Thursday, February 24, 2011

Story up at Women's Adventure Magazine

Boots, Backpacks and....Bears? Oh no. Swing by and check it out! can just listen to this song. It always makes me happy. 

Happy Thursday! 

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Project Do One Thing Every Day That Scares You, Day 3

On Thursday evening British guy and I set off to visit a friend of his who lives about 60 kilometers from Grenoble. Because it was already dusk when we set off, we elected to take the train most of the way there and then cycle the remaining distance to this friend's restored farmhouse near the Vercors. Except I forgot my light and had to cycle in the dark (Very bad idea. Don't do this.) So that was, um, exciting. To say the least.

We spent a lovely evening celebrating the birthday of an adorable little 4-year old girl. Man alive, that girl has got spunk. You can see it in her eyes that she'll never let fear dictate her life. I love it when I can add a 4 year old to my list of inspirational people.

The next morning British guy and I packed our things and set off to ride the 60 kilometers back to Grenoble. Except that he was going over the Vercors and I hadn't brought very warm cycling clothes which meant that the descent would be freezing and I would be a very unhappy camper. British guy however was set on that route so that left me to cycle an alternative route by myself.


Here's what was running through my head:
1. I am going to get lost. I have a terrible sense of direction. Terrible. I would get lost in a paper bag. I honestly don't know how I manage to get anywhere. If I have a map, I'm generally okay but without one...forget it. I'll end up in Spain before I realize I've made a wrong turn.
2. I'm going to get a flat tire and I won't be able to change it. Embarrassing. I'll have to hitch a ride back to Grenoble (hey, it's been done before).
3. I'm going to crash in the middle of some town square in front of everyone (also been done before).

The cop-out option was just to take the train back, but....I decided to take on the challenge. I really wanted to go out for a nice long cycle, and there isn't always going to be someone to go with I went.

And it was beautiful. Spectacularly gorgeous morning, nobody in sight, and crisp cool weather. I stopped at a bakery along the way and picked up a pain au chocolate which I ate alongside the river on the cycle path heading back to Grenoble.

I made good time and felt really empowered for having taken on an adventure that I wanted to do, but had been initially discouraged from taking on because of fear.

Nikki: 3
Fear: 0

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Le Bonnet de Calvin. Because hiking is fun

When British guy asked if I wanted to go hiking with his friend over the weekend, I was intrigued but also apprehensive.

"Is it a technical hike?"

"Yes, 3 or 4 of you will probably die."

"That sounds right up my alley."

"Ok, I sent an e-mail telling him you would get in contact with him."

"Wait, I have to send him an e-mail?"

"Yes, that's the idea."

" French?"

"No, Chinese."

Making dry witty comments seems to be a British national past time.

After stalling for two days I finally worked up the courage to e-mail British guy's friend. You can read about that here.

If I'd known that I was going to have to wake up at 6:00 am, I might not have signed up. Luckily I didn't know that until it was too late to back out. I'm not really a morning person. Or a night person for that matter. I'm more of a middle of the day person.

At 6:00 am I leapt out of bed, excited to start the day. Haha. Yeah right. I hit the snooze button about four times on both of the (count 'em two) alarms that I set. Then I rolled out of bed and proceeded to put my underwear on backwards and my t-shirt on inside out. I'm still working on this whole getting dressed thing.

I staggered out of the apartment with my thermos of tea and made my way onto the tram heading toward the university to meet the rest of the group.

We hiked up to the top of this mountain. It has a name. A very good French name....that I cannot remember. (Edit: I've just been informed that it's Le Bonnet de Calvin. I knew that.)

Wait...we're going up there?! Let me look at the map!

Looking for Mens? Look no further. Ha. Ha. Incidentally I was the only one in the group who found this funny. Where's another native English speaker when you need one?

Some encouragement along the way....

View from just below the summit.

 The last climb up to the summit.

Almost there...

The view.

More view.

The beginning of the descent. The more conventional members of the group elected to walk down. But who wants to be conventional when the alternative is a homemade sled? Yeah. Me neither.

Oh. Sorry. I thought this was the photo shoot for the cover of Outside Magazine.


