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Mountain Standard Time

Ahhh yes… “Home”

Well. I made it through the final leg of my multi-state cross-country road trip with these last 350 miles from El Paso to Tucson. Mexican border within arms’ reach to my left, then into New Mexico, then onto Arizona, a quick rest/gas/pee stop in Willcox, and an hour later back in Tucson and straight to the gym, where I got 2 PRs: a new 3RM high hang snatch of 120# and new 3RM high hang clean&jerk of 150#.

New Mexico I-10 W

Arizona I-10 W

Yonder Tucson

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Then straight to a double-double protein style with a side of animal fries.

across the street from my house (no lie). Thank you, West coast.

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Now time to unpack! But that can wait until tomorrow.

Tucson really makes me smile. It really does. I’m with my family, I’m surrounded by sunshine and mountains,  I have my sturdy 5-speed Honda Fit, I have a great gym I get to lift at, I have meat in my belly, and I have an organized plan for my dissertation writing and have already made progress… it’s smooth sailing in the desert, folks.  Enjoying every moment.

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290W/I-10W: Desert Trekking

I officially have “driver’s tan” now. It’s quite comical, really, like a farmer’s tan but only on the left side of my body. Tomorrow’s drive to Tucson won’t improve matters, either.

El Paso looks a lot like Tucson. Home is so close now!

El Paso from my hotel window (not pictured: the 'star' of Texas lit up on the side of that mountain)

I really must remember next time I’m driving on 290 to plan a stop in Fredericksburg, TX. The CUTEST little town I ever did drive through. You know, the drive from Austin to El Paso isn’t as terrible as many put it out to be.

long stretch of I-10 to nothing but desert mountains

Desert and blue sky!

But then, when I see open stretches of highway in front of me and nothing but desert and bare mountains to either side of me, I’m a happy girl.The desert rocks (pun totallyintended).

Don’t get me wrong, a verdant landscape is all well and good, but the desert will always claim my heart. Cross-winds, however, are AWFUL. Not only do they make driving quite treacherous, but they do horrible damage to the mpg average! I had to refill my tank about 100 miles under when I’d normally expect to do so. And when I got to the gas station to do so it took a lot of effort to open my car door against the wind. Yes, they really were that strong.

Oh, and…. Texas I-10… 80mph? Really??? Wow.

Oookay.

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Something I’ve learned while on the road (besides how incredibly vast this land is and that everyone should travel solo, something I’ve said many times before) is my “Secret Single Behavior” (SSB). I already knew that I talk to myself and have no shame blurting out songs whether or not the radio is on. And that I dance while driving. What I did not know is that I will talk to my food, as well, sometimes to a little tune. Example: “Yum yum carrot, you are so crunchy and sweeeeet I love to CRUNCH you yum yum carrot yum!”

Speaking of carrots, those of you who know I eat a pretty Paleo diet might be wondering how I get by keeping it clean on the road.

Venti iced coffee (unsweetened) with half'n'half.

Fast food joints everywhere, and the ever-tempting Dairy Queen (a road trip staple, if I may say so… though I have yet to actually have any this trip). Well, to be honest it’s pretty easy to eat well as long as you have a cooler.

Okay… I do start with coffee (it helps to keep you awake, and this large size lasts me all day… the need to stop and pee helps, also).

While driving I don’t really have too much of an appetite, actually. I’m not that active and the multiple roadkill sightings don’t do much for me. But it is true that hour after hour of driving can induce the munchies.  Munchies = crunchies, and carrots perfect. So are nuts. Before I start my journey I hard-boil some eggs to take on the road for quick protein bites during stops. And I make sure I have a few PaleoKits with me, just in case. They are jerky, nuts and dried fruit, and they double as a great jaw workout! One kit can easily last me two meals. Sliced deli meat is a huge staple for my cooler. And because the phrase “added water” or “added white meat” kind of weirds me out, I go for Applegate or Hormel’s All Natural 100% turkey. No nitrates or anything. Just 100% pure meat. And, of course, you should always be equipped with: water, water, and more water. And remember to drink often.

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Wave to Mexico!!!

Driving just North of the Mexican border. Hola!!!

Austin

Note to all I-10 drivers: the route from Baton Rouge to Lafayette is almost all bridge. That’s right, just one long bridge. Mile after mile after mile of bridge (Lake Charles, Atchafalaya Basin, Whiskey Bay Pilot, Mississippi…) . Oh, and the Mississippi bridge? HUGE. A few people decided to capture the moment on video (going East not West) and I think I’ll share it here (please listen to the commentary, because it’s amazing) 

It’s funny how stereotypes are there for a reason. I stopped for gas just outside of the Texas state line at a place that boasted Texas BBQ and lots of clubs of, um, lesser repute, shall we say, that often included “Bayou” in the name (still technically in Louisiana).

