Advice, Ideas, Inspiration, Life, Random Thoughts, Self Reflection, Short Story

The Choice

It was one of those mornings…

The sun was sneaking its head above the fog. A lone car could be heard reducing its speed at an unseen stop sign then slowly accelerating down an unknown street.

Pure beauty. It was peaceful, it was quiet, it was… 



It was ghostly silent.

A morning scene had just been converted into a messy crime scene. Harmony was upended. Order was overthrown. The smell of chaos and citrus lingered in the air.

The victim was an innocent kitchen floor. 

A clean blue-tiled floor once occupied this house. What remained was now a soupy coalescence of orange juice, fruit, and leafy greens. The plastic cup that once protected the ingredients of the supposed breakfast was laying motionless on the floor. Standing above the destruction I could feel the smooth plastic lid of the blender gripped tightly between my fingers. It could have been a few seconds of standing there or possibly an eternity as I blinked in silence. 

Perhaps I wasn’t silent. Perhaps a few four-letter words escaped my tongue almost as quickly as the smoothie’s contents dove from the countertop and crashed onto the surface beneath my feet. 

It was supposed to be a healthy morning consisting of daily servings of fruits and veggies mixed with positive energy but inside I felt an unhealthy amount of stress. I could feel the volcano inside of my consciousness starting to boil. The magma was there and it was ready to explode, wreaking more havoc to a landscape that was already in a state of disrepair. 

I wanted to do a lot of things at that moment. I was furious, I was sad, I was thirsty. More than anything I just wanted the satisfaction of creating a smoothie. 

Why me? was the first thought that flashed to mind. Why did this happen to me? For a moment the world felt over to me. I was done with planet Earth and ready to move to Mars. I paused, took a few deep breathes, my eyes feeling watery, and then I asked a different set of questions to myself. 


Why did this happen? 

I pressed the lid too firmly onto the plastic cup. And why did I press too firmly? I wasn’t paying attention. My mind was somewhere else, thinking of everything on the planet but the smoothie. Heck, I was already planning my day for after the smoothie. It wasn’t the lid’s fault, not the ingredients, and not the chirping birds outside. It was an open and shut case of user error. 

Standing alone in the kitchen, I didn’t have a smoothie or clean shoes. I felt empty inside my belly and in my heart. Abruptly, however, out of the wreckage and vitamin-infused debris of an experiment gone wrong, something emerged in what at first appeared to be nothing. 

In this morning of utter failure, I actually did have something: 

A choice

This was a moment for me to make a choice, which could either benefit or severely hinder the day. The options felt clear: I could say yes to the internal magma and have a loud and even more destructive tantrum. I could walk away, avoiding the problem at hand. I could give in to the urge to call my mom and ask for help. Or, gulp, I could remain calm, clean up this filthy mess, and ask myself one more question:  

What is this moment teaching me right now? 

I was feeling so tempted to scream but let out an aggressive exhale instead. Three or five more breaths followed almost automatically.

Nothing I did could put the juice back into the blender. The deed was done, the past was now history, and what remained was how I wanted the future to look like. I lost my power to make breakfast, but I still had the power to control my emotions. I grabbed some paper towels, collecting the strawberries and banana slices. 

What was this teaching me?

I needed to be present, to pay attention, to be in the now. I wasn’t appreciating what was in front of me. 

Many years ago I took a yoga class and the instructor kept saying the same mantra: “How you do one thing, is how you do everything.”

I felt like she was exaggerating at the time but as I grew older I began to agree with her statement. This morning felt like her words we being tattooed onto my brain. The way I made breakfast this morning was the same way I brushed my teeth, the same way I talked to people on the phone sometimes, and the same way I drove a car. I wasn’t fully there. Part of me has always been somewhere else. 

My stomach was growling but my mind felt full. Wow, I thought to myself, did I just freaking learn something at 8am on a Tuesday? Heck yeah!

The day would turn out alright.

Long story short: 

In 2022 I want to feel more present in everything I do, in every interaction I have, and to more fully appreciate who I’m with. I will also try to not be so hard on myself when I make mistakes and keep remembering that everything has a silver lining. What I mean is, there is something positive we can create out of moments that appear dark (aka moments when our smoothie decorates the floor).

Thank you for reading. I sincerely hope you had a great 2021 and start the New Year in amazing fashion. If 2021 wasn’t what you wanted, then I’m sure you grew a lot and learned a great deal about yourself so that is something really positive. 

Take care and much love!


P.S. If you believe in NY resolutions, what are yours for 2022?

Ideas, Life

Pizza Pies in the Sky

Once upon a time, my uncle and I got dinner at a pizzeria.

The details of this gathering aren’t very clear in my memory. Perhaps it was a dinner in Novato but I don’t recall the name of the restaurant. I was still in high school so I enjoyed a few cokes to pare with the pie’s marinera sauce.

There wasn’t a special reason why Uncle Richard, and my mom, and I decided to get together. We just wanted to do what family does once in a while and be in each other’s presence. It was casual but at the same time one of the rare moments when the three of us were together.

It wasn’t anything more than a dinner but we held this event in very high regard.

For years Uncle Richard and I talked about getting pizza again. “Let’s get pizza again soon” is how we’d close many a holiday card. The topic of pizza was in birthday cards, holiday cards, and random phone calls that we’d have. Getting a pizza with Uncle Richard was on my mom’s and my to-do list for years. We kept on saying that We need to go visit Uncle Richard or we should try to organize another pizza dinner with him.

Richard didn’t live that far away (about 2 hours) yet finding an appropriate time to see him seemed to evade us. It became a mirage that we could see in the horizon but it didn’t materialize. It was no one’s fault; I was either living out of the state or working a job that didn’t sync with my mom’s schedule. Richard had his own life with a new family (remarried) and never visited the Bay Area.

I knew I could pick up the phone and call him, but just never got around to it.

Until one day, recently, I did.

About two months ago I grabbed my phone with the intention of talking to my uncle. The pandemic was a good excuse to give him a ring and I had been meaning to check in with him. Maybe this would be the moment to set up another pizza date, even if outdoors and donning masks.

I hit call on my phone’s screen. An automated voice came on the line:

“We’re sorry, you have reached a number that has been disconnected or no longer in service.”

I blinked.

I checked and re-checked the area code then tried a few more times. I asked my mom if she had the same number after the same message echoed into my ears multiple times.

“We’re sorry….”

