Say What? Edition 3: Thoughts From Switzerland

A collection of random, linguistically-related thoughts that popped into my head while in Switzerland five weeks ago.

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Going abroad makes you realize that your language skills aren’t nearly as good as they should be. How did I used to be fluent in German but a few weeks ago I couldn’t even understand what the Swiss shopkeepers said when I walked in the door? Swiss German is quite distinct from Hochdeutsch, but still, I feel I should have been a little more competent. Continue reading →

Who Are You When You Travel?

When I was growing up, I lived on a small street in a rural area where having friends over to sit in the garage and drink was the main Saturday attraction. In all houses, that is, except mine. My parents didn’t drink and they weren’t particularly social, at least not in the kind of way where friends drop in and hang out without any specific invitation or plan. I’d listen on summer nights, through my open bedroom window, to the laughter and chatter going on across the street and wonder why our house wasn’t filled with people too. I swore that when I had my own place, my door would always be open and friends would come and go constantly.

That’s not remotely the kind of person I turned out to be. I’m every bit as inflexible with my time and protective of my personal space as my parents were. It drives me crazy when people stop by unannounced. Even the UPS man. I ignore invitations to go out if they come less than eight hours before the start time because that’s not enough time for me to prepare and accomplish everything I planned to that day. I don’t send read receipts on my iPhone because I don’t want people knowing whether I’m looking at my phone and therefore, presumably, available to talk or text. I always opt for “Entire home/apt” when using AirBnB because I certainly don’t want to be in the house with the owner, having to make chit chat. And communal tables at a restaurant? Whoever came up with this terrible idea should be hanged. Continue reading →

Italy by Number

I have so many thoughts to share stemming from my two and a half weeks in Europe. My route was
Flight to Zurich→
Train to Innsbruck→
Car share to Bressanone→
On foot across the Dolomites to Cortina d’Ampezzo→
Bus to Venice→
Rental car to Padua→Verona→Bergamo→Milan→
Train and kayak to Bellagio→
Car share to Zurich
with a lot of little stops in between. Everything I saw was stimulating and new, and I took dozens and dozens of pages of notes. Since most of that time was spent in northern Italy, let’s kick off the onslaught of upcoming blog posts with a lighthearted comparison of Italy and Boulder. Continue reading →

But Is That Butts or Butts?

English has no shortage of homonyms that can easily cause confusion for someone trying to learn this language. But they can almost as easily cause confusion among native speakers as well.

On our way into mountains last Sunday to hike Grays and Torreys peaks, my two girlfriends and I saw a sign on I-70 just like this one.

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All three of us had the same thought – we need to bring the car from 75 mph to a complete stop in the middle of the highway and get out of the car right now to see what we are missing! Surely if CDOT felt the need to tell us (in such a cheeky way) that we should remain in the vehicle, something important and exciting must be happening along the roadside. And then 20 seconds later, we non-smokers realized we had all misunderstood which “butt” the sign meant. Continue reading →

But…Puerto Rico?

I did a thing over the long Fourth of July weekend; I set foot in the only one of the 50 states I hadn’t yet. Idaho!

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When my company sent me to Portland, Oregon for a conference earlier this year, I realized that only Idaho remained and I needed to seize the opportunity. Aside from the bizarre pleasure of conquering some arbitrary political boundaries, I was further motivated to make the trip because I had just finished a year long freelance project helping the lovely Deb Glaser develop her online course for reading teachers (it’s really cool – check it out!). Deb lives in Boise and we had never met in all that time. I thought I should pop on up and say hi. Continue reading →

The Portland of My 49th State

When I was young, my family took a lot of road trips up, down, and around everywhere east of the Mississippi, and even once all the way out to Montana. When I moved to Colorado, I took a lot of road trips around the western states to see everything I could before getting my master’s degree and moving back overseas. When I stuck around after graduation and found that travelling internationally from Denver was kind of a pain, I took some large pseudo-domestic trips, such as to Hawaii and Alaska. After all this travel, I found myself at the beginning of 2017 with only two states remaining to set foot in: Oregon and Idaho.

And now, there’s just Idaho. This is my somewhat-creative writing blog, but by day, I’m a technical writer and I work for an excellent and successful company. So excellent, in fact, that they picked up the tab for me to attend the Write the Docs conference, which happened to be in Portland, Oregon, this week. I have to specify Oregon because as an east-coaster, I still think of Maine first when I hear Portland, and I imagine some of you do too. I won’t go into all the details of what one learns and talks about at a technical writing conference, but if you’re curious about the career, I highly recommend Tom Johnson’s blog. He’s a tech writing guru, and he totally had groupies (including me) at the conference. Here, I’ll sum up some of the other highlights of the trip and save the show notes for my coworkers. Continue reading →

Kachemak Bay State Park, Alaska (July, 2015)

While You Are There: Hike. And try not to get eaten by a bear. And if you make it back to Homer, enjoy the restaurants on the spit.

