Friday, November 21, 2008

Deep Bowls

What do you think of when you hear the words "college food"? Instant mac n' cheese? Ramen noodles? Hot Pockets? Burgers? Pizza? Chances are, it's some combination of cheap white bread, dairy, and low-quality meat, decorated with regular pints of ice cream, half-racks of piss-cheap beer, and lots of chips and candy for "study snacks". At least, this seems to be the dietary schedule of the kids here at Oregon State, and I have a feeling it's not too different from that of other universities around the country. This was emphasized for me the other day when I was in Albertsons (for I believe the first time ever) with a friend and they did their "shopping for the week": a package of bagels, a block of cream cheese, a bag of hot dog buns, and a pack of 8 hot dogs. What more could anyone need?
I meanwhile walked around the endless aisles of pre-packaged food reading one label after another, getting more and more appalled at the things that are allowed to be in our food. The Albertsons employees were giving me very nasty looks indeed by the time I made my way out of there with a single apple in my hand, grumbling about the amount of shit food in their store. Sorry, guys. I get emotional over food. 

Actually, I get really emotional over food. I might even say I get obsessive over food (good food of course) and often wake up in the middle of the night or early in the morning with an idea for a meal in my head, and I'll scramble to write it down before I lose it. Mostly the things I crave are simple: white bean and kale soup, roasted chicken with corn muffins and broiled asparagus, crustless smoked salmon quiche, pupusas, pumpkin teff pancakes with walnuts, roasted chestnuts.
 The last one struck me particularly hard the other day, and I decided that if I couldn't get roasted chestnuts in a little newspaper baggie from the streets of Paris like I did last year (the first time I had ever had them, mind you), I would have to make my own. So I did, and in the process of doing so learned that they are so painfully easy to make (and so effing good) that I might have to be making them all winter! I was very pleased with how they turned out, even in my little dorm kitchen on my electric stove, but peeling them was still a bitch - I hear you have to do it when they're still hot, but I pretty much failed at that part.  
Another one of my recent massive cravings has been purple kale. At the co-op they have GIANT bunches of it for $1.99, so each week I end up with a massive amount of kale that I don't know what to do with. Last week I had a kale, roasted chicken, pumpkin seed, oil and vinegar salad with buttercup squash for lunch. That was delicious. This week I decided to do a little experiment with what I'm calling my "college soup" where I took all the bits of leftovers from my week (a cup or two of jasmine rice, some leftover cooked beans, a handful of baby carrots, green beans, pickled ginger) and threw it all into a pot with large amounts of kale, water and whatever spices I had. I tried to think like Louise when she cooks, and follow the culinary doctrine of "It's done when it's done." Does it taste done? Then it is done. If not, keep cooking. Simple for her at least. If you've ever tasted Louise's cooking, you know that she gets it right every time. I may not have the Louise Touch (a very rare one indeed), but my first souping experiment last night went pretty damn well if I do say so myself. 

While most of the kids in my dorm have stopped asking me "What are you making?" every time they pass me with my complex cooking accoutrement, I still get the occasional curious person. Usually as soon as I say "kale" or "squash" or "quinoa" (that one really gets a lot of good looks) their face turns kind of pale-ish and they nod and walk away. It's really too bad. They're missing out on a lot of good food we have available so close to campus. I find it amazing that in such a developed and rich farming community like Corvallis the dining services import the majority of their food from other places around the US and abroad. It's too bad, cause I can only eat so much purple kale - just imagine if we got the whole campus to eat it! My my, that will be the day. As for now I'll stick with my roasted chestnuts and College kale soup...

Saturday, November 15, 2008

On Fiddles

Fiddles make my feet hurt. They make my hands sweat and my legs burn. They really get me going. I've recently had a lot of fiddling in my life suddenly, and it's absolutely amazing. 

Last Tuesday (a week after our new nation, America Jr., was born!) I drove an hour south with my friend Tyler to good 'ole Eugene, Oregun for an Old Crow Medicine Show concert. We stopped by at a friend Colin's house and the three of us sat in the living room talking about Indian art, fermented food, and the glories of Trader Joe's frozen food while we waited for the time to pass so we could walk to the theater. Our conversation was punctuated by shots of whiskey and one bluegrass song after another to get us in the mood before the show. 
We arrived at the Mcdonald theater with just enough time to shove each other through to the front of the crowd just as Ketch Secor started fiddling the first tune. With my Frye boots on and a fair amount of Seagrams in my system (for what would American roots-music be without cheap whiskey?) I was an unstoppable jigging force. I jigged until I could jig no more. I jigged through the slow songs, the fast songs, the super fast songs, and pretty much all the way back to Colin's house at the end of the show. And goddamn it felt good! Just to let go a little bit, to remember how it feels to be a fool and not care what the people around me are thinking - it felt damn good. 
It's really quite therapeutic, in fact I think they should start prescribing "unabashed dancing/jigging" as a remedy for various emotional and psychological problems. I'm obviously ready to be a trusted medical authority...

