OWLS AND OLIVES 

A Wanderlusting Marine's Many Adventures 

Kanchanaburi, Thailand Trip

February 7, 2015

A weekend in Thailand is similar to an entire vacation but experienced in three days. We arrived to our “hostel” which more resembled a 4 star resort and joined the rest of the interns at a pool down the street. While I prefer a less tourist experience it was quite a sight to see an entire pool full of non-locals all speaking English. I looked over as a man in a green speedo gets out of the pool and decides to start doing push-ups and of course I had to join him.

We all met up for dinner at a lovely restaurant and two of our interns joined the band to share their remarkable skills. One mentioned that he would never have done something like this at home and it struck me that this is one of the many things that is significantly remarkable about Thailand. This place has a magic about it that makes it nearly impossible to be sad or not smile and it gives you the courage to try things you would have never done before.  


One bar we wandered into had an attached tattoo shop and a wrecking ball swing in honor of Miley Cyrus. We were informed not. Good idea to take a swing due to previous intern’s drunken accident which resulted in a number of stitches. I looked around the bar and what a site it was. Cats wandering around, some random white hippie girl walking around with a Thai child in her arms, loads of people from other countries, and a tattoo artist working on a side tattoo.

The walk home, or I should say stumble, was comical to say the least. If you’ve ever seen l'auberge Espanola it reminds me of the stumbling home after their night out drinking. If you haven’t seen it I highly recommend it. The next day we all took the bus to the waterfalls. All though I wish I had worn some running shoes, or trainers as I’m beginning to say, it was worth the ruffed up feet. The crystal blue water was refreshing after the long hike up the seven waterfalls. There were friends snapping photos, adventurous individuals using the slippery moss covered rocks as a slide, a variety of fish sucking on our feet, and monkeys hiding in the trees. After the walk down I treated myself to some chicken and pineapple at the numerous food shops scattered about.

After a trip to the night market we meet up at Bell’s pizza for dinner and drinks. Due to a drunken promise the previous night, my new friend and I head to the tattoo shop to get tattoos drawn up for our next trip back. Apparently we also danced, sang Miss American Pie, made a tattoo appointment, spoke with a number of guys, and had no recollection. We then went to another bar where we were greeted by the owner of the bar who was dressed up like a dominatrix. She was a lovely older woman and brought us a complimentary bucket of some fruity alcohol filled drink and decided to do laughing gas shots.

The next morning we found a taxi to take us to the dragon temple and got quite the leg workout in. Another place trainers would have come in handy. The beginning of the temple steps leads you up through the open fanged mouth of a giant colorful dragon. The steps were quite steep but there were plenty of resting points with breathtaking views. Even though my knee was throbbing and I was sweating all the whiskey out from the previous night, the site at the top was well worth it.

To end the busy and adventurous weekend trip I went and had a Thai massage and some pad Thai. Excitedly anticipating next week’s adventures in Bangkok.

The week in the life of an Intern in Thailand

February 15, 2015

As I walked into the Kindergarten classroom 30 pairs of eyes are staring at me curiously and wondering what this crazy lady is going to do next. I begin with a few songs and then into teacher says. The hour flies by and I find myself excitedly planning for the next day’s activities. Every day we have lunch with the other teachers in the “cantina” where they love to see our reactions to the food. One of the teachers always serves us our bowl of rice and then informs my roommate which side dishes are spicy. They all know I will try everything and love spicy food. The teachers laugh when I say “I like” in Thai and find it amusing when I try different types of sauce on things they would usually not. As I look around the table I feel so at home and am beginning to care about each of these amazing women. One resembles the Queen of Thailand and I have formed a special bond with her. I called her my Thai mom which the English teacher translated to her and she couldn’t stop smiling.  


I’m beginning to learn the ways of traveling in Thailand and I absolutely love it. There are little taxi stops where men with orange vests on mopeds wait to take you wherever you need. This is by far the cheapest and most adventurous way of commuting and one I have come to love. Nothing better than straddling a man you’ve never met, wind blowing in your hair, passing rice fields, and what would be a $30 cab ride in the states costs less than a dollar. My students bring me freshly picked bunches of bananas, mangos, rose apples, and their favorite foods which I always try in front of them. I do my best to have the most pleasant reaction no matter what the taste. As much satisfaction it brings them to have “teacher” like what they brought, it gives me such joy watching their reaction.

The week passes quickly and it is Friday afternoon before I know it and I find myself on the bus to Bangkok. When we arrive my roommate and I find our way to Khosan Road and start to look for a hotel with rooms available. We found one off the main strip and take the first hot shower I’ve had in three weeks. The hotel has free wifi as most of them do and found that some other interns were meeting up at the D&D pool.

I decided to get out of my comfort zone and sport my bright red wig I use in photo shoots and while I’m standing waiting for some of the other interns to arrive a group of girls approach me and ask for my picture. After pictures and a bit of chatting I find out that they are here on vacation from Turkey and we exchange information and promised to keep in touch. After dinner we wander into Lucky bar and ordered some drinks.  


The weekend before I had a date planned with a guy I really care about and truly want to be with but life happens and he doesn’t feel the same. So I decided to attempt the tinder dating games and agreed to meet with a guy while I was in Bangkok. After getting lost trying to find the meet up point I told him the bar I was at because he knew the area well. After a no show I got back to my room and saw two messages: I see you” and “I’m leaving”. I messaged him back and asked him why he didn’t say something or come over. He replied “I saw you dancing on stage with the gogo dancers and left”. Upon which he deleted me and blocked me hahahaha. Oh well, I need a man not an intimidated little boy.  


Saturday I was beginning to come down with a cold so I took it easy and decided to wander off and do a bit of shopping. Ended up getting my nose pierced and spent five well spent hours getting my hair braided with colored extensions. As I sat getting my hair done I watched the streets turn from the family tourists and shoppers to the night scene of Bangkok. The music got louder, people were becoming intoxicated with their friends, two Indian gentleman were heatedly arguing over stealing customers, and by far the most interesting was the booth next to me. This booth was selling fake IDs and I witnessed the following transactions: drunk American asking for a DEA ID, and Irish man asking for a green card for his Spanish girlfriend using a picture of her off of his phone, others asking for drivers licenses, and some even asking for fake passports….. 

