Monthly Archives: March 2015

Skate Date

“We are leaving for the roller skating rink in 20 minutes,” Kelly announced.  “Get your socks and shoes on.”  The kids began scrambling around the RV to get ready.

“And you, Sis,” she smiled at me, “sit right here.”  She patted the bench seat and her eyes widened.

“Close your eyes,” she said.

I leaned against the seat and did as told.

“Happy birthday,” Kevin said as he placed a tissue paper wrapped gift onto my lap.

I looked at them and smiled as I pulled the paper off and discovered a white t-shirt with writing.  Holding it up, I laughed.  He used Sharpie markers to decorate my t-shirt with “It’s my birthday” scrawled across the front.  A hand-drawn pair of roller skates sketched in hot pink and purple covered the center of the shirt.

The kids came over and leaned in to me, “Happy birthday, Aunt Sara.  You have to wear this tonight.”

“Of course I will.”

“As the oldest ‘kid’ here, I do as told,” and winked at them while slipping it on over my tank top.

The line snaked forward as we waited to enter the rink.  Several friends arrived with their kids.  The children bopped around and swerved in and out of the adults.

Once inside, we laced up skates and hit the hardwood floors.  Music pulsed out from speakers overhead.

I darted around a few kids who leaned onto a training device as they attempted to skate.  I slid in between my niece and her friend.  We joined hands and our skates knocked into each other.  We stretched our arms out to avoid tripping.

“Clear the floor,” the DJ announced.  “We are about to start the races.”

The kids cheered and scrambled to the edge of the rink.  We sat on the benches.  I began some leg stretches and my niece smiled and shook her head.

“Five- through eight-year-olds line up.”  The young ones crowded onto the floor line as a staff member set up orange cones to mark the start and finish line.

A whistle blew and the kids pushed off, some stumbling and some gliding easily.

The audience cheered as the skaters rolled toward the cones.

This repeated for all the older children and teens.

“Now, if you’re 18 or older come on out!”

I jumped up and got in line with a handful of others.  I looked to my friends and family on the sidelines and offered my hands up, beckoning them to join me.   They stayed put and cheered instead.

I crouched down into race position as if I did this sort of thing all the time.   Again, the whistle signaled the start and I lurched forward.  Regaining from the little wobble, I looked up and watched two guys on roller blades zip ahead.

Pushing out with my old-fashioned four-wheeled skates, I tried to build speed.  The guys sped ahead and were halfway around the rink.  I pushed harder and crouched down a little as they crossed the finish line.

Finally passing between the cones, I stuck my hand out while rolling toward the kids on the bench.   They formed a line and extended their hands.  I high-fived them as they cheered, “Yay, Aunt Sara.”

The DJ announced, “Back to regular skating.  All skaters may return to the floor.”

A couple of kids grabbed my hands and we pushed off together.  The lights dimmed, black lights were switched on and I was glowing in my white birthday shirt.

Roller skating birthday

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Cobbled Together

The city bus jams to a stop in front of my friends Sherry, Tanya, Luann, my five-year-old niece Keigin, and me.

“Quantos?” Tanya asks the driver how much.

“Un sole per persona.”  We start digging into our money belts trying to decipher the correct Peruvian coins.

Cars swerve around the bus and honk.  The driver waves his arms, indicating for us to get on. Luann stuffs a pile of coins into the driver’s hand.  We load into the crowded bus and scatter to the four remaining seats as he lurches forward.

I swoop up Keigin and tumble into a seat, plunking her on my lap.  Her legs drape over the arm rest.  I wedge my backpack between her and the reclined seat in front of us.  A mother and child are slumped together, sleeping.   As the bus bounces along, I cradle Keigin’s head against my shoulder hoping to act as a buffer.

A local man with thick, black hair sits in the window seat looking out.  He adjusts his ear buds and I wonder what he’s listening to.  I gaze past him to the tin shack homes lining the dirt road as we ride from the archeological ruins on the edge of Cusco back to the city center.

Tanya sits across the aisle and up one row.  She reaches back,  grabs my hand and smiles.

“I feel like I could cry,” she laughs.  A brightly-colored knit cap is pulled over her thick curls. “Here we are, the four of us women, traveling like this.  I want to do more of this.”

