Showing posts from 2013

Starting the New Year Right

The holidays aren't quite over yet, but I'm still looking ahead to 2014. My friend/fellow vagabond/renaissance man/living-through-service-extraordinaire Luke contacted me about a community in Guatemala that needs help sending 55 children from the garbage dump to the classroom in 2014. They need $10,000 to make this happen, and that's where we come in. The indigenous people of Guatemala are near and dear to my heart, so I'm starting off the new year by donating to the Integral Heart Foundation.

I already sponsor a boy in Ecuador monthly through Children International, but Luke knows I'm a sucker for a cause, so that won't stop me from making a one-time donation to help out a sustainable development organization that is bettering the quality of lives for Guatemalan children through educational community outreach. Programs like this don't just throw money at a problem, they incorporate the people they are trying to help and provide jobs, opportunities, and the…

Living With Post Traumatic Stress

I have PTSD. Well, technically it's just post traumatic stress, because psychiatrists have recently decided it's not a disorder. Anyways, I was diagnosed this fall and I'm seeing a therapist and working on getting better. I know mental health isn't really discussed openly, but this isn't something I'm ashamed of. 
I thought my behavior was just cautious and a little jumpy coming out of Ecuador, until it became clear that it was much more than that. It's not normal to panic when you hear someone running behind you, or to jump out of a cab and flee if the driver shows the slightest sign of disorientation. It's also not normal to lie in bed at night, unable to sleep because of an overwhelming fear that something bad is going to happen. Or to sit in a coffee shop with a racing heart and panic creeping in because a stranger asked you a simple question. Anxiety attacks, night terrors, heaving on street corners- all decidedly not normal. And yet, this is my r…

Rock Climbing on Tung Lung Island

I didn't realize part of my job description was 'camping chaperone' when I signed up to teach in Hong Kong. Oh, how clueless I was. Most of the teachers at my school are expected to do a multi-day travel or camping experience with the kids at some point, and all the students have options of different trips they can go on. For our little city folk, a week outdoors is eye-opening and grounding. This was like a digital detox for our little tech addicts. The withdrawal symptoms from their lack of iPhones started wearing off around day two.

Our campsite on Tung Lung Island
View from the Tung Lung Island campsite
I escorted forty 8th graders on an Asia Pacific Adventures trip to Tung Lung Island, the rock climbing capital of Hong Kong. I really didn't have to do much, because the trip facilitators really built up trust with the kids and took care of everything. These guys were professionals.

Our trip facilitators were amazing!
Tung Lung Island is a twenty minute ferry ride from…

Clockenflap 2013

I had Sunday passes to the Clockenflap music festival in Hong Kong last weekend. Friday and Saturday had more of the big name headliners, but the Sunday lineup really stood out to me. Clockenflap was so much more than a music festival. It had art exhibits, and artisan markets, and interactive tents with fun activities. My favorite was the silent disco. There was a dj and a dance floor, but everyone wore headphones and from the outside looking in, it seemed like we were dancing to silence. Only we could hear the music!

Dancing at the Silent Disco
The setting of Clockenflap was incredible. It was on the Western Kowloon Waterfront Promenade, with a crystal clear view of downtown. Some of the bands commented on how beautiful it was (Sara Quin from Tegan and Sara even commented that she was moving to Hong Kong). I only saw two bands even though there were loads of other stages and options. Tegan and Sara was the first, and they were fun and cute and sounded great live.

Tegan and Sara at Cloc…

Jewish Community of Hong Kong

The Jewish Film Festival took place in Hong Kong last week and I luckily got tickets to a Sunday afternoon screening of two films- a short called Shoes and a documentary that I've been itching to see called No Place on Earth.

No Place on Earth focuses on a really incredible story of Ukrainian Jews who hid in a cave during World War 2. In the 1990s, an American who was exploring the caves discovered remnants of a population living down there, and traced the story back to the survivors. The film not only tells the tale of life down in the caves, but gives the remaining few survivors the chance to return to their former dwelling place.

Paul Laikin, the writer and producer of the film,  answered audience questions after the screening
There is a visible Jewish presence in Hong Kong, from the various synagogues and Jewish centres around town, to the recent exhibit in Central by the Hong Kong Holocaust and Tolerance Centre.
There is also Chabad Hong Kong, and the Jewish Community Centre, w…

Picture Post: Holiday Shopping on Gough Street

I left my house today with an eager wallet and an open heart, ready to buy gifts for my very large family, and ended up on Gough Street near my house. I think I knew intuitively that Gough Street wouldn't let me down. It's only a block long but has quite the reputation for being a treasure trove of random shops and cafes. Some guides online are outdated because shops come and go so often in Hong Kong, but this one seems to be on par:

Sassy's Guide to Gough Street
It was a very fruitful day, and I am very excited to see my family's faces as they open up some really unique, personal gifts. Here is a picture tour of walk down Gough Street today:
JB House- formerly called Toot Toot,  this place had loads of cute, affordable footwear
Bohemian- Ethnic/tribal accessories and boho clothes
Ms. B's Cakery- decadent looking cupcakes
Homeless- They have 3 branches on this street, it's a  unique home/lifestyle store, lots of cool gadgets and decor
The line for beef brisket at K…

Escaping The City

Hong Kong can be a bit much sometimes. Every once in awhile it's great to escape for a couple days, and luckily, this is super easy. You can basically hop on any MTR or bus line, ride it to the end, and be in the great outdoors. I started my weekend off with a hike up the Peak.

