Bullet Journals R Us

Back in July, I decided to start a bullet journal (or what I like to call a dot journal to my friend’s chagrin). Various events sparked this decision:

 

1.) My ridiculously creative sister-in-law told me about the dot bullet journal and showed me hers.

2.)  My eldest niece is a craft maniac and extremely introverted. I’ve decided to work on my own crafting skills as a way for us to spend quality time together without feeling a need to keep a conversation going. She’s not always one for much talking, so I better learn other ways to communicate with her. Quickly.

3.) A former professor of mine who traveled who traveled around Indonesia when she was 20-something (but is now retired) encouraged me to journal as much as I could about this time in my life.

Since this will be my fifth and final year living abroad, I’m trying to capture the beauty and annoyances in my life.

So far, I’ve made two mini vision boards in my dot journal. I adore the habits tracker (item #13 in the BuzzFeed article I linked above) and even started following some bullet journal devotees on Instagram.

A significant chunk of my bullet journal is dedicated to gratitude. When the political riots broke out while I was living in Venezuela, I had to focus on little things to make me happy. As a way to wrap up my final year overseas, I’m returning to that. Consequently, I’ll be posting about trips I’ve taken since moving to Asia that  have made me richer in terms of memories and experiences. Please stay tuned for that!

On another note, do you keep a journal? If so, what tips do you have for being consistent with your writing?

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Hurricane Harvey is A Hard Reset

I was born and raised in Houston, Texas. As I’ve written about before on this blog, the diversity that surrounded me as a child and teenager was the best education I could’ve ever received.

Last month, Hurricane Harvey came and devastated my city. I followed the news while far away in Jakarta and, naturally, worried about my parents.

I feel beyond blessed because my parents did not lose their lives or their homes. The worst that happened was that my father’s car got flooded out when attempting to drive in the city before all of the waters receded.

At least one subdivision zoned to my former high school had to be evacuated, but my little neck of the woods didn’t experience any flood damage even after the reservoirs were opened to prevent the dams from bursting.

Hurricane Harvey has been the computer technician who gave my outlook on life a hard reset. I still get upset with work drama and have visions of being a healthier person, but a huge part of me just doesn’t care anymore.

Someone says something that annoys me? I get peeved but think My family’s still OK though. 

My hair’s being its normal self and not wanting to cooperate? My family’s still OK though.

My family’s still OK though.

My city will have to rebuild, but as long as I can rebuild with my mom and dad the rest of life’s drama will be like the floodwater: something that has to return to its source (re: the ocean and/or the negative X factor in my life) and leave me the hell alone.

My new goal for the remainder of this year and beyond is to really let go of the bitterness I’ve carried concerning people and/or institutions that I think have hurt me. I recently had two painful sessions where a physical therapist of sorts massaged/pounded out all of the knots in my muscles.

I had no idea I was carrying that much tension in my body.

The release made me want to cry. It also made me vow to let stuff go because the body will tell on me even if my lips don’t.

So, Hurricane Harvey, you’ve forced me to take a hard look in the mirror. I want to change for the better, and I may just document some of that journey here.

Portland, Maine: Encounters with Kindness

When my friends and I decided to take a girls’ trip to Portland, no one told us that Maineites??? Mainers would give Southerners a run for our money where hospitality is concerned.

Case in point: While taking a break on the Back Cove Trail that was filled with walkers, joggers, and bikers, a female jogger literally stopped mid-stride to approach us.

“Are you all OK? Do you need directions anywhere? I see that you’re tourists because you all have matching bikes,” she said while motioning to our orange rentals, “so I wanted to help.”

We were floored. This woman stopped her exercise routine for us?! After receiving directions from her and admiring once again the people, we continued on our way. This was not our first, nor would it be our last, encounter with kindness. People waved from the street as we drove by, were courteous drivers, asked if we were models (that’s always a way to a girl’s heart), and the list goes on.

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Back to School, Back to Blogging

It’s been a while since I’ve blogged. Though I have privately written a teeny bit here and there, I decided that back to school would mean that I returned back to blogging too. In the six months since I last posted, I observed orangutans in the wild, vacationed in Maine, walked around NYC’s streets, and perused through the National Museum of African American History and Culture in D.C. As a commitment to my blogging and myself, I’ll post about all of those past trips and much more in the weeks to come.

But this blog post is not about that. As I wrote about in February, I’ve been very upset about Trump’s election, inauguration, and presidency.  

