A tuk tuk odyssey...

‪Friday morning‬, Amanda and I took off for Dambulla.

The ride to the small city in the north-central part of the island wound through the mountains and villages, past open-air schools full of children with heads bent over their desks. We drove through a canopy of mara trees and the light grew dim. On either side of the road, small huts surrounded by fires and tables and chairs lined up. Our driver wound his way around a cow that had decided to lay in the middle of the road and pulled over with just one word: "breakfast".

Amanda, who'd been sleeping in the back, joined me as an old woman led us to a seating area away from the men. She asked me in words that I didn't understand but could only surmise if I wanted something to eat. I shook my head no. She again asked, this time pointing to a large covered pot, sitting directly on the fire. Figuring that she wasn't going to take no for an answer, I agreed. Imagine my relief when the pot revealed something that I recognized - an ear of corn.

As our journey continued, we came upon a narrow bridge, the thin strip of red soil on either side littered with dogs on their sides, motionless. My heart sunk, but as we sped by, their heads all lifted. They were just finding a cool spot to take a nap! The strays are plentiful, but they're surprisingly street smart. Many have obviously learned the hard way as evidenced by limps or bent tails, but most saunter in and out of traffic without care. I've added the Sri Lankan Brown Dog to my list of favorite breeds.

I've noticed that the language barrier here is a bit more of an issue than what I have experienced elsewhere. Generally, I'm able to get by on a series of nods and smiles. When asking something of my driver, however, he kept saying to me "Oh!" and shaking his head. Frustrated and questioning whether he was confused or just saying "no", I waved him away. After a moment, however, it became clear that he had understood what I'd said and had been agreeing with me.

I'd forgotten; the Sinhalese word for yes is "oh-ooh", which comes out sounding like an emphatic "Oh!" and is generally accompanied by what I've dubbed "the Sri Lankan nod", which more closely resembles a cross between a shake and a wobble.

So that makes communicating fun. I simply think that they're surprised and have something in their ear when they're thinking that I'm an idiot who simply can't understand a basic "yes".

By mid-morning, we had arrived in Dambulla. We located our guest house and agreed to terms with wobbles and "oh-oohs", dropped our bags and made our way to the Golden Temple and its 30 meter tall Buddha towering above the stupa and the trees below. A winding path of steps and stone ramps led up to a series of caves dating back to the first century CE. Each cave is a combination of Buddha statues and various characters of legend or Sri Lankan kings. The ceilings are covered in intricate and stunning murals, the cool air of the caves peaceful. I was, quite simply, stunned into silence. The beauty is beyond any man-made wonder I've seen in my time.

 Some Buddhas and ceiling murals at the cave temples.  

Some Buddhas and ceiling murals at the cave temples.  

As we stepped back into the bright sun, we heard the noise of someone shooing monkeys away from a nearby tree. Suddenly, roughly a hundred monkeys were racing around and by our feet up onto the rock beyond. We froze in a combination of fright and amazement and waited for them to pass before returning to the spot where we'd left our shoes, paid the shoe-sitter 25 rupees (17 cents) for his diligence, and started back down the steps, laughing about the monkey stampede we'd just survived.

 A few shots from Dambulla.  

A few shots from Dambulla.  

‪Friday night‬ consisted of dinner and a visit to a grocery store with the intent of buying a few beers to enjoy back at our guest house. Upon noting that we were the only women in that portion of the store and were receiving quite a few curious stares, we thought better of it.

But.

I found PEANUT BUTTER!!!

(And that is really freaking exciting. And expensive. It cost about $6 US, and is the quality of generic brand at home. But hey. Beggars can't be choosers.)

After a good night's sleep and some head-wobble-induced misunderstandings about breakfast, we were off again. This time, via tuk tuk to the town of Sigirya, about 20 kilometers away.

At first, we were very excited about the deep and wide seat of our tuk tuk. We soon realized though, that we were on the slowest. Tuk tuk. Ever.

