March Q&A

1. How could today have been better?
I could’ve woken up without being sick. I feel much better but the congestion is still there. I’m debating travel as the virus doesn’t seem to be stopping others from following through with their plans. 

2. Salty or sweet?
I love sweet. My life is sweet right now and I’m so grateful for it, even if I feel sad while I’m sick and can’t be up and about and as productive. 

3. Did you sleep alone last night?
No, but I also didn’t go to sleep till around 1am.  

4. What would you like to ask your mother?
How do you think I turned out?

5. What’s your favorite word (right now)?
Right, I didn’t realize how common it was until I took my American way of saying it to another country, which also changed the way I say “as well”.

6. Who’s your nemesis?
Past mistakes and present ways of dealing with them, though we enjoyed couple’s massage and a candlelit dinner at home to relax and wind-down. 

7. It’s not a good idea to experiment with…
proven healthy ways of dealing with food and immunizations to reduce the spread of disease. This virus should be an eyeopener to the world to slow down, close sometimes, and clean more often. 

8. What’s the last song you listened to?
I remember listening to Ingrid Michaelson on the 6th.

9. A person you wanted to ignore today…
no one, it’s easy to go days without speaking to others unless I reach out or go out.

10. What was the last movie you rented?
BlacKkKlansman, a 2018 American biographical crime drama.  

11. What was something you wanted today, but couldn’t have?
To either make candles with Justin or help organize John’s paperwork.

12. Where do you live?
Wherever I happen to be at the moment, Bahrain, and San Diego. 

13. If you could add one hour to your day, what would you do with it?
Spend it with Caleb. 

14. What is true?
Coronavirus has changed the way the world does things, at least temporarily, but hopefully in the longterm too. 

15. What do you not want to talk about?
The coronavirus and its effects on travel, health, and toilet paper… because people aren’t civil when they have power or herd mentality.

16. What do you want to buy?
A bamboo stool for the toilet.  

17. What new activity have you tried?
Self-isolating for days. 

18. In three words, describe your spirituality.
existential, curious, scientific

19. Describe your work ethic.
I will complete a task when given it, but I also don’t have a job.

20. What was the last book you read?
Six Thinking Hats, a waste of paper mostly, but a nice idea for an article.

21. The first thing you ate today was?
A blueberry waffle with butter and vanilla corn syrup.

22. Jot down a news story from today.
More states close and more people die from coronavirus.

23. Are you country or rock ’n roll or…
“songs that remind him of the good times”

24. What did you daydream about today?
Running.

25. … made you laugh
Coronavirus memes

26. Who do you aspire to be like?
A version of me who is more zen, motivated, and healthier.

27. When was the last time you felt like you were on top of the world?
Seeing Caleb’s face this morning.

28. What do you want to remember about today?
Walking, shopping, reading, grapes, and texting.

29. Write down a few lines from a song or poem that you identify with today.
“I’m locked up.. won’t let me out.” “Hello from the inside…”

30. Pick a color for today.
Green, I worked on a picture of two birds and branches with gel pens, walked past green grass, and drank out of a shade of green cup.

31. What inventions can you not live without?
Cell phone for text, call, photos, email, notes, etc.

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Here’s to Another Dozen

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Here’s to the man who has known me for 15 years and has always loved me the most,

who is not afraid to see me or scared that I’ll get boring, and always supports me,

who is willing to try new things and watch me grow as we both change,

who has carried me the furthest and held me the longest,

who stays up to listen to me laugh, cry, or mumble till we both fall asleep,

who kisses my tears and wipes my snot and reminds me why to smile,

who has held my heart and fought to protect it by using his own,

the man I miss the moment he walks out the door, he could be gone for months or more.

Marriage is a dance that requires daily effort and attention,

every day is a tiny celebration that builds on the lasting love that we have made.

You always put me first and though as the years go by,

the types of anniversaries we share grow,

our love is what remains.

