Sunglasses Always Fit

no hurries, no worries

Search results

"central america"

Life in the Time of Corona

It’s already tomorrow in Hong Kong, so hello from the future. This is Week 10 of Coronalife. Yes – it’s been so long, we don’t count days anymore, my sweet summer child. But I’m finally on a very anti-climatic Spring Break! I was meant to be in Morocco today starting a two week tour. Instead of camping with Bedouins and wandering through markets in Marrakech, I’m doing my best to hold the couch down and trying to get everyone to watch “Tiger King” because I need to talk about it a LOT.

I miss watching movies over people’s shoulders on planes.

I’ve been blogging for ten years, but when I started, would never have thought so many people would one day be reading some personal nonsense about living through quarantine in HK (this got like 80k hits, which was a wow).

I would have never thought this for many reasons. One being that I never had any plans to come to Asia. Or to be a teacher. Or to be in a pandemic. Or to be 35, talk this much, look this okay and still be single and have time to fiddle around on the internet. Self-high-five!

a year ago’s spring break in England and Scotland!

In case you’re new to this hot mess of a blog, or high school/church camp/that one hostel in Central America where we met was so long ago you think you can’t just message me out of the blue** (which is NOT true and I love those messages), I’ll quickly reintroduce important facts:

  • Note: I use the word “important” loosely.
  • I grew up in California, have lived in Seattle, North Carolina, Rio de Janeiro, and now Hong Kong.
  • Travel quite a bit. Love to talk about that.
  • I don’t have a TV, and this has added years to my life. I highly recommend only reading news and not watching it.
  • My fav color is mustard yellow.
  • The thing I miss the most about normal life from BC – Before Corona – is hugs.
  • Have been teaching for 10 years now, which is a great job for me because I have a childlike enthusiasm for most things, including learning stuff, grammar, highlighters, and jokes (please tell me a joke).
  • I am definitely not a medical expert. However, my family has lots of nurses and doctors, so I think I have absorbed some medical sense. Not knowledge, mind you (although I have lately become somewhat of an infectious disease expert groupie). Family dinnertime conversations are mostly about things I don’t understand and I just wait for a mention of the dogs or the weather or something on my level. Personally, I hyperventilate into a faint if told I need to get a shot and have a pain threshold of -1, so. 
This is a HARD PASS for me.
  • My subpoint to this would be that I never learned how to properly blow my nose and am hypersensitive to all things hospitalesque, so the knowledge that the coronavirus test involves an invasive nasal cavity swipe makes my knees weak.
my park is closed now.
I love the signs in Hong Kong. Always so polite.

It feels like a lot of life has been canceled (does anyone else think of that Portlandia skit OVER when they say this) due to this horrible virus but actually other inconvenient and bad things can continue to happen as you go through this time! Let’s example:

  • My dating life was way behind everyone else because of my lifestyle choices and NOW YOU WANT TO THROW ME THIS!? I will die alone. Time to start gathering cats. 
  • We still get periods during this?! And grow hair in places I normally pay to not have hair?! OUTRAGEOUS and UNFAIR.
  • I thought to take advantage of the “extra” time and went hard at the gym. Fractured my foot. I live on the 6th floor with no elevator. So that’s been fun.
restaurants are still mostly open, but you must sit every other table, and four people or less or you get a fine.
  • Flatmate was hospitalized for undiagnosable reasons for nearly a week. I had to accept that whatever she had, if it were contagious, I probably had it as well.
    • She tested negative for Covid-19 twice.
    • I was still scared out of my mind.
    • She had acute tonsillitis, which was super weird because she had had her tonsils removed, but that’s just how crazy life is in 2020 – you can grow your tonsils back.
  • I woke up a few days ago with a nasty stye in my eye, which I haven’t had since I was a child. Dr. Google told me it’s usually caused by makeup irritation, which is an insult to injury considering I haven’t worn makeup in nearly two months. But I am super irritated.
  • I made a terrible decision in weakness and went to the black market American store, buying like 500 dollars and 5 million calories of things I didn’t need. Now sometimes I just sit on the floor in the kitchen and spoon frosting directly from the Betty Crocker container into my mouth for temporary amnesia from self-induced sugar highs. (Rainbow Chip for life)
love these fun emails.
  • Hong Kong experienced a huge spike in positive cases, mostly because a lot of people traveled back to HK after being abroad in the US and the UK. Because of this, new social distancing measures have us in stricter lockdown, like parks, bars, restaurants, movie theaters, gyms, trails, etc., officially closing. We also aren’t allowed back on the school campus, where I was sneaking to use the fast internet for my online teaching.
  • The other teacher in my year group found out her brother had gone missing on a hunting expedition on a remote island in New Zealand. We feared the worst, given the temperatures and the terrain. They did three days of search and rescue before de-escalating to search and recover (a body, if possible). 
  • Due to my homemade bread habits and other things I won’t take responsibility for (food is good, okay?!) I have gained (conservatively) six pounds.
  • In all of this, my flatmate decided to move back to the States permanently. So now I am alone alone. 
photo shoot on our street for the mems!

I love my flattie, and this time has been so stressful that we have become even more important to each other. Her leaving was devastating. For both of us, it was the longest we’d lived with anyone who wasn’t a family member. We are really similar and get along so well that it was like losing a sister. 

I’ve never lived alone. I’ve never wanted to (because is the spider going to kill itself?! Lol no). Since I’m moving out in May when the lease ends, it’s not like I can decorate and try to make the space my own or anything like that. There’s nothing to enjoy about it or look forward to. 

All of this together added up and I got overwhelmed with a deep sad. The kind that makes your fingers too heavy to text back, where nothing makes sense and nothing matters and I stayed in my room, black-out curtains drawn, AC on high so I could wear a sweatshirt, ignoring everything except pasta. Pasta doesn’t ask questions. Pasta has cheese and I can usually add bonus cheese. Pasta understands.

April 5, 2020

When things get this bad I try to make myself repeat what I know is true and good. To stop the cycle in the too much that is my mind and my feelings.

And I have a few miracles to report.

  1. I am healthy. Frustrating foot thing aside, I am healthy.
  2. I am working, which keeps my mind mostly busy. I am getting paid for this work.
  3. I have a place to live and it’s comfy.
  4. The sun still rises every day even if I don’t see it clearly.
  5. I did fracture my foot. However, putting me securely into my living room to do nothing but get chubb(ier) and write, led me to scribble out a viral blog post and get re-invigorated about my writing dreams.
  6. This foot injury also kept me from the gym twice a day. Two weeks ago, I received an email that a gym member had tested positive. The times they listed for the visits matched the evening times I usually go. God saved me from that contact.
  7. My colleague’s brother, lost on that island in New Zealand, against all odds, was found in the bush. He had survived three days on the deer he had shot and some local plants. Absolute miracle. 
  8. When my flatmate was hospitalized, I was politely uninvited from a bachelorette party, which I was initially upset about, but understood. One of the main activities was a karaoke party. Hong Kong just saw an outbreak of cases at karaoke bars. All karaoke bars are now closed. God saved me from that (none of the girls got it, but it still gave me a grateful pause). 

I don’t yet know what else God is saving me from or preparing me for amidst all this madness in the world. I can hope that I’m ready. I can hope I approach it with a good attitude (ugh. Working on it) and a sense of humor (intact). While I wait, while you wait, while we do our part and stay inside and support the work being done, here are some new ideas for how to entertain yourself! 

Warning – I’m a bit weird.

just found this and I am THRILLED
  • Eat everything in your house before you grocery shop again. This will lead to some cool moments where you will try and balance the sodium content of your canned tuna with your Top Ramen until you remember that nothing matters in quarantine, just do it! I’ve also eaten a LOT of popcorn.
  • Now that you are home all the time, you might realize how freaking much you shed hair. Collect this hair and donate it to the birds outside your window, that have now become your dearest friends. 
  • Pick a word that defines your mood and search your music library for how many songs exist with that in the title. I had a go:
    • “California” – 10 songs
    • “Home” – 56 songs
    • “Lonely” – 20 songs
    • “Naptime” – none? What the heck. I need to write a song.
  • Place a bet each morning on how many dishes you will use in a day. Who knew so many?
  • Figure out how much toilet paper you have like this hilarious dad. (mild language) Realize we can all calm down about toilet paper.

I wonder when I can ever get home, and what it will be like, and when we might ever feel normal again, and how many things will have changed. It’s been ten weeks with no end in sight over here, so thank you to those who have been checking in. My extrovert is showing in this, and I really appreciate feeling not so alone in all the madness. 

Until next time – take care of yourself and each other.

Send selfies.


