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Up and Over

Posted August 11, 2013

PART 15 (DAYS 33-35): “How’s everything here?” I asked Chris, the manager at Southern Laughter Lodge, when I arrived back in Queenstown for a day in order to catch a homeward bound flight early the following morning.

“Oh, it’s quiet. It’s finally slowing down,” he answered.

“Oh, is the ski season over?”

“No, the season can go all the way until October,” he told me. “But all the Aussie kids have gone back to university.”

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Life In Taipei 101

From the trip blog: "The Global Trip: Chinese Leftovers and Other Asian Appetizers"
Posted April 27, 2010

DAY 6: “I spoke to my mom earlier,” Elizabeth told me.  “I told her, ‘Erik’s here but I can’t really challenge him with anything because he’s done everything already.’”  True, living in food-obsessed New York City and having been to China already, I’d encountered many far eastern customs and culinary creations that a Minnesotan family like hers might only see via Andrew Zimmern.  However, there were a few things that Taiwan could prove to be unique, and more than the fact that they have creepy moving mannequin flagmen, or the fact that people hang their sausages out to dry with their laundry.

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Chicken Soup For The Eye

From the trip blog: "The Global Trip: Chinese Leftovers and Other Asian Appetizers"
Posted April 26, 2010

DAY 5:  Even though the Taiwanese switched from a six-day-work-week to a Western five-day one, that didn’t mean much to Elizabeth since her job at an English learning center had her come in on Saturdays anyway — which only meant that Sundays (and some Monday mornings) were her only day to go out excursioning.  Usually she goes daytripping with her friend Amanda, but Amanda was away with her father, leaving me to be Elizabeth’s daytripping partner for the day.  (Little did I know at the beginning of the day that it almost cost me an eye.)

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Pretty Fly For A White Girl

From the trip blog: "The Global Trip: Chinese Leftovers and Other Asian Appetizers"
Posted April 25, 2010

DAY 4:  “Hello!” said the familiar voice on my local-SIM-card-enabled phone.  “Welcome to Taipei!”

“I just told the information booth lady, xiexie [thank you],” I answered.

“Oh, you’re official!”

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Business Before Bourdain

From the trip blog: "The Global Trip: Chinese Leftovers and Other Asian Appetizers"
Posted April 23, 2010

DAY 3:  “[Where’s that market that Anthony Bourdain went to where they buy the food from the market and have a cook prepare it?]” I asked my Tito Pepito in that paraphrase.  “They made prawn adobo.”  A fellow No Reservations fan, he knew what I was talking about, but there was more than one of such a market in the Metro Manila area.  He pulled out his netbook to find out.  “Look it up on Youtube,” I told him.  But when he got online, the connection from the house wi-fi was spotty — the day before we deduced it was a problem with the DSL provider — and we couldn’t get an immediate answer.  We made it our goal to find out and go before day’s end, but first, there was some business to take care of.

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Five Filipino Years Later

From the trip blog: "The Global Trip: Chinese Leftovers and Other Asian Appetizers"
Posted April 22, 2010

DAY 2:  It has been five years since I was in Manila, which I quoted back then on this blog as a cosmopolitan fusion of “Malay, Madrid, and Madison Avenue.”  Five Filipino years later, the bustling southeast Asian metropolis is different in a lot of ways, but at the same time, the same.  For example, the Filipino fast food chain Jollibee is ubiquitous as ever (serving food before it can be fancified by yours truly), and locals are still smiling with the carefree philosophy of bahala na.  As soon as I exited the airport, there was one obvious thing that was the same:

Holy fuck, it’s hot outside, I thought to myself.  (Actually I said that out loud, so no need for inner-monologue italics there.)

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Not Quite Up In The Air

From the trip blog: "The Global Trip: Chinese Leftovers and Other Asian Appetizers"
Posted April 21, 2010

DAY 1:“Hi, I’m a cardmember and I’m trying to get into one of the airport lounges,” I said to the American Express representative on my cell phone in Terminal 1 of New York’s JFK International Airport.  The customer service rep was attentive until she had to transfer me to another department, which transferred me back to the first department (but with another representative), who transferred me again — and suddenly I was on the phone in a long, long cycle of periodic hold music (like that time I called the monks in Bethlehem).  But I had time to kill, so whatever.

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Here I Go Again On My Own

From the trip blog: "The Global Trip: Chinese Leftovers and Other Asian Appetizers"
Posted April 17, 2010

“Uhhh… eeyaaahh… form?”

A middle-aged Chinese woman struggled to ask me something with frantic hand gestures, as we stood in a queue of what was at least thirty people, and increasing by the second.  After a friendly exchange of spoken syllables and more hand motions, I deduced that she wanted me to hold her place in line so that she could go over to the table on the other side of the room and pick up a blank visa application.  She came back in less than a minute, and spent the rest of her time waiting, productively filling out her information.  I on the other hand, had my form all filled out, attached to a passport-sized photo and a copy of my previous Chinese visa.  I waited patiently.

I was surrounded by many people, most with east Asian faces — although not exclusively.  I was after all, technically on Chinese soil in the heart of New York City, at the Chinese embassy, dropping off my passport and application for a multi-entry visa into the People’s Republic of China for the trip I was going to embark on in a few weeks — the next blogged adventure of The Global Trip: Chinese Leftovers and Other Asian Appetizers.

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“C” And The Conclusion Is Good Enough For Me

From the trip blog: "The Global Trip: Holla! In The Holy Land"
Posted August 02, 2009

DAY 15: I had met Adrian and Andrea the night before, a young traveling couple from the UK who had just arrived in Israel for their holiday around the country.  Fresh from the airport and into the Old City of Jerusalem, they asked me, Maurice and Willa for travel tips and advice on what to see and where to go, and for me, my transfer of knowledge acquired from the past two weeks was evidence that I had truly come full circle.  My “cycle” had been complete, which meant it was time to say goodbye.

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Jesus Christ and Jimmy Carter

From the trip blog: "The Global Trip: Holla! In The Holy Land"
Posted August 01, 2009

DAY 14:  “We should go to services in Bethlehem on Sunday, since we went to Shabbat dinner on Friday,” suggested Miriam, the quirky, chain-smoking Scottish lass I’d met on the way to Shabbat dinner at a rabbi’s house two days prior.  With that said, I had made plans to head back into the Palestinian West Bank to O Tourist Town of Bethlehem — birthplace of baby Jew, Jesus Christ — with her, and two others I’d met (Willa and Maurice) when were all out drinking the night before.  Gathering the crew together that morning was a small ordeal, with cell phone alarms that didn’t go off and having to backtrack to get passports — not to mention the inevitable hangovers that ensued.

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Group Fun in the Sun

From the trip blog: "The Global Trip: Holla! In The Holy Land"
Posted July 11, 2009

DAY 13:  “I guess we should get a group photo?” suggested the curious Howard, who was probably testing the waters of the dynamics of our newly-formed tour group; we had only been riding together in a mini-van for less than an hour with not much conversation.  But our smiling willingness for a group photo at our quick early morning pitstop — the Sea Level roadside marker — was the telling that we had lucked out with a fun crew.

“Can you take a picture with my camera too?!” asked another to our driver who was taking the photo

“Mine too!” 

Soon, there were multiple photos of our six smiles — it was the first of several group photos that day.

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Shabbat Shalom!

From the trip blog: "The Global Trip: Holla! In The Holy Land"
Posted July 03, 2009

DAY 12 (PART 2): (The following entry was written to the best of my memory, since taking photos or jotting down notes was forbidden after sundown, in respect of the Jewish Sabbath. [Seriously, there was a guard there working at the Western Wall Plaza, yelling at anyone who did — he was the Token Sabbath Goy and was allowed to do so.])

