Tag Archives: gratitude

Courage and Magic

I’m sitting up here on the same rooftop deck in Tel Aviv that I started my unforgettable journey almost three weeks ago! The late afternoon sun is starting to set over the Mediterranean Sea and the intoxicating breezes drift over me, telling me that I surely will be back here. I was born to live by the sea, and I am bewitched by this city and country, by the waves and the salt, the sand, the coolness of the ocean air, and the most beautiful boardwalk I have ever seen in which to take it all in.

I left off my last blog about to start my Jordanian cooking class, but I think I just wanted to get some general thoughts and experiences out on paper before I go to pack and get ready for one last night out before flying home tomorrow morning.

Over the last few years, I have had the privilege of traveling – a lot – and to many different countries and cultures. This has not only been a deliberate choice but something that was in my blood I think from an early age. Everyone laughed at me when I said in all the serious thoughtfulness of a young child that I wanted to be a professional tourist when I grew up. I used to pour over maps imagining what it would be like to actually travel to all those countries. I’m a bit obsessed with globes and still pour over maps. I’m curious and I love trying new things. I love meeting new people and making friends. I love home and family and always want a real home to come back to – I don’t think I could be one of those that travel indefinitely over years and years – but there’s nothing quite like the excitement of planning for a trip, the rush of airports, and the deep joy that comes from experiencing moments of breathtaking beauty in this incredible world we live in.

I guess I have heard so many times that traveling is “an escape from reality.” Nothing could be further from the truth. Travel drops you smack right into the middle of reality and demands that you confront what you see, feel, experience. Traveling requires guts. Guts to face the challenges to whatever worldview you might have or been brought up with. It requires courage to face yourself. Wandering through cities or wilderness or wherever by yourself, you are brought face to face with WHO YOU ARE: your assumptions about other people and cultures and countries. Perhaps you start to realize that that upper-middle class white American existence that was all you’ve ever known – and the concomitant worldview that accompanies it – is not the only valid way to think. Perhaps you realize that relationship you’re in is not really the right one for you. Perhaps you become aware of how crazy blessed you are when you see whole villages that have next to nothing and you tell yourself you will never complain about anything again. And because there are so many practical challenges with travel, you also are confronted always with CHOICE. Do you choose to live in and embrace the moment? – The bus schedules written in a foreign language, the missed train, the hard bed and getting lost for hours in a strange city, the forgotten toothbrush, or stolen bag. Of course, we have these opportunities every.single.day. to choose, to change, to examine who we are but all I’m trying to, perhaps inadequately, say is that travel accelerates that process in a crazy way.

And just as travel is about shattering worldviews, confronting assumptions and prejudices, travel is also about MAGIC. I have had my senses filled with so much beauty that the joy threatened to shatter my soul. It seemed at times too big to contain. I will never forget standing in the pure snow of Iceland as it whipped around me gazing into the glowing, gold horizon over a sea fronted by a black beach and the tears just came to my eyes. I thought perhaps it was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever experienced. I remember weeping my way through the Jewish center of Prague, just unable to contain the emotion from the thousands of lives lost and the children that had to go through such unspeakable things. I remember where laughter trumped any need for a common language in a little mountain village in Thailand as we sat around sharing a meal and an unforgettable evening. I remember the complete exhilaration of sailboat racing in Sweden with some of the finest people I’ve met in my life: a group of friends whose love for each other was so real and tangible and who opened that love to include me.   And just this trip I remember so much – the moment my guide, Mahmoud, led me blindfolded to the edge of a cliff to surprise me with a view of the Treasury in Petra, the crazy beautiful slot canyons, the delight of scuba diving – always – seeing enormous fish the size of bathtubs, sunken wrecks, crazy funny puffer fish, and the blues, yellows, greens, reds of coral. Its hard to even convey the magic. (and there’s my plug for scuba diving, people…do it. It’s the closest thing I can imagine to being on another planetJ One of my favorite things in all the world. …

Anyway, I’m not really sure I conveyed all that was on my heart, but I guess I’m just trying to encourage everyone to be open to new people, experiences, ideas, cultures. Perhaps the ideas you have about the Middle East are a bit skewed – mine were before coming here. Perhaps you just want to try something new! Don’t be scared! Step out. All I know is that my life has been indelibly changed and enriched by stepping outside my comfort zone and experiencing this awesome world we all share together. Shalom…

Advertisements

Tordstock 200 År

Tordstock 200….

