Thursday, March 30, 2006

ESC and SL in the news!!

On Tuesday, there was a story on public radio's "Open Source" with Christopher Lydon all about Second Life. You can read a little bit about it and listen to the entire piece here.

And there's an article in today's Washington Post about Second Life that mentions The Electric Sheep Company! It's entitled "Roaming Virtual World Is a Real Trip."


Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Cherry Blossoms! Stunning!

Happy sigh - Scott and I just went for a lunchtime run down around the tidal basin, and the cherry blossoms are just about at their peak. It's warm and sunny out, and there are tons of people out enjoying the weather and the flowers. Slow going, but absolutely lovely. I'm so glad my parents will get to see it this weekend!

Monday, March 27, 2006

I have a commute again!

This morning Sibley and Jonah and I moved into our new office space, so now I'll be commuting downtown each morning. I'm happy to have a switch from working at home all the time, but I will miss having Elsa the cat on my lap while I work, and now Chez Limon is back to an internetless existence.

I had a fabulous weekend up in Gettysburg celebrating Scott's friend Emily's 30th birthday. We drove up Saturday afternoon, hung out, saw a little photography show at the college, tossed (yay!), ate lots of good pizza, and then returned to Emily's parents' house where we cleaned up, dressed up and got the party started. It was a really wonderful celebration - tons of family and friends from PA and beyond came out, and everyone was so excited to be there together.

We spent the night at a neighbor's house (which had a note on the unlocked front door: Friends of Emily's are friends of ours. Make yourselves at home!), and then spent Sunday eating brunch, learning about the Gettysburg civil war history, eating some more and discussing enneagrams before heading back to DC around 7. A lovely group of people to spend time with!

The big plans for this week start on Thursday night when my parents fly in for the weekend! Yay! If you're going to be at Fools Fest on Sunday, come over and meet them!

Friday, March 24, 2006

Hooray for Cafe!

First, a 2 minute video on the health benefits of coffee.

Next, some information I picked up at the coffee plantation outside of Antigua.

It's a little hard to read, but it says:

The Public Advertiser
May Nineteenth, 1657

Pasqua's Public House
In Bartholomew Lane at the back of the olde exchange
offers a drink newly arrived from Turkey called
& it is being served to the public at ten in the
morning and at three of the clock after noon.

Employers are beseeched to release clerks &
workmen briefly at these hours to partake of this
beverage as it is noted that renewed vigour &
industry more than accommodate for the few
moments away from quills & other labours.

This wholesome drink closes the orifice of the stomach
& fortifies the heat within, helpeth digestion, quicken-
eth the spirits & maketh the heart lightsome.

I really like drinking coffee.

Another interesting thing:

(Click for an enlarged view if this is too hard to read.)

Scott contemplating a coffee tree:

And some depressing statistics about where your money goes when you buy coffee in the US:

For every $1 spent here, only $0.16 goes to the producing country - $0.08 for labor, the rest for the farm and the exporter. The consuming country gets $0.84 - $0.67 for the importer, and the rest for transport and the wholesaler or retailer.

So buy Fair Trade Coffee!

Have a good weekend everyone. Spend a lazy hour with the paper and a cup of coffee.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Fairly Tame Residence in the District

While Guatemala is still firmly in my mind (I'm cooking a nice traditional Guatemalan dinner tonight, complete with homemade tortillas!), I did 3 things today that reinforce my residence in DC. I canceled my Minnesota bank account, since it doesn't have any East Coast branches; I converted my (expired) Minnesota driver's license to a DC license; and I registered to vote in DC. The banking piece means fewer headaches for me, but I'm a little sad about having to give up my MN license. It had holographic snowflakes on it! The woman wouldn't even let me keep it. She just dropped it into a shredder.

Still, it's sort of a cool thing to have a DC license. There aren't that many residents of this city, so it's sort of a rarity, right? It expires in 2011; I wonder what I'll be doing then.

Quick note: I edited my March 14th and 15th posts to include some photos. More to follow!

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Hockey in Minnesota, and the Super Fan

I'm so impatient for warm weather! I want to be able to go outside without bundling up. I feel a little silly whining like this, since I'm from Minnesota and it's not really all that cold out. My brother is still reveling in winter - here's a link to his recent post about the state hockey tournament. I think it's great.

