After 14 countries this Summer, it’s back to INDIA and NGO Work ~

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Ok Ok Ok Ok~

It has been a while since I posted an update. Sometimes, when I am moving so fast from place to place, there isn’t really much time to reflect. I have learned more and more to live in the present and experience the days fully. Only now do I really have some time to give an update on the past and what is happening now.

Some have requested a new post and to keep blogging, so here it is and thanks as always for the support through reading and commenting, whether online or in person.

When I posted last, I was in India and it was the month of May.

Now 5 months later, I am back in India in the the city of Kolkata. My last post highlighted my experience with this Mother Teresa figure I have been friends with for 10 years. His name is Francis and shortly after I posted on his life, he sent me an email requesting me to come fill in for him while he is gone in Europe for the Fall.

Well, can one say no to Mother Teresa if she asks you to help? Haha, after some short reflection, I felt it was time for me to do some volunteer work again. It had been years since I last was involved in such work, yet it felt right to do it. So here I am.

But before I go into the details of this work, I will quickly update on what just happened for the past 5 months.

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After Darjeeling in May, I flew to Israel for a month. It had always been a dream of mine to visit the land, and it was one of the more amazing experiences I have had. I loved Israel and the Israeli people. I was welcomed with open arms everywhere I went and made some amazing friendships. I was also there when the tension began with the unfortunate killings of the teenagers, and I left right before the Israeli Defense Forces were mobilized. Many I met did not want conflict at all, but what would you do if your home country was attacked? Conflicts aside, Israel has a special place in my heart and I will continue to go back as the years go on…I recommend everyone to visit and have a good time there. Let me know if you want contacts to meet.

Midburn Gathering, Negev Desert , Israel
Midburn Gathering, Negev Desert , Israel
MidBurn
MidBurn

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After Israel, I flew to the Balkans and traveled around Romania, Serbia, Montenegro and Croatia. In the month of July, this region is beautiful. I had visited Romania in 2000, and now 14 years later, I visited friends I had made back then. The same family that hosted me back then, hosted me again. I love how with the help of social networks today, I can keep in touch with my friends from all over the world.

Then after the Balkans, came that thing in the desert and this year was nothing short of spectacular again. I was there in the Black Rock Desert for two weeks and had a nice time there.

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Then it was off to prepare for India and this is where our story continues….

Francis works with the children and youth that have grown up in the massive train station called Sealdah in Kolkata. It is one of the busiest train stations in India and indeed the world, with hundreds of thousands of people in and out everyday. It is bustling with porters, people going to work, street merchants, and from 6am-11pm, there is a sea of people that take some keen navigation to move through and along. Being back in India, one always has to be aware of where you walk.

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The boys of the Railway station are a tight crew. They look out for each other and some do little jobs to make some money, such as carrying luggage or goods. They sleep at the station, just on the ground, some live with their families, some have no family. Some are married (because it is common to get married at a young age) and some are fathers at age 18. Some have a wife that is expecting and some have mental and physical disabilities.

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The list goes on. But like any boy, they like to have fun, and they like to have freedom. Most of their lives, they have had no formal education and the local government has not been able to assist their lives in any relevant way. This is where Francis and his Pilgrims of Charity Friends Organization comes in.

The work of Francis’ work involves just being present like a big brother or father to the boys. He provides them food, his smile and is there to help with any problem that they may encounter. For instance, one of the boys fathers had passed away and the mother had no where to go. Francis was able to arrange accommodation for her and a place to work.

Besides, being with the boys and giving them education twice a week, Francis also has a host slum where he provides basic first aid to the occupants of the slum. Most of the people who live in this slum are Bangladeshi and don’t have the same type of opportunities in Kolkata. They are slightly discriminated but the situation for them in Bangladesh isn’t much better, so they live there near a river (picture the water black) and the train station.

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So, I have been here for a week already and I have been the new “Big Brother” to the boys. They all met me in May, and were all happy to see me again. They enjoy having an American as a friend and are curious about all sorts of things. I also have visited the slum and have been addressing the medical needs. There is everything from common lacerations and abrasions, to skin, eye and ear problems. For more serious matters, I bring the person to the local hospital and with my NGO card, I can get them in right away for treatment. I have seen some pretty bad skin issues, because the fact is that the people don’t take as much showers as they should. Common hygiene is not really practiced or known, and with the treatment I administer, I also educate as best I can.

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Besides, the slum and Train station work, I also visit the local government hospital a couple times a week and it is still is as difficult to see as it was for me 10 years prior when I came as a student. Yet even though the conditions are difficult to see, the simple human to human connection is still needed. And the very simple action of going to an old man, who is looking dazed and to hold his hand and look him in the eyes with a smile and respect can bring even him to some grateful tears. It is sometimes the most simplest actions such as these, that can spur life into the temporarily broken bodies and spirits in the hospital.

