Playing with my new phone

Two lovely photos taken with my new phone. The first is a waterfall near my house that gets very active in the spring. The second is a tulip at the Smith College bulb show that reminds me of my friend Laura's hair.

Singing, Oh My God, Singing.

This weekend Kathy Bullock came to Ashfield to facilitate a weekend of gospel goodness and I had the fortune of being allowed to go purely on the merits of my bread baking and dish washing and shoulder massaging skills (well, and maybe some singing skills too). I am reminded of every other intentional short term community that I have ever been part of, as the experience was moving in many, many ways.

If music is how I experience that which is god, this weekend was so god-filled that I was left overflowing with that sense of peace that only comes out of having gone through hard times and allowed them to well up and be healed. That is perhaps the best part for me about singing gospel and spirituals. They take those hard times, tell them truthfully, and allow for that bit of hope to sneak in. Even those songs which are written in times of despair, like Thomas Dorsey's "Precious Lord, Take My Hand" when he lost his first wife and child during childbirth, allow me to let those feelings of grief and frustration out, openly in the company of others, breaking off for moments unable to sing, grab a tissue and start again when the moment passes. Those who perhaps are less familiar with this singing through grief sometimes have told me (ie. at funerals) to keep singing, but really, for me the moment of letting the feeling and the tears and the lack of voice through is just as important as the moment of continuing with the song. The others hold me and it up while I am unable to continue and I, in turn, raise my voice in adoration and praise when they are stumbling.

That said, I opened talking about intentional short term communities. I miss camp and my classroom. I miss those places where we are consciously working towards something more and something better and something sillier simultaneously. This community where I live approaches that feeling, and I understand that we can't all be woven so thoroughly into each others' lives when we are simultaneously working and schooling and having children and and and. So I make do with the littler moments with fewer people. I miss singing and checking in, though, and wish that I could find that space here. Maybe once Greenfield Harmony starts back up again I will not miss it as much. As for now, I have to go and put pickles in jars with an excellent crew of people. Though we do not sing together, they give me hope.

January Thaw

So everyone is freaking out about how it's 50 degrees and pouring rain with a chance of thunderstorms later, but I know this is normal. It happens every year and is crucial to my mental health. Let's say cold is not my favorite weather. It reminds me that there will eventually be an end to the freezing. And I love the little rivers in the street sand, the bigger rivers made on dirt roads, even though those roads are a pain to drive on later. Sorry I still don't have a camera.

My job at the library is still really fun. Yesterday was Casino Night, last week was the donut on a string game, and next week is a drumming workshop. Then I go on vacation. Hooray! Anyone have any brilliant ideas for the anti-valentine's day/love sucks party coming up? Mean candy hearts, making chocolate, making ideal partners out of gigantic gingerbread men. I need a good PG-13 movie and some music suggestions, as well as other funny ideas.

infrequent at best...

Tomorrow, the good news is, I get to play with firefighters and cars. They cut them open, we pull people out of them with simulated injuries. The unfortunate part: it's going to stop being summer by tomorrow and we will be standing around or strapped to back boards in colder weather.

My question, though undoubtedly no one much reads this, is what's the best way to go about creating and sharing music files? I am going to need to be doing some musical collaboration in the upcoming months and am trying to figure out what options I have, aside from garage band, which I already know about.

Emmy sent this video about quakerism. I kinda think it's pretty cool.

And, to finish, please think happy job thoughts for jordan. Another rejection, check. Boo on them.

Jor has a Job

Well, I have finally found a little bit of library work and I love it so far. A teeny tiny library in Wendell, MA just got a grant to hire a teen services coordinator and buy lots of things to make the library a cooler place for the 10-19 year old crowd. I get to be that person 7 hours a week, though to get it off the ground it's definitely taking up more brain space than 7 hours. I don't mind since I am not otherwise occupied, except with the occasional writing of a cover letter and interview. I am so tired of this process. Anyway, my first meeting with the teens was hillarious and a little bit crazy - give 13 teenagers a few rolls of duct tape and suggest making wallets, etc. but instead they imprison each other in their chairs, tape legs and arms together, tape boys together. Still, they were able to reign it in when it came time for business and we got a lot done. And David Detmold wrote a really nice article about the meeting from observing it and it was on the front page of this week's paper. I definitely need to get a copy. Can't post it here because they don't do an online version. Maybe I'll scan it in. So basically this job means that I am willing to compromise a little more for my other job that I don't have yet because at least I will enjoy myself and be advancing my career some of the time this way.

