February 28, 2012

Home things

So my exciting gap-year adventure train has briefly slowed to a halt with the news that I would have to do several weeks or months of intensive physical therapy because of a foot injury. (Which is going well- just discovered I'm allowed to go on 1 hour hikes! wooo) I was bummed to hear this at first as I was planning all sorts of cool things, but have really enjoyed some time at home, catching up on 4 years of sleep, to-do lists, doing lots of reading, studying, mixed martial arts, tutoring etc... Here are a few images that I have taken in this period of rest and recovery! 

Carrots: I planted all of these (in addition to many other root veggies, lettuces, peppers, fruits etc...) back in the late summer. We've started harvesting them and they are SO weird! Very tasty and healthy, but of course, the carrots I plant would end up looking like chubby orange fingers:

Or in the case of this one, fat little gnome legs!!!

I've enjoyed exploring the woods I used to play in every day when I was little. 

I've been working intermittently as a slave administrative assistant for my dad's office and have taken pictures of some of their properties. Here is a spooky picture I took by accident!

I stepped backwards into this hole, further complicating my recovery process...

Went to the Oregon Logging Conference where they had a cool photo archive of Oregon logging!

Woke up one day last week and noticed flowers have started blooming! I went out to take a nice picture of Lila but she just wanted to eat them

and play with her ball

We had several hundred kiwis sitting around that my mom harvested a few months ago (they take a bit of time to ripen after harvesting). We got a new blender so I spent several hours opening every single kiwi, testing them and pureeing them. We have about 5 pounds of frozen kiwi mush that I make into smoothies. 

So that is what my January/February are looking like. Pretty simple, but restorative and nice.

February 25, 2012

An homage to the austere beauty of central oregon

This last fall we decided to take a drive we virtually had never done for fun. My brother went to school in Sisters so we drove over there often when I was younger, but rarely with enough time just to muck about. This time it was purely on a whim, fed by the aesthetic desire for vast openness and the late summer panic when you make sure you've done everything you can before the freezes come. We brought our roadside geology books and tracked the geologic history of the road-cuts and gravels and buttes from start to finish. It was wildfire season, which made the trip more exciting, but scary. Luckily the fire we saw wasn't in an inhabited area and was near several lakes.

We drove up the winding, switchback laden Old McKenzie Highway (Route 242) and stopped at the familiar Dee Wright Observatory. Earlier in the summer, some friends of ours took their bikes on the highway as snow had been cleared from part of the road, but not enough for cars.

The Dee Wright Observatory was built at McKenzie pass during the depression by Civilian Conservation Corps workers. You can still see the old wagon trails from the 1860s there. That might be Belknap crater there but I'm not positive. I remember scampering across the lava and hunting for chipmunks with my Girl Scout troop here. That is the smoke from the fire in the image above. It would've filled the frame in another few minutes.

This image shows the Middle and North Sisters, with the Collier glacier between them. Everything is so open out there. I've always thought it looks like another planet because of how the skeleton trees just can't seem to thrive.

We finished our day at a road-side burger joint where I had a blackberry shake so thick I had to eat it with a spoon. We set off for home but stopped when we found a great vista of the fire. Many people were gathered at this wide shoulder taking pictures and saying over and over "Did you see that?!". If you look really closely in this picture you can see a few sparks- the fire was right over the highest point in that ridge. Helicopters were dipping into the lake in the middle of the image. As we drove home, the moon hovered directly in front of us, shining blood red through the haze.

February 4, 2012

My Year So Far: Jamaica, mon

After several days at anchor in Samana bay we set off once again, this time for our last stop, the Errol Flynn Marina in Port Antonio, Jamaica. On our way there we caught a 22 pound mahi on the line we always had set up on our stern. Actually I can't quite remember if that happened then or earlier, but according to the order of my pictures in iPhoto it happened after we left the DR.... 

It changed color so quickly! That was the most surprising part. Look at these photos in chronological order: 

I love this picture, because of how you can see the anticipation just in our feet!

As in San Juan, the colors were very vibrant in Jamaica, although of a different palette. More saturated and dark than the pastel stucco of San Juan's townhouses. 

Goats everywhere

Rainbow building taken from our bus

Rainbow town where we stopped for ting and sandwiches
Even the mud was rainbow!

The field trip I opted for in Jamaica was a hike through the agricultural land. I initially expected we would stroll across vast fields of grains and bananas. However, as we quickly found, Jamaica is very mountainous and most farmers farm on extremely, dangerously steep hillsides. We would be walking on a small path right by a cliff and I would look over the side and see Scotch Bonnet peppers or tomatoes clinging to the hillside. We also saw bananas and cacao and giant versions of every single house plant I've ever seen. Chocolate is not what we think it is. Cacao pods look like yellow squash and are filled with sappy white fat packets containing the beans. 

