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Standards [part I]

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“Hell is other people.”
– Jean-Paul Satre

It was winter in the northern hemisphere.  One morning, on just the short, 30 yard walk from the parking lot into my office, I was already frozen to the core. My legs felt as if they were supported by Minecraft blocks of ice instead of toes and feet.  Though the temperature loomed just above 0ยบ F, the sharp wind dropped it well into the negatives and left my face lobster red.  The parking lot's asphalt was no longer charcoal-colored but caked white from the remnants of so much salt used to combat the voracious weather.  Outside my building, every space that was once green, healthy and thriving was either buried under snow or crunchy with frostbite.  Overhead was a gray cloud that swallowed the whole region, whose milky-ness never changed throughout the day.  By the time I exited the building at 17:00 it resembled – and felt like – midnight.  It was a typical December day in Ohio.

Even though Mexico neighbors my home country, it differs vastly…

Skydiving

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"A blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others."
-- Martha Graham

I am broke. Saving for a new car and depositing double into a retirement fund (since I neglected it all these years) eliminated visiting the majority of places still on my bucket list. Since starting a new job in March 2016 I have accrued little vacation time so it seemed the only days off I'd truly have were based on the winter holidays (November + December 2016).  Yet, where others see a time to relax & enjoy company, I see opportunity.  How could I let 7 paid days off pass without going somewhere?!  As Jack London voiced in one of my absolute favorite quotes: "I shall use my time."

After the trials of this past year since returning to the U.S.A. in July 2015, I craved venturing off on my own again. Maybe it's because I'm single and used to providing for myself.  Maybe it's because I'm an only child who finds myself the best company.  Maybe i…

Complements

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"Life is all memory, except for the present moment that goes by you so quickly, you hardly catch it going."
-- Tennessee Williams

Perhaps there is someone like this in your life, be it a sibling, friend, someone of the same or opposite sex. A person who knows your entire history or has only been present in your life for a short period of time, but is indelibly a saint.  For me, that person is my mother, Stephanie.

It's no secret my mum is aging, and has worked so incredibly hard to earn the money to pay for our voyages through the years. I don't remember a time in my life when she was not working two jobs, always running from one to the other. We hopped buses and walked across San Francisco, my mother toting me to all of her college classes because she was a single parent without a babysitter. One night in the city, I even witnessed her launch a fist at an approaching stranger who tried to lay a hand on her.

Although that was 25 years ago, the same tenacious qualities…

Chaos

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"Let me lose everything on earth and the world beyond, but let me not lose what I'm craving for, let it be that I died on the way than retreating from getting it." -- Michael Johnson


I created my 7 week Australasian itinerary based solely around the wildlife of the region.  My mum and I raced up Western Australia’s coast to Shark Bay to beat the school holiday crowds; I assured we would arrive at Dryandra Woodland’s marsupial enclosure midweek to avoid the weekend masses; and we specifically disembarked the Yasawa Flyer at Drawaqa island to drift through its channel with ominous Manta Rays.

Yet, Mother Nature does not always cooperate.  Off the northwest coast of Fiji’s main island (Viti Levu), the small Mamanuca grouping of islands rise out of the azure Pacific Ocean.  Stay on the boat – or seaplane – hours longer and eventually you encounter the idyllic Yasawa chain, extending from the mainland like an octopus' tentacle.
In Fiji, Manta Ray season typically runs May t…

Forever

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"Once you have traveled, the voyage never ends, but is played out over and over again in the quietest chambers.  The mind can never break off from the journey."
-- Pat Conroy


It’s difficult for me to fathom that 7 years has elapsed since I upheaved my life in the U.S.A. and relocated to Australia.  Seven years was, numerically, quite some time ago, especially considering how much has occurred globally – and personally – in that time frame.  However, to me the milestone feels only slightly stale.  I can still picture the backyard where I’d hang laundry to dry while the Kookaburras cackled.  Suddenly, some sense triggers an onslaught of memories.  The smell of Bounce dryer sheets instantly brings me back to my hire car [and home] in Puerto Rico.  My mouth salivates and I can almost taste the warm pear atop the melted Pecorino pizza in Siena.
Yet, some memories have slipped into the void, and only by rereading my journal, reviewing photographs, or speaking with my mother, are …

Tested

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“And I also know how important it is in life not to be strong, but to feel strong, to measure yourself at least once, to find yourself at least once in the most ancient of human conditions, facing blind, deaf stone alone with nothing to help you but your hands and your own head.”
-- Primo Levi, Bear Meat


Yesterday, on my way to work, I pulled into an unassuming petrol station.  While the fuel dispensed, I noticed the bird poop smattered over my windshield so I grabbed the communal scrub brush soaking in bright blue cleaner.  As I began scouring the dried scat, my mind flashed back to a year ago in Western Australia.

On a rare, overcast day in Perth -- a city that boasts 285 days of exotic sunshine -- my mother and I pulled into a petrol station a few kilometers south of the [PER] International Airport.  After more than a month cruising through the outback, we needed to fill our Britz Hi-Top one last time before we returned it, but – more importantly – we needed to hide the evidence. Yo…

Dangers

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"It's not the danger I love. I know what I love. It is life itself."
-- Antoine de Saint-Exupery


If you didn't learn from the entries about the dolphins living in Shark Bay, Australia is an extremely deadly country.  Although also odd and beguiling, the flora, fauna and environment are inhospitable.  Often, the dangers are not as obvious as the east coast's notorious Great White Sharks. In Western Australia, many dangers lay in wait while others are invisible to the naked eye or naive foreigner.

*** Next time you plan a picnic in Australia, remember it is home to nearly 90 species of Bulldog Ants a.k.a. Bull Ants.  I was shocked by their size. These freakishly large ants -- similar in length to a kiwi fruit -- are confrontational and have a painful sting even to humans.  As if that's not bad enough, their stinger does not dislodge so they can continuously impale and poison their victim. 

*** Though a stunning national park to explore on foot, a few of Karijini&…