It was not without a little excitement that I waited for Zev to arrive at the hotel in Albuquerque.
His Mum, Tana, and I had spent the night at a different hotel the night before, and had spent the morning relocating to the hotel where we would all (Zev, Charles (his Dad), Tana, Anu (his sister), Simone (his niece), and me) be spending the rest of our time in Albuquerque.
While we waited for the boys to arrive, we wandered the nearby historic Old Town, checking our phones periodically so that we'd know when they arrived. Finally, we got a text from Zev. They were at the airport in Albuquerque, but Zev's bag was not.
It took some time to sort out that situation, but eventually we all managed to catch up back at the hotel, and they dropped what little luggage had arrived with them and we headed straight out for lunch.
An airline fiasco
They filled us in on the details. When they'd arrived to check in to their flight from Missoula, the gate agents were rushing to get them on an earlier flight. As a result, the two agents were trying to check in Zev, Charles, and another unknown man, all with a great deal of chaos. By the end of the proceedings, Zev and Charles had eight boarding passes (they should only have had four - two each for their two flights), and two baggage tags for their three checked bags. Charles ended up having to take his fishing rods on the plane because they'd forgotten to tag them and didn't have time to do it, and when Zev looked closely, he realised that one of his bags tags had someone else's name on them... This wasn't off to a good start. As you now know, Zev and Charles arrived safely, but Zev's bag was off on its own holiday.
A general malaise, the hot weather, a lack of luggage, and a desire to spend some time catching up led to us spending the afternoon in our rooms, enjoying the air conditioning and nice hotel.
Dinner with Margarita and Maria
That night, we headed out for our first of many meals with the Montalvo family, the reason for our visit to Albuquerque.
Zev's Dad Charles is a family therapist. He trained in the US, but now lives and practices in New Zealand. One of his mentors during his training in the US was Braulio Montalvo, one of the pioneers of family therapy. Working at the Philadelphia Child Guidance Clinic, they bucked conventional wisdom and moved away from the traditional isolated approach to treating troubled children, and began to look at them in the context of the family unit. Rather than shutting the family out of the process, the family became the centre. It was under Braulio and his colleagues that Charles trained, and as such, he became very close to their family over their many years of working together. Sadly, Braulio passed away in 2014, so we were in Albuquerque to visit his widow, Margarita, and their daughter and her husband, Maria and Strom (who were luckily in town, despite splitting their time between Santa Fe and Seattle).
Now Margarita has a pretty fascinating story herself. A true force of nature, she worked as a translator for many years. But not just any translator! As well as the usual translation services in multiple languages, Margarita also translates old and obscure dialects. Additionally, her and Braulio were keen dancers, well known in the local community. With her razor sharp wit and quick mind, its easy to see that she would be loved by anyone who came into contact with her.
Maria, their daughter is no slouch either. Maria works as Executive Director at Corvias Foundation, a non profit that works with families of those serving in the US military to help to support higher education. Recently, their work was recognised by the White House, and Maria even got the meet the First Lady of the United States (at the time), Michelle Obama (swoon). Did I mention that Maria is also married to Strom Peterson, a state representative? Some families set the achievement bar a little too high for the rest of us...
We enjoyed a wonderful meal with Margarita and Maria on our first night there - meeting and catching up, and sharing stories (including Maria's story about the time that her and her husband had dinner with the Dalai Lama in India. No big deal). At the end of the night, we were sad to say goodnight, but we had plans to see them all again the following day.
Now that we were all back together, Tana had her sights set firmly on some retail therapy! That involved going out in the car... While we had our rental car, which we thought was pretty big, Zev's parents knew we'd need something bigger while all 7 of us were there. Zev took us out to the car. It was one of the biggest cars I've ever seen... It was a Chevrolet Suburban, and you could have fit our old apartment into it. Lucky Zev got to drive it (by which I mean no one else would).
We spent the morning cruising the Apple Store, before heading to a mall to check out, among other things, Dick's Sporting Goods (one of our favourite stores). Having filled our bags and emptied our wallets, we headed back to the hotel for a rest before catching up with the Montalvos again in the evening.
Music in the mountains
As the sun began to go down, and the heat began to fade, we made our way to Margarita's to pick her and Maria up for the activity she had planned for us - music in the mountains. We had some concerns about whether Margartia would have trouble getting into the enormous car. We needn't have worried - she hopped in like a cat getting into a basket of laundry! She put the rest of us to shame.
