Flying toward Nepal

I may or may not have spilled pasta sauce all over my sweatshirt on the plane. It wasn’t even like I wanted the pasta; I was full from the soup and salad that had come before but I hadn’t figured out how to tell the wonderful stewardess that I couldn’t eat any more. I ended up taking two bites, spraying myself with sauce, then leaving it in retribution. I did tell her I didn’t want dessert though.

I’m sitting now in the Doha airport aka the “Best Airport in the Middle East.” I’m way outside of my cultural comfort zone but I feel more at peace than I expected ~ this is probably because of Wensday and Malik. We met in the Boston airport although Wensday and I’ve been talking via Facebook message for a while now. It’s awesome to meet people in the context of leaving for a semester in Nepal. Now we’re whiling away the time, waiting for our flight to Kathmandu in about 8 hours. We could’ve left the airport to explore Doha, but none of us are culturally prepared and it’s nighttime here (our flight is at around 2 am) so we decided to sleep in turns and explore the airport.

So far, I’ve noticed the cultural difference in clothing (the most obvious): women have their shoulders and knees covered, and are often garbed in the burqa or black scarves and dresses. In line for coffee a man moved in front of me; I cannot say whether or not this was a cultural difference ~ perhaps he didn’t see me or was in a hurry, but I noted it regardless. Also, when asking us to move an airport employee referred only to Malik, saying “Sir, please, this is not a resting area.”

Also eye contact is different here, I think. My habit is to look at people and smile but I don’t think that’s culturally appropriate. The people who have smiled back, though, make my heart warm. 

I’m glad to have studied anthropology before this because I feel less that my own culture is right and that the differences I notice are not; i stead my interest has been piqued and I’m open-minded. 

Saying Goodbye

Goodbyes are hard for me; they’re probably hard for everyone. When I say goodbyes I mean the moment of parting with someone you love, where words are really never enough.

I believe in actions. Perhaps just as much as words… each have their own time and place.

For the past few days I’ve had to say goodbye to quite a few people who have changed my life and given me peace and happiness. I don’t think there’s a way for practice to make perfect there, but sometimes just letting go can be the only perfect possible.

I love and trust, more than ever, the people who’ve become integral in my life. And that makes it possible for me to leave with a sense of wonder and joy.

And now, I’m sitting in the Orlando International Airport waiting for my plane to board ~ first I’ll land in Boston, then head from there to Doha, then to Kathmandu. I’m meeting a couple of other students on my study abroad program in Boston, then we’ll have each other’s company for our 9 hour layover overnight in Doha. Then to Kathmandu.

It has become too real, and yet I’m in a daze. More than anything I feel in limbo, between two worlds and experiences and perspectives.

I’ll trust you, universe. Onward we go.

 

Small acts of kindness

This week has been full of beautiful moments. So full, in fact, I feel like I must record them.

Just now I sat down in the couch room of my favorite vegan cafe, Dandelion Communitea Cafe in Orlando. There was one other person in the room. He was absorbed in a novel. I set my things down and pulled out my own book as he, seemingly awoken from his book, began to pack his stuff. As he walked out he looked down and said, “Have a good day.” I looked up and was astonished at the genuine care in his features. I said the same, and he left.

These moments are worth so much and I believe it’s because they are honest and open. Why, though, is this so rare?

Earlier this week I met a barista at Starbucks. Let me explain my week quickly: I’ve been floating, sleeping mainly at Hannah’s apartment and going from place to place with whomever I’m with at the time. How I ended up at Starbucks: Hannah had school at Valencia and dropped me off on her way. I read for a while at the outdoor tables and eventually moved inside to charge my phone (music). He was sweeping the floor, and bumped into my feet. I apologized and asked if he’s okay ~ he looked like his back hurt ~ he’d gotten hit by a car while biking. We talked and the conversation moved to where he goes to school and I said oh, my boyfriend goes there! And I found that he is roommates with a friend of David’s. They live in a co op and are working with the Orlando Permaculture Group. 

