Janae González… A Rising star.

Just one of the many reasons I value my years of teaching gymnastics is to have had the opportunity to watch the students develop into fantastic young adults and superb athletes. I’ve gotten to witness these talented girls arrive at full ride scholarships, nursing, paid modeling, fashion design, photography, coaching, to even world traveling.  

My girls (as I selfishly like to claim) have grown into positive contributing members of this huge planet and I couldn’t be more proud!  If I made the time to write about each one of the hundreds (no exaggeration) I’d have to change my blog to “Their happy trails“.

Today I want to highlight a young woman that I connected with when she was still learning long-division and cursive writing. A few cartwheels and a bright smile gave me no doubt that this little stud would grow beyond the small gym we met in.  Janae González is the fourth smile from the left.



Following a succeful gymnastics stretch, a different sport captured her heart and behold… Another natural ability was exposed! What’s in the future moment for this vibrant super star? Soccer!



Having already particiapted in the U17 Women’s World Cup for Mexico, she’s been eagerly invited to represent and play for a U.S. College.  Since I’m not the first admirer to write about this spectacular girl, you can easily search her name to find out the list of incredible steps she’s had in her blossoming career. Check out her already buzzing energy with Santa Clara Broncos!

Here are a few shots from the World Cup.



Now to a point that is equally impressive, in which I’m most proud to introduce to you.  When this driven little lady isn’t studying, practicing or playing, she’s working in the world of donations. A few years back Janae and her older brother started JC4K. The goal is to collect new and/or gently used soccer gear and toys to give to those that are less fortunate. Through the years, they  have sent gear to Mexico, Ethiopia  and throughout the U.S. 

Here’s a video of the kids receiving just a portion of their collections: JC4K donation video!



Janae, you are a prime example of the bright light that our world needs to be surrounded with. Your heart seems to shine in the right place, and your smile confirms it all. Happy birthday sweetness… Keep spreading the love!

A special thanks to her mom and family. You’ve encouraged this spirited girl not only as a daughter and a sister, but as a productive individual. Looks like she has the right balance of deep roots and wide-spread wings… I’m so thankful to have been a small part of her beautiful path and now I’m looking forward to seeing where it leads. Cheers to you all!

Categories: Fitness, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

51 Hours of travel to get 1/2 way around the world

erikamae82:

This lovely adventure was exactly 3 years ago. What a fun recap!

Originally posted on Her Happy Trails:

Since I was traveling through a variety of major time zones, I’ll simply put which hours of my journey I’m describing rather than what time it actually was (don’t know if I could be accurate with that anyway).

HOURS 1-3
Departed his place, checked in and flew to Aukland.
Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos

HOURS 3-6
The start of a wicked layover!

I landed by noon, but wasn’t able to check in for Dubai until 2:30. Snapped a couple of pics before getting rid of my bag.
Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos

I love how this says “Relax”.
Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos

Finally checked in, boarding pass in hand and 4 more hours to burn until I get on the flight.

HOUR 6-8
In New Zealand you’re aloud to bring liquid on the flight and I had a left over bottle of Mount Gay Rum (That I purposing picked in  name of all my friends in Barbados, miss you boys!) There was no way…

View original 770 more words

Categories: Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Does everything happen for a reason?

You may call it whatever you’d like. Karma, luck, coincidence, universal connection, destiny… The list goes on describing the energy that created this beautiful episode.

I was flying from Japan on my way to Cambodia with a layover in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. As I boarded the large flight, my fingers were crossed that I had a decent seat considering the 8 hour flight I had just finished from Tokyo.

I was tired.

A small internal leap for joy occurred when I spotted my cozy location next to a window with only one passenger next to me. Glorious!

Happily settling in to my new temporary space, I put my reading book and iPad in the seat back in front of me and wedged my water bottle between me and the wall. Delighted that I’d only have one person to climb over during my frequent bathroom needs, I nuzzled in like a puppy next to a fire.

An elderly woman gently sat down next to me and I greeted her with a smile and a nice to meet you, don’t worry I’ll keep to myself nod. I noticed she seemed unsettled and a bit frazzled. Within moments, I found out why. The angelic woman turned to me and with a fragile voice said, “My husband is ill and we were seated seperatly, would you mind switching with him so we can be together?”.
The selfish side of me was sad to depart from the best seat on the plane, but without hesitation, I replied with some sort of “Of course, no worries”. I packed up my nook and looked for the man eagerly making his way to swap spots with me.

Ah, indeed his donation of a chair was in the middle seat of the compact center section of the plane. I tried to hide my deep breath as I realized that to one side of me would be a newborn in the lap of mom and on the other was a tech savvy teenager with his head buried in whatever device was in his hands.

