Pilgrimage Packing List

Outdoor gear and clothing … ugh. I get that gear is important. But I’m not the kind of person who wears high tech, breathable fabrics, or god forbid, a Buff. I wear cardigans. I wear vintage clothes. Dressed up in outdoorsy clothes, I feel like an idiot, a fraud. It feels like playing dress-up for…

Why Shikoku?

In previous posts, I’ve 1) lamented the fact that I’ve never done a “outdoorsy/physical” challenge, and 2) fessed up that I plan to hike the Shikoku pilgrimage in Japan someday. (A quick recap: it’s a 1200 kilometer, Shingon Buddhist pilgrimage around the smallest of Japan’s four main islands with stops at 88 temples of significance.) But with so many…

The physical challenge

Recently I lamented the divide between indoorsy and outdoorsy people. I’d like to be more outdoorsy. But I feel like the outdoorsy world is so geared to outdoorsy people. I can’t figure out what kind of gear I really need, or whether a particular hike will be pleasantly challenging or a sweaty nightmare where I’m terrified that I…

Indoorsy people, Outdoorsy people

If you’ll forgive the generalization, there are indoorsy people and outdoorsy people. People like me, who read books and do crossword puzzles, and knit. And then there are people who ski, and hike, and who seem to genuinely enjoy running. As a committed indoorsy person, I’ve long felt conflicted about the outdoors. I enjoy a simple…

A language-learner’s lament

Last time I tried to learn a language, we used card catalogs in the library, phones had a cord, and Kurt Cobain was alive. To study Spanish almost required taking a class (though I suppose learning by book or cassette tape were options). My classroom learning in the early nineties was mostly worksheets, and lots of…

A 168-hour tour

With flights only scheduled once a week, we were stuck on Rotuma for a full seven days, so a place to stay was rather important. I tried to arrange for lodging before we arrived, I really did. Lonely Planet chipperly suggested: “Contact the Fiji Visitor Bureau in either Nadi or Suva for updated information and…

I’ve landed on ice, but never on grass

It may be hundreds of miles north of Fiji, separated by open ocean, home to a unique ethnic group and language. But you get to Rotuma like you get most places these days. You get in a plane and fly. Still, though, when you closest neighbors are, um, Wallis and Futuna … well perhaps this Google Map will…

The Last Page in the Lonely Planet

An inferiority complex. Such a diagnosis leads some to build tall towers boldly emblazoned with the family name. To seek riches, or internet infamy. My own complex led me to the far-flung Fijian dependency of Rotuma. Why yes, tale as old as time. While my travels to date seemed adventurous to many, they felt tame…

That time I incinerated chemical weapons for a living* (*Almost)

You work in Antarctica, and you meet all sorts of people with all sorts of crazy jobs. And the craziest of them all, and the one that I actually interviewed for and was offered, was working on Johnston Atoll, incinerating chemical weapons. I’m sorry, what? You might say. Where? All great questions.

Treasure Hunting in Antarctica

“Grab your ECW,” Kip* barked at me across the floor of the carp shop. The year was 1999, and I was employed in the carpentry (carp) shop at McMurdo Station, Antarctica, as a general assistant … the bottom rung on the shop’s hierarchy. Kip, being a few levels above me, had every right to order…

Boating advice if you’re ever in Fiji

If you’re on a big boat in the middle of the ocean in Fiji, and a little boat pulls along side it, and you’re being told you need to get in the little boat to get back to the main island faster in order to catch your plane, but the people in the little boat…