I am grateful to be here, but it is also another one of the most difficult experiences in my waking life I have ever experienced. To see so many on the street, disabled, hurt, diseased. After so many people, it sort of becomes commonplace and one can just accept that everyone in this environment is struggling to eat but that somehow no one is really starving. The Bengali people do look out for each other, but can only give so much of their own resources.

Now for these boys, they can live in the train station their entire life. And to be honest, some of them probably will. They love the station, it is their home, their identity and family. Yet, it is not the best place to raise a baby or a family, and of course there can be exploitation or even kidnappings, as it happened to one of the little babies of a young man we know.

When I visited the boys earlier this year, I got an idea to bring more education resources to them through the use of laptops and technology. I felt they were more than capable to interact and learn programs, and that with the right initial directions, they could self teach themselves and add to their own livelihoods.

Now, 5 months later, this idea has transformed into raising $5,000 seed money and acquiring 8 laptops to kickstart the classroom/computer lab project (link here). The simple mention of my decision to help these boys has inspired 4 of my friends to come volunteer alongside and contribute collectively to make the classroom a reality for them.

Just a couple weeks ago I proposed the project to the boys and asked if it was something they wanted and they all raised their hands enthusiastically. When I asked them a good location for them so they can all walk there easily, they gave me the best location and district.

Next week, my friends arrive and soon the classroom (titled Avasar Shala) will begin in addition to the existing work of the Pilgrims of Charity. I am writing from an internet cafe now where I pay 15 cents an hour and listening to some deep house music. It is the weekend, and I will definitely take some needed rest after my first week here.

Thanks for reading, for the continued support at this time. I launched a small campaign for the project and if you want to contribute financially, you can. Or if you want to visit me while I am here, come. I will stay till Dec 20.

Cheerio and Connect with me on FB if you ever want to chat more deeply.

CIAO!

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10502390_10154809883165717_5626502655377406327_nAll photos used with permission by Tara Beth Currah

 

A Grand Year of Adventures in 2013~Now onto Another Trip Around the Sun

Sun Trippin

Well, as I write this morning, I am in a spiritual retreat center on the north shores of Maui in the islands of Hawaii. The weather is so nice and energetic here and its been a few years since I last was in the islands. Sunrises on top of volcanos, spectacular coastal drives and trekking through rainforest to ancient Hawaiian swim holes are a few recently made memories that will bring smiles to my face in years to come.

I hope to those that keep up with my updates and travels all had a wonderful holiday and New Year. I am truly happy to share life with friends, be it in person or through a blog. I haven’t posted for a few months now, so I figure it is time to give some “juice.”

In 2013, I went around the world. I traveled in early February to Europe where I spent two months in the Netherlands, with side trips to France and Germany. It was then off to South East Asia, where I spent close to four months venturing Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia. And then it was right over to good ole’ North Dakota just in time for 4th of July Fireworks and one of my best friends weddings. From there, I hopped on a ride share across the northern part of the States to California, where I spent a majority of the rest of the year. It seems I’m destined for another round the world journey in 2014, yet this time flying West.

Of course this wasn’t a vacation, as some can assume. Throughout the entire time being abroad, I was writing. Both in my professional 9-5 job with Visual News, and also with book projects I plan to publish. Personally, I find more inspiration being in a completely different environment than my own home country of the West Coast. While I love to see my friends and family in the states, I’ve personally evolved to a place where I need the chaos of a foreign context to shape and stimulate my heart and mind.

Each day is anew, filled with tones, noises, tastes, weather and relationships. And more.

I’ll give a few highlights from last year I enjoyed throughout the movements~

Carnival in Netherlands

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Carnival is widely celebrated in Holland, and the Dutch recognize that the best festivities are held in the South of the country. I happened to be in that particular area at the time it was happening and though it was quite cold outside, my spirit was warm with song, dance and of course, beer!

Yoga in Thailand

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Thailand Yoga

I began my Yoga journey finally in Thailand. I had waited until I could learn directly from my cousin, who has been a Yoga Ashtangi for over 20 years. Her practice is quite well known around the world and I was privileged to learn from her on a beautiful island.

Friendship in Langkawi

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After spending time in Thailand, I went over to the Island of Langkawi in Malaysia to explore, meet up with a friend and check out sailboats. I found a wonderful expat community there whom I had a lot of fun getting to know. Langkawi itself is a great island to check out as it is unique in its own way. Definitely stay at Soluna Guesthouse if you get there and tell Claudia I said hello.

Art in Black Rock

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It was another year of art installations in that special place in the desert. It was a wonderful year again full of expression, exploration and community.

Hiking in NorCal

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I spent some of the Autumn writing in Northern Cal/ Southern Oregon. To be in the quiet stillness of the vast forest is renewing and energizing. In a world where the race gets faster by the millisecond, finding these sanctuaries are more important than ever, and I was lucky to find such raw nature so close by to my SF bay home.

