BootsnAll Travel Network

Once upon a time...

A girl from one place decided to go to another. And it wasn't all good all the time, but it was always important because it was happening.

A Good Run

October 9th, 2012

Well friends, it has been just lovely writing here with bootsnall, but I have decided to merge this blog into a bit of a bigger, more personalized project.  From here on out, you can find further travel posts and other things at  But don’t worry, all the posts so far will still be here if you’re feeling sentimental.  Thanks again and enjoy!


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October 2nd, 2012

“The funny thing is, no matter how much experience I have under my belt, no matter how old I get, it’s all just a repeat of what came before.  I think certain types of processes don’t allow for any variation.  If you have to be part of that process, all you can do is transform- or perhaps distort- yourself through that persistent repetition, and make that process a part of your own personality.”

-Haruki Murakami, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running

New York summers are hotter than you’d expect.  As a Texas native, I know a thing or two about heat, and I can tell you that although they are more compact, summers in the city are no less miserable.  The heat I grew up in was largely dry, or at least that’s my memory of it in contrast to what I know now.  I remember plants, a breeze, little things to make it slightly more tolerable.  But maybe what I’m remembering is just the air conditioning.

New York is on the water and this makes for some pretty unapologetic humidity.  The heat in July is oppressive, sweltering, unmitigated by trees and unabsorbed by soil.  In fact quite the opposite- it is magnified by tall glass and metal buildings and reflected by solid concrete, an urban oven slow cooking a population of 8 million.  Quite a stew.   I don’t have an air conditioner.  I have never purchased an air conditioner.  It’s a strange mix of pride, ill-researched fears of recirculated, artificially cooled air, cost, and a dislike of things blowing on me that keep me from it.  Also, I derive a kind of sadistic enjoyment of heat, found only in that it’s not cold.

My sister refuses to visit.  And I suppose I understand.  I spend the majority of my day in a largely non-weatherized mechanics shop or completely outside, and sometimes the inability to escape the heat does get to me.  For all my resistance to the thought of it, I have in times of need and sweat resorted to some unconventional measures.  Have I ever casually dated someone for their a/c?  Maybe.  But this is bad practice, as I’m sure you can imagine.  In the midst of a particularly hot weekend recently, I had a cool epiphany:  Airplanes have a/c.  Not only that, but if you’re in business class they have a free meal, booze and a selection of movies- a great and luxurious escape for someone who would otherwise spend more money avoiding her apartment all weekend and gorging herself in air conditioned NYC cafes.  And that someone is me.  My flight benefits are such that I would actually save money just booking myself on an international flight for the weekend and subsisting on the food they fed me on the plane.  And I would get to have a day somewhere else.

It was 4th of July weekend, and I reasoned that going anywhere stateside was a bad idea.  I travel standby, so my benefits are great, but only so long as there is room on the plane.  And on big holiday weekends, those flights fill up and my chances of getting stuck somewhere multiply.  SO, I thought, why not check out Europe?  I found a flight to Milan, Italy that was wide open.  Business class too.  It was exactly what I needed and I could be back to work on Monday without missing a beat.

Milan and I have a complicated history.  Back in 2006 when I was backpacking around Europe via train, I stopped by to see what I could see.  It’s amazing for me to look back to a time only a few years ago and marvel at how far advanced technology and I as a person (technologically speaking) have become.  In 2006, I was completely reliant on information booths that are a staple in most any major train or bus stations.  And that was largely my m.o. as I traveled without much of an itinerary.  Or aim.  Or guidebook.  I would show up at a train station and head directly to the big, illuminated “i” that quickly became my lighthouse at every port.  There I could find information about and directions to the cheapest hostels within walking distance.  And I qualify “walking distance” as anywhere up to around 3 miles with pack.  If it hasn’t struck you yet, allow me to spell it out for you:  I’m cheap.  When I got to Milan for the first time back in 2006, the woman at the counter told me the only hostels in town were really far from the train station and I’d have to pay for a bus to get there, and it would cost something like $20 a night which is waaaay too fancy for me.  I was sure there were other options, but without a smartphone or knowledge of the city to find an internet cafe, I had to take her word for it.  I stood at the bus stop for all of 2 minutes before some weird it’s the principle of the thing! response kicked in and I turned around, got back on the train, and left Milan.  Later, in the same trip, I actually tried again, to much the same effect.  I went back intending to just walk around and find something, but by that point I think I was simply too tired.  And I found out you have to make reservations months in advance to see The Last Supper.  The sight of the city was too daunting.  Again I gave up.

With all that in mind, I set my sights on Milan one last time, 6 years later.  This time I was ready.  I looked online and found an agreeable place to stay.  The unfortunate thing about arriving in Milan by plane instead of train is that the airport is quite some distance from the city itself.  And the only way to get there is a train.  So that was an added expense of about $20 and an hour’s travel time each way.  Bummer.  But I made it!  The flight was great and I watched movies so mind-blowing I can’t even remember them!  I walked to the hostel from the train station and fell asleep.

I’ve been doing a lot of traveling lately, but it has mostly been to places where I have friends or family.  For this reason, I have not really had to pack a towel because I can borrow one or pjs because I don’t like them and if I’m staying with people I know I generally have a private room.  Arriving at the hostel, I realized I had forgotten both of these items, the pjs being the most pressing as I wanted to sleep and it was a co-ed dorm.  But it was the middle of the day, and no one else was in the room, so I just took my pants off anyway and tried to cover myself with the stolen airline blanket that was the provided bedding.

I slept a few hours until a guy came in and I could no longer sleep due to a suspicion that my butt was out.  I stealthily pulled on my jeans under the blanket and headed out to the streets of Milan.  It’s a lovely city.  The architecture, the people, the fashion, the pasta, you name it.  I don’t have the money to buy or hang out with any of it, but I don’t mind just walking and taking it all in.  I did make one purchase, that of an old school 35mm film camera, made entirely of plastic with 4 lenses that split each shot into 4 frames of action.  A pretty sweet little piece if I do say so, and I was feeling self-congratulatory for having saved so much money in coming to Italy for the weekend.  I spent the rest of the day playing with the camera and enjoying a dish of gnocchi by the Duomo.