The trail up the Peak
City views poking out sometimes along the trail
Saturday night I went to Sai Kung and stayed with a friend. A lot of the teachers from my school live there. Sai Kung is a fishing village with a cute little downtown area of pubs, cafes, piers, and seafood restaurants. Little communities are built into the tropical forests and mountains around the area. There are lots of families and dogs, and while it isn't the hippest place in Hong Kong, it is relaxing and beautiful.

Seafood selection along the piers of Sai Kung
Car park for some of the houses in Sai Kung
The view from my friend's patio
I brought middle school students to Trio Beach in Sai Kung

Eco-Friendly Periods for Female Travelers

Women spend 1/4 of their mature lives dealing with their periods. We all deal with it, and yet I think we tend to avoid any sort of reflection or meditation on just how significant periods can be.

Have you ever stopped to think about how disposable pads and tampons all end up in a landfill? Each women tosses between 250-300 pounds of menstruation-related garbage away in her lifetime. In one year, 12 billion pads and 7 billion tampons are used once and tossed in the US alone. Think about not only all those tampons, but also plastic applicators, wrappers, and boxes!

Other downsides: Tampons can cause toxic shock syndrome and many other infections. They also leave chemicals and fibers on the walls of your vagina, and can dry it out, which can lead to even more infections!

To top it all off, tampons are expensive and annoying. How many times have you needed a tampon but forgot to throw one in your purse? How much money do you spend on them every cycle? Have you ever traveled in a third wo…

Hong Kong Central Library

I live in a clean, safe, polite, efficient city with a hip arts/music scene, stunning beaches and hiking, fabulous restaurants AND a wide variety of public transport options. Sounds too good to be true! But on top of all that, there's Hong Kong Central Library. I love this place so much I'm considering moving to its neighborhood next year.

Magical Place
I have already checked out dozens of books (and racked up some overdue fines), and the library has the book I'm looking for about 90% of the time. Sometimes the book is in a different, but equally convenient branch. 
Here's the library rising up out of Victoria Park
I go every other week and stock up. It's easy to get to because it's one the same bus route as some lines near both my job and my apartment, and it's one block from the Tin Hau MTR station. The Central Library has ten floors of books, loads of couches and places to lounge and read, strong air conditioning, a French cafe and garden downstairs, and d…

Expatriate Life

People who pop into my blog have the wrong impression about how fabulous my life is. Being an expatriate (someone who lives outside of their home country) is very different from actually being a nomad. I don't travel full time; I have a normal apartment and a group of friends with gym memberships and a steady 8-4 job.
I bump into people in my home town in Florida who say that I must be so adventurous, and it makes me laugh. The reality of my day to day life is actually quite boring. I wake up at 5:50 AM everyday and my career is no different from a middle school social studies teacher back in the US. Then after work, most days I pick up some take out food, go home, read a book, watch some tv, maybe grab a drink with a friend in my neighborhood, get some grading done, and go to sleep by 10 PM. Repeat routine five times a week.
I go for pedicures with my girlfriends just like friends back home
I'm an escapist. Being stuck in one place for too long, or really living in the moment…

The BEST Scuba Diving in Asia!

I got my Open Water PADI certification a couple weeks ago in Koh Tao, Thailand, and am therefore obviously not that experienced, but I can't imagine a better place to go scuba diving in terms of atmosphere and warmth and fun and experience. New Way Divers was a dive shop I found through random google searches along the lines of 'scuba dive asia' and 'good scuba dive asia.' There are something like 50 scuba diving companies on Koh Tao alone, so I feel really lucky that I found New Way!

We had 7 people in the Open Water class, but with 2 instructors. I saw groups of 7 or 8 at the other schools, but they only had one instructor, and I think that made a huge difference. We would hang out and do a morning briefing on the boat as a big group, but break up into smaller groups under the water based on our air levels. Also, New Way had their own boats which made our lives way easier.

Prepping on the boat
That's me doing the James Bond entrance

Our group descending down the…

Massages in Thailand

In my nine days in Thailand, I had 3 massages. They're so cheap, it's hard not to! And I don't know if I just got lucky, but every massage therapist I had really knew what they were doing. I've read about the healing intent behind Thai massages and I understood it.

Where the magic happened
One spa gave you tea and fruit after every session
Let me try to explain how a Thai massage feels: I felt so positive and I knew great things were happening and my body felt connected to the world and people are generally good. not evil. and puppies. You get it?

Oh so relaxed at the spa after my back massage
The first time around I got a healing package (hot stone massage, Thai massage, facial), the second time I just did shoulders/neck/back, and my last massage was a feet and shoulder combo. Could I do this professionally, review massages around the continent? Hmm...

Majestic Spa in Koh Tao: Go there now!
To be honest, I only got the second massage because the shower in the spa was real…