Settling in to Tamboerskloof

By way of a brief recap, I’m in Cape Town, South Africa to spend the season with my friends James and Laura while James works on Blood Drive, a grindhouse style SyFy show he wrote for the express purpose of freaking me out (I assume). I’ve been here just over a month now, so what better time to finally write an update in which I attempt to cram a month’s worth of adventures into a single post??

(Side note before we begin: WordPress is doing something weird with some of my image captions. I can’t fix it because nothing is “wrong” in what I can access, and I formatted every new paragraph break, caption, etc. the same way so I’m unsure what else to try. Any suggestions from others who’ve had this WP issue, feel free to drop me a line!)

Move ’em on

departure day

Two of my favorite people, and our pal Patches

Since I was already packed and ready to go, I spent my last day in Waukesha, Wisconsin – July 19 – chilling with my folks, snuggling the dog (I love you my good girl!), and watching Midsomer Murders to pass the afternoon until it was time for mom and me to head out.

Luckily I was on an early evening flight departing from my home turf airport in Milwaukee (#recombobulationpro), resulting in what had to be the least stressful international flight departure ever.

Head ’em up

After puddle-jumping down to O’Hare in Chicago, I was off to Heathrow in London, where I enjoyed a 9-hour tour of Terminal 3’s dining and bench-nap offerings. As I was somehow unable to catch any z’s in the 8 hours it took me to cross half the United States and all of the Atlantic Ocean because we live in the future oh my God 8 hours to cross all of that oh gosh oh wow(!!!)… the 20 minutes of sleep I grabbed on a bench across from Terminal 3’s Caffè Nero were a sunny, sweaty Godsend.

Heathrow Collage

7/20/16: My cozy nap spot; my view of the famed English countryside; my lunch with Will

Side Note: This was by far – by far – the smelliest airport terminal I have ever been in, and I’ve flown through equatorial airports in the dead heat of summer. The perplexing smelliness of Terminal 3 is totally irrelevant, I’ll grant you. It was just really unexpected, so here you go. You can unexpect it with me. You’re welcome.

Welcome Sign (resized)

Lucy made a welcome sign to greet me at the airport! It now hangs beside my desk with Mimi’s missionary card, and a Christmas ’02 “Home is where your mom is” reminder from my mother.

Cut ’em out

I didn’t know what I’d be in for as far as day-to-day living here in Cape Town would go, but my greeting party at the airport on July 21 turned out to be a pretty solid indicator of what I could expect in the days to come.

I was met at the airport with so many  smiles by my friend Laura, her three year old daughter Lucy, and her visiting sister Mary. They cheered my arrival, towed my luggage, and happily hugged me hello in spite of my coating of three days’ worth of Travel Grime. Best “Welcome!” I could’a hoped for!

On the drive from the airport to the house we got to listen to Taylor Swift’s “Welcome To New York,” and “This Is Halloween” from The Nightmare Before Christmas, several times a piece, and frankly that is exactly what I needed, so thank you Miss Lucy for meeting me right where I’m at.

Arrival Day

Resting at last; Airport selfies with Laura and Mary

The smiles, the hugs, and the repeated New York/Halloween sing-alongs in the car turned out to be a crash course for how the next few weeks were to go.

And I couldn’t be happier.

Ride ’em in

Since then the days have been filled with Everyday Living sorts of things – trips to the grocery store, playtime at the park… – as well as the occasional Travel Adventure sorts of things – botanical gardens, aquariums, jumping off mountains…

But most of that is more than I think I’ve got room for now in what’s already become something of a lengthy post, so for now I’ll leave you with a handful of Cape Town standouts…

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Rusks

All my life (read: since ninth grade when we did The Nerd where I heard of them for the first time), a rusk has been an underwhelming piece of round, rock-hard bread. If you were under a similar impression about rusks, I’m here to tell you: We’ve been had.

Melissa's Rusks

Rusks in South Africa are basically the scones of the biscotti world, and if I could go back in time and start every day of the coffee-drinking era of my life with a cuppa joe and a buttermilk rusk from Melissa’s I’d easily be a 28% happier person than I already am.

Also 28% larger.

Toilets

Toilet (frame)

Most of the toilets I’ve used here have been mounted directly into the wall, and are often higher off the ground than I’m accustomed to, resulting in:
1) A near constant fear I’m going to break them off the wall.
2) My legs falling asleep within moments of sitting down.

