Even Alice Needs Jiminy Cricket Sometimes

Being in Indonesia can be fun and strange. Being in Indonesia at 26 can also be fun and strange. Being 26 anywhere can be fun and strange. Before I get much further let me try and preempt some of your inevitable groans. I know 26 is not old. I am completely aware that I have a long, full life ahead of me that is just beginning to get really good.

That said, Facebook has a nasty habit of showing me exactly where all of my friends are in their lives. And, golly, am I at a different place than some. I grew up with these people, I went to classes with them, I got into a lot of trouble with some of them. Now I see them having babies, getting married or, heaven forbid, BOTH!

This is my happy face. I swear.

This is my happy face. I swear.

This was bound to happen sooner or later, I suppose I was just hoping for later. There are points in our lives when we are faced with these invisible walls built of the expectations of others that remind us of our own mortality. It all gathers together and makes a girl, who is already in a vulnerable place, feel very far behind the curve. I always used to joke that I wouldn’t feel old until my friends started having babies on purpose. Well, the time of ultrasound photos, engagement shots, and happy wedding portraits is here. Congratulatory messages aplenty and, though mine will never be the voice of dissent, inside I feel a little like the ugly duckling wandering lost, in search of a place where I belong.

In the darkness of night, in those awful moments before I manage to fall asleep, I sit there and wonder if I’ve done something wrong with my life. If maybe I took a left when I should’ve taken a right and now I’m irreparably lost in the woods with no hope of finding even the Beast’s castle. The pictures of happy families and newly weds and honeymoons dance in front of my face like a scene from some bad 50’s horror flick. Being in Indonesia can exacerbate the problem; this is a land of marriage and babies and cooking. It’s hard to say I have peers because almost all of the women my age are married with children. We can talk about school or teaching or food or the weather but then they have to return to their role as mother and wife while I go home to watch Doctor Who. There is a constant bombardment of inquiries as to why I don’t have a boyfriend, why I’m not married, and discussions of how to make me a good wife. Ultimately, what do you say when someone asks you why you don’t have a partner? Because in America I was too busy to meet people? Because I met people and didn’t like them? Because I have a nasty habit of wanting the unattainable? (Like Ryan Gosling. Or Batman. Or John Krasinski. Or my Classics professor from University.) Because I find human relationships exceedingly complicated and I don’t understand how emotions work? Yeah, have fun with any of those.

Wise words from Mr. Carroll.

Wise words from Mr. Carroll.

But then there’s this little voice. A tiny Jiminy Cricket sitting quietly in the dark recesses of my mind struggling to be heard over the rushing ambush of hormones and fear. He whispers urgently that I did take a different path. I gad along my own road, pausing for wonderful, ridiculous dance solos in the spotlight of the few people I invite along for the ride. No, I’m not engaged or even dating, I don’t have a baby on the way, or a mortgage, or a stable career with a real salary. What I do have is a story. I have a beautiful mess of a life. I have wonderful friends all over the world and a family that loves me more than I can measure. I have support and affection and strength. I have experiences few know of and fewer can imagine and each of them make me the strong, resilient, wonderful woman I am today. Every new chapter adds a depth of character that has boundless potential. I am not the woman that I will be when I die and I am not the girl of yesterday. I have so much more to learn and see and understand. I am grateful for every bump in the road because it has led me here. To Indonesia. To the Peace Corps. And for every day I’m here I make a myriad of new discoveries about myself. As my left foot says (as well as the Temple of Delphi… and Socrates…), “Know Thyself.” And as the story goes, know that you know nothing so that you can strive to learn ever more.

This is my magical secret path in the forest. It is quiet and it is mine.

This is my magical secret path in the forest. It is quiet and it is mine.

Almost all of my of cousins my age have babies and families. People I went to high school and college with are now popping out kids like it’s a hobby. The amount of weddings I’ll miss while in Indonesia is starting to make me nauseated. And then I have the friends that inspire me. This isn’t to say that babies and marriage isn’t something to aspire to or to be inspired by, but it’s something I can’t control. It’s something that will happen or it won’t. I will find a partner or I won’t, but in the meantime I like to think making myself even more awesome is a pretty good pastime. So I see my friends my age or older starting businesses, running theatre companies, traveling the world, making a difference and I think to myself, “If I end up like that or if that’s what I look like from the outside right now, I’m doing alright. Hell, better than alright.”

