Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Day One in Woodstock

My first stop in upstate New York is a Best Buy where we buy a thirteen hundred dollar plasma TV. This is not what I expected in the land of Bob Dylan with the legacy of Woodstock.  My host was very apologetic; the irony was not lost on her that I had eked out a couple hours of sleep on the transcontinental red-eye flight from California to wind up in the bumpin’ club party that is Best Buy at ten in the morning. However, this event was far from how the rest of Day One would play out. Events would soon reaffirm that I had indeed landed in the country of primordial hippydom.  

            After a perfunctory tour of the charming, turn-of-the-century farm house that is to be my home for the summer, the host (my boss) and friends strip down to bare skin and clamber into the doughboy pool in the back of the property. Enrique, the ever-diligent pool boy kindly whisks the bugs out of the pool and the damsels refresh.  All this relaxing after a very dutiful June spent surfing, tanning and generally languishing in southern California paradise is starting to get to me and I’m itching to get to work. After rapid-fire questioning Enrique about who/what/where/how why are we here, he sits down with me at the dining room table and we get to work for the rest of the afternoon.

            We have yoga class at 5:30 so at 5 on the dot I’ve got my clothes on and I’m ready to go. The rest of the crew rolls up to the farmhouse at 5:32 and along the way (even in our hurried and late state) everyone stops to pick wine berries along the road. We enter into the converted studio inside the mansion-crown jewel of the artist colony where we live. There is a fireplace at each end, weaving looms in the corner and a marble carving of the Virgin Mary with Baby Jesus. We arrive just in time to interrupt everyone’s meditation and ungracefully tip toe to our places across creaky floorboards that are over a century old.

Yoga is glorious. After a sleepless night and morning in an upright airplane chair my body thanks me for the thorough wring-out that is Iyengar yoga. The teacher is one of the bathing beauties from this morning. I smell the sent of really old wood and fresh air. Sunlight filters through the leaves of the trees and then through the skylight making everyone look golden. I stretch and my hand lands in a burrow of ancient spider webs. I look around at the empty shelves that are still labeled for the books that are long gone. The history of the room is hard to ignore in favor of meditation.

            After class we enjoy wine and fresh picked berries on a wide lawn and watch the sunset on a mountainside. We bat gnats and bat more gnats. After dark the calmness evaporates and people retire to the music room to bang on the drum set sing “Cosmic Girl” and other disco favorites.  They are competing with the band across the road rehearsing for tomorrow’s performance of ‘Jesus Christ Superstar”. It’s too much for me so I slip out and find my way through the woods back to my barn. I think about the black bear spotted yesterday and wonder if he’s eyeing me through the foliage. I see two yellow eyes. They’re blinking. I’m wondering if someone slipped me some inauguration hallucinogens when I realize the blinking eyes are fireflies; the fabled creature us West Coast kids only dream about.  With the double drum sets pounding in the distance the fireflies around me and visions of nudists running through my head, it’s clear that I have arrived in Woodstock and the spirit of all it has meant to our culture waited for me. 

Monday, July 23, 2012

A great big bowl of freedom

Thank you to Kellie and Enrique for setting up this awesome blog, great idea from our MAGIStic media experts! And gratitude to Kaitlyn to being the first to share her life, filled with many flavors of cute! And so now, I tell a story, with the hopes that I hear all of yours…

Once upon a time, it was summer. That time is now.

The summer began with me missing all of you and not knowing what to do with myself, having no MAGIS to define my essence. And not having to pay rent, I found myself able to more cool things by bumming around. So, I took to the road on my noble steed/rolling house.

After a few days of driving and contemplating the universe, a police office left me an expensive love note reminding me that I forgot to register and insure my car (exhibit A below). So I went back to Santa Barbara to get my affairs in order.

The designers of San Clemente were definitely idealists about human nature, because the windows are just begging to be jumped through. Santa Barbara is much too comfortable and I felt it magnetically pulling me back. This window was my front door for about a week or so while I squatted there.

Back on the road, I learned more wonderful gems, such as the fact that cat scrotum sweat is used in fancy perfumes (called by a fancy French word, of course), that new flavors of food dampen the immune system, and that water volleyball kicks ass. I have no more pictures. (I tried to document my travels to share, buuuut it just didn’t work out.) So please enjoy this stock photo of Idyllwild (the place I used to live and returned to camp for awhile), followed by one of my favorite optical illusions, and picture of a baby turtle named snappy.

The most unique experience was probably spending a week at a nudist community (apparently they detest the term “colony” as derogatory, and for good reason, as they are not ants). Alas, I apologize that I have no pictures of myself at the camp, but I think these are an accurate approximation. (Actually, I darethink there are pictures floating around the corners of the interweb of me in my birthday suit riding a mechanical bull…)


I will soon be en route to Texas. I am happy I will be relaxing there after living life in the fast lane in Chicago for a little while with very youthful friends/relatives/old students. Next week, the real adventure begins, as I couchsurf my way around the DR and Haiti.

Oh, and I have been doing research this whole time. Just for the record.

