Sand Dunes National Park

I sat awake in the cool night air, listening.  Around me the winds from the east were rushing down the mountainside. The aspens and meadow grasses surrounding me whirred with a steady rustling.  The noises felt ominous in the cool dark, as though they preceded a storm or an imminent bear attack, but in my little tent not even the puppy stirred.  It seemed that I was the only one startled awake in the blackness to wonder at what the night concealed from me.

I shifted position, recognizing that the pressures on my growing belly made for an interesting sleep experience on my thermarest.  I curled into the fetal position, facing the tent wall as it fluttered in the wind, glowing with the subtle light of the moon’s cool light filtered through the aspen grove where we camped.

Recalling the day that brought me to this spot, I smiled.  Rick, Addie, and I had piled into his car and driven the three hours to the Sand Dunes National Park.  Rick had visited before, but for me it was the first time and I was pretty excited.  Along the way, I watched the scenery fade from the familiarity of South Park, to the arid vastness of the San Luis Valley – a huge, flat expanse of harsh, unwelcoming land.  It once was a booming agricultural valley, but now it was mostly dotted with small, abandoned shacks, interspersed with large irrigation systems that periodically brought a shock of green to the swaths of brown grassland.  The valley is testament to the finite nature of groundwater and a warning to use it wisely.  In the heat of midday, the valley seemed anything but welcoming.  Heat vibrated up from the roadway, blurring the brown grasses that made their way, crisscrossed with only dirt roads, to tan sands.  As we pulled into a coffee shop to grab a chai and use the bathroom, a sign reminded us of the cost of maintaining the toilet and the need to conserve water. It asked us to flush only after multiple uses.  It asked for contributions to help pay for their tank to be emptied each month.  It seemed apparent that the valley was not thriving.

Putting this depressing fact behind me, I tried to focus on the dunes, but suddenly I was consumed by questions of if I would even enjoy the trip.  Through the wafting heat off the valley floor I could picture myself trudging across an unbroken, unshaded expanse of yellow sand with no water or cool air in sight.  A creeping panic began to rise in me.  If there is one thing that grabs my survival instincts by the balls, it’s the thought of unbroken and unmitigated heat.  My brain immediately flashes to visions of me shriveling to a parched and shrunken shell of myself, and collapsing in the heat, and never leaving the desert.  Though many landscapes evoke fear, to me, the desert is perhaps the most forbidding.

We drove into the park, however, and I reminded myself that today would not be spent on the dunes.  Today Rick and I planned to hike in the preserve where we could backpack in to a backcountry site to camp.  Abutting the dunes is the Sangre de Cristo Range.  The winds that bear down the mountains, combined with the prevailing winds barreling across the San Luis Valley, and the winding Medano Creek help to hold the massive dunes in their place.  Today we would hike up Mosca Pass, to the crossing point of the Sangre de Cristos, in a low saddle full of wild green grasses and aspen groves.

We hiked for an hour and a half, up the incline to the pass, and were there before we even knew it!  The hike was mostly shaded and gradual, and we were moving faster than we thought.  We reached the pass just as afternoon storm clouds began gathering on the horizon, so we turned back, took a dog-legged path off the trail, and made our way into a beautiful mountain meadow with a small creek running though it, wildflowers blossoming abundantly, and a tiny, miraculous, hidden cache of Columbines in a shaded aspen grove.  It was a little paradise, and after searching out the right spot, we set up camp at the edge of and aspen grove overlooking the meadow from above.

We made a fabulous meal, and Rick broke out two beers he had stowed away in his bag as a little treat.  As I sipped my shandy and watched the light fade while Addie bounded through the meadow grasses, I couldn’t imagine a better, more peaceful spot to rest my head and body for the night.  I felt a little chill as I sat with intention, trying to share this moment with the little being fluttering in my belly.

We lit a small fire and let the night fade away from us before crawling into our sleeping bags, reminiscing on the sweet perfection of our day.  Moments spent like this, together, away from the rush of life in the city, bring both of us back to ourselves and the simple things that bring a smile to our faces.

As we have been busy putting together a nursery, fixing up our home, and trying to establish ourselves in the new jobs, we occasionally lose sight of these simple pleasures.  Our trip to the Sand Dunes was a beautiful reminder from the universe that a mountain meadow filled with wildflowers can do more for the soul than weeks of dedicated work to “improve” one’s lot.  Reduction, it seems, is often the key to contentment.

