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Gringa Diaries: Bye Panama! Hello Peru!

Aw man I love Panama. I’m so glad we’ve spent quality time here. Tomorrow morning another nice wake up call at 4 something am and then flying to Miami to fly to Peru. I’m confused about the Miami airport part, however, I plan on double fisting Starbucks while I’m there! Heyoo! and their specialty holiday blends…I’m still so American.

Thanksgiving was really cool, we had like 50 people eating a ton of food! We started cooking early in the morning, I peeled like eight thousand potatoes and sweet potatoes and cut up tons of apples and mashed huge tubs of potatoes by hand. It was weird to be dripping sweat and in a tank and skirt on Thanksgiving, but we had the Indian headdresses on and played Sublime, so that was fun. As was trying to explain to Europeans the meaning of Thanksgiving. I think its simple enough…one would think its inherent in the name, and we’d explained there doesnt need to be any science behind it, just family, friends, food, football, but they remained confused in an adorable, accented sort of way. Everyone filled out the thanksfulness leaves for my tree, the overall themes being thanksful for traveling, friends, new experiences, love, and beer. Very hostel. And we played guitar and card games and people drank too much wine and got in fights and cried and hugged it out. Just like being at home! hahaha. It was great.

After turkey day, it was still raining all over Panama City, but we decided to go for it and booked a trip to San Blas islands, which involved a seven hour day of travel in a pick up truck, over non existent roads and and pothole dodging and mud slides in the pouring rain. Not the most fun, and definitely not fun to hear that everyone else’s trips were only three hours long…. but we stopped at an amazing roadside breakfast joint, and after a short boat ride we finally reached paaaaradiiiiiiseeee!!!!!

the Islands were amazing, one of the most beautiful places in the world. They are about 400 islands, mostly uninhabited, stretched out along the coast of Panama and run by the indigenous community of the Kuna, about 42,000 strong. They have their own language, religion, President and laws and congress. Its pretty cool. According to Aaron, a Kuna who acted as a bit of a historian and guide while we were there staying at his family’s cabana, told us that the Kuna gained their independence by inviting the Panamanian govt people out to the islands, getting them drunk on Rum, and having them sign over the islands back into the rightful hands of the Kuna. Having seen how Panama and really all of Central America loves their party, I find this well within the realm of possibility.

The islands that have people on them and are like villages have no yards and few trees, just paths winding through the crammed together houses that are constructed from cane reeds and dried palm leaves. “Bathrooms” and “showers” are decks with sheets hung up between, no roofs, slats over the ocean, and you literally squat over a whole and do your business right into the water, watching the fish swim around underneath you. For showers you pour a bucket of hopefully fresh but still somewhat orange water over your head. We also saw our host family fishing right by these bathrooms….I stopped eating the fish after that. We had our own one room cane hut with a sand floor and two beds and a hammock, the sunrise streaming into the hut every morning, so beautiful. We were right on the water and heard the waves all night, and the family cooked us three meals a day, rice and fish and some cabbage, pretty basic. We brought pringles con limon and seco so we were alright!

The men wear Western clothing, and the women, once its been five years after their first menstruation, wear these beautiful clothes with bright clashing patterns, head scarves, gold nose rings and short hair. They rock these awesome anklets that are more like leg warmer size that are bright orange and yellow and black beaded patterns. They are beeeeautiful. Aaron said that the men wear traditional clothing only if they “possess knowledge of the Kuna,” like medicine or culture or can do the traditional dancing. Our host family arranged for the teen dance troupe to do a performance for us that was really cool, ages 9 to 15 or so, hopping from one foot to the other and weaving in and out, the boys playing flutes the whole time and just dripping sweat, the ground vibrating beneath our feet with their movements. It was really cool, it felt so tribal and National Geographic. They did dances that represented winning their independence and also one that represented a girl’s first menstruation, which is a huge deal that involves the whole community celebrating, because women are numero uno in the Kuna. Heck yeah!

We took boats out to remote islands, literally the islands they make postcards out of, one was only about the size of two basketball courts end to end, with the brightest white sand, the clearest turquoise waters, bright green palm trees, coral, pelicans diving all around. It was insanely beautiful. There was also an island with a ship wreck which we tried to snorkel to, and were stopped by the presence of three too many jelly fish to make me feel comfortable…didnt want to have to ask anyone to pee on me.

The sunsets were all kinds of gorgeous, and the stars at night were more than I’ve ever seen, being no electricity on the islands and out in the middle of the sea, the galaxies felt so close and we saw so many shooting stars and fireflies and everything smelled good and the waves crashing right at our door. I was so glad we went, I feel so lucky to have been there.

There was even MORE fun on the way back, as there was no one to pick us up after the boat ride to take us back to Panama City! Luckily our hostess had come with us and arranged for her friend, a nice 20 year old named Jonathan who sometimes brings out bananas to the Kuna and has something that resembles a pickup truck, to take us back with him. Only problem being there are three of us, and him, crowded in his truck, which was a stick, Natasha on my lap the entire time, in something approaching 90 degree weather. We were all sticking to each other with sweat, my head out the window, Natasha’s banging on the ceiling, Dana’s legs suspended in the air to stay out of the way of the stick, and Jonathan passing out cold beers that did me more good to just hold against my forehead. Our clothes were soaked with sweat, it rained part of the time, I thought we would fall off the cliffs into the jungle at any moment. But. It was pretty hilarious. The roads were insane, the truck doors were missing their insides, and I lost all feeling in my legs and feet, but we were able to bump the ipod and have some mad Rihanna singalongs. I also spent part of the journey sitting in the bed of the truck, wind whipping my hair into my face and watching the chicken buses and SUVs approach us from behind at alarming rates, soaking in the banana slash trash smell. He was a really funny guy, though. We were all just cracking up, “Only in CenAm….just another thing our parents wouldn’t want us to do! yiiiikes….” But it was pretty fun.

