Impressions.

I’ve been in Brazil now for nearly 3 weeks, and in Maceió for nearly 2 weeks.  I’ve had two weeks of Portuguese language classes, seen numerous rainstorms, and walked in or near the ocean pretty much every day I’ve been in Maceió.  I’ve sampled a BJJ-inspired MMA class, a class in Capoeira, been to the center of the city and to a touristy beach outside of town.  I’ve had all sorts of delicious and interesting food.  I thought I’d update you all with a little bit of my thoughts and impressions about all that I’ve seen so far.

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Click to get a closer view of my notes and textbook!

Language
It’s been one heck of a long time since I seriously tried to learn a new language.  Languages have always seeped into my brain with or without my permission, like water finding passage through cracks in the rocks.  I always liked that about my brain – it’s one of the reasons I was so confident in my abilities to take on this challenge.  But it’s been a long time since I’ve opened the floodgates, and the water pressure was never quite this high when I was taking French for an hour a day in high school.  I certainly didn’t have to use French after my first day of class in order to explain what kinds of foods I liked or didn’t like, or to ask a cashier to repeat the amount of money I owed.  I never had to know enough French after my first day to understand what someone was trying to tell me about when I would eat, and what, and how to get in and out of my house, and how to get to a new school the next day, and where to find a new roll of toilet paper.

As for French, having learned it all those years ago is mostly a big help.  Having gone through the mental process of learning a new language, and one that has many similarities – especially in sentence construction – is a big help.  But because it’s French, it also sometimes messes me up.  And sometimes when I try to answer in Portuguese, instead the French wants to come out.  Or sometimes Spanish.  Obrigado, NOT gracias!!  Muito, NOT muy!!  From what I can tell, of the major Latin-based languages French is the least helpful in learning Portuguese.  Spanish or Italian would make this MUCH easier.

But, there comes a time when you have to stop trying to put a language in terms of your own native language, and just let it be itself.  I did that with French, and I think that experience and its similarity with Portuguese is far more of a help than a hindrance.

At this point I know enough Portuguese to get by.  I can understand simple instructions, can make myself understood, and can generally clearly communicate what I’m thinking.  Communicating feelings is a bit more advanced.  However, I also know enough Portuguese (and according to several people, my accent is very clean) that other Brazilians think I can understand Portuguese at their normal speed of talking, which I most certainly can not.  At all.  Not yet.  And they all…ALL…talk fast.  Very, very fast.  The only exceptions being the teachers at the school, they speak a teensy bit slower, and keep their sentences a teensy bit more simplified.  That’s it.  So when people are speaking normally, I can understand maybe one word out of four, while I can understand like 75% of simpler writing.

I’m drowning in Portuguese.  Welp, I did say I would sink or swim, right?  Time to get out my bubble-arms and start dog paddling!

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I think this dog is always sleeping here.

Weather
It never gets below 70°F here, even at night.  It sometimes gets super windy when it rains, and when it does rain it often comes down in sheets, but the air is always warm and thick and humid.  It seems to rain more often at night then during the day, and the rains are surrounded by gorgeous blue skies and sunshine before and after.  When the sun comes out, it starts pushing above 90°F.  This is the end of winter.  I freaking love the weather here so far.

And I managed to go almost two weeks without getting at all sunburnt, or wearing any shirts with sleeves.  And once the sunburn is peeled off and gone, I shall start tanning in those hard to tan spots.  I hope.

 

Beaches

Ponta Verde Beach.  Three blocks from where I'm living.

Ponta Verde Beach. Three blocks from where I’m living.

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Hermit crab maybe? Regardless, this guy is apparently a rare find here.

The sand here is marvelously soft.  The water that I’ve seen is relatively clear – I haven’t really seen the crystal blue water yet, but I haven’t made it out to the natural pools yet either.  It is truly beautiful, especially considering the weather.  However, sections of the beaches in Maceió have tons of this seaweed stuff, which seems to always be mixed with quite a bit of refuse; bottles and plastic and….just junk.  There are workers out there every day raking and cleaning it up, but every day there is more.  Please recycle your plastic.  Please use less plastic.  The oceans will largely clean themselves eventually, if we quit putting so much crap in it.  Seriously.  Today I saw a rusted out CFL light bulb amongst all the other plastic bottle caps and plastic bottles and building materials and plastic bags and and and.  Thanks for saving energy, but I don’t think the ocean is the proper disposal area.

Stray dog at Paripueira begging for food.  Obviously has puppies.

Stray dog at Paripueira begging for food. Obviously has puppies.

