Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Last night in Rio

Monday, December 12, 2016
Last night in Rio.  Dave and Bobby and I took the bus from SP here.  Six hours, and SUPER comfortable.  I slept almost the whole way.  Quite surprising.  Glad I didn't book a flight—would have been a huge unnecessary expense. 
On the first day, Saturday, we went for a walk on the beach, and I even went for a swim.  The hostel (Case Del Mar) is just three blocks away from the seashore.  The undertow was so strong and the waves so huge that I actually got tumbled quite a bit… and decided it was a bit much so came out after just ten minutes.  But was worth it.  Really fun.  Then we sat at a beachside bungalow and had some $3 burgers.  So yummy.   And I've been drinking Guarana non-stop.  So delicious and refreshing.  That night, we went back to a beach bar.  I danced with some girls.  Quite fun.
On day two, Sunday (yesterday), we walked all along Copacabana beach to the fort and then all along Ipanema beach.  I found a statue of Jobim!  Then we went out to the beach again and sat at the bar for a bit in the evening.  Dinner was pasta we cooked at the horribly hot hostel.  They only turn on the AC from 10pm – 10am, and my gosh, no joke, it has been 94 degrees and 100% humidity every day.  Unbelievably hot. 
Today, we went on a bus tour that started at 8:30am and took us to Christ the Redeemer (so beautiful), the soccer stadium, the colorful steps, and then Sugarloaf mountain.  Met some cool people on that tour too.  Then back to the hostel at 5pm.
I was planning to head back to SP tonight on the bus, but… found the Full House reboot on Netflix, "Fuller House" and couldn't stop watching.  Watched 10 episodes.  It's so funny!  I love it so much.  And it's ten times better than the original.  It's like the original was meant to happen in order that THIS could happen.  Makes me reconsider a lot of the 'bad' things that have happened in my life over the years. 
In any case, I'm staying here one last night.  I did some coding just now, have already said goodnight (and goodbye) to the boys, and tomorrow morning, heading to the bus station to take the bus back to Sao Paolo.  And then one more night at Viva Hostel Design in SP, and then an early morning flight back to NY via Bogota. 
All in all, an amazing trip, and I am SO glad that I came.  And again I am reminded how much fun it is to stay at hostels.  Really fantastic.  Met so many fun and cool people, and… I really feel like I've been on a great adventure.  I don't even know if I want to be a cop anymore: this was adventure enough.  I really feel like I want to be a computer programmer.  I really enjoy it so much.  I am going to finish this law case; finish these coding training programs; and then yes, try to get a job as a programmer somewhere, and develop my own projects part-time.  Can't believe I just said that but I want to get a job as a programmer somewhere.  And everything I learn on the job I can use developing my own projects.  Could be a win-win.  
In any case, off to bed now.  Big long travel day tomorrow.  Gotta get to bed.  

Friday, December 09, 2016

The wonders of Brazil

So I've been here in Sao Paolo for a few days now, and here are my observations:

a) It really is very much like Europe.  If someone told me I was in southern France, I'd believe them (aside from the different language, of course).  And aside from the fortress gates in front of nearly every home, as if they were fearful that an army was soon to attack.  Definitely unFrench.  

b) I finally understand why over the years I have met two Brazilians in NY who inexplicably look Japanese: the incredible Japanese migration.  Starting in the early 1850s, so many Japanese came here to Brazil from Japan.  And today, they don't really even identify with Japan.  They are fully Brazilian.  It seems weird at first until I realize that I, as an American, am the same.  I'm technically from Europe, but I don't identify with the land of my ancestors.  I'm 100% American.  I learned all this at the Japanese migration museum in Liberdade--like a Japantown.  

c) I like it here.  The longer I am here, the more I feel comfortable and at home.  Everyone is so nice and welcoming.

d) The country doesn't feel so much in 'poverty' as I had originally thought.  It's just got a tropical island feel.  Very cool.  Laid back.  And... colorful!  The graffiti murals are EVERYWHERE.  And it doesn't look bad.  It looks really great!

