Taxi ride in Santiago

He was a talker. Busy. Anxious to please. He saw me lift my sleeve up and pull it back down, he didn’t know I was checking on my eczema. He thought I was cold. He turned his head around quickly and saw I was wearing a turtle neck. He didn’t know it was a turtleneck tank top. “Are you cold?” he implored.

“No.”

“I can turn the air off.” he asked.

“No no, I like it.”

“Oh ok. Yes. Good. Because it’s really hot down there.” (By down there be meant in the city.)

“I am Alfonso. Anything you need I’m at your service.”

“Thank you, Alfonso.”

It was quiet again and that made him unstill.

“Do you have a sore throat?” he asked, looking at me through the rear view mirror and touching his throat.

“No.”

“Oh. I thought. You were—“

“No no I’m fine.”

Again, quiet. But he wanted to talk.

“Are you here on vacation? Work?” He asked.

“Work.”

“Are you Central American? You have an accent like you could be…Guatemalan, Colombian…”

“No I’m North American,”

“North American! And you learned Spanish?”

“Yes.”

“And I’m Alfonso, did I already tell you that? What is your name?”

“Sally.”

“It is a pleasure to meet you, Sally. Anything you need you just tell me. Any questions, anything.”

“Thank you, Alfonso.”

He picked up his cell phone and spoke to it, giving it the address of my hotel. The female machinated voice started to give him directions in Spanish. He updated me: “24 km. Or 22 minutes. We will arrive at your hotel at 11:24.”

“Thank you.”

Alfonso proceeded to give me a demographic and geographic report of his country. I nodded along. After several minutes of talking he asked if I had ever been to Chile. I told him I had. And he laughed out loud, “so you already know all of this?”

“I don’t remember all the details, please continue.”

He told me about all the provinces in the country and the neighborhoods in Santiago. He told me the area I was staying in was very safe and I had nothing to worry about.

“There are places that really respect health. To include that you can’t smoke outside. Wait. Do you smoke?” He quickly turned around thinking he may have offended me.

“No.”

“Good.” He sounded relieved, “Then you won’t have any problem. Because there are neighborhoods that you can’t smoke and if you do you’ll be fined.”

He went on, “You’ll be safe. For example. If someone says to you, “what a beauty!” We call that a cat call and you can’t do that. You can file a complaint. You are safe here. But it won’t happen so don’t worry.”

He asked me what I thought of Chilean people and after I had given my opinion he shared his opinion of his country and I loved that. He was proud.

We pulled up at a stop light and he pointed his finger out of the passenger side window, “you’re American! That’s your embassy.”

There was a sky-rise with a window cleaner halfway up.

See the window washer on the right about halfway up? And sorry for the white van…it pulled up just as I was snapping the photo!

Alfonso told me how different he thought Donald Trump and Bill Clinton were. How he thought that the quality of life in Chile was excellent. How their economy is doing really well right now and they have a lot of immigrants.

When we pulled up at the hotel he said, “It’s been a pleasure. May I give you my card? If you want a ride back to the airport when you’re leaving I’m happy to take you.”

He handed me the card and explained what each phone number meant. I tucked it in my purse and got out of the car. He jumped out after me. He was disappointed that the bell boy at the hotel had already gotten my one piece of luggage.

As I walked away he called after me, “Enjoy Chile!”

Morning walk on the beach with my dad

Throughout my adult life, I have had on-and-off routines with my dad where we do things we both like to do and allow us to spend time together. This is mainly around exercise because he is a very active guy and we both love to be outdoors. Although once we decided to take up yoga together…in addition to being very active, my dad is very funny and in the middle of downward dog he would make noises or comments to make me laugh which is frowned upon in yoga. We never went back.

He recently had a knee replacement surgery and he is not very good at the healing process. I don’t mean his body isn’t healing, it is healing fine, he isn’t good at waiting for it to heal and tolerating the pain and discomfort. However he is encouraged to move his knee and walking is good for him. Plus, we all know that exercise is great for the mood, too. My dad loves to walk on the beach. He has a whole routine—much like everything else in his life—it is orderly and specific and only he knows how to do it right. So I just go along for the ride. I decided that a couple mornings a week we would go walk on the beach together. Which means you have to do things his way so I have to wear pants I can roll up because we walk barefoot, wading in the water. He walks with a stick which is also a prop for the lectures he gives me while we walk, shaking it in the air in disapproval of something I have done or to emphasize a point.

