writer, teacher, traveler, and lazy gardener

Category: Travel (Page 4 of 5)

“Chinito”: A Tagalog Pop Song Makes a Home in My Brain

Every time I return from a trip to the Philippines my head is practically exploding with memorable experiences. I’ll be creating a video series to share what is fascinating, beautiful and bewildering about my birthplace. So stay tuned! They’re coming soon!

In the meantime, I have to share this sweet pop song called Chinito by Yeng Constantino. I heard it everywhere: on the car radio and in the malls. I even heard it blaring out of a bar at 8 a.m. when I was walking along the Legazpi waterfront. Like all good pop songs, it’s about romantic stirrings, has a bouncy melody and great song structure, and is maddeningly infectious. My understanding of Tagalog is weak so my cousin translated that the song is about a girl who is attracted to a Chinese boy, endearingly referred to as “Chinito.” She’s hoping that he’ll notice her. The video is super cute, too. See for yourself.



Away We Go: Travel Necessities

I’ve got a trip to the Philippines coming up and I’ve started to think about what to pack. The Philippines has basically two seasons: dry (March to May) and rainy (June to November). There’s ostensibly a “cold season” (December to February), but temps are well into the 80s-90s and humidity is around 70%, so who are we kidding?

For me there is only one season that matters the most: bug season. And it’s all year round! Mosquitoes, black flies, no-see ums, devour me. If I’m in a room of 50 people and there’s one mosquito, it will find me like a heat seeking missile. During one trip years ago, my leg was so chewed up the bites had merged into one gigantic itchy welt. I recall whimpering, a lot.

Besides the usual passport, money and camera, insect repellant is my tropical must-have. Many swear by Deet-based sprays. After some of the toxic liquid spilled in my backpack and melted the inner plastic liner, I swore off the stuff. Imagine what it does to your flesh! I now use only citronella oil-based sprays and my secret anti-bite weapon: coverage. I wear long, lightweight pants and no shorts. The less juicy, exposed flesh, the less temptation for those wretched bugs.

Throughout my years of going to faraway places, I’ve picked up some tips. Here are a few that will help make your journey easier:

Forgo checked luggage and take carry-on whenever you can

Bringing only a carry-on bag forces you to travel light. I follow designer Diane von Furstenberg’s packing rule: if you don’t plan on wearing an item more than three times, leave it at home. With just a carry-on, you can waltz off the plane and avoid the slog at the baggage carousel. And you never have to worry about the airline losing your stuff.

Learn your hellos, please and thank you’s

Knowing these few phrases in the language of your destination will go a long way. Before a trip to Korea, I watched YouTube videos to learn them. Proper Korean pronunciation is super hard, so I had to practice a lot.

Speaking these phrases, shows your hosts and people you interact with that you respect their culture and made the effort to learn about it. In turn, you get positive interactions and better service. This is especially true in France. Entering a shop without saying hello to the owner or sales associate will peg YOU as rude, and not worthy of civility in return.

Alert your bank

Let your credit card company and bank, if you plan on using your ATM card to withdraw money, know when and where you’ll be traveling. Being unable to withdraw money is heart stopping, so contact them before you go. Otherwise you might get stuck without cash.

Bring a copy of your passport

If it’s lost or stolen—mine was, long story—a copy will come in handy at the U.S. Embassy. I usually keep the passport in a safe place where I’m staying and roam about with the copy.

Enjoy the moment

After all the preparation—I admittedly do a lot of research: what to do, where to go, what to eat—let the now unfurl. It’s the unexpected moments that make traveling such an excellent adventure.

Do you have some travel essentials? Please share!

Agony and Ecstasy in the Desert

“Don’t touch the cactus.” The woman’s cautious tone bounced off the granite walls of Wonderland of Rocks. “Don’t touch the cactus!” she said, this time louder for she was quickly drowned out by the sound of high-pitched children’s laughter and babbling.

Four of us were sitting high up on a boulder contemplating the geological formations surrounding us as the group of three adults and several small children—ages 4 to 8—came into view. We had just finished our hike and had paused to take in the sunshine and marvel at the geological “miracle” at play.

Located in Joshua Tree National Monument, Wonderland of Rocks is an incredible network of jumbled granite formations. It’s a destination for avid hikers, rock climbers and geology enthusiasts. I had always thought of myself as more of an ocean person rather than a desert person. I grew up near it, love water activities and the ocean’s restorative properties. But when I spend any time in the desert I take to it instantly. There’s something so calming about the arid landscape. Yet it also has this weirdly sinister vibe that I find intoxicating and scary. No doubt because the desert can easily kill you.

The lively family rounded a bend and disappeared. We heard their chatter continue. It sounded like they’d found a place to stop and picnic for the adults gave instructions to the kids to help spread out a blanket.

“Don’t touch the cactus!” the woman, presumably one of the mothers, repeated. There was a brief moment of silence. Then suddenly, a shriek followed by agonized crying. My group shared a chuckle. That’s the thing about the desert, sometimes … you just have to touch the cactus.

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