Well, I’m back to Hawaii Life now and am already making great memories for this year. I hope you do too, because really, anything is possible if you project your intention into the universe enough~ Thanks for reading as always~

West Coastin’ 2013

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Since arriving back from overseas this year, it’s been westside till I die, laying low in my ’64 Impala, cruisin’ wit my homies, sippin’ on gin and juice, layback.

Well, not exactly. But it has been yet another nice summer in the west. It feels like it has been a hotter summer this year, which has set the stage for many adventurous activities to participate in. I love my family and in this season, they need my support as they plan to open new chapters in their life. After 25 years of being in Woodside, my family is looking to move on. And so keeping our property looking nice and show worthy is necessary.

And after 5 years of living in Seattle (with 3 off and on, due to work) I have decided to move on myself from the emerald city. I really do love the communal and casual vibe that Seattle breathes, yet unfortunately for this California boy, I need the sun more. It’s a tradeoff, yet after spending months in sunny South East Asia with warm waters and noticing the significant difference in energy, it sealed the intention it was time to go.

Whynam_view_800x533 When I moved there, I always knew I wouldn’t stay long and that going back to
California as a US base would happen again. So, I went up to Seattle in early August, participated in the SeaFair activities (lots of hydroplane boats, fighter jet demonstrations, and boat parties everywhere) sailed up to the San Juan Islands for a week, then sold my boat after 2 days. I promptly went back down to California to prepare for Burning Man.

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This has been my third year going back to Burning Man, and for all those who have not been there, please do not attempt to define what it is, because you can’t. People try to put it in a box and think they know what it’s all about, but really they don’t. It’s not a bunch of naked hippies tripping on acid, it’s not a huge “burning” event where everything is burned, and no, it’s not a pagan festival or even a music festival. It’s also not for everyone in my opinion. Mostly because some people are just not ready to experience such a dynamic shift from their day-to-day lives. Burning Man will challenge a person and enlighten about what is possible to experience communally between humans. As an anthropologist, I find the Burn to be an amazing social experiment, and actually other anthropologists like myself think so too.

To me, this years burn seemed short. After coming back from Seattle, I jumped straight into preparing (In)Visible, an art installation designed by my cousin Kirsten and her 4th time bringing art to Burning Man. Thus began the 12 hour days, shaping the iridescent panels to the steel frame, grinding, drilling and crimping, and getting ready for the desert itself, picking up necessary items such as hydration packs, baby wipes, and apple cider vinegar (counteracts the alkaline dust that will get on your skin most definitely). After the truck was packed, five of us shot off to Reno where we spent one last night experiencing pressurized water and relaxing before trekking to the desert. This year I gifted two tickets to my old friend Quentin and his wife as a wedding present. They were both very excited and as it happened, we both came to the gate at the same time and were able to enter together.

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In our 125′ x 100′ foot of space, we set up our tents, our campers and geodesic domes. There were hexayurts (created from insulation panels you would find at home depot, once attached with a swamp cooler, it is a nice oasis) and there were our shade structures. In total we would have about 30 people in our camp throughout the week. We had people from Singapore, Oregon, Thailand, California, Washington, Canada, France, UK and New Zealand. It was a fun week as it always is.

Personally for me, being a third year burner and having the opportunities to get acquainted and familiar with the community in various parts of the world, the Burn wasn’t as awe-inspiring of an experience for me. Rather, it was just good to see my friends and to share time with them. One particular person was named Takashi, whom I had met at last years burn. Our interaction only lasted an hour if that, yet we became acquainted on facebook and kept in touch over this past year. At the same event we met  at last year, we saw each other again and were both happy to share life again as our friendship had grown through the conversations we had had via facebook and such. Takashi was from Osaka, Japan and later that day I engaged in a meetup of Japanese burners, of which there were over 50. I also later participated in the red tea ceremony with artist Ken Hamakazi the next day, something Takashi gifts his time to support. It is also a highlight of the week for me.

Back from the Burn and as the dust settles, I am back in the west and am still quite mobile for the remainder of this month. I’m still writing, and I have multiple international friends flying in each week, which I have committed to some degree to host. I am thankful, happy and am now going to go for a walk here in Santa Cruz. Much love~

car (The vehicle makes it to the playa)

Time to talk about Paris

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I’m sure many have been able to visit Paris at some point. For me though, the first time I was able to explore this famed city was last week.

On my first trip to Europe in 2000, I did go to the Paris airport. But that experience was only limited to eating a croque monsieur, buying Cuban cigars and finagling a customs officer to stamp my passport. Hardly the experience.

And even though I had been to Europe many times after, and spending the better part of a year throughout the continent, Paris never happened.

Maybe I was dissuaded by the tourism of cities like Paris, Rome and Venice. I much rather preferred smaller towns and cities with less cameras and tour buses.

But this is February, in the heart of Winter and not many people travel during this time (at least not to the Northern hemisphere.) I had a friend who had moved to Paris three years ago and I promised to him that when I was in Europe again, I would visit him. So to honor that promise and to finally check out Paris, I hopped on a ride to the City of love, arts and baguettes.