So, to all of my peers on the family track I say to you a genuine and warm congratulations. May your years be plentiful and filled with laughter. May your smiles grow deeper and your worries grow lighter. I really mean it, from the very bottom of my cold, dark heart. One day I hope to have a family and ultrasound pictures and cheesy engagement photo shoots just like you all.

To my peers who are sexy and single and living it up I say, Rock On! Thank you for making me feel like I’m not alone on this path. Thank you for being my date to the weddings and the baby showers. Thank you for shining so brightly as you blaze the trail so that I don’t lose footing on my own.

Metamorphosis

One of my counterparts explaining the lesson in Indonesian before we dive into English.

One of my counterparts explaining the lesson in Indonesian before we dive into English.

Indonesia is different. We’ve been over this. There are a lot of things here that take getting used to when you come from America. This, in no way, makes it bad or inferior, just different. Sometimes these differences frustrate or confuse me, sometimes they make me smile. It depends on the day, as my world has been changing on a nigh daily basis over here. I’m thrilled to report, however, that I think I’m the happiest I have ever been.

I finally started teaching last week. My week goes from Tuesday to Saturday starting at 7a every day except Saturday. Much like when I was enrolled in school, I have managed to find an extracurricular for every day of the week because, free time, what?

On Tuesdays and Saturdays I have Pencak Silat (Language Note: the “C”s in Indonesian are pronounced like “ch”). I had my first class this week and I LOVED IT. Most of you who know me are probably aware that I do have a background in martial arts, so I was obviously wicked interested to learn about the nuances of this Indonesian based style. I show up after a full day of teaching to about 150-200 students waiting for the lesson to begin. I did not begin to fathom a class this size; to my pleasant surprise half or more were female. After a brief hello, Pak Tata (the coach) split the group into males and females and had us begin the class by running around campus.

Barefoot.

That’s right, folks, you heard me. I ran (well…jogged and walked quickly) around my campus barefoot to ‘strengthen my feet.’ I tried not to laugh as I recalled the days of old when my feet were akin to leather. After my face had turned bright red from running (jogging) in Indonesia, we ladies reconvened in the large school center to stretch and practice our basic fighting positions. It differs a little from the styles I’ve studied but it’s nothing extraordinarily foreign so I was able to gleefully follow the patterns of stances, kicks, breathing, and punches. I did, however, underestimate the added complication of doing this study in another language. I suppose I went in assuming it would be fine and I would just follow along with the instructor, but you depend a lot on the added vocal tips! It was a humorous process for all involved, with plenty of help from the girls around me. (Miss! Miss! Right leg!)

On Wednesdays I help with theatre club. That’s right folks, I moved across the world and I’m still doing theatre. It’s such a great group of kids to work with and the teacher is an absolute gem. We talk about the differences between Indonesian and American theatre while combining the practices into a really wonderful experience for these outstanding students. In fact, this week they will be performing a piece about transgendered issues in society. Talk about a well informed and open bunch! When Bu Diah told me about it I was absolutely amazed and thrilled to help.

The other sort of kid we have on campus. Just hanging out. Like ya do when you're a goat.

The other sort of kid we have on campus. Just hanging out. Like ya do when you’re a goat.

Thursdays are reserved for a project that has yet to begin, Study Club. It will be a smaller, more focused version of English Club in which the students get more individualized attention.

I was fortunate enough to already have an established English Club when I arrived (we have t-shirts!). This involves a room full (I mean, standing room only on a crowded muni train, FULL) of students who stay after school every Friday to play games with the crazy American English teacher. I’ve yet to perfect a game for over 60 students in one small room, but I will find a way!

Finally, we circle around to Saturday, my easy day. I don’t start class until 10a (which is basically afternoon here) and I only teach for a few hours. I then head over to the music teacher’s house to learn Sundanese songs for an hour or so. I can’t tell you how fun it is to be singing again, not to mention how much I’m learning about such a different kind of music! I had no idea they’re basic Do-Re-Mi was different than ours. This will also help me learn a little more of the local language (Sundanese) in a super fun way. Also, it makes everyone giggle, which is fun. After my music lesson I head back to Pencak Silat to get sweaty and (eventually) even spar!

Starting school was exactly what I needed. I’m exhausted and I’m happy and I’m finding my place. These kids are such an inspiration. I’ve met so many aspiring doctors, nurses, policemen (and women!), and even a few who want to be astronauts!

