A Trip to Quincy – Full Version

In this age of internet relationships and Facebook “friends”, one could be forgiven for questioning how genuine these virtual connections are. While many may indeed be tenuous, several connections I’ve made through this blog have developed into real, meaningful friendships with people from so many different walks of life.

It was because of one such relationship that I carved two days from my visit to the United States to fly to Quincy, Illinois (population 40,000). Lying on the eastern bank of the Mississippi River some 140 miles north of St. Louis, Quincy has been the home for the past 31 years to Dr. Zakiah Ali, her husband Mohamed, and their family.

Visiting Zakiah after getting to know her through her postings, poems and comments on Xanga was a blessing. She and her family are every bit as kind and welcoming as you could imagine. While my twenty hours there were too few, I’m glad I had the opportunity and look forward to a return visit.

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Connecting in St. Louis from Kansas City, I boarded a 19-seat puddle jumper operated by Great Lakes Airways, who has the government’s Essential Air Services contract for Quincy. This Thursday afternoon I was the only passenger.

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After a 35-minute flight, most of it spent climbing and descending, I arrived at Baldwin Field. Waiting in the tiny terminal were Zakiah and Mohamed.

A few minutes later we arrived at their lovely home, the famous red Mustang convertible sitting in the open garage and the beautiful roses blooming in the front yard.

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Above, the place where all of Zakiah’s posts and poetry enter the ether.

No sooner had I arrived then the food began. Zakiah’s gracious hospitality manifests itself in many ways, not the least of which is through the preparation of copious amounts of food.

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In addition to some salad and quiche, Zakiah served mango feerni, a soup-like dessert made with homemade condensed milk, pureed mango and pistachios. It was delicate, cool and refreshing.

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After resting and freshening up, Zakiah and I hopped in her Benz for the nickel tour of Quincy. It is a beautiful town, renowned for its architecture. There were dozens of beautiful houses in many styles – colonial, Victorian, craftsman, etc. – on the shady, tree-lined streets of the old city.

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We drove past several notable sites including Washington Park, the setting of one of the seven debates in the 1858 Senate race between incumbent Stephen A. Douglas and a lanky lawyer named Abraham Lincoln.

Some of the other sites – Quincy’s mosque, which Zakiah founded many years ago, for example – she pointed out when we were half a block beyond them. Perhaps the driver was so careful about her safe driving that the “audio” on the tour was delayed. We also made our way to the banks of the mighty Mississippi, the wide river that has so profoundly shaped Quincy.

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Returning home, Zakiah began preparations for an elaborate dinner. I helped a bit but mostly took pictures and notes and filmed the proceedings. After I return to Thailand, I’ll see what I can do about editing the video clips.

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While dinner was being prepared, Zakiah and Mohamed’s daughter stopped by with her husband and two sons. If you’ve read Zakiah’s blog, you know she adores her grandsons, Davis and Noah. Davis is cute but very shy and Noah has inherited his grandparents’ cleverness. They are a beautiful family.

Our meal included Chicken Korma, a curried chicken dish;

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Beef Briyani, a dish with basmati rice and stewed beef;

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Shikampuri Kebab, fried minced beef patties stuffed with sour cream, onions and cilantro;

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and a dish of broiled vegetables tossed in Italian dressing and parmesan cheese, our only exception to the otherwise Indian cuisine.

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Dessert was faluda, an eggless custard like the Italian panna cotta. Made with milk and a seaweed that thickens the dish like gelatin does. The milk is simmered with sugar, almonds and rose water then chilled.It is refreshing and the perfect end to an excellent meal.

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We talked into the evening, covering so many topics. I was especially interested in hearing about the experiences Zakiah and Mohamed had, moving halfway around the world and starting a new life in a strange land and, even more challenging, in a small town where they appeared so different from everyone else. Hearing the stories of the challenges of their first few years, and how they were eventually embraced by the community (Dr. Zakiah received the key to the city after her retirement) and now consider it home, I am inspired at their ability to gracefully triumph against such odds. Truly amazing.

Below, the picture of the town’s well-known doctor in an interview with her in the local paper’s “Women In the News” column.

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Their living room, attached to the dining room, has particularly interesting decorations. Everything in it has an intriguing story or history attached. There is the commendation given to her great grandfather by Queen Victoria for his service to the crown. There are the paintings done by an uncle who was a notable artist. There are furniture items from her childhood home in India.  So many things, each with deep meaning and significance. The stories from the living room alone were worth the visit.

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Friday morning we enjoyed a lingering and elaborate breakfast (she even bought two kinds of ground coffee from the store – they aren’t regular coffee drinkers – to make sure I would have my morning coffee) on the backyard deck.

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Above: Mohamed and Zakiah.  Below, Eggs Dr. Ali Style, with tumeric, onion, tomatoes, and chillies.

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The morning was unseasonably cool and we enjoyed the view of her koi pond and beautiful garden. A gazebo, several rose bushes, other flowers, and a hedgerow sat behind the pond and the surrounding cluster of trees.

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As she fed the fish, which truly do come at the sound of her voice, she mused how she wishes she could show the garden to Matt, whom she thinks would especially appreciate it.

