Thursday, 2 February 2012

Saturday, 1 January 2011

Time's Up

I originally decided to ask for 2 months leave to have time to lick some recent life wounds and get my shit together again.  But it wasn’t too long before time helped heal the big wounds and I didn’t care so much that my shit was a mess.  So I was left with 2 months to do whatever it was that I wanted, which is probably the greatest gift I’ve ever received (I also really like the Triscuit necklace that my Bana made me this Christmas with a note that said ‘May you never go hungry again.’  She’s clever.)

Some of my friends were convinced that I would leave and never return to the corporate world, having found my real life’s meaning while traveling.  And I wondered too.  I didn’t have much room for books, but I lugged “Screw Work, Let’s Play” and “Born to Do” everywhere I went, completing some of the exercises and hoping they would result in an epiphany of my true life’s purpose.  Ideally I would fall in love with the children of Cambodia and want to dedicate my life to helping them.  Instead those kids reminded me of stinging red ants.  I wondered if maybe I would be consumed by my passion for health and fitness and never leave the spa I visited, but it was clear that I wasn’t quite weird enough to fit in there. 

I did discover a few shocking things though.  Like I love to write, which is sort of a surprising thing to find out when you’re nearly 34.  I started this blog because a couple friends told me to, and it turned into something that made me really happy. 

During surf school we had lots of discussions and debates, but one of them was going round the circle and saying what life means in 30 words or less (It made sense to discuss these things with our feet up at the Rancho, exhausted after a day of surfing, lots of great food and beer).   And, personally, I just want to live a life full of stories that I can share.   I don’t care if they’re happy, sad, funny (preferably funny) or completely screwed up (most likely option) just so long as they’re interesting and I’ve still got some great friends that’ll smile when they read about it. 

And I already knew this one, but I love to travel, I just do.  I really do!  And if HR called me right now and said, “You got an S- in Statistics?  Don’t recall seeing that on your CV, in fact all we can see is ‘graduated with honors’.  You’re disqualified.”  I would just keep traveling.  Until I ran out of money and probably came begging to get back in the race.

One of the things I most love about traveling is the difference in just about everything.  I grew up in a place where diversity was the choice of Campbell’s soup you put in your hot dish. That’s a gross exaggeration, because everyone is unique – it’s just we all looked the same. We did stare at different people though, the ones who used cream of broccoli when they should have used mushroom.  But it is such a cool place and I love going back there.   And the great news is that there are so many other places around the world that are so different but equally cool.

I did not decide during my travels that I’m ready to leave the Corporate Rat Race.  I work with a great team of smart people I really care about, for a company who has helped me see a good portion of the world and for that I am so thankful.  Life's not perfect, but living in a hut in Thailand making arts and crafts isn’t really going to make me feel that much better about it.

So my plan is to keep traveling as much as I can and keep writing about it.  Start working again.  And do yoga and surf and cycle, run and even meditate (won’t write about that, it’s boring).  And eat more Thai food. 

One slightly disappointing thing is that I don’t feel like I’ve changed much after the 2 months off.  Mostly because my shit is still a mess (in hindsight, maybe I should’ve cared about this particular aspect of my life a bit more).  I left my purse with my passport and all my credit cards in the cab from the airport (AGAIN! … Mom, I realize I didn’t mention this part) and the cab driver returned it to me (AGAIN?!  I wonder if this is what the astrologist meant when he said I am luckier than most?  Maybe when he said “luckier” what he meant to say was “more careless and irresponsible”).  And only a Dutch cab driver would do this, but he actually organized my purse for me.  He apologized when he dropped it off, but said it was a mess.  He was right.  I guess this was the equivalent of him rifling through my belongings, but he could have rifled through all of my stuff without having to organize my receipts and group several different currencies into separate pockets.  Other people might find this creepy, but it just made me love Dutch people more.

So now I’m going to try to get organized, unpack, attempt paying the bills (did you know that in the Netherlands, their bills are written in Dutch?) and return back to the real world…then force myself to go back to work.  Monday.

But remember everyone, 2011 is supposed to be one hell of a year and I wish you all the best!  Thanks so much for reading my blog.  And by the way, I barely missed Diamond status and it is American Express’ fault, but I’m not going to get into it now. 

Happy New Year!  And for heaven’s sake, come visit me in Amsterdam!

Thursday, 30 December 2010


So let me ask a stupid question.  What are the odds of your dear friend Selina emailing you and saying “don’t worry, my sister in law is a doctor in the Tropical Disease Department of a large hospital in Amsterdam” ?

