two days in ubatuba.

back on a bus. ubatuba to rio de janeiro this time. it is windy through the hills, and i think my ability to stare at my computer in vehicles without getting queasy is starting to wear off as i get older. but, i’ll push through…

we arrived in ubatuba after a “three hour” bus ride (which actually took five) from sao paulo. two nights in an airbnb by praia grande, the most popular beach on a long stretch of beautiful coastline.

our airbnb host had been very helpful (and slightly overboard) leading up to our arrival, providing endless details, travel advice, and constant communication. however, due to that, we were able to jump off the bus at the exact right stop and walk 50 yards to her home.

the apartment was straight out of the 50s and definitely could have been lived in by the same woman since way back then. it had that old smell and questionable charm. the gas stove had some dodgy piping, but the view was unbeatable for $50/night. beach in front, jungle in back.

after dropping our suitcases off in our temporary home, we quickly changed into our swimsuits and settled into some serious relaxation. and by that, i of course mean burgers and beers by the beach. now, we might have preferred something else to eat, but it was pretty easy to pick those two items on the portuguese menu and since we were starving from our delayed bus ride, we went with easy.

praia grande was crowded. it was the weekend, but it also turns out that i accidentally picked the high season to visit. lots of local tourists flock to ubatuba in decemeber and january, when the temperatures are hot and the rains are rare.

we walked the long white sand beach soaking in the scenery. kids playing soccer and volleyball. groups of friends drinking too much and causing a commotion. couples holding hands and kissing in the waves. vendors selling drinks and snacks and ice cream and clothes.

as the sun started to set, we wandered back across the street to our apartment, where ryan proceeded to immediately fall asleep. a few beers and a little sunshine always manage to steal your energy. i thought he’d wake up in time for dinner again, but he just kept on sleeping. i guess he still needed to catch up on some zzzz…

as he slumbered, i strolled down to the local shop and picked up some pasta for dinner. i ate some food, did some work, and retired early. music blaring over loud speakers occasionally streamed in through our open windows reminding us of the party we were missing outside.

the next morning, i unexpectedly woke up just in time to catch the sun rising over the ocean. day two in ubatuba…

we boarded a city bus into the center of town, about a 20 minute bus ride that costs $1/person. ubatuba proper is a cute, decent sized town. there are plenty of stores and restaurants to explore. lots of places to sample brazil’s delicious “pastel,” a pastry filled with whatever you want basically. 

we walked through town and ended up back on the coast. the beach on the edge of the city center is pretty barren. there are no vendors, no umbrellas, no bikinis. but, there are something like 100 beaches along this stretch of brazil’s coastline, so we continued walking the coast exploring as many beaches as we could. 

after enjoying one other beach, we headed back out to the main highway and called an uber to transport us out to the infamous itamambuca beach, known by many surfers. about seven miles down the road.

itamambuca is beautiful. it reminded me of nosara, costa rica. dirt roads lined with elegant homes and understated beach shacks, all leading to the beach. small snack shops and surf stands ready to help visitors enjoy the ocean to the fullest. 

the ocean meets up with the itamambuca river here. the fresh water combines with the salty sea. it was less chaotic than the other beaches near town. there were still beach bars and vendors, but there were way less people. however, the water was much dirtier. perhaps the river’s fault?

we set up shop at a table on the beach, and with our toes in the hot sand and a “stupidly cold” (brazilian saying) beer in our hand, we watched the waves roll in and out.

unfortunately, the waves were not quite up to my aussie surfer’s standards. although the beach is known to have some good breaks, the waves were not cooperating for us this trip. but that’s how it goes when you only have a day or two. not enough time to patiently await the swell. oh well. we’ll have plenty of time to surf in australia next month. 

after we were sufficiently sunned, we shuffled back to the main highway on the dirt roads surrounded by jungle greenery. the bus took an hour to come by. but we waited. because we had nowhere else to be. nothing else to do. no plans. 

when the bus pulled back through the city center, we jumped off and walked the opposite direction along the coast. back towards praia grande via itagua, a hip little neighborhood full of restaurants and bars. 

and then we saw this…

yes, that is someone bungee jumping from a crane. and hang gliding from a crane. and free falling into a net from a crane. 

this was just randomly set up on the side of the street. there was not a fair or anything else going on around it. just long lines to defy death one more day. only in brazil i suppose? we were totally game to try one of them, but our desire not to wait in line won instead.

for dinner, we found a cute little health food restaurant, banana brazil. a welcomed break from the fried pastries and cheese filled everything that we’d been snacking on. so far, beyond the meat, brazil has not necessarily offered us any oh-my-gosh-that-was-fucking-delicious moments.

i remember experiencing this when i lived in argentina. sure, you can find a great meal here and there, but in general, the palette is a bit bland for my tastebuds (surprising i know, with all the white foods i tend to eat). it just doesn’t excite my tongue like japanese or italian or thai or indian or mexican… to each their own though. 

and then, you’ll never guess what we did… we went to sleep. clearly, we both really needed some vacation time…

and today, we travel. 