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February Q&A

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making bath soap

1. What is your resolution for tomorrow?
Go to a motorbike race with Justin’s family. 

2. Who do you live with?
Currently at Dave’s house in South Africa with Brad, Justin, and Wendy while Caleb is at home in Bahrain.

3. On a scale of 1-10, how sad are you? Why?
I’m bummed about my travel partner and plans but I’m having a relaxing time for the most part, so a low of 2. 

4. Outside, the weather is…
sunny and clear with plenty of clouds while we spent the afternoon at a flea market.

5. What are you obsessively listening to?
the South African accent

6. Are you seeking contentment or excitement?
To be content when exciting things aren’t happening

7. What are three things you need to buy?
bread, milk, and fruit. The house is empty since I’ve been gone but less dirty than the last time I came back.

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charcoal soft-serve in chimney roll

8. Are you in love?
I love myself more than I realize and am more forgiving and patient than most people expect. I’ve lost a lot of love in my life but I’m always ready to return it. 

9. How late did you sleep?
Until around 8:30a this morning. I made up for a week of lack of sleep in South Africa by going to bed at 9p on Friday and sleeping till 11:30a on Sat. 

10. If this day was an animal, which animal would it be?
A unicorn cat, a bit lazy but able to grocery shop, blog, and take a nice shower. 

11. How did you get to work today?
Caleb went into work late today and left me to sleep in; for not having jet lag I seem to need the extra rest. 

12. What is your biggest obstacle right now?
time, as there’s only a limited amount of that. 

13. What’s your favorite question to ask people?
How? How they’re doing or how their day went or how was it there?

14. Did you kiss someone today?
Yes, Caleb before and after he went to brunch with some of the guys from work. I napped while he was gone and he napped when he got back. 

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15. Write down the cure for a broken heart.
Accepting the challenge

16. What was the last performance or concert you went to?
Rocky Horror Picture Show with Justin, Wendy, and Dave in South Africa, the matinee.

17. If you could change something about today, what would it be?
I might not have drank so much coffee (the two ounces that I had) but then I wouldn’t have had the energy for the phone calls I made later. 

18. What’s the most expensive thing you’re wearing now?
My wedding ring, then Samsung smartwatch, purple promise ring, and new flannel pajama set that Caleb ordered on Amazon. 

19. Who is the craziest person in your life?
My dad would say I’m the craziest he knows and that, to me, used to be a compliment. 

20. What word did you overuse today?
Food, I blogged about food and pantomime from December and got a cute comment from Uncle Chester about how I talk about food so much but still look like I need a cheeseburger intervention… as long as it’s veggie. 

21. What is the current buzzword?
Right?! Funnier than it sounds and used more often than I noticed. 

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my pani puri spot, Show Shha

22. What was your prevailing emotion of the day?
Satisfied. I got sleep, ate food, bought more food, got some blogging done, and had a relaxing day. Meanwhile, Caleb feels ill. 

23. What’s the most embarrassing purchase on a recent credit card statement?
I don’t get embarrassed easily, but others do, so I’ll keep my answer discreet.

24. Today you’ve got too much…
clothes I don’t wear, but I’m working on changing that.

25. What’s the last dream you remember?
I forgot my coat for a camping trip and passed up free snacks because I was in a hurry. 

26. Name one item you can’t throw out.
I have a lot of those items, but Goodwill gets lucky sometimes. 

27. Are you the original or the remix? Why?
The remix, not what I started out as, but the same as time and place change but I remain. 

28. When was the last time you were sick?
I’m suffering from the worst headache in a long time and trying to recover from being sick for five days nows. Last time was the same time last month, but less horrendous before I left for South Africa. 

29. Leap year? What did you do with the extra day?
I woke before 7am and was back in bed before 8:30 after an everything bagel to sleep until 2:30 after taking the cold pills Caleb brought home last night. 

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January Q&A

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1. What is your mission?
I’ve written a list of 20 main objectives for the year and expanded on some of them, others will come throughout the year when I’m able to add to them.

