January 1, 2016

Pre celebration with my E*. Dinner, conversations and french wine bar and invitations to “party”. ha.

Three weddings this week and a broken camera that was fixed for free. My “luck” continues. (Thank you Jesus). NYE wedding that was ok.. my frustration of not enjoying weddings anymore continues. I’m unsure of what to do with it. I need my heart to change. I need something to change.

Excited for what the unknown adventures of what 2016 has for me. More new faces to love and cherish. Yes, please and thank you.

My goals for this year involve – literally giving thanks to those who have impacted my life. Creating community in oakland, capturing faces weekly, learning about wine and whiskey. Finishing my Paris book. It’s a decent list.

Allez

December 23, 2015

Hawaii bound with a newly purchased ticket.
bumped into an old friend and shared a meal at the airport. Good news and not. wrecking my heart and my world. fuck cancer.
About to hug a sweet family that has been just that, family to me this last year.
Roommate jam sessions and Sunday brunchs and dinners.
Dancing the night away with my favorite while being fancified and embracing my city to its fullest.
I didn’t get his name or info, nor him mine. we talked a bit and it was enough. hooked. I tried looking for him when I left but to no avail. A friend request that sent me gleefully screaming through the house and now an invitation for tea. I”m terrified. haha… and giddy. Slow and steady I told her. Slow and steady I tell myself. I find myself on my knees hoping that healing, timing is finally in my favor. I dare hope. Somehow it always finds space to rejuvenate even though I feel so emptied out after each bout. Take courage dear heart.
Isn’t it funny how lists work? I wrote it and it became intent. Intent became vision. Vision became possibility. Possibility.. reality.

someone asked me how I felt at the end of my trip.. I laughed as the words came to me.. I held them back for a second because I knew they would sound a little ridiculous, but nothing described it better. ” like a champion “. I said with a satiated smile and quiet strength.

Words collected lately::

Of course I’ll hurt you, of course you’ll hurt me. Of course we will hurt each other. But this is the very condition of existence. To become spring, means accepting the risk of winter. To become presence, means accepting the risk of absence.
—Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, from The Little Prince

“You’ve gone far away to a place with no horses and very little grass, and you’re studying how to write a story with a happy ending. If you can write that ending for yourself, maybe you can come back.”
― Jennifer Echols

I remember the first time you tried to love me;
You, in your Audrey Hepburn dress,
Who I told you I found quite attractive.
We ate Italian, because, like me, you like Italian.
You fed me an analysis of symbolism of Murakami
That I thought I read off of Google.
And you wore red lipstick because that’s
What classy women who fall in love wear.
Your eyes were a clouded amber,
And your hair dyed jet black, like my ex.
You want to travel to Barcelona, Spain,
Where my public Facebook pictures show I was.
And this planet’s too big, and this town too small
Not to have wanderlust, you say.
Your favorite season’s winter.
Because you love winter landscapes,
Like the snowflake wallpaper on my phone.
I call you everyday.

I remember the second time you tried to love me;
You, in your blue dress,
Which I told you was my favorite color.
(It’s yours too.)
You talked about the latest in deep space explorations
A week after I shared my moon photographs.
And isn’t NASA fascinating?
You told me about a movie you saw,
By my favorite director.
You dreamed of traveling the Nile and seeing Egyptian pyramids.
And you loved the smell of coffee,
Which I smelled like on our first date.
Your blonde roots are showing.
I didn’t call you back.

I remember the first time you loved me;
You wore purple because that’s your favorite color.
And we got breakfast because you love breakfast foods,
Not Italian.
You drank water; coffee makes you sick.
You pointed to some lilies because you love that flower.
And you told me you didn’t think Gatsby really loved Daisy
Because she was a reflection of all the things he wanted;
He was just pretending to be something
To impress her, you say.
And this wasn’t something I found off of Google.
And you mentioned how you never wanted to travel,
Except by boat,
Because airplanes are terrifying.
You hated dresses and how thick makeup feels on your face.
And NASA is interesting, but you’d rather explore the earth.
You were living with me then.