7am wake up and pack up
8am city bus to the major ubatuba bus terminal
8:30am walk a couple blocks with luggage because we got off a stop early
8:45am make ryan go get cash from an atm to buy bus tickets (sao paulo only took cash)
8:58am hope the bus we want is not sold out
9am ticket office opens, and it turns out they take credit (oops…)
9:30am drink coffee and eat deep fried something
11am bus scheduled to depart for rio de janeiro
11:45am extreme bus stop boredom sets in
12:15pm bus actually departs for rio de janeiro
5pm now, still on the road to rio 

here’s to our final two days in brazil!

p.s. sorry this post is boring. we needed a few days of boring.

Advertisements

one day in sao paulo.

the only way for me to capture an experience on paper is if i write it down immediately. many of my travels disappear into memories before the details make their way into words. a few photos get posted here and there to help jog my memory years later. 

but, it is the trips that include lots of bus time, flight time, and alone time that end up being best documented. this trip is one of those trips. first up? brazil!

we are on a bus heading from sao paulo to ubatuba. just reaching the peak of the serra do mar and heading down the hills to the beach. our quick trip to brazil is something of a city sandwich: sao paulo and rio de janeiro with some relaxing beach and surf time in ubatuba in between. 

after a five hour flight to atlanta and a nine hour redeye to sao paulo, ryan and i arrived in brazil absolutely exhausted. (the late night celebration in san francisco prior to our initial flight might have been part of the problem… thanks viv, ruth, and andrew…) we quickly skipped through customs and threw our one overstuffed suitcase into an uber. yep, an uber. ordered straight from the app with ease. ¡vamos a jardins village hostel por favor! 

oh wait, they don’t speak spanish in this south american country?! shit. 

i haven’t visited a country without a native speaker or being able to speak the language in a little while. it is sort of fun to be forced to learn some portuguese and create my own bastardized version of spanish, english, and random google translated portuguese words. turns out i can understand enough key words to get by. and the google translate app is like cheating really… with the photo hover translate feature?! i can’t wait to tell our children about the days when traveling to a foreign country was WAY harder.

we are in brazil for five days. we haven’t traveled like this in awhile either. quick stops in multiple places to see as much as we can before going onto the next country. we have had the privilege and luxury of spending weeks or even months in most of our travel destinations. time to shift the mindset. we’ll never see it all, just sample and take notes for next time.

and so, we spent our first 24 hours in brazil, walking around as much of sao paulo as possible. my feet have blisters and my shoulders are sunburnt, but my belly is full and my heart is too. 

sao paulo has a population of 12.11 million people. it is the most populous city in the southern and western hemispheres. it is the 11th most populous city on earth. 

and yet, it felt manageable.

of course, we didn’t have time to visit everywhere, but the neighborhoods we visited were clean, easy to navigate, and full of cheerful paulistanos (sao paulo locals). 

our hostel was in an area known as jardins, down a cute little alley.

it was a couple blocks off avenida paulista, one of the main bustling city streets crowded with men in suits, street vendors, and an endless variety of people. 

that was one of the main things we noticed right away. it is impossible to typify a brazilian. every time i thought i’d hear english or german or japanese come out of someone’s mouth, it was portuguese. every time i thought, “that person is for sure a tourist,” they’d prove me wrong. brazil should maybe steal the american title of “melting pot.”

and everyone is lovely. from the uber driver trying to point out attractions to us in broken spanish…
to the shaved head barista teaching us about the history behind the delicious “bread of cheese”…
to the old man helping us find a misplaced credit card at the empanada bar…
to the woman at the phone store directing me to a place where i could find an outlet converter…
to the waiter at the brazilian steakhouse explaining how to take advantage of all the tableside-carved meat.

every confusion caused by our lack of portuguese came along with a loving smile and a joyful willingness to help. 

we walked from our hostel in jardins all the way to vila madalena, an artsy district full of hip shops, galleries, and cafes. it was further of a walk than we expected, but it was a great way to take in our new surroundings. 

we toured beca de batman, an alley filled with amazing street art. all of sao paulo is covered in street art and graffiti. buildings, sidwalks, walls, cars, there is art everywhere. but, this specific alley is a famous spot to see a lot at once. 

after this, the effects of our redeye started to set in. we were both exhausted. like, barely keep our eyes open exhausted. we stopped to fill our bellies with empanadas and hoped it would give us a little energy boost. 

it didn’t. so instead of walking an hour to our next destination, we called up an uber. $4 for a 30 minute drive? yes please. ryan instantly fell asleep as we battled traffic to the central part of sao paulo or the old historic downtown. 

the calm, artsy vibe of vila madalena and the poshness of jardins disappeared. we were now back in what felt like a city. people everywhere. smells everywhere. an underground system of rails below us. the blazing afternoon sun above us. we let ourselves get lost. walking the streets taking in as much as we could.