The other beach I went to last weekend is called Paripueira.  It’s a very lovely beach and seems to be better tended, but it is definitely a tourist trap.   The kind of place where they charge you money to come in and spend more money.  If you want to do anything more than sit on the beach, it’ll cost you.  And the food will cost you. And there’s people on the beach trying to sell stuff to you. We spent $200 Reais – nearly $100 – on lunch for three people. They didn’t mention that at the school when I signed up for this trip! I guess I was expecting a more hands-off kind of beach, where you just walk in and set up your spot, then if you feel like eating out or shopping, there’s options, but it’s not expected.  However, the part I disliked the most about this spot were the dogs.  There’s sad looking stray dogs everywhere.

One in particular was skin and bones, probably sick, with lacerations near his tail and looking truly miserable.  It kind of made me ill to see it.  I bought some french fries to feed the dogs, however none of them seemed interested.  I don’t think I’ll go back there.

But the Brazilian dog story isn’t all sadness.  I see lots of pampered pooches here as well, and have met several people who’ve taken dogs off the street.  Nor are the beaches so touristy and regimented.  And they’re all of them, every one, gorgeous.

Martial Arts
I’ve taken two classes so far.  One is a basic MMA class taught by a guy named Tony, who IMG_3332trained with one of the Gracie brothers (The guys who invented Brazilian Jui-Jitsu).  The other was a Capoeira class taught by a guy named Jair who comes to the language school to give private classes.

The MMA class was a fabulous workout.  It kind of reminded me of Crossfit, with stations that would switch every minute; however one of the stations was with Tony himself, and he would have you punch targets or hold a car tire above your head while he hit your near the waist with the targets and you blocked them with your legs.  Each station was pretty hard – one was even an ab roller, and we all know how much those suck! – and that was just one of the stations.  My abs hurt for three days afterwards!

The capoeira class was the next day, and for all that it was far less intense than the MMA class, I finished it feeling pretty shaky and I sweated harder than I ever had in my life (although it may have been the weather, it was pretty hot and humid that day). Jair taught me the basic movement, called Jenga (no I don’t know if it’s related to the game), the four basic kicks and the four basic dodges, and of course cartwheels.  I’m definitely going to do that again; and if my understanding of what he said was right, he offered to bring me to some local capoeira events on the back of his motorcycle.  Speaking of motorcycles…

Maceió
…it seems lots of people have them.  Not a lot of big cruisery type bikes – nor a lot of rice burners either – but functional ones, or scooters.  If they do have a car, it’s a little European economic style car, although not a lot of hybrids.  People here are far freer with the car horn, but it’s more of a ‘hey I’m here, just FYI’ than a ‘get out tha fuckin way asshole’ manner.  But driving…man.  I’ve already seen one car accident, and I’m amazed I haven’t seen any pedestrians hit yet.  I haven’t seen driving like this since I was in Spain and fearing for my life in a taxicab on the freeway.  The driver there literally said that the traffic signs were more suggestions than laws.  Ha!  But then again, the cost of taking the bus here is about 30 cents cheaper than taking a taxi.  And apparently the bus system has never published a schedule.  You just go to a bus stop and wait, and hopefully one will come along in the next 30 minutes…makes a taxi drive seem almost worth it.

Ponta de Barra.  Lots of shopping in this area.

Ponta de Barra. Lots of shopping in this area.

As far as my general impressions of Maceió go, I feel…conflicted.  It’s a great little town, twice the size of Portland with about 1 million inhabitants.  It’s got beautiful beaches, great little bars and restaurants, fabulous music; but there is also a lot of poverty here. A lot. More than I’m accustomed to, living in Portland.  Even in the touristy, more well off areas like where I’m staying and the school is located, there is evidence of it around the corners and in the darker spots, the side streets.  You can see it everywhere if you look.  Maybe it’s my American sensibilities, I don’t know; but it makes it difficult at times to relax and enjoy myself.  It makes me feel a bit guilty for what I have, and looking for ways to help that will not be just a meaningless, fruitless drop in an ocean of need.

It’s also unfortunately littered with trash.  I mean everywhere.  There’s trash everywhere, and very little of it actually in the trash bags that are also left out on the street all the time.  From the ocean on, there isn’t a single place I’ve been that has not been littered.  Definitely something a Portland eco-conscious resident would find a bit alarming.  However, if you can overlook the trash, the area I live in is quite nice.  There’s lots of attractive apartment buildings with interesting architecture and a bunch of new ones being built closer to the beach.  Lots of rooms with a view!

Food
They have really good sushi here.

No really.  One of my fellow students is from Japan, and she agreed.

