Ireland: The rings of Kerry and Dingle 

It’s Wednesday and we arrived on Sunday morning. Currently, we’re enjoying the start of a rest day in our hotel room in Dingle, a super cute village/town on the bay. 

The last few days, however, we haven’t rested much! 

When we arrived in Dublin at 8am, not quite well rested from our six hour plane ride, and we immediately downed some coffee and were off to find the Guinness brewery. We took a bus into Dublin (which we had to get off of way earlier than our stop since the coffee and water had caught up with me and I really really had to pee) and started trekking our way there. 

We happened into this cute shop along the way to eat breakfast before finally finding the Guinness brewery (it was hiding) and paying to go on what ended up being a very bizarre tour, in which we felt like we were being inducted into a cult (whose founder was the creator of Guinness). We chugged some koolaid (aka guiness) and were off. 

The main purpose of our trip here, and the main activity we’ve been doing everyday is biking! After taking a bus into Killarney in Kerry, Ireland, and getting a good nights sleep, we grabbed our rented bikes and headed off about 30-40 miles toward sneem. 

That first, and every day since, we’ve experienced incredible scenery. It’s gorgeous here, and though not as completely green as Scotland (which might have to do with the season), it’s colors and coastline and hills and mountains and animals have made for some jaw dropping, bike stopping views. 

We biked from Killarney to sneem, then on the recommendation of a biker we met, opted to bike around the ring of Kerry on the main road instead of across it, ending in glenbeigh, then yesterday took a taxi into dingle where we biked around the dingle peninsula and saw, perhaps, some of the most incredible views yet of our trip. Literally ever kilometer on our way to lunch we had to stop and take pictures or pay three euros to go see a built-in-BC stone structure. We kept saying “gotta get to lunch” but each corner left us so mesmerized we had to stop and take it in. 

It’s been really fantastic to travel by bike. We can pull off the road wherever we want (though we have to be careful of cars) especially to see cute little lambs, we can coast downhill, and though we’ve climbed about 2000-3000 feet total over the course of each day, it’s been a relatively easy ride. We only had to hop off our bikes once to get to the top of a hill and we blame that more on having just had lunch before versus our prowess on the bicycle. The only rough part of biking has been the rain and wind we experienced at the end of day two for 20 miles. It was rough and we definitely had to dig deep. Our only option was to go forward, obviously, but we did it with pretty good attitudes, despite the wind that made even going downhill difficult. 

We’ve even been doing pretty well biking on roads, even though we were worried about that. The roads are rather narrow, nothing like American roads, and very windy. But for the most part cars have been really respectful about passing and there’s been more than enough for everyone on the road. In bad weather it wasn’t our favorite, but it wasn’t that bad then either. The best part about being on the road is it travels right along the coast the whole time, so you have killer views the whole way. 

The best part of the trip has been traveling with Joe :). He’s my favorite travel partner, he makes me laugh so hard, and we both love the sheeps and cows sooo much. We both love stopping for pictures and singing silly songs and giggling at each other. It’s been awhile since we’ve done a bigger adventure like this and we’re just having the best time. 

In case this works, here are some pictures (last time I posted from the WordPress app it didn’t work but I’ll try!):

   

    
    
    
    

   
    
    
    
   

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rejection, and a second acceptance

Two years ago, I got my first ever acceptance to a writing contest to have my story included in an anthology of stories, centered around the idea of The Lonely Whale (who, it turns out, might not be so lonely after all).

The story I wrote was the first one I’d ever written, inspired by the idea of this lonely whale. It was a story about a couple that had lost the ability to communicate with each other, and about a healing moment in a therapist’s office where they worked to find each other again.

This acceptance felt like a discovery. I could write, fiction, just me and my computer, me and my journal. I could write stories about anything, and someone, somewhere, might think they were good. I could submit them and they could be published. They could be enjoyed by others, make them feel what I felt when I wrote them.

