Rolling (Uncontrollably) on the River (or How NOT to Whitewater Raft)

So the main reason I decided on the trip and itinerary we chose for Costa Rica was for the adventure of it all.  I saw the itinerary on Groupon and was immediately hooked on the idea.  Canyoneering, horseback riding, safari tour, hot springs, a waterfall visit, AND white water rafting?

Sign me up.

However, I don’t know if I was ready for all that jelly (Knowles, 2001).

See, the thing is, the guides from Costa Rica Descents were, for the most part, great. They were knowledgeable, they were skilled in the ways of the river, and they were mostly supportive.  Mostly.

When we got to the jump-off for the whitewater rafting trip, we were excited.  We were ready to rock!

Wahoo! Go team!

To the right of that picture is Alex (I think his name was Alex, that’s what I’ll be calling him). He was our lead guide on the adventure and, as luck would have it, chose Rachel and I to be his boat partners.

That’s right. Just the three of us. One raft. Let’s do it.

 After a brief (10-15 minutes) introduction to whitewater rafting (TOTALLY sufficient for class 3-4 rapids in a boat of firsttimers, right?), we hit the river rowing. Or paddling. Or whatever.

For the record, I consider myself somewhat athletic.  That being said…. I’m not very coordinated.  Oh well.

At first rapid, I thought I was doing pretty well.

We got this. Right?

We were jammed in the front of that boat, my legs sticking out, but I still felt like we had a grasp of what our guide was saying.

He, on the other hand, did not think so.

You can’t tell in this shot, but he’s judging me.

He started to tell me that, in my paddling, I was being a chicken. He said that if I didn’t start doing it right, I was really going to screw us up.  That being said, I was not really told what exactly I needed to change. Calling me a “chicken” and telling me to stop being scared does NOT equal guidance.

Now, those of you who know me might be aware of my extreme sensitivity.  In this post on all the junk I hate about myself, I talked about how I cry over EVERYTHING.

Being told that I’m a chicken who’s lousy at rafting and likely going to kill my best friend and a total stranger falls under “everything”.

I sort of LOOK like I’m doing it right, right?

Anyway, within minutes of hitting the water, I was already crying.  That’s right, the river guide made me cry and feel like a loser.  Awesome vacation story, right?  Don’t worry, it gets better.

Rachel suggested to not worry about him, so I did my best to put a brave face on.  I could do this.

Grinning and bearing it

Just call me Billy Badass

And then, we started approaching it.  The Class 4 rapid we’d heard so much about (sarcasm, he hadn’t told us anything about it).

This doesn’t look promising…

I felt like I was slipping. We hit the steepest drop and…. well.  A picture is worth a thousand words, right? Here are a few for you.

Wait. This isn’t right. Right?

I held onto that paddle like it could do me any good. HA!

ADULT SWIM!

And in we went.

Don’t worry, I was still holding onto my paddle (wtf?)

Lifeline? Nope. Just a plastic stick.

Cue: Scariest experience of my adult life.

Cue: Only time I’ve ever truly thought to myself “Hey, you could die. Right here, right now.”

Cue: Attempts to breathe met immediately with river water.

Sweet drowning shot.

Luckily, there were kayaks along for the ride to help us if we got in a tight spot.

Oh, wait. The water was too rough even for the KAYAKS!

That’s cool, bros, row on by…

SEE YA!

I didn’t drown, don’t worry (though, if I did, I think ghost-blogging would be a sick career move). But I DID inhale quite a bit of river water (a little piece of Costa Rica to take home with me?) and I did end up with a NASTY bruise on my thigh, a cut on my ankle, a number of smaller scrapes, fear filling my heart, and a deep, deep wound to my pride.  As if the guide’s constant berating of my rafting skills wasn’t enough, I had to go and prove him right by almost killing us.

That’s SO Jordan.

Anyway, it was absolutely terrifying.  You’d attempt to breathe and, instead of air, you’d suck a giant gulp of water. You’d try to follow your guide’s instructions and get your legs in front of you, then you’d feel a rock drag your leg underneath your body, twist you in a way you never thought possible, and panic as you were turned around, spun by a combination of water and moss-covered stones.

Speaking of which, I’d like to give a big shout out to MOSS, my main man, which probably prevented me from sustaining any more injuries than the ones I did. It was like a tiny furry yoga mat on all the giant boulders, buffering my buffeting.  Finally, the other boat caught up to us and I was hoisted out of the water by my trusty lifejacket.  At this point, I was uncontrollably crying my eyes out trying to remind myself that I wasn’t dead.

Petrifying? Yes.