“I can’t believe I’m here for Shabbat!” raved Michelle, a young Canadian Jewish girl that had recently decided to consider herself “from Cananda” instead of “from Argentina” where she was born and raised for fifteen years. 

“Well, Canadians are so nice,” I told her.

I had just been introduced to her by Sarit, who had just freshened up to meet me for Shabbat dinner after our long day trekking in the Palestinian West Bank — Michelle was from her hostel’s women-only dorm room and was invited to join us.  However, we weren’t exactly sure where we would find a proper Shabbat dinner in Jerusalem, but we had a pretty good idea where we might find an invitation to one: the Western Wall, Judaism’s holiest place on earth.

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The Wild, Wild West Bank

From the trip blog: "The Global Trip: Holla! In The Holy Land"
Posted July 01, 2009

DAY 12 (PART 1):  “What did he say?” I asked my new friend and traveling companion Sarit, who was fluent enough in Hebrew to understand what the bus driver was telling us.  She had asked him where we should be dropped off on the side of the road in order to hike the Wadi Qelt trek between Jerusalem and Jericho, through the untamed desert of the Palestinian West Bank.

“He said that he’ll drop us off at the [Jewish] settlement and that it’s a far walk and it’s unsafe and that we shouldn’t be heroes for doing it,” Sarit informed me.  “But he’ll take us.”

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To Slant or Not To Slant

From the trip blog: "The Global Trip: Holla! In The Holy Land"
Posted June 30, 2009

DAY 11:  “Do you have anything in your bag that might look like a knife or a weapon?” asked Yael, the super-friendly, super-knowledgeable tour guide from the Sandeman’s tour company, which ran the Old City’s twice-daily free tour from the Jaffa Gate.  (I opted to pay 75 shekels for a more comprehensive tour that would bring us inside most of the holy sites instead of discussing them from afar.)

“I might have a can opener that might be construed as a weapon, but I’ll check and get rid of it,” I told her.  “I’m just staying over there.”

“Anything like a knife or a Bible, and they won’t let you up Temple Mount.”

I emptied my bag of any sharp or holy objects.

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Keeping Kosher in the New Jeru

From the trip blog: "The Global Trip: Holla! In The Holy Land"
Posted June 29, 2009

DAY 10:  “This is going to sound weird,” I started to say to the unknown uniformed girl next to me on the public Egged bus, “but do you mind if I take a photo of you, holding your gun, and your purse?  I just think it’s funny.”  Noa (that was her name) happily obliged.

When traveling around Israel, it is common — very common — to see youths in uniform, walking around everywhere with semi-automatic rifles strapped to their torsos.  Service in the Israeli army is compulsory to all kids out of high school, and all of them in uniform are required to carry their weapons to be on call in case of an emergency attack.  Girls don’t normally walk around with weapons unless they are stationed at a border, which is why it was such a novelty to sit next to one; Noa worked on the border with Egypt, but was on the bus on her way home for some time off.  Despite what I had thought, she did not work at the military base that was visible from the road out of Eilat, with missile launchers in plain sight pointed towards Egypt to ensure their “peace.”

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Erik Trinidad And The Second To The Last Crusade

From the trip blog: "The Global Trip: Holla! In The Holy Land"
Posted June 29, 2009

DAY 9: “Why are you here?” asked the armed Jordanian border patrol guard at the Yitzhak Rabin Israeli/Jordanian border crossing, about a five-minute drive from Eilat’s city center.

Because I’m looking for the Holy Grail, I thought to myself. 

If you are a child of the 80s, or just an Indiana Jones fan of any age (as I am), you undoubtedly know that Petra — Jordan’s main archaeological tourist attraction — was the site at the ending of Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade, where Indiana Jones and his father end up finding the Holy Grail after running away from Nazis via boat, motorcycle, horses, camels, and tanks. (You’re welcome.) That movie was released in 1989, when it was to be the last installment of the Indiana Jones trilogy — this was of course, before Spielburg and Lucas raped Indiana Jones (South Park fans will get that) and decided to make an entertaining, but much inferior fourth movie in 2008, making the 1989 movie Indy’s second to the last crusade.

