Thursday, July 02, 2009


After camp was finished, Mike drove all the way from Montana to hang out with me for a few days in Seattle! The only time I've ever been in the city was when I was four years old so I was looking forward to exploring Seattle with him.

We started off our trip with some wine tasting in Woodinville. Located right outside of Seattle, Woodinville has 40 wineries in and around the city. Many grow their grapes in Washington wine country - the Yakima Valley - but this was a great way to enjoy some famous wines without making the long drive! We stopped at Columbia Valley first and then enjoyed some brick oven pizza at Janiuk Winery. One of my favorite parts of the stop wasn't even the wine - it was our tour of the Red Hook brewery. The tour was very lighthearted and for just $1 we were able to sample as much beer as we wanted!

After a short drive to Seattle, we checked into the Marqueen hotel. This gorgeous, historic hotel had huge rooms with full kitchens and was well worth the extra few bucks. It was a few blocks further away from the waterfront but had so much more personality!

Mike and I explored the sights - the Needle, Pike's Market and the Waterfront. Seattle is such a vibrant and interesting city I found myself wanting to move there immediately. The only thing stopping me is the perpetual cloud cover. I just couldn't survive without the sun!

The Needle:

On the Waterfront:
A stop for caffeine before our delicious dinner at the Flying Fish

After a morning run along the Waterfront, we checked out Pike's Market:

Rocking my UW Cycling pride. I got a few comments from people interested in cycling!

How many fingers?
Catch of the day:
The most entertaining stand in the market:

Who could refuse this offer?
Monk fish - looks delicious?

Mike had to leave for the 12 hour drive back to Montana wayyy before my 11:30pm red eye flight left on Monday night. Luckily Jesse, one of the Brooks boys from camp had the afternoon off and was able to hang out with me until I had to leave. A pro at showing visitors around his city, he took me on the 10 Things I Hate About You tour through the Fremont neighborhood and for some appetizers at a bar with a nice view of the city - as well as some police drama! Seriously Jesse, did you stage the bank robbery/mob of cops right outside our window just to make my experience complete?

I also got a sweet tour of Seattle's SuperTarget while on the hunt for a vacuum for Jesse's new condo. He found a little Red Devil for $18....I didn't have high hopes for it but for the 3 square feet of rug that he has, it should do the trick.

Jesse also serenaded me on his guitar. Apparently his repertoire is full of songs about a girl named Kelly from WI - crazy! I don't know this girl, but she sounded pretty awesome.

The time came for me to say goodbye to Seattle and my camp experience. The idea of leaving made me a sad panda but I'm already scheming to secure my spot at the Brooks ID Camp 2010!!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Brooks ID Camp in Seattle!

I was super excited when I was offered the opportunity to attend the Brooks ID Camp at Crystal Mountain, Washington this summer! I jumped at the chance to spend a weekend running in the mountains with a bunch of people who are even crazier about running than I am! All I had to do was buy a plane ticket and the rest was covered! For those of you who don't know, the Brooks ID Program is a grassroots sponsorship program of runners who help to promote the Brooks brand (oh and we get free gear and awesome opportunities like this camp as well!).

I headed to Seattle on Thursday and was met at the airport by some of the Brooks staff and about 65 other IDers. The group was very diverse. I was one of the youngest and I think the oldest person was 62! I was in awe of all the accomplishments these runners had - running in the Olympic Trials, completing marathons in all the 50 states, college cross country champs, coaches, and more! It made me wonder how I managed to get accepted into the program!

Of course, as soon as we got off the bus at the Brooks Headquarters in Bothell (near Seattle), we laced up our Brooks (of course!) running shoes and headed out for a group run. Seriously, we're talking about people who plan their lives around fitting their next run in - what did you expect?

Next up was a tour of the Brooks office. We learned about all the design and testing that goes into producing Brooks apparel. They even had a sci-fi like laser machine that creates tangible prototypes of Brooks shoes that are beamed from the factories in China, instead of sending people back and forth to check things out. This is just one way that Brooks strives to be green and cut down on their environmental impact.

There was so much planned for the four day camp that I can't possibly write about all of it. We had apparel and shoe preview sessions where we got to hear all about plans for the Fall 2009 and Spring 2010 collections, product testing and feedback sessions, team competitions, nutrition sessions, massages (yes!), and even yoga for runners.

Of course there was also plenty of running. I ran possibly the most beautiful trail I've even been on - through the woods along a river. Fallen logs covered with moss, wooden bridges across waterfalls, the total package! It was like something straight out of Runner's World. It's actually the same trail used for the USATF 50 Mile Trail Championships. Of course, such an experience wouldn't be complete without a great running partner. I had some quality time with Laura, who has her own (much more famous) blog, Frayed Laces. To read her account of camp, click here. Also, I can credit her with many of the photos on this post as she was much more diligent about keeping her camera with her at all times!

