Thursday, October 31, 2013

Hey-o-Haines


I've been back in Haines, now, for 10 days now but it already feels like a few weeks.

Today I was asked to list some things I was grateful for. The first one that came to mind was, "I'm grateful for the beautiful love and acceptance I've found here in Haines and everywhere I've traveled. I'm grateful to have a place I can call home."

Haines has made me feel so loved to the core. It's a beautiful thing to be able to come to a town and feel welcomed like Haines does. One of my first day, I remember walking down the road and having two cars in a road stop to say, "Hello." Most shops I went to had someone there who remembered me. "Hey, you're back! How long do we have you for?" was a common conversation. The post-office had been holding some pieces of mail for me since January!

With each day, I start to realize that my intended two-month stay will very likely extend to more. Back when I arrived last year, I originally intended to only stay for three weeks. Ha!

Grey and rainy, I know I'm home.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

My First Blog Posts I Ever Wrote - Age 14

I just found the first blog posts I ever wrote.
This was back in 2004. I would've been 14 - almost a decade ago.

Ready for this? It's solid gold!

Not really.

Photos of a 14 year old me have also been added.


Umm...

This is quite unlclear on what I should be doing on a Blog. What IS a blog.

I have. No idea.

Oh, here's what I put on Jessie's card:
Miss Maiden Jessica, Happy Happy Happy… VERY Happy Birthday to you. For your birthday present, we have donated $16 in your name to Pastor Louis in the Dominican Republic.

-Maggie Ruler of all Roosters

PS: You are a special person and that’s good cause if you weren’t special then we would all cry and you wouldn’t be to happy cause we wouldn’t be, but this doesn’t really matter now does it? Actually it does. Our feelings (and yours) are quite important thus… why don’t we all eat some crackers and jalapeno spread. You know what? I don’t like to eat fish that much. They kinda gross me out. And pencil shavings don’t taste good either. I know lots of people though who strangely like to eat them. Odd huh? Actually I don’t but that sounded very odd. Not that I’m not odd. I am quite sane.
Wasn't that fun? Good.

Posted 13th November 2004 by Mägi


My next post tackled the question:

Your people want to make a statue in your honour. What will it be made out of and what victory will it commemorate?

"This statue will be me holding a rooster and it would say: "To those who trust in the rooster, have found a friend. Roosters are cool." It will honour the roosters that have died for us to have a meal... or is that chickens. I often get confused about what I am eating. Do you? Sad huh? Well anyways. It would be made of stainless steel and would be in the new Seattle Public Library cause I love that place."

I overused the term "special" a bounty back in 2004.



A Poem that is Special!!!

"I have some ADHD
I got it from coffee and tea
I like to jump up and down
And take the bus to town
Cheesey poems make me happy
I hate adults when they're sappy
How can you read this much more?
I would assume it would be total bore.
Roosters are cool
I wish we still had a pool
Cause then I could go swimming in it and be all happy cause I would be in the water except for it's cold outside and I would get all sick and DIE
Hope someday I can fly
Over the buildings till spalt
The monerail hit me... now I'm flat.
I live in Seattle with rain
But they say no pain no gain.
This is really quite entertain(ing)
And your intrest you are not feigning
Wow am I great or what?
But I jolt when my bike hits a rut.
Why doesn't the president come see me?
It would fill me with such glee.
No honestly.
Yes this is the end.
I hope you have not been offend(ded)."
Rooters are Not Made of Cheese! 


"I guess I should explain to you why I am the Rooster Ruler. That is because I rule the Roosters. The roosters like it when I rule them because they are stupid. Actualy,they are very smart to want that. Because I give the rights like the right to dip their feet in rubber on Thursdays. I decided that I would give them some triple bunk beds. Those are really high except everyone just shares the bottom bunks because they can't get to the top. There are no hens. So this population of Roosterville is dieing out very slowly. Now if I got a dog. I bet that they would all die and I would be foreever unhappy. That makes sense right? Okay, so I also have a cool thing called a Roosterpainter. It's kinda like a car detailing thing except they paint the roosters. It's with a special kind of paint made of peppermint extract and colorful stuff like Blue 3. You know, those weird color names on food lables. It's completely harmless, well as harmless as getting your hairdyed.

We only have 10 colors:
Orange
Yellow
Red
Green
Blue
Teal
Black
and White.

Pretty spiffy eh? The roosters have their own little resturant called Soufle Cafe. I consider that a pretty cheesey name. But it has no meat in it. That is the one thing. If they ate meat then that would kinda be like canabilism which is bad. They have lots of tea like peppermint tea. They like minty things, which leads me to their main occupation. Candy cane stripe painting. Yes, that is true. All day, they churn out candy canes and paint the stripes. That's why they're so fat. Because they eat alot of candy. Wanna move here? "

Posted 30th November 2004 by Mägi

I really like hand sanitizer.

Hand Sanititzer is awesome. It makes you all clean so you don't keel over and DIE!!! Yep. What it does is kill the icky blicky germs on my hands. The secret is Tocopheryl Acetate. I like the tiny .5 fl oz. They fit in me pockets. 
Acid 
Acid is bad 
I chill at my pad 
Of cheese and stuff 
I don't like stiff cuff(s) 
And cheese that is tough 
And oddly enough 
I don't want Dad to die 
Cause then I would want to fly 
Over into a cheese factory 
With cheese satifactory 
I would die it all green 
That would make me a mean teen on the scene. 
Watch your spleen. 
I like speakers 
And mixing plutonium in beakers 
And police would be seekers 
For me. 
I like candy canes 
The red looks like veins 
Which don't taste to good 
Bad people have hoods 
But my car does too 
I like tieing my shoe. 
The End 




And here's one from 2005

Ooh... I can tell you are just dieing to know what happened today. Whoa.. I don't feel like telling but I guess I will:

Petersen/SS = Umm... we learned about NASCAR and how to "cheat" or bend the rules.

Petersen/English = More NASCAR... but it all came back down to the contracts used... and those have to do with the constitution you know?

Orchestra = "Watched" a movie. Okay, so not really... but someone made it smell funny... so then I moved to the other side of the room. I got some Orch. pics from Serena... yay! That means I can complete the Symphonic Orchestra yearbook page!

Science = That was weird. Instead of going to PE first, we had an assembly schedule. We watched a totaly awesome movie about Natural Disasters... and there was a evil bunny in every shot... mwa ha ha ha... yah.

PE = Extremely boring. I just did some extra stuff to study later on for a History test. Can't say I understand the Constitution yet.

Math = Whoa.. that's a loud class. Well, it was cool cause I got to finally talk to people. At first, they just thought I was a Russian cheese... foreign.

Assembly = I learned that I need some goals... okay. Yep. Goals are important so I won't do drugs? I kinda got lost but the speaker was neat. I picked at my warts though and made one bleed... oops. Lots of pressure stopped it all... yay! Ooh... we got coupons for free Jamba Juices afterwards. I'm gonna get mine with Sarah in Woodinville. Just take bus 522...

Maia = She was so cute today... has her second tooth coming in. She can say "up" but I doubt she understands the true concept and meaning of it.

No what's cool? Well, maybe it's not. I know lots of stuff people don't know I know but I do know cause I listen. No, not eavesdrop. Just listen. I don't try to be sneaky but it's kinda hard to block it all out. Then I sort it out in my file cabnitic brain. Then I put pieces together and find out... it was Serena's Birthday today. Ya. I bet ya'll aren't even reading this... Yay. I have this one set of socks that all look the same cause they are. Well, they all are getting holes all of a sudden. Not spaced out, just all of them. It's getting on my nerves a bit.

I gotta learn about my writes. Won posted my story on her Xanga thing... but I can't sue. At least it was a spiffy story.

I went to Olympia (a couple days ago)... it was so cool. The tour itself was okay... but the architecture was amazing. Big domes like a cathedral... right in WA. Lots of marble... marble floors, ceiling, wall, waterfountains, stairs, chairs, and some other stuff. I got the business card of Christene Gregore. I wish she wasn't the Gov. but still, it's my first "famous person" business card. Unless you count the Spirit 105.3 peoples. Then I have alot. We got kazoos and I think I shall sue once again. They got really annoying. Especialy when they drip spit that forms from the water vapor of your breath. Yuck. That just got gross sometimes.

Be happy...
-Maggie

Guide to Spending Extended Time on the Alaska Marine Highway


This is an overview and a guide on what to expect on the ferry and how to save your dollars:

Sleeping:
There are three options when sleeping – in a cabin, in the lounge, or in the solarium. I fully biased towards the solarium.

The cabins will give you your own bed, bathroom, and space to live in. While they're small, it does give you privacy which can be worth it, I think, if you have kids. It will, however, cost you a couple hundred dollars more. The only time I was ever tempted to get a cabin was when I was recovering from the flu and totally exhausted and in need of some solid rest.

The lounge is a larger room with semi-comfortable chairs. People turn this space into a living area by stashing sleeping bags in corners and between the rows of chairs. Benefits to this space is that it is warm and dry. Depending on what ship you are on and your fellow passengers, it can also be noisy.

I'm quite biased towards the solarium and will choose to sleep there whenever possible (not all ships have one available). The solarium is an open air room (three side have walls and one is open) made of windows up on the top of the ship. It's up here that a lot of folks like to camp out. There are plastic lawn chairs that you can adjust the back on and, that's usually spend most of your trip.

I don't think there's anything like it.

The landscape is always there, in your face. The air is always fresh.

There are heat lamps that keep you warm (enough) but if your sleeping bag isn't enough to keep you warm, there are blankets available for rent. Blankets are $2 for the journey and pillows and towels are $1 each.

It's peaceful sleeping up here.

Also, I've noticed a trend that the awesome people tend to sleep up here. Not saying I'm awesome. I just live up there to be around the awesome people hoping it will rub off on me.

You can also set up a tent on deck. If you do that, bring duct tape to keep your tent from blowing away.


Food:

If you really want to save money, you're going to have to pack all your own food for the voyage. Food on the ferry is expensive and a simple meal can easily cost you $10 and I can't say it's worth it.

$10 at a grocery store could get you individual milk pouches, granola, apples, carrots, and hummus. I can feed myself, easily, on $10 a day.

There are a few foods available for free on the ferry in little packets, and they've never scolded me for taking them. They've got peanut butter, jam, jelly, honey, hot sauce, salt, pepper, salad dressings, soy sauce, apple cider vinegar, oil, and maple syrup. There's also hot and cold water available for free. There is a  toaster, microwaves, forks, knives, and spoons also there for you.

A lot of folks live off of sandwiches, ramen noodles, nuts, and other non-perishables.

On this trip I'm traveling with hummus, broccoli, carrots, Wasa crackers, mulberries, apples, sweet potatoes (nuke it), soy milk in single-serve boxes, and granola in portion-sized pouches. I do the granola that way because, if I had an open box of granola, I'd likely eat it all in one day. I also packed myself on package of Justin's organic dark chocolate and peanut butter cups.

I also always bring tea. Lots of tea. They have cups available but I prefer to lug a thermos around with me. That thermos will keep my tea at a hot temperature, even if I leave it overnight.

I wash my dishes in the bathroom sink.

Showers:

They have showers for free. Towels are $1 for the trip. Bring your own suds unless you like running between the sink and the shower to use their hand-soap.

Bathrooms:

Normal, fine, and clean.

What to do:

Make friends, make music, make food, make letters, go for walks, read a book, write a story, and look out the window. Most of your time can be spent looking out the window and you'll never get bored. Before making music, I like to make sure everyone around me is ok with that. I've never gotten a negative response.

Things you can buy or borrow on board:

Books are free around the ship – check out the purser's counter.

The gift shop is loaded with postcards, small gifts, games, medicine, toiletries, and books.

The purser's counter has blankets, towels, and pillows.

Food can be bought in the cafeteria. They have sandwiches (meat, egg salad), salads, juice, cereal, pie slices, pizza, milk, tea, coffee, burgers, fries, fish and chips, chili, soup, and a few main meals each day. Last night they had pork ribs; turkey with mashed potatoes, gravy, and stuffing; and baked rock fish with lemon, vegetables, and rice or potatoes. I know they also have a “wide” selection of breakfast foods available.

What to bring:

Warm sleeping bag, sleeping pad, camera, food, clothes for two days (don't really need to change clothes that often), warm coat, notepad, book, and maybe a deck of cards.


In less than 24 hours, I'll be back in Haines, Alaska.
That's pretty exciting.

To Alaska IV

Haines, Alaska

“Would a Mägi Hubert please come to the front of the loading ramp? Mägi Hubert?”

I was mid-conversation with Tom, a friend from Juneau, when I was surprised by this message just a few minutes before our departure from Washington to Alaska. I cinched up my disintegrating REI pack, stitched together with frayed thread and safety pins, threw it over my shoulder, and started to skitter on down the steps to where I had first boarded the Malaspina an hour or so earlier.

The men bearing the AMH logo on their shirts and coveralls greeted me, “I'm Mägi.” I said. They gestured to the end of the dock, “There's someone here to see you, but you'll have to keep it fast. We leave in a few minutes.”

I raced to the end of the boarding dock, full grins, because I knew who was at the other side. There, waiting to greet me with the one of those warm smiles that fills you to the core with love, was Jen Gardener.


Jen hugs like no one else. There's something about her hugs that energizes you and makes you want to go kiss little children, or something like that. It's a hug that screams, "home can be right here, for a moment."

Standing a few feet behind her was a plaid-bearing soul, with a stature that would accept respect.

“This is Patrick,” she told me, and I received a hug from him as well.

I met Jen back in 2012 (ok, so not so long ago) in Haines, Alaska. I was walking down a hill and saw a young woman doing the same. I don't get this itch every time, but I got the itch to talk to her and find out who she was. It seemed like a good thing to do.

I can't remember the exact conversation we had, but I do remember the emotions that went along with meeting her. I was going through a funky time when I met her and in need of friends that I had found, or they had found me, and outside of the general social circle of seasonal workers in Haines. Although she was deep within that social circle, I met her outside of it.

This is where it gets foggy, so don't trust my quotes at all. This is the general gist of our conversation:

J: What did you say your name was?
M: Mägi
J: Mägi?! What's your last name.
M: Hubert
J: I met a girl back in Olympia who said she had a best friend going to Alaska named Mägi Hubert.
M: That's Joelle!

It wasn't quite like that, but you get the idea.

Jen had met one of my closest friends, Joelle, in Olympia, Washington!

And then, somehow of all the hows and whys and possibilities we collided here in Haines.

Of all the people in the entire town, at that time, I had picked Jen to talk to. And she had connected with Joelle.

It's a small world after all.

Both Jen and Patrick had spent time in Haines and they had hugs for me to deliver to Alice.

Fueled by their warmth and enthusiasm, I boarded the ship even more eager than before.

What I was going back to was yet another fabulous re-connection – Tom, from Juneau. We spotted each other on the ferry and although he placed me immediately, I couldn't quite get it straight.

“Camp Damp – Tom,” he gently reminded me.
I felt a bit ashamed – not that he did anything to encourage that.

Tom and his loving wife Jan had been the hosts to me and two of my friends before and after a contra dance camp in Juneau last August. He had picked us up and dropped us off the ferry terminal, they had fed us and made sure all of our needs were taken care of.

And that's why I was mortified at myself for forgetting how I knew him.

I was still amused, though, that of all the ferries this year, that he and I were on the exact same one leaving from Bellingham, Washington.


As I mentioned the last time I traveled by ferry, the ferry is rarely the cheaper, fast option. As a budget traveled, it's generally expected that I'd go for the bargain, but the ferry is where I will gladly splurge and sacrifice a few days of my time.

It's now my third day aboard the Malaspina headed north from Bellingham, Washington to Haines, Alaska.

This is my third time to take a ferry through the Inside Passage in this past year.
October 2012 - January 2013 - October 2013



This is my eighth time to ride on the Alaska Marine Highway.
This is my fourth time to make the journey from Washington to Alaska since last April.

“Maegi, why do you keep going back to Alaska,” a friend asked me a day or two before departure.

I tried to explain it best I could between descriptions of the dark winters, tight community, Xtratufs, Christmas parades, and my job but it usually comes down to this one sentence.

Back in June, I was a wreck and thought that leaving Haines would be best for me. As I was debating if I should fork over the $353 for a ferry ticket, Andrew looked me in the eye and said, “Mägi, you can't leave Haines because you love Haines and Haines loves you.”

Which is true.

Haines is all of those people I've been thinking about as I've traveled around. There are a whole lot of families and folks that I'm eager to spend this winter with. They've been so kind, even, as letting me know that they're excited that I'm coming back.


So I'm going back home.
That's what it feels like.
Seattle now always feels like a temporary vacation.
Haines feels like home.

And being on the ferry makes it the best homecoming I can imagine.

As I wove my way into one of the tight restroom stalls, I felt a warm sensation that could not be accounted for by means of pee or other bodily functions. It was that cheesy fuzzy-warm-heart feeling.

“I'm on the ferry!”


I love ferries, I really do.  The four days it takes to get to travel the Inside Passage is never long enough. I always have in mind that the open sea crossings, where the boat actually rocks a bit, could be a little bit longer. The unscheduled, open days whiz by all too fast.

When I board the ferry, I always have a slight agenda in mind that involves the writing of letters, reading of books, and practicing of ukulele.

In actuality, I usually end up spending most of my time talking to everyone else on the ferry as our little community is knit then and there. We're all stuck on there together and there's no where else to go.

If you just sit on a chair on the deck, someone is bound to come and talk to you.


Last night I ended up meeting Matthew and Angela who were on there way back to Alaska after a year or two in Oman. Last time they were heading to Alaska, they were driving. Mid-drive, while in Edmonton, BC on the AlCan Highway, Matthew got the job offer to travel to Oman.

They were the sort of couple you always hope you'll meet on your travels. Laughter came quick with them and they were fast to make me laugh as well. At the end of the conversation, they invited me to join them for dinner in the cafeteria later that evening and I enjoyed spending even more time with them.

I ride the ferry to meet folks like Doug who lives part time on a farm in Bellingham. At seventy years of age, he had a slew of stories to share, each one contributing to me starting to maybe, sort of understand the grey-haired man who would be sleeping a few feet away from me each night. He had been a fisherman, teacher, and a whole lot more. He had been going to Haines each summer for camp since he was a kid. He's been riding the ferry for years and will be riding it, round trip, three times this year.



And these are just three of the dozens of folks whose paths I crossed on this short trip.

I can't think of anywhere else where this happens.

On a flight and a train, you tend to be more restricted to your assigned seats. The trains in America sort of facilitate community with their panorama-view lounge, but if there's not lounge, it's just you and your seat mates being forced to sit still for hours and hours. Flights do nothing to foster friendship.

But on a ferry, you can't help but wander around and, as you do, usually run into folks.
And, the thing about folks traveling to and from Alaska in October is that, generally, they all have some sort of story to share with you.

There's the common thread that, huzzah, we're all going to or from Alaska.

Back when I first was on my first drive to Alaska, Andrew and Tyler informed me that they were sort of surprised that I was coming. They told me that they always invited folks to join them and I was the first to actually get in their car and go.

Now I understand what they meant. During my time in Seattle, I invited so many people to join me on that ferry and come explore Alaska. Dozens of folks were given the invitation. Not one of them did it. A lot of them told me this only after they had laid down for me how much they desired to go to Alaska.

I laugh when I hear that because, when I first went to Alaska, I honestly didn't care about Alaska. I didn't have any “deep longing in my heart” or childhood desire. I just went because it was someplace to go and I was told that you could make money there and money was what I needed.

As the mountains and trees and islands pass by, I feel overwhelmed with how beautiful it is. Sometimes I want to jump up and down because it's simply amazing. The world is passing by and I can just sit and watch it. In the middle of all of these emotions, I keep thinking, “If they had actually gotten on this ferry, I know they never would regret it. I know that if they could see what I can see now, they would only be grateful they had made that choice.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Goals for the Dark Season


I've found that I operate well with goals. I do well when I name my aspirations, right them down, and look at them often. They need to be exact and be either countable or check-off-able.

On Friday, I'm departing for Alaska. It will be my fourth time to do the brief journey from Seattle to Haines. I'm committed to staying through the 23rd of December.

Here are my goals for the upcoming two months:
  • Memorize 300 words of Russian vocabulary
    • That comes to about 5 a day. Very doable but requires discipline and is easy to slack off on.
  • Swim 5 days a week in the morning before work at 6:00 AM
    • I used to do this until my ankle twisted last year and I want to get back into it
  • Create and perform a show
    • I want to start working towards creating and following through with a product. Over the end of October and November I'll practice cello, ukulele, and/or piano along with do some writing which can be presented in a small house show in the middle of December. If possible, tie it all together into a skit, but that's not essential.
  • Write out a novel
    • Yeah - that NaNoWriMo thing? Do it.
  • Reply to all letters within four days of receiving them
  • Read East of Eden by John Steinbeck
  • Play Scrabble at least twice a month with Mary (the lady I met on the street back in April last year)

That should keep me busy...

Monday, October 14, 2013

Re-Root-Seattle


Being back in Seattle has been...

The first word that comes to mind is "magical" because moments keep coming up that are either incredibly beautiful (those trees!) or reminiscent of something that belongs in a movie.

This city feels like home. I'm not even just talking about my childhood neighbourhood. The entire city, towers and all. As I bustle around, I feel a calm in knowing where I am. I know these streets and I know how to get from Point A to Point B. I know the homeless people and the Childfund folks who want my dollars (and they know me and remember me some seven months later). I love our weather. I crave the communities all over. I love having couches to crash around the city and the knowledge that I'll never go without a roof over my head.

I love the people that really know me. I love seeing someone and knowing they've already invested hours and hours into me and love me all the still. These are the people that have seen me at my worst and my best and still take the time to be with me all the more.

And, in all of this, I grin as I realize I could have this life.

I don't know what keeps me from coming back to Seattle and calling it home. I don't know why I don't think I could get something started here.

Well, I sort of do. I love my job in Alaska.I love my friends in Alaska.
And, to be honest, I love that when I work in Alaska, there's no temptation for me to spend money on constant here and theres.

But, I wonder what it would take to establish myself in Seattle for a while?
From the conversations I had this week, not much.

Not now, though. Not now.

Got to Get You Into My Life

Short 10 day visits to Seattle gives me the slightest amount of time to work with in order to reconnect with faces, feel settled for a bit, be around family, and have down time at home on my ownsome.

This past week, I've only seen a small handful of friends, including the likes of Natasha, Sarah, and Carole. All three of these girls have one thing in common - I've been friends with them since I was a super-short-kid. All of them I've known since around first grade and am grateful to have them in my life over a decade and a half later.

It's crazy watching them turn into contributing members of society in the sector of contribution that entails having a job (I know you can contribute sans job).


I just saw Carole yesterday and have known her since... since... since forever. I've known her for as long as it's possible to know someone - since we were wee babes. And, somehow, this spunky resplendent vibrant human of zeal is still in my life and continues to know me better than just about anyone. She can read my mood like a book and knows how to make me laugh. With Carole, I can be 100%-unapologetically-Margaret like with no one else. I've never felt so much more accepted by a human in my entire life than when I've spent time with Carole.

These past years have thrown both of us a few curve-balls (she's got some vicious ones I'd rather weren't thrown at her) and I often second-guess my not-being-in-Seattle-ness just so I could be there for her in Seattle. I'm not the greatest long-distance friend.

During our time together, we pulled on our boots and set out into the depths of Kenmore, hitting up our favourite park (at least it used to be) and then down the road to St. Vinny's and further along Bothell Way where we ended our evening at Tai Ho before heading back to my house.

I love this human.



This lady, here, is Natasha. I've known Natasha for years from church but hadn't seen in in around 12 years, it's estimated. It's not that we've been that far apart, we just haven't seen each other. My family changed churches and she was far enough that I couldn't just swing by. Then came high school and I was awkward and she was going through your typical and definitely-not-typical life transitions of a teenager.

Then, back in May, she wrote something on my wall along the pages of, "When you get back, do you have time for a childhood best friend?" and that hit me. I'd been wanting to reconnect with her for years. It was in May 2008 that we became Facebook friends, so it would've been when we were both 17 & 16 that we were friends. At that point, I was mega-nerd (livin' it up!) and she was a cheerleader.

Our first interaction, that I see is when I wrote, "I just checked out your vids on YouTube + the pics... Natasha, I haven't seen you in *checks watch* ages, but you're still as brilliant as ever. I was just checking out some Cedar Springs pics, those were some pretty interesting times. Hope life is going grand for you." I didn't get a reply back. I thought she was pretty darn cool and failed to express my desire to see her.

So, when she initialized a reunion, I jumped right on that boat.

See, folks. If you want to see someone, you ought to just ask them! I waited and missed a lot. Or maybe the timing of coming back into each other's lives around now was perfect.

The reunion at Elliot Bay Books Co. was sweet. From there we traversed to Black Coffee, to Annapurna for Nepalese food, and then I got to go to her house to meet her boyfriend.

We got along just how 8-year-old us would've desired for us to connect. If you had gone to little Margaret and asked her if she saw Natasha in her future life, I would've expressed a strong hope that it would continue as such. If I told her this story, she would've loved it.

A lot had happened in these past 12 years and we filled in the gaps left by Facebook. Ultimately, I am really impressed by the human she has become. I'm excited to see her again next time I come to Seattle.

So glad to have her in my life again.


Sarah! My travelling rock.

Dang, that didn't sound how I wanted it to.

Of all of these folks, Sarah and I have spent the most time together. My summers and days after school were spent with her. We had lots of classes together, growing up. We would ride the bus home and eventually, she would drive us back and forth.

Sarah is the friend where, a lot of times, I just wonder, "How does a wonderful person like that end up with a friend like me?"

She's got incredible work ethic and ambition that I can't help but be in awe of. She tells me of what's she's been studying or accomplishing and I sort of nod and take it all in. Maybe we make a pretty good duo?

Currently, Sarah's applying for med-school. She also just got back from time in Guatemala, Switzerland, and Germany.

Something I wish for us is that if I could have her in my regular life again, move beyond catching up. But, that's my fault that that isn't happening.

She's as thoughtful as ever and I adore her. She makes me smile.


Ah yes! So they all have jobs. All three live on their own. All three have steady rock-solid boyfriends whom they've had for more than a year. On this trip I got to meet all of the dudes, they were rad.

Grateful for the humans who stick around and are a part of my life and have loved me all of these years.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Thermal Pools and Body Image, Yo


Probably the most surreal experience I've had in Iceland was the thermal pools.

Early morning and the sun shining through the mist created when 48°C water meets air so crisp and frigid that ice has formed on the concrete, an obstacle to dodge as you go from pool to pool.

It is currently 1°C.

I lower my body in so just until my eyes are just above the surface. Heads bob in and out of the steaming pool like the aliens on Neptune I invented in an 8th-grade science project I did for Mrs. G. I've never felt so grounded and out of this world before.

I flip over onto my back and close my eyes, focusing on my auditory perception. This is one of my favourite sensory activities. I swish my fingers around my ears, keying in on the sound. In-inhale. Ex-exhale. Flip up. Back down on my back, floating in a circle in a vacant corner of the pool.

Then I head for the steam bath. Here, my entire body will feel alive as my dead skin melts of sloughs away and my pores breath in and out. I suck in the hot air into my lungs and feel a burning similar to a satisfying scotch but without the irreplaceable after-taste.

Lumpy bodies of all shapes surround me and I love it. I think they're all beautiful. Someone turns upside down against the wall. My calves start to burn. I stretch and focus on the hazing – or maybe focus is the wrong word. I try to focus but it's impossible with such thick steam. I relax my eyes and enjoy my new reality.

In the hot tub, I let my body be pummeled with a jet stream of water that bends my skin to unrecognizable contortions. “Water massage,” the man had told me. It reminds me of when I was in the Russian banya (steam bath, as well) and they started beating me with the birch sticks, declaring, “Russian massage!” All these countries have massages like I've never known.

This is my second day at the pools, my second morning, and I start to develop my own rhythm.

Pool.
Steam bath.
Cold air.
Steam bath.
Shower.
Hot tub with water jet massage.
Pool.
Steam bath.
Shower.
Pool.

An hour slips by I realize it's time to get to the National Museum of Iceland to try and cram some sort of understanding of this culture into my head. I've already started to pick up on how they started out and what's up with the Danish sandwich shops.

The changing room is a healthy place for someone like me to be in. After the meadia shoving perfectly sculpted bodies in my face, I need to see what real humans look like – all types. I need to see the bodies of women naked. I know that sounds a bit crass, but it's healing, for me. I see stretch marks, cellulite, dimples, and spots on bodies I don't think anyone would (should) hesitate to consider “healthy” and “fine.” Heck, who are we to determine what isn't fine? I see beauty in each body.  One woman only has one breast. I take a look at my white body in the mirror and love what I see. It's not what anyone on the big screen would want to see, but it's me and I can accept that.

Each day I take the time to make sure I can like my body.

Some days take a whole lot longer than I'd like to admit.

I know it might seem like there are better uses of time, but when I don't, I end up feeling self conscious all day. I want to apologize to the world for my tummy and double chin as I turn my face down to read a book on the bus. But if I can look in the mirror and accept that that's who I am, I feel  a lot more confident. Not a cocky confident, just the kind of confident that mirrors what a lot of old ladies get when they stop caring about what the world thinks... or at least they tell me they do. In late night conversations and mid-day poetry jams, I've learned that each lady I meet on the street is self-conscious. I wish we talked about this more.

I scrub away dead skin cells with the pads of my fingers and skip shampoo and conditioner, as I have for months. I enjoy walking around in the nude, waiting to put on my clothes at the last minute. I'm not the only one. Clothes are so uncomfortable.

But when I do put on my clothes, after spending the past hour being aware of my body, it feels different. My toes nestle into my socks later on as I walk down the pavement. I feel alive.

I wrap myself in my Alaskan t-shirt (“Midnight Sun Playground”), a wool sweater (given me by Eva in Boston), and a fake-leather jacket (Aunty Mo) that I never dreamed I'd wear this much. Putting in my headphones, I found a song that just as well inspire an energized walk as much as a dance that leaves you feeling new.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Farewell Scotland :: Aeroplane Encore

 
Five months later, it's time to board an aeroplane.

Five months, eh?

Now that doesn't seem like all too much.
Not that things have to always be qualitative.

Five months was what I needed to explore what I decided to explore on this side of the world without going bankrupt and still feeling semi-fresh (which is not a reflection on the state of my socks at the moment). The entire point of this trip was to get to Ukraine and back. I just may have gotten a little sidetracked along the way and took my time getting from Point A to Point J.

From the United States to Russia to Norway to Russia to Ukraine to Slovakia to Ukraine to Romania to Ukraine to Hungary to Ukraine to Romania to Serbia to Romania to Hungary to Austria to Germany to Austria to Liechtenstein to Switzerland to Germany to the Netherlands to England to Scotland to England to Scotland...

Today at 2:05 PM I'll board a flight from Glasgow, Scotland to Reykjavik, Iceland. Up until now, I've been avoiding flights as much as possible. I've traversed Eur-Asia by train, bus, foot, hovercraft, car, tram, bicycle, kayak, canoe, subway, and Volkswagen but haven't landed myself one of those sweet $30 for a flight-from-Paris-to-London deals.

The idea of prematurely boarding a plane felt like cheating.

To go from one side of the continent to another without actually seeing it pass by window felt unacceptable.

I'm really grateful for this time. I'm grateful for all the people that have been hosting me and for each human I've met along the way.

Day after day, I was shown love by strangers who treated me like a close friend.

In turn, I tried to show love to the people I met.

I'm rather convinced that this world is just full of good people and that for all those “bad people” to be who they are, some perverse ideology must have been somehow fed to them at a young age or they were perhaps wronged. Maybe just a small chemical imbalance?

-----------------------------------------------

I boarded the aeroplane.
Was not expecting it at all.. but I cried. Apparently it was a moving experience.
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