A little after the sun went down, it began to pour.  I had an umbrella, but was still getting soaked, so I eventually slid into a little cafe and ordered a piece of pie.  Mmm.  When the check came, I went into my wallet to find my debit card…but…not there.  And this is bad news considering I was now about 2$ short (stupid pie) for train fare the next day to the airport and without atm access.  Also, WHERE IS MY CARD.

To be continued…

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A Good Day

April 28th, 2012

“Had to stop at a red light;
Lookin in my mirror, not a jacker in sight
And everything is alright.”

Ice Cube poet, sage.

So this marks my first post to this blog in nearly, what, 2 years?  Wowza.  I’ll make this one extra long and excruciating to make up for it, I promise.  I’m a little disappointed I didn’t take the time to write about any of the adventures from 2011.  Maybe one of these days I’ll catch up on it.  But until then, let’s just start over, ok?  What’s passed is past.  What’s real is this moment, and in this moment I am sitting in a small cafe in Pisaq, Peru, feverish and shaking from sun poisoning.  How did I get here?  By bus.  No, I have returned here after finding it late July and deeming it one of my favorite places on the planet.  I’m working a lot now, but I took what vacation I had left and got back as fast as I could.

Once in Pisaq, I set out early in the morning on foot from a little place called El Molle.  First stop:  breakfast.  A big one.  There’s a place in town that offers all you can eat pancakes, so I  figured I’d do that….along with a fruit salad.  You know?  For health?  Turns out I couldn’t even finish the first plate of pancakes they brought me…I need to move on.  Just thinking about it is making me sick.  Why am I even talking about breakfast?  Gross.

There are some pretty good Incan ruins in Pisaq, but you have a climb a mountain to get to them.  There is a bus that will take you, but I hiked it last time and I’m determined to hike it again this time.  The nice thing about the Incas was that whenever they took over a place, they assimilated into the local culture instead of dismantling religious temples and enforcing a new language, etc, unlike some imperial powers I know (I’m looking at you, conquistadores.)   And it’s thanks to this practice that a lot of pre-Incan relics were able to survive to modern times, assuming they were not destroyed by the Spanish.  So that was pretty big of them.  Then again, after the battle ensuring their victory over non-Incans, they would disembowel their enemies and use their eviscerated corpses as drums to celebrate their conquest.  Well, nobody’s perfect.

So I’m off to the ruins.  Mostly I just wanted a good climb.  The elevation in Pisaq is 9350 ft to start with and the ruins are situated at about 12, 370ft to give you some idea.  You can hike it in about 2 hours at a good clip.  However, having reached the top, I was unsatisfied.  There was a mountain next door that was taller, sultry, not crawling with people.  From where I was standing, I could see a small trail leading from my current mountain to that one, so I abandoned the ruins and took off for it before any of the local rangers could stop me.  Two things when I arrived to the top:  there was a really small picturesque village surrounded in fields of flowers!  Score!  But also, now that I was there, I could see that I had not in fact reached the tallest part of the mountain.  Oops.  Well, I wanted to reach the tallest point, so I pressed on…but when I reached that point, I found there was yet another, taller peak just beyond, and a pattern began to emerge.  And it’s a little embarrassing because this is a lesson I really should have learned already at some prior point in the last 29 years.  Ah, but morals are for the ends of of stories, and this is just somewhere in the middle.

My problem is, I never know when to stop.  I’m surrounded by mountains!  Maybe over there a better view.  Maybe over there no one’s been before.  Maybe over there llamas!  It’s exhausting, but I can’t quit because I’d feel like a quitter, like I was missing out on something.  And what’s more, I would be.  If you haven’t seen something, you’ve missed it.  Anyway, I passed this “highest point”.  And the next.  And the next.  Somewhere along the way I crossed paths with 2 women who wanted to know (a loose translation) what the hell I was doing there.
“Just, uh, looking around,” I say.
“Are you going to the lagoon?”
The what?!  Yes please.  It was such a relief to have this destination, this purpose now.  Onward!

Every now and then I would pass another little village,  all guarded by dogs who were none too pleased with my encroachment.  On the whole, I consider myself pretty well versed in agitated wild animal speak (NOT ELEPHANTS) and I attribute this to the plethora of backwoods inhabitants of rural east Texas.  We had it all!  Snakes, your pick of rabid vermin in varying sizes and dispositions, coyotes, wild boars, buck, and of course your not so friendly domesticated livestock like bulls.  In my experience, most of these things can be chased away or at least re-routed with a stick.  And of them all, I would venture the pigs are the most menacing.  OH.  And the geese.  Good god.  Happily I’ve yet to encounter a bear, though I’m told the proper course of action is to stand your ground, spread your arms wide, and slowly approach as if to give it a hug.  I hope I never have to do this.  Anyway, with dogs the trick is to win the staring contest and then maybe do a little stomping–but ONLY AFTER the dog has looked away.  Seriously, don’t mix that up.

Overall, Peru wins the award for generally friendly but definitely most adorable stray dog assortment.  But that seems to be more of a city thing.  During my climb, I lost some time engaging the burlier mountain dogs and waiting for them to look away first, but ultimately I’m glad to have retained all my limbs.  After quite some time and still no lagoon, I chanced upon another village.  It seemed lovely enough to be a stopping place; my legs had taken up protesting against the whole venture, it was getting late, and I was looking downhill, thinking of Princess Bride-ing it.  Then, peeking from behind a fence, a little boy and two small sisters.  (Again, loosely translated)

“Where are you going?”
“I don’t know, I was going to the lagoon…is it far?”
“Yeah, it’s pretty far.  You’re not going anymore?” (a small note of challenge in his voice.)
“I…well…yeah, I’m still going.” (A note of resignation in mine, feet crying stinky tears of sorrow.) “Which way?”

