Monday, August 29, 2011

"Now I get the joke, and I've got 3 lottery tickets..."

    After a delicious dinner and a relaxing evening of Curb Your Enthusiasm, Entourage and True Blood with Rochelle I came home to of course watch Eat, Pray, Love one last time ....HA!... I know, I know :-)
I love when she first arrives in Italy and says:

"There’s a wonderful old Italian joke about a poor man who goes to church every day and prays before the statue of a great saint, begging, “Dear saint—please, please, please…give me the grace to win the lottery.” This lament goes on for months. Finally the exasperated statue comes to life, looks down at the begging man and says in weary disgust, “My son—please, please, please – buy a ticket.”
....."Now, I get the joke and I've got three lottery tickets..."

    Well, Liz Gilbert, I too have 3 lottery tickets! AND I CASH THE FIRST ONE IN TODAY!
I can hardly believe it! To recap, especially for those just joining us, in February I found out that I did not receive a writing fellowship I desperately wanted that would afford me a year of travelling.... my very own Eat, Pray, Love year. I had read the book a mere 6 months before while perched on the precipice of demise specifically in regards to a relationship that so closely mirrored Liz and David that practically the entire first chapters are higlighted and dog-eared. After the fellowship disappointment, I fell into a pretty dark funk and blah, blah, blah decided to make my E, P, L experience on my own terms.... So here I am, an hour and a half from Rochelle picking me up to take me to the airport. And just as I had predicted, the enormity of all this is hitting me today. The butterflies in my stomach are obviously on steroids or genetically modified in some way, because Whoa! Even Zoe knows today's 'it', and she's been sleeping on top of our kitchen cupboards and avoiding me :-(  So then the waterworks began when I was talking to my mom and  she said, "Today's the day! I'm sooo excited for you and sooooo proud of you!" Then as I was headed to the Baldwin Hills Stairs one last time, Rochelle called and just said, "So how are you?" .... Again, cue the faucet as I choked out, "Emotional!" I spent the first lap of stairs making people uncomfortable with my PDE - Public Display of Emotion.  It's good for them ;-)
     I'm not second-guessing anything by any means.... it's just that this is BIG and it all starts in a couple hours! I'm nervous and excited and scared and happy and proud. I mean I'm just now realizing that I'm ACTUALLY going to be gone for 4 months! 1/3 of the year! Craziness! But like I have mentioned before, there isn't an option not to do this... I'm doing exactly what I'm supposed to... to continue to grow into the person I want to be. It's like when I officially made the decision ( I always knew) I did  not want to have children and had my tubes blocked.... I came home, sat outside and cried from that deep, deep well......not because I was sad, but because I was soooo happy that I had taken that step, really honored who I AM and who I want to be.
    Unfortunately this post is falling very flat because I can't quite be as specific or eloquent or funny about how I'm feeling as I would like....... I'm overwhelmed.... and crying like a little girl, hahaha!

I have my rose quartz necklace on, a heart shaped rock in my pocket (Thank you 'Chelle!!) an open mind and heart, and my boots are laced .... I guess I'm ready....

“When someone makes a decision, he is really diving into a strong current that will carry him to places he had never dreamed of when he first made the decision. “ The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

Till next time my friends.... I sign off with a song :-) ...
(Just an aside, If you're not taking the time to listen to my songs, you're missing out)

"This fire grows higher..."
"When there's a burning in your heart
An endless yearning in your heart
Build it bigger than the sun
Let it grow, let it grow
When there's a burning in your heart
Don't be alarmed...."

-- You Are a Tourist by Death Cab of Cutie

Ciao!! XOXO

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

International Woman of Mystery? ....Yea, I'm kind of a big deal ;-)

     I have to start off by saying, PEOPLE ARE READING MY BLOG!! People OTHER than like the 6 of you who are bound by blood, bonds of friendship or just plain coercion...ha! Hello and Welcome to the ladies at St. Andrews School (where my niece and nephew go) in Savannah, GA!! Thank you for tuning in!  And a big Thank You to my fabulous big sister who was obviously the one talking about it, love you Wendy! 

