Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Max Capacity

We arrived in San Marcos, Guatemala, a small town* on the gorgeous Lago de Atitlan (Lake Atitlan) after being in transit for almost 24 hours from Tikal, Guatemala. We had been in three shuttles, an overnight bus, and a boat by the time we put down our bags at a tiny budget hotel. We immediately went in search of food and, after dinner, headed back to the room to collapse from complete exhaustion. It was around 7:30 pm and dark. We were using our headlamp to light the path in front of us and saw several fairly sizeable spiders on walls along the way. I began to acquiant myself with the realization that there would probably be spiders in our room when we returned.

I should pause for a moment to address spiders in general. I don´t like them. I´m scared of them - maybe irrationally. I know they do good things like eat mosquitos and bugs, but I really don´t want them close to me. And I don´t think they belong indoors. They totally gross me out.

But - here´s the rub - I don´t like to kill them. I´d like to say it´s because I feel some gratitude for their spiderly services or apprecation for their worth as God´s creatures. But that´s not it. Killing them requires me to get close to them. So coming upon a spider always presents me with an immediate uncomfortable dilemma. I want the spider gone. Now. But I don´t want to kill it.

Even my family´s penchant for camping didn´t make a difference. I remember once when I was about 13 standing in a campground bathhouse and realizing that a spider was sitting on my shoulder. Flicking it off, while maybe the easiest and quickest response, would have involved touching it. What I clearly deemed the more appropriate response was to scream and hop around wildly while trying to take my sweatshirt off without touching any part of myself with the spider-infested shoulder. Of course, when I got the shirt off, the spider was no long on it, meaning that it could be anywhere. Thus more hopping around and screaming, shaking out my hair, writhing around in the hopes that anything on me would fall off. Ridiculous behavior. But the truth.

Over the years I learned - out of necessity - to kill spiders. Like when I´d find a spider in my room at night while my parents were asleep and would have the good sense not to go wake them up. And then living in my own dorm room and then apartment and having to fend for myself.

But I hate it. I always hate it. I scream and gasp and jump around. My heart beats like crazy. I get hot and flustered and when it´s over, I have to sit and recover myself.

So back to our room in San Marcos.

I entered with resolve. I knew what I had to do - look around, locate the offenders, kill them. Quick and dirty, stiff upper lip and all that.

First one spotted - bigger and closer to the bed than I would´ve liked, but forge ahead I must. Shoe in hand I went towards it. Fast little bugger. it. Maybe. Where did it go?!

Ack! Did it come back to life?! No - that´s another one! Got it!

Breathing.....oh holy lord.

I spotted a big one in the corner by the ceiling. Big. This one would require a chair. And no room for errors. A missed whack could result in a giant spider crawling directly above my head or worse - falling into my hair. Dear God in Heaven, give me strength.

My resolve started to weaken.

I spotted another one close by and killed it. The babe looked concerned. She would just as soon close her eyes and leave the spiders be, but even she had never seen this many in one place. They just kept coming.

Melt. Down.

I stood in the middle of the room holding the killing shoe and a wad of paper and cried. The babe held me and said we could find another place to stay in the morning. I cried harder. How did everyone else staying here deal with this? What was wrong with me? Why did they bother me so much? The babe soothed me as best she could.

I ended up killing 4. The babe killed one. Four others got away, left to roam around the room unchecked. But there was nothing to do. We had to stay the night at least. So, after checking all of the sheets and pillows and blankets, we climbed into the bed. I had a headlamp wrapped around my wrist in case I needed to get up or check anything out. (Turning on the table lamp would have involved groping in the dark for the switch - unacceptable.) We tucked the covers around ourselves and pulled them over our heads as I cried into the babe´s neck. She rubbed my back and told me everything would be okay, and in the midst of my semi-panic, I was grateful to be with someone so understanding.

We slept horribly - both of us. It´s difficult to sleep pressed up against another person with covers tucked all around you. And that doesn´t even take into account the barking dogs or the rooster or the evangelical sermon over loud speaker at 7 am.

But we made it through the night. With some of the previous day´s exhaustion quelled, things looked a bit better in the morning. We decided to stay - mainly because we were in the jungle and were pretty sure that every other place would be the same. But we changed tactics. For the next two nights, we stayed out late - til after 9 - to allow the spiders time to find their evening resting spots. Then we came back and made a bee-line for the bed. No looking around. Just brush the teeth, shake out the pajamas, put them on, and get into bed. Tuck the covers. Fall asleep.

It worked, for the most part. I only had to kill one other spider. But we were glad to leave, glad to get a good night of sleep without fear of spiders. But I also felt sort of proud of myself for pushing through, for going out of my comfort zone. So proud, in fact, that a few nights later in the cloud forest, I happily walked up to one of the guys running our hostel and said, "There´s a really big spider in our room. Would you be willing to come take care of it?"