So we got to the beach and left our shoes in his car. We walked down the sandy path onto the beach, down to the water, and over to the tide pool because that is where his walk starts. All of this other stuff is just prep for the walk. I had my phone and was snapping photos of sea anemones and sea stars for which I was scolded. “We came to walk! Not take pictures put that thing away.” (That “thing” is an iPhone.)

We walked and talked or just walked together in silence. I heard stories and jokes I have heard a hundred times but have learned to listen. At one point I said “oh my God,” in response to some joke my dad had said and without skipping a beat he said, “oh my Buddha.”

When we walked by a group of ladies he waved his arm in the air to wave, they all smiled and waved back. He makes friends everywhere he goes.

When we finished our walk, we went back to the car and I was given strict instructions to sit in the passenger’s seat and wait for him with my feet hanging out of the car. He came over with a bottle of water he had filled up at home and poured the water over my feet instructing me to rub them together to get the sand off. We have done this for years. I asked him if he wanted me to do the same for him and he told me I didn’t now how to do it, as he threw me an old towel to dry my feet off. He rinsed his feet off in a similar fashion and dried them off with the same towel. I sat in the car thinking of the number of years we have done this. I remember being a kid, before we had discovered that water is better for rinsing sand off than a dry towel which acts like sandpaper against your feet. I remember squealing and complaining as my parents cleaned my feet off before I was allowed back in the car.

Life is strange and can be frustrating. We have expectations of how things should be or ought to be and social media certainly doesn’t help with our expectation management. However, this morning on my walk with my dad and my observations of our interaction, I was just thankful. I was thankful to have the morning walk, thankful for my dad, and thankful to be able to reflect for a moment.

In my reflection, I concluded that today is the first day of autumn. While the calendar says otherwise, today the sunlight changed dramatically. The air was crisp and it was windy. This is my favorite time of year here in Monterey. I hope you enjoy it, too, whether you are here or wherever you are.

A sea star hiding under the kelp at low tide

A sea anemone, retracting at low tide

Lots of sea anemones

Papa B & me

Sunrise

Papa B with a treasure from the sea

A sea gull with a treasure from the sea

 

The Oasis on Lake Travis — Austin, TX

The day after my cousin’s wedding, a lot of my side of the family decided to go to The Oasis at Lake Travis in Austin, about an hour and fifteen minutes northeast of San Antonio.

It was a long drive and my cousin’s car doesn’t have the most reliable air conditioning (read, it turns off randomly) which made the two hour drive in 102˚F plus 80% humidity less than enjoyable (read, miserable). Ok, I’m being a bit dramatic, my aunt, who is one of the best cooks I know had freshly made shawerma (gyro) sandwiches in her purse (naturally) and I ate one and wrote down the recipe with a blissful heart and belly.

When we arrived, we put our name down for a party of 20 for “first available” but really just wanted to sit inside. We were told it would be a two hour wait so one group of us went and found refuge from the heat and coffee at a nearby shopping center. I guess that’s what people who live in really hot places do, go hang out at Safeway. I’ve actually heard of this phenomenon, Safeways have Starbucks in them and they keep the store really cool so you just bring your laptop or a book and have coffee and sit in the lobby of Safeway, passing the July Saturday. Man are we lucky in Monterey.

The Oasis is known as “the sunset capital of Texas” and the building is a multiple level restaurant overlooking Lake Travis. Everywhere you turn there are funky statues and quirky signs. All along the rails throughout the restaurant there are hundreds of locks and it is referred to as “Lovers Lock Lane.” There’s a sign saying:

May your love live forever at the Sunset Capital of Texas.
Lock your love with your soulmate,
family member or friend.
Personalize your love lock and toss
your key into the fountain.

Locks available for purchase in The OASIS Gift Shop.

I think the last line says it all. I also hope your love endures past the Sunset Capital of Texas.

The kids (ages 20-30) were assigned to sit at one end of the table while the adults sat at the other end of the table. We all shared food and drinks and just hung out, it was lovely. We waited for the sun to set and snapped group photos. It was a nice way to spend the last day in Texas and the day after a long weekend of family time and a big wedding. If you find yourself in Austin, and you like quirky places, lakes, and people, head over to The Oasis. In the meantime, enjoy my photos!