Stopping for gas just outside of Texas, still in Louisiana. Hmmm "Lucky Longhorn" or "Texas BBQ" ?

Just after I hopped back on the freeway, all of a sudden everything changed. I passed the sign that let me know I was now in Texas, but the sign really wasn’t necessary. All of a sudden, everything was just BIGGER. The road was bigger, and I was somehow now the only non-truck vehicle I could see. Stretches or highway were bigger, signs were bigger, rest stops were bigger, everything in Texas really is bigger. Cities are certainly no exception. Houston is HUGE. I was more than happy to drive right through it over the massive expanse of freeway systems there. Eventually I reached my destination, the end of Leg #3 of my road trip: Austin.

Other stereotypes? Cowboys in Texas. Driving on 290W I saw crossing the street in front of me a boy on his horse. Yup, his horse. Just casually crossing the freeway. I guess a horse is a means of transportation just as much as a car is… the funny thing is I wasn’t quite shocked by this sight, but rather that he was not wearing a Stetson.

Cowboy boots, however, are still very much in style (whew). And I saw a few of them as I saw Austin. Yes, folks, I actually got to see a city while on this road trip. I’ve never been to Austin before, so my host, Allisa (a friend from Orvieto excavations and MA studies at Arizona), took it upon herself to show me what the city had to offer.

First things first: a long drive left me thirsty and the perfect place to quench my thirst was at a birthday bash for a friend in Allisa’s department (at UT Austin).This took place at this super neat-o coffee shop/watering hole near campus, call Spider’s.

Then we headed to S. Congress Street to walk about and get some grub and just enjoy the night.

S. Congress St. Boots and the Cock'n'Balls Hotel

Austin is not ashamed

Guero's TexMex for dinner!

It wasn’t too late a night. I had a 7:30am date with a barbell and Chad Vaughn! And my buddy, JJ, who I hadn’t seen since October 2010! I met them at GrassIron Gym, which is basically a dream come true gym for anyone who loves lifting. The entire floor is like one giant platform, and all their bars and plates are Eleiko. *swoon*!!! I joined these Austin lifters for snatch grip push press, snatches, clean and jerks, and back squats.  2 hours later, I was sweaty, happy, and left awake, energized, and with hugs all around. I love it when people I don’t know are encouraging me through a lift, hoping that I, a total stranger (but mutual lifter), find success.

Chad lifting, Mitch resting, great gymJJ doing some snatch grip push presses, Chad prepping for a snatch

Dream gym (GrassIron Gym in Austin, TX)Chad putting up some serious weight (naturally)

JJ rocking the snatch grip push presses

Chad putting up some serious weight (naturally)

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Then I experienced the Austin Zoo. It’s not your average zoo, because it’s actually a rescue sanctuary. It started as just a petting zoo of sorts with lots of farm animals, but since has expanded to including black bears, tigers, lions (one of whom was neutered young to be a ‘guard lion’ for a drug lord… he’s missing a mane because of it), monkeys (many of which were rescued from owners who just decided they couldn’t handle them any more), coatis, wolves (2 of whom have only 3 legs), lemurs… all sorts of animals. It even has a blind leopard, who shares a cage with a black panther.

GIANT tortoiseThe sign doesn't lie. This guy sprayed at least three times while we were there.Happiest pig I ever did seeIt was also a petting zoo. I took advantage.

The sign does not lie. This guy sprayed the crowd at least 3 times.

Happiest pig I ever did see.

And, of course, I did eat BBQ. Texas BBQ, mind (there is a difference!). We went to The County Line, which consisted of a beautiful drive out of Austin to this really BIG barbeque joint near a creek. We got some margaritas while we waited for a table, then dug in to MEAT and more MEAT. The portions were BIG (as is the theme in Texas), and… well I’m sorry to say we all took home leftovers. I know what I’ll be eating on the drive tomorrow!!! There were many signs around saying “Eat here. Diet later.” Word.

Dig in, y'all!!!

Oh. Yes. This is Texas.

Mega-Churches and Rivers on the Open Road

535 miles and 4 states in one day from Way Down Yonder on the Chattahoochee to Callin’ Baton Rouge. All to the soundtrack of country music, classic rock, and Eco’s The Prague Cemetery. The scenery didn’t have a lot of variation.

GEORGIA
First of all, the nickname “Hotlanta” is a LIE. It was anything but hot. I left that city with heater ON.

