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Ireland in Pictures and Stories

My favorite places in Ireland were Connemara (beautiful scenery and Kylemore Abbey), Glenveagh Castle (we just don’t have castles in America like we should!), Carrick A Rede rope bridge, Giants Causeway, and the tours of Derry and Belfast that taught me so much Irish history.

There are riots still going on there at the moment. They started while we were there – brick throwing, protests, etc. It has now escalated quite a bit (read here). These people are living in a real war zone that has been that way for forty some years, even after the peace treaties. Wild to think that this day and age, we still have a physical wall that divides people from each other because of religion and politics. Makes my heart hurt.

So much more I could say about these places and this country! Better to chat in person, if ye like. :)

What I <3 about Ireland – Trip Highlights

rachel old buildingsTomorrow I finally leave Ireland, after a week of solo traveling here. Time has been fast and time has been slow, but I have really loved this adventure. Here are some highlights:

  • Accents – is it just me, or is EVERYTHING cooler in an Irish accent? It has been so much fun listening to the colorful phrases and turns of speech. It’s almost a foreign language, incorporating the Irish Gaelic in their running monologue, and  I’m usually laughing so hard I am not really paying attention to what they are a saying. Our bus driver, Seane, sounds something like this:

Alright me troopers! Whats the craic? Did any of ye fall in luf last night? The Irish men don’t lack for the confidence and the persistence, ya know. And I was thinking to meself, I says to meself, aw shite sheep don’t ya cross the road now, ya know? What a was I a sayin…so who likes the Guinness, ya know? You have to say that when you’re in Ireland. I don’t drink it myself, I need oh about 8 or 9 pints first, ya know. What was I saying? Got lost in me mind, ya know.

Cong streets
Cong streets
  • Rich History – A really profound discovery for me – the Irish people really know their country’s history. I think this helps explain the fierce pride of the Irish, something we don’t see to the same degree as in America. For example, when taking a historic tour of Derry, the city of the Bloody Sunday attacks and some IRA shenanigans, the tour guide says, “so to understand why this happens, you have to remember that in the year 1262…and then in 1645…and then in 1891…and then in the 1920s…” all to explain events of the 1970s and 1980s. Our national memory as Americans just doesn’t go that far back. I’ve learned so much about Irish history and just love them for it.
  • Beautiful sea of Carrick a Rede bridge
    Beautiful sea of Carrick a Rede bridge

    Easy for Touring – As my first cabbie told me, this country survives on tourism, and I don’t think I could have picked an easier, friendlier, or funner place to have my first solo trip.

  • Amazing Natural Sights – Giants Causeway, Carrick A Rede, Cliffs of Mohr (didn’t get to see, sad face), Connemara, and just green, green, green made this place a bit of a surprise for me. It almost seemed pointless to take pictures, because the camera couldn’t capture what I was seeing.
  • Black Cab Tour of Belfast – Probably the coolest thing we did on the trip…touring through the Catholic and Protestant neighborhoods – divided by a wall up to thirty feet high, mind you, and learning about the fierce tension that still exists in Belfast. They actually rioted while we were there, and someone threw a beer bottle at our tour! Learned loads about the violence, murder, mistreatment, and crazy British vs. Irish, Catholic vs. Protestant commotion in Northern Ireland. Complicated and messy, very cool tour. Can’t imagine living in those neighborhoods meself. Much still goes unreported.
  • Kylemore Abbey was brilliant
    Kylemore Abbey was brilliant

    Old buildings here, there, everywhere –  Trinity College, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Kylemore Abbey (and it’s beautiful and tragic love story), crumbling monasteries, the cemeteries and monuments of the likes of Yeats and Wilde and Cromwell and Joyce, the brick with flower planters and pubs established in the early 1880s…just so cool to see the layers of the cities of Ireland as they have come together in architecture, the hodge-podge that the city developed out o it.

  • I Love the Nightlife…I wanna boogie…Have had a fanTAStic time in all the local pubs – the music is amazing, the people friendly, every Irish man can sing and play guitar, and we’ve all learned the words to “Molly Malone” and “Galway Girl” and you can find anyone on the street to sing with you. The Irish stay out late and always sympathize with your bloodshot eyes. Our cabbie on Sunday said “I love driving in Belfast on Sunday. All the locals be home, nursing thar hangovers, and I can get whar I need to be goin’.”
  • St. Patrick's Cathedral
    St. Patrick’s Cathedral

    The People – Great conversationalists, story tellers, stopping you on the street to see if you need help. I hold out a handful of my change and they pick out the right amount for me. They sing, they dance, they drink, they love everything out of life. They dress like punks, rock stars, a little skanky for the girls (no one wins when we can see your buttcheeks!), but I think they just have a confidence in themselves. A lovely, lovely people.

Next on the agenda – London! I was there in 2006 but excited for a return journey…suggestions welcome!


Slainte! Days 1-3 of Ireland Travel

So tired...Smithwick's cures.
So tired…Smithwick’s cures.

Day two…or is it three? Ireland is green, friendly, loud, drunk! I survived my flights here with the help of the hilarious couple next to me, Emma and Artur. They looked about 14 years old, maybe 20, and had met for a month, decided to marry. They met in Ohio, where she is from, and he was taking her to Ireland to meet his people. We toasted to flying in row 25 and she let me hold her hand when we began our descent, so I know we will be friends for life.

I landed about 9am Ireland, so about 1am California time. When we touched down, I realized that I should have done a wee bit more research, as I had no idea how I was getting to my hostel. I wandered about for a bit, texting loved ones via wifi on Viber (great international texting app, questionable name) before taking the friendliest taxi ride of my life. He apologized for the fare and got quite fatherly on me when I told him I was traveling alone. I was warned about the Roman gypsies (which we saw, and they looked just like on the tv show!) and the pick pockets, and watch out for the charming Irish lads buying you drinks, and isn’t your boyfriend worried? We Irish men are really charming!

WHAT is brown sauce?
WHAT is brown sauce?

I’m staying at Paddy’s Palace, ‘on tee Nort end’ as cabbie said. New experience with international keyboards – no quotation marks in Ireland! I couldn’t check in yet when I arrived, so I headed to O’Sheas pub, ordered a sammie and a Smithwick’s, decided English mustard is superior to American, and tried to count how many hours I’d slept in the last 24. Numbers are hard. All the thinking required a nap.

The bathrooms are a step up from the Central/South American hostels I’m used to, but my dormmates were steps down. The boys woke me up in the middle of the night regaling each other with their lap dance stories, the girl woke me up at 5am to noisily catch her flight.

