Friday, May 30, 2008
I am super excited for a beach weekend. The sky outside is blue and sunny, I have a good book to finish (Paulo Coelho's The Witch of Portobello), and I am looking forward to hours of wandering along the shoreline collecting seashells. I am a bit of an odd duck when it comes to the beach - I love the ocean, but I don't really get in the water. :)
We will be back on Sunday, tanned and relaxed and full of photos to share.
PS - An unfortunate pre-road trip pattern is emerging. For the second time now, I've discovered that the cat has vomited directly in the pair of shoes I've laid out to wear while travelling. First it was my running shoes the night before Swazi; now it was my Havaianas, definitely easier to clean up,but yucky nonetheless when you nearly shove your foot into a pool of cat urp in your drowsy yet excited-to-get-out-the-door morning state.
I've never worn red lipstick unless it was for halloween or a theater production. It was simply not something I thought of as my style. But I'm ready to try it out!
Thankfully I know a thing or two about color theory and how to find a red that will suit your skintone and not make you look like a child who has gotten into mommy's makeup bag!
I know I am a Soft Summer, that I have cool/neutral muted coloring (light/medium olive skin, gray-blue-green mixed eyes, neutral/ash light brown hair), and that I look best in a red lipstick that has these same qualities. Basically a blue-based or true red that is more of a cranberry/merlot/ruby than tomato, brick or fire-engine red (all yellow-based).
The problem is, my lips do this weird changing thing to many red lipsticks that in theory should look good on me. They tend to turn magenta or look like candy-apple red if I'm not very careful about the color. I think this happens when the colors are too bright, as opposed to saturated/muted tones (even if they are the right basic hue).
With this in mind, I've done some obsessive internet research over the last two days, and have identified the red lipstick I think will work best on me: NARS Fire Down Below, a deep blood-red that seems to be good for people with medium, neutral coloring. I briefly considered Afghan Red (more of a berry-red) and a few others that I think would suit my coloring, but would likely not really turn out red on me. I'm still pondering the purchase for another day or so, but when it comes down to it either it will be a color that works on me, or it won't. There's only one way to find out!
Days like this I wish I were in the US so that I could go to Sephora with my mom and try on shade after shade of red lipstick. Alas, I am stuck with internet shopping, but I'm sure that worst-case scenario, I can always find a friend in Maputo who will look great in Fire Down Below if it doesn't work for me.
Wednesday, May 28, 2008
Monday, May 26, 2008
Today marks 3 years of living in Mozambique and 3 years of my relationship with Rico. I think most of you know the story by now. For those who do not, you can read all about how we met here.
We are going out for a nice dinner, perhaps at Manjar dos Deuses to eat delicious grilled-at-your-table beef and fruit slices, or maybe at The Meat Co. for their Malva pudding, a toffee-chocolate dream.
This time next year we will be celebrating our first wedding anniversary!
Things I have quit in my life:
- biting my nails
- my first and only retail job after 1 day (it was at Victoria's Secret)
- my first and only restaurant job after about 6 months (moved on to greener, less panic-attack-inducing pastures)
- going to therapy when I felt it wasn't beneficial, despite feeling I "should" continue
- worrying about a prominent career or job title
- eating meat for 1 year while in college
- obsessively picking out ingrown hairs
- being an English teacher for foreign-language speakers
- adult swim classes
Things I plan on never quitting:
- traveling and living in places other than the one where I was born
- speaking Portuguese as my home language
- writing, be it blog, paper journal or novel
- my habit of a cup of tea each day in the morning
- creating art in some form
- saying no and not feeling guilty
- saying my superstitious travel prayer
- hitting the snooze button - I love my extra 5 to 55 minutes
In retrospect, there aren't a lot of things that I've quit in the past 5 years or so. Likely because I stopped saying 'yes' to things I didn't really want to do in the first place!
For more Sunday Scribbles, visit here.
Thursday, May 22, 2008
I've been waking up at 5:45 for the past several days to work on the investment memo, and am staying up working until around 22:00. This afternoon I was so tired during my lunch break that I ate some mango sorbet and a slice of mozzarella cheese, put on my pajamas, and took a 45 nap with the cats. I am not a napper. It is usually 1) impossible for me to fall asleep during the day; and 2) not a good idea for me to nap because I wake up in such an incredibly foul mood. Today was different. Not only did I go to sleep immediately, I woke up feeling refreshed. I took a hot shower, then went back to work.
