End of week 2

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This week in Bilbao… that sounds like the beginning of a tv show. None the less, it has been an eventful week. All the choreography is made and it’s time to take a step forward towards production. We engaged in some site specific work, which was invigorating to say the least, and I finally got to see the chains I have been studying for months! It feels as if everything is beginning to come together. My body aches from the stress but each day I get more and more accustomed to the level of activity. Soon I believe I could run a marathon. (Not really, but I can aspire) The community and the Zawp family are becoming pretty eager about our work, too. It’s one of the best encouragements to the work I’m doing along side these great artists. Rachel

It’s been interesting to see how our group has developed over the last two weeks. Every day we learn more about each other and we are able to use our shared experiences as a platform to grow as a group. Over the last week, we have had the opportunity to explore the city of Bilbao and become more connected with our surroundings. Our trip to the beach was both productive and liberating, marking another step in the progression of this project. Today we had our first performance, which went great. It was amazing to perform with complete trust in each other, building off of each other’s energy to create beautiful movements while telling the story of our adventure. Naomi

Wow, performance number one, done. It feels so good to have something accomplished, for yourself and for this project. Rehearsals are always filled giggles, jokes, mistakes, and even frustration, but these all disappear when you get serious about your work onstage. I found myself appreciating the art of performing again and I went into the zone. I found myself releasing the stresses of the outside world and focused on what I was dancing. I reminded myself, think about “where” you’re dancing, whether its the airport or the fields. This helped me get more into character and I found myself really “grabbing mud” or “waiting for my flight”. Weird, but cool feeling. We have our tech rehearsals starting tomorrow to clean everything before our big show and I am not at all worried about it.
Morgan

 

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Initial Reflections. 

One girl from California, one from Texas, and one from Tennessee, all in Spain. With our vastly different personalities and styles, we have been able to connect together on a completely different level that I never realized was possible. Our dancing is a platform that allows us to be more vulnerable, yet comfortable. I was incredibly nervous for combining our styles, but am more excited than I expected. The story we’re going to show through our dance combines all of our lives in some way and our memories. It’s a beautiful feeling…Morgan

Today is the first day that I don’t feel like shit. Since I got here I have felt run down and incredibly emotional. I was thinking about the comforts of home all the time, while not entirely appreciating this once in a lifetime opportunity. I’m starting now to finally get into the swing of things and familiarize myself with this beautiful place. The women I’m with are amazingly sweet and very talented, and I am humbled to be working with them. Sometimes I worry that I won’t develop a strong connection with them because I am not a dancer, but when I think rationally about it I realize that I don’t necessarily need to dance to create a connection with them. When we aren’t working, we are talking, talking about our own experiences and how they have affected us throughout our lives. I feel less alone when we talk, and I feel silly now for worrying so much when I was at home thinking about this trip. I already feel “changed”, just like everyone said that I would. I guess I just didn’t expect to feel this way in such a short amount of time. All that being said, I am happy, I am grateful, and I am excited for what more is to come…Emma

The first few days have marked the beginning of our long journey together, but I would say that these few days have been a journey all within themselves. Getting to know each other and familiarizing ourselves with the space has been fun and exciting, but also challenging at times. It feels like we are finally beginning to get into a routine and our objectives have become more clear. Rehearsal this afternoon was amazing, we were dancing and laughing and having such a great time. Movements feel more fluid and our growing connection with one another has allowed our dynamic to transform organically. I am excited to see what the next few days has to offer and how we can learn from new experiences to influence the creation of the piece and the development of this exploration…Naomi

This first week has been a rollercoaster of energy for me. Between the jetlag and questionable sleep schedule I’ve been keeping, I’m surprised at my ability to function. However, the culture of the city has given me more than enough motivation to smile. It is full of life and wonderment; not to mention the plethora of art to experience just outside the door. When in rehearsal, the entire cast continues to amaze me by accomplishing so much work in such a short time span. Today, I decided this is because working with these women is far too enjoyable to count the minutes between breaks. In fact, they are the highlight of my days. I can’t wait to continue…Rachel

Tiny Little Earthquake

The first time I watched Isa have a gran mal seizure, she was 7 years old. It was the night before the fourth of July and we were still living in Texas. I had just returned from NYC and Isa and Elio, my 5 year old son, were sleeping in my bed with me. It may sound strange to you but my children had just begun sleeping in their own beds regularly. We slept in a family bed when they were younger and as a single mom I think it was just easier to indulge in letting them sleep with me whenever they wanted, which was most nights. Besides, bed time stories were more fun in my queen then they would have been if I had sat on the edge of one of their beds. On this particular night I had missed my kids and was happy to sleep all together in one bed again.

