Travels

Paddleboarding Extravaganza

Gem and I were really into the idea of going paddleboarding, and Groupon had a bunch of deals from which to choose, and while we’d never actually done it, we figured it couldn’t be that hard.

The day we chose ended up being a little choppy, so we went to a calmer side of Sanibel Causeway. The lady dropped off the paddleboards, gave us some instructions, and drove away. We had four hours of boarding to attempt, and by George, we were going to do it. We were even going to attempt yoga!IMG_20170424_085308726

It had been cool out, but we certainly miscalculated how burned you can get. We did not last the entire four hours (maybe 90 minutes?), but we did pretty much everything we wanted to: played with birds diving for fish, saw dolphins, attempted yoga poses (Gem was much better at this than I was), and even swam a bit.

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Gem is much better at a lot of things than I am…not just paddleboard yoga.

I even made a little friend, who was hanging out in the truck for us when we got back.

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It’s quite fun, and can be a workout when people don’t adhere to no-wake zones, or when the water is choppy.

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I resolved to buy a paddleboard from Costco when I returned to the PacNW. Until I saw how much they cost, and then I resolved to rent one instead.

 

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A Cape of Coral

I know in my last entry, I said that I was beginning to appreciate my new home, but as someone who chooses sunshine as a drug, it took a lot of patience to get used to the dreary weather, and by April, my patience had worn out.

My parents had recently relocated to Florida (they affectionately call it “God’s Waiting Room,”), and I hadn’t seen them since Christmas. They moved to a neighborhood where a good chunk of my extended family (two sets of aunts and uncles, four cousins, my grandmother, and the friends they’ve made down there) also live, so it was going to be a mini family reunion.

A very good friend of mine was also experiencing a D-deficiency, and a stress overload, and we both needed to escape real life for a bit. A little coordination and we were set, so off we went to Cape Coral for a long weekend.

I was going to head out a bit early, because I work from home, and when I got there, I did have to do a few days’ work.  But with an office like this, can you blame me?

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One of my favorite things about this Gem of a friend is that she’s adventurous and active, but also very much into relaxing on the beach with a cocktail, so we had paddle board reservations, a 90-minute massage, and trips to the beach planned. The other favorite thing about Gem is that she is an eater, much like yours truly. With few exceptions, she’ll eat anything, and isn’t shy about eating till she’s full. I knew we’d be in for a fun-and-food-filled weekend.

The long weekend with my parents, seeing their new home, and hanging out by the salt-water pool with my extended family, spending a girls’ weekend with Gem, and relaxation was exactly what the doctor ordered.

Mount Erie

The first few weeks in Washington were not as pleasant as I’d have liked. It rained all day, every day, for about four months. It was grey and raw, and chilled me to the bone. It was light for no more than 6-7 hours a day. I knew no one, had no friends, and didn’t know where anything was. Lonely, cold, sad. Yes, I cried a lot. I was, for lack of a better word, miserable.

However, at some point, we got a small break in the clouds (literally, a few hours), and I managed to make it to Anacortes to explore a bit. Yes, it took me that long to venture out of the house to go exploring – because with my job, and not knowing anyone, what else would get me outside?

Anacortes is a town on Fidalgo Island, and it’s gorgeous. It doesn’t have the same types of mountains as the Canadian Rockies to the north, or the Cascades to the East, but it’s got running trails, spectacular westward views (“I can see Alaska from my house!” – not really), and the quaint cobblestone main street with the breweries and tchotchke shops that elicit a feel that is reminiscent of the seafaring towns of New England.

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There’s also a little mountain – Mount Erie. And the convenient part is that there is a paved road that brings you all the way to the top. And so I drove. And I finally started to appreciate where I’d moved. It was a wet, misty 40F, but the sun was trying to break through, so it made for a stunning view.

Luckily, the rain and mist, coupled with the trying-so-hard sunshine meant I got something like a Lord of the Rings forest view while driving.

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When I got to the top, there was a lookout, and it showed the lake, and the Pacific Ocean beyond.  If you look close enough, you miiiiiiight be able to see Canada on a clear day.

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There was even a little bridge on the lookout point that had wishing locks.  I didn’t know about them previously, but I wrote myself a note to bring a lock and key for next time.

