Category Archives: Culture

Osaka, Japan: Play Ball


We headed out to an evening baseball game at the Kyocera Dome Osaka. I loved the deep green of the turf against the vibrant orange of the baseball diamond. Attending a baseball game in Japan is one of the top 10 things you must do when you get the chance. I finally got to hang out with Drew, one of my staff colleagues and a fellow UVA grad (Go Hoos!). He is 3 years younger than I am, but we were both Resident Assistants in college so I knew him from our time on staff, something we both agree changed our lives.

I’ll be the first to admit that I am not a big baseball aficionado, I love going to games for the fresh air, beer and pretzels. The comaraderie of friends laughing in the sunshine. This was no different (minus the sun due to the dome being an indoor sort of thing). Very cool beer dispensing method!

It was fun to watch the Japanese fans root on the Orix Buffaloes (yes, they spell it with an “e”) with their numerous coordinated cheers, the HUGE team flags and their love for each player. Every.single.player. has his own song, and the fans know each one. It was great to crowd watch because in between bouts of riotous cheering the Japanese fans are very sedate and quiet. They are either all cheering together or totally quiet, there’s no random hootin’ and hollerin’, its all or nothing.

I had yak noodles and fried squid on a stick at the game, same same..but different (some of yall will get that!).

**In response to the comments: I’m not ready to come home yet, so I banish any such conversation on that topic!

Kobe, Japan: So Sushi


The weather in Kobe is gorgeous. Just perfect for strolling and hopping on and off the impressively spotless rail system. The people are all smiles and style. Everyone is rocking either the Armani businesswear or the Hipster kid/Hip Hop/Glam Grunge look. They definitely appreciate individuality and artistic expression. We hit up Uoyatei for some conveyor belt sushi. Real sushi, not that supermarket stuff (that I confess that I love). Fresh wasabi, sweet ginger, hot green tea – spring in Japan. Amazing.

Beijing, China: Afro-licious


I decided not to buy these snacks (shrink wrapped chicken parts) before boarding my 22 hour overnight train to Beijing. Unfortunately I bought this (Diet Coke with Lemon) which tastes like a mix of lighter fluid and well…lemon. I really didn’t know what to expect of the train but I was woefully surprised when I realized that in China…they make things to their own physical proportions. So being 1.5 Chinese folks wide and about 3-6 inches taller I was in for a night of pure hell in terms of physical (dis) comfort. I had the last “hard” seat and there were no sleepers available. So I prepared myself for a long night of sitting upright with my legs crammed under a small table and a Chinese guy with the most awesome hair ever tucked up against my side. But here’s what happened:

The train was oversold so there were 13 of us in a space that “normally” would seat 10 people. I was the only American/non-Chinese person in a 200 mile radius. I hadn’t seen any of my SAS compadres in 2 days and I know 3 phrases in Mandarin (Hello, Thank You, You’re Welcome). I questioned the sanity of my solo travelling decision with no prospects for communication or company and a night with no sleep on the agenda. But, I ended up having the most hilarious time in my train car.

The Chinese are not a “warm and fuzzy” people. This at first took me slightly off guard being an over the top southern girl but I realized that if I lived with almost a billion people…I probably wouldn’t smile and say “hello” to anybody either, that’s a lot of grinning and waving. But the night on the train gave me the opportunity to observe the wonderfully warm, collectivist culture of the Chinese via two examples. First, in our car of 100+ people, 15 men didn’t have tickets for seats. So they were standing up, ostensibly for 15 hours. It never occured to me to proffer my seat to any of them but that is exactly what all the other men on the train did. All of the guys sitting in aisle seats would rise after a time and insist that a guy who was standing take his seat. Like they ordered them to sit down. There was no negotiation, no clock watching, no requests for someone to get out of their seats. For 22 hours I watched men who did not know each other, care for one another in the most basic way.

I was as you can probably imagine, quite the curiosity. Most Chinese people haven’t seen many, if any african americans and certainly none that are female, taller/larger than them and sporting an afro and settling into a cross-country train car like she belonged there. I got the normal stares and points and giggles (never mean spirited) that all of us of african american descent have gotten in Asia, but it didn’t bother me. I knew people were interested in my hair (huge afro at this point) and so I would bow and indicate that they could touch it and they did, which would send them and everyone else into a fit of giggles. Fun for them, fun for me. Breaking down cultural barriers one afro at a time (sounds like a t-shirt, no?). Plus, the guy sitting across from me was totally down with me stretching my legs out on either side of his to relieve my agony.