throughout our travels to major cities, we inadvertently have started a tradition of going up to get a bird’s eye view of the city from its tallest building. usually it is overpriced and overcrowded, but it is always worth it. a chance for perspective. a chance for orientation. a chance for awe. 

the edificio italia has a 360 degree viewing terrace from their 42nd floor. it cost R30 (about $7.50 USD) and included a free glass of wine. a real steal compared to the $30-60 you usually spend getting to the top in places like hong kong, seattle, tokyo, chicago, etc.

sao paulo sprawls forever. in every direction. there is no one main clump of skyscrapers. it is a sea of skyscrapers. 

with my shoulders getting progressively more red and our lack of sleep getting progressively more impossible to ignore, we decided it was time for a little siesta. after realizing we were in an uber pickup hell (three drivers couldn’t find us and canceled even after we tried moving), we jumped into a taxi and fiercely fought our heavy eyelids. 

sure, we only had 24 hours to take in as much of the city as possible, but enjoying an afternoon siesta is definitely a classic way to experience south america. 

we passed out hard but woke up just in time for dinner. what kind of food did we want to eat? meat, of course! 

when in brazil, a churrascaria it is pretty much a must-do. an endless delicious variety of meats on a skewer brought to your table and hand carved onto your plate.

the restaurant we chose came complete with a beautiful buffet of sides as well (and the above photo on their website). not to mention a tasty flan for dessert. 

after we literally could not eat another bite without spewing, we strolled home in complete satisfaction. it was only 9:30pm, but we had to catch a bus early in the morning, so we settled in and drifted back to sleep. 

i know, we must be getting old… in a country known for its celebrations and not going out until the sun comes up… 

we’ll have to see what rio has in store. 🙂

one month of finding balance.

two full months on the road based out of our van, moby clit. aptly named by my auntie because ryan insisted that our big white van was not big enough to be called moby dick. plus all cars are ladies right? you can call her moby or mc for short.

month one…

our first destination was red rock canyon national conservation area, just outside of las vegas and part of nevada’s mojave desert. we spent three weeks there hanging with a gang of lovable canadians. it was a gentle ease into van life with such a major city only a 15-minute drive down the road. with friends for ryan to climb with, it also allowed me to keep up my full time job and not feel guilty that he had no one to belay him.

that is one thing that i am realizing about van life, it is hard to keep up on all the work i have to do. before when i was on the road, i had multiple clients who only expected a few hours of my time each week. but now, i have one main employer who expects 40 hours of my time each week. so just like everyone else working the 9-5 grind, i am basically a weekend warrior. i might switch out a tuesday for a saturday, but i pretty much only climb three days a week. and i’m sure ryan is getting over the fact that we need to wake up at 7am and find cell service for a couple hours before we head up the rock and off the grid.

but welcome to real van life. it is not all play, but it is worth it.

it is worth it to experience things like the stark juxtaposition between city and nature. las vegas is a weird town to begin with, but when you seclude yourself amongst the rocks for several days and then saunter into a casino covered in sweat and dirt, you really feel out of place. we treated ourselves to one night in old las vegas, but otherwise, we tried to stay out in the wilderness.

since this was our first destination, we had to get back into the swing of climbing. our fingertips needed to turn red and raw before callousing. our forearms needed to tire out entirely. our calves and gluts needed to get used to the long, uphill approach hikes. our minds needed to reacquaint themselves with the innate risk that comes with climbing.

but eventually, our bodies adjusted. our brains adjusted. and our way of life adjusted.

we spent our days climbing the red rock and our nights playing cards or sitting around the fire. and on rest days, we filled our bellies with cheap mexican and unlimited wifi. it was wonderful.

then, the clouds rolled in and the thunder roared. it was time to move… the climbing life is always dictated by the weather.

the whole group relocated to one of my favorite small towns in california, bishop. it is at the foot of the sierra nevadas and near mammoth lakes. although most people go there for the bouldering, we found ourselves hanging out on the beautiful granite cliffs of pine creek canyon.

i had to remember how to trust my feet on tiny granite crystals. i had to remember how this magical rock could be sticky and slippery all at once. i had to remember how to crack climb. (i had to do this in red rock as well.) and i had to remember why i love to climb.

it is easy to be unmotivated when you live on the road. since there are no time constraints, there is no pressure to cram it all in. leisurely mornings (sometimes too leisurely) have become our standard. we’re lucky if we have put on our harnesses by noon. some days, i am all for this, but other days, i wish i could find a little drive. a little more excitement to conquer the rock.