Mr. Job

April 2016

Some may call this shallow, I just call it getting what I deserve. When I decided to get back in the dating game I didn’t want to make the same mistakes I had before. So I took a totally different approach to these shenanigans. Before I hated dating! I hated when they look around 20 years older and 50 pounds heavier than their profile photo, the inability to carry on an intelligent conversation, the constant messages requesting a second date when there was zero chemistry, or the ones that get nasty and talk shit to you when you politely turn them down. Now I approach this as a learning experience and a way to test my own theories. I swipe right if I believe it could make an interesting date, a few good laughs, a free workout in Muay Thai, free drinks, free dinner, chance to learn about many different cultures, and possibly job opportunities. Well so far my Tinder dates have provided one lunch, one dinner, and a three-day job opportunity working at an English camp.

I saw Mr. Job’s profile photo and even though I was not physically attracted to him, I could see he had a good personality and would be fun to be around. Better yet, he is in charge of finding English teachers for camps. Perfect! So our first “date”, out of the 25 staff members, he placed me on his bus. What a clever idea using Tinder to recruit…

Later that evening I found out that Mr. Job had already told some of the other male instructors about me. So apparently I am some massive body builder who also fights competitively and is covered with tattoos. When they were introducing the camp instructors to the students, they nicknamed me the Terminator and said that I could crush skulls with my bare hands and can lift mountains.

Mr. Job didn’t say much to me, other than work related issues, during the three days of the camp. I wasn’t bothered or offended because there wasn’t any attraction on either end. I don’t consider myself to be a body builder or an abnormally muscular woman. However, when I am in Thailand and around instructors that couldn’t do even two pushups to save their lives, I guess I’m like a unicorn.

So lesson learned from this experience, take the best out of every situation and brush off the rest. Leave behind that previous mentality to be offended when someone isn’t attracted to you, or possibly afraid of you. I got paid to play with kids, had two nights in a beautiful hotel, three good meals a day, some extra spending money, and met some interesting people, one in particular. My roommate was a gas and oil engineer from Kazakhstan and raised in Israel. She was now working at an Indian run bar getting paid to have drinks and chat with customers. Yes, my first mental thought was, as an intelligent successful woman how could you change professions to that? These men of course wanted sex, but she had taken that off the menu. So why then would they pay for her company when touching and sex were not options? What they wanted more was an intelligent conversation with someone that wasn’t for sale. They paid for her intellect and experience and she received business advice, networking connections, and a salary. How is that different than what I was doing working at this camp? I was being paid for my ability to entertain, to talk in English, and to look like a foreigner.  

Mr. Klepto 

February 2016

Thirsty is a term that I use in referring to an individual that is overly desperate to meet up with you, making pathetic attempts to obtain complements, or has zero game and is desperate to get laid. After weeks of “baby when do I get to see you” or “when u free bby grl”, I decided to meet up with this “thirsty” BOY and get some good writing material out of it. While I knew that this date wasn’t going to result in another, I wanted to test more of my dating theories. His profile showed an attractive, tall, athletic man that played professional basketball and enjoyed traveling.

I needed to get some materials for a client and agreed to meet him for a late lunch at the mall. I arrived an hour early to find the materials but wasn’t able to find what I needed. He messaged me when he arrived and I made my way to the top floor of the mall. Most of the malls I have been to in Bangkok force you to pass a maze of shops in order to get to each floor. As I was wandering around in search of the sushi place, I spotted a giant of a man coming towards me. Despite his significantly older appearance from his profile photos, there was no mistaken identity issues on this occasion. He gave me an awkward half hug and I followed him to the sushi place.

From the moment we sat down to eat I was annoyed! After several moments of his eyes being locked on his phone, he stated “Damn baby momma shit. My son is in New Zealand and this bitch thinks she can play me. I’m still waiting for this team to pay and don’t have money to pay for a flight to go see my son. So this bitch says she will only pay for half of the flight but now the hoe want to back out. Get the fuck out wit dat shit.” While he is saying this I was inwardly laughing and imagining all the good writing material I was about to gather. Without asking me if I was ready to order, he called a server over and asked if they spoke English. The young man didn’t and he called over an attractive Thai woman who spoke enough English to communicate. “Are you sure you know English” he rudely asked? She replied yes and he began to give the women his order. While the lady is taking down his order he looks at me and states “they always fuck up my order here!” He turned back to the server and proceeded with his high maintenance ignorant order. “I want the rice warm, not hot not cold, warm, do you think you can get it right this time!” The server was obviously shaken up with his rude and demeaning attitude and I was embarrassed to be in his company. Because this prick had not given me the accustomed time to decide what to order, I had to order without looking at the menu. I ordered a California role, tuna sashimi, and some edamame for the table. When the server asked me if I wanted the rice warm as well I laughed and replied I prefer my sushi to be left up to the experts that make it. She smiled when I told her this and appreciated the fact that I said thank you in Thai.

While waiting for our food to arrive, I engaged in polite banter and asked about where he went to school. He had mentioned studying forensics in a previous text and it was the only topic I could think of at that moment. He told me that he had graduated with a degree but he doesn’t remember shit because it was years ago. “So do you smoke weed” was the next sentence out of his mouth. He didn’t whisper this or initiate the question with any type of warning where the conversation was going. I wasn’t surprised and I felt the need to inform him that wasn’t the type of question you ask in public so loudly. “I don’t give a fuck. I’ve done so many drugs I can’t even member,” was his reply. Thankfully the food arrived and he pointed out that I ate a lot. The only additional items I had ordered were two slices of tuna sashimi and some edamame. I ignored his attempt to get under my skin and asked him if he wanted to try the edamame or the tuna. After looking at the tuna with disgust he declined and I went on to enjoy the excellent lunch pondering how enjoyable this would have been if I were eating alone.

