Tag Archives: travel

Surprises

3 Jun

Sometimes the push is worth it.  This weekend, I headed out to Bushwick for the Open Studios art weekend.

Being the daughter of a writer and an artist, I have been around wildly creative people my whole life – and appreciate the commitment, talent and tenacity it takes to be an artist.  At the same time, I have not made my community to be one of artists and craftspeople.  So visiting studios and seeing people’s work is a bit like coming home for me.

I saw some amazing art work this weekend – from some amazing paintings by Tim Okamura that blew my mind a little (portraits of women as boxers, though the women themselves are not boxers, with butterflies in the background – I am SO not doing it justice, but if you can – check out his work) to wooden sculptures that were … well, kind of like cranes – with counterweights of various materials.  And these sculptures were all different sizes, including one that stretched across half of the wall.  I am not doing either of these mens’ work justice – but trust me, it was wildly impressive.

But the highlight of the day?  Well, Tim and his work was definitely high up there, but… the street art in Bushwick.  It blew my mind.  Here are some samples of what I saw.

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get there.

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Live it like you mean it.

3 Jun

‘Wow, that’s so brave’, she remarked to me, after I told her I moved here only knowing one or two people.  I chuckled to myself, thinking – ‘oh, if only you knew!’  I decided to not share all those times that I felt scared, felt less than courageous, in the last 10 months.

But what happened?  Was I the same person who arrived at a bus station in India and picked where I was going next by getting on the next departing bus?  Was I the same person who learned to venture out and trust myself?  It was hard to believe, sitting at home, on my couch, feeling…. well, frankly, pretty far from brave.

For some reason, things feel different here.  Perhaps, it is that I am not a traveler anymore.  This is my country, and now, my home.  Perhaps it is that NYC is not known as one of the friendlier places in the world (though, full disclosure, I don’t find it that rough either – people have the capacity to be friendly.  They just choose not to be most of the time).

But, whatever that difference is, the fact remains that I don’t feel as brave as I did when I was traveling the world.  And when you don’t have friends in a new place, getting yourself out there is very effortful.  Tiring, even.  And so, I found, over the months since I moved here – I lost that courage.  It was sometimes easier to stay in with a good book, watch House of Cards on netflix.

Yet, I remember what it felt like to be out there, to explore, and have that freedom.  So, I am going to dedicate the next few months/time to making that effort.  To re-aquatinting myself with that freedom and joy and exploration.  To being the traveler – but this time with a home (that no one is puking in) and way more clothes and shoes.

more than just a pair of hiking boots and chacos

more than just a pair of hiking boots and chacos

So, here is to learning to be a travler in my own home, wherever that home is – and finding courage.

chinese new year in flushing

chinese new year in flushing

Trying to get it right

28 Aug

This time I will get it right, I thought to myself.  I left early, I studied maps, and I got on all the right buses and trains.  Everything seemed like it was going to work out just fine.  This was my second visit to the school in Staten Island that I would be supporting and I did not want things to end up like last time.

My journeys in NYC have gone steadily uphill.  I still walk out of the subway station and usually go back and forth a few times (why do they have to say — ‘head southwest on 2nd place’?  Do they think I carry a compass around with me?!) before I am headed in the right direction.  And I still leave early just in case I get on the wrong train headed in the wrong direction (which happened to me yesterday).  And I still send myself the directions, just in case I need them (which is still every time).  There is nothing intuitive about it.  And I have a pretty good sense of direction.

But I figure if I can handle these streets, then I should be able to figure NYC out….

streets of HCMC

But yesterday, disaster struck again.  It is kind of like lightening, surely since I have been hit once, I won’t get hit again?  But somehow I seem to be a magnet.

While on the bus, I noticed that it was getting darker and darker out.  I checked my smarter-than-a-flip-phone phone and it said that there was only a 30% chance of rain.  Which is good, because I don’t have an umbrella (remember last trip to Staten Island?  When I left the umbrella in the cab?  yeah, it’s still there.  and I’m still without an umbrella – which seemed to be an inconsequential fact.  Until it wasn’t….)

At this point, I know my stop is coming up and I start bargaining with the gods — ‘come on.  come on!  just let it hold on a little bit.  Let me get to the door!!!!”  But, as soon as I stepped off the bus, the rain started coming down.  At first, it was a normal rain.  I dashed across the road, ran up the drive way, trying to get cover by the trees.  Then, the skied opened up a little bit more and I ran under an alcove and took stock of my situation.

