Wednesday, September 4, 2013

This airport beats most hotels!

If all airports offered these amenities, hotels could become obsolete and traveling could truly be relaxing from start to finish!
Note: There is also a prayer room, playground, Hello Kitty themed breast feeding room (with matching pay phones), garden, internet center and more at this cushy airport in Taiwan.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Now stuck in the middle of a typhoon in the Philippines... of course, of course, many of you are not surprised I'm sure! Chaos, calamity, non-stop adventure, welcome to my world. 
Aside from trying to avoid being swept away by this torrential storm, I'm not sure what to think... My first impressions of this place are a bit jumbled. Where to go, what to do now, mmhhh???
Despues de una parada en Taiwan, estoy atrapado en Las Filipinas en medio de una tormenta grande. Ay!
Asia I'm back! After not sleeping for 31 hrs, then sitting next to a germ spreading, screaming baby on my flight for 13 hrs & now finding myself stuck in Taiwan for 10+ hrs, I deserve the patience award! But considering I nabbed this flight for free, I guess I can't complain! Now off to work on my Chinese & figure out what to do in my next stop, Manila... (suggestions appreciated) =) — at 臺灣桃園國際機場第一航廈 Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport Terminal 1.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Costa Rica's Osa Peninsula: How a small place makes a big difference

What does a sea turtle and a macaw have in common? Physiologically not much, but geographically they are neighbors and inhabitants of a pristine stretch 
of Costa Rican rainforest called the Osa Peninsula. Home to a vast array of diverse plant and animal life, National Geographic labeled this virgin land the most biologically intense place on earth. 

Photo by Marco Bollinger

Less than half the size of Rhode Island, this natural wonder is home to half of Costa Rica's species, and contains 2.5% of the world's bio-diversity. So naturally it is a treasure trove for nature lovers, 
scientists and conservationists alike. However, 
the very things that make this area so special and 
sought after as an eco-tourism leader, 
are being threatened by looming plans for development of a new airport and cruise ship terminal. 

Founders of iSeeiTravel, a media company which specializes in conscious, travel, Eytan Elterman and Marco Bollinger have combined their filmmaking and photography 
talents to create a documentary short promoting responsible and sustainable tourism in the Osa Peninsula. The idea is to encourage meaningful interaction with locals,
while minimizing the impact upon the local environment. 

The film called film called 2.5 Percent, follows the guys as they explore the depths of the Osa's vast rivers and lush forest. They are led by local guides who explain the importance of preserving the rainforest and its natural resources. In addition to providing sheer wonder and entertainment, this film will be used by non-profits to help raise awareness for responsible travel in this unspoiled region. With such an important message, it is pressing that the filmmakers reach their fundraising goal to see this project to its completion. They are so passionate for their cause that they have essentially barricaded themselves in a small room for the past 3 days, dancing around in hot, cumbersome animal costumes in order to fully fund their campaign! 
One can only imagine how exhausted and sweaty Marco the Macaw and Eytan the Sea Turtle must be, yet they carry on as true wildlife warriors, entertaining while raising awareness for this worthy cause. 

Marco the Macaw and Eytan the Sea Turtle rock hard to save the Osa

Anyone can show their support by visiting and making a donation, or contribute by simply passing along the message.
Supporters who pledge just $5 get a special dance from the costumed characters, as well as their name listed on the supporter wall and film credits. Those who can give more will get T-shirts, custom photo postcards, and goodie bags filled with a variety of limited items. Possibly the greatest perk, is the unforgettable eco-lodge adventure in Costa Rica that a lucky few will experience with their larger donation. In addition to these fantastic packages, supporters of this campaign will have the satisfaction of knowing their efforts have impacted entire species, regions, and the planet. 
For more info on sustainable travel, or other ways you can help, check out

Friday, July 29, 2011

Benvenido a Miami!

While en route to Medellin, Colombia, I found myself back in Miami, Florida. The sudden detour is a long story of course. I am thriving in the 100 degree heat and working on my tan! Staying at home with local friends has proven to be no less than a comical adventure. In my first night I learned how to catch unidentified flying objects (bugs) with one swipe of my hand, I learned how to pick a lock in under 10 seconds, and new tricks to evading those blood draining mosquitoes. Within 24 hours I made it to a few cool dance clubs, saw a live Brazilian band, watched a series of performances at a Haitain theater company, ate some amazing Cuban food, and helped catch a few mice and other critters! It's been an eventful first few hours to say the least.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

A suitcase and some grapes

In the past, I've typically spent New Year's Eve partying like a rock star.
This year, I spent it eating a bowl of sugar covered grapes, with a lot of children, and an empty suitcase.

For those who may not be familiar with this tradition, allow me to explain.
In many parts of Mexico, there are certain traditions which are carried forward from generation to generation every Christmas, New Years and Day of the Kings, on January 6th. Since I was staying at home with the family, who all prefer to keep the tradition alive, we all got dressed up to stay inside! It didn't make sense until later in the evening when crowds of neighbors, family and friends would wonder in and out of the house as they party hopped around town from house to house.

