Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Neither Here Nor There

Wisconsin, Mississippi, Tennessee, Dominican, Chicago, Louisiana........

You can call me a traveling woman! I think I've slept in more states in the month of January than all of last year! WOO! My dad texted me today asking literally where in the world was I? The answer currently: Memphis.

I enjoy traveling. It is so eye-opening to indulge in the local culture, eat new things, not understand local accents, and learn what the local grocery store chain is. I remember traveling as a child and just assuming everyone knew I was an out-of-towner, but as I grow up, I realize that until you don't understand what a "well" drink is, are shocked people still smoke in restaurants, and have bad driving habits, no one knows you're not local as well.

So, a huge part of traveling is exploring local culture, particularly food. Which is my topic of discussion today. I hope to share with you what I've learned that will help you vacation without it ending up like a Thanksgiving feast.

It's fun to get to the airport at 6 in the morning on the day of a trip and want to hit up the airport Collectivo and get that delicious potato burrito, but just don't. I don't eat breakfast because the only things that look good to me are overly fatty, greasy, sugary items. I'm not a health nut when it comes to breakfast, so to curb that craving I start my day with a low-calorie drink. 12-16oz. non-fat, sugar-free vanilla latte or 12-16oz. iced, non-fat, two shot, chai latte. Both have under 200 calories and give me my espresso boost for the day while giving me enough fill to avoid a cheese danish or McGriddle. The airplane usually provides a snack (except American Airlines and United-both of which I hate flying) but a small snack I think is fine as long as you don't eat 10 bags of those peanuts.

I also want to mention airports are eating traps. No matter what time of the day, if you are traveling and stop at an airport, in order to waste time, grab a glass of beer or an appetizer, but that's just stupid. If it isn't during normal eating times (lunch/dinner), don't do it.

When you reach your destination, your first instinct is to visit a local restaurant and try the "local" food. I've made the mistake plenty times wanting all the fresh seafood socially acceptable to order or Jambalaya, craw fish, and gumbo all in one sitting, but trust me, it is just not worth it. If possible, get the people you are with to all order different entrees and share or order small portions like appetizers. Otherwise, before you visit, figure out one or two local things you want to try and save the others for your next visit.

I've also made the mistake of ordering room service. It's easy and comfortable to order breakfast, lunch, and dinner from your hotel, but that is the worst. A whole tray of food in front of you. Since you aren't at a table or somewhere public, you can munch on all the food until it's gone instead of just eating until you're full. And if you're like me, you'll order something substantial enough to make the trip worth while for the wait staff.

Lastly, since you're just visiting, chances are you are at a hotel that has a workout facility. If at all possible, pack some tennis shoes, a pair of shorts, and an old T. Most likely, you'll have a few spare minutes to hit the gym. If not, good for you for getting out and making every minute count.

I set rules for myself that I don't break regardless of where I am. No soda. No eating after 8pm. No more than 2 alcoholic beverages on a work night. I have more, but you have to create ones that fit your needs.

Enjoy <3 p="">

Monday, February 17, 2014

REMOVE YOUR PLANK

“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye."

I could stop there. I mean that explains so much of what I want to say, but I feel the need to explain some more. 

I've come to terms that my childhood royally screwed me over for the rest of my life. I have plenty of bad things to say to my classmates in Buffalo, Oklahoma who had such an impact on my vulnerable childhood. If any of you (or your families) happen to read this, say a prayer that my blood isn't on your hands, figuratively speaking. You tormented me and treated me in a way that no child should have to live through. I've never heard an apology, but I forgive you. Thanks to my super strong, supportive, loving family who gave me an ounce of confidence throughout the years, I'm here to talk about it. The things I dealt with in Buffalo paved the way for my insecurity in Sabetha, Kansas where I felt little relief from my classmates. I've discussed the details of the "bullying" I went through, so to save time and anger, I am not going to re-live that here today. 

However, I want to blame those years of my life for the personal problems I still face. As a child, the things you hear, learn, and experience effect you for the rest of your life regardless of what aspect of your life they come from. 

I have had plenty of antagonist, mostly ex-boyfriends, point out behavioral issues I have, which is interesting to think about. Let me tell you what, I KNOW I'm not perfect. It's not a hidden secret that I am not perfect, I never will be, but what's the point of you telling me my issues? Do you have your own issues to address first? (Hint: no one is perfect.) 

