Category Archives: Travel

Wanderlust

I’ve been thinking a lot about traveling lately. How I miss it, and planning hypothetical trips to help motivate me and get serious about saving money. 

I was also thinking about how different travel is when you are going solo vs when you have a family. When I went to Greece, I wasn’t alone, but I didn’t know anyone initially. I went to Italy with one other person, but the friend we were going to stay with canceled on us at the last minute, so we were totally on our own finding places to stay (with very, very little funds). And then on my trip to Japan, I was completely alone with no concrete plans on where to stay. 

Those trips were 50% exhilarating and 50% terrifying. It’s kind of fun not knowing where you’re going and flying by the seat of your pants. I think the most growth and excitement comes from those times. In Rome we joked (mostly) about sleeping in a park because we couldn’t find anywhere that had a vacancy that we could afford. (Side note: my wallet was stolen a few days before the trip so I didn’t have a credit card or bank card, only about 300 Euros in cash…to last a week.)

I can’t even fathom doing that now. I mean, I still have that desire to pick a place, buy plane tickets, and figure it all out when I get there, but I don’t want to do that with a family. 

What stirred up all of these thoughts was first remembering a man who helped me in Tokyo. I was lost (I don’t have the best track record, huh?), it was snowing, and it was midnight. Once again I was surveying the area to see if there was a safe spot to set up camp, and this person, who I could not communicate with in any real way saved me.

I can remember the scene so perfectly in my mind, it was snowing pretty hard and there was a figure on top of a hill with his tripod taking photos of the blanket of white snow that covered everything. I wish I had taken a photo or could paint, so that I could remember if forever. I’ve copied my journal entry below: 

“It started snowing. Even though I hoped it would be a little bit warmer here than in the States, it was absolutely beautiful

The next part of my day was not my favorite. I was exhausted and wasn’t meeting Miriam until 10pm. It was only about 8, so I decided I’d relax on the metro for an extra stop or two to kill some time. I got off a few stops later and tried to take the same line back, but I ended up on an express instead of a local. I completely missed my stop and had to take another train back again. I stopped to get another coffee because at this point I felt like I was about to fall over any minute. I went into a burger place in the train station and the only open seat was in the smoking section. I felt more and more drained by the minute. When I finally made it to our meeting spot I was about 15 minutes late and not even sure if I was at the right metro entrance. I walked a block to the other side to see if Miriam was there but she wasn’t. I waited a little bit, unsure if I’d be able to find my way back to her place in the dark and alone.

My first thought was just to find a hotel room for the night and try to email Miriam to tell her I was okay….but there wasn’t a hotel in sight. Businesses were starting to close and I couldn’t even find anyone to point me in the direction of somewhere to stay. My phone was dead, and at this point it had been snowing for hours. (It only snowed a few inches but it had been the most snowfall they had had in a while.) I went into survival mode and started looking around for corners that I could bundle up in, in case I couldn’t walk any further. While I was walking I was recognizing the area a little bit from passing through in the morning. I decided to try to find Miriam’s place anyway. She lives in a very rural area and all the houses look the same. After finally making it to her neighborhood and walking around for what seemed like forever I started to wonder if this was an even worse idea.

It was close to midnight. It was still snowing, and I was sliding around everywhere in inches of snow…in my Vibrams. (I love these shoes but at this moment, wearing them was the worst mistake.) I saw a man with a tripod set up in the middle of the street taking photos of the snow fall. I can’t tell you how happy I was to see another living human being (I was also praying he wasn’t a psychopath). I pulled out my now soaked paper map (with no street names, just a park and a star that says “Miriam’s House”), and tried to communicate that I was lost. He spoke not one lick of English.

But this man was an angel.

