Traipsing around the West: The Emerald Cities


Summer began at the end of April. After fainting a few minutes into the Batch 2013 university grad, doing last-minute pasalubong shopping for everyone at Kultura (thank God for that store) and lying sweaty and sleepless on my cousin's bed, staring listlessly at the blue ceiling-shadows awaiting 3am, I was whisked off by giant white air-conditioned van, by porter-trolley, conveyor belt and pat-down guard, carry-on stroller wheels, diaper bag and smiling Delta airline employees to the large plane that would rattle through the sky and bring us, eyebagged and excited, to the United States.

I went with my Aunt and cousins on the month-long trip. Traveling from mid-May to mid-June, we visited relatives from my Dad's side of the family, spending a couple of weeks in Washington, and then the rest in California. I was excited, and a little apprehensive. America--it had been a while. I hadn't seen the people there in five years, and others, in ten. Would it be alienating, uncomfortable, magical? I remember being amazed, as a child, at the pizza slices as big as your face, the quarter pounders I couldn't finish, the cold bite of the air and the accented everything.

We stopped over in Japan first, and I strolled around Narita airport with my little girl cousin, from hereon to be referred to as Mishie. We beheld the multi-functioned toilets and immense line at McDonald's, the display of green tea KitKat and the Studio Ghibli merchandise. We each bought a Totoro, despite Mishie not knowing what it was. I tried my best to inform her, at any rate.

The Emerald Cities

One 11-hour flight later, we heaved our suitcases (ten for four people) off the carousel and greeted Uncle Dwight and Auntie Istin, who loaded our stuff into the family minivan. I strapped Angelo into his "special chair" (the carseat), buckled myself up and off we drove, into a new concrete-and-greenery world. Seattle and Tacoma are referred to as twin cities, emerald cities. (Or is it just Seattle that's considered 'emerald?) According to my cousin, the emerald is because of the abundance of trees, caused by the abundance of rain.

"If you don't go out because it's raining, you'll never go out."

So go out we did. Auntie Istin drove us everywhere. We went to the zoo, the beach, the thrift shop, onto a ferry, onto an island, to the little towns that surrounded Puyallup. We went to Seattle a handful of times, ate glorious seafood, saw the ports and the fishing boats and the daylight shining in the water at 7:00 pm. It was Starbucks every other day, and ice cream just as often. I ordered, in perpetua, green tea latte. For Angelo and Mishie, it was always cookies and cream.

Puyallup is the suburbs. Everything out on that end was large and wide--winding roads, fields, the constant texture of trees, bushes and flowering shrubs. You can't commute anywhere. The city is at least a twenty-minute drive away, and there is always the patter of raindrops on the windshield. There were one-storey structures, some apartment buildings, lumber yards, places selling playground equipment and cars. We drove up to someone's house on a hill, and saw the ocean and the fishing boats that went all the way to Alaska. They have a really nice children's hospital, where we visited the newest member of the Portugal clan, baby Xavier.

This is Auntie Istin and Uncle Dwight's Puyallup house. Tucker the puppy likes hanging around the small dining table in anticipation of table scrabs, which he is denied (he has his own tupperware of boiled chicken). It's a cozy place, and impeccably maintained and arranged. It's usually cold in the garden, but the good kind of biting cold. There are hummingbirds, sometimes. 

I kinda wish we were able to spend more time walking around downtown Seattle, investigating the shops and the city monuments and all. We were brought to a park a few minutes away from my cousin's university, where you get a good view of the space needle and all the buildings. 

I only own two pieces of luggage here, and the second one is that box with one painting in it, towards the end. Now that I think about it, it's amazing how two children, one senior citizen and a frail girl like me were able to get everything through the airports. 

By the time we left Puyallup, things were starting to feel like home: the warm blankets, the cat that managed to stretch out on my bed every night, the spreads from Costco. But it had to end at some point, and to be honest, I was quite ready to trade the grey skies and wet sneakers of Washington for the dry sunshine and jacaranda trees of Los Angeles. 

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