So, my mother’s always had a fear of driving over bridges. She doesn’t mind so much if she’s just in the car, but she does not like being behind the wheel. This morning, as I left Marietta and drove on the 285-S around Atlanta and then on the 85-S… I drove over the Chattahoochee River. I didn’t even have time to really notice whether or not it bothered me being on that bridge because I was too distracted by my own voice belting out a tribute to Alan Jackson.

ALABAMA (also the name of one of the best country band’s EVER ever)
Then I  merged onto 85-S and lo and behold I was definitely in the South. Heater off. As I cruised along the highway the there loomed the shadow of a very large Colonial flag and very religious billboards… and more mega-churches (I passed at least 3 leaving Georgia). The rest of the road was pretty standard highway, I must say.

I-85 S

Then I merged onto 65-S and somewhere between Montgomery and Mobile I stopped for a gas, bathroom, and coffee break. Easiest coffee to grab was at the mom and shop gas station, and it was a whopping $0.76. Buttttt then again you get what you pay for. Also this was the perfect time to rid myself of a very much not-needed (any more) jacket.

I-65 S

Then I went over a couple rivers [Tensaw and Mobile] and that long stretch of bridge (one long bridge for the both) let me sympathize with my mother. For some reason it was just… uncomfortable. I didn’t freak out or anything, but knowing that only cement — and a long stretch of it at that — is what’s holding you and other cars and trucks above a long stretch of water is a tad unnerving.

approaching the Tensaw River bridge

Tensaw/Mobile rivers' (very very long) bridge

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MISSISIPPI (em-ay ess-ess ay-ess-ess ay-pee-pee ay)

And here we are at the first highway I ever knew: I-10.

I-10 W

Mighty Mississippi? More like marshy Mississippi!!! Actually I won’t traverse that giant river until tomorrow. But Hellooooo A/C!!!

LOUISIANA
As you drive from Mississippi into Louisiana via I-10W the first thing you hit is a giant bridge that goes over the Pearl River and surrounding State Wildlife Preservation Area. One very, very, very long bridge that takes you over what is basically like one giant marshland with pockets of shimmering blue water.

another massively long bridge as you enter LA from MS

Pearl River expanse

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My first and only visit to this state (before today) was over 15 years ago when I visited family up in Shreveport.  Coming from Tucson, I remember my initial reaction was “it’s… sooo… GREEN! Just so GREEN!.” Well, guess what? Not much has changed. It’s still soooooo greeeeeeen!

I-12 W and lots of green

.And the guy at the Shell gas station was kind enough to remind me of just how gullible I am. I had to go inside to get my gas receipt, and he immediately said “that’ll be $1 extra.” “ummm okay sure” says I. He couldn’t believe I actually believed him. Luckily he didn’t go through with it. He did try to get me again by claiming the restroom would also cost $1. (I managed to leave without spending any more than I had just spent on gas.)

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My night in Baton Rouge looked a little like this:
1. check into hotel and look with longing on ridiculously large King-size bed

I will sleep diagonally tonight

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2. Find “Geaux CrossFit” and join them for their last class of the day: find 5-rep max deadlift.. with good form (new PR at 235#), and then a 12 minute AMRAP of 20 double-unders and 10 chest-to-bar pull-ups (on the thickest pull-up bars I ever did see, got 7 rounds plus 7 pull-ups with just chin-over-bar pull-ups because those thick bars really were a game-changer!). Then… SWEAT. Wow, sweat. And now I remember what “humid” smells (and feels) like. Wow.

Geaux CrossFit

In Baton Rouge they call me "Bart"

 

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3. Shower. Blog. Sleep. Get ready for another long day in the saddle tomorrow. (Good thing I got my boots!)

Getting tan on only my left side!!!
Now it’s time to begin the trek across the desert known as: TEXAS.

Life is a Highway

Cliche title? Sure. But it fits.

This morning I packed up Paolo with my things and on a crisp Tuesday morning left Amy’s house in Charlottesville and hopped onto 29S to start my adventure to Tucson.

Paolo, my 2008 Honda Fit, ready for the road

the hatchback is full

Just over 500 miles and 4 states. Virginia. North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia. Leg 1 final destination: Life University in Marietta, GA (it’s lovely having friends who are willing to put you up for a night or two). Despite a little bit of rain, the drive was pretty standard for this part of the country: rolling hills and trees on either side. I only had to stop twice to fill up and rest and stretch my legs (who knew how tiring sitting can be?). What did I listen to? Why, country music, of course. It only seemed fitting. I changed it up a little bit Umberto Eco’s The Prague Cemetery on tape. FABULOUS. Read a review! I’m only a few chapters in, but Eco’s writing mixes great prose with intriguing narrative with laugh-old-loud descriptions. He’s been one of my favorite authors for some time now, and every time I read something by him I’m reminded why that is.

