Wine Tasting at Garage Bar: Mas Candí / La Salada

The Penedès territory in Catalonia is a historical wine-making region, it was listed on british wine magazine Decanter as one of the Top five Spanish wine regions to see before you die. We were somewhat familiar with this area because a few years ago we had a memorable wine cellar tour experience in Sant Sadurní d’Anoia, located in the comarca of the Alt Penedès, so it was very exciting to recieve an invitation for a wine testing session at Garage Bar focusing on two Penedès winemakers: Celler Mas Candí and Celler La Salada.  (Articulo disponible en Español )

The wine tasting session was hosted by longtime friends and Celler Mas Candí founders Ramon Jané and Toni Carbó, they talked briefly about how they met and eventually started their Mas Candí project around 15 years ago. Celler La Salada turned out to be Toni Carbó’s second project that he founded years later with his wife Anna.

It was amazing to find out that not only do they produce their own wine but they also work the land themselves; they grow, harvest and take care of their own grapevines, a process that sounds extremely challenging at times but rewarding as well. It was also inspiring to hear that at the beginning they would come to Barcelona to sell the wine on their own, something which was very surprising to most places where they would sell their products, they weren’t used to meeting the wine producer, there was always a middle man.

Another suprising fact that was revealed during in the session was that Ramon and Toni had won last year’s national blind wine tasting competition “11º Premio Vila Viniteca” in which they had been participating for 11 years straight. It was mentioned that blind wine tasting was something they’d only do as a hobby but it was clear that we were in presence of true experts in every sense of the word.

In total we tasted 6 wines, 3 from Mas Candí and 3 from La Salada, 5 of them were natural wines and only 1 was traditional.

First Wine – Mas Candí Tinc Set – Sparkling white wine (Natural)
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Second Wine – La Salada Pagès Content 2018 – White Wine (Natural)PAGES CONTENT 1.jpg

Third Wine – Mas Candí QX Quatre Xarel·los – White wine (Traditional)MAS CANDI QX.jpg

Fourth Wine – La Salada Sota Els Ametllers – White Wine (Natural)
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Fifth Wine – Mas Candí Cabòries – Red Wine (Natural)
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Sixth Wine – La Salada Roig Boig – Sparkling Red Wine (Natural)
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Their second wine “La Salada Pagès Content 2018″ is a bit of an experimental wine, some years it comes out as a white wine and some years it comes out as a red wine. This year’s turned out to be a white wine and in the end it was probably our favourite from the wine tasting session. We also really liked “La Salada Roig Boig” and “Mas Candí Tinc Set” since we’re big fans of light sparkling wines.

It was a very interesting and informative session, we had never been to Garage Bar before and it’s a very nice natural wine bar that operates as a restaurant as well. After talking a bit with the owner, Stefano Fraternali, we were informed that these wine tasting sessions actually take place every Saturday! To know more about how to sign up for these sessions, all the information is on Garage Bar’s Instagram.

Where to buy online:
Mas Candi @ Cuvée 3000
La Salada @ Cuvée 3000

Where to buy in Barcelona:
Cuvee 3000 Store

Berry Cheesecake Muffins

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Diary excerpts:

17/5: vegan magnums are terrific// the gravity of writing my thesis has not fully weighed down on me yet

18/5: so glad to have found a fitness routine that doesn’t require a gym (more walking, running)

23/5: honestly rather sad that I’ve become addicted to the temporary pleasure of something crunchy, something sweet.

2/6: Brown adipose tissue has uncoupling proteins that allow protons to travel form the outside to inside, effectively creating its own energy? A study in mice found that during periods of overeating, the TRIP gene is activated and causes massive inflammation, triggering fat storage.

3/6: fliesen= tiles

4/6: ventouse= suction device applied to baby’s head in childbirth, to assist birth. Wow.

When efforts to bake are stymied, say due to travel or the fear of people who are at your house smelling something even mildly burnt, the itch later on comes on hard. Hard. I’ll try and write an essay or put something into Excel and then I have to physically get up and go to the kitchen to play. This muffin experiment, one extrapolated from a previous one, was borne out of one of those impulsive childish outbursts, and possesses that exact childlike quality. Such a relentless need to do something with my hands is almost childish, and perhaps it would be wise to use my hands for something else, yet this is all I want to do with them, with my time.

It has nothing of the mature notes of dark chocolate somethings, but all of the decadence. It’s much welcome in light of the past week, when a few disappointments came through, but of which were also softened by a recent trip to Vienna, Austria.

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And it’s simply beautiful there. I stayed in the suburbs with a beloved family, away from the bustle of the more touristy centre. There, a different light hits the streets, a soft one which seems to imbue all its residents with the same attitude towards life. It enables a brisk but more serene walk, or perhaps a cycle, to take in the details between cement tiles or patches of grass. It enables you to observe, feel and be. Very unlike what it feels like here, where it seems rather uncommon for people to walk not for the sake of enjoying it, and mealtimes are for sustenance, never pleasure. That light, that feel, has made me want to drown in the impossible (‘unmöglich’ in their language) beauty of everyday life. From our sun-drenched brunches pregnant with pretzels (bretzeln), to cuddling near a thermal bath, to reading (The Beauty Myth by Naomi Wolf) and swallowing it up easily because my phone notifications are now, permanently, off.

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A soft and gossamer muffin studded with tangy berries and sweet cream cheese.

These berries are like a dense piquant forest, pleasantly tart and just slightly biting, uprooted and plunged into new beige territory. To sleep. To rest without dying, their inborn qualities of tart and fresh and zing there, always there. A cream cheese river cutting through the forest, right in the middle, breaking up the forest and letting it lie nonchalantly on either side.

Quote of the day: “Feelings are important. But they’re important not for the reasons we think they are. We think they’re important because they say something about us, about the world, and about our relationship with it. But they say none of these things. There’s no meaning attached to feelings. Sometimes you hurt for good feelings. Sometimes for a bad reason. And sometimes no reason at all. The hurt itself is neutral. The reason is separate.”

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Berry Cheesecake Muffins (makes 12 medium muffins)

*=vegan substitution

Ingredients

For the muffins:

250g (2 cups) plain flour

2 eggs (*3 vegan eggs, made by mixing 3 tbsp ground flaxseed with 6 tbsp water in a bowl and letting set aside for the timebeing)

210g (slightly less than a cup) sugar

113g (0.5 cup) melted butter (*vegan butter or margarine)

1 tsp baking powder

0.5 tsp baking soda

240ml (1 cup) yoghurt or sour cream (*any plant-based yoghurt)

1 tsp vanilla extract

0.5 tsp salt (leave out if you used salted butter)

around 1 cup of fresh or frozen berries (I used frozen since I always have frozen berries stuffed in my freezer)

 

For the cream cheese filling:

110g cream cheese (*vegan cream cheese)

2.5 tbsp sugar (you can also use icing sugar)

 

Directions

Preheat your oven to 180C. Spray your 12-muffin pan with cooking spray or grease it with some butter, going all over the insides of the pan, including the whole surface on top. This is because the batter will rise and then fall to create the signature muffin top look, so greasing the surface will help you easily get the muffins out. Line your pan with paper liners.

First, in a bowl, make the cream cheese filling by mixing together the cream cheese and sugar. Put this in the fridge while you make the muffin batter. Using a whisk or electrical mixer, whisk the butter and sugar together. Then add the eggs, vanilla, and salt and mix until everything is frothy and well combined. In a separate bowl, briefly mix together the flour, baking powder and baking soda, then tip this into your egg mixture. Lastly, fold in your berries. Make sure your berries are not too big– cut large raspberries or blackberries in half before mixing them in.

Fill each muffin cup halfway with the batter. Then take your cream cheese filling out from the fridge and put teaspoons of this filling into the centre of the muffin tins. Repeat until you’re done with all 12. Finally, fill the muffin cups until the top (or three-quarters full) with the rest of the batter. As a final touch, sprinkle the tops of your muffins with Maldon salt and granulated sugar. Don’t be too liberal though, since the muffins themselves are already rather sweet by themselves.

Bake for 20-22 minutes in your preheated oven. Check with a wooden skewer or knife after 20 minutes– if there are moist crumbs clinging to it, take it out. If the skewer/knife is still obviously wet, leave the muffins in there for another 3-5 minutes. These are best enjoyed warm with some vanilla ice cream or yoghurt, or plain, but can be kept in an airtight container for 3-5 days.

 

How to Remedy Dry Mouth

Written by: Bonnie Feldman, DDS, MBA, Anna Simon, Ellen M. Martin

Dry mouth (or xerostomia) is a common symptom of certain autoimmune and inflammatory diseases, particularly prevalent in Sjogren’s Syndrome, Lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and scleroderma. Other causes of dry mouth include medication use, mouth breathing, and nerves or stress. Dry mouth may increase the chance of developing dental decay, demineralization of teeth, tooth sensitivity, and/or oral infections.¹ We want you to feel like your best self, so we did the research on how lifestyle and food can help remedy dry mouth. Here are our best tips:

Lifestyle

Breathe through your nose

Breathing through your mouth can exacerbate dry mouth symptoms. Although you can’t avoid mouth breathing during activities like talking, focus on breathing through your nose whenever possible. If congestion is preventing you from breathing through your nose, especially at night (snoring may be a sign of mouth breathing), try a nasal rinse before bed or use a humidifier at night. Stay tuned for a post on tips to improve your oral posture. Potassium supplementation can help with nasal congestion, too. Make sure you are keeping hydrated, especially overnight. It’s also a good idea to chew with your mouth closed, both because it introduces less air into your mouth and because it’s polite.

Chew gum

Chewing gum or sucking on candy stimulates saliva production. Opt for sugar-free gum, candies, or lozenges to provide temporary dry mouth relief. Sugar-free is key because excess sugar can lead to tooth decay.

Try a humidifier at night

Humidifiers add moisture to the air and can help moisten your mouth and nasal passages, especially if you breathe through your mouth at night. Make sure you are drinking enough water over the course of the day and at bedtime.

Find the right mouthwash

Our mouths contain a balance of good and bad microorganisms. Mouthwashes like Listerine kill the bad bacteria in the mouth–AND the good bacteria. Alcohol is also a drying agent and can make your dry mouth worse. Avoid mouthwashes that use alcohol and use a mouth rinse like Elementa instead that uses nano silver particles to disrupt plaque buildup. Or try Biotene, a non-alcohol mouthwash especially for dry mouth.

Take probiotics and prebiotics

As a sufferer of dry mouth myself, I have found that a combination of pre- and probiotics increases my saliva production. Potential reasons include balancing pH, enhancing salivary enzymes, and improving viscosity. I use Daily Dental prebiotics, and probiotics by Hyperbiotics and BLIS.

Don’t forget to exercise

Although exercise may dry your mouth out even more, new research suggests that moderate exercise is good for oral health. When working out, keep a bottle of water (perhaps with magnesium or potassium) with you to stay hydrated. Check out our post on unusual aspects of oral care here.

Practice good oral hygiene!

Most people know you should brush your teeth (and tongue) twice a day, floss every day, and go to the dentist every six months, but there’s more to oral health than just the bare minimum. Here are 3 less-obvious tips for maintaining long-term oral health. Read more in-depth on the oral microbiome here to work towards achieving optimal oral well-being.

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Food

Avoid inflammatory foods

Inflammatory foods increase inflammation in the body, tend to exacerbate disease symptoms, and can lead to worse dry mouth. These foods include processed meats, sodas and sugary beverages, salty snacks, packaged sweets, and refined carbohydrates. Excess salt in particular can exacerbate dry mouth.

Eat anti-inflammatory foods

On the other hand, anti-inflammatory foods help to reduce inflammation in the body and may reduce symptoms, including helping your dry mouth; these are foods you should focus on including in your diet. Luckily, there are many anti-inflammatory foods, including turmeric, ginger, green leafy vegetables, berries, flax and chia seeds, walnuts and almonds, olive oil, and salmon.

Check out our guide to food therapy to learn more about nutrition and how to experiment with food as therapy.

Olive Oil (3)

The BC Cancer Agency has nutritional guidelines for managing dry mouth.

  • Eat soft foods like cooked vegetables, soups, smoothies, and juicy fruits.
    • Use sauces, dressings, and oils to soften foods.
  • Avoid dry or sticky foods like bread, crackers, and peanut butter which are hard to swallow without enough saliva.
  • Salty foods absorb moisture and should be avoided. Foods high in sodium include soy sauce, cured meats, chips and other salty snacks, soups, and any processed foods as well as most dishes at restaurants. Cooking your own food is the easiest way to control for sodium content. Look for seasoning blends that don’t contain salt, or use your favorite herbs and spices to add flavor to food instead.

Drink water, not caffeine or alcohol

It’s always a good idea to avoid soda, sugary drinks, and alcohol, opting for water instead. However, if you suffer from dry mouth, the beverages you consume are particularly important. Sip on water throughout the day to keep a consistent flow of liquid in your mouth. However, avoid bubble water, as it is acidic and can make dry mouth worse. Both caffeinated beverages and alcohol can try out your mouth. Try switching to decaffeinated coffee or tea instead to boost your energy.

We hope these tips help you remedy dry mouth and feel ready to conquer the day. What do you do to fight dry mouth? Let us know in the comments!


References:

  1. Xerostomia (Dry Mouth). 2018. Retrieved from https://www.ada.org/en/member-center/oral-health-topics/xerostomia

 

Viewing Notes: The Bachelorette (Hannah) – Ep. 4

Happy Tuesday, to those who celebrate! We have an unforgettable edition of Bachelorette Viewing Notes for you today. Trust me.

Cass is here again to provide her insights and force me to type things on my blog that I’d never say myself. Her thoughts will appear in BOLD.

We are back for another week of The Bachelorette! I wasn’t going to do it, but I am here & ready with a huge bowl of popcorn. Let’s do this.

FUN GAME: At the end of this recap will be a tally of the number of times the name Luke was written anywhere in this post. Cass and I have each guessed a number, the person closest to the actual number will win a prize donated by our sponsor.

Note: We do not have a sponsor.

Cass: 60
Paul: 93

Feel free to play along and guess a number. Let us know in the comments below how close you were.

~ The guys just woke up and are talking in the living room, when in walks the Grand Poobah himself, Chris Harrison.

~ Chris Harrison Sleeve Update: ROLLED UP

~ We are starting another week with Chris “attempting to scare the guys”.

Every guy in this room has the same haircut.

~ Chris tells them they’re off to Newport, Rhode Island and they celebrate as if he just said Las Vegas.

~ Uhm, what’s in Rhode Island?

~ They have one hour to pack and determine which hair product is their’s and which one they were just borrowing.

~ There is a whole lot of jean on jean outfits happening right now.

~ They’re checking in to Gurney’s Newport Resort & Marina, which has a 4.3 star rating on Google. Reserve your stay, today!

~ The first date card is for Jed. They’re going to Boston.

~ So Hannah is from Alabama, but she’s going to show Jed around Boston…okay.

~ *Insert Cass comment here about Hannah’s jacket, probably*

What, nothing? It’s a dark day in bachelorette land when I’m the one commenting on the outfits.

~ Hannah: “Welcome to Boston!”

~ REALLY? EVERY SEASON. YOU’RE NOT FROM THERE. YOU CAN’T WELCOME ANOTHER VISITOR TO THE PLACE YOU ARE ALSO VISITING.

~ They’re walking through the Quincy Market, which lasts for about 32 edited seconds.

~ OMG these photo booth pictures are adorable.

~ Now they are walking the streets and Hannah pretends to be a tour guide.

~ Every week, Jed just impresses me more & more, I really like them together.

~ At a bar called Cheers, they’re surrounded by Boston accents but manage to tell each other they like being around one another.

~ This week, we have untouched beers…PLEASE DON’T WASTE THE BEER.

~ Back out on the streets, they get some Halo Top ice cream and don’t even pay.

~ Halo Top totally paid big bucks for that promo, smart move Halo Top, smart move.

~ “Halo Top: A Taste of Heaven” – Don’t mind me, just subtly pitching slogans to a potential future sponsor(??) of these Viewing Notes.

Hannah has now taken him to the Boston Celtics practice court, where Jaylen Brown and Terry Rozier are waiting for them.

~ “Welcome to Boston.” – Jaylen Brown, a guy who actually lives in Boston. THANK YOU.

~ Now we have Hannah acting like she’s BFFs with Terry & Jaylen.

~ I like how the sponsor logos on their jerseys have tape over them.

~ Anyone else notice how everything is taped over on these jerseys?

~ I can’t wait to see Luke’s reaction to these jerseys.

~ But, like, can I have a personalized jersey too? Hey Raps, if you’re reading this, hook a sister up.

~ I like how we’re both asking for freebies tonight and didn’t co-ordinate this at all.

Jed thinks these are two of the best players in the NBA? They aren’t even in the Top 4 on their own team.

~ Correction, Jed, they clearly aren’t two of the best guys in the league ’cause Kawhi is King at the moment. Get it right, dude.

~ Jaylen Brown is now sitting with Hannah to ask how everything’s going so far and give her advice. He’s getting more one-on-one time than some of the guys in the house.

~ Jaylen is two years younger than Hannah.

~ This relationship advice is key, I’m taking notes over here, thanks for the pointers.

~ I have a feeling Jed must have played high school basketball or something, like how are you sinking all these baskets?

~ ESPECIALLY THE ONE WHEN HE WAS KISSING HANNAH, LIKE WHAT!

~ John Paul Jones reading out this date card right now.

~ Everyone is on the date except for Tyler and Jed, of course.

~ THIRTEEN GUYS ON ONE DATE. Time for each of them to self-evict.

~ Everyone is so ready to hurt Luke P.

~ Time for dinner. I think I see mashed potatoes, but it’s probably just fake food at this point.

~ HOLY MOTHER OF PEARL.

~ JED JUST ADMITTED TO COMING ON THE SHOW BECAUSE OF THE PLATFORM & HIS MUSIC.

~ THAT WAS THE MAIN ORIGINAL REASON.

~ BUT NOW APPARENTLY HE HAS A CHANGE OF HEART.

~ WE ALL KNEW IT.

He tells her that his mindset has changed and he’s here for her.

~ He gets a rose.

~ I was rooting for you to be different, Jed. I was rooting for you.

~ Omg, Hannah is gonna be the basis of all his songs for the next little while.

So is Jed here for the right reasons now? I guess we’ll never know.

~ But that takes some serious balls to admit he came on to get his music out there.

~ Time for the group date and the guys come running to greet Hannah.

~ “Welcome to Rhode Island” – STOP IT

~ They’re going to be playing Rugby. Yes, let’s go!

Rugby’s instant replay system is one of my favourites. I’ll explain it another time.

~ It’s blood, sweat, & tears time. 

~ Hannah doesn’t want anyone to get hurt. Should’ve played checkers.

~ The thing I like about rugby is the respect the players have for their opponent. You won’t find it in other sports.

~ It’s about to get aggressive. 

~ Luke, high school football is nothing compared to rugby. Grow a brain.

~ “Have fun & be safe” – Seriously, Hannah?

~ Survival of the fittest time. 

~ We have Team Green vs. Team Blue. The game begins and we have high tackles all over the place. The ref is letting them play, though.

