Showing posts from 2014

The Nomad's Nomad by Luke Armstrong

I was super excited to hear recently that my friend Luke wrote a book, because he is one of the best storytellers I know. It’s a collection of short stories about his travels around the world, and Luke’s strong voice and huge personality really shine through. When I say that Luke is a character, I mean it in the best way possible, because it's a character you'd wish you known longer and you always wish you had more time with. It's a character that makes an awesome guide for a series of adventures assembled into a book.
I spent an awesome summer living with these guys, and yes- Luke, Ray and I went out drinking in these getups one night
I am pretty much constantly anxious to hit the road, and  Luke’s stories about travel were so vivid that it was almost ok that I was reading them while stuck on a public bus on my dreary commute to work. The book had me genuinely laughing out loud as I was reading it. Luke writes about smuggling cigarettes and insects, almost getting arrested…

A White Girl in Hong Kong

The issue of race and dating is a really common topic of conversation amongst my friends here, foreign and Chinese both. From what I've gather, Western girls are at the bottom of the dating totem pole in Hong Kong. It is super rare to see a couple consisting of an Asian male and a white girl, normally it's the other way around (of course there are exceptions). Why is that? I'm going to try to explore the phenomenon that is the 'white dude Asian girl' couple.

I can't count the number of times I've heard that white girls can't compete with Asian girls, because Asian girls are just better. That is such bullshit! It's just that the white guys THINK Asian girls are better. So what's with this 'white guy Asian girl' thing? Why is it even a thing? I think it ultimately comes down to two factors:

1. Racist ideas of what Asian girls are going to be like. There is a mindset that an Asian girlfriend will be more submissive, quiet, loyal, and cutesy…

My Favorite Travel Music

Music can set the tone for a trip. Sometimes if I am feeling sleepy or unmotivated while on the road and I put on the right electro soundtrack, I can pump myself up for a night of fun. Sometimes when I am in a peaceful place and a certain song comes on Genius on my iPod, I can sink to a dark place. There's plenty of music to I listen to at home but wouldn't listen to on the road. I have music for grading/working/studying (Ludovico Einaudi), music for rallying to go out on a Friday night after a long day of work (MIA), dinner party music for friends (Washed Out), lazy Sunday music (Howlin' Wolf), cooking music (Billie Holiday), etc.

And then there is road trip music. What would my basic backpacking soundtrack sound like? It really depends on how I am traveling! Driving my car from Tallahassee to New Orleans is going to garner a different vibe from curling up on a train in Eastern Europe or from whipping around the Andes Mountains on a  rickety bus. Also, it makes a huge dif…

No Catcalls in Hong Kong

Catcalling has been all over the internet and media lately, and it occurred to me that what used to be such a huge part of my day to day life in Ecuador doesn't exist in Hong Kong. Men here just don't do it. What's with that? When I first moved here, I thought, 'Did I get ugly? Why aren't men whistling at me or licking their lips in my directions as I walk to grocery store in my sweatpants anymore?!' I learned pretty quickly that it just isn't part of the culture in Hong Kong, or most other major Asian cities.

This shows me that men CAN restrain themselves. Men in Asia get it- catcalling makes women uncomfortable, makes them feel unsafe, and isn't fucking flattering at all. They are universally raised here to be respectful and polite towards the opposite sex, and I've never once had reason to fear a man in Hong Kong, a feeling I got used to in Ecuador. Yes, I said it. I feared men in Ecuador. When a group of men approached me in the street, I would …

My Five Most Life Changing Trips

I have spent practically every break I’ve had since 2007 travelling. Winter breaks, spring breaks, Carnaval, long weekends, summers, etc. At this point, I’ve been on a LOT of trips, to say the least. In October I broke 30 countries with my week in Taiwan, which is pretty fucking awesome if I do say so myself! My next planned trips include Vietnam for winter break with some girlfriends, and a stop in Canada next summer for my friends’ wedding.

I thought it would be fun to take a moment and look back, not necessarily at the best trips I’ve done, or the most fun, but the trips that changed me in some way. All trips are an opportunity for growth but some experiences really shake you to your core and settle in your bones, changing you forever. As I was writing up a list of my most life-changing trips, I was trying to limit myself to three, but that didn't work out, so here they are. My five most life-changing trips EVER.

1. First Trip Abroad, Summer 2007
Partners in Crime: Marpessa and …

Voting From Abroad

With over 7 million US citizens living abroad, absentee ballots can really make a difference on election day. Although I haven't lived in Florida for 4 years, I still send in my absentee ballot every 2 years and proudly haven't missed an election since I was 18 years old. Obviously I don't live there anymore, but it still makes sense for me as a Floridian to remain as politically active as I can. I still care, after all.

Florida's procedure for getting an absentee ballot is pretty straight forward because they will email you a copy, and you can fax it right back to your particular Supervisor of Elections. The entire process of receiving a ballot, researching the issues/candidates, and sending it back took me about 30 minutes last week. I know every state is different and some might be more difficult, but it's worthwhile to figure out your state's procedures!

This video gives lots of good reasons to vote, even for non-expats
So, why bother? There are many reasons…

A Week in Taiwan

I got back yesterday from Taiwan and I wanted to try a little something new on this trip. Instead of taking pictures, I filmed my way around the country and made this little video.

