The End of Summer 2011

This And That
This And That

Another season passed, another season beginning.  It has been a very busy summer here in the Virginia edition of the Charest family.  We started with refinancing our house the evening before leaving on a three week trip to China.  Upon our return home; the rest of the summer was a blur of recovering from our vacation trip, work, boating, really hot weather, earthquakes, hurricanes, flooding rainstorms, and several groups of family visitors.

There’s way too much to write about in any detail for just one post for catching up on everything we’ve been involved with these past several months.  The big event of this past summer was a long-awaited trip back to China with Winnie.  This was my first trip back in nearly seven years, and Winnie’s first trip back in three years.  Time flies!

During the spring we started to refinance our house, taking advantage of the lower interest rates.  The finance company assured us it would take no more than one month to complete the process, and as we started in the beginning of April we through we’d have enough time before leaving on our planned trip.  It was a good plan.  Regrettably, we ran into a serious snag that delayed the closing until literally the day before our trip.  We closed the evening before we left signing the docs with a notary who came to our house.  Next morning, we flew to China.

For this trip, we started out in Beijing after arriving from a 15 hour flight from Toronto, Canada, over the North Pole.   We spent the first week in Beijing, visiting with one of Winnie’s cousins attending an agricultural college there and exploring one of the world’s great cities.  I have to admit, even to this former New York City boy, Beijing is impressive.  We did the entire tourist thing there; walk on a very small section of the great wall, explore the old Imperial Palace (aka: Forbidden City), visit some of the parks (which are also former palaces and Imperial gardens), historical districts, and sample a lot of the foods.  We also visited Olympic Park and did a bit of shopping there.  We also took a short high-speed rail trip out to the special economic zone of Tianjin, another big city outside of Beijing.  It was only a 30 minute trip but we attained a top speed of 198 miles per hour.

On the Great Wall of China Playing Tourist
On the Great Wall of China Playing Tourist

After a week of playing tourists, we headed down to Nanning and Winnie’s family.  We spend a few days in Nanning, then on down to Luchueon, and then a few days out in the small village of Bijing where Winnie grew up.  Bijing was three days of family gatherings with Winnie’s many relatives.  Then, back to Lucheon for most of our last week in China.  I developed a really bad cold during our second week’s visit and needed most of the third week to recover, after being the beneficiary of Chinese medical care.  We ended our trip by flying back up to Beijing from Nanning the evening before our flight home, and spent one final day shopping and dining there.  Then, it was another 15 hour flight back to Toronto, Canada with connections into national Airport in Washington, D.C.

Looking Down the Great Wall Of China. Trying to imagine ancient Chinese soldiers in full battle dress patrolling.
Looking Down the Great Wall Of China. Trying to imagine ancient Chinese soldiers in full battle dress patrolling.

We had a “Super Shuttle” take us home, arriving at home Saturday midnight.  We grabbed our bags, tipped the driver and he left.  Then we discovered that the door locks didn’t work and we had to call a locksmith to get us back into our own home.  After a two hour wait, the somewhat tired locksmith let two very tired world travelers back into our house.  From there, I caught a few hours’ sleep and repacked my bags for a business trip, leaving that Sunday afternoon for another week.

Part of what made this past summer go by so fast is my business travels.  I’ve been traveling at least once per month to New Orleans, Louisiana, for business, with additional trips up to Baltimore, Maryland, and Norfolk, Virginia.  I don’t mind the traveling, so far, but it is tiring and keeps me away from Winnie a lot.

On weekends I tried to get out on the water whenever possible.  I did get out on our power boat “Sea Dragon” several times, but not nearly often enough.  I spent more time out on my little kayak paddling around and occasionally fishing on Occoquan Reservoir.  This summer was hot and dry, which made for a lot of opportunities to get out on the water when I wasn’t actually working, or feeling too tired from work to get out of the house.

We also had the pleasure of entertaining family visitors several times over the summer.  In my nephew Terry and his family came to visit on Labor Day weekend, the week prior to our China trip.  That was a great weekend together, with the added pleasure of getting everyone out on Sea Dragon for a day’s boating trip up the Potomac River.  In August my niece Renee and her husband Josh came out for a weekend visit.  This was another great weekend, and memorable because we were brushed by Hurricane Irene.  We didn’t get any hurricane damage, but everything was closed down so we had a hurricane party at home.

The week before the hurricane blew through, we experienced an earthquake.  This ‘quake was centered about 120 miles south east of us and registered 5.8 on the Richter scale.  Not much compared to what California receives on a regular basis, but it shook up local residents pretty good (pun intended).  So, this former Southern California resident, former Mississippi Gulf Coast resident, now living in northern Virginia, got to experience an earthquake and a hurricane in the course of one week.  I was thrilled.

The week after Renee and Josh left, we had a weekend visit from Aunt Rita and my cousin Roger.  Aunt Rita has gotten a bit too frail to be going out power boating, but Roger and I got out on the water for a day while Winnie stayed with Aunt Rita talking quilt-making and other woman stuff.  It was another great weekend, and I felt blessed to see so many members of my family in just a few short months.

Hurricane Irene brought a lot of rain that caused flooding in a lot of areas around here.  Those rains didn’t stop when the hurricane left, as we had Tropical Storm Lee blow through this area with even more rain than Irene had brought.  For northern Virginia, we had a near-solid one week’s worth of rain which caused up to five feet of flooding in some areas.

The rains finally stopped, but the weather turned unusually cool for this time of year, too quickly.  This past Friday I paddled around Occoquan Reservoir for a few hours then came home just in time to beat a rainstorm.  I was hoping to get back out on Sea Dragon this weekend but it’s been cool and rainy, which doesn’t make for a fun boating excursion.

I’m reluctantly accepted that this summer is over for Northern Virginia.

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