Posted by: Travis | January 7, 2008

Remember the Alamo!

I didn’t bring my saline solution on the plane on purpose because I just don’t bring any liquids on planes anymore, especially if I’m bringing my laptop. Its just too much trouble getting through security. Since that means I can’t sleep for an extended amount of time because my eyes will dry out im taking the opportunity to do something I abhorred in a previous blog entry: moblogging. That’s right, mobile blogging. Though I don’t have wireless internet on the plane (though from what I hear that’s about to change), and therefore can’t upload my post, im content to write my post in a word document and upload it later. So Rachel and I are now flying back home completely exhausted after having a great trip (she’s currently reading over my shoulder and laughing at me hysterically for my moblogging experiment), but I guess that’s the way it should be when you fly back to hang out with friends for a weekend.

Things got started (not so) bright an early on Friday morning when the alarm went off at 3:45 am. Holy crap, that’s early. We got up, showered, and headed to the airport for our 6:30 flight. Things were pretty uneventful on the flight over. Sure, the airport was crowded and full of stupid people who, though they may have college degrees, have problems understanding elementary principals like lines, reading signs, the order of numbers and letters, and following directions. Where do these people come from?

We arrived in San Antonio after stops in Phoenix and El Paso. We got picked up at the airport by our friends Corey, Beth, Katie, and Robert. Corey and Beth are dating. Corey just graduated with a degree in accounting and just started going to work for a company he had previously been interning with that buys and sells airplane engines. Beth and Katie graduated with us in May and enrolled in the masters program at Trinity. Beth for school psychology (a 3 year program) and Katie for high school education (a year long program, she wants to be a chemistry teacher). Robert, however, was the primary reason for our trip. Two summers ago Katie went on a trip with her church to Kenya, mostly as a mission trip, which involved some time at a college called Day Star University that her church helps to sponsor. While there she met Robert and they seemed to hit it off, though not in ‘that’ way. They exchanged phone numbers and decided to remain in contact. About two weeks after Katie arrived back in the US, she was talking to Robert on the phone using a calling card and just as time expired he uttered the words “I love you”. This led to them deciding to begin something that the term ‘long distance relationship’ doesn’t even really begin to describe. Regular phone calls, emails, and text messages kept them in close contact for a year until this past summer when Katie traveled back to Kenya (this time taking Beth with her) and finally spend time with her boyfriend during a time when they were actually a couple.

The month that they spent together this summer flew by and upon her return talk began among her friends that some how, some way, we had to get Robert over to the states. Getting him a visa proved to be much easier than we expected (he’s a Sudanese refuge living in Kenya). Around October it was finally confirmed, Robert had his visa and his plane ticket and was officially coming to the US for a month around Christmas time. Shortly thereafter Rachel and I bought our plane tickets down for this weekend.

We arrived in San Antonio, dropped our bags off at Katie and Beth’s apartment and immediately headed over to Canyon Café for happy hour. It was popular tradition among our circle of friends during our senior year of college because happy hour was from four to seven, seven days a week, and they had great margaritas and appetizers at great prices. What started out as a group of six of us gathered around a table in the bar slowly grew up to as many as twelve or so as old friends rolled through the door one by one to hang out for the first time in several months. We stayed solid through seven at which point happy hour ended and the price of a margarita doubled. It was time to move on.

We proceeded on to First Friday, a culture and arts festival of sorts that takes place on the first Friday of every month in the King William District of San Antonio. We walked around and talked, looked at art of many different types in many different galleries and street corners. We watched several teenage bands all hopped up on teenage angst do their thing, we watched guys transparently over analyze art in an attempt to get some girl to go home with them, and generally just had fun.

We got back to the apartment and decided to pop in a classic film of our generation: the Mighty Ducks 2. I think the decision was part nostalgia, part desire to expose Robert to EVERY aspect of American culture possible. By the time the movie was over, Rachel and I had been awake for some ungodly amount of time and were completely wiped out. Time for bed.

