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Sunday, December 11, 2011

It's ALWAYS Sunny in Philadelphia?

This past October, Niki's drug company invited me to share our family's story at a conference they were having in Philadelphia. With John's blessing, I accepted their offer traveled completely alone for the very first time in my entire life. I was nervous, but this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity so I couldn't pass it up. (I mean really, when was I ever going to go to Philadelphia again?) My trip was from 10/2-10/4.

Without further ado, here's the story of my trip in photo-essay format. :)

After we attended Church, John and I had a lovely brunch at JoAnn's in South San Francisco before I left Sunday night. My very good friend Kim took me there shortly after Noie was born and it was delicious. 

Here's a pic of my breakfast from that day (The Gaucho.) I realize that my addiction to Instagram-ing EVERYTHING is borderline pathetic, but it's my blog and I'll document what I want, mmkay? ;-P
I took the red-eye to Philly and I tried my best to sleep for as long as possible. My flight arrived at around 6am EST. Novo Nordisk arranged for a driver to pick me up from the airport. The driver met me at baggage claim and he had my last name on a sign! Call me sheltered, but riding in my very own town car has to be one of the coolest things that happened to me this year. The guy had a hat and called me "Miss Intal" and everything! Made me feel like a real grown-up and shit.

Goodbye SF.
Hello Philly!
He was a history buff and had the most badass accent I've ever heard. :)
In case you haven't already noticed, I took pictures of pretty much everything so John could feel like he was there with me. The poor guy tried to get off from work so he could join me, but alas, I had to go alone. Here's some pictures of the hotel and of course, another food shot. That was the best oatmeal I've ever had -- I ordered it twice while I was there!

After I scarfed down breakfast, I took a nice long nap. I'm not a morning person (and I was still functioning on West Coast time), but somehow I managed to wake up at with enough energy/time to do some sight-seeing. First up, the was LOVE park. I've seen the "LOVE" statue around before, but I never knew its origin until my sister's friend Kid told me about it. It was close to my hotel so walked over to check it out.  {Note: From this point forward, you'll see Ethan Lion-Lion make cameos in the pictures I took. The boys were sad that I was leaving so I told them that Ethan Lion was going to be their "stunt double" while I was in Philly.  If Ethan Lion was in a picture, then that meant the boys were "there"too. Kev and Boo really got a kick out of seeing the Ethan Lion pics.}

See Ethan Lion?
After Love Park, I took a nice, leisurely walk to the world-famous Mutter Museum. It started to sprinkle as I was walking and I was ill-prepared. I quickly learned that contrary to the popular show's title, it is NOT "always sunny in Philadelphia." ;) Thankfully, I was able to duck under building overhangs to avoid getting wet.

The Mutter Museum let me use my CCSF ID (yes, I'm back in school) so I scored the student discount on admission. As I was adjusting my camera settings, the cashier advised me that pictures weren't allowed inside the museum. (Sorry guys. You can watch a YouTube video here if you want to see what the museum is all about.) There was a lot fascinating stuff in there, but there was some really disturbing stuff, too. There was an exhibit on President Lincoln's autopsy, the preserved liver of world famous Siamese twins, and the most disturbing part, preserved babies in various stages of development. There were also many "deformed" babies in jars as well.

Call me crazy, but I was compelled to pray for those poor babies knowing that their bodies would never be laid to rest. And I did just that...I prayed. Afterwards, I called John crying because I just needed someone to talk to.  I wasn't expecting it, but it was the most disturbing thing I've seen in a long time.

The entrance
The ticket
A window display. Unclear if these things are actually real.
I wanted to go back to the hotel room, but John encouraged me to make the most of my trip. I felt better after I spoke with him so I rode the bus (last time I rode a bus was in high school!) to see all the historical stuff featured in National Treasure. I must say Nicholas Cage made the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall look 20 times cooler than it is in person. (Maybe it's the suspenseful Hollywood background music? Who knows?)