Annie bought a new bread cookbook today and I'm super excited to try some of the recipes. Mmmm. I LOVE that my house is a giant bread oven on Fridays. It smells so good and people are so thankful for fresh bread. It's a serious part of my happiness. Please don't ever make me cut out gluten!!!!!!!!

Busy is as busy does

I have a million things going on right now. I'm working at Real Pickles M-W which is AWESOME! Then on Monday and Wednesday nights I have EMT class from 6-10 which could be more awesome if the TAs were more on top of their game. I suppose it's a bit much to expect that TAs will have any teaching experience whatsoever and will be older than 20. Some of them are (for the most part, the good ones) but there's one in particular who just drives me crazy with his ineptitude. I stay over in G'fld on Monday nights so I don't have to ride the almost 10 miles early after being up late. That's terrific because I get to see my friend Zoe who is a lovely individual. She's so lovely that she's hired me to do some computery helping on her dissertation and is paying me in actual dollars. And then Fridays I make bread for between 8-12 families who live nearby. I wish we had a working camera (it broke and we gave it away in CR) so I could take pictures of the breads. I am feeling like, for the most part, I'm getting my homework and studying done and having a good time at all of my sundry jobs.

Yesterday I got to pretend to be a caterer for the Real Pickles open house. The place was hopping with every crunchy foodie in the Valley in attendance near as I could figure. I spent all evening walking as briskly as the crowded warehouse would accommodate. It was so fun to weave in and out of the people and answer their questions before they asked them (or after). There was even one person who I didn't know before but who I kept having great interactions with. Plus, there was Red Hen Bakery bread to nosh on. That stuff is like crack. I almost want to move up there just so I can learn how to make bread with them. Damn. They've even found a local way to get organic white flour (even milled locally) recently.

I'm wondering about this apparently manic part of my personality. Just go and go and go and feel pretty good about it all of the time. I haven't crashed yet, but this week wasn't easy on my body. There is a plot to deliver bread and get a hottub out of it.

When I was little and I wanted to take a bath I used to say that I was going to take a tub. I wonder if anyone else says that. Honestly, I still say it. My brief google search says that yes, other people use the phrase. I wonder why my mom always made fun of me when I said it... Not in a mean way, just a goofy making fun of the little girl who says the funny things sort of way.

That's really all I have to say right now. jor's been having interviews and is hopeful about an option that's hopefully coming her way on Saturday, but I'm not supposed to jinx it.

Filling in the Summer

Hey dudes who are still reading this. We intended to continue writing just because it's kinda fun and we'd like to know this kind of stuff about our friends who live far away, even if it is in the same country.

Quick rundown of the summer:
  • Arrived home after significant travel stress
  • Friends and neighbors were awesome at helping us get settled again
  • Continued looking for jobs
  • Went on an eight stop, six state/province road trip in the new car to see ten sets of family and friends. Toast swam in three great lakes and is no longer afraid of waves.
  • Got our cat Truck back from the shelter where he was living for the last 8 months (long story...we didn't put him there but we got him back and he's happier than ever)
  • Annie started her EMT basic program class and work at a pickle packing plant. Jordan is still looking for work.
It's really good to be home, even though we miss our friends and lifestyle in Costa Rica so much. And even thought it's hard to find work now, I'm so glad we went.

And since so many of our friends in Montague had babies while we were gone or right before, I now have a bunch of people wanting my flexible babysitting schedule. And I can bike there and bring my dog. So nice. Today was a dreamy kid named Uli. I hope I get to see her more. 18 months old and very communicative and easily distracted from sadness. Today we worked on not being afraid of the dog with much success! We also played peek-a-boo with her inside the tunnel on the playground and me peeking through the holes in the side. Did I mention how dreamy she is? She already uses English and Estonian at home and moms are psyched for me to do Spanish too. Today she said milk in three languages. This will be fun.