I think the part that keeps me smiling the biggest, though, is my name. Since I arrived in Indonesia I’ve been “Bule” or “Hello Mister”. In the past two weeks I have turned into “Hello Miss!” or Bu (the Indonesian equivalent to Mrs). My students still giggle when they see me, but now they come up and say hello (often in English!). I feel so welcomed and such a big part of a wonderful community. So, yes, Indonesia is different and that’s what makes it so special.

Dissenting Compromise

Things are different here. That isn’t particularly surprising, it’s just a simple statement of fact. They are different here than they were in Malang. They were different in Bandung than they are here. Each place has been different. Each city a change.

I suppose before I continue rambling on about cities you’ve seldom heard of and places you’ve never seen I should provide you all with a brief lesson in Java’s geography and a little history of Indonesia (just the pertinent bits, I promise). I live on the island of Java in Indonesia. In Java there are a series of, let’s call them provinces: West Java, East Java, Central Java, and a few more I am unlikely to ever mention. Now, Indonesia was occupied by the Dutch for about 350 years. This has affected their languages, their culture, and their lives to this day. Indonesia finally gained its independence in 1945. While Indonesia was now one free country, it was still comprised of over 1700 islands with wildly different cultures and languages. For this reason, the representatives of the islands came together and decided to instate a national language and dubbed it, you guessed it, Indonesian.

Geo Lesson

Here we go, folks. There will be a quiz.

Alright, you say. Enough with the informational bit, you say. Ya, ya, ok, fine. You needed the back story to understand where I’m going with this so just calm yourself. In East Java there are primarily Javanese people. They have a very specific culture and their own language (Javanese) which is spoken at home. Children here grow up learning first their local language (generally), then Indonesian, and maybe English later (Makes you feel a little badly about your single language skills, doesn’t it, America?). I learned Indonesian in East Java, I lived with a Javanese family, I learned about their culture and values. Then I moved to West Java. West Java is composed of mostly Sundanese people. They speak, yes, Sundanese. This is not just a little switch from the South East Coast of America to the North East Coast of America, this is vaguely akin to moving from America to Canada. Probably Quebec. The people mostly look kind of the same, they can speak the language you know (if they’re young), but everything else is a whole new world. (Sing it. SING IT. You know you want to.)

Not only have I moved to a new culture, I’ve moved from a community outside of a large city to the middle of nowhere Desa-Desa land (Vocab: Desa – A small village or town). Things are different here. My community in Malang was open and somewhat modern and very liberal (comparatively speaking). Tattoos and piercings were not normal, but not bad. It was slowly understood that I am a strong and opinionated adult. It is different here. People are slow to understand and even more slow to accept certain things. I am a single woman who cannot cook. That is not ok. I’ve been told I must learn. I’ve been told I may not spend so much time in the company of men. That it’s unseemly for a woman to be so familiar with men and not women. They spend ten weeks trying to prepare me for this and I don’t know that it is possible. I don’t know that I can look Peace Corps in the face and tell them they did it wrong or poorly but I don’t think I was ready for what I found here. I come from a different culture and no matter how many cultures we are exposed to by living in a proverbial melting pot, it’s not like this. Well, it wasn’t for me.

This would be my normal state of being. Some people are not used to such things.

This would be my normal state of being. Some people are not used to such things.

What’s the moral here? Where’s the sunny side? What’s the solution? Well, we wait. School hasn’t even started yet, we’re still on their version of Summer Vacation. I’m still new in town. I’m still a crazy, eccentric, white girl from America (some Americans have trouble swallowing my eccentricities, the poor Indonesians didn’t know what they were signing up for!). I’m never going to be able to change the way they see women here but that’s not the goal. The goal is to assimilate enough that I become a member of the community, no longer a guest among strangers. The ultimate success is to assimilate without changing how I do things. Meeting in the middle and sharing ideas instead of one side triumphing over the other. This isn’t tug of war, this is a cultural exchange. For anyone who wants to join the Peace Corps, any strangers who may be reading this entry, if you take nothing else away, take that. This is a two way street. The people in my community may not always remember that but that’s when I offer a gentle reminder. It’s not just me to has to assimilate and compromise. And, while I may not be able to change everyone’s view on women or Americans, I can change a few. I can plant an idea. An idea is the most dangerous weapon in the world, yes? It starts as a small seed deep in the minds of a few and grows into something bigger than me. It will take years and it may only affect a few people but that would be the greatest success in the world. To see one of these girls grow up to become anything she wants to be.

