ei·do·lon (-dln)
     n. pl.   Image of an ideal.

Plato believed that we lived in a world of images, three-dimensional shadows of the true one.  What we see with  our eyes is nothing more than a cheap imitation of its true state.  For  example, the chair we see before our eyes is nothing more than a shabby image of the true chair that exists.  We carry on everyday with flawed perceptions of the true ideal form. 


Life After College: Year 3 -  In Transit    

[Saturday, July 30, 2005]

The Joys of Ikea.

My roommate and I made an Ikea run today, and came back with only half the furniture we needed. The other half is to be saved for another day. Ikea instructions are proof that one does not need to be literate in order to read directions. And as the two of us struggled to put boards together, waves of dejavu washed over me. It's funny. When you don't do something very often, doing it again always reminds you very strongly of the last time you did it, who you were with, and exactly how everything was - including how things smelled.

Like rubbing a lamp to get a genie, the smell of Ikea furniture conjures up the ghost of anachronic past. Last time I built Ikea furniture was when I first moved to New York. It was August 1st, 2002, and anachronic had stopped by on his visit from San Diego. At the time, when him and his friend B showed up at my door, I remember wondering distractedly that I never knew God made Chinese men that looked like this and that maybe I should've fixed my hair and changed into something a little more attractive than old pajamas. We spent the evening hammering and putting shelves together to build my pseudo-working dresser, anachronic hitting his thumb just as often as I did (which made me feel infinitely better). I don't remember what we talked about, but I do remember laughing a lot (and sweating a lot) and working to the light of my desk lamp (which was placed on the floor) as the evening grew dark, since I hadn't bought a floor lamp yet. It gave a very "camp" sort of feel to things.

This time around though, it was my roommate L and I. Have you ever seen girls trying to put furniture together? It's a game of approximation and "I'm sure there's a more technical way to do this, but this looks about right..." Both of us came complete with toolkits that our dads had given us, but never told us how to use. Half the time was spent figuring out that the screwdriver heads fit into the handle because they're magnetic, and the other half of the time was spent trying to screw things into the walls by hand. My kingdom for a power drill!!! I've resolved not to put anything too heavy on my bookcase, just to be on the safe side. And to think, both of us have advanced degrees from universities.

But, my bookcase is up, and it's functional. And hopefully will stay that way. The smell of particle-board (as if Ikea furniture is ever made of real wood) still reminds me of that evening in New York though. And every morning, as I get a whiff of it on the way to my own personal bathroom, I sleepily half-expect anachronic to be around, waiting to hit his thumb with my hammer. Until the smell of new Ikea fades (it's not half as thrilling as the smell of new car), I'll have to deal with his spirit waffling around my new Philadelphia apartment. As long as he keeps my bathroom clean, doesn't miss when he uses the toilet, and picks up after himself, his ghost is free to hang out as long as it wants, or at least till the smell of particle-board fades.

Posted by ink |  9:41 PM

[Friday, July 29, 2005]

Silky Smooth.

I shaved my legs today. For the first time in 6 weeks. I figured since my class was having a pre-Orientation get-together at a bar in a few hours, the least I could do was make an attempt to look like a civilized Western woman. Though, I'm not sure if my shaved legs are that much of an improvement, since all it means is that you can see my mosquitoe bites all that much more clearly. Shaving in Central America was an exercise in risk. I had a choice of either not shaving my legs and being hairy. Or shaving them and taking the top off of every single mosquitoe bite on my legs. Hairy legs, or scabby legs. I opted for hairy. Especially since I didn't trust the Central American health system to staunch any prolific bleeding in case I really took a chunk out of my leg.

So how does one shave legs with 50-some mosquitoe bites on them? (The remaining 40-some are on my arms and back). The answer - very carefully. When my friend D first saw my legs when I returned, she thought they looked horrendous. "Perhaps you should wear a long skirt to your White Coat Ceremony," was what she said. I frowned. I was planning on wearing a silk strapless dress. I peered down at my legs. They looked quite fine to me, though - I have the benefit of having seen them 3 weeks ago at their worst. They look quite good and healthy now. They're obviously healing finally. Instead of the big round angrily red circles on my calves, they're shrinking in size to little dots and darkening. "It looks like you have smallpox," said D. Obviously, my perspective is not likely to coincide with public opinion.

So I took my time and shaved my legs, and in a spurt of inspiration, even painted my toenails. I wiggled them at myself and looked at them thoughtfully. They looked strange to me. A little alien, but wiggling them again assured me that these toes were indeed mine. There was nothing I could do to hide my black fourth toenail (the one beside the pinky toe). I'd bruised it on a hike somewhere along the way, and it stubbornly refused to be hidden even underneath the hard shell of color. As I moisturized everything, I also noticed the hard gray half-ring around the back of my heel. Oh dear. It looks decidedly like tree bark. I can thank a blister opened and re-opened 4 times over for that. My hiking shoes are thoroughly broken in, but when everything is wet from a downpour, all sorts of new places start to rub. No matter. There isn't much I can do about it anyways. As I stepped out of the bathroom, I felt decidedly girly again. Until I noticed in horror all the little hairs on my bathroom floor. How can this be?! I've only taken 4 showers! In the past when I shared a bathroom, I always assumed that the copious amounts of hair on the floor must be my roommate's. But as I wiped them up with toilet paper and checked each corner to make sure the floor was hair-free, I had to grudgingly admit that maybe I'm the hairy monster that's lived in every apartment with me.

The good thing is - it doesn't bother me to clean the bathroom anymore. As long as I know its my own filth, it seems okay somehow.

Posted by ink |  4:22 PM

Sometimes, I should just keep my mouth shut.