I've also found that jigging is a great pick-me-up during lonely times in my dorm room when I am faced once again with the startling fact that I live in Corn Valley, OR and that most of the people here think I'm a complete freak for not even wanting to go to frat parties and also not owning a hair-straightener. I mean really, that alone is enough to expel me from the OSU female population.

Lately I've talked with a few people who ask me incredulously: "Well, you're not going to stay there, are you? I mean, you'll probably switch schools, right?"
And my answer is always: "No, I don't think so. I just have to find my people yet." Which at this point I truly believe. The way I see it now the liberal "people-like-me" (we'll call them the Jiggers) are just harder to find in Corvallis, less-obvious than in the pachouli-infested city of Eugene, and much more stubborn than other liberal populations. The Jiggers of Corn Valley will not be driven away by the seemingly endless stream of beef-necked frat boys and workoutaholic makeup-caked girls parading up and down Monroe avenue every Friday and Saturday night, nor will we be frightened away by the assemblage of tail-gaters that take over the entire town every two weeks for "GAME DAY". 

Yes, I do believe there's a Jigger population that's waiting for me here in Corn Valley, and though it may take quite some time for me to discover it, I have a feeling it will be worth the wait. Plus as long as there's enough space for me to jig in my dorm room, I think I'll survive the rest of the year just fine. And by the way, you should ALL check out Old Crow Medicine Show...maybe also invest in a good pair of stompin' boots and a bottle of cheap whiskey if you really want to get in the spirit. I highly recommend it. 
Happy jigging,

Monday, November 3, 2008

Animal Crackers

     Today, all day, I have felt as if I'm about to jump out of an airplane. It's kind of a low, uncomfortable hum in my gut, but I can't quite tell if it's good or bad; if my stomach is anticipating an endless fall or a successful and ultimately miraculous ride. Is there a parachute on my back or just a big, red, balding republican party, ready to hang on for the ride and watch me, the young enthusiastic democrat fall to my end? Because really, it feels like riding an emotional roller coaster from one minute to the next, red and blue gradually taking over my vision, thoughts of defeat and utter emotional disappointment moving in and out of my head between feelings of absolute joy and excitement at what could happen tomorrow night. It's exhausting. I'm exhausted with it, we're all exhausted with it, and I am so happy (am I?) that tomorrow night it will be over. Or rather, tomorrow night it will hopefully begin. But I'm ready to be done with this election, if only so we can stop checking the polls like they're our own heart monitors, sleep full nights again, and go one day without reading another online article about how McCain really can make a comeback, or how there is just no way Obama can't win. Jesus. If nothing else, it's bad for our health. 

There is too much to say about tomorrow night, so maybe I just won't. I've written this entry about 4 times now and don't have the energy to re-write it all over again. We all know how big this is. If there's anyone who doesn't know, you should call them and let them know that Hellen Keller wants her disabilities back. 

It is pretty amazing to me that we (as a country, as a party, as a strange and troubled group of people) get to gather tomorrow and watch it all go down. I am so excited at what could happen; at what the implications will be if we can do it, and what that will mean for the next step. I think we're ready for it, I really do.

Assuming some of you faceless blog-readers of mine (if there are in fact any remaining) have been feeling this same alternating sense of dread and elation all day, all week, all month, or even all year (a feeling that I envision is somewhat akin to what menopause must feel like...), let me tell you my solution to this pre-election anxiety: reading Groucho Marx letters. Ok,so maybe it's not a solution per se, but it's at least 15 minutes out of my day spent away from polls and red or blue colored articles. I guess I find solace in people who take very little seriously and know unwaveringly that we will continue on, that we are intrepid, and that laughter is a cure for most things, with the possible exception of menopause.
Que viva el azul.

Friday, October 17, 2008


Sitting on the ground peeling garlic in my Carhartt overalls, an October sun casting surprisingly warm evening light over the farm and surrounding Oregon hills, I listened intently as James described his favorite way to butcher a lamb. He used fancy terms like "loin roast", "riblets" and "square cut shoulder", and told us about working in New York with some of the most famous charcutiers and salumists (people who view meat as not only a food source, but as an art, a passion, a religion and a way of life) in the world. He described to us a culinary "school" he attended in Greenwich Village in the 80s where they would concoct a huge feast and sit down for 4 hours with about 20 bottles of wine, 2 whole cooked animals-of-choice, and lots of story telling. Will you blame me if I drop out now? 

I popped a raw clove of garlic in my mouth. 

When I asked James why he stopped being a chef (after working in New York City, San Francisco, Portland, and other culinary hot-spots), he responded that his music career took over. 
"What kind of music do you make?" Asked Betsy, also in Carhartts, also peeling garlic.

"Oh, electronic dance music..." Replied James. I laughed.

