Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Leftover Reject Food (Someone please help me come up with better titles)

I was catching up with someone over the weekend who mentioned that she thought my blog was funny, which reminded me that I do, in fact, have a blog. Hello, blog world! Recently I’ve just been telling my mom and boyfriend about my life and I’ve completely neglected my Facebook acquaintances and internet strangers! I do apologize, you guys deserve better than that.

The inspiration behind this post is, drum roll please, old vegetables and half empty cans of beans, WOOOOOOOOO! I’m leaving Blacksburg on Friday which means that I have to get rid of the food in my fridge. This led me to an amazing curry creation. I called it “leftover reject food” (bet you can’t guess how I came up with that name). I’ve been trying to make a curry that I love for about a year now. I’ve tried a lot of different recipes and finally learned the secret: old food and alllllll the spices! Turns out recipes are dumb and I am a curry goddess. An exaggeration? Absolutely. As a bonus, it was BEAUTIFUL. So many pretty colors. I didn’t take a picture of it though so just use your imagination, you’ve seen food before.

Since I guess this post can’t only be about curry I’ll let you into the scattered thoughts of Keely for the next 12 minutes. Hmmm having a car without air conditioning means that I am powerless to the intense summer heat so the weather decides if I can drive. I was planning on going home one day but it was 90 degrees and I was like, “sorry, mom, if I drive home I’ll die.” Maybe one day I’ll enter the twenty-first century and own a car with magical wind blowing power.

I’ve been volunteering at the farmer’s market and it’s been really great for two reasons. First: I get to buy fresh local vegetables that sit in my fridge and become leftover reject food. And second: I get to practice my verbal skills which are a little rusty since I’m living alone and prefer not to hang out with people.

I started watching Game of Thrones and now I hate everyone who convinced me to watch it before they made all the seasons because now I have to wait years with the rest of you UGHHHHH. 

My younger brother and I have been in a war for the past few months. A letter war. I understand that I need to explain that more. My room in Richmond has a shelf. It’s white. Pretty tall. You get the idea. On top of it are the letters K-E-E-L-Y-O. What could they mean? Apparently I thought the people spending time in my room wouldn’t know my name. My brother used to have letters spelling out his name hanging on his wall. Maybe we just needed more practice with spelling growing up? Anyway, I started rearranging the letters on his wall. You know, because I’m annoying. So whenever I came home during the school year I would change “PARKER” to “KRAPER” or “REPARK.” Eventually he got rid of the letters spelling out his name and placed “RIDDLE” on the wall instead. I guess because he likes riddles? Or because he finally learned how to spell his name. I still need the letters in my room because we can’t all move at such a quick pace. So I started messing with “RIDDLE.” I believe “DIRDLE” was one of the changes. Then I went home a few weeks ago and realized the letters on MY shelf had been changed. Oh I don’t think so, buddy. “YOLEEK” looked down at me from its resting place on the tall, white shelf. How would people know my name now? I thought to myself. But I had an idea. A letter switch that would not only win the battle, but would win the war. I grabbed the “O” from my shelf and marched into KRAPER’s room. I discarded the “R” and the “E” and walked away from my masterpiece. Maybe he’s rearranged the “DILDO” by now but maybe he liked it.

Alright 12 minutes is up.

P.S. Every time I typed “I” in this post I actually typed a lower case “L” and NONE OF YOU HAD ANY IDEA MWAHAHAHA.

P.P.S. I actually love the farmer’s market vegetables and only some of them became reject curry

P.P.P.S. Of course I didn't type a lowercase "L" every time I typed an "I." That would've been ridiculous. But did you believe me? You totally believed me. 

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Reevaluating my life in a Walmart checkout line

I spent 28 minutes in a checkout line at Walmart yesterday. How ridiculous is that? Turns out I only needed 7 minutes to flip through a magazine that I wasn't interested in and 2 minutes to judge the groceries of the people around me. That left 19 minutes (I'm so good at math) for a solid reevaluation of my life... which was repeatedly interrupted by the old lady in front of me who kept dropping things on the ground. I swear it was a test, like "how many times will this dumb blonde girl continue to pick up the things that I drop." The answer is three times; now stop being so clumsy. And that I am a good person? That's the last time I go to the store for my mom. (So maybe I'm not a good person...) Anyway, here are the extremely important things I thought about while picking up an old ladies bag of chips, marshmallow fluff, and paper plates (what the hell was she making?).

