Thursday, November 27, 2014

A Moment to be Thankful

Thanksgiving is a uniquely American holiday, primarily centered on gathering with family for good food...and then going on shopping rampages afterwards. For me, I've witnessed others feel most homesick when spending this day abroad. We always made the best of it and each year, whether if I was in Taipei or Honduras, I was always thankful to be surrounded by people I loved and cared about.

I guess those warm and grateful feelings of spending this significant holiday with fellow foreigners and expats stuck with me. This year even though I'm back in Portland, I chose to have dinner with my dearest colleagues instead of relatives or family friends. I've been a Thanksgiving orphan for too long, so now there's something special about this special gathering with new friends. And the fact that each year I have friends to call my family on this day, that is a true blessing.

This year, like every year, I have more and more to be thankful for.

+I've moved back home to Portland, Oregon and have fallen in love with it all over again.
+I've gotten a job with one of the best companies on earth, and an amazing work family as well.
+I've moved into the neighborhood of my dreams and every day I feel lucky to walking to work.
+I've collected more passport stamps, saw many beautiful sights, and lived to tell about them.
+I've continued to meet and make friends that enrich my life and inspire me.
+I've learned to marvel and enjoy the simple pleasures of the world, like gourmet bread, falling autumn leaves, drinkable tap water, yoga pants, and long conversations.

Portland is my home because my best friend was waiting to pick me up at the airport on Tuesday night. I'm not a very mushy person and I didn't even tell her, but I was moved to tears that someone wanted to welcome me back after weeks of me arriving at unknown places alone. Years, I suppose. This year, after all my travels, I'm most thankful for familiar faces I love and a place to call HOME.

"Travel not to find yourself, but to remember who you've been all along."

Thursday, November 13, 2014

A Bit of Bolivia

I landed in La Paz on Tuesday, the capital city of Bolivia and highest in the world. All the emergency warnings about altitude sickness worried me a bit when I was on the plane, but my, the view of the Andes from Cochabamba was unforgettable. As soon as I landed I remembered to move slowly so that I wouldn't faint, and I didn't! Yay! 

La Paz is chaotic and smoggy, but somehow I find pockets of it to be simply charming. It's a tight city where everyone either takes taxis, hops on minibuses, or walks everywhere. There are cable lines making a jungle above street traffic, but no underground metro stations (my favorite! Boooo) The streets and buildings have colorful, weathered walls and the windows have seen better days, but they're beautiful to me that way. Most of the buildings are pretty low, and the streets are never level nor paved, so I can't see myself living here. Everywhere I walk is like going for a hike. I'm even wearing my hiking boots today! Sadly, I also discovered that their draught beers and coffee isn't very good at all. But the people are friendly and helpful, and I'm finally using my Spanish here! 

I've been shamelessly checking off the touristy to-do lists. First stop has been Sagamaga street, aka Gringo Alley. It's the touristy street where they sell handicrafts, and tour packages and etc. Surprisingly, there are barely any foreigners there. I was expecting parties on the streets and Austrailians in dreadlocks, but this street is relatively modest and calm. Most gringos here are just passing through after Macchu Picchu and heading down south. I enjoyed browsing through the stalls of gorgeous rainbow hammocks, pillow cases, leather satchels, and trinklets but only bought bracelets due to my limited luggage situation (thee big backpack). 

I also walked to Calle Juan (preserved history alley way), people watched at multiple plazas (pigeons galore!), zipped through museums, rode the scenic cable car, hiked up the San Francisco church's bell towers, browsed Witch's market (dried baby llamas ehhhh) and ate a ton of street food to make that typhoid vaccine worth it. I think if you're as ambitious as me, two days in La Paz is more than enough to do everything. Everything is super cheap too! 

My favorite part of this place is how the streets look. They're always sloped so intriguingly in one way or the other, and since La Paz is in a valley, every picture I take has the mountains in the background. All the streets are gritty with 'cholitas' selling gum and Kleenex on the sidewalks, exactly like all the postcards I've ever seen of Bolivia. The lighting here is also spectacular, most of the photos I've taken don't even need filters! 

Tomorrow, I'm taking an overnight bus to the Uyuni Salt Flats, the main reason I've wanted to come to Bolivia and I'm super excited! I don't expect to have wifi on the buses, but you know, hope for everything and expect nothing :) Ciao! 

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Brazil, it was real. I'm coming back for you someday..

