When it Rains it Pours

5:15AM is a bullshit time to wake up on a vacation day. And to top it off it’s raining. No. Not raining. Pouring.

Being from Portland, I am pretty sanctimonious when it comes to handling some precipitation. So, when eventually it was daylight and I looked outside and saw people carrying umbrellas I at first guffawed and smirked, at the same time – such is my self-satisfaction. But then I went down to the convenience store in our building to grab my morning cold brew, looked outside and saw that there was real rain. Not the Portland constant drizzle I am used to, but real – like taking a shower without a water conservation regulator – rain.

I scurried back upstairs and started whining. I had definitely woken up on the wrong side of the bed and the rain was only trumping my mood.

Andrew, in his delightfully supportive way, put on his best game face and prepared us for an outing despite the rain. We would take the Metro to Namsan and  then ride the aerial car to Seoul Tower on Namsan mountain followed by sitting in a cafe and blogging. I was excited. Even though I live in a city with an aerial car, I have yet to ever ride in one. We packed our computers, we grabbed jackets, we toted umbrellas provided by our AirBnB hosts and went to brave the great outdoors.

We made it one block.

Then we turned tail and headed to the chocolate cafe across the street from our apartment and buried ourselves in our pouting and computers (I did most of the pouting).

After some success with blogging and hot chocolate we braved the weather to return to our room. Because we were leaving the next day to Busan we took advantage of the extra time we had due to the weather ruining everything (this is just a taste of my attitude) and did some laundry in the super high-tech combo washer-dryer in the apartment.

The cycle after spin is dry! When the wash was done the dryer, well, didn’t. Our clothes were still wet. So we ran a cycle with just the dryer. An hour and a half later our clothes were mostly damp.

We gave up and hung our clothes on the drying rack we’d found – because room temperature air was going to do a faster job at drying our clothes. In fact, every once in a while we’d pass by the drying rack and just blow on our clothes and that was more efficient than the actual “dryer.”

I lay down for a half an hour because whining is exhausting and woke up almost two hours later to no rain and slight wind.

At this point my mood was taking up most of the space in our apartment and both of us were a bit antsy, we again prepared ourselves for some outdoor time. This time no umbrellas and no computers but also no rain. We got to Namsan and started the uphill climb to the aerial car.

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At the metro exit at Namsan there was a tribute to Zaemiro Seoul Comics – which Andrew, obviously, takes very seriously!

The walk to the aerial car itself was about 600 meters uphill. Once there the sign on the door informed us that because of high winds the car was not running. Neither of us was surprised by this turn of events and it only took us about one minute of hemming (we didn’t even get to hawing) before tackling this defeat with good-natured gusto. We were going to climb this mountain – metaphorically and literally.

Not unlike Hawaii, we started up a 1200m stair climb in the not-best-weather-or-mood.

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1200m looks farther than it really is.

We walked up the first 300m or so and came upon this:

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That man is not dead, he is just resting between sets. I waited to make sure before moving on. I’m not a monster – even when in a shitty mood.

If it hadn’t been sopping wet we’d probably have had a go at it.

We turned the corner to go the rest of the way and came upon this:

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Now, I am not one to want to cause a stir, much less an international incident. But on this day, I wasn’t going to let a little bit of caution tape stop me. I looked up in Google Translator how to say, “I thought the tape was for decoration” in Korean, and we headed up.

When I was in my teens I used to sprain my ankle all the time. I remember once in New York City, on my 13th birthday, I stepped off a sidewalk and just came crashing down on the side of my foot. I was in crutches for about 2 weeks. Shortly thereafter, I met a distant-ish cousin who was finishing college for Physical Therapy and who off-handedly diagnosed me (it’s a family characteristic) with misproprioception, which loosely translates to the inability for my brain to quickly and easily judge variances in height without special attention – aka bad coordination, ergo sum “klutz in my pants.”