Buffet-type restaurants are really popular here.  There are two, right next to each other, at the end of the block from my school.  I’m trying desperately to not gain weight (see: Martial Arts, above), but until I started taking these martial arts classes and going for a run on the beach every few days, it was looking like a losing battle.  I already mentioned (on the Facebooks) Feijoada, which is probably my favorite Brazilian dish I’ve had so far, but let me list out a few other notable things I’ve eaten:

  • Corn and coconut milk cake
  • A pancake made out of fried mashed bananas and cheese with cinnamon on top for breakfast (zomg noms)
  • Cheese bread.  Ah, cheese bread.
  • Tapioca…things.  Basically pancakes made out of cassava flour and folded over with stuff in it; the original has coconut, but it can have anything from fruit to cheese to chicken hearts
  • Pastelarias - sort of like pastry shops – have all sorts of fried and baked goods like coxinha, which are teardrop-shaped bread things stuffed with shredded chicken, and all manner of pastéis, which are thin, flat flaky crust pastries filled with (usually) savory fillings, often cheese or chicken or ham. I finally found a pastelaria which sells a ‘Romeo and Juliet’, a pastel filled with guava jam and cheese that my sister in law told me about.  I haven’t tried it yet, but I hope to this week!
  • Johan and I about to try sururu for the first time with Luis, one of the teachers

    Johan and I about to try sururu for the first time with Luis, one of our teachers

    Sururu – The local dish of the area, it’s like tiny little mussels in coconut milk over rice with a side of the sauce blended with some sort of thickener to pour over, and farofa (a toasted cassava root flour) sprinkled on top.  The first version I ate also had shrimp (camarão) and a whole fillet of fish (peixe) on the bottom, while the second version made by my host had just the tiny little mussels in them.  They’re about a half inch long on average.  Tiiiiiny mussels….in my wine…wait no.  Wrong food.  Also, someone told me it’s the viagra of the Brazilian northeast.  Heh.

  • All sorts of doce, or sweets – I prefer the ones made with banana.
  • Açai!

    Açai! This was the small bowl. Glad I got the small bowl.

    Frozen blended açai berries with banana and granola and puffed rice and honey.  Oh, yeah.

When it comes to sweets, my brother was right: They use condensed milk a lot.  Chances are if it looks like a cupcake or a truffle-like treat, expect that there’s condensed milk – doce de leite – in it, or that it’s pretty much entirely made of it.  Very chewy, thick and sweet.  It tends to make me long for something a bit more bread-like and less like eating a solid hunk of milky taffy made out of sweetened milk.

 

Also, that’s a starfruit tree in front of my school.  Starfruit.  Yum.

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Also again – I like cachaça.  I’ve had it straight, with honey, made with a mixture of clove and cinnamon, infused with pineapple or cherries.  I like it all.  I’ll be bringing some home with me.  Just probably not the one in this next picture.  I just don’t feel that crab flavored alcohol should be a thing, you see.  Call me crazy.  How did they even get it in the bottle?!

Crab cachaça? No thanks.

Crab cachaça? No thanks.

And caipirinhas?  They’re Brazilian margaritas, they just use cachaca instead of tequila.  And who doesn’t love margaritas?  If you’re in the mood for something other than lime, you can get a caipifruta, which is just a caipirinha with other fruit in it.

Money
I don’t know why I had the idea that Maceió would be cheap.  Perhaps it was the fact that  Brazilian Reais (hay-ice) are about .40 to the dollar.  Perhaps it’s because of my image of South America.  Perhaps it’s because of those nice people I met in the airport in São Paulo who told me it’s much cheaper than São Paulo (yikes!!  SP must be crazy $$$$!!).  It is most certainly not cheap.  At least not near the beach, of course.  It’s not exorbitant by any stretch, but I literally was looking at suntan lotion for R$40.  $20 suntan lotion?!  Come on!  I pay on average $8-$12 for lunch, twice that for dinner.  A beer goes for about $4-$6, although they’re about 24-32oz bottles.  Not super spendy, but not the cheap I thought it would be.  Certainly not cheap enough for the cash I brought to last me until I leave.  Good thing I got a credit card with no foreign transaction fees!

In summary…well, I actually don’t really have a summarizing thought for this post.  I’m getting lots of relaxation, meeting lots of really cool people both brazilian and foreign, getting totally overwhelmed but still doggedly pursing my portuguese, and enjoying the tropical weather immensely.  I mean, how cool is it to be sitting at lunch with someone from Germany, Japan and Denmark and chatting in Portuguese with all of them?  The litter and the poverty and stray dogs make me sad.  As for being homesick…I think I’ll leave that to another post.

Stay tuned for my next post, where I show you all some of the…um…coisas muito interessantes I’ve come across so far.  Like giant oyster phone booths and the most amazing shower attachment I’ve ever seen…

Paper Boats

I realized today that I have forgotten how to make a paper boat.

In a place like Portland, there is simply no excuse for such an oversight. I remember the sublime satisfaction I felt as a kid when I would make one; it had such heft and utility compared to a paper plane. Paper planes were cool and all, but the flight performance was always questionable. Not so with the boat; it would always float, and always follow the current. Where the plane was, well, flighty, the boat was reliable.

