Wednesday, January 01, 2014

Everything beautiful in its time

I love the holiday season, from Thanksgiving through New Year. I love Thanksgiving because it's the closest thing to a modern community-oriented feast. I love Christmas because of all unabashed glee and giving. And I love New Year's Eve and New Year's Day for the chance at change and renewal, and for reflecting on and celebrating the past.... which is why, every January, I like to figure out what I did for the first time in the past year.

Sometimes, after remembering, I'm surprised by things I haven't done until this late in my life; other times, I'm excited that I've been lucky enough to be able to keep trying and doing new things.
And further still at an unearthly height,
A luminary clock against the sky

Proclaimed the time was neither wrong nor right...*
"Firsts" from 2013:
  • Visited Mexico! - My first trip to Mexico was for two college friends' anniversary celebrations. There were many other "firsts" that occurred on the trip (some of them rather scandalous), but most shall remain tactfully and discreetly unwritten.
    • Visited Mayan ruins.  I spent almost an entire day at Tulum. The coolest part was being able to swim on a gorgeous beach right next to the ruins.
    • Went scuba diving... or rather, attempting to scuba dive.  The longest section I spent underwater was the practice session in the chlorine pool. Once out at sea, 2 of the 4 of us beginners on the boat had anxiety attacks once we plunged into the water and swam over to the buoy, so our whole group called the boat back and called it a day. We still have one more dive with the company in saecula saeculorum, so maybe one day I'll go back and complete an actual dive.
    • Stayed at an all-inclusive resort. The food was meh, but it was probably the safest way to do the trip. I generally love wandering around finding local food spots, but the language barrier would have been difficult, and I likely would have been overcharged for many services if they hadn't already been included (let's face it, I'm not great at haggling). I definitely took advantage of the nonstop piƱa coladas. But the loud, obnoxious Americans were embarrassing; even though Americans were the minority of the resort's clientele, they were definitely the loudest and most boorish and there were times when I was ashamed to share a nationality with some of them. I always hate realizing that there's actually a lot of truth to the Ugly American caricature.
  • Saw a rattlesnake in the wild - About two feet away from my foot. Paranoia-inducing. On the plus side, I now know what a rattlesnake's "rattle" sounds like; and whereas I had no clue what to do if anyone on a hike is bitten by one, I do now!
  • Visited St. Louis - My college roommate's wedding brought me to the Gateway City in May. MY GOD, THE HUMIDITY! The St. Louis Arch was pretty cool, though, as was:
    • Seeing huge, gigantic fingerlings of lightning fly across an entire city and beyond. My last night in the city, there was a huge thunderstorm. My hotel had a rooftop deck with a view of downtown; so I ordered a glass of wine and watched the lightning show because we don't get lightning like that in the Northwest. 
    • Attending a Hindu wedding ceremony. It was the shortened, mere 3-hour version, and the wedding program explained what the Sanskrit rituals were for the benefit of guests (like me) who didn't know. I felt very dressed down and tame in my bright yellow, flowery dress, compared to the gorgeous and colorful saris of my old roomie and her family.
  • Finally bought an iPhone - AND I LOVE IT. I'd clearly been living in the Dark Ages by stubbornly clinging to my BlackBerry!
  • Saw mountain goats in the wild - They were a little scrawny because it was early in the season, but they were still only a few yards away at Lake Colchuck.
  • Hiked to 12,000 - My new record! My first summit attempt for Mt. Rainier, and I made it past the base camp I'd hiked to the year before. 
    • Camped on a glacier! - And I loved loved loved every minute of it
    • Wore crampons - They're really cool.
    • Wore mountaineering boots - They're not very cool. Bulky and hard to get used to.
    • (TMI WARNING) Used a Blue Bag - It was also not very cool, and very undignified. Google it.
    • (TMI WARNING) Used a Go-Girl - Also rather undignified (but less so than the Blue Bags). I even practiced in the shower before leaving for the trip. It was ... interesting, and a little liberating.
  • Summited an active volcano (the most active and dangerous in the continental U.S.) - And I loved loved loved every minute of it. My favorite part was standing at the top, peering into the crater and seeing the steam vents, and hearing the mountain creaking.
To life! Looking forward to the challenges and opportunities of 2014.

And because I wrote but forgot to publish this post last New Year....

"Firsts" from 2012:
  • Visited Las Vegas! - There's a lot of ridiculousness in Sin City, but my highlights were: the Bellagio Fountains, the Chihuly exhibit at the Bellagio, lobster buffets, dinner at a Michelin-rated restaurant with my oldest friend, and an inside mall with the ceiling painted to be like the sky.
    • Went ziplining - Across Vegas' old downtown. Fun! 
    • Gambled - I have no idea how I worked the slot machine, but I lost $5 trying to figure it out. My first time gambling, period. And I don't even know how I did it.
  • Went to the Skagit Tulip Festival - Despite growing up in the Pacific Northwest, I'd never been before. Went with La Madre.
  • Left one job for another - I've left jobs for grad school and because funding ran out, but never before for another job. It was just time to move on.
  • Bought a car - A (used) 2012 Ford Focus. I named her Adelaide, "Addie" for short. Second only to my graduate degree, she is the most expensive thing I have purchased entirely on my own. (Still paying off both car and grad school loans, though, so I don't know what that says about status symbols...)
  • Visited Detroit! - Despite visiting Ann Arbor twice a year to see Mi Hermana y Los Sobrinos, I'd never been in Detroit Proper before. It was just as bleak as I imagined it would be, but exploring a park with the nieces and neffy was fun. And going to restaurants and bars with colleagues for a conference also showed a side of the city that I never would have found on my own.
  • Hiked to a base camp - On kind of a lark, three of us hiked up Muir Snowfield to Camp Muir on Mt. Rainier.
  • Acquired a nephew I haven't seen yet - Born in New Zealand. I get to watch him grow up on Skype until I can accrue enough money and vacation time to visit for a minimum of 3 weeks.
  • Chased ballots - This involves going door-to-door to voters whose ballots have been invalidated due to sloppy signatures or other reason, and asking them to fill out the form the county sent to make sure their ballots are counted. Turns out, I like it better than regular canvassing!
Bring on another new year!

* from Robert Frost's "Acquainted With the Night" - one of my favorite poems

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