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The Heart



My life up until a few years ago rarely featured my heart.  It showcased my sense of adventure, my need for freedom, and my conflicts over how to love in light of those things.  There were many pieces of me on display, true.  But the way my heart works wasn’t among those pieces.

In recent years, I have worked through yoga and through some soul-searching to open my heart, to accept and love myself in spite of my flaws (and because of them), and generally be more honest and authentic in recognizing what I need and what I want.  I feel good about what I’ve done.  It’s been a lot of work, and a lot of truly amazing reward.  But, nothing so far has prepared me for this.

Today, I heard my baby’s heartbeat.

Via a monitor on my stomach, through some little speakers, this wildly powerful little chug-a-lug of a heartbeat shook me to my core.  I’ve seen the little one on ultrasounds a few times, and watched the little flicker of his or her heart blink along in the sepia swirls, trying to see limbs or a discernible form.  Today, though, hearing the little being within me thumping along made it all seem more real to me.

It’s been a few months (3 to be exact!) since Rick and I found out we were expecting.  In that time, I have suffered barely any symptoms besides being a little tired and uninterested in eating.  As a result, the fact that I’m carrying another human inside of me has at times felt unreal.  I have been reading voraciously about birth, fetal development, and trying to absorb everything under the sun about this massive change which will soon be a reality in our lives.  But, all the reading, diminished appetite, and the increasingly tight waistband of my pants has not really sunk in for me personally.  That is, until today.

Maybe this will make me more protective of myself and my cargo, where I have otherwise been treating my life as normal – going rafting, hosting parties, riding my bike around, running, doing inversions and twists in yoga.  Who knows? I recognize that pregnancy in many ways is a test in flexibility and managing expectations.  Things can move fast, and even though I seek a healthy and safe pregnancy, that could change in a moment.  As such, part of me doesn’t want to give up too much too quickly. I am trying to keep a good handle on my life, recognizing that there will be PLENTY of time for me to alter my life to accommodate another little member of our family soon enough.

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Baby’s first Elephant Rock! 62 miles in the saddle and first ride since October!

What I have actually found to be the most noticeable part of being pregnant, for me, has been a very deep recognition of the incredible man who got me into this position.  Comprehending the immense experience we are sharing together (be it as common as ever) reminds me of what I love about Rick.  He is reading pregnancy books and following along with my apps that tell me what fruit compares to my baby’s size (lime this week).  He listens to my every observation and constantly reminds me that I’m pregnant, and not getting fat.  He busts his butt to keep up on the schoolwork to get his teaching certificate and just got a great teaching position, all the while doing daily projects on our adorable little house and managing a totally deranged little puppy.  And when I come home from the office he, more often than not, has dinner cooking for me.  He is coaching me back into running so that I can run a race in Aspen this summer, and he supports me in all the little things I ask of him.  He is so truly a good man.  And, I think in knowing I am bringing another human into the world his goodness gives me such hope and joy for the whole process.  I am recognizing that this is an experience I can’t imagine with anyone else.

So, to bring this back full circle, let me finish this post on a point about the heart.  Today when my heart cracked open a little bit as I heard thumping through a little speaker, I recognized that there is so much still to feel within me.  At times I look at Rick or my puppy and feel like my heart will explode a bit, but today assured me that there is another threshold of love that I’ll soon be aware of.  The vulnerability that comes with pieces of your heart being outside of your control is absolutely terrifying and incredible.

 

 

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Baby’s first rafting on the Arkansas! I think we all enjoyed it! And I am doing my best to “show” here. Not showing too much yet…

Going deep

Delving into the intricacies of one’s relationships, spirituality, and personal interpretations of the world can be complicated territory as a writer and someone who blogs.  I’ve often struggled with how to use my blog to interpret and delicately communicate these issues to my audience without sharing too much of myself or appearing to be gossipy.  I believe that our relationships past and present are crucial components in making us the people we are, and I’d like to talk about mine in greater depth.  But it’s a struggle that often ends in me writing about the schedules and events of my life over the feelings and emotions that color my personal perspective. I hate that.  I think that privatizing and shielding our experiences and reactions – the joys, sorrows, and lessons – is denying ourselves.  Not everyone agrees with me that our feelings and experiences deserve so much time and space.  But, if I am honest with myself, I truly believe that our feelings, joys, and struggles are what makes life the adventure it is, and I want to document that.

