Wednesday, May 18, 2011

My Star-crossed Day

I generally feel on top of the world.  I mean, I circumnavigated the world in 90 days, conquered the Mongolian dessert, braved the Siberian permafrost, and survived a bed bug infestation in Ukraine.  For some bizarre and inexplicable reason, this past Saturday I felt something no one should ever feel - defeat. 

It is true that worse things have happend to more amazing people, and I will attest that my group of friends had a great time and nothing went infinitely wrong.  There is no real explanation why, on Sauturday night, I anxiously counted down the minutes until midnight.  I am not a superstitious person, but I am positive that my stars and planets were not aligned on May 14th.

The day started off just fine.  It was the day after everyone's last final and we were going to celebrate by inner-tubing down this river located far south of Austin in New Braunfels.  My previous experience tubing with my friends in California led me to the logical conclusion that it would be an epic journey.  One year, we planned a tame 5 mile float in Healdsburg, but on the way to our entrance point we took a wrong turn.  We jumped into the river about 15 miles away from our end destination.  We realized how cold it was getting when the beer ran out, so we started calling out to our land-bound neighbors.  "Where's Healdsburg?" we would cry out.  In response, we received mocking laughs and sympathetic head shakes.  We realized our attempt to float to our friend's house was fruitless, so we all waded out of the water and blazed a trail through a local vineyard.  The owner saw our pathetic group of crying women and men wearing their boxers as shoes.  As Blanche would have put it, "I have always relied on the kindness of strangers."  He was our guardian angel; we would have spent hours in the cold hiking to our cars without him.  It was quite the Independence Day river trip.

This year's trip was much more regimented. We drove down to New Braunfels, rented our tubes, and jumped into a groomed river filled with hundreds of oddly shaped bodies, tattoos and personalities.  Although my bad luck started earlier in the day, it hit its peak soon after we hit the water.  Nat and I lost our group after funneling through a tube shoot that catapulted me and Nat into a wall.  In trying to catch up, we didn't realize there was a dangerous man-made 3ft waterfall.  At the fall, one of our friends got trampled by strangers, Nat bumped his head very hard, and I got assaulted.  Don't really need to get into the details, but a middle-aged man decided to take advantage of my half-drowned and mildly panicked state to make a move.  It took me a while to float over to Nat and scout for some cops, but by the time we led them to the scene and I gave an account, he had slowly creep away.  I watched this pervert escape, to live another day free to molest unsuspecting women.  

This violating episode combined with a few other scattered encounters left me afraid to even drive home at the end of the day.  A part of me seriously feared that I would get into a catastrophic car accident.  I felt generally defeated and couldn't wait for the day to just end.  Luckily for me it could have been worse.  At least I have an amazingly supportive and loving boyfriend and hysterical friends to laugh about this incident with. 

Friday, May 13, 2011

"How cold does it get in San Francisco?"

When I started my trip through Siberia in late September, it was roughly 40 degrees Fahrenheit out, frosting a little bit, but far from freezing. I was wearing gloves, a scarf, nylons under my pants, a mink fur hat, and at least two shirts under my leather jacket.  My first naïve days on the Trans-Siberian Railway, I would ask locals if it would be getting colder soon; they would just look at me with the sternest blue eyes I had ever looked into and say, “Yes…you have no idea.”

Along my travels, it was always so funny to see people’s reactions to the statement, “It does not snow in the city where I live.”  A conversation once arose that went something like this:

Siberian local: “How cold does it get in San Francisco?”

Erika: “Maybe about 10-15 degrees.” (roughly 50 degrees Fahrenheit)

Siberian local (incredulously): “Minus?”

Erika: “Dear Lord, no!!  Positive…!”

Of coures, by the end of my trip, I would occassionaly leave the hostel without my nylons, and always without my hat.  I guess a dead giveaway that I am not a Ukrainain local is to be wearing a Russian fur hat - go figure.


When I lived in San Francisco, I would throw on shorts, grab my parrot “Pearl” and run to Dolores Park if the fog had burned off and the sun was out.  Of course, 65 degrees used to be hot weather for me.  It is funny how our bodies get used to weather changes and climates over time. 

Tomorrow, we are going tubing down a river with laundry bags full of beer and I was concerned about the weather conditions.  It poured like the sky was going to fall yesterday, and although it has since cleared up, I decided to check the weather to be safe.  My initial thought was, “84 degrees?!?! Really??  It’s going to be too cold to get into water and go tubing.” I am a spoiled little Texan now.  I was ready to soak up the 100 degree rays tomorrow, but will have to settle for 84. Probably better this way, as I really am not in the market for Melanoma.

Friday, May 6, 2011

No Idle Hands Here!

My last month has been packed with adventures, visitors and non-stop hooping!  My AOII sister, former room-mate, Castro-club hopper and, of course, best friend, Tara came to visit.  She is a UT Law admitted student who made it to the finals for a scholarship.  She was flown out here to check out the campus and inteview.  I made it a personal goal to show her how amazing Austin is, cowboy boots and all!  We danced all night on 6th Street, went to my favorite restaurants and bars.  All in all, it was a successful weekend, though I believe she is leaning towards a different university that has a better program for public interest.  I told her if she went here, maybe we could be room mates again, but she told me she doesn't think she could live with Pearl!  Nat, I guess you are stuck with me and the little Pearl! 

After my visitor left, I devoted my time to the Austin Parrot Society.  We had a fundraiser for Bird Haven, a non-profit bird rescue, so we had a lot of work to do in preparation.  I am so happy to be a part of a group where telling people that I take my parrot on walks isn't an automatic "this girl is crazy" red flag.  I have an amazing group of passionate bird owners who are helping me find out about local vets, training techniques and feeding advice.  I even get recipes for birdie cakes!  We carpooled the the San Antonio Bird Mart to table and promote our fundraiser, but really it was the perfect excuse to buy Pearl and new discounted cage and toys!  I was told that I have the "gift of gab" by own of our members, since I was able to chat up any casual on-looker.

My parents decided to make a random trip to Austin to visit the same weekend of our fundraiser and I am so glad that they did!  I am sure that the event would not have been so successful without their enthusiasm and constant silent auction bidding.  We all learned a lot from Barbara Heidenrich from Good Bird, Inc.  She is a work famous bird behavioralist who has had amazing success with positive reinforcement and parrot training.  I am excited to get Pearl back next month and test out her new techniques!  We also did a Segway tour of Austin which was a fun mix of history lessons and rugged adventure.  Of course, thanks to my mom's Atkins diet, we dined at some of the best restuarants in Austin, Fogo de Chao and the Driskill Hotel.  Don't you love when family is in town? 

I am eager to receive my brand new LED hula hoop, compliments of Lighted Lifestyle.  I got to play with one in my class and cannot wait to that this baby to Burning Man!  It will look so cool out at night on the playa!  I am loving hooping.  It is an amazing cardio work out and I love just spinning and dancing with my hoop.  I would love to go to Hoop Camp this year in Santa Cruz, but I think due to Burning Man and lack of PTO, I will probably put it off for a year.

I have even been toying with the idea of becoming a Russian tutor.  I currently have one awesome beginner, but she is going abroad in the fall.  I think it would be a lot of fun to teach others and make a little spare change on the side. 

And that's what you missed...on GLEE!  just kidding, but I do love that show!