I grinned as I awkwardly climbed over the young woman attempting to maneuver matrix style to avoid hitting the infant or the diaper bag blocking the foot path. I plopped down and started to unpack in hopes that this would be more comfortable than I was imagining. As I guided the diaper bag out of my way, the stressed mom leans in my direction and starts with an apology, “Excuse me, I’m sorry.”

Oh great.

“I’m flying with my daughter and mother, but my mom was seated apart from us. Would you mind switching with her so she can help take care of my little girl?”.

Almost giggling and knowing that the next neighborhood couldn’t be worse than this one, I quickly agreed and loaded up once more. By this time the flight attendants were pacing the aisles, securing doors and requesting all passengers to be seated for take off. I finally found my third attempt at a permanent spot and with relief, it was in the aisle. Nobody to climb over, leaning room on one side and an elbow partner that clearly wasn’t going to be a Chatty Cathy. Too exhausted to unpack quite yet, I leaned back with eyes closed to meditate my way back to being centered.

A small tap on my hand alerted me to the man on my left who was ready to talk. He politely asked if I’d like the middle seat. What? Who wants the middle seat!? I kindly said “no thank you” as my eyes wandered to his quivering hands. Beaded with sweat and clearly anxious, I asked if he was nervous.

His response was clear, “I don’t like to fly”.

At this point it was routine, so I quietly stood for him to have the aisle. Suppressing my desire to either break down or laugh hestarically, I sat slowly in the middle seat, leaned back once more with my eyes closed and took a deep breath.

“That was really nice what you did”. I heard a voice next to the window. It was a youthful female with a kind tone and a genuine smile that greeted my sight when I peered over.
“Awh thanks…. He’s nervous” I whispered.
“No”, she said, “I’ve watched you go from seat to seat that landed you here and that’s really kind of you. Hi, I’m Bree”.

That is how Bree and I met and that was the first day of many adventures to come.

This flight included a lengthy discussion that surrounded wonderful topics from traveling to relationships, health to the definition of happiness. You would of thought we had a script in front of us judging from the ease of the organic conversation.

Here’s a photo from the very plane ride I described above.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Proceeding this flight, we departed ways as I was volunteering in Phnom Pehn and she was off to connect with a friend outside of the city. We were able to meet up just for a moment with high hopes to plan a small reunion in Thailand.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Several weeks later, we (with the beautiful help of the universe) came back together in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Ten days, uncountable miles on foot, tastes of shared dishes, shopping through thrift stores, local gatherings, a Thai massage and one cooking class… We had “bonded” to say the least.

IMG_3344

At the end of our time together, we had already discussed when and where the next connection would be. To save you the details, I’ll just tell you with joy and wonderful memories, that we landed our reunion in Barbados!

IMG_3345

Our departure from the island was on the same flight and allowed for an emotional babble to reminisce of our past and wishfully dream for the future. Where next? How soon? The answers are still yet to be discovered, but one thing is for sure… I have found a dear soul that has enhanced my journey beyond what I could of imagined. Here’s the last photo we took together on our way back to the U.S.

IMG_1068

Dear Bree,
I have 6 dollars and a bag of nuts…

BREE HAD A RESPONSE TO THIS POST:

“Dear Erika,
I remember that first plane ride all too well. I was exhausted [I had spent the entire 24 hours before with my Bali family soaking up every moment until my 4am flight out of Denpasar], terrified [I was heading out of my safe Bali bubble into a the real backpacking world, alone, with no preparation, and very little idea of what was ahead of me], devastated [you of all people know the high I was coming down from, having spent the most spectacular four weeks of my life on an island of love and healing]… and did I mention I was exhausted?

I was looking forward to sleeping the entire flight from KL to Cambodia. I was looking forward to nestling in my little window seat. I was looking forward to some silence to meditate on my time in and away from my piece of heaven. I was looking forward to wallowing in my own self pity and shed my tears in peace.

LUCKY FOR ME this ball of light – all smiles and silver rings with big eyes and even bigger smiles – sat down next to me and burst my pity bubble like some sort of star exploding into a supernova. Did I mention this supernova came prepared with a snack bag?

I remember our conversation. I remember Indian Santa Clause, as he has been fondly called since that moment on. I remember thinking, “Excuse me? People like you exist?” I remember feeling blessed all over again and coming around to the idea that my “Bali bubble” was actually just a “life bubble” all along and the happiness and love was all around.

I remember Cambodia – gorging on popcorn and hot sauce with Semhal like it was our last meal and marathoning movies with Candice on those harem beds.