The second example of the warm Chinese spirit occured at dinner time. At about 9pm people started breaking out food from all sorts of places, one guy had drinks, another had some type of beef, someone else bought enough rice for all of us, and people started digging in. I was handed a pair of chopsticks and a spoon and via hand gesture, commanded to join in the food. Being my shy self I thanked them all, tossed in my ginormous bag of pretzels and a pack of gum, thanked the dude for the iced green tea, and joined them in the impromptu potluck. I should mention that only 4 of the 13 of us knew each other (two pairs of friends). So this was a touching moment for me, sap that I am.

After a while it emerged that two guys spoke a little english and a woman in our group of 13 spoke pretty good english. So the three of them served as translators. So while we sat up all night and I watched the guys play cards, someone would tell me the gist of what was going on in the conversations. They invited me to play cards, but I couldn’t for the life of me figure out the game, so I settled for shuffling and cutting the deck for the guy who was losing. We talked about their culture (what they did and didn’t like), USA culture, movie stars, music, what we did for fun…the usual “getting to know you” stuff with a Mandarin twist.

After 22 hours, awake on a train (no rats this time!) I felt a comraderie with my seatmates and it must have been mutual because:

-Gabriel invited me to a wedding the next day (and followed through with the address, etc via e-mail)
-When it was time to get off the train there were hand clasps and smiles all around and one guy kept saying “they really like you”
-3 of the other 12 wouldn’t leave me until they deposited me at my hotel in Beijing, despite being tired, ready for food and a shower, they escorted me (literally) to my hotel
-I met up with the aforementioned 3 and 3 of their friends the next night to chow down and hang out
-Gabriel continues to e-mail me despite our language barrier, and my inability to attend the wedding (no formal clothes and a pre-booked day tour)

What I did in Beijing

1. After 3 nights of little to no sleep, sketchy hostel sheets and an afro and wardrobe full of cigarette smoke (they can smoke anywhere here in China), I checked myself into the very posh Beijing Hotel and rolled around on the very comfortable featherbed after a long shower.

2. The Great Wall. Amazing, inarticulable. Worth the 3 hour round trip drive but next time I will go to a less popular spot. There were thousands of people. It was like Disneyland on the 4th of July. But the pictures you’ve seen don’t come close to the spectacular hugeness and longness (i know they aren’t words!) of the wall. Its like when you see the Grand Canyon after only seeing pictures your whole life.

3. The Summer Palace. Set on a man made lake, it was a great way to cool off from clambering around the Great Wall and the architecture is amazing. The history had me totally engaged and wanting more.

4. Tianamen Square. Impressive in size but after 5 minutes you realize its just a piece of outside with an intriguing and important historical moment attached to it. It is framed by 4 important buildings though. 3 of which we couldn’t get into because they are renovating in preparation for the 2008 Olympics.

5. The Forbidden City. Large pictures of Chairman Mao and amazingly interesting history of this home to 3 Chinese dynasties. Over 9000 rooms, lots of Feng Shui and architectural elements and also about a million people visiting on the same day.

6. The Jade Factory. I didn’t like the fact that tour guides pretty much have to take you here in an attempt to get a captive audience to buy something. It reminded me of the rickshaw drivers in India. But I learned all about the different types of Jade, how to tell real from fake, how it is carved and polished and what they are used for, etc. Totally nerdtastic which you know I love. Then I said thanks and figured if they didn’t mind wasting my time without my permission, I shouldn’t feel bad about not buying something I didn’t want. Plus the cheapest thing in the place was $25 US for some knick knack crap. I still enjoyed it though.

7. The Pearl Factory. Same concept, same method of captive audience but again I loved learning all about the pearls, oysters, harvesting, real vs. fake, and I even got two tiny pearls for free!

OH, I thought you said “Drinking Blogger Award!”


Though my internet connection is expensive, slow and generally non-existent, I’m still soaking up some linky-love! First, Marilyn over at California Fever tagged Funchilde for a “Thinking Blogger” award. As if that wasn’t enough, my colleague Adrienne from Gadling, nominated one of my shots from India for the “Photo of the Day” on April 14th.

So, as part of the “Thinking Blogger” award/meme, I’m supposed to nominate 5 (five) bloggers for this award. This is a virtually impossible task for me because I read so many and I only read blogs that make me laugh or make me think. So I’m going to highlight some blogs that I normally wouldn’t/don’t mention here.

Mad As Hell Club: I don’t even know how to describe this. Just read their description here. They aren’t happy with the way things are going and they’re using their brains and creative talent to give voice to some solutions and ideas. AND they are pretty funny if you like smart, fast, acerbic wit.