So here he is: an electronic-dance-music-making-charcutier-chef-professor-of-soil-sciences-at-Oregon-State-University who happens to be the head of the Organic Growers Club here on campus. And I've only known him for two weeks! What a guy. What a polymath. He's the kind of guy who makes you want to sink your hands into piles of hot, rotting mulch and dig through vole-holes and rotting tomatoes and squirming bugs to plant a single clove of garlic, with the hopes that next summer we'll have beds overflowing with garlic ready to be harvested. Given how the farm seems to be going, they'll have giant, tangled beds of more garlic than they know what to do with. 
Here we have an average Thursday work party at the Organic Growers Club - a very eclectic group of passionate Corvallis people who get together every week and talk about almost anything you could imagine. Last week our discussions surrounded abnormally shaped winter squash, the smell of October, and the multitude of ways in which vegans miss out on most good things in life. (So really our conversations pertain to any and all hippy topics. Fine. Whatever. It's the Organic Growers Club. Give me a goddamned break.) 
But could this really be? Could I have actually found people that I have interests in common with here in the clod-hoppin town of Corn Valley, Oregun? Could there really exist here people who understand me when I talk about lose-leaf tea, my romantic obsession with edible plants and animals, and valuing my health above most other things in life? Surely it can't be true...

I'm still skeptical. As for now I'm listening to a particularly good Ted TV talk on the 6 ways mycelium fungus is going to save the world. 

Dream in a pragmatic way,

Monday, October 6, 2008

Gathering Leaves

First item of business: to all who may be reading my blog, I apologize. A few days ago I read back upon my previous entry and just about fell asleep halfway through the seemingly endless applesauce rant. Again, I'm sorry. I hope you can understand that given the limited amount of person-to-person contact I have in my every day life here on campus, I sometimes forget about what is and isn't appropriate to whine about (of course my mother would say that nothing in the world is appropriate to whine about, even when I'm bleeding my eyes out and am in excruciating pain. Gotta love her.)
So, on to far more important things. As you can tell, I've finally (after only a year of using this site) figured out how to post photos onto my page, so I hope to start doing that on a regular basis. Please excuse me if they are pretty much all food from here on out, because that's mostly what I think about these days. The picture to the right is my desking area, where I do my desking things like sit and look at the photos on my wall and surf the Ted TV site for new and exciting things to occupy my time with. It really is a fantastic site by the way.
So life here on campus isn't much different than it was a week ago surprisingly. My classes are fine, easy enough right now, though after not being in school for....uh....16 months...heh...I'm definitely getting back into it. Knowing that I'm actually expected to do things and do them well is a change from the past year "off", but a welcome one. One thing I'm gathering very quickly about college (or this one at least) and the curricula here is that you are very much responsible for your own education, and that the text books are ultimately the real teachers. I'm not used to this. In all my previous places of education, the teacher is the expert and the textbook is a prop with an occasionally helpful table or two, but if we don't talk about it in class then it doesn't really pertain to the subject and we won't be tested on it. That's not the case here. Here I am expected to read a chapter a night in my math, chemistry and music books, and expected to learn just from that. Classes are just kind of, clarification and review of the books. Now this is probably because most of my classes are so large, but I still find it kind of silly that I (or the omnipresent bank account in my life that takes care of me...) pay 8,000 dollars a year to read some great textbooks and ask a question or two of a teacher if need be. I can essentially not show up to class except for the mid-term and final, because my entire math, chemistry and music courses are on-line. Worksheets, homework problems and answers, resources, quizzes, study-guides. I really think it's bizarre. But I do like the fact that in such a massive pool of students (most of which appear to have absolutely no idea where they're going or why) I have to take full responsibility for my education, and I truly believe that's one of the most valuable lessons a person can learn, and one that can't be taught. So I really do have to stay on top of my shit, and keep myself in check. Damn. I'm sure going to miss having someone to blame my poor education on. I guess parents are always good for that.
It was great to get home for the weekend, and remember that there is in fact life outside of Corvallis, and that it is a life that I fit nicely into and one in which I have people I relate to and care to spend time with. I'm sure those people are here, I just have yet to find them. Though attending the Organic Growers Club meeting last Thursday was a step in the right (or left as it may be) direction for sure. Maybe even tipping a little far on the hippy scale, but it's great to know there are in fact people who I can talk about the presidential debate with and say "gluten-free" and they actually understand that gluten is not a relative of the Russian prime minister (not that many people on campus know who he is either...). Plus I got to wear my rain boots, get my hands muddy and talk about pickles and why acorn squash is the perfect fall food, so I felt very energized afterward. 
Sunday morning found me sitting in an adirondack chair on my porch with Hanna, eating a veggie scramble, watching that characteristic Portland pre-fall drizzle soak everything including my hands. It was really surprisingly refreshing. I felt a lot of resistance to cold weather at the end of summer, but I had only forgotten how amazing the Northwest fall really is. Austin has been talking about the Vermont fall and how beautiful it is over there, and I can only imagine the colors and smells that must take over that area come October, but I think my fall is perfect for me. It's like when you eat an apple out of the fridge. I've been doing this lately, and it's so enjoyable. There's nothing like a cold apple, especially if it's been in the fridge long enough so that it's still cold when you get to the core. Mmm. Tastes like a Northwest fall. Lordy lordy. I'm just so excited for all the wonderful fall things. Chestnuts, leaves, mushrooms, crafts, squash, bathtubs, fires. Fires have got to be one of my favorite things also. Jeez. Fall is just amazing. If I could cook a season, this would be it. Too bad my kitchen is a shit-hole 65 stories below me. Man, my life is so rough. 
I feel like the fall is coming at a perfect time for me this year. Lots of things have changed over the past month or so, and some pretty significant things have come and gone from my life. I need a good medium for change; for my own personal change, and here it is right outside my window. Adjusting to life without a companion is hard (especially for someone like me who tends to get caught up in the past), and I think the fall will be the perfect thing to help me out. I think this fall and I are going to get along really well. 