e) The hills.  You can't be fat in this city.  Or you can be, but you'd need a car.  The steep hills; the steps that go on forever--every day is a hike.  At least in the area where the hostel is.  Just walking around the city, I climbed "75 flights" according to my phone, just today alone.

f) I admit I ate at Subway.  But I had the Brazilian steak on my sandwich. :)

g) This is the nicest hostel I've ever stayed in.  And given that I've stayed in more than twenty throughout Europe and Asia, that's saying a lot.  Clean, hip, friendly.  And I can get work done on my computer.  And the beds rock.  And the other residents from all over the world: England, Peru, Ireland, Netherlands, France, Brazil, Panama, etc.  Viva Design Hostel.  A fine choice.

h) The subway system is complex, clean, modern, and air conditioned.  The city has over 12,000,000 people and you can tell in the subway---I felt like I was back in Shanghai.  Throngs and throngs of people.

I want to write more but the tapping on my keyboard is probably annoying my roommates.  It's 2:30am.  Gnight!

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

China meets Iraq, With a Splash of Europe

I am referring to Brazil. 

I just arrived here but a few hours ago, from New York, through Bogota.  And I was already taken for a fool once already, at the currency exchange at the airport.  The exchange rate is 3.34 Real to the Dollar.  They gave me a rate of 2.5 to the dollar. Sigh...  Live and learn.  Alas, at 1am in a strange country, where you barely speak the language, you have to do what you have to do.

Why the title?  Because as soon as I got off the plane, everything felt like China.  I love China--that poor but vibrant vibe of a country bustling at the seams, ready to explode onto the world stage.  Here you get that same poor but bustling vibe that you get when you arrive in China.  Driving from the airport to central Sao Paolo (50 minutes), I was taken aback by how many concrete-like structures were everywhere.  And factories of some sorts all along the highway.  And strange looking trucks.  In other words, it reminded me so much of China.  Even the driver, who was clearly of Asian decent (Japanese?), but who spoke perfect Portuguese, gave me the vibe of China, cause he really did look Chinese.  

Then, suddenly, I decided to open the window while driving along the highways and byways, and uproads, and downroads, and whoah--the smell!  It smelled just like Iraq.  Now, what does Iraq smell like?  That's hard for me to say.  Hard to describe.  The best I can say is that it was the smell of wet dust and dirt in the air, mixed with a tinge of gunpowder.  It's hard to explain, but I am pretty sure anyone who was in Iraq with the military will know the smell to which I'm referring.  That's the same smell that wafted through the windows on the way to the hostel.

Finally, I'm now at the hostel in central Sao Paolo.  And hostels, as many travelers know, are best known as a staple of Europe.  I don't know if Europe came up with the idea first, but no matter where I go, if I'm in a hostel, I feel like I'm in Europe.  And right now, I'm in a hostel in Sao Paolo, and--ta dah--I feel like I'm in Europe.  

So that's how I describe Brazil so far: China meets Iraq, with a Splash of Europe.  

One other thing jumped out at me: the hills.  I thought San Francisco had big inclines.  Brazil might have San Francisco beat.  Hard to say.  But I was amazed that the taxi was able to drive up and down these hills without too much difficulty.  Steep STEEP roads.  

Anyway, although it's only 11:30pm in New York, here's it nearly 3am.  So I'm gonna head off to bed.  Wake up tomorrow and perhaps go on a walking tour of the city, or more likely, just relax for a bit.  It was a long flight.  6 hours to Bogota (I really love the airport there) and then another 6 hours to Sao Paolo.  

Truly, if you look at a map of South America, you will see how far EAST Brazil really is.  It's halfway to Europe!  I never really recognized that until today.  And that, ladies and gents, is proof positive that traveling is indeed eye-opening and horizon-expanding.  It took a trip to Brazil for me to finally learn geography I should have learned when I was a child. :)  While western Brazil may be in the same time zone as New York, eastern Brazil is just a stone's throw from the African coast.  