I wasn't very fond of US History in high school so I guess you can say I'm way too ignorant to truly appreciate the symbolism of our nation's history.  Nonetheless, seeing all of these historical artifacts up close and personal was on my bucket list anyway so mission accomplished, I suppose. The 45 minute tour of Independence Hall was 40 minutes too many for my taste. I managed to glaze over all the history-speak just like I did in high school. I snapped my pictures, stepped back, and found myself being more fascinated by the  the furniture and architecture than anything else. {I realize I sound like an unappreciative imbecile right now, but you have to at least give me credit for being honest.}

Cast from the Liberty Bell
Let Freedom Ring

The Path to Independence Hall

George Washington's Chair
The original railing that was here during Ben Franklin's time
Ethan Lion Lion propped on said railing
I still had a few hours before sundown so decided to check out the the Franklin Institute. I took  the PHLASH to get there and discovered that I wouldn't have enough time to see the entire museum before it closed. (Side note about PHLASH, I highly recommend this mode of transportation if you want to sight-see in Philly, but don't have a car -- $2 will take you anywhere.) There was a really cool mummy exhibit there so I was bummed that I didn't make it in time to check it out.

For whatever reason I decided it would be a good idea to walk to the Art History Museum  from the Franklin Institute. Bad idea! Not only was I wearing the wrong shoes for that type of walk (boots) but the area had too many trees for my taste so it reminded me of the type of places where joggers are found raped and murdered. There weren't any rapists or serial killers in sight, but I'm paranoid so I scurried as quickly as possible to the museum. (I should have took the PHLASH.)

I made it to the museum in one piece, but it was closed. (Boo!) No matter, I took my pictures and hopped back on the PHLASH to go back to the hotel. There were two very cute little boys who were racing up the stairs while their mom was taking pictures, and it made me miss my cubbies. It would have been so cool to take pictures of them at the top of the steps from Rocky.

Had a huge FML moment here. I didn't know the PHLASH went to the museum until I walked up and saw it parked in the front! LOL!

The view from the top of the steps.

I really missed the cubbies here.
Afterwards I took the PHLASH back to my hotel. As soon as I got to the hotel it dawned on me that I skipped lunch. I only had about an hour before dark so rather than go back to south Philly to try Gino's or Pat's, I asked to concierge to point me to the closest place with the best cheesesteak. I can't remember the name of the place, but it did NOT disappoint. As delicious as the cheesesteak was, I could barely finish half of that monstrosity. On my way back to the hotel I stopped by Starbucks to unwind from the day's events.

For his own peace of mind I promised John that I wouldn't go out after dark. So, I spent the rest of the evening chatting on the phone with him, doing my Physics homework, and panicking about my speech the following day. Oh, what a glamorous life I lead! 

I woke up the following morning with knots in my stomach. I never spoke in front of a large group before! To say I was terrified is a gross understatement. To make matters worse, I felt myself getting weepy whenever I started to talk about Ethan while I was practicing the night before. I knew I would be mortified if I lost my cool in front of a bunch of strangers.

A picture I took while they were testing everything out on the projector. It was so weird seeing my stuff up there!

Time was on crack that morning because 1 o'clock was there before I knew it. I was on the brink of hyperventilating when I saw how large the ballroom was. The good news is the coordinators set me at ease right before my speech. It helped that I broke my speech up with a video of Niki's infusion and sharing some family photos. While I was presenting, I looked up at the crowd and I saw a quite few people dabbing tears from their eyes. I *almost* started to cry too, but by some miracle that I maintained my composure despite having to talk about some seriously depressing stuff. It was humbling to know that these complete strangers were touched by our story. I even managed to survive the question and answer portion. At the end of my presentation, I got to meet quite of the few faces behind the drug responsible for saving Niki's life. It was an awesome experience!

I had an hour to spare before I was supposed to fly out, but I called the driver to come pick me up a bit early. I had a great time traveling by myself, but I couldn't wait to go back home to my den. There's no place like home.


  1. i wish i could be there to take you around and witness your talk. looks like you had a great experience. i'm so proud of you