He put away his camera equipment and brought me to his house. I tried to stand outside because I was soaked. My pants were wet up to my knees. I wasn’t sure if I even had feet anymore they were so cold. My hair was soaked and I had been sobbing (although I was so wet and frozen you couldn’t really tell). I’d only been in Japan for a day, but I quickly learned how important cleanliness is, especially taking off your shoes in the designated area, and wearing slippers throughout the house. I peeled off my Vibrams and again tried to stand in the shoe area, but this man and his wife gave me dry slippers and insisted I come inside. The man tried to compare a Google map to my hand drawn map, and his wife made me a cup of coffee. I gave him the phone number I had for Miriam and he called her. It turns out I was in back of her place diagonally. I honestly don’t know if I would’ve ever found it on my own. This amazingly kind man walked me to her house and made sure I got in safe. I wish I could’ve done something for him in return. He took in a complete stranger, in the middle of the night, who didn’t even speak his language. He may have saved my life.

I started to wonder if coming to Japan by myself was such a great idea after all.

(I later learned that Miriam had actually been 30 minutes late, so if I had waited a little longer I might have caught her. Also, turns out there was a Manga cafe that was 24 hours that I could’ve hung out in.)”

I don’t know what made me think of this man and his wife 7 years later. I hope they are well. I hope he eventually got his photo of the beautiful snowy landscape he was trying for. I wish I had done something at the time to show them how much their generosity meant to me. They opened their home in the middle of the night, to not only a stranger, but to a soaking wet foreigner that couldn’t communicate at all, clothed me with clean, dry slippers, fed me, gave me a hot cup of coffee, and helped me find my way home. 

Maybe there are so many scary and bad things going on in our country and the world right now that my mind needed to remind me that there are incredibly kind people out there too. 

 

Vendy Awards 2016

[Warning, this post is image heavy!]

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This past weekend was the Vendy Awards on Governer’s Island in NY. I love the Vendy’s. I went for the first time in 2014 when I won VIP tickets, and I’ve been going (VIP style) ever since. The Vendy Awards celebrate, support, and bring awareness to street vendors and their struggles.

I highly recommend attending the Vendy’s, and really suggest getting early bird VIP tickets. Perks of the VIP tickets include, getting in an hour before general admission opens, a swag bag full of goodies, open bar, and shaded seating area. Getting in as early as possible is essential because the lines get LONG.

Get VIP tickets so you can walk around like this before the lines get long.

The  first thing I tried was Raindrop Cake. The black cane sugar and blueberry lavender were vegan. I was excited about trying it since it’s described as a ‘raindrop made for your mouth’. It was really interesting – in a good way. It was sweet and melted in your mouth. Both syrups were good, and I liked the black can sugar the best.

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Next up was Monk’s Meats and the best word to describe their sliders is “wow”. Their seitan is absolutely incredible. I can’t even put into words how good their food was and I’m more than a little upset that I can’t eat it on a regular basis. The  Bulgogi was my favorite since it had a spicy Gochujang mayo that was out of this world, but they were all so delicious. I would give just about anything to get my hands on their seitan recipe.dsc_0708dsc_0709monksmeats
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dsc_0710 Next stop was Yeah Dawg, another all vegan vendor that I was super excited about. I got the Viva Dawg and my mom got the Bulldawg. The coconut bacon and chipotle mayo were perfect.We loved them, and my only regret was not going back for seconds to try the other kinds.

The dogs were really, really good. They’re made out of normal ingredients, root veggies, sunflower seeds, gluten free flour, and herbs and spices. These tasted better than any “real” hot dog I’ve ever had.
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At this point, I was already started to feel a tiny bit stuffed, and there were still so many vendors to try. Sweetface Snoballs was next to Yeah Dawg and serves up New Orleans style snoballs. Only one of the three flavors they had didn’t have dairy in it, so I went with that one, the Nola Voodoo. It was really rich and sweet. There was a always a huge line through out the day and I can understand why, it was a perfect delicious treat on a beautiful day. For some reason I didn’t snap a photo of my snoball – probably because I was too busy eating it. dsc_0723 dsc_0726

The Jerk Shack was right next to the snoballs, so my mom and I each got a plate of their offerings. They offered very generous portions of their authentic Caribbean cuisine and they were both delicious.
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There was a mixture of types of trucks that I could eat at, some were 100% vegan, others were in the vegan category that normally serve both vegan and non vegan food, then there were non vegan trucks that specially made some vegan dishes even though it wasn’t their norm.

