Tranquilo in Catamarca

Catamarca, Argentina. Whenever I tell people where I am living, the general response is either, "Why?" or "Oh like Buenos Aires?".

 

No. Not like BA. Catamarca is in the north of Argentina, with a climate like Arizona. The city is small with 140k inhabitants and everything shuts down at siesta time, from 1pm-5pm. All cafes, grocery stores, bread shops, EVERYTHING. The heat is quite pleasant for most of the year until the summer (Dec-Feb) hits and then average temps are 34°C (93°F), which explains why siesta is almost a sacrament for Catamarqueños!

And the "Why?" Oh... LOVE. That's what brought me here. After 4 months of travel and long distance dating, I came here to be with my boyfriend. Holy mole... Life here has taken some adjustment for me! Learning another language is not a task for the faint-hearted, and via immersion is extra interesting, I have met 1 boy on exchange from Thailand, and now after 8 months of being here I met a fellow girl from the USA who leaves in 2 weeks. 

My boyfriend and I even posted our home (the one he so brilliantly designed! It's absolutely gorgeous, come visit!) on Airbnb in order to meet some more extranjeros on their way through, and it has been great. We have hosted people from The Netherlands, Germany, Chile, USA, and Argentina and it has helped to shake things up in the house!

From the tourist guide books, there is not much written about Catamarca, so unfortunately the city is often overlooked by tourists, but there are quite a few hidden gems I would like to share, so here is the list! Hopefully it helps convince you to experience this province!

FOOD IN CATAMARCA

VEGAN Lunch Option – Pachamama – Bº 50vv norte c/5 2º etapa
Have your lunch made to order at this family-run, vegan home, many veggies grown in their own garden!

Tapas – La Cueva Del Santo – Republica 1150
Spanish tapas restaurant, trendy vibe.

Fancy – La Guada – Ayacucho 769
Different specials each night: sushi, asado, pasta and more. Eat in the back on the picnic tables under the stars.

Cafe – Florentino – Esquiu 811
Great trendy café, wifi, tasty pastries & salads. Owned by a wonderful woman from Buenos Aires (she speaks English!). 

Local Pub – Oveja Negra Rock Bar – Nunez del Prado 898
Best lomitos in town (a vegetarian option that is so-so) loud music, good beer.

Cerveceria – Wakani – Calle Echeveria 1
Great craft beer selection, made in-house, try the plantain chips.

Pizza – Napoles – Av. Gdor. Francisco Galindez 599
Delicious brick oven pizza. Trendy vibe and strip of restaurants.

Local Vibe – La Guarda – Rivadavia 430
Empanadas, locro, wines, all things local. The front room is a complete wine shop, the back is a chill restaurant.

Tea House – Sabores Caseros – La Carrera
Off the beaten trail, cute tea house with amazing pastas and pastries.

Club/Bar – Jagger – Av. Pres. Arturo Illia
Late night club, all hour’s bar with great draft beers. OK snacks and food.

OUTDOOR ADVENTURES IN CATAMARCA

Waterfall Hike
30 minutes from the city, a 5 hour round trip (medium intensity) hike into some amazing waterfalls.

El Portezuelo
A 45 minute drive into the clouds! Stop for a tea at the Casa de Te at the top!

El Rodeo
Take a drive into the countryside, just 50km from town! Don't miss the short hike to La Virgen.

Trekking Catamarca Tours
See what this group is up to when you are visiting!

YOGA IN CATAMARCA

Acro Yoga - Suasti Bienestar y Movimento Esquiú 969
Acro Yoga on Tuesday and Friday! Suggested donation, 50-100 pesos per class  

Classic Yoga - Casa Abierto 
Class schedule varies, 100 pesos per class! 

CULTURE IN CATAMARCA

Free walking tours – Free Tours Catamarca
Walk Catamarca, tour in Spanish. Right in El Centro in the main square.

Museo de la Virgen del valle – Republica 449
New museum in El Centro.

Museo Arqueologico Adan Quiroga – Sarmiento 450
Museum in El Centro, featuring a branch of the Incas, the Diaguitas.

Non Zen AF

The last time I wrote I had just exited 10 days of silence and meditation. I am still meditating regularly, and you know what?

