Christmas Eve Morn Mourning

RIP Otis

I'm doing double-duty on house-sitting this week, and this morning I discovered Otis had died during the night. He was old and diabetic. Brooke had joked for years that there'd be no hard feelings if I killed their cats while they were out of town. But all the joking didn't make discovering him any easier. I'm one of those lucky people whom Death hasn't touched much at all in my 25 years. But if this is how I react to my cousin's cat, I can only imagine the flood of tears when Death hits closer.


Funny Sentences in My Inbox, version 11

Wow. It's been a year since my last installment of Funny Sentences. Enjoy!

Busch is not beer. What we had at Gordon Biersch? THAT is beer. Please do not confuse the two again - it will only cause you pain.

I'm leaving soon, too. I have chills, and I really don't need to get sick. There are germs floating around all over this place. I feel like I can see them.

Me: I didn't realize it was so cold last night until I went to the grocery store in just a hoodie!
Him: Just a hoodie? Were your legs cold?
This was in front of my boss, no less. My boss! So, of course, men being visual creatures, there was this moment of silence where I know every male coworker in earshot (there were about three) were picturing me pantless. God.

Sunday: Went to the naked hot springs in Ouray with [name withheld], where we ran into my coworker WHO SAW ME NAKED, and vice-versa. As I write this, he is mere cubicles away from me, working on outdoors stories. It's awkward.

That sounds fun, and that day is good for me. Are we limited to bringing our own roommates and boyfriends or could I bring my roommate's boyfriend? Or maybe my roommate's boyfriend's roommate?

Judging from what my parents say about their work experiences, I've had an unusually lucky streak with people here. There are only a few people I want to kill on a daily basis, which is a pretty low ratio of annoying-to-awesome.

is Mr. Scratchy Throat still spending the evenings w/you? i kicked him out of my house a couple of weeks ago. he wasn't paying rent or utilities.

"She's had more husbands than I've had tacos."

As you probably know already, I am leaving for Tanzania in a few days to climb Mount Kilimanjaro.

How can these headlines be so great if they're not referencing mid-90s songs that 85% of the newspaper reading public won't get?

Agreed. When you get an award for a headline making a Chumbawamba reference, get back to us. (realizing as I type this that [name withheld] may very well have done a hed with a "But they get up again" reference at some point)

If I'd taken a picture every time I'd seen Comic Sans yesterday (and most days in NYC), I'd have a full picture card.

It's that time of year again. Time for me to pretend I've done a better job of staying in touch, so it's not awkward when I ask for a charitable donation.

And so I should clarify: I am not selling a dildo. To the people on the listserv or to anyone else.

My boss almost used Comic Sans today - to describe a report I work on! Thankfully I was allowed to block him off before it was sent out. The embarrassment alone might have caused me to quit.

Well, it's back to normal Dutch life. Yesterday Jim saw the Queen, (who came to his building to officially open it), this afternoon Sterling is playing at the home of a Polish friend from his class, and I was told by the doctor this morning that 7 weeks to get over a deep chest cough wasn't that long, give it another couple weeks. When I told my next door neighbor this she was surprised he didn't tell me to sleep with an onion next to my head, their usual advise. Maybe I'll try it.

And if you do get this job, you'll have to write a memoir or an article or at least a J-school lecture called "How a Penis Joke Jumpstarted My Career."

Erica: nice to meet you! (shaking hands, don’t want to freak you Americans out with immediate kisses).

If you don't know Erica, it doesn't matter. By that time I hope to have her innebriated enough that she'll pretend to know you.

this week i'm enjoying the lack of estrogen in my life.

Hey, while you're there, can you stop by the second floor and see if you can find Jason and I's livers, dignities, and self-respects? You should find them in the 210 closet in a pool of cheap liquors, splashing and playing like a kiddie pool of defective clone children.

He's moving to China to teach English. Not that he knows Chinese. Or that his English has ever been stellar.

Everything that sucks at the time becomes a funny story later. Yeah. I think I want that on my tombstone.

Plus, did you see when scrolling down on that Amazon listing that there's a comment entry entitled "God Does Not Have A Penis". Now THAT is something we should be reading about. ;)

everything was great until he dropped that bombshell, and then I shrank away like a wool sweater on "tumble dry low."

Let me know if there’s anything I can do to be of assistance in the job hunt. Even if it means calling you to say, “At least you have your legs.” Or I can tell you silly jokes. Or pretend to be JFK.


Traveling Not-So-Light

I've found that I pack way more for a week of domestic travel – or even a week of house-sitting in my own town – than I packed for 3 months of trekking around the globe.