Eventually we arrived in town and, having originally planned on staying in Dambulla for two nights, were in need of a guest house and lunch. Eventually we found both, got settled, and were off to Sigirya's main attraction, a giant rock protruding 200 meters out of the earth that was home to Buddhist monks as early as the 3rd century BCE and a palace fortress of a usurper to the throne in the early 1st century CE.

The rock is massive. And the steps to get to the top? Most definitely NOT up to code. Some were original steps, carved unevenly out of rock. Others were narrow spiral steps, and yet others were steel steps stuck to the rock face, with a view straight down if one were to look. This place is a liability insurance nightmare.

The climb was divided a bit. One section led through the remains of terraced gardens and pools, and the next led up through winding narrow spiral stairs to a section of beautiful frescoes in the side of the rock. These busty beauties are said to have been the king's harem and were most definitely not PG rated.

Once on the platform before the final climb, we chuckled a bit at the cartoonish signs warning of wasp attack and took photos of the giant lion feet - the only remnants of what was once the final ascent to the king's palace at the top of the rock and a giant statue of a lion. When a uniformed man started frantically waving people away from the stairs and toward a small net-sided hut that I quickly surmised was there in case of the aforementioned wasp attack, I noticed giant, and I mean GIANT wasp nests hanging from the rock. On the metal staircase above, people who'd been on their way down were told to sit in silence while men in head-to-toe green plastic suits stood in between and waited. After about fifteen minutes, during which time I noticed no difference in the amount of wasps in the air nor the general condition of the nests, we were given the all-clear and simply told to walk silently. The wind was strong but refreshing and we white-knuckled it to the top.

 Sigirya Rock  

Sigirya Rock  

From there, we could see forever. Lush Sri Lanka, all around. To imagine that a palace once stood amongst the foundations that remain is mind-blowing. What's even more incredible is that the place exists at all, and what would be nearly impossible even today is said to have been built in seven years.

We made our way down and back to our guest house for the evening. As precious wifi was available only in the open-air lobby, we made ourselves comfortable and reflected on our physical prowess at ascending such a fortress. The owner of the guest house, after sweeping a giant scorpion out of the area (and talking me down from the chair), offered us beers. We were ecstatic.

Until we tasted the beer.

Yes, living in a town famous for good beer has ruined me. But even if I'd never tasted the perfection that is a Pacific Northwest-brewed IPA, I'd have known that this beer was bad. Real bad.

But I drank it anyway. Don't judge. `

After a few beers and sitting in the garden with the owner until late, getting up and moving the next morning was a bit of a challenge. A few cups of tea and a greeting by Budo - the resident dog (Breed: Sri Lankan brown dog) - and again we were off in a Dambulla-bound tuk tuk to catch the bus.

Well, that was the plan.

A smooth-talking tuk tuk driver convinced us that he could get us to Kandy (our original bus-transfer stop) in two hours. At the time, fresh country air seemed far more appealing than a maybe-you-get-to-sit bus, so we went for it.

Yeah...two and a half hours in a tuk tuk isn't the greatest. But maybe it was about the same as the bus would've been. Insane traffic and constantly inhaling petrol fumes isn't for the faint of heart.

In Kandy, a tourist hub, we found an extremely touristy cafe. And ice cream. And a piece of chicken. Like a whole piece of boneless chicken, not the I'm-not-sure-what-part-of-the-bird-this-is bony hunks that have occasionally been in my rice and curry packets at lunch. It was expensive for Sri Lankan standards, but delicious.

And then we caved. We took advantage of the bizarre Sri Lanka referral system for anything from jewelry to lodging, along with a "very nice price...not tourist price" and asked a complete stranger if he knew a driver to take us to Kegalle (where the elephant project is located). His first question, "In a tuk tuk?"

And he did. Well, he knew a guy who knew a guy.

Before we knew it, another guy approached us and waved us into a TINY, and I mean tiny red car that was essentially a modern tuk tuk with sides. Make: Tata. Model: Nano. Never heard of it? Yeah, me neither. Basically a modern version of the Le Car. The driver still kept the plastic on all of the upholstery and cardboard on the floor. But it had something I hadn't seen since my arrival: seat belts.