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Jewish Mother, American Dad

From the trip blog: "The Global Trip: Holla! In The Holy Land"
Posted June 24, 2009

DAYS 7-8:  “It’s amazing, isn’t it?” said a middle-aged South African tourist admiring the scenery as we waited under the shade at a bus stop rest area midway between Jerusalem and Eilat.  “It’s amazing that they built all this in such a short period of time.  How did they do it?  It’s amazing.”

I stated the obvious.  “Well, foreign support.”

But he was on a rant.  “How can they do all this, and not believe in the Messiah?  That’s the amazing thing…”

Oy yoy yoy.  Here we go, I thought.  Another preachy Christian South African fanatic.  I hadn’t encountered one since that South African Creationist I shared a room and boat tour with, ironically in the Galapagos, birthplace of Darwin’s Theory of Evolution

He continued, “That they can still be blessed by His grace and build all this in a short period of time…”

Fortunately we were on different buses to Eilat, and we had already started to reboard.

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What Would Jesus Do?

From the trip blog: "The Global Trip: Holla! In The Holy Land"
Posted June 22, 2009

DAY 6 (PART 2):  It’s a shame that the teachings of Jesus Christ have become so convoluted with the institution of the Roman Catholic Church.  The Vatican, over centuries, has taken a good thing and turned it into a big, stuffy (and candle-extinguishing) machine of imperial faith and worship.  But whether you are religious or not, you can’t argue that Jesus Christ’s optimistic message has inspired people around the globe for millenia — inspired both good and bad things. 

Most of the stories of the life of Jesus took place around the Sea of Galilee, surrounded by the regions known as The Golan and The Galilee, where J.C. spent most of his time preaching his message in a synagogue at Capernaum (picture above) — let us not forget that Jesus, messiah of the Christians, was actually a Jew, arguably in the Top Three Known Jews of all time.  (Steven Spielburg is like No. 4 or something.)

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The Candle

From the trip blog: "The Global Trip: Holla! In The Holy Land"
Posted June 21, 2009

DAY 6 (PART 1):  There is a scene from 30 Rock where Tracy Jordan (played by Tracy Morgan) decides to convert to Catholicism and has a discussion about it with his boss, Jack Donaghy (played by Alec Baldwin).  Ultimately, Jack tells him, “Even though there is the whole confession thing, that’s no free pass, because there is a crushing guilt that comes with being a Catholic.  Whether things are good or bad or you’re simply… eating tacos in the park, there is always the crushing guilt.”

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War of the Salads

From the trip blog: "The Global Trip: Holla! In The Holy Land"
Posted June 21, 2009

DAY 5:  “In Israel, shopping is a sport,” said Zvi, the Israeli native who was my new friend and tour guide, as he drove by a mall on the outskirts of Haifa, on the northern coast.  “Shopping, shopping, shopping.”

Lily had shotgun in his four-door sedan while I spread out in the backseat for the day-long road trip ahead.  Some might find it strange that I was with a girl I’d known for two days and now a man I’d only known for a few hours from the night before — both relatively strangers — but stranger things have happened.  Besides, I got the insiders view of what life has been like living in Israel for decades.

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Embracing It All

From the trip blog: "The Global Trip: Holla! In The Holy Land"
Posted June 19, 2009

DAY 4:  “So what are you doing in Israel?” asked Sarit, a young Jewish American from Albany, NY I met that morning outside the not-yet-open gates for the famous Baha’i Gardens atop Mount Carmel (of Elijah and Carmelites fame).  She had recently graduated from her undergrad years and was avoiding the “real world” by wandering around Israel for nine months thus far, a couple of those working in a kibbutz. 

“I’m here to uh, do stuff,” I answered.

“So where are you from?”