1. My New Years Resolution is to learn how to juggle. Not just 3 balls but like 7. Or 18. So it's an actual talent and when my life is a total and complete failure at least I'll look cool juggling mad amounts of balls. Or knives. Maybe I'm better than you think.

2. Am I wasting all the young and sort of pretty years of my life by reading in my bed, watching tons of movies, and running alone? This is when I should be snorting cocaine off a monkey's tail in Thailand with John Krasinski and I'm clearly not doing that. WILL I REGRET IT?

3. Why did my mom need 7 cans of cherries? That's kind of overkill, Kim.

4. Is the checkout lady going to try to make small talk with me? Is she going to wonder why I have 7 cans of cherries? Will she ASK me why I have 7 cans of cherries? I WON'T HAVE AN ANSWER.

5. Are humans really to blame for global warming or is this just the natural cycle of the planet?

6. Should I run the Asheville marathon in March or will I still be standing in this checkout line?

7. My younger brother has these hanging letters in his room that spell out his name and I rearranged them from PARKER to KRAPER and has he noticed yet? If he has noticed, does he know I did it or is he suspicious of everyone in my family?

8. If I take my phone out all of the people around me will think I'm one of those bratty girls who uses her phone all the time. RESIST BOREDOM. DON'T USE YOUR PHONE. DON'T CONFIRM THE STEREOTYPE.

9. If I sat down and started making clicking and beeping noises would people think I'm nuts or does that sort of thing happen a lot in Walmart?

10. Why do I only think about really insignificant things? Like what is Obama thinking about right now? Does Obama know how to juggle?

Have a delightful New Year, everyone! Unless I don't like you, in which case I hope your New Year is mediocre and unmemorable.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

I can never think of a good title

I thought that if I waited a few months to write a new post maybe I could combine all the awesome things that have happened to me and my life would seem interesting... turns out that's not the case because I haven't done anything that exciting. So here's a list of the not-so-noteworthy things I've been up to (prepare to be let down).

When I got home from Madagascar I ate a lot of American food (you know, the food that we have in America) and then I had tons of diarrhea because of it, so yeah, that was a good time. Gotta love the transition. After that I watched a lot of movies and marveled at the wonders that are American life. Showers? Love them. Ovens? So efficient. People speaking English? I CAN UNDERSTAND THE WORDS YOU'RE SAYING. Air conditioning? God bless America.

A few weeks after my return, I found out that I was accepted into a Public Health and Wellness internship in Panama which should be a good time. Then I went on an epic backpacking trip with my younger brother (It actually wasn't that epic but I'm trying to make my life seem more exciting than it is. Basically we walked all day with heavy backpacks, usually in the rain. I mean, I loved it, but that's not everyone's cup of tea).

Now that it's cold outside running is much more enjoyable so I'll probably be racing again in the spring. Last week my roommate threw a grape and I caught it in my mouth. I'm basically a boss at driving stick now. I make kick ass guacamole. I've listened to First by the Cold War Kids at least four thousand times. There's enough quinoa in my pantry to feed all of Africa (I can say that because I've been to Africa).

Yep okay that sums up the last 3 months of my life, here's hoping the next three are a little less lame.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

How many miles to the nearest Walmart?

I was hiking through the lush, green rainforest with my mom when we got to an observation treehouse site exploding with lemurs. She pulled out a huge bag, looked me straight in the eyes and said "your younger brother wants me to bring home 75 pounds of lemur meat." So I was like "what the hell, mom, you can't do that!" To which she replied "I know, I'm just bringing home one live lemur instead." Then I woke up from my dream.

Okay now I'm actually going to tell you about the last few weeks of my life, starting with my unforgettable journey to the Betampona Reserve, briefly discussing my research and experiences in the mountains of Madagascar, and ending with me sitting on the floor of my hotel room typing this post (which is happening right this second).

