Flicks >> Auckland, New Zealand

Just a big ol’ city… really….

Though, with a nice look-out at Mission Bay…

and a “cool” (literally) ice bar, called Minus 5 Ice Lounge:

And the full reel, enjoy! :-)

. . don’t burn the day. .

Flicks >> Rotorua, New Zealand

NZ is not just about naturally beautimous landscapes, but culture too!

We got a lil’ bit of it all up in Rotorua in the North Island: Geysers, Mudpools and an evening with the Maori people– who kept us entertained by teaching us traditional games, performing song and dance …and feeding us an awesome all-you-can-eat hangi dinner meal!

Daytime = Chill time to enjoy the park and natural surrounding beauties.

Evening = Lundy got re-acquainted with his seemingly long-lost ancestry, aka.. he REALLY had a natural connection with the Maori way of life! :-)

Opening ceremony: welcoming the chiefs aka 1 male representative from each tour bus (3 in total).

We were welcomed into the village, where L wasted no  time to volunteer himself to partake in a traditional Maori game…

L (that’s his hand in top left corner) learned a Maori chant: “Hoo! Hoo! Ha! HA!!”

I couldn’t help myself, but to let loose w the Maori warrior…

and did ya’ll know that LENNY KRAVITZ is a Maori????!!!…

The show was super entertaining with traditional story telling, song, dance… Here’s the chief of the tribe as host..(who I thought looked like a turkey)…

Next, feast time and L couldn’t take his eyes off the buffet table..

….and he had good reason to! Look at the spread! It felt like Thanksgiving all over again!

Traditional Hangi meals are cooked on firewood…

And the full reel, enjoy! :-)

. . don’t burn the day. .

Flicks >> Franz Josef Glaciers, New Zealand

(Yeah, I know.. I’m STILL not done with my NZ posts… )

We eventually made our way up to the west coast of the South Island for some glacier adventure. My partner-in-crime last year, Lisa had visited NZ and boasted of some amazing shots of her glacier hike experience in NZ….so of course, I had to check it out for myself!  Though, Lundy and I weren’t blessed with as nice and sunny weather as Lisa’s in her pics, we made the most of our day there. In fact, upon nearing Glacier Country, it started drizzling quite a bit. L & I, being both extremely tired from our previous adventures and drives, found ourselves both secretly hoping that the hike would be cancelled. Me, being me, opted to call the booking office with 15 minutes to spare to a hike call time of 3pm on Tuesday, February 9th 2010.. to check to see if the hike would be cancelled. But, I was almost laughingly corrected by the woman on the other side of the line, “Honey, it rains 300 days of the year in this part of the island, so the hike is still on.” I hung up the phone, relayed the message to L, and after sulking for a half a second, we rallied up our energy for a pretty nifty experience!

After being given jackets, overpants, socks, boots and spikes, we headed out to battle Mother Nature’s rain spittings and magnificent glaciers!

If ya look closely towards the top of the glacier on the right, you’ll see a trail of folks hiking… we would be following suit shortly there after…

Don’t I look like your local meteorologist, fresh on the icy scene??!

Ice Hammock anyone?? Lundy said, “Yes!”

Lundy and his urge to mess with the emergency aid barrel…

I couldn’t resist an ice angel….

On our way down…. some perrty perrty waterfalls…

We sooooo rewarded ourselves with an awesomely hearty home-cooked meal of garlic toast, pesto fettucine, grilled chorizo and lamb chops! Mmmmmmm….

I was soooooo hungry….and ya’ll know, I ain’t got NO shame in my eating game! LOL! :-)

And now of course, the full reel, enjoy!

. . don’t burn the day. .

Flicks >> Seoul Life

Just got back from a rather quick 5-day trip out to Seoul, South Korea. With not toooo much high expectation for this city… I mean, other than, “it can be a lil’ hazy, but it’ll be cleaner than Shanghai.. Korean BBQ… the drinking… soju” etc… it’s all the typical city highlights of nightlife and skyscraper/tower observatories; Which, by now, especially having lived in TWO of the largest, major cities in the world:  the mighty NYC and Shanghai….. cities, for the most part, unimpress me (yup, this “city girl” said it!). Though, what drew me for in for Seoul were: the 38th Parallel and an opportunity to partake in a Buddhist Temple Stay (as recommended by my friend here in the ‘Hai who had visited Seoul a few months back.)