After eating several servings of a scrumptiously prepared meal of Caldo de Camarón (shrimp soup) with tenderly cooked pork roast, vegetables, mole (chilli sauce with- yes, chocolate) and tortillas of course; I struggled to move my inflated belly away from the table. Instead of being grabbed by my date for a midnight kiss, this year I was embraced by several children and each member of the Garcia family for a hug and a toast only after we ate our twelve sugar covered grapes at the stroke of midnight. Each grape is supposed to signify luck for each month of the new year. However, I didn't get to finish all twelve grapes (nervously biting my nails), because I had no more room in my belly after having already overeaten. I also had to run outside of the house after the family, who grabbed suitcases to run around the block in honor of another tradition. While they ran outside, I - belly filled with shrimp,
pork, tortillas and more, waddled behind them like a duck; or more like a woman pregnant with sextuplets!

As we strolled around the dark streets illuminated with Christmas lights and elaborate Nativity scenes in front of each home, we passed countless people in their finest clothing doing the same.
I had to duck out of the way a few times as everyone seemed to be shooting fireworks and guns in the street. Running and ducking behind corners in my blue, satin, above the knee strapless dress, faux fur coat and wedge heels was both exciting and frightening at the same time. When I arrived back to the house I was stunned to see that there were at least forty people who had just suddenly dropped by. Before I went outside only the immediate family (just twelve of us) were there for dinner, but the front door was open so random friends and neighbors on late night walks suddenly kept dropping by. The house party continued until the next afternoon while I went on a hunt to find the six un-eaten grapes I didn't get to finish!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

It's salsa time... and I don't mean the food!

Finalmente, fui a bailar salsa!

Although I realize that banda, rock, tejano and norteño are traditionally more popular genres of music in Mexico, I know so many amazing salsa dancers who are from various parts of the country. So naturally I expected that there would be more than just one official salon for dancing salsa. To my dismay, this was not the case.

So after waiting days for the club to re-open on Thursday, I was so excited when Ivan and Nancy took me to MamaRumba to get my salsa fix. My heart filled with anticipation as we pulled up to the club around midnight. There were countless people waiting in line and a small crowd gathered around a man cooking Chicharrón (fried pork rinds) out front. Despite the seductive smell of fresh baked pastries and deep fried food, I practically ran inside and immediately stripped off my many layers of heavy clothing as a death row inmate might consume his last meal.

I have to admit that I was quite pleased with the spacious two-story building, walls adorned modern with Mexican and Caribbean works of art. Both floors were packed wall to wall with people dancing
as if a large cash prize were being awarded to the victors.
The stirring sounds of the clave, timbales and congas roused a carnal appetite deep within me. I felt the hairs on my arm rise when the shrill sound of the trumpets made their debut, as if to command the attention of all who were present. The smooth vocal styling of singers in the ten piece orchestra set my soul at ease. Just as I took a step closer to the stage, I felt a tug at my hand then turned around to find a suavely dressed young man pleading for me to dance with him. Just as I prepared my self to do so, he asked me to wait then disappeared into the crowd. I being my antsy self, turned away on a mission to find someone else to dance with. But before I could, the dapperly dressed mystery man had returned, this time he offered me a white rose, grabbed my free hand to kiss it then said some line I was sure I had previously heard in some romantic comedy from the nineties.
I danced with him once before being whisked away by some other guy.

Eventually I asked an athletic Cuban guy to dance with me and boy did I get the ride of my life! He flipped, dipped and tossed me like croutons in a salad! Although I'm no amateur, it turns out he he's a current salsa dance title holder. Needless to say my muscles were cramping and my lungs thoroughly deprived of oxygen after dancing the 13 minute song with him. I felt as if I had just run a marathon after smoking a pack of cigarettes. Ay! I realized that I hadn't died of exhaustion and gone to salsa heaven when he lifted me from the ground to behold the crowd of people who now encircled us with loud applause and cheers. Suddenly men were tugging on both arms simultaneously to dance with them. I became overwhelmed and hadn't felt so out of shape in a long time. But just as athlete pushes
one self to finish an event, I danced non-stop with around thirty partners.

I was most excited to meet a group of of fellow morenitos from Cuba, who welcomed and embraced me like a family member. After being starred at, poked and prodded at like an alien life form by so many locals all week, it felt good to be accepted and made to feel normal again. The funny thing is that two of the guys insisted I was lying about my not being Cuban. All week I was advised not to advertise that I was from America, and understandably so with all of the kidnappings and bloodshed occurring all over the country. So the one night I finally admitted that I'm part American, an argument ensued over the fact that I didn't dance or speak Spanish like an American so couldn't possibly be so!

After twirling, dipping and sweating until my feet were on fire that night, I had to be pried from the dance floor by my friends who had had their fill of mojitos, crowded walkways and slippery, sweaty bodies grinding against their dry skin all night. Although it may take days for me to recover from this marathon salsa session, I met some wonderful people and got a serious work out all in one stop!