Saturday, July 15, 2017

Great American Road Trip Part 2: The Possibilities!

This whole business of driving cross-country got my brain thinking about the ultimate cross-country road trip. Of course, there are many ways to define that. One approach might be to visit every national park in the contiguous United States. Apparently, you can do all 47 over 15,000 miles.

http://www.randalolson.com/wp-content/uploads/us-national-parks-optimal-road-trip.png
But just looking at that map, you can see that only hitting the jewels of America's most beautiful spots leaves out a lot in the center of the country. If you want to take a more democratic approach to touring the country (this is America, after all), you could hit all 48 contiguous states plus DC. Of course someone has already mapped that out for us.

http://twentytwowords.com/how-to-drive-through-all-48-of-the-continental-united-states-in-113-hours/
That trip is more manageable, too, at less than half the mileage of the national parks circuit: 6,872 miles. Of course, adding on Alaska and Hawaii would increase that number dramatically. I guess that's why they're worth their own, separate trips.

But looking at the route above, I noticed a few things that irked me. First, It's not coast-to-coast. The trip starts in Maine and ends in Montana, never giving a glimpse of the Pacific Ocean. I know the oceans aren't states, but they are pretty momentous features defining the United States. If I were to drive nearly 7000 miles to see every state, I'd feel like something were missing if I never saw the Pacific in the process.

Second, upon close inspection, the route in this map doesn't even actually hit all the 48 contiguous states: Pennsylvania got cut out. Now, you can probably SEE Pennsylvania on this route; IH-68 comes awfully close, but actually stays in Maryland. This omission disqualifies the route entirely. I'll give you the Pacific Ocean since it technically isn't a state, but Pennsylvania definitely is a state. You can't leave that one out.

Finally, the map above involves several points of back-tracking. Most notably, there's a little spur going east from Chicago to hit Indiana and Michigan. I don't like backtracking. I took a lot of advice from my Grandpa when it comes to living life with honor and integrity and one of those pieces of advice was to not go home the same way you left. There's just too much of the world out there to take the same route twice. The spur to Michigan in the map above may be the most efficient way to see all of the lower 48, but it's not one that I could follow in good conscience.

Having noticed these flaws, some of which were fatal, I determined to make my own route that would allow me see all 48 contiguous states without 1) omitting a major ocean; 2) omitting Pennsylvania (or any other state) and; 3) backtracking.

Ben's Version

I know, this route looks pretty similar. It's about 400 miles longer than the first map but much more complete in my mind. For a step by step guide, here are the route specifics. Another fun fact: if you're looking to drive coast-to-coast and pass through the least states possible, then California to North Carolina via Arkansas and Tennessee is your best bet. The more you know!

Anyways, these are just fantasy for now. We aren't doing any of these trip this time around. We have prioritized visiting family and friends over states this time around and the past three weeks have been spent seeing my and Bryn's family. We had a week in Austin, a week at a lake house and then the past week has been in Oklahoma City. It seems like a week is just about how long it takes for Mae to get adjusted to a place, so we're keeping up a pace that ensures she's never quite settled in. Poor girl. She's being a trooper though. Even when we dunked her in Barton Springs for her "baptism". 


She seemed completely comfortable kicking around in the water. She wasn't so happy about the dunking, but it didn't ruin her day either, so we're considering it a win. 

We continued the water theme in Oklahoma City at a great splash pad that rained, sprayed, waterfalled and misted all the kids running around. Mae enjoyed it too, seeing as how she could keep her feet more on solid ground. 


We're doing our best to get her used to the water. 



Sunday, June 25, 2017

Great American Roadtrip Part 1: The Southwest

Mae delivered on looking pensively over great heights at the Grand Canyon. I'm not sure if she registered that anything was particularly different or unique about the Grand Canyon, but we at least caught her in a few moments where her face was aligned with the panorama. That counts, right?



And even if it doesn't, we got this great Lion King shot of Mae on our last morning at the Grand Canyon.




But let's be honest, most of the time Mae was just looking at us, a little bewildered, wondering why nobody was feeding her.