But before I get into that, for one thing, I had been warned by friends etc of it’s notorious, raging”drinking culture,” but I can honestly say it was absolutely disgusting to see it firsthand. I mean it’s one thing as the locals carry on as it is a “cultural” thing… as do Japanese get pretty wild when alcohol is present, but then to see expats over-indulge in alcohol consumption is just plain ol’ sick to stomach. Not to say this is the truth for all expats, but a good majority for sure… as since the famed potent soju is sooooo cheap!

Next, tt has always fascinated me to find rhymes and reasons for why expats seek and find new lands as their new exotic land-homes. Some come for work; others come for play; most come for a whole new experience that may encompass both work and play. Here in Shanghai, I’ve met a great deal of folks from Europe, North America, Down Under, South East Asia etc… in all sorts of varying industires, but what I had learned/been told of the expat scene in Seoul, was that the majority hailed from North America: Canada & U.S. Hmph. First thought: not much variation. Second thought: thankful for living in a rising “international” city as Shanghai.

Some city sights, sounds and tastes:

Super cool guide Pil’s from the back with his Univ. of Michigan hat…. (thanks for the connect sharebear!!)

Pils’ buddy, Dennis and I, cheers on a fries and ketchup covered corndog in the name of Sharebear! This one was for you! :o ) (ps. this was my first time having a corndog in my life.. it was eh aight.)

Now enough about the city-analysis, what I really came for were the cultural/historics.

First stop, 38th Parallel.

After a bit of research, I found that the “DMZ,” standing for “De-Militarized Zone,” has all sorts of options in terms of tours, enough to make anyone dizzy!  There’s the Dora Observatory Deck (stand on top of a deck and see N. Korea from afar) and 3rd  Infiltration Tunnel (discovered in ’78 of the North digging a (not so) secret passage to the South) … then there’s  JSA (Joint Security Area; a highly secured area, heavily guarded by soldiers where important global meetings take place) and  Panmunjeom (small village that straddles the line separating N and S, where tourists are always escorted by military representatives). So of course, I signed myself up for the “real deal, get me IN the area that is most INTENSE of them all” tour…… the latter two: JSA & Panmunjeom.

As we were pulling up to the line that divides the N. and S., I flashbacked to all the varying militiary museums, memorials and sights I had visited in the past two years: Tiannamen Square, Nanjing War Museum, Cu Chi Tunnels, Vietnam War Museum etc >> all of which have left a profound historica-whoa effect upon me. Now, to inch upon an area that is a MODERN DAY war zone, left me feeling the most uptight-intense-on the border of danger- feeling I had ever felt. (Yes, I wasn’t even this whoa’ed when I decided to jump out of a plane in New Zealand.)  But anyhoots, driving up towards our final destination, we were met by military outposts along the highway with the N. Side within our distant point of view:

We first arrived in Imjingak – an area to comfort the 10million S. Korean people separated from their families in the North. It is here where the “Wishing Wall” is placed for S. Koreans to bid prayers and well wishes for their loved ones in the North. Personally, I felt an extreme cloud of sadness for those families split; civil wars are so unfortunate.

The Freedom Bridge:  The only bridge crossing the Imjin River, and also the only one bridge connected between S. and N. Korea.; approximately 13,000 war captives crossed this bridge cried celebratory hurrahs for freedom. As since the old one was destroyed, a new, commemorative “Freedom Bridge” was bult just parallel to the old… with one of the last, old trains preserved for viewing:

Here you can see the new bridge on the left and original, destroyed bridge on the right:

What I found most interesting was that alongside all of these historic and modern day artifacts as detailed above, there also laid an amusement for children; reason being: as whole families pay their respects to their loved ones at the Wishing Wall etc, the kids are dropped off to play as since they would get bored/not fully understand the civil divide.

Next up comes the nitty gritty as we enter the JSA: Camp Bonifas.

Before our tour bus could enter these secured grounds, a S. Korean soldier came aboard our bus, thoroughly checked our passports and to see that we had followed the very strict dresscode of simpicity: sneakers, no torn jeans/pants, plain tshirts/jackets etc.  This soldier spoke at least 3 languages fluently: Korean, Mandarin and English.

