31

2015: A WordPress Odyssey

Even though I haven’t mentioned it here, most of you know that for the past month I’ve been doing a blogging experiment. For those of you not in the know, what I decided to do was find, follow, and comment on 15 new blogs a day, every day, for the 31 days of January. Mostly for fun, but also to attract some more visitors to my blog, because it’s always fun to have more friends. I accomplished this goal, and made 465 new WordPress friends. Well, maybe not that many, since not everyone followed me back (you know who you are), but I got an average of 4-6 follows a day, which is pretty good.

Here are some more nifty numbers for you to ponder upon:

  • My followers count jumped up to 721. I can’t remember how many followers I had prior to this project, but I was hoping for at least 1,000 followers. Oh well, you can’t have everything.
  • In terms of views, this month has been my third-most successful ever with 2,868 as of 10:07 PM CST, following February 2014 (9,228!) and March 2014 (7,230).
  • I have had visitors from every continent, and from 92 countries total, with first-time visitors from Albania, Algeria, Armenia, Aruba [as of today – welcome!], Ethiopia, The Gambia, Gibraltar, Guadeloupe, Jordan, Lebanon, Liechtenstein, Mauritania, Mayotte, and Monaco.
  • From the USA, I have had visits this month from 46/50 states. I guess the fine people of North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont, and Wyoming had better things to do.
  • Several six-continent days including today, where I welcomed North America (Canada, USA, Mexico, and Aruba), South America (Colombia), Europe (UK, Germany, Belgium, and the Netherlands), Africa (Tanzania), Asia (India, Indonesia, Japan, and Philippines), and Oceania (Australia and New Zealand).

I know what you’re all thinking now…my Reader must be going crazy. Not so much, though; As I followed blogs each day, I unfollowed some others. I’m hovering around 900 right now, but will probably weed out some over time that don’t capture my interest. I don’t like deleting any blogs, but if I just want to kick back and read some stuff, I don’t want to be constantly bombarded with new posts showing up every 30 seconds. And I didn’t just follow any blog; I followed blogs that were interesting, fun, unique, unusual. People I could relate to, and people I couldn’t relate to. I only had a few criteria for deletion. I unfollowed blogs that…

  • Had been deleted by their owners. That’s simple enough.
  • Were only photos, with no captions or anything, no matter how pretty the pictures were.
  • Were primarily in a language I don’t speak.
  • Were only depressing poetry. I enjoy the occasional well-written poem, but post after post about lawn chairs, dead birds, and lost loves just don’t do it for me.
  • Had not been updated in 3 weeks or more.
  • Started preaching, or contained messages that were mostly ad hominem/ad feminem/inflammatory/indecent content.

If there was a blog that was on the fence, I would read the five most recent entries and see if they interested me, and if not, I hit the unfollow button. Oh, and if I know you in real life, you’re not getting deleted no matter what, of course. And as January is done, as is this little project. But maybe I’ll do something fun for February, like write a few comments every day or something.

Now that I’ve thoroughly depressed you all, I made some especially interesting discoveries and awesome new friends, which I’ll share with you presently. I don’t normally accept awards or advertise other blogs on my blog, but just think of this as an exception because I am feeling particularly mellow and generous today.

Awesome Content

  • Andrea Reads America. This girl (whom I’m assuming is called Andrea) posts her travels to all fifty states – via literature, that is. Another list of books that I’ll probably never get to read but I’ll die trying. I started a similar list awhile back of my favorite books set in each state, but I think after about 6 states, I realized that I don’t read that many books that take place in different states or in America at all. Ambitious project, cool chick.
  • La Petite Paniere. This blog has awesome and delicious-looking French recipes that make me want to drop out of school and catch the next plane to Paris.
  • The Dictionary of Victorian Insults and Niceties. Because who doesn’t need one of those from time to time.

