How to Heal A Broken Ankle

I have this personal trainer, Chris. I first met him at Colorado Athletic Club. I liked him right away. Chris is the kind of person who restores your faith in humanity. He served in the Army in Afghanistan, earning his degree by taking online courses in between missions. He wants to help other veterans through exercise and nutrition. He’s a bona fide hero.

Earlier this year Chris opened a gym with another trainer, Mike. Mike is from New Jersey, a fact he will remind you of whenever he feels misunderstood. He said one time someone complained that he was a misogynist, and Mike replied that he didn’t know what they were talking about and he hadn’t been massaging anyone.

What do you expect? I’m from New Jersey! Mike will say, as if this explains any perceived deficiency in his education or etiquette.

Mike is loud and brash, and he will not hesitate to yell at you as a motivating tactic. Personally, I do not respond very well to this tactic. Mike says he was a chubby kid, which is hard to imagine. One day he just decided to change his life. He joined a boxing gym. He says that you know a really good boxing gym when the guys jumprope double-dutch. I would love to see that.

Mike will not take no for an answer. You can’t do it? Impossible. You can’t lift heavier? Mike doesn’t believe it. Is that all you got? You can’t do 10 more? You can. You will.

This kind of driving optimism must have been how Mike got in shape, how he got out of New Jersey, how he got his own gym. And he’s only like 26. One time I saw him running through Boulder with a backpack on, and you just know he ran all the way up and down Sanitas. He probably ran all the way from Denver.

Mike yelled at me in my first class because I wasn’t trying to win a race across the room. I rationalized by saying something like “I’m just not very competitive,” which is like throwing down the gauntlet to Mike. He vowed to get it out of me, to make me a competitor, to make me want to win.

After a six-week introductory deal, Mike and Chris had me hooked on their exercise crack and I was ready for more. I was pumped. Sore today, strong tomorrow. I prepaid for a three-month membership.

Mike took my measurements so that we would have baseline numbers to assess my future progress. He pinched me with those creepy gym teacher calipers and then measured the circumference of my arms, legs and torso. He was like, “Wow, your legs are surprisingly fat.” That’s not exactly what he said, but it was something about how I was carrying more weight than was apparent to the casual observer. If anyone else had told me this, I might have been offended. But it’s Mike. He’s from New Jersey.

We talked about my goals. I wanted to finally have the body I’ve always dreamed of. I wanted to be a boxer. Mike designed an aggressive schedule of classes in the coming weeks. We were going to do it together. I was going to win. U-S-A! U-S-A!

The next morning, I got up early and went to boot camp. I felt strong. I felt like I could do this every day, get up before the sun, exercise, sweat, start off like a fucking champion.

It was the last round of reps in the last circuit. There was 10 minutes left in class. I was running in place with my hands on the wall. My partner, Kristi, was on the floor doing crunches — I had to run for as long as it took her to finish her reps. I turned my head to see how far along she was, and my left foot landed like a limp fish on the floor.

My ankle rolled out. There was a loud POP! — so loud that Kristi heard it clearly over the blaring music. I crumbled to the ground. I knew something had happened, but I didn’t feel any pain. My ankle started swelling. I was in shock. Mike asked me where it hurt. I found out later that he thought I had ruptured my Achilles. Kristie offered to stay with me at the hospital, but I told her that I’d be fine. I thought maybe I’d just twisted my ankle. Even the doctor seemed to think it was less serious at first. But the x-rays showed a clean break through the lateral malleolus of my left fibula.

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When my foot landed wrong, the ligament yanked on that little protrusion on my fibula and just snapped off the end like a rice cracker. Because it is not a weight-bearing bone, I was able to put pressure on it without feeling much. It didn’t require surgery, but I would have to be in a walking boot for at least six weeks.

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It has been exactly four months. The recovery has been pretty easy, all things considered. I’ve moved from the boot to a bandage, to nothing. But as I’ve transitioned to using my ankle more, walking more, standing more, I’ve been feeling it.

X-rays show that my bone has healed. They actually say that a healed bone is stronger than the original bone. It comes back reinforced, even better than it was before. But now I have the other effects from being in the boot, which restricted motion in my entire foot and calf during the recovery.

All my good intentions succumbed to Netflix and comfort food. I did manage to move to a new apartment while in the boot, so I wasn’t totally inactive, but it’s been the polar opposite of the Rocky workout montage I envisioned prior to my injury.

As I try to jumpstart myself back into shape, I am faced with new challenges — weakness, atrophy, lack of balance. And mostly, I just don’t trust myself anymore. If my ankle could roll once, it could roll again. (I saw this funny thing that said, “I don’t always roll a joint, but when I do, it’s my ankle.”) Even the doctor told me that once you’ve had an injury like this, you are more likely to repeat it.

My medical treatment up until this point has been spotty. The doctors at the ER were cool, but they couldn’t do much more than give me some crutches and send me on my way. My primary care physician is at a community clinic, where they have way more serious issues to deal with. They said that if it swells really bad, go get it checked out. So far I haven’t found any way to measure what really bad swelling looks like as compared to just sorta-bad-normal swelling. But hey, I’m not a doctor.

Last week I had my first physical therapy appointment. My experience with my PT, Lindsay, was totally different. She was focused and present. She talked through her observations.

The fact that I was just running in place against a wall when my ankle rolled told Lindsay that there was a disconnect between my mind and my body. The inner ear controls our sense of balance. She hypothesized that I had inner ear issues prior to my injury, and my ankle rolled because the message from my brain to my foot misfired.

I remembered that my left foot had been acting up the night before and the morning of my injury. I knew my foot was tired. I could feel that it was stressed, but my mindset was to ignore what my body was telling me and push through the fatigue. To power forward.

But sometimes forward motion actually requires that you slow way down.

I was at this bowling alley once where they had automatic scoring — rather than writing or typing in your own scores, the computer scored the game for you. In order for the lane to keep score, the sensors had to read the position of the pins accurately. Any jostling of the pins would throw off the sensors and require the system to reset again.

When it was my turn to bowl, I was chit-chatting and didn’t notice that the system hadn’t finished resetting the pins from the prior turn. I positioned myself just left of center and sent the ball rolling down the lane, only to have it smack against the rail of the pinsetting machine.

The guy working at the bowling alley was sort of a country dude. He had a thick twang, and he looked like a larger version of Eminem in the Slim Shady video. He came running over to tend to the pinsetter like it was a sensitive child.

He turned to me, sounding very annoyed, “Can you pay intention please?”