I didn’t know what to do by myself…it seems surreal to me still…I am traveling in Ireland by myself. It is really different than with friends. I wandered the streets for a few hours, but got a little lonely, so I went back to the hostel. I sat down in the lounge to try and read more about Dublin, since I realized I knew nothing. I sneezed and a blonde said ‘bless you,’ so I asked her if she spoke English and was alone, and would she like to head to a pub?

Sarah is just a baby, 18 ‘but 19 soon!’ from Canada, who is traveling alone for the next few months through Europe. She finally admitted there may be a boy in Cork that this trip is about. We walked over the river Liffey, saw the locks on Lover’s Bridge, Christ Church, and then heard an acoustic cover of Rihanna in a male Irish tone and headed to Farrington’s for a few beers (Barefoot Bohemian is a yes!). Seems like most men here play guitar (seen ‘Once’ a few times, I guess) and are very happy to serenade you for a pint of Guinness. We ended the night dancing with some other Canadians in the Temple Bar district, a different bard singing ‘Wagon Wheel’ for ‘all you bloody Americans who keep requesting it.’
r leftHaving lots of fun so far but very jet-lagged still. Very concerned that I will be hit by a car, because despite the generous signage, I cannot get the different directions down. Not sure if I’ll be up for the pub crawl tonight here in Galway…day one of our tour was a bit exhausting with all the bus riding and record breaking heat. But apparently Galway is THE party city. I can’t imagine it topping Dublin…my tour bus people are friendly enough…traveling alone is a good challenge for me.

At the very least, I need a shower!

You are brave. You can fly. You are going to Ireland.

this needs to stop being me.
this needs to stop being me.

This has been my mantra the last 24 hours or so, as I try to give myself a pep talk about my impending trip to Europe. It’s the trip I’ve wanted for so long – Ireland and Spain! I have dreamt of you! But right now I am scared scared scared and so I am doing what any normal person does – working on the ultimate soothing plane ride playlist, not packing, and blogging my feelings in an effort to face them.

A few months ago, my sister and I experienced a plane “mishap” that thwarted our Spring Break plans to see our dad and brothers in Georgia. (Read about that here). I still cry thinking about it or talking about it, and to be honest, have been pretty mad that I have made myself afraid to fly. Then a few weeks ago, I watch in my rearview mirror as a truck slammed into a car that then slammed into me, so now I’ve let a fear of driving develop.

I realized I’d have to give up my middle name of “Danger” if I didn’t do something to punch fear in the face soon. So a month ago, I booked a flight to Ireland, where I will spend a week by myself exploring hill and dale and pub and fiddle. Then I will fly to London to frolic in front of national monuments with Ry, as we do when we travel, and cry over the majesty of the Rosetta Stone and Jane Austen’s all too short life. From there, we fly to Barcelona for a few days in El Born, gothic cathedrals, all night champagne bars, tapas, and cobblestone streets surrounding our sweet BnB place.

A modern stereotypical depiction of a leprecha...

And I’ve been trying to build myself up for this great adventure – but with the plane crash yesterday….suddenly going anywhere by air seems like a bad idea. So I keep trying to say “You are brave. You can fly. You are going to Ireland.”

I imagine wandering through old monasteries, marveling at Stonehenge again, practicing my Spanish. I can’t let myself freak out. I hate being afraid of things. I want to try new things. I think to travel alone is going to really push me out of my comfort zone, and I hope everything’s as fun as I am willing it to be.

Anyway, I’ll be blogging the adventure here! Follow along with me. Encourage me to get on the dang plane. Pray it all goes well. I look forward to sharing my new friends and new favorite places with you. :)

15 Ways to Survive the Holidays when You are Single – an update

me doing the most me in HK

There are seasons where I am happy beyond reason to be living and traveling through this life solo; making all my own plans and decisions, spending money on frivolous things with no one to argue with me, or being frugal at the hostel because it’s just me to fit into that tiny bed. I don’t have to defend eating McDonald’s instead of sketchy street food in xyz country, or my need to see the world’s largest fillintheblank in Random Place, Somewhere. 

I love swimming through seasons when the engaged couples leave early and skip the dinner because they’re saving for a wedding, when married couples fight and make things awkward, when the parents with fussy babies go home early. But me? I stay to dance all night, eat and drink what I want, flirt with whom I want, and see where things take me.

we stay up late

There are moments, long moments, sometimes stretching weeks or months where I am able to drown out everything society quietly and not-so-quietly tries to tell me, and am gentle with myself and my journey, and I can forget that the world strongly suggests my purpose is to find someone else to go through the life thing with. 

I can forget that the message is that if I’m not sharing life with someone that it’s not as real or important. That whatever it is I do is somehow not as real or as serious if I’m not splitting my time and worry on not only my own needs, but someone else’s, too.

I honestly forget I’m single and that’s somehow very important and everyone’s business and I shouldn’t want to be all the time. Because being single is really not an important descriptor when I think about what I know about me. I forget that being a good daughter, sister, roommate, friend, teacher, colleague isn’t enough to qualify for a full and meaningful life.

Then there is the age bit. 

I forget how old I am all the time. I don’t know if that’s because I’m kind of classically immature, or because I’m a teacher and always around kids, or if I’m in a clinical stage of denial. When I do take an Actual Moment and realize I am thirty freaking five and all that might mean to my biology, it does kinda freak me out. But then I get over it.

If you try to tell me I am too old to do this I will throw a chicken nugget at you

I’ve said this many times, but I genuinely had no plans beyond like, 22. I figured I’d be married and popping out really cute biracial, progressive, multilingual children by then. I assumed there would be no time for my own selfish plans about career or life goals or anything, so why make ‘em?

That attitude might have been a product of the family I grew up in with really young parents and not based on what my own intrinsic ambitions were (and looking back, not at all an Actual Good Idea), but those biological feelings still lurk somewhat dormant within my ovaries, springing forth and reaching out to every infant that crosses my path.

That magical, Taylor Swift-blessed year of 22 came and went, and I moved the goalpost back a few years. I’ve been an overachiever all my life. Maybe the growing up part was where I let other kids beat me without putting up too much of a fuss.

But growing up in church, let’s make that a capital C Church, there is an unspoken expectation that you will be married and having kids by a certain age. Preferably like, 25.

And if not by then, you might be accosted in the church bathroom, as I was one morning, in between leading worship for two services. A well-intentioned (at least, I am choosing to believe she was) woman came to me as I was washing my hands and said “I just want you to know I am praying for you, because I don’t understand why you’re not married, because you’re great, and you should be.”