Next, we were led to Ballinger Hall, where we were given a slideshow presentation of war facts, etc.

We were each asked to sign an agreement form to follow all rules and regulations of the tour, as well as were given a badge to wear for security reasons:

We passed by the “World’s Dangerous Golf Course,” where it is said that S. Korean soldiers would tee-off into the N. lands..

Alas, we are dropped off at the Conference Room area, where we were instructed to form two straight lines, walking with our arms down and to be sure NOT to point and raise arms to gesture, as since this may lead the N. Korean soldiers who are observing us from afar “on enemy lines,” to believe one of us may be waving a gun, be armed etc. HOW FREAKIN’ INTENSE, DANGEROUS AND SOMEHOW “COOL” IS THAT???!! (Cool, in the most absurd way of course.)  So we entered into THE conference room where nations’ leaders gather for discussions.

This is the shot of us entering. You’ll see a soldier on the left and a soldier ahead; both are on the S. team for our protection. It is said that the N. side also has their fair share of “tours” as well, and when it is their turn, the S. soldiers exit and the N. soldiers take their place.

As we walk inwards, closer to the main conference table guarded by the soldier on the left, we were told to take note of the 3-table mics laid across the conference table, dividing the table at 38th parallel!!!!

So here I am posing with the solider on the left… (couldn’t get too too close though!)  But, take note of his fists! All soldiers have this stance, “to be ready to battle,” with the shades on to avoid “stare-down” battles with N. side.

I then crossed over the mic/conference table line, into N. Korea to snap a flick with our other guard:

On the real, we all almost forgot that these dudes were real!… they stood sooo still, as if we were in Maddame Tussaud’s Wax Museum!

And now we’re face to face with the North. A bit hard to see in the flick, but there’s a N. Korean soldier on the top of the steps, on the left watching us with binoculars. You’ll also notice that the S. side guards on facing the N. with only half of their bodies shown to the N. — in order to be a harder target to hit if there was an open fire…. I’ll say it again.. INtense!!!

As we drove off, we saw short, white poles, put up by the N. side to divide both sides:

Next, lead to the famed location of the “Axe Murder Incident of 1976″ where 2 U.N. Army lieutenants were axed to death for the trimming of a Poplar tree.

Nearby, is the original “Bridge of No Return,” where Korean prisoners of war were instructed to choose a side to live the rest of the lives in: North or South. After which, they were not allowed to ever cross the borders again.

As we left, we were all reminded of an important message:

After that intense day, I opted for a 2-day, 1-night stay at a Buddhist temple located approximately 2hour drive outside of Seoul city, in an area called Poncheon. I was met by a local who had at once spent some time in NYC, but now currently living in S. Korea, looking to make a change in his life, and studying to perhaps become a monk one day. This cool dude, June, became my buddy, translator and guide for my entire stay. Awesomely located outside of the city, on a mountain with a beautiful lake on the bottom of the mountain is Temple Jah In Sah.

Meet June:

Find me!

Here is a lil’ snippet of their vegetable garden.

A view from the top of the temple….. sooooooooo serene! ps. the lantern decorations were in anticipation for Buddha’s birthday on May 21st.

As a student to become a monk, June had sketched out this beautiful prayer in temple-form:

All meals were held in this room where an buffet-style table was set up of various vegetarian dishes: rice, picked veggies, beans, tofu, seaweed and vegetable soup were served. I was warned by June that I would have to finish everything on my plate, so be mindful of how much I take because nothing should go to waste; all foods had been gifted to the temple.

Upon meeting me, June’s master monk gifted me with a Buddha bracelet, took my pulse and warned me of knee problems as I would get older. I was impressed with his diagnostic from simply checking out my pulse because I have been having knee issues since my ski injury/ACL surgery in 2001. To help it a bit, June fixed up this concoction using some sort’ve sweet green tea leaves to “burn” me.. in a sense of extracting “cold air” from my knee:

My living quarters in all its simplicity:

Bathroom to the right, bedrooom straight ahead. One awesome thing about Korea is HEATED FLOORS!! Soooooooo wonderful and it makes sooooooooo much sense, since heat rises!!!

