Washington, DC in the Cold

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Before I ever stepped foot in Washington, D.C. numerous warnings used to hit my Facebook feed.

Oh, don’t go there — there’s so much crime!”

“Washington has some scary neighborhoods.”

When I taught in China, there was a popular exercise I did with students when I assigned groups an American city and they presented which monuments they wanted to see and how much they planned to spend on this once in a lifetime vacation to the United States.

Nobody groaned about being assigned New York City or San Francisco — but when it came to Washington D.C., dissenting voices arose. “But teacher, Washington is dangerous, yes?”

I lacked an answer because at that point I’d never been to D.C., nor did I want to express a misguided opinion.

Discover Costa Rica Through Photos

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Costa Rica is an unusual animal in Central America, being one of the few countries in that part of the world to boast a relatively conflict free history.

Certainly they were annexed by Spain and went through a civil war, but the government was declared a democracy in 1869 — at an earlier stage than many countries that still haven’t been declared as such.

I found modern Costa Rica to be a milieu of intense nature and laid back locals. I woke up to howler monkeys, scarlet macaws, large insects scaling my walls and frogs chortling.

When a Costa Rican utters ‘Pura Vida” it’s not a flippant term tossed at your feet. Pura Vida means “pure life” — and Costa Ricans really believe in this — encompassing the good life. One of family, love and a deep connection to their environment.

There’s a high number of farmers selling Costa Rican products like coffee, bananas and cacao (chocolate).

This philosophy explains the government’s unwavering stance on eco-preservation, which makes Costa Rica one of the big players in eco-tourism.

By |January 5th, 2015 |Categories: Costa Rica |15 Comments

Releasing Sea Turtles in Costa Rica

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Piro Beach was empty, but not silent.

The darkness swallowed body and mind, until Manuel instructed us to turn on our headlamps. Our heaving breath was drowned out by the strong surf, roaring and crashing against the shore. The sand, in contrast, was soft and silky, sifting through my toes easily.

Minutes before my feet were encased in rubber boots that scraped and pinched my big toes, but now free, I wiggled them, digging in the sand further. We all had to wear these boots, because when something is worth the journey, you walk miles to get there.

We weaved through mucky paths and thick bush, crossed a river that weighed down my boots because water seeped in with alarming speed, only to navigate a muddy embankment, my boots squeaking from water and friction. Looming trees and engorged vines enveloped us, along with the dark.

By |December 8th, 2014 |Categories: Adventure, Costa Rica |14 Comments

The Reality of Volunteering at a Yoga Resort

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Travel can be perception.

We have an expectation how a place will feel, what will happen once we get there.

I’ve been quiet about my time at Blue Osa — only because I needed time to distill my experience.

People make assumptions about me, that my life is all fantasy  — full of fun, fun, fun!

I also harbour fantasies (other than the normal variety) and I had quite a few about volunteering at a yoga resort.

Before I discuss realities, let me cover a few points first.

One, the grounds of Blue Osa are truly magical, initially relaxing me. Because I was wound too tight from my lousy experiences in Europe; the setting was literally paradise.

Two, I do yoga everyday minus travel days, so the opportunity to delve deeper into yogic philosophy was the perfect union (me + a yoga resort).

Third, it was fascinating to use my writing skills in a volunteer-in-trade role, essentially writing for my bed and dinner.

Murano and Burano: Twin Islands in Italy

Murano and Burano are really two bookends to a trip to northeastern Italy – especially when in Venice. It’s little more than a vaporetto trip to these islands, both heavily rooted with their own legends and traditions.

Murano holds all the certificates on glass making, but not just any kind. Many of the creations produced in glass workshops are exploded rainbows of color, shape and aesthetic. Several prominent glass sculptures are scattered around the island, which are large and ambitious, but what also draws visitors are those delicate glass beads used in a woman’s bracelet, a more subtle show of glass art. While water life is part of Murano’s fabric, it’s really the glass that dazzles.

Burano is all about it’s nautical roots, evidenced by “Essi” or “Bussola Buranello”, the S-shaped cookies found in nearly all the bakeries. Tourists assume the S-shape cookie is a Venetian sweet treat, but it’s shape actually means the compass of Burano. So for residents, there’s a double layer of meaning to a mere cookie. Like Murano, boats move slowly and methodically in the canal that splits the island in the middle, but what Burano is mainly heralded for are rows and rows of brightly painted homes and storefronts that pop with an exuberance, a playfulness that belies cynicism. Indeed, while walking around Burano, one doesn’t even want to walk at all, but skip to a swelling song sprinkled with sunshine and wide smiles. If you are into lace and not leather, Burano is also known for lace textiles, with several shops carrying anything devoted to lace, not just doilies.

By |November 10th, 2014 |Categories: Burano, Italy, Murano |14 Comments
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Via Rail Best Photos: The Food

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Even though my Via Rail journey was a while ago, I remember the food fondly. It’s second to the scenery.

Surprising, I know, to think that food on a train makes a difference in some way, but believe me when you are stuck on a moving vehicle for four days, delicious food is one of the things you concentrate on, besides your sleep patterns and what’s being served at the bar.

Reset your thinking, because train food isn’t just Oreos and Pringles chips, but so much more. No matter if you are first or second class, the dining car was available to both.

Thus I’ve amassed my favorite meals onboard The Canadian. Don’t get too hungry as you read along!

By |October 13th, 2014 |Categories: Canada, Culture |4 Comments