The Phallus Cave. It’s Exactly What It Sounds Like.

I woke up from some terrible dreams this morning and decided to take a calming walk to see some penises.

(Or is it… peni? Penii?  I don’t know the plural, but that would be the Latiny way of doing it, provided “penis” is a masculine noun.  Which would only make sense.  I suppose when you make a eunuch, you could call it a penum.  Wow, inappropriate aside, sorry.)

Anyway, I came across the cave yesterday when I was walking without the trusted Fuji (that’s Fujum if you care to neuter it) and knew I’d have to return to snap some shareables. 

First of all, though, the walk itself is pretty awesome.  The path is a winding one through the semi-dark rainforest.  When combined with the twisted mangroves and stalactite-ridden caves, the hissing and the raucous jungle screeching create a creepy enough aura to suggest that some people probably died here; the winding stone path, however, is laid out neatly enough to suggest “well, probably not that many”.  See here.

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Anyway, I eventually came to sort of a hidden beach, Phra Nang Beach, which is another stand-alone beaut.  Turns out- after some hotel room research- it, like Railay, has been voted in various polls as one of the best beaches in the world.  As in, you know, pretty.

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ImageImageNot bad, right?  Kinda makes a girl think about kicking off her shoes and settling in for some daydreams and sand angels. 

‘Course then I turned around, and a gaggle of phallic soldiers was standing sentry behind me.

ImagePretty weird to find you’re sharing the pristine waters and spectacular ocean horizons with a bunch of giant… these things.

It’s a shrine, mind you, and some more of my h-room Internet searches- which at this point are probably going to get me brought up on Thai porn charges-

(Side note: WHOA!  JUST as I wrote, that, I lost electricity.  It’s storming or typhooning or something outside- my iSearches didn’t get as far as Railay weather, although perhaps they should’ve- but I would like to take this as a sign from the gods of the cave… “men”… that maybe I should keep this short.)

told me that apparently this cave is home to the goddess Phra Nang, to whom you can offer these giant lingams (did you even know that was a word?  I didn’t.) to boost your fertility.  Or you can WORSHIP them! 

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Somehow I wouldn’t have been able to kneel in front of the shrine without laughing hysterically, even though I was by myself.  My favorite were these pouty little monsters:

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I feel like Tom Robbins set it all up solely to be able to write a book about it.  Jeeeeeez.

Anyway, at whatever point I found myself well satisfied by the scene, I turned and headed home.  Good thing, too, because the thunder and rain started shortly after I arrived and has been dominating the day ever since.

Penis cave, though… for real, y’all.

For real.

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Let’s Play Cliff!

I’m sitting on my deck over the pool.  It’s just after a refreshing rainstorm, Shakira is singing to me about how much she deserves whatever’s underneath this guy’s clothes, and I’m perfectly content because I really, truly had an adventure today!  

Any of you dummies who’ve ever wanted to metaphorically tell me to take a hike, don’t worry about it.  I took a real one today!  Better yet, I scaled a cliff!

All of it was quite by accident, of course.  I’ve just had a couple of days of relaxifest and felt like I should take a walk or something, perhaps in the jungle where I could forgo the UVAs and UVBs.  I knew vaguely of some sign saying “climbing area” and another saying “lookout spot” so I put on a cute stripey shirt and some flip-flops, thinking I’d have a meander and a gander.

My first path took me here:

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which is Railay East, lying parallel to the beach on which I’m staying.  I stopped briefly to thank the reservation gods that I’d chosen correctly- because this is beautiful but looks sort of haunted- and continued.  My goal was to get to the top of this thing:

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I headed toward the rainforesty looking stuff, and asked “path?” to the lady on a smoke break, who replied eagerly.  

“Yes!  Rope.  Rope for you.”  So I continued on a pleasant flat journey, thinking it would be one of those long, pretty, gently sloping switchback trails.  

Instead, ahoy!  I saw this:

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It had ropes, but was also straight up STRAIGHT UP and I wondered if I was the victim of one of those cruel jokes where you give a tourist suicidal directions and watch her do the jackass dance.  Since I heard people behind me, I sort of twiddled around waiting to see what they’d do, but they passed me.

