Another Quick Core Workout

2 Minutes of Each

plank on elbows

left side plank on elbow

right side plank on elbow

 wall sit

headstand

bridge pose

 

 

 

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Postpartum shape up

It’s hard to believe our little man is over a month old. Seriously, it has flown by. He has grown so much and no longer fits in his newborn clothes! He can hold his head up and even roll from his tummy to his back! He’s spending more time awake and examining the world with his clear blue (gorgeous) eyes. My perspective on life has been rocked and my awareness of my own mortality has intensified like crazy. My desire to be healthy and grow old to watch Leif grow old is so strong. 

After Leif’s birth, I focused those first few weeks on recovering from labor and delivery and learning how to be a mom– around the clock nursing, rocking, diaper changing, love. It was really hard but I vowed to embrace it because it would not last long. I was surprised at how quickly my body changed in those first couple of weeks. In less than two weeks, I was 22 pounds lighter from my last days of pregnancy. Most of that, of course was fluid, baby, and other stuff that left my body during delivery (hello big ol placenta!). Nursing quickly shrunk my uterus back to normal and within 2 weeks I was back in my skinny jeans (although they were a little snug ground the waist at first).

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Postpartum Day 1, 3, and 7

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2 weeks postpartum

By the first of April I was ready to turn my walking into running and return to my workout class. The first run was 3 miles, pushing the stroller. The next was 4. I was elated to do pull-ups without all the extra weight of being 9 months pregnant. I practically flew over the bar on the first one (and then after pumping out several sets had to sit down because I was dizzy). I’m still healing a little and get sore in my baby pushing areas sometimes but feel great for the most part. I love working out hard again!!!

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1 month, 2 days postpartum

Here are some of my goals for this spring and summer:

-Long Run  10 miles by May 15

-Long Run 13 miles by beginning on June

-Stroller fitness class at least 1 time per week

-Run 5 days per week

-Rainier to Ruston Relay June 1

-Wild Woman Marathon July 20

-1 more trail race in May or June and August

-Defiance 50k in October (not technically spring or summer)

-drop 5 more pounds by June

Lots of work ahead! That last one is the least important but I’d love to be at my ideal running weight for the summer and fall!

What are you guys doing this spring and summer to stay motivated and healthy?

To Delhi and Agra

Our journey from Varanasi to Delhi, we were told, would take 11 hours.  Incorrect—it took about 16.  Thankfully, we had beds to rest on.  Unfortunately, we were sharing an area with a group of men who all had their various types of media playing sans headphones—cricket match, various types of music, loud heated discussions about I’m not sure what.

Anyway, we arrived at 1 AM at the Delhi station and were bombarded with taxi drivers. I used to try to be polite to them but they get in your face and its quite overwhelming and a little scary.  So, now we just tell them to bugger off and we go search out someone whose not being so pushy.  We managed to get a ride for less than half the price the first guys told us.  Ha.

 

When we got to our hotel, they were closed up for the night so we had to take lodging at a place next door which was twice the price but it was a place to sleep.  In the morning, I took an auto-rickshaw to India Gate and went running—it’d been a while. When I run here, I cover up.  I feel so silly and slow in my baggy pants and lose cotton t-shirt but I already get enough attention in these parts and I don’t dare to rock the running shorts and tight top.

The rest of the day, we explored Delhi on foot, which was an adventure.  We had another experience like in Varanasi where I thought I was going to faint/vomit/hit someone in the face…eventually, we made it through the crowds to Red Fort.

The next day I ran again, this time finding a park—“Central Park”—near the hotel and running loops around it watching the overweight middle age men do yoga, play cricket, and soccer.  Later that day, on our way to find the place where Gandhi was cremated, we also found the Gandhi Museum.

That night (last night) we went to bed pretty early.  Around 12:30, I woke up to the sound of a TV blaring.  I was sweaty and nauseous.  I got up, turned the fan on and opened our door to see where the noise was coming from.  A few rooms down, the door was wide open and the TV was on full blast. In the middle of the night.  Ugh. I don’t get it.  It reminds me of drunk people—super inconsiderate/unaware of the people around.  It’s frustrating.  I thought about walking down the hall to ask them to shut the door but didn’t know how it would be taken so I just went back to bed.

The rest of the night, I tossed and turned with a sour stomach.  We got up at 5 to go to the airport and I was in poor form.  My stomach was so swollen and I was nauseous and achy but I couldn’t vomit.  We managed to get the train station and then Josh went and found me some tea.  It helped a little but when we boarded the train we soon discovered that our seats were in the not so awesome part of the train—2nd class means overcrowded benches with people standing the in the aisle.  The man sharing our bench had his legs spread wide the entire time, crunching Josh and I in the corner.  About 2 hours into the trip, I started to cry.  Josh and I managed to rearrange ourselves so I was a bit more comfortable but the pain in my body was horrible.

We made it to Agra, and stumbled out of the train, pushing our way through the people who weren’t about to move aside so we could get off.  Walking out, two men started arguing in front of me.  One of them was waving a key in the air and it nearly hit me in the face.  Then they tried to get us to hire them to taxi us to our hotel.  Ha.  Josh said, “You almost stabbed my wife in the face! We’ll figure out a ride, thanks.”

And we did.  We got a ride, checked into our hotel and I took a nap.  We spent the afternoon checking out Agra Fort and the Taj Majal.  Somewhere in there, we got roped into a cycle-rickshaw ride with an old man that was like half my size.  He then proceeded to take us to a bunch of shops where he gets commission.  Finally, I begged him to take us back because I was feeling really ill.  It felt pretty awkward to having this 63-year-old man struggling to pull us.  At one point, Josh to the wheel and pulled the three of us up a hill.

