Ok actually, its more like half-away around the world twice, but same general idea right? As many of you know, I recently took a trip back home to be a bridesmaid in two weddings (back to back weekends I might add…) both in my hometown in Northern California and in lovely Orange County (that’s south of L.A.)
It had been exactly 365 days that I had been away from America, the beautiful, and I have to admit, I think the reverse culture shock was stranger and more intense than the initial adjustment to moving to Africa. Of course the first thing I noticed was the abundance of white people. Seriously! I’m used to being a minority now, so much whiteness around me totally threw me off. Though California is a very diverse area, I still hadn’t seen many Hispanics or Asians (other than my Peace Corps buddies and friends from the Japanese Embassy), so it was an interesting adjustment!
I also forgot how expensive America is, though I know California is in a league of its own. I went to Walgreens to buy a toothbrush and it cost me $6! My friends and I joked that I could pay someone to brush my teeth for me for a month with that money in Africa (funny, and also probably true.) The closest I felt to being home in Africa is when my sister-in-law, Lila took me to a Bikram yoga class. You know the kind where its like 50 people in a small studio with the temperature turned up to like 120… felt right at home, sweating my ass off crammed next to other sweaty people.
One of the absolute highlights of my trip home was getting to see my family. When my mom pulled up at the airport, I did a total happy dance right there at the curb. I have three nieces, who were 2,3, and 7 when I left, and now they are 3,4 and 8 going on 30! I was super excited to get some much needed play time with them, both at the pool and home. Below is a picture of Marcella (8) and I in total goof ball mode…
Below: Annika (4) and Tahlia (3). Lila, you sure know how to make cute babies!!!
My first few days home were spent both recovering from jetlag and attempting to help Danielle (bride #1) with last minute preparation for her wedding. Danielle and I have been friends since freshman year of high school, even though she is technically a year and four days older than me, I still felt like watching her get ready to be a married woman was like watching my baby girl all grown up!
I got to catch up with old friends/fellow bridesmaids at her rehearsal dinner. It felt like there was no possible way I had been gone a whole year, I feel like I saw these girls (and Dennis) yesterday!
The day of the wedding started at 9 am with hair and make up.. Lots of mimosas and bagels and curling irons and fake eyelashes. Danielle is a hair stylist and make up artist by trade (as are many of her bridesmaids) so no detail went missed on making her bridal crew (and bride) absolutely lovely.
Below is Brittany (high school friend) refreshing her mimosa while getting ready!)
And the bride doing her make up… I absolutely LOVED her hair that day (Bravo Deanna, you did a great job!)
Pictured above, Brittany’s daughter Savannah (who also was much tinier last time I saw her..she was the most precious flower girl and made it down the aisle quite gracefully for a two-year-old). I love this shot I took of Dani looking down on her venue and guests moments before we walked down the aisle.
For those of you who want to see official wedding photos, the photographer (who was AMAZING) has put together an initial slideshow link:
It was truly a wonderful evening. I have only met her husband (still getting used to saying that..) a few times, but have been incredibly impressed by his humor, kindness and deep love for my friend. I know that everyone at the wedding said the same thing, they couldn’t have asked for a better match for them both. They deserve each other.
A few days later, I was on a plane again, this time to Southern California. Two of my favorite friends from college both live in the Newport Beach area and it was great to see them both. My college roommate, Melissa, and I hadn’t seen each other in six years, and it was so wonderful to meet her husband and baby girl.
Since bride number two flew in from Washington, D.C. we fit in a mini bachelorette party the day before the rehearsal… as you can see the bride, Christy wasted no time to start celebrating.
The rehearsal dinner was on a Tiki Boat in the lovely Newport Harbor…
And the wedding at a country club in San Juan Capistrano (a town famous for its swallows.)
I had never met any of the other bridesmaids before, but we got along just great. 2 of the 3 currently live in New York City, which was great for me to hear since I am moving there in 4 months!
The day of the wedding, preparations started a 9 am (I felt like I was getting into the routine..) and I was elected official make artist to the bridal party.. a choice I knew the first bride, Danielle, would be proud of, since she was the one who taught me how to do make up ( back when we were teenagers..)
With some last minute bridesmaid duties (like fluffing the dress and getting the brides shoes on…) We were out the door!
The ceremony was lovely and incorporated several wedding traditions from around the world (including Buddhist handwashing… so cool!)
And of course after the ceremony, it was time to party…
Alas, the day after Christy’s wedding I had to jump back on a plane to Africa. And here I sit at my desk (with less than a month left here at USAID!), and soon will be off again to Niger, NY, DC, and then home sweet, home.. Until then I will definitely be California dreamin’…
A huge, huge thank you to both Daniella and Christy for making me a part of your special day. Congrats and I love you!!!