New Beginnings

Pack all you have learned (no, not those college lectures), pack the falls and the healings, the ups and the downs. Wrap carefully those bonds that grew not with the years but by coffees, shared books and conversations till sunrise. Don’t forget the person you’ve built during these years and tie to it the good wishes of those who love you and want nothing but the best for you.

Don’t put in your carry-on those kisses that had no end and left you breathless and thirsty, they could try to take a them away saying you can’t bring with you dangerous weapons. Fill your bottle with energy and desires to begin again. Leave the photo albums behind, they’re extra weight, better take all the memories and a bit more of space for new ones. 

Hey! Wait! Don’t even dare to leave without the keys to your future, your power and right of deciding what to do next, and all those dreams you’ve had since you were 10. Is there’s still more space in your luggage? There better be, because we’re still missing your mom’s recipes to cure a brokenheart and the smell of your favorite coffee shop.

Take all the hugs and smiles in case of nostalgia. Bring your home inside you so you don’t get cold. Remember you always have somewhere to go back but pretend you forgot the address because right now is time to just move forward. Make sure you have your global visa because there’s no frontier or wall to keep you away from your goals. Just keep your eyes forward and your heart strong.

You might be heading on your own right now but you’re never alone. The stars look upon you and the wind blows your sails. Where are you going? That’s right: NO IDEA. But wherever you end, that’s the right place to grow roots or maybe just charge up your batteries before the next flight. Don’t be afraid to do something wrong, because there’s no one that has lived your life before so whatever you do it’s the best someone will ever do.

Run! This is the last call!

Fight 103, Destination: New Beginnings

And I Asked Myself WHY?

Taiwan has been the best experience in my life until now. No doubt. Still I need to accept the journey has not been easy, it has actually been pretty hard. It has lots of ups and downs, and more than a 100 times I have wondered what the hell I am actually doing here… This post is about that: the answer to that question. Why being 14,000+ kms away from home is worth it every centimeter and how every misfortune and mishappening is nothing but a chance, a blessing, a new open door in disguise.

乾杯 to Taiwan, to 蛋餅s and the minutes used in this post instead of studying!~


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SAL-LAX Flight 2013

I left home 2 years, 8 months and 23 days ago. That day I was weeping my heart out, hugging my best friend while he was trying to calm me down by telling me I was going to be back home soon. SOON?! I would think, I am leaving for five years and cannot visit until 2 years later from today. TWO YEARS. At that moment in the airport I was questioning all the set of decisions taken in the past two months. The call in the cellphone telling me the great news about Taiwan and asking me right there in the spot “Do you accept this opportunity?” my shaking voice replying “Yes, yes… of course!” and from that point on it was all a serious rush of events. Documents, shopping, places I wanted to go, a series of farewells, overeating all the food I know I was going to miss (what I did not know was that I was going to miss plantain as soon as I sat down on my first flight… yeah, that was fast.)

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WERUNTPE2016 – Nike Women Half Marathon

5 (2)One year ago, or well 364 days ago I had my first run experience. I registered myself to the Earth Day Run one random night of March and challenged myself to complete 12.5K when I had not run in any event before. I had less than a month to train but as soon as I received my confirmation e-mail something in me clicked. I had a deadline, a challenging distance for a beginner and no intention of defrauding myself. Next morning I started a four week training in which the track close to my house and me became great friends. I trained by myself every morning or night mixing long runs, short intervals with speed, and some gym sessions.

I completed my race panting and with my legs almost shaking, but when I received my running medal it was all worth it. I loved it and just in 2015 I did other four more. Soon I was full of race shirts, using sport bras in a daily basis, carrying my huge neon pink gym bag around campus every week day and getting way too excited every time I saw the SALE advertisements in any sports store (Nike, to be specific… Yes, I am a Nike fan. I do not even know how it happenned but now there is no going back. Sorry bank account, so sorry)

Without knowing it I became something new: I became a runner.

It was weird for me to accept it at the beginning. iPhone 1000When my friends joked about me having a “fit lifestyle” I would shrugged while finishing my second donut. I have never been sporty before, I was the type of kid in school and high school who would worry more about her grade in PE than in Math class… for real. In addition to that, my legs were sticks and by the second squat I would be wondering what had I done to deserve such a punishment. My brother would joke and always tell me “You know, being thin is not being fit”… and I would just laugh and think who the hell wants to be “fit”? Who needs that? Let me couch potato. So, I guess you get the picture.

Ericka and exercise… in the same sentence? Pfff.