 

View of Lake Travis, note all the locks hanging from the fence

My aunt and mom posing with the old lady statue–one of the many quirky statues around the grounds

My dad, my baby cousin, and my dad’s baby brother

Nachos!

Chicken enchiladas

The sun setting over Lake Travis

Me!

Sunsetting over Lake Travis

Boatrides at dusk

The entrance to the Oasis, note the statue

Machu Picchu

I woke up at 4:30 knowing I needed to start moving. I had initially thought I’d walk up to Machu Picchu from Aguas Calientes, it’s about a 2 km walk with another 2km altitude gain but everyone kept telling me to take the bus up and walk down. My independent, adventurous self was mad at my other self for not strapping on the headlamp and climbing the mountain.

I went downstairs to breakfast. I was the only person in the breakfast room. I had café con leche, breakfast, and packed myself a couple small sandwiches for the day.

Breakfast room at my hotel…mama, do you see the Milo!?

It was still pitch black outside. I walked to the bus stop which was just about 3-4 blocks up the street and found the line. Then I walked about a quarter of a mile to the end of the line!

The guy who got behind me in line had been sitting across the aisle from me on the train yesterday. We struck up a conversation, he was also traveling alone.

The seemingly endless line at 0545

We only waited about 15-20 minutes in line until we got on board the bus and started the incline up the mountain to Machu Picchu. We were dropped off at the entry also the front entrance to Belmond Sanctuary Lodge, the only hotel on the grounds of Machu Picchu and sells for $1700/night in the off season.

Line to get into Machu Picchu

There are so many people here it’s unnerving. I was recently at Zion National Park and I felt the same way. It makes me think of when Kramer (from Seinfeld) quits swimming at the gym because it’s like a “flabby arm spanking machine.” That’s how this feels, wading through thousands of tourists from all over the world. And it’s unfortunate that Americans have such a bad rep because I have met obnoxious people from everywhere. There was a group of Australians taking photos with the ruins in the background and they were jumping, you know, like those photos for social media. A tour guide said “please sir no jumping” to one of them. You know what he responded?

“That’s stupid. Why not?”

There were obnoxious Koreans, Brazilians, Spaniards, British, Canadians, etc. The common denominator is that there are obnoxious people. There are also really lovely people from everywhere so let’s not stereotype. And let’s not be obnoxious when we travel…or ever.

The ruins at Machu Picchu

A llama

flowers 🙂

I hiked down the mountain passing many people on my way down. It was basically all stairs and predominately switchbacks. I crossed the bridge and found “Casa de la Mariposa, ABIERTA” (house of butterflies, OPEN). So I walked through the garden and found a sign for a coffee shop. Woohoo! An old man unlatched the gate for me and we chatted about plants and he told me the patio here was a good place to watch birds.

By this point it was pouring rain so I sat under the tin roof and he brought me a book about the birds of Machu Picchu. He brought me a menu and I ordered a pisco sour. He told me they were out of pisco. So I ordered a passionfruit juice and read through the book while looking out over the river at the birds. I recognized the swallows and the hummingbirds but there were many I didn’t. Several colorful ones perched at the bird feeder the old gentleman had built. Another bigger white bird with a black head flew over the river and landed on the rocks. It continued to pour. I got hungry and went to order something to eat. The young man behind the counter hadn’t stopped cooking since I had walked in. I asked him what the empanadas were, he told me pork, cheese, and pineapple. Like Hawaiian pizza…without the tomato sauce.

An old Mayan legend says: when you want happiness and to make your desires reality, whisper it to a butterfly and give her your love and freedom. Grateful, she will fly and the happiness and love will arrive…

The river, the mountains, the clouds

Milenka and La Lucha Sanguchería Criolla

Milenka and I decided to meet up on Friday night. She asked where I wanted to go and I told her I was a little hungry and I just wanted to eat Peruvian food. Peruvian food is amazing. There is good food everywhere and the presentation is always thoughtful and beautiful. Even cheap food or street food is delicious and beautifully presented.

We decided to meet at the same place that we first met the other day, which was 2 blocks from my hotel. I got there and stood looking for Milenka. I realized I didn’t know how tall she was because I only met her on a bike before. I stood at the crosswalk surveying people coming from the left, and the right, crossing the street toward me when suddenly I head “Sah-Lee”–soft a soft l. 

