Jul 26, 2016 - Uncategorized    No Comments

Introducing my new space

You know, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to reveal my space to the world or even if this was the right time.

Originally, I wanted to wait until it was ‘finished’, until I had a fully decorated space. But who are we kidding, my space will never be finished.  I’ll be adding and subtracting things until the day I move out.

Then I decided that I’d like to have a record of the process. I’d like to see how the place as it improves changes over time. [It’s already changed some since I took these photos.]

SO Welcome to my place.

It’s a 3 bedroom/2 bath duplex on a cul-de-sac in one of Greenville’s east side suburban neighborhoods.  I have a patio and a yard, a couple trees, and a one car garage.

In this day and age, privacy can be a tricky thing to figure out.  I’m not famous, nor do I have an intense desire to be famous. But I have had a stalker in the form of an ex-boyfriend, and I did have a dude show up on my doorstep uninvited during my one disasterous attempt at on-line dating.  So, in an effort not to repeat that I have decided to be purposely private about exactly where I live. I’ve also decided to keep what I pay in rent private, but my household expenses are < $1000/month.  Yay for SC.

I love that I live a quiet life. I love that I hear tree frogs singing at night. The area I live in was the hot address 20-30 years ago.  That means established neighborhoods, stabilized rent/mortgage prices, no construction on every corner, and a nice mix of older people, young families, and singles.

I’m convinced that I got a great deal…3 bedrooms/2 baths…dishwasher, washer and dryer, more kitchen cabinets than I can fill, an office, guest room, and living room.  It’s way more space than I need, but it was essentially the same as one bedroom apartments in newer areas.   There’s nothing within walking distance, but I grew up in the country so that’s not a deal breaker for me.

As for living here, it’s been a few months and I am still so thrilled to be here! Moving here was absolutely the right decision, and I’m enjoying being on my on again in a safe, comfortable neighborhood not too far from close friends.

First up:  the entry way/living room/kitchen

Who knows how a person can accumulate so much stuff during the course of a day but I seem to manage. I really wanted to create a ‘landing zone.’  A place where I could hang my keys, and drop my backpack.   A place where I could tame the mail, and keep up with my schedule.

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I really like the two month calendars side by side.  It really helps me keep an eye on the big picture.  I also like the positive upbeat messages at the top of the wall.

Next up:  the living room

After dropping my stuff and kicking off my shoes, I head into the living room.  It was pretty generic when I moved in but I spent a whole week painting.  First up the red wall, then the gray.  I have two huge windows and a French door so I get plenty of light.  Also I get afternoon sun through the dining room window.

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I also have my very first washer and dryer. That red wall is my absolute favorite wall in the whole house…favorite people, favorite travel memories.  My  furniture is old; the coffee table in new…ordered off Amazon.  All the art is either my photographs, something I created, and a few pieces acquired from Hobby Lobby…namely that canvas map. The red wall is 100% travel related.  Even the lamp is in the shape of the Eiffel tower.  And the South Carolina string art–I did it myself.

Meet the Living Room

An interior designer I am not. I’m good with color and painting and such, but furniture placement and such, not so much.

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My couch is old, but the kitties are glad it’s out of storage.  They’ve actually never had furniture to lounge on other than the bed.   And me, well I spend most of my time sitting there working on homework, or watching my latest TV addiction on my new 40-something inch TV sitting on the hand-me-down stand.  Right now it’s TURN, the Americans, and The Knick.

Meet the Bedroom[s]

I actually have 3!  One for me, one for Christopher, and one for Lucy.  I chose the back bedroom with the attached small bathroom for me.  The other one is small-ish, but has a full sized bed, dresser, TV and DVD player in it.  It’ll be my guest room, you know, if I ever have guests.  The other room I’ve turned into my office/kitty room.  It’s where I keep my desk.  It also has a twin bed for lounging, and the kitties food/water and litter box.

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Christopher’s room…complete with the big cats as mentors

Meet the Bathroom[s]

I have two.  Two toilets is a little piece of heaven. One full size shower/tub and one shower only.  Both of them ar small, but then again,  is a large bathroom really necessary?

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The larger of the two bathroom is the hall bath.  It’s the one that others will use so I wanted to make it pretty.  There’s cracked 1970’s green-ish linoleum on the floor, and I painted the walls a fresh, light green.  I also added elephants to the wall to hold towels elephant babies to open drawers.  A sand colored and palm tree shower curtain hides the shower from nosey eyes.