Lynne D. Johnson: If I wasn’t me, I’d want to be Lynne Johnson. She’s smart and her profile resonates with me, black, feminist, hip-hopper, nerd. She writes and publishes on several spaces/platforms and I have been following her off and on for about 2 years. I found her current platform through Swirl’s blogfeeds.

J. Brotherlove: Freelance writer, web designer, and all around smart guy. Love his socio-cultural view on events and personalities. Just when I think I’ve got something figured out, I wander over and J blows me away with his perspective.

Opinionistas: Reformed lawyer chick Melissa Lafsky in Manhattan. “A continuous examination of the ridiculousness of human behavior”-how could you not rush to check out something with a tagline like that? Her acerbic wit and biting commentary on the legal profession specifically, and mundane office work in general make me laugh and make me think about how I’m living my “work” life.

The Happiness Project: Gretchen’s posts are at once personal and intellectual, social commentary and scientific examination-all on the subject of happiness. She and I would have almost nothing in common except a love of reading from what I can tell (she doesn’t enjoy listening to music—WHAT?) but I dig the way her brain works and the tips, insights, quotes and struggles to obtain and maintain that elusive zen state.

So get to it, I’ve just handed you nuggets of gold with which you can further delay doing actual work or performing necessary errands.

Things I’m thinking about:

Should I head to Beijing from Hong Kong?
Tragedy at VA Tech
RIP Kurt Vonnegut
Don Imus controversy

Cape Town, South Africa: Falling in Love

Wow. 24 hours in Cape Town and I can tell you that I think I want to live here at some point. Like now.

Yesterday was one of the most random days I’ve ever had in terms of activities, conversations, events.

After the diplomatic briefing I was cleaning up some conversations and giggling about various things when the Archbishop stops in front of me with the Premier of Cape Town and proceeds to introduce me to him. Yeah, you read that right. Archbishop Tutu introduced me to the Premier of Cape Town. Which is like having Oprah introduce you to Governor Arnold Schwartzenegger. Wild.

It gets better (and since we’re name dropping anyway)…I got to meet Arch’s wifey! She’s adorale, and together they are the most smiley, 64 teeth showing powerhouse of compassion you can imagine. I’ve had breakfast and dinner with the Arch a few times and he’s always joking me about my relative (to him I guess) youth and I’m always asking him “are you causing trouble young man?” so yeah, I’ve got inside jokes with an amazing guy. More on that later, back to yesterday….

So afer trampling everyone down the gangway I figured out how to get some money (south african “rand” = 7.11/ US $1) then we hit “Docks” restaurant and scoped out tickets for Robben Island (where Mandela was imprisoned for 18 of his 27 years). Due to the high demand, tourist season and general interest, by the time we got to the ticket office there was nothing available until Monday so we laid down our rands (and don’t you always feel super rich when you have foreign currency?” The notes are like 1,000 rand and you feel all wealthy until you realize its only about $145 and you’ve spent half of it on wine, music, peri-peri wings, and the like…wait, maybe that’s just me.

We roamed around all afternoon before checking our bank accounts online (alot of people got ATM bombed in Salvador and have watched scary amounts being withdrawn from their accounts). We watched this guy (pictured above) perform a street show that was the best worst thing I’ve ever seen. His shenanigans were more like a train wreck than a feat of amazing accomplishment, but as I’ve said before…I lurve an entreprenuerial spirit, plus he probably makes more money than I do.

After freshening we ran out to meet up with our waiter from lunch out for cocktails at Manegbas, a jazz bar (Jazz Safari begins!). I cut out after an hour to head to U of Cape Town theatre for an evening of high culture and froo-froo artsy type stuff. It turned out to be pretty great. Red wine, good food and appearances by the director tend to have that affect on me I guess?

After getting our culture on, we changed clothes and hit Cantina Tequila (yes a Mexican bar in South Africa!) then cabbed it over to Long Street which was packed with bars, clubs, pubs, etc and we got our dance on until it got too hot at Marvel. The music was phenomenal, but I need a fire code to be enforced and for there to be an observed “maximum capacity” for these places! there were 4,234 people in a little corner spot that might have fit 200. I didn’t stay inside long because I had taken off my money belt (its pretty safe most places here) and had my coolpix in one front pocket and my cash and a credit card in another. It was too packed in the dance spots for me to be able to guard my pockets well so we just danced out front behind the velvet rope. As tends to happen, we wrapped up the night (3AM for me) with a stop for some Peri Peri wings! I LOVE Peri-Peri sauce (an african hot sauce) and want to bring bottles of it home with me.

Tomorrow should be low key since I’m the Duty Dean and have to stay within 10 miles of the ship in case of any emergencies. After getting to sleep at 4AM, I’m not going to complain. Pics later when I find cheaper internet.