I was very cautious going up these steps. Not a single one was a uniform height with another step and there were varying steepnesses (it’s a word now). I was so cautious, looking at every step as I took it that I almost ran into a tree growing out of the middle of the stairs.

Twice.

Who plants trees in the middle of stairs?

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One of the two trees I almost impaled myself on.

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Part of the 1200m climb. These steps are all a different steepitude.

We made it to the top unscathed. The view was lovely. The top was a tourist trap. Apparently people go to the top of this tower and place love-locks all around the platforms. The love-locks are like bike locks, only they symbolize a love that is unbreakable (except with bolt cutters, or a hairpin, or just plain old-fashioned time and growing apart. Or they get rusty and everyone is like, “ew, that’s gross, you should probably get rid of that,” but the people who put it there are just stubborn a-holes and say things like “forever means something.”). We wandered for about 3 minutes and headed back down.

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Seoul Tower

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Andrew dropping my phone while trying to take a picture of us.

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Picture success! See how big Seoul is. This doesn’t even really capture it. It’s quite overwhelming.

We stopped for a quick bite, then headed to the cafe. Basically, across the street from the metro exit we came from was Myeong-dong – a busy shopping area. And I knew exactly which cafe I wanted to visit. I followed my Google maps to where Lily cafe used to be before it closed and was sorely disappointed again.

It’s like Tuesday was just out to get me.

Yet, Andrew and I are resilient. After a quick search of all the interwebs I found a similar cafe only three blocks away, and not (hopefully) closed. We walked swiftly towards it – like in Amazing Race when a couple is in the lead but don’t want to be too brassy about it so they do a little butt clenched walk-jog dodging around busy crowds; that was us.

We climbed the two flights of stairs, changed from our shoes to slippers, entered and were immediately instructed to wash our hands – which we did. Then we ordered our drinks and were let loose amongst the felines. We were at Cat Cafe about to cheat on our kitties – what happens in Myeong-dong stays in Myeong-dong.

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Look at all the kitties!!!

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Neither of us could stop smiling the entire time we were here.

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I may have forced this cat onto my lap, but then he slept there – so, he wanted it.

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Andrew playing WWF while petting a kitty who doesn’t like people but came up to sleep near him.

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Okay, I’m going to be honest here. These cats have always freaked me out a bit. But now that I have had the opportunity to pet one (it’s kind of like petting a leather jacket), I am all in. This guy was a bit of a chunky monkey – but so adorable.

We probably spent about 2 to 2 and a half hours sitting and playing Words With Friends and getting up and petting cats and sitting some more.

The world wide web says these cafes were set up for Koreans because not many of them have the means or space to take care of pets, but it seemed mostly tourists were coming and going. Our time here was only spoiled for about 20 minutes when a family with 5 children and one on the way came in to apparently show themselves what level of asshole they are willing to allow their kids to get to before providing any discipline.

Otherwise, in the words of my friend Aubry, to whom I have already sent these pictures, “Are you texting me from Heaven?”

Yes.

Also, fuck you Tuesday. I win!

I’m So Buff

I am doomed to not be able to sleep past 5AM while on this vacation. The problem that arises is that nothing here opens until 8AM at the earliest. Unless it’s open 24hours. Which, thankfully, the jjimjilbang are.

Ever since my first experience at Sauvie Island’s nude beach I have become a huge proponent of public nudity. It is the great equalizer. You think our current culture is into body shaming? Go to a nude beach. No one there is perfect – with stomach pooches, or skin flaws or saggy bits and bobs – yet everyone there is perfect. I have never felt so comfortable in my own skin. As such, I don’t mind the World Naked Bike Ride (if it’s not too cold), I love going to Sauvie on a warm day, and I often frequent Common Ground for a soak in NE Portland.

The jjimjilbang are community hot tubs (gender separated). Depending on which one you go to they may offer other amenities as well. Some people when traveling here use the jjimjilbang as a well priced hostel. Andrew and I went to Siloam, a five story jjimjilbang and fomentation center it was 10,000₩ ($8.80) per person.