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From Maastrict, Netherlands to Paris I caught a ride share for 22 euros. A train would have cost close to 100 and a flight the same. I had used ride share in the US and am always happy to make new friends through the activity. While some people have an issue meeting and interacting with strangers, I have found it to be quite fun. I also promote the idea of renewing trust between people, so in a way I promote this through the action. If you do find yourself in Europe and want to find a ride, check out the website here.

I arrived in Paris and upon parking the car, I see an artist painting on his easel and hear a semi-pleasant voice singing opera from a 4th floor building. Ah, Paris. City of the arts! 🙂

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Upon my first walk, I saw the famous Notre Dame cathedral. From a distance it looked massive and the front was one of the most impressive facades I had seen.

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I got to a Metro and met my friend Jason Brown , whom I had been friends with since university days. It was nice to make his acquaintance again after a long 3 years. There was a lot of catching up to do and catch up we did.

The following day I met up with another friend Astra from the UK, who happened to be in Paris studying French. The funny thing about Astra besides her personality, is that we always seem to see each other every time I come to Europe. The past 5 times I have come to Europe, I have run into her. Sometime for just 15 minutes and sometimes for a few days. I have love for her and she’s a good friend.

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Together, we walked to the Eiffel tower and Wow, what an amazing structure. I mean, yes, it’s the Eiffel tower, but some monuments lack the awe upon seeing them (such as the Pyramids of Egypt or the Great Wall for me) but the Eiffel tower really was a treat. We of course went up after waiting for only 15 minutes in line and saw some nice views.

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We walked to the Trocodero, to the Arc de Triomphe and finally to the Champs Elysees. It was sort of surreal day to me because, you are somewhat raised seeing these places and then you actually see them all in one day. It was a good day, I took the metro back to Jason’s and rested that night to prepare for the next couple of days of tourism for me.

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The next day Jason and I traversed around the city. We checked out some nice viewpoints, the front of the Opera house, a really nice Starbucks (you’ll see the photo below) and some art districts. One of the crazy highlights was the consuming of “Steak Tartare.” That’s straight up raw ground beef, mixed with a little soy sauce, tabasco and some other flavor. I don’t know why I did it, I guess Jason sort of “egged” me on. It was his first time trying it too. I didn’t get sick, but I definitely felt weird after and proceeded to eat a whole lemon and get drinking some beer real quick. What the @#@@ was I thinking?? Ah, this is what travel is all about 🙂

Ah, steak tartare...
Ah, steak tartare…

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Yes, this is a Starbucks
Yes, this is a Starbucks
Ah, Europe
Ah, Europe

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The day was nice and it ended with me of course going to a Couchsurfing meetup in Paris. The pub where it was held got seriously packed out with “CSer’s” and I met many people from all over the world as I always do. It’s always a great and fast way to make friends and get great local advice on the region you’re traveling to. If you’re in Paris, every Monday night at the Lions’ Pub at 8pm is the meetup. Good times~

My last day was spent visiting some museums. I decided to skip the Louvre for the next trip and went to the Musee D’Orsay and Musee Rodin. Together I saw some pieces of art I had wanted to see for a long time and Rodin is my favorite sculptor, so it was a treat to see some of his works. He truly had a gifted hand. I couldn’t take photos all the time of these works, so I’ll post which art I really enjoyed below.

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Renoir
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Van Gogh
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Monet
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Cabanel
Tiffany Vase
Tiffany Vase
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Rodin

I had an amazing time in Paris, there is so much to see. It was a wonderful 4 days, and I hope to spend more time there soon. Thanks for reading, and if you need tips on traveling there or anywhere, feel free to connect with me on my facebook.

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5 Tips for picking a country you want to travel to..


So you want to leave the country for a trip? Where to go???

Have you traveled before? How long are you planning to go, what do you want to do? So many questions with answers to come, whether before or during your trip.

I have traveled to about 45 countries ( I think that’s the count so far) and I have learned a thing or two when it comes to preparing and deciding where to go. I thought this post could be focused around what has worked best for me when it comes to deciding where to explore, discover and enjoy internationally. Here are some of my personal tips when it comes to deciding where in this beautiful world to travel to.

1. Don’t set too many expectations


When deciding to travel abroad and if you’re a first timer, you’re probably having loads of thoughts and things to expect when you get to that country. While there are things that are certain, such as the Colosseum in Rome is still in the same place and cheese in France is still stinky, there are many things you will encounter that you just cannot foresee. It’s a beautiful thing to not know everything you are going to do and experience. Keep an open agenda when you will travel and you will have an amazing fruitful experience.

One can plan a trip making bookings for everything from restaurants, museums, sights and nightlife. If you have a short trip and you want to “pack” it all in, go ahead, but I used to do this a bit and while it is fun at first, it will be even more rewarding if you allow to the trip to “give itself to you.” You may meet someone, make friends with other travelers who invite you to go with them to a secret beach town, or a festival is happening somewhere that you had no idea was happening prior.