It’s not that we don’t have wall-mounted toilets in the States, because we have ’em all over the place. Just not as often in homes? I guess? I don’t know. And do not be fooled about the height by the angle of this picture! Yer lookin’ at a serious Tiptoe Situation here…

I just — something about them has me paranoid I’m gonna crash one of these things to the floor while my legs are too numb for me to catch myself, and “Dumb American Limps Away From Toilet Crash Disaster” is not exactly the headline I want to be responsible for creating in the Tamboerskloof Gazette you feel me?

Tamboerskloof

…is our neighborhood in Cape Town.

Coffee

It’s not that they don’t have coffee in Cape Town, because they do. They have a lot of it and it’s really good, and just yesterday I had the single greatest iced coffee I have ever had in my entire life. It’s just that Cape Town also has giant grocery stores where the only coffee available for purchase fits onto the top half of a single end cap and it’s All. Instant.

Now before you go mailing me emergency packages of coffee blessyourhearts, there are grounds available at other stores! Quite a bit of what they sell are Nespresso capsules, though, and I’m just not about that life, so here at the house we usually pick up grounds from a nearby coffee shop.

Most days, however, I’ve been forgoing coffee in favor of mug after mug of Rooibos tea. So very, very, very many mugs of Rooibos tea. I’ve already added a box of the daily brand to my Amazon wish list so I remember to pick some up when I get back. If you’ve ever gotta go caffeine free, God help ya – this stuff’s the way to do it.

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There’s so much more to cover about my travels so far, the people we’ve met, the places we’ve been, but honestly I’m at a loss for how I could possibly top today’s foray into airport b.o., coffee woes, and toe-numbing toilet escapades. Tune in again next… whenever, for when I attempt to do just that, with wineries, paragliding, and live jazz. In a crypt. Because why not.

All In The Timing. The Stupid, Stupid Timing.

Dear Strangers Who Have Found This Blog By Googling “FBI Identity History Summary”:

Cat begging.gif

“Please Please Please. Mail it meow.”

DO NOT WAIT TO SUBMIT YOUR REQUEST FOR AN FBI IDENTITY HISTORY SUMMARY IF YOU KNOW – OR EVEN JUST THINK – YOU WILL NEED ONE.

I cannot stress this enough!!

The 13 weeks it took to get mine is fixing to give me brain palpitations. Or something.

By the time my letter came in and I took it to the consulate to submit with my work visa application, I was left with only 9 business days for the consulate to process my application and mail it all back to me. A frustrating fact I have to face is that I may not get everything back in time for my departure date. That’s how tight the timing is because of how long IHS letters take to process.

So for real, no joke, if you take nothing else from this blog: Don’t wait on submitting a request for that letter, y’all, whether you’re requesting it yourself or through an approved channeler. First whiff of a chance you might need it? Hop to it!!

ETA: My visa approval and passport came in the mail TWO DAYS before my scheduled departure. Yiiiiikes. I got the envelope Monday morning 7/17 and left Wednesday afternoon 7/19. O.O

The Importance of Being Earnest at SummerStage closed last night. Following a post-show group outing for eggplant fries, I was home by 12:30, laying awake in bed until 2, back up at 4 to the tune of a thunderstorm booming and splashing outside my window, before finally accepting sleep as a lost cause and getting out of bed at 7.

Lillian - Oh my GodI attribute this sleepless exhaustion to a number of factors, chief among them my brain’s current unwillingness to stop replaying the first half of the first line of Formation on a loop, and its apparent address-this-now! concern that I’m going to forget to update my auto insurance before I leave for Cape Town on July 19th.

It’s gonna be a long day.

As I seek to fill time until I’m literally so tired I have no choice but to collapse, below are two things I had to take care of for my upcoming travels which I thought I’d share here with links and contact numbers for others Googling the issue for details.

#1: South Africa Work Visa Requirement: FBI Identity History Summary Letter

One of the requirements for US citizens seeking international work visas is to contact the FBI for an “Identity History Summary” ($18) to prove you’re not a bad guy.

Voldemort - Smiling

Since we can’t smile in passport photos, how else will they know we’re chill?

Per the Biometric Services Customer Service line which you can call for updates on your IHS request (304-625-5590, 8-5 EST), their turn-around time for processing these requests is 13-15 weeks. HAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAhahahagross.

