My teapot runneth over

I fell in love with Moroccan tea last week. It’s minty and sweet and green and delicious. And so, after only 24 hours of friendship, the precious couple that hosted us in Rabat gifted me with yet another perfect metaphor…

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My teapot runneth over.

It just does. It has. Time and time again.

My dad flew over from Virginia to join me for the last two weeks of my trip. And like the rest of my 7.5 month jaunt, the time overflowed in all of the ways:

  1. Driving along the beach with the windows down, only to stop for happy hour with a view, feels like all of summer’s goodness. Perfection.IMG_1875
  2. The castle in Sintra looks like Disney came to life. Magical.IMG_1833
  3. There is no greater ‘office’ than a beach cabana in Portugal’s Algarve. Inspiring. 
  4. A box of Crayola’s exploded all over Chefchauoen, Morocco. Fact.
  5. Portuguese bull fights are the most bizarre spectacle imaginable. Dislike. I❤️Bulls.
  6. The leather tanneries and hand-made fabric weavers and pottery artisans in Fez are mind boggling. Souvenirs.
  7. Germany feels more like home than I remember it feeling when it WAS home 10 years ago. Perspective.
  8. The Lowenbrau Haus at the Munich Oktoberfest on opening night is where sobriety comes to die. Lethal. 
  9. I am now fiercely independent and so in that way, more like my dad than ever. Headbutt.  
  10. Despite headbutts, the irony is not lost on me that I was inspired to explore the world because of a man who broke my heart. And I’ll return home with one who would do about anything in his power to keep it whole. Grace.

Portugal and Morocco and Deutschland in two weeks…What else would you expect when traveling with the Colonel?

Runneth. Over.

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Dancin with fire

Maybe it was the unbeatable sunset view atop a Bob-Marley-vibed bar looking out over the Andaman Sea earlier that evening…sunsetMaybe it was that Ben and I’d shared a few buckets of margaritas and a pile of pretty-dang-good-for-Thailand Mexican-food…

Maybe it was that we’ve been island hopping for a week now and the slow pace of Koh Lanta and Koh Phi Phi life were finally soaking in…

island hoppingWhatever it was, Sunday night, I was in absolute awe.

We capped off our first night in Phi Phi with a glass of wine [[a Mai Tai for the stud]] and picked a seat on the beach. When the first local took the stage, dipped his gear in lighter fluid and then grazed it through the flame, my jaw hit the sand. And I didn’t bother to pick it up for the next hour…

These small, albeit chiseled, guys danced with fire on a stage on a beach on an island in the middle of nowhere. They flung flaming poi and batons through the air faster than I could comprehend. The dark of the night mixed with the light of the fire [[and ok, fine, the encouragement from a glass of red]] just had me hooked.  The danger and unknown of it all was absolutely, utterly beautiful.

fire dancingMost of the time, it was a precise art…an obvious culmination of years of practice, maybe even gifted to them through their lineage. Most of the time it was perfection. But some of the times, they’d mis-judge a toss and drop a flaming poi in the sand. They’d just smile, sink to the stage and pump out a few push-ups, get up, wipe the sand from their hands and get on with it…picking right back up to the beat of the music, as if they never missed the chorus. It just looked like growth and grace.

And it made me wanna dance with fire…

So then of course, all of my sentimental cheesy starts oozing together with the wine and the awe and then all of the metaphors start screaming at me…I AM playing with fire… kind of…

I mean I left home and my career and all of my comforts to come gallivant around the world for an undefined amount of time, for arguably fluffy, but important reasons. To my former ‘type-A’ self, that’s pretty fire-dancing-esque…

I could run out of money in Europe and have to figure out how to get home…

My bags could fall off the roof of the speed boat this afternoon and I’d be left with only the clothes on my back…

I could get food poisoning from the meat that sits out at the markets for hours on end, and have to stumble through a medical conversation with a foreign physician…

Honestly, anything could happen.

But it seems worth it. Dancing with fire is therapeutic and invigorating and inspiring.

Those boys didn’t mean to get all metaphorical on me. And certainly Ben didn’t know my jaw on the sand meant all these crazy things were running through my mind, but something clicked on that beach for me…

I love seeing people dare to be different… dare to live a little outside the box…dare to do what makes them happy…dare to make people smile… dare to try a little harder at the risk of failing…dare to forgive your dropped balls and do it all over again…

Find your fire, people…and then go on and dance. I dare you.

Wish you were here, from Hoi An

The pretty little blue eyed blonde waved me over to the seat she saved for me at the Dulles Town Center food court. I stripped my winter jacket, but kept my hat on—reluctant to reveal my nearly bald and pretty pudgy, sick gnome-ish self.