She had the same number saved on her phone. We drew the conclusion that he had changed his number. I sent him an email for good measure but it didn’t wipe away the internal monologue: Why would Uncle Richard change his number and not tell us? Was he fed up we never got pizza?

He was on my mind for a few days, until eventually I got caught up with my own things and slowly the curiosity began to fade.

Life returned to what it was, until one day my mom called me with some news:

Uncle Richard was in heaven.

He passed away the month prior.

It now made sense why the calls wouldn’t connect and why no one responded to my email.

Apparanetly, he had been ill and didn’t tell many people. My mom found out through our friend Judy, who had been in more contact with Richard than us. As I write this post I’m still not sure what the cause of his passing was.

A void began to grow in my heart. It had been so easy for years to reach him, just a call and a drive away, but not that close for some reason. I wanted to be upset but what was the point? It wouldn’t bring him back. I felt remorse for having taken his close proximity for granted. It could have happened, but everyone was busy so no one was to blame. In the words of an old friend, phones go both ways. He could have tried to make plans but didn’t. It was sad, but that’s the way things go sometimes.

He was a link to my past and my family that I suddenly wanted to connect with. I wanted to ask him why he didn’t have kids or why he loved my Aunt Dee. Why did he want me to become a government courier and what was his childhood like? He was one of the first people to call me “Dan” and his scratchy voice was one of a kind. He loved Ohio State football and enjoyed hosting large parties at his house in Mill Valley. His love of fine spirits became well known by accident when I stumbled upon his stache at my parent’s house when I was a college student (I promised I would restock). He was the only relative besides my parents to still give me money for my birthday last year. I had heard plenty of stories of Uncle Richard, but wish I had heard more of them from him personally.

It made me think about all the people I’ve been meaning to call but haven’t. Maybe it’s time to start.

Thinking of him now, I wonder what advice he’d give me. For some reason I picture him telling me, “Dan, don’t give up on what you love.”

Well, Richard Headapohl, I dedicate this blog post to you. My you rest in peace. I’m doing what I love right now, and that’s writing. See you in the next lifetime, I’ll split the bill and how about we add some olives to the pie this time?




P.S. While I’m on the theme of remembrance: Nancy Mahl, John Falk, Kim Milburn & Marcus V Lobo were friends who passed away during the past year. They will also be missed and their families are in my thoughts.

Asia, Life, Random Thoughts, Short Story, story, Vietnam

Existential Side Conversations

Somewhere in Vietnam in 2019.


“So where do you live?”

It was such a simple question. How could I know that this would open up Pandora’s Box?

I blinked for a what felt like the longest second of my life. 

It was early, too early to hastily register the words being digested into my brain but not early enough to know that the coffee I just drank wasn’t very strong. 

My eyelids were burning, but not from a lack of sleep or a flame dancing in front me. 

Well, a flame was dancing, but it was millions of miles away. 

The sun. Its crimson and blood orange grin pierced into my line of site.

I had happily continued the small talk with this woman from the moment we exited the terminal on foot then stepped onto the transfer bus that would drive us to a resting aircraft. 

It started with a remark I made about her husband’s University of Washington hat, an odd sight to be been in Vietnam. 

The conversation was jovial until she had to ask me where I lived. 

Internally a mental conflict started to sprout. 

I could have simply responded that I lived in California but my heart wouldn’t let me say those words.  

I was too far away from home, already weeks into a trip that didn’t have an ending date, living out of a backpack, under caffeinated, and not in the mood to just continue with the typical flow of conversation. 

The truth of the matter was that in this precise moment in my life I didn’t know when I’d be settling in a place to call home. I just knew that somewhere in Danang there was a hostel bed reserved for me.

The rattle of the shuttle finally jerked the words out of my mouth. 

“Well, ma’am, I guess I don’t really live anywhere.” 

I blinked and she blinked.

Damn. Do I really not live anywhere? When was the last time I felt at “home?” Where is my place in this world? 

The words came out and I felt my face turn red, probably not from the sunshine erupting into my consciousness. She looked at me like suddenly we’d entered a networking event. Maybe this woman who was sitting a few feet away from me was a guidance counselor in a previous phase of life. 

“Well, so what is your….expertise?”

The word expertise rolled out slowly and overly pronounced. Her eyelids narrowed. Her husband offered a soft smile but kept silent. He must have known that this was the wrong lady to strike a casual conversation with. 

I wanted to continue in a slightly sarcastic fashion but already she had struck me deep in my core. 

What the hell am I good at? 

I could have said that I was a college graduate at some point in my life and that I had x experience doing  y and z but once again I stopped myself. Why fluff myself up to a stranger in a bus driving thousands of miles away from what I used to consider a “normal” life? 

“I don’t think I have an expertise yet, I guess I’m still learning what it is.” 

I hoped my travel buddy would interject with a comment but he was smartly listening to music and not paying attention to the conversation. 

A few more words were shared between both sides of the aisle. I couldn’t help but feel sullen. We hadn’t reached the plane yet and already I was feeling a gap of purpose and belonging. 

My mind was circling these concepts so vividly that anything else coming out of the woman’s mouth would have been greeted with the most default answer imaginable just to stop the internal bleeding of my ego. 

“So what do you think about our borders?”

Oh shit. Be full alert Danny. Code red code red.  

The words exited her pierced lips and reverberated in my eardrums. A deluge of tension flooded my senses and soon I didn’t care about not belonging anywhere. 

I just wanted to be somewhere. The airplane, for example, would have been a fantastic place to be but for some reason this damn tarmac happened to be forever long. 

Was it the Vietnamese border she was talking about? California’s border with Oregon? California’s border with Mexico? Nevada? Was it the thin walkway that separated this prying retiree with this overwhelmed and groggy blog author? Did she believe we needed a wall somewhere? 

I wasn’t sure if she was being serious but as I examined her expression I could tell she genuinely wanted my opinion on the matter. She must have mistaken my scruff with Keanu Reeves or someone running for city council. Too bad I was just a thirty-something unshaven backpacker who didn’t know what border she was referring to.

I didn’t ask for clarification and answered in most neurtal and diplomatic way possible.

“..Being in the Bay Area…um…we are very diverse…and uh…we don’t directly see the effects of what’s happening along the border..” 

What the frick did I just say?

She scanned me for a fleeting moment, determining whether my response marked me as friend or foe. I hoped my words were enough to evade any potential tension.

“My granddaughter is a lawyer in Texas…she’s working to help undocumented immigrants…” 

She soon changed the topic and I breathed a sigh of relief.

