Peru: A Two Week Itinerary

Machu Picchu

I’ve always wanted to go to Peru with my dad who was born and raised in Lima. That wish came true this last November and it was everything I had hoped, and more. My husband and I started out on our own and spent time in Cuzco, Ollantaytambo, and Machu Picchu. Then my dad came out to meet us and we took a tour into Manu National Park from Cuzco before finishing our trip in Lima. I spent a lot of time planning our itinerary since we wanted to fit in so many destinations. Below are the results of that planning. Keep in mind that I only plan the big picture and not every moment. Some restaurants were very memorable and I’ve included those, but I didn’t plan much in advance. Read more

DIY Colorado Beetle Kill Coffee Table

We were at Home Depot one weekend over a year ago and I saw a big stack of 1×1 beetle kill sticks from the side. I thought it looked really neat, almost like tie-dyed wood, and had the bright idea that we were going to make a coffee table out of them. Dave probably should have shot down this idea based on how much work it would entail. Luckily, he’s one patient husband and we ended up with an awesome coffee table about a year later.

Beetle Kill Coffee Table

We bought a few sticks, some nicely finished beetle kill for the frame and a piece of plywood. We started slicing the sticks using a saw we borrowed from Dave’s stepdad. Unfortunately, the saw had to go back before we could finish the enormous task of slicing a gazillion quarter inch tiles out of the sticks. Soooo the project was paused for about a year until we finally gave in and bought our own saw. Then Dave resumed the slicing!

Once we had enough wood tiles, I glued them onto the plywood with wood glue. Dave added a nice frame to the side. I painted a few coats of clear finish on top and we attached some blue hairpin legs to finish it off.

Voilà, the coffee table that took a year to build is finally complete!

Beetle Kill Coffee Table

 

Experiments in Watercolors

I got an itch to learn how to watercolor a couple years ago and have been dabbling here and there since then. I started by trying to recreate some patterns I found via Pinterest (mostly flowery ones by Rifle Paper Co.), but I soon needed to find my own watercolor voice. This year I began a series of watercolors based off of photos from my travels. In the process of creating these watercolors, I discovered that I’ve been lying to myself for quite some time. I always said I couldn’t draw, but it turns out I can! I think I’m getting better with every new page in my watercolor Moleskine sketchbook.

Here are a few of my favorite watercolors so far:

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USS Pennsylvania

USS Pennsylvania Postcard | wakeupanddance.com

USS Pennsylvania Postcard Writing| wakeupanddance.com

Am home now. Very warm here. Left Oakland last Wednesday. – ?

I’m not sure who signed this card. Might be a Violet that I’ve seen sign other postcards. Something about this one seems special. It has a metallic sheen to it and the scanned image doesn’t do it justice. I’m not sure if the USS Pennsylvania holds any significance, but perhaps we’ll find out later in other correspondence. I did manage to find some interesting facts about the ship though. This was the first ship to have an airplane land on it and was renamed Pittsburgh so that a battle ship in the Atlantic fleet could be named Pennsylvania. This caused a brief confusion in my initial search because this postcard is from 1910 and the more famous USS Pennsylvania wasn’t launched until 1915.

 

Happy Holidays!

Tomorrow I’m heading down south for a ten day vacation! I’ll be meeting up with Bobby (fellow SASer and CU alum) and Will (also friend from CU) in Phuket and then heading possibly to Ao Phang Nga or some other island/beachy area. On the 30th I will be going to the other side of Thailand to see Petra (another SAS friend!) on Ko Samui. I’ve decided to take the bus since it is the cheapest form of transportation, unfortunately it’s going to be about 20 hours total each way, yuck!…but it’s only 60 bucks as opposed to the $400 round trip plane ticket. I cannot wait to see some familiar faces!

I hope the holidays are treating you well! Eat some gingerbread for me please!

Happy Hanukkah! Merry Christmas! and Happy New Year!

Love,

Danielle

Making it Snow in Thailand
Making it snow in Thailand

Never Touch a Monk

I’ve never considered myself to be a religious person, but despite my lack of religion, there is a strong amount of wonder and respect that comes over me when I see Buddhist monks. My first real encounter with Buddhist monks was on Semester at Sea during my travels through Burma. My three traveling partners, our four guides, and I woke up early one morning and watched hundreds of monks in deep red robes walk barefoot through the streets of Bago. It was a silencing experience. And now, being here in Thailand, I find myself feeling the same way. It’s a hard feeling to describe. A lot of it is respect, extreme respect.

A few weeks ago I found myself on a songtow (the pick-up truck bus system) with a Catholic nun who spoke English and I realized quite how differently I felt about Buddhist monks and Christian nuns. Nuns give up everything to devote themselves to their religion like monks do, so why do I feel filled with respect and awe when I am around a monk and not when I am around a nun?

I think it comes down to the differences between the two religions. As a foreword, I am by no means an expert on religion and I most certainly do not mean to offend anyone with this post. With that being said, Christianity conjures a defensive feeling for me. It has always felt like such a conquering and invasive religion. I know there are many good things that come out of the Christian church, but I always feel like I need to be ready to strongly defend my beliefs when I encounter the Christian religion.