I’m sure she thought she was complimenting or encouraging me with these unasked-for-prayers, but as I stood stock-still within her embrace, unable to return it, I could only think some very un-Christian thoughts.

For a long time, through many holidays and life moments, I was with someone. I thought we were getting married and I changed my whole life for him. And then we weren’t together anymore and then I changed my whole life to get over him (because a very rational and mature reaction to heartbreak is to move countries. Trust me, I’ve done it twice now) and I’m thankful.

Life goes on. Your friends get married, your little sister gets married, you go to baby showers and are the only single, childfree person there (which, by the way, those type of functions should have automatic freeflow options for single, childfree people). 

Life goes on. And it goes fast. I don’t think I really believed adults when they said “oh, in a blink of an eye” but now I blink and there’s grey hairs and chin hairs and hangovers and my back hurts and are we all just going to be always tired, forever, from here on out?

So here’s me, 35, single, childless, awesome. Financially stable, educated, well-traveled, physically fit, capable of entertaining 27 nine year olds for eight hours a day at a time while only peeing twice. Sometimes I wake up feeling like I just might run for President. Great hair. Killer guacamole recipe.

Single, childless, awesome.

…and part mermaid

And I’m fine. I’m great. I’m so good about it right now, compared to the countless other seasons in my life I was positively beside myself with agony and despair over being single, that I’m almost worried I’m too good. Because then I start to overanalyze that and think “If this is it, and I’m okay right now, will this then become my always? What if I’m not always okay with what this is?”

Or I start to wonder what other people are thinking of me being this age and still single. Or I wonder “maybe God’s looking at me, and He’s like, ‘she seems alright, I’m gonna let her go wander and help everyone else get married and start families.’ So maybe I need to act more worried so He knows it is important to me?!”

Six years ago I wrote what was then and is even more now a funny blog post called 15 Ways to Survive the Holidays When You’re Newly Single. Having just broken up with my ex and too embarrassed to fly home for Christmas, I was stuck in North Carolina for the holidays.

almost heaven. a rare happy moment in those troubled times in the Carolinas.

There I was -waiting tables and bartending at a barbecue joint, living in a large and possibly haunted house with a man of unknown age or sexual orientation named Brook who had a demonic cat. Brook was a lawyer but thought he was an actor, which meant he directed a play about lizards who fell in love (I kid you not) and spent many hours in our living room practicing terrible English accents. One time I walked into my bathroom and his dad was pooping in it so we had some differences.

I had spent that post-breakup Thanksgiving with my Dad, but was my first Christmas alone alone. I bought tater tots, frozen pizza, a lot of wine, and watched the entire season one of Scandal in bed. I didn’t talk to anyone except via text message, pretending the time difference made it too hard (oh, how I laugh at just three hours difference now!). It was a hard, hard time for me, and getting through the emotions of a massive breakup and the holidays alone did feel like survival.

But here I am alone in my apartment in Hong Kong, eating a 7-11 Thanksgiving of instant mashed potatoes and my favorite 5 dollar wine from college. I’ve baked three cornbread dishes in round one of food prep and have decorated the house. I’m currently crafting turkeys out of toilet paper rolls and some feathers for a game I’m inventing for my Friendsgiving on Saturday, when I’ll be joined by friends from Ireland, South Africa, New Zealand, Australia, Hong Kong, Philippines, Canada, and England for a ton of food and organized fun. And two weeks after that I’ll be home for Christmas holidays and you know what? It doesn’t feel like a game of survival anymore to be single in this time of celebrating and joy. Maybe parts of it are still hard, yeah. I did almost cry at work today. But that’s mostly my job.

There are situations and relationships that are a lot harder than being alone, and as I’ve gotten older, I see my friends and family go through those tough times, and feel grateful I don’t have to know them personally. My tough decisions at the moment are things like “do I absolutely need to wash my hair today?” and “is this worth getting angry about?” and “watch something new on Netflix or comfort watch a childhood cartoon?” and I am okay with that.

So I’m updating my list on how to “survive” being single at the holidays. Because you are not going to die if you are. You might feel a little lonely, you might field some awkward questions, you might eat too much or drink too much or roll your eyes right back into your head at some of the tasteless questions people ask but. I’m fine. And You’re fine. And we will be fine.

How to Survive Get Through Stumble Make it Persist Through Enjoy the Holidays When You’re Single

  1. Decide if you’re going to ignore or embrace the holiday. Sometimes it’s easier to pretend nothing is happening, it’s just another day, and get on with it. Sometimes it’s easier to throw yourself into festivities. Listen to your heart and do what you want. And you can change your mind! One year I was TOTALLY AGAINST IT and then last minute brought in a large branch from the backyard and decorated it, so. Do you.
  2. Turn on your Tinder and update your location. That goes for all dating apps you’re on. I have found my matchability increases in certain geographical locations, and it’s fun and an ego boost and can be as harmless as you want it to be. 
  3. Do not call your ex. Do not text your ex. Do not stalk your ex on social media. There is a reason and probably LOTS of reasons why you are not together on normal days and those reasons are somehow forgotten on holidays but DO NOT LET THEM BE FORGOTTEN.
  4. Do a conscious thing to relieve the stress of the holidays. Some years I decide not to buy any presents, and I just donate money somewhere. Some years I get everyone the exact same thing. Some years I book a trip to another country and skip it. You decide.
  5. Do buy yourself a present. Whatever is too embarassing to put on a list for anyone who might ask, get yourself. For me, it’s usually laser hair removal. Last year was the Harry Potter movie collection. Bless yourself. 
  6. Adopt the other holiday orphans. There will always be people around you who can’t get home for the holidays. I invited them to my house for some spaghetti and card games. Now I have things to do and people to be with!
  7. Clean things. Work out. Organize your socks. Make a list and tackle that ish. Productivity feels great and keeps you busy and keeps you from calling/texting/online stalking your ex.
  8. Get an accountability partner to make sure that you do not call your ex. Honestly. The holidays have this “does he still think of me?” tint to it and it is dangerous. 
  9. Accept the love of strangers and friends and family. People will be worried about you. Whenever I’m away for Christmas, friends reach out and invite me over, and all older women ask how my momma is handling it. I’ve been invited to different churches, to people’s homes, to the traditional Jewish Christmas of Chinese food and movies. I’ve had my hand held by old gay men who wanted to take me drinking, and offered recipes for “a really good roast. You need good food, dear.” I’ve been surprised with packages from family, friends, and even a relative stranger from church! Love is good. Allow yourself to be loved.
  10.  Get to church. Sing the songs, pray the prayers, feel the feels. I always leave church happier than when I came.
  11. Do good. That’s what the holidays should be about. Volunteer somewhere. Bake goodies to drive around to your favorite homeless people. Write random Facebook messages to friends you haven’t talked to in a while. Sprinkle love via text messages. Let your mom know you’re okay. Take silly pictures of yourself to send to your siblings.
  12. If you are alone, Enjoy being alone. A few years ago, I would have been swimming in my own tears just thinking about being alone on Christmas, but now I’m like, “hey, my roomie is gone, I can take a bubble bath for hours, mimosas all to myself, set my laptop up next to the bath and watch chick flicks until my toes turn to raisins.” I won’t have to wear a bra for three days, my dishes will go unwashed, and I will get to sleep-in uninterrupted. I can control the heating system, play music at all hours, cry when I need to and dance when I want to.
  13. Get into Nature. Everything feels better outside. And your problems feel smaller in the best way when you look at the wonder and beauty of Earth in a big way.
  14. Indulge. Having lived in four distinct cultures now, I can say with authority that American culture is not one that respects rest. It is vital for mental, emotional, and spiritual health to have times where you are deep into what gives you peace. 
  15. Remember, this is just another day, and you’re no less of a person if you’re single today than you were when you were single yesterday, or when you’re still single tomorrow. Maybe it looks like everyone in your Facebook feed is winning at life with the rate of proposals, marriages, babies, promotions, marathons, traveling, etc. that everyone but you seems to be doing. But you’re on your own path. March on, soldier. March on.

