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I live in Brooklyn, NY and I love it here.  I came here for my career in 2009 and haven't once looked back. 

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Spring cleaning...

After putting together some additional music tags for the trailer for "The Life" yesterday, knocking out five voice over auditions total, and cooking my meals for the week and cleaning the kitchen, I decided it was time to clean.  I know it's not spring yet but I've dubbed it a kind of spring cleaning.

I kinda just wanted a lot of the shit in here, out of here.  In the process though, I'm digging up all kinds of weird stuff.  Mostly mementos and old notebooks filled with my scribblings before I figured out what a blessing my Google account and things like productivity apps for to do lists were.  I found old school supplies, massive amounts of pens and pencils (most of them unsharpened...I don't even own a pencil sharpener in this mess!), that I realized I also don't need because I don't write things down on paper anymore.  I'm much more organized than I was five years ago when I first moved here.  I used to write down to-do lists, phone numbers, notes about pieces I was writing and my budget all in the same notebook with no rhyme or reason to the organization of it all.  It certainly helps to write things down for various reasons, but ultimately, what you're left with, I've found out over the years, is piles and piles of scrap paper and notebooks you may never look at again...until you go to throw them out, er, recycle them.

Now, granted, all this stuff is sitting on a shelf minding it's own business and collecting dust, so why do I need so badly to purge this stuff?  I think it's mostly psychological.  Cleaning makes me feel lighter and like I could be more efficient with my space.  And that's actually one of the other reasons for it.  I plan on buying some new furniture, specifically a bed and mattress, and I don't think half the shit under my bed right now will fit under there anymore once I get a whole new bed (at least with the one I'm looking at).

But of course, that's how it started.  Then afterward, the thought of having nothing under my bed, or at least far less than I have under there now, was too tempting.  Then I start thinking about things like clothes I don't wear anymore, the fact that I plan on buying some new clothes soon and I need to make room for them.  This is the point at which this becomes an all day project.

And it's perfect.  I have beer in my fridge and it's 23 degrees outside and I don't have to work today.  As busy as I usually am, I decided to take this as a gift from the universe and use it for the purpose of sorting out my life.

It has extended even to cleaning up my laptop and my PC a little even, backing up old files I don't need and clearing space.  It's all, all of it, sort of gearing me up to maximize my productivity. Clutter drives me insane and having this place clutter free, both my physical room and the computers that I do my work on, is going to feel so good.  And then I can focus again.  Finally. 

And so then I dive in.  But for now, I gotta get back to this.  My bed is covered in things I'm deliberating on at the moment...old tax documents, a box full of mementos from when I first moved here until now, a neat little moleskin notebook I never did anything with and a 2011 calendar with pics of one of my sister's kids.  I don't need a 2011 calendar anymore but I do need cute pics of my niece and nephews.  No idea what to do with that yet.  

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Back to life, back to reality...

Update: I most certainly did not make my connecting flight in Miami.  I might have, had I not bought a bottle of rum at the duty free shop that I was told had to be checked when I got to Miami. Can't carry on duty free liquids, Tim.  

Our flight leaving Managua was delayed over an hour due to late arrival of the aircraft so by the time I got to Miami and through customs, it was far too late for me to check the bag with the rum in it on the flight...I would have made it perhaps but my bag wouldn't have.  So I grudgingly threw out the rum, but the added time that I spent debating what to do about that before ultimately throwing it out screwed me over and for the first time in my life, I arrived at the gate as they were closing the doors.  Worst feeling ever.  I wound up getting on the very next flight but not before calling American Airlines and trying to get on the last one of the evening because I was under the impression, as per one of my friends testimonies, that that next flight was indeed full. (She had changed her flight while still in Nicaragua...something I didn't think to do because I checked in online and did not know the flight leaving Managua was delayed until I arrived at the gate and after I had bought the damn bottle of rum.)  

The flight, the 8:35 to LGA, was not full, but finding this out took me calling the rebooking hotline, finding out I was on the stand-by list for the 9:10 to JFK (the final one of the evening), setting up a flight for the next day just in case I couldn't get on, actually going to the gate for the 9:10 and then having the gate agent tell me I was already confirmed for the 8:35 flight and that I just had to run over there and get them to give me a seat.  
My friends all had to wait for their baggage to go through customs and then recheck their bags so they probably knew sooner than I did that they weren't making our original flight, the 7:15.  Trying not to still be upset about the bottle of 7 year Flor de Caña Rum, I realized I probably could have saved it if I'd just kept my head and accepted I was going to miss my flight instead of stupidly trying to make it.  

