Thursday, December 31, 2009

December "To Do" List

  • SAVE!!! - Done
  • Make lots of extra passport photos for visas - Done
  • Sew stuff sacks (this was a fun project; I love to sew!) - Done
  • Sew compression straps onto backpack  - Done
  • Draft and sign will - Done
  • Draft and notarize financial power of attorney for Pops - Done
  • Pay for storage space for 2010 and arrange "local contacts" - Done
Days until departure:  59
Months until departure:  2

    Monday, December 28, 2009

    The Year in Soundwaves

    Do you remember the songs you listened to on the radio while driving to high school?  Do you remember the songs you listened to while hanging out in your college dormitory?  Do you remember the song playing during your first dance with your new wife?

    Humanity has invented a time machine:  music.

    It takes you back, reminds you of who and where you were, what you were doing, how you were feeling.  A song is like a little time capsule:  play the song; open the time capsule.

    Some time after the end of college, I started making year-end playlists with the intent of summarizing the previous year with music, instead of words.  I put the finishing touches on the 2009 playlist last night.  This was my year, in soundwaves.

    1. Everything is Borrowed - The Streets
    2. Life Less Ordinary - Carbon Leaf
    3. Smiling Underneath - Ani DiFranco
    4. Old Dan Tucker - Bruce Springsteen
    5. Mi Amor, Mi Amante - Grupo 5
    6. Te Regalo Amores - Rakim y Ken Y
    7. Wagon Wheel - Old Crow Medicine Show
    8. Lisztomania - Phoenix
    9. Daylight - Matt and Kim
    10. Skinny Love - Bon Iver
    11. Roll Away Your Stone - Mumford and Stones
    12. The World at Large - Modest Mouse
    For you stalkers out there, click the link below to see 2008 and 2007.

    Monday, December 21, 2009

    Giant of the Valley

    This past weekend, Kate, Tim, Greg, Dave, and I went up to the Adirondacks for some winter hiking. We arrived late on Friday night and decided on a 7 mile round-trip hike up and down Giant Mountain, a.k.a. Giant of the Valley.

    View Larger Map

    I woke up on Saturday morning and I was TIRED. Like, "I want to DESTROY the alarm clock that just woke me up" tired.

    Nonetheless, I (unwisely?) set out with the guys.

    I have barely any pictures from the trip, since I was focused on breathing and not dying. We took the approach up Roaring Brook, which isn't that long (3.5 miles one way) and isn't really that steep.

    Still, when we got to the top of the ridge at mile 2-point-something and I saw the summit of Giant another 700+ feet above me, I wanted to faint.

    We made it to the top.

    Took a few pictures.

    And started the descent.

    Coming down was fast and fun.  We invented two new sports:  extreme snowshoeing and the butt luge.  It took half the time from the summit to the car as it took from the car to the summit, probably because we practically fell down the side of the mountain.

    my favorite photo from the trip

    Next day we played on the ice on Silver Lake.  Of course, this necessitated power tools.  (Mom, don't look.)

    Five inches thick.  Apparently it had been -25 Fahrenheit (-32 Celcius) the week previous.

    Even though the ice was 5'' thick, it was so clear one could see to the bottom of the lake.

    Overall, it was a lovely weekend with a great group of people.  I wish I hadn't been so tired during Saturday's hike, but I'm proud that I made it to the top and back. 

    Thanks to Tim, Greg, and Dave for their patience with me during the hike. Special thanks to Tim for the moleskin, and a very special thanks to Kate who cooked us a delicious dinner on Saturday night!

    Friday, December 18, 2009

    Flying South for the Winter

    I thought geese flew south for the winter?!?

    Yes, they do--they fly from Canada down to the Finger Lakes, where they hang out on the south end of Cayuga Lake.

    Right off the end of our dock.

    Where they HONK and HONK and HONK all night long.

    All.  Night.  Long.

    Let me repeat that again:  All.  Night.  Long.

    Their loudest birdie screams happen at night, when they realize that they're slowly being pushed away from the lakeshore by the encroaching ice, while they could be hanging out in the sunshine in Charleston or Atlanta or wherever snowbirds go for the winter (Florida?).

    The cacophony ebbs and flows like the noise level at a party.  The talking/ honking starts quietly, but as someone laughs/ honks loudly, all the other party attendees/ geese have to start talking/ honking more loudly to be heard over the din, which quickly escalates into a shouting/ honking free-for-all.  Eventually, everyone/ everybird realizes that there is no reason to be yelling/ honking so loudly, and the noise level slowly fades.  Until the next laugh/ honk.

