Archive | Uncategorized RSS feed for this section

New Year, Old Zealand (lots of pictures)

1 Jan

Timeline: Very end of December

After a layover in China gone awry (due to the budget flight and midnight being a difficult time of day to figure out), I felt like I’d experienced China. And while I didn’t leave the airport – I feel as though this trip gets an honorable mention.

December 30th:
Once again, Rachel and I landed in New Zealand. Where we, once again rented a car from Scotty’s.

In the morning, when we were still being healthy, we used booty bands and then criss crossed all across the northern island in our Tilda (that’s a car brand) when, exactly when we wanted to, on December 31st, we ended up in Gisborne, at the Rhythm and Vines festival.

D56E4A96-06B8-452E-993E-75CCE7083D7E

New phone camera making all the difference.

 

After a memorable walk from our campground to the EDM event, we couldn’t help but notice…Christian rock on the main stage. 

 

C9C9EF84-02AB-429D-B56D-23CC571F0681

She’s not born again.

 

20ABDBD8-2206-4A91-A3FB-20B036C7FE77

Here for it.

 

E7FF643F-19DA-4601-A3FC-F50D4C8DAD51

Rockin’ out.

 

All too soon the sun starting going down and during our final sunset of 2019 celebrations, we met Carla and her husband.

79296257-FF2B-4905-97F4-BE24A13F3252

My last sunset of the decade.

 

78284E9D-A42B-477D-AC7C-D95DF8865139

Girls will be girls

 

…and eventually found the wellness tent. Which was my favorite thing because, duh, I like wellness.

They had a life sized chess board inside!

A07760E9-7A33-488F-95F2-445F2C921229

Meet Nico, a formidable opponent.


Nico is from Chile and goes heavy on the playful, challenging banter with gems such as “I’ll burn you with my coolness.”  
We played for a joyful hour. It was my favorite thing we did all night; a great match but in the end, I did get burned with his coolness; I lost.  The 2019 chess champ was Nico. There, I said it in writing.

 

37FFE473-8517-40E7-A1FB-BE653F3A36BA

The countdown (twice).

 

06BF3DE9-FEEE-4B02-BCB0-8AA68A0A840C

Last photo of 2019

1am was bed time. It was home sweet bach for me and Rae ❤️

 

January 1st, 5am: The alarm went off and Rachel and I headed to the beach to see the absolute first sunrise of this decade. It was breath taking:

 

C59E5E77-399D-4A19-B2F4-857EF886FF82

 

12DE9FEE-0145-4E37-A5FD-07B3A68E510D

 

2970229F-24FB-4E43-BBBC-3EC8B99E2797

 

A0BB5CD5-390A-473B-B523-7C04E40C8FEF

Is that 20/20 vision, 4 eyes?

magical,
’mi

2019

30 Dec

Friends. Family. Strangers. It’s that time again… a new year.  Not just a new year, a new decade

 

IMG_3750

2 out of the 3 Travi

 

img_7253

a dream in the dreamflat


I spent the first 8 months of 2019
 soaking up joy with my best friends (before spending the rest of the year working non-stop).

 

IMG_1089.jpg

Colling in love

 

I maintained my resolution to travel less, visiting 12 united states:

 

  1. Pennsylvania (shout out to The National Dog Show)
  2. Wisconsin (twice because COLLEEN HAD BEA)
  3. Washington — Hi Patrick
  4. Oregon
  5. California
  6. New York
  7. Massachuestts (twice)
  8. Kentucky
  9. Minnesota
  10. Nevada (I’m talkin’ Vegas for a movie premier
  11. Ohio

And
   12.  Nashville, Tennessee

 

And (only) 6 countries:

  1. United States
  2. The north island of New Zealand (with a dozen blog posts)
  3. Guatemala…more like Guatabena
  4. Ethiopia  — a dream-thiopia
  5. Djibuti — bonus country

And

    6.  Togo — solo 

 

If you’re curious, here’s the link to a compiled list of (almost) all of the countries I’ve ever been to:
https://sammitravis.com/2019/01/29/all-the-countries-ive-visited/

 

Other notable 2019 moments:
Or, two-thousand-note-teen moments:

  • When the whole gang got together — all of my besties in one place — EVEN KATIE BARBARO who surprised me by coming back from her world tour — to go to the Furries where “It’s lit! What do you want me to do? It’s lit!”, I was gifted a full fursuit and, for the first time ever, I walked in the parade 😻
  • An INCREDIBLE May 
  • 32, celebrating with best friends I adore
  • Harder months like August and September when the people closest to me moved, forever changing my experience in Pittsburgh. 
  • And a magical Christmas where I celebrated the holiday (for what felt like the first time) as an adult.

 

Now? Onto 2020. I’ll be ringing in the new year in New Zealand. Rachel and I will watch the first sunrise of the upcoming decade over the ocean — from our home sweet bach.

 

 

IMG_3604.jpg

Raising a cup of hot miso soup to another year.


AdventureSam is currently in Shanghai, China on a layover, so if you’re reading this in North America, she’s basically writing this from the future.

 

Taking off,
‘mi

 

img_1597.jpg

September slump

30 Sep

September was bound to be hard.

