Death, Movement and Stillness

This is the last month in which I can say “My dad died last year.” Yup, I’ve thought about that. Usually we count down towards the future in anticipation of something, but I know it has been eighteen months or a year and a half since my dad unexpectedly died; and in one month, it will be farther in my life’s rearview. IMG_2427-3.JPG

Isn’t it strange how we keep track of things according to time? I think so. Only when I stop to count do I realize how long it has actually been. Seriously…think about everything that’s happened in your life in the past year and a half. Pretty crazy, right? I’m utterly amazed at how far I’ve come. I could not have guessed that a year and a half later, I’d be sitting here, on a bus from Puerto Viejo to San José, Costa Rica. I couldn’t have told you that I’d continue moving forward – I mean, of course my only direction would be forward, but in that moment of death on June 7, 2013, my world stood still. I couldn’t have told you that my life of movement was just beginning.

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Constant movement is my thing. My job requires it. My personal life requires it. I require it. And it is during this movement that I am reminded of my dad. I see him in the sunsets, I see him in the stars, I see him in the passing landscape, I see him in fellow travelers, and I see him in my adventures.

One can never anticipate death’s effects. It simply affects you – any time, any place, and while doing absolutely anything. You know what I thought of before bungee jumping 470 feet into the lush, green mountains of Monteverde? My dad. I blocked out everything else, even Christine shouting “I love you, man” and the guys counting down 5-4-3-2-1. It was Monteverde, my dad and me.

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This makes me wonder if I chase that adventure high to feel him or, if in doing so, I am honoring him. I guess it could be both. In experiencing death, I realized I needed to be experiencing life. Again and again, I talk about time. Do we have enough? Or are we not using it wisely? My dad’s life being cut short jolted me alive. I could always be doing more.

I’ve been recognized for my energy – I multitask and am constantly moving. It’s been good and bad in dealing with death. A year and a half later, I am still moving forward and, consequently, am still shocked at how fast I do so. These moments of reflection make time stand still again – I’m back at the hospital, standing next to my dad. And losing him creeps back into my mind again. So I keep moving. Healthy? Ehhhh, not necessarily. Working? Yeah, pretty much.

I keep moving until I’m standing at the edge of a cable car platform, staring down upon the greenery below. And then I jump, spiraling downwards and rebounding upwards. My world literally turned upside down and when I was pulled upright, I was breathing deep because I felt so deeply. I was overwhelmed with emotion. When the cable car returned to solid ground, a fellow bungee jumper noticed that I looked more alive, and damn did I feel more alive.

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The adventure highs I experience when I travel help me to feel my grief. I think they provoke it. In feeling alive, I feel pain. Opposing emotions brought together in the stillness of these moments force me to feel, to grieve. It is because of him that I continue to move forward, to experience and to travel. I am seeing him, feeling him, and honoring him whether he is physically a year and a half away from me or he is spiritually in the very moment closest to me. For me, my dad’s death has cemented my pursuit of movement, travel and newness. What I didn’t realize, however, is that his death has also affected my gratitude for reflection in times of stillness, even when I’ve tried my hardest to propel myself through them.

-KB

Travel is Relative

We received travel vouchers for successfully completing our Peer Mentor internships with API, and we used them to purchase our flights. We booked them in October after continuously searching for flights to anywhere. We decided on Costa Rica because we had heard wonderful things from #hAPI study abroad students – we added Nicaragua in because, why not?

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So, we embarked on a two-week journey to Nicaragua and Costa Rica with an intensely researched, yet loose itinerary. You can only research so much about a place – especially in Central America – before learning that you just have to ask around to find what you need. We wanted a backpacker lifestyle. We wanted spontaneity. We wanted adventure.

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When we told family and friends about our plans, they were shocked at how long our trip would be. “Two weeks, woah! That’s pretty long.” We already knew it wouldn’t be long enough. These qualms were confirmed upon meeting other travelers and backpackers who had been traveling for three weeks, one month, three months, eight months, eighteen months. When asked how long we were traveling for, we shamefully responded with “only two weeks…” For a traveler, this is a tease. Two weeks is barely enough time to get to know one place, much less a few cities spanning two countries. We knew it, but we jumped at the opportunity anyway. Travel is worth it no matter how long.

Back home, two weeks away seems long; but while traveling, it seems short. When I studied in Spain for a year, I felt it wasn’t enough time, but people’s wide-eyed reactions proved different – “A year! That’s so long!”