When you enter the locker room, you put your shoes in a locker and bring that key to the attendant who gives you a locker key for your clothes, a couple of towels, and a pair of shorts and a shirt for the community areas. I stripped down, took a shower and went to the baths. There were four different types: Jade, wormwood, charcoal and ice – after all four dips you eat an eye of newt and you are transported into a Shakespearean drama.

I soaked a bit and then took an ice shower then soaked a bit more. I was feeling pretty calm and was about to wander the fomentation center when I saw there was a corner where a sign said something along the lines of “We’ll pamper you more and more.” I went in and learned that the word for massage in Korean is massaji. I decided to go for the VIP treatment which includes a skin buff and a massage.

The woman taking care of me cleaned off the vinyl covered table, told me to lay on it and then put on her bra and undies. She then donned a pair of gloves that can best be described as “40-grit” and started planing me like I was the SS Minnow. There were no worries about any language barrier because she was moving me around like a marionette – I may have smacked myself a few times during this process. She started me on my back then on each side and finally my stomach – and she didn’t miss an inch, twice. At one point I noticed what looked like pumice bits all around my body, then I realized that it was the skin she had sanded off of me.

Fully skinned, it was time for the massaji – it was a healthy mix of massage, chiroprachty and child abuse – slap, knead knead, adjust, knead, slap, slap, knead.  All of this was mixed with moments of pausing to get the towel that was draped over me scalding hot again. This massage was very thorough and included a facial massage the likes of which I have never experienced. It was like my face was a piano and she Franz Liszt. The facial massage ended with a strawberry yogurt and cucumber wrap – I was a summer salad.

While my face macerated, it was baby oil time for my new skin. In my life I have probably used baby oil 4 or 5 times for a total usage amount of one tablespoon – a little goes a long way. Yesterday an entire bottle of baby oil was used on me – again, not a spot was missed. At this point I would like to remind you that I was on a vinyl table with a thorough masseuse – it was an odd combination of slip-and-slide meets tug-of-war with my main concern being not to get cucumber-yogurt juice in my ear.

By the end of this I was exhausted and completely blissed out. I met Andrew on the second floor (after another shower to remove the baby oil that would make walking and sitting dangerous), we wandered around the five floors of the complex, sat in a freezer and then ate some lunch.

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I have never been so happy to sit in cold. Also, look at how new and milky (literally) my skin looks!

That evening we enjoyed a cooking class with Jomin Jun at CooKoreanclass.com. She taught us how to make kimchi stew, glass noodles with pork, and pork and cabbage stir fry. Andrew impressed us all with his knife skills and we had a lovely time learning about Korean culture and food and walking through Mangwon Market.

We learned that Koreans eat live octopus and that they like feeling it moving in their mouth as they eat it. And we learned that eel soup can rejuvenate your power after having a baby. Combined, we mostly learned that Andrew and I have our limits in willingness to experiment. I, for example, will never be able to bring myself to eating a live octopus, and Andrew will never have a baby.

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Our third and final dish of the night. Everything was so delicious and simple to make.

 

Seoul – Day 2: Food, Fun, Fashion

One of the things I am having to retrain my brain about is to not automatically associate Hangul with “restaurant.” I am almost there.

Last night we went and saw a live comedy show called Nanta. We had decided to go in the evening in order to have something to do that would keep us up and rejigger our sleeping clocks. The show was like Stomp – the Comedy/Cooking Show. It made me realize that laughter is truly universal, as is the usefulness of loud drumming and shouting to keep me awake.

After the show we walked along the street outside where there were a bunch of food vendors with meats on sticks – Andrew’s Native American name. We partook of some bulgogi, pork on a stick, meatballs on stick and freshly squeezed orange juice on a stick.