So, yesterday, I decided to stop being a juvenile teenager about things, and actually went out to talk to the concrete guys working in our backyard. Yes, the hot concrete guys with chiseled boys and sweat pouring off their skin. One works topless, the other one keeps his shirt on (I like to think he's the shy one). But yesterday, I realized that it wasn't anything half so romantic. I watched as he lifted his shirt up to wipe his face, and I realized - he has a gut. That's why he keeps his shirt on. But he's also the boss, so he supervises and doesn't work as much.

A few hours later, the boss had driven off to Home Depot, so it was just me and the young one. I went out to chat, feeling a little silly and very little girl-ish. I sat down on one of the wooden beams and asked him if its tough working out here in the sun (duh Ink. obvious answer). I was regaled with a 45 minute long speech on the sun and the weather these days, followed by some ruminations on the weather in Florida, followed by some opinions on how weird the weather in Jamaica is. That then led to a series of airport stories of how he'd been delayed in different airports due to weather. I stared at him, stunned. All vestiges of fantasy hanging about him fell off in those hot 45 minutes. And those 45 minutes were hot only because I was sitting in the sun and was forced to remain there until he finished talking.

I really only had myself to blame. I have a rule where I'm not allowed to speak to hot men. Because more often than not, they destroy the fantasy once they open their mouths. I like to ignore the fact that they're probably not that bright, but when it stares you in the face like that, I'm made patently aware of how I could never even kiss someone who talks about weather and airports for 45 minutes. And their hotness fades. And with that, the fuzzies of having a fun crush to fantasize about when you drive also fade.

Damn myself for doing that.

Posted by ink |  10:12 AM

[Wednesday, July 27, 2005]

Today is the first day of the rest of my life.

I woke up this morning to the sound of trucks rumbling by on the street below. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I spent my first night in my brand spanking new bed inside my new bedroom that's in my new apartment that's located in Philadelphia, PA where I'll be attending Orientation at my new med school starting on Monday, August 1st. Exciting stuff. It's weird going back-to-school shopping. Part of me resists it, because (again) it feels so juvenile. Notebooks... Folders... Binders... I was in Staples yesterday with the middle school kids and the mothers. I was the oldest "kid" there. But because I'm more "grown-up" now, I buy the nice pens.

Nothing in my room is set up yet. My Astronomy calendar is lying on my desk, beside the iron I never use. I have 2 boxes of shoes, 2 boxes of clothes, and 3 boxes of books. Somehow, I have more books than I have shoes or clothes. How sad is that. I put up my new shower curtain last night, and marveled at how pretty it looked. My friend Scottie-pie asked me over IM whether I got one with flowers. I responded suspiciously, "Yes... why." "No reason," was his response. Then he added, "You're a girly girl. I knew you would." I paused. He explained, "It's not a bad thing. really."

Exactly how is "girly" defined anyways? The way I define it - it's someone who cries if they break a nail, is a bit weak, has no direction in life, and plans on relying on men forever. In my mind, girly girls always have long hair (I have short), wear lots of makeup (I don't. Unless I'm going out), and don't travel to third world countries or stay in places where they end up with bed bug bites (which I have all over my ankles). Girly girls cry a lot over nothing. And faint at the sight of blood. Girly girls are bad drivers (I like to think I'm decent). I was a trifle offended. Girly girl! It's like a bad word. All because I have a shower curtain with flowers on it. My brother says it's something you can't help. And that there's nothing I can do about it. As if it's a birth defect you're just born with. Has the entire world spent my entire life thinking I was a girly girl, and meanwhile, I spent my entire life thinking I wasn't?

No matter. The most important thing is that I'm waking up this morning, in my brand-new bed (with a flowered bed-spread on it. Hrmph), and I look to my right - and there it is. My bathroom. My very own bathroom. Yes, with a flower shower curtain in it. But mine. I'm quite excited.

Posted by ink |  8:33 AM

[Tuesday, July 26, 2005]

Whew! It's hot out there!

There are two hot young construction workers in my driveway!!

Or, more specifically, my parents' driveway since my dad hired them to repave it. What a sight to come home to! Young, lean, chiseled hard bodies, sweating in the sun. Sweating profusely, might I add. While they knock apart concrete with their bare hands and hammers.

I've already brought water out to them. Twice.

At times like this, I wonder whether the porn plots are really dreamed up by men. I wouldn't be shocked if a "construction worker consoles single woman at home" plot was thought up by a woman. Gabrielle and her hot gardener from Desperate Housewives is obviously part of a very large club that I can now claim wannabe membership to. I suppose this falls under "objectification of men". After all, if men were getting all worked up over a housecleaner with a hot body, I'd probably sneer in disgust and call them pigs. Women are more than just breasts!! So, one could also argue that these construction workers are more than just bodies. They have thoughts and dreams and desires! And I'm sure they do. But for some reason, I'm not really caring right now whether they have hobbies or even educations. It's not like I'm thinking about marrying these individuals. And my brain isn't at the top of the list of things I want stimulated. I have the next 4 years of med school for that.

I am never allowed to roll my eyes again at boys drooling over women. Obviously, I'm not much better.

Would it be too obvious if I decided to tan in the driveway in my bikini? And completely ignore the fact that our driveway is a huge hole right now? Since I've moved all my clothing to Philadelphia, the only thing these guys have seen me in at my parent's house are my cargo hiking pants and the same shirt two days in a row. Somehow, I get the feeling that porn stars aren't wearing scrubby clothes and probably have much bigger boobs.

Posted by ink |  4:34 PM

[Monday, July 25, 2005]

The Feng Shui of Things.