I remember Thailand – running around like some sort of street food fiends, looking for the banana leaf with the most bizarre filling and stalking the egg lady like she was some sort of bounty we were hunting. Not to mention all the “you will never believe what happened to me at work…” moments.

I remember every grand adventure and giggle fit; every beautiful happy memory. But do you want to know what I remember most? I remember you cutting your Barbados trip two weeks short and waiting on me hand and foot; walking miles in the rain to pick up coconut water and medicine, calling every doctor on the island to see who could do a house call, preparing all my meals for me, washing and braiding my hair to make me feel a little more human, and most importantly making me laugh hysterically any chance you got. I remember thinking, “good lord, what have I done in my life to deserve such altruism, such friendship, such love?”

I still think those things almost every day. There are a handful of moments in my life that I can look back on as flashes of “Karma, luck, coincidence, universal connection, destiny” that visibly and drastically changed the course of my life. Your game of musical chairs on that small Malaysian airline… I’m too scared to even imagine my life without it.”

IMG_3348

Categories: Travel talk, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Coconut and cashew? Yes please!

Introducing two of my favorite new products. I’m sure that the both of these have existed for years but they’ve just recently come into my life, so I thought I’d share!

We’ve all heard of soy milk when replacing lactose-rich dairy milk. I choose to limit my soy intake and to be honest, my rare indulgence of sushi, miso and edamame exceeds my preferred consumption. So years ago, I turned to almond milk and then after my adventures through Asia, fell in love with coconut milk. On the shelves now days, you can find oat, rice, quinoa, flax and even hemp milk!

Almond has a partner in crime in my culinary dreams due to the unique flavor that this product has to offer. It’s creamy, extremely smooth and has a flavor that seems to compliment both sweet and savory dishes. I’ve used it veggie plates, baked goodies, smoothies and my favorite, simply adding it to my warm tea or coffee. Good morning!

Introducing my newest buddy…. Cashew milk!

IMG_3335-0

Next up is a tasty form of the coconut. This little nutrient powerhouse comes from a nut tree (even though it’s not actually in the nut family) and provides an incredible list of health benefits. So what did I find? It’s not oil, not toasted, but puréed!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

When you first open it, you’ll see the natural separation between the coconut flesh and oil. I like to use both for a variety of uses so I scoop out the firm oil and store it in a different container. You can see the texture comparison between the two.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Top 3 favorite things I do with the coconut manna (besides just put a chunk in my mouth straight from the jar).

#1- Mix it right in my coffee or tea… with the cashew milk! If you have time and want to get a little fancy, throw it in a blender or bullet and watch the froth develop!
Put the mixture above with some greek yogurt and freeze it. Oh my!

#2- Add it into oatmeal. It makes for a slightly sweetened addition without using any other sugars. Sprinkle some crushed walnuts on top and I dare you not to want seconds!
Combine raw oats, coconut, honey and nut butter of your choice to make energy enhancing cookies.

#3- Use it for stir fry. I tend to favor the curry dishes… Mmmhmm, you know that’s delicious!

Categories: Edibles!, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Wait, that’s real water!”

I try to make it back to Oklahoma at least twice a year to visit my precious family. Although this trip was short, I was able to squeak out a general post for fun. Here’s a photo from the last visit. I love these kids!

DSC_0112

Time with the siblings…

This day consisted of the 3 oldest and a trip to the city. First up, our excursion to the Devon Tower. This sky scraper is the tallest building in Oklahoma (39th in the United States) reaching 850 ft high with 50 floors.

IMG_3305

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Check out this interior center divide. I was trying to figure out my camera so at first glance I was going to take a seat in order to focus on what I was doing. Thankfully, Joseph exclaimed “hey, that’s real water!”. This piece of work was so level that it looked like a stone setting covered in thick glass. I had to touch the liquid myself to confirm… Yup, that’s water flowing over the edges! Makes me wonder how many people have taken an accidental splash or watched their kids jump up to surprising drench!

IMG_3302

In the elevator I got to watch three giddy teenagers with “butterflies” as the doors closed. My brother timed it, 45 seconds later we were at the entrance of our lunch destination.

IMG_3303

Peaking over 49 floors is the Vast. A classy dining restaurant that provides window seats with a skyline view. This was thrilling for more reasons than one. First off, we’ve been talking about this for months and now it was finally happening. Secondly, these kids rarely explore a city, let alone go inside a modern building at a height like this.

They seated us next to a corner window which a perfect view for everyone. Honestly, I was so excited watching them, that I forgot to take photos of our seats. Here’s a couple shots that I found online to give you an idea.
.