    Fly south, birdies, fly south!

    Sunday, December 13, 2009

    Winter Wonderland

    We visited Taughannock Falls State Park and walked up the creek to the falls.

    The water in the creek froze into amazing patterns.

    Ice is cool.

    No pun intended.

    As always, the waterfalls were beautiful.  The constant flowing of water is mesmerizing.

    Exposure desensitizes, but I'm glad I haven't taken this for granted...

    ...because it's beautiful, no matter how many times I see it.

    Tuesday, December 8, 2009

    Watkins Glen

    On Sunday, I went out to Watkins Glen with Dave, Kate, and Tim.  We started up the rim trail on the south side of the gorge and arrived at the railroad crossing (~1 mile) before we had realized we had been moving.  (That's the beauty of doing longer and longer distance hikes--short "hikes" literally become a walk in the park.)

    I remembered the railroad bridge being pretty scary due to the exposure and its poor maintenance.  This time, it was meh.

    Now, I'm not saying that we somehow ended up on the closed-for-winter gorge trail on the northern side.

    But!  I will point out that our approach did not lead us past any signs that said we couldn't go the way we were going.

    There were icicles hanging off the sides of the shale in haphazard patterns.  The gorge was chilly and wet from the constant drip-drip-drip of the melting.  Even though I was wearing long underwear, a wool sweater, wool socks, and a wool hat, I was still cold in the gorge. 

    The waterfalls were beautiful, and became more beautiful as the trail progressed.

    Even though the "hike" was really short (perhaps 2.5 miles), it was so relaxing to spend the afternoon outside.

    Friday, December 4, 2009

    Full Moon on the Lake

    Tuesday evening, there was a full moon. The moonlight reflected off the surface of Cayuga Lake and looked like the tail of a comet projecting to the east--beautiful and memorable, especially with the ripples of the lake creating a glittering effect.

    I'll miss nights like these during my upcoming years of endless summer.  I'll miss that type of air, clear and cold, that type of air that nails your sinuses like a dart on a bull's eye.  It's the type of air that makes you take notice, three exclamation points smacking you right in the face, that THIS MOMENT IS IMPORTANT.

    Monday, November 30, 2009

    November "To Do" List

    • SAVE!!! - Done
    • Purchase NZ & Australia plane tickets.  No turning back now!
    • Sell computer - Done
    • Order prescription sunglasses - Done
    • Change Mirena - Done

    Days until departure: 90
    Months until departure: 3

    Saturday, November 28, 2009

    Why I Travel

    Most Frequent Responses to
    "I'm Quitting My Job and Traveling Around the World"
    (In Order of Frequency)
    1. Wow.
    2. That's cool.
    3. Where are you going?
    4. What are you doing?
    5. What do your parents/ family think?
    6. Are you going back to your job when you get back?
    7. Did you save up a lot?
    8. I wish I could this, that, or the other thing.
    9. I went to this place when I was this many years old...
    10. When are you coming home? or How long will you be away?
    Notably absent from the list?  "Why are you going?"

    Rarely am I asked what could possibly possess me to sell all my stuff, quit my job, and leave my loved ones without so much as a forwarding address.  Either people think I'm crazy, in which case no explanation is needed, or they think I'm taking off for a two year vacation, in which case no explanation is needed.

    I'm not (that) crazy, and I don't believe in vacations.

    The best, and perhaps only, explanation I have is that I'm curious.  And the only way I know to satisfy curiosity is to see, hear, smell, taste, touch, and do.  I am particularly curious about the following topics and hope to explore them during my wanderings.
    • Religion & faith:  I will be passing by some of the holiest places of the five major world religions, including my own and Dave's.  I am interested in how religion is expressed in architecture, design, and urban form, and how faith (the personal version of religion) is expressed by individuals.
    • The natural environment:  I'm a sucker for trees and flightless birds (squeeee!!!).  I hope to encounter new (to me) species, and, by reading and researching, talking to people, and experiencing it for myself, learn about how those species interact in their ecosystems.  I'm also interested in how humans influence or change the natural environment.
    • The secret, and not-so-secret, lives of women:  I can tell you about being a 27-year old woman with 0 children and 1 college degree in New York State in 2009.  Can you tell me about being a 27-year old woman with 2 children and 1 job in Manila in 2009?
    • Health & folk medicine:  The way my country and my culture thinks about, promotes, and sells "health" is not the only way.  I'm particularly interested in plant-based and/or traditional, "folk" medicine.
    • Children & the elderly:  We begin as children, and we end as elderly.  What do the place, role, and value of the young and old say about a culture?
    • Food & food systems:  Food comes from somewhere.  In New York State, I rarely know from where my food comes.  I'm interested in how the food system works in other places, particularly in urban areas (this is an old academic interest of mine).
    Maybe I'll learn about that stuff.  Maybe I won't--maybe I'll learn about other stuff.  That's where the "growth" part happens:  being open to whatever comes my way, even if it's not what I think I want.