I am still the control freak, anxious ball of OCD emotions I always was.

Surprise, sur-fuckin-prise! I was definitely not expecting a metamorphosis from the experience though, and something the instructor said has really stuck with me:

 on top of Swaziland

on top of Swaziland

You will still get angry. You will still experience emotions and exhibit bad behaviors, but what used to be 5 hours of anger might only be 3. Regular practice will slowly and consistently continue to improve this.

This was especially true on my Prodigal return to the United States (first time in 15 months) for Christmas. After so long away from one's family I think the traveler tends to romanticize them, idealizing them into a perfect clan - at least I did. Well when I got back, reality struck. I was sleeping on the couch and no one wanted to be my personal chauffeur. Not even for Epic Anderson Animal Rescue Road Trip 2016. 

Despite some letdowns, I was home. And my perfectly imperfect family was there for me, and I for them. Catching up in person was delicious, under-cooked brownie delicious. And the 6 days flew! 

I had dreams...!

This time at home was supposed to be about ridding myself of 80% of my belongings and making travel money from them. Well that sure as hell was not possible, here is why:

  • 6 days (including Christmas) is not long enough to list and sell something online then ship it
  • I am never going to host a garage sale
  • It does not make sense to donate / sell an item that I will end up re-buying in the future
  • Furthermore - as wonderful as Minimalism feels, the concept of un-weighting myself is potentially a burden to the environment if the secondhand shop cannot sell it, thus adding to landfills

So instead, I reduced 8 bins to 4. Then donated a truck full of bags to AMVETS. 

Dreams do come true...

  • I got a new 52 page passport while in Buffalo, they turned it around in 24 hours. This was obviously necessary for my last minute, financially irresponsible jaunt to Zanzibar
  • I thought I needed surgery on my ever-exciting reproductive system - but while in Bogota the doctor was unable to locate any issues via ultrasound! WHATTTTT?! IZ I NORMALZ?
  •  I had thoughts of South America and learning Spanish, and here I sit in Yopal, Colombia typing away. A volunteer opportunity came up teaching kids English and I took it. Teaching is hard. Spanish is hard. Missing someone is hard. And I don't regret the decision for 1 second
  • ❤ I'm in stupid, crazy, last-minute-flight-booking, move-down-to-Argentina-for-you L O V E... Yes. Me. ❤ Headed South in 23 days!

I keep reminding myself of the note in my phone: If I step outside my comfort zone today, then I will grow.

Not all dreams though. Yet.

I haven't started the dog sterilization non-profit yet. I guess we will call this the *leisurely information gathering* phase of my life.

Zen AF

2 weeks ago the longest I had meditated was for about 20 minutes. And by meditation, I mean... If I had an itch or a limb fell asleep, I dealt with it! So perhaps it was a little presumptuous to assume I would be an All Star Meditator for 10 days of silence at Vipassana...

 the backdrop for noble silence

the backdrop for noble silence

But here I was. Technology free, meditating for 10+ hours each day and cutoff from all things civilization with 30 others, our teacher from India and a handful of volunteers. Not allowed? Speaking, except to the teacher in regards to meditation. Writing materials. Killing. Stealing. Lies. Intoxicants. Yoga. And Sexual Activity, which I took to mean also with one's self. I adhered to all of the rules. Kinda.

Cast of Notable Characters

  • Charlotte (#1-4): My roommates with 8 legs, constantly watching me, specifically in the bathroom. Remember, no killing...
  • Rat 1 & 2: Female students who I had an unsavory feeling towards. I was trying not to have aversions to both and ironically they were friends from beforehand, something I was unaware of whilst naming them
  • Thomas the Tank Engine: Male student who graced us with a hefty yoga breath every 5-10 minutes in the meditation hall
  • New Bestie: Another female student was totally amazing. I could sense her wildness and energy bursting thru the seams of her fancy maxi dresses and shimmery hair wraps, even in the silence. I knew we must be friends

