Missing Museo Mercado

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our street for the week

Breakfast will include a walk to a taco cart for some street meat, but not the one on the corner at the end of our street. We continue walking until I find a cart with eggs and all his tacos come with rice. The couple is very friendly and the wife offers us fresh juice as well, but then we will have no free hand to eat with as we make a circle around the block back to the house to get the car while we eat this delicious meal.

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desayuno = dos tacos

The schedule was thrown off by the weather and though the shop is closed on Saturday they have offered to set us up with some of their guys in Playa del Carmen, so today will be for exploring the Zona Hotelera… or so we think. Caleb wanted to start with the mall, but they don’t open till 9am and I don’t want to pay for an hour of walking around when we can do that for free. I park the car near an area that looks like the service entrance to hotels with a minimum cost of $270/night (some more than $500) so that we can visit the free beach nearby, Playa Marlin.

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Firefighters Rescue

“Oh look at the view, it’s so pretty!” and then the diveshop calls us at 8:30 and asks if we’re available to dive, “Of course we are!” Now we’re wishing we had the dive gear in the car to save the extra 14 km it’s going to take us to drive north, do a snatch and run (forget my dive watch), and get there 20 minutes after 9am to meet Ulises who will be our private guide today to Punta Negra reef and Grampin Tunnel. Miguel would be our driver to deliver us over high waves, at least enough bumping around that I asked Caleb how his neck was doing.

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Playa Marlin

We were both just so excited to be diving again after a nine month hiatus and eager to get in the water and below the waves. I’m slow to equalize with my thick wetsuit so dry and I try to put chin to chest to get down, but it’s not fast enough before we miss the dive site and have to reboard the boat to add weight and return to the drop spot. The dive is amazing and even though visibility is only about 20ft we manage to spot a large eel and two camouflage rockfish.

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How many fish do you see?

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Ulises, our Coconut Divers guide

We surface, wait for the boat, and as I’m removing my fins at the ladder I suddenly feel 16lbs lighter. I climb up and tell Ulises who is quick to look in the water, but it is too late, and he says we can look for my weight belt on the next dive or let the shop know that I owe them money. We change tanks, drink some water, and after a 34 minute surface interval are back under the water for another 50ft dive. This time we will see a nurse shark, more eels, and a crab.

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How long do you think he is?

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I prefer my crabs under sea and on sand

We swim through some reef arches and then over my weight belt that I attempt to pick up. Now I know why we’re taught to use our hips for placement, but Ulises is quick to take the burden and return a smile along with the ok symbol, so I don’t have to pay for that. We’re back to the room at one to wash the salt off, eat the sandwiches we bought for yesterday’s lunch, and try the pink bottle of tequila (Bailey’s) that we found. Refreshed and re-energized we’re ready to set out again.

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hello sharkie

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a very blue swim through

I park in a spot marked for some business customers only so that we can walk to what’s left of the building next to them and take pictures, but as I contemplate how long the car will last and start to reverse, there is the guard with an of-course-I’m-here look on his face. I smile and make my way back into traffic to drive us to the Interactive Aquarium so we can see the same fishes but in a much smaller sea (like a prison or rehab cell). There’s plenty of ticket options available to include petting dolphins and riding the Ferris wheel, but we stick with basic entrance for $15 each.

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La Isla Shopping Village

There’s about five fish tanks inside and the rays outside next to the lone crocodile tank and then it’s up the stairs and across the walkway that goes over the dolphin pool to the other side with a trek in the tank experience and the gift shop. We stop for a few minutes to watch people pet dolphins ($159pp) and get pushed through the pool by their feet — a ride that costs $109 per person. We leave here to give ourselves at least two hours at the Museo Maya de Cancún y Zona Arqueologica de San Miguelito.

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cutest person at the aquarium

We turn left in front of the sign and ask for directions (turn left meant leave this hotel and go up the road to u-turn for the museum parking lot), but we didn’t understand that at the time, so we used the dirt lot that was available in front of the Omni. Tickets are about $3.50 and we start by going up the large spiral ramp that seems to gain heat and humidity with elevation. My body is thrilled to be in the air conditioning and my mind to be among artifacts that are over 2,000 years old.