    Thursday, November 26, 2009

    Thankfulness: Ithaca in Retrospect

    I was 16 years old when I first visited Ithaca. It was one of those crisp spring days--Ithacans, you know what I'm talking about--when the sky is blue and the trees are green and everyone walks around with stupid smiles on their faces, rapturously joyful at the temporary departure of the long, cold, grey Finger Lakes winter.

    Photo from my first visit to Ithaca, 5/29/99

    I moved to Ithaca the month after I turned 18, my parents' minivan packed to the roof with items my mother was sure I'd need (plastic storage boxes? aluminum foil?), unaware of that Cornell's East Hill weather machine produced perfect weather only for the 10 days of pre-frosh campus visits in the spring, and another 4 days for parents' weekend in the autumn. Bastards.

    I was blissfully unaware.

    Hiking in Treman as a freshman, 2000

    I didn't think about or understand responsibility, relationships, or being an adult, or prioritizing what was important to me, or what was important to me, or how hard it can be to remain sane in an insane world. Hell, I even considered voting for George W. Bush in the 2000 election (what can I say--it was my first election--before 2000, donkeys and elephants were zoo animals!). In short, I was a kid.

    I spent four years on The Hill.

    The Arts Quad, 2003 (?)

    Then I graduated. :-O

    Graduation, 2004

    Unsure of where I could go and what I could do, I decided to roll down the hill to a little apartment on The Commons. I told myself that it would be just for a year for a little relaxation after so many years of schooling, and then I would... I didn't know. Build my life?

    One year turned into two years turned into five years. I struggled and thrived and struggled a little more. Boyfriends came, stayed, and left. I invented myself, abandoned that, reinvented myself. The world spun madly on, bright blue spring skies giving way to the succulent greenness of summer, then the festival of autumn colors, then the greyscale of winter. Again and again.

    Filmore Glen near Moravia, 2005

    I wonder if anyone has a moment when they realize they are an adult, a full member of a community. I didn't, but after returning from Peru this spring I realized that I had a career--not just a "job"--and I had friends--not just drinking buddies--and I had a relationship and I gave directions to tourists and I recognized the same faces in Wegman's and I could list all the best hiking trails in the County and actually knew people on Common Council and also knew to leave town for graduation and move-in weekends, lest a wrong-way driver run me over on Seneca Street.

    I had built a life. Or rather, I had built my life.

    Peppers for sale at the Farmers' Market, 2006

    I'm finally leaving Ithaca, just shy of 10 years here. I'll miss my adopted hometown. I'm leaving a lot behind:
    • Saturday morning breakfast burritos at the Ithaca Farmers' Market
    • Wegman's, where you can find anything.  Anything.
    • The Lindseth climbing wall: so vertical, so slimy, so beloved
    • Scaring deer on a Sunday afternoon walk on the Black Diamond Trail
    • Saying "I've got nothing" at work (it's still funny)
    • Thursday Night Girls' Club
    • The lakehouse, even the Man Cave
    • The Tompkins County Public Library
    • My 7 (11, really) sycamores
    • Finger Lakes dry Riesling
    • Red-winged black birds in the marshes near the Inlet
    • Being reallyreallyreally excited to teach at COE
    • Not being the only woman not wearing makeup
    • Napping in the cargo net in Kate & Tim's climbing cave
    • Trying to answer the question, "How many buses does TCAT have?"
    • Sleeping in a hammock
    • Ithaca's one million festivals
    • Cocoa Bean Supertramp & Biggie Smalls, two of my favorite felines
    • Ithaca's 15 minute rush "hours"
    • Riding my bike
    • Complaining about the weather but secretly enjoying it
    The last ten years have made me who I am. This Thanksgiving, I am thankful for Ithaca, 2000-2010.