Life has been tumultuous of late.  Rare is the moment of calm in my current storm.  Between home renovations in Denver, having family in town for weeks, traveling to visit other family, interviewing at a blistering pace across the west, moving cross-country without knowing whether it’s temporary or permanent, and beginning to consider longer term plans for home ownership, etc. – there has been a lot to think about!

So, we’ve been busy.

Add to this the unexpected and extremely unlikely scenario of running into my estranged ex-boyfriend and his wife few weeks ago at a hot springs in Montana (where I was interviewing for a job) and a whole extraneous existential element is thrown into the fray. I haven’t really talked about this since it happened, because the whole thing broadsided me so completely.  But, I guess I feel far enough away from it now that I can address my feelings about the exchange.  Plus, it feels inauthentic not to discuss the incident since this blog is devoted to examining life and love through my own personal lens.

I was with my friend Meg in the hot springs on a Sunday night.  We’d been lounging for a few hours after an afternoon of backcountry skiing.  We were preparing to leave when I looked up and saw my ex and his wife walk in.  I knew that during the weekend I was in Bozeman I risked running into them, but by the time Sunday night rolled around, I felt confident that the chances of a run-in before my early Monday flight had narrowed to nearly non-existent. The hot spring was small, so once in the pool they were mere feet away from me. But, it was dark so assuming they hadn’t  noticed me, I continued to soak while I strategized with Meg as to how best to approach the situation over the last of our beers.  I was pretty shaken up by seeing them for a few reasons.  First, I hadn’t spoken to my ex in about 2 years at his urging, with the exception of a brief interaction just days before my wedding where he reached out to me with a long email.  I, therefore, knew that though we hadn’t spoken in a long time, he still cared about my, missed me, and wished there was a way we could still share in each other’s lives some way.  Then, there was his wife, who in her last exchange with me had promised that if I ever saw them again, the situation would not be pretty.  So, I was at once terrified and confused and felt as though the universe had definitely thrown me a curve ball.

But, curve ball as it was, the universe had placed me in the same hot spring as them.  And, I felt compelled to acknowledge it.  Not to her, but to him.  To just make my existence in that space known.  After all, if I was going to have my stomach drop and my heart racing, he should share in my terror too.  Why should I suffer alone?  Rick and I had developed a bit of a strategy for me, in case I did run into them:  acknowledge the situation, say I couldn’t really talk, but say hello, and make my exit.  So, when I saw him get out of the pool to buy a beer, I exited the pool, walked over to him and said his name.  He looked sidelong at me (through an enormous beard), recognized me, and then his face grayed with a wave of what appeared to be terror.  He looked down, his eyes darting back over me again and again.  I said, “I really can’t talk to you, and I know you can’t talk to me.  But, I saw you walk in and thought I’d say hello to you before I left.  I’m just heading out now.”  He looked into his beer and mumbled that he couldn’t talk to me.  Out of my peripheral vision, I saw his wife quickly approaching, nostrils flared.  Seeing his fear and her obvious defensiveness, and feeling like a criminal for that measly conversation, I turned and walked into the dressing room.  From there, I heard Meg jovially say to them, “Bozeman’s a small town, eh?”  as she walked in to join me. And though I was still shaken up, her lightheartedness reassured me that the awkwardness of the exchange was, after all, short-lived.

It’s hard to talk about the situation that exists there.  Nobody is thrilled with the outcome. He was my best friend and my partner for many years. I still deeply respect him and care about his well-being. I know he feels similarly.  I don’t hate him or have lingering negative feelings toward him.  But, we don’t speak anymore.  It was not my choice. He said it was what was needed for him to move forward. Though, it probably is for the best.

Right before my wedding he reached out to me. I was very touched by what he had to say.  It appeared to have been a long time in the making – as such things tend to be, I suppose.  But, I was bothered by his timing.  It felt malicious to contact me and disrupt my happiness just a few days before my wedding. I called him, and told him that.  I told him we had to maintain our non-communication for the sake of our own sanity and our partner’s.  Then I put it out of my mind and went on with my life for a few months. It’s hard to lose a kindred soul, but it is harder to attempt to maintain an extremely complicated friendship.

