American Thanksgiving

Turkey! It’s the first image that comes to mind and to my taste buds is a juicy thick cut turkey. My family, like so many others, celebrates Turkey Day in excess by cooking and eating too much food and then processing to eat more by the colorful array of the desserts. Turkey crammed with stuffing and freshly boiled potatoes smashed together with milk and butter melting on top. I’m not sure where casseroles came from but I’m sure they are my favorite. Corn casserole, green beans casserole, and scallop potatoes are always full helping on my plate. There is cranberry sauce and canned cranberry which I prefer. Sweat potatoes with a golden brown marshmallow on top, buttered vegetables, and rolls getting the least attention. Ham is added to Thanksgiving and recently fried turkey has been a trendy addition to the table. There are many mishaps resulting in fires and emergency department calls. If the turkey is fully thawed dried off the oil and water make a terrible mixture. Luckily the first try for my dad went well, maybe a little overcooked but no fire as so many were videotaping waiting for the worst. Thanks, family. There were two other tragically baked turkeys so go around for our international group of fourteen.

We had a family from London and his friend and my father is from former Yugoslavia and had moonshine in hand with stories from everyone around the table. My dad’s wife had her sisters and niece with their kid all joining the group. One long table getting a plate from the buffet and finding a seat and having to explain pilgrims and Indians to an outsider is a great way to laugh about silly holiday decorations.

The good china is usually taken out for special holidays such as Christmas and Thanksgiving along with the best flatware. These are traditionally the items passed on in a woman’s dowry along with the serving dishing, linen napkins and tablecloths and glassware only used on these special occasions making it all the more magical.

Dessert is always the best part and the hardest to plan ahead for but what are a few more bites! Pumpkin pie, cheesecake, pecan pie, and a cookie- cream pie all found their way toon my fork. The real meaning of Thanksgiving day is togetherness. Coming together and being part of my family dinner and my boyfriend family dinner. Both dinners had the family home cooked meals with way too much food. Plastic containers are filled with leftovers and send home in filled plastic bags. As with any other worldly traditions, the eldest usually run the dinner keeping their parent’s memories alive and keeping the family rituals. Leaving the table uncomfortably full is completely normal.

Manly Island

Going to manly Island on the Ferry is a slow peaceful way to some other parts of Sydney and great photo ops on the way of the iconic Sydney Opera House and the Sydney Harbor Bridge. There are sailboats scattered all along the waterways and speedboats zipping by.

Getting off the ferry I was surrounded by small tourist shops selling food and beachwear. The boardwalk leads right out from the shops to the long stretch of golden sand beaches. Manly Island is a great Sydney surf spot and on a sunny day, there is competition for the good sets of waves. When I walked down the path along the beach there were two beach volleyball courts set up with bleaches on the beach for events. At the end of the path are an ocean pool and a health center with an amazing view.

The pink dolphins of Hong Kong

Away in an old fishing village, there are regular tours of something I have never heard of before, pink dolphins. More commonly called the Chinese White Dolphin but affectionately called pink dolphins for this unusual pink and white-colored dots making themselves stand out against the dark water. I found this tour in Tai O village, a once-thriving fishing community, now being overshadowed by a giant bridge connecting the Hong Kong cities of Zhuhai and Macau. It is the longest sea-crossing bridge spanning the Pearl River Delta. Tai O has been an attraction to see the local fishing culture and to catch a glimpse of the pink dolphins, but now the village has an added feature on the boat tour, to see the new record-breaking bridge. The bridge construction has been a threat to the rare pink creatures. Marine experts say the dolphins feeding and communication activities of these very social animals have been distributed. Hopefully, now that the construction is about over and the bridge is waiting for its grand opening the sea life will be left alone.

The Dolphins start their lives as dark calves until they grow into the famous pink spots. The pink spots are from blood vessels beneath the skin of the dolphins. There isn’t a great deal known about these pink dolphins of Hong Kong but the numbers don’t lie. The animals in the Pearl River Delta areas have seen numbers drop by eighty percent over the past decade.

Try as you may, but you will not find any pink dolphins in my photos. Like many others on the boat, I was never ready when these creatures would jump up to say hello. After many missed shots, I simply sat back in the first of the boat and watched pointed pink heads pop up and splash away just as quick. It was a calm end to a busy Hong Kong day.

Food Roulette

Walking into a restaurant in a foreign country with no English menu and only a few pictures scattered around you and must make a decision by pointing and hoping for the best.

This is a photo in Hong Kong at a window kitchen from the bottom floor of a large apartment building in Kawloon. There were different shops and other selling food out the window. The window I picked had a few people waiting in the line for the while I watched it. As one person walked away, another stepped up to wait, so I felt it was a popular and trusted enough place to eat random and in some cases unknown selections. I walked to the counter with money in hand trying to order in English to Chinese only speaking locals. After I failed at asking for whatever they will give me for $20. Finally the woman running the cashbox told a man something as she pointed to the back and then she called for the person behind me to come forward to select fried goodies and pay. As I thought this wasn’t the way to order foot and I should go back to the pointing and grunting method, then a younger man came forward from the rear of the kitchen. He spoke in very good broken English and asked what I wanted and with a smile, he filled bags and bowls full of things on sticks and some fried balls of something with spicy sauce on them. I could figure out what some items were and others I didn’t have a clue. I sat in the hostel balcony and tried everything loving some and not too sure on others, but it was amazing gamble that I think is a great way to try local foods.

If anyone knows what I was eating in the photo above please let me know, because I still do not know.

This amazing dish is kangaroo and I can’t rave enough about it.

Bracelets of travelers

Have you ever been sitting in a hostel and looked around to notice that there were a lot of people wearing mulitable bracelets of different colors and materials. I noticed this shortly after landing in Auckland. Is this a backpacking trend? In short, yes. I wasn’t on board at first, yet I understood it. Backpackers can’t carry much and it’s marking the places on the  journey. When I first arrived I didn’t buy into the hype or trend. Four and a half months later I was wandering threw a craft sale down by the water in Queensland, Australia on an early Sunday morning and bought a beautiful stone in beaded waxes hemp. Which was handmade by the local that was making her craft as I walked by the glance on her wares neatly arranged on her table. This was the first on many countries on this trip and the first of many brackets. The next country for me was a short flight over to Sydney from Auckland where I spent the next few months exploring. On my way down the east coast I stopped at the capital Canberra. While I spent my week in a YHA in the main part of the city I learned something I did not realise. If and when you happen to lose your passport, you must make your way to the capital to get back out of the country. Interesting and amazing people are everywhere. I was out wandering around the city taking I’m the sites of wonderful public art all around the downtown area and found what the locals call bricker- brack sale or a rummage sale and probable ten other terms for locals selling stuff. Rounding a corner one weekend morning I found such a set up. There was a man with books, a woman with clothing, jewelry, and a few mixed tables and a street performer playing piano to set to tone. After digging threw a discount bin I found a turquoise colored Rock bracelet for fifty cents Australian!

More stops on my journey and more markers of those places on my wrist. I would buy a few and break one here and there. By the time I returned home I only had about three or four left but as the wooden beads of Nepal wear against my arm I am reminded of amazing stories every time. I love it and I won’t be taking them off anytime soon.

Solo, one way, extended trip

Coming back after a extended trip can be hard for anyone. There are many emotions evolved in the days before you leave and the trip home. Weather it is a few hour car ride or a full day flight, the travel beings the emotions of home very real.

My latest trip was almost eight months long and I learned a lot about the world and about myself as cliche as that may sound. For me it was after the first few months I adjusted to life on the road and out of a pack. I started my trip in Auckland, New Zealand and stayed in most of the major area of the city for the first three weeks, and man did I ever get my bearings of a city then walking it everyday for three weeks for most of the daylight hours. After the innatinal first weeks my mother took the twenty something hour flight to come see her globe trotting daughter. My mother, being the planner she is, had all of our ten days filled with things to see and do on this once in a lifetime trip for both of us. We travled from north to south island and back again. When I finally had to tell my dear mum goodbye I had to be on my own again and for this trip my defining moment. Having to plan where you will sleep and how you will get to that bed you booked in the most beautiful picture the hostel can create, you learn how quickly judge pictures and rating. Which I feel I had learned from hostel hopping in Europe on a tight budget. After a few mad hostels in New Zealand and one or two in Australia I learned quickly that five US dollars could mean the difference between a small or out of the way compared to toilets soaked in drunken pee from the bar hostel downstairs. Reviews are worth the read and also worth the time to write.