I spent most days coming home to an empty house — to a dreamflat that no longer housed my best friend or my boyfriend.  I am proud of them both for moving to follow their dreams, but it’s difficult to miss someone; it’s painful.

I threw myself into work. I worked all the time which was bittersweet.  It is fun to make money, but the atmosphere’s so loud and pulsing. It’s fake, exhausting, and repetitive. To smile so much, to deal with rejection from people I don’t even like, and to interact with others who want to take and take was emotionally draining.  Not to mention having to shower twice a day.  In September, I woke up still tired.  I do love my job but burn out happened quickly.

It was hard to get recharged.  There was no-one to come home to. Sometimes, after work, I would just lay on the floor because I was too tired to shower, but too filthy to get into bed; a different perspective of the same room.

IMG_2992.jpg

Dream flat from the floor.

 

I needed to find something fulfilling to do with my days. I turned to blog writing, but I was just reliving the past to where it felt like the world was becoming smaller; the universe was reducing possibilities until all that was left was sustenance.  I learned to never (ever) write as many blogs about one country as I did for New Zealand.

I thought about reading or free writing about the future instead of the past. But the days in September were a grind– the white noise of contemporary American life.

I spent a lot of time Face-timing, especially Col. He told me he was sleeping in his “office bed,” and that only when we are together does it feel like home.  I agreed and spent September in my own office bed (or office floor).  I made a few solo Blue Apron meals until I canceled them, went to the gym, and spent heaps of time cleaning (the laundry room got a great wipe down).  I did grown up things like visit the dermatologist and took my car for a much-needed check-up.  Mouse sounded as horrible as I felt.  And the dreamflat porch was in absolute shambles.  Literally falling apart.  I rent, so it’s okay, but my house’s outsides matched my insides. 

 


 

Woe is me.
But the month wasn’t
all bad. Even though the dream flat was lonely, the stove got fixed and is no longer tilting backwards.  A small victory.

I still spent lots of Friday afternoons having lunch with wee Emily, which was joyful.  One time I got to see her use her hair as a hand towel. Apryl, Erin, and Laura also made casual appearances. Em and I were making our way around the fountain clock.  During one lunch, we went to a place where “everything here is fried.”

That night, wee Emily invited me to see Matteo Lane in the Southside, and, since I was a flight risk, Emily graciously spent the whole day with me to make sure I wouldn’t bail. ❤ Good friend.  The show was fantastic.  After, we all went out for a drink and talked about TINP as a tattoo —  “cus I’m a T.I.N.P”.

 

Some more good September Standouts include:
-A super fun hang with Trisha and Joe!
-Lunch with Momma Candy and Angie
-Collin asking me for notes on his sets ❤
-That one day at work where all my favorites were there (briefly).
-Mine and Col’s longest scooter ride to date
-Dessert at the farmers market with fresh figs
-Crazy nights at work with rich people, including a food tab that I got part of to go
-A sleep over with my mom plus thrift store shopping, leftovers, and Tilapi-yum 
-Pumpkins
-A new kind of face mask
-My skinned knees healed
Patrick graciously ushered me into his fantasy football league.  

 

IMG_3035.jpg

Friends 🙂

 

I also saw Col in person!  We went to 7 Springs where I helped him with a mic swap. He said it was his best trip there yet #honored. Although, he also said that the last time he was there they put a dead skunk in his room, so it wasn’t exactly a tough competition.

We went for a fun hike on the Watercress trail and asked for directions at the start.  There was also bath time and a memorable moment when someone forgot their girlfriend’s name (it wasn’t Collin).  The next morning we enjoyed our free breakfast tickets with a fantastic spread (including imposter whipped cream).

IMG_3004.jpg

Giving them pumpkin’ to talk about.

 

IMG_3005.jpg

I can’t believe IT IS butter.

 

One Thursday, while Collin was in Pittsburgh, we caught a 10pm movie — our first movie in theaters together. We were the only ones in that entire show and there was so much LOVE and genuine kindness between the two of us (#always). We ordered kettle corn with butter (both a game-changer and a night-ruiner), cherry coke, and hazelnut M&Ms, which we enjoyed from the comfort of one single reclining chair.

The next day, we celebrated Hanna’s “birthday” (read: free dessert).  It was fried ice cream, there was a Pilsbury doughboy moment, and ice cream was everywhere.  Happens to the best of us on our birthdays!

Collin and I also drove up for a quick trip to Cleveland, Ohio for a crowd work show. We listened to Audible on the way and I got to see my dear friend Andy.

 

IMG_3110.jpg

Pro tip: boyfriends who keep you laughing

 

At the end of the month, some trees started to change colors – becoming a vibrant red depending on, what seems like, their trees personalities #Treesonalities.
A silver lining to a less than great month? It’s going to be a gorgeous fall.

 

IMG_3080.jpg

Col ‘planting’ himself in my living room.

 

I’ll leave you with some contemplative words, ‘cus it was that kind of month:

 

“As I’m aging, the bliss of the novel gives way to a yearning for the familiar. I leaned to travel when I felt it. And I still do feel it. But less now.  Every journey has its end. The trick, of course, is to recognize it.” – J Maartin.

