Friday, December 21, 2012

Delicious Discoveries in Rural Nicaragua

danielle ciminero surfing

Every morning Donald graciously wakes me up with a long deep moooo.  If your thinking "what happened to gary?"  fear not, donald is the name of our new neighbor.  He weighs close to 700lbs and is actually a she.  In fact, there are about 30 donalds living a stones throw from our bed  and every day an hour before dawn they let loose long low Mooos  while the local farmers milk them by hand.   Guess the local rooster is out of a job huh? Not to worry, he gets the midday shift to announce lunch,  the sunset shift to call in all work hands for dinner, and for some awful reason he lights up again at 2 in the morning - maybe last call at the local bar?  
    Anyhow, after being awoken at 4am, we boil a bit of water and suck down a few cups of coffee, force feed ourselves a bowl of  goopy oats, and pack up for a day at the beach.   By the time we leave, the farmers have 3 huge buckets full of milk and with a grin of success they tip their hats to us as we pass by.
    It has been a harsh transition since our arrival a few days ago.  After luxurious visits with our families in the states,  our senses were weakened and unable to cope with a lower quality of life.   By lower quality I mean simpler, I just haven't come to terms with that yet. 

    Upon arrival at the airport,  we loaded our massive cargo - board bag, two duffel's, and two heavy backpacks-  into an economy size taxi.  The beach we were heading to would have required 3 different buses and since it was already 2 pm, it would've ended up a two day trek.  The taxi, while more expensive, would allow us to sail through the hectic city of Managua and  make it to the rural beach community before dark.     The price difference would mean eating only rice and beans for a while yet to come.
    As we waded through the bustling city life I remembered all of the nuances that make Central America so special.  Vendors holding up buckets of iced sodas and bags of sliced mango walk the between the traffic lanes as cars, trucks, and horse drawn carts buzz (or clop) by- only stopping when the rusted swaying stoplights gleam red.  
     At one intersection, a ragged and dirty mother  hoisted her equally ragged and dirty four year old son to her shoulders, where he stood proudly juggling three balls for all four lanes of vehicles  to see.  When she set him down he skipped from car to car sheepishly looking around.  I held some local money, cordobas, out the window which he took  gently,  grinning ear to ear with a sincerity that made my stomach drop.      
    As we careened onward I noticed an enormous amount of graffiti  decorating the long high cement walls -  but instead of the scrawled ugly sort it was artfully done with brilliant colors and bubbly design.  After having passed a series of dilapidated houses, all crushed together in communities that rival a house of cards in structural soundness, the graffiti truly helped lift your spirits.  Then as if emerging from the underworld, the entire scenery changed drastically- the tipping tin shacks replaced by elegantly enormous shopping centers as nice as any you'd see in upscale areas in the states. I half wondered if I'd slipped into a daydream, the contrast was so profound.
    It wasn't long before the city released us into the rolling farmlands that dominate Nicaraguan landscape.  I suppose the taxi driver couldn't have predicted getting stuck behind five different herds of cows being driven home by young farm boys, lengthening a two hour trip from the airport to nearly three and a half.   Apparently dusk is a busy time of day, all the livestock have to be brought in from pasture.   We bumbled along behind and amidst these great smelly creatures for quite a while- leaving us dusty, stinky, and slightly nauseated by the time  we trundled up the driveway to the cabin we'd rented for the next few weeks. 
    Soon after unloading we discovered that the outside view of this cabin was its best feature and the rest of the details a little less endearing.  Just thinking about it makes me want to dump a bucket of hand sanitizer over my head.  It did have a couple of small fans and a light, so at least there was that.  But the single beds were so tiny that  Gary's feet hung off the edge even when he laid diagonally and the 'mattresses' were basically just rumpled up clothes covered by a sheet;  so lumpy it would have been more comfortable to sleep on the floor- but for the red scorpion and starfish-sized spiders lurking about.  Then there was the lack of running water - only a barrel outside to splash over yourself.   The bathroom was a longdrop a hundred yards away from the house, constructed of sticks and black plastic.  It  had no door and the 'toilet' was made of a rough cement that hurt to sit on. The longdrop also had a resident bat that would dive bomb you if you tried to enter during the dark hours.   Trillions of bugs had already infested the premises of the cabin thanks to the light, so with one hand at the ready to swat and splat, we begun unpacking. 
    The worst part was discovering how far from the waves we were.  We'd been led to believe it was close to twenty minute stroll, which is no big deal.  But it turned out to be a forty minute hike up and down rocky hilly terrain, many parts of which riddled with cow poo mines.  This may sound easy until you consider the average temperature is between 90 and 95, with a humidity factor pushing it closer to 105. And we are each wearing a fifteen to twenty pound pack - filled with filming gear and water.   It was a hot, sticky, smelly, and heavy trek.
    That is how we came to appreciate Donald.  Although irritating to be woken pre-dawn everyday, it made one-way of the roundtrip beach mission bearable due to lower temperatures.  After we passed the milkmen and their proud smiles, a cool brisk breeze swirls around and is so refreshing we can almost ignore the slightly sour smell of thirty cows being milked as we head to the beach. 