“wherever you are, be all there.” – jim elliot

this quote is on an old tea bag tag taped to the back of my phone. so far, i am finding it hard to heed these words on the road. when i am on the cliff, i am worried about missing important emails. when i am staring at my computer, i am worried about missing epic climbs.

but, there are moments where it all comes into balance. even if it is just that one minute where i am at the top of a climb looking out over the canyon below with my best friend by my side realizing how lucky i truly am. or that one minute where i am sitting in bed catching up on emails next to a campfire realizing this is an amazing life i lead.

but back to bishop…

aside from the amazing rock climbing that is in and around bishop, the town is one that we could see ourselves spending a bit more time in. it is close to skiing, climbing, hiking, hot springs, and lots more. it is four hours to los angeles and las vegas, give or take. now if only the ocean were a little closer and had good surf, i don’t think ryan would ever leave…

before heading north to catch my mom in san francisco for mother’s day and visit my aunties, we celebrated a friend’s birthday at whitney portal.

wow. what a stunning area. with views of mt. whitney, unique rock formations in the alabama hills, and gorgeous pine trees lining the bottom of giant granite walls, this detour was well worth it. and so was the taco truck and pub in lone pine, population 2,035.

now if only i had starred in one of the hundreds of movies filmed in this area

coming up in month two: san diego, joshua tree, and yosemite

van life: red rock canyon (video tour)

we left portland at 9pm on thursday, april 12th with red rock canyon, las vegas, nevada set in our google maps. we were so excited to hit the road and sleep our first night in the van, that we didn’t even care that we would only drive about three hours before needing to pull over and go to sleep. so excited, that we totally didn’t even think about the fact that the pass over mt. hood might have snow… which it did.

despite the chain requirement warning, we slowly pushed through the pass and safely found our way to the redmond, oregon wal-mart, our first home away from home.

it was freezing. we didn’t think about the whole snow thing at all. we curled up close in our new cozy bed, too lazy to unpack our extra sleeping bags.

in the morning, we woke up and hit the road again. i worked for 10 hours while ryan drove for 10 hours. and then, we arrived in vegas. our first climbing destination.

we met up with some friends who were in town from hawaii and were treated to a true las vegas luxury dinner (from a famous chef that i can’t remember the name of) after a full day of exploring red rock canyon state park. it was so great to share our home with some good company. plenty of space for four… thanks nate and nancy!

after a few days of climbing and a few nights camped out in a casino parking lot, we met up with some other friends and moved out to campsite closer to the canyon.

it’s been almost two weeks since we landed in vegas and since we moved in our new van life. these first couple weeks have been full of learning. learning what works, learning what doesn’t, learning what we’re missing, and learning what we love.

life is pretty great. i am so proud of ryan and the home he has built us. it is cozy and has everything we need for the life we love to live. it is a blessing to wake up every day and look around at the beautiful creativity of my partner. thank you ryan.

and now, what you’ve all been waiting for… a super awkward video tour of the final product!

beginning van life: week 8-10

so it turns out that ryan isn’t great at documenting a van build… since i was working full time (and overtime) while we were stationed in portland for the past two months, i could not help get footage of the amazing process ryan underwent to produce our new home.

since my last blog post, we have completed the van!!!

it took about 4-5 weeks of full time work, and i am still totaling the expenses, but probably around $8,000 for everything including the vehicle. more details on expense breakdown to come soon.

in the final weeks of the van build, a lot of things came together…

ryan framed the kitchen and modified a piece of bamboo donated by my boss for the counter top and pull out table/desk.

he built out the cupboards and drawers. complete with soft close hinges! and then, he gave them all a couple coats of oil to protect the wood and make the grain pop. our van is majorly cedar, including these beautiful cupboards.

 

as everything came together, some of the last details were finished up. we added a vent fan over the bed to draw air from the front windows throwout the van, and ryan finished up all the electrical.

the sink was custom made from a bowl to minimize depth and allow space for our pull out table/desk.

 

and then there was the one thing that i contributed to the van… the curtains. i will admit that i cannot even take full credit for them since a friend of mine did assist with the sewing. thanks elana!

and then, we unpacked our storage unit into the van and moved in…

now, to hit the road…

beginning van life: week 1-7

the number one question from everyone these days has been, “how’s the van coming?” so, i guess it is finally time to do our first update on the pending #vanlife chapter of our lives.

it has been seven weeks since we arrived in portland, and we have been super busy. ryan thought he would have all the free time in the world while on a break from work, but he was very wrong.

our first three weeks here were pretty mellow. lots of craigslist searching and alert setting, checking out various vans, and daydreaming about creating our new home. since ryan was not working full time like me, there was also a lot of boredom and anxiety to get started on this next adventure. that boy does not like to sit still for more than a day or two at a time…

we joined a climbing gym in portland, which gave him something to do while we continued to scour the internet for our perfect van. we needed to get back in shape anyways. our forearms and fingertips were definitely not up to climbing road trip status. but, after seven weeks, they are starting to get there.

after about two weeks, an alert popped up in my inbox: 2004 chevy express 2500, 164,000 miles. i forwarded the info to ryan, and he went to suss out if this could be our glass slipper.

turns out that it was. but it also turned into a hilarious example of a craigslist fiasco…

after getting the van home and getting ready to register it, we realized that we had the wrong title. what?! for the next several hours, my brain thought about every possible scenario. was this a stolen van? did we just get swindled? it turns out the answer was no. we bought the van off an electrical company that was selling off a couple vans from their fleet; we just had another van’s title.