Awesome People

  • Aran ArtisanThere are tons of craft blogs out there, but Melissa really has a knack for it, and she is a nice person as well. Plus, she lives in the Aran Islands, which I have always wanted to visit.
  • Keep Karyn. Fun and irreverent slice of life. Karyn tells it like it is.
  • Rebekah Koontz. Another very nice person who seems like she’d make a kick-ass big sister. No offense to my own big sister.
  • That Girl in Glasses. The very day I found Adele, we had a cross-blog comment-a-thon that was probably the most fun I’ve ever had on WordPress. It also got me through the Illinois leg of the drive back to Madison. (FYI, my dad drove that one, and then I took over in Belvidere, IL, where he started telling me the horse meat story). This girl is one lovely little buttercup and I hope we are friends for a long long time.
  • The Strange HerShe calls herself Baby Ruth, and if that’s not awesome, I don’t know what is. Funny, talented, and a devotee of Taylor Swift, go visit Baby Ruth and lose yourself in her world for awhile. After you’ve read all my posts, of course.
  • Tribal Mystic is none other than Joycelin, a Papua New Guinean living in Australia. After I mentioned Nora-Vagi Brash and my admiration of her work, she told me she went to school with Nora-Vagi Brash and was friends with her which pushes her to the top of my list. Plus, she just seems like a generally nice and polite person, which I like.
  • Vodka Soda EscapadesYou had me at Vodka Soda, and kept me with fun and quirky humor.

If I forgot anyone, I am truly sorry. But to all of you who are reading this, thanks for sticking around.

Let’s fold scarves.

 

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6

Best Friends are Best Friends

A few days ago, my best (and oldest) friend celebrated her 27th birthday. Since I’m here in Baltimore and she lives in Baltimore, I decided to attempt to get in touch with her; our busy schedules have kept us from seeing each other for probably two years or so. I always wonder if I should call her my best friend, since she was for most of my childhood and is an all-around awesome person even though we do not get to communicate very much, or merely my oldest friend, since we met in kindergarten in 1990. It was hard to get ahold of her, but once I did, she took time out of her busy life as a librarian (at a public library, and on the day after Thanksgiving, no less), so I guess that still makes her best friend material. As usual, we go to Jasmine, in the Quarry, walking distance from my house and between her parents’ place and the library.

I like everything about her, but what I like the best is her consistency. Even after all these years, she has not changed. Her hairstyle, her clothing choices, her sense of fashion, and the fact that she’s always cold. She surprised me today, though, when she deviated from her normal Philly roll and tried the Alaska roll along with it. I hope that’s the most she changes, because she’s just awesome the way she is.

Here’s a very brief rundown of all the awesome moments of our friendship. It began at age 4 when we instantly bonded over being the only two in our kindergarten class who could read. We ended up outsmarting the teachers and cheating on our worksheets by reading the answers that were printed upside down on the bottom of the page; I guess we thought they put them there to help us out. Whoops. After kindergarten, we went our separate ways, as her parents sent her to a private girls’ school, but we still managed to get together periodically on weekends for play dates, and always went to each others’ birthday parties. I would use my dad’s office fax machine to fax her hand written notes, which we thought was SO AWESOME, which it was for kids of the 90s. As teenagers, we would send each other IMs periodically. For some reason, however, we did not attend each other’s bar/bat mitzvahs – I don’t remember it being so much of an animosity thing as it was a mutual agreement since we would not know anyone else at the other’s party (on her RSVP card, she wrote “Let’s celebrate together another time!” and we probably did).  High school was busier for us, but she managed to surprise me by showing up at my school to watch me in Hello, Dolly! in senior year. I  always sent her a postcard from my vacations, and I still have the ones she sent me from Saint Barthelemy, Saint Martin, and Israel. In college, we sent each other birthday cards, which was always easier for me than it was for her since my address changed every year and hers was always either at her school or her parents’ house. In my junior year, she accompanied me to the closing performance of my play that was produced in Baltimore, and to the cast party afterwards, where one of the other playwrights was her seventh-grade science teacher, which was kind of cool but a little awkward. And during my senior year, she flew up to Amherst for a weekend of fun where we road-tripped through Vermont and saw Mountpelier (“the city I want to retire in” she said), the Ben & Jerry’s factory, Vermont Teddy Bear, and a used bookstore safari tour of Brattleboro, which remains one of my favorite towns anywhere. We have so many private jokes; Aladdin colorforms, Weekly Readers, “do you need a razor?”, Grandma Lois, how she will one day become a coffee drinker but not today, that picture of us from kindergarten where I look terrified and she’s just blabbing away in her favorite blue sweater, two minutes at Goucher, the creepy photograph doll, watching my first episode of Friends with her, the garage door opener story (or how her parents tricked her a lot as a child),  and as of today, real life math and Timonium chopsticks.