So, again we wove through the mountains as rain began to fall, mist settling in valleys at one bend, and a street market with a ridiculous number of brightly-colored inflatable plastic toys and pools for sale at the next. Hut after hut sold all sorts of fruits and vegetables, but many people sat solo at small tables piled high with bright pink rambutan fruit (a lot like lychee) or jackfruit or stinky durian. We passed a faded sign stuck to a tree advertising a car wash with a busty blonde in short shorts pictured bent over a car. Next to it, a wide rectangular spot on the side of the road had been cleared, at either end were hoses pointed skyward so that the water arced over the dirt. Creative interpretation, I'd say.

Finally back in Kegalle and to the home stay, we discovered that ten new volunteers for another project at a nearby orphanage had arrived from China.

Two rudimentary bathrooms and 16 people. Throw in a language barrier and cultural differences and you have what I'll be referring to in the coming days as a "practice in patience".

At least a weekend away allowed the stink of elephant to wear off. ‪Until Monday‬.

 A resident of Sigirya.  

A resident of Sigirya.  

Try, try again

A short post. I'm finishing up a wonderful weekend wherein I visited some incredible sights, had a Sri Lankan beer, learned that SL has GIANT scorpions, and climbed a 600 meter rock. Stay tuned.

Wifi is proving to be inconsistent,so I'll get a post ready and up when I can!  

 

Days Two and Three: I stink.

Day two was hard.

As part of the work of the project, volunteers spend a bit of time at the local special needs home once a week. In doing so yesterday, my heart broke. While the facility was clean and many of the "inmates" as they're called seemed happy and well cared-for, there were some sights that will not be easily forgotten. Residents were old and young, some able to walk around freely and others confined to rooms with windows or adult-sized cribs. Some appeared to have suffered only physical deformities or permanent injuries and were otherwise capable of anything, though because they'd likely been denied an education or abandoned by their parents, this was home. Others were more severely impacted and treated in ways similar to how they'd have been treated in the 19th century in the US. My eyes filled with tears at some sights that I'd prefer to forget but know that I won't and shouldn't. So much potential lost. These are the people that we see in the hallways in nearly every American school today. Who, with special programs, are able to lead lives of substance. Rosiee explained that the Sri Lankan government pays 50 rupees per day per "inmate". That's roughly 30 cents.

As an educator though, it's so important to remember that "our" way isn't perfect and isn't possible everywhere. I try to see that the ultimate impact of such a short volunteer stint isn't about me giving of myself to better another place. Instead, it's about going with an open heart and mind, willing to see the difficult things and also find the beauty in the things that are different. The change doesn't happen because of us, but to us.

After lunch (more rice and curry), Rosiee took a few of us to a jewelry shop. I had read of Sri Lanka's famed gems and simply needed to see for myself. Well...I may or may not have blown my budget when I fell in love with a gorgeous moonstone and sapphire ring. Oops.

Feeling a bit rejuvenated, we spent the afternoon at a local girls' orphanage. Walking in, the energy was contagious. We sat at tables amongst the girls as the more quiet wrote notes in small notebooks that we passed back and forth to allow them to practice English. Others wandered about, confidently asking on sing-song Sinhala-laced English, "And you-ah name?" "And where ah you from?" 

Once again, as in Tanzania, my name proves difficult to pronounce.

Ahmma?

Ehrmmbuh?

Ahrmbah?

But, the laughter and joy in the girls as they chattered in Sinahala and giggled when we couldn't understand a question or request made my heart full. We all laughed. Without warning, I felt hands in my hair. All of the volunteers with long hair were quickly given braids and adorned with clips (mine has some sort of Strawberry Shortcake character). A small bracelet was fastened around my wrist by a shy girl with bright eyes. A tiny sprite of maybe four or five in a red and black plaid dress with a broken back zipper placed a bit of blue clay in my palm. I molded it into a tiny cat. She laughed and ran around, showing others until her excitement squished it and she was back for repairs. We wrote and said the alphabet and she adjusted the clip in my hair a few times, skipping from side to side.