Whatever missile of awkwardness that was being launched was a dud and the remainder of the conversation reached its organic conclusion once the vehicle’s doors opened upon arrival to the plane. 

We said a brief “good luck” and “good bye” and I mentally crossed fingers to have a seat really far away from theirs. 

She and her husband continued their journey while my friend and I continued ours.

Nearly two years after that morning, part of me still feels the internal monologue during that bus ride: 

What’s my expertise? Where do I belong? 

I’m still going through that process.

In the meantime, a blog post here and there is good medicine for keeping positive.

The biggest difference between me now and then is that now I’m ok with not having everything figured out yet. Life is still pretty damn good.

Have a wonderful day, thanks for reading, and I hope you’re doing what makes you happy.



P.S. Have you experienced any random conversations with strangers during a journey that left a profound effect on you? I’d love to hear about it!

Covid-19, Hacks, Ideas, Life, Random Thoughts

The Universe According to Zoom

It’s 8:25am on a Tuesday and I’m not wearing any pants.

I am wearing boxers and but they shouldn’t be seen in public.

The good news is that I’m indoors – only my fridge can judge me.

The bad news is that in five minutes I’ll have to meet my Spanish teacher for a class.

The disaster is escalating.

I need to put on a pair of pants, brew coffee, and brush my teeth. There’s not enough time to do all three in five minutes so I do what any logical human should do:

Make a pot of that sweet, delicious coffee nectar.

After pouring a cup of Joe, I race to my room, flip open my laptop, then connect to where my teacher hasn’t even started the lesson yet.

Sitting with my coffee, I tried to picture the last time I had to physically arrive to a classroom.

Back in the day (pre-lockdown), most of us had a routine that revolved around leaving our houses.

The world feels considerably different now and the feeling can be increasingly lethargic. Rather than focus our attention towards going out, we now need to stay inside. This is tough but doesn’t signify that our lives are finished. Despite being sheltered in our places, we don’t have to stop doing what made us feel connected.

The wonders of modern technology are here to the rescue.

Warming up to Zoom

unsplash-logoPhoto by Gabriel Benois

If you’d asked me a month ago what Zoom was, I would’ve responded that it was perhaps a pop group from South Korea. Little did I know but this videoconferencing application has nearly become a household name.

I was always a Skype guy so the mere thought of downloading Zoom made me want to shower away the guilt. Since most people I knew were now keeping in touch via Zoom I felt obliged to cross over but this was a rocky voyage. Luckily, the support of my girlfriend and dozens of repetitions of the mantra “Zoom is great, Zoom is better than Skype” led me to finally accept it into my life. I can now admit that Zoom is (gulp) useful.

Thanks to Zoom, Skype, or Google Duo, we can connect to our friends and family circles without the hassle of brushing our teeth.

Additionally, Zoom can also mitigate the yearning to break free of the shelter-in-place which in turn reduces putting ourselves (and loved ones) at risk.

A big reason why I’ve (semi) converted to Zoom is that the majority of hobbies I enjoy can still be done on this particular platform.

Dance Classes

For folks who used to attend weekly dance classes, chances are high that their teachers are now offering lessons online. Before social distancing, I used to frequent Fernanda Cedeno Dance & Fitness in San Rafael. Thankfully, Fernanda, Camillo, & and Jhonatan are teaching their classes on Zoom.


Many gyms across the US such as the YMCA are now providing various workout classes like yoga and zumba on Zoom. As a secondary option, Instagram is swarming with personal trainers and fitness influencers who post easy stay-at-home routines.

Meditation & Yoga

Spirit coaches, healers and life coaches are finding a spike in demand these days. Zoom has become a primary medium for them to lead free or inexpensive meditations. Additionally, a great source for virtual yoga classes is a portal called The Ranch.

School & Beyond

Schools worldwide have closed shuttered their doors and locked away their projectors. Students aren’t off the hook as Zoom has stepped in as an essential tool for teachers to keep the semester rolling. Also, educators who work for now closed private language companies are now offering group or individual classes via Zoom. Verbling is also a valuable resource for private language classes.

Cooking Classes

Expanding our knowledge in the kitchen is a great way to pass the time. A simple search on Bing or Google can yield exciting recipes. For those who desire some guidance, why not book a Zoom class from an interesting source like The Seasoned Chef? Food-centric website Delish also offers cooking classes through their Instagram account. Also, the Tasty Youtube channel is loaded with mouth-watering recipes.


Khuong Nguyen

To my knowledge Zoom or Skype haven’t been used for concerts, but Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube have. Since the outbreak, countless singers, musicians and DJ’s have set up miniature stages in their living rooms to broadcast their music to their fans. A practical source of streaming live music can be found at the Stay at Home Fest website.

Zoom isn’t perfect; various reports of security flaws and data leakage have opaqued this service’s reputation. Because of this, sensitive information should not be shared on Zoom. If you feel uncomfortable about it then here is an interesting article for keeping keeping your Zoom meet-ups secure.

Thank you!

We don’t have a clear idea yet about when this lockdown will be lifted, but at least we have ways to remain occupied and maintain our hobbies.

Thank you for checking this post out! You’ve just spent five glorious minutes of your day reading.

If you’re looking for more to pass the time, here’s an article about staying positive during this situation we’re all in!

Have a wonderful day, and that mask you’re wearing is very becoming. 🙂

Also, if you use Zoom what is your opinion of it? Is it better than Skype?

Take care!

Advice, Hacks, Life

How To Stay Positive During The Coronavirus

Over the past handful of weeks the news, social media, and the majority of conversation topics have been hovering around a now infamous c-word. The taboo word is in the title of this post so we don’t have to repeat it again. Like you, I’m becoming aware of the severity of the issue. I’m not sure how you feel about the matter but inside my mind is overheating from reading, listening, and watching reports about the topic.

Depending on where you live you might already be under a shelter-in-place order, quarantine, or practicing social distancing. Whatever your situation is, we all have felt the effects of the c-word and it’s not making life easier.

On the one hand, this really is unfortunate and I deeply hope that no one who is reading this has gotten sick or knows someone who’s sick. It’s easy to fall into the trap of feeling down then watching the news to get even more depressed about what’s happening.

This being said, there is a positive side to all of this. We will prevail and overcome the challenges that have resulted in trying to “flatten the curve”. Being forced to be at home for an extended period of time as an opportunity to do some things that we’ve neglected, put off, or haven’t ever done before. We must stay positive and a good way to do this is through distraction. Here’s a list of some ideas of things we can do to pass the time while waiting for all of this c-word madness to go away.