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temperature controlled

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happy teeth

The Mayan side of the museum focuses on faces and pottery with descriptions in Spanish and the Canadian exhibit on everything snow from the Thule Inuits of 1350 to horses’ shoes of 1930, with translations in Spanish, French, and English. We exit there after my vocabulary of corn and world (maize and mundo) fail to fully explain why these pieces are here. Outside it’s time to go down the spiral ramp and under the exhibit above to admire the large art animal combos and plants grown in a circle.

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Museo Maya de Cancún

At the end of this is a guard, who after letting some girls move the barrier rope a foot out of their way for selfies, points us to the trail through the forest. I try to see the birds making noises with their mouths and feet, but what I have no problem spotting is all the iguanas. I wouldn’t mind having some crawling on rock ledges of my place (that I would build immediately) and bobbing their heads, which is cute and I’m sure intimidating to smaller species and the other males.

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there’s an iguana

The Mayans chose a timeless rock as the ones that line the path look the same age as the ruins that have withstood abandonment, hurricane seasons, and Spaniards. The trail loops around and we pass a few people before we’re directed up the zig-zag ramp (the one that takes us to the exhibit we’ve already seen), but lucky for us there are two elevators and we take the lazy way down as we’re ready for the water we left in the car.

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Zona Arqueologica de San Miguelito

Caleb is feeling sleepy but we take a trip to Wal-Mart to ensure an early breakfast of overnight oats from their fruit bar. Any food left in a pan near people with skin, hair, and spit is liable to be a risky meal, especially here with the little boy sticking his hand into the hot bar/dessert area to grab a bite while his mom isn’t looking. I fill the cup, the deli lady puts a lid on it, then we pay at the register. Interesting fact: they sell their bread already toasted in packaged loaves.

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“We’re off to get the tacos, the wonderful tacos of…”

We put groceries away and walk to Tacos de Yaxchilan (a taco cart) behind La Taberna (as recommended in our Airbnb guest book) for two pollo tacos, Caleb gets his with queso, and they come with spare tortillas that double for sauce stability or to catch the fallen ingredients. Caleb is refreshed and ready to try some nightlife. There are three places closest to the house, so we have a look at all of them. One has a line — no, one is empty — also no, so we choose the bar built of wood, metal, and bricks that’s all patio.

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music, nature, kids… some of my favorite things

We’re sitting at Las Frias (The Cold) while he updates Instagram and I take notes with sports on the projector. We finish this and head to the room to prep for our morning dives. We walk past and turn off the lights to the mess of beer and food in the living room and kitchen. We hear Finn and his friends through the door drinking and laughing through the night. Staying at a hostel, for the same price, would’ve ensured more quiet after 10pm, and not having to walk around with shoes on because of the sticky floor.

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“Reading frees the mind and art expresses it.”

Posted in Animals, Art, Food, GoPro, History, Music, Plants, Travel, Water | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Cenote Not in Cancun

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view from room 627

I didn’t turn off my alarms, but the lightning flashes woke me up before they had a chance. I lay in bed thinking about how the morning would go… breakfast of divorciados (something with eggs) and possibly a quesadilla before diving our first cenote (pronounced sɛˈnt). Here’s what actually happened… We went downstairs at 7:30 and don’t bother with the menu when we see the buffet set out. A waiter asks for our room number, we fill our plates, and sit down.

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solo para buceo (only for diving)

We go back to the room to wait a bit longer for the dive shop to open and there’s a knock at the door, “Sir, you no pay your bill.” Umm, well, we thought it was going to be charged to the room, but you can take my credit card with you and figure it out. Just as Caleb began to wonder where he was they met at the elevator and we learn that breakfast cost more than our one night here, but remember we got a discount. Then the diveshop calls to tell us we’re 15 minutes late.