      'Tis official, I am now an international woman of mystery. You can call me Bella....CC Bella.
I have my international cell #! Here's the skinny; it's FREE for you to call me but for me it's something like .39 a min to talk and .49 to text, sooo keep it short and sweet people :-)  (I'd still rather opt for planning Skype dates where I can see all ya'll's beautiful faces and it's free for both parties) I do have $210 of airtime to start though. All you have to do is call the toll free#: 866-305-6462 and then when asked, enter my number: +447937026439 .... and Voila! Insta-Court!
Keep in mind the time difference.... For East Coasters, 6 hours (Italy), 9 hrs (Nepal), 6hrs (South Africa) ahead. And for my West- Siiiide.... 9, 12, 9.
And in general, I won't know what kind of coverage, service or internet access I will have in each place. I think I will be the least accessible in South Africa. The second farm for sure is a good 2-3 hours outside of Capetown and in East Jesus Nowhere, but by that point I'll only be 2-3 weeks from coming home anyway. 

      I'm feeling really prepared actually. There are still a few things left to do but for the most part, 
I got this :-) I'm really frickin' excited.... and yes a little nervous, but 'first day of school' or 'new job' nervous, but that's appropriate considering this experience is going to encompass both of those scenarios. And having these last two weeks without a job has been bliss! Granted, Zoe still wakes me up at 4-4:30 out of habit but then I go back to sleep and roll outta bed somewhere between 8-9. I go for a hike, run a few errands, do a little painting, do a little a yoga, a little dance, stay up late watching movies and/or reading.... HEAVEN, I tell you! That, and the fact that I've been able to have a Bon Voyage lunch, dinner or drinks with all my friends. So am I getting sad? Yea, of course....I get a little more verklempt each day especially when I listen to the 'See You Soon' playlist I made. (Yep, mix tape nerd, right here baby!) I haven't yet had an emotional  meltdown though, but that may come when 'Chelle drops me off at the airport Monday afternoon. Right now though, I'm still in the place of "Holy Shit! I'm actually f#$@*ing doing this thing!!! Awesome!" But who knows I could totally break my suffer in silence code and end of slobbering on the poor bastard next to me on the flight to Rome ;-)

     Here is a reminder of the details of the 'EAT' leg of my journey : Monday Aug 29th I leave L.A at 6:10pm and fly to Dusseldorf, change planes and arrive in Rome at 7:10pm on Tues Aug 30th. I'm spending the night at this really hip hotel I found for $68, Ostia Antica Park Hotel -- SCORE!
It's not ideal that it might be pretty late by the time I go through customs and baggage claim and make my way to the hotel,  but so it is. Actually, now that I think about it I may want to call the hotel and prepare them that I will be a late check-in..... Note to self.
Then on Wed Aug 31st, I'm taking the 12:30p train out to Poggio Mirteto where neighbor/ friend of Caterina and Marco's, Riccardo, will pick me up. Caterina and Marco will be on holiday till Fri Sept 2nd, so the two WWOOFers that are already there will be the ones showing me around.... There is Sam, an English guy who has already been there 2 months and Jiema, a girl from Sweden. The farm:
I believe the closest town is Sabina.... Google it, looks like a real dump...haw-rible views ;-)
The farm is quite close to the Farfa Benedictine Abbey and the Natural Monument of Farfa River Gorge.... ummmm, yes please! I have a feeling I will happy spending my free time quite close to home. I will get to venture back into Rome the weekend of Oct7-9 when my friend Muriel comes to visit from Barcelona -- can't wait to see you lady! Big Bises!!!

     I will soon be posting a picture of what carrying 4months on your person (my person) looks like, HAHA! Till then I get to do a little acting tomorrow and shoot a scene a friend wrote, and more friends and music on Friday.

