30 September 2011


I earned my yellow belt today in kung fu.

I am so ridiculously proud of myself. You would think that I was the first person ever to earn a yellow belt, which is the first belt that you have to earn, rather than just being awarded it for showing up to class a few times.

It's just that, well, for possibly the first time ever, I win at something that requires hand-eye coordination! Yay! Go me! Go coordination! Go ability to stand on one leg without ridiculous wobbling!

I am quite pleased not to have to wear that white beginner sash anymore. I was beginning to feel stuck.

29 September 2011

falling down

I don't know how to fall. Still.

I should know, by now, I think, but falling is risky, and so I don't do it enough. Tonight, my instructor had to walk me through it, first doing break-falls from a sitting position (easy), then dropping from a standing position, then being gently thrown, and then being tossed onto the pads.

Only the last two times we practiced it did I manage to keep my eyes open. The second instructor was throwing me, and as he was finishing the scenario by pretending to nail me in the groin (in case I was a guy), elbow my thigh (ouch) and punch my head, I was talking happily, "I kept my eyes open that time!"

The other woman in the class laughed at me. "He's beating you up, and you are all proud of keeping your eyes open."

Well, yes. I am. Quite proud, actually.

I didn't always get the falling right, unfortunately. After class, I walked down the hill from my house to a friend's house where my roommate M. had gone for dinner, and after sitting and then walking back up the hill, I could feel the falls in my hip when we got back home.

"Do you have hip problems?" M. asked.

"I might now," I said, "after all that falling."

27 September 2011

pieces, together


Guess what I am doing?

It's awesome.

I am sorting raspberries by ripeness: Eat Immediately or Bust (which I then eat), Perfectly Ripe for Freezing, and Save for Ripeness Tomorrow.

My life is... fascinating.

(Why did I leave my traveling life again? WHY? No one do what I did. Don't move back to your home country and get boring.

I did, I have to admit, spend copious amounts of time dealing with fruit in Rwanda, too. It was usually passion fruit/maracuja, and I was trying to make juice. I guess this is a case of the world - and me - being the same everywhere.)


The mountain that I climbed a week and a half ago and the mountains between which I reached the saddle two and a half weeks ago are sort of a set. They go together, the three of them.

Yesterday morning, on the news, I heard that someone died climbing the mountain to the north of the one we meant to climb two and a half weeks ago. This did not freak me out as much as you might think, for one major reason: that mountain is technical, and I do not do technical.

I don't even have a desire to climb technical mountains. Do you know what mountain climbing gear sounds like to me? Dead weight, on your back. And I know that I have mentioned how very much I despise lugging things around on my back.

I suspect, though, that my reaction to technical mountain climbing is approximately the same as my reaction to jumping off high things: shudder, and then jump. (Similarly: bungee jumping and sky diving. This from the girl who doesn't even do the falling rides at amusement parks.)

If someone who knew what they were doing suggested that I try it, I would probably leap right into it, and love it.

For now, I prefer to stick with mountains that will only kill you if you do something incredibly stupid, not mountains that actively attempt to kill you just because you are there.


I lost my iPod today, and a low-grade level of panic ensued.

I mean, you can't REALLY panic over a lost iPod in North America, mere miles from a Mac Store, when you have once lost an iPod into a pit latrine in South Sudan, many miles from nowhere when the music of it is sustaining you on a daily basis. The two losses are just not comparable.

For example: if it turned out that this iPod was gone, I would not have sat in literal shit, crying. I would have been annoyed, yes, but this was more like, "Hm, I seem to have misplaced my iPod, and it would suck to have to spend the money on a new one."

And then someone emailed me and said they had found it, and the heavens opened and trumpets rang.

What I mean is, I was relieved, because now I can time myself when I practice the plank and mah bu for my belt test.


I am still sorting raspberries.


I think I heard a car accident a few minutes ago, and now I see twirling emergency lights a street or two over.

25 September 2011

i need a bumper sticker

A couple of weeks ago, I was summoned to the front of my fighting class for a very embarrassing presentation of the Student of the Month award. I thought that was only for the kids, THUS THE EMBARRASSMENT.

"Your face was the color of your shirt!" more than one person told me, and yes, I was wearing a bright red shirt.

Seriously, I thought it was just for the kids. Why am I depriving the kids of the joy? Plus, pressure. Now I have to perform, or something.

Which leads me to the next problem: I am for-sure-this-time taking a belt test on Friday, and my knees are killing me.

Hi, I am the Student of the Month, and I am so decrepit that I actually can't do the class!

Hi, I am the Student of the Month, and I just failed my belt test!

