Well, I have a lot of imagination

An ex once told me that I had so much imagination that I didn’t even need TV for entertainment.

He was probably right.

Tonight in class, we wrapped up with this jam from Marc Anthony’s new CD. (no video available yet, so this is audio only)

After taking my turn to have my technique critiqued by my instructor, I grabbed my virtual microphone and started singing along. She turned off the music right as I draped myself across the piano in the back of the room. My dance partner said, “um, you interrupted her flow.” My instructor replied, “I interrupted her what?”

“You interrupted my video shoot!”

So then she tells the class, “this is what I like about Heidi. She imagines herself breaking it down. [Instructor shakes her hips from side to side] Boom! Pow! You have to see yourself dancing before you can do it!” Sometimes I get points for goofing off.

I am a project

Most memorable line last night – “looks like we’re having some trust issues.”

I said, “and here I thought that I was getting better.”

“You are getting better, that is why I’m trying to push you.”

Ok, coach.

I’ve danced with this guy a few times over the past couple of years, but only once without comment. I take that back, even during that one dance, he told me, “there’s no ‘whoops’ in salsa.” In a funny way, dance sheds light on my strengths and my insecurities. While I laugh off the trust comments (this is the second time that he brought it up), I’m also more and more aware that I just wear that shit on my sleeve.

When you walk on cobblestone for long periods of time, it feels like you are drunk

I spent yesterday cruising the city on foot. It was an absolutely gorgeous day – the temperature was about 65 degrees and it was all sun and blue sky.

I took a nice walk from Roccio Square down to the waterfront to kick off my tour. I love being by the sea (in this case, a river). I then walked down to a train station to try to find the Tuesday flea market. The first 1/2 hour or so of my walk was mostly flat, which was nice. Once I reached the train station, I headed up a steep hill. I did lots of hill work and stairs yesterday. In a sweater. And in flat shoes that rubbed the shit out of my Achilles heels. I am notorious for wearing bad shoes when I am on walking vacations. The next time I plan a sightseeing trip, I’m going to have to walk a lot a week or two before leaving Seattle to test out my shoes. My poor dancing feet are worth it! Today, I am resigned to wear my zapatos de goma and be an OT (obvious tourist).

It was fun to wind my way through the flea market. I love looking at the old family photos and postcards that are for sale. I picked up some tiles, a table runner and a small painting.

After leaving the flea market, I ambled down the cobblestone streets in the direction of Chapito, a little bohemian restaurant with funky music and a gorgeous view of the city. I asked them to open the window near my table and spent about an hour gazing at the river and at Cristo Rei, the Portuguese homage to Corcovado that was built in 1959 to thank god for sparing the country from the horrors of WWII. I had some delicious soup which was crema de mariscos with a few mejillones hidden at the bottom.

I made my descent down to the waterfront to catch a ferry to Cacilhas. Carlos had mentioned a restaurant over there that had a deck and a great view of Lisboa. The ferry ride was only about 10 minutes long and nothing compared to the choppy ride from Fajardo to Culebra (Puerto Rico) where they hand out barf bags to all of the passengers. As I made my way to restaurante Ponto Final, I passed several men fishing off of the piers. I also passed a long row of ‘abandoned’ and/or burnt out buildings that were obviously home to some sort of inhabitants. Many of the building doorways had been closed off by brick and mortar, but I found small knee-height holes in the building walls where someone could crawl in and out. Human beings are driven to survive, so I understand these makeshift abodes. What creeped me out were all of the barking dogs (I did see one pitbull – eek) that I assume are home security.