~ John Paul Jones aka Sunshine from Remember The Titans, scores a try but misses the conversion.

~ The score is 5-0 at halftime.

~ Kevin! thinks he dislocated his shoulder and is put in an ambulance.

~ Damn it, that’s how the ambulance comes into play, that was boring.

~ Kevin dislocated his shoulder, boring.

~ Uhh I think what my colleague here is trying to say is we’re glad no one got seriously injured. DON’T SCARE AWAY THE SPONSORS, CASS.

~ This show likes to have an ambulance on every season just to hype it up in previews.

~ Luke P. is scary obsessed with Hannah.

~ Garrett has a target on his back after that hug.

~ It took 3 guys to take Luke down.

~ Luke P. just picked up Luke S. and slammed him on his back, which was about 3 miles away from the play.

~ HOLY SHIT, WHAT THE HELL DID LUKE P. JUST DO?

~ VERY UNSPORTSMANLIKE.

~ SEND HIM HOME FOR THAT.

That should be a red card, but it’s The Bachelorette so he’ll probably get a rose.

~ So uncalled for Luke, so uncalled for.

~ It’s time for the night portion, so the guys will be talking about Luke P. the whole time.

~ And of course, she calls Luke P. away first.

~ “He is an unstable guy, he shouldn’t be here.” – You tell ’em, Luke S.

~ The fact that “unemployed” Grant is still here, is great.

Luke P. describes a sequence of events where he had the ball and Luke S. was swinging at him which led to the body slam. I don’t know, looked like the ball was on the other side of the field.

~ CALL UP THE REPLAY OFFICIAL.

~ Luke P. blatantly lying to Hannah right now.

~ Do you think she’s starting to realize he’s crazy, too?

~ Now she calls Luke S. over for his version of events.

~ THE FACT THAT LUKE S. JUST CONFIRMED HE LIED TO HER, PURE GOLD.

~ Hannah has turned into the Department of Player Safety.

~ “We all have a thing with Luke P.” – Luke S.

~ Luke S. says Luke P. also kneed him in the head. We’re gonna need more footage. Release the tapes!

~ Luke P. is the Brad Marchand of rugby.

~ I’m tired of writing the name, Luke.

~ I feel like I’ve written Luke way too many times already.

~ Now it’s time for the other guys – who are just there as witnesses – to give their version of events.

~ Imagine they had a rugby match and there was no drama?

~ Mike & Garrett giving it to Luke right now. I’m all for it.

~ Garrett tells Luke P. that he’s not okay with him almost hurting his friend today.

~ “I have 14 friends in the house & you could have seriously hurt one of them.” – Garrett, clearly leave Luke P. out.

~ Luke P. says Luke S. was coming at him with clenched fists. Maybe he was holding a nectarine. Ever think of THAT?

~ The room clears out until the two Lukes are the only ones left.

~ Holy cow, the Lukes are left alone.

~ “I never want to see you again in my life.” – Luke S.

~ Garrett is talking to Hannah now and says, “I’m crushing for ya hard, straight up.” – ahh Garrett opening up right now.

~ So much hostility tonight. I really hope we get a fist fight or something tonight, maybe another ambulance.

Ahem…we here at Viewing Notes do not encourage violence. THE SPONSORS, CASS, THE SPONSORS.

~ Pilot Pete turning the mood around for us, thank God.

~ Peter always looks like a pilot, no matter the setting.

~ “Hannah is everything that I ever wanted” – Damn it Peter, melting my darn ice cold heart.

~ Garrett and his red jacket are getting the group date rose.

~ It’s the next day and Hannah is crying because her feelings for Luke P. are the strongest and she doesn’t know if she’s reading him right. Just ask the cameramen. They know.

~ Hannah sitting on the pier – that is actually scaring me.

~ Her feelings for Luke P. are the strongest…. NO NO NO NO NO NOOOOOOOOOOOO.

~ Someone move her away from the cold water, please.

~ Has anyone filled Tyler in?

~ Tyler C. arrives and she vents, but Tyler gives her a pep talk.

~ I’m going to say it once tonight, but I think Tyler is so hunky…

~ Paul is literally shaking his head at me & rolling his eyes. He thinks Tyler is “no brain, all abs”…but Paul, look at him comfort her when she’s sad.

I don’t know, I need to see him thrive in a situation that isn’t served up on a platter for him to be a hero.

~ He wants her at her highs & lows, & be the man for her at the end of this…I’m literally just melting.

~ They go out on a boat to catch lobsters.

~ “Butter me up, girl” – I will never look at buttered lobster the same.

~ “You’re dangerous in black” – I’d die if someone said that to me, my whole closet is full of black clothes, so it’s only fitting.

~ It’s time for dinner, which means the food will stare at them.

~ Hannah being all “I thought you were a player”…”I was wondering why he was here”…”I wanted to put a wall up with you”.

Nope, he’s just a regular dancing contractor.

~ Tyler is in a place where “he can give himself to someone” – hi, I’m over here.

~ I have tears in my eyes watching this date, but it’s because I swallowed some water the wrong way and am choking.

~ “Hannah & Tyler, goes really good together” – awwwh

~ Tyler gets a rose. I don’t even think they picked up a fork.

~ Hannah and Tyler are now attending a Jake Owen concert at a theatre, with a bunch of screaming fans who are just there to watch them dance.

~ HOLY SHIT IT’S JAKE OWN.

~ OMG, I CAN’T TAKE ANYMORE. MY HEART.

~ I’m just over here singing along, don’t mind me.

~ They kiss & sparks literally fly.

~ I think I need a break after that date.

~ Alright, Tyler won me over tonight, but I’ll still be skeptical.

~ It’s time for the cocktail party and Hannah walks into the mansion to say it’s been a rough week.

~ Lions at the front door of the mansion, fancy. 

~ Luke P. going on about how they all need to be truthful going forward literally has me laughing out loud.

~ Hannah is looking dangerous in another black dress. 

~ Yes, Peter, let’s talk about Hannah & not the Lukes.

~ Peter Pilot is now officially asking her if she wants to be his girlfriend.

~ This could cause some drama.

~ “I’m here for Hannah.” – Mike. Drink.

~ Mike is going after Luke P., telling him he’s the cause of Hannah not being happy. Luke does not agree.

~ Mike is literally a national treasure!

~ MIKE FOR BACHELOR.

~ Mike reminds us of Culhane in Dynasty.

~ Every mansion this show rents out looks the same. Maybe it’s all the candles they bring in.

~ Kevin going on about how if Luke P. gets a rose, it diminishes the rose. Drop that mic, Kevin, drop that mic.

~ Mike & Luke P. right now.

~ Mike calling Luke P. out on everything right now.

~ HE CALLED LUKE P. A PSYCHOPATH, YES MIKE, YESSSS.

~ Omg can this get any better?

~ That is one amazing fireplace & fire.

~ Luke S. has a conversation with Hannah but she seems to have shut him down, thinking he’s only there to promote his tequila business, which isn’t true.

~ Luke P. says he will go tell Hannah that Luke S. is actually here for the right reasons.

~ LUKE P. TELLS HANNAH THAT LUKE S. ASKED HIM TO PUT IN A GOOD WORD FOR HIM, BUT HE WON’T DO THAT BECAUSE HE STILL DOESN’T THINK LUKE S. IS HERE FOR THE RIGHT REASONS.

~ Here we go again. Luke P luring straight to Hannah again.

~ Hannah has been successfully hoodwinked. She’s now back to talking to Luke S.

~ Is she not trusting Luke S. because he looks like Nick Viall?

~ Why doesn’t Hannah just go take a survey with the guys? Ask them which Luke is the better Luke.

~ Instead, she calls both Lukes aside.

~ Both Lukes are feeling like they are in the red zone with Hannah. 

~ Everyone calling Luke P. out on his BS right now.

~ Dylan with the, “I’ve never disliked anyone more than him”.

~ And the episode ends. No Rose Ceremony in tonight’s episode.

~ Of course we end with Luke P. having that crazy look in his eye.

That’s a wrap on this week, again I need time to recover. I don’t think I’ve ever & I mean ever, typed the name Luke so many damn times. I’m not prepared to continue typing it out.

FINAL “LUKE” TALLY: 60

STOP IT. Cass guessed 60. HOWWW?? I give up. I quit. GET YOUR VOODOO SKILLS OUT OF HERE. Oh my God. I’ll never hear the end of this. Never. I’m done.

Thanks Paul, for having me back this week & thanks for not getting tired of me yet!

The Bachelorette isn’t on next Monday, thanks to the NBA Finals. I don’t know when the next episode is. For all I know, it could be IN 60 FREAKIN’ DAYS BECAUSE EVERYTHING ELSE IS COMING UP 60.

Whenever it is, we’ll see you then.

Polynesian Islands – Honeymoon

My husband (Chase) and I got married in Nov 2018. We decided to book our honeymoon for the Polynesian Islands in May 2019, which was the beginning of their “non-rainy” season. We booked our trip through Costco Travel, which I have nothing but amazing things to say about! The whole entire convo with the Costco travel agent lasted maybe 20 minutes, where she gave advice and helped us customize our whole trip. All hotels, flights and inter-island transportation were included.

Quick Summary

  • Costco travel had every step of our trip organized, we got picked up and shuttled everywhere we needed to go. Food packages were also included which was a huge $$ saver.
  • Buy duty free alcohol at the airport before you depart!!! It’s so expensive at the hotels??
  • We liked Bora Bora more, maybe because we saved the badass over-water bungalow for it and the weather was superb. It rained a lot in Moorea.
  • I still loved Moorea though, we did many more excursions which allowed us to almost never leave the room in Bora Bora ??.
  • You will have WiFi on the resorts, so no cell package needed.
  • Bring slots of sunscreen and bug spray for mosquitos
  • Also HUGE note – watch out for seaweed/algae on the ladder in the overwater bungalows – gave me serious rashes that lasted multiple days! ??

Here I’ll continue on in more detail..

1st Stop – Tahiti

We took a redeye direct flight from LAX to Tahiti, which was roughly 8.5 hrs. When we arrived, Marama tours agent “laid us” with flowers and put us on a bus to catch the ferry to Moorea. The ferry was huge, but sadly a boring 1 hr ride (there was no booze to be bought). When we landed in Moorea, we were shuttled by Albert tours to the Hilton, were we were staying at. Owner of Albert tours drove the bus and was a HUGE crack up. Made the ride very enjoyable.

2nd Stop – Moorea

We first stayed in Moorea for 4 nights at the Hilton in a “deluxe garden bungalow with pool”. Room was great, very private and can skinny dip in your pool if you can stand how cold the water is (we barely used it bc of this). We had the buffet breakfast included in this package – which was amazing! Unfortunately, it was mainly overcast with pockets of showers while we stayed here. We booked all of our activities with the concierge at the hotel when we arrive. Below I will list some of the activities we did.

Hilton Spa & gym

  • I got a deep tissue massage at the spa in the Hilton, which was like 150$ ?? (but it’s my honeymoon so why not ???????)
  • Spa services was very professional and clean. Not sure if Polynesian hands are stronger but I requested a “deep” strength massage as I normally do at home – but this was VERY deep. I still enjoyed it but just be aware! I was then able to hit the sauna after
  • Gym – was small but sufficient. Had a treadmill, couple of bikes, elliptical, free weights, cable machine (with only one attachment) and weighted balls. Still got a decent workout in.

Canoeing and paddle boarding at the hilton

  • These activities are free provided by the hotel. Moorea had way more coral reefs everywhere, so watch out for scraping a leg or foot!

Golf at the Moorea Green Pearl

There are only golf courses on Tahiti and one on Moorea. This was a 100% must do for Chase. We both rented clubs and bought tees, golf balls, a shirt, two hats, green fees, cart, and range balls, which all totaled <500$.

  • 18 holes / 6600 yards / par 70
  • Rented clubs were VERY nice. We both received brand new Titleist AP3 irons, vokey wedges, Scotty Cameron putters and titleist 917 divers
  • Front 9 was rather tame and flat. Only a few ocean lookout points, but this led up to the very beautiful back 9
  • Back 9 featured a bunch of elevation changes (like on the side of the mountain) and great view points of the ocean. Also some very narrow fairways

  • ATV excursion
    • Barely any experience required
      Wear bug spray!!
      First stop is at the pineapple factory were you take some shots of alcohol made from local pineapples ??
      Next your tour up around one of the mountains, stopping to see pineapple and other fruit farms. This was really cool since we had neither seen how some fruit was grown
      Belvedere point – beautiful lookout over the ocean
      Ancient Polynesian temple had only stone walls remaining. Apparently did human sacrifices here
      Final stop at the only high school on moorea for jam tasting. This high school is focused on agriculture, otherwise you go to Tahiti for school. Recommend getting ice cream here ??

    Rented mopeds (50 cc)

    • Rode a whole lap around the island, which took roughly 1 hr. Literally only one road all the way around so you can’t get lost
    • Stopped at some pearl shops, but honestly there wasn’t much decent shopping anywhere. I bought my pearl necklace in Bora bora but apparently it was cheaper to get them here
    • Was awesome until it got windy the last 10 minutes and a branch or something hit me face ??

    From Moorea, we were picked up and transported to the Moorea airport. The flight to Bora Bora was only 1 hr. FYI there is no assigned seating and only a tiny little resturant/bar.

    3rd stop – Bora Bora

    Bora Bora is where the luxury began. We stayed at the Intercontinental Bora Bora Resort & Thalasso Spa. The hotel picked us up from the airport where you are transported via boat the the resort. Here we stayed in a “Sapphire Overwater Junior Suite Villa” with daily buffets breakfast and nightly 3-course dinner included. I highly recommend this resort !! It’s big, and has a way more resort and luxury feel to it!

    So we did barely any activties here because we loved our room soooo much! Also the weather was perfect, so the first night chase got SO sunburnt and I got a huge allergic reaction from the seaweed/algae. When you arrive, you get an information packet, and in it there is a tiny warning note where it mentions the algae on the ladder in the bungalows. To give an idea, a guy comes to clean the ladders every day in a full suit. And I am allergic to pretty much all plant life, so I got destroyed by it and of course chase did not. So heads up – barely touch the ladder and then use the hose they provide on your balcony to fully rinse off after. And probably shower with soap too. (Rash was soooo itchy and burned and was just awful)

    Other than that, we ate like royalty with the breakfast and 3 course dinner. The *fancy show dinners* were ehhhh. Basically like a smaller luau seen in Hawaii and were not free like the normal dinners. Lunch was typically delivered to the room. We basically just lounged on our deck or jumped in the ocean every day. It was amazing!!! It was our honeymoon, so at this point we just wanted to sunbathe and enjoy each other’s company ??There are also free paddle boards, canoes, and other stuff to rent. Jetskis looked fun but I’ve done that alot and wanted the full use of our view ?? (also btw my rash and chases sun burn we would have died)

    Check out the free stringray feeding they have at the hotel at 2 pm. Honestly was so cool, like little doggies begging for treats, and they swam all around you. Apparently they have been fed at the same spot for 10 years at 2pm.

    Note – the drinks are crazy expensive on Bora Bora.. like 20-30$ per drink ?? wine is cheaper, and they do have drink specials every other day. Also the free 3 course dinner is key, would have been at least 200$+ a meal.

    Overall, it was an unforgettable and dreamy honeymoon. We both loved it, and I hope this post helps anyone who is interested in visiting Moorea or Bora Bora ! ??

    5 Inspiring Tips for Traveling More in Your 50s

    Life begins at … life begins whenever you want it to. That’s why more and more people over 50 are seeking new travel adventures, new destinations, and jumping into RVs. After all, you’re kid-free, hopefully, financially stable and slowing down when it comes to work. You are in a prime position to travel extensively. Here are some inspiring tips to help you on your journey.

    Relax and rejuvenate

    According to a recent AARP survey, 50 plus-year-olds will take 4 to 5 trips a year. They take their trips for a range of reasons. Top of their list is simply to relax and feel rejuvenated. It makes sense. After years of working 40 plus hours a week at a job and being caregivers to loved ones 24/7, there’s definitely a sense that it’s time to make your needs a priority. It’s time for a break. Time to relax, rejuvenate, and rediscover yourself.

    waterfall at the Japanese Tea Garden

    Climb every mountain

    Perhaps that’s a step too far but, as the song says, why not set yourself challenges and goals? There’s no point making a travel bucket list if it only remains a list. A recent Saga survey found that a third of over 50s felt far more adventurous than they did in their 40s. So, while your kids might raise their eyebrows at your plan to move into an RV full-time or trek the Great Wall of China, or simply learn a new skill, why shouldn’t you? Don’t allow other people to hold you back or second guess your dreams.

    Being looked after

    If adventure and RVing aren’t quite your thing, that’s OK. Perhaps, after years of looking after everyone else, it’s your turn to think about yourself and do something strictly for yourself? Cruises offer all-inclusive luxury and require very little planning effort. Your needs will be the priority. From entertainment to cuisine to port stops in places you dreamed of visiting, your every requirement is taken care of for you.

    Prefer solid ground? There are lots of adult-only focused resorts. Companies have wised up to the fact that many 50+ do not necessarily wish to spend their vacations with screaming kids around. These places offer you a chance to unwind and meet like-minded people. You’ll feel pampered at one of these all-inclusive resorts.

    Chicago skyline

    Culture enthusiasts

    It seems that the over 50s like more than just resorts and beaches. This age group cares about the impact of travel. They like to immerse themselves in the history and culture of a place. We bump into lots of fellow RVers who enjoy visiting cities for all the culture, museums, and activities found in a large metropolitan area.

    If you’re about to join the roving 50s, then do some research before you go. If you plan on traveling abroad, learn a few words in the local language. Go on social media and find local groups that post events and information. I find a lot of my travel inspiration from fellow bloggers.

    Plan a gap year

    tips for traveling more in your 50s, photo of retired couple, inspirationGap years were not in fashion when the over 50s were students. It was all about getting qualified and starting work. Perhaps you deserve your gap year now? Before Al and I moved into our RV full-time, we tested the waters. One year we went on a 6-week road trip and loved it so much that the following year we went on a 4-month road trip.

    So, don’t hesitate to ask your boss for a sabbatical or ask about working part-time location independently. Many employers won’t want to lose your years of experience and might be willing to be flexible. Look at your rainy day savings and think about investing in you. Travel remains a priority for many with 30% of workers saying they would accept lower salaries in exchange for more business trips.

    Gone are the days when age was a barrier to work. Taking a year out is simply that. When you return, you’ll be refreshed and reinvigorated. Perhaps, your travels will inspire you to make further changes to your lifestyle.

    Then your adventures have only just begun.

    #travel inspiration #5 tips to travel more #travel more in your 50s

    High School Graduation Ceremony

    My daughter graduated from high school! This involved several days of joyous events with relatives and parties. It also presented me with a bit of a photography quandary.

    I initially set about planning how I was going to photograph this occasion from my seat up in the audience of an arena. I have a 70-200mm f/2.8 Sigma lens that I have used for multiple school events but I didn’t think that it would have good enough reach from where I would be seated. So, I looked at what I could rent at a camera store.

