How I Can Afford To Travel!

My most REVEALING post to date! If you've been wondering how the hell I've been able to last traveling this long, well here it is! All secrets are out in the open! This post tells you how I do it, and how YOU can do it too!

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Working On A Cruise Ship

I somehow managed to get myself a job working at a Cruise Ship. This post is an inside look on what it's really like to live and work below deck. You never know... You might be enticed to work for one too, and travel the whole world like me! Read on to find out more...

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Scotland: My Favorite Country In The World

I've been to many places in several different continents, and have seen spectacular beauty... But every time I visit Scotland, every other country pales in comparison. Read this post to find out why at this point, Scotland was and still is, in my opinion, the most beautiful place on Earth...

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On Finding My Bliss In Italy

When you go on big trips like this, however cheesy it sounds, you always do end up 'finding yourself'. And there are moments... difinitive moments when you achieve clarity, contentment, and pure happiness. This all happened to me in Italy. Read my most soulful post to date, inspired by the full moon in Italia...

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On Being Featured In A Documentary

I somehow managed to get myself featured in an upcoming documentary about "Voluntourism". This may be the big break I've been waiting for! The trailer is out - and I'm in it! It looks so good, I'm so excited! See for yourself... watch it here!

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An Epiphany At Cinque Terre

The Cinque Terre is one of my favorite places in Italy. We hiked 5 villages in one day, and it was breathtaking! But something completely unexpected happened on the hike... An encounter with a complete stranger made me realize possibly one of the most important things I need to do with my life...

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My Ayahuasca Experience

Ayahuasca, is by far, the most INTENSE thing I have ever experienced in my life. I died and was reborn. It is both horrific and beautiful at the same time... I can't explain it in a few words. You HAVE to read my story to believe... I promise it will be worth your while...

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Thursday, December 29, 2011

10 of 30: Volunteering Part 3 - Doing It For The Kids

Helping Children. THAT’S what it’s all about! I don’t know why it took me a while to figure this out. You ALWAYS win when you help kids! That’s why when my friend, W, asked me if I was available to help out, I was more than happy to oblige! I even brought my sisters who were visiting LA at the time!

The organization is called The Art of Elysium. They are an organization that encourages working actors, artists and musicians to voluntarily dedicate their time and talent to children who are battling serious medical conditions.

Well, I am not a working actor, artist or musician… But I play music? And I’m getting pretty good at the Ukulele? Does that count?

W said it does! But this particular event we were helping out on needed artists.

I can’t draw!!!

W said it was okay. They just needed our help, helping kids decorate some bags with artsy paint and sticky things. Like arts and crafts class…

I was fine with that. :)
The event was an outdoor picnic and fundraising RUN benefiting kids diagnosed with Rett Syndrome.  

Rett syndrome is a disorder of the nervous system that leads to developmental reversals, especially in the areas of expressive language and hand use. Rett syndrome occurs almost exclusively in girls and may be misdiagnosed as autism or cerebral palsy.

I have to admit that I’d never heard of Rett Syndrome till that day. All of the kids were in wheelchairs. They couldn’t talk, walk, or communicate properly. Most of them had their heads tilted to the side, and did jerky movements with their hands. I could tell why Rett could be misdiagnosed as autism. They moved the same way as autistic children.

What struck me about the whole thing was how loving their families were to these children. All of them had devoted sisters, mothers, fathers or grandparents… doting on them, by their side the whole time. I was touched, and I was instantly glad I was there helping them out.

When we arrived at the park, we arranged all of the art materials on a couple of tables. Got all the paint and stickers and colored glue sticks assembled properly for the kids to have easy access to them. They also had face paint available. I was intrigued.

W is a pretty good artist. I’ve seen some of her work hung in her apartment, and so the obvious choice for face painter was her. But they needed a few more people to help out.

I don’t draw – but I’m not horrible. I can copy really well, so all I needed to do was look up “face painting” online, and I was ready to go! All I need was a face to practice on.

As it turns out, W was thinking of the same thing.
So we practiced on each other! She drew a seahorse on my cheek, and I drew flowers and stars all over her face!

I had so much fun doing it, I started painting over my sisters faces too! 

Pretty soon, we had all these kids lining up to get their faces painted. We developed our own unique styles! W was the skilled artist who could draw animals, my sister drew cute Halloween creatures, and I turned each of my kid into a Sailor Moon character!

The children were adorable… And their families were so grateful to us for what we were doing. They genuinely thought the face painting was brilliant. Wow… who would have thought? We just fell into this craft. We didn’t even think we knew what we were doing at the start… Didn’t realize how happy we could make them!

Having fun with the paint!

W in action! I think she was drawing a lizard on the kids arm.
Apart from the face painting, the organization had us prepare a crafts table where the kids could make their own bags, and design it with paint and sticky thingamabobs. It was an awesome hot mess, and the kids and their families had a great time.

There was love all over. That was the best observation I had that day. I didn’t even notice the sickness. There was laughter, paint, face paint, food, smiles and balloons. I’m sure that when the families went back home, they had to face the realities of Ret Syndrome, just like they do everyday. I can’t pretend to know anything about it, but I’m sure it’s not easy.

But I’m glad, that at least for that afternoon, I got to experience and share a few hours of happiness with the kids and everyone there.

The Art of Elysium invited us to another program they have to help kids and teenagers who are physically disfigured to gain more confidence.