“Screw it,” I thought, “you probably only live once.  And if not, the silver lining will be that I’ll find out in 12 or 13 seconds.”

I started to haul myself up, still thinking that at the top of the rope, there’d be a path.  I figured it would just be cliffy (cheers!) at the beginning.  But nope.  It was grip, lift, and balance the whole entire way, and I was feeling exhausted, sore, sweaty… and STRONG when I got to the top.  I gave myself a sure-footed award, and decided it would be ice cream.

At the summit was my easy little path and it was just a couple of minutes of peaceful walk to the lookout, albeit in a real life jungle.  Usually I soft-foot my way through the underbrush pretending I’m either Katniss or the last of the Mohicans, but a bunch of bugs were making out with my legs and I figured the louder I was, the less likely a snake would be inclined to join the orgy.  Plus I was panting like post-Derby Orb, so there was really no point in trying to tread quietly.  The view, according to theme, was also breathtaking: DSCF0611

But then it was time to leave.

I’m not sure how it happened, but as I was using every single one of my muscles trying to descend, I passed a couple of English speakers puffing in the opposite direction.  I shied away, fearful of my smell, as they greeted me.  

“Oh, going to the lagoon?  I wouldn’t recommend it.  Really tough climb alone.”

Wait, lagoon?  I had intended to skip that in my spent state, but apparently I had taken a wrong turn.  And of course in their kindly and wise advice, I heard a challenge.

“Oh, I’ll be okay!  Thanks, though.” And I continued my literal downward spiral into what I contend is the only remaining stronghold of the paleolithic era.  Here, look:DSCF0639

I found a level spot and stood there long enough to calm my breathing to inaudible, since the huffing was kind of ruining the moment.  Tidal appreciation swept me because of WOW, that’s pretty…

The mud kind of stank, though, and I choose that word carefully because it was true in every sense.  Flip-flops seemed, in retrospect, Big Dumb, and my shirt wasn’t cute anymore and all my rivulets were cutting through the layer of orange that had settled on me.  

I kept moving toward the lagoon, but it was getting progressively more slippery and vertical, and when it became apparent that I would have to do some hand-over-hand rope lowering- and then climbing, on the way back- I realized I had to call a spade a spade and fold.  Without a partner or being properly clad, it seemed pretty stupid to chance my life further.  Shoot, I didn’t even want to bleed!  Who knows what the wild things like smelling?

At the top, I regained my position, found the right trail, and headed down. Here’s my view:DSCF0626

The rope was like a polio vaccine in that without it, I didn’t like my odds against crippling.  It was especially true because I knew I was on my last leg, hopefully not literally.  At some point, I sat down for a break and to gather my wits.  I had been having these streaks of descending so efficiently that I was getting these rushes of self-congratulatory chest-beatingness, which made me wary of getting a little too arrogant and making a dumb mistake.  I knew all it would take was a monkey- they were hanging out with me near the treetops, except they were wearing their evolutionary camo so I didn’t get a good picture- to surprise me and I could lose my grip and hurtle.

The only option was down and on the rocks, and I don’t like myself like I like my whiskey.

But- oh, hooray!- I made it, and better yet, there was a primate party at the base!  I snapped some more photos before hobbling home to my shower.DSCF0649DSCF0656

Adventure Central Time here, and man, I’m gonna miss those monkeys…

Sang Som Blue (Everybody Drinks One…)

More bullets.  Points!  Punctuation, not gun-ctuation… I always say.  Kind of. 

Kind of never.

Regardless, I want to do more bullet points because I spent the entire day at the beach and didn’t have the kinds of thoughts that form paragraphs.

First, THINGS I LIKE HERE

1) Wench-worthy, salt blonde, number one awesome ringlets.  I love ocean hair, and I’m celebrating its presence with Sang Som, which I assume is the kind of rum labeled triple-x in a barrel.  I’m all about triple-x this trip.

2) The temperature of the water, and how I can frolic in it. 

3) That my facial monkey scratch is still visible.  I hope I get a cool scar to go with my cool story! 