    A camera store in Austin has a Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 200-400mm f/4G ED VR II Lens for rental. I would be able to rent this for about $80 for the day. With this lens attached to a D750 I would probably be able to get some really good photos from up in the seats. Below is a photo of the lens. It is spec’d at 14.4 in. (365 mm) in length and weighs 118.5 oz. (3360 g); a 7 and a half pound lens, longer than my forearm hanging off of my camera.

    Nikon200400f4

    I began to stress over this quite a bit. How am I going to get it into the arena? Cameras were allowed, but no tripods, so I would have to hand-hold this by the lens at high-ISO. Also, they only allow clear bags so I would have to find a clear bag to haul this thing into the arena. I was worried that it would be difficult to get a good photo and I spent a lot of time thinking about this and how I would handle the situation.

    Finally, the day before graduation came and I headed for the camera shop. They showed me the lens and let me experiment with it. The lens is huge and comes with its own backpack. It’s also very heavy and I hand-held a few photos in the camera store that turned out well enough. So, it seemed like it might work.

    But then I began to get emotional. My daughter was graduating from high school and I was going to spend the entire time futzing around with a monster lens instead of watching and experiencing her graduation. I almost teared up thinking about this and I backed out. I handed the lens back and cancelled the rental. And I drove home feeling relieved by my decision.

    The next morning I attended graduation, stood when my daughter walked across the stage, and lived the experience.

    I then ordered the pictures of the graduation from photographers working the event and have no regrets. Below are my daughter’s graduation photos from the event that I purchased with the copyrights. It cost me about twice what renting the lens would have cost and I have no regrets, just happiness.

    30762833_P_0266-Traditional

    30762834_W_0102

    I really don’t know why I worried myself with this to begin with. I love having a camera and hiking around with it attempting to take nice photos, but sometimes I have to stop myself from letting it get in the way of enjoying life. I have on several occasions left the camera at home and enjoyed a school event with my own eyes and not worried about getting those photos. I am glad that I made that decision here as well.

    img_1959

    Thanks for reading. Now I really need to get out shooting again.

    Three years, pep self-talk, and my favorite view

    Whales Tail at Breckenridge Ski Resort. A view from on top of the world! It's all about the challenge.

    Whale’s tail is one of the most spectacular ski runs in Summit County, in my humble, okay, not so humble opinion. I have always felt exhilarated when skiing it. It’s a double black diamond, so half the excitement is dropping into the bowl. The views are breathtaking.

    See those little dots looking over the cornice? They are skiers or boarders contemplating the drop.

    The view from Whales Tail in Breckenridge, Colorado is spectacular, but it is also a double black and most challenging.

    After a partial knee replacement repaired damage from an old ski injury, I had to give myself stomach shots to keep from clotting and my knee didn’t heal. It swelled and both legs atrophied. One year later, I skied Whales Tail, but struggled. After that, I took it easy. Single blacks were my limit. No doubles. Why take chances, right?

    I hired a personal trainer but still didn’t feel strong enough. Then I pinched my meniscus over the holidays. Are you kidding me? We took a family trip to Park City. While everyone else hit the double blacks, I stuck to blues and blacks and played it safe.

    Memorial Day rolled around. Breckenridge extended their season with a few runs on Peak 6 and 7. Not wanting to ski slush all day, I took the T-bar to the top. I hadn’t been up there for a while. After a quick warm up, I said to my husband, Danny, “Let’s take Imperial.” That’s the lift to Whales Tail.

    I was ready.

    It’s not often that Lake Dillon is open when I’m skiing. See it in the distance?

    Spring skiing in Breckenridge

    I had a conversation with myself as I rode up the lift into the clouds:

    “You’re ready, right?” I asked myself.

    “Yeah, I guess,” I answered.

    “Well it’s a helluva lot better than hitting the slush and breaking your tibia above your boot.”

    “That’s grim.”

    “It happens. Just turn your shoulders and stick your butt out. You’ll be fine.”

    “Unless I fall.”

    “Don’t say that. Don’t even think it. You’ll will it to happen to us!”

    “Okay, okay! I’ve wanted to see those views for long time now.”

    “It’s time. To get off the lift! Snap out of it!!!! You can do this. You got this”.

    “Yeah, yeah. See you at the bottom. I mean, well, I’ll be fine.”

    Looking down the tail of Whales Tail one of my favorite places in the world!

    Skiers and boarders hike about ten feet up to enter between the snow fences. Then we ski the narrow ridge to the Tail. I had taken a photo here years ago. Nothing had changed.

    My heart filled. It’s one of my favorite places in the world.

    Skiing Whales Tail Double blacks once again!

    The snow was like ice cream, thick but easy to maneuver. I never worried about falling although I carved wide turns. My knees didn’t hurt at all. Yay!

    My first time skiing double blacks in three years. Yes!

    Good thing I talked myself into it.

    “You’re welcome.”

    Have you talked yourself into anything lately? Do you talk to yourself?

    Click for more adventure on the Wild Ride!

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    The A. Love Project: Suit Up

    Here We Go….

    I’m struggling to truly begin but I will because my life depends on it. Life being myself, children, the world and YOU! I’ve started this blog to hold myself to the level of intent and accountability that is necessary to continue the path of being in the greatest health and best shape of my life. As mentioned in my previous post, I’m doing installments of this journey. But before I get into the grit. Let me give you a little background….

    So I’ve been fat all my life (let others say it). However in my “first 5” years I was fed homegrown fruits and vegetables. Fresh caught fish. Food from farmer’s market. But something happened at the tender age of 6 and I began to use food as a crutch as I was able to explore more options. Between disaster and trauma in my little world, all things I learned is not truly “food” became a bestie, confidant, lover (in adulthood) and the thing that got me through the stress of life.

    I’m not going to say how bad it got… but think hangover (not alcohol induced, tho). Seeing this now I realize I underwent just as much trauma in eating what/how/when I did. But now that I’ve done so much work to get to the root of such behavior, I can say I’m ready to take care of the inner child inside and rebirth and grow myself up again with a new light and understanding of how to live and love myself.

    So much to be thankful for… no diabetes, heart disease, cancer, stroke, lost limbs, etc. So far arthritis and a bad back… Something I can live with if I take care of my body, strengthen it and feed it “life.” This is what this Natural Health and Weight Loss is all about. Giving life to myself through natural-living-food, meditation and activity that guarantees that I can do and be all I can. For real, I’m not going to lie and say I won’t indulge in my faves sometimes- at some point (cinnamon rolls, cheesecake, lasagna (veggie I promise). But I’m making a commitment to use my knowledge, skill and wit to take live foods that are better and taste good and create masterpieces with them like I didn’t miss a dang thing!

    So here’s how its going down:

    • Vegetables
    • Limited wild tuna, salmon or herring; free range chicken/turkey breast (no corn or soy fed… from local farm) My goal is to eat meat seldom if not at all… but hey… baby steps
    • Fibrous Grains and Wild or Black Rice
    • Beans, Nuts and Seeds
    • Fruits
    • Necessary Supplements (vitamins and minerals)
    • Tea
    • yes my Coffee
    • and Herbs
    • NO GMO’s at all possible.
    • ********And to grow my own food as much as I can.

    My next installment will give more context of what this method will look like and what my activities and/or workouts will consist of. As well the types of meditation and motivation practices I’ve been using.

    The picture above is 2 years old and I’m about the same. I haven’t taken any photos because I know I’m tired of looking the way I feel. It’s time to change that NOW… cuz I feel good, I’m loving myself and life and it’s time for this butterfly to free herself… So…

    Here we go….

    A fed baby is a happy baby..

    IMG_1814.JPGI’ve been debating whether to post this or not for the fear of being seen so controversial but to be honest I felt that everything that’s to follow needed to be said.. for all women out there who will one day face the exact same situation I’ve experienced.

    Breast feeding vs bottle feeding..

    I read an Instagram post while I was pregnant which said something to the extent of ‘we support you women who can produce milk but choose to formula feed’. Choosing to bottlefeed formula as opposed to breastfeeding isn’t an easy decision, for some they don’t make enough milk, for others it’s a matter of mental health or perhaps for medical reasons you actually cannot breastfeed- whatever the reason you do not need to justify yourself.

    Yes, midwives and hospital posters- we know, breastfed is best. Yes, random stranger who sees you pour formula into a sterilised bottled- we know it would be so much “easier” to just use what God has designed our bodies to produce but we’re not going for what is “best” by the standards of research or what is “easier” by the standards of convenience- we’re going for what works for me and my family.

    So if you choose to formula feed and not even try breast feeding I cheer for you. I had a moment a few weeks ago where Raegan was struggling to poo (I know TMI..)- we were going on a few days. She would cry and only pass wind so I knew it was hurting her- I thought it may be the formula.. with tears in my eyes I felt to see if I had any milk (I had worked on suppressing my milk straight after she was born)- I barely had anything.. I felt so guilty for a split second and then snapped myself out of it and started working through exercises to help her poo. I was feeling guilty because of what other people had shamed me into thinking and feeling which was not okay.

    So here we are 4 weeks later, she is actually a month old tomorrow and we are growing and thriving! We’re working out new routines for the girls and I and we are loving life (most days)! If you are where I was a few weeks ago, mumma, you have chosen to do what is best- don’t let anyone make you question your decision or shame you into thinking you’re not a great mum!

    Dark Star Safari Part 2 – Into the Centre

    The term failed states was thrown around regularly by politicians in the lead up to the Iraq War: the term generally applying to those states that the United States did not particularly like. Three countries fell into this category – Iraq, Iran, and North Korea, though the term ‘Rogue State’ would probably have been more adequate since these countries were openly antagonistic towards the United States. However there are a number of countries out there that could genuinely be considered failed states, and for a while (namely until I read this book) the only country that I could think of that could legitimately hold that title was Somalia. However, since travelling with Theroux on his trek across Africa I have come to realise that there are other countries that can, unfortunately, lay claim to that title – Kenya being one of them,
    Mind you, if you jump onto Wikitravel and type in Nairobi, they tell you that the place has been cleaned up substantially, but then again that is not surprising considering that anybody (including the government of Kenya) can jump onto that site and alter it, especially if it means attracting more tourist dollars. However, when I typed in Kenya I got this big warning about how the northern region should be avoided at all costs due to a prevalence of terrorism and banditry (which suggests little has changed since Theroux travelled through here). Mind you, they also warned you against going to Mombassa, which I always considered to be one of those exotic places where Europeans can come for a cheap holiday (much like Australians going to Thailand or Bali).
    No Man’s Land
    Theroux describes the road between Addis Ababa and Nairobi as being the longest road in Africa. I personally won’t dispute that but I sometimes wonder how you can actually define a road. Having grown up in Australia I my understanding of a major road between two cities is one that is usually covered in bitumen and is regularly repaired by the government, however if you go to Europe or America, we are talking about a motorway. However this is not the case in Africa (though over the past ten years the flood of Chinese money could have changed that to an extent). In fact, according to Theroux these ‘main roads’ are little more than dirt tracks that are in sore need of repair, and if you happen to break down you are pretty much on your own.
    In fact the further from the major city you get the less hospitable the land becomes. You don’t just take your own petrol (don’t expect to find a road-side service centre) but any equipment that might be required in a breakdown. In fact one of the trucks that Theroux was travelling on suffered a broken axle, which meant that they had to spend the night trying to fix so they could get the truck to the next major town (and this truck was being driven by a bunch of backpackers from Europe). Needless to say, Theroux decided to take his chances with the next truck that happened to pass buy; this one crowded full of locals and their cows.
    Not only should you take your equipment, but you should also make sure you have enough provisions since water is scarce and food very, very unreliable. If you want canned meat you can forget it, and like the roadside service centre, don’t expect to find any 7-11s along the roadside as well. The other thing is that one is warned not to travel at dusk and especially at night because that is when all of the bandits come out of hiding to attack unwary travellers, and in the even more remote areas they will even attack during the day (as Theroux discovered much to his luck). There were villages and towns along the route, and he was even able to have a couple of beers, but these towns are little more than shanty towns, though they do provide protection, and you can even get supplies if that is what is needed (and if you are really lucky, you may even find a spare axle).
    There was little to indicate that they had crossed the border from Ethiopia and into Kenya, with the exception that his lift in Ethiopia had pointed the border out to him. There was no border post, no fence, nothing to indicate that he had crossed from one country into another. This is the porous nature of the African landscape and the artificiality of the borders that were originally laid out by the European colonial powers. A border is little more than a line on the map that has no physical reality, with the exception of a sign welcoming you to the new land (or maybe even warning you of the dangers that you are about to face).
    It is interesting how he mentioned the cattle trucks that were travelling along this road towards Nairobi. In fact the entire family would be packed into the truck along with the cattle, which would be the best of their stock. One sometimes wonders why they would take their best cattle to sell at the markets in Nairobi, but in a way it is not surprising because nobody wants to buy substandard stock, and the best cattle offer the best price. I remember when somebody once complained to me about how we exported the best of our produce, but that is not surprising because not only do the best get the top dollar, but you can sell your best – nobody wants to buy poor quality produce. However, the problem with exporting goods is that not every country wants them, because while they can get cheap cattle from Kenya, the local farmers would suffer, so they impose a tax on the imported goods, otherwise known as a tariff. Of course this hurts the poor Kenyan rancher, so a free trade movement arose which slowly stripped away all of these tariffs, which in turn hurts the local farmers. Thus to make them competitive, the goverment offer then subsidies. However, despite all of these attempts at market manipulations to assist farmers in poor countries survive in the end most of the mark ups go to the middle men, because in a place like Kenya the ranchers are competing with each other, which ends up driving the price of their cattle down (so while the farmer wants to get the best price, the purchasers want the cheapest, which means, in the end, the farmer gets screwed).
    This is Northern Kenya, and while it might be surrounded by the Kenyan border on the map, in reality it is a land over which the government has little control. In this region there are no hospitals or schools – they simply cannot afford to pay anybody to work out here – and the places that aren’t ruled by the NGOs (non-government organisations – usually aid agencies) are ruled by the bandits. Sure, they have police stations, but the police aren’t here to keep the peace and uphold the law, but rather to rule their own little fiefdom. Murders aren’t investigated – there are just too many of them, and not enough resources, or even will, to bring justice to this wild region. Not even the villages are safe for the police really don’t care beyond their own comfort. No wonder Wikitravel issues travel warnings about this region, yet it does see its travellers, usually backpackers wanting to experience the real Africa, or hunters out to score a big kill.
    Nairobi

     

    Nairobi – Heart of Chaos
    I probably shouldn’t be too harsh on Nairobi, especially since I am only going on the word of one man who was there fifteen years or so ago. Okay, I did have a friend from Nairobi and he didn’t seem to be too concerned about the place, however from his stories he did describe this place as a hive of corruption. His story was that once he was involved in a traffic accident and he went to do the right thing and report it to the police station. However the policeman really didn’t want to go to all the hassle of having to deal with it so took him out the back and pressured him for a bribe, something that my friend really didn’t want to do. My friend has now long left Australia, and is no doubt some warden at a game reserve (game wardens have an automatic shoot to kill policy when it comes to poachers), or arranging adventures for young tourists wanting to experience the romantic Africa.

    Wikitravel does say that Nairobi has cleaned up its act a lot in recent years, but that is only if you stay in the safe areas of the city. Tourists probably shouldn’t visit the slums (and there are some crazy ones out there that would like to see a real slum, though no doubt going their at their own risk). There is no order to the city, at least not on the fringes, and the government doesn’t particularly care. The tourists never see this side of the city, they only see the clean and santised areas, however crime in Nairobi is at epic proportions. In some places it is not a question of if you will get robbed, but when. After dark is the most dangerous, though once again it really depends on where you are, and the police don’t care – if you get yourself killed then you probably did something stupid to deserve it.
    Nairobi SlumThe government doesn’t care either, if one would consider the government of Kenya a functioning government. It is a government that survives on bribes and kick backs, and when they do receive aid money it isn’t for the benefit of the people at large but rather so that they can add an extension to their already humongous mansion. Mind you, when I say bribe, I don’t necessarily mean the lobbyist who takes you out to dinner, and plays a round of gold with you, before suggesting that their client will contribute to their re-election campaign if they vote on, or even introduce, a specific bill. No, this is not even the brown paper bag type of bribe. This is ‘here is $1000 so I can go and kill myself an elephant – just make sure the wardens have their back turned’ (though it might cost the big game hunter a lot more than just $1000).
    Elections aren’t a question of who gets to rule, but rather who gets their hands on the kitty, not that there is all that much in the kitty since the country is burdened down with international debt, usually to the World Bank and the IMF, so any taxes that are collected end up being paid back in interest, not that there was anything to show for this money anyway because it had all been squandered by the government. There is no question of development, nor is their any question of funding for schools and healthcare since the money isn’t there, and even if it is it simply vanishes before it is even counted. Even the tax receipts are not even sufficient to pay the interest, let alone lift the country out of poverty, namely because there is no work, and those who do work don’t pay taxes because the infrastructure simply isn’t there. In a way it is little more than a feudal state that holds elections every few years to give a vague resemblance of a non-existent freedom.
    This may all sound depressing, but unfortunately it is the reality of our world, and the reality of those who scrape through life living in the slums of the city. There is no council planning, no running water, no regular electricity, at least not outside of the city centre. Even then it is suggested that as soon as a community is planted it begins to act as a magnet for people and a once nice town quickly becomes surrounded by slums. It was suggested by Theroux that the United States once tried to help Kenya through a program to encourage industry in the country, however what ended up happening was that foreign countries would cycle goods through Kenya so they get could land up on American shelves.
    The Rift Valley
    Escape through the Rift
    Theroux left Nairobi by bus to travel to Uganda, since that was the only transport available. The lack of infrastructure meant that the trains were not just not running, but not working, and the roads and tracks had deteriorated. It was on his journey out along this road, through the famous Rift Valley, that he saw these towns, and the deforested landscape, that blighted the country. Men would stand under trees, doing nothing because there was no work. In a way they were waiting for work to come to them rather than going out and looking for work themselves. This in a way is a contrast to others who do what they can to find work. Funnily the women weren’t doing that, namely because they were working, doing whatever work they could find.
    Theroux says a lot about the Aid industry as he is travelling through this part of Kenya, namely because all of the aid agencies are prevalent in the towns and villages along this route. Don’t get me wrong, I am a big supporter of foreign aid, but I believe that it must be done in an intelligent manner. I have my charities that I support, namely TEAR, Amnesty International, and Mediecins Sans Frontiers, and I also have friends who work overseas in India, Nepal, and Asia as medical professionals, however we do need to be aware of the realities behind this industry. The thing with foreign aid is that what many of these organisations are doing is selling a ‘feel good’ experience. You research the agency and are satisfied that their money is going to developing nations, you make your donation, get your tax deduction, and feel good that you have done something to make the world a better place. However there is a dark reality behind the industry of foreign aid, and it is something of which we do need to be aware.
    The problem with foreign aid is the problems that socialist countries face: if you give something to somebody for nothing then there is no incentive for that person to actually work. You see this if you wander past the food vans in any major city where you see all of the poor and homeless crowding around the van for a cheap, or even free, feed. They pay their small amount of money, money that they have no doubt scavenged from begging on the street, eat their meal, and then go off and buy alcohol or drugs. What a generous society does, unfortunately, is that it encourages people to simply live off of the generosity of others. Don’t get me wrong, I am not telling people not to be generous, but we need to be intelligent with our generosity because there are people out there that are in genuine strife. For instance, when a disaster hits a developing country, that country does not necessarily have the resources to be able to deal with that disaster, so it needs assistance from outside. These are examples of when we should show our generosity, and it shouldn’t be something to make us feel good, we should do it because, but for the grace of God, there would be us.
    However, I speak of intelligent giving, and that is the essence of aid. Aid should never simply be giving something to somebody for nothing, nor should it be sending educated Westerners over to developing countries to do all of the work for the locals. In a way the locals should be doing their own work, with the westerners helping them out with the intention that one day, sooner rather than later, they can leave the locals to be self-sufficient so that they can help another community. In a way they should be working with the community to help build that community up and lift them out of poverty. However, that is not necessarily how it is done because, well, aid is big business. As long as there is poverty there is need for aid, and as long as aid is required, people in the west will give money. That is why the aid industry loves disasters, because it is disasters that pull on people’s hearts, and make them open their pockets and give generously.
    There is another thing about the aid industry and that is being an aid worker, something that is no doubt really attractive to young people. Once again, I am not attacking aid workers in particular because some of my good friends are aid workers – they have sacrificed high paying jobs in Australia to take their families overseas to live in developing countries so that they can provide services that are severely lacking (one of my friends is a nurse in Nepal, other is a psychologist in Asia, and another one worked with street kids in Addis Ababa, after being evacuated from the Congo due to a deteriorating situation). However what the aid industry offers young people is a cheap, all expenses paid, adventure in a foreign land. Theroux was one such person who had joined the Peace Corps and travelled to Africa to teach. The other thing about the aid worker is that the countries that they visit are no doubt dirt cheap, meaning that they can live like kings on very little. One does sometimes wonder how much of that ‘admin cost’ that you see on these agencies websites goes to supporting such a lifestyle?
    Uganda – Hell’s Back Door

    I remember watching a couple of videos around this time about how a number of communities that were heading to rack a ruin had suddenly changed and effectively become Christian communities based on the teachings of the Bible. At the time I was really impressed with these stories of community transformation and how the gospel had the power to lift whole communities, not just individuals, out of destitution. The reason that I raise this is because at the end of the second video there was a case study on Uganda: how it had gone from being a brutal dictatorship to a community of hope in which the incidences of AIDs among the population was actually dropping. In a way Uganda had gone from being your typical basket case African country to being a poster child for the Christian Right.