I hadn’t wanted to be a fiction writer. I’ve always enjoyed writing, but mostly about what was happening to me and what I felt about it. Fiction was an avenue I’d hardly explored. I had been more interested in writing articles for newspapers, but newspaper articles required subjects, interviews, transcription, time, and a newspaper who needed you. Fiction needed just me, and whatever came to mind. And, I found, I enjoyed writing stories.

Maybe without that acceptance, I would have kept writing. I’m not sure. But getting that acceptance definitely spurred me on. I spent the next year writing fiction when I could, forcing myself to sit down and type stories. Stories about war, though I’d never been to war. Stories about wandering around in snowstorms and falling in love. Stories about a depressed and animated rock contemplating suicide (or something like it). Stories about anything and everything that came to mind. The more I wrote, the more that came.

I searched for writing contests and I entered them as often as I could afford, until figuring out that this wasn’t the way to be published. (In case you’re wondering why, it’s because contests generally have much higher reading or entry fees, only have one winner and the editor can’t work with you on the piece if they want edits — they take the piece as it is right then, or not. Lots of contests are also accused of being rigged, of being overly expensive, and of being biased. Moreover, there are more than enough literary journals out there that read stories for free or have $3ish reading fees to cover operating costs and while they may not all offer payment, they are generally a better bet to get your foot in the door. But I digress…).

I paused in my furious contest search then, and I researched how writers generally get their start. I found they generally get lucky enough to get published a few times, then use those successes to find an agent who can help manage the submissions so the writer can focus on writing. You can chug along like that for a long time, enjoying the craft of writing if not making a lot of money on it. There are writers whose work explodes, of course, the JKRowling’s and John Green’s and Rainbow Rowell’s of the world. But in large part the writing world and these literary journals exist for and support themselves (or at least that’s what I’ve found).

While part of the reason I quit my job last year was to go to try Kilimanjaro and travel around Scotland, the other part was I wanted to explore what it was like to have writing be my primary function, to not have other responsibilities or things to do while I wrote. So I  spent November of last year working on a novel. I loved the process, I loved the story. I loved everything about it. Even just writing a small amount a day, I met my goal of writing a first draft of a novel, and I also showed myself that writing could co-exist along the other things in my life.

After that, I was submitting writing everywhere, scouring literary journals online for authors biographies to see where they’d been published. I sent my work out into the world over and over again, hoping someone would be interested.

But no one bit. Rejections filled my inbox. They were all very nice rejections, even if most were form letters telling me that the biggest factor in not publishing my piece was space, on which they were short.

This wasn’t surprising, really, these rejections. Any article you read about being a writer will tell you that your life is basically one rejection after another and you better get used to it. Acceptances are not the norm, unless you are so well-known in the writing field that people come to you and ask you to write for them so they can have your name on their journal. Rejections come everyday, from all sides, for all sorts of reasons: no space, wrong length, wrong editor, wrong theme, same kind of story as someone else’s, too long, too short, too few characters, not enough dialogue, too much dialogue, or the wrong vibe, or any other number of reasons.

I knew that one editor reading one piece of mine and rejecting it doesn’t mean it that story was necessarily bad. It means they didn’t like it or have room for it or something. Which is so normal.

But having one after another tell you one after another story can’t fit, isn’t what they need, so sorry — it does take a toll, as much as I didn’t want it to. It was hard not to be discouraged as journal after journal said no to my stories. As time marched by, it started to feel a little like my first acceptance was a fluke. Like it was kind of pathetic or embarrassing or not worthwhile to continue submitting stories to literary journals. I would still work on my novel, since the goal was just to finish it, but I started to question whether  I was any good at all. Whether I was wasting everyone’s time. I still enjoyed writing, still wanted to do it, but thought maybe it would just be for me, and maybe that would be okay.

And then, just a few days ago, two years after my first acceptance, I got my second acceptance. Fluttering into my email was an editor of The Citron Review saying they loved my story and wanted to publish it in their summer issue.