    Our first few weeks were less about the waves and more about slipping into a simpler way of life.   Less about the waves only because the entire sand bar that makes this beach so well known  happened to be, well, on the beach.   Hills of dry sand rolled on and on,  leaving the ocean to dump its swells without any regard to the desires of a surfer.   ie - mostly closing out or mushing out, with a rare surfable gem.  As beachbreaks do,  the sand did eventually return back to the ocean and as the video got pretty gosh darn amazing for the surf contest a few weeks later (of course with 50 latin pro surfers in the line up this doesn't necessarily mean much)   
    The magic of this place is not just the waves when they're on, but the people.  The community and daily life here has been such an eye opening experience.  It is one of the most eco-friendly, self sustaining, and loving communities that I've ever seen, but for a few oddities.  It seems the less you have the less you waste and the more you appreciate....
    Many of the families live in thatch roof huts that make our cabin look like a palace.   The huts are constructed similar to our outhouse - using sticks and black plastic,  then layers of palm fronds are added along the top and outside.  Some of the locals have tin siding - it's hard to say if they are wealthier or poorer since the tin often looks as if it were rummaged from a dumpster.  They all have dirt floors, and dirt yards  which they sweep lovingly with a broom made of sticks bunched together and tied with twine.  Every meal is cooked over a wood fire - they collect fallen branches from nearby trees.  Water is conserved religiously,  using a bare minimum to wash their dishes, clothes, and selves -often leaving all three a little soapy.   There are a few old-school wells throughout town where the women gather with buckets and crank the rope from the deep cool earth to bring forth their water supply.   All clothes are hand washed and line dried- the clothesline often being their barbed wire fence.  If they have electricity, it is one light bulb and maybe a fan - many of the families use a flashlight to play cards once it gets dark.   There are only a few TVs in throughout the village, and occasionally you'll see twenty people spilling out of a hut, all eyes on the tv.
     In the early morning and late evening there is always someone coming back from the beach with a fish or two- often kids so young they should be in nursery school and men so old they would be in nursing homes in the states.  Yet here, they are out catching the family a meal.   Often you'll see entire families at the beach with their hands in the sand digging for sandcrabs to make a seafood feast.
     If you want tortillas  a few of the women labor over a sizzling fire to hand make them out of corn flour - its about 1 cordoba per tortilla - so for about 80 cents you get 20 of these delicious things.  'Buy local' takes on a whole new meaning here too- most of the families grow their own papaya, platano, hot peppers, have their own chickens, and milk their own cows.   
    Hardly anyone has a vehicle - their means of transport being either foot, bicycle or horse- which is sometimes pulling a rickety wooden cart.    If they have to go to the nearby city, everyone piles in the local bus - which is packed so tight it makes a sardine can look spacious. (After weeks of only rice and beans we jumped on one of these buses to get into the city where the supermarket is.   For an hour and a half we stewed in the pungent smell of too-much-cologne, the sickly sweet stink of cow poo,  and plumes of dust being wind driven though the cracked windows. Aside from the bodies being crammed into the already packed bus, forcing a larger woman to rest her belly on gary's broad shoulders, we were just peachy.  I kept thinking - now this is how to carpool!)
    Even the plants are ridiculously green minded - no pun intended.  The locals cut limbs of a tree to use as fence posts, and within a few months of building the fences, the posts have rooted themselves and start growing into new trees.  Like that Hydra monster from Hercules with the serpent heads that grow into two if you cut one.  The banana trees and platano trees do this too!  I was devastated when a local kid asked if we wanted a bunch of bananas and proceeded to chop down the entire tree.  When I gasped and tried to reprimand him he gave me a quizzical look and pointed to another stump that had a new shoot growing from it.  He goes "they regrow and bring more bananas, no big deal"  this kid was about six by the way,  and wielded a machete like a trained assassin - ripping through coconuts with one clean slice of his blade. 
    This village is eco-friendly in so many  ways, until you walk by one evening as they all set their trash on fire.    Billowing toxic plastic smoke rises to meet your nostrils and make you gag.   Then  once a month guys with huge masks and a motorized spray gun march through town dousing every property with some sort of pesticide.  If they aren't burning the trash, its being tossed out the bus window like a banana peel that will never go away -though  it's hard to say whether trash dotting the landscape is better or worse than its particles being in the air we breathe.
    Another funny nuance is that most of the people here are poor poor poor unless we are talking fireworks or cell phones and then suddenly they  have an endless supply of money.  Or so you would think seeing that day after day fireworks are shot off before it's even dark enough to see or appreciate them - all you get is a phew phew phew and a crackle.    They've been doing this for so long that there is a bird here who mimics the phew phew phew sound - literally sounding just like a firework and he starts to go off every afternoon as well. 
     You know how people drive around in souped up vehicles with outstanding sound systems to play whatever music they deem representative of their life's soundtrack?  Here is no different, except the souped up vehicle is a rusty old bike, a trotting horse, or just their very own feet- and the sound system is reduced to the one inch speakers on a cell phone.  You hear them whizzing by like a mosquito, rocking out to whatever tunes they have on their playlist-  an anthem for their life on the farm, often a reggae tone beat with indecipherable words.    This mismatch of frequencies, slow farm life  to fast flashy music,  plus seeing cell phones in the hands everyone, including toddlers  and the geriatric,  leave you feeling like your just about to wake up from a bizarre dream. 
    Still, as we walk through town in the evenings my heart melts.  It is such a living thriving organism, this community.  The local women meet and sing songs in a big circle at the church- bellowing the words and clapping their hands.  The local kids run around the yard, playing soccer or baseball or just giving chase.  The men sometimes join the songs or meet at a table to play cards.  The work day is hard -  it starts at four am for most - but when it stops the effect is similar to the scene in the Grinch when the Who's  sing their song with love and joy despite being robbed of their Christmas presents and decorations.  
    Seeing their simple lives changed my feelings towards our new living situation.  For the first time in my life, I realized how amazing it has been to always have running water.  To have been able to go to the bathroom in a clean spacious well lit room with a tile floor.  To go to bed without having to walk over dirt or watch out for creepy crawlies.  To have coffee at the push of a button.  
    One afternoon I got chatting with one of the locals  and  came to the understanding that most 1st world problems come from not realizing what we have and not being truly grateful for it.    This local works as a guard and makes $5 a day.  This is normal pay for most of the locals here, if they have a job at all - the majority of this town subsists on farming and fishing alone.  He tells me he is saving to build his house  - to buy concrete bricks and replace the tattered plastic walls.  He talks with gringos often thanks to his job, and is under the impression that life in the states in stressful and complicated.  The wealthy Americans come down to this hotel and complain about their lives back home, apparently not realizing that this poor guy is living on a dirt floor and eating less rice this week so he can buy a concrete brick, to better house his wife and two young daughters. 
    He tells me he is really grateful to have a job and to be able to buy that brick.  He tells me most people in town don't have jobs like his that pay every day.  He tells me he is happy with his life, grateful and content. 
    It really put our world in perspective.  We have so much stuff.  Houses to own or rent, cars to drive, health insurance to cover our illness, restaurants to eat at and the money to indulge in trinkets, gadgets, clothing, and goods.  Our world is one of desires and companies do a good job producing lots of items every month that are to be coveted.  We rarely take the time to appreciate simple miracles like clean running water, electricity, tile and wood floors in our homes,  money to buy food at the supermarket or go out to eat..  These are things we'd all be loathe to live without, and often we take for granted - finding ways to be dissatisfied with so many other aspects in life.  When you start feeling angry or sad with something in your life,  ask yourself if you have food, shelter, and water.   Then remind yourself that there are a lot of people in this world who would gladly trade places with you to have just those three simple things.    I think our lives would be a lot less complicated, a  lot less hateful, a lot less depressing -  if we all started to give thanks to what we already have. 