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I got these two prints on a visit to Seattle in 2012.  At the time I only had one cat, Kaos, and Kaos was the sweetest, sexiest black cat around.  I’ve never had the space to properly hang them, and now that I do, I think it’s providence that I’ve got both an orange and black cat–just like in the pictures.

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On Gratitude

I am humbled and grateful every single day that I’m able to live in a wonderful place like this. It took me a long time to get here.  Years of living in basements, attics, and spare rooms. Years of living with roommates that ranged from cool to weird to psychotic. Years of trying to change my reality through various addictions.  Years of alternate living so that I could travel the world and return back to school to change careers.

I practice gratitude on what feels like a minute by minute basis. Just sitting on the couch with Lucy hanging out on the back porch, drinking a glass of lemonade or trying to learn to cook something other than tacos, or even something ridiculous like sitting on my patio in the 90 degree heat watching the kitties chase bugs and roll in the grass — it fills me with so much happiness.

I’m a different person now. Some people say I’m more ‘grown-up’. I disagree,  I’m just different. I’m enjoying stability for the first time ever.   And with that comes nice things, my own space, and kitty cats.

Jul 8, 2016 - Wanderlust    No Comments

Amazing Manchester

I have always kept a record of my travels.  It used to be with a pen and paper and 35 mm film.  Now it’s all digital. On Flashback Fridays I reflect back on some of my past travels and travel mishaps before I started this blog.

We are back in Merry Old England for today’s installation of Flashback Friday.  Football at Old Trafford Stadium. Yes, please. 

It’s so strange how I ended up with tickets to a Manchester United game, but hey–whatever, I’ll take them.  It was a regular weekday when I mentioned to Steve that it would be at least another month or so until boyfriend got there.  He mentioned that 1.  He had to go back to New York from July 8-August 13 and the flat would be unavailable [no more free place to stay] and 2.  He had two tickets to Manchester United’s opening match against Southampton and would not be able to go as he would still be in NY. Would I like them?  Um yes, please.  So that is how I ended up spending a month in North England and Scotland and one amazing day [and night] in Manchester.

One of the best ways to see Manchester is from the water.

Manchester’s Chinatown gates are the largest outside mainland China.

Sometimes it’s just better to go on the tour and take the photos there than trying to get a decent shot when the stadium is full of people–unless you have front row seats–which I didn’t…

I love soccer.  I played it until I was in high school.  My high school didn’t have a soccer team [boys or girls] so I stopped playing it, but I kept up with the sport and refereed it while I was in college.  I wasn’t a Man U fan before the match, but after I most definitely was.  To be fair, I’m loyal like that.  I don’t live in an area with a lot of professional teams. My favorite teams are usually the first team I saw in action which is why I am a fan of  University of Tennessee [1st college football game], Miami Dolphins [first NFL game], Baltimore Orioles [first MLB], Carolina Hurricanes and Montreal Canadians [first NHL games],  and Seattle Sounders [ first MLS game].  An odd mix to be sure, but it works for me.

So on August 13, 1997, I went to my first English Premier League match.  Up to this point I was a Real Madrid fan mainly because I was a Spanish major in college, and my Spanish professor and I would watch La Liga matches and converse in Spanish [weird I know…]… Anyway,  Manchester United vs Southampton.  A young whippersnapper by the name of David Beckham came in as a substitute in the second half of the match, and netting the only goal giving Man U a 1-0 win.  I became a Red Devils fan for life [it didn’t hurt that my high school mascot was also the Red Devils].  Manchester United went on finish the 1997-98 season as runners-up to Arsenal.

As I side note:  Nearly 20 years later, I am still a Man U fan, still go for Liverpool as well, but they haven’t been great lately, and have added Arsenal to the mix of my favorite English Premier League teams.  Something I am sure no true English football fan would say.

Jun 20, 2016 - Life    2 Comments

Endings, beginnings, and what’s next

Mid-year-end review 2016

In some ways, 2016 has been great; and yet, it’s been rough in lots of ways.  I have had four physical addresses in the last 6 months. 4 times of packing up my stuff and moving to a new location. 4 times of unpacking boxes. 4 times of trying to get the kitty cats comfortable. 4  times of trying to get settled.  4 times of buying duplicate things because I couldn’t find what I needed at the time. 4 places where I’ve tried to make a home.  On top of that, I’ve had three jobs + some freelance work in the last year. It was the opposite of what I needed, but in reality, I had no choice.  It was either move or be homeless.  It was either work or end up at the *poor farm.

