Friday, April 30, 2010

Clown Cabaret

A few posts ago I was saying how tempted I've been to run away and join the circus. Well, a few weeks ago I almost had my chance. Sort of. I was scheduled to perform at the "Nutritionally Delicious and Delectably Delightful Clown Cabaret". Clowns, jugglers, acrobats, unicyclists, and other circus freaks would be performing, too, and welcoming belly dancing into their umbrella of circus arts.
Unfortunately, I got sick at the last minute and couldn't perform. I know, the "show must go on". And it did, thanks to my belly dancer friend, Alison, whom I called two hours prior to the show and asked if she could fill my spot. I really love that I can call a belly dancer last minute and have them perform. I should start a "dial-a-belly-dancer" service or something. Betcha I could make some good money doing that!
Despite being ill, I still went to the event and volunteered at the drink/snack booth. The cabaret was a fundraiser for inMotion Theater, which is a non-profit that works with high school youth to create educational theater shows about healthy living. I wish I had something that cool when I was in school. Being a circus performer as a way to stay in shape? Sure beats running laps around the track.
Polina Smith was the organizer for the event and she did a fab job of bringing everyone together. I especially liked the "pie-in-the-face" clowns, and the cartoon bear sketch by Edna Barron. But everyone was delightful to watch. And now I have some new ideas to add to my routine. What do you think about a belly dancing unicyclist? I'm sure I could pull it off...

Monday, April 19, 2010

Drinking with the Irish!

Belly dancing at an Irish pub… I never would have imagined. However, this is San Francisco, and apparently anything can happen in this boundary pushing city.
My friend, Dee, wanted to celebrate her 30th birthday in style. As an Irish woman, that meant Irish pub, lots of alcohol, kick ass bands, and, um, belly dancers. And yes, all those things somehow fit together quite well and made for an awesome- albeit eclectic- evening.
The Irish pub, Ireland's 32, was in the Richmond district and packed full of people when I arrived with my belly dancer friends in tow. Everyone was laid back, friendly, and thirsty. And those Irish accents! I couldn’t have handpicked a better crowd.
The night opened with a belly dance set. Joie Mazor (My Red Heart) and I used to dance to this little number called “Renunciation”. We decided to revive the song for the night and even pulled my friend, Julz, into the routine. Not bad for a few hours of practice time. Alodiah Lunar, Alison Saylor, Joie, and Julz all did solos. I sat out, because I was still recovering from e.coli poisoning. I figured a trio and a song with the band was my limit. Really, I shouldn’t have been dancing at all, but what’s that saying? The show must go on!
The band “Deeva”, in which Dee is the lead singer, played a set and I managed to pull off an improvised sword performance to their last song. I know, right? In so much pain that I should have been doubled over, but instead I was up there belly dancing with a sword on my head.
The band, “Art in Heaven” headlined, and Joie and Alodiah busted out with some improv of their own. The two hadn’t danced together in years and they managed to put together some combos in five minutes and then improvise with them to a song they had never heard. We are all total rock stars, I gotta say!
It was nice to kick back for a bit after the belly dancing, have a few drinks, hang with the birthday girl, and mingle with the crowd. One thing that I wasn’t able to do, though, was out drink the Irish. In fact, the bartender mixed my drink extra strong, so I was done after one cocktail. But can you blame me? After all that dancing, that alcohol must have hit my bloodstream pretty hard. Good thing I waited to drink until after the sword balancing act. I don’t really want to picture what would have happened if I had started drinking before!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

A Taste of the Caribbean

At the end of the main road that runs along the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica, there is a quaint beachside town called Manzanillo (pronounced “man-za-nee-yo”, not “man-za-nil-o”).
Manzanillo is the epitome of Caribbean. Located in the Gandoca-Manzanillo Marine and Wildlife Refuge, Manzanillo is a treasure trove for nature lovers. A dense coral reef lines the beach just meters from the shore and makes for excellent snorkelling. Sea turtles, barracudas, eels, reef sharks, sea urchins, and dozens of colorful fish are just some of the creatures you can expect to encounter. Mom-and-pop dive shops offer snorkel gear for just $3/hour. Diving gear and tours are also available. Kayaks run at $5/hour, and other tours include dolphin watching, bird watching, boat trips, and hiking.
The town of Manzanillo may be tiny, but the rainforest that surrounds it is massive. A hiking trail that starts just down the beach from the restaurant “Maxi’s” winds through the coastal rainforest all the way to Panama. The trail is a popular hike to the sustainable farm at “Punta Mona”- which is not accessible by road. If you decide to make the 5km+ hike to Punta Mona, which can take anywhere from 1.5-3 hours depending on the weather, lots of monkeys, sloths, lizards, and birds will keep you company along the way. Another 45 min-1 hour hike past Punta Mona will bring you to the town of Gandoca- which is even smaller than Manzanillo, if you can believe it.
Manzanillo is also known for its beautiful beach and good surfing. Cement tables are spread out under the trees, just before the shore, and it is common to see locals and tourists alike playing cards, hanging out, listening to music, and having lunch. Little shops and a few motels are scattered throughout the town, and all have a distinct Caribbean vibe with Rasta colors painted on the walls, reggae blaring from stereos, and Bob Marley memorabilia for sale.
One of the biggest gems in Manzanillo is the restaurant “Maxi’s”. While prices may be a little expensive, the mouth-watering cuisine is worth it. Be sure to order from the parilla (grill)- there is nothing quite like a plantain right off the grill, or a juicy pork rib with Caribbean sauce (not that I would know about the latter, but it’s what my fiance always orders. The amazing smell of the grilled meat almost makes me want to give up being a vegetarian. Almost). If “Caribbean” were a flavor, it would be anything cooked on the grill at Maxi's.
Maxi’s also sets the Caribbean scene with walls adorned by soccer banners, old-school reggae and hip-hop playing on the radio, a Caribbean staff who’s ancestors settled in Costa Rica from Jamaica, and a gorgeous view of the Caribbean sea. After hours of snorkelling, diving, hiking, surfing, playing with dolphins, or just lounging on the beach, kicking it at Maxi’s with a plate of food straight off the grill and a view of the sun setting over the Caribbean sea is a perfect ending to a perfect day.
Photo Credit: Christena Devlin