So. Things are different. Different so often has the connotation of polite discontent or dislike. Like interesting. I don’t mean that here. I mean, denotatively, not the same as another or each other; unlike in nature, form, or quality. Things are here, as always, exactly what I make them. I will get out of this exactly what I put in. If I don’t like something, I need to change it on my own. Not enough space in my room? Build a shelf. Not a shelf in the mandi? Use smaller bottles. Don’t like what’s being asked of me? Explain why I’m not going to do it. When I was younger I took Hapkido, a Korean martial art. My particular brand was called Yu-Shim Hapkido, or, Bending Willow Hapkido. The willow flows and moves in the winds but its branches are strong and hard to break. You have to be flexible and move with circumstances but strong enough to stand your ground and preserve what makes you who you are. I’m not going to be the same person when I leave this place but I’m not going to change what I believe or how I act to suit anyone, save myself. It’s a tenuous line but I’ve spent my entire life being told I’m too stubborn to be afraid of anything.

Indo the wild, wild west

It happened. I am officially a Peace Corps Volunteer. I took an oath in front of the US Ambassador and shook his hand as he gave me a pin to prove I said the words of all federal employees.

Check out our KILLER PC Pins. And those faces.

Check out our KILLER PC Pins. And those faces.

We met, we smiled, we sang the Indonesian national anthem, we shook hands and took pictures, some of us are in the papers, we hugged and said goodbye, and that was that. Like most ceremonies. Some of us went out afterward for an adult beverage which was nice but I had to get home to pack and spend my last night with host family numero uno. Now, they are something I did not account for. They are overwhelming with affection and kindness and caring. I couldn’t cough without someone asking how I was and I couldn’t be on the phone without someone wanting to say hi. It was suffocating. And I miss them. I did not expect to nearly cry as I left their house for the last time. As I high fived Miss Noreen for the last time. I know these are things that should have occurred to me, but they didn’t. So, I miss them. They were good and patient and kind. I do hope to visit them if given the opportunity to help with training next year. Even if the mandi water is freezing.

A last photo with Ibu, Nenek, Sam (the PCV who lived with this family last year), and some of us ID-7s.

A last photo with Ibu, Nenek, Sam (the PCV who lived with this family last year), and some of us ID-7s.

After a prolonged goodbye, we got on a train Tuesday at around Noon. 16 hours later we arrived in Bandung. Lemme say that again. SIXTEEN hours. On a train. I would really love never to do that again. Somehow I think that’s not a very likely hope, but a girl can dream. It was fun, though. All 20 of us were seated together so we, of course, played train mafia and other fun and ridiculous games. We got to Bandung at around 4a and everyone shuffled out in a dazed and exhausted stupor akin to a bad zombie movie whilst carrying all of our wordly possessions. We crossed the street and promptly passed out in our hotel. We were lovingly awoken at 11a to come down and meet our principals/vice principals/counter parts/whoever decided to show up from our school. You heard me right, folks. We traveled 16 hours, didn’t really sleep, and then got dressed up to meet our future employers. Woot. We were thrilled.

Luckily for me, my counterpart (Pak Dayat) is one of the nicest people on the planet. He is so excited to have me here and he made that very clear. Publicly. We had three wonderful nights in the hotel with warm showers and a wealth of restaurants nearby. We found Indian Food and Pizza Hut. It was a cultural oasis. The few of us who needed to stay a third night had a grand time having a girls’ night. We did facials while some of us got a massage and we watched a chick flick whilst doing our nails. It certainly wasn’t an accurate depiction of what life would be like at site but it was a lovely way to celebrate our last night in a city.

Alan, the only man to be invited to girls' night.

Alan, the only man to be invited to girls’ night.

Alan (the only male in girls’ night) and I are neighbors. I mean, for the Peace Corps, you can’t get much closer than he and I are. It’s apparently about 30 minutes to an hour by bike. Because of this fun little fact we were able to hitch a ride together to site as his Vice Principle and my Counterpart had ridden together. So, we buckled up (figuratively, not literally, as there were no seat belts in the back seat) and settled in for our 6 (ish?) hour ride to site.