during this time, ryan also realized that the transmission could use a little work. lucky for us, the owner had to meet us to exchange the titles. when we picked up the new title, we learned that the vehicle we had purchased was actually a 2003, not a 2004.

this was used to our advantage as i tapped into my schneider debate skills and negotiated a partial refund due to the less than perfect transmission and older than expected vehicle. threatening legal action (without actually knowing anything about the laws surrounding craigslist purchases and bill of sale stipulations), we got them to agree to a partial refund.

with the actual title now in hand, we registered the van in our name and dropped it off at the transmission shop for a makeover while we headed down to lake tahoe for a little snowboarding fun with friends for week four.

we returned to portland in early march, and ryan got straight to work. he joined a community workshop space, so he had access to all the tools he would need. and now what you’ve all been waiting for…

week five:

  • removing the stickers from the outside
  • stripping the inside of shelving and cage divider
  • insulating the walls and floor
  • sanding the wood wall panels
  • waterproofing the wood wall panels (the only thing i have done to contribute thus far)
  • starting to install wood wall panels

 

 

 

week six:

after endless hours researching and unsuccessfully finding a van bubble topper for a decent rate and reasonable turnaround time, we abandoned the idea of adding a higher roof onto our van. at least for now. standing up in the van is definitely a very exciting luxury, but in an effort to save time and money, this part of our plan has been postponed.

  • finishing installation of all wood wall paneling
  • insulating the roof
  • installing wood ceiling boards
  • wiring the van for our ceiling lighting and mood lighting
  • online research and ordering of parts

week seven:

  • installing LED mood lighting
  • prepping holes for ceiling lights
  • building bed frame
  • oiling wood wall panels “to make the grain pop”
  • designing (and arguing about) under the bed storage compartments
  • designing and planning out the kitchen
  • more online research and ordering of parts

and there you have it! three weeks of hard work and ryan has already created an amazing new home for us. i can’t wait to see what else he has in store for _______! (we are taking name suggestions. “rowdy” has been suggested as a throwback to the previous owner’s company “gowdy electric” but we’re still open to ideas…)

taiwandering.

without googling it, can you picture where taiwan is on a map?

besides the fact that your favorite shirt was unfortunately made there, do you know anything else about taiwan?

before our detour to visit ryan’s sister-in-law’s twin sister (carly) in taiwan back in january 2016, my answer to both of those questions would have been no. taiwan was a country somewhere in asia that i would probably never visit and didn’t really have a desire to learn anything about.

and then we flew in from japan (thanks for the free upgrade to first class delta.) and quickly realized that taiwandering is actually a pretty enjoyable pastime.

2016-02-02-10-57-08

from the temples to the mountains to the beaches to the hot springs, there is plenty packed into this often forgotten asian island.

taiwan has an interesting history, a sort of back and forth struggle between china and japan, and the influence of these cultures is apparent. after coming from china and japan, taiwan felt like a happy medium. the chaos and the calm.

img_7413

our tour guide, carly, has been teaching in taiwan for the past three years and knew all the perfect places to take us adventuring tourists.

2016-01-30-13-06-19

a ride on the “fastest moving passenger elevator” to the top of the taipei 101 tower to take in the full scope of taipei. to take “the journey that’ll change your life.”

img_7383

img_7382

building upon building squeezed together and butted up against the layered mountains. this has become a tradition of ours. pay the ridiculous fee to go to the tallest tower and stand in awe of the view from above. get our bearings. discover new things. feel small.

img_7393

taiwan has a lot of things to make you feel small. the mountains, the markets, the bottomless hot pots… we got lost in it all. literally…

a bus ride from the city up into the hills to find the hidden bayan wild springs. carefully watching the little blue dot on my google maps app as we tried to follow carly’s instructions to the hot springs.

we preemptively hopped off of the bus (at my direction) and found ourselves at the bus stop before the one we actually wanted. it was raining. it was cold. ryan was not happy with me. but we walked down the highway with our rain jacket hood strings pulled tight and eventually found the dirt trail that led to our magical forested escape.

img_7444

once you slip into that sweet sulfur stream, every care in the world disappears. the cool raindrops become a blessing, and the foggy skies meld with the steamy waters. i could have stayed there forever, covered in mud (said to be good for your skin) and loving every minute of it.

img_7461

img_7477

the head-sized breaded chicken at shilin market stole my heart (or clogged it) as well. rows upon rows of vendors showcasing their hilarious t-shirts and kitschy trinkets. fresh fruit waiting to make your fingers sticky and hundreds of people moving together through the maze.

img_7427

and ending up at the all you can eat hot pot restaurant. (if everyone wasn’t going there, they should have been.)

imagine a buffet of meats and seafood and vegetables just waiting to be thrown into the boiling pot of broth at your table. endlessly. i’m glad carly warned me to wear a my fat pants otherwise i definitely would have left with my top button undone. yum.

img_7482

speaking of yum, my memories of taiwan all seem to come back to food. besides the hot pot and oversized friend chicken, there were michelin star soup dumplings and thai burritos and of course, the insane scallion pancakes that were right below carly’s apartment.

img_7416

there were pork buns and taro buns and questionable meat buns that ryan still ate. and to wash it all down, there was bubble tea. lots and lots of bubble tea.

img_7431

so in the end, i left my custard heart in taiwan and gained a hot pot belly. perfect for my new life of living in bikinis and sarongs on oahu…

thanks for taking us taiwandering carly.