Why It’s On My List: Everything I saw in Alaska was stunning, but this park has the added bonuses of having to take a water taxi (or plane) to get there and having to a use a hand tram, which is really heavy and difficult to pull, to get across parts of trails. The water taxi driver dumped me off at the trail head and basically said “Good luck, I’ll meet you at the pickup point at 5pm.” And then I was off into the wilderness. You have to figure out where the pickup point is and how much time you are going to need to get there. And, of course, the glacier views were magnificent.

For this year’s A-Z Blog Challenge, I’ve decided to showcase 26 of my favorite places in the world. I’ve only been to 22 of the 196 countries, so I’ve got some more travelling to do, but these places are well worth a visit.

Enchanting Rainforest Hideaway in Pāhoa, Hawaii (February, 2013)

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While You Are There: Relax! Not all trips are about what you can go see and do. If you went all the way to Big Island only to rent this place and never step foot outside it except to go to and from the airport, it would be worthwhile. This place is magical. That said, Big Island is wonderful! There is so much to do: Volcanoes National Park (during the day and at night) and the Kilauea Iki Trail, snorkeling and turtle watching at Honaunau Bay, Lava Tree State Monument, South Point Park (where I got hit by a huge wave and was almost swept out into the ocean), the coffee farms on the west side of the island, and seeing snow on Mauna Kea.

Why It’s On My List: This house is paradise. Enough said.

For this year’s A-Z Blog Challenge, I’ve decided to showcase 26 of my favorite places in the world. I’ve only been to 22 of the 196 countries, so I’ve got some more travelling to do, but these places are well worth a visit.

Sanctuary 2.0: Re-Engaging the Senses

I recently starting rereading Diane Ackerman’s A Natural History of the Senses, which I read for the first time approximately two years ago. The book is an exquisite and vivid journey through our five senses and how they guide and influence our interactions with the world around us. It’s a beautiful piece of writing that serves as a reminder of the importance of literally stopping to smell the roses. Today, I did that. IMG_6411After a morning session of restorative yoga in the planetarium that left me with an almost unbearable desire to pack up the car and drive straight to the Badlands or Moab to be alone with my senses, I settled for a three hour solo hike into the forest and canyons at the base of the Flatirons. The air, earth, and plants were still damp with the heavy spring rain that soaked the whole region on Friday. Such a rich humidity on a rainless day is rare treat in Boulder, as is the sound of rushing water and a nearly empty hiking trail only 15 minutes outside town. The luxury of the experience filled me with emotion and also got me to thinking about how my own senses have been heightened and tantalized since I removed myself from a relationship that was breaking my soul and forcing me to suppress a desire for rich experiences in order to simply get by from day to day. Restorative yoga helps you be present in your sense of self, but the other five senses are every bit as important. Here is what has been influencing mine lately. Continue reading →

Jen Climbs a 14er, a Tragicomedy

Of the many ways in which my body has started falling apart as I enter middle age, the knee pain I recently acquired has been the most unexpected. I’m not a runner, nor am I terribly athletic or active in any way, so it’s not as if my knees have taken a pounding over the last 37 years. But I have had a lifelong habit of sitting on my feet, so maybe I shouldn’t have been all that surprised when last November it started taking me several minutes to fully stretch my legs out again after I had been curled up. Or when in December I found I was no longer able to fully tuck my right leg under me without piercing pain. Or when in January, some parts of the bones started sticking out awkwardly from my knee cap.

Luckily, a simple knee brace from the drugstore and intense vigilance to my posture while seated made these problems a thing of the past by spring. And so two weeks ago I thought that climbing a 14er, something I haven’t done in over five years, would be a good idea. You may think the hard part is going uphill for three hours gulping at the oxygen-deprived air, certain you can’t possibly force yourself to engage your thigh muscle to bring your foot up one more time, but you’d be mistaken. Downhill is the real torture, especially on your knees. Gravity pulls you down, faster and faster, forcing you to keep going, making your feet move so quickly that you don’t even know if your next step will be on a loose pile of rocks that will go flying out from under you or on a solid chunk of unyielding granite that slams all your body weight into your already wasted knees. Most often it’s the latter, over and over and over. As many times as I had to stop to fill my lungs on the way up, I had to stop to massage and stretch out my knees on the way down. Continue reading →