Category Archives: Sabbaticals

7 Days of Landscapes Photo Challenge – Day 7: Victoria Peak, Hong Kong

View of Hong Kong from Victoria Peak HK
View of Hong Kong from Victoria Peak HK

If you combined London, New York, ancient China and Bladerunner, you would get a city almost as incredible as Hong Kong.

quiet late night neighborhood shops - reminds me of Bladerunner
quiet late night neighborhood shops – reminds me of Bladerunner

Gleaming towers, full of shops that sparkle, red double-decker buses passing you on the main streets. Modernity like a decorative lace edge to a complex brocade of vast history.  Glass towers next to decades old buildings, both surround spectacular temples.

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Wong Tai Sin Temple HK
Wong Tai Sin Temple HK

The narrow streets and alleys, tucked between those shining towers, lure you into a different, yet just as wonderful world. Even when the alleys are packed with people streaming from one destination to another.  Market streets overflow with bargains, treasures, junk, essentials and baubles.

HK side street
HK side street

Restaurants set up under umbrellas and tarps,  on sidewalks, dimly lit by street lights and the glow of your cellphone.  You’ve had to wait in the shelter of a nearby door way, or under your own umbrella, for a seat to become available.  But the crowded tables tell you the food is worth the wait in the rain.

Market alley
Market alley
Unassuming alleyway
Unassuming alleyway
Unexpected kitchen
Unexpected kitchen

Chinese bakeries, almost hidden, are running out of stock as you stand outside.  You realize if you don’t get in there RIGHT NOW, you won’t get any of the coconut mango mochi. Not getting freshly made coconut mango mochi, when you knew you had the chance, would make you cry yourself to sleep that night, and kick yourself for days. So you walk in, point to the glorious pillows of coconut mango mochi, and politely let the shop keeper know that you will take all that remain.  All of them.

To appreciate my deep and abiding love for coconut mango mochi, imagine a food item you ADORE.  You love it so much, that you kind of want the world to know about it.  You want your friends and loved ones to taste the glory of that exquisitely delicious morsel.  You love your friends and family – you really do!  But, if you gave one of your precious morsels away, it would be one less experience of your precious….So, If you are ever with me when I buy coconut mango mochi, and I give you one, you will know that I really do consider you a true and worthy friend.

People ask “Where is your favorite place you visited?” It is always a hard question to answer, but Hong Kong may be my favorite.  I got all of the above amazing experiences, plus made some beautiful friendships.  There is just something about friendship that makes every experience that much more powerful and fulfilling.  I really do feel as if I have a brother and sister in Hong Kong…but that is a subject for a different post.

Back in 2014, in May, I spent a couple of amazing weeks in Hong Kong.  I recovered from “The Best Italian Pizza, from a Mexican Restaurant, in all of South East Asia” – (This will turn into a link as soon as I write the post!) Most of the time I felt like I was swimming through the streets, it rained so much.  I walked for days through the rain.  I learned that I had to have a different definition of self beauty in 100 percent humidity.  I was humbled by my flipflops.  I was raised up by beautiful friendship.  My heart is full when I think about Hong Kong.

The last photo of my post is of my HK metro pass…it is so freakin cute, and I’m saving it for the next time I get to HK.

HelloKitty metro card/device

7 Days of Landscapes Photo Challenge – Day 6: A Natural Frame

Natural Frame - CR
Natural Frame – CR

This photo was taken November 2013.  I spent a bit more than a week in Santa Teresa, Costa Rica, learning how to surf.  My goal was to stand up at least once…

I stayed at the Blue Surf surfing camp.  The room was comfortable, the staff were wonderful, and I had a 7 day package, which included two surf lessons a day, and breakfasts at the local yoga retreat.

It would seem that surfing twice a day for seven days is a thing, especially since they created a package.  By day five I was so freakin sore, and I felt like a wuss, but I told the staff that I had to take a break, and could I trade my lessons that day for a massage.

Apparently they were shocked that I had lasted that long and were possibly taking bets on when I’d have to take a break, because one of the staff replied, “Well, we were wondering how you were doing it every day.  Even we don’t go every day…”

I’m happy to report that by the end of my lessons I managed to stand a couple times, so my expectations and goals for that trip were met.

The photo above is just one of the amazing vistas I saw each morning walking the beach to and from the yoga retreat for breakfast.

 

7 Days of Landscapes Photo Challenge – Day 3: Teatro Greco, Taormina, Italy

Teatro Greco - The Greek Theater - Taormina, Italy 2014
Teatro Greco – The Greek Theater – Taormina, Italy 2014

The Teatro Greco is a Greek Amphitheater built on a hill in Taormina, Sicily Italy, not far from Catania.  The portion of the ruins you see in the photo were probably built by the Romans on top of a more ancient Greek structure of the amphitheater.

In the distance is Mt. Etna, which was at the time of my visit, an actively erupting volcano.

The town of Taormina is just a short walk away, and is chock full of historic architecture, shops, restaurants, and night clubs.  Since the town is built on a cliff overlooking the Ionian Sea, the views are breathtaking.