     

    Cash Crops

    Theroux noticed a huge change when he crossed the border from Kenya into Uganda, suggesting that this is a country, unlike Kenya, that is on the rise. Infrastructure is much better, and there appears to be employment. However, a quick glance over Wikipedia suggests that the country is still plagued by corruption, it is still one of the most impoverished countries in the world, and fighting between the Ugandan armed forces and the Lord’s Resistance Army in the north continues unabated. Uganda is still, like many of the other African countries, an agrarian society where much of its economy is based upon what it grows. Most of the crops are considered ‘cash crops’, which means that they are basically grown for export. However, like most farming communities, only the crops that make money are the crops that are grown, meaning that if the price of one crop plummets, the farmer will replace them with crops that will bring in a higher income.

     

    Cocoa BeanAs Theroux was travelling from the Kenyan border to Kampala he noted here, as well as elsewhere, how many of the farmers were moving away from growing cash crops to growing crops, such as maize, for their own personal use. In a way it seems as if the farmer benefits much more from being able to feed their families than simply being able to earn an income through the sale of produce. Obviously, as farmers begin to switch crops, this means that this will push up the prices of the crops that are no longer grown, which can result in farmers moving back to those crops in an attempt to capture the higher prices. This is what I suspect is behind the rumours regarding the cocao shortages (though according the the rumour website Snopes, this is mostly false – there has always been shortages of Cocoa), namely that as the price of cocoa drops, the farmers shift to more profitable crops, or subsistence farming, which then pushes the price up – which inevitably means that the farmers will then go back to growing cocoa.

     

    A Democratic Dictatorship
    Theroux once worked in Uganda as a teacher, after being kicked out of Malawi (namely because he upset the ruling regime by assisting one of their political enemies), so a part of this journey was a homecoming. Obviously when you return to a place years after you left the first thing you notice are all of the changes. Theroux left just before Idi Amin seized power in a coup and launched an eight year reign of terror. However it is interesting how the debates on political reform occur in a land where the democratic institutions do not operate in the same way as ours. For years after the removal of Amin, political parties were outlawed, and to be elected to parliament, you could not be a member of a party. I have at times thought that political parties are the problem with our democracy, until you realise that the lack of parties could simply be another form of one party state.
    Ugandan WomanYet this is one of the things that Theroux encounters – the debate as to the usefulness of political parties. In a way people where actually talking about whether the country would function much better under a one party rule. To us in a modern democracy, the idea of a single party, or even no parties at all, would be anathema. My thoughts always rested on the idea that by removing parties the candidates would be more concerned with local issues as opposed to issues that effected the nation as a whole. However, if all members of parliament arrived to debate local issues, then nothing would likely get done, nor would there be any national unity. Another debate was along the line of what is actually a true democracy. Is it possible to have elections but not have a democracy? Well, this seems to be what people believe is the case in Uganda. Sure, they have elections, but in the end nothing changes. They cast their ballots at the box, wake up the next day only to discover that the same person who has been president for the last twenty years is still president. Sure, one may have an opposition, but the opposition has no power because the same guys always seem to be in charge.
    Ugandan StudentsDuring his time in Uganda, Theroux was a teacher at one of the universities (or I should probably say – the university). He seemed to drop an awful lot of names as he spent some time in Kampala, but that is probably not all that surprising because the people that studied at the university, or even travelled abroad to study, will end up becoming the leaders of tomorrow. This is not necessarily the case in our country, where many of our university students study simply to go and get a job. In countries like Uganda, a university education is not so much angling for a better job, but rather taking hold of the reigns of the country to be able to steer it in the right direction. Whether this has happened over the last fifteen years since Theroux returned is difficult to tell, especially since Uganda is still pretty much a state racked by poverty.
    A discussion of the politics of Uganda is not complete without mentioning the brutal dictatorship of Idi Amin. Amin came to power in a coup in 1971 after a rift developed between him and president Obote over control of the military (and Obote attempted to have him arrested on charges of corruption). Amin was able to do this due to strong ties that he had built within the military (which is not surprising when one is general), and pretty much seized the country while Obote was away at an international meeting. Sure, there was a lot of cheering the day Amin declared himself president (actually Commander in Chief) of Uganda, but the situation pretty much deteriorated after that into a chaotic free for all. His rule was ended in 1979 after a failed attempt to invade Tanzania.
    Idi AminThe thing about dictators, especially those who seize power, is that they are always jumping at shadows. Shakespeare paints some beautiful pictures of the paranoia that dictators undergo in his plays Macbeth and Richard III. Both of these characters, like Amin, violently seize power, and once they are in charge of the kingdom, began to regularly look over their shoulders, just in case somebody is standing their with a knife ready to retire him. Such dictators do what they can to get rid of any form of opposition, but usually end up stepping over the line somewhere (and with Amin it was the invasion of Tanzania), which results in them being deposed. Mind you, just because one dictator has been deposed does not necessarily mean that the person that steps into replace them is any better, as was the case here. It seemed that people wanted to be rid of Obote, however the replacement was much much worse. In fact, with such people in power the rule of law breaks down and the country becomes a chaotic free for all. People from the time spoke of how you would never look anybody in the eye, but keep your head down, as to do so meant that you could be considered a threat and thus earn the wrath of the administration. Many of the people that Theroux spoke to said that they simply wanted to forget those days, however he disagreed, suggesting that it is the suffering that the people no doubt underwent that is the wellspring that creates a national identity (and also inspires great literature).
    State of Decay
    One of the problems with Africa is that while we Westerners seem to believe what is best for them, their their culture and ours does not necessarily interconnect. We Westerners generally live in established cities and towns and we look to progress to make our lives better. We are focused on time and are always looking forward to the future to see how we can better ourselves and our society. This is not necessarily the case with other cultures, especially cultures like those in Africa that still live with a hunter-gatherer and agrarian mindset. We send our aid money and workers into the country with the belief that by turning them into Westerners we can make their lives much better, however they may not necessarily see this as the case, yet our ideas have filtered into the continent so much that returning to the original mindset may not necessarily be possible.
    One of the ideas that Theroux explores is that of decay. When we build something in the West we understand that nature of decay, and so we will continually return to what has been built with the intention of repairing and restoring it, or even rebuilding it so that it was better than before. This is not necessarily the case in Africa. In a land where for hundreds of thousands of years the people lived in makeshift huts and travelled along ever changing paths – building a road does not necessarily mean that they will maintain that road. Roads in Africa did not exist in the way that we understand them until the colonists arrived. The same is the case with buildings. Africans never built buildings the way that we built them – they were made from what they gathered, and if they were no longer used they would collapse to once again become a part of the land. Thus, when we Westerners arrived and began to build buildings, and then left, the locals did not see any need to maintain them, and as such returned to rack and ruin. Without the colonial hands, the African landscape no doubt would return to what it was like before.
    In a way the Africans are very much like the Australian aboriginals. There is a connection to the land, and they lived in a world without the need of the past or any desire to record it. It was not the idea that every day was the same which resulted in a spiral of hopelessness – not like the Western World where every day seems to be a cycle of meaninglessness, but rather like an aboriginal dreamtime, where the world simply passes by and there is no past, no future, just the now. The clock is not required because their time is not divided in the way that our time has been divided – they eat when they are hungry, sleep when it becomes dark. They are not constrained by other people’s agendas, they just exist and go about their daily lives.
    As we travel further south we leave the mainly Muslim states and enter into what is essentially a Christian heartland. Many of us see Christianity as a form of Western imperialism, however when we consider places like Ethiopia, we realise that Christianity has been on the continent long before the European settlers arrived. Christianity is not like Islam where you must pray at certain times, but rather it is a faith that can enter a culture and transform, and in a way be transformed, by that culture. It does not need buildings, it does not set out people’s days, or weeks, but rather just is. Unfortunately us Westerner’s have a particular view of how Christians should be Christians, and once again we go in to educate, to develop, and to attempt to turn this land into another European state.
    Lake Victoria
    Tanzania – The forgotten Land
    After a lot of difficulties in trying to obtain passage across Lake Victoria, Theroux finally manages to obtain a berth on one of the ferries. In a way, to me, Lake Victoria is, and has always been, little more that a splotch of blue on the map of Africa. However, not only is it Africa’s largest inland lake it also feeds into what ends up becoming the Nile (and is probably one of the sources of the legend of the mysterious head of the Nile, despite it splitting to become the Albert Nile –  which comes from Lake Albert, and the Victoria Nile, which comes from Lake Victoria). The lake itself was named after Queen Victoria of England, and the closeness of Lake Albert indicates the approximate time that it was discovered.
    The image that Theroux paints of this ferry reminds me in part of the riverboat that Marlow travelled on in Heart of Darkness, and in part the African Queen. However we are well off the tourist track meaning that those travelling in this part of Africa are really only going to encounter the locals. The difficulties that Theroux faced even getting his hands on a ticket (he had to sign a liability waiver) shows how remote this section of the land really is. In a way Africa is not for the faint hearted, it has never been, whether it be the modern traveller who shuns the commercialisation of the tourist industry, or the original missionaries and the explorers who travelled into this land.
    DhowTheroux paints a picture of a lake that is not only a hive of activity, but also punctuated by islands and rocky outcroppings. In fact the islands form some refuge from the lands that surround the lakes, and the inhabitants travel out onto the waters, either to fish, or to conduct trade. The prevalence of the dhow indicates the Arabian influence into this part of Africa, and in fact the Arabs had penetrated this region long before the Europeans ever arrived. It was not until the Portuguese managed to wrest control of the Indian ocean from the Arab traders that this region was eventually cut off from the mainland. However, despite that the Arab influence on the region still remains. In a way I found it quite surprising that the Arabs had penetrated this far into Africa long before the Europeans. I had always thought that the Muslim influence pretty much ended in Sub-saharan Africa, however considering their mastery of the sea, and the ancient port at Zanzibar, this not not all that surprising.
    The Ancient Slave Route
    One of the things that I have noted in the Wikipedia entry for Tanzania is that they say very little about the Arab influence on the country. Mind you if you go to the expanded articles concerning the History of Tanzania and the History of Zanzibar, you do find a lot more detail concerning the history of the region before the arrival of the Portuguese. However, I won’t go any further into that here as I wish to leave it to when we arrive at the coast and the port city of Dar es Salaam. Still, it is interesting to note the Arabic influence in this region of south-central Africa.
    Tanzania Railways
    Theroux leaves the ferry at the lakeside port of Mwanza and then travels by train across Tanzania to the coast. Mind you this journey isn’t like the cool and comfortable high speed rail journeys that you get in Europe, but rather it is an old dilapidated train running on old dilapidated tracks. This line is the main route from the port of Dar es Salaam to Uganda, though the ferry at Mwanza links the two countries. The railway was originally built by the Germans when they had control of the region prior to World War I, though after the war the country reverted to the British. Like most development in Africa the railway system is been left rot and decay. While trains still run between Lake Victoria and the coast, as well as to Zambia, the route to Kenya has been closed for many years.
    The route follows the ancient slaver route that the Arabs established long before European colonisation. In fact the Arabs, and other cultures, have been trading here for millennia. While Tanzania had a lot of exotic produce available, it was the slaves that were the most valuable resources. It is interesting how slavery in Africa has been evident long before the it arose in the Southern States of the US. In a way Africa appears to have long been a source of cheap labour and a haven for slavers, and in many ways it still is. Despite slavery being banned, it still exists in the dark shadows of the underworld. Mind you, I’m not talking about slavery in the sense of ‘I have to go to work every day and my boss is a pain in the neck’ – seriously, you aren’t a slave – you can walk away from that job anytime you want. I’m not even talking about ‘I owe all this money to the bank and I don’t know how to pay it off’ type of slavery either. No, I am talking about being kidnapped and locked in a dark cell and forced to work for a few scraps of food every day type of slavery. We don’t like to believe that it exists, but it does. Just in the same way that the British weren’t the first to raid the African coast for slaves – the Arabs have been doing that for a lot longer.
    I guess there is a major reason why the Africans were the targets of slavers and the like, and that is probably because they were easy pickings. In many cases they lived a hunter-gatherer lifestyle with little in the way of technology. Their tools mainly consisted of what they could cobble together from the land. They had no skill in metallurgy, nor did they build fortresses, or even walls around their towns, and when they did, it was generally to fend off other tribes. As such more advanced people could easily come in and carry them off with little difficulty. Also the lack of a centralised government meant that the slavers could play one tribe off against another, offering incentives to one group for bringing them slaves. When it became clear that the outsiders who ventured into the hinterland had come for no good, they would become easy targets – it was so much easier to get the locals to do your dirty work for you.
    Tanzania is sort of one of those places that people really don’t know all that much about. I suspect if you ask the average person where Tanzania is located – without looking at Google Maps – they will probably say ‘somewhere in Africa’. Ask them to be precise, they will probably shrug their shoulders. Ask them what the capital city is I wouldn’t be surprise if they said it didn’t have one (though that is me being cynical – it does and it is Dodoma, not that anybody actually knows it). It is not that tourists don’t come to Tanzania, they do in droves, but namely to go and visit the many game preserves that dot the country. It is here that you can find the famous Sarengetti, and go on Safari to see all sorts of native wildlife. However, like other parts of Africa, the tourist regions are usually separated from the real Tanzania. The tourists arrive in the gleaming airports, jump on the mini buses and travel out on Safari to see the santised, romantic Africa. Rarely to they see the reality of the corruption, the poverty, and the decay. The Africa they see is the Africa in the glossy brochures that adorn the walls of the travel agent, not the sickly scenes of hunger and pestilence that are hidden in the papers – no, that is another part of Africa, the bad part which they have no desire to experience, though will give money to an aid agency in the mistaken belief that they are actually helping.
    Ancient Zanzibar

    As Theroux was getting closer to the coast of Tanzania, in particularly the city of Dar es Salaam, I was wondering if he was going to pay a visit to the ancient city of Zanzibar. As it turned out he did, however his visit simply took up a couple of paragraphs were he wrote about how some Africans were attempting to get money out of a very reluctant priest. In a way I was surprised since Zanzibar is one of those exotic locations that dates back hundreds of years. Stone Town, the old part of the city is one of the UNESCO world heritage sites, having been a major trading port while the rest of the region were little more than hunter-gatherer tribes.

     

    The city itself was first established by traders from the Arabian Peninsula since it was an excellent harbour. The city was a centre from trade from the African Great Lakes region and would be a channel for commodities such as spices, ivory, and of course slaves. The Portuguese took control of the city during their incursions into the region (which dates the city to the fifteenth century, however since it was originally established by the Arabs, the original colony is much older), and then reverted back to the Arabs in around 1698. During Britain’s attempt to abolish the slave trade, the city then reverted to their rule and the transferred over to Tanzania during the 1960s.

     

    Stone Town MarketsIt was quite surprising that Theroux simply skipped over this rather unique city, which in effect an outpost of civilisation in a region ruled by hunter-gatherer tribes. Obviously its location as a deep water harbour, and provided access to commodities not available in Europe and the Middle East, made it an important trading hub. However it is still a part of Africa, and I suspect that by the time Theroux had arrived he had simply become quite jaded in what he was experiencing in this land. In a way Zanzibar, despite its exotic local and ancient history, was little more than your typical African city with rampant unemployment and poverty, a lack of services, and beggars doing what they can to get money for food or whatever else they need.

     

    On the mainland, connected to Zanzibar by a rather dilapidated ferry, is the city of Dar Es Salaam. This is Tanzania’s largest city (though not its capital). The city was first established by the Sultan of Zanzibar, and if the name sounds Arabic that is because it is. The name means ‘Residence of Peace’ though I suspect that these days the city is anything but peaceful. Okay, maybe it is not so much like Nairobi, but it is still an African city, where people simply migrate in the hope of finding jobs, but end up being relegated to the slums where the life simply continues as normal. In fact if there is one thing that Africans seem to want to do and that is to leave. As he travels through Africa Theroux hears time and time again how they with to leave and travel to America, as if travelling to the United States will make their life better – in many cases it won’t.

     

    It is interesting to see his impressions as he travels through the towns and cities. There are no jobs, and there seems to be no incentive to work. The men simply sit under trees waiting for something, though is it unclear what they are waiting for – is it a job, because the jobs simply aren’t there. Sure, they could be given jobs, and even money for those jobs, if that is what the aid agencies are doing, but if all they are doing is driving around in landrovers handing out food, then that is not necessarily going to lift them out of poverty. Simply giving away food only creates a culture of dependance, and if they simply get money by asking for it, all it does is encourage them to ask for more money.