And here's what my mom had to say about the whole affair:
I just returned from St. Paul as I had driven down to watch the Marshall Hockey Team play - actually that is not true. I went down to watch Fred in action as Super fan. He is very good - Marshall out cheered the other school and our team out played the other school winning 4 to 2. They play again on Friday and if they win then, they will play on Saturday, and if so we will probably go down for that game. Fred really is a minor celebrity. I met a couple of new parents who said - you are "Fred's Mom - he is so great". I decided that it was almost more cool to be the mother of Super Fan than of one of the hockey players.
My parents are coming to DC the weekend of Fools Fest and will come out to watch a game or two on Sunday. Too bad they're not bringing Fred!

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Having just eaten banana bread in Antigua

Monday, March 20, 2006

From Miami's Airport

We had a nice wrap-up morning in Antigua - one last rooftop breakfast, a stop by the jewelery store for my (custom-made) jaguar charm, liquados and fresh fruit in a courtyard cafe... then back to Guatemala City. Amazing that the door-to-door trip, from the Antigua hotel to Chez Limon, is only 12 hours. It feels like a lot though. I miss Scott already. (He has one more day of work, so isn't flying home until tomorrow.) I guess it makes sense to go through a little withdrawl period after spending so much time (281 hours) with him.

The take-off and landing of the flight also made me a little melancholy; all the urban-ness of Guatemala City and Miami is so ugle. All the pollution, all the roads and houses... I'd much rather live in a city than in a pristine cloud forest, but seeing those cities from the air made me sad.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Friday - Arrival in Antigua
We had a nice chatty breakfast with Braulio and Wendy, caught the bus and arrived in Antigua around 11. Coffee and fruit at a cute little cafe before dropping our things of at a cute little hotel. Lunch, window shopping, jade museum, amazing banana bread hot out of the oven, and a nice walk up the hill to a scenic overlook of the city as the sun was setting. A little more wandering around town before drinks at trendy Cafe Sky and then paella at a Spanish restaurant.

Saturday - The Day I Learned About Coffee
After a relaxed breakfast on our rooftop patio, we took a tuk-tuk (a tiny 3-wheeled taxi) out to a coffee plantation. They have a neat museum all about growing, harvesting and processing coffee. There's also a little museum on ancient and current traditional Mayan music that's pretty good. Scott dragged me to Pollo Campero for lunch - it's a fried chicken fast food chain that's huge down here. Good and greasy. We spent the afternoon shopping for gifts and souvenirs and then split a liter of Brahva (the Brazilian beer that's just arrived on the scene to compete with Guatemalan-brewed Gallo). Upscale Guatemalan food for dinner.

Being in Antigua makes me miss Rome a lot. Maybe it's because this city is more colonial, has more fancy old churches, feels more European than the rest of the country. I find myself thinking about Rome (and Lisbon) quite a bit. The architecture, the markets, the food, the museums, the streets.

Sunday - I'm 25 today!
Today is my last full day in Guatemala, which is a sad thing I'm not ready to go home yet and feel like I could spend at least 10 more days here with Scott. I guess that's a testament to how wonderful this trip has been.
We got up at 5:30 this morning for a 6am departure for Pacaya - an active volcano about an hour and a half outside of the city. It took a few hours to hike to the top, most of which was on loose, sandy, rocky volcanic terrain. We got to see lava flowing, steam coming out of the ground and rocks being spat out of the crater. Cool stuff. We got back to our hotel around 1, showered to get rid of the black dust that had managed to get under my toenails and up my nose, and had a little picnic on the rooftop patio - toast, avocado, local cheese, mango. Lovely.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

I'm sitting on a balcony overlooking the courtyard f our Antigua hotel. Early morning light, lots of vines and flowers. Scott and pretty much everyone else around here is still asleep. Munching on some of the amazing banana bread we bought yesterday afternoon, hot out of the oven.

Thursday - The Day of the Amazing 3 AM Pee
Thursday was neat because it began and ended with extremely gracious hospitality offered by 2 completely different families.