But we made it out.  And, though there were some close calls…

NOT AGAIN!

But we stayed in the boat for the rest of the trip.  Despite the horror, I ended the day with a big smile on my face.

You’d never know what had happened earlier…  But Rachel knows.

It was probably the knowledge that a heaping plate of rice, beans, porkchops, and yucca chips were waiting for me around the corner.

How about you, any near-death experiences in your life?

Smelled Like a Campfire…

Last night, after a wonderful glass night at Rockfish, I was excited to hit the hay very early.  I was in bed, asleep shortly after 10pm.  It was perfect.

I was woken up several hours later with the definition of a “rude awakening”. My eyes were flashed with a blinding light as the sheriff of the local police department shined his flashlight into my eyes, having busted open my door.

Miss, put some clothes on and follow me outside. The building next to yours is on fire.

I’m not sure if I’ve ever clothed and ran out of my apartment faster.  When I walked outside, I was immediately hit in the face with a sensory overload.  Smoke and fire was billowing out of the roof of the apartment next to mine, the warmth hit my face as my eyes acclimated to the flickering firetruck lights and my feet were drenched by excess water from the hoses.  It was an affront on all sides, as the sheriff explained to me how he’d been knocking on my door for over 5 minutes before they finally got the key from the apartment complex.

The scene outside

I was lucky enough to have grabbed a sweatshirt, but most of my fellow neighbors were underdressed considering the nip in the autumn air. The flames continued to climb as the hoses sprayed down, and my most intense thought was a hope that they didn’t leap the gap between the two buildings. I will say, though, that if anything, the fire brought the neighborhood together. I had conversations with people I’ve never met before, people who live a floor above me. I found my friend, Kim from the building that was affected, in the clubhouse, which the complex opened up for the Red Cross to use.  She’d barely ran out with more than a tshirt on, so I lent her my sweatshirt, thinking I’d be let back into the apartment.

20 minutes later, I was the one shivering outside.  An older gentleman offered me a jacket (a Carolina one, no less!) which I gladly accepted. It was only later that he explained to me that his home was one of the ones that had been completely destroyed.


While his home was smoldering, he offered me one of his few possessions that hadn’t burned in the fire. At about 3:30 am, we were allowed back into our homes. They were pretty certain they’d tamed the flames, and I think they also wanted less folks loitering. I wasn’t able to fall asleep for a while, my heart was still racing.  Every time I heard a sound, I jumped, thinking that someone was knocking again to let me know the fire had jumped.

I also managed to be interviewed by one of the local news networks and, after watching it today, I always forget how weird it is to hear yourself. Also, how crazy I sound when I talk in general.

Cute screenshot, yes?

Luckily, there was only one injury, and, though they lost all their belongings, everyone in my complex is required to have renter’s insurance so they’re covered.

Speaking of which: if you don’t have renter’s insurance, GET IT! It’s a cheap way to assure than if something this awful happens to you, you won’t be starting from scratch.

I’ll hopefully be spending tonight in the company of some friends in the hopes of forgetting that my heart keeps slamming in my chest.

Have you ever had a tragedy that brought people together?

OR tell me a fun story or joke to lighten my spirits!

PS In case you missed it, check out my post about the package I got through the Foodie Pen Pals on Lindsay’s blog from the lovely Allie from Healthy Balance, Healthy Life !!

Do you want to join in on the fun?  Bloggers AND blog readers are welcome to participate!!! Contact Lindsay at theleangreenbean@gmail.com and be sure to visit her website for all of the official details!  It is super easy to get started (literally, it takes 5 minutes!) and Lindsay does the rest!  You MUST send her an e-mail by October 4th if you would like to be a Foodie Penpal, as she sends out the penpal matches on October 5th.

The Scariest Flight of My Entire Life and a Trader Joe’s Treat

Oh, neat. It’s Monday.

I know, that sounds like the least enthused beginning of a post ever, right?

Well, I’ll be honest, Mondays after traveling to/from home in Pennyslvania are always a little rough. For financial reasons as well as a love of spending Sunday nights watching CSI with my little brother and sister, I like to return to the Raleigh-Durham airport on Monday mornings. Unfortunately, that tends to lead to a 5 am (or earlier) Monday wake-up call.

In case you missed it, you should check out my Six Pack Sunday: The Science of Beer  edition. It’s pretty much one of the coolest beer events I’ve ever experienced in my life.

Luckily, I had a tasty surprise just waiting in the freezer for a Monday where “cooking” was the last thing on my lunch-mind.

A little spice is nice!