I can’t wait to help out. :)

My sisters and our painted faces!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

9 of 30: Volunteering Part 2 - Helping The Rich, Gay and Fabulous

Through Project Angel Food, I was introduced to people in another pretty active non-profit organization called – APLA – Aids Project Los Angeles, which is an organization that dedicates their time improving the lives of people with HIV disease.
One of my co-bartenders from the Project Angel Food event sent me an email saying APLA was in need of volunteers for their Art Auction event. She mentioned the word “celebrities” in there somewhere, and so of course I was only too happy to help out!

I was assigned as the receptionist for the night, checking people in, giving them their bracelets, ushering the VIP’s to their areas, etc. I saw a few minor celebrities, and met a few new people. The organization fed us a really nice dinner too! It was pretty awesome!

I made friends with the head organizers of the APLA events, and because they liked me, they kept emailing me for fun APLA events they needed help on.

Okay. It’s probably not that surprising that APLA is pretty much a gay pervaded organization. What was surprising to me was the fund raising events they hold, and how RICH these gay men actually are!

The next event I attended or, shall I say, was ‘employed’ for, was a Pool Party at one of APLA’s top dog’s house.  I’m not sure what his position is --- he could be a VP of some sort.
Anyway, his house is nice and everything, but his pool is probably just 10 meters long and 5 meters wide. But they were expecting around 200 people in there! I thought they were a bit insane for even considering this, but as more people turned up, I started to understand why it wasn’t a problem.

Let me backtrack.

I got there, and I was assigned to be a check-in lady. I’m supposed to check if the guests are ‘on the list’, and if not, I was to charge them 125 dollars to get in. I took a quick tour of the pool area before I started working. There were 2 bartender stations, a small pool, and a food area. There’s a small walkway leading up to it that had drink stations as well. This party was packed with alcohol.
As I walked back to my check in station in the front of the house, a young and really good looking and shirtless guy walked passed me, and said, “Hello there,” – in a BRITISH accent.

OK I know this is a stupid cliché, but this was actually one of the moments when someone literally “had me at hello.”

I said “hey” back a little too enthusiastically, and my jaw dropped when I saw him stripping down to his underwear when he got to his post.
He was one of the bartenders.
And the bartenders served in their underwear.
He had a sixpack.

But my heart sank just as quickly as it soared at the sight of him. I remembered I was in a gay event. So he was probably and most likely gay. Urrgh.
As I walked back to my post, I tried to remember the reason why I was there in the first place. It was to HELP, and not to gawk.

But then when people started to show up, I realized it was impossible not to gawk, stare,  or ogle with my mouth open. All of the gay men checking in with me were buff, or chiseled, or topless, and smelled good… They were all Greek gods… and rich ones at that. And it didn’t help that they were all so nice to me too! Complimenting my hair, my skin, calling me Pocahontas… Aaarghhh! I was losing my mind!

I didn’t realize that my ‘bosses’, J and R were observing me the whole time. They were amused at my pain. I asked them about my British bartender, trying to confirm if he was gay or not. J said, “Honey, you know you’re in a GAY function, right? Everyone here is gay…”

Sigh. That did it.

“But…” he continued. My eyes lit up, hopefully…
“I think your boy is the only straight guy in here.”

I was over the moon! They urged me to go and talk to him, so they gave me a break to go and get a drink from his station. So I did as I was told, and waltzed up to him, and ordered a Jack and Coke.
When he handed it to me, he said, “There you go, my love!”

Damn it. I was a goner.

Those who know me, and know me well, know that when someone speaks to me in a British accent, I couldn’t help but respond the same way --- in BRITISH.

So when I took my drink, I said, “Why thank you, dahling! Whereabouts are you from?” (It has to be said that my British accent is really convincing)

He laughed and said, “I live in London!  Been there?”
“Yes! A few times, actually. I have good friends who live in Shoreditch and Bow”
“Ah! Very cool…” he nodded.

Then, because I couldn’t help it anymore, I half yelled – “Could I take mypicturewithyoubecauseyou’resocute!?”

He laughed again, and said, “Yeah! Sure, love!”
We took the photo, I jumped up and down and said thanks, and ran away.

And there it is. That is the story of how I ruined my chances of having babies with the hot British Bartender.
It’s okay. I was there for a good cause. (And that is what I keep telling myself to this day.)

He's honestly better looking in person!
As I ran back, I noticed the pool area for the first time. And once again, my jaw dropped. There were probably more than a hundred people lounging around the place. There were gogo dancers keeping everyone entertained, about 20 people in the pool splashing about, 30 more standing around it, a whole bunch of people by the food area, and everyone else was scattered, socializing and just having a good time. These guys know how to maximize a space! And I suppose, since they were all practically naked, the closer they were to each other, the better!

When I got back to my station, I showed everyone my photo with the bartender as proof that I didn’t chicken out. And because J was so proud of me, he booked me for another event for the following week.
“Honey, if you think this is hot, wait till you see the Bartender Auction happening next week.”

A Bartender Auction. They gathered about 15 of the hottest bartenders from the hottest bars all over LA, and they were to auction them off to the highest bidder for ONE date. ONE DATE. And apparently those bids go up to more than 5 thousand DOLLARS. It sounded soooo crazy, I had to see it for myself.

This time, they assigned me as a “sales associate” of sorts. About an hour before the actual event, I was tasked to walk around the bar where the event was held, and sell auction paddles, to try and get more people to participate. Again, 100% of the proceeds go to their cause. These people are filthy rich!!!

And may I just say that this gay bar I was in, was oooozing with hot men as usual. But when the bartenders started arriving, that’s when the hotness was promoted to another level. Whoever organized the event really took the time and effort to find the hottest bartenders, and my goodness, hot bartenders they were!
There was a mini catwalk in the middle of the bar… and when the program started, the host called the bartenders up for auction one by one to walk down the catwalk and strut their stuff. Honestly, it looked more like a striptease show. The guys really knew how to work it for the gay crowd. 