Tomorrow will be the last day of this craziness. I can't wait for the document to be finished and submitted, even if it's not 100% perfect according to my standards.
On a random note, I decided to make cream of celery soup tonight. It was delicious, perfect for the chilly weather of late here in Maputo. What I wanted to write about, however, was not my yummy made-up soup recipe - it is the fact that Pria and Parceiro go absolutely nuts whenever I sautee onions and garlic. Something about the smell drives them wild. They run around the kitchen rubbing their faces frantically against the corner of the counter, the cabinet handles, the vacuum cleaner hose, the sink faucet, or whatever other hard surface is available. The onions and garlic have a stronger effect on Pria, who will try to attack and bite my feet while I chop the next ingredients for the dish.
I tried Googling some combination of cat+onion smell+crazy+garlic+out of control with no luck. Any other cat owners notice this phenomenon?
Okay, enough with the random. I am going to do some editing, then fall promptly asleep to prepare for yet another crack-of-dawn wake-up call.
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
What I was doing:
10 years ago:
Nearing the end of my exchange year with the Yamamoto family in Maringá, Paraná. My mom was visiting me for the first time in Brazil, and we’d just returned from a trip to Rio. My host father picked us up in Londrina, and I had the surreal experience of my “real” family and my exchange family meeting. My life at that point consisted of playing capoeira, hanging out with friends, piano lessons, road trips and preparing for the inevitable return to the US.
5 years ago:
Graduating with an MBA in Marketing, thanking God I was done with business school. Making plans to move to Austin, Texas. Enjoying summer, blissfully unaware of how much my life would change in the following 3 months.
1 year ago:
Visiting my mom in the Bay Area, taking jewelry classes, picking out jewelry and shoes to go with my wedding dress and rehearsal dinner dress.
Suffering through 30 minutes of cardio at the gym. Eating lunch at Zambi. Making jewelry. Procrastinating on the investment memo I need to finish. Making fish and spinach salad for dinner. Enjoying a last night with Rico before his trip to Nampula this morning.
5 snacks I enjoy:
- cherry tomatoes
- cereal (All Bran or granola)
- peppadew flavor potato chips
- fruit (mangoes, crisp apples, tangerines)
5 books I like:
- “The Poisonwood Bible” by Barbara Kingsolver
- “The Power of One” by Bryce Courtenay
- “Dark Star Safari” by Paul Theroux
- “One River” by Wade Davis
- “Como Água para Chocolate” by Laura Esquivel
What I’d do with 100 million dollars:
- Start an investment fund
- Start a cultural foundation headquartered at the Casa Rosa
- Give fabulous anonymous gifts to my friends and relatives
- Get a personal trainer and chef
5 places I’d love to run away to:
- Cape Town
5 bad habits and/or pet peeves I have:
- peeling layers of skin off my lips, then chiding Rico for doing the same
- crooked paintings on the wall
- people who smack when they chew
- answering “Yes” or “No” when I haven’t properly heard the question
- routinely hitting snooze for between 15 minutes and an hour
5 things I like doing:
- reading blogs
- listening to loud music in the car
5 things I would never wear:
- a fur coat
- colored contacts
- too much makeup
- short-shorts in public
- high-waisted pants
5 tv shows I like:
- Law & Order
- Brothers and Sisters
- Pushing Daisies
- The Closer
- What Not to Wear
5 famous people I’d like to meet:
- Angelina Jolie
- Steve Jobs
- William Easterly
- Nelson Mandela
5 people I’d like to see fill this out:
- Southern Goddess
- Jenna at Bugigangas
- Rio Gringa
These pieces are available for purchase in Maputo (in person) or can be shipped via Skynet or LAM cargo to other cities in Mozambique at reasonable rates.
Please stop by my website and have a look. I'm about halfway through posting my current inventory, so check back often to see the novidades.
