The last day of school was May 11 and I had to vacate my campus apartment the next day. Packing was no easy feat, although I had started earlier by shipping 3 boxes of clothes and books back to Singapore, so I was pretty much set. All I had to do was to pack 4 months of my life into 2 bags and ensure that I could carry it around the US till August. You get the picture.
So I moved into the little cottage that the Swedes call home for two nights before I was to leave Ithaca. The six of us (Naomi, Jennie, Canan, Can, Paola and I) had rented a car for those two days to visit places in Ithaca that we HAD to go to but couldn’t without a car. Thinking about it now, I think we were really happy to be done with school and to be exploring the local area to experience what Ithaca is known for, but at the same time, we knew that we had to say our goodbyes after those two days, and that was always going to be difficult.
And so the day started with a late brunch at State Street Diner with omelettes, sandwiches and milkshakes. We were finally going to see waterfalls and gorgeous Ithaca in spring.
After brunch, we drove to Buttermilk Falls. Many thanks to Can who became our guide, driving and also planning where to go and what there is to see. He and Paola have really made the last couple of months in Ithaca something to remember dearly.
Some Swedish Sunshine.
It’s hard to imagine how I spent four months in idyllic Ithaca where the pace of life is vastly different from Singapore. Sure, it is a college town – Cornell and Ithaca College – but life in Ithaca is slow and peaceful. Public transportation on Sundays end at 5pm, the downtown area has just about four streets of life and we spend most of our time holed up in our apartments during the biting winter spell anyway. How I could have come to enjoy my time in a place like Ithaca surprises me. Do I dare say that I miss Ithaca now? I’m not sure I could answer that question until I am back in Singapore, but this experience has definitely taught me to appreciate Singapore more and not take things for granted. I would say though, that Ithaca has also taught me to appreciate a slower pace of life and also show more concern for the environment.
Robert H. Treman State Park
Jennie carves our names, leaving our legacy behind in Ithaca.
Me at Taughannock Falls
Cayuga Lake sunset.
After experiencing the state parks and waterfalls, one really starts to feel in awe of nature and though I’m not much of a outdoor person, I could feel myself enjoying the fresh air and natural beauty. Makes one start to think seriously about how it was all created by God’s hand of perfection and how humans are destroying the environment. When I think about how different things would have been if I had done my exchange studies in a bustling city instead, I am glad to say that I have no regrets choosing Ithaca. Although Jönköping (Sweden) would have been really awesome too.
Marina by Farmer’s Market.
We came to Farmer’s Market, which is famous in Ithaca for serving fresh food. There were stalls selling many diverse kinds of food, including Cuban and Cambodian food, sold by people who settled here in Ithaca. There was also vendors selling locally-produced fruits, vegetables and wine.
Another thing I appreciate about the US is their culture of embracing fresh produce and also the trend towards organic food, but it is simply healthier to consume compared to preservatives, and harmful chemicals.
Canan in front of the impressive Ithaca Falls.
Stewart Park by Cayuga Lake
After two days of exploring local Ithaca, it was time to finally bid farewell to Can and Paola because they were driving to Pennsylvania to find accommodation for Paola who will be doing her grad studies there next semester. It wasn’t easy and I’m not someone who is comfortable with goodbyes, so it was a quiet one with hugs and promises to meet again soon.
There began Jennie and Canan’s mad rush to pack and vacate their house. We also had to be ready in time for the bus to New York, so there were tons to do. It is already more than a month ago but that night still remains vivid in my mind. Emptying the fridge and cabinets of excess food and leaving it behind in Can’s apartment, stuffing four months into two bags, last minute laundry, sitting on the luggage so that we could zip it, trying hard not to fall asleep so we wouldn’t miss our bus, shouting at taxi operators who couldn’t understand simple instructions…. It’s the little things that stay in your mind.
We arrived in New York City soon enough and attempted to get to our hostel for the night. It was just to be Canan and I because Jennie’s mom and sister were flying in to meet her and Naomi was going to stay at her friend’s. After struggling very hard with our bags, we arrived at the hostel drenched in summer perspiration. It was the last straw for me and I immediately repacked my bag and sent another box via airmail back home because there was no way I could continue carrying those bags.
We were all tired out from packing and cleaning the house the night before as well as less-than-ideal rest on the bus from Ithaca. After a nice Italian pasta dinner, Canan and I called it a night, while Naomi went to meet her friend, and Jennie went to receive her mom and sis. Jennie came by shortly while I was sleeping to bid adieu and I was too tired and groggy from sleep to really say a proper farewell. It was really nice of her though to specially come by with her mom and sis, while making me promise to visit Sweden really soon. And I shall, hopefully in a couple of years’ time maybe.
Naomi came by too and she started crying so much. I was speechless and I really didn’t know what to say or do, but we hugged and knew that though we spent four short months as fellow exchange mates in a foreign country, those four months would mean so much to us. Naomi is a girl who has a little piece of her heart for everyone. It was definitely the toughest goodbye I’ve ever said.
Next morning, I got up earlier than I wanted to, in preparation for my flight from JFK to Miami. Canan was still sleeping and after I got dressed and ready to leave, I woke her and said I had to go. Canan is a strong girl, though I wouldn’t have been surprised if she burst into tears too. We exchanged a quick hug, and I was on my way.
May 15. New York to Miami to meet Yeh Yang, Angela, Xinpei, Tanny and Laura.