Morning wake up time at the sound of chimes and gongs was 4am for morning prayer/108 bows:

Here is a  64 year old blind monk teaching June and another student the correct way to chant:

Breakfast isn’t all too much different but with slight variances. Surprisingly these vegetarian meals filled me up pretty quick, but! left me hungry in 2 hours!

Thanks to June, I got my request to spend time with the elder, blind monk and was invited to his room, where he offered me some tea, gave me a temple name and steered me in a direction to reach my own state of zen. I was so humbled to be in such presence!

Shortly thereafter, June and I hiked up a trail behind the temple to a spot where he and his master monk frequents to meditate. I felt priviledged to be led to such destination of tranquility. Though, I was told, back in the day, this very site used to be an army base; hence, rubber tires still lay. Crazy right??!! I was on real war grounds!

J’s master monk shaved his head and left a bit left ….until J earns his ranks to becoming a full monk.

This was our view while meditating, looking out:

Heading back, June gave me a little history lesson on the temple etc, and pointed out the name that I was given by the elder monk, was the name of the temple: meaning, “love”….

In the late afternoon, as it was time for J and I to catch the bus back to Seoul, I was extremely touched by the elder monk’s gesture of coming down from his room by himself, waiting to bid adieu to me with his umbrella under the drizzling rain. I respectfully went to him, held his hands, thanked him in Korean and bidded him a farewell…. and in his very limited English, he replied, “Bye Bye. Come back to meeeee.”

Later, as soon as we arrived in Seoul city, J’s master monk (who looks after a temple in the city as well) phone J to advise him to head to a restaurant for a BBQ Pork dinner. HOW RAD IS THAT??!!! So there I was! .. Invited to a bbq pork dinner with a really cool monk! (I learned that in Korean Buddhism, monks can in fact eat meat, so long as they are not out there killing for a meal. shrug.) But the meal was SOOOOOOO YUMMY!!

After the meal, we all convened in the temple in the city, where I was eventually given time to chat with the master monk as well. He gifted me with a few items including two pairs of socks and a mirror with a drawing of Buddha on the back with words in Korean, “Who Am I?”  I had some insightful time with him…, where at one point, he touched my head and told me that I have a nice round head that would look good if shaved. (hmmmm recruitment?!?!) Then, he cracked my neck all randomly and had relieved some stiffness that I had had. Ahhh! Felt great! Until next time, master monk, when we meet again spiritually….

And here’s a full real slide, enjoy!

. . don’t burn the day. .

Flicks & Video >> Kayaking & Deep Canyoning Wanaka, New Zealand

Lake Wanaka:  Where the “leisure” rowing excursion turned into life or death (kinda)… Well, umm ridiculously fierce winds picked up and turned our kayak multiple times while we were deep out into the lake, causing us to battle Mother Nature for our safe return…. and we succeeded with great teamwork and tired arms!

And super awesome deep canyoning … seriously SUCH A WORTHWHILE ADVENTUROUS EXPERIENCE!!

A pretty damn good shot of Lundy jumping under a waterfall with rainbow.. (Yeah, I was jealous…and still am…. trying to get over it…. )

and here’s a video clip of yours truly sliding down a 10meter waterfall… at pretty much a 45 degree angle….

Our new friend and great company on our wet n’ wild deep canyoning experience, Jana, originally from Germany, currently living in Mallorca……

along with our awesome guide, Scott…

And the full reel here for ya’ll to enjoy!…

. . don’t burn the day. .

Dig A Little Deeper

Midterms are next week, which means I gotta show a movie as I conduct them individually outside the classroom. Sooo I decided to preview Disney’s latest, The Princess and the Frog, to see if it’d be appropriate/entertaining enough for my kiddos. I’d have to say, it’d probably be a bit slow and too much verbage for my kids to understand, but nevertheless, the story carries out a great message, that I wanted to share…. as sung by character, Mama Odie  in the flick, from song, “Dig A Little Deeper“…..

You got to dig a little deeper
Find out who you are
You got to dig a little deeper
It really ain’t that far

When you find out who you are
You’ll find out what you need
Blue skies and sunshine guaranteed
You got to dig (dig)
You got to dig (dig)

Enjoy the video clip here:


. . don’t burn the day. .