The day began at 3am when Scott got up to go to the bathroom. I had to go to but was more interested in holding off until our 5 am alarm than leaving the semi-warmth of the bed for a chilly trip outside to the outhouse. But Scott told me it was pretty outside and not that cold, and so I had the most beautiful nocturnal urination ever. There was a full moon illuminating everything (definitely no need for a flashlight) and lots of stars, and it was completely quiet. No hum of traffic, no running water, no people walking around, no roosters crowing, not even any wind blowing. It was almost like being in an old black-and-white photograph.
When I got back inside, Alfonso's grandmother was up. I'm not sure if she was starting to cook or was just getting the cooking fire started. I went back to sleep for a few more hours as other people in the house gradually woke up and got their days started. We had breakfast around 6 - more cak'ik, the special spicy chicken soup that we had eaten for lunch and dinner the day before. After expressing our thanks and saying our good-byes, Alfonso took us back down the mountain. it was a 2-hour hike down to where we would catch a ride into town. Part of the path we were on took us through a really spectacular cloud forest Ancient moss-covered trees, giant ferns, ropy vines, veritable jaguar territory. It was just like something you'd see in Jurassic Park or King Kong... but not cheesy. Just beautiful.
Eventually we got to the village whose name I forget and were pleased to see that a microbus with padded seats and only a few passengers would be taking us to Carcha. On the way up 2 days before, we rode in the back of a big truck, crammed in among locals. It was fun in an adventuresome sort of way, and if you're going to be packed in with a bunch of people it's nicer for it to be in open air than in a sun-baked school bus... but it was still a pretty rough ride. During our final ascent, a space opened up on top of the cargo rack, so I climbed up and rode up high like the other cool young Guatemalan men. Only they make it look easy and comfortable, which it most certainly was not. The road got a lot rockier during that last part, so I was holding on for dear life as the truck lurched and jolted from side to side along mountain hairpin turns. Definitely a relief to reach our destination.
In any case, that leg of the return trip was much easier. In Carcha, we caught another microbus, this one much more crowded, to Coban. We got in around 11:30 and spent a few hours eating lunch, retrieving our bags from the Proyecto EcoQuetzal office and using the internet. Then we hopped on an air-conditioned 2pm pullman to Guatemala City. We got in just as it was starting to get dark, around 6:30. Scott asked the man in front of us for directions to the other bus stop, the one where we could catch a bus to Antigua. To our surprise, it was not 5 blocks away as we had been told; it was a 20-minute taxi ride away. Definitely not walkable at that time of day with our obviously foreign backpacks Taking a taxi wasn't a great option either, as there's always the risk that your driver will take you 20 minutes in the wrong direction, steal your things and leave you stranded. The man told us which public bus we could take and then offered to take us there himself, as it was just 3 blocks from his house. Scott judged him to be trustworthy, and thus started our friendship with Braulio Mayen. He's a colonel in the Guatemalan Army with a couple of side businesses - some shooting ranges and a security service for foreigners.
We told him about our trip, about our plans for Antiua, and he invited us to spend the night at his house instead of continuing on. We protested but he insisted and, as the night kept getting darker, we eventually gave in. We arrived at his home around 8, filthy after spending 2 nights on the farm, and were welcomed in by his wife Wendy and 3 children. Dinner was pulled pork and potatoes with rice, tortillas and spicy pickled vegetables followed by fresh mango (from his family farm) tossed with lime juice and crushed toasted pumpkin seeds. Their family spoke very clear Spanish, so I was able to follow much of the conversation. In addition, Wendy used to work as a translator so spoke English (albeit shyly), and their oldest daughter had just graduated from an American high school so spoke very good English. It was fun for me to be able to chat with them.

My ability to communicate was the least of the differences between the indiginous Mayans and the urban Mayens. I woke up in a 2-room house composed of a dirt floor, a tin roof and wood plank walls, containing no electricity or plumbing, painfully little furniture and just enough food to live on. I woke up on top of a mountain on a farm only accessible by foot that's been cultivated by the same family in the same manner for generations. I went to sleep in Guatemala's biggest city, a few minutes down the freeway from an enormous luxury hotel, a mall and all the fast food you could want. The 2-story house was filled with comfortable furniture, paintings and figurines and decorations. There was hot running water and a refrigerator filled with food. There were TVs and CDs and a digital camera. There was a hired (Mayan) woman to help with the cooking and cleaning. The family has traveled far beyond the borders of Guatemala and can continue to do so at their leisure.
While the Mayen's house was certainly more comfortable (and familiar) than the Mayans' farm, both families extended beautiful hospitality. I thank both of them for sharing their lives with me.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

The day I planted maize and beans!

Just woke up from a nap. We had thought about going for another hike into the forest, but our little "let's lie down and digest lunch" idea turned into an hour-and-a-half nap. We've come to stay with Alfonso and his family at an incredibly opportune time. They started planting the grandmother's field today, so there's been a lot going on and a lot of special food being eaten. Today's lunch was caxic - spicy chicken soup - and tamale-like bread. Sounds like we're having both chicken and beef tonight, very special.

Got to help with the planting this morning.

I got a big pole with a pointed end and a pocket full of maize and bean seeds. About 10 of us worked side by side, each making our own row. I had a man helping me keep my row straight, pointing out where to make each subsequent hole. It was appreciated, as it's much harder than it looks to plant a straight line when the field rises and falls and is cut by stream beds and fallen trees. I planted most of 2 rows before I got blistered and a little bored, so I took photos and helped Scott instead. He made a hole with his pole, and I dropped in 3 maize and 1 bean seed and covered them up.