Go figure.


Anniversary "Home"coming

Grandie had been in the hospital for over a week, including several days in ICU. Yesterday, the morning of his 57th wedding anniversary, the doctor gave the news that he could be released into a rehab facility. Grammie and I met him at the hospital, picked up his belongings and got to Centre Avenue Rehab to set up his new "home" and to great him when he got there.


Here fishy, fishy

I'm visiting my grandparents in Ft. Collins, Colo., while my grandfather is in the hospital. The other day when we stopped in at the hospital, I found a friend in the waiting room. (See above photo.)

Grandie's doing lots better and today was moved to a rehab facility, which was a great way to celebrate his and Grammie's anniversary. Today marks their 57th year of marriage!


Inspired: Downsizing my closet

I'm trying to learn to do with less

At about week 11 I was ready to toss my 20-pound backpack full of clothes in the Andaman Sea. I was sick of rotating the same 6 tank tops, 4 t-shirts, 2 skirts, dress and 2 pairs of jeans/shorts. Every clothes store I stepped into called its siren song and it became increasingly difficult to resist (hence, one of the reasons I went a little overboard in the tailor shops in Vietnam). The thought of returning to a closet and dresser full of clothes just begging me to wear them nearly made me giddy.

And yet.

When faced with that over-flowing closet of fresh clothing, I tend to reach for what feels natural: my handy jeans, one of the 6 tanks, and (if there's a chill in the Arizona air) my comfy, trusty, stripped sweater. [Exhibit A: See above.] If I'm trying to make a fashion statement, I think it's a broken record.

I can't seem to get over that desire to accumulate more, though. The winter sales are so intoxicating, it's easy to forget the clothes I already have when something new and pretty flashes in my line of vision. I've already discarded two garbage bags of clothes I knew I wasn't going to wear anymore (that's like dumping two packs into the Andaman Sea!), but the lesson I need to internalize is to accumulate only what I need and will actually use.

The broken record I need to start playing for myself is, "I do not need a new sweater...I do not need a new sweater..."


Alright, already

Some of you have already discovered the RSS link on the right that goes to my pictures from this year's Thanksgiving festivities. I didn't want to overwhelm you with tons of pictures, so I thought I'd go an album at a time. There'll be another album posted in a couple days. And then I'll probably be going through a dry spell. It's time for the camera to get cleaned from all the adventures.

Here are a few highlights from Thanksgiving.

The place settings at Brooke's

Chris carves the bird

Olivia gets a taste of Viviane's ladybug galoshes

Brooke and Ally share a funny story


Would sir desire a kibble?

This is my blatant attempt at being more dooce-like. And to direct your attention to more new pictures. Now appearing in my Picasa account is an album documenting the family's visit to Arizona. Below are a few more highlights.

Bandit wanted some of Mom's Orange Sourdough Pancakes. I don't blame him as they are the Food of the Gods.

Those ruby slippers are attached to Viviane's feet.

Emily, my dad's youngest sister and my Aunt Mimi.

This is what 50+ years of marriage looks like.

Family Visit


We have spirit yes we do!
We have spirit how 'bout you?!?!

Meant to post this on Sunday. It's a screen shot of my Facebook friends' status feeds. Way to keep it real, Sarah.


Inspired: A faith journey

I'm trying to be more open to experiencing God in new and maybe uncomfortable ways without losing the faith that's important to me.

While I was traveling, it was easy to seek out new religious experiences. I loved learning the histories of synagogues, mosques and temples and how the structures aide and inform worship. It was inspiring to see how similar the faith experience is across the continents, and it gave me confidence that though I will never know all the answers, I can be assured that the desire to connect to something greater than myself is universal and therefore True.

One of the big lessons for me was to see how important culture was to religious experiences. How can I chastise or challenge someone on their belief structure if that's the cultural structure they know and trust? This also means that I have to be aware of the cultural influences on my own religious experiences. And if that's true for the foreign lands I visited, it means I have to afford the same respect for the different belief and cultural structures I come across in my own country and my own faith. It's harder for me to willingly expose myself to more literal interpretations of Christianity. It was a stretch for me, then, to attend the more conservative Women of Faith conference with Beth Moore as a speaker with my visiting aunts a week ago. I was reminded, though, that while I may disagree on some of the particulars, the connection with my aunts and grandmother was wholly ecumenical.


Inspired: a new short series

I'm going to try to do a brief series on things that struck me and stuck with me during my travels. This will give me some specific memories to bring up from my travels and will be a chance to share how I hope to bring the little things I experienced into my life here and now.