Disconnect with Your Roommates

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Most of us don’t live alone. We either live with our parents, roommates or children. Rather than remaining plugged-in during this extended period of time, consider this a chance to connect more with each other. A puzzle, board game, card game, drinking game, cooking, or video game with the whole group will be a fun way to get over the at-home restlessness.

Call a Friend or Loved One

We all probably have at least one good friend or family member who we haven’t spoken to in a while. If we didn’t have much to say before, then here’s a great ice-breaker: Man that c-word really sucks right? Boom! You’ve got a good topic to chat about. Rather than liking a couple of their posts on Instagram or Facebook, I’m sure they would love to hear your voice.

Learn Something New

Photo by JESHOOTS.COM on Unsplash

You said you’ve been wanting to learn Korean since the beginning of the year. Suddenly, with all of this downtime at home, the moment has presented itself to download some nifty apps like Duolingo or Memrise. They are either free or inexpensive so give them a whirl. Additionally, if you’re a cardholder at the local library, then you get free access to every online course for Lynda.

Organize Your House

That lengthy project to shuffle around all of your furniture or throw away expired items in the medicine cabinet makes a lot of sense right now. Also, we have years of memories hidden away either in external hard-drives or floating around in cloud storage. Maybe it’s time to dive in, see what’s all there, and organize them.

Organize Your Life

Organizing life can feel deflating, but it’s worth it!

If you’re like me, your life might be a speeding train that doesn’t have a clear destination. Perhaps you’re overdue to review the goals you’ve set for yourself, create a new ones, or have a deep brainstorming session about them. Whatever you need or want to do, I’m positive that this bonus time will work in your favor.

Get Creative

The next time you visit Safeway (one of the few places allowed to stay open in my area) I highly recommend investing in colored markers, paint brushes, or water colors – if you don’t already have these goods. Creating a work of art, no matter the skill level, is a fantastic stress-reliever. Once you get in a flow, then the hours pass by really quickly. Given the circumstances, I’m sure we all have plenty of inspiration right now.


Photo by Dingzeyu Li on Unsplash

Speaking of flow, practicing or learning to meditate is a pretty awesome tool to help lower anxiety and boost concentration. Taking time between activities to meditate can be a nice little addition to your stay-at-home routine. Spotify has some great free guided meditations and for those interested in paying a little fee per month then Headspace is a nifty app.

Read Something

We all have a book sitting on the shelf that we’ve been meaning to open. Maybe we don’t have any books in our house so we must resort to going online for our literary pleasure. My favorite websites to pass the time (that aren’t news or social media) are: Medium, Culture Trip, Thrillist, Mental Floss, & McSweeney’s Internet Tendency. If you own an e-reader then your local library offers e-books for free and so does Project Gutenberg. There’s also a pretty cool blog called There Dan Was that critics are raving about as well. 😉

Write Something

Another source of creativity is writing. Maybe you’ve been meaning to start a book, right a memoir, a joke, or a blog to rant about that pesky c-word. Now’s your chance to let the writing juices drive in the carpool lane.

Be Thankful

This worldwide event has been scary and it might seem like life has taken a downward spiral. Remember, in spite of everything, that we still have shelter and a device for reading this article. We have loved ones and, contrary to what the news feeds us, life is still good. It’s important to give thanks for what we still have (which is a lot). There is always someone who has it worse and this change to our life is temporary.


Thank you for reading this blog post! There are countless other activities that we can all do to pass the time but just in case you’ve been stumped for inspiration I hope this post was useful. Have a wonderful day, wash your hands after reading, and stay safe. By the way, keep up the great work!

-Daniel Catena

Life, Travel, Travel Guide

Searching for Elephants and Buddhas

(Excerpts from Chiang Mai & Bagan)

Once upon a time,

Jack and I finished a month-long journey through Vietnam.

We came back to Hanoi in a mosquito-infested bus from Ninh Binh. During our final Bai Hoi session we toasted to give thanks for all the fantastic memories and delicious banh mi’s.

The very next morning we were gone, but not far.

Minutes after reaching cruising altitude, our flight began its descent towards a country that wasn’t a complete stranger: Thailand.

Just when Jack and I thought that our time in Thailand was over, we somehow found ourselves in Chiang Mai.

Located in the north, we decided to forego the countries’ fourth largest city (175 thousand people) until after Vietnam.

Quite far from Bangkok, and only an hour and some change outside of Hanoi (flying), it made logistical sense to visit during this leg during our trip.

We were missing Pad Thai, cheap juice, and generally friendly people, but more importantly we were coming back for something else:


An iconic Thai symbol is the elephant, which can be seen on murals, as statues, as shrines, and even tattoo’d on people’s bodies. In many parts of the world this sacred animal is unfortunately a victim of exploitation and subject to harsh treatment by shady tour companies and circuses. Fortunately, in Thai provinces such as Krabi and Chiang Mai, a new industry has taken root: Elephant sanctuaries. Thanks to sanctuaries, elephants which have been rescued from lives of abuse are able to return to an almost-natural habitat. Jack and I paid for a tour of one of these places, and in doing so we got to feed and bath a group of elephants over the course of a day. This was high on our bucket-list, and we highly recommend Elephant Jungle Sanctuary to anyone looking to have the same experience.

Muay Thai:

Various friends from back home recommended that we attend a Thai boxing match. Muay Thai is known to many as “The Art of Eight Limbs” and is similar to kickboxing but its roots come from Thailand. During our last weekend in the country we happened to coincide with a tournament taking place at the Chiangmai Boxing Stadium. We discovered that these tournaments happen three times a week, so the crowd was sparse but we could still feel the energy behind each match. Each fight was preceded by a spiritual ritual called the wai ku, and usually the competitor who appeared the most exuberant and devout ended up winning.

Night Markets:

Sunday Market in Chiang Mai

Thailand, along with most countries in the region, shows it’s finest colors after the sun disappears. Chiang Mai is no exception. On Sundays, Pae Street of the Old Quarter blocks motor traffic and replaces it with endless rows of art stalls, craft hawkers, and food booths. Our “window shopping” ended with us caving on some new clothes, herbal oils for bug bites, and a few delicious snacks for the road. A surefire way to indulge the senses is to take a stroll in one of these markets. Some necessary bites to try there are curry noodle soup and mango sticky rice.