And I was off again, but dying inside.  A girl my age caught up to me.  She explained she was going home to her grandmother’s, but it’s on the way to the lagoon so we could go together.  As we approached the house, a small typically adorable Peruvian dog ran out to greet us, followed to comedic effect by 3 more dogs, each increasing in size and homeliness.  Her grandmother was seated on the doorstep, a tiny wisp of a woman, and next to her perched the tiniest wisp of a kitten.  If I recall, some folks believe they have found the location of Noah’s Ark to be somewhere atop a Turkish mountain, but I’m pretty sure they are mistaken, because it obviously landed in this little old lady’s front yard. Pigs, chickens, rooster, dogs, rabbits, guinnea pigs, kitten, cows, sheep, all living unfettered and in perfect harmony.  The woman spoke only the local language of Quechua, but her granddaughter translated between us so she could have the pleasure of shaming me for being so old and still without children.  Actually, it was a really nice time.  They brought out a small stump for me to sit on and we talked a while and shared a few potatoes and coca (not to be confused with cocoa) leaves.  Peruvians are gaga for coca everything, but that day for the first time I was eating them just as leaves. Fun fact about coca leaves:  eat enough of them raw like that and you lose feeling in your face.  Apparently.  They both liked my hair.

“Well I think your sis verypretty too.” I slobber in spanish.  Grandma laughed so hard she started coughing.

I was getting nervous about the time so we took off toward the lagoon.  As we parted, the woman shouted something nagging in Quechua several times to her granddaughter, until she responded in kind.

“What did she say?” I asked, wiping the drool from my chin.
“Nothing.  We can go to the lagoon now.  And then we gotta find my donkey.”

The lagoon was not so close as she led me to believe.  Well, maybe to her, who climbs those hills on a daily basis, but I was feeling a bit at the end of my rope and trying to keep up with her as she spritely jaunted up the incline towards certain death did not help.  Mercifully, she paused to show me which berries were edible and herbs for altitude sickness, backaches.  Her dogs joined us on the walk, and on the way, we also ran into her roaming pack of alpacas whom they engaged in battle.  Finally we reached our destination.  It was less of a lagoon and more of a reservoir, but no less beautiful….especially for the effort.  Total climbing time to get there: 6 hours, straight up.  The sun warmed the green of the hills and perfect blue water reflecting the sky like silver.   I decided it was a good place to attach all those things which where weighing me down to stones and toss ’em in.  I imagined them sinking to the bottom and resting there forever in this memory nestled deep in the beauty and stillness of a place no one else could know.  And one I may well never be able to find again myself.

Coming down took another 3 hours and I was pretty much the last one off the mountain aside from another girl who I terrified because she thought SHE was the last from the ruins and had stopped for a good pee. It was fortunate because the batteries in my headlamp had crapped out.  Also, she had a beer with her for some reason, so we found a ledge, put on some Pink Floyd and watched the moon come out over the best beer I’ve ever tasted before heading back into town.

It was a pretty great journey, although I do regret only putting sunblock on my face.  Here’s what I took away from it (besides the burn): Living is a series of potentially surmountable obstacles, each only becoming apparent from the vantage gained in conquest of the last.  And each obstacle is greater, both in effort and in value.  And you can quit whenever pleases you because it would be impossible to climb them all, but it is your path and your choices of which ones to tackle that will define you as a person.  For instance, I chose to trudge on nowhere but up into certain uncertainty, altering my goals along the way for something equally unknown but closer to my sense of what accomplishment looks like.  Why?   Because I felt like some 9 year old dared me to.  So now you know me a little better.

The next couple of days involved journeying of a different kind, but obviously you have lives to live, so I’ll stop here.  Really though?  If you can find the opportunity, go to Peru.

To study Spanish or for tourist services:
Cusco Spanish School

To transform yourself from the inside-out:

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A New Home

September 28th, 2010

Hello Friends,

I’m posting again, but not here.  If you want to read the current blog, you’ll need to go to

And you’ll need an invitation.  If you ask nicely, I will consider it.


Hey Sister, Seoul Sister

February 13th, 2010

“Recognize your mistakes. Recognize your achievements. Details, details, details. The God is in the details.”

-A blinking light in a MoMa installation told me this.

Sooo, about climbing those rocks. IT’S COLD, OK? I’LL GET TO IT. Good news though, I have not completely squandered my job perks. I did more traveling in 2009 since Ireland, but not too much. So, more like, “sqwandered”, am I right? Am I right? No. I like my job and I love the unbelievably cheap airfare, but I very much rue the lack of free time left me in which to utilize it. Nonetheless, I was able to pool together the small amount of time off allotted me this year, in hopes of procuring something vacation-like. My sister Emily has been living and teaching english in Seoul, South Korea for almost a year now. So I basically had to go there, or risk giving her legitimate reasons to complain (for the first time. ever.) Also, I’m a really big fan of puns, and this trip promised to deliver in a big way. And thus, a Seoul-journ was born.

With me, my Seoulmate, Tom. (If you’d like to see pictures of the trip, he was the guy with the camera, and you can check out the link to those under “Tom’s Pics” in my link list.) Had I had more vacation days, we would have taken a romantic getaway elsewheres, but this time, we take our respite at chateau d’Sister…I don’t consider that very romantic-but he is a guy-so it probably meant so much more for him.

One of the anti-perks of the job perks is that all tickets are standby, so it can be a very stressful experience and emotional roller coaster just getting on the flight; something akin to…I dunno…and actual roller coaster I guess. Duh. The flight is around Christmas time, which means two thing: 1) That the dates we want to take the flights happen are kind of sensitive at the risk of missing Christmas with our respective families, and 2) That the dates are plenty sensitive for other people flying too-who paid full price for their tickets-and who will be flying more than usual because it’s a holiday. Our route is New York, Tokyo, Seoul. Going standby, wer are pretty much last priority to board. As our departure date drew closer, the NYC to Japan leg starts to look bad. Real bad. It’s overbooked by about 35, and from the looks of things, all flights from airports in the NYC area to Tokyo are about the same story. In fact, the only US airport with a flight to Tokyo that seemed to offer even a glimmer of hope was from Portland…which is of course on the other side of the, er, continent. How will we get there?? We cannot possibly bike ride that distance in 24 hrs. Let’s see, don’t have a car…train also takes too long. HOW on EA…Oh yeah.