2016-02-01-06-00-13

japan in january.

it is always on airplanes that i find the space to write. write for me. not for a client’s blog, not for a paid article, but for my mind, my soul, my sanity. something about this metal tube soaring through the sky – and probably my limited access to internet – focuses the words in my head.

i haven’t been on a long flight for awhile. perhaps the last one was from japan to hawaii. (that’s a lie, we flew back to australia for a wedding in march, but i’m going to stick with the lie because it works as a perfect segue.)

that flight signified a new chapter, but the old chapter was never written. this blog holds no words about that time i crossed off “visit japan” from my 35 before 35 list. until now… 🙂

the old chapter

part one: niseko

they (whoever they is) say that niseko has some of the best powder you will ever ride. and they were right. i’m guessing “they” is made up of all the snowboarders and skiers who have showed up to the stunning mountains of hokkaido not knowing what to expect and left with their minds blown. i am now one of this they.

img_7010

niseko slopes are not quite as steep as some of the BAMFs would like, but the continuous fresh powder and ungroomed glades make up for its gradual declines. and for me, it was perfect.

img_6975

cutting in and out of the trees until it got too narrow for comfort, then easily popping back out on the powdery edge of the groomed runs. not to mention, catching an edge becomes immensely more fun when you face plant into a mound of snowy goodness instead of ice. that is until you have to try and stand back up…

screen-shot-2016-01-07-at-12-00-04-pm

for just over a week, we let ourselves sink into ski bum status. wake up, put on thermals, look outside, high five (because you can’t see past the huge white flakes), eat breakfast, gear up, grab board, walk to slope, ride ride ride, drink drink drink, go to bed. repeat.

img_6989

life is pretty simple in a ski town. life is pretty perfect in a ski town.

img_6962

when our lift passes ran out, we headed south to see what else japan had to offer. stoke was high, and i had no idea it was about to get even higher.

img_7015

part two: tokyo

i have traveled a lot of places, but japan was only marginally on my radar until recently. my older brother had lived there for quite some time and RAVED about it. at the time, i was like, yeah cool whatever. japan seemed faraway. on the wrong side of the globe. i was a north and south america type of girl. maybe a dash of europe. then i visited india. then i started dating an australian. all the sudden japan didn’t seem that faraway at all. and it sort of looked pretty cool.

sumimasen nikon. i am sorry i ever doubted your awesomeness.

we arrived late at night in tokyo. the airport was quiet and everything seemed to be shutting down. thanks to an old college friend who is currently living in tokyo, we were well-equipped with step-by-step instructions.

  1. find baggage counter and have snowboard bag shipped to apartment. check.
  2. take the ____ train and get off at the ______ stop. check.
  3. get on the _____ line and get off at the ______ stop. check.
  4. walk 15 minutes to apartment.
  5. key is in mailbox.
  6. make yourself at home.

wow. even half asleep, we were able to navigate the brilliant tokyo train system. talk about well-constructed public transportation. there is no need to rent a car in tokyo. the rail will take you basically everywhere you want to go. for cheap.

img_7113

as we walked to my friend’s apartment, the city was asleep. it was also short. after my visit to hong kong, i had the impression that tokyo might be similar. i was oh-so-wrong. the buildings are low and sprawl outward forever. there are areas of densely packed skyscrapers, but for the most part this city sits low, which makes it feel way less daunting that other big cities.

img_7072

it is also clean. and quiet. and for those of you who know anything about japanese culture, you are nodding your heads. in japan, you do not eat or drink while you walk down the street. you do not talk loudly on the train. you do not blow your nose in public. you are polite. you are very polite. you are probably too polite.

with limited time, we made sure to tackle the important things:

  • yoyogi koen in harajuku on a sunday – if you like people watching, this park is magical. from students practicing their latest hiphop moves to gray-haired street performers setting up their pantomime shows to japanese popstars-in-training belting out their cheesy vocals, yoyogi has got it all. as ryan put it, “these people are parking the shit out of this place.” the dog park adds at least 30 minutes of entertainment as well.
  • maid cafe in akihabara – you’ve gotta do it. yes, you’ll probably pay too much for your magic-infused drink and regret it later, but you still have to experience the weirdness of this popular dining experience.

    img_7101

  • shibuya at night – switch your iphone to the time-lapse setting and squeeze your way into the lineup of cameras hovering around the second story starbucks window. the famous shibuya intersection is truly something to observe. thousands of humans dancing their way through each other amidst the bright city colors before the traffic light turns green.