I went back to Starbucks today and he had talked to his roommate, Summer, about meeting me. After speaking again for a while he promised that, when I return from Nepal, we would all meet and I would be welcome in the Permaculture group. 

Yesterday evening I met my friend, whom I hadn’t seen for a year, walking along a path at Rollins. We excitedly discussed his year abroad and my upcoming semester in Nepal. Shree is from Nepal so I was especially eager to ask his advice and recommendations upon my arrival. After following him and our friend Grace to their apartment and chatting for a while (meeting another friend, Taylor, along the way) Shree asked if I’d bring his sister something from here. I agreed happily and he asked where I was staying. “A hostel for the first night,” I told him, and he immediately offered his own home instead. “Live with my family! They love that.” 

These beautiful connections are everything. 

Change & what it means

Sometimes I follow life, accepting what it brings quietly and humbly and truly.

I do not forget though to fall in love with each era, trusting it with my entire soul.

The sky is a world full of dimension and life and meaning… it proves there is a reason to trust. There is more to each moment than I may ever understand and thus, I will be open.


 

I feel lost at times, unbalanced, teetering on an edge. I knew it when I gave my control to trust, but I still have need for meaning. My mind seeks something to hold onto as everything changes. I do not know who I will be when I return from where I am going; others have told me I will be different, I will be new.


 

This is why I will write about experiences, because I want to see the change. Do I have a right to witness my own alteration? May I record something so intrinsically natural?

Where the Sun Sets

On Tuesday morning at around 11:15, David, Lacey and I began the long drive to Pensacola, Florida from Colorado Springs.

We made it in a little over 24 hours and finally arrived, exhausted, on Wednesday afternoon. I dropped David off at his home then drove to my own, 30 minutes away. As soon as we were in the driveway and I had opened the door Lacey jumped over me to race toward the front door of our home. I laughed and followed her and soon found myself sitting at our dining room counter looking through the windows at the Pensacola Bay beyond. I made coffee and drank it, taking in the feeling of a deep-rooted peace which flowed through me like waves. Lacey greeted the other dogs, Sadie and Fiyero, and sniffed around to inspect any changes in the house.

Maggie, my sister, was home and I walked upstairs to say hi. Although she’d visited in Boulder it was blissful to see her again at home. We talked a bit, then I went back downstairs to begin unpacking the car and settling into my room.

Each day I was home ~ which ended up only being Wednesday to Sunday ~ I found myself at the beach. I brought Lacey to the small stretches of beach on which dogs were allowed and met other beautiful people who were there with their dogs; the first day I found myself talking for hours with a couple from Birmingham because Lacey decided that she would, welcome or no, sleep under their tent’s shade. Later I left Lacey with them (because she wouldn’t leave the cooler area, unused to the heat as she was) and went to talk with a young woman I’d met because her tiny puppy had jumped over to play in Lacey’s water bowl.

Spending hours in the salt breeze and listening to waves, talking with new humans and being wholly comfortable, was wonderful for my soul. Watching Lacey was my joy; she would cautiously approach the ocean, tentatively stepping forward until a wave washed up upon which she’d quickly back up, staring at the ocean accusingly. She discovered the inherently canine wonders of digging in sand the second day we went to the ocean; her nose was quickly covered in white sand, and when her tongue lolled out it was caked in the stuff. Laughing, I poured water over her nose; I think she preferred the sand.

I found that she would let me pick her up and carry her into the ocean, past the waves, to sit and let the current lift us for a while. Then I’d let her go and she’d swim determinedly toward the shore, shaking off rigorously upon getting her footing and energetically bouncing around until I’d throw her a ball. I found that she didn’t really like to fetch balls anything more than three feet away; instead I’d have to throw the ball straight upward and she’d rear up on her hind end, searching the sky for her ball, and joyfully pounce on it when it landed, digging until she could grasp it firmly in her jaw.The last evening I spent in Gulf Breeze I laced up my running shoes and drove to the sidewalk which runs along the shoreline road. I brought Lacey of course. We began our run around 6 o’clock and I had to stop many times to simply stare at the sky, which had filled with sweeping cloud formations tinted blue-lavender and brushing an increasingly red-orange sun. After two miles we cut toward the waves and spent long minutes watching the sky and the waves and the sun drift slowly toward the horizon.

