Traveling and Pharmacies

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Originally written for and published by Wanderful 🙂

“NOT a sunburn. No sunburn. Sunburn — no! Rash from sun. Sun rash!” I frantically motioned to the “sun” (aka pharmacy ceiling) and then to my blotchy, red legs.

This was me trying to communicate to a pharmacist in Greece — and failing miserably like some idiot American on a sitcom.

Surprisingly, I wound up getting what I needed.

Most of us know that traveling does not come with a guarantee of 100% safety and well-being.

 

No matter how much of a planner you are, there’s just no possible way to pack every single thing you might possibly need for every fathomable emergency situation. I always carry a mini first aid kit when I travel, but nothing in it was helpful in the slightest during the times I needed medical attention.

So, what do you do when you’re in a country whose language you don’t speak, you need medicine of some sort, and you need it ASAP?

This is what you do.

The good ol’ point and show method.

It’s more effective than you think.

 

My aforementioned rash flabbergasted me — I had no idea what kind of cream to ask for, but I knew I needed more than fancy aloe vera or 100 SPF sunscreen.

In Greece, I developed the aggressive breakout that began crawling up from my ankles all the way to my mid-thigh. It was terrifying. Red, blotchy, itchy, and then painful. I later came to the conclusion that I’d developed “Hiker’s Rash” — which was strange because I really wasn’t doing any intense hiking (some people are just more sensitive to walking in hot, humid weather for too long).

And it happened again in Beijing recently. I was bewildered — it wasn’t too hot and all we were doing was walking around a couple of different temples in the city. I was completely unprepared.

Luckily, this is a very visible symptom. Multiple pharmacists looked my legs up and down before displaying two different cream choices before me, which brings me to my second tip.

 

Bite the bullet and buy more than you need.

I knew I didn’t need more than one tube of cream, but I also knew that one would most likely work better than the other because they both had different ingredients, different pictures, etc.

Not knowing which one that was, I bought both and figured it out over the next few days.

Extra medicine is never a bad thing, and your safety and comfort is worth the money you fork over, I promise.

 

Use a translator before you go to the store.

If you don’t have a data plan or phone that you can whip out at the store, see if your hotel, hostel, or accommodations have computers available that you can use. Then, write down a translation of everything you can think would be helpful — things you think your condition might be, products you think could help, products you know will not help, things you’re allergic to (that’s important), active ingredients to look for or avoid, and so on.

Nowadays, however, there are all sorts of apps that allow you to translate even while you’re offline. Google Translate, for instance, has an offline component, or you can check out Lonely Planet’s Offline Translator app.

Alternatively, if you have a friend or tour guide who speaks the language, take them with you.

When I studied abroad in Costa Rica, I got a terrible fever blister. That one was on me — I should’ve known to pack something for cold sores because I get them anytime I lose too much sleep, get overly stressed, or get too much sun.

In Costa Rica — even though my Spanish was pretty decent — a member of my host family went to the drugstore to buy me cold sore cream. She told me that if I went alone, they’d know right away that I wasn’t from there and would try to sell it to me for five times the true price. (That’s a whole other article.)

Closely inspect the box or bottle.

You might be surprised at how many have English somewhere on the labeling. It could be just the active ingredients that are listed in English, but that’s better than nothing! Then, if you have a data plan or wifi available, you do a quick Google to see what they’re commonly used to treat.

 

Most medicines also typically have some sort of visual aid, even if it’s just in the brand’s marketing. Every little thing is helpful. That’s how I knew which creams were for sunburns (which was NOT what I was suffering from); they had pictures of the sun with an aloe vera leaf.

Trust the pharmacist.

It may seem like they’re trying to sell you some quack cream or suspicious pill, but more often than not they’re just doing their job and trying to get you what they honestly believe will help you.

On the same Greece trip, I was casually strolling down from Meteora (the coolest “floating” monasteries, it’s a magical place) when I tripped over a huge nail that was strangely hammered into the ground.

I face-planted. Hard. I mean I really, really ate it. There was a lot of blood. My cute little Band-Aids and tiny packets of Neosporin weren’t going to cut it.

I just wanted to buy the cheapest, most Western-looking cream and bandages, but the pharmacist kept trying to sell me a more expensive cream. I bought it, even though I felt a little robbed. It turned out to be some sort of magical potion that cleared up my scrapes in record time.

I hope you’re not as accident-prone as I am and that you never get injured in any way on your adventures.

But if you do, please keep these suggestions in mind.