IMG_3301

I got a sampler so we could all share the variety of flavors and the kids split a “fancy” hamburger and fries. Here’s the buffet plate followed by what was left of their hamburger and dessert plate.

IMG_3304

After lunch, we dropped back down to floor level and made our way to the street. Let me pause here and explain my excitement in getting to watch these guys go through a revolving door for the first time. Adorable! They also got a kick (or just really embarrassed) out of me pretending to be stuck when it was my turn.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Here are some of the sites you may see when strolling through Oklahoma City. The top photo is of the memorial and museum from the famous Oklahoma City bombing.

IMG_3306

Handstand? Totally.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Who’s this? Our cousins are superintendents for several jobs in the area so we swung in for a hug and hello!

IMG_3307

Just outside of the city, the kids wanted to stop in one of their favorite stores. I say “store” lightly as this massive company is nationwide and has buildings ranging from 20,000 to almost 500,000 square feet! Inside you’ll find anything and everything you could possibly want for camping, hiking, biking, hunting, fishing and any other outdoor sport. Welcome to the Bass Pro Shop.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I lost the boys to the fishing section and Hannah found the ladies clothing. I spotted the backpacks (shocking, right?) and spent most of time taking pictures on the decor. Look around!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

IMG_3300

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

When they’re not out and about, you can find these guys and our two younger siblings using energy around the property. If it be exploring the creeks, making paths through the tall grass or playing with the pups.

IMG_3308

IMG_3309

When it’s too cold to brave the weather, you’d find them inside doing schoolwork or practicing their music. I’d absolutely love to post a video of them playing and singing, but I will keep my “big sister” promise and not expose their talent… yet.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

It’s so refreshing to spend quality time with such well mannered, joyful children. Especially because I grew up as an only child, I’m so grateful to have Joseph, Hannah, Benjamin, Sarah, (with memory of her twin Elizabeth) and Rachel.

Categories: Art, Edibles!, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

1000 miles in 24 hours

Ever wish you could have a friend run an errand for you in order for you to get other stuff done?

Ryan, from the post Tulsa, more than just the Drillers, decided it was more valuable (and helpful) to pay me for the task at hand, than to do it himself.

“Gee, let me think…. Umm sure!”
(That was for all of you Jim Carrey fans out there).

It was my mission to fly north to Bloomington Illinois to pick up his truck that had been serviced and drive it back down to Tulsa Oklahoma.

Besides the trip itself, there really wasn’t any extraordinary events that took place, so here’s my 24 hours in a nutshell.

Ryan dropped me off at the Tulsa international airport for my departure to the snowy city up North. The first flight was on an average sized commercial plane that had 32 rows with 3 seats on each side of the aisle.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The second flight was a bit smaller, but far from the smallest I’ve ever flown on (for one of those death defying, chicken in the runway episodes, see the post: Sit back, relax and enjoy the flight). For those of you who haven’t flown, let me give you a sneak peak at why being vertically challenged is a benefit on these flights.

2015/01/p1132029.jpg

IMG_3287

Coming into land at my final destination, the snow covered grounds made for a pretty picture. What they didn’t make for, was a warm welcome.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The airport was clean and brightly lit with an open layout.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

When I walked out of the front doors, a wall of “freezing” hit me square in the face, like an ice monster attacking with no mercy. I took a step outside and immidiently did an about-face and went right back into the airport to wait for my ride. Here’s a shot of the security picking off icicles so they wouldn’t drop on pedestrians.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A quick trade of paperwork put me in Ryan’s truck ready for my 550 mile drive back to his house.

The weather had reported that I would be right in the trail of an “ice vortex”, sounds vicious, right? Luckily for me, the storm relaxed and detoured to the east, leaving me with safe roads and smooth ride.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

As the sun dropped behind what seemed to be a never ending highway, I stuck to my goal of getting a few hours on the road before snagging a hotel. Here’s a blurry night shot of St.Louis, home of the Rams and the popular arch. Can you see it on the right?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Turns out on the open road, I completely decompress with the sound of a motor… like a baby after a warm bottle in a rocking chair. As I began to melt into the warm seats, I spotted a simple hotel that was perfect for some shut eye before finishing the route ahead. Not too shabby for a pitstop in the middle of Missouri.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The sunrise was gorgeous but deceiving as it brought light but not much warmth. My solution? I took heating pads that are supposed to go in your shoes and stuck them to my legs and hands. Silly? Brilliant! I was toasty until the heater took action and now it’s time to roll.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

IMG_3289

I wish I had some incredible snap shots to show you, but it is instead I captured some photos that I assume, some of you have never seen before.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

IMG_3285

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Yes, you can get pulled over for going to slow.