North Gate Jazz Co-Op (The Best Nightlife in Chiang Mai)


Sunrise in Bagan

After three nights in Chiang Mai, we left Thailand for probably the last time and hopped a flight to Yangon, Myanmar. Formerly called Burma and previously the countries’ capital, we arrived into Yangon during a sweltering Monday afternoon. This wasn’t our final stop and we hauled our backpacks to the domestic terminal under a shadeless sky. We trotted next to the freeway as motivated taxi’s reduced speed and honked to solicit rides but by the time they caught our attention we were already hiking up to the check-in pavilion.

One hour from Chiang Mai and about two from Yangon, Bagan is the primary tourist attraction for the country that’s seen its international image deteriorate in recent years. Bagan is part of the Mandalay Region of the country, and for four hundred years (9th-14th century) was the capital of the once mighty Pagan Kingdom. At one point over ten thousand Buddhist temples, pagodas, and religious structures were erected throughout the city. It’s hard to call modern-day Bagan a city. It’s more like a town that’s been taken over in vegetation and trapped inside a sea of relics from its rich history. Currently, around two thousand ancient buildings have survived the evolution of time.

We didn’t see the tension and solemnness that’s been encircling the countries’ national issues. What we did see, however, was a place that sparks curiosity. The locals we encountered were friendly, outgoing, and openly interested in knowing why we visited their country. Some people even stared at us like we were Matt Damon, perhaps in part because they hadn’t laid eyes on a westerner before. We also learned that the food here is incredible, cheap, and there even exists a booming vegetarian foodie scene.

Sitting along the banks of the Irrawaddy River, it’s broken down to two districts: Old Bagan and New Bagan. What makes Bagan so interesting is that both districts are already inside the “Bagan Archaeological Zone”. Stepping outside our hostel, looming pagodas were already within eyesight. No one’s allowed to climb any of the buildings, however most are open for entry. The usual sight once inside a pagoda be at least one shrine dedicated to Buddha, and sometimes a stray dog or bat.

Normal motorbikes aren’t permitted for foreigners, so we rented electronic bikes and wandered in every direction. The wind was fierce at times during our stay, and many roads were more like hungry patches of quicksand. Echos from Angkor Wat followed us and youngsters on motorbikes relentlessly hovered around us, advertising “secret” sunrise viewing points. We ended up trusting a guy named Bagan Rapper, a self-proclaimed artist with no desire for money of course. He guided us to a pagoda with open access to a rooftop to see the sunrise. This was maybe one of the better sunrises that I’d seen before and he refused a tip until we declined an invitation to look at his artwork.

Our stay in Bagan was short-lived, and in three days after unpacking our belongings we started the moving process again by boarded a night bus destined for Yangon. Three nights is hardly enough time to experience a cultural hub like Bagan, let alone an entire country like Myanmar. We came to count Buddha statues, for the sunrises and sunsets, and for the sense of accomplishment after navigating between palm trees.

Perhaps the best lime and mint juice in a while.

By the time you reach this sentence, Jack and I will already be far away from Yangon.

Right now we’re a few thousand feet in the air, in an airplane that just took off from Beijing.

Have you been to Myanmar or Chiang Mai? How was your experience?

Thanks for reading this blog, have a great day and talk soon 🙂

-Daniel Catena

Asia, Life, Random Thoughts, Travel

Chapter One: Two Friends in Asia

There exist few books that I can say are a personal favorite, but some stick out in my often fleeting memory.  Everything I Never Told You by Chelsea Ng, Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami, and Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez are three that I like to recommend friends in need of a page-turner. 

In all honesty I couldn’t tell you the major plot twists or who were the main characters. Despite this, there’s something that I remember: The first sentence from each opening chapter.

“Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet.”

-Everything I Never Told You by Chelsea Ng

“I was thirty-seven then, strapped in my seat as the huge 747 plunged through dense cloud cover on approach to the Hamburg airport.”

-Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami

“It was inevitable: the scent of bitter almonds always reminded him of the fate of unrequited love.”

Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez 

The first time I read these lines, I was like holy cow. These three sentences created an instant infatuation with their respective story and for me they proved that these authors are, or were, masters of their craft. In fact, reading these lines again brings a small tear to my eye.  They not only offered a reminder that reading physical books is an enjoyable experience, but they also inspired me to write this blog.

Now that I’ve shared these three opening lines, what the heck do I write about?

The main reason for this blog post isn’t to only express enthusiasm for three great writers.

I also wanted to share an update about my life and for a story that hasn’t been written yet. The epilogue started in 2009, when my best friend Jack Colombo and I made a promise. We agreed that one day we would take a break from our normal lives and backpack through Asia. Back then it was easy to say, yeah man let’s do it, even though we never had an actual Where, When, or How actually established.

Well, it’s been almost ten years since we pinky-sweared. It was our scout’s honor to fulfill this personal quest and, despite years of different plans, Jack and I didn’t forget about this dream.

I feel truly fortunate to say that after months of planning, it’s official; He recently left his job, and I just put my notice in at mine.

On January 6th, 2019 Jack and I are grabbing our backpacks and leaving the United States. I can’t tell you the plot twists, who all the characters will be, or how this story will unfold.

The only thing I can give you is the first sentence of our book’s opening chapter:

“It all started on a one-way flight to Bangkok.”



Ideas, Life, Short Story, Spain, story, Travel

Redemption in Alicante

Author’s note: This might have happened sometime a handful of years ago.



Shades of violet began to spill upward into the sky.

Rowed fields with the occasional farmhouse emerging out of nowhere became visible.

On this ALSA passenger bus it was too early in the morning to hold a conversation with strangers, but not early enough to feel bursts of frustration and personal disappointment. At this Lordly hour the only people I could imagine on the interstate between Murcia and Alicante were factory employees, contraband smugglers, and suckers late for an airplane.

As the sun started to make its morning cameo, a flash from two weeks ago came into memory.

The flight-booking website Skyscanner had an amazing deal from Alicante to London via Ryanair.

This deal was so good it was evil, so evil that I hastily purchased a roundtrip flight.

It was such a steal that I didn’t bother to see what time the flight left or to check ALSA’s bus schedule between Murcia, the city where I was living, and Alicante.

I told myself that everything would iron itself out in due time.

Fast forward to right now. The bus was on time but also it was becoming clear that I’d miss the plane. A combination of not packing the night before and a lack of hourly buses between the two cities had me in this undesired state of affairs.

I forcefully shut my eyes and tried to think of anything to distract my conscious from admitting that this outing was looking more like a day trip to Alicante than a weekend in London.

Bald eagles, vanilla ice-cream, Selena Gomez.