Monday, May 19, 2008
I had the mandatory fitness exam and wanted to cry afterwards. Not only was their scale off, so was their tape measure, making me squatter and fatter than I'd previously imagined. From the ancient look of their measuring equipment, I took it with a grain of salt, but still had to verify my previous assumptions once at home using our scale and Rico's tape measure from his toolbox. I feel slightly better now that I know for a fact the numbers from the gym were off, but still mildly sick with the realization that I've nonetheless got a ways to go to get to my goal.
We ended up not working out this evening because the gym was ridiculously full and they have no functional system for kicking people off the treadmills/ellipticals/bikes after 30 minutes. We were looking at a potentially veeeery long wait for some cardio, so we came home with plans to go for workout #1 at 7am tomorrow.
It seems very obvious when you look at my historical and current relationship with food, but I swear, it has only been in the past few months that it's really sunk in that this is, and will likely forever be my challenge. I thought that once I had managed to move into "healthy" eating patterns rather than a clinically diagnosed eating disorder, I would be somewhat free of food issues. Hah! It's like alcohol or drug abuse or any other addiction: you are always in recovery, never truly 100% cured.
Eating. Whether it's too much, too little, too obsessively, too mindlessly. Whatever, the details don't much matter at this point.
What does matter is that it's always the first thing to slip when I am under stress. Food is my #1 preferred conduit for emotions I don't want to deal with, or even recognize. Sometimes I'm aware that I eat to stuff down the painful and complicated issues in my life. Other times, however, it works the other way around. I notice first that my relationship with food is getting a bit hectic, that I'm thinking about calories and weight all the time and feeling out of control. I don't recognize that it is a symptom of something else out of balance in my life. Then at some later moment it will dawn on me what has been at the root of the eating crisis, and I will either choose to deal with it or not...
So, big surprise, after some professional turbulence at the beginning of the year (aka not being permanently hired at the Banana Empire) and with a wedding some 7 weeks away, I am feeling stressed about food. I bought my wedding dress and rehearsal dinner dress in April last year, and I am not at the same weight/size as I was back then. I'm not too far off, thankfully, but nonetheless I have some changes to make if I want to fit in the dresses (they are both pretty fitted and have already been altered twice).
I wasn't even sure if I should blog about this, or even journal on paper. As someone who has struggled with eating disorders, I find now that it is a very fine line between being mindful of what I eat and my what my exercise level is, and becoming obsessive. Sometimes the mere mention of weight or fitness regime or portion control can set me off on a very negative path. It is easier, I have found, to just let things be, recognize and accept that my weight and disposition to exercise will ebb and flow, that it's not necessarily beneficial or even possible to maintain an absolute constant weight or fitness level from one day/week/month/whatever to the next. I have faith that it will work out in the long run, that I will get to that point where I feel comfortable with my body over time. It's happened several times, and I know it works.
However, I have a deadline with the wedding, and I am trying to find the balance between kicking up the exercise and decreasing the calories, and setting myself off on a very obsessive spiral. Perversely, I find that many times when I concentrate on my weight too much, I end up gaining rather than losing because I become an insane person who thinks about food all the time, and that makes me want to eat-eat-eat. I'm trying to avoid this possibility, but it is hard. I find it difficult to be disciplined. I find it crazy-making sometimes to stick to a gym and eating regimen. But I know I have to if I want to be sane on my wedding day.
That is why I'm writing. Hopefully this will help, not hinder my efforts.
I've found in reading other people's blogs, I am easily triggered by weight loss and dieting stories - especially successful ones. Still, I want to feel a bit accountable without resorting to saying a goal weight or dress size (though I know them in my mind - I don't want to have the same effect on anyone else who might be reading here). Let's just say that my current weight minus 52 is where I want to be, and that 52 is a secret code for the amount of kilos/pounds/stones/whatever that I need to lose.
Tonight Rico and I are signing up for the gym since they restricted the one we used to go to at Hotel Avenida to guests only. Meh. Now we are going to a new gym, and I am a bit apprehensive. I'm making a music mix to see if it helps my motivation. I know it needs to be done...exercise, I have found, is more effective in dealing with my weight issues rather than focusing so much on diet. We'll see...
Saturday, May 17, 2008
Please stop by my shop and help me clear out my inventory. I will be seeing my family in July for the wedding, and plan to load my parents up with new pieces with lots of trade beads and precious hardwoods!