I spent all day today arranging and re-arranging my room. Besides a slight annoyance that my bed is too high (I prefer them low because I think it makes the room look larger), the greatest thing I'm fretting over is a 1-foot difference in placement. Against the wall in the corner? Or not against the wall (and thus jutting out into the room)?

The room feels a bit more centered when the bed is in the middle, especially since my dresser on the opposite wall lines up with it. But part of me resists that arrangement because I've always slept in a bed that was against the wall. I'm not sure how I feel about having a bed that actually has two sides. That means there's now a "wrong" and "right" side to get out of bed. Besides, sometimes I lie against the wall in my sleep and cuddle up to it, and part of me is half worried I'll fall out of bed if it juts out into the room. At the same time, it does look much more grown-up.

I also have a desk in my bedroom for the first time in almost 5 years. Part of me resents its presence for a few reasons: a) it represents work and it's inside the living space of my bedroom, normally a sacred no-work zone b)it looks juvenile, since I haven't had a desk in my room since college and c) it takes up unnecessary space in my room that quite frankly I'd rather use for other pieces of furniture (like a loveseat. or a wall full of bookcases).

Considering that my current room arrangement is composed of a $40 secondhand dresser purchased off of Craig's List and free furniture poached out of my parent's house, I think it looks quite nice. In fact, I think this might be the nicest bedroom I've had in my entire life. Even nicer than the new furniture I bought when I had a job. True, none of it matches the way my old bedroom set did, but each piece has an antique-y sort of look to it. With turned legs and such. And it gives the room a nice eclectic appearance with the different shades of wood and styles in it. I'm planning on using some low 2-shelf bookcases below each window and putting a little pillow on top of them to turn them into impromptu benches. All I'm missing now is a chair for my desk, and curtains.

Despite my resentment of the desk, it does hold a strange sort of allure. My dad owned it for 27 years. My dad got it at some yard sale when he was younger, and studied at it when he was in grad school. My brother studied at it when he was in high school. And now it's mine. When we were moving it to my apartment in Philadelphia, I noticed that there are hinges on the back of the desk. The top opens up!! But despite our efforts, it stubborn refused to reveal its secrets. We think it might be glued together. Or perhaps rusted together. My dad thinks there might be an old Picasso in there. Quite frankly, I'm a bit afraid of it. I don't like super old things, and I like old secrets even less. Secrets that old usually stay secret for good reasons. And part of me doesn't want to know what's in there, because of this nagging feeling that I might be opening a Pandora's Box.

Posted by ink |  9:51 PM

[Sunday, July 24, 2005]


Here's a strange link for you. Did you know that the prices of mattresses are tied to the price of oil? When I bought my upper-end mattress back in 2002, I paid $450 for a Simmons BackCare mattress. When I went mattress-shopping, I could barely find anything for that price. In fact, a comparable mattress is going to cost me closer to $800. Why? Because petroleum is used somewhere in the manufacture of mattresses, and the price of steel has gone up (for the coils). There's something bizarre about bed-shopping. Getting onto a bed is an oddly intimate gesture, and you feel very exposed, climbing onto a bed to lie on it in the midst of a large room with people milling about. Who gets to see in what position you sleep anyways? Besides someone who actually sleeps with you? And even that person doesn't really get to see you, because you're under the covers usually. And meanwhile, bed salesman get to see every curve of your body, every leg thrown out, how you curl your arm over your head when you sleep on your stomach, as you try out the beds.

I'm much more comfortable with female bed salesmen than I am with males. And I'm someone who doesn't have a problem with male gynecologists. I opted for a Serta Perfect Sleeper from Boscov's. It comes with an exciting scratch-off card to see whether I get 5% or 50% off my purchase!

Posted by ink |  12:44 AM

[Saturday, July 23, 2005]

Wherefore art thou, Mohawk Man?

I don't write poetry very often. And once in a while, when I meet someone who inspires me to write poetry, I'm reminded of why I don't write poetry very often. After I'm finished, I don't feel very sophisticated spoken-word-like, or Shakesperean. I feel vaguely poor man's Dr. Seuss. The cheesy version. But, it does make me laugh. And since the boy it's about will likely never see it, I figured some individuals with the Y chromosome should.
Today, we salute Mohawk Man from UNC

You are a rising 2nd year at UNC med
who doesn't let alcohol go to your head

we met at shipwreck bar in panama
you were dismayingly sober.
i was dismayingly not.

You almost left early.
Until I offered my lap as a seat for you to sit in.
Before I found out your name and you found out mine.

I was 2 tequila shots into the night
and discussed asimov, a slight oversight
as sci fi is something i try not to reveal
to boys when i first meet them, for it often breaks the deal

You spent time at Punta Mono, Which you thought was a loss
We both own Crocs, which we had to fix with dental floss
I liked your smile and your laugh (and your mohawk)
You liked my mosquitoe bites, my mullet, and the fact that I liked Asimov.

You sat in my lap, and I sat in yours
We hit it off that night, of that I was sure.
You walked me the hostel and held my hand.
We wiggled our toes on the way home in the sand.

You played guitar for the hostel audience
You sang like you had the lungs of an elephant
I sat in the back and watched, charmed.
I like people who are unshy, think I'm "scrumptious", disarmed.

you and Brian the Pirate said you'd swing by tomorrow around noonish
i hung out at the hostel thinking you were coming by soonish
perhaps the tequila had gone to my head
did i misremember our meeting time before i went to bed?

you said you'd pick me up for red frog beach
and said you thought i was quite a peach
My "playa-detector" is usually quite astute
I didn't think you seemed like a sneaky old coot.

you never showed! was i in the bathroom or out to breakfast?
i was disappointed, petulant, life is unjust.
Considering the many cute boys (with accents!) on the trip
How did I like Mohawk boy the most, what a slip!

