Day 17: My proud moment

Until about three years ago, I was something of an over achiever. These days I say the word with some disdain because, from personal experience, it’s not as good as it sounds. I worked very hard, took on many responsibilities, and pushed myself to the limits. I believed being an over achiever was better than being an underachiever.  It isn’t.

Of course, I’m proud of the many accolades and credentials I’ve earned and don’t regret any of the time I’ve given up for others.  But I’m prouder of the fact that I’ve been able to step away from a life of distorted expectations and high standards, racing against the clock, and people pleasing.

It took the death of a four and a half year relationship, becoming dependent on my sister I was so broke, and the depression that ensued to yank me out of that existence. I finally asked myself why I was doing the things I did and for whom I was doing them for. The answers took a while to come and when they did it took some time to process. It’s never easy to admit to yourself that everything you’ve worked so obscenely hard for and sacrificed so much for isn’t making you happy. Truly, not-just-fleetingly, really happy.

My proud moment is an amalgamation of small realizations, hours of agonizing contemplation, and scattered inspiration that led to one big life decision: to leave the direction my life was going (the blueprint I’d drawn up even as a young child) and go on a less structured, not-so-conventional path.  So I quit my job, sold my stuff, bought a ticket to Costa Rica and became a certified English teacher.

Sometimes, in very rare occasions, I’ll get a glimpse of the life I could’ve had if I had stuck to the plan. In my friends and family and even complete strangers I get to know traveling. There are aspects of it that I really miss, sure. Like having a steady home and salary; getting a pedicure and wearing stilettos. But that’s not me anymore.

It’s nice not worrying bout deadlines or competing for a promotion or the last pair of heels at Belk on Black Friday or some other ridiculous consumerist holiday. I like that working full time means 22 hours a week even though it means I make only enough to feed myself by shopping at the local farmers market. Pura vida! And I love that in six months I could be living in Peru or Colombia or in the same place, and it’s OK!

I know the old control freak, overachiever part of me will always be there and in some situations I’m happy I’m that way. But I am pleased and extremely proud that to be living what brings me joy and a sense of freedom.

 

 

 

Day 16: The top of my bucket list

As someone who wants to see, taste, feel, meet and experience all the wonders this remarkable planet embodies, I have several bucket lists and each one as endlessly long as the other.  So I’m going to share just the top 5 of my top 8 categories.

My Travel Bucket List

1. Norway. I’m not a big fan of frigid climates but to see the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights) I would absolutely brave the cold.

2. Peru. What an enchanted country! Machu Picchu, the Nazca Lines, Ausangate (Rainbow Mountain)—they’re all in Peru.

3. Galapagos Islands, Ecuador. The bar was set pretty high when I took my first SCUBA dive in the inimitable waters of Palau. But I’ve heard wonders about the wildlife and natural beauty of the Galapagos and would love to experience them first hand.

4. Bolivia. I’m all about natural phenomena that take my breath away. The salt flats of Salar de Uyuni do just that. Just looking at the photos leave me breathless. I can’t even begin to imagine seeing it in person.  I must go in person. uyuni

5. Italy. This is on everyone’s travel bucket list and for good reason. The food, the culture, the arts, the history and architecture, the beauty. What’s not inviting about Italy?

I’m a little sad I’ve limited myself to only five, but then this would go on forever so on to the next category.

My Events Bucket List

1. Attend The Superbowl (preferably with the Patriots playing).

2. Imbibe in Munich during Oktoberfest.

3. Party in Rio for Carnival.

4. Experience Mardi Gras in New Orleans.

5. Watch the Summer Olympic Games in person.

My Foodie Bucket List

1. Flaming Hot Cheetos Bagel. Yes it’s a thing! And my penchant for hot and spicy foods can’t wait to try it!

2. Aperitivo in Milan, Italy. It’s like happy hour but even better! And apparently Milan does it the best.

3. Street food in Bangkok, Thailand. Numerous friends have told me about the gastronomically amazing food in the streets of Bangkok and my taste buds are excited.

4. Pho in Vietnam. I. LOVE. PHO! I’ve had some really excellent ones but am yet to try the authentic version in Vietnam itself.

5. Cuy in Ecuador/Peru. So I’m a little squeamish about eating guinea pig but it’s a traditional part of the Ecuadorian and Peruvian diet and apparently quite tasty. A true foodie isn’t afraid to try new things and I’m not going to shy away from a little adventure!

Extreme Experience Bucket List

1. Go sky diving. Jumping off a “perfectly good airplane” scares the sh*t out of me and that’s exactly why I’m going to do it someday.