Here. Let me remedy this for all of us.

And another style, one of my favorites, though I cannot attest to its seaworthiness:

Now go. Go make a paper boat. And then, float it down the street towards the drain, and dream of ocean voyages. And pirates.

Autumn heat.

Autumn sunshine and autumn leaves conspire to wrap my vision in blazing colors, filling the day with warmth like that of a roaring fire, a cozy wool scarf, a creamy mug of hot cocoa. As if to say yes, the heat of summer is leaving, but there is warmth in winter too. And oh by the way, here is summer’s Grand Finale! I pronounce my requisite oohs and aahs, and shop for pretty big mugs, and contemplate knitting with alpaca.

Welcome, autumn.

That’s what SHE said.

Hello internets.  I know, I know, it’s been a while, yes?  A good long while.  I’ve been pursuing various illegal non-writey-type interests, which of course leaves very little time for this blogging thing.

Or does it?

Actually, what you all may not know is that I actually have been blogging here.  LOTS AND LOTS.  It’s just all private, and NOT for public consumption.

Not that this post is going to be appropriate for public consumption either.  But more in a half naked soccer way, as opposed to a ranty vitriolic way.  I don’t know about you, but I’d be way more into some naked blog stories instead of blah blah drama blog stories, right?

Brace yourself, readers.  It’s gonna get a little steamy.

When I was a kid, I loved to play soccer.  My dad and I would go to the park across the street from our apartment, the crisp autumn air sparkling in the early morning sunshine.  I could do all those soccery tricks, bouncing the soccer ball back and forth on my knees to keep warm and ready, and we’d kick the ball around.  For a girl who isn’t really on speaking terms with her father, I think fondly on those memories as one of the times I really enjoyed spending time with him.

So.  Getting hot yet?  Yeah, me too. Ha! No no I kid.  Really.

Anyway, shoot forward a few years *cough* and here I am, not having played soccer since I was a kid, and I get this email:

Good morning!
You’re receiving this e-mail because you signed up for the Portland Netrippers e-mail list or have played with our soccer team in the past.As you may or may not know by now, the Netrippers are sending a team of ladies to Festival of the Babes 2009.  We’ve registered already, so now– we just need enough Babes to make up a team! That’s where you come in…

What’s Festival of the Babes (FOB)?
It’s an annual soccer tournament for lesbians “and those willing to be mistaken for one”, held up and down the West Coast. This year, it’s in San Francisco on Labor Day Weekend, Sept. 4th-6th. This is the 19th year of the tournament, and generally about 350 lesbians show up to play!… the games are held during the days, and there are excellent parties at night.

So….soccer, new friends, hot girls, and crazy parties.  In San Francisco.

SIGN ME THE FUCK UP.

The tournament was last weekend.  It was three days of hedonism a very enjoyable time!  And since I don’t think I saw any of you there, here are a few things I’d like to share with you, my dear readers, from that experience.  I’ll let you live vicariously through me THIS ONE TIME.

  1. A soccer team of lesbians really can have a great weekend without any Ani Difranco being played.
  2. Soccer refs who wear giant beer can costumes will give free kicks to players who can fall and not spill their beer.
  3. At this particular kind of soccer tournament, you need to watch out for marauding gangs of hot soccer babes who will tackle you and pour alcohol down your throat, do nasty sexual acts upon your person, or both.  While you’re playing.
  4. If you walk around San Francisco with a banner made of twine and lacy panties, and you and your teammate are each wearing one of the banner-ed lacy panties, thereby in essence attaching yourself to your teammate, no one will bat an eye or think that is strange in any way.
  5. Nor will the liquor shop employee question your drunk ass when you flash a half-full flask of Jameson tucked into your bra and say “Gimme another one of these.”
  6. Just because a girl is hot, doesn’t mean she’s a good kisser.
  7. But don’t let that stop you from making out with her a good long time anyway.
  8. Beer helps you play longer, because it makes all those nagging aches and pains and sore muscles go away.  Also, more serious injuries.
  9. Not every gay female soccer team is hot.  Only most of them.  Especially if they have a team name like GI Janes.
  10. Canadian women are crazy, friendly, and hot, and love giving away stuff.  They also love dressing up as lumberjacks.  And running around topless.
  11. You really can party until 2am and then make it to a soccer game at 9am across town the next morning.  Your soccer skills may suffer, but hey, everyone else was at the party too.
  12. It’s very easy to become accustomed to either randomly grabbing or being grabbed by women in public and have mutual sexual molestation commence.
  13. It’s also very hard to readjust to ‘normal’ life where that behavior might be frowned upon.
  14. The liver is an amazingly hardy organ, and can withstand immense amounts of abuse.
  15. If you’re not having fun, you’re #doingitwrong.