Tonight its resting and hopefully this crap in my body decides to leave while I’m sleeping so our train journey to Jaipur isn’t so miserable. No curry for this girl.

Gored by a bull, groped by multiple men, and covered in the smoke of cremation

Josh and I just left Varanasi.  Varanasi is particularly interesting because of its spiritual significance to Hindus.  Many pilgrims flock to Varanasi each year to take a dip in the holy waters (which also happen to be septic) of the Ganges River, which is believed to cleanse one of their sins.  To die in Varanasi is considered to be eternally lucky—in doing do, Hindus believe it is possible to escape the cycle of re-birth.

As luck would have it, our visit coincided with a celebration which brought thousands upon thousands of Hindus to the city.  This made the Varanasi experience even more lively (read: crazy).

We arrived by train in the evening and went directly to the tourist center at the train station.  We had heard that the station could be a bit seedy so we didn’t want to take any chances—we’d arranged for an auto-rickshaw to meet us and take us directly to our hotel.  When we arrived the tourist center, there was no sign of our ride so the kind man working there called our guesthouse.  They told us to wait five minutes and someone would come fetch us.  As we sat waiting, a middle-aged European man came into the tourist office and said, “We’ve got a big problem…a young boy took my wives bag and it had our passports and train tickets inside.”

Without a word, the tourist help stood up from his chair, walked out of the office and informed the police.  The police sprung into action.  They began blowing their whistles and nudging people with their sticks—forcing all the travelers lounging on the floor to get up and move out of the station.  I’m not completely sure what the rational was behind this strategy and I felt fairly confident that the little boy with the bag would never be found in the all the chaos, but it was nice to see them try.

I gripped my bag a little tighter as we waited for our rickshaw.  When he arrived, he lead us out of the station to the rickshaw parking area.  We set off through the hectic traffic towards our hotel.  Our driver was very friendly to us but was obviously a rickshaw bully as he shouted and aggressively drove his auto-rickshaw at the cycle rickshaws the entire time—slamming on his brakes just centimeters from the cycle- rickshaws.  In the rickshaw world, auto beats cycle every time.

After about 30 minutes of this, we parked the rickshaw along a dark narrow street.  I looked around for signs of our hotel.  Nothing.  He told us it was a 10 minute walk and he’d guide us there.  We set off down winding narrow allies.  Sari shops, chai sellers, cows, dogs, snake charmers, motorcycles, bicycles all danced around us.  The entire time I was thinking, “This man could be leading us into a trap…what are we going to do if we are suddenly surround by men or he pulls out a weapon and demands our bags…”  At one of the million junctions, we stopped and he pulled out a flashlight.  He turned  to go down a particularly dark ally.  I froze.  He said, “It’ this way.”  I turned to Josh who was behind me and he nudged me on…  “It’s REALLY dark down there.”  Josh re-assured me and we followed the man into the darkness.  “Watch our for cow shit.” He said in a heavy Indian accent.  My eyes continually scanned the uneven stone pathway, while looking hard into every nook and cranny of the ally, preparing for battle if need be.

Fortunately, there was no battle and we arrived safely at our hotel.  We checked in and went to the rooftop restaurant for dinner.  The food was crap.  The service was crap.  But I was pretty happy to have not been mugged, raped, or killed so I guess it wasn’t so bad.

The following morning we woke up early to take a boat on the Ganges for sunrise.  Our boat journey began just below our hotel next to the gnat where people are cremated. A gnat is set  of stairs leading into the water.  Varanasi has many of them lining the Ganges for the faithful to come cleanse their sins (and if they’re lucky catch a fatal disease in the toxic water so they can die in Varanasi and escape reincarnation).  We boarded the boat and we floated past the cremation fires.  The fires burn 24/7, with bodies being brought down almost constantly.  The bodies are carried by a cast of “untouchables” on wooden stretches and covered in shiny metallic paper, flowers, and lots of colors.  They are plunge into the Ganges and then brought to a fire where they are covered in wood.  The burning takes about 3 hours in total.

Not everyone is cremated. If you are a child under 10 (I think that’s the age), a pregnant woman, a lepar, you died by cobra bite, or you are celibate your body is instead tied to rocks and sunk in the Ganges. These 5 categories of people are considered to be without sin—children’s sin belongs to their parents, a pregnant woman carries a sinless fetus, leprosy is the mark of God, a cobra represents Shiva (I think), and celibates are sexually pure.  I could be a little off on some the details….

Sometimes, the bodies that are sunk come back up.  If the body surfaces on the side of the inhabited side of the river, it is sunk once more.  If it comes to shore on the opposite side of the river, which is barren, it is left to the eagles and other creatures.  As we floated along, we spotted an adult male body floating face down in the river.  Apparently this is really common.

We traveled down the gnats at a slow pace and then our boat man explained that the “free ride” was over and we could either continue and pay or go back.  We’d seen enough and asked him to take us to land so we could walk back.  We meandered back along the gnats, watching as people plunged their bodies into the holy/dirty water, believing it would make them clean—more spiritually than physically.

When we returned to the hotel, we had breakfast and then I had my first yoga session.  I wrote about it at cafemj.  Head over when you’re done reading this and check it out.  It was a lovely experience.

The rest of that first day was spent exploring the crazy streets, trying new foods, and meeting new people.  The next morning we slept in a bit more and then I had my second yoga session.  We then headed out into the CRAZY MANIC streets.  It was the last day of the festival and the most important day yet.  When we finally made it out of the narrow allies/streets to the main road, we had to shuffle walk as it was so crowded.  People pushed and grabbed at us as we walked.  I shrugged a mans hands off my back numerous times before finally turning around and asking him politely to not touch me.  It was insanity.  We finally dove out of the street into a little restaurant and had a bite to eat.