I woke up around 1AM to what felt like a tremor. My first thought was this must be a minor earthquake, I had experienced a few when I lived in San Francisco. I quickly realized it was actually my daughter shaking uncontrollably. I began to shake her gently and say loudly, “Isa, wake up. Are you ok? Wake up baby!” I quickly shifted thoughts again. I had several years of first aide training as a dance teacher and though I had never seen a seizure, I knew this was one. Unfortunately, I had successfully woken up Elio but not Isa. I ran to my phone, then back to the bed and calmed myself. Isa’s eyes were rolling in the back of her head, foam flowing from her mouth, her lips blue and her body contorted, stiff and shaking. I called 911 as I realized Elio had a tremendous nose bleed. I was on the phone with 911, pinching a tissue to my sons nose while rubbing my daughters back calmly reminding her to breathe.

Everything happened so quickly, although it felt like hours. Isa’s seizure ended and the ambulance eventually arrived, our place was so difficult to find. The EMTs spoke to me then tried to wake Isa up but she was unresponsive. I carried her to the ambulance where one EMT pricked her foot to check her blood sugar. Isa finally woke up crying and frightened. Just then my ex husband Eric also arrived and followed us to the hospital taking Elio in his car. The ambulance took us to Dell Children’s and then put us in a room. At the hospital they did a CatScan on Isa but couldn’t find anything.  The doctor spoke to us, and then just sent us on our way telling us to follow up with a neurologist. The next day I felt like I was walking through a bad dream and spent most of the time on the phone with doctors and my dad, who isa retired physician. Fortunately we had an amazing pediatrician who got us in to see a neurologist quickly. She set up some appointments for that week and began what has now become one in a series of sleep deprivation tests . Isa had to stay awake till midnight and get up at 6, getting no more then 5 or 6 hours of sleep. I was used to be alone through these types of things as a single mom. I had spent many nights with Elio teething or Isa sick in my arms. I used to enjoy being up alone with them in the middle of the night. It was like the world only existed for us in those moments. This was different though. It was painfully lonely and felt like the world might end any moment.

I got myself together in the morning and took Isa back to the hospital for the tests. First the EEG. They had to attach electrodes to her skull. I can’t remember but there must have been twenty or so. First she had to hyper ventilate, then they put her in front of a strobe light, and finally they let her sleep. They basically were trying to induce a seizure so they could see what type of abnormality was happening in her brain. They didn’t find anything. We went to lunch and I bought Isa a stuffed animal. It was the only thing I could think to do to cheer us both up. Honestly, her spirits were probably better then mine. Then we went back for her MRI. This one was hard. They had to strap Isa onto a bed with a neck brace type of thing to keep her from moving. The MRI machine was incredibly loud and she had to lay in a tunnel and listen to that earth shattering sound.

Isa was certainly incredibly sensitive to sounds, smells and tastes. Isa’s first grade teacher had recognized some of Isa’s sensitivities and also that she had a difficult time in social situations. Ms. Flake said Isa used to walk in circles around the playground but didn’t know how to interact with the kids.  Isa had been put in a program for a receptive expressive speech disorder and would start speech therapy the next year. I wasn’t sure how this MRI would go given Isa’s sensitivity but she was so incredibly brave. She could see me in a mirror they had set up by her face but she lay still as a mouse. Then they pulled her out of the machine and gave her a shot with a sort of dye to intensify the quality of the MRI. I think that’s when she began to cry. They put her back in the machine and she sat still again, crying. I hate thinking of that. Her helpless and me unable to go to her even though she was only a few feet away. But Isa endured and the test ended. We saw the neurologist shortly after that. They did not find anything and could not explain the seizure. We decided not to medicate Isa since there was no reason to believe she would have another seizure but I would need to monitor her closely. She always needed to wear a helmet when riding a bike, to be watched closely when swimming, and would start taking showers instead of baths.