 Now I know where I began to define peace. I am who I am because of the sunsets on this beach.


 

Colorado to Utah

… continuing the story of ending my time here in Colorado…

I woke up the next morning completely refreshed. It was early morning and only a woman in the neighboring tent was awake as well. I let Lacey out and she wandered down to the creek for a drink. I followed her to get water for coffee then began to set up the stove.

I had to wake David up to help me, since he was the one who normally operated the stove and I couldn’t get it to turn on. By the time water was ready, Mel was awake too and sitting at the picnic table, eyes barely open, obviously ready for coffee. We sipped the warm drink and allowed our bodies to take their time waking up. The sunlight through the trees mixed with the rising smoke from our neighbor’s fire, and David pointed out the shimmering combination.

 

We took showers to get the sulphur scent from our skins then took down camp, piled in the car, and headed anywhere. We ended up in a coffee shop about 30 minutes west and ordered the locally-brewed chai tea. Sipping our drinks, Mel and I checked out the posters on the wall above sugars and creamers; one of us pointed out a paper advertising for a yoga retreat in Moab, Utah.

“Hey,” I said, “My friend really loves that place.”

A few minutes later Mel had found out that Moab was a little over an hour away, I’d called and canceled our campsite reservation, and we were all driving toward Utah.

It was a longer drive than we’d anticipated because we stopped often as the temperature increased; the Cruiser doesn’t have a working air conditioner and we were absolutely pouring sweat. Eventually, though, we arrived in Moab and parked near the Visitor’s Center.

Mel and David walked in while I stayed outside with the heavily panting Lacey. They asked for camping and sunset-spot advice from the men working there and came back outside with maps covered with arrows and circled areas. We were to head to the Arches National Park for sunset and camping was possible pretty much anywhere outside of the city itself. Satisfied, we walked across the street for dinner at a beautiful juice bar and organic eatery.

After dinner we drove into the park, only realizing once we’d left the city that the gas light was on. “We can make it,” David said confidently, and although Mel disagreed I was neutral, so we ended up not really making a decision and thus continuing into the park. We found the perfect sunrise spot only a few minutes later, parked, and got out, Mel absolutely certain we’d end up spending the night right there because of the fuel situation. She was pretty chill with that, though. It was a theme of the weekend… whatever happens, happens and we move on from there.

As we walked toward a large rock formation upon which we would have a good view of the lowering sun, I noticed how vast the area was. It was mind-boggling wide and large, red clay going on and on in every direction. Random enormous rock formations altered the landscape, inspiring a sense of spirituality, immensity, and grandeur to the space. Other people were milling about as well, but somehow it felt ultimately quiet. Perhaps because our voices could not possibly compare to the landscape; we were so, so small and the world enormous.

As the sun set, the rock grew deeper red, its tones shifting from salmon-pink to burnt orange to blood red. The sky was as vast as the land, clouds only touching the very tip of the horizon in long slanting brush strokes. The sun was a fiery ball, searing our eyes although we kept returning to gaze at it. We sat and watched, allowing ourselves to just be.

After a while the sun left us for another world and we moved to watch a group of climbers as they attempted one of the rock formations. We spent a long time watching and talking, the air growing steadily cooler. Finally we left, having watched the climbers successfully ascend, and drove into town.

We grabbed water and candy at a gas station then made our way through the opposite side of Moab, into the open desert that way. We were following directions toward camping Mel remembered and quickly found the spot: an open camping area near a lake. We set up camp then sat down to talk and watch the ever-brighter stars.

We spent hours gazing at the stars, with conversation moving in and out and Lacey lying silently by our feet. After some time, the amount unimportant, we made our way  into the tent to sleep.

