It is the Fourth of July in Chongqing, China, and I am in a bar with four other Americans and a crowd of Chongqing locals. We are all staring at a beer drinking competition being held for those celebrating Independence Day for a country approximately 7,000 miles away. Many locals participate as well, chugging Tsingtao beer as fast as they can while friends cheer them on — this is not just an “American” pastime in China.
Japan is either hot or cold with one comfortable day in between. That is what I've found in my experience of living in Japan so far. About a three-hour bullet train ride north of Tokyo sits the lovely mountain town of Yamagata City situated perfectly within Yamagata Prefecture. When July comes into season in Yamagata it is a time of vibrant activity within the town. July marks the season of the Sakuronbo Cherry and the Hanagasa Festival, which celebrates the harvest and the cherries. The cherries are ripe for the picking at this time and it's quite difficult to not eat them as they are exceedingly delicious. The region is famous for its rich abundance of fruits. The quaint town of Obanazawa lies just to the north and yields watermelons, which cannot be stored in any size refrigerator. Every town celebrates their signature fruits and this naturally creates weekly farmer's markets that celebrate cultural events rather than our American practice of simply providing a space for local vendors to sell their goods.
It’s hard to put the last five months living abroad into words. I’m keen for my next adventure and I’m still processing my exchange experience and the profound effect it had on my life.
If there’s one thing I hate to do on holiday, it’s forgetting to bring something with me! What with the stress of last minute packing (which is often experienced by procrastinators like me), the rush to the airport and the awful feeling of "I feel like I’m missing something," sometimes, forgetting something is inevitable! So today, in an attempt to help stop that dreaded moment of realisation from ever occurring again, I thought I’d share with you my top essentials for the beach!
Into the darkest untamed jungles of Amazon went Percy Fawcett, the man who never returned. The Enigma of Col. Percy Fawcett has fascinated the media and explorers ever since he vanished in the Amazon rain forest some 90 years ago. He was considered the greatest explorer of his day. Like Amelia Earhart a decade later, both leave a lasting legacy of mystery surrounding their disappearances. To first find out what motivated Percy Fawcett to undertake such perilous journeys only to vanish without a trace is to closely identify with the man himself.
Backpacking is often called one of the best ways to see the world, primarily because it allows people to enjoy the full spectrum of the local color. Backpacking allows you to meet new people, try new foods, and get a real up-close look at how life is abroad.
I couldn't believe that I was in India. Looking over to my left was an alarm clock blinking 10:30 am. At this time the TV was still on, its introductory screen slowly coming in and out of actual sound in the room and my consciousness as well. I had flown into the dark, bustling city at 3 am just hours previously. It seemed that Chennai didn't need sleep, but I definitely did. Hundreds had lined up outside the airport to take guests to places around the city. I had found my connection somehow and then there was a taxi ride on a dirt road surrounded by rush hour traffic. It was dark all the while, although something in the air sensed the early day was beckoning itself in. The flight previously had been equivalent to about two days of flying. The experience was possibly close to being flushed down a toilet and arriving in another world. "Was it possible to be water logged by time?" I felt that right then. Outside people were now working in the blazing daylight. I was in the cool interior of a room. India was packed tightly around me, but there was no judgement. Everybody lived together, weaved in together, made sense together. This was apparent and it was new and unique. I was there to attend "The Oneness Partners Course" with Oneness University. It was a process that I had started four years prior. A deep Chennai sun blossomed slowly over the sky lighting up the world for millions of people as they began another day in their life. I just happened to be present as well in that part of the world. My life was weaving in with India I realized right then.
I rose at about 6:45 and hit the road by 8:30. The plan was to follow the directions I’d looked up on my phone to the local Firestone. However, the area around my motel consisted, in addition to construction sites, also of a bizarre sea of interlocking parking lots with no real “town” amongst them and streets and street signs that operated in ways I hadn’t seen before, so I ended up bungling around for awhile in that area, then driving across a highway into the actual downtown area, which was just as bad, involving narrow one-way streets and wandering lanes. After a bit, I just said “screw this” and opted to hit the freeway for Omaha.