I remember we got a real kick out of that. Pay intention. It’s a brilliant flip. Rather than simply paying attention, why not pay intention. Don’t just observe; declare your purpose. Participate mindfully.

It is not surprising that my body rebelled just as I was about to launch a huge push to change. That’s the way life works. Just when you are ready to do something monumental, just when you are about to face a challenge bigger than you’ve ever faced before, you are shown your weaknesses. Not as punishment, but to reveal where you are vulnerable.

My body said, OK, if you are serious about getting in shape, you’re going to have to communicate better. Sometimes pushing is not the way. Sometimes you simply can’t force things. You can’t progress to a higher level until you’ve mastered the one you’re on. Life intervenes to show you where you still have some work to do. This isn’t a failure, but a matter of timing and experience. It’s like cooking — you can have all the right ingredients, but then you have to let them blend together. If you take the casserole out too early, you miss the full flavor. If you force yourself to compete at a level that you’re not ready for, you are going to stumble.

I’ve been back to the gym a few times. Chris and Mike have been their typical supportive selves. They modify exercises for me; they look out for me; and of course they just believe in me so much. It’s kind of annoying sometimes.

Mike usually is bursting with energy, bouncing around, singing along to Beyonce with his hair dyed green or purple as he barks at you to run faster, push harder. But a couple of weeks ago Mike and I were alone in the gym, and he was quiet. I asked him what was wrong, and he said that he’d just returned from a trip home. One of his friends had overdosed on opiates, a huge problem where Mike comes from.

The neighbors who found the body also found Mike’s friend’s dog alone and in need of care. The friend’s ex-girlfriend lives on a farm several hours away, so Mike and another guy agreed to drive the dog to the farm. Mike showed me photos of their road trip on his phone. He and the other guy are wearing suits. They are in a convertible. The dog looks elated. They’re from New Jersey.

I can tell that his friend’s death lays heavy on Mike. Having mustered so much personal strength himself, Mike feels a responsibility to show others the way. He knows what is possible and he believes in overcoming obstacles. He believes you can do it, anyone can do it, no matter what you are up against. But, as I learned the hard way, it doesn’t matter how much Mike believes in you if you don’t believe in yourself.

With Lindsay’s help I hope to get back to the starting line soon, back to where I was four months ago. Mustering the energy is very challenging, but no one can do it for me. No one can listen for me. No one can restore the communication between my mind and my body but me. No one can save me but me. Just as the lateral malleolus of my left fibula has grown back stronger than it was before, I know that I will be stronger for acknowledging my vulnerability. I will be wiser for seeing my weakness. I will pay intention. And I will reach my destination better than when I started.

 

Happy Birthday to Me

So it’s my birthday. Again.

As my friend DeAnna said somewhat accusingly in my birthday message, “I feel like your birthday has come very fast; I don’t know why — other people have also had birthdays — but I feel like the time between this birthday and your last birthday seems like less than a year.”

I hear you, DeAnna, how do we slow down this crazy train?

DeAnna is constantly surprising me with her perspective. She’s one of the few people I know who brazenly and totally bravely thinks for herself. She questions things I would never think to question (like has it been less than a year since my last birthday?). Everyone needs a friend like DeAnna.

You know, I thought 40 was the big birthday, but I think it’s 41. I mean, my birthday is a pretty big deal, as evidenced by this post on my Facebook wall from my friend Jenn:

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Jenn is going to remember my damn birthday. I tell you what.

When I turned 40 last year, I just wanted to be alone. I took a solo trip to Connecticut. I slept in a greenhouse. They called this “glamping,” that’s “glamorous camping” to you and me. On my actual birthday I kayaked. I am not comfortable with any kind of deep water, so even on a dead calm river, I found it challenging. The whole concept of steering with the oar seemed counterintuitive.

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I did make it upstream to a spot where you had to duck to get under this bridge and then on the other side you were in like a mossy green fairyland. On the return trip, floating through the narrow opening, I thought of it as a rebirth. Onward to the next phase of my life.

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This year, Lani and Chris came to visit from San Francisco. It had been a long time since they had been in Colorado together.  We decided to take an overnight trip to an AirBnB in Salida with amazing views and a hot tub.

The whole time leading up to it, I was all about the hot tub. I could not wait to sit under the stars in the damn hot tub. But when we got there I had a respiratory infection and it was frigid cold outside – in the 20s and 30s. Definitely not get-wet-and-be-outside weather. I was grumpy and disappointed, and not that fun to be around. I pouted and went to bed, which apparently I still do, even at 41 years old.

From our deck, you could see a string of 14ers, which the owner, Drew, rattled off the names of when we arrived. Drew built the house himself using strawbale construction. He has chickens and turkeys, and a huge sow named Tammy. Drew gets the vegetable scraps from some of the downtown restaurants, and the waste barley from the brewery to feed her. (Tammy wouldn’t pose for a picture, but just imagine the biggest pig you have ever seen.)

We shopped at a great thrift store in Salida the next day called Ruby Blues. This actually was the impetus for the whole trip; when Mom and I were in Salida over Christmas, I just knew that Lani and Chris would love this store. The owners are a husband-and-wife team. Their selection is authentic vintage and very reasonably priced — like varsity letter jackets, and jean jumpsuits, riding pants and 70s sweaters. A lot of amazing pieces. I’m going to go down there just to go record shopping. I want every record in the store.

Chris found a 1940s reversible military jacket with fur trim that basically had never been worn before. One side is green and the other side is white. When wearing the white side, he looks like he is in Siberia in a James Bond movie.

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He also got these 1970s sparkly motorcycle helmets.

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I got a pair of clogs. For some reason, they have a robust selection of Dansko clogs at this place.

We had lunch at the Mexican restaurant in town, then stopped at a roadside Gem and Rock Store outside Buena Vista. Lani has a thing for rocks.

Lani was a pretty miserable baby. She had constant earaches. She only wanted to be held by Mom. She cried like crazy.

When Lani was about one-and-a-half my mom was pouring boiling water into a pitcher when it burst in her hands. Lani had been on the floor, possibly even clutching my mom’s leg. She was burned all over her little body.

My earliest memory from my childhood is walking down the hospital hallway and the nurse saying, “Now remember, you can’t touch your sister, or she’ll bleed.”

I must have been about three. It was dark in the hospital room, with only a few dim lights on. When they opened the door, Lani was standing up in the crib holding the bars. She had gauze around her head and this huge smile on her face. She was happier than she’d ever been.

We were pretty shy and quiet kids. Our parents were introverts. So imagine our surprise when Lani was about five and she picked up her stuffed bear and began to speak for him in a deep, growling voice. None of us would have believed such a big voice could come out of such a little kid.

