June 17, 2012

What I’ve Learned

If there is one reason why people quit their jobs and travel, it is to create a learning experience for themselves. Here in Costa Rica, outside of my comfort zone, I’ve learned so much. I’m only two weeks into my 7 week trip, and I’m happy that I have already started accumulating some tidbits and lessons about myself and how I deal with new experiences.

I’ve learned that I have to slow down and just wait.

Being in DC is obviously different than being here in Montezuma. There are two roads in the main town of Montezuma. I don’t even know if they have names. Its a little mix of Sodas (small Costa Rican restaurants with typical Tico food), eateries, beach shops, and one bar, named Chico’s. No one ever seems to be in a rush to move from one place to the next, and life is pretty informal. People have jobs, things to do, and people to see, but the pace at which they move to get it done is different. Coming from a place like the DMV, its like someone pulled the emergency break while you were going high speed. I thought my nature would cause me to get annoyed, but I’ve actually enjoyed this. I like that while I have commitments, I am not being guarded by some huge stop watch. Its a relief.  I didn’t even know that taking my time to eat dinner could be so nice. You have to develop some patience, which is good for everyone.

I have to listen to my body.

It is REALLY hot here. It is consistently above 80 degrees and humid. The sun is blaring from the moment it comes up, until late in the afternoon. I sweat through all my clothes pretty consistently, and I spend a great deal of time being totally uncomfortable. I have to listen to my body, in order to figure out what I need to give it. If I have a headache consistently for 2 days, its because I am dehydrated. If I am hungry but I am sluggish, then I need to eat, but eat lightly. If I am in yoga and I’m completely unbalanced, its because I didn’t do enough of the former two things, or I am sleeping like shit. I have to make adjustments accordingly, or I’m going to feel sick ALL the time. I just don’t have that kind of time.

 

Good People are in Unexpected Places

I didn’t think that Monica and I would arrive here in Costa Rica and be able to bond with people but we did. When you are far from home and you naturally gravitate towards people who are in the same boat. People you may not necessarily have bonded with at home are your friends here, and it makes you more open to learning about people who are different because they can ADD to your experiences. I can’t even stress enough how much you should enjoy the company of people quite different than yourself.

 

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June 8, 2012

5 days Later

I have given up on proper footwear, makeup, and caring what I look like in shorts. I ate the street food (best fucking hamburger ever), drank the tap water, and pet at least 4 stray dogs this week, plus one cat.

When in Montezuma, do as.

This town, full of Rastafarians and hippies in a former life, is growing on me. I still miss my family and friends back home like crazy. You never realize how important these people are in your daily life until you move far from them. Luckily, I know they will all love me when I return. Thank God!

Here are a few highlights of my week.

Montezuma Water Falls

A few of the girls, getting ready to hike to the falls.

Treacherous fucking hike to the waterfalls, but worth it when you dip into this extremely cool water. Deep and powerful, people jumped off the cliffs into the water. I refrained.

Monica and friends getting her swim on.

grubbing on an orange while sweating like a fucking pig, loving my life.

Poi, or fire dancing. These people are amazing.

June 4, 2012

Montezuma, Costa Rica: My First Full Day

After months of planning, several mental breakdowns, and a lot of support, Monica and I finally arrived in Montezuma, Costa Rica.

The town lies on the southern tip of the Nicoya Peninsula

It only took two planes, a 2 hour van ride, a 1 hour ferry, another 1.5 hour van ride, and a bit of lost luggage, but we made it! I can completely understand why people go to the ends of the earth to experience this place. Simply put, it is beautiful. The people are incredibly nice for the most part, and very very helpful.

We left San Jose at 8 a.m. yesterday morning and arrived in Montezuma at 1:30. The ride was was so bumpy, but the scenery was amazing. The mountains surround you on all sides like a protective walls, standing high and very very green. It seemed like out of no where the mountains open up to the ocean and BOOM- there you are in Montezuma.