If you need to make extensive plans, because that’s just your personality, then do it, but allow to be flexible for the “unexpected” to happen and allow the trip to evolve. It will be wonderful.

2. Pick a country/region based on how much time you have.

Once I was in a Tibetan/Nepalese shop here in Seattle, where I live, and I got chatting with the owner of the store, who was a seasoned traveler, having gone back and forth from the Himalayas most of his life. He told me a quote that has stayed with me since that conversation and that is: “Time is currency.”

It’s true, when traveling, if you have money, you probably don’t have that much time, and if you have time, you probably don’t have that much money. It can be one or the other commonly with the traveler. Determining how much “time” you have for a trip or journey will influence where you go.

Of course you can travel anywhere in the world for however long, but some places deserve more time so you can experience and soak it all in. Places like India, Africa or South East Asia should be experienced in more than a couple of weeks, while places in Europe, the Caribbean or Central America may not deserve as much time. The farther you are traveling, the more time you should probably commit to your journey.

So decide the time frame. Two weeks, three weeks, three months, one year, or just a long weekend. One you have figured a basic idea of the time, you can think about where you want to begin your international travel.

3.Take some time to contemplate.


You have decided you want to go abroad. Wonderful! You have an idea of the time frame..Yes! Now where to go, where to go….:)

I have found that taking some time to contemplate, whether it be in a place of nature, a walk, a coffee shop or somewhere in solitude will help in determining where to go.

How good are your geography skills? Are you familiar with many regions of the world and all they have to offer? If you don’t, going to your local library or bookstore and exploring the many travel guide books may help. Look at a world map for a little bit, read up on some potential places and then find a relaxing spot and dream away….Where to go…Where to go…


Sometimes for me, I take months thinking, and sometimes, it just hits me and I know right away where I am supposed to go. Try to follow your heart’s instincts and it will be great.

Rick Steves
, a well-known travel writer, recommends going to places that will challenge you the most. I would have to agree with Rick on this. Travel will ultimately make you grow and learn about the world around you, so if you’re up for it, think about places that will be great and also challenging. Stepping out of your “comfort zone” and “shattering the box” will give you many rewards in the long run. But don’t let me influence you… 😉
Dream away…


4. Once you have picked a country, do some research!


So you have picked a country or countries, and are excited to be going! Now for some homework. First, do you have a passport? Can you travel to that country? Does it require a visa? Where are the cheapest flights? These are some basic questions one should ask once after deciding, (unless you already factored these into your decision process already).

“What is the culture like? What is the history? How is transportation? Where should I stay?”
More questions to ask. Go to the library and check out the guidebook on the country. Or if you’re a seasoned traveler, just go, you know you can get around and people are generally helpful most places in the world.

What language is spoken in the country is an important one to know about and it will be helpful to know how much of the language is needed to move around. If you are an English speaker, you generally can get around, but don’t always count on this to help you out. Learn the language, or buy a phrasebook. Learning the phrases will open countless doors to otherwise unexpected opportunities to fellowship with local people.

Doing some research may change up your travel destinations and you will learn of various places you want to check out.

5. “Is there peace in my heart about it?”


Do you feel this is the place for you to go? Ask yourself that question again and follow your intuition. You know what will be good for you.

There are so many places to explore and discover, things to eat and drink, people to laugh and smile with, stories to be heard and stories to be told and moments where you say to yourself “This is amazing.”

Happy Traveling, if you have specific questions, feel free to email me at saleme@gmail.com or add me as a friend on Facebook here or follow me on twitter @shawnsaleme.

Ciao~~~

Another Post, Another Country

So it has been a few weeks since the last post

Time to write again. In a nutshell, the past month has involved:

*Snorkeling at night with handmade underwater flashlights in Mexico.

*Diving with rich sea life in the Holchan Reserve in Belize.


*Climbing atop large Mayan Temples in the middle of a vast forest, full of wildlife.

*Eating Belizean Stew Chicken and having Coconut Brittle for some dessert. Mmm!

*Continuing to heal from Ankle injury by doing physical therapy, acupuncture, applying arnica and massaging.

There has been other news as well. It’s nice to remember some of the good highlights so far this year and I hope there will be more to come this year, thanks for reading and looking.

Shawn

Shawn’s Top 11 of 11

So here it is folks, the top 11 of 11. Some of the top highlights of this year and indeed it was a good year. So without further adieu…

#11. Montana in the Winter

Had a wonderful time exploring Western Montana in February, seeing Buffalo, Elk and snowboarding. Yellowstone was beautiful and Livingston is a great little historical town. Thanks Harmony for the great time!

#10. Greenwich, Connecticut.

I went to Greenwich, CT for work and it was a wonderful East Coast, New England of a town. Throughout the week I met some wonderful people who have big hearts, saw world class musician Rob Mathes play some amazing gospel music and witnessed the live poetry of Maya Angelou. Phenomenal week. Thank you Greenwich community for a wonderful time.