Dad asked the bear what his name was.

The bear replied, “G.B.”

Dad: What does G.B. stand for?

G.B.: Gray Black. (G.B. was a gray bear, with black eyes.)

G.B. started watching the Broncos games with us, yelling at the TV screen, high-fiving Dad. Occasionally, Dad would pick G.B. up and throw him in the air, prompting G.B. to growl, “Stop it, Gery!”

One day Dad asked G.B. who his hero was.

G.B.: [thinks for a minute] Kirk Blueberry.

Dad: Oh, yeah, what is Kirk Blueberry famous for?

G.B.: He found 10,000 rocks.

Lani loved nature from the beginning. To me, a rock is a rock. But when we were in that rock store on the side of the road outside Buena Vista last weekend, it was clear that Lani has a very special talent for seeing beauty in normal, regular things. She chatted up the geologist proprietor, asking meaningful questions, picking the best things out of the case. Lani didn’t go to school for this, but she just enjoys it; she likes what she likes, not what anyone else likes, not what she is told to like. She and Chris have this sixth sense for cool stuff. I just see a rock.

Everything shifted for me when we got to the hot springs. It was a cloudless day, gorgeous fall colors, just a bit of chill in the air. After being sick and crabby, floating in the hot springs with the sun on my face was rejuvenating. We finished out the weekend with a nice gathering at Dad’s house where we ate cake and ice cream, and did a mini birthday celebration surrounded by extended family.

On my actual birthday Mom brought me the most beautiful lunch. Salmon with garlic and dill; quinoa; an amazing salad with romaine from her garden, feta cheese, strawberries, blackberries and pecans in a blush wine vinaigrette. She even made me a cheesecake. She went off-recipe and replaced the heavy cream and whipping cream with yogurt and cream cheese. Like she does.

She helped me repot my herbs and bring them inside for the winter. And she made me the most hilarious and awesome present. Over the weekend, I had been admiring the drawings in this old cookbook she had. We especially liked this one of the cowgirl and the vegetables.

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So my mom copied the drawing and made these kitchen magnets. She really is the best mom.

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All in all, I’m optimistic about 41. I received many sweet, genuinely thoughtful and heartfelt birthday wishes. I have many people to love, so many people who love me. It’s a ridiculous abundance of friendship. I am grateful to have known and shared my heart with so many. It really is the best gift.

It’s easy to focus on what’s lacking. Like, I’m not married, and I don’t have kids, I don’t have pets, I don’t own a house, I’m out of shape, I’m exhausted and unmotivated, my ankle still hurts after breaking it three months ago. I’m sick, blah, blah, blah. It’s easy to let my mind ramble on, cataloging all my faults and failures, but there comes a point (age 41, maybe?) when all that toxic noise just gets really boring.

As I was floating in the hot springs, trying out various arrangements for the sad limp pool noodles — Under the knees? The ankles? Propped under the neck? — I overheard two ladies discussing the movie “Age of Adaline” (currently available to watch on Amazon).

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I’d seen the promo for it, but frankly, Blake Lively bugs me. She’s headed down that Gwyneth Paltrow road of self-righteous clean-living that just lacks any sort of spark of life. Where is the authentic woman behind the complexion and the ever-calm-and-collected smoky voice? Where’s the blood? Where’s the heart? Where’s the soul?

But as the ladies discussed the plot, I became intrigued. In 1930s America, Adaline (Blake Lively) is a young widow with a daughter when she accidentally slides off the road and her car ends up in a freezing lake. Adaline dies submerged in her vehicle in the icy water. But, it just so happens that within minutes of her death, the lake is struck by an electrical charge, which restarts her heart. She is alive. She climbs out of the lake, and from that day forward, her body doesn’t age another day. Adaline remains 29 years old forever. Even as her daughter grows up and becomes an old woman, Adaline still looks exactly the same. In order to avoid being kidnapped by the government or some crazy scientists, she changes her identity every 10 years. She has no life of her own. No one except her daughter knows the truth. Over the years, Adeline falls in love, at least twice.

(Spoiler alert) the movie unfolds as she meets a relentless young rich dude named Ellis (actual dialogue: “Like the island?” Ugh). Despite her reservations, Adaline, now going by the name Jenny, “falls” into bed with Ellis the way it always happens in romantic comedies: They drink a bunch and then ravage each other like horny virgins. These movies make you believe that the only way to “fall in love” with someone is to get totally hammered and have sex on the first date. Because that works out so well in real life.

Of course, Ellis is inexplicably drawn to Adaline’s aloof demeanor and distant gazes. He absolutely will not take no for an answer. Again, this only happens in movies. If a real dude were this persistent, you would be like hey stalker, no means no, brah.

Adaline agrees to go with Ellis to his parents’ 40th wedding anniversary celebration. But (plot twist!) it turns out that Ellis’s dad, played by Harrison Ford, also fell madly in love with Adeline in the 1960s, and planned to propose to her on the day that she ditched him to change her identity. One of the main reasons to watch this movie is to see the flashback scenes where the actor who plays the young Harrison Ford does like a crossover impression of Indiana Jones and Han Solo.

Eventually, Harrison Ford figures out that Jenny actually is Adaline. He begs her not to hurt his son the way she hurt him, but Adeline just can’t conceive of a life where she gets to be loved and to love another honestly.

As I watched Blake Lively’s shiny blonde hair flowing behind her as she ran through a forest, the point of the movie hit me. It’s about running away from life, making excuses, giving in to doubts, letting whatever the obstacle is – money, health, social awkwardness, fear, anger, shame, eternal youth, whatever – letting that thing stop you from even trying.

When Ellis discovers that Adaline has left, he asks his father what happened. What made her leave? Why’d she do it?

Ellis: Dad! Tell me what she said!

Harrison Ford character: She said she’s not capable…

Ellis: Of what?

Harrison Ford character: Of change.

Over the past few months, I’ve slowly opened up to the idea that my future could look different from my past. I don’t have to run. I don’t have to listen to the mindless critical chatter. I don’t have to settle. I don’t have to lock my heart away, and I don’t have to deny myself the life I deserve as penance for my perceived faults and failures.

The media and the advertisers will tell you that aging is about loss — the loss of beauty, of health, of optimism, of potential — like if you haven’t made your career and had your family by 35, if you haven’t maintained a perfect physique and resisted all addictions, if you haven’t found inner peace and eliminated negativity, if you haven’t accomplished something, become somebody, achieved your dreams, healed your family, saved the world, then you might as well just completely give up.

But it’s a lie.