The Endings

In June 2016, I quit my toxic hospital job. I had worked in a hospital (not necessarily the same hospital) on some level since 2003, and it was a big deal to leave.  Even though that was one of my goals for becoming a RN.  Even though my latest work environment was toxic; even though my co-workers were cruel and hateful.  The hospital had been my one constant my entire adult, working life.

Also in June, I left a living situation that was no longer working for me.  And it didn’t go well.  In the time from telling her I was moving until the day I left, it was beyond stressful.  The cats were mistreated; my things were mistreated when I wasn’t there [and let’s be honest, I was only there to sleep because I felt so unwelcome.] A few things went missing or were broken.   A number of mutual friends, while still cordial when out paths cross, aren’t exactly people I’d call friends anymore.

And in July, one of my closest friends, for lack of a better term, ‘broke up’ with me.  He was my main camping buddy and hiking partner, and while it sucks not to have a person to do that kind of stuff with anymore, it certainly won’t stop me from doing these things.

I’ve always been more on the private side even in real life. I strive to be truthful and honest in all my interactions, but here lately, I’ve been even more reserved.  One of my goals in this new rendition of the blog, is to be more open and transparent.  But some things will always be private.

The Beginnings

I started a new job at the end of June. It’s been three weeks now, and I’m still loving it. It’s crazy busy, and keeps me on my toes.  It’s still healthcare, so what I can say about what I do and where I work is quite limited. I now work in physical rehab.  It’s so different than what I used to do, and I get to use both of my skill sets.  I have a lot more freedom to do what I need to do, to do what I think is the right thing, and I love that. I love that my skills and knowledge is valued, but what I love more, it that it feels like what I do matters. And I haven’t felt like what I do matters in a long time.

just a little note from one of my patients

I also have new living quarters. It’s palatial by New York City standards, and more space than I really need, but the price was right, the neighborhood is good, and the landlord is chill.  After living with roommates since 2006, it is nice to finally have space of my own… where it doesn’t matter if I empty the dishwasher the second it’s done or if I leave clean clothes in the dryer for a week. A place where I can decorate as I choose, and a place where the kitties and I can relax however we see fit. And most important, a place where I can start to feel settled.

The Next Steps

In August, I head back to the classroom (metaphorically speaking–all my classes are online). Depending on which option I pursue I could be finished by the end of next summer (with a BSN) or three years from now (with a MSN or DNP)  Who knows what direction my life will go, but at least for the next year, I’m going to be pretty stationary.  I’ll still find time to do the things I love, and hopefully, deepen relationships with all my friends.

I don’t know where the road is going to lead me, but I hope you will hang around for the ride.

 

Jun 17, 2016 - Wanderlust    No Comments

Chichen Itza

I have always kept a record of my travels.  It used to be with a pen and paper and 35 mm film.  Now it’s all digital. On Flashback Fridays I reflect back on some of my past travels and travel mishaps before I started this blog.

The next few Flashback Fridays focus on Mexico, Guatemala, and other Mayan sites that I visited during my study abroad/independent study on Mayan Art and Architecture.

Chichen Itza is located in the Yucatan region of Mexico not too far from the Gulf.  It was a major economic and political power from 600 to 1000 A.D. Chichen  Itza is a mix of many of Maya and (Central Mexican) Toltec styles; who influenced whom? so much of pre-Columbian history is still being debated.  But I’ll do my best to summarize.

The Castillo (or castle in English) is the monument that most people think of when they think of Chichén Itzá. It is mostly Toltec construction, and it probably dates to the period of the first combination of cultures in the 9th century AD at Chichén. El Castillo is centrally located on the south edge of the Great Plaza. The pyramid is 30 meters high and 55 meters on a side, and it was built with nine succeeding platforms with four staircases. The staircases have balustrades with carved feathered serpents, the open-jawed head at the foot and the rattle held high at the top. The last remodel of this monument included one of the fanciest jaguar thrones known from such sites, with red paint and jade insets for eyes and spots on the coat, and flaked chert fangs. The principal stairway and entrance is on the north side, and the central sanctuary is surrounded by a gallery with the main portico.