Buzzwords

Noble Silence: Silence of body, speech and mind - no forms of communication, not even writing notes or gestures
Aversions: Things you are keen to avoid in life and during meditation, examples include thoughts of certain Rats or a throbbing numbness in your hip. The idea is, by thinking of these things you give them power to take over a larger part of your brain and experience, ultimately leading to greater misery
Cravings: The flip side of Aversions. Things you relish in and give great attachment and positive feelings to in your brain. By holding onto these, you also set yourself up for misery because in their absence you will be miserable
Sankaras: The best example for this is seen when the black hornet-like swarm explodes out of the big guy's mouth in The Green Mile. Sankaras are the source of misery in a person - each one is created when we have an Aversion or a Craving for something and we don't remain equanimous (calm and impartial) about it. If we allow it to take root it settles in and sets us up for future miseries, ultimately multiplying as more and more Sankaras are let in. The beauty though, is that through meditation we can start letting go of old Sankaras that have hijacked the ship

elephant-capetown-street-art-blog-meditate

My Brain On Noble Silence

Remember, for the duration you're not allowed contact with the outside world nor are you allowed to document your thoughts. This creates a certain brand of freak-out in one's brain that one might lose these Very Important thoughts and that they might be lost Forever. Another thing to realize is that when you give yourself this degree of silence and space, powerful memories are allowed to resurface as well as details you haven't experienced in decades... Like the name of the kid next to you in 2nd grade and his haircut (hi Jeremy Andrzejewski, nice lightning bolt fade). As it turns out, some of my experience was not lost Forever. Here you go:

Days 1-3: Ow. This position does not work. My legs asleep. My muscles in between my ribs are having shooting pains. On the left. On the right. Ok, more cushions. Hm. More pain. Hold still, no moving. There is a spider on me. Oh shit I just scratched it, there was no spider. Nice, the pain is numb I am bored. This is only the beginning? I wonder if I will make it. I wonder if anyone is thinking of me? What happens if someone dies? I hope they don't tell me til the end. I'm pretty sure self pleasures are not allowed, right? The landscape is goddamn beautiful. Seriously, my hip is on fire. That girl is unfortunately so Rat-like that I can't name her anything else, I'll do it with love. Rats aren't so bad.

Day 4: OMG. Full body scans. Are. Amazing. And they're umm, intimate? You can pinpoint every single sensation from top to bottom and back up in your body. It's like ___ is here with me. Holy. Wow. This wooden stool. Is hard. And amazing. I can feel the pain in my hips oozing out as I hold still on the plank. This hurts. Not thinking about it hurts. But it's getting better. Rat just spoke to me, I smiled, don't talk to me bitch. I'm in Noble Silence. That other girl, she is so rat-like as well, Rat 2 is thee. I haven't had my period in 2 months. Stupid polyp on my uterus. Maybe I can meditate it away or at least meditate my period to come. Beautiful, wonderful, fertile and luscious uterus you willllllll bleed and it will be magical.

Day 5: Holy. Fucking. Shit. My period came. I have magical thinking. No really. My brain is magic and I am making things happen with it. Rat 1 & Rat 2 just freaked out over lactose in some food thing and THEY LEFT! Additionally, I am pretty sure I willed this chickpea curry dish to appear, I envisioned it yesterday at lunch and it is here. I am magic. I am dying. I have the worst cramps in the entire world, why oh why did I will my period to come, oh god, I can't sit this way anymore and I am dying, I am grimacing, how many Sankaras am I building, but this is real physical pain. Alright, body scanning to other areas makes it a tiny better. No it doesn't I'm dead. [8 hours later] I am a lioness and I want to roar to the moon right now. I can do anything. ROAAARRR!

Day 6: I am in less pain. I am magical. I am tired. What's the point in this? I am bored and ineffective. My body scans aren't as intimate anymore. I am creating Sankaras with all that craving, time to scan these atomic bodies with equanimity. Borrrriiinnnggg. I've worn flat patches into my ass from this wooden plank. Ah well persist on. I wonder if anyone is thinking of me.

Day 7: Full body scans have become less sensational now that I am not feeling every tingle. Ah well, time to settle into monk-dom. "Control yourself - take only what you need from it - a family of trees wanting to be haunted" - could be a worse song in my head. I love this song. Everyone I know needs to do Vipassana. I don't think I could possibly ever convince my dad... 

