CUZCO, PERU: Save the drama for your llama

Current location: Cartagena, Colombia
Current tunes: Man of the Woods, Justin Timberlake

Matching Alpaca Sweaters

You guys, I think I broke my body. I am basically reptilian with these nasty sunburned peeling shoulders that scream “tourist.”  My knees ache like your grandma’s. I’ve got splotchy red bites on my calves…according to Google Images they are flea bites I think? Why did I pet that friggin’ dog? And between the rocky hiking trails and my natural talent of tripping over my oversized footsies I must have rolled each ankle twice. As my British travel bud Callum (who has finally arrived btdubs) would say, “I am completely shattered.” In four consecutive days we walked about 45 miles and over 600 floors (per my pedometer). But was my one week in Cuzco a stunning, wild, challenging week of adventure that I absolutely loved??? YES. The answer is 100% yes. I meant to blog after each day to give detailed accounts of my adventures but we literally were getting up at 4am on the reg and getting home just in time to grub, shower, and do it all again the next day. So here you have my week in Cuzco, Peru all smashed into one long post. And if you can’t make it through my rambling, at least take a peeksy at some of the photos because Peru is GORGEOUS.

 One thing that made the trekking adventures even more challenging is the altitude.  Cuzco sits at about 11,500ft (think a little more than twice that of Denver for my American friends) and at first the air here feels as thin as Kiera Knightly on a diet. On my first full day of walking about the city I was feeling fatigued and almost asthmatic like. It hit Callum even harder than me and I realized how serious altitude sickness can be when I noticed an oxygen tank in the lobby of our hostel and that some guides even carried emergency supplemental oxygen for the weak lunged tourists like ourselves. To help combat altitude sickness, the Quecha people (Peruvian people group living in this part of the Andes) use a native plant known as coca. Coca leaves are dried and chewed or are steeped into a tea to help remedy the symptoms and supposedly helps with regulating your body’s oxygen needs. I meant to Google the science behind it, but I mean if these people figured out how to build huge ancient civilizations with their own hands on top of gigantic mountains, I figured it must work and drank a cup of coca tea daily or popped a few of these coca toffee candies I found at the airport upon landing.

Ollantaytambo

The heart of the city definitely caters to tourists and is filled with souvenir shops, Peruvian restaurants, and hundreds of tour agency/info centers. However, I was pleasantly surprised at how charming this city is and the first two days were spent exploring through a free walking tour and getting lost among the cobble stoned streets and the various balcony lined plazas and parks. I personally would have never thought to have booked a whole week in this Peruvian city as my travel style generally focuses on short amounts of time, like 2-3 nights, in several cities to maximize my time. But since I bummed onto Callum’s holiday, I rolled with his plan and was pleasantly surprised. There is SO much to do and see around Cuzco and this city serves more as a central hub to come back to after a day long excursion which is what we ended up doing. While the big kahuna of excursions would be a two day adventure to Machu Picchu, we also spent a day exploring the Sacred Valley and another day hiking up to Lake Humantay.

If I am completely honest, I knew little to nothing about Machu Picchu except that it was in Peru and that there is an option to embark on a God forsaken journey to get to it. After years of hating hiking, something in me changed during my college years and now I really enjoy short hikes with stunning views. I hate to admit it but hiking is where my millennial-ness comes shining through…gimmee gimme that instant gratification and picturesque snap to post on the Insta. Nonetheless, I was willing to commit to it for the story. Then we came to find that every year the Inca Trail is closed in February for the rainy season and to spruce it up a bit. I’d be lying if I wasn’t a little stoked that days and days of popping a squat and walking against gravity in high altitudes was no longer an option to experience this Seven World Wonder.  However, we definitely got those Fit Bit steps in, let me tell you. Here’s the dealio for those wanting to go to MP at some point in their life, which I highly recommend. If you don’t hike the Inca Trail, several tour agencies will present you with the same two options to reach MP from Cuzco: 1)Take a bus to a train that drops you in Aguas Calientes, the city that sits at the base of MP, or 2) Take a 6 hour car ride to the town of Hidroelctrica and then walk 7 miles to Aguas Calientes. Then once at Aguas Calientes, again you have two options: 1) Hike the 3 miles up to the entrance, or 2) Pay for a 25 minute bus ride. Since we were no longer doing the Inca trail and we still wanted to do some trekking so we opted for the cheaper by foot option (6 hours by car, 7 mile walk through the hills following the train tracks, stay in a hotel overnight at Aguas Calientes, a 4am wake up call for a 25 minute walk to the trailhead, and then a 2.5 practically vertical mile hike up).

Our local but English speaking guide Wilbert advised us that the hike should take 1.5-2 hours or about 50 mins for what he called “sporty people.” Apparently we are sporty by Peruvian standards because although it was no cake walk getting up at 4am to hike in the rain and we did it in 45 minutes and were within the first 20 people to the top…thank you coca leaves! Luckily the rain stopped when we reached the top. After presenting our tickets and passports at the entrance, we went on a two hour tour of this spectacular city on a hill I’ll spare you the long version but here are the main details from our tour guide Wilbert that I found most interesting:

1) Machu Picchu is not the biggest Incan civilization. What makes it special is that 80% of this city is original because it was never found and conquered by the Spaniards like the other Incan civilizations. This is likely because of it’s location high on the hill. Some of the other Incan ruins, such as Pisa that I visited during the Sacred Valley Tour was much larger but is only 30% origina.
2) Today it is a protected UNESCO Heritage site and considered one of the New Seven Wonders of the Modern World.
3) It was only recently discovered in 1911 by Hiram Bingham III.
4) The stones used to create the structures were hand crafted and often built by commoners who were paying off their taxes through labor. No cement was used in building them and depending on the weight of the stones, it could take weeks to five months to drag a stone up the mountainside (some people pulling and others pushing). The top portions of the buildings are not as neat and are more rugged looking. It is suspected that this is because they switched gears from precision to get ‘errr done mode when they learned the Spaniards were quickly invading neighboring towns.
5) Machu Picchu is also an engineering marvel because its large stones were wedged together in a way that allowed the stones to “dance” instead of crumbling during earth quakes. This is largely important because Machu Picchu sits along two fault lines.