Words to describe this experience…hmmm. It’s tough. A music festival? A camping adventure? A birthday party for 5 Swedish guys all turning 40 (hence the “200” in the festival name)? All of that, yes, but most importantly to me, it was an almost indescribable weekend of witnessing and participating in the beauty of relationships – a celebration held and attended by a community of friends that rivaled, if not exceeded, anything I’ve ever experienced in my life before.

IMG_159511870854_900040676742234_233250441610173567_n

A little background: My San Diego/Swedish friend Karin has a whole group of close friends back in Sweden, of course, and on the agenda for our trip was this huge birthday weekend for 5 of her good friends who were all turning 40 this year. They had been preparing this event for months and it involved music, stages, grills, hot tubs, campfires, beer, tents, and people – lots of people.

One of the birthday guys has a lovely, rather rural piece of property and had cleared out a gorgeous little plot in the middle of the woods. By the time we Americans showed up (a day early to hang out and help with the last minute prep), there were already multiple booths, stages, grills, hottubs, etc set up. I was extremely impressed! We jumped right in with helping set up tents, make food, test out the beer selection and pretty much laugh our guts out in between the welcoming hugs and extensions of love and friendship.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

IMG_1572

The first night  we spent at Karin’s best friend’s home with his lovely family. Omg. The sweetest little family in the world. The next day was unofficially a bit of a more intimate gathering I suppose – which was great for us newbies because we got to meet and get to know some people before the huge Saturday crowd showed up. I think we Americans established ourselves as the master grillers – We really had a blast helping out with everything. It took me right back to the good ol days of my past manning the grill for 1-200 people. Pounds and pounds of Bacon, eggs, hotdogs, hamburgers. Even the Freddie Special (don’t ask…;)

IMG_1663

IMG_1689

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Ryan manned the woodfired hot tubs! So fun! I guess this is a sorta popular/common thing in Sweden to rent these portable hot tubs. Im so impressed by the lovely portable items you can bring to these festivals – even the mobile port-a-potties were heated and lit. I almost camped out in one it got so cold the first night! J Probably the most impressive piece of equipment was the grill. Johan – who is a genius with his hands – designed and built the one we used. I want one.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We stayed up till the wee hours of the morning singing and talking around the campfire, hollering out both Swedish and English tunes even if we could only join in in the “lah lah lah’s” of the chorus… Those who know me know that I am quite obsessed with campfires – some of my favorite memories involve friends and campfires and nights under the stars… I was pretty much in Heaven soaking it all in and enjoying the music and keeping the fire stoked. 🙂 We Even busted out another batch of grilled hotdogs at 2AM for those who had worked up an appetite (again)!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Karin is friends with a rather well-know European musician named “Yellow Mike” and she had secretly arranged with him to stop over on his way up to Oslo for a surprise concert – it was completely amazing. We loved it – his stage presence and music were stellar and it was so kind of him to swing by for a couple hours and honor us with his time and music.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

One of the birthday guys’ brothers has been in a band since 1978. They were the main presenters of the weekend and, gosh, do these guys rock. They sound SO great and filled the woods with such an epic mix of popular songs – both Swedish and English. We stayed up through most of the nights too, just singing around the campfire and enjoying these perfect moments in time.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

So, this is really just barely scratching the surface of an outstanding weekend, but hopefully the pictures will help bring it all together. I know I made some epic memories – the love and laughter, the fun and music, the bonding. I was so touched by the palpable love most of all. There was no holding back on hugs and kisses. You could see, touch, feel and were basically immersed in a mileau of deep comraderie and could clearly see the affection that these special group of friends shared. I feel deeply honored to have been not only invited to share in the activies but to be welcomed warmly into those bonds of friendship.   Thank you from the bottom of my heart to all of you lovely Swedes. I really do miss you.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA IMG_1704 IMG_1947 IMG_2182 IMG_2179  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA  IMG_1567

 

 

 

Time for Magic

“Here ends another day, during which I have had eyes, ears, hands and the great world around me. Tomorrow begins another day. Why am I allowed two?”