2.  Can people change?
Yes, they can make conscious decisions to change their habits and sometimes they are forced to deal with a situation that forces change. 

3. What are you reading right now?
I’m halfway through Political Psychology, a third done with What Would Great Economists Do, and a fifth of the way through the Origin of Species on Kindle.

4. The best part of today?
Running a mile and getting an email from Caleb less than 24 hours of him being underway, especially not knowing if I’d be able to hear from him. 

5. What was the last restaurant you went to?
Dome yesterday to get a croissant that I put in my plastic bag I carry in my purse for its foldability, otherwise, I’d use one of the canvas ones from the States.

6. Today was tough because…
It wasn’t. All I had to do was pack my bag for Georgia, pick up my lens from the shop, do dishes and take out the trash, and have dinner with friends. 

7. You are lucky; how so or not so?
I got to keep my carry-on bag with me, got a free lunch, a cheaper room, and service enough to find it. 

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8. What song is stuck in your head?
Mostly Christmas jingles from today but the guys in the lobby were listening to YMCA.

9. Was today typical? Why or why not?
Not, I saw 3 religious buildings in Mtskheta and got to search for a place to sleep in Gori. 

10. Write down something that inspired you today.
Driving through the snow-touched trees and seeing them covered in snow on the mountains. 

11. Today you lost…
Maybe some time driving with Dima but gained views I wouldn’t have seen otherwise. 

12. What’s your favorite accessory?
My camera to capture the awesome, my phone to guide me there, and my coat to keep me warm and dry. 

13. Where do you want to travel next?
Sharm el-Sheikh for diving and Morocco for hiking and South Africa with Justin. 

14. Are you a leader or a follower?
I followed today, behind the local drivers and the guys to their fancy hotel for free dinner and secondhand smoke. 

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15. On a scale of 1-10, how was your lunch today?
7, I tried a new tea that I’m saving half of for Caleb and a layered nut cake that I ate out of the bag.

16. Do you owe someone money? Does someone owe you?
Nope, just lessons learned in how to travel better next time. 

17. What’s the oldest thing you’re wearing today?
My promise ring from 2007 before my wedding ring in 2008… and my favorite bird, the owl, necklace from our 11-year anniversary. 

18. What was peaceful about today?
Making a moisturizing serum and some resin with rose petals, lavender bulbs, and dried lemon as lids/coasters and posting pictures of the candles Justin made yesterday, that I labeled. 

19. List three foods you ate today.
Al Abraaj bread with hummus, tortellini, bowtie pasta, fried rice, and sugar cookies.

20. Are you holding a grudge? About?
No, humans will make their choices and it’s not on me to make them change but to make decisions that fit my goals. 

21. What are you looking forward to?
The week I will be spending in east South Africa with Justin and Wendy whom I met Jan 3 and today, respectively. 

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22. Are you seeking security or adventure?
A bit of both as I plan my trip to South Africa, which is on the Top Ten list of crime countries, with Justin and Wendy. 

23. Do you need a break? From what?
I actually need to get to blogging about Georgia before I go to South Africa, but I should have time to write about both before my trip to the States in April. 

24. If you were going to start your own company, what would it be?
I’m actually becoming a hidden partner in Designed by Snow which creates candles, soaps, serums, and other relaxing bath-inspired products. 

25. What makes “you” you?
My ability to seem to connect with people only to never really keep in touch with them. 

26. Today you needed more…
I slept till 2pm after going to bed early because I’m dealing with being sick while I should be packing for my trip to South Africa in two days. 

27. Which art movement best describes you today?
Realism, as the reality of my trip to South Africa settles in and I leave jewelry and electronics behind. 

28. How do you describe home?
Wherever I happen to be sleeping at the moment, but more so where I can be myself. 

29. What was the last TV show you watched?
“The Story of God with Morgan Freeman: Heaven and Hell” on the flight to South Africa.