“What you doin after dis” he asked me when I wasn’t quite finished eating. He had already requested the check and was staring at the bill when he asked. I informed him that I had to get back to work and took out my wallet and started to calculate how much my portion of the bill. When I asked him what he was going to do he replied that he wanted me to come smoke weed with him in his apartment. That would have been some writing material, but I wasn’t going to put myself through that sure to be disastrous situation. The bill came out to be 560 baht and he called the server over to argue the price. She brought out the calculator to show him that she had added it up correctly. I smirked and put down 400 baht because I didn’t have smaller bills. Instead of giving me change back he chivalrously stated “Don’t worry I got the rest.” Either this guy had done way too any drugs and couldn’t see that I was paying more than my share, or he was a cheap ass loser.

I still had some tuna left but I couldn’t spend any more time with this creep. Our lunch date had lasted around 20 minutes and I couldn’t believe this clueless child was still trying to get me to go smoke with him. As we were exiting the mall he stopped at an electronics booth and picked up a single cord iphone charger. He asked the clerk how much it was and the clerk replied that it was 100 baht. While the clerk turned around to place the 100 baht in the cash box, this prick puts the charger back and grabs a different one. The charger he took had three cords and was clearly more expensive than the one he had purchased. Thoughts of telling the clerk that this fuck head had just stolen from him crossed my mind but I decided against it as it would only cause more time spent with him. He even had the audacity to comment on how much better this charger was than the other one. For a brief moment, I was confused. Was he that stupid or a cheap bastard and thief? I wasn’t willing to put up with the torture to discover which he was. The next evening at 3am he messaged me “you got time for me bby grl?” When I didn’t respond, he continued to message me. He’s stupid as hell but I think he got the message.

Tinder Trolls 


Setting up meets on Tinder for me, begins with a few things. After weeding out the ones that are just there for a booty call, I am left with ascertaining if the others have the characteristics of a stage 4 clinger. The signs of a stage 4 can be hard to catch before it’s too late and those can morph into worse, the dreaded stalker status. Signs I look for are:

• Immediate pet names

• A statement in their profile that they are looking for a serious relationship only…

• Saying their parents would love you after an exchange of several text messages over a two-day time frame

• Excessive messaging and immediate responses

• Sending daily photos of meals they are eating after you tell them you enjoy cooking healthy food

Then there are the freaks of nature. These ask if they can come stay with you, ask you to join with a lady boy, the unwanted and unrequested dick pic, asking for nude photos, or those that find you on Instagram and like all 600 of your photos.

Despite all the Tinder Trolls, there are some quality individuals on here. Had stimulating conversations with, a Slovenian Neuromarketing researcher who discussed brain mapping with me; A blind Paralympic Gold Medalist in Track and field, so motivating; A bar owner/tattoo artist who asked me to bring a baby pig or skinned cat so he could teach me how to tattoo; and A Brazilian language instructor who ended up offering a part-time paid job helping with an English camp for kids.

Laughter is always a bonus. One Expat offered to take me water monitor hunting. We had a few laughs after he told me he was joking, but in the end I was genuinely disappointed. That would have made for an epic first date, all though I probably would have felt bad and would want to take it home as a pet.

Stay tuned for the next Tinderrific date  

Feeling Tinderful

March 2016

So I found myself in Thailand between jobs and bored out of my mind. I hated dating in the US so I didn’t for many years. I would rather be alone than spending time with someone that has nothing to offer to improve my life.

Yes, that may seem shallow to many of you but it’s the truth. Got fed up with individuals that try and turn you into their personal servant….

No, this doesn’t mean I am only looking for an impressive salary or the perfect body. I would prefer an educated individual that can stimulate my mind and inspire me than an ignorant prick with a perfect body and a fat paycheck.

Ok back to the point….. I went on a few dates using Tinder in Thailand a year ago but stopped when I was back in the US. So, I decided to quench my boredom by downloading the app once again. For those of you in the US, dating overseas is so much different! So many different individuals from all over the world and most in a country that is not their own. Before I used Tinder in Ayutthaya but I am now located in Bangkok; the options are endless in Bangkok! Love the variety. Just some friendly observations…. Posing with your pussy cat in every photo makes me question if you have a pussy yourself. If you are going to take a selfie with your shirt off, I appreciate the confidence, but if you don’t have at least some definition, it has the opposite effect on some women. The duck lips better be followed by some incredible attributes that would hopefully erase that imagine permanently from my mind. If you are going to take a photo of your upper body fully clothed, please remember to put on some pants or shorts at least. I haven’t laughed so hard in a long time going through some of these photos!

Ok on to a new topic; the messages… “Yo whats gd wit it? I want to cum all over you. Hows u? Prove you’re really a red head. Those can’t be real. Hey bae. You have a lot of tattoos, why did you get so many? You were a Marine, so you can kill people? You look like you could kick my ass. I want to suck on your titts. Do you do anal? I would give you the best night of your life. I’ve banged a couple bitches from Cali, I hope you aren’t crazy like dos hoes…. These are all excellent ways to never get laid. “I love your style. Your tattoos are amazing, I want to get more. Please don’t be offended but you have an incredible body. Were you built in a gym?” These may lead to an actual meeting. “I oscillate between crazy adventures and glorious naps.” I think I just fell in love….. 

Why Didn't you Report Being Raped?

December 10, 2018

Why Didn’t you Report Being Raped?

This is one of the number one questions everyone has been asking me. If it has never happened to you or someone you love, you will never fully be able to understand but I hope this helps explain a little.

According to the Department of Justice every 98 seconds an American is sexually assaulted and one out of six women and one out of 33 men are raped in their lifetime. 59% of sexual assaults are committed by someone the victim knows and 34% by family members. Three out of four rapes go unreported. Out of 1,000 rapes only five will see any prison time. Main reason, out of the 1,000 only 230 were reported to police, 46 led to arrest, nine referred to prosecutor, five receive a felony conviction, and four incarcerated.

Imagine rape as a stab wound and keep in mind that 93% know the person that stabbed them. Your first priority is to stop the bleeding. You aren’t processing the concept of admissible evidence or being able to prove that person stabbed you. Once you stop the bleeding you need to clean it, close it, and prevent it from re-opening. Now imagine your support system are the medical staff. If you go in, the police will be called, you will be painfully examined in order to secure any evidence, and because it was someone you know, you have to fully consider the repercussions and the possibility no one will believe you. From that point on it is up to you to prove what happened.