The reason prior generations valued youth so much is that everyone expected to be dead by 50. Life was hard. People were dying all the damn time. You got married at like 12 and had 10 babies by 40. You probably wished you were dead. You worked on a farm or in a factory or a mine where nobody cared if you didn’t feel like going to work that day. Nobody cared if there was a blizzard or an ice storm or a dust bowl. You didn’t have choices. Youth was valued because you didn’t expect to be young for very long. You had to grow up fast, and the decisions you made as you launched into adulthood had serious, lasting repercussions. Marrying the wrong man or choosing the wrong job could put you in the hospital, or in jail, or in the grave. We have so many choices now. We have so much more to work with than any generation before us. Including time.

So, here’s to 41. Here’s to change. Here’s to choices. Here’s to anything can happen. Here’s to another year. (And I’ll try to make it a full year this time, DeAnna.)

 

A Vacation of Fitness and Terror, Vol. 3: Rise of The Pelican

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After being fire-drilled out of bed that morning, then enduring a harrowing drive to Puntarenas and 70 minutes on a floating strip club, followed by another hour or so in the middle seat in the back of the RAV-4, capped off by a mile of muddy jungle road up to the house where my friends would be staying, I was dead tired.

I was also nervous about meeting the owners of the property. I didn’t want them to think that I was trying to scam them.

Getting “scammed” was something that we joked about a lot throughout the trip. We were especially wary of “scammers” who might try to pull a stunt like dressing up as an elderly couple whose car had broken down on the side of the road. Likely story, abuelitos. You can’t fool us with your scams.

Anyone who looked remotely sketchy, it was like, “That guy definitely wants to scam you.” We never discussed explicitly what it meant to be “scammed,” but we all knew we didn’t want it to happen to us.

So, almost immediately upon meeting Alex and Khalida, who own the rental property, I blurted out that I would be staying at the hostel in Montezuma, just so they knew I wasn’t trying to scam them.

They seemed pretty cool. Alex is Costa Rican and Khalida is American. We weren’t sure how to pronounce her name—turns out it is the feminine form of the Afghan name “Khalid,” and is therefore pronounced Hall-i-dah. She is a very petite and pretty blonde woman whose parents did humanitarian work in Afghanistan.

We didn’t get the full story, but somehow, Khalida and Alex met and fell in love. They lived in New York/New Jersey for a while, which Alex found stifling. Especially the idea that, in some spots, you have to pay to use the beach. (He was flabbergasted by this. Pay? To use the BEACH??!… He couldn’t imagine how this was justified.)

Eventually, they moved back to Costa Rica and bought the property (dubbed “Aqua Vista”) where they now have several rental houses. They walked us from the big house, where they live with their two young daughters, down a tidy little path toward “Casa Morfo.”

We are pretty sure that “morfo” means “butterfly,” even though “butterfly” in Spanish is “mariposa.” Someone suggested that “morfo” could mean “moth,” but “House of Moths” doesn't sound like a very inviting vacation home.

We are pretty sure that “morfo” means “butterfly,” even though “butterfly” in Spanish is “mariposa.” Someone suggested that “morfo” could mean “moth,” but “House of Moths” doesn’t sound like a very inviting vacation home.

Unlike most landowners in the area, Alex and Khalida do not have dogs, therefore, they said we were much more likely to see wildlife. Alex said that we would see more animals at Casa Morfo than we would if we went to the nearby nature preserve, Cabo Blanco.

As if on cue, we were summoned to some nearby trees by a group of capuchin “white faced” monkeys.

Jenn had a snazzy new digital camera, so she was taking pictures like it was frickin' National Geographic up in here.

Jenn had a snazzy new digital camera, so she was taking pictures like it was frickin’ National Geographic up in here.

In between the two houses was a beautiful pond, full of the happiest looking koi you have ever seen. They were darting all over the place in the crystal clear water under the shade of a green tarp. A lovely bridge crossed the width of the pond. Alex told us that this was the best place on the property to get WiFi.

We wouldn’t have any internet access in the house—and with the calling capabilities on our cell phones turned off, we wouldn’t be making or getting any calls either. We would be essentially free of technology and disconnected from the world unless we came up to the pond, thus earning it the title, “The Koi Pond of Knowledge.”

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Brian was the most frequent visitor to the Koi Pond of Knowledge, or “Information Point” as he also liked to call it. The knowledge he gathered consisted mostly of football scores.

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The house had two nice-sized bedrooms, a full kitchen, and a bathroom with a washing machine and a private outdoor shower. Just out the front door was a dining area and outdoor living room complete with a small “plunge pool,” a swimming pool about four-feet deep and the size of a very large bathtub.

We decided to eat lunch, take a dip in the plunge pool, and relax for a while before venturing back into town to check me into the hostel. We hadn’t been sitting out there ten minutes, when we met some of the locals:

There was a whole family of these little guys--they're kind of like raccoons, I guess, but they come out during the day. They're called "coatis." We first saw the baby, and then a couple bigger ones, who we assumed were the parents. We named them Jim, Helen, and Liam Coati.At one point, later in the trip, Liam got a little wild one night when he found a single-serve packet of Crystal Light in Chris's backpack and proceeded to get high as a freaking kite on diet sugar drink crystals. His little sticky paw prints were all over the outdoor living space. We were surprised we didn't find him floating in the pool like Brian Jones from the Rolling Stones.

There was a whole family of these little guys–they’re kind of like raccoons, I guess, but they come out during the day. They’re called “coatis” (ko-watt-ees). We first saw the baby, and then a couple bigger ones, who we assumed were the parents. We named them Jim, Helen, and Liam Coati.  Liam got a little wild one night while we were all sleeping. He found a single-serve packet of Crystal Light in Chris’s backpack and proceeded to get high as a freaking kite on diet sugar drink crystals. His little sticky paw prints were all over the outdoor living space. I was surprised we didn’t find him floating in the pool like Brian Jones from the Rolling Stones.

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After plunging into the pool—and the rum—we all agreed that it would be ridiculous for me stay in the hostel. Alex and Khalida had a single-occupancy cabin on the property that appeared to be vacant. (In fact, we were the only guests at Aqua Vista for the majority of the trip. The timing could not have been better. We had come at the end of the rainy season. In about a week, the entire area would be swarming with tourists.) Chris volunteered to go up to the big house to discuss the situation with Alex and Khalida.

He returned with a completely different option—that we all move to a larger rental house on the other side of the property, which would cost only $35 more for the week. We went and checked out the bigger house—where I would have had a real pullout sofa bed and we all would have had more room—but something didn’t feel right about it. We loved Casa Morfo. (And the big house didn’t have a plunge pool, or the view.)