I remember the last time I loved you;
I tried finding cruise ships so we could travel
To Germany because you don’t really care for Spain or Egypt.
And I researched German alcohols because that’s what you liked.
And I wore red because you liked how it brought my eyes to life.
I talked about how fascinating ocean life is
Because you majored in Marine Biology, not Film,
Like you told me on our first date.
Murakami has dust; I read Thoreau.
Your eyes are cerulean,
Completely unlike the dark amber of the coffee I don’t drink.
And you’re gone.
Just like the man who liked Murakami and Italian food.
But I’d sell moonshine for you, sure. by Jessica Monet

December 18, 2015

Jet lag is kicking my ass this week and I find myself awake at 4am baking cookies. I wanted to keep the travel momentum going and so I’ve spent almost every evening out around town, meeting people, chatting with strangers, enjoying my new town and city. That’s how it is done right? and it’s working too. I am making plans for a lot of things come 2016. But first to wrap up 2015. I struggled a lot this summer. Not my finest season. But I feel renewed and able. And grateful. oh, so grateful.

December 5, 2015

I’m having a hard to adjusting back to “real” life. Jet lag has me good and my morning was spent researching teaching english abroad and volunteering for the refugee crisis. This trip got me good with the mindset and open eyed element of people in need. More so, so many conversations with travelers from all over the world and “who what how” is responsible and what actually to do about it. Facts – no one is fully informed and everyone has an opinion, but not really any idea as to what to do about it effectively. I want to donate my time and skills. I want something bigger than my little life in Oakland. I’m choking on the attitude of entitlement and I just want to breathe. I want more then consumerism and pretentious trends. It’s just a part of the life on this side of the globe though. So how do I adapt without losing my resolve?

December 3, 2015

I finally made a list.
So many people have told me to make one. I don’t remember what exactly my reasons for resisting this was. .. Maybe it was my commitment phobia, maybe it was the idea that I might limit myself… regardless, I did it.

5 days in Mui Ne. It was a hard decision to make but I needed a vacation from my vacation and I really wanted some sunshine on my skin and maybe some blue water and sand too. I laid on the beach for two days. I got a massage and my nails done. I read a book. I drank a fresh coconut and made more “friends” with locals through my candies. (even typing that makes me giggle.) My evenings in the hostel were fine, but pretty boring. Again I found the party hostel and I wasn’t feeling the vibe. A few friendly people but nothing really open or with a willing connection. It was fine, I was in my refill mode and I was happy to just be. I moved hostels to the one closer to the beach. I wanted a quieter place to play my ukelele. My bed wasn’t ready when I arrived and my exhaustion was evident. The sweet swiss girl that shared my room told me to use her bed to nap if I wanted. I was taken back by her kindness and we ended up chatting for a bit. She invited me to join her and a few other for dinner and that was that. We ended up being buddies for the rest of my time in Mui Ne and I may visit her in Zurich in the spring and she may make her way to SF next year as well. She is also a photographer and I truly enjoyed the conversations we shared.
On my bus back to Saigon I recognized a guy that had hung out in our group in MuiNe. We ended up walking around the city together and tackling the war museum and some of the other main attractions in the city. A night market, a street market. Our hostel was hosting a happy hour. Somehow I ended up the only girl in my group of 12. We went from bar to bar to dinner to bar. All except me were just arriving to Vietnam and I told them some of my stories and passed on travel notes on places to go see etc etc and how to “Mo hai bo” haha. My flight was early the next morning and I had decided not to bother sleeping and so they all ended up celebrating my last night in Vietnam with me. One of the best group of guys I’ve hung out with yet. Great conversations and really chill. I had to bid them all good night so I could pack and shower before my taxi. I came down to the lobby luggage in hand and they were all waiting for me and walked me to the taxi. haha.. This is my life? I wanted a travel partner but I don’t really need one. Everywhere I turn is a friendly face. A new friend. I suspect many travelers gracing my couch next year.

souvenirs –

Bumping into the street vendor again who made me laugh with her smile. I was so excited to see here again and she matched me excitement which turned into this weird funny moment everyone stopped to see. I took her picture. and bought the stupid dental gum she was selling and over paid by 90% because I had nothing smaller and the idea of asking for change was absurd. She dancing around and kissed my cheek.

Gorgeous sunsets on the dunes.
Listening to the waves crash.
Hanging out with 12+ different countries in a single moment.
Watching other travelers interactions. Those who have met along the way, their romances and the delicacy of their future. So sweet. ( Me thinks english is the language of love after all.)
A reminder that I love photography. A reminder that I have an insatiable desire to create/capture. A reminder to continue to push myself outside my comfort zone.
A small fishing village. Watching the locals hand knit the nets ripped pieces back together. Candy for a small group of men and a little boy. The little boy shared his with his mom and then blew me kisses.
What I feel was either “resting bitch face” or that person just doesn’t like the tourist me walking around her space. I decide to challenge it and offer a candy. Face transformed and small nods of thanks as the sweet hits her tongue.

