Tuesday, October 21, 2014

time flies.

it's been too long. i know. i wish there was some justifiable excuse for never posting the pictures from quito, or not telling you about all the wonderful visitors we had or depriving you of stories of neah's adventures.  if i weren't nearly so grump-tastic about the sun disappearing faster by the day, i might tell you about epic and ongoing conversations with our wonderful friends about the zombie-apocalypse, intimacy, the nature of prayer and meditation and which gun is best to not get eaten by a bear.

instead, as we near four years here, i'll tell you that some days i actually want it to snow...because there is something soft and calming about the way the snow falls, dampening sound.  i'll tell you that in the dead of winter, when it's bone dry out, i love the squeaking Styrofoam sound that fresh snow makes crushed beneath shoes. i'll tell you that i like to stand in the window at night and watch it fall--silent, unaffected. i'll tell you that i do actually like the warm orange glow the lights cast upon it in the dark.

i'll also tell you that i think i forgot to bring my soul back from this beach two weeks ago.  it has been whispering long distance poetry ever since, communing with muses who apparently don't like the cold since they'd been silent for so long.

my soul got stuck in haifa for a while once too..years in fact. i don't want you to think that i mind--it's like instant travel without the hassle--to feel so completely somewhere else.  so for now, when i close my eyes to seek serenity, this is where i end up.

and i'll tell you that it is the relentless pursuit of betterment rather than perfection that should drive us, fuel our minds and warm our hearts as the winter draws nearer.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

New Year Adventures

I promise you things and then i don't provide. It's a fatal flaw. For example, i promised you this blog about new year antics in ecuador last week and it just didn't happen. sorry.

But, here it is, as the snow falls and a lone raven surfs the winds outside my completely bleary, basically dark window at 430pm. sorry, nora, needed a brain break...going back to work soon!

Last year for NYE we were in Patong of the coast of Thailand watching thousands of chinese lanterns sail into the Thai sky full of wishes and dreams.  This year, we were in transit from the thermal pools through the weaver-ville of Peguche to Hacienda Pinsaqui for the feast and party thrown by the Freile family. 

Here a list of things we learned:
1. The old year has widows. Not just any widows, cross dressing men widows who you have to pay (because they run a rope across the highway) as a toll to celebrate the passing of their husbands.  They talk shit, get a head start on the drinking and sing songs.

The slightly tamer version are the little extortionist children who set theirs up every ten feet. you go through A LOT of small change that way.



2. The Vaca Loca (crazy cow) is not in fact a real cow, but your host under a tent covered with fireworks who runs around trying not to catch on fire. I stress this because i was confused for quite a while (read: over an hour, serious lost in translation moment) about if this cow was real, what the implications for animal rights were in ecuador, and finally how the hell no one got hurt.  obviously, this makes WAY more sense, dude, tent enough explosives to kill himself:



 

on fire.
3. Ecuadorians like to burn things.  namely people. people they really don't like, people they do like, effigies. the effigies ride around on cars to prevent the widows from extracting their tolls. still haven't figured out why they cremate people they like, but makes for a great bonfire (which one's husband will then jump over to cleanse his new year and in the process nearly burn his shoes off):

effigies





















4. Finally, they like to run things up greased poles. 
I imagine this is akin to our throwin a greased watermelon in the deep end of the pool during fourth of July pig-pickins.  minus the live chicken in the wooden box.  the disaster that was raising this thing went on for longer than we were there and finally resulted in the long wooden stick being shortened as it could not be raised with the two ladders and 50 bosses all providing instructions on how to get it up. insert your own joke here.

Truly though, it was wonderful. An absolute adventure and probably one of our favorite days of the trip.


So here's to the widows, the chickens, the vacas, and our new friends....

Happy New Year Y'all.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Vacation part II (of probably III)

we left off our story with adam not dying on the precipitous descent from above Banos, Ecuador.

from Banos, we headed over to Puyo and Tena on the edge of the Amazon--an area called Oriente.  We stayed on the Rio Napo river which is the longest navigable tributary of the Amazon.  It was as you would expect humid, mosquito filled, and a hut at the lodge we stayed at was home to a large tarantula. Ugh.  See all previous posts regarding my feelings about spiders.
Truthfully, a lot of this part of the trip was not exactly what we had in mind...rather than hash that shit out, here are some pictures of a part we both really enjoyed--white water rafting on the Jactunyacu River with our river guide Cesar (who, as it turns out, was the son of our driver and neither knew until the night before the other one was part our trip!) Total small world syndrome.  It was quite the adventure floating down the river, watching people bathe and pan for gold along the edge with rock walls covered in orchids lining the edge of the river. From those walls, our safety kayaker, Diego, plucked this orchid for me:


We then drove thousands of feet back up into the Andes to go to the Termas de Pappallacta.  LOVE ME SOME THERMAL BATHS.  We soaked a bit, ate delicious food, and hiked up a hill behind the termas to get back into nature again. There's a public area and the hotel area and the hotel area is MUCH nicer.