This small town has 2 main roads filled with a few street vendors selling their craft, and dozens of shops, bars, and restaurants. Everything is almost right on the beach. I can’t even describe how lucky we felt to walk up to this beach in 5 minutes.

Montezuma Beach

I still haven’t adjusted to the itty bitty time change, so I woke up at 5 am and read in my room. When I finally got it together and forced Monica to get up too, we found a cafe to eat breakfast. We have been eating some amazing, fresh, and unprocessed food here. It is a whole other post full of details and pictures to come. Anyways, we found one of the girls in our program, Katherine, shared coffee and a few laughs with her, and then started our first full day.

2 hours of Spanish, a big break in between spent sunning and swimming at the beach, and now we are ready for spanish lab- which means we walk around town together and socialize with people speaking only spanish. After that, an hour and a half of yoga 🙂

The Spanish class is very much like that in the States, but our instructor, Wendy, is certainly nicer than any teacher I had. Unfortunately, I may not stay in her class long. Since I have some proficiency already, I will likely move up to Spanish 3.

So far, I am really loving Montezuma. So far, I really miss my family (YES, ALREADY!). I had to keep myself from crying like a wimp while google video chatting with William last night. These past two nights away have been sleepless, but I hope I will sleep better as time goes on. Still, I intend to stick to my purpose- explore and enjoy, and I’m happy I can share it with him virtually.

Is that a nap calling my name? zzzzzzzzz……

May 31, 2012

Packing Up

You can only imagine how difficult it has been trying to pack 2 months of my life into one large backpack and a tote bag (my carry on). I began stockpiling and separating a few weeks ago, hoping to keep everything I needed for the trip away from everything I didn’t need. My office became a makeshift packing station, and natural became a hot ass mess. I realize I couldn’t really put anything away until I visually could look at everything I was taking. When I finally did, I had a moment of panic. How the hell was I going to stuff all that shit into one small space and still be able to carry it around?!?!

Well as it turns out, it worked out quite well! Due to what can only be described as my over controlled and psychotic need to plan out everything, packing wasn’t as difficult as I initially envisioned. I used zip bags from Baggu, a bag company that I LOVE (do you hear me? I LOVE BAGGU).  Baggu is where I get all of my reusable bags. They also sell backpacks, totes, and really cute, simplistic leather goods, many of them in adorable patterns, like alpacas or foxes. I went online to Baggu and got XL, L, M, and S sized zip bags for me to use as packing cubes. These.things.were. perfect. It allowed me to roll up my clothes and tuck them away in a bag. All the t-shirts together, undies together, bathing suits together, toiletries separated out, shoes protected. I have a little bag for all my cords and chargers, and even one for my cotton balls and Q tips. Most things are travel sized (Ill buy full sizes when I arrive there), and made for really easy packing. The bags were a fraction of what I would have paid for packing cubes online at Amazon or at a specialty store and met my needs very well!

I didn’t have to edit anything  I packed JUST enough. Everything fit into my big ol’ LL Bean pack without having to over stuff or squeeze it in a violent manner. All my electronics, journals, and an extra zip bag with a change of clothes and some mini toiletries fit into my carry on tote with MORE than enough room.

I even did a test run and packed my bag to the brim with all my stuff, and it went great. Packing Success!

Check out Talia overseeing the process…think she has any idea whats up?

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May 18, 2012

As Three Years Comes to an End

I felt it only fitting to write this post today. Tomorrow at this time, I’ll be at Rehoboth Beach with some good friends, and I won’t want to write about this kind of thing at the start of a great weekend.

Tomorrow is the last day of my job. After about three years, I am saying goodbye to the position I intended to keep only temporarily. Sometimes I think we settle in a place for longer than we intended in order to see what our next step really should be. I have to admit, I’m definitely in a different mind set than when I started.