 

After the tour we hiked another 40 minutes or so up to the Sun Gate to get even more stunning views of Machu Picchu. By the time we finished and hiked back from the Sun Gate and back down to Aguas Calientes we were so wrecked that we caved and bought the train ticket back to Hidroelctrica instead of walking another 7 miles…

And while Machu Picchu was mind boggling, I was surprised to find my most favorite excursion of the week was our hike to Lake Humantay. At 14,000 ft (higher than Machu Picchu) it was literally breathtaking… I think this is one of the most stunning places I have ever seen. Picture an aquamarine lake colored by the different minerals infused in the water from the rocks, gigantic lush Andes Mountains on either side, and a giant glacier nestled in between. While I was “shattered” from the last four days, I made it a point to scramble up to the top as quickly as possible in hopes to get some solo time, free of tourists, and just sit in the quietness. I was able to make it up in about 50 mins (#tokyo2020 ready?) and quietly marvel at God’s creation. This year I have been trying to make it a point to quiet my mind and practice stillness. And for ten sweet minutes I was able to do that here.

Seriously guys, between the tasty eats, the breathtaking landscapes, and the rich history I definitely recommned putting Peru on your travel bucket list. The Machu Picchu guides also mentioned that due to heavy tourist flow to the mountain, Machu Picchu has been sinking by one centimeter each year and to expect stricter regulations on visitation in the future. They have already restricted accessibility by creating a morning and afternoon visiting session so there’s no time like the present, peeps. Oh lastly I want to shoutout to CuscoPackers for a lovely week at one of the best hostels in Cuzco! It’s rated numero uno on TripAdvisor and Dan the manager is sooo incredibly nice and knowledgable. He gave us tips on food, the best ATMs, how to book excursions, where to watch for pickpocketers, etc… He also gave us the nicer room with the discount. Highly recommend. Click here to book or for more info!



Well, a little behind on my posts but I’m officially switched climates and am enjoying mega sunshine in Cartagena, Colombia! Going to a futbol game tonight. More on that later. xoxo!

Cheers and keep on wishin’!

Miriam

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LIMA, PERU: To Ceviche His Own

Current location: Cuzco, Peru
Current Tunes: Man Down, cover by Julia Zahra

Downtown Lima, Main Square

Me: “Taxi! Parque Kennedy, por favor. Cuanto cuesta?”
Cab driver: “Veinticinco soles.” (aka 25 PEN = $7.70 USD)
Me: “Mmmmm, quince soles!” (aka 15 PEN = $4.60 USD)
Cab driver: “Veinti soles. (aka 20 PEN = $6.15 USD)
Me: “Quince soles!”
Cab driver: “Mucho traffico ahora. Veinti soles.”
……awkward pause, I lift my arm to get another cab……
Cab driver: “Dieciocho soles.” (aka 18 PEN = $5.55 USD)
Me: ….gets in cab….

Ten minutes later I am at a gas station getting the car jumped in this so-called “taxi”. Serves me right for bartering.

I just spent the last three nights in the Peruvian capital of Lima and have found myself wishing I booked a few more in this beautiful city. Well I specifically fell for/stayed in Miraflores, just one of Lima’s 43 districts. While Peru’s population is about 30 million, an impressive 12 million of them live within Lima. The downtown has all the historical buildings, the home of the president, beautiful cathedrals, and city hall, but Miraflores is this gorgeous cliff side town overlooking the ocean filled with beautiful parks and delicious eats. Again, I spent my time here alone since my friend Callum doesn’t arrive until tomorrow and while I generally prefer to have one friend with me, I really enjoyed my time here. If you have never travelled solo, I highly recommend it at least once at some point in your life. You’re not on anyone’s budget, timeline, or are restricted to certain activities. If you want to do some nerdy archaeologic tour, prefer to seek out all the adrenaline junkie activities, or want to spend all your money wine tasting, do it to it homie. You also are pushed a little out of your comfort zone by being forced to ask locals for help and make new friends. In this post, I want to highlight three reasons that Lima knocked my socks off during my solo time here.

1) THE GRUB. Peruvian cuisine is known as some of the best and innovative ethnic food in the world. I personally had no idea until coming and if you Google it you will find several Michelin starred restaurants and famous chefs that have put Peruvian food on the map. The first night I had a solo date night at Pescados Capitales, one of the first upscale cevicherias and was named one of Frommer’s Best Restaurants in Lima. I had the pulpo a la parrilla which is grilled octopus and it freaking rocked my world, not even squidding, and a tuna steak with pesto curry. While I can’t afford to eat at places like this every night while traveling, I am a firm believer in #treatyoself. But Lima’s crown dish is ceviche, which is like raw fish “salsa” of sorts. I have had ceviche in Peruvian restaurants before in America, but it was nothing like this…large chunks of freshly caught raw fish marinated in lemon, garlic, salt, and onion. In fact, many cevicherias close early or restaurants that do have it won’t serve it past 5 o’clock because it is believed that the fish is no longer fresh if prepared that late in the day. To experience some of the best ceviche and all that Peruvian cuisine has to offer firsthand I took a food and bike tour through Lima Bici. I lucked out and had a private tour because no one else signed up that day and while they usually require a two person minimum to run a tour, the owner Cesar happily took me solo (after a little begging and faux whining about being a solo female traveler that just wants to live her best life that is…haha). This tour had us biking 10-12 miles, covering the the neighborhoods of Miraflores, Barranco, and Chorillos and was complete with two courses, ice cream, beer, and a boat ride.