Thirty5 Came! And went! And I didn’t even cry once, which was amazing. Part of that is that I have been so so busy lately there hasn’t been enough time to get sad even if I wanted to try. And most of that is because I had a really, really fun birthday party.

my HK sisters

Thirty5 is a odd number (MATH JOKE) because it sounds quite serious – it divides your life in expected half, to a certain extent. I never thought I would be this old. I say that every year. About every age since I turned 21. But it’s true.

I wanted to have a cool shindig, and I love fancy dress, so I said the theme was “R” and everyone came as something that started with an R. What was really cool about this was I could NOT find a costume for my OWN party. At first I wanted to be a raisin, and wear a trash bag with duct tape, but my mom said it was my birthday and I needed to be cute. Then I thought I would be Ramen, and just cover myself in noods. There’s so many jokes there! That was also vetoed by my mom.

for a brief moment at the party, Ricky Bobby was “Rachel buying hats she doesn’t need at Clockenflap”

On my last day in the UK on a two week break, literally in the last hours, I looked through my purse and found all these pounds I had tucked away and didn’t realize I had (this also happens when I try on clothes). I wanted to spend them, but didn’t want to eat or drink or really shop. I was walking miles back to my shoddy hotel, when I looked up, and from the Heavens, literally, because I had looked for a party store for the last two weeks, WAS A PARTY STORE. Like, God is SO good.

her sign explained and also who doesnt love poo

I walked in and it was all about bachelorette parties and baby showers, so I hissed and was prepared to walk out. Because God is laughing at me. But then I was pointed to a downstairs. It was full of costumes, and an American lady with a tiny beard who was working the register let me get somewhat naked and try on costumes until I found one. Then I bought decorations with llamas and glitter and balloons. It was hilarious. I spent all my cash, charged 9 pounds on my card, and shoved it all in my carry-on. (shout out to stepdad Mark – I had saved your birthday cash to buy this!)

I think the picture they had to get was “find some recycling and make it sexy”

Of course, I had massive party anxiety leading up to the event. Like, texting my bestie saying “remind me to NEVER celebrate my birthday again. no one will come. no one loves me! why was I borned?!” and bothering my roomie with it until they were probably both ready to throw me over a ledge but they are good people and instead of throwing me over it, both managed to talk me back off it. about once a day for the whole week.

Most of my friends here are from work, and we actually were working on the Saturday of the party at some nonsense “professional development,” which meant we were even more ready to party. I couldn’t wait to see everyone’s costumes, as they were mostly secret. Raisin and Ramen being rejected, I was the “Roaring twenties” which is the decade of my life I am still mentally living in. And even though it was raining (OMG EVEN THE WEATHER WAS ON THEME! RRRRaining. I love the earth.) and we had to move from my roof to inside my house (and let me tell you, spaces in Hong Kong are not designed to hold 25 people at once), we had a blast.

I will forever laugh at this invisible bench. on point.

I love nothing more than organized fun, so my activity was to make everyone to play a photo scavenger hunt around my neighborhood, gathering pictures of 35 objects or challenges in 35 minutes! They had to find the letters R and W, the number 35, something American, a cute dog (ugly dogs accepted), video a hot guy wishing me happy birthday, sing a national anthem and part of “Bohemian Rhapsody,” take a shot in a bar, stand in a tiny space, and reenact Abbey Road! They also had to fist bump a child and do a time lapse on the escalators. It was epic. The boys drew naughty pictures on my calendar, people were playing darts indoors, and a dog came. So it was a pretty good day. And it’s a good life.

i just love cards and notes and words and things.

A nice thing about living in another time zone is that my birthday can be really long. When I wake up, it’s still the night before in California, because I could not be farther apart in time from my family and friends than I am right now. Except that as the day goes by, I remember how many thoughtful friends and friends that feel like family are all around the world, like both my sisters who texted me at midnight my time, and the slow trickle of messages that span almost 48 hours.

I just checked through the Facebook ones today, three weeks later, and there were posts from former students, people who knew me growing up in church or at family summer camp, my Chican@ studies professor from UCSB, kids I met on mission trips to Mexico, people I met backpacking Central America ten years ago, my Brazilian family, and high school and college friends that are now in China, Cyprus, Canada, Australia, and all over the United States. It was really special. My love languages are definitely words and it’s been truly lovely to hear and read some from some good friends.

“the team in a Reflection”

Before my birthday, I tried to get through my 35bythirtyfive bucket list, but sadly, there were things I wasn’t able to do. And I don’t know why? Why, in five years, was I not able to do one specific random act of kindness and buy someone a coffee behind me? Part of that is I stopped buying coffee and I make my own lunches. Which is the best money-saving advice I have to offer. But I also wasn’t able to publish a book (got lots done of it – should be there this summer) or go in a floatation tank (but going next week!) or give up restaurants for a month. In my defense, I moved to Hong Kong, which is like the foodiest of places.

never gets old

I’m still working out the details of my next list  – 40byforty. I’m not ready to understand that I will be 40 someday. My life doesn’t feel like it’s been that long. I’ve done a million things I never thought I would do, but there is so much that hasn’t happened yet and I start to wonder if it ever will. But I think it’s encouraging that I didn’t cry about this birthday. Normally the tears come because I start to get the blues about being single, not having a baby, still living in rented apartments, can’t keep a cactus alive, yadda yadda. But that’s not really helpful, is it? I gave up online dating for Lent and am still going strong, and I think that’s been helping my frame of mind about the whole being single still thing. As long as I have my phone, I’m never truly alone.

So if you were so inclined as to make a list of things to accomplish in five years (not like a five year plan. I’m way too silly a person to do something like that) what would be on it? I’m open to ideas. I got about 25 ideas at the moment, which leaves left.

Dare me to do something.

I’ll do nearly anything that makes sense, and then most things that don’t.

R2HK: yard duties, always food, details

IMG_0615I’ve known many yard duty’s during a lifetime of public schooling, but when I think of a ‘yard duty,’ there’s just one woman I picture; halo of frizzy grey hair, sunglasses with a leash on them, clipboard full of green detention slips in her hand, and for whatever reason always yelling at me and my comrades.

She was my nemesis** for fourth and fifth grade, Strandwood Elementary, when I was starting my descent into misbehavior. My escapades included organizing secret clubs with passwords and rituals and elected officers, setting ants on fire with magnifying glasses stolen from science lab, and ‘accidentally’ meeting boys from the other class in the hallway so we could shyly look at each other, attempt conversation, and maybe agree to kiss behind the cafeteria during the talent show that Friday night.***

first year teaching me
from my first year as Miss Weight. beautiful cinnamon roll. so innocent, so pure. so clueless.

And now I *am* a yard duty. I warn every new class: one should never misbehave in school, because God will remember it, and then one day when you come home from backpacking Central America because you’ve run out of money and are living with your parents and unemployed in sweatpants eating your weight in Cheezits and making up songs about the dog that you post on Youtube are going through a career change, He will turn you into a teacher, probably of junior high students, so you get what you deserve. And that’s why I mostly answer to “Miss Weight” now.

Living and teaching abroad has taught me a million things and provided countless moments of entertainment and profound awe in this great big world we call home. The lessons that make me heart grow two sizes too big and rethink my plans to leave teaching to pursue a career in baby goat instagram post curating often come in seemingly mundane moments like yard duty. Example:

Today a group of girls approached me and said “Bye.” “Where ya going?” I asked. “Bowhere, Biss Beight. Be bare boing bowhere.”

Ah. A game was afoot. A ‘secret’ language game.

“Bello, badies,” I replied. And then we were a club, a conspiracy, a tickle, and we were dragging as many as we could into it. Then once they’d figured out the ‘secret language’ pattern, we’d trick them by saying something really fast so that they would ask “What?” with a ‘b’ in front of it and say “butt” and we’d all laugh.

Last week was a real feel of 117 degrees Fahrenheit, and I’m obligated to make sure kids are drinking water, talk them through dizzy spells, and brush sweaty hair off their foreheads. Sobbing year five boys dragged me over to the soccer goal and were hiccuping too hard for me to understand what they were upset about, so I just nodded sagely and murmured sympathetically for a few minutes during their wild gesticulating, then suggested we all just sit in the shade and not play soccer anymore if they couldn’t figure out how to get along.

Magically it was suddenly all better and they go out and play again. Hashtag so resilient.

IMG_0616 2
so this is what i accidentally packed yesterday as my work shoes to change into after i’d walked to school in my galoshes. Still so grateful anyone gives me a job teaching the youths.

Lately I’ve decided every single student has to give me a high five or I won’t let them leave the playground, even if the teacher is glaring at me furiously. I pretend each high five, no matter the force it is delivered with, warrants Oscar-worthy acting as if my arm is broken and my watch (fitbit) is now cracked (as it has been since i fell out of a lounge chair in July).

The Year ⅚ kids I taught for a few days still crowd around and pester me as to what my first name is and I insist it’s “Miss.” Which is every teacher’s first name, really. It’s a teacher rule.

