Dodging balls in Austin, looking ahead to Summer

I spent the last week in Austin, Texas with a special someone.  I’d long heard about how weird this city is by Texan standards, and how inferior UT is to Texas A&M (according to a good friend and Aggie), but other than that I’d never given Austin much thought.

I stayed at an average hotel.  I rented an Elantra.  I resorted to eating a lot of Taco Bell because I spent too much money renting an Elantra.  I cursed like a sailor every time I found myself making wrong turns and getting lost around the city, which I fully blame on an overly ambitious highway system and a schizophrenic GPS device.  How is it possible that missing one exit sets you back fifteen minutes just to make a u-turn?  Is that really a just punishment for one little mistake?

Austin was a real treat, other than the driving.  Sixth Street is “outrageous”, as described by a friend.  The nighttime sky line is one of the prettiest I’ve ever seen.  The food is good and the people are sweet.  And the campus of the University of Texas is beautiful, which I discovered while attending the “Latitudes” architecture symposium with an architect-in-training.

The most interesting part of my trip ended up coming as a complete surprise.  I was randomly recruited to join a dodgeball team by the mom of a friend of my boyfriend, one of those “we need to fill the mandatory two-girl quota; don’t worry about actually exerting yourself” kinds of things.  I consider myself a fit person, but hand-eye coordination has never been my strong suit.  So deciding to play dodgeball against a bunch of college-aged men at 9:00 on a Sunday morning required a little bit of courage on my part.

"If you can dodge a wrench, you can dodge a ball."
- Patches O'Houlihan

The tournament reminded me of the movie.  You know the one, with color-coordinated spandex uniforms, Ben Stiller, and slow-motion hits to the face that send shockwaves through people’s bodies and hurl them to the ground.  Well, that was me.  Somehow, the other female member of my team and I ended up being the last two souls on the court almost every round.  I’m guessing there are two reasons for this:  first, we were not priority targets, because we couldn’t throw well enough to hit any players on the opposing team; second, we were both teeny tiny human beings, and therefore smaller targets.   Dodging, ducking, weaving, and finally squeaking in pain as we inevitably got smacked by big red bouncy balls, we slowly but surely worked our way to the final Sweet Sixteen of the tournament… and then thankfully lost.

The rest of that day was spent swimming in Barton Springs, a beautiful outdoor pool and park, and then drying off with a six or seven mile run along the Colorado River.  It was that day that I realized I really truly liked this city, and, for perhaps the twentieth time this year, deemed another place worthy of being a potential home one day.  Austinites (or is it Austiners?) seem to love being outdoors, judging by the hundreds of people (and their dogs) wading in the pools and canals, kayaking in the river, and jogging and cycling along the trails.   I felt at ease among all those pleasantly hipsterish, tattooed, pet-loving runners.

So, Austin isn’t quite La Paz.  But given that I’ll be traveling to some pretty exotic places in the next few months, I have to say I enjoyed basking in the familiar American-ness of this city after being away for so long.

However, my time here in the States will be short-lived.  I’ve spent the last few days in New Jersey nibbling on Easter candy and planning my next steps for the spring and summer.  Polio booster?  Check.  Russian visa?  Check.  Resurrected Russian speaking abilities?  Not quite.  But beyond the to-do lists, there have been heavier things on my mind.  Two of my three great adventures this year have already been accomplished.  Russia is my last stand before, gulp… reentering the real world.  Or do I really have to?  Would I ever really be able to return to my previous mindset?  An invaluable lesson I have learned in the past six months is that life– our happiness, our relationships, our careers– is truly what we make it.  Mine is currently a blank slate, and I have the freedom to pursue things that make me happy, both professionally and personally.  After having experienced so much joy, settling is no longer an option.  So wish me luck as I begin perusing job listings (in a variety of countries and continents) and dreaming about greater adventures to come.

Before I head off to the Mother Land, I will be making stops in Geneva, Switzerland (chocolate and cheese?  yes please), and Jerusalem, Israel to visit my best friend.  Keep an eye out for those posts in the next few weeks!  For now, here is a bizarre collection of images depicting my post-Colombia life:

Me, as a gangster. Watch out, Austin.

The Frost Bank Tower, my favorite sky scraper in Austin. Sorry for the obstructed view.

Whiling away the hours in Austin

A random wine night with my sister and a bottle of Malbec took a humorous turn when she misread the brand name as starting with a "p".

Some Easter cupcakes, baked by my madre, decorated by yours truly.

A pleasantly goofy Easter Bunny

A slightly creepier version of the Easter Bunny. Those googly eyes just seem to follow me around the room...


  1. Jerusalem awaits you with wide open arms. There are not enough ways to say “I cannot wait for you to be here.” I cannot promise taco bell, unkosher meat or getting lost, but I can promise twinness. And really, is there a higher level of bliss than that? I love you.

  2. I’m happy for you that you got to Austin in the spring and to Barton Springs. (which isn’t adequately described as a pool, but more like a captured part of a river.) I go fairly regularly as it’s home to a niece and a nephew and a favorite haunt of my son who’s there now for Barton. Love the central city, the restaurants and carts, the music, and the people. Driving around a city the size of Austin without a navigator or a local to point is hellish. We use public transportation or bum rides. Our son, a bike. Right now I’m headed back home to Vermont, but not before a stop in York, PA. Hope wind dies down so biking is fun there and also on the lost roads of Lancaster County where my husband and I will do some agri-tourism.

    • I wasn’t quite sure how to describe Barton Springs, but you’ve nailed it! What a great place. I have long wanted to compete in a triathlon and Austin seems like the perfect city to train for cycling, running, and swimming.

      I hope you enjoy your drive up the east coast. The wind has been terrible the past few days! Such is April weather, I guess.

      Thanks for the comment! Keep us updated on how the agri-tourism goes, I am very interested in doing some of that in Europe this summer.

  3. Good luck! I like your new theme too! Are you from New Jersey? As for Austin, yes it is a great city. For some odd reason, it reminds me of a southern version of Madison, WI where I went to school. I have tons of family residing in Texas and am quite familiar with it. As for you, here are my words “Carpe Diem!” Go for it! You are so lucky to have this year to travel and seize the day. Plenty of time to work, get settled, etc. I think what you are doing is great!!!! I would have done it too yet I met my husband so early (we dated a long time before marriage and even longer before kids…best approach I think). I can’t wait to hear about your upcoming adventures and I’m sure you’ll see that the world is your oyster! Keep blogging! 🙂

    • Thanks Nicole! Yes, I am from New Jersey. And thank you for the words of encouragement. Most of the time I am too caught up in the sheer, delirious happiness of this year to get dragged down with worries about job-hunting and retirement savings, but every once in a while they creep up on me (sneaky buggers)! I’ll keep “carpe diem” fixed soundly in my mind.

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