The Bartenders up for auction. They look gay, but they're straight!
I had a favorite. His name is Adam. He’s sweet and cute and he called me ‘adorable’ when I came up and talked to him.  I loved him. But I wasn’t the only one who did. When he got up on stage, the paddles started raising before the bidding even started… and at the end of it – he raised a whopping 8 thousand dollars!!! For one date with him – 8 thousand dollars!!! 

This is Cutie Adam

And the organization raised a total of 75 thousand dollars for that bartender auction! 75 grand!!!
Isn’t that crazy? When I heard them say that, I was really taken aback. I mean I know it’s all for a good cause, but it was just a little too bizarre for me. And don’t get me wrong – I did have fun on all of those events! And I know I was able to help them.
But for some reason, I didn’t feel any fulfillment at all! I actually felt a little uncomfortable… Almost like I was getting more out of the whole thing than anyone else because there were free flowing alcohol and hot half naked men!  Yeah I was helping them raise money for their cause… But I don’t know… It just didn’t feel like I’m making much of a difference. It’s all been just fun and games, free food, free hot men…

I haven’t met any of the HIV victims they’re trying to help, or seen any of the real work they actually do, I mean besides all the fundraising efforts like the pool party or the bartender auction.

They are so RICH and they earn their money in the most creative and unconventional ways... which is cool, but not necessarily something I'm completely comfortable with though. I can't put my finger on it... maybe it's my innate desire to help those who are in need, and I guess with all the money APLA has, I don't think they necessarily need me that much.

How I feel about this whole thing is nothing against the organization at all. It’s just me, wanting to really get down and dirty when I volunteer… Immediate gratification, I suppose. Knowing and feeling that I’ve made a difference somehow. And I think that for me to accomplish that, I should focus more on a cause that I feel strongly for.

And at least now, I’m a step closer to finding out what it is… because I know now for sure that it’s not this. APLA is a great organization, with tons of rich people to support them. They will be okay…

Now, it’s time to move on to some place where I’m needed more. :) 
And until I know what that is, I will keep on trucking!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

8 of 30: Volunteering Part 1 - Kitchen and Bartending Duties

My high school did an excellent job of exposing me to the harsh realities of poverty. They immersed us in the culture of those who are less fortunate. We had outreach activities, did field trips out in the provinces or the mountains, slept in the modest huts of our host families, bathed in the rivers with them, raised money with them, and ate with them. These experiences I had while I was young, in my opinion, helped shape my character. Being aware made me grateful for what I had, and eager to give what I could when I can. I took it with me growing up, and as an adult, the yearning to do good and make a difference never left me.
Coming from the Philippines (a former third world country), the concept of poverty in the United States was a little hard to grasp. Which is why it took me a while to get myself into doing volunteer work when I moved to LA. I didn’t think anyone in such a rich country required assistance. But then I realized that one doesn’t need to be poor to need help. There are tons of causes that help the sick, the hungry, the children, etc. All I needed to do was look, and I found that there were a million ways to help!
For this entry, I am going to talk about my first Volunteering opportunity. Kitchen Duty!
It was my company that helped me get the ball rolling. They organized a group volunteer work for Project Angel Food, an organization that helps feed the sick, specifically those who are not strong enough to feed themselves. They cook nutritious and healthy food for them everyday, and they deliver it themselves to those who need it.
The volunteers helped in the kitchen. We chopped some fruits, de-seeded some tomatoes, baked some cookies, packed some dried goods… It was all basic manual labor, and you end up feeling tired but fulfilled! Those are the best kinds of volunteer work – the ones where you really feel like you’re needed, and you actually get your hands dirty!
I was pleasantly surprised at how organized everything was. The main chef assigned each volunteer to a specific task which could be chopping, packing, baking, or cleaning. One could not function properly without the other. It was real team work, and I loved it!

On my first day as a kitchen laborer, I was assigned to chop about 200 pears. We were asked to wear surgical gloves and a hairnet. Every time we went out of the kitchen, we were asked to dispose the gloves, wash our hands, and put on some new ones when we came back. Really clean and orderly!
I did kitchen work a few more times in the span of a few months. Afterwards, I sort of progressed to the EVENTS department. Project Angel Food, in order to raise money for their cause, holds several fund raising events. They ask for volunteers to help out during these functions too, and I was appointed to help out in some of them.

The first event I participated in was an Art Gallery function where famous artists donated some of their work for free to be sold by Project Angel Food. 100% of the proceeds go to the organization!
And my assigned job?


I couldn’t be happier. I mean – I’m technically not that savvy in the ways of the liquor. Luckily, all we had to serve was wine, beer, water and soda. I still had to learn the different types of wine they had there though. They had different whites and different reds. We had to taste all of them too, to make sure we knew what to say when we were asked.
I know, right? The things you gotta do…

Me and my fellow bartenders getting a "shot" in before the night got started

There were 3 of us that worked the bar that night, and I noticed that there were more people queuing up to be served by me than the others. At first it made me a little nervous. Was I just slower than them? And then it made me a little smug. Maybe because I looked pretty hot! But then I remembered that most of the guys there (if not all) were gay. So that wasn’t it.
Then I heard one of the guys a few feet away from me asking his friend where he should line up, and his friend pointed at me and said, “Go to her! She’s a heavy handed pourer! We’ll be drunk in 20 minutes!”
Ahhh. That was it. I had a heavy hand. And a heavy hand meant a full glass = more liquor! I loved it! And they loved me!