Medicine is kind of a universal language, when you think about it. It’s one of many things tying us all together; the fact that everyone — every single person across the globe — bleeds and burns and breaks out into rashes and peels and scabs and suffers from you-name-it.

Happy traveling, wanderful women!

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Friendships Age Too

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Everyone always talks about romantic relationships and how difficult they are–the compromising, the settling, how hard it is to be single, how hard it is to be married, blah blah blah.

No one ever really spends too much time gabbing about how difficult friendships can be. Friendships are supposed to be easy, right? Comfortable, lasting longer than any romantic relationship you’ve ever had. I guess that used to be true.

Somewhere around Real Adult Life (not Fake Adult Life), you realize how tough friendships can actually be. Hangouts no longer consist of last minute happy hours that turn into long, carb-filled dinners that turn into late-night pillow talk and accidental sleepovers. Hangouts now have to be planned weeks in advance. Alcohol and carbs are out because someone is on an insane diet. Late nights and accidental sleepovers are out because someone has to wake up early for work or get home ASAP to a baby or a husband or a boyfriend. Suddenly, you’re not a priority in their life anymore–you’re third or fourth fiddle, at best.

At some point, jobs and men, raises and promotions and…men became more important than keeping up with what you’ve been cooking for dinner or watching on Netflix…GASP?! It’s normal, I know. But that doesn’t make it suck any less.

The worst part is, you want to be happy for them, you TRY your damnedest to be happy for them…but mostly, you just feel deflated. There was a time in my life when I talked to my friends every day (usually multiple times a day). Questions like, “Hey, did you wind up buying that necklace?” have turned into “Hey, how’ve you been?”

I’ve never been one of those 27 Dresses types–I’ve always had a close-knit pack of two or three women who were more like sisters to me. I’m currently down to…one. Insert the *eek!* emoji. Yeah. One bestie who keeps up with my woes pretty well–not like she used to, but still pretty well.

Is it because she and I are the only single ladies of the once-wolf-pack? Perhaps. But more likely, it’s because we’ve been best friends since we met in middle school, when she saw me bleeding from my knees and lip and asked if I was OK (ridiculous Spanish Dancing Club incident). Hopefully, she’ll be my person forevs, but let’s be real…she could turn into a Husband-Hungry villain at any moment… That, folks, will be the day I adopt a handful of pets and babies or move to an island and live out the rest of my days befriending only coconuts.

Anyway, I’m getting off track here, I apologize. I have a few acquaintance-types who are fun, but they’re seeking the same thing I am–people to fill in the gaps leftover by once upon a time best friends, sisters. It’s great to have people who you can share a meal with, but it’s crazy to feel like you don’t have anyone to tell the deep, dark stuff to.

It can be pretty lonely, here in adulthood. No wonder people kept getting married even after property promises and dowries weren’t a thing anymore–it’s the only way of ensuring that you won’t slip and die in the shower, your remains left rotting under an enormous water bill for weeks. I kid, I kid.

How do we keep friendships, even after X, Y, or Z? How do we balance other life obligations with these people who know way too much about us? How do we remain understanding, even after being shoved aside to make room for “more” or “different” or “better”?

Questions

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Oh hey, WordPress. I broke my “post once a month” rule. Crap.

And here to make up for it is a list of asinine questions, none of which I really need an answer to, but they’re funny so whatever.

  1. Now that my ex-boyfriend is engaged to my ex-roommate, will he change his HBOGo password? Because my life will be ruined without full Jon Snow access.
  2. Is there any real possibility of convincing my parents to NOT vote for Trump? I’ve tried almost everything. Welcome to new ideas.
  3. Why are crime podcasts the best thing on the planet and am I a psychopath for loving listening to murder stories so much? My Favorite Murder and In the Dark are my latest obsessions–check them out if you’re a weirdo like me. Also, (not to answer my own question) I think I like them partly because they play into my extreme anxiety and constant paranoia. Now I can quote 1980s court cases if someone makes fun of me for locking my doors meticulously (and checking to make sure they’re locked).
  4. Why do rapists often times serve little to NO jail time? Everyone should watch Audrie & Daisy on Netflix…it’s sickening but important, for teenagers especially. I wish it were appropriate to show in my classroom–I’d love for my students to watch and learn about a) the true meaning of consent b) the horror social media can cause and c) the repercussions of your actions and how some mistakes can haunt you (and others) forever.

On that bright and shiny note, I leave you. Off to try a “salt cave session”…I don’t even know. The Groupon obsession continues.

