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I made it to the northern lands. This is my hero's welcome.
On top of that, there was popcorn, and chocolate chip cookies, and tea, and granola bars. It's a shame they didn't last long enough to be photographed. The city is beautiful. It smells of fresh earth. Foliage is everywhere. Ducks run through the park by the lake. The horizon is littered with cranes and construction sites. The market downtown thrives with art and life. The streets are wide and everything is oversized. It's a good place to call home.
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I departed at 4 PM, in a flurry of last-minute packings.

My ride to the airport was a very comfortable van just for myself. My driver, codenamed 28, kept requesting to speak with his buddy (or pal, or mistress) 32. After several calls, he found out that 32 wasn't going to be online that day, and settled for 12 instead. I found the whole affair rather cute.

Once at the airport, I met my dad for the last time. I was pleased to see that he hadn't betrayed me and brought my mom. Good man.

We had nothing to talk about, since everything had already been discussed; yet, we talked anyway, until time ran out.

I came on the plane to find that my seat had been taken. Luckily, the lady therein kindly conceded my ownership of the seat and moved to the adjacent one.

As the plane began to move, I began singing inspirational songs from musicals in my head. I have a dream / A song to sing... The swirling paths formed by the airport lights eventually coalesced into that one bright and hopeful landing strip. This is my quest / To follow the star / No matter how hopeless / No matter how far... Tremors shook the plane, intensifying second by second, until suddenly, they stopped all at once, and we were weightless. I'm flying high, defying gravity...

I will never forget the sight of my city from a bird's eye view. The city lights were spread out below me like a bright orange flower bed. Big and small. I am on my way.
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Ohana means family. Family means no one gets left behind. -Lilo and Stitch

I love Lilo and Stitch. But its message never got through to me. My family is the one thing I've been trying the hardest to leave behind.

But not all of it. Until today, my dad was the one exception to my rule. Today reminded me that he's not the only "good" family member, and there are several more worth caring for.

After a lunch at KFC and a long walk with my dad, we met with my favorite uncle at a coffee shop, and my favorite aunt joined in. Three brothers reunited, like in the Tintin story (three out of eight, in this case). I don't see them very often, yet I owe them so much.

My uncle is the cool uncle everyone wishes they had. He bought me my first decent computer, got me an internship at his truck parts dealership, and his travel stories awoke my curiosity for the world beyond. He has traveled all over the globe; he has raised and lost fortunes; he has been a father, a grandfather, a great-grandfather, a husband till death do us part; he has had the fullest possible life and he is still as healthy as a 85-year-old man can be.

My aunt is the loving aunt everyone wishes they had. She took care of me as a kid whenever my dad couldn't; she kept a watchful eye on my education; she always picked the greatest birthday gifts. She has been a dedicated teacher for fifty years, yet she looks younger than anyone woul.

The talk was fantastic. We discussed airlines, family history, It was the first time I had a real conversation with them since I was a teenager. Having read up on transactional psychology the night before, I could tell we were addressing each other in an adult-to-adult manner now. My dad, who had always lamented my lack of a proper degree, called me an engineer. I didn't have to play a role or live up to any expectations; they respected me. They loved me. And I think I love them back.

I even had the quintessential ace conversation with my uncle:

"Don't forget to let me know once you're expecting your first kid. I can never have too many grandkids."
"That's very unlikely to happen."
"You never know! Sometimes things will happen after a party, and boom! 9 months later..."
"That's... not my style."
"Well, you gotta have an orientation."

I got parting gifts: a map of the northern lands and a set of personal care accessories for men. I'm 27 and I had never been treated like a grown man by my own kin before - only by bankers and coworkers. I even got hugs. Wow.

As the cherry on top of my day of wonders, a quartet of street musicians sneaked into my little corner of the subway, dressed in highly conspicuous bohemian attire. Their music was a series of snappy 80's street jazz pieces. It was glorious and it made my world feel like a whimsical animated movie. You could picture the violinist skipping on Parisian cobblestone, the clarinetist waltzing close behind, the accordion dictating the troupe's joyful pace, and the singer leading them all through pulsing boulevards.

Since musicians are not allowed in the subway, they had to be sneaky; every time the train stopped and the doors opened, the accordion froze and the clarinet turned to a low whistling. Passengers would tilt their heads through doors and windows to scan the surroundings while the band laid low. As soon as the coast was clear, the party kicked back into full gear.

Even after they were all done and the train was heading towards the last station, the clarinet player kept playing little improvisations, as if he couldn't help the music flowing through him.

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