The door to our taxi bus wasn't connected to the rest of the vehicle. I take that back--a seatbelt was strategically wrapped around the door and roof holding them together. Sort of. And that was probably the safest, most secure part of the bus.

There were 14 of us crammed into an 11 person bus, which doesn't sound that bad. But when you take into account the luggage and food required for 14 people on a month long trip it sounds a little bad. And when I tell you that the bus we rode in wasn't so much a bus but more like randomly assembled metal pieces held together by rust and sheer determination it starts to sound like an unfortunate situation. I haven't even gotten to the worst part yet, so buckle your seatbelt (something none of us were able to do because our seatbelts were holding the vehicle together) because you're in for a rough ride.

So we're in the death trap (that's what I'm calling the taxi bus, keep up) and it's hot outside, so hot. Humid too. We're slammed together like sardines and dripping in sweat while driving down this road (by "road" I mean a rocky dirt area with huge holes overflowing with water). The windows are open (because it's so hot and we're dying) and tree branches are flying through the windows, hitting us in the face (because we're bumping along this "road" trying to avoid the huge holes of water). Meanwhile, every passenger is looking up at the roof of the vehicle because we're sure it's gonna collapse on us. You know, because the sides of the bus aren't even connected to the roof. Somehow the roof didn't crush us during the 3 hour drive and we survived the first part of our journey to Betampona.

Next we had to take a canoe across a river. It's casual. When we got to the other side they told us there wasn't enough room in our new vehicle for all of us plus our luggage--which was the greatest thing I had heard all day because that meant we were hiking. I spent all of 30 seconds with my group and then started walking faster (why were they walking so slow?). And fast walking is a lot like running so I figured I might as well start running, right?

Okay remember when I said being white and blonde kind of draws a lot of attention to me in Madagascar? Yeah well white blonde girls running up mountains is clearly something they have never seen before. It got to the point where I didn't know if I should walk through the little villages to draw less attention to myself or sprint through them so I could get out faster. 

After an hour of stares, people yelling at me in Malagasy, a crazy man trying to run with me, and a random guy offering me a ride on his bike; a bus finally passed me and then stopped. "Keely! Get in!" Everyone had been picked up by the bus holding our luggage and was crammed into it. Apparently all the people I passed were talking about "a crazy white girl running very fast" (I was just glad they weren't talking about "a crazy white girl peeing on the side of the road").

After 20 minutes of driving we got to a mountain trail (a trail I would climb and descend daily over the next few weeks) and were told we had to hike the rest. YES. So I ran and hiked and it was the most beautiful run I've ever been on. I can't even describe how incredible the mountains are here. At the very top of the mountain is the Betampona Reserve. ON TOP OF THE MOUNTAIN. How cool is that?! It's paradise (I'll upload pictures). 

Almost every day my team and I backpacked for 1-6 hours to the surrounding villages in order to survey the residents. Some days were sunny and beautiful but other days were rainy, unbelievably muddy, and completely exhausting. (Climbing up our mountain in the rain has been described as being "as painful as childbirth.") Thankfully the Malagasy people were always helpful and accommodating with our research and made those muddy days worth it.

Every night before I went to sleep I had to check my bed for cockroaches and spiders (sometimes I didn't check thoroughly and regretted it). When it hadn't rained for a few days I had to carry buckets of water up a mountain to bathe and then when it rained nonstop for a week EVERYTHING was wet. (I don't think you understand how humid and wet it was so I'm gonna elaborate a little. It was so wet that my clothes never fully dried and started to grow mold. It was so wet that when I got into bed at night the sheets were damp. It was so wet that we would find leeches sucking our blood after venturing into the forest. Okay do you understand now?) I had to do my laundry by hand, which was horrible, and had shit into holes in the ground, which wasn't that horrible. My fingernails always had dirt under them and my hair was never brushed. My legs and feet were covered in blisters, scratches, and infected mosquito bites. The skin between my toes was bloody and raw. My clothes were always muddy and I smelled like sweat with a slight hint of pee. (Do I sound appealing yet?) I woke up when the sun rose and fell asleep when the sun set. In my free time I played cards and read books while lemurs jumped between trees 10 feet above my head (I read 9 books over the past 4 weeks. I haven't read that many books since I was 3 years old and "books" were only 10 pages long). 