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Meat on stick, meet “Meats-on-Sticks”

While wandering, a busker said “45 minute foot massage for 18000 ₩.” If 45 minutes of foot massaging seems like a long time fear not, you are in good company, because the masseurs seemed to feel the same. We each got a 5 minute foot soak and about a 7 minute foot massage followed by a lot of pounding on our legs for about 15 minutes. I was then asked to lift my hips. I did and was suddenly wrapped up like an ass enchilada. The masseurs left the room and the enchilada wrap started massaging my pelivical region to the dulcet sounds of tango-styled piano versions of Escape (the Piña Colada song) and Hotel California. At this point the blog was just writing itself so I relaxed and enjoyed. I have since tried looking up the massage device that was used, but when I put in “automated ass massage device” into Google I only get NSFW results.

On our way home Andrew stranded me at a subway station.

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Stranded at the subway station.

Our goal last night was to stay up (read: pass out) until 10 (at 9:15), which I managed beautifully, allowing us to wake up at a reasonable hour (5:30AM) this morning.

We ran along the river walk that we’d walked along yesterday. The river used to be really dirty during the 1970’s so they covered it by building a highway over it until the mayor in 2008(ish) decided to uncover the river and make it a beautiful and clean city sanctuary.  Along the river there is a lot of art. At one point there are three columns where the highway used to be – I believe to commemorate the fact that they changed the river back. There was also a neat little “lovers” area with a heart mosaic on one wall and a carriage you can sit in and watch the fountain show they have at night. It was really beautiful along the river with a lot of runners saying hi and waving as they passed us going the other direction. We finished our run prior to reaching the point we had started and so we walked up to the city and wandered around.

It is a point of pride for Andrew that his girlfriend hates camping and museums. We managed alright at Pearl Harbor though eventually I had to sit and play Words With Friends while he wandered and read plaques next to old uniforms or whatever it was the museum was showing. Today was some kind of stroke of luck when we ended up at Dongdaemun Design Plaza – a museum for design – about 2 hours before it opened. We wandered around the outside which had a few art installations. It was the perfect amount actually – as I’d reached my limit of looking at things, there was nothing left to look at.

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What a treasure!

We grabbed some fried rice for second breakfast and headed home for second sleep.

South Korea is quickly becoming well known for its fashion. In fact the Dondaemun Design Plaza opened in 2014 with Seoul’s fashion show, and there is an underground mall there that is famous. The ladies here seem very fashion conscious sporting a million styles. And, the clothes here are well made and fairly cheap. Often you can find items for 10000₩ (about $8.75) or less. Andrew and I went shopping in the afternoon but found nothing really fun in the Dongdaemun area – that was probably mostly due to it being Sunday, when only the wedding and home goods stalls are open. We got back to the apartment where I left him to recuperate from having an extrovert girlfriend and went shopping on my own near the Ewha Women’s University.

This area was delightful, less crowded, more stylish. It was like Forever 21 meets the Pearl District and K-Pop. I found so many cute outfits that I couldn’t buy. Korean clothes are made one-size fits all. Unfortunately for me, that size is small. And by small I mean size 2 American. Most of the stores don’t even carry mediums, much less large (I believe size 6 is considered large here – not a joke). I managed to find a few shirts I liked and a skirt that I can squeeze into, but it turns out I will have to appreciate Korean fashion from a distance. That distance is the Vancouver Target.

Heart and Seoul

It’s a little daunting to leave a country on Thursday and when you wake up the next morning is Saturday. And even worse it’s Saturday at 4:30 AM local time – because you forced yourself to sleep in until a “reasonable” time.

Being on vacation, to some extent, alleviates that.

The 11 hour flight into Seoul wasn’t that bad. I read a little bit, watched 5 movies and did some knitting. I saw a horrible Bradley Cooper movie called Burnt. It’s a movie mostly about Cooper’s beautiful brooding blue eyes and how that can get you a career in Hollywood without really needing any acting skills. I will probably watch it on the flight home as well. It got a solid 29% on Rotten Tomatoes. I also watched Joy which is a really good movie starring Jennifer Lawrence with a few small moments of Bradley Cooper’s eyes as a delicious seasoning – you know, like how you really like fish sauce in food for flavoring but you wouldn’t make it what you wrap the entire flavor profile of a dish around – mmm those eyes. Also, Jennifer Lawrence is so amazing and riveting. I would watch her do taxes.