Last night we went to a barbeque at our friends Kelly and Marcos' house. Several of our friends were there, seemingly each one with a houseguest or a new friend in tow. We brought along C., a girl who arrived last week in Maputo and is doing a summer internship here in public health. It was a lot of fun, and I can say that my blog-karma for meeting gente boa continues strong.
Okay, back to the investment memo. I'm bribing myself with a few cool items from Sephora. For as much as I love makeup, I really should make more of an effort to wear it! Still, the shopping process is super fun...
Thursday, May 15, 2008
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
This is the second piece of art I acquired for my home office. The painting I posted below was a tough piece to work with in terms of complementary images and colors. Anything I placed next to it seemed to pale in comparison, so I decided to go for it and make my entire office very bright and intense.
This painting we picked up at the Saturday wood market held in the Baixa, in front of the Fortaleza. After much haggling, we got the price down to a reasonable level and took this busy market scene home to hang on the wall above my desk. It definitely holds its own next to the Jamal abstract painting!
Today I am entering student mode. I have a giant investment memo to finish for a local paint production company, and I plan on writing until I can't write no more. For some reason I struggle to write in the BIC office - perhaps because it's a bit sterile, or because we have cubicles, or because there are people around who provide for easy distraction. Whatever it is, I definitely write better from home, so here I am for the rest of the week.
The painting above is by a Mozambican artist called Jamal. It is yet another work acquired at the Núcleo de Arte. I love the bright colors, and the abstract image reminds me of someone throwing a stream of flowers into the air. I like my office environments to be lively and full of inspiring images - this painting certainly fits the bill.
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
- Finish writing investment memorandum for local paint company project - almost there!
- Take clothes to tailor
- Update blogroll (sooooooo overdue!)
- Make Rico's birthday boat collage painting (again, super overdue)
- Finish calligraphy on wedding invitations for Moz friends - done
- Pick up bed we bought from our friend T. who is moving away
- Blog about spa experience in Swaziland
- Collect payment from jewelry sales at Franco-Moçambicano
- Wash white canvas sandals
- Email makeup artist and DJ for our wedding
- Call Beth
- Photograph and post descriptions of jewelry - done
- Go grocery shopping - done
- Buy beets I requested from vegetable lady last week - done 14/05
- Watch Guns, Germs and Steel and return DVD to T.
- Hang photograph of veiled woman
- Sync iPod
- Join the stupid gym
- Learn to properly parallel park
- Read manual for big Nikon camera
- Buy tea and jewelry supplies online - half done
- Mend 1940's black dress
- Organize closet and drawers
- Get rid of aphids on hibiscus plants - done 14/05
- Sleep at some point - done 14/05, though certainly can be repeated ad infinitum!
No, I don't plan to do it all at once. My goal is 4 items per day. Still...
Monday, May 12, 2008
As soon as she heard the first ring, Elle-Marie knew - instinctively - that something was wrong. Legan, the only person with any reason to call, had already checked in several hours ago saying he was about to cross the border. He didn't expect to make contact again for at least a day.
Elle-Marie stared at the vibrating, flashing phone and felt her palms begin to sweat. It was an unknown number, and it was late in the evening. She pondered for a moment whether it was possible to ignore the call completely, but she knew she must answer, if only to hear the voice on the other end of the line and have a fighting chance at identifying that person at some point in the future.
With a trembling finger, Elle-Marie pressed the green button.
"I know what you are doing," said a rough male voice. "If you don't stop, I will make the floor drop from underneath you, and you will feel the beginning of a slow descent to hell."
Elle-Marie's heart began pounding in her throat. She felt dizzy, disoriented, her mind racing with a thousand possibilities. It became difficult to breathe. The call meant someone knew the secret, that she and Legan were no longer safe.
For the first time in her adult life, Elle-Marie dropped to her knees and prayed to God. She barely recognized her own sob-wracked voice, pleading with the only being she thought might be able to make a difference at this point. "Please let it end. Please let it end. Please let it end."