Every day, I think about how I should practice my forms (there are two I should know), and every day, I stand up to work on them and groan because my knees hurt. It's really not going to go well to start in on these forms in front of the class and not remember them because I haven't been practicing them.

Since snapping my fingers has so far not worked, and my silly health insurance does not cover physical therapy until I've met a $1000 deductible, I am going with the ever-effective Plan C: overuse ibuprofen for the next five days. Ugh.

P.S. Did I mention that my Achilles and/or my plantar fascia is still burning, too? Basket case: meet belt test.

24 September 2011


We drove half an hour south last night to watch Super Hiking Organizer's movie. (Ha! SHO thought I was going to refer to him on here as Cotton Pants/Trousers Nazi, a la the Soup Nazi in Seinfeld, because I told him I was, but I am not that rude. Quite. Also, I am not comfortable with casual use of the term Nazi. Too many connotations. Super Hiking Organizer it is.)

The movie was good, and on the way home after bar food and drinks, the car started smoking.

Not my car, thank goodness. I have overheated one car in my life, and I have no interest in ever doing so again. That call to my poor dad, who actually owned the car, was very unpleasant, even though he calmly drove up the 3/4 of the way to my college town to the side of the road where I and the car were sitting and repeatedly filled the some-sort of tank with water so that we could limp the car back home after the nearest junk yard wouldn't take it because we didn't have the title with us.

Fun! Except not, and I don't want to ever miss the fact that my car is overheating ever again.

So the car we were in last night overheated, and there we five were standing on the side of the highway. I have a slight paranoia about sitting in a car on the side of a highway due to the fact that drivers are dumb, and I don't want a car going 70 miles per hour to hit a stopped car in which I am sitting. We stood about 20 feet away, in the grass.

The owner of the car called AAA (by some odd trick of visual memory, I knew exactly at which mile marker we were), and we waited.

AAA called and informed us that there were no available vans along that entire highway, so they would be sending us two tow trucks instead, and we waited some more.

We three girls had to pee. Do you have any idea how frequently cars drive past on a highway? Way too often, is the answer, particularly when they have headlights on and the last thing you want is to be caught squatting with your pants down on the side of a major interstate.

Eh-hem. We resorted to forming a line, like a defensive line on a goal kick in soccer, and we took turns taking care of business behind the shelter of the line.

I am not sure how well this worked, except possibly by distracting any passing cars.

The tow truck driver chattered on to E. and me about his daughters who went to Mexico against his advice and his wife who had a dream that he was sleeping with another woman and started hitting him for it in the middle of the night.

"I don't even know a Stacey,* but I promised her I would keep Stacey out of her dreams," he said. "Ha! I have no idea how I can possibly do that."

* I don't remember the actual name he used. It was similar to Stacey, I think.

21 September 2011


I think I forgot that it is possible to be sick without having a sore throat. I mean, I have a sore throat pretty much all the time here in the World Center of Allergens where I am forced to live, and so I went traipsing off to work today, bleary-eyed and miserable, because I didn't have any more of a sore throat than usual, so I could not be sick.

After a nap at lunch, I went back to work and realized that I felt hot and my eye sockets hurt, and still it took me more than an hour to realize that if I did just a couple of maintenance things, I could go back home and sleep some more.

And so I did.

I spent my afternoon drifting between awake and asleep here in the sunny living room.

Sometimes, on warm-but-not hot sunny days, when the breeze blows into my living room, the temperature of the air reminds me of Rwanda, of the afternoons when I would lie in the hammock above the lake, dozing, with a pillow and a blanket, getting alternately hot and cold as the shade moved. I miss that hammock, and that lake, and that house.

20 September 2011


I kind of hit a wall in kung fu last night, which I guess is what happens when you do kung fu and/or fighting or hiking pretty much every single day for three weeks and on the approximately three days when you don't do one of those things you do something social and you never get enough sleep.

Suddenly one minute you are doing a form in kung fu that unfortunately involves a little too much getting down on painful knees, and the next minute your body has decided that it is done, it just isn't getting up.

My instructor summoned me over (he has a back injury right now and is sitting on the sidelines himself), and had me rest, for my knees' sake. After a few minutes, when the painful knee stuff was done, I went back out on the floor and tried the next few things, but I felt sick and slow, and I quickly sat down again.

Sometimes, your body is trying to tell you something, and sometimes it has to speak up before you notice. My goal is not to let it get to the screaming stage before I listen.

18 September 2011

mountain, take 2

On Thursday, on my lunch hour, I went to rei and bought a base layer.

When I got back to work, one of my coworkers caught sight of the price tag and said, "You spent $70 on a shirt? Bring it back, right now! Bring it directly back to the store!"

"No!" I said. "I need it! I should have waited for a sale, but I need it now."

"Bring it back!" she repeated. "It's too much!"


Yesterday, I climbed a mountain.

This mountain:

i don't have a good, non-clouded photo of this mountain.

Standing at the top, in the possibly-60 mph wind that threw frost at me, wearing six layers of clothing including a down vest under my rain coat (I look like a puffalump in the photos), I thought to myself, "That was the best $70 I've ever spent."

Except maybe for the $70 that I spent on my mid-weight layer

Except maybe for the $70 that I spent on my hiking poles.

Except maybe for the $70 that I spent on my zip off hiking pants. (Remember how I hate zip off hiking pants? Remember how I have hated them as far back as 2007? Yes, I now own them. I own them now only because they were the only pair of hiking pants that I could find that 1. fit, and 2. came in long. They are pretty awesome in terms of functionality, but I think I would like them better without that annoying zipper on my leg, to say nothing of how much better they would look with no zipper.)


I climbed this same mountain two years ago this weekend. I was the only person in this weekend's group who had climbed it before, and so periodically someone would ask me a question about the route. I could answer them until we got to the last 1.1 miles and 1500 feet of elevation gain, and then I just said, "I think I was pretty much delirious on this part last time. It's kind of a blank."

part of the last part, looking down.

This trip was remarkably different. I was tired, sure. My legs are stiff today.

But when I got to the top of the mountain yesterday, I realized that I had not once had to count my steps. I could think about things other than putting one foot in front of the other as I climbed, things like life and the view and my future. I stopped periodically to look around and breathe, but I never had to stop. When we got to the top, I could have kept going, if I had to (which is not to say that I wanted to).


We backpacked in and camped the night before above a pretty alpine lake, where it got very cold, very fast when the sun went down, and we could not have a campfire, because we were camping in an alpine forest wilderness area. By 8:30 pm, we were all cozy in our sleeping bags with hot water bottles. Literally: water bottles filled with hot water.

At the end of summer, the alpine forest was dusty and dry, and the wind blew all night, rustling the rain flies on the tents, keeping us awake, and covering us and our belongings in a fine coating of dust.

We began climbing late, and the mountain was clouded over. The guidebook says not to summit the mountain if it is clouded over, due to the possibility of "near-blizzard" conditions at the top. We set off anyway, hoping the clouds would clear.

We walked along a long, gentle plateau above the lake, and then began climbing up and up, through trees and then between snow fields. At State of Happiness's highest lake at the bottom of a glacier, we looked up at the steep trail disappearing into the clouds, consulted some hikers coming down ("There's just an ice storm for about the last fifteen minutes."), loaded up our layers of warm clothes, and decided to go for it anyway.

After over an hour of steady, impossibly steep climbing, we stood victorious at the crater, buffered by the wall of rocks. To get to the true summit, we had to walk around the crater, exposing ourselves to the ferocity of the wind. We walked as far from the edge as we could.

note: this is not me. also note: rocks covered in ice that is flying at them and us.

It was a different mountain entirely from last time, when I climbed in jeans and a t-shirt, without poles, and could see most of the western half of State of Happiness down below. This time, there was nothing but white to see.

on a mountain, not an airplane: a break in the clouds

Climbing the same mountain two years apart with such different results is very, very gratifying, even if you can't see a thing.

16 September 2011

more mountains

I almost climbed a big mountain last Friday, and I climbed a little mountain last Sunday, and it was all so fantastic that I signed up to climb another big mountain tomorrow. Unfortunately, climbing this mountain appears to involve lugging tents and sleeping pads and food halfway up, camping, and then climbing to the summit of the mountain tomorrow.

Have I mentioned how I hate backpacking? Have I mentioned how I am not a turtle and I should not be expected to carry my world on my back? No?

I hate backpacking. I am not a turtle. I should not be expected to carry my world on my back.

Yet I sign up for these things.

Silly rabbit.

11 September 2011

brilliant idea: failed

I had a brilliant idea. Since I always sunburn the part of my hair, I would just pull all of my hair back into a ponytail with no part, and then the sunburn would not be a problem.

Now I have a halo of sunburn just under the edge of my hair, where the sunscreen did not reach and the hair did not cover.


10 September 2011

not quite a mountain

Goal Mountain.

We set off to climb a mountain.

Except word was that the mountain we picked was not really climbable in one day.

Except some people didn't want to leave quite so early in the morning. (I suggested 5 am. The final agreement was on 6:30 am.)

Except there were forest fires in the area.

Where there is smoke there is (are) fire(s).

So we finally set off with half the number of people planned, on the trail at 7 am.

We hiked part of this trail, leading up to the mountain we intended to climb, and it was odd. I never expected to see that trail again, somehow. When I hiked it last year, I was still living in Gone West, and I didn't realize that when I moved to Universe City, it would be a mere hour and a half away. It looks much different in daylight and also when you do not feel like you are going to die from exhaustion. Less steep, for example. Also wider.

Our objective, once we settled the fact that four non-athletes were probably not going to summit the selected mountain in one day, was the saddle between Goal Mountain and North-of-Goal Mountain.

Reaching our objective involved a long, pleasant hike up through the woods, through a lava field and several meadows still full of wildflowers, thanks to a very late and cold summer, and then straight up the side of a rocky mountain face.

Not only was the mountain rocky and slippery, but large portions of the trail disappeared into snow fields. We trudged up and up them, digging our toes and poles into the snow for balance, and finally left half again our number on a rocky height two snowfields and two rock fields short of the saddle.

I climbed up the side of the second-to-last rock field, and the other person still climbing went around it through snow. I followed him up the last snowfield, and up through the last stretch of rocks.

I had to stop in the middle of the last bit to dig some sour Jelly Bellies out of my pack and put them in my pocket. I ate them as I climbed, two at a time, for some quick sugar.

And then, suddenly, there was before us the eastern half of this State of Happiness.

To the east.

We took the long way back, through my very favorite meadow of all time.

Oooh! Shiny rocks!

It was not until the very end of the 12 hours and 18 miles that my feet, and only my feet, began screaming at me. I counted the feeling of endorphin rush at the end of the trip a victory, compared to the feeling of death that I had at the end of 15 miles a year ago.

I felt so good immediately afterward that I signed up for another hike tomorrow.

Don't worry. I bought some moleskin.

Intended destination: right peak.
Actual destination: a little bit right of the mid-point between the two.

05 September 2011

car wash

I begin to understand why my dad always used to start holidays by making us kids wash and vacuum the cars. There is just some instinct about it.

That, or I have become my dad, and my compulsion to clean the car on holidays is learned, not innate.

Knowing that your car is freshly vacuumed and the oil changed makes for a very satisfied afternoon of sitting by the pool doing absolutely nothing but turning pages in a book and occasionally switching from a deck chair to a lounger in the pool.

I took my book in the pool with me, when I was alone in the pool, and then set it safely on the side before N. jumped in. He picked it up and moved it even further away, to the table, before running and diving into the deep end.

"Barely a ripple!" his dad said, and N. proclaimed his dive a perfect 10.

"Hardly," D. said. "Your legs weren't together, and your knees were bent."

"So picky," I said, propelling myself slowly along the edge of the pool with my hand.

03 September 2011

river running

My roommate M.'s brother and sister-in-law were supposed to be here this weekend, and her mom had purchased a white water rafting trip for them, only her brother got sick, and so the spaces were open (actually four spaces were open, but one of them had not been paid for, and so it was okay that we only managed to fill three of them).

The water was not actually that white, because it is the end of the season, and the river out of the mountains is running low.

It was a stunning day nonetheless. The sky was blue; the trees were green. Et cetera; et cetera.

The river was 54 degrees. "The warmest it's been!" the guide told us cheerfully. The sun was almost warm enough to allow us to survive the water.

The air was clear, with a faint smell of forest fire. I should not like that smell of smoke as much as I do: thank you, growing up in a place where cooking and field clearing are both done by fire.

We squirted the other boats with giant squirt guns. We coasted over the rapids, which were, given that my only other white water rafting experience was on the White Nile just north of Lake Victoria, slightly disappointing. We floated through long, calm stretches of beautiful forest.

When the two boys jumped out, S. and I yanked them back into the boat so hard they almost flew over the other side and back into the water. That's what too much tae kwon do and kung fu will do for you.

We walked far out onto a fallen tree, above a swimming hole, and jumped down into the cold water. M. walked out slowly, carefully. "I'm so scared of heights!" she said. She braced herself, and we counted, but she didn't jump. She didn't jump until finally she and I held hands and plummeted together.

01 September 2011

be tough

I struggle with sparring, especially contact sparring.

I sort of love it, because that's the whole point, right? I'm learning to fight so that I can fight. And I get to hit people without hurting them. And it works, sometimes.

I sort of hate it, because sometimes it does hurt, and sometimes I get overwhelmed, especially when I am fighting against Instructor No. 2, who is extremely mild-mannered in real life and then turns into a crazy person when boxing.

After a terribly long, fraught day, I needed to smack someone around at fighting class tonight, but when I got smacked around, it felt like more of what I'd been getting all day. So when Instructor No. 2 batted me around and batted me around some more, easily, I had to suck it up and tell myself not to cry, and then I got mad and turned into a crazy person myself.

Instructor No. 1 has taken to calling me Tough Stuff.