Can you spot me rocking the purple and teal?

The last night concluded with a fabulous dinner at the top of the mountain at Summit House, Washington's Highest Restaurant. It was only accessible via chairlift - and it was freezing at the top!

It was all over before I knew it! I wasn't ready to stay goodbye and I'm already concocting a master plan to make sure I get to go again next year! Thanks so so so much to everyone at Brooks for making the 1st annual camp such a blast! Also, hugs to all my fellow campers. I definitely caught the eat-sleep-breathe running bug. You heard it here first - I'm planning on making my marathon debut at Chicago 2010!!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Home Safe

I’m just starting to realize that my latest adventure is over. It's back to cold Wisconsin and work/school. It was completely chance that Eva and I picked Guatemala for this trip – a combination of cheap airfare and a favorable exchange rate, plus the opportunity for me to work in the clinic in Santiago Atitlán. Retrospectively, we couldn't have picked a more perfect place to visit. The people we have met have all been incredibly gracious and hospitable and the fellow travelers we’ve encountered along the way kept things interesting! With the strong heritage of the indigenous people and Mayan culture, combined with the atmosphere of the cities such as Antigua and Guatemala City, and a little beach time in Monterrico, the trip has been the perfect balance of education and relaxation.

It’s funny how our first night in Hotel el Aeropuerto led to so many other adventures. I only hope that I can return a bit of the kindness Ricardo has shown Erich, Eva and I by encouraging others to check out his hotel in Guatemala City and Tabacos y Vinos Shop in Antigua.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

The Last Few Days

The last leg of our trip from Santiago to Panajachel to Antigua to Guatemala City stretched out over two days and was much more relaxing that I expected. It was fun to show Erich some of my favorite restaurants and sites in the cities that I have grown to love over the past three weeks.

Antigua is by far my favorite city in Guatemala and I was happy to be there for one last day and night before we left. While walking around the city, we came across an unmarked shop selling coffee and chocolate.

The owner, who processes everything by hand in small batches was taking a well-deserved rest:

We also found a small place selling pupusas. Pupusas are made by stuffing corn tortillas with cheese and your choice of ingredients. I chose chicken, sweet peppers, and olives for mine. The pupusas were delicious and filling!

We stopped by Tabacos y Vinos to see Ricardo and enjoy one some wine and some delicious espresso.

Ricardo was even nice enough to take us back to Guatemala City on Friday night before our Saturday flight back to Wisconsin. We dropped our bags off at his hotel and then headed out to see Zona 4 where many of the nicer restaurants and bars are located. I had mentioned my love of fondue (which I’ve managed to enjoy three times while in Guatemala!) so we ended up having meat fondue and chocolate fondue for dessert.

We also enjoyed an “obscuro” or dark, Guatemalan beer called Moza that Ricardo assured me was not favored by the locals who drink a lot more lager. Erich and I split the beer, which came in a very strange tall glass:

It was nice to enjoy a stout again, even though it was nothing close to my favorite – Guinness!

One thing I'm definitely going to miss seeing the "Chicken Buses" barreling down the streets that take the locals from one city to another and all over Guatemala City.

I’m writing this entry on our last flight of the trip, Miami to Chicago where we managed to get upgraded to first class, whoo! It was a nice surprise and almost helps me forget that we’ll be spending the night in the airport tonight as our flight is too late to catch the last bus to Madison. We’ll be on the road back home on the 6:00 AM bus after spending the night on a bench near the baggage claim at O’Hare. Ah, luxury….

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Santiago Atitlán, Part II

Despite the initial confusion upon my arrival at Hospitalito Atitlán, I have actually been learning quite a bit about healthcare in Guatemala and seeing more than I ever could have hoped. Because I am not tied to the Hospitalito, I've been able to visit two additional clinics in Santiago to learn about their approach to healthcare. I've been specifically focusing on perinatal care and the role of the comodrona (midwife) in the birthing process. Two midwifes from the United States, Rebecca and Karen (who is coincidentally from Wisconsin as well) and I have been talking to a variety of nurses, midwives, and administrative people to learn all we can about options that are available for the local women.

The staff at all the clinics have been incredibly gracious and candid and even allowed me to take some photos and have access to data such as number of births and causes of infant mortality that are collected by the government.