I don’t remember exactly what we talked about that afternoon, but I do remember the card she handed me at the end of our visit. Well wishes from my All Girl crew covered the spread, but the one signature that really stood out was Vals.

‘Can’t wait to live together next semester!’ it read. That tiny sentence made me cry all the way home in my tiny little cabrio convertible. But for once, it was not because I felt like a wad of cancer, but rather because I knew without a doubt, that I would make up for lost time with Valerie Voorhies.

We spent the next three years doing just that…We drove our matching Cabrios to the beach for hand stand contests and tan-soakin. We hosted family dinners with our sisters from other misters and brothers from other mothers. We poured diet V8 and rum into our bubba kegs and set up shop at the pool for hours on end. We went to Chicago to visit boys we met on spring break. We line-danced our boots off at the Bull most Thursday nights. We drove to Key West and bought matching seashell rings. She picked me up from my check-ups at Moffitt Cancer Center and I drove her drunk ass home from Tias. Yes, for all of that and more, Val helped me make up for a cancer-ridden-lost-semester, tenfold.

While Val and I haven’t shared an apartment number, let alone a zip code, in years, our friendship continues to stand the test of time and distance. As I type this, it’s still yesterday in Richmond, Virginia and Val is literally on the other side of the world. But today, I longed for Val to be here with me in Hoi An, Vietnam.

Hoi An is full of life and color and easy livin—just like Val Val. There’s a beautiful beach up the road where cabanas and drinks flow abundantly. There are lanterns draped across every street that light up the night in a soft glow, just like the lanterns have on every balcony Val’s ever furnished. And there are tailors that will hand create any piece of clothing you can dream up.

Today, I dreamed up a pretty special piece of clothing and that, more than anything else, is why I longed for Val today. This morning, while I stood in the little tailor shop getting measured, sifting through hundreds of fabric swatches and sketching a Pinterest-mock-up with the designer, it sunk in… we’re not in college anymore and my little ValVal is growing up and getting married.

Val’s probably sleeping right now. But if I could genie up any dream today, it would be to bang down her door, throw her pillows on the floor and push her out of bed [[as she did to me on many-a-night when she needed a wingman at the hottest baseball party]] and I’d make that girl be right here by my side today…

We’d have rented bicycles, grabbed a token iced coffee to-go and pedaled over to Violet where–my fave tailor in town–where we’d design that special dress together. We’d have celebrated toes in the water, ass in the sand-style with a tequila sunrise in hand, [[because celebrating Val is the only reason on the planet that I would voluntarily drink tequila]]. I’d have laughed at her vomit-esque reaction to the slaughtered pigs hanging from bamboo at the corner shop. We’d have showered off the sand and thrown on dresses that show off our tan lines and found a sweet little café that overlooks the lantern-lit riverwalk.

We’d spend the evening reminiscing on our true loves and our losers who taught us what true love is not; on the Corey Smith concerts [[in both a real venue and our kitchen]]; on T-Flatts addictions and the time she threw my sandwich out the sun roof on I75.

So many memories from yesterday, so many dreams for tomorrow all wrapped up in one little dress in a little World Heritage protected town on the Vietnam coast.

One little dress that I’ll wear on the special night that my pretty little blue-eyed blonde friend again waves me over to the seat she saved for me at her table.

Raising a tequila sunrise to you tonight, ValVal, and so wishing you were here. I’ll save you a seat.

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Generosity abounds in Brisbane

While I’m intent on being mindfully present during this journey—not living in the past or the future—just sitting here and being here in the now, it’s painfully clear that I cannot wait to ‘pay it forward.’

It always amazes me how no time and no distance can distance those who really matter in life—you know, those friends and family who you can just slide right back into giggles and easy conversation. Those kinds are special. It’s probably one of my favorite life treasures—those kinds of people. They’re gems. And I’m swimming in those gems here in Oz.

We arrived in Brisbane on a sunny morning, where Jodi and Liz greeted us with those giggles and easy convos I find so simple and lovely. We sipped coffee on the top of Mount Kootha.

Mt Kootha

We catamaraned around the Brisbane River, walked around South Bank and caught up on the ins and outs of the Aussie / American rellies.

Then more rellie gems showed up at Rowan and Lynda’s for one of those ‘we only get together for a big family BBQ when an American Temme is in town.’ That people will just drop their plans, pitch in on a feast and spend a Friday night sipping Cab and swapping stories with two backpacking gals on the patio just warms my heart.