#9. Schweitzer, Idaho.

Amazing day of snowboarding. This resort in Sandpoint, ID reminded me of the slopes in Switzerland with long ridge runs, plenty of back country and many opportunities to bomb hills. Had a blast with my good buddy Aaron Kuhn, a guy I had not seen in over 10 years! We both volunteered building a school in the Caribbean. Funny how impactful experiences like that bring people back together.

#8. Seafair, Seattle, Washington.

So picture thousands of boats on Lake Washington, all partying and playing, with high speed boats racing not too far away and the US Navy’s flight demonstration team, the Blue Angels doing an airshow a couple hundred feet above your head! Yeah this is Seafair! My sailboat was dead on in the center and the perfect place for viewing. Did I have as many friends come to my private marina? Oh yeah!

#7. Dumpling House, Xian, China.

So Xi’An, China is home of the Terra Cotta Warriors archaeological site and also a famous dumpling restaurant. My sister and fellow travelers which included, an Israeli, two Brits, a Finnish man, Chinese Beijinger and a guy from California all came together to enjoy the feast of the town. All sorts of plate of dumplings, soups and the famous Dragon Tea. It was all wonderful and a meal to remember for years to come. My #7.

#6. Jjimjilbang, Seoul, South Korea.

A Jjimjilbang is a Korean bath house/spa for the family. The men have their bathes, the women have theirs and there is a large communal area to relax, steam, sauna, cool down, watch movies, eat, bask in salt rooms or yellow charcoal rooms and just let your body have some rejuvenation. Great time! Read one of my previous posts about it to learn more.

#5. Meeting Freddy Gaughana and couchsurfing in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

So I came to Chiang Mai without an agenda, and an agenda was brought forth to me immediately. I loved it. I met a couchsurfer that instantly became my brother. Freddy Gaughana was an Indonesian with a big heart. He served in Banda Aceh for five years right after the Tsunami hit and witnessed horrible atrocities for the weeks, months to come. He was working for the Indonesian government managing the logistics of the aid coming in. Then after his five years, he decided to join the VSO (British Peace corps) and serve in Thailand assisting Burmese whose human rights are violated everyday under a hostile government. We clicked instantly and we had a wonderful time. We went to an Anti-Trafficking concert sponsored by MTV/USAID/Australia AID and he introduced me to his friends in Indonesia when I went there. Such a good friend.

#4. Secret Waterfalls, Bogor, Indonesia.

I came to visit Bogor, Indonesia and came to a wonderful waterfall that was only accessible by moto-bike and hiking a good distance. My couchsurfing host Yudha, took me a this place I felt like I was back in time, primal and extremely free. I thanked God for being there. Thank you Yudha and Brother for bringing me here. 🙂

#3. Bandung, Indonesia.

Bandung was the former home of my family. My Dutch-Indo history was taught to me as a kid and being able to see the history and make friends there was amazing. My Oma, who is 100 years old, lived the first 40 years of her life there until WWII and I had seen many photos from the 20’s. I had a wonderful time exploring places such as where my Grandparents met and had their first dances, where my Oma had played as a kid and going all over the place with couchsurfer’s who were the most active I had ever met in my life. Motorcycling all over, volcanos, foods, sweets, candy shops my relatives ate at. Yes, it was wonderful.

#2. Angkor Temples, Siem Reap, Cambodia.

The Angkor Temples of Cambodia are majestic, rugged and just amazing. It was adventurous, awe-inspiring, spirit-filling and I loved every minute of it. I hired a Tuk tuk for the day and explored a vast wilderness. Read my former post here.

#1. Meeting Romi at Burning Man, Black Rock City, Nevada.

Meeting Romi has been a wonderful and serendipitous adventure that has shocked, shaken and lifted me all at the same time. We met the first day I arrived at Burning Man and had never left each other’s side. We danced, explored, did acro-yoga, ate foods, met wonderful people, participated in huge art structures, and just enjoyed life. The environment provided at the playa was one big playground with 50,000 creative, expressive and fascinating individuals. It was a great place to come together and we haven’t stopped adventuring. Burning Man was a phenomenal experience and I look forward to going back. Nothing like anywhere on this planet.

That’s it folks, thanks for reading and looking! Happy New Year to All! May 2012 be even more wonderful for you!

Love Shawn

Shawn’s Top Five Travel destinations (from previous experience)

So I get asked a lot, what was your favorite country? And, the truth is, that is tough to say because each country has its own uniqueness and beauty to it. And each travel experience has its own significance to the traveler at that given time. So, instead of posting favorite countries, I would rather post some places I have visited that have been special experiences for me.