Thursday, April 16, 2015

from: Monroe Mann

Hi! How are you? 

Have you seen this http://kopkar-binabersama.com/bright.php before? 
Oprah had been using it for over a year! 

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Friday, October 03, 2014

Sleeper Car!

Oh how fantastic! It turns out I have my OWN sleeper car. Beijing to Shanghai. There are four beds but noone else is here and the train leaves in 10 minutes! And so clean and nice! They even serve hot tea!

So my trip is drawing to a close. In 12 hours, the train will arrive in Shanghai. I'll ride the subway two stops to my apartment, shower, change, and head to work!

So I'm glad it's such a nice sleeper car. I truly think I will get a great night's sleep!

Galloping Over The Mongolian Plains!!

I'm in traffic in Ulan Batuur, Mongolia. Heading to the airport. 

Greetings from a country almost the size of the US, but with a population of just 3 million. NYC alone has a population of 9 million. From a country where the people are a gorgeous and exotic mix of Asian and European: the country is right between China and Russia and... that's basically what Mongolians look like. The girls are very sexy and beautiful; the men distinguished and charming. 

Greetings from a country where half the cars have steering wheels on the left side of the car; and the other half, the right.  A place where cows, horses, sheep, and dogs run free en masse.  I mean: EN MASSE.  Where Yurts are absolutely everywhere!  Where mountains, rivers, plains, clear blue skies, and puffy white clouds abound in every direction. Where Mongolian cowboys can be seen herding cattle; where eagles soar; where Cyrillic is everywhere, but no Russian is spoken: it is all Mongolian!

Truly: this must be what the what the Wild West looked like back in the US. Upon landing, I found a driver who took me an hour away to Terelj--to what was the most wild and remote place I've seen in years. The drive over there reminded me of Iraq, but with mountains and grassy plains. I can see why Mongolia is compared to Switzerland: it IS that beautiful, and it reminded me of my years there. Funny: this place reminds me of Iraq, Seitzerland, and the Wild West--all at the same time! Haha!  I also got to hold a HUGE golden eagle on my hand with a gauntlet. Wow. So heavy. So majestic!

In Terelj, I did what I came to do: gallop through the Mongol plains on horseback!  I hadn't galloped in years!  So fun!  And so exhausting: cardio; legs; BUTT!  It took me a moment to readjust to riding. I forgot that you have to basically standup when galloping and use your knees as springs. But once I did: giddiup!  SO AMAZING! SO FAST!  and.... so worth the expense of coming here for just one day. This memory will never die. 

I had lunch in a yurt restaurant near the horse place (and the breathtaking Turtle Rock). I ended up talking to one guy in Chinese and when his father discovered I could speak Chinese, he invited me and his driver to sit with his group and we all had a nice lunch speaking Chinese.  They too were on vacation here in Mongolia. 

After riding, I went back to UB (which is what they call the city here) and found the hostel. I met up with this girl Odmaa at the famous State Department Store. She is Mongolian and studied in Alabama for a year. She helped me at the airport to tell the driver what I needed thanks to her language skills. So she met up with me and showed me around the store and helped me buy some souvenirs (and two Mongolian language books!) and then we had Cinnabon and pizza together afterwards. 

I finally went back to my hostel, got ready for bed, and here I am now at 9:46 am at the airport (we finally arrived).  Just about 24 hours after I arrived here. 

It's truly amazing: This trip has only been two days. It is AMAZING what one can do in just two days. Truly amazing. AMAZING!

Next stop: Beijing!  The Forbidden City! 


Wednesday, October 01, 2014

In the Army Now... Again

It's 4:47am.

Woke up 10 minutes ago.

Dead quiet.


An it reminds me so much of my army days.


I will be leaving in 15 minutes for Beijing. Should arrive at 7am at the airport. Next stop: MONGOLIA!

One note: here, no one speaks any English. My guide spoke a little but my Chinese is actually far better than his English. So for three hours, during the entire hike, we spoke in Chinese. Talking about everything: the weather; Chinese history, my army days, our jobs, our families, and even... Game of Thrones haha. (It was hard not to feel like a member of the Night's Watch haha).