 

Last nights in Colorado

I wish I could possibly put into words what this weekend has meant to me, but I don’t think I can. I want to write down enough to remember it by but not too much to damage the memory with over-description.

Tonight marks my last night in Colorado for the time being. I’m sitting on the bed in my uncle’s basement, listening to the sounds of the laundry machine and a shower somewhere above my head, Lacey curled up to my right. We arrived perhaps half an hour ago after having dropped Mel, one of my closest friends, off at the airport.

I’ll start at the beginning of this weekend.

Mel arrived Thursday evening and David and I drove to the Denver airport to pick her up. It is always incredibly joyful to meet up with someone you haven’t seen in a while, someone you love, and this time was no different; we headed back into Boulder talking quickly and laughing about the plane trip and everything else. The three of us and Lacey, all stuffed in the already overfull car, stopped by Black Pepper Pho for dinner then headed to the Laughing Goat for music. As soon as we walked in we heard these harmonies… harmonies are the keys to our inner self, I swear it. We stopped and listened, quickly sitting down with our coffees and teas and watching the couple lose themselves in their voices.

It was their last song, though and they made fun of us for walking up right as they ended. We laughed and got cozy in our table to await the next act, which was another couple — a young woman named Sunshine, dressed in a loose fabric reminiscent of a gypsy and wearing a sunhat which fitted her bright smile perfectly and a wild-haired man with crowsfeet betraying long days grinning in the sun. They played banjo and guitar, stomping their feet loudly in time with the music. We listened raptly, and Mel commented on their love, so obvious through their eyes and their music.

We snuck out after 10 o’clock because David still had work the next day. Driving back to Lyons, Mel and David talked quietly as I dozed in the back seat with Lacey. Arriving back at our tent, the four of us somehow fit into the two-person tent (it was surprisingly comfortable) and listened to a Harry Potter audiobook as we passed into sleep.

Friday morning we awoke later than we’d meant to, knowing we had to pack up the campsite that morning. But David and I had become very efficient at breaking camp and we had the entire site stuffed into the car and were driving to the Barking Dog Cafe before long. There, we each got coffee and breakfast (and conversation with Harry, a man we’d met at the cafe each morning and talked with while sipping morning coffee) then drove into Boulder. Mel and I left David at work, promising to pick him up at 4:30, and after a few quick errands began the drive toward Nederland.

I’d decided Mel’s first Colorado hike would be in Ned, partly because of the heat of the day and also because most of my truly incredible experiences among nature had been around that city. Thus we found ourselves at a small espresso shop around 10 am and asked for recommendations on hiking; the barista there, kind and interested in our adventure, offered his advice: Fourth of July hike, the trailhead only 4 miles away from the Hessie Trail (the one I went partway down with Mom and Maggie).

We were soon at the “trailhead” although a sign said that the true trailhead was 1 mile further for the Fourth of July hike. We tried driving the PT Cruiser further toward the trailhead but the road was far too bumpy and precarious for the car; we turned around and found a parallel parking spot, then began to foot it toward the trailhead.

After a few minutes (which were apparently much more than that) I was feeling the altitude more than I’d ever felt. Mel was fine; she was chatting and hiking, her breath not even a little fast while I was puffing and dizzy. I stopped and ate the most questionable burrito I’d ever bought — somehow we’d decided these super spicy burrito things from Whole Foods were what we should take on the hike and something about them definitely didn’t sit right from the beginning — then we continued. At this point we were wondering how much further would be a mile; we had been walking along the road for what felt like much more. It was nothing short of beautiful, though; the road followed a stream, and Lacey kept bounding into the woods or down to the stream (one time she did, we followed her and met a woman reading at the creekside)… but when a car passed which we’d seen pass the other direction quite a while ago, Mel waved them to stop.

“How far to the trailhead?”

“Oh, you’ve about a mile left.”