We woke up with a plan to hit our favorite breakfast taco joint in the world, Taco Taco. The only problem was that we had a group of about 12 that wanted to go and the place is really small. Not only that but they have recently garnered some national attention via a very favorable write-up in Bon Appetite, a special feature on the food network that crowned them ‘Best Tacos in the Country’, and a high ranking in Texas Monthly’s ‘Best Tacos in Texas’ feature article. Katie and Beth have reported that since their recent exposure, the place is totally packed from open to close every day. Saturday and Sunday mornings are obviously insane. Luckily they still recognize and give preferential treatment to their regulars from before all the hype. It was pretty widely accepted that eating there was not going to be an option, so we called in and placed an order for 30 tacos to take to another friend’s apartment. Liz, one of Rachel’s old roommates was nice enough to let all 15 or so of us hang out at her apartment for a few hours as we stuffed our faces with incredible breakfast tacos and just hung out, catching up.

The group broke for the afternoon as some of those still in grad school had reading to do and papers to write. Since the weather was perfect, and we were only together for a weekend, the Sensational Six (Corey, Beth, Katie, Robert, Rachel and I) decided to take advantage of the situation and go back up to campus and reminisce. Robert seemed to be pretty impressed with the campus and took a lot of pictures. From there we moved things over to the Riverwalk, because even though we loathe the river walk, if Robert was going to come to San Antonio, we all agreed that he should probably see it. We hit all the touristy spots, got margaritas to go, and even took Robert to the Alamo (where I gave an impromptu history lesson to Robert as the only person there who was born and raised in Texas). Once we felt we had fully exhausted everything there was to do we went back home.

It was actually pretty silly with the three couples wandering around San Antonio trying to show the visiting Kenyan about the city. I sat back and realized several times how cheesy it was and how goofy we looked. It was like some sitcom plot, but it was damn fun.

For dinner the six of us went to diner at our favorite classic Tex-Mex place in San Antonio, Picante Grill. We were joined by Alex (my roommate all four years of college) and his girlfriend Ami (who lived across the hall from us freshman year and has been a good friend since the start of my college career). They both graduated with us in May. Alex with a degree in computer science (and generally a whiz kid on the subject) has been working for National Instruments in Austin working on Labview, an engineering data acquisition software package that i used a whole lot in school. Ami has been working as a personal banker at Frost Bank in San Antonio. Though they live in different cities, they get to hang out together on the weekends.

Many of the girls in attendance for the weekend were in a core group all through school, part bible study, part social support group, that was headed by a woman who goes to a local church named Ginny. After dinner we we joined by Candice and Thai and headed over to Ginny’s place to catch up have have dessert. I was already stuffed, but passing on turtle cheesecake and cookies is something i just don’t do, so i partook, and it was glorious.

After things wound down at Ginny’s we all headed over to Pat O’Brien’s downtown to give Robert a taste of the downtown San Antonio nightlife (of which we rarely participated). We did the usual hanging out outside, having a few drinks, then heading into the piano bar section once we were ready. We then spent the next hour or two listen to two dirty old men get bawdy on dueling pianos. We amused ourselves by taking goofy pictures and directing our attention away from the guys up front. Eventually they started playing the A&M fight song, did some painful to listen to versions of my favorite songs and we decided it was time to call it a night and get a cab home. It was lots of fun though.

We woke up (with some difficulty) on sunday morning and headed out to David and Judy’s house for brunch. David and Judy are friends of Rachel’s parents that lived in Corpus Christi when Rachel was born and her family lived there. They currently live outside of San Antonio on a secluded piece of property that allows for an outdoor shower, a fish pond, and an area for two pet donkeys to roam around. We regularly house sit for them when they go on their incredible trips (the last one was to the golapagos islands), they used to have us and our friends over for dinner all the time and offered their home as a place of refuge whenever we got sick of being on campus, in San Antonio, or just needed an afternoon to hang out and read a book outside. They made the eight of us that went out there a delicious spread of breakfast tacos with eggs, sausage with peppers, fruit salad, fresh juice, and some other goodies. It was great to just sit around and eat great food out on their front porch and talk for upwards of four hours. They are some of our favorite people and definitely a model for how we want to live our lives as we get older. Luckily, when we moved up to the Bay Area Rachel’s Aunt and Uncle kind of moved into that role for us. David works for Agilent Technologies, which is an offshoot of Hewlett Packard, and is based here in Palo Alto, so we are hoping that we can get the two of them to come up and visit sometime soon. From there we went straight to the airport to head home.