This was my fourth trip to the Grand Canyon - third that I can remember. Like Mae, I also visited the Grand Canyon on a cross-country trip when I was an infant. The other three times, I had spent most of my time on the North Rim and just briefly stopped along the south rim while we drove through. This trip was my first time actually spending time along the south rim and it was amazing. The park services nearly 40 miles along the south rim, offering dozens of lookouts, trails and rest stops. On previous visits, I had dismissed the lodges and amenities offered along the south rim as too decadent, opting for the purely natural approach on the north rim instead. But the amenities are really well done. We learned about Mary Colter, the architect who designed most of the original tourist accommodations along the south rim. I was impressed by her ability to incorporate the natural surroundings in a way that highlighted them, so that her structures complimented the environment rather than obscured it. Providing a little shade and water also helps. One of my favorite of her features is a fireplace in Bright Angel Lodge made up of the various layers of the Grand Canyon. You can't see that stratification in one frame in the actual Grand Canyon - it's just too big - so scaling it down to a fireplace makes it just a little more comprehensible. I appreciate little touches like that one. 

Grand Canyon strata fireplace at the Bright Angel Lodge

On previous trips, I had also dismissed the Desert View tower on the eastern point of the south rim as a tourist trap. How wrong and naive I was back then...


Looking up into the Desert View tower
In a final coup de grace to my old luddite approach to the Grand Canyon, Bryn treated me and her dad to a Father's Day rim-to-tim helicopter ride across the canyon. Not only was this my first aerial view of the Grand Canyon, it was my first ride in a helicopter as well, so my senses were reeling as we crested over the south rim and the bottom fell out from beneath us. It's amazing how quickly the trees pass by underneath as you buzz across the plateau during the approach, but then once you cross over the rim, everything slows down and it feels like you're just suspended there over the canyon. I can't tell if I'm more frustrated or awed that the entire round trip took about 30 minutes. Eleven years ago, I hiked the Grand Canyon from north to south rim. It took us three days and several gallons of sweat. 

A tiny sliver of the Colorado River from the helicopter


video
Looking west during our return trip from the North Rim


As we headed east from the Grand Canyon, I found myself reflecting on summer trips with my Grandparents when I was a kid. Every summer, we'd head off to the great American West: Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, Utah, Idaho, Washington, Oregon. One summer we flirted with the Mississippi River and went as far east as Lake Superior, but always the focus was on the west. Armed with a Rand McNally atlas and a national directory of Best Western hotels, we set off to see the great landscapes that my Grandfather, who grew up in northern Louisiana, had to see to believe. I feel incredibly fortunate to have been able to go on those trips and am happy that from now on, Great American Road Trips will always evoke memories of my Grandparents.

Obviously, a lot has changed in the 20+ years since we did those trips. Instead of picking our route based on where the Best Westerns were located (and driving hotel to hotel looking for a room) now we can book a room from our phones as we drive along. We aren't limited to Best Westerns, either. The advent of Air B&B and booking.com puts hundreds of options at our fingertips. One of the things I love most about sites like Air B&B is that they get you off the main drag, where the Best Westerns are, and back into the neighborhoods that tend to get overlooked and passed up. You meet and talk to people that you wouldn't have otherwise. It makes your overnight rest just as much part of the adventure as the daytime explorations. 

Nowhere was this more true than in Alpine, TX, where we stayed on a small ranch on the edge of the mountains and Mae learned about horses. We all fell in love with Alpine during a brief stay there and have vowed to return for a longer sojourn. Grandpa and Grandma would have loved Alpine, but I'm not sure we ever would have made it there during the 1990s - the Best Western there only opened a few years ago.
Meeting Sonny in Alpine, TX

Of course, the internet doesn't only help with overnight accommodations. We've been on all sorts of backroad adventures that I doubt would have been possible without google. In Deming, New Mexico, Yelp told us about Tacos Mirasol, a colorful little shop where the AC was out but we didn't mind. I had my first tacos al pastor and Mexican coke in months there and that's all that mattered. Mae loved getting to watch a few minutes of Telemundo and Bryn savored her Chile Relleno. We stopped at a weird time - around 3pm - so there was only one other patron there at the time, a middle aged and friendly guy who worked night shifts at Mizkan, the chile canning facility in town. I put it together then that whenever you buy a can of Hatch green chiles, you'll see Deming, New Mexico on the label. He was the guy responsible for putting those chiles in the can. I acquired my love of New Mexican green chiles from my Uncle Robert and wished he could have been there at that moment. He probably could have had a more informed conversation with our fellow diner than I did. 