Ok, quick pitch black shower time! I wonder what language is spoken in Mongolia. Is it Russian? Chinese? Is there a Mongolian language?

The Great Wall

I just returned from a breathtaking backwoods hike of the Great Wall.

This place is VERY far from Beijing. I had to take the subway; then a commuter bus; then a driver took me another half hour.  It's on a farm right in the mountains. I paid a guide to take me on a three-hour hike of the wall. He's the one who took the photos of me. He is the son of the owner of the farm. 

It's called www.GreatWallFresh.com and a friend told me about it but he hasn't come here yet. It's really cool!!  And NO TOURISTS AT ALL!  I am really truly in the middle of nowhere!  And I love it!  

The hike was AMAZING. All the tourists are mobbing the five or six rebuilt parts of the wall near Beijing. This expanse of the wall here is much farther away, but absolutely untouched since 500AD apparently.  From the Ming Dynasty. But when was the Ming Dynasty?  I thought from the 1200s...  Not sure. 

Anyway, it is so historical.  So genuine. So charming.  It makes me feel like I have stepped back hundreds of years. Thousands of years. Even though it wa raining and totally foggy, I loved it. In fact, the rain and the cold are what made it so fun!  And I took a small piece with me. A small jagged piece of stone that was genuinely a part of the wall. What a cool souvenir. 

Right now, I'm in my room. Three beds. And drafty windows. No heat. And it's cold. And damp.  Like a one-star hostel. And yet: I LOVE IT.  There is a group of foreigners in the adjacent room--the farm is laid out like a courtyard with the 'farm' in the center and the house surrounding the farm/garden on four side. VERY small. Charming. Lovely. And I'm by myself, but I don't feel alone. I hear the ten or so foreigners all laughing together and... I don't care! I am so content here by myself, in my long underwear, eating the huge among of home cooked dishes the mother of the house made for me. Rice, warm tea, eggplant, fried eggs, Chinese vegetables, raw almonds, all so yummy!!!  And with the cold room; the drafty windows that let the sound of the rain come through loud and clear, and the general awesomeness of the place, I feel great. Like I'm camping in the Chinese mountains.  I can't believe I am literally sleeping at the base of the Great Wall of China!  This is amazing!

As for tomorrow? I'm waking up at 4am and flying to Ulan Batuur in Mongolia. It is already cold here in Beijing; it's gonna be FREEZING in Mongolia!!  It is 8pm now. I am going to jump into bed with the many many blanket they gave me and try to get to sleep since I have such an early wakeup. 

And the adventure continues!  So hard to believe I was in Shanghai this morning in my apartment. Now I am going to sleep with the Great Wall outside my window. Truly truly amazing!


On the train!

I made it onto the train. G104 high-speed train to Beijing South Railway Station. Departing from Shanghai.

Taking the subway from People's Square took about 30 minutes. Gosh, that train was packed! And to indicate how much train travel happens here: the stop before the train station was one of the airports. Almost no one got off. When we arrived at the train station, nearly everyone disembarked. And what a crowd indeed.

I am sitting in my first class seat now. No one sitting next to me. And... the train just started to move! Yippee! Off we go!

I'm in 1st class because all coach ticket were sold out. I only decided to go about a week ago. I'm glad it all worked out though. Many tell me that I'm wasting my money for all this transportation for just three days. But when else will I get these opportunities to visit the Great Wall? Mongolia? The answer: maybe never.

I'm so proud and excited of my Chinese progress. I can actually understand the announcements on the trains fairly well. Enough to know what they are talking about. Cool stuff!

And... it isn't raining! So perhaps all will be well once I hit the Great Wall.

Gosh, this train is already going reaallllyyy fast...

I only got four hours sleep. I figured I'd be more tired now. But not! Oh cool: the food cart comes to ME in first class. How awesome. See: everything works out.

If you'll excuse me, I am going to order some food. Until soon!