Category: travel

Panamania

Well, I promised to write about Panama and although it’s taken me a while, I’m doing it! I should have done it sooner, while the memories were fresh and beautiful, but this will have to do! Of course there are many things I’m not including, momentarily forgetting, and I’m sorry about that…

I spent the first part of my trip traveling with the best travel partner I’ve had in years, who shall remain nameless… It was so much better than I had anticipated going it alone. We enjoyed the old town, getting some amazing ice cream on a stick dipped in chocolate, petting random dogs and cats, and generally having an easy-breezy time. Then we hopped in our SUV and headed to the Darien.

Why, you ask? To visit an American missionary family that has been living out there for the past 3 decades. They had some very interesting stories to tell us of some hostilities and life in the jungles of Panama. I can’t wait to hear more (OK, I can wait and have waited, but it’s all very intriguing). Among other things, they have a moringa farm, which I was interested in learning about. We didn’t get to visit the actual farm on this trip, but we did come away with a giant bag of moringa powder, which I’m still using in my morning smoothies and fruit bowls. We stayed at a cute little hotel not too far away, where we watched hummingbirds flit around as we ate breakfast.

Speaking of food, this was a rough journey. You would think in a land where bags of mangos go to waste, fruit would be easy to find. Not so, not so. I can’t even remember what we ate. Eggs. And on the road, fish and strangely unripe-tasting cooked plantains. But no fruit was ever on the menu, or even in the little stores we would pass by. Only once did we find mangos and boy did I stock up. We couldn’t even find fish as a meal at several places. I’ve learned since then that ignoring an empty stomach actually does not get as painful as you would think, and you can survive several days on a few peanut butter cups. Apparently the reasoning is that mangos (and other things) grow so abundantly in everyone’s yard that there’s no point in selling them at the stores!

We spent a few nights a little closer to Panama City and spent hours enjoying a gorgeously clear and warm river (I’ll show you a picture but I’m not telling you where it is because IT’S ALL MINE) before making the trip up to the San Blas islands.

That little dot in the water is me.

We had a vision of being on a secluded white beach enjoying turquoise water…. well. We were first taken to a very tourist-filled beach with no hopes of any privacy whatsoever, and then to a second one that was not much better, before negotiating a deal to be dropped off on an actual deserted island. We had a very limited amount of time to spend there, so we got right down to snorkling. At one point, some people came in a canoe-like boat and collected water from a small spring on the island. The last to leave was an older woman. We were so caught up in just observing (without staring) that it didn’t occur to me until too late that maybe we should have offered her a hand with her jugs. One more thing to feel guilty about. 😛

My first deserted island

We stopped at one more even tinier island before heading back to shore…. this one had a small hut built on it to claim it… and somehow I managed to get extremely sunburned this time. Of course, when I had my bikini top back on. Blah! Tan lines!

My new home if the world doesn’t get it’s act together soon.

It took us longer than expected to get back home, down the winding jungle roads… our hosts were a bit worried about us but we couldn’t get signal to really reach out to them. But we made it back.

We said good-bye in Panama city, and I was left on my own. Well, with my couch-surfing host, who worked at the Panama canal and took me there to see the new canal that was being built.

From there I took a few days, rented a car, and drove west, over to Coronado Beach to stay at the same BNB I stayed at on my first trip to Panama. It’s a great place to just sit and chill, and that I did.

While there, and also while in a high rise apartment couch-surfing, I experienced the loudest thunderstorms I’d ever heard. One knocked out the internet briefly. The thunder was what I would imagine bombs might sound like. My ears actually hurt. And the lightening was crazy.

You could see the storm sweeping over the city.
You could see the storm sweeping over the city.
I wouldn't want to live up here, but jeez, what a view.
I wouldn’t want to live up here, but jeez, what a view.

From Coronado Beach I also drove up to see the Purely Natural farm, where I’m saving up to invest. Gotta think of the future! It was funny… the girl who gave me the tour said she and some of the others were happy at the idea of someone young investing. Apparently only old men seem to consider this. Also qigong. I’m actually writing this blog from China, where I’m taking a qigong workshop. I happen to be the only one here this month, but the teacher said most people who come are over 40. Am I just ahead of my time with everything? I also really loved my vegetables as a kid. Who knows.

I made my way back to Panama City, and then from there drove to Sabanitas where I was once again couch-surfing. It turned out that two of my future cruise-mates were also staying at this place! Thank goodness, because the neighbourhood was a little sketchy to me. We had a good time together (despite the heat and humidity that kept me awake all night long breathing into a cup of ice) visiting a river muddy from recent rainfall, and a nice little beach not too far away. Then I drove on my own farther up the coast to Portobelo, where I would spend the next two nights before meeting my girl friend in Colon to catch our transatlantic cruise!

Scariest buses ever.
Scariest buses ever.

Portobelo wasn’t exactly what I had been led to expect, and a quick trip around the town was enough for me. I stayed in a bed and breakfast which was not currently offering breakfast because the owners were in the hospital expecting a baby, leaving me in the care of a foreign volunteer, 3 dogs and 2 cats. We had a good time together, and even found veggie burgers at a more American place in town. When I arrived at the bnb, I discovered that there was an incredibly steep incline to climb, with a car parked perfectly in the way. And it was raining. So my new host drove me and my luggage up on a four wheeler and we later got my car. Then I was afraid to leave. But I did, once. For internet. Because other than the internet on the cruise, this was the worst internet I have yet encountered. I finally braved the steep driveway and found a seaside bar with wifi on my last day.

From Portobelo I made my way to Colon, to find my cruise ship at the dock. Everyone had warned me, “don’t stop the car! Lock the doors! Don’t talk to anyone!”… apparently it’s dangerous there, so I was a little freaked out at the possibility of getting lost. Which I did, because my GPS kept telling me to drive down streets that all ended at a fortress. A wall. I forget what it was called… a duty-free zone… well I asked the guard where to find my rental car place, found it, took ages to return my car (and witnessed some cruisers pouring alcohol into a giant water bottle… silly… should have taken the Monarch, free drinks the whole way across…), and hopped in a taxi for the 2 minute ride to port. There I met my couchsurfing buddies and my next adventure buddy, an old friend from Los Angeles. The Panamanian adventure had come to a close, and the transatlantic adventure was about to begin….

-Oh no, will I have to raise my arms for all of our photos? -Yes

Island Hopping

I’m a terrible adventure blogger! I’ve been having adventures and haven’t said a peep in months! But seeing as it’s the last day of 2015, I felt it was an appropriate time to play catch-up.

Back in October, I took a little vacation from France to where I assumed would be warmer and dryer. Mallorca. I spent about 4 days there, two of which it rained, but I did get to spend some time at a few little (crowded) beaches and wandering around the city. I was surprised to find several vegan places (including a vegan bagel place), though I ended up eating a lot of pizza and Indian food!

mallorca

I would definitely return, although I would love to see some other parts of the island that I couldn’t get to by bus (I tried – and then that day turned out to be a holiday and the bus schedule had changed). The nearby island of Ibiza is also on my list…

My gosh, I just realized how many islands I’ve been to this year. Three! In Panama, Spain, and the US! It’s a record for me! I guess I finally really realized how much I enjoy tropical water…

 

mallorca ocean

In November came the shocking attack on Paris, and since then I’ve wondered if I wanted to say anything here about it, or not. It was definitely a frightening night. I stayed up until 3am texting and calling and pinpointing my friends. Only weeks later, walking around Republique, did I realize that one of the restaurants that was attacked was on the corner of the first street I landed on when I moved to France in 2011. It was jarring to come face to face with the shattered glass , drooping roses tucked into the bullet holes.  So much ignorance, fear, and hate in the world… so many innocent people affected by it.

Paris

In December, I headed back to Los Angeles for the month, and also ended up going to Maui for 5 days. It wasn’t originally on the agenda, but how can you say no when you have the opportunity to go to Hawaii? I hadn’t been since 2005, and was thrilled to seek out the rainbow eucalyptus trees again. It definitely brought back memories of my ex and his kids, but new memories were also made, and… a new ukulele bought.

Mele ukulele
How could I NOT buy a ukulele in Hawaii??

It was a lovely trip. Breakfast at the bnb was amazing every morning. The weather was lovely (only a bummer on the day I went down the road to Hana and wanted to swim in some waterfalls but couldn’t because of a flash flood risk). I saw whales for the first time. I saw rainbows every day. The water wasn’t as warm as I remembered it being, but it’s December, so perhaps that’s why. I’ve been cooking coconut banana pancakes nearly every day since arriving home (thank goodness I don’t really put on weight!).

rainbow

And now I have less than a week left before waking up in France again.

Every time I get on a plane, I think about the blank pages ahead of me. Every trip is like it’s own book, with an airplane as the front and back cover. I read it from cover to cover and then tuck it away on the shelf in it’s own special spot. I’m always sad when I reach the end… Yet I always gain something that gives me joy, too.

Part of me wanted to write something about starting a new year, but… every day is the start of a new year. Every day is ripe with exciting possibility. I haven’t been particularly productive this month, but I have so much I’m itching to do. I’m finishing up a little web series (for children). I have a beautiful new ukulele to play with, so much music to make. I have renewed my excitement for acting and film and have new goals and plans. I have new friends. My YouTube channel (the ASMR one) is growing as I put more serious effort into it. And every day I get closer to knowing what my purpose is. There’s so much more… too much more… too much to even remember, sometimes.

Gosh, I don’t know what else to write, right now! Well… Happy new year!!

Happy New Year from Anna and Elsa!
Happy New Year from Anna and Elsa!

The Daily Show, with Jon Stewart

 

Outside The Daily Show

OK, so this is such old news but I’ve been busy/lazy.

When I moved to Los Angeles in 2000, I stayed on the couch of a new friend for a few months while I worked my butt off as a non-union extra (how much did we make per day? I think it was $48/8 at that point). My friend was a dedicated viewer of The Daily Show, and so I became one as well. When I moved out of her house, I moved to an apartment where we didn’t have cable, and I was cable-less for quite a while. Then came the time I was in a relationship with someone who had cable, and we began watching The Daily Show together. Years of Jon Stewart. Oddly enough, Jon actually reminds me of that ex. Both great interviewers with a silly streak. Anywaaaaaay.

When that ended, I was back to being cable-less, but not too long after, I discovered thedailyshow.com .