Anyway, as I walked around the other day, doing errands, my thoughts turned to it again and, as I looked up, there happened to be a liquor store right across the street from me.  And they carried that same brand of rum...only just the 4 year bottle.  It'll do.  

What won't do, however, is this @#$!ing snow.  It took vacationing in the middle of winter in a tropical place and coming back to a snow storm to make me finally hate snow.  I found myself trudging through it and thinking how it felt the same as trudging through sand...if I closed my eyes...and imagining I was still on that beach.    

The shock to my system is pretty intense and I'm just now coming around, as I think I got gluten-ed on the way back, in addition. Stomach no like-y.  Even felt feverish.  Could have something to do, as well, with the 70 degree drop in temperature.  

At any rate, I got back in the swing of things today, calling in sick today from TruTV, actually meditating (taking things learned from the trip into account) and doing yoga at home, rocking out some voice over auditions and doing some laundry to clean sheets, soaked by the leak in my ceiling...above my bed.  Yeah, that happened.  New York apartment living.  FML.  

I'm almost back at 100% but still feeling bummed.  What should make me happy though is that I still have a few prospects to apply myself toward.  Another film music/theme composing opportunity has come into my sights.  While I was away I got an email from a friend about an opportunity she heard about, so I've already contacted that person and now I wait.  Also, the friend for whom I composed years ago and who is now editing a feature length film, should be finishing the edit soon so I'm trying to keep on him.  

So, lots to occupy my mind.  Unfortunately, nothing to report yet.  Just winter doldrums and such.  I thought I saw more single digits on the weather forecast.  Ugh.  Gotta run for now.  

Monday, January 20, 2014

Nicaragua, final days: crater lake...

The final night at Casa Ola, Gonzalo took us into San Juan del Sur and despite that crazy whirlwind last day I had, I was not tired.  Blasting his iPod for what would be one of the last times, we skidded into town, agreeing only to spend an hour or so and a few drinks.   Gonzo took us to a place called The Iguana, which reminded me of so many douchey beach bars I'd been to in the States. It was open to the air and right on the beach; crowded but fun.  And because we were with the mayor of San Juan del Sur, we got a table no problem.  

After a half bottle of tequila, a little bit of dancing, some beach fireworks and one random conversation with some airborne rangers who were motorcycling down the Pan American Highway (one of whom resembled Bobby McFerrin), we headed back to the house.  

The next morning we had another beautiful meditation followed by a great class focusing on inversions.  A humming bird I'd seen on a previous day, came again during meditation and hovered in front of Sara and Lea.  I think we were the only ones in class who saw it.  It was so beautiful.  

After class, there were logistics to work out because we wanted to get a group pic on the beach with everyone in their bathing suits (some people wanted one last dip in the ocean) and we also wanted to get on the road at 11 to the Apoyo Lodge at the crater lake where we'd be staying.  And also breakfast had to be squeezed in. One last plate of plantains, avocado, eggs, beans and rice and that Nica cheese.   So delicious. 

The group pic happened first and then a few people took their dip in the ocean.  Jenna got stung by a sting ray unfortunately, but Kit and Gonzalo were all over it, running upstairs to get hot water.  My first thought was that this might blow out that whole leaving at 11 thing.  We weren't that bad though and Jenna was able to walk up the steps from the beach.  It was a small one and just got her on her toe.  She said it hurt pretty bad though and that the pain crept up her leg.   
After breakfast and a long goodbye we were well on our way.  It was sad to leave them all behind and go.   Gonzalo and Ivan drove us and we were going to stop in San Juan del Sur to grab a taxi to ease the load.  There were about ten people in the back of the Land Rover.  Some of us wanted to stop for a tiny bit in town to pick up t-shirts and get drinks so we came back to the street where we were the other day.  

Before going into town though we made an unexpected stop because Gonzalo wanted to introduce us to his son.  A major Michael Jackson fan apparently. 

