2017

I love the yearly recap so much, and I love how hard it is to choose only as many adventures as will fit in a 3×3 grid! Last year was tough in a lot of ways but mind-blowingly amazing more often than not and I accomplished a lot of life list items that I will spend this year – going to be a quiet one – mulling over. Before all of the excitement happened, things were just a little bit shitty. My office closed down and most of my team was laid off, but I was kept on and had the privilege of working from home all winter / heading to LA every 6 weeks or so.

That was fun until my dog, Tyler, had to go through two ACL surgeries on his back legs, complete with PTO exercises and weekly water treadmills. And then I crashed my motorcycle, and while I escaped with only a busted finger and damaged knee, it meant that I was sitting out of most of my winter sports and activities.

But! Then I quit my job and went to India, by way of Vancouver (to visit my mom and sister and to check out some new cocktail bars), Montreal (to visit my friends), Ottawa (to do some business at the embassy), Toronto (to visit more friends), and finally London (to wander the British Museum and leave my computer at my UK office).

India is a place I have been wanting to visit for a long time but have listened as so many people tried (and succeeded!) to dissuade me. This time even I wasn’t sure I was going because I had my bag packed but I still didn’t have the India portion booked (and was still working remotely) when I was 3 weeks into being on the road.

India did not disappoint. Random people approached me daily to tell me that I have a good heart and that I’m a lucky one – don’t I know it! I was able to spend the day with an elephant and fed her banana sandwiches to her heart’s content, rode a camel who tried to still a kiss while I got a selfie, showed videos of my dog playing in the snow to young boys in the desert while we drank chai and listened to the sand blow around outside, wandered down to the “back” end of the Taj Mahal where I hung out with security guards / ate free dinner at a temple and was ultimately coaxed out into the boat that takes women home from the temple, so I could see the Taj Mahal at sunset from the water (stunning but even better were my new friends who chatted with me as if we spoke the same language and hugged and kissed me like we were old friends after a crossing that maybe took 8 minutes). And then in Varanasi I met a friend who, after the mother Ganges festival, took me on a tour of the “hidden” places – an ashram of gurus, a secret temple to Durga and finally a “ruined” temple in the abandoned palace that looks over the Ganges which one will find (after crawling through the broken door and through corridors I wouldn’t have attempted on my own) is still very much in use and has regular visitors. Plus so many other amazing bits that will stay with me always.

For the rest of the summer, I spent as many days in the garden or outside with the dogs as I could before I headed out again for about 5 weeks, riding my motorcycle through Washington, Oregon and BC (Cascadia, yo!) and then Arkansas (!!!), visiting friends and family. And only then did I tuck in and start looking for a job, landing at Nordstrom just before it was time to back up again and head to Ecuador (a trip booked a loooooong time ago) where I rode a motocycle through the Andes, dove with marine iguanas, hammerhead sharks, and Mola mola, then camped out in the Amazon for almost a week with monkeys and giant river otters and an insane amount of tropical birds.

Wishing you all the best and lots of love to you and yours for the next roll around the arbitrary calendar! 😘 Happy New Year!

12.29.17

Missed a few due to being on an incredible adventure in Ecuador, so in turn, this is going to be a bit of a massive update (and at the same time just the tip of the iceberg).

What was Beautiful:

Just before we left, my Flamenco teacher organized a studio show to showcase her students. I was grateful to be part of it but the advanced students blew my mind with their grace and skill.

Then we flew to Quito and drank in the colonial architecture – including a Gothic cathedral with Ecuadorian armadillos, marine iguanas, crocodiles, pumas and monkeys in place of gargoyles and a Jesuit church basically covered in gold – sat in the square, surrounded on all sides by mountains – drinking mochaccinos and people-watching. In a way, it doesn’t feel new because I’ve been to quite a few Latin capitals at this point but it really gives you the opportunity to dig into the details and difference and I love that.

Our hotel was an old school hacienda with a well (!!!) in the courtyard outside our room and beautiful wooden beams throughout, local handicrafts put in use / displayed everywhere.

From there we rented bikes and I found out upon arrival that I had been upgraded to a Husquavarna 701 – truly a beautiful machine. I wasn’t all that worried about not being able to touch the ground until much later when I ended up stalled in a steep uphill curve (in sneakers, in the rain 🙄) but the combination of grace and power in that motorcycle is something I personally aspire to.

