patagonia

‘Bharat Mata’: Mother India feeds the soul…

 

These courageous women carry water from the well to their homes every morning and afternoon...

These courageous girls of Manapad carry water from the local well to their homes every morning and afternoon…what happens to our appreciation and connection to our water source when it flows endlessly out of a tap everyday?

 

 

It didn’t seem real until the Indian official stamped my passport and waved me toward baggage claim at the Trivandrum airport in Southern India at three in the morning. The speed of air travel still confounds my sailor’s mind…Instead of watching lights slowly appear on a dark horizon, I found myself huddled around a whirling belt of boxes and bags elbow to elbow with Indian air commuters returning from Dubai. After long flights on multiple airlines, my travel companion since Brisbane–surfing’s extraordinary ecofeminist, Lauren Hill (Check out her fantastic blog/Zine: The Sea Kin), and I were relieved to find our belongings amidst the chaos and head for the exit.

The sliding doors opened to reveal a sea of families lined upon a railing awaiting home-comers. The fluorescent airport lights eerily illuminated the throng against the black of night. Whites around dark eyes, teeth exposed between open lips, the flash off women’s shiny fabrics, ashen blessings on foreheads, and dazzling gold jewellery all blinked at us like navigational beacons on a horizon of humans. India. We had arrived!?! The air was a thick mix of humidity, exhaust, sweat, and spice, and I sliced through it with the vertical load of my Prolite Rhino Series 6′ 4″ boardbag on the airport trolley…

Where the crowd thinned we found, Uddi, our driver, holding an 8 by 11″ paper scrawled with “Lauren/Liz”. He bobbled his head from left to right and we took that as a sign to follow him. We strapped the boards atop the classic Ambassador taxi and hopped in.

The old headlights spat weak light on the right side of the oddly busy two-lane highway. Behind the wheel, Uddi was possessed–honking excessively and using the middle of the road like we were in a game of PacMan. We passed and dodged oncoming traffic in a series of what each felt like near-death incidents. My body stiffened. I clenched the velour cover on the backseat, fixing my eyes on the road from between the headrests, as if it might help us avoid collision. Twenty minutes into the ride, the fatigue of the 30 straight hours of planes and airports hit me. “Relax,” I told myself. “You’re not the captain now…” I closed my eyes and heard ‘Bharat Mata’, Mother India, whisper…

 

“Lesson One. You are not in control. You never really are for that matter…People come to India for many things. But what I give each of them are opportunities to open their minds and hearts ever wider…chances to grow from within…to loosen the stuck places…nourish their souls with the notion that everything is possible…Welcome, my Dear, and enjoy the ride…”

 

She's beautiful, unphased...barefoot and striding gracefully across the sizzling hot asphalt.

She’s beautiful, confident, unphased by the blazing asphalt on her bare feet…striding gracefully across the busy road. I followed closely, sensing this veteran knew what she was doing…

 

despite what seems like complete chaos amongst the mix of often overloaded trucks, cars, buses, motorcycles, push carts, scooters, bicyccles, farm animals, pedestrians, and whatever else you can imagine...somehow it all flows...It took a while to get used to the cacophony of blaring horns, as the rule is to honk before AND after overtaking, and whenever else the driver feels like it really. One hand on the wheel the other on the horn!

Despite what seems like complete chaos amongst the mix of often overloaded trucks, cars, buses, motorcycles, push carts, scooters, bicycles, farm animals, pedestrians, and whatever else you can imagine…somehow it all flows…It took a while to get used to the cacophony of blaring horns, as the rule is to honk before AND after overtaking, and whenever else the driver feels like it, really. One hand on the wheel the other on the horn!

 

 

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Young boy watches over early morning harbor scene…

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Spirituality knows no boundaries in India…Hindu deities displayed amongst tools in the hardware store.

 

 

Elephants are sacred, as they symbolize the Hindu god Ganesh, Remover of Obstacles...now if he could only remove those chains!!

Elephants are sacred, as they symbolize the Hindu god, Ganesh, Remover of Obstacles…now if he could only remove those chains!!

 

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Angel in Manapad.

 

Morning preparation

Morning duties: chai and paratha, respectively.