I'm fairly certain that I'd like to bring her home.

When time came for us to depart, all of the girls grabbed hands and followed us outside, standing and waving, yelling "Goot byeeee!" As we walked down the hill followed by a semi-stray dog who apparently spotted me as a sucker a mile away.

 Queenie was more interested in seeing if the camera tasted like bananas than in posing with me.  

Queenie was more interested in seeing if the camera tasted like bananas than in posing with me.  

It didn't cool down much last night, and my sleep suffered. So, today's cleaning of elephant beds, especially now that the novelty has worn off, was really stinky. Which brings me to my next plight: how to get the stink of elephant dung off of your hands.

It's kind of impossible.

I wore gloves. I washed with just water (generally the only option). I washed with Wet Ones. Twice. I washed with hand sanitizer. No dice.

So, I had a tuk tuk take me to Food City. Now this was interesting. Imagine having twenty people watch you grocery shop in a place where you can read nothing and are suddenly immensely grateful for the great American branding machine (and free trade). I really wanted peanut butter. Or anything with protein in it, really. I ended up with some sort of yogurt, a Twix bar, some bottle water, what I hope is laundry detergent, and a small container of hand soap (attempt #4 at getting my hands to smell a tad less like elephant shit).

It worked. Well, it worked in the sense that for a few minutes my hands smelled like "Sea Scent" elephant shit. Then it just faded back to elephant shit. On the bright side, it made me less focused on peanut butter.

‪Tomorrow‬'s Friday. I'm planning on leaving early with a hired driver to take me four hours north to Dambulla, where I'll tour ancient Buddhist temple caves. I may be joined by another volunteer, which would be nice. Then, I'll head to Sigirya, an ancient fortress built on top of a giant rock outcrop. On Sunday, I'll have my first adventure on the public bus system. This is where smelling like elephant poo may come in handy.

 Just your everyday water fight while bathing an elephant. Like you do.  

Just your everyday water fight while bathing an elephant. Like you do.  

Afternoon means elephant bath time. Podi Raja was a tad feisty on Tuesday when we bathed him and the mahouts have separated him, thinking that he's nearing musth. So, we gave Loku Raja and Queenie a good scrubbing. It's important when bathing an elephant to ensure that one splashes said elephant with lots of water frequently. And as is inevitable on a hot day when bathing an elephant, a water fight with a mahout on one side, three volunteers on the other, and a giant tusker elephant in the middle ensued.

Check that one off the bucket list.

Day One: A lesson in dung

As it turns out, throwing balls of elephant dung is slightly cathartic...and maybe not nearly as romantic as I'd I imagined.

After a four hour flight from Dubai, I landed in Colombo, surrounded by swaying palms and lush green. Amal was there to meet me and, along with two girls from China, we were off. As was the case when I traveled in Tanzania, the windy roads and bizarre traffic patterns mean that a seemingly straightforward drive is anything but. The drive from Colombo to the project site took about two hours. In the US, it would have been about 45 mins. Though, the creative interpretation of lanes could be a solution to Portland's ever-growing traffic nightmare. 

At the project house, which is located about a kilometer from the elephant camp, I met the coordinator, Rosiee. Her friendly nature and warm smile were a welcome sight after such a long journey. Other volunteers were also there, all from the UK.

At dinner, we made small talk. As the sole american, the first and obvious question regarded my thoughts on Donald Trump. So that was fun. It took a bit, but eventually everyone got settled and comfortable with one another. I'm currently sharing my four-bunk room with Amanda from the UK. She's on month four of a six month trek through SE Asia.

The rickety wifi was turned on at seven, and we all grabbed our devices. I've not been successful at uploading photos - but will keep trying!

But back to the poop.