*Little side note on Cesar, while actually a native Venezuelan, he moved to Lima five years ago. It was here he combined his love for Lima and biking and created Lima Bici Tour and Rental Company. Click here to learn more about Lima Bici and the other tours they offer if you ever are lucky enough to find yourself exploring Lima.

The cevicheria he took me to is called Barra Mar and the ceviche we ordered was sitting on a bed of camote, kind of like a sweet potato, and was also garnished with fried calamari and a wedge of large Peruvian corn. Speaking of potatoes, did you know that Peruvians have 395 varieties of potatoes??? The Irish definitely steal the potato spotlight when really the Peruvians are the true potato royalty in my book. Causa, a beautiful presented layered potato dish, is another Peruvian staple we tried at a restaurant facing the water called Javier’s. It’s generally filled with chicken or seafood salad and avocado. And while pisco is the famous Peruvian brandy with the Pisco Sour as the official drink of Peru (pisco, lime juice, sugar, and egg whites) Cesar took me to a craft brewery called Barranco Beer Co for a flight tasting of local beer. Needless to say, I still had a Pisco Sour at the end of that day :]

2) THE WEATHER. It’s summer time in Peru so it is so nice to get my Vitamin D. But in general, Lima has a pretty mild climate with little to no rain and is considered one of the driest capital cities in the world. I am a total sun baby so I did not mind one bit! While it’s humid enough to keep a strong water ‘stache going on my upper lip when walking for long periods of time, it is not so cringeworthy that it’s comparable to summer time in NYC or the heat of Southeast Asia. Lima is interesting because the mornings are often covered with a fine layer of mist and fog (and is sometimes referred to as Lima the Gray) so it doesn’t feel even the slightest bit uncomfortable to be outside until the sun shows. However, it is only about 12 degrees from the equator so I forgot how powerful the sun rays would be there…and I have these lovely burn/tan lines to prove it. Cute, real cute.


3) THE PARKS/OUTDOOR ACTIVITIES. Because the weather is a like an easter dream, Limeans definitely take advantage of this and prefer to be outside (reminds me a lot of my other favorite sunny town, San Diego!) My favorite place in Miraflores is the Malecon de Miraflores (malecon is Spanish for boardwalk/pathway along a cliff) and was only a short walk from my AirBnB. I went for a run down it one morning and so many people were out jogging, walking their dogs, doing yoga/tai chi, and I even came across several personal trainers with their clients.  When I looked below, I could see the Peruvian surfers out dancing along the water and when I looked up, I could the sky speckled with paragliders as the Miraflores cliffside is hot spot for this activity. My two favorite parks were Parque del Amor (also along the malecon) and Parque Kennedy. Parque del Amor is a well known park that has a huge statue of two lovers in an embrace smack dab in its center. I find it to be be very reminiscent of Gaudi’s Parc Guell in Barcelona as it’s covered with mosaic tiled benches and walls. Apparently on Valentine’s Day large crowds of couples come here and they even have a longest kiss contest. Keep calm and smooch on. Parque Kennedy is fun for people watching and playing with the 100 cats that roam there. It surprisingly is very clean (even the cats look clean) and offers free Wifi which is amazeballs for a traveler like me with no data on her mobile. That airplane mode life is refreshing at times but is quite annoying when you are in a pinch and need service.

 

I finished my time in Lima this morning with a quick surf session at Playa Waikiki with Pukana Surfing. It has been ages since I’ve been on a board and the waves were pretty wild this morning. In fact I had to check if the ocean was still there because I am certain I swallowed half of it from all my wipe outs. But I was able to get up three time despite my instructor speaking primarily Spanish. Rumi, a native Peruvian, may have been short but was pure muscle, an amazing surfer, and dragged  me around the crazy waves, teaching me how to balance and pop up without fear. My shoulders are already stiff as hell and paddling out is worse than burpees I tell you. Either way I think my new rezzy for this year is to invest in surfing enough to make an actual hobby of it. I’ve always loved the water and if you know me well you have probably heard me joke that my favorite animal is a mermaid (I even convinced my niece I transform into one in deep ocean water haha). There’s just something about the ocean that consumes me and calms me all at once. I find it a little odd as well since I’m actually terrified its depth and what lies beneath (not to mention SHARKS) but I forget how desperate I am to be amongst those waves until I am out there, floating and soaking it all in. I think it just reaffirms that I really do need to live by the sea.

This afternoon I flew into Cuzco which is much colder and mountainous than Lima. But I am so Inca-credibly ready for this Cuzco adventure :] I can see Machu Picchu in my near future. More on that next week.

Cheers and keep on wishing!

Miriam

NEW YEAR, WHO DIS: Cheersing my 5 year nursiversary w/ pisco!

Current tunes: Filthy, Justin Timberlake [FYI his new album drops FriYAY 2/2!]

If you’ve been following TDD for the last couple years you’ll know 1) I’ve been a lazy-crazy-bag of bones and totally slacked with getting my memoirs posted and 2) that after Christmas, my favorite holiday is my nursiversary (nurse+anniversary= nursiversary). This is a day I sort of created to celebrate another year of officially embarking on the wildest, smelliest, messiest, and most overwhelming journey as a registered nurse. Well, technically January 30 is the day I held my breath for an hour and frantically tap, tap, tapped my way through a ridiculous computerized licensure exam aka the NCLEX and February 6 is when my license finally posted…but whatevs, the point is that this year I officially hit my five years! In nurse world, they say the first five years you are considered a novice…and while I still have a gazillion things to learn the last five years have allowed for some weird and memorable experiences. So in honor of my nursiversary, I thought I’d start with a short piece titled “5 Sentences I Never Thought I Would Utter Until Becoming A Nurse” as a shoutout to all my nursing homies that I have had the pleasure of meeting and working with through my travel nursing. I know you will appreciate these ridiculous actual work instances and can probably relate on some level. We are a weird, special breed of humans and I am completely honored to be a part of our nursing community. ***Please note while these did happen, most were out of frustration/exhaustion and I am not necessarily super proud of them…ha.