I´m at an internet cafe, waiting for the airport shuttle at the bus terminal. I cannot believe my week in Sao Paolo is over, but I am sure I will be back.
I´ve always had this theory that within minutes of landing in a new city, people generally know if they can love it or leave it. Since I worked a full week at the Airbnb office during my stay here, I had to rapidly adapt to a routine that pretty much stimulating what my life would be like here...and yes, I could totally move here.
Sao Paolo is the largest city in Brazil, and the world´s 12th biggest city. There are many types of neighborhoods: modern, old, colorful, swanky, hilly, all sprawled out with character. The metro system is fast and cheap and will take you everywhere you need to go. On Paulista Avenue, I found skyscrapers and that´s when I decided this city was big enough for me. The friends and aquaintances I´ve met here are friendly, open, intelligent and crazy creative. I completely fell in love with the street art, food, and energy of this place. Even more so, I´m captivated by the Portuguese language and have tried to learn as much Portuguese this week as could be reasonably expected.
To say that I've seen this city would be a huge understatement. That's what kills me when I leave a city I've fallen permanently in love with...there's no closure because I know there are so many places I haven't discovered yet. I didn't even get a chance to go to Rio de Janeiro!! There's a whole life here waiting for me to live. I would eats tons of fruit and drink 'vitaminas' and get really tan, wear white pants and tight floral dresses all the time and fall in love. My brazilian boyfriend and I would go for drinks with our friends at outdoor patio bars with live samba music.  Why can't I just travel without envisioning moving my whole life?

My colleagues here became my new friends and family. Boy, do Brazilians know how to party! These people are a blast, and have hearts of gold.

No shortage of culture (good beer and good food) 


+Meeting all my coworkers in Sao Paolo, was like a reunion of siblings separated at birth. (Okay at least that's how I felt) and going out to lunch with them everyday to a new spot, and them kissing me all the time. 

+Staying with Wolfgang and Renata, super host in Brazil and getting to be a part of their amazing life, like testing recipes at their new co-kitchen space and being treated to homemade passion fruit pudding for breakfast. 

+Venturing out to the Liberdade, the Japanses neighborhood and having the most amazing salmon handroll in my life. Then washing it down with super cheap local canned Skol beer. 

+Meeting Brazilian friends and going for drinks at Aspicquelta avenue! Such a lively place and fun people. 

+Browsing through Benedito Calixto open market for souvenirs and eating from the authentic food carts (I haven't gotten sick yet!!) 

+Getting invited to a local balcony house party! The back opened up to a view of the city, I learned how to was a magical night 

+Finding and exploring Batman alley on Sunday morning. This is a tucked away alley in Vila Madalena where artists get to display their best work. Lots of people, tourists and locals alike, come here to marvel and take pictures of the art. 

I want to add links and more photos but it's so hard doing everything by phone! Thanks for reading still, and I hope someday you'll get a chance to come to Sao Paolo!!!

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Sao Paolo-Part One

So I left my laptop at home for this trip, and I really wish I hadn't. Why? Because there is SO much I have to write now!

First of all, Portuguese is NOT Spanish. It kind of sounds like Spanish, but it's not. My ego has been slowly withering away with each conversation I've staggered to have with locals in Spanish, forget English. This has left me downloading Portuguese phrases on my phone asap, especially after I sat down for my first menu and didn't recognize a single word aside from √°qua. I found my listing without any issues, and found out that my hosts are not only Superhosts, they will be flying out to San Francisco in a few weeks for the Host Open. They are awesome. They are so awesome that their kitchen has been replicated into the kitchen inside the Airbnb Sao Paolo office.

I spent the majority of my first evening lost in my neighborhood, Vila Malalena. It's considered a trendy, upscale and safe area with lots of restaurants bordering one end and there's a pretty crowded party street on the other side called Rua Aspicuelta. There is graffiti EVERYWHERE on EVERY wall in Sao Paolo, but it's most definitely not vandalism here-more like wall art. I was looking for an alley called Batman, which is a famous alley full of wall art that my host told me about but never found it. I was happy to see people drinking out on the sidewalks, and felt kind of out of place in my Chucks. I've been tripping nonstop, partially because all the buildings are built like rainbow, overcrowded teeth and I can't stop looking. And also because the side walks are literally broken up and slabs of concrete are everywhere. After I survived weaving through the crowds of beautiful tan people, I found myself staring at menus in Portuguese, searching for the only word I could make out: CERVEJA (beer.)

In front of a bar called Melegrano, the owner came out and asked what I was looking for. I asked if he had any beer and I've never seen an old man beam so proudly. Turns out Melegrano boosts one of the fanciest and largest emporium of fine local and import beers. He was thrilled to practice his English and brought out some dark beer he claimed to be the best porter in Brazil, something called Petroleum. It wasn't on tap, but I wasn't expecting too much. He poured it into a fancy glass for me, pointing out excitedly that it even flowed like car gas. It was perfect. I really enjoyed people watching out on the streets with club music thumping in the background, wondering if it was weird for me to be alone. I think I'm going to do that more when I get back to Portland and maybe pretend I'm just a mysterious lone traveler.

I have to leave this desktop now and go out after work. More later, CIAO!

Don't they look like toy houses??

My host's puppy, I want to steal him away. 

My workspace this week, gonna have those sweets.