WASHINGTON D.C. - June 17 -- ‘My name is Benjamin, and I have lots of toys at my house,’ is how my four-year-old relative introduced himself to me for the first time. I would soon find out first-hand as the blond boy and I pieced together a puzzle of the solar system. Benjamin is the son of my cousin, Kala, who after skimming through our blog decided to give us a lift across the Pennsylvania-Maryland border and to her home in Baltimore. It’s been six years since her wedding - the last time we exchanged words. I never imagined the Internet would be responsible for bringing us together again, but I’m starting to learn it’s become part of our journey.
Ross and Anna live just outside the D.C. area. Having never met us before, they still invited Brian and I over for a BBQ at their house in Virginia. They emailed us through the website and offered a place to hang out if needed. Their house is home to seven young professionals, nestled in a nice suburban neighborhood consisting primarily of families.
Shortly after arriving at their home, Brian and I found ourselves part of a corn-on-the-cob assembly line - peeling the ears, buttering, salting, wrapping, and finally placing the corn on the grill. I was the salt guy. Cookouts I’ve had in the past with my friends have never involved a pasta salad like the one Anna concocted. She was extremely pleased with it, as she should be. I even enjoyed the tomatoes, which I would have never eaten a month ago.
People were circulating in and out of the get-together all day. It was relaxing, fun, and actually made me remember a conversation I had with my mom years ago. At the root our talk was my perception how college graduates are so willing to leave their friends in search for a job that could possibly land them in a completely different region of the country. It had seemed that Ross, Anna and their friends had it all figured out. That’s why it struck me as ironic when Ross expressed his interest in our journey and how he wished he were in our position. It seemed the grass looked greener in both our eyes that day.
Daniel is a third year law student at the University of Iowa and found out about No Stranger Land through an article in the Daily Iowan newspaper about our journey. He’s working in D.C. this summer and emailed us with an offer to feed Brian and I for an evening. We accepted the invitation because of the opportunity to meet a new friend, not because it was a free meal. The food was delicious, however, as Brian and I left no food on the table. But the best part of the dinner was having some great conversation with the native of Louisiana. We promised to meet up again in Iowa when we're both in the area.
I was particularly impressed with Luna's bathroom. I suggested it would be in Daniel and Brian’s best interest to drink lots of water so they could check it out. The inspirational leaders of the past were painted on the pitch-black walls. Messages printed in chalk-like fashion made it one of my favorite rooms of all time, even if it did have a toilet in it.
I got the chance to hang out with Mike for a couple of days. He had some great ideas for ways to maximize the success of the journey. Mike works for the United Way and gave us a tour of their central office. Brian and I had a great chance to talk with some very passionate people.
Mike let us stay in his one-person efficiency in D.C., just a few blocks from the White House. It felt like a middle-school slumber party while we ordered pizza and talked late into the night.
After we parted ways, Juan and Sarah picked us up to have us over for dinner. The 24-year old self-proclaimed professional cook made a fulfilling spaghetti feast. Juan shared his unique version of drinking Corona with Brian and I, adding grenadine to sweeten up the Mexican beer. This was a trademark of his black fraternity, whose colors were red and white. They dropped us off back at our friends Ross and Anna's place.
As I sit in Ross and Anna’s living room typing this post, I can't help but think I would likely have never met any of these people had I not taken off on this adventure. I'm sure glad I did.