G.K. Chesterton

 OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

That is one of my favorite quotes… and exactly how I feel. My heart has been bursting with happiness – really – since moving to San Francisco, and I am frankly shocked. I did not expect to feel this way nor to feel so absolutely excited every day. It is not just that there is a bazillion things to do and see, but the inexplicable way that magic keeps happening in the form of random happenings, job, housing, beauty, making new friends and renewing old relationships, etc…

Specific happenings:

Job at UCSF. No sooner had I returned from SEA than this amazing contract kinda fell into my lap – 12 hr DAYS, immediate start date, great rate. So far, its been a busy, but very positive experience. Everyone is super nice, the facility is in a lovely area overlooking the city and the bay, and for the first time in my career, I actually have hour long lunch breaks. Whaaattt?!? Kinda still in shock, but, hey! I’ll take it! Read, walk, exercise, sleep…the 60 min options are limitless 🙂

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

thot this was sweet…two men and a baby out enjoying the gardens. My hospital in the background.

Probably the funniest thing that’s happened yet relates to the navy blue scrub dress code for the nurses. Till my new scrubs come in, I’ve been making do with some old navy scrubs I “borrowed” months ago from a couple outpatient centers in SD including for some reason an enormous pair of drawstring pants. Well, I tried to cinch them tight but apparently, bustling around they just kept getting looser and looser. A little hitch here and there seemed to do the trick until, well, it just didn’t….mid-patient care I suddenly looked down and realized my pants were riding about mid-thigh. How long they had been that way, I can only guess. I just couldn’t stop laughing. I don’t think my sweet patient noticed (thank God) but the caregiver in the room sure did. We both lost it a bit. Fortunately I was wearing some stretch pants underneath to keep warm so didn’t quite scandalize the unit, but needless to say I can’t wait till some more flattering scrubs arrive!

IMG_0704

pretty cool view

Housing/roommates. San Francisco is quite possibly the most expensive US city to live in, making it difficult to find an acceptably affordable place in any decent part of the city. I basically had just a few days to try to find a place…and its crazy how this all has worked out. I randomly emailed my photography teacher from up here asking if she had any leads for me. Just so happened she and her husband had an amazing available room for a temporary place for as long as I needed (its so great to have roommates my age) and a hilarious cat named Connor who is so funny. And now I’ve found a fantastic more permanent place in Cole Valley – an 8 min walk to work!! With another great roommate and a dog! Absolutely love Cole Valley! One of the best parts of the city to live in: old lovely houses, safe neighborhood abounding in restaurants and coffee shops, ice cream parlor;), stores, parks, super easy transit to anywhere in the city, a stones throw from weird and cool Haight Street! Already in love.

IMG_0734-1

always wanted some tomato soup shoes…

IMG_0733-1

there’s just no explanation for some things on Haight Street. Its so cool though…happy hour in a hat shop? whaat? love it. music, shoes, bars, costumes…

Random SF explorations. Uber pool! Really fun! For just $5 you can grab a Uber and go anywhere in the city with the stipulation that you may have to pool up with someone going in your direction. I’ve honestly had a great time meeting people and the drivers are fun to talk to as well.

IMG_0706

one of my besties up for a visit! nail and massage time!

Golden Gate Park, museums, windy beaches, art, et al. So much culture and beauty up here. This is a great place for an art and nature lover. Already been to an exhibit at deYoung, prowled around art exhibits and talked to a number of ridiculously talented artists, wandered lazily through botanical garden and had some fun practicing street photography and capturing people and scenes that caught my eye.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

enjoying a sandwich…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

music student from chicago out enjoying the sunshine like the rest of us

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

cuz, really, why not…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

these two ladies have been fast friends for literally decades…welcomed me warmly to the city.