I don’t want you to try to calculate it – I have tried and it’s useless.  Let me just assure you that the probability is extremely small.  That’s coming from someone who got an S- in Statistics at an Ivy League that doesn’t bother giving grades because everyone there is THAT smart, so I could be wrong.  Actually, the truth is, I don’t even remember the grading system because I’m bad with numbers (err, letters) and I think the ‘S’ system might be from my 7 year old niece’s report card, which is essentially the same thing.

Bottom line is that I feel pretty gosh darned lucky.  This is about as good as good news gets.  It’s a few days after Selina’s email and the even better news is that it appears that the parasites have decided to retreat (I’m actually seriously impressed with how long they stuck with me).  And Selina’s sister in law predicted it.

The differences between the Americans and the Dutch are impressive.  I emailed a 4 sentence summary of what’s wrong with me to a Dutch doctor and her response was “there’s nothing to worry about, she’s fine” while I spent hours with doctors in America who responded with “yuck” and cut a piece out of my leg (and I’m sure charged me both an arm and a leg, I am not looking forward to receiving that bill).

I probably shouldn’t say this, but I love Dutch people.  I just do!  I love them.  The freaky deaky Dutch.  They’re made fun of for a reason – because they’re that special.  Honestly.  And it’s a good thing because I’m on the plane back to Amsterdam and it is sad.  Not a desperate “please don’t make me go back there” sad.  More of a “shit fuckballs mother fucker goddammit my traveling is over” Tourettes kind of sad. I guess at this point it doesn’t matter if I get kicked off Blogspot for excessive swearing.  

Happy New Year!

Monday, 27 December 2010

Shot, Cut and Stitched

Truth be told, I’m not digging this whole tropical skin parasite thing.  I ended up having to change my flight and am no longer visiting my friends in Connecticut as planned, but spending more time in the ER trying to identify what is eating me. 

The good news is that the latest round of nurses and doctors don’t think my parasite friends are so much disgusting as they are curious and interesting.  They got a kick out of my mystery pals.  After making a few calls to old friends who had practiced medicine in Costa Rica and even trying to track down the elusive Infectious Disease specialists (Who still haven’t reported back to work.  No surprise there.  Wankers.)  they diagnosed me with a dozen different disgusting, but not contagious (?) issues.  There is no clear winning answer, and I’m not sure how you’ve felt in this situation, but I kind of want a formal introduction to the guests dining on my legs including name, sign, and favorite toy as a kid.

To get that definitive answer I had to be shot, cut and stitched which totally freaked me out.   I tried coming up with ideas for worse things to make me feel better – like getting my legs waxed, eating lutefisk and going to a Corporate Town Hall Meeting all at one go.  But that was totally unrealistic and unconvincing.  So I cried instead. 

I think the doctor understood he was in for an experience when tears started rolling the moment he mentioned needles would be involved in the procedure.  It was an involuntary response and I shrugged my shoulders and gestured at my face like I had no control over the situation.  But when he told me it was going to hurt, and I would hate him, I didn’t bother trying to explain and just put my head down and cried.  I mean, when a doctor tells you something is going to hurt and you’ll feel hatred toward him, I figured it was something worth crying about without embarrassment. 

I was slightly hysterical when he told me I only needed to worry about one thing, and that was keeping still.  I nodded along because that sounded simple enough,  especially  since if there is one thing I’m truly good at,  it’s doing what people to tell me to do.  Unfortunately in this case, my body was shaking from head to toe which probably really annoyed the doctor.  And it pissed me off too.

The thing is, I’ve intentionally jumped out of a flying plane before (sure, with another dude and a parachute attached, but I did jump out of a plane really high up in the air). In the past two months I’ve slept with rats, cockroaches, snakes, monkeys, and Rodents of Unusual Size.  I even ate termites in the stupid rain forest (they taste like carrots.  It has crossed my mind that maybe I didn’t chew hard enough and, not being particularly bright, the termites confused my skin with tree bark, but the doctor dismissed this hypothesis).  The point is, I must have some courage somewhere, I think.

It wasn’t evident now and the poor nurse felt sorry for me and offered to hold my hand.  I ignored her invitation.  Instead I took her entire forearm into a vice grip onto my stomach, clutching her hand with one of mine and her elbow with the other until she asked for it back.  I nearly kept it, but she told me my blood was dripping everywhere.