We also got off the beaten path just outside El Paso, TX, where we went to visit International Boundary Marker Number 1. This white obelisk marks the beginning of the US-Mexico land border in New Mexico. From there to to the Gulf of Mexico, the border is marked by the Rio Grande but from this point west, to the Pacific Ocean, it's just desert, fence and a few dozen more of these white obelisks. I point out that this really is the border. In the picture below, the tree just behind the obelisk is Mexico. We could have easily walked Mae over there and logged her third country. However, there was a Border Patrol agent in a truck just off camera keeping an eye on things so we stayed well on the US side of the marker. We waved at a few tourists parked on the other side, in Mexico. 

International Boundary Marker Numero Uno

The last story I want to share from this whirlwind of a week was our stop at McDonald observatory just outside Fort Davis, Texas. Perched on a hilltop over 6000 feet above sea level, this cluster of telescopes has put Texas on the astronomical map since the 1930s. Back then, they trucked a (relatively small) 82" diameter telescope up the dirt slope in the bed of an old Ford. Now, they still have state-of-the art telescopes that are among the biggest in the world. We went during the day, so weren't able to do any star gazing, but the views were amazing and seeing the telescopes close up was even more impressive. I can only hope that some of that knowledge got stored away in the back of Mae's brain and sparks the flame of science. But who am I kidding - she slept through most of the tour and ate from the bottle for the rest. She had no idea what was going on. I guess that just means we'll have to keep trying.  

107' Harlan Smith Telescope

Outside the 360" Hobby-Eberly Telescope





Sunday, June 18, 2017

Goodbye Saigon, Hello Flagstaff!

Happy Father's Day everyone!

I'm taking the opportunity of my first Father's Day to reflect back on the past six months of Mae. She was born last December and everyday since that one has been an introduction to fatherhood. Bryn and I are taking it all in pretty well, but really because Mae has spoiled us with (mostly) quiet nights and a warm friendliness that I can only attribute to Vietnam. We do our best to keep her happy, and she is doing the same. We feel incredibly fortunate to have fallen in so well with her. Of course, this probably means that she'll go through an especially horrific vampire stage in her early teens (or whatever the equivalent will be in 2030) but at least we'll have started off on a positive note, right?

Later today we're heading to the Grand Canyon, which is a pretty epic way to ring in my first Father's Day. Mae and I have been practicing looking out pensively over wide expanses from our balcony in Saigon. I think she's about got it down now, but the Grand Canyon will require more pensiveness from her than she may be ready for. We'll see how it goes. I'll definitely provide updates.

Mae practicing for the Grand Canyon in Saigon back in April
We left Saigon for good this past week, saying goodbye to all of the friends that made our first post so amazing. As we were flying back, I recounted how I was not all that excited to be going back to Vietnam in February. We were still interpreting Mae's operating instructions and had quickly adjusted back to life in Austin. Why uproot all of that and fly 24 hours across the Pacific Ocean just to finish out the four months left on our tour? It seemed masochistic. Maybe it was, a bit, but it's amazing how significant four months can be. During that time, Mae went from a cute but minimally interactive newborn to a playful little rugrat. Four years after our initial trip to Vietnam, I was able to convince Bryn to go back to Hue for a weekend; we saw firsthand how the common trait of having an infant can seal bonds of friendship faster than I ever thought possible. Mae became best friends with our nanny, Thuy, who loved her as much as we do but had the baby experience and knowledge to back that love up with competent child raising. We will miss them all. We will also get back to Southeast Asia sometime - but hopefully after Mae is able to rush her own backpack up and down stairs across an airport terminal to make a tight connection.

The Grand Canyon is the second stop on our 2017 Great American Road Trip. We are making the most of our 2.5 month layover in the United States before making our way to our next post in September: Belize! That will have to wait for a whole other post, but for now, we are in the American southwest, reacquainting ourselves with phenomena such as low humidity, stillness and twilights that last longer than 5 minutes. Other than the heat, Phoenix was about the most opposite place I can imagine to Saigon. The sparseness of the landscape there is an aesthetic completely foreign to Vietnam, where at least 20 varieties of plants and insect inhabit every square foot of the country. Vietnam is a riot of life. The humans there are just emulating their own natural environment: nature there long ago concocted a medley of fruit trees, creepy crawly critters and landscapes that change every 20 miles and now humans do their best to copy it with tightly packed bodies, motorbikes and neon signs. The humans haven't quite accomplished the same elegance as nature has, but they're still working on it. Vietnam is a feast for the senses, always providing stimulation wherever you are, but also making it difficult to notice anything beyond a three foot radius that is your bubble.