I left panama the following day to catch my flight
and heard you'd moved to bastimentos the following night.

i watched with a frown as the water taxi pulled away
with nary a last name, a farewell, or email exchanged

i was confused and a tad bit dismayed
maybe my detector was off, and i had been played?

Posted by ink |  10:36 PM

[Friday, July 22, 2005]

So Fresh and So Clean.

I've been home for 24 hours now, and I'm convinced that my bug bites itch more at home than they ever did in Central America. I think because I'm actually clean here. Somehow, always being covered in sweat, dust, and grime made the bites more bearable when I was travelling. I actually used soap yesterday and caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror. I also got my new drivers license since my purse was stolen in Nicaragua. My mullet is forever immortalized now. Yipee!! I studied the license picture with interest in the car on the way back. I haven't seen a mirror in almost a full month, and I'd forgotten what I looked like. Oddly, I don't look that different without makeup. Or at least, not discernibly so from my memory of myself in college photos. A little disturbing, considering that the makeup industry makes a fortune every year off of girls like me. I wandered around Barnes and Noble this afternoon, wearing my Panama shirt and the same hiking pants I've been wearing for the past month. It's so hard confronting my closet whenever I first get home from travelling. It's just so large and there's so many choices that I don't want to deal with it. My travel clothes are so comfortingly familiar and safe to choose from.

I also went shopping for a new wallet, since the temporary wallet I bought in Nicaragua after being robbed is not going to make the cut back in the States. Having a hologram Winnie the Pooh in my back pocket will hardly inspire confidence among my patients when I'm a med student. I hate wallet-shopping. They're always so expensive, and I never like the wallets available. I had a hard time buying anything in fact. It all seemed so expensive and so unnecessary. The only things I bought were soap (which I left behind in Montezuma), a back scrubber, some anti-itch cream, and body lotion. All things I would've bought in Central America anyways. I looked at the beautiful woman at the DMV with her well-manicured nails and perfectly done hair, and instead of feeling intimidated and hyper-aware of my own slovenliness, I just felt... indifferent. Like her and I were different breeds of women, and I just happened to have shaggy hair and untrimmed nails with dirty under them. I itched my bug bites nonchalantly while my dad glared at me and told me it wasn't appropriate to expose my calf like that in public. Not even for a bug bite. We're so... structured.

I spent the entire evening in a tank top and windpants, without a bra, sitting at the kitchen table at home. With a tube of anti-itch cream beside me. And I ate a can of Pringles, which made me feel nostalgic for Costa Rican bus rides. Pringles were a staple of my diet in Central America, since they came in handy for long bus rides and sudden midnight cravings. My new roommate's been calling me so I can fill out the lease and credit check application, and my dad's been asking me repeatedly when I plan to start packing because I'm moving on Sunday. He asks me why I'm so disorganized.

I don't know why I'm so disorganized. I guess because I feel like you can't really plan life. Like the Costa Rican buses, life never runs the way you think it will. It doesn't go on a schedule. It leaves when it feels like it, "around" 8 AM or so. Give or take half an hour. And it arrives when it feels like it, sometimes with your luggage, sometimes without, sometimes with your bum intact, sometimes not, sometimes with a flat tire, sometimes not, and sometimes not even with the same bus that you got on at the beginning of your trip (especially if it breaks down halfway through and you have to switch buses). Usually though, you get on the bus as a solo female traveller, and by the time you get off, you may not know where you are, or even whether this is the right stop to get off at but you do get off with friends that you've made along the way. People to go with to the new hostel, people to share a cab ride with, people to find their way with you. And that's life I guess.

On August 1st, I will pass through the doorway to Medicine. Orientation starts on that day, and like backpacking Central America, I will enter the doorway as a solo female, and hopefully get off the bus with a bunch of people I trust. Granted, I'll be surrounded by type A personalities instead of travellers, but I'm keeping my hopes up and an eye out for any future classmates with mohawks on their heads.

Posted by ink |  10:29 PM

[Thursday, July 21, 2005]

Building a Mystery.

Small children who cannot behave on planes should be sedated. Even dogs are better behaved than some children are. Can you imagine the furor if a dog kept whining and crying for an hour straight? Or if the dog stood up on its seat, placing its front paws on your seat back and drooled on the back of your neck? There'd be an uproar. How come it's okay to dislike dogs and complain about being in a closed cabin with one, but it's not socially acceptable to be irritated by a small child behaving the exact same way? What kind of country is this when we better train our pets than we do our children? Maybe we should start clicker-training our kids.

My bus ride back to San Jose was uneventful. Though the Tico man sitting across the aisle from me had 4 different Bank of America ATM cards in his back pocket. My flight home was delayed by 3 hours, making my 4 AM rising utterly unnecessary. Instead of arriving home at 6 pm, I arrived home closer to midnight.

I spent about 6 hours sitting in Miami's airport, which didn't endear it anymore to me. Last time I was in Miami's airport, it was because they'd overbooked my flight. And the prior time, I had to spend the night sleeping on a chair. I hate Miami. Luckily, the $4.50 I invested in a Vanity Fair paid off since it occupied me for 4 out of the 6 hours. Read the damn thing cover to cover. And also consumed the bag of white chocolate covered coffee beans that were supposed to be a souvenir for my friend. Oops. I spent the last hour chatting with a med student who's going to be a 2nd year at the school I'll be at in a few weeks. The >16 hours I've spent travelling haven't done wonders to my skin or hair. I'm starting to look forward to a good shower and a long nap.