Public transit. OhEmGee…this girl is SO unused to having to take buses… but I jumped right into it out of sheer necessity. (parking is $30/day at UCSF) I have had some moments of utter frustration, sheer stupidity, disgust and defeat, but all in all have been rather proud of my navigational abilities and have utilized the somewhat unpredictable but none-the-less supportable MUNI quite frequently. Can’t wait to just be able to walk to work though!

IMG_0721

a little bus stop romance…they could probably get a room at booking.com if they wanted…just saying

Just for laughs…almost unbelievable:  http://www.upout.com/blog/san-francisco-3/the-15-most-wtf-moments-of-san-francisco-public-transportation?utm_source=UpOutSF+Weekly+Newsletters&utm_campaign=8f49959d80-UpOutSF_Weekender_2_19_2015_Thursday&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_54b38fbfbf-8f49959d80-73710529

Restaurants, indoor miniature golf, starry hills at night, brunches with friends, super nice people…I feel blessed and spoiled and happy. Yes. I. Do. I knew 2015 was going to be good…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

…reflection experimentation…

“One of the deepest and strangest of all human moods is the mood which will suddenly strike us perhaps in a garden at night, or deep in sloping meadows, the feeling that every flower and leaf has just uttered something stupendously direct and important, and that we have by a prodigy of imbecility not heard or understood it. There is a certain poetic value, and that a genuine one, in this sense of having missed the full meaning of things. There is beauty, not only in wisdom, but in this dazed and dramatic ignorance.”

Phnom Penh to Kanchanaburi

“Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, 

we must carry it with us or we find it not.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

 IMG_0027

You wouldn’t believe the atmosphere of where I’m (finally) writing up my first blog from Asia: a little floating hostel in Kanchanaburi right on the banks of the famous River Kwai, sipping on Singha beer and feasting on homemade spicy Thai food while chatting up a couple other guests from California, of all places!

I probably need to back up a bit though…I have almost two weeks of catching up to do – solo traveling can be rather mentally and emotionally exhausting and blogging was the first thing to go. However, I keep getting repeated requests for updates so I am definitely attempting to give it a go here!

I spent the first 24 hours in Phnom Penh quite sick from my previous Mexico trip, emerging only once from my room to obtain some much needed Gatorade and medicine! Enough said about that. Phnom Penh I found to be quite dirty, busy, noisy but there seems to be some attraction for expats as there are quite a number of them there. While it IS the capital of Cambodia, there really isn’t that much to see or do there as a tourist. A few highlights from my time there included the following:

  • a really great cooking class (complete with an AM visit to the market to collect ingredients, lovely international fellow students)
PC230054

We learned how to make “amok” – a very traditional fish dish of ginger, lemongrass, mashed up spices, and egg – all steamed together in a banana leaf bowl. Delicious!!

  • an open air jeep ride and tour to a wildlife preserve (tons of creepy monkeys, native Cambodian deer, crocodiles, otters, tigers and other endangered species),
IMG_0029

feeding little fish to this very greedy otter

PC240100

okay, this is pretty cute but I still think monkeys are quite awful and unpredictable little beasts

  • and a private guided tour through the infamous Tuol Sleng Genocide museum and the horrificChoeung Ek Killing Fields
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

20,000 men, women and children were brutally tortured and murdered at this former Phnom Penh hi-school during the Khmer rouge regime. Hard to even fathom such evil. How is it possible that humans can really do this to other humans…?!?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

  • the delights of eating delicious (and cheap!) Cambodian street food

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

PC250193

I’ll admit, this night wasn’t street food. celebrating Christmas at a rooftop bar overlooking the river.

Much more could be said about each of these activities but perhaps more detail is better for further posts when I can sort through my pictures and reflect.

Siem Reap was AMAZING and I loved it so much better than Phnom Penh! It is open and clean (er) and magical with so much to do and see and explore!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I had such a lovely lovely time there I almost get shivers thinking about it! I shall DEFINITELY save all my adventures and pictures for another post (double procrastination at its finest…) but to highlight my time there,

  • I went on an absolutely FANTASTIC offroading cycling tour through the Angkor area, getting off the beaten path and visiting non-touristy temples, and basically having the time of my life with the coolest tour group ever: two British girls (whom I ended up hanging out with the rest of my time there), Candadian couples, a German.