The seemingly 11 hour customs line into Korea was that bad.

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This line is a lot longer than it looks

It took us an actual 2.5 hour to get through customs and onto the bus to Seoul. This was marred even further by the bloviations of the probably-a-salesman behind me and by the lack of Bradley Cooper eyes.

Eventually, Andrew and I were greeted by Peter who helped us get comfortable in our AirBnB by giving us a tour of every nook and cranny. He showed us how to use the bidet (by pointing at the buttons, not demonstrating) and showed us what was in every cabinet (as though we weren’t going to look in every cabinet as soon as he left anyway). He even explained the remote control to us. This is when I realized the perception was,  US:Korea = Kentuckian:New Yorker. His perception may have been due to Andrew and me gawking at the keyless entry pad on the door which is much fancier than the one on our front door at home, in that it works.

I explained to Peter that we didn’t believe in using technology and asked him to hide or burn the device and thanked him with a poorly pronounced kams’hahamnida and he left us.

Andrew and I dropped our bags, made sure we took what we grabbed the information on how to get back into the apartment and went to find some food. We walked around the neighborhood a bit and stumbled upon a very well attended restaurant. “Let’s eat here!” I said excitedly to Andrew’s ashen face as he looked at a picture in the window of a soup with clearly defined tentacles in it. “Um, how will we know what we are ordering?” (gulp). I gently coaxed Andrew into the restaurant with promises of removing tentacles from his food should that be what we accidentally ordered. We ended up with delicious pork soup. I love Korean food.  I love the flavors, I love the spiciness, I love that everything is served with banchan (little side dishes of kimchi and rice and seaweed, etc.). The kimchi was a bit too spicy for Andrew, which just meant more for me. There was nary a tentacle in sight.

We wandered around the city a little more attempting to stay awake long enough so that we went to bed at a reasonable-for-being-in-Korea-not-Portland hour. That turned out to be 8PM – it was a long day.

After 1:30AM I was mostly forcing myself back into sleep for the next 3 hours. I finally gave up on that when I realized Andrew was also awake. We got up and puttered around our apartment for a a couple of hours trying to plan our day.

The apartment we are in has a Starbucks in it and I went downstairs around 7 to grab some coffee. It was closed. I walked almost to the restaurant we had eaten at the previous night – nothing was open at all. I got back to the apartment and settled for instant Nescafe and unpacked mine and Andrew’s clothes while he internetted to figure out our activities for the day.

Something I really love about my relationship with Andrew is that even though we have been together going on 7 years (yes, it’s really been that long), and even though we know each other really really well, we still learn new things about each other. For example, this morning I learned that Andrew really doesn’t want me to unpack his things for him – unfortunately I didn’t learn that until after I’d finished. The thing about Andrew is he won’t outwardly be upset about a thing, just kind of broody and a little passive-aggressive. So as soon as he recognized that I’d unpacked his things without his permission he immediately needed to find everything and started asking me where it was. “Where are my pants?” “In the top drawer.” He opens the drawer. “Where are my underwear?” “Same drawer you are looking in.” “Where are my shirts?” “Right next to the underwear.” (He packs light).

For about a minute I contemplated packing his things back up and then letting him unpack them – but I realized that would probably put us into a loop. We eventually got through this and ended up on the happy end of me never helping him with luggage related issues again.