When I ran into them in the hot spring and had the world’s most weird exchange, it stirred up old feelings about the how and why the situation came to be.  It seemed such an unlikely scenario that after years of deliberately not talking and being on different continents that there in the hot spring we were standing just a few feet apart. To me, the fact of our meeting seemed meaningful in some way, and I did and do continue to wonder what that meaning might be.

Though it ended horribly, that relationship catalyzed such immense pain, growth, and change in my life that I feel it deserves a lot of credit for making me who I am today.  In many ways it taught me how to be a better partner – because I did a lot wrong the first time around.  It eventually led me to better understanding and compassion for others, better delineation of my goals and life plans.  It helped me to become a stronger, healthier, wiser, and more loving person.  Its demise also catalyzed many discussions and learnings that helped Rick and I grow closer and learn to be open and honest in our relationship together.  It helped me understand and to fully be present in our relationship.  I think I never would have been ready for Rick had I not been through what I went through with my first serious relationship.  So, obviously, the run in in the hot spring touched some nerves for me.  In my inspiration to share the feelings that came out of this run in, I am guided by a beautiful quote by Ernest Hemingway: “Write hard and clear about what hurts.”

Later in the week following the hot springs incident, my mom asked me to clean out my boxes from the basement as I prepared to move west.  In doing so I unearthed about 30 letters from the same guy.  In the letters, as compared to our encounter in the hot springs, he was anything but terrified of me. The contrast was startling.  

As I re-read some of those letters, I couldn’t help but think about the several happy years together, followed by several years of turmoil and drama while attempting to remain a part of each other’s lives.  Our interaction at the hot spring – benign as a passing conversation – was all that remained of my first love and one of my best friends.  All that could survive the fallout.  It was a poignant reminder of the ephemeral nature of our lives and relationships.   It forced me to confront the impermanence of even those bonds that seem to be the most lasting in the moment.

Sure, I guess we all know that life is short, nothing is constant, change is inevitable.  We are meant to be present and enjoy the journey.  And, certainly, I do agree with that.  But, I think it is human to long for something that defies that entropic nature of life – something eternal and unchanging. It made me a bit sad that our brief exchange was all that was left of a bond that had felt so strong at one time.  It reminded me of his words in the letter he had written to me just before my wedding – “I have only the sweaters and boxes and letters to show that you are even real.”  And it is true.  There is nothing more.  And that eats at me in more of an esoteric fashion than a personal one – why do our connections fade away?  What is the purpose of our suffering in life?

Yoga, through hinduism, tells us that the reason for this experience of life is that the universal spirit, or supreme being, seeks embodiment for pure entertainment. Shiva danced the world into creation, and in doing so created the mayas, or veils, within which we perceive reality. To have the omniscient, and omnipotent power of the supreme consciousness masked behind these veils of chronological time, embodiment, and attachment hides the transcendent nature of ourselves.  The universal spirit seeks entertainment in experiencing life behind these veils, so we live with the understanding that time constantly progresses forward, our bodies define our beings, and that our feelings and attachments delineate real barriers and challenges in our life.  But, the masks, the chronology, the bodies that contain us are illusory.  To pierce the veil of these mayas is to recognize our true universal and eternal nature.

I try to remember this as I struggle with these sorts of day-to-day challenges life presents, where you’re confronted with real hurt and lingering sadness that seems hard to shake.  I try to recall this when I get a bit down about lost friendships and the fleetingness of life.  I try to reason that my attachments and perceptions are illusory.  Or, as my friend Katie once said “This shit ain’t real.”

Perhaps this confrontation with my past was simply a challenge to my understanding of the way the world operates.  It was perhaps a test of how much I have internalized the learnings I’ve gathered over the past few years about life, love, compassion, and detachment. Perhaps, it was there to confront whether I really accept life as an adventure of spirit.

But, here I am, mayas notwithstanding, a spirit making its way through this journey, and riding the waves as they come.  That incident presented me with some important questions to answer for myself. But, when I look around me at Rick and the life we’re building, I know I’m on the right path. I smile and feel grateful for the road that brought me here, challenges included.

Big changes

Outside my window the snow falls in torrents.  I sit in an upstairs bedroom at “The Wolf Den”, the place my mom is renting for the month up in the mountains. (The name Wolf Den was not her doing – that honor goes to the unit’s owners.  I wonder often at who these wolves are in real life.)  Below me are the voices of my mom and some of her oldest friends, all together in Colorado for some hiking and girl time. It’s wonderful.