Now we’re back in Panama City, where we’ve checked out the lovely Causeway for a nice evening out and went to the mall to get some stuff for Peru. I bought a highly impractical but very awesome fringed Indian vest that I now wear with everything, since after three and a half months of wearing the same four wife beaters and one Road Trip tshirt, I am a bit sick of my clothes. I also finally found sweat pants for Peru, since its to be rainy and cold while we’re there, and then promptly left my bag in the taxi when we got back to the hostel! I think if my head wasn’t attached, I would have left it somewhere a long time and a long way ago. Like in Belize.

My new camera is amazing and I’ve uploaded some new pics of Panama City and San Blas! We’ve been packing and trying to figure out how we ended up with so much stuff, trying to gather the mental strength for a 17+ hours day of travel tomorrow, getting ready to get back on American soil for five hours, long enough to hear some English, grab some magazines and Starbizzle, and then onto Nazca lines, Macchu Piccu, Miraflores, lost and sacred cities, lakes, indigenous tribes, flamingoes and penguins, waterfalls and beaches in Peru!

Love you miss you wish you were here,

Lombock to the Future (your girl is in indonesia)

me, jeanie, and social partying in panama in 2008! can’t believe it’s been ten years.

Ten years ago I was going through a thing – I was working at an awesome weekly newspaper in my college town, waiting tables, living the dream. I danced downtown Tuesday through Saturday and in drum circles and at sunsets on the beach. I spent the night at my best friends and they spent the night at mine, and we ate 7-11 dinners and spent hours picking out movies at Blockbuster and drank cheap wine and painted what we thought were very profound paintings. I had no idea what I was doing but I was having fun.

I thought I was dating this guy and that my life was amazing, and it turned out he had a girlfriend, my five roomies had been secretly charging me three times the rent they were each paying at our house, and I had a wee quarter-life crisis. I can remember sitting on my favorite beach (Hendry’s) and journaling and writing very clearly – “I studied Spanish and Latin America in college, but I haven’t been past Mexico. I think I should go.”

the hot girls at the hostel

I threw a new status update out on Facebook asking if anyone wanted to join, and two girls who knew me but not each other decided we’d go for it. I sold my Santa Barbara life, bought a second-hand backpack, some Tevas, and pants that zipped off oh-so-sexily into shorts and a map and a copy of Lonely Planet and off we went. It was an adventure of a lifetime. Everything changed in me and for me on those months spent traveling from Guatemala to Peru.

In all those countries, I saw and did and felt things that changed the rest of my life, and part of that was meeting some really cool people. One of those people was Jeanie, who I met on Bocas del Toro, where we kind of accidentally got stranded for a few weeks during Panamanian Independence celebrations and entering ourselves into a beer drinking contest (for AMERICA so it was IMPORTANT). We laughed and danced and we all told each other everything with the heartfelt sincerity that only people in their early twenties can, and Facebook was pretty new but after streaming the election results in an attic we all added each other as friends and have been able to follow each other’s travels around the world since then. And as luck would have it, she’s now living in Indonesia with a spare room. And as luck would have it, I’m living in Hong Kong with two weeks vacation in April and itchy-about-to-turn-34 feet.


sengiggi sunsets

I flew into Denpasar, spent a night in Kuta, waited through several delays to fly to Lombok, then bargained a taxi to Montong, where Jeanie calls home. It was about 24 hours of travel, but I’d already realized it was my first time traveling to a Muslim/Hindu country, Indonesians were the friendliest people I’d ever met, and it was hot.

It was insane to reunite with someone I hadn’t seen or really even spoken to in a decade, but we got on like a house on fire, quickly catching up, meeting her boyfriend, discussing her pregnancy, filling each other in on the happenings that status updates and instagram can’t quite cover.

ideal vacay

It was late but we were all hungry and so hopped on motorbikes to head to a little street cafe nearby. It was my first time on a motorcycle and I felt free and brave and fast until we saw the flashing lights in the distance. As we pulled closer, through the crowds you could make out the mangled bikes and two bodies bleeding on the ground from head wounds, limbs twisted in ways bodies shouldn’t. Further on an SUV was turned on its side.

I clutched Jeanie’s shoulders a little tighter and she reached back a reassuring hand. And I’ve thought about that a lot since that moment. The next day on the beach I met two guys who were cousins and neighbors with the boys killed. They were both 19 and 20, just starting university. They told me they’d been to the first of three services that morning – in their tradition, you bury the dead immediately, and have multiple funerals spaced out for times of grieving. The driver was drunk, and after he hit them, he got out of the car and ran to the police to turn himself in before a crowd could rise up and beat him to death.


My first meal was Nasi Goreng – fried rice (including some veg and some SPICY chili) and a fried egg on top. First of many times I would have this. We talked about life and death and choices and journeys.

The next day I trekked into Sengiggi – what might be a happening beach town in high season but was instead a beach full of guys desperate to sell something. I was offered massages, braids, drugs, sarongs, jewelry. Despite no makeup and zero interest, even showing them my empty wallet, I somehow attracted a crowd of about ten, holding court and helping with English phrases and buying rounds of beer for everyone and signing myself up for a waterfall hike the next day.

everyone is your friend when you buy the beer

I told them I was a teacher – Indonesians are incredibly friendly and curious about your life – and they were all so impressed. “Here a teacher is very respected – she is a second mom. You are very important.” Andy educated me on Indonesian philosophy and the idea of living just one day to the next, feeling your feet in the sand and your hand on a tree as often as possible.