For some reason, the view was really hard to capture in a photo. But there's water in the distance, and a whole lotta jungle in between.

For some reason, the view was really hard to capture in a photo. But there’s water in the distance, and a whole lotta jungle in between.

There was a day bed on the porch that had a lightweight mattress. I didn’t really want to sleep outside (even though—amazingly—we had encountered very few mosquitos), so we did some experimenting. The mattress fit nicely in the kitchen. I could bring it in at night and we could still use it outside during the day. We agreed to pay Alex and Khalida the price of the bigger house, but stay at Casa Morfo.

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My bed in its daytime capacity, next to the plunge pool.

Jenn's beautiful photo of my bedroom, aka, the kitchen.

Jenn’s beautiful photo of my bedroom, aka, the kitchen.

The outdoor dining area came to be known as the Depression Table, for its tendency to make the women talk about deep and serious things.

The outdoor dining area came to be known as the Depression Table, for its tendency to make the women talk about deep and serious things.

That night was just a lot of talking. And a lot of tequila and rum. We discussed the events of the day. That is where the legend of The Pelican truly began to take shape.

During the drive, Brian had revealed that some people refer to him as “The Pelican.”

Neither Joy, nor I, who have known him for 20 years, have ever heard him referred to as “The Pelican.”His wife has never heard anyone call him this. But, Brian insists that it’s true. It has something to do with his golfing buddies.

Regardless of how it originated, for the remainder of our time in Montezuma, Brian became a sort of mythic, Godfather-type character in my mind. Whenever something went wrong in a restaurant or if there was a traffic jam, we joked that the townspeople were like, “We are so sorry for the inconvenience, Pelican…” “Don’t you know who that is? It’s The Pelican.” I picture him dressed in white linen suits and a fedora.

We spent quite a good bit of time sketching out the beginnings of Brian’s autobiography, Dangerous Beauty: The Pelican’s Story.

The next day, we set out to walk along Montezuma’s beach. We stopped off in town beforehand to set up the logistics for a horseback riding excursion . We signed up at a place called Zuma Tours. For some reason, it was incredibly complicated. The guy who was helping us (who we affectionately refer to as “Crazy Eyes,” or “Ojos Locos”) was either really stoned or just a little bit off, and there was a lot of confusion about where we would go, when we would be there, and how we would pay. But we finally got it figured out. The guy drew us a map that included something about a yellow gate and a panaderia (a bakery), and we agreed to be at the Indiana Horse Ranch at 8:30am.

With our horseback riding plans set for the next day, we set off for our beach hike. Alex had told us that about a 45-minute walk along the shore would get us away from the tourists and onto more secluded beaches. We set off, taking note of what else was on the beach, including a chi-chi looking restaurant and hotel called the Ylang Ylang Resort, where we thought we might have lunch later. And where we suspected we might run into some celebrities like Matt Damon

A little further down, we came upon this area with dozens of multicolored rocks stacked on top of each other, a la The Blair Witch Project.

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It turns out that the rock garden and plaque are in honor of a young Swedish couple named Olof “Nicolas” Wessberg and Karen Mogensen, who founded Costa Rica’s first national park, the Cabo Blanco Nature Preserve on the tip of the Nicoya Peninsula.

According to Wikipedia, Nils and Karen moved to a farm just outside Montezuma in the 60s and became leaders in the local environmental movement as they fought against developers and big business to save what was left of the wild jungle. Sadly, Nicolas was murdered in 1974 by people who opposed his conservationist work.

This photo was stolen off the internet. This is the picture of Nicolas and Karen that appears on other educational signage near the beach.

This photo was stolen off the internet. It is the picture of Nicolas and Karen that appears on educational signage near the Montezuma beach.

(Incidentally, when we went to Cabo Blanco a few days later, these are the images of Nicolas and Karen on the memorial there):

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Later in the trip, I made Joy a sand sculpture of this bust of Karen Mogensen because she enjoyed it so much.

We kept walking, and walking. We went along the beach and then onto a shaded path in the tree cover. This was when Joy warned us that Chris likes to push for a little more physical exertion than one might be hoping for on vacation. He kept saying, “Just a little further” Just around that bend” “Let’s just see what’s over this hill here…” Before we knew it, we were working out.

This was when we realized what we were in for. It was like he was a personal trainer who fools you into thinking you’re having fun, when really he is interspersing cardio with quick, muscle-building exercises. We had all been duped into a Chris Parkes Fitness Vacation.

Thankfully, he took it easy on us that day and we ended up at a nice beach where we lounged about in the tide pools.

We like to call this "plunge pool south"

We like to call this “plunge pool south”

The next day, we got up early and made our way to the Indiana Ranch for horseback riding. Unfortunately, the map made no sense because one of the main landmarks we were meant to use—the panaderia—did not actually exist. And the yellow gate we were supposed to be looking for was on the wrong side of the road. But somehow, we backtracked and managed to find it.

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The ranch was owned by an American woman who operates a veterinary practice in the nearby town of Santa Teresa. We felt this was a good sign that the horses were well cared for. Our guides were an American man named Lee and a local named Rigo.

They led us on a leisurely ride up the country roads from the ranch, through a small town, and into a wide open meadow. We then tied up our horses and walked down some very steep “stairs” built into a hillside that led us to a small waterfall. We swam and ate pineapple.

There was a rope swing that you could use to jump from the rocks into the water. Rigo showed us how it was done, and then Chris did it. I’ve never been one for jumping off sharp rocks into waters of unknown depth, but I thought it was time to face my fear. There was a moment as I was dangling over the water that I wasn’t sure if I could let go. But that is the only rule of using the rope swing: You MUST let go. I did it, but I can’t say I enjoyed it much.

We got back on our horses and headed back toward the Indiana Ranch. Jenn and I tried to chat up Rigo using our beginner’s Spanish, but he wasn’t really a chatty kind of guy. I managed to get out of him that his horse’s name was Orion, although it took him saying it about a dozen times and then Jenn translating for me to get it. Jenn said she tried to ask him some questions, but he just basically didn’t respond.

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That’s me riding my horse, Nativo, who was pretty fun and not a big jerk like the last horse I rode. With Rigo assisting.

As we were driving away from the ranch, we joked that Rigo was going to pull Brian aside and say, “Pelican, why are your women speaking to me?”

Stay tuned for Vol. 4 where the guys go fishing, the ladies have psychic massages and the gang meets an adorable Frenchman who cannot for the life of him pronounce the name of a certain leafy green vegetable.