I drove up to my friend Dave’s place around 5, just in time to see him make me a fabulous dinner of home-made meatloaf, sauteed brussels sprouts and roasted purple sweet potatoes! I was going to bring him some yummy house-warming gifts but Jackson (Amy’s dog) ate them. No lie. He found them among my things and ate them. Hopefully the mini packet of Justin’s chocolate-hazelnut butter I brought Dave was still acceptable.

After dinner we walked over to Life University’s gym in time to watch the men’s basketball team play Carver College (NAIA league) … and go from making it a close game to letting the other team score over 100 points. What happened? The other team played like a team, and our team did not. Simple as that. Highlight of the game was when the little girl sitting in front of us decided to be a contestant in the half-time dance-off.. and completely brought the house down. Girl had moves that I can only dream about! She won a free packet of Skittles. I won a priceless memory.

Don’t ask me what I thought about Atlanta, because I have no honest opinion. I barely went into town. I drove 8 hours yesterday and am looking at the same tomorrow, so today I blissfully slept in until 9 and then hopped on my computer. Emails, more emails, news, Daily Show, and some blogging. This. This is what I do on my road trip. And every now and then I look out the window to see the blue sky over the green campus.  When Dave came home for a break between classes we made Paleo zucchini brownies today (almond-butter base). Mmmm. Later on we stopped at a chiropractor’s house (he’s going to work for her) and she adjusted us both for free! Then we went into the city, and as we got out of the car to head into Yeah!Burger, I saw the lit-up Atlanta skyline.

burger joint with gourmet taste but old-style feel

Yeah!Burger is pretty darn good. It’s one of those gourmet burger joints in that they have local, grass-fed meats and bison and such (and turkey and veggie and chicken…), gluten-free options (buns, fries, onion rings), assorted toppings, sides, sauces, and the “side of the day” was roasted brussels sprouts topped with some seriously good goat cheese. Sooo what do I think of Atlanta? I think it’s delicious!

yumzo dinner for 2!

So many options! The reverse listed the shakes, sodas, beers and wines.

John Denver was on to something

Who knew having fun could be exhausting? I just spent a week in Charlottesville, VA doing just that. My parents thought I’d decide to spend the Spring there, after all!

So what was I doing, if not moving back? For starters, I was gathering my scattered possessions, including my car, which I had stored at various homes thanks to the help of fabulous friends.

my worldly possessions on Amy’s floor”]

And then there’s my car, Paolo, a 2008 Honda Fit. I hadn’t driven him, or a manual, in all of 6 months, and it sure felt good to shift those gears again after so long. But 6 months without my love is a while for even sturdy Paolo, so I spent my first day back in the ‘ville getting my car ready for the big drive West, which included replacing the car battery and getting the tires checked, and then making him street legal with updated license tag. I tested him on the road the next day when I drove to Harrisonburg to see my buddy Jake and workout with him at CrossFit Harrisonburg. Great little box which challenged me with a short 12-9-6 wod of clean and jerks (135/95) and chest-to-bar pull-ups. Then I witnessed Jake eat a whole half a pig as a post-WOD meal. That was most impressive. His post-meal constant belching was not. Still… very good to see an old bud!!!

CF Charlottesville -- push presses and pull-ups push-presses and KB thrusters

Jake wasn’t the only gym buddy I saw, I mean, I did coach at CrossFit Charlottesville for a year and work out there a year before that… I have connections I had to visit and cherish! So if I said I went to Charlottesville for a week and spent every day in the gym, I’d be lying, but it’s close. I had my own lifting to do, after all, and I knew the gym was where I’d get to see a ton of people I wanted to see.

Speaking of my own lifts, it turns out lifting on my own isn’t all that awful. I still prefer having a coach watching me at the moment, but I managed to PR my snatch at 133#/60.5kg (yayyy!)and got a new clean at 169#/77kg clean PR video [don’t mind the failed jerk]! 175#/79kg was sooo close, I managed to get under it twice, but just couldn’t drive it up.

The gym has provided me with a great little family of friends in Charlottesville, and one of them hosted me for the week (thanks, Amy!), others I got to visit for lunch at Eppie’s and BeerRun, dinner at Positively 4th Street and Himalayan Fusion, and a potluck dinner with others while watching the Golden Globes. We even had an impromptu bowling night at Waynesboro — I never even broke 100, but I sure had a fun time with them all.

I have other friends, too. I did got to Charlottesville for a grad program at UVA, and that’s where I first met people. I saw my old roommate and “the three Elizabeths” (yes we all share the same name) had our victorious reunion at Now and Zen for sushi (after a failed attempt to get manicures… for some reason the nail place was crazy crowded!). We caught up on girl talk and all our overseas adventures — all academic in purpose — of me in Greece, Elizabeth in Italy, and Libby in England. So so so good to see them. That’s why I booked a week in town, after all! It might now have been long enough.