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first entrance

Caleb thought she said 8:30, but she got there at 8am, and the guy going with us was already there too. Luckily we’re only 600 meters away from Coconut Divers in the torrential downpour that is outside. Our destination is inland and under rocks so it’s not affected by the weather. We pile into a taxi with Pedro behind the wheel, our guide Leif in the passenger seat, Caleb between me and a Croatian who speaks German with the guide, and our gear piled up to the back of the seat — an efficient use of space.

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steps into Chac Mool

The Chac Mool Cenote is a 1.5hr drive south and we splash through the ponds on the street and almost miss our right turn. On the way we learned all about cenotes — stick together with flashlights on so you don’t get lost and die, it’s a Mayan word for cup of water (made in the Ice Ages), and that we’d go from diving in fresh rainwater to salty ocean water (a halocline of blurry water due to science, not being drunk).

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me on the right, Caleb’s light bottom right, photo credit: Triton Productions

I asked about the guys in the tall huts along the route — they have to make sure new tents/lean-tos/huts aren’t built on the owner’s land so that when the current tenants leave/die they can sell/develop the land.

The ride was full of laughs. Leif checks in with the owner, napping in his hammock, at the gate and then we park among the trucks. We’re told we can either take pictures or live, but there’s a sign forbidding dying, so there will be a photographer in the water and we can decide later if we want some with us in them or to buy his basic package for cheaper. We take a look at the two entrance points, and start to prep, as third dives are forbidden — possibly to manage traffic between the thousands of cenotes in the Yucatán.

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we’re on the right, photo credit: Triton Productions

I wear my 7mm wetsuit and 5mm boots and make the lengthy walk (of the two) and then use the handrail to go down the stairs and into the 77°F water to put my fins on. We’re down 42min (bringing me to 24hrs total bottom time) with Caleb in the back as we stay in a line. We are authorized to cavern dive, meaning we have to see natural light at all times. There are safety lines but they don’t come with arrows or the voice from Google Maps and signs clearly marking the entrances to caves.

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following the permanent guideline

I feel like my buoyancy is great (even with 16lbs of weight), but I try clearing my goggles (my least favorite part of diving) and rise to the cavern top and continue the dive with water touching my nose. It’s best to leave a little bit of water around the eyes too, so you can swirl it around to clear the fog instead of having to let in water, swim blindly or stop in sand, and then blow your nose. I don’t know how this works, but it’s better to see under the sea than to swim in a haze.

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swimming through the halocline, photo credit: Triton Productions

I’m swimming along with big rocks below, green algae above, and yellow fins in front of me when part of the mouthpiece from the second stage of my regulator (primary breathing hose) comes off and in a split second decision (choke, just breath, or litter) I chose to spit it out. We go through the halocline and visibility turns to blurs as the guy in front of me turns around to make sure he’s not the only one. I let him know it’s ok and if he keeps swimming it will be over soon.

In another area it appears we’re looking at water and it’s reflection off the rocks from above, as you would do at a lake, but from 20 feet below the surface. We get out, walk past the taxi, and then wonder where Pedro got off to as he walks up and tells us that he parked closer for us. We switch tanks and struggle to pull our wetsuits back up as the Croatian was ready to change for lunch (he was promised a burrito and beers) before we take the stairs down to enter at Little Brother.

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post dive lunch

This dive is fantastic. I’m behind Leif and used to the freshwater by now (way easier on the face). I’m using my octopus (secondary breathing hose) as my primary. There are so many stalagmites and stalactites and cave bacon that took thousands of years to develop in rooms not flooded with water. There’s also signs of early tourists who took samples with them, but unless we drain these cenotes with buckets and wait a millennium for the next three inches of growth, these are irreplaceable and incredible.

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parada de baño (bathroom stop)

We swim into the Air Dome, a room where we can come to the surface of the water and talk about all the plant roots we see as they appear as thick as trees. This is definitely going on the top-five list of most memorable dives. From there, it’s another 15 minutes to reach the stairs. I get to the table and realize as I take my gear off that I’ve torn a chunk out of the pad of my pinky finger. Leif asks one of the guys in the restaurant/photo booth/first aid station to assist me. I’m given an excessive amount of iodine and a band-aid to soak it up.