The key to happiness is awareness. 
    You don't need to abolish desire and live like a monk on a mountain.  But being aware of  your desires and appreciating the ability to work hard or manifest them into being will bring you great joy.   
    What happens is that most of us get our wishes and desires fulfilled everyday - little and big ones- but we focus so intently on the wishes not yet come true instead of seeing the blessings already surrounding us.      When you arrive at your destination without an accident-  be grateful.  When you eat your lunch - be grateful.  When you complete a task - be grateful for the mental and physical health to do so.  Be grateful for your job, your food, your family your friends and all the things in your life.  If you are not standing naked in the middle of a barren desert - you have something to be grateful for.  (even then, you could be grateful that you are alive)

We are so consumed by desires and the feeling of have-not,  we need to shift to embrace both desire and gratitude simultaneously.  I think this would cure much of our worlds insanity....

Moving on -  
    We took a brief trip away from whooville to the wonderful land of right pointbreaks, El Salvador.  For a week we enjoyed an open faced mush burger wave with the crowd of latin american pro surfers all in town for the ALAS Latin pro event.   After weeks at a freight train beachie, it was nice to have a minute to do a turn.   It was fun to see old friends again, and  while getting to the semi -final was nice for me,  it was even nicer to surf a point wave with only 2 others out for those 20 minute heats. 

    We headed back to Nicaragua straight away because the next  surf contest was heading there and arrived to find a delectable swell with better sandbars.   Filming the freesurfs was a nightmare, all the pro kids just getting sick ones left, right and center - and us trying to capture everything that was going down with only one camera.  For the contest,   I made it through a couple of the hardest heats- against the best girls on the Latin pro tour -and won 3rd in the final.  While we were sad to watch our friends pack up and leave the following day, it was nice to actually be able to catch some waves without the contest chaos. 
    Now we're returning to the routine life here.  We upgraded our living situation - moving out of the bat cave and into a beautiful clean spacious place with a kitchen, fridge, toilet, shower and running water. It is only a 20 minute stroll to the beach now, passing through a local community of tipping shacks, a bit of open field, a small papaya farm, and a dash of old world forest with huge gnarled mangrove trees and quite sizable land crabs.  
      Waves have started to degrade again so we are spending more time working on other projects for the time being.  Hopefully the forecasted holiday swell brings something lovely..... happy hollowdays as our good friend suggested....
until next time..

Nicaragua Surf Sessions

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Simple Vegan Tofu Stirfry

Vegan StirFry

1 block tofu
1 bag snap peas or green beans
1 can water chestnuts
3/4 cup shredded carrots
1 small onion
sesame seeds
1/4 -1/2 cup  Soyaki from Trader Joes
2 tbsp oil

1. steam snap peas and carrots 5 mins
2.  stir fry garlic and onion in 2tbsp oil
3.  cube tofu, pan sear 5 min each side or until golden

4. drain snap peas and carrots, add into onion garlic
5.  add water chestnuts and tofu and sesame seeds
6. add soyaki, let simmer 3 mins
7.  enjoy!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Summer Autumn in Rhode Island

