Well, I'm back. It's a little bit strange how big of a culture shock it was to be in Iowa. I haven't been there since my grandfather's funeral 6 years ago. And prior to that I hadn't been there for several years.
I flew into Omaha on Thursday - I just want to note that I've figured out that the smaller the plane you fly in, the larger the seats...good to know - where my aunt and parents picked me up. We drove to Harlan, IA (about an hour east of Omaha) and checked me into the hotel. It was this little cinder block affair that's run by an east Indian family (they and the Thai family that runs the Thai/Chinese restaurant are the sum total of diversity in the town). The room was basic, the bed was hard, but it had two necessities...air conditioning and cable.
We went to dinner before the viewing. Luckily the restaurant that we chose had vegetarian options. Of course, as I was eating the accompanying salad, I discovered that bacon is considered a salad basic in Iowa. By that time, I'd already eaten most of it, so it was a bit of a moot point. The viewing was actually pretty tolerable. I got to talk to my cousins who are "suddenly" grown up. I took a walk to see my grandparents' former house.
This may seem like a macabre point to make, but the mortician did a very good job with my grandmother. She looked very nice. It was apparently a vast improvement on how she'd looked recently when family saw her. This kind of thing would have been very important to her.
Friday, my immediate family went for breakfast at the greasy spoon across the street. My dad loves it because they have great biscuits with sausage gravy. For a basic breakfast of eggs, hashbrowns and toast it was fine. Food, however, is a very different affair in this town...and contributed to the culture shock.
The funeral was good...the minister knew my grandmother very well, which makes a huge difference. He sat with our family afterwards at the lunch and it was great to hear how many charity programs he has. This part of Iowa is incredibly poor - my cousin told me that she has a job paying $11/hour and she's never had a job that paid as well.
We headed out to the cemetary out in Jacksonville. I took a lot of pictures out there on my mom's camera and she hasn't e-mailed them yet. It was hot, hot, hot and humid. Blessedly, the minister only had a short prayer, then we could head back. Lunch was open-faced sandwiches, pasta salad, jello salad, and the nummiest deserts, ever (that is one area that Danish cooking excels!).
During the afternoon, my mother and I drove to the Harlan cemetary and took some pictures there, as well. Then it was back to dinner and an evening spent watching "What Not To Wear." My mother came over to give me a massage. After a moment, I realized that she was using techniques that were similar to professional massages I've had. "Where did you learn to give massages?" I asked. Apparently, it was a required skill for a nurse back in the early 60's. Why have I never known about this?!
The other culture shock...I met and talked to a large number of older family members. I would be introduced and then said relative would turn to my mother and ask, "So, she's not married?" My mother would say that I was not, and the response, in at least 2 of the cases, was, "Oh, so-and-so has one of those!" So, I was one of "those" strange creatures who never marries, or rather more shocking, never has children.
In general, it was a good experience. Definitely outside of my normal day-to-day. I'm suprised at how tired I was at the whole thing. And I missed all my friends here that I would normally seek out when feeling stressed.
My flights back were notable for two reasons - the first was that I had a window on the first flight and got to marvel and the beautiful clouds as we were landing in Houston. The second was that the second leg of the trip was on a not-full flight. Yay for extra room!
Yesterday, SlowTalker and I met up with HippyChick and BeeDragon to watch a play in the park about Ragnarock (the Norse mythology about the end of the world...although they spent more time on earlier myths than actually on the apocolypse part). It was fun. Then S and I went for a walk along the Albany Waterfront Trail. It was so cool! It was originally a landfill, but later different artists came in and created all sorts of art out of the items they found or on the items that were sticking out of the ground. It's just a weird place that I'd never even heard of.
It was a wonderful reconnection to being back in the bay area with my friends.
Today I'm back at work. I'm feeling a bit out of touch with things, but generally wanting to get back into my life.
I wanted to thank all of you for your kind words...I even got a phone message from a blogger! It felt really wonderful to have all that support.