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casa de Airbnb

We are served a chicken burrito as part of our dive package and charged $30 MXN per Dos Equis for lunch. When the group in front of us is done oohing and ahhing at the laptop screen it is our turn to preview the pictures and we are given the option to split the pic/video charge of $60 USD, so that we only pay $40 for footage of our first dive as the photographer isn’t allowed in the second.

Pedro packs our gear and we grab the wetsuits hanging from lines in the trees before I sit in the middle this time — it makes sense to have the smaller person in the middle (though I will deny this fact as a child or when given the option for a window seat on a plane). We make a beer stop and Caleb offers up the $150 pesos for an 8-pk of Victoria with “ni clara, ni oscura, mestiza” meaning ‘neither clear, nor dark, but mixed’ written on the label.

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obligatory tourist picture, one of three sculptures that we saw

The Croatian was going to buy the next round, and even though the beers are only 4% ABV, he did the responsible thing and bought us a local snack mix of Paketaxo Botanero (Cheetos, Churrumais, Crujitos, and Sabritones) to share instead. We get back to the Coconut Divers shop at 5pm, get signatures and stamps, and as we walk away Caleb remembers that he forgot to tip the guide. Oh well, we’ll be diving with the same company all week.

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el Angel Panadería vía coche (bakery via car)

We find our first successful Airbnb rental, no problem, and actually go the right way down the one-way by missing the first turn. The front door has two locks (one keypad and one key) and we have to unlock the box on the wall to get the keys, the other one will unlock our room. I walked in and then stepped back to admire the cute place we would call home for the week. There’s bananas on the futon, all the lights are on, and we place our bags down to set out on foot in search of cheap food.

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street art

We walked through Mercado 28 and I found a dirty looking booth that I was about to approach when this old guy led us under a tent to Margely for 80 peso meals and then walked off after offering me a free margarita (which probably would’ve been crap too). A woman near us was vomiting into a bucket and the tacos were disappointing. I left them the change so we could get back to the room just before the sun disappears.

The other room is being used by a shirtless guy named Finn (introduction via message from hostess) who will take a 30 minute shower upon our arrival while Caleb attempts to sleep with his clothes and glasses on. I will pretend to read my book, post my daily Instagram picture, and then join him in slumberland.

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Really In the Real Inn

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a piece of airport art

We had a nice Uber driver keep us busy with conversation on the way to the airport where we would walk around for at least an hour — better to arrive early and buy yogurt, hummus with pretzels, and a salad from CA Pizza Kitchen for the flight than arrive late and not get an awesome plane neighbor from Ohio. The seat across from us was temporarily out of service and the guys put in headphones as I pulled out a book, Hospital, to fill the two hours between San Diego and Houston.

Midway through the Houston to Cancún flight I look over to witness a “crime” and try to describe it via hand signals. The man is holding his infant son with his older son in the middle seat who had grabbed the sleeping wife’s phone and dropped it on the floor. Caleb told me to use my words as I assumed everyone was in a headphones–boring book–sleep haze such as I was. I had missed the window seat assignment again because Caleb “needs” the aisle and the guy didn’t even have the blind up.

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inside Cancún International Airport

The airport is empty as we claim our checked bag full of dive gear. We get out to the rental car and vacation booths area and Caleb obliges a guy by listening to his spiel before we step outside to wait for the shuttle that will take us to the rental company, just 6 km away, in the rain. There is a deaf couple writing notes between them and one of the employees, and I watch, intrigued with the exchange of languages between signing, written English, and spoken Spanish.

We’re able to get an automatic transmission like we requested when making the reservation and sign on the line for the mandatory daily insurance, which is three times the total of the weekly rental fee (good thing prices are cheap). We hop in the white 2012 Nissan March and I’m adjusting the mirrors and radio station to drive away before we’ve even done an inspection, just a chip of paint on the front bumper, and we’re off into the darkness that the storm has brought at 6pm.

