Monday, November 30, 2015

Surf Camp

Serendipity led us to spend Thanksgiving on the Pacific Coast with friends at a surf camp in Santa Catalina. It was amazeballs. 

High tide came to within 20 feet of our front door. The harvest moon rose over Brahman cattle in pastures separated by living fences. Lightening bugs lit our way as we wadded across the estero for sublime ceviche and passion fruit sorbet. 

And then there was the surfing itself. We took lessons with a wonderful teacher named Davíd and all stood up on our boards no problem. The break was the friendliest stretch of ocean I have ever encountered. I did something janky to my elbow on that first day and spent the rest of the trip watching people slay it in the surf, progressing by leaps and bounds each day.

Midway through our time in Santa Catalina, we ventured out to Coiba National Park on a lancha. The place was a prison until recently which ironically helped preserve it as a relatively untouched tropical beach paradise. Created from the same tectonic hot spot that formed the Galapagos Islands, the region is noted for both its marine and terrestrial biodiversity. 

We saw dolphins, flying fish, sea turtles that were a meter across, white tip reef sharks, eels, monkeys, iguanas, and scads of fish along the coral reefs that ringed the islands and boomers off Coiba.  

In a miraculous farewell, we were called out of our room while packing to see around eighty baby sea turtles emerge from a nest not three paces from our door. The tide was low so an immense expanse of hot sand separated them from the surf zone. We shuttled them to the water, marveled at their small perfection, and wished them long life.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Indian Pop Culture

Two things:

1) The movie, Bang Bang.  

2)The song, I'm An Alcoholic. 

Like Indian culture in general, these make me marvel and terrify me in equal measure. 

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Miscellany From A Year (Mostly) Abroad

Our goal for this calendar year was to step away from the known, confront fears, and create space to welcome new adventures and growth into our lives-- both as individuals and as a couple. 

So we won the moment we left home for a year of traveling and working abroad. Everything after that was gravy. 


We were privileged to fly to Nepal to teach for an organization called Himalayan Medics, led by a young expeditionary doctor with a compelling vision. 

Dr. Nima was first to respond to many of Nepal's most devastating avalanches and mountain disasters in recent years. Those experiences motivated him to begin establishing a Nepali team with remote rescue and medical response capabilities that could help him provide professional level care for those in need far from the reach of hospitals. 

When strong earthquakes rocked Nepal not long after we left, our Nepali WFR graduates worked tirelessly for months to provide aid and relief to the communities hardest hit. 

Evan and I felt deeply honored to work with people who were so genuinely committed to their own education and to being of service. They were and are an inspiration to us both. A book I was introduced to later in the year, Flying Off Everest, captured well the Nepali spirit of enterprise we encountered there. 

During our time off in Nepal, we ran rivers. The Buri Gandaki, Seti Khola, Bheri, Karnali and Kali. We packrafted the first three on our own, going off maps like this:

Luckily, our greatest misadventure was staying with Mr. Lal, brother-in-law to the lovely owner of the place we called home in Kathmandu. This was at the put in for the Bhuri Gandaki and involved a dance off with a drunken wedding band as well as Mr. Lal's incomprehensible English (food for thought: he has been the local English teacher for the past twenty years) and tenacious hospitality. 

For the next two, we went with friends (thank you, Mama NOLS!) and Paddle Nepal-- phenomenal people made for a phenomenal time on both expeditions.  

The Nepali jungle corridors through which these rivers flowed gave off an ambrosial smell that utterly intoxicated my senses. Equally impressive was the amount of road construction, signs left behind indicating water levels during the monsoons, and the sight of literally thousands of naked children flinging themselves off the banks of the Bheri in order to swim out and play with us.  

Wishing we had more time, we ultimately got our rabies vaccines and headed to India. 


India contains multitudes. There is nothing I can say about India where its opposite is not also true, making it the ultimate country for paradox and diversity. 