The next day, we headed north, past Quito and beginning the northern part of the adventure.  It was New Year's Eve.  there will be no discussion of that here. NYE gets its own blog post.  Suffice to say it was a riot.  We stopped along the way in Peguche to see some weavers and buy hand made textiles and presents. it took great restraint to not purchase every rug in sight.

This is Hacienda Pinsaqui, where we spent the night, where Simon Bolivar brokered peace between Columbia and Ecuador, and where i want to live when i grow up:


Like i said...all about Hacienda Pinsaqui and NYE in another post.  Having survived festivities, we headed up to a crater lake.  Please note the altitude listed and let me clarify for you that hiking at this altitude is not like hiking in Anchorage or anywhere in Washington, unless you are going up Rainier.  It hits you in a different way, a way that says you are clearly a lazy human who forgot to go to the gym for the six months before this trip and should be damn glad she didn't try to hike the Inca Trail in Peru in this lazy a$$ condition. PS--especially with that pesky respiratory infection she picked up the week before leaving Anchorage and for which she was huffing on an inhaler most of the trip.
Hats in the Otavalo Market.

After not dying on the hike, we went to Otavalo and bartered our way into more art before heading back to Quito. By bartering, i mean cutting everything down by 60% and refusing to pay more than half the original asking price. period. Like 175 worth of something shouldn't be more than 75. wish i could do this in america, too. hear me now Target, hear me now.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Vacation--blog one of god only knows.

This is a multi-part blog...best to stretch out the interesting stuff :)

It is winter and i hates-es the winter. 

So, we did what we always do--spend xmas eve with the family in Seattle and then flee somewhere that i can't complain about being cold.  This year, it was Ecuador, chosen in part because it had the cheapest tickets in south america, in part because of its diverse climates, and in part because i was desperately craving a spanish speaking environment.  let's face it. i belong in south america. seriously. can someone tell adam to work on that?!

after a grueling trip down (17hrs from anc) and an overnight in the most expensive hotel airport in south america (costa del sol in lima) we arrived in quito where we had this awesome looking bathroom at Cafe Cultura.  The hotel is a converted mansion in the Mariscal Sucre disctrict of Quito--known as a tourist haven and much safer feeling than the old city, where creeptastic men crept by us and an old woman in a car gestured at me to keep a close eye on a 20-something with a backpack who we had been watching after his third pass by us.

as you can tell from the story of the lady in the car, most of the people we met were invariably kind and helpful.

i didn't want to translate for days on end, so we had arranged for a tour through Ecuador Adventures (Detour in the US).  the tour was a 7 day multisport tour that would take us around the Andes and Amazon.  while things in Ecuador appear close, the roads make it so that even things a seemingly short distance take longer to get to than expected.

The first day we rode in the van out of Quito south towards the volcano called Cotopaxi.  The views were really stunning and we worked on settling in to our nearly 9,000 ft. elevation.  it was windier than we expected, but warm to us despite it being "freezing" by ecuadorian standards.  that evening we arrived at the Hacienda Porvenir to rest and go horseback riding. Click on photos to make them bigger.  yes, we dressed up in the outfits with ponchos. it was super dorky. and super warm. more importantly super warm because the wind was just ripping.  the horses only had one speed and so the ponchos spared us from freezing to death while avoiding "brave cattle" aka bulls with horns wandering through the hills you see in the background.

 The following day took us through the Cotopaxi national park...where we rode bicycles (me for about 2 mi and Adam for 5 or so) through the park.  The scenery was stunning with vast expanses of paramo (high altitude meadows like tundra) below.

Cotopaxi National Park

Once we were back in the car...we headed south towards Banos. enroute we got to see a delicacy of Ecuadorian cuisine....also called your local pet guinea pig. no. neither of us ate it.

How can you? it probably has a name, like, piggie, or squeek, or something. almost made me vegetarian again. almost.