 

But all joking aside, even though I’m not joking.
Going to therapy soon — you guys need anything?
‘mi

Trippin’ with Molly

8 Sep

Molly and I missed each other, so we decided to take a trip together because that is truly the natural course of action. Since we do, also, like other people, we decided to make it a solo trip that involved others along the way (semi-solo trip).

IMG_2032.jpg

Oh, heyyyyyy!

 

To kick it off, I flew to Minnesota for a gorgeous stay in her childhood home. It felt like we were in a treehouse during a rainstorm AND we got to hang out with her parents, Betsy and Dooey.  I played tennis with Dooey who figuratively and literally schooled me (once he beat me, he graciously gave me lessons on serving). 

We also visited with cousin Lainey and her two wonderful children, during which time, I, as per Collin’s Theory*, re-decided I would like to have 5 children of my own.

*Collin’s Theory: Scientifically based, mathematical, foolproof formula which proposes that every time I see well-behaved children I want some of my own. 

(Sammi + Well-behaved Child = yes please, I’ll take 5)

After seeing my future, Molly and I went to go get froyo at a place called Cherry Berry, which sounded more like a chapstick flavor than a name for a froyo place (or any kind of eatery). We didn’t get cherry or berry flavor, and we also avoided the cotton candy flavor because PRO TIP: If you get cotton candy flavor, no matter what your second flavor is, it’ll also taste like cotton candy (note: this rule also applies if you just get cotton candy flavor and no 2nd flavor but who would do that?).

Unbeknownst to us until it was happening, we took our froyo to the corner of a busy intersection and danced on the side of the road while we ate it. #LivingOurBestLives

And maybe it was because we were cold from the froyo, or maybe just because it’s a great froyo pairing, we got some matching socks from Target after finishing our treat. Afterwards, we went to see a movie, but first I “buried the lead”  in the one we chose not to see. The movie that we DID see was that Bruce Springstein one called Blinded by the Light. When the credits rolled, we whispered, “Do you like Bruce’s music more or less after that..?” 

The next day, we took a family visit to the cemetery and then Mol and I rented a small car for our roadtrip. Where they tried to give us an “upgrade, a bigger car using more fuel?? NO THX. 

In the car, we talked about things you say as you hang up the phone to prove your integrity (i.e., “She’s such a nice girl,” but before the phone is put down). Unrelated, Molly told me that “the Jewish part of me is a boy”.

Car ride mood:  Sorry, I can’t hear you over the same Bruce Springstein song.

The first stop on our road trip was Culvers.  We got some custard and butter burgers and then….. The next stop was La Crosse, Wisconsin to MEET BABY BEA!!!!!!!

 

IMG_1877.jpg

When Bea met Sammi.

 

 

 

IMG_1884.jpg

Sammi + Well-behaved baby Bea = yes, please, I’ll take 5+5

 

Now I want 10 babies!!!!  Bea is the most perfect baby I have ever met. I love her!  She has that sparkle  — you can tell how special she is!  And while Bea was the star of the show, we were also there to hang out with Bea’s mom aka my best friend aka Colleen aka Col.

We stayed at Colleen’s house and had dinner with Colleen, Ben, and Bea. We’d brought Colleen the coolest, sensitive plant (#wewereobsessed) that curled up for the night. And for dessert, we’d brought froyo (BYOFROYO). While distributing dessert, we found out that Ben’s first job was at Cold Stone, so he flavor-profiled our choices and added graham crackers to the table to make our froyo experience more decadent.  Yum!

It was such a fun night, and later at bedtime, I talked to Col (but boyfriend Col, not Mama Col) over the phone and belly laughed until I cried.

IMG_1936.jpg

Bea wearing a BEE shirt?! Are you kidding me!?!!!

 

IMG_1959.jpg

3 Peas in a Pod.

 

The next day, we did role reversal and instead of 3 men and a baby, we performed 3 women and a baby (and Buffy) as we drove to see Colleen’s mom, Mary, at the lakehouse. 

 

IMG_1830.jpg

#SquadGoals

 

We hung out at the house for a while, I got to chat with Mary’s husband, Paul, and get a tour of the new, awesome garage (con-garage-ulations!).  Mary graciously watched Bea while Molly, Col, and I went kayaking on the lake. We didn’t get very far, but we had tons of fun and shared stories about other water experiences. We wanted to talk (and succeeded) but at the expense of coordinated kayaking; we ran into each other for the sake of good conversation.

After our amazing visit with Mary and Paul, we drove Colleen, Bea, and Buffy back to Col’s house and said our “see you laters.”

…And then Molly and I were back on the road!  We stopped in Madison to pick up a new backpack for Molly, which she wore like a second skin.  I was so excited to be there for the moment #LoveAtFirstZip.


We had way more time than we realized in Milwaukee, which, we discovered “seemed like a city with no money but had personality.” -Molly-waukee.

We learned that Megan the Stallion was playing.  We didn’t hear her show but we did see all of her fans dressed up just how we like ‘em.

 

The next morning, we had a great food order:

IMG_1973.jpg

A feast for our eyes!

 

Followed by a Lime scooter ride that took all of my concentration.  Not featured in this video— the lake.

https://youtu.be/u-frqhLKRCo

Finally, before heading to the airport, Molly and I found the best cream (seriously) and returned the rental.  Once at the airport (here we come, VEGAS), we sipped on some strong coconut water while I read a lengthy Taylor Swift article.