    Lovely's birthday, 2009

    Saturday, October 31, 2009

    October "To Do" List

    • SAVE!!! - Done
    • Get eye exam - Done
    • Send application materials to Earthwise Valley - Done
    • Reduce 401k contributions - Done
    • Start Blog - Done
    • Update/ upload resume, writing samples, references list - Done
    Days until departure:  120
    Months until departure:  4

    Thursday, October 15, 2009


    Nothing beats the smell of bread baking in the oven, especially on the first night with a forecast for ice and snow.

    Autumn Bread

    My Bread Recipe

    Combine 2 c. bread flour, 2 c. hot water, 2 T. sugar (brown sugar, honey), 2 T. oil, 2 t. salt, and 3 packets of Fleischmann's Rapid Rise yeast. Stir it up and let it sit 8-10 minutes to let the yeast wake up.

    Add another 3 c. bread flour, adding a cup at a time, stirring and kneading until all of the flour is worked in. Knead for 5-10 minutes until the dough is elastic. Let the dough rise in a warm location for an hour.

    Beat the hell out of the dough. Slap it down, punch it, beat it up. Then, shape the dough into one or more loaves and place them on a glass 9x13'' pan sprinkled with lots of cornmeal. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 25 minutes.

    Tuesday, October 13, 2009

    Hi, Micheal!

    A beautiful spider has taken up residence on our deck.

    I usually don't refer to spiders as "beautiful." I like reptiles (quite a lot, actually); amphibians are pretty cool; I tolerate class Insecta. To tell you the truth, members of class Arachnid kinda freak me out.

    I don't mind little spiders, and I don't mind Daddy Longlegs (Pholcus phalangioides, or the cellar spider), but a spider the size of Daddy Longlegs with a large, juicy body and thick, strong legs to rival Cindy Crawford's? Yikes.

    Yet the natural world is neutral. Existing in the natural world means existing with sunshine and storms, rainbows and rot, songbirds and spiders.

    To that end, I haven't evicted Micheal. Oh, yeah--although I avoid anthropomorphizing animals, my mother suggested that I name the beautiful spider Micheal. So, she's called Micheal. And she's moved from her small web to a larger web, nearly two feet across, with the symmetry of a modernist sculpture.


    I think that Michael is either an oak leaf spider (Aculepeira ceropegia) or a European garden spider (Araneus diadematus), both of which are orb weavers. Leg tip to leg tip, she's about 1.5 to 1.75 inches.

    I like paying attention to the little dramas of the natural world. It puts my own mental storyline (i.e. what I tell myself about my personal experience) into perspective. It reminds me that my perception of my world is only my perception, and that everyone/ everything from the Dalai Lama to Michael has their own story.

    Michael's story continues after the jump!

    Monday, October 12, 2009

    Autumn in Upstate New York

    It's autumn in upstate New York!


    I took a walk in Danby State Forest this past weekend. Thatcher's Pinnacles, with its wonderful view of inlet valley, has always been one of my favorite places here.


    The autumn colors were at peak. This hickory looked like it was dressing up as the sun for Halloween.


    The weather is getting colder, and the summer vegetables have long since withered and gone brown. We pulled the carrots out last weekend, and yesterday I cleaned up the remains of the snap peas, tomatoes, and cucumbers.


    Time to pick apples, make applesauce and hard apple cider (and apple jack!)... dinners of acorn squash and wild rice... drinking cinnamon tea and enjoying the feeling of being tucked into a heavy wool sweater... what an awesome harvest season!

    Thursday, October 8, 2009

    Little Garter Snake

    I ran into this little garter snake while I was out walking on the Black Diamond Trail last weekend. Literally--I wasn't quite paying attention to my surroundings, and I nearly stepped on her!

    Garter Snake

    I couldn't believe how aggressive she was. I bent over to look at her, and she struck my finger! I was plenty startled and yelped loudly enough to make a lazy deer look up from his munching. Fortunately, she just banged her snout against my hand and didn't actually bite. She lunged again as I was trying to take a second picture.

    Garter Snake

    The photos were taken with my unremarkable cell phone camera (yeah, I know... cell phone in the woods). I really should start carrying my camera with me everywhere, like I used to... or... not: better to pay attention to brave little garter snakes than nearly to step on them.