Yep — I was pretty much soaked.  I had 5 minutes to get there — and about 3 minutes of a run to get to the door.  ‘shit.  shit.  now what?!’ I thought to myself.  I couldn’t be late a second time.  This principal is going to think I am a flake.  Or a drowned rat – albeit a cute one, but still….

And then, hard to believe, but it started to rain harder.  Like sideways rain.  with a wind.  At that moment, I had no option — I was getting wet anyway.  I had to make a run for it.  So – run I did.  But it didn’t make any bit of a difference.

When I entered the lobby of the school, the school secretary handed me a towel and directed me to the bathroom.  Yep — I was the model of professionalism at that moment.

I spent the next two hours sitting in a meeting, trying to regain composure and decorum.  Hard to do when you are dripping on the floor….

the last time i was stuck in such rain. but better prepared.

America!

1 May

“Passports!  Have our passports out!”

I could recognize the accent anywhere.  There  is nothing quite like the New York City accent, that tells me that I am ‘home’.  In the land of my birth, the land of my family.

The NYC cop scratched his crotch, flipped through my passport, welcomed me back to the States and winked at me.

Welcome home.

I cried from Lima to Panama, reflected and wrote from Panama to NYC.  Smiled at having the friendly face of my uncle waiting for me at JFK (what a nice change from having to negotiate taxi fares in a foreign country, arriving on my own in a new place).

All through my travels, people have asked me about food in the USA.  What is your typical food?  And I always respond — your food – as I try to explain that we are a country of immigrants, a land of diversity.

Last night, standing in the immigration line, I was struck by that diversity in coming back to the US — for the first time in 8 months, not everyone had dark hair, dark skin, short in height.  Now – there were people surrounding me with all sorts of hair colors, different skin tones, different languages, different heights.

Today, riding the subway – I wanted to connect with people who looked like they came from places I have traveled.  The man who could have been from India.  The woman who looked Vietnamese.  The man who looked Peruvian.  I wanted to tell them – ‘I know your country.  I love your country.  I am just a traveler here too’.

So, I am back.  Caught in the in-between — both a citizen and a visitor.

Closing one door, in hopes that another will open

7 Apr

Over the past 7 months, i have had moments that been hard, moments that have been beautiful, moments that I have wanted to cry,  but mostly, I have been amazed by the world.  Amazed at how much beauty is out here, amazed at the kindness of strangers, amazed by how much there is to see and do out here….

My world has been broadened, my senses alerted, my perspective changed.  The world out there….  it is both bigger and smaller for me.  Bigger because I realize I have seen so little of it.  Smaller because through my experiences around the world, I have seen that people everywhere basically just want the same things (besides food, water, safety, shelter) –they want to live free, they want the best future for their kids, they want to laugh, they want to share, they want to love each other.  All around the world, I have seen amazing tenderness of parents with their children.  I have heard great respect being paid to teachers and schools.  I have seen beautiful moments between couples.  i have played soccer on a beach with people I could not communicate with (other than laughter), I have played with children and all I could do was smile at their talking, I have been taking care of by strangers.

This is all to say that the adventure is amazing.  Now, don’t get me wrong.  I cannot wait to have really good Mexican food (with black beans and real cheese and sour cream and…. oh, wait, I digress).  And sleep in a quiet, super clean, comfortable bed.  And to have a clean bathroom.  And drink some really good beers (real IPAs with a hoppiness you can smell)..  But, I don’t want this adventure to end.  I feel that there is still so much more for me to see and learn out here.  I have not had moments when i though –‘ no, this isn’t right.  I should be at home’.

Instead, the opposite has happened. The longer I am out here, the more I wonder what home is, where I want my home to be, what I want my home to be.  The longer I travel, the more questions I have.  The longer i am out here, the more I realize that I do not want it to end – that the adventure needs to continue.

When I embarked on this journey, I left my school and my home with the thought that I would come back.  I took a leave of absence from work and sub-let my apartment – all with plans to return.  You see, I loved my job — being at Renaissance (the school I work at) is one of the best professional (and personal in many ways) experiences I have ever had.  I grew in leaps and bounds.  I loved (and still love) my students.  I had amazing colleagues who pushed me and cared for me and taught me and were patient with me.  But as much as I loved it, I always felt something was missing.  There were times when I would catch myself thinking ‘when my real life starts….’.