The prosecution sends their own doctor who cuts open your stiches and causes more pain than when you were first stabbed. A week goes by and your wound is trying to heal but now they didn’t get enough evidence so they open your wound again. The more times your wound is opened your scar becomes worse. You try to return to work but by that time everyone knows you were stabbed. Some have made a joke about it and said you stabbed yourself for attention or for money. You are now the most shared meme in the office. Others will walk on eggshells around you. The HR department treats you like a ticking time bomb when all you want to do is your job and be treated like you were before the stabbing. Some will even contact you and say that you provoked the stabbing and deserved it. This could continue for years while you are forced to relive this event over and over again in court. Your reputation went from a hard worker with potential to the person that got stabbed.

Now imagine you have no support system and based off of everything you know to be true, you triage yourself. After you stop the bleeding, you clean your wound, and sew it up yourself. No police were called so you won’t have to be forced through the numerous painful re-opening of the wound and evasive examinations. Your wound is left alone and you are able to heal faster. You are also able to hide it, avoiding all the other drama that this would bring. However, that scar will never go away. You must live with it every single day. Quite often, be forced to interact with the person that stabbed you.

Knowing all of this, you mentally have to make a decision just moments after you were stabbed. If you are not mentally prepared or have not had time to consult with a lawyer to determine your options/repercussions and you need more time, your chances of people believing you will become even more unlikely. The risk of not being able to prove the stabbing increase and you realize that you could go through all of this pain, risking your reputation, job and family, for nothing.

According to Terry (2008) from 1950 to 2002, 4,392 priests sexually abused 10,667 victims. If this was going on for so many years why did it take so long for the Catholic Church to do anything about it? Victims were reporting the abuse but due to coverups, payoffs, and the media, these crimes went unprosecuted. The victims were afraid that no one would believe them that a man of God would do that. Not only that, but they were one person going up against an organization that some say is more powerful than the Government.

The first victims to come forward were ignored, called liars, or caused to keep quiet by numerous different methods including but not limited to intimidation, false accusations that made them seem incredible, and loss of key evidence. Through the perseverance of these brave individuals, others finally came forward about their assault. Strength in numbers, news reporters that believed these stories, and some brave legal teams brought this horrible scandal to light.

I have been accused of playing victim, lying, or using my trauma for personal gain. This baffles me. My entire life has been about overcoming trauma and refusing to be a victim. I did not allow this trauma to prevent me from falling in love, traveling the world, helping others, or furthering my education. Being accused of lying is idiotic. This isn’t a court case where I have to show proof of my trauma and I have nothing to gain. I can’t tell you how much I wish I were lying. How many nights I have gone to bed praying I was crazy and would wake up realizing it was all a dream. Thinking I am going to be significantly financially compensated as a first-time author is ignorant. Most authors are not wealthy and I now have a target on my back which has not been easy to deal with. I published my story to help show people the truth about rape and give others the hope and courage to overcome whatever trauma they experienced. Shed light on what false accusations can do and what happens when people don’t believe you when you tell them the truth.

Many of us choose to take on this trauma alone because the alternative isn’t worth the risk. So, you didn’t report your uncle stabbing you. Years down the road you find out that the same uncle stabbed your child. This is when the fangs come out and you no longer care what happens to you. You feel a survivor’s guilt which is worse than your own trauma. You feel responsible and realize that no longer can you keep your mouth shut. When you come forward, you have no evidence other than first hand knowledge, the prosecution digs into every aspect of your past and tries to make you look like a delinquent that was asking to be stabbed.

Do I agree that we should believe everyone that claims sexual assault? HELL NO! The men and women that falsely report deserve to be locked up and punished severely. They are a major part of the problem. Is there a solution? That would take years of research to be able to come up with any kind of response to that. However, reports have shown that there is a significant decrease in sexual assaults since 1993. This may be due to the buckling down on poor treatment of the victims and taking their allegations more seriously. They have changed the statute of limitations in numerous states because experts understand why it takes some so long to report the assault.

Unless you have experienced sexual assault yourself, have extensive years of experience conducting unbiased research on sexual assault, or have first hand knowledge of an alleged sexual assault, and are on social media spewing your ignorant opinions, you are the problem! I truly hope it doesn’t take one of your daughters, a loved one, or even yourself getting raped for you to wake up and take responsibility for your role in this crime.

Reference

Terry, K. J. (2008). Stained glass: The nature and scope of child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church. Criminal Justice and Behavior, 35(5), 549-569.

Wanderlust

December 21, 2018

Wanderlust

Wanderlust is a word used to describe a strong desire to travel. Since I was a child, I dreamed of traveling to all the places in the world I had seen pictures of or read about. Not wanting to travel for the first time alone, I waited and waited to find a travel companion. Fall of 2011 I was dealing with a miscarriage and a number of other traumatic events. I had a month off of school so I decided to just go for it. 

Hearing about this travel company called Contiki, I was sold after seeing the tour would begin in the first place on my bucket list (Athens) and Thermopylae! The fact that it started in less than 48 hours didn’t stop me. I had never even used public transportation! That trip helped more than I can put into words. The amazing people I met; the pictures I had seen were dismal compared to seeing these places with my own eyes; the adventure of the unknown. All of these helped me cope with the loss, PTSD, and suicidal thoughts.

Boarding a public bus without speaking the language. Ordering food based off of the pictures because you can’t read the menu. Using a map instead of GPS on my smart phone. Such beauty that brought tears to my eyes. I hadn’t felt that alive since being in combat Fallujah in 2008.

I look around my current apartment, walls covered with wanderlust memories. Seeing Athena’s temple, walking in the same place where King Leonidas and 300 Spartans gave their lives, climbing the stairs around the city walls of Kings Landing… Every time I feel lost or life takes a downward path, I look at my photos and I smile. I close my eyes and remember how incredible those places were and how I felt when I was there. My travels have only just begun. 