Wow, those were a lot of highlights.

I don’t know if she’ll ever read this, but if she does, I salute you, Flamingo Kid. We’ve muddled through 23 years together, which is longer than I have known most people. Thanks for always being the wonderful you that you are, and I hope that you and me will always be best friends. I don’t really know why we’re still close to each other even after spending most of our lives on different wavelengths, but sometimes friendship doesn’t need an explanation. It just is, and best friend-ship is even better.

And that’s the story of me and my best friend.

 

2

Pie: The Universal Language

Today, I woke up and met Lumeng across the street at Bassett Street Brunch Club, only to find out that it was over an hour for a table. We were hungry, so we got in my car and drove out to the Hubbard Avenue Diner in Middleton. The wait there was also 40 minutes, but we got two seats at the counter within seconds because we are hungry graduate students and we do not care.

After brunch, we shared two pieces of pie, a French silk and a sweet potato pecan. I asked Lumeng how to say pie in Chinese, since she’s in my Chinese Drama class and is from Beijing.

Her answer?

“Pie.”

Some things everyone understands.

4

An Alphabet of Stereotypes

So, I was having a conversation with myself today about names, and I came across the name Summer. Summer. It’s a great word and a lovely name, but how many ways can you really slice a Summer? There’s never been a Queen Summer or a President Summer or even a Grandma Summer. I thought about adding it to my list of potential daughters’ names, but it’s just too…Summer. There are very few places you can go with a Summer, and most of them involve being in a bikini.

Since everyone’s blogging about Scotland’s independence referendum today, I thought I’d do something different and present to you an alphabet of name stereotypes. These are not common names like John and Mary, and not timeless names like Michael, Katherine, and Elizabeth that have too much history to be placed in one category. Rather, these are names that are uncommon but not unusual, but at least for me they have a certain way about them. To be fair, I’ll just do one random name per letter, per gender, skipping Q and X for obvious reasons. Join me, y’all.

And welcome, first visitor from Kyrgyzstan! You were always my favorite Stan.

Disclaimer: This list is meant to be read in complete jest, so Jacquelyn, the coffee is fine.

If your name is Albert, don’t get any piercings. This will only work against you.

If your name is Brook, have a headshot on your faculty website.

If your name is Chuck, you probably spit a lot when you talk and collect things.

If your name is Dallas, you probably own a ten-gallon hat but have never had the opportunity to wear it.

If your name is Eddie, be my drinking buddy. But not Ed. He can go and sit in the back of the closet.

If your name is Fred, you have a lot to live up to. Same for the Wilmas, Mickeys, and Minnies of the world.

If your name is Gilbert, you probably watched Howdy Doody in its first run.

If your name is Harrison, you probably have your hair parted on the side. Oh, and don’t go to China to teach English.

If your name is Ira, don’t be surprised if in the near future you get mistaken for a girl.

If your name is Jacob, be cool about it. Don’t toss that name around willy-nilly. Taylor Lautner did a number for us; unfortunately it was a negative number. And be friendly. If you want to be a jerk (and if I am), be Jake.