It was really quite beautiful. We passed countless rice patties littered with farmers and palm trees. Alan dubbed one particularly green expanse The Shire of Indonesia. As we were passing through the windy roads of Gunung Gelap (Dark Mountain) we drove into clouds and I thought I was home again. With the exception of a few odd trees I could have been on Hwy 17 going to Santa Cruz.

I swear, we drove into a cloud.

I swear, we drove into a cloud.

We arrived at my house first. I was reminded of a time that seems both years ago and yesterday. I thought about when I was delivered to my family in Batu. I couldn’t speak a word of real Indonesian, I was nearly quivering like a leaf, there were tons of people there to receive me. I wasn’t quaking this time and I can speak quite a bit of Indonesian now. My Ibu was out when I arrived with no one in the house but her family that had been visiting from Bandung. It was a peculiar way to arrive, but no matter. I found my room, explored the house, and settled in to unpack. There are some major stores nearby as well as a little collection of local shops. My house is very quiet and there’s a well in the back that looks like a small child covered in black hair may crawl out at any moment. I am making a ton of friends with local children and teachers. My school seems really fantastic if somewhat huge. My desa is darling and the beach is beautiful and close. When I buy a bike I should be able to get there fairly quickly.

The boys and I enjoying the beach at sunset.

The boys and I enjoying the beach at sunset.

It’s amazing how much you really get used to given enough time and resilience. When I first came to Indonesia I was constantly worried about the heat and the squatty potty and the mandis. Now it’s just the heat; the other two are a normal daily occurrence. There is always a measure of resolve you don’t know you have until you’re in the middle of using it, some measure of resilience you didn’t know you had until you refuse to stumble. There are, of course, new challenges in a new village. New sources of excitement, new people, new family, new language, new life. I told my mother something once that she recently quoted back to me (god, I hate having myself quoted at myself): It takes you 6 months to stop feeling uncomfortable in a new place and a year to be comfortable. Alright, so maybe she didn’t remember the exact quote but I’ll give her props for trying. Trust me on that, though. I’ve moved a lot. In a month I will know people and feel a little more secure. Two, and I’ll have a friend or two. Six, I’ll feel like I’ve been here forever. At one year I’ll be able to shake things up. It’s a process; it’s slow and it can be tedious, but it’s necessary. It’s why I’m here for two years and not on some 6 month program. I want to really help. Lasting, effective, sustainable change. So buckle down, saddle up, batten down the hatches, and any other silly clichés you can think of, because we’re in for quite a ride.

How it all began

MUNI! Inspiring even the wildlife…

MUNI! Inspiring even the wildlife…

I remember being on the bus. I think it was the 47 or the 49 which means I must have been going to NCTC for work. I was sitting in one of the solo seats toward the back of the bus with my mind whirring in a thousand directions at once. I was staring out over San Francisco, spacing out while I looked at City Hall, when a woman got up to get off the bus. She was standing in my line of view when I noticed her bag: a basic black canvas bag with a small Peace Corps logo on it and nothing else.

So, in my contemplative state I sit and I stare awkwardly at her thinking to myself, “What the hell is the deal with the Peace Corps? I mean, what is that? What’s the catch?” Then I realized I live in a magical world of technological wonder with a small computer in my pocket and I looked it up. I started reading about it and took a really critical eye to it, convinced there was a problem somewhere. I was waiting for the moment when they said they owned your soul or would make you pay them tons of money or had some secret super religious inclinations. But I didn’t see any of it. I couldn’t find the problem. Almost before I knew what was happening I was filling out the forms and writing my initial essay. I didn’t even tell my parents until after I had submitted all of the paperwork. It was my first big step, my first independent change; I hadn’t even applied to college on my own. I hated my job, I’m so tired of theatre, I didn’t have a direction or aspiration. I knew that I loved teaching. I had always planned to end up in some small school, hopefully like the high school I went to, but in some tucked away little town in New England. It had always been an ‘eventually dream’. You know, I can’t get there right now, but eventually I’ll grow up and take the tests and become a teacher and be happy.

Dream Job: Not afraid of ghosts. Will travel.

Dream Job: Not afraid of ghosts. Will travel.