Going to town did not turn out to be a quick trip and I felt a little bad because I was with the group that took longer because we split off to get coffee and juices.  The place we went was neat though and I'm glad I went because I had skipped it the last time we were there. 

The remorse set in though when, after a longer, bumpier car ride, we saw the place we were to stay last night.  The place is called Laguna de Apoyo and the lodge was another Eco resort type place right up on the crater lake.  Incredibly gorgeous and just the perfect place to spend the last night.  Several dogs greeted us upon arrival as did Seamus, the owner.  He hails from Canada as well and knows Tyson.  

We soon learned however that there had been some confusion with the booking.  They were not expecting us until the following night.  There was room for most of us (some had to stay down the road at another place), but no food.  So Katelin got a menu from a local restaurant, we all ordered and Gonzalo and Ivan went to pick it up while we meditated, solidifying their reputation in my mind as the coolest people we'd had the pleasure of meeting this whole week. 

And oh my god was meditation amazing that night or what? The lodge has a separate uncovered outdoor yoga platform right above the lakeshore where we say and had a 40 minute meditation session on emptiness, in the darkness, lit only by candles, starlight and one outdoor light a little ways up the hill. With the waves breaking on the shore and the cool breeze, can something be too beautiful?

After we finished the meditation, Heather asked us for some feedback and I blurted out that this week had been awesome.  The planning was impeccable and we all felt taken care of. More people chimed in and we began just discussing everything from the staff to the lodges to the classes, sitting, relaxed on the platform.  As I laid back on my yoga block and peered up at the sky, the clouds slowly moved on and the blanket of stars opened up.  All of us sat awestruck because most of us had been laying back to stretch out our legs after sitting for so long and witnessed the change in our view.  All week we had been experiencing nights lit by a full moon. None of us had seen this many stars all week, even on that remote beach at Playa Escameca. The conversation turned towards the beauty of it all and we slowly began to scatter as the guys were arriving with the food we had ordered.

We sat and ate outside at the outdoor bar area, continuing to chat and drink. Mid thought, talking to Nick, I shouted out loud as soon as the moon began to rise over the rim of the crater.  We all ran over and stood to watch, remarking that, even though we all instinctively tried to snap the perfect pic, that nothing would do it justice.  Here's my effort though:  

As it came up and bathed the lake in light, we slowly began to turn down for the evening one by one.  All that were left was myself, Sara, Lea and Catharine.  I had almost gone to bed when I noticed they were still out on the edge of the platform drinking the remains of the last bottle of wine. And smoking.  Yoga for Bad People indeed.  I joined them and we chatted long into the night.  Deciding to go to bed at somewhere around midnight.  

Upon returning to my room, I tried not to wake Nora, with whom I was sharing a room this time, but failed when my flashlight trained on a baby tarantula about two and a half inches long, hiding by the door and I gasped out loud. Nora, not knowing why, stirred and said I could turn the light on if I needed to.  I told her she did not want me to do that.  I explained the situation, trying my best not to freak her out.  "Can't you just kill it!?" She screeched as I tried to sweep it out the door with my sandal.  The next morning I found the poor thing dead on the walk outside. Not sure why.  

The previous night, Lea had talked about wanting to take the inner tubes they had at the lodge out on the lake first thing.  I hesitated, not wanting to pack a wet bathing suit but ultimately bending to Lea's undeniable point that you only live once. And I'm extremely glad I did.  Though the lake bed and shoreline was super rocky the water was warm and the waves delicate.   Of course Lea had her Go Pro and the waterproof Nikon so pictures will be coming soon.  

We had to be packed and ready to go at 9:45 and got to the airport just after 11.  Security was a breeze and I got all the way through before anyone else because I did not my check my bag.  Most of us were on the same flight but slowly we all had to part ways.  Our flight was even delayed so now there's some uncertainty surrounding making the connecting flight.  I should be fine but I feel sorry for my friends.  They'll make it. I'm sure.  Fingers crossed.  

Soon we should get an email from Katelin with everyone's email address.  Which'll be nice.  I've made a lot of great friendships on this trip and it's nice to know most of us are going back to NYC.  I've already got plans to attend Katelin's class with some of them.  For now, I'm going to try and post this with pics when I get to Miami.   

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Nicaragua, day 6: dolphins, tortugas and whales...

Meditation and class this morning was beautiful.  It's our last full day and night here at Casa Ola.