**Thank you, once again, to Jenn Superka for letting me use her photos. There’s the one of the sunset on the boat, which, actually, Brian must have taken. Thanks, Pelican. Then there’s the horseback riding shots, the monkey, Liam, Plunge Pool South, and the lovely shot of my bedroom.

A Vacation of Fitness and Terror: Vol. 1

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Well, I finally got a job. As someone who has been unemployed for almost this whole year, I’ve been having a little culture shock upon returning to office life. I mean, this whole health insurance and 401k thing is great, but do I really have to work every day?

Fortunately, prior to starting the position, I had booked a trip to Costa Rica for Thanksgiving. So, I worked for two weeks and then I took a 10-day vacation.

In hindsight, it’s probably not a wise idea to buy a $700 plane ticket when you’re unemployed. But I was having dinner with my friends Jenn and Brian one night in August and they said, “We’re going to Costa Rica with Chris and Joy over Thanksgiving.” And I was like, “Oh really? I am coming too.”

We now refer to this as “vacation-bombing.” It’s much like photo-bombing, except instead of jumping into their picture, I jumped into their vacation.

Chris and Joy planned the trip—they chose a tiny bohemian town on the Nicoya Peninsula of Costa Rica called Montezuma. I didn’t do much research beyond that because  I knew that any trip planned by Chris and Joy would be worth vacation-bombing.

They live in San Diego. Joy is one of my oldest, dearest friends, and her husband, Chris, is a phenomenal individual. They are always doing something inspirational—running marathons, volunteering at wildlife sanctuaries, teaching English to refugees. They went on an African safari, and they have done a ton of traveling in Central America. They go down into Mexico a lot to visit friends who run a horse rescue on the Baja Peninsula.

And Jenn and Brian are probably the funniest couple ever. Brian is another one of my oldest and closest friends. He is the best storyteller I have ever known—just an incredibly quick mind and an innate sense of comedic timing. He has found his perfect partner in Jenn. She is one of those women who is always enriching herself—painting, reading interesting books, growing a beautiful vegetable garden that never seems to die. And she has a law degree. I mean, come on.

Brian and Jenn often have people over for dinners and gatherings. Brian is quite the cook. His specialties are meat, seafood, and candy. Just give the man a bunch of deer meat or 10 lbs. of crab legs and see what he can do. (Sidenote: Brian’s dream Halloween costume is to be the “We’ve Got Crab Legs” chefs from the Sea Galley commercials of the 1980s.) He is also quite the gummy aficionado. Brian enjoys any sort of gummy-based candy (worms, fruits, green army men). He once ate the full-sized gummy Coke bottle.

Unfortunately, because Joy and Chris had already booked the rental house, which only slept four, there was no way for me to stay with them. So I reserved a room at one of the Montezuma hostels. The town was less than a mile from the house, so we figured that, worst-case scenario, Chris and Brian could walk me back to the hostel at night.

I was able to get onto all of the same flights that Jenn and Brian were on except for the very first one. They left DIA for Houston at 6am, and I left at 7:15. Then we got on the same flight from Houston to Panama City, and from there to Costa Rica. Joy and Chris would fly from LAX to San Salvador before meeting up with us at the San Jose Airport. Our flight landed at 9:30pm; Joy and Chris’s flight was supposed to land at 10pm.

The plan was to take the shuttle from the airport to the Holiday Inn, where we had a room reserved under Chris and Joy’s name. The only concern was that Chris and Joy’s connection in San Salvador was tight. We were all worried they might miss it. And since none of us wanted to spend money on international calls, we weren’t going to have a way to communicate.

So, before we left, Joy and Chris suggested that we all get an app called Viber, which would allow us to call and text for free anywhere that we could get WiFi. Viber also is equipped with an array of emoticons and “stickers” with which to communicate your very important messages. Our first Viber group chat went something like this:

Chris Parkes: [sticker of poo] [sticker of happy face wearing sunglasses]

Me: “I was asking Jenn last night about this, wondering if we can use actual words or if    all of our communications will be in emoticons…”

Me again: “CP seems to be saying ‘poop happy’”

Chris Parkes: [sticker that says ‘I heart Viber’] [sticker of a beer with what looks like a bowl of jalapenos and a bunch of pretzels] [sticker of a guy eating a hamburger]

Chris Parkes: [emoticons of: a devil head, an ice cream sundae, a beer, a smoking cigarette, a pile of poo, a monkey, a creepy doll head, a ladybug, a beach chair, and a sheep]

Brian: [emoticons of a sun wearing sunglasses, some kind of lady, a high heel shoe, a bikini, a different monkey (?), a whale, a tropical fish, a different tropical fish, a crocodile, livestock of some kind, something else I don’t recognize, and a smoking cigarette]

Me: “I see this is going to be a valuable communications tool.”

The actual day of departure snuck up on me. In the two weeks prior, I had moved into a new apartment and started a new job. My trip to Costa Rica was the last thing on my mind. I stuffed a bunch of clothes into a backpack on Friday night and Brian and Jenn picked me up at 3:15am the next day to make our early morning flights.

We tried to use Viber when we got to Panama, but even when we connected with WiFi, we couldn’t get it to work. We went to the bar and had three light beers that ended up costing us $25. While sitting there, we noticed that the escalators were moving extremely slowly. They were barely inching along. But as soon as someone stepped on them, they accelerated to normal speed. We all agreed that this seems like a good way to save energy. Then we watched a music video where Kylie Minogue takes a bath in metallic paint.

The other thing about the Panama City Airport is that it’s basically a high-end mall. There are shops for all these expensive fashion designers and jewelers. How do these stores stay in business? Are travelers impulse-buying Roberto Cavalli outfits in between flights? It doesn’t make any sense.

Before we knew it—okay, about 17 hours later—it was 10:30pm and we were on the other side of Customs in the San Jose Airport, wondering if Chris and Joy were going to make it. We bought some rum and tequila at the Duty-Free store, and we waited. We still weren’t able to get Viber to work. There were a ton of people still coming through Customs, but no Chris and Joy.

This is me looking for them. Yes, I am wearing a poncho. I have a problem with unintentionally wearing clothing that look ethnically stereotypical for the place that I am going. For example, when I worked at a sushi restaurant, I died my hair black and cut my bangs really short, without even thinking about how that might be perceived. Or the time in high school when we were going to the zoo, which was in a pretty rough neighborhood with a lot of gang activity. I showed up that day wearing a do-rag. My best friend, Hari, looked right at me and was like, “You know where the zoo is don’t you?”