Monday, August 15, 2011

14 days out ...Pink Slip in hand

    So the Universe in all its infinite wisdom and perfect timing decided that the best course of action was for me to lose my job 2 weeks from my departure date.....
The cycling studio closed its doors on Friday after its last class. This did not come as a complete surprise, because I have been doing our financial reports all along and did not expect to have a job to come home to.... I felt it would close Sept/October-ish. My first thought was to call the company's headquarters and see if I could temp for these last 2 weeks, trying to recoup the money I was initially counting on. Even my boss made a call to them on my behalf because she felt bad about the timing for me. As I was walking out Friday afternoon, however, I realized that maybe, just maybe it would be really nice to have the break, RELAX and really mentally prepare. I've done all the physical and logistical preparations, but the mental ... not as much. Everything else for this adventure has fallen so beautifully into place, that once again I thought maybe, just maybe this too was part of the plan. I headed over to Rochelle's that afternoon to help her finally and officially move in and unpack in her place, and in sharing all this her response was, " Ooooooh I'm so glad to hear you say this... I wasn't sure if you'd get here." This coming from the person who boldly laughed on the phone when I told her minutes after finding out we were closing... laughed! She said  how perfect the timing was, she couldn't believe it. In that moment, I did not see the gaiety in such news, but I knew what she meant.
     Except for vacations of course, this was the first Monday morning I did not wake up at 4:30am, and I have to say it felt sooooooooooooo goddamn good!!!!!!! Granted, I will not be leaving with as much in my bank account as I initially thought, but luckily I'm so ahead of the game that it won't be too hard to live a little more frugally over the next couple weeks. Losing my job truly is just one more confirmation that this trip is exactly what I'm supposed to be doing. That makes me extra excited! I can feel it, that all the stars and planets are aligning to send me on my way and my spirit guides are saying, 'YES!' And I will certainly surround myself with the energy of my animal guide for safety... a Bengal tiger... named Cohen (at least that's the name I received 6 or 7 yrs ago).... because apparently what's an Amazon woman without the company of her Jewish jungle cat? .... LOL!
I have felt like this, like I'm right on course, only a few other times;
1) When I was in college in Ohio and my mother called to say she had just bought 47 acres in Arizona and did I want to move with her. Without thinking, I said 'Absolutely' and marched myself straight to the Administration office to withdraw that day.

2) When I dropped out of college for the THIRD time and decided to go to massage school.

3) When I quit massage to pursue dance and met Sarah a month or two later.

 .... and now... THIS!
     And like I was saying in a conversation to Rochelle a week or so ago, I don't even know what THIS is.... but I don't care or need to know. I have absolutely NO expectations about the next four months. And for me, that is very rare... one of my biggest faults is to have these grand expectations about whatever only to be disappointed. In this scenario, I don't know why its different, but it is.... There's only one thing I know with 100% certainty, and that is that I HAVE to do this! I'm not looking for this trip to solve any problems or mysteries in my life. If I had left back in Feb/March/April when I was still reeling from not having won the writing fellowship and feeling unfathomably lost in my life in general, I would have been running away and looking for answers, strapped with expectations. Instead, I'm leaving on a high note. And I don't mean a manic 'high' that has an inevitable 'low'... I just mean that I have since pulled myself out of that depression and am in a really healthy, expansive place. I used to look at this trip as a way to fall back in love with my life, with life period.... but I already have! :-) I've had a lot of people say, "Wow, what a trip! You may not want to come back!" ..."You should just stay over there." ... "Watch, you'll meet the man of your dreams and never come back." ....... And several months ago, I would've responded in resounding agreement with those statements. But now, as totally excited as I am to get on those planes to Rome, Kathmandu and Capetown ..... I am equally excited about the one that will bring me HOME again to Los Angeles where I'll see my beloved 'Chelle in the airport lobby, and a ROCKIN' New Year's. The EATing and PRAYing are inevitable because of how I've set this up this journey but the LOVE is already here .... my life is full of the most amazing people and full of more love that I could ever imagine.
    Upon this trip I place no expectations, make no judgements... I only hold gratitude! I am already grateful because in taking this trip I am the person and the woman I always wanted to be when I 'grew up'.
And I think that's the best possible way to walk through a door of this magnitude.

Friday, August 12, 2011

"My bags are packed, I'm ready to go..."