So, like, if you — just as a hypothetical example — got your fingerprints taken at the sheriff’s office on March 30th (Form FD-258, $10 in Waukesha), and mailed them with your IHS request to the FBI on March 31st, then called BSCS for an update on June 22, you could, hypothetically, be told your request is still being processed and to call back next week and then expect to wait at least another week for their response to arrive in the mail and you’ve still got to have time to take it with the rest of your visa paperwork to the consulate in Chicago before your departure on July 19th and you won’t have time for a return trip to Chicago if it turns out you missed something and oh my God this is cutting it close!!!

*wheeeeeeeeeeze pant pant pant*

Two of my take-aways from this so far:

Donald Glover - collar tug– Follow the directions on the IHS letter request EXACTLY to avoid the risk of having your request rejected and having to start the process all over again, including getting your fingerprints re-taken as they don’t return the fingerprint card to you if they reject your request.
– No matter how long it may be until your departure date, don’t put anything off. Not something I didn’t already know, but I was certainly unprepared for just how long some of these steps could potentially take. I expected a month to be a common average wait time, but certainly not three to four months for a single copy of such a commonly requested document. (Or seven months for a series of vaccinations.) I started the process for this letter almost four months before my flight and I’m still going to be getting everything in just under the wire.

#2: South Africa Travel Requirements: Vaccinations

Another process I had to get an early start on was getting the necessary vaccinations. It is recommended that travelers to the area get vaccinated against Hep A and Hep B (which require follow up doses at the one-month mark, and a third Hep B shot at the six-month mark), and against Typhoid and Tetanus.

Your local availability options may differ, however here in Waukesha County residents can visit the Health and Human Services building without an appointment and request a vaccination for just about anything. Some of the more uncommon vaccines may have to be ordered, however when I went in, everything I needed was on hand.

Be prepared to drop a few bucks on this part of the process. Prices will vary depending on region, vaccine availability, etc., however for me the costs were as follows:

Typhoid: $75
Hep A, part 1: $50
Hep B, part 1: $50
Hep B, part 2: $50
Tetanus* Booster: $8
MMR*: $8

*This was a T-dap shot, which is a vaccination that protects against Tetanus, as well as Diphtheria and Whooping Cough (pertussis). I also got an MMR (Measles, Mumps, Rubella) booster while I was there because why not. Waukesha HHS keeps a ready supply of both on hand at $8 bucks a pop. When you go for your travel vaccinations, check to see what else is available and recommended for you. It may be cheaper than you expect, and $8 is a small price to pay for that sort of peace of mind.

Okay. It’s 9:45 am and I still can’t sleep. But at least my brain’s moved on to the chorus of Formation so I’ve got that going for me, which is zzzzzz………….

“I’m Leavin’ On Three Jet Planes…”

It doesn’t matter how clever I think I’m being, my friend Jenny sees right through me every time.

YOU’RE MOVING TO SOUTH AFRICA,” she announced, when I set down two bottles of South African wine on her dining room table a couple months ago.

Jenny how do you DO that?!

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Jenny and I gearing up for a shared pattern: Mushrooms then sarsaparilla then swordplay innuendo at the Ren Faire.

“The only time you ever bring over clothes you’re getting rid of is when you’re about to move,” she explained. “And the wine, well…”

I thought of the ten or so stuffed bags of tops and dresses I’d just dropped off in the other room, and of all the previous overflowing sacks of personal effects I’d attempted to pawn off on her over the years before embarking on countless other journeys.

Well how ’bout that. Guess I do have a pattern. A regular John H. Watson, that girl is…

Except this time around I’m not actually moving anywhere. What I am doing is heading to Cape Town, South Africa in July to spend several months with my friends Laura and James, who will be there while James works on a project with the Syfy Channel.

IMAG3978

I’ve had a number of different jobs over the years, but I cut my teeth on babysitting.

I can’t find a picture with all three of us in it, which — I mean, I feel like that’s one of those things you should just have if it’s a friendship worth following to the other side of the globe, you know? The closest I could get is this one I took of them with their daughter a few years ago, if you’re willing to pretend I’m the dinosaur.