But then you start becoming acquainted with the grandpas in the track. You go to the park and even forget you said you would only run a quick 5K and do 10K instead. The price of running sneakers doesn’t seem ridiculous to you anymore and you don’t even think twice before getting the ones you want. A 10K run in the park becomes a nice way to begin a Sunday morning. You go during the Track and Field practice times to the university track just to watch them with great awe (okay, I sound stalker but… have you ever watched them? THEY ARE AWESOME) You don’t understand how people say they “cannot run” (I am the clumsiest person you’ll ever meet, I believe I practice running because it just takes to move your feet at a constant pace… so it is hard to get hit by a ball in the stomach, tumble, roll down a hill, fall in your face, or anything I would definitely suffer in any other sports)and all of a sudden there you are, 1 year after at 5:29am about to begin your first half marathon.

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HONDURAS

Processed with VSCO with c1 presetFirst of all, I woke up super late… My plan was to be out of my house by 4:00am since the run started at 5:30am. I openned my eyes at 4:11am but since I had EVERYTHING ready it took me just 19 minutes to be downstairs stopping a cab. I found some girls and the boyfriend of one who were waiting also… it was easy to notice they were also going to the Nike run so I told them to come with me. So, yeah… it was 4:30am and I was in a cab with three strangers on my way to the run. When we were almost arriving the sky started to fall… with this I mean THUNDERS and pouring rain. Still… there I was, and I preferred to get soaked in the rain and go and leave my things first… so I left my umbrella in my bookbag and my raincoat (I was not going to run holding an umbrella so.. oh well). There is when I noticed a lot of girls who had a friend/parent/boyfriend with them and they were holding the umbrella for them (ALL BYYYY MYYYSELF started playing in the back of my mind)... so I made a self-note “Convince someone to come with me next year”

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It was POURING

I cannot really describe this feeling… Adrenaline, I guess. You are waiting with your cellphone in hand, ready to press play in Spotify to the playlist you created specifically for THIS run (you can listen to it in here) and to press “Start Run” in the Nike+ app as soon as you cross the sensors. One, two, one, two… I look down and look at my left ankle which I bathed in mentholatum an hour before, then cover with a patch and finished putting a ankle-band-support-thing (yes, I don’t remember the name right now… shh)

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Start Line

Please, just let me finish… I think, and then Sweet Disposition starts playing. And I am on kilometer 0 of 21.

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The first 3 kilometers and the last 2 were the toughest for me, the other 16 in between I just went by even singing from time to time or moving my hands to the beat of the playing song. I also loved every pit stop… they were crazy. There were the official pit stops of Nike which included: water, energy drinks, bananas, SPONGES! which were soaked in cold water so you cleaned your face and arms with them and ahhh… refreshing, chocolates, cookies, and so on. But there were also some pit stops from sponsors which had more chocolates, sweets, and one even had COKE… and the most hilarious one: some guys made a pit stop with beer. Yep, beer. People stand at the border of the road just to shout 加油! which is an incentive here in Taiwan which literal translation is “add oil”, but means “Go! Keep on! You can do this!” and offered their hands to receive high fives. I have no idea why but every time I gave a high five I got super pumped up! A million thanks to every person who was there today, for real… you made a difference to me (yeah, they won’t probably read my blog but shhh)

Processed with VSCO with c1 presetBy the last two kilometer I was dying. DYING. And girls around me were starting to walk, my ankle was starting to hurt way too much but… come on, 2 KM equals to 5 laps in the track… YOU-CAN-DO-THIS-ERICKA. So there I went… jogging like a grandpa but not stopping. When just 1KM was missing there were some guys playing the drums and some heavy music playing and that was all I needed to make the last effort…

21KM, smile… and AHHHHH MY ANKLE!

I walk down, get interviewed and then I pick up my medal, the Finisher shirt and a towel and join the rest of the runners at the finish event. Music, crowd, cameras, food, physioterapic massage! (Nike, you are AMAZING)…

I definitely recommend everyone to join running events. It gives you a purpose to run for! If you are in Taiwan, ask me! Normally I know a couple of events happenning soon, and even though I wouldn’t be able to join you for training (I am taking at least a month of REAL rest) I can always talk to you, give you any of the tips I use (though I am not professional at all, but… it works at least) so yeah…Processed with VSCO

ONE MORE VICTORY FOR TEAM TURTLE!

(I say team, but it is actually just me. The happy turtle because I am not fast at all but… once I start stopping is not an option)

Thanks to everyone who supported me on this! Who challenged me to this! Who motivated for this!

Cycling Around Taiwan: Episode 1

Some days ago I posted I had an accident while riding bicycle around Taiwan. Just that small part of the adventure took me a whole post so let’s see how it goes trying to summarize the whole trip.