    img_7083

  • sensoji temple and sky tree in asakusa – sure it’s touristy, but once you get past all the kitschy shops, the temple is stunning. and seeing the city from the sky is definitely an interesting perspective. tokyo goes on forever.

    img_7069

  • tsukiji market – if you want good sushi, go to the market in the morning, the earlier the better, most of the restaurants close by the afternoon. also, if you’re looking for a sweet japanese knife, this is a good place to find one.
  • golden gai – we didn’t actually go here, but we did find our way to another strip of tiny bars. these little establishments are so unique. with seats for only about 5-6 people, the bars offer a cozy way to end your day.
  • kobe beef – we found it, we ate it, we loved it. (and all the other delicious food!)

    img_7132

  • see snow – you probably won’t be able to do this as it is a pretty rare occurence, but we did. what a magnificent sight to see this pristine city covered in a blanket of soft white snow.

    img_7153

  • karaoke – even ryan did it. everyone has to do it. rent a room and let your favorites rip.
  • sumo tournament – saving the best for last. if you are in japan and happen to time it when one of the sumo tournaments are on, go. i had no clue how into this sport i would be. there is so much history, so many intricate regulations, so much beauty and performance. after attending the ninth day of the tourny, i wanted to buy tickets for the rest of it. luckily, we happened to catch the winning match on tv at the airport. what a huge win! japan on top again… take that mongolia. yoisho!

img_7177

img_7188

i’m sure i’m forgetting some things above, but our time in tokyo left me wanting my brother to move back to japan so that i could have an excuse to return. i guess i don’t actually need an excuse…

part three: kyoto

my brother spent a lot of time in kyoto and had given me these instructions: in kyoto go to kinkakuji, ginkakuji, heian shrine, downtown, and the gardens.

we boarded that bullet train and headed south.

img_7193

after a few days, our feet were sore and cold (the snow followed us to kyoto as well), but we walked around to every temple and shrine and garden that we could find.

img_7201

img_7211

kyoto’s old japanese charm is palpable. you can meander the streets for hours just taking in all the cute storefronts and ornate temples and shrines. every corner has a hidden space to uncover. if you’re into history, this is your city.

img_7254

img_7332

in order to tap into the japanese culture a bit more, and fully embrace our absolute obsession with japanese food, we took a cooking class in kyoto. we crafted a bento box complete with tempura shrimp, sushi rolls, teriyaki chicken, spinach salad, and miso soup. i was pretty impressed with the results. and yes, i still have the recipes if you happen to want to sample my newfound skills. yum.

img_7289

img_7309

with only a few days in kyoto, we spent all day every day getting lost and finding our way. finding our way to unknown temples off the tourist track and taking the time to let ourselves get lost in their majesty.

img_7221

japan was magical. a perfect introduction to our new home… hawaii.

p.s. as i finished this blog, i realized i lied some more. after japan, we went to taiwan before we officially moved to hawaii. stay tuned…

paris in the rearview.

life happens. before the hands can transcribe thought to script, the moment is gone. you keep on living. the details fade, and you can’t remember why you wrote that note about the ________.

but maybe it’s not the details that are important tomorrow.

today, six months later, i look at my notes: 

paris day three:

work, buy a french wardrobe due to climbing clothes selection

head to the louvre – seeing masterpieces i studied in college, things i wrote papers about, huge endless rooms of the world’s best art, surrounded by soldiers, never felt unsafe but rather safer amongst it all

IMG_6375.jpg

mona lisa thoughts, masterpiece thoughts, all the thoughts

IMG_6382.jpg

ice cream at the famous place on the island, patron saints of paris watching over

IMG_6441.jpg

IMG_6429.jpg

IMG_6430.jpg

meditation with aunt and friends followed by dinner, another night falling asleep as my auntie drove me home.

IMG_6433.jpg

by the bastille

paris day four:

breakfast – family does a mooc about versailles but it’s in french, so i do work

opera bastille – l’elisir d’amore by gaetano donizetti – lead female was amazing, a fun comic light hearted performance, fun to get dressed up, black and white – the colors of france

IMG_6455.jpg

IMG_6451.jpg

paris day five:

church

Versailles food market for some lunch fixings, baguettes, cheese, crepes, french yelling

IMG_6457.jpg

family bonding – funny how us schneider women are all the same, the “outlaws” instead of inlaws

IMG_6461.jpg

sunday – slow and simple

roasted chestnuts (french word for that = marrons chauds), i thought it was just a song

IMG_6471.jpg

paris day six:

city tour…

train in by myself

notre dame – eavesdrop on a tour guide

IMG_6486.jpg

shakespeare and co.