30. What do you want to forget?
The little unhappy moments of this trip.

31. Who do you want to be?
Exactly who I am, regardless of how others treat me. 

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Shadows, Statues, Splashes

This morning started out with a treat. I was making my way out of the hotel as I normally would until I noticed the old guy, in all black, next to a space heater, with his shoes off, passed out between the Christmas tree and the door. Perhaps he’s the live version of Ask Jeeves (founded in 1996 and shortened to ask.com in 2006) but I left him in his sedated seat to his admirable dreams and stepped outside to a black sky illuminated on the ground by blue, white, and gold lights.

I turned right and this guy put his arms up to form an X across his chest to signal that I was going the wrong way on a one-way road. The white Christmas stars faded to yellow street lights as I drove west. As the sky began to brighten I noticed how wet the road still was and that the few cars were on there way to work. I saw some men in construction-orange coats and wanted to join them in standing on the church corner discussing weather, traffic patterns, homemade wine, etc.

I arrived in Poti and figured the direction the sea was straight forward but my first attempt led me into port territory and my lost driving delivered me to a wealthier cemetery. It’s a good thing there are more pedestrians than drivers as I slowly maneuver the car around potholes, like witches’ cauldrons of deep gravel soup, something children would make for their siblings to try. I have a friend from high school who still lives at the end of a street like these, but the holes of destruction are shallow and of the countable variety.

In the lighthouse parking lot is a playground, one that looks like the zombie apocalypse wiped out all the kids in mid-play on the plastic jungle gym and other makeshift entertainment ideas. I believe this belongs to the ‘Monastery named after the Iberin Holy Mother icon.’ Next to that looks like a homeless dog shelter built from a broken desk covered in pieces of concrete wall and a tarp. I’m in no rush to get inside when I can hear the seagulls fishing and the white capped waves; which based on the Beaufort Wind Scale, developed in 1805, suggests the gentle breeze is traveling at 7-10 knots.

All this weather is enticing me closer to the jumping water and cluster of clouds. I’m always more eager, when I travel, to experience the elements of nature vs feeling cold in a manmade space, as if both aren’t events to be appreciated for what they are and what those moments fully contain. With this aura of appreciation around me, I walk up to the lighthouse, the oldest navigational facility on the Black Sea Coast of Georgia, having been complete by British engineers on the River Rioni in 1864.

The red and white striped building is now run by the State Hydrographic Service and consists of 128 tons of cast iron to include 160 steps for a 36 meter climb that gives the light a range of 17 nautical miles. An older man came from one of the surrounding buildings to unlock the lighthouse, just for me, and though he climbed to the top to ensure I saw the expansive view, I was left to interpret the artifacts by myself — some in Georgian and English and others in Georgian and Russian.

Kobuleti Nature Reserve

I enjoyed his quiet company and the feeling of not being rushed, but left to appreciate a modern working piece of history and taking as many photos as I wanted without waiting on others (selfish me leaking out as I’m used to public buildings with a spiral staircase being full of bodies). I wonder if they keep track of visitors and if the man enjoyed the break from whatever he’d been doing before my arrival. He locks up behind me and I’m on my way.

Stopped at a market for a bag of a baked variety and noticed that the street lights, both red and green, have countdowns so there’s no confusion as to how much time you have left. I appreciate Georgia loving their drivers enough to help reduce traffic incidents, especially when there’s some form of water on their roads for a majority of the year. I also learn that the police cars will turn off their lights for speed traps as they drive around with them constantly on.

view from Castle of Kajeti

I pass the Poti St. Virgin Cathedral in the middle of a large roundabout in the center of town that reminds me of the Hagia Sophia, mostly just the windows contrasting under the shiny dome. I park in front of the gate to Kolkheti National Park and let myself into the courtyard. The sign tells me that the lowlands have been inhabited for 15,000 years. The park was established in 1835 and internationally recognized in 1996 to protect the flora and fauna of some 43,000 hectares (106,200+ acres).