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outside Cancún International Airport

I’m driving 40km/h (just 25mph) in a 70km/h (43.5mph, average speed in the area) zone and so much is going on mentally. I love traveling internationally! There’s lane markings on the road, but we follow the car ahead of us (which unknowingly keeps us out of potholes and flood zones that would sink the car) as they weave a beautiful pattern of safety and light usage, both blinkers and hazards as needed. The easiest, and most American, stop for us on the way to our hotel… Wal-Mart.

I think it ironic that Americans complain about the Mexicans that shop at Wal-Mart and its our first stop to grab diving lunch for tomorrow and bottled water to eliminate the possibility of getting sick. Caleb thought I would have to translate for him, but most everything is bilingual, and they sell food in unwrapped bulk (which I totally nerd out on). Mexicans go to Wal-Mart expecting the same quality and get our watered-down and supersized version. I see the appeal of checking out the familiar in a foreign location.

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lighted Jacuzzi at Real Inn

We pull up to the Real Inn, a 3-star hotel with rooms at $80/night that we got for $13. We’ll be spending the rest of the trip at an Airbnb (our first after the one in London cancelled and the Kuwait guy offered me every date but the ones I asked for). The hotels check-in system is down, so we leave the car and sit down at the outdoor restaurant on the water to watch the lightning and order a delicious salad (kale and green apples, etc.) and yummy tacos based on the words – queso, huevo, frijoles, and guacamole.

I go back inside and Humberto is ready to assign me room 627 with a view of the ocean on the other side of the road. We are in the Zona Hotelera on the stretch of land between the Gulf of Mexico and the Nichupte Lagoon. I pull the car from the front of the hotel, where it’s been for at least half an hour and make two u-turns and reverse a bit to park in one of the ten available spots (that I can find). Not much parking in this area as the locals (who walk or take the bus) rely on the tourists getting taxis to their all-inclusive resorts.

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lightning in the lagoon

Caleb brings the bags to the room while I finish dinner so we can both enjoy the rainlocker shower before bed. It’s looking at the room service menu where I will learn of the other ingredients in dinner — cactus paddle in the tacos; and spinach, green beans, local chicken, cranberry, walnut, Manchego cheese from Spaniard sheep, and a hard-boiled egg with French vinaigrette and agave on the salad; the only other options being tuna or caesar.

I will stay up a bit longer to read more about the Yucatán Peninsula’s white-sand beaches, Mayan ruins, cenotes (collapsed limestone that creates a sinkhole), and a magical place for 1 to 14 year-olds called KidZania where the kids entry fee is more than the adults because they’re the ones role-playing in a city replica complete with over one hundred career options.

Have you ever postponed a trip due to a storm only to arrive into one?

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No More Grandma’s House

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driving east

My grandmother, my dad’s mom, had a stroke in October and has been decreasing in life energy since (the will to live). I have been absorbed with school, my internship, my broken toe, and the rest of my life (emphasis on the selfish) to the point where there was significant distance between the relationship I have with my dad; which is usually super close.

I told my dad I would see him for New Years and those plans fell through and we left it at that until a couple of days ago when I said I would make it out for spring break; at least a few days. My supervisor tried to surprise me with data entry during my time off, but I left dirty dishes and smelly laundry behind to drive to Phoenix to see the only parent I have left and some of the only people on this planet that are still family.

I was busy with IHRSA on Friday.

I packed quickly on Saturday leaving the house a mess. I took the loan car since the dealership hadn’t called on the 20th like they said they would because the replacement engine they ordered was garbage and they are replacing that one too. We, the dogs and I, stop in Yuma for our obligatory walk at the Riverside Park where they have now built a mini railroad attraction, so we don’t stay long.

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sangak taco

I arrive in the afternoon and my dad hugged me, fed me, and talked mostly at me for hours before Caroline joined us for dinner at Saffron Jak where I had my first sangak taco and got a sample of the lentil soup for us all to try; delicious by the way. We had coffee at home, tried some snacks from their travels, and Caroline and I stayed up past my bedtime talking while my dad learned more in Blender and my husband fell asleep on a coworkers couch playing video games.