We got picked up in Sin City by Zach, a friend and the producer of The Ringmaster– a movie that Molly had co-directed with her boyfriend, Dave — AND, the movie we were in Vegas to see premier!!! (Hi Zach!)

 

IMG_3203.jpg

Hangin with the (film) crew

 

Zach was so nice!  We stayed at his house (THANKS, ZACH) — and said “never mind” to the Airbnb we’d booked.  

On Friday, we visited Puppy Town (wondered if the Chinese restaurant next door eats them after they grow up). We lied– or maybe told half-truths– in order to play with the puppies. I said I wanted two because you had to say you were going to buy one if you want to play with them. The truth is, I really do want two…

 

IMG_2725.jpg

Sammi+ well-behaved puppy = yes, please, I’ll take 2.

 

 

The next day, we prepared for the premier by eating a breakfast of champions at a diner named Blueberry Hill. In honor of the name, we got a blueberry muffin, amongst other things.

 

IMG_2004.jpg

The perfect order, if we do say so ourselves.

 

That afternoon, Molly’s boyfriend Dave, aka the co-director, drove in from LA with our friend Chris to meet us for the premier. (Hi Dave and Chris! See you soon :))

And that night, we headed to the Cinemark movie theater where they were holding the Silver State Film Festival!!

 

 

IMG_2034.jpg

On the way!

 

Before the Vegas showing, the Ringmaster had one other premier in New York, where it did really well. There’d be another one in Ohio, where I’d go and meet Zach, and then another one in LA and two in Minneapolis. QUITE a well-traveled movie.

Anyways, this Saturday night premier was SO COOL. It was at The Orleans hotel and had a red carpet!

unnamed.jpg

Honored to be part of the entourage– #Hontorage

 

The Cinemark theater was nice —  it had reclining seats AND sold popcorn.  The candy that we snuck in was a big hit, but not as big as the movie, which WON THE AUDIENCE AWARD FOR BEST DOCUMENTARY AT THE SILVER STATE FILM FESTIVAL. NO BIG DEAL.

 

IMG_2752.jpg

And so it begins…

 

After the movie, Chris and I had a hankering for onion rings (Zach, Molly, and Dave weren’t affected anymore since they’ve eaten the best ones in the world). So we all went downstairs to Friday’s (the American embassy) to grab some grub.

The next morning, Molly and I went with Pace for a solo run (to work off those onion rings) and then had a hang while we waited for everyone to wake up so that we could go for all-you-can-eat sushi. I wandered away briefly, tried to keep it together, and then ate all I could eat.

The group then headed to Planet 13! And we happened to see the drones but then later found ourselves in another celestial realm– the COOLEST (biggest) gem shop ever!  It was amazing– the colors, the temperature, the textures!  Everything about those crystals was mesmerizing.

 

58967332770__297C5634-B90B-4F57-BA6A-9BF15E12A2A0.jpg

After staring for so long, this crystal was like, “Take a picture, it’ll last longer.” So I did.

 

I felt like being impressed some more…so it was suggested that we go and visit some dolphins. Everyone was down, because… who wouldn’t be?  It was a great idea-olphin!

When we pulled up at the hotel, I knew JUST how to help. Still strapped in with a seatbelt, I opened my car door and yelled (to the valet):  “WHERE ARE THE DOLPHINS?!”

 

IMG_2090.jpg

…more like DolphFUN

 

Here’s what I learned:  Dolphins are a matriarchal society, and that in this particular aquarium, they have 15 dolphins and over 50 staff.  We saw a baby, a momma, and a grandmother.

While we were there, we also saw a human girl who had a relationship with each individual dolphin, a biblical Siegfried and Roy making a tablet proclaiming they were Noah (weird) and a couple of actual lions (beautiful). 

Beyond the movie premier, the aquarium was a highlight. And so were the gems (I’m referring both to the crystals and my wonderful friends).

For dinner, we went to a DELICIOUS vegan restaurant because after watching the dolphins how could we not think that fish are friends.  The meal was out of this world good. Chef Kenny prepared spicy crispy “scallops,” “sea bass,” and a magical sushi “steak” roll.

 

IMG_2952.jpg

Dave & Chef Kenny

 

It was an all-you-can-eat kind of day. So we did it twice.

At the end of the trip, we said our goodbyes, and I thanked Zach PROFUSELY for everything he’d done and all his hospitality!! (THANKS AGAIN, ZACH)! And I headed back home, where Collin picked me up.

When my hunny had dropped me off at the airport, he said he wouldn’t finish the water bottle I’d given him until I was back with him.  I didn’t think of it again until I landed and he reminded me about what he’d said…before he finished it right then and there.

My flight was an overnight one…and I slept zero winks.  It is so exciting to go away and it is so exciting to come home.  I landed at 7am and took a nap in Collin’s arms.

Thank you to Molly, Col, and Zach for a wonderful trip!