Looking down at the Rio Grande river from the hills

And the people of Port Antonio were welcoming and kind. (Except for the building code man who was angry with me for not sending in a letter of introduction, which I had....) Everybody said hello and wanted to know more about us- not to sell us stuff like in the DR, just to know what we were doing there. They were so proud and delighted that we chose their part of the island to visit. I met many people with neat stories and most of them asked me to take their picture! 

Here's Noel, who was born on Christmas. He got in trouble 5 years ago for selling blank CDs, but now he is "no bullshit!". So I bought one of his CDs and went back to the boat and put it in the galley CD player and it was a good roots reggae collection!

Then there was Rock Bottom, a wood carver. He's been carving for 30 years and said this is his favorite piece:

Then I met Norma, a nice lady in the market. She said she's an all-natural girl. She gave Beth and I a taste of her spice- as though she knew once we tried it we couldn't leave without buying some. It was so good even though it was 10 in the morning. I almost wanted to keep munching on it. A spice! I went back to take her picture and she told me about her family and showed me pictures of her many offspring and their children.

An old man came up to our boat and sold us some spiny lobsters and a crab! I drew this guy. Half of it is from memory because my model was turned into ceviche by the chief scientist before I finished!

Ian and I wrote this when we left Jamaica:
Goodbye Jamaica! You’ve treated us well, but the time has come to head towards Key West. We woke up and were thrown straight into intensive cleaning when a “Field Day” was called. As part of A-Watch, we had to clean the galley! I (Dylan) spent several hours in the small, dark corners of the galley scraping “mung” (not quite solid, not quite liquid) off the soles, walls, and nooks and crannies while I (Ian) washed and wiped down every dish, jar, and container from the galley. After cleaning belowdeck, we had a deck wash and then met for the gear adrift auction. During the auction, items strewn across the boat are “auctioned” off in exchange for displays of talent. I (Dylan) won back my bag of Blue Mountain coffee by licking my elbow while Ian won back his rash guard by leading us in a very silly dance. Then we motored away from the \marina and set sail! Class was canceled, which gave us a chance to relax and get our sea legs back. Dylan slept through lunch, dinner, and breakfast, a total of 14 out of 24 hours. But back in the throes of seasickness, it is pretty much the best thing to do to restore yourself. We did wake up, of course, for midwatch, from 2300 to 0300.
The last leg was very fun, even though I was seasick and had a stomach bug I probably picked up in Jamaica and I couldn't eat or even drink much water. For a few days, I had constant pain all over my body and walking was a challenge and all I could do was sleep, which was unfortunate as we had several projects due. But it was still fun! We exchanged secret Santa gifts on Christmas. I received a lovely hand-made wooden boat from Laura and gave Ellie an embossed leather journal. We spent much of our time off the coast of Cuba. We didn't have research clearance in lieu of our regular scientific deployments we sent several dozen styrofoam cups and two foam head-forms down to 2500 meters! My smallest cup which reads "XMAS CUBA 2011" is now thimble sized. We were a very crafty crew and enjoyed coloring our cups, making incredible secret Santa items, cutting out snowflakes and decorating Christmas cookies. I was really bummed at first about missing Christmas, but it was neat to experience it in a whole new way! I didn't miss it after all. 

During this leg another watch started doing theme days. They did pirates, mustaches, a few others including nerds:

 I joined in once or twice:

The last leg was the best for wildlife collecting and sighting. One night I was steering and spotted a couple sperm whales! We saw many dolphins the entire trip, but I rang in Christmas eve (literally, I was on watch from 2300-0300) watching dolphins playing in the bowsprit illuminated by bioluminescent plankton. So cool. 

We saw hundreds of jellies in the Florida Straits. We caught this Man Of War for a genetics researcher at Brown University: 

I drew it:

We also caught a Nudibranch (named Nudie I think). It's hard to see!

A moon jelly we caught to look at.

I climbed all the way up the mast on this leg. It was very scary. The winds are much more perceptible a hundred feet above the sea! My camera was strapped to my chest so this shot was fired aimlessly!

Lastly, sailing into Key West!

SEA was a wonderful experience and I can't recommend it to anybody enough! Even if you are prone to seasickness, the non-sick parts make it worth it! (They have medicine, it just didn't work for me).

It probably wouldn't be a stretch to say it's changed my life. Immediately afterwards, I missed the benefits of polyphasic sleep patterns and I still prefered navy showers, and I'm sure I will notice more subtle but significant ways that my perspectives and ideas have changed in the future as I travel, explore, and study more. I am glad also to have followed in the footsteps of my great-grandfather and father and to have become a capable sea-woman. They both kept wonderfully written sailing logs and I'm sad I was too sick to write much, so this blog is my modern literary contribution to that family tradition! I hope you've enjoyed reading it and let me know if you have any questions about the places I visited or living on a boat! 