Kukulkan, or feathered serpent, is the name of a Maya snake deity that also serves to designate historical persons. The cult of Kukulkan/Quetzalcoatl was the first Mesoamerican religion to transcend the old Classic Period linguistic and ethnic divisions and facilitated communication and peaceful trade among peoples of many different social and ethnic backgrounds. Although the cult was originally centered in the ancient city of Chichén Itzá, it spread as far as the Guatemalan highlands so you’ll see this guy as far south as Tikal.

The Mayans loved sport and were quite serious about the games played. They built huge ball courts to contest these matches. It’s often said that the captain of the losing team would offer his head as payment for losing while the captain of the winning team would be allowed to ascend directly into heaven. The Great Ball court of Chichen Itza is 225 feet wide and 545 feet long overall. It has no top, no discontinuity between the walls and is totally open to the blue sky. Each end has a raised to the temple area.
One of the mysteries of Chichen Itza, is the acoustic dynamics of the great ball court. A whisper from end can be heard clearly enough at the other end 500 feet far away and through the length and breath of the court. The sound waves are unaffected by wind direction or time of day and also night. To this day, no one has been able to figure why or how the Mayans achieved this feat.

The goal was to get a ball through this ring. The rings are about 25 feet off of the ground.

The particular sport is not like any one sport being contested today. It has elements of soccer, but the ball used is much more like a weighted basketball. Of the hundreds of images of the game, very few show that the ball was touched with the hands, so archaeologists have deduced that the ball could not be caught. The ball itself was a little larger than a basketball and was made of solid rubber, so it was quite heavy. Players wore protective padding around their hips and were richly dressed and decorated during play.  Personally I think JK Rowling saw images of the ball court and had this in mind when she developed Quidditch.

Information about the solar, Toltec, and Maya calendars is carefully built into el Castillo. Each stairway has exactly 91 steps, times four is 364 plus the top platform equals 365, the days in the solar calendar. The pyramid has 52 panels in the nine terraces; 52 is the number of years in the Toltec cycle. Each of the nine terraced steps are divided in two: 18 for the months in the yearly Maya calendar. Most impressively, though, is not the numbers game, but the fact that on the autumnal and vernal equinoxes, the sun shining on the platform edges forms shadows on the balustrades of the north face that look like a writhing rattle snake.

But Chichen Itza is more, a whole lot more.  Some plazas have thousands of columns. Some have observatories. There are several temples at each site, each serving a different purpose.

Jun 10, 2016 - Wanderlust    No Comments

Palenque–not exactly what I was expecting

I have always kept a record of my travels.  It used to be with a pen and paper and 35 mm film.  Now it’s all digital. On Flashback Fridays I reflect back on some of my past travels and travel mishaps before I started this blog.

The next few Flashback Fridays focus on Mexico, Guatemala, and other Mayan sites that I visited during my study abroad/independent study on Mayan Art and Architecture.

As Mayan ruins go – and there are many in Mexico, and I’ve visited more than the average bear– Palenque is one of the best.
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This ancient city is quite older than some and it dates back as far as 226 BC . While Palenque seems quite small in comparison with some other ruins such as Tikal and Chichen Itza, it is thought that the majority of the city remains undiscovered behind dense jungle.  What is there is incredibly well preserved for a city of more than 2000 years old.

Palenque carvings

Palenque stand out in my mind for several reasons one of which is this is the only ruin I visited where I had family with me.  My dad, who has since passed away, met me in Guatemala City on a complete whim [what can I say, spontaneity runs in the family].  We traveled together on a rickety old school bus to the Mexican border, stayed in quite possibly the worst hotel [and I use that word cautiously] I’ve ever been in [and that’s saying a lot], nearly froze to death in San Cristobal de las Casas, and once of us [hint:  not me]  angered the travel gods and suffered Montezuma’s Revenge. By the time we reached Palenque, one of us was very nearly dead and the other wanted to finish the job.

The heat and humidity of Palenque is no joke.  Having come straight from the mountainous San Cristobal [where I suffered from fever of unknown etiology and was quite weak], it was next to impossible to adjust to the heat and humidity of Palenque.  I did what I rarely ever do:  I rested.   I woke up with the howler monkey screeches at 5 am, siesta-ed in the hottest middle part of the day, and prowled around like an ocelot at night.  [Ocelots and howler monkeys do live in the jungle, but I never saw either of them].  On the third day, we tackled Palenque.