IMG_3284

So close!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

From the moment he dropped me off at the airport, it was 24 hours later that I pulled into his drive. Safe and sound (me and the truck) we had success! Here’s the vehicle that I had grown to love in my time behind the wheel.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

What mission accomplished would be complete without a celebration? We chose a casual walk that lead us to the Valkrie, seen in the post about Tulsa.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Here’s a quick snap shot of me, Ryan and his beautiful girlfriend CJ.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A walk home and a bright good night is how I’ll end this one.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Handstand material for sure!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Categories: Accommodations, Travel talk, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

It went all over my shoes

In 3 years of traveling, I’ve only gotten what some would consider “sick” just a handful of times. No more than if I were at home living a day to day routine. With that said, here’s a short story that sent my happy trails on a little detour.

It was the beginning year of my backpacking and my first trip to Peru. I had met a sweet young Dutch couple while studying in Argentina that decided to link up with me for a Machu Picchu adventure.

If you’d like an entertaining read with several pictures check out the entire 3 day journey here.

Here are a few photos from that memorable experience.

2015/01/img_3236-0.jpg

2015/01/img_3241.jpg We had completed out trek with an amazing day exploring the grounds of the ancient Incas. Making it back to the main city of Aguascalientes, I was beginning to feel a little uneasy. Nothing major, but just enough ache in my tummy to want to lay down as my friends left to grab dinner. Food was the last of my desires. The hostel we had slept at allowed me to bundle up in the employees room to recoup before our long train ride home to Cusco. Simon and Ashgan (the two kind smiles at the bottom of the page) said we had three hours before our train departed and they’d come wake me up when it was time to go.

I closed my eyes for what seemed like a minute before the door swung open to reveal both of my friends frantically picking up our bags. “We read the tickets wrong and we have to go now or we’ll miss the train!”

Imagine, you can barely move your head without the feeling of Mr.Nasuea knocking at your door and now it’s time to sprint through unevenly paved streets while lugging a 50lb backpack over your hunched shoulders that are protecting your cramping stomach. Oh joy.

I only made it a few steps before Simon (my Dutch Superhero of the day) clearly read my agony and lifted the bag from my back. I was now able to keep up with the two of them as we hustled down the steep hills and tight turns. You’d think that a sense of relief would come over me as I saw the station, but at this point I knew that poor Peru was going to see what I had for breakfast.

I hollered at them to keep going in order to check us in as I took a hard right into a lonely ally. Plug your ears as you read on to find that this type of vomit was far from what I would describe as danty or sickly. Words that come to mind are violent, uncontrollable and…. All over my shoes.

I gathered myself knowing that the train wouldn’t wait for the extra pale-faced chica to catch up. I spotted my buddies who now had our boarding passes, all of our bags and the look of two concerned parents. I actually felt better, so with high hopes I assumed it was a one-time kind of deal and that the train would be more restful than anything. I was wrong.

We snagged a table booth next to the window and got settled in.

Let’s pause for a moment and talk about this “train”. Please do not imagine a high speed European railway or the popular US Amtrak, oh no no no. This was an ancient line of connecting boxes that reminded me of a daunting Disney ride. Looking back, it was actually really neat, but at the moment it seemed like a legal form of torture. This tiny beast rocked back and forth as if to struggle finding balance between one side of the tracks to the other. Clickity clack, clickity clack, clickity clack…

So the “train”, now in full motion, did nothing to my body except create a movement that encouraged another round of losing whatever may have been left in my guts. I excused myself from the table to find the nearest toilet.

“Pardone, ¿dónde está el baño? Pronto por favor!”

The petite Peruvian woman, dressed in professional attire with a gentle smile pointed to an occupied closet. It was locked. I returned to meet eyes with her and clarified why I needed it… Now! Not understanding my broken sickly Spanish she just kept pointing to the door behind me.

Have you ever drawn a blank while trying to remember a certain word? Especially in another language? I could not think of “bag” or “bucket” or anything for that matter, so I proceeded to take the charades route and made motions of puking while gripping my stomach.

Seriously friends, visualize that one for a minute.

I continued to signal for any type of container and with sympathy, she just shrugged her shoulders. Swallowing (literally) with all of my strength to keep it down, I rushed back to my seat and dug through my backpack to find the stash of plastic bags I always keep on the road. Not wanting to provide a show for the fellow passengers, I swayed back and forth to the end of the car and kneeled down. I opened the bag and at that very moment, my body could no longer keep it in.

So there I was, curled in the corner for all the train to endure as this poor girl emptied her insides into a plastic bag with “Muchas Gracias” printed on the side.