Every single person asked where I was from and burst into “Hotel California” when I told them. We chorused Bob Marley and reggaefied versions of Ed Sheeran songs and watched the sunset. They touched my dimples, telling me “when you have dimples you are wearing Heaven on your face,” which I quite liked.

“Alright, guys, I gotta pay for these beers and I gotta go,” I said. “This is bleeding my heart!” Andy answered. Andy, who earlier told me that we don’t need to know soldiers or guns on this earth if we just know each other, and that when he leads snorkeling tours he says “okay, if you don’t know how to swim, men – grab a life jacket, and women, grab me!”

jamming late night

Jeanie rents a four bedroom apartment – front yard, backyard, yoga studio, for pennies. She shares it with Rina, who works at a hotel and is beautiful. And we spent nights in the hammock, borrowing the neighbors guitar and the boys used an empty water jug as a drum as we sang John Denver (of all things) and Bob Marley (always). Jeanie tried to get me to meditate (I fell asleep), we watched our mutual favorite childhood movie while eating popcorn in bed (‘Anastasia’ still holds up, FYI) and everyone politely ignored how much this foreigner was sweating in the heat.

The next morning came quickly, but Ali picked me up on time, and politely let me snooze in the front seat for the two-something hour drive up to the volcano base where I’d begin my waterfall hike. I only had a few “why do I insist on traveling by myself and going in cars with strangers to far away places” moments as we dodged cows and chickens and dogs and people on the winding roads up to the small shack where a group of barefoot men silently drew straws to see who’d have to accompany me on the journey.

10/10 prefer green to concrete

Luckily the victim was AMAZING even if he was a little handsy towards the end. I wasn’t worried – easily outweighed him by a hundred pounds, and he let me borrow his shoes, AND insisted on putting me through a photo shoot I’m grateful for in the end. One of the sucky things about traveling alone is you’re never in the pics, but Indonesians, like all Asians, I am discovering, are shameless about taking pictures, stopping for thirty minutes to pose over and over again, and coaching each other for the best shots. It’s great.

The waterfalls were beautiful and the rice terraces and rocky paths and little bits of scrambling and fording the river were good for the soul. Just as Andy the philosopher had predicted.

my “i can’t believe you made me go through the cave of DEATH why am i always in caves of DEATH”

The last part of the ‘fun’ was being led through a “river picture hole” (I love the descriptions of things when there is limited English. So vivid.) which turned out to be a water tunnel full of BATS with HOLES in the ground that you couldn’t see because it was a rushing river and in a dark tunnel. Many a bad word might have been said as I clutched the hands of my 90 lbs guide, his flip flops on my feet, sweating for multiple reasons and screaming “WHERE ARE THE HOLES AND AM I GOING TO DROWN” more than once.

On the ride home we went to Monkey Forest, which was just a stop on the side of the road where I was handed some peanuts which I threw at monkeys because you were supposed to feed them one at a time but man are monkeys scary when you get close. Also, rabies?


And I also had the honor of being the first American an old Muslim winemaker had ever met. We pulled off on the side of the road, as my intrepid guide Ali had been promised a new batch of palm and rice wine, and walked into the jungle. Several men were lounging about on the raised bamboo benches that are everywhere for sitting and napping, and I was offered a sort of tour and explanation of how they tap the palm flowers and make the wine. I tasted both out of courtesy and possibly grew some chest hair from the tiny sips I took. We all shared the same cup. Through my translator I was offered either son in marriage (the first of many marriage proposals on this trip) and told I was a healthy looking girl. My birthing hips were eyed meaningfully. I politely declined.

IMG_5288I went back to the office with Ali, watched the boys drink, got a few more offers of marriage, heard a few more choruses of “Hotel California,” and then was escorted to Coco beach for sunset by Ei, who took sneaky pictures of me and got a little handsy during his clumsy attempts at sunset romance. But I was prepared – I had ordered garlic bread with extra garlic at dinner and made obnoxious yawning faces. It seemed to mostly work. He still texts me.

We rented a car the next day and took off to Kuta and some locals only beaches, feeling very self-conscious in our bikinis as Indonesian women are clothed head to toe, even when swimming. We took instaworthy pregnancy announcement photos of Jeanie at my insistence, and floated in the salt-heavy blues, climbing a hill to the edge of the world to watch the sun set. Which is all I ever want to do.

IMG_5157At a roadside stand I learned how to eat some of the spiciest food I’ve ever encountered with my hands. Even rice was eaten by hand! The stand put out little silver bowls of water for us to wash hands in, and you eat everything with your right hand. It was delish. Some of the best fried things there had ever been.

And now I’m on my own in the Gili islands, renting little bungalows and trying to not let the voices in my head get too loud and fending off all the Donald Trump jokes and trying not too feel too old or out of place among all the backpackers.

If you haven’t heard it yet today and you need to, you can talk to me about it. I’m alone and nearly lonely. And also you are worthy and valuable and important and I have listening skills and a heart for you.


Gringa Diaries: It’s the End of the World and I knowed it.

Captain’s Log, Day 10: Currently 36 degrees F and wiiiiiindy, battling a chest cold, have walked among PENGUINS!, seen the end of the world by road and am now sailing towards a stormy grey curtain that hides the rest of it. Yup. Antartica.

up with the sun....i was up at 4:30am on penguin day - too excited to sleep!!!!
up with the sun….i was up at 4:30am on penguin day – too excited to sleep!!!!

In crazy news, a 7.7 earthquake hit the coast of Chile, in fact hitting the town Chiloe where we had docked and had a lovely tour. The captain scared us a bit with the announcement over the intercom, saying there was a possibility of tsunami warnings, but that he would keep us informed. We didn’t even feel a difference in the swells, thank God, and the town reported no deaths, but it was a panicky few hours.