     

    Dar Es SalaamTanzania, as Theroux suggests, was another failed attempt at Socialism. Obviously Marx’s original intention was for Socialism to arise from the advanced industrialised nations, however the lands where it ended up taking hold were far from advanced. Tanzania for instance is anything but an industrialised nation – it is an agraian nation that had no understanding of modern economic systems. For instance when the country underwent a revolution in 1963 they basically kicked out all of the foreigners (the Europeans, the Arabs, and the Indians) and handed the means of production back to the local population. They established collective farms, and with money from the Chinese, attempted to develop the nation. However that experiment failed. The people that were kicked out were those who actually knew how to run a country and how to farm, and those that took over had no experience whatsoever. For instance the experiment in collective farming failed simply because the managers of these farms were corrupt an took all of the money for themselves.

     

    The Decaying Interior
    It would be interesting to follow Theroux’s footsteps fifteen years later to see if much of Africa has changed, or whether it is still the decaying land where the people really do not understand, or appreciate, development. In a way it is not surprising because we see the same with the aboriginal population here in Australia. They are not so much a backward people that have been left behind as the white population of Australia progresses, but rather they are a people who live a hunter-gatherer lifestyle and have never seen the need to adapt to the European way of life. For all the talk about closing the gap and lifting the Aboriginals out of poverty, the truth is that all we are doing is turning them into dark skinned Europeans.

     

    If you travel out to the Aboriginal settlements in central Australia you will basically see decaying houses and abject poverty. The aboriginals have been moved into settlements, and their traditional lifestyle has been destroyed by the Europeans’ insistence that they must live a settled existence. Even now there is criticism about their choice to live out in remote Australia relying upon support by the government. As Tony Abbott famously said, there is no reason why Australians should subsides these communities who chose this lifestyle choice. In a way he is correct when looking from a European mindset, but what he is effectively suggesting is that there is no room in modern Australia for the traditional Aboriginal hunter-gatherer lifestyle, and in fact with the establishment of farms, and the fencing off of traditional hunting grounds, all they have now are a collection of decaying houses in the middle of the desert. Supplies are locked up in canteens, and they are then given small amounts of money to purchase what is in effect their means of sustenance, something that they used to get off of the land.

     

    You also see this with their housing in that the Europeans go in and build them houses, and then leave expecting them to maintain these houses. However we are talking about people who for centuries, even millenia, never needed to live in an established house, and would simply wander around the outback following the game, and engaging in subsistence farming. They had no concept of a settled existence. If they needed shelter, they would build it from what was available, and when they moved on they would leave the settlement to return to the natural land. However the Europeans arrive with this concept of settlement, this concept of fencing off land and calling it ‘mine’. This is something the traditional aboriginals simply do not understand. It is only those who have transitioned from the traditional lifestyle to the European lifestyle, that have come to accept the concept of settlement. However this is the problem – we seem to think that by giving Aboriginal University degrees and good jobs, is helping to lift them out of poverty – it is not, it is simply turning them into dark skinned Europeans. Maybe there is just no room for the hunter-gatherer lifestyle in the modern economy.
    Out of the Metropolis
    Referring to Dar Es Salaam as a metropolis is probably a misnomer because I generally think of such places as huge industrial cities and financial hubs such as New York and London. However considering the size of some African cities, and especially since Dar Es Salaam is considered the largest city on the east cost of Africa, it is probably an apt name. Also it is a major transport hub with a huge harbour and also where the three main lines of the Tanzanian Railway converge. It is not the capital of Tanzania, that is located much further inland, but it still is the major economic hub of the country.
    Anyway, the main reason that Theroux jumped on the ferry to Zanzibar is because he had to wait for the train to arrive. In a way that is one of the things about living, or even travelling, in Africa, and that is that you have to wait. You spend a lot of time waiting in Africa, especially if you are taking the journey that Theroux is taking. I suspect that if you are a tourist travelling to Africa for the safari experience, then maybe you don’t have to experience the waiting, but then again many of these safaris have been arranged by Western tour companies and are designed with the western lifestyle in mind.
    Africans WaitingHowever, when you step off the tourist track you discover that the thing about Africa is that you spend a lot of time waiting. That is not surprising because many of the locals seem to simply wait – they are patient. What are they waiting for? Maybe they are waiting for life to get better, or for somebody to arrive to change things around. There does not seem to be that mindset of actually getting up and doing something, but that is probably because for most of the modern era everybody else has been doing things for them. It is not a question of going out and earning money, or doing things to make life better, because that is not what they have learnt. Rather, others have come to do things for them, and they have learnt to accept that.
    So, Theroux jumps onto the train to travel to Malawi. The problem is that the train doesn’t go to Malawi, so he has to get off at another stop and then make his way to the border independently. Unfortunately the tracks are dilapidated, like much of the infrastructure in the region, so when they arrive at a station there is more waiting. Mind you, trains in Africa tend to spend a lot of time sitting at railway stations. They are not like trains in the west where they arrive at a station, hang around for a couple of minutes while everybody boards, and then heads off to their next destination. Sure, they might have timetables, but they are not strict – they can’t be because there are so many problems with the infrastructure that there are always going to be delays.
    Tanzanian Train
    Even when he arrived at his destination there were more delays simply because there is no reliable transport from Mbaya (where the railway station is) to the Malawi border. However, since Theroux once worked in Malawi it was his intention to make what every effort he could to get there. He had a problem with buying a worthless ticket, but when he did manage to get to the closest town the only option was to hire a cab, only to discover that when he arrived at the border the cab drivers decided to shake him down for more money. Mind you, he just got up and walked across the border which put paid to their scheme. However, he was probably very lucky that he managed to do this because, being a white man, he simply stood out among the crowd and the situation could have turned quite violent. In the heart of Africa a white man is royalty – it doesn’t matter how much money they have because if you are white, and you are in Africa, people automatically see you as being wealthy.
    Malawi – The Homecoming

     

    I would say that Malawi is famous for its lake, a body of water that stretches along its eastern border, however I had never heard of the place until I went to a church here in Melbourne who had sent a group over to the country to assist in building a church and providing assistance for a number of ministries. The country was also the focus of the Evangelical Environment Network for a while due to the impact that climate change was having upon this landlocked and poverty ridden country. Since attending my local church my understanding of this country have grown quite a lot, though in many cases it is no different to many of the other countries that Theroux had visited.

     

    Theroux has a special attachment to Malawi though, since he worked here for two years as a teacher with the peace corps, and in a way he was hoping to return to see how it had changed. He had also sent notice to the US Embassy that he had arrived and was willing to spend some time providing lectures at the university. The problem was, as it turned out, nobody seemed to care. The country had changed, but not for the better. In a way the country had drifted much further down hill than he remembered, though this does not necessarily seem to be the case when you look at some of the pictures on the internet. However, no doubt the government is trying to promote the country as a tourist destination for people wanting to stay at some cheap, lakeside resorts.
    The Rocky Road South
    The sign saying potholes next 9600 kilometres may have been a joke that had floated around by email for a while, but in Africa that seems to be the case all to often. Once again this is the nature of the decay in the interior. There is no need, or even will, to try to repair these roads. They were built and at one time they were brand new, but due to the lack of will, they have been left to decay, which means that the inevitable potholes arise. Travelling by road in Africa is not the safest of ways to travel. Theroux tells us of how the buses are overcrowded and people hang on any possible protrusion imaginable. However it is true because I have spoken to people who live and worked in the African bush, and the roads are dangerous, not just because of the potholes, but because of the drivers as well. It is not uncommon to see overloaded buses careering all over the road endangering not just the passengers, but those around them. One friend of mine told me how they feared for their lives when an out of control bus hurtled towards them one day.
    Entering Malawi was not easy for Theroux because he discovered the true nature of African corruption. At the border it was discovered that his vaccination certificate was out of date, and it wasn’t a question of when he was going to get it sorted out – people die of all sorts of diseases in Africa, it was a question of how much Theroux was going to pay the border guard to simply turn a blind eye. Theroux clearly didn’t want to encourage corruption, but sometimes there is little choice. Fortunately for him he could speak the language, and when the guard’s superior heard him, he managed to escape that rather sticky situation.

     

    Language is interesting in Africa because there seems to be two major languages in the region – English and Swahili. Okay, they also have their local tribal languages, but it seems that most people understand English, and also understand Swahili. Swahili seems to be the lingua franca of the African continent, at least south of the Sahara. I guess that is not surprising, especially since the original local tribes have slowly dispersed in favour of settled communities and the slums in the cities. Still, even in a tribal society there needed to be a language that enabled people from different tribes to communicate, and in Africa that language is Swahili.
    Boarded up shopsThe other interesting thing that Theroux has regularly noted throughout the book are the number of Indian shops that he encounters. These Indians hadn’t recently arrived in Africa but had come over during the colonial era and establish their businesses. In a way it seems that the only people in these parts of Africa that ran established businesses were the Indians. Mind you, they weren’t all that wealthy because none of the locals had any money to spend. However during the independence movement many of the Indians were kicked out of the country in the mistaken belief that they were taking all of the jobs from the local population (despite the fact that they themselves were locals). However when they left the shops ended up becoming empty, disused, and decaying. In a way there was no entrepreneurial spirit in the region to take up when the Indians left. It is the nature of the culture in that people lived in a subsistence manner and there was no real need for money. In was only when the foreigners were brought in that there was any resemblance of a modern economy. Once they left they took their culture and their ideas with them, and all that was left was the local culture that had no will to re-establish the businesses.
    Missionary Crisis of Livingstonia
    Livingstonia is basically a missionary outpost in Malawi. Dr Livingstone was a famous explorer and missionary that travelled the region establishing churches, however these missionaries were not only attempting to establish Christianity in the region, but also European Culture. Theroux tells a story of a missionary couple that he knew in Malawi (okay, they weren’t actually missionaries, rather they were school teachers working in Malawi on their retirement). He decided to pay them a visit only to discover that they had passed away a couple of years earlier. What he discovered was that despite all of their hard work, after they left their legacy appeared to be negligible. Even their graves were covered in weeds and decaying just like the rest of the community.
    Theroux also met the wife of a missionary from Livingstonia whose husband was a medical practitioner. Unlike the aid workers in the area, they weren’t rich. She had to travel four days just to spend a week back in England, before spending another four days to get back to Livingstonia. They were supported by their church, which meant that money wasn’t all that easy to raise. They did not have the huge budgets, or the flash landrovers, that many of the other aid agencies had, they just had the contributions provided to them by their supporters back in England. It does make me wonder at times about the missionaries that I know in various parts of the world. The other thing that was evident was the lack of medical professionals in the country. These missionaries were there because they knew that there was a need for medical assistance, however her husband was the only doctor serving the entire north of the country, and by working there he was sacrificing a much higher paid job elsewhere.
    The thing about the medical profession is that there is a severe skills shortage in the profession. It takes years, and a lot of money, to become a fully qualified doctor, and even in the developed countries there is a lack of skilled professionals. To become a doctor is an incredibly stressful process, and a lot of them simply do not make it out of their internship. Due to the lack medical professionals they are able to command high prices for their services, which means that in countries such as Malawi, where they cannot even afford money to spend on infrastructure, working as a doctor simply will not make ends meet. As such most medical professionals shun these places to work in regions where they can command much higher wages. This simply leaves places such as Malawi with waiting lists that make Australian hospitals look efficient. As I mentioned I personally know a couple of missionaries who are medical practitioners, and once again they simply do not have the skills that are required to provide the medical treatment that is needed (two of them are nurses, one of them a psychologist, and another is an allied health professional – none of them are GPs, or even surgeons).

     

    A city divided

    All cities have their rich areas and their poor areas, however in Africa this contrast seems to be much more noticeable. There are certain parts of the city that have simply been left to rot and ruin, and those who land up there have great difficulties escaping. Mind you, this is the case with most cities around the world, and I certainly have noticed this even here in Australia. Mind you, some governments solve this simply by sending in the bulldozers, however that generally doesn’t solve all that much because shanty towns tend to have that habit of being able to spring again up pretty quickly.

     

    Lilongwe, the capital of Malawi, is certainly one of those cities, where you have the areas containing the mansions of the politicians and the diplomats, and the slums where the rest of the community live. Crime is pretty high, but Theroux has suggested that this has always been the case. However, when he was here previously the violence was all political, being instituted by the state, however these days the violence is simply due to crime arising in the poverty stricken regions.

     

    While I have already mentioned this, Theroux also comments on how Malawi is also trying to attract the tourist dollar by building five star resorts on the shores of Lake Malawi. Sure, while it may be a landlocked country, being on the shores of quite a large lake gives companies incentives to build luxury resorts, and since the economy is so bad, it makes a holiday here quite cheap. Once again this is the corporate world creating further divides within the African continent where the tourists are attracted, but are kept sheltered from the reality of the situation on the ground. As such, he decided to shun the corporate hotels and seek accommodation at one of the regular hotels, only to discover that there is a fee structure – there is one price for the Africans and there is another price for the foreigners, a price that tends to be substantially more. This he blames on the aid agencies and other corporate employees.

     

    Theroux’s visit in Lilongwe took him to the American Embassy, if only to follow up on his previous request. However he discovered another complete disconnect with the reality on the ground. The embassy staff simply seemed to believe that the country is progressing nonetheless, especially with the provision of corps to assist the farmers in earning an income. The problem is twofold since the two cash crops available – tobacco and coffee, do not generate all that much money. However donor companies also provide stable crops, such as maize, however these plants have been genetically engineered to produce a greater yield. The problem with genetically engineered crops is that they are sterile. Sure, they may produce a greater yield, however the result is that these crops cannot produce seeds that will enable a farmer to plant the crop for the next harvest. As such they must return, cap in hand, to the donor companies for more. The cycle of aid thus continues.

     

    There is also the thing about the roads. Sure, the government did built some good roads, however there are only three people who actually use the roads – politicians, foreign diplomats, and children playing ball games. The thing is that while they may have good roads, the average African does not have a car – they walk (or catch a bus). As such these roads, while providing good travel for the politicians and the foreigners, have no purpose for the locals. Then there are the landslides. Once again aid has not assisted, and in fact forced them to go backwards. Normally if there was a landslide that cut off a road, the locals would clear the road by hand. However, bring in the bulldozers and suddenly it is much quicker, and easier, to clear the road. The problem is that the bulldozers don’t do the same job as the locals would do – namely the drains wouldn’t be cleared, and when the rains come again, there is no easy way for the water to escape, and thus it would take out the entire road. Sometimes doing something manually is so much easier as it prevents further disasters down the track.

     

    Back to School
    Due to the horrendous experience that Theroux had travelling by bus and truck from the north of the country (there are no trains in Malawi) Theroux decided to take it easy for a while and hire a car to drive to his old haunts. Mind you, he was only there for a couple of years before he got into trouble with the government by smuggling a dissident out of the country, and then was kicked out of the Peace Corps for interfering in the politics of the country (and apparently bringing disrepute to the organisation). However, these events ended up turning out quite well for Theroux as he went from being a teacher at a school to a lecturer at a university in Uganda (where he also met his first wife). Mind you, while he was in Malawi, he decided to pay a visit to the Bureau of Censorship to discover that his book Jungle Lovers was still on the banned list (or at least it was back in 1991, which was the latest list that they had available, though he decided not to push any further just in case he landed up in even more trouble).

     

    Anyway, he goes and visits his friend, and also his old school to discover that things had seriously degenerated. Okay, his old friend was still the same, but in many cases it seems as if he had become to accept what life in Africa was like. The school though had not been looked after – windows were broken, and many of the books in the library had been stolen. It seemed as if there was no desire to educate the people of Malawi, and even then they had so little resources that in many cases the schools seemed to be little more than day care centres. Sure, the aid agencies go out and establish these schools, and even provide materials and teachers, however like so much of Africa, they are not looked after – the materials go missing and the buildings simply collapse into decay.

     

    Primary School

     

    Personally I cannot say that there is much better schooling here in Australia. Like Africa, if you are wealthy then you can afford to send your children to the best schools and universities. Sure, the private school system does support the public education system by taking some of the strain, however for those who cannot afford a private school and don’t live in a suburb where there are good schools, the ability to become educated is much more difficult. I have heard of schools here in Australia as being little more than day care centres, which are at times woefully underfunded. In a way it does not matter how smart you are if you do not have the good fortune of going to a decent school you are always going to be left behind.

     

    There was a scene where Theroux was sitting with some of his old friends, and many of them were speaking of how the Indians were kicked out of the country so that the locals could then run the businesses. However that never happened because they simply were not able run a business the way the Indians did. They laughed at how the Indians would spend all of their time tapping away on calculators and counting stock – yet this is an essential part of running a good business. In many ways we see this attitude here in Australia, were a smart child will be mocked and derided by showing intelligence and ambition. In many cases these people do not like to see people get ahead, and even if they do get ahead, they find it difficult being around friends who simply have no motivation.

     

    School Building

    In a way Theroux paints Africa as a nation of excuses – a common saying being ‘you see the problem is …’ This was very much the case in Tanzania. In a way they were seeing problems and simply believing that it cannot be done, as opposed to seeing a problem and then looking for a solution. We see this here in Australia, and I have known may people who hide behind excuses ‘I can’t’, ‘it’s too hard’, ‘they are not interested’. We even see this with these educated people who tell us how when somebody succeeds, suddenly all of their family swarms in through the door wanting a piece of the action. As Theroux was spending his last days in Malawi he had pretty much had enough, especially when an African came up to him asking him for money: why are you asking me for money, ask me for work! The African did not want to ask for work, he just wanted money.

     

    Look, Theroux suggests that maybe aid is the problem, and I would suspect that there is a side of it that creates dependency. Look, I am very much a socialist that believes that there are services that the government should provide. Not everybody is lucky enough to be able to afford the basic essentials, however I am also well aware of the culture of dependency. If you hand out money for free them people begin to expect to get this money for free. I believe in the necessity of taxes, and also believe that everybody should pay their fare share. However it is not just the poor that develop a culture of dependency, but also the rich and the powerful. Corporations that receive subsidies begin to rely upon those subsidies, and they begin to factor them into their balance sheets, so that when they are removed they suddenly need to restructure their operations. It is not just the poor who become dependant, but the rich as well.

     

    However there are times when aid is very important, such as during war, famine, and natural disasters. If crops fail then not every country is able to weather the storm the way that advanced countries are. Despite there being a drought in Australia over a number of years, we all still had food on our tables. This is not the case in a country like Malawi that not only has to contend with pests eating away the food that has been stored, but also when the rains don’t come at the right time the entire crop is destroyed, which results in famine. War is a no brainer, and with regards to natural disasters, the response time is critical to prevent the spread of disease and malnutrition. Look, disease is also critical, especially where a country lacks medical services, however sometimes disease can be preventable, and it is up to the individuals to live in a hygienic manner to prevent diseases.

    Anyway, I’m going to bring this post to an end here simply because Theroux’s next destination is Mozambique and a journey by canoe down the Zambize. However that will be the subject of my final post on this book, namely the Southern Reaches.
    Creative Commons License
    Dark Star Safari Part 2 – Into the Centre by David Sarkies is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.If you wish to use this work commercially please feel free to contact me.