Athens 

January 5, 2019

As I wheeled my bright red with multi-color polka dots suitcase down the cobblestone streets of ancient Athens, Greece, I tried to take in as much as I could. I knew I would be leaving in less than seven hours. After wandering around, asking some local prostitutes for directions, I found my hostel, the “Zeus Hostel”. I was greeted by a friendly young man with an Australian accent. He told me I was in the female dorm room Medusa and gave me a drink voucher for the rooftop bar.

After dropping off my suitcase, I went up to the rooftop bar and ordered a glass of white wine and chatted with the bartender. It was around 1am and the bar was empty but for a couple sitting alone in the corner. After telling my horror story of getting to Athens, he gave me some great advice. He told me that the Parthenon at night was one of the most beautiful sights and filled me in on a local treasure. The secret was Mars Rock at night. Not many people knew where it was or the beauty of it at night with the moon shining over the magnificent city of Athens. I thanked him and even though I was going on 48 hours of maybe five hours of sleep here and there, I was not going to leave Greece without seeing the reason I had come all that way! It was around 1.5 miles away and the bartender had given me a map. It was easy to find as it was located up on a hill and was lit up by hundreds of lights shining up at it.

When I arrived, I was overcome with emotion. I had tears streaming down my face as I looked up at the most beautiful piece of architecture I had ever seen. I had been dreaming of this place since I could read and fell in love with Greek Mythology. Suddenly I was that 13-year-old little girl walking the streets of Athena’s kingdom. Those stories were the very ones I read to escape the reality I lived in. To escape from the evil and imagine another life.

I saw the ruins of an amphitheater and several temples all lit up looking like the golden Mount Olympus. I closed my eyes imagining I was the goddess Athena looking out over my city and how beautiful my temple was. Looking across the great city of Athens I fell in love with traveling and knew I was hooked. I wanted to see all the wonders of the world and experience this same incredible feeling of awe.

I made it, despite everything and everyone that had tried to break me! I was not only in utter amazement with the beauty and history of this place; I was in awe of myself. Look how far I had come and everything I overcame to get to this very place. No one was around, and I screamed at the top of my lungs “FUCK YOU!”. I screamed to finally let out all the heartache I had been holding in. The devastating pain from my miscarriage, from my brother raping me, friends stabbing me in the back, being raped by men I trusted, and so much more. I screamed for Marie, for Koda, for those I had lost. I screamed for all the bullshit I had been through my entire life. I screamed to show the world that nothing could break me no matter how hard it tried. It may have brought me to my knees and slammed me to the ground countless times, but I always got up and kept fighting. I cried for joy and pride in the woman I had become.

I found Mars Rock and began the climb to the lookout point. I saw several people sitting down looking out over the city when I arrived at the point. The sight was so mind-blowing I slipped and fell on the slippery marble rock but I didn’t feel any pain.

After taking in the breathtaking view of Athens at night, I walked around the Acropolis and found a cart that was selling jewelry. I found a gold and turquoise bracelet that I could imagine Aphrodite or Athena wearing. This would begin my collection of bracelets from every country I visit. To this day it is my favorite bracelet out of my massive collection of bracelets. Jet lag took over and I made my way back to the hostel. It was around 04:00 when I finally closed my eyes and awoke to my alarm two hours later. I took a shower and went and hailed a taxi.

The ride took around half an hour and the sun was coming up. When I arrived at the campground, I didn’t see anyone, so I sat down and fell asleep leaning up against my suitcase. I woke up half an hour later and saw people starting to wake up and come out of their tents. A short lady with dirty blonde hair and a big smile came over and said hello. Her name was Kristen and she was the tour guide. I told her who I was, and she was surprised to see me. “I have you coming tomorrow, but you are welcome to join us today.” To my amazement and absolute joy, I found out that my tour agent had failed to overlook the time change and had scheduled me two days before I needed to be there, not one as I had thought. I had a full day to spend in amazing Athens!

We had our own tour bus, driver, cook, and tour guide. Kristen invited me to breakfast and began introducing me to my new travel companions. The majority, around 85%, were from Australia and New Zealand, with 3 other Americans, 2 Canadians, and 2 Koreans. The group had already spent a full month together. This tour was split into two months; the first month western Europe and the second Eastern Europe. Almost everyone had signed up for both months but there were a few of us that signed up for one month. We wouldn’t meet the other new members until the next day when I was supposed to have arrived. I was so thankful that my travel agent had screwed up in my favor!

The tour bus took us to the Acropolis right after breakfast and Kristen took us on a tour of this incredible place of history. As I stood looking up at Athena’s temple, I was in amazement of the architectural skills and artistry of the sculptures. It is hard to describe what it meant to me to be standing there. I started to tear up with overwhelming joy and the only thing missing from making that moment perfect was Anthony.

When we were done with our tour, we had a free day in the city to do as we pleased. The two American girls, Lauren and Jordan, invited me to join them and three Australians, Sarah, Megan and Ellen, for lunch. We found a beautiful outdoor restaurant with a spectacular view of the Acropolis. I am a very adventurous eater and I couldn’t wait to try authentic Greek food! I ordered Moussaka, a Greek dish made from eggplant, and it tasted incredible! After an amazing lunch, we used the maps Kristen had given us with a list of places of interest and walked to the Grand Bazaar. I had numerous locals come up and start speaking to me in Greek. They thought I was Greek because of the Greek words in my tattoos. Every couple minutes, people would yell out “Hey Tattoo Lady”, or they would come over and take my arm and look at my sleeve tattoo. The air was filled with intoxicating smells of spices, food, leather, and sounds of numerous languages.

I passed a shop that drew me in with the leather smell and I could see the shopkeeper making incredibly beautiful handmade sandals. Even though they were much more money than I would ever pay for a pair of shoes, it was a purchase I have never regretted. They were a dark tan color, adjustable gladiator-style sandals that came up several inches below my knee. I wore those sandals so often I wore out the soles and had to have them replaced a year later.

Europe Tour Days 1-5

January 5, 2019

Day 1 Kavala, Greece

The official tour began at 7 am the following morning; our destination was Kavala, Greece. I woke up at 5am to get a workout in; just a quick run, some pushups and finished by leg lifts. After a great breakfast cooked with local food from the market, we departed to a destination I never dreamed I would ever get to see, Thermopylae. To add to the anticipation, Kristen put the movie 300 on in our tour bus. She would put on movies relating to our destination. When we arrived to Thermopylae, we were given half an hour to take photos, read the memorial for the 300 Spartans that were killed fighting for their freedom, and to explore. I felt honored to be standing in the very same spot my hero King Leonidas gave his life in one of the most epic battles in history. It’s difficult to describe how blessed I felt to be experiencing this once in a lifetime opportunity.