And I love when pretending to kiss a booboo actually does make them feel better. OR when they say something hurts and I suggest we just cut that body part off so it doesn’t hurt anymore and it’s such a ridiculous suggestion the kid laughs enough to feel better and play.

robyn in a pile of nica girls!It’s been nice to realize that kids really are the same everywhere you go. They all want to be loved and paid attention to so desperately. They’re ridiculous with the want of it. No matter what their home country is, they all tell five minute long jokes with no punchline that you quickly realize they’re making up as they go along just to get to talk to you. They still hold hands and run around together and promise to be best friends forever. There’s always one in each class that takes 45 minutes to eat a sandwich.

In the chaos that is the world today, this has been really, really good for my soul.

views from “junk”

And the chaos comes and goes in my own wee world . . . a few weeks ago I got to go out on a “junk,” which is what they call nice boats here, despite the lack of confidence this name evokes. Unbeknownst to me, it was a costume exchange party, so I looked great and everyone else looked ridiculous, which was a fun plot twist.

I made what I thought were epic friends, and when the boat disembarked, we decided to go to find a bar or club to hang out at. All good fun. They were still in their floaties and 80s dance outfits, too. We found a club, bought a round and hit the dance floor, and then after a while, I looked around and realized my new best friends had vanished. “How long have I been dancing alone?!” I wondered. But the music was so good I didn’t want to leave, so instead this family of I think Greek people?! pulled me into their circle and we all danced the international language of the shimmy and shake until I decided to walk home because my flip flops had ripped a huge hole in-between my toes.

IMG_0563On my way to the train, I met probably the hottest guy I’d ever seen who did his level best to seduce me into getting some dumplings. We settled for some chips from 7-11 and went to the park to star gaze. He’s from Gambia and learning English to go home and start a touring company and support his mom and brother and sends me the cheesiest Christian memes every few days. I told him that it just wasn’t going to work out, and he texted me “my queen, I truly don’t understand you. Can we meet eyeballs to eyeballs to talk about this?” Some of me thinks he was most attracted to the part of me where I’m an English teacher.

After flirting with the edge of a nervous breakdown due to the many bureaucratic, work, and home related things going wrong for me, my work graciously offered to put me up in a hotel as I transitioned into my new housing situation. This was so huge for me. I just got to be alone, to chill out. To not trip over a dog/roommate/helper/stranger on my way to the bathroom I was sharing with 3-4 adults at a time. To not be barked at every time I stepped out of my room. To not have to swim upstream through a sea of tourists every time I walked home.

Now I’m in the new place, after transporting all my stuff myself up six flights of stairs in the middle of a typhoon. My twin bed touches 3 of 4 of the walls that make up my room, but my roommate is someone I find myself talking to for hours every night about everything under the sun. I can finally sit on the couch in the living room, the hippie traveler decor is completely my aesthetic, and we have a rooftop terrace – good for my soul.

IMG_0622I am there right now, actually. It’s just a bit smaller than our apartment, decorated with fairy lights and broken chairs threatening you with painfully placed splinters and some plants that despite full neglect and typhoons, have survived. We have plans for a barbecue, compost box, herb garden, baby goat. Well, that’s my plan. We shall see. I feel much better now that I can look at the sky every night and be there in it. There’s no wifi up here, a blessing and a curse. Also I’m saving 3000HKD a month, so….

In that spirit, despite still not having a bank account due to constrictions and policies they must follow since I’m an American (extra paperwork, tax forms, time, etc.) I decided to book myself a trip for the week I have off in October.

kyotoI’m going to Japan! Kyoto, Nara, Hiroshima, and Osaka. Of course, I woke up the morning after booking this and North Korea is throwing missiles at Japan and Trump continues to be the emperor with no clothes or good sense and I’m a little worried because buying nuclear war insurance was not an option on these super cheap flights. You actually have to book water and food in advance. You have to pay if you want to pick your seat, even in coach. I’m wondering if there are wings on this plane.


I’ve been in Hong Kong five weeks now. Feels like a short lifetime because of the things that have happened but at least the lifetime has afforded me enough small talk to get through any awkward situation for the rest of my life, as long as the lead is cockroach attacks or ‘dogs I wish I could have loved’ or ‘everyone spoke English, but we still couldn’t understand each other’ or ‘just when I thought things couldn’t get worse . . .’

so drunk on hot cocoa…

Filed under “things that I love” – I’ve met up with my beloved Pithers a few times now, and am doing my level best to make the baby fall in love with me, which includes bribing her with puppy videos on my phone during brunch (naughty Auntie!).

I’ve discovered the joy of grocery delivery (goodbye, waistline) and found TOSTITOS WITH HINT OF LIME, frosting, pumpkin bread mix, all kinds of unregulated health foods, and sour cream. You can really have anything delivered. Even candles. Which makes living on the sixth floor a bit easier.

I skyped my old roomie Anysia, who lives in Houston, and heard all about Harvey and am so proud of her for volunteering at a shelter and doing her part to put together a daycare there for the kids displaced by the storm. It was also just so good to catch up with a friend, and we managed to share a cocktail, despite the time difference.

this girl tho

I fly home in 100 days for a very short Christmas break. I am already compiling the list for Target shopping. My friend Spencer is coming for work in a few weeks. My friend Cory might drop in. My friend Krystal is due for a visit. I just found out there is a Harry Potter land in Osaka, where I had a day free on my itinerary and I am DOING IT. Annual reread and rewatch – commence!

I found a restaurant with good carnitas. I’m now friends with the wine shop owners on the corner, and the beer guy at the brewery on other the corner. I picked out some bamboo branches to grow in the corners of my terrace. And I really like my church. The upcoming message about the battlefield of your mind so resonates with me, especially as I just finished that book by Joyce Meyer. Good seasons and lessons coming up for me.

The kids at school are slowly starting to know who I am and wanting to hang out with me. I’m formulating the plan for an ELD program and am so excited to be in charge of it. One of my officemates is the sweetest Brazilian ever and took me out to lunch. One of the Americans at work heard the craziness of my last few weeks here and out of the blue presented me with 5000HKD in cash to get me through since I had no cash and still no bank account. All she wrote on the envelope, which she left on my desk, was “pay it forward” and she insisted the only interest she wanted on the favor was an invitation over for a glass of wine on the terrace. Done and done.

finding details i like

God is in the details of all the people and places and things that have brought me happiness here so far. And if you haven’t heard it yet today, and you need to, His love is in your details, too.

Love you miss you wish you were here,



**For some reason, when I think of this yard duty in particular, I can remember we’d given her an awful nickname, but cannot what it was. And my most vivid memory of her is the sight of her face coming into view over me as I lay on the ground after some kickball injury. Her head momentarily blocked out the sun, and she was leaning over me with such concern, because it must have looked serious. But I mistrusted her and was so scared of her that despite the pain I felt, I scrambled up and away from her questions and called for a friend to escort me to the office for a bag of ice. For some reason, this memory sticks with me, and I wish I could go back in time to apologize to her, poor woman, who had only wanted to make sure I was alright, after years of handing me timeout slips because I’d gotten a little too aggressive at tetherball or four square.

***Pre-cell phone, our communication system was to agree during morning recess to go and sharpen a pencil at the doorway at precisely 10:30, looking down the hall to see if Chris Gonzalez had gotten out of his class, and then I’d ask for the bathroom pass to meet him for mischief. I was so in love with that kid. He’d been bitten by a dog when he was 5 years old and even in the fifth grade I knew that a facial scar was sexy. Hashtag advanced.


RinR: And for my 600th blog post, I try to adult.

hiking peru 2008
hiking peru 2008

I’m trying to pack for Peru. But if you’ve ever traveled with me, you know my packing is like a ten hour mess, no matter what. I start by getting distracted by making a playlist for my iPod, end up curating a magical list of Celine Dion’s greatest videos to help inspire me, get thrown off course by the inevitable cleaning and reorganizing that seems to come with packing, find a book I’d thought I’d lost and start reading it, put on a headband fashion show for Snapchat, end up writing a blog, etc.

The last time I went to Peru, it was December 2008. Two friends and I were wrapping up a few months backpacking in Central America with Machu Picchu and some Peruvian explorations. We saw llamas, I got wild altitude sickness (read about that fun here), experienced the physical and spiritual journey of a lifetime.

My own sweet niece. babyness. I learned how to Flipcam with her. Remember those?
My own sweet niece. I learned how to Flipcam with her. Remember those?

I moved back to California and mooched off my parents, jobless except for watching my sister’s puppy. I lived in sweat pants and wondered why I’d ever left South America.

I will never forget seeing this for the first time.
I will never forget seeing this for the first time.