If your name is Kevin, take a break and sit down.

If your name is Lorenzo, eat some graham crackers.

If your name is Mickey, you better be cuddly or else.

If your name is Nathan, I really enjoyed those hard, wooden chairs you made me.

If your name is Ozzy, get that bat out of your mouth, I do not want to buy candy from you, and pull your shorts above your butt crack.

If your name is Peter, my deepest sympathies for the inappropriate jokes you have encountered in your life.

If your name is Ray, chill out. You’re much too intense.

If your name is Scott, I never want to see you wearing anything but underwear.

If your name is Timothy, and you haven’t heard the song, your life is incomplete. Also, if you shorten to Timmy don’t expect anything for your birthday other than Tonka trucks.

If your name is Ulysses, be prepared to work hard because you will be called useless at least once a day.

If your name is Victor, don’t make me walk into your magic cabinet.

If your name is Wilbur, your mother’s favorite book was Charlotte’s Web.

If your name is Yorick, I knew him well.

If your name is Zzzzybrrqahh, please don’t eat my brain.

If your name is Alice, you will probably have a husband named Al and move to Alabama where you’ll sell ant farms.

If your name is Bella, avoid used bookstores.

If your name is Carol, you probably either sing in a folk rock band or own a large collection of fuzzy sweaters.

If your name is Donna, you’re an asset to the secretarial pool. Maybe you’ll be an executive assistant one day.

If your name is Edith, thanks for the peanut brittle.

If your name is Frances, you probably need to lighten up.

If your name is Georgia, watch where you’re swingin’ that hoop skirt.

If your name is Helen, I hope you like cats.

If your name is Isabella, you probably can’t read this because you were born sometime this decade.

If your name is Jacquelyn, I may or may not have spit in your coffee this morning.

If your name is Kimberley, congratulations, you’re the head of the cheerleading squad and the top of the pyramid.

If your name is Lola, you were a showgirl.

If your name is Marni, you really got the short end of the stick. That is not a real name. And don’t stomp your platforms at me.

If your name is Nancy, you have an unhealthy relationship with yarn.

If your name is Olga, I am putting all my hope in you at the next Olympics.

If your name is Penelope…yeah, no one’s cool enough to pull off Penelope.

If your name is Summer, you have damaged skin, hair, or both.

If your name is Tiffany, you are never going to give up the 80s, are you?

If your name is Ursula, you either rule a sea kingdom or are in fact a Kodiak bear.

If your name is Velvet, you have served prison time and have the tattoos to prove it.

If your name is Willow, you have either participated in or led a women’s retreat.

If your name is Yolanda, you thoroughly enjoy the conveniences of a convenience store.

If your name is Zona, my seventh-grade Bible teacher gave me permission to shoot your parents.

6

Where You Lead, I Will Follow

Today was one of those rare days where I actually had nothing to do; no commitments, no pressing deadlines (at least not until Wednesday/Thursday of next week) so I spent most of the day in bed and on the computer, and then decided I needed some fresh air so I headed out to Memorial Union Terrace for some fresh air and about 200 pages of reading. FOR PLEASURE. Clearly, my soul has not yet died.

The other day I passed the 400 follower mark, (I would love more; bring your friends, I’ll follow back!) and I realized I don’t read others’ blogs as often as I should. What usually ends up happening is that I have a few bloggers’ tabs open, meaning to read them, and then either my browser will crash or my computer will need restarting and I’ll have forgotten where I was in reading them. So today, I’m going to go to two of those tabs that are perpetually open.

First up, Antigua A La CarteI think actually it was she who found me, but either way, it’s a blog about life and random stuff. Her name is Nadine and she comes from St. John’s, Antigua and Barbuda. It’s kind of like mine, only with a Caribbean focus, and who couldn’t use a vacation from their real life by joining this blogger on her island? She writes really well and though I don’t know if there are many other bloggers from her country, I can safely say that in my opinion she is the best one. She also has another blog with non-Caribbean-based thoughts and ideas, so there’s two for the price of one. Oh, and coincidentally, we wrote about the same topic on the same day once, which reminds me, I should probably go edit that entry.