Palenque

The entrance to Palenque is a giant parking lot filled with people selling everything from refreshments to hats and souvenirs. Many of the paths within the gates are also lined with vendors. At the entrance to the site, official guides vie for your attention. They may mean well, but you can get almost as much information from plaques dotted around the site, and it’s much more enjoyable to explore the ruins at your own pace [even if you have to leave your dad sitting on the steps with the jaguar]

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Who even knows where my dad is at this point; Mayan architecture was not all that exciting for him.

Jun 7, 2016 - Wanderlust    No Comments

Paris is a bitch

This
paris-nye-2012was my introduction to Paris. And to be honest, it was a bit much. Beautiful, but excessive. I’ll be the first admit that I came to Paris, not wanting to like Paris. I knew it is an expensive city and I didn’t need yet another expensive city to be crazy about [London, I’m talking to you]. I knew a lot about Paris before I came here. I knew that if I didn’t resist its charms, I would regret it later. Sort of like that extra bottle of wine at dinner.

If cities were people, Paris would be a supermodel. Super hot, but incredibly high maintenance. It’s unreasonably expensive if you want to take full advantage of what the city has to offer. Compare that to Krakow, Budapest, or Prague; they are just as amazing– just not as famous.

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Yes, Paris is beautiful. Gorgeous even. But still I think it’s overrated. But tourists seem completely infatuated with the city. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Eiffel Tower gets dry-humped a few times a day by overzealous tourists. [yes, I realize I am being crude]

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Perhaps if Paris had been my first adventure instead of London [although to be honest, it took me years to warm up to London], I’d have a different opinion. Or maybe one needs to visit Paris as a couple. Or in the spring. Or perhaps I just have a completely different idea of romance than most.

Admittedly, I am sure I missed out a lot by not knowing French or not having a background in art history or not being a culinary snob. But I can see the city  as a very livable city, if you are earning a local wage. The public transport system [I used it over the holiday weekend; it  was vomit-covered, but free] and bike-sharing system are among the best I’ve encountered.

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Parisian Metro vomit–not quite the introduction that I was looking for

I can see the appeal of Paris as a vacation spot for tourists. Amazing art and architecture are everywhere so it’s like a massive orgy of tourism.

notre dame gargolye

And I guess therein lies the problem. I stopped being a tourist about 7 years ago. My ideal way to travel now is slow and easy… to feel a city as a local. I don’t always get to do that, but it’s what I would prefer.  And when you try to do that in Paris, you feel like a low-born serf. Cheap in Paris is still expensive.

In the two days I was there, I found people pretty helpful especially considering I can’t speak any French apart from “Bonjour, parlez-vous anglais?” and “s’il vous plait”. I mean strangers weren’t exactly inviting me home for glasses of wine, but I didn’t find them any more rude than say people in New York City. What I did see was rude tourists rambling on in English without any introduction. And if they weren’t understood, they would just speak louder. Parisians aren’t fucking deaf – they just don’t speak English.

a-bit-touristic

My favorite parts of the city were Pere LaChaise cemetery and Notre Dame cathedral. Maybe it says more about me that I preferred hanging out with the dead than engaging with shopkeepers, waiter, or merchants.

Pere LaChaise Cemetery Paris, France

Should you visit Paris? Sure, it’s definitely worth visiting. Especially if it’s your first time to Europe. Would I go back? Probably not, but I’d glad I checked it out.

If you’ve been to Paris, what did you think?  Would you go back? What am I missing?

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I’m not scared, and you shouldn’t be either

Danger...danger

The other day I was in Target getting a few things for my upcoming trips.  One of these things just happened to be a portable luggage scale. And that set off the questions by the friendly, but misinformed cashier.  I should point out that the cashier was a woman, most likely in her 50’s. The conversation then went something like this.