5 SENTENCES I NEVER THOUGHT I’D UTTER UNTIL BECOMING A NURSE

1. “My dear, for the last time you need please stop ripping your gown off. You’re giving the whole floor a peep show and at the end of the day you’re still the one footing the bill.”

2. “Sir, do not pull on that [catheter]. If you keeping doing that, ‘it’ will break off and it won’t work any more. Swear.”

3. Whenever I have oriented a student nurse on how to give a rectal suppository it goes like this: “Tell the patient you need to put a pill up their backside to help them move their bowels. Then make sure you add lubricant, ask them to relax, and then go to about your second knuckle and let it float away…oh and never forget to double glove your hand. NEVER forget.”

4. “Hey! Can I get some help in here?! When he was storming [form of spastic seizing/jerking] he kicked my contact out of my eye with his big toe.”

5. Me giving report to the oncoming nurse: “You’ll like Bed 5. He’s a really sweet old man but just be careful to keep your mouth closed when you take off his socks. Like a frigging snow storm.”

[PS if you enjoyed that or are a nurse wanting to read some other nurse musings check out this post]

In addition to this, I am also celebrating with a little random trip to South America and I am currently typing this en route to Lima, Peru.  And by random I mean I bought the tickets two-ish weeks ago since I am currently in between assignments. Just a refresher on my last whereabouts, I recently finished working at Memorial Sloan Kettering in New York City and came home for the holidays. I spent about a month working as a per diem type of employee back in Fresno, Ca and I know my heart is not wanting to come back to Fresno at this point.

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However, I also just can’t seem to get my ish together and decide what to do next. So naturally, in proper Miriam form, I decide a few weeks playing hooky from work in South America should give me clarity, right? Or at least a darn good tan. Homegirl is pasty as ever since I have been kicking it East Coast for the last year and a half. I originally had planned on doing a quick Eastern Eurotrip but when a good friend of mine from NYC told me he was going solo to Peru and Colombia for a few weeks, I jumped on the opportunity to finally stamp my passport in the only continent I have never touched…well other than Antarctica but I don’t count that because who counts Antarctica? If I wanted to be lonely and unbearably numb I’d hightail it to some deep, uninhabited freezing part of Canada. At least there I have the chance of befriending a moose and living off maple syrup, eh?

I also don’t really have this trip planned which is kind of unlike me (well very unlike me as I am the neurotic chick that still remembers the exact dates of taking her RN exam…) but I am just happy that I won’t be solo and am trying to embrace the spontaneity of this trip. I will say that I am beyond stoked to soak up some sunshine, practice my Spanish by befriending locals, and to have all the delicious eats! Peru is internationally known for their cuisine and Lima is supposed to be a foodie hotspot. I 100% intend to eat my body weight in ceviche and drink Pisco sours during each sunset. But I am probably most excited for, or rather in need of, some quality reflection and journaling time. There is something about traveling internationally that clears my head space. I especially need it because this year I can feel it coming. And by it I mean the desire to consider sitting still. I don’t mean to stop adventuring. I think I will always have this curiosity about the world in me that will continue to pursue travel as long as the good Lord blesses me with the means to. But I can feel that physical aching and emotional exhaustion that comes from constant moving. I mentioned in my post when I came back from Africa this past Spring about being a “mzungu” which is the Swahili slang for traveller or the literal translation of one that spins from place to place. And perhaps I am getting tired of all that spinning. On the other hand I can’t seem to get rid of that pit in my stomach when I imagine planting my John Hancock on signing year lease on an apartment. So I guess I’m unsettled about being settled but am tired of not having yet settled…comprendè? I know, I am confused too.

So feel free to follow my 3 week adventure on TDD and as wifi permits, I’ll post as we hop around. My travel bud Callum actually doesn’t get in until Friday so the next couple days will be me, myself, and Lima. Until then I’ll be staying in an AirBnB with a lovely local named Dora that doesn’t speak a lick of English…this should be fun jaja.

I hope 2018 is treating everyone well! Can you believe January is about finito? Ay yai yai!

Cheers and keep on wishing,

Miriam

Ringing in the new year with a sunrise hike. Iron Mountain, San Diego

 

Let’s do ordinary things with extraordinary love

Current Tunes: Thunder, Imagine Dragons 

Sunrise over Brooklyn

“OMG,” she snarled aloud. Not directly at me, but with enough volume plus a little shove to my elbow to show her distaste of my presence as I squeezed my body against the other human sardines on the L train. I frustratingly shot back, well in my head of course, “Excuuuuse me,  princess. You live in NYC. It’s rush hour. Did you forget? Does someone need to remind you this is how we roll?” Ha. As if I was a local or something. Then my West Coast roots tugged at my heart and I scolded myself for being quick to judge. Maybe she had a tough morning. Or maybe she’s an agoraphobic. Or maybe she is just a natural grumpy cat. But in that moment, I realized that the NYC hustle bustle attitude had become a part of me. I get miffed when people stand on the left side of the subway escalators, which everyone knows is left open to bypass the squatters. Duh. It also drives me bonkers when people get on the subway before letting people off. And when a homeless man comes on making a loud announcement about their troubles I awkwardly (and ashamedly) shift in my seat and try not to make eye contact. Yikes bikes, lately I feel like I’m always talking about the subway. (Click here to read my obsession with subway shoes…) But the new game I play on the subway is called Spotify Psychic. Basically I try to guess what’s running though the head phones of my fellow commuters. Like this mid 30s Yankees fan to my left, I’m guessing some sort of funk rock, maybe Red Hot Chili Peppers. The lady to my right watching her screen is probably watching a dramatic telenovela with a dreamy Latin male lead. And the suit across from is definitely zoning out to some NPR. And as much as I love using public transport to bypass the trouble of parking and traffic, it’s the one thing I find slightly terrifying about this city. Let me explain.