The night was hoppin’ and I made so many new gay friends! I was standing and serving alcohol for 4 hours. My legs and back were sore and my feet were wet. But I had the time of my life! I think I could honestly say that it was the best job I’ve ever had!

We weren’t even allowed to take tips – but because of the “tipping culture” in America – everyone kept giving us money anyway! Like they were required to! It was as if they felt bad if they didn’t at least leave a dollar for the nice bartenders who poured them free alcohol!

I ended up earning about 50 dollars at the end of the night (a significantly higher total than the others), and I felt so good about myself! We ended up giving the money to the organization, but still! Not too shabby for a first timer!

I kept volunteering at Project Angel Food after that, and my email address is still in their roster. They  email me if they need help with certain events, and also if they need extra bodies in the kitchen. It’s a really good organization, and the people there seem genuinely passionate about what they do. 
I’m not entirely sure if this is something I can say I’m truly passionate about – but I definitely see myself doing something like this… helping people out as long as my body would let me!

Next Volunteer Gig? Hanging out with the Gay and Fabulous.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

7 of 30: Paddleboarding And The Date I Never Intended

It was bright and early on a Saturday morning when my friend, W, and I stumbled over to Bayshore Park in Long Beach for our first Paddleboarding session.  The hardest part about surfing (for me) is being able to prop myself up on the surf board.  I’m really heavy and it’s extremely difficult to ‘push up’, especially when wet and twice my actual weight. So the idea of just standing on a surfboard with a nice long paddle, channeling the athletic prowess of a gondolier really appealed to me. It’s like surfing without the hard work!
We were greeted by a strapping blonde young lad named Kyle – who reminded me of Dude Crush from Finding Nemo. 

the fundamentals...

“Is this your first time?” he asked. And when I said yes, he nodded his head. “Right on, girl. Right on.”
“Is it fun?” I asked.
“Toootally…” he nodded again.

He handed me in a life vest and walked me over to the paddle boards for my training session. At this point, W already backed out, claiming she didn’t feel very well. I wasn’t too pissed off because losing a paddle boarding partner meant gaining a photographer! She took my camera and all was forgiven.

gently, he says...
There really isn’t much to paddleboarding. I guess the main thing you have to know how to do properly is how to hold the paddle – and even that you can learn in 2 minutes.  Also, to try and NOT fall off the board. I already have pretty good balance to begin with, so everything felt instinctual to me.

I was out in the water after only about 10 minutes of instruction. The sun was out, but not scorching, and the winds were still. It was a perfect day for my activity, and Dude Crush and I merrily paddled around the canals surrounding the Naples area. It really was reminiscent of the Venice Canals – both in Venice Ca, and Venice Italy. It was quiet, calming and very pretty.

The instructors were only supposed to take you out to a certain point, and after that you’re on your own. But because W didn’t come out with me, Dude Crush was nice enough to accompany me around Naples on my full hour. I didn’t even find out about the rules till the very end! What a sweetheart!
We were making small talk as we paddled through and it was cool because he's a nice kid and he was easy to talk to. It wasn’t until a few minutes later when Dude Crush was asking me about my family that I realized what was happening. Two people, in a quiet and romantic location, paddle boarding,talking about each other… alone…

Dude Crush and I were practically on a date! 

I almost fell over at this realization! And just as I was about to plunge down the shallow waters of the canal - head first, he held out his paddle for me to hold on to. My hero! Best date ever!!!

This what I found out about him. His name is Kyle, and not only is he a paddle boarder, he is a surfer and a skateboarder as well (figures)! He is originally from Newport Beach, and he thinks he is going to be fired from his job. And when I asked him why, he just shrugged and said, “The manager and I, man. We just don’t get along…” He didn’t seem to be too bothered by the prospect of losing his employment because according to him, “You can always grow some weed, man. That’s where the money is…”

I liked this kid. :)

My core started to hurt after about 20 minutes. It was a nice surprise to discover that stand up paddling is actually a form of exercise! Great for your abs!

I think Paddle boarding is more of a relaxing activity than an aerobic one though. It’s so quiet in the canals and it’s got quite a nice view too. I thought it was a really chill way to spend a Saturday morning, away from the city. The repetitive motion of your paddling helps keep your mind focused and clear. It was nice! And my good company was a plus too!

I got back to the shore an hour later, happily dry. They said people fall off every now and then, but I’m glad I escaped that fate.

The company I went to is called Stand Up Rentals. I paid 25 bucks for the hour that included the instruction, and it was 25 bucks well worth it! They have an early bird special for coming in before 9am, and you pay only 16 dollars for the hour. They also have Catalina trips and Dolphin Adventures! You literally get to paddle right next to the dolphins – and I wanna do THAT! 

I doubt I'll be coming back this Winter because it's going to be way colder in the canals than it will be anywhere else in Long Beach... I think. But I know that when I grow weary from my troubles, and the city noise overwhelms my senses... When I feel the yearning for a still mind and a light heart, I will hear Dude Crush's call... and I will paddle.

That is, if he still works there. :)

Thursday, November 24, 2011

6 of 30: Anti Gravity Yoga - An Experience That Turned Cirque Du So Lame

It is as cool as it sounds --- if you’re a yogi, or a trapeze artist. I, unfortunately, am neither.  Anti Gravity Yoga is a kind of yoga that is done while you are suspended in a silk hammock. It’s literally a soft trapeze. The only redeeming quality of this frightening concept is that you’re only about 3 feet above ground.  Meaning if you fall, you’re only in danger of breaking your tail bone as opposed to your whole skeletal structure.
Okay. I have to admit, that when I first heard about it, I was intrigued AND excited. The photos looked so cool, and the prospect of swinging about in a hammock like a circus performer was too enticing! I mean, who doesn’t love Cirque du Soleil, right? They put an ad up for a $12 dollar class and I just couldn’t pass it up.