Day 9: Did I just time travel? I had this same sensation when I was 8, like I am incredibly heavy and immobile, and floating inside myself with really loud voices coming through the loudspeaker that I can't understand. Shit. I am those loud voices. I am with myself back then right now. "It's going to be OK Lu, you are so good and it will all be so beautiful even though there are some really tough things, but you will get through them, you are so very loved." Holy shit. I am crying and I love myself. Fuck.

Day 10: "Why were you crying so much?" My teacher asked me this when I was about to leave on the final day. There were only two instances of this. Once when I was dealing with my magical period and the obscene cramps and the other when I time traveled. I let him know and he clarified for me. When we are young, typically under 9 years old, we are able to sense past lives and have almost a 6th sense that we tune out as we get older. The 8 year old experience could have been this, in turn, meditating in silence was able to bring me back to past experiences with powerful clarity. I buy it. 

Upon Reflection...

Hm. The world moves seamlessly when I'm not in it. Like, it's actually totally fine. I hope I can remember to play my part in it a little more slowly. The day after we finished I could feel the change. I work with more focus and clarity and I'm taking note of my negative emotions and watching them pass rather than getting sucked into their vortex.

I met with New Bestie and New Bestie 2 (another beautiful, peaceful soul from the course), we had margaritas and buried ourselves in blankets in the sand for sunset and laughed for hours about our shared greatest Sankara, boys. I am so loved. I love so much. 

Airport Confessions

camel-taghazout-morocco-animal-cruelty

Vegan

In college my first Official Boyfriend was a liberal (nearly socialist) guy that had strong political views. He wasn't afraid to jump into debate with any right wingers and always had the perfect fact, figure or quote to fuel his points. In turn, I also became fairly politically active, protesting the US involvement in Iraq and Bush's quest for WMDs. I didn't feel like an impostor, because standing up for truth felt right, however I never felt like I quite belonged because I wasn't a great debater. I think this also disappointed then boyfriend, that and the fact that I wasn't Russian nor did I look like Heidi Klum. 

I'm vegan now. And there are so many reasons why, but I don't feel like arguing with you about them. I think one of the most beautiful things I've ever done is to stop seeing animals as mine to use and I hope to inspire by example and to use my energy on making things better for them. 

Bed Bugs

However, I still don't see bed bugs as valuable in the same way they see me. Thanks to that I am sitting at the airport in Doha with a new outbreak (yes a 2nd one) of 7 hives from Moroccan bugs. Spectacular. Can we please bring back DDT? No not really. But maybe... These itches.

Diving Deep

clouds-ryan-air-blog-barcelona

Tomorrow, right around the time the US announces the new President, I will be checking in for 10 days of Vipassana in South Africa. Silent meditation and no technology. Quite frankly, I'm scared as fuck. There is a part of one's self that modern distractions conveniently help us avoid - work, friends, social media, dilly-dallying, the works. Strip those away and you are forced to have all the conversations with no real reprieve. I don't have any expectations for myself or the 10 days but I know I'll be swimming in some deep, potentially shark-infested waters. 

2017...

OMG I am going to be in the USA in 35 days, a grand total of 425 days out of the country! My passport needs more pages (I am down to 4) and I don't have any flights booked yet once I'm "home" in Buffalo. It can be a complete and utter recharge to take in what I've learned and where I want to go. I've already got Epic Anderson Animal Rescue Road Trip planned with my brother down the east coast, a surgery on my ever-exciting reproductive system, and a purge of 80% of my belongings planned! Ah yes, I also want to start a nonprofit funding dog sterilization around the world, no biggie... 

Improvements

I said I could drive. I never said I drove well.

 my handiwork

my handiwork

Accordingly, within 3 days of arriving here in Montenegro I drove the jumper van off the road. In the middle of the night. On a mountain. Alone. 

My lack of depth perception has resulted in similar scenarios in the past: off the side of a cliff, hitting a house, and bashing into the cement pillar at the Walden Galleria (and that was just my first year driving. Curious? Read about it here).