 

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There comes a moment when we are called to connect to something Greater than ourselves…

 

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Swell needs a cutie pie boat face like this!!

 

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I AM COCONUT MAN.

Wild, strong, beautiful, bold Swami woman.

Wild, strong, beautiful, bold Swami woman.

 

The Beyond the Surface film group...

The Beyond the Surface film crew, blessed to be together…Lauren, Erik, Dave, me, Kate, Emi, Ishita, Tushar, and Crystal!

 

For the last 50 years, the women of Manapad have been making livelihoods, building community, and empowering themselves economically by weaving coconut leaves into sustainable arts and crafts.

For the last 50 years, the women of Manapad have been making livelihoods, building community, and empowering themselves economically by weaving coconut leaves into sustainable arts and crafts. Go girls! Davey capturing them in action…

 

Emi, Lauren, Kate...catching sunrise over the lake.

Emi, Lauren, Kate…catching sunrise over the lake.

 

A fisherman teaching me some Indian resourcefulness. We're adding coconut leaves at short intervals along the rope to make it float!

A fisherman teaching me some Indian resourcefulness. We’re adding coconut leaves at short intervals along the rope to make it float!

 

Making films is hard work! Just ask Dave and Crystal!

Making films is hard work! Just ask Dave and Crystal! Ishita, Lauren, & Emi, tree pose queens.

 

What have we here? Morning surf check...

What have we here? Morning surf check…

 

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All smiles after a morning in the sea…

Ishita means 'Godess of Godesses' in Hindu. Her grandmother chose her name and she was spot on. She is a bold, beautiful, and fearless leader for Indian women today.

Ishita means ‘Godess of Godesses’ in Hindu. Her grandmother chose her name. Was she ever spot on! Ishita is not only India’s first female surfer, she is an inherently bold, beautiful, and fearless leader for gender equality in India today.

 

Tushar Pathiyan, Ishita's boyfriend, supports Ishitia to be the greatest she can be, and epitomizes Aloha and positivity at every turn. We're so lucky that he's a leader in the growth of Indian surf culture.

Tushar Pathiyan–Ishita’s partner–supports Ishita to be the greatest she can be, and epitomizes Aloha and positivity at every turn. We were so lucky to have him with us, and India is equally as lucky to have him as a leader of India’s young surf culture.

 

Crystal Thornburg-Homcy, spearheading the film project

Crystal Thornburg-Homcy, the visionary and backbone behind this special project…with Emi Koch, the founder of the non-profit organization Beyond the Surface International,which was the original inspiration behind the film.

 

Yogini, Kate

Master Yogini, Kate Baldwin, constantly inspired us with the vast breadth of her yogic wisdom, both physically and spiritually.

 

 

Miss Lauren Lindsay Hill, surfing's favorite eco-feminist. Smart as a whip, stoked as a grom, and lovely as  butterfly.

Lauren Lindsay Hill is surfing’s favorite eco-feminist. Smart as a whip, stoked as a grom, and lovely as butterfly. Author and founder of The Sea Kin.

 

Master of film

Dave Homcy. He makes magic with film while always leading with his big, open heart. Chivalry is alive with Dave around!

 

 

Erik

Filming assistant, Erik Knutson, was the king of road snacks, camera tasks, and ceaseless wit. He was never intimidated by long days or food preservatives!

 

Between boards and camera gear, we were not exactly travelling light! My Rhino Series Prolite bag was the perfect sizet!!

Between boards and camera gear, we were not exactly traveling light! My Rhino Series Prolite bag was the perfect size for my 3-board quiver.

 

Miraculously, a swell appeared when we least expected and we weren't going to miss a second of it! Sunrise at the point.

Miraculously, a swell appeared when we least expected and we weren’t going to miss a second of it! Sunrise at the point.

 

My Mizu stainless steel waterbottle made thousands of miles with me and reduced waste!!

My Mizu stainless steel waterbottle made thousands of miles with me and reduced lots of plastic waste!

 

The refuse problem was pervasive.

India’s trash problem was often overwhelming…

 

The local catches in Varkala were frighteningly insignificant. Most fishermen I spoke with said catches had been even lower than the last few years.