So… yep. My next trip is to live with friends in South Africa. Is that not the weirdest, greatest thing? I have all the visa paperwork in hand, and the most gorgeous flight itinerary that’s ever had my name on it, and I still can’t believe this is a real thing I am actually doing.

I’m sure you have a lot of questions – I know I did – so I’ll attempt to get the big ones out of the way right off the bat:

Q: What about work? Won’t they miss you?
A: I’m taking something of a sabbatical, though I will – as always – remain connected thanks to the co-blessings of Internet + Dropbox.

Q: What about your mom? Won’t she miss you?
A: Okay but why you gotta be like that though?

Q: What about Ghostbusters? Won’t you miss it?
A: It comes out right before I leave, so no worries compadres. I’ll get to see it before I take off.

Okay so that’s work, mom, Melissa McCarthy… That should cover it, right?

Shortest Year-In-Review Update Ever

My last update here was on December 1, 2014 — over 16 months ago. Yiiiikes. I’ve done so much toolin’ around the country since then I don’t even know where to start! Catching up on recapping 16 months of living in a new place, living in an old place, and working from place to place to place may be easy peasy for the likes of you, but for the likes of moi? Newwwp.

So let’s just cut to the basics, shall we?

The Basics:

Spent December 2014 – April 2015 in Los Angeles sleeping on The World’s Comfiest Air Mattress in the home of a couple friends in Pasadena. Many adventures were had. Like, a lot a lot a lot of them. Museums, beautiful walks, Welcome to Nightvale live, much rye whiskey, a Supernatural themed scavenger hunt birthday party, concerts, Disneyland, living room yoga, karaoke bars, My Little Pony, church (church!), donkeys, V.O. stuff, Christmas in San Diego, learning Makeup Things. I wish I had updated here as I went. I meant to. I just… didn’t do it. Rats.

In March 2015 I flew back to Milwaukee for two weeks for work (I’d been telecommuting), during which time I also happened to be around to celebrate St. Paddy’s Day with the usual 3/17 gang, as well as getting to celebrate my birthday with the best Murder Family a gal could ever ask for. (For all photos in this post, click for captions and to embiggen.)

I drove back to Wisconsin over the course of April 28 – May 2, 2015, with stops to stay the night with friends in Utah, Iowa, and at a hotel in… somewhere else. Wyoming? I think? It was a blur then and it’s a blur now, honestly.

July 2015 brought a ten day trip southward with my mom and grandma. We drove to South Padre Island on the Gulf Coast of Texas, where we spent a week in a hotel room facing the beach, sweating our butts off and loving every minute of it.

There is no greater feeling than sitting at a table in the shade, listening to the waves, filling in a crossword puzzle, sucking on a popsicle, and knowing there is nothing more in the world you need to be doing just then. Other than fielding work phone calls every day, that is. But like – taking work calls from a shaded balcony on the Gulf beats taking work calls from behind a desk any day, you feel me?

The rest of Summer, Fall, and Winter brought numerous other road trips, but those were all for work. And cold. They were all cold. All of them. ALL of them.

No real travel since then, but surely that must mean it’s about time there was some upcoming travel opportunity lurking out on the horizon, right?

Stay tuned…

BTS: The Great American Trundling Deathtrap

You know how any time somebody mentions being nervous about flying there’s always somebody at the ready to pop out of the woodwork and tell them they shouldn’t be nervous about air travel because they’re statistically more likely to die in a car accident?

Bon voyage, sucker.

Bon voyage, sucker.

All of those statistics will come flooding back to you when you’re about to get into a car and drive it for several thousand miles.

Alone.

In winter.

(That’s not a picture of my car, by the way. Just putting that out there for those concerned friends and family who are ready to call me freaking out without reading the whole post. Dudes I promise: If I’d been in an accident – in a car that is not even my car – you’d have heard about it by now. Promise.)

I’m not a nervous driver, all things being equal. I lost a bolt off one of my brakes while speeding down a highway in the middle South Dakota once, but that turned out okay, so road trips like this current one really don’t hold any more mile-by-mile worry for me than a simple drive to the local grocery store would.

I’m aware, however, of the mile-by-mile increase in the likelihood of my guts being smeared all over the highway when I take these longer-than-to-the-grocery-store drives, so I prepare for every road trip by getting my house in order just in case.

