Note: I’m on an airplane, hours away from landing in Quito as this goes to press. Preparing for the trip, I stumbled upon my old journal from the days I lived in Ecuador. Below are a few excerpts.
November 10, 2007: Who am I? The failure from my time in Chile or the darling child from my time at LMU? What I am learning is this: I’m neither and I’m both. But ultimately, aren’t we all so much more than the labels we apply to try to simplify the complexities of life?
My 2nd grade boys from El Centro del Muchacho Trabajador in Quito, Ecuador.
January 20, 2008: I guess it’s just my week to deal with a ton of blood. Blood on Tuesday. Blood on Friday. Blood on Saturday. WTF? I’m too tired to write about this now. What a crazy friggin week.
Right before Emerson took an ice skate blade to the forehead.
March 8, 2008: This experience has changed me. Poverty now hurts my heart more than my eyes. It’s so personal. Hard to articulate, impossible not to feel.
Hanging out with one of my favorite students, Evelyn. She’d later drop out of school, before finishing 4th grade, to continue working full-time to help support her family.
May 5, 2008: I go back to the USA soon. This gives me pause to think about life since graduation. I’ve lived in three foreign countries. I picked up a brand new language, almost from scratch in my 20’s. Take that Spanish 102 teacher who told me I’d never learn to speak Spanish. Soon I return “home” (whatever the hell that means nowadays) with more life experience than I know what to do with. It hasn’t always been easy, but this much I know: I’d do it all the same again. Even the painful parts.
Standing at the edge of a waterfall in Bolivia.
Sometimes we have to travel a great distance to find something close to your heart. Forgive me if that sounds overly dramatic, as it is. But recently Laura and I attended a wedding celebration in South Africa. For those who struggle with geography (and as it turns out, a great number of people really struggle with geography in Africa), that’s a long haul. And so after a flight to Europe (a wonderful detour in Paris) we landed in South Africa. The immigration officer was quite confused. “You were here less than 90 days ago?” she suspiciously inquired, eying my passport. “And you don’t work here?” After a great internal debate, she allowed us into the country, undoubtedly confused by the two Americans who had somehow decided to vacation twice in 3 months in a location many Americans struggle to visit even once.
But no matter. The time in South Africa was a blessing of grand proportions. We witnessed the celebration of a love that is infectious (congrats Sarah and Katye) and really met some wonderful people. We visited the Great Karoo, and found ourselves in a tiny town named Prince Albert, population 7,000 people. “American?” the woman at the guest house asked, that same look of suspicion I am coming to know all too well in South Africa. “We don’t get many of you here.” Thanks? I think.
We had the coolest sundowner ever, just hanging out in the middle of nowhere, enjoying a desert sunset, celebrating love of friends, and reveling in our final big trip as a family of two, not three.
But at the wedding celebration I saw a quote that has always moved me since the first day I saw it. It’s by Louis de Bernières, and it goes like this: Continue reading
I’ll admit it, the last time we did Tokyo, we didn’t do it right. It was 2012, and we were storming through various parts of Asia. We stayed in a decent but ordinary and boring business hotel for what still felt like a handsome sum. The room was small, like only the bed fit in it kind of small. The bathroom was confusing, and a low point is when I thought the fancy remote control in the bathroom turned the shower on. Standing before the toilet, I hit the water button only to have one of Japan’s finest toilets point a bidet and spray me, full pressure, squarely in the face.
Sprayed in the face, remotely, by a toilet? Welcome to Tokyo!
We never one drank real coffee, given the exorbitant cost we stuck to the cheap vending machine cans of coffee. And, I hate to confess this, but transparency is a must on this blog: We didn’t really eat sushi the way we should have. Sticker shock scared us off, and while that reality opened up the world of ramen to us, we missed out on sushi.
And so returning last November, we knew we had to correct a few things:
1. Eat sushi.
2. Stay closer to the parts of the city we wanted to be in.
3. Stay at the nicest hotels in Tokyo, and not pay a penny doing so.
When you think luxury hotel and Tokyo, you’re bound to think about the Park Hyatt Tokyo, made famous from the film Lost in Translation. Fear not dear friends, we stayed there and have a review on the way, but I want to talk to you about a hotel I didn’t realize I’d love so much. And so this is our review of The Andaz Tokyo Toranomon Hills: a 5 star boutique hotel located on the top 6 floors of a 52 story skyscraper in Tokyo! We’ve got a photo and video review below! Continue reading
First, we’ve got an update on the winner from our last contest, see the bottom of this post!
I’m a sucker for quotes. Not long ago, I wrote a post about some of my favorite travel quotes. I take “nerd alert” to a level all its own on quotes when I share with you I also have a 57 page document of the quotes that inspire me most. They’re philosophical, they’re comical, they’re challenging, and sometimes they’re just consolation to know others have dreams as lofty as mine, doubts as insecure as my own, and complex views of a world that is anything but simple, it conjures up meaning to the phrase “you are not alone” that carries so much weight with me.
And so walking out of the subway in Hong Kong, there’s a lot that struck me. And as much as Hong Kong is known for this:
The famous Hong Kong Harbor
It is also a place where words literally leaped off pages, err, walls, and moved me.
But that was one but of a few quotes that inspired me. The others below are equally moving. Continue reading
Driving on the other side of the road in South Africa is hard enough without complications. But as traffic slowed to a crawl and we reached the point in our journey where we felt we were mere minutes/kilometers from our hotel, a haunting question, one we have never faced in all our travels, crept in:
Could our hotel, or the area around it at least, be on fire? Continue reading