I finally reached a point in which I felt settled enough to go back to my seat. I stood up slowly looking down at my bag full of, ummm substance…. What was I ever going to do with this? After unsuccessfully looking for an employee that could point me to a bin, I had nowhere else to turn except a cart that carried all of the snacks and drinks. That’s it! I saw a symbol that appeared to be for “trash” on top of what resembled a waste compartment. Weak and tired, I still had the right mind to look inside first to confirm that it wasn’t where they stored the complimentary cookies. It was empty. I placed my bag inside with an internal (guilt driven) apology to the poor person who had to find it.

I proceeded to drag myself back to the booth, plop down and fall asleep.

I’d love to finish this story in great detail, but the only thing next in my memory was slowly opening my eyes. Relieved to not feel my stomach at my throat, I looked around placing myself in the bottom bunk bed, in the room of our original Cusco hostel. Next to my bed was a box of saltine crackers, a ginger soda and a pack of gum. My dear friends had carried my belongings back, tucked me in and provided just what I needed upon awakening. I’m so grateful for Simon and Ashgan for their selfless act in nourishing me to health and safety. Much love to you my friends!

2015/01/img_3235.jpg Side note update: Since that journey, I’ve traveled to Holland and have been able to reconnect with these two and their families! What a grand, beautiful world we live in.

Categories: Not-so-happy trails, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Getting shot in Peru

This story will forever be embedded in my book of memories. It was my buddy Hayden’s first time backpacking and I say this because he put full faith in me and all of my experiences. I had planned the trip, reserved and booked all of our transfers and even sent him a “must bring” and “leave at home” list. With that said, picture this…

After hiking Machu Picchu and spending a week exploring the beautiful city of Cusco, we arrived at the airport to make our way North to Costa Rica. Walking with confidence and speaking in my advanced (broken) spanish we approached the ticket counter to check in. Passports, yep. Tickets, yep. Yellow fever card? Hmm….
“I choose not to get shots, but thanks for asking”. I said politely.
“Lo siento señorita, su necesaria para viajar” (sorry miss, it’s necessary to travel).
“No sir, I’ve been to Costa Rica before and I didn’t need a yellow fever card then, why now?”
Turns out coming from the north you don’t need it, but coming from the south you’re at a higher risk, so the shot is required before entering Costa Rica.
At this point, I’m still relaxed regardless of Hayden’s face expressing the “we’re doomed” look. “Where is the nearest doctor? We’ll go get the shot right now and return for the flight”.

Fun but not helpful fact: the shot must be in your system for 10 days prior to travel. This was unacceptable due to the fact that Hayden had his flight back to the states out of Costa Rica in just 8.

The man at the desk replied with a “best we can do” scenario and puts us on a flight to Lima which is the capital of Peru. He suggested that we might have more options there. So here we go, boarding a plane with no guarantee that we can connect to our final destination.

While sitting on this little transfer, my mind is searching all options. We could ditch the final flight and just take a bus over the border to try and sneak our non-yellow fever card carrying selves to Ecuador. Maybe we could hitch hike north until another opportunity presented itself or why not just jump to Mexico? They have beautiful beaches!

Landing in Lima, we gathered our backpacks and decided to approach the ticket counter as if there was nothing was to be concerned of. As the story goes, the same conversation began with the employee confirming that we will not be flying out of the country without our yellow fever card.
Turing to walk away with several thoughts running through my mind, we were casually signaled over by a woman who appeared to be a apart of the airport security. “You need your yellow fever card?” She asked.
Eagerly I responded with a guilty nod, “Ci!”. She gazed away ever so slightly as to avoid eye contact as she suggested we find a man in a red vest and tell him we’re in need of “Air Sanity”.

No time for questions, we’re now on a hunt through the Lima airport desperately looking for a red vested jolly man with, what I imagine, having a stash of yellow cards we can buy off him and be merry on our way. Wrong.

In our search for this “hombre de rojo”, Hayden spots a symbol resembling a Red Cross. We had nothing to lose as we approached a counter that was clearly a medical center. “Hola, necesitamos que nuestros… uhhh… amarillo uhh…”. She cuts me off, “You need your yellow fever card?”
“Yes please!”
She asks us to wait before returning with an elderly woman that had to of been at least 85 years old or 110 and looking great for her age. We followed her into a small room with a tiny business desk covered in several binders and random knick-nacks.
She proceeded to ask if we had a doctor from the United States that could confirm we have received the shots. The entire conversation went something like this:
“You have note with shots?”
“No señora, we don’t have the shots or a note.”
“Some Americans have doctor send paper in machine with card. Do you have a doctor?”
“No señora, I don’t. I’m sorry.”
By this time she is giving me the look of “I know you’re young, but come on lady, get my drift!”
“…but you can have a doctor with note?” She implied.
“Ohhh, ci señora… I do have a doctor with a note!”
“Good then, go with her” she said while pointing to a kind looking woman wearing an outfit that was nothing resembling a nurses outfit.
As Hayden and I made eye contact, I giggled with a shoulder shrug and scooted along behind her with relief knowing we’ll make our flight. Expected to be given a yellow fever card with a wink, I had another thing coming.