I'm trying to walk more

While in Europe I walked everywhere. There was one day in Munich where I went on three walking tours. It was nothing to me to spend a whole day just exploring a city step by step. It made me pay more attention to the buildings around me and the faces I passed on the sidewalks. And it was an awesome way to stay in shape during my absence from the gym. I found that when I was in Asia I did a lot less walking. The weather made it uncomfortable to expend too much energy, and the locals were too ready to take you (and your luggage) to your destination on the back of their motorbikes for 50¢. Call me weird, but I started missing the chore of lugging my backpack through subways and side streets. It made the arrival at the hotel seem a little less like a major success when I didn't have to exert much effort.

From my house, I can walk to three different grocery stores. I used to be able to walk to four, but the Albertsons shut down a couple months ago. Why, then, do I jump in the car and waste gas to go pick up a box of cereal? I am starting to try harder to rely on foot power rather than gas power. It will take a bit more time, sure. But it will also take a few more calories, and there's nothing wrong with that.


Memories in Pieces

One of my biggest regrets from my travels was that I didn’t write enough about my adventures, not on here, not in my journal, not in letters home. I meant to write more; I really wanted to preserve the events in a way that I could turn to those words years later and spark memories of adventures with names and places that had faded from recall. But when it came to having to choose between capturing those adventures on paper or experiencing more adventures, I usually chose to experience more than I could record.

Or else I chose to sleep.

But this choice means that I haven’t told you about how amazing it was to feel the power of an elephant’s ears pressing my legs against her head as I rode around the jungle. Or the fun of splashing around in a Vietnam mud bath with new friends and fellow travelers. Or how I relaxed in (gifted) luxury at the Sheraton in Singapore on my last night in Asia. Or the sense of accomplishment I felt after cycling the very steep, windy hill up to the castle in Budapest. Now it’s been more than a month that I’ve been on American soil and those little memories are starting to drift away.

I know it sounds strange, but part of me doesn’t want to tell these stories because by telling them in past tense I have to admit that my stint of adventuring is over for now.


A Photo Guide

One of the best things I did before the start of my trip was to buy a new camera. A big camera. A REAL camera. I never anticipated how much it would change my ability to take pictures. I felt like I captured photographs rather than snapshots. I wondered if I would want to lug such a behemoth around, but once I started seeing the pictures it took, I was convinced my Canon point-and-shoot would no longer satisfy me. In fact, of the 5,000+ pictures I took while traveling, probably only 100 or so were from the point-and-shoot.

Along the way I picked out nearly 800 pics to put in my Picasa albums, but if that still seems like a lot to look through, I've tagged a series of my favorites, which you can see here. (You might need to click on the "Erica's Gallery" link in the upper right.) I've also tagged all the self-portraits I took along the way, mostly for the sake of my mother, who I think was more interested in seeing that I was alive and healthy rather than the places I was going or the random people I was meeting. And for all the people who contributed to my "travel photo scavenger hunt" those pictures can be found here.

The last of the photos

I found a set of pictures I hadn't uploaded to Picasa yet. They're from my last night out in London and they probably explain why I felt so crappy in Paris the next day.

Ally & I enjoy a cable car ride in San Francisco

Granddaddy and Bonnie (Bandit's "cousin")

My dad was recognized as a Fellow within the American Society of Landscape Architects. To be invested as a Fellow is the highest honor a landscape architect can receive in the professional organization. This shot was taken at the black tie dinner held in honor of the new Fellows.

Last Night in London

San Francisco

Dad's ASLA Fellows Celebration


Pictures for now. Words (and more pics) to come later

It's hard to update now that I'm back. My daily adventures in Arizona don't seem as entertaining as my daily adventures backpacking around the world. As the pics below should show, though, I am having fun exploring the Phoenix area all over again.

Jess & Eric on the top of Camelback Mountain

My reaction to the thought of returning to the "real" world

Viviane on a sunny day

More Viviane. Check out those eyelashes!

If that's too many Viviane pics for you, then don't check out the album because there are a dozen more like them

Kendra after breaking a plate at a local Greek restaurant. Opa!

A hot Bandito

Eric & I infiltrated the bounce house at the Big XII picnic. I think we had more fun than the kids.