Should I stop posing now?

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Project Do One Thing Every Day That Scares You, Day 2

Yesterday's challenge was to send an e-mail in French to sign up for a potentially uncomfortably awkward social situation. I sent my e-mail, and then rewarded myself with an Oreo. I'm big on self-rewarding. Especially with Oreos. By 8:30 pm I still hadn't heard anything, and thought maybe the hike had been cancelled or there was no more space left, and that I would be off the hook. But then I received this e-mail:

Ok pour toi. Par contre, le rdv est avancé à 7h30 au local de l'ESMUG, vers la piscine universitaire.
Tu vois où c'est?
Si problème téléphone moi
<---(HAHA. Telephone someone. In French. That's funny)

In case you didn't get that, it basically translates to: Ok for you to come. Meet at 7:30

Half excitement and half apprehension, I packed my stuff and set my alarm clock for 6:00 am (gulp).

Which leads me to today's one thing that scares me: go hiking with a group of people I'd never met before AND be required to speak French the entire time. Does that count for two? I think it should. No? Fine.

Here's why it scared me:

1. I'd have to get up at 6:00 am. Just kidding. Sort of.
2. I would have to speak French. The potential for making an idiot of myself substantially increases when I'm required to speak French.

And aside from a minor fear of falling to my death, that was it really.

Hm. Interesting that my fear of speaking French seems to supersede my fear of falling to my death.

I'll write about it in more detail tomorrow, but facing up to my anxiety paid off. I had an amazing time with some great people, enjoyed France's spectacular mountains, and stumbled my way through enough French to satisfy myself that yes, it is slow going, but I am learning a lot.

So today's tally is:
Me: 2
Fear: 0

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Project Do One Thing Every Day That Scares You

Do one thing every day that scares you. -Eleanor Roosevelt

Truth be told, I'm afraid of most things. There's your standard fears: flying, heights, spiders, death. You know, the usual. Then there are my own personal fears....falling while cycling, falling while skiing, falling while climbing, just generally falling, making mistakes,  calling people, social situations, people judging me, speaking a language that isn't my own, not doing anything meaningful with my life, not being intelligent enough, good enough to do anything worthwhile. I battle with it constantly. Some days I'm more victorious than others. Small victories really. Other days I feel like staying in bed safely under my covers. Other people live safe lives. Why can't I? Because I'm afraid not to take risks...afraid that if I don't face up to my fears I will "face my death with the realization that I have not lived." (Thoreau)

So. I've decided to do one thing every day that scares me. Nothing new, I know. But I'm going to blog about it. See what happens. Document the process. Maybe it will be depressing, maybe it will be enlightening. One thing is for sure though and that's that it will definitely be entertaining.

Let's get this show started.

Today I have to write an e-mail in French to sign up for a hike that is taking place tomorrow. See, British guy has gone skiing with his friends on a trip that is way beyond my skiing level. To prevent me from sitting on the couch all weekend eating cheese and watching reruns of Friends, he got in contact with a friend of his who is part of a mountaineering club. The mountaineering club is going on a hike tomorrow and British guy asked if I could tag along. Now all I have to do is write and say that I do want to go and arrange a time to be picked up. That's the situation, and this is what it makes me want to do:

Please note: I did not do this to the cat (Oddball is his name). He wedged himself in-between the two pillows. Probably because he had to write something in French and would really have preferred to sit on the couch watching reruns of Friends. 

Here are the things I'm afraid of:
1. Potentially awkward social situation. I don't know any of these people.
2. Writing an e-mail in French. My command of the French language is shaky at best. Sure, I've improved a lot over the last few months, but I still feel like a complete idiot whenever I try to write/say anything. I could write in English, but that's sort of copping out isn't it?
3. Tomorrow I will have to speak French. All day. With people I don't know. It will be full of extreme awkwardness.

Cop-out option:
Don't write the e-mail and stay home instead.

Why I don't like that option: It's lame. I want to go hiking.

Ok. On-y-va.

I just sent an e-mail in the most rudimentary French EVER saying that I would like to go tomorrow.