Turns out it was four, and not one mile to the trailhead from the beginning of the road. The man who was driving offered to take us to the trailhead. Mel at first thanked him but refused, but when he offered again I said “Yep, thanks,” and laughing, we piled into the car.As we drove back up the trail (for the man and his son had been heading back down), we chatted with our drivers. They were locals, and had just dropped a family member off at the trailhead. I became lost in the conversation and let Mel carry it on while I made friends with their dog, who took great pains to lick every single inch of my face while I couldn’t escape in the small space of the car.


When we made it to the top, Mel and I hopped out and thanked our drivers. We began to walk on the actual trail… although the road was nice, trails are simply made for human feet. It was a relief to be away from cars and to meet and chat with other hikers, letting our dogs hop happily around us and our feet guide us forward. Soon, though, time constraints and mild tiredness led us to seek a turn-around point. I’ve developed the habit of finding turn-around points that feel right, that seem like an ending point somehow and allow a few minutes of quiet gazing. So when we found a space where the trees opened up and we could see the great expanse of mountains below and around us, we sat down on chosen rocks and breathed. Then we turned around and made our way back down.

Instead of hiking the road down Mel and I planned to hitchhike… but when it came to actually attempt it we couldn’t figure out the thumb part. How does one hold the thumb, like a thumbs-up? When we practiced with each other it just looked like we would be basically telling drivers they were doing a great job and to keep on doing it. I think the altitude was, at this point, carrying total dominion over logic but finally we got the nerve to stop a car. Two young women were driving and offered us their back seat if we didn’t mind being stuffed with their 2 dogs; thus ensued the most comfortable and furry 20 minutes of my life. Mel got the side while I was amidst all three dogs and I was pretty blissful. We talked with the girls and learned they were living in Boulder for now, although one was headed to Oregon soon; we talked Boulder culture and politics and dogs, and it was absolutely wonderful.

 

 

Once we made it back to Boulder, got some food, and drove to pick up David it was a bit past 5 but David is, and has always been, deeply patient. As soon as we picked him up we began to drive into the mountains, headed vaguely toward Glenwood Springs.

We only made it halfway before we had to stop in a little town called Frisco because it looked warm and inviting. We walked around, checking out a few stores and letting Lacey stretch her legs. By the time we were ready to go it was dark and we were tired; I asked a pair of local boys who were playing Pokemon Go if they knew of any camping locally and they gave us directions: “Head toward the Frisco Adventure Park, take the second sign, follow the signs for camping and it’s in a meadow.”

After a very long Walmart run (long because I really couldn’t figure out which snack I wanted — a problem I’m a bit embarrassed of) we followed the boys’ directions and found ourselves in the midst of hundreds of campfires. Winding our way through them we didn’t find a single open campsite and decided to keep driving.

At least an hour later, we were somewhere deep in mountain roads and still hadn’t found a site so, exhausted, we decided to continue driving toward Glenwood Springs. Just a few minutes into the drive Mel and I debated sleeping in the car, decided it was our best bet, and Googled where’s best to car sleep — and found Walmart on top of the list. Well, we didn’t really want to do that based on the people we saw in Walmart so we finallyyyyyyyy found a rest stop, pulled over, and got as comfortable as we could with the car brimming with gear and three people and a dog. We finally fell asleep but all woke up when a tow truck beeped repeatedly behind us. We all assumed it was towing us but none of us cared enough to fully wake up and fell back asleep… in the morning we weren’t towed so it was definitely not us.

Needless to say, when we woke up around 7 am and I crawled into the driver’s seat we were all groggy and in desperate need of coffee. It was also pretty darn cold, being deep in the mountains and the car didn’t hold heat as you’d expect. Soon enough, though, we found a cafe called Loaded Joe’s and stumbled into a booth to order sustenance.

It was the warmest experience I can remember, compared to the night before, in both physical and mental ways. When I think of our breakfast there I see the color brown, with some reds, and smell coffee. I see David sitting beside me and Mel across, and remember the simple pleasure of the entire situation. Our lives had quickly become surrounded by joy in the basics, which I now realize could have been the opposite, complaining about the tough parts… these small decisions and choices of perspective change everything.