Luckily, my awesome friend Amme (you may remember her from such entries as, ‘India’) is currently living in Portand, getting her masters. This is great not only because I haven’t gotten to see her in a while or seen Portland ever, but the flight out of Portland to Tokyo is the next day, so we’ve got the night and morning there. She comes and picks us up from the airport. We get a quick tour and enjoy an delicious evening out and sleepover, and I finally get to meet her thumbed cat, Rogan…and her three chickens, which we spend the better part of the morning chasing.

Back at the airport, we are happily informed that not only is there room for us on the flight, but there is room in business. I have been so genuinely spoiled by my job. I’m afraid there might eventually be dependency issues coupled with withdrawal (who knew that ‘withdrawal’ had 2 ‘a’s in it, am I right?). But for now, Seoul here we come…in style! Ahh, but when we reach Tokyo, the flight to Seoul is overbooked, and we can’t get on until the next day. I certainly wasn’t complaining, though. There are worse places to be “stuck”. Tom’s been to Tokyo before but I have not. One day and one night isn’t exactly time to get well acquainted with a city that massive, but we did the best we could. I found it to be clean, frenzied, and highly concentrated on all things small and adorable… like New York with OCD, caffeine jitters, and a unparalleled enthusiasm for the Youtube browsing of “sneezing kittens”.

We took in a market, an beautiful temple boasting the world’s largest paper lantern, and one very busy intersection. When we return to the airport, we are finally able to board the flight to our final destination. Tom has not met my sister, and wants to know more about our host. So he turns to me, all sincerity, and asks, “Is your sister as loose as you?”. I’m not going to waste time trying to explain that I knew what he meant to say. Those were the words he chose. This was the question formed in his mind and forged by his lips and larynx. And no, Tom. No she isn’t.

My questionably loose sister gathers us at the airport and we dive right into some serious Seoul searching. It is absolutely frigid. We’ve had nothing but the chilliest weather in New York, and I have taken my one vacation this year to visit a place somehow even colder. What can I say? I’m a Seouldier. First meal is Korean BBQ, which is quite good, and then we attempt to get a cab back to her apartment, but no one’s biting. They pass us by like we aren’t even there. My toes feel freezer burned. My thighs are numb. We walk up and down frost bitten streets until we finally find a driver who takes pity on us, albeit begrudgingly. There is a bar, Zuzu’s, down the street from her house where she is a regular and much loved as a token westerner. It’s a weeknight and no one’s really there but us, so we get a lot of attention. Included in the attention package is a fire show. I am familiar with the mesmerizing fire shows performed on the beaches of Thailand, entailing flame balls masterfully whirled around the body on the ends of special ropes or sticks, but I question how this might be accomplished in a bar. Turns out, it is different, but manages to retain some of the terrifying possibilities I had imagined. The bartender comes to our table, pours alcohol along the wooden railing in front of us and in his mouth, lights a torch, and spits. An engaging spectacle, to be sure. My favorite part was the frantic scrambling at the end to put out the fire which then spread to the beer banner attached to the railing…really the least of my original concerns in the whole wood-fire combo.

Seoul train.

Next day is the fish market-a veritable shopping mall of dead and soon to be dead sea creatures and their accompanying olfactory consequences. We pick out a crab, a small octopus, and a flounder for sashimi. Along with the octopus (more on that in a moment), the flounder is alive when we pick it. When we point out the one we want, the man who owns the stand takes aim and swoops in with two well placed blows of a hook near it’s eye, and then skins it in front of us. I have a very emotional moment. After choosing your food at the market, you take it upstairs to a number of restaurants willing to prepare it. Here’s the thing: the octopus is a specialty-when they serve it, it’s still alive, depending on your definition. It is certainly still moving. For a better idea, see this video.

Fillet of Seoul.

Throughout our stay, we half-heartedly stopped in and out of shoe stores, trying to replace Tom’s boots which had a hole in them and were thus quite unconducive to the cold. But Koreans, apparently, have comparatively small feet. Nowhere had his size. We stopped by a shoe-hawking street vendor one day to check out his selection, aggressively miming the ‘feet too big’ problem. He understands. He wants to see his feet. Tom takes off one shoe, and the man recoils in fear, simply saying “Oooh” and shaking his head, joined in laughter by another passerby.

Seouls of your feet.

It is possible my favorite part of Korea are the tea houses, and specifically, the 5 Taste Tea within. 5 Taste Tea is magically all it is purported to be, hitting the tongue as salty, sweet, peppery, bitter, and tart simultaneously. Normally, complexity overwhelms me, but I am a big fan of this tea. And the teahouses themselves, numerous and of thematically varied, are a serene and relaxing place to spend a few hours. My favorite teahouse had 7 free flying birds bold enough to fly over and try to eat table scraps once you’d finished, but they could not be persuaded to land on my finger or do my sewing, or even harmonize with me in song. So that was a little disappointing I guess.

Chicken soup for the teenage Seoul.

We took one afternoon to go visit a couple of Emily’s classes, and allowed ourselves to be interviewed. Having little context for surmising the age of caucasian faces, this is the first line of questioning. For the record, they were surprised I was 27, and also thought I was the younger sister (zing, Emily!). We also related to them the harrows of our failed shoe mission. Tom takes off his shoe to show them his foot, and they too become frightened and tell him he has a big nose. Children can be so cruel.

Next day, we went to North Korea. Oh yes. There’s a USO tour that goes every day, taking a busload of people to the Demilitarized Zone. It is a stark, heavily regulated and suffocatingly supervised experience, but completely worth the better part of a day getting there and back. Before entering the zone, you pass through the US military base, where no pictures may be taken. There, after you are transfered to a different bus, leaving all your things on the old one, you are driven to a UN operated, neutral ground sort of building where once again, the rules are reiterated (no pointing, no gestures, etc). There, upon exiting the other side of the building in all her glory, is North Korea. The immediate spectacle is a line of about 6 barracks, built to host negotiations between North and South, and beyond those, a large Stalinesque building with one guard pacing and monitoring, (and as he was armed) intimidating. He would walk a few steps, stop, survey our side, bust out the binoculars, stare dead at us a while, walk to a window and appear to speak to someone inside a moment, repeat. We are later told that we are being watched, photographed, and being taken note of from all around. There are cameras and curtained windows everywhere, apparently full of North Koreans diligently and obsessively logging our visit. There are guards on our side too, maintaining very specific boundaries we are are not allowed to cross, at risk of initiating World War III. Tom’s brought his camera, and I see a shot I think would be really great, I just need a different angle. I cross over towards the area I want to be standing for the shot, momentarily forgetting the boundaries, and a guard, quiet and statuesque till now, WHAM slams his foot down, marches out two paces and violently, definitively, raises his arm to block my path. Of course I am completely shaken, and of course everyone in our group turns to stare, and of course we are shortly thereafter led back to the bus.