    Cash Crops source: Bjorn Christian Torrisen used with permission under creative commons attribution share=alike 3.0 unported
    Ugandan Woman source: Dylan Waters used with permission under creative commons attribution share-alike 2.0 generic
    Idi Amin source: New Zealand Archives used with permission under creative commons attribution 2.0 generic
    African Tribe source: Aimee Tyrell used with permission under creative commons attributon 2.5 generic
    Dhow source: Muhammed Mahdi Kamin used with permission under the GNU public license.
    Tananzia Railways source:

     

    Bumpy Van Rides and More “momo” in Pokhara, Nepal

    The 7-Hour Ride Journey

    It was, what it seemed to be a great idea, in fact, a terrific idea to travel to Pokhara from Kathmandu, after the lovely flight tour to Mount Everest. It never occurred to me, the horror of 7-hour van journey by van or busses. Until, 15 minutes later after the ride, I was soaked in sweats and numbed from the overcrowded van seatings. I was seated in a congested van, with another 12 students, and it was a horrible feeling.

    In between the 7-hours journey ride, there was 2 stops for toilet breaks and some leg stretching. Lunch was not provided, but the 2nd stop did came to a stop at a local buffet style restaurant. I didn’t had any, due to the long hours of sitting and neck pain, I skipped my lunch.

    It is the same for the other way as well (from Pokhara to Kathmandu). The first stop was different, we stopped at a local coffee shop, that has an amazing mountain view, but the public toilets are pretty horrendous. So, keep in mind to travel with wet wipes, lots of tissue paper or toilet rolls and a bottle of clean water to wash the dirts. But the 2nd stop was nothing but an area of leg stretching.


    Pokhara City

    Pokhara is a much quest city, compare to Kathmadu. The place was dust-free, cleaner and less traffic. I stayed in a hotel, which is just as beautiful as the view provided, just across a mountain range and lake.

    The street is filled with restaurants, souvenir shops and bars, outside the hotel. Most of the locals are very well-versed in English, so it was easier to communicate and negotiate.

    GETTING AROUND
    There are 2 ways, which I know of, travelling back and forth from Kathmandu and Pokhara. There is a longer route, by taking the land transportation, or a flight from a domestic airline.
    Land Transportation
    They’re reliable local operators, and I would highly recommend Klook, only because I’ve purchased other products from the same website, and they guarantee the right quality. But for alternative, you may have a look at Nepalbusses, which also seemed very reliable as well for land transportation.
    Just remember, to enquire the transportation details before purchasing, and also ask for receipt or proof for purchase.
    Approximate price range: US$ 5 or lesser (equivalent to RM 20 – according to XE.com 2018).
    Flights
    The flight is approximately an hour or less, which saves travellers more time on travelling and more on venturing. But it can be very costly, as well.
    Approximate price range: US$ 120 – I only came to know of the price, 1 or 2 days before the departure date.

    ACCOMMODATION
    The hotel, which I stayed in, was a couple minutes of walk from many things, such as shopping and restaurants. Just across the street, there is a boat activity, where local guides gives the tourist a short tour at the lake and to the nearby mountain caves. Tourists are also free to take a dip to enjoy the fresh water.

    FOOD & BEVERAGES
    Foods in Pokhara are mostly westernised, so there wasn’t much local delicacies to try. One of the most enjoyable dinner I had in Pokhara is the The Harbour Gaurighat Entry side Glacier Hotel & Spa. The meals served in the hotel restaurant was large in portions, and they also offer a romantic ambience in environment and view, as well.

    ATTRACTIONS
    There was not much to see in Pokhara. Most of the sights are mainly focussed on the nature beauty, where presumable, their local revenue is generated from.
    But there are plenty of shops, and they’re very expensive. The products sold in Pokhara can be found, exactly the same replica, in Kathmandu. The nice tour guide, insisted that we shouldn’t get any souvenirs here, as the prices here are twice as expensive as, it is sold in Kathmandu.


    What I did…

    Pokhara is indeed a different city compare to Kathmandu, and it’s not just because of the view, or the fresh air. Despite the natural beauty and how serene it seem. The locals (small ration of them) remain to be hostile with tourists. Locals who works in the hospitality industry, didn’t seem to be as hostile as the majority of the locals.
    My advice to all female tourists (and guys, too, seriously), never walk in the dark, even if you’re with your friends. The night we arrived Pokhara, my friends and I decided to look a nearby bar where we could get some drinks before heading back. And to our amaze, when we asked the waiter at one of the restaurant we had dinner, he said that the nearest bar was couple minutes walk from our hotel. As soon as we paid the bill, we were ready to take a maximum of 10 minutes walk.
    But, even after a 10 minutes walk, we were unsure of where we were. My friend had no choice but to use Google map, to locate the nearest bar. The map brought us to another 10 minutes walk before we reach the location. Everything was fine after that, we had our drinks, dessert and fun. So, we decided to head back, since it was late, and we needed to wake up early for tomorrow’s activity.
    And a group of five girls left to walk back to our hotel. The street was extremely dark, and the street lights were not working at all. The street was pitch black, but of course, we could still see silhouette. But it was really creepy. Most of the time, we had our mobile phone’s torchlight switch on, just so we could stay together and see the road before us.
    For what seemed forever, a friend jumped, which was like a domino effect, all of us jumped. A poor man was stood behind her, tapping her shoulder, begging for money. Creeped and scared, we quickly said sorry and walked quickly away. We got cat whistled along the way back and lured into their shops, but most of the time, we were just focussing on getting back into the hotel.
    And before we know, we were so glad to see the lake and the hotel. So, please careful when you’re walking around at night, especially in Pokhara.


    What I should’ve known…

    Always bring (or get) a neck pillow – if you’re travelling for 7-hours

    Get snacks and drinks during the long rides, to avoid dehydration and starvation

    Never buy souvenirs from Pokhara, you can always get them back in Kathmandu

    Be extra careful when having a stroll at night in Pokhara, there is barely any street lights that work – I had to walk around with my friends, with our mobile torchlights switched on

    Bannack Ghost Town: Portraits

    Traveling to Montana to visit Bannack Ghost Town with my Digital Imaging class was so much more fun than I thought it would be. I learned a lot about photography and made some new friends along the way.

    One of our assignments was taking portraits. This was the first time I had shot portraits using Auxiliary Light. Not only did I learn how to use added light when taking portraits, but I also learned the many benefits of added light.

    Portraits Using Auxiliary Light

    Following are a few examples of the portraits I was able to shoot using different forms of Auxiliary Light.

    The following portrait was shot using a continuous LED light along with the natural window light:

    LED Continuous Light

    The next photo was taken using a Rouge Speed Light. This was the first time I’d ever used an off-camera flash and learned what it meant to put a flash in SL mode (or Slave Mode).

    Rouge Speed Lights; Reflector

    Below was a photo shot outdoors using a Godax AD200 Strobe Light.

    Godax Strobe Light AD200

    Group Portrait with Auxilary Light

    The following shot was taken using Einstein Strobe Lights. I was shocked at how much adding light can improve photographs and make them look more professional.

    Einstein Strobe Lights; B. Dish

    Before & After Portraits

    Next, I’ll share a couple before and after shots. Both of the photos I am sharing were shot outside in overcast weather.

    This first before and after shot was an experiment with reflected light. First, you will see the photo taken without a reflector around noon on a cloudy day:

    Before: Without Using Gold Reflector

    Next, you will see the photo taken with a gold reflector:

    After: Using Gold Reflector

    So much better, don’t you think?

    The next photo was taken outdoors in the evening. This before shot shows the shot straight-out-of-the-camera with no flash or edits:

    Before: Without Godax Strobe Light AD500

    For the after shot, an AD500 Strobe light was used:

    After: Using Godax With Strobe Light AD500

    It’s a huge difference! This shows the benefits of adding light during a portrait shoot, even when outdoors.

    I learned a lot during this day-long photography excursion. I will most definitely be using added light when I shoot portraits.

    Bangkok 4D3N – Day 2

    It’s finally the 2nd day in Bangkok where we can enjoy a full day of non-stop eating and shopping. We started the day by visiting the famous Pratunam Morning Market, which is conveniently located near our hotel. There was lots of street food but we did not dare to try any of those as it seemed to be “not so hygiene” and exposed to the air from the traffic.

    Nevertheless there are several clothing and the designs seemrd different from chatuchak.

    After the morning Pratunam Morning Market, we went to eat platinum chicken rice. The chicken rice was not anything fantastic and the utensils was quite dirty. People should not come to this place to have their meals. I seriously do not recommend this place.

    After our meal, we went off to Khlong Lad Mayom Floating market. This market is around 30 minutes away by grab. Our taxi driver recommended another floating market but that market is 1hr 45 kin drive away. The taxi claim that this floating market is a newly, artificially created market.

    Ultimately, I do not disagree that this is a not a proper floating market. Most of the things are done while standing on dry land. You don’t really ride a boat and buy things from other boat.

    However, we still rent a Sampan(floating boat). This is a 1 hr ride, where they will drop you at 1 or 2 location (another floating market or orchid garden) and cost 800 baht.

    Nevertheless, this place is very big. It is far from being a fake floating market as it has sufficient contents to be proper attraction. We bought and ate so many things here and definitely recommend people to come.

    After this place, we took a grab back to Siam area for more shopping.

    Turns out there is a Food Republic. They sell decent food. I kind of like their version of fried omelette oyster. It’s very crispy unlike conventional.

    We went Talad Rod Fai train night market. This is another beast of its own. This place is very big and has many food store. However, the stall here has a tendency to repeat.

    Although this place is called train night market, there is only 1 train. Lol

    We ate Mookata. A bit disappointing as charcoal was not strong enough to cook the meat. We need to wait very long just to cook the meat.

    We continue to shop more after dinner before we finally call it a day.

    So tired from all the walking.

    Day 1

    Day 3

    Q&A: Royal Teeth talks tour and forthcoming album (plus live photos)

    Before releasing its comeback record, Hard Luck, later this summer, indie alt-pop band Royal Teeth currently on tour with Smallpools and Keelan DonovanHard Luck is Royal Teeth’s second album, following their Amateurs EP in 2016 and debut full-length, GLOW, in 2013, and comes after a series of label and lineup shifts. The band refused to give up amid the changes, however, and emerged with a new sound and a bold declaration that they would never quit.

    In anticipation of the record, Indientry photographed Royal Teeth (alongside Smallpools and Keelan Donovan) at the A&R Music Bar on May 30 and asked the band a few questions via email about touring and the album. Check out the interview and live photos from the concert in Columbus below.

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    For high-resolution photos, click here.


    Indientry: How are you guys? How is tour going?

    Royal Teeth: We’re doing great! Tour is off to a good start. Just finished night one at Park West in Chicago and it was excellent.

    I know you’re touring with Smallpools. What’s your favorite thing about them?

    We love their fun, upbeat vibe and they write really good songs. They’re also good people. That’s a pretty great combination in our book.

    What artists are you all listening to most right now?

    Better Oblivion Community Center, Lizzo, Vampire Weekend and Tank and The Bangas to name a few.

    Talk a little bit about your forthcoming album, Hard Luck. What can you tell me about your inspiration for writing it?

    After recording songs in Nashville that we weren’t happy with, we got home and decided to clear our heads and start fresh. Gary started writing non-stop, about 40 ideas or so, and we just used the songs we felt were an exciting new sound for us.

    How does this album differ from your previous work?

    We recorded and produced Hard Luck on our own home studios. We wanted this album to be little aggressive and more rough around the edges than our previous work.

    It’s been six years since your last full-length record and three since your last EP. How do you think your band has evolved since then, if at all?

    When we started the band we were a six-piece. Now we are a four-piece with a new member, so that changed the dynamic of the writing process. We’ve also grown a lot as individuals and felt we needed to do something we hadn’t done before for the new album.

    Which of the singles (so far) is your favorite, and why?

    Gary’s favorite is “Never Gonna Quit” because it was one of the first songs he wrote at home and it really inspired the theme for Hard Luck.

    What are you most excited about for the release of the album?

    It’s always exciting to see a physical copy of something you’ve worked really hard on and having fans be excited about it. We are looking forward to re-connecting with fans and hearing what they think about the new songs.

    Is there anything else about your band that you think is important for readers to know?

    We wouldn’t still be doing this if it weren’t for our fans and we’re grateful for their support. And we are happy to be able to share new music!


    Check out the single “Never Gonna Quit,” Gary’s favorite single from the band’s forthcoming record, Hard Luck, below.

    Hello? God? Are you there?

    So, here’s the thing.  I have a problem with God.  Well, not God, but what people try to tell me about Him.  In all honesty, I’m not even sure, when I say “God”, what that even means.  But for now, lets go with “God”=”Christian God”=”Dude with white beard”.  Good?  Okay.  Now, back to my problem.  I don’t believe that God has an active role in our world and I resent those that say he does.

    At the time I started writing this I was dealing with a minor health issue.  Nothing major, but something enough to awaken the sleeping worry inside.  As I was thinking about what the future might hold, I caught myself falling back into my old “fundamentalist” views about God. I say caught myself, not because of a militaristic need to avoid God, but because I don’t subscribe to those fear based beliefs anymore. I honestly don’t believe the theology they are rooted in. So it was interesting to catch myself thinking along those lines and recognizing, “Hey wait a minute, I don’t believe this stuff.”

    I have grappled with the idea that God is not actively present in our world for a while.  This leads into the thoughts and prayers stuff you always see on TV or social media.  While I do believe positive energy can be helpful, I’m not so sure that praying does much more than help center us.  I have friends that were taken much too soon.  I can attest to the fact that people were praying their little hearts out to no avail.  Every time I see a St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital commercial I wonder where is God?  If he were all about the children like Jesus said, why wouldn’t he just heal all of the kids?  Since so many are afflicted, he must not be actively present…or he’s a dick. Wait.  What did you say?  Oh, “he works in mysterious ways.”  Right.  So, I’m supposed to support a God that likes to kill innocent children but lets politicians grab women by the pussy and be okay with that?  What kind of God do you follow?

    Now hold on. That’s gone a bit too far. Really? Has it? Lets look around for a minute shall we? How many times a night do you turn on the evening news just to sit back, shake your head, and say something like “What is happening to this world? Things have never been this bad.” Let me guess, like, every night right? Well, if you believe God is here in this world, where the heck is he? Why is he letting it get so bad? Why is he letting children starve to death, veterans kill themselves from the trauma of war, and Kenneth Copeland fly around in a million dollar jet promising salvation if you will only donate to his church? Oh right! We have free will! That must be it. He doesn’t want to step on our toes. Well how about this then. If you believe God healed you of something, that means he actively refused to heal that small child of cancer. Think about that for a while. And don’t give me the “he has a plan” line either. I’m pretty sure you didn’t deserve it more or play any bigger role in society than that child would have.

    Was that too harsh? Are you angry yet? Well you should be! But not with me. And, here comes the plot twist, not with God either. You know who you should be angry with? Yourself and any other Christian you know. Do you know why? Because God is present in this world. No, not directly himself, but indirectly. Remember in the Bible how it talks about being the hands and feet of the Lord? Well, that is exactly what we have here. I’ve struggled so much with how it’s possible for God to turn his back on people pleading for mercy. How can a God of boundless love (unending joy-love this song, my mom used to sing it in church with her friend) ignore the cries of his people, his children? Then it hit me. He isn’t. He sent us each other. God isn’t ignoring us, we are ignoring one another. That child died of cancer that we can actively research to cure. But do we focus on it? Not as much as we could. Those kids starving in Africa, how much food do we toss away at dinner? Refugees fleeing their countries ravaged by famine and wars, how much fossil fuel do we burn everyday driving to Walmart to buy the cheapest clothes imported from sweatshops so we can save a buck? We are feeding into all of the hurt and pain in the world. When is the last time you smiled at a stranger? When is the last time you said hi? Do you wave at people in your neighborhood? Do you even know your neighbors? It’s really hard to spread the love of Christ when you won’t even take the time to smile at the woman in line with you at Walmart.

    If you are quick to denounce someone going to Planned Parenthood, or if you think the group of refugees stuck in a concentration camp on the southern border should just go back home, maybe you need to take a step back and think about that. What is wrong with the world today? The answer might be you and me. There is a saying that we get back what we put in. Analyze what you are putting into the world everyday. No, you don’t need to buy a hybrid, adopt a refugee family, move off the grid, give all your money to cancer research, stop bathing to save water, and what ever else you think will make a positive impact all at once. Let’s be honest, making a drastic change is not sustainable for most folks. Its hard and people won’t stick with doing hard things if they can find an easier way. Besides, you can’t fix the world all by yourself. Believe me, if you could, someone would have already done it. All I’m saying is, challenge the dogma of “God is in control.” Since the world is the problem, and we are all in this world together, that makes us all part of the problem. And, since we have that whole free will thing, that means we actually can choose to make a difference. You don’t have to make a revolutionary change, just take a step back and recognize your role. Don’t condemn people in different situations than your own. Try to understand instead. By the way, we are all human, and that basically means sometimes we are gonna suck. Even Jesus questioned God. You can’t fix everything, but I bet you can find areas that you are uniquely suited to address. The key is to find something that is meaningful to you. Then go tell people about it. Not everyone will care, but a few will and they will tell people and so on and so forth. Pretty soon you have a group of people that can make a bigger impact. And if you aren’t into creating a group, there are already numerous organizations out there to join. Volunteer once a month for a place you believe in. Do some research on it, make sure it is legit and then go for it!

    If you believe God put us here, if you believe God made us all in his image, then lets start acting like it. If you believe God made this world, then let’s treat it like it. Don’t offer thoughts and prayers and tell yourself you are a good Christian. Offer thoughts and prayers and deeds. Actions speak louder than words. Go out and act. Walk the walk. After all what did Jesus do? Are you sure you want to be a follower of Christ? Then you better catch up, he is waiting for you.

    Birds, Bees, and Butterflies

    The first Spring in our new house was spent figuring out where we wanted things and tackling the things we didn’t – I battled sticker bushes and morning glory, we moved garden beds, and got a patio poured. This year all that hard work started coming together. I planted vegetables, we got patio furniture, and got some flower beds organized – but like all good library nerds I had to do research first.

    I’ve always wanted my yard to be habitat friendly so when I weeded I didn’t just take out everything that’s considered a weed. I kept clover and bachelor’s button despite their bad reputation. I also let things happen naturally with random plants that popped up on their own like lupine, hyacinths, daffodils, and a calla lilly! We added lavender, rosemary, borage, and mint for bees. I also, made little rain gardens and added bird feeders and from last year we have foxgloves and crocosmia for the hummingbirds.

    I’ve seen so much new wildlife come into our yard lately; looking forward to what each year brings! Here are a few books in our collection that helped me out:

    Gardening for Butterflies: How You Can Attract and Protect Beautiful, Beneficial Insects by The Xerces Society – This covered so much material and really had me thinking about what we often consider weeds are actually some of the best plants for butterflies and insects. It has lists on what works in our region and then even breaks it down plant by plant with pictures!

    Nature Play at Home: Creating Outdoor Spaces That Connect Children With the Natural World by Nancy Striniste – focuses more on the childhood aspect of the yard and green spaces, but also covers native species. If children are going to be the ones inheriting this world then starting them young with an understanding of how our plant environment works and teaching them to not fear bees, birds, and bugs can only benefit them. Love the spaces this book creates and look forward to using this book in the future.