2. Sail across a large body of water. One of the ironic things about me is that as an island girl (born and raised on islands completely surrounded by water and swimming before walking), I get sea sick! Actually it is has nothing to do with where I come from; doctors say it’s an ear imbalance. It’s really annoying because I love sailing but it makes me physically sick. Someday I’m going to just suck it up and sail across a large body of water.

3. Set foot on a glacier. I’ve mentioned before that I don’t like the cold and you won’t find anything about visiting the Arctic or Antarctic on any of my bucket lists. BUT… I do want to touch or set foot on a glacier. They’re so beautiful and formidable and an just plain awesome.

4. Swim/dive with whale sharks. I’ve dived with some of the most majestic and beautiful sharks–bull, white tip, black tip, silver tip, nurse, leopard, silk, hammerhead. Never with the whale shark and it’d be a dream come true to swim with them in their natural environment.

5. Visit an active volcano. Lava flowing and all.

My Educational Bucket List

1. Relearn the 300+ Japanese kanji characters I’ve forgotten. I studied Japanese for over 5 years. Unfortunately years without use or practice have erased a lot of what I learned. I can still speak a little and write most of the Hiragana and Katakana characters, but I honestly only know one kanji character right now (and only because it’s tattooed on my back!)

2. Learn to speak Spanish better. It’s been a real struggle but I’m working on it.

3. Get yoga teacher certified. This one is especially close to my heart because yoga has helped me in so many ways and continues to help me grow as a being on this planet. I’d really like to get it in Bali—the place that inspired me to get into yoga in the first place.

4. Sewing. How cool would it be to be able to sew my own clothes? And not just that, design and sew bags, curtains, etc.

5.  Self-defense/Martial Arts. I think this is not only a practical skill to have as a solo female traveler but a good discipline on the physical and mental levels.

6. Take a baking course. I love baking and am pretty good at it, if I may say so myself. 🙂 But I don’t have any real training in it and would love to learn all the technical things and trade tips and tricks. (Oops, I cheated on this one and listed six!)

Good Karma Bucket List

1. Volunteer with a cause to promote girl empowerment and education and women’s rights.

2. Donate anonymously to someone in need.

3.  Adopt a pet (again).

4. Pay for a stranger’s meal.

5. Plant (more) trees.

Life Goals Bucket List

  1. Write my memoir. It’ll be a long one, but I think I’ll enjoy it.
  2. Get published. Even if it’s just an article. Ideally, though, it’d be a book.
  3. Start my own business. I don’t mind paying my dues now and learning from all the people I work for and with. But someday it’d be nice to be my own boss.
  4. Be an awesome aunt to my future nieces and nephews. Although I’ve decided not to be a mom, I know I’d make one heck of an aunt. 🙂
  5. Pay forward. The kindness and generosity people in my life have shown me.

Mind & Body Bucket List

  1. Go on a silent retreat. 
  2. Do the Whole 30 / body reset/ detox. As in do it completely for 30 days!
  3. Get the tattoos I’ve been wanting. 
  4. Be able to meditate for more than fifteen minutes. 
  5. Go to a Wanderlust Yoga Festival.

 

Day 15: An average day

7:30 a.m. It’s a Tuesday so I’m up early. I begrudgingly force myself out of bed and make some coffee. Because I’m not a morning person, it takes me about an hour to get showered, dressed, and ready. Luckily I’ve done my lesson plan the night before; otherwise I’d have gotten up half an hour earlier to go to work earlier.

9:00 – 12:00 p.m. I teach a Book 2 English class which is the equivalent of advanced beginner. They’re actually about to graduate into Book 3 which is intermediate. I have a small class of 5 students and they’re all great! I’ve watched them improve and learn so much in the last five months and take pride in my role in helping them grow.

12:15 p.m. I go back to my apartment (literally across the street from the school) and have lunch. I chat a little with my roommate before I head to the mercado for some fresh fruits and veggies. I also stop at the supermarket for toilet paper and other household products.

2:00 p.m. I head back to work to grade papers, update the student database, and lesson plan for my evening class and tomorrow’s class. I do all this in the teachers lounge where I intermittently chat with other teachers as they come in and out.

3:45 p.m. I go to the pulperia (corner mom-and-pop store) for some snacks—a granola bar and chocolate milk. Then I continue to work and chat.

4:30 p.m. I go home and check my email, message my sisters, and read my favorite blogs. Then I take a 30 minute nap.

5:45 p.m.  I cross the street back to work and set up my classroom.