Not The Shangri-La, But…

An evening of delicious dishes at an ethnic XinJiang restaurant (close by, in my hood).

(A tad late with this post by a couple weeks, but whatevs!)

About Xinjiang:

With borders of Russia, Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan,Pakistan and India, Xinjiang is an autonomous region of the PRC. “Xinjiang” literally means “New Frontier”, a name given during the Qing Dynasty, and is home to a number of different ethnic groups and major ethnic group include Uyghur, Han, Kazakh, Hui, Kyrgyz and Mongol. (Some of you may recall the recent “drama” btw the Uyghur and Han….. umm yeah.)

So anyway, what called for this gathering of friends, seemingly resembling the UN, was the arrival of Kym’s sister, Alicia (Chi’town & NY reppin!) So without further a’do….here we are under the umbrella of friendship and feastin!….

There’s always the same dude working up the slammin’ lamb and chicken kebob grill just to the right of the restaurant’s entrance. Mind you, this place is always BUSY BUSY BUSY every night of the week; 80% of the time, you’d see belly dancers or someone celebrating some festive occasion up in here! Andddd it’s a great place for large groups! I’ve gone with a good group of 8-10 folks, ordering 10-12 dishes + Xinjiang beer, and the bill would only come out to approx. $8usd per person!

Sisters, Kym & Alicia in Shanghai!

Alan (another ABC who has moved to the ‘Hai last year), handles the important task of ordering…

Is it me or does Kym look like she’s a little too excited to receive her bowl of white rice?

Zia = FOCUSED, mannnnnn!

Damnnnnnn Alicia!!!!

NY to SH Express….

Andddddd Alicia just HAD to take a picture of this random dude who sat at a table next to ours. Thankfully, he spoke English (from SF) and had a great sense of humor to allow for Alicia to snap a photo of him in his Google shirt… in China…The Irony. Get it???!!

. . don’t burn the day. .

Everything in Time

NEW YORK, NEW YORK!!! LISTEN Up!

Now the last two years out here, gallivanting through parts of Asia has not been too shabby of a deal, but there are times when I DO wish I could be teleported back to the West, in a snap. And here is one of them:

This Friday, April 16th, down the street from my old JO, at The Tribeca Grand, one of my most favorite people AND music spinsters in the world, DJ CENTER is celebrating his loooooong-awaited, MUCHO anticipated sophomore album release entitled, Everything in Time. Ohhhhhh, how I wish I could be there! (((jumping up and down)))

So, in lieu of my physical presence, I HIGHLY recommend ya’ll to show my homie some love and support in the way I would, if I were there now in the most concrete of all concrete jungles in the world….for an evening of GOOD PEOPLE. GOOD MUSIC. GOOD VIBE. GOOD TIMES. GOOD LOVE. GUARANTEED. Ahhhhh I missssss my NY Creative & Music Heads!!!!!! Tell him I sent you and take note of his reaction for me. :-)

About Everything in Time:

DJ Center’s “Everything in Time” is a global soul record bringing back a low-end theory and warmth thatʼs been absent in music as of late. Itʼs a record for a generation raised on a foundation of Hip Hop and Jazz, but having grown up with a global scope and broader musical palate.

On April 16, DJ Center with friends Gretchen Parlato on guest vocals, DJs Ian Head & my other music head homie, Ant Demby and special guests will be playing at the Tribeca Grand celebrating the release of the album. The album’s incredible cast includes Oddisee, Zaki Ibrahim, Gretchen Parlato, Middle Child, Renee Neufville (of Zhané) and Samia Farah, amongst others.

As the songs unfold on “Everything in Time” youʼre enveloped in lush piano chords, warm bass lines, boom-bap drum patterns, flying tambourines, and soaring horns. The guests Center chose for his album are the perfect marriage to every song. The record features everyone from favorites like Oddisee and Zaki Ibrahim, to the up and coming Gretchen Parlato (whoʼs worked with Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter and Esperanza Spalding) and Samia Farah (whoʼs dub reggae and jazz vocal styles give her an unparalleled uniqueness). The icing on the cake is the remix of “Tout Passe” contributed by the incredibly talented Waajeed of The Platinum Pied Pipers.