Just wanted to make sure they were paying attention.

Next up, we take a crisp, refreshing stroll through one of the many dark, dank tunnels dug by the N. Koreans leading directly to Seoul in case the need of a surprise attack arises. They’ve discovered several like it, and assume several more exist. So that’s comforting. We’re also shown a very one-sided video about the history of the war and the touting the famous biodiversity Korea is so famous for. And that was the DMZ.

Seoul survivors.

Tom went back to the US for Christmas proper, but I stayed on with Emily, because wouldn’t that have been so mean not to? We didn’t have big plans originally; Xmas is more of a couples holiday in Korea, and Emily had enough trouble just procuring a small tree. We did do stockings and gifts though, and we made plans to go out to lunch with her boss and her boss’s daughter. They took us to an amazing eel restaurant on the water, but the high (and low) point for me was what followed. We were ushered next door, to a banquet hall of sorts. We’re pretty much the only people in there besides a man with a keyboard on stage doing Karaoke, another man running around dressed as a very thin Korean Santa with beard askew, and another person dressed as a giant squirrel (maybe?) who kept offering us funny hats and making us pose for pictures with him giving a ‘thumbs up’. As more people began to arrive, we were pressured by Emily’s boss to get on stage and sing a karaoke song we’d never even heard (although the lyrics were in English, and it was apparently immensely popular in Korea)…the lyrics on the screen were helpfully in Korean. Merry Christmas, everyone.

Hope yours was as Seoulful as mine.

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New Traveling Shorts

September 7th, 2009

“Marbh le tae agus marbh gan é”  -Irish Proverb

Friends!  There are no entries from 2009.  This might not mean much to you, but it makes me very sad.  In all fairness, it has been a tumultuous year.  Aside from dealing with a new haircut and all the trials and tribulations inherent to that, I done procured me a job, y’all.  I’m officially a ground mechanic for-get this-an established airline.  DON’T WORRY, I don’t touch the planes.  You are still safe to fly.  Why, after a year, did I log on to my travelog to write what is by all appearances thus far a personal journal entry?  Well, I was lonely and I wrote this poem I wanted to share with you: 


I was only kidding!

This is not a poem.

Please stop reading it as such.


You are thrown by my structure?

It seems suspiciously poemish to you?

Well it isn’t!


When the warm winds wind

round the corners of my heart,

I think of sadness and flightless birds and how it’s so beautiful to see the sun rise…

Alright!  Fine.  This joke isn’t even funny anymore and now I’ve lost you.  Anyway, the point I was going to make was that my current job is pertinent to this travelog because it entitles me to flight privileges.  Aha!  I can fly for absurdly cheap prices anywhere my airline does.  The Catch-22 of course being that to earn these privileges, I must work 40 hours a week.  Shakes fist.  Well, I still have weekends, and I have a plan.  Not yesterday’s plan, that did not work.  But more on that later.  The current plan is to take very mini-trips and report back.  Deal?  And perhaps a change in format–to better use my limited time, I’ll be going to places closer than Asia.  Time to explore the good ole U.S.  Plus, I’ve really been wanting to get into rock climbing.  So I’ll be flying to various large rocks in different states and climbing them and then writing about….rocks…you will be totally enthralled!

For now though, I’m in Ireland.  I had a fantastic plan:  Fly to Shannon, take a bus to Killarney, get off bus and walk into national park, ascend Ireland’s tallest mountain, gain enlightenment, come down.  It’s ok, it’s a 3-day weekend so there’s time. 

Another thing sweetening the employment deal is that if there is availability on my dirt cheap flight, I fly first or business class.  Now, I am an economy lifer.  I never fly any other way…but if you’re going to put me on a $30 round trip ticket to Ireland, and seat me in business, well ok.  Hear that?  That was the sound of my mind blowing.  They gave me a pre-flight mimosa.  A duvet.  A menu with several options as to which 3-course meal I would like (I had the salmon).  A barcalounger.  Socks.  I was so excited; so gushy, so full of wide-eyed, fidgety fulfillment, so bald.  The stewardesses probably thought I was a kid on my way to my Make a Wish destination.

Once in Shannon, I promptly boarded a bus for Killarney.  Phase one complete!  Then I arrive.  OK!  I can see the mountains (if you can term them as such).  Kind of far, but I can walk it.  Off I go!  And hour later, I’m lost and no closer to the mountains (large hills).  What?  No!  Of course I didn’t ask directions to the mountains (not snow-capped)!  What was I supposed to ask?  “Excuse me, could you please point me in the direction of those MOUNTAINS over there?”  That’s stupid.  What kind of person fails to make advancement toward a perfectly visible mountain range? (no sherpas for hire).  This guy.  There was no wall keeping me from them, per se, but rather an impenetrable wall of private property.  I finally come across a woman walking her dog and ask if she knows where the entrance to the national park is.  She points, I keep walking.  I finally make it!  Success!  I’m on a path directly towards the foot hills (all there is really), when my path is intercepted by a giant lake.  5km long, 3 across.  The mountains (couldn’t ski ’em) are on the other side.  I have a pack on.  I cannot swim it.  I walk along the edge of the lake for a while and come across an inclined surface with no path on it.  My adventure begins!  I will blaze a trail!  About 2 minutes later I have reached the highest point of the inclined surface and I look for a place to sleep for the night.  There are many problems with this. 

1) Bugs.  I brought bug spray, but there were like, a lot, okay? 

