As I walked towards baggage claim in the Seattle/Tacoma airport I reviewed in my head where Penny had told me to meet her. She doesn’t have a cell phone so we had made plans for a very specific rendezvous point. Penny was my babysitter was I was little, but we haven’t seen each other since I was 7 years old, 15 years ago! Honestly, she was much more then a babysitter to me. She was part of the family, a mentor and a teacher. She was not your typical babysitter; there was never a dull moment with her. I remember going on many outings with her and doing many arts and crafts projects, including some amazing ones that I look at in wonder even today and don’t know how she got me, as a seven year old, to create such amazing things!

When I was seven years old Penny decided to move to Seattle and we have not seen each other since. But, amazingly enough, we have kept in touch. Penny, like me, is also a wanderer and traveler at heart. So when I took my first year off between high school and college and decided to travel through Bolivia, Peru, and Ecuador I exchanged many e mails with her, asking her questions about what it is like to travel as a woman alone, what were some of her favorite places in those countries, and general travel tips. Since that year we have talked about someday seeing each other again, and now finally, almost four years later, I am in seattle.

I spotted Penny immediately, sitting in her silver-grey prius right where she said she would be. After big hugs of hello we she takes me on a wonderful little driving tour of Seattle and her neighborhood. The air here feels warm after being in Minneapolis. The city look modern and clean. Penny’s neighborhood, Ballard, feels cozy and progressive, with lots of cute little cafes, restaurants, and places advertising massage, and other holistic health practices. It is right on the water with the beautiful, snow covered olympic mountains visible across the Puget sound.

Penny and I are getting along fantastically. When we arrive at her house she shows me the amazing little cocoon  of a room that she has created for me. It is so adorable, with a bed, desk, lots of plants, and shelves full of books, many of which look interesting to me. We heat up a delicious meal of black bean soup, home made chick pea – edamame hummus, and some sweet potato salad. Mmmmm, so yummy. And of course, I got to try her delicious energy bars that she plans to soon be selling. They are rich and flavorful, almost like chocolate, but not too sweet and not at all dry. They taste healthy, but not too healthy- just like they are made of real, high quality ingredients, which they are. I think they might be the best energy bars I have every tasted!

Even though I have just arrived, the next day I will be heading out to the San Juan Islands for four days to learn the ropes and get a feel for my cob building apprenticeship with Ryan (more on this later). Then I will be back in Seattle for thanksgiving and more adventures with Penny before I go back to the islands!

There are two first impressions about Seattle that have struck me. One is that the people here seem really friendly. I have already had a conversation with with someone on the bus, a man who builds boats and is on his second sailing trip around the world, and a woman on the ferry, a holistic veterinarian who is thinking about moving to the islands. And people have been happy to help me find my way to the bus station, navigate the ferry’s and answer any questions I might have. The second thing that has struck me about the Ballard neighborhood in particular is that something about the aesthetics of the place remind me of Japan. Maybe it is the influence of the many Japanese people who do indeed live in Seattle, but I swear that something in the layout of the streets, the buildings and architecture, and the landscaping make me feel like I could be in Japan! I have a feeling that I will enjoy my stay here, especially if it is a strange melding of the two cultures of my parents.

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