The local catches in Varkala were frighteningly insignificant. Most fishermen I spoke with said catches had been even lower than the last few years. With fish stocks plummeting worldwide, small fishing villages like this one will be the first and hardest impacted. A contributing factor into my recent turn to eating vegan.

 

Equipped and ready to

Yours truly, toting all my right point utensils!

 

It's good to be a cow in India

It’s good to be revered…Sacred cow gazing over morning harbor scene.

 

Believe.

There was plenty of roadside inspiration for the long bus trips…

 

 

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Ganesh in the flesh.

Street art in Kochi.

Street art in Kochi.

 

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Deepak was one of the people I knew I was ‘supposed to’ meet in India…

 

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Sab Kuch Milega… ‘Everything is Possible?’…it’s a long story, but it basically comes down to me being hopelessly gullible and painfully generous with Indian shopkeepers…Luckily I had Ishita to tell me what it really meant!

 

 

 

 

I believe the

After my short time in this amazing country, I am hopeful that the spirits, opportunities, and freedoms of the next generation of Indian women will continue to soar higher and higher…

 

 

 

THe lolvely crew and our beautiful experience with the women of manapad

A magical trip, thanks to the beautiful people of India and my extraordinary travel companions! Thank you all!

 

***Note to my travel companions: After my hopeless folding to those drum vendors on that last evening in Kerala, the drums were immediately seized by Australina customs officials!! :) :)

 

 

Simply South Pacific Living…

“Those who dwell among the beauties and mysteries of the earth are never alone or weary of life.” –Rachel Carson

 

…After three short upwind hops over the last month, I’ve just arrived to the second biggest of the  atolls (population~800)…vegetables, a health clinic, internet, and even a post office! Ahh the luxuries of civilization!  So after too long without a good internet connection, here’s a peek at what I’ve been up to…

Sunrise from the mast.

Captain’s duties, daily anchor check…

Shark behavioral studies…

A fire to warm the soul…

…and cook the lobster! Hand plucked with ultimate respect from the reef at midnight the night before.

Laundry day…don’t worry, I’ve got eco-detergent!

The laundry can wait…!

Getting to know my neighbors…

Beach day! No waves, but finding parking wasn’t a problem…

A change of venue from my usual practice in the cockpit..We must make time to give back to our bodies, minds, spirit…

Peace. Freedom. A home that flies over water…Daily love and gratitude from a sheltered corner of the South Pacific.

 

Finding Sea Rhythm… … … …

Crystal rippin the rewards of a successful Swell passage on her single fin!

After rising to our great challenge, the sea rewarded us with smooth sailing through the afternoon until the wind dropped off entirely and we motored on into the calmest, starriest night I could ever remember in this wind-worn belt of the Pacific.

Rotating on 3-hour watches, I relieved Crystal just after 3 am. Swell plowed on into the moonless galaxy of twinkling starlight and bubbling phosphorescence. I felt Barry there with me…He surely wouldn’t have missed out on a night so spectacular…Oh the shooting stars!

At 5:02 am, Venus, the morning star, rose out of the sea. Light followed her. I woke Crystal, but couldn’t resist watching the sunrise before I laid down to rest. We turned off the motor and let Swell drift in the succulent silence. We curled up against the wad of broken sail, tucked under our blankets, and dissolved into the Peace…the ubiquitous, all-encompassing Peace…that was floating on that miraculously calm, open sea…

As we entered the deep, easy entrance to the next atoll destination a few hours later, our timing appeared flawless. The sea surface began to wrinkle as the trades gusted from the east, and the swell was most certainly filling in! We watched it move north along the atoll’s coral rim where it peeled off along the shallows of a long, flat lay of reef…thus, Crystal’s last 36 hours became a salty blur.

Just enough for after surf sushi!! Thanks for your life lil buddy...

We wondered where and when we’d meet again as she stepped up into the tiny prop plane, leaving me with more waves than I knew what to do with! Thanks to Patagonia again and GoPro Cameras for providing the gear to document our adventures!!

Bye Crystal!!! Swell and I miss you!! xoxoxo

Runnin the Tidal Rapids…

Crystal and Lizzy on the move!