The Daily Show was, to me, the only show that I was excited to dream about being on. I don’t watch other news shows, or late night shows. I always hoped something I did would pay off and I would get to be on the Daily Show, and meet Jon Stewart. Well, that just didn’t happen.

But while visiting my family in July, I decided that I would regret it, flying through NYC and not at least trying to go see a taping of the show. So I did. I wasn’t able to get a free ticket, but the morning of the day I was going to go stand in line all day, I found someone selling a ticket on craigslist. Thank you, craigslist. $25? Fine. Done. I tucked a little note for Jon (just a thank you and good luck kinda thing) into my purse and headed out. I was about 50-th in line. Safe. I sat on the pavement, gradually inching my way closer to the street to give the person behind me more space, as the sun crept higher and the shade grew. A store close by had cleverly set up business renting chairs for $5. A few people took advantage of that offer.

Got my golden ticket!
Got my golden ticket!

I believe we were out there for about 3 hours before the line started to move and we all shuffled forward to say our names and get our numbers. Then we had an hour or so to go run around before coming back to stand in line again. I took the opportunity to walk to an old friend’s new apartment not too far away, and rehydrate myself.

Back at TDS, we formed small groups on the sidewalk, and were ushered inside, first to use the restroom (I don’t know if I’ve ever been so panicked about what would happen if I really had to pee, because they weren’t going to let anyone in or out of that studio during filming) and then into the studio. I don’t know how the view was from the other seats, but I managed to have a camera crane smack in the middle of my line-of-Jon-Stewart-sight. I ended up watching one of the screens, and his teleprompter, most of the time. Anywayanyway, backing up. Someone came out to rile up the audience… he talked with some people… one man said he worked for Verizon, which got a huge groan out of another audience member. So he was brought down to introduce himself to Mr. Verizon, and say why he hated Verizon. He said it was because they were a monopoly, basically. Anyway!

Awkward Selfie Proof!
Awkward Selfie Proof!

Before the show began, Jon came out for a little Q-and-A! I did not have a Q for him to A, but others did, and I marvel at how some people’s brains put smart things together. And I marvel at the smart responses other people have to these questions. Where did I go wrong?

I am rarely star-struck or excited to see celebrities (although it’s always cool), but this was one of those times. I suppose because I’ve seen him on TV for ages. Hours, and hours… days and days of him…. to see him in 3-D… I just wanted to reach out and touch him. But he was too far away and that’s just creepy. His suit was so nice. I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone in person with such a nice suit.

So we watched them film the show! I actually laugh more when I’m watching it at home, and I had to wonder why. Maybe because I could see him better. I could see him part of the time. But when you’re watching from home, it’s as if he’s talking to you. When you’re watching in the studio, it’s watching someone perform. He’s performing for a camera. You’re more aware that there are words, there’s a script, it’s just like what you would do for your own little YouTube video. Or I would. It’s less spontaneous (most of the time) than you would think. But he’s sooooo good at it.

The guest on July 23 was Ta-Nehisi Coates, who I was not familiar with at all. If you’d like to watch the interview… well I shall give you the link below. 🙂

Jon didn’t stick around after the show, and we were instructed to leave our weird voodoo shit with security on the way out, so that’s where I left my good-bye letter before heading back over to my friend’s place.

It’s going to be strange not having Jon around. Some days, when I’m feeling lonely, tuning into The Daily Show is like inviting a friend over. No matter where I was, no matter what around me had changed, I could go online and see Jon. OK, sometimes it was more difficult, depending on the wifi connection. But I tried.

I wish I could be more eloquent in expressing what Jon Stewart and The Daily Show mean to me. I know no news is ever completely unbiased, but watching The Daily Show, I felt like I got more facts and less BS than other sources. I knew that he was not too proud to apologize for errors. I loved to get updated on world news by someone who didn’t really take themselves so damn seriously. I love that they would say what you were thinking, about ridiculous policies or statements that had been made. I loved that I could get updated, and laugh about it, rather than be submerged in all the horrible things that are happening around the world. And it’s just him. Someone could say the exact same words and present in exactly the same way, and it wouldn’t be the same. I will miss him.

At least for now, I can turn to John Oliver once a week, and I will tune in and check out the new guy, but oh the Jon-shaped hole in my life! You shall be missed.

Daily Show Pano
Watch The Daily Show July 23, 2015

Is Traveling Worth It?

Is traveling worth it?

Worth what? Worth the environmental impact you’re having by getting on that plane, of course!

I got into a debate recently with a Facebook friend, which inspired me to do a bit of researching and soul-searching. He had given up air travel because of the contribution to climate change, while I on the other hand, have no intention to give up flying.

First I’m going to hit you with a little bit of research.

 

The contribution of civil aircraft-in-flight to global CO2 emissions has been estimated at around 2%.
In attempting to aggregate and quantify the total climate impact of aircraft emissions the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has estimated that aviation’s total climate impact is some 2-4 times that of its direct CO2 emissions alone (excluding the potential impact of cirrus cloud enhancement).

The IPCC has estimated that aviation is responsible for around 3.5% of anthropogenic climate change, a figure which includes both CO2 and non-CO2 induced effects.

That’s our first quote from Wikipedia on the environmental impact of aviation. It just leaves me wondering what makes up the other approximately 97%?

Modern jet aircraft are significantly more fuel efficient (and thus emit less CO2 in particular) than 30 years ago.[26] Moreover, manufacturers have forecast and are committed to achieving reductions in both CO2 and NOx emissions with each new generation of design of aircraft and engine.

Some scientists and companies such as GE Aviation and Virgin Fuels are researching biofuel technology for use in jet aircraft.[33] Some aircraft engines, like the Wilksch WAM120 can (being a 2-stroke Diesel engine) run on straight vegetable oil. Also, a number of Lycoming engines run well on ethanol.

I understand that planes are a long term investment, and the one you’re flying on now was probably made 20 years ago. So even if they make progress… it may be a while before we see changes. In the meantime…

 

The emissions from taxiing and take-off of aircraft help make airports some of the largest sources of these pollutants and major public health hazards. For example, Los Angeles Airport is the largest source of NOx, a key cause of the region’s copious smog, in California and the third largest source of carbon monoxide. 4 Logan Airport in Boston, MA produces twice as much benzene as the next largest source in Massachusetts. 5 Scientists have found that even small increases in taxi time at airports in Southern California contribute to significant increases in asthma, respiratory ailments, and heart disease in surrounding communities. 6 Scientists also believe that particulate matter emissions from airplanes, along with ships and trains, contribute to 1,800 early deaths per year in the United Kingdom alone. 7 These health impacts also translate into large economic costs for society.

According to flyingclean.com. Yay, L.A….

And according to a research paper (which I did not read, only someone else’s response to it, and the summary below), planes are the worst form of transportation, unless we’re thinking more long term, then take a look in your garage.

Emissions of short-lived species contribute significantly to the climate impact of transportation. The magnitude of the effects varies over time for each transport mode. This paper compares first the absolute climate impacts of current passenger and freight transportation. Second, the impacts are normalized with the transport work performed and modes are compared. Calculations are performed for the integrated radiative forcing and mean temperature change, for different time horizons and various measures of transport work. An unambiguous ranking of the specific climate impact can be established for freight transportation, with shipping and rail having lowest and light trucks and air transport having highest specific impact for all cases calculated. Passenger travel with rail, coach or two- and three-wheelers has on average the lowest specific climate impact also on short time horizons. Air travel has the highest specific impact on short-term warming, while on long-term warming car travel has an equal or higher impact per passenger-kilometer.

If you have an electric car, maybe you’re excused. If you’re one of the people mentioned in The Guardian’s article here, you’re not excused, and you should stop causing more environmental havoc than a dozen people combined. Thanks.

So… that’s just a sampling of the horrors of aviation…. but what would the world be like if we didn’t fly? First, I have to admit that I see travel very differently than the majority of people. I don’t stay in hotels or resorts (not that I don’t like them), I don’t treat my travel as “vacation,” I don’t do many “touristy” things, and I don’t go only to associate with whomever my travel buddy is and never see the “real” _______. You know from my “about me” section that what I want to do as I travel is connect with creative people around the world to work with, and volunteer time to help the community in some way. It doesn’t always work out, and I try not to beat myself up over it, but I do try. When I travel somewhere, it’s to get to know another way of life, and to get out of my bubble. OK, so is that worth killing the earth? I don’t know. As George Monbiot says in a snippet from his book:

…the people who are most concerned about the inhabitants of other countries are often those who have travelled widely. Much of the global justice movement consists of people – like me – whose politics were forged by their experiences abroad.

Would I really know the extent of the petty crime rings in Paris or Barcelona without having lived there? Would it personally affect me to a point where I would want to do something about it? Would the lack of proper sanitation in parts of Ghana be on my mind had I not spent time there? Would the cheerful dispositions of people with much less than me also be on my mind, urging me towards a life of minimalism (good for me and good for the planet as well)? Would I understand things going on in other parts of the world without really being there and interacting with people? Does it matter if I understand?

It depends on the person, I suppose. I could experience something now that I may not be able to act on for another decade, but at that point I could make a big difference in the lives of others. I don’t know, I can’t predict the future. I can only explore, and learn, and grow, and give back. And for me, the airplane is an indispensable tool. I’ve gone on several Habitat for Humanity trips, but you don’t have to be working full time to be giving back and getting involved, and you also don’t have to expect immediate results from every journey. If you’re becoming a better human being through your travels, that’s a really good thing in and of itself. Because the world is made up of billions of us. And many of us are unconscious, selfish, ignorant people. And traveling can change that about a person.

As Matt says at theculturist.com:

If you haven’t experienced a culture personally, it’s easy to write off an entire country as “impoverished” or “politically unstable,” when each place has its own complex history and social structure. Seeing areas’ hardships, customs, and attitudes can inspire you to give back in a variety of ways.

You don’t have to make your vacation an all-out service trip to gain insight and contribute to improving the local economy. Sometimes, just immersing yourself in the culture and staying open to new experiences is enough to achieve a larger benefit.

…. If you open your eyes and see how things are different outside your home country, you have a better understanding of how the world works, as well as what projects or social causes you might support.

 

I couldn’t say it better myself. So I’m going to stop talking now. lol. Almost.

