The Hippies of South America

I’m on a fairy hunt.. and I see Sarah as one of them. She’s a brave Canadian who’s roots are Asian yet spirits are from elsewhere. ^_^ She worked in super yacts, volunteered in hostels, and has become an actress at some point. All these she does for the love of travel.

This little lady is awesome according to my book of life. So I let her share stories in this website… i don’t necessarily encourage you to quit your job to travel like what Sarah did. But for those of you with brave souls, here’s a member of your tribe.


It’s Sarah, on another chapter of her life. I quit my job (again) to pursue and go somewhere far (again). This time I find myself in South America. It’s not because I hated my last job, I just needed a long break from workaholics and those who are in a constant bad mood. In this journey of mine, I met some very interesting, common yet unstructured, ingenious, free spirited, friendly, chatty, etc people on the road – the hippies of South America.

sarah tang in south america

One might probably define hippies as these dirty beggars without a penny to their name, hitchhiking around the planet. Maybe you’d think they have these bohemian style dress code with dreadlocks that swing back and forth like ropes on a boat. I don’t think it applies to every hippie, and it’s hard to generalise as they are not a tribe, not a cult, not a religion, but more like a community of free floaters, flowing around the globe and choosing a life that they want. Can you imagine quiting your job, selling all your things, kissing your family and friends goodbye, and start travelling for the sake of travelling? I am very sure they can.

So back to the topic. What makes the hippies in South America so different and capturing? For one, my hippie friends here dont’t have a lot of money, maybe even without money. However, they are not free loaders and definitely do not beg for money and never with a sign saying “need money to travel”. Instead, most of them have some skills to add to their name, such as making these beautiful designs of friendship bracelets, selling and making crystals and wired crystal ornaments, juggling in crosswalks or the plaza, baking and selling bread, rolling truffle balls to sell, wovening dream captures, etc. My favourite is when they busk and sing traditional South American songs on the street, in buses, and in restaurants. I loved it so much, I went to join my hippie friends’ band for a few days restaurant hopping and busking. And in every tourist city, should a hippie or a traveller without much of a skill needs money, there will be some badly printed sign outside a restaurant looking for a waiter(ress), cook and cleaner. I got my job as a cleaner/ waitress that way! That’s how they make money and support themselves. That’s how they can continue to live their travelling life. That’s how they are not a burden to the population or to the government or to anyone.

I forgot to mention, I started with zero foundation of Castellana (Latin American Spanish) and my various beloved friends here were very persistent to teach me Spanish, as they spoke almost no English. As for sleeping? Most of them own a tent. I don’t know how budget tight are you when you travel, but should I need the cheapest recommendation for a place to sleep, you bet I would ask the first hippie type of person on the street for that.

In this community without borders, I have felt very welcomed and very happy to share my time with them. As a traveller, be it hippies or just a regular traveller, we travel and learn by sharing informations. I will forever remember their genuine smile, their hospitality, and their lessons in sharing all they have.


Chinese New Year: Spring Festival Memories

Chinese New Year: Spring Festival Memories

In celebration of the Chinese New Year, I asked my Chinese friend living in the Philippines to tell a story about festival activities in Mainland China. I thought it’s gonna be a simple story that she can share for fun, turns out she wrote a heartfelt story about how they celebrate Spring Festival or Chinese New Year in their village when she was young.. I hope I didn’t made her too homesick when I asked her to write this. Read her story below:


I was born in a small village located in Jiangxi Province, China. I remember the small village only have about 20 households, most of the people living around me are the relatives from grandparents generation. I was told long ago that people want to avoid the civil war, so many of people migrate to the mountains and settle down when they find a place good to stay.

The small village surrounded by hills, and with a small tributary from the reservoir into the Xin river must have been a very secret refuge.

People often know that Jiangxi is a beautiful place because there are mountains and rivers in it, that’s so true, the small village where we stay is the best witness. As the village is so small, so everyone is familiar with each household, grandparents, uncles, aunts home are all just there.

When I was a child, I live with my grandparents. Most of the adults in the village went out to far away cities like Fujian and Guangdong province because of work. They will return to our hometown only a few days before the Spring festival. Most family members who stay in the village always look forward to it..