And this weekend, Costa Rica is coming to visit! Two of our friends who are still working at the school in Monteverde are going to be in NYC visiting another friend from the school who is back in the states and we will all reunite and eat lots of yummy city food that we cannot get in our respective rural homes. I got a million advance reader copies of juvenile and teen books from a local bookstore to send to Monteverde and I tried to read them all beforehand so I could make video booktalks for the students, but five boxes of books is a little much to ask in 45 days. I did make a significant dent and prioritized books they'll love or ones that need a little selling. I even read depressing books for these kids because I know how much impact my booktalks (and acquiring good books) had on them and it makes me feel good to spread the love of reading. So I work on the videos this week.


Here is a quick update:
I'm working at Real Pickles ( and quite enjoying myself. The only, and I mean only, downside is that I don't work on Thursdays or Fridays which is meaning not enough income to make the ends meet. Taking the lemons, making the lemonade, I've started baking bread to sell and barter with my friends and neighbors. This Friday was my first day and I made about 9 loaves of bread all told: challah, white/wheat mixed up and cinnamon raisin bread. They were all supertasty and my customers all seemed quite pleased. This is beyond useful as they are also my friends. We shall see where this ends up going (applying for a permit with the health board might be a good first step), but for now, it was an enjoyable day and I'm going to try doing it twice a week: Friday and Sunday. Should be good, even if it ends up being short lived (or long lived).

Nicaragua Trip

My favorite thing about Nicaragua: random parades at every turn with mini monks and nuns.
My least favorite: the guy with the fireworks who thought that every day was a holiday (even right outside the church during the service, and they didn't make him stop completely, just sometimes when the priest was saying something important).

Our trip to Nicaragua with Nicole was perhaps the best traveling we’ve had yet. To begin with, Nicole is a lovely travel companion, who balances out my inability to ask questions even in my native language in exchange for unlimited back, shoulder and foot rubs. She also likes hanging out immersed in water just as much as I do and it’s nice to have a friend in the pool to practice your flip turns with. As I’ve undoubtedly mentioned before, her Spanish is also excellent which helps jor out too. Mine is getting a lot better, but Nicole and jor haven’t stopped making fun of me for all of my ums yet. (Though on the way onto this plane I did explain where banjos come from without many of them.)

Granada is a lovely city for tourists, though like all cities it has more than its fair share of poverty, garbage and troubles on the street at night. I know that there are tours and connection possibilities with people who actually live in Granada on the poorer end of the spectrum, but this trip was purely for the pleasure of experiencing the many environmental wonders around the town, so we didn’t partake in any of them. At some point I would definitely like to get back to Granada for some intensive Spanish and getting to know the community better.

We stayed at Hotel Oasis because of the pool and possible A/C and comparatively cheap prices. Granada is way too hot for a bunch of gringas from up the mountain in Costa Rica so it was more than worth it to have the option of cooling off at night. When we showed up the pool was being fixed, but fortunately for us, it was only a day and a half before it was filled and functional again. I freely admit to my spoiled United States-ian nature when it comes to being really hot in a city where there is no clean river to go dip my toes into. Plus, I’d been looking forward to the pool for weeks, ever since we changed our trip from the Osa Peninsula to Nicaragua. Getting to Granada was easy because we used TransNica and just took the bus straight from La Irma up to Granada. The border was ridiculously simple since we didn’t have to do any of it ourselves.
Once we got to Granada there was a lot of lying around and playing on our computers. Again, though we were in a lovely foreign city it was just so nice to have a connection faster than 9 Kbps that isn’t connecting through a telephone line. We got a lot of our businessy things done. I even planned a summer project for a student and went through a bunch of negotiations about due dates. I am not going to be sad to be done with that part of the job, but I think I did a pretty good job considering the rushed nature of the thing. If the student had 4 more percentage points for the second semester the grade would have passed. Perhaps unsurprisingly, considering how many struggles this particular student has had with projects and working up to par, there is still more work to be done to pass my class. Oh well. We’ll work together and get it figured out.