    National Wildlife Federation: Attracting Birds, Butterflies and Other Backyard Wildlife by David Mizejewski – updated this year and while small at 168 pages it is mighty content wise. Offers a great overview for beginners and has projects that homeowners can do to create habitat. Also, they focus not just on planting during spring, but also ideas for all year around habitat, long term food resources, and water access.

    ~posted by Kara P.

    On the way home – final post from this trip!

    We’ll be on the plane home tomorrow evening after our epic trip in western USA. We’re spending our last night in Napa where the weather is in the 30Cs. We have really been through all seasons in our five weeks away! So here are a few final thoughts from our last few stayovers and some pics.

    We strolled around downtown Denver along the pedestrian mall towards the State Capitol on a beautiful late spring day. We came across the local police (hundreds) and friends doing a fun run for the Special Olympics, saw a large bear looking at his own reflection and observed the recipe for Denver Omelet which was supposedly invented to add extra ingredients to stale eggs to disguise their taste!

    Denver

    I liked the idea of the drive by voting below!

    Denver votes!

    On to Monterey on the west coast where the sea fog kept the temperature down so it was on with the puffer jackets again! The famous Cannery Row (made so by John Steinbeck in ‘Of Mice and Men’) is now very touristy but we had a fabulous seafood meal right on the waterfront. Though there are still some derelict cannery works (lower left) I doubt that the sardine fishermen and cannery workers would recognise the Row. Not far from the main tourist area there were many divers and even more seals. The little chap on upper right below was grabbing and crunching what look like mussels in quick succession – must have been hungry!

    Monterey

    A scenic 17 mile drive took us along the coast to the Pebble Beach Golf Course where the preparations were proceeding at apace for the upcoming US Open . Two of us wondered whether more volunteers might be required! We viewed the 1st tee and 18th green – will be fun to remember when we are home watching the golf on tv! Hope it warms up a bit for the players.

    Pebble Beach Golf Course

    Coming in the spring, we have been fortunate to see a lot of plants in flower and I’ve taken pics of them along the way. As you can see they reflect the nature of the areas we’ve been through – from the cacti in the desert, to the alpine plants in the higher elevations.

    Thanks for reading!

    Another Week of Thoughts

    Tuesday, May 21

    I’m on a real Celine Dion kick today. During “Power of Love,” I thought about how funny it would be if, during a one-night stand, I suddenly started screaming, “‘Cause I’m your laaaaddyyy!” Worth terrorizing a poor fellow over this bit?

    Maybe. But I’ve never been into one-night stands.

    Wednesday, May 22

    I’m laying in bed. A weird clicking noise is keeping me awake. It sounds like it’s coming from inside my nose. Is the pressure changing? Is a storm coming? Am I the canary in the coal mine?

    It’s the ceiling fan.

    Thursday, May 23

    Grace and I won the Writer’s Block competition. Afterward, we kept telling people we didn’t deserve it, that the other team’s sketch was actually better, and that we just won because we had more friends there.

    The next day, we realized, fuck that. We deserved it.

    Saturday, May 25

    A cat bit me today. I put rubbing alcohol on it for a quick disinfect. I wondered why it’s called rubbing alcohol, so I read the directions. Apparently, people use it for massages. Heathens.

    The cat bit me while I was dictating notes for the visit. It’s one of my favorite things that’s ever happened:

    IMG_9445

    Monday, May 27

    I’m never drinking again.

    Tuesday, May 28

    I had a dream last night that a giant red sea creature was trying to kill me by kneeing me in the back with its enormous red balls.

    Wednesday, May 29

    Went to the CBD store to buy my first bag of gummies.

    Have you heard? I’m off alcohol.

    I felt wholly unworthy of being in the store, and immediately word vomited on the clerk so I could get out as soon as possible. His voice sounded like his sinuses were at complete capacity. 

    I am the canary in the coal mine.

    Thursday, May 30

    Today is one of those days I am sad for no apparent reason.

    Couldn’t sleep, so I started a new book. Something was throwing me off, like I couldn’t quite pay attention to what I was actually reading. A few pages in, I realized what it was: my inner narrator was shouting every word in an old Hollywood accent. 

    And here I thought the weed hadn’t kicked in.

    Friday, May 31

    My mom and I are going to Connecticut today. I’ve been telling everyone we’re going to New Jersey, because I thought we were going to New Jersey.

    We are not going to New Jersey.

    Our flight from Philly to New Haven was a very tiny plane. When we walked on, I got a glimpse of the cockpit. The co-pilot was looking at Instagram. His index finger was hovering over a picture of a model in an open suit jacket and not much else. I assume he was debating whether or not to double tap. I can’t decide if I appreciate his thoughtfulness, or am terrified of his inability to make quick decisions.

    Saturday, June 1

    Mom and I are having a retreat in Connecticut. I know where we are now because my mom drew me a map on her napkin at dinner. 

    We’ve been kayaking, reading, writing, eating, drinking and talking. I saw snails having sex. When I told my mom, she said had a video she wants to show me.

    We watched Moonlight before bed.

    I do not think this is the video she meant.

    Sunday, June 2

    Mom and I took the train to go see Mean Girls on Broadway. I always thought Broadway was a theater. It is a street.

    The show was awesome. It’s true, I’m a sucker for musicals. But My Lord and Savior Andrew Lloyd Webber had nothing to do with this show, and still, I was smitten.

    On the train back, a passenger next to us popped a bottle of champagne. The cork hit a girl in the head. She’s okay; they gave her a glass for her troubles.

    Monday, June 3

    My last full day in Connecticut, and I still have no idea how to spell Connecticut. 

    The water was too rough to kayak. Do sea gulls ever get sea sick?

    Met family I’d never met before. It’s a shame I’m just now meeting them. My mom made dinner and I poured drinks. This is the role I will always assume. 

    After dinner, we sat outside and watched the tide come in. I climbed down on the rocks and examined all the nooks and crannies the low tide had left exposed. Lots of snails looking to get laid. 

    Tuesday, June 4

    On my flight from New Haven to Philadelphia. I opened my pack of Wet Wipes to prepare my hands for snack time. I felt bad about the strong floral smell, until the woman next to me pulled a hard boiled egg out of Target bag.

    Had to hurry to the bathroom between flights. I was in a rush, so I left my backpack on while I peed. It was probably one of the most freeing experiences I’ve had in a while. I saved so much time! How have I never thought to do this before?!

     

    The End of Second Year

    Not gonna lie, I have barely written this year. It’s been a bit of a nightmare year, my workload has been massive and I have had a lot of outside shit going on.

    In early October, my brother was admitted into hospital. When we were kids, he had a liver transplant and his eyes had started going yellow (jaundice), so he had to be admitted pretty much straight away. They had no clue what was going on with him – just that his liver was failing. This digressed very quickly, and before I knew it, he was in a critical position. Over Christmas, he was moved into intensive care. His liver was failing, his kidneys started shutting down and his lungs began filling with fluid. Two days in intensive care, we got the call and my brother got his second liver transplant.

    January came and my brother came out of hospital and I had to rush back to uni. I had assignments due and feelings to bury and I struggled. I basically lost all sense of control and peace in my life, I had mental break downs on every night out – which was basically every other day. I was falling down the darkest hole I’d been down for a long time. I allowed myself to get so ill, heading down an extremely dark path. I was ready to continue going down this path.

    Then, reality check. Stuff happened with my friend that created a huge wake up call and I began trying to get better. I went to the doctors, I began counselling, I stopped drinking. I cleaned myself up.

    I’m not gonna lie, I still have shit days, but I am doing a hell of a lot better than I was. Along with all of the crap I had in my head, I also had a shit ton of work due in for Uni, which was stressful as frick, but at least that’s done now.

    It’s not all bad though, I had a wicked year with my friends. I’ve got a lot closer this year to two people from my course and they’re amazing. They’ve been such a good influence on me, as well as being a huge support over the past few months. I’ve had a lot of fab times with them – as well as my other mates – which has made the year worth it.

    Anyways, now, it’s summer. I’m working at a summer camp – which I’m pretty excited about – and I’m starting my work for my dissertation. (HECK) So hopefully I’ll write again soon.

    – This Uni Life

    Explore It – Daisy Hill Conservation Park & Koala Centre

    TL;DR
    – Today I explore the beautiful
    Daisy Hill Conservation Park & Koala Centre a pocket of bushland just south
    of Brisbane.

    Daisy Hill Conservation Park & Koala Centre. Image Credit: Brian MacNamara

    Article

    This week, month, and year has been a bit stressful, to say the least, so I thought I would take a moment and destress by going to one of the best-kept secrets in South-East Queensland the Daisy Hill Conservation Park & Koala Centre, just south of Brisbane in Logan City.  

    Daisy Hill is a pocket of bushland in the hills behind Logan City and a key conversation area for a lot of local species including to koalas. There is a day area on the southern tip with bush walks, grass to run around with, the Koala Centre, and most importantly for me some good old fashioned fire BBQs.

    Daisy Hill Conservation Park & Koala Centre. Image Credit: Brian MacNamara
    There is a joy that you get walking through a forest. Image Credit: Brian MacNamara

    The first step is to find a free BBQ and set to work getting a fire
    ready, as it was just for me it didn’t need to be a big fire, but there is
    something about cooking with wood that always makes food taste that little bit
    better.

    Once you fire is going it is time to cook and today there was only one
    thing on my mind and that was a big hunk of meat, so it is time for a good
    chunk of steak.

    Daisy Hill Conservation Park & Koala Centre. Image Credit: Brian MacNamara
    Time for a little bit of steak. Image Credit: Brian MacNamara

    However, a pro tip when you are cooking any sort of food anywhere in
    Australia, you need to keep an eye out for the local wildlife, because if you
    are not careful your lunch might fly off to be someone else’s treat.

    Daisy Hill Conservation Park & Koala Centre. Image Credit: Brian MacNamara
    Everyone is a critic when you are in-charge of the BBQ. Image Credit: Brian MacNamara

    Once it is all done, and some healthy greens added for good measure, it
    is time to enjoy your handiwork as the fire crackles behind you and given how
    cold it has been in Queensland this week, this is an added bonus.

    Daisy Hill Conservation Park & Koala Centre. Image Credit: Brian MacNamara
    Yum. Image Credit: Brian MacNamara

    Once you have finished it is time to clean up, collect all your rubbish because at Daisy Hill you take it all with you and make sure you leave it in as good or better than when you arrived. Then after having a big lunch the best thing to do is walk a bit of it off. There are a lot of walking tracks from here, but today for me it was just a lap of the picnic area. Now if you are very lucky and it is a quiet day you might spot a visitor or two out and about.

    Daisy Hill Conservation Park & Koala Centre. Image Credit: Brian MacNama.ra
    Why hello there little one. Image Credit: Brian MacNamara.

    At
    the end of the walk, we arrive at a very special place: the Daisy Hill Koala Centre.

    Daisy Hill Conservation Park & Koala Centre. Image Credit: Brian MacNamara.
    Shhhhhhhhhhhh, they are sleeping. Image Credit: Brian MacNamara.

    I arrived just in time for one of the local rangers to give a talk about Koalas, the pressures they face, how we can help them, and also enviably the terrifying sound they make during mating season.

    Daisy Hill Conservation Park & Koala Centre. Image Credit: Brian MacNamara.
    Mmmmm gum leaves, the good stuff. Image Credit: Brian MacNamara.

    Alas,
    while it was fun, my time was at an end and I had to get home, but it was a
    nice day out with perfect weather and some fun koala facts to boot.  

    By Brian MacNamara: You can follow
    Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV,
    he’ll be talking about International Relations,
    or the Solar System.

    Have you visited Daisy Hill Conservation Park & Koala Centre?, let us know
    what you thought in the comments below, feel free to share this review on any
    of the social medias and you can follow
    us Here. Check out all our
    past reviews and articles Here, and have a happy
    day.
     

    Credits – All images are by the author

    Come Lord Jesus!

    “’Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay each one for what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.’ Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life and that they may enter the city by the gates.” (Revelation 22:12-14)
    The ideals of the United States and most of the nations of the world focus on freedom from oppression, want, hunger and fear. Rulers, politicians, and governments maintain that they seek to provide and maintain justice and equality for all people. Yet all their efforts, all their striving to produce a peaceful and perfect world fail. Those elected or appointed to positions of trust and responsibility fall victim to greed, succumb to pride, and give way to corruption. Though successful by worldly standards, they are really losers for they think they are in control, not God.

    True freedom or joy is found not in laws that are designed to foster equality for all or promote autonomy and self-determination, or the ability to make free choices. The source of joy and true freedom is found in these closing words of the Book of Revelation: surrender and total submission to God who loves us. Here we encounter vital words of admonition and encouragement from the Lord Jesus. He encourages us to remain faithful, to persevere in loyalty to the Lamb of God in the midst of persecution, suffering, sacrifice and loss. God’s outpouring of wrath upon sinful humanity will shortly occur. These dark times we will endure in this period of pain and suffering will be difficult unless we hold fast to the light of Christ and that vision we have seen of our reward. If we persevere, we will receive blessings and joy beyond what we have ever imagined that will more than make up for what we have lost for the sake of faith in Christ.

    Jesus Christ alone has the only true and permanent solution for all the world’s troubles. And He has entrusted that key to us, His church: the gospel of salvation found only in the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. May we ever be faithful to uphold and preach this truth.

    Trinity Lutheran Hicksville

    TASTES ARE CHANGING: Czech brewers put modern pubs on tap to court hipsters

    PRAGUE — For generations, Czechs have consumed world-beating volumes of beer in the smoky, wood-paneled rooms of their local pubs, all but indistinguishable from each other bar the brand of lager flowing from the taps.

    But tastes are changing.

    Czechs are increasingly shunning fusty old watering holes and draft beer sales are sliding, so the world-famous brewers of pilsner are looking to inject some pizzazz into the traditional pub and attract younger patrons looking for a hip, modern feel.

    “I don’t remember the last time I was in a traditional Czech pub,” said Marcel, a 35-year-old IT worker sipping a beer in Prague’s upcoming Karlin neighborhood which is crammed with trendy bars, cafes and restaurants.

    People like Marcel are the kinds of drinkers with disposable income that breweries such as Plzensky Prazdroj, the maker of Pilsner Urquell, are seeking to lure back with new concept bars designed to recharge the traditional Czech pub.

    The brewery, owned by Japan’s Asahi, plans to open its first “Pilsnerka” bar catering to the hipster crowd in the capital Prague in the coming months. It also plans to launch about 20 pubs this year tied to other beers in its portfolio such as Kozel, the company said.

    The designs put more emphasis on space and lighter materials to create a brighter pub atmosphere that the company hopes will appeal to the younger generation, as well as women and families.

    Two-thirds of the beer drunk by Czechs is now consumed at home, a figure that has grown steadily since 2003. With margins on supermarket sales far lower than for draft beer, getting people back into pubs is seen as key for the breweries.

    “Consumers are changing so this is a big opportunity to bring something new to the market,” said Tomas Mraz, sales director at Plzensky Prazdroj.

    “When you go to a standard pub you might get an old guy serving you beer. With the new concept you are more likely to get somebody young with tattoos serving the beer,” he said.

    Customers drink beer inside of a new conceptual pub by Plzensky Prazdroj (Pilsner Urquell) brewery called Plzenka in Prague, Czech Republic, May 6, 2019. Picture taken May 6, 2019. (REUTERS/David W Cerny)

    DEMANDING MORE

    Since 2009, Czechs have consumed more beer at home than in pubs, according to the Czech Beer and Malt Association. Last year, pub sales hit their lowest level in at least a quarter of a century after declining steadily from a peak in 2003.

    “Breweries are going all out to make their draft beers and pubs attractive to younger consumers who have many more choices these days,” said Martina Ferencova, who heads the Czech Beer and Malt Association.

    The Czech Republic still leads the world in beer consumption, downing 141 litres per person per year, but the shift away from drinking in pubs is a problem for brewers as the margins on bottled beer drunk at home are far lower.

    “Breweries are investing in new pub concepts primarily due to the annual decline in on-trade, draft beer,” said Ferencova. “Consumers are also demanding more.

    Besides the shift to home drinking, partly boosted by a ban on smoking in 2017, traditional pubs are also up against more wine and cocktail bars favoured by some younger drinkers.

    A new electronic ordering system introduced in 2016 to track sales – and make sure pubs and restaurants paid all taxes due – also forced a number of pubs to go under.

    Currently, around 65 percent of the beer sold in the Czech Republic is in stores, a figure on the rise and one Prazdroj and other breweries believe will continue to increase.

    With domestic consumption tepid, breweries have looked to foreign markets to offset declines at home and exports jumped nearly 12 percent in 2018. But getting Czechs back to the pub remains key, beer makers and industry officials say.

    “I don’t need to sit on golden chairs or old carved creaky furniture,” said Zdenek Borecky while sipping a beer at one of Prazdroj’s new “Plzenka” pubs which hew more closely to tradition than the Pilsnerka concept being rolled out this year.

    BRANDED RESTAURANTS

    It’s not just the big brands looking to showcase their beers in the pub, where breweries say they can present their products best to customers.

    Local brewery Bernard said discounts and promotions were boosting sales in supermarkets but turning bottled beers into unprofitable products.

    As a result, it and other small breweries are focusing on selling beer in branded restaurants and launching concept bars.

    The brewery has seven branded pubs and is looking to expand outside the Czech Republic with a location in Slovakia. It is also launching a more modern design called Bernard Bar in the capital Prague and two other Czech cities in 2019.

    “Every economically strong brewery is trying to build branded restaurants because it is a direct way to reach customers,” said Ales Pavlik, Bernard brewery’s head of franchising.

    Increasingly demanding consumers and a shifting beer landscape is also spurring Staropramen, the pioneer of the country’s first branded pub, to branch out from its Potrefena Husa chain launched 20 years ago to showcase its beers.

    Staropramen, which is owned by Molson Coors and now has 45 pubs connected to four of its brands, is working on a new bar concept but declined to go into further details.

    “Consumers are more demanding than before, they have less time and once they decide to visit a pub or restaurant they expect a certain standard,” said Jan Trochta, head of the company’s branded pub division.

    [video-player videoid=”oteYKHF5z1Y” /]

    National Veggie Burger Day

    While now you will hear me celebrating many meat dishes, not many people know that I was a vegetarian for 13 years starting in my senior year of high school. It was based on my belief that if we avoided feeding animals grain combinations we could direct them to humans and seriously reduce hunger in the world. My diet wasn’t necessarily healthy, I continued eating dairy and eggs because so many desserts contained them (not kidding). Finally I returned to eating meat when my protest wasn’t solving world hunger. I know, swell role model.

    Way back decades ago, meat alternatives were terrible. We had Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP) and foul veggie burgers that were sometimes more tasty than cardboard. So I was intrigued when I read about the Impossible Burger. The 100% vegetable protein burger was formulated to taste and act like ground beef. It gets great reviews and was even selected by Burger King to expand their menu. Indeed the mass distribution BK is demanding has put a strain on the company’s production even though they are doing it in a slow stepped manner.