With as much wine and chocolate and Netflix and Youtubes of puppies and late night chats as is necessary.

birthdays, how to friend, first dates, ritz crackers. days

Feb 21 – Day Eleven – Happy birthday, Jenna!

“isn’t she perdy” – said in grandma great voice

It’s my sister’s birthday today! She’s celebrating in Seattle with our aunts and cousins. Family birthdays are something I always miss about living abroad. Everyone in the living room, discussing the dogs, eating Los Panchos or Zacharys (the only two food establishments my family truly needs), talking loudly over each other, Gma Jackie hitting the harmony at the tail end of “Happy Birthday.” And then eating Mom’s yellow cake with homemade chocolate frosting. And then reminiscing about all the cake disasters we’ve had over the years. Good times.

I haven’t been home for Jenna’s birthday in probably five or six years, since living abroad. But she was really there for me for the 30th birthday. I had just broken up with my boyfriend, who I had moved across the country for, and just driven back home, across the entire dang country (shout out to Seghs!) in a kind of depressed, shame-ridden, unemployed funk.

The only point of joy in my life was my mom’s dog, Kismet Oreo, who was the ball of fluff I needed to have a reason to get out of bed every day.

And I was about to turn 30.

Oh, joy.

your birthday . . . santa maria . . . 2008!? I dont know! but we liked it!

I had thought, like most girls who spend the tail end of their twenties in a serious relationship, I’d be spending my thirtieth year, for some reason a huge number year, planning a wedding in a rustic barn in North Carolina, finding a perfect teaching job so I could quit the bartending I had taken up on the side, thinking about raising kids barefoot on a goat rescue farm.

Instead, I had moved back in with my parents and was trying to convince the dog that she liked going on walks. Because walking was the only thing I could do where my body wouldn’t let me cry at the same time. And I carved a footpath in the Iron Horse Trail those few months, walking and walking until the big part of me that was in pain figured out how to be smaller.

I sometimes get really depressed and weird around my birthday, and it was especially so around this birthday, and Jenna decided that instead of sitting around waiting for 30 to happen to me, we could take a trip.

must. go. back.

So we went to Puerto Rico. Jenna found an amazing AirBnb, we rented a car, we explored, we tanned, we ate. On my birthday, she let me sit in the kiddie pool on the roof and kept bringing me margaritas all day and let me be a tiny bit of a wreck because she cares and I’ll never forget that trip. I think she let me watch like five episodes of “The X-Files” that day. MULDER! I LOVE YOU!

Love you Jen! Happy bday. Thanks for always being there.

Feb 22 – Day Twelve – How to friend

I joined this group called Girl Gone International when I first moved to HK, and it’s been a total Godsend to be in a community (and several very active Whatsapp groups) with like-minded women who have moved abroad, are away from family and the familiar, and are trying to make Hongkers home. We do happy hours, brunches, birthdays, and give and take great advice. It’s sweet. This week I went to a different kind of event – girl power embroidery and champagne free flow.


i’ve already tried learning how to knit. but. knitting is for morons, anyway.

We started with introductions, and I ended up having mutual friends with three of them, and quite a few were teachers. Then we got to sewing instruction. I felt the spirit of my Gma Susi smiling on me as I learned how to cross stitch super simple patterns. I felt like a rockstar. The bubbles were adding to the confidence, but as the night wore on, definitely not to my concentration. My piece still sits unfinished in a ziploc bag in my living room, but I’m excited about picking it up again soon.

is….is this penguin my friend?

During the introductions, although we were hailing from South Africa, Australia, England, Ireland, California (I don’t say I’m from the States anymore), and Chile, the common denominator at our table was a sense of being slightly overwhelmed in Hong Kong, but wanting to make friends, and glad we’d found the GGI group to help.

Making new friends in your thirties is just about as hard as dating. Where do you find new people? What do you talk about? How do you sustain the friendship when we work and travel as much as we do? How do you get people to answer text messages and commit to activities at a rate that makes you feel like you do have a genuine friendship?

When we were younger, we met people all the time with school and sports, family friends, activities, summer camps, etc. Now it requires much more of an effort.

I’m glad I’ve found others also willing to make it.

Feb 23 – Day 13 – First date jitters

Awhile back, I said I was done with the online dating. I had a pretty terrible experience, blogged about it, it ended up getting worse. A week after I had said no thank you to seeing more of him, there were some nasty text messages and it got a bit scary, so I took the blog down to try and end it. Being a female is hard.

I had started talking to another guy on Tinder. He was older, too, because the older ones are usually more likely to strike up a convo and keep it going to the point where you actually meet up. Younger guys (and my age guys) are there for hookups and the dopamine hit of being “liked” back, I think. The conversations rarely go further than “hey.”

But this guy and I had been chatting nonstop. He was sarcastic, had a lot to say, also in education, handsome, etc. This went on for two weeks and I had to be the one who said we should move it to Whatsapp. And then I had to ask if he was ever going to ask me out on a date. He eventually did, and we decided to meet up and go see a light installation I’ve been wanting to see, and I asked him to figure out the bar. He named a place, and when I told everyone I know that I finally had another first date and the place we were going, I was promptly informed that said bar had closed. Perhaps it was a bad omen I should have paid more attention to at the time. Alas.

so quotable.