Cashier:  I wish I could travel.  Me:  You can.  Anybody can really.  Cashier:  I have a job      Me:  So do I   Cashier:  Well, I don’t have anybody to go with me.  Me:  Neither do I most of the time  Cashier:  You go BY YOURSELF!  Aren’t you scared?  Me:  [Commence Eye Rolling]

And that is how nearly every interaction goes with someone who I don’t know well or not at all whenever they find out I do this thing called TRAVEL BY MYSELF. In the past couple of weeks, I’ve received a handful of emails and comments from seemingly well-meaning people [mostly women and mostly older than me] asking me all kinds of questions about traveling solo. I don’t necessarily want to be pigeon-holed as a SOLO FEMALE TRAVELER [or solo female traveler blogger for that matter] because what happens when I have a travel partner, or decide to have a sex change?  Does that mean my experience is no longer valid or relevant?  I’d like to think not, but the fact remains, that as of today, I am decidedly female, and I do travel alone about 95% of the time.  So I guess that sort of makes me an ambassador for girls traveling alone.  

 kitty hiding We all can’t hide under a blanket forever

Anyway… I’ve been traveling alone for a few years now — not because I inherently dislike people, but usually because I don’t want to wait around for someone to travel with me and because I kind of LIKE to be on my own and have the freedom to do what I want when I want.  And yes, since I am being honest , I WAS scared the first time I traveled by myself, and I was probably scared the second and third times as well.  And planning trips with others in mind is a huge task…especially when said others don’t have a fucking clue about what they want to do in said place.

The media–whether you are right leaning or left leaning or somewhere out in left field– is our common enemy when it comes to traveling alone. It’s a common misconception that it’s inherently dangerous to travel solo if you are a woman. I’ll admit–traveling solo as a woman IS a different experience than traveling solo as a man. As a woman, you DO have to be more careful and more vigilant in some cases. You have to be more aware of how you’re dressed, who you decide to trust, and how decisions you make could affect your safety. However, this doesn’t just apply to traveling. In a world where violence against women is a growing problem [even here in USA and especially in SC which ranks #1 for violence against women], being careful and vigilant is something women just DO. EVERY. SINGLE. FUCKING. DAY. It’s certainly not confined to traveling. Which brings me to my point [and I do have one, in case you were wondering]:

Traveling solo as a woman is not automatically dangerous.

It’s no more or less dangerous than doing things alone as a woman in your home country or town. People ask me [quite frequently these days] if I’m ever afraid to travel solo. And my answer is always no.  And these are the reasons why:

I Trust Myself

This hasn’t always been true.  There have been times in my past where I didn’t always trust my instincts or did things that dulled those instincts.  Common travel wisdom is don’t do anything abroad that you wouldn’t do at home. I take that a step further.  Some of the things I would do at home, I would never do abroad.  So I evaluate the situation and assess the risk.  Things that I would do at home like wander around, accept rides from strangers [yes, I’ve done it], go off without telling somewhere where I am, get blitzed on a night out are things that I’d never consider doing abroad. I also get a map and study it on day 1 so that I can be aware of my location.  I have learned to be aware of my surroundings and to trust my gut. Should I find myself in a situation where I feel uncomfortable, I do what I can to remove myself from it. When you travel solo, you are your own best, and sometimes only, defense. st wenceles square

I Trust strangers

People you meet on your travels ARE, for the most part, going to be helpful rather than threatening. As a solo female traveler, I’ve had countless experiences where I’ve actually had complete strangers looking out for me on subways [giving me directions when I got on a wrong train],  making sure I got off at the right stop on trains or buses, or given me rides when it was needed. My travel experiences have be greatly enhanced by trusting my instincts when trusting strangers. Just as the world isn’t an inherently dangerous place, people are not inherently evil. I don’t always make conversation with strangers and occasionally I am suspicious about anyone who tries strike up a conversation with me, but most of the time people are just trying to be friendly. Which brings me back to point 1:  Yes, it’s important to be careful and to trust your gut. But every unknown face as a threat. Your travels will be enriched when you open yourself up to new conversations and meeting new people.  And you’ll learn that people are more similar than different.

kissing the blarney stoneI had to trust that this guy wouldn’t drop me as I leaned over the cliff, upside down.

I Trust the Herd

If I ever DO find myself in a destination where I don’t feel completely comfortable on my own, I know that there are always ways to ensure that I’m NOT alone. A lot of times, I may book myself on a day trip to a place I’m unfamiliar with or want to visit, but don’t feel confident visiting it solo. It’s rare that you’ll find my in a hotel. I opt to stay in hostels or guest houses where it’s easy to meet other travelers and join in on group activities.  Usually people don’t mind if you tag alone. I’ve learned that traveling solo doesn’t necessarily have to mean being alone all the time.  