2) Ireland is green.  I know that, you know that, everyone knows that.  But for some reason I was expecting the terrain to be a different type of green.  I was thinking trees.  While there are plenty of those, Ireland is green because it is composed of foot-sized, moss-covered rocks and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. 

3)  I did not bring a tent, just a sleeping bag.  This area is known for large amounts of limestone, and I pictured a cave to sleep in , or at least an over-hanging cliff or at LEAST a flat stretch of dry rock to sleep on…but the moisture of the moss and the medium sized-ness of the rocks prevented all of this and posed a serious hazard to my non-hiking specific foot wear.  I decided to go back to the trail and continue looking for the REAL mountains (larger than medium-sized moss covered rocks).  Sadly, what took me all of 2 minutes to find took me 30 minutes to escape because I go turned around.  Back on the path someone else blazed for me, I see signs for a Murloch house and decide to make my way there, to sleep the night in a small deserted stone cottage in the woods.  I arrive at the house to find it is in fact an estate , complete with gardens and separate guest quarters and overrun with geriatrics.    There are tours available.  There will be no sleeping here.  I make my way around the house and through the gardens in the direction of the mountains (glorified sand dunes).  Somehow, though I have been walking for a very long time now, I am really no closer.  Maybe the range is farther than it looked…otherwise, I was pathetically outrun by a stationary landmass. 

Walking on, I come across a large green clearing with a tall wooden structure in the middle.  All around the clearing are trees—quiet, aside from the occasional wind rushing through.  This place must have been undisturbed for ages.  Some ancient Celtic ritual grounds.  I feel it is steeped in mystery.  But wait!  There is a plaque.  So old the writing has virtually been worn away by the elements.  I can barely make it out, but there is a date.  It’s wait.  1994.  Whatever, it’s flat.

I set my pack down and lay my head on it, resting or the first time in hours.  This ultra modern gazebo is very peaceful indeed.  I’ll camp here.  Then, interrupting the breeze is the sound of a car engine.  Turning to look behind me, I see a car pass through the trees, then the clearing itself.  There is a road.  Somehow I missed it.  I laugh.  It is raining and I am cold and I am wearing capris.  It’s time to find a hostel.  Back at the “house” there are men offering carriage rides back to town.  I don’t have the Euro to take me that far, but I can afford an exorbitantly priced ride back o the park entrance, and I cannot tell you how tired my legs were.  The man holding the reigns calls me lassy and the horse Charlie, but it is unclear whether this is the horse’s name or he just calls all horses Charlie.  He drops me at the edge of the park and I walk back to town.  I inquire at a hostel and find one bed available, “Probably the last in town.  Everywhere’s booked on account of a concert.  But one bed just cancelled.  You’re in luck” the receptionist informs me.

I am 1/8th Irish.  That fills my 1/8th luck quota to which I’m entitled.  I ask how far the bus stations is, and relate to the receptionist how far I had walked that day.  “Oh you poor creature!  You walked half way ‘round Killarney!”, she tells me.  If I could draw you a map I would, but to quantify it numerically, it took me over 5 hours to get from the bus stations to the hostel.  It would take me 7 minutes to return.  All told, I probably walked 20km, and that is a conservative estimate.

In the room, I took off my clothes to change into pjs.  I was under the impression I was currently alone in an all girl dorm.  Wrong on both counts.  No sooner had I finished changing, a dude comes down from one of the top bunks.  I’d looked, but I’d missed him.  He must have been 1/4th Irish.

When I woke up, it was raining and it has continued to rain all day.  So I’ve had a lot of time to write this.  Obviously.  Now I’m going to make the transition from writing to pondering so I must bid you adieu.  I won’t be adding a new entry every weekend, but I’ll get out and about as often as possible…for my own sanity.



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Intermediary Catharsis

September 15th, 2008

 “Yes we can.”  -Sen. Barack Obama

That last post was nearly 5 months ago.  Wow.  Well, I don’t really have much to say, but I figured I should tie up this loose end true to my procrastinating form, so the blog doesn’t jump into some confusing land when next I alight.  And I wanted to do Sikkim justice.  It was a truly beautiful place, the first stopover being in the earlier mentioned “ghost town” of Ralang.  Very remote.  Not really the kind of place you could fill up more than a day or two, but somehow we managed to.  We first tried walking to a “nearby” gompa, but this promised to suck the remaining daylight hours out from under us, and we eventually hailed a cab.  At the monastery, we found young monks playing cricket–one of them with the keys–who let us in and showed us the colorfully intricate butter sculptures Tibeten monks are renowned for.  Tasty. Kidding. Eventually we decide to forge on to Yuksom, the most mountainous region  of Sikkim.  There are not enough jeeps headed that direction that day, so we are forced to ride in VERY close quarters with a group going up and around the mountains.  Think: contortionist–wedged in the back of a small jeep one buttock cheek placed uncomfortably on the knee of a displeased stranger, the other jabbed by the handle of someone’s bag of something sharp.  Evert tells me not to be a hero, but I am the smallest.  Small people have to be heroic.  At least there were no cows.  

We walk around Yuksom a bit the night we arrive, and meet an American couple who’ve been traveling around for years and have a lot of good stories to share over the local drink, Tongba. (fermented millet served in bamboo container.  Strong)  Back at the hotel, Evert takes his shoe off to discover a large amount of blood, though apparently without injury.  Wasn’t until hiking the next day and the discovery of still more blood and something–eek–writhing in his shoe that we realized we’d had our first encounter with leeches.  The whole trail we were on was covered in them, the wait on the trail, drop from the trees, you must be constantly vigilant.  Not cool, leeches.On the way out of Yuksom we share a vehicle with a young girl to whom Evert offers a cookie out of our just opened package.  “Thank you,” she says, and takes the package and exits the vehicle.