Friday, April 9, 2010

Behind the Eyes of Eve

Before I left for Costa Rica, I found myself in the basement of D-Structure on Haight St. in San Francisco, sitting on a stool behind a shelf of clothes, getting my face done up in gold powder. Racks of clothes, stacks of boxes, and dozens of shelves towered over the cold, cement floor. It was the underbelly of the store, that was for sure. And yet, the space was somehow inviting. I have to accredit this to the amazing women who were involved in the photo shoot. There was Linda, who was doing my makeup and gossiping like the hairstylist she is. She had the kind of wit and sarcasm that could keep you in stitches. It was quite a challenge not to double over in laughter as she was applying my makeup. The risk of getting poked in the eye, however, helped keep me composed.
A woman named Sam was the photographer for the evening. She knew just how to direct the models and walked that fine line between bossy and nice. I definitely like a woman who can take charge! And so much better coming from a woman than a man... for obvious reasons.
And, of course, there was Dee Kennedy, the woman behind it all. The shoot was for her gemstone line, "Eyes of Eve"; sparkling gemstones that could be worn as bindis and faux piercings, among other things. Dee is quite the innovative woman. She's one of those people who has a million ideas swirling in her head- and she actually does something about it. She models, is the executive director of VAGABOOM! (a children's art educational non-profit in San Francisco), is in the band Think 13, is a tour organizer (her tours to Egypt are definitely worth checking out), owns the Eyes of Eve jewelry line, and is also a High Priestess. Yeah, pretty amazing. Oh, and not to mention that she's both gorgeous and super nice. The camaraderie during the photo shoot reminded me of hanging out with my girlfriends when I was 15; lots of giggles, zero pretentiousness, and an embarrassing amount of girl power. As well, I was happy because I got to model with my sword. And I love modeling with my sword. The more pics I have of me and that sword, the better! Because a girl with a sword is just so bad-ass. Especially when she's wearing Eyes of Eve.
Photo Credit: Sam O'Connor

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Taking the Plunge

Jumping off a thirty-five foot cliff into the rapids of a waterfall can make you feel like Tarzan. After an hour of watching the local teenage boys jump from various heights to the churning water below, I decided to take the plunge myself. A part of me wanted to do it because it looked like a thrilling experience (and it was), and a part of me wanted to simply show the boys that a girl could do it, too.
Of course, I took a bit longer than the local boys did. My friend, Randy, and I scaled the cliff and hovered fearfully at the edge for a good five minutes or so before taking that bold leap. The jump was exhilarating- I felt high for hours after- and it took longer than I expected to hit the water. My friends watching below told me that my legs did a little nervous kick about five feet before I touched water. Yup, that was about the point where I freaked out and thought “Why haven’t I landed yet?!!! What’s taking so long?!!!” Never in my life have I spent so much time in the air. I didn’t feel like a bird, though, more like a heavy rock- or Tarzan, without his slick jungle skills.
Bri Bri Falls is located in Costa Rica’s Southern Caribbean, along the highway that stretches from Hone Creek to Bri Bri. Lots of local tour companies offer a trip to the falls for $15-$25, but it is much cheaper (and just as easy) to take a taxi or a bus. Just let the driver know that you want to go to the cataracas- they’ll know where to stop.
Another reason to take a bus or taxi is because the tour companies do not often give any of the profit to the man who owns Bri Bri falls. And after meeting Santos, you can’t help but want to give the man some money for all the hard work and effort he makes to keep the falls clean, safe, and beautiful. He definitely lives up to his name, which means “saint”. There is a stairway that descends into the jungle and to the falls, which is always free of litter and well-kempt due to Santos’ weed whacking with the machete.
I first went to the falls by taxi. Santos was waiting at the entrance, and asked for a meagre donation of one dollar. After an exhilarating and refreshing experience of swimming under and around the two waterfalls, I was glad to contribute something to this kind-hearted man. Santos even came down to the falls that day to point out the big rocks that were hidden under the rapids; the current was strong that day, and he didn’t want my friend and I to be injured. He also provides bathrooms free of charge and sells a variety of refreshments from a small fridge. Santos dreams of one day opening a small café/bar at the entrance to the falls. For now, the “café” is a small structure with a table, a fridge, and bunches of bananas and plantains (for sale at a good price) hanging from the beams.
The rapids were too strong that first day to do much besides swim, but the water was calmer and an exquisite shade of blue the second time I visited. On that day, I decided to be brave and jumped off the top of the smaller waterfall. My boyfriend and our two friends, of course, followed suit. I also managed to swim behind and then under the larger waterfall, with the help of my boyfriend.
By the third time I visited, the rain falls had died down and the waterfalls were smaller, and the currents less forceful. Swimming behind and under the waterfall was much easier, and the whole place seemed less intimidating. Hence, my bold (and successful) attempt at cliff diving (or is it jumping, if you go feet first?).
However, Santos is the real Tarzan of Bri Bri Falls. After watching him walk barefoot through a highway of cutter ants, I asked him why he wasn’t afraid of being bitten. He thumped his chest and said in Spanish, “I am like Tarzan! I live with the ants!” It made me rethink my own Tarzan experience; sure, I’ll jump off a cliff into a waterfall, but there’s no way you’re going to catch this gringa walking barefoot through a bunch of biting ants.