I woke up feeling rough but appreciative this morning. I put some water on my face and walked the dogs at 8:30. Sunday is the traditional breakfast at Wagon Yard, but with a different server and some naughty jokes to accompany my two eggs over medium with tomato slices, wheat toast, and a cup of cottage cheese. Sometimes I have strawberry jam with butter if I didn’t use all the toast with my eggs.

Lunch was late at Hek Yeah BBQ after which I took a 40 minute nap full of broccoli and mac-n-cheese, and appreciated the feeling of being on vacation. Caroline and I walked to the store for eggs, maple almond butter, cherry Icelandic yogurt, broccoli, a lemon, and some pork chops to get us fed around the concert (Sahba Motallebi at the MIM) and ensure breakfast for the week.

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Grandma’s last sunset

We tried the almond butter on Triscuits and sourdough rye and left the house at 6:30 after I wished Caleb good night. Before I came to visit I was warned that my grandmother had two weeks to live as her condition had been declining and she had been put into hospice. Saturday I was told she had about two days left because she hadn’t had any water in three days.

We went to the concert and I focused on a million things — the tiny fingers of the percussionist, having my picture taken near the stage after my first concert at the MIM (also on March 25, but in 2011), all the instruments in the museum, the flash photography in the audience, the woman sleeping beside me and then chewing gum like she was chewing through her tongue to stay awake, the personal closeness of the moment with the artist as she shared pieces written after the birth of her second daughter and at 16-year-old fighting for women musicians.

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Sahba Motallebi and Naghmeh Farahmand

We get home to smoked salmon and pickled asparagus and then the call comes in from my Aunt Shari that my grandma has passed at 9:30pm on March 25, or a bit prior to. I am overcome with emotion (the hyperventilating type) and am quickly comforted by a blanket, slippers, and hug from Caroline and some words of cheer from Dad. I don’t think I finished my pink tea.

Monday can best be described as having the flu (feeling terrible and unmotivated). I had brought my perishable items (tomatoes, kiwis, etc.) with me and added them to yellow dal and kala chana for lunch, and yogurt with walnuts for breakfast. We went for coffee, I had toast, and walked the dogs in an attempt to stay awake and still took a nap. I made dinner — steamed broccoli with pan-fried zucchini, jalapeño, onion, bell pepper, carrots, and mushrooms. Dessert was almonds and a chocolate biscuit cookie.

Besides all the eating I was able to get some reading done, a conversation with Dad, and picking out patterns for hand-weaved coasters with Caroline till bedtime. Not only was she not taking bereavement time off, but we were dropping her off early so that father and daughter could take a road trip — Superior, Globe, Show Low, through Payson (where grandma had her stroke at her fifth wheel camper, and back to Phoenix for my second dinner at Saffron Jak.

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Sparky nap

We met Kathy in Superior and talked about everything past (movie history of U-Turn filmed in 1996), present (she practices the bagpipes every morning), and future (the electric mine and refurbishing of Main Street). We spent 30 minutes in La Luz Del Dia, and the waitress gave us a history lesson as she led us out the back door, waiting for Ed’s La Casita East to open for lunch. On our way out the waitress gave us a history lesson and led us out the back door.

Sparky slept in my lap on the way to Seneca Lake Campground, now abandoned, and we might’ve stayed longer if not for the other car there too — and lack of a pillow and food. We stopped at Salt River Canyon, with one bridge for people and one for cars, but we only took the stairs down to see the fallen sign, the swirling water, and the graffiti underneath. We stopped up the road as well for the scenic viewpoint and had more fun getting a picture of me.

I called Caleb from The Pour Station in Show Low between sips of chai latte while Dad was writing; this trip being a bit of a throwback to the trip book we wrote in 2011. We drove quickly through Payson and back to Saffron Jak where I would have half a piece of sangak (3′ x 1′) to myself to accompany the hummus and lentil soup, both with a touch of citrus. I tried some Stubborn Soda, a mix of their black cherry with tarragon and agave vanilla cream, and though the sugar may be natural there’s still 16 g & 18 g per 8 oz.