A few months later, with a lot of charm and enthusiasm and prayer, I managed to get hired as a junior high Latin and Spanish and Drama teacher. There was also that part where I hadz ero teaching experience and didn’t know Latin. But I figured that out eventually. The drama came naturally. (you’re shocked, I know.)

Fast-forward a few years and, ironically, after spending a long weekend watching some puppies in a beautiful home I could never afford, I’m headed to Peru tomorrow as an English teacher from an international school in Brazil to take part in an educator’s conference. I find myself salivating over titles with words like “effective differentiated vocabulary instruction” and “formative assessment” and “Looking for and Improving Learning through Teacher Coaching on Data Use and Effective Instructional Practices.”

happiness is a lapful of puppies!
happiness is a lapful of puppies!

It was so relaxing to stay in a real home for a few days. A family from our school was traveling and Leana and I stepped up to act as garbage disposals and help them clean out their shelves watch the dogs. A real home with like furniture. And a pantry where I destroyed four Poptarts before I even realized what I was doing, a working fridge and oven and stove, a TV, a balcony with a view where I could drink my coffee and pretend to be fabulous.

But the best part was the dogs. I understand more and more how a dog can save a life. To wake up to their happiness, to barely be able to walk or use the bathroon or sit without their love pouring out at you was the loveliest thing. Of course, they also pee and poop everywhere and ate my phone case and my shoes. But CUTE.

waiting patiently for the elevator while auntie rachie sips rosé.
waiting patiently for the elevator while auntie rachie sips rosé.

At one point, stirring spaghetti on the stove, wine (in a real glass!) in one hand, puppies watching me through the gate, Fleetwood Mac blaring, I texted my mom asking “could this have been my life if I’d taken a different turn?” She said “yes. stop being so picky.”

Ha. Well. Trying to adult. Packing for the conference, excited about the chance to have a weekend with a dear friend, to get motivated about my job at a time I desperately need it, and I’m not embarrassed to say that a part of me hopes there are some academic hotties at this conference. A curling iron may have made its way into my suitcase. I untangled a necklace. Must always be ready for a meet-cute.

if we set up a frenchie/goat instagram, I can stop being weird and trolling my mom's dog.
if we set up a frenchie/goat/alpaca instagram, I can stop being weird and trolling my mom’s dog.

Ideally he is tall and has a beard and also shares my dream of teaching internationally for a few more years before settling down to live in a micro-house on a large property, where we run our instagram-famous french bulldog slash goat slash alpaca rescue farm. We’ll have a small hipster wedding-ready barn with mason jars a plenty in the backyard to run as a side business. Brew our own kombucha and kefir. Spend our days fostering troubled kids and our nights running a coffee shop slash wine bar with karaoke Thursdays and themed parties.

I’m just brainstorming here. Nothing too specific.

Anyway, the curling iron, scarves and boots (I’m ambitious about colder weather – it’s currently mid-70s in Lima, which is a full 15-20 degrees cooler than Rio) are packed. I tried to pull out my fancy computer satchel,to use instead of my Northface, in the interest of adulting. But discovered oozing mass of melted candy at the bottom of it from the last time I used it, prob two years ago, so. Backpack it is!

It’s almost my birthday. That makes me a bit more reflective and melancholy than usual. Makes me a little anxious. Flying makes me very anxious, and I have to do that alone for quite a few hours tomorrow. Realizing that I am really only halfway through my time here in Brazil, that I am picking up a

llama face
llama face

piece of permanent identification from the Federal Police tomorrow makes me anxious. The never-ending stream of engagement/wedding/baby/house-buying announcements makes me anxious. Especially when my biggest hope for the week is to get another selfie with a llama.

I’m combatting these feelings of weird by listening to Adam Ant and watching videos of cats. Found this gem of one riding a sled like a member of the Cool Runnings dream team. So check that out, if you need to.

IMG_9456And if you haven’t and you need to hear it today . . . I live in Brazil and you’re all invited. I may not know what I’m doing with my life, but at least I don’t know about it here.

RinR: Annual Valentine’s Day Post

life of a single girl, pretty much.
life of a single girl, pretty much.

Nothing like a public diary (blog) to help you see the ways you’ve (hopefully, but not always) grown and matured, and to observe the running themes in your life. On big days, or days that seem big, I like to look back and reflect at previous entries.

Sometimes I can’t believe I still haven’t developed a filter that keeps inappropriateness under wraps, but I guess that wouldn’t be true to who God made me. Sometimes the entries are still spot on, which can be gratifying or terrifying. The Valentine’s Day collections showcase some truly unique feelings and declarations from the minds and times of me.

Here’s an excerpt from my Valentine’s Day post from 2007:

I fully embrace my singleness, even in the face of a quietly ticking biological clock that compels me to check out every single male and size them up for possible genetic compatibility. But I refuse to feel sorry for myself. There’s plenty of awesome things going on in mi vida, and I know I don’t need a guy to make me feel like a complete person.

aw, the old days at the cafe.
aw, the old days at the cafe.

This, of course, does not mean that I am not hoping in secret, dark places of my heart that some gorgeous man will come into my life within the next 72 hours to sweep me off my feet. This, of course, does not mean that I won’t be applying my makeup very carefully, painting my toenails, wearing my cleanest work shirt and cutest skirt to work at Natural Café on Wednesday, and hoping for all the world that my current customer crush comes in and hands me his heart.

Whatever. I bought a fish and named him Mulder, after my lingering obsession with David Duchovny and the Xfiles. He’s really cute and a good listener. So there, I’m not alone after all.

i heart you.
i heart you.

It is nice to see that so many years later, my love for the XFiles has been rewarded with the revival series!

And then there’s this, from 2009, when I was fresh from backpacking through Central America for six months, spending the previous few weeks sequestered in sweatpants at my parents house, applying to and being rejected by about 40 different jobs. I was in a super frame of mind.

Lets be honest – I’m complicated enough on my own. No need to throw someone else into that madness. And having a boyfriend right now would reeeeeally cut into my Craigslisting and eating my feelings.

Adventure, animal, travel, and I miss that scarf.
Adventure, animal, travel, and I miss that scarf.

I drove down to Santa Barbara this last weekend with streamers, conversation hearts, heart-shaped brownies. I had imagined my triumphant post-world-travel return to SB being tan, thin, cultured, dressed in some wild ethnic prints and saying things like “oh, this bag? I worked as an apprentice to a blind indigenous lady in Panama. We knitted this together over a hot pot of yerba.” Alas, being neither thin nor tan and wearing clothes purchased by my mom from Target in the year 2005, I brought what I could – lots and lots of Rachel-sized hugs.

And we went out in our pajamas and danced our booties off, and any night that includes shimmying in sweatpants, the deejay playing every Britney song we want, and ends in ordering twenty five dollars worth of food for three people at Taco Bell is a good night.

There’s 2011, when I composed a love letter to Brian Wilson using conversation hearts.

Here’s 2014, fresh off the breakup to end all breakups, when I was still stuck in North Carolina wondering what the @#$%# I had done wrong:

Valentines Day I spent as any self-respecting single woman does – drinking wine and making out with a loaf of bread and cheese. I bought myself a balloon, but it broke, which seemed a little mean. And I texted my best friends, and we all decided the best relationships we’d ever had were with each other, so that was fun. I thought the cat might be nicer to me, given the circumstances. But he was decidedly not nice.

And last year, 2015, I let myself get sad and get real and just feel it.

dis me.
dis me.

Now, 2016, it’s a little different . . . living abroad and all the transition that comes as part of that package has kind of turned off the part of me that wants to be with someone. Most of the time.

If I were to allow myself to think about how lonely I can get, and allow my hands to feel empty, or lie awake in my twin bed at night with only mosquitos for company, thinking how nice it would be to let all my curves snuggle up into someone’s spaces, to tell him all my secrets in the dark where it’s safe . . . honestly, I have to shut that all down before I get started, because it leads down a sad path.

yeah baby. @racheldangerw
yeah baby. @racheldangerw

And Rachel likes happy, sunny paths where there are jokes and costumes and a sweeping denial of life’s harsher realities. Rachel likes watching the same tv series over and over because it feels good, and kids jokes, and chicken nuggets.

But sometimes . . . sometimes the fear and the loneliness bursts out in odd ways. Tonight I was on a walk and a dog bit my hand. I looked down in shock, screamed some bad words, and walked away, crying, sucking the blood from my knuckles and irrationally thinking “if I had a BOYFRIEND in this STUPID neighborhood that would have NEVER happened.”

Sometimes I can’t zip up a dress by myself and cry. Or get sunburned in a weird place because my hands couldn’t reach it with sunscreen. Or check “single” boxes on one too many government forms and then quietly lose my s*&^. Sometimes the constant stream of happy announcements on Facebook gets overwhelming. I used to buy myself flowers, ice cream, and a bottle of wine for every engagement, wedding, or baby born to someone I knew on Facebook. But that became a very expensive and depressing habit.

im ready.
im ready.