It’s only one yes. I know that. I know there’s a huge road ahead if I want to make writing a career, or at least a side career. But it’s nice to have someone, somewhere, say ‘hey you, this is good. this was worth reading.’

And maybe, one day, for whatever reason, I will decide to write, just for me, because I really love it, and it doesn’t really matter if anyone reads it but me, in the end. It’s nice to write for me.

But right now,  it’s also nice to write for you. To write something that might get read by someone else, that might touch someone’s heart, or make them feel what I felt, or feel something else entirely different, for a moment. There’s something amazing about a book and its ideas and its characters living in someone else’s mind, about growing there, staying there, taking hold, even for just the short time it takes to read a paragraph, or a story, or a book.

So, when it get’s published, I’ll share it here, so you all can see it if you’d like. I hope you enjoy it.

 

 

Day 10, 11 and 12: row row row your boat down the kaligandaki river

Long story short, the trip was amazing. Amy and I ended up having an awesome time. We loved the heat of the day and the cold of the water (except for when Amy got mildly hypothermic for like 30 minutes), the paddling and the swimming, the pranks and the games by candlelight and campfire, the camping and the conversation and the fantastic people we met. It was awesome. 
I’ve only ever done half day white water rafting trips, where you show up, ride for a day, and head on home, and Amy had never done raftinr, so We were excited (and I was a little nervous) to see what it would be like to raft and camp for several days on end. For our last few days in Nepal, we signed up for a three day, two night rafting trip. There’d be about 3 hours of rafting the first day, 5 the second and about 3 for the final day. There were going to be 3 rafts of tourists (20 of us in all), 2 support rafts, and three safety kayakers. There were three guides (one for each boat) and the kayakers and about 2-3 additional support team members to help with cooking and other things around camp. 

On tuesday, we showed up at 7am at paddle Nepal and headed out on a three hour bus ride to the rafting start. It was kinda cute on the bus ride out there, we were all pretty quiet, kinda keeping to the groups we came with, all self conscious and not sure who to hook on to yet as friends (at least that’s how I’d describe myself on the bus). By the second night, however, we were laughing hysterically with each other and playing all kinds of games. 

Instead of a play by play of th days here’s some highlights of the trip:

  • Quicksand and camping: it was really nice to be away from a city, camping on sand and grass, and enjoying being outside all day. The scenery was actually amazing but the highlight was definitely seeing Annapurna sticking up behind the raft on the second day when we all jumped in the water for the first time. It was just this great confluence of moments. The sand on the beaches was also amazing. It was like true quicksand–it was super hard when you first stepped on it but then it relaxed and started to swallow you whole. 
  • Swimming down a rapid: our guide seemed to want us out of the boat as much as possible (:)) and we were happy to oblige. We swam a lot during the day and at one point we went down a rapid (not a big one) by swimming it instead of rafting it. Minus the water in our faces, it was awesome. 
  • Getting air: several of us got a chance to sit at the front of the raft and hold on to a rope like we were on a bucking bull. Amy definitely got the most air on some big rapids. It was pretty awesome to see the rapids and waves come at you head on and only have one hand holding. It also meant you got a break from rowing, which was always nice 
  • Marcel switching rafts: a recent grad from university, and from the Netherlands, marvel had a penchant for switching rafts, swimming from one to another throughout the trip. Our favorite moment, which inspired a later prank, was when he came onboard without a paddle and started the pretend paddle when we were told to row forward. His miming was so convincing it took us way too long took figure it out. (we really cracked ourselves up on the third day when instead of paddling when our guide gave us orders, we pretended to paddle instead. It also took him a hilariously long time to figure out what we were doing.)
  • Sand pictionary by candlelight: high point of the first night, which featured amazing drawings by marcel (Jurassic park), Amy (the Martian) and everyone else (jakob, an Italian going to med school in Germany with Tom, another German; Stefan–a German who works in finance; iain, a Brit and dentist turned local politician who loved to crack us up with his best impression of an American accent; josh and Annie, management consultants from. U.K. and more.)
  • Beer, cards and a campfire: On the second night, several of us bought basically all the beer being sold by this local woman who’s family lived basically right next door (their cows were grazing in the field we camped in when we arrived) and who arrived with a woven basket of beer bottles right when we pulled in. we decided to make the most of it with a little kings cup. There was rhyming (which was hilarious to watch a Dutchman, Italian and Germans try to do in English), “little man” and singing rules and, of course, lots of drinking. 
  • games games and more games: after kings cup, we joined in by a campfire and about ten of us started playing all these games (but only after I required everyone to sing their country’s national anthem). First we played a game called psychiatrist (where everyone in the group pretends to be either another person or in another situation — like say everyone acts like they are on safari or acts like– and one person has to guess what’s going on). We also played black magic and a game kind of like taboo where you have to trade off speaking one word at a time and try to get everyone in the circle to guess the word yours trying to describe. My favorite game though was this one where two people (which ended up being marcel and I) leave the circle and those in the circle then come up with a story that we have to come back and guess. Marcel and I were only allowed to ask yes or no questions to figure out the story. And thank god for marcel because he asked such out of the box questions that turned out to be somehow spot on. He figured out we were whales, that we were famous and had our own tv show and that we’d been captured on a hook and were now being forced to be a mode of transportation, pulling people around a la horse and carriage. The best part of the game was when I told the group I thought that the story they came up with was really creative and the group looked at us and was like, yeah, there was no story. Basically everyone who answered just said yes when they liked the direction of a question and therefore marcel basically came up with the entire story himself. I laughed for probably ten minutes straight. 