And I saw dogs, at the gym and at Amy’s (awww Jackson, such a sweetie even if he did eat some of the gifts I brought for people). And I saw lots of cats. I love cats, I really do, not because they’re adoring like pups, but because they are, well, catty. They have sass and attitude. I was reminded heartily of the reasons why I love cats. Devon and John’s cat, Maggie, showed the adoring cuddly side when she snuggled up to me in state of total and utter relaxation for a while just letting me pet her. Joe and Lex’s cats are of 3 different natures: shy, ambivalent, and curious. Jason and Lydia’s cat, Mia, apparently has become a little more evil than usual… she loves feet but now she also loves attacking feet (I learned this the hard way). And then there’s Mrs. Noam Chomsky, Amy’s cat, and my new roommate for the past week. Chomsky normally hates everyone but Amy and she makes no secret of it by hissing at everyone and everything to her heart’s delight. However, towards the end of my stay there Chomsky not only tolerated my presence (no hissing?) but even drooled happily while curled up in my bed on my pillow. Call me the cat whisperer.

Mrs. Noam Chomsky curled up on my bed while I packed.

Oh, I went house-hunting! Still am doing so in preparation for moving back in July/August, and if anyone knows of a 3-bedroom place for July in the Belmont/downtown area please let me know!

To sum it up, Charlottesville looks the same: green and small and charming. Such is most of the South. One could get used to life there, knowing DC is a short 2 hour drive away along long stretches of green highway. But, as is ever the case with a place I can call ‘home’, it’s the people. Seeing all those familiar faces and remembering once again how lucky I am to consider each one of them a friend, and how happy I am when I’m with them… that I wouldn’t trade for anything.

Fearless in Philly

Subtitle: “A Weekend of Brains and Brawn.”

Sunrise in Philadelphia can’t hold a candle to those in Tucson, but it sure does have character. I. Love. Philly.

My uncle lives here in a great townhouse just south of Rittenhouse Square, so figuring out where to stay is hardly an issue, the hard part is just finding the excuse to get up to Philly. This weekend provided me with the perfect one: the AIA/APA annual meeting. 3 days of panels, colloquiums, roundtable discussions, posters, book sales, and receptions hosted by various institutions. And let’s not forget the slew of amazing people!

I won’t list all the papers I attended, but I would like to highlight a few of the ones that really struck a chord with me: “Some Roman Architectural Influences at Pompeii” (John Dobbins, UVA); “Lawrence Richardson, jr. and the Painters of the Pompeiian Fourth Style” (Eleanor Leach, Indiana U.); “Toward a Social Network Analysis fo Pompeian Wall Painting” (by a group from U. of Arkansas — truly a stellar presentation); “The Hairstyles of the Erechtheion’s Caryatids in Context” (Marice Rose, Fairfield U.); “Between a Rock and a Hard Place: Rethinking the Cilicia Mosaic from Antioch” (Tyler Jo Smith, UVA — and can I just say how inspiring it is to see scholars give excellently researched and delivered talks on a topic outside their normal field of study? Love it); “Little Big Lies: Forgeries of Ancient Gems” (Ken Lapatin, J. Paul Getty Museum); “Recent Excavations in the Athenian Agora” (John Camp, ASCSA); and finally I’ll end the highlight list with “The Kekropion and its Relation to the North Terrace Wall and to the Erechtheion” (John Caulk, an independant scholar who posed a very interesting theory about the Kekropion based on very careful interdisciplinary analyses of ancient texts and the physical remains).

***I did not, however, like it when phrases such as “scarcely feminine musculature of the arms” or “bulging feminine muscles” used to describe female figures painted on the walls of Pompeii are uttered with a tone of disbelief. Women can, in fact, have nicely sculpted arms.***

There were many other presentations I attended and posters I read that filled my days with academic fun (yes, fun). And there was scholarly fun, as well! This conference is also a great excuse to see old friends who are now all across the globe. I got to see former professors from my time at the University of Arizona, friends from my MA program, friends who dug with me in Orvieto, Murlo, and Rome, friends who studied with me at the American Academy in Rome (both the Summer Program in Archaeology and the Pottery Program), professors who led my summer programs at both the AAR and the American School of Classical Studies in Athens, friends from my summer at the ASCSA and from my recent time there this past Fall as an Associate Member. So many people. So many wonderfully familiar faces. And I love seeing their recent achievements! Some of them were presenting, now have really good jobs in their field, and others were there to interview for faculty positions at prestigious institutions! We’re all growing up, aren’t we?