When I moved here, a few people from back home asked if I was afraid or nervous. At first I was confused. Huh? They were inferring that NYC is such a target for mass tragedy and it may not `be a safe choice right now. Which I get, it is an iconic city. But hey, you live in California…what makes you think you’re exempt? Oh we see you, North Korea. In all seriousness, one scenario that does scare me is an incident possibly happening in the underground. Imagine hoards of scrambling scared people, trying not to get trampled, and climbing through the maze of stairwells and platforms…I know you’re probably reading this and are weirded out. Like why plant this idea in some one’s head, Miriam? But come on, I’m no genius and I’m sure I’m not the first person to dream up this nightmare. Anyways, I will say after the lower Manhattan attack this past Halloween, it did shake me a little. With the reminder that terrorism in our country is very much alive, I took a visit to the 9/11 Memorial Museum two days after the attack. Wowie. I highly recommend it. The museum does a beautiful job of recreating the day with a minute by minute timeline as well as an aftermath portion. There’s live video of the destruction, audio of plane passengers calling home and flight attendants attempting to get help, and personal stories of survivors from the buildings. There’s old wreckage of ambulances that were destroyed when the buildings crumbled to the ground. I found myself brushing away tears as I silently walked through the memories of bravery and loss. I will say it was very bizarre to be experiencing this amongst tourists though. I imagine it must be what local Germans might feel if I were to visit a Holocaust concentration camp museum. Like you understand the depravity but may not really resonate with its effects.

I also couldn’t help but reflect on my own whereabouts as an eleven year old on September 11, 2001. I arrived to school by bus and I remember lining up for class and staring at the sky with my peers, while rumors that “we are all gonna get bombed” circulated throughout the playground. We walked into class confused and my teacher had tears streaming down her face. Between being on Pacific Time and our preteen age, most of us had no idea what was going on. She pulled herself together, dried her eyes, and finally she spoke saying, “Students, something terrible has happened and I want everyone to sit quietly for a moment.” She turned on the class television to the news and that’s where I remember seeing footage of a plane crashing into one of the Towers for the first time. After awhile, she shut it off, made us all stand up, and we said the Pledge of Allegiance together before debriefing on what we just had witnessed.

And here we are sixteen years later. Still fighting terrorism. Still fighting hate. Still fighting ignorance. Every day the news reminds us how truly broken we are. Another mass shooting, another secret sexual assault, another political scam or fraudulent report. All around I constantly hear people commenting on how terrible society has become, yadda, yadda, yadda. Personally I think it’s debatable if humanity is really more “evil” than it was a thousand years ago. Our access to social media and the Internet just advertises our brokenness in a quicker manner. Regardless of the answer to that debate, I think the bigger question is how do we respond to these trials? How do we create change?

I am so thankful that we live in a country where are voices are allowed. That it is legal for men and women alike to protest, write letters to Congress, and exercise the right to vote. However, I urge everyone to remember that there is a place where you can make a direct positive effect on society in an instant. It might sound simple or silly but it’s through how you live your every day life. Like marching is all good and dandy but if you can’t hold your tongue when you want to speak ill of your co-worker or take a hot second to hold the door for your fellow neighbor, what good is fighting the large battles if we don’t start at the most basic level in every day human interaction? I am telling you, smaller scale efforts can have a large impact.  So if you get anything out of this today, I guess my message is to DO ORDINARY THINGS WITH EXTRAORDINARY LOVE.

I just want to end with recognizing that I am no where near perfect. Just how I wanted to give attitude right back that girl on the subway. But we have to try.  And I love because I was loved first and I know my Maker created me specifically for this purpose. Regardless of what you believe, I think we can all agree that humans matter. So go out there and love your neighbor. And see what happens. Because chivalry is not dead unless you choose for it to be.

Okay…so that got deeper than I intended. Woof. Lastly I just wanted to do a special shout out to my travel wife and dear dear friend, Kaitlin. Three and a half years ago we met. Six months after that we decided we would travel nurse together (but it would take another half year for us to grow a pair and actually quit our jobs together). And now after several years and assignments together, she is officially taking off her travel nurse cap as she goes to plan her new chapter of life with her fiancé. It’s been an incredible journey and she was the final push that made this dream become a reality. While we loved exploring each new city together, I cherish the many nights spent in matching onesie pajamas, watching terrible reality television with a healthy dinner of stove top popcorn and a bottle of red wine most. Cheers to you, my dear. xoxo.

FIVE MORE WEEKS IN NEW YORK CITY. YIIIIIIIIIKES. I’ll be spending Thanksgiving here as well so Macy’s Day Parade, here I come! And am going to beat you to it…where next? Well, when I know, you’ll be the first to find out. Promise.

Cheers and Happy Turkey Day,

Miriam

Me, myself, and NYC.

Current Tunes: New York, Ed Sheeran (seeing this beautiful gem of a musician play in Brooklyn tonight!)


NYC.
Dirty. Hectic. Grungy. Fast.
I have been living here for a little over three months and while I feared the Big Apple would swallow this small farm town girl whole, I seem to have become one with it. I weirdly like the madness, the light pollution, and the straight up hustle (except for the smells…homegirl could live without the stench.) The other day, my friend asked me my favorite thing about living here. My mind quickly gravitated to the delicious eats I’ve been grubbing on. How a city can offer $20 cocktails and 99 cent pizza slices at the same time is beside me. I love that there are bodies of water on both sides of Manhattan making the skylines and rooftop views one in a million. The creative events and appreciation for art and music is also notable. But I think my favorite thing has been the subway shoes. Seriously, I have this weird addiction with staring at the feet of those around me on my morning commute. Granted I’ve always been a shoe addict but I do mean this in deeper way than my problem with dropping cash on a sweet pair of kicks. Other than their aesthetic appeal I like the idea of shoes being able to tell a person’s story. They can describe where they have been and where they think they might be going. And if they could talk what would they say?
There are so many walks of life all crammed together in these metal tubes on the daily just to be a part of this great metropolis. So climb into my world for a second and imagine this…