I wasn't sure right away what kind of day I'd want either.  Lea had invited me to come out fishing on the boat with her and Gonzalo but I also got wind that Nick, Shannan and Natalie were hiking over to Playa el Yankee, one beach to the north, to, you guessed it, surf.  I had previously wanted to go and at least see it before, one of the days that Kit took people over, but I missed my opportunity. Think that was the day I had my massage.  

Despite feeling a little lazy and being worried about missing lunch, I made up my mind to go with Lea after all.  While I sat laying out with some of the girls, it dawned on me that Lea has a waterproof camera and a Go Pro that I was hoping to use.  I grabbed two bananas to snack on and filled my canteen.  Kit, however, informed me that bringing bananas on a boat was bad luck.   I proceeded to scarf them both and then ran out to where Lea and Gonzalo were waiting with another of  Gonzo's friends (we joke that he's the mayor of San Juan del Sur because everyone in town knows him).  They stood in the surf with a small boat with an out board motor I had seen parked on the beach all week.  I did not bring my camera for this one obviously, since I knew Lea would have two.  So no pics but an amazing time.  I caught no fish but Lea caught a Jack fish which we brought back with us.   I was fishing with a traditional hand line...simply a wooden paddle with a roll of twine spooled around it.  

After a few minutes out there we even saw dolphins which we managed to get video of.  They were incredibly close to the boat too.  Gonzalo would wheel us around and head in a different direction just about every time the pelicans would swarm.  There were so many of them out there.   

As we headed back we saw Tyson waving his arms on the beach so we steered to shore to see what was up. Whales.  Whales were what was up.  He had alerted everyone else and there were three who wanted to hop in the boat to go out and see them.  So we waited.  Lea got out though (taking the camera and my water bottle and sunglasses...whoops!) and headed back, saying she'd had her fill.  I had too, almost, but I couldn't miss whales.  No matter I was missing lunch.  They would save me a plate.  

We took off to the south, once everyone was in, toward that Costa Rican mountain range you can see on the horizon in so many of my pictures.   I was so excited.  For days during meditation and class, I had gazed out at a single solitary rock that stood alone out on the water. And we were headed right for it.  The wind picked up and carried an extra straw hat that had been brought along that no one had claimed and it landed in the water.  Gonzalo quickly whipped the boat around so Shannan could reach out and grab it.   Thankfully, he kindly did the same when my hat did the same thing a few gusts later.    

As we pressed on further and further out, Gonzalo kept pointing toward the mountain range saying he was seeing them but none of us could really make them out.  He said they were about a kilometer out.  I started to notice, at this point, my hunger creeping up.  I sensed the group was really determined to see the whales, though, so I hesitated to mention my state.  Anyway, before I could get vocal about wanting to go back, something amazing happened.   Tortugas!  I thought I was seeing another dolphin but Gonzalo shouted "Tortugas!" and brought the boat closer to the first one that was near enough.  As he rode a wave and it swelled, his head came above water and his eyes trained right on us.  Shannan, who sat in the bow of the boat, leaned over and reached out, but he immediately dove out of reach and down.  

We passed a few more and kept on going further out.   Soon we came within a few hundred feet of the rock and slowed to a stop.  Gonzo pointed again to where he was seeing them and we stood in the boat, scanning the waves for them.  He must have had really great eyesight because none of us were sure we could see them.   I turned instead to study the rock, whose true shape had been revealed once we approached it closer.   A stark column of rock, with a steep angled face covered in cacti and other vine-like plants.  Two orange billed birds stood at its base right where the waves broke against it.  I heard their call, a soft whistle like sound, as they flew off and then Gonzo started the motor and we were off.  Looping around the rock, we finally turned for home.  

Fully soaked on my left side only, I soon got hit by colder waves on my right as we changed direction.   I spent the much faster return trip, scanning the shore line and the other beaches, still fascinated by the geology here.   We even passed Playa el Coco, where I galloped two days ago.  

When we alighted on the beach at Escameca, I ran up and ate right away, a bowl of seafood soup that had been set asid for me and some octopus ceviche (be jealous, it was delicious). Luckily, since Natalie, Nick and Shannan had been on the boat with me, they had yet to go over to Playa el Yankee and since they were still pretty game, I told them I would join them even though we'd be skipping class.  I really just wanted to see  the beach because I'd hear so much about it.  And it occurred to me on the way over, I'd be getting there 15 minutes from sunset.  Finally.  To watch a sunset on the beach was all I wanted all week...well that and to see howler monkeys.  But we'll get to that.   