Cut to: The Spreadsheet Will

Screenshot for emergency, death

I do this every time. It sits in my stomach a little bit funny, the way it feels to try to condense End Of Life details into an easily skimmable Excel list to email to my parents. I mean – it is what it is. I’m not sitting over here all sick or weirded out about it. It’s just an odd thing to think about amidst other parts of the planning process, like deciding which outer space themed t-shirts to pack, and if 10 new mix CDs will be enough to tide me over for the drive. (Spoiler alert: They weren’t.)

I used to get more in depth with this stuff (this necklace to my sister, these books to my nephew, this knick knack to my 4th grade teacher…), but the above list left me with less of an ooky feeling to write than past pre-travel lists have. And since it’s not like it’s an official, legally binding document anyway, this allows me to give my folks the full scoop without dwelling too long on the kinds of thoughts I really do not need to be thinking when tooling across desert highways at 90 mph surrounded by semis.

Man. I really need to add to my funeral playlist. Either that or none of y’all better stick around more than an hour or you’re gonna be hit with a bunch of repeats and that’s no kinda way to spend an afternoon – talking about a dead person while listening to the same fourteen songs over and over again.

At any rate:

1) I totally recommend doing something like this before any major traveling because – practical considerations and dubious legality aside – figuring out what matters to you in this context is just a really good exercise.

2) What would be on your list? Who should be called? Who gets a funeral-delivered apology letter? Who gets a funeral-delivered thank you letter? What music gets played? What possessions merit passing along? What gets thrown out so no one’s left scratching their head without you there insisting“I can explain!”?

If it’s not too personal, let me know in the comments. I’m curious what matters to people when it comes to this flavor of finality.

Day 8: Flagstaff to Pasadena

It feels like it took so much longer than it really did to get from Point A to *counts on fingers* *sings the alphabet song* Point E. But here I am, safe and sound in the land of Sunshine and 65° weather in November.

I truly feel for all y’all back in Wisconsin where it’s cold and snowy this week, though I’m sure it’s quite lovely to look at. I hear it’s getting up to 40° this weekend? How fun. Oh wait – my bad. Just checked my phone and it’s saying it’s currently 78° here. Well that’s nice. Ok. But back to Wisconsin. Back to– to– I’m sorry, what were we talking about?

Oh snow. Right.

HAAAAAAAAAAAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!

So. The trip. Driving. Flagstaff to Pasadena on Monday 11/17 after countless hours behind the wheel, rocking out to the same 15 or so mix-CDs again and again and again…

Roads - Flagstaff to Pasadena

A few stretches of I-40 West between Flagstaff, AZ and Pasadena, CA. (Click to embiggen.)

Toward the latter half of my travels I actually left the radio off quite a bit. Just sat back, relaxed into a seat that knows me by now, and watched the miles speed past in silence. Up, up, up to 7,000 feet above sea level, down to 6, down to 4, back up to 6… The road is long, and far too wide for never actually being as wide as you wish it was when semi trucks–

I’m sorry. I have to interrupt.

I’m writing this at a coffee shop that’s actually kinda packed given that it’s a Tuesday afternoon, and every other table is taken over by someone grading papers, while those in between are taken over by people north of 60 using fancy expensive tech, and I’m on a couch next to a guy who’s working on a project overburdened with binders and hi-liters and we keep humming along to the same snippets of the 80s tunes piping in off the shop’s Hall & Oates station on Pandora, and the college students at the table across from me are talking about Jonah (of “and the whale” fame) and homework and it’s just really… nice.

Anyway.

I drove. Mostly in silence. Stopped for an iced coffee lunch at a gas station Dunkin Donuts in Kingman, AZ. Walked around at rest stops, enjoyed the sunshine, the high, bright sky, the bristly, brushy plants pockmarking the shoulders of 40 West. Talked to God, talked to Alfred, talked to myself. Had brilliant writing ideas; forgot them. Had other brilliant writing ideas, scrawled them down on post-its, read them back to myself later, realized they were not actually brilliant, pitched them into random trash receptacles at gas stations in the desert.

Alfred - Flagstaff to Pasadena

Alfred’s adventures on our final day of driving. (Click to embiggen.)

Ok but this coffee shop, though. Half the men here are craaazy tall, and oh my my my so many pairs of khaki cargo shorts I feel like I walked into a camping ad. And the women are all doing that thing where everything they’re wearing looks great together in spite of being comprised entirely of stuff that went out of style 25 years ago and is in patterns that were never intended to go together.