4) The fantasy I had today about meeting Ricky Gervais and not knowing who he was, and he called me arrogant- which I deserved- and I said “no- I used to be conceited… but now I’m perfect” which he loved, and then we became friends and I told him that I liked it when he rode in a car with Jerry Seinfeld. 

5) How so many people look like the ethnic version of a celebrity or someone I know, like Thai Steve Buscemi and Japanese, mentally handicapped Corson.  (Don’t tell him but it was the weirdest thing seeing this kid in school.  I would actually instinctively recoil when we made eye contact because it was like some changeling nightmare.)

6) The way Thai Negi giggled at me without elaborating when I ordered two more rums.

7) Adorable French toddlers speaking adorable Parisian French in their adorable voices.  If I ever do have kids, I definitely want foreigners.  But with my brain.  Most of it. 

8) Speaking of foreigners, I also like the f-bombing ones.  I like how charming it is that they can put all those vowel sounds in there.

THINGS THAT ARE ANNOYING

1) All the people speaking accented English, because it makes things so much easier that so many people learned the only language I speak, which makes me feel horrible ancestral guilt for all the English colonization and slavery and stuff.  Pleasure conundrum.

2) How everyone keeps asking if I’m alone.  Not because I’m sad by it, because for this vacation, it’s pretty much perfect.  But because I think that every time someone asks, he thinks of me as vulnerable dumb lady, and I feel like there’s going to be a rape chase or burgle attempt.  And then there’s the waiter next door, who’s obsessed with America and took my aloneness as an invitation to never stop talking to me and then ask me for drinks.  I think he wants to move in with me and make me his green card wifey, and no way, and I take it back about the foreign babies.

3) There’s rampant elephant abuse here and that makes me really sad because I want to ride one but I don’t want to encourage that sort of assholery.  Ever since Sister Patricia taught me how to spell elephant (and W-A-R) I’ve thought they were special, and it saddens me that we’re being humanly bratty toward them.

4) Internationals here are like sooooooooo skinny.  And the reason it’s annoying is that maybe it’s normal and Americans are just the second fattest country, so I’m used to it, or perhaps excessive amounts of people just have eating disorders.  I guess I don’t know whether to be proud of them for being healthy or sorry for them for not.

5) Crabs are delicious but require a LOT of breaking of exoskeletons!  The next time I have to work that hard for food, it’s going to be the apocalypse. 

That is all.

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The Wonder Years High School Stage Dive Team

Moment of silence for the praying mantis that landed on my neck.  I thought it was a monkey attack, and reacted by thrusting my face in one direction and my shoulders and body in another, a move that would’ve made MJ proud.  The mantis ninja-moved onto my hand in reply.   I looked at it, determined its size to be sausagelike, and flicked it like I’ve never flicked before.  

The moment of silence, mind you, is out of respect… not for the dead, but for the brave.  The sucker lives, and thrives, and worships at the temple of the bugs.  

That’s right, bow to the kind of the insects!  

I said that because of Princess Bride.  I don’t know.  I’ve also been singing Led Zeppelin and quoting Spaceballs today, so shoot me.  

If I’m being melodramatic here, it’s because everything seems acute and surreal, and I feel like maybe my mind should follow suit.  I was sitting at the pool today- and yes, I know I’m steps from what’s been called the most beautiful beach in the world, but the pool has shade, and from shade I can still read my books and dip my dips (the pool- not tobacco- gross) and avoid my cancers, and I am thoroughly enjoying the beach at sunrise and sunset so don’t worry about it, okay?- and a lame monkey waddled by unassumingly, which was maybe the greatest thing since curry.  

Also, people watching is great at the pool.  This couple did the butterfly swim at each other today- in full goggles, mind you- and every time I thought they would smash into each other, somebody moved aside.  Butterfly chicken?  So weird.  

I don’t have a lot to say because I wasn’t exciting today.  It was beautiful, and I walked around and dipped and napped and ate weird stuff, but it was nothing eventful.

Maybe that’s part of the beauty.  