Every year when spring festival is near, people from different places rush home, some people arrive a few days before the spring festival while some get home the day before the festival. When someone comes back, the children will go together to his or her home, and often they will buy candy from the city as a gift to the kids, everyone has a share. That’s the happiest moment in my childhood.

 

chinese new year festival

Photo Credit: Jessi_zou


A few days before the Spring festival each household will conduct a clean-up, cleaning every corner of the home to be spotlessly clean, to prepare for the upcoming new year a new atmosphere, the point of new year is the word – “New”. On New Year’s Eve, every household will hang red lanterns and paste couplets on either side of doors, whose inscriptions seek good luck or happiness, these are the annual customs. Uncle who lives next door will personally write with the brush on the couplets that everyone in the village brought to him because my uncle writes the best Calligraphy in the village. Now my cousin, my uncle’s son, also inherited the calligraphy talent, he owns a Painting studio and recruits students in Shenzhen.


chinese caligraphy
 


Everyone wears new clothes on Chinese New Year’s Eve, when I was a child my desire for new clothes is very strong even till now, I often remember on New Year’s Day, we get up a lot earlier than usual, for most of the reasons I can’t wait to try my new clothes on in the morning. Mom will help us dress up in the early morning, I remember there was one year my mother painted a red point in both me and my sister’s forehead with a lipstick, we look like goddess Guanyin which always have the red mark on her forehead. Can’t imagine how happy we were during the Spring Festival.

Dinner in Lunar New Year’s Eve is often the most sumptuous meal of the year. I remember my grandmother busy with preparing the food from early in the morning. The pot will be stewed with large chunks of pork, fragrance floating in the village. Since everyone are preparing new year food, the fragrance of food surrounded in the village can be smelled from each family’s kitchen. Not every day we can eat delicious food during my childhood, so for this special day seems everyone try to make up for the past days to prepare many dishes as they can. New Year’s Eve is the day families reunite, each household will prepare a hearty dinner for the day. New Year dinner is often indispensable with chicken, duck , fish and many meats, chicken are often stew as whole , “Chicken鸡” sounds same as “lucky吉”in Chinese, in the hope that a year can be wealthy with favorable wishes. Like the chicken, the fish also needs to be cooked as whole fish too.

Before we start to eat, Grandfather will offer some meal as a sacrifice to our ancestors. The dead relatives will always be concerned about the offspring of the children and grandchildren, earthly people then worship to pray and repay their patronage and blessing, offering sacrificial rituals, including incense, sacrifice meal, wine, God worship, etc. After grandfather is finished with the worship, then we can begin to enjoy delicious food.

 


For the children, Lunar New Year’s Eve is another highlight of getting “lucky money” from parents and relatives. Normally it starts after dinner, the adults will go to each family of the children to give “lucky money”, the money are put in red envelopes to the children. Give “lucky money” custom has a long history, aside from giving good wishes, it serves as amulets of the elders to bless the children in the new year. The next day, kids then buy lots of toys or snacks, to celebrate their unique New Year atmosphere.


lucky money for chinese new year
 Photo Credit: Jessi_zou


In the first day of the Lunar New Year, we get up early, of course, parents will need to get earlier to prepare breakfast and candies for people to come. After breakfast, sister, brother and me will go to grandparents house BaiNian(拜年), and then to uncle’s home. BaiNian is a traditional Chinese folk customs, it means to congratulate the New Year, it’s a way of discarding old and bringing in new. Usually the first day of Lunar Chinese New Year, the parents lead the younger generation to go out to visit relatives, friends, elders, gives warm wishes to each other to celebrate the New Year, the young people must know how to salute, that’s “BaiNian”.

The host family will give dim sum, candy, red envelopes (Lucky money) to show warm hospitality. The second day Mom and Dad will lead us to go to another grandparents house(which is mom’s parents). BaiNian starts from the first day will continue until the fifteenth of the first month, usually visits to relatives and friends of the order is: first day visits relatives from father’s side; second, third day visits Grandparents and uncles from Mom’s side, father-in-law and so on. after visits all the relatives then could hang out with friends.