That night, we were supposed to go out on a boat again to watch the festival.  When we went downstairs to meet, we found out they’d already left.  We rushed through the crazy streets, dodging cows and their poo, to try to get to the water before the boat left.  A bull got pissy with me and to my horror (and everyone around) attempted to gore me.  What he didn’t know was that I have the spirit of a lioness and I was able to dodge his horns and escape.

Unfortunately, we missed our hotels boat and were not keen to pay the high price for the special occasion.  We decided to go sit at the main gnat and just watch the festivities from there. As we sat there, a man came by to give us the mark of purity (red mark between the eyes), of course purity comes at a price, he then asked us for money.  This greatly amused everyone around us and the guy sitting next to us asked his friend to take a picture of him sitting by us.  He didn’t actually ask us for a picture, he just set it up so we’d all be in it.  We pretended like we didn’t know what was going on and we looked off stoically.  It struck me as funny because we were busy taking photos of all the Indians and they were busy taking photos of us.

After a while of watching the lotus candles being sent in to the river we decided to try to escape and find dinner.  Things went remarkably wrong from this point out.  We got tangled up in the crowded ally.  It was hot.  It was loud.  People were begging, men peeing on the street, honking, groping (I got grabbed in the breasts on multiple occasions), offers for weed and opium…My head started spinning.  I started sweating and finding it difficult to catch my breath.  When we’d walk by a pile of crap or a heap of trash, I’d dry heave.  We had to sit down at on point because I was near fainting or vomiting or both. A few minutes later, I pulled it together and we made our way towards the hotel.  At one point, I actually considered the idea that I might be dead and in hell.  I know, pretty dramatic but I was losing my mind.  Really, losing my mind like never before (hard to believe, I know).

We finally made it back to the hotel and I laid on the bed, gasping for air and crying for a few minutes.  Damn you, Varanasi, you almost got me.

We relaxed on the roof top and watched fireworks as we waited for centuries for our crappy food.  I couldn’t bare going back out to try to find dinner so we were relegated to eating at the hotel.

When we left the next morning, we caught a rickshaw to the train station.  Along the way, we saw a family of four on a bike.  The dad was pedaling, a small school-aged child on the front cross bar, and the mom and the back rack, holding a toddler who was breast feeding.  To avoid traffic, our rickshaw driver took us off-roading through the potholed dusty path, sending us bouncing and grasping for something to shield our noses and eyes from the dust.  We arrived in one piece at the train station and he tried to get an extra 20 rupees out of us for a “parking fee”.  It’s not even 50 cents but he’d already short changed us on our agreed price and it was so typical of him to spring an extra charge on us.  We laughed and said, “You don’t need to park, just drop us here…”  We jumped out, grabbed out bags and disappeared into the crowds (we had already paid for the ride).

We’re now doing the Delhi thing…

Darling Darjeeling

We left Calcutta and trained it overnight to the not so awesome town of New Jalipur.  The train ride wasn’t so bad—we had our own beds with clean sheets  and a curtain to close for privacy.  We were in AC class which for most Indians is pretty VIP.  I assume we were riding with middle to upper classers, many of whom were very proud and loud on their cell phones at all hours of the night.  This has been one of the more frustrating themes on our journey’s—it seems that is it culturally appropriate to be loud and get in other people’s space.

A few beds down from us was a group of foreigners and before we asked them if they would like to share a jeep up to Darjeeling with us.  They were more than happy to, so once we arrived at the station, we hired a jeep that drove us the 3 hours up into the mountains.  Its only 80 k’s from New Jalipur to Darjeeling but the road is steep, winding, and full of potholes.  We were happy to be sharing a “private” jeep as the shared jeeps transported 10-12 people as opposed the comfortable 5 in ours.

Upon arriving in Darjeeling, we set off to find accommodation.  It’s high season now any many of the hotels were full/too expensive.  Eventually, we found a hotel and bargained a little on the price.

For the next few days we explored Darjeeling and the surrounding area on foot. Pretty much everywhere we went was a hike (just my cup of tea) as we were in the foothills of the Himalayas.  We visited a project for local women to sell their goods (among other things such as education, health care, child care, etc), the Tibetan Refugee Home (also selling handmade goods), monkied around with some red masked monkies, ran on the challenging high altitude hills (well, I did while Josh slept in), ate super cheap and delicious food, shopped in the market, taxied out to Tiger Hill for “the world’s most beautiful sunrise” over Mt. Everest (turned out to be the world’s most anti-climatic sunrise due to the clouds), and met some of the world’s most genuinely kind and hospital people.

Lets discuss the people.  Nearly everyone we met in Darjeeling (with the exception of the taxi drivers who are pretty much dodgy everywhere) was so ridiculously kind to us.  For starters, if they didn’t have the exact change, they always gave us the extra—which we usually wouldn’t except.  When purchasing food or chai on the street, the vendors smiled.  Our hotel was always quick to bring us hot water and cups for us to make tea in our room (this might not seem that luxurious but trust me, we haven’t had much luck with getting boiling water to make drinks or oats in our rooms).