I Trust my research

I am not a planner, but I do like doing research on new destination.  I will always have a couple of things in mind that I’d like to see or do for any new destination.  If it is a truly foreign destination, I’ll brush up on a bit of the language, read up on things like cultural norms, common scams, and how I should dress as a tourist. If I am traveling to some of the more conservative countries, I make sure to pack more modest clothing. Not only does this make me feel more comfortable, but it also tends to cut down on unwanted attention. Doing my homework helps me fit in to new cultures better, and also makes it easier to be vigilant without being scared or paranoid. firing demo
It’s, OK…I knew ahead of time there would be a musket firing demonstration

I trust humanity

Every country has statistics of which they are not proud, but that doesn’t mean every person who lives in that country has contributed to those statistics. The US has some of the highest violence rates in the world, and yet I wouldn’t consider it a dangerous place in which to be a tourist….although once again, there are some places that I am scared to travel by myself in the USA.

We see so many movies and read so many sensationalized headlines that we’ve become conditioned to assume that the world “out there” is a scary, dangerous place. But guess what? It’s not, and if you were that scared and that worried about safety, you’d never venture outside your front door.

black sheep 1

You can’t be scared of a black sheep

and if you can’t trust people, trust animals…animals will never lead you astray, but sometimes, I get scared of animals…especially bears.

May 17, 2016 - Wanderlust    6 Comments

Museums of Broken Relationships

A break-up is like a broken mirror:  it’s better to leave it alone than to hurt yourself picking up the pieces.

 

His name was Michael. Today is his birthday. I shouldn’t remember that, but I do. When we met he was 32, and I was 24. We met at work.  I loved his sense of humour and he loved my adventurous spirit.  We were friends first.  Nearly a year, before anything more than friendly happened.  But as is often the case between men and women, something did happen.  I practically dared him to kiss me, and when he did, it was as if time stood still. July 19, 2004…after lunch. The kiss lasted exactly 42 seconds.  I know because I had a digital atomic clock on the wall in my office.  The kiss touched every neuron in my body, and for the first time in my life, I felt alive.

I named him “Nobody” and he called me “Girl. ”  If people asked me who I was dating, and they did because people love to meddle in the affairs of others, I’d say “Nobody.” If people asked him who we was seeing, he’d say “Just some girl.”  It was our secret, and it was exciting.

We carried on our secret affair for 18 months –until I moved away…co-workers weren’t supposed to date. And even after moving to a different state, the thought of him was like a drug.  We were like addicts addicted to each other; couldn’t stay away, yet couldn’t get enough.

broken relationship 4

The first step in recovering from an addiction is admitting that there is a problem, and oh boy, there was.  Michael was as strong as any drug I’d ever encountered, and willpower alone wasn’t enough to make me quit him.  Over time I came to rely on a power greater than myself and contact with Michael became more and more sparse.  Withdrawal is a painful master.  There was physical pain.  There was emotional pain. There were tears.

broken relationship 5
There were no stuffed worms. No legs were broken in this break-up.


The last conversation I had with him was right before I left for Moscow.  He said “you always did want to go places.” and I said “I will always love you, but this will be the last time I tell you that.”  And I haven’t had contact with him since.  After returning from Moscow, I wanted to call him.  I wanted to tell him all the amazing adventures I had.  Instead, I got a cat.  I named her Lily. She was a sweet cat.

 

Lily helped me heal.

 

I still have a post card he gave me. And ticket stubs for various events. And a necklace. And various little notes.  What can I say, I’m a sentimental soul.

broken relationships 1

I knew before I went to Zagreb that I wanted to go to the museum of broken relationships. I find it  fascinating to see what people keep as mementos from relationships.  Not every relationship ends on a sour note.  Some have other obstacles that time just could not overcome.  Some just aren’t meant to be.  Some exist solely to prepare you for the future.  Michael was not my first boyfriend, but he was my first love, and without that relationship, I wouldn’t be where I am today.

I’ve held on to the mementos of the relationship with Michael for 15 years, and karma, good energy, and such being what it is, it’s time to release that energy into the universe. Good bye Michael.