Since I’m based in Jakarta and 11 hours ahead of EST, waking up to news about the nighttime Klan rally in Charlottesville was upsetting, Heather Heyer’s death was horrifying, and Trump’s infamous comments about “many sides” was disgusting.

I’m a Southern Black woman, capitalization intended. Whether you’re burning tiki torches or a cross, I know what you’re alluding to.

So, I’ve decided to stop biting my tongue. I have no patience for apologists. Quite frankly, I don’t even want to debate with ignorance because it makes me more stupid in the process.

One thing I will post more about is the giving circle I created back in January as a response to Trump. Embedded is a speech I wrote for a group of alumnae explaining more about it. Essentially, a group of people pool money together and then donate it to a specific organization. Our giving circle’s mission is to donate to organizations that push back against Trump’s agenda. Since January, we’ve donated $3,590 to organizations ranging from Equal Justice Initiative to Planned Parenthood.

Feel free to reach out if you want to learn more about starting your own giving circle. The visual that accompanied the speech I gave can be found here. 

Chiang Mai, Thailand

Located in northern Thailand, Chiang Mai is known as an artsy, culturally rich (but in reality, isn’t every place where humans are culturally rich?) part of Thailand.

By the time I reached Chiang Mai for a five day stay, my body was weary from all of the travel. Little did I know that I would end up sick in bed a day after I returned to Jakarta. The culprit? A variation of Strep throat.

Since I didn’t know what was brewing in my body, I chalked up my wish to lounge around and read, not visit temples and just be, to me having too packed of an itinerary.

Here are some suggestions for things to do:


Wander around Warorot Market

I’d gotten it into my head that I wanted a bamboo steamer. Though I ended up not purchasing one, seeing a market, to quote a good friend, is a great way to get a culture’s pulse. Purchase the Thai version of Tiger Balm (that stuff is the truth!), dried fruit, and whatever else catches your fancy.

Eat at the Salad Concept

I begrudgingly went into here when walking around the Nihammen neighborhood. Stereotypical Texan, I’m not about eating too many plant-based meals for too long. Now, I’ve cut down on my meat consumption significantly and have not experienced getting sick nearly as much as I did my previous years abroad, but still…

I am ever glad that I did stop in here…twice. In one day. Freshly pressed mango and ginger juice; chicken, pumpkin, olives, red beans, and much more wraps; mint chocolate cake; tea; a mango-pineapple shake, the list goes on.

Explore artsy Nihammen (allegedly)

Now, I’ll be honest, I didn’t see anything in Nihammen except closed shops and traffic. Since I was there right after the New Year, I feel like I’d need to stay in the area to get a better feel for what it’s about. It’s highly recommended though. Unfortunately, I can’t say I saw anything in particular.

20170103_180209Visit More Markets (the Night Bazaar and tie Tha Phae Gate Market)

Of the two, I would highly recommend the Tha Phae Gate Market. At that market I had amazing shrimp dumplings, a Chiang Mai sausage (I wasn’t a fan), fresh passion fruit juice that brought tears to my eyes because it tasted just like the parchita I used to drink weekly in Venezuela, and mango & sticky rice. I also picked up beautiful scarves (I appreciated the vendor honestly telling me they were not handmade), fresh OJ, and souvenirs. I eyed a waffle stand, but didn’t partake. There are weekend markets too within the city walls, but I didn’t go to those.

Ride out to the Elephant Jungle Sanctuary

EJS is more than an hour outside of Chiang Mai. I did the half day tour, which had me bumping in the back of one of those soft-top trucks with Argentinians, Canadians, other Americans, and a Scandinavian woman who was also traveling solo. The sanctuary encompasses a small space (or, rather, where, the tourists go), so it’s not like any serious hiking is involved. You can feed the elephants and bathe them (Prepare yourself for when they defecate. It’s quickly cleaned up, but it is what it is.). The money goes to a great cause and taught me not to ride elephants.

Take a Cooking Class at Zabb E. Lee Thai Cooking School

Along with the Tha Phae Gate Market, this was the highlight of my stay in Chiang Mai. After a short trip to a small market (where I picked up some saffron threads), we were cooking up a storm in the place! I made spring rolls, green curry paste, chicken in coconut milk soup, green curry with chicken, and mango with sticky rice. Everything was delicious. The best part was that each student received a small cookbook afterward. I’ve since made the recipes again, and I love them because they’re simple, quick to make, and high in flavor.

Bangkok, Thailand

My first trip to Bangkok was packed with ornate temples, delectable food, and thankfulness.