I wonder if I will ever find someone who will care that last night I dreamt I ate cottage cheese at a salad bar with a lot of friends from college, and woke up smiling. Someone who will let me celebrate mundane holidays, and take long long long walks every night, use mason jars for everything, make almost constant noise, and stay up way too late reading under covers. Someone who will let me lead them on hikes into nowhere, and sit with my crazy family, and be my person.

When I let myself, I miss feeling in love. I miss loving. I miss feeling loved back. I miss the nervous stomach cramps, the sweaty palms, the thrill of catching eye contact and then flickering away. I miss the way my insides flip over when his hand hits the small of my back, I miss the hours spent making conversation and fun out of nothing, the text messages in the middle of the day for no reason. Holding hands while driving and mutual eye rolls at church service and ‘I’m proud of you.’ I miss someone to bounce decisions and ideas and goals off of, to share inside jokes with, to build dreams and make plans with.

At this very moment, I’m binging on conversation hearts and sipping a mocktail out of a mason jar, because always mason jars, and I’ve given up chocolate and alcohol for Lent. I will probably stay up too late and regret it later. I’ll watch “Terms of Endearment” or similar and have a good cry to get some of the feeling out. I will run on the beach tomorrow. I’ll simultaneously resent and envy every couple I see. I’ll continue watching 90s music videos all night, specifically Celine Dion and Whitney Houston, as it’s giving me so much life.

On Sunday, I’ll go to church, remind myself to let God love me, and then go out to a sushi rodizio with all the single girls I work with, and try to navigate the conversations as carefully as everyone else. And then hopefully tuck all the tears away until they’re truly required.

Maybe you’re like me, single and wondering. In that case – a virtual high five of solidarity. Maybe you aren’t single (congrats!), and have a friend like me that you want to reach out to. I encourage you to do so. I have several mentors in my life who are so good about lifting my spirits and helping me see things I sometimes can’t.

sometimes i just like to plan ahead to stuff...
sometimes i just like to plan ahead to stuff…

Maybe you’re Brian Wilson and you’re my future boyfriend and just doing some due diligence to figure out the hot mess you’re getting yourself into.

In any case, in every case, if you haven’t heard it today and need to: You are the bees knees! You are the cat’s pajamas. You are beautifully and wonderfully made and worth knowing and loving and celebrating.

Get out there and be the somebody you are.

Happy Valentine’s Day and every day. You are loved.

exes and ohs

I miss him at the oddest times. A video I know would have made him laugh, hearing Journey on karaoke night, a particularly witty pun I know he would have enjoyed. I wonder if there are still bits of me embedded in his daily life, years later, that show up unexpected, and make him feel crazy things.

this was obviously very early in my career, but there is no denying the spark in the girl on the left, ay?
this was obviously very early in my career, but there is no denying the wedding spark in the girl on the left, ay?

And we wouldn’t have made it, although it was supposed to be forever and sure felt like it was going to be. We would have been engaged at Christmas like everyone thought, like we all supposed, and we would’ve married in June; we’d picked the place for the ceremony and discussed the many, many mason jars and playfully argued over the song we’d first dance to. And then we would have gotten pregnant quickly the way Christian couples usually do, and then soldiered on for years, hating each other quietly and trying to fight it, as good Christian couples mostly do. And talked over each other and used words as weapons and seethed until one of us finally broke brave enough to call it.

But I called it sooner than that. And the only permanent marks on our lives are the thirty pounds I’ve been fighting consistently since we started dating and gave up fighting when we broke up. And the paper trail at the postal office that indicates I might have lived in North Carolina for a bit. And the pictures that come across my dashboard memories every once in a while that remind me of how much fun we had, how he made me laugh.

Or the google calendar reminder today that let me know it’s your birthday.

In moments of weakness, yeah, I think about ‘what if we’d stayed together’ and how picture perfect it was all going to be – barefoot, homegrown, pipe smoking and beer brewing and bible thumping in a little cabin in the woods, poor like I always knew we’d be. Taking the kids camping, and talking and writing too much.

I can still shake angry over some of the things that happened, some of the things you said. But I can still melt over how you’d surprise me with the mandolin and a bottle of wine next to the fire pit in the backyard on my hard days. And how you liked hugs as much as I did. How you’d tell me I was beautiful at the oddest times, like when I was mad at you and crying. You were smart that way.

There are days when I am so tired of being alone. Of cuddling in a twin bed with a throw pillow I’ve had since college. Of wondering what’s wrong with me. Tired of wondering when and how its ever going to happen, if it’s ever going to happen. Tired of not having a person who knows and loves me best.

I get tired of everyone, it feels like everyone, going through all the milestones I thought I would have experienced by now, too. Tired of being upbeat about it all not happening yet. But in all of that, I haven’t regretted it not being with you. And I also don’t regret when I was with you.

Thank you for teaching me how to cut tomatoes, and how to light a fire, and sharpening and softening some of my edges. For never meeting a stranger, for understanding every nuance behind my raised eyebrows, for a thousand other things. For challenging just about everything I ever thought about anything ever. Just because. And for never being intimidated by all that I am, and I know it can be a lot.

almost heaven.
almost heaven.

Thank you for being a solid reason to leave a job that was no longer good for me. And for being the impetus behind the road trip with my mom across the country, to go live in a state that gave me so many friends and adventures. For the season that prompted me back into teaching, into the dream I’d had for ten years to teach abroad. And now I’ve moved across the world and live somewhere most people dream of merely visiting one day.

hiking peru 2008
hiking peru 2008




And all you’ve been in my life.

I began really liking music because I dated a drummer in high school. I started blogging in college because I liked a boy who liked to write and he said I was good at it. I began working out for a man who came into my restaurant, always in a marathon shirt. After UCSB, I sold everything and backpacked Central America because things ended with a boy. Years later, I moved across the country for a boy. And then moved to a new country to outrun his memory.

It’s embarrassing when I write it down. But it happened and we learn from it and move on and now for me, maybe finally okay and for me, I will raise this cerveja, I will toast him from in a living room in Brazil, after a night out with friends from Canada, Texas, Romania, Virginia, Washington, and Rio. I will finally listen to Adele again without crying and not wonder what could have been.

saudadeWhen you meet her, if you haven’t already, I hope she likes video games like I never could, and that you talk less and listen more, and that she helps you let go of the weight of the world every once in a while. When I meet him, I hope I also talk less and listen more, and that he encourages me the way you did, and like you, finds it charming that I always smell of coffee and am covered in marker.

And I know you won’t read this. You never read my blogs; you hated that I wrote blogs. God, that hurt – I only know what I am doing and feeling when I write it out.


Even if it’s not until the other side of heaven – thank God for you. The parts of me you changed and the parts of me you shaped and those you made stand out clearer and better for the next time around. Thank God for you, babe. Happy birthday.

RinR: t g i f

this is what i start doing after a certain part. the answer is 15. i can fit 15 pencils in my hair.
this is what i start doing after a certain hour.
the answer is 15. i can fit 15 pencils in my hair.

Four hours with children, a few hours in staff meeting about the children, and then I don’t know what you’ll be on, but I’LL BE ON VACAAAATIONNNNN!!!!!!

Praise Jesus for the speed with which this first quarter has flown by. I love being a teacher most days – I love being around kids and doing crazy things and seeing the lightbulbs go off. I love the people I work with. And I love where I live. But after the general craziness that is starting a new school year and a few weeks of dreary cold days (cold here is about 70. Actually I just checked and it’s 79 at 9:30pm and I’m in a sweater so. I have turned into a total weather wimp, it would seem) everything feels settled and normal again.

And so I am bored and I am SO ready to go on an adventure. An excuse to not put on makeup or shower regularly. A few weeks of “routine” and also I’ve been working out and eating healthy for like three solid weeks so I am getting itchy to travel, to do something weird, to let my cell phone die and not worry about the rest of the world for a few solid days.

So I’m going to the Amazon. Yeah! The freaking AMAZON! It’s gonna be AMAZONING! (that’s the best I could do). Here’s the plan:

its friday eve yall
its friday eve yall

Sunday, 4:45am – go to airport. you can probably expect a random post and surely some ridiculous tweets and snaps that night. God knows I won’t go to sleep – I’ll be making an ipod playlist, drinking wine, and won’t start packing until 2am. It’s just how I do it. Later that day we arrive in Manaus, middle o’ the Amazon. Transfer via bus, jeep, boat, tinier boat. Arrive at lodge in middle of the AMAZON.