danielle ciminero surfing
I lurch onto the freeway  and speed up to just about the limit.   When I look into the rearview mirror I see a guy in a van with a cig hanging out of his mouth and he's flipping me the bird. 
     "Gosh these new england folk are ornery!" I start to think. 
    As he passes by I look again in my mirror and realize that there is no one else on the freeway.  I had pretty much cut this guy off. I took a deep breath and let the realization settle that I was now in Rhode Island and there was no need to rush things.  There is no traffic here, not in South County anyway- unlike in Southern California where the only way to get on the freeway is to cut off at least ten other cars.  Here in RI  there is no need to rush out in front of others when entering a road space, just wait for them to pass and you'll probably have a 20 minute gap before the next car comes along.  
    I carried on along the freeway only to be harassed by the gas light pinging on.   Realizing I needed to go the opposite direction to reach the gas station, I pulled off the freeway and began looking for an onramp going the other way.    Now if your from RI - stop laughing.  And for the rest of you - in Rhode Island  you don't have to get off the freeway to go the opposite direction, we have turnarounds in the middle of the highway for that purpose. Imagine the kind of disasters that would come of those turnarounds somewhere else?  Five hundred car pile-ups all the time.  Needless to say after about five minutes I realized what an idiot I was and got back on the freeway to use the turnaround. 
     Finally gassed up and ready to go I passed through town like a sight seeing tourist. I never noticed how dollhouse like most of this area is -with its eclectic shops, boutiques, galleries, restaurants, fire department, police brigade, town hall, and vegetable stands.  Cozy plots of land with lovely farmhouses boast huge fields filled with corn, cows, goats, horses, christmas trees,  or just the rolling expanse of plush green grass.  Most of the roads are like a roller coaster for old people- with their twists, turns, dips, and rises along the majestic rows of deciduous and pine trees.  
    And for a surfer, the coastal set ups are incredible.  Rhode Island has such a vast variety of wave types it would boggle your mind.  We have pristine beach breaks, cobblestone reefs, point breaks, jetty waves, and  even some mysto slabs.   The set ups are all there, but what we don't have much of is swell. 
    If someone stuck a wave machine off the coast I'd move back in a heart beat.  The winters here are brutal, and the summers crowded with beach going tourists - but with consistent swell this would be quite the dreamy place to live. You'd have your pick of a couple dozen different waves in a thirty minute drive. 
    Sadly this is not the case.  Say the word "swell" to an RI surfer and we're likely to wet our pants.  I only come back for visits now, but I still get dizzy with excitement when I see a blob of green yellow and red moving up the coast on the NOAA charts.    
    This trip started off with its typical Lazy summer ocean attitude, but the Atlantic awoke for a few really fun sessions as September got underway.   Seeing the ocean transform from lake-flat to head high seems like a miracle. Hundreds of people were missing from their desks at work and school those days.  They could be found at the beach lathering up in sunscreen, pulling on their rubber suits and surfing until their arms felt like spaghetti and their friends hoisted them into their cars for a quick nap.   
        I'm seeing sixty-five year olds dive into wetsuits with the finesse and enthusiasm of a gold medal gymnast.  People that don't surf for weeks or even months at a time will have marathon surf sessions while there is swell in the water.  Most end up with major wetsuit rashes (most people don't bother to get one of the nice new suits on the market, they have the same suit they did 5 years ago  since they haven't been able to use it much) And surely their non-surfing family and friends are curious of their new appetites, watching them pile in more food in one sitting than a tribe of teenage boys consume in a week.
     People literally will arrive at 4am and not leave the beach until after dark.  The parking lots of every surf spot are full, with cars overflowing and parking illegally left right and center.  Not caring that the ticket left on their windshield will cost about $25,  they swarm to the lineups - which are equally crowded. 
    One of those days I paddled out in a group of about twenty people, expecting a tense angry environment, only to hear bellowing laughter and chattering coming from every which way.   My parents always told me that if you frown your face would freeze like that, but they never mentioned that smiles can freeze on your face too.  There was so much joy being passed around I started to wonder if everyone had hit the peace pipe before paddling out.   Nah, they were all too energetic for that - acting like grommets at a birthday party.  It must've been the waves- just giving everyone a natural high..  
    All I can say is that coming back taught me a few important lessons in slowing down and really taking in the moment.   I was supposed to go to a couple ASP events in Europe for the last weeks of September and when everything fell apart last minute I was really bummed.  I worked really hard to get it all together and it just wasn't in the cards.    But now I am plotting my next move and sucking in the Autumn days. The temperature is dropping,  we're now waking up to 35 degree mornings and tidbits of frost gathering on the windshield...  Damn little threatening pin pricks they are. At least the trees are all changing outfits and the outcome is stupendous - bright oranges, reds and yellows fluttering in the wind. 
    The feeling of riding a wave lingers in the shadows of my memory the way a word will hang on the tip of your tongue - tormenting you as you try to pull it from the depths of your mind and speak it aloud.  Just like you would carry this tip-of-the-tongue notion around with you until you found the word -  I am wandering the streets of Rhode Island searching for a feeling I can just barely remember.
    Instead of focusing on it,  I notice the pumpkins being displayed on every farm stand, complete with hayride tractors enticing the children to beg their parents for a fun weekend at the farm picking their jack-o-lanterns, sipping fresh apple cider, and riding around on bales of hay.  There is a sweet melancholy here, the locals winding down from a fun filled hot sticky summer,  trying to suck in the last of the delicious fall weather and colors before winter strikes, leaving the trees bare and the air bitter.
     Those cold months do have their perks, though.  Nor'easter's push around the ocean and send some waves our way,  with frigid biting air and thirty degree water mind you.  That reminds me... I  have an escape plan to hatch.
Until next time....

arts n crafts

Rhode Island Summer Surfing

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Vegan Pizzalicious

excited for the break from eating rice and beans, we opted to make pizza while visiting family! 

yummy vegan pizza 1. boil carrots + zucchini 3 to  5 mins
2. Stirfry onion, garlic, peppers with 2 tsbp oil on med high
3. Stretch pizza dough out on 2  nonstick cookie sheets
4. Set oven to 450 – put dough in – set timer to 10min
5. Strain carrots + zuccini, add to frying pan.
6. Cutup tofurky sausages, add to frying pan.
7.Pour  ¼ cup of pasta sauce,  1 tsp  
 mrs. Dash, and 3 tbsp nutritional yeast.
  Add sliced olives if desired
8. Pull out dough from oven, spread sauce, put back in and cook 10-15 min until  bottom is light tan
 9. Spoon stirfry over pizza crusts, cook 10-15 min or until bottom is golden brown.   Let cool 5 min + Enjoy!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Finding Bliss in Chaos

Competitive surfing has radically shifted my approach to meditation and calming the mind.  It is fairly easy to sit on a mat, clear the mind and  focus on breathing. To be fully present.  But when you arrive at a surf contest, it is craziness.  Aside from the aggressive competitors,  there is often a huge bustling audience,  music blaring on  loud speakers, an announcer reeling off scores and manuevers being done, and judges picking apart your every action.  Focus become difficult, performance becomes difficult. 
   But I realized that is the greatest part about competitive surfing,  it challenges the balance. Of course it is going to be easy to quiet the mind in an empty lineup,  to live in joy on a secluded island.  But that is not reality for most of us. 
    We live in world of crazy,  and it is more important to find the joy amidst it so that even in the worst moment of your life,  you can retreat into your own serenity.   Practice is key.   When confronted an unappealing situation,  make sure the first thing you do is refocus on your breathing, on how your body feels, on the colors surrounding you.  Refocus on the basic elements.  Appreciate them.  Appreciate the craziness.  Think about the infinite galaxy of stars and our fleeting place among it.    When you return to confront the moment,  perhaps you can do so in mindful mellowness.
    The crazy isn't going anywhere, so we need to learn to embrace it and perhaps even laugh a little. 