A little creek bottom down the hill from our place in Flagstaff
But here, in the foothills outside of Flagstaff, I can actually walk around the street and soak in my surroundings. I can look 100, 200 feet off into the pines to notice squirrels chasing each other up a tree, or stop to hear a woodpecker doing his work 100 yards off. Outside of the Saigon Zoo, these experiences are virtually impossible to recreate in Vietnam. There is nature there, for sure, but the jungle is like the city in that you are never really sure what's happening more than three feet away from you in any direction. The ferns and palm fronds and banyan tree roots trap you in and demand your immediate attention in the wilds of Vietnam just like motorbikes, banh mi stalls and broken sidewalks do the same in the cities.

Flagstaff, Arizona has been a great kind of decompression tank for us in between chapters of exhilaration. Saying goodbye to Saigon was emotionally draining and the Grand Canyon (along with the rest of the American southwest) demands a sense of awe that I'm not quite sure we're ready for yet. Flagstaff, and the peaceful pines surrounding our little mountain getaway, serve as the perfect interruption between the two, allowing us to find our sleep rhythms again and take a few breaths of thin, mountain air before we go on to the next, utterly amazing slice of earth.


Sunday, October 16, 2016

Transformation

For the past two months, basically since my last post, the room pictured below was the temporary resting place of many a visitor. For those of you who are familiar with the room, this was our smaller guest room. Now, as you can see, it has been taken over by baby. My daddy app calendar had been telling me to prepare the nursery for the past month, but it all pretty much got done in a 24 hour period. The daddy app should be content now.

Thank you to everyone who contributed to the nursery! As you can see, it's not quite finished yet, but we feel better knowing that, if a baby were to drop from the skies tomorrow, we'd more or less be ready for it. That is a relief. There are still plenty of items still up for grabs if anyone is itching to buy some baby stuff. You can check out our registry here.



It's also been great to spend time with all of the visitors who passed through this room (back when it had a normal sized bed) over the past few months. Thank you for making it interesting!

From hiking through the jungles of Penang with Liz...

To exploring Vietnam's highlands (and high buildings) with Mike and Sammy...


To running through mountains with Jim - he wasn't a guest, but he helped me finish my first half marathon through the mountains around Sa Pa...




To waiting out the floods in Nha Trang with Bryn's State Department training class.

This was the view inside...




While the conditions outside had devolved to carrying wives through the streets.


Thank you to everyone who came and visited and thank you to everyone who has helped with baby stuff. We really appreciate it!


Sunday, August 14, 2016

Birthday Week

It's K-pop hour on the music video channel here, which makes for surprisingly good blog writing background music.

Once the dust settled from the big news last Friday, we celebrated Bryn's birthday the very next day in Singapore. Her birthday cake was delicious, but there was just waaaay too much cake left on the platter afterwards. Bryn was nice enough to let me take care of that.



Later that day, we went to a Chinatown hawker center to check out the first Michelin starred food stall. At $3.00 a serving of chicken & rice, it's probably the cheapest Michelin starred meal out there, but the law of supply and demand got in our way. Basically the entire hawker center had turned into a big line for this one stall. Since we haven't yet met a meal in Singapore that we didn't like, we opted for a laksa stall instead. Just as cheap and just as delicious as we had bargained for but a considerably shorter wait time. 



Anyone who is lucky enough to fly through Singapore anytime soon, Changi airport has to be the best airport I've ever been to. Below is a shot of the BUTTERFLY GARDEN in terminal three. They also orchid gardens, a sunflower garden and several free movie theaters scattered throughout. Great place to spend a couple of hours waiting for a flight.


Finally, thank you to everyone who has pitched in on baby gear from the registry so far, we really appreciate it! We also appreciate any used baby stuff you might have laying around or stored in boxes. 

We have a room here set aside to be the nursery come February. For the next few months, it will have to serve as a guest room, but as of October, the adult bed is out and the crib is in. As things come in, we've been storing them in that room. Apologies in advance to any guests who stay with us over the next few months and are bombarded with baby stuff, but it's pretty darn cute. 

Happy Sunday everyone!

Friday, August 5, 2016

99.9% chance of GIRL!!