The day before we were to check out, we got in a little jam.  We went to draw cash from an ATM and we were told we had “insufficient funds”!  I knew this couldn’t be the case as I had recently checked our account and knew we had plenty to cover the costs.  My only guess was that Bank of America put a hold on our card due our traveling (even though we had told them).  The other cards we are carrying require us to go into a bank branch but it was Saturday night and all the banks would be closed until Wednesday because it’s a holiday here.  I was frantic.  I spent the rest of the evening skyping with Bank of America who really and truly pissed me off.  Really.  I mean. REALLY pissed me off.  I’ll spare you all the details but soon as we get home, we are canceling all of our B of A accounts.  When they ask us why, we’ll tell them, “We just aren’t comfortable loaning you our money” which is pretty much what they said to us.  Hump.  I’m still a bit tiffed with them if you haven’t noticed.

I called me mom and she started working on it from her end, but by that time, it was lights out in Darjeeling and no more internet access.  I didn’t sleep a ton that night worrying about how we would get cash.  I got up early and went to reception to explain our dilemma and ask for ideas.  While I was waiting, this skinny man in a purple turban asked me if he could help.  I explained the situation and then discovered he didn’t work for the hotel but rather was in charge of a tourist group staying at the hotel.

I think we could feel the stress oozing out of me and he offered me some chai and said, “These things always have a way of working themselves out.”  We continued to talk for a few more minutes, me taking some peace in his confidence, wisdom, humor, and kindness.  After a while, the manager came out and the three of us discussed the problem. The manager said he would have to talk to “the boss” and see what we could do.  He would be there in a few hours.

I was near nears.  The man in the purple turban said, “How much do you owe.”  I told him it was around 2500 rupees for the three nights stay and a meal we had eaten there.  He said, “Aw, don’t worry.  The Universe always gives us what we need.  We’ll find a way and if we don’t, someone will bail you out.”  I smiled and said, “I’m going running.”

As  I ran through the small mountain villages I thought about what he has said, “The Universe always gives us what we need…”  I knew everything would be fine, he was rights, things did always work themselves out, whether it is the universe or God who created the universe, who is doing the working out, in the end it would be okay.

Running at 8,000 feet when your heart and lungs are sea level dwellers can be tough, the 16 kilometer run (8 of it up hill) felt more like 30 and when I pulled back into town I was beat but my heart and mind were much more at ease and I was thinking clearer.  Then I saw a sign outside a shop for booking train and air tickets.  I thought, “Maybe they can book our train tickets via credit card for us…” and I popped in.  The man in the shop was very friendly and when I asked if he took cards, he misunderstood and told me yes…

He was so helpful in finding us tickets even though almost all the trains were completely booked.  When it was time to pay I handed him my Capital One card.  “Oh, we only take cash…”  ugh.  However, we were in luck because a guy down the ally would take credit card and then give me the cash…at a high price.  We had no other options though so I followed the man to his friends shop and made the slightly dodgy banking manuveour  and left with enough cash to pay for the hotel, our train tickets, and have some left over to get us through for a few days until we could figure out our banking situation.

As I finished booking our tickets, the man’s father was busy blessing the shop with incense, bells, and Hindu prayers.  When the transaction was complete, I went an paid the hotel, we gathered up our bags and headed back down the mountain to a town called Silgari.

Silgari was loud, dirty, hectic, and pretty much a headache but it was much warmer than Darjeeling so we were find to spend the night there and catch our train the following day.  Our hotel was pretty dirty and drab but I’ve gotten in the habit of saying, “it’s only for a night…”  We fell asleep around 7 and it was good thing because around  2 AM dogs started barking and howling outside our window and continued until about 5 AM.  I eventually got out of bed and went for a “run” if you can even call it that.  I was dry heaving nearly the whole time.  The air was so dirty I felt like I was sucking in poison with each breath.

When I returned, with a bunch of bananas, Josh and I sat in our rooms, trying to touch anything while we ate our breakfast.  I tossed a banana peel into the garbage, it hit the edge and the bin wiggled a bit.  And wouldn’t you know, a HUGE spider came scampering out from behind. I screeched and jumped back.  “OH. MY. GOSH!  IT”S HUUUUUUGGGE!” I yelped.  It was so big and so hairy I thought I would faint.  To think I slept in the same room with that creature!  Josh said, “Kill it with my shoe!”  I grabbed the shoe but I was too scared to give it a good wack.  I felt like I was killing a mammal and not only did a feel guilty but I thought for sure it would splatter all over me.

After making a few jabs at it, Josh said, “Come on, give me the shoe…” and he went about trying to kill it.  The monster was quick though and he kept escaping the blows by diving into corners.  He was running all around the room and I was screaming the entire time.  He then scampered under the bed and Josh and I worked as a team—me holding the flashlight while he hunted it with his big man shoe.  After several minutes and much strategizing, we were able to defeat him.  RIP big ass spider.

Okay, I realized this is super long but I have one more tidbit to tell you about.  Later that day, we boarded our train headed for a town called Patna (just a stop over on our way to Varanarsi).  We decided to try out “sleeper class” which is a step below AC class.  The first thing I said when I saw it was, “It’s only for a night.”  It was dirty. We were on the bottom tier of a three tier system which meant that our “beds”/benches were to be used as seating by the middle and top bunkers until bed time.  This was super awkward as we didn’t really know who our bunk mates were or how to ask them to get the hell off our beds when we wanted to go to sleep.  I’m sure they were amused when I got out a wet wipe and started scrubbing the bench before bedtime.

Eventually, a military guy with a huge gun came and told the others to get in their beds so we could go to sleep.  This didn’t mean they had to be quiet…  I wrapped myself in the blanket I had purchased in Kolcutta for situations such as this, and tried to forget I was in such a dirty place.  I dozed off and later awoken by one of those dudes with the big guns.  They were worried about the security of our bags and made us rearrange everything so all of our bags were under our heads.  When it was to their satisfaction, they left and we went back to sleep.  We arrived in Patna early in the morning and soon discovered it was indeed the worst place we have ever been.  You know when you can see a row of men taking a crap on the railways as you pull in that its going to be a dirty place…and it was.  It was so dirty, so poor, so crazy and hectic, so loud, so mind blowing that I couldn’t think straight.

