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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5 reasons why every broken-hearted gal should visit Bali

So I’m standing at the edge of a Titanic shaped dock at dusk, looking out over cascading rice paddy meets tropical forest, the smell of coffee beans roasting wafts through the air, when I actually catch myself mutter the words:

‘Maybe this is why it all happened…so I could be in Bali today.’

Bali

Me. The girl who wrote this.

The girl who, not three days ago, cried herself to sleep because of all she misses.

Me. A young, broken-hearted American gal, for a moment in time, felt dots connecting, worlds colliding, God healing, smile cementing, soul affirming. And it’s all because of Bali…

Every time I tell my dad, ‘oh, I love this place’ or ‘this might be my new favorite’ or ‘you have to add this to your bucket list’ he asks me ‘Why?’ ‘What makes it so special?’ Usually, I have some non-specific, but sensible answer.

When he asks me about Bali, I will have five answers, that all add up to one big answer.

So here we go, the easiest post I’ve yet to write…here are the top 5 reasons that every broken-hearted gal must visit Bali:

  1. It will let you eat your heart out. Let’s face it. I love food even when my heart is intact. But there’s some unwritten law in the book of heartbreak that states that food = necessary, couch-devouring guilty pleasure. We’ve all been there. And it usually sucks because nine times out of ten it’s a gallon of cheap grocery store ice cream and a tub of empty calories. Not in Bali. In Bali, you can eat to your little heart’s desire and not feel one ounce of guilt or stomach rot. The food is so real, so pure, so raw and organic, you can very literally taste the difference. From Kafe to Taco Casa, there are a million fresh food and juice options to blow a health-nut’s [[or broken heart’s]] mind. Never have I seen so many menus I want to devour. Raw cheesecakes, honey-roasted beet salads, almond-cacao-coconut smoothie galore. It’s foodie #InstaHeaven, yall. If a happy belly were ever to happy a heart, then Bali’s it.
  2. It will help you pamper yourself silly. As if it weren’t compelling enough to know that Balinese hands give the best massage I’ve ever known [[I swear, they get down so deep, they massage your heart and soul]]– a 60 minute massage here in Ubud will set you back less than a machine chair massage at the Airport. Maybe a slight exaggeration, but not by much. For 250,000 Indonesian Rupia [[approximately $20 U.S. Dollars]], I bought myself a ‘welcome to the Spa shower,’ a 60 minute Balinese massage [[this ain’t no Massage Envy massage either—though I love that place—this is a get-on-top-of-the-table-to-really-get-in-there / no-place-for-bashful-butt-and-chest-kneeding / scalp-gripping-hair-yanking kind of 60 minute sesh]], and the longest, most detailed pedicure of my life. Note to all broken hearts: when someone wants to send you to an overpriced-over-stuffy spa to help you feel good, kindly request that they reallocate that spend for a one-way-ticket to Bali + under-priced-stuffy-doesn’t-translate-Balinese spa [[it’s probably a wallet wash, anyway]]. Indulging never felt so good. Spoiling yourself never felt so guilt-free. In fact, I think I’ll opt in again today. Probably tomorrow too. When in Bali, right?
  3. It’ll turn you into a proper yogi. Now, I’ve said it before, yoga is good for me. I love yoga and weird as it may sound, yoga loves me too. It makes me feel good and think good. Though I’m certainly no Antonella, I try. And I grow. And it is a physical reminder [[demand, rather]] to give myself grace. Bali is the yoga capital of the world. And for good reason. Yoga Barn. I don’t even know how to describe it. I think Yoga Barn is the kind of place that could convert a linebacker into a downward-facing-dogger. At the end of a small [[slightly chlaustrophobic, even]] alley tucked into the heart of Ubud, you’ll find the quaint little Yoga Barn welcome desk. The beautiful Balinese gals will invite you in and show you the way. You’ll wind through a palm-tree-draped stair case, cut through a sweet little café [[serving mouth-watering-things found on point 1, above]] where yogis are lounging out on the big day-bed-looking benches, and then down one more flight of earthy stairs. Then you will subconsciously let out an audible ‘ommmm’ [[mygosh]] as the quaint opens up into a vast and proper yoga retreat. There is a huge, cabana-covered deck. And bungalows off to the side, where yoga teachers in training can hang their bolsters for weeks on end. And there is the yoga barn. A big barn looking structure with a dual staircase that leads up to the most awe-inspiring studio I’ve ever stepped foot in. The dark wooded beams and soft lights and British gal invite a room full of travelers to practice. To mediate and find yin. I cannot say enough things about yoga here, so I’ll just beg you broken-hearted gals to come treat your soul to yoga in Bali.
  4. It’ll make you wanna straddle a Balinese boy. No, no, no, not like that. But I’ve maybe never felt so grounded but free; so wreckless but solid; so wild but beautiful, as I did on the back of Jo’s motorbike. Kara and Paul warned me how utterly wonderful it feels to ride helmet-less through foreign streets with a foreigner [[who, if you pick a good one, will become a friend in no time]]. They were right. We found Jo at the Mini Mart on the main Ubud drag, rented a motorbike for the two pros and then rented Jo for me. I hopped on the back of that bike, with a Balinese boy between my legs, and felt every pent up inhibition melt away with each spin of the tire. As we tore through town [[only to be stopped by a funeral procession in which the entire village escorts the casket, in full traditional Hindu garb down the streets…sad as it was, it was absolutely beautiful]], throttled through the rice fields bordered by palm trees and pointed at every temple [[and every stunning home, so pretty it could have been a temple]], I felt myself smiling the hardest I’ve smiled in so, so long. I physically felt God touch my heart on the back of that motorbike. I smiled so hard, in fact, that a lone happy-tear fell on my cheek. Broken-hearted gals, straddle a Balinese boy and letter-rip. Just leave enough room for God.
  5. It’ll fill the crevices of your broken heart with relationship. In the absence of your relationship, you will find the new and treasure it forever. If you come alone [[which you can totally do. Lots of gals traveled here alone]], you will find relationship with the handsome British boy sitting in the café next to you [[hellooooo, Harry]]. Or you’ll find relationship with your Jo. Or sweet Pia and her sister Mar, and Mar’s boyfriend. You’ll meet people like Pia and Mar in a hotel and bond over breakfast and then send ‘see you later’s to later find out you’ll see them later that same afternoon in the middle of a rice paddy. I didn’t come to Bali alone, though. Yesterday afternoon, after a motorbike ride for the books, a rice paddy hike and a coffee farm tour that I will savour for life, Paul and Kara and I defined relationship. Not by words, but by our actions. We ate food together and drank two pitchers of margaritas together. We listened to Paul strum his guitar [[live, acoustic guitar, by the way, is without a doubt, the most broken-heart-steadying thing you can do. I know this because of Robbie]]. We played cards and talked about drugs and religion. We sat in our wall-less private villa family room [[when you come here, stay at Michael’s Modern Eco Villa. It makes me swoon]], watching the fish swim laps in our moat [[there is literally a moat]]. Three friends became family last night. Relationship, no matter what form it takes, will find you in Bali.Family