About halfway through the evening at the airport, I realized that I was no longer thinking about Mohawk Med Student from Panama. Perhaps fickleness runs in both the sexes. Had I stayed an extra day or two, perhaps it would've become patently clear to me that he's a doofus. Or boring. Or strange. But half his intrigue at this point is simply the lack of conclusion. He'll forever remain a mystery. And everyone loves a good mystery. Even if we do meet again, I'm sure it will be strange and awkward, because we'll be back in our accepted roles in society instead of simply being 2 individuals who shared a lap and a good conversation at Shipwreck bar.

I used to think that I could get along with practically anybody. Partially because I talk a lot. But also because regardless of our differences, we're all human underneath it all. But in Dominical, I got an inkling that my idealism might be on shaky ground. Meels and I hitched a ride with a bunch of guys who were headed to the waterfalls. My first hint that perhaps I might have little in common with these guys occurred when they all mentioned they worked in construction or carpentry or lawn-maintenance. The landscape guy had a startling resemblance to Brad Pitt. True to the Desperate Housewives gardener stereotype, except he wasn't in college. Even though we're all people with similar wants and desires, the paths we all lead are sometimes so divergent that it's a struggle to find common ground. My second hint happened when I innocuously asked what Brad Pitt's tattoo was on his back. It was the Confederate flag. It said something that 1) I didn't know what the Confederate flag looked like and 2) that he had it tattoo'ed hugely on his back. Later on in the day, I also had to explain to him that Oriental is for rugs, Asian is for people. The funny thing is - Meels ran into that bunch again at the airport when she was leaving. She sent me an email about it. Apparently, I'd made quite an impression on Brad Pitt, since his friends told her he wouldn't shut up about me for days after we parted ways. I was slack-jawed. I wasn't sure what he was basing this on since we barely exchanged two words to each other, besides some awkward (and unsuccessful) attempts to find common topics of conversation to discuss, but I was hugely flattered that I'd made such an impact, however unknowingly. I had my suspicions that perhaps the porn industry might have something to do with it, but I thought I'd give myself (and him) the benefit of the doubt and assume it was my dazzlingly charming personality.

What I like best about travelling is the fact that everyone is more open. Everyone is out of their element and you all have travel as a common thread. No assumptions are made, no roles in society are adhered to, and no one cares. Backpacking levels the field because everyone is cheap, everyone smells, and everyone is completely dirty. And thus, British fashionistas mingle anonymously with Bob Marley-worshipping males, guys with the confederate flag tattoo'ed on their backs fall for Asian med school girls, and an otherwise pseudo-conservative gal like myself finds herself chatting up a boy with a mohawk. And discussing Asimov, of all things. At home, you never speak to strangers in coffeeshops, because you don't have a common thread. But when you're backpacking, really - everyone is fair game. How long have you been travelling for? Where are you from? How long is your trip total? Where have you been so far? Really? I'm headed there next! How did you like it? It's the ultimate exercise in non-judgmentalness. It's what I imagine high school would've been like if everyone wore uniforms.

I got back home about half an hour ago. Back to real life and real responsibilities. I suppose you could say that the rest of my life begins tomorrow, since it marks a move to Philadelphia this Sunday and the beginning of med school shortly thereafter. I hope my socializing skills remain well-oiled for orientation purposes. Though, I have a feeling my bug bites will remain starkly evident for the White Coat Ceremony. I'll be the Mosquitoe Bite Girl. I ended up with a grand total of 96. 4 short of the coveted Triple Digits. Disappointing.

Posted by ink |  1:26 AM

[Monday, July 18, 2005]

Bocas del Toro: one extra.

I decided to stay in Panama for my last day of vacation. Tomorrow, I get on a bus to travel 6 hours to San Jose, Costa Rica so that I can catch my flight back to the States on Wednesday. So, what am I doing with my last day of vacation? Absolutely nothing. I tried to be productive, but it rained all day, which resulted in hours spent lying in the hammock, alternately reading a bad murder mystery from the book exchange, dozing, and being woken up by people passing by.

Just a few days ago, I was thinking that I might be a little relieved to be going home. My Central America trip was a bit more disappointing than my Africa trip I think. Costa Rica turned out to be one huge spring break-style destination more than anything else, though my favorite parts were Nicaragua and Panama for sure. I was getting tired of meeting people and was starting to feel decidedly anti-social. But trips have a habit of turning up atthe end, making you wish you had a few extra days or an extra week to squeeze in that extra bit of something that caught your eye. I met an interesting med student from UNC last night. An interesting med student who doesn´t drink and was going to turn in early originally. He was a friend of Brian, a guy I met earlier in Puerto Viejo, who turned up in Bocas today. Since I was already two tequila shots into the night, I offered my lap as a potential seat for Interesting Med Student. The two tequila shots also meant I chattered on quite a bit more than I usually do. I mistakenly revealed my secret interest in sci-fi (something that should always be kept under wraps when first meeting a boy) and that I owned a pair of Crocs, which I had to fix with dental floss when the hinge broke. Meanwhile, around us, girls with ruffly skirts and big hoop earrings mingled. But I had stopped wondering how they kept their clothes so smooth when my own clothes seemed to come out of the backpack perpetually wrinkled. He also doesn´t drink, which of course puts my interpretation of the night´s events into dubious light since drunk people always seem retarded to sober people. They were headed to Isla Bastimentos the next morning, but said they would stop by my hostel to say hello before they left. Around noonish.