What?! When my real life starts?  What is this life I am living now, if not my real life?

But, that is a problem I have — I tend to be always searching.  The right job, the right location, the right relationship.  The real life?!

But this year?  I haven’t been waiting to start living my real life — I knew I was living it.  I am living the dream.  Living the life exactly the way I wanted to.  Exactly the way I had dreamed of (well…..  maybe not exactly – as I don’t remember vomit in dorm rooms from partying 20-something year olds in my dreams, but pretty damn close!)

So, all this is to say that I have decided, painstakingly, with a heavy heart, to not go back to Renaissance next year.  I closed that door.  And though I know that it is the right decision, it is still incredibly hard for me to walk away.

But in this economy?  What are the other options?  Where will you go?  What will you do?

Those are the voices in my head, wondering what the next step is.  I try and quiet those voices, trusting that something will work out if I am following my heart, knowing that I am making the right decision for me and my life.  But – the answer is – I don’t know.  I shut that door – but I don’t know what and where the next door will open.

I am just trusting that a door will open for me.

Read the fine print

8 Jan

Hearing the announcement, I felt a pit of anxiety form in my stomach.  Why are they calling my name 45 minutes before my flight?  My seat was confirmed, so it wasn’t that. I wasn’t carrying illegal contraband (that I knew of). Oh, please don’t have me miss this flight, I thought as I rushed to the ticket counter.

Turns out they just wanted to know if I had read the fine print. Which I had – 3 hours ago and $400 later.

Turns out you cannot fly into Argentina without proof that you are leaving. seems like a big detail that I shouldn’t have missed. Well, I hadn’t totally. I had read about it 6 months ago. And at that time I figured no problem, I will surely have my return ticket by that time. But, now it was four hours before my flight, I am sitting in a dumpy hostel room in Saigon that I got for $5 for 3 hours to shower and repack and, thanks to government controls, I cannot access a quarter of the websites I am trying to research.

Panic has begun to set in.

You see, my plans are up in the air. I don’t know when I am returning to the states. I don’t know when I am leaving argentina. All I really know is that I have a flight to El Calafate less than 24 hours after I arrive in Buenos Aires.  That i would really prefer not to miss.  And that Qatar Airways is not going to let me leave Vietnam without proof that i am leaving Argentina.

Finally the interweb, my credit card and government controls have all conspired to allow me to purchase a, hopefully fully refundable (how many times can one read the airline fine print and still be confused?), airline ticket to Chile. Which I hope to not use.

Sure enough, that was the reason I heard my name over the intercom. They let me board the flight. And here I am, 30+ hours of flying time later, listening told men gossip in the coffee shop where I am fighting jet-lag in Buenos Aires.

on leaving…..

6 Jan

As I am about to board my VERY VERY (did I mention very?) long flight to south america, I am struck by this transition.  This feels big — both from the perspective that it is the half way point of my trip and that it is a big transition in location, and away from Asia.

By the way — did I mention that my flight is long?  Yeah — almost 29 hours of flying time, plus just under a 3 hour layover.  how is that for long?!  I guess I am traveling half way around the world.

So, what is it about this part of the world that I have fallen in love with?  I could say that it is the people (which is true) or the food (which is also true), but that is not the full story.  In Nepal it was the moutains, along with the people.  In India, it was the diversity, the food and the people.  In Bangkok and Vietnam, it was how different it was (for me), and the food!

But, that isn’t all of it either.  That doesn’t fully explain leaving part of my heart in India and Nepal.  Maybe it was how hard you (sometimes) have to work in those places to get your big rewards.  Or the contrast of worlds.  Or the interplay of spirituality and every day life – and all the messiness that it brings.  That there is this dicotomy between simplicity and complexity, and how nothing is one or the either.  Maybe it is how much those two countries make me smile (and sometimes make my angry).  Whatever it is, it is powerful.

So — away I go – off to another place, another world.  Which, I am sure will be amazing and full of greatness — just as all of the world have proven to be for me.  But, seeing as I am leaving part of myself here, I will just have to come back some time soon.

See you all in Buenos Aires!