There are some alternative modes of transportation, depending on where you’re going… cars and trains, and sometimes boats… but not all are practical for those of us who may not have a car or the money to rent on, or don’t have a week to make a train trip to get somewhere, and then a week to get back. Some places are very difficult to get to without a plane. Everyone’s journey is different and requires different considerations. Personally, I love making friends around the world, and I enjoy seeing them more than once in my life. I love to experience different places. As a child I would dream about different lives I could live. I knew I would have to choose one, but I couldn’t. Of course, you always have to choose, and I’m living the life I chose. But I always wonder about the other ones. So the best I can do is sample them. And eventually, find the place I want to settle in, while keeping my worldwide community within reach, and using what I learned along the way to make a difference in whatever way I can. Travel (thanks to airplanes) has helped me grow as a person and start really connecting with the world. I’m not saying nothing should be done about the problem caused by so many airplanes in the air these days, but I think a more important issue is being able to connect people around the globe so that the whole world is our community, not just the tiny patch of grass we were born on.

What are your thoughts on air travel?

(Mark Twain wanted to have the first response)

Mark Twain Says

My First Time

…. in Africa.

Whenever I would think about going to Africa, I would think about seeing wildlife I would never see in America or Europe – lions, giraffes, monkeys. I imagined large, quiet plains of grass or desert with a sunset more magnificent than any one I’d ever seen over the Pacific Ocean.

True, Africa is large, it can’t all be filled with lions and giraffes and sunsets. What else came to mind when I’d think about Africa…

Well, I thought about what I’d be doing there. Perhaps helping to bring water to a village, or helping out in some other way. I like to go places with a mission, though many times that just doesn’t happen. I didn’t really have a mission for this trip, other than to visit my friend in Ghana and to take some nice pictures. I’m working on the photography thing. I tried to get in contact with film makers there, but being far from the main town made networking difficult in person. We had thought perhaps I could take some video of my friend’s computer class that she could use as promotional material, but it turned out my trip fell right before class started. Regular school started midway through my stay, so I got to see the kids in their school uniforms and take some class photos of them. I did take some photos and video in the computer lab, since the kids would go in there and play on the computers some afternoons. Silly me with my new microphone though, sometimes I forget that I have to turn it on in addition to the camera. I’m still learning.

One class photo
One class photo

 

Computer time
Computer time

And speaking of photography… Ghana not only knows you’re coming with your camera – they’re counting on it! Many of the touristic places in Ghana not only charged non-Ghanaians more than double the entry fee to places like parks and forts, but the equivalent of about $100 to take photos…. and more for video. Needless to say, most of my photos were taken at the beach, in the village, and in the city, but not in the parks and forts. That just gives me another reason to come back (and this time with some money. Apparently I’m the only person who goes to Africa on a budget).

So, Ghana….

I spent two weeks in Ghana, between a small village called Afrangua and a place called Kokobongo Beach. I don’t want to make this into a massive blog post that nobody will ever finish reading, so I won’t give you a day-to-day account of my time there. 🙂 In Afrangua, my friend and I spent a lot of our time chilling out in the courtyard of the community center, hovering in the one area by the table where cell phone reception was the best, so we could check our Facebook walls and post photo updates. She let children into the computer room occasionally, where they would sit at the computers drawing pictures, putting together puzzles, and other activities for young kids.

 

To the left, you will see the community center of Afrangua.
To the left, you will see the community center of Afrangua.

The kids were very curious about me, the visitor, the “obroni.” They wanted to play, be chased, hug, touch, handle my hair… one tiny girl giggled hysterically until I got nearer to her, at which point her giggles turned to terrified shrieks. She would run and hide, and we would try to convince her to touch me, that it was OK. When she finally did, she found me endlessly entertaining. She reached out for my face with a look of utter amazement…. it’s the look I imagine I would have on my face if I were to reach out and pet a unicorn.

I'm a unicorn!
I’m a unicorn!

We spent some of our days near the beach, where there was running water and even a little restaurant. The bread that the sandwiches were made of was really unique. It was in slices perhaps three times as thick as American sandwich bread, and a bit more solid and sweet. Being on  budget, the tuna cheese sandwich was the only thing I ordered at the beach. And the one I got that actually had cheese in it was quite tasty! 😀

sandwich

There are so many little moments to record, and many of them I documented with photos, so I’ll be spreading out the details and thoughts on my trip as I remember things to share with you. For some reason I’ve been putting off blogging about it. Maybe because it feels like such a big task. I don’t know. But I’m determined to get this posted tonight and get back on track!

I also need to get more focused here. I started this particular blog to document how I make things happen in my life, how I create, how I give back to the world, how I join with others to make films and make music… but I feel like I haven’t done much of that at all this year! I suppose we go through peaks and valleys, and every experience serves us in some way we may not be aware of yet. I have written several songs this year, so that’s some progress, though they all still need the finishing touch and a genius musical partner to help me bring them to life.

I feel like I’m still figuring out life. My snow globe world is still being shaken up, though I’d really like it all to settle into place soon. This is why I’m taking some time out to get myself back to Los Angeles, land of the familiar, to take a few deep breaths, write a few deep songs, and make a plan.

So that’s all for today, stay tuned for more. 😉

There’s No Place Like Home

But for the first time ever… I don’t have one! Sure, I have some official addresses, but I don’t have a home right now. Let’s recap.