Although tempted, I’ve decided to not stay in the hammock lodge. I have to remember I’m not 24 and backpacking through Central America and just expecting bed bugs and to pay for toilet paper. I’m like, single, youngish, and (un)professional (that’s a throwback to my short-lived column at the Santa Barbara Independent. Aw, the FEELS!). So I’m staying in a real bed in a cabin with my friend Tess, her mom and bro. Also my friends the Pratts are coming. We’re going to be a sweet group.

i can't stop.
i can’t stop.

Mon/Tue/Wed/Thurs – our options are endless. They include pirahna fishing, cayman fishing, bird-watching at dawn, canoeing through a flooded river, the meeting of the waters, pink dolphins, sloths, fireants, survival techniques in the jungle, visiting native homes with an option to stay overnight, an option to stay overnight in the jungle in a hammock (EEEEKKKK but like I have to, right?! I don’t know!!!!).

Thurs/Fri/Saturday – My homies all leave on Thursday, and I have a day and a night and a day and a night alone to either stay in the jungle or spend some time in Manaus, which is an old school sweet spot. I’m thinking architecture, I’m thinking river boats, I’m thinking mystery and intrigue. I’m thinking I post up at a hostel full of 20-somethings and pretend I am still one of them and go out dancing all night and regret it the next day but oh to remember that feeling.

i miss this kind of nuts.
i miss this kind of nuts.

Every time I look at Facebook (which is on the decline in my life…so many angry people there! :( ) someone is getting engaged, or married, or on honeymoon, or pregnant, or delivering that beautiful life into the world (like my boo Beth! I can’t wait to meet your little girl and am stupid proud of you from too far away! What are flights like from Brazil to Israel? lol). And sometimes it makes me sad that I am not doing that but then I remember that people that need to save up for weddings or start college funds for rugrats probably aren’t wondering how many pictures they will be able to take cuddling a sloth in a hammock with a cerveja under an Amazon moon while a pink dolphin brings them açai.


this is a gamba. hella scary, right? imagine a baby one covered in vampire placenta. that's what i saw on my run today.
this is a gamba. hella scary, right? imagine a baby one covered in vampire placenta. that’s what i saw on my run today.

Also, the Amazon? Like I never thought I could go there. Where I live already feels pretty jungly already. Sometimes too much so. Where I live can be a little “Romancing the Stone,” with not enough hot young Michael Douglas. On my runs this week I have seen capybaras swimming and walking, dozens of egrets, flying fish, two monkeys, and a baby gambá, which looked like it was drowning.

I’ve stepped on cockroaches on accident and on purpose, scared crabs off the path, seen a spider the size of a dinner plate, been on a boat on a lagoa, run on the sand on the beach, dodged large charging animals called “rude men who would rather a lady go into moving traffic than give up six inches of road space for them.” “HOO-GEE!” I yell at them, silently in my head (how Cariocas say ‘rude.’).

But this will be different. I have a ton of ideas and expectations and hopes. I can’t wait to report back and see what’s come true. Here are my priorities:

  • see a sloth.
  • see the meeting of the waters.
  • see a pink dolphin.
  • see a piranha.
  • watch a sunset.
  • watch a sunrise.
  • meet an amazonian family.
  • speak lots of portuguese.
  • eat everything i am offered.
  • say yes to everything.

just. go.
just. go.

“I need solitude. I need space. I need air. I need the empty fields round me; and my legs pounding along roads; and sleep; and animal existence.”

—   Virginia Woolf, The Diary of Virginia Woolf

traveling stuffs

I like this pic of me. Adventure, animal, travel, and I miss that scarf.
I like this pic of me. Adventure, animal, travel, and I miss that scarf.

I love me a good travel. I’ve done tours, backpacking, solo trips, road trips, chicken buses, well-planned and no plans. To date, I’ve been to 29 countries, mostly Central and South America and Europe. And I’ve been to 31 states. I’m from California, have lived in North Carolina, Washington, and Brazil, and am moving to Hong Kong in July 2017.

My last trip was Chile/Argentina/Faulkland Islands/Uruguay on an Antarctic cruise. PENGUINS!

My next trip is Idaho!

I’m by no means a professional traveler or professional blogger. My travel stories tend to run on the “check out this totally crazy thing that happened and here are the pics.” I hate when people are snobby about traveling, or post a bunch of “Date a Girl who Travels” or “You Should Totally Travel” without recognizing that most people don’t get to travel because they can’t afford it, or are married and have kids.

To be honest, I can’t afford it. Some of these stories are mission trips that people sponsored on. For Central America, I sold everything I owned to go. For Brazil, I sold my car. And I always live pretty cheaply in anticipation of traveling.

When in doubt, be someone people want to be around. Like Sasquatch.
When in doubt, be someone people want to be around. Like Sasquatch.


  • me describing the cute outfits i wore somewhere. i’m lucky if they’re clean.
  • me figuring out cool travel hacks. my bar for success is just surviving.
  • me doing a yoga pose during a sunset somewhere. beer bellies make most poses very uncomfortable.


  • that I am able to find a karaoke bar in any country ever.
  • that I am able to find cookies in any country ever.
  • several stories that explain why my mom often refuses to read my blog.
  • a stupid amount of selfies with silly things.
  • stories of friends from around the world.
  • animals.
  • nature. nature’s my favorite.

Please let me know if there is anything you would like to see, or like to know! Until I figure out something better, the blogs are organized by country or concept:

A New Kind of Application for “The Bachelorette”


Think of the past seasons of “The Bachelor” and “The Bachelorette.” There have been memorable characters – who can forget super villain Michelle Money or Courtney “I got the Rose” Robertson. Makeout-in-the-mud trash twosome Jake and Vienna (filed under “things I wish I could unsee”). Juan Pab-NO and opera singing tongue kissers (also to file). Beautiful, too good for this world cinnamon roll Ames. Single mom Barbie-with-tragic-past Emily. BENTLEY. BENTLEY.

despite watching the show for 13 years, just never thought it would be this hard. so weird.
despite watching the show for 13 years, just never thought it would be this hard. so weird.

We’ve seen the virgins and the pass-out drunks. We’ve witnessed twerking and heard tragic backstories (but honestly? I’m never quite convinced your relative’s dying wish was for youse to find love on national television while making out in a hot tub wearing rhinestone jewelry. That is a very specific last wish.) We’ve learned that “former NBA dancer,” “dog lover,” and “manscaper” are occupations. We’ve heard over and over that we “never thought it would be this haaaaard.”

I got to thinking about what we haven’t seen, what we do need on this show. You know what it is? It’s me. I’ve considered applying for the main role. But I also more enjoy eating and can’t wear a dress without a bra. I also don’t like things that are difficult or making choices or roses. So. I have something different in mind.

Introducing my application. For “Sidekick.” Consider your favorite Disney movies. Do you quote the main character or the sidekick more? Who gets all the funny lines? Who provides the plucky comic relief? Think of “The Lion King.” First quote that comes to mind – ten bucks it’s from Timon, Pumbaa, Scar or his cronies.

see? even to this goat I am the sidekick.
see? even to this goat I am the sidekick.

Producers of “The Bachelor” – I want to be your Pumbaa. Let me.

Let me be your Pumbaa.

My qualifications:

  • I am very comfortable being the sidekick. I wouldn’t know what to do if I was the pretty girl in the room – I make a better wingwoman. My interests include getting my bra off and into sweatpants as soon as possible, and only using one mug for all the coffee/tea/water/wine I drink all week so I don’t have to wash dishes. I will make your main girl shine.
  • Mad language skills. Not just curvy body language. I once backpacked through Central America for five months with two downright gorgeous girls and basically operated as a translator for all the dudes trying to hit on them. My Spanish was flaaaawless at the end of that trip. I can also communicate in intermediate Portuguese and basic Latin. Should a Roman gladiator audition. We’ve seen pantsapreneurs. You gotta be prepared for the unexpected. Also fluent in sarcasm.
  • why is no one date this?
    why is no one date this?

    I am chronically single and therefore an expert on cheering people up about relationship highs and lows. I have a Pinterest account chockfull of motivational quotes and metaphors re: “journeys” and “experiences.” I dabbled in poetry when I was in the fifth grade and am ready to liken love to just about any sort of wacky date idea you might have.

  • me out in nature. where i will hike you lost.
    me out in nature. where i will hike you lost.

    Speaking of date ideas, let me plan those. I’ve been in a helicopter. I’ve walked on volcanos. I’m an amateur sommelier, mostly specializing in the Trader Joe varietals. I’m SCUBA certified, so I can arrange to scare the heck out of someone underwater when you inevitably make them face their fear of seahorses on national television.