I wasn’t in the area long – I had taken the bus from Catania to spend the day in Taormina.  I was alone initially, but as I got off the bus in Taormina, I started talking with a Chinese family who were just starting a vacation, and a Korean woman traveling alone, who was just finishing up her world travels before returning to Korea.

There were language barriers, but it was nice for all of us to share our first experience of a new town.  There is just something magical about sharing a new place with someone, even if it is a stranger.  In that moment you have forged a connection with another soul, and you are no longer alone in your experience.

 

NaNoWriMo 2014 Winner!

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Just a quick post, as I have finally hit 50 thousand words tonight – before midnight.  I am not sure when I will post this – I have got to edit it before I do – not much else is edited on my National Novel Writing effort.

My writing projects are not yet done.  I have got a crap load of editing and additional text to write.  I have made a start, though.  I may certainly keep up a writing challenge for my self monthly.  I found the daily word count challenge helpful, as I would inevitably sit in front of my monitor and be blank.  Just like the page.  I had nothing.  I would  hammer out the first five hundred words and then thoughts, ideas, both awesome, and crappy, started flowing.

Will every word of mine be useful?  Mmmm, no, but they are still like gems to me.  The cloudy chaff had to be unearthed so the sparkling clear gems could be found.

I am kinda proud of myself. Now I just have to turn my scrivenings into something that is accessible for a reader. Oh, and finish them. So, the best thing I did this month was start a habit.
Now…I’m signing off, and doing my best to head to dreamland.  I’ve got some writing to do tomorrow.

November Awesomeness – 50K words in 30 Days: #NaNoWriMoFTW

 

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I’ve been extremely quiet online recently.  I’m sure you all noticed.  I haven’t been idle though!  I’ve been participating in NaNoWriMo 2014.

NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month, and the goal is to write fifty thousand words in thirty days, during the month of November.

No, I am not crazy, and I am in good company.  Three hundred, ten thousand, and ninety five people started NaNoWriMo in November of 2013, and more started this year.  Participants are from all over the world.  Even though I write in my own home, or at a coffee shop, and am writing my own bit of magic, I know that I am in good company, that thousands of people, all over the world are joining me in my quest of writing fifty thousand words in one month.

It does sound impossible, especially if you do not have a regular writing practice, or have never done anything like this before, but the thing is…every one has a story.  It could be your personal story.  It could be a story you have had rattling around in your brain pan for years, it could be a story you heard and that has captured your imagination.  Whether it is fiction, non-fiction, romance, science fiction, mystery, space western with vampires and tentacle creatures, or even a family history.  It could be a combination of all of the above!  Who the heck knows, except you.  It is your story.

Still, it sounds like a lot of pressure to do in one month, does it not?  The only real goal for NaNoWriMo, is that you write, type or chisel out fifty thousand words.  They do not have to be the perfect words.  They do not have to be good words.  They just have to be words, and fifty thousand of them.  No editing is allowed during the month of NaNo November.  Editing is for December.  You will notice that I am padding my word count by writing out the words for numbers and not using contractions.  That is allowed, and is not cheating.  (You can not see me, but I am shaking my head emphatically.)  It is written in the rules!

What do you get when you hit the fifty thousand word goal?  You get to say you win.  You get to be in awe of your own self, because you set a crazy mountainous goal of writing fifty thousand words in only thirty days.  You get the “prestige” of doing something that another person would be too intimidated to do.  You get to prove to yourself that you can do amazing things, when you devote your time and effort.  You also get your manuscript to edit and perhaps turn into a printed or published book.

If you want to know what I’m writing on…it is a dual project.  I am mainly writing a first draft on applying project management processes and tools to planning a sabbatical.  Really! It is pretty interesting and will spawn a couple of workbooks as well.  Once I get a final draft edited and hammered out, I’ll be posting it on Amazon.  I am challenging myself to get something out there by the first half of 2015.

At this point I am about thirty five hundred words behind, so every bit counts.  The good news is that that is only about two days worth of writing that I missed so far this month.  The not so good news is that I have to catch up on it before the end of the month.  I am going to reach my goal of fifty thousand words, that is for sure.  This post is adding about six hundred words to my word count.  🙂

Toilet Training the Western Adult: The importance of the Squat

roses
Pretty flowers for you!

Ah, Squats.  That is an interesting word.  Not exactly lovely.  Not exactly poetic.  Just a description/name of an activity that is essential for health and longevity.

I’ll be honest.  The main reason that I joined Crossfit, besides needing to improve my overall fitness very quickly, was to intensively work on my squat.

You might think that joining a gym for a specific motion like a squat is a random thing to want to improve.  Well, I’m planning on spending some extended time in South East Asia, and I will at some point have to excrete waste products.  Liquid elimination isn’t such a difficult thing, as any of my female readers have all probably performed the hover maneuver.  It is the solid waste products, the poo, if you will, that poses a challenge.