 

I Have No Clever In Me, Just: Railay

Okay firstly, Elli B: I wanted to send this in a facebook message, but you won’t let me do that.  Bully for you, actually, because I wholeheartedly believe in privacy and keeping strangers out of my face.  (Unless, apparently, they’re bearing fruit, in which case I’ll thoughtlessly Adam and Eve it and hallucinate my way out of the garden.  Wait a second… I’m trying to be a role model.  Forget I said that, unless it reminds you never to do it.  I wish I hadn’t.)  Anyway, I have this rule that I’m not allowed to be friends with any students until they graduate from high school.  Even though you weren’t technically a Baxter Houser, and even thought I considered reconsidering because the Japan experience was so separate, I still feel like you’re one of my kids, and that my rule was made for good reason and there’s to be no gray area.  

This should not keep you from visiting, or emailing, or sending avocados through your sister.  All of those things would be awesome and we’ll be facebook friends in four years!

To the rest of you wankers: why did nobody tell me I was supposed to bring my own toilet paper and soap?  You guys should know me better than to think I’d’ve planned for that.  I mean, every hotel reservation I’ve made, I’ve made the night before checking in, and every transportation plan I’ve made has consisted of showing the first person I see a photo of my hotel confirmation and trusting that he’ll get me there.  

A nice backpacker name Marit-from-Holland had to tell me about the toilet paper, and she was only talking to me because I’m blonde and she wanted to practice her English.  That’s actually how she introduced herself.  It went a little like this:

(Crazy loud ceremonial Thai music plays and the thousands of people in the bus station abandon their bras, leggings, and crazy fruits and stand solemnly.)

I poke Holland girl and hiss “what… is happening?”

“Oh, hello, yeah!  This is for the king, we all stand up.  Where are you from?  I sat next to you because you’re blonde and I thought you’d speak English with me.”

I paused for a second, taking it in.  I knew the king was a really big deal here because I’d seen shrines and pictures for him all over the city, but still, was it a close call that I was so wrapped up in my book that I almost didn’t stand?  I didn’t want to end up in a Thai prison looking for Claire Danes because I lacked the local social skills.

“Um, sorry.  Yes.  I’m from the United States.  Wow, thanks for letting me know.”

We proceeded to talk about the things that people talk about when they’re foreign to each other, and it was pleasant.  I continue to be grateful that I memorized all of the world caps, btdubs.  People automatically think I’m intelligent and feel bonded to me when I know the capital of their home country, even when I’m clearly wearing jeggings.  

I eventually boarded my double decker bus and sang Keller Williams for awhile, but then we actually got moving and I got scared all over again.  I had bought the vodka solely to wash my hands with- like some kind of spaghetti Western amputee- but I found myself swilling it so I could retreat from the assault of road terrorism and poverty.  

I don’t particularly want to talk about it; it was just really sad.  It reminded me of driving through South Carolina, once I got past the plantations and the middle class planned neighborhoods; there were emaciated dogs everywhere, and piecemeal houses that adjusted themselves with the wind.  It was sad, and it was easy to see why all the buses were overnighters.  I don’t know if people would forget seeing that in daylight.

But yes: overnight bus trip, 12 hours.  I’d paid for a VIP seat which meant I got a bean bun and some shrimp covered nuts with my trip, so I ate them, drank nothing beyond my few rogue sips of Absolut, and tried to conjure up the sandman.  

No go.  The roads were bumpy and our center of gravity a pipe dream.  The road and bus seemed precarious, and listen: I know what it’s like to drive those things.  I’ve manned an Augusta Rec van or two in my day.  They’re unwieldy, difficult to stop quickly, and the kid in the back is probably going to eat a Handi Wipe and vomit for the entire SeaDogs game.  Not to be trusted.

That said, every time we came to a complete stop in the middle of the dirt road, my head would still pop up like a whack-a-mole’s because I was kind of hoping we’d stopped for an elephant crossing.  

 

No luck.  I arrived in Krabi tired, dehydrated, and cranky.