Like I’ve posted about before, I had absolutely no interest in Asia (aside from India) growing up. Even when living in Australia, I kept it to OZ and New Zealand while friends flew to Thailand and Japan.

Ten years later find me living in an Asian country and a visitor of five others. You just never know.

I would like to return to Bangkok before leaving the region for good. Right now, Thailand is in an unofficial period of mourning since the king died. As an American, it was very interesting for me to see tons of people wearing black on any given day. Billboards honoring the king were everywhere. Since I’m from a country where it’s not permitted for one person to rule for decades, I couldn’t fully understand what I saw.

I suppose something on an infinitely smaller scale will occur when President Barack Obama passes. But the billboards outside every business, the all black, the pilgrims to the Grand Palace also dressed in black, and the free street food to feed the pilgrims and visitors alike? Won’t happen in the States.

Regardless, here are some suggestions for things to do that I got from 36 Hours in Bangkok. 

 Visit the Grand Palace EARLY.

I made the mistake of showing up about an hour after the place opened. It’s the first time where I feel like describing the crowd as ‘hordes of people’ actually fits. Tour guides hoisted poles in the air so their groups could track them in the crowd, various languages buzzed about, and the place was just packed. Despite all that, it’s worth the crowds to see the ornate buildings.

Note: Bring your passport or a passport copy (they let me in with that) to get into the place. You also must cover your shoulders and wear bottoms that come below the knee. My rule of thumb now is a short-sleeved shirt and either capris or pants because once in Cambodia long skirts were not allowed to enter a temple. Finally, wear shoes you can take on and off easily since you have to remove shoes when entering religious sites.

500 Baht entrance fee, 200 Baht audio set (must leave a credit card or passport as collateral)

Wander around Wat Pho (Reclining Buddha)

Since there’ll be a long line to see the Reclining Buddha, I would suggest starting at the smaller stupas and then ending with the Reclining Buddha. I’m good for getting lost, so (of course) I accidentally walked out of the complex without seeing the statue. Thankfully, the security guard gave me directions for how to re-enter.

100 Baht entrance fee (included a coupon for bottled water)

dsc05632Peak at Wat Arun aka Temple of the Dawn

Wat Arun is under significant scaffolding right now. That being said, I’m still glad I went to it. By this point in the day, I was “templed out” though, so I didn’t stay long. When waiting in line to board the ferry back, enjoy the fresh fruit and a Thai coconut. The fruit is extraordinary and sweet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

20161228_190413Eat at Chon Thai

OK, I have to be honest. I got terrible motion sickness when using the ferry to get around Bangkok. I loved the cultural experience of it, but sensory overload kicked in. By the time I took Chon Thai’s private boat, I felt nauseous before even boarding.  I mean, standing on the cement pier and watching the floating pier bob in the choppy water got me so dizzy I had to turn my back to the water.

At Chon Thai, I nodded at the formal greeting line and had to head straight to the restroom. Hearing the water lap made me sick. I took one bite of my delicious dinner and had to box everything up.

I did meet a lovely Black woman though. So, while she ate, I sipped tea and Spite to calm my stomach. She then gave me a tour of the hotel. It’s stunning, pure and simple.

When the attentive staff asked me if I would like to take the boat back, I had to give a polite no. I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy to see a worn taxi and long stretches of highway as I was that night.

Visit Other Temples if Interested

I went to the Golden Mountain though, respectfully, I enjoyed the sound of the bells more than anything about the actual place. I also stumbled into another temple complex when I was trying to find the Golden Mountain because, you know, I always get lost.

Get a Thai Massage at Touch

This was my very first Thai massage, and I loved it. Though at times it feels like you’re wrestling with a stranger on a low-slung mattress, I felt my muscles and joints were more relaxed afterward. I ended up getting three Thai massages in about 10 days.  🙂

Dine at Nahm 

Delicious. Elegant. Classy. ’nuff said!

I would highly recommend staying at Loog Choob Homestay. I fell in love with my room and liked that it was a short bus ride (approximately 20 minutes) to the Grand Palace.

Palawan, Philippines Part Three (A Recommitment to Joy)

As I posted yesterday, I’ve decided to focus on my joy as a form of self-care.

The last of my holiday in the Philippines was definitely a time of joy. If ever in Palawan, island hopping and a visit to Nacpan Beach are musts.

I’ll let the photos do the rest of the talking.

Note: That blue, blue water is from kayaking at the Small Lagoon. The impossibly turquoise blue water inspired my travel buddy to sing songs from The Little Mermaid. Other tourists, smiled and laughed. How could you not in the face of such beauty?