I know that because I was verbally abused as a child, I have grown to sub-consciously think of myself in a lower respect than my peers. They made me believe that. I don't have the confidence I should perhaps have and it causes me to be jealous more often than not, but it makes me work harder at being confident. It's not natural for me to be confident, I have to fake it or teach myself how to be. That's the easy part. The hard part is actually believing it. 

I also find it interesting that people can accuse me of certain behavioral issues without having an example to support it or even know what they are accusing me of. 

My favorite is when I'm told I don't have a lot of friends. Because I don't hang out with them often because they have just as busy of lives as I do? Or because I don't keep friends who do not treat me as a friend? Or because my best friends live an hour away from me? Or are married? Interesting. Have you counted the number of friends you have recently? Because I haven't. It's quality, not quantity.

When you accuse someone of having a problem, they are more likely to prove why they don't have it rather than work to fix it. So accusations are probably the worst form of solving problems, FYI.

I guess I don't have a great point or realization to this story. Everyone is looking for the perfect companion or friend and that just doesn't exist. The closer you are to someone, the easier it is to see their flaws, but just the opposite, they can see yours. If you morally don't agree or can't handle those flaws, likely you won't be friends. On the other hand, those flaws could help you both grow. I like the saying "you're not perfect, but you're perfect for me". Seems to hold fairly true. 

I also want to say, this post was not instigated by a fight I had with my boyfriend. He is extremely supportive of my past and present and growing together and is considered in the "perfect for me" category. :)

Matthew 7

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Dominican Republic Visit

Let me give you the precursor that I had a blog post written and somehow lost it. So my patience and writing isn't as good as it was the first time....

SO- This weekend was my first trip out of the country, off the mainland. (I've been to Mexico and Canada, but pre-passport days.) I'll start at the beginning.

My boyfriend, owning his own company and having clients all over the country/world is continual getting more opportunities to visit them which was the cause of this trip. He invited me along to share the opportunity.

I've heard horror stories about going through customs, especially in foreign countries so I was quite nervous to experience it for my first time. Upon landing on the island it was a big blur from touching down to eating our first meal. Did you catch that? Customs was too easy, I didn't even realize I had gone through it. We filled out some paperwork, got our passports checked, and were out the door. I was for sure it would be an ordeal and I would stutter causing us to be detained for potentially hours. But it was no such thing.

 We had been told we would have a chauffeur waiting for us and sure enough, he was waiting for our arrival. (I'll tell you more about the driver in a bit.) With the communication barrier, I not only got good at charades, but good at going with the flow. So, we stepped into a strangers car and were on our way. Assuming we were being taken to the hotel, it was a surprise when we were dropped off at a restaurant to meet with the people we were there to see. Let me rewind to say the culture shock we experienced within seconds of leaving the airport. Armed guards, loco traffic, goats y pollos on the side of the road, motorcycles with 2+ men. It was interesting.

When we got to the restaurant, James and I took a seat and both let out a sigh. I was just taking it all in. Appreciating el sol, the ocean, the warm breeze. It was paradise. The restaurant was basically on a dock that extended into the Caribbean Sea. It was like the movies, with white drapery flowing in the wind, blue water to each side, bamboo and palm trees, and drinks in coconut shells. We were introduced and talked for a while before deciding to freshen up after the day of traveling.

James and I were left alone for dinner as the host was inclined to let us enjoy our time together. Dinner was another struggle trying to communicate, but everyone was very nice and it could have been worse. For dinner we had, oysters (ostra), shrimp, calamari, chicken risotto and some interesting bruschetta. The bruschetta had roast beef, feta cheese, and banana along with some sort of chocolate dip. It was fantastic. (I'm not totally convinced that's what we ate by the way.) Even paying was a struggle trying to determine the peso to dollar conversion and appropriate tip. We managed and ended our date early as James needed to work the following day.

The next day James went to work with his clients (the reason we were there in the 1st place) so I was instructed to do whatever I wanted with the help of our driver, Gregory. So, he picked me up at the hotel and our adventure began. He took me to a restaurant where all I wanted to do was lay in the sun and have a mimosa. I set up camp and enjoyed the sun. Gregory sat behind me in the shade. I was served like a princess, having the local wait staff cater to my every need. After a couple hours in the sun, I got bored so went and talked to Greg. He is a 26 year old Dominican native so we talked about basic things and how different our lives are. I taught him some English, he taught me Spanish. It was interesting to compare cultural differences and talk about things we both understood. After that, I wanted a change in scenery so he took me to the local beach stopping along the way to get some papaya, mango, and something they called chinas (sweet orange).