Nothing seemed to work, however opening my eyelids the flickers of sun reflecting off the vivid blue of approaching sea meant that we were close. In the distance, a solid streak of teal began to take shape, as if sneaking up on the rows of farmland and within minutes the blue took over the landscape. The tension inside my mind began to alleviate as we finally entered Alicante and eventually halted at loading bay of the cities’ bus station.

Hope wasn’t lost. There was still a tiny window of time to get to the airport.

Step one: Get to Alicante. Done.

Step two: Catch the shuttle that stops in front of the station and take it to the airport. In progress…

Clutching the black canvas straps of my backpack with determination I exited the ALSA bus and ferociously power-walked towards the street. I could feel a temporary gust of air as the glass doors of the station glided open and I hooked a hard right then one more at the intersection.

The outside was so bright that I had to rub the drowsiness out of my eyelids in order to focus on the bulky four-wheeled object directing itself towards me. This was the bus stop for the airport, and I was the only person standing on the corner.

I looked up victoriously, assuming that the mere presence of a human being standing vertically in the designated zone was enough to make the driver put on the brakes, open the swinging door, and invite the haggard looking traveler onboard.

It wasn’t.

The shuttle didn’t stop. It didn’t even slow down. It simply accelerated by me.

I turned my head to watch it disappear past a park with ficus trees and out of my life.

I don’t know why I didn’t raise my hand as it arrived to signal it to stop, nor why I didn’t make chase. I just let it go. It could have been that the Skyscanner deal was simply too good to put much effort into catching that shuttle, or maybe I knew that this would one day inspire me to write a blog post about it.

Either way, it was gone and the plan was ruined.

Standing on an empty street corner in Alicante with a backpack zipped full underwear and a couple shirts, I was hoping a bird would land by me to not feel completely alone.

If life at that moment was an arcade game, I felt like a guy with no tokens.

I didn’t worry about catching the next bus to Murcia, as I now had all the time in the world. I now needed food and coffee. Not knowing where the nearest sandwich or pastry shop was located, I simply took a defeated turn onto a random street.

The hunger became stronger, and for some reason not a single cafe was in site. A couple more blocks down the street and the only familiar view was San Juan beach and some distant seagulls as they flapped above. Through desperate eyes, I finally discovered signs of life.

A market.

Undernourished and under caffeinated I stumbled towards the entry and the whites of my eyes expanded as I gazed at what could have been a mirage.


Row upon row of small, vibrantly orange mandarines grouped in plastic crates right outside the market’s door. If I had the energy to count I would’ve guessed that there were hundreds just sitting there, waiting to be eaten. They looked so good that maybe they weren’t real; they could’ve been just for display and actually made of plastic.

I didn’t grab one, I grabbed four. I handed over a couple euros to the man behind the counter and walked out with my first meal of the day and a small bottle of water.

Citrus burst into my palate as I devoured the first one like a baby who hadn’t learned to chew. The skin peeled off in one piece. The next one had the perfect combination of sweetness and acidity.

The third mandarine was so easy to peel and tear off small pieces of it into my mouth that I almost got upset. At that moment I knew that I’d never again find a mandarine as delicious as the ones that were in my hands.

Scanning the blueness overhead, there was probably a plane somewhere in the infinite sky that had a vacant seat on it, but at this moment it didn’t matter anymore.

Brilliant sparkles of whiteness mirrored off the sea,

as I patiently undressed the last mandarine.

This one had a different flavor from the others…

…It tasted like redemption.

Europe, Life, Murcia, Random Thoughts, Spain, Teaching, Travel

Dear Murcia,



fullsizeoutput_26f5Hey, how’s it going?

Did you get a haircut?

We’ve met a few times but unless you’re regular of MuyBici stations, El Palmar, Esparragal, or various plazas that serve cheap coffee, you probably don’t remember me.

I normally don’t write letters to cities, but today I’m in the mood to get some things off my chest.

Since 2014 you and I have had an on-again, off-again relationship.

I’d crash in one of your pisos for six to eight months, work as an English teacher, then head back to the United States filled with good memories and ready to continue towards something else.

Each time I reunited with the place where I grew up, discovering what should have been that something else was quite a challenge.

Each summer, after saying farewell to you, I’d find myself in limbo and not really knowing what to do next.

This being said, my overall goals have never changed:

I want to challenge myself, to keep learning, and I also want to pursue as much happiness as possible.

Keeping this framework in mind, I have found myself gravitating into your city limits for four consecutive years.

Each experience has been different and the people who I’ve encountered, the bonds that have been created, and memories that have been shared are all things that I feel truly grateful for.

You’ve stood my side as I tried my first tapa, rode my first ALSA bus to Alicante, danced in Sala Revolver, drank my first Estrella Levante, and taught my first class of students.

You’ve helped me grow as a Spanish speaker, English teacher, salsa dancer, traveler, friend, and overall as a person.

I wouldn’t be the man I am right now if it wasn’t for your patience and willingness to accept me.

I’m saying these things because I want to say thank you for everything.

I’m also writing this letter to you because it’s time for me to say goodbye.

My contract for this school year has expired and for the past five day’s I’ve been enjoying temporary retirement.

In fact, as you read these words I’ll have already moved away from Murcia and taken a train to Barcelona, where a scheduled flight back to the US will take off on Thursday.

“See you later” has been said to friends, suitcases have been stuffed to the brim, and anticipation for seeing family and friends back home has been growing.

After being away for seven and a half months, it’s time to come back to California. It’s time to reconnect with my family, to catch up with childhood friends, and to create new memories.

It’s time to take what I’ve learned this year and apply it towards new things, and new challenges. It’s also time to start focusing on a new set of goals.

I can feel the limbo creeping back into the front page of my mind as I write these words.

Inside I can hear a song repeating in my brain.

It’s called “what the f*** am I going to do now?” and honestly the melody needs some fine-tuning.

I’m looking up at the sky to see if there’s a smoke signal or perhaps a carving in a tree that’s meant to point me in the correct direction.

Right now my future goals aren’t out of oven yet, and the ingredients I have at my disposal are lots of research, self-reflection, advice from loved ones, and frankly just living.

I hate to say these words, but there’s a chance that you won’t be part of these future plans, at least not immediately.

Maybe we won’t live together anymore. Maybe we’ll just visit once and while. Instead of generating income with you, maybe I’ll spend my generated income from somewhere else to come and say hi to you.

We met by coincidence, and honestly I couldn’t have ever predicted that we would have spent so much time together. Life can be interesting that way, and it’s as unpredictable as the restaurant service in your restaurants (sorry that was I low blow, I know).