4 minutes in the microwave, and you have: Trader Joe’s Green Curry Infused Rice!!

The ingredient list is beautiful: Jasmine rice, green bell pepper, carrots, coconut milk, basil leaves, green curry past, light soy sauce, sugar, sunflower oil, holland chili pepper, and key lime leaves. Not too shabby, right?

While the taste was perfect, I thought it was missing something….

Vegetable Fiesta!

I was craving a few more veggies and had some leftovers in the fridge to add to the mix. Broccoli, mushrooms, red pepper, more carrots, and baby corn!! Add this to the warm, spicy slow burn of a quality curry, and you have yourself a colorful lunch to fuel me through the day!

Chances are, though, if you made it this far, you’re not just interested in my Trader Joe’s mouth-party.  You wanna hear the juice.

This Friday, on my way to Philadelphia, I experienced the absolute scariest flight of my entire life. That’s really saying something, too, considering I fly anywhere from 1-2x a month and have been for almost 3 years now (before then, I flew less frequently, but still more than your average bear. Or person.)

I flew Southwest, as I always do, because it’s fast, it’s cheap, and their seating system rewards aggression.  It’s kill or be killed sit or be sat on, out there, and I was a lucky duck who got a primo windo seat. I had a great book on hand, a handsome boyfriend I was flying to, and a few of these bad boys to whet my whistle…

Drink tickets, anyone? (click for source)

Though there was a bit of rain in the forecast, both in Philly and RDU, the drizzles weren’t getting me down.

Then, as luck would have it, the pilot announced over the intercom system that, due to weather and possible turbulence, there’d be no drink service. AND NO PEANUTS!

That’s a bummer, but really, not the end of the world.  I was peeved (and thirsty), but just trying to get to the PHL.

I sat to read my (incredibly emotional and intense) book and was approximately halfway through the (very smooth) flight when the silence was broken.  It was broken by screaming:

“HELP!! IS THERE A DOCTOR ON THE PLANE?! IS ANYONE A DOCTOR?! OH GOD, IS THERE A DOCTOR?!”

A huge lump surged in my throat as I, along with every other passenger, turned to see a flight attendant running through the aisle, waving her hands.

Having watched thousands of episodes of TV shows where that inevitably means one of a few select tragedies, I was petrified.

Either:

a) we had all just contracted meningitis, a la that very special episode of House

b) there was a terrorist on board, and maybe the president, a la Air Force One

c) there was…. something on the wing. A la Twilight Zone

NBD, just an Airplane Gremlin that wants to eat my heart.

Either way, in my mind, my plane was doomed.

As I watched a white haired fellow (who I’m PRAYING was a doctor) leap out of his seat, seemingly shouting FINALLY! MY DAY HAS COME! with his body language, I prayed to all things holy (and some things unholy, like that airplane gremlin) that my life wouldn’t end on this plane (or before I finished ROOM.)

Then, as suddenly as the screaming began, the silence returned. My fellow passengers and I craned our necks back, hoping for some indication that a life hadn’t ended in the exit row, and that the rest of us weren’t infected. We looked to the flight attendants, who bustled about in an orderly fashion, as if nothing was amiss, plastic smiles glued to their face.

What the FORK AND KNIFE had just happened?

Well, when that grinning attendant strolled over so nonchalantly to collect our trash (though, since none of us had gotten beverages or snacks, there wasn’t much trash to be collected) I gestured for her to come and collect my apple core (a self-brought snack, thank goodness!!

“Excuse me, ma’am, would you mind telling us what all the commotion was about? What happened back there?”

“Oh, don’t you worry sweetheart! It was nothing! Just some fellow who woke up and wasn’t feeling too well, he’s doing fine now.”

…………………………………………….wait. What?

Color me confused

So you mean to tell me that, when someone doesn’t feel too well after groggily waking up on a plane, you race through the aisles screaming bloody murder for a doctor?! Was that in the training somewhere?!

I certainly hope not.

Needless to say, the rest of my day was spent jumping at every loud sound made and clutching my chest at the hint of turbulence.  The train ride, thankfully was a little less adventurous, and, when I finally reached the beau, I hugged him like a spider monkey clinging to a branch mid-tropical storm (factual basis of that statement is up for debate. I don’t know if spider monkeys even live in tropical areas. Just go with it.)

I haven’t started coughing up organs or bleeding from my eyes yet  so I’m pretty sure I’m okay, but just keep an eye on me y’all. If you don’t see somewhat regular tweets and posts, chances are, I’m living out the plot of Contagion.

Either that, or the airplane gremlin got me.

What'd you say your address was, again, Jordan?