And if all that does not tempt you enough…. in a recent email exchange between myself and Center himself, he writes: (just replace the nickname, “mojo” with my first name and it’ll make more sense…)

Mojo!!!!

So wish you were here with us!!!! This is THE epitomy of a Mojo event/vibe, and it celebrates years of labor. Big thank you for the support along the way, YOU KNOW what it took….

Got if folks??!!?! MYYYYY kinda vibe. So you KNOW the night will be right! (And for those feeling the weight of the economy… well sheeeeeeeit, there’s open bar svedka and a room filled with beautiful people inside and out.. what more do you want??!! GO TO THIS.)

Official NYC Release party for ‘Everything in Time’

Friday April 16th
*** DJ Center & Friends ***
Gretchen Parlato on guest vocals
DJs Ian Head & Ant Demby
+ special guests

The Sanctum @ The Tribeca Grand Hotel
2 Avenue of the Americas at White St
Doors: 10PM

Open SVEDKA Bar 10-11PM
*** FREE with RSVP to: rsvp@pushthefader.com

To learn more, view the clip below on Center’s insightful take on making two of my most favorite things: music and food!

The Making of “Everything in Time” from DJ Center on Vimeo.

PS. PROUD OF YOU E!!!! Much love from the ‘Hai!! :-)

and oh my favorite track: “In A Song” ft. Middle Child…………… CAN’T get enough of the sexy throwback spice on this one!!

. . don’t burn the day. .

The Expo is Coming! The Expo is Coming!

WHAT Expo? – you may ask.

THE WORLD EXPO is the answer.

WHAT IS THE WORLD EXPO? – you may ask.

Read below for the answer:

The World Expo is a large-scale, global, non-commercial Expo. The hosting of the World Expo must be applied for by a country and approved by the international World Expo committee. Expo aims to promote the exchange of ideas and development of the world economy, culture, science and technology, to allow exhibitors to publicise and display their achievements and improve international relationships. Accordingly, the World Expo with its 150-year history is regarded as the Olympic Games of the economy, science and technology.

Basically:

Countries that have dough, pride, a sense of techy-cool and a big side of pompousness, gather and show off their goods ala Worlds’ Fair style.

WHEN is it? – you may ask.

MAY 1 – OCTOBER 31, 2010 is the answer.

WHERE is it taking place? – you may ask.

SHANG’HEEEZY is the answer!

I got my ticket yesterday, courtesy of my school. (Hooray for perks!)

Anddddd the Shanghai government was so kind to extend our upcoming 3-day weekend Labor Day holiday to 5 days– (April 30 – May 4)  just for the city of Shanghai, as a “thank you” for putting up with so much, during the city’s overhaul in preparation for the Expo. (Yay! More metro stations!) How nice! (Sweet for me…because while the city handles the opening days of visitors at the Expo… I’mma be off to Seoul as my next travel destination. More on this in a later post….) Andddd on top of extra days off,  Shanghainese residents will also be receiving a free subway card and a free Expo ticket.

So there ya have it folks, I’mma be going to the The World Expo in Shanghai (pretty nifty to add to my “Things I’ve Done” List)… just don’t know exactly when. But being that rumors are being spread of % of unfinished constructions of pavilions, I’m in no rush to check “piles of concrete and pipes.” So in the meantime, I’ll onto my ticket:

and anticipate on being surrounded by some creatively superb architecture…eventually, such as:

China Pavilion

UK Pavilion… made with rods that sway with wind….. “hair-like” effect!

and others I’m not sure of yet (cough.still under construction and the Expo is a couple weeks away.cough.)

For more info and designs, click here.

. . don’t burn the day. .

Flicks >> Sky Dive Wanaka, New Zealand

Looking back…. this is when I officially deemed myself  ”CERTIFIED CRAZY!!!”…. But, I’d do it again!  :-D

Getting ready for take off…

My awesome tandem instructor, Eric….and elevating to our mark of 12,000 feet off the ground followed by a glorious 45 seconds of free fall!…. Pics were taken by another skilled jumper, Mac.  Unfortunately I’m unable to load the video clip online.. so ya’ll will have to wait til you see me in person…or schedule a skype date with moi to view. Trust me, the footage is absolute awesomeness!!

And we meet again…

And the full picture reel… enjoy!

. . don’t burn the day. .