So anyway, I’m driving along I-40 W, enjoying the sun and the silence and the dipping in and out of hilly parts and flat parts and brown parts and gray and yellow and white and black parts. Landscape open and wide and windswept, and places charred black like coal with terribly appropriate names like “Quemado.” And there won’t be a good place to stop for gas for a while, so even though my tank is half full, I pull off the freeway to buy the most expensive fuel of the trip so far: $3.49/gallon.

Chick-O-StickThey serve food there, the sign says. Indian food. And there’s a shop. Excellent. I don’t think I need anything, but you know – maybe something will strike my fancy. Maybe I’ll discover a need. A slushee need. An energy drink need. A Chick-O-Stick need.

And I’m filling up my tank, and there’s this guy at the pumps across from mine, and he’s white haired and shirtless and sun worn, and he’s digging through the trash while his dog looks on – black and average-dog-like and quiet – and he’s tucking his finds into the basket on the back of his bicycle. And I’ve got Wheat Thins and granola bars and stuff with me for the trip so, you know – grab some, give it to the guy, pet the dog, go inside for a look around, then leave. That’s the plan.

Except I hand over the stuff from my car and the man is — he’s not entirely there? And he’s got this kinda surprised look on his face that could just be how he looks? And his name is Harry and he calls his dog Pal, and he talks like he’s got a couple of strokes to look back on, and it’s hot out and sunny… So I go inside, chat with the guy behind the register (it’s his first day, he tells me; best of luck, man) and pick up some other stuff for Harry. Like water, and bananas, and peanuts, and the most over-priced beef jerky west of Oklahoma. And I go back outside and hand the sack of groceries to Harry on the way back to my car, and Pal asks for some head scratches, and Harry tells me about the book of Hebrews, and it is at that point I realize Harry has no teeth.

In the best intentioned ignorance I could apparently muster, I just gave a bunch of tooth-demanding foods to a man who cannot chew.

Oh my God, Ruth. Just — just get back in your car. Lend a hand from a distance. Get back on the highway.

So I’m back on the highway. And it’s criss-crossing this no man’s land in a way that looks haphazard, but is born out of years of This Is The Best Way To Move Past These Mountains experiences, and we all slow down for long swaths of construction, but you can’t help but be grateful for people willing to repair these roads in the middle of nowhere. And for the mountains that anchor the deserts on all sides. And for the generations that drove these roads before you were ever born so there would be gas stations and rest stops right when you need them.

I got to my final stop in Pasadena around 4 pm local time. Greeted my friend Becca, greeted her dog, greeted the website for the City of Pasadena, to whom I am paying $3 a day to park my car over night. And it was good. So, so good. Some friends just always feel like home. It’d been 13 months since I’d last been in this house, but it felt like it’d only been days; corners here and there dusted with corgi hair, boxes of tea in the kitchen, and every bookshelf in its place.

Friendship is miraculous. Feeling God’s love through other people is life.

20141125_160835And I’m so paranoid about parking fines that I think I need to wrap things up here at the coffee shop so I can check my car and make sure I didn’t get a ticket in spite of parking in a totally legal spot. Except that I don’t want to leave because the sun has just come through the window on the far side of the building and it’s lighting up my hands as I type so it’s hard to see what I’m doing but it’s so nice I don’t want it to go away. I’ve watched the turnover of three different crowds come and go, though, so I suppose it’s time to relinquish my table. Let someone else sit in the glare before it runs out.

Welcome to California.

Day 7: 400 thrill-a-minute miles! (aka Santa Fe to Flagstaff)

On Sunday I drove from Santa Fe, NM to Flagstaff, AZ.

That’s… pretty much it.

The landscape, while generally barren in most places, was lovely. I did see some tumbleweeds blow across the freeway at one point, which was kind of cool.

This is what it looked like everywhere. You're welcome.

This is what it looked like everywhere. You’re welcome.

And I got to wander around the parking lot of an abandoned roadside trinket shop, which was also kind of cool.

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Not pictured: Me shivering so hard I could barely hold the camera still.

But uh… yeah, man. It was just a drive. I got into my car. Drove it about 400 miles, stopped it at a hotel, grabbed dinner at a grocery store across the street, blogged…

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Hotel selfie with my copy editor.