“Sorry I’m late. I stopped at the pharmacy to buy some medicine, I have a cold.” She said after a kiss and a big hug.

She wore a turtleneck sweater and a jacket and told me how freezing Lima is. A lot of the Limeños I’m talking to tell me Lima is freezing right now and the weather is just intolerable. It’s been in the low 60s but for a place with temperate weather most of the year, the low 60s and heavy fog/mist is too much.

We decided to go to La Lucha Sanguchería Criolla, a very famous sandwich shop in Lima. There were two within walking distance and we picked one and walked and talked, getting to know one another.

Milenka is from Cusco but moved to Lima for work after college, she’s a fashion designer and started working at H&M in Lima a few years ago when they opened a big store in Peru. She wanted to work retail and learn about the fashion industry from that perspective. She hated retail but learned a ton. After two years she quit and worked as an independent fashion designer selling her collection at independent shows and markets for young designers in Peru. Now she works part time at a fitness clothing store and spends the rest of her time designing clothes.

She is a passionate human and we talked for what felt like hours over my sanguich, french fries, and maracuya sour (passionfruit and pisco cocktail).the potatoes they used were not what I am used to back home. The context of their starch was different, thicker which made for different fries. And my sanguich–pavo a la leña (turkey cooked over firewood) and criolla salsa which is a salsa made from thinly sliced onions, aji (a yellow pepper), cilantro, olive oil, salt, pepper, and lemon juice.She had a coffee since she’s got a cold and no appetite.

The counter at La Lucha, it looks like an old diner…I think it is!

My sanguich and french fries

We talked about love and heartbreak and all of the things we had in common. Her sweetheart had recently moved back to his homeland of Spain and she was working through those feeling  We laughed and encouraged one another to take the risks and follow our hearts. This, and these relationships, I believe are what make life worth living.

We took a selfie and walked out of the restaurant. Milenka wove her arm in mine and we walked back to my hotel saying over and over how this had been a magical meeting and we are certain we will see one another again, this friendship was sent to us.

Back at the hotel I tried on one of her shirts, I had picked one out that I wanted to buy from her from her Facebook page. I loved it and it fit me perfectly. It’s so Milenka’s style and every time I wear it I will think of her.

-:- Mile and me -:-

We parted ways, not wanted to stop hugging or tell one another how magical our meeting had been. Friendship and personal connections are magical. We ought to be open to them and seize them when they present themselves. Milenka told me she had been having a crummy week and this had totally turned it around.

Morning walk in the Medina

I love the mornings, especially the mornings in old cities, I love walking around and taking in the still of the morning before people wake up.  Yesterday was no different, I woke up with an itch to move so I got dressed and headed out for a morning stroll.

I was predominately raised in the States but in the summers when we would go back to visit Syria, there were certain things I knew I could and couldn’t do in that society.  People might say that nobody teaches you these things, “you just know.” But in reality, your family and your surroundings teach you what is acceptable behavior, the latter comes from having common sense, observing your surroundings, and being sensitive to others, something I sometimes find lacking in the States.  Anyways, I bring this up because it is very hot here, for example, the day before yesterday we had a high of 44˚C (111˚F), but I knew I was going out for a walk in the medina in Tunis, and I didn’t want unwanted attention or cat calls, so I threw a shall over my shoulders and headed out the door.

The streets are calm and I’m captivated by the small details of the environment, enjoy the photos below of the some of the details of my morning walk.

Squash vines and cactus in a planter on my street

Beautiful

Sweets for sale in the medina

One of the bab’s (gates) of the old city, there are 7 and I apologize for not knowing which this is but I was lost. Also, don’t mind the cab in the front, it was as good as I could get but this way it’s more authentic

Ministry of Finance

Flowers growing out of a crack in the sidewalk

A flower pot decorated with seashells

Very typical door in the medina

I walked and walked and walked turning alley after alley, paying no attention to street names because what’s the point?  Each street is anywhere from 10m-1km in length and they weave and wind and intersect and so I relied on memory to guide me.  I did get lost at one point and looked up and around, saw the minaret of the mosque and was guided that way.