By and large the trip was awesome and we were so glad we did it. Making new friends is always awesome and being outdoors when you do it is basically the best way. I love the aspect of traveling in a group like that, big enough to move from group to group but small enough to bond really quickly and feel close enough to invite the people to stay at your place next time they’re in Germany or the states. Who knows whether you’ll see those people again, but I always think it’s really cool and serendipitous and random and so good to meet people from all over the world that just click and that you can talk and laugh with. It’s definitely my favorite part of traveling. 

Now, we’ve been back in Kathmandu a day, sam’s arrived, we did one last trip to the monkey temple, and I sent Amy and Sam off on their great adventure to hike the Annapurna circuit. 

For me, though, it’s time to head home. I’m happy with Amy and my’s trip — I feel like we did a lot, we traveled well together, laughed and smiled a ton, and could travel together again one day. But I’m also happy to be headed home. I know the travel bug will be back soon (so it’s good joe and I are off to Ireland in May) but right now, I’m really looking forward to seeing Joe and getting back to life in providence again. 

Thanks for reading about Nepal everyone! I really encourage you to visit, to do some day hikes at least, to walk around Kathmandu, to visit pokhara, to raft, to meet travelers, and if it’s your thing, to do a long trek. If you’re ever interested in going Nepal, message me here and let me know and I’ll share any info I can to help you out. 

<3

Day 9 pokhara: Amy the magical haggler

I guess there’s been a lot of magic on this trip. First lasso, then today, Amy. Maybe it has something to do with all the Harry Potter I’ve been reading?
Anyway, yesterday we learned how to say numbers in Nepali and today Amy basically had them all memorized like a boss. The magical part happened a few times, mainly when I was negotiating prices. 

At least three time, I was in the midst of negotiating, which her really goes something like ‘shop owner suggests price’ then ‘Kate suggests half to two-thirds that price’ then ‘owner says oh no no, and suggests an in between price, often very close to the price they initially suggested’ and this continues until you either realize they’ve given you the actual price they’re not going to budge from, or they realize you’re not going to budge and either come to meet you closer to your price or the conversation ends and you don’t get the item in question. 

Now, when Amy’s involved it goes like this:

Kate: “how much are these scarves?”

Shop owner: 1800 rupees (about $18)

Kate: what about 3000 for three of them?