And here's a little snippet for you! It's a few lines from the Robert Frost poem "Gathering Leaves" and I like it indeed:
But the mountains I raise
Elude my embrace,
Flowing over my arms
And into my face.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Got beaver?

Apparently the air-circulation system in my refrigerator can't work properly because I've stuffed too much in there, so now there's a permanent puddle of water on the floor of the thing. I mean, it's not hard to fill up a 1.7 cubic-foot fridge, especially when a) it's me, I eat a lot and have a deep and unmoving love for all things edible (with the exception of mollusks), especially cool and fresh things, b) my idiotic diet restricts me from eating in the cafeteria most of the time so I have to cook everything in the kitchen of my dorm building (2 floors down, mind you) and c) 1.7 cubic feet is fucking tiny! I mean really. I think fridges of this size are designed to go in cars, for a little road snack and some juice for the kids. Or maybe to go in a playhouse, or in the room of an anorexic person. Or maybe it's meant as a vitamin fridge! Seeing as literally 1/4 of the space in my fridge is designated for my various nutritional oils and supplements, I think that could be a great use for this miniscule invention. It's a good thing I played a lot of Tetris in my younger years, or I might have an emotional breakdown trying to fit my peanut butter back in there. Although now that I got rid of some of the applesauce things are a little better. 

My grandmother forced two jars of her home-made applesauce on me last weekend when I moved in which was a very nice gesture, and I do love applesauce, but what would appear to be two normal-sized jars of applesauce in a normal-sized refrigerator in my fridge are HUGE jars that take up almost all of my one-and-only shelf. So yesterday before I could comfortably fit any of my 3 vegetables bought at the farmers market into my fridge I found myself sitting cross-legged on the floor in front of my fooding area eating applesauce. I put it on everything I could find - celery, rice cakes, crackers, a spoon, a spoon with peanut butter on went on for a while. But the point is, applesauce gone, fridge a little more spacious (though about 8 things still roll out whenever I open the damn door) and a happier me. Plus I can still fit my jar of dolmades, my aioli mustard and my very large bag of dark chocolate peanut M&Ms in, so I surely won't go hungry any time soon. Oh the woes of my college life! (At least these are the things that pain me before actual classes start. Hopefully then I'll exciting academic things to worry about like "homework" and "quizzes" and "3-ring binders". It all sounds very exhilarating and challenging). 

So in case you haven't noticed, I have in fact moved to "College". What a hilarious concept - me and higher about this - raise your hand if you ever thought I come back to school after a year off - let's one? Great. Good. I'm almost surprised I did. 
So I've officially been here a week and I think it's time to go home. I've decided that College just isn't for me. The whole not being within an arms-length of my parents, having to actually meet people, doing my own laundry, not having delicious left-overs magically appear in my refrigerator (not to mention not having a real-people-sized refrigerator), and being able to walk down the block on a Friday night and find at least 5 parties to wander into and out of at my leisure just isn't my thing. Sorry to disappoint. Ok it's not that bad. But all jokes aside, college is kind of weird. I mean, the idea of getting a bunch of 18-22 year-old kids together and putting them all within a couple blocks of each other with limited supervision and essentially unlimited possibilities is just kind of funny. Particularly when all the professors expect everyone to get completely wasted every weekend and schedule class according to that principle. And dorms are especially weird. Sharing a bathroom with 27 other people is a little odd, and definitely doesn't feel like I'm taking the next step into independent adult life - it feels more like I'm back at OMSI camp. Only now everyone gets wasted on the weekends and there are sorority girls lurking around every other corner checking to see if their hair is straight enough to go workout. Good lord I do miss OMSI camp.

Last week (probably the longest week of my life...) was spent moving all of my worldy possessions into my incredibly spacious dorm room (note sarcasm), and spending a lot of time on my computer checking my e-mail 8,000 times a day, watching various TV shows and contemplating my new lifestyle. I also spent a lot of my time getting used to life without a companion. Or trying anyway. But I did manage to find the Co-op in town, the farmer's markets, the yoga studio and the Goodwill so I've got some bases to work from. I also attended the EPIC OSU vs. USC football game on Thursday which was even fun for me (a person who's been to maybe one football game in my entire life), and I especially enjoyed storming the field after we won and almost getting trampled to death. Near-death experiences are always so much fun. 