The entrance to my bed and breakfast

I went back home for breakfast, the bed and breakfast where I’m staying has breakfast prepared for me at 9:30, no sooner and no later:

My breakfast, ricotta cheese, eggs, tomato salad, bread — both home made and bakery bought, a smoothie, yogurt, and several homemade jams (grapefruit, pomegranate, an orange variety, apricot), & honey

The entrance to my room, more photos to follow on the inside of my room

 

Hike in Palm Springs

I don’t know if you can see the wind turbines off in the distance. Not to mention the gorgeous yellow flowers in the foreground that were all over the trail.

I have been in Palm Springs for the past few days for a conference for work.  It has been lovely.  I have met wonderful, really  supportive and encouraging people while here.  One thing I have found is that I get terribly exhausted being at conferences, being “on” all the time, meeting new people, talking, remembering names, where you’re from, etc.

The clouds look unreal!!

Today, however, the conference was wrapping up and I wasn’t much involved in the remaining sessions.  I had a late afternoon flight and so went for a hike that had been recommended to me, the Museum Trail.  I found the trail head, which was appropriately located behind the Palm Springs Museum of Art that I wish I had had time to visit.  Oh well, leaves something to see next time I visit Palm Springs.

Beautiful

I was listening to an audio book, the weather was just perfect, and I chugged along my way.  As the elevation increase, so did my adrenaline and desire to go faster, to feel the burn in my thighs and the sweat drip down my arm.  The terrain was also such that I was taking uneven steps on unstable earth. Some steps were quick and small and others felt as though I was rock climbing–using my whole body to hoist myself up ahead.

The best feeling however, was the sun on my skin.  There is nothing like rays of sunshine tingling your bare skin and warming both your body and your soul.

I love rocks 🙂

I was deep into my hike, practically running up the little mountain when my audio book stopped.  The battery can’t be out, I thought, I had charged it the previous night.  Then after the 2 seconds of silence, the phone ring came through my earphones.  I wonder who could be calling me?  I fished my phone out of my jacket pocket that was rolled up and tied around my waist.  I read the name and my heart jumped, I had been waiting for this call the whole time I was in Palm Springs.  Welcome break.  I found a boulder and parked my panting self on it to take the call.  This is very unusual, I normally don’t carry my phone on hikes but I wanted to take photos and listen to my audio book.  And I was glad I did.

I sat in the warm sun and watched the foxtails blow in the wind as I caught up with a dear friend.

I finished my hike and bounced back into town, high off my hike.  I popped into a frozen yogurt shop and bought myself a coconut frozen yogurt with fresh berries and almonds.  It was a welcome treat after the strenuous hike in the midday sun.

And here I sit now, writing this, at the Palm Springs airport…which is half outdoors!  I love that, to be in a place so nice year round that half the structure is outdoor and lined with palm trees.  United Airlines had oversold my flight and was offering vouchers for volunteers to take a later flight.  If I can, I am happy to volunteer in these types of situations.  I don’t have anybody waiting for me at home, no kids requiring attention, and a flexible schedule.  The gentleman at the United counter was so appreciative, he told me his stress level went down tremendously now that he had a volunteer.

I pondered that…stress.  I know I stress myself out unnecessarily, too and I really want to work on that because stress is toxic.  It is perhaps the biggest culprit for health-related woes and I am just beside myself with the fact that I allow myself to let stress take over.  But I remembered the advice I gave a friend not long ago, life is a constant adjustment in the eternal search of achieving balance.  So here I am again, making small adjustments to alleviate stress.  Reminding myself that I am in control of my schedule and my routine and how I respond to external stressors.

So while I wait the few hours for my next flight, I sit in the airport, I will go for a walk, drink lots of water, and read the lovely book I’m reading, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo.  I only started it so I can’t give much of a review but you can imagine the premise of the book, tidying up your house and your life.  It’s really inspiring and maybe the push many people need to get their lives (and homes) de-cluttered and tidy.

Cheers.

Day around Santa Fe

We headed out in the morning, the plan was to see a few things on our list and then have breakfast.  The cathedral was still closed so we figured we’d come back.  And then the hunger hit.  OK, well let’s just go eat first and then start sightseeing.

We put our name down on the waiting list at the well-renowned and much recommended Cafe Pasqual’s.  What a gem!!!! We split two dishes and a flute of bubbly and had a wonderful time talking and catching up.  “Christina, this table over here keeps looking at us.” I remarked.

“Yea, Sally, we’re kind of loud.”

“Oh, we are?” I said, erupted in laughter, and kept telling my story.