Here’s a recent find, Jane Thorne. I stumbled upon her blog last week. She is called Jane (obviously) and she writes photo essays about her life, including her travel adventures around fair Britannia. She has left me some nice comments, so Jane, this one’s for you.

Thank you to all of my followers for following me, with a special shout-out to those who leave nice comments/feedback.

0

Halfway Point For Some

Today is my dad’s half-birthday.

Half-birthdays are weird; it’s kind of funny to think that tomorrow you will officially be closer to your next age than your current one.

Speaking of halfway points, this past weekend I headed to Milwaukee to pick up WeKache, then to Beaver Dam for the 2014 Cache and Release Challenge. For this event, 30 brand new caches were planted in Beaver Dam. 63 teams from all over Wisconsin showed up for a chance to find them and win prizes. We arrived only minutes before the event started; by the time we had our map ready, everyone had scattered. With WeKache driving, we found 15 of the 30 caches before 5 PM, not too bad.

Most were relatively easy, but we attempted two of the three puzzles and came through victorious, with help. We met up with a father/daughter team and combined clues which took us to an empty parking lot. We were about to give up when we see them drive up, letting us know that they had gotten some numbers wrong and gave us the correct info. We followed them to the real site (or what we thought was the real site) and searched fruitlessly for 15 minutes when a team all in purple showed up, heading in a different direction. We followed them, and the daughter spotted the cache. The second puzzle involved a cryptogram, which we cracked pretty easily. We spent about 15 minutes searching on our own, before seeing another group arrive and joining with them. The coordinates that the cryptogram led to were in the middle of some slippery rocks in a small grove of trees. I was leery of climbing them, but as soon as we walked up to the grove of trees about four other cars full of teams showed up and all of a sudden there were no less than twenty pairs of eyes looking. I was tired, so I hung back and watched while someone else found it and passed it around. My 1800th find was our 12th find of the day, a bottle attached to a plank of wood in the ground with a decoy cache nearby. Heh.

By 4:30, we were tired and thirsty, so we called it quits and headed to the cafe for the prize raffle. We had each received a raffle ticket for attending, then 1 ticket for every 5 caches (we got 3 each; the max was 6 for all 30, which 7 teams got!). Even though I lost my original ticket, one of the first tickets called was one of mine, then moments later, one belonging to WeKache…and then it happened again! 40 prizes were given out, as well as several cash prizes. All told, 4 of our 7 tickets were prize winners, so much so that the prize table staffers started calling me by name. WeKache let me pick all 4 prizes to share between us, so we ended up with a starter geocaching kit (which went to me), an orange ID badge holder (me again), a beer stein painted with a panoramic view of the pavilion at Swan Park, where we had been earlier (that went to him), and a cookbook set, 2 books (which I took) and a recipe card box (which he took). We spent the rest of the afternoon getting to know a married couple team from Devil’s Lake and a family team from West Bend.

All in all, it was exhausting but fun. I told WeKache that it felt like we were tokens/avatars in a giant board game with the town of Beaver Dam as our map, and he agreed.

Finally, speaking of halfway, I half (whoops, I mean have) several half-finished posts to complete, which I will link here when I’m finished. Off I go!

0

From Isla del Encanto to Charm City USA

I am now in Baltimore, so that happened.

This past week has gone by super fast and it’s only now that I realize that I haven’t chronicled anything in my life for a week or so. I’ve spent most of the past week being tired (and now, for some reason, a little sick, possibly due to a drafty house or my dad’s driving) so I’ll do the best I can to keep it from being completely lost to memory.