 

With a brief window of calm winds, Crystal and I readied Swell to move east among the atolls. With the news of Barry’s passing, I wanted to check out what was rumored to be a new boatyard on an obscure strip of coral a few atolls east, plus with a swell on the way, we might arrive just in time to catch a few juicier waves before Crystal flew home…

 

Swell caught the flow of the outgoing tidal current as we steered around the coral embankment and into the open draw of the pass. The sun pierced the cloudless morning air, illuminating the deep blue river that carried us out to sea.

 

Through the binoculars, I could see the sea churning up ahead.

“Oh, no…” I bellowed. I knew what we were in for: standing waves and sea-rapids where the flow of the tidal river met the ocean. It was too late to turn around, the outward flow was too strong to fight…I made a firm mental note to get some better tide information!

 

Swell’s stern began to slide right and left as we entered the 300-yard stretch of turbulent water. The waves grew taller and closer together and mixed with swell undulations. I spun the wheel maniacally, but Swell lifted and crashed and spun about helplessly. Despite the bucking, dipping, and twisting, I managed to keep her bow mostly pointed into the seas. Crystal remained completely calm, and her certainty was assuring, although my palms were sweating like faucets and I must have had eyes as round as a fish’s. Swell did one final skid-out to starboard, and I revved the engine and cut right into stable water as the atoll finally spit us out. Just then a dolphin leapt off the port bow.

 

Hang on tight!!!...Image thanks to GoPro Cameras

“Look, your dolphin friend came to say goodbye!” Crystal said.

“Yay! Goodbyyeeeeeeeeeeeee!!” I called to him, a tone of fear still lingering in my voice.

 

With a few deep breaths, I realized we’d run the rapid. All was well and we pointed the bow east, running along the atoll’s northern rim.  We set the sails for a lovely close reach in the 8 or so knots of wind, let out the fishing lines, and breathed in the joy and excitement of our next adventure.

 

Little did we know, more excitement was quickly on the way…

 

 

 

SO Many Ways to LOVE the OCEAN: Crystal Thornburg-Homcy airdropped into the Swell life…

A few days later, my friend and fellow Patagonia Surf Ambassador stepped off the plane onto the airstrip just a half-mile south of where Swell was anchored inside the atoll. A year prior, Crystal showed me two weeks of unforgettable fun at her North Shore residence, so I was anxious to give her the best of life aboard Swell. After dissolving the disbelief that she’d truly arrived, we toted her bags (which included two new Fletcher Chouinard Designs sticks for me!) to where my dinghy was tied across the road in a flood of excited chatter and putt off toward the mothership.

It wasn’t everyday I had a friend around with whom to enjoy the Swell life!  Loving the ocean in so many common ways, Crystal’s presence magnified the beauty around us. Her gentle, positive demeanor yet extreme water-woman experience was the perfect recipe for the maximum enjoyment of our location. Our first week together blurred by in a haze of oceanic fun. Employing our full spectrum of sea-faring utensils, we hauled a variety of boards to the spot to glide on, we bodysurfed with and without Blakeney’s marvelous hand planer, we laughed until we cried riding waves on her inflatable surf mats, we donned masks and fins to free dive both passes with the manta rays, eagle rays, tunas and barracudas, lots of sharks, and all our other fishy friends…We leapt off Swell after breakfast under raindrops or rainbows, just to feel the sea on our skin…

Crystal and I sharing a wave on the surf mats over rather shallow coral reef! Yeeeehaaa!

And after a day’s adventure, there was never a lack of enthusiasm in the galley. Crystal and her husband Dave had inspired and taught me loads about eating and living healthily. I’d adopted their philosophy of making whole food and natural products a priority. As a result, Swell was always stocked with any fresh fruit and veggies available, along with all the healthy tidbits I hauled back with me from trips to California: bulgar wheat (despite J.B.’s song), quinoa, gogi berries, maca powder (Thanks to Sol Raiz Organics!), raw nuts, mung beans and alfalfa seeds for sprouting, ground flaxseed, pumpkin seeds, cranberries, sunflower seeds, spirulina, etc. Crystal grows her own array of greens and veggies (check out her blog at www.cravegreens.blogspot.com) and focuses on clean, conscious living. It’s always comforting to be with someone who sees the world a lot like you, so we took advantage of rich conversations, mornings listening to Gil Fronsdal and Thich Nhat Hanh lectures, yoga sessions, and contemplative star parties…

Shark bait??? Swimming with our finned friends...