For more pics, check out the albums:

Hiking Camelback

Fun with Viviane, #73

More Fun in Arizona

Big XII Alumni Picnic 2007


Secretly Famous

Last night I met up with Crystal at Changing Hands (better known as My Favorite Local Bookstore) to see Frank Warren (better known as The PostSecret Guy) at a stop on his book tour. He started his talk with an explanation of the PostSecret project, how it started, etc., and he used three or four postcards as samples explaining PostSecret. One he held up as an example of how the postcards are really works of art themselves. It looked faintly familiar, but I couldn't see it well from the back of the crowd (it was standing room-only). And then he read the secret. And I recognized it. And I nearly freaked out. It was the secret that belonged to one of my best friends. I desperately wanted to go up to Mr. Warren afterwards and ask to see the card in person, because by holding it, it would almost be like my friend were present there in that room. Unfortunately, I couldn't get through the crowds of people without making a complete idiot of myself. It may be strange, but I am proud to know that my friend's postcard is being shared with audiences around the country as a significant example of art and that the ironic secret s/he shared anonymously with a stranger is bringing chuckles to the people who hear it.


Tips on How to Ask Me About My Travels (Slightly Updated)

As tends to happen, I'm starting to get a bit tired of answering the same five questions:

"So, did you have fun?" Nah, seeing amazing sites, meeting fantastic people and having grand adventures isn't really my thing. The $5 massages in Thailand were pretty decent, though.

"I want to hear all about your trip!" Great! Do you have an extra 3 months and the funds to pay me the living wage I won't be making while I retell every detail of my 90 days abroad?

"Are you glad to be back home?" Yes. And no. And it's way more complicated than either you want to hear or I want to share.

"What was your favorite place?" Vietnam. And Munich. And Krakow. And Singapore. And Sydney. And Amsterdam. And Cesky Krumlov. And Khao Sok. And the Cameron Highlands. And...well, it'd be easier if I just gave you my itinerary and you looked at that list there.

"So now what are you going to do?" Unpack. (Seriously. I've lent my backpack to a friend who's traveling Europe for the next two weeks and all I've done is lift the stack of clothing out of my pack and place it on my bedroom floor.) And maybe once I have things sorted here, I'll consider looking for work somewhere, anywhere. That is, unless I can convince each of you to pledge a dollar a day to support my next round of travels.

So, to help you get better responses from me (and to aid in my enjoyment and creativity in answering your questions) I give you a few suggestions that can get the conversation going:

"What was the best meal you had?" The cooking class in Hoi An was outstanding food in fabulous company.

"What local delicacies will you miss the most? REAL Belgian waffles and mango shakes from SE Asia. Yummmm...

"What was the biggest scare you had?" Looking up at the carabiners fastening my harness to the paragliding chute only to notice that they really weren't secure at all.

"How much beer did you drink?" More than I ever thought I'd try in my entire life. Believe it or not, I might actually enjoy a brewski every once in a while now.

"Why don't you look very tan if you spent an entire month in SE Asia?" Dude, the prospect of lugging a 20-pound backpack around the world on lobster shoulders really didn't appeal to me. I layered on the sunscreen.

"What was the biggest mistake you made?" Trying to break up with my boyfriend before leaving the country. That, and going a little crazy in the tailor shops in Hoi An.

"What handy travel tip did you learn along the way?" Carry an extra plastic bag. It comes in handy when shopping in European shops that charge you for bags, when you need to cover your drenched bicycle seat to keep from soaking your shorts, and when you want to keep your wet swim suit from contaminating the dry contents of your bag.

"When do you plan to go on another trip like this?" As soon as I save up the funds. And this time, I'm thinking 6 months. Wanna join me?

"How has this adventure inspired you? Ahhh...you'll just have to wait for another post for that answer...


All Sorts of Photos

I'm bombarding you with the last of my international pictures. Below are a few of my favorites. Following the pics are links to the albums. In total, I think I took more than 5,000 pictures on this trip. That makes the 850+ I've uploaded to share with you seem like barely a glimpse of the past 3 months. I keep thinking of stories and happenings that I've neglected to share here on this blog. I think I'll share bits and pieces here for the next few weeks. Then I'll get on with living in the present. For now, enjoy the pictures. Somewhere in there is a challenge for you (a prize can be won!). Photos from San Francisco will come soon.

Fruit and veg stand in the Cameron Highlands

Hungry monkey at the Batu Caves outside KL

Petronas Towers

Sushi dinner in Melaka

Vietnamese hooker and Jonathan in Singapore. I love the way their eyes draw you around the picture!

Mel with camera on Manly Beach

Steps up to the Sydney Opera House

Crossing the Sydney Harbour Bridge by night


Cameron Highlands

Kuala Lumpur