Inside I know that we are destined to meet again. It’s just too early to know when yet. Right now the only place I want to be is back home.

I hope from the bottom of my heart to continue to learn, love, make mistakes, grow, and simply be alive with you again.

Until that day happens, thank you once again for everything.

Un beso and abrazo,

Daniel Catena

p.s. Thank you to everyone at IES Marques de los Velez, Nuestra Señora de los Angeles, and Vicente Medina for helping me be a better teacher. Thank you to Lola, Jesus, Pepe, Toñi, Elena, Marga, David, Paco, Lucia, Lindsey, Matt, Ambra, Lisa, Lieven, Estela, Asun, Rali, Maria, Jessica, David, Zamai, Maria del Mar, Isa, Susana, Jose Antonio, Maria Jose, Ascension, & many others for being great friends and for helping me be a better person. If your name isn’t mentioned here, I apologize and want you to know that you are still important to me too.

I hope to see you all again soon!

Coffee, Europe, Ideas, Life, Murcia, Random Thoughts, Spain

The Smartphone App Purge

Author’s note: No phone applications were permanently harmed during the writing of this post, and everything you are about to read definitely maybe happened.

Sitting in Santo Domingo Plaza, under the protection of a dark tinted cafe tent, I was scrolling through the touchscreen of my smart phone when suddenly a crazy notion pinched me on the arm:

All of the apps on the phone are starting to stress me out.

Maybe the effects of caffeine hadn’t quite hit my system yet, but in that moment I felt that it was time to go back in time, back to the days when I hardly used applications. Looking at the screen, I felt overwhelmed by all of the programs that I’d been collecting like vintage Pokemón trading cards. Scanning a rough estimate, I counted about forty apps. In my mind most of them were purely used out of convenience, and not out of necessity.

I took a deep breath and hopefully it was only a lack of coffee that was making my index finger shake.

The first victims were my travel apps: Hostelworld, the ALSA bus app, and Skyscanner. Screen press, click, click, click, and soon all of my news apps disappeared into digital oblivion as well. The phone swamp was getting drained. Flashes of 2012 started flickering in my mind, or maybe even as far back as 2010. I was feeling lighter and maybe a little bit younger.

However, the sudden crowning of absolute power caught me off guard, and without thinking I deleted my Gmail app.

Shit. I probably still needed that one.

This cafe didn’t have wifi and my Vodafone data plan was running on fumes, so I wouldn’t be able to redownload Gmail from the app store until I found a hotspot somewhere.

I thought oh well, and continued weeding the crystal glass garden sitting in the palm of my hand.

I decided that Spotify and Whatsapp were two untouchables, but why not delete Facebook Messenger? One press and click later, I remembered that a lot of friends back in the United States exclusively communicated through Messenger. If they didn’t think I was dead yet, or at the very least trapped in a well somewhere, then now they absolutely would.

Shazam? Gone. Skype? Bye bye. Instagram? Gulp, let’s see what happens.

Oh wait.

Before I knew it, the display on my phone had downsized to merely one page. I didn’t need to scroll anymore, everything was right there in front of me. The trauma of a couple unnecessary deletes left me a little rattled, but a sip of coffee swished away the temporary grief. I could finally breathe, and the stress that these apps had for some reason caused me was starting to finally recede like a reverse lava flow.

Without having time to enjoy my recently achieved weight-loss, a really cool song started playing in the cafe’s background stereo system.

Damn, I would have liked to know who that was.

Now I’d never know because the space on my screen where Shazam used to raise its family was now occupied by a square-shaped icon of absolutely nothing. I could have asked some cafe employee, but pressing a blue button on my screen seemed more appropriate. Also, usually the people working there didn’t even know that there music was playing. I remembered a funny picture that a friend tagged me in on Instagram, and soon I felt like a criminal. Had the power been taken too far? What kind of calamity had I just committed?

I was inspired to vent about my brash burst of decision making in a blog post, but that wasn’t possible, either. WordPress and the Pages app were only memories.

Did I even have money to pay for the coffee? I could have easily checked my bank balance to make sure that I could pay by debit-card, but the BBVA mobile app wasn’t there to help.

Oh no, did I have a private English lesson this morning?

My Google Calendar app was gone, but luckily no angry Whatsapp messages had flashed on my screen yet.

Digging around with my non app-destroying hand and salvaging one euro from my front jean pocket, I paid a cafe employee and scanned the horizon for a place that might have a public wifi network. I needed to right these wrongs, and I had to do it quickly. If only I had Google Maps to guide me…

I stood up and sent my gaze around the plaza, accidentally making awkward eye contact with a lady who had just ordered a croissant.

Is she really going to put that much butter on that thing?

I decided the best option was to go to the library. I’d pillage their wifi and pretend to read books…

The End?


Europe, Ideas, Life, Murcia, Random Thoughts, Spain, Teaching

This is El Palmar

One morning at IES Marques de los Velez, in El Palmar, Spain…

As the door to the classroom opened, and a flow of sleepy students seeped through the entryway, I tried my best to give each person a smiling “good morning.”

It was 8:25am and English class was this group of twenty-something teenager’s first class of the school day. I was already two coffee’s into my morning, and not even the sweet nectar of caffeine could help me maintain a genuine smile. This indeed was early, and the fuzzy look on everyone’s face told me that this class was going to start slowly.

Chairs began to screech along linoleum floors, chatters of half-asleep El Palmar teens began to rise as backpacks flopped on the ground and people took their seats.

I brought my own chalk, had a powerpoint saved on a pen drive, and had already decided that today we would kick-off with a game that would wake them up.

“Everyone be silent please!”

The other teacher in the room gave the group an authoritative stare as she sat down with the rest of the group, leaving me the only person in the room still on their feet.

These four words would be everything that she would say for the next fifty-five minutes, and now her “assistant” (myself) was in charge to teach whatever the material was for the day.

My job title was on paper “English Language Assistent” however as the most powerful person in the room had just sat down to grade homework assignments, apparently I had just been knighted.

It was the end of January, and promptly being granted this promotion at the beginning of class was to be expected.

Back in November however, when I took a bus to IES Marquez de los Velez for the first time, this came as a surprise.

I paced into this same classroom for the very first time, on this exact day of the week, almost three months ago, with an expectation that I would be assisting a teacher in whatever activities or lessons that she needed.

On this fateful morning, after introducing myself, showing the group a quick powerpoint about where I grew up in America, and fielding a couple questions, I was looking at the teacher with a look of “ok, I’ve done my part now, you can come back up here.”

