03 January 2012

Down the other side of the Pacific: A Christmas trip part one

The Christmas tree is all decked out
Happy two-thousand-twelve-tacular from the frigid and beautiful Northwest US. For the last week and a half, we've been on a long-awaited trip to visit our families and friends in the US, after not being back for almost two and a half years. The Washington state part of our trip is over and we're heading South to see a lot more people before we come back to Tonga.

In this case, pictures will be more interesting than the inevitably long description that everything we've done would necessitate, so here's a short show of some of the highlights.

Our trip takes us down the West coast of the US, where both of our sets of relatives are scattered.

The Christmas dinner theme was Greco-Mexican-Chinese, much enjoyed by my many international family members. My dad makes sure his Chinese noodle dish turned out OK. It did.

In Tonga, many people mistakenly think that foreigners don't eat very much. We aren't sure where this ridiculous notion came from, and do our best to disprove it at every chance possible.

After Christmas day, a group of my familly rented a beach house on the Washington coast, and had a lot of fun playing games by the fire. This game is from the 40s and is a precursor to "Clue," called "Mr. Ree." An old family favourite.

This is not the kind of warm beach we have in Tonga, though. It's hilly, grassy sand dunes all the way out to the breaking Pacific waves. Too cold for snorkeling!

We all took turns decorating parts of a gingerbread house, a common Christmas tradition in the US and a few other parts of the world. Since we had curved candied bananas, we stuck them on either end of the roof and made a horned Scandanavian house. Or a Fijian house, depending on how you looked at it.
Every single person in the family is a good cook, so we ate well. Mark and I made a Tongan meal- lu (meat wrapped in taro leaves cooked in coconut milk- this time with kale leaves), ota ika (marinated raw fish in coconut milk, veggies, and lemon juice), and sweet potato.

We also went for some minimal shopping- to an antique warehouse, where we marvelled at the old games, pictures, and kitchen things.

We both had a great time hanging out with my brother, who has moved from where he grew up in Brazil to start going to university in Washington.

After we got back from the beach, Mark and I took the ferry over to Seattle - huge and spacious compared to the ferries in Tonga!

We met our friends Shannon and Paul in Seattle, and walked around our favourite marketplace in the city- Pike Place Market.
It's full of all sorts of produce, fresh flowers, jewellery, clothing, and always makes me feel right at home.

One of our first stops was the tea shop. This whole wall is full of jars of different kinds of loose leaf tea.

There are all sorts of little eateries there too- this one's called Piroshky Piroshky and is a long-time staple of Pike Place Market, with all of its tasty pastries filled with meats, cheeses, salmon, veggies, and even a huge section of sweet pastries as well.

But we had to get our sweet pastries at another bakery right down the street.

After a delicious New Years Eve meal in the city, we walked to a park nearby their house to watch a huge fireworks show lit off from Seattle's iconic Space Needle.

The next day, we met back up with my family in Pioneer Square and took the Underground Tour of Seattle.

Seattle used to be a good 4 metres lower than it currently is, but becuase everything was at sea level, they had massive sewage and tidal flooding problems. To solve it, the city built up the streets to the second level of all the buildings, leaving a network of underground walkways and shops that are no longer in use. It was like walking through caves below the ciy.

That evening, we had a big family party at another side of my family's house in Seattle. Because that side of the family is Greek, at the end of the meal, we observed the Greek tradition of cutting two loaves of bread that had a dime baked into each of them. Whoever gets the dime is lucky for the whole year!

Since Mark's and my mom's birthday (on the same day) is after we'll already be gone, we spent the next day in birthday celebrations- a fun walk around our favourite local waterside park.

And a delicious family meal that evening, followed by cake and ice cream later with my aunts and uncles and grandfather.
And currently, we're on the train south, writing this very post!


  1. Happy New Year! Glad that you had such a wonderful time with family! And that's a fascinating fact about Seattle's underground past. Makes me want to explore those old routes too. If you are passing through the LA area as you come down, I would LOVE to see you!!

  2. Happy New Year Mark & Elena! You really had a fantastic Xmas....especially travelling on a spacious ferry unlike the ones here in Tonga!! Looking forward to see you back in Tonga


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