Our first full day in Granada was spent at Laguna de Apoyo. It’s a crater lake near Masaya – about 20 minutes north of the city. The whole area is relatively undeveloped. You could look across the lake and see all of the logging that hasn’t happened recently (if ever?) and hardly see any lodges or roads or buildings of any kind. The place where we went allows day use and there was a swimming raft, kayaks we didn’t use, inner tubes we did use and hammocks galore. Nicole and I spent a lot of time floating around on inner tubes and then later I spent the majority of my time flinging myself off of the raft. When Jordan first met me in 2000 I had a hard time with diving. I can’t really explain why, but it was the swimming skill that has always been the roughest for me. Maybe it’s because of the on-off transition that causes me so much trouble with roofs. Anyway, she and Katy Weseman coached me through a bunch of summers at camp and I’ve got a decent dive now. I started the day at the lake with a bunch of diving and got tired due to the whole end of school year + traveling + moving out of our home concept. So then throughout the day jor and Nicole were coaching me through learning how to do forward flips off of the raft. It’s about the same height as rafts at camp – 3 inches above the surface maybe – and it’s pretty hard to get your body flipped around fast enough. I never really got it, but I did get a bunch better. Then I was working on diving with jumping up, curling a bit and then kicking out to be going straight up and down. The best time I did it involved me jumping up (not very far because I can’t jump good like Samuari Jack) and then kicking up and then curling. I know I’m not a kinesthetic learner, but honestly sometimes the connection between my brain and my body seems non-existent. Thanks to our time on the water I have now perfected my reggaeton backbeats and can sing along with any and every reggaeton song ever written, much to jordan’s chagrin.

Highlights of the Granada food scene: Garden Café is still lovely and wonderful. They no longer offer their pirate map scavenger hunt, though so you’ll have to create your own like we did (minus the map). If you ever end up there, try the lime, coconut, pineapple smoothie. And then have another one for me since they’re closed on Sunday and we had to leave at 5:30 on Monday morning. The ambiance is gardeny and the food is tasty while not being pretentious. The people who run the place are nice and were around when we were there with my mom too, so I think they’re the hands on kind of restaurateurs. There’s a Mexican place on the main tourist/bar street called Taqueria Vallarta. Oh tasty goodness. Though I also really like the tortilla soup in Alajuela at Jalapeños, it was nothing to scoff at. Jor said I should talk about the Taqueria, but at this moment I’m feeling rather at a loss. It was tasty, we had leftovers for lunch. Yum. The last place we went in Granada was a new restaurant called Voodoo. They had some troubles with the kitchen being out of things, and they may have dropped our shrimp on the floor, but damn it was tasty. There are definitely still some kinks to work out, and someone’s chair broke under him while we were there too, but overall, they did an excellent job with the mixups and I’m not complaining about the free drinks and carrot cake that tasted just like my mom’s.