The Galapagos islands were as amazing as promised and I delighted in my first sightings of Mola Mola sunfish and playing with marine iguanas in the surf, as well as spending more time with hammerheads and various other sharks.

And finally, we headed down river to Napo Wildlife Center in the Ecuadorian Amazon. This was an add-on leg and neither of us expected it to be the highlight but we loved the Kichwa Anangu community, the incredible diversity of the plants / animals / insects, etc. , a chance to practice different camera techniques and learning about all the various species in the area.

We brought the audio recorder to Ecuador so even when it wasn’t in use I was on the lookout for new sounds and that made me experience the boat, the rainforest and even the airport hotel in a new way.

The full list of wildlife sightings is:

  • Frigatebird Various Finches
  • Blue-footed Boobies
  • Red-footed boobies
  • Magnificent Frigatebird
  • Flightless Cormorant
  • Agamie Heron
  • Great Egret
  • Black Vulture
  • Snail Kite
  • Spotted Sandpiper
  • Hoatzin – beautiful, but very common where we were
  • Greater Ani
  • Short-Tailed Swift
  • Neotropical Palm Swift
  • Ringed Kingfisher
  • White-throated Toucan
  • Grey Antbird
  • Great Kiskadee
  • Crested Oropendola – beautiful song and neat nests
  • Yellow-Rumped Cacique
  • Blue-grey Taninger
  • Brown-Black Grosbeak
  • Common Squirrel Monkey – had a neat interaction with this one
  • White-fronted Capuchin
  • Black Cayman
  • Sea lions
  • Mola mola (!!!!!)
  • Scalloped Hammerheads (!!!!!)
  • Galapagos Shark
  • Silky Shark
  • Galapagos Bullhead Shark – found only in the Galapagos
  • Torpedo Ray – rare, and found only in the Galapagos
  • Eagle Ray
  • Stingray
  • Marine Iguanas (!!!!!) – found only on one side of one island in the Galapagos
  • Yellow puffer
  • Box puffer
  • Mexican hogfish
  • Harlequin Wrasse
  • Parrotfish
  • Barberfish
  • Sea turtle
  • Common Dolphin
  • Red-lipped batfish
  • Octopus
  • Spotted Moray Eel
  • Shrimp
  • Nudibranch
  • Crabs
  • Line-spotted fish
  • Damselfish

What I’m Grateful for:
My amazing flamenco teacher, Ana Montes, who has suffered through trying to teach me how to clap and walk, amongst other basic things that have suddenly become important.

Being on this Trip of a Lifetime to explore Quito, Otavalo, volcanoes, the Galapagos and a bit of the Amazon.

My new job, that has paid me for all of this vacationing, even though I’ve only just started.

What made me Laugh:
Pictures of (my) dogs, children in the market, children at the flamenco afternoon, river otters, monkeys, my own dog and cat monkeys being super excited to have us home.

What I’ve been up to:
Dancing, travelling through Ecuador, crossing the equator!, trying to remember my Spanish, holding space.

What I’m reading this week:

Radio Handbook Manifesto, to try and learn a bit about podcasting.

Celebrate your accomplishments. Remember to look back as well as forward.

How American Women Helped Win World War II in the Wake of Pearl Harbor

Using star maps to identify whale sharks.

Patagonia and REI have posted about Trump’s decision to reduce the size of the public land allocation in Utah’s Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante parks. Tragic stuff but it feels like just another drip in the ocean during this administration.

And speaking of lost land, Ecuador is drilling for oil on edge of the pristine rainforest in Yasuni. At the Guardian. 😩

And speaking of the Amazon, I fell into several rabbit holes learning about the people;  Uncontacted tribes of the AmazonAmazon AwakeningInto the Amazon (a photo essay) and what felt like all of Wade Davis‘ writings and half of Wikipedia. 400 indigenous groups live here.

Why Birds Matter also proved more interesting to me after looking at birds for a week.

Plus two actual books that were incredible; Yiddish for Pirates and the Orenda, and a LOT of poetry.

and Watching:

Islands of Change Galapagos. My dive master is featured in this episode as he is one of the local success stories of a fisherman converted to ecotourism and guiding.

and Listening to

What “namaste” really means. At the Allusionist podcast.