However, then we got to Banos and i was safe from the little guys haunting my dreams while we checked out this church of a virgen of the waters who performs miracles..lots of miracles, saving people from overturned cars, stopping volcanoes, making waterfalls restart after earthquakes. the thing about miracles is that if you are the one who saw it it is always true and if you didn't see it...well, then you didn't see it.
 

Following our visit to Banos, we stayed at Hacienda Leito in the mountains.  the following day, adam biked down the mountain with Santiago, our guide, pissing off horses and donkeys alike as he rode down over 3,000 feet. The photo below is not only the way adam biked down, its a super pretty pic of Banos.  please note drugs were required to keep me calm while he sped down the cobblestones at 35km an hour. seriously. we clocked it with the car.


Wednesday, December 11, 2013

radio silence.

i know. it's been three months. i haven't had anything to say even though plenty was happening.
we were here and there and everywhere.  even that sounds totally unentertaining. let's start over.

These are the women of my family. Doing what we do...at home, down south, in ATL.


I am a mere few thousand miles away from crossing into the MVP Gold Status on Alaska.  I have never wanted anything so badly for reasons I cannot explain because this new luggage tag and special boarding powers will result in little tangible benefit. But let me tell you, I will manage it.  Adam once alleged that he was MVP Gold.  (To be clear: HE IS NOT BUT LIES AND TELLS EVERYONE HE IS). He says that it means that when you get off the plane there is a gold plated litter waiting to carry you to baggage claim, that you are fanned with peacock feather palm leaves on the plane, and that if you ordered orange juice it would be squeezed freshly and served in a chalice.  Ok, he might have only said the first one and that you get a crown, but I think the point is the same. i NEED this. Like Q needs drugs and neah needs pig ears. MUST HAVE GOLD.

While speaking about Neah must haves, winter came late here, but despite that we have gone through like 72 booties for the Neah dog. She needs these because she is an athlete. A runner. She can't help it and so she ends up with bloody paws from running on ice if she doesn't wear booties. Dog booties are expensive--new pet peeve for sure.  The "disposable booties" were no more than velcro anklets ten minutes after she began running.  One day, i'm just going to spend all day writing reviews of dog booties. The new ones are dope, they look like anklet booties and have a felty material on the bottom so she can get better traction....she's fast. let me tell you. five points to the pimp dog shoes.

Travelling for work is wonderful. Well, not the part where i want to bang my head on things because of irrational behavior, or the part where my flights get delayed, but definitely the part where upgrades are free and i get to see my girls.

Last week, i spent with Ms. Mossayeb and Ms. Molai in Palm Springs and San Fran, respectively.  It was Ms. Molai's birfday. There was Karaoke, a comedy show, delicious food, sightseeing, stairmaster, and LOTS of laughter.

I know, you are starting to think that i only blog about adventures with this girl, but the truth is that i just save up so that i sound like i have this fascinating adventurous life that is really just a series of lucky breaks.

T minus two weeks till America del sur!!



Friday, August 23, 2013

H to the awaii

First...in case you didn't know...i love that this woman met me in Maui and that she rolled up in this PIMP mobile:


and you better believe those men RAN to help her get out of the car and lei-her.

It's been months in the making, this little adventure of ours, the one where we run away, leave loved ones at home and pretend that the world has rolled back to 2005 and we are on the beach in Eilat sipping limonanas.  Except now, make that virgin pina-coladas and we are almost a decade older, she's a decade more buff, and i am a decade more sleep deprived.

there was a shark attack the day we arrived about a half mile down the beach.  it's been all over cnn, so you probably saw that the young lady didn't make it.  it gave us a little perspective about how lucky we've been--literally through wars with rockets, moves back to the US, and marriages.  it also made us a little more skeptical of getting in the water to see the sea turtle who makes his home off our beach by that reef just off the end of my feet.

we explored the island, hiking with Hike Maui to a 480 foot waterfall near Hana you see in the top picture.  i should clarify, she RAN the 4 mile hike about three times while i meandered, shaking trees to get guava and foraging for passion fruit and ginger flowers to suck like the honeysuckle of my childhood summers.

we at delicious food, basked in the warm sun, laughed and laughed, and all too soon it was over and seemed, at least for me, like a five day dream.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Love me mountains

We went to Denali National Park and went flight seeing....could have touched the mountain we flew so close to the North face....but looking the opposite direction, the colors were INCREDIBLE.
No doctoring done, i swear.