After a hot chocolate break, Alfonso took Scott and I on a little hike up through some fields and into the forest behind his house. Afterwards, we sat on a hillside overlooking a handful of houses, the school and the church and learned more about planting - how they let fields rest for between 1 and 30 years, where they grow firewood, interesting stuff. I'm learning a ton. Alfonso asked about farms in the States, and we told him how all the fields are perfectly flat and the roads are perfectly straight - such a huge contrast from here.

I keep thinking about how incredible it is to be here. We saw farms like this from he bus window, and I had to idea what it was like to live on one. To suddenly be inside, to watch them cook and clean and plant and hang out together is such an opportunity. I'm glad the men know Spanish and that Scott can talk to them, but I wish I could communicate as well. The women and kids only speak Ke'chi, the Mayan language.

Last night they covered the ground of the non-kitchen room with pine needles, so after the big family dinner, everyone wrapped up in blankets and lay down on the ground to sleep. A heck of a sleepover! I think they all stayed because dinner was late and they wanted to start planting early-ish in the morning and they live a ways away from here. Or maybe it's just an excuse for a party.

Sorry for such a disorganized post!

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

On a traditional Mayan farm on top of a mountain

I'm in an incredibly foreign place, and it's wonderful. I'm by the cooking fire of our guide Alfonso's grandmother's house. Tortillas are frying. A woman is kneading cornmeal and water to make a paste for tamales, and more maize is cooking in a huge pot over the fire. Alfonso and his father are planting this week and enlisting the help of 25 others, so there's going to be a big fiesta at this house tonight. Hence the house is full of tamales made in preparation for all the people who are coming over.

It was dim before, but now that the sun has gone behind the mountains, it's quite dark. There's just light from the fire and a candle. Hardly any furniture, very few possessions, lots and lots of ears of maize hanging from the ceiling to dry. Chickens, turkeys, a scraggly kitten, a few dogs and 2 cows. Scott is out playing soccer with Alfonso and Matteo and 3 little boys.

It's sort of hard to describe this place because it's so different... it's hard to know where to begin.

Semuc-Champey = more swimming in a river!

Sunday -
We got to have a lazy Sunday morning and then spent most of the day traveling - first a chicken bus (an old school bus which offers very cheap transportation all over the country) from Rio Dulce to Los Ranchos, and then a pullman to Coban. Upon arrival, around 6pm, we were approached by "Eric from Portland" who offered us a room in his father's B&B right across the street from where we were standing getting our bearings. We took him up on his offer and have a room for Q35 per night (about $5). We chatted with Marvin from the tourist office, got tortillas and grilled meat from a wagon off the main square, and then walked down to see a religious procession. Neat.

Monday -
Up at 6 to catch a 7am microbus to Semuc-Champey. Gorgeous river, spent 4 hours there swimming, hiking to the top of the hill for a beautiful vista, and then more swimming. After a little lunch, the bus took us to Lanquin where there are some big caves. It was slimy with guano, and the electric lights weren't working, so it wasn´t the most comfortable experience, but I´m definitely glad I got to see it. Arrived back in Coban around 8 filthy and ravenous. Got a great meal at a little place off the main square, then returned to the B&B for much-needed shower and sleep.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

It's the first morning we haven't had to wake up before 5 am to go somewhere, but I'm up early anyways and sitting out on a dock on the Rio Dulce. The sun has already risen but things are still pretty hazy. Our hotel here is wonderful. There's a restaurant surrounded by a bunch of little cabins connected by elevated wooden walkways through the jungle. There's a mosquito net around the bed, so when you're lying in it it looks and sounds like you're out camping in the woods.

The first order of business is to wrap up Thursday night. I figured we would just head to bed after dinner, but a little serendipity came our way. Scott ran into one of his high school friends, David Kroodsma, who's in the middle of a really cool trip: A Ride for the Climate. He's biking from California to Argentina raising awareness about climate change. (Definitely check out his blog!) It just so happens that our hotel was also full of researchers from around the world studying how climate change may have caused the collapse of the Mayan civilization around 900 AD. They were taking core samples from Lake Peten Itza. By looking at layers of biomatter that fell into the lake and settled on the bottom, they can get an idea of what was growing around the lake hundreds (and thousands) of years ago. They found evidence of a bunch of grassy plants starting around 900, which means the climate suddenly turned drier, which may have meant more difficult living conditions. No one knows for sure, but the researchers sounded pretty excited about what they were finding and how it fit into other archeologists' studies.
So, definitely cool to meet David, and definitely cool to eavesdrop on all those climate discussions.