Christmas Eve and Christmas Day were lovely – we joined a lot of people for a roaring piano bar singalong, hearing ‘O Tannenbaum’ in native tongue and missing my family and texting my mom that I promised to be home for Christmas next year. I’ve missed three of the last five, and five of the last five Thanksgivings. Oops. Bad daughter.

Then the international ship crew performed in both English and their native languages – so earnestly and beautifully that I was moved to tears. And for the first time in my life, I attended a Christmas Eve mass. The Irish accent of the priest made it even more interesting. The next morning Gma and I had breakfast in our bathrobes and mimosas and watched Downton Abbey pretty much all day.


We had two days of scenic sailing – this included a HUGE glacier right outside our window, ice so cold and so blue it took your breath away to look at it, a few shipwrecks that I wished we’d just sail right on past, and some of the cutest lighthouses you ever did see. At one point we sailed between a red and green marker that designated the shallowest part of our journey – only 2 meters between the bottom of our ship and the bottom of the ocean. Over the intercom, they asked us to all jump on the count of three to lighten the ship so we’d make it through.

And then we arrived at Puerto Arenas, where we would have our penguin encounter. We were in the Strait of Magellan, and all I could think about was a report we did in sixth grade I think, about world explorers, where we cut out bodies on butcher paper and drew all these Spanish and Portuguese men and listed facts about their journeys. And then I thought about how I studied Spanish for so many years and then majored in Latin American politics and in Spanish in college and have known all these names and places for so long, and now I was finally here. It’s like being in a dream.


We took a two hour ferry ride out to the island, which is a protected reserve, where about 100,000 penguins come every year to have their babies. We pulled into the beach and looked out and there it was. A tiny glimpse of heaven. Thousands of tuxedoed waddling angels, swimming in the surf, shielding their floofy chicks from the wind. Moms were anxiously cleaning their babies and some of them had a look like “Mom STOP people are taking PICTURES.” It was funny to see how interspecies some behaviors are.

he wants a hug, don't you think? I think he wants a hug!
he wants a hug, don’t you think? I think he wants a hug!

You could hear the babies “cheep cheep” and I saw a parent penguin waddle up the shore to feed their children. There was a mile stretch to walk around, each penguin cuter than the last. Because we don’t look like leopard seals, they were completely unafraid of us. I managed several animal selfies and thought longingly of the space I had cleared out in my backpack to bring one penguinito home, but in the end resisted even touching the floofiness. They were so cute I cried a little. It was simply magical. I kept wanting to sing “It’s a jolly ‘oliday with Marrrryyyy” and see if any of them would tap-dance with me. Mag ic al.

We had another long sailing day, navigating Chilean Fjords and you can’t help but wonder how anyone could have survived this voyage on wooden ships without modern navigation. Several times along this trip we pass small towns and pilot boats have to come out and guide our captain through the shoals and impending doom. How did they even know where they were going? All the ancient maps have spaces for sea serpents on them. Why would you even go?! I have so many questions.

Our next stop was Ushuaia, commonly known as the end of the world. It felt lika very appropriate place to be as 2016 comes to a close . . . 2017 has to be better, right? The bar has been set so incredibly low . . .

Ushuaia and the Tierra del Fuego park hold the end of any driven road, marking the final stop of the Pan-American Highway, which I’ve crissed and crossed a few times on my journeys through the Americas. It was super cool to take a picture next to the sign, and then walk farther beyond it, to actually reach the last step of any marked path. Tierra del Fuego is beautiful – the land is marked with lakes and rivers, peat bogs and hikers on treks of a lifetime. We drank a Beagle Channel IPA and bought overpriced souvenirs and Gma flirted with our tour guide, Coco. I resisted the urge to tell him what his name means in Portuguese. He was too cute. I’ve been very impressed with all our guides so far, and it’s nice to hear so much Spanish again. There are four Brazilians onboard that I’ve overheard and I’m tempted to make friends. I miss Rio.

"mom im fine"
“mom im fine”

Ushuaia was populated by Argentine prisoners, and used to be a much more bustling port in the pre-Panama Canal days. Now it marks the last stop before Antarctica and a doorway into Tierra del Fuego and Torres del Pines, which were VERY impressive. We saw a boat at the dock that only holds 11 people, 22 crew, 2 submarines, and a helicopter to do intense exploring of Antarctica. How incredible would that be?

Sometime this morning the captain congratulated us over the PA – we are now part of an elite group of people who have successfully navigated Cape Horn and entered the Drake Passage! Woo! Despite promising that we are in very good weather for the crossing, this feels like a lot of rocking and rolling to me. I keep thinking I’ll get back to the room and see everything knocked to the floor, but no.

Our next six days are just sailing . . . and sailing . . . and sailing. We’re going to Antarctica! We won’t be able to actually get out and touch it, but we’ll be receiving some scientists from the Palmer station to tell us about their work, checking out the old whaling and sealing and wreck sites. There will be plenty of daylight to do so – about 19 hours a day.

The water is so blue here I wish I could bottle it up and send you some. It has to be seen to be believed. And so much sky! I can walk the perimeter of the ship and see nothing but blue on blue. Not a ship or piece of land in sight. Lots of little birds I find myself worrying about for no reason – where do they sleep at night?! We’re so far from land! I’d love an albatross to perch on my verandah because I have a great riddle about albatrosses I love torturing people with. I’d love that for about five seconds. And then I’d freak out.

our journey....we are at the bottom bit. Next land will be in six days - Faulkland Islands!
our journey….we are at the bottom bit. Next land will be in six days – Faulkland Islands!