But why wait? Here was this shining opportunity for me to travel somewhere completely new and get training to teach. In the state of California, people who teach in the Peace Corps can come home and have those hours applied to their credential. It’s a no-brainer, really. I saw that movie, We Bought A Zoo, and there’s a great part where the dad is explaining to the son that you don’t need to be this huge, courageous person to get what you want (he’s talking about a girl, I’m talking about life). You just need 20 second of insane courage. The 20 seconds it takes to walk into the restaurant and talk to the girl. The 20 seconds it takes to ask them out. The 20 seconds it takes to push the submit button. Just 20 seconds of courage in a whole myriad of emotion to make the change you want.

So, why am I telling you this ridiculous story about serendipity and 20 seconds of courage? Well, I need help to get where I’m going. I have a lot of things to do in a very limited amount of time and the funds are not going to last me. I’ve started an online campaign (as you can see the new widget to the right!) and I would love for you to take a moment and go visit it (either by clicking on the widget OR by clicking here), share it with your friends and family, pass the word along. Every little bit counts, even $5 or a kind word of support.

Holy Happy Dance, Batman!

And that’s the game, kids!

C'mon, guys! Do the HAPPY DANCE!

C’mon, guys! Do the HAPPY DANCE!

So, essentially, I got the job but I haven’t gotten the offer letter yet.

I spoke with my Placement Specialist in DC today. She wanted to ask me more of the same questions I’ve been answering for almost a year now. (So, how do you really feel about the Peace Corps? Two years is a long time, are you sure you’re going to be able to hack it? Aren’t you going to miss your family and friends? Etc etc etc) Lucky for me, I spend a lot of my job befriending people over the phone, so I practically oozed charm in every way I’ve been practicing for ages. Looks like it worked! She said that she has qualified me for placement and that she will begin looking for a good match for me. What exactly does that mean? What’s the bottom line here?

I’M GOING TO THE PEACE CORPS!!!

She’s hoping to get back to me within the next two weeks with an invitation package. That will have all of the pertinent details like where I’m going and when and what my exact job description will be. She said that it’s entirely possible that I’m still going somewhere in Eastern Europe but not the hold her to it. It’s also almost certain I will be in the Spring departure time. As early as March but we won’t know more about a date until she sends me the invitation package.

I swear to you I got off the phone today and I was flushed, bright red and near tears. (tears of joy, don’t worry)

Most of the people I’ve told today have been full of certainty and “I knew that would happen”s. Truth of the matter is, I didn’t. Call me superstitious or paranoid, but I’m even a little concerned with saying I got in without the letter in hand. As though saying it out loud will make it fall to pieces. Silly, I know, but you’re talking to a girl who still wishes on stars. Jussayin.

Close To My Heart

Upon reading more blogs from various Peace Corps Volunteers I’ve come to a rather interesting conclusion: as much as I may want to get the hell out of here and on to the next step I have to take a moment to appreciate what I have and where I am before I leave. With that in mind I’ve been keeping an eye out for the seemingly mundane things that I could otherwise have taken for granted.

  • Walking home late at night staring at the Golden Gate Bridge in the distance (which you can’t really see from the Google Map below).
  • It's alright, I know it's there.

    It’s alright, I know it’s there.

  • Catching a glimpse of Sutro Tower (which I firmly believed was called Twin Peaks until I wrote this blog. Nope. That’s the name of the hill it’s on.) when it’s lightly covered in clouds. Almost like the top half is invisible or too tall for us to be able to see. Sometimes you catch a glint of the antennae just above the clouds. Occasionally, when you drive up to the top of the hill you think you’ve entered an odd mix between a really trashy scary story and some netherworld. The fog absolutely takes over.
  • Sutro Tower

    What it usually looks like.

  • NOT seeing the Golden Gate Bridge. People come from all over the world to catch a glimpse of this amazing feat of man and then stare at this vaguely ominous darkness. No bridge, no sun, only a dark fog. I absolutely love the bridge like that.
  • Golden Gate Bridge in Fog

    What many, many tourists see.