Driving vs. Dating

As it turns out, there are quite a few parallels between my driving and dating styles. I can't really see where I'm going, avoid it when possible, but when I start, am fully committed, even though I can't really see where the edge is. This has led to some dramatic and cataclysmic breakups. The good news is that I might be improving at one of these - and it isn't driving. 

lulakilla-old-logo-blogger-travel.png

Back in February I co-branded this blog with my then-boyfriend of military background, hence the old grenade logo.  But I think it's pretty apparent that my "killa" side has almost nothing to do with violence, and not for lack of trying. I stabbed a tarantula to death in the Philippines with a machete, yet to this day, feel bad about it. I've gone vegetarian, and am debating doing the vegan thing. And oh, the dogs. In Portugal I volunteered 4 days a week at sanctuaries and found an endless supply of love. So goodbye grenade logo and hello perfect, new design, crafted by the oh-so-talented Maggie based on my tattoo that Nini @ NINja Ink created (pictured below, in case you have forgotten what my ass looks like). 

Maybe most important, in a recent relationship, I opened myself up to be honest and vulnerable. When incompatibilities came up I didn't lash out, get nasty or run to another guy as a quick fix. And do you know what? I'm beginning to think my small heart grew three sizes.

Minimalist

Money was a major theme when I kicked off this blog (33% of dickz, dollarz & killin it), but aside from tracking my expenses in this sheet, I haven't been writing all that much about it. 
I attribute this to 2 things:

  1. After paying off my college loans and credit card debt in October 2015, I quit my job and have been making more than enough to survive as I've been traveling - I just don't think about it as much now that the burden is gone
  2. Living out of a 50L bag reduces the chance that I'm going to buy shit. If I buy something I usually have to get rid of something - the Sophie's Choice of consumer manufactured products
 must love salt water

must love salt water

Last week, on the shared Kindle account I have with my mom, I found The Minimalists. As a result, I am fully engrossed in re-visiting my thoughts on possessions. The read was also timely because part of why I'm in Montenegro is to work on an app that focuses on people's unused clutter with a charitable component. As a result I've been thinking a lot about possessions and why people (me) have attachment to those things. 

I live out of a 50L bag, yes, but I still have 8 bins of clothing and shit stored at my dads. For the most part this stuff is out of sight, out of mind, yet somehow I still feel tethered by it. The Minimalists have connected me to many great blog reads and ideas (like the Project 333 clothing challenge, relevant once I'm past the bag lady phase of life). Accordingly, I'm pivoting in their direction with the following:

  1. When home for Christmas I'll try to sell 80% of my possessions (Poshmark, eBay, not a garage sale, etc.). What I can't sell in that time will be donated
  2. I'm going to limit my purchases to things that are necessary to make me more efficient in my work (digital marketing freelance and kayak/SUP/bike tours). Wishlist includes: contact lenses, polarized sunglasses, a charging brick and potentially a new laptop if my $350 Thailand-bought Acer shits the bed (but does I really NEEDZ a shiny new Mac, precioussssss-s-s?) 

Oh yeah, Montenegro! I lead some kayak and SUP tours, live in a coworking-hostel, work a bit of freelance and am kicking off the app. A few months ago I saw a Facebook post on a digital nomad group recommending the space and Montenegro for travelers who've maxed out their 3 months in the EU.  With no other promising options on my plate I emailed the owner to see if he'd be up for a trade. He was, so I booked a flight to this country and am yet again, winging it! So far, so good!

Ow My Ovary

 looking up with dad

looking up with dad

Last week I was informed that my notions are too romantic.

Let me back up. I have one ovary. In 2010 the gynecologist found an ovarian cyst the size of a softball resting comfortably on my left ovary. Said cyst had suffocated the ovary and its eggs had died. Aka half of my half babies (are you following me?). 

Instead of rushing down the altar and into motherhood, my thoughts about dating and life evolved. Maybe I won't be able to have kids once I'm ready. And maybe I'm open to finding a man who already has kids of his own so as to take some of the pressure off of me. And that man I am suited to be with, he will love me if I can have kids or not, because it will be us first.

That right there is my too romantic notion. I'm not so sure though. We're all just bunches of atoms configured together in a majestic pattern that has somehow lucked out and received this dope, unique soul. For me, a successful life is going to be without misery and avoidable physical pain, plus adventure and a lot of people (and animals!) around me that want the best for me (and vice versa). I think it would be great if that group of people involved my own spawn, but I can't consider it a failure if my remaining eggs don't cooperate.