IMG_6488.jpg

le procope

IMG_6624.jpg

wander around latin quarter – get lost, curving streets meandering and turing into dead ends, endless cafes and creperies

IMG_6494.jpg

tuileries garden stroll

champ elysees christmas market

IMG_6504.jpg

petit palace / gran palace

arc de triomphe

IMG_6512.jpg

IMG_6514.jpg

crepe – egypt man

centre pompidou – pollack, matisse, different vibe, outdoor escalators reminded me of hong kong, best view from the top, tired legs, tired soul

IMG_6473.jpg

IMG_6537.jpg

eiffel tower always in the distance, standing tall watching over its city

IMG_6539.jpg

day seven:

wake up in the french countryside to a crazy sunrise

IMG_6543.jpg

versailles – palace and gardens, meandering with audio tour, wondering what it would be like to have a bedroom like those…

IMG_6550.jpg

IMG_6565.jpg

thai food for lunch with annie and jim

movie night – hunger games mockingly part 2

day eight:

rest?

day nine: 

museo d’Orsay – prostitutes exhibit, one elite parisian prostitute with last name schneider, maybe a past life… women in photography exhibit, giant inner working of clock, my monets

IMG_6602.jpg

IMG_6615.jpg

IMG_6616.jpg

tour with ethan’s mom – local view, born and raised, best pastries, stories from long ago

IMG_6629.jpg

thanksgiving dinner with family complete with my favorite, a delicious homemade pumpkin pie

FullSizeRender-1.jpg

day ten:

fly home via iceland and maryland to st. louis to meet family for thanksgiving weekend

today, six months later, i remember:

i remember the graffiti. after coming from hong kong, the artistic expression flying by me through the train window was comforting. back in a space known for its creativity. the culture and language that gave us avant garde. without stalking the historical cafes where artist after artist stewed over music and poetry, i felt it in the air. in the architecture. in the opera. in the fashion. in the people. there is a certain hype that surrounds paris, and i will remember being entirely swept up in it.

i remember the aloneness. i haven’t walked around alone in a big city in quite some time. aimlessly wandering the streets with no specific destination in mind. seeing where a left might take me instead of a right. missing a subway station on purpose so i can backtrack by foot through the chaos. walking around paris reminded me of when i lived in buenos aires. they say it is the paris of south america, and if i had to go by the way both cities made me feel, i’d have to agree. the magic is palpable. to passerbys, my joy probably was too.

i remember the meals. my aunt and cousins sat down together for dinner almost every night. the bell would ring and supper would be served. the busyness of the day would come to a pause as we all gathered around the table to fuel our bodies with food and minds with conversation. perhaps they don’t do this all the time. maybe it was because i was in town. but, either way, it was a cherished gift. a chance to get to know the relatives who have lived so far away all this time. a chance to learn and debate and laugh and eat fresh baguettes and drink french wine.

i’ll always remember what i remember. the specifics aren’t really that important anymore.

alone in paris: settling in

paris.

you hear so much about the city of love. and for me, it lived up to every word. a lifetime of expectation entirely exceeded. ten days to soak in the french and their palace of a city…

when i arrived at the airport, instead of being welcomed with a hug from my auntie, i was greeted with a text message telling me to pop on the train. that the terrorists (i arrived days after terrorist attacks.) were being seized in a neighborhood near the airport and that traffic was a nightmare. so, i figured out how to get a ticket to the country and stared out the window for an hour or so, doe-eyed.

straightaway my cousin-in-law swept me up from the train station and started his tour guiding role. a stroll around the castle of la madeleine, a beautiful medieval fortress overlooking chevreuse.

IMG_6346

IMG_6334

a quick stop for lunch at an all frozen food store, then home to their cozy house in saint remy.

IMG_6348

after the chaos of china, it was so nice to settle into family life. meal times and routine were a welcome change.

despite jet lag, i rallied and joined my aunt for a night out in paris. a delicious vegan meal with some longtime expats followed by a truly french musical performance in the small one room basement of a small one room bar.

IMG_6359

it was the sort of thing you’d imagine reading about or seeing in an old film. in my overly tired, dazed and confused state, it all felt so surreal. i wish i could have stayed awake and soaked in more, but alas, after the first performer (a friend of my aunt’s friend) i could not manage to keep my eyes open. but i had heard and seen enough already to know that i could easily fall in love with this city.

and on day two, i fell a little more.

despite a little rain, we strolled down near a canal and fantasized about owning one of the homes hugging the water’s edge.

IMG_6365

there is so much history in paris and its surrounding towns. my imagination was in overdrive flashing back to what it must have been like back when people hung out their windows to wash their clothes in the canal. or seeing the opening scene of beauty and the beast come to life before my very eyes. bonjour. bonjour. bonjour, bonjour, bonjour…

IMG_8769

we escaped the rain into a cute restaurant that apparently gets overrun by motorcyclists on the weekend, but today it was just us. i indulged in the traditional duck confit for lunch and profiteroles for dessert.

i had not yet gone into the city, but my family time in the country was just what i needed. every meal was filled with abundant conversation and rolling laughter. since my aunt, cousins, and second cousins have lived in france my whole life, i don’t get to see them nearly enough. and yet, it was evident upon arrival that we were indeed related. once a schneider woman, always a schneider woman (regardless of last name).

with jet lag dissipating and a good night’s sleep ahead, it was time to finally head into paris and see what the fuss was all about…