He never came. And for some reason, I was shocked. Though I know the common knowledge that boys never keep their word, never call when they´re supposed to, much less show up when they say they will, I couldn´t help but be puzzled by the no-show. Did he not say last night that he thinks he might really like me? Was it my imagination when he hugged me in glee since he has Crocs also that he repaired with dental floss? What about when he held my hand on the way back to the hostel and told me I absolutely must come with them to Bastimentos the next day because I´m scrumptious? Looks like my playa-alarm must be malfunctioning. Funny, he didn´t seem insincere or the least bit shady. They likely forgot. Or stopped in when I stepped out for breakfast. I actually thought we connected. But I suppose a connection over Isaac Asimov and Croc river shoes could potentially be questionable.

And to think, last night, I was asking myself whether I could possibly be attracted to a balding freckled (I think, it was dark) guitar playing mohawked med student who sings like he has the lungs of an elephant while strumming guitar. And not just any song, but Dave Matthews, who I happen to hate. The answer, oddly enough, was that I may quite possibly be attracted to such a guy. I suppose we´ll never find out now will we. Today, I left for San Jose, and I leave behind my balding mohawked med student without a goodbye, an exchange of email addresses, or even a last name. I´ll add him to the list of people I felt I hit it off with this vacation, and will likely never speak to again.

Rivers from Nicaragua
JT the Mormon surfer (also from Nicaragua)
Mohawk from Bocas del Toro, Panama.

On another note, the DEET bug spray has not only failed to prevent the 92 bug bites I´ve accumulated on my body so far, but its also managed to melt the plastic face of the little blue Target watch I´ve had since my Africa trip. Yesterday´s snorkeling trip in the ocean resulted in its grisly death. It continually beeped every 3 minutes as it entered its death throes. I´m now watch-less and feeling very naked. Not knowing what time it is is strange. But I find that I´m more patient when I don´t have a watch. Waiting is a little easier when I don´t know exactly how long I´ve been waiting because I don´t know how mad I should be getting. There´s a certain freedom to not having a watch. Why are we so preoccupied with time anyways?

Posted by ink |  11:45 PM

[Sunday, July 17, 2005]

Bocas del Toro.

I crossed the border yesterday into Bocas del Toro. A part of me breathed a sigh of relief to leave Puerto Viejo behind, though there´s a chance I may spend a night there when I pass through it again on my way back to San Jose for my flight home on Wednesday. I travelled with an English bloke and a Canadian military man, leaving behind the Floridian girl with the autoimmune disease and the first year med school student in Puerto Viejo. They decided to spend an additional day there. The boat ride into Bocas was absolutely breathtakingly beautiful. The people here ride hollowed out tree trunks that they use as canoes. The speedboat we were in seemed somehow alien and not at all in sync with the surroundings. The Panamanian people of Bocas have a more Asiatic look about them than the Ticos of Costa Rica do. Snorkeling yesterday was infinitely more enjoyable than the snorkeling I did at Montezuma, and half the price as well ($15 for a full day). We also stopped by Zapatilla Caye, which the guide told us is the island where a lot of countries come to film Survivor. I like Central America because everyone seems to be responsible for their own actions. We were left on the beach on the island to our own devices. There was no "swimming area" marked out, despite the undertow, there were no lifeguards stationed, and when we snorkeled, they just handed us goggles and tubas and we waded out on our own to find the reef. No instructions. Being here has made me more aware of America´s culture of fear and constant caution.

Bocas, interestingly enough, has the widest street I´ve seen so far in Central America. Complete with yellow lines to mark lanes!! Imagine that. I´d say the favorite parts of my trip so far have without a doubt been Nicaragua, Osa Peninsula, and Bocas del Toro (Panama). My Spanish has improved ten-fold, though it is still sadly in a broken state. I did notice that the guy to girl ratio in Bocas is significantly more equal than I´ve seen it anywhere else in Central America. Not only that, but the girls are also significantly prettier. With pretty dresses that they packed in their luggage, and beautiful earrings and necklaces. Yes, I feel slightly intimidated and competitive. If only because I haven´t cut my hair in almost 8 weeks now and really, baby mullets are so last year. The 86 mosquitoe bites on my body aren´t helping, nor are the ant bites on my hands that made my fingers swell up all fat. Though I´m a bit relieved to not have to fend off advances in the style of New York bars, hearing comments from guys like,¨"You know, you´re a great conversationalist" didn´t turn out to be as pleasing as I thought. Maybe this is how guys feel about hearing "You know, you´re a really nice guy."

A few characters I´ve met so far:

1) a juggling French Canadian with an avid interest in tarot cards, ESP, and astral travel. Sadly, it´s not true that all Frenchman know how to kiss. Nor are they all particularly good at dancing. They do enjoy their fine food though as he went out for a 7 dollar dinner with me. Quite extravagant by Panamanian and backpacking standards.

2) the owner of Mondo Taitu, the hostel where I´m staying. A recent Emory grad, he´s spending his post-college years running the most hip hostel in town. And to think, I spent my post-college years in a cubicle.

Today: Isla de Bastimentos (currently on Isla de Colon) with the Florida girl who showed up here in Bocas one day after I did. Red Frog Beach is on our list.

Posted by ink |  10:45 AM

[Friday, July 15, 2005]

Puerto Viejo de Talamanca.

I´ve been staying at Rocking J´s in Puerto Viejo. All the rumors about pot are true. I think I may quite possibly have drank more and smoked more weed in the past two days than I have in the past 3 years. Considering how good I´ve been in the past few years, perhaps that doesn´t say much. I met Jay of Rocking J´s and also met Juppy of Juppy and Tino Adventures, who brought us to the Manzanillo reserve for a half-day hike. My 35mm camera has been taking the place of my digicam, but I´m suffering through growing pains. I keep forgetting to bring extra film and always run out of shots about halfway through whatever activity I happen to be doing. I haven´t been sleeping well since arriving. I can´t decide whether it´s because I´ve been mixing pot and alcohol, or if it´s simply because the quality of the pot is lower. Usually, it´s a good nightcap.