    Wednesday, September 30, 2009

    September "To Do" List

    • SAVE!!! - Done
    • Determine tentative itinerary - Done
    • Determine tentative budget - Done
    Days until departure:  151
    Months until departure:  5

    Saturday, May 30, 2009

    Hasta Pronto

    This post was originally written for, when I was a member of a Rotarian Group Study Exchange in Pery.  I added this post to One Great Dewdrop on December 26, 2012.

    It's 11 a.m. on Saturday, May 30. Our group spent four days in Chimbote, taking the night bus to Lima at 11:30 p.m. yesterday and arriving here in Lima at 6:00 a.m. We are passing the hours at an apartment of a Rotarian family who splits their time between Chimbote and Lima. ¡Muchíssimas gracias por la caldorosa bienvenida!

    Our time in Chimbote was full of interesting and fun activities: a church built into a hillside (and our walk down the hillside!), an amazing visit to a high school, and a warm welcome from our last Rotary Club visit (R.C. Buenos Aires with Interact and Roteract, two Rotary youth groups). I don't think any of us had much internet access during our stay in Chimbote, but I hope we'll be able to post more details and stories in the coming weeks.

    About thirty seconds ago, I said "hasta pronto" to Gabriella, who is now on her way to the airport to catch a flight to Cusco with her sisters. Today our group will go our separate ways: Maria and I are spending one night in Lima before she goes to Cusco and I head south to Páracas, while Nancy and Molly are catching a red-eye flight back to the U.S.

    It's a strange day. We have spent a lot of time together, to the point that I can sense when someone in the group is missing, and I automatically start looking for them. We have learned so much about Peru and Rotary International here, but speaking for myself, the more I've learned here, the more I've realized how little I understand. There are good parts and bad parts and parts that aren't good or bad, but one thing that has been consistently amazing is the reception from our host Rotarians. I know I speak for the entire group when I say that we will ALL miss our Peruvian Rotarian family very, very much.

    So, on our last day together, I raise an imaginary pisco sour for brindis to my Nancy, Molly, Maria, Gabriella, and the entire cast of characters in the U.S. and Peru who made this adventure possible. May there be many more pisco sours in our future. :)

    Thursday, May 21, 2009

    So, How's the Corn?

    This post was originally written for, when I was a member of a Rotarian Group Study Exchange in Pery.  I added this post to One Great Dewdrop on December 26, 2012.

    Dear Mom:

    I'm not surviving on corn. I promise. Really, you don't have to worry.

    Ok, fine. You want to know what I'm eating. Here we go...

    Beverages/ Bebidas

    Inca Kola. Looks like yellow highlighter fluid, tastes like bubblegum. Everywhere.
    Hot fish juice with lemon and herbs. Seems to be everywhere on the coast.
    Yes, you read that right. Cheers!
    Sweets/ Dulces
    Shredded coconut fried in coconut oil and sprinkled with sugar. Outside Piura.
    Lùcuma ice cream. Everywhere.
    Grains/ Grano

    Cancha. Dry roasted corn. See Maria's post. But I promise I'm not just eating corn and sweets, really! Found everywhere in every restaurant.
    Corn, lima beans, peas, onions, and farmers' cheese salad. Huaraz.
    Potatoes. Everywhere, especially Huaraz.
    Kiwicha, a grain related to quinoa that looks like millet. Huaraz.

    Rice and beans. Actually, I've only eaten this once so far.
    Seafood/ Pescado y Mariscos

    Andean trout, stuffed with cheese and served with potatoes. Huaraz.
    Cebiche/ ceviche. Raw fish "cooked" by marination in lime juice. Found everywhere on the coast.
    Various seafood... mariscos. This is battered and fried squid, octopus, and other seafoods. Found on the coast.
    More seafood. Clams with red onions in their shells. Coast (Piura).
    Octopus with olive sauce. Coast (Piura).
    Tropical Fruits/ Frutas
    I'm blanking on the name of this. It's good, whatever it is.
    Mango ciruelo. A cross between a mango and an apple. Piura.
    Coconut! Piura.
    Again, I'm blanking on the name of this fruit. This was from Huaraz.
    There are a lot of other amazing foods that I'm leaving out: ajì de gallina, papas a la huacaìna, chaufa de mariscos, and about 1,000 tropical fruits. But I'm not surviving on corn, I'm not starving, you don't need to mail me a care package. I promise.