  • I’m a teacher, so I can herd cats aka control a rowdy group date. I’ve seen a lot of episodes of “The Office,” so I can roll my eyes at the camera just like Jim for comedic reflief. And I’m also an expert at leading people on hikes into nowhere and getting lost without water or a map. And what brings out the best and worst in us all? Exactly that.
  • I know your main girl has to be all tan and on point with her looks and figure, so I will send pre-emptive “don’t eat that” texts to her and not let her binge eat her emotions from how hard this all is.
  • will casually replace her wine glass with my glass of sparkling water so she doesn’t get drunk and embarrass herself. Don’t worry about me I’ll be fine I love sauv blanc.
  • Everyone loves seeing someone get caught sticking their foot in their mouth. Let me set up that situation for you. Let me ask the guys questions, unearth the doubts and secrets. I know and love sports, and I have little brothers and boys cousins so I can head over to the guys house. watch the game, eat the nachos, laugh at the farts, and infiltrate. I can sidle on up. drink beer, throw things off buildings and eat wings with the best of them. LET ME.
  • this was obviously very early in my career, but there is no denying the spark in the girl on the left, ay?
    this was obviously very early in my career, but there is no denying the spark in the girl on the left, ay?

    I’m already an expert flower girl, junior bridesmaid, OR maid of honor slash wedding singer. So when it’s time for the season finale, you know I am ready for the special filming afterwards.

  • And, okay, I admit I have selfish reasons for this, too. Honestly – I think petite silver fox Chris Harrison and I might be soulmates. So, whaddya say – give me a chance?

it's just like when the girl throws the rose petals, except more sidekick-ish.
it’s just like when the girl throws the rose petals, except more sidekick-ish.

RinR: I Tour Guide Real Good

inkan trail
inkan trail

We live in a changing world – my first big trip through Europe I was scrambling for Euros whenever I spotted an internet cafe to quickly write error-laden emails home (due to whatever language keyboard quirks I was dealing with) to let people know I was alive. Blogs weren’t a thing then. The months I spent in Central America saw the advancement of internet cafes with Skype and the means to upload pictures, and I began blogging the trek (see Gringa Diaries for more), complete with embarrassing bathroom stories and graphic descriptions of chicken busses, much to my mother’s chagrin.

But now there is internet so readily available by phone everywhere, I don’t even see cafes to blog from!

"I'm thinking Ludwig or Crema. Really brings out the tannins in this one."
“I’m thinking Ludwig or Crema. Really brings out the tannins in this one.”

In the last month, I’ve been in Brazil, Argentina, Chile, and Colombia, and like last year when I went to Ireland and Spain, we had wifi everywhere we stayed. It almost killed the whole “off the grid vibe.” Except for a few pictures, I tried to let me friends do the endless instagramming/filtering/captioning of our meals and Malbecs. But now that I’m back home in Rio, I find I do want to share my adventures with you. I’m currently sweating in the hammock, watching a massive lightening storm, ignoring the dead cockroaches in my room and pretending my laundry will do itself. So yeah, reliving the last few weeks sounds like a good deal to me.

We last left off getting ready to ring in the New Year (2015. Two. THOUSAND. Plus fifteen more. I can’t even…) in Copacabana. We had such a fun getting-ready-and-girlie party – dressed in all white, crowded in the one room with AC, drinking champagne and feeling beautiful. We bussed into Copa, easily found a space on the beach (we paid 40 reales each for a chair and two tables as a group of eight, when we had expected to pay maybe 100-150 for entrance to a kiosk) and settled in to watch the sun set and the sand fill up around us after grabbing some street tapioca with carne seca (my favorite thing).

Last night of 2014 selfie!
Last night of 2014 selfie!

It’s easy to get drinks on the beach, the people watching was spectacular, there was music playing. I dared a friend to talk to a camera crew and then he got interviewed for a documentary! I tried not to pout. I always want to be famous. :) There were altars and flowers dotting the beach, and time passed quickly until we were screaming the final countdown.

just us and two million other people.
just us and two million other people.

We watched an incredible fireworks show that I went more bananas than I usually do for (I am a moron for fireworks, and the beach drinks only fueled it), thanking God and Jesus for colors and dynamite. Then we held hands and jumped, right foot first, over seven waves for good luck. We got home by bus and then were led by twinkly lights to our boat (sometimes my life is magical). Then we ate a lot of leftover food before climbing into bed around 4am. I had really wanted the super cute and friendly gays behind us to invite us dancing or at least spare me a kiss, but other than that oversight, the night was perfect.

At the Lapa Steps
At the Lapa Steps

The next day, while the rest of Brazil was sleeping it off, Ryann and I hit the metaphorical trail. No smartphone, no real plan, just some vague landmarks and I think a lot of misplaced trust in me. “I’m not sure…lets just…” was my general answer. But it was kind of more fun that way. MAPS and ASKING people. We’re so vintage. We bussed for hours through the hills, we walked, we taxied. Everyone was nice to us and we had the city pretty much to ourselves to wander through tiny alleys and take pictures.

lapa arcos
os arcos

The Lapa steps and arches are easy to get to once you’re there, wading through the urine and other unidentifiable puddles and smells. We hiked up into Santa Teresa, a little boho area and settled for some beers and snacks for the afternoon before heading back down. We saw an amazing sunset, had an awesome meal, walked and walked and walked some more.

urco sunset

The next day I made her walk about four miles to try an avocado milkshake and açai, and then we beached it some more. Apparently she was cursing my existence the entire time we walked in almost 100 degree F weather to get some dumb juice…but I didn’t know it at the time. :) Anyone who has gone on a walk or a hike with me knows I can be a little…ambitious.

For our last night, we went to my favorite beach restaurant and ate too much, listened to live music and the waves and life is always so perfect in those few hours. I am blessed blessed blessed to live on a beach. It’s always where I feel the most happy version of me.

And so we totally destroyed the bucket list I made for her. Literally. She spilled water all over it. BUT we did do almost all of it. I tour guide real good.

Remember when I made this video to try and get you to visit me in North Carolina? I waver between “Where is my Oscar?” and “This is embarassing. I need to delete this who am i.”

I think a Brazil one is in order.

Tchau for now.

mission to me

wee me! trying to abscond children from a young age, I'm afraid.
wee me! trying to abscond children from a young age, I’m afraid.

I’m sharing in Chapel next week. Our theme is “Missionaries” and mission trips have completely shaped my life for the last seventeen years. In case some of you don’t know the story, I thought I’d practice my chapel share a bit here. It’s pretty sweet.

At church, I always heard about our big mission trip and I REALLY wanted to go. I’m not sure why…I wanted to speak Spanish and be around Mexicans from a very young age. This still stands. But you had to be 13 to go without a parent. When the year finally came, my grandma Susi sewed me long skirts that were reversible and had pockets (my sense of fashion was just forming into the elastic-band-only stance it is now. I was ahead of my time) and I packed shirts that wouldn’t show as much of my sweat.

The drive there was endless and Ensenada was hotter than blazes. The showers were hoses out of walls, the bathroom stalls had no doors, you couldn’t flush toilet paper, and I got my period unexpectedly. This might have also been the year we ALL got Montezuma’s revenge. The story is one I tell every time to newcomers, stubbornly brushing my teeth with tap water, to “build up my immunity.”

we're normal. check out my shirt from the drama department at school.
we’re normal. check out my shirt from the drama department at school.

I remember we went to the church and split in groups to walk around for a few hours, knocking on doors in the neighborhood to invite kids to come (something we’d never do now!). We had Vacation Bible school, with sweaty snot-nosed damp-bottomed kids in our laps, sweating buckets, screaming worship songs about frogs who knew Jesus at the top of our lungs.

Our ministry was small and our afternoons free to hang out at the camp. There was a woman who led the praise and worship, had been a longterm missionary in Africa and was amazing in general. She indulged me by sitting under the trees and playing any song you asked her to. I especially enjoyed the ones from “Sound of Music.” One day she said I had a good voice and should learn how to play guitar. I laughed and thought it was a silly idea, but told my family I’d like a guitar for Christmas, thinking it would never happen.

the beginning years!
the beginning years!

Fast forward a few years and my new guitar and I were still going on the mission trip, but now also leading worship (poorly, I might add. I quit my lessons after six weeks because my super creepy instructor suggested we spend weekends up at his cabin together smoking pot) for the team, and then for the women’s ministry, for the teen girl ministry. (I eventually got better, don’t worry. :) )

From the first, the trip changed me. My desire to learn Spanish became a huge part of my life. I made best friends with girls in Mexico and sobbed every time I had to leave them for a year without contact (this is all pre-email days!). I saw people living in abject poverty, that I could do nothing to help materially, but that were happier than I thought possible, simply because they had Jesus.

Within our group, I met adults that believed in me, cared about me, encouraged my talents. I was given leadership opportunities at a young age and connected in supernatural ways with the people I met in Mexico and the people I grew so close to from my church who went on the trip. I realized that being a Christian doesn’t mean you are a boring dork for the rest of your life.

meet viri, my best amiga since we were 14.
meet viri, my best amiga since we were 14.