I feel a fatigue in my bones from a month of hard work and busyness.  I have complained at length on this blog about the tyranny of uncertainty in my life.  Today, I aim not to complain but to observe that perhaps the uncertainty is ending – and feel a sense of gratitude in that.

This has been a week for the books.  Rick and I became the proud Aunt and Uncle to a sweet little baby, Mary.  So, Lisa (Rick’s mom), Rick, and I dropped paintbrushes and sandpaper and flew home to New York for a few days.  Our arrival timed perfectly with the new family’s return from the hospital.  We came, filled up their living room with tears and smiles, lots of cooing over the precious baby, and heaps of freshly cooked food.  Rick and I were so elated to have a kitchen (after months!) that when we weren’t holding the new baby we cooked most of the meals for the family and guests while we were there. We took turns holding the little one in her perfect swaddle and pondered about when this all might be a reality in our lives.  I picked their baby nurse’s brain to learn about the challenges and joys of her job with new families.  I observed the new parents, and watched with such joy as Rick snuggled the newest addition in his arms and gave her lots of sweet kisses.  It was such fun to have a short reunion with his brother and his brother’s wife in this precious time, with the newest little baby, and before they move abroad later this spring.

In addition to this wonderful news, after over a month of interviews with an engineering firm in Denver, I received an offer this week for a position that I am thrilled about.  Though there remains much to determine, it is beginning to look like our lives may take a more permanent form here in the very place that they melded together. It is a welcome event.  Though we have looked in many other places, Colorado feels like home, and fulfills many of our overarching desires for a long-term place to settle.  We are meeting with a realtor tomorrow and beginning to look into giving this move some permanence. Joy!

By way of observation, I have witnessed many friends undertake the unpacking of dreams and plans that follow a marriage.  It sometimes goes quickly and sometimes slowly, but in every case it is fun to watch two souls building their lives together.  It is such a joy to be undertaking this process with Rick – working to accommodate his needs and mine, piecing together the pieces of a bigger picture that only the two of us have a clear vision of.  I find that each day I am floored that I am actually a participant in this process, that I have somehow found myself in this place.  I look at my finger and I am astounded to find that I am married, building a life, and acting the part of an adult, even if I sometimes don’t believe I’m qualified for the title.

 

Catching Up and Slowing Down

It’s been 10 days since I last posted anything here.  A lot has happened!  We made it back from Colombia without too much incident.  We re-established our home base in Milwaukee – though not either one of our ideals, it’s not bad either.  My dad is an amazing chef so I eat like a queen here, my parent’s house is wonderful – each morning I wake up to an ever-changing view of Lake Michigan, there’s a great yoga studio down the road, I get to cuddle with my favorite pup, and I have lots of quality time with my family.  It’s hard to complain about all that wonderful stuff, but Rick and I must certainly admit that we want our own space as soon as possible.  We had such a wonderful routine back in Australia, and since coming to the United States stability in the patterns and timing of our lives has been such a rarity that it’s been hard to really feel like ourselves.  Couple that with having our belongings scattered across at least three, though possibly four states and you can begin to understand why we feel an urgency to establish our lives in one place soon.

Oddly, we had not anticipated that we would be mentally ready to settle as quickly as it’s happened.  Our initial plan had been to bike tour through Cuba for a month, then travel in Colombia, Bolivia, and possibly Brazil for another two months or more before we settled back to real life.  We nipped that plan in the bud about a month and a half ago somewhere in Nebraska in a fit of really wanting to be together and to start a home.  And I think we are both thrilled with that decision to this day,  though it would be nice to just move forward with the settling part.

Here I feel compelled to make a note on traveling.  I love traveling and experiencing different cultures and parts of the world.  I think it’s valuable and enriching, and I encourage everyone to make time to venture out of his or her homeland and to see life in other places – see what people do for fun, for work, for food, and then come back home and try to feel ungrateful for what you have.  It’s hard.  We have it really good – at least in the US.  We also have what I consider a responsibility, to be aware and cognizant of our privilege and of the realities – political, physical, and psychological, of life in other parts of the world.

With that preamble out of the way, I want to discuss my experience traveling in Colombia now that I have had some time to digest it.  To preface this, we undertook our travel with the understanding that we wouldn’t be spending all our time actively being tourists – much of our time was spent engaging in other activities we deemed crucial to the larger picture – e.g, applying to jobs, attending spanish school for two weeks, and participating in yoga teacher training.  We kept ourselves fairly busy with that, but still made time to get out and see Colombia as we moved through it.  It was a different style of travel than I’m used to.

