Alissa Furman, AK

Senior Writer

Alissa always knew her world was destined to be much much larger than her rural hometown in central Pennsylvania. After a semester in Ireland her senior year of high school, her wanderlust thoroughly piqued, she headed west to Arizona State University. When her very first English professor in her very first college English class read her very first English paper aloud, her fate claimed her. After graduating with a B.A. in English Literature, she learned that the chief attribute of a great storyteller is having great stories to tell. From there it was a sea turtle conservation on a wild jungle beach in Costa Rica, then to the rugged and unapologetic beauty of the Pacific Northwest, and currently the heavily spiced smogginess of Chiang Mai, Thailand. Today she teaches English in Southeast Asia. Tomorrow…well that might be a whole different book.

As a Story Terrace writer, Alissa interviews customers and turns their life stories into books. Get to know her better by reading her autobiographical anecdote below.

Savage, Bra

THUD. I crumpled into a pile, clutching my head.

“You’ve done it, haven’t you,” it wasn’t a question. My friend Nicki popped her head up from the lower bunk, eyes widening with only a hint of mirth.

“Uh huh,” I respond through my hair. I could feel a hot, thick trickle dripping down my temple. When we booked the hostel, we both noticed how close the top bunk was to the fan. We joked about the probability of it whacking me in the head. That joke turned out to be a premonition.

Nicki guided me down to the reception, pressing a sock into the wound. Hotel Puerto Viejo must have been built sometime in the ’70s but seemed to remain unchanged in all those years. Faded murals and peeling surf posters covered the walls. The owner was sitting behind the counter watching a tiny 10×10 inch TV with bent antennas.

“Savage wound, Bra! That’s gnar’!”

“Yeah, uh, thanks. Do you happen to have a first aid kit?”

He looked at me, concern mixed with excitement. Then his eyes lit up, and he shuffled around in the desk. He held a small tube victoriously above his head.

“Super glue it, Bra!”

I looked at Nikki from under the blood-soaked sock. She shrugged. It was apparent there weren’t many options. I laid my head on a table and let the 65-year-old, ex-pro surfer superglue the gash on my scalp.

We continued down the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica to Panama. We went to a carnival in Bocas Del Toro and danced so hard the air thickened from the brown dust that rose from our pounding feet. Nicki left me somewhere near Sixoala. I wanted to stay, she wanted to go.

I met with another group of travelers and in the next week had rented a scooter, rode through a banana plantation, jumped off a giant waterfall, was a guest of the Bribri tribe in a remote village, got robbed (twice), had my keys stolen by a crab, got locked inside a small bungalow, and had to scream like a banshee for help.

By the time I made my way back to her hostel in San Jose, I was a ratty, disheveled, beat down shell of my former self. I had lost a large clump of hair in the fan accident and hadn’t packed a hairbrush.

She opened the door and gaped at the sight of me. I had a bandana tied around my head. I had one matted dreadlock, half dead hair, half live hair, twice as long as the rest. I was Jack Sparrow.

Remembering the whole journey now seems like a dream sequence, a movie montage set to a Zappa song. Sometimes I believe it never happened. Then I run my hand through my hair, and my fingers always seem to find the superglued scar.


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