My brain is on stimulation overload right now. Sitting there listening to amazing and innovative papers on subjects ranging from Greek architecture to Roman iconography to excavations in Bulgaria have set the hamsters in my brain working double-time (Billy Blanks would be so proud). The wheels, they spin. My hand is cramped not from the note-taking I did, but all the “note to self”s I wrote regarding short- and long-term ideas and goals about my current research (dissertation), my extra-curricular academic interests (still love those wall-paintings and still find it hard to fight the itch to dig again), and ideas about future conferences and thinking about jobs (so many of my friends are PhDs now and interviewing to be a professor… I realize I’m not far behind).

And what trip would be complete without a visit to a local CrossFit box? Last time I was in Philly I checked out Crossfit Center City . Really cute box and I enjoyed my time there, but Philly’s a big place with lots to explore. So this time I headed South to Fearless Athletics/Crossfit South Philly. Nothing like heavy lifting and a pounding heartbeat after a day full of sitting and learning, right? The box was spacious, red, and when I walked in the squat racks at the back were occupied with people squatting big weights. Yesssss. 

The owner, Wil, was leading the class and greeted me. After I changed into workout attire the people arriving for the next class (my class) did what any good CrossFitter would do — they didn’t know me so they introduced themselves. Insta-friends! One of them even recognized me from past competitions that we both attended; he was also a trainer at this box and guided me through their Clean and Jerk warm-up before we had 17 minutes to max out our low-bar back squat. Well, that didn’t end up being enough time for a true ‘max effort’ (had to share a rack with 2 other people), but I still got a nice PR at 250# (113.5kg) with lots more in the tank! I was one of many PRs that day — so exciting to see people (even people I just met) get stronger! Guess it’s something in the cheesesteaks? (…actually I am sad to report I did not eat a single cheesesteak.) Then the conditioning part…. 2 rounds for reps of: 2 minutes wall-balls, 2 minutes push-press (75/55), and 2 minutes burpees (strict pushup at the bottom for the standard!), 1 minute rest. Whew — 104 reps for the first half, 99 for the second. That was rough!

Repping out the 55# push presses

And yet I came back the next morning for the “Advanced” workout, which started off with a single-arm kettlebell complex to warm-up, then “Clean and Jerk for virtuosity” (nice), and then a CrossFit Football workout named “Volkswagen”… because you’ll feel like there’s a VW sitting on your chest. 21-15-9 for time of body-weight bench press (ha) and pull-ups (chin OVER bar). If ever there was a workout to make me love pull-ups, this was it! Breezed through them without tearing my hands! I scaled the bench-press to 70% of my body-weight, and still at the end I was breaking them up into singles! 17:44… not the best time, but then I’m not the best at benching. 2 days later and my triceps and lats are still feeling it!

Great atmosphere, great coaches, great people, great attitudes, great energy. I’ll certainly visit this box again when next I find myself in this great town. And that won’t be too far off from now, because I love Philly. Philly itself is a harmony of old and new, a pedestrian-friendly city of character, always full of sights, sounds, smells, spectacles, and speckled with history.

The architecture is great. I love old cities because the contrast of old and new architecture is reflected everywhere you go. 

Let’s not forget row houses, shall we?

I have to admit I didn’t really like US history until I visited Philadelphia, Boston, and Washington, D.C. I guess something about being in the middle of it where it all began really helps you appreciate it that much more. And yes, whenever I’m in Philly I feel like watching “National Treasure”. Don’t judge me.

Independence Hall

2nd Bank of the United States (Greek Revival much?)

In case you were wondering.

St. Paul's

Graffiti! If you never believed graffiti could be art then come walk the streets of Philadelphia and stare at the sides of the buildings. Many of them are covered top to bottom with incredibly colorful and fantastic paintings. Not just paintings, either… sometimes mosaics!

And no trip to this place would be complete with stopping in to Reading Terminal Market. Prepare yourselves for the mob of people and onslaught of culinary treats! Many of the stands in here are run by Amish folk, and the food they dish up is often the most popular — with good cause. It’s delicious! So is the fudge they make. And Raw milk is legal when sold by them, and yes I did get my pint of raw goat’s milk while there. I also got fed lots of free meat samples by a flirty chef at the Kosher deli stand. Mmmm free pastrami and brisket.

the hungry and curious masses at Reading Terminal Market

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Because everyone loves Rocky

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And now on a train to Charlottesville, VA!

The Mirror is Bright and Shiny

It’s New Year’s Eve. Right now some people are drinking champagne, writing up resolutions, searching for someone to kiss when the ball goes down, and mumbling through the lyrics of “Auld Lang Syne”.