Many of our adventures in Granada included Nicole’s friend Casey. They met in the DR last summer on a teaching program. He’s a teacher from California who is witty, interesting and likes to hike up volcanoes so he was a really good traveling companion for us. We went out to Volcán Mombacho (which towers over the city) on our third day in Granada. We missed the earlier Rivas bus so we had time to have breakfast (and another quick chat with the Fransiscan monk from California) and catch the next one. Since we didn’t know where the actual bus stop was (further down the block) we asked 10 people and went with the most popular answer to figure out when the next bus would be leaving. The options ranged from 8:30 – 11 so we had a pretty big window of time. When we went back we figured out where the bus was leaving from and asked the guys who had our bus’s hood open and were clearly working on it when they would be leaving. With such solid information, we felt fine going on a market adventure while we waited for the ½ hour + to pass. The market in Granada is definitely NOT just for tourists. I would love to have something like it where we live, though the unrefrigerated fish and meat definitely smell the place up a bit. This picture isn't from quite inside the main market area. Jor scored a handkerchief, though we wouldn’t know how much of a score it was until a little later in the day when we were hiking and hiking and hiking and sweating. We got off at the right spot, walked the 2 km to the park entry (where I'm pointing in the picture, the highest point closest to you is where the trails start at the top) and missed the 10 am shuttle up the mountain by five minutes. The lady at the little building said it was a hour and a half walk and about 5 km up to the trails on top. The road was paved with paving stones (not cobbles, but concrete patio block type stones). We went past some houses before the first entry point and there was one tree with fruits that are totally globular and almost the size of my head. There was a brief moment when we thought maybe a van was going to pass us and could give us a lift, but sadly that didn’t happen. Nicole and Casey quickly outhiked Jordan and myself and we were left trudging up the mountain. Jor hadn’t felt well in the morning, and starting the day with a strenuous hike up a relatively steep road isn’t ideal for her even when she is feeling well. About the time she was starting to feel reallyreally nauseated, a truck came by with some seismologists and they picked us up. I tried to be friendly and engage in the geospeak, but my Spanish is definitely not good enough regardless of all of the nice crossover words and it didn’t work well. We then kept going up the mountain and passed our lovely friends sitting at the half way point, (the guys wouldn’t stop for them) right before it got steeper than any road I’ve been on for the past 20 years. The only one I’ve been on that was steeper isn’t quite a road and involved a glacier (Athabasca) in Canada on a bus with tires bigger than any adult on it. They claimed it was the steepest road in North America, if I’m remembering my 10 year old brain well enough. Nicole and Casey got to walk up with a bunch of university students from Managua and got there after jordan and I had a good long time to rest up. They were completely soaked from the sweating 2 hours after we set out. I have rarely seen shirts that wet that weren’t also involved in some sort of falling water or getting dunked in a lake while canoeing. After they had some downtime, we confirmed for the third time when the bus would be going down the mountain before we set out with our guide. For the most part, I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves, but this “tunnel” was made by lava making its way out of here rapidamente. The vents didn’t smell too much like sulfur, and I’m sad we don’t have a picture of us sticking our hands into a smaller vent that was near the trail. If we had been on our own I definitely wouldn’t have stuck my hand in it, but it was cool, so cool, to put my hand into the earth and have it be warmer and the air was moving out as well. That was cool. Have I mentioned how cool it was? We were thinking it might be nice and cozy for a nighttime animal shelter but our guide says no. The only animal evidence in it was a dead cricket. We saw some Howlers and a chameleon and our guide showed us a plant that pulls its leaves in when you touch it (or when it’s raining). We got some video on Nicole’s camera. Maybe I can figure out how to link to it once we get settled back in. The views were pretty great, even though there was a bit of haze happening over the city. It may be smog, but it also may have been that we were a bit higher than some of the clouds. We were able to see the isletas where we kayaked the next day and learned a bit about how they were formed (ash from one of the more ancient eruptions?). Our guide José was friendly, but I’m sure there is a part of the job that can get boring. Twice a day wandering around with tourists doesn’t exactly appeal to me, though. Climbing up to the communication towers they have on the highest point of the volcán was bit of a trip. On the side you climb up on, it’s all steep stairs made out of lava rocks. Then you get to the high point and there’s your standard wooden platform. Then you go down the backside and there are little buildings for electronics and about 10 towers, complete with guys working on them if it’s not a windy day. It can get pretty fierce up there. On our way down and out, there may have been a swarm of wasps to run through. Casey and José were stung, and there was one I couldn’t get out of jordan’s hair for the longest time, but all in all, a lovely adventure with minimal injury. Turns out it was good that we had asked so often when the bus was leaving because it ended up going a half hour before they said and we were on it. Despite the apparent reversal of jor’s transportation karma (see the blog post from coming back from Nicaragua the first time) it’s not all that awesome that she has to get to the point of actual physical breakdown before the positive karma kicks in. See the post about getting Toast home for further proof of this reversal.