Ringmaster ‘mi

August

31 Aug

By the time I got back from Togo (oh, didn’t I tell you? I went to Togo), it was the middle of August. I’d returned to the Dream Flat, which Helen had left in spectacular shape before she left… (*sobs quietly…or loudly*). While I’d been in Ethiopia, Collin had also signed a lease in New York and would be officially moving at the beginning of September. Times, they are a’changin. 

BUT my wonderful boyfriend was there when I landed back in the USA.   He picked me up from the airport with a bouquet of roses and a whole day to spend together. There was kettle corn, vegan chocolate, and a Blue Apron steak and gnocchi involved — A wonderful homecoming.

img_2542-1

In love-thiopia

 

Facebook official: In a relationship with Collin ❤

 

IMG_2473.jpg

Dream flat still lookin’ like a dream

 

Because Col knew I would be coming back to an empty dream flat (read: without Helen), he often filled the space by hand-delivering gorgeous bouquets of flowers to cheer me up.

In fact, he cheered me up all month — we spent the latter half of August going on cool dates and doing what we love the most– cooking Blue Apron at home.  While I was in Africa, I’d been craving Blue Apron so much that whenever I got a spot of good wifi, I would look up pictures of the food Blue Apron was offering… I’m not addicted, I swear.

 

IMG_2375.jpg

The best we ever had.

 

When we weren’t stuffing our faces with Blue Apron at home (and even when we were), we went on the best dates, including one Sunday where the whole day was a date…a Sundate. We started with yoga day at PNC Park where we stretched in the sun, admired our beautiful city, and snuck a kiss on the Pirate’s soft, green baseball field.

 

IMG_2486.jpg

Oms in the Outfield

 

After yoga, we went to the free piano day in downtown Pittsburgh where wonderful pianist professionals played four huge grand pianos. It was glorious! After listening to lots of music, we were inclined to make some music of our own…and popped into FI.2 to wet our whistles.

 

IMG_2487.jpg

Head over heels.

 

After a drink, we transitioned to Bridges and Bourbon to treat ourselves to a unique dining experience that included an actual campfire and other fun surprises. 

 

IMG_2489.jpg

Fancy schmancy

 

And while August was a month for some really great dates, we did have a home invasion

 

IMG_2381.jpg

Finding his hiding spot.

 

It was a bat!  After some discussion, I called the landlord.  Jeff came with reinforcements, and, good news, the bat left with Jeff.  Now? All Col and I can remember are the furry bits. Er, funny bits.

With the bat taken care of, I felt good enough to leave the dream flat and head to Louisville for a long weekend to…… SEE HELEN!!!!!!!

 

New state, old friends

 

Of course, this trip was amazing and deserving of its own blog post, so I won’t gonna get into too much detail here. 

On my return from Louisville, my reimmersion back to Pittsburgh, I was in a rush. It was an adrenaline shot, a caffeinated jolt, Dunkin’ Doughnuts, a “please bring me a change of clothes so that while you’re driving I can change in the car before we go and meet your mother.”  

Col picked me up at the airport with another bouquet of stunning roses (he really knows how to pick ‘em) AND he’d put the white couch back together all on his own.  What a mensch ❤

And it wasn’t long until I was back on the road again. This time, heading to Findley Lake to see my parents who, as always, cooked an extravagant meal.  Which gave me a break (that I didn’t want or need) from Blue Apron, but did allow me to enjoy my mum’s amazing cooking.

 

IMG_2525.jpg

What’s cookin’, good lookin’?

 

When we got back from the lake, I wanted more dates. I was greedy for dates.
So, Col did what every good boyfriend does, he let me plan more dates 🙂

 

img_2570

Who would have thunk?

 

Like that double date Col and I had with Rachel and Roman (Hi Roman! So nice to FINALLY meet you). We went to the Oaks theater where Col was performing, and where I ordered whatever drink Rachel was having.

I also had my weekly friend-date with Emily where we continued our tradition of lunch in the park.

IMG_2389

#Parkperk

 

And a standout date — in a month of already incredible dates–  the fancy date my honey and I went on where we got all dressed up and he played songs on the guitar before we had even left the house. 

 

img_2529

Might as well be on the cover of GQ.

 

Plus, Collin, brought me a 3rd bouquet of flowers… SWOON.

img_2546

Painting the town. Dahntown, that is.

 

That night, I got to speak Jamaican patois to a very unimpressed Uber driver. And, after dinner, we turned it into a party when Col, my boots, and I all met up with Emily and Laura ❤

Overall, coming back home to so much change after Africa was hard but.. it was also chock full of memorable dates, love, Blue Apron, family, traveling with Helen, and time spent in my favorite place.

A Portrait of an August as a Young Woman,
‘mi

Louisville, Looavul, Looeyville

21 Aug

Helen and I MISSED each other!  We hadn’t seen each other for over a month,  #DreamFlatmate #withdrawals. So, when Helen got invited to perform at the Midwest Queer Comedy Festival — and neither of us had ever been to Kentucky — we used it as an excuse to meet up. (we’re coming for you all 50 states). 

IMG_2456.jpg

Horsing around.

 

Helen booked us in a fancy hotel ❤ And it became (very) apparent during our stay that Kentucky is obsessed with horses. It’s your classic chicken and the egg conundrum: What came first? Kentucky’s obsession with horses, or the Derby? 