I did not bring my iPhone yet again.  So no pics.  I really didn't take that many but sooner or later some will surface with me on a boat with a traditional hand line looking tanner than I have in a while.  But this last sunset was just for me.   

While I sat and watched it disappear behind the horizon, Natalie had a dolphin pass right by her board and Nick caught one last wave.  We hiked back in the twilight and I managed not to turn my ankle.  Class was in full swing when we arrived back so we took advantage of the empty showers and I've been chilling writing this blog waiting for Tyson to fire up the grill.  Local sirloin beef steaks tonight.  And then we go to town. Literally.  Should be a fun night. But I will be exhausted.  More tomorrow after we get settled in at the crater lake.   

Friday, January 17, 2014

Nicaragua, day 5: next beach...

Today we go to another nearby beach where there are some bars and surfing and we'll have lunch.  We're leaving in about an hour so that gives me time to make a decision about my attire.  Am I going to wear a bathing suit so I can surf and/or swim? Or am I going to keep on the comfortable clothing I just sort of slid into after breakfast this morning so that I can just chill and walk around?  I'm leaning toward the latter.  Horses really took it out of me and despite sleeping for a good 7 1/2 hours and despite feeling slightly better after yoga class, I'm still feeling pretty spaced out.  I think I'm okay with it though.

Nick and Shannan are perennially enthused about surfing such that I wonder if I'm missing out on something I might enjoy.  Not sure there'll be another chance on this trip.   But I am, however, absolutely certain that I would either find myself in a situation where I could learn to surf again, come here again, or do another yoga retreat.  

So I'm choosing not to look at it as missing out.  I mean, I freaking galloped on a horse yesterday.  I didn't miss shit.  

Do another yoga retreat.   Yes, of course I would. Playing around with the thought in my head, this morning and talking with Nick over coffee, I saw myself doing at least one a year.   I proved to myself already that I could pull together the money for it and I obviously can take the time from work.  

This has been such an incredible time and it's nowhere near over.  It has, in a way, reminded me of church camp growing up, only cheesy Christian songs are replaced by Sanskrit chants we only do at the beginning of class and the "worship" is replaced with a physical activity and spiritual practice that has meant more to me than church ever did.  On top of that, the phenomenon of close friendships made in a short period of time  is heightened and there are far more fun things to do and see.  And there's an element of local culture, too, that one could only find vacationing in a foreign place.  

So there. Yoga retreat just kicked church camp's ass.  

Having just the right balance of structure and relaxation has been key as well. I would definitely go on one of their retreats again.  And specifically theirs.  Another point Nick and I touched on this morning was that their style at Yoga for Bad People is right up our alley.  It's been very chilled out here.  Alcohol if you want it, skip class if you're tired and a very "no one's perfect" kinda vibe.  

With that said? I'm gonna get ready to go to Playa Hermosa. More later.  

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Nicaragua, day 4, pt. 2: horses...

I have never galloped on a horse before.  Until this afternoon.  After I frantically posted that last blog I went down and found Gonzalo and we waited for the three girls that were joining us for the ride. He handed us straw hats and led us down the driveway and around a corner to where the horses were tied up.  When we asked their names they said we could give them names.  I forgot to check the gender of my horse though so I basically rode through Nicaragua on a horse with no name.  It felt good to be out of the rain.

Mounting them, we took off down the path toward the beach, needing only a brief lesson.  For me it's been more than 20 years since I've ridden.   I did okay though, and never lost the reins once. Slowly, I got the hang of controlling the horse, too. 

Not sure how far we'd be riding, I was a little surprised when the horses turned, on their own, down a path I hadn't seen before that left from the beach and dove into the forest.  Somewhere in there, I finally heard the howler monkeys.  Their call having been almost perfectly impersonated by Vera the other day.  Did not yet glimpse them though, disappointingly.  