Quick Interlude: 

I’ll be doing some of that, too (mainly the bubbly and the garbled singling), but right now I’d rather reflect on an amazing 2011. Sure, 2011, like any year, had its bad times, but who reminisces about the bad? Nay, if we must look back, let us look back fondly and smile.

So here I go, looking in the mirror of the past year, and beaming. In the last year I:

-distributed my time across 7 countries and made a gajillion new friends (actual friends, not just acquaintances)
-was super productive as far as my academic research goes, writing the Introduction and first chapter of my dissertation as well as collection all the data I set out to collect and coming up with preliminary conclusions.
-got to see some of my Scrippsies!
-got to spend holiday times with my family
-spent my birthday this year like I did when I was 5: with friends, poolside, followed by ice cream cake while dressed like a princess
-got physically stronger: added 30# to my snatch, 25# to my clean and jerk, 40# to my squat, 30# to my deadlift, and my gymnastics skills have improved a bunch (handstand walk, hi-rep pullups, strict dips)
-helped the “Barbelles” win Charlottesville’s “Tug for the Town” tug-o’-war contest 2 years running.
-ran in my first 5k race (25 minutes… not near my personal best but happy with it all the same!)
-competed and did well in a few CrossFit competitions, including going to Regionals (Mid-Atlantic) with my CF C’ville team and winning “best advanced female” in Greece.
-dared to ride on the back of a motorcycle for the first time ever
-saw one of my favorite fantasy reads transferred beautifully to the big screen (“Game of Thrones”)
-made my own all-natural lip balm!
-celebrated the nuptials of a cousin by partying on the dance floor with other cousins!
-went to Brooklyn for the first time ever, loved it.
-discovered I do actually like chopped liver

Those are just highlights. Even though each year seems to whiz by faster than the last, it’s nice to sit down and realize just how much you accomplished in those 365 days.

So go to the bathroom. Take a poo. Wash your hands and look up. See that face in the mirror? That’s your face. Those are your eyes. They’ve seen a whole new year go by.  Are they wiser for it? …Who cares? — you’re here, you’re in the now, so live in the now and live it up. Discover every new moment 2012 has to offer and go get some! …and maybe learn the words to “Auld Lang Syne”.

Put on your party hat and game face and kick it off right! (But please don’t drink and drive!)

Happy New Year!!!

 

“Mirror, mirror, on the wall — DAMN I sure look fine!”

1 εβδομάδα

Countdown: T minus 8 days. God created the world in 7, so I think I have plenty of time to get things done.

On July 10 I left the US of A on a plane headed across the great pond towards Europe. I arrived July 11 in London, England and took a bus to Oxford. I spent 3 weeks there living at Brasenose, researching in the Ashmolean and Beazley Archive and lifting with the boys at Oxford Powersports. Then I spent 2 weeks in Paris, France. 1 week in Berlin, Germany. A long weekend in Vienna, Austria. 1 week in Florence and another week in Rome, Italy. September 11 I arrived in Athens, Greece, and I’ve been calling this city “home” for almost 3 months now.

I have exactly one week left before I leave again, this time headed back to the US of A, back to Arizona, back to the home I grew up in (and the remodeled backyard).

Parents' new backyard (minus the pool and grill)!

In one week I will be…

…leaving BEHIND: fresh daily local markets; incredible museums; the metric system and kilograms; ancient ruins everywhere; the great resources and people at the ASCSA; my books in my carrel at the Blegen library; 1 pair of now over-sized jeans (with ratty hems); 1 pair of worn-out running shoes; a love of “espresso freddo schedo to-go”; an incredible assortment of new (hopefully lifelong) friends; my new family at Primal CF Athens; cigarette smoke everywhere; motorcycles/scooters everywhere; fresh feta; streets filled with cats.

…leaving WITH: renewed sense of self; memories galore; refreshed comfort in independence; longer hair; a love of walking; one dead laptop; myself, intact (not the case when I left Greece in 2009); no tattoos; amazing memories; the ability to make Greek coffee in a briki; new vocabulary of foreign words (especially Greek); Athenian leather sandals; pages and pages of notes on the Greek vases I came to Europe to see; a restructured (tighter and more organized) outline of my dissertation.

…heading TOWARDS: family; old friends; my extensive collection of “Xena” DVDs; measuring weight in pounds and height in inches; Cactus, Citrus, Cotton, Copper, and Climate (a.k.a. Arizona); my tango and salsa shoes; home of the rodeo; Mexican food; American coffee shops (which double as a work space); an upcoming roadtrip West across the US from Charlottesville, VA towards Tucson, AZ; a new gym with new lifting partners; familiar mountains to hike; my baby grand Steinway; my car, Paolo; GIANT grocery stores!; juicy grilled steak; months of paper writing and productivity … on a new laptop…

What have I learned? Besides bad words in foreign languages? Well, …that meeting new people is always a wonderful thing; give everyone a chance.  Always trust your instincts. I still appear Spanish to the majority of Europeans. The Blegen Library is a wonderful environment for productivity. It is possible to live for 5 months out of one suitcase. The internet really IS magical. Fashion is as fashion does. Being an optimist really does pay off. Being super-organized pays off more.