I knew early on that I couldn´t stay here for too long. As much fun as the nightly drum-and-guitar bonfires are, I could see easily that this wasn´t a healthy environment for me. The people here feed off of each other into an endless cycle of peer pressure and giving in.

I knew it really was time to go when J asked whether he could spank me if I didn´t bring back the umbrella I borrowed from him. I had tolerated comments like "Are your friends as cute as you are?" and "Hey china doll" by assuming he didn´t know any better. But spanking is crossing the line in any culture. By all other regards though, he seemed like a sweet, albeit lonely man. I didn´t see a wedding ring on his finger, and he´s always got a J in his mouth. He´s a middle-aged ex-pat from the U.S. Though, I suppose running a hostel that kids can come to party at can´t be considered too bad of a life. He gets to hang out with girls in bikini´s all the time. And its different girls every week.

I did meet a surprisingly sweet gentleman from North Carolina who has his own band - Forward All. I do have a weakness for tall blue-eyed Southern gentlemen, and I must admit a small flicker of hope for perhaps a kiss. But all hope died when he admitted to having a knight-in-shining-armor complex. There´s something, he said, about girls who need to be saved. Barring drug addicts. I realized at that point that I was out of the running. As a girl who´s travelling Central America on her own and starting med school in the fall and stubborn to a fault, I´m the last person who needs to be saved. I don´t appeal to those in search of maidens in distress. Perhaps more so to those who enjoy challenges. I had thought things were going well. He admitted to waiting around for me at the hostel so we could hang out (which we did, for two evenings. But I think the last evening, both of us realized that I wasn´t what he was looking for). He went to bed early on my last night, giving me an excruciatingly platonic hug goodnight. I have to confess disappointment. I suppose part of it is the stinging unexpected slap of rejection, and a vague "Was it something I did?" But I think a larger portion of it is that no one likes to be on the rejected end. And no one minds being on the rejecting end. After all, how attached can you get anyways to someone you meet on the road for 2 days? Even despite an easy-going personality and an utterly charming one-sided dimple?

Posted by ink |  10:26 AM

[Monday, July 11, 2005]

What was once lost can never be found.

I´ve replaced my lost pen with one donated by the hostel I´m staying at. Too bad I can´t replace ipods as easily. Funny, when I had it on the trip, I never listened to it. Perhaps because I was too fascinated by the new landscape to want music intruding on my already busy thoughts. Now that I´ve had some time to get accustomed to the flora here, I have room for a soundtrack to accompany the remainder of my trip. But sadly, like all neglected companions, my ipod has left me for someone else.

I can´t help but wonder if all this loss is due to some karma debt I had racked up. It theoretically is just loss of material goods, but these material goods are a) expensive, and b) have a lot of personal value. Did I do something to anger God? Am I being punished somehow?

Since January, I´ve lost:
1) my mom´s diamond ring
2) all my credit cards and ATM card
3) digital camera
4) ipod

Though, I like to think of 2, 3, and 4 as stolen as opposed to lost.

Since January, I´ve gained:
1) med school admission
2) a Philadelphia apartment lease (I move in 3 days after I get back!)
3) almost 10k in savings minus $300 for a new digicam and $300 for a new ipod
4) a snowboard
5) 10 pounds

2005 may quite possibly go down as the year of simultaneous loss and gain.

When I was in Quepos, I ran into a Kiwi whose name I can´t remember. He was telling me about the New Zealand aborigine people and how they´ve been hard to assimilate into the existing ecnomoy because they have a habit of wandering off on their own on a walkabout, without any sort of warning. And then show up nonchalantly a few months later. Culturally, this happens with enough pseudofrequency that it doesn´t go over too well with cubicles and employers. I think perhaps my own semi-yearly journeys are walkabouts as well. And I need them, just as the NZ aborigine needs them. I find strange comfort in being alone among strangers. Perhaps that´s why I liked NY so much. The crowds gave me space to think. To be leisurely with my own thoughts as I disappear into the hum. I could pretend not to hear someone over the rumbling of the subway.

Posted by ink |  10:15 AM

[Sunday, July 10, 2005]

Lost in Translation

Setting: Talking to our middle-aged rather portly Costa Rican guide on our 25 km hike through the Osa peninsula.

Tiene buena forma!
What I meant to say: You're in good shape!
What I said instead: You have a good body.
Correct spanish: Esta en buena forma.

Setting: Talking to the hostel owner.

Tiene una cucaracha para mi sandwich?
What I meant to say: Do you have a spoon for my sandwich? (to spread the pb&j. I had no idea how to say "knife" and I apparently erroneously thought I knew how to say "spoon".)
What I said instead: Do you have a cockroach for my sandwich?
Correct spanish: Tiene una cuchara para mi sandwich?

Other Things
  • I like how the buses and trucks here honk a greeting to each other when they pass on the street. In the Western world, the honk is only used as a "Get out of my way asshole!" or "You're about to hit my car bitch!" or "Hurry the hell up!"

  • I like the natural fences they have to keep their herds in. They take skinny tree trunks to use as fence posts and put barbed wire between. Sometimes the skinny tree trunks sprout leaves on top. It gives a very organic feel to things.