A few weeks ago I was commuting home after a long shift and saw this gal with impressive five inch platforms studded with spikes, which I may or may not have sneakily snapped on the left. I would bet money that she could not get those suckers past TSA at the airport. They were basically weapons. I imagined wearing them while trying to push my way through the the New York crowds during rush hour and I immediately became impressed with this lady’s ambition (…I also imagined my dad’s face if he caught me in public wearing something like that and I am certain he would have a cardiac arrest). In addition to the shoes, she had some strappy thigh garter contraption that I think would take me longer to figure out than it would to solve a Rubrik’s cube, a black velvet bustier, and short jean cutoffs exposing colorful tattoos that decorated her legs. But behind the distracting outfit, I know this girl has got a story. I’m sure of it. A few seats down there is a guy in a crisp gray suit and brown leather dress shoes that could make a girl swoon. Okay, so maybe I say that from experience. Oh goody, no sign of a ring. Score…well, not that I’d have the cojenes to actually say anything. But what’s his deal? And across from him is a young teen wearing bright red Air Jordans. His feet are flying in the air as he blasts music from a tiny boom box, doing tricks and flips on the middle subway pole. There’s an overturned baseball cap a few feet away in hopes of scoring some late night cash. And then there’s me, all sleepy like with bags under my eyes, in my black work Nikes that were purposefully chosen to hide any splashing bodily fluids that they may have crossed my path.  Anyways, I’m sitting there mesmerized, taking this scene in and thinking to myself, “I live in FREAKING NEW YORK, NEW YORK!” With all these interesting humans! How can you ever be bored when you can be within earshot of four different languages at a restaurant? Or any type of cuisine in a 10 block radius? With free yoga classes on the waterfront and random bands playing in the numerous green parks across the city that break up the concrete jungle scene. What I am getting at is the diversity and variety found here is my favorite thing. God, you are one creative master and never in a million years did I think you’d place me here with this opportunity to live in one of the most iconic cities in the world. Yet here I am, blessed beyond anything that I deserve. Living amongst the beautiful chaos that is NYC.

Sunday floats on the Hudson

So…I’m happy to announce that yes, I’m staying. California, don’t freak out yet. I just signed for another three months and will beat Santa home, pinky promise. I know I just ranted about how craze amaze it is here, but I do recognize that I think I like it more knowing it is temporary. I experience things differently when I am cognizant of their impermanence. This city is a blast but I think the razzle dazzle may fade as the need for a more convenient, inexpensive lifestyle would eventually be preferred. I actually think I prefer Boston over NYC if I decided to be an East Coaster for the long term. But overall the Pacific (and mi familia) still has my heart. In a perfect world, I’d live a stone’s throw from my sisters and get to be a nurse by day and a mermaid of Southern California by night (oh and have a lifetime supply of La Croix and Trader Joe’s Peanut Butter, of course). Now as I reflect over the fact that I have officially been out of California for almost a year and a half, I am really happy that I took the leap and came to see what all the fuss was about. And quite frankly, I’m a little proud of myself. It wasn’t easy. Or cheap for that matter. But if there’s anyone out there reading this wondering if the grass is greener some place else, I urge you to just go check. Yea you might show up and it’s all weeds or is actually fake lawn turf, but at least you can stop wondering. And guess what? Home will always be there. It really has made seeing my family that much sweeter each time I go back (click here to learn more about the house that built me in my favorite post to date). Which probably leads some of you to ask the burning question that my family has as well…after my travel nursing journey is complete, will I go back to the Central Valley of California? Well, that answer I do not have. I do have a few more international trips I’m hoping to tackle in 2018. And the goal to grab that master’s degree before age 30 is still looming over me. I really need to stop avoiding that. But for now I’m going to enjoy the rest of 2017 in my stupid expensive Lower East Side apartment and continue to eat as much pizza as possible. I also intend on enjoying the most beautiful season the East Coast has to offer. I am currently typing this in my favorite striped onesie pajamas and my #basic uggies because it’s fall, y’all!

Oh and lastly the only other news I have, other than my current addiction with continuing to chop my hair (about 15 inches down since I moved!), is my recent transition out of the Intensive Care Unit for this work extension. This was a big and kind of scary step for me because critical care is all I’ve known and I do love it dearly. Buuut I was feeling a little burnt out from inpatient care and when my recruiter gave me the opportunity to try outpatient nursing in a surgical clinic, I decided to try it out just for these three months. I still work at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center but now I am a nurse for the Hepatopancreatobiliary Surgeons in the MSKCC outpatient setting. Hepatopancreatobiliary is a mouthful, I know. It basically covers cancers and disease of the liver, gallbladder, and pancreas which again, is not my background. But I am learning a TON and have had my nose stuck in articles trying to soak it all up. Even though all the information has been overwhelming, my inner nerd has been doing a little happy dance the more knowledgable I become. My job basically consists of assisting the surgeons with post-op follow up appointments or being an integral part of the education portion for newly diagnosed patients and helping them understand the diagnostic procedures and surgeries that are a part of their cancer treatment (for my medical friends think ERCPs, Whipples, liver resections, etc…) I also have to wear professional clothing like a real lady human…whaaaa? Kind of a bummer but other than that, it is a nice change for now. Well, I promise to crank out some posts more often and break this writer’s block I have been having.

Until then, cheers and keep on wishin’!