So I return home with new friends, great memories, a well-boosted ego, sore muscles, a hangover to kill all hangovers, a sunburn (How in the heck *do* you get sunburned when it’s misting and cloudy half the day and you’re wearing sunscreen, anyway?), tons of missed sleep, and no regrets.

And that, my friends, is one awesome weekend.

Not until I give you permission.

And I absolutely positively CATEGORICALLY deny your request to leave.  I’m sorry, summer, you’re stuck here until I give the all clear.

And I haven’t sucked the marrow out of you quite yet.  In fact, I’ve been kinda sucking at the marrow sucking as of late.  Perhaps the hole is too narrow.  Perhaps my suction leaves something to be desired these days.  Whatever the case may be, this summer has not lived up to its glorious potential.

Not.

One.

Bit.

So I’m gonna need some more time, summer.  More time to lounge lazy in the sun, and putter in my yard, and be sexy at parties.  More time to go hiking.  More time to plunge the depths of cold mountain lakes.  More time to throw a stick endlessly for my dog.  More time for biking, and entertaining, and sunny days laughing with friends.  More time for barbecue, and eating dinner and drinking tea and reading on my patio.

So until I give you permission, summer, you’re not budging.  Suck it up.

iPhone 3Gs – The Aftermath

I’ve had my new 16GB* 3Gs iPhone for a week.  Now that the hype is over, the dust has settled, the protective film and case have been purchased and applied…  Was it worth the $199 bucks to upgrade from my original, 2G version?  Here’s my analysis.

  1. Camera: One of the biggest improvements has been the camera.  The quality of picture is clearly better, which isn’t surprising given the move from 2 megapixels to 3.  Combine that with the autofocus, tap to focus and geotagging of pictures, makes this a winner for me.  Especially since the camera I use for my amateur photography is on the fritz, this is a nice way to fill in the gap – although it would never suffice as my serious I’m-an-amateur camera.
  2. Video: Of course the other big bonus for me is the video recording.  It’s amazing what people will do after you videotape them and then show them the “Send to YouTube” button.  My blackmail potential has increased exponentially!  The video quality is decent (VGA up to 30 fps with audio), plus you can trim the video right on the phone.  For longer video, when you tap and hold a section of the video, the frames will spread out in that area so you can get pretty granular.  Very nice touch.  And of course geotagging of video is seamless, just like the photo geotagging.
  3. Speed: Like I said, I’ve been using the original 2G iPhone this whole time, so the move to the 3G network has been very nice.  With the 2G, browsing over the Edge network could be painfully slow. Not so with the 3G – it rivals the speed of a wifi connection.  I’m not sure whether or not the Safari improvements improved browser speed.  I haven’t seen any noticeable improvements over wifi between the 2G and the 3Gs, but I haven’t used the new phone over wifi networks a lot yet.  I have yet to enable my phone for my home wifi network, and haven’t been bothered by that too much, since 3G is so comparable.
  4. Battery Life: It’s a little difficult to determine if the battery life is improved, as Apple claims.  I kept my 2G pretty constantly plugged in; I had a charger in the bedroom, one in the car, and one at work, in order of frequency of use.  However, the 3Gs does not support the charging feature of the FM transmitter/charger I use in my car, so I haven’t been able to replicate my charging habits with the new iPhone.  Suffice to say, I run out of juice a lot faster, it seems; but I do use my phone nearly every time I drive to play music, and now that is sucking juice that wasn’t getting sucked before, so to speak.  I have noticed that there is FAR less interference with the transmission than before when I don’t enable Airplane mode, as the phone suggests I do when I plug it in.  In fact, the interference was very noticeable and could get quite annoying with the 2G, especially when the phone was checking mail or receiving a call; now, there is virtually none whatsoever.  Very nice.
  5. Voice Control: This feature is one I’m finding I like using more and more.  I just wish I could voice control the current time when I’m wearing my headphones!  It has made mistakes on occasion, but I find that half the time, the problem was me saying the command wrong (“play <artist name>” instead of “play artist <artist name>”).  Other incorrect results are fixed by just talking a touch slower.  I would say it gets it right about 85% of the time or more, however, even when I completely butcher which playlist I’m requesting.  I suppose it helps that I only have a handful of playlists, too.
  6. Assisted GPS: Now this one is the feature that I’ve been dying for.  I used the mapping on my 2G constantly, and have often wished for more accuracy and better updating of my current location to see if I’m on target to reach my destination.  As recently as a few weeks ago in Boston, I ended up walking several blocks in the wrong direction because of the slowness of the updating.  When I got my 3Gs, I swear I watched myself driving to work the first couple of days.  Probably not a smart thing to do while driving on the freeway!  I was probably giggling maniacally as well, but was too giddy to notice.  It’s everything I was hoping for – accurate to within 10-50 feet, and constantly updating.  I love it.