  • Despite all this, I'm not sure if I would come back to Costa Rica. I'm generally disappointed by the country. I feel restless here, and a bit bored. I can't decide whether this has to do with my time of visit (summertime, when school lets out so I've been running into a lot of party hearty college-age kids), or the location itself. Costa Rica still reminds me of a honeymoon destination masquerading as a developing country. It's just too touristy. Nicaragua definitely has been the highlight of my trip so far, even despite the fact that I was robbed there.

  • I'm back in San Jose staying at Tranquilo Backpackers (it gets the thumbs up from me. I personally hated Pangea, another hostel in San Jose). La Fortuna was a good place to go, and the bridges were pretty. The volcano was very cool, though no sight of lava. It's a quiet, convenient little town, that surprisingly didn't feel as touristy as Manuel Antonio or Montezuma did. Quite honestly, after Osa, everything seems a bit diluted. We also tried the hot springs at Baldi and realized that it was Spring Break Cancun central.

    Tomorrow: Western Union to get my money. Bus to Puerto Viejo. I'm thinking of hiking the Ganduco-Manzinillo Reserve down near Puerto Viejo or potentially Parque Nacional Cahuita. One or the other. Not both. I'd never make it. Then I'm off to Panama for Bocas del Toro for the weekend. Meels leaves me tomorrow as well, and I'll be back to solo travelling. I'll be sad to see her go, but also looking forward a bit to setting out on my own. I love having company, but I think in the end - solo travel has something to it that can never be replaced by friends. It's got a sense of freewheeling liberty. That sense of anything can happen (hopefully good things). That sense of adventure, since there's no friends-voice-of-reason to keep you back. Meels was saying that she likes travelling with people because when she sees something beautiful, she wants to share it. Part of me wonders if I'm selfish for not thinking of others when I see beautiful things. Sometimes I'll wish my brother was here to see it, because he'd love it, but it never crosses my mind that I wish I was here with someone else. Usually, the solitude is part of the beauty of it. Occasionally it occurs to me to whip out my camera to take a photo, but many times, I don't even do that. It seems sacrilegious somehow to ruin the moment with an overconcern for documenting it. I think it takes someone very rare and very special to be a part of that moment without making his/her presence known to you somehow. Just like how it takes a special friend who you can be alone, together with.

    I ran into a girl yesterday who's aborting her trip early. She's 25, and she thinks she's gotten over the solo travel thing. Meeting new people no longer excites her, and she just wants to be with her friends. She took a flight out with 4 weeks left to go. Maybe this is just a stage for me as well. And if it is, it's a beautiful stage. And though I'll be sad when it ends, I'll also be happy. Because I wouldn't want to be one of those people who cannot ever enjoy a moment with someone they love. And because eventually, it'd be nice to be able to travel with someone and not have to constantly sneak away for alone-time. And because despite my firm belief that I'm likely a loner at heart, it'd be nice to grow out of it. Sort of like baby-fat. It's not so bad when you have it, but you don't want to have it forever.

    Estimated Time of Return: July 20.

    Posted by ink |  8:03 PM

    [Saturday, July 09, 2005]

    Quick Recap

    Dominical: disappointing. Even the waitresses in restaurants are American. No Spanish needed. Think Spring Break, but with surfers. We ran into the U. of Arizona kids we met at Corcovado Park in La Sirena. They´ll be travelling with us for a few days. Stayed at Cabinas San Clemente ($7 a night) where I increased my mosquitoe bite count by two-fold in just one night. I suspect half of them are bed bug bites. I´m up to 56 bites now. My goal is to hit triple digits before the end of my trip. The guy at the air-conditioned (and hi-speed!) internet cafe let me use the phone to call my bank, from whom I found out that I can access emergency cash for the remainder of my trip!!! Too bad I had to twist people's arms, cop attitude, ask to speak to a supervisor, and repeat my social security number 8 times to 8 different people to verify my identification before I could get access to my money. Meanwhie, everyone in the internet cafe now knows my social security number.

    Manuel Antonio: Beautiful, but small beach. Park was disappointing after spending a few days on the Osa Peninsula in Corcovado Park. We´d already seen all the animals before. Good place for souvenir shopping though. Stayed in Quepos at Wide Mouth Frog. Highly recommend this hostel. Has a pool, clean dorm rooms for 10 bucks each, internet access. Owners Chris and Marie are helpful and friendly. Picked up Tyler here, also from Arizona, and parted ways with the U. of Arizona kids.

    Montezuma: We spent the most time here out of all the places we´ve been to. Nice little beach town. A little overpriced, but cute. Tyler, Camila, and I stayed at Hotel La Cascada for 10 bucks each with a private bath. Bought entirely too much jewelry here, drank too much jugo con leche, and we had meat-on-a-stick every night for dinner. Good place to buy souvenirs from too-good-looking rasta boys. The dogs here have it good. They get to keep their testicles and mate with other dogs on the beach, for the voyeuristic pleasure of all the humans. Tyler parted ways with us here. Beaches are only so-so. Spent another hour on the phone here with Visa trying to access my emergency cash.

    Currently at: La Fortuna - for Volcan Arenal. Arrived last night. Staying at Hotel Las Colinas for 8 bucks a night. Very clean, and I don´t think I´ll be getting bites here.

    Funnily enough, I´ve been missing my lost ipod more than I´ve been missing my lost digicam. My 35 mm backup camera is probably helping in that sense. Instead of having music for my long bus rides, I find myself with an internal ipod playing endlessly in my head. Last night, during my last evening in Montezuma, I found my brain playing The Killer´s Smile Like You Mean It as I walked across the beach back towards the hotel. This morning, I woke up to Green Day´s Give Me Novocaine.

    Posted by ink |  7:59 PM



     about a 25  year old girl, ex-consultant, ex New York City inhabitant, newly minted med student, (still) largely single.

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