joolee's forty

forty days. forty stories.

rendezvous at Titicaca

Joolee, Libby and John in La Paz, Bolivia, 2008

by Libby McDuling

It was mid 2008.  America was contemplating its first female or first African American president. Hockey mom was actually a term. Hipsters were only just starting to ruin everything.

I had just left my job and flown to South America (first stop Peru) with my partner (now husband) and best buddy John, for a few months of travel before grad school.  My step sister Joolee,  world renowned traveller, Peace Corps volunteer, hard core marathoner, hiker and kayaker  had just completed her second tour of duty on the ice in Antarctica and was on a  kayaking trip with Bill nearby in Chile.

We had agreed to meet in between in Bolivia. As John and I awaited Bill and Joolee’s approach, enjoying a beer on the balcony of our Lake Titicaca hostel, I was actually quite nervous. Why you ask? Joolee is an awesome traveller and generally great to spend time with. Well…let me take you back to the last time in my memory that Joolee and I had shared a vacation….

Libby and Joolee, Bolivia, 2008

It was mid 1990. People weren’t yet throwing 80s themed parties. We wore our jeans up to our necks. You liked Wilson Phillips. Don’t deny it: you know who you are. I was 9 years old.

My dad and step-mom had taken Joolee, her best bud from high school, my sisters and I on a vacation to Florida. Perhaps dad and Jennie were punishing the 17 year old Joolee when she got assigned baby sitting duty for my sisters and me. The evening did not end well: after pushing Joolee to the limit I locked my sisters and I in the bathroom for the duration of the evening, but not before making an unholy mess.

Still- why nervous you ask, again? Surely by 2008 I was a mature, measured and composed adult, ready to spend some QT with a girl I had always loved and looked up to.  As John and I finished the last of our beer we saw two travellers approaching. Bill and Joolee rounded the corner, gave us giant hugs, and ordered a few beers for themselves. It was time to celebrate finally getting together!

Libby, John, Joolee and Bill at Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia

My nerves faded instantly.  The four of us quickly hit it off and started making awesome plans to kayak, hike and hang out. But as we would later assume, it was probably a mistake to drink beer when you have just arrived (by plane!) at an altitude of over 12,000 feet from sea level.

That night, on the way home from dinner, the first clue that something was wrong was when we were huffing up the hill and looked over to see Joolee losing her supper. Guts of steel Aurand has drunk the water of more developing countries than I will probably ever visit, so that made no sense. Bill was completely fine and we were all exhausted, so we made sure Joolee was alright and said our goodnights. We had a big day planned ahead.

John, Joolee and Libby in La Paz, 2008

A few hours later, I awoke to a strange noise. Someone was throwing rocks at my window? Shaken and thinking it was the town drunk, I yelled at the person to go away. Then they tried to open the door, and I screamed like the 9 year old I child I clearly still am –er I mean once was.

Our late night visitor turned out to be Joolee, who was trying to wake us up because Bill had developed severe altitude sickness. He needed to be taken back to a lower altitude ASAP. Joolee quickly organized transport for her and Bill to get to a doctor in La Paz.

Neither sickness nor my childlike behaviour ruined any of our trip, and as in 1990, Joolee was amazing and forgiving. John and I had a blast with Bill and Joolee. They weren’t even irritated when we could barely haul our dehydrated, out of shape, corporate asses up this spectacular volcano at the Bolivian salt flats!

Bill, John and Libby with guides in the Bolivian Amazon, 2008

Most importantly I got to spend quality time with Joolee who I have always looked up to as a role model, and a true sister. Since then John and I have been fortunate enough to spend time with Bill and Joolee in Colorado, New York City, Australia and of course Pennsylvania. (And don’t laugh at the term role model because in this case it actually is true. Joolee’s kindness, humility, compassion and humour are only a few of her very best qualities. )

Happy 40th Birthday Joolee! Love, Liberty

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9 comments on “rendezvous at Titicaca

  1. joolee
    March 2, 2012

    Libby Lou…thank you for this! I’m incredibly honored to be a recipient of a piece of Libby McCardle McDuling writing! Also, it’s very nice of you to take the blame for the Florida debacle…I suspect I deserve more responsibility for that than you’re giving me :o). Soooo lucky that YOU’ve forgiven ME and we get to travel together now…you’re wonderful on so many levels that it would take an elevator to get from one to the other. PLUS, I can’t think of anything more studly than you guys climbing 17,000 ft. with giardia!

  2. Susan Medearis
    March 2, 2012

    Wonderful story!! I was on the Florida trip and while I don’t remember you locking yourselves in the bathroom I DO remember a bag of oranges and a straw (I think you were making orange juice) and a spanking (that was Britt). 🙂 I think I have pictures from that trip…. I’m going to have to look. Thank you for sharing!

    • joolee
      March 2, 2012

      Soozin Bedoozin! Helloooo! Remember Lib’s little leopard spotted bathing suit? :O) How are you?

  3. Donny
    March 2, 2012

    Joolee, don’t remember that bathing suit…but do remember you and Susan’s makeshift bathing suits when we skipped school one day and went to Whipples Dam!

  4. Susan Medearis
    March 2, 2012

    Hi Birthday Girl!!! I do remember that suit! Actually I have a picture of you Libby, sitting at a plastic table in that bathing suit coloring. I totally don’t remember our bathing suits at Whipples Dam. I’m afraid to ask… 🙂 Was Tuffy with us that day? Was that his name?

  5. Donny
    March 2, 2012

    Yes he was with us and you guys split one bathing suit…..memories have become vague…I would totally grow up with the same group of people if I had to do it again. Susan…are you 40 yet?

  6. Susan Medearis
    March 2, 2012

    Oh my, I hope I got the bottoms. Was that the day Julie and I sat on the front of your yellow car (?) while we drove down some back road? No, I’m not 40 yet. I don’t turn 40 until September. For some reason I’m a year younger that everyone else. Do you remember one summer it was sooo hot and your dad’s room was the only room that had air conditioning and we all slept in his bed? It was you, me, Julie, Jay, your brother maybe…

  7. Donny
    March 2, 2012

    I don’t remember that….but you and Joolee did ride down the road on the hood of the car. Can’t remember who had which, but I didn’t even know until Joolee ratted you both out….I was so clueless!!!!!

  8. jooleee
    March 3, 2012

    Donny! Soozin! Too funny! I don’t remember the Whipple’s Dam bathing suit either, but you must be mistaken. I’m pretty sure I never skipped school (my mom is reading this! 😉 I totally remember the first of us trying to sleep in your dad’s bed though…every half hour or so somebody would call for a roll and we’d all have to roll over at the same time, in order to not lose the people on the outside edges :). I love you guys! YOU’RE 40, aren’t you Donny? How are the twins? And Suzanna, how’s wee Drewber? This is FUN! I want you guys to meet Bill!

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