She planned to go the following spring, then return to UCLA for her senior year and graduate in June 1997. She wanted the opportunity to enrich her knowledge and gain a better understanding of the cultures, peoples and environments they would be visiting, and she wanted the challenge of learning more about herself and how she would be affected by the conditions in which people in many other countries live. Unfortunately, we will never know all the feelings Cherese was experiencing during the Semester at Sea trip.
September 17, 1995 was Cherese's 21st birthday. We wanted to take Cherese to Las Vegas, but it was too difficult for Todd and Cherese to arrange the time, so we didn't go. Cherese decided she just wanted to go bowling and have fun. Larry and I took her to Java Lanes and we all had a great time. Later that evening, we took Cherese out to dinner at one of her favorite restaurants. Thinking back to the fun we had that night, the laughter and smile on Cherese's face when she ordered a glass of wine for the very first time, it is hard to believe it was the last time we would ever celebrate her birthday. She would never be older then 21.
Though Cherese dated in high school and jr. college, she did not have anyone special in her life at this time, until she met Brian. They were in the same Spanish class at UCLA and soon became friends. Then Brian asked Cherese for a date. Not long after, his unexpected kiss changed everything. Brian would now have a special place in her heart. Forever. He made her laugh. He made her happy. And she did the same for him. Brian has written a beautiful article about Cherese, printed in the UCLA Daily Bruin.
cherese & briancherese & brian<>2 - 2
We read everything together. We asked every question possible about Cherese's safety. We were assured that she would be safe. She began the long series of shots to protect her from diseases. Night after night she would read through the materials to select the trips for her itinerary. On February 1st Cherese would fly to Nassau, Bahamas, where the ship, SS Universe Explorer would depart and travel to: La Guaira, Venezuela; Salvador, Brazil; Cape Town, South Africa; Mombasa, Kenya; Madras, India; Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam; Manila, Philippines; Hong Kong; Kobe, Japan and back to the United States, to Seattle, Washington on May 13th. Cherese would not…
PREPARING FOR THE TRIP
On January 21, 1996, Cherese moved out of her apartment and back home to Long Beach to prepare for her trip. We had lived in this home for 24 years and in December 1995 we bought another home just 1 mile away. We moved just 16 days after Cherese left for Semester At Sea. I often think if we had not moved, Cherese would still be coming home, bringing her laundry and having spaghetti for dinner with us.
We spent the next ten days together shopping for her trip. She needed a backpack, camera, clothing and even netting to cover her face from mosquitoes, as she was highly allergic to them and was terrified she would get lots of bites. During those last ten days, Cherese said her good-byes to friends, co-workers and family. She went ice skating with Brian and we celebrated Todd's 23rd birthday at Red Lobster. We had so much fun that night!
The next day we took out the home movies and Cherese and I spent hours remembering those treasured moments caught on tape. She smiled when she saw me holding Todd and my tummy was quite large, I was pregnant with her. Shortly after, I was holding Cherese in my arms, coming home from the hospital. And before we knew it, she was graduating from high school.
January 30, 1996, two days before the trip, Brian came to say goodbye to Cherese and so did Todd and his girlfriend, Tere. We took a few pictures, but I regret not having more and not using the video camera. I remember the hugs and kisses as Todd wished his sister a safe and happy trip, and like all of us, expecting to see Cherese back home after 100 days, looking forward to hearing about all her adventures.
cherese & briantodd & tere<>2 - 2
February 1, 1996. Cherese and I had stayed up the entire night. We were in her room, sitting on the floor, talking about so many things. I was writing her name on everything. After stuffing her backpack, it was too heavy for her to even stand up. We started removing clothing until Cherese could stand and walk with all the weight on her back. It was about 4:00 a.m. and we were both tired. We didn't have much time left since her flight was at 7:10 a.m. at the Los Angeles airport. Cherese was getting nervous, and mentioned to me how happy she was at UCLA, she said, "I almost wish I wasn't going now," everything was going so well for her. How I wish I would have kept her home then.
We loaded the car with all the luggage and Cherese said goodbye to Miss Kitty, her cat. She stared at the house and smiled, remembering all her memories of growing up there. On the way to the airport, Cherese was very quiet in the back seat of my car. We had not allowed ourselves much extra time, and when we arrived at the terminal, it seemed even less. We sat down for a few minutes to talk. We told Cherese to call us whenever she could, to take lots of pictures, especially with her in them and to be careful wherever she was.