Put simply, Bali is the place where, for the first time since my heartbreak, I longed for absolutely nothingRice Paddies

 

#SoThisOneTime, for the first time.

I know, I know…this blog has been a total downer so far. But that’s about to change. Cause yall.. I’ve done some pretty dang cool things in my 26/27 years…things that have taught me the sweet side of life’s bittersweet. So, since I can’t commit to a #ThrowbackThursday or a #FlashbackFriday [hello 18 million time zones / avoiding that type of unnecessary deadline-inspired pressure], I’m inventing my own series…#SoThisOneTime. No, No, NO do not say ‘at bandcamp.’ Band Camp would never have let me in. I do too many cartwheels to hold a flute for a sustained period of time.

I digress.

Here it is. My first of many, #SoThisOneTime posts.

So this one time, I spent my birthday [yes, I specifically recall that it was my 18th] dancing in my chair at the Hard Rock Café in Sharm El Sheikh, with Egyptian waitors singing Happy Birthday to me and kissing my arms and hands. All in front of my family. I think it was probably my most stand-out birthday moment ever.

We’d spent the first half of our two-week-trip touring the Cairo Museum [in which our tour guide pointed out the world’s first invented condom among other ancient oddities] and riding camels across the desert with the oh-so-iconic Pyramids as our backdrop. We had a driver and translator and armed body guard with us at all times. To this day, I don’t know why we were considered VIP, but for whatever reason they felt the need to watch our six at all times. We saw decaying ox on the side of the road, kids drinking water that didn’t even seem suitable for a pet and perfume stores pungent enough to cover up the smell of those poor decaying ox. We saw all of the monumental tourist things you are supposed to see. We cruised down the Nile River and much to my horror, my family dressed up to match the evening belly dancer—it was a hot mess.

Then, we vacationed. Yes, this word-choice-transition from ‘trip’ to ‘vacation’ is very intentional. We drove across the desert for what felt like days. You know when you’re flying and you lose sense of movement and progress and situational awareness, cause all you can see are clouds? No environmental cues to suggest you’ve moved at all? This was like that. Just sand in all directions for as far as you could see. Though I assure you we felt the movement…turns out they don’t pave their deserts. Sand is bumpy. It was hot. It was not pleasant. What was even more unpleasant? When our free-for-all desert excursion came to a dead halt…we’re talking Beltway at 5pm on a Friday afternoon kind of halt. Turns out it was Egyptian rubbernecking as we crept past human bodies covered in blood-soaked white drapes. It felt like a movie. I don’t know how those people died, but I don’t think it was by choice. I’ve always hated rubbernecking.

Anyway, we made it to the Red Sea. And this is where I hold some of my fondest family memories. As you might imagine, we were pretty sick of each other by the time we did 3 years together in one tiny on–base house, spent eons of hours living in the Yukon back seat floating all around Europe, not to mention my raging ‘get me the eff out of this house and into a dorm room’ gem of an attitude.

All that aside, we snorkeled in water so crisp and blue that I’d suggest it tops the Great Barrier Reef [yup. I said it]. We parasailed for the aerial view and four-wheeled across the dessert just to have a cup of piping hot traditional Bedouin tea with a group of villagers. We climbed Moses Mountain in the middle of the night just so we could squeeze under some blankets to watch the sunrise over the land where The 10 commandments were delivered. We saw the Burning Bush. We stayed at a fancy hotel and even I, the horrible angry teenager, reveled in the towel animals and pretty flowers that adorned our beds every afternoon. We smoked Hookah along the boardwalk [and by ‘we,’ I mean everyone but me, cause I just was THAT much of a prude].

We did a lot in those two weeks. But I think the best thing we did was define the distinction between ‘trip’ and ‘vacation.’ Yeah I loved #ThatOneTime. We aced that trip / vaca hybrid. Lesson SO learned for this #GrowthNGrace journey.