This style of travel had some significant drawbacks in my mind.  In having to be fully engaged with the real world (in the US) as we traveled, it was somewhat difficult to put ourselves mentally into travel mode and embrace some of the joie de vivre that typically accompanies adventures abroad.  I felt I was doing a constant dance between investing serious time and mental energy in tasks like homework, yoga, and job applications and trying to become fully immersed in Colombian culture.  Our travel constraints also often revolved around things like whether we had decent internet at our hostels, our ability to make phone calls, and our ability to be within walking distance of the activities we chose – which admittedly put us in both very heavily touristed areas (in Cartagena) or (in the case of Bogotá) very hip, nice neighborhoods that might not reflect the greater whole of the city.

Altogether, both Rick and I came away from our travels feeling less like we just came off a long and exciting vacation, and more like we just came off a month of existing much the same way we have been in the US, traveling from place to place and living our lives – albeit more foreign places.  We felt somewhat less like we let go and engaged with the culture and more like we were simply two Americans living abroad – much as we had been in Australia.

Unlike the dreamlike travel experiences I have had in the past in places like Bali, Morocco, or Vietnam – experiences where I felt fully immersed in a new place, senses stimulated and constantly taking in new and wonderful vignettes or different cultures – my travels in Colombia tread a thin line between of being amidst a completely foreign culture yet entirely connected to a familiar one.  Mentally we were in neither place.  That made the experience, in some ways, less fulfilling than some of my previous travel.

I have to say that I don’t in any way regret our travel style – it was exactly what we needed and allowed us to achieve many diverse goals all at once.  But, I do think that perhaps in trying to do as much as we did, we may have slightly diminished the overall experience.  Plus, there is the simple fact that when travel is no longer a vacation from real life, but simply real life taking place outside of its normal parameters, some of the magic and sense of wonder is removed.

I don’t know why I feel compelled to note all this.  I loved our time traveling and don’t regret any of it.  But, I think sometimes travel can be overly romanticized.  There is an important line between travel as an escape from your typical life and travel on a long-term itinerary with a mixture of goals, budgets, and restraints. Though both have their merits, I have to say that I may not be cut out to be a long-term traveler.  When traveling for long periods of time I feel constantly a stranger visiting places where people see me as an outsider.  I feel a lack of purpose at times, and I desire greater engagement with the places I move through.  I marvel at the mental and physical endurance it takes to travel for months at a time – both for the ongoing lack of stability, and for the feelings of constantly being without a community.  Perhaps it’s my rootlessness speaking right now.  It’s hard for me to separate my deep desire to invest myself in a place and community for the long-term,  from my feelings of itineracy while traveling.  They say that all who wander are not lost – and I’ve long thought that true, but when you are constantly moving it’s hard to invest in finding yourself and your purpose.    I want to be invested.  Perhaps I can thank my last trip for confirming to me just how deep-seated this desire is.

Bogota and Teacher Training!

I’m wiped out.  I just finished five days of yoga teacher training with BJ Galvan here in Bogota. My body aches, I’m sort of grumpy (backbends and hip openers – oh dear!), I need some scrumptious food, but above all I’m feeling a deep sense of peace and appreciation.

I had been looking for an opportunity to complete the teacher training that I wasn’t able to finish in Australia, and in scouring the Internet I found that BJ was conducting training in Bogota.  In Brisbane I had done a challenging workshop with her so it seemed like a great fit.

Rick and I arranged our travels to make sure I could participate.  Here, I need pause to offer so much gratitude to Rick.  First off, he encouraged me to do the training, which I probably would have otherwise delayed so as not to hijack our travel plans.  He also occupied himself in the city for the last 5 days while I have worked my butt off in the studio. He fed me, listened to me whine about my aches, and wax poetic about alignment principles.  He weathered my tired grumpiness as I stayed up late doing homework.  He lovingly woke me up in the mornings with a backrub and got me breakfast every day as I prepared for class.  Every day he has told me how proud he is of me, and nothing makes me happier.  Gratitude is a concept that the yoga world loves to come back to, and I am no exception – I couldn’t be more thankful and in love with my amazing husband.