    Several local restaurants admitted that they could not get Impossible Burgers from the company and the limited BK rollout does not yet include the New York area. After much searching I discovered a restaurant near Times Square that had it in stock. It is a terrific custom hamburger shop I had tired before. So I went to give it a try.

    It was amazing. Ordered medium, there was still a light pink in the center and delicious umami flavor to the patty. I picked at it, ate some of it separately from the other ingredients and even gave it a satisfying sniff. If I had these options years ago, I might still be a vegetarian. With all the concerns about the impact of animal raising on our environment, this could be just the approach. I seldom see the inside of a Burger King but will give their version a try when it arrives here. Do they still give out those paper crowns?

    As always you can find more at http://www.walterthinnes.com and on Twitter @walterthinnes.com

    Service recovery- where is your weakest link?

    I think I am fairly patient customer / guest, after all – I have worked in the service industry for 30 years. I understand that perfection is fleeting at best, and no one achieves great service alone.

    That being said, I have experienced questionable service recently at a chain restaurant that I have always loved and a friend experienced financial errors and disrespectful treatment from a rental car vendor that she has used on a national basis (hint).

    My experience, mildly disappointing compared to hers, but it bothers me that I didn’t speak up. Maybe because of her experience… You see, she did speak up. Knowing her, she was probably the kindest person they dealt with all day. She teaches hospitality and great service for a living. It is her passion, it resonates so deeply for her that this situation is beyond reason. She simply reserved a rental car in order to have a reliable vehicle for a long trip to a funeral. And errors do happen. When she showed up, her first credit card was over authorized and then a second one was offered. The agent made the error again. Roughly 3x the amount of the rental was taken from her cards, and then she was refused a vehicle. She knows this can happen, having worked in hotels. But she also knows that if someone makes this error, it can be fixed. A call to the banks and documents providing an explanation usually have the funds released. But no, this was not done. Knowing her, she offered solutions. This was a Thursday evening, so you would think maybe someone higher up would have fixed this on Friday even. No.

    She left the car rental place place with no rental car, all funds in her accounts being held – and no way to make the funeral. There are more details that do not look better for this car rental company, but they know what they are.

    Her local bank did eventually release the funds but the second card ( again, a nationally known company) took almost a full week. She never would have allowed a guest in her hotel to have their cards over authorized, and then turned them away without a solution.

    She reached out to numerous people, her friends did as well. Seems so simple that one person, could have apologized and helped. But now – numerous people on social media are aware of this error and the fact that our friend who is the epitome of excellent service was so mistreated.

    It makes me very aware that businesses do have to ensure they get paid, but if you take payment- you make sure the service you are paid for is provided to the guest.

    Mistakes will happen, but is your practice to avoid blame and ignore the needs of your clientele? Or to apologize, take ownership and fix what was broken?

    You see, once an apology is offered – then the rebuilding of your business, your brand to that person can begin. A resolution can be offered, one that fits the customers need.

    My friend is still waiting. Perhaps she should have trained their staff. She never would have had to wait this long.

    Gy?za: Saying “Hell Yeah!” To This Eastern Delicacy

    Gy?za - dumplings that have been fried

    Yes.

    Gy?za may hail from China originally, but it’s a popular dish amongst the Japanese, too. And as big fans of food from that there Nippon, we have a big thing for these tasty little dumplings.

    Gy?za

    Although hailing from China (where they’re called jiaozi), the Japanese have added a distinctive spin to them – a hint of garlic. That’s the main difference between the nations take on it – but chopsticks are always there.

    Technically, gy?za is a type of dumpling. But it’s so light it’s more of an indulgent treat (as it’s fried) that won’t hit your waistline like drinking four litres of Coca-Cola a day will.

    Although looking rather nifty once cooked, they’re easy to make. It’s a mish-mash of vegetable fillings wrapped in thin dough. It’s sealed up and fried, boiled, or steamed.

    You’ll usually come across gy?za in pan-fried form. It’s served with a black vinegar and sesame seed oil dip.

    And, cripes, that’s making us hungry right now thinking about it.

    History of Gy?za

    It’s believed the Eastern Han dynasty created the dish circa AD 25-220. It’s specifically attributed to Zhang Zhongjing, who was a physician and writer.

    But then that’s a folk story against several others. What’s clear is the fried dumpling concept is now incredibly old. This recipe has past through the ages – make no mistake.

    It’s thought the Chinese name came from the horn look the dumplings have. “Jiao” means “horn”, you see.

    In the Ming dynasty, some chefs thought the dumplings were like pieces of silver. As a result, it became a tradition for some of them to sporadically hide a coin within a jiaozi.

    A lucky diner would then either happen upon it in delight, or choke to death in horror.

    Either way, you’re not getting away with that now. It’s what you’d class as a serious breach of health and safety protocol, alongside other food preparation standards. Bloody PC, loony lefties ruin everything, don’t they?

    Make Your Own

    If you want to get deep down and funky, then why not have a go at making some? It’s easy enough, check out the above video.

    Have we tried it? No. But then we’re stuck with an electric hob, which is about as effective for cooking as using a pavement on an unusually hot day.

    You can also get readymade ones, like we did from the excellent Itsu brand (it also does some exceptional seaweed snacks – oh yes).

    Either way, whether you want Itsu to do it for you, or you’re off to a restaurant, or you’re cooking away at home, take your pick.

    It’s difficult to go wrong with gy?za. They’re light, tasty, and adaptable for all – whether you’re vegan, a meat-eating bastard, or vegetarian.

    Portugal (Sagres-Quarteire): 4 juni 2019 (dag 9)

    De dag begon vroeg. Om half 6. Gewoon omdat het kan ?? Het weer was zoals ik me voelde, bewolkt. Ik was niet fit maar we vertrekken vandaag naar onze laatste bestemming. Maar dat doen we natuurlijk met enkele tussenstops.

    LagosDe eerste stop was Lagos. Een oude stad maar dat is niet te zien. Door de aardbeving in de 17e eeuw is de stad verwoest.

    We hebben over de boulevard gelopen.En daar hebben ze leuke kraampjes met heel veel spulletjes van kurk. Leuk hoor.

    Aan het einde van de boulevard en nabij de haven was een fort van de 17e eeuw ter verdediging pier en stadsmuur.

    Het weer was inmiddels weer vertrouwd 30 graden. Een prachtig kerkje met een mooie lucht op de achtergond.

    De kern was gezellig druk. De paarse sprookjesbomen hebben inmiddels hun beste tijd gehad.

    Daarna naar Ponta da Piedade. Een vuurtoren en vanaf daar een wandelroute van vele kilometers door de natuur.

    Mooie planten.

    En nog mooiere uitzichten

    Kan het nog mooier? Ja hoor!

    Portimao

    Door naar de volgende plek. Wat we gezien hebben van het dorp was niet bijzonder. Wel een mooie boulevard en daar hebben we met mooi uitzicht een drankje genuttigd. En daar kwam zomaar een piratenboot voorbij.

    Daarna door naar het museum.

    Het bevindt zich in een verbouwde conservenfabriek. Een geweldige toer langs de oudheid. Materialen, opgravingen en met name hoe het proces was van het verwerken van sardientjes. Van vangst tot inblikken. Alle machines waren aanwezig en een leuke film werd gedraaid. Eerst sardines vangen, blik printen, blikjes maken, sardines kop eraf en ingewanden, schoonmaken, in containers verhitten, in blikken, olie erbij, deksel erop en klaar! Leuk om te zien!

    We hebben vandaag 10 kilometer afgelegd.

    Toen we uit Portimao vertrokken was ik moe en voldaan. Nog 60 kilometer rijden naar de eindbestemming.

    Na het inchecken in Quarteira was het tijd voor een biertje en pizza. En daarna? Benen omhoog en relaxen! Kaatje is klaar voor vandaag.

    most magical race on earth ??????

    the disney world princess half marathon weekend is now my official race weekend

    a dream is a wish your heart makes, and apparently my heart had been wishing for rigorous physical exertion in central florida’s premier theme park for quite some time.

    I’ve run so many races at this point I’ve actually lost count, but hands down the most spectacular experiences involving voluntarily induced muscular agony have been my disney princess races. so far I’ve done the half marathon and the 10k, and both have been my favorite endurance events ever.

    this past year I had the opportunity to raise money for children’s miracle network with my best friend olivia. together we rallied our friends, family, and community for a collective donation of over $7500, and then ran our 6.2 miles for the kids. this made the miles more magical, and the experience more meaningful — we ran for something other than the churros and dole whip, though we definitely imbibed quite a bit on that front as well.

    so what is it like to run through walt disney world? for starters, it’s florida, so as you can imagine, it’s flat and HOT. like, “I can’t tell if this is sweat or humidity condensation, because at this point it’s both” kind of hot.

    the races start extremely early, like at 5am, meaning you have to be ready at the course around 4:30am, meaning you have to be up and out of bed at roughly 2:30 to adequately prepare. yep. 2:30 wakeup call. 2 if you’re overprepared.

    thanks to the early start, you’re typically going to finish before the midday heat sets in, but it’s still florida, so it’s typically still thicccc air and over 70º — a far cry from typically balmy race temps in other regions. however, it does give you a bit of motivation to clock most of your miles before the sun comes up. and because the princess races are in february, you have a little more time than you would in a late spring race.

    disney is a well oiled machine, so the race logistics (for me at least) have always been impeccably smooth and streamlined. bag check in and check out is a breeze, the queues for each corral are clearly marked and directed, there are ample port-o-potties and plenty of on-course support, and getting your finish-line goodies (water, banana, snacks) and medal take no time at all.

    a few things to know up front: the bibs are expensive, and they don’t include any park admission. you’ll run through the park for part of the race, but not all of it (particularly if you’re doing the half — the majority of the miles will be logged through the surrounding area of lake buena vista’s highways).

    you’ll also probably be so tired afterward you won’t want to walk through the parks and be on your feet afterward, and it may not be the best use of your park tickets or park hoppers. if you’ve got a multi-day pass or an annual pass, by all means — head to the parks for a post-race brunch. but if you’re trying to budget more effectively, stick to your resort pool, the ample amount of resort restaurants, and disney springs for the rest of the day. get your “medal in front of the castle” picture the next day!

    and I’d be remiss to leave out the topic of utmost importance: the costume. friends, the costume is imperative. don’t just go for a themed running outfit, get into it. this is one of the only environments in which you can really let your freak flag fly and go for a full-blown, borderline-cosplay, adult-sized kids costume during an endurance event. it’s part of what makes the overall ambiance so spectacular, and trust me when I say you’ll have FOMO if you don’t go all in. I know this from experience. LEARN FROM MY MISTAKES.

    you can of course get yourself a glass of moët at the finish line if you so choose (and your stomach isn’t doing backflips from the hours of agitation). the park creates exclusive runner treats (including festive beverages) for each race each year — they’re always new and different, and cater to pre-race carb loading as well as post-race celebration. check out the pearlescent pink minnie mouse “princess toppers” for the champagne from this past year:

    I’m also a huge fan of the edible cookie dough they added to the runner’s treat lineup (you can get them at the wide world of sports/espn complex). they have the healthier, lighter options too, and in true disney fashion, everything is seriously delish.

    don’t forget to schedule your post-race brunch (and dinner!) roughly six months in advance (no I’m not a psycho, everyone else is) as the reservation slots open up 180 days ahead of time. for real. so if you’ve got your sights set on a popular spot, be sure to book that ish early! somer personal favs: crystal palace at magic kingdom (the breakfast lasagna is TO DIE FOR), germany’s buffet at epcot, and ohana at the polynesian resort (no park ticket required! but you’ll def need to book v early).

    alsoooo I’d highly, highly recommend staying at one of the wdw hotels for this journey. this isn’t a race, it’s an experience, and being at one of the disney hotels truly adds to said experience in an almost inexplicable way. you’re enveloped in magic 24/7 — and you get the added benefits of the disney logistics woven into your itinerary. that means hotel lobbies with hot coffee and pre-run snacks at 2:30 am, free shuttles to the start line and back from the finish line, etc. these seem like little things when you’re planning, yet make a massive world of difference when you’re mid race frenzy. at wdw, I’ve stayed at the polynesian, yacht club, boardwalk, and animal kingdom lodge and every single one was phenomenal. would 10/10 recommend each.

    when planning your stay, consider staying for a few days after versus before. the crowds seem to taper a bit on the back end, and you also don’t want to exhaust yourself before the race by hitting the parks super hard in advance. this is a hiiiighly trafficked event and brings in tens of thousands of EXTRA guests on top of the usual heavy influx of visitors, so take that into consideration.

    all in all, this race-slash-vacation is one of the most incredible events I’ve been a part of, and has given me some of my most treasured memories. the energy is palpable, the people are positive, the event itself is exceptionally well done, and you have the opportunity to do it all for a great cause. whether it’s your first race or your hundredth, I’d recommend anyone with any relative interest sign up and immerse yourself in the marvel that is runDisney asap. the half marathon sign ups are open now!

    xx,
    Dominique

    Not a Mocking

    Bird on fence. Scissor-tailed singing at the ranch (© image: all rights reserved, copyrighted, NO permissions granted)

    Scissor-tailed or Texas bird-of-paradise singing on fence at the ranch. No tornadoes.(© image)

    Might easily be mistaken for brainstormed skit ideas for SNL:

    • Someone’s taking the revival of “Westside Story” seriously Vintage gang equipment, brass knuckles, are now legal to carry/transport in the state. Does anyone actually carry brass knuckles anymore? You know what they say about bringing a knife to gun fight…(article)
    • No more sour faces. Lemonade stands operated by children are now safe from city or county officials showing up to enforce health department regulations or otherwise putting the squeeze the young entrepreneurs. If commonsense isn’t available, thatsa sweeta legislation.
    • It’s for their own good. You now have to be 21 to legally buy E-cigarette devices. Health providers applaud as their research shows anyone younger than 21 yrs isn’t mature enough to make decisions about their own health or to understand the information about those devices and vaping. Their brains just not developed enough to comprehend cause and effect. Obviously. Yet individuals under 21 can enlist in the military. And some think those under 21 ought to be able to vote in elections. Legislation that’s sort of like that friend of yours who is your friend when it’s convenient.
    • Hey, need a high paying career fast? Get a plunger, some tools, and you’re in the plumbing business here. That severe shortage of plumbers, solved. Apparently some felt 8 months was too long to get a license, so The Texas State Board of Plumbing Examiners responsible for licensing, monitoring plumbers’ trade schools, and enforcing plumbing law has been abolished. (article) Remodelers beware. Anyone else see some modern  “I Love Lucy” moments looming in the loo?

    Sitcom worthy

    Laughter is the best healthcare.

    A little bird (a Scissor-tail not a Mocking Bird) told me that.

    Phil, the Philosopher Mouse of the Hedge.

    Two men and a woman. 1964. The Lucy Show with Bob Hope as a plumber, Jack Benny as his assistant, and Lucille Ball. CBS (USPD.pub.date, artist life/Commons.wikimedia.org)

    Possibly experience your own version courtesy of the Texas Legislature. (1964.The Lucy Show with plumber Bob Hope, his assistant Jack Benny, and Lucille Ball. USPD/Commons.wikimedia.org)

     

    Star Wars: Galaxys Edge

    My family and I were lucky enough to get into Disneylands newest edition Galaxy Edge on Monday, June 3. I want to try and give you as much info as I possibly can about the atmisphere, rides, food, and more. Now, I am not the biggest Star Wars fan, but Disney is one of my all-time favorite things ever.

    To start off we had to make reservations to get into this new addition. My brother in law was able to book this for my family. It was a little tricky getting a spot. He had about 10 minutes to book the reservation and once booked you could not change the names on the reservation. In my case, I have the So Cal select pass, and of course, my husband and I were blocked out. If possible check with your invited guests before booking to make sure everyone is able to get in. What we had to do was buy a one day pass for $150 just to get into this land. The reservations are at a set time which I appreciated. We had our time reserved for 5-9pm. What we wound up doing was getting into Disneyland at noon and enjoying the park until about 3 pm. At three we were instructed to go check in for our reservation. What we had to do for that was making sure we had the whole group with us and get our wrist bands. These wrist bands are color-coded so when you’re in the park they know what time slot you are a part of. The reason for this is they only want a certain amount of people in the land at a time. Which again I definitely appropriated. At around 4:30 pm we walked over to the entrance and waited to go in. This process was a little messy for me. I am a very anxious and claustrophobic person. We were packed in around hundreds of people and then herded in like cattle. I hope that this changes as time go on but for me was not an enjoyable experience.

    What we were told to do as soon as we got into the land was to go make reservations at the cantina. Thank God that we got this little tip, but everyone else must have also been told this because there were SO many people in line to make a reservation. We found it was best to leave one person in line and the rest of us took a short walk around just taking in all of the detail that Disney put into making this as realistic as possible. My husband and I branched off and placed an online order for the blue milk from the milk bar. I 100% recommend ordering online. You have a time slot that your drink will be ready and mine was ready literally in 5 minutes and I didn’t have to wait in any kind of line. I ordered the blue milk and it was delicious. For me, it was almost a mixture of a milkshake and a slushy together. It was a little chunky in texture which was different but thankfully it’s nondairy so it wasn’t spoiled.

    We walked around the entirety of the land and took in all the details and shops and characters they had walking around. It honestly was a little overwhelming. There was so much to take in. Everywhere you turn there is something new and something to see. My favorite part of this whole experience was the fact that ALL of the can’t members were so in character. We found a few critters that we had never seen before and asked if they knew what film it was from and they looked at us like ”what is a film?” That made us really feel like we were on another planet. The whole time we were in this park it didn’t even feel like we were in Disneyland. It’s a whole different kind of experience but in a good way.

    I was a little bummed that there were no aliens walking around with us but there were a few characters around that were interacting with guests. Another thing I was a little disappointed in was the fact that there was only one ride that we could get on. As for the ride that was a freaking blast.

    The ride was a new take on Star Tours in Tomorrow land but also way different. You get the 3D effect but instead of a large group of people, there are only 6 per ride. We had 5 people in our group so we were paired with a sixth single rider which thankfully was not an issue. You are a smuggler riding through space with two pilots, two gunners, and two engineers. You are assigned your roles but you can easily swap if someone is unhappy with the role they were given. The ride was about 5-10 minutes long and a lot of fun but we wound up screaming at each other the whole time.

    The biggest issue out of the whole experience was the Cantina for me. It was such a pain in the ass. Getting into the park, making the reservation, waiting 1 hour and 45 minutes to get into the Cantina and then the prices of everything were crazy! All but one of us got alcohol. The drink I wanted was the Yub Nub in the suvinior cup, but not for $42!!! I instead got the Bespin Fizz. The drink was a lot of fun, with dry ice at the bottom it made the drink smoke. The drink itself tasted very good but had so little alcohol in it and this drink was $17. The food was super cool though. We got the snack chip platter and there were so many different chips and snacks. It felt like it was from another planet. That was totally worth getting. You have a two drink limit and 45 minutes in the bar.

    In review, I thought that it was a great experience. Star Wars to me will never be ”Disney” but I think they did an amazing job with making it as realistic as possible. 100% worth it and hope you get to experience one day. I feel it was more targeted towards an older guest but still so much fun for kids.