We searched the town for a clean place to sit, a toilet that didn’t involve stepping over piles of crap…we watched the ground as we walked to avoid stepping in cow poo, dog poo, people poo, goat poo…really, any kind of poo you can think of.  Flies swarmed everything, covering people sleeping on the street.

Josh, realizing that I was about to lose it…to go mad, to faint, to scream…opened our guide book and found a vegetarian restaurant (they abound in India) that was said to have good food and friendly staff.  We made it there, I flopped on the bench seat and took a few breaths.  We ordered some breakfast and coffee because they wouldn’t give me tea sans milk.  Afterwards, we took great pleasure in using their toilet which was western style and compared to the others bathrooms we’d been in, amazingly clean.  They even had hand soap from a pump bottle (as opposed to none at all or a bar).  It was heavenly.  I will never take a clean, safe, quiet bed or a clean toilet and sink for granted. Ever.

 

 

 

Calcutta–a sensory explosion

To see Calcutta, you must not only look with your eyes but also smell, taste, hear, and touch.  We new Calcutta would be something special from the moment we qued up at the airport in Bangkok.  Watching the interactions between the other passengers, many of them Indians, was like watching a National Geographics program on Indian culture.

The pushiness, the insistence on having a fair spot in line, the gratitude when you allowed someone to step in front of you…the bright colors of the saris, and the proper-dull colored suits of business men with mustaches.

 

While we sat waiting, a Western man asked us if it was our first time to India. We went on to tell us that him and his family, all from Canada, had been living in Calcutta for the past 12 years doing charity work.  They proceeded to ask us our plans and give us a list of contacts to help us on our journey.  It was our first introduction to the incredible community that forms among the transient and not-so-transient foreigners, most of whom are in Calcutta as volunteers, as they learn to live in this crazy new place.

After landing in Calcutta, we struck up a conversation with the new western men in he seats in front of us.  One, was 32 Israeli who declared himself a bum. The other, was a British man who had been teaching in Korea for the past 3 years and who was in Calcutta to help his Indian father sell his grandmother’s estate.  We decided to share a taxi with them into the city—which was a wonderful thing because Indian taxi drivers, like most taxi drivers, are a little dodgy at times and will often try to cheat you out of your money.

 

When we arrived at the “backpackers” area of town, the Israeli took us with him to the hotel he usually stays at.  I checked the room…and I almost cried.  It felt like a dirty prison cell with stained sheets, no windows, and two rickety looking single beds.  The next hotel was only slightly better but it looked clean and they assured me they didn’t have cockroaches or bedbugs.  I looked at Josh, I took a deep breath, and said, “We’ll take it.”

 

After we checked in, we grabbed lunch with the Israeli and he gave us a walking tour of the area.  It is noisy, smelly, dirty, vibrant, lively, tasty, friendly, poor…  It is fear of being robbed but trust in the kindness of the people.  It is honking cars, brightly colored saris, dogs sleeping on piles of trash, chai tea, sweet lime, dancing in the street, Hindu gods and Muslim garb.  It is meat hanging out to dry, begging children and women, honking taxis and moto-rickshaws accompanied by man-rickshaws and bicycle rickshaws.  It’s old ladies sleeping on the sidewalk, children playing cricket in the street, dusty-polluted air turning your boogers black.  It is chaos.  It is beautiful.  It’s so many things I don’t know that I could ever find the words to name them all.

That night, I rested in the room while Josh hung out with the Israeli and got info from others about spending a morning working at the Mother Theresa House. We rose early the next morning and followed a girl, Miranda from Texas, to the house.  We ate breakfast and met volunteers from all over the world, of all different ages who had come to Calcutta to care for others.  After breakfast we prayed and sang and then everyone spread out through the city to different homes.  Josh and I were assigned to go to a house of the elderly.  We followed the other volunteers to the bus and then made our way to the home.  Upon arriving, the men and women separated.  The women started by washing laundry.  It was an assembly line of plunging, scrubbing,  ringing, and maneuvering around women waiting to have their wounds dressed in order to carry the heavy buckets of wet clothes to the roof to be hung by the more able-bodied women in the home.

When the laundry was finished, we went inside to spend time with the women.  Most of them spoke little English and all of them were a bit on the crazy side, but they loved that we were there.  For the next hour, I massaged lotion on womens’ legs, arms, and backs, painted finger nails and toenails, and smiled as the women spoke to me in Bengali and kissed my face.

Soon it was tea break and we met outside with the male volunteers.  They had been scrubbing floors most of the morning.  Tea was great—we talked to a guy from Idaho and his visiting mother, sharing stories about travels and projects.  We were so engrossed in conversation, we nearly forgot to go back to work.  When I did go back to work, it was more nail painting and lotion spreading until lunch.  Some of the women need to be fed.  I was given a plate of rice and curry and told to help one of the aunties eat.  So I did.  Each bite was a struggle for her an I was so afraid to burn her or choke her that I was going quite slow.  Another woman kept saying to me, “Auntie, too slow!”  I sped up a bit.