We walked along the beach getting stares from locals who knew I wasn't local. As with anywhere, the people watching was fun. We had vendors trying to sell us everything under the sun including sugar cane, fruit, toys, gum, paintings, and fake tattoos. I was intrigued when I saw a fisherman. He sat down by us and started cutting up his days' catch which included; fresh oysters, fresh calamari, and OCTOPUS (or maybe squid, I couldn't understand via translation)! It was all delicious including the homemade salsa he served with it. It was very enjoyable. I gave him $20 to give me everything he had caught that day so Greg and I had our fill and saved some for James to enjoy as well.

On our way back to the hotel I learned that it was their Independence day from Spain. The streets were packed and traffic was even worse than usual. It made for a longer trip back to the hotel which caused a small panic for my boyfriend. (I didn't have service to send/receive texts/calls.) Sun burnt and smiling I got back safe.

We ended up having American food that night which I figured would be better for my stomach anyways. A few drinks at a local bar was all the night had in store and with that my short trip was coming to an end. I said adios sol and savored the last couple hours enjoying the vacation.

Customs coming back into America was interesting. I finally got to see what all the fuss was about from foreigners. It was much more comfortable being able to read and understand signs and people. I breezed through customs and security, making a few friends with the TSA agents bored of talking to people who couldn't understand them.

After a day of traveling I arrived home with a slap in the face from the cold weather.

All in all, it was a fantastic, relaxing, short vacation. I learned a lot in the few short days like;
-Radio in DR is unedited
-2 men on a motorcycle isn't considered gay
-MANY spanish words/phrases
-Whistling at a waiter is okay
-42 pesos is the current exchange rate to a dollar
-Converting Celsius to Fahrenheit and kilometers to miles
-Americans are thought of highly
and likely some more stuff I can't think of right now.

I look forward to traveling mas!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Big E

It was sometime late November, early December. I had the flu the worst I've had it in years. Temperature through the roof, extremely tired, vomiting. There were very few people I wanted to see or talk to in those moments, yet as I was laying miserably in my heated bed, my phone rings. Isaiah.
"Hello" I answer, barely able to squeak an eager sound out of my body.
"I need your help" he responds.

Very few times in my life have I been asked for help from my older brother, so when I am, it's like the first day on a job. I knew this conversation was going to be serious or he would have reached me via other means of communication.

He proceeded to tell me he would be climbing Mount Everest in the coming year. To myself I thought, "Isaiah, you've been saying that for years. You have a job. I'll believe it when I see it." Well, February 3rd he booked a round trip flight to Kathmandu. He's doing it.

The purpose of his call that night was to ask me for any insight, questions, concerns I might have about his plans to ascend Mt. Everest. He has literally thought about it so much for so long, he knew his focus or thoughts may have missed some important reflections. With no hesitation, I began spouting off questions like it was an interrogation.
Why are you going?
What are you afraid of? What's your biggest fear?
What if you don't summit?
Do you think you are composed enough to make good decisions in life threatening situations?
How are you going to justify leaving work for that long?
How can you afford that?
Why now?
What about after climbing it? What's next after climbing the tallest mountain in the WORLD?
If you don't summit, will you go back?
Is traveling to that part of the world safe right now?
How will you combat the high traffic on the mountain of inexperienced climbers?
How long will you be gone?
God forbid, thoughts on death?
Why choose to climb with no bottled oxygen?

The list continued for over an hour. It was a nice distraction from my illness that seemed so minor as we began discussing an endeavor at such life-changing magnitude.

He has now made a deposit for the trek, bought flights, done more research about every facet of Mt. Everest imaginable. I'd say he's more capable of climbing Mount Everest than 99.99999994% of the people on this planet, to be exact.

 Some facts:
About 4,000 people have tried summiting (rapidly increasing)
About 660 people have actually made it to the top (16.5%)
3.6% chance of dying
Youngest person to summit was 13 yrs old
Oldest person to summit was 80 yrs old (in 2013)
1st ascent was 31 years after 1st recorded attempt

As for me, I am terrified, excited, and jealous. Why don't I do extraordinary things like Isaiah? I'm excited for him and scared for him. I pray he has a wonderful experience.

Congrats Isaiah. This is a huge milestone.

"Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well." 3 John 1:2