Los Viojeros had a veggie option, and they were nice enough to make me a special dish that didn’t have the cheese or aioli. The plantains, peppers and onions were a nice combo, and I thought it was really nice of them to make me something separate. dsc_0734img_20160917_121107

Bamboo Bites was another vendor in the vegan category. They had two sticky rice options, one with mango and the other with tofu in a peanut sauce.  They were both really good. I always love mango sticky rice, and the tofu in peanut sauce was really tasty. Again, I kind of failed on the photo front here. Too busy stuffing things in my mouth to get a good photo I guess!

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There’s a general admission bar (above) and a VIP bar (below).dsc_0738

I got a Mediterranean Mule – Figenza Fig Vodka, Ginger Beer, and Lime Juice. I can’t even remember the last time I had vodka or any kind of hard liquor (seriously like 2 or 3 years ago on New Years Eve), but I love figs, so I got one and wow, was it good. dsc_0740 I tried the whiskey and learned that I’m not a whiskey person. They also had gin and tonics, but since I don’t like gin, I just got a tonic water.
dsc_0786 dsc_0789 Another vegetarian vendor that went out of their way to be vegan friendly was Matzahbrei. I loved their sign “All Vegetarian – *Make it vegan (Just ask the guy)”. I asked for a vegan Yannis, and waited with a few other vegans for them to make it fresh. I was a little unsure of the beets, mint, and tahini combo, but it was REALLY good. At this point I was starting to really feel the mass amounts of food I had eaten, but I would’ve gone back and asked for more if I had the stamina.  Also major thanks for making a special vegan option!
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A sponsor, Casper, had nap pods with their mattresses. I didn’t try it out, but it looked…interesting.
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Another sponsor was Uprooted. I got a pretty silk flower crown. From now on, I will only be referred to as Sunflower Moon Goddess whenever I wear it!dsc_0765 dsc_0766 When I first walked through, I missed Mysttik Masaala, which was was very unfortunate because their food was incredible. I know I’ve pretty much said that about everyone, but all of these guys are the best of the best. I tried the red bean, potatoes, and spinach dishes. At this point I was taking a couple bites, walking around, taking a few more bites…because I was so full. But it was SO good.  And spicy. And I could really go for more right now.dsc_0768 dsc_0770
dsc_0778 dsc_0780The coveted Vendy Cup!

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dsc_0798 We had skipped over Tuson Sate originally because we wanted to try all the vegan stuff first and got pretty full pretty fast. Towards the end of the day I noticed they had a tempeh option and gave it a try. They asked if I wanted it vegan (seriously blows my mind when someone asks without me saying it first) and they had separate tempeh that they served up. It was good and some of the best tempeh I’ve had.
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A few hours in, they were all out of water … and soda … and seltzer, so I got a beer.
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There was a huge crowd for the awards ceremony. There were two guest vegan judges, Adam Sobel of the Cinnamon Snail and Chloe Coscarelli – basically my two celebrity vegan idols.  I really wanted to get photos with them, but I didn’t see them walking around.

Monk’s Meats won the People’s Choice award, and Mysttik Masaala won Judge’s choice in the vegan category. In past years, there was usually one stray vegan vendor in each category, so it was easy to know who to vote for, but this year having a devoted category it was so hard! Each of them were incredible and it was great having different kinds of foods.
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After stuffing my face as much as possible, I walked around the island a little bit (but apparently not far enough because somehow I missed The Hills). I LOVE Governer’s Island. I love the architecture of the historic buildings, I love the views of Manhattan, I love all of the art exhibits.

On the day of the Vendy’s, it was also World War I Doughboy Day. I was lucky enough to catch the last performance of ‘Eugene Bullard, America’s first black fighter pilot’ portrayed by actor Chadd Gray. It was informative and captivating. The actor did such a wonderful job of really honoring Bullard and bringing his legend to life.