Id say the weekend was about as perfect as it could have been. We were constantly doing something and taking advantage of the relatively short amount of time we had in town to do all the things we wanted to do, eat at the places we wanted to eat, and see the people we wanted to see. It was never a dull moment. Most of all, the whole reason for the trip: Robert coming to town, seems to have gone better than i was expecting. Just to give everyone a little bit of Background on Robert (and Katie, if you read this and i get something wrong, please let me know so that i can correct it): He was raised in Sudan in an upper middle class family. When he was around twelve years old the political climate in Sudan worsened and his family was targeted, his parents killed, he and his brothers separated from their sisters and forced into the military. He and his brothers were also eventually separated and it is assumed that they are no longer alive. Eventually Robert made it out of Sudan and into a refugee camp in Kenya (the same one that the lost boys were from, although Robert was not selected). He was eventually able to get himself educated and then got into the University that Katie’s church helps to sponsor. In May he will graduate with a bachelor’s degree and will hopefully find himself with a well paying job, which considering his past is pretty incredible. Last Christmas Robert decided that he wanted to go back into Sudan and try to find his sisters. Despite the intense political climate and our hesitance to get excited about it, he went anyway and ended up finding his sisters after a relatively short time. They had assumed that he was dead and couldn’t believe they were actually seeing him. It was truly amazing. He also spent some time talking about how when he graduates he would like to go back to Sudan and work for the UN, Unicef, or some other organization and help to fix things. He argued that Sudan’s children have a responsibility to go back to Sudan after they leave to get educated and help to solve the country’s problems, otherwise things will never get better. For someone who has a ticket out of all that stuff and the promise of a new life in America to say that astounded me. His selflessness and sense responsibility to repay his country after he was lucky enough to escape and get educated blew me away. He has lived a life so incredible, that if they made a movie about it people would complain that it could never happen. You just can’t help but feel great for the guy and the promise that his life holds.

Talking to Robert was just a joy, and im not saying that to sound cliche, i really mean it. We had lots of discussions about how our cultures are similar and different, about religion and politics, about food, music, and the current political problems in Kenya that erupted as he was here. He was smart, open minded, funny, unbelievably friendly, and just a blast to hang out with. There were many things that he could have easily had a problem with but he seemed to enjoy everything we did and went after everything with an excitement, a gusto, and lack of reservation that was contagious. He flew from Africa to meet Katie and her family in Scottsdale, about as far from Africa as it gets, and had fun. She took him to see snow, to see the grand canyon when it was 20 degrees outside. We took him to art galleries (as he marveled at how a small painting could cost $900). We took him to street artists do stuff with spray paint, and teenage metal bands performing on the street. We took him to eat mexican food, lots of mexican food. We drank margaritas and took him to the riverwalk. We took him to a bar in downtown San Antonio late at night, about as far from his life in Kenya as things get, and he had a ball. Never once did he show any reservation, any fear of the unknown. He had a blast everywhere we went. There were times when i was worried that he was going to have had enough and want to just go home and hang out with just a few of us where things were comfortable, but that never happened. Everything we did it felt like he just wanted more, and i think everyone had more fun because of it. His attitude really was contagious.

Robert is still here for a few more weeks, but Katie started school back up monday (she is student teaching and going to class at the same time which leaves her with little time for anything else). A group from her church is taking a trip to New Orleans this week to help build and repair the damaged homes (which is ridiculous that there is still cleaning up to do, but thats an issue for another day). Robert left on a flight sunday night for New Orleans to meet up with the group and work with them for the week before going back to San Antonio. If this past weekend was any indication im sure he’ll have a blast. He’s not allowed to drink or go to bars because its a church trip, but i told him to eat as much cajun food as he can and check out their music. I hope he has fun, but i have little doubt in my mind that he will.

Pictures can be found here. What a perfect weekend, if only it could have been longer.

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