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If that wasn’t enough food and sweet already, I was treated to a piece of baklava, luckily only the size of my thumb. I spent 30 minutes walking with Caleb on the phone, went for a short run, and then stood outside with the guys (Dad knows more of his neighbors now) for 45 minutes; and held Sparky after he came down the stairs, went back up, and then fell down them when he still heard my voice.

My idea of relaxing, sipping on a Morning Meditation (mostly beets) and chewing the ice from First Watch while we wait for Dad’s office to open (that way someone else with a key is also locking up). While he goes for coffee, I go into Hypatia to see what new museums and learning tools have been built since I’ve been gone. I’m only in there for about 35 minutes, but it plays a trick on your brain to stand still while it appears that you’re skipping through double doors to go shopping for different hands.

I pick up three books off Dad’s work bookshelf and he decides they are coming home with him, and staying there. At least I know I’ll have reading material when I return if I don’t bring my own (though I did this time and didn’t read but a page). He picks me up and we drive to Old Heidelberg Bakery to get Caroline more rye bread, the last two sausage that he likes, and a giant chocolate-dipped macaroon for me. I have broccoli and walnuts at the house to complete my lunch.

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Piggy nap

More walking, more reading, and then Dad catches a Giant Swallowtail butterfly. We go to Starbucks for a pre-dinner drink, where I would’ve dried the blonde espresso but they were out so I settled for a shot with some almond milk, and some collaboration. Caroline walks over from her office and we drive to Oregano’s to eat with my aunts, Amanda and Shari, and Amanda’s husband of two years in April, Brandon.

We’re seated at 7:30, share a Guaca-Tony (pizza crust and guacamole), and I eat half a vino bambino salad so that I can help with the garlic and caramelized cheese pizza, the last uneaten square being taken away at 10pm when they close. We would leave shortly after and wouldn’t be the last. We missed having Caleb and Shawn (Shari’s son, my cousin) with his family (his wife Brittany and daughters Penny and Harper, 7 and 5), but hopefully that’s another trip.

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We get home late and I stay up even later to finish the book I was lent. Sparky has been restless in his temporary bedding situation, but tonight I will be the one jumping around and using my phone flashlight to check for blood on the pillow after I wake from a dream, with a bloody nose, about someone dying. My last day in Phoenix arrives and I try the matcha latte pancakes from First Watch. Amanda is able to join us and I will give hugs, grab my things and dogs, and head west by 10:30.

It’s 92* when we drive through Yuma, so no puppy play only gas in the car before the price hike over the state line. I take the Palm Ave. exit, less than two miles from the house, and a car tries to hit me (getting closer as I honked), but it turned out ok.

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driving west

I’ve written three drafts trying to figure out this week — the concert, food, driving, family, death; and the details of our conversations (what made me laugh, what kept me up at night, and what was left unsaid), all the missed photo opportunities because I forgot my camera, and whether or not I should’ve stayed longer to build relationships that my grandma helped to hold together over the years.

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IHRSA 2018

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some sexy swag

IHRSA stands for International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association. My professor told the class about it a couple of weeks ago and I only know one other student that planned on going for work; I went for the swag, sweat, and socializing.

Let’s back up the day a bit first… I was sleeping peacefully when in the middle of the night I was attacked by a little blind dog inviting himself to bed, then I had to pee, then I had a dream about being in a cafe falling off a cliff, then my alarm went off and I wondered where my sleep had gone; especially since I went to bed at least 30 minutes past my usual bed time.

I was thinking about what weights I would lift so my tired ass wouldn’t have to run, such as single-arm rows and overhead press, but when I got to the gym I got distracted by conversation and invited to a BBQ on Saturday (and later invited up to Monterey — there Sunday and back Monday via text) and to the treadmill I went and still improved my 5k runtime. I’m down to 29:14.