The guide book said that you can’t really do Volcán Masaya and the town of Masaya in one day while using public transportation. Frankly, they’re full of it. There are busses up to Managua every 20 minutes and the transportation up the side of the volcano is on demand (though it costs a little more than a dollar a person). Plus, the park entrance is right on the highway so there’s no 2 km hike to get to it. We couldn’t find Casey once we knew what our plans were so it was just the three of us. Many tourists just go up to the active crater viewing area and then leave. They’re silly. We totally gawked at the steam and particulate coming out of the volcano for a while and then went on a hike around one of the dormant craters (it also goes by two other dormant craters). Though the area near the active crater was windy and reasonable temperature-wise, the hiking was oddly lacking in wind despite the lack of trees to block it. It got hot and sunny. As we were leaving the parking lot they gave us directions and asked us our residence so they could radio ahead that 3 United Statesian girls were on their way around the crater. It would have been fun to go on the cave/bat tour too, but we can’t always do everything and we had plans for the afternoon. There were a couple of spots on the hike that were pretty lacking in trail, and I fell down once, but without any scrapes or bruises. The tree in the foreground of this picture is the national flower of Nicaragua. Funny to a northern girl like me for the tree to be the national flower. I’m used to national trees and national flowers that grow on the ground, but national tree/flowers? I guess. They might have a national tree in addition to this one, and I didn’t catch the name anyway... While we were hiking I made a bird friend that I talked to for a couple of minutes. It might have been a flycatcher of some kind, but I didn’t have my book with me, nor did I check right after we returned from our adventure so by now my visual memory is too far gone.

On the way back from shopping in the Masaya tourist market we stopped at the old hospital and climbed the bell tower at the Iglesia de Merced. It’s super close to our hostel and the same place Jordan and I spent New Year’s Eve watching people get their haircut from (there’s a barber’s kitty corner to the church). The views were great and I’m sure it’s worth the very small 20 cordoba entrance. Way cheaper than the cathedral tower I climbed in Germany years ago, but that one also had more than 71 stairs. The roof picture at the beginning of this post is from that tower, and the volcano glowering in the background is Mombacho.

I’m going to let jordan talk about our trip kayaking on Lake Colcibolca (Lake Nicaragua). If she ever gets over this cold. And I’m not sure which of us is going to eventually write about the harrowing and stressful trip home, but it’ll come, I’m sure.


I consider myself to be a very patient person. As a teacher, I am patient with my students. As a community member, I am patient with other people's ways of doing things. But when I've applied for a job I really want, I am NOT patient. I submitted my application online last night for a middle school librarian job and I'm expecting a response today. Totally unreasonable, yet I still want it. Partly, I want some job security going home, but partly it's just because I haven't gotten to do this work for a while and I'm itching to get back to it. I have loved my time in Costa Rica and have some great memories, but I want to go home. For a few weeks in May, I was feeling like maybe we shouldn't be leaving now. But now that rainy season has started again and I'm getting Massachusetts summer urges, I'm really happy about it. I was dreading our trip to Osa Peninsula also, mostly because we can't really afford it and because I didn't want to do a lot of sitting around when I'm so anxious to get home. So instead, we're going back to Granada, which I LOVED the first time. We'll have more time to do some day trips to volcanoes and kayak through the hundreds of little islands on the lake. And we'll get some last minute gifts for folks too. I occasionally need city time with ethnic food and shopping to offset the rest of my time which I spend rurally. So the city will be fun and we'll take a million pictures this time because we'll have Nicole's camera. Our last big hurrah with Nicole, who we will miss dreadfully.

I finished up my English classes last week. This is a photo of three of my five students and me in my office. I really enjoyed hanging out with them and talking. I got so much better at casual conversations because that was always the first hour of class. I finished with some of my music students when they performed for the open mic coffeehouse or the cabaret. Our cabaret performance pretty much sucked because we didn't practice. Oh well. The kids were awesome. But I still have a few lessons with kids who want to milk every last minute out of me. They are the more dedicated students who are fun anyway. If my work schedule isn't too grueling, I might try to squeeze in some music lessons in Montague because I've enjoyed it a lot. We also had our last contradance on Saturday, which went really well. There were a million kids there in the beginning, so we started with Zodiac. All you Farm & Wilderness folks know what I'm talking about. It was fun and intergenerational. I'm getting Toasty all ready to go home: health certificates, travel documents, ride to the airport, etc. Her plane ticket costs more than mine, but I know she'll be treated well.

I want to make it home before the rain starts, so I'm off. Rain starts early these days.