I also had my first day of classes today, which was pretty much what I expected it to be. 250 people in both my math and chem classes, and about 20 in my spanish class. I almost crapped my pants before spanish started, as I haven't spoken in a very long time and it's basically a 400 level class, so I'm in with all the spanish majors and native speakers who take it for "fun". It's essentially a history of Latin America class taught entirely in spanish. Once I calmed down and remembered that I actually do know quite a bit of the language I could understand almost everything she said, and got pretty excited about the class. We'll see how long I stick around. Tomorrow I also have my first music class (basically comparative world music) which I'm very excited for and will be interested to see what kinds of people have landed in that class with me. As for now, I have HOMEWORK to do! And tomorrow I get to go buy BINDERS and PENCILS and GRAPH PAPER!!!!!!  (What can I say, I've been out of school for 16 months. I'm excited. Sue me. More like talk to me in a month and see how excited I am then about homework and pencils. Then laugh in my face when I grumble incoherently and shed a tear or 5 about mid-terms). 
But I am excited to be back to blogging, mostly because since I no longer have a boyfriend upon whom I can unload my daily senseless brain diarrhea, I now rely exclusively on the cyber world! Exciting indeed. 
Off to make flash cards and do my laundry!
Kate, the "College Student" (snicker, snicker) 

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Carry Bean

Oh jeeez. Here we are in the Carribean. The internet is so expensive here (just like everything else) that I have to blog a short one so I can afford dinner! So we are. Here. In Puerto Viejo de Talamanca, where reggae resounds from every corner of every building, dreadlocks are more common than not, and every local that we pass whispers "Ganja, ganja ganja....." as we walk by (don't worry parents, we have yet to succumb to their offers!). A pretty fine place to spend the last 4 days of our trip - surrounded by palm trees, and with access to a sea that's as warm as bath water.
Our time in Monteverde in the Cloud Forest was good, but we're all thrilled to see the sun one last time before we return to rainy Portland June. In Monteverde (where you practically had to pay to breathe or walk around) we went on a hike in the cloud forest reserve one day, where I was molested by some sort of wild pig (which we do have footage of just so you know) and we witnessed the largest downpour any of us have ever seen. We were pretty much mid-calf deep in water and walking around in circles on poorly labled paths, but we made it. The next day we did our zipline tour (and actually got Marcus to do it after going on the entire trip about how he "Doesn't fuck with heights"!) and enjoyed ourselves tremendously. Except for now we all want to skydive (with the exception of Marcus...). Oops.
So we're spending our last 4 days on the beach, swinging in hammocks, soaking up the sun and avoiding nuclear-disaster-sized insects. A pretty difficult lifestyle they have going on here. If only it weren't so expensive!
Although I'm slightly bummed we only have 4 days left on our trip, I'm pretty excited to come home. Traveling in a group can be really hard, and is pretty exhausting some times! The idea of having some alone time (not to mention some time with other females...) sounds pretty damn nice right now. I'll have to find some way to make up for the testosterone overload on this trip when I get home, which very well may consist of me going to see the "Sex And The City" movie by myself when I get home, and also forbidding anyone from talking about football in front of me again. Both of those activities sound great to me right now.
Well I'll see you all soon, and am very excited to come home!
and GO OBAMA by the way...

Friday, May 30, 2008


Too lazy to blog...must drag myself to the internet cafe...gah. So we´re at the beach in Nicaragua. We got here on Tuesday and hadn´t seen the sun until today (it had been about 2 and a half weeks), after "Tropical Storm Alma" (just call it a goddamned hurricane whydontcha) graced us with her presence yesterday afternoon with what I estimate to be about 600 inches of rain in about 5 hours. It was exciting - streets flooded with human feces, dead animals, more cockroaches than you can know. The usual. The entire floor level of our hostel was in about 4 inches of water, and the rain was so loud we literally couldn´t talk to eachother without screaming. It was intense. It was supposed to hit us again last night, but apparently pulled some kind of super-tropical-storm trick out of its super-tropical-storm bag of tricks and did a little u-turn, missing us perfectly. So today it´s been beautifully sunny, and I´ve gotten a nice splotchy little sunburn on my thighs which at this point I welcome because I am just about more pale than when I left. I mean that´s just not right. I am determined to return at least one shade darker than printer paper. Maybe it´ll have to be one shade darker red, who knows.
That´s pretty much all there is now...oh, we also met a man (staying at our hostel) who has been walking for the past 18 years. He´s walked 75 countries, over 75,000 miles, across 6 continents, and is heading back up to San Diego to end his trip by 2012. His name is Hawk, and he will be 82 in August. We interviewed Hawk for about an hour the day we met him, all of us sitting in front of him with our jaws on the floor and rivers of drule running around our feet. Sorry, you´ve done what? And you´re how old? Well, any acomplishments I´ve ever completed seem to have just evaporated faster than I can say "prostate problems" (which yes, he does struggle with). When he told me he was 81 I just about choked on my tonsils (granted, not that hard to do if you´ve been blessed with tonsils my size) and then yelled at him in disbelief. "What do you do?!" I yelled, "What do you eat?!" "Why are you so with it, so conscious, so...vertical?!".
Hawk looked at me. "I walk". Well, no shit ya do. All he swears by is excercise, he says. He drinks milk, no alcohol, goes to bed at about 7:30 from what I can tell, and plays tennis. And he also carries a 6 foot tall wooden staff with sharpened steel at one end. And did I mention his name is Hawk? What a guy. He´s broken every walking record in the book, and is still going. He´s been enough to solidify my guilt in not excercising every day, so I´m determined to start up again when I get home. Jeez. What a guy. Hawk McGuinness. He also throws knives.
Ta ta for now! Costa Rica tomorrow...