I was on pins and needles for months, maybe the whole next year. This was the end of my first year at grad school. Fortunately, it was summer break and so I could be with Isa all the time, but eventually I would have to go back to school. I made it through the next year, and so did Isa and Elio. Everything seemed just fine. When Isa went back to her school and it seemed she had a burst of cognitive development and went from being behind the class in reading to far ahead of the class. Elio began PreK and I went back to the University.

It wasn’t until September of the following year, 14 months later, that I was woken in the middle of the night to a similar sensation. The kids still slept in my bed, although I had gotten more comfortable with having Isa out of site at moments. I imagined that I may have never known she was having a seizure if she wasn’t in the room with me. I knew what this was right away, and so I didn’t wake Elio up. I called 911 and just whispered to Isa while she seized again. My heart felt a searing pain and I held back tears. This time I would stay clam. “Just remember to breathe Isa. It’s ok, I’m here. Just breathe.” Maybe I was reminding myself to breathe. The ambulance arrived after the seizure had ended. Everything went almost exactly the same as before. This time, though, a wonderful neighbor walked past the EMTs  and asked me what he could do to help. I am sure he could see I was in shock. He said, “Let me take Elio to sleep at my house.” He picked Elio up and took him away without pause. Daniel had a son Elio’s age and they were friends. So it would just be me in the ambulance this time. The EMTs told me they had never seen someone as calm as me in this type of situation. I remember we chatted about my racing medals. Although I may have seemed calm, I was freaking out on the inside. This all felt like a horrible nightmare. Eric would meet us at the hospital. We spoke to a doctor, everything went just like the last time without any tests. The doctor told us that were was no need to go to the hospital in an ambulance if she had another seizure before we could see her doctor, unless it lasted 20 minutes. We could just wait it out and drive her ourselves. Although I know this is true, it just seems so crazy. If you watch someone having a seizure it sure feels like an emergency, but they are actually ok? I knew this before calling the ambulance this time, but I was caught off guard. I had just begun to let my guard down. It’s honestly just terrifying watching those tiny little earthquakes as they happen. It seems like an emergency in the moment, even though there is nothing to be done but wait it out.

We went back to my place. Eric stayed the night on the couch. I stayed up for a while doing some homework and heard Isa shout after about an hour. She was having a second seizure. I yelled to Eric and he called 911. I told him to hang up, remembering what the doctor said but it was too late. They called right back and had to send an ambulance. I argued with the EMT who told me I might as well take Isa in and start her on medication or I was “just going to have a lot of nights like this one.” This EMT was nothing like the last and I would be stuck with him alone in the ambulance on the ride. As suspected, we got there and there was nothing to be done. They sent us home. I remember going for a long bike ride the next day while Eric stayed with Isa. I had to get out and feel alive for a bit, but I didn’t go far.

We did the same series of tests without the MRI. More sleep deprivation studies and more feeling desperately alone in the middle of the night. This time, although they still found nothing, we decided to begin medication. It was not worth the risk that Isa would have another seizure. The doctor adjusted her dose a little over the next year. I felt Isa shaking in the night a couple of times and was told these would have been gran mal seizures if she wasn’t already on medication.

Another issue that has continually popped up at school is that Isa struggles academically. We have had many evaluations done at this point. The school labeled her as highly functional autistic while the speech therapist says she has a complicated receptive expressive speech disorder. Her old neurologist says this is all connected while her most recent neurologist(who I have fired) wanted to give her ADHD medication when I started talking about the issue. It is another story for another time but I have actually fought the public school system in Texas for neglecting her IEP at one point and won.

Isa was on her medication for 2 and a half years and it was time to ween her off to see what would happen. This was in 2013. It had been two and a half years since her last seizure and 4 since her first. We were planning a 4,800 mile road trip that included a stop at Disney World. I am not sure what I was thinking other than my kids deserved a real family vacation after my 3 years in graduate school and another year of teaching high school(which was a whole different intense story). I was determined to drive my kids alone across the country, and camp a bit along the way. So we started to ween off the medicine as we also started to drive across America. I did not know at the time that Isa should not ride rollercoasters, so we enjoyed Disney World to its fullest. They even gave us a special pass because of Isa’s seizure disorder which was like a fast pass for every ride and front row seats to each of the fireworks displays. We made it all the way to Canada where we would stay with my parents for several weeks. Isa had just finished weening off her meds and it happened again. Gran Mal Seizure number 4. By now I was used to it. I should mention here that Isa is never aware of the seizures and fortunately Elio had only seen the one. If I focus on my fear in these moments, please understand it is only with the knowledge that my children have not had that experience. The thing that sucks the most for Isa is that she just wants to be like anyone else. Isa does say she remembers having a strange dream that night where she was walking and it felt like sharp needles were pricking her feet. Then she dreamt I picked her up by her ankles and lifted her upside down.