Breakfast at Cafe Pascual’s – Huevos Barbacoa & Huevos Motuleños – not pictured, a flute of Gruet Blanc de Noirs

After breakfast, we wove through the streets of downtown Santa Fe to the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum. But!! I needed to get on the donkey for a photo op :).

 

Me on a metal donkey in Santa Fe, NM 🙂

At the museum, we paid our admission and checked our coats and bags.  Just as we were going to start exploring, a young guy gave his 2 docent-guided badges back to the woman at the front desk who turned around and said to Christina and me, “there are 2 spaces now open in the docent-guided tour starting right now if you’d like to join, she’s wonderful!”

“Thank you!” We exclaimed and put the laniards around our necks.

Gail, the docent, was a hoot!! She seemed to know everything about Georgia O’Keeffe and the way she led the tour was charming, we went from room to room as though we were traveling through the life of the famous artist.

In the first room, Gail told us about a painting by O’Keeffe, a floral piece titled, the Jimson Weed, she went on to say “well, if you have this flower in your garden, you’d better tear it out because it’s poisonous! If you have a dog or a cat and they eat it, well they’ll just die!”

I leaned into Christina and said, “natural selection.”

She rolled her eyes and elbowed me.  he he he

Gail was so enthusiastic about Georgia O’Keeffe, it is so inspiring to see people passionate about something, anything!  She had these quirky mannerisms, she would say something and then look around, “can you believe that?!”

After our lovely tour at the O’Keeffe Museum, we walked around and checked out what the street vendors were selling in the plaza.  A lot of silver and turquoise jewelry here, copper, too.

Next stop, the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi, it was so beautiful inside.  It was very well-lit which is a bit unusual for Cathedrals.  I loved the energy inside.  I don’t care if you’re religious or not, there is something beautiful about having faith in something, anything.  And striving to be a good person, do a constant re-check of your life and make sure you’re on the right path.  Be true to yourself, be true to human kind, be kind.

We checked out the Loretto Chapel and miraculous staircase.  If you haven’t heard, this staircase is built without any nails.  Unfortunately, I am too tired now to write about the details but maybe I’ll refresh this post with data at a later date.

Loretto Chapel

Rosaries hanging from a tree at the entrance to the chapel

The miraculous staircase

“I used to be addicted to soap but now I’m clean!”
ha ha ha!

Yes, you are. This sticker was on an electrical box on a random street in Santa Fe

Cute street-side bar on Canyon Road, a street with several art galleries and shops

Christina rocking on the rocking chair

What a lovely idea for a rocking chair. The seats are facing one another. Christina and I sat on this for a while and rocked back and forth, I could do this for hours, all that was missing was a drink

We walked back to the hotel for a rest, then went to the Gruet Tasting Room at the Hotel St. Francis.  We sat in the sunshine and enjoyed a bubbly tasting, it was lovely.  We talked and dreamed of the future and even got philosophical.

Next was dinner at La Choza.  The food was magnificent; we split a meal: green chili stew, a blue corn burrito, and a chicken taco.  It was all lovely but we are beat.  Worn out from touristing.  It’s bath and bed time.

Good night, folks.

Ciao Albuquerque, hello Taos!

It was reconfirmed to me that I am not a city person, and I don’t know what it is but I do not care for Albuquerque.  I was having a miserable time and my eczema was terribly broken out so I decided to cut my losses; I rented a car, booked a hotel room, and drove to Taos in Northern New Mexico.

But before I left town, I really wanted to take the Sandia Peak Tramway, an aerial tramway at the north of Albuquerque with spectacular views of the Sandia Mountains.  I left the house, grabbed a coffee and a coffee cake and had an uber take me up to the tramway landing.

Tram going up

I struck up conversation with a skier.  He was from upstate New York and a really nice guy.  He lives in Albuquerque now and has an annual pass for the tram and comes up all the time to go cross country skiing.  He’s got life figured out.

Flight # 04

 

View from the tram, about halfway up

At the top of the tram, we got off and walked around.  There was a young lady with a Scorpions zip-up sweatshirt on and I smiled to myself, I just heard a Scorpions song for the first time in my life.