I finished what I set out to do — my check list of museums and sites to visit is complete. I managed to include my love of fitness by visiting local gyms and making fast friends with the proprietors and athletes at them all —    OxfordLondonBerlinVienna, and, of course, my quarter-year installment in Athens (all of which I’ve previously discussed in this blog).

I’m a motley of emotions right now: super excited to soon be back in the Old Pueblo, incredibly sad to leave my friends in Athens (these Greeks truly are too sweet, so very generous and funny and open — for a while I seriously contemplated staying in Athens until summer just to be with them that much longer); a litter bittersweet to be so far away from Europe, where it seems your next adventure is just a short plane (or train!) ride away; and at the same time nostalgic for Italy and the Irish countryside and the beaches and rainforests of Central America…. Wandering soul’s gotta wander… My iPod has been shuffling between the “Chieftains” and mariachi music and country music … and in the mornings I sing along to the Greek pop top 40 coming out of the boob tube.

So. One more week to endure the lingering lure of home.

Christmas Day 2010 in Sabino Canyon, my Daddy and me

One week left in Athens.

view of Athens from the Hill of the Nymphs

One week to gather any last-minute notes from the books here (or for scanning). One week left to laugh and dance and joke with my Greek friends (in and out of the gym). One week left to wander the streets of Plaka (never gets old). One week left to ride the Metro. One week left to gaze at the Akropolis all lit up at night (also never gets old). One week left to stop moping and live it up!

OPA!!!

“ELA! Welcome to Greece!”

Those were the words spoken to me last night as I turned the corner towards the Evangelismos Metro stop only to find it was unexpectedly closed. I was not the only one surprised by this discovery. As I pulled out my phone to call a friend for a ride to the gym, a man next to me uttered those words (he, too, was on his phone calling for a ride). Well, he’s not wrong. Yes, “This is Greece”, after all. Expect the unexpected.

I happen to be in Greece during the dawn of much change, I think. The strikes and rallies are pretty routine by now, and they are typically scheduled in advance, but much is going on beyond that. The euro crisis, the bailout, the referendum votes, the possibility of a new PM soon, Greece maybe not being a Schengen State (I wonder how that will affect my Visa…). This is just the tip of the iceberg. It’s a volatile situation, and I’m curious to see how it will play out.

Now, I say “curious”. If I were Greek, I’m sure I’d be using a different word, perhaps “anxious” or “desperate.” But, then again, the Greeks have a certain love for life and a way of being familiar with change and working with it instead of seeing it as a setback. However, this current kind of change is a huge obstacle, and it’s already affected too many. I’m in an unusual position here as a foreigner in a Athens with Greek friends who spends much of her time in the richer parts of Athens. I get to view this whole fiasco from many different perspectives, and they certainly clash.

Some of my Greek friends just don’t talk about it. Whether because they actively want to ignore it out of fear or for other reasons, I’m not sure. Others do talk about it, and no one is happy. Others seem to view Athens as full of the “haves” and “have-nots” and all financial issues right now are poorly affecting the latter group. The former group, however, is worried for their safety, as well they should be. Those desperate for money often turn to desperate measures, and the crime rate is increasing. Watching the riots in Syntagma you’d think Greece really is on fire, but walking around the streets of Kolonaki you’d think Athens is a prospering city going about business as usual (especially in the afternoon when many are sitting at corner cafes sipping casually on espresso freddos, smoking their hand-rolled cigarettes, watching the day pass, without a care in the world). And as an American who spends most of her time in the library I still feel pretty removed from it all, just watching it all unravel — or explode, as the case may be.

So there’s a vote of confidence today in Parliament. Will Papandreou still be the PM next week? Will the ‘haircut’ work? Will more austerity votes take place? Will Greece be a part of the Schengen states? What will happen to the euro? What about the US stock market? How many more people in Greece will become unemployed? How many more strikes and rallies will take place? The questions of political and economic uncertainty are too numerous to list. Greece is walking a razor-thin line here between chaos and, well, I’m not sure what’s on the other side but I’m not sure it’s ‘stability’.

Whatever happens today, and tomorrow, and in the next week and month, I hope it’s for the better and that Greece finds a way to haul itself out of this economic hole.

“Every time I see Greece I just want to give them a big ol’ hug.” Awww it’s true, though.