Sunday, May 25, 2008


Here we are on the edge of another 2 days of non stop travel...though after doing the 50 straight hours in Mexico, I'm sure we'll manage. Currently we're parked in Copan, Honduras - a nice little jungle town, lots of good food and apparently some great ruins [the reason we came] that we failed to get to today because none of us actually had enough money to get in to see them. Goddamned Lonely Planet for quoting the wrong amount! Ha. Anyway, our spirits are pretty high as we managed to bathe after about 4 days [ for me at least...] of personal stench, and this is a nice place to get a good nights sleep before our next push farther south. Antigua was somewhat disappointing, though really beautiful in a Spanish colonial sort of way, as it seemed as if the only thing to do there was to walk around to boutiquey stores and spend money. Basically if I were a rich old Spanish woman, it would be heaven. But shockingly enough, I am not a rich old Spanish woman nor do I wish to be one. So to avoid laying about all day and spending more money on useless things, we decided to climb a volcano. It appeared to be the popular tourist activity from Antigua, so we signed up for the four of us to go yesterday. Unfortunately Marcus and Travis were ill in the gut and decided that a hike up a volcano at 6000 feet probably would not benefit them, so Austin and I met up with the other 35 tourists and got on our ever-reliable third world bus. Of course we were only able to get on after the bus driver just about threw one woman off the bus because he had overbooked. But it was alright, we just fit 6 of us in 5 seats and were roaring up the mountain minutes later. I am slightly curious as to why no one mentions [even the guide book] the difficulty of the hike. It's pretty much a 45 degree angle up a mountain , at an elevation of 6000 feet, which, if you're from Portland [elevation 60 feet] makes a bit of a difference. But we held up for the whole hour and a half, me with my mouth hanging open and a beet-red face, and Austin springing up the mountain little a little goat. And he's the smoker. My life is so unfair. But the hike was definitely and undoubtedly worth it, which I realized when we came over a hill of lava rock, and about 50 yards in front of us was molten lava, oozing out of the earth like a never-ending zit. I'm sorry this can't be more poetic, it's just the only thing I could think of. I'm pretty sure that in every other sane country in the world this would have been highly illegal...but not in Guatemala! People were poaking the lava with sticks, roasting marshmallows over it, pretending to light their cigarettes and joints over it [obviously not the most intelligent humans], and some kind men were posing with a security guards shotgun in front of the lava, pretending to shoot it, etc. It was just charming. But really, it was awesome. It was nuts, and really fucking hot! The extreme heat of lava probably seems very obvious to most people, but then so does the importance of keeping the general public away from molten lava. Obviously Guatemala didn't get the whole "public safety" memo. That's fine with me, as I quite enjoyed almost falling into crevasses filled with lava and partaking in an adventure that would give most sane people a heart attack or two.
Anway, that's the story for now...we're off on a 5 am bus tomorrow to Tegucigalpa and then onto Nicragua to the beach! I'd better go, as I told the boys I'd meet them at the pool hall 20 minutes ago and I'm sure they're REALLY worried about me. Hah.
Miss you all!

Thursday, May 22, 2008


Jungle was pushing in, and here it is. In. On. Around. Jeeez. We spent another 10 hours on a bus from San Cristobal, and arrived at this fog-covered lake 3 days ago. It`s ridiculous to me to think that at one time, not so long ago, we were surrounded by ocean and suffocating heat. Now we dodge daily jungle downpours, and can´t sleep past 7 because of the birds (they literally sound like car alarms and screaming babies). We`re currently spending our days in a town on Lago de Atitlan called San Pedro de la Laguna, a slightly dirty but homey little town with lots of hippies and good, cheap food. And cheap rooms. Like 12 dollars a person for four nights. I mean jeez...that`s almost India cheap...almost.
So what do we do here? Honestly, not much, which seems to be the general attitude of San Pedro. I´m sure you´re all shocked to discover that we enjoy doing "not much", very much. Hammock swinging, guitar and drum (Marcus purchased a hand-made goat skin drum yesterday) playing, eating , lake watching. That´s how our days are filled here. Although we really would like to hike one of the three surrounding volcanoes, the stories we´ve heard about muggings and worse on the paths have deterred us from that plan, which we´re just fine with as far as I can tell - I think we get enough excercise walking to the bathroom in this altitude.
We´re planning to leave here tomorrow morning, and make our way to Antigua by the afternoon. Antigua sounds nice, still surrounded by jungle but a bit cleaner. We´ll only be there two days though.
Also we were all very happy to hear about Obama taking the Oregon primary (though I was stressing just a little bit the day before) and I have to admit that I wish I´d been there for the rally! Gotta love Portland.
So obviously spending our time doing nothing makes for some less than exciting blog entries, but we´re all thoroughly enjoying ourselves and missing Portland just a little bit!
Off to scratch my bug bitten ankles,