Miriam

P.S. Here’s a quick overview with some pics of the shenanigans I have been doing the last three months…spontaneous trip to Montauk in Long Island, multiple shows on and off Broadway (Chicago, Groundhog Day, The Great Comet, Sleep No More, Shakespeare in the Park’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream), baseball games (when I’m a fake local I’m Mets>Yankees), a relay race in the Adirondack Mountains of upstate NY,  getting lost in the different boroughs with new and old friends, and of course eats on eats on eats. Also, mega shoutout to the multiple visitors I have had. It’s been a pleasure  :]

Exploring the city with new buds and visitors

Montauk


Grub Time

MZUNGU GIRL: Oh hey, concrete jungle…

Current Tunes: What Do I Know?, Ed Sheeran

MZUNGU. This is my favorite Swahili word of all time (sorta pronounced muh-zoong-oo). In Kenya I would often be called mzungu, usually in whispers from surrounding children but other times straight to my face as it is generally used for a person of European or foreign descent in Kenya (and in my experience, basically anyone with lighter skin). Kind of reminds me of the Spanish “gringo” of Kenyan culture. But I was told the word actually originates from the Swahili word zungu, which roughly translates to “spinning around from place to place” and adding the letter “m” at the beginning gives it ownership to a person who roams around aimlessly. So besides the fact that it’s just fun to pronounce out loud (I dare ya to give it a try, rolls off the tongue nicely) my wandering heart and nomadic lifestyle just resonate with the deeper meaning of this word. Even when I am physically sitting still, I often feel like my thoughts are spinning with my brain just sort silently whirring. I guess I truly am a mzungu to my very core.


And after four glorious family filled weeks in California, I’ve launched into assignment numero cinco…on Saturday I flew from California to Pennsylvania since my aunt graciously let me store my Jeep filled with my whole life in her shed while I was gone in Africa/California and from there I drove to New York. Homegirl is officially living in the BIG CITY! As in underground hot sticky subways, shoulder to shoulder shuffling, corner stand hot dog stands, and a wicked skyline that won’t quit city. To say I’m excited is an understatement but underneath that excitement lives a thin, healthy layer of anxiety and uncertainty. I keep picturing myself as a sweaty hot mess express that somehow managed to take the wrong line and end up late to work or as a lost puppy that has accidentally roamed into some questionable neighborhood that could be the setting of a Law and Order SVU episode. For someone that travels as much as I do, my sense of direction is pretty abysmal and if direction dyslexia was a thing, I’m sure I would have it. Which makes me all the more thankful to be reunited with my dear friend and old travel nurse partner, Kaitlin. We last traveled together a year ago with a six month stent on the West Coast’s version of the city in San Francisco. And on Thursday together we will start a new adventure at one of the premier cancer centers in the country in the oncology/surgical ICU of Memorial Sloan Kettering in Manhattan. It all just sort of feels surreal. Never in a million years did I imagine that I would live in New York, New York.  Well not before before I made one of the scariest and best decisions of my life when I took the leap and began travel nursing two years ago.

So what’s a girl to do in NYC in the summer? Ummm, I’m sort of hoping everything. Definitely a lot of walking. Today I used Uber twice and the subway yet still managed to rack up 15, 000 steps. While we might do a few touristy things, for the most part we plan to steer clear of tourist death traps like Times Square. I really want to see the city from a local’s eyes and seek out the hidden gems. Maybe I’ll rent a bike and go on a graffiti tour, devote a whole day on a quest for the best bagel in Brooklyn, or seek out the funky events I know NYC would have to offer like being a part of a crowd that breaks some sort of world record. I do know one activity that will be on my weekly to-do list… Eat. My. Face. Off.

If you are at all intrigued by food bloggers or Insta Food Porn, click here to check out @OneHungryJew. Just looking at her posts make my mouth water and heart skip a beat.

I also hope to catch a few outdoor concerts, eat some cracker jacks at some ballgames, and get lost in each of the boroughs. For my West Coasters, the Big Apple is broken down into five boroughs (basically five smaller cities) which include Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, The Bronx, and Staten Island. While my workplace is in Manhattan, Kaitlin and I landed an Airbnb Sublet in one of the up and coming neighborhoods of Brooklyn in the Williamsburg/Greenpoint area. I also learned my neighborhood is often home to many television sets like Girls, The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, and Master of None. Hoping for a celeb sighting or two…Aziz, hollatyagirrrrl! And guys I am just gaga over this loft duplex apartment.

The building itself used to be an old factory that was recently renovated into furnished short term rental apartments. The real exposed brick, dreamy embroidered rug, and loft ladder to the second bed got me looking like the heart eyes emoji. Plus the AC is included in the rent which is a BFD since y’all know I sweat buckets and this East Coast summer humidity is going to come at me with no mercy.

Can’t believe this time last year I was gearing up to move to Boston. Good gravy, sometimes I am just so overwhelmed with God’s countless blessings and the opportunities I have been given to see and meet His people in all forms, across so many different locations. Speaking of which, if anyone has any church recommendations in this city, drop me a line please. 

Hope everyone is prepping for some fun summer vacay plans! Just got home from a Mets game at Citi Field in Queens and I could definitely get used to this city life :]

Cheers and keep on wishing!

Miriam

CRAFTED FOR KINDNESS: Do selfless good deeds exist?

Current tunes: Fickle Heart, Ira Wolf

Setting: April 2017, Kipkarren Village, Kenya
She came rushing and panting, a bundle of squirming blankets in her arms. She laid him down, the tremors starting to subside, but his eyes still deviated far right and my chest felt tight with panic as I surveyed the look on Michelle’s face. His little belly was puffing in and out and you could hear his crackled, labored breathing. Weary, ill adults I could handle, but a seizing baby in respiratory distress? I was out of my element, but Michelle, a former ER nurse turned family nurse practitioner and the founder of this clinic, started to delegate tasks and as a team we surrounded the toddler and got to work. While two other clinical officers worked to get an IV line in one of the oh so tiny thrashing limbs, I grabbed some vitals- heart rate in the 150s, respiratory rate of 55, SpO2 87-88%, febrile 38.9C and when I put my stethoscope to his little chest I heard wheezes and rattling. Michelle rushed to get a breathing treatment started. We don’t have oxygen tanks at the clinic but we do have a nebulizer machine. The mother sat silently in worry, her brow furrowed as she watched us swarm her child. I supported his neck up with one hand and held the treatment in place, his screams actually aiding him in getting the medicine more quickly. And eventually his breathing slowed and his oxygen levels began to improve. My hand was cramping, holding the treatment in place and trying to avoid the bundle of cloth that covered his lower half as I could smell and see was soiled, but I could finally sigh in relief as they managed to get some IV access and start antibiotics and fluids. His tests came back positive for malaria, typhoid, and it was obvious he had some sort of respiratory infection as well. And the seizure was likely a result of a sustained high fever caused by his three infections. I handed him over to his mama now that he was stable.