I'll let you know how it goes. Funny how empowering doing such a small thing can be. I know most people don't think twice about these sorts of thing, but when you're afraid....something inconsequential often seems impossible.

Here's the recap:

  • Time it took to getting around to sending e-mail: 2 days
  • Time it took to actually write one-line e-mail: 5 minutes
  • Time it took to work up the courage to send one-line e-mail: 15 minutes

Thursday, February 10, 2011

My Cycling Saga Continued...

Today as I was comfortably plowing my way through a bag of cashews (I acknowledge that I have a problem) and trying to figure out what I was going to eat for lunch, British guy suggested that we take advantage of the warm, sunny weather by going cycling.

My initial response is less than enthusiastic. I flop myself on the bed as he begins to assemble his cycling gear.

"Where exactly are you going to cycle?"

"By the university. In the sun."

"Are there a lot of hills?

"There's one climb, yes."

"Is it a big climb? How steep is it?"

"Not as steep as Alpe d'Huez."

"That's like saying the Sahara isn't as hot as hell."

"It isn't?"

"How long are you going to go for?"

"An hour or so."

"How fast are you going to go? Is there going to be a lot of traffic? What are the road conditions like? How cold will it be? Are you going to eat lunch before or after? What are you going to wear?"

This is what I sound like when I am attempting to gauge the likelihood of a) sheer mind-numbing exhaustion; b) dramatic and humiliating crash in the town square; and c) death.

You'd ask a lot of questions too.

British guy pulls my bike out of the gear room. (Yes, we have a gear room.)

"Why don't you just put your bike together and get your cycling clothes on."

Heaving a dramatic sigh, I grab my cycling shorts and try my best to re-assemble my bike before British guy rolls his eyes and takes over. I'm not very good at that sort of thing.

The last time I had to put my bike together, I asked British guy if it mattered which tires went in the front and which went in the back. If you don't get this at first, go find a bike. See the chain? See the tire with the cassette on it? (I just want you all to know that I just googled: "What is the thing called on a bike that the chain goes on." It's a cassette). Anyway, turns out it does matter. Who would've thought? (Probably anyone with a functioning brain....)

British guy replaced my pedals because if you will read here, you will see that I've had a bit of trouble with the new pedals I purchased. I fell over last week because I couldn't unclip in time. Luckily I'm used to this sort of excruciating embarrassment and it didn't phase me. But British guy replaced my pedals anyway.

After getting ourselves sorted (re: British guy assembles my bike) we ride out past the university and along the river, the mountains rising up in all directions and the rolling hills speckled with church steeples and farmhouses. We veer off of the river path and cycle through a small town before we begin climbing. British guy surges ahead. We've reached a tacit agreement that he goes on ahead because it is physically impossible for him to cycle as slowly as I do and I don't want to get myself all sweaty cycling as fast as he does. Just kidding. There are no steroids known to man that would enable me to keep up with British guy. I've looked into it.

Occasionally the silence around me is broken by cyclists overtaking me or zooming downhill, giving a quick nod and a sharp Bonjour before whizzing around the corner and out of sight. I wonder why on Earth these people are out for a ride at 1:00pm on a weekday. Don't they have jobs? Maybe they're bloggers.

And then the silence returns. The cityscape falls away as I climb and I can see Grenoble spreading out beneath me. My heart turns into a gooey mess. Grenoble does that to me. The sound of my own breathing is echoing in my ears, my heart is racing from the exertion and my legs are tired from a week of hard workouts. Church bells clang from somewhere above me and occasionally I hear a cow lowing. A small dog waits in the shadows of an old farmhouse before suddenly deciding that I am threatening. He runs after me barking excitedly at my rear tire.

Up above I can see a red dot moving quickly down the road. It's British guy descending. I stop my bike on the side of the road, managing to successfully unclip from my pedals instead of my usual method of wobbling to a halt and then slowly falling over into the grass. My life is essentially a testament to The Three Stooges or [insert any slap-stick comedy where actors repeatedly walk into things, fall over, hurt themselves, etc].