As I was feeding her, I looked around the room full of sick women who had been picked up off the street, having been left there to die.  I witnessed a two of the oldest ladies I have ever seen in my life laughing as they had a tickle fight on the floor and then proceeded to snuggle.  I listened as a few of the feistier women argued and instructed—One even raising her hand to hit another before she regained control.  I thought of all the times I’d thought about the Mother Theresa House.  I thought of how I dreamt of going but never really thought I would.  There I was, in a room full of old sick women, nearing the end of their lives—helping them to maintain some of their comfort and dignity by cleaning their clothes, massaging and moisturizing their skin, painting their nails and feeding them lunch.  I also looked around at the other women volunteering.  They represented Spain, Argentina, China, Korea, U.S., Canada, Ireland, and Germany.  There was no pettiness or judgment between us.  We were there as women, serving other women

Thailand to India

It feels like ages since I wrote last.  The last week or so has been a bit on the wild side to say the least.  I think I left off with our lovely jungle trek in northern Thailand and our cooking class…

 

The next day, we flew to Phuket.  Upon landing, we grabbed a taxi to a bus stop and rode for a couple of hours to a town called Krabi.  Allie and I scouted out a sweet hotel and we checked out the town.  We began at the night market for dinner.  There weren’t a lot of veggie options and I was feeling a bit flustered but I eventually found a stall I could modify (leave out the whole crab that got mushed into the salad).  A lady boy (boy that acts/sort of looks like a woman) interpreted for me and I walked away with a noodle and veggie salad.

 

My salad turned out to be freakin’ hot.  I had agreed to the chili pepper they hand thrown in but HOLY MOLY, this was the hottest food I’d ever put in my mouth.  I decided to scarf it, thinking I’d beat the hotness.  No such luck.  A few minutes later I was panic mode.  My face, mouth, and throat felt like they were on fire and I was sweating profusely.  Some near by eaters saw what was going on and rushed over with some oranges. Josh bolted to by a bottle of water.  Finally I got it under control but I was still really uncomfortable.  We decided to go on the search or rice or bread or something to cool me off.

 

The following morning, we got on a longtail boat to a beach called Railay.  We checked into a hotel and began to explore the area. We were a little disappointed to find that everything was pricier and also a little dismayed about how rude many of the people were.  It was an interesting mix of semi-chillled/semi-cocky rock climbers, beachers, and locals who seemed sort of pissed off by the tourists.

 

That afternoon, as we were hopping across the rocks to another beach, we bumped into a guy we’d met in Chiang Mai.  His name is Weston and he’s from Kansas but had spent the last 2 years teaching on Jeju Island in Korea.  That night, the four of us had dinner on Tonsai beach (where Weston was staying).  After dinner, we realized we’d been trapped by high tide.  Hopping the rocks back was not an option.  We’d either have to trek through the jungle or climb the steep rocky route (also through the jungle) along the water—in the dark.  We opted for the shorter but slightly more scary route—less cobras???  Allie and I were both in dresses and carry handbags.  Weston had a bike light and a head lamp.  We clawed our way over to our beach—I was on the verge of peeing myself from fear of snakes.

 

We made it safely to our bungalow and then we headed out for “singles” party that was offering free drinks.  Now, Josh and I obviously are not single but they gave us free drinks anyway!  We then went to the bar next door that was giving free drinks to ladies!  Two free drinks!  When we were out of free drinks, we bought some rum and juice and had a little party on the beach.  We picked up an Israeli girl who was all by her lonesome looking for friends.  She was so hilarious.  She’d been an officer in the Israeli army for 3 years.  She basically taught soldiers how to defend themselves in combat—she was my size.  We asked for some demos and made Weston be her model.  We then went on to discuss the Israeli military, Massad, foreign relations, and our dreams for the future.

It began to rain and we all booked it—quickly said goodbye to our new friend and then got lost trying to find our bungalow in the forest. Allie and I were the only ones who had been there—as we only paid for a double and were planning to sneak Josh in. We’d been roaming for a while, getting soaked, when I saw a bush I recognized.  I hollered, “OVER HERE!” and dove trough the bushes. We had insisted that Weston come crash on our floor as opposed to climbing back over the rocky jungle route by himself, slightly intoxicated in the middle of the night.  Allie and I took to the mosquito net covered bed while the boys konked out of the wooden floor.

The next morning, the boys headed back over to Tonsai.  Allie and I were to follow with our bags, as we had decided to move locations—Tonsai was much more laid back, friendlier, and cheaper.  We were meant to take the back route through the jungle but I insisted on checking the tide first—no use climbing the mountain if we could just hop the rocks.

The tide was high so I suggested we climb the steap rocky jungle path.  Unfortunately, we missed the path and I led us through some seriously thick bush on a seriously steep hill.  After about 10 minutes, I said, “Allie, we need to get back down…”  We got back to the beach, and decided we needed some hydration before making our next move…

After a mango smoothie and some water, we decided the jungle trek was our best option.  We finally made it, checked in to a bungalow and had lunch.  Allie and I napped on the beach that afternoon while the boys did active boy stuff.  That evening, we rented kayaks and paddled out into the bay to watch the sunset.  It was ridiculously gorgeous.

The next day, Weston left us and we moved bungalows yet again.  We progressively got more basic…Josh and I shared a bungalow with a “bathroom”—an open area with a yucky toilet and a hose to spray off with freezing water.   We had so many holes in out bamboo floor and I was sure a creature—giant lizard or snake—would creep in.  We didn’t have any lizards or snakes bunk with us but we had several cockroackes—one of them ginormous—get a little too cuddley.    It was a rough night.

The next morning, we left on a boat headed for Ko Phi Phi.  We were ready to say goodbye to Tonsai/Railay.  They were beautiful but sadly, the area doesn’t have systems in place to host so many people.  Trash was abundant and many of the locals were really rude to us (Tonsai people were really friendly—Railay, not so much).