2sZW4m5.gifDuring this winterbreak I decided to stay in Taiwan to be able to save up money for my tickets for the summer (it did not actually work, damn it). Luckily, one of my best friends and 學妹 was also staying in Taiwan so we decided to plan something together. I came up with different “budget” ideas, such as being couch potatos for two weeks, going to an island in Taiwan, or even traveling to Okinawa and backpack around there for a week, which she thought were cool, but then I decided to share with her one of my crazy ideas. I had already shared with others this plan and always received an answer such as “You are crazy”, “Sounds cool but… no”, “Good luck with that”. So here I went:

“What about cycling around Taiwan? Like, around the whole island.” Oh my God, she will think I am crazy and run away…

OMG. WHEN? YES!!!!!“, and that my friend is how I got my adventure buddy for the next crazy adventure.

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When you think about cycling around Taiwan, you think of fit persons… so, we needed training. Training that did not happen. When you think about cycling around Taiwan, you think of meeting and planning thoroughly every detail. Meetings did happen but theefwd.gif planning was lost among eating pizza, going to tattoo parlors, watching movies, and so on. But somehow a couple of days before the scheduled date we had our bikes reserved, all the gear bought, 30 granola bars each, and our route sort of traced plus tons of CouchSurfing requests sent and friends’ houses along the route. Not bad for last minute planning, right?

The night before the date of parting we went to pick our bikes (before that we almost set fire to my house while making a tomato soup, but that is another story). We did not count with the massive rain though, by the time we were back in my apartment we were soaking wet. Nata (Guatemala) was using the clothes she was going to use for the first day of cycling and our backpacks were dripping water… We had eight hours to wash and dry our things for the adventure of next day. So, there we went at 11:00pm in the look for 24H Washing and Dryer Machines.

Of course, we had Google Maps and Nata gave a look to the location where the place with the machines was… the thing is “giving a look” is not understanding exactly where and none of us took her cellphone. So it was cold, still rainning, dark and we were both tired, but we spend approximately one hour roaming around the streets of Taipei until we found the small shop with the coin washer and dryer machines. It took approximately one hour for the things to dry up (we had already washed them at my place, at least)… Did I mention we were tired? Well, we ended up sleeping on a 0.5×1.0 meter table… Yes, both of us in one single table.

At least this proved a point: we could sleep A N Y W H E R E.

(…and that is good if you are planning on backpacking)

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We were planning to leave at 6:00am and it was already 4:00am by the time we got back home. I slept an hour and woke up to have a champion’s breakfast. Eggs? No. Bacon? No. Peanut butter jelly sandwich? No. Tomato soup and spagghettti? YEEEES. Two hours later we were ready and since it was still raining we had to be witty and create our own waterproof technology gear.

Two hours later we were on our way…

Let’s remember that we were two unexperienced girls on the road, so it did not take long before our first near-death experience. Somehow, when trying to exit crowded Taipei we ended up on a highway. Yes, you read that: A HIGHWAY. Speeding loud cars passing a couple of centimeters right beside us, with no space for motorcycle or bicycles. I am not sure how long it was before we found the first exit but by that time I was already sweating ice cold and praying inside my head. Could have been just ten minutes but I felt it as a long eternity.

12592496_10153903195776948_190081193327582707_nOnce we were out of Taipei everything got better. We went on the wrong way a couple of times, climbed some pretty steep hills, had dumplings for lunch in a small restaurant close to Taoyuan (yes, where the airport is)… but then it started raining.

As we got closed to Hsinchu it started raining a lot. Poor Nata was all dirty with mud since she was riding behind me so all the dirt of my wheels was flying directly to her. It was getting colder but I would lie if I told you we were feeling cold, when you are pedalling for over half an hour nonstop it is impossible to get cold, but as soon as you stop you would freeze. Soon enough, we started seeing buildings and there we were, at our first stop.

Welcome to Hsinchu City. 

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We smelled like wet dogs. We were soaked in rain and sweat. We were tired and hungry. But we had a nice apartment waiting for us. Juan (Panama) had given Nata the keys to his apartment where a hot shower, a big bed and… two hosts were waiting for us! We entered and talked a bit about the adventure of the day with our hosts: Jovane  (Panama) and Luigi (Nicaragua). Then I ran to the bathroom and discovered the nirvana in that hot shower. I could have stayed there all night under the hot water…

Our host Juan was not home but he left a whole arsenal of new toothbrushes, mini toothpastes, a list with food we could take from the refrigerator, the wifi password, and clean towels for us. He took seriously the role of being the greatest host, even if he was an absent host.

Dinner, of course, was nothing but a huge Costco pizza which we shared with Jovane. Plus one ice cream and two churros. (Hey! Come on, we needed extra carbs! Don’t judge)

Oh, and let’s not forget that we had no Processed with VSCOappropiate clothes for the windy weather in Hsinchu except for the one we used during the day which was dirty, sweaty and wet… So we were saved by fashion expertee Jovane and had some really nice outfits to go to Costco in, including shoes which dangled around since his feet are way bigger than mine.