A friend and I even brainstormed a Kickstarter campaign to fund the freezing of a couple eggs. The play would be that I spend a ton of time volunteering, US insurance is a joke, I'd like to slow down my biological clock, and (most obviously) my genetic makeup MUST be replicated. But asking for money is not an option for 3 reasons:

  • Old-school Irish pride
  • I don't like getting all science-y about something so natural as getting knocked up
  • And to mom's point: 
Right now, the life you are living is one of beauty, travel, independence and freedom (from debt, obligations, a relationship, a reg job). That is a wonderful and enviable thing. For any number of reasons, you did not choose the June Cleaver, Leave It To Beaver life—more Jack Kerouac hits the road. And that carries natural consequences.

Asking for money to fund your eventual/potential/maybe and never-before-expressed desire to have a child (even to me) while you are living in paradise might strike some as disingenuous, whimsical, an afterthought, and even irresponsible. Like: Why doesn’t she settle down like the rest of us schlumps and marry good-enough, boring Joe and get knocked-up the regular way while she still can?
— Mom
 romantically inclined.

romantically inclined.

So for now, I'm going to be a little more romantic than usual and take my time. If it's meant to be then it will all come together... 

Aged, Aging, Age, Agh. Nudity.

When I was 4 my best friend Timmy Ulbrich took his shirt off on a walk through Como Park. Not to be out shined, I also took my shirt off. After a few minutes, self doubt flooded in and I asked mom to please return my shirt because I was "cold".

 where my babiez at? nope.

where my babiez at? nope.

Today I turned 32 and while reflecting on different ages, I feel the same as I did when I was 18, plus some key lessons.

At 18 I had just left Buffalo for college in Boston. College, a place where the small circles of friends from a tiny all girls high school didn't apply. Friends of all shapes and sizes were possible, gay Filipinos, beefy black men and Long Island Jewish princesses. I made them all. And some enemies too - like a douchey hockey player who I told off in the cafeteria (Pat Noonan, hiiiiiiiii), and my bipolar freshman roommate who slept all day on the top bunk, and the "friend" who picked me up in front of a group of friends and held up my skirt so everyone could see (thanks rape-culture!).

So much of that time and my 20s was spent focusing on the next step and appearances. 2 years ago something snapped though, and it started with my foot - in 8 places. Breaking my foot and totaling my dream car was the best thing that has ever happened to me. Insurance wiped out 20k in loans and the accident recovery coincided with my 30th birthday, a milestone that is oft met with panic and expectations (dafuq where my hubby and babiez at?). For me it was a joyful celebration of how lucky I was to be alive.

Just 2 short years later and I'm shocked at how much things have changed and keep changing. Just this week I went to a topless beach and did headstands & cartwheels as my 32 year old boobs sunned themselves.  I didn't even feel "cold" once.

Needs

 beach yoga = free

beach yoga = free

Anyone who knows me has heard my rants, a skill I credit to Mr. John Anderson aka Dad. A recurring rant of mine has been Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs and how they play into happiness. Low and behold Mr. Money Mustache covered these Needs this week (please note: required reading) and their relation to spending. In typical MMM fashion, he goes on about flexing your frugal muscles and cutting down on non-essential spending as a source of happiness.

In the last 2 years I've made drastic changes - I'm obnoxiously frugal, debt-free, a digital nomad, a vegetarian. When looking at the Needs, I've always met the basics (food, water, sleep). After the basics I've done ok too, I've maintained friendships, stayed in touch with my family, feel like I'm part of quite a few communities, fought off bed bugs successfully, am always doing something creative and artsy, and feel pretty secure in who I'm shaping up to be as a human.

 walking everywhere = free

walking everywhere = free

I'm even doing alright financially, if you follow along on my tracker you'd notice that from January thru May I spent $5,354 on necessities and $1,633 on toys (camera, bike, tattoo, cancelled flights). What isn't in there is what I've made! Since I started working part time in mid-February, I've earned $7,476, plus a nice tax return of $2,794. My motto of "I'll travel til the money runs out" hasn't caught me... yet! 