Taiwan doesn't seem to be high on the Asian travel circuit, but it really does pack a whole lot into a tiny island nation. And the food! Ahhh the food. Beef noodle soup and street dumplings and mango shaved ice and minced pork rice and grilled corn and bubble tea and the list goes on. You'll notice that about half the footage in the video above is just us stuffing our faces.

Taiwan was an incredibly beautiful, big-hearted country, and the people were so warm and welcoming. We were invited to eat free street sausages with a family sharing dinner at a night market, taxi drivers wanted to know our life stories, a local temple invited us to march in a parade with them. I wouldn't say it was the most exciting place I've ever been, but traveling in Taiwan was easy, relaxing, and a true cultural ex…

A Seedy Side of The Philippines

My mom's baby brother lives part time in Miami and part time in Angeles City. Not Los Angeles, but Angeles City, legendary prostitution capital of the Philippines, located a few hours north of Manila. Google 'Angeles City.' I dare you. His wife, my aunt, grew up in the Philippines and still has a lot of family there. Some highlights from my recent visit to Angeles City include:
Hanging out with my aunt's family, who were extremely warm and welcoming

 Spending time with my uncle
 Relaxing AND frolicking around the city
Angeles City is the home to Clark Air Base, Mount Pinatubo, and was also the last stop of the WWII Bataan death march that left around 5,000 Filipinos and 500 Americans dead. An interesting place to say the least. Being the history nerd I am, I was super excited for my uncle to take me on a tour of the remnants of Clark Air Base.
Old chopper left behind at Clark Air Base is now a playgound
Visiting Clark Veterans Memorial
Scenes at the Baatan Memorial for the …

Tai Hang Fire Dragon Dance

I have a new neighborhood in Hong Kong- Tai Hang! I wrote about it last year and hinted that I wanted to relocate, and over the summer, I did it. I found a cute, quirky, newly renovated apartment in an old Chinese walk-up building, which was really my dream. That's a different blog post for a different day, because right now I just want to share with you a cultural tradition from my new neighborhood that happened recently.

Entrance to my neighborhood all jazzed up in preparation
A few weeks ago was the Tai Hang Fire Dragon dance. Tai Hang is an old fishing village that goes back over 100 years, so it is a very tight knit community. Once a year the locals run up and down the streets 3 nights in a row with a 67 meter long dragon. The dragon runs at the crowd and then veers away at the last minute, it goes up in flames as they stab it with incense, and it dances to the beat of the massive drums following alongside.

The head of the dragon running right towards me in the crowd

10 Tips For My 15 Year Old Self

I teach 6th-10th grade, which we all know can be the worst age ever. At that age, kids are hormonal nut jobs and it’s a wonder I can keep them all seated and somehow learning as well. Distractions are aplenty, to name a few:

Oh god, is everyone staring at my zit?
Does he like me?
Why was she such a bitch to me on
How do I make this boner go away?
Can I hike my skirt up any shorter without showing off my ladybits?
Why are my parents such embarrassing assholes?

When I think back to that age, I just remember feeling insecure a lot. Pressure to fit in, to be normal, to catch a cute boy’s attention or get invited to the best house party was suffocating. My students here seem overall more well-adjusted than their American counterparts, but sometimes I still want to give them advice to help them through these horrible years. Unfortunately, this isn’t really the type of stuff built into a school curriculum. If I could go back and give my 15 year old self some advice, here’s what I w…

Picture Post - Steamy Summer

August and September in Hong Kong are bitching hot, but that doesn't stop us from flocking to the beaches during the day and tearing up the town at night. Here are some photos of my latest summer shenanigans.

Lazy day at Chung Hom Kok
Afternoon thunderstorm rolling in over Tai Hang
Hula hooping at Repulse Bay
Stunning scenery in a taxi ride
Girl's night out at Varga Lounge
Hong Kong is never ending fun. I can stumble home alone at 4 AM with some street shwarma or leave my purse on the beach and swim out in the water with no fear of getting taken advantage of. There's not many places left on Earth like that. I would also like to point out that all of the beach photos were taken right on Hong Kong Island, about a 15 minute taxi ride from downtown. The natural beauty of Hong Kong is a hidden secret. I love my city!

My Volunteer Experience With Soap Cycling

I discovered a website called Hands on Hong Kong a few weeks ago that has a community bulletin where all the charities and non-profits in the city can post volunteer opportunities. Before I start promoting it to my students, I wanted to go check it out in person so I signed up for an event called 'Soap Cycling' and headed over there Saturday morning.

Soap Cycling is an environmental initiative from Hong Kong University that aims to promote hygiene and sanitation by recycling used soap bars from hotels. In Hong Kong alone, hotels throw away 2-3 million bars of soap annually. Combine that with the horrifying statistic that each year around the world 3.5 millions kids die of pneumonia and another 850,000 of diarrhea (both diseases that could be prevented by simply washing your hands), and you can see why these two causes clearly go hand in hand.

Crates full of recycled soap from Hong Kong hotels
By collecting used soap bars from hotels, Soap Cycling prevents them from piling up in …