Ko Phi Phi is an island a few hours boat ride away.  It was an overwhelming stay to say the least.  It’s really busy and really touristy.  We thought the people in Railay were rude but the people in Ko Phi Phi were even more unfriendly, with the exception of a few super nice locals.  We settled for a mediocre room with much too high of a price.  We spent the next 24 hours, milling around the island, browsing the market stalls, and eating.  We bumped into Weston again as he was preparing to leave the island!

The following afternoon, we got on a boat to Phuket, found some cheap and delicious veg food and the got a ride to the airport.  When we tried to check in, we found out that our booking had never been finalized.  Ugh—Air Asia is sort of a pain in the ass to book with—I’ll spare you the details but each flight I booked with them was like a 10 step process that took up a few hours of the day.  Apparently, I had never gone back and completed step 10.  We didn’t have tickets.

 

After some seriously panic, I was able to purchase tickets on a flight 30 minutes after ours.  Unfortuntatly it was delayed and we didn’t arrive in Bangkok until almost 1 AM.  We didn’t have a hotel and everything was hectic because of the flooding.  Our options were to sleep at the airport (but Allie’s flight wasn’t until 5 PM the next day) or dish out a significant amount of money for a hotel for the night.  We chose the latter and finally crashed in our hotel at about 1:30 AM.  Josh and I were up at 6 getting ready for our flight to Calcutta.

I’m not having great luck with internet so I will try to load some pictures later.  We’re in Darjeeling in NE India already and I have so much to say about our time in India so far!  I’ll try to get you up to date!

 

Purdy in the Jungle

We just got back from 3 days trekking through the jungle. It was glorious. Our guide picked us up from our guesthouse on Saturday morning and greeted us all my name.  We went and collected a group of Brits and then headed out of town.  On the way, we stopped at a market to get supplies for the trek.   Our guide was sure to get everyone’s eating preferences—vegans, vegetarians, allergens, etc.  He then set off and came back with loads of veggies, tofu, curry pastes, spices, fruits, and bread.  I drooled as I watched the goodness loaded into the truck.

We the drove further away from civilization to an elephant camp.  Essentially, it’s a camp in the jungle that’s used for feeding, training, and caring for elephants.  Thailand has a bit of an elephant problem—there are LOTS of them.  They used to be used as truck like machines in the jungle but now they are not needed to this type of work and can cause a bit of mischief—raiding villages and killing villagers in the process.  In response, the villagers kill the elephant.  Poaching for tusks also poses a threat.  One way they try to fix this is by creating spaces for elephants to be protected, fed, and yes, rode.  It was reassuring to see other elephants freely roaming the jungle while they weren’t being used. It was incredible:

Just ridin' an elephant with Josh and Allie

"yo, give me another one of those bananas. Now."

"I'm not playing with you... I want one this instant."

bath time

so refreshing

We both love bananas but they win hands down when it comes to banana consumption.

After a stroll around the jungle on the elephants, we set off on our trek.  Most of our group was made of these really sweet, but really girly British girls.  I don’t know that any of them had been hiking or camping before and within the first 30 minutes a few of them were struggling to keep up.  “Uh-oh, we thought…this is going to be a LONG few days…” It’s a good thing the girls were so sweet…otherwise we may have left them.

Not long into the hike, we were descending a steep muddy hill and the guy in front of me slipped.  His bamboo walking stick shot out behind him and sliced a 6 inch strip of skin off my leg.  When he realized what had happened, he felt sooooo bad.  Of course, I felt bad because he felt bad.  Adrenaline was pumping through my body like crazy and I was trembling a bit.  I looked at Allie behind me and I said to myself, “Don’t cry, don’t cry, don’t cry…”  My biggest concern was infection being in the jungle and all.  The guy gave me a pack of cleaning wipes and we stopped the blood.  Puza, our guide, busted out some type of cut chemical and applied to to my leg.  We walked to the bottom of the hill and bandaged it up to keep the flies off.

"Oh my Buddha" as our guides liked to say.

 

Thank heavens for duct tape. I covered by bandaides with it to keep them in place despite the sweat, bug spray, and river crossings

 

Thankfully, I had just been to the pharmacy to get some anti-biotic cream for some open bug bites on my ankles (oops…I itched them like mad) so I’ve been cleaning it often and applying the cream to ward off any infections.

After a few hours of climbing, we reached the village we were to stay at for the evening.  The girls immedietly showered and put makeup on.  Lol.  I didn’t know what to do…I was actually dumbfounded as to why they spent the time to do this—we were in the jungle, it was getting dark, and we were sleeping on mats on a bamboo floor.  It was so odd.

7-11 along the trail

village

village

 

I LOVE these guys!

 

 

 

For the next few hours, Mr. Good led us in ridiculous American songs on his guitar, we told jokes, ate an INCREDIBLE dinner—pumpkin curry?  Seconds, please!!!  Before bed, Puza told us this “scary” story to keep us from going to the bathroom alone at night.  It was obviously not a real story (it involved a white witch and hanging), but the drunk guy in our group looked like he was about to cry.

We slept on the floor with thin mats under us and mosquito nets around us…listening to the sounds of the jungle as we drifted off to sleep.  The next morning, a few us rose early and watched the sunrise:

sleeping quarters

 

sunrise!

 

 

One of my favorite parts of the trek was the jungle dog that accompanied us for most of our hiking.  These doges live in the villages in the mountains and love to walk with groups on their treks.  They get lots of positive attention and food and in return, they keep an eye out for snakes and other dangers and also offer us cuddles.  They are insanely sweet dogs.

I LOVE these guys!

 

Please, please, please can I keep it?

After breakfast, we set off towards a waterfall.  And another one. And another one.  At one of the stops, we ate lunch out of the bamboo dishes our guides had carved for us along the way.  These guys are so good.