She didn’t stand up.

She didn’t do anything. She just looked at me like I was a penguin at the zoo.

I was in front of the class, now facing twenty-something blank stares. The comedian had just said his last joke, but the Netflix special still had thirty minutes left.

I felt like I had just been put up to a flame to be sacrificed.

I had to think of something instantly, to act like the sudden awkward silence was intentional and that this was all part of the class that I apparently was now fully responsible for.

There was a foam ball in my backpack, so we started playing a “get to know you” game where each person had to list three of their hobbies.

The fire started to die down and the lamb would live to graze grass a day longer.

After the first hour had finished, I told myself that this was a one time thing, and that the other teachers who I was supposed to “help” would work with me, and I would be their “assistant.”

Sit down. Nothing. Peguins.

I learned last November that I wasn’t going to be an assistant. Not even a co-teacher. I was basically now the teacher.  I would prepare every lesson, and I would be the person in charge for fifty-five minutes while the seven teachers of the English department would grade papers.

Since November, with thirteen different groups, and about three hundred different students, I suddenly had a role that had previously been something from imagination.

I didn’t have time to wonder whether this high school in a town called El Palmar, Murcia had decided to take advantage of the foreigner by making him shoulder all of the responsibilities.

There was only time to to prepare lessons, and to get to work.

I came to Murcia to learn, to make mistakes, and to become a better teacher. This was now my stage. If teaching wasn’t my goal, then things would maybe be different. Maybe I’d be upset or maybe I’d hold a grudge.

This was a secret blessing, because now I got to mess up on a daily basis and more importantly I had been given many chances to build my confidence in the classroom.

Three months later I found myself alone again, in front of a group of the same sleepy teenagers, while the main teacher had just done her job and told them to calm down.

The imaginary spotlight was back on the comedian again.

Perhaps the sun had started to rise already, and maybe somewhere in the city center of Murcia there were people enjoying a tostada in a cafeteria at some random plaza.

In January the training-wheels were officially off my imaginary teaching bicycle. In fact, perhaps some of these young English learners needed a quick refresher of what the word “wheel” even meant.

Warm-up, sliding projector screen, chalk stains on my jeans, workbooks, group speaking activities.

This was how the morning was going to go.

I was ready, and honestly being ready didn’t feel good, it felt great.

These kids didn’t know what they were about to get themselves into.

It was a secret between me and the people eating tostadas.

I could almost smell how delicious breakfast might be as the silence in the room became interrupted by the cracking of my weak vocal chords.

If the warm-up I prepared sucked, I had another in my back pocket. If the projector decided to not turn on, there existed a plan B.

“Alright, everyone…”

Smiling, making eye contact, ok if I did something wrong, this was me, Daniel Catena, doing his best to try and help Murcia’s youth learn English.

Welcome to El Palmar.

California, Ideas, Life, Murcia, Random Thoughts, Sausalito, Teaching, Travel, United States

The Last Bag of Goldfish Crackers

When I was in first grade, my school’s Peruvian Spanish teacher Señora Buckley would sometimes reward us with Goldfish crackers whenever we did something correctly.

Did you count to six? Here are six Goldfish. Were you able to say “dog” in Spanish? Here’s one Goldfish…

Being only six years old, Spanish wasn’t necessarily a subject that I enjoyed. Power Rangers, GI Joes, and Ninja Turtles already took priority in my life so anything else would need to be crayoned into my seemingly occupied elementary school schedule.

I’m not sure if treat training was the best way of helping us learn, but it was a great way to introduce a delicious and baked snack into my diet.

Blinking my eyes, all of a sudden I’m not a six year old anymore. The memories of clamors of young learners trying to sputter Spanish have been replaced with the rhythm of some nearly forgotten 90’s pop song being softly circulated through aisle six of a Safeway grocery store.

Blinking again, I’m almost thirty-one years old and for some reason the plastic handle of a shopping basket is firmly gripped within the web of my right hand’s fingers.

The last blink induced a deep inhale, as I needed to recollect myself and bring my mind back to the present.

Standing in aisle six, I reach my free hand outward and grab a bag of Parmesan cheese flavored Goldfish crackers. Señora Buckley flashes in my consciousness as I hold a bag of savory vices and toss it in the basket. I want to take more, but one bag is all I can muster without feeling like a complete lush.

Part of the reason why I’m buying this bag is to feed my tastebuds. Another reason why I’m here is to say goodbye. I’ve come to Safeway to pay respects and bid farewell to some foods that I love, such as, well, Goldfish crackers, Siracha hot sauce, Tortilla Factory brand tortillas, and a handful of other items.

Tomorrow afternoon I’ll be leaving California and returning to Murcia, Spain to work as an English teacher for seven months. This will be my third school year in this part of the world, and it’s hard to believe that it’s happening yet again. I’m excited to be coming back to the place that feels like a second home, but the foods listed above won’t be available in Murcia. This is totally ok, as Spain has some great culinary staples that aren’t available in California either. It’s a fair trade, but saying bye to Goldfish is perhaps the toughest pill to swallow.

With my last bag of Goldfish safely guarded by the shopping basket, I feel grateful to be given another opportunity to work in Murcia. There are a lot of wonderful people who I can’t wait to see upon arrival into Spain, but there are a lot folks in California/Missoula/Bend who made this summer back home truly memorable. Between weddings, catching up with family, reconnecting with friends, and sharing some awesome memories, (and passing subtest one of the CSET), this summer was maybe the best I’ve ever had. There are a lot of people who I would like to thank for making this summer great and also for making this return to Spain possible, but making you read the full list would make you late for something more important.

I don’t know what will happen once I get back to Murcia, nor do I know if this is the best thing that I should be doing with my life. The only thing I know is that being in Murcia, like the bag of Goldfish that I’m about to barbarically tear open, is something that makes me feel happy.  This doesn’t mean that California or living in the US is something that makes me unhappy, I feel fortunate to say that I’m really happy there too. My heart likes being in different places, and right now it’s beating with a sound that says I need to be back in Spain. Maybe I should see a doctor about that…

Either way, I’m excited to see what happens.

I’ve been standing in front of the crackers for way too long now, and that combined with the fact that I haven’t brushed my teeth yet today is putting some protective Marin moms, shopping carts a safe distance away, on red alert.

It’s time to not say goodbye. It’s time to say “see you next summer.”

Friends and family in California and the United States, I love you a lot. Stay safe, wash your face before bed, and see you soon 🙂