The small village I lived in is crowded only during Lunar New Year. These beautiful memories are only from my childhood, I think probably because I have grown up and lived so long in the cities, I have not been home for a long time to celebrate in the Lunar New Year. When I think about it, I feel a lot of regret, perhaps in the next Chinese New Year, I should go back and share the New Year with the family.


belle tutu

Contributor: Belle Tutu is an absolute dreamer, thoughts often floating in the air. One day, she can’t bear the illusion of life outside anymore, she followed her heart and fly out to see the world. She had left her laughter in the blue sea of Redang Island, and stayed in Chiang Mai’s jungle trekking, felt the beauty of half water half fire in MuiNe.

She also made her footprints in every corner of London, the road trip at pacific high way one in California was her best encounter ever. If she had not been brave, she would not have met the most beloved Filipinos. She is a brave dreamer, dreaming that one day travel and writing will be her life too.

Dream Travel Destination – Africa

Usually people dream of traveling to the north, like Europe, USA, Australia, any posh capitalist country that has a high economic index. So I’m gonna dream of traveling to another continent instead – Africa.

Africa is not a country, it’s a huge continent with several countries. I have met people who went there as volunteers in Tanzania, Uganda, Ethiopia and Kenya.. and I also met a volunteer from Uganda who went to Thailand to share his skills. The world is getting equal huh? There’s still more to improve on but let’s hope future is bright.

My eyes widen with curiosity when they tell stories of the continent..

Safari is always a regular tourist activity when people go to that part of the world. They can go book at African Safari Home, but for the more curious souls, there’s more to Africa than safari as I’ve come to know more about it. You know what I’ve found?

1. Zuma Rock in Abuja, Nigeria is 725 meters high, double than the Uluru Rock from Australia.. and is also as high as Burj Khalifa in Dubai.. Thanks for the info Nas Daily. Table Mountain of Cape Town in South Africa is the most famous of the table top mountains in the world. . Here’s Table mountain, picture courtesy of Roger and Wendy Arendse:

table-top-mountain-in-cape-town

2. There is snow in Africa.. You think it’s all desert and famine like what you see on the tv? Some of the people who went there said there are parts of the continent that are actually cold… and you know the latest news? Snow has fallen in Sahara.

3. I actually met someone in India who was born and grew in Africa… and she looks very European.

4. The continent has the largest reserves of precious metals with over 40% of the gold reserves, so why is most countries in the continent poor? That’s something to think about.

5. Victoria Falls is the world’s largest waterfalls. It’s what divides 2 countries Zimbabwe and Zambia.

6. There’s an African food named fufu.. And there’s a lack of African restaurants in the Philippines.. hello entrepreneurs :D

So what interesting fact have you learned about Africa? Do you want to travel in the continent too?

Travel Dream Destination: Italy

10+ years ago, I lived with Italians.. that is why I know some words like.. Ciao :D

But I did not came to live in Italy to mingle with Italians. I was in Tagaytay, Philippines for a 6 month retreat when I came to live with international young people.


focolare tagaytay
Do you wonder what we did while confined in the paradise called Mariapolis? There are lots of activities but I learned how to cross stitch and I learned how to cook there.. Every day, each person (or persons group by nationalities) in the house would cook, so sometimes we have Vietnamese dinner, Italian lunch, Korean breakfast, and when it’s my time to cook – we have pancit canton and red egg….. :D

And when it’s our free time, while the rest do other activities, this is what I do:


grasya geeking
I successfully brainwashed Father Georg, the former responsible for Priest school of Asia, to let me borrow his computer so I can update my website. :D.. and what have I created? Poetries.

 

Oh well, those were wonderful years in my book of life. I am in deep gratitude to the Focolarinas who have put up with my rebel tendencies and still managed to adopt me ;D

And after 10 years, I think it’s high time for me to fulfill this dream travel destination – to travel in Italy. It’s slow going but I’m getting there. But why do I want to go to Italy?

My friends from Myanmar and Vietnam whom I also lived with when I was in Tagaytay has already been to Italy, some of them can speak fluent Italian already. They were able to go because of sponsors.. and since no one wants to sponsor me, I will sponsor myself..


gen batch 2004-2005
Kidding! I really want to prove that I am capable of fundraising for my travels ;)

It has been 10 years and this will all be worth it. But where will I go?

