September 22, 2007

Home, Sweet Home!

After two long, exhausting, but worthwhile weeks at a workshop for the Park Service, I'm finally back home. But I'm still tired after spending today standing out in the rain helping kids dig through a sandbox for bits of broken pottery. That means I'm still exhausted, so there probably won't be much commentary for this post, but I did want to put up some pictures Sonja (who was here in Arizona) and myself (who was in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, and Washington, DC) took since my last entry.

I'll start with some pictures from my trip out east, since they're much less interesting than the ones Sonja took while I was gone. I try to do some sightseeing every time I travel to Harpers Ferry for work, and this time was no different.

I had never really known the significance of Fort McHenry National Monument and Shrine before. In fact, I'd bet most Americans don't. That is, unless you inform them that these are the ramparts o'er which Francis Scott Key saw the star spangled banner waving during the Bombardment of Baltimore in the War of 1812 (which actually lasted until 1814, which is when this battle took place).

As much as I totally despise the man who lives here, it's still a pretty building.

Bet you didn't know there's a monument in DC with its very own Glow in the Dark Lincoln!

Besides sightseeing, work trips to Harpers Ferry also includes lots of eating out. Fortunately, there are enough options in the area that it's fairly easy to eat at a different place every night for two weeks. But never have I had a culinary experience like the one we had when 15 of us visited the Oval Room in DC. The brother of a friend of mine who was also at the training is actually one of the chefs at this very upscale gourmet restaurant near the National Mall (next door to the White House, actually). This meal challenged everything I thought I knew about food.

Take the above dish, for example. I've never been a fan of raw fish, but this dish came highly recommended from a friend, so I figured I'd be brave. The thing that looks like a slice of a tomato is actually raw tuna. On top of it you have cubes of gelatinized chipotle and bits of passion fruit. Next to it there is a blob of avocado puree. The trick is to put a little bit of everything onto a puffed tapioca cracker and shove the whole thing in your mouth in as refined a manner as you can manage. The resulting explosion of flavors and textures that hit my tongue simply cannot be explained. And this was my least favorite dish of the evening! To give you an idea of how much everyone there enjoyed this dinner, here's a video of another workshop attendee, Rick, reacting to his meal (he reacted the same way after every single did I, for the most part).

That explains it all, I think.

As does this picture of everyone licking every last crumb and smear of scrumptious sauce from our plates after dinner. Ok, so we weren't as refined as the other patrons in the restaurant...but we couldn't have cared less. And to think, some people eat like that every freakin' day! It's just so unfair...

But I don't want to give the impression that I spent the whole two weeks having fun. As a matter of fact, I worked incredibly hard every single day.

Just look at my collection of playdough art that I worked on throughout the workshop!

Anyway, like I said, Sonja's pictures from when I was away are much more exciting.

She actually got to watch a tarantula hawk (the wasp) dragging a tarantula it had paralyzed around a tire in our neighbor's yard. It was trying to find a place where it could bury the spider, but I'm not sure why it decided a tire might be a good spot to look.

And, the most exciting news was when Sonja heard that a mountain lion had killed a mule deer no more than 200 yards from our house one night this past week. The day after, she decided that she really wanted to go look for evidence for herself (and maybe even see the lion). While she failed to find the cat or the dead deer, Sonja did find a rather large lion track about 50 yards from our front door. Pretty amazing to think that we've got lions in our yard!

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