This month, we’re shining the spotlight on our very own #WCWs – Jen and Ari! Also known as Coconut and Cantaloupe, these two scientists are always up for a challenge in the gym or in the lab. Check out their instagram @coconutandcantaloupe to see how these awesome climbers stay inspired!
How did you get into climbing?
Jen (Coconut): While vacationing in Vietnam at the end of 2015, my husband signed us up for a boat tour that also involved kayaking around Ha Long Bay and rock climbing. Neither one of us had ever climbed before, and I was quite anxious to try it.It didn’t feel very intuitive the first time, and the limestone tore my hands to shreds, but at about 40 feet up, I remember sitting in my harness and looking around the bay at all of the limestone towers and islands and thinking, “Well, this is cool. Being this high up is kind of nice. I wonder if there’s anything I can climb in Chicago”. Pretty much since then, my main belaytionship has been with Ari, who I met in my PhD program at Northwestern, but we’ve had a lot of fun climbing with our husbands too and getting other friends into the sport!
Ari (Cantaloupe): My now-husband actually introduced me to climbing when we first started dating. I stopped climbing after I got into graduate school for my PhD in biology at Northwestern University; it just wasn’t on my mind. Years later, Jen asked me if I wanted to go climbing with her. We started climbing together, got more serious about our climbing, made this Instagram account and now we are just climbing together all the time. When I climb without her I feel like my arm is missing!
What do you love about climbing?
Jen: Climbing is the only time when my mind is quiet and singularly focused. Being a grad student is incredibly stressful and can be all consuming, but committing to climbing certain days of the week and having a climbing partner forces me to reset. It’s a kind of meditation for me. Also, the community is amazing! Where would I be without the support and encouragement of the Women Crush Wednesday crew?
Ari: Climbing really makes me feel at home in my body. It makes me feel proud of my body. I’m not here to climb easy; I’m here to work hard. I’m here to be frustrated at times. I’m here to fall and to fail. I’m here to push my body so I can improve. I’m here to work hard so I get strong. Climbing makes me feel strong and proud, but it also shows me my weaknesses and pushes me to correct them. Climbing motivates my self improvement all around.
Bouldering or sport climbing?
Jen: I enjoy both, but sport a little more than bouldering only because the fear of falling off the wall is still too real.
What is your favorite place to climb outdoors? What other outdoor activities do you participate in?
Jen: I’ve only climbed in Vietnam and Wisconsin, so between the two, I’d choose Vietnam. I’d love to explore Red River Gorge and Hueco in the near future. I also enjoy biking, camping, and hiking.
Ari: Red River Gorge. I also love hiking, camping, snorkeling, and swimming.
Do you have any particular climbing projects or fitness goals for this year?
Jen: This might sound trivial, but I am working on being able to do pull-ups. They’re so hard! Other than that, I want to get more confident at lead climbing and consistently be able to climb V4s.
Ari: Start lead climbing in the gym. Get outside. Work out more frequently when I start writing my thesis soon.
What keeps you busy when you’re not climbing?
Jen: I’m a grad student at Northwestern, so my full-time job is research. I’m getting my PhD in a lab that specializes in developing nanomaterials for diagnostic and therapeutic applications.
Ari: My PhD, which feels like it is taking an eternity! I also love to travel, and I have the cutest cat Curie! Yes, I did name her after Dr. Marie Curie. I’m that person. Jen’s dogs are named after James Watson and Francis Crick so I am in good company!
What do you love about Chicago?
Jen: Chicago is my hometown, and the skyline is 100% my favorite thing about it. Whenever I drive or fly back into the city or look at the skyline from the water, its association with home and family is so strong that I always feel comforted by the sight of it. Also, is there anything better than summer in Chicago?
Ari: What don’t I love about Chicago? Chicago is the first city I have lived in where I have ever felt at home.
What is your favorite Chicago spot for food, music, art or culture?
Jen: I live close to Chinatown, so I’m always happy to go out for food there. I especially like Dolo for dim sum. The Art Institute is my favorite museum. I also really like going to the symphony and the opera. Thank you, student discounts!
Ari: Sakura Karaoke in Chinatown, Maxwell Street Market Tacos/buying whatever random stuff they are selling, and the Chicago Art Institute
What is something about you most people don’t know?
Jen: I think I was the first female tuba player in my high school’s band. I switched to tuba from flute because there were no women in that section.Also, I can interdigitate my toes.
Ari: My brother and I share the same birthday exactly 5 years apart! I also don’t understand macaroni and cheese.
Anything else you want to say to the FA Community?
Jen: If you see us in the gym, please say hi! We love meeting and climbing with new people, and we’re always happy to be your cheerleaders while you project!
Ari: Someone take us climbing outside – I’ll bake you cookies. And Jen makes one hell of a brownie!