At breakfast, we played “how many horses are in this room?” A woman who worked there saw us playing and wanted to join in. Altogether, we counted 30+ horses in one room. That’s a lot of horsepower. 

After whinnying and dining*, we went for a walk and noticed that there was a sign on a small theatre door that said “Closed. President’s in town.” Which president, we wondered. The president of the theater?

Close, but not quite…

*The author gets to re-write the order of events.

Donald’s entourage

 

Donald’s security detail gave it away. And while we weren’t excited about being in the presence of such a vile person, we didn’t mind being in the presence of such BEAUTIFUL, powerful men in very strapping and sleek uniforms. Helen and I almost couldn’t look away.  

Even the bike cops who made us feel like we were on a sitcom pulled up next to us and said, “Would you look at those guys? Mmmm. Mmm.”  

We lingered outside for a bit longer, conflicted about whether we actually wanted to see Trump.  Neither of us had ever seen a sitting president, but also —  EW!  He’s the worst.  But the thing was we literally had no other plans — our only plan all day was to enjoy each other’s company.   So, we kept staying “for the people watching”.  But wouldn’t it be crazy if….

Okay, so it turned out, that this event was a Republican fundraiser, and we got to watch the rich people going inside while we judged them about what they chose to spend their money on.

And almost as an act of rebellion, we went to grab coffee at a steal — we paid $.40 more for triple the coffee, high-fived, and ran back outside so as not to miss the Trump celebrity sighting, but rumor had it that this was a decoy hotel.

Helen and I were 50% sure that we were in the right place. We imagined that the exact same thing was happening at another hotel nearby and laughed at the thought of another police dog sniffing around for bombs to make sure that the other hotel was safe.

While waiting around, the news asked to interview us, and Helen coached me from the sidelines. At the end of the interview, we practiced for some shameless promotion. The interviewer asked:

“Anything else you’d like to say?”

I winked at Helen, “I’m in town for the Midwest Queer Comedy Festival!” 

(nailed it!)

 

TV credit, local Kentucky news.

 

The journalist told us it was going to be a while until a potential Trumps sighting — as the journalist had a direct line with the White House (super impressive)–  so we had time to kill and chose to dip into a Mexican joint for a bit of a refresh and to watch his Kentucky speech on TV.

 

Hail to the drinks.

 

In the end, we didn’t see Trump, but he WAS at the hotel, and it was a really interesting experience. But contrary to his online presence, he kept a low profile the entire time and went in and out of the back entrance. Apparently, they’d set up a tunnel through the hotel so no one got a glimpse of him.

At one point, we met a security guy at the same hotel who told us to come back later to take a tour, which we did. And then Helen and I continued our day and talked about the interesting experience. We grabbed our Bourbon Trail passports and tried to get as many stamps as we could gather.

 

Art museum on the Bourbon trail – thanks for the recommendation, Patrick!

 

This paragraph’s for us:  That night, we took a picture of a sign, which was how people knew we were tourists. We changed that picture to our phone background…and promptly changed it again in the morning.   #jellyfish #noadifferentone #STILLMATCHING  “Ever tried.  Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.” — Samuel Beckett  

The next day, we Ubered to the Kentucky State Fair where we kept with the matching themes (always) and got some matching pins from a skeptical woman.  And upon seeing the size of the fair, we thanked our lucky stars that we’d thought to wear sneakers. It wasn’t the only thing that was huge though, check out the fruits and vegetables!

 

Fat Cabbage– Flabbage

 

The largest cabbage had won $8, but the winner was a pumpkin that weighed over 1,000 lbs and had won a dollar for each pound. #WinnerWinnerPumpkinDinner

Keeping with the food theme, we checked out some decorated cakes that were really fun to peruse. The cakes had won awards too, but they’d been sitting out for so long they’d started mold; not for consumption.

And after seeing the inedible desserts we made it our MISSION to find derby pie (famous in Louisville).

IMG_2448.jpg

“Do you have anything that is not fried?”

 

But in the midst of Operation: Derby Pie, we found other cool things to do like walk through a corn maze (a maize maze), watch dogs perform tricks, and of course, watch horses prance.

It had taken a while to find the horses because we got wrong directions on how to get there (from a guy who worked at the fair, mind you). But, in the end, the woman at the door let us straight into the VIP seating. Wahoo!  We ended up sitting next to a woman whose granddaughter was in the show and won 4th place.  Interesting.  Although the competition…event? wasn’t the most intuitive; So we left with both a lot of questions, and, more importantly, enjoyable visual stimulation.

 

 

The fair itself was mostly indoors, had lots of things to see, and was full of (literal) pigs. It was the most pigs I’d ever been around. But there were lots of other animals, too, including this overly friendly, adorable goat.  It was here that I wondered…Does Pennsylvania have their own State Fair??

 

Nice to bleat you.

 

After seeing the animals, we got our annual checkups from the Kentucky State Fair as there were healthcare events like skin cancer screenings.  Helen and I were most excited for this: “You can tell we’re two people who don’t have health insurance.”

 

 

2 sweet thangs

 

The fair took a lot out of us, so the next day, we slept in, BUT it was also the day Taylor Swift’s new album came out!  Lover!  We laid on the comfy bed #luxury and listened to her entire album before going into the aforementioned horse room to have the famous Brown’s hotel breakfast.