Thursday, July 31: Actual date of Ponce trip, amended from the previous day. I woke up and Isabel’s apartment was so quiet that I thought she might have gone to work, so I prepared to have another lazy day until she called me. Then Axel emerged, and apparently Isabel had been working in the back room the whole time and was waiting for me to get up! We were fixing to go to Ponce, just the two of us, due to Riley not answering my texts or calls.

We were just about to get into the car when we realized that I’d forgotten a swimsuit and towel, and just as I had retrieved those items and was locking Isabel’s front door, Riley calls and asks what we’re up to. A short but hilarious conversation later, we were on our way to pick him up in Carolina for the day’s adventures.

The drive to Ponce was about two hours long, through an amazing variety of landscapes. The tropical greenery of San Juan transformed into the arid, barren mountains of central Puerto Rico; from jungle to desert, practically. We drove past several scary-looking bush fires that may or may not have been natural, who knows.

Arriving in Ponce, Riley immediately commented that it felt hotter; it actually did, strangely enough. We walked to the Plaza las Delicias and had a reasonably-priced lunch there. For the evening, we thought it would be fun to explore the nearby Bio Bay (the one with the bacteria that light up when you touch the water) so Isabel went off with her phone to make the arrangements while Riley and I took a walk around town and had some coffee. We met up with Isabel soon after at a bookstore, where she informed us that even though we probably would not be able to swim in the bay, we could definitely get an inexpensive boat tour. Before that, though, we explored town some more and found a geocache; Isabel’s first ever, and it was hilarious watching her get so excited. We tried another one, but it led us to this awesome art-garden-park thing with massive light-up sculptures so it wasn’t too bad of a walk. On the way back to the car, we saw some adorable stray puppies and watched them play.

The earlier hustle and bustle of Ponce was gone, as were we, off to Lajas, in the southwest corner of Puerto Rico. An hour after leaving Ponce, we reached La Parguera in Lajas, which seemed like a cross between a backpacker’s stop and the Catskills. Apparently, Lajas is not a well-known destination outside of Puerto Rico, so it was likely that Riley and I were the only two Americans in town. At the docks, we got tickets for $8 on a Bio Bay tour boat, with about 100 or so of our closest and loudest friends. The trip itself only took an hour, and the bio bay was cool with the glowing water, but what was more impressive was the lightning storm off in the distance and the bright, bright stars overhead, especially when the boat stopped and turned off its lights in the middle of the Bio Bay so we could better see the water. Four guys jumped from the top of the ship and swam around, which was pretty cool, and despite learning the contrary, we could indeed, if we wanted, get into our swimsuits and jump in the water. Well, if we didn’t mind about a four-story jump followed by a climb back up. We seriously considered jumping but with the possibility of broken glasses (Isabel), lost contacts (me), and broken bones/drowning/not being able to swim back to the ship (all three of us, I suppose) we just watched from above. It would have been cool to swim in it though. When we docked, the guys who jumped were passing a hat to collect money, which was kind of expected.

By this point we were a little hungry. Riley tried tiburon, or shark, in a sandwich, to which I said, “no thanks, but enjoy” and Isabel and I shared some fish nuggets, mofongo (mashed plantain balls), and amarillos (sweet plantains). It was about 11 PM at this point, so we phoned it in and I drove us back to San Juan, where we arrived after 1 AM and zzzz….

Friday, August 1st: Slept in (well deserved) and said goodbye to Isabel and Axel to head over to Riley’s place in Carolina for Phase II of Operation Puerto Rico Vacation. Riley’s place in Carolina was quite different from Isabel’s in San Juan, but as soon as I dropped my stuff off and changed, we were out to Isla Verde for a night of dancing and debauchery. I practiced a bit of my ballroom moves but mostly danced to the hits of the 70s and 80s. It was basically a Bar Mitzvah without the torah reading. That was only the beginning of the night; the remaining details I cannot divulge but suffice it to say that it was 4:30 when we got back to Riley’s.