It takes two weeks to see if they can figure out what’s wrong.  In the meantime I’m trying to forget about it.  It’s tricky since my new friends have decided to check out how my arms taste too and they have managed to steal my appetite and energy.  It says a lot for my mother’s ridiculously good cooking skills (and my Aunt Iz and Betsy’s brownies) that I’m eating 5 meals a day even though I have no interest in food.  It also says a lot for my dedication to Champagne that I’m able to give my strongest go ever at draining my father’s impressive wine cellar. There’s something about having skin parasites that makes excessive champagne drinking seem A-OK.  Not that I needed an excuse.

I do have a glimmer in my eye tonight because my well traveled Uncle Bruce brought out some magic German potions to help cure me.  They’re about 75% (?) alcohol and taste like they will kill anything.  And that’s more hope than the doctors have given me so far.  I think it might work.

Friday, 24 December 2010

Jungle Love

My mother advised me not to tell anyone this much less write about it on the internet….but it kind of makes me laugh.  So I hope it will at least make you smile and not like totally gross you out.  Consider this a warning (stop reading this if you’re squeamish or have just paid in full for a Costa Rican rainforest holiday extravaganza).

So when I came home from Costa Rica I had more mosquito bites than I’ve ever had in my entire life.  Like lots and lots of them.  And they were huge (in fact I was pretty sure many of them were spider bites but I really couldn’t accept that as reality because it made me want to puke).   I told my mom and showed her an example bite…her diagnosis was swift: “Those aren't mosquito bites.  That’s jungle rot.  Your Uncle Bob had the same thing when he came back from Vietnam.  It’s disgusting. You need to take care of that ASAP.”

Which is how I ended up spending my afternoon in Urgent Care giving the Medical Professionals there (and I don’t mean to brag…) one of the more exciting days in their career, and just in time for Christmas too. 

I knew it wasn’t a good sign when the first doctor looked at my leg and said, I quote, “Yuck.”  (The distressing thing for me personally is that I really just thought these were at worst spider bites – no big deal!  Makes me wonder what other terrible things about myself I am underestimating… )

After a lot of researching and several consultations they decided I have a tropical skin parasite (don’t worry, it’s not contagious, so you can’t catch it from reading this….but that’s totally disgusting, right?)  They threatened me with skin biopsies and blood tests which I already knew would make me cry, pass out, or most likely both. 

Thankfully in the end they just made frantic phone calls to infectious disease specialists for an emergency appointment.  Shockingly, they were all booked or celebrating Christmas with their families, probably trying to forget about the fact that they have to look at disgusting skin parasite diseases on a daily basis. 

This actually pleased me because the last thing I wanted to do for Christmas was drive 4 hours to meet with an Infectious Disease specialist.  It doesn’t get more dismal than that, does it? The doctors wouldn't even prescribe me any exciting drugs because most of the ones used to treat this particular kind of ailment are most often used to treat liver failure.  Bummer.

Anyway, I’m sharing this for three reasons:
  1.  To say Merry Christmas.  I really don’t have any other interesting news to share and nothing says Happy Holidays quite like a skin parasite.  I really mean it though – Merry Christmas!   Missing you and hoping you’re all having a wonderful holiday.
  2. To remind you all never to go to the mother f#%$ing rainforest.  Apparently the jungle loved me so much it decided to come home with me, which just reminds me how much I hate the bastard rainforest animals.  Just stick with surfing!!
  3. To prove to my boss that I’m not lying on my first day back at work when I say: “I am so glad to be back at work!  All refreshed and rip raring to go!!  Only problem is, seems as though I’ve got this tropical skin parasite disease thing and I need to find a specialist in Amsterdam pronto.  I’m sure that can’t be too difficult?  But I might need to take the afternoon off….”

Friday, 17 December 2010

Big Drop

I rode my first big wave yesterday morning.  We went out for an early morning surf (apparently surfers call these a “dawnie” which is a good illustration of what is nice about surfing terminology.  It can make some sense and is more creative then acronyms…like they don’t call it an EMS or anything.)

Ironically the big one was the first wave I caught that day and I really didn't understand what I had done until I saw the picture posted on Facebook.   Ru was teaching me some drills and then he suggested I try taking a wave.  He gave me a little push and down I went.  I was pretty surprised I actually stood up on the board and when I felt the new sensation of dropping down a wave it put a big smile on my face.  

Then the white water came and ripped me off and I got a lot of water in my nose.  But that’s not the point of the story.