My Year So Far: Republica Dominica

And then we set sail again. I felt sick for a few days, and then was fine on the last day when we came into port. Man. My great-grandfather was a merchant marine his whole life and my dad was a commercial fisherman for a couple of years. So why do I get sick? I must have my mother's predisposition to seasickness. What a bummer, because I love the ocean! 

This time, for a vast change in scenery we anchored in Samana Bay in the Dominican Republic. This is the view from our anchorage on a foggy morning:

When anchored, it is very important that you stay in one place and make sure that you are not moving, because, as I've read in my great-grandfather's sailing log, the anchor chain can drag and then break and send you adrift and you can run into rocks, run aground etc etc... So normally while on watch we did "boat checks" every hour, but while anchored we did that in addition to half-hourly anchor checks. Taking bearings and the boats heading and looking at the anchor chain and at a computer program etc. It is a lot of work to stay still on a boat!!!

In the DR, our field trip was to Los Haitises, a national park/virgin forest of all these little karst mounds with great caverns recessed into them and mangroves around their perimeters.

Here is an excerpt from my blog entry about when we kayaked in the mangrove swamps:

Kayaking (Dylan): At 0800 yesterday, a noisy catamaran pulled up alongside the Cramer to take us to Los Haitises; the DR equivalent of a national park. The ship’s soundtrack of Ke$ha and several upbeat local artists was slightly incongruous with the serene beauty of the scenery. We meandered our way around dozens of small islands created by the uplift and subsequent erosion of ancient coral reefs. The islands, half hidden by the fog, were mounds of lush, dark green flora, dotted with the white of egrets nesting in the trees. The weathered calcite deposits were exposed at the base of each island, and caves were recessed into some of them. Hundreds of birds were engaged in every sort of standard bird activity. There were frigate birds, known here as Tijereta, searching for mates on the leeward side of one island with their red throat pouches inflated. Brown pelicans skimmed along the water and occasionally dove for fish. My favorites were the graceful black birds with forked tails that hung almost perfectly still in the air. They may’ve been female Tijereta, perhaps looking for mates?

After an hour, we pulled up alongside a larger island and embarked on our kayaking adventure through the mangrove swamps. Mangrove roots, which stick out of the water or ground depending on what type of mangrove it is, are all tubular, haphazard loop-de-loops that braid and weave together forming a sort of organic celtic knot. My kayaking partner, Sarah, mused about getting a tattoo of mangrove roots! Sarah and I stayed at the back of the pack and spotted many camouflaged crabs scampering on the vines and roots. Most were dark brown, but we saw one crab about the size of a hand with juicy red mandibles and pincers. We were told mangroves are also home to manatees, but unfortunately, we didn’t see any. We eventually returned to the boat where we ate lunch before our next adventure!
Our next adventure was some spelunking in some beautiful caverns. MC decided to swim and we all followed suit. I saw a bunch of chitons on the walls:
Chiton. Sold for too many dollars in the local shop! Florent Charpin
Then we returned to town and went to a whale museum and then to a school where we exchanged songs with some local kids.

Samana is supposed to be the most beautiful town in the DR we heard. I was amazed and couldn't even imagine what the rest of Hispaniola must be like, given the huge amount of trash that blanketed the entire city. (Later, when we sailed along Haiti, for a day or two we could smell burning trash, even several miles off shore.) There was a thriving local market, and many many many touristy activities and shops. We agreed with a local man to go to his jewelry store and I bought a bracelet I actually liked, but it broke later that day, which was disappointing, but at least it'll help him and his family I hope. There were also dogs everywhere. Like this beautiful guy:

A face only a mother could love.
I was quite frustrated with my limited Spanish abilities (read: lack thereof). But by the third day I had picked up enough to have simple conversation. Numbers were still hard though. And flavors in the icecream shop. I of course managed to order what appeared to be identical to what my shipmates ordered but that cost a dollar more... I mostly just spoke in Frentalianglish which worked well enough. I did manage to buy some cacao beans! I made hot chocolate out of them recently and didn't realize you're supposed to roast them first. But apparently they are good stimulants for you when they are raw.  I didn't sleep that night. Weeeeeee!

We bought a watermelon. Nobody had a knife:

There were wild horses in the park where the kids played baseball. 

As visible in my first picture, the bay is transected by a causeway that's about 50 feet above the water. 
In this picture, a man runs on the railing. He did this twice before jumping off.