But here's the thing: I loved it. The cold bucket showers became refreshing. I craved rice, beans, and vegetables for every meal. Reading took the place of using my phone or watching tv. Backpacking to villages and falling down muddy mountains was thrilling. Going to bed at 8:00 seemed normal. I loved the culture shock, the opportunities, the adventure, and the memories. Life was simple and beautiful. 

I have so much more to say about my research and life in Madagascar but if I keep writing this will turn into a novel, so the details will be for the people I see in person. Partially because this post is already so long and partially because when people ask me how my trip was I want to be able to tell them something they haven't already read. Anyway, I wonder if anyone stuck around long enough to even make it to this point of my post. Sorry if you're bored, it's almost over. Now that I'm back in civilization I'm going to go sit on a toilet, take a shower, look in a mirror, turn on a fan, and email my mom--all at the same time. Too ambitious? See ya in 10 days, America. 

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Salama Vasa

The president of Madagascar was just impeached. No one here really cares about it but I think it seems like important information. Maybe? Aside from the government crumbling to the ground things are going pretty well.

Unfortunately I had to pay $10,000 ariary to get into the zoo in Tana, which is 20 times the amount a local has to pay. That's only $3.50 in US dollars but still, I could have bought half of a Chipotle burrito with that money. Oh and you know how zoo's in America have rules? Like "don't feed the animals" or "no tapping on the glass." The only rule here is "don't get in the cage with the animal." Which is a really great rule, people should totally follow that.

Leaving the city was easy, quick, and painless. And by that I mean it only took us an hour to figure out which bus to take while we were harassed by a drunk man who wanted our jackets and bombarded by homeless people who begged us for money. Easy, quick, and painless.

The drive to the first village blew my mind. It was so exotic, green, and mountainous. Madagascar is without a doubt the most beautiful place I've ever been. When we got to the rainforest we went on a guided hike and saw tons of lemurs. I don't have anything funny or sarcastic to say, it was just really incredible.

We began our research at the first village a few days ago. It's awesome. We've been collecting data on what food is available at local markets (dry fish surrounded by flies seems like best option) and have completed a good amount of diet diversity and food security questionnaires. The Malagasy people are so welcoming even though we don't speak the same language (our translator is awesome).

The Malagasy children are fascinated by us and love the scale and height measurement tool we brought. I've never seen anyone so impressed by a scale. Especially since they have no clue how much they should weigh. They'll step on the scale and it will read something like "27.2 kg" and they are SO EXCITED ABOUT IT. They also want us to play games and dance with them. I even got to hold a baby for a while and it didn't cry at all. It's also possible that my camera has 200 pictures of blurry and sideways Malagasy kids (their picture taking skills need a little work). Anyway, the research is so fun and rewarding, even if I'm having dreams where everyone speaks Malagasy.

Now we're in Tamatave (not that any of you know where that is) until Saturday morning. After that we'll be driving/boating/hiking to our final research area where we'll stay for about four weeks while surveying the surrounding villages. When I get home I plan on eating a gallon of ice cream. Anyone is welcome to join me but you have to commit to the whole gallon.

*When you have a mosquito net covering your bed and you wake up to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night WATCH OUT BECAUSE YOU COULD GET TANGLED IN IT AND FALL OVER.

Friday, May 29, 2015


"Do you have any explosive bombs or gasoline in your luggage?" This was the third time I had the man at the security screening in the Narobi Airport repeat himself. Partially because of his thick Kenyan accent and partially because I wasn't sure why he was asking me if I was bringing bombs on the plane. "Ummm nope, definitely didn't pack any of those..." What if I was a terrorist and had packed explosives though, is this where I was supposed to confess? "Yep, I have a few bombs and gallons of gasoline in my bags, you caught me. Killer detective work by the way."

Anyway, airplanes are awesome because they're speedy and can get you plus tons of other people plus all of your luggage (without bombs) anywhere in the world. But when you have four plane rides, two layovers, and four days of traveling to get where you need to be it seems a little less impressive. Still impressive, don't get me wrong, but instantaneous teleportation is really something we should be working on.