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Overall, it was a beautiful day and a beautiful event. Everything was organized really well (except for running out of water), and I cannot wait for next year. Please have a vegan category always!!img_20160917_170555smaller

What I Learned at my First Protest

Circus Protest
Last week, I went to protest the use of animals for entertainment, specifically in the Ringling Brothers Circus. It was my first time going to such a gathering, actually I don’t think I’ve ever been to any event that had protesters at it at all. I was nervous, yet excited. I had planned to go last year, but had come up with excuses not to go at the last minute.

Now, the main purpose of wanting to go was to stand up for the animals that are confined in cages for most of their lives and “trained” with whips and bullhooks, but it was also a huge learning experience for me. I was apprehensive to go at first because I detest confrontation. I avoid it at all costs, so how am I going to tell someone they are wrong for bringing their children to the circus? What if someone came up to me and asked a question I couldn’t answer, or what if there was actual violence? One’s food choices and subsequent support of animal abuse ranks right up there with religion and politics when it comes to heated topics. Did I mention I hate confrontation?

I decided that even if I stood there and held a sign and said absolutely nothing – that was okay. Same with if I went for 15 minutes and left feeling uncomfortable – at least I gave the experience a try.

So, I got to Hershey’s Chocolate World and wondered around a bit aimlessly looking for the meeting spot, until I met Olivia and Barb. They were super friendly, which was comforting. We walked to the spot in front of the Giant Center where people were already lining up and buying programs. The Giant Center has a 10’x10′ square that protesters are allowed to stand in.

I grabbed two signs, one that read ” They perform out of fear” and another that read “Caged and enraged. Whipped for your entertainment” with a picture of a caged tiger. Almost immediately a woman in a pink shirt came up to us (not me directly) and yelled “get a life!”, in a very passionate manner. She had a friend/family member calm her down and tell her “it’s not worth it” or something along those lines. I don’t even think I had picked up a sign yet and was a bit surprised at how angry she was. Not violent in any way, just angry. (Apparently at other showtimes two non protesters had to be escorted away by security for getting out of hand.)

Throughout the time there, some people in the group spoke up that the animals are abused and forced to perform, and that the elephants are being taken out, that the rest of the animals should be too. I felt more comfortable holding a sign and smiling at people. I learned a few things in my short amount of time standing there, one was that a lot of people made eye contact and smiled back. Almost a shocking amount of people. I expected people to either avoid eye contact and ignore us, or possibly to be angry.

Another thing that I noticed was that while a lot of adults did walk a little faster and ignore the group, kids were super curious. Children between 6-12 years old would stand still to read the signs. One girl asked her mom what was going on and the mother just ushered her away. I assume that most of the kids forgot about the people holding the signs out front once they were in the building with all of the lights and excitement, but I hope that it might have sparked some questions.

I heard a few more “get a life” comments throughout the evening, which didn’t bother me, but did make me think. We (Americans as a whole) have the right to protest something that we feel is unfair or unjust. I think the people that make those comments probably feel like they are being told they are wrong and get defensive, but to me, utilizing my right to protest is having a life. I’m standing up for what I believe in, and hopefully educating people who didn’t know that cruelty exists in the circus. One woman said she didn’t want to go in to the show anymore after seeing our signs. Her friends talked her back into it, but maybe it will prevent her from buying a ticket in the future.

Protesting the use of animals in the circus made me feel good. Not pat on the head, hooray for me feel good, but even if one person decided they weren’t going to support animal cruelty in the circus then I made a small change. It made me feel like I can use my voice to speak for those who can’t. Was it the most effective way to make a difference? I don’t know, but I felt called to do something. Will I do it again? Absolutely.

If you’re interested in more information about animals in the circus, here are a few resources, including a list of countries that ban animal circuses. There is no shortage of information out there about the reality of what happens to animals in the circus.

https://www.dosomething.org/us/facts/11-facts-about-circus-animal-abuse

https://www.paws.org/get-involved/take-action/explore-the-issues/circus-cruelty/

http://www.ifaw.org/international/news/which-countries-have-bestworst-records-banning-animals-circuses

http://www.mediapeta.com/peta/PDF/RinglingFactsheet.pdf

http://www.ringlingbeatsanimals.com/

http://www.motherjones.com/blue-marble/2011/11/ringing-bros-usda-fine-elephant-abuse

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