IMG_20161125_140916375-PANOMaybe living here wouldn’t be so bad after all

The Last Leg

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Don’t worry, I didn’t stop for too long in Wyoming. Might’ve offed myself if I had – there’s literally nothing out there on the state routes. It’s like in the movie Cars, where you drive on Route 66 until you come to a random little town where the speed limit drops, there’s one bar, a run-down gas station, and some random little shops just begging you to stop in. At first, they made me a bit sad, but after a few of them, you start to notice that it’s peaceful, and you see that these people truly love the town they’re in, the land they live on, and the visitors driving through.

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When I crossed into Montana, another place I’d not been, I ended up in Billings. It’s your very normal Big Sky “city,” which is to say it’s a very, very big Suburbia. That’s the other thing about the states out there – they are very, very big. It took several hours to drive across to Bozeman, and then to Missoula (even on the Interstate 90), and it blew my mind that you could own 10,000 acres of land and still have such a small portion of the state. The air is clearer, the sunsets are more spectacular, and the people live a little slower, and enjoy a little more.

I got excited when I got to Idaho, which was short lived. Not because of anything bad happening, it’s because I spent barely an hour driving through the very skinny tip.

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It was also the crossing into the Pacific Time Zone, which made it a bit more real that I was heading towards my immediate future, that was farther away from home than I’d ever imagined it would be.

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Must-See Macau

Macau is a 1.5 hour ferry ride from the terminal in Hong Kong, and it’s worth a day trip.  Everyone knows about the lavish casinos and the huge party town (it’s like the Vegas of Southeast Asia), but here are three must-sees – aside from the glitz and glamour – that will make your Macau visit even more fun.

Old Town Macau

Check out the fortresses from when Macau was a Portuguese colony.  See the architecture, take in the decidedly European influence (there’s even a Port wine museum!), try to figure out street signs in Portuguese…

One stop for spectacular views of the city is the old fort, Fortaleza du Monte.  It has panoramic views and really shows you the dichotomy between Old and New Macau.

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The cannon is pointed directly at the casinos….hm….

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The Ruins of St. Paul are right next to the fort, and are gorgeous.

You can also see the Chinese influence that still hasn’t will probably never go away, in the forms of older temples and shrines, and even more modern propaganda in the form of the 1950s Mao posters in every store.

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Pandas!!!!!!!!!!

Did you really think I’d skip the pandas?  Come on….

There are two pandas in Macau, and they are awesome.  The panda park itself is interesting – it has panda EVERYTHING (so it’s basically my version of heaven), and you can watch them till your heart’s content.

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These were absolutely huge awesome pandas made from carnations.

If you catch them on a good day, they’ll do flips and entertain you, but on a bad day, they’ll just stay in their little cave area and not come out.  Luckily for me, it was a good day, and I got to see it up close and personal.  Now if only I could figure out how to get one home…

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Grand Prix Museum

I realize this won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s a really short museum and if you like cars or appreciate it at all, it’s worth a trip.  Inside, you will see Aryton Senna’s car and race suit, an entire wall devoted to Michael Schumacher, and various other cars from other forms of racing (Porsche, BMW, even Toyota).  It’s a throwback homage to the days when racing was insanely dangerous, drivers were rugged men, and parties were wild and debauchery ran amok.

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And if the Museo du Gran Prix isn’t your thing, the Port wine museum is right next door. Cheers!

Close Encounters

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Oh, Wyoming.  Probably one of the most desolate states I’ve ever driven though.  There’s not much there, and despite some of the prettiest sunsets and mountains I’ve ever seen, it’s still pretty barren.

That being said, I had the opportunity to visit Devil’s Tower in Wyoming, and when I told people that I was going to be passing through, they got all excited and said it was in the movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind. I still have not seen this movie, but I now understand why Steven Spielberg thought it would be a great addition to a freaky film:  This monument definitely looks like it could have been created by aliens.

41jNr2olTPLThe drive there was long, and my never-ending patience began to wonder if it would even be worth it. From South Dakota into Wyoming on a state route was pretty empty, and did I really need to see yet another underwhelming (sorry Mt. Rushmore and Crazy Horse) national monument?  I mean, I haven’t been to Yellowstone, but I’ve been to Jackson and the Grand Tetons twice, so how much can Wyoming really have to offer?