One of the guys says to me “You’re like the Oprah of Vietnam”.. “You’ve given smiles to so many people. I laughed out loud at this. I’m so pleased.
It’s silly I know. It’s just candy. But, I wanted to be different. I wanted to give and not to take. I think it worked.

November 28, 2015

I woke up to the sound of rain pouring on the palm leaf+ clay roof. The only thing I had planned for for the day was to get a tan. Just my luck. I had watched the sun rise with a slight cool breeze and a full moon as the waves beat the shore and the vietnamese locals did their fitness. Hard to believe that was just a few hours ago.

I had finally bit the bullet and rented a moto to drive from Hue to Hoi An. I really wanted to do it and the drive was so so worth it. Gorgeous coastline and perfect weather. I stopped by Elephant springs (waterfall) and Marble Mountain (caves) on the way. The previous two days in Hue were very unexciting. I caught up on sleep and work and got food poisoning, too. I hardly slept the night before I left hue as I was tossing up my dinner. Ugh. I’m surprised I survived so well on my 6 hour bike ride. My exhaustion and discomfort must have been evident. When I took the two steps into the hostel in Hoi An and the owner said, “this way to your bed. We can deal with checkin in after you have slept”. And that was my first moment with Momma Lyna.

This is the first place I have met other americans traveling and Lyna says that some how there are only girls here for the next couple days so we will have to have a girls night out.

Im just sitting here marveling at how the connection between people can happen so quickly and easily if you are open to it. I’ve hardly seen the city here because I was instantly apart of the interworkings of this homestay. Because it is the full moon they had a big lunch with all of their family and neighbors. They light incense and say prayers for their ancestors and the feast. I and another girl was invited to join in. I daren’t say no. Lots of food, lots of beer and a lot of “Mo hai bo yo!”. I was so detirmined to get a tan I packed myself up and headed to the beach. No such luck for sunshine and I was too late in the day for it anyway. I rode my bike around the city/ outside the city/ along the beach. It was was nice to explore and check out the area.

all 8 of us piled in a taxi and headed into the old quarter. Just as we get out of the taxi the rain starts. We made our way over to the river and bought our lanterns. The rain was coming harder now and the river was beginning to overflow. We made our wishes and placed our lanterns in the water. The current kept pushing them up against the little boats that were along the edge. The woman manning the boats helped us push them out to the middle of the river. It was quite the scene.. pouring rain, us without umbrellas trying to get the lanterns to actually float away and almost angelic like the boat ladies take over for us getting them in the right spot with each slow push of the paddle.

Lyna took is to a local restaurant where she had coordinated a prefix meal for us. I was still feeling very ill and was only able to nibble on things. We headed to Tiger Tiger afterwards for cocktails and shisha. The rain had stopped and the area was buzzing with travelers celebrating. We danced and danced. I bumped into the german girl I met in Ha Long Bay. I saw 4 of the crew from the Sapa Trek. I chase after the belgian girl I chatted with in Hanoi. Each one a mini reunion with laughter and hugs and I’m cracking up how I thought I would be traveling alone and here are new old friends as I go along.

“I would have enjoyed talking to you. You have a calm vibe around you. Confident, intelligent. Haha.. body language says a lot. Si si, eso es viajar.”

I was catching up on emails, sitting outside late after everyone had gone to bed. I had a long nap midday in recovery of the previous evenings festivities and am not tired just yet. Lyna’s brother brings out a bowl of ramen and I’m surprised as he hands it to me. He comes back with another and joins me. We sit there under the trees smiling and eating our noodles.

It was the day I needed to check out. Lyna made a sad sound and told me to stay longer. I wish, I truly wish! I’ve only 7 days left and only made it halfway! I had hopes of seeing Dalat, some beach town, Mecong Delta and of course Saigon. I’m feeling the pressure as well as exhaustion and am trying to debate where to go and how to get there. I turn down the 17 hour bus ride and booked a flight for that evening instead. A sweet british guy is checking in as Im checking out. We chat for a few and I invite him to grab lunch with me as I had had the best Banh mi the day before and I’m headed there again. We grab bikes and head into town. lunch, meandering, chatting, coffee, more meandering. It was nice to have an impromptu buddy for my last hours in Hoi An.