This is me looking for them. Yes, I am wearing a poncho. I have a problem with unintentionally wearing clothing that look ethnically stereotypical for the place that I am going. For example, when I worked at a sushi restaurant, I died my hair black and cut my bangs really short, without even thinking about how that might be perceived. Or the time in high school when we were going to the zoo, which was in a pretty rough neighborhood with a lot of gang activity. I showed up that day wearing a do-rag. My best friend, Hari, looked right at me and was like, “You know where the zoo is don’t you?”

We realized that we really didn’t have a Plan B. We were starting to get worried, but then Jenn saw a Facebook post by Joy, saying that their flight was delayed an hour. We all relaxed, knowing they were on their way, and they arrived soon after.

When we opened the doors to the main terminal, we were bombarded with cab drivers and limo services, families waiting for their relatives, people holding signs with other people’s last names on them, all crowded up behind the gates. The cabbies all shouting at us: “You need a ride?” “Where you going?” “You need cab?”

One guy got right up in Chris’s face, “Hey, hey, you need a ride?” Chris said, “No, thanks, we’re getting the Holiday Inn shuttle.” The guy tried to intimidate him: “Oh, well, I hope you made a reservation.” Chris just shrugged it off, and we got on the shuttle a few minutes later, no problem.

We literally drove less than 5 minutes—just over the highway—and we were at the Holiday Inn, which shared a parking lot with the “Fiesta” Casino and the most expensive Denny’s Restaurant in the entire world. Down the road a stretch there was a fair called “Ciudad Magic.” It had old-fashioned bumper cars and other questionably safe carnival rides. Joy really wanted to go, but we never made it.

The next day, we had about an hour’s drive to Puntarenas, where we would take a 70-minute ferry ride to the town of Paquera. From there, we had about another hour’s drive across the Nicoya Peninsula to the town of Montezuma where we were staying.

The plan was for Brian, Joy, and Chris to pick up the rental car as early as possible the next day, while Jenn and I slept in a bit.

We had to leave the hotel as early as possible to catch the 11am ferry. We absolutely had to make the 11 o’clock if we wanted to avoid driving at night to get to Montezuma. Which, believe me, we all did.

Brian had done a ton of research before the trip so he was always spouting off facts, like: Costa Rica has the third most accidents of any country in the world … and … the roads are so bad that cars get swallowed up in the potholes …

He had read that some of the roads would be paved, but most would not. And a majority of them would have portions wide enough for only one vehicle at a time, putting us at the mercy of the fates and whoever was speeding around the other side of every curve. None of us relished the idea of trying to navigate this in the absolute darkness of an island jungle town.

We conked out pretty early, with Chris volunteering to sleep on the floor so I got to sleep in a bed. I didn’t hear them leave in the morning. When I finally woke up, it was already 7:45, but they weren’t back yet. I figured I should get up, even though I felt like I could have slept for another couple days.

Literally 10 seconds after I got into the bathroom, I heard Joy, Chris, and Brian come charging into the room, yelling that we have to get up immediately, that there was a problem with the rental car and we were running way behind and we have to go now! AAAAAGGGGHHHH!

They swept in and grabbed all their bags and ran out the door, leaving Jenn and I to scramble to get dressed and gather all of our stuff. We hurried downstairs to the lobby, where we found Chris, Joy, and Brian leisurely partaking of the continental breakfast. Jenn and I were like, um, what the f, people?? 

It turned out that they had spent an hour just trying to find the right rental car place, and once they got there, they were told that the ridiculously cheap deal that Joy had been given online ($200 for an entire week) was a mistake, and the rental car company now insisted that we pay $1,000 for the week instead. After arguing with the clerk for another hour, they finally signed the contract with the higher price (and a note that it was in dispute), figuring we could deal with it when we dropped the car off at the end of the trip. Given what we had read about the roads on the Nicoya Peninsula, we weren’t entirely sure we would be bringing the car back in one piece anyway.

We were told we needed to arrive at the ferry an hour early to ensure that we could get the car on, which left us with only two hours to  find our way to Puntarenas. This involved following a hand-drawn map of poorly-labeled highways with a steady stream of traffic and hardly any exits or places to backtrack if we made a wrong turn.

We were in a time crunch, which is why Chris, Brian, and Joy had fire-drilled Jenn and I out of bed, but it wasn’t quite as urgent as they had made it seem. They joked that this was how they were going to wake us up every morning of our trip.

And thus began our Vacation of Fitness and Terror.

Hiking with Dad

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Toward the end of our first hike together in a long while, my dad asked if I ever regret not getting married.

We were back on the asphalt after four hours in the wilderness, walking the final stretch to our parking space, way down in the Day Use Lot, which Dad said would have seemed unbearably far from the trailhead back when he and his brothers first started coming up here 25 years ago, when barely anyone knew about this place yet.

I said no, I don’t regret it, mostly because of what I have learned about relationships since calling off my wedding five years ago. I have dated rich guys, poor guys, train-hoppers, musicians, writers, a painter, a chef, the VP of an ad agency, an evangelical Christian, a Muslim, an amputee, and lots of other dudes with lots of other things that made each of them unique. What I learned was that none of that stuff matters. Not money, or physical perfection, or even religion. What matters is that soul connection—humor, laughter, communication, trust.

Dad: “I guess we’ll just find you a one-armed, homeless Muslim and you’ll be all set then.”

This is the kind of wisdom you get on a Friday hike with Dad.

We left the house around 9:30 a.m., cutting across the Diagonal, past Coot Lake, where the roads are called Niwot and Neva and Nebo. We went up James Canyon, through Ward, the kind of funky little mountain town where things are just a little too rusted out and broke down to be quaint. The charm in a place like Ward lies in the freedom to live however you want to, I suppose.

The sun was already blazing and there wasn’t a significant cloud on the horizon when we arrived at Brainard Lake and bought a $10 day pass from the salty old ranger woman, who nonetheless told us to keep our “eyes on the skies.”

Dad had packed us a lunch of turkey sandwiches, chips, Sweet Cajun Fire trailmix, and yogurt-covered pretzels. We sat on the hillside just above Lake Isabelle, and Dad told me about a time long ago when he and his brothers tried to take the trail further beyond the tree line, up to the ice field on Isabelle Glacier. None of them had done much serious hiking then; they were eager and enthusiastic, until they found themselves stuck on the rocky slope as the sun started to set, and their excitement turned to fear. They eventually made it down, but they still talk about it to this day.

Dad’s older brother, Dave, has become a kind of shaman, an evangelical from the church of the mountain. For Dad and Dave, these hikes are like spiritual pilgrimages. They don’t rack up 14’ers or trudge road bikes up the twisty roads just to prove they can. It’s not about speed, endurance, or fancy gear. It’s about tapping into the deeper wisdom of the natural world.