Grandma’s Hairspray

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I don’t really use hairspray anymore, and it’s not because I don’t like it or need it. I choose to curl my hair and have it fall flat, frizzing pitifully in the Texas humidity.

The reason? I don’t want to throw away my hairspray–my grandma’s hairspray.

After her funeral two years ago, my family was handing out random items from cabinets–“Which teapot do you want? Which porcelain figurine?” I know they had good intentions–they wanted us all to have a memory or two to take home. But I just felt so weird about it all. I wanted to go home, away from my family and away from all the teapots. My mom gently said something like, “Alysha, there must be something you want to remember Grandma. C’mon, just pick something.”

I asked if I could have her hairspray. We were standing by the restroom, I looked and saw it, remembered mine had run out recently. It seemed like a great idea at the time. Mom laughed and handed it to me.

That was two years ago…and the silver bottle is still sitting next to my sink. I use it sometimes, but never too much, and I always get anxiety afterwards that I used too much, that I’m going to run out soon.

Because I mean…what will I do? Throw it out?! I’ll feel like I’m throwing out my grandma! A freakin’ hairspray bottle has become a weird version of an urn.

The truth is, every time I see it, smell it, feel it in my hair–I remember her wispy white curls and salmon dress pants and funny little British laugh. I miss her cooking and I miss her calling me “my dear” and I miss sitting in her kitchen on those awful wooden chairs telling her about my day.

I can’t throw away the hairspray, because it’ll be like Uncle Chuck’s salsa all over again. I kept the most giant jar of Uncle Chuck’s homemade salsa in my fridge for SO long after he passed away. I couldn’t even open it–the seal seemed to be intensely fused on. I finally made myself throw it away and have regretted it ever since. I miss seeing it every time I open my fridge.

It makes you wonder what weird items people would take from your place if they had the chance–to remember you by. Does anyone care at all about my favorite yellow cup? My wacky paintings, dusty books, giant seashell? Will anyone want my grandma’s teapot that’s on my stove or her porcelain figurine that’s on my writing desk?

El Talisman Coffee

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Originally written for and published by Texas Lifestyle Magazine 🙂

 

The Alvarados are a lot like any other typical Texas family—they work hard, they play hard, but the most important thing in their lives is each other. Yuri and Johanna Alvarado are political refugees from Nicaragua—they moved to the U.S. as teenagers, escaping the Sandinista revolution and Contra war that followed. They beat all odds and created a happy and successful life, plus, they’ve raised two children, Johanna and Fernando.

The next step of their dream involves one of my favorite things in the world—coffee. El Talisman Coffee, straight from the Alvarado’s farm in the mountains of Matagalpa, Nicaragua is absolutely incredible. Johanna and Yuri are fifth and sixth generation coffee farmers—who still plant, prune, clean, harvest, and process by hand—which used to, of course, be the only way.

When I spoke to Yuri Alvarado, he said, “My favorite part of the job is growing the coffee in Nicaragua. I love the level of involvement required to produce good quality coffee. We tend to each of our 50,000 coffee trees individually. We still do all the work by hand, like our ancestors did over a century ago. Growing good quality coffee is truly a labor of love and I love doing it.”

You can truly taste that “labor of love” in every cup. And it’s not just me that thinks so highly of the smooth taste—El Talisman Coffee has been selling out all over Central Texas! They’ve recently been a hit at the Kyle Market Days, Barton Creek Famers Market (find them here every Saturday, rain or shine!), the Downtown Buda Farmers Market, Plum Creek Front Porch Days, Ten Thousand Villages of Austin World Fair Trade Day, and the Kyle Public Library.

“Working with my family has been by far the most exciting part of this experience,” Yuri explained. “It has been amazing for me to see Johanna and Fernando connect at a very deep level, with something our family has been doing for five generations. It’s been wonderful to see the amount of passion and energy each has brought to this endeavor.”

If you’re not sold yet, I urge you to go meet one of the Alvarados at one of the aforementioned markets—they are the friendliest humans on the planet, I promise you. A smile from them and a sip of their delicious coffee will make your day. While they work on getting their online store up and running, they will continue with farmers markets every weekend. As Yuri said, “We absolutely love having the opportunity to meet every customer personally!” Next time you need your morning caffeine, support local Texan families and check out El Talisman!

 

 

Dear Future Husband

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Dear Future Husband,

I’m sorry that you missed me in my prime, man. Damn I was FIT. I now value the happiness that bread and booze bring me over the happiness that my jean size used to bring me. I care a whole hell of lot more about making a friend’s happy hour celebration or checking out a new restaurant than I do about how many minutes of cardio I got in. I’ve accepted butt cellulite and you should too, sir. I still get carded sometimes, I’ll have you know.