Saturday, May 10, 2008
Unfortunately, our cycling trip was thwarted by a massive tropical downpour. Thankfully the rains started about 5 minutes before we were meant to leave the Swazi Trails headquarters, and not halfway through the activity. This stroke of luck was only possible due to the fact that we were running about 30 minutes late on our drive in from Mozambique. Had we arrived on time, we would have suffered through a very wet, muddy bike ride. Part of me was very relieved, as I had agreed to go cycling with the rest of the group despite knowing all too well that biking - in particular mountain biking on rugged trails with a group of enthusiasts - is not an activity I find particularly enjoyable. The prospect of a "cycling safari", however, was enough to make me sign up anyway in hopes of seeing game up close as promised in Swazi Trails' brochure. Maybe next time, though I doubt I'll be foolish enough to sign up again for an activity I know I don't enjoy.
This was by far the highlight of the trip to Swazi in my opinion. We piled into an old kombi along with 3 guys from Johannesburg and drove down the valley to the Usutu River. To be honest, I thought the guides could have been a bit more professional in their explanation of how to manage the river, and in particular in ensuring enough quality, properly-fitted life-jackets and helmets for everyone. In the end we all made it safe and sound, but I would have appreciated a helmet that didn't jiggle around on my head and a life vest that was slightly larger.
Unlike other rafting trips I've done, this one was on 2-man "croc" rafts, making the experience much more personal and exciting. In large rafts with 4 to 6 people sitting on each side of the boat and a guide in the back to steer, you get the adrenaline of the rapids but not necessarily the feeling that your own contribution and skill determine the success (or lack thereof!) of navigating the river. With the 2-man rafts, whether you and your partner manage to stay in the boat is wholly determined by your ability to work as a team, steer the boat, problem-solve when you veer off course, and in general paddle like mad.
Rico and I were a team, with him in the back acting as captain (the stronger rower who is responsible for steering the raft) and me in front as navigator (responsible for identifying the best course around obstacles and shouting out directions to the captain). We performed exceedingly well as a rafting team, and were the *only* boat where nobody fell into the river over the 8km downstream trip! I couldn't believe it, especially considering that on one particularly difficult series of class IV rapids, we got stuck on a rock at the top of a small waterfall, spun around after freeing ourselves from the obstacle, and went down the rest of the run backwards!
Other teams were not so lucky. One particularly funny incident was at a 7-meter artificial waterfall created by a reservoir project on the river. We had to paddle like mad, then essentially do a vertical free-fall and hope to land at a good angle at the bottom as to not flip over. When our friends Jenny and Paco were going down the drop, poor Paco went sailing out of the back of the raft unbeknownst to Jenny as she continued rowing from the navigator's position. The rest of us were waiting in a group at the bottom of the waterfall, and began whistling and shouting at Jenny to indicate there was a problem. In her adrenaline rush, she raised her arms in a victorious salute, then went on paddling without looking back. Only after a minute or so did she notice that Paco was missing! The look on her face when she realized what was going on was priceless!
After our half-day rafting adventure, we had lunch on the river bank, then hauled the rafts for some 500 meters over extremely rocky, muddy terrain back to the kombi. This was an unfortunate and honestly uncomfortable end to a great experience, though Swazi Trails did state in the brochure that we would be responsible for portage of the rafts. I just never imagined it would be such a schlep, especially since we were all barefoot.
Our quad-biking trip departed from the posh golf-course parking lot of the Royal Swazi Sun hotel, but quickly turned into serious 4x4 terrain as we headed into the property behind the resort. I suppose the name of the trail - Devil's Cauldron - should have tipped me off that perhaps this was not the ideal activity for me. Nonetheless, I figured that quad-biking would be more like driving a car and less like cycling, and that as a result I would probably enjoy the activity.
I was dead wrong.
After 10 minutes, I was having such a miserable time that I asked to get off my own bike and ride on the back of the instructor's. It was a wise decision, as not only was I not enjoying myself, I was holding up all of my quad-bike enthusiast friends as we had to all ride in close proximity. I don't know exactly what it is about cycling/quad-biking that I dislike so much...something about the lack of control of the equipment coupled with speed and a general feeling I'm going to hurt myself.
Riding on the back of a quad-bike while on a serious adventure trail is no easy feat. I had to cling to an iron bar on the back of the vehicle with all my strength, and concentrate on my core muscles to stay balanced while the guide flew up insanely steep hills and swerved around mud pools, tree trunks and other obstacles on the forest trail. I ended up with massive blisters on my hands, made worse by the fact that they were already a bit raw from the rafting the day before.