I’m so glad we have a nice window to look out of, because I’ve infected with whatever lovely virus the rest of the ship seems to be passing around. But luckily, the ship broadcasts the lectures about penguins, whales, and the age of Antarctic exploration into the stateroom televisions, so now I can nerd out and feel very informed about Deception Island and the wildlife we (hopefully) will see lots of as we get closer. This knowledge will be an upgrade from how much I keep quoting “Finding Nemo.”

Last night I made best friends with a couple from Austria who fled to New Jersey during Hitler’s rise and have lived there since, and have a son living in Berkeley. You can imagine the conversations we had. We shared life stories – I asked how they met (they worked in the same factory and he loved her at first sight, asking for marriage after only a month. She said no, but then they wrote letters for a year and a half, and he won her over with his honesty and desire to work hard for good things in life. “And he was and is SO handsome!” I now know what ‘mooning at someone’ looks like. They’re 80.), they challenged my Christian faith and the lack of practical and straightforward sex education from the church, laughed at my small jokes and called me “a character, a genuine character.”

I told them about the time I spent in Austria during my post-college graduation tour, how we skinny dipped everywhere we could across Europe, but couldn’t find anywhere to do so in Austria. We did however manage to find the only bar in the small ski town we were staying in, and it was called Hotel California, and I used a credit card for the first time and ordered drinks for all my friends. They wrote down their phone number and address on a piece of paper and said I could come visit anytime. Hans said I had to keep in touch, because he had already started worrying about me.

e20fcb0bae741e18d22dffbb2ee9a866The ship feels cozier and smaller with each new friend I make.

If you haven’t heard it yet and you need to today, and if indeed this is the end of the world as we know it, I’m glad I know you.

Hugs and kisses and penguins,




I’ve been taking lots of pictures on my nice camera, which I will upload January 17th when I’m home in Rio, and just a few on my phone to upload so mom knows I’m alive. The internet is 75 cents a minute, so I’m writing this whole blog out in MS Word first and then copying it over, counting the seconds I allow myself to use it. It’s probably for the best I can’t constantly post about this adventure. I’d flood your newsfeed and you’d hate me. And it’s making me spend a lot of time looking up and out and forward.

Texting isn’t working, but if you comment on my blog post on Facebook, that’s about all I’m able to check at this point. And hey, like the Facebook page for the blog or subscribe to it if you want. Consider it a priceless, eternal Christmas present from you to me.



Single Challenge

me and brians wedding
now, if I WERE married to this wonderful gentleman, then I would be all over the spouse challenge…alas…

You may have seen these Facebook “challenges” circulating – people ‘daring’ each other to celebrate their spouses or their children, then tag other people. It’s a subtle way to validate what most people are already doing; posting really cute pictures and adorable stories, bragging a little about the awesome husband they have and the cherubic children they’re raising.

Don’t get me wrong – I think marriage is something we need to celebrate and encourage when it’s good. And support when things get rough. I also think kids are great. I’m a teacher, so I know they’re also annoying and tyrants and have a lot of unpredictable body fluids. And in today’s world that’s constantly challenging the line between adult and child, parent and friend, right and wrong, it’s even harder to raise them well. But kids are pretty dang special. And pretty great.

beyonce-single-ladiesYou know what else is great? Being single. So you know what? I want to celebrate it. Not to disrespect your marriage or parent posts. But simply to join the conversation.

I’ve been blogging for 10 years now. During that time, here, on my blog, and earlier on xanga and Myspace (egads, totally dating myself there), I’ve been in and out of relationships, explored and explained the intricacies and downfalls and hilarity of online dating, speed dating, blind dates, and break-ups.

As a 32 year old, my singleness is a defining factor in my life for a variety of reasons. Sometimes those reasons bum me out – people say something insensitive, I have to check a box on a government form, another ex gets married and I feel inadequate, a cat looks at me the wrong way, etc. Maybe as a friend, you see my singleness as a struggle and get worried about me. Sometimes you should be genuinely worried – sometimes I’m crying my brains out and eating anything that doesn’t move first and drinking everything Jesus turned into wine and I can’t be reasoned with and everything is the worst and I totally need an intervention in those moments.

But I’m learning how, and trying to, and challenging all my fellow singles to celebrate our time. It is worthy. We do good things. We are important. We keep learning and improving. We keep the world spinning in a variety of unnoticed ways and in this moment, I want to join the narrative of celebrating life moments. All too often I fall into or am dragged into the pit of self-pity but you know what? If you look for the good in things, you will find it.

So here we go – The Singles Challenge.

me snorkelingHere’s a shout out to all of us working hard, playing hard, traveling well, volunteering, learning something new, having the time to be awake and aware and participate.

Here’s to going extra miles on behalf of coworkers who have family obligations (or simply being assigned things without notice and against our will because “well, you don’t have a family to get home to,” and taking the implicit judgment that your life circumstances don’t matter because you are single like a champ).

Here’s to napping when we want, and often. Cheers to pampering ourselves, being available for spontaneous vacations, taking selfies because we have to because we are there alone. Or because we want to, because we’re hot. And the world should know.

Here’s to doing a n y t h i n g we want without asking anyone else about it. To saying ‘yes’ and to saying ‘no’ when we want. To staying in, to going out. Here’s to Sunday Fundays, buying silly costumes, staying up late, waking up early, peeing with the door open, washing sheets once a whenever, and handling the toothpaste tube and the toilet paper roll as you will.

me jill leana weddingI applaud all of us that dedicate so much money and time to make engagements and weddings a beautiful time for our friends and family, sometimes when it’s painful because that moment and that love is what we want for ourselves so badly. I applaud all of us attending a zillion engagement parties/bachelorette weekends/wedding showers/weddings/baby showers without expecting anything in return.

one of my boos
one of my boos

Shout out to those of us that are happily being aunties and uncles to all our surrounding babies, who babysit, who encourage parents to take a date night, who go over for family dinners, who meet up in the park to push swings.

good good.
good good.