IMG_9915 IMG_9922 IMG_9929 IMG_9934

  • Tour of the floating villages and forest,
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

there really are no words that do justice to how mesmerizingly enchanting and magical this was…just looking back at pictures has me transported back to fairy land.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

i took many more pictures of this unique river village but it is getting quite late so I will be posting more as i can!! it was such an incredible day of flavors (snake! and sun baked baby mussel) , sights, sounds, encounters

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

  • facial and 90 min foot massage at lovely prices,
  • super interesting tour of a silk factory!! from start to finish…poor little silk worms.  cannot BELIEVE the work that goes into handcrafted silk material

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

  • insane NYE countdown on the famous Pub Street.
IMG_9988

countdown!! grabbed drinks at an Irish pub (?!) with the Brits, a couple newly arrived and jet lagged American guys and a couple Japanese gals. down in the street was not my scene… I think that was my first time being showered with booze! At least no one got trampled here as far as i know! Cambodians DO love their NY celebrations!

IMG_9933

world famous bar on Pub Street

Anyway, my other lovely cycling compatriots talked up the glories of Thailand, so I spontaneously booked a flight into Bangkok, where I arrived yesterday and stayed for just one night. This morning I absolutely reveled in ART!! There is a relatively brand new contemporary art museum there (took me literally interviewing SIX taxi drivers to successfully get there. Seriously, NONE of them know how to read a map!!!) but it was well worth the effort. I photographed some of my favorite pieces. Some of them so bizarrely beautiful with Very different Thai flavor of course to most of it.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

This afternoon I railed it out here to Kanchanaburi – a 3rd class ticket on an ancient train. Seemed straight out of a turn of the century British film – corrugated metal shacks so close I could touch them with my fingers, branches whipping by the windows, near-fluorescent green rice fields, towering palm trees and sunlit hills. I felt newly strong and beautiful and happy gazing out the windows at it all, the wind in my face. And now, here I am, enjoying the night river air, good company, background Thai soap opera, and excited about tomorrow’s adventures: waterfalls, elephants, caves, and bridges!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

And now I shall attempt to insert some photos…the picky artistic side of me is loathe to include unedited versions but above are a few – some just from my iPhone.  Enjoy! and my love to you from Southeast Asia!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Viva la Mexico!

This morning I am snorkeling between dark stalagmite studded caverns and shimmering aqua cenotes…this afternoon sitting on a crowded airplane enroute to frigid Denver and sunny San Diego. The world has become so easily accessible to us, and yet so full of endless wonder and newness that it seems a lifetime of lifetimes is not enough time to explore it all.

These last few days exploring the Yucatan peninsula of Mexico has been amazing and such a treat. Having been rather spontaneously invited by one of my nursing friends to tag along on a family vacation, I had NO idea what to expect and so every day was such a delight and filled with adventure. My friends and I are not the type to sit around an all-inclusive resort for days on end (seriously, how could you…?) so we found ourselves out the door every morning only to return after dark every evening, still glorying in the sights seen, tacos eaten, waters played in, ruins explored, and the great company.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

my first walk along the beach! The sky along with the setting sun made for an awesome photo shoot! 

We had the privilege of acquiring a spacious condo at the Vendante, Grand Luxxe, and I have to say, while I don’t require a lot of luxury, it was a pleasure staying at a lovely resort where a maid comes and cleans your whole place twice a day, turning down the beds, leaving little chocolates on your pillow, washing dishes, straightening up all your things, hanging up clothes. I could get used to such. ☺ I’m afraid I would get dreadfully lazy though. I did love our little Mexican housekeeper. She always greeted us cheerfully every evening and left the place nicer simply by being so consistently sweet to us spoiled gringos.