Flashback to the airport security in Africa where they intensely questioned Oliver, Zach and Alisha's 8 year old son, about the football he was traveling with. I guess footballs are dangerous...? Rachel's tweezers were also confiscated. God forbid the tweezers and football had both been on the plane because some serious shit would have gone down. Obviously. So yeah, get on board with the teleportation.

I'd also like to point out to my dad that "wearing tennis shoes so I can run away if the plane crashes" was not necessary. What a surprise.

During our layover in Kenya (why the flight from South Africa to Madagascar stopped in Kenya is something I'll never understand) we stayed at this rad hotel. The gate surrounding the hotel had lots of barbed wire. I don't know about you, but nothing makes me feel more at home than barbed wire. We were also warned to keep the door to our balcony closed in order to keep baboons and monkeys out of our room. For some reason no questions were asked.

After arriving at the airport in Madagascar we had someone drive us to Tana, the capital. And if you think New York City traffic is bad, then you're correct because it's definitely horrible, but Tana traffic is NUTS. I think driving on the right side of the road is more of a suggestion then an actual law. There are also tons of people walking across/on/around the streets. I honestly don't understand how the roads aren't littered with dead people. According to Zach, "pedestrians don't have the right-of-way here so if a car hits you it legally doesn't have to stop." It's very safe. At one point this kid jumped out the back of a taxi bus, ran over to a street vendor to buy a cigarette, then ran through traffic and jumped back onto the taxi bus where he held on with one hand and continued to smoke his cigarette. Meanwhile, another guy started peeing on the side of the road.

After a few hours of driving through this we got to our hotel, where we'll be staying for three days. I love it. It's old and rundown but so beautiful and comfortable. Plus the staff is awesome and the food is terrific. I mean it's mainly rice but the rice is really good for rice. If that makes sense.

Being a white person in Madagascar is very strange. Especially a white person with blonde hair. (I'm white and have blonde hair in case you've already forgotten what I look like.) Everyone stares at you (and not just because of my insanely good looks) and they swarm you at markets, trying desperately to sell you something. Plus they're speaking Malagasy (here is a reminder that Malagasy is not a language I'm familiar with) so I have no idea what they're saying. One dude followed me half a mile back to my hotel trying to sell me this musical instrument. Persistence is key, right? Well, not in his case, sorry dude.

In a day or two we're leaving the city and entering some less populated rainforest areas where we'll begin our research. I won't have electricity or running water so please enjoy that for me. That's it for now! Sorry that sometimes sarcasm  takes over my writing. The moral of this post is that I love Madagascar, love the people I'm with, and am so excited for this adventure to continue.

Note to future Keely back in America: buy macadamia nuts

Monday, May 18, 2015

Do you think I can have a pet lemur when I'm in Africa?

Have you ever been on a run where the trail ends? So you’re like okay I’ll run on these train tracks for a while. Then you think you see a different trail on the other side of the James River so you swim across it but it turns out it isn’t a trail. And you bushwhack through weeds and thorns which brings you to a highway that you have to run across. Then you slide down a hill to get back on the train tracks and eventually find the trail again. No? Does that not happen to a lot of people?  

Anyway summer is going REALLY well. I’ve spent a lot of time with my cats and I cut off three inches of my hair in my bathroom a few days ago. Plus I leave for Madagascar in one week. ONE WEEK. To prepare for my trip I plan to watch The Penguins of Madagascar movie because I’m pretty sure that’s all I need to know, right? Contacting me will be realllly difficult so try not to miss me too much. If that doesn’t work then picture me walking through rad rainforests with a sweet safari hat while talking to local Malagasy people about their diets. I get back to America on July 10th so if you want to text me or send me a fruit basket or show up at my house or bring me a million dollars then that’s when you should do it. Once I get back I’ll either be in Richmond shadowing a Physician Assistant and working (someone please hire me, I’m poor) or possibly maybe but probably not going to New Mexico and working as a zipline tour guide until school starts again.

I also figured out what I want to do with my life and it includes a dietetic internship, the Peace Corps, Physician Assistant school, traveling the world, and being the happiest person on the planet. I would discuss it more but I need to finish season six of Lost before I leave so I guess you could say I have important things planned for today.