I want to visit the place of Chiara Lubich, founder of the Focolare movement. She is one of the forefront of religious and cultural dialogue of different faith, culture, races, and classes of society. I look up to her ideals of unity and would like to pay respect by visiting her place like when I visited the tomb of Mother Theresa in Kolkata, and when I visited the birthplace of Buddha in Lumbini, Nepal.

Yeah of course, Israel is also on the bucketlist.. Jesus, can I pretty please pray for more frugal ways to visit your birthplace?

Now if I get a sponsor, I’ll get to travel around and visit Rome, Venice, and I heard Sardinia is a hidden gem that needs to be discovered.. but that is if I get a sponsor to fund my travels…

**cricket sounds**

 

Ok, sponsors can just give the money to people who need it most. Do not worry I’m self sustainable and just happy to eat authentic Italian PiIiizza and PaaAasta.. I’m saying this with matching Italian gestures.

 

I am also in love with their language, it sounds so beautiful.. Oh the Italian men? I met many Italian guys during my travels, although the ADHD in me was like – oh cute guys – and when they are gone, I will be like – oh my pizza is delicious.. I have no hope :D…

 

It has been years in the queue but it’s all worth the wait.. and it will be very soon till I will finally be able to buy that ticket to this dream destination.. It is worth the wait, dear Italy.. it is worth the wait.

Greece: Dream Travel Destination Series

Greece: Dream Travel Destination Series

Greece has an impression to me as an ancient country that is rich in history and culture.. I knew this country thru English literature class during those school days but I still look forward to seeing Greece in person… well I want to visit all countries in this Earth actually xD.. let’s see what we can check out in Greece

1. Visit Zakynthos, or Zante as it’s often known. It’s one of the most popular resorts to explore in Greece. The Philippines already have lots of resorts considering its an archipelgo.. but of course Greece is a different country. Hopefully I can find a great deal that is within my budget..

2. Visit Mykonos. It’s the first time I’ve heard about this place, just because a friend, Mehmet, has pictures of those.. I just notice almost all of the buildings are painted in white.. not sure what is the reason, but it blends well in the blue sea background. And they are indeed fascinating.

3. Go to Athens. This capital and largest city in Greece must be on my list. I only read about Athens in books specially that it’s one of the oldest cities with a very impressive history considered as the birthplace of civilization. I wouldn’t miss visiting Acropolis, or “Sacred Rock”, the most famous archeological monument in Europe.

4. Try out Greek cuisine.. and learn how to cook them! Moussaka, an eggplant or potato based dish is on my to-eat list.. I’ve looked around and think Souvlaki looks interesting too… it actually looks like Shawarma.. we’ll see what it actually taste like when i get to eat the real thing.

Ok at the moment, this is a draft itinerary and I have yet to learn more about this fascinating country.. for now, bear with me while I do steps to make my travel dreams come true..

Really scary and exciting that my dream to travel is becoming true.. ^_^ Future looks really bright ;)

So, what else do you think I should do in Greece? ^_^

Where to go next? My dream travel itinerary

Where to go next? My dream travel itinerary

This was an old story last year that I have updated.. aside from bringing my mom last year in Thailand and Vietnam for her first international travel, not much have happened just to let you know I’m still dreaming to go to the countries I will mention below xD… and I will keep annoying you dear readers until the goal has been achieved. :D

****

Ok, I know I already have so many mis adventures under my belt, the last one was when a plane diverted back from where we have departed due to weather conditions, not once but twice in the same day!

And despite that, I also know for a fact that whenever I get stressed, or into trouble, I only get facebook stares.. I understand my crazyness is solely my responsibility.. And if I get sick, prepare for a laugh.


when I am sick
And not to mention the last time I announced my plans of traveling 2 years ago, a family clan member got sick or got into an accident and our house got robbed..
So why am I still pursuing my passion?

 

Because really I want to prove to anyone that this average looking dark skinned lady can travel and that any other average person can travel too.. so please don’t envy ok?


grasya in motorcycle
 

There are more challenges now that I have a few family responsibilities like taking care of my mom, or how to help my aunt manage the farm.. I was actually thinking to bring my oldies to my international travels too because they deserve it.

