That First Step

For me, the hardest part of travel isn't the language barrier, the uncertainity of where I will sleep that night, or overcoming fear of the unknown (although none of these things is particularly easy). The hardest part is the first step; walking out the door with everything I need, hoping that I've taken care of everything that needs my attention, hoping that I'm not getting myself in over my head, questioning if this is what I should be doing, trusting that it will all be okay. Once that first step is taken, my doubts and fears almost fade away, because I know whether I forgot to pack something, forgot to do something, gotten in over my head or whatever, there is nothing I can do about it now.

So I've completed the hardest part (not without hestitation, etc.). I'm here in Taipei. And the first half-day of romaing did away with what lingering doubts and fears there may have been. There is just so much neat stuff to see: Scoot Scoot's relatives, delicious new treats, and culture, culture, culture.
Thursday February 19 2009File under: travel, Taiwan

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Grenada Slideshow

One of the best things to do when returning from a trip is to review photos. For me, it helps me recapture a bit of the adventure and wonder when it is usually quite needed. (Post-vacation blues is no laughing matter). I went back and forth on whether to do a slideshow set to music or a captioned, proceed-at-your-own-pace slideshow. Since I am too lazy to write clever* captions and all the fancy javascript to go along with the latter option, I opted for the former. I hope you like it.

Many thanks to Maggie for letting me pull from her photos in addition to mine. Any really good photo was probably taken by her. Oh, and Sean, the star wipe at the end is just for you. Oh2, and I used Vimeo instead of YouTube this time because YouTube didn't like that I was using copyrighted music for the soundtrack. Alas.
Wednesday January 14 2009File under: video, travel

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Racing the Waters

Of the 5 legs of this most recent journey, 4 of them have been effected by mostly weather-related delays. I guess that is part of winter travel. Luckily none of them were catastrophic and one or two of them were even for the best. This last leg, however, was by far the most adventurous.

After spending a great 4 days in Portland thanks to friends new and old, I decided it was time to make my way home*. I looked forward to the train ride as a time to wind down and reflect on my trip and how incredible it was*. The weather gods, however, decided that my time on a train was not meant to be. Mud slides between Seattle and Portland had all but canceled all trains out of Portland for the next 3 days. Luckily, my travel mate and I are the unruffle-able types and took it as a adventure.

We found a friend who graciously let us borrow his vehicle* and we set off northward. The top of the hour newscast, followed by calls from concerned friends and family, alerted us to what might be our next hurdle: floods were expected to close I-5, and soon. After a discussion of whether to turn back and possible contingency plans, we pressed on. Freeway off ramps were closed as we raced by because everything below the level of the freeway was underwater. We saw police and highway workers getting ready to close down the last open land route between Portland and Seattle. As we looked in the rear-view mirror after passing the worst of it, a call came on the phone announcing that the freeway is now closed. We were among the last 100 cars to get through.

While the rest of the ride wasn't totally stress-free (heavy rains and dangerous puddles made for a bit of a white knuckle experience), we were glad when we crossed onto Fidalgo Island safely. Now as I listen to news of road closures, evacuation notices, and river stages I think about 1) the awesome power of Mother Nature 2) that it is good to be reminded that, despite what we want to think, we are still at the mercy of our environment 3) how glad I am to live in a place where the perennial disasters (fire, flood, drought, etc.) have so far avoided and 4) how glad I am to be home safe and sound.
Thursday January 8 2009File under: travel

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Communal Meals

The first thing I'm told when I walk in Andrew's door in Portland is "We've got dinner plans". Not being one to eschew meal plans, I dumped my bags and headed back out into the [relatively] cold northwest weather. Dinner was homemade tamales with lots of extras at a friend's house. Many people gathered together to cook, chat, eat, flirt, and discuss the finer points of converting a client-side database to be server-based. The following two meals the next day were much the same way: food gets cooked, friends descend, fun ensues.

Yes, these Portland dwellers do it right*. The idea of coming together for a shared meal is one that warms me to the core. Good people combined with good food: I'm afraid that's a hard one to beat.
Tuesday January 6 2009File under: travel, food

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Recognize This House

Do you recognize this house? Here is another view. Not right off? How about if you removed the bushes? Replaced the gravelled front yard with grass? Painted it pinkish yellow? Added a nerdy yet do-goody neighbor? Does it ring a visual bell now? (Here is a visualization). Still not seeing it? Here is your final hint.

Back in 1997(ish), a house was built using T.V.'s the Simpson's home as a model. The house was then given away in some crazy promotion. I vaguely remember hearing about the contest back then. Well, on this most recent visit to the Las Vegas area, I sought it out and took my typically nerdy picture. With the change in landscape, paint color, etc. it is hardly worth being a destination in itself, but since I was just out cruising around, it was a good way to kill the time. Plus, it complements my last Las Vegas Simpsons experience well*.
Sunday January 4 2009File under: travel

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Freemont Street Experience

One thing you might not think of when thinking about Las Vegas is free shows. Sure there are pricey cirque d' soleil shows, fancy showgirls shows, and once-in-a-lifetime Bette Midler shows, but there is lots of free entertainment too, if you know where to look: the water show at the Bellagio, the pirate show at Treasure Island, the circus shows at Circus Circus, the animatronic Zeus show at Cesaer's Palace, etc. While each of them have their charm, my vote for best free show in Vegas is the Freemont Street Experience.