Then we went to self-guide a tour of Seoul. We are staying near Gyeonbokgung palace – our fist stop. We got to the palace and left immediately, because it was only 8AM and the palace didn’t open until 9. We instead headed to a river walk in the middle of the city followed by a visit to Namdaemun market. The river walk was beautiful with cranes and fish and waterfalls a weird serenity juxtaposed against skyscrapers. We rode the metro to the market – there is something oddly satisfying in figuring out a foreign subway system. It’s very grounding. The market was an overwhelming mish-mash of things made in Korea. We found a row of restaurants featuring menus with pictures on it and enjoyed a delightful brunch of fried rice and glass noodles with a side of banchan. I even ordered mul ju-sey-o (water please) and nabken ju-sey-o (napkin please) without feeling too scared. And, even better, I was understood!

By 10:30 Andrew and I were exhausted. I guess that’s to be expected when you time jump a Friday.

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Seoul – random statue near Gyeongbokgung Palace. Note, no pictures of actual palace. Blame jet lag.

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River walk – I love the contrast of the peaceful water against the backdrop of a busy, large city.

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This crane was very camera shy and kept flying slightly away every time I took it’s picture. This one turned out nice though. We also later saw a blue heron stalk and catch a morning fish breakfast. So cool!

A lo(ng day getting to) Ha(waii)!

Not being a parent, I can imagine there are a very limited amount of circumstances that a complete stranger can hold their hands out to you, demand you give them your baby and have you comply.

Christmas Eve, on a small plane on a short flight while you’re struggling with your luggage, a baby and a very pregnant wife is one of those times. There I was with Ana Marie on my lap cooing at her while her dad was putting all of the luggage in the overhead bins. Her mom was trying to find a way to get comfortably squeezed into a seat made for a not-eight-months-pregnant-woman.

Once the whole situating was complete it took me a little longer than it should to give back the girl. My friend describes this phenomenon as a side effect of being a Leo. I often go over the appropriate amount of time on hugs, eye-contact and holding strangers’ babies. I don’t know it’s past appropriate until the damage is done. Luckily, I eased the tension by saying things like, “what a pretty baby” and “I bet you’re regretting giving her to me now that I am not giving her back” and “no take backs” and “I will eat her soul.”

Miraculously, the flight to Seattle was not full. After people settled in I asked the flight attendant if it would be okay if I moved up to an open seat that had no one else in the row. “Well, that’s technically an upgrade, but – okay!”she said overly jubilantly. I collected my things and moved up two rows wondering why on Earth anyone would pay more for a mere two rows. But, when I sat down and my knees weren’t touching the seat back in front of me, I understood.

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Look at all that room. I could have comfortably kept a baby on my lap.

 

Also, miraculously Delta was going to leave 15 minutes early. Too bad to those suckers who couldn’t get through airport traffic or security quick enough! Normally I would consider leaving early a gift. This day, I couldn’t give a rip, I had a 4 hour layover in Seattle.

At SeaTac I did some yoga, knit a sweater, listened to all the podcasts and entertained my second toddler of the day who found my blue hair fascinating. Her father was chasing her around the airport pretending to apologize while declaring her “curious” – as though this wasn’t evident by the fact that she was 2 and touching everything – but obviously enjoying showing off his child.

Finally it was time to board. The plane to O’ahu was really large, my row number was in the 40’s. I was sitting so far back on this plane that I had to provide the drink service. Our flight crew consisted of a really pleasant and delightful young lady with a flower in her hair contrasted with an angry Mr. Belvedere who seemed to find his joy in speaking lethargically over the intercom to admonish us for going to the bathroom when there was turbulence. I am certain he was slow-talking only to interrupt people’s gratis movies. Like a waitress with perfect timing of asking you how everything is right after you just stuffed a mouthful of food in, my movie would suddenly be paused right in the middle of a grand declaration of love and British Slow Poke Rodriguez would announce that the captain had just turned on the seatbelt sign and that means we need to sit down and actually put on our seatbelts and that he and the crew were told to do the same so it meant to really put on your seatbelt and if we didn’t start behaving better he would turn this thing around and don’t make him have to put his martini down again! It was just like being home for the holidays.