Friday - The Day We (Almost) Got to Be Scientists
Friday was the researchers' last day out on the drilling platform, and the previous night one of them had invited David and Scott and I to join her out there to help with the work. We were pretty psyched about this opportunity. The shift started at 6am, though, so true to form we were awake at 4:30 in order to eat and get the OK from the other scientists. It turns out the guy in charge didn´t want extra people running around getting in the way, since it was the last day and EVERYTHING had to get finished. Disappointing, but completely understandable. So we heard a little more about the study over breakfast with all of them, drank our coffee, and hit the road. A 40-minute bus to Sant Elena, and then a 4-hour pullman to Rio Dulce. Definitely enjoyed traveling through the countryside and getting to see non-tourist destinations: farms with cows and horses and chickens and fields of maize and tiny tin or thatched-roof houses. Villages with tiendas and churches. It's a very rough countryside, big hills or small mountains. Scott said someone once compared it to a crumpled piece of paper. It's neat.
Arrived in Rio Dulce around 1, hot and a little cranky after the bus ride and the early morning. But we were immediately shuttled downstream to our hotel which presents itself as a tropical paradise sort of place. We checked in, got a sandwich and a pineapple liquado (juice, ice, sugar - beautiful) and then hopped on a boat for a tour of the river. The highlight was our stop at a natural hot spring. Guatemala is situated over the meeting point of 3 tectonic plates, so there's lots of seismic activity. Our boat, which contained 2 families and 4 other 20-something backpackers, seemed pretty content to sit and observe the hot spring, but Scott and I wanted to swim. He asked if it was okay to jump in, and we both dove in. Eventually, most of the other passengers were enjoying the sulfuric-smelling springs as well.
We continued on to Livingston, a small city on the Carribbean coast, and spent an hour there. I was curious to see it, a conclave of Guatemalans of African descent. (Maybe a slave ship crashed there? I forget the exact history, sorry...) It was neat to see, as its culture is a little different from other parts of Guatemala, but I didn't need more than an hour there. It felt more tourist-y than other-culture-y.
We had a great dinner at the hotel that night. I had cerviche for the first time, and it was amazing. Scott, who's had various cerviches in the past, agreed that it was excellent. We also had penne with smoked snook (a local fish) and 3 grilled meats: lomito, churrasco, and longaniza. Tasty.

Time for breakfast and coffee!

Friday, March 10, 2006

The day I raced Scott to the top of a temple.

I'm writing this up from notes more than fully formulated sentences and paragraphs. Sorry for its lack of structure.

To wrap up Thursday evening, I did get to eat my tepescuintle after all. After Scott woke up from his nap, we explored the hotel lawn, examined the banana trees, and did some stretching and yoga. We ate dinner at Restaurant Cahui (cahui is Mayan for haunted!) down the road. We ate outdoors, overlooking the lake. We were the only patrons. Completely peaceful.

Up at 4:30, on the 5:30 bus to Tikal. An early arrival means you have a better chance of seeing neat birds and animals. We arranged a small tour group - just the two of us, a 21-year-old Israeli woman and our guide Josue. We left at 7 and saw an anteater right off the bat. Josue said he only sees one or two each year, so this was a treat. Other things - a tiny frog, a tiny lizard, a couple ant freeways (very cool), a blue-headed parrot, some toucans, neat yellow-tailed birds, and some sort of white jays. And more monkeys! Both spider monkeys and howler monkeys, which sound like jaguars.

The Mayan ruins were pretty spectacular. We saw (and climbed!) temples and pyramids and palaces. Wish I could upload some of my photos right now! We learned about stellae (carved upright slabs) and altars (for human and other sacrifices, like incense, jade, cacao seeds, and human blood). Cool trees, like the ceibal, which symbolizes the Mayan world view: the branches are the heavens, the trunk is this world, and the roots are the underworld. Huge and beautiful. And there was the copol tree, whose sap is used to make incense as well as to treat rheumatism. The sap from the chicle tree is harvested as a chewing gum ingredient. There was the bread nut tree, more palms, papayas... stuff you don't find in Minnesota. Our tour ended around 11, so we took a breather in the Gran Plaza and had lunch. (A funny thing - the egg salad sandwiches we bought were really fried egg sandwiches with 'salad' - lettuce and tomatoes.) We wandered through a few more sites and caught the 2 pm bus back to the hotel for another much-needed siesta. Around 5 we walked down the road to a little dock for a dip in the lake. Blue green water, perfect temperature. We got to watch a beautiful sunset.