With my mushy declarations and acknowledgments now out of the way, I’ll delve into what my experience of Bogota and teacher training has been.  I love Bogota, but that may be a consequence of the fact that I spent the last five days with a fascinating and warm community of very advanced yoga students.  The city is huge, cosmopolitan, and very international.  Also, it’s hard to believe this kind of metropolis exists at 8500’ feet in these wild mountains.  It’s such a cool setting!  The people I have met here are all incredibly kind and welcoming.  During our time in Cartagena, I was led to believe that residents of Bogota were sort of stuck up and overly formal – that has not been my experience at all.  Everyone I’ve met has been helpful, kind, and enjoyable.  I have felt so welcomed by everyone from the people in the yoga studio, to our hostel owners, to the clerks in the shops I’ve been to a few times.  I have had waitresses who served me once say hi again to me on the street several days later.  This town is the antithesis of cold.

Beyond that, the level of yoga in Bogota blows me away!  My studio in Australia was incredible and I loved every minute I spent there, but from my experience in Bogota the level of asana is definitely more advanced generally and the students are more fearless in trying out new and aggressive poses.  It’s been a refreshing reminder not to become complacent in my practice.  While my practice in Australia was very focused on alignment principles, this teacher training took my level of asana to new places.  As always, I have to focus on cultivating softness in my practice to counter my natural tendency to gravitate towards strong poses like hand balances and inversions – I was able to do that, while also pushing myself into new poses that I’ve never before tried.

It was a challenging weekend. My practice over the last few months has been inconsistent and, more often than not, a personal practice which I’ve made time and space for in the narrow channel next to a bed in a hotel room or under an air conditioner in Cartagena – or not at all while road-tripping around the country.  It hasn’t been all that I’d want it to be, and I felt it over the last few days.  I’m so sore!  That, and the other side effects of long-term travel like gastro issues and general fatigue and lack of consistency left me without the full strength and energy I try to bring to my practice.  I had to accept where I was physically versus where I would love to be.  More than that, I had to try to get my brain around yoga in Spanish, and the challenges of sequencing and teaching classes.  It was demanding and tiring but above all it was enriching.  The people in my training were all wonderful, BJ Galvan was dynamic and full of neat astrological/biological insights, and being in a new studio and learning yoga in another language was so exciting! I can’t wait to do more of it, and I’m already encouraging Rick to start a yoga cross-training routine as he looks to run his next race so I can practice teaching on him.

In the lead up to this training, I got word from two potential employers that they wanted to conduct in-person interviews back in the States.  Needless to say, with me being tied up with yoga teacher training and quite far away I had to work with them to do some video interviewing – which is a challenge under any circumstances but more so in a hostel with noises, unreliable internet connections, and a general inability to control your space.  Thankfully, my hostel owners were understanding and set me up in a quiet back room with some natural light so that I could at least mitigate SOME of the issues in my interviews.  With two interviews in the five days I was in teacher training, I have to say I was stressed out and probably not in the best frame of mind, but now that it’s all over I finally got a good, long night’s sleep and feel like a human again.

Today we are off to finally explore some of the sights in and around Bogota. Though we have met several friends of friends here and managed to see a few really cool parts of the city as a result, we haven’t had much opportunity to check out some of the sights.  So today we are off! It’s hard to believe that we come back home tomorrow (my Dad’s birthday!!).

Life and Love – Paisa Style

Medellin: Former capital of cocaine, crime, and kidnapping.  Now, home to bike lanes, amazing public transit, beautifully rotund Botero statues, and Paisanos – the hardworking and friendly residents of the city.

We came to the city with big expectations.  Colombians LOVE this place, and I  can see its appeal.  It’s a progressive city, nestled in the huge Aburra mountain valley.  It’s hard to think that just 20 years ago this city would have not been on my radar – that people were murdered at random in drug-related violence, bombings, and at the hand of the city’s most notorious resident, Pablo Escobar, and his cocaine cartel.  Progressive reform, efforts to reduce corruption, and to improve the safety and well-being of the city’s residents were often cut short when leaders were killed.  In fact, one of the leaders of Medellin who began to implement the improved transit that eventually helped to turn the fate of Medellin was killed as a result of his efforts.

Thankfully, the violence of Medellin’s past is no longer still an issue in the city.  Though the city is not quite like Cartagena, which feels like Disneyworld, it is safe and very easy to travel in.