The government runs a clinic that is free to all of the local people. Even though most women (I've heard about 90%) prefer to give birth at home, some chose to give birth at the clinic due to complications or nervousness. The clinic sees about 6-13 births a month but has no capacity for cesareans or anesthesia if complications occur. These cases are taken by ambulance to the town of Solola. Hospitalito, on the other hand does have the capacity to do surgery, provided there is a doctor visiting who can perform it but there is a charge for all services provided since it is private.
The birthing "suite":

Hospitalito Atitlán is currently housed in a former backpacker hostel because the old one was destroyed by a mudslide in 2005.

A new one is currently under construction. We checked out the site and even though it is still two years from completion, we can tell it will be a big upgrade from the current facilities!

We also caught a funeral on our walks between clinics. One of the women told us that in general, the local people are buried in a plot of land and then once their body has decomposed the bones are dug up so the plot can be used again. The bones are then piled neatly by a cross honoring the deceased person.

The main method of transport here, other than tuk tuk, is hopping onto the back of a pickup truck with rails to help you stand upright!

It hasn't been all work though! We joined some of the medical students and other volunteers from the clinic for appetizers and some dessert at Las Posadas one night:

El ataque del corazon (the heart attack):

Luckily, we survived!

And of course, the promised pictures of our wonderful casita!

We can even see the Hospitalito from our balcony!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Santiago Atitlán

Erich's shuttle came in safely to Pana on Friday morning. Eva and I said our goodbyes and Erich and I caught a boat to Santiago Atitlán. We chose a cheaper boat, saving ourselves 5Q ($.75) each but little did we know this was the slow local boat that waited until it had enough passengers (50 minutes) and then plugged along at a glacial pace across the lake (another 70 minutes). Next time, we'll pony up the extra $1.50.

By the time we arrived at Hospitalito Atitlán, the administrative staff had gone for the day so there was no one to help us with accommodations. Luckily, the night staff was extremely helpful and we were able to get a little casita at Hotel Bambu directly next door to the hospital for only 800Q ($102) for the week. Our little house is the perfect size, it has two floors and I promise to have pictures in my next post. The only complaint is the same one I've been having the whole trip - a lumpy bed and inconsistently warm showers. Still, the price and location are perfect!

Erich and I spent Sunday exploring Santiago Atitlán and enjoying the sun. The city is a little off the beaten path for most tourists making it better to see what daily life is like for the indigenous people of Guatemala who don't rely on tourist dollars. The city has a small but crowded market as well as a Catholic church, filled with mannequins dressed up as saints as I've seen in other churches in Guatemala.

The men here are some of the few indigenos that still wear traditional dress. Most places the men wear western attire:

We ran across some avocados freshly picked that were being unloaded from the trucks:

We also sampled coconut milk, fresh from the coconut!

Unfortunately, I've run into some complications with my volunteer work at Hospitalito Atitlán. Even though I was sent an email asking me preferences for accommodations and acknowledging my arrival at Hospitalito, I found out upon arrival that my application was not officially accepted by the powers that be. The hospital is very new to the community and the founders are still working to earn the trust of the local people meaning they aren't accepting many volunteers except for practicing doctors, 3rd and 4th year med students and nurse practitioners. Even though there is a lot of work and education that could be done regarding public health, in the words of one of the NGO founders, "we just aren't at that place right now."

It was a huge bummer to find out I made the trip only to find out I wasn't expected. However, I was still determined to offer assistance wherever I could. I can't do any shadowing at the clinic, per policy, but the staff has been very helpful in setting me up with a public health clinic in town where I may be able to observe a little bit more. I also have permission to talk to all the staff members and find out ways I can help with staff and patient education. My hope is to return to the United States and create presentations and educational materials on health topics such as COPD and contraception that I can send back to the Hospitalito. In the future, the program may be able to accept Public Health students and I may also work to facilitate placement of students from Wisconsin in Santiago Atitlán with my connections in the Global Health program. I also will be spending time with some of the midwives working in the clinic and learning more about how local community health workers play a role in the clinic that is full of a revolving staff of mostly foreign doctors and medical students.

It seems all is not lost and that the experience may turn out to be mutually beneficial after all. I'll be figuring out things as I go for the next few days.

On the plus side, this means Erich and I have had more time to relax and explore. We've run every day since we've been here (I need to get back in shape!) and we also had a delicious dinner tonight at Las Posadas, which is probably the nicest restaurant in the area. The hotel and restaurant are run by Americans and our meal exceeded expectations. We had cheese fondue, homemade biscuits, salad, and blackened chicken. It's funny how being in Guatemala for almost three weeks and spending $4-9 per meal, the $20 (for two) price tag seemed hard to stomach! Well worth the "splurge" though.