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As I mentioned before, I’m going to shake up chronological order for the next month or so. My Indonesia coverage is going to be heavily diving based, so I’m going to intersperse it with posts about my current trip home to keep readers of all interests happy!

Just a few hours after landing at JFK international airport, I was running up the steps of the subway to catch my sister walking across the stage to get her diploma. I arrived in New York one month ago from the day I’m writing this — my visit was timed precisely so that I would arrive home in time for the graduation and the week of festivities that would follow.

Olivia embraced her college experience at New York University more whole-heartedly than anyone I’ve ever known. She was elected president of the Inter Resident Hall Council, juggled prestigious internships with the likes of Nike and the Obama campaign, and was named one of the by the Washington Square News. I mean enough already, right? Stop making the rest of us look bad.

But truly, I was very proud of my little sis and would not have missed this. NYU is a massive school with more than 10,000 undergraduates, so the individual schools have private graduations in addition to the big university one. Olivia’s was at Lincoln Center, an iconic New York location for the most iconic New York school.

NYUGraduation
NYUGraduation

NYU Graduation Lincoln Center

NYU Graduation Lincoln Center

I was running a little late (thank you, twenty six hours of door to door travel time!), but did manage to catch some of the speeches and most importantly the old’ diploma handshake. I hadn’t seen my parents in five months so I’m sure we annoyed everyone with our incessant whispering. Post ceremony, we all headed outside for some champagne drinking and portrait taking before a lovely celebration dinner at Lincoln.

NYU Graduation Lincoln Center

NYU Graduation 2013

The shot with my Dad on the left is a pose we came up with at my own graduation, and I have my version of the photo framed in my room. I hate how posed I look in this photo — I never know what the heck to do with my arm in pictures so I revert to this bizarre America’s Next Top Model reject move.

NYUGraduation
NYUGraduation

NYU Graduation 2013

NYUGraduation
NYUGraduation

My dad showing off his NYU accessory — the man has a tie for every occasion

NYU Graduation 2013

NYUGraduation
NYUGraduation

Surprise! No diploma for you. Have this notepad instead.

The next day was the big shebang at Yankee Stadium. I’m not much of a sports fan so there’s a good chance this will be my only time sitting in these bleachers — and look how full they are! If you look closely in the photo below you can see there was a uniformed cop every ten feet or so around the perimeter of the field, a poignant reminder of increased security at public events post-Boston Marathon.

I wasn’t blown away by the commencement speakers but it was a fun experience nonetheless, with palpable excitement and pride in the air. I went to a pretty small school and this made my own graduation look pretty wimpy in comparison.

NYU Graduation Yankee Stadium

NYU Graduation Yankee Stadium

And we kept things real in our row with some classic Baackes-style group text chains. One of Olivia’s brilliant business ideas for once we both become famous is a set of memoirs entitled Baack to Baack followed by a coffee table book including photos, mementos, and text message screen shots entitled The Baack Story: Behind the Scenes.

Sure to be best sellers.

Graduation Text Messages

NYUGraduation
NYUGraduation

Later in the evening, one of Olivia’s college crew hosted a small cocktail party get together for the families. It was nice to get to meet the parents of Olivia’s friends who I’ve come to know over the years.

Graduation Party

NYUGraduation
NYUGraduation

For the weekend, we headed up to Albany to host my extended family for a graduation celebration/family reunion. My relatives are spread out from Florida to Illinois so its a rare treat to get to see (most) everyone in one place. With my crazy schedule I don’t know when I’ll get to go see all of them next — so I’m so happy they all came to me on this visit home!

I didn’t take many pictures of the weekend. I was more focused on juggling the unpacking, the socializing, and fending off what I thought was jetlag but turned out to be strep throat.

Albany Graduation Party

We had a big party Saturday with family and friends, and thankfully at one point we thought to take a family photo. This is all of us minus my cousin Kirsten — we rewarded her for running to Target to buy a hot plate when the stove broke by taking the picture when she was gone.

Albany Graduation Party

Albany Graduation PartyThree of the four Baackes sisters

Albany Graduation PartyMy dad and his sisters

On Sunday morning, we waved goodbye as my sister pulled out of the driveway to make her way down to teacher training in her new home in New Orleans. Talk about busy! She’ll be there for the next two years teaching first graders through the prestigious Teach for America program. I can’t wait to visit her.

Waving Goodbye

Of course, if you follow me on you already had a major peek into all these festivities. But I wanted to recap them in full glory here. When I explained to some of my friends in Southeast Asia that I was flying all the way home for a graduation, a lot of them just did not get it. But I wouldn’t have traded this time with my family for anything. A life of travel means giving up a lot of moments like this — I’m glad I didn’t have to miss this one.