After breakfast (during which we found campsites for that night and the next) we drove toward Glenwood Springs. Before doing anything else we found our campsite and set up the tent. It was a gorgeous area, our tent directly next to a quick-running stream. We found a shower, cleaned up, and reveled in the feeling and smell of hygiene. Then we got back into the car and drove into Glenwood Springs.It was a smaller town than we’d expected. We found a coffee shop, the Dharma Brew, and ordered drinks then asked the barista what he’d recommend we did for the rest of the day. He told us, “Well, my favorite place around here is Marble; they have church and barbecue.”


Thus began our adventure in Marble.

When we got there (it was an hour drive away) we were most surprised by the amount of raw marble all over the place. It was in people’s yards (not many, though — the population is 84) and scattered next to the road. We made our way through the town then followed a sign toward “restrooms” which actually took us up a mountain and to a trailhead. I still don’t understand if the sign was a joke and you’re supposed to just go in the woods, or if there really were restrooms… but we nodded to fate and laced up our hiking boots, then took the trail.

We didn’t walk far, only far enough to find a creek which I could draw water from and treat, then drink (I’m really into drinking creek water, now that I have a purifier — it just tastes better, trust me). We walked back down the mountain, and met two kids and their dog toward the bottom, spending time throwing stones for our dogs, chatting, and eating wild raspberries. We finally drove back down to Marble and found the barbecue our barista had told us about; it was the only place in Marble we actually saw people. And it was packed. Marble was at least an hour from neighboring towns but they truly are known for the barbeque; we sat down and ordered the mac and cheese which was beyond delicious. We each got dinner and it was the best barbecue I’ve ever had (and I still think a caprese counts, since it was on Texas toast). We got pie for dessert (which had been baked by our waitress’s dad) and left after bonding with the waitress over dogs and, of all things, farts.

We left Marble full and happy, heading toward “Penny hot springs” which the locals had recommended above the other commercialized springs. After 15 or so minutes of driving we pulled over to make sure we were headed the right way, meaning to ask two fishermen. When Mel asked, the one closest to us exclaimed, “Oh, the Hippy Dip! Yep, right on down the road.” He winked. Mel paused, and he continued, “Oh, I went there when I was a kid. People don’t wear nothin’ there.” He winked again. We all looked back and forth at him and his friend, his friend looking extremely uncomfortable. The man continued, “And back then I didn’t have gray hair, neither.” His friend cut in, “Nooo, you can wear clothes. People wear clothes.” He said it so matter-of-factly we all laughed. We thanked the men and drove away, shaking our heads and laughing.

We found the hot springs soon after and quickly parked, making our way down the rocks toward the steam. A few people lounged in the first couple of rings of stones (which kept the hot water separate from the cold stream water) and asked their advice; “Don’t step in the little rivulets,” they told us, “Those are 160 degrees.” We then worked much harder to avoid stepping into the mini streams and hopped toward an unoccupied stone circle.

It was achingly hot. I couldn’t keep even my toes in the water for long, while Mel sank her entire body into the pool telling David and me to just do it, it’d feel okay after a bit. David shook his head and began to work on opening the stones to let some of the creek water in and I worked on convincing myself that two toes is just fine, maybe three… Finally David’s plan worked and we were all able to comfortably sit in the pool, swirling the water to mix cold and hot. We sat there, smelling sulphur and letting our thoughts wander as the sun sank to our lefts.

Eventually we were awoken from our evening-dreams when a group of young people walked into our circle and said hello. We all introduced ourselves, and we warned them about the heat but showed them our stirring stick, which we’d found near the stone circle. They laughed at our method for a balanced temperature and got into the water; it was an extremely cramped space. The entire situation was hilarious, with the taller guy stuck with his knees to his chest, every so often grabbing the stick to stir the water and flinching from the heat and all of us telling stories of camping and traveling (which are generally funny, the only options being to find things funny or go right back home). We must have talked for hours until Mel, David and I couldn’t stand the heat any longer and said our goodbyes.

We made our way back to the campsite and fell gratefully into bed.