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On the way back, as we crossed over a sparkling creek, Dad bent down and submerged his bandana in the water. “This is what we call BDT,” he said. “Bandana Dipping Time.” IMG_3435

A little while later, we met a family on the trail. The wife asked Dad if he spoke Japanese, and if he knew what the writing on his bandana meant.

Dad said no, but he heard that the same kind are worn by street vendors in Japan who sell ice cream and cold treats. “So, every once in a while,” Dad told the woman, “someone will look at me like, ‘Hey, you got a Sno Cone for me, or what?’”

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The bluebird skies started to turn to gray, and thunder followed us down the mountain. Dad joked around like he was afraid, but he wasn’t. When you’ve been coming up here as long as he has, you know how to watch the skies.

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These wooden paths remind him of the moving walkways at the airport.

We took the scenic route back, around Long Lake, where every vista was more beautiful than the last. The bark on the trees looked silver under the muted light of the rainclouds and their insides burned orange and gold.

We talked about the husband I haven’t met yet.

Dad said, “You know, he’s not just going to materialize out of thin air. He is out there somewhere right now, walking around, not knowing that he is looking for you and that you are looking for him.”

“I know, I know,” I said, but I must have still seemed skeptical.

“Don’t worry,” Dad joked. “This will all make a lot more sense when the ‘shrooms kick in.”

Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

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Canada is like a PG-13 version of the United States. You feel like the worst thing that could happen is that you might see some boobs and hear a few swear words. Do they even have murders? I have heard more polite apologies in one week than in my entire life in the States. The country’s official motto should be “Canada: We’re sore-y.”

Within minutes of my arrival at my hostel, I met Anna, a lovely psychology grad from Germany. We had dinner at Yamato Sushi, which was not only fresh and delicious, but very cheap. And I found out that when Germans say Vancouver, it comes out “Wank-ooo-ver.”

The next day, we went on an all-day sightseeing tour led by Vancouver’s official 2012 “Volunteer of the Year”, Erik the Viking.

Tour guide extraordinaire, Erik

Erik is 72 years old and has been leading tours of the city for 18 years. His tours are even listed in the Lonely Planet travel guides.

Erik took us up into the hills and to the Capilano Suspension Bridge, which stretches 450 feet over Vancouver’s rainforest.

If I ever lived in this city, I would start a subsection of my blog called The Vancougar Chronicles in which I dated my way through the city’s attractive young men. But I would not stay where my hostel was on this trip, because I deduced pretty quickly that it was the gay neighborhood. The men were far too clean and tank-top-adorned. Plus, the street is lined in rainbow flags and jaunty-looking sex shops.

Case in point: The other night we were walking back to the hostel and didn’t realize how close to home we were. When we turned onto our street, one of my new friends, an Aussie salsa dancer named Lisa, said she knew we were getting close because, “it was starting to get pretty sexy around here…”

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Example of the sexiness.

The next day, we met two more fun girls, Charlotte—another Australian—and Emma, who is a Brit. We walked all over town and back again. We checked out some of Wankoover’s funky public art installations, like these statues:

Then we went to Granville Island, where there is a huge indoor food/artists’ market. And this amazeballs shop that specializes in fancy brooms. Fancy BROOMS. Who knew?

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I bought this pin at the Granville Market

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This morning, Lisa, Charlotte, and I rode bikes on the seawall around Stanley Park. It was super fun.

Charlotte riding the seawall!

Charlotte riding the seawall!

What struck me is that many of the wonderful girls I met in Vancouver, including Charlotte and Emma, plan to spend six months to two years working abroad, often in the hospitality industry. It makes me reflect upon how far we have come as women in a relatively short period of time. One hundred years ago, they might have been working in estates (like Downton Abbey) or boarding ships and crossing the ocean to find opportunities in the new world.

How awesome is it that so many young women today are venturing out on their own, without the prejudices and restrictions faced by earlier generations? We are so lucky that we are no longer forced to into marriage and pregnancy, no longer sentenced to lifetimes of slave labor.

I realize that many of the world’s women do not yet have these privileges. But when I am looking on the bright side, I have to appreciate how far we have come. I just know that our grandmothers and great-grandmothers are smiling down on us and I can only send blessings up to the heavens for what all of them endured to make it possible. And I am absolutely certain that they would enjoy The Vancougar Chronicles.

Goodbye, Left Foot Farm

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Alas, my goat farming adventure has come to a close. I couldn’t even say goodbye to the goats today because it made me too sad. I will miss those little suckers.

I will also miss the humans. Like Anna, who always has the most creative, spontaneous ideas…

Why WOULDN'T we hook a Radio Flyer "chariot" up to Gypsy? It had to be done.

Why WOULDN’T we hook a Radio Flyer “chariot” up to Gypsy? It had to be done.

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One of Anna’s unique farm outfits

And Kaley and Gracie, who are just the coolest chicks around…

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Kaley loves to make Gracie laugh until she snorts and goes “woo-HOO-HOO-HOO! … woo-HEE-HEE-HEE…”

On my last day, Anna and Ella and I went to pick up a truckload of garden soil. At first we weren’t sure how to load the dirt into the truck. We are so used to doing manual labor on the farm that we were about ready to shovel it ourselves, but then this bad boy arrived to load us up…

Look at that Washington sky!

Look at that Washington sky!

Ella and Anna celebrating our soil acquisition.

Ella and Anna celebrating our soil acquisition.

For my going-away dinner last night, we made a cauliflower-crust pizza.

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Tara made the crust out of grated cauliflower, sour cream, and eggs. Gluten-free, yo.

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Tara, showing off the finished pizza…

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Jeremy, impersonating Tara…

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Then this happened…

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Jeremy mixed all of these hot sauces and a raw egg into a wine glass.

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And offered Kaley $30 to drink it.

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Mentally preparing herself…

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She was still pretty confident here.

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The only rule was that she couldn’t puke for ten minutes. I think this is the moment when she started to get worried.

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Oh SHIT…

Tara made $15 by drinking what was left in the glass, along with a shot of whiskey.

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In the end, Kaley prevailed! … Sort of…

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They dropped me off in Seattle today, and we had lunch at The Honey Hole, which is an excellent sandwich shop on Capitol Hill. I appreciated our booth’s decor…

IMG_1906I will miss you, Ladies of Left Foot Farm. Eat lots of Juani’s for me!

If only Kat could have been in this picture!

If only Kat could have been in this picture!

Tomorrow, it’s off to Vancouver. Canada. Eh.