Lyna gives me the biggest hug and we almost tearfully say good bye. She gives me the sweetest parting well wishes. Bah.. I just love people.

The bus picks me up for the airport. I’m on the 7:30 flight and just so content I can’t help but be friendly with each person that gets in the bus as we make our round ups. Turns out im on the same flight as the dutch guy sitting next to me. We get on the plane and again, we have seats next to each other. I lose him at the airport before I could ask him if he wanted to share a taxi. I check in to my hostel in Saigon. I’m only there overnight as I’m headed back out on an early morning bus to Mui Ne to hopefully find my tan. I toss my bags at my bed and head out to find food. Walking towards me as make my way down the street, the dutch guy. We laugh and lament how we should have just shared a taxi. He invites me to join him at the noodle place his hostel recommended. We chatted and laughed for an hour comparing our last three weeks of travel/adventure. He was traveling the first two weeks with his girlfriend (damnit) through china and burma. Again, I’m so grateful for these random impromptu meetings and someone to share a meal and stories with. I’m eager to shower and sleep and so I bid him safe travels home.

:::::

Words collected lately::

it’s a funny thing coming home. Nothing changes. Everything looks the same, feels the same, even smells the same. You realize what’s changed is you.
– F. Scott Fitzgerald

But that’s the wonderful thing about foreign travel, suddenly you are five years old again. You can’t read anything, you have only the most basic sense of how things work, you can’t even reliably cross the street without endangering your life. Your whole existence becomes a series of interesting guesses.
– Bill Bryan

Single people want relationships, settled people wonder if they’re missing out on something, traveling types miss stability, stable ones are restless, old friends want new friends, new friends miss old friends, and basically almost everyone my age has some dangling worry trailing around after them everywhere that they’re somehow not doing everything, that what they’re doing is not altogether the right thing, that they are missing out. … Do not be ashamed. The doubt is natural, and everyone you know – yes, even that person – carries it sometimes too. Allow yourself to be peaceful. Allow yourself satisfaction in what you have. If you really don’t like it, allow yourself permission to make changes.
– Lillian Schneid

I let it go. It’s like swimming against the current. It exhausts you. After a while, whoever you are, you just have to let go, and the river brings you home.
– Joanne Harris

I enjoy controlled loneliness. I like wandering around the city alone. I’m not afraid of coming back to an empty flat and lying down in an empty bed. I’m afraid of having no one to miss, of having no one to love.
– Kuba Wojewódzki

November 21, 2015

We hopped on the motos and started to make our way out of town. I was riding on the back of guido’s since he had more space. I had my back pack on and foolishly had my phone in the open side pocket. We were in thick traffic at a light when I felt my pack move and I knew instantly someone was getting into it. I turned just in time to see the guy on the bike next to me pull my phone out of the pocket. I yelled and as he accelerated away I punched his arm. I was lucky enough that that caused him to drop the phone into the roadway. Without even thinking I jumped off the bike to retrieve it and jumped back on as the traffic moved around me. It all happened so fast I couldn’t believe it really happened except that my phone was dirty from the roadway. Guido wanted to go after the guy but I didn’t want to instigate anything further. We continued heading out of town as my pulse attempted to calm down and I waited for my hands to stop shaking. The boys were making jokes about me being a secret agent and were blown away at my reaction and the result of it.

We made a stop at a roadside stand for some water. We put on more sunscreen and continued on our way to Ba vi stopping every 45 mins or so to give our asses a break. It was so so hot out and we decided to grab food somewhere before heading to the national park down the road. We drove through the town until we found a place full of locals (always a good sign) and filed in to find a cool spot in the shade. The locals were happy to welcome us and we ordered our pho and some waters. I look over and two the the older men are laughing and trying to slyly snap a photo of us “foreigners” and we laugh and make peace signs/wave at the camera. That was the only encouragement they needed and next thing I know one has his arm around me and we are taking a selfie. I was laughing and played along until two minutes later we’ve taken 40 different poses and space between us is non existent. The boys think it’s funny and I’m over it at this point. They bring out the rice wine and we’re now doing shots with them and finally our food arrives. Guido speaks Vietnamese and the old guys are insisting we come back tonight and party all night with them. No chance I say and the boys agree, but they still think it’s hilarious. I wave apologetically at their (I think) wives and we pay our bill and move on.