Shop owner: oh no. ::pulls out calculator to show me how much three should cost::

Kate: but what about 3000?

Shop owner: oh no. 

Amy: what! Noooo, they don’t cost that much. ::then, in Nepali:: “tin-hazar” (three thousand)

Shop owner: ::puts of flabbergasted face. Looks at Amy and me. Laughs.:: okay. 

That happened multiple times which means Amy saved me a lot of money. We assume that we didn’t screw anyone over since we’ve had many people refuse our negotiations in the past when we’ve gone to low. We assume that if we go to low they really won’t give us the item. Or at least we hope that’s the case. We think that Amy’s charm, paired with her attempt at speaking in their language is doing the trick. 

So, note to travelers, if you want to haggle costs in foreign places, and make people smile at your attempts to speak their language, learn some numbers and phrases in the local language. 

Nepali numbers (by how it sounds, not how it’s spelled)

Ik (one)

Doo-ey (two)

Tin (three)

Zsar (four)

Pohts (five)

Ta (six)

Set (seven) 

Et (eight)

Noh (nine)

Das (ten)

Bis (twenty)

Tis (thirty)

Pohts-chas (fifty)
To say “hundred” you add “say” to the number. So for example: 

Ik-say (one hundred)

Pohts-say (five hundred)
I say thousand you can add “hazar” to the number. So you’d say:

Tin hazar (three thousand)
Or, to get advanced:

Doo-ey hazar pohts-say (2500)
Other things to say in Nepali:

-Kay ta? (How are you?) (they may answer tik ta (which is like good, and you?))

-Esko kasi hoe? (How much is this?)

-Namaste (hello!)

-Subaratree (rolling the r’s — good night!)

Day 8 pokhara: resting, relaxing and rafting…

Today was a rest, relax and decision day. It started with yoga with our favorite teacher, though after last night drinking mojitos (2 for 1!) and “partying” (going from reStaurant to restaurant) until “late” (aka 1130pm), we were feeling a little less enthusiastic and it seemed maybe our teacher was too. There was still the laughing but a little less playfulness than the day before! Oh well!
After a quick and delicious breakfast at a place called the early bird, we headed for coffee at a bit of a fancy place calls Himalayan java cafe, where we planned to hunker down for a bit, read, and then get going. 

Just as we were leaving, amy ended up starting a conversation with this guy who happened to have lived in Seattle before moving to Germany and then Nepal with his wife and two kids. He and his wife chatted Amy and I up, giving us helpful (number for taxi driver they know) and not so helpful (take a domestic flight!) information. One thing they mentioned was to check out the rafting trip company on the ground floor, which did rafting trips. 

What a killer suggestion because after talking with an employee of the raft shop we decided that if there was room, we’d be interested in doing a three day raft trip. There will be three rafts and 24 people, 3 guides, 1 trip leader, 3 kayakers and 2 gear rafts. We’ll camp two nights before returning back to pokhara for one last night before heading back to Kathmandu (and then, for me, home!). 

We made a few other amazing finds today–one: a restaurant that made a delicious (read: fried) veggie burger. Two: a local aesthetician who gave me and Amy hand massages and Amy a manicure while letting us hold her 22-day old baby, telling us about her time in Amsterdam, and teaching us to count and say phrases in Nepali. Three: a cheaper, clean, awesome vibe place that has a (short) Slackline (!) and that we are planning to stay at on our last night here. If only we’d found it sooner, but at least we found it at all! 

We also did loads of shopping, buying jewelry (both of us), a tie dye dress (Amy) and eyeing all the things were going to purchase in our last few days here.

A good, quiet day filled with serendipitous encounters and great people and experiences! 