Day 2 Gallipoli, Anzac Cove

Anzac Cove was another emotional destination. The Australians and Kiwis with us were especially touched. Kristen told us the story of Anzac cove and how the Turks would have ceasefires allowing the Australians and New Zealand soldiers to retrieve their dead. They even started to throw over food and other necessities! One of the Australian’s, a pro-rugby player, found a distant relative buried there.

Day 3 Troy and Istanbul

From Gallipoli to Istanbul; we took a ferry across the Dardanelles to see the ancient ruins of Troy. Kristen had hired a local tour guide to provide more extensive details of this incredible excavation site. While standing on a lookout point, the guide quoted verses from the Iliad describing exactly what we were seeing. I got goosebumps and started to tear up. The thousands of hours I had spent as a child pretending I was in Achilles army fighting beside him, or a warrior that was hiding inside the horse ready to attack, all came flooding into my memory. Those books that saved me from myself and the terrors I faced as a child. There were no campgrounds in Istanbul so we stayed in a hotel. Our lunch was at the hotel rooftop restaurant and was a delicious spread of meats, cheeses, incredible salads, and fruits for desert. Kristen arranged for us to spend the evening at a local Hookah Bar. They served drinks in fishbowls and I shared one with a few of the girls in the group. Some of the group decided to go to a club but I wanted to feel good for the long day we had planned. A group of us decided to have dinner at a local place we found when walking around after the Hookah Bar. They gave us menus, but the owner came out and told us he would order for us. The food just kept coming out and everything tasted incredible! When the check came, we split it up and it came out to around $4! I knew that the owner had given us a significant discount.

Day 4 Blue Mosque, Turkish Rugs, and Belly Dancing Show

Our morning started with a delicious assortment of boiled eggs, meats, cheeses, olives, tomatoes, vegetables, and Coffee. I was falling in love with Turkish food! Our hotel wasn’t far from the Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque. We were required to cover our shoulders and knees before entering. I had bought a beautiful scar from a shop in Troy and used this. The line for the Hagia was around 3 hours and we decided that it was much too long to wait. The Blue Mosque was stunning and I was in awe of the art and architecture of this building. After an hour of walking around taking in the sites, Kristen had arranged a trip to a Turkish rug shop where we were brought tea in exquisite teacups. I wish I could have afforded to buy one of these rugs that took thousands of hours to make. We were getting hungry so we stopped by a local kebab shop and quenched our thirst with the water from the public fresh water fountains.

That evening we were going to have dinner and a belly dancing show featuring one of the most famous dancers in the world. She was incredible! The way these women could move their body was an art form. After the show, they had an entertainer get on stage and sang cover band songs. He came off stage and asked me to accompany him in singing American Pie which I did my best. My group was one of many and they all cheered when I finished.

Day 5 Turkish Bath and Grand Bazaar

The next day was a free day in the city and myself and 6 other girls went to shop at the Grand Bazaar and afterwards treat ourselves to a spa. If you have seen Taken 2, the bazaar and the spa show you a little of the incredible beauty of this stunning city. We weren’t allowed to take any photographs in the spa.

When you enter the Turkish Bath, they have two separate entrances for men and women. We were given a delicately wrapped package of panties, a robe, a scrubbing towel, and body oil. After changing into the panties and the robe, you wait your turn to be called in an exotic waiting room where they bring you tea. They bring you into a room that was built in the 1400s and I felt like I was a gladiator being rewarded after a victory in the arena. This place reminded me of the books I read growing up where they went into extensive detail explaining all the ins and outs of the Roman bath houses.

We were instructed to hang up our robes and my spa assistant, a chunky Turkish woman with massive breasts (she was only wearing the same panties as we were), led me to the middle of the room. The room was massive with a large circular marble table that was bigger than my entire apartment. The marble was heated and as I laid down I was overcome with the magnificence of the dome ceiling with stars carved in allowing sunlight to barely shine through. This was the same bath house shown at the end of the movie Taken 2. The women bring out a large basin filled with warm soapy water and they take this exfoliating towel and scrub all the dirt and dead skin from every inch of your body. After fully scrubbing you they bring you over to this elegantly molded spout that expels clean water to wash the soap off. They take a cup and hold your head as they wash the soap out of your hair. After you are guided to a series of different temperature pools. The first is quite hot and I couldn’t sit in there for very long. The second was slightly less hot and I soaked in there chatting with two of the girls that I had come with. There were several other women from other countries speaking in an unknown dialect. The pools continue to get colder and the last one is the coldest. After sitting in the hot water in the most beautiful indoor pool I had ever been, the cold water was refreshing and I was feeling incredible. To end our incredible spa day, we finished with a facial and an oil massage.  

Europe Tour Days 6-10

January 9, 2019

Day 6 Sofia, Bulgaria

Next up was Bulgaria where we stopped to take in the beauty of The Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in the Capital, Sofia. As I walked in, everything was silent, showing respect for those in prayer. The cathedral had these magnificent hanging chandeliers lit by candles that sent light bouncing around this Russian Revival architecturally designed place of worship. When I reached the center where worshipers were lining up to take communion, the silence was broken by these celestial voices singing in I believe Latin. The voices sounded so close and they echoed off the walls but I didn’t see anyone singing. Then I looked up and saw the choir dressed in robes standing on every floor and surrounding the circular dome. I could see why people would want to come worship here. There was such a sense of peace and being surrounded by angel voices and stunning art only added to the experience.