I’ve learned so much from everyone I’ve worked with. I may not have learned it in a way that I prefer, but still, the experience has been quite valuable. I will take away a lot of great things, and I feel as though it has helped me mature while expanding my viewpoint. A few of the most important lessons I’ve learned are that I don’t need everyone’s personal approval- I need only do my job to the best of my ability. After all, I am there to exchange my capabilities for a paycheck. Second, Never under estimate the power of a great boss. This is something I have always known. I can truly say that if it were not for my boss being one of the most encouraging and supportive people, I would not have made it through some of the worst days. It is nice to have that kind of support, even if she can’t control EVERYTHING. The third thing is to remember that you never know what other people may be going through that takes them outside of their normal selves. I experienced this first hand, and I think we all do. When we are stressed, we act differently. No one I worked with is any different. People are human, and so we go through things. STILL- you shouldn’t ever be taken so outside of your element that you can’t or don’t want to do the best you can. This brings me to my final lesson- life is simply too short to be doing something that you don’t love, but until you are able to or until you find out WHAT EXACTLY that is, try to do your day job the best you can and don’t down yourself in the process. It all works out, even if the results are unexpected. There is NOTHING wrong with doing what you have to do to make a living.

I’m very lucky to have had a steady job and to work with a few people who were a joy. Thank God for them, because there are always a few in every job that aren’t! I joke around that there will be nothing I miss, but surely I can name a few things. For now, I’m off in a different direction, and I’m really going to enjoy seeing where I wind up.

LET THE FUNEMPLOYMENT COMMENCE!

 

Thank you Somee Cards for always knowing what to say!

May 9, 2012

No School for Summer = YAY X 100

Last night was my last class until fall. This semester has been so up and down for me. I started this program with such excitement and hope, but this semester, that level of enthusiasm dropped, with no sign of recovering.

Book design, Aka the Wednesday night book club, ended last week. My Raven IPad App got decent reviews on it. Even though I wasn’t fond of the assignment, I did the best I could. I wanted more for it, but it gets to the point where I just need to bang it out and get it finished. When the deadline approaches, you gotta haul ass.

I signed up for my second class, Information Design, not really knowing what to expect. It was the first time Amy was teaching this class (it was the first info design class ever!), and I knew that it would have some kinks. I could lie and say that I made lots of connections between design execution and theories on how to represent information in hierarchies, but for realz, I don’t pay attention to that crap. No one else’s but mine. To me, important stuff should be represented ahead of smaller things, and I use my own discretion. If it doesn’t work, then trust me, I’ll hear about it during critique.

Our final project was a 2 part assignment. The first was to collect data on ourselves and use it to create an infographic.

The second part was to create a mobile application . We weren’t sure how these two parts were related, but I did my best to tie mine together. Below is my infographic.

My Infographic, which details my creative process…if you can call it one.

My app, called RUSH, is a creative conscience tracker. You use this app to track moments during the day when you have a creative idea you would eventually like to execute.  The app not only lets you track your idea, but then it compiles that data into a report (ideally) that would tell you when, where, and under what conditions you would produce your best artistic work.

I really love this project. Although the “frames” are just a start, I can see me developing it into an actual app, provided I gain the know how.  Definitely my favorite work of the semester! More projects to come later.

Home/Start Up Screen

Retrieve & Create Ideas your idea

Track your idea using a picture (taken with the device or uploaded), a sound bite, or write it in. The file folder allows you to access an old one, or you can search for it using the search bar

Type your idea in

Tag your idea with key works, which aides in generating the report

Share with social media…or NOT!

May 3, 2012

End of the Semester & Funemployment Prep

 This happens to be the lovely time of the semester where I fall off the face of the Earth for 2 or 3 weeks because I simply cannot manage both my life and a blog. Anyway, I am back, and I’m ready to get my write on!

 

PRAISE JEEBUS!

School is nearly done. I finished Book Design last night after presenting an interactive story app for Poe’s The Raven. No I did not know John Cusack was making a shitty movie about him at the time I started.

Next week marks the last class of the semester. Info Design has been a decent experience. For my final project, I created an app called Rush. It works as a tool to track your creative conscience. I can’t wait to finish it and be DONE!

There are 15 calendar days until I am officially closing the chapter of my life as a government contractor. Yes, I am still excited. No, I will not miss anything about it.