Yesterday, though we have both been under the weather, Rick and I decided to rent bikes and explore the city.  I wanted very badly to check out the Museum of Antioquia and to see the Botero statues in the plaza near it.  I also wanted to head to the Botanical Gardens, because Medellin is known as the city of eternal spring and I’d heard good things about their gardens. I also thought that Rick might benefit from some exertion because he has been suffering from all kinds of bugs over the last several days and hasn’t had the energy to get out running like he was in Cartagena.  It was a bit of an ambitious plan to undertake by bike, but Medellin has a really cool policy of turning Carretera 43a, “El Poblano”, into a bikeway each Sunday.  They shut down two lanes of traffic and open it exclusively to bike and pedestrian traffic. The road is a busy one which cuts through the heart of the city, making a Sunday ride a very efficient way to check out many different spots.  It’s an amazing policy that I wish was more common in the US!

We rode across the city for about 40 minutes on the bikeway, barely having to stop for cross traffic, under the friendly supervision of a crew of young people at intersections and on bikes who make sure that everything is going smoothly.  The crowd out venturing around the city on bikes had to be a pretty good cross-section of Medellin – from families with little ones, to serious cyclists decked out in loud spandex. Everyone looked like they were having a great time, and so were we. We made our way to the Botero Plaza where I proceeded to take photos of every statue, with me in the foreground mimicking the statue’s pose – like a mature adult.  (I think my imitation of the full-breasted Sphinx was probably my crowning glory.)  We then made our way back to the Poblano and continued on toward the botanical gardens.  At one point, the bike traffic seemed to shut down as we headed towards a tunnel.  I looked at Rick, skeptical, and asked “Do you think we should go in this dark tunnel on bikes without anyone around?”.  He shrugged that it was probably fine, the guards had seen us entering and hadn’t stopped us.  So, we entered, biking fast, and hoping we weren’t making a mistake.  Well, shortly after we exited on the other side, we saw a few more of the bikeway volunteers riding towards us.  They shouted that the bikeway opened to traffic at 1 pm – which is exactly what time it was, so we quickly turned and followed them back the way we had come.  As we were riding through the tunnel, out of nowhere a truck came barreling up behind us and veered around us.  “Oh my god!” I screamed at Rick and we started sprinting on our pathetic rental bikes, at about 6,000 feet of elevation.  It wasn’t pretty!  We all were busting our butts to make it out of the tunnel, and just as we did, traffic began tearing through at high speeds.

Collapsing on some grass nearby to catch our breath, we re-evaluated our situation.  We were both wiped out, and now our route home was a superhighway so we needed to figure out how to get home.  We tried to follow the route of the road we had come on, but the frontage roads sort of meandered in and out of neighborhoods, through shopping areas, and across very un-bike friendly areas.  It took us over an hour and a half to make it back to the El Poblano neighborhood where we were staying, and on the way we found ourselves on more that one occasion in places where we should NOT have been.  It was actually kind of scary to me, and I don’t scare that easily.  6,000′ of elevation has had both of us wheezing and struggling, which didn’t make me feel any better about being in some rough parts of Medellin.  Clearly, our acclimatization from our Denver days has worn off.

Anyway, we ended the night watching some good old American football, in an Irish Bar, in Colombia. Odd, right?  We even started up a conversation with another couple there, and (crazy small world) the guy had graduated from UVA in the same December grad class as Rick. Together, we gave aguardiente (Colombian brandy that tastes like black licorice)  a fair go, and decided  shortly thereafter that we had made enough of our night so we headed home a bit early.  We came home, nursed our sick bodies, and we have continued to do that through today.

Sharing sickness in a foreign place is certainly never comfortable, but together we have been making it a bit more manageable.  I packed all sorts of meds and have been able to keep us well-tended to.  He has made sure I get enough sleep (which I often don’t) and we both keep each other’s wellness in mind as we plan our activities.  Though it is a bit of a downer to not feel like ourselves, there is certainly nothing that brings people closer than jointly commiserating over unfortunate maladies.  And, honesty, we found the perfect place to be sick.  Our current hostel is quiet, with peaceful lounge areas and gardens, we have a giant room with a king size bed, floor to ceiling windows, our own bathroom, and a walk in closet area! (Gran Hostel Medellin in El Poblano)  Tonight we hope to cook dinner in (our first in weeks!) before taking off to check out some areas outside Medellin including Gautape, and the coffee-growing haciendas around Manizales.  We will keep writing as we go!