We ended our short walk in a room containing a deep freezer, a desk and blank walls decorated with graphs and a few disturbing posters with images of tropical diseases. She rolled out a dusty chair and proceeded.
“Please sit down. Who’s first?”
“I’m sorry, excuse me… what?”
All things became clear as she started to lay out two needles with a substance that, to this day, I have no idea what it really was.

“I’ll go!” I took a seat, and looked at Hayden as she whipped out the syringe. With no hesitation, I was being punctured in the upper arm and injected
with the mystery liquid. Now it’s Hayden’s turn!

To the best of my memory, I believe his words were something along the lines of “Erika, I knew your travels were crazy… but this is insane!”

A needle poke and a few bandaids later, we were sent back to the ancient woman’s room where she had two yellow cards. I watched as she turned back the dial on the date stamp confirming that indeed, we were in the USA 15 days prior and yes, our doctor sent a fax to her. On the way out, our unofficially-official nurse suggested we remove the bandaids before landing in Costa Rica to ensure they wouldn’t be suspicious of a recent shot.

Forty American dollars later, we had cards, tender arms and a half hour till our flight departed. Hoping for a different person at the ticket counter to avoid any awkward moment, we were not so lucky as we approached the same man who had previously turned us away. I walked up as if we had never been there before and plopped up our Passports, tickets and 2 brand new shiny yellow cards.
He looked everything over and glanced up at us, then stamped a few papers and concluded with a “Have a nice flight”.
With sweaty palms and the heart rate of a race horse, I walked away in relief that I had not completely let my pal down. If anything, just given him another story to share back home. Sweet victory!

Here’s the only photo from that day.

2015/01/img_3222.jpg

Categories: Not-so-happy trails, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

My favorite Cambodian dish!

Once upon a time while volunteering in Cambodia, I took a walk in a local market to see what my tummy could find (shocking, right?). I rounded a corner and spotted out what appeared to be one of my favorite vegetables with some sort of goodness in the middle. Here are the actual photos from the quaint little market outside of Phnom Phen.

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/c19/30878795/files/2015/01/img_3210.jpg

I looked around for a seat, quickly realizing that the pint-size stool at my feet was the prime location to experience the meal I was about to order. Squatting low with knees in my chest, I pointed eagerly at the dish and singled for one slice, followed by my palms together in gratitide. Considering I was the tallest, whitest lady at the miniature table, I was being observed by several locals for my reaction to the first bite.

With the toddler spoon that matched my shoebox chair, I scooped up a bite and gave it a go.

How to make best friends in a foreign market:
Step1. Order something they don’t expect you to get.
Step2. Try it in front of them.
Step 3. React sincerely.

It didn’t take but a second for me to realize I had found my new favorite treat. Needless to say it became a daily routine to greet my new friends, squeeze into my usual seat (visualize Will Ferrel sitting in the classroom in the movie Elf) and indulging. Was this lunch… dessert? A meal or a snack? I have no idea but it was delicious!

When arriving back into the states I started research to find something that would closely resemble the magical taste of pumpkin custard or Lapov Songkya (ល្ពៅសង្ខ្យា).

To be honest, I have yet to find a recipe but I’ve had fun trying! Here was my most recent attempt (attempt: an act of trying to achieve something, typically one that is unsuccessful or not certain to succeed.)

Ingredients:
A buttercup squash (Pumpkin, Kombucha, Delicata, etc.)
4-5 Eggs (I used whole and some whites)
3/4 cup Coconut milk (it suggests cream or full fat, I used lite)
1/3 cup Sugar (I used coconut palm sugar)
1/2 tsp Salt
A dash of Cinnamon if you’re feelin spicy
Optional: In Cambodia they will often put shave ice and coconut over the top and drizzle with condensed sweetened milk. (See photos above)

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/c19/30878795/files/2015/01/pc1118761.jpg

Cut open the top of your pumpkin the same way you would for a Halloween carving. Take a spoon and gut your squash. For the sake of my sanity, please save your seeds and eat those too… They do not belong in the trash! Thank you.

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/c19/30878795/files/2015/01/pc111878.jpg

Mix all of the ingredients saving the eggs for last.