Day 7 Pokhara: Lasso the wonder dog

It rained all night and through Saturday morning but once the skies cleared enough we decided to hike up to sarangkot, which is supposed to be an amazing viewpoint from which you can see the annapurnas (if the sky isn’t completely enveloped in clouds, which it has been here since we’ve arrived). 
After walking along the lakeside road, we hopped over a stone wall and headed up the path, which was marked with red arrows. As we started up the steep climb, this dog started walking with us. While the stray dogs in Kathmandu and pokhara have been overwhelmingly kind and sweet and so so cute, we were a bit wary about this dog and whether he was rabid or territorial or prone to biting or anything. But as we walked, all our concerns were dispelled. Not only was he very friendly, but he knew the exact way up and down the path. He would sometimes hike between us, pausing to make sure I was still there, or he would run ahead, and then pause and look back at us until we caught up. He was a sweetheart and after we made it about halfway up it started to become clear that he was not only going to hike the whole way up with us, but that we’d both totally fallen for him. We decided that since he’d shown up out of nowhere like a miracle dog and was totally helping us find his way, we’d call him lasso (like lassie but he was a boy). We also may have briefly considered lassoing him and having him pull us up the never ending stairs to the top of the “hill” to sarangkot. 

We were totally over the moon over lasso. When other dogs would growl at him, we’d wave a stick in their direction. When we felt he was going the wrong way (because of new construction), we’d call him back. when he couldn’t get on the rooftop porch we decided to eat at at the top of the climb, we moved downstairs so he could curl up and take a nap next to us. When we were offered a taxi on the way down, we made it contingent on lasso being able to come and when he wouldn’t get in the taxi, we decided to continue walking down instead. When he helped lead the way down, finding the path, we considered what it might take to adopt a Nepali dog. when we got to the bottom of the hike and he ran into the yard where it seemed he belonged, we shed an internal tear or two and tried not to look back. 

And when we rated our favorite things so far about Nepal on our way down that hike, lasso made the top of the list. 

Day 5 and 6 pokhara: the bus, the yoga teacher, and the peace pagoda

The bus to pokhara was not my favorite. The map we had of the Kathmandu valley showed a pretty straight line between Kathmandu and pokhara, but it was very clear early on that that was a huge oversimplification. The road was super windy, up and down and around mountains/hills the whole way there. I had a really nauseous stomach from something is eaten and so the winding-ness did not help matters at all. We both did alright but we’re happy to land on solid ground in pokhara. 
The number of white tourists in the lakeside area of pokhara is both pleasant and strange. It means there are a lot of amenities and a plethora of western food and facility options. But it’s also awkward, like we’ve co-opted a part of their city, living a better life in our few days here than they have at all. We haven’t yet walked through the area stepped back from lakeside, but we plan to, to see what pokhara is like outside of the main strip. 

After finding a place to stay for the first night, we ate (something American and neutral for me) and pretty quickly passed out (per usual). 

The next morning we woke up early (per usual) and ate a little something before attending what would become our favorite yoga class ever. Ever. The guy who ran the yoga class had bushy black hair, with dreadlocks bunched up on either side of his face. And his face was almost always smiling, laughing or about to laugh. His whole being was radiating joyfulness and playfulness. At the end of his class he had us all laugh hysterically. Pretending at first of course but then as we all watched him laugh and we laughed, real laughter, hysterical hilarious laughter ensued. 

After yoga we relaxed and switched hotels, and then later we walked to the peace pagoda, which took us on a hike through a forest, passing by a few villages. We met up with some other hikers along the way and an hour later we were at the top. If been super excited to see the pagoda after my meditation experience with the pagoda, but while the views were awesome, the crowds around the pagoda itself were disappointing. There were tons of signs asking people to be silent, but it was like no one cared to pay attention to this. Everyone was laughing, talking, carrying on. My grand idea of meditating at the pagoda was totally squashed. 

On the way down i got a bit anxious. The sun was going down and I generally get anxious in new places at sundown, and we took o be or two wrong turns, which we recovered from but which made me a little nervous. I was glad Ames was there since she kept her wits about her and helped make sure we went the right way. 

At home we meditated and then I passed OUT and slept for twelve hours.