After a whole-bathroom ice-cold shower followed by a squeegee of the floor reminiscent of those in Tanzania, I had a fairly excellent night's sleep on a three-inch deep mattress that succeeds mostly in reminding me of my back issues. Morning breakfast consisted of some white toast and hot-pink jam of some variety. I am quite grateful for the granola bars that I packed at the last minute! Here, as was the case in Africa, carbs are king.

Tuk tuks arrived to take us to the elephant camp. Upon arrival, we could see an elephant, one of the Raja's, standing in the distance. Two of the males are called Raja - one Podi Raja (small) and the other Loku Raja (big). Apparently, when the two of them arrived at the camp as babies, one was larger than the other (and someone really liked the name Raja). That was thirty-something years ago and now Podi Raja is about a foot taller than Loku Raja.  Loku Raja has gorgeous tusks, about four feet long. As a "tusker", he's especially sacred and valuable. I always thought that all male elephants had tusks. Not so...some females do, some males don't. A female, Queenie, had been called by the government to a religious festival but should be back soon.

Another male, Gaul, stood on a hill a bit away from the main trail. Upon seeing us and hearing Rosiee's voice, his ears flapped and he raised his trunk. We won't be approaching him, however. He's in musth - an annual three month period of heightened hormones and general friskiness. Elephants in musth are rarely approached except by mahouts and are considered to be fairly dangerous. So, Gaul is relegated to the top of the hill, chained in a group of trees. Poor dude just wants to have a night on the town...

Cleaning the beds involves tossing giant football-sized rounds of dung out of the bed area, as well as moving palm fronds in and hard sticks out. It's slightly stinky work and the likelihood of getting urine splattered all over oneself is fairly high. I learned that the hard way. I have no doubt that the mahouts, watching us from nearby in their sarongs with giant knives stuck in at the waist, shake their heads at these strange humans who come to do such work for free.

At lunchtime, Rosiee appeared with square packages for each of us - waxed deli paper with something in looping Sinhalese stamped on the outside. Inside was rice with spices and curry. Luckily, we'd remembered to bring spoons from the house. Most meals are eaten with hands, but after my morning of dung-tossing, I was grateful for the spoon.

After a long lunch and some time to read and relax down by the river, we wandered a bit further down to see the two Rajas laying in the water. Mahouts gave us each a piece of coconut husk and invited us in to scrub them down. For the record, bathing a 6,000lb elephant is a tad intimidating. But sort of incredible. Sort of like a giant dog.

Soon after, we loaded back into tuk tuks for the journey back to the home stay. Those of you who read my Africa blog know how excellent I am at sink laundry. Needless to say, sink laundry when covered in elephant business means one thing:

I'm going to need new pants.

 Podi Raja

Podi Raja

One night in Dubai

Twenty-five years ago this now 8 lane roadway was two lanes, and camels weren't an uncommon choice of transport. Our driver told us multitudes of facts in halting English while simultaneously managing a cranky stick shift and his PA-in-bag microphone situation.

And, while he continued to explain cultural customs, point out one new building after the next, and slow down before passing each of the many traffic cameras, his audience oohed and ahhed in the back, necks on swivel and generally craned to look straight up.

Periodically, he'd stop, each of us gasping in shock at the sweltering 108 degree night that awaited outside the bus so that we could take photos...then selfies...then pass our cameras around to one another to take photos for us. We became fast friends. Strangers the world over with one night in Dubai in common.

Annick lives in Houston, but was on her way to see family in her native Ivory Coast. Linda is from Ireland on her way to India. One gentleman was headed to South Africa. A couple from Bangladesh. There were a few other Americans - an actor from LA and a lady from somewhere I can't recall. A gentleman from Pakistan kindly took far too many photos of me at various sights (I left my new selfie stick in my checked bag), some with his own camera, saying he wanted photos of his new friends.

Dubai is a crossroads. Our driver told us that 80% of the city's population is not from the UAE. Driving past buildings bearing many familiar names and brands, I could see that it was true. It's a bizarrely new place, with wealth oozing from some of the buildings and hotels and construction a constant. A manufactured utopia to which people the world over are drawn - even if only to take a two-hour bus tour.