With Buddhism though, an overwhelmingly peaceful aura is instantly created for me. I feel that I do not need explain myself, they are okay with who I am and no judgment is passed on me. Maybe that’s what it comes down to, judgment. I don’t feel judged for my beliefs. Whatever the reason, I really enjoy the Buddhist culture here.

This is what I have been thinking about this week after my field trip to Wat Poh with the fourth, fifth, and sixth graders of Nonthun School. The students stayed at the temple for three days and two nights. Unfortunately I was only able to go for one day because the other two days I had to work at a different school. It would have been fun to spend three days there, but I’m not sure if fasting after lunch for three days is quite my cup of tea. Anyone who knows me knows that I get grumpy on an empty stomach and dealing with kids and trying to speak Thai without any fuel is a little too much for me at this point in my stay here.

The temple was small but the grounds were enchanting. The art teacher and director of Nonthun School are amazing artists and have painted the entire area as you can see below.

Front entrance

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P'Tamaron

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While the kids had classes with the monks, I practiced my Thai with the other teachers. It was the first time I really began to feel like part of the faculty, which was extremely exciting. At one point I decided to walk around and take pictures of the building and as I was doing so one of the monks started talking to me, in Thai of course. We had a conversation about where I am from, what I do, where I work, our names, and religion. It was invigorating. Not only was I having a conversation with a monk, but was I doing it all in Thai!

After he walked away, I continued taking pictures of the building. I heard him call out Duan (it means moon and is my other Thai nickname) and when I walked over to meet him I found him holding a flower for me. He told me the name of it, which translates to blue chicken flower, and held it out for me.

The next part was especially interesting for me. Monks can’t touch women. I have to sit and stand as far away from monks as I can in order to make sure an accidental touch does not happen. I found out after I went to the temple that women should not so much as hand something to a monk. If a woman is touching something at the same time as a monk, it is considered to be a connection and is not allowed. I wish I had known this before I’d gone to the temple. When this monk reached out to give me the flower I wasn’t sure what to do. The moment and the memory of it seem to go in slow motion for me. As I reached out to take the flower I wasn’t sure how to get it. In retrospect I should have cupped my hands under the flower and let him drop it into my hands, but I am still a little clumsy with Thai customs, so I lightly grabbed the other end of the flower. He then let go of his end and moved away.

Afterward I was filled with delight. This was the best flower I had ever received. Not only was it an exotic flower with a great name, it was given to me by a monk. I felt so special. Now though, after talking to a friend about the experience, I am afraid the gift may have not been as wonderful as I imagined. Apparently he should have put the flower on the ground and let me pick it up so as to make sure that no connection would be made. I did not know this before, but he must have, so I’m not sure now if this experience was inappropriate or not. It didn’t feel inappropriate for me, but then again my scale of what is appropriate or not is slightly different. His intentions will remain a mystery for me, but I would like to give him the benefit of the doubt and think that he was making a kind gesture toward a foreigner living alone in Thailand.

The Blue Chicken Flower.
The Blue Chicken Flower.

**If anyone knows the name of this flower in English let me know.

Bugs and Bonding

Here is what has being going on since my last post…

There is a tea house that is run by some of the people associated with the organization that I work for and they bought a toaster oven for me to bake in! I made my first batch of cookies last week and they turned out pretty good! I decided to make shortbread cookies with some fresh minced ginger in it. They were a success and tomorrow I plan on experimenting a little bit more. The cookies are not being sold because the tea house runs solely on the 20 Baht donation suggested on the menu.This place is full of surprises, I never would have guessed that I would be baking cookies in a toaster oven in Thailand.

Another piece of food related news…I tried some bugs at the silk fair! They were fried and didn’t really taste like much other the vinegar seasoning they lightly coated them with. Definitely something I wouldn’t have a problem eating again.

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These bugs were a little too intimidating for me to try at the time...next time for sure though!
Some bugs I tried at the silk fair.
The bugs I tried at the silk fair.

I just got back from a work retreat. We were only gone for one night and went to these awesome huts/cabins just over an hour away from Khon Kaen. The setting was absolutely stunning and the food was delicious. The highlight of the trip was the swim I went for in the Chi River. I didn’t have a swimsuit so I wore one of the sarongs that the teachers use to dry off with when they get out of the shower. The four youngsters (Liz, Soryor, Maha, and myself) were the only ones who wanted to take a dip. It was the perfect temperature outside, the water wasn’t cold, and there was no current so it was ideal swimming conditions.

The Thai teachers were terrified when Liz and I started to swim to the other bank, but we couldn’t resist. Our meetings are always long and I can only talk about feelings and sit and eat for so long before I feel like I need to go run around, so the swim was exactly what I needed. I actually swam pretty well in the sarong, but that was only because it was scrunched around my waist while Liz and I were swimming across the river. Luckily the water was so mucky that it didn’t matter.

All ready to swim!
All ready to swim!
Our simming dock on the Chi River.
Our simming dock on the Chi River.
As many of you know I am terrible at remembering to take pictures. I usually hand my camera to someone else or get the pictures from someone else. I only got one good shot of the view on my camera so I will post more pictures of where we stayed later.
As many of you know, I am terrible at remembering to take pictures. I usually hand my camera to someone else or get the pictures from somebody later. I only got one good shot of the view on my camera so I will post more pictures of where we stayed in the near future.
Liz and I swimming.
Liz and me