My father is a doctor and made sure Isa was ok after the seizure. She was. There was nothing to do so we did not rush to the hospital. I called Isa’s doctor in the morning and he just said to go right back on the meds. That was 3 years ago. Since then Isa has been seizure free and we are waiting to ween her off again. The hope is that she will grow out of her seizure disorder. Last summer she took another sleep deprivation study to see if they would find anything in her EEG. They have not found anything yet. We are seeing a new neurologist this summer because I lack confidence in her most recent neurologist(we moved last year and had to change doctors).

Yesterday Isa fainted at school. I was right across the street working and got there faster then the ambulance. Although the school assumed it was a seizure and the students were frightened, she clearly just fainted. Watching someone faint is scary too and people are usually unsure of what has happened. When you see a gran mal seizure there is no question about it. I understand why they called an ambulance, I understand why the EMTs recommended she go to the emergency room in the ambulance. I drove Isa to the emergency room knowing better. After waiting 3 hours and not being seen I knew it was ok to leave. They would not have done anything anyways besides maybe test her blood sugar levels. So we head to her doctor this morning and to the new neurologist in July for another sleep deprivation test. More uncertainty, I am sure. On one hand, I am glad we have no idea what is the cause for all this. There are any number of bad things it could be that it is not. Living with uncertainly sucks though. If you ask me in person, and when I talk to Isa, everything is ok. We are truly blessed. Isa will be fine one way or another. But if you could dig into my brain or more appropriately, my heart, there is a space where fear lives. Fear of the unknown and fear that at any moment another tiny earthquake could occur.

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Recuperation

I have made it to Toronto and am starting to decompress. I think it will take some time for me to process the experiences of this past week. The word gratitude comes to mind.

I left my house 5 weeks ago today to cross the country, then cross the hemisphere. I have 1 week to make my way back!

One thing on my mind is that I felt called to go to Nicaraugua, and I feel there is a deeper reason for it. I really took a leep of faith in going, and I couldn’t be more pleased with my decision. But where do I go from here?

I feel so blessed in my life, and so challenged. I believe that evrything happens for a reason, and selfishly I want to know why. I have faith however. I am on a path and it is going somewhere.

Here are some of the photos I took with my GoPro on our trip. It doesn’t do justice to the beauty of the moment, but they are fun.

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Namaste

Pictures of Nicaragua!!

I am finally well connected to the internet and don’t want to miss my chance to post some photos, in random order.

It has baan amazing here. On our way out of Selva Negra, the rainforest, we visited an elderly community. It was so sweet and the people were quite endearing. Fernando was anxious for the books we brought. He had lost his legs to diabetes and was once a police officer. Everyone had there story, but all they wanted was a hug and to hold hands. I keep thinking of one women who would not speak, clung to the gift we brought, had soft soft hands, and finally smiled as we were about to leave.

We arrived at Aqua Wellness at night and woke up in the morning to its’ stunning beauty. We are in a treehouse above a cove and can hear the ocean waves wherever we go. Each day I climb down the steep steps to the ocean and take a dip before an exquisite breakfast on the beach. I walk up to the yoga platform 3 times a day(sometimes less) for yoga and deep meditation. The platform, of course, overlooks the cove. It is magical here, and me teachers Claudia and Thomas are beautiful spirits. I crave and devour the stories they tell anout themselves and the amazing people they encounter.

I have never been to a spa before, so I have taken advantage of a massage and a chocolate body scrub high up in the trees at the Garza here. Heaven. I have also taken advantgae to practice my Spanish. I have been translator at times, but am sure I am not doing the best job.

Yesterday we took a ferry to Ometepe, an island in the middle of the biggest lake in Central America that was made out of the two volcanos that live there. One of the volcanos is still active, the other hides a lagun in its’ center. It was a busy day, visiting beahes and mineral springs.

The people on this trip are so amazing, I will be sad to leave tomorrow. If I am lucky, I’ll find a way to return next year.