There’s other stuff that came with the new software and hardware; cut and paste, shake to undo, digital compass, a fingerprint-resistant coating, and lots more I’m sure.  But these six are the ones that stand out for me at the moment.

So was it worth it?  I think so.  I don’t think it would have been worth it if I’d had to pay the full price, but since I was due for my upgrade through AT&T, I was approved for the lower price.  At $199, I think the improved camera, video, assisted GPS, and voice control are totally worth it.  Plus, I dropped my expanded text messaging plan, so my monthly bill dropped by 5 dollars.  All in all, I’m quite pleased with my decision.

*I didn’t get the 32GB, since my 2G was 16GB and I barely used 5GB of that after 18 months or so.  I carry about 500-1000 songs, 200-300 pictures, and 3-4 screens of apps; with the addition of video, I will probably see an increase in my average memory usage, but I don’t think that will amount to 10GB worth.

Mental fortitude, or how to pretend bad stuff didn’t happen

A very very bad thing happened to me last night.  A gruesome, bone-chilling thing.

Allow me to set the scene.

One of the things I love about my house is warm nights on my front porch.  Sitting in my low lawn chair with a tasty drink, watching the ebb and flow of the night take hold of my little neighborhood, I can feel the knots in my head and heart loosen, the constrictions ease.

Last night was the first time it was warm enough for me to partake in this little ritual of mine.  I sat on my porch with my trusty little pooch (No, I don’t want to play frisbee.  No, I don’t want to play fetch.  No, I don’t want to play frisbee…etc).  Tasty drink in hand, my own little summer concoction of OJ, Malibu and 7-up (very refreshing!), I settled in to watch the night slowly creep down my street.  Little did I realize, I would soon be coming face to face with something so horrible, so terrible…dare I go on?  Dare I retell this story?

I do.

As usual, I finally gave in to my pup’s insistence that I play with her.  (Really, it’s not hard.  I’m such a pushover for that dog.)  I step off the porch, over to the grass to play with her.  That’s when it happened.

I stepped on something.

Did I not mention I was barefoot?  Yeah, barefoot.  And I stepped on something.  Squishy.  Gooey.  Slimy.

And then…the horrible part happened.  Even now, the thought gives me chills.

Whatever I stepped on, whatever gooey slimy squishy nasty thing it was…moved.

On my bare foot.

Squishy gooey nasty slimy MOVING thing*.  ON MY BARE FOOT.

Of course, my first instinct was what any sensible girl would do:  Start leaping about screaming bloody carnage-drenched murder while frantically sandpapering my foot with gravel and rocks and dirt and …probably actual sandpaper too.  Yeah, it was that bad.  But not me, my friends.  Not me.

Because I have a mental constitution of IRON.  I am IRON BRAINED GIRL.  I keep cool under pressure.  I don’t sweat.  I don’t break down.

All that breaking down, freaking out, crying panicking overreacting girly stuff – I just save it up for later.

(What?  Sheesh I’m only human!)

What I did do, is instead of all that ZOMG THAT IS SO GROSS EWW EWW EWW EWW that my brain starting queueing up, instead of that I said this:

“lalallalalalalalalalala that didn’t just happen that didn’t just happen lalalalalalalalalala i’m just gonna calmly scrape my foot on this here welcome mat that feels like sandpaper LALALALALALALALALAAAAAA”.

And then I went back inside and took a shower.  And finished my drink.  And attempted to completely erase the memory of that gooey slimy squishy MOVING thing on my foot.

I am a rock of mental fortitude.

*Ok you and I both know it was a slug.  In fact, I’ve been finding them lurking by that area since it’s close to the garage, where my cat’s food is.  I’ve even found a couple of them in her food bowl, chowing down.  FYI:  I’ve never been a big fan of slugs, but now….now I hate them just that much more.

I LAUGH in the face of pollen. Ha Ha Ha Hachoo!

There’s an ugly rumour going around that I have allergies.

Pshaw, I say.  Poppycock.  Rubbish!  Slander, even!!

Ok, I used to have allergies.  I used to be terribly allergic to dogs growing up.

And yet…my entire childhood, we always had a dog, and I’m glad we did.  Not just any dog, either, but for the majority of my childhood we had a Great Pyrenees.  Think German Shepherd size, maybe a little bigger.  Think HAIRY.  SUPER SUPER HAIRY.  (Or just check the official AKC page I linked to right there.  That’s what he looked like.)  I just had to learn what I could and could not do; i.e. for the most part I had to avoid getting too up close and personal (think big puppy dog hugs, those were out), as well as small enclosed environment, such as car rides with the windows all rolled up.

However, as I grew older, my allergies become less and less pronounced, until finally, they were mostly an afterthought, especially after I quit smoking.

So a few years back (pre-quitting smoking), I had this allergy test thing done.  I was having some issues with the dog I was living with at the time, so I wanted to rule out other stuff.