Freemont Street in downtown* Vegas is a pedistrian mall with older (yet not unfancy) casinos lining it. Covering about 3 blocks of the mall is a giant dome* which, in the evenings, turns into a giant screen displaying what I can only describe as a crazy music video collage. We saw Don McClean's American Pie and one with the music of Queen. If you've been there, you know what I'm talking about. If you haven't, I suggest checking it out. It'll make you feel better about all that money you lost at the roulette wheel.
Friday January 2 2009File under: travel

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New Years Eve in Las Vegas

New Year's Eve in Las Vegas: People everywhere. Streets blocked off. More booze than usual. More lights than usual. Motorcycle stunts. Police keeping tabs on everything. Families gathered to revel together. Fireworks from everywhich direction. All in all, energy abounding: electric, chemical, and human.

Or so I heard. I was in bed by 9:30 and hardly stirred when the fireworks went off right outside my hotel. Jet lag coupled with cruisers lag* left me one tired cookie. (Sleeping through the big moment also means I'm up to 11 years on my no kiss at midnight streak. Yes, ladies, that is a challenge.)

Anyway, to each of you I send you my hopes for the best possible 2009 ever.
Thursday January 1 2009File under: travel

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Juggling n Travelling

A good traveler knows how to pack light. I think I am pretty good about it*. But one thing I've included in my international travel bag of late is four dube airflite juggling clubs. (For those who don't know, juggling clubs aren't small.) But for the joy they bring me and the opportunities they provide, they are totally worth it.

First, juggling is a great way to past time on the beach, or a park, or a train station, or anywhere you've got time to kill. But beach juggling is the best. Also, it is a great way to meet locals. They'll see you carrying your clubs around and ask for an impromptu show and then share a smile*. Or sometimes it is a little different connection. Juggling builds bridges. Finally, you never know when a little entertainment will be called for. At the Boxing Day Jam Session, I took along my clubs and gave the gathered cruisers a bit of a show. Good times.

Yep, I break a few packing rules by dragging my juggling equipment along, but it is totally worth it.

(P.S. This whole post is just an elaborate excuse to post this picture of Joya trying to imitate me by balancing a club on her head. So cute!)
Monday December 29 2008File under: travel, juggling

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Grenada Hash House Harriers

For the 3 of you out there that know what a hash run/race is*, please bear with me as I explain it to everyone else. Essentially, it is a hike/run/walk guided by temporary markers where misdirected paths are par for the course. In the case of the Grenada hash, the path(s) was through the jungle, along[/through] a stream, under cocoa, banana, nutmeg, and grapefruit trees, and down muddy slopes that sometimes didn't resemble a path at all. I'm so sorry I didn't bring my camera*.

When I signed on, I didn't know what I was getting into. I thought it was just a hike through the woods. I figured it would be nice to get to the extreme other side of the country (luckily it is a small country) and have a nice leisurely hike. When I figured out this whole misdirection thing, I planned to lag at the back of the pack and let the hardcores figure out the true path and I'd just tag along. Somehow, however, I got sucked into the competitive spirit of it all and ended up leading for a good chunk of the way, running along tiny paths through the jungle, not really knowing where I was going, shouting to unseen competitors/collaborators about what I've found. I was pointed down a steep hill by a local fellow who I thought was helping me out, but it turns out he was just having a laugh. Climbing back up the hill not only took all my energy*, but left me out of the leading pack. I finished completely exhausted by so pleased with the experience.

I'd say about 50 people participated. There were maybe 6 or 8 true locals, double that of ex-pat locals, and the rest being students, cruisers, or otherwise temporary dwellers. The division between first time hashers and veterans was split about 50/50.

Unfortunately, the experience ended in such a way that my memory of the event won't reflect the wonderful time I had out on the trails with my fellow hashers. After everyone was through, a hazing ritual was performed on the first timers. Getting the scoop ahead of time what said ritual was, I chose to opt out by making myself scarce. Degradation and disrespect aren't my idea of fun. My choice of opting out wasn't respected and said hazing was directed at me. I reacted instinctively out of anger in a way I'm not proud. It was kind of a fiasco, and left a bad taste in my mouth*.

But negative ending experience aside, the hash run is something I look forward to participating in again in the future. But probably not in Grenada. I don't think they would like it if I came back.
Sunday December 28 2008File under: travel, Grenada

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My Kind of Beach

Of all the qualities they choose from to rate a beach (sand quality, surf, proximity to tiki bars, etc.) the biggest one for me is isolation. Yeah it can be nice to have someone bring your alcohol-free, parisoled mai-tai right to your beach chair, and having bronzed bodies to watch as they strut their stuff is good times, but I guess I just prefer space and peace and quiet.

In my travels, I've found a few great isolated beaches (Thailand, Palmyra, Cambodia, etc.). Now I can add Grenada to that list. Getting out to Bathway Beach took a little doing; a halting bus ride and a long walk in the warm sun, but I guess that what keeps it isolated. In the 3 hours we spent there reading, beach combing, and processing coconuts sans machete*, we only saw 2 other souls. So despite the fact that the water wasn't really swimable and I had to go without ice cream for the afternoon, I'm still rating Bathway Beach among the top beach of Grenada.
Tuesday December 23 2008File under: travel, Grenada

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