     "You can't really get everything you need for 4 months into a backpack, can you?" .... challenge accepted mon frere! And as of yesterday...... mission accomplished sucka! 
As I had mentioned, I had all my clothes rolled, and in ziploc bags ... but the question still remained if all that plus everything else I would need for 4 MO was going to actually fit into 2 backpacks, one for my back and the other one I will wear on front. VOILA! I am a packing GURU! Period. The only adjustment I need to make is to switch some clothes to my carry-on backpack and put my value size toiletries in the checked pack. I am fully aware that yes, I still have 17 days until I leave and packing seems a wee bit premature....but I am equally aware that I am a huge organizational nerd, and I feel more settled knowing that that part is done....also my apartment already looks cleaner and less like a bomb went off in my closet and bathroom. I would much rather have my clothes get really wrinkled from packing too early if it means saving me unnecessary stress in these final days. Serenity now!
    The other important accomplishment came in regards to my phone. I have decided to freeze my cell plan and go ahead and buy an international cell phone, that I can have a US# for so ya'll don't get slammed with international long distance rates. I can get phone, SIM card and extra air time out the door for under $200 - shhwwweeeet!
    Other than actually ordering said phone, getting a few more things for Zoe, and moving my clothes into the garage I am essentially ready for take off.....
I have my hotel for the night I get into Roma. I know which train to take the next day to get out to Poggio Mirteto where someone from the farm will be picking me up. Caterina and Marco are actually going to be on holiday for a few days when I first arrive, so one of the other WWOOFers will be my ride. Parajunna Singh at Shivapuri Village (the yoga retreat) now has my Kathmandu arrival info... and I'm sure will help me find my way to the mediation retreat. AND FINALLY I think I have South Africa more or less mapped out! I'm going to be spending the first 2-3 weeks with the woman, Naomi, who trains the horses for those endurance races.... still waiting for a final confirmation from her because she was figuring out her December holiday plans (it's summer for them). And then I will be spending the remainder of my time at MountainView Organics Farm outside of Ladismith w/ Brett and his or her family -- have NO idea if it's a man or woman. Our last few email exchanges have been quite lovely and welcoming though so I'm looking forward to meeting them. There is not question in my mind however that their farm will provide the hardest work, but shiiiit, I'm Wonder Woman -- an Amazon, I can hack it! ;-)

But, after all that-- can I speak Italian? you ask --  Mi dispiace! (I'm sorry), Non parlo l'italiano. .... But did I learn ANY Italian? ....Si, nemmeno un pochino ( a teeny weeny bit) ...


Tuesday, August 9, 2011

T minus 20 days; A backstory of boots

    ...Ok, so I'm 20 days out and am feeling pretty good, like I'm on top of everything. My list seems to have stopped self-multiplying, thank gawd! I have added two more Skype contacts.... thank you DeLise and Wendy :-) .... Dad you still need to download Skype and create an account sooooon, so we can do a test run before I go. Uh, ahem .... C -So- O -do- U -you- G -'Chelle!- H....  Maybe our bottle of Cerulean Chardonnay will make it a more fun, less painful process :-)
I was able to video call my mom using the Skype app on my phone and other than her computer being in a weird mood that day, it seemed to work quite well!
    I'm still feeling good physically, no adverse reactions to my vaccinations - score! And I spent last Saturday tackling the packing process. Other than putting everything into my backpack, tank tops, etc are at least rolled and put into ziploc bags like I'm such a fan of doing. Essentially I am only taking 2-3 weeks worth of underwear, socks and shirts and only one pair of jeans, a couple pairs of shorts, couple yoga pants, and a couple dresses/skirts, and 4 pairs of shoes (my boots, sneakers, Tevas, and casual flats).