Graduation Instagram

Congratulations to the Graduating Class of 2013!

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25 Comments...
  • Shaun
    June 26 2013

    LoL! the pic of your Dad’s pockets is the best! Your family looks so happy!

    Congrats to you for making it back on time and your sister for graduating.

    • Meihoukai
      June 27 2013

      Thanks Shaun! It was definitely a joyous occasion… which is a great time to take happy photos šŸ™‚

  • Meihoukaia Brooks
    June 26 2013

    AWESOME Post! Very jealous that your sister is spending two years in NOLA. Best city ever!
    Meihoukaia Brooks recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      June 27 2013

      I’m definitely very selfishly pleased with this arrangement… I’ve always wanted to go there, and now I have a free place to stay! Yipee! šŸ™‚

  • Congrats to your gorgeous sister on such a huge accomplishment! Your parents (and you) must be over the moon proud of her!!! Our families are so similar. Your group chat seriously is just like our group chats. LOVE the pics!!!!!!!
    Andi of My Beautiful Adventures recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      June 27 2013

      Haha, I can’t wait until the day I get to meet the whole Perullo clan šŸ™‚

  • Melanie Fontaine
    June 26 2013

    Wow, that is one giant graduation! Congrats to your sister – this is such a great accomplishment!
    Melanie Fontaine recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      June 27 2013

      Ha, yes we do celebrations quite big in our family šŸ™‚

  • Sarah Somewhere
    June 26 2013

    Awesome, love it, but seriously, Meihoukai, how do you maintain a gorgeous wardrobe like that as a traveler?! Stunning photos, congratulations to your sister, I await the coffee table book!
    Sarah Somewhere recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      June 27 2013

      Some things, like the blue dress I wore in the first pictures and the green dress I wore to the party at our house, I picked up in Bangkok on my way home for like $5. I love Bangkok shopping SO MUCH! (I hate shopping pretty much anywhere else). The other clothes like the jeans and blazer my mom brought for me from my room at home… I definitely don’t travel with a blazer šŸ™‚

  • Big congratulations to your sister! I am flying home for my brother’s graduation in December so I totally get it.
    Michelle | Lights Camera Travel recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      June 27 2013

      Thanks Michelle, and congrats to your brother!

  • Olivia
    June 26 2013

    Meihoukai, I love all your posts but this detailed chronicle of my graduation is my favorite! Thank you for flying literally across the world to be there with me… and for taking a million photos so we can remember this week when we are wrinkly and gray!!

    • Meihoukai
      June 27 2013

      I like all parts of this comment except for the wrinkly bit. I assume technology will have evolved beyond wrinkles at that time…

  • TammyOnTheMove
    June 27 2013

    Congrats to your sister. How on earth you manage to look so good after a 20h flight is a mystery to me. šŸ™‚
    TammyOnTheMove recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      June 27 2013

      Sadly for my future skin, I believe that having a tan makes everything look good šŸ™‚

  • Congratulations to your little sister! Loved that photo of your dad showing his empty pockets šŸ˜‰ A big congratulations is in order to your parents too. Its no easy feat raising accomplished children! I love this post, I get what you mean about flying all the way across the globe “just” to be with family in moments like this. When you live a life of travel, you miss milestones–some minor, some major. But travellers need balance (ie going back home/seeing family) from time to time to get back on track. its part of the travelling life šŸ™‚
    Jean | Holy Smithereens recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      June 27 2013

      Thanks Jean! I agree, I appreciate my parents more and more all the time as I realize how all the little lessons they taught along the way made me who I am today. And it makes it worth it to fly around the world and be with them at times like this!

  • Kristen Noelle
    June 28 2013

    Wonderful, go Olivia!! If you two aren’t some of the most rockin’est sisters..Your parents must be overwhelmed with joy from their babies’ many accomplishments.
    Your texts have me cracking up!! Please do get those Baack stories published, lol.
    Beautiful family!
    And I love the shot of those pretty purple orchids.

    • Meihoukai
      July 1 2013

      Aw, thanks Kristen! I’ll tell Olivia there’s a big market for that book to get going šŸ™‚

  • Caroline
    June 28 2013

    Congratulations Olivia! Looks like a great week of celebrations and definitely worth the trip home for! šŸ™‚

    • Meihoukai
      July 1 2013

      Thanks Caroline! It was the perfect excuse for a visit home šŸ™‚

  • Dad
    June 29 2013

    Meihoukai, great job of capturing this fun family event. I am sorry Sarah, Mark, Emma and Caroline could not be there too. On your next trip home we should go see them in Northampton.

    • Meihoukai
      July 1 2013

      I know, I think the only way to TRULY get every member of the family together is to have a wedding. Olivia, come on already….