Tough first day, really tough…

Next day we tried to wake up early but our hosts wouldn’t let us leave (we are that good guests) so we got on the road until  9:30am after a quick visit to the washer-dryer machines and a breakfast in delicious gourmet restaurant 7-11.

Our next destiny was Taichung which was 95km away… and we were supposed to be there before 7:00pm since we stayed with a host we found on CouchSurfing but she is currently in New Zealand so the ones receiving us were going to be her parents. The road of this day was specially full with steep slopes and my knee was starting to hurt. I kept on telling myself “mind over body” but it got to a point in which every time I saw a mountain coming I would rather just stay there and wait for… anything, but ride my bike up. Of course I could not do that so I found myself cursing under my breath and riding while Nata did small stops to let me catch up (have I told you before how amazing my adventure buddy is?) 

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We did a stop in Miaoli to have lunch, it was close to Chinese New Year so ALL restaurants were closed but we saw one Vietnamese restaurant in the road and we stopped to check it out. Our surprise was when we asked for our menu and they just started laughing and they said “There is no menu, we serve what you see here”, what we saw in the glass showcase looked like cold pork knobs, chicken legs, other unrecognizable meat, transparent noodles and next to it inside a boiling cauldron a weird soup… Nope. This was not the place to eat at. We slowly went back to our bikes and escaped.

12646926_10153903219871948_4896531704592050731_o.jpgA couple of kilometers later we saw another open restaurant where they sell 便當 which can be translated to “lunchbox” which normally is: white rice, meat of your choice and vegetables. Everyone there seem really happy to see us and after answering the common questions they served us soup, an extra piece of chicken (I told you, EXTRA CARBS IS THE KEY), chocolates and candies. We were back on our way but time was flying by and we were not even half way to our destiny.

Faster, skip some red lights, faster, faster… and itProcessed with VSCO was 6:00pm and according to our guide Google maps we were 2 hours far away from our destiny when we took the decision: we had to ride a train. NOOOOOOOO… But yes, it had to happen. To our surprise what we would have made in two hours of mountain trails the train accomplished it in 15 minutes. Yes, three train stops later we were in Taichung train station in the search of the address we were given.

First of all I have to say Taichung, in my opinion, was the least bike friendly place of all. Or maybe I was already in a bad mood since it was COLD and my knee was seriously killing me. We arrived to our host’s place to find the most cheerful sweet lady I could have think of. We were going to stay on the third floor of her office which the family has exactly for that purpose: to receive guests of CouchSurfing. We had a comfy big bed, warm water, shower, washer machine, sandals, shampoo, toothpaste, everything ready for us. But before I could die in bed she asked us if we wanted to go have dinner with her and our tummies roared YEEEES!

We went to Taichung night market where she invited us to different night market snacks, we played darts, walked around, met one of her friends who is owner of one of the boutiques, and then she drove us (so weird to go around Taiwan in a car that is not a cab) to her home where we met her husband and their three dogs.

Did I metion already that my knee was KILLING me and that it was COLD? Well, there she gave me ointment and some special patches for my knee, and then she gifted Nata and me a coat and a pair of warm tights for each of us. Since she believed we were going to die otherwise. Yes, you read that: food, medicine and clothes. Plus, her husband made a really nice tea and had chopped fruits waiting for us. Kindness to its maximum exponent. Welcome to Taiwan.

We went back to our home for the night. Shower. Bed. Sleep… Next morning we had a trip to continue.


So I just found out our adventure has TOO much to put on a single entry. So I will divided in 3 or 4 parts. I hope you liked Chapter 1! 

Special thanks to all our hosts and people we met on the way! They are the highlights of all this crazy trip.

Oh and that day I discovered why my knee was hurting. I wasn’t using the changes of velocity and gear properly in my bike, specially when going uphill. So I was technically killing myself. At least we made this discovery in day 2… further on I also discovered my seat was too low for my long ch0pstick legs. For real, riding a bike around an island is no recreational activity for amateurs (meaning, me)… still… IT WAS FUN. 

 

Getting Back On Track

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Was not kidding. Starry ceiling.

(I am so proud of that witty title, for real)

Yesterday was a bad day. No, not just a bad day: a sucky-iamtoosensible-givemeahug-needy-ohno day. But as all the bad things in this world: it had an end, and actually a  really good one. I was laying on my bed, staring at my starry ceiling and about to give up on the day and go to sleep when my memory brought me a flashback from two or three days before. I remembered watching somewhere in Taipei (probably in the MRT) some huge letters that read: EARTH DAY RUN.

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