Here’s to being really really good friends to all our friends who are partnered or parenting or divorcing or widowing. To always being available with open arms for that first weekend after a break-up, always taking the late night call, and saying “of course, I’ll pick you up.” To having an open couch, ears to listen, to pouring wine and ordering pizzas and passing the ice cream carton back and forth, to choosing the Netflix when y’all are beyond decisions and letting you know we are not passing judgment. To quietly accepting when y’all get back together or find someone new and we’re still just the single friend.

me elf buddy shirt christmasHere’s to hosting ‘orphan’ holiday parties for other like-minded singles who can’t or aren’t able to get to wherever home is, and providing a safe haven from the “so, are you seeing anyone?” questions that slowly destroy every family gathering.

Here’s to setting the temperature where WE want it. And a bed to ourselves. And the correct arrangement of pillows. And zero shame when we put in our mouth guard.

my little darling.
my little darling. Ke$ha.

Yo, my Singles – cheers to accidentally killing plants and beta fish due to long periods of travel, to calling ourselves “parents” of fur babies, to wondering if and when we will get to parent the real deal. Wondering if we should, since we’ve let cactii die. CACTII.

Here’s to surviving long family parties with random relatives extolling the virtues of marriage and raising children. And here’s to sitting through every church Sunday story about spouses and kids that you can’t relate to, watching a million tv shows and movies, reading a million books, and listening to a million songs that tell us the pinnacle of really living is being in love, legalizing that love, procreating that love.

me mericaHigh five to us, living whatever dream we’re in, and embracing the concept of being a whole person even if we don’t have a partner, even if we don’t have kids when most people are expecting that we should. Even if we’ve decided that lifestyle is not for us, or we’re careering first, or traveling first, or just want to sleep more.

Salud to the books we’ve read, the dating profiles we’ve filled out, the wide nets we’ve cast, the moments of vulnerability. To joining adult kickball leagues, volunteering, subtly soliciting your mom’s friends for blind dates, and looking up old high school classmates.

Hugs to all of us when it hurts to be single, and when it’s lonely, and Adele on the radio while browsing social media is the toxic cocktail that can bring you down.

Let’s keep walking, head held high, trusting the unknown even if you *do* really want marriage and 2.5 kids and a wildly successful instagram account of your rescue pugs/baby goats farm (I may be projecting a little bit here).

So here’s been some me single. Heres when its fun or silly. And here’s other fabulous single people. It looks good, doesn’t it? Yes, it does. Yes, it does. Because it is.

Selfie on, my singles. Single on, my singles. Live all the life, my singles. Do you.

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.

RinR: Thanks and Thoughts and Things

Trying to take one of those "I'm a white girl, so I Instagram throwing leaves at myself in Fall after drinking a pumpkin spice latte" pictures. Am I doing it right? - from my former life in North Carolina, 2014
Trying to take one of those “I’m a white girl, so I Instagram throwing leaves at myself in Fall after drinking a pumpkin spice latte” pictures. Am I doing it right? – from my former life in North Carolina, 2014

I love Thanksgiving. I love looking on facebook and instagram and seeing everyone get mushy about those they love, and taking a solid timeout from the angry-elfness that seems to be infecting the interwebs lately. I love the family photos and the crafty decorations and people dressing up their turkeys in bacon blankets and all of America is just like “ELASTIC WAISTBANDS LETS GO LETS DO THIS WE ARE EATING ANYTHING THAT DOESNT MOVE TODAY.”

i just love this thing.
i just love this thing.

When you live abroad, there is a strangeness that comes with country-specific holidays. You realize how much weather matters – to not be in boots and scarves and sweaters at this time of year makes Thanksgiving feel a little unreal. I spent last Christmas on the beach and it was 110 degrees and that was WEIRD.

The actual day I had to work, of course, but our kitchen staff served turkey and mashed potatoes and wee apple pies and I was so happy. I facetimed some family and friends that night – I’m six hours ahead of California at the moment, so it’s hard to keep much in touch, but we manage. Bless and curse you, group text messages.

I’ve spent Thanksgiving in an Irish pub in Virginia, cooking for 50 people in a hostel in Panama, and this was my second one in Brazil. We threw a massive party yesterday, and a ton of our Brazilian peeps came for their first Thanksgiving for a ton of food and a great time. I aggressively took pictures of people holding up signs and posing with props. And then my dreams came true when we plugged in my karaoke machine and sang for FIVE HOURS!!!! When we started, people were, as always when you bust out karaoke, a little ambivalent.

my faves
my faves

Thirty minutes later and the grown-ups are having to pry the mics from the hands of the tweens and vice-versa. Roomie and I did a killer rendition of “Like a Prayer,” “Single Ladies” was a crowd-pleaser, and then all the adults kept cringing as the children would start singing a song and we’d get excited for the titles and then one chorus in, we’d all realize just how suggestive or outright sexual most pop songs are and have to lunge for the “skip” button.


For one reason or another, about half of the crowd left before karaoke and the group photo. But it’s fine. We see a lot of each other – we work together, we play together, we love each other many days of the week. It’s real living in community, for better or for worse. I am very very hashtag blessed and grateful for the people in my life and my job. You teach for the students, but they will drive you crazy and their parents are in their passenger seat. And only the people you work with are able to understand and hug you (way too often and for far too long, you silly Brazilians) and make you laugh through it.