Once the basic Needs have been sorted, us humans have the chance for Self Actualization. It comes as a result of creative pursuits, service and giving back. Now, by no means am I a saintly person - perhaps not eternal damnation bound, but growing up I spent countless hours on the Bad Chair in the corner, in detention, and banished to my room. If there were equivalents to these as an adult, I would still be putting in hard time. Yet I have an infinite soft spot for dogs. 4 days each week I've been volunteering at two bike-able sanctuaries here in the Algarve.

The first is ADAPO, where there is a run of 6 dogs plus 4 wild dogs who I feed, water, love and hangout with. The second is Goldra where there are on average 120 dogs. I do the same things with these guys in addition to cleaning cages, bathing, grooming, and photographing so that perhaps they might be adopted (or sponsored, here's a link to sponsor one if you want to help out!). Some of these pups have big issues - behavioral, blindness, hit by a car, or as many puppies in Portugal are, left in a dumpster. Troubles and all, I love them. Each and every one. As I spend time with each one, I start daydreaming about adopting him or her and how happy we could be and the mischief we could get into. Perhaps we could explore the U.S. in a cross-country road trip to see everyone I love and miss... Just like John Steinbeck & Charley.

Reality check: I can't provide a stable dog-home right now because I'm not sure what's next, but for the next few months I've found a home here in Portugal and I can spread my time amongst an entire dog family. And guess what? Although NEXT is completely up in the air, I think I'm on the right track. 

BONUS: I've updated my goals. The exercise around this is one I learned when I worked at lululemon, it's shaped me and my decisions since 2010. I've still got to drill down on the next 2 years but I am in LOVE with where I'm headed. Let me know if you would like to do the same and I can coach you!

Infested

Tonight I made pesto pasta in the electronic teapot in my hotel. And it made me so fucking happy. 

Little pleasures like this really matter while enduring a harrowing bed bug infestation. In the last 6 days I've accumulated around 50 bites covering my upper back, face and arms, oh and 9 on my knee, for good measure. For those of you that don't know, bed bugs hide in mattresses, bed frames, walls and travel in clothing and other objects. They can lay dormant for up to a year as they wait for their favorite thing, human blood. For some reason, they LOVE mine. So although I was staying in a relatively nice hostel, someone before me must have left them behind, because, 24 hours post check-in the nasty bumps made their debut. 

(L to R: selfie on day 2; note-to-self in phone; gratitude journal, May 17th)

After a day of scratching I went to a dermatologist who immediately diagnosed me and prescribed some stuff (ugh $). Then I washed all 15kg of my clothes on the hottest setting and was moved into another dorm room in the hostel, with promises of an exterminator. But hello, I woke up this morning with new bites. Cue 3 more rounds of laundry, bagging of belongings, checking into a hotel to cortisone my naked body on repeat while I Netflix & chilled with bae (me), and the teapot pasta. 

 tick infested pups, bed bug infested Lulu. samesies.

tick infested pups, bed bug infested Lulu. samesies.

Most of you haven't had a skin condition that marks you in such a miserable and obvious way since the chicken pox, so let me explain, the red bites come in clusters, mostly on your arms, back, face - they can raise into hives, and are so itchy that each night I wake up scratching the shit out of myself. These welts then either blister or open into sores, and as of Day 6, are still quite visible. Did I mention they were on my face? A quick Google search yields interesting responses to bed bug outbreaks such as alienation, depression, oh and suicide. Nice. 

So, I did what any logical woman would do. I joined Tinder. Insert Marilyn Monroe voice "If you can't love me at my worst...blah blah..." In fact, this was not my reasoning but still pretty funny. My first dating experience in Portugal was nice, but isn't that the kiss of death? Nice. Although my sores didn't frighten him away, his lack of a job did frighten me away. 

Through all this I've managed to work, buy a bike, find an Airbnb for the next 2 weeks and volunteer with the dogs at Goldra (a dog sanctuary with 110+ dogs!!). While picking ticks and fleas from the body of an abandoned 4-week-old puppy, it dawned on me that maybe I don't have it so bad.