…then went to bed.

Ah yup.

Day 6: Sleeping in, and the Santa Fe Plaza

I completely wasted my Saturday morning in Santa Fe.

There. I said it.

Boo gifI could’ve gone out and done stuff, but I let myself be overwhelmed by all the options that came up when I Googled things to do, and I was supposed to meet up with Chris that afternoon to do stuff, so I totally let myself make excuses for spending the morning sleeping in and messing around online.

Booooo!

I did eventually go out for a driving tour around the town square (read: searched a crazy long time for a parking spot before finally finding one immediately after texting Chris that I had given up and was just going to go back to my hotel whooops). Historic Santa Fe is a pretty neat area, and one which I fully intend to visit again some day when 1) it is warmer, 2) I have company, and 3) I’m staying within walking distance of the plaza so I don’t have to worry about parking.

The museum I did not visit this time around but will hit next time.

The museum I did not visit.

I didn’t want to close out my time in New Mexico with a parking ticket, so I skipped the New Mexico Museum of Art since I didn’t think I’d be able to get through it all before my parking meter ran out. I did check out the gift store, though, so that’s gotta count for something right? And their galleries are available on this website so maybe if I scroll through everything there really slowly while walking in place and nodding thoughtfully…

So as not to miss out on art-in-person entirely, I visited Manitou Galleries (I am in love with Jim Eppler’s ravens please put one on my headstone) (please wait until I am dead first) and a couple other shops so I could still see some cool stuff while I was out. During my walk around town I also visited a free community gallery featuring an exhibit on… something about… post-apocalyptic fashion? I think? There were a lot of tubes…

Santa Fe town square

L to R: St. Francis of Assisi; the Native American Vendors Program at the Palace of the Governors; a monument in the plaza square; Colette Hosmer’s “Santa Fe Current” sculpture installation.

I stopped at Ecco for a lunch of coffee and gelato – because I am a grown-up and I do what I want – before doing a quick circle of the town square itself, coffee cup in hand, boot laces flapping. It was all very hip for a good 12 minutes at least. I’m sorry you missed it.

I met up with Chris and his friend L for a tour of the New Mexico History Museum, which currently features a perfectly timed exhibit on pinhole photography. I say “perfectly timed” because Chris is a photographer (as well as a teacher and a lifelong student of the subject) so it was like having our own personal tour guide on hand to share the fun bits of history that didn’t fit on the wall placards.

One of the coolest things in the exhibit (other than a camera made out of a Quaker Oats canister) was one of Jeff Fletcher’s self-portrait eggs. Basically, dude made a pinhole camera out of a pepper shaker, coated the insides of emptied egg shells with Liquid Light, took a bunch of selfies with the pepper shaker camera so the images would appear inside the eggs, then cracked open the shells to reveal the images inside.

Is that not the coolest thing?!

Also cool: La Choza where we went for dinner after the museum, at which time I at six too few sopaipillas.

Sopaipillas at La Choza

Ah. Much better.

Then it was home again home again jiggity hotel, where I caught up on Arrow and Doctor Who while blogging and packing for this morning’s departure. I left town just in time, too, as it turned out. It rained then snowed over night in Santa Fe. Had to brush my car off before I could leave.

I’m still mostly outrunning winter this year – but barely…

Day 5: Everything, Everything in Santa Fe

I don’t mean to brag, but *looks around to make sure everyone is listening because I’m actually totally bragging* I’m kind of great at being an adult sometimes.

Everything, Everything

Everything, Everything

I got up at 6:45 (the one in the morning) yesterday to meet a friend for breakfast. 6:45!!

‘Member Santa Fe Chris from yesterday’s post? He introduced me to Iconik Coffee Roasters, where we met yesterday morning for an 8 a.m. breakfast. Lemme just tell you: That place makes a mean cuppa joe. I ordered a cappuccino to go with my toast (dripping with butter om-nom-nom) and eggs and dang, friends – super tasty.

After Chris left for work I stayed to internet for a bit and ordered another cup, this time of their El Salvador roast (with notes of “cocoa, toasted marshmallow, and almond”). I’m not great at being the kind of adult that can taste notes of toasted marshmallow, however, so while I can say it was good, I can’t say if it actually tasted like campfire s’mores or not.