Saturday, August 2nd: Tropical Storm Bertha decided to pay a visit so it was mostly an indoors type of day. It was an adventure staying at Riley’s apartment, but after one night there I suggested we take a meta-vacation and check into a hotel back in San Juan so we could really enjoy the last few days together. So we headed over to the Doubletree San Juan for a vacation-within-a-vacation, regrouped, and had dinner at Plaza de las Americas, the biggest mall in the Caribbean. I’m not a huge mall fan, but it was very sleek as far as malls go.

Sunday, August 3rd: Back on the adventure trail! They said, “go west, young man,” so go west we did, along the northern coast of Puerto Rico. Our goal was to get to Isabela or Aguadilla. We did a few stops along the way, both for geocaches: first, at a lookout point in Quebradillas that we later learned is one of the premier lookout points on the island, with mountains in one direction and beach in the others, and second, in Isabela, at a giant stone carving of a man which actually turned out to be not-so-ancient. We turned north slightly and took a smaller road through the tiny, windy town of Isabela and ended up on Villa Pesquera, a rocky beach. The waves breaking along the rocks were incredible to see, as well as the tide pools and the huge crabs hanging out in them (didn’t get too close though!) At a swimming beach nearby, Riley went for a snorkel while I relaxed in the shallow water and the low, gentle waves, protected by the rocky spit that absorbed most of the impact of the crashing water.

After maybe an hour there, we drove towards Aguadilla, where Isabel’s favorite Thai restaurant is. We arrived at the place only to find that due to the tropical storm delaying a shipment of supplies, they had limited options, so we backtracked to the next best option, Golden Crown. Cultural (con)fusion notwithstanding, it was a really good Chinese place, despite being in Aguadilla, Puerto Rico, which is as far from China as you can get. Although not getting to see Aguadilla proper, we headed back to San Juan after a day full of fun.

Sunday, August 4th: Final day of the trip 😦 although I would get to see my parents that night, so 🙂 for that. Wakeup was early so we could check out of the hotel and I could drop Riley off. Before I had to return the car, though, I went on a little adventure of my own.

I drove east, picking out a geocache near El Yunque National Rainforest as my goal. Isabel said it should be less than an hour, and indeed it was, only forty minutes from busy San Juan to the middle of the rainforest. It was raining heavily the whole way there, but as soon as I paid the entry fee and parked at El Portal, the visitor center at the entrance to the forest, the sky cleared up and the sun came out. Due to a landslide, most of the park was closed, but the visitor center offered great views and geographically we were in the rainforest, so, I’ll take it. I found the geocache and after a short walk around, went further east to see what Puerto Rico had to offer.

I found myself in Luquillo, known for some of the prettiest beaches on the island, and it did not disappoint. It was Monday but it felt like a lazy Sunday as I rolled in, parked, took a walk, and had a leisurely final breakfast of huevos rancheros, iced coffee, and crepes with banana and Nutella. After finding a geocache at a nearby park and mailing postcards from the Luquillo Post Office, which wasn’t even on the map, I headed back to San Juan to return the car and return home. Suffice it to say that it was not a fun experience at all, and by the time I got to the airport I was good and ready to get back home, which I did shortly after midnight, San Juan-Charlotte-Baltimore.

August 5, 6, 7: Basically, nothing…a few days of actual vacation-like vacation, doing nothing important and eating home-cooked food. Highlights of my time here have been getting to see my sister and bake challah with her and my dad; getting a tour of the neighborhood with my mom and dad and seeing how it’s changed since January; taking a quick jaunt to Washington; and getting my teeth cleaned and hair cut. Exciting stuff, I know.

But it’s good to be home, even though in one week and two days I’ll be back in action and back in Madison. I’ll have my parents with me for a few days, but then it’s goodbye summer, hello 2nd year of PhD. Also, hello to my newest visitor, my first from Tunisia.