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At 9:30 I called the airline to make sure the flight was running – after the solo trip the previous afternoon I was worried they might not come back for me – and we headed to the airport shortly afterwards. The terminal is so cute, with one tiny check-in counter, security guards who show up for the three flights a day then go home, and one rental car sitting in the Hertz lot. This time our flight was packed – four passengers! Checked in, I said my farewells and headed through the security screening and across the tarmac to the plane.

As the plane climbed about the endless rolling green farmland that surrounds Quincy, I thought about my visit and confirmed that it had indeed been well worth the time and effort to make this virtual friendship into an in-person one.

 

0 thoughts on “A Trip to Quincy – Full Version

  1. It figures she would buy 2 types of coffee just to make sure you were taken care off. What a feast! The mango dessert looks so interesting and yummy. The flowers in her garden – oh my, so gorgeous. I just love the fact you were the only passenger in the plane – I can’t believe it!

  2. What great hosts!! =)  You seem like a great guest worthy of all that hospitality as well–your words and pictures showed how much you savoured every moment of that trip.  I love how the internet has the ability to bring people together, and this is proof that Xanga has great things to offer.  Thanks for sharing!

  3. What a fabulous couple!!! Take me the next time you go!!!! Did you get the recipes for all of the delicious Indian cuisine?? And that yellow and white rose….GORGEOUS!!! It was so good to meet you yesterday…I hope that the next time you come into KC that we can carve out some time to really have a visit!!! Ruth Ann

  4. wow, that looks like a wonderful trip! it’s nice to see that friendships on xanga can manifest in real life. i would love to meet others from the xanga community; hopefully i will get a chance to do so in the future.

  5. Like everyone else I’m excited to see that you had such a good visit – and a little jealous that I haven’t had the opportunity to meet any of my xangan friends in person. The food photos were very good BUT someone needs to invent smell-o-vision. The mango feerni looks so mouth-wateringly good! As does the faluda. The garden also is just as I expected, having seen her photos in the past…

  6. OMG! Chris!! This is incredible. The pictures have so much detail and clarity. I feel like throwing my camera in the trash bin. And you even took a picture of an old paper cutting that Sayeed has in his room. I wish he would get rid of it, but he insists on keeping it. That was from a long time ago. Thank you for the wonderful posts dear Chris. I have emaile it out to Mohamed.

  7. All the dishes prepared by the Doctor are sure worth the trip alone! Good that you included the photo of the koi pond which I’m curious to take a peek!

  8. @Rm2046 – It was fantastic and the yard is lovely.@curry69curry – Seriously, Gary, I would travel all the way to Quincy just for dinner with the Alis!@TheCheshireGrins – Book your trip now, Meg.  Quincy is wonderful in the autumn, from what I hear.@ZSA_MD – The interview in that newspaper article was fascinating.  You should be very proud of the positive impact you have made on the community.  As for the pictures, would you like me to send them to you?@stebow – It is really nice, isn’t it?  See you Friday evening – safe travels.@murisopsis – Yes, Val, the internet’s lack of smell-o-vision (and taste-o-vision) is a major drawback.  LOL@kunhuo42 – Aaron, you’re in Baltimore, right?  I know the DC group has Xanga meets from time to time.  Link on Meg’s (TheCheshireGrins) site.@Jillycarmel – Truly, it can’t get any better than that.@yang1815 – Yep, and just think: I get to meet another Xangan this evening… you!  =P@Redlegsix – @ZSA_MD – Actually, Ruth Ann, I did get the recipes.  With Zakiah’s permission, I would be happy to share them.@Dezinerdreams – Of all the people reading this entry, you know best.  Seriously, when you do go back let me know.  It would be such fun to coordinate a trip.@choyshinglin – All of the connections are interesting.  I should write an entry about them but, honestly, there are several people I’m not sure exactly how I met.@lil_squirrel4ever – Thank you for the kind words.  Yes, Xanga really has some unique benefits.@ElusiveWords – Matt, the coffee thing was so her!@onmovement – I find its sense of community to be very different from other blogging sites.@MAXIMO – It was an amazing trip, Max. 

  9. After the wedding is over, after all the guests have left and after you have recovered from the jet lags and the tiredness of taking care of the wedding plans, then, if you remember, I would appreciate getting the pictures. Mohamed was also remarking about the quality of the pictures.They look so much better than real life!!! Thank you.

  10. This entry is awesome 🙂 It’s great to see that people are taking advantage of modern telecommunications as a legitimate way to meet new people and make great friends.I’ve been reading your blog steadily, even though I haven’t commented much lately. Keep posting! I love reading.

  11. I really enjoyed all the pictures from this trip. It was exciting and so much fun. I especially liked the food! Thanks for suggesting I read the ‘full’ story of the trip.blessings,frank

  12. thanks for this post! it’s always great to see a xangan from the eyes of another xangan. zakiah is a class act, a quality that seems to comes through with all her writings and photos (the ones above included).

  13. OK! I am waiting for the pictures Chris. lol. I had forgotten about this blog that you had posted. Looks like you were here just yesterday when I see these pictures. Come back soon, please!

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