I squeeze her hand.  “This is what I love,” I tell her.  “jumping a crowded bus, lurching and bouncing along with the locals through the winding city streets, not knowing exactly where we are headed.”

We squeeze hands again and then turn back to the windows.  I don’t recognize this part of the city.

The driver pulls into a parking lot and we unload.  Diesel fumes puff out from all the buses.  We swat the thick air as we walk toward the one taxi.

Tanya leans toward the driver’s window.

“Lucrepata.  Quantos?” She asks, this time trying to get us to the street where the hostel is located.

“Cinco soles,” he tells us.

“No. Una nina,” I point to Keigin, knowing that children usually don’t have to pay.

“Quatro.” I tell him more than ask him.

“Si. Quatro,” he agrees.

Sherry, Luann and I cram into the back seat as I pull Keigin onto my lap again.  Tanya takes the front as she speaks the most Spanish out of us, which isn’t a lot more than the little I know.

Our knees are pushing into the front seats and we laugh as he pulls into traffic.

“Gordo.”  The driver says and laughs into the mirror at us in the back seat.

Tanya turns around to see us squeezed in.

I interject, “I know. I know.  We’re big.  Well, tall, that is.”  Sherry, Luann and I average 5’9″ and are relatively athletic and slender.

Luann Sherry Me

None of us bother with seatbelts as there isn’t an inch of room between us.  As my mother used to say, “You aren’t going anywhere if we do get in an accident.”

Tanya strings together a few sentences, asking the driver about his family and if he has children.  I translate that he has three daughters and one son.  One is a professor at the university.

I attempt to lean forward with Keigin on my lap.

“Yo soy maestra, tambien.” I try to explain that I am a teacher, also.  I don’t attempt the past tense.  Continuing in fragments of Spanish, I basically say, “Students. Children. First.  USA.”

He looks at me in the rear view mirror, smiles, and nods.

I lean back and promise myself I will continue my Rosetta Stone lessons after the trip.  Meanwhile, I will cobble together what I can while I’m here.

Sans Blood

I put my palms on the table and spread my fingers.  In between my hands sits a glass pitcher layered with a few inches of cocoa powder, honey, paprika, and soon a few drops of my blood.

“Thanks for volunteering,” Pedro says and then instructs me to lean over so my face is positioned above the container and my chin nearly rests on the rim.

My friends and I have signed up for a two-hour chocolate making and history workshop at the Choco Museum in Cusco, Peru.  I lift my chin and smile, excited to help.

“Now do this with your tongue,” he tells me in his heavy Spanish accent.  Pedro sticks out his tongue and curls the tip over his lip, then motions for me to do the same.

“I just need 12 drops of blood from under your tongue,” he adds before turning to the group.

“We are adding the blood.  We will offer this drink to the gods.  You may drink from this, but I will also make another without blood.”

My chin drops along with my smile. “Aren’t you going to just prick my finger or arm?”

“No.  It will be from your tongue. Get ready,” he says as he snaps on latex gloves.  He grabs a butcher knife and begins sharpening a wooden skewer.

“You’ve done this before,” I state more than ask as my initial enthusiasm for being the one brave enough to sacrifice blood for the Gods turns to anxiety.

“Yes.  Now close your eyes.”

I resume position, but quickly draw my tongue into my mouth along with a deep breath.  “So, you are serious?”

“Yes, now stick your tongue out again,” Pedro tells me as he sets down the knife and reaches over with the skewer.

I do as told.  The tip of the skewer touches the underside of my tongue.  I keep my eyes closed.

“Hold very still.”

I focus on my breath and let my muscles numb.  I can always pull back if it hurts.

“Are you ready?”

“Yeth,” I say as I leave my tongue curled and eyes closed.

Pedro maintains the slight pressure.  “We only need 12 drops of blood.  It will be quick.”

This doesn’t hurt.  Maybe it’s a relatively painless spot to draw blood that I never knew about.

I wait for more pressure.

Nothing.

Chocolate Museum 2

“Just kidding,” Pedro laughs as he pulls the skewer away.

I drop my chin and shake my head, laughing with him and my friends.

“Instead of your blood, I will add milk.”

Pedro stirs it in and serves our group the hot chocolate drink.  We clink mugs in honor of the gods.