     May I just take a moment and say that the boots I am taking (or rather wearing) are the same ones that I took on my Hawaii field studies trip when I was 15?!!!!!!!! A field studies trip, mind you, that I begged my parents to let me go on and then ultimately cursed them for not letting me back out of .... Let me explain. My high school's Psychics teacher got together with a couple other local Science Dept teachers annually to take students on a field studies trip in the summer where you could either earn Biology or Geology credit (I chose Biology). Several friends of mine had gone on the Alaska trip the summer before, and loved it!! When Hawaii appeared on the docket my best friend at the time decided the two of us HAD to go.... and I quickly agreed........ UNTIL I had applied, had been accepted, and my parent's money had been spent and suddenly she was no longer able to go.... my tune changed sooooooo fast I gave my poor parents whiplash. I didn't know anyone else going on the trip... it was freshmen through seniors and from 4 or 5 local high schools. I basically flipped out and had a total meltdown.... I was suddenly terrified and paralyzed at the thought of being away from home for a month with a group of kids I did not know. It may or may not surprise some of you to know that I used to be VERY SHY and unnaturally quiet ... my own parents used to ask me, "You're sooooo quiet, are you ok?" At that time in my life, this 'journey into the unknown' scenario was bordering on my worst nightmare.....actually I think it's quite safe to say that it was in fact my worst nightmare. And like any good teenager, I let my parents know it! HA! .... I made one last ditch effort the night before I was set to leave. I was in my room desperately trying to halt the heart attack I was convinced I was having, and plead my pitiful case one last time to the court of Amy and Bruce....promises, bargaining, tears, and all. My father, at the sight of his baby girl now a hot mess of hysterics and heart palpitations, began to crumble and said that if I REALLY did not want to go then they wouldn't force me and I could work off part of the deposit they would be forfeiting.... Whereas my mother in her infinite wisdom and uncanny knack at getting inside my head said something to the effect of this, "Of course.... if you REALLY don't want to go then we can call them tomorrow and cancel..... We can do that ....BUT I really feel like that would be a huge mistake and that you would eventually come to regret it. I firmly believe this trip is going to be an amazing experience for you and I would hate to see you miss out on that just because you're feeling scared...." (note this was all said in that certain tone only a mother can use on her children to wield unbelievable powers of persuasion)
Of course, I did not hear any of what she was truly saying b/c my 15 yr old mind only heard that if I didn't go I might be disappointing my parents, letting them down.....(another unthinkable scenario at that time) at which point a guilt complex kicked in and I mumbled that yes I would still go and slinked back to my room knowing in my heart of hearts that she was probably right but still feeling defeated and nauseous with nervousness.
So the next morning, my parents drove me to my high school to meet the bus that was gonna take us to the airport..... one might think that having resigned to the decision of going would lend itself to a more softened and emotional goodbye, ooooohhhh nooooooo like a typical teenage asshole, masking my fear with anger, I ignored my parents all morning and got on the bus without so much as a hug, or even a goodbye. (I'm pretty sure I made my mom cry)  WOW, right?! Mom and Dad, if I have have not already apologized enough for being such a world class jerk that day I am TRULY SORRY!  I think I made up for it (at least partially) when I called them a week and a half or two later after emerging from 3 days-2 nights at the bottom of Haleakala Crater on Maui .... apologizing for my previous callousness and thanking them profusely for the most unbelievable experience of my short life.  I'm tearing up right now as I remember it.
It was an extra side trip being offered by the Bio prof that only 4 of us accepted. We started at 8000 ft and began the precariously steep descent into this womb. We were the only people there those three days....we got to crawl through lava tubes/tunnels....and just immerse ourselves in the awesome Eco-system down there. On our last day, we were all off exploring on our own and I had perched myself on a little mountain of lava rock....I was sitting IN a cloud, quite literally. The weather inside the crater was unique to itself, it was it's own planet almost... a planet in which the clouds hang low and inviting. I was sitting in its cool mist... it gave my vision a gauze like filter so that suddenly I really couldn't see where I was and I just sat there and cried..... it completely surprised me, but I couldn't control it. I had never before felt such a sensation.... of my heart being so full and expanded that I almost couldn't bear it and the only way to alleviate the pressure was to cry. I was a snake shedding my skin for the first time and I was the happiest I had ever been, period.
I hiked out of that volcano forever changed.... a change my mother could hear through the phone but couldn't quite fathom till she and my dad picked me up at the airport two weeks later. Out of habit they scanned the arrival crowd for their normally whiter shade of pale, severely underweight, self-conscious and trying to hide, slightly sullen and 'Seattle grunged' attire daughter. They almost did not recognize the very tall, tan, athletic (up 10lbs) confident, laughing beam of light rushing toward them. I was fully embodying the essence of 'spirit  having a Courtney experience'  and was all lit up inside. I am forever grateful Mom and Dad for the experience of a lifetime!!
    Needless to say my 16th birthday which was only a week later was my best birthday and year ever..... that is, until this year. The first part of 30 started out kinda rough....really rough actually. To say I was a shadow of myself on ALL levels and struggling with a relationship as it approached its flat line is an understatement of GINORMOUS proportions. But the dawn of 2011 brought hope, and every month I felt a shift, both big and small....and the closer I got to 31 that laughing beam of light got louder and brighter. This past birthday (the whole month) was the best to date... 31 is the new 16!!!!!!!!!!!
As I get ready to lace up those old boots one more time for another journey into the unknown, I feel that like 16yr old with a heart so full it might burst ... coupled with the wisdom, courage and grace of the last 15 years.