A driver almost instantly shuttled me into the covered cab of his pickup, where I watched an enormous snail climb the walls and where I tried to keep self, shoes, and luggage from flying out the back.  He stopped after about ten minutes to get a drink, then left me stymied in the Isuzu while he lounged in a lawn chair under the drugstore’s awning, chatting with his friend.  Later he stopped again, so I could watch him drain his weasel on that stucco building.  Oh, and he put in nose drops, nice touch.  I sat back and played the role of observer because he had complete control of my life, and I don’t like to piss those people off.  Another of my rules is to be kind and infinitely forgiving to people who control me: wait staff, housekeeping, and cab drivers in places where I neither speak the language nor know the maps.  

He dropped me off at a crossroads.

Okay.

I sat there for an hour, because the man playing with the monkey told me that I had to wait for eight interested people before he’d shuttle me via longboat to Railay Beach, my final destination.  It would have been okay- I mean I was dirty, hungry, and had been traveling for 18 hours, but it would have been okay- but this SHIT of a monkey kept jumping on me for some playful attack.

At first it was funny.  Oh!  Haha.  You’re on my back, now you’re not.  Can’t wait to tell people a monkey climbed on me.  

Then it wasn’t so funny.  Hey!  Quit scratching my legs, I’m not made for your shimmying pleasure.

Then I was actively annoyed.  That’s my FACE, jackass!  Blood’s not funny and you’re not cute anymore.

Finally some Chinese tourists saved me, and I’m judging a billion people on their kindesses: China is awesome, y’all.  All that pollution must have been another country setting them up.  

The three of them hauled me into their tuk-tuk and dropped me off at a much better boat station, where I almost immediately waded through the ocean to board with my cumbersome baggage.  About fifteen minutes later, I arrived.

To paradise, seriously.  Paradise.  Just look at this place!  I have a week here, and I intend to be as happy as people get.

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From Come That

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Yeah, Thailand has t-shirts, too.

I’m in a cab to the bus station terrified because people drive like bats out of Frogger hell here.  What is my obsession with bats lately?  The Thai currency is the baht; maybe that’s it.  

My exceptionally loud, troglodytic cabdriver just spent far too long trying to convince me to let him drive me eight hours to Phuket.  I’m in an epileptic taxi that growls like an underfed lion.  No thanks, buddy.  Just- my lord, these people on motorbikes!- get me to the station without undue death.

Just saw an ad for YMAX 4D.  The hell is that?  Does the movie climb out at you and reset your internal clock?  I would like to go back to just before the moment I decided on public transportation.  Although you couldn’t baht me enough to drive myself around here; the number of discernible traffic laws rests at zero.

I’m trying not to stress out because when the inevitable carnage happens, I want the loose-limbed protection of the baby and the drunk, not the tension-ridden rigidity of… me right now.  This is horrifying.  Mr. Boonsri Siritai, I read your name on your license.  I keep a blog that at least one member of my family reads every day.  Please be careful (I’m delicate).

Gads, the slums here are the most depressing I’ve seen since western Mexico, and it is harshing what is already a pretty harshed vibe.  If life hands me poor, I’d like to be rural poor, coaxing life from the land instead of from human depravity.

Oh, I know it’s not that easy.  I’ve done some thinking, I’ve been to some poverty workshops.  I am just not at all interested in being philosophical right now because of the tenuous hold I already have on my well-being.  Watch OUT for the guy with the MATTRESSES strapped to his moped!  There’s no way he can see.

Holay, I’m glad to be at the bus station.  I have six hours to kill; what am I going to do here?

Whoa, taken aback.  There is some shit in this place and don’t you forget it!  If I hadn’t already packed each suitcase to bursting, I’d bring back some of these animal print, glitter-striped, neon jeggings, complete with strategic cutaways.  The fun box would love this.  

Why are they selling bras here?  Ohhh, this one has bats on it.  It’s weird, though, it’s in the middle of the station.  I’m going to get my ticket.

In a Japanese fast food place now.  Dropped off my luggage because I was sick of… oh!  Lugging!  I get it.  The lady gave me these weird fruits and I ate them because I’m an IDIOT and I forgot about the first lesson of STRANGER DANGER and now I’m hallucinating and I think they were drugs. Is there such a thing as psychotropic fruit?  I don’t think mushrooms have spikes like that, I don’t know.  I really want to touch the pictures of the food on the walls.  They look real, and they’re spectacular!  Like Lois Lane’s Seinfeld rack. 