There are 4 weeks until I leave the country for a summer in Costa Rica. Yes I am still excited. Yes I am still nervous. Yes to all of the above!

I’ve already started setting aside the stuff I am taking (the fun part), and planning what I will do when I  return (necessary evil). So far, things have been smooth. The only part I can honestly say is the 4 vaccines I received yesterday, leaving me feeling like a sick little kid. Polio, Typhoid, Tetanus, and Hepatitis A/B (1st round) vaccines are running through my blood stream as we speak, getting ready to kill all sorts of shit in case I come across it. My own little army lying dormant…

I also bought these extremely thorough kits to prevent me from getting nasty little diseases like Dengue Fever (what the fuck), and another one to ease the discomfort of the travelers diarrhea that I am bound to get. The nurse lectured me for quite a while on what to eat and what not to eat, sucking the fun out of everything as she said no to street food and mixed drinks containing ice from unfiltered ice cubes. What the hell am I supposed to drink?! Oh well, beer it is.  How am I supposed to remember to not open my mouth in the shower, eat fruit salad washed in local water, put a straw in everything, etc? I know I’m a mess, and I’ll forget as soon as someone says, “drink this rum and passion fruit juice.”

 

SAY NO (Photo Courtesy of Pbase.com

 

She also broke my heart by telling me not to pet any animals. I understand why I shouldn’t pet random street dogs, but not hold a sloth monkey? That’s 75 % of the reason I chose Costa Rica! What am I supposed to love on while I’m down there?

Don’t pet him? That’s just mean! Surely this loving little creature won’t give me Ebola or Rabies….
(photo courtesy of escapevillas.com)

Aside from preparing for my doom via bat bite, life is normal for the next few weeks. Lots of things are on the way, but for now, I’m enjoying my last bit of normalcy before I take off. Friends, be prepared for me to be needy and clingy for the next month! I am going to get in as much time with you as I can.

 
April 12, 2012

Racing Thoughts Late At Night

Last night, I came home from class beyond exhausted. It was 11:40 when I walked into the door. I was so happy to see my dogs, who clearly are barely living a full life unless they are following me around the apartment. I was even more excited to see William, who was barely awake.

Only a few more weeks of the double agent lifestyle…unhappy government contract support by day, stressed design student by night. School ends the 9th. 9 days after that, the job I begrudgingly came to for the past three years will end as well. I’ve quit my job to travel, which is something I’ve always wanted to do. I’ve sworn off new clothes, taken up afternoons at the gym, and gave up drinking anything but wine once a week in a Lent related attempt to save money and my health. I still haven’t had a beer yet. I excitedly shared my plans with everyone in my world. I can’t believe that I, a self-professed home body, will spend 2 months (I miscounted I’m actually away for a week longer than I thought) away from my home, my love, my family, friends, and 2 dogs, in the name of…my own dreams.

I laid awake in my bed until 12:30. Why do I feel guilty for following my heart? I lay in my bed, thinking about how I am not the only person sacrificing things for my dream. Darkness, laying beside me, is supporting my decision in more ways than one. He loves me so much that he is telling me to do whatever I feel called to do, because he would never want me to regret a thing, especially while we plan our future lives together. I am really grateful to have him, because I know he is the best.

I think about the people who accuse me of being crazy. How they think I am unstable. Who would give up the financial security? Squander their savings? Delay dreams of buying a home in this already tough economy?

I think about how I have spent countless moments crying, stressing, clenching my teeth, wishing for more time, hating my work day, crowing about how there is ever time for the things that make me happy. I think about the people who will never get to experience anything but hardships far worse than my own. I think about  my my best friend, Jessica,  gone to soon, and how she would never waste her life in a place she wasn’t meant to be.

Then I think about how I am a girl with nothing to lose. I think about how I’m not sure of everything I want out of life, but after spending nearly all of my 20’s listening to other people, and adapting their version of happiness, I think I owe it to myself to take the time to figure out what my version is.