Far and away what Evan and I love most about India are our friends there-- their unstinting generosity of spirit defies belief. 

We get on the wrong train, headed to Rajastan instead of Uttarkhand, while traveling to teach a course in Ranikhet? Sophia, Ravi, and Mr. Singh all pitched in to get us back on track.

We forget our passports on a island near Hampi, a ten hour bus ride from Bangalore with a flight to catch the next day? Dilip finds out about our colossal fuck up at 10:30pm, tells us not to worry and to get some sleep, takes Evan to a doctor's appointment at MIDNIGHT, and then casually passes Evan our passports over breakfast the next morning. A miracle only possible in India. 

We spend roughly five months in India and clearly need to eat? We didn't cook for ourselves once and the food was consistently off the hook. I still dream about the dosas we had at CTR in Bangalore, of Sunita's banana bread fresh from the oven, and the fruits dipped in chili, salt and lime we ate with Guru and Tej crosslegged on their living room floor. 

Evan also made a new BFF on this trip to India. The two of them twerking together against the mid pole, throwing stakes at imaginary vampires for hours, and giggling while trying to convince me to talk dirty in Hindi to Mandeep's mother are all memories that make my heart grin. 

What was hardest about India for me? The assault on my sense of smell. I met my nemesis for the first time in a Delhi hotel room and then kept falling victim to sneak attacks. It was an air freshener. It was a cologne. It was everywhere. Feces and urine were also everywhere. Navigating public spaces became a guessing game about when to hold my breath.

In terms of the landscape, the experiences I enjoyed the most were bicycling through the narrow Goan backwaters and the boulder encrusted rice fields north of Hampi. Most meaningful was returning to Martoli to hang a bell in honor of one of Evan's closest friends, AJ, who passed away in a plane crash this spring.

India turned out to be our first stop on the Eat, Pray, Love pilgrimage trail. At the time, I didn't know that the year would also bring me to Italy and Indonesia. My prayer in India was haphazard at best so I don't think it counts. Food was not the highlight of our time in Italy (in fact, we had the worst meal of the year in Venice) and Evan wasn't with me in Indonesia, so I think I struck out across the board when it came to following the Gospel of Gilbert.  


Having avoided Delhi belly our entire time in India (say what?!), we landed in Dublin and promptly got hit by a mack truck of gastrointestinal distress. 

Pretty randomly, we had decided to try something new and go bike touring in Donegal and Connemara. Without reliable internet (the branch router kept getting struck by lightning in India), we weren't able to plan the trip ourselves so we splurged and asked Seamus to figure everything out for us. We were in excellent hands. 

We rode around 50km a day along scenic lanes and pastoral backroads. Wind and rain dogged us for the first week or so. Looking for shelter in a downpour one blustery day, we ducked into a thatch hut with a welcome sign out front and found beautiful hand loomed woolens made from patterns collected by the weaver's father-in-law when he worked as a Donegal textile inspector. Wind kept us from riding out to the largely abandoned village of Port, giving me incentive to return one day. I found the pub experience I was looking for at Nancy's in Ardara. We were glad the tourist droves didn't put us off from visiting the gardens at Glenveagh or the island of Inishbofin.  

After two weeks biking through rural Ireland, surrounded by truly gigantic cows and oodles of lambs, we returned to Dublin and dove into city life-- me with relish and Evan with mild horror. We stayed at a hip hotel in the center of town which translated as a lovely, but loud room above a bar with no name. I drove Evan crazy with my hunt for food that in no way, shape or form reminded me of the countless mystery meat Irish breakfasts we had consumed while biking. I found Fumbally and 777, but at the expense of my husband's patience and love. I also found a pop up gallery featuring April and the Bear that made me drool. 


I feel so lucky that my family was game and found the means to meet us abroad while we were in Europe. Spotty internet access meant we approached them with a pretty hard sell: "We'll meet you anywhere, but we can't take on any of the planning!" My mom rose to the challenge like a champ. 