I have been to Thailand and Laos, and have had to go into a public rest room and had to rethink my whole process.  The process became a “plan of attack”.
Why attack?  A hole in the ground, with places indicated for the waste eliminator to put his/her feet – right next to said hole is called a Squat Toilet.  That is a threat (to my shoes and lower garments), and, when you aren’t used to the process, it seems like an aggression.  You have GOT TO “GO”, and don’t have the accustomed tools to get the job done.

I try to only post photos that I have taken. I didn’t get a photo like this while I was in Thailand, as I was slightly traumatized by the experience.  I did not take the photo that the following link will show, but this is what many of the Thai Squatty Potties were like.

Note the furnishings.

  • The potty is actually porcelain or perhaps plastic.  I was not going to touch it to find out for you.  Some were visually identified as stainless steel.
  • You can observe the foot positions on either side of the “basin”.
  • Also there is a spicket, with a large bucket/basin of water, and a small scoop/cup.

Note the lack of Toilet Paper.  One can not or should not “flush” toilet paper down them.  The toilet paper has to be disposed of in the trash can, which is usually in the back corner.  Happily, the used toilet paper bin is not depicted in the photo. The bin isn’t usually full, as the public rest rooms do not supply the toilet paper.  You must bring your own.  Be prepared.  I also recommend bringing some wet wipes, but that is just me.    I’ve found suggestions on the web to use a long piece of twine, thread it through the center of a toilet paper roll, and tie the ends securely, and hang the combination around your neck, like a toilet paper necklace.  Etsy, here I come!

If you already don’t do so, perhaps change your diet while on your trip.  I recommend a healthy amount of fiber in your diet.  Consider restricting food items that cause loose eliminations.  Just sayin.  Moving on…

Most of us have become accustomed to the Western Toilet.  I know I certainly have.  So I did some research on how to make the process of elimination via squatty potty as graceful as that function could be.  According to the info I found, elimination via squat is the original way we humans eliminated waste.  Makes sense, right?  Physiologically, it is also anatomically correct position for efficient and easy elimination.  Things just move smoothly, if you catch my meaning.  That all supposes that one can assume the position.

Here is one of the best descriptions I’ve found on line.  With instructional images!

Basically, the process goes like this:

  • If you are a newby to this method of elimination, you should probably remove your garments from the waist down, and hang them out of splash range. Keep your shoes on, for the sake of all that is Holy.
  • Place your feet on the textured foot prints, and assume the position thusly.
  • Do not fall over.
  • Perform your waste elimination function.
  • Remember that basin of water and cup? These, my friends and readers, are the tools used for what we in the West call the “wiping” function.  Except, in the Squatty Potty process, it is more of a splash/rinse function.  Your LEFT hand will perform a wipe motion.  Yes, you will be touching your own anal area, and most probably your own poo.
  • Once you are traumatized by the touching your own ass, you will then use the scoop to rinse the basin of your excrement, three to five times.
  • Hopefully you brought hand sanitizer with you.
  • Re-clothe your nether regions with the garments previously removed.
  • Remember to eat with your RIGHT hand.

Prior to Crossfit, I tested out my squat motion, and found it significantly lacking.  I always thought of myself as flexible person, hip wise.  Well, I could get down there, but it wasn’t pretty, or comfortable, or steady.  One requires a steady squat, to avoid tipping into and touching bad things.  So, for two months I’ve been practicing my squat, in conjunction with the other activities that require good strong steady squats.  I have a good position now, but luckily, I have another month or three to, shall we say, get it down.

But wait!  THERE’S MORE!

Luckily improving my squat will provide much more in the way of life long benefits.  I actually just spent time with a personal trainer to improve my squat.  If you are in the Manchester NH area, Dayne Johnston at Granite State Crossfit is great to work with on Mobility.  In fact, all of the coaches at GSCF are awesome, and I’ve learned from each of them.  (Love you guys!!!!)

Squatting is not just a lower body exercise.  Think of it as a whole body exercise, especially for your core and hip muscles.  I’ve done a crap-ton of squats in my short time, so far, with Crossfit, and while I haven’t worked specifically on balance, abdominal, back, foot, or ankle strength…all of those have amazingly improved.   My posture has changed, and I feel like I walk differently.   Granted, I’m always a bit sore, but once that discomfort passes, I am actually stronger.  With all of the benefits above, wouldn’t that make other activities of daily living easier? I think so!
According to my research, squat lifting heavy (tailored to you) weights trigger the release of testosterone and human growth hormone.  Both of these hormones help in muscle growth.
Stronger muscles burn more fat, and flexible muscles help with general mobility. Squats prevent injuries by strengthening the stabilizer muscles, and improving your flexibility.
Here is a good article that I found doing a quick search on the benefits of squats.

For anyone interested in learning some stretches to help improve their squat, definitely check out anything by Kelly Starrett, who is a doctor of Physical Therapy, and the founder of Mobility WOD.  Most in the Crossfit world know who he is, but here is another cool article singing his praises, and includes some links to some of his videos:

Here is a great link on stretching for squats.

Thanks for reading!  I leave you with this blessing:

May all the water you drink be potable, and may all your moves be smooth.