These are places where there isn’t a whole lot of tourism, the culture is great and its a little off the beaten path. Enjoy~

#5. Galway, Ireland

I first went to Galway, Ireland in March of 2003 (Yes, for St. Pattys day) and it was a wonderful little town. The Irish are some of the most genuine fun people you can be friends with on this planet, and many a pint (The Guinness is amazing) was shared with the elderly Irish who spoke words of wisdom and cracked a few jokes in the pub. I had some great conversations, made some friends and enjoyed the spirit. On the Western side of Ireland, you can fly into Shannon Airport, or catch a bus from Dublin.

#4 Siem Reap, Cambodia

So Siem Reap is in Cambodia, and it does get it’s share of tourism due to the majestic Angkor Temples, but it wasn’t so bad in my opinion.

The Angkor Temples are absolutely a must to see in one’s lifetime. See it now before more tourists go to visit. When I visited the Pyramids, the Taj and the Great Wall (the 2nd time), there were all sorts of people trekking around. While it would be nice to see it when no one’s there, you’d probably have to put some “palm oil” in some security guards hands (say $100) to get a personal showing…But the Angkor temples were not that crowded surprisingly and I felt like I was in another world.

Picture massive stone temples spread across miles with all sorts of jungle and nature intermixed with it. It was stunning.

There are plenty of guesthouses to stay at. If you decide to go because of my account, go talk to Mr. Kunn at Jasmine Lodge, tell him you are friends with me and he’ll hook you up.

#3 Big Sur, California

Okay, so Big Sur is only 2 hours away from where I grew up, but it is one of my favorite places in the world. Why? Because it is absolutely beautiful there!

Picture big trees and high cliffs with awesome Pacific ocean crashing into the shore. A peaceful place to relax, reflect, drink a glass of wine, soak in a hot spring, enjoy some local exploration.

Many a good memory made in Big Sur. You can camp, rent a cabin or a house (Check Airbnb.com) or even stay at a monastery if you are looking for some reflection. Contemplation.com

#2 Dahab, Egypt

Dahab, Egypt. On the Red Sea coast in the Sinai peninsula, it takes about 12-14 hours by bus to get there from Cairo. I had taken a different route (van in the western desert, bus to the coast, Ferry to Sharm Al Sheik and bus to Dahab. 🙂

It is a small divers town, and it is one the best reefs I have been to in my life. I went diving 150 feet deep here and was amazed on how intact the reef really was. Since it lies between two deserts, the reef doesn’t suffer too much damage from storms.

Chill guesthouses to stay at, great seafood and other cuisine as you relax by the water. Read a book, go snorkel, dive during the day. Relax, dance, have a drink at night. Make some friends with the expats that have chosen to live there long term. It’s one of those places you don’t really want to leave. And if you get antsy, then go bus up to Israel only 4 hours away. Or hop a ferry to Saudi Arabia if you feel so bold.

#1 Cesky Krumlov, Czech Republic

So I was recommended to go to Cesky Krumlov by two of my good traveler friends, and when the opportunity presented itself when I was living in Europe, I took advantage of it. It was a wonderful three days.

Many towns and cities in Europe got destroyed during WWII. But when the Germans came to Cesky Krumlov, the citizens ran to surrender pleading that they wouldn’t bomb the city. And it wasn’t bombed. It still is the same city that has existed for hundreds of years. And it is very very beautiful.

One doesn’t need a car or a bus to get around. You take a three-hour train ride from Prague and here you are in Cesky Krumlov. Cobblestone hilly streets, small shops, good food, great beer (and cheap), secret tea houses, castles, cathedrals and surrounding forest and rivers.

If you go, stay at the Krumlov house. Or if you want some more action, stay at Hostel 99. Good places. Enjoy.

if you find this room, you have found a great secret spot....(hint: Monks)

That’s it folks. There are many places to go and many more places I love, but these stood out for me over the years. Happy Traveling!

What shall we write about today?

Dreams, how about that…..

song for your listening pleasure ~

So,

I had a dream the other night….

It was one I had not had before…but one I welcomed!

I was at the base of a temple. A big stone temple that had levels to it, sort of like a Mayan pyramid of sorts. It was made of grey stone and had plants and greenery on its top surfaces…

sort of like this

Then my arms extended out and I began to float up in front of the temple while I was looking at it. As I was floating up, I kept looking forward because my thoughts told me if I looked down I would go down Instead of up.

Then I landed on a level of the Temple….

And I as I landed there,  a three-legged Kitten came jumping down from a higher level and came to me and in a slightly playful and aggressive way clawed my hand with its available arm. The claws stuck in, and as it was in it attempted to eat me sort of. It was hungry and its head was bobbing back and forth though its mouth never touched my hand. I gently tried to shake it off, but didn’t want to hurt it and I desired to feed it something, but I couldn’t communicate that desire to it…

Then I woke up.

.