  • Www.Booking.com always gave me the most results generally in my International travels
  • Www.hostelworld.com come up with much fewer results but are all on a backpacker/ budget level.
  • Www.couchsurfing.com is a way to meet locals that are willing to open up their home to you after registering and filling in important details to the website and matching with locals that want to show you their city. You may have to do dishes or keep clean in exchange for a very local tour,home cooked local food, and a place to lay your head.
  • Www.YHI.com comes at a price of a year membership at a very reasonable rate. I have found over many counties that this organisation have overall the best accomadation at comparative prices. The rooms are always clean and the location is usually near the things you came to that area for. I have nothing but nice things to say about Hostel International.

Like in most things, the people in each place can make or break even the nicest hostel. Community living isn’t for everyone.

After getting used to this life of everyday new city, new people, and new

Waiheke Island

This beautiful island beach is a thirty-minute ferry ride from Auckland city center and is a perfect escape from the busy city. After more than three weeks of walking every section of Auckland, I needed a rest from the city and the always go momentum. By accident, I found out about Waiheke Island. I was on one of my many walks to see what hidden corner of the world I could find and somehow started talking to a man walking to work. After telling him my plans and what I have been doing he suggested this gem. I had seen it on the map and read about the island, but thought it was too far or too much for the ferry. In short, I was wrong.

This is just what I needed, a peaceful day at the beach. I walked off the ferry and checked the return times to find I had all day to play of the Island. I started off to the closest group of shops on the beach which was short and slightly warm. I stopped in a few stores and changed into my swimsuit and worked my way down to the beach. Walking along the beach edge and climbing over rocks until I found my own little spot away from anyone. I ended my day with some local wine and pasta. Also, I discovered a week before this trip a wine from Waiheke Island called Man-o-War which I fell in love with and bought a bottle for my mother. I try to eat and drink as local as I can, everywhere I can.

Byron Bay Lighthouse

Just keep following the path up and you will find the lighthouse. This 1901 lighthouse is open from 10-4 and a local group gives a tour for a donation. Byron Bay Lighthouse is the easternmost lighthouse in Australia. I spent a lot of time walking the paths both up and around the lighthouse and into the woods that lead to the beach. Lots of boulders and dense forest to be found at the point of Byron Bay. One moment I would feel like I was the only one in the area and a runner would run by with a steady pace of breathing and then the woods would go quiet again. The trees ate up all the sounds and felt a world away from the Ocean.

Byron Bay is a must for many backpackers and has a reputation for a reason. It’s the vibe they say, and when you walk around town you can’t help but feel it. It may be the dirty hippies making crafts and selling weed on the sidewalk. There are still name brand shops linen the few main blocks of town. In the right time of year, you can see the whales migrating from hilltops. Even if it’s not the right finding year you can still see amazing sights from the top of any hilltop.

 

Tonga 

If you don’t know where Tonga is, no worries, neither did I before I started planning. It’s not glamorized like Fiji is or built up with name brand stores.

Vavau like most of Tonga is not filled with hotels or shops. The photo above is The Vavau International Airport. The security check is nothing more than a bag scan and the locals sitting around talking and joking and pick a few people out to check their bags the rest of us walked by. All very relaxed and casual. There were a handful of locals, a professional photographer, and the lone traveler, me. Tonga has been recently featured in National Graphic Magazine for there amazing whale encounters. I won’t call it merely whale watching because you are feet away from these giants with snorkel gear on as they lumber to the surface and breach the surface. As opposed to what I think of traditional snorkel, floating on the surface looking down to the ocean floor far below, maybe diving down a handful of times.

Such an amazing experience and one I will never forget. We were able to get so close and see the heat runs all around our boat. There were seven of us on the boat, one guide, and the caption who was a local legion of spotting whales. Our caption had an older diesel boat which made a much deeper hum in the water then the other boats running the area and we were told the deeper noise of the boat attracted whales better. I am not sure if it was folklore or truth but it sounded plausible. The other boats running the water with us were all related to our caption in some way. Tonga, as it was explained, was divided into territories or sorts. One family group of whale chasers won’t go into another’s area.

As our saltly caption and guide spotted something stirring, we took turns in two groups when the boat spotted the whales we slipped in the water and swam over just as they were rising from the deep.