I spotted Ponto Final from around a bend and was excited to sit in the sun and enjoy a glass of wine. Sadly, when I reached the restaurante, I found that it was closed. I don’t know if it is closed on Tuesdays or if I arrived in between lunch and dinner. [ETA – Carlos called the restaurant and found out that the owner had been in an accident]

I sat on a bench for a while to gather my thoughts and figure out next steps. It was then that I realized that jet lag had set in and that I was crazy exhausted. I hopped on the ferry back to Lisbao and started my ascent up to the B&B. although it was only 6pm, I was hungry (I had been saving room for some seafood at Ponto Final). I stopped off at a cafeteria for a sandwich and a pastry and called it a day. I do love that the Portuguese eat dinner late, as that is more my speed, but I couldn’t muster up the energy to leave the comfort of my room.

Ola Lisboa!

File this one under ‘what in the world am I doing?’

I arrived in Lisboa this morning to a beautiful sunrise and clear blue skies. I am here to attend the Afro Fever dance conference. As some of the dances that I enjoy were born and or grew up in former Portuguese colonies (Angola, Cabo Verde, etc), they are wildly popular here in Lisboa. I wanted to experience mature dancers and world-class teachers (some of whom I’ve met in Seattle), so I planned a trip to visit Portugal.

I have a really bad habit of sleeping very little before I travel, and this trip was no exception. I slept about three hours before heading to the airport and then off-and-on during the journey. I was totally pooped when I arrived.

Fortunately, the Zuza Bed & Breakfast folks totally took care of me and let me rest in one room while preparing the room that I rented. I have great luck with guesthouses. Carlos helped me to plan an itinerary for this evening and provided a power plug adaptor so that I didn’t have to buy one. They also provide a local mobile phone, so that I can call for help if I have a question or am in trouble (Carlos assured me, “my brother is a police officer, and if you call me, I will be right behind you in a few minutes.”)

I accidentally slept until 6pm (oh boy, jet lag) and then cleaned myself up to go out in to the world. I tried to memorize the map as I hate pulling it out in public – I don’t want to be the world’s easiest mark. The Zuza B&B is up on a hill overlooking Lisboa. It is a beautiful landscape that I can see from the window in my room. I walked down to Roccio Square. A few blocks east, I was able to catch the tram 28. This tram takes a scenic route of Lisboa and is good for looking at architecture as well as people watching. I also found a great lookout point – I didn’t have time to hop off the tram today, but it had a view of some old world buildings lit up by the full moon with a backdrop of the sea. Awesome! I’m going to try to hit this one up tomorrow.

After about 30 minutes riding the tram, I arrived at my destination, Casa do India. This is a cute little restaurant with a good mix of tourists and local. The seating is family style. I sat next to a cute couple (man was Mexican and woman was Spanish) who were having as much trouble with the menu as I was. That was comforting. I knew the basic words but had no idea abut the cooking styles and sauces. I ended up ordering arroz com mariscos and drank a couple of glasses of vinotinto. It was divine! I loved the atmosphere because people were enjoying each other and no one was on a phone.

After dinner, I was off to find some fado music. Carlos had recommended a small tavern near the B&B. He told me, “don’t get there later than 21:00.” I arrived at 21:40 and the place was completely full. Oops! I’ll have to try again on Wednesday.

I made my way back to the B&B along the narrow, cobblestone streets, admiring the tiles that adorn the building facades. This is a charming and romantic place. I’m so glad that I came!

Why, yes, I did!

I don’t often make New Year’s resolutions. In fact, I can only think of two years prior to 2012 that I vowed to accomplish a specific feat. One goal was realized (in 2002, I carried a notebook with me to capture thoughts and improve my writing) while the other was a total flop (I did not dress up for Halloween in 2010).

 In December 2011, I rediscovered my love for dance. I’m talking real dance, not break-it-down-rub-my-bootie reggaeton (which certainly has its place in my life). I started taking salsa classes thinking that I needed to work on my turns and discovered a whole new way to see and communicate. It is truly magical. 

 In light of my re-ignited fervor, I made a New Year’s resolution to dance every single week of 2012. Just between you and me, this goal was somewhat fueled by Juan, who doubted my commitment to salsa and told me that I would quit by the spring. 