A short drive later we were in the foothills of the mountains on the edge of Albuquerque, at the entrance to a state park. Just inside the entrance we stopped to toss some bird seed in the area where Braulio and his son's ashes are scattered. Margarita loves birds, and thinks this is a nicer tribute than leaving flowers.
We got ourselves up to the music spot, set up our picnic and settled in. For the next hour or so, we were entertained by a pair of musicians, one playing the marimba and one the steel drum, as the sun set over the Pueblo revival architecture of Albuquerque.
Retail therapy round 2
While Zev and I indulged in a little sleep in the next day, Charles and Tana were up early, and headed to the Natural History Museum. When Zev and I finally surfaced and finished breakfast, we met them back at the hotel and headed out to another favourite shopping spot: REI. An outdoor adventurer's dream, this is exactly what I think heaven looks like if it exists. We spent a contented hour wandering the aisles, closely examining titanuim tent pegs, top of the line hiking packs, and even a soccer ball that makes ice cream while you play with it.
Eventually we dragged ourselves out of the store and back to the car to make our way to Strom's parents' house for lunch, where we would also be meeting Anu and Simone, who were arriving from Portland, OR, that day.
You need some better street names guys
After a little to-ing and fro-ing, we found our way to our destination (Black Bear Avenue, not to be confused with Black Bear Street, Black Bear Road, or Black Bear Loop, which are all within blocks of each other), and were welcomed by Strom's parents, Margarita, Maria, and Strom. Shortly behind us were Anu and Simone, and we settled in for a nice family lunch, before the 'kids' (Simone and Zev) hit the pool. After a couple of hours of chatting and relaxing, it was time to head back to the hotel for a rest (and in our case, a big ol' load of laundry) before seeing everyone again at dinner.
Afro-Caribbean cultural performance
Our last night in Albuquerque was a real treat. Margarita had organised tickets for us to a show at the National Hispanic Cultural Centre. Everyone was there, including Margarita and Maria, some childhood friends of Maria's and their daughter, and all of us, and there was a fun, celebratory mood in the air.
The first act of the show involved music and dance performances, with the lead singer of the band explaining both the significance of the music and the instruments being played, and folklore characters. While this explanation and music was going on, performers dressed as the characters came out and danced along while their story was explained.
The second act was a little more interactive. It began with a salsa performance by the dancers from the first act, and was followed by a lesson. Eventually, we were all up on the dance floor, giving it a go, although I have to say that yet again, Margarita put us all to shame. At the end of the act, the music was playing and people were free to dance, but the fatigue hit, and we decided to call it a night,
Sadly for us, we had to say goodbye to Maria (Strom wasn't able to make it), as she was heading to Santa Fe the following day, and we wouldn't see her again, but we put in a good word for New Zealand, so we hope to see her and Strom down our way in the not too distant future.
Retail therapy round 3
Now that Anu and Simone had arrived, we thought it was only fair that they get to see some of the mall-based sights around Albuquerque. Again, Zev was chauffeur, and we hit the mall, where a particular highlight for me was the Container Store. I have a feeling that Simone did the best out of this particular shopping trip, as every time we saw her from then until the end of the trip, she was wearing a new outfit! After a stop for lunch at the Cheesecake Factory to restore fraying nerves, we headed home for an afternoon in the pool for the rest of the family, and life admin for Zev and I. By the time we headed out for the evening, we more or less had the rest of our time in the US planned, and were starting to get in touch with the people we wanted to see on the remainder of this leg of the trip.
A very special birthday dinner
That night, we headed out to an Afro-Caribbean restaurant to celebrate Charles' birthday. He received an array of amusing gifts, including a doll of Einstein and a doll of Da Vinci. It was a nice way to cap off our time in Albuquerque, as Zev and I were hitting the road the following day to make the two day long trip to the family reunion in Lakeside, Michigan.
Just before we headed out to the car, we all started getting alerts on our phones - a flash flood warning had been issued in Albuquerque (where it rarely rains). We looked outside and it looked fine. About two minutes later, the heavens opened!
We drove Margarita home, said our tearful goodbyes, and in the pouring rain, made our way back to the hotel to pack and prepare for the long trip North.
Lots of love,
S & Z
PS apologies for the lack of photos in this post. We were too busy having fun and hanging our with friends and family to take any!