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Summer Time In Southern California is crazy...

danielle ciminero surfing

 There are a million things to do and twenty million people doing them. All At The Same Time.   Bumper to bumper traffic isn't restricted to freeways at this fine time of year, it spills over onto parking lots, beaches, lakes, walk ways, restaurants and stores.   It seems as if the whole of southern california gets the summer off, not just the kids.    
    Suburbs twenty miles inland of the coast become an insufferable desert -  reaching temps of 110 on a regular basis. Meaning that people who normally would care less about the beach are now piling their friends, brothers, sisters, moms, dads, grandparents, and pets in the car for a trip to the ocean to cool off.   Umbrella to umbrella, people sardine themselves in on the sandy beaches and shady grass areas.    The beachside vendors are rather lovin' it.
         With so many wonderful Summery activities on hand, you'd think that it would spread things out - go on a walk, bikeride, skateboard, rollerblade,  get some food, lay out on the beach, take a dip, learn to surf, cruise a kayak, paddle a sup, etc.    But, no matter where you go or what you do it feels as if you are a Siamese twin with about 35 people- hip to hip, shoulder to shoulder.  If you can stomach it, a trip to the deserted inland desert will be quite a relief from the people-heat-wave plaguing the coastal areas. 
    Considering it was the height of summer, we did actually score some fun waves during our San Diego visit.   Sometimes outrageously crowded and often only knee high and mushy-  but compared to my lake like hometown on the east coast,  it treated us pretty well.  The only surfable spots during our stay were in Oceanside and Trestles, with a handful of days to be had at Blacks. 
    Because of the Oceanside Women's surf event we spent many days surfing by the pier, having to snag waves out from the other eighty pro surfer girls in the lineup training for the event.
    The event came and went in a flash - I passed my first round with flying colors, only to be dumped off the band wagon in round two.    Looking back on the videos, a bit of under/ overscoring went down.  But alas,  this is a truth I know - if you are new and you want to pass multiple heats you have to do it with undeniable flair- unarguably outstanding maneuvers that leaves no one in a position to add or subtract points where they don't belong.  And I didn't do that.  I should've made that heat, but it wasn't a landslide sort of thing so the scales didn't tip in my favor on that round.   We've all seen this happen in heats and you just have to breath it out and train harder so that next time you can do something incredible and have no one guessing who wins and who loses. 
    I've been doing contests for 6 months now and I had to remind myself  that I need to be patient with myself while I learn the ropes.  I learned two hugely valuable lessons from the past two events. and while I'd like to be making the finals straight away, I'm stoked to at least be passing rounds in first place.
    After the event, we got to spend some really nice time with gary's parents (the original reason for the trip)  - cooking delicious vegan meals and talking walks on the big soccer field at the school next door.  We squeezed in as much surfing as possible and before we knew it the next flight was wheels up and we were headed East for a little how-do-ya-do to my family.

Summer Surf in San Diego

Taco Salad vegan style!

 quick and easy meal we love to make when visiting family! 

1. soak 1 cup tvp (textured vegetable protein)  in warm water for 5 min.
2. fry 1/2 onion and 2 cloves garlic in 1 tbsp oil until golden
3.  strain tvp, add to frying pan
4. season with 1tbsp soy sauce, 2tbsp taco mix + 3 tbsp salsa
5.  serve over lettuce,with tomato, green onion, and flax seed chips

