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the unopened box from Hawaii

opening a box from Hawaii first glimpse of what's inside when opening a box from Hawaii exploring what's inside a box from Hawaii

Sometimes life prevents us from getting out and about. Luckily when that happens, there are many “next best things!”

Ok, so they’re distant next best things to being on a tropical white sand beach yourself – but I’m working on the silver lining approach here, so bear with me. (I’m told that simply getting restless and setting off with my passport for parts unknown without warning or building up vacation days is bad for respectability and what not, so this is a necessary compromise.)

Anyway, being grounded myself I talked my mother into sending me treats from her trip which happened to be a first time visit to Hawaii. There was a geological conference that my dad was attending and she decided to join in and go exploring.

So onto the box. Classified ads can give intriguing little peeks at local life, but these newspaper sheets turned out to be primarily paid glossy ads that nobly did their job of protecting sweeter contents so that photo is mostly to build suspense. The main contents turned out to be a mix of Kiwi treats and Hawaii souvenirs.

As I’ve mentioned, my parents live in New Zealand. As they passed through Wellington, she snagged a keychain from Weta Workshop made of LOTR chain mail. This gift is for the the little girl who spent hours listening to her father read the books chapter by chapter and years later dragged him to Matamata because the hobbit village is now totally real. Also from NZ: pineapple lumps and an elusive Black Forest Cadbury bar.

For Hawaii, Mom honored my go-to souvenir or travel gift request which is the keychain (tiny! portable! even useful!) with a cute little ring of charms. She added fresh macadamia nuts and since neither of us can resist fabrics a sarong with bright, rich colors that I’ll take to the pool this spring under the bright Arizona sun. And she’s promised photos, too, when she has a chance to get them off of her camera.

Like guidebooks, travel shows and E.M. Forster’s A Room with A View, it all adds up to a welcome, vicarious taste of a place I hope to see someday through the eyes of someone who taught me to want to explore and to appreciate the details.

Plus, for some reason I can’t think about Hawaii without remembering my Middle East politics professor who taught us to say with the name a “v.”

So it’s a small, sweet box whose actual value lies not in the contents but the thoughts and the memories.

Mom writes that there’re more trips and conferences on the horizon – which I’m hoping will mean more boxes and more stories to share.

a Lord of the Rings set chain mail keychain from New Zealand's Weta Workshop that came in a box from Hawaii a letter from New Zealand's Weta Workshop that came in a box from Hawaii a keychain that came in a box from Hawaii

a sarong that came in a box from Hawaii

For about two weeks I studied abroad in Dubai. It was winter break of the 2009-2010 school year and the trip included environmental, design and journalism students who rang the new year in together on a beach with expatriots from around the world.

Through the whole trip, one image dominated – literally. Even when we couldn’t see the tallest building in the world, we were surrounded by reminders. From the scale Lego model at Dubai World to the gift shop postcards and newspaper headlines, it was everywhere.

We couldn’t wait for the January 4th opening and a chance see the view from the top. We knew it would be spectacular – and we weren’t disappointed. From big lights to big noises, the event had everything. There was even the twist of a last minute name change from Burj Dubai to Burj khalifa.

What I didn’t expect were the little things – the individual voices and faces that made up the crowds pooling in streets and courtyards all over Dubai to gaze upwards together and form something even greater than the fireworks.

The holidays are always a time to think about family. When I was growing up, the holidays meant travel because we would go to family or family would come to us. And often, after dinner was eaten, dishes washed and presents opened, the downtime would slowly fill with family stories – and sometimes even family photos.

I’m thinking about family connections a lot for another reason too.

I’ve launched myself on a completely overwhelming project: to organize the boxes and albums of family photos in my guardianship as well as my own rolls and rolls of prints – then to scan, tag and upload them so that captions can be added and corrected and prints can be made for anyone who has been looking for a copy of that exact photo since forever.

Flipping through the stacks, I’m flooded with memories, realizing that it hasn’t been just me growing and changing each year but my entire family. The family portraits from the early 1900’s are followed by graduation portraits, wedding photos – and then first Christmases.

Even as I wade deeper and deeper through the boxes, wondering how I convinced myself this was a good idea, I’m grateful for the obsessive labeling habit I got into after helping with tornado clean up in high school and aunts, uncles and cousins who I hope will step in to help me correct and caption many of these images once I get them scanned and posted!

The thing is, this project isn’t just for me, or even for us. There’s a whole new generation of nieces and nephews having their first, second and third Christmases now. Their photo albums may be online instead of on the shelf. But the people, and the meaning, will be the same.

I’m grateful for a lot of things, but for this blog entry, I’ll just pick one to show you.

My parents came to visit last weekend – and since they’d already come about halfway around the world, we decided to go just a little further.


And then we headed home.

Last Friday, I went to San Xavier for the first time with a diverse group from the Cronkite School at Arizona State University including their newest graduate class, the current Humphrey Fellows and this years Murrow Fellows.

San Xavier is a cathedral built by Padre Kino among Tohono O’odham people in an area they named Wak. Today it’s open to the public and maintained by the non-profit group Patronato San Xavier, which also give tours of the building and grounds.

Our guide, Judith, first showed us a model of the structure and explained that the restoration process now underway is strictly allowed to maintain and preserve the existing buildings but not add or embellish anything. She led us through the courtyards and side rooms while telling us about the history of the Tohono O’odham, Padre Kino and the Franciscans who came later. The museum holds locally made baskets and art as well as books and vestments saved by the congregation during the years that the church’s future was uncertain. (I’ll post photos of the grounds and chapel next.)

After the tour, some people climbed the hill where early morning services are often held while others bought fresh frybread in the front plaza in front of San Xavier before we all boarded the bus and drove away.

Where Everyone’s From

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Freelance reporter, ASU Walter Cronkite graduate, News21 fellow - loves writing, travel, news and many other random things...

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