After doing some work-work (yay free wifi!), I ultimately decided four hours in one coffee shop was long enough, and left to wander around the area for a bit. Since getting into town I kept passing shops with all these amazing colors and textures just kind of exploding out of them, so I chose the biggest one I could find and went in. A place called Jackelope on Cerillos. It’s basically a flea market for art, jewelry, rugs, home decor, etc.

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A 4′ long by 3′ tall antlered deer decorated with thousands of tiny beads; a wall-mounted art display of hundreds of tightly wrapped paper pyramids. (Click to embiggen.)

I must’ve ambled my way through that place for a good two hours before all was said and done. The colors in that place were just – wow, man. Brilliant. Larger than life. Everything demanded to be seen. And the textures! Everything needed to be touched. Weathered wooden shelves; bowl after bowl of clay figures and crosses and charms; strings of beads in turquoise and gold and brown and white and red of all sizes, shapes, and weights; feathers and hides; glass and stone and bone…

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These sugar skulls were each about a foot tall. And the colors – the colors! (Click to embiggen.)

The last space I visited was filled with rugs. Not the giant furniture room (for those who know the place), but the smaller tent-like area near the front of the property. I asked the man in the tent about one of the larger pieces on display – a coarse brown and white striped area rug – and he told me it’s woven from the hair of desert sheep in Afghanistan. It’s better than the softer sheep if you live somewhere where it gets very cold, he told me. If I ever raise desert sheep I guess now I’ll know another use for them.

He said that’s where all his rugs come from – Afghanistan – which lead us into a half hour of sitting on rugs and chatting about the importance of seeing clearly from the deepest parts of ourselves so we will not miss the beauty in the shapes and patterns all around us.

Because what else would one talk about in a rug shop?

He walked me through the story behind one particular rug from Kunduz, which I didn’t ask the price of because I knew I couldn’t afford it but that I’d want to buy it anyway. He said it it was woven by a 15 year old girl who designed the picture herself and was very proud of it. He said he asked her to tell him the story behind her design so he would know how beautiful it was instead of just how nice it was.

“People buy rugs from me because they are tired of buying, ah, plastic. You know what this means? They want something real. Not so much plastic all the time. These,” he spread his arms to encompass the room. “They are made with people’s hands. You know. Shhk-shhk-shhk. Looms.” He mimed throwing shuttlecocks. “No machines. No plastic. I am tired of plastic too.”

He unrolled the girl’s rug on the floor between us, and we straightened out the edges, finding patterns to trace with our fingers as he began sharing his understanding of the story the girl had woven into it.

“I don’t know if you believe in God,” he began. “Maybe you are Christian? Maybe Muslim? Maybe you are not any of these things? Maybe you believe in nothing at all. But still this is a good rug for prayer, and to sleep on, and to dream on. I will show you why.”

“This,” he pointed at a square at the bottom of the rug, “is a house with a door, you see?”

I nodded. I saw the door.

“And you see how the top of the house is like an arrow that points up up up to the sky? And here on all sides there are these squares that represent deserts. You don’t know these deserts,” he dismissed those squares with a wave of his hand, “but you know this one. You see how there are pyramids here?”

I nodded. I saw the deserts. I saw the pyramids.

“And as we go through new doors like this one under the arrow of the roof, we are moving the way we are supposed to move. We are moving forward. We are going up. And there are deserts all around. So many deserts. But you see this arrow at the top of the rug? This arrow that points to the blue and the green of the sky?”

I nodded. I saw the sky.

“This is where we must always look. Always look at where we are going, not at the deserts. We must keep our eyes open to see clearly the doors and the deserts. To see when things are beautiful. Our eyes,” he pointed to his face and patted his heart. “Our eyes must be opened to see clearly what is truly beautiful so we will see where the doors are. Where the arrows are pointing us.”

He didn’t ask if I wanted to buy it, only for my name. He shared his – Mohammed – and thanked me for listening to the story. I thanked him for sharing it, for his time, for the philosophy lesson. He invited me back. “You do not need to come here to shop. If you come, we will sit. Talk. Other people will buy the rugs!” he laughed.

I wish I had gone back. I didn’t plan well enough for it. Not returning will be a regret for this trip.

As for the rug, I didn’t take a picture of it. But you don’t need one. And really neither do I. Whatever your brain is supplying, whatever your deserts and doors look like, draw it for yourself. It will be enough.