Much of the water below is very shallow, but locals know where to jump. We were forbidden to follow suit (but the next day we got to jump off the bow of the Cramer which is pretty darn high up too!)

I like this picture because you can see the elevator from the hotel to the beach in the background. Oh, tourism.

My Year So Far: Puerto Rico

After six days of sailing, I finally felt a little less sick! But, of course, we were to sail into port that afternoon. I was on watch, on deck, and ended up steering us all the way into San Juan. This was one of the coolest things I've ever done. It was so intense as there was a ginormous cruise ship several hundred yards away. They were leaving the port that we were going into, so we had to dance around them a bit. We got close enough to their bow that we could see the tourists waving and their cameras flash.

Steering was one of my favorite things to do on watch. It's not at all like driving, depending on the winds, once you turn the wheel (which is just like in pirate movies, as shown below) it can take anywhere from seconds to minutes to change the course. When going into port the mate or captain would give us directions (5 turns to the left, hard over, midships) but normally we were just given a compass direction.  At night when we would steer a straight course, you could choose a star or other celestial body to steer towards. Steering by starlight! How neat is that?
Me steering into San Juan harbor. The old fort, El Morro behind me. Photo by Randy Jones
And then we made it into port. It was a cruise-ship dock, so right next to hotels and restaurants. We were pretty much right on the street. Like, it's a wonder we didn't get a parking ticket!! That was a cool experience in itself, because we had to be on watch 24/7 on the street side of the boat to make sure nobody tried to get on, cast us off etc... and as a double masted schooner is not the most common sight in urban San Juan we had many many visitors. By the second or third night it seemed like the local youth were in fact meeting up and simply hanging out by our boat. People took pictures of us, watched us work, play music, eat, tried to sell stuff to us, one very drunk guy came by with his Schnapps and a deck of cards at 0600 to try to give us a magic show. We shared the port with several cruise ships so it was interesting, as we had to be awake then, to watch the taxis starting to line up at 3 or 4 in the morning ready to take the tourists who stumble off the boat no earlier than 8 or 9! 

Us on the street with Carnival "Victory"

Our field trip in Puerto Rico was to El Yunque, a national park/tropical rainforest. 23 of the species of trees and plants there are found nowhere else! Apparently it rains there 6 times a day but in the 6 or 7 hours we were there it did not rain once. Our guide told us not to wear bugspray, as the wonderful coqui frogs eat any mosquitos up there. I'm pretty sure I still sustained a few bites. We also went to the first of several waterfalls we saw on our trip.

El Yunque in the fog. Photo by Jill Thompson
On my night off we wandered the streets and there was a sort of Christmas or winter festival going on. There were dozens of food and drink carts and concerts and parties. In the main square there was some group of four men singing popular songs and dancing. The only song I recognized was Feliz Navidad. There was a little old lady in her beautiful red lace flamenco dress dancing near us. She was dressed to the nines and swished her dress around gracefully, revealing her old lady knee-high stockings. She was very sweet and showed me the local dances. We didn't say a word but that didn't matter! It was so lovely. We continued wandering after a bit at the concert and were swept up into a parade! It was so neat, full of young girls in sparkly leotards and what looked like highschool marching bands and many people wearing these funny face costumes:

On my day off, a Sunday I believe, I left the boat quite early, when the city was still asleep. It was a stark contrast to my night out. I went to the square where the concert was. It was completely empty, even the stage was gone:

In the absence of people, I enjoyed looking at the architecture and remarked how colorful a town San Juan is! The streets are made of rainbows. 

And there is lots of neat street art, some of it political because of the question of Puerto Rico's political future (whether it should be a state, independent etc...).

I think everybody in our group took a picture of this guy
And then I went to El Morro which was also very empty. El Moro is a citadel constructed in the 16th century to guard San Juan. This little architectural nugget is on every single post card in Puerto Rico. I am not sure why. I guess it's pretty sweet...
I was accosted by this kitty while there:

That afternoon I met up with Ellie. We ate the local fare of everything fried (empanadas, tostanas etc...) and pina coladas. We then walked the 25 minutes to the beach. Many taxis kept honking at us, amazed that we dare walk out of the tourists' waddle zone and offered their services. But, despite all odds, we made it all the way to the beach. We tried to snorkel but it was pretty murky so I sat in the sun and finished On The Road and then made a fool of myself on Mary-Claire's slackline. 

I would love to get back to Puerto Rico some day to explore a bit more of the island. San Juan itself is in fact an island, and several locals informed me that it is much different that the Puerto Rican mainland. I'm sure that is true, as Old San Juan is pretty tourism oriented. But that is certainly hard to escape throughout the Caribbean, as it is the veritable lifeblood of the economy, and according to some locals, not at all a bad thing.