I have only done yoga a couple times in my life. The first time was at a random yoga class at my gym, which wasn’t so bad… And the second time was at the Bikram headquarters in LA – where I ended up with a massive migraine afterwards.  You don’t have to be an experienced yogi (or an experienced anything for that matter) to do Anti Gravity Yoga, but I just wanted to point out that I was a beginner in every sense of the word. 

Which is why when my friend, D, and I came into the studio with these obviously experienced women, it was a little intimidating! I think I raised my hand a little too enthusiastically when the instructor asked if there were any first timers in the class.

At first, it was really simple. The instructor had us position ourselves on the hammock so we could sit on it like a swing. The silk cloth is really strong, and it spreads out pretty wide that it could cover your whole body like a real hammock. I was a little uneasy though because I’m really heavy, and I keep expecting the screws to sort of conk out from the ceiling, causing me to fall flat on my face. The instructor noticed my apprehension and she said to just “trust it” – because it won’t let me fall. And she was right. It didn’t let me fall. It just did something worse.

But we’ll get to that later.

After a few stretching exercises, she started to introduce different poses. I don’t know what these poses are called, but dude. For someone whose limbs aren’t made of rubber band, they were pretty hard core.

I mean these poses, I could do.

Or even these were fine.

But these? You gotta be kidding me.

The instructor kept saying – “Trust it… Trust it.” And I wanted to yell at her and say, “It’s not IT that I don’t trust, it’s ME!” Dude I can’t do no splits??!!
My hammock probably looked like it was on vibrate or something because my body kept shaking... afraid my face might end up carrying my whole weight. I ended up looking like that girl in the photo to the right, wearing the dark green shirt. Imagine that, but a LOT more awkward.

Trufthfully, I was surprised I was even able to pull off the majority of the poses. Apparently, I’m more flexible than I thought I was. And Anti Gravity Yoga could have been something I’d have pursued further --- if it weren’t for the swinging.
The swinging came out of left field. There are certain poses that you have to hold for a minute or so as the instructor SWINGS your hammock.

Yeah, sure. It SOUNDS fun. But it’s not. Especially for someone like me – who has a condition called kinetosis… more commonly referred to as – motion sickness.  
To me, the full blast of my motion sickness happens on boats. And now, apparently, Anti Gravity Yoga as well.
I was trying to hold on till the end of the class, fighting off the nausea that was overcoming my senses. But the poses were getting too extreme for me that I had to yell “uncle!” for the instructor to give me a break.
She said – “No worries. Let’s put you in the cocoon position to let the hammock cradle you so you can relax”

This is the cocoon position.

I was all too happy to oblige. I didn’t mind just laying there till the rest of the class finished.
But then, without any warning, the swinging started again. I didn’t even notice her gentle nudge after she wrapped me in the silk. Shit.
My heart started pounding. Almost immediately, the bile started rising up to my throat. I closed my eyes thinking it would help, determined to keep it in till the end of the class but it only made it worse. Soon enough, the whole room started spinning and I felt like I was gonna be sick.

It took me a whole 2 minutes to wiggle my way out of the stupid cocoon. And when I was finally free of it, I ran to the bathroom and threw up. Thank goodness I didn’t ruin their precious hammocks.  And thank goodness I only ate half of my chalupa for lunch.
I went back into the room and realized my friend, D, was also out of her hammock. She also felt a little nauseous, but she had enough sense to hop out of her hammock before it got worse. The instructor saw us and gave us some soda. She said it helped with the nausea.

So there we were, sipping our Sprites, watching the rest of the class cocoon their way into slumber.  “It doesn’t really do anything for your body, “ says D, who is a personal trainer, by the way.
“Really??” I asked.
“Not really.  Not so much impact. Carrying your body weight for 5 seconds, stretching and swinging? It’s fun, but it doesn’t do much for your body.”
I felt better about myself.  There’s a possibility she only said that so I won’t feel like such a failure, but I didn’t care. It worked :)

I thought about the experience on the drive home. It was definitely an interesting kind of exercise. Maybe if the instructor just gave a little more, I dunno, instruction maybe? Then it probably wouldn’t have been as difficult. It was hard to compete with a room full of veterans. And it was embarrassing to be the one to slow everyone down – so I didn’t ask for too much help either. I decided it was probably too early to write off this aerial aerobic yoga thing. After all, it was only my first time.  Who knows? Maybe after two or three sessions, I could pass for a circus freak and twirl around in that hammock! Yes, a second attempt was in order.

I got home and threw up again.

Maybe not.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

5 of 30: Joining a Triathlon - But Not Quite A Triathlete

I participated in the Nautica Malibu Triathlon back in September 2007 as a swimmer, so technically, I just did a second take of what I’ve already done 4 years ago. But back then, I only did it because I thought it was going to be fun. I had just moved to the states then, and was yearning to make friends (which I did!). This time, I was doing it because I wanted to see if swimming or doing triathlons is something I could really get into as a sport. Four years ago, I was just too happy to be part of a team, I didn’t care about my form, my swim time or my technique. This time around, I did! 

I was part of a relay team. I was the swimmer, and my coworkers, A and R were my biker and runner, respectively. The whole race course wasn’t so bad --- a half a mile swim, 18 mile bike ride and 4 mile run. Honestly, if it weren’t for my bum knees, I probably would have trained to do the whole thing. But back in 2008 when I trained  to do the bike portion of the race, I injured myself and ended up using crutches for 3 weeks. I would’ve blamed it entirely on my granny knees, but if you’ve seen the hills of Malibu where the bike course was laid out, then you’d probably have a little more sympathy for me.