Ba vi national park is LOVELY and we’ve come during the off season. We practically have the place to ourselves. We’re unsure of what exactly there is to see so just drive around stopping here and their to snap a few photos. One more side road before turning back and we take a side road that led further up mountain. We come into a clearing and we all audibly gasped at the sight of this old abandoned limestone church completely overgrown just tucked into the trees. Haha.. Such a chance finding as the park is huge and we’re all stoked at the discovery. We are glad to head back now as the sun is setting and we still have a 2 hour drive ahead of us.

Halfway back we Stopped off for a quick coffee at this families roadside shop. They were just sitting down for dinner and welcomed us in regardless. I managed to order through some charades I requested three coffees as they spoke no english. We drank our coffees slowly and chatted and then I remembered I had all those candies in my bag. I pulled them out and gave them around. Their baby had woken up and was so cute I grabbed the Polaroid. One with dad and baby. Another one with grandma and baby, then I motioned for everyone to jump in for a family/group shot. They were all so excited, dad even put a shirt on for the photo and smoothed down his hair in the mirror. Everyone was laughing. They were so grateful they refused to let us pay for our coffees and asked for us to visit again soon. All ten of them were at the door waving good bye as we drove away. I as best as possible tried to keep the massive grin off my face for sake of keeping the bugs out of my teeth as we drove away but I couldn’t help but laugh at this day and all the little things that had happened. Deep satisfaction hugged me and a small voice roaring in my ear saying ” you’re doing it right!!” as we made it back to Hanoi.

November 20, 2015

According to my hostel there was only one bus to Ninh Binh and it left at 6pm. That put me arriving at 9pm and I didn’t want to wait that long and miss out on seeing the place in the daytime. At this point I know their goal is to sell, not assist, and so I dug a little further and found out I can take a bus from Giap Ba bus station and that busses leave every hour.

I take a taxi to the station and the second I get out there is a guy yelling ninh Binh at me and motioning for me to follow. I instantly do t trust him but he is headed to the ticket office so I follow. My ticket cost 40,000 dong and the lady selling me the ticket is all smiles and motions for me to follow him. He leads me out to a bus and we put my big bag in the back. i climb on to three other people on a 25 person bus. I grab a seat and we sit there for 30 mins. I wonder if I should ask what time we’re leaving.. Another person arrives. I’m watching the station entrance as we sit there and I’m beginning to understand the process a little. Guys stand out near the entrance finding passengers hustling their bus. Even as we inch towards the exit of the station they are literally grabbing people and putting them on the bus. Slowly but surely every seat is being filled as we now circle the station. 40 mins later we are on the main road and the hustler for our bus is standing at the open door of the bus as we move yelling at people. We’ve now packed the aisle way 30+ people on board a few packages as well. I’m sharing my row with a pregnant woman. I realize now I’m fully vested in this new venture and I saw a small prayer. If my pack in the back of the bus is still there when (and if?) I arrive to ninh binh it may be a small miracle. I have my most precious belongings with me. It’s just clothes and toiletries in the back. Worst case scenario.. Well, a scenario would be I have to buy clothes and do without my creature comforts.

I offer a piece of candy to the pregnant lady beside me. She smiles and declines. We make a few stops (barely actually stopping) once we’ve exited the city and make a stop halfway to ninh to use the bathroom. I don’t leave the bus but a few people jump off quickly to buy food etc. the pregnant lady returns and offers me a share of her bread and rice rolls that have seseme seeds on the outside and either cooked egg or beans on the inside. It’s slightly warm and delicious.

We are arriving into town now and the bus is barely stopping to let people off here and there. there was no announcement or notification when we actually made it to the bus stop. I only realized it when I saw the sign outside the terminal and started yelling at the guy to get out and open the back to get my bag that hopefully was there. It was but the secod I stepped out I was mobbed by atleast three guys offring me a taxi. I knew I needed to find a phone to call my homestay so I headed inside to see if there was one I could use. No luck but one of the taxi drivers offers me his and he talks to them and then says he will take me for half he price. I didn;t know what else to do but since we already agreed on a price I figured I might as well. We head outside and he pulls up his moto. I start to protest since I have my big back pack and he insists that he can balance it in front of him. Ive seen worse at this point so I finally agree. again I am saying little prayers for my safety and for my trust in mankind that he will in fact take me to where I am supposed to go.