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Nicaragua!!

I want to post right away, though I have to admit I am a bit distracted. I will try to chronicle the events of the past 36 hours, but I can’t imagine doing justice to my experience.

I arrived in Nicaragua around noon yesterday to a warm welcome from my hosts Claudia and Thomas. We spent the afternoon at the airport waiting for our yoga colleagues to arrive, 12 in total including our hosts and myself, and then proceeded to Selva Negra in the rainforest. Selva Negra belongs to Claudia’s family.

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As we drove into the property she shared the story of how she fled the country with her family when the Revolution began and the Sandanistas took over. She also told of their return and how unsafe the country had been at that time. Her story is amazing, really.

I am sharing a cabin with a lovely young muralist from DC who is outlining a mural for the children at the orphanage to draw. We settled into our cabins and then headed down to the restaurant for an amazing vegan dinner. After our dinner settled we went to a little building where we did our first yoga practice. It was a simple but wonderful practice, the perfect way to start our journey. I felt revivived, though exhausted. Before going to bed we had to organize our gifts for the orphanage. One bag per household full of gifts for the host mom and parents.

We finally went to sleep, I crashed hard. In the moring I woke up just before our yoga practice in the Catedral. It was magical if not exhausting.

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Again, I was revived. We had breakfast on the patio by the lake and then left for the orphanage.

How can I do justice to our experience yesterday. Words can’t express, they can’t. This orphanage is amazing. There is one host mom for every 8 or so kids and they all live together in this amazing little village.

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Our introductions involved giving our gifts out and teaching a kids yoga class. We spent the first half of the day with a hogar (a house with 1 mom) who fed us and asked us lots of questions.

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The kids were open and loving and the moms were generous and shared lunch with us. In the afternoon we worked on a mural and facilitated a water balloon war. It was mass chaos and huge fun.

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So, none of this really tells the story of these kids, how they presented themselves to us, our interactions. Nicaragua is the second poorest country in this hemisphere behind Haiti. These kids have stories of abandonment, abuse, loss, but are full of love, joy and community.

Last night after we returned and had dinner we did a 30 minute meditation. I was in a half wake, half sleep state where my thoughts seemed to flow in and out without attachment. I can’t think of what I though of, to be honest. Afterwards we shared our experiences of the meditation and the day. Many of the people here were moved by the kids. Several from our group sponsor kids at the orphanage and truly bonded with their kids.

My experience was more removed. I had a big smile on my face when I left the orphanage. The kids I work with at my school are so hardened and jaded. These children here were so open and loving. They were welcoming to us without abandon.

I came here so that I would work selfishly on myself, to release and heal. Last night I purged a little when I shared. I am always very friendly and silly with people. I love making people laugh. But I think I have built a wall around myself. I open my doors to give to others but keep it closed when it’s my turn to receive or truly connect with friends. I hope I will open that door a little wider while I am here and let out some of my old ghosts and demons.

I will go back to the Catedral now to do my daily yoga and then head to the elderly village before our 5 day journey to Aqua Wellness at the beach. I look forward to the sunshine and heat as it has been cold and rainy here for most of our visit.

Letting go and moving forward.

Reviving, not really.

So I sat at the bar for three hours last night. Finally, at 2AM I moved to the lobby to kill the last hour and a half before check in. I set 5 alarms but was woken from a very deep sleep by the security guard at the hotel.

I am sure I rambled and made no sense in my inebriated(by 2 beers) and sleep deprived state. He looked at me like I was crazy but said it was no big deal and that I could stay.

But alas, I had gotten 40 minutes of sleep and should wake up. I headed for the airport 30 minutes later. It took me that long to come to.

3:30 AM is surprisingly busy at the international airport. I made my way through, making new friends every step of the way. I love talking to other travelers. I met a Cuban woman who was maybe relocating to Chicago with nothing more than her purse, a native Toronto Mexican, a tattoo covered Carnival Cruise worker, and a nice young woman of Asian descent who also had not slept. We are besties now. Lol.

I fell asleep as soon as I got on the plane. I was aided by some migraine medicine and anti nausea medicine, thank god!! So I think I’ve accumulated 3 hours of sleep now. I’m in Miami waiting for my final flight and drinking coffee. Fingers crossed for a calm last stretch!!

I wonder how my Manchester friends, Janet and James, are doing. Probably just getting up.

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