 

First, I’m bringing my mom to Thailand and Vietnam soon.. it’s payback time for her since she’s the primary reason why I grew up loving travel even on budget anyway.. (UPDATE: Mom went to Thailand and Vietnam and missed Filipino food while we’re on the road)

Hopefully next time I can travel with my Aunt out of the country too coz she deserves to see other places other than the farm.


beautiful Thailand
 

So where do I plan to go next?


crossroads
I’m looking into countries where only few travelers have visited.. because they are the countries less traveled. And it’s my niche ;D.. talking about how I can afford to go there is another story.

I already bought a ticket to Dubai..  then I’ll have to figure out where to go after that.. probably Turkey or Georgia, this will depend on the budget and circumstances. (UPDATE: Bought ticket to Dubai but didn’t went.. yep, I hated myself)

I’m also eyeing at Australia. I don’t really like to just go there, shoot and run back home.. As you see I love long term travels where I get to soak in the culture and do roadtrips in the country. But it’s an expensive country so this song is in my head – dream, the impossible dream.

 

Who knows what the future holds.

 

I’m also looking at living in Europe too. More like spending a year or two and learn another language. Austria still fascinates me specially because it’s where my favorite movie the sound of music was filmed. I want to visit Switzerland too and observe how people live in that peaceful country.

Spain is high on the list specially that the Philippines have more than 300 years of Spanish influence, so it would nice to see and enjoy the true Spanish way of doing things and visit as many places as I can.

Germany has a special place in my heart, as well as Italy too.. I should not forget France, UK and Ireland.. and the list goes on.. I should compile all the details at my dream travel destinations.

And then when my Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs has been fulfilled, I will now be ready again to reach out and serve the underprivileged, under represented, under nourished.. I’m actually still doing it at grasya.org but hopefully I can do much more.

Till then I’ll keep focusing on my projects so I can finally have the travel fund to book that ticket to my next destination. Now while I’m plotting my escape, and if you are plotting to borrow money, please don’t.. Let me help you create your own travel fund instead. Alright?

Dream Travel Destination: Austria part 2

Dream Travel Destination: Austria part 2

My last article about Austria just talked about why I wanted to go to Austria.. but the details are left for Austria part 2.. It kinda breaks my heart drafting this itinerary knowing that my travel funds still have a loOong way to go but hey, I believe in angels and I believe that dreams come true. ^_^

 

1. First and foremost, I’d avail all free things that the country has to offer. Apparently, there are free entrance to churches, markets, gardens, parks and galleries in Austria. This will let me feed my wanderlust to indulge in great architecture, art, shopping and history. Check out the Austrian Cathedral in Vienna and the church in Insbruck.. aren’t they marvelous?



 




2. I’d go on a skiing holidays in Austria. I haven’t been in a country that snows and last seen an actual snow when I was in Darjeeling, India… the snow capped mountains was about half inch only.. and that’s about it. Hopefully when I go to Austria, I’ll get to enjoy the bliss of snow.




3. I’ll watch out for Vienna open air opera and Music Film Festival Vienna so I need to make sure I’ll be there in September. I used to play Mozart piano pieces when I was young, would be great to walk in the place where this great composer once lived.

4. Go to the place where the movie Sound of Music was shot.. then once in the hills are alive, I’m gonna sing.. the hills are alive :D.. and “how do you solve a problem like this grasya?”

5. Eat a heuriger, wiener schnitzel and other traditional foods in Austria.. not so much of a wine drinker but wouldn’t hurt to taste some wine. Eating should always be part of my trip because foods and drinks are different in each country.

6. Austria is now the leading European Country for sustainable agriculture with nearly 10% organic production so when I go there, I must make sure I do woofing. For those interested in farms, you should google woof and see how it can enable you to travel. ^_^

So that’s about it. At least I have a draft itinerary once I get to Austria. How about you? Do you have any plans on what to do in Austria?

**thanks to Enrique Manzano for sponsoring my Austrian images ^_^

Travel Dream Destination: Turkey

Aside from Germany and Austria, (and Italy, England, Lithuania, Norway etc etc).. one my favorite dream destination in that part of the world is Turkey.

This Eurasian country is located in Western Asia and in Southeastern Europe.
Bordering countries are Bulgaria to the Northwest, Greece to the west, Georgia to the northeast, Iran to the east, then Iraq and Syria to the Southeast.