I was relieved when the hour was up, but all of my friends loved the experience and said they would have liked to continue for another hour as they were just getting the hang of how the quad-bikes handled. They also said - and I agree - that they would have benefitted from a bit more instruction from the guide regarding how to ride the bike prior to hitting the 4x4 trail.
So I suppose I've learned my lesson for next time: stick to white-water rafting!
Wednesday, May 07, 2008
Today, during my lunch break, I had my fingernails painted a deep blood red. I can't remember the last time I had such a strong color on my hands. I love the way it looks! For as much as I love the result of a manicure, I rarely have them done because I work so much with wire and pliers and nasty things like liver of sulphur while making jewelry, my nails tend to get ruined very quickly. I also have the habit of using my nails - especially my thumbnails - as tools while I work with metal, so a manicure is generally money thrown out the window for me.
But today, it was worth it. Even if they get nicked and destroyed within 24 hours, the pleasure I am getting from my vampy nails on the keyboard is justification enough.
As for my toes, they are a natural color with the slightest hint of gold sparkle. I love wildly colored toenails, but have exercised restraint in the last 3 years and mainly gone with neutrals. Why? Because Rico has this inexplicable, strangely intense aversion to colored toenails. I think he must have had childhood trauma with an auntie with coral sunset toes or something, because this is above and beyond just thinking colored toes are ugly.
For whatever reason, the nix on color does not apply to fingernails, so this is where I choose to live on the wild side these days.
Oh, my. I think it's time for me to step away from the computer. We have a leaving party this evening for our friend El Erik, so I'd best leave the silliness/tendency to blabber/random-ness to a more appropriate venue.
Tuesday, May 06, 2008
Despite the uncomfortable process of working through the not-so-pleasant feelings, and the singular joy of basking in pre-wedding bliss, somehow the actual FEELINGS seem to have evaded me until now. It's as if I had experienced shadow forms of the emotions up until this point, vague shells of what I "expected" a soon-to-be-married woman should feel.
Perhaps because the event has always seemed so far in the future, I didn't really get in my body and feel what was happening to the fullest extent. Or perhaps my expectations about what it feels like to commit to a life partner were unrealistic, blown up by movies and media and society and what-not. Whatever the reason, I have been plauged with frequent feelings of numbness up until this point, holding my breath, waiting for the flood of strong emotions to hit.
Then, in the last three weeks, it's as if something has shifted. Suddenly it is all becoming quite real. I am getting married in approximately 8 weeks! I feel an acute nervousness in my stomach as I think about the half-finished renovations on the Casa Rosa. I break into an uncontrollable smile thinking about how my dress and makeup will look, and how handsome Rico will be in his gray pinstripe Italian suit. I nearly tear up imagining what my vows will say, what the hours spent preparing the right words will feel like.
I am excited, I am anxious, but more than anything I am ready.
Monday, May 05, 2008
I plan on doing a post that will do the extended holiday weekend justice, however I am exhausted and my hands are covered in blisters. Instead, I will share some pictures and a few choice bits of the trip.
- a custom-made road trip cd with a selection of hits from 1990-1994 (Prince, George Michael, Boyz II Men, Ace of Base, and even a little Paula Abdul);
- a massive rainstorm that thwarted our attempt to mountain bike;
- dancing with a Swazi man at the cultural village;
- spotting a giant monitor lizard on the riverbank as we paddled through the rapids;
- a high-speed ride in a Kombi;
- the world's most painful, brutal, torturous but well-intentioned massage;
- sitting half-naked with a dozen fully-naked Swazi women;
- the slightly belated discovery that I hate quad-biking;
- geeking out at the geology of Phophonyane natural park;
- sleeping in a beehive (not the honeycomb type, a hut made with reeds and bamboo);
- too much American-style coffee;
- nearly getting lost trying to find the road back to Mozambique without a reliable map;
- incessant humming of the Indiana Jones theme song;
- lots and lots of mountains;
- and thankfully, no snakes!
More stories to come as soon as I am reasonably recovered.