At this point, there are only two days left to my flight out of Delhi and Evert’s from Mumbai.  I was going to take the fancy train for once to get back to that terrible city, but being of limited resources, I normal-trained it to Calcutta and caught a plane from there.  This not without incident, of course.  Wallet stolen, I had to book the Calcutta-Delhi ticket on Evert’s card.  When I arrived at the airport, they notified me that my seat had been canceled, because the seat wasn’t purchased under my name.  Wallet stolen, I had what was nearly exactly enough to buy a new ticket.  Blessedly, I had less than 24 hours in Delhi, so I was able to get by and even eat!  I left India with 10 rupees in my pocket.  About the equivalent of a quarter.

New York has been kind and malicious in equal measure since my return.  Writing this is like going back in a time machine to something that really feels like yesterday.  Somehow, I have managed to miss India.  I do not know how.  I’ve had the pleasure of seeing several of the people I met along the way already.  Amme stopped by on her way home and I found a 1 buck Greyhound offer to Toronto to spend a week relaxin with Eric from Dharamsala.  And Evert’s coming friday.

Next stop?  Probaly Morrocco to see Dom, though I doubt I’ll get there till next spring, lease/school/funds permitting.  (I signed a lease, I am in school, I have no funds).  Let’s hope that pans out.  In the meantime, I’m trying to apply for a medical study of jet-lag with an all-expense paid trip to Paris for something to treat my itchy feet.  And of course beyond that I’m traveling here; navigating the the waters, new opportunities and other weak metaphors that constitute this crazy adventure called life.   Until then…Cheers.   

Go Obama. 


Moving Onward

April 24th, 2008

“This rather simple epitaph can save your hide your falling mind:
Fate isn’t what we’re up against there’s no design no flaws to find.
There’s no design no flaws to find.”

-The Shins, Young Pilgrims

All things considered, the 45 hour train ride under the emotional condition I was in wasn’t all that bad.  It was by far the most crowded train I’ve been on yet.  There’s a rule that people can still board a train if the train is full, and this can mean not everybody gets a seat.  On this train, it meant that for 2 nights, some people slept on the floor, which is a really really dirty place to be here.  I luckily had a bed up top, so I was sort of removed from the madness, but anytime I had to go to the bathroom, I had to literally climb over and on people, sometimes from berth to berth, like a monkey on a jungle gym.  That’s how crowded it was.  Insane. 

When I arrived in Varanasi, more than anything I needed friends and familiar faces, and I knew just where to find them.  They didn’t immediately recall my name at the Elvis Guest House, but they did remember me, and I was had the warmest greeting by the owners and all the help and support in the world.  They put me in a room twice as nice as the one I’d stayed in before for the same price and drove me all around town on a motorbike to banks and stores and anywhere else I needed to go to get my wallet situation sorted out and never asked for a cent.  The offered to lend me as much money as I needed.  It was really great to be there.  I bought a cheap but cool mantra ring on the street.  One night I went out with Lala and a couple of girls who were staying at the hotel and was explaining that it had been a rough couple of weeks but that things were looking up.  At “looking up”, I made a great, broad gesture with my hands and flung my ring into a pile of cowshit and trash.

The last time I was in Varanasi, I spent the night under two blankets wearing every article of clothing I owned, bought scarves to wrap around my thighs, and STILL couldn’t sleep for the cold.  This time, it was too hot to think.  You sweat standing still in places you didn’t even know you had sweat glands.  Hot.  For kicks, I went to see Lala’s family Baba.  It was a good experience, even though I felt like he got a few things wrong about my past and personality.  He said I was emotional, can you imagine?  Overall, he said I didn’t have any major problems in my life, and he did seem to understand that my biggest obstacles were romance and jobs.  So he made me a talisman for that.  Here’s hopin’.  Apparently I don’t get a steady job for a while, but when I do “fame and fortune, no problem”.  Der.

In Mumbai on my way down to Goa, I met a guy from Norway, Evert, and he mentioned an interest in heading to Sikkim (as was I).  He took the train and met me in Varanasi and then we went on together north, towards fresh air.  We encountered some trouble entering the State of Sikkim itself because of a holiday and were forced to go instead first to Darjeeling, home of tea.  

Darjeeling is a beautiful place, very reminiscent of Dharamsala in both natural surroundings, architecture and people.  It’s chalk-full of Tibetan culture which means the best momos I’ve ever tasted.  We ended up spending more time there then planned because we were both trying to figure out our plans for getting back to our respective countries, he leaving one day before I do.  Still, if I had to waste time somewhere, it was a nice place to be, and I did eventually escape to Sikkim as was the goal all along.  We arrived last night.  You need a special permit to get in, but it’s free and easy and the drive is outstanding though crowded.  Right now, we’re in a small town that reminds me of the old west, minus the Indians and Alicia Silverston posters in restaurants.  I’m excited to see the Buddhist gompas later today and then maybe test out the momo fare in this region.  I have one week left in India.


It Pours.

April 15th, 2008

Just a cheerful little addendum to yesterday’s post:  My wallet was stolen on the bus today.  I should have caught it.  I remember thinking to myself, “hmm, the bus isn’t that crowded, why is this woman sitting next to me?”  But her baby was cute, she was practically shoving it in my face.  I thought she was just being friendly.I will not let this make me hate people.I will not let this make me hate people.


When it rains…

April 14th, 2008

“So live and learn.  The snow is melting never to return.  Cross your ‘t’s and dot your ‘i’s and write ‘the end’ and maybe someday it will snow again.”  Ass Ponies, Last Night it Snowed

This blog does not have a happy ending. But this blog is not the whole story.

I’m better, thanks. I booked a ticket south to Pushkar and low and behold, run into Amme there. We are both a little worse for the wear–she has a cold and I’m coming out of my first authentic Indian bedbug experience. Weee. Pushkar is lazy but nice. Amme’s been trying to get to a place called Mt. Abu for a month now, and so I decide to tag along on this, her 3rd attempt. It’s a lovely hill station very popular amongst honeymooners and things are cheap. There’s a Jain temple there intricately chiseled out of marble. The detail was amazing, but unfortunately you’re not allowed to take pictures. And the experience was somehow less glorious as we became the main attraction for all the temple goers. I would make a terrible celebrity. India has given me a new appreciation for these poor people. Everywhere I turn, some one wants to take a picture of me, or just stare, or even the occasional autograph request. I was asleep on the train one morning, and woke up just in time to catch the guy in the berth across from me snap my picture. Aggravating. Amme and I were in a restaurant in Mt. Abu, the only customers, and the staff was standing in the corner, talking. We wouldn’t have noticed they snapped a picture, but they didn’t turn the camera sound off on their cell phone. The wait staff. We told them not to do it again, but really, what can you do?