There’s a mention of the Greeks building a village that connects the area with the mythology of the Golden Fleece, a story of gods, jealousy, and ram sex (Jason and the Argonauts) which is believed to come from using wool to mine for gold and then hanging the stretched hides to dry before shaking or combing them out. It’s said that the winged ram, god of war and one of the Twelve Olympians, became the constellation Aries, which is a porpoise in the Marshall Islands and twin inspectors in China.

I feel like I’m entering a hotel but once inside I notice the large wall covered in pictures, jars, and cases of creatures with fins, fur, and feathers that resembles a museum. I’m told from here I would usually be taken on a two-hour boat tour of the Paliastomi Lake to include a picnic near a giant bird-watching tower but the rain has changed those plans. I’m given a brochure in Georgian that shows a speedboat and a kayak and told to call when I’m able to come back.

The next national park, Kobuleti Nature Reserve, shall meet a similar fate. I drove to the entrance without knowing it (because it’s hidden behind a residential area, like driving into someone’s backyard) and had driven back to the street where I saw the arrow pointing to the park, so I reversed until I noticed the sign over the mud pit. I drove towards it, but with all the rain these wetlands seemed too treacherous and precious to explore and destroy with my curiosity.

Batumi Botanical Gardens

I had added this place to my itinerary for the white sphagnum moss (that’s great for orchids and bonsai plants for its water retention abilities — holding 16 to 26 times their dry weight in water) and the Caspian turtle (striped-neck terrapin that lives around the Black Sea, Meditteranean Sea, and the Persian Gulf) and marsh terrapin (African helmeted turtle that is known to hibernate in drought and very cold conditions) that were to be seen from a suspended bridge.

The GPS system I’m using seems to have been tested by a crow or someone who drives these curvy roads by skipping some of the turns and definitely not stopping to look at anything. I can’t fault the street scientists though as they gave me the data to do the research and realize I’d need more time as a traveler and double that in weather conditions that make driving either more fun or more dangerous depending on your personality type; and definitely more engaging.

I get to Petra Fortress (its Byzantine name; Castle of Kajeti, Georgian name) in Tsikhisdziri to find a deserted and seemingly modern forgotten castle in the midst of construction to perhaps cover the muddy pathways to encourage tourists to visit without feeling like they’re destroying history with their feet. It was precisely the precarious wall-walks (more like a wraparound balcony on the southeast sides) in a Secret Garden setting that encouraged me to find the entrance five floors up.

The salty wind and summer rains have aged this beauty and if I could look this good after being built in 535 then I would drink from the fountain of youth or be made by the Greeks to withstand the history these stones have endured, especially with their view of the beach below. I see the sky falling in the distance and leave the castle. I pass a roadside bench next to a hammock then some closed farm stands before stopping to admire the Chakviststali River and the seemingly homemade suspended bridges.

I’m grateful for the handrail as I walk on planks that remind me of a giant Jenga game, a five-piece puzzle for toddlers, or someone not fortunate enough to afford a dentist. I figured if a grandfather trusted the workmanship with his granddaughter in-hand than I should be up for the experience on more than one of these water crossings, whether over a serene or white-water portion, I was kept dry. I park near what looks like the entrance to Batumi Botanical Gardens and think I’ll wait for the rain to lessen.

I get out of the car and watch the short train go by. The security guard comes out of his station to walk me to the ticket booth. I’m not sure what I was thinking, but I went along with him, past the guy who offered me juice from his cafe, until I realized I’d left my purse in the car and I’d need that to pay the 15 lari entrance fee to see the park that covers one square kilometer. This place used to be called Green Cape in 1892 and has collected some 1800 plants, of which 90 are of Caucasian origin.

I’m told when I purchase my ticket, with my camera under my jacket, that the bus is a 300 meters walk, but that’s where the other woman sits to collect more money for a one-way ride. I didn’t want to be soaking wet but I also didn’t want to pay 5 lari for a handful of nuts (pecans in-shell), a hand on my knee, and an offer for a free ride back outside of the park in the driver’s friends’ Mercedes. I’d had to turn around on my walk to catch the eight-passenger covered golf-cart.