6:00 – 9:00 p.m. I teach an Intro class I just started a week ago. They’re super beginners and it’s been challenging but fun teaching them. They’re all adults so there aren’t any discipline problems and they learn very quickly. I’m used to teaching upper level English (intermediate to advanced) so this level is a bit daunting for me but I’m actually enjoying teaching it.

9:10 p.m. My roommate (also a teacher) and I head home. We heat up our dinner in the microwave and we chat about stuff. Our entire building is inhabited only by teachers and it’s not uncommon for us to pop into each others’ apartments for a chat over some drinks.

10:30 p.m. I chat with my childhood friend on the other side of the world and send a quick email to my mom. I also update my blog and do a little Facebook/Instagram stalking.

11:30 p.m. I get ready for bed and watch one episode of Orange is the New Black on Netflix.

12:30 p.m. It’s unusual that I’d actually be asleep by this time. I’m probably watching another episode of ONB or The Tudors or Black Mirror. Or if I can’t sleep I’ll read one of my unfinished books on Kindle.

This is basically my day on Tuesdays and Thursdays. However on Mondays and Wednesdays I don’t teach until 6 in the evening so I have more time to practice yoga, meet a friend for lunch or coffee, or even go to dance class. I also try to study some Spanish when I have time.

On Fridays I usually sleep in ’til eleven (sometimes noon), especially if I’ve been out the night before. Most teachers where I work don’t actually work on Fridays so there’s always a party or some get together on Thursday nights. I do work on Fridays but thankfully not ’til 2:30 p.m. so it’s not so bad.

I teach 6 hours on Saturdays—three hours in the morning and another 3 in the afternoon. As you can imagine, it’s pretty exhausting but at I get at least one Saturday off every month which provides a bit of a reprieve.

Because Sunday is my only day off, I vary how I spend it based on how I feel at the end of the week. On harder weeks, I’ve been known to sleep all day and shamelessly veg out. But I also like to destress by going to the beach or going for a hike on one of the nearby bosques (forests) and surrounding mountains.

So this is “average” for me these days. I’ve decided to stay in Costa Rica until December so this will be the norm ’til then–with a few trips thrown here and there.

Day 14: If I won the lottery…

A classic hypothetical and, coincidentally, the grammar point I’m teaching one of my classes this week. Yay for the second conditional.

Assuming lottery here means the jackpot, there’s certainly a lot of interesting things I could do with millions of dollars. First off, I’d pay off old debts. Let me rephrase. I’d do something nice for the people who have been there for me financially when I needed it the most but have never asked for anything in return. Perhaps they don’t see it as a debt but I would still like to repay their kindness.

Secondly, I’d buy my mom that house I’d always wanted to get her. And what the heck, I’d throw in a nice car and a chauffeur too since she can’t (and won’t) drive.

I’d give 10% of it to a non profit charity that’s close to my heart and another 10% to Sea Shepherd. I’d buy Palau a couple state-of-the-art boats and helicopters to better patrol the waters and keep the damned poachers out.

The rest I’d used to travel to every place on my bucket list and take my friends and family who want to come along too. To avoid the hassles with airlines, I’d probably get my own private jet and throw in a yacht for good measure.

Maybe I’d open that bakery I’ve always dreamed of or my own language school. I’d set up an educational scholarship fund for underprivileged girls all over the world but specifically in the Pacific Islands.

And lastly, I’d arrange for my body to be cremated and placed in one of those burial pods so that a tree could grow out of my ashes. I hear those things are expensive but it’d be an awesome way to go.

Day 13: My earliest memory

My earliest memory is of our first place in Palau. I remember it was across the street from the police station and every night a really loud siren would go off at 9:00. My mom said it was the curfew signal and I had no idea what curfew meant.

We didn’t live in a house. It was an apartment type complex with other families living in the area. My playmate and best friend was a boy my age named Junior. She is now called June and still a dear friend although it’s been years since we’ve seen each other and we live half way around the world from each other.

I remember that June and I would play in the small patch of forest nearby. It was weird that there’d be sand in the forest, but I remember it.

I also distinctly remember receiving a Barbie doll whose head I pulled off and tossed around as a ball. When I was done, June reattached it to it’s body and brushed it’s hair back to perfection.

I don’t have very many memories of the time before my younger sister was born and I was five by then. But our home across the police station and my friend June are the most vivid.

 

 

 

Day 12: What’s in my fridge

I’m not sure how the contents of my fridge would make for a good post but let’s see if I can make it interesting.

I have a roommate so I’m only going to describe what’s mine, starting with an almost finished box of sangria. It’s cheap and not bad tasting. Don’t judge.