We're in Singapore for the 20 week check-up. Ostensibly, we're here to make sure the baby's healthy and learn the gender, but also, Singapore is a great place to celebrate the pregnancy half-way point and Bryn's birthday! 

So, 1) the baby is healthy and 2) the baby is almost definitely a girl! Last time we were here, for the 13 week check up, the doctor gave us an 80% confidence that our baby was a girl. Now he told us with 99.9% confidence- it's a GIRL! He showed us the labia, which I will not post on the blog out of respect for our daughter's decency. We've both been mentally expecting a girl, so it's nice to stay on track with that. I will have SO much to learn. I mean, I had a lot to learn regardless, but raising a little girl will give me an opportunity to tap into some new skill sets, for sure. 

Step one, don't post pictures of her labia online. Instead, here are some nice profile shots!


We've been curating a carefully selected registry. Our registry is a bit unconventional because we will make four international moves in the first nine months we have the hippo.  If you want to buy something for us, we would love it! We've made notes on a few items to have them sent directly to Vietnam. If you see this note, please send that item to the DPO address in Virginia - that's our Vietnam address. It's confusing. If there's no note about sending to Vietnam, then please send it to the default address which is in Austin. 


We know the temptation to buy pink stuff will be huge - unbearable even. But, I've been informed that step two of my raising-a-daughter learning process is to make sure we don't inundate her with frilly pink stuff. So, please, go easy on the pink. There's a whole rainbow of colors out there and we want to make sure she's familiar with all of them. And actually, pink isn't on the rainbow, so there. Primary colors are preferred. 

We have also prioritized some items as more important. To see those items, click "list actions," choose "sort" and choose "priority (high to low)." If you have any questions, please ask- we know it's confusing. And thank you for helping us out with baby gear! 

The Hippo

Once we got into the second trimester, we decided that we needed a name for the baby - gender neutral, preferably, in order to avoid making any premature distinctions. We settled on naming our baby "The Hippo". We chose the Hippo for a few reasons. First, Hungry Hungry Hippo just makes sense for a hungry pregnant woman. Second, the Saigon zoo just had a new baby hippo, so there's a definite link between babies and hippopotamuses. Third, since the due date is around Christmas, it fit so well with our favorite Christmas song: I want a Hippopotamus for Christmas. That might be somewhat of a theme song this year!

Anyways, that's all to explain why this was one of the first baby gifts we received. A friend of ours here knitted it herself and we're pretty excited to have it. It even matches my Grandma's quilt, which will definitely feature in the new tyke's life.


I'll be using this blog to do updates on pregnancy, delivery and other baby-related news, so keep checking in. We're really excited to start this new adventure and feel very fortunate to have such a supportive group of people behind us along the way. We love you all!

Ben & Bryn 






Wednesday, September 23, 2015

The Land of the Three Waters

I remember back in the early days of messing around on Google Earth (before Streetview took all the glory) I discovered what the word "antipode" means and that, by inverting the coordinates of any given location, I could find its exact opposite side of the globe. It was on this day that I realized how foolish I was for thinking that if I dug deep enough in my elementary school's sandbox, eventually I'd make it to China. In reality, I would have come out somewhere in the Indian Ocean - onto some God-forsaken, middle-of-nowhere ocean floor somewhere equally far from Madagascar, Western Australia and the southern tip of India. My closest hope of salvation would have been the French Southern and Antarctic Lands several hundred miles to my south. Unless I was digging in my winter (their summer), the several dozen scientists that live on the island would have probably all gone home. In the end, it was a good thing that I never made it all the way through. It probably would not have ended well for me. 

This is all to just set the scene for my visit to Kanyakumari, India's southernmost tip and dubbed "The Land of the Three Waters". It is here that the Arabian Sea, Indian Ocean and Bay of Bengal all meet after the Indian sub-continent finally ends its 1000 mile separation of the three. As I stood out on the point, dipping my toes into the water, I imagined my desolate antipode resting under the water somewhere thousands of miles in front of me. There was no land between my big toe and the Antarctic. 
Dipping my toe into the southern tip of India

Waves crashing into the southern tip of India

The Antarctic is a pretty abstract concept when you're in southern India. The heavy heat either bakes you dry on the east side of the peninsula in Tamil Nadu, or steam cooks you on the west side in tropical Kerala. A narrow mountain range divides the two and, driving, you cross from West Texas to Bali in a matter of minutes. The contrast is jarring and spectacular and the only thing that seems to hold the two separate universes together is a little two lane road that we whizzed along to and fro across the southern tip of India. 