Now we're just finishing up dinner. Nothing as exotic s tepezcuintle, but the piƱa colada and margarita were excellent, as was the jungle tea. It's sort of spicy like chai. I got to eat a new vegetable, the wisquil, which is like a big zucchini. Again, we're dining outdoors overlooking the lake. Lots of crickets and frogs to be heard.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

The Day the Monkey Peed on Me

My first post from Guatemala! I'll be doing lots of backdating, since it's much easier to write posts longhand and type them up in batches when I get to a computer, and I'll be making lots of typos, since Spanish keyboards take some getting used to.

So - Wednesdays flights went just fine. I arrived in Guatemala City right on schedule, sailed through customs and into Scott's arms. We taxied back to the apartment where he's been staying and made rice and beans for dinner.

A few impressions of the city - I was surprised at how dark it was flying in, how unlit. There was a sprinkling of orange lights, but nothing like the blaring whites when you fly over the East coast. I hope that means I'll get to see some stars while I'm down here. The drive through the city was congested with cars and pollution. All the walls are painted in bright colors, and there aren't many signs. Instead, store names and advertisements are painted directly onto the walls.

Up at 4:15, in a taxi by 5, on a flight to Tikal by 6. At our hotel, La Casa de Don David, shortly after 8. We checked in, hopped on 2 of the hotel's old beat-up mountain bikes, and rode a mile down the road to a bioreserve. We passed kids and horses and a pickup trick with about 10 Guatemalan men crammed in the back. We chatted with Edwin, the man who worked at the reserve for a little while. He was sitting at a table with animal skulls: two tapirs and a tepescuintle (more about that animal later). And there were a bunch of glass bottles filled with formeldahyde and reptiles and insects: a bunch of snakes, a huge spider, some sort of horned beetle called elephantito for "little elephant". There was a squirrel which was upside-down in its jar for some reason.
After preparing ourselves for the beasts we might encouter within, we started down the path into the jungle. It was green. There were all kinds of exotic trees with large leaves and funny bark. We hiked up a big hill and were suddenly rewarded by a miradore - a beautiful view of the road we had come in on, the surrounding hills and the big blue lake. It was sunny and warm and there were cool breezes; it felt good to be there.
On our way down, I felt what I thought was collected rainwater falling from the top of a tree. This seemed strange, since the rest of teh forest was completely dry. I looked up and realized that it was actually a monkey urinating from the treetops. We backed up, and Scott discovered the rest of the family on another branch overlooking the trail. They were howler monkeys, five adults and a baby, and their continued urination and defecation in our general direction made no secret of the fact that they were anxious for us to get on our way. But their lack of accuracy meant that our curiosity outlasted their bladders, so eventually they all sulked off to find another, more private branch. They have the most amazing tails. I think the best part of the encounter was watching them move through the trees. They're very graceful, almost catlike.
We also saw a lizard, a pair of woodpeckers, and a big flock of noisy black and white birds whose name we can't remember.
We got back to the hotel around 1 and went to the Don Juan (!) restaurant across the street. I wanted to get tepescuintle, an edible jungle rodent that I had read about in the guidebook, but they were all out. So Scott and I split the two other local specialties - venison and whitefish. (It was his first time eating venison! Funny, because for me it's not a foreign food at all. It reminds me of Minnesota and dinner at my grandma's house.) We lingered over the meal and returned to the hotel to a much needed siesta. I woke up before Scott and have come out to the hammock to write. I have no idea what time it is. the afternoon light is diffused by all the green leaves around me. The more I listen, the more birds I hear. In the distance, across the lawn, I can see a man trimming the hedges and the topiary with a machete. We might go for a swim later on. Or I might just lie here and watch the birds. This is a beautiful vacation.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Ready for takeoff!

Today's the day! Twelve hours from now, I'll be deplaning, ready to begin a Guatemalan adventure. Watch this space in 2 weeks for trip photos.

I got to go see Don Juan at the Shakespeare Theater last night. (Many thanks to Brian for the tickets and to Amy for taking me as her date!) I thoroughly enjoyed it. I wish I knew a little more about Moliere and the circumstances he was writing about, but despite fact that I felt like I was missing things, I still learned a lot, and had a lot to think about and found it very funny and accessible. One of my favorite scenes was in the first act. Don Juan is going on about why he loves serial female conquests, and the whole time his servant Sganarelle is helping him change clothes, from one elaborate sixteenth century costume into another. The layers, the fabrics, the fastenings, it was fascinating!