The result came back: HIGHLY ALLERGIC to Dogs, Cats and Grass.

Riiiiight.  Whatevs, Mr. Allergy Dude.

Because the whole time I had dog allergies growing up and lived with the dog, I also lived with at least two cats.  And I most certainly came in close proximity to them, often.  (Much to their endless chagrin, I’m sure.)  And I lived across the street from a pretty large park.  And then, we moved to New Hampshire, which is at least 98.3% grass.

And now?  I will occasionally have an evening where I can feel the scratchy throat, but other than that, nothing.  I have my own dog, and live with two others, I have a cat, I mow my lawn.

Take that, allergies!

And seasonal allergies?  I always felt bad for the poor chaps who were afflicted every spring, but not me.  I always welcomed spring with open arms and nasal passages.

Until now.  The past 36 hours or so have been pure misery.

So clearly there must be some fluke, right?  Some strange occurrence that makes this pollen season different, or worse, or …freaky?

Well.  I have a theory, you see.  Check out my post on ourpdx.net for my brilliant conclusion.

Theories aside, however…I’m getting cozy with a little thing called Loratadine, aka Claritin.  Which, I’ve found out since my little outburst on twitter last night, takes a few days to kick in.

I wonder if hot toddies will speed the effectiveness of the drugs?  Well, only one way to find out…

Knives and Fire

Remember my tale of three bamboo?  At the end I mentioned going to Andy and Bax to get a machete in case my bamboo REALLY got outta control.  As in, became sentient and started chasing me and my trusty pooch around the yard.

Well that got me thinkin, see.  About a couple things.

One, is I actually did go to Andy and Bax once and buy a machete.  No clue what happened to it.  I think maybe there were blackberries, and I’m not the kind of girl who can just break out the little pruning shears.  No, I have to go all big time and get a machete, and pretend I’m in the amazon.  I think there may have been some camping usage too.   And of course that one time when that burglar broke in…

Ok, I’m kidding about the camping.

No no, ok I was kidding about the burglar.  But if there had been a burglar, he or she would have been SORRY.  Or at least immensely entertained.

So yes, I have a thing for knives.  And fire.  I like having reasons to use them.  Purely lawful, sane reasons, of course!  Like whacking through underbrush.  Chopping and burning large pieces of wood into smaller ones for various warmth/building/artistic reasons.  (I actually got paid to do that last one once!  Oh, the awesome.  I love movie set work.)  Keeping warm.  Carving a wooden life size kodiak bear.

Ok ok, I was kidding about the bear.  I think.

Really, perhaps now you understand the sheer beauty that is my very own fire pit.  I get to chop up wood.  I get to burn it.  And no one gets hurt.  Mostly.

Which leads me to the story I’d like to regale you with today:

“Knife Safety Class with Morgan, Senior Girl Scout Camp Counselor, Camp Arrowhead, 199…(um)…1995.  Stevenson(ish), Washington.”

I taught a knife safety class to my unit one day, late in the afternoon, before it was time to march back to base camp for dinner.  My unit was camped further than nearly all the other units, since it was one of the oldest.  Our little camp was about a mile hike away from Home Base.  The class went as follows.

First, I demonstrated knife safety with a swiss army knife.  Always hand it to people handle first.  Always pay attention.  Face the blade away from you when collapsing it.  All good, everyone’s paying attention.  A little bit on sharpening blades.

Next, we take a look at the humble camping axe.  Good for chopping small branches and such for firewood.  Use both hands when possible.  Know where you’re aiming for, make sure your hands and feet are out of the way.  Not something the campers would be asked to do, except in emergencies.  Got it?  Good.  Moving on…

Now, being one of the older units, as well as one of the furthest out, we had a wood chopping axe.  Big, long handle, kinda old.  So me and my obsession with large knives is patently unable to resist.  Yes, I’m going to demonstrate to 11-13 year old girls the proper way to chop wood.  Because they need to know this.

I know, I think I mentioned a couple posts ago that I am occasionally a dumbass.  Save it.

So, place the wood on the chopping log.  Up, over the head goes the axe.  Down comes the axe…

On my foot.

Ow.

FUCKING OW.

OM-MF-G FUCKING OUCH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I am proud to say that I did not swear audibly in front of my young, impressionable charges.  The preceding statements were all inside my head.  What can I say, I handle crisis, and pain, pretty well.  But oh lord did that ever hurt.

It was at this point that I noticed my entire unit, as well as my junior counselor, staring at me with wide eyes, and a hush had fallen over the campsite.

So I extract myself from the fetal position I was working towards, and with a big smile say “It’s all good!  I’m ok.  Good boots, you know.”

Luckily, the boots did hold, and I sustained nothing more than a gruesome-looking bruise on the top of my foot.