For such an isolated destination, we met a variety of interesting characters, including a group of ten French runners who were attempting to run/swim/walk/crawl around the roughly 60-mile perimeter of the coral atoll over 6 days(!?). We hitched a ride on their chase boat one day to explore an area of the atoll too dangerous to attempt in Swell. While the runners continued on their impressive yet not so coral-friendly feat, Crystal and I lost ourselves on beaches one would imagine only to exist on postcards, and then found ourselves being circled by hordes of blacktip reef sharks while freediving in the tourist shark feeding area! We nearly drowned in fits of fear and laughter clinging to each other amidst the revolving pack…We spent the day drinking young coconuts, talking to birds, and watching the clouds drift across the wide South Pacific sky…We were so fortunate, so grateful, so happy, so free…and so in love with the pristine, natural world that surrounded us…

"In the garden of gentle sanity, may you be bombarded by the coconuts of wakefulness..." --Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche

Thanks to Patagonia for supporting Crystal’s visit!!

Gallivanting the globe sans Swell:2

In the J7 shaping room with Jason Feist to talk boards for the Indo trip.

In the J7 shaping room with Jason Feist to talk boards for the Indo trip.

I flew back to San Diego for less than 24 hours to slam together a slide show for the Dear and Yonder Ventura Patagonia Premiere and I’m headed north on the I-5 en route to Ventura: nervous and sleep-deprived, hands slippery with sweat on the steering wheel: “Just picture them all in downward dog…” a friend recommended…I walked in to the sea of faces, giggled under my breath…and launched into 20 minutes of describing life aboard Swell in Patagonia’s Great Pacific Iron Works Store.

My brother and Bria welcomed me to their guest room for a brief stay at Swell’s home port of Santa Barbara. A day of sand and sea at Refoof to quench my sea-starved soul, another talking boards with my shaper,  Jason Feist (http://www.j7surfdesigns.com). And if it weren’t for Tucker, I’d never have been able to see all my S.B. friends on such a quick stop: he had big plans…in a few days notice, he rallied the town and turned the walls of the Santa Barbara Brewhouse (www.brewhousesb.com) into a gallery of Swell Voyage photos. Pascal’s reggae band, Cornerstone, showed up to graced us with their roots beats…magical night! With whispers of the biggest south swell of summer due to arrive, I turned up in the right place at the right time to join friend and craftswoman, Blakeney (www.blakeneysanford.com) and Bennett for a maximum feel good surf day: hand-planers for body surfing, shortboards, longboards, tandem boards, jet skis, flirtatious sea lions, beach snacks, surprise…waves are good and Colgate shows up?!…Hey mister, don’t take the inside passage with a faulty engine!? Team B&B to the rescue when the set sweeps over the dead-engined dinghy…pheew, everybody made it home safely.

Cracked hose in the fuel tank...that's all it was! Happy Birthday, Dad!

Cracked hose in the fuel tank...that's all it was! Happy Birthday, Dad!

An invitation to join the Patagonia surf crew on a trip to Indonesia in August meant no time to get back to Swell beforehand. I would get to surf the Mentawai before Swell crossed the rest of the Pacific! With only a couple weeks in between, I might as well stay and hop a ferry to Catalina where the family floats aboard the good ol, Endless Summer, because it’s Happy Birthday, DAD!! 60 is the new 50, baby! You’re so hot with your new yoga routine!! …“Welcome aboard, Lizzy!! Uh…neither outboard will start and the head is clogged, the packing gland needs tightening, and the Balmar could use an oil change J.”