 

IMG_2455.jpg

As tasty as it is bad for you.

 

Besides being the day of Tay Tay’s album release, it was also the first day of the Midwest Queer Comedy Festival AND THE DAY VICTORIA WAS COMING TO TOWN!!

 

3 best friends

 

While Helen practiced her set, Victoria and I had a blast lounging and catching up.

We got to the show and watched Helen kill it, as she does. 

 

IMG_2462.jpg

SO FUN(NY)!

 

Unfortunately, I had to duck out early to catch my flight back to Pittsburgh, but when I got to the airport, I found out that my flight had been cancelled, so I raced back to the show to get BONUS TIME WITH HELEN AND VICTORIA!

The three of us hung out all night, and they let me crash in their hotel room (thank you!!), and Victoria ordered us champagne and non-fried derby pie. I was SO thankful but also thought it was hilarious that it was right under my nose the whole time. Victoria is so generous and great at creating magic.

I snuck out in the middle of the night, whispering goodbye to my best friends, before anyone fully woke up, and crept out to catch my 6am flight, thankful that:

“In a world of ceaseless change, it can be gratifying to know that some things remain forever the same.”  J. Maarten Troost
I’m talkin’ about best friendship.

 

Until next time,
‘mi 

 

Best friends fairever!

Ethiopia: Round 2

23 Jul

We’d had a fantastic night in Ethiopia, and the next morning, we had a teensy headache but filled with excitement we were ready to make more mind-blowing puns. We headed to the airport for our trip to Mekele and had some pizza which wasn’t cooked all the way through… and that, my friends, might’ve been my demise. (More on this later,)

We took a casual flight on Ethiopian airways – they didn’t ask to see our IDs once.  Not.a.once. Have you ever been to an airport and then onto a plane where they didn’t check your ID??

 

IMG_0861.jpg

E-view-thiopia

 

IMG_0991.PNG

We’re here-thiopia

 

We landed in Mekele and went out to eat. Every time you travel to a different place, some kind of fruit or vegetable is in season, fresh, and cheap. In this case it was prickly pears and we had our first one of the season. SO delicious. (Perhaps this was the start of my demise?)  They keep track of how to charge you (4 for 10 bier) by counting the skins. If we were using USD, they cost pennies to eat.

We had some orange fanta straight from the glass bottle because the actual drinking glasses are served wet here. (Unrelated, all sodas in Africa are served in glass bottles). It’s considered good form to show tourists that the cups have been recently washed. Ironically, that just means there’s still water on it, which is extra dangerous for us. But it’s the thought that counts, right?  (It might have been the glass bottle that led to my sickness…)

 

While we wandered, we signed up to go to the Danakil Depression, also known as THE HOTTEST PLACE ON EARTH (cue dramatic flames and hardcore metal music). *It’s also supposed to be one of the most beautiful and interesting.

 

When we checked into our hotel, I started to feel sick. Really sick. Awful sick. 

 

As J. Maarten Troost reminds us: “Good luck seeks no antecedent, but bad luck demands an inquest.” And so detective Sam was on the case. Who was the culprit? Was it the uncooked pizza dough? The glasses we’d drank from? The mysterious muck on the side of the fanta bottle? The communal spice (which had been sitting out for god knows how long) I’d poured on my rice? The knife used to cut the side-of-the-road prickly pears??

But sometimes, my friends, you don’t get closure. Sometimes, you just have to spend the entire night throwing up and moaning loudly over a toilet bowl. I was VERY uncomfortable, to say the least.  MISERABLE, the kind of sick where you bargain with god.

Overall, I’d made 6 trips to the toilet that night for some unadulterated, good old fashioned retching. It wasn’t great.  Patrick was forced to stay awake too. There was no way he could sleep with me in audible misery.  

The next day, you can imagine, I was still sick.  Patrick was fine though! Yay! We spent the entire day in the hotel (I really had no choice) and discussed what we were going to do with me.  The next day it was our big trip– the Danakil Depression– which we’d come all this way to see. But I couldn’t go. The HOTTEST PLACE ON EARTH?! (cue dramatic flames and hardcore metal music).  I couldn’t do it. My body was still suffering through sweats, I could not imagine trying to survive in rugged Africa. I told Patrick to go on without me because I was out of the “might-actually-die” phase.  We could both see that I was on the mend and it was totally fine to leave me on my own.

 

Supplementary / concurrent pictures.

Patrick went to see this:

 

Danakil-Depression-23.jpg

Stock image. But this is what Patrick saw.

 

While I enjoyed my view (a la Handmaid’s Tale):

 

IMG_0901.jpg

What a nice chair.

 

While Patrick was gone, I didn’t leave the hotel for 3 full days. What I had started out loving, soon became a prison.  On the 4th day, though, I ventured out for some french fries. And learned the only cool fact I’d heard in three days: Ethiopia uses different time. They’re on a 12-hour clock, so school starts at 2, even though it’s 8am our time. So how many days in Ethiopia time was I really sick? Good math problem.