She choose to rent a house perched on a cliff over the Lot river in France because she had always wanted to see the famous cave paintings nearby. At first the beauty of the place seemed fake to me because I had seen so many Disney movies inspired by the area, its dovecotes and mills

At 71, my mom was a total trooper. In addition to reading, relaxing and shopping for local fruits and veggies, we biked, hiked, floated down the Cele river, caved, explored medieval churches and took turns sliding down a lock's bypass channel. Evan gawked at the limestone climbing along the river too, but we couldn't find any equipment to beg, borrow or steal. 

Most precious to me was time to enjoy my mom's company and watch Evan and her grow their relationship. Bonus that it was in a beautiful corner of France.   


My dad was on the receiving end of an even harder sell: "It looks like our options are rendezvousing with you in a couple of weeks in Scotland (we already bought our tickets) or waiting until the fall when we have no idea where we'll be. P.S. We can't do any of the trip planning, but here are the email addresses of some friends who may be able to help!"

We are so lucky that our parents love us. Amidst the craziness that is life's usual load, my dad went to work figuring out how much beauty we could cram into two weeks in Scotland. In case you were wondering how much beauty that is, it's a lot!

The video that got us hooked on the idea of going to Scotland in the first place:

In Edinburgh and Glasgow, we found lovely nests on Airbnb and culinary delights aplenty. In Edinburgh, the Gardener's Cottage and Lovecrumbs were top of my list. In Glasgow, we found a guidebook which helped us sort through the many options, but my favorites were the Rio Cafe and the CCA cafe, with Bibi's and Inn Deep looking promising. I was also taken with the shop at the Glasgow School of Art which featured the works of Scottish artist Libby Walker.

In Wester Ross, the Applecross Peninsula on north up the coast to the town of Ullapool was stunning. We stopped in to eat at the Badachro Inn while exploring this impressive expanse of water and moorland, and took a wonderful hike out along secluded beaches further south.  

The Isle of Harris in the Hebrides blew us away with the stark landscape of its eastern coastline. As we drove along the Golden Road, we stopped by the gallery space and home of a talented black and white photographer named Beka Globe. Also on Harris was the Luskentyre Harris Tweed Company. I wish I had bought yards of red tweed to remake my bedraggled winter coast. 

The history was remarkable on the west coast of the Isle of Lewis-- there's a wonderful guidebook that captures all there is to see from the Calanais standing stones to the restored blackhouses at Gearrannan and beyond. 

And all of this beauty just left us hungry for more. There were so many nooks and crannies yet to be explored. 

No number of trophies (and believe me, I think trophies count for a lot) could express our gratitude to my dad and Elena for the ground they covered with us-- the hair-raising miles driven on the wrong side of the road, the rounds of Settlers of Catan they played with us until I accidentally left the game on a ferry, the boggy hikes. I so value the shared curiosity that urged us all on to look around the next bend.


I arrived at midnight in Istanbul and woke to find that Ramadan was in full swing. Streets and metro cars were packed with mostly Turkish visitors to the main attractions in town, which left me wandering back alleys and holed up happily in the flat I’d rented for the week.

Not speaking a lick of Turkish and avoiding the crowds meant that I encountered a city in which being understood meant writing numbers down and showing them to people, miming, and relying on the goodwill and patience of strangers.

It also meant a lot of time observing rather than engaging. I observed the copious cats for which Istanbul is so famous, the fishermen with their lines cast off bridges over the Bospherus, grape arbors and bistro lights strung high across narrow cobbled streets giving a dappled shade, and ubiquitous smokers leaning against tables, chairs and walls as they passed away the day in conversation.

With weekly markets shuttered and the Chora Church under renovation, I got my tourist fix riding ferries to Asia, visiting the Kilic Ali Pasha Hamani and the Istanbul Modern, and watching Whirling Dervishes step off sheep fleeces to twirl on slippered feet. I also caught the incredible performance of a French/Colombian/Turkish band playing at Nardis Jazz Club. I wish I could say I was lucky enough to attend a concert at the Basilica Cistern as well, but no dice.