I thought the bus made four stops but this one only made two and luckily the heavy rain has gone for now and I can enjoy the walk back amongst wet green trees and their soaked brown leaves. Perhaps going to a garden, when most plants are in their sleep phase is like going to a museum that’s under construction — there’s still stuff to see but it’s probably not what you came for. I’m ok with that. I don’t need to travel to places only when flowers are in bloom and crowds are in masses. I get my creativity from experience but I’m better able to express it in solitude.

The “Oregon Ravine” may have representatives of Blue spruce, Coast redwood, cypress, and juniper trees but it doesn’t have the same familiar breeze. The nice part about Japanese and New Zealand gardens in the States is that I haven’t been to their local counterparts for comparison. Having these trees out of place is like seeing a polar bear in San Diego or a Moai, the heads of Easter Island, in a London museum; though I appreciate their ability to inspire people to learn, to travel, and to care about parts of the world they may never see and give them a sense of home overseas.

Normally, I’d be more exploratory but I seem to be the only one in the park, so if I forget how to walk or where I’m going, I could be lost when the next downpour comes. These gardens had a lot of work put into their layout and the use of sticks and stones to add to the peacefulness that nature seems to demand of man, unless he’s in the wild like the plants and animals that are in a constant mode of fight, flight, or freeze. Amongst the floral and beach views is a sticker that stands out. If you like cats, tattoos, and murals you can check out Sakvo @skvgknrs.

My socks are wet. I will need to change them at the car… maybe back into the old pair… shit. I book a room at Hotel N 16, for 60 lari, with breakfast and it’s only a block from the water. Batumi is beautiful, even through the rain. I find some parking nearby and pass by the piazza and St. Nicolas Church before I check-in and pick up my room key. I stop at Restaurant Classic on the corner as they advertise Georgian food on their a-frame sign, so I get my favorite eggplant with walnuts and try the mushroom chashushuli that comes steaming in a cast-iron dish with onions.

With a renewed energy source, I’ll be able to enjoy the seaside attractions without my hunger being a distraction as I want to make the most of this momentary dry before the sun sets. The port is a magical place — a mix of people walking and ducks swimming, boats floating and birds flying, houses sitting and snow falling, skyscrapers reaching and wind blowing, and clouds gathering and art showing. I make my way to the Ali and Nino statue based on the love story in the 1937 novel of the same name that inspired the 2016 film about an Azerbaijani man and a Georgian woman in a time of war.

It starts to sprinkle again so I walk back to the hotel to drop off my purse and camera and borrow a hotel umbrella (if I’d have known about them sooner) and pick up my bag from the car. I finally take off my wet socks and elevate my tired feet for a bit before putting them in a steamy shower. I unwind by trying to photograph the tiniest moth creature on the glass wall in the bathroom and looking at my route for tomorrow.

I’m woken at midnight to the sound of fireworks as Georgia celebrates their Old New Year as the Orthodox Church still uses the Julian calendar. When the clock strikes the citizens are allowed to bite into a gozinaki — caramelized walnuts, fried in boiled honey, sometimes with pepper and vinegar, and cut into a rhombus shape. There’s also basila, a human-shaped cake named after the Christian saint Basil, that comes from a pagan cult in eastern Georgia to bring fertility into the new year.

The New Years day on January 1st is extended into Bedoba, “a day of luck”, where it’s believed that what happens on this day will set the trend for the year, so it’s feasting and cheer for everyone here. Then there’s Christmas on the 7th with a street parade, Alilo, in costumes and lots of carol singing and special khachapuri eating. Their Christmas tree is made from shaved hazelnut branches, decorated with dried fruits and flowers and burned after the holidays to keep the misfortunes of last year in the past. Tonight would’ve been great for couchsurfing or a family adoption, but then I’d have missed the view from my balcony of a cloudy moon and yellow-lit street.

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