The moral of this story?

Don’t be a dumbass.  And take your own damn advice.  Knives are DANGEROUS!

Although, I’m still thinking of going to get that machete.  Burglars, you know.

Incidente en el Pescado de la Bahía de Banderas

Hola, mis interwebs amigos.   I have a very sad tale to tell you.  I like to call it the Incidente en el Pescado de la Bahía de Banderas, or The Fish Affair of la Bahía de Banderas.  It also explains my insane love of snorkeling.
 
See, it all started with my love of fishing.   Why do I love fishing, you ask?  Well, you know the feeling you get when you hop in a spaceship and fly to a mysterious planet and, upon landing at said mysterious planet, you find these creatures who are sort of edible and not very sentient really, and you’re hungry, and you pull out your trusty lasso and lasso yourself one up?  And then you combine that feeling, with the feeling of being struck momentarily blind, as if someone slapped a bandana over your eyes, and you had to stick a pin in some picture in just the right spot, and you do, and you take the bandana off and see how awesome your sixth sense is?
Well that’s why I love fishing.  Because it feels like that.  It’s like your blindly delving the depths of a strange world and finding little living treasures.  And then you kill them.  Yay!
 
Now imagine, if you will, that you’ve spent your life delving these strange little worlds, and finding these treasures, but they’ve always been only so big.  There’s no real struggle, no life and death battle between you and the fish; pretty much if you hook it, it’s a goner.  At least, I thought, if it was a bigger fish there would be Glorious Battle, right?  Huh.  Silly me. 
 
I was determined to experience that struggle.  So I go to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, and I charter a fishing boat.  My trusty fishing guide, Miguel, takes us out to the beautiful Bahía de Banderas, or Bay of Flags.  I see dolphins!!!  And a WHALE!  (No really, I did!)  But we are hunting fishable fish, my friends.  Oh yes, the kind you spend 20 minutes reeling in, and then you LAND that sucker, and you take a picture! 
 
I really, really hadn’t thought this out very well.
 
Of course first, we had to find the fish.  That proved to be no problem at all, though.  You just scan the horizon and look for birds flocking.  Drive your boat to that location.  Look in the water.  Fish.  Seriously, the water was BOILING.  With FISH.  It was like some crazy fishy orgy was happening right there at the surface of the water, hundreds and hundreds of huge, silvery bodies all flapping and churning and going just…well…fish orgy, just picture it, right?  We set out lines, and starting trolling around.
 
WHAM!  FISHONFISHONFISHON!!!!
 
I start reeling in for all I’m worth!  Lean forward, reel back.  Lean forward, reel back.  It was a BIG fish.  I remember the first moment I caught a glimpse of it, it was like some beautiful silver treasure was flickering in the water, coming in closer and closer, sparkling in the sunlight, a silver glimmering jewel.  And I had it caught!  I thought about how I’d reel it up, and catch in a net, and hold it up proudly, its silvery skin sparkling no less than my smile.  It was beautiful, how this would end in my head.
Right.  Not so beautiful, actually.  Miguel, my trusty fisherman, snagged his bailing hook when I pulled the fish near the boat, and stabbed my poor defenseless fish IN THE SIDE.  He then commences to haul the poor thing up outta the water, a giant silver creature flailing with this giant hook stabbed into it, and hands it to me so we can take a picture.
  
Yeah, that's about right.  Funny, seems much smaller than I remember.

Yeah, that's about right. Funny, seems much smaller than I remember.

 
Um.  What? 
 
So I stand there, dumbfounded, smiling like an idiot.  Meanwhile, inside my head, I’m in shocked disbelief.  I ended up taking a very small portion of the fish, and giving the rest to Miguel, who assured me it would go to people who needed it.  And the filet that I kept?  Well, I took it to the hotel where I was staying, and they grilled it up for lunch the next day with a lovely pilaf and steamed vegetables.  And I couldn’t eat a single bite of it.  The thought of it made me ill.
 
Once again, like I’ve said so often before…I am a dumbass.  I mean, how did I think this would end?
 
Well then.  During this same trip, I discovered snorkeling.  Which pretty much puts the whole love of fishing dilemma to rest, because now I have the gear to delve those mysterious environs without requiring any pretenses of killing or eating things.  I mean really, I don’t like eating fish all that much anyway.  And I’ve never seen anyone go fishing for eagle rays, or puffers, or jellyfish, or any of the other hundreds of amazing things I saw. 
 
So farewell, fishing gear.  Goodbye, tackle and smelly salmon eggs and wiggly rubber worms and hooks which I have accidentally lodged in myself and others.  All I need now is my snorkel and mask, and I can explore those murky worlds and experience all their wonder face to face.  Now, I just hop in my spaceship and travel to those mysterious planets, and just enjoy the treasures that live there.