Day 7 Struga, Macedonia

We arrived to Macedonia on their Independence Day so everything was closed. We did find a pub that serves 5 cent beers and we made our own party on the dock at our campground in Lake Ohrid, Macedonia. It was my new friend Jak’s Birthday so we had to celebrate. Jak was an outgoing, Australian, cow farmer with a love for life and travel. She and I had sat next to each other on the bus several times and I knew she would be a lifelong friend. I was very thankful when Kat, an Australian with a love for adventure, asked me if I wanted to share a tent with her. She shared a tent with one of the other girls that no one cared to be around due to her negative attitude and spending the entire time on her phone talking to her boyfriend. It was a great switch and we became the best of “tenties” what we called our tent mates.

Day 8 Albania

Albania was filled with colorful houses, every color of the rainbow, bunkers, and bright green dyed pool water. I saw a street with pink, lime green, orange, and sky-blue houses. Kristen told us that during the war, every house had to have a bunker and they had built these igloo looking bunkers that were scattered all around the hills. I started to notice a rather disturbing feature on most the homes; dolls hanging by their necks at the front of the house. I asked Kristen and she said that they believe these dolls warded off bad luck. I laughed and thought what would people in America think if I hung a doll by the neck at my front door. We stayed in a hotel right on the ocean, swam in a green pool, soaked up some sun, and had an Albanian dinner watching the sunset over the water.

Day 9 Dubrovnik, Croatia

On our way to Dubrovnik, Croatia we traveled through the beautiful hills of Montenegro and set up camp. I fell in love with this city! I can’t wait to go back and spend more time in this incredible place. There is a reason it was used as Kings Landing from Game of Thrones. When I had heard about Croatia as a place of destination on this trip, I had no idea the beauty this place had in store for me. I was under the impression that Croatia was some place in Europe that had been destroyed by many wars and not a place I would ever want to visit. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Day 10 City Tour and Boat Cruise

The next morning, after a workout that woke up several of my fellow campers, we were scheduled to take a city tour. Kristen had told me that this was one of the most beautiful places she had ever been, and since we had arrived at night and I couldn’t see much, I was skeptical.

I forgot to mention some of the basics of our camping tour. We all volunteered to do a specific job to make everything go smoothly. Some of the jobs were washing, food prep, helping cook, and coach loaders. The coach loaders were in charge of performing a Tetris miracle by fitting in everyone’s luggage that was slowly growing after each destination due to purchases. I was the only female in our group and I would get cheers from the girls whenever I got on the bus after helping. After each meal we would be responsible for washing our own dishes and placing them in the Tupperware tubs.

During our city tour I discovered why this was one of Kristen’s favorite places in the world. The guide told us that this city had more steps than any other city in the world. The only people that could live inside the city walls were ancestors of those that had always lived inside. Everyone that lived in the city were in incredible shape as they had to be to walk anywhere here. The city had gained in prosperity from its success in maritime trade which lead to pirate and sailor themed souvenirs and tourism outings. They had several pirate ships that people could travel on to the islands close by. After our city tour we took a boat cruise to three different islands.

We dropped anchor near the uninhabited island of Daksa and swam topples in the crystal turquoise blue water. The water was refreshing and after drying off in the sun we headed off for some lunch. For lunch, we docked in Lopud and had an amazing lobster lunch at a restaurant known for their incredible fresh seafood. We cruised around enjoying the incredible beauty of the Croatian islands. After our tour was over, the tour bus took us back to our camp and we were greeted by our amazing cook with a fabulous meal. Kristen invited us out to a club that she had been to before. They served drinks in child sand buckets and after sharing one of those I was feeling amazing. A group of us wandered over to a Latin club that played only 80s music all night. Some of us worked on our moves on the stripper pole. Dancing on a stripper pole to “Total Eclipse of the Heart” and “Sweet Child of Mine” was quite challenging. Jak and I were crying we were laughing so hard.  

Sex and Intimacy After Rape

January 17, 2019

This is not a representation of how all individuals deal with sex and intimacy after rape, it is MY experience. Some of this will be graphic, difficult to read and can trigger some memories so please be aware of that.

At the age of 12 my older brother began raping me. One of the most difficult aspects of the rape was him performing oral sex. To some, oral sex can be much more intimate than penetration. When oral sex is performed by a man, it is typically to please a woman and it is extremely intimate. For example, a man can penetrate a prostitute but would never kiss her or perform oral sex because that is how many men display their love they have to their partner and with a prostitute it is strictly sex. My first sexual experience involved my brother going down on me while I pretended to be asleep, in terror he would kill me.

The second time I was drugged and raped by a male Marine while I was at engineer school prior to going to my first duty station. Both of these assaults occurred before I had chosen a sexual partner. The first time I had consensual sex was mainly to get it over with. I was dating a guy in hopes that it would help me get over a emotional breakup with someone I had not had sex with. The third time I was drugged, raped, and sodomized by a brother Marine I considered a friend. I didn’t report this one because the man I was dating and had consensual sex with for the first time, was engaged in an orgy with two women and three other men the same night I was raped. Another Marine was trying to join in but they wouldn’t let him, so he called the police and said the women were being raped. NCIS and my entire command found videos and pictures of this orgy and rape became a joke. This is why I did not report my assault.

Dating and sex after that became an intense battle of emotions, distrust, and an inability to climax. I had to be drunk to have sex and it would take me months of sleeping with someone to be able to not drink before. With these men, I was never able to climax. Oral sex, while it felt amazing, every time I would flashback to that 12-year-old terrified innocent girl. I was not in any way promiscuous because I chose sexual partners with men I was dating. I wish I could be promiscuous because I have a very high sexual appetite but I needed intimacy as well! Intimacy involves trust which I seriously struggle with. Many women and men that have experienced rape become extremely promiscuous and it quite often becomes sex without intimacy, love or emotion. It is simply an act that they perform to cope with their own inner demons.

It took the amazing love of an incredible man that helped me overcome so many challenges in bed. For a very long time I thought I was damaged goods and would never be allowed to completely enjoy sex and be able to climax. It hurt even more when this amazing man felt responsible for not being able to make me orgasm. Our sex was passionate, mind blowing, felt incredible, but I still couldn’t climax! I trusted him completely and he is by far the best lover I have ever had. For most women, sex is such an emotional and mental event. I was able to make myself orgasm every time by myself, but I had never been able to with a man inside me. While most women do not climax through penetration alone I couldn’t even with oral sex because of my past.