Anyway, I was happy to do the swim again. It’s easy to train for it because there are so many public pools in and around my area. I’d just jump in the water straight after work! And when it got colder, I went to the indoor heated pools! I was swimming so often, my hair turned blonde from the chlorine. Ugh. But it wasn’t so bad. It had its perks too… like meeting Julia Stiles!!!

Like you, I did wonder what a B list actor was doing in a public pool. It stunned me. But then I thought about it… The pools are really clean. And Miss Stiles is from New York, not LA… Her hotel probably didn’t have a pool long enough for her to do laps… And maybe she really is just that cool to hang out with the masses – like me! And as it turns out, she really was! Ahhh Julia… My public pool bestie… I’ll tell you more about our encounter some other time.

So OK. Swimming is hard work. And because I started paying attention to everything, my stroke, my time, etc… I realized I was on the slow side. You see, I was one of those kids that just knew how to swim. I never took any lessons because I’ve been floating since I was three! I’m really buoyant. As in --- I don’t tread in water. I can just stay perfectly still and I won’t sink. It’s a weird anomaly, I know, but it’s true. And as for the strokes, I’m pretty good at mimmicking people, so that’s all I did. I never learned any proper techniques. That’s probably why when I started timing myself, I realized I wasn’t such a strong swimmer after all. I was just someone who wasn’t afraid of the water, because she wouldn’t ever sink!

And so I asked for help. Our team captain, S, is one of those guys who does Iron Man and stuff. He’s a legit superhero. He gave me videos to watch to help improve my stroke. Gave me tips and drills and exercises I could use in the pool… I did them all! Zipper Drills, Superman Drills, etc… We also did several group swims out in the ocean. If you’re doing an ocean swim, practicing in the pool will get your endurance up, but swimming in the ocean is still a dfferent ballgame. The waves are pretty strong, and not to mention the ‘friendly’ animals you might come across that could distract you. There’s a certain fear factor you have to get over when you’re out there, because you’re literally at nature’s mercy. You never know what could happen. Strong waves, baby seals, sharks… But once you get over that, you’re fine. :)

I personally take dramamine (bonamine) before I swim in the ocean. I get sea sick – literally --  because the current sort of sways you while you’re swimming. To me – it feels like I’m swimming in a big boat that’s swaying to the Viennese Waltz. Oh, and even though the waters of Malibu are pretty clean, it’s really dark down there. So you don’t have 100% visibility when you’re swimming… and every now and then, you see seaweeds, stingrays, and seals. One time, there were even dolphins that swam with us, which sounds completely COOL, but when you’re out there, you see a fin, you think – SHARK. So what I do to remedy that is just close my eyes. My mantra is, what I don’t see, won’t hurt me. :)

At the transition area, 5:00am
Of course the problem with that is poor navigation. I usually end up swimming in circles, and my teammates end up exhasperated from trying to look for me all the time.
See? I told you. Hard work.
After a few months of kick ass training, we finally made it to race day. You can’t really explain the feeling of getting to the location at 5 in the morning. The place was buzzing with energy, anxiety and excitement. The swimmer is the first one to go, so I was feeling ALL of that! If you guys ever decide to participate in a triathlon, I can give you one sound advice I wish someone had told me before race day… Here it is… You must pee before you get into your wetsuit.


A, Me and R
Poseidon was in a particularly good mood that day because the waves were almost flat! It definitely calmed my nerves a little bit, that’s for sure. A, R and my sister were all in the shore with me, waiting for me to get started. I was advised to take this energy goo thingie about 20 minutes before I swam. Apparently it gives you an energy boost… makes you super hyper! Honestly, if you’re that nervous, whether that were true or if it’s just a placebo effect, you’ll believe whatever you want just to get you through! I gobbled up that chocolate goo in seconds. 
I ran up to the shore, took my place in the ‘assembly line’, heard the gunshot signaling us to charge, and off I went! First task – swim out into the ocean and reach the first big orange buoy! After that has been  accomplished, make a 45 degree turn to the right and look for the second big orange buoy! And after that has been accomplished, just keep swimming, until you reach the third big orange buoy! And after you do all of that, make another 45 degree turn to the right towards the shore, and swim! Swim! Just keep swimming! And when you get to the shore, you have to make a hundred yard dash to the transition area to tag your biker!
Yep. That's me on the left.

I did pretty well reaching the second buoy. It was trying to get to the third buoy that I encountered some “challenges.” I had forgotten to take my dramamine so I was getting a little queasy. I closed my eyes and just swam through the quease… Then after a few minutes, I noticed that I was swimming alone. My goggles were fogged up so I couldn’t really tell where I was. Could it be? Did I really outswim all the other triathletes? Did I really get THAT good at swimming? I thought to myself.
And just as I was about to give myself a pat on the back, I heard a couple girls yelling – “HEY! Hey you! Other way!! Other waaaay!!!”

The look of pain.
I looked behind me and saw a line of swimmers headed towards the third buoy. I was about 20 meters out further into the ocean, swimming in the wrong direction. 
I started giggling. This is so typical, I thought.
I swam back and thanked my good samaritans (who were giggling also) and headed for the third buoy, eyes opened!

After that little hiccup, everything else went fine. Except maybe for the hundred yard dash you have to make when you get to the shore. That – I think is the hardest part of the swim leg. It’s just you’re so tired from the swim, your legs feel like jelly and you just want to collapse. But no. You have to DASH to the transition area to tag your biker! And it was painful… The only thing that got me through it was the encouraging screams from the crowd. They’re all up there cheering you on… “You can do it! Just keep going! You’re almost there! You’re awesome!”
I don’t know about you guys, but affirmation and positive reinforcement works big time for me. I thought it was really great that people did that! It was sweet! And it did pump me up! It was all that prevented me from collapsing on the sand. 