Jungle-ware!

 

Waterfall number 1

 

two beauties surrounded by beauty. hehe.

We ended the day at a jungle camp—it was just us and two women that helped care for the camp. The girls headed straight for their makeup again—I can’t get over it.   After dinner, we sat around the fire telling spooky stories and what not.

This morning was a short walk (after the girls applied their makeup off course)  to a rafting camp where we boarded rafts and made our way through some rapids.  We then tried our hand at bamboo rafting.  I’m pretty sure they aren’t meant to carry 5 western sized people because we were all up to our chest in water as we sat on the raft.  Josh was “Captain” which meant he stood on the front and navigated us down the river with a bamboo pole.  Thankfully, we didn’t have to cover much distance this way and we were soon at lunch and then back to town in our truck.

We really enjoyed our time in the jungle.  Our guides were absolutely amazing and the other members of our group were really kind and funny—even if they were a tad (okay a lot) on the soft side.

Puza! Our fearless leader! Despite his silliness, he know's his stuff when it comes to the jungle.

Cambodia!

Hello, Strangers!  We haven’t had great internet access for a while and wordpress takes a bit more internet juice than most sites.  So, here we are in Chiang Mai, Thailand relaxing at our guesthouse and I have so much to tell you about!  I could write for days but instead, I’ll try to tell you the story of the last 5 days or so in pictures.

Picking Allie up from the airport in a Tuk Tuk with our driver Pierre.

Allie recharging mid-6-hour bus ride with a coconut. On the way to Siem Reap

Wait a minute, she's not old enough to drive a scooter. Siem Reap.

Baby at Angkor Wat

Angkor Wat

Angkor Wat

Monks at Angkor Wat

Angkor Wat

Working hard

 

Little girl selling trinkets outside temple

 

inside temple

 

 

Heck yes! Swimming/Bathing in the river!

 

kissing Buddha

navigating.

 

Okay, hope you enjoyed the photos!  We’re off to the night market and then we head out for a 3 day trek in the morning!  Bring on the elephants!

 

 

buses and beaches

We had booked an overnight “sleeper bus” for Tuesday evening headed South to Nha Trang.  Our hotel booked it for us and we assumed it would be similar to the one we road on the first time.  It wasn’t the case.  We arrived at the bus stop with ticket in hand and we were ushered on to this really dirty, really crappy bus with really short “beds”.  It felt my heart go into panic mode.

Many of you know I have a bit of a phobia…I hate to even write/say the work because it makes my skin crawl.  Its something that is all over the sidewalk, under restaurant tables, and apparently, on sleeper buses in Vietnam.  It was all over.  I wanted to cry.  We got off the bus and said, “we don’t want to go on this bus… we want to go on the other one” (it was parked next to ours).  They said it wasn’t an option as our tickets were for this company.  I asked to see our ticket but the guy we gave it to had taken off.  They said, “call your hotel if you have a problem.”  We asked, “with what phone?”  Of course they wouldn’t let us use their phones and the only other option would be to take a taxi back to the hotel…but then we’d be stuck in Hoi’An for another night and we just didn’t have time for that.

After putting up a little struggle, we boarded the bus.  Fortunately, I had bought this silk sleeping bag for occasions like these.  I lined the edges of my bed with plastic bags, climbed into my cocoon, and focused on breathing.

There were several employees on the bus.  Where were they going to go?  They layed out mats in the aisles and went to sleep.  Sigh, all I could think was, “if we crash,” which was likely as the bus driver was insane, “we are all going to die.”  Around 10 P.M. we stopped for food.  My disgetive system had gone wacky after lunch (read—diarrhea) so I just got some rice.  I found 2 bugs in my rice.   I got back on the bus, climbed back in my cocoon, and did my best to sleep as we barreled down the road.  All night, we listened to the sound of honking as our driver overtook other cars in the on coming lane.  At one point, I must have dozed off because I woke up as I was being slammed back and forth into the railing on my bed.  I tried to look out the window to see what was going on but all I could see was darkness and the outline of jungle.

We arrived in Nha Trang around 5:30 A.M. on Wednesday.  We were met by a hoard of hotel reps. We chose one that looked alright and hopped on the back of two motorbikes (our luggage between the drivers legs).  We  got the hotel, checked the room (I’m getting good at inspecting for bed bugs), and then went to sleep for a few hours.  The rest of the day was spent napping and reading under a palm tree on the beach.

Did a lot of this...but every time I opened my book I fell asleep. mmm. good day.

We discovered a really great vegetarian restaurant—more like a food stall—that had great food for less than $1 per meal!  It was a popular place.  We actually purchased three meals from them over the next two days.  It was that good.  And cheap.

In the morning, I had a long run in the morning and then a massage in the afternoon.  It was great.  $5 for an hour in this little hut with open sides and a light breeze blowing through.   I could hear the ocean and light music from the restaurant nearby.  It got a little awkward when an old fat man came for a massage two beds away from me.  Haha.  I tried to block him out and enjoyed my massage regardless of his presence.

That night, we boarded a train bound for Ho Chi Minh City.  We had our own room which was nice and it was kind of fancier than the previous train.  We got to Ho Chi Minh before 4 AM.  Not really sure what to do so early in the morning, we walked from the train station to the hotel where our Mekong Delta tour is to leave from.  They were closed when we got there so we went to a restaurant down the street and ate vegetarian spring rolls.

After eating some predawn grease, we woke up the Guesthouse owner  and had a rest on her couch while we waited for our tour.   Time for bed, so I’ll save the Mekong Delta for another time!  Allie comes in the morning!!!!

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