I know what I want. This has been a little off-putting for some men–they want me to only want…what they want. To accept everything they say and everything they do, without question. I’m not that girl. I’m not easily suppressed. I have strong opinions, I stand up for myself, I tell you when you hurt my feelings and I tell you WHY. Thank you for loving that about me without being intimidated. I love the same things about you.

I’m no longer in a rush. I’m not going to settle for that dude who called teaching “such an easy job,” that dude who smoked way too much weed, that dude who spoke in teenager-slang, or that dude who wouldn’t stop talking about his huge bank account–I’m waiting for YOU, obviously.

Thanks for supporting my writing. Thanks for wanting to get to know my friends and family. Thanks for wanting more than just sex, but…ya’ know, thanks for also wanting sex. Thanks for being a foodie (thank you for not letting me settle for that dude with the ginger allergy) and thanks for wanting to travel with me (thanks for not letting me settle for that dude who didn’t even want to buy a passport). Thank you for reading books and not just Facebook posts.

Just thanks, for being you, whoever you are 🙂

 

Love,

Alysha

Pink Gloves

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Originally written for and published by TLM 🙂

I absolutely love the idea of a) a female-only boxing class and b) supporting an amazing cause while I work out.Pink Gloves Boxing (PGB) on Burnet in Austin combines those two awesome things (and yes, the gloves are really pink). Pink Gloves offers a tier program, drop-in classes, personal training, and private classes — with a percentage of all proceeds going to breast cancer research. Their website boasts about the 3 F’s: fitness, fun, and female empowerment!

Brenda Hull, owner of PGB Austin, got her start in boxing by branching off from her normal fitness routines to try something new.

It can be intense on the first visit, but by the end you will want your own gear. Courtesy photo
It can be intense on the first visit, but by the end you will want your own gear. Courtesy photo.

“I have always been into fitness and working out. after working with a personal trainer for many years I needed something different,” Hull explained. “I found PGB and  took some classes and fell in love with boxing, then the gym closed and didn’t find any other boxing classes i enjoyed. A few years after that I was searching for fitness jobs and certifications and found an AD for Pink Gloves and how they would be in Austin for a training camp. I signed up and after a few meetings with PGB central I bought the license and opened Pink gloves Boxing Austin in 2013.”

Since its doors opened in 2013, PGB Austin has been met with eager Austinites wanting to give it a try, but sorry fellas — this one’s for the women.

“Women have mostly had positive experiences at PGB,” Hull said. “One member recently stated, ‘I was so very pleased with PGB class tonight! I am hooked! Can’t wait to go back! It’s such an inviting group.’ Many women have met their best friends, who later became their bridesmaids, at Pink Gloves Austin. That is our goal — to create a positive, comfortable environment that you spend with family! I have gotten several request from men, especially the PGB husbands and kids. We are working on something for men and the kids of our Austin community.”

Don’t be afraid to give this gym a try. You’re walking into a welcoming environment, not the gladiator area. There won’t be any fists flying at your face, but you will get a workout.

They really seem to be building a positive bond in the gym. Courtesy photo
They really seem to be building a positive bond in the gym. Courtesy photo.

“We like to make everyone feel welcome so the trainers and members will introduce themselves and help you check in and get your hands wrapped,” Hull explained. “What has naturally happened is that a member will take the first-timer and go over what the class looks like and gives them a tour of our small space. Once class begins, a group warm-up begins where I tell my trainers to take this time to let your members know who you are. After warm-up, trainers go over each station and the punches and combinations are taught. Class begins and goes by WAY too fast! Class ends with abs circle. There is a question of the day that members answer and give the group an ab workout or stretch. This is the time where we hear from the members and gives them the opportunity to get to know each other a little bit more.

They also host an annual “Punch-a-Thon” benefiting Seton Breast Cancer Center. The Punch-a-Thon is not an actual fight (they say their real fight is against breast cancer), but rather, each team has to punch heavy bags for a certain amount of time. For every five dollars donated to your team, you have to punch for one minute.

If you’re looking for a new workout routine—something to spice things up a bit, get you in shape, and meet friends—Pink Gloves is for you! Give it a try—all levels are welcome (you do NOT need to know a single thing about boxing, I promise). Plus, there’s a killer Groupon deal right now—five classes for only $39! Get to punchin’ Austin ladies.