I felt damaged, angry at myself for not being able to climax with my partner, and even more angry that I allowed these bastards to take this away from me! The more I tried the more I would become stressed out and unable to. My partner and I are able to talk about everything including all types of sexual desires. When I mentioned how amazing he was with oral sex he was surprised and said he thought I didn’t enjoy it because of how I reacted. When I told him why, but I still enjoyed it, it was difficult for us to get through but eventually we did.

When I talked to him about my difficulty climaxing, I could tell he took it as a personal challenge and it would bother him when I couldn’t. This caused an incredible amount of stress because I was trying so hard, it ended up having the opposite effect and made it even more difficult. So here we are both trying our absolute best to please the other person. I knew most of it was all in my head and I started to practice blocking everything else out and only focus on the moment and how incredible my partner was.

One day, after years of never being able to, I climaxed with him. It was the most intense orgasm I have ever had, so much more amazing than any I experienced through masturbation. I started crying in his arms and then was laughing. I cried because I was so relieved! I laughed because I could only imagine how confused he was. It took his incredible love, patience, loyalty, and communication to finally be able to experience this sensation. I cried because I finally took back the power and control those men had taken from me. I wasn’t broken beyond repair, I wasn’t ruined for life, I was healing. What I went through was normal and healthy! What isn’t healthy is giving up on sex; allowing the fear to prevent you from this beautiful form of love. There were times where I was scared what he would think. I was afraid I would disappoint him because I wasn’t like other women who can climax every time.

From my experience I have learned that burying the truth and not talking about it only makes the situation worse. It took some serious and honest conversations, years of trust, never giving up, and understanding the impact your brain has during sex to heal! Being able to open up and be honest about what happened to me was crucial. Some of my previous sexual partners treated me, quite often without knowing or unintentionally, like damaged goods and that only made me feel more broken. Opening up to him was liberating because he treated me the same and cared about me even more. Most individuals that experience extreme trauma don’t want pity, they want people to treat them the same way they always had before the trauma. He never got upset with me and was unbelievably patient. I never gave up on myself which is very important! I worked on myself and continued to practice and try. Our intimacy and close relationship was directly responsible for improving our sex life.

I’m sharing this because it is such a difficult topic to approach! So many men are at a loss how to deal with a significant other that has been raped. So many women are terrified that they are broken and unfixable, giving up all hope of ever being able to enjoy sex, and convinced that no man would want them if they knew the truth. There is hope! What you are feeling is normal and healthy. You were raped and experienced a traumatic event and your body and brain are protecting you. It can take a lot of time to convince your body and mind that sex with someone you choose is a good thing. If you don’t try and work on it, your body will never heal and you will never experience the amazing intimacy of sex with someone you choose. It’s terrifying I know, but don’t allow your rapist to take that joy and amazing feeling away. Fight back. Get back on that horse and go have sex. 

Europe Tour Days 11-15

February 5, 2019

Day 11 Jak’s City Wall Tour

Most of the group had partied hard and slept most of the day. A few of us didn’t drink that much and were ready for a full day to take on the steps of the city wall. The city wall has over 1,080 steps and the city has well over 4,000 steps. Jak, Ellen, Lauren, Megan, and I got a good morning workout while touring the city walls.  Jak had me dying with her guided tour. “And over here is where the prostitutes would gather to show their goods to the men below, this cannon was used only for intimidating the enemies, here is where the guards would pee off of the ramparts.” After the city tour we found a pub playing some rugby matches and we stopped for lunch. We finished our day in Dubrovnik with some shopping, and of course I had to find my bracelet. I had only missed getting a bracelet in Montenegro, but only because we didn’t stop. We arrived back to camp for dinner and the others were getting ready to go out to hit the clubs. Myself and a few others stayed behind and had a few drinks by the fire before calling it a night. At around 4am I was woken up to the drunk group coming back. It sounded as if they had a good evening.

Day 12 Zadar, Croatia

The next morning the girls that had gone out that night had partied hard and were all wearing the same clothes they had on the night before. I learned that Australian girls can party just like Marines. They got all dolled up and came home with their makeup smeared, dirt marks on their dresses from falling over multiple times, and leaves and branches stuck in their hair. On our way to Zadar, we stopped in Split, Croatia for a few hours for lunch and to take a tour of Diocletian’s Palace. The girls didn’t bother cleaning up and it reminds me so much of the movie How to be Single. Where was dry shampoo during this time? Split was such an amazing little city and I wish we had more time there. We arrived in Zadar and set up camp and had dinner.

Day 13 Budapest, Hungary

On our way, we drove through Bosnia and crossed into Hungary. Our driver was from Budapest and he was very excited to see his girlfriend and show us his city. We set up camp and hung out around the campsite that evening.

Day 14 City Sightseeing

I was able to talk a few into working out with me that morning and I soon got the nickname of Boot Camp. We had a group photo on the Fisherman’s Bastion and explored the Chain Bridge, the Royal Palace, and the Church of St. Matthias. After doing some shopping, we had a dinner cruise on the Danube River. The Royal Palace was a site to see all lit up at night sparkling on the Danube. I ate caviar for the first time and decided I did not care for it in the least. After the cruise our driver introduced us to his girlfriend and took a group of us out to a local nightclub. This club was massive and had so many different floors you could easily get lost and separated from the group so we always carried an address of the campsite we were at. One of our group was notorious for going out and not coming back until just before the bus was leaving. Rick was an Australia with a passion for heavy metal and left our group for a few days to attend one of these European Rock Festivals.

Day 15 Vienna, Austria

On our way to Vienna we stopped in Bratislava, Slovakia for lunch. For our first night in Vienna we went to Prater Amusement Park and rode on the largest Ferris Wheel in Europe. For dinner, a group of us found a restaurant in the Amusement Park. We asked the server to suggest something we could all share. He suggested a meat platter they served. Before our food came out I saw the table next to us had received their food. The gentleman had ordered a hamburger and it was the size of a large Pizza! They brought out this long board filled with all types of meat, cheese, and veggies, that covered the length of two picnic benches pushed together, fitting 11 of us. The food could have fed 20 people! I boxed up the remainder and found some homeless, making their night.