Like any metropolis, Istanbul could instantly transport me across the world. Around the corner from my flat was a small shop called Muz that was straight out of San Francisco— issues of Kinfolk, air plants, artisanal hot chocolate, geometric jewelry, and commons space along a worn wooden table that spanned the distance from the front door to the register. Around another corner, the hole-in-the-wall restaurant Datli Maya returned me to Turkey with a menu I couldn’t decipher and fresh food they took obvious pride in sharing.

I have always loved the photography of Ara Güler and from the narrow glimpse I got of life in the city, I would say his work captures the best of the place and maybe the past of the place as well. Lacking from his photos are the razorwire I encountered along the shoreline, the massive cruise ships moored in the smog, the endless selfies being snapped by younger generations, and the concrete sprawl.

But then again, any insight I gained about Istanbul during the short time I was there was small to nonexistent. There were lots of resources to guide my explorations of the city --from an online events guide to a fifty-pound tome of a guidebook to an app for my phone-- but more often than not I found myself browsing through them without feeling any need to leave the living room couch, the cup of tea and open jar of Nutella on the table in front of me, or the gentle breeze fluttering the curtains.


I knew nothing of Indonesia. Sometimes that’s the best approach ever. It was in this case.

I fell head over heels for the place and left hungry to learn more about the country.

It’s the fourth most populous nation in the world and a large percentage of that population lives in villages. It is made up of a gadzillion islands strung along the equator. And its Declaration of Independence was two sentences long and included the use of "etc" to cover all of its bases. The people I met there (roughly .00000000000000001% of Indonesia’s total population) were warm, easygoing, ingenious, fun loving, and thoughtful.

Spoiler alert: I spent the whole time I was there at a beach resort. So yeah, of course I loved Indonesia.

I got to go barefoot for two weeks for the first time in forever. I broke my toe running on the beach and hitting a half-buried coconut, but it was still worth it. I slept on stilts over the water for the first time ever. The surf crashing under my room kept me up at night until a kind student of mine lent me some professional grade earplugs, and it was still worth it.

Now I am scheming how to get my family and friends to return there with me. Although a world away in spirit, Sugi Island is only about 60 kilometers as the crow flies from Singapore (that weird Disneyland of a city) so while I am not holding my breath, I’ve gotta think there’s a chance.


New York City for a hot second meant good food, walking the streets, waxing my legs, and picking up some new clothes.

Upstate New York for a hot second meant spending time with loved ones and their families at homes I had never had the privilege or pleasure of visiting before. It meant an introduction to Adirondack life and the concept of camps. It meant finally visiting Essex Farm after years of admiring it from afar.


On my bucket list for ages, we met up with my brother and his wife to hike hut to hut in the Dolomites. In Bolzano, we happily discovered there was a last minute addition to our party:

Rachel earned several medals, multiple trophies and a whole mess of awards for hiking through the notorious eighth week of pregnancy. Saving her tears for others (“They [the people who died on the Titanic] must have been so cold!”), she gamely scaled mountains, avoided Finnish saunas, and drank copious amounts of water (forsaking alcohol).

Our resource when it came to planning this trip (one Sam Talucci) recommended either walking the Alta Via 1 (Sennes to Lavarella to Lagazuoi to Cinque Torri to Croda da Lago) or 2 (Citta di Bressanine to Genova to Puez to Pisciadu to Boe to Cstiglioni). 

I don’t think there was a route we could have taken that wasn’t a winner. The mountains are gorgeous and they go on forever. German culture meant good beers. Italian culture meant good wine and even better pasta

Along the trails we saw unicyclists, ultrarunners, mountain bicyclists, climbers, and hikers of all ages. Europe is so unlike the United States in terms staying active and growing older. Everyone was out and about.