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sounds vibration machine

I left happy and sweaty, took a quick shower and grabbed my green drink (spinach, banana, cauliflower, Meyer lemon, hemp and chia seeds, pine nuts, almond milk, some leftover coffee, and protein powder). I drank half on the way to school, read for 15 minutes in the car, and finished the rest before class started.

We went over the schedule since the professor wrote in the syllabus that we wouldn’t have class the day after the break, but she made a practicum and presentation due, so we will have to work them in around field trips, guest speakers, quizzes, and other assignments to complete them.

I was going to leave after class today to the convention center but my ride didn’t show to class, so I walked to my car and drove reluctantly to work because it was sprinkling, I hadn’t eaten lunch yet, and no one likes to be disappointed. I’ve known people who can’t swim because they’re landlocked, but I hadn’t met kids that couldn’t and absolutely refused to learn how to jump rope for fear they would bloody their knee… again.

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Keiser Air250 Leg Press

I passed out jerseys for soccer and the kids were switching teams and complaining and wearing them around their neck, so I took the jerseys off. I was so excited when school was over and powered through some apple slices and a sandwich before parking a few blocks away from the convention center to save $20.

I got on my first LimeBike, the E version, because that’s what was available and I like the extra electric assistance. It took me four minutes and 75 cents to ride and park. The non-electric ones are free this month and I will learn that on the return ride which would’ve otherwise cost me a $1 (so better to ride the full 30 minutes).

I walked in and reluctantly passed most of the excitement before cutting in at section C, with check-in at section D. This nice lady showed me their hand/foot/both machine (the one I had seen at Planet Fitness, but 10x more awesome. It supports 600 pounds, swivels for wheelchair access, and can lock in hands or feet for amputees or even those with limited movement and the screen offers so many options.

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shiny and strong kettlebells

I checked in, got my large badge, and a bag with some papers and swag and was on my way, strutting my stuff, to sweat. I went towards the back and got a free boxing session and got to keep the gloves I used from Century; I want the fancy looking ones, on sale only $24. I also asked the trainer where she worked and sadly she just moved to LA.

I tried Strong by Zumba; got my body measured by one million dots (results will be emailed to me); tried the Hedstrom Surge (an adjustable “sandbag” filled with water, from 10 to 65 lb.); stood in a sound tunnel with oxygen (too much), but you can tune it for muscle soreness, depression, diabetes, etc.

I tried the Keiser leg press with hand adjustments (between 200 and 547 resistance for me) and earned a shirt; the Canali Method, KTI (Kinetics – Techniques – Innovation) leg raise from 0-300% body weight and I was around 100%, or 9 out of 20; tried the Elevate incline row at full resistance and another station for the jump/leg press and pull-up (where a woman asked me to do some more for her pic/video).

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leg extension machine, Canali System

I tried a treadmill that is more shock absorbent and could’ve stayed on longer and got into a massage chair that presses arms, feet, and shoulders and wanted to stay in that forever — there is no time limit here and everyone is happy to show you how to do it or be busy talking all over the machine. I tried a treadmill with farmers carry, sled push, and resistance pull options and another one that the belt goes both ways to simulate a parachute or sled.

I tried a variation of the Curve treadmill with StrideLab built-in and different language capability (as we found out the hard way trying to navigate the menu); got on the VersaClimber and up to 200 steps/minute (the record is 400); and tried swinging the 6 lb. RMT (rotational movement training) Club; and got the Calyana yoga mat wrapper slapper from Airex.

I got to try so much and see so much more. I’m going back tomorrow for the cryotherapy, aerial silks, a spin bike that leans, kettlebells that sparkle, Google-colored equipment, and all the free food, drinks, clothes, gear, bags, information, and conversation. I’m going to get my certification and then start working at a gym with all these workout options, or maybe I do a traveling road show.

I know there are tons of details I left out and Caleb suggested I wear a GoPro but that it would get in the way of my headstands; he knows me so well. I took my badge off for that reason and left it accessible for scanning. I left there feeling happier (ego boosts of being told I’m stronger than I look and I’m working out on the machine at max), stronger and more energized and I didn’t even try the espresso.

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