My little sublease was up at the end of July, because I thought I would be returning to L.A. after having a residency meeting in June. Well, that appointment got placed at the end of September, screwing up that plan. So instead of looking for another overpriced apartment in the Paris region, I estimated how much I could save by staying somewhere else. So the month of August was spent in Barcelona, and then the past two weeks visiting a friend in Ghana. The largest part of my spending was the plane ticket to Ghana, but overall I definitely spent less than I would have if I’d stayed in Paris. I’m back in Paris now, and surfing my way around until the end of October, when I really get to go back to L.A. Yes, the Parisien adventure, Part I, is coming to a close… it’s practically bankrupted me. I need to get back to a place where I can at least do background work and garage sales.

A month and a half is a lot to go over in one post, so I won’t do that. I’ll spread it out a bit. I did give you a little update from Barcelona… did you want more? lol Barcelona was a nice break. Downstairs from where I was staying was a fruit and vegetable market where almost every day I’d go down and check their discount shelf, with the fruits that were on their last legs. I’d pick up a bunch of fruit for only a few euros. I’ve been trying to stick to spending roughly 5€ a day on food. And now that I’m back in Paris, I’ve unpacked all my kitchen goodies to see what I’ve got to eat in the next 40-ish days. Can’t throw things out, that’s wasteful! I made a chickpea/spinach/coconut milk curry today (no lemon, that tasted weird to me last time). The past few days I’ve been chowing down on an African recipe taught to me by someone in Ghana. It’s not vegan, there’s fish involved, but it’s just so gooooood and doesn’t cost much to make. Perhaps when I get back to L.A. I’ll be able to find some kind of imitation smoked fish flavour to make it vegan. I also attempted to make some crêpes the way we had them in Cape Coast, but I failed. I only found one or two recipes online. But I’m not sure what the problem really is… they’re just dense, and not as sweet… I guess I’ll just stick to French crêpes!

Well, I just wanted to let you know I’m alive (still taking my malaria pills) and well and back in Paris. In the next post I’ll tell you more about Ghana, as it was my first trip to Africa, and very different from anywhere else I’ve been.

Ciao!

Focus

Death Kiss

 

So I’m still in Barcelona and my stay here is already halfway over! I’ve been reflecting on some of the things I wished to accomplish while I was here and realize I’m not very far into making any of them a reality. Perhaps I was a little overambitious, or perhaps in the end it was a really good thing for my sanity to just take the time to relax a bit instead of constantly trying to be productive. Or perhaps I just succumbed to the heat and really could have gotten more done had I been able to breath.

The Potential Big Ideas I had for Spain….

Connect with film makers and film something.

Perform music.

Make a music video.

Write more songs.

Learn some Salsa or Tango!

Well, I did write one more song, and a second is on it’s way. And we may be playing a set at the very end of the month, but we seriously need more practice, and that may be the only show we do.  Still pretty cool though. 🙂

As for the music video, well, I never did get someone to help professionally record one of my songs, so that’s not happening yet.

And I have not gone dancing yet…

I really have just unplugged since being here. Of course, the heat kind of makes you feel like holding very still in front of  a fan for long stretches of time, but that’s not all I’ve done. I’ve done some wandering around, put in some beach time, met a few new people, gone to the grocery store a lot…

This week I’ve gotten sucked back into reality with a surprise bill from the IRS (how are they allowed to just NOT tell you that you supposedly owe them taxes and fees from years gone by until you log into their website and try to set up a payment plan for this previous year… the only one you’re aware of owing anything for?) and the ATM rejecting my request for cash because there’s not enough there. It makes a person want to just disappear. Even buying the discount fruit at the corner store, this girl is still on the verge of trouble. I get an Adsense payment around the 25th of the month, but I’ve spent the past hour trying to figure out how to transfer any amount of money from my US bank to my French bank (since they have no useful ATMs here…) with no solution.

In good news. Today I took a free Reiki course a new friend was offering through his Meetup group, and tomorrow is another beach day. We are also going to get a little more organized in planning our days, since we don’t have a lot of time left before our show and the end of the trip.

So I Googled information on productivity. Again. I tend to forget how to be productive, and get really scattered or distracted with “things that need to get done that I don’t care about or want to be doing.” You know those things.

I found this article at the Harvard Business Review about How to Accomplish More by Doing Less.

And this one at The New York Times, both by Tony Schwartz, where I learned:

…. during the day we move from a state of alertness progressively into physiological fatigue approximately every 90 minutes. Our bodies regularly tell us to take a break, but we often override these signals and instead stoke ourselves up with caffeine, sugar and our own emergency reserves — the stress hormones adrenaline, noradrenaline and cortisol.

Working in 90-minute intervals turns out to be a prescription for maximizing productivity. Professor K. Anders Ericsson and his colleagues at Florida State University have studied elite performers, including musicians, athletes, actors and chess players. In each of these fields, Dr. Ericsson found that the best performers typically practice in uninterrupted sessions that last no more than 90 minutes. They begin in the morning, take a break between sessions, and rarely work for more than four and a half hours in any given day.

OK that helps for long stretches of songwriting and singing, or doing work on the computer. I was spending all day every day working online last month.

This article on Inc. also mentions the 90 minute cycles, along with several tips on how to be more productive. They’re kind of obvious, like stay away from distractions. But setting small goals on the way to big goals is a good one and I think we’ll be doing more of that this week. I have so many bigger goals in my mind that I need to work towards, not just ones for this month. Sometimes it’s easy to get overwhelmed and not make any progress.