The parrots woke us bright and early, inspiring a quick 5k to the local Target—sounds so normal, so American, yeah? Except that flying foxes draped our pathway, our Target run was to collect various electronic adapters and breakfast was accompanied by one of those fancy flat whites that only a Truss home can whip up like it’s a simple brew. That, and our afternoon was filled with snapping selfies with old grey kangaroos and snuggling the eucalyptus-dazed koalas.

Lone Pine Sanctuary

Lone Pine Sanctuary

Lone Pine Sanctuary

We trekked out again the next day [no idea what day of the week that actually would have been…not a clue] to see the Natural Bridge where we likely could have spent the rest of the morning just sitting and watching that pretty waterfall crash into the cave below.

Cave

Lucky we didn’t though, as we also sauntered around the markets, snagged a few pies and watched surfers on the Gold Coast for the rest of the afternoon. Ohh, thank you for that indulgence—yall know I love sitting on the water. Just so ‘ahhh.’

As if that wasn’t enough, Jodi and Liz drove us up [or over or down??] to the lovely Hervey Bay where Kara and I spent a lavishly relaxing few days at Lyn and Warren’s sleek condo on the beach. Hot-tubbing on the deck overlooking the coast, riding our bikes along the windy boardwalk through town, getting caught in several pre-Cyclone Marcia storms, soaking up a different type of villa life, thanks to the Deputy PM and lots of home cooking could only be topped by a visit to Fraser Island.

Fraser Island was and remains one of my favorite places on the planet. As the largest island in the world made entirely of sand [with a lush rain forest populating the inner island]…

rainforest …a recognized beach highway [slash airport—yes, tiny prop planes, but planes nonetheless take tourists up for the birds-eye view of this World Heritage Site, using the packed sand as their runway]…it just is one of those places that you know God spent a little extra time with.

Fraser Island

Steve, our jolly tour-guide navigated us through the island in a big 4WD truck. Kara lucked out with the front seat, otherwise her birthday trip would have been a lot less glamorous and lot more vomit-y.

Fraser Island

I think these pics speak for themselves…not even a need to caption…this is just Fraser Island. And it makes me happy. I loved that we could celebrate a great 28 for my sweet Kare in this beautiful place.

Lots of pictures, lots of beach-time and relaxation, lots of beautiful.

The most beautiful was the generosity though…yes, I loved the real-time moments. But oh I cannot wait to pay it back to these precious, generous gems.

A Fijian Love Affair

I often dream about whales and dolphins. Maybe my subconscious reminiscing on the days when my family used to drive along the Hawaiian coastlines and I’d ride with my 7 year old face pressed up against the glass, eyes glued to the water just watching for the inevitable water spout to blow. I think maybe there begins my love affair with water, as Mr. Paisley would surmise.

I love water. I love being near the water watching the waves. I love being on the water in a kayak or paddle board or sail boat or speed boat. I love being in the water jumping waves or hand-standing into the tide. It just brings such peace and a simple love for God’s bluest creation. My heart smiles when I sit at my favorite Kirkland park watching the sun set over Lake Washington. It smiles when I drive over those Clearwater bridges, beach-day bound. And now I know for certain, it smiles when I sway in a hammock, with a book in tow basking in the sparkly Fijian sun looking out over the crystal clear blue water. It just does a heart good.

Fiji was what I hoped it would be. It was relaxing for my body, calming for my soul and refreshing for my water-lust-ways.

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We didn’t do a whole lot at the Beach House, but what we did we did well. A jaunt down to Sigatoka, lots of reading, lots of hammocking and kayaking and makeshift snorkeling.

IMG_4081We ate beautiful local fruits and toast and jam at breakfast time, homemade banana scones at tea time and the freshest fish burgers at dinner time, encored with a bowl full of kava for ‘dessert’—it’s as disgusting as my fellow backpackers warned—but an obligatory chug, nonetheless.

IMG_4104We made jewelry from coconuts that daring local hands pushed out of the palm trees from 50 feet up. We watched the tides roll in and out, made new friends from countries near and far and sipped bottled water out of—wait for it—Fiji Water bottles.

It rained most days, but I found those quiet moments of pitter patter on the woven palm roofs soothing in a way I’d never let rain sooth. It is water afterall; just the type of water that typically annoys me. But when you’re sprawled out on a hand carved bench under an open-air bungalo-type structure with nowhere to be, no concern for how you look or ruining your shoes, the water falling from the sky actually feels as wonderful as the bucketed-land-water I adore.

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Yep. Fiji water bottles, a good steady afternoon rain and some bobbing in the teal blue waves really helped wash away departure week. Here’s to hoping for more affairs with the wet stuff that does a mending heart good.

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