Due to a little thing I like to call gravity,
 this is usually what happens when I get on my bike

I consider myself lucky that British guy finds this amusing. Whenever I bite my lip and wobble unsteadily downhill on my bike with a death-grip on my brakes and a less than orthodox technique, British guy gives me a few pointers, but mostly I think he finds the whole business entertaining.

Today on the ride back home along the river, British guy tries (again) to teach me how to draft. I've gotten to the point of just barely being able to keep up with his "easy" pace, but I am so scared of getting too close and causing a crash that instead of being inches away from his rear wheel, I'm usually at least two feet away and thereby defeating the entire purpose of drafting.

"You'll get it eventually," British guy reassures me.

Yeah. Right. Watch out Lance...

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Friday, February 4, 2011

Retail Therapy: Men in Tights (tight tights)

"I'm going to a yoga retreat this weekend. In the Redwood forest"

He smiles shyly, and my heart warms to this tall, lanky man with a frizzy beard and a thin grey ponytail who has just stepped into this small outdoor retail shop situated in the heart of California's notoriously eccentric Humboldt County.

"I know that it's short notice, but I'm leaving tomorrow and I really need some appropriate clothing for the retreat. Do you have men's yoga clothing?"


I trail off. I don't want to disappoint him, but the truth is that while we stock a wide variety of women's yoga clothing, there isn't much in the way for men.

I head to the men's section of the clothing department and start pulling climbing pants off the rack.

"These aren't specifically designed for yoga, but since they have a loose fitting cut and a gusseted crotch, they should work just fine."

But he isn't paying attention to me. Halfheartedly pulling at the leg of the pair of pants I'm holding up, his eyes are roving the women's section of the clothing department. Dropping the pants he walks to the women's sale rack and grabs a pair of extra-small lilac Patagonia tights.

"These. These will work perfectly!"

His eyes light up as he circles the rack excitedly, pushing hangers from side to side. Pulling a matching flower print tank top with a built-in bra from its hanger, he turns to me. "I'll try these on. Can you please unlock the dressing room?"


Faltering, I glance around desperately for my manager, but she's nowhere in sight.

"These pieces are a lovely selection and perfect for yoga, but I'm concerned that perhaps they are not the correct size for you."

He mulls over my diplomatic attempts.

"So, you think I should grab a small too? Just in case?"

"Is there an extra-large?"

"Oh, I think that will be too big. I need this to be very close-fitting. It's for yoga."

Reluctantly, I turn to grab the keys for the dressing room and he slips in to try his selections on.

Out of morbid curiosity I hover nearby. I can hear the seams splitting one by one as he stuffs himself into tights that would be difficult for my 5'2" frame to slip into.

There is a tapping from the inside of the dressing room. "Miss?"

I freeze.

The door creaks open and he pokes his head out. "Can I get your opinion?"

And suddenly there he is in full form sporting lilac tights that he has not quite managed to get over his hips and a matching floral tank top that stops just below his chest.

He circles hesitantly.

I stare back just as hesitantly.

"I'm just not sure about this. I think it would be better if it were a one-piece, don't you?"

"Undoubtedly, sir."

"Do you have any leotards?"

"I'm afraid not. We're primarily a climbing and backpacking shop, but there is a dance store just down the road. They might have what you're looking for."

"Oh! I hadn't thought of that. I'll go there next. Thank you. It's too bad because I love this floral print. What's the company? Patagonia? You should tell them to consider making leotards with this print."

"I'll tell them."

I watch him walk down the street before turning my attention to the ruined tights. Filling out the "defective merchandise" form, I hesitate momentarily above the line "Why is this product being returned?"

Customer insisted on trying them on despite being obviously too large for said tights. Suggests that Patagonia design men's leotard in this print.


Humboldt County 

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Cheese + A Few Words

Whenever I reach for the cheese at various dinner tables across France, people look at me quizzically, even a little incredulously. " are American. Americans don't eat good French cheese. You eat [insert look of utter disdain and contempt] cheddar."

Au contraire mes amis, au contraire. I mean, we do eat cheddar (and good cheddar is delicious), but we love other cheese too. At least, in California we do. I snapped these photos in a Bay Area grocery store the last time I was home.

Mmmm, cheese.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...