Wait, yall thought I was falling in love with a person? Not this time around, but this feels just as wonderful.

Killington, VT: See You At The Top


I generally really enjoy each and every day, and the last 7 months my work has felt not much different from my play. BUT, I can finally admit out loud that though I lurve to travel…I hate traveling for work. I can’t get into a routine, can’t sign up for a class or get involved in anything spiritual/volunteer/civic. I enjoyed Atlanta last week and I’m off to Wyoming this week for a NOLS board meeting. Trips to Cincinnati, New York and Miami sit on the horizon and all I can do is sigh. The grass is always greener, no?

I am now working on 3.5 clients and really enjoying all of them for the same reason…the people. Friday I kept saying to myself “I can’t believe I get paid to do this…” I got to hear Audrey Kania speak and later that evening got to hang out at a “wine pairing dinner” led by W.R. Tisch, with Diane Darling as the Keynote speaker. That my friends is not a bad day in my book.

I’m in New England and it is cold already. Beautiful, but cold. They predict the first snows in mere weeks, not months. Saturday I got to hang out with the craziest professor I’ve ever met and a bunch of her friends and we went down to North Hampton, Mass to a craft fair (hey, I’ll try anything once) and I got to meet Emerson Matabele! I lurve his work, his vision and his presence, I rarely meet people that make me feel like I need to step up my game, but he did, the professor did, a soon to be professor did, this big client gig…definitely requires stepping up. I’m struggling and yearning to get to the next level, but I feel like I don’t have many mentors or champions, many people that can help me break through. I’m constantly pushing others, friends, family members, colleagues and I don’t have many people that are pushing me…ambition is a party of one.

Today was beautiful, likely one of the last “let’s go outside and play” days for this We went up to Killington and took the gondola up to the top and got some amazing shots of the view. The place was swarming with mountain bikers, rock (wall) climbers, hikers, and the like. I realized that I was somewhat excited about maybe taking a snowboarding lesson or getting back on some skis, that maybe a snowmobile class would be fun and that I had enough dri-wick shirts to make it bearable. A smile crept from my cheeks to my eyes because I realized I’ll always want to GO farther. DO more. BE better. You can take the child out of the fun, but you can’t take the FUN out of the CHILDE. Wyoming awaits.


Peace Out: Crocodile Hunter

I don’t usually blog about “News” type stuff around here because, well, you can get it elsewhere and I’m narcissistic like that. But I was saddened by the passing of Steve Irwin best known as the Australian Personality and Wildlife Conservationist: The Crocodile Hunter. I was a fan for about 5 minutes in the late 90’s but I’ve always liked the guy’s zest for life. He’s the perfect example of sliding into your grave sideways and Going Big. Peace out Crocodile Hunter.

I’m Glad That I’m Me


A funny girl from Canada recommended “Running With Scissors” a few weeks ago. I had heard great things about Augusten Burroughs’ writing, and many critics compare him to David Sedaris. Now, Sedaris is one of my top 10 favorite authors of all time so I was a little skeptical about this, but I have to admit Burroughs tells a story that is like stumbling across a horrific accident: you can’t help but watch while holding your breath and thanking God that its not you. Funny, endearing, frightening and upsetting because it is a memoir…this one ain’t for everybody, but I thoroughly enjoyed it.

So, bring it on. What are some of your favorite books or books that you recommend?

PS – Happy 30th Birthday to my favorite sister!

Mary (Necessary)


Wow. We went to the Mary J. Blige concert in Virginia Beach last night and it was one of the top 3 performances I’ve ever seen. I own every MJB record, every version of every song. To see her live has been on my Mondo Beyond list for a while and it was worth the wait. I was 19 the year her first album dropped (What’s the 411? 1992) and it is to this day one of the top 5 albums of my lifetime. Me and my 3 roommates listened to this CD for literally the entire first semester of our 2nd year at UVA. Picture us: a black, a white, a philipino and a 1/2 mexican chick all coming of age to one of the most influencial records in hip-hop/soul history with the CD on permanent “repeat” mode. Yeah, it was that good.

It was quite simply an experience. She sang with all of her heart, you could tell she loves to perform and that her work is so obviously the story of her life (heartbreaking, inspiring, soul mending). The closest performance I’ve seen in recent years is Erykah Badu at the Sugarwater Festival in Charlotte last summer. It was the kind of night you don’t want to end (and its 2am so that is saying something).

So tell us…what is the best/most memorable concert/performance you’ve ever seen? and what made it so special?

*photo by Michael Kurman