I went back to Michelle’s office to reflect on what I had just witnessed…I couldn’t help but think of the outcome if he had not made it to the clinic. Malaria is a common and treatable disease but the mortality rate for young children is actually quite high. And while it’s not everyday that the clinic has real emergencies, it does happen. I felt the weight of everything and as we drove home that day I looked over at Michelle and just said, “Michelle, you and your clinic, you saved a life today.” And while it’s an immense amount of work to run an NGO in a third world country, I know it’s days like today that reaffirm her efforts are not in vain.

I share this story not to flaunt our volunteer efforts or for praise. They knew what they’re doing and while it was an honor to assist, the clinicians here are skilled and they could have functioned fine without me. In fact, I was the one learning since caring for babies is not really in my scope. But it feels amazing to have purpose and be needed, doesn’t it? Usually when I share about the volunteer opportunities I have had, most people show interest in doing something similar. However, one time I shared with a co-worker about my first Africa trip in 2015 and her response was,  “Oh that’s cool. I want to do that too. But not with a church. Because I don’t believe in doing good things to get to heaven, I’d rather do it because it’s the right thing to do.”  I stared at her, taken aback, not sure how to respond. I think my silence made her realize I found it a little offensive as she just indirectly said that my efforts were for personal gain only or maybe only done out of fear of a higher power (that she probably didn’t think existed for that matter). I was actually more sad than offended. Sad that this person believed a walk of faith and service to others was solely to get spiritual brownie points, as if God keeps tabs on my good deeds and is unconcerned with the state of my heart. Salvation doesn’t work like that. If it did we’d all be screwed. 

So it got me thinking, is there such thing as a selfless good deed? Another friend of mine challenged me with this question before. He insisted it doesn’t exist and that we are always out for ourselves making us look or feel good, even if it is done subconsciously.  Of course I ended up a little defensive, trying to disprove his points but after this second trip to Kenya I think I’ve come to a new perspective  about selfless deeds. What if they don’t exist? And what if selfless deeds don’t exist on purpose?

As humans, I believe we are created differently. We have a soul. A spirit that allows us to think, feel, love, create and separates us from all other walks of life. So what if our souls were intentionally designed to hunger for serving others and the joy that comes with it? Maybe it feels good to do good for a reason. Maybe we were crafted for kindness and are called to live for more than ourselves. And I like to hope that just maybe this helps to spur humanity to pay it forward. Think of the last time you put some one’s needs before your own…okay, so it probably doesn’t always feel good in the moment, but when you feed your soul in this way, I think you build character. So you’re still gaining. And other times it does feel a little magical knowing you made a difference for just one person. Because whether you’re a theist, atheist, agnostic, or are undecided on who you serve or your purpose on earth, I think we can all agree that our world could use a little more “selfless deeds.”

Which is part of the reason I re-entered America feeling so refreshed. Like I actually believe that I needed this opportunity and time away more than that African village needed me. It was so cleansing to be unplugged and away from the distractions of my first world probs. It was as if time had stopped with little need to check my watch or phone (the village has spotty connection let alone reliable electricity…our power would go out daily). My schedule was simple, pre-arranged, and filled with many opportunities to bless others and meet people who’s stories really put my own into perspective. After a day of working at the clinic I would go catch up on some much needed Zzzz’s, stroll down by the river, actually read books without picking up my phone every few pages, and sometimes wound up asleep by 9:30pm…woah, who is this girl? Now I think over a long period of time I probably would get antsy because I tend to be a busy bee and struggle with being physically and mentally still but for those three weeks, I just felt free. Also, getting to live with Michelle and William Kiprop, the missionary family and founders of the clinic, and watching firsthand what it looks like to live so sacrificially was such a blessing to me. They definitely have changed my perspective on what it looks like to live for others and Jesus. They do more than provide healthcare to an underserved population. People would often randomly show up on their doorstep at all hours of the day and night asking for food, money, health treatment, a ride, etc and while the clinic and building a hospital in the area is their tangible mission, overall they have committed themselves to representing Christ by providing hope to a community that may feel less than or forgotten. And it was an honor and privilege to watch and take part in and I know this just the beginning of many years/trips to come of working with the Kiprops and Hope Matters International in Kenya.

Oh and just a quick PSA- you don’t have to leave your home or work in the medical field to feed your soul in this way. If there’s one thing I have found through traveling is that people are broken all over the world and struggle with the same sins, hurts, and tragedies. I truly believe that becoming more mindful of helping others and intentionally serving in your everyday life can bring you so much joy and purpose and I’m sure there are needs in your community, heck even in your immediate family, that you can impact. You just have to start looking. Because people matter. And people need people. People need you.

As far as my current whereabouts, I am back in California for a month, spending time with family and was able to swing a temporary registry contract back at my home hospital in Fresno. Not going to lie, it feels pretty darn good to be back with my Trauma ICU family and in a familiar workplace. So if you have seen my Snaps or are wondering if I stopped wandering since I’ve been in the 559 for longer than normal the answer is… nope, nope, nope. But is nice to be back on the West Coast (best coast). I counted and in the last 11 months I think was only in Central Cal for 12 days…weeeeird. But I’m going to soak up the Cali sunshine as much as I can before heading back East. I think I am currently the whitest I have been since leaving utero. Vitamin D stat please.

Cheers and keep on wishin’!
Miriam