Then I spotted my sister taking pictures of me.
Collapsing definitely wasn’t an option anymore! I didn’t want proof of me being a weak sauce! So I kept going until I found my biker, gave her the ankle tracker I had, and off she went! I WAS DONE!

Everything else that happened that day was a blur. I was so exhausted from the swim, I wondered how the real triathletes did it – swim, bike AND run… Craaazyyy…
But I guess with proper training, you can do anything. 

Happy teammates!
After doing this for the second time, I realized I really do like participating in triathlons. First of all, it’s for a good cause - we raised money for the Los Angeles Children’s Hospital. That in itself is already rewarding. But then it’s also a good way to promote a healthy lifestyle. I was swimming almost everyday when I was training for it, and it felt good to be that active. And the best part about it – to me at least – is the feeling of being part of a team. It’s fun training with co-workers, and it’s no chore driving to the breathtaking shores of Malibu… (except for that one time I got a speeding ticket).

I’ve signed up to do it again next year, and since I’ve already proved that biking is fatal for me, I’m going to try and do both the swim AND the run. Who knows… maybe I can talk my knee into healing, and I can do the whole thing one day! Anything is possible… 

Conquering the Buoys

Thursday, November 10, 2011

4 of 30: Ziplining – The Death Slide That Really Isn’t

Zip–Line: Also known as flying fox, foefie slide, zip wire, aerial runway, aerial ropeslide, death slide or tyrolean crossing.

I don’t know if you could consider zip lining an extreme sport… I guess to me it just felt like an activity! A fun and aerobic, and maybe a little daring, activity.

I went with my friends, Nelson and Wriss (pronounced Reese) on a chilly Saturday morning. We had booked it with a company called Navitat Canopy Tours that offers ziplining adventures up in Wrightwood, CA – which is located right by Mount High where we go snowboarding. I didn’t know what to expect. But I knew we were gonna have fun!

Wriss, Nelson and I after being properly geared up

There’s a maximum of 8 people per tour, which is a pretty good number. It’s easy to manage, and you don’t have to wait too long for your turn. We were with a couple of teenagers with an adult male supervising them (which I assumed was one of their dads), and a married couple celebrating their 17th wedding anniversary (hard core… I liked them!) Our instructors were these two punk hippie dudes who looked like they were either snowboarders or surfers (or both). They explained that they helped build the course, and that they all made sure they remained “forest friendly,” meaning they never did anything to hurt any of the trees in there during construction, which I thought was really nice.

After a really bumpy ride in a badass truck deep into the forest/mountain (what do I call it??), we had to do a 15 minute hike up to the first platform where we were to do our first zip ride. (We were already wearing our zip lining gear at this point.) The hike wasn’t so bad, but could be a little challenging for smokers. The air is a little thin up there, and the altitude makes it difficult to breathe. They have a couple of water stations at various stops though… but I avoided drinking because I didn’t want to have to pee in the forest. It was a 4 hour tour and I had all that heavy equipment on me.

The reason why you have two guides with you is because one of them helps you lock and load for the zip line, and the other one waits on the other end to catch you – just in case something goes wrong etc. It’s a pretty fine tuned system. Not once did we feel unsafe. The surfer boys really looked like they knew what they were doing, and the equipment we had on felt (and smelled) new! 

Being true to my eager character, I volunteered to go first. We were so high up on one of the trees, but I’ve never really been afraid of heights so it didn’t bother me. One of our guides, Joel, already zipped over to the other end to wait for us. And then I was next. I was being taught how to break (using your palm, press down gently on the line) and do a full stop (both hands gripped tightly on the line on either side of our hooks). I was also taught that the more balled up you are, the closer your form is to a cannonball, the faster you’re gonna fly. The visual they gave us was jumping into a pool in a cannonball position yelling “Banzaaaiiii!”

Right. That sounded like fun!

And after one final equipment check, our tourguide, Josh, gave me the go signal! And without any hesitation, I lifted off and zipped!

Perfect "Cannonball" Position

It was amazing… Totally relaxing. Like I was one with nature. Completely zen

The first zip ride only lasted about 15 seconds – it was the shortest line on the tour. And when I got to the other side, I was eager to do more! Luckily, we had about 10 zip lines to ride, and they only got better and longer!

It was a great feeling, just letting go. We were way up in the forest/mountain, and you can see different shades of green everywhere. It really had a magnificent view! But for some reason, everytime I would go on the zip line, I found myself closing my eyes. It was an automatic instinct. And it wasn’t because I was scared – I wasn’t at all. I guess it just felt natural because I felt so present… So – “ in the moment,” that it was almost meditative… All I was aware of was my breathing. And I guess, in those 15 – 30 seconds of ‘flying’… I felt really alive. But not in a crazy ‘I’m going ziplining’ way, but rather in a calm and content way… If that makes sense… 

My SWAT moment (click to enlarge)
And to shake things up a little bit, part of what we had to do in the tour was rappel from one platform to another. Seriously, I felt like I was in a SWAT team! Swinging down from a rope and kicking and swaying our way down a giant tree? That was freakin AWESOME!
Oh and did I mention we had to cross the most narrow bridge in the world, walking only on ONE PLANK? Yeah.. if anything, that was probably the scariest part of the tour… Although, it took all my self control not to go “planking” on the plank. 