So he found another place, a British pub, and we agreed to meet up on Friday.

For SIX DAYS I had the absolute nerviest of nerves. Because what if it’s amazing? What if this is the first date that ends all other first dates? Based on what I know about him, I have already plotted out the rest of our lives together.

What if this first actual meeting is a story we end up telling over and over for forever?

I actually googled “things to do on a first date” and “things to talk about on a first date” and “things NOT to talk about on a first date.” As if I have ever met a stranger or ever had problems talking to someone in my life. But when we play this whole dating game, especially in our thirties and living abroad and online so much, the point is, at least for me, to find THE ONE that will be there for the rest of this life. So I get nervous. I pace in front of my closet in a towel, texting my friends, trying to invent last minute excuses for canceling on a date. I can’t word. I giggle and sweat. I swear too much and say things I shouldn’t, share things I shouldn’t on a first date. Or any date.

The flipside of “Because what if it’s amazing?!” is “But what if it sucks?”

What if after texting nonstop for two weeks, we come to find out that there is no IRL (in real life) connection? No genuine spark?

What if, because we feel disappointed by that, and upset by that, but feel like we have to be nice about it all, we pretend that there is? And just go along with things for a while, perhaps too long, to the point where we realize that this is leading someone on, but by now it is too late?

What then?

What could happen that would be okay then, that doesn’t leave you feeling a bit sad, and upset with yourself, and the system and the world and the patriarchy and anything else handy to blame this on . . . and missing the texting conversations you’d had, while knowing it would be unkind to keep dating someone when you’re sure there is no future.

First dates are too hard. I can’t do this much longer. I just one want more. Please and thank you.

Feb 24 – Day 14 – happy bday month, gma susi

happy birthday month, gma susi. been thinking about you a lot lately. wish i could share these teaching adventures with you. you’d get such a kick out of the places i get to go and the people i get to meet. but, rest assured, kids are the same anywhere and everywhere. i give and get lots of hugs.

You died before i moved to north carolina. You died thinking i was running off to marry that boy at that time. We’d gotten to talk a little bit about my first four years of teaching, but nothing since. You dont know that i lived in brazil for three years! That i saw the most beautiful beaches and capybaras and antartica and monkeys crashed church service. You dont know about Carnaval, and wine country in Argentina, and salt cathedrals in Colombia, and that I can speak Portuguese now.

You dont know I moved to hong kong, and have been tramping all over asia now, and seen so many things. That im considered tall here, and delightfully fat to the point im pointed out of stores, and that i make constant blunders with asian culture.

I’ve seen japan, thailand, cambodia, vietnam, malaysia, the philippines, indonesia, korea, macau. Youd love it. I teach all English language learners! How much we’d have to talk about.

Sometimes when i think about you, when something like Ritz crackers, or the Oregon trail, or caffeine free diet coke, or sewing, or teaching first grade comes up, i can hear you talking, looking over the rim of your glasses at me, your big bottom lip sticking out, your painted nails clicking the pen as you worked on the crossword puzzle at the back of a “People” magazine, head shaking just slightly, hair thinning and curly on the top of your head.

“Now, Rachel . . . “ you’d always say to me. All your sentences started with “Now, Rachel . . . “

I’ve spent more time with primary teachers now, and I understand you better. How it’s not something you can turn off so much. I want to ask you questions, like: How to deal with crazy parents, and how to deal with administration that just doesn’t get it. I want to ask you how you celebrated the 100th day of school, how you found the energy to drive to Antioch and teach every day for so long, how you differentiated your learning, how you did it all without a learning assistant or computers or the internet.

you would love that i wear this to work every year.

How on the weekends you still puff-painted shirts for us and made jumpers and flower girl dresses and later sewed my prom dresses and costumes for “West Side Story” and “Grease.” My God. You were a wonder woman and I didn’t know it enough at the time and I’m sorry but I will say it now.

You are amazing. You’re still with me. As long as a “MRS/MS/MISS WEIGHT!!!!” still rings out in excitement every school day morning, you’re still with me.

i will never forget seeing that for the first time. nearly ten years ago.

r2hk: clockenflap, turkey, water buffaloes

Life’s been moving pretty fast lately and I haven’t had time to write about all the little adventures, which is the only way I remember them. But I will try to give some recent highlights:

the oddly intoxicating bird dino things that danced around . . .

I crossed off TWO things from my thirtyfiveBy35 bucket list when I attended my first music festival – Clockenflap. I danced my face off and heard some music I love and some music that was new, helped strangers vomit safely, felt old, drank beer until I felt better, and saw way too many students (including one from my Northcreek days!!! Lol). I also thought I was standing next to a celebrity, and then after a few minutes realized it was just someone I follow on instagram. But by far, the strangest part of the weekend involved feces.

We were standing towards the back of the crowd when a commotion broke out just a few feet ahead of us. A teenage boy was unconscious, nearly blue in the face, and his female friend was holding him up and shaking him, trying to revive him. They were screaming for a medic, and as a recent graduate of our school-sponsored CPR and First Aid, I briefly wondered if we should step up and try to help. But suddenly he came to, and supported by a few others, began to walk away.

HOWEVER. As he was walked away, something fell out of his baggy pants.

Yes, my friends. The youth had shat himself.

Immediately a few people shone their phone lights on the offense, trying to help the medics, arriving too late, before they rolled the wheelchair over it. Alas, they rolled right through it. As a collective, we widened the circle and tried to shine yon cellphone lights harder. A brave soul stepped forward and set her beer cup over it. I stepped forward and did the same. We were applauded, heroines among men.

Then things got weirder. Because then we turned it into the worst game of reverse Jenga ever. Slowly, people stepped forward, and gently placed their cups atop our poop shrine. We all watched with bated breath as each contestant stepped in, carefully positioning their cups on top, a collective applause emerging as the tower grew higher.

But all good things must come to an end. As our circle widened, people drew closer and wanted to play what they thought was an innocent game of stack a beer cup. I made it my mission to tell everyone who had children “THERE IS POOP THERE!” and warn them away. A drunken teen thought we had made a circle for break dancing and wandered in to shimmy and had to be carried away. But the weird twist of fate was when a hippie walked forward and saw about twenty cups she wanted to carry away to recycle, and gathered them all up from bottom to top.

the clockenflap crew. in pre-feces times.