  • Indian Food and Wine delivered to my door in an hour or less. In my humble opinion, all the world’s ills can be solved with Indian food and a little red wine. First day off in a few months? Unwind with Indian food and wine. Crappy day? Make it better with Indian food and wine! Awesome day? Top it off with Indian food and wine!! The fact that both of these things can easily appear at my doorway in approximately an hour just makes it all that much more enchanting.
  • Close To My Heart

  • Batman marathons. Batman comic books. Batman cartoons. So, maybe just all things Batman. I have to be mindful of what I pack when I go away. I can’t carry my whole library to wherever I end up. I might be able to take my iPad, but let’s not hold our breath. I am preparing myself for a life with very little Batman. But fear not, my friends, nothing will come between me and my undying love for the caped crusader, the dark knight, the masked manhunter, the demon of the night.
  • Close To My Heart

  • The strip clubs at night. That’s right, kids, the strip clubs. Not because I’ve ever been to one or because I condone the practice but because they amuse me so. I mean, how very out of place they seem to be in the middle of Little Italy. You drive by at night and you see the matching steeples of Saints Peter and Paul Church in the distance, watch all the hustle and bustle of people going to wonderful, high end, Italian restaurants, and then BAM! Strip Clubs. They’re lit up like Christmas, or (perhaps more aptly…) Vegas.
  • Close To My Heart

  • Santa Cruz! It may very well be the closest thing I’ve ever had to home. More so than Raleigh, where I spent the first bit of my life, by far. This is where I grew up. I only lived there for two years but it’s the only city other than San Francisco that I feel such a strong tie. From the Boardwalk, to the hidden beaches, to my tattoo studio, to Natural Bridges, to the Monarch migration, to the hole in the cliff, to the surf museum.
  • Close To My Heart

  • The Rose Garden at Raleigh Little Theatre. Before there was Santa Cruz there was North Carolina. There aren’t a whole lot of places that I miss, we moved a lot so there’s no one house that really signifies a home for me there. The place that brings back the most good memories, that seems to be the most consistent, that will always hold a place in my heart (whether I actually get married there or not) is the Rose Garden. I remember how sad I was every year when they would cut back the roses right in the middle of summer. I remember how gross the fountain used to be. I remember all the little hiding spots and details that makes it beautiful and home.
  • Close To My Heart

  • Seven Maples Campground – Hancock, NH. A strange campground. Most of the time when I was growing up it was poorly managed and poorly maintained with more RVs than tents and awful showers. To give it a little credit, it’s much better now. The new owners have been doing great things since they bought it and it’s really much nicer. Even when it was a dump, though, it was always perfect. Every summer it’s where I could go and be surrounded by the biggest, loudest, rowdiest, most wonderful family a girl could ever hope for.
  • Yes, yes those are, in fact, seven maple trees. Thus the name.

    Yes, yes those are, in fact, seven maple trees. Thus the name.

  • My family. Not necessarily the people tied to me by blood but the people that have grown to love me unreservedly without familial obligation. The people who have been there with me through the trenches and back out the other side. I will miss every single cast member I have worked with. You are all so dear to me. I’ll do my best not to drop off the face of the planet but for each of you reading this, whether your picture ended up below or not, I love you and you make my life a little better by sharing it with me.
  • All these bitches are crazy. I mean, some of them have put up with me for a loooooong time.

    All these bitches are crazy. I mean, some of them have put up with me for a loooooong time.

  • My family. The ones that brought me in to this world, who met me a little later, who love me forever and always just the way I am. Anyone who knows me knows there is nothing more important to me in this world than my family. So, hats off to the rowdy bunch of mismatched lunatics that managed to raise me. You’re all nuts and you all make me crazy but I wouldn’t change it for the world. There were too many of you to add pictures of but you know who you are.
  • Left to Right, Up to Down: My grammy and I, my older sister, my younger sister with my mom, my younger sister in all her adorable glory, my step-dad with my two aunts and my grandmother, my dad and I, my youngest brother and I, my two other brothers and I, and my middle brother and I. Lots of siblings. Lots and lots of family.

    Left to Right, Up to Down: My grammy and I, my older sister, my younger sister with my mom, my younger sister in all her adorable glory, my step-dad with my two aunts and my grandmother, my dad and I, my youngest brother and I, my two other brothers and I, and my middle brother and I. Lots of siblings. Lots and lots of family.

I could keep going. All the things I love. The places and memories that make me happy. The Red Sox, Land’s End, Wilmington Beach, bio-luminescent oceans, star gazing on Mount Diablo, The Academy of Science’s Nightlife evenings, the planetarium, scary movie marathons, Eeyore, DisneyLand, Highway 1, and countless others. I’m grateful for where I am and the places I’ve lived, the people who love me. I’m also grateful that I might have the opportunity to go elsewhere and experience even more spectacular life events. So, let’s do this!