One of the many reasons why I look forward to travel in Turkey is:

1. I want to go to Cappodocia. Cappadocia is an area in Central Anatolia in Turkey. It is best known for its unique moon-like landscape, underground cities, cave churches and houses carved in the rocks.
There’s nothing like that in places where I’ve went so I want to marvel at those rock houses.. they are such great architectural landscapes.

2. I want to try hotsprings in Pamukkale. These are mineral waters that spring from the earth then cascade over a steep cliff, forming gleaming pools. Similar to other mineral hot springs that are found around the world, the waters are thought to help cure skin diseases, nervous disorders, heart disease and circulatory issues.
Really, nature did an awesome job designing those pools!



3. I want to visit Istanbul, one of the three European capitals of culture in 2010. Aside from Ottoman mosques, I want to see the art galleries and museums of this so called world’s hippest city..



then maybe, I’ll buy a piece of art which has become a hobby in every country that I go to.



4. I want to visit ancient ruins, and underground cities. I love to visit cities that have been destroyed by Mother Nature. It should teach humankind a lesson or two. The largest underground city is apparently found in Turkey so would love to visit that too.

5. I want to meet friends there. It’s more fun when you’ve got friends from every corner of the world to share fun with don’t you think?

6. The last reason why I wanted to travel to Turkey is because I just want to travel.. to anywhere ^_^.. aint that reason enough?

Thank you goes to Wanderingtrader and Mehmet Ali Özçobanlar Hadjidakis for providing the pictures ^_^

Dream Travel Destination: Australia

Dream Travel Destination: Australia

Australia is the nearest continent from where I am at the moment… and even before the opportunity comes for me to travel in that country, I must take steps to draft my dream itinerary just in case fairies who grants wishes drops by this page ;)

 

 

First order, I’d start out checking flights to Perth coz I wish to start the adventure from the West first.

Upon research, it has been said that Perth is the most remote city on earth… hrrmm so my secret paradise in the Philippines is not yet the most remote? Interesting..

Then I’d like to see Australia in Yellow.. just 2 hours from Perth is the Pinnacles. These pieces of rock formation sprouted from the yellow desert sands looks amazing.. looks like you are walking on the moon or in another planet..



 

 

Then after the West, I’d go see Central Australia in orange-red colors thru Mt Uluru.. I’ll stare and reflect at the huge object and note to myself.. how lovely indeed is this Earth, our dwelling place..



 

Then I’d go down South and see Australia in pretty pink.



The picture above is in Silcrete Island – Lake Eyre, South of Australia. An algae was supposedly the reason behind why the water is pink… I do wonder if instead of blue, the ocean’s color turns out pink instead.. could be a pretty color :D

 

And then the last pit stop (subject to change of course) would be Sydney to see Australia in White thru the Opera House. Some friends lived there, so might as well do some catching up on life…  might as well go on a road trip around the beautiful city.



 

So there goes my dream itinerary dear folks.. looking forward to making this dream come true ^_^.. how about you? Are there places you want to go in Australia?

 

** credit of the pictures goes to Australia Facebook Page and from my friend Doh Thailand

Dream Travel Destination: Austria

I know, its overdue dear Austria.

Your place seemed magnificent, like a heaven here on earth that everyone would like to see.. I should have been there a long time ago.. But like the typical Filipina, I hold back.. Just to make sure everything will be in perfect timing.

Why do I want to visit you? Because..

1. I wanna travel. Go around. Experience the world because we only live once on earth, might as well roam it before leaving.

2. A dear sole sister, Vera Wihan, lives there. We’ve been friends since 2004 (or was it 2005?) when she went to the Philippines. We toured the Philippines together. After that, we had reunions in Vietnam and in Thailand… this time around, I want to see her in her own country.

 


 

 

Vera  in the center while we sway to the Indian dance (2005):




3. I want to go to a country where the  movie Sound of Music was taken. Its my favorite movie when I was a child when Beta-max was still existing.. Once in Austria, I’m gonna hum – “how do you solve the problem of this grasya”~~

4. I wanna see and observe how people are living in Vienna. See the goodness in life there so I can bring the good back to my country.

5. Coz I wanna give myself a gift of travel… aint that reason enough? ^_^