We screamed at her to stop, but she walked away, determined to save the earth (respect), not knowing what she held in her hands. And then my group of friends looked at each other, proclaimed “I need a drink” and went to the beer tent before the next act. I’m still not sure if that was terrible, what we did, or a testimony to the resilience and creativity of the human spirit.

And kids and adults – hugs not drugs. That was scary to watch.

silent disco = all my dreams come true

My fav moments were: the silent disco, which burst into spontaneous conga lines. The dancing uterus people. The human slinky. The deejay tent with my friend Jake. Swaying to Khalid with Ben. Fangirling over Erykah Badu. Rocking out to Interpol. The weird genius of David Byrne. Thinking that buying a turban with a giant sunflower on it was a good idea. Wearing glitter in daytime and sipping Fireball from a flask to compliment terrible pizza. Holding a cup full of wine in my teeth because my hands were full, and then deciding to talk to my friend. Watching a mime mime the heck out of his mime routine.

Ireland, England, South Africa, America, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Philippines, and more :)

I hosted the United Nations for Friendsgiving on the roof last Saturday, even though I still hadn’t figured out how to replace the table that was smashed in the typhoon. But God was good and let me borrow a closet door from the neighbors to stretch over our table frame. Amie bandaged up the edges and we covered it in brown paper to make a long thanksgiving table that I think my mom would have been proud of, complete with gourds, poinsettias, melting citronella tea lights in fake pine cones, and markers to draw on the tablecloths (or table, as someone accidentally did!). I asked everyone to dress up as something American and got the most beautiful surprises out of it. Lady Justice showed up. So did a pimp. So that was something. I got to wear a cape so a great day from the start.

My oven is really a toaster, so prepping the proper amount of gluttony was something to think about, but some companies here in Hong Kong prey upon lonely Americans and do Thanksgiving-specific catering. Everyone invited contributed a dish or two, even red white and blue Jello casserole! I made Gma Susi’s potatoes and we ate and ate and ate. We played Thanksgiving Scattergories, shared what we were grateful for this year, and in my ongoing quest to teach everyone in the world something good, played flip cup.

I was lucky enough to be teaching some impressionable year sixes for November and got to force my culture on them during morning devotions, which was so much fun. It’s moments like those that you realize how different your life is.

I taught them how to make hand turkeys, what a corn maze was, how to place bets on football score squares (realizing belatedly I might have introduced them to gambling), the term “religious freedom,” the delight that is the word ‘cornucopia,’ and that all male turkeys have the same name of Tom. We decorated leaves with what we were thankful for. Most listed the invention of Fortnite, whatever that is. I got a few shoutouts. And thanks to the internet, had a hilarious photo booth prop set to play with.

make your own family.
make sure they like the food you like.

It’s hard to be away from home on Thanksgiving, a holiday so truly American and nuanced. I live in Hong Kong; I literally live in the tomorrow, and my whole family was together in their little ways, and the dogs were there to howl at each other and beg for scraps under the table, especially under Grandpa Steve, and it was loud and chaotic and someone cried at some point. The someone was probably me, in Asia, in the tomorrow. Because I love Thanksgiving – the eating too much, the kids table, the 5000 piece puzzle you’re working on in the corner, the football game on mute unless it’s halftime commercials, changing into stretch pants after the most painful part of the evening – family photos to send out as the annual Christmas card.

It was hilarious to explain that the day was really about eating a lot. Stretchy pants. Napping with all your relatives. Blaming the tryptophan. Playing that one board game that’s hot at Target at the moment, and then putting it away for the next decade. Getting emotional with one random relative in the backyard and spilling family secrets.

no really. the ark.

My flatmate works for YoungLife here in Hong Kong, an organization I’ve only become involved in because my brother Andrew told me a lot about it from his high school experience. Now I lead it at my school, have met so many amazing people involved in it in Hong Kong, and last weekend got to lead worship with a few others at a retreat in a lifesize recreation of Noah’s Ark! It was good for the soul, exhausting in the best way, spend the night in bunk beds with people who love Jesus, be inspired to keep pushing on kind of way. There’s something about singing hymns on a rooftop with fairy lights and fog and the city all around you and away that brings things home.

hiking with the kids

Last month I got to be a camp counselor for a few days with the year 5 and 6s, which, if you know me at all, is my dream profession. In my personal opinion, there could have been WAY more skits and songs and pranks. But it was technically a school activity, so I reined it in as much as possible.

veggie tales kids know – 
“everybody’s got a water buffalo . . . “

It was awesome to see my kids outside of school and watch them face challenges like be away from parents, dress themselves (kids who have to wear uniforms all the time have terrible fashion in general), sleep in a tent, use a port a potty, be outdoors for extended periods of time.

Hong Kong kids (many of them) live a really weird life where we are in this chaotic, claustrophobic city that moves a million miles a minute. They are often raised by live-in helpers from the Philippines or Indonesia with one or more parents working/traveling most of the time. I don’t know how often they spend long periods of time away from screens or get to touch grass or go barefoot. Hong Kong teens have one of the highest anxiety and suicide rates in the world, citing pressures for academic success and social success as a leading cause. 

I got to help kids learn how to ride a bike for the first time ever (at ten years old!), and hike so hard we ran out of water and felt nauseous (and that was the adults), and fall apart during team building exercises. They “surfed” and learned how to tie ropes, made smores for the first time, ate more food than could possibly go in their tiny bodies, and cried over everything. We dodged water buffaloes and their cow pies and took group showers and nearly ran face first into massive spiders. It was awesome. They held my hand when we walked in the dark and I nearly NEARLY found a limit to the number of hugs I can have a day.

always goes down smooth.

My favorite was helping a somewhat special kid on the hike. Turns out he is scared of just about everything, and on the way down kept saying “who put that rock there?!” and meaning it literally. I kept saying “God, dude. We are on a giant rock.” He also said “SH*T!” really loud at one point, and when I said we shouldn’t use that language, he replied “Why not? That’s how I feel.”

Out of the mouths of babes.

It’s that time of year when contracts come out for international teachers, and I really don’t know what God has in store for me for the next few years. It had seemed so clear before, but now a lot of things have changed and I’m asking myself what I’m capable of, where I belong, where I can serve, what I really want out of this one wild and precious life. How lucky am I to feel free enough to face possibilities. May I be wise enough and brave enough to step into the right ones.