The path led to an open pasture with cows grazing.   Other horses, unsaddled, stood on the path and paid us no mind.  We went on to the road that leads to town and followed it to the next beach over, Playa el Coco.  A lazy beach with a few restaurants and houses.  One hotel with a tiny pool, as well. When we got out onto the beach, a few kicks got my horse galloping and we were off!  My hat flew back around my neck and I woo-ed out loud, one fist in the air as we flew down the beach.  So much fun!  After a few pics and some sauntering and galloping, we trotted back to the road.  

The horses must've known we were on our way back because all of a sudden, my horse and Maya's broke into a gallop again.  In fact for most of the ride back, they wouldn't stop!  It took until we got back to the path that led to the beach for them to finally slow to a pace that would not hurt our asses so much.  That last leg of the ride was so pleasant. 

The light was just perfect for taking pictures, so I rode for most of it with my iPhone out, trying desperately to get my horse to stop for just a second whenever I saw a good shot. But I got enough.  In fact, I'm getting so many good pics with everyone that there's talk of me being the official trip photographer.  

I think I'd be okay with that.  :) 

On the way back in, we galloped again on our beach, Playa Escameca.  More woo-ing ensued, to the point that people up at the house could hear us.  They were holding class for us and gave us ten minutes to get settled back in and restore the feeling in our legs.   Which was nice. Considering I wasn't even sure we'd make it in time.  Gonzalo even joined us for class this time.  
Now I'm sitting out on the lower deck relaxing and listening to the ocean.  A gorgeous day.  A halfway point.  Can't wait to see what tomorrow holds.    

Nicaragua, day 4: it all runs together...

I've been out on the beach again, swimming and trying to tan but the wind blows the sand so much it's hard to get comfortable for too long.  A few more friends joined us and we had an obligatory handstand photo shoot with Lea's waterproof Nikon.  Then we swam in that river I showed you for a bit before laying out some more further from the tide, as it had washed right up to where we were.

Earlier this morning, I dragged myself out of bed at 6:30 to see if Lea was jogging on the beach.  Thought I might join her but instead enjoyed the solitude and took these pictures.  

The geology out there is fascinating.  

There's a cave carved into the rocks by the tide.  

Check out more on my Google plus page.  I'm not going to post many more until I get back.  

Anyway, town was tons of fun yesterday. We rode first to a small roadside restaurant still out in the country and had an amazing meal. 

First stop in town after lunch was a hike up to the giant Jesus statue on one of the ridges surrounding the harbor.  Incredible views.  

Afterward we went down and walked around town.  I bought a few things and hung out with my roommates.  

I really want to write more about it but horse back riding is imminent.  Can't miss that.  

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Nicaragua day 3: massages and coconuts...

I got a massage and hacked open a coconut with a machete.   Not in that order though.  Yesterday was pretty low key.  Things are getting more and more lax as the week goes on. Yesterday evening's class started late because Mariangel's massage started late.   But that facilitated some gorgeous sunset shots.

Class usually happens right when the sun is setting so this was a treat. 

This morning we started meditation and subsequently class a little later because we were all chatting over coffee.  (And now I'm drinking coffee more and more everyday despite what it usually does to me. I feel fine though). It's kinda nice how unstructured we can be.  We might have gone zip-lining in the afternoon yesterday but no one signed up but me.  As a result, I just had my massage then went on a solo walk down to the river that spills out onto the beach that I'd heard so much about. It was so beautiful down there.

Then I met up with a few of my friends here and got them to snap a few photos of me in the water.  

One of them has a go pro camera she said she'd let me use to take some photos and video.  So that should be nice.  I'm making all kinds of new friends here and everyone is getting along great. My roommates and I has a little impromptu headstand workshop and goofy photo session and watched "Orange is the New Black" for a little bit last night before going to bed.   

Class has been really great and getting better every day. The first few meditation sessions were a tiny bit frustrating for me because I couldn't get comfortable. My left leg, the one with the bum knee was feeling pinched in the normal cross legged seat I choose for sitting. But today I stretched out before sitting and it was much better.  I'm already noticing a change in my general energy level each day.  We're doing a good 2 1/2 hours of practice each day.  The longer class being in the morning.  And we're having it in the most beautiful pavilion, directly above the kitchen and higher than most of the cabanas.  

The views, the divine breeze (when it's not tossing things around up there) and the smells wafting up from the kitchen, all make it hard to concentrate sometimes... But also hard not to smile at the beauty of it all.  