I have felt like I have been going through a spiritual “awakening” of sorts for the past three months and so I am not totally surprised at this dream, but I do like to consult what dream interpretation says about it. While I don’t hold true everything dream interpretation describes…I find it interesting and I take the perspective into account. Dreams are significant to me and when I have a dream that seems it could not have been created from my own conscious or sub conscious, I usually write them down and think about them. I don’t try to figure them out always. Sometimes right after I ask myself, what was that dream about for me? And I acknowledge my initial response, then I write it down, check dream interpretation and may even consult some psychologist friends of mine. Sometimes meanings of dreams aren’t always to be known right away, but they may reveal their meaning to you at another time. The right time.

So..

Here is the interpretation…

Temple 

To see a temple in your dream represents inspiration, spiritual thinking, meditation and growth. It is also symbolic of your physical body and the attention you give it. Perhaps you need to pamper yourself. Alternatively, the dream suggests that you are looking for a place of refuge and a place to keep things that are dear to you.

Floating 

To dream that you are floating on air indicates satisfaction, contentment and acceptance of some situation. You are letting go of your problems and rising above obstacles. You are experiencing new-found freedom and gaining a new perspective on things. Nothing seems overwhelming or too difficult to handle. Alternatively, floating in your dream suggests that you are wandering through life aimlessly with no goals. You are just going with the flow.

Kitten

To see a kitten in your dream represents a transitional phase toward independence. Alternatively, the dream symbolizes innocence and purity.

cool. I’ll continue to live life and welcome the growth~

It’s 30 Time

Time Time Time….

So it’s been Thirty years…Thiirrrrrrtttyyy yeeeaarrrsss…..T H I R TY~~~ 30

Get on highway 30 folks~

Well, in Korea, I’ve already been thrity for a year now haha. So by Korean standards, I’m 31. BAM! 30 was skipped!

It has been a WONDERFUL JOURNEY my friends.

30 Birthday Music

Born in California, raised by sweet parents, love abounding, great sister, memories of dancing by the record player, snorkeling with tropical fish in Hawaii, cats, sports, great birthday parties.

Snorkeling with tropical fish was always fun

Growing up in a forest, exploring the vast unknown in the backyard of the Santa Cruz mountains, amazing energetic ocean, that provided the thought that there is a whole unknown world out there, to explore, to discover, to enjoy.

Methusalah, just 15 minutes drive from my house.
Pacific Ocean, how you intrigue me..

 Great community of a church gave opportunities for me to go to Mexico many times doing construction projects and helping those in need. Going to the Caribbean islands to build schools, meet people from all over the states doing so together was an impactful time and solidified the desire to explore the world and serve.

Eastern Europe…..Vanguard University…..Cultural Anthropology studies….Traveling to Tibet and China for a summer, riding horses in far out lands, spending the night in nomads tents, eating fried skewers from a small cart outside of Barkor square, 13,000 elevation in the city of Lhasa.

Anthro Undergrads 2003
 
Taj 2004
Far out lands, making great friends, enjoying southern california in it’s entirety, SD, OC, LA, 909, Big Bear, beaches, mountains, desert.
Christmas Party with the So Cal friends

The twenties have been great. I have done everything I have WANTED to do. I have been TRUE to myself, doing only what I feel is most important and most valuable. I have pursued my dreams, I have tried to be a socially minded person daily. I have tried to honor my friends and family in whatever way possible.

Leading a group of guys throughout Egypt for 3 months was a blast. Camping on Mt. Sinai, diving the red sea, serving the Sudanese refugees and orphans was rewarding.

Egypt Crew
 

Traveling and adventuring has been ingrained in me, and it will always be. I have developed into a global citizen and it has been wonderful to evolve. I love people so much and I desire to serve others in need for the rest of my life.

These boys changed my life

Yes my friends. The first thirty has been a WONDERFUL JOURNEY. One that has involved SO many memories with everyone, I laugh to myself consistently ALONE because my mind is remided of so many good times. I love that through the journey, I have become a person who you are guaranteed to have adventures with. Haha, it always happens! I love LOVE LOVE it! More adventures and journeys!!!

I just bought a flight to the Yucatan for late January. Uh OH! Saleme on the run again! Only for a few weeks, the Mayan riveiera is beckoning along with BELIZE! Diving potentially awaits, jungle trekking, beach bumming, soul searching, fun loving, happy dancing!

Next: DIVE Yucatan

Thank you my friends for being my friends. Thank you for the experiences, the conversations, the smiles, the thoughts, the prayers, the fellowship, the shared meals, the challenges, the time served together on earth.

LIFE has been a wonderful journey
Indeed it has
So much to live, so much to have

It’s a another year and another phase
shoot like a star, never fade

It’s off to the day, it’s wonderful
sunny and bright, air is nice

Thankful thankful thankful
for everything

May the winds bring us together
Bring us happenings.

LOVE!

Try to LOVE others daily, be thankful daily, tap into the universal energy daily and I don’t think you’ll be far off from happiness and joy and peace.

My Oma turns 101 in February. And there are probably going to be significant scientific findings to extend life. So my friends, there is a LOT of life to still be lived. a LOT.

Keep living, full each day. I will, never waste away.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY! The tale continues….