(insert pomp and circumstance)
(insert pomp and circumstance)

This week was eventful. I had my “graduation ceremony” slash party from the Portuguese class I was in that basically stopped meeting last May. But we got certificates and there was applause. Afterwards, the company sponsored – wait, wait, I need to say that we had chicken fingers that tasted like I was in like a Chili’s and I was so happy – they sponsored 1.5 hours of bowling! In this really fancy bowling place! We had beers and were pretend competitive and it was the most American thing I’ve done in a while. It was hilarious.


I also went to my first bar in Brazil (dance clubs don’t count). It was a friend’s birthday and we even met like a D-list celebrity – someone from Brazilian Idol? He touched my back so I’m now like an E-list celeb. It was a super fun night out. Brazilians love taking pictures, so it is well documented.

I went to the beach and got a sunburn today. The sunburn is on my armpit blobs – the chunky bits that wobble about and you find your eyes drawn to in every photo. I’ve always been super self-conscious about my armpits. What a ridiculous thing to think about, right? But we all have our insecurities. Anyway I could easily have an hour-long conversation with you about my armpit woes if you need a pick-me-up one day. Keep that in your back pocket.

im busy awkwardly posing with pumpkins! not ready to settle! not one bit!
im busy awkwardly posing with pumpkins! not ready to settle! not one bit!
follow @kismetoreo for the adventure of a lifetime.
follow @kismetoreo for the adventure of a lifetime.

On actual Thanksgiving day, my boss emailed me my teaching contract and official offer to extend. I have to decide Tuesday if I am a yes/no/maybe for another year in Brazil. After such a glorious week here, how could I possibly say no? And yet, my mom has started an instagram account for the dog. (and it’s amazing) I’m genuinely worried for the woman. She really needs a grandchild. Who am I to deny her this by continuing to frolic untethered with my delicate unprotected armpits on South American beaches?


But I also think God is big enough to find me a husband and a financially viable future and a desire to be responsible and settle down and make an appointment to see a dentist no matter what landscape I run to next. If that’s what I’m supposed to be doing. Who knows. It’s hard to focus on your future when your armpit blobs and also your back are sunburned because you’re too single to get sunscreen there. Womp womp. So single much upset.

Ha I’m just kidding. I mean, I am sunburned, but how can I be mad about falling asleep by myself with my ipod blaring Amy Grant on a beach in Brazil when it’s 95 degrees out in pre-Christmas month? It was glorious, I tell you. GLORIOUS.

lucky socks!
lucky socks!

Happy Thanksgiving. Happy every moment before and after Christmas and in between.

And if you need to hear it and you haven’t yet today…I’d duet to “Turn Around Bright Eyes” with you so hard.

Here’s my video of the day:

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.

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.

Carolina Diaries: Finding a New Home

Totes lived with a girl like this in college.  (Photo credit: naraekim0801)

Anyone who has ever used Craigslist to find a new roommate or a new place to live knows that it’s a crapshoot. Once someone came to our interview saying she was really glad I had laundry machines, because “I just hate having to go to laundromats, because then all your clothes smell like a Mexican.”


With trepidation, I began pouring over the ads here in North Carolina. And people are indeed CRAZY. One place was covered in filth, including a dead cockroach on the floor, and laundry all over the living room. One girl was verrrry mellow….I think her recent ACL surgery and all the meds that come with it made for a pretty lowkey girl. She was kind – texted me before I came that she hadn’t showered in a week, so don’t judge – but the area was just a little sketch. There were also a few places my mom refused to get out of the car for, so…there was that. :)

my new place!!! <3
my new place!!! <3

But I found a delightful little spot in kinda-far-from-everything Durham (and sadly twenty minute drive from boyfriend)….the kind of place straight out of “The Notebook.” Kids get off the bus and run home, everyone waves at you from the car, wraparound decks, sweet tea and porch swings, and fireflies at night (for which I have specially purchased the ubiquitous mason jar, all the better to collect you with!).

My roommates are a 29 year old female nurse who seems bright and friendly, and an older man of indiscriminate age; a lawyer slash actor (my Gma said “isn’t that the same thing?”) who won me over with his enthusiasm for Shakespeare and composting.

My other two roommates are cats. Here is a video demonstrating Me and my ineptitude with the cats.

I believe the Lord sent me to this house to prove to me that I don’t like cats. There’s your wet food, the scratching at my window screens at night to let you in, the sneaking up on me with your silent paws. There’s the hair I find in the coffee grounds in the AM or in my wine at night. There’s worrying about you at night when you don’t come home, wondering what you’re thinking, and why you only want to be petted while I’m peeing.

These are fun to get.
These are fun to get.

But I love my neighborhood, and I get my own sweet room, light grey with white trim…and tons of wall holes graciously left by previous tenant (along with clumps of her weave and, I kid you not, a TOENAIL.) I have a huge walk-in closet AND, the one thing any girl ever wants, my own bathroom. :) There is nothing like being able to do your makeup, read US Weekly on the toilet, or curl your hair in absolute peace. I have to go upstairs and share the shower space with the male….but its relatively clean, and whenever I think to be bothered, I remember all the times I showered with cockroaches or crabs in Belize, or with a bucket over the ocean Panama, or in a lake that also served as a community toilet in Guatemala, and I am grateful for the occasional hair and moldy shower mat. Things I can deal with.

What can I say. I like trees.
What can I say. I like trees.

I’ve started decorating my room…a bed, lovely sheets, hung up my tree and lit candles of sage and lemongrass. And I’m just nesting. I sleep in, take long walks to the lake, read books, send off job applications, and eat a lot. Ross is pretty busy with school, I haven’t done much to make friends, and I can’t leave the house without using Siri to tell me where to go. It’s terrifying and I’ve cried almost every day, but I know that I will get to the good part soon. Until then, everyone in Durham is so friendly and in awe of the long drive I took for love to get here and I get a lot of “Weeeellcommmme!!! Gawd BLESS Youuuuu!” (everything has more syllables in North Carolina) from every sweet lady I meet.