Our time in the Dolomites ended too soon and left us plotting ways to return. Maybe some via ferrata next time? Maybe a side trip to Slovenia?

Rachel flew out from the quiet side of Venice, while Mike, Evan and I drove west to see our godmother and her family— a time of fresh lemon verbena, spy novels, napping, conversations about spiritual practice and local living, olive groves, peaceful quiet, grilling under the stars, and laughter.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Baby Maybe And The Anthropocene

With everyone popping out babies left and right, Evan and I have been asking ourselves if we want to keep the IUD in place or try our hand at the parental lottery.

This summer found us independently wondering, “Why wouldn’t we say yes to the possibility of expanding our notions of love?”

Then time around families with young children had us both thinking, “We’d have to be batshit crazy to choose this!”

Now, ensconced in a gringo retirement community, the primary factor coloring the baby maybe question for me is, “How could we possibly justify bringing another human onto this earth?” The planet needs another child like a donkey needs a life jacket. What are the ethics around giving birth during the sixth mass extinction in geologic history?

I think I understand (parents would no doubt disagree) the magic and allure of life’s greatest adventure (parenthood), but how can I embrace this compelling experience in its traditional form given our current and remarkable context?

I wish there was no choice, no guise of personal agency in the matter. I know and have always known that Evan and I will rise to the occasion whether or not we have kids and welcome whatever life has in store for us. I’d rather be responsible for how I play the hand of cards we’re dealt than decide if the birth control card should stay in the deck. 

I may be too much of a kid myself to don this pair of grownup pants without necessity as a motivator.

Saturday, November 7, 2015


Evan just asked me, "If we have a little girl, can we force her to do that?"

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Presto Change-O

The seasons are changing here in Panama. We haven't had rain in three whole days which feels crazy. 

This time of year, I often find myself embarking on some sort of health and wellness kick. Winter feels like a natural time for slowing down, simplifying, and turning inward. And, for me, inward focus brings with it a tinge of the blues that is tempered by efforts to reconnect with my body.  

What's unique this year is having prioritized space and time to do just that. It feels like such a mercy. 

I was dubious when Evan suggested using exercise videos to help achieve the recuperation we're looking for here in Panama, but they've proven to be a great tool. 

Welcome to the World of YAYOG. See that guy up there balancing on his fingertips like a Zen warrior? That's Mark Lauren. He's our sensei on this adventure in fitness.  

Is he legit? 

Lauren broke, and still holds, the Pararescue/Combat Control Indoctrination Course's long standing "underwater record" by swimming 133 meters, on one breath, subsurface, for 2 minutes and 23 seconds, until losing consciousness.

Too legit to quit.

He has created four ten-week programs (we're doing the most basic one) as well as mobility workouts and something mysterious called EFX (which makes me feel like a phoenix rising from the puddle of my own sweat or death depending on the day).

To switch things up a bit, we're mixing in walks (a girl needs her Vitamin D), some Yoga Studio (with a teacher who has an endlessly fascinating hairdo), and pilates (if you have a recommendation for a good source of pilates videos, let us know-- the Scandinavian fellow we're currently following leaves us disoriented in his dust).

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Two Lawyers : Two Mic-Drops

I have been on a bender... 

It all started with Just Mercy, a book that gives eloquent and humanizing voice to the agonizing injustices perpetrated by our criminal justice system against the black population of United States. 

(lawyer #1)

It made me weep and it made me ashamed of my inattention. And I developed a huge crush on the author. And the author's mother.  

I started to read every book I could get my hands on about the latest institutional means by which the lives of people whose outward appearance speaks of African ancestry are destroyed in our nation. 

Street Poison, Slavery By Another Name, Between the World and Me, and The New Jim Crow-- there are so many people lending their experience and research to the cause of educating those willing to learn about the crimes of incarceration. 

(lawyer #2)

I am hollowed out, humbled, and fumbling to identify and marshall the power I have to effect change.