There were scary times the other 51 weeks of the year – my partying was out of control, I was wildly depressed for different reasons and not really talking about it. I really couldn’t financially afford to take a week off my two jobs and pay a lot of money to go on a mission trip, but every year, no matter how much money needed to fall from the sky (and I would tell our directors, “if God wants me to go this year, money literally needs to fall from the freaking sky.”), somehow it always did. I’d get a phone call that someone had dropped off a check to go “where it’s needed most,” and they had decided that I needed it most to go. And so I kept going. And I loved it. I was the best version of me, the happiest me that week. Because I was doing what I was supposed to be doing.

I ended up double majoring in Spanish and the Socioeconomics and Politics of Latin America. I had no idea what I would do with those degrees. In Mexico, July of 2008, I was baptized in a shallow pool on the campgrounds where I had become a person I liked. In front of about a hundred people, I led worship, gave my testimony, and with some of my best friends, with my youngest sister there, and two couples I consider spiritual parents, my lifelong youth pastor baptized me (this was incredibly special, as he moved to Alaska shortly thereafter).


Because of my passion for Spanish and the people of Latin America sparked from that first mission trip, I went backpacking for six months through Central America. During that trip, I got to translate for a medical mission in nowhere, Honduras. That was a really nutty experience – the hardest part for me was that it wasn’t church-based, so I couldn’t even say “Can I pray for you? God bless you.” and call people my sisters and brothers. It felt really odd to be very clinical with people. So I stopped being clinical. I hugged and kissed and prayed, blessed children and told people to go with God. I realized that was the only way to feel like I was lending any kind of hope.

Before I went backpacking, one of my spiritual parents from that mission trip asked if I would be interested in going on a youth-led mission trip to Nicaragua, literally a few days after I was scheduled to return from my backpacking trip. I told him I could put a deposit down, but nothing else. Because money would have to fall from the sky.


The money ended up falling, and despite just having returned from months in chicken buses, scrambling over Mayan ruins, eating dodgy food from street vendors, I went on the mission trip. Had an incredible time with a truly talented group of young adults from my church. At this point, I had been a part of Mission 2 Mexico for almost 15 years. I had landed back at home with my parents after returning from the backpacking and the Nicaragua trip. And I had no idea what I was going to do with my life.

A few weeks after the Nicaragua trip (which rocked my world more than I care to admit), we had a reunion dinner. At the end of the night, the mom of the hosts asked how I was doing (terrible), how my job search was going (miserably) and how she could pray for me. At this point, I had applied to 40+ places. Safeway wouldn’t hire me. Starbucks rejected me. But Susan asked me what my dream job looked like. I replied “I don’t have time for dreams, I need any job.” And she said –

“Our God is a big god. What three things would your dream job have? Tell me. Let’s pray about it.”

i didn't want to work...i wanted to hang out with kids like jorge!
i didn’t want to work…i wanted to hang out with kids like jorge!

I sighed (heavily, most like, inward eye roll at this ‘God is listening’ mumbo jumbo), and replied slowly . . . “Okay. Um. Dream job. Well. I guess. If we are dreaming (emphasis on this is BS),  it would have kids, languages, and Jesus.”

Two weeks later she called me saying that the Christian school she worked at was looking for a Spanish and Latin teacher at the junior high level.

When I went in to apply, the secretary told me that she didn’t think they were hiring, but I insisted I was meant to fill out an application. When I interviewed, the Principal said “You don’t know Latin and you’ve never taught before…what makes you think you can do this (‘this’ being six Latin classes, two Spanish classes, after school drama course and coach volleyball on a tiny salary) ?”

I said “I love Jesus, kids, and languages. I think it will all work out.”

now I'm in brazil, so kick rocks, bad things!
now I’m in brazil, so kick rocks, bad things!

And it did. I learned Latin, taught Spanish, started a drama club after school, and coached a volleyball team. I worked full time and went to school full time and graduated with a teaching certificate marked with a 4.0. Which was like Jesus saying “yeah, this is what I want you to do. You do good stuff with kids.” Because of that experience, when I was left flailing about for a place on this earth after breaking up with my boyfriend and feeling like I had thrown my life away, I was able to get a job teaching English here in Brazil, where I also lead worship on occasion, speak Spanish to internationals, and am easily still the most dramatic person I know.

God has hooked me UP. When I think there is nothing to do, and no way out, He finds a way for me. And it started with that first mission trip. A lot has been done for and with the people of Mexico, Nicaragua, and Honduras, where I have done mission work, but a lot of work has been done in me, too. I found talents God has given me and figured out how to use them for Him. I found community. I found role models. I found purpose. I found Jesus to be more real than I am sometimes prepared to talk about.

Sometimes I think the secret to Jesus is community. It might be in learning to care so much for each other, valuing each other, working with each other so much, that (if you can make it) you will become the best version of you, surrounded by encouragement, accountability, (hopefully) wisdom and experience and vision.

maybe its a weird community, but its good because its mine.
maybe its a weird community, but its good because its mine.

I know Spanish, I play guitar, I know I can sing, I’ve met and loved so many, I learned about responsibility and mentoring and authority from God through this experience. I’m still a Christian because of that mission trip. I owe my career to a mission trip. And the things I have learned and the God I’ve experienced while living the way we do in missions teams, even just the memory of it, saves me and pulls me to Jesus again and again.

I think I went on a mission trip because I wanted to do good things for other people. And I think I have, over the years. But what I didn’t understand then, and what I’m so thankful for now, is all the good things that serving a big and crazy God did and continues to do for me, as I keep working on being the best version of me I can be.

Carolina Diaries: Job Hunting vs Funemployment

I’ve played this (F)unemployment game before. When I came back from backpacking Central America (read some highlights here) I spent about seven months in sweatpants, tears, and job applications before I somehow landed my teaching gig.  darcyLuckily my sister had just gotten a puppy, so I had a reason to live, but it was still a trying time. Anyone who’s done some job hunting in the last few years knows what it’s like to hang your ego and self-worth on an email containing the cover letter and resume you’ve agonized over for the last several days, only to get no reply at all, and then see the same job RE-posted on a few days later. Insert knife to heart. Twist.

Watched this for research about my new hometown.

The job market is supposedly pretty hot here in the Triangle. And it’s only been about two weeks since I started looking. The plan has been to take this first month of living in Durham and just get used to it. Job search, apply for everything that sounds good, but also relax. Drive around, find favorite parks and coffee shops, meet people.  Write more, try to network and get things published, lose all the happy-to-be-in-a-relationship weight that’s crept up over the last year or so. Every day can be an adventure and an exercise in patience and peace with being alone (something I really struggle with).

Got photo bombed by a dinosaur on my run. So. That happened.
Got photo bombed by a dinosaur on my run. So. That happened.

It is a kind of fun. Boyfriend gave me his Netflix password (so, yeah, we’re pretty serious) and I’m watching great shows and movies for the first time. (“Walking Dead” is  workout motivation.)  I’ve been to a few parks, and organized my closet by season, color, and category. I’ve read books and my Bible. I’ve taken glorious, glorious afternoon beer naps. I attempted to make some Pumpkin frozen yogurt from a Pinterest recipe (huge fail. HUGE. Which is why you always buy ice cream as backup, even when already spending $27 on Pinterest recipes.)

when you have time to find Waldo, you have a lot of time.
when you have time to find Waldo, you have a lot of time.

But I am the kind of person whose un-productivity increases in direct proportion to how much free time I have to accomplish things. And so all those great ideas? Sometimes I just don’t have the discipline. I let myself stay awake until 3am, because I have nothing to get up for in the morning. I lay in bed until 11am with my boyfriend Twitter, until the urge to pee becomes so overwhelming I’m actually concerned about standing up. I eat ice cream for lunch and I haven’t worn anything without an elastic waistband since….well. Boyfriend is high on grad school and new friends and assignments but when he asks about my day, I’m like, “well….I got a huuuuge bug bite.”

I guess there are days I treat this like a vacation, and some days like a prison sentence. “Don’t leave your room because you might spend money you don’t have.” Some mornings I hate myself when I’m too lazy, and so I make lists of things I need to do. I force myself get up to an alarm and go to bed at a decent hour, like real people with real jobs do. I clean, read everything on every news website to feel involved in the world, scour the internet for new jobs, consider online classes. I work out for hours and remember how to pray and practice guitar. 

It’s a double-edged sword because I know (or hope or pray) that I will be eventually employed, and long for days with nothing to to!

Anyway. On today’s agenda – resist urge to compulsively refresh email every two minutes in hopes of an interview request. Go on walk. Do things that are good for the soul.

And obviously watch scary movies because it’s Friday the 13th and that’s what you do.

Website Built with

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: