Friday, March 29, 2013


I am pretending to be Tucker.
After a few miles of wandering around Chicago, I started to feel a dull ache in the outside of my knee. As we meandered on, the pain started to grow and reach out around my knee in a way I had never experienced pain before.

This can't be happening.
Can it?
Is my knee overcompensating for the ankle that's been twisted?
Is it the weather?
Was it carrying the heavy pack with the scooter?

My ankles I can normally get back to speed. I fear twisting them but I can wrap them and can usually eventually get them back to “walking conditon.”

The knee thing, though, is a new realm for me. A scary one. Seriously.
Why can't my body just support itself?
My favourite things are dancing and walking – and currently, those aren't as possible.

Luckily, the knee healed overnight but, of course, after a couple of miles the next day, it was back to the state it was in before. Today I pushed it after over 8.2 miles covered getting around D.C.

I say this in sincerity – if my knee does not shape up by April 17, I am not going to Russia. I don't think I am. I don't think it would be wise for me to go to there without my body operating properly.

Once again – I might not go to Russia (next month). I might not go to Ukraine (next month).

That door might be closing (for now).

And I have peace about that.

Two things would be holding me back from going when I wasn't supposed to:

1. My desire to go to Russia and Ukraine. I have a strong desire to check out these countries.
2. My pride. I've told folks I'm going to Russia. If I don't go, well, “that won't make me as interesting.”

“that won't make me as interesting.”

I'm running away from mindsets like that. I've been working on not simply persuing a life made of stories just so I can retell them. I've had so much positive reinforcement for random antics. People always praise a story if it's told right and I've gotten pretty good at collecting them. The problem is, that's a pretty awful mindset to wrap yourself in. I don't consider it to be healthy to live your life in a manner so that you can tel others about it. That's self-centered and can become unsatisfying and dangerous. I'll be giving it a lot for thought. I'll be thinking hard about if I should go to Russia or not.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Portland, Maine

I wasn't entirely sure what to do with four hours in Maine. I went on to Couchsurfing and found Lilly who was willing to meet up with me for the afternoon. She fed me the bus route information and directions to a place where we could grab coffee (although I've never actually grabbed a coffee in my life..).

Each bus driver that pulled by made sure I was getting on the correct bus before letting me board (helpful!) and within 15 minutes, I was crusing down the main street of Portland on my scooter. Cobblestone and scooters make for an interesting combination.

A small shopfront was an excellent disguise for the wonderland market behind. The vivid community of Portland seemed to gather behind the doors and up the stairs of the Portland Public Market.

For a few dollars, a young man juiced up some kale, spinach, pineapple, ginger, and carrots for me.

Lilly gave off the couchsurfer feeling to boot – the sort of person that expands the list of dreams that some of us wanderers have stored up in our brains.

Later, low and behold, there was Daniel! Daniel? Daniel's the lad I met on the train back to Chicago and then hung out with in Chicago. Now, somehow we both ended up in Portland, Maine, at the same time.

There was this man looking at tune books and with a few intruments in canvas. After a while, I finally decided I wanted to talk to him and figure out what he was up to.

"Hey, what tune book is that?" I asked.
"Is it the Portland..."
"Portland selection," said he.


Portland Selection (or is it collection) is a book of contra tunes from the Pacific Northwest. (right?) I pointed out a few favourites to him. It was his first day with the book.

Oh man! I also got my very first piece of pizza in a year! It didn't have any tomatoes in it.

When it came time to leave on the bus and catch my train to New Hampshire, Daniel waited at the bus stop until we had pulled all the way out of sight. It was good to spend time with him again.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Boston Night One

I woke up early in Washington D.C.
The night before I had gotten rid of my boots.
It was snowing.

I arrived in Boston at aroun 9:10 PM feeling a bit peculiar after a full day on the busses.

My first task was to get myself out of Boston into a neighbouring village. I decided to see if I could navigate the Boston metro (public transportation?) without dropping pace. The moment I got off the bus, I started with a brisk pace, keeping my eyes open for “Red Line” to “Riverside.” I identified it and found the machine where a week long pass was purchased for $18.

I quickly found my way onto the subway/train/thing and got excited. Yo. I am in Boston. That's pretty rad considering I started the day off in Washington DC. A quick switch to the green line and we rambled on through communities until I got to the town where Nora lives.

Nora and her respendous family would be my first host in this new state. I had met Nora one and a half times in Seattle, before, via the dance community and our common friend, Stephen. It seemed serindipitous that we were both in Boston at the same time, as normally she resides in Ohio but was in Boston for the week. Our weeks collided!

I pulled into the station of the town Nora grew up in and hopped on my scooter. I probably felt like I was in the safest neighbourhood since I had been in Kenmore, maybe safer. When I remarked on that, later, to the family, they told me that apparently the town had won awards for that before.

I finally got to her street and started observing houses and house numbers. I was pretty elated when I saw that the number for her house corrisponded with the cutest house on the street. To my surprise, Nora was home when I got there and the entire family quickly made me feel welcome. It felt good to be in a family setting again.

This is where I am stopping my constant naration of the trip because I'm realizing that it's not sustainable. From here, I'll probably try and tell small stories, one at a time, skipping on huge overviews of activities.

Here are some pictures with words to go with them:

I finally finished Ithica, the quilt I started last year in Haines. I just had to sew up the edging which has been loose all these months.

The olive oil wall.

DUDE! I got to sleep in this house! It looks super cute.

Week 1: Collisions and Connections [DC, VA, MD]

I am travelling around the East Coast as a means of reconnecting with folks and seeing what they're up to. These are the human beings I saw during my time in Washington DC.

Chris of Tenleytown.
The Australian exchange student I met in Switzerland in 2007.
He is a graduate student at American University.

Tucker of Georgetown.
I met him in 2009 or 2010 because people said we should.
He is a student at Georgetown University.

Susan of Bethesda.
I've known since 2nd grade.
She's studying to do medical work in the military and is an EMT.

Micah of Capitol Hill.
I met him at Canadian L'Abri in 2011.
He works at the Pentagon and has the term “nuclear” on his business card.

Jillian of Silver Springs.
I met her contra dancing in Seattle in 2011.
She's an herbalist and teaches dancing.

Megan (Megab) and Andrew in Eastern Market.
She is a close Seattle friend whom I've known for over a decade
He is a rad man who is conveniently in a relationship with Megan.
She's a student at the University of Washington.
He works for Microsoft.

Tess in Glen Echo.
Met her blues dancing at Elsewhere in Colorado.
She's finishing up her final year at Reed.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Here to Connect with Folks I Don't Know

I am on this train to connect with human beings. I want to learn what I can from them and exchange stories to pass the time.

Interactions have especially been encouraged because I spend around 98% of my time in the Observation Lounge. The walls and parts of the ceiling are glass and it feels open, spacious, and gives the illusion of fresh air which is something I need after being in the coach section of the train. The constant moving of stale air dries out my nose to the point where it bleeds without warnings 'cept the tell-tale feeling of a stream of warm way up in your nostril.

The train is set with people prepared with the same question: Where are you going?

That's the basis of every relationship established on the train. Your destination sets the tone for the conversation and stories flow from there. It usually takes a few minutes for me to decide if this is a person I want to engage long term with. Currently, to my right is Daniel, the most recent lad I've been fortunate enough to collide with.

As I staggered back from a frigid walk outside in St. Paul and through the coach cars to the Observation Lounge, I commented out-loud something about reading a book.

“Which book?” someone asked.

And that's how I met Daniel.

An engaging fellow who, and I quote Daniel quoting another train passenger who also had a Biblical name, Michael, but I didn't meet him, “[has] certain energy to [him].” Ahh! I'm actually not sure that quote fit in there. Maybe I should have just started by describing Daniel in my own words. I'm currently curious if he goes by Dan because he kinda seems like one. I could ask him right now but my fingers are too occupied to pause.

Daniel is someone who, over and over again, made sense and made me want to fist pump and go, “Hoorah! Yes! Indeed! So be it!” A lot of times, I felt like I was hearing myself as we talked about community college, not getting four year degrees, and how folks need to just go ahead and do things. If you want to go travel around the country on a train, save up and do it. If you've got a desire to experience Russia (although I didn't until after I bought the plane ticket), go ahead and make it happen. So much, so much is possible.

He's currently on a 45-day trip around the nation --- genuinely (notice I'm refraining from using the word “literally) around the nation. Portland to Chicago to Los Angeles (I think) and then up a bit and crossing back to Chicago to skitter the East coast and cruise on down to the South. This is something I've dreamed of doing and will do, but now is not the season for that. I'm excited for him and can only imagine everything he's going to see as he circles around and around. The United States of America is a pyrex baking pan full of diverse vibrant postcard moments. Montana's postcard is, in general, very flat. I should have warned you that a bad metaphor was coming up that wouldn't really help you better understand the idea I was trying to get across. Maybe I'll need to set aside a grand to do a similar train trip when I get back.

I appreciate that he is one of the first people I can sit alongside and feel like I don't need to constantly engage with – which is sort of what constitutes some of the dapper friends I have back West. In travelling, it's sometimes hard to get to that point with strangers where you can feel satisfied in saying what has been said and don't feel the need to make an excuse to depart. A lot of train conversations end with one of us looking at our watch and commenting on how they need food or to stretch. He did get food once, but he left his backpack. He says he has a friend who just looks like me. She's a burner. I saw her picture and didn't see it in her face, but I think it may be more in the mannerisms.

I also met Ben, the potter. Ben, like Emilie, is at a very different stage of life from me. He was in Montana checking out a pottery job. He chose to take it. I hope his kids get to visit him lots there. Ben is chill and real. I woke up at 4:58 AM this morning and he was the only sober one that was awake in the Lounge. Also in there were two men, blabbering their disoriented minds out, and a young women who might or might not have been enjoying their companionship at such an hour.

Nancy and Doug were a wonderful couple I got to engage with multiple times. They've been married for 34 years and also had some of their kids and one of their granddaughters on the train with them. They were headed home after a weekend skiing at Whitefish, Montana. You could tell that they were genuine, loving, and open. They didn't talk down to me at all, yet it felt sort of like having parental figures on the train. Nancy was the first person I felt like I had connected with on the train (not counting Nyklus since I got to bombard him off the train). They're some people I would enjoy seeing again sometime. They brought closure to our time together by taking me out for breakfast on the Dinning Car and I was grateful to them. I probably ran into them most on the trip.

Through connections, I've failed to do as much reading and writing as I had aspired to. I'm only on page 53 of Letters from Russia and started page six of text. I guess what this “living in the moment” thing is about, though. I'm just anxious not to let any of it go.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Train Ride from Chicago to Washington D.C.

It was odd leaving Chicago and saying good-bye to Daniel. He gave me a better send off than Seattle had. When I left Seattle, no one was there to say good-bye (although there was a Nykklus with me!).

I was excited as I stood in line to board the train to Washington D.C. Daniel shares the enthusiasm I do for the train and was just as eager to get on his ride – but it was tomorrow (poor guy had to wait).

It was a sold out train and I got the window seat next to a polite girl named Patty who filled me in on the latest drama of catching the train. As soon as my ticket was checked, I said a polite, “Tschao” and ran up to the Observation Lounge where I made myself my nest for the evening.

A young nineteen year old man had the same idea and we ended up next to each other. World, meet Shareef (spelling? Schah-reeeeeef). Shareef had as many smiles and things to say and he was the kind of guy that sort of drives you insane, but you love him any way. He's the kind of guy that speaks you when you want silence to write, but you can't help but smile athim as he tells you about the book he's reading or about one of his love of his grape soda bottle that the train attendant just took away.

Another man joined us. Name? Not sure. Age? 26 (the age of “strapping young lads). His girlfriend wants to go to Evergreen in Olympia. Together, we had our trio for the night.

Chicago and Toledo had me baffled. The feel of the cities' suburbs left me as curious as the open plaines of North Dakota had. I wanted to explore further and pick up the rhythms of the neighbourhoods.

Around 11 PM (East coast time – so  around 8 PM in Seattle) I decided to make my bed for the night. For the second night in the row, I slumbed on the ground of the Observation Lounge. A couple from the previous train ride and given me a felt blanket to go with my quilt and the combination of the two kept me very comfortable. I put a thin train-pillow over my food bag, my down jacket on the ground, and the two blankets over me in the corner closer to the door. I choose to sleep here instead of in my seat beacause I can stretch out here and make myself genuinely feel at home.

I woke up when we arrived in Pittsburgh, PA. Upon moving my nose, the blood started to flow down my throat and eventually, I coughed up a huge clod of blood into the Amtrak napkin Ben had given me. I felt exhasuted. It was 4:35 AM.

I settled back into a slumber and found mysel in a peaceful state of zzzzzz when I awoke to a poke.
A poke?
Who was poking me?

The only logical reason I could come up with for being poked was if we were in Washington D.C. (already 12:40 PM?) and I sat up. It was Shareef. He wanted me to see the view. By the time I looked out he said, “Oh – it's gone now.”

Getting into a deep sleep isn't an easy task on a train and I was a wee bit frustrated. I did enjoy the view and was grateful to see it, but I educated him a bit.

“Shareef, when you're on a train, it's not the best idea to wake people up.” We work so hard to fall asleep and I could have used the final stages of the sleep cycle to make myself feel set for the day. Later I through in a 30 minute nap that left me feeling better.

The landscapes of Maryland and West Virginia are altogether unique and refreshing. Along the river tre are all sorts of little camps set up of RV's, trailers, and shelters. Currently, all of the trees have lost their leaves, but I can imagine hwat it will look like in the summer as kids run around and spend their time thinking that this is how summers are always ment to be spent.

The towns start to have collisions of older-than-Seattle houses and mobile hom parks. I find myself drawn to both. I wonder if I could get absorbed into those towns just as Haines absorbed into me. I wonder if I could wander the streets and if someone would offer to take me in.

I want to call so many places homes. This country is so infectous. After time in Switzerland, I wasn't sure how anyone could want to live anywhere else but the more time I spend in the States, the more I fall in love with it. Can I camp in these woods, please? Would anyone care or ever find me? I want to keep discovering and uprooting and replanting. Does everyone else have these deep desires or to people want the security of a home to always go home to.

I guess there must be a lot of people in this country who  just want a big piece of open land, a few trees, and a two story house. I guess the suburbs of Seattle aren't as common as I thought they were. Maybe developments haven't taken over the country. I wonder what tese people do for a living out in the middle of nowhere. How do they get by with no Amazon or Microsoft a 30 minute commute away.

Chicago with the Daniel

7:17 AM I woke up to a bloody nose.
8:00 AM I got up
8:30 AM Breakfast at the hostel was provided for free.

We got to sit with and get to know two beautiful Koreans – Yoon Seung and Yunjung.

9:15 AM Good Morning Chicago

Our destination was Michingan Street. Daniel had been in Chicago before and was going to be staying a day beyond me. He would also return a week or so later after taking the train to California and back to Chicago.

I made sure he genuinely wanted to spend the day with me.

We went to the Money Museum in the lower level of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago for around 15 minutes. It was free.

Saw the bean!

Saw buildings!

We wandered to the Navy Pier, following the signs spray-painted on the sidewalk, taking us a unorthodox route.

For lunch, we got to meet up with Anne B whom I had class with in 6th grade, my last year of elementary school. At this point she was working at Northwestern Hospital. I think she'll get her own post or a blend post with other folks from my past I got to meet up with. She took us both (dude!) out for lunch at a delectable Indian buffet (oh man.. goat meat...)

We made our way back to the hostel and picked up my scooter because my knee and ankle were starting to ache.

Found a Good Will where Daniel got a scarf.

Back to the hostel.
To the station.
And now I'm on a train.

I think Daniel summed our time together up well on his Facebook when he said, “Thirty hours spent with this stranger from the train. She made a necessary layover into a bona fide adventure.”

I know I've said this, but golly am I grateful to have had Daniel in my life for those 30 hours. When I said, “I'm going to go read a book,” I don't think I would've suspected that the person who said, “What book?” would, spend the rest of my time with me until I got on the next train.

Not only did Daniel walk me to the train station, he waited the hour with me till I got to board. I made sure he knew he could go and he stayed. He then stood in line with me till the front of the line where I got my farewell hug. Then, he stood at the door and waited till I couldn't be seen any more – something his family does.

You never know who you're going to connect with. You never know who's going to walk into your life at what moment and stick around for a while. What this post doesn't really capture are the conersations, which was what the 30 hours was really made of (not constant conversation). It also doesn't capture the fact that we were comfortable to sit or walk in silence together.

This is one of the reasons why I travel. This was my intent when I'm out here. I travel to connect with people. Traveling enables things to happen like 30 hour friendships that start on a train and end in Chicago. With life ever changing without routine from day to day, people are thrown in right and left and sometimes you find someone you can learn from. Without agendas, you can choose to connect and make plans on the spot. I'm not sure how people are ok without opening life every once in a while. How do we ever settle?

(Don't worry, I know the answer. I'm just not there yet.)

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