9 km bike ride later and weird roads through a tiny village outside of ninh binh I arrive as the sun is setting behind the limestone hills. i am welcomed by the staff to the palm/bamboo huts along the edge of a private lake. They have a pet goat, pig, little dog and all the staff are very very frindly. They have an english class for the local children every night at 5pm and ask me if I might be interested in teaching the following evening. They also have already seen my new ukelele sticking out of my bag and have excitedly asked me to play. Ny room is comfy and has a balcony oer the water with a hammock. I dump my things and head to their open air lobby to have dinner. The food here is amazing. I just can’t even.

My body has been freaking out since yesterday. I think the adreniline rush of the phone jacking caused too much stress and I am sick. My plan is to sleep and rest and let my body recover before the next location and adventure of Hue/Hoi An.

November 20, 2015

I arrived into Sapa and saw the view from my hostel and went straight to the reception desk and extended my stay extra two days. The mountains and valleys were just like the photos I had found an the vibe at the hostel was friendly and chill. I made friends with a finnish girl who had taken the mongolian expressway through russia/china down into asia and my eyes grew bigger as she told me about it. Fuck. I have to do this.
I settled into some food and a walk around the small mountain town and then spent the rest of the evening gettin to know the other travelers and comparing notes on locations to visit and how to get there. I meet about 10 new people a day. It’s always the same list of questions, “where you from, how long are you traveling, where did you go/where are you going?”.

We left early the next morning for our hike through the valley and I knew I had signed up for the longer trek but no one could really tell me what exactly the itinerary was. Our guide was a local and we were joined by a few of the woman from the black hmong tribe that live in the valley. They assisted us down the mountain in their sandals and packs and we struggled in our tennies and trainers over the rough unfamiliar terrain. My pockets were full of candies and I as glad I had the forethought to do this as we passed so many kids along the way. 24 km for the first day we started at 8:30am and arrived to our homestay at the top of a mountain around 5:30pm. My group I am with all met in Thailand and their paths kept overlapping so they booked this trek together. I was the odd man out and easily 8 years older. Our host family spoke almost no english but they thanked us for coming by doing shots of rice wine with each of us and shaking hands afterwards. They had prepared the most amazing dinner and joined us while we played drinking games the rest of the evening. I took polaroids of the kids and the mom went and got their traditional outfits out and get them dressed for one more. The morning was rough post drinking and had we known what we were in for on this day we may not have drank at all. 1.5 hours straight vertical climb up the side of the muddy rough path to the top of the mountain. My phone says it was 115 floors. I was cussing the last 10 minutes and every single one of us was soaked through from swet at the top. Once we got the the village on the other side we had another amazing meal and then van took us back to our hostel in SaPa. I was so beyond exhausted I lounged around the rest of the day. I even treated myself to a massage that was so odd that I can’t even.. hahaha…

I got back into Hanoi with the mindset that I would catch up on emails and prepare a few things for the next coming weeks. I showered, grabbed my note book and phone and set out of the hostel to find a quiet cafe somewhere. I heard my name being called and turned to find irish clark kent and a buddy sharing a beer at the bar I was passing. I joined them for one and told them about my trek and next thing I know we are headed to the next bar for another and a few other expats join us. It’s midnight now and the cops come and shut everything down. We head to a local bar called toms where they pulled down the garage doors and make it look like the place is closed as we have a few more beers and dance for a while. Danny and Guido invite me to join them on a ride in the morning. They want to get out of town for some fresh air and their is a national park called Ba Vi about 1.5 hour away. I happily accept and we agree to meet up in the morning and head out.

November 18, 2015

Just finished a 30 km hike through and over the Sapa valley and mountains. I’m so exhausted I can’t even type a proper caption. My eyes can’t contain everything I’ve seen.. Tiered rice patties, buffalo, local tribes and their villages, waterfalls, bamboo forests, ate bananas freshly picked from the trees, slept in a homestay on the floor, drank their homemade rice wine, gave polaroid photos to families, woke up to misty mountains, climbed bottom to top a mountain so tall the peak was in the clouds. So stunning. My legs are jello. My heart is full.