I read an old article once in which Audrey Hepburn was interviewed (a very old article, from the 1950’s) and mentioned something about focus, and how important it was to success. I wish I had the article with me to share, but alas, I do not. But it stuck with me, because focus can be very hard for me unless I’m doing something I really enjoy. I keep working at it though…. focus, productivity, time management. Someday I’ll master it and make some progress in life. 🙂

What about you, how do you deal with time management and reaching goals?

 

Kendal Brandon Barcelona

Sagrada Familia

So this past week has basically been a vacation for me. One where I don’t think about EDF, I don’t do online work, I’m not on the computer all day, I’m not moving things around from apartment to apartment to storage, I’m just being present, being in the moment, in Barcelona. And I’m here all month. I’ve started getting back to those things I need to work on, calling EDF, that sort of thing… but oh gosh it’s been so good to basically not have to think about anything and just enjoy life for a week!

It’s been extremely hot here the past week, though, and without AC in the apartment I’m staying in, it’s been a bit hard to bear. I find myself almost wishing I had some kind of office job to go to, just for some cold air. Somehow I managed to get a little cold yesterday that’s hanging on today, too. I’m not quite sure what brought that on. Can heat make you sick? But when we realized we needed more pesto for our sandwiches, I decided dragging myself out of bed to visit the air conditioned grocery store might be good for me. It was. For a few minutes I was bouncing through the aisles breathing in cool air. Later in the day we went out to Sagrada Familia for the first time, once the sun went down… so that’s the photo you see up there. I haven’t taken my real camera out with me just yet… since I’m here for a month I figured I’d get a feel of the place first, then go out for photos. Hope you don’t mind. 🙂 I also brought the 3D camera, so… we’ll see what I can do with that. I still have to figure out how to share photos from that camera. I’m starting to figure out how to share them on YouTube 3D…

As I’ve said before, I want to make sure I’m being creative on each trip I take, and I’ve lucked out on this one! A friend from L.A. (Brandon, hence the title… and btw, if you haven’t seen Vicky Christina Barcelona, do so!) is joining me for the entire month, bringing along his guitar skills and tiny little travel guitar. And then our host here in Barcelona just asked if we’d be interested in playing a show (for money! And food! And drinks!) at the end of the month. To which we said, “heck yeah!” Because the original plan was to just work on music, and then go to open mics and busk. So we’ve been browsing songs we’d like to cover, and working on a few originals. Except today it sounds like I’ve never sung in my life. Well, tomorrow is another day.

Today, while listening to Enya on our quest to find songs to cover, we heard a commotion outside. I couldn’t resist. I peeked through our 4th floor window and watched as some people argued outside. No idea what they were saying. Two women and three guys in red were standing in the crosswalk. I kept trying to figure it out. Well the answer came when the woman removed several sausages from her skirt… then more sausages… must have been a dozen sausages… ahhhh. And the men must be Dia employees. I hope they don’t put those back on the shelf. I hope people aren’t stealing fruit too, because that’s what I buy….

We’ve started hitting the vegetarian restaurants around Barcelona, so I hope to make a post all about that in the future. I’ve taken pictures of everything I’ve eaten (well, at the veg places) in preparation for sharing with you. 🙂

I have to say, I came to Barcelona thinking there would be a lot of colourful buildings. I don’t know where I got that idea, because the buildings are grey and very similar to Parisian buildings. Except the Gaudi buildings. Well, they’re grey, but really cool. Why on earth did I think there would be colourful buildings? I was looking forward to it, though. Well, at least I get a beach! And the ocean! The ocean isn’t freezing cold! I got in the ocean! I will get photographic proof of this next time. The only other time I’ve swam in the ocean was a 2005 trip to Hawaii.

Even though there are so many things about Paris that I don’t miss – the winter weather, lack of beach, expensive food, and the impossibly small living quarters (unless you can afford upwards of 2000€ a month)… I still find myself missing it. It’s a little crazy. But I’ll be leaving it for a while, since I know I can’t afford to stay, and I can’t deal with moving around as often as I have been…. there’s no way to create stability, habits, progress, when you’re constantly moving around the way I have been. Barcelona certainly seems to have some things going for it though. I found cappuccinos for 1,50€ at a vegetarian restaurant, whereas in Paris they’re usually around 4€. I found vegetarian and (one) vegan options at a place we stopped in for a kind of tortilla sandwich (for about 5€). I spy many AC units in apartments, in the metros (but not in the stations, where you diiiiie of heat waiting for the train), and in stores. Even the monthly metro pass is cheaper at 54€ (compared to Paris’ 65€, though that covers zones 1-2 and in Barcelona I just got zone 1, but it seems to cover all you need).

So yes! I’m in Barcelona! And I’m here ’til the end of the month! And performing before I leave! It’s fantastic! So you can look forward to photos and videos… though I may be a little behind on posting. I go to Ghana from Barcelona and will definitely be out of touch while I’m there, but I’m going to do the best I can.

I hope your summer is going well. Anyone else traveling to new places?

Perpetual Motion

OK, I swear after this one I’ll have something useful or deep to share! lol. I just know I haven’t been writing much and I wanted to touch base. Hello.

Today I was on a Skype call with someone discussing the latest thing I’m trying to accomplish (it’s early, I’ll share about that later, I promise) and once again got to the point of conversation where I get asked:

“So how long have you been in France?”