When I arrived there, it was a pretty awesome site.  Really awesome.  If you look closely in the photo, you can see the holes from where people have scaled the tower.

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IMG_20161109_110839389No one really knows how it formed, but there are theories (even though they left out the alien formation one).  It has mystical and spiritual significance to the Native American tribes in the area, and there are pretty walking paths and benches around the monument to sit and enjoy the majestic structure.

After walking the 1.5 mile path around the base of the site, and realizing my choice of footwear was less than appropriate (what do you mean, I can’t climb rocks in riding boots!?) I bade farewell to the monument and Wyoming.  Up close, it was one of the most interesting looking things I’ve seen in a long time, and it never would have been on my list, but I’m glad I saw it.

But I still haven’t seen Close Encounters.

The Top 5 Things I Learned at an Indian Wedding

Friendship blessed me with the opportunity to attend a Punjabi Sikh wedding last weekend.  Not only was it my first time in NorCal (San Jose!), but it was also the first Indian wedding I’ve ever attended – which meant days of parties.  I returned home Sunday night, exhausted, full of curry, and armed with new knowledge for next time.

In no particular order, here are the top five things I learned this past weekend:

1. Be prepared to eat.  No, not “eat a meal at the reception.”  We had dinner at the Mehndi ceremony on Thursday and the Sangeet on Friday.  And Saturday, we had breakfast and lunch at the hall (sandwiching the religious ceremony), and then dinner at the reception.  If you don’t like Indian food, this could be a bit challenging, but give it a chance if you’ve never had it.  You just might surprise yourself.

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Image courtesy of purvajcaterers.co.in

I’m fairly certain I ate about 12 pounds of paneer, chicken, lamb, samosas, rice, saag, kebob…I actually decided to change my outfit one night so I could eat more.  Side note – Indian desserts are a bit….different.  Spongy and very sweet.  My advice would be to fill up on the food.

2. Some of the parties may be dry.  In the U.S., “wedding” is usually synonymous with “booze,” but consumption of alcohol is prohibited in Sikhism.  This doesn’t mean that every event will be dry, but we were told, “You do you.”  Which, to many of us, said”be prepared with your own drinks.”
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Punjabi people are known for partying and having a good time, and the first two nights were not dry.  (My new drink invention is chai with spiced rum and a bit of sweetener.)  Out of respect, Saturday’s religious festivities and the reception were, however, so we made do with our own flasks.  Just don’t be too obvious, and take swigs privately.

3. It’s totally appropriate to wear a saree.  Bold and bright colors (no solid black or white), beading, embroidery, you name it.  My saree was an impulse buy between the Saturday morning ceremony and reception from a secondhand boutique that donates proceeds to help abused women.
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There are lots of videos on YouTube to teach you how to wear one, and they’re definitely not bad.  Invest in safety pins, and give it your best shot.  And if you’re still having trouble draping it, an Indian auntie will most certainly help you.

I was in the ladies’ room, trying to fix it, and she came up to me, asked if I needed help, and before I knew it, I was standing there with her hands tucking the fabric into my petticoat (aka skirt worn below your belly button).  It was a bit odd at first, but about 4 seconds in, I was immensely thankful for her help, and before I knew it, she had a line of people needing her expert advice.

4. Bring your dancing shoes.  Not dancing is not an option.  You’re at a wedding where the dance floor will basically turn into an Indian club, with pounding, energetic Indian music and flashing lights.  Plus, you’re there to celebrate.  Get off your butt and dance.
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At the Sangeet, there were choreographed traditional dances, a group dance, and then what seemed like every person trying to show off even more energetic moves.  It was bhangra style, it was American style, and it was totally fun.  It was even better with all the swirling colors.

5. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.  Pace yourself.  Indian weddings last for days and have several events.  It’s worth it to take the time to appreciate all the work that went into the coordination, the gorgeous settings and colors, and to celebrate the happy couple.  There are traditions in which you can participate, such as the groom riding in on a white horse, with his friends and family dancing around it (which in our case was a fancy Mercedes), or hoisting the bride up and carrying her while the groom tries to get a garland of flowers around her neck.  Participate in the group dances, try all the food, and make new friends.  Indians are warm and welcoming, and they certainly know how to have a good time.

At heart, weddings all share one common thing:  They are a celebration of joining two families and many friends together, and this was no exception.   I can’t wait for the next one!

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