The fortunes have smiled on me for the first few weeks of break, and I hope the same for everyone! I leave you with infinite quantities of love and a double dosing of haiku:

Stare a star, spinning…
What is it you hold on to?
Freedom costs a jump.

Ode to a mullet
Follicles with intention!
Oh, brother squirrel.

: )


Reflections on the thrill of traveling abroad with a toddler

As of now I am knee deep in surveys, manuscripts, deadlines and diapers…

I am stoked to read about all of your experiences abroad (and live vicariously through your posts) since my international traveling for this summer has come to an end.  

My vacation to Italy with the family was definitely filled with plenty of adventures as any trip with a two year undoubtedly is.  As with any mom my most memorable experiences almost always revolve around my daughter Elizabeth since I am consistently viewing the world through her eyes (even if that means carefully investigating the pattern on the floor of the Sistine Chapel or chasing pigeons in the Piazza di San Marco).

The adventure of traveling with a toddler begins at the airport when you are lugging around a 50 pound bag, car seat, 3 carry ons and a stroller (trust me I did leave some of my belonging behind).  The same nightmare of traveling with so much luggage gets worse when you are train hopping from one town to another.  If I had really known what I was in for I would have left the car seat, toys, stuffed animals, books, baby carriers, and backpacks behind but you live and learn.  We almost lost limbs jumping from trains for forgotten strollers or from carrying 100 pounds of luggage up countless flights of stairs. 

Other than the issue of getting from one train, bus or airplane to another is the treasure of what Elizabeth now refers to as being STUCK.  Sometimes being stuck can be pleasant but other times it can be a nightmare.  Tantrums, tears, kicks and hair pulling (not just my hair but the lucky passengers in front of us) were some of Lizzy’s less welcomed reactions.  Of course once Elizabeth would fall asleep long trips become utterly boring.  While on the train Elizabeth would take to singing songs about the people who were sleeping, playing with other passengers, smelling her own feet and asking others to do the same, and she managed to make friends with every Italian women within her proximity.

Italian women, and men for that matter, were very much taken with Elizabeth.  She was offered hugs, compliments, candy, food and toys (one kind woman shared her entire lunch which Elizabeth, sandwich, fruit, water and all).  So if any of you need to conduct interviews or surveys in Italy you might want to take Elizabeth along because she has a way of catching people’s attention with her cuteness. 

Our adventure came to its peak at the end of our trip when we were in Rome and Elizabeth woke up with PINK EYE!  She was absolutely miserable and I at least thought that it was going to be a long, frustrating and stressful day figuring out the Italian healthcare system in order to get her some antibacterial drops.  To my surprise however, the most stressful, dangerous and costly part of our day was the few taxi rides that is took to get the eye drops (I literally thanked God that I was alive every time I stepped out of a taxi cab or crossed the street in Rome). 

So here is a breakdown of our day.  We woke up and Lizzy had a puffy and goopy right eye.  We were directed to an urgent care down the block which then referred us to the Children’s Hospital.  We jumped in a cab and were dropped at the door of the emergency room (tourists often have to go through the emergency room when they’re abroad to get care even for the simplest things).  The receptionist took down some background information and asked as to wait for our number to be called.  I was surprised that she didn’t ask for any insurance information whatsoever but figured they would handle it later.  We sat down expecting to wait for hours but within 10 minutes our number was called and we were ushered into a clean and well stocked room with two kind health professionals who cleaned Elizabeth’s eye and prescribed her some drops to clear up the infection.  In another five minutes I had the prescription and directions to the nearest pharmacy and I was told I could leave without doing any paperwork.  I was stunned as every mom in the U.S. who pays for private health insurance and is still slapped with hundreds of dollars of medical bills for well-baby visits would be. 

While the pharmacy was out of the original prescription and Lizzy took drops that she ended up being allergic to, we eventually got a prescription that cleared everything up.  The (usually expensive) antibiotic was only $7.  I am still dealing with my envy of the Italian healthcare system as you can see. 

Our trip was full of adventures and learning experiences.  Now that I am back I am trying to deal with being home and diving into my research full gear.  I have been distributing surveys in Oxnard and working on pinning down all my backgrounds research and multiple IRB applications before I can start looking for interviewees.  I want more adventure but it is office work for me over the next few days. 

I will be checking this blog hoping to learn about all of your awesome experiences! Can’t wait!


Thursday, July 12, 2012

"Come visit Woodstock, I have a bottle of our finest wine waiting for you."- Enrique Villa
Hello Magis Six,

We've had a month to decompress from our first completed year of grad school and that should be enough time to be at least knee deep in adventures a little more exciting than the grad cave or SSMS 2012, possibly even more exciting than the SSMS bathrooms!

Someone had the brilliant idea (maybe it was Leila or Miranda) to keep a blog style site for us to update each other on bits of our lives while we are away. Please post anything from a single photo to a written entry to a video.

It will be really cool to look back at this record of our lives in about 8 month's time when we are mired in theses (rhymes with 'feces' and I don't think it's accidental). Who knows, reading a record of our highs, lows and learning experiences may provide inspiration when we are feeling like another degree may not be worth all the work a thesis takes.

Hope everyone is doing well wherever they are, and if not let's hope you're adventures are building character at least!