My cat, Elsa, gives scalp massages! It turns out that one of her favorite places to sleep is on my pillow, right behind my head. Before she settles down, she has to knead the surface, which happens to be covered with hair. So she crouches there, purring into my ear and tugging on your hair, which feels great on the scalp. Now to teach her some commands, like "a little farther down".

Time to throw some clothes in the dryer, make a quick trip to the grocery store, and pack! Ciao! Adios!

Monday, March 06, 2006

I awoke relieved that my bike was only vandalized in my dreams.

Just now I pulled my hair into a ponytail for the first time since March of 2000. It feels weird to have it pulled back so tightly, and it's not at all stylish yet. It's just a stubby little thing with lots of neck wispies. But this will be a godsend for Ultimate.

When I was a senior in highschool, I wore my hair in a bun secured by chopsticks nearly every day. I miss being able to do that... but it will take a few more years of length before I can manage that again.

I had a great kabob lunch with Team Dinner Party today at Moby Dick in Dupont. Not as good as Astor, but the company made up for it. Paul remarked that I never blog about my work, so without further ado, here are the wildly exciting IRS forms I've been learning to comprehend today!

Form 1040
Form 1040 Schedule C
Form 1040 Schedule C-EZ
Form 1040 Schedule SE
Form 1040ES
(Today was exceptionally boring... usually I have more engaging things to work on.)

Less than 48 hours until I see Scott!

I awoke relieved that my bike was only vandalized in my dreams.

Just now I pulled my hair into a ponytail for the first time since March of 2000. It feels weird to have it pulled back so tightly, and it's not at all stylish yet. It's just a stubby little thing with lots of neck wispies. But this will be a godsend for Ultimate.

When I was a senior in highschool, I wore my hair in a bun secured by chopsticks nearly every day. I miss being able to do that... but it will take a few more years of length before I can manage that again.

I had a great kabob lunch with Team Dinner Party today at Moby Dick in Dupont. Not as good as Astor, but the company made up for it. Paul remarked that I never blog about my work, so without further ado, here are the wildly exciting IRS forms I've been learning to comprehend today!

Form 1040
Form 1040 Schedule C
Form 1040 Schedule C-EZ
Form 1040 Schedule SE
Form 1040ES
(Today was exceptionally boring... usually I have more engaging things to work on.)

Less than 48 hours until I see Scott!

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Another nice low-key day. Church, an easy run, yoga, and kale. I'm off to an Oscar party at Liz and Jesska's house in a bit. Definitely glad the wind has died down, otherwise that ride up Connecticut can be brutal. I got to talk to Scott for a long time today, which was wonderful - we've had pretty limited communication since he left last week. Assuming my flights go as planned, I'll be landing in Guatemala City 72 hours from now!!

Saturday, March 04, 2006

There's nothing like napping with a cat.

Just woke up from a 3-hour long nap. So much for going for a run this afternoon! The nap was wonderful. Sun was pouring in the window onto the futon, and I had the cat curled up right next to me. Now I'm listening to Garrison Keillor, broadcasting live from Grand Forks, North Dakota this week. But I'm heading over to an Ono team meeting/party in a little while, and I need to clean my room first. I've had laundry strewn all over it for days now.

Announcements (fun ones and then boring ones)

- Save the date of Saturday, March 25th. I'm turning 25 this month (a quarter century!), so I'm going to have some sort of birthday party that day. Not quite sure what exactly... let me know if you have suggestions. Too bad there's not a centrally-located Dairy Queen!

- Margaret had her first race of the season today and did really well, placing 7th out of 25 class A (upper level) cyclists. Yay!

- Once I get back from Guatemala, I need to shop for health insurance for myself. Let me know if you have any experience doing this!

- My new job is wonderful, but it's going to be a 6-month-to-a-year kind of gig. So I've still got my ear to the ground job-wise. And I figure the more people who know I'm on the job market, the better!

Woo hoo! Guatemala is only 4 days away!!

Friday, March 03, 2006

The Brassicaceae family was formerly called Cruciferaceae.

I strayed from kale tonight... I feel a little guilty for flirtying with another member of the family. But I had this recipe for chamomile-cauliflower soup that calls for 6 chamomile tea bags (you brew strong tea and use that instead of broth). Since I don't like the chamomile tea that I have right now, this seemed like a good way to use it up. And I was right! It's a pretty tasty soup.

Another kale betrayal: there were fresh brussel sprouts at the store today. They're one of my favorite spring foods, so I had to pick some up.