Today we are going into town for lunch and to walk around and shop.  I'm going to try and find nail clippers while I'm at it.  

We were all kind of talking about how we haven't needed our wallets until today and how nice it is not to carry them around.  I have spent money on a massage that was so inexpensive I was able to tip over 50% and that's it.  I still have about 750 cordobas and a good amount of American dollars I haven't spent.  So I should have plenty for today. 

I'm planning on taking a ton of pictures out in town today.  So stay tuned.  

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Nicaragua day 1, pt. 3: a moonlit beach...

I held a baby sea turtle in my hand last night.

This was the most incredible, amazing thing I have ever done.  A few beaches to the south is a preserve of sorts I guess where they save the sea turtle eggs from poachers and predators, hatch them and then let people come and set them free on the beach near the waves.  

I assumed when we set off in the Land Rover that we were going to just watch them hatch and walk in to the water.  But when we arrived at the house in the middle of a dark forest, Gonzalo explained that they were going to bring us baskets full of them and we were to walk them out to the beach and set them free one by one. I was ecstatic. I held one of the baskets and we headed toward the beach.  It was wholly surreal walking down a moonlit path holding a basket of tiny moving creatures.  We must have had over a hundred of them in total between the three baskets we were all handed.   To see them all populate the beach, and all of us coaxing them along, pointing them in the right direction, was very moving. I exclaimed several times that this was the most amazing thing I have ever done.  

I felt like a shepherd of sorts with my flashlight pointed at them, herding them along, in a way.  Unfortunately, there were a few that didn't make it, having either been trampled in the basket by their friends or perhaps already dead before we got there.  It was sad but discussions about natural selection were had and the beauty of it all seeped in.  The point was made, as well, that we were mainly saving them from poachers so it was, in a way, fitting that we were canceling out the human element by being the ones to help them on their way.  Saving them from predators was also a concern but I only saw one black shape fly past us while we stood on the beach.  Some kind of bird.  We found ourselves also discussing whether or not we should help them to the water or just leave them be.   Some said they needed that walk to strengthen themselves for the swim.  Not so much that we were interfering with natural selection by helping them evade predators.   The weaker ones would probably still get eaten in the water and thus not pass on their genes.  

All in all, I was awestruck. The moonlight was almost enough to see everything without flashlights and I can't remember the last time I was able to see so many stars when the moon was almost full.  Again, the most amazing night.  And this is only day 2 as I type this.  

Monday, January 13, 2014

Nicaragua, day 1, pt. 2: hammocks...

There is no shortage of hammocks here.... We'll actually that's not true.  There are at least four in my line of sight when I stand on the porch of our cabana.  One is on our porch, the next one down belongs to the cabana below us and two more are on the deck of one of the common areas where we were last night when we arrived.  This is where I sit now. Mine was occupied by my roomies. when I came back from lunch.  And I really just wanted somewhere nice to sit and maybe fall asleep.  But here I'm writing again.  Don't worry Paul, I have been doing a fair bit of disconnecting.  I just am so excited to report back a lot of what I'm seeing and hearing.   Which is mostly exotic plant life and critters but also things like horses whinnying on the beach.  Yes, horses.  I may have to ride a horse.

As of now, we've had one meditation session and one amazing yoga class this morning and there's another in about an hour.  This morning's breakfast was gluten free pancakes and fresh fruit (papayas, melons, white pineapples and the best bananas I have ever tasted...seriously. Must not have been the typical yellow cavendish banana we get in the States.). Filled up on all that, we all went down to the beach.  I posted the pics earlier on Facebook.  I tanned for a tiny bit, but, ever nervous about the effectiveness of my slathering of sunscreen, I decided to get up and in the water.  I scraped my knee on a rock though but that didn't deter me from going further out once I cleaned up the wound.  Nick and Shannan, the couple, were the only ones really wading far out so, wanting to fully submerge myself, I joined them and listened to them talk about their chances of catching some good waves.  

It all kind of got me thinking about surfing. And how I really want to try it.  There is a resident surf instructor named Kit who will take us out some day and give us a lesson.  Natalie, one of the ones who rode down with us from the airport, already went with him to surf.  

Tonight after dinner though, it's sea turtles.  I'll update again and hopefully have moonlit pics of the little guys.   

