auld Lang Syne soundmix.

Love Always, Leah

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