I, of course, did not quit. As a matter of fact, although I am recovering from a cold, I got myself together tonight to dance so that I could claim my title as a dancing queen. I only danced two salsas before pooping out, but I made it. If I’m feeling up to it tomorrow, I may just do a kizomba victory lap.

This was a crazy, unique, blessed year for me. I indulged in weekly salsa classes as well as regular private lessons. I was introduced to kizomba. I organized a weekly outing for my friends to dance at Century Ballroom. I literally danced all over the western hemisphere. Samba in Rio de Janeiro. Cuban son in Ciudad Panama. Bachata in Bavaro. I saw some great live shows. Oscar D’leon in Boston. Ruben Blades, Juan Luis Guerra, Eddie Palmieri and Gustavo Dudamel at the Hollywood Bowl. I went to dance workshops and conferences and fell in love with the professionals. Portland. Seattle. San Francisco. I went to a workshop that changed my life – you must experience kaizen by Kwenda Lima if he ever comes to your city.

I danced and danced and danced. I met new people. I made new connections with my old friends. I set my sights on concrete dance goals for the coming year. I got lost in watching dance videos on youtube. I discovered that this new way of living could help me to articulate who I am, what I want and the beauty that I see in the world (I always feel silly when I share this kind of stuff, but I feel like I can see so much more clearly).

I came across a great quote earlier this week:

We lose ourselves in the things we love. We find ourselves there, too.
~ Kristin Martz, Freelance Photographer

I can’t wait to find out where this dance journey will take me in 2013.

How to hail a taxi pirate

This week I went to the Caribbean in search of some vitamin D. I landed in Punta Cana, Republica Dominicana, where Elaine had scored a time share at the Ocean Beach & Sands Resort for a low, low price.

Kirsten, one of my long-time hermanas, lives in Santo Domingo and was able to sneak away for some R&R with us at the playa.

Ocean Blue is an all-inclusive resort that sits right on the beach at Playa Bavaro. It was a ridiculously beautiful beach with blue, blue water. We sat mostly undisturbed (except for the day we set up camp near the sound system), soaking up the morning rays. The resort has two pools, but I felt that it would be sacrilegious to take a dip in chlorine when God’s pool was just a few feet away.

The resort staff provided us with endless hours of entertainment. I can’t count how many times that they asked me, “how many Dominican boyfriends have you had?” I can imagine that resort work is lucrative in regards to both financial stability as well as physical pleasure. Even if they aren’t getting any, the resort workers can entertain themselves by checking out the topless Europeans.

A couple of the resort workers turned us on to the Shop & Drink, which was a great place to hang out on my last night on the island. After a week of living in a bubble, we skirted off to a liquor store in Bavaro that doubles as a local meet-up and dance joint. We purchased a bottle of Barcelo rum and found seats near the dance floor. We got a taste of salsa, bachata and nine-minute merengue. As I expected, Dominican salsa is a little different than the mambo that I dance at home. Although we were there as ‘guests’ of a Dominican, we stood out like sore thumbs because of our resort wristbands and curly hair (anybody ever heard of a Dominican blowout?). Regardless, it was a very special night for me as 6 December is my one-year anniversary of re-discovering the magic of dance.

We stopped drinking and dancing just short of finishing our bottle of Barcelo. We asked one of the liquor store cashiers to call us a cab and bid our new friends adieu. We were surprised when the waiter escorted us to a black SUV and were even more surprised when we saw our taxista and friend, who were both barely on our side of legal. I was chatting with them, but the conversation was fast and not nearly enough tourist-style Spanish. I’m not going to lie – they were fucking funny. I asked if they were really taxistas, and they explained, “we are casual taxis, some might call us pirates.” Jajaja. We talked some baseball, barely got past the security shack at the resort and exchanged numbers just in case we needed any further assistance on our trip.

I love adventure, especially when it involves friendship, sun and the slight amount of tension created by cross-cultural exchange. I wouldn’t trade in this life for anything!