Patrick returned 3 days later, and I was feeling much better but also stir crazy. I hadn’t had human interaction for quite some time — even though I’d tried. But I didn’t speak Ahmeric and no one spoke English. But it was no matter– Patrick was BACK from the Depression to ease my depression. We went for a walk and discovered fresh avocado juice.
Our guidebook (and I’d had time to read it cover to cover) told us what to order and as soon as we took a sip, the angelic chorus descended from the sky. It was just what the doctor ordered after being so sick and in THE HOTTEST PLACE ON EARTH (cue dramatic flames and hardcore metal music), respectivly.

IMG_1090.jpg

Avocado juice. Conclusively the best juice.

 

Patrick told me that during his trip, he’d met two Polish travelers and they’d invited us to travel with them the next day.  (Reminiscent of Kazakhstan and the Germans.)  Always up for an adventure, we agreed and decided to meet Tommy and Kuba at 6am for a jeep excursion out of town and beyond.

 

IMG_0863

Toot toot, jeep jeep

 

We headed out bright and early to get our church fix (on the rocks).

It was AMAZING. We literally had to rock climb (as in scale literal rocks with harnesses and belays) to get to these churches.  Later when I had wifi and told Collin about the trip, he said:

 

Collin: Do people climb to church?

Me: Literally yes

Col: Wow. My church was 3 minutes from my house and I barely went.

 

In the beginning of our climb, our guide singled me out as not being a good climber.  He said, “Are you sure we’re not going to be too slow” …..whilst giving me the side eye. Ouch. 

When we made it to the top, Kuba took an epic drone selfie (my first!). It rocks.

 

 

IMG_0963.jpg

[Entering a magic zone]

 

 

8c044d61-dcf5-4b82-9a5f-b480596b1508 2.jpg

Dedicated churchgoers

 

We spent all day hiking (7 hours), and visited 3 churches overall (some of which were 1600 years old).  We met priests and we’re given tours of old books and churches. It was an amazing mix of history, culture, and nature. We all agreed it was one of the top 10 best travel experiences that we have ever had.

 

01702f68-864b-44a2-8f8b-b23a7c9c2aa6.jpg

“5 Stars!” – News Weekly
“Gotta be the best church I’ve ever been in” – Patrick
“If I were to make a church of my own, this would be it.” -God

 

In the end, I’d not only seen these beautiful churches, but I also received validation from the guide who had questioned my rock climbing ability. He’d told me I was a good trekker, and that made me feel redeemed. Seemed fitting to feel that right after church.

 

379645db-b129-481f-853d-bb50616ec391.jpg

“Sammi’s an AWESOME trekker. Best I’ve ever seen.” – Guide on the tour

 

The experience with these rock churches was so pure.  It was both religious and spiritual.  There was less of an emphasis on reading and writing, in the art, the images were not depicted as white.  And it made me feel closer to the source.

 

152361ee-cb52-4683-b252-63394fe84652.jpg

No words to describe it..

 

IMG_0934.jpg

Brb- hiking to church

 

IMG_0943.jpg

Bunch of rock stars

 

f70fe0d0-27ee-411b-9208-4e48c60a51be.jpg

Taking 3 points of contact to the next level: 4 points of contact.

 

The views from the tops of these churches were truly incredible and added to the majesty of the experience. 

 

 

At one church, we even met a 95-year-old priest who helped us to open wild prickly pears while we walked.  Food from the heavens. 

What wasn’t quite so majestic was the priests asking for money. It was hard to blame them, really, but our guide had already paid and they just wanted more. It was sort of off-putting but understandable, and we tried not to let that shade the experience.

 

IMG_0973.jpg

Prickly pears, rugged views

 

During the hike, we also learned that people in Ethiopia drink holy water after fasting (every Wednesday and Friday) and before eating. How do you make water holy: Is it blessed in church, or do you just boil the hell out of it?

 

Seven hours later from when we began, we got back in the jeep and saw some wildlife! It was a group of Gilda baboons, and quite the meta experience because Patrick had just been watching a video of them in the car. 

 

 

We also saw some camel road kill, which was less exciting but still interesting and then saw another camel being used as a plow for the fields (versus the more traditional cow).  The scenes outside Ethiopia were so neat!

We stopped at a few roadside stands to get coffee-flavored things, since this country is OBSESSED with coffee. We bought various coffee cookies that we wanted to be good (they weren’t).  And noticed how lots of entrepreneurial people opened up coffee stands (sits).

As we drove to the town called Axum, where we’d be spending the night, I noted how, surprisingly, wasn’t tired. One minute later, Patrick asked if I was tired, and I clarified, “You mean since I said one minute ago I wasn’t?”  Sometimes you take too long to respond and sometimes you respond too quickly. Classic.

When we finally got to Axum, we were pretty impressed. It’s the oldest civilization in Africa and lined with huge grave tombstones. (“is this how we get modern gravestone shapes?”) There are also rumors that this is where the Ark of the Covenant is hidden — but Patrick has his doubts. They won’t let anyone see it!

We walked around a bit and saw some people selling street food– including hard boiled potatoes. Hard boiled potatoes had never been more tempting to me.  I couldn’t eat them still because my stomach was not at a full 100%, and I was trying to be gentle. I whispered to Patrick,” I’m desperate for that.” But it was off limits to us… for now.

God bless (but in a good way),
‘mi