Thanks to all those who have been so encouraging with the texts and thoughts and prayers and things. It is felt with more emotion than I can admit.


A Survival Guide for Appearing on Reality TV

eh. over you.

Disclaimer: I am fully cognizant that there is nothing of value in watching shows like “The Bachelor,” however…I thoroughly embrace this zero-calorie eye-candy entertainment. This season was a bit of a downer. As the tabloids and the downward spiral of the last few episodes suggested, Ben did what all of America still hoped against hope he would not: he proposed to the woman we all loved to hate, Courtney.

When faced with host Chris Harrison’s questions about her words and actions on the show, Courtney complained that for lack of a manual on how to behave on the “Bachelor,” the show simply brought out the worst in her. Clearly, it is everyone else’s fault but her own that she behaved so terribly, because all other contestants got a manual on basic human interaction that Courtney did not.

Oh wait…no…no they didn’t? Hm. Weird.

Every tear she squeezed out seemed like a contrived attempt at damage control. Sorry, darling, days late and dollars short. We just can’t bring ourselves to like you. I definitely feel sorry for you…but I can’t like you beyond your entertainment value.

There is no manual on how to act on reality television. Mostly because one would hope that merely interacting with other humans in day to day life would help you know what to do in social situations…but for some, “living” is not explicit instruction enough. So, for Courtney and dozens of other clueless “reality stars” who “never thought it would be this hard” and can’t understand why America is disgusted with them (entire cast of “Jersey Shore,” “Housewives” of Anywhere, “Dance Moms,” etc.), I offer this survival guide:

Realize you’re on television! I know, I know, this seems obvious. BUT there always seems to be people who, despite having signed up to be on the show on their own free will, act like such morons that they must be in denial of the cameras recording It can and will all be used against you FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE. Everyone you know and don’t yet know will see it. Your mom, your grandma, your neighbors, your current and future bosses, the little kids you babysat, etc. Pull yourself together and behave!

Everything I’m about to say after this should fall under “realize you’re on television.” But as a junior high teacher, I’ve realized it’s important to be specific. So here goes:


Keep your clothes on – As one who has traveled much and loves a good group skinny dip, I understand the thrill of a nude swim in an exotic ocean. BUT because she did it on TV, Courtney will forever be remembered as “that girl on Bachelor who went skinny-dipping? And showed her girls to a tribe of indigenous people off the coast of Panama?” Ben may have fallen for your little “nightcap” trick, but millions of people will never forget the image of you two stripping down to your birthday suits the third week of your acquaintance.

Don’t swear – Too many bad words speaks to a lack of a developed vocabulary. As I get older, I realize that F-bombs sound terrible coming out of the mouth of something so adorable as Kacie B in her limo confession. I know she was upset, but too many swear words just makes you sound immature.

Drink water – When I auditioned for “Real World,” cocktail waitresses were prowling the audition lines with shots at 10am, trying to get us to booze up and be ridiculous. On a show like “Bach,” those girls are bowing to Bacchus all the time. I see purple teeth and the drunk bathroom cries (hello, psycho blogger Jenna!) and think – “homegirls, you must pace yo self.” Ain’t no shame in pouring water into that wine glass and passing it off as pinot grigio…but please, keep your composure!

Make friends – Ben’s sister Julia asked if any contestants brought drama to the house or weren’t friends with the other women, because that would be, and I quote, a HUGE RED FLAG. I’m not sure why men don’t pick up on this kind of flag. Guys – do you really want to marry a woman who has no friends but other men? Will she get along with your mom, sister, aunts, grandma? No! And when you piss her off, you want her running to other guys for comfort? Again, NO! Stay away from women who think having only guys friends is cool.

Realize what show you’re on – Everyone always acts so surprised when the rejected suitor comes back for one last chance, or their one-on-one date forces them to face their greatest fear (sharks/heights/caves/yarn etc). These shows all follow a formula, and I hope you have done your research before auditioning for it. As for my application, I would say my greatest fear was something I was good at, like….eating ice cream or napping. I would never mention “I am deathly afraid of birds and can’t say the word “animal” correctly.”

Warn your family – I LOVED Kacie’s family and how old school they were. But they may have cost her Ben. While it may have been disappointing for her then, now we’re all agreeing that she dodged a shady bullet of cheating when Ben let her go. Kacie’s Dad was a sober conservative, and made no secret of his old-timey ways (which I love) to Ben, the wild winemaker. But if I were Kacie B, I would have definitely set out a list of “you may not say this if I make it to hometown” to secure that date for myself.

Get a stylist/makeup tutorial/nails done/hair did – You’re on TELEVISION. Invest in Spanx and a mascara that doesn’t run. Invest in a comb. Get some nice clothes and test them in bright lights. Learn how to walk properly in those high heels. Get a spray tan. You’re appearing in front of millions every night. Make it count.

Practice your laugh/cry/exit speech – I will never forget Courtney’s cackle, or Kacie B’s F-bomb exit, or that one nameless girl who shrieked like a banshee over leaving when it was revealed that she actually had a boyfriend back home. We’ve seen ugly cries, heard crazy laughs, and witnessed terrible limo confessions. Note – these are things to work over in a mirror before you get on the show and release them to the public, who will inevitably turn it into an auto tuned Youtube of hilarity.

So those are my tips. You are now free to audition to whatever bad idea you want. Me? I’m waiting these two months to watch Emily’s sure to be sickeningly sweet season of “Bachelorette.”

And practicing my limo confessions in the mirror.

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