Before I get going too much on my narration, I have to preface this by saying my last experience of Mexico was mixed: the pyramids of Teotihucan were incredible, the nightly streetside Styrofoam cups of hot Escitas became a staple, the bustling and colorful town of Peubla was fun, but the continued lack of a hot shower, the fear of getting sick, the horrendous border crossing experience, the poverty, and I guess, fear (?) discomfort (?) all left a rather unpleasant aftertaste in my mouth for the whole country. I had gone down to southern Mexico to visit my poor lonely sis who was teaching English in a little rural town, and I returned to the US, shaking the proverbial dust from my feet with no desire for a repeat visit. So, to get ahead of myself a bit, I am returning from this trip with a transformed mindset and experience ☺ Yesterday, I even romantically fantasized about living in a beachside villa in the little town of Akumel, with daily routines of snorkeling with the turtles, drinking cold cervezas under palm trees, and reading on the beach. Maybe look for me there someday…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

lunch and cerveza along the Akumal beach! glorious!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

had to capture some of the local bar art 🙂 this, despite being a skeleton really is full of joie de vivre and makes me chuckle!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

i loved this little humble nativity set up in the splendor of beachside condos. Shot on our long but lovely trek to the Akumal lagoon.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

they’ve been waiting for a beer for a loooong time…

Sunday, in an attempt to avoid the crowds (haha), we decided to venture over to the Isle of Cozumel. The choppy ferry ride had me green around the gills and almost in need of the green plastic barf bag thrust into my hands by attendees trained to spot the white faced nauseated passengers. All that was soon a distant memory as we drove down a dusty unpaved road to emerge upon the quintessential postcard Caribbean beach…little palm frond covered booths, peppy Mexican music emitted from behind open air bars, white sand and turquoise waters as far as the eye could see. And it was delightfully uncrowded. I wasted no time donning the virgin snorkeling gear (thanks, Mom for the Christmas present! ☺ ) and with just a bit of training on proper techniques, I was off and running, er , paddling away. I can scarcely describe the feelings. It truly is like discovering for the first time another world for that is indeed what under the ocean surface is. Teeming with life. Beautiful life. Quiet. Solitary. Glistening. The soft in and out sounds of my own snorkeled breathing. Colors. Wonder. These are all words and phrases that come to mind in an attempt to describe this experience. Newness. Whatever heaven is like, I remember thinking, it surely has to be a place of this: not the physical facts of swimming through water, but the constant state of wonder, discovery, awe, newness, excitement. I really feel it cannot be less. I was a child again and unashamed of the joys of discovery.

IMG_9773

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

IMG_9678

my underwater photography did not go as planned…but I got a few shots before deciding to give it up all together. at least my little case kept my phone dry but wasn’t the best at helping me get some pictures, sadly…

IMG_9718

seemed so incongruous to be sitting on a hot beach while listening to christmas carols…

IMG_9721 IMG_9702

Monday we ventured further south to the beaches and Mayan ruins of Tulum. Another day of lovely experiences: hiring a boat and a guide to take us out to the reef where we prowled around coral reefs eying funny looking, large-eyed squid floating along, black spiky anenomies fastened securely to the coral, bright blue flat fish the size of dinner plates, yellow striped fish swishing in and out of dark crevices, skinny translucent barracudas, skimming along the surface. It was amazing. And I learned that spitting in your mask helps it not fog up. Who knew?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The Mayan ruins were super cool: right along the beach. They were so advanced in their understanding of astronomy it never ceases to astound me. Many of the Mexicans in the Yucatan still speak Mayan. Our guide in Chichen Itza had Mayan ancestry and showed us the flat back of his head, which is just one of the physical characteristics that distinguishes the Mayan bloodline. Chichen itza we visited the following day – barely made it there in time to get a guided tour before closing time. I suppose we were having too much fun exploring the shops and eating a delicious lunch in Vallodorid on the way there! The only thing that I really would have liked more of was a bit more wandering down city streets and just prowling around. I love to explore as well as play around with street photography. Maybe next time. Playa del Carmen….Akumel, etc etc. : a veritable wealth of interest to take in. I did spy this super cool bus in the parking lot of WalMart and started talking to the lovely couple that owned it. They are from Argentina and have been traveling for 9 years, selling t-shirts and copies of their photographic narrative book to be able to stay on the road. I loved their cool dog and they had a lovely daughter, who had been born during their traveling, making this the only life she’s ever known. She would be an interesting one to interview several years from now.