We both head to Bombay after Mt. Abu, but on separate trains. I take the bus down the mountain by myself. As I am exiting the bus, I pause near the front and address the two men standing in the drivers area, asking them which way to the train station. One immediately starts in speaking rapid Hindi, and it does not sound like directions to me. The other says nothing, just stares. Doesn’t make any indication of having heard me, just stares and reaches over and gives my boob a squeeze. I am wearing two backpacks, one on the front and one on the back. He is standing some 3 feet away. No way this was an accident. Infuriated, I take off my shoe and hit him a number of times, saying something ridiculous like, “Not OK!” But he just continues staring, as if nothing has registered at all. This makes me angrier and I tell him I’m going to get the police.

Lucky for me, the police station is across the street. I run over and speak with an officer, pantomiming the situation, grab and all. To think back on it, I probably looked crazed pointing in the direction of the bus stand, groping myself, making a driving motion, pointing again and stamping my foot. But it got the point across. He follows me back to the bus stand, but that particular bus has just left, I spot it headed down the street.

“Well, that was it. It was the driver of that bus.” I say, a note of resignation in my voice.

“OK.” he says, and to my great surprise flags down a guy on a motorbike, jumps on, and goes after it.

I go back to the station. They put me in the chief’s office and give me cold drinks and we talk for a while. Very nice guy. After a bit he asks what I want to be done if they catch him. I guess I hadn’t really thought about that. They don’t exactly have a system to put his name into, and what are they going to do? Fine him? I want him to know it’s not ok to do that. There are way to many men in India with a skewed idea of the rights of western women to let him get away with that, but at the same time, it wasn’t an attack or theft or murder. Anyway, eventually they haul about 10 men into the room I’m in. They ask me about the first guy they bring in, apparently he was the driver. It wasn’t him. I felt awful for having identified the wrong man and confused as to who was now driving the bus. They let him go and march in the others. The guy who did it is among them, and I point him out to the chief. He gets up from behind his desk, walks over to him, and delivers a powerful backhand to the guy’s right jowl, saying something in Hindi. Then they take him out of the office into the entry way and 5 officers (two of them women) proceed to beat the living crap out of him with broad leather belts and their bare hands. I am so uncertain as to how to feel about this. I imagine my face was sort of horrific, because a couple of the cops saw me and thought it was hilarious. They dragged him back in the office by the hair and made him say “sorry” and touch my feet. Then they took him out again. I would have felt less uncertain about how to feel if they hadn’t have beat a couple of the other guys they brought in too. Not as hard, but they still hit them, despite my request that they leave everyone alone except the one guy actually responsible. The chief tells me they are all friends and were drinking and shouldn’t have been, that’s why. That’s how I got my own personal 2 man detail in India to the ATM. I bet I looked pretty important.

When I got to Bombay, I found I didn’t have any underwear.  I wasn’t thinking and used my bag of dirty clothes wrapped in scarves for a pillow on the train and didn’t grab it when I jumped off.  So that was unfortunate.  Otherwise Bombay round II was good. There was a lot I wanted to do I didn’t have time for the first time. We hung out with other people from the hostel and went to a Bollywood movie. Amme and I went to the market and I bought a cage and a leash and flea powder and the rest in anticipation for Keap. I booked a ticket to Goa the next night and emailed the shelter to let them know I was coming. That day a guy walked up to me on the street and asked if I wanted to be in a Bollywood movie. This is pretty standard in Bombay, so I said yes. Next day they loaded a bunch of westerners on a bus and drove us out to the studios. We waited for hours before anything happened. I’d talked to a couple of people who’d done it before. Amme had shot a commercial and she said there was a lot of waiting and bad 80s wardrobe. Another girl told me they wanted to put her in a short dress and have her lean against a pole for part of a movie. She asked if she was playing a prostitute, and they told her, “No, you’re just a girl on a Saturday night without a date.” Hmm. Finally we find out we’re in a ballroom scene. There is apparently a princess from England and she is throwing a party and we are her friends. They ask if anyone knows how to dance. I raise my hand, assuming everyone knows the basics of ballroom dancing, but the cheese stands alone. No one else raises their hand, and suddenly I am lead female dancer. They give all the men suits and the women black dresses in varying degrees of tacky. Mine is tight, but long and flowy on one side…on the other side is so short they have to provide me with bloomers. Nice. The dance instruction at the beginning of the shoot is absolutely tedious and the filming is worse. 7 hours in heels, mostly just standing around doing take after take of the princess walking down the stairs. My one moment of glory is when the princess reaches the bottom and looks around at the room. They pull me out front so mine is the first face she sees. Sadly, I didn’t get to stick around long enough to follow through with the dance because I had a train to catch. You should be able to see me in the movie though, in the next 3-4 months it should be out in India. Called Karzzz.

I take the train to Goa. I’m excited. When I get to the shelter, it is lunchtime and not many employees are around. One guy points to the puppy area and tells me to look over there. Keap isn’t in it. I spend another 10 minutes looking around, but don’t see her and eventually go back to the desk where the guy pulls out some paperwork and informs me they put her down the day before because of an eye infection. I am so stunned and sad and angry that I don’t say anything to him, just turn around and leave. Since then, I’ve mainly laid in bed and slept. I’m still feeling a lot of these emotions, plus a feeling of guilt for having delivered her there. I sent an email saying I was coming. They couldn’t wait one more day? I don’t know what it’s worth, but the place is called International Animal Rescue, and they’re a bunch of bastards.

I’ve still got all this stuff I bought for her laying around and I’m trying to decide what to do with it. Thankfully I have a train out of here tomorrow morning. The bad news is, I am headed back to Varanasi, and that is a 40+ hour ride. It’ll be good to get away from Goa, but I sure hope I can find a way to keep myself busy.