I had the good fortune of getting to tag along with my aunt and her colleague, Christine, in southern India while they were visiting a factory to set up some purchases. (Thanks again you two for having me along!) We spent a day  in Tirunelveli going over designs of dried botanical arrangements and then took off for a few days of adventure while the artists created samples back in the factory. We visited the beach town of Kovalam, saw an old wooden palace and visited a few temples. It was a great little tour of India's southern tip and I can heartily recommend it to others looking for a good corner of India to explore. 

I could write about a lot of experiences I had in India over just a few days, but I think the experience(s) that struck me the most were the temples. Maybe I wasn't going to the right temples when I visited Northern India back in 2011, but the southern temples just seem to have so much more character. Sensuous is the way that I would describe them if I only had one word. Given my rambling so far, that might be the only word of mine you read about South Indian temples, but if you'll indulge me for a few more paragraphs, I have additional observations on the subject. 

It wasn't until I was back on the plane returning to Saigon that I finally arrived at the apt metaphor to describe South Indian temples: they're like a good, cured cast iron skillet that has been passed down from your great-grandmother. This metaphor may seem strange, but let me lay it out for you.

I think the piece that finally did it for me was a bas-relief of the monkey god within Meenakshi temple in Madurai. After making my way from the imposing gate through the dark layers of the temple lined with sculptures of Hindu gods and warriors, I made it into one of the central altars buried deep inside. If I hadn't had a guide, I would have been completely lost at this point. He directed me to the monkey god altar and I noticed it was very shiny for a stone sculpture, with globs of white and yellow smeared all over it. My guide told me that it was butter and lard - that people worshipped this altar by smearing cooking fats over it and then draping it in floral strands. 

Altar to the Monkey God at Meenakshi Temple
This was the literal parallel that got me onto the cast iron skillet metaphor, but the connection goes deeper than just a shared surface for butter. Worshippers at these temples offered all sorts of organic materials in these temples. Flowers were probably the most common, followed by bananas, coconuts and other fruits. I only saw the butter used once, but oils are smeared all over worshippers' bodies and burned in tiny lamps all over the temples. Priests bless worshippers with the ash from burnt wood and you'll notice little pots of ash at other stations around temples used to worship at altars. Colorful inks make worshippers and altars standout in the darkness. Most of the inks are plant based and are gone within a few days, so it's a safe bet that anything that is colorful has to be tended to on a daily basis. Some of the inks are made from spices, which provide a powerful scent that corresponds to the vibrancy. Then there is the largest mass of organic material of all - the temple elephant. Larger temples have a resident elephant that will bless you in exchange for monetary or edible donations. 

Elephant blessing at the temple
All these oils, ashes and inks blend together and layer over each other to create a truly sensuous environment that would be lost if someone went through with a sponge and bucket of soap. The character of these places is caked into the walls over centuries of worship. The altars are enclosed in layers of inner chambers and low corridors that make it difficult for any essence to escape into the outside world. It's like these temples are designed to trap the fumes and textures of all that enters and this accumulation makes these temples so special. Like an old, well cured cast iron skillet that has cooked thousands of servings of biscuits, gravies and caramelized onions, its flavor develops and matures over the generations. If you scrub it too well in the wash, you sterilize it and strip out all of those flavors. The sandstone walls of those South Indian temples are the spiritual equivalent of Grandma's cast iron skillet. 


And trust me, once you've walked around a temple for an hour, it stays on you. I left the Meenakshi temple in Madurai and got straight on a plane to begin my trip back to Saigon. As I sat in my seat, I could feel the oils between my toes and smell the spices on my shirt. My skin was greasy and fingers were sticky, no matter how many times I washed them. At Christian church, I approach the whole experience with scrubbed skin and crisp, pressed shirts. The whole affair is pretty clean and sterile in comparison to South Indian temples. It felt different, and even uncomfortable, to have all of these residues all over me after visiting the temple, but isn't that the whole point? What better way to remember and hold onto an experience than to feel it slide between your toes or smell it on your shirt a few hours later. I know that to some of you that might seem disgusting and, full disclosure, I  showered aggressively once I finally got home, but I can appreciate the sensuality of old time religion. In the end, it worked. I can't wait to go back and experience all that again.