And I have to answer:

“About 2 years.”

And at that moment, every time, the whole thing flashes by and I wonder what on earth I’ve been doing. And then I always realize that so much of my time is just spend moving or preparing to move. Looking for a place, packing things, buying things, unpacking things… and moving again. In my current place of residence, I have become very unhappy, but I stick it out because it was only for 3 months, and the search for a new apartment is all-consuming. I want to use my time more wisely. But I did just consider leaving after the first month or two. For anywhere. A couch. Whatever. What was making it a bit more bearable was that halfway through this month, I thought I would have 2 weeks to spend in another apartment. It’s an apartment that I help manage, and between guests I go and make use of the shower, toilet, freezer, internet, washing machine, stove, and bed that does not require a ladder. At that point, I thought “yay! I can spend time with my dog!” so I got her from her baby-sitter, who is on her way to Sweden for a week. And then the place got rented. I mean just yesterday got the email. So after dragging all of my living supplies, all of my food, over there…. I was packing it up again and walking up 7 flights of stairs with a Yorkie. Who promptly needed to go outside again. We’re both exhausted.

Pooped

But the point of this story is…. I’ve spent a lot of time moving around. I love to travel, yes, but I have no real home base, and it’s exhausting now. So much of my physical and mental energy is spent just trying to secure a place for me and my things. I have most of my things in storage right now, and the rest of it will join at the end of the month. By the way, does anyone want a mattress, a juicer, a dehydrator, or a toaster?

It’s frustrating to think that this basic necessity of having a home, somewhere of your own, somewhere to depart from and return to, has evaded me for so long. And it’s kept me distracted from the more creative and productive things I want to be doing. And I’ll only be doing more moving around for the rest of the year. Yes, to some places I want to go (still hoping for India!) but with nowhere to call home. It’s like being lifted off the ground by a balloon, it can be a fun ride, but I have to hold on tight until there’s some solid ground again.

It’s different if the goal is to be traveling around, always moving, but my goal was to set up home in Paris, and make little trips out, while learning French and working on my creative pursuits. Not hopping around, living in 5 different locations within Paris and the suburbs within 2 years! That’s just insane! Insane… so yeah, no wonder I feel like I haven’t gotten much done. My average in L.A. was a move every year, until the last few years… my last place of residence lasted 3.

I need to resolve this, but I’m not sure how. It definitely means leaving Paris. I can’t afford a decent place to live here, and my cat is now in L.A., where he can be happy going outside. But I don’t want to leave forever. I want to come back and continue working on things. I don’t know. I don’t know how I will figure it out. I’m sure I will, but it may be as exhausting as the past 2 years have been.

Any other travelers out there with any advice? I know one thing that would help would be to earn more money. The less I have, the more stuck I am. I’m working on it, I’m working on it. But these things take time…. I don’t want to bounce around, I want a home base for me and my pets. But I don’t want to give up travel, either.

Whine whine whine, from the girl in Paris.

Speaking of travel, did I tell you I’m going to Barcelona at the end of the month?! I think I did. I’m excited. Here, watch some fireworks:

How Can You Afford To Travel?

It’s asked. It’s thought. And sometimes my answer is “I can’t.” At the moment I’m in a space where I just have to have faith that if I keep working hard and smart that I will get out of this hole and back to a bit of stability. But the answer to the question of “how can you afford to travel?” right now is…. “How can I afford not to?”

I’m realizing that I can’t afford to stay in Paris, at least not comfortably. But I have to stick around for a few more months for some classes, meetings, and to get to India in November with a shorter and cheaper flight (and vaccinations). My solution to the “I can’t afford to live here anymore” situation? Travel. Yeah. That thing you think you do only when you have money.

But I can explain. I took the leap and bought a round trip ticket to Barcelona, and another roundtrip from there to Ghana. In total, this cost me less than 900€ and will take me from July 31 to September 19. To couchsurf or rent a room in Spain will end up costing me maybe 200-300€. And I can easily couchsurf the rest of September in Paris. So right there is about 1200€, or 600€ a month, which is equal to or less than what I would pay for a room or studio in Paris. BUT I get a grand new adventure out of it, in places where everything else is cheaper. So I’ll be lowering my living costs. Yes, for the moment, I had to put the tickets on a credit card because I don’t get paid that far in advance and am squeezing every last dime (er…. centime?) but I think it was worth it.

I think traveling can frequently be cheaper than staying in one place, especially if you use couchsurfing.org or helpx.net for your accommodations. Yes, airfare can be a big cost, but if you plan carefully, you still could be saving more money than you’d spend at home on rent and food (and gas, etc….). If you have a mileage card, that can help you out. I don’t have one, but maybe I’ll get one in the next year if they’ll approve me!

So that said… yes, surprise! My summer plans are to go to Barcelona and Ghana. While in Barcelona I want to make a music video for an original song (still being composed, and still seeking a musician to help me record it!) and while in Ghana I will be filming at my friend’s computer school.

In other news… I’ve made a little video about the past 2 weeks, since I’ve been doing some kind of interesting things! Filming a short starring my dog, pretending to be military, going to the White Dinner, dancing along the Seine….. It’s summertime. My favourite time in Paris. Well… if it would stop freaking raining.

And now…