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/c19/30878795/files/2015/01/pc111884.jpg

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/c19/30878795/files/2015/01/pc111887.jpg

Grab a double boiler and fill with an adequate amount of water. Crank the heat until it’s boiling. Place your squash in the over sized steamer, cut side up. Poor the liquid into the hollowed out pumpkin and close the lid.

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/c19/30878795/files/2015/01/pc111888.jpg

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/c19/30878795/files/2015/01/pc111889.jpg

Lower the heat and let the baby cook until the custard is cooked thoroughly and the pumpkin is tender. Remove and let cool.

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/c19/30878795/files/2015/01/pc111890.jpg

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/c19/30878795/files/2015/01/pc111897.jpg

This is the part in which you eagerly slice into as you contain the water in your mouth before giving this amazing dish a try…

Or in my case, you slice into it and have all the undercooked insides come pouring out into the table as your heart breaks into tiny little hungry pieces. I’m not sure if this failure was the specific recipe, the substitutions I made or in fact, that I actually didn’t follow the recipe.

I have you know, I ate the pumpkin separately with dinner and enjoyed every bite! I took the insides (what should of been custard) added oats and ground flax seed, then poured it into a baking dish and made scrumptious bars out of it. Problem solved.

So, if you want to try this Cambodian delight, I highly suggest you google it yourself and find a recipe that you think will be golden. When you find it, let me know!

Categories: Edibles!, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

3 challenges for 365 days

Starting off the new year always seems to be an appropriate time to set goals. Large, short term, serious or funny…. Why not? I chose 3 different resolutions to suggest to you. Take ‘em or leave ‘em, but check it out!

#1- FITNESS
We all know working out can be a struggle. If it be making time for it, finding the drive for it or simply getting it done. The reason I’m sharing this next idea is because it’s easy (woohoo!) and it involves music which generally stimulates the body anyway.

The challenge: do a non-stop workout for an entire song. There’s several different ways you can approach this. Maybe choose just one movement and do it until the song is over, for example push ups. Move your hands close then far, elbows in then out… Just keep pushing until the song ends. Another option would be a variety of movements in sequence. Example 20 push ups, 30 squats, 50 crunches, etc.

Care not to create your own routine? You can always search my fitness page for ideas, a great example would be the workout in El Salvador. Need more? Allow Google to help out. Simply search “3 minute workouts” and I’m sure you’ll get plenty of creative burners!

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/c19/30878795/files/2015/01/img_3168.jpg

#2- FINANCES
This is a popular program that has been pinned all over the place and there’s a good reason why! What will you do with $1,378.00?
A. Find a jar, bucket, box, can, bag, bottle… Pretty much anything that can hold your currency.
B. Decorate it! Or not…. But if you have the time, I say grab a friend, a beverage of choice and get lost in glitter glue and markers.
C. Drop the funds! Instead of putting a random amount of your change in, make a purposeful donation to yourself and watch the balance grow! It’s suggested to start with $1 and add to the amount weekly.

Did you get a chunk of funds from the holiday season? Reverse it then! Do you often get caught with your hand in the cookie jar? Skip the jar and go to the bank instead! Check out this site for the pro’s and con’s of both options.

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/c19/30878795/files/2015/01/img_3160.jpg

#3 FUN
Take a picture a day, that’s it! No, not a selfie with your bestie every morning. Find animals, traffic, strangers, buildings, landscape, signs… Then at the end of the year, recap 365 days of random photos. Here are a few of my favorites from the years!

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/c19/30878795/files/2015/01/img_3194.jpg

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/c19/30878795/files/2015/01/pa214328.jpg

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/c19/30878795/files/2015/01/img_3203.jpg

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/c19/30878795/files/2015/01/img_3189.jpg

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/c19/30878795/files/2015/01/img_3193.jpg

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/c19/30878795/files/2015/01/img_3201.jpg

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/c19/30878795/files/2015/01/img_3198.jpg

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/c19/30878795/files/2015/01/img_3190.jpg

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/c19/30878795/files/2015/01/img_3184.jpg

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/c19/30878795/files/2015/01/p4200159.jpg

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/c19/30878795/files/2015/01/img_3202.jpg

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/c19/30878795/files/2015/01/img_3204.jpg

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/c19/30878795/files/2015/01/pa214350.jpg

Happy: feeling or showing pleasure or contentment.
New: not existing before; made, introduced, or now for the first time.
Year: the time taken by a planet to make one revolution around the sun – 365 days.

Categories: Art, Fitness, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Blog at WordPress.com. The Adventure Journal Theme.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 196 other followers