If I’m going to have a little moment of surfing reflection (bear with me here folks) it reminded me that sometimes it takes someone you trust to give you a little push into something scary when you don't want to do it alone.  You might realize you've got it in you to do things you didn’t think you could do (and sometimes you fall just like you did 100 times before when you had people you trust pushing you into things you wanted to stay away from).

But really all this blah blah is just an excuse to show off the picture of me surfing.   You'll be pleased to know that in the afternoon I focused my efforts on falling because it’s probably good to be well rounded.  

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Lessons Learned

I’m back at Surf Simply in Nosara.  I know this seems like a bit of a back track…It’s the last week of my adventure of a lifetime (well, 3 decades give or take, who knows how long this life will go), and I decide to go back to a place I’ve already been?  Seems a bit wimpy.  The thing is, I really, really like it here.  I probably never should have left.  But I told myself “You’ve only got a little bit of time left and you need to take advantage of it, why didn’t you book that flight to Argentina?” and “There is no way in hell your favorite surf school will be as good as it was the first week, it’s like trying to recapture your youth.  Don’t fool yourself.” So I went gallivanting off into the fricking rain forest, which was a mistake of gigantic proportions, but I’ll get to that.

Not to go too nutter over Surf Simply - you know I’m not the kind of person to be overly excited about very much outside of champagne and cheese, and those are two very special parts of life that deserve to be glorified.  Plus, of all the places I’ve gone the past couple of months, have I once mentioned a specific place to go to?  I might have recommended the Grand Canyon in general, but that’s a fricking national park.  So if you ever, ever have the chance.  Please come to Surf Simply.  And tell your friends about it, no matter age or athletic ability or even if you think surfing sounds ridiculous.  Just don’t tell any jerk face friends, because that would really suck. 

My fellow surfer Brad captured the Surf Simply experience in a more holistic and far less self absorbed way in his blog and he even has some pictures that prove that I surfed.  Here’s one too (I just can’t seem to shake this self absorption, must be the whole traveling alone for 2 months and writing about myself):

Out of self absorption and back to Surf Simply (and then back to me again) – the lovely folks here totally bailed me out of Yoga Bliss and the rain forest.   I can’t even blog much about the f___cking rain forest experience, mostly because of the aggressive cursing that it would require for an honest representation of my time there.  Also because I’m afraid I could get sued for libel or kicked off blogspot and I don’t want to invite that kind of negativity into my life.

I think Yoga Bliss could be the emotional low point of my travels so far.  Even outdoing my misery at the Genocide Museum and the Killing Fields.  But I also had an awful lot of time in the jungle to think about just how sad I was.   I realized I was coming from an unusually lovely existence to an eco lodge in a rain forest where I carefully wrapped myself in mosquito netting at night praying the snakes would get me before the yoga instructor.   And unlike the Genocide Museum and Killing Fields, I was stuck in the goddamned rain forest and had no way to leave. 

The only way to escape was a 30 minute boat ride that would cost $200 and, more importantly, involve a long, painful discussion with the manager to explain why Yoga Bliss caused me great misery.  And this is how it would go:  “I need to leave here because my yoga instructor is actually a landscape artist (he didn’t happen to mention that on his job application, did he?) and seems to think my goal of improving my balance will be achieved by jumping around like a monkey screaming Oooohh Ooooohh Aaaahhhhh Aaaaaahh and scratching my armpits.  And that makes me really uncomfortable.   I don’t care if you think that means I’m uptight - I probably am, but I’ve got bigger issues to deal with.  Plus I really hate snakes, spiders, frogs and especially the bats that were in my bathroom last night.  Did you put the Rodents of Unusual Size outside my door on purpose?  I know!  It doesn’t matter.  I should have anticipated hating the creepy animals in the rain forest, but how could I have known about the monkey yoga?  Can I please leave now?  I just want to go back to Nosara where things made sense and I was happy, even if I am a crap surfer.”

I wasn’t at the point where I was ready to support organizations that cut down rainforests and kidnapped Yogi’s, but it was touch and go there for a while.  If my pals at Surf Simply hadn’t saved me, I can’t say what would have happened.  Did I mention I was one of 3 people at the eco lodge yesterday?  One of them didn't speak English.  And the other one I didn’t want to talk to.  Try going from a crew of ridiculously smart and funny people to that and see how you handle it.  I’m relatively certain some fists would have been thrown.  I should have tried that.  Another lesson learned.