I can assure you, this picture was taken while I was experiencing a moment of sheer joy.

I can assure you, this picture was taken while I was experiencing a moment of sheer joy.

April 11, 2012

Inspired Cooking

The past few years, Easter dinner has been far less fancy of an affair as it once was. My mom used to go all out- ham, sides, snacks, deserts- but not anymore. I can respect her reasons.

Quite simply put, she is just tired and doesn’t feel like cooking.

We have ended up at the Macaroni grill the past two or three years. My parents don’t know other places ( not for my lack of suggesting) that they can get a decently priced Italian (faux ) dinner, without driving all over God’s green earth. On a normal night, I wouldn’t be like “OOOO let’s go there!” but there could be worse places. My grandmother is a big Red Lobster fan (REALLY!?!?! Are we related?!?!) and my parents are pretty much over that, I think. They put the kibosh on Red Lobster requests.

After I tried ordering some sorta pasta that tasted like what I imagine sock broth and chicken with wet rubber would taste like, I glanced across the table at my sisters simple pasta dish. Capellini Pomodoro. Deliciously simple- thin angel hair, fresh tomato sauce with basil and a touch of mozzarella. I did something I almost never do. I told the waiter that I just didn’t like it, and I asked him to please hook me up with whatever my sister is eating. He happily obliged, saying he’d rather I be happy. Bless that man, cause I really was. It tasted way better than the hot ass mess I was eating only moments before, and it was very well made. I promise to stop badmouthing Macaroni Grill and putting it in the same category as The Olive Garden (not happening).

Anyways, I left my leftovers out on the kitchen counter, and I got all pissed off, and decided to make my own damn capellini pomodoro. I loved it. It was delicioso. And then I also made a chocolate cake (of which I have had the teeniest tiny-est slice).

Check it out.

 

Um yeah I do have a double chin here...so what?

April 8, 2012

The Easter Edition

Happy Easter! No better day that to make a new promise to yourself, renew old ones, or seek forgiveness.

I was raised in a very Catholic household and went to Catholic school until I graduated High School. Somewhere after, things changed. I still have faith in God, but I can’t  say my faith in the church I grew up in is the same. Whatever that may mean, I know for sure that the main values I hold are still the same. Also, I still feel compelled to follow the biggest of traditions I grew up with, and Easter is no exception. I  still wanted to give up something for Lent this year. I still believe in God, and I love Him. I’m blessed, I’m appreciative, and I have to say, my relationship with Him is on the mend. Anyways…

Many of you know how much I love a good beer. Particularly the nice, thick, fatty ones. Hops. Chocolate Stouts. Dark brown ales. I love them. They are a staple in my life like bread, milk, and eggs. That isn’t particularly healthy, in more ways than one. It might not have seemed like a big deal for some, but giving up beer was hard. It is a recreational thing that I love, and had often when socializing and spending time with family and friends. When you have something readily available all the time, you take it for granted. I wanted to spend some time with my friends and family and not use beer as a social tool. I’m not in college- I don’t need to act like it.  I gave up liquor because it wasn’t that big of a deal to me but I allowed myself wine once a week. I rarely had wine unless It was something I really wanted, or if I was sharing it with my best friend. I also found new ways to relax after coming home from a stressful day. I went to the gym or walked longer with the dogs. I read more. I spent a lot less money, and even lost more weight spending the past few weeks away from my hoppy frothy friend. I did cheat on St. Patricks day, but 2 beers is a drastic cut from my normal celebrations.

I also made a promise to love my body more and treat it like my biggest investment. That meant all of it.  If my body is my temple, I had been treating it like a run down church in a strip mall, in dire need of repair. I got back on weight watchers, got back in the gym, and stopped disparaging myself at every turn. I also came to make some huge decisions about my personal happiness and what life path was best for me. I definitely wasn’t on it! All in all, I feel like I had an amazing Lenten season. I feel better on the inside, and out, although I still require a lot of repair 🙂

BTW, No. I have not had a beer yet. lol. Now a margarita? That’s another story….