And that's the back story of the boots.......

Thursday, August 4, 2011

T minus 25 days

....Okay, so the official countdown has begun.... T minus 25 days .... Holy Hell! So I thought I'd check in to provide a progress report...

     First of all, Rochelle's and my weekend in Hood River, OR was fantastic! It was sooo breathtakingly beautiful! I also feel very confident that Shannon and Joel are the perfect people to stay in my place and love on my Zoe -- thank you Universe for such kismet!

    I am in the middle of my second double-shift of this week, another one tomorrow and a half day on Saturday all in an effort to make up for my time off and pad my account a smidge before leaving. Let's see, so far this week I've:
- picked up my UV light water purifier from REI
- filled my "Just In Case" prescriptions (antibiotics, etc)
- got my clothes rack for the garage
- got my vaccinations (Hep A, Typhoid, Yellow Fever, and Rx for Malaria)
- Paid off credit card balances and set up Automatic Payments
- Put my YMCA membership on hold
- Sent out my 'See You Soon!" party evite  (Fri Aug 26 @ 7)
- Made my hotel reservation for the night I land in Rome.... only $68!!!!!!!!!!!!! TOTAL SCORE!
     Check this place out:
- Almost figured out the puzzle that is how I take the train to which bus to either getting picked up or hoofing it to the farm .... doesn't help when the bus schedule is only in Adobe format in Italian, *sigh

It may not sound like a lot, but I have a real sense of accomplishment around it all so just humor me.
As for the vaccinations, it was only yesterday so I'm still holding my breath a bit but the shots didn't feel any worse than normal and so far I'm still feeling normal ... fingers crossed! The clinic that I went to was GREAT!!! Accesa Health in Torrance.... definitely recommend them! They do waaaay more than offer vaccines. They have do B12 shots, blood work panels, physicals, STD testing, and limited urgent care services... There was only 1 person ahead of me and in 15 minutes I was getting shot up. The Dr (very cute! I might add) came in like 1-2 minutes later and sat and talked with me about where I was going and why, and answered all my questions -- no feeling of being rushed, and wrote me my Malaria Rx. The price I was quoted on the phone was exactly what I paid. No muss, no fuss! Love that!! :-)

   South Africa seems to be starting to come into focus a bit more... I have a couple new leads. One is working on an Endurance Horse training farm -- sounds awesome! I found it through a new work exchange site I joined called HelpX: Naomi replied right away saying she'd be happy to host me for 3 weeks at the beginning of my stay because December is their only holiday month and they will probably be gone. Check her out:
Then there is still the possibility of the farm in Ladismith for the time after Naomi, but I haven't been overly impressed with the energy of our email exchange, sooooo.....Then I've also come across a backpackers lodge in Warner Beach - KwaZulu Natal (on the east coast) that is looking for help... reception, kitchen, etc. Looks funky and cool
Blue Sky Mining Backpackers Lodge:

..... I'm going to start to packing this weekend --
                     Wish me luck! ;-)