The traditional sail back to San Diego was followed by a flurry of packing, board painting in the underground parking lot, Michael Rose at the Belly Up, and good ol’ Seth comes through when it counts, generously loaded up with all natural sunscreen from Smart Girls Who Surf/SurfVival products (http://www.smartgirlswhosurf.com/) …Its off to LAX on the Anna Santoro shuttle! I saunter in to the China Air terminal… “Oh, no ma’am, you fly on Air China, not China Air…you must go down about 10 minutes walking to the next terminal!” A sweaty wind sprint with 6 boards and my luggage kicked off the Indo overland mission…a stop in Taipei and then Denpensar: customs board bribe and then to find my face on a poster with Katie hiding behind!! Off for a week in Bali and Noosa Lombongan: Gado gado and sambal and watermelon juice, surfing frontside with KATIE!!, frightening scooter rides, language lessons with Geoff, and so many fantastic Ketuts!, massages are only 8 bucks an hour?? Where have I been all this time?! A solid swell arrives and too much Tahiti reef confidence made for a fall on the first wave of a 10 wave set: pushed high on the reef, stuck in 10 inches of water over jagged coral looking at 6 foot white-wash thundering my way!! Foot laceration before I even made it to the Mentawai, NO! Big thanks to the 4 strangers who carried me AND my luggage on AND off the ferry back to Bali in order to keep my bandaged foot dry…one night in Kuta makes the tough guys tumble (“a mix between Tijuana and Isla Vista” as Katie perfectly described) and its off on flight GA143 to JA-KA-RTA!!!!!!!! To meet Chris, Keith, Dan, Wayne, Gerry, Fletch, Jeff, Jason, Timmy, and Devon for 15 days of surfing and floating aboard the Mikumba with A.K., Yu the Japanese James Dean, Capt Job, Soja, Pak Cai, Anto, and Sul…Apo lai! Bagus secali!!

One of these things just doesn't belong...17 boys and Lizzy?

One of these things just doesn't belong...17 boys and Lizzy?

…the motor starts at 4am and I keep sleeping like a princess in my own little second level suite!? Not a phenomenon I was accustomed to…Not a dish did I do for 15 days. Gatorade delivered to the line-up!? Backside tuberiding tips from the boys…slow progress in tricky waves, but countless fun sessions had…caught one of the biggest waves of my life: sliding down the massive face to see Gerry paddling back out with hands raised in cheer! So many waves so close and so many islands, striking beauty, white sand, green islets, and oh the glorious waves. The shocking disparity of the local islanders versus the surf guests: One night a woman and her husband paddled up to Mikumba in the dark, her arm hideously swollen and infected from a severe burn. A.K. took over medical assistance. An hour later the couple paddle away with her wounds dressed, and a bottle of Cipro, and full bellies.

Captain Wayne Lynch and I had lots to chat about between sessions.

Wayne, leaves it to the rest of us after already finding far more tubes than the the young blokes.

Starry night guitar sessions, macan (food) so hot it might light your hair on fire!, Wayne so barreled, Gerry on every set wave, oh the stories they told, Gerry schooling me at Scrabble, the debut of the Mantard, Jeff in the top of the coco tree covered with red ants, jumping goby fish?!, Keith mastering the alia first try, climbing the anchor chain, paddling an Indo canoe is harder than it looks, can a regular footer get a backside break around here? Where did all these surfers come from? There’s boatloads of them everywhere!? A final day of farewell rights, but my body is completely destroyed…Captain Job lets Lizzy take the wheel for a nightwatch en route back to Padang…and we flew out of Jakarta 6 hours before an 6.8 earthquake…the people in Padang still need your help: www.surfaidinternational.org/.

Adrift

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A few mornings later I stared intently at my computer screen in the belly of Swell, under deadline to finish a photo caption piece for Patagonia’s new story-telling internet forum, the Tin Shed. I heard a strong gust of wind followed by a squall rain but in my intent to finish the piece, I didn’t bother to move from my seated position at the nav table in my pajamas beside an empty morning’s tea cup and a crumpled biscuit wrapper. I remember that the gust subsided quickly and I’d thought to get up and have a look, but then got distracted again as I read and re-read through the piece. I’m not sure how much time passed between that gust and when I heard a voice outside.

“Aww…” I thought as I heard someone calling. “I am SO close to finishing!” I was literally listening for the SSB short-wave radio station to be free to attempt to send the writing piece to Patagonia through my radio email service.

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