Friday, May 16, 2008


I forgot about this whole blogging thing. And how I actually have to blog in order for it to acheive the desired effect. Right. So from Oaxaca we hopped a bus to Puerto Escondido and arrived there at about 7 am, found our hotel with little problem and headed straight down to the beach. Marcus having never swam in warm water before in his life (and he made sure to remind us of this astounding fact at least un mil veces) was extremely excited to get into the water. By 9 it was about 90 degrees, and of course it only went up in temp and humidity. Almost a little too much heat. We spent our first day walking for about an hour trying to find a secluded beach we had heard about from other people (it has been dubbed the "steps beach" due to the 167 concrete steps that one has to descend to get to the goddamned thing) and after almost passing out from the heat and extreme frustration we found it and collapsed into the shade. The beach was really amazing (for those of you like my father who want to look it up on Google Earth as soon as possible, it´s called Carrizalillo beach in Puerto Escondido) and we spent the rest of out afternoon lazing around in the unbearable heat, relieving our poor Northwest-climate-adapted bodies with regular floating sessions in the warm, green ocean. Stupendous. Austin and Travis and I also decided to rent surf boards for an hur and go out and make fools of ourselves in the beginner waves. I think we caught more fellow surfers than we did waves, but it was good fun. We also got ourselves out of bed at 6:15 one morning and had a private surf lesson at 7 am, which was awesome. It was just us and our "surf instructor" Jimmy (really a 17 year old local who figured he might as well make a buck off of us) out on the waves. Travis and I caught a few waves, and of course by the end Jimmy was joking that Austin should be the teacher and take over Jimmy´s surf shack on the beach because of how great a surfer Austin is. Anyone who´s ever met Austin knows that he can do literally anything well, which is of course the reason I date him. (jokeflag)
Our time in Puerto was really spent between Steps Beach and our hotel, the Mayflower, where it seemed every single other young backpacker from Australia to Holland to Vancouver, CA was staying as well. At night we had little need to go out due to the constant party on our rooftop balcony. At about 2 pm every afternoon the Germans, Aussis and Brits would re-emerge, having finally slept off their previous hangover and would start drinking promtly while they shot billiards balls at eachother and listened to bad European techno-punk. Just my scene. We did meet some pretty cool people there, but upon reflection it was a bit of a sketchy place. We heard quite a few stories of robbings and assaults and one of the guys staying there got punched in the face by a local one night for no apparent reason, so we were fairly relieved to get out of there and up into the mountains. But don´t worry, we took good care of eachother and no one was going out alone.
So we arrived in San Cristobal de Las Casas yesterday morning and checked into a hostel that had been recommended by a few of the people we met at the Mayflower, and it´s fantastic. Great rooms for 6 USD a night, beautiful courtyards and gardens, and a rooftop hang-out space that we spend most of time in. I think San Cristobal is my favorite place in Mexico so far (a close second to Oaxac though, don´t get me wrong), as it has a certain juxtaposition of cultures that I really enjoy. The Mayan culture is totally inhterspersed with the modern, almost European-Mexican lifestyle. The artisan markets are nuts, the food is cheap and amazing, the people are so layed back, and it´s amazingly clean. One of the guys at our hostel described it as Mexican Disneyland, which we all guffawed at until we went walking around el centro yesterday and saw exactly what he meant. Perfect little cobblestone streets, colorful storefronts, an awesome central square and cathedral, all with a breathtaking view of the lush surrounding mountains. It´s great. And the history of political rebellion only makes me love it more, which I completely blame on my communist education at EMS.
Yesterday we were caught in our first tropical rainstorm, and I was so excited I just about peed my pants. Not that it would have mattered seeing as I was drenched through and through. It definitely took me back to my trip to Bali, during which I established a very important daily ritual called "puddle stomping". Man those tropical storms are like nothing else. The electricity on your skin seconds before the first thunderhead, the rain that comes on like a tsunami, so hard you can´t hear, can´t go out, can´t think, the sound of that god. I just love it. Hail stones so big they hurt. Streets turned into rivers. Jeez. The jungle is pushing in on us, or vis versa.
Off to enjoy my daily mango juice,

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Calabazas en mis orejas!