I landed in Hawaii about 45 minutes early. Delta apparently had decided that for Christmas everyone would get to their destinations early. Unfortunately, Delta had not informed the ground crews and there was a mix-up with the gates so we got to sit in the plane on the ground for another half hour getting 5 minute reminders from London-Adolf that we are to remain seated and belted.

Andrew had arrived in O’ahu about 8 hours before me because he’d flown direct. He picked me up at the airport and we sat silently in the car heading to the AirBnB. We had much to share about our travel days but didn’t want to spoil our eventual blogs for each other. His is at andrewberkowitz.com/blog.

Today, being Christmas Day, there isn’t much going on. So, we decided to explore Ka’ena Point State Park. It was about a two and a half mile walk from the parking to the Point. When we first started walking there was a light and pleasant mist.

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Truly paradise, rainbow and all.

The other light and pleasant thing were the people. There were very few out at that time and everyone we passed was lovely and kind and wished us a good morning, or a Merry Christmas. It was just like not being home for the holidays.

At the end of the path was a bird preserve with Albatross – they are huge they look like a seagull and Arnold Schwarzenegger mated. There were dozens of them nesting in the sandy grasslands.

Just past the seabird preserves (second favorite only to strawberry) were lava rocks and breaking waves. We even saw a monk seal – which in the lava rocks was like trying to find a sloth in Costa Rica.

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Andrew saw the seal first. I kept asking if it was dead because it was really languid. It moved a little bit every once in a while as if to say “don’t worry” and eventually rolled over completely.

After spending the day in the sun and humidity of Hawaii, and a long afternoon nap, I now understand this seal more.

Shoo Shoe

After months of having my leg out of commission, I am back to being able to run.

That’s a stretch of the term “able to”. What I mean by it is that the only things holding me back from running are my general laziness and ease to exhaustion through physical activity. But, in my mind’s eye I am still a runner. I still have dreams where I lace up and run for miles on end without pain, without getting winded, without becoming tired in the least, without spilling a drop of the bourbon I’m carrying and without any clothes. Not all dreams are nightmares.

I even signed up for training through a friend of mine which is going to help develop consistency. And I even broke down and got myself some new runners.

I have trained myself to run in zero rise (sometimes called zero drop – basically the heel and toe are at the same level), minimum (meaning light-weight) shoes (the stuff you put on your feet to protect you from broken glass and dog poo – or really poo of any animal). Unfortunately, there was a big backlash against zero rise shoes because people didn’t properly ween their running stride off of their high heel runners. So zero rise shoes are not as easy to find as they once were. In fact a lot of the shoes that were touting themselves as zero rise were actual a 2-4mm rise. Which is like having a glass of wine and claiming to have had nothing to drink – “Well, normally I’d have three glasses of wine, so one is basically the same as zero.” It took some digging, but eventually I bought new shoes.

Three times.

The first set of shoes was Merrell Vapor Glove 2. They were recommended by a friend and also had some good reviews. I went online and found them at Amazon. They had none left in my women’s size so I got the men’s 7 – I know it’s the same because Andrew and I wear the same size shoe. I got them a few days later and put them on. I like there to be some extra room in my running shoes to make up for swelling during running, but in this case when I say Andrew and I wear the same size shoe it’s because both of us could fit our feet in at the same time. These size 7s were generous to say the least. They were marked a size 7 because someone ran out of the stamps that say “Size 12” and didn’t feel like stopping the manufacturing line to go get more tabs and anyway, whose going to notice?

I noticed.

I returned them (by which I mean Andrew returned them, because postal things are hard) and went back on the hunt. This time I found a pair of Altra and it was Cyber Monday so they were pretty well-priced. Again I had to go with a men’s 7 because the women’s shoes were either sold out or not as fancy colored (I like dressing like a rainbow farted on me when I workout. It’s so when I collapse from all the effort I can be easily found.). When I pulled them out of the box I loved them right away – it’s possible this is because they are the color of rainbow wishes and unicorn dreams. Because they came right before I was headed to crossfit, I put them on and headed out.