 The world's tallest building - The Burj Khalifa

The world's tallest building - The Burj Khalifa

My flights from Portland were fairly uneventful. The flight path was extraordinary - up directly north from Seattle, over the North Pole, then back down over parts of Russia, Kazakhstan, and Iran. Amazing as it was, 15 hours of flight time with a number of extremely unhappy little ones and a kind but unaware old couple behind me who chose to use my seat back (and often a handful of my hair) as leverage to stand up (which was on average every 20 minutes) left me exhausted and weary. Leaving the airport to head to my Emirates Airlines-provided lodging, a tall young man from Pakistan sat next to me. We chatted - he'd missed a connection and was stuck for the night. Later, as I ate dinner in the hotel buffet, Sa'ad passed by and joined me. We talked a bit. He shared photos of his baby girl and wife and talked about his family's optical business.

Having been on only a fraction of this trip, I've already met so many people. Traveling alone is amazing for that. When alone, we're far more willing find what binds us. And, aside from one extremely icy and terrifying immigration agent (but I'm fairly certain that's a prerequisite for that gig regardless of country), everyone has been exceedingly kind and helpful.

So now, on to Colombo. After my tour, I managed a quick shower and a few hours' sleep (well, let's just call it sleep-ISH) before it was back to the airport to pay $6 for a sorely-needed cup of coffee. In theory, someone will be at the airport in Sri Lanka to pick me up. I'll trade the high-rises and fancy cars of Dubai for tri-shaws and elephants. I can't wait!

(More photos to come...uploading my high-quality DSLR photos on iffy wifi is proving a challenge.)

It's Time.

I've spent the last few days on a roller coaster. I'm excited one moment, stressed and anxious the next, and vacillate between complete denial and disbelief all the while. But tomorrow, I'll be embarking on a journey to the other side of the world. By myself. To play with elephants. 

Makes tons of sense. 

I've had quite a few people, when they discover that I'm going to Sri Lanka alone, respond with, "Wow. You're brave." Except I'm not. Make no mistake. I'm terrified! But I know one thing about my world: life will happen whether I stay home or not. So, when a curious and perhaps well-meaning someone asked, "Don't you have any friends to go with?" I responded without even thinking that, yes, I do have friends. Most are quite busy with lives of their own...and I wanted to go alone. This time.

The girl I know who went to Tanzania in 2010 is quite different from me now. That trip was life-changing in so many ways, but not at all in the ways I thought that it would be. And not at all in the ways that life and circumstance would change me in the years since. But the one basic element remains: me. When one travels by herself, there's nothing and no one to rely on but you. And that tends to come in handy.

Therin lies the magic. 

Life is hard. We get smacked down at times...sometimes a few times in a row. But it's also glorious. I simply needed to be reminded of my ability to do something big, to go to a strange place and meet people, see amazing things, and of how big and wonderful the world truly is. 

And one more thing. When I left for Tanzania in 2010, my mother was my biggest cheerleader. I'm fairly certain that she stopped complete strangers in the grocery store to tell them about her daughter. She pronounced it fancy-like: Tahnz-ah-neeya. I just shook my head and smiled. And on a cold February afternoon three years later when I said my final goodbye to her, I played for her a song that I'd used as soundtrack to a slideshow on my trip blog. She loved that song.

I promised her I'd see the world. But I haven't been far since.

It's time. 

 

(Well, that and I really wanted an excuse to buy a selfie stick.) 

Ode (or rant) to the guy who invented cone cups...

Periodically in my other life, as a seventh grade teacher, I find myself reeling over the most seemingly innocuous of changes. And, as is my nature, I react verbally. Often on Facebook. Many friends have suggested that I place posts like these in a blog, so that they are easier to find when one is in need of a little completely unnecessary reading...

Behold... a post from June 1, 2016:

To the guy who invented cone cups:

I know that you thought you were pretty genius when you figured out how to save .0001 cents per cup by making them into a cone shape. Besides, who ever heard of a SNO-CUP on a hot summer day?! That doesn’t sound like a tasty summertime treat. These cups scream efficiency and frugality. Employees will sip quickly around the water cooler and be back to work in a jiffy if they can’t set their cup down. Brilliant. Well done, sir.

