I've spent the last few days in Winston Salem, with my cousins. Staying with family is amazing. The last time I did anything like that was in Kathmandu, at the Hanmer Springs Consulate. With family, you can stretch out on the couch, sleep late, eat lots, and then eat again, argue and debate politics, foreign policies, religion and other touchy topics, and bait the young folk with outrageous arguments. And when you leave, they're just glad that their obnoxious cousin has finally left, and no harm is done to New Zealand's international reputation.
My cousins were wonderful. I'd been telling them for thirty years that I was coming to visit, but I don't think they ever expected that I would arrive from Hanmer Springs on my bicycle. And I arrived at an auspicious time, as cousin Matthew and wife Jessica were being capped. Now that was an experience. Three days of ceremonies, gatherings, celebrations, and eating. I managed all the eating, but I reneged on the Day 3 ceremonies. Two days of sitting in chapels, listening to speeches and prayers, and watching columns of young people being "hooded" (capped), was enough for me. But I did get to meet some really interesting people, and see some "big" places.
Interestingly, Winston (a cigarette brand) Salem (another cigarette brand), is in the heart of tobacco growing country. Wake Forest University, which appears to be associated with the church, is situated in what was once part of a huge Tobacco company. The whole area grew rich on tobacco. But now, the church, Baptist I think, has taken over. My cousins church is huge. It has two gymnasiums, maybe a pool, and a huge sports area. It's also a school, and has a congregation of 2000, a couple of choirs, at least one orchestra, and more than three different Sunday Services, not counting several ethnic services. And just down the road is another church just as big. (Religion is BIG here). It just seems a little weird that cigarette and tobacco money has morphed in to Baptist education. But it seems that it works, as something like 1500 students graduated this weekend, from Medical, Law and Divinity Schools, amongst others.
I also got to spend time, and know more about my cousins. Hannah, who is part way through her undergraduate degree, is studying for a Medical School entrance exam, that she must sit in the middle of her summer holidays. She fits her study in to her busy schedule, which includes playing and lots of practice on the violin, and time at "The Barn". The Barn is a Riding School, and Hannah spends a couple of hours a day there with Ernie, her horse. She expects to "show" him several times over the summer. How she fits it all in is amazing. She certainly has no time to get into trouble.
The others are just as busy, studying, working, and being incredibly talented musicians. Fitting in three days of celebrating graduations, and on top of that, making themselves available to entertain their obnoxious cousin from New Zealand, hardly ruffled a feather. They also helped me order new cycling sandles, get Fiona to a bike shop for a tune up, and advised me on routes out of town.......
I also met Tiffany, Jessica's twin sister. Wow, this young lady can cook. The very best blueberry muffins I've ever eaten, a scrumptious chicken pie, and chocolate chip pound cake...... I'm sure I've put on a kg in weight. Rumour has it that near the new International Equestrian Centre in NW North Carolina, there will soon be a new resturant..... "Lunch at Tiffanys". I highly recommend you visit...... you heard it first here.
Thank you Faye and Tim. I had a wonderful time. I was rested, educated, challenged, over fed, hugged, and I felt the love only a family can give. I really enjoyed my time with ya'll. Your home and family were always going to be a very significant "dot" on my journey. See ya'll again soon.