Nicaragua day 1...

I'm posting again because it's morning and I can't sleep.  It's 6am...so 7am in NYC, only two hours after the time I awoke yesterday but since I went to bed last night around 10:30 I don't feel tired.  Meditation is not for another hour but I'm debating just getting up and going outside.  Been listening to the waves and the occasional tropical bird outside, taking deep draughts of the air.  Really can't believe I'm finally here.  Last night my roomies and I discovered that one of the wifi routers is in our cabana so I can promise you the updates will keep flowing.   Watch for a batch of pics in a sec here.  Now that it's light out I've decided to go out and survey the grounds.  Stay tuned.

Casa Ola...

I'm laying in bed listening to the sounds of the ocean waves crashing on the beach.   This place is incredible.  I've been here only four hours and I have yet to see it in the day light. But I have to say this is way better than I could have imagined.  And everyone here is so cool.  

Firstly: impressions as I was landing in Managua.  Just getting closer and realizing I was about to set foot in a new country was giving me goosebumps.  Then I look out the window to see stark peaks agains the flat landscape.  Volcanoes!  I scramble to get my iPhone out to snap a few photos and then a giant crater lake comes into view.  My jaw drops.  This isn't the last time this happened either.  

The Managua airport was tiny by comparison to most of the domestic American airports I've been to.  After we landed, the plane had to turn around and double back upon reaching the end of the small runway in order to get to the gate.  Customs and immigration was a breeze, too, but then my suitcase wasn't immediately showing up in the conveyor.  I was so mad they had made me check it. As I started to panic I kept my head long enough to spot the people I had figured were my fellow yogis and kept an eye on them in case they all started to leave and I hadn't gotten my bags.  I stared down the conveyer, circled the carousel twice, came back around, and then finally saw it, not really sure how it had slipped past me before.  I actually kissed that bag I was so relieved.  

I moved on to customs where I simply put my bag on another conveyor and handed a form I had filled to another guy who simply waved me through.  No pat down, no nothing.  I turned a corner and there was a man with a sign that said  "yoga for bad people," and a group of people lined up behind him, 6 out of the 8 we were expecting.  Everyone was so nice and I was pretty much right about each one I had spotted during the flights being part of the retreat.  One more showed up from the other direction a minute later and explained that she flew in yesterday and had stayed the night in Managua.  Our driver then took us to a minivan parked just outside and we all piled in, rather crammed in, and were off.  

Despite my fatigue, it was a pleasant ride, mostly spent getting to know all of my fellow yogis and gawking out the car window at anything and everything new. Dogs, cows and horses would often jump out into the road and more often the further removed from the cities we got.  Every once in a while a volcano would pop up on the horizon.  And at one point our driver pulled us over to see the shore of Lake Nicaragua and the island of Ometepe looming on the horizon.  A co-worker of mine had told me about the island and since I knew I wouldn't have the time to make it over there, I was glad to at least get the chance to see it from a distance. The wind coming off that lake was constant and intense.  

Our next stop was San Juan del Sur where we all got out by the harbor to stretch and await our next vehicle...which had to be 4WD apparently because the roads are pretty crazy out this way.  

More twists and turns switch backs steep hills dogs kids on bikes horses and yes we saw a pig or two and eventually a skunk.    But we made it here just fine and folks were sitting out on the porch, already in hammocks. Six more that had arrived prior to us and were already settled in.   The porches are amazing and there are stone steps connecting everything on different levels.  There are several separate huts, well constructed and open to the air but with mosquito screens.  It's very eco friendly and designed with minimal impact on the environment in mind. Most of the water is from collected rain in cisterns.  

The staff seem really great and the guy who manages actually also has Celiac and his mother does the cooking so I'm in luck.  I couldn't have picked a better retreat honestly.  

For now I need sleep.  It has been a very long day and this is a very comfortable bed that I must take advantage of.   I'm afraid this will be the best sleep I have gotten in years between that and the waves and the ridiculously enviable breeze that is currently washing over me.  Gotta go guys.  Gotta go.  

Crater seen from the plane.

Lake Nicaragua, Ometepe in the distance. 

Nick and Shannan in San Juan del Sur by the harbor. 

Shannan and Natalie by the harbor. 

Islands in the Caribbean from the plane.