Except…

Middle schoolers. At the end of the year. Much like a sleeping bear...we proceed with caution. Change nothing. Otherwise they might realize that the year is nearly over. And they outnumber us.

But back to the cups.

You see, middle schoolers love novelty. If it’s new, it’s awesome. And so...when questionable lead levels bring water coolers into every classroom of a middle school at the end of the year, suddenly every kid experiences massive, unquenchable, ten-days-stranded-in-the-Mojave-Desert amounts of thirst. Forget about school and learning...they have NEW water and it must be consumed!

And cone cups.

Yes...we can recommend that they bring water bottles from home. But water bottles aren’t cone cups. With a cone cup, you can sit, or stand, but don’t you dare put that sucker down. There’s no need to read...or write...or be on-task at all...because you can’t set down a cone cup! When the teacher redirects you, you simply tip your cup at her, much like an old guy in a beer commercial, communicating that you do, indeed see her, but that all available attention is currently focused on the preservation of the water in your cup and therefore school work is deemed secondary in order of importance.

Suddenly each class has turned into a mini cocktail party.

Cone cups sometimes leak out of the bottom. That’s my favorite. Especially when working near technology or a textbook.

You can color a cone cup like a rainbow, wet the rim, and stick it to your forehead to turn yourself into a unicorn. It’s magical. Really. Or better, use two and turn them into horns!

You can take one cone cup, cut off the tip, flip it upside down, and create a cone cup holder for another cone cup. (What can I say, we’re a STEM school.)

You can fold cone cups into every imaginable flying creature. They make a satisfying “thwack” when they land if they’re a tad soggy.

You can place cone cups on different parts of your body and giggle, while the elders among you recall 90s-era Madonna...or just shake their head and suppress a giggle themselves.

You can have contests with your friends to see how many times you can re-use a waxless cone cup before complete and utter cone cup failure.

You can precariously balance cone cups full of water in the center of four desks pushed together. This is genius...until someone moves.

And when the teacher starts to ration the cone cups - well then, you just interrupt the lesson at 30 second intervals to ask for MORE CONE CUPS!

Finally, when a mini-heat wave mugs up the joint and the power goes out for three hours, thereby disabling the barely functioning fan in an already A/C-free school, the demand for cone cups just goes up. Well played.

Mr. Cone Cup inventor, I have one question for you: Did you, by chance, also invent a more efficient bathroom pass?

FYI: I’ll be requiring a martini in a cone cup very, very soon.

It doesn't have to match...it just has to "go".

The year was 1984. An eight year old me was hot on the trail of a Mother's Day gift. I had six dollars burning a hole in my pocket and was really hoping to have enough left over to feed my slightly ridiculous sugar addiction. 

After combing the "gift" aisle of the Woolworth's drugstore and deeply inhaling the intoxicating smell in the air - something like bubble gum mixed up with cheap sneakers - my eyes landed on my prize. There, in a red velveteen box, was a lovely matching earring and necklace set. The sparkle of the heart-shaped rhinestones had me at "hello". It was perfect. 

And I'm pretty sure that my mom got to wear it once. Before it broke...or turned her neck green. One of those.

All these years later, I struggle with one question (well, okay...WAY more than one, but for our purposes here, bear with me): To make matching sets or not to make matching sets. More often than not, my answer is a resounding "no".

A dear friend and fashionista has a mantra regarding this issue: "It doesn't have to match. It just has to 'go'." And it's true. As long as two or more pieces aren't in constant battle with one another, it goes. If it represents your style, go with it. Lucky for all of us, recent seasons have brought with them an "okay" to mix metal colors, gemstones, and shapes. Layers are in. Don't have a giant statement piece? Layer some smaller pieces of different lengths. Find the mix that works for you.

And worry not...if YOU love it, it goes.