I´m BACK! Holy holy cyber world! It has been so all know how long it´s been. We all know how long it´s been. We´re over it, right? Yep. So over it. On to the next! So....I feel the need to apologize for the slight cliff-hanger my last blogging experience ended with. To any of you who I didn´t see face to face when I returned home from India to sum up my journey in voice rather than text, I apologize for not writing a follow-up entry. I have a few exuses I can use, but let´s just not. In short, coming home was like coming home. Like taking a bath. Like eating ice cubes. Damn good. And confusing and hard and a little lonely at times trying to figure out where and how I fit back into my rhythms, or if I even fit them anymore. Trying to process my experiences there to put them into some sort of tangible, relevant light. I mostly gave up on trying to figure out my experiences and feelings in India, and accepted that it just was what is was. It hurt me, it helped me, it lifted me up and broke me down. Sometimes I still get flashbacks to the first week of being in Calcutta, and the lonliness that pervaded my every thought, the desolation that followed me everywhere, but mostly I look upon the experience as something I will (of course) never forget and something that I will always see as one of my first great challenges in life. It forced me to remember that everything in this life, the pain, the pleasure, is temporary, and I doubt I will forget that. But to sum up the then-to-now, I´ve spent the last 4 months engrossed in making music, being with friends and family, rebuilding my post-parasitic intestinal integrity and wearing Carrhart overalls. That´s really all you need to know. And as you are all aware, I have begun overseas adventura 2 of my year off - Las Americas! The journey began two weeks ago when Austin and I (accompanied of course by my entire family and a plethora of their friends) headed south for Los Cabos, on the Baja peninsula. After stuffing our rental car literally to the roof with food, various kinds of liquor and 5 boxes of Corona (not to mention 7 people and all their required shit for the week) we drove to a very off-the-grid little clump of picturesque beachside houses called Cabo Pulmo. The 6 days we spent there were wonderful, as the most active thing any of us did was snorkel every now and then and figure out which book to read next. The scenery was breathtaking, the sea warmer and greener than the Mediterranean, and cocktail hour went from about 5 to 10 every night. Really, what´s there to complain about? (Ok, actually the fish taco stand ran out of fish a couple times which really upset everyone a good deal, but we all managed to forget that little mishap after choking down a couple of Davids margaritas.)
From Cabo Pulmo we returned to San Jose del Cabo, and after a little freak-out (and maybe some poor planning on Austin and I´s part. Oopsy!) about not being able to find Travis 3 hours after his plane was due, we found him sitting in the other international terminal (who knew?) bored out of his mind wondering why we were such bad friends and had convinced him to spend his money to come to Mexico with him while we abandoned him. My bad. Anyway, that´s really beside the point, because of course we found him and waited another hour for Marcus to come off his plane, at which point we taxied back into town to our fairly grimey hostal and set off the next day on a 48 hour non-stop travel expedition. Yes. 48 hours. Non-stop. Bus-ferry-bus-bus-bus-bus. Ho damn. And we all had one meal during that period, mostly out of choice given what was available. But hot damn, travelling like that when you actually have people to talk to? I was ecstatic! I´m pretty sure the boys have had their share of hearing me say shit like "Oh this is nothing! You guys should see Indian busses! Dirty bathroom? No problem! At least you don´t have to learn how to shit squatting!" or my many remarks on the wonders of travelling with men. I know it´s annoying, but I just can´t get over it. I feel like I have my own little protective posse, and actually feel relaxed while walking around the streets. But of course we are all taking great care to protect our valuables and stay out of trouble. Don´t worry Moms.
So after our ass-busting trip down pretty much the entire length of Mexico (seriously. Consult a map. That´s a hellofalot of ground), we are here in beautiful Oaxaca. And damn are we happy to be here. We arrived yesterday afternoon and found a great little hotel for 20 USD a night per double, which also happens to be nicely situated above a chocolate shop and cafe (for those of you who are unaware, Oaxaca is world-famous for its chocolate) so everything smells like chocolate. With the exception of the shared bathrooms. But shit, if you ever have the means to sleep in a chocolate shop/ hotel, I highly recommend it. It makes for great dreams and healthy appetites. Today we´ve been wandering the cobblestoned streets, remarking at the amount of people out and about, eating fresh mangos and tortillas, and revelling in the wonderful fact that we are here. And maybe sharing a few laughs about the friends we have in Portland who are attending class at this moment. Sorry guys. The people in Oaxaca are absolutely wonderful, really friendly and layed-back, and we´re excited to spend the next few days here. I think tomorrow we´re going to go see some ruins just outside the city, which are really cool.
I´m also having a great time being back in Oaxaca (I was here on a school trip when I was 14) revisiting the places I went when I was here, and also revisiting the memories. I was so different then, it´s great to see how I percieve it all now compared to then. If only I had known that I would return 5 years later with two of my EMS classmates!
For now we´re off to get lunch and a nap!
All the best to everyone, we love and miss you!