I have a tupper ware of spiraled pasta with pesto sauce which I need to eat by tomorrow and  another one with white rice. There’s a small packet of shredded parmesan and a container of feta that’s probably been in there far too long.

I have an assortment of condiments: Lizano sauce, olive oil mayonnaise, mustard, hot sauce, salsa, and a blackberry chutney I got from a fair a few weeks ago.  A fourth of a stick of butter sits pathetically on one of the door shelves. Man, I really need to go food shopping. 

Man, I really need to get paid so I can go food shopping!

Undoubtedly, the last two weeks have been financially rough. The sad contents of my fridge are solid proof.  And real talk, I think it goes beyond my bank account.

I started this blogging challenge as a way to get me out of a rut.  I’ve had a nagging feeling for almost six months now that I should move on to the next destination. Staying in Costa Rica for more than a year wasn’t part of the plan.

But the truth is I’ve settled. I have a steady, (mostly) fulfilling job and a supportive community here. I’ve become comfortable. Maybe a little too comfortable.

I’ve also used up my savings and it’s been difficult to save up again. I’ve had some unexpected medical expenses and, let’s face it, Costa Rica isn’t exactly a cheap place to live.  It’s time to buckle down, though.  I truly believe I’m in this rut because I’m not traveling the way I had initially planned to. A few months in a different country at a time, seeing as much of Latin America as possible. So far I’ve been to three countries. Part of that has to do with visa issues and a larger part with funds. But mostly also because I’ve settled.

Now some would say that’s not a bad thing and I’d totally agree. But at this point in my life settling isn’t what I want. Not when there’s a whole world to explore and I am capable of doing so.

Interesting how the contents of my fridge led to a deeper look at my life.  I guess sometimes that’s how it goes.

 

 

 

 

Day 11: 15 of my favorite things

Whew, an easier post today.

As a side note to the past few days, I’ve been extremely busy at work and therefore extremely stressed out and tired as well. I know making excuses doesn’t make the challenge any easier, but I do apologize to all two (or is it down to one now?) of my readers for the poor content and lack of enthusiasm in my writing the last few days.

Without further delay, here’s a list of my 15 favorite things.

  1. Chocolate. Duh! I simply couldn’t live without it.
  2. Good coffee. I need to emphasize good here because I’ve had some pretty horrible coffee which I think is a sad waste.
  3. Brie cheese. The stuff is heaven on earth! Enough said.
  4. Coconut. In every form. Dried, dehydrated, flour, milk, oil, shampoo, lotion. But my most favorite is fresh coconut water right out of the nut. Followed by fresh young coconut flesh.
  5. Sushi. Especially salmon roe, salmon skin, unagi, and uni sushi. Gosh, I totally just made myself hungry!
  6. Massages. Perhaps just slightly more than foot spas, I love love love massages. I can’t image a physical touch more soothing and relaxing–well, except maybe sex.
  7. Books. My Kindle is great, but I absolutely love the feel and smell of a good book.
  8. Hole-in-the-wall Cafes. I’m not going to lie: I do enjoy Starbucks. But given the option between the conglomerate chain or a small, boutique cafe, I will always choose the latter. There’s something about the intimacy and originality of a little sidewalk cafe that’s refreshing and yet familiar.
  9. Farmers Markets. I have been known to spend obscene amounts of money at a farmers market. And I’m not sorry. I’d readily give my hard earned cash to local farmers and small businesses than, say, Walmart. Unfortunately, I have to confess that I have been selling out and shopping at Wamart more often these days. I am ashamed.
  10. Sarongs. They’re such a multi-functional item. From a blanket to a beach cover up, a bag, shawl, dress, skirt, even a jumper! They’re also great as wall or table art. Sky’s the limit with these things!
  11. O Magazine. First of all, anything created by Oprah is the best. O Magazine is well rounded.  Part fashion, part spirituality, fitness, advice and food. What else can you ask for?
  12. NY & Co. Jeans. What can I say, it’s the only brand that carries jeans that fit me per-fect-ly.  I’m short, petite, and need a little help around my tush. The only two pairs of jeans I own are from NY & Co and they fit me like gloves.
  13. Blenders. Next to the microwave, they’re probably the most convenient kitchen invention ever.
  14. My infinity ring. I’ve had it for years. I got it at a fair really cheap and it’s not even real silver but I wear it every day. I like to think of it as a lucky charm.
  15. My viajera pendant. I got it at the Transitarte Musica Festival here in Costa Rica a few weeks ago. It’s a simple chain necklace with an airplane pendant which I think nicely symbolizes me as a traveler.                                      17635271_10155023496970330_6300515020576229044_o

That’s all for today! Hasta mañana.