After my uncle Danny passed me off to my uncle Mike and aunt Cindy, I enjoyed one of my favorite places in the United States and the setting of Charles Frazier’s famous Cold Mountain novel: the Appalachian mountains of North Carolina. The mountains in the distance really do look blue. My aunt and uncle’s home has a perfect view.
This trip to the Asheville area, I did something I haven’t done in all of my other trips. I visited Biltmore Estates, the mansion and extensive property developed by George Vanderbilt II in 1895. The house is 178,926 square feet and has 250 rooms. George married a woman named Edith and had one daughter named Cornelia.
I ventured into Asheville itself with my aunt Cindy one morning to purchase a small art print to add to my very small collection. Asheville artists are so talented, and their subject matter, the mountains around them, offer endless inspiration. One day, I dream of owning an actual painting from this area, and others, but for now I am satisfied with my prints.
I spoke to 3 Sunday School Classes in a row at my aunt and uncle’s church, Long’s Chapel Methodist, on February 24th. I was plenty tired afterwards, but very blessed.
After North Carolina, I was off to Tennessee to visit the Lollar clan. Ronnie and Lindsey Lollar are some of my best friends in the whole world. Lindsey and Holly (who I stayed with in January) are on the short list of my closest girlfriends, and Lindsey is the one who is just as obsessive about fictional characters as I am. She’s one of those people who dress up to go to fantasy movies. I don’t do that, but I am convinced that the people I meet in my books and favorite tv shows are as real as you or me, and don’t even attempt to dissuade me of that, because it’s useless. Lindsey is the one that I discuss these people with and who I am able to put away the pretense with that they only exist in fiction. She introduced me to Harry Potter, for which I will be forever grateful. She let me borrow all of her Anne of Green Gables books, something that she is very reluctant to do. And on my recent visit, I introduced her to Lark Rise to Candleford, the four season BBC tv series.
When we weren’t talking about our fictional worlds, Lindsey and I were playing with her two children, Brennan (5) and Zane (2), talking to the little boy growing in her tummy, and putting together a preschool curriculum for her to teach her kids.
Ronnie worked a lot, but when he was home, we were having family movie night with smoothies and popcorn, hiking in the foothills, or going to the park.
Pieces of my heart are always torn out when I leave that family.
I lived in East Texas for 10 years, the longest I’ve been in any one area. It was the place I learned how to be an adult, learned to dream with an adult understanding, learned to pay bills, graduated from college, and had my first teaching job. I planted my first church in Tyler, Harvest Church International, and met all of my closest friends there. Holly and Daniel. Ronnie and Lindsey. Joel and Selena. Lara Antique. And so many more.
I arrived on March 13, 2013. My friends kept me very busy with portrait sessions. Babies. Couples. Proposals. They blessed me with donations for each one. On March 17th, we had the Tyler adopt SA presentation, and it was so good to explain my vision clearly to friends who have been following so long via facebook and the blog.
I added onto my teaching certification while there. As I plan to apply for teaching jobs in South Africa, I wanted to apply for primary school in addition to secondary, so I took the EC-6 Generalist, and I passed! While this isn’t required to teach in the private schools in SA, proof that I’m actually qualified to teach primary will certainly look good.
On Friday, I met a small group of my previous students at Lindo Mexico Restaurant. I allowed them to friend me on facebook, after I was no longer their teacher, and I try to keep up with them, throwing out unwanted posts like, “Keep out of trouble!” and “Shouldn’t you be studying!” But it means I get to see them graduating from High School and starting at community college, or having babies.
I also attended my friends Misty and Alex’s renewal vows and their first actual wedding with all the bells and whistles. Misty is white and Alex is Mexican so the wedding was a beautiful mixture of the two cultures.
Finally, on the last Sunday at Harvest Church International, I witnessed and photographed the ordination of Bryan Runyan, one of the elder’s of Harvest, to the ministry.
When it came time to leave, I had just begun to felt as though Harvest was mine again.
I had a brief stop in Rockwall, a suburb of the famous Dallas, Texas. My aunt Charlene’s best friend, Patricia, lives there and had me give a presentation to her sorority. On Tuesday, I flew out of DFW (Dallas Fort Worth Airport) to head back to Florida on March 26, 2013.
Just a little over two weeks to visit with my Florida family again before heading back to South Africa on April 11, 2013.
Here’s a few more photos of this section of my trip, if you haven’t had your fill: