Friday, July 31, 2015

Live vs Visit

Home in Uzhgorod, Ukraine
I was asked how I choose between deciding if I live in a place or am visiting.

Like I say I lived in Ukraine but only visited Russia.
Sometimes I say I live in Seattle but other times, even if it's for more than a month, I consider it only a visit.

Since I'm on the move rawther frequently, it's not really a time-thing. I normally consider 2 months to be a good marker for me, but that's just because if I wasn't so generous with time, I'd never be calling anyplace home and I like having a place to call home.

For a place to be called a home I usually need...

- a daily purpose or routine
- a community
- a place to sleep (can change)

That's actually, about it.
The last one is iffy.

Right now, I say that I live in Seattle because that's simplest. Missing Alaska, but loving Seattle.

Traveling With Mono

I've been sick on the go, before, but never with mono.

Mono basically drained me of all energy for the past month. And, when I thought I had energy, it was just a cruel joke that made me sicker.

When Doctor Hundert at the hospital said that he thought it was a fine idea for me to go to Ecuador just three days after getting out of the hospital, I was surprised and nervous. I was ready to call it off. My folks were more than ready for me to call it off. Almost everyone I talked to was down for me calling it off.

But, here I am!

I figured, it would be better to be resting for two weeks in Ecuador and to have a few conversations with my Ecuadorian friends than to stay in Seattle, start to feel better, and regret not going.

I'd like to quickly throw out a salutation to all those with chronic fatigue and medical conditions that oblige you to keep track of your energy levels --- I know this is barely a window into your world.

Traveling with mono means sleeping in.
It means not having any guilt about sleeping in.

It's about days where you do nothing in attempt to heal up for when you do go out.

It's reminding yourself that the less you move the better.

It's constant awareness of energy levels and saving energy for special days.

It's not knowing when it's time to push yourself and deciding not to even go there.

It's the fear that I'm going to slip back...

but I haven't, yet, and I don't think I will.

It's finally moving after a month and finding that climbing up a small hill, the tiniest and shortest of hikes, leaves you feeling light headed. It's being grateful for a host that tells you to stop when you nee to stop and go your own pace.

It's naps --- lots of naps.

And now, I'm starting to get lots of energy and feel hyper and want to dance for hours (three hours, to be precise) and not knowing what to do with it. I let myself move, I let myself dance, but I don't let myself get lightheaded. If my head feels weird, I stop.

It's a balance, and I'm not yet accustomed to it.
I wanna ride a bike.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

When you coming home?

I've been asked by a few folks, "When are you coming home?"

Great question!
No idea!
(well, some idea...)

Once again, I'm in a foreign country with a one-way ticket.

This time, though, it wasn't on purpose. I thought I had a return ticket but, alas, I don't 'cause of contracts and vomit.

So I'm not exactly sure when I'll be back in Seattle, but I do know I'll know pretty soon.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Rotary Youth Exchange Reunion in Ecuador

The other night, I had such a sweet night. I asked Jorge if I could see Paz and Andrea as well when in Ecuador and for a night, all four of us were together again.

Paz, Jorge, Andrea, and I were exchange students through Rotary in 2007-2008 in Switzerland.

Jorge and Regge, his girlfriend, made wings and we had such a fine dinner. It's always (well, almost always) good to see friends again - especially halfway across the globe.

They're both as sweet and caring as I remember them. Andrea is married and has a little girl and Paz is in law school - she's about to get her master's in Spain!

Rotary Youth Exchange was one of the best things that happened in my life. It was pivotal in making me who I am today and setting me on the path I am. It made the world so much smaller. It's opened doors and empowered me to be comfortable being me. It gave me friends for life around the world and for that alone, I'm so grateful.

Here we are back in 2007-2008. On the left is in Switzerland and on the right is us in Venice, Italy on the Europareise (Euro trip).  I don't think any of us have changed that much. They keep telling me I haven't changed a bit ('cept I'm thinner).

Mitad del Mundo

The most popular tourist destination of Ecuador?
Mitad del Mundo!

Guess that most simply translates to "Middle of the World."

On Thursday, Pato ever so graciously took Paolita and I to Mitad del Mundo - around an hour from where the C family lives in Quito. The drive, in Ecuador, to me seems to be half of any event. Lane lines are frequently ignored and horns the quick go-to in terms of communication.

For the sensory seeker in me, I love it. I have full faith in those who drive me around and enjoy weaving in and out of traffic in a way that would make me cringe in the United States. That's the great thing about traveling, you see new ways to do things and accept them for what they are and go with it. I've gotten used to motorcycles coming alongside the car and seeing folks chilling in the back of trucks while going 40 and 50 mph.

The paths of the roads in Ecuador are super rad. They curve and wind up and down around hills at a relentless pace. If it weren't for the traffic, I'd probably ask if I could get behind the wheel for a bit.

Mitad del Mundo is what it sounds like, the center of the world --- 0°00′07″S 78°27′21″W.

It's supposed to be at 0 degrees latitude but recently they discovered that the real line is around .15 miles north of where they marked. Tourists don't care about that, though, and it's pretty close.

This is where the Northern hemisphere meets the Southern hemisphere, which is quite the concept. This is the equator. It's right, right here...

...right here give or take 240 meters.

Mitad del Mundo is rad --- but also totally, totally a tourist trap which mans it's just overflowing with humans getting pictures taken of themselves over... and over.. and over... and over. It sort of felt awkward, to me. One picture is cool --- but at one point, it seems like the entire point is to have pictures of yourself which isn't, isn't why I travel. I travel to see, to experience. Not sure if I'm expressing this right. Not hating on pictures, but just expanding I don't need that many of myself. They kept offering to take pictures of me and I kept saying, "Naw, I'm ok."

Here's a collection of pictures of pictures being taken:

And here's our crew:

Besides standing on the almost-equator, there was a museum which was pretty interesting. I liked learning about the creation of the monument (behind us --- which is also the 9ish story tall museum). Getting that 9-ton ball on the top was quite the feet back in the early, early 90s.

They made a whole city to go with the monument complete with lots of tourist shops, restaurants, a planetarium, museum, plaza, chapel, and gardens all over.

There was quite a view from the top of the monument. Views from above will never, never get old.

We were coaxed into a restaurant for lunch. I went for a plate that had a few salads on it, fried plantain, boiled corn, a bean soup, and this other thing that I'm awful at describing. When traveling, I generally try to pack in the salads whenever possible because it's so, so easy to eat a lot of foods that make me feel not-so-great as I attempt to try the local dishes. Luckily, Jorge's family eats so, so well and healthy -- lots of fresh vegetables and fruits, so I haven't felt sick once. An hour later, we chased it down with some sorbet. The sorbet I got was from a fruit called "tomate de árbol" which I'd never tasted before.

Exploring Mitad del Mundo was my first attempt, since mono hit me hard, to wander around for a few hours. It was really encouraging! We were definitely on our feet a lot and my energy stayed strong. Even though I've been feeling better than I've felt in a while, I'm still keeping things low-key 'cause that's how mono is. You feel better, push it, and then get sick again. I'm not pushing it - no sir.

I'm grateful to be here and in such fine company. This travel style is totally different from what I'm used to but I dig it. It's nice, especially while having mono, to have other folks figure things out so I really can take it easy. It's nice to be around people I adore to joke around with. This trip is about connecting with the humans more than anything else and I'm grateful to have the opportunity to do that.

I'll leave you with a small collage I made of photographs that Paulita took with her phone:

Be well!

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Why Ecuador?

After eight years, I had much anticipation built up about seeing my big brother again. I had my tickets purchased to fly to Ecuador but after a few days in the hospital, wasn't sure if I'd even get to go. The doctor who oversaw my hospital stay, though, gave my trip the double thumbs up.

"So.. I was

Back in 2007 and 2008, I was living in Switzerland in the small town of Sachseln. I couldn't speak the language, yet, and of course there were moments of feeling isolated in the foreign country. Every once in a while I'd have a pang of jealousy that they all had their families there with them and mine were half way across the globe.

There was another teen my age, though, living nearby who was also an exchange student. Jorge! We ended up becoming truly close as we spent hours on the train together and went to the same school. He was my big brother, I was his "lil sis," and that was good.

He invited me to visit him and I promised I would.

Eight years ago I promised.
The February, decided to fulfill that promise.

It was spurred by a comment he made on Facebook. I had written a blog post on Valentine's day about the time he gave me a rose. He made a comment on how I needed to visit and I thought, "Yeah... yeah, I do need to visit." A quick Skype session and the tickets were bought.

Round trip ticket to Ecuador for a few months.

This plan got foiled by a few months of vomiting. I bought a new ticket that would take me there for two weeks.

Then I got mono and was in the hospital two days before departure, but the doctor didn't hesitate to say, "Go! Just take it easy."

So -- how is it seeing my big brother again? Better than I could've imagined.

What I was imagining was that things would've changed but nothing has changed. Things feel the the same. I'm pretty elated.

It's also a delight to meet his family! I've heard about them so, so many times and, as it turns out, they're just as amazing as he made them out to be. They totally set me at ease and make me feel at home, which is a nice feeling when you're far, far away from home.

Just grateful to be here.

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