PS...I have a slight confession to make.  One time I was dating this guy.  His name was James. Now I knew that the relationship with James was never going to be long-term, but he was ummm, fun, and I had recently broken up with a cheating bastard I caught with another woman.  I made James brownies for his birthday.  I left them on the kitchen table with a ‘Happy Birthday’ note.  I came over the next day to find everything in the trash. I was pissed to say the least. Livid. Irate. Incensed. A seething cauldron of raging fumes; you get the idea. He was being such an ass. I went to the local World Market, bought a bottle of cheap $7 Il Bastardo wine, and switched it out for his fancy $200 bottle of French Bordeaux.  My friend and I drank the rich, velvet wine while sitting in her hot tub cursing all the shallow men in the world.  I still feel no shame in taking Il Bastardo’s prized bottle of red wine.

In retrospect, the Il Bastardo was still probably pretty good.  After all it comes from Tuscany and is a Sangiovese so probably still good. I really would have like to have smashed Il Bastardo over the bastard’s head, but I got my revenge in other ways that even though the statute of limitations has passed, I’ll still keep my mouth shut because some things are just better left unsaid [or in this case… things are better left un-typed].

at least no axes were ever involved in any of my break-ups

PPS…Names and dates have been changed to protect the innocent…Except Il Bastardo.

PPPS...If I dated women, I’d totally give every.single.one I ever broke up with this bar of chocolate.

broken relationship 6

 

May 8, 2016 - Wanderlust    No Comments

Monsters and legends in Inverness, Scotland

Let’s get one things straight right off the bat:  Scotland is awesome. The more places I visit in this beautiful country, the more I fall in love with it.  I came to Inverness for two reasons:  to see the monster and to be in the Scottish Highlands.  I was only partially successful. Inverness has about 50,000 people and it is considered the capital of the Highlands.

I searched Loch Ness for the monster [didn’t find her, but the lake is quite pretty]

I heard a plethora of bagpipes. The local college in the town that I grew up in had a mascot that was a ‘Scotsman’, and he played the bagpipes at official college functions. I’m pretty convinced that there is only one song  [+ Amazing Grace] that is ever played on the bagpipes.

Made my way to Culloden Battlefield…It was hauntingly beautiful. In the mid 1700’s a very violent and bloody battle occurred between the Scotsmen and the English…Today it is a beautiful, lush windswept moor

I am horrible at genealogy, but as my ancestors are from the Carolinas [and Carolina was settled mainly by Scots, Irish, and English] for as far back as the USA can count its history, I’d wager that some of my distant relatives died on that battlefield. Either as a Mac-something…

or as an Englishman…

The Inverness footbridge allows for viewing of the River Ness from the town…

and serves to make it postcard pretty.

and no town is complete without a castle

May 3, 2016 - Fabulous Food    No Comments

Fried Green Tomatos

I don’t eat [or like] a lot of fried foods, BUT a couple of years ago I was introduced to fried green tomatoes, and it was love at first bite.  Several times since that day, I’ve tried to create the same heavenly goodness at home, but with no luck.  My problem was usually one of two things:  one–the tomatoes weren’t green enough.  I like tomatoes–there is nothing more heavenly than a tomato sandwich with Duke’s mayo on white bread.  It tastes like summer should taste.  So often times, my tomatoes were just turning red instead of being firm and green.  The second issue I kept running into is fried green tomatoes need a little bit of bite in its coating. Spicy but not over-powering. Heat, but not like jalapeno heat.  As a person who only experiments in the kitchen from time to time, it took a while for me to place the spice.  It’s more cayenne pepper and paprika than black pepper or anything Asian-spicy. I think I’ve finally gotten the batter recipe right…. Now on to figure out the dipping sauce.

Ingredients

  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour, divided
  • 1/2 cup cornmeal
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • pinch of cayenne pepper or paprika
  • medium-size green tomatoes, cut into 1/3-inch slices
  • Vegetable oil
  • Salt to taste

green tomatos

How to Make It

  1. Combine egg and buttermilk; set aside.

  2. Combine 1/4 cup all-purpose flour, cornmeal, 1 teaspoon salt, paprika or cayenne pepper and black pepper in a shallow bowl or pan.

  3. Dredge tomato slices in remaining 1/4 cup flour; dip in egg mixture, and dredge in cornmeal mixture.

  4. Pour oil to a depth of 1/4 to 1/2 inch in a large cast-iron skillet; heat to 375°. Drop tomatoes, in batches, into hot oil, and cook 2 minutes on each side or until golden. Drain on paper towels or a rack. Sprinkle hot tomatoes with salt.

    fried green tomatoes

    Heaven on Earth