I’ve so much to look forward to – my friend’s bday with mini golf and a trip to the yacht club, a British Christmas with my girlfriends, Christmas day at the horse races, work parties, girls nights out, celebrations with my small group, leading worship at Beer and Christmas Hymns, the weather turning colder and allowing me to rotate through my way too big collection of scarves. I’ll be spending Christmas traveling south east Asia – Thailand for a wedding, then Cambodia and Vietnam for the first time.

I’m mostly happy and very lucky. God gives me all I need and even some of the things I want!

Cheers to all those I love and hold dear, far and near.

Gringa DiariesÑ There will be errors in this.

i am here!

I am somewhere in a jungle in Argentina, at the intersection of Brazil, Paraguay, and Argentina, where a magical spot called Iguazu Falls (spelling based on home country) exists. It is one of the wonders of the world. And in a fit of rage about life about two.5 weeks ago, I booked a trip with points to here. By me lonesome.

Most of my expat acquaintance in Rio has already been here to collect their visas, so I had to come sozinha. No bother, I reminded myself. I{ve done Ireland and Colombia and bits of Chile and Spain and England alone. I like it, I think. So I threw a credit card at everything I was feeling, and here I am. Piece of cake! Totally.

Well, it wasn{t quite that easy. As you can imagine, knowing me. Being an even year, the Giants were torturing us through the playoffs, threatening another World Series, and had a game last night that obviously I had to stay up and watch. So I finally starting packing at about 2am. I{m also not exactly known for my packing powers, despite how much I have traveled. Each time I try to go somewhere I end up cleaning the entire house first, doing my taxes in advance, and working on conversational Russian before I even decide which duffel bag will be abused.

Then I realized in the morning that I had never gotten my replacement ATM card, and had no way to get out any money. Hmm. Then I get to the airport, breeze through check’in, am pleasantly surprised at the lack of line at customs, and start thinking about how great life is, and HERE it all really starts.

If you don{t know me well, let me tell you that before this, I{ve been on a flight with an exploding engine_ or the other time it took me four days to go somewhere that takes hours_ or emergency landing for medical reasons three times_ or when TSA took my carryon_so. here is the latest disasterÑ

Computers in Passport control shut down. Twice.

I get sent somewhere else. He asks me, all friendly like, about my life here, rifling through my passport. He stops and asks for more ID. More ID. And then anything else I might have.

Turns out my work visa has expired. TWO DAYS AGO. And my residency has also expired.

I could see the money figures in my head of what I paid for this trip in a spontaneous moment, a moment of fury and {I deserve this[. I felt God{s punishment. I was already back at square one ‘ how do I get home now, what do I do to get a refund, etc. But the man very kindly looked at my hysterical tears and made some phone calls and stamped my passport so I could leave Brazil. Whether I can return or not remains to be seen. At this point I do not care and just want to feel free for a few days.

Two bumpy flights (and i didn{t cry even when I wanted to! hashtag growing) and a cab and a bus ride and a lost hotel reservation later . . . I am here! In a jungle, with a huge room and balcony to myself, and a TV! Luxury. And a three day forecast of terrible storms. all lower case yay.

my room is down this hall and honestly i am offended at being called the odd hall.

It used to terrify me, but I{ve learned to like being alone and I was ready to be alone for awhile when I booked this trip. As the hour drew nearer, I regretted my solitude by choice. God, in his sense of humor, saw fit to put three students on my first flight, so I was no longer [aloneÑ. But then He apologized for his sense of humor and gave me a row to myself so I could put in my mouthguard and nap without shame.

Anyway. Alone I am. It was 6Ñ30 by the time I reached the hotel, and I hadn{t eaten all day. So now I sit in the hotel restaurant-bar, eating all the steak and drinking all the Malbec, because when in Rome. And even though I left my laptop in Rio by choice to have an unplugged weekend, I find myself in sweats amonst the suits, in the business center at the hotel, blogging about nothing to I am not sure who.

Matchbox 20, Dave Matthews, Nathalie Merchant, and Semisonic have made plays on the hotel speakers, but it is mostly an unhealthy dose of Michael Buble. At this point I would punch him on sight.

feeling like a G on this currency! oh, and look, women and things besides men on the bills and no one died. hmm.

I can hear some English being spoken a few tables away and I am tempted to reveal myself as a fellow English’speaker and make some friends. But even as I question the prudence of a solo trip when my head and heart are in such turmoil, I am in fact enjoying the challenge of being alone. The quiet. The fluidity of speaking Spanish or Portuguese or English to suit my needs and fly under the radar as much as I want.

I{ve pulled out my ipod and Eddie Vedder is telling me there will be Better Days and I can believe it. I just want one good day at the Falls, with a million rainbows of God{s promises, and finally a reason to use my selfie stick, and another story to tell. So stay tuned.

hot dog spirit
here is me as a mama hotdog with her hotdog baby to cheer you up.

The world is hard. But we are here. So if you haven{t heard it today and you need to, you{ve been so kind and generous to read this.

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:

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.

Time Capsule of the Year

I bless you in your 30th year.
I bless you in your 30th year.

Last year for my bday, I thought it would be a cool new thing to try and encapsulate the 28th year of my life, since life changes faster than I can blog. I created a format to look back specifically at the last 365 days, and remember exactly where my life compass was at this moment. Here goes.

Where are you living? At the moment, in the office/guest room with my parents and two of my sisters in Alamo, CA. Earlier this year I lived in North Carolina for a spell. And we have learned that I will never drive through Texas ever, ever, EVER again.

What shoes are you wearing? Super barefoot and admiring my tan against my bright pink toenails.

Bienvenidos a mi clase!
Bienvenidos a mi clase!

What did you last eat? A super bomb red, green and white bomblette in honor of Cinco de Mayo (side note – as a former Spanish teacher and enthusiast of all things Mexico, if I worked at the bar still and worked today, I would make everyone tell me the reason for the holiday before I served them. And if they said “Mexican Independence Day,” they would get nothing. Nothing!). And I drank a kombucha, which I realized I was allergic to about halfway through. Now it’s grapefruit juice in a wine glass, because I’m on post-vacation detox, but still want to feel fancy.

Where do you work? Nowhere, at the moment! I worked for a wedding blogger for a hot minute, tried subbing in North Carolina, and ended up serving and bartending. I feel now that despite the pain of getting rejected from over 40 different jobs in Carolina, God was protecting me from starting a career there so that I would be open to pursuing teaching abroad! I’ll be teaching at an international school in Rio this year.

Where have you traveled this last year? Ireland, England, Spain, Wyoming, Montana, Kentucky, New York, and the drive across the country TWICE are highlights. Also had a family reunion in Mexico that was amazing, and a random Thanksgiving dinner in the basement of an Irish pub in Virginia!

me in forty years, probably.
me in forty years, probably.