View from the tram landing

Before heading back to town, I had a drink at the bar at the tram landing.  I ordered the first bubbly on the menu, La Marca prosecco.
I made my way back to town and rented the car.  I was so happy to be leaving Albuquerque and to have wheels.  I got on the road and quickly found the local country station.  I was so happy to be driving.  There’s something about the freedom of a two lane road, double yellow lines bisecting weather-worn asphalt that allows me to breath a little deeper and those tiny muscles in my shoulders and forehead–that I didn’t even know I was clenching–to release.

Freedom

I took the long route, two-lane roads rather than the big interstate and drove to Madrid, a small town, population 204 on the way from Albuquerque to Santa Fe, where I stopped for lunch at the Mine Shaft Tavern.  April, the charming bartender from Nashville served me, I had a pint of La Cumbre Amber (a local brewery) and ordered a Green Chile Burger, voted best here some years back.  When April brought it to me, she said with her sweet southern drawl, “you gone need both hands for that, gurl.”  Right.  No daintily taking the top bun off and eating my burger with a fork and knife.  I devoured it all and washed it down with my beer.  It was magnificent.

I settled my bill and walked across the way to Harvey’s chocolates (Shugarman’s Chocolates), where the quirky, Mr. Harvey, with grey ringlet curls, curlier than mine, had a full house.  He was breaking off bits of chocolate bark to everybody that walked in while also taking people’s orders and packaging their chocolate.  I bought some coconut chocolate bark to take home and got back on the road, next stop Taos.

I finally made it to Taos just as the sun was setting and dusk was creeping in.  I checked into my hotel, Blue Sky Retreat at San Geronimo Lodge which is quite literally the opposite of my lodgings and the environment in Albuquerque.  It is so tranquil here and the charming couple running the B&B made me feel incredibly welcome.  After I unloaded the car, I made some chamomile tea and went outside to watch the stars, my favorite flickering star was already out, proud as ever.  I sat on a fence post and took in the sky, it felt as though I could see it moving.

Eventually I went inside and lit a fire in the fireplace in my room, I had a bath and called my mom.  “How’s Christina?” she asked.

“I don’t meet Christina until Sunday, mama” I responded.

“So you’re alone? Are you happy?”

I pondered her questions.  Virtually, my whole adult life I have traveled alone and been extremely content and satisfied doing so; however, this trip has been different, trying, and no, not really enjoyable.  I think I am done traveling alone.

From Guilt to Gratitude

Having been raised both Arab and Catholic, I have a deep-rooted relationship (I don’t know if that’s the right word) with guilt.  Both communities emphasize, highlight, maybe exploit the human affinity for guilt.  While I have been raised this way and often find myself feeling guilty, I have been aware of this since I have been self-aware and reflective of my life and relationship with my being in this universe; so around the age of 18, I began to question this.  While I have not always been able to shake the feelings of guilt as they arise, I try to explore them, understand where they come from, and challenge myself to think if I agree with them or not; if that’s the standard I would hold a friend up to, and therefore hold myself to that same standard.

So what is guilt?  How we should feel?  How we should behave?  But…according to who? Religion? Society? Our mother? I don’t have the answer of how we should live, how we should feel.  I don’t believe that there is a standard or a rule book.  I think my guide is to always be kind, not hurt myself and others, and be true to myself.  The fact is, I can’t feel for you or her or the next person.  I feel for myself and I can be aware of your feelings but I can’t know what will hurt you or someone else.  I can be kind and aim to not hurt others but maybe what I think is kind is in fact hurtful to another?  So I guess, be true to yourself.

Ron, my bartender at Luxe in San Francisco (bartenders tend to be some of the wisest, least judgmental people out there), over various pours of bubbly, told me today that it is a sin and we are doing ourselves a disservice when we are self-degrading.  We oughtn’t apologize for who we are or play down our strengths and skills.  Not only are we hurting ourselves when we do so but we are depriving the world of our (objectively speaking) strengths as individuals, the rest of society is missing out on our skills.  For example, if Einstein had not pursued his innate inclination to physics and mathematics, we may not have many of the great inventions made capable by his theories that we do today.  (Very broad example, but I hope you understand the point.)

Maybe we should exchange guilt for gratitude?  If we live in gratitude we may be less inclined to feel guilty. If when we start to feel like, I shouldn’t, maybe we could feel, I am so grateful to be able to enjoy this, I wish this for everyone. 

I will leave you with some wise words from Ron, “There isn’t a way to happiness, happiness is the way.”