My last brassicaceae (try typing that ten times fast!) comment for the day: radishes and rutabagas are also members of the family! Two more great veggies! I had no idea!

Last night I dreamt that I was talking to some Ultimate players who were going to Lake Fairfax for a tournament and didn't have enough people. They asked me to go, and I agreed to go. I was actually pretty excited about going out to play and was disappointed that I couldn't find a ride out there. I think this means I'll be ready to play again when I get back from Guatemala. Yaay! I've been waiting for this feeling for a long time.

Hmm, I get back on March 20. Fools Fest is April 1. I haven't played since January 1.

5 days until I leave for Guatemala! I took my last typhoid pill today, so my immune system is as prepared as it's going to be for the organisms it will encounter down there...

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Spicy kale!

Tonight's kale was accompanied by sauteed red onion, a few pieces of roasted red bell pepper and hot sauce that Josie left behind. Boiled in chicken broth, like last night, but a marked improvement. Still, I get why it's usually a supporting character in soups and things.

It's really a pretty interesting plant though. According to this site, kale and collards "are, in effect, primitive cabbages that have been retained through thousands of years." So it's like I'm eating a dinosaur vegetable!
The cabbagelike plants are native to the eastern Mediterranean or to Asia Minor. They have been in cultivation for so long, and have been so shifted about by prehistoric traders and migrating tribes, that it is not certain which of those two regions is the origin of the species.
So not just a dinosaur vegetable, but a mystery dinosaur vegetable!
Before the "newer knowledge" of nutrition, our experts bemoaned the poor diet of southern farmers, especially the Negroes, and were amazed to find so many of those people to be apparently well nourished. The ubiquitous collard patch on every farm, and in nearly every dooryard where there is room, is now believed to play a most important part in furnishing the necessary vitamins and minerals.
This is turning into a superhero dinosaur vegetable. So I might just buy another bunch of kale when my current one is finished. Kale loaf anyone?

Super fun morning - I got to go down to the International Spy Museum and try out an adventure experience they're putting together. Nina's in charge, so all the Sheepers got invited. Even though we just went through a very rough draft of it and stopped for little debriefing sessions after each piece, there was still a great sense of adventure. It's set to open in May of 2007, and I can't wait to see the finished product!

Since I was in the neighborhood, I got lunch at Chinatown Express, where they make their own noodles. Divine.

Sheep errands, a not-too-hard workout at Fitness First (where I'm now a member!), and home again, tired. I've had this low-level cold for a few days now. Threatening to turn into a phlegm storm, but it might just drizzle and clear up. Hydration, zinc, vitamin C, sleep... what else can you do?

The really happy news for today is that Margaret got a job at City Bikes!

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Boiled some kale today... Need to find a real recipe for it.

Scott left for Guatemala this morning, which means that the next 7 days are going to be the Longest Week Ever. I'm impatient to see him again, and I'm impatient to go down there! (For the record, he got down there safe and sound and is on his way to the little town of Sanarate tonight.)

His early departure meant I got an early start on the day, which was nice. Spent part of my day on "Serenite Island" in Second Life learning about how to build things - pretty cool. Definitely gives me a much greater appreciation for all the stuff that I've seen built already.

Went to my first spinning class in the evening. I was underwhelmed. I'm a little under the weather and didn't feel like running, or didn't feel like motivating myself to run, so the external motivation was good. But I don't know if I'll go back any time soon. Definitely not as fun as climbing!

After that, I went to the Ash Wednesday service. It was great. Two Bach pieces for soprano, violin, cello and organ. Wonderful. And my pastor is so great. She gives smart sermons, and she has an incredible memory for people. She always remembers my name... and everyone's! During communion, she'll say "Body of Christ, given for you [insert name here]". She also remembers that I play frisbee. She doesn't really know what it is, but tonight on my way out she told me that she saw people playing and was really impressed at how they were jumping horizontally (e.g. laying out).

Not sure what I'm giving up for Lent. Last year or the year before I think I gave up 15 minutes each day for prayer/reflection/meditation. I might try to do that again... definitely takes discipline.

A random correspondance with someone from Craigslist alerted me to the fact that I'll need to ammend this blog to Libby's Hopefully Not-So-Tame Adventures in Guatemala. I won't be able to post much while I'm down there, but look for an exciting background change this week! I like this red/fuscia pattern, but Christmas and Valentine's are over. I'm trying to find something jungley. Anyone know of any good sites for backgrounds? So far I've only used Citrus Moon.

Alright, off to bed. Planning on going to a 6:45 yoga class tomorrow morning!