“Teaneck,” I told her (after telling her my current whereabouts in Brooklyn).

“Oh, I have cousins there!” the Jew replied with a tad of excitement.

“Of course you do.”

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Conversations of Conversion

From the trip blog: "The Global Trip: Holla! In The Holy Land"
Posted June 18, 2009

DAY 3: “What is your purpose in Israel?” asked the female Israeli officer at the security bag check and metal detector at the Tel Aviv central train station.

My new friend and fellow Brooklynite Lily could have had a loaded answer, about how she was in Israel to see what it’s all about since she was in the middle of a serious contemplation on converting to Judaism from years of a Catholic upbringing.  Surrounded by many Jewish friends in her life from her undergrad days at Brown to her current life as a medical student at SUNY, she had seriously been intrigued with the Jewish faith and lifestyle, attending Hillel events and other Jewish festivities.  In her exploration, she had been trying to keep kosher since the beginning of the year, observed all the Passover rules in April, and was starting to learn Hebrew. 

But like me before her, she simply answered the Israeli guard, “Just traveling.”

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You Don’t Mess With The Zohar

From the trip blog: "The Global Trip: Holla! In The Holy Land"
Posted June 16, 2009

DAY 2: “It’s funny seeing you here, seeing that we never see you in New Jersey,” said a familiar face.  It was my friend Maya, an Israeli-American on vacation with her Filipino-American husband Mienri — also my friend, brother to Elaine (Nicaragua and “I’m jealous” fame), and cousin to Terence (Rio, Munich).  True, while they lived an hour drive away from me back home, I barely got to see them — different schedules or something, particularly with them having a kid: an uber-cute, two-year-old daughter named Olivia, the spawn of not-such-an-unlikely pairing of marriage; Maya and Min‘s matrimonial union was just one of a number of Jewish/Filipino couples I knew.  Their two-week vacation to sightsee and visit Maya’s Israel-residing mother was coming to an end, but their last day overlapped with my first.

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From Teaneck to Tel Aviv

From the trip blog: "The Global Trip: Holla! In The Holy Land"
Posted June 15, 2009

DAY 1: “Tickets and passport,” requested Shir, the cute Israeli woman with a welcoming smile at the Israeli airline El Al line at JFK’s Terminal 4.  Little did I know that she was the first line of defense in a long-drawn-out Israeli security ordeal before departure from New York.

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Preface In Paris

Posted June 14, 2009

YES, THE RUMORS ARE TRUE; I am about to embark on my first travel-blogged adventure in almost a year and a half. That’s right, I haven’t updated The Global Trip travel blog since February 2008, back in the days when only a handful of the population knew what the hell it meant to “tweet,” the ol’ days when Leno hosted The Tonight Show and the U.S. only elected white presidents.

That’s not to say I haven’t been doing short one-off trips here and there. In the past sixteen months I’ve done a California tour, visiting the beaches of Southern California and my friends in the L.A. area (including TGT Blog Hog Noelle), driving up the PCH (amidst 2008’s wildfires) to the bay area up north, and seeing fellow Central American Eviction Tour traveler Camilla, and longtime fellow travel buddy Sam (Antartica, Australia, Moscow) just in time for the flamboyant festivities of Pride Week.  I did another week in Tamarindo, Costa Rica with friend and long-time blog reader Dtella, to “work from home” (ah, the freelance life) and learn to surf (despite the fact that it had rained most of that week).  There were also local winter weekends to play in the snow and ice, and long weekends away in Orlando to visit friends, San Antonio to reunite with Elisa (Xi’an) after five years, and one rollin’-down-the-river trip in Pennsylvania.

I also did another long weekend in Paris (my fourth time there), which is worth recounting now since it may or may not be significant on my upcoming trip to Israel (and hopefully Jordan), since I traveled there with two Jews during Passover weekend — including one girl that I had met on my “Tomatoes, Grease & Beer” blog in Athens…

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