When did you last cry? Last Friday, before leaving for vacation. Because I was single, turning 30, and just needed a good cry. I didn’t cry on my actual birthday though, which breaks the six year streak of doing so!

What was the last movie you watched? Saving Mr. Banks on the plane. Before that, probably Frozen.

 Favorite TV show of the moment? Parks and Recreation. Orphan Black. And have recently been rewatching all the Xfiles and realizing how awesome that show still is.

IMG_9161Favorite toy of the moment? THE PUPPY!!!!

When did you last laugh really hard? When I was describing to my sisters and cousin my new invention. The conversation went like this:

“I was texting a friend, and I thought ‘wouldn’t it be cool to be able to send like voice texts? I could talk to them, and then they could answer back with their voice. But like, really quick.’ And then I thought about it, and realized I had invented talking on the phone. Which is what I’m trying to avoid by texting.”

Which is kind of like the time I posted some Facebook status about wishing vegetables were easier to eat, like if I could get them through a straw. And realized I had invented the smoothie.

What book are you reading right now? Heaven is for Real. A Dance with Dragons. Farmer Boy.

What are you most looking forward to right now? MOVING TO BRAZIL! In 78 days!!!

What’s your favorite song right now? “Let it Go,” which you can literally apply to every situation in your life. And “Fancy,” although I hate myself for it on occasion.

What’s the same about your life last year that you’re happy about? Um. This question sucks! Haha. Hmmm I guess…I haven’t lost anyone this year to death or the end of a friendship. I still have a lot of really good people in my life.

i miss teaching so much. i took it really seriously.
i miss teaching so much. i took it really seriously.

What’s different about your life from last year? WHAT WAS I THINKING MAKING THESE QUESTIONS. Okay, okay. It’s an exercise. Well, I’m single. It’s been almost a year since I was in a classroom. I kinda miss grad school and I definitely miss all the volleyball. But…I think a big difference is my future seems wide open to possibility in a way that it was not last year. And my attitude about that uncertainty wavers, but leans towards excitement.

What are the last five things you googled? “cheap flights to Brazil,” “penguins in love,” “infinity,” “baby goats standing on goats,” “do i need a passport for puerto rico.”

When and what was your last vacation? I just got back from Puerto Rico last night! My sister and I went for a whole week to celebrate turning 30 and spend a lot of time in the sun and drink too much beer and take naps. It was amazing.

una medalla en la playa
una medalla en la playa

What are you proud of this year? Taking chances. Lots of chances. Getting quite a few things published on Huffington Post, and even something in Australia, which got a lot of random hate mail. Ah, the internet. Hitting 200,000 hits on this blog. Crossing off a lot of my thirtyx30 bucket list.

What’s your current favorite joke? Everything Obama said at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner. That guy is my hero.


knitting is for morons, anyway.

knitting is for morons, anyway.

I had a pretty successful run at my “things to do before I turn thirty” bucket list (we’re not counting the knitting disaster). My biggest achievements from that list were traveling to Ireland and Spain, miles I ran, blog followers, etc.

Some things didn’t happen for me on that list, and that’s okay. So I’m going to carry over a few of those items (the first five listed here), and add some more here, to my thirtyfivex35 list.

1. Complete this list. 28/35 finished as of March 2019

2. Publish a book. 80% of the way through the first edits! It’s just an ebook of some travel stories. I want to do it.

open mike, my dudes.

3. Sing at an open mic nightSang at Beer and Hymns night, Kowloon, February 2018. Morrisons, May. Beer and Christmas Hymns, December.

4. Memorize 5 songs on the guitar (Leaving on a Jetplane, Time After Time, Don’t Stop Believing, Free Fallin’, Sweet Child O’Mine)

5. Read 150 books 

6. Visit five new countries. Goals: Brazil, Argentina, Antarctica, Chile, Ecuador, Colombia, Cuba, Thailand, Australia, New Zealand, Bolivia, Uruguay, Paraguay, Japan, Philippines, Indonesia, Hong Kong, South Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia.


7. Take a picture with a penguin. (Planning some Patagonia adventures after my move!)

8. Go to the Amazon.

9. Become at least conversationally fluent in Portuguese. (Brazil!)

10. Write the girl I sponsor through Compassion International at least once a month. (April May June July Aug Sept Oct Nov Dec Jan Feb March April)

11. Try every single one of these 22 foods before I ever leave Brazil.

12. Visit Iguazu Falls. October 2016!

13. Buy the person behind me a coffee.

14. Completely “unplug” for three days.  (Big Sur, Ihla Grande, Amazon, Patagonia)

15. Read all the Jane Austen books. (started this on the last list. Persuasion, Mansfield Park, Emma, Northanger Abbey, Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice)

isn’t she lovely isn’t she wonderful

16. Make a pie or cake from scratch.

17. Lose 25 pounds. (5 10 15 20 25)

18. Keep a plant alive for a year.  My bamboo made it! And my aloe is kicking arse too. It’s practice for a fish. And then an animal. And then maybe a child one day.

19. Meet someone famous. This was actually the third time meeting Kerri Walsh Jennings (and April Ross, not pictured) but I chose this photo because it was after watching them play in the Olympics! It was actually the last game they won in the Olympics, so I think it was super special. :)


Kerri is a G.

20. Get 300,000 hits on this blog.

21. Visit a floatation tank.

22. Take a cooking or dance class.

23. Blog everyday for a month.

24. Travel alone again(Chile, Colombia, Argentina, Japan, Indonesia)

25. Pay off all American credit card debt.

26. See 15 concerts/live music performances. (Justin McRoberts, Samba at Lapa40, Backstreet Boys, Falamansa, Richard Marx, the Doobie Brothers, Chicago, Interpol, Big Shaq, Cigarettes After Sex, Khalid, Erykah Badu, Wolf Alice, Amadou & Mariam, Alvvays) 

27. Have 1000 followers on this blog.

28. See a sunrise on purpose, for pleasure.

29. Attend a multi-day/weekend music fest. Clockenflap 2018!

30. Run a race in Rio. Finished the Rio Antiguo 5k Race on May 10, 2015 in 31:46. Somewhere to start!!

31. Visit Asia. (Moved to Hong Kong July 2017!)

32. Give up restaurants for a month.

33. Read the Bible all the way through again.

34. Go on a blind date. What a bust.

35. Complete 700 Yelp reviews. I love reviewing places, but I also use this as a writing exercise. I make myself do some if I don’t feel like doing the writing I should actually be doing.

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