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Windy Wonderful Peru

danielle ciminero surfing ASP Womens Star Peru
Her legs were contorted and cramped in such an ugly way it was hard to look.  Dehydration had taken over and shapes were starting to form where there was none thanks to the extreme fatigue pushing through her system. Who knew flying to Peru could feel like this?
    Thankfully the stewardess refilled my water glass just in time to save me from shriveling up.  I politely asked everyone in my row to get out so I could walk the aisle and regain control of my limbs. As the pins and needles exploded throughout my body I thought Boy do long flights suck.  We flew Taca this round, which is an airline I really appreciate; with inflight entertainment, really friendly crew, cheap board bag fees, and food. But time still crawled
    Twenty four hours later, after dragging ourselves in and out of four airports and through customs, we arrive in the little northern sun spot of Piura, Peru. Blinking hard as we emerged from the airport into the bright shining sun,  I spotted the guy I had emailed to pick us up.   (If you ever need a ride from Piura to Lobitos or a nearby spot hit him up- he's cheap and a chiller and plays good music the whole ride in :    
    We loaded the boardbag on top and clambored into the car with the awkwardness of a giraffe on steroids.  He must have been thinking, there is no way this girl can stand on a surfboard.  The two hour trip from Piura to Lobitos was like a fragmented dream; as I passed in an out of consciousness with my head swaying to and fro- waking with a jerk as most people do when their neck looses touch with their brain and drops their head to meet their chest.  Each time I peeled open my crusted eyes the landscape before me gave me a start.  Un ending throes of desert with barely a sprinkle of shrubs - of which only a handful showed any notion of being alive with  tattered green leaves, the rest showing barren branches that had caught plastic bags from blowing in the wind.  Our driver must've seen my astonishment, because he smiled brightly and said " This is very green in our summer!"      I could only smile back in amazement that the desert could suddenly sprout enough shrubs to be considered 'very green' . 
    Since I dozed much of the ride and I didn't suppose any elephants were really in Peru, I asked Gary if the landscape had ever changed from the desertous dustbowl. He faithfully report back that indeed there were pockets of lush tropical forest around the rivers and a few stretches of rice paddies.  That's when I realized maybe I did see an elephant out there somewhere, though it may not have been pink. 
    As we tore on through the landscape, the pavement would periodically end and give us nice long stretches of mind numbing dirt to trek across.  Lobitos came upon us like a turtle in the wind,  and we wound through the little pueblo with curious eyes and hungry bellies.  We managed to chance upon a really great place to stay, and at a pretty good price, called Surf Natural.  Considering we had no reservations and it was a few days before the ASP Women's event,  getting a room right away was quite nice.  Despite the fact we had to sleep in bunk beds,  it was a simple little abode we greatly appreciated.  Curiously, the beds came with a thick wool blanket and the room had no fan. I shook my head in disbelief because the forecast called for 72 all week. 
    We dumped our stuff in the room, mixed some cold instant coffee into our travel mugs and forced one foot in front of the other all the way down to the point.  Lobitos is a fairly famous left hand pointbreak in the surf world, but like all places it needed some swell. Our first day there was barely more than a dribbling one foot high wave, occupied by an army of aggro chicks and travelers. 
    A fellow traveler gave us a tip that there were two other surf spots within walking distance, so we walked.  Luckily one of the spots had a great lookout and we could see tiny specks cruising along on something substantially better looking - maybe chest high waves?  Hustling down there my senses came alive and picked up on a few things that would become incessant during our stay.
     First was the wind.  It blew so hard offshore,  so fiercely as if it wanted to sweep you away to Ecuador and beyond,  that its presence often made me feel unwelcome.  It kicked up the dry sand in your eyes, mouth and ears, battered your board so hard that we both obtained minor shoulder injuries from holding and fighting against it.  It also sent the lip of the wave the wrong direction and changes how you approach surfing.  I'm fairly certain that is the same wind Mary Poppins used to fly away on.
    Then the oil rigs -  huge platforms offshore, and strange devices onshore the let off a puttering noise like an old car that has, ironically enough, run out of gas. The ones onshore made the swinging motion of a desktop toy bird that dips its head to and fro - It was just as mesmerizing to watch.  The offshore rigs looked like a crazy mash of erector set that a kid put together. 
    Although I'm uncertain of their official purpose, there were massive cylindrical buildings in the distance that sounded as if they were huge clothes dryers that someone put a pair of sneakers in. Lots of redundant clatter. 
     Occasionally, thanks to these machines, in between whiffs of salty sea air you'd get a good sniff of some  gas leak and start to feel a wee bit woozy.  Ignoring all of this we wobbled back to our room, got boards and weaved the cliffs to the southern point break to have our first surf in Peru.  
    With a super easy paddle out by the rocks, we were blessed with a mid morning line up of only 3 others.  It was about 11am.  Our flight had landed at 8am that same morning and boy did I feel that twenty four hour trip in my bones.  But we made the most of the shoulder high waves until the crowd finished lunch and started heading back down the beach to take over the lineup
    By the time we returned to our room, forty minutes of wind whipped walking later, exhaustion  sent us straight to bed for the night.  Sometime around midnight I pulled the blankets up around me with a little shiver and thought ' geez locals sure do know best' - the temperature must've dropped to somewhere in the forties.  The wind was howling outside like a lost child and I found our first night to be eerie and filled with odd dreams.
           Aside from being a surf destination, Lobitos is a fishing village, formerly a thriving one. There are still boats shoving off in the early hours to make their catch, but many of the old derelicts lay strewn across the sand awaiting a better year.  Many of the houses by the pier (where all the boats dock) have been abandoned and are crumbling back into dust.   Compared to the small panga's I'm used to seeing used in Central America, these fishing boats were enormous- made of wooden planks and looking a lot like an old fashioned children's toy with their colorful decorations.  Now it seems that the oil rigs have everything to do with the fact that the families seem well fed and happy - though I have no idea what the environmental implications are of living on top of an oil drilling site.  Maybe that's why the weird dreams were happening...
    The following days we spent fighting the wind to walk south and surf that same point, keeping us away from the crowd.The wind kicked up such torrents of sand, we'd come back in and Raven (our dog) would be built up like a sandcastle from having laid in one spot.
    Before we could establish a good routine the contest days crept up on us.  Being my maiden voyage to the ASP women's qualifying series, I suppose I couldn't possibly have expected the level of aggression and poor etiquette that these girls carry from continent to continent.  The lineup was general mayham anyhow- thanks to the event drawing in 60 girls, plus organizers, any poor traveller who happened to be in town (about another 40), the 20 locals, and the rest of Peru that came to watch.    It's actually amazing that at any given time there were only 50 in the lineup, when there were so many surfers in town.  (having two other points within walking distance helped)
    Regardless,  I am sad to report that most of the girls have little or no etiquette - not only paddling around everyone, but also burning and snaking people left right and center.  For the most part, I could never sit at the top because you'd have at least fifteen chicks aggressively paddling around you, and another 30 people who were quite miffed at not getting any waves or having the girls straight up snake them and do turns back into them until they fell off their boards.   Not cool. I felt bad for the general people out there, most of the girls made every day that week hectic and aggravating.  Instead of join in the party, I just manifested my own fun waves here and there down the peak, tried to give a few away to desperate looking souls, and tried to smile. 
         I kept thinking how the companies who sponsor them should make them rock a sticker that says 'how's my etiquette?' with an phone and ID # - like drivers do on trucks.  If I were the people being burned and paddled around and scowled at - I'm pretty sure I wouldn't buy from the company whose sticker was on the board of the offender.  Because then I'd being pay that twits salary. No thanks. 
    So moving on - I made my first heat of the event,  not so much with good style but I was stoked to pass through and win the heat.  The second day,  I had my first experience with being 'marked' - which is most unfun.  Essentially one of the girls decided I was a threat and paddled around and around me, underneath and over me, in an effort to keep me from catching waves.  And it worked.  I'm had never experienced this and I actually didn't expect it to happen to me, just a nobody, my first event on the ASP women's star.   I was marked by a pretty well seasoned chick no less.  I guess I should be honored that she thought I was a threat, but honestly all I could think was what a snot. 
    It demonstrated exactly what is wrong in the industry and the world. It would be the equivalent of a competitor stealing your golf ball before you strike it towards the green.  Or someone pushing you from the stage at a  dance off-  you don't head butt the other person off the stage because your afraid they'll dance better than you.  You get yours when the time comes and show the world what you've got.   No Me Gusta.   The point of surf contests is to demonstrate excellent surfing.  The ASP reduced the number of waves scored from 3 to 2 in an effort to emphasize the "excellent" part.  To get surfers to focus on the quality of their surfing. 
      Instead of going out there and seeing who surfed best in that heat,  this girl decided to swarm me with flutter kicks and fierce glares, faking me out on take offs, paddling under me right as I went to get up so I'd have to run her over if I wanted to take the wave.    It sucks that they allow this behavior, it encourages a really bad onslaught of etiquette from everyday surfers,  because they're just reacting to the standard set by the pros.  It's the reason that there are so few smiles and hoots and laughter in line ups.  
    Alas, I had to sprint paddle away from her and caught two smaller waves with 5 minutes left, but you can't win a heat at a point break if your not on the set waves. I suppose I am grateful to have that happen now- as a lesson that with these girls you can have no remorse.  On my honor I promise to never treat anyone in a lineup the way so many of the girls did that week, but when I'm up against them in the heat - I guess it's no more Mr. nice guy. 
    We made the most of the rest of our stay in Lobitos,  hiking north or south to surf.  Unfortunately with the event running and a super south swell washing out the southern wave,  it consolidated everyone to one point break that you could jump rocks straight to the top of the lineup. Mayham is a bit of an understatement.
     Our leave day came, and feeling wind battered and sand blown, we loaded in the car and started the twenty four hour trip to san diego -  visit the family and get ready for the ASP Oceanside event- the SuperGirl Pro.  Onward and Upward!