*I use the term "town" loosely. It´s basically a few hotels and restaurants at a dock.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

I lied

I told you I'd be back tomorrow and here it is 11 days later and I'm just saying hello again. Woops.

I blame life. I've been so busy living, I haven't had a chance to write about it! But I've got a bit of time and an internet connection to at least do some minimal catching up.

In spite of all my complaining about the heat and the wind and the sand, I had a wonderful time in the Outerbanks. The benefit to all that sandy madness was that a two minute walk over the dunes brought us face to face with our own slice of ocean heaven. Maybe not our own exactly, but shared with many fewer people than some of the more popular beaches.*

The Babe taught me to boogie board (or whatever you call it), which opened up a whole new world of oceany goodness. The babe delighted in my squeals of glee every time I caught a big wave and rode it all the way to shore. What had I been missing all these years?? Rather than pining for the lost time, I'm committing myself to a future heavily speckled with boogie boarding!

We left the campground a night early, slightly embarrassed by outr lack of beach ruggedness but desparate for a good night of sleep. The next day we finished the trek to Atlanta and turned over the pimp-mobile to our dear friend K, who was driving back to DC after a summer working in ATL.

We were staying with my mom and her husband and anxiously awaiting the arrival of my sister, home from a year in France. After a horrible delay in Chicago, she made it home to us and much graduation celebration ensued. The sis graduated with highest honors from Ga. Tech, and we marked the event with a cookout.**

After a couple more days of catching up with the sis and some other folks in ATL, we woke up at the crack of dawn, donned our heavy-ass backpacks***, and the sis drove us to the airport to catch our flight to... Guatemala!

* The oddity of this beach was that people could just pull up in their cars, so they formed long rows and then sat down in their beach chairs behind their SUVs. I thought it would be annoying, but it turned out not to bother me at all.

** Where my dad and his wife joined us. I thought it would be incredibly awkward. I haven't experienced a social event with my parents and their respective spouses, but it turned out okay.

*** Well, the babe's isn't that heavy. She's done this whole backpacking thing before and is kindly refraining from shouting "I told you so!" as I realize little by little how many things I brought that I don't actually need and may never wear.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

O-oh! Herro!

So, in case you haven't guessed, the summer jobs (both the public defender and the big firm) took up a little bit of my time. And by little bit of my time, I mean basically ALL of my time. When I wasn't working, I was doing journal stuff - substantiating and working on my note. Of course I had a little bit of time to spend with the Babe and a friend here and there, but it really wasn't that much.

But that's not what we're here to talk about. That's boring. Jobs are hard work, but mine were good as far as summer legal internships go. Hopefully I'll get an offer at the firm, but that's not really worth talking about right now either. What is, you ask?


That's right - I only worked 9 weeks, so I'm partway through FIVE weeks of vacation.
I finished work on Friday, turned in my note for publication on Sunday night, picked up the rental car on Monday morning, and by noon the Babe and I were headed for the Outer Banks in North Carolina. We are apparently the only people on the East coast who have never been, so we were thoroughly looking forward to it.

Side note - we were driving this swanky ride.

Hot. I know.

Our plan - 4 nights at the Oregon Inlet campground, run by the National Park Service. We got in at around 7 and set up our tent right next to some dunes in some ridiculous wind. Thank god we listened to the campground website and stopped to buy extra-long tent stakes. Holy lord. And thank goodness the Babe has a good tent. I've never seen anything like it. Wind wind and more wind.

Note the way the wind is pressing the rain fly up against the tent.

The wind was constant.* Sleeping was a bit of a struggle with the fabric of the tent constantly flapping against itself. No matter how tightly we pulled the tent - and we re-did it several times - flap flap flap. In the end, we left a night early and stayed in a hotel, which was the right decision for a number of reasons.

So it was windy. Everywhere.

Let's re-visit the tent site.

Notice anything missing? Ah, yes.

Trees. No trees. Not a tree in sight. Hardly even any shrubs. Just sand. And grass. And more sand. Blowing at you.

So no trees = no shade. None. The tent was sweltering, and the only relief from the beating sun was to sit in the car with the windows open. And then we thanked god for the white behemoth.

Our first day on the beach, we bought a little tent shelter and spent several hours frantically re-staking it every 20 minutes or so as the stakes were suddenly ripped out of the sand and everything flew around wildly. Eventually we gave up and just sat in the sun. I got burnt.

Tomorrow I'll fill you on the wonderful parts of the trip. That's right. It wasn't all sandy and windy and hot. Well, actually it was. But the ocean itself - Glorious!

*A yearly regular at the campground told us that the wind level was very unusual.

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