Altras have a big toe box (that’s what she said) and my feet felt a little swimmy in them. Except for my left foot, which is slightly longer than my right foot (obviously to provide fodder for good cocktail party conversations), it felt slightly scrunched. Not enough to notice, really.

Now, some of you may remember that my second toe is longer than my thumb toe (if not, read this), this is why I call my second toe my “big toe” and my thumb toe my “thumb toe”.

Anyway, the scrunched feeling I had was just a minor irritation on my big toe, but nothing that looking at fabulously rainbow-of-fruit-flavor-colored shoes couldn’t cure. In fact I was so convinced, I even put them on for a 5k this past Sunday, because they would totally stretch, and after I ran a mile or so who would even notice?

I noticed.

And so did my toe.

IMG_0299

Blistered Toe With Black Nail (I feel like a chef describing a meal)

They didn’t stretch.

Aside from the toe pain from having a shoe that doesn’t fit – or maybe in light of seeing more black (nail) than rainbow suddenly – I have also noticed that I don’t really like how big the toe box on the Altras is. They are also not really a minimal shoe (even though they are zero rise) in that they have a cushion on them. They also feel heavy when running in them – though in fairness, that may have been the pounds of rainwater I was running through or the fact that I hadn’t run in months.

Either way, I am pretty sure that nail will be coming off in a week or so and that Andrew will get the shoes returned in time to get my refund (it’s like dating the postal service).

Luckily when I ordered the Altra I also ordered another pair of zero rise running shoes. They were $25.00 on Cyber Monday (which was at least one day before I realized I was spending too much money and put myself on a budget).

The brand is called Tesla. They are minimal in all sense of the word (no unicorns or rainbows were harmed or consulted in the making of these shoes). I wore them this evening on my 2 mile training run. My feet didn’t ache. They fit well without being too snug. Everything went fine.

Except for the part where I am not in shape and running sucks.

I’ll keep looking for a shoe to overcome that.

Fund Times

Growing up we always lived hand to mouth. My parents never had a sense of saving. They also had a lot of gadgets and gizmos – if they had money, they spent it. I remember one time when we all went out to a celebratory dinner because my mother had managed to save $1000.00. I also remember many a night when it was pancakes for dinner because that’s what we had in our pantry.

With my ex husband it was much the same. We got credit cards for emergency only, but it wasn’t too long before going out with friends a week before payday became an emergency. After my divorce I paid off all my debts (excepting my student loans which are on a payment plan and should be paid off in 7 years), and promised myself that wasn’t going to be me anymore. I don’t even own a credit card these days.

I make pretty decent money.

But I also spend fairly well.

When I left the Company That Shall Not Be Named last year I had a nice little cushion. It’s gone now – having been put to its purpose of keeping me afloat in case of emergency. Now instead of a cushion, I am sitting on a bare bones wooden chair and my ass has splinters.

Yesterday I sat down with Mint and really looked at where my money was all going to. I knew in the recesses of my mind that I have been eating out more and spent money on vacations that are coming up. But I was afraid to find out just how much of a spendthrift I’ve been.

While I have been spending a bit of money on fancy food, it really has been mostly unexpected costs that have come up. I needed to buy a car ($3500 off of Craigslist), my medical bills increased (arthritis, sigh), it was completely unexpected that ModCloth was going to have such wonderful dresses (they also have a swipe left/right feature on their phone app – which is just… like Tinder only with greater potential of a lasting relationship), and you can imagine how floored I was by the unexpected need to buy more yarn even though I have an entire room in my house dedicated to housing all the yarn I already have.

Mind you, I have long-term investments and savings, but those are supposed to be long-term. So now I am recommitted to really buckling down and saving money again.

This might be the hardest time of year to do this. I mean, I am not much of one for Christmas present giving (giving being the operative word), but things are on so much sale right now. And, I have a store pass for Columbia. And I have to plan my meals for work.

I just hope I don’t have another yarn emergency.

Also, please be prepared for posts listing all the things I didn’t buy.