Peru Surfing

( the second song we heard nearly everytime someone pulled up to check the waves and therefore thought it necessary to include to fully describe our stay.  beware, youll never get it out of your head once you listen to it, so listen at your own risk!  )

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Grilled Veggies

Amazing Grilled Veggies
1 sweet potato
1 onion
4 roma tomatos or 1 box plum tomatos
2 zuccini
2 yellow squash
1 eggplant medium size

balsamic vinegar
4 tbsp olive oil
salt + pepper
chili flakes (if you like spice)

1.  chop up all veggies
2.  preheat oven to 350  or turn on grill
3.  put in a metal or aluminum container
4. drizzle oil over top
5.  mix well
6.  put in oven  or on grill   for 1 hr,  stirring in salt, pepper, and balsamic after 30 minutes.
7.  take out of oven / grill and let cool 10 minutes.   Enjoy!  

tip: if you want to add protein, just put in a cup of rinsed white beans or chickpeas at the 30 minute mark too! 

Friday, June 8, 2012

Beachbreak, Bug bites, and Fireflies, Oh My!

danielle ciminero surfing costa rica
    Each step took a severe amount of focus, the sun had set nearly thirty minutes ago and the last light of day dissipated rapidly as tendrils of darkness wove around me.  It wouldn't have bothered me so much if I weren't in the middle of a mangrove swamp stumbling along a board walk so old that climbing across the swaying trees might have been safer. The wood slats had decayed with such severity they bent in every which way. It felt like a Mario Cart track with the pieces coming unstuck and falling with a Plop into the muck beneath.  Fifteen minutes later I wearily waddled off the bridge and onto sacred solid ground.    
    Darkness had truly set in now, but before I could whinge about it the path lit up with a series of dazzling flashes. Lightning bugs!  Never had I seen so many clustered together over such a long stretch of land- the exploded like tiny fireworks all around me. For the next fifteen minutes earth had a little less gravity as I meandered through this galaxy of fireflies to my room. 
    When I reached my humble abode hunger set in with rampant magnitude.  After devouring a bowl of rice and beans I collected a cup of gritty cowboy coffee and plopped in front of the computer for a few hours of work.
     Rainy season had begun to rear its head in Costa Rica, and with two surf comps coming up on the Guanacaste it was time to leave behind the big Hermosa dumpers.  This time of year brings large south swells that sweep through Playa Hermosa with a fierce rage.  A few boards are broken daily and the truth is only a handful of the waves are worth the potential sacrifice. Most of them are just big ol' closeouts.  (Though the ones that are worth it, are really worth it)
    Onward and upward we went to a stretch of coastline I hadn't yet had the opportunity of exploring. A place famed for its offshore winds, white sand, pristine blue water, and dirt roads.   No one ever mentioned the bugs. Swat. Splatter. Scratch. Scratch, Scratch.  (Someone should have really mentioned the bugs)  Anyway....
    If we hadn't started the journey from Hermosa at nine pm it's possible we wouldn't have ended up in a river bed around midnight some where off one of the zillion dirt roads winding the Nicoya Peninsula.  What used to be our shortcut to the coast had become part of one of Costa Rica's many temper riddled rivers. It had been raining giraffes and hippos for a few days, something we failed to give thought until we were staring at a waist deep water flow.  A lovely extra two hours on another dirt road, one so demented by potholes I almost lost my dinner, and we arrived at the coast.  Still being one hour from the contest site, we decided to pull over and take a nap.  (Just for the record, there are NO shortcuts in Costa Rica. Ever.  Find the longest route possible to your destination and take that, for you'll surely get there quicker than any 'shortcut')
    Awakening to the sound of a large gorilla growling in your face can be a bit unnerving if you're not familiar with the howler monkeys of Costa Rica. They are quite small actually, but their vocal chords lend a notion that something the size of King Kong has come to eat you for breakfast.  Groaning at the inconvenience of having slept for only 3 hours, I awkwardly forced my feet beneath me and got the girls moving.  We arrived at the contest site a little late, but with enough time to suck down some coffee before the first heats.   
    Surf comps are normally long hot days in the sun - and sometimes you luck out and get to surf really fun waves with only two or three others in the water.   On this particular day the beach was onslaughted by windy storm surf - nauseating to watch while sleep deprived. 
     Most of the day passed in a blur, with the contest horn blaring every 15 minutes and flashes of orange, green, yellow, and red rashgaurds being traded between competitors.  At some point after dark I was called on stage and deliriously accepted a trophy and free surfboard.  It took a few minutes for the win to sink in. My brain kept going - hooray! sleep hooray! sleep.  Sleep finally won.
    For the next few days we posted up on a super special stretch of beach - with a left point break, beachie, a frame, and right point break all along a fifteen minute stroll. This is where you found me wandering the eerie boardwalk and being dazzled by fireflies.
     Day one was really gosh darn fun- a little overhead with minimal crowd- followed by an east coast like flat spell. (Well maybe not quite that flat)  Too soon, another surf comp corralled us onto the pothole riddled dirt nightmare. We spent two hours bumbling by cows grazing in lime green pastures, locals huffing it on bikes (more like three locals on one bike), and the occasional chicken crossing the road. 
    Like a desert oasis, the next stretch of beach break looked rather dreamy with its peeling waves and light offshore winds.  With reggae tone blaring on the stereo in true Costa Rican contest style, I lavished in the light cloud cover, a treat you come to appreciate after days in the scorching sun, and caught a few fun ones for three heats in a row. 
    Winning again that day paled in comparison to the stoke I got filming these two groms, ages four and two, racing toward the shore with boogie board and finless surfboard in tow, so positively excited they wiggled and wriggled all the way to the waters edge.  With the "grown up" stuff in life cluttering and clouding our vision - the beautiful art of Just Surfing can disappear.  And with crowds, conditions, performance, etc taking the stage we forget how amazing it feels to just ride along a wave and be a part of its energy.  We forget how blessed we are to even have the opportunity to ride waves and be near the ocean. How pure and fun and simple it is - how life should be.   Those groms spent the next few hours in pure joy - a joy I hope  to one day find a way to share with everyone - surfers and non-surfers alike. 
    Life doesn't often dole out second chances, but as the sun set I noticed the bushes went ablaze in a familiar light show.  Fireflies!   This time, instead of hurrying back to my work station I slowly drifted along the paths laughing in the glory of being surrounded by this galaxy of bugs once again.  I reached out my arms, soaking up every moment as if I were a child playing in the fields of summer.  
    Once I arrived at the room I still had to plop in front of the computer for a long night of work, but I did so with a rejuvenated energy that inspired me to do the tasks with ardor instead of moderate resentment.  
    Those groms were a powerful lesson in enjoying the pure moments when they arrive, and using the joy to get us through the dullness that can come with being a grown up.
With so much to learn, I am off to see the Wizard....
Till next time,
Pura Vida ~ Danielle