Time is relative, and it’s all about perspective. Well, everything is relative, and everything is all about perspective. Travel confirms this over and over again. It wakes you up, shakes your senses alive. It puts you in your place, brings gratitude to the forefront. It challenges you, pushes you past your perceived boundaries. Outward movement aligns with inward reflection. Time passes in a much different way when you are conscious of your surroundings and of how you react to them. It is a continuous learning period. Time traveling is time growing.

Stories are some of the most inspiring moments while on the road. It’s not like it was in college, where everyone had more or less the same trajectory up until the previous night, when they may have gone out to a different bar. It’s not like it was while abroad, where other students had more or less the same reason to be living in a foreign country. It’s completely different and unassuming. You start from square one with questions, and open your ears to the most intriguing stories. You can assume nothing and expect everything.

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This is why I am in love with movement. This is why I want a life of travel and adventure. Because I could not live my life in just one place. There are too many buses to catch, too many sunsets to watch, too many cities to appreciate, too many local dishes to taste, too many stories to hear, too many languages to learn and too many people to meet. I want to move forward in life appreciating the time I have to travel, to move and to change, because time is truly all we have.

With wonder and wander,
KB + codea

So. Many. Feelings.

Goooooooood morning Nicaragua. What a pleasure it is to wake up within your borders.

We woke up on top bunks today, to the sun shining in our faces and the sounds of español as the locals greet each other a good morning outside our window.

We’ve been in Managua, Nicaragua, for 12 hours now, and I think we never want to leave. Partly because that’s how we always feel when arriving in a new city, but mostly because food.

Our first meal in Nicaragua was surreal. We exit the gated hostel, follow the receptionist’s directions and end up at El Garabato, heaven. It was serene. It was peaceful. It was relaxing. And then we read the menu. Score: There was everything our cab driver suggested we try.

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Last night we ate a late dinner at a restaurant called El Garabato. We don’t know if we were granted a preview to heaven in the form of a meal, but we think that might be what happened. We followed a path through the restaurant and discovered an incredible patio area in the back. There were Christmas lights and lanterns lining the sky. A quote on the wall that read “En Managua hay un lindo paraje que es todo un ensueño.” (“In Managua there is a beautiful place in which everything is a dream.”)

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And the only words we exchanged were a combination of the following phrases:
Whaaaaaat
Where are we
Is this real life
How did we get here

I think that was all we said in the next fifteen minutes. Then we ordered “Michelada,” Nicaragua’s national drink. The waiter brought us mugs and a bottles of Toña beer. The bottom half inch of the mug contained a mixture of salsa inglesa (Worcestershire sauce), hot sauce, lemon, tomato juice, and peppers. He poured the beer into the mugs and mixed the two around before handing them to us to drink. Kerianne likes hot sauce. Christine does not like hot sauce. Logically: Kerianne likes Michelada. Christine does not like Michelada.

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Next, we ordered something called Caballo Bayo and Queso Fundido. I am not exaggerating when I tell you that you cannot die without trying these two things, especially the first. Caballo Bayo is kind of like a weird version of a fajita. They give you tiny, chip-sized cuts of tortilla, with which you build your own delicious concoction of a baby taco with any (or if you’re like me and Kerianne, all) of the following:
– chorizo
– shredded beef
– fried pork loin
– shredded chicken
– pico de gallo
– hot pickle onions: a yellow, delicious, ridiculously spicy sauce that Kerianne almost died from tasting
– cheese
– sour cream
– cole slaw
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Queso Fundido was a whole other story. Cheese fondue with tomatoes, chorizo, and bell peppers, served with refried beans and cheese. This is all also put inside tiny tortillas.

The waiter left and we spent the next twenty minutes stuffing our faces exchanging these advanced vocabulary words:
Dude
Dude
Dude
What is this
What
Dude
Mmmmmmmm

And then we were full. Of food, of glee, of newness, of life. We knew how lucky we were, to sit there, in the center of Managua, enjoying a classic Nicaraguan meal, and to actually appreciate the meaning behind our being there. Our love for exploring cultures, cuisines, and countries brought us together to show us how important it is to travel, and to try. At one point, I looked up and Kerianne was scooping the cheese fondue and literally talking to it. “Hi guys, how are you doing?” I think I heard the cheese respond, but I don’t want to start making things up. I’ll never be sure though, I think it was all a dream.

Do you ever stop and think, “How did I even get here?” We sure did. We’re in Nicaragua and we have a long (seriously), very long gratitude list. And API tops it. If it weren’t for out crossing of paths in Austin at API Peer Mentor orientation, we wouldn’t be sitting side by side drinking Michelada, digging into Caballo Bayo and affirming our realization that life is about movement.

Wondering | Wandering,
KB & CODEA