Well, this week I had my first round of pre-Peace Corps goodbyes, and my last few days (ever!?) living in sunny Florida. Keeping true to the advice of current and past Peace Corps volunteers, I spent time with good friends and ate a lot cheese (plus some other delicious things I’ll share about shortly). Right now, as I’m reflecting on this time, I’m already a continent away, sitting in a London townhouse with a cup of English breakfast having given up on fighting the jet lag that has kept me awake since 3am.
Florida has been my home for almost 4.5 years, a huge accomplishment in commitment for me! But I don’t feel sad about leaving, I feel grateful and happy… I completed my college degree, I met wonderful, beautiful people, and grew as an individual in ways I wouldn’t have believed possible 5 years prior. There was, of course, a tickling in my heart and a prickling in my eyes as I boarded my plane out of Orlando. There are inevitably things that I will miss about this place, but it’s mostly the people that I came to love and thanks to modern technology there are 1,001 ways to keep in touch long distance. Instead of getting too sappy here, I’m just going to share some pictures of what I was up to this week…
I watched waves and sunsets from the beach near my house. This has been one of the GREATEST pleasures of where I’ve been living. The beach access is at the end of my street and I can walk out in a bikini, no shoes, no cell phone, no keys, and be on the beach in less than a minute. I appreciated this every single day I was here. It never ceased to amaze, bewilder, and please me that I had such easy access to my one of my favorite environments. A marine biologists’ dream, a mermaid’s fantasy, I could never grow tired of this. “Take me to the sea…”
I also spent several days walking to the fishing jetty, about a mile away, to look for juvenile green turtles that hang out there, another one of the bonuses of living where I did. They’re quite playful and fun to watch; if I’m lucky there are tourists around ogling at them and I get to play marine biologist and share some fun turtle facts. FUN FACT: Green sea turtles get their name from the greenish color of their cartilage and fat, not the color of their shell. Their shells can be a variety of colors, from brown and grey to blue and yellow. The little guys in these photos are juveniles, 1-2ft long and just a couple years old. An adult will be around 5ft long and weigh in the 400 lb range, so these guys have some growing to do!
When it came to food this week… I am proud to say, there was no holding back. There was a homemade vegetarian potpie with a rosemary infused pastry crust; acai smoothie bowls covered in fresh fruit; bagels smothered in peanut butter and topped with bananas, cinnamon, granola, and honey; savory and spicy veggie stir-fries made with quinoa that I brought back from my trip to Peru earlier this year; and three pints of Ben n Jerry’s! A favorite treat food of mine (sadly something I often avoid) is bread… so I made myself a delicious loaf of beer bread, with a rosemary and sea salt crust, that I enjoyed with slices of fresh mozzarella and a herby olive oil dip (photos of this below). The other food highlight of the week was this phenomenal Napoleon pastry that a good friend painstakingly handmade. Twelve layers of pastry and rich, delicious custard found their way quite happily to my belly… Mmm mmm. Doesn’t that photo of the perfect pastry slice and all it’s flaky, little layers make you tear up a little from pleasure?
I also had my last night of being a Marine Endangered Species Observer on dredges, something I have been doing on and off for over 5 years. I was gifted by this spectacular sunset, where the sun shining through the rain clouds took on the most magnificent form.
And, lastly, but definitely not least, there were my friends who kindly supported my food frenzies, stood by me during finals week freak outs, and made my time in Florida most enjoyable. I said goodbye to my roommate and fellow turtle warrior, who I’ve had the pleasure of knowing and growing with the past year. Below, the two of us are photographed in front of our house, our little beach sanctuary; both place and person will be missed.
And this last photograph is me on the beach, just an hour before leaving for my flight. Funnily enough, I kind of look like I’m giving the middle finger (really, I’m not!), but I’m actually holding up a piece of trash I found in the surf… I was excited that my last visit to the beach involved one more of my favorite activities: picking up plastic! If you follow the horizon to the right of me, there’s a small vessel with a crane on top: the dredge where I worked the past year. I thought it a rather wonderfully captured moment; the perfect end to my week and my four-ish years in Florida. With much love for this place, I finally say goodbye to another place that, for sometime, had become my home.