(check back soon for this Blog VIDEO!)

art n crafts

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Vegan Pot Pie

 Vegan Pot Pie

1 block tofu
1/2 cup nutritional yeast (savory yeast, not dough yeast)
1/4 cup soymilk
4 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion
2 cloves garlic
1.5 cups broccoli
2 medium zuccinis
1tsp salt + pepper to taste

1.  steam broccoli 10 min, add zuccini for 5 min
2. chop onion + garlic,  add to large frying pan with 2 tbsp oil on medium high until golden
3. cut tofu into chunks, add to large frying pan with 2tbsp oil until golden brown
4.  strain broccoli and zuccini, add to onions and garlic
5.  pour soymilk and nutritional yeast over tofu, cook down 1 minute
6.  mix all ingredients together, add salt + pepper
7.  take the shell out of the pie pan, add veggie tofu mixture, put shell back on top
8.  broil on middle shelf for 3-4 mins (until pie shell is golden brown)
9.  let cool 5 mins, enjoy!

Friday, April 27, 2012

cruise control in costa rica

danielle ciminero surfing costa rica
after the quick jaunt home to visit family and put on a little art show, we headed back to costa to resume the routine....

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Spring Time in RI

its been a busy few weeks so check back soon for some updates and what not.  these are a few spring shots from a short trip i took to RI to see my brother come back from afganistan and visit my family.

      by Oriah Mountain Dreamer

It doesn't interest me what you do for a living
I want to know what you ache for
and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart's longing.

It doesn't interest me how old you are
I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool
for love
for your dreams
for the adventure of being alive.

It doesn't interest me what planets are squaring your moon...
I want to know if you have touched the center of your own sorrow
if you have been opened by life's betrayals
or have become shrivelled and closed
from fear of further pain.

I want to know if you can sit with pain
mine or your own
without moving to hide it
or fade it
or fix it.

I want to know if you can be with joy
mine or your own 

 if you can dance with wildness and let the ecstasy fill you to the tips of your fingers and toes
without cautioning us to
be careful
be realistic
to remember the limitations of being human.

It doesn't interest me if the story you are telling me
is true.
I want to know if you can
disappoint another
to be true to yourself.

If you can bear the accusation of betrayal
and not betray your own soul.
If you can be faithless
and therefore trustworthy

I want to know 
if you can see Beauty
even when it is not pretty
every day.
And if you can source your own life
from its presence.

 I want to know if you can live with failure
yours and mine
and still stand on the edge of the lake
and shout to the silver of the full moon,

 It doesn't interest me
to know where you live or how much money you have.
I want to know if you can get up after a night of grief and despair weary and bruised to the bone and do what needs to be done to feed the children. 

It doesn't interest me who you know
or how you came to be here.
I want to know if you will stand
in the center of the fire
with me
and not shrink back.

It doesn't interest me where or what or with whom
you have studied.
I want to know what sustains you
from the inside
when all else falls away.

I want to know if you can be alone
with yourself
and if you truly like the company you keep
in the empty moments.