Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Headed to Taichung

After 5 funderful days staying with Amy Sullivan in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, I am busing to Taichung for a 10 day meditation course. No talking, reading, writing, technology or yoga for the whole time! Should be an awesome challenge.

Haven't done so well updating consistently since I have been on the road, too many adventures to be had and planning to be done when on the comp. I hope to write about adventures with Dad in China, fun times with Amy, Dave, and Chris in Taiwan, and post pics after the course is over on Oct. 2nd.

Enjoy the onset of fall. I send a big hug to y'all.


Initial Observations of China

So many cameras, seen on buses, streets, hotels, stores, underground metros…

Scanning devices are also typical to enter metro and bus stations, just like airports.

Babies and children pee on the streets; this is facilitated by slits in their pants and no diapers, baby butts everywhere!

Street signs and businesses are mostly labeled in Chinese characters as well as English.

On the whole, the Chinese don’t have butts; their only cheeks are on their face.

The Chinese equivalent of “um” it sounds like the n-word. That made me feel quite uncomfortable and confused.

People did not stare at foreigners as much as I had prepared myself for. They will smile and nod in return, but overall are pretty reserved.

Noticeably few pregnant woman and children in Shanghai. They must pay extra for multiple children, but not twins.

There are high rise buildings and apartments EVERYWHERE!!!!! More than in any country I have ever seen.

Friday, September 2, 2011

First Fall Without School!

Off to my biggest adventure yet and quite a challenge, as this is the first time I have traveled in countries where I did not speak the language.


9/4 – 9/16 China with my Dad

9/16- 10/11 Taiwan (Kaohsiung, Taichung for a meditation course... Taipei)

10/11- 11/9 Malaysia, maybe Indonesia, leave via Bangkok, Thailand

So far, planning to meet with a friend for a bit in each country. I will attempt to do weekly updates!

Conservation Jobs Corps

Working for the Maryland Conservation Jobs Corps (CJC) was awesome! I believe it is a fantastic use of tax dollars, though I am admittedly biased.

CJC is a summer jobs program that aims to employ teens living in urban settings throughout Maryland and expose them to nature through completing conservation and restoration projects in MD state parks. The program is in 7 of Maryland's state parks, at Gunpowder (where I was stationed http://www.dnr.state.md.us/publiclands/central/gunpowder.asp), there 16 crews of young men and women between 14 and 19. The program operates on the SPIRIT principles of stewardship, professionalism, initiative, respect, integrity, and teamwork.

As a crew chief, I supervised a team of 5- 14 year old boys from East Baltimore to do trail maintenance on the Gunpowder South trail in Whitehall, MD (very close to my parents). Tues-Thurs, we trimmed, lopped, hacked, and raked mountain laurel, ferns, and other over growth as well as created stone river crossings.

Mondays we did "Community Action". We went into Baltimore City (I drove the kids in a 12 passenger van) to remove trash from Herring Run. Along with 2 other crews, we removed around 200 lbs. of trash each week. The river running through it was closed by the Health Department (deemed hazardous).

Fridays were for enrichment. Each crew had the opportunity to build rafts, kayak, go on a 3 day camping trip, hike, and fish. This was amazing. For so many of the kids each Friday was a completely new experience. It was awesome to see the kids grow in their confidence, willingness to participate, and enjoyment of these activities.

The Super 8 Almighty was the name of my crew. An awesome group of characters. For most of them it was their first job, experience outside, and work as a team outside of sports. We really developed a great bond, established teamwork, mutual respect, and had fun together. Though there were definitely times of disrespect and dis-synergy within the group (and times they drove me completely crazy), but overall I think everyone had a great experience. Because we were stationed super close to my parents house, I had the opportunity to show the boys some of my favorite spots including the Gunpowder Bison Farm, Bluemount swimming spots, and a horse farm. We were even able to meet my mom to be treated to snowballs!

With the possibility of summers off when working in the schools, I would love to do this again next year!

A Whirlwind Summer, Returning Home

Summer started with a super fun road trip back to Baltimore from Austin with Lia, a close friend from my grad program at UT. Our main goals were to discover the Southeast and do as much swimming as we could. Our trail:

Day 1: Drove from Austin to Lia’s friends place in the lower 9th ward of New

Orleans, LA

Day 2 : Mobile, Alabama to swim in a river in the state park shared seafood and

Soulfood at Cozy Brown’s Kitchen

Swam in the ocean off of Destin Beach, FLA

Camped on the Sewanee River, panhandle FLA

Day 3: Attempted to kayak in Okeefenokee State Park, GA, but it had been on fire for over a month,

so we adjusted plans

Drove to Jekyll Island, GA. We found a small nature trail that lead to a deserted beach inhabited by brown pelicans, then we discovered a sunken ship!

Next stop that day was Savannah, Georgia. We walked around town, had

coffee at a great spot that a friend Anis suggested and took in

the beautiful colonial architecture and Spanish moss covered trees.

Arrived late at my great and old friend Kristen’s in Columbia, SC

Day 4: Marveled at Kristen’s creativity, she had an extensive collection of her

artwork and crafts. She is super talented!

Rode bikes throughout Columbia and had an awesome tour of a park where

Kristen had worked, saw lots of wildlife including a soft shelled turtle!

Slept that night at my cousin Dieter’s house at Virginia Tech, in Blacksburg

Day 5: Left early the next morning to drive the Blue Ridge Parkway (a beautiful welcome home!)

Dropped Lia off outside DC to catch a metro to visit with her friend

Arrived in Baltimore just in time to get fingerprinted for a job that started the following Monday!