IMG_9669

first lunch in Playa del Carmen. I really wanted some of that pork on that spindle thing but it wasn’t ready yet..:(

IMG_9667 IMG_9668 IMG_9670 IMG_9671

I arrived in Mexico with one burning desire: to swim with the turtles in Akumel. Finally…the day had arrived. First we snorkeled for hours at the lagoon: a sort of paradisiacal inlet/sanctuary for oceanic wildlife. I think I paddled a good mile or so all around the perimeter, exploring the deep crevices, spooking out the fish from their hiding places, looking at conch shells, watching the Barracudas, battling the currents. All in all, wearing myself out in a most satisfactory way☺ Akumel Bay was probably the most crowded beach we went on but after haggling and being haggled, we finally found a guide to take us out to see turtles and sting rays. There is something SO indescribable about these animals. Gazing down at their beautiful markings and the patterns on their shells I could see why they have become the stuff of legends and objects of worship. To have these mighty and ancient animals swim past you was such a beautiful experience. I desperately wanted to grab one by his front flippers and have it take me for a swim. Alas, no touching allowed. The sting rays are so creepy with their long, lethal looking tales and evil eyes, but also beautiful. I would be so scared to step on one!! They settle into the sand so you can’t even see them. Spooky.

Absolutely determined to experience a cenote before leaving, we all gamely got up early this morning and drove about an hour to Los Ojos, the largest system of cenotes in Mexico. Three caverns all interconnected by underground tunnels. I have always been quite scared of dark underwater depths and snorkeling around the dark, deep edges of the beautiful sun splattered cenote, I felt a frissone of fear creep into me. Through water as clear as glass, I couldn’t stop staring at the divers silently slip past me and venture into the dark tunnels…it was such a surreal, monumental feeling for lack of a better way to describe it. Finally it was our turn to be led through the caverns connecting the cenotes and into “Bat Cave” – ew. I like bats but they really are gross, hairy little creatures all clumped together hanging in obscene little lumps from the ceiling. Anyway, the caverns were incredible!! Silently snorkeling along with our waterproof flashlights, single file, we gazed down around, ahead, behind us at enormous stalactite formations, deep hollowed out voids of darkness, twisted corridors of rocks and edges, and curves – auras from other divers lamps creating bluish black illuminations farther down in unreachable places to us snorkelers. What a mystical experience.

All that loveliness and mystery followed by a sub-par roadside lunch and a speedy drive back home to hastily change for the plane ride home only to sit in the airport for ages – the story of my life☺. (My airport experiences this trip are a whole different, much less glorious chapter of this story that really doesn’t need to be told.)

So, Mexico, you have sung me a different song on this trip. One of seduction, adventure, romance and beauty….Thank you for generously sharing your wonders with me and maybe…just maybe, one day we shall meet again. Till then, Cambodia is calling my name and I must answer….

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

apparently the baby Jesus doesn’t make his appearance till christmas (or xmas eve?) Town square of Valladolid – inland city on the way to Chichen Itza.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

our favorite lunch we had! best enchiladas ever.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

apparently this is how one can meet a stranger here in this town…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

…and if you’re lucky it will go like this!! 🙂

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

so the idea is to get this little rubber ball through the circle…the captain of the winning team gets beheaded by the captain of the losing team – it was an honor to be sacrificed by the gods…sounds like an all around lose-lose situation to me!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Faces of Love

Bounties of goodness

Brush past me

Like fragrant shadows

Inhaled in the dark

Of life’s struggles.

I pause

My bewildered rushing

To know

What is always

All around me:

Friendships

Forged in the embers of loss,

Birthed through crazy joy

Living promises

Sweet bonds of freedom

That draw me in

To rest.

And my tears

Reflect the faces of love.