At the end of my US trip I had five days free and no plans. I wasn’t short of options, though. A new friend had invited me to San Francisco, another wanted to meet up in Austin. I was looking into a three day hike into the Grand Canyon while tossing up whether or not to find a sixth ‘Small Town Girl’ to shoot. I even considered going up to Alaska to watch bears catch salmon after the link to this live cam was shared all over my social networks. But when it came time to make a decision, the thought of getting on more buses/trains/planes, settling into new accommodation, finding my feet in a new place then getting on another bus/train/plane to Los Angeles, finding accom there and then getting myself to LAX for the 14 hour flight home was just too much. I had very little interest in exploring LA but in the end spending a few days there just seemed like the path of least resistance. So I jumped on Airbnb and found a room at Matt’s place in Silverlake and figured I’d have an okay week in a town I didn’t care for much.
And theeen I ate a huge slice of humble pie because I ended up LOVING the place. It was warm and friendly and so different to the over-the-top plastic LA I had imagined. Each day I went for a run around Silver Lake then spent a leisurely hour or two sipping coffee/journalling/people watching at Intelligentsia before walking (and walking…and walking) around the city, turning down streets with cool sounding names, dropping into stores, chatting to whoever wanted to talk, taking picture after picture of the amazing cactus plants, succulents and palm trees. Matt thought I was a little crazy when I told him the neighbourhoods I’d trekked to on foot but I really do think it’s the best way to see a place. I caught the bus out to Santa Monica and Venice Beach and did more of the same, basking in the sunshine and good vibes. Apart from the Getty Center, I didn’t really visit many tourist spots or landmarks. I did want to check out Huntington Gardens (as recommended by Maria) and Griffith Park but they were a little further than my legs could carry me. I ate multiple meals (and smoothies – coconut milk, almond butter, date and vanilla bean, anyone?) at Cafe Gratitude in Hollywood and Venice, Cortez + Cookbook in Echo Park, Tacos Delta and Intelli in Silverlake…plus a jar of almond maple butter (ahem). LA, you’re okay and I’ll be back.
I spent a week on a rambling farm in south east Texas with a family of nine, the Schnakenbergs, plus their 500 chickens, 22 pigs, 16 cows, seven goats, six dogs, four sheep, four cats, a horse and a donkey. Each day the temperature hovered around 40 degrees Celsius and the humidity hung heavy. I shared a room up in the roof of the house with Hannah, Lydia, Sarah, Rachel and Johanna – the littlest girls slept in one single bed so I could have my own – and the two boys slept in a bunk bed in the lounge room. The days were filled with chores and farm work and meal times were a big deal. The three older girls and mama Schnakenberg had a knack for creating delicious meals using little more than farm eggs, goat’s milk, produce from the garden and some quinoa. When the bell tolled everyone stopped what they were doing and took their place at the table. After breakfast papa Schnakenberg would read from the Bible and ask one of the kids to pray for the day ahead. Had it not been summer holidays the children would then have then spread out their books and started their schooling. But it was early August so they still had a few weeks of freedom. With all of the cooking, cleaning, washing, gardening and tending to the animals, Johanna and her siblings didn’t have a whole lot of time for much else. During my stay they did manage to fit in a dip in a nearby lake (and part time alligator playground), guitar lessons, a trip to ‘town’ to go thrift shopping, a mid-week church service and a two day conference for home school families in the big smoke (Houston). Their lives were simple but not necessarily sheltered. The three older girls were very well read and up on all of the latest pop culture references. They had political opinions and a desire to see the world. Johanna had spent the first nine years of her life in Romania. She was a talented photographer and keen blogger. And I’m embarrassed to say that I was a little surprised. It’s easy to buy into the stereotype of country kids as slow, ignorant or lacking in some way but it just isn’t true. Elements of the experience reminded me of my own childhood but the fact that I felt out of my comfort zone made it clear how different my inner city Sydney life is now.