Maybe I just didn’t eat the fruit correctly.  Were you not supposed to eat the middle?  Everything’s shimmering.  She did bend way back and duck away from me and glance over her barrier shoulder with wide eyes, come to think of it, when I ate the whole thing.

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I’m stupid.  And paranoid now, too.

Okay I feel better.  Wooziness and glowy aspect to surroundings has mostly ceased.  Did I just have a mild panic attack, or did somebody legitimately give me some brain gas?  I need to look up what those things were.

Okay I feel worse.  I’m on a drink strike now, too.  NO MORE WATER.  I would rather dehydrate than go into those bathrooms again.  Did you know you have to PAY for TOILET PAPER here?  It comes out of a box from a machine that you have to stick your baht into in front of like everyone.  Seriously, Thailand?  You waste more paper boxing it up individually than you make charging the equivalent of a US penny.  

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Ewwww, there’s no soap here, either.  I feel… not so fresh.  I just went into the 7/11 to grab some hand sanitizer, but no luck.  Then I tried to buy a bottle of vodka so I could pour it over my hands  to clean them like I was getting amputated in the Old West, but they won’t sell that to me until 5 p.m.  

I’m mad at you, Bangkok.  You’ll sell me a PERSON, for crying out loud, at any hour, but I can’t get ahold of some alcoholic soap?

I’m going to the Internet cafe.

ADDENDUM: The Internet cafe didn’t work because it was using like, Windows 1.0: just a hole in your wall, so I’m posting this a day late.  I’m happy to say that I have arrived at my destination a mere 24 hours later, and the 7/11 finally sold me booze.  My hands reek of vodka and there are monkey bites on my head and hand, plus some scratches on my face, but he barely broke the skin and  I am otherwise unharmed.  Godspeed straight to hell, little primate…

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Bunking in Bangkok

I don’t know why sliced bread gets all the comparative superlatives because of… there’s curry.  I tried my first Thai green curry yesterday morning, and it excited the living daylights out of me before I realized the “avocados” were crunchy.  In fact, I didn’t recognize a single ingredient outside of shrimp and rice, and there were at least four different kinds of green things, some leafy, some with skin.  I housed about half of it while every facial orifice poured freely, then dashed to the counter to pay.  

“Too spicy?”  

“No,” answered my pride, “but I have to go home RIGHT NOW.”

It was delicious, but I spent the rest of the day in my room.  I can’t necessarily chalk that up to the breakfast, though, and the experience didn’t deter me from trying the exact same thing today.

I want to go out in Bangkok- I really do, I mean I kind of do- but it’s more of a “want to want” than an “actual want”.  I don’t know if other teachers do this, but during the first few days of summer, I mostly go into hibernation mode and just sleep.  My body is tanked from excessive school year energy depletion, and I need that couple of days to refuel.  And it’s just great: naps, books, and eating.

I did that yesterday, and despite being in the number one nightlife place in the entire world, I’ll probably play the loser card again this eve.

Besides, I can’t help feeling conspicuously the tall, blonde foreigner.  Portland has Foreplay and Bangkok has Climax and I’m not sure I’m ready for either, with total strangers.  There will be no Indiscriminate Flirting Sundays here… just maybe some nighttime sobriety walks for photo ops.  Maybe.  We’re supposed to get eight inches in three days here, and that’s only fun for the Banana Club down the street.  I’m talking about rain, of course. 

Speaking of which, I’ve never seen such a concentration of condoms in my life!  (I’m not talking about rain anymore.)  I’m happy to see Thai people dealing with overpopulation so wisely, by the “not having babies” method rather than the “dying of syphilis” method.  Good call, locals.  I’m not sure this is where people make their best night decisions, so let’s avoid making them life decisions.

Anyway, tomorrow I’ll head to Railay Beach for some more attractive activities: beaches, limestone rock climbing, and kayak spelunking.  I feel like the relaxation and less stenchy atmosphere will bring back my fun side.  

Not that I’m not loving this shut-in-ness!  It’s just that I’m reading my good stories instead of living them.

Aces.

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