Since we had a small group, it was easy to make friends with everybody. Every time someone got ready to zip line, people cheered them on, yelling ‘whoohoo’s’ of encouragement. It was really sweet! I love it when you get some lovin’ from people you just met! Maybe being around natural habitat makes people a lot nicer! I mean you’re away from all the smog, the traffic, the noise, the stress… It’s quiet and it smells so good! The smell is overwhelming, actually, and in a good way. Like you can actually TASTE the air, it’s so good. Even the trees smelled yummy! Like maple syrup and chocolate. For realz.

Smiling through the fear on the Death Plank
They weren’t kidding when they said ziplining was a “tree based”adventure! You climb ‘em, you rapel from ‘em, you zip line from ‘em, and you smell ‘em!
Also, the forest/mountain is very peaceful… I don’t get a lot of peace living in the city, so being surrounded by trees and birds and being that close to the sky…  That definitely was a breath of fresh air – pun intended.

The whole thing lasted for about 3.5 hours. It sounds like a long time, but it couldn’t have gone faster. I was a little sad when it was over though… It felt like we could have gone on all day. 109 dollars for 10 zipline rides, 3 rappel’s, 3 short hikes and 2 deathly bridges. It was definitely definitely worth it!

Wriss and I with our Surfer Dude Tourguides

Thursday, November 3, 2011

3 of 30: Veganism... The Diet That Made Me Fat

“Being vegan just makes you better than most people”   
-Envy Adams, Scott Pilgrim vs the World.

My favorite food in the world is Bacon. 
Anyone who knows me and knows me well can vouch for this fact. I can eat it for breakfast lunch and dinner, and I sprinkle it on just about everything.

Which is why the thought of going vegan was pretty intimidating.

It was something I decided to try when I found out my friend, J, was doing it as a detox of some sort. He’s a runner, and he had a few marathons lined up. He said he needed to drop weight for it. It intrigued me! All diets intrigued me, actually. I think I’ve tried all the diets in the world, like Atkins, Southbeach, The Onion Soup Diet, The Master Cleanse, The Starvation Diet… But I haven’t tried veganism yet… nor vegetarianism for that matter! It sounded like… a challenge! Plus, I thought I would be really cool to do it with a friend so we could keep tabs on each other! And who knows? Maybe this could be the beginning of a healthy lifestyle! YES, I was excited.
So all I knew about veganism I learned from the movie, Scott Pilgrim. Brandon Routh’s character is vegan, and he had this line that said, “I partake not in the meat, nor the breastmilk, nor the ovum, of any creature, with a face -- Which I assumed meant, no meat, no dairy. Easy. I didn’t have to go to Vegan Academy for that!

Grocery shopping for vegan food was – erm – difficult. Everything in the grocery store I wanted to eat had cheese in it. EVERYTHING! I thought I was gonna get away with buying pre-packed vegetarian food, but they all had dairy ingredients! I’m not particularly fond of raw vegetables and I’m not an expert in cooking them either, so I knew I was in trouble. Mildly panicked, I walked slowly around the grocery store, trying to figure out how I could survive this feat I got myself in. I hadn’t even started yet, and already, I wanted to give up!
But when I got to the fruit area, I calmed down a little. Fruits! I could always eat fruits! Its easy, filling, and I don’t need to cook them!
I stocked my cart with apples, pears, grapes and bananas. Then I saw corn. Corn! I could eat corn! And if I could eat corn, then that meant I could also eat corn CHIPS! And with corn chips, comes salsa and or guacamole! All of those were vegan! I was feeling better already…

I got so used to different types of protein diets where they teach you that carbs were the enemy… Well in Veganism, I kinda had no choice but to eat carbs to make up for the lack of meaty stuff! Wheat pasta, rice and even some bread… I ate them all without guilt! Which was pretty scary, but fun. :)

At work, I bought salads from the food lady that comes around at noon everyday. Sometimes, she would bring me vegan options too… noodles with vegetables and mushroom. I would snack on apples or bananas, throw in some nuts, and every now and then, I’d eat a twizzler. Twizzlers are vegan.

You know what else is vegan? Potatoes. And french fries ARE potatoes.
Soon after this realization, I drove over to KFC and bought myself lots of potatoes. Their fries are yummy. I’d eat them with a side of corn.

Then it became sort of a ritual. Everyday after work, I drove by KFC to pick up my potatoes and corn, and felt really good about my new vegan lifestyle! This isn’t so bad,  I thought! I could eat yummy cereal with soy milk in the morning, which was more than any other diet would have allowed me. I could eat as much fruit as I wanted, which again was a big “no-no” on some of the protein diets I’ve tried because apparently, fruits had too much sugar. Best of all, I could eat bread! Not all kinds of bread, but still… BREAD! And whenever I ate at an Indian restaurant, I could have Naan!

At one point, I even had a couple friends over for a “vegan dinner,” where I served some bruschetta as an appetizer, a pear and walnut salad with raspberry balsamic vinegar to start, and a mushroom risotto as my entre! I had never even cooked risotto before, but thanks to my friend A’s recipe, I am now an expert risotto maker!

To top it all off, doing number 2 has never been easier! For realz!

What I didn't think was going to happen was the weight gain though. I don’t know why I was so silly to think that eating corn and potatoes and bread everyday will make me drop weight due to the lack of meat and dairy in my body. I guess, now that I think about it, Veganism IS a diet, but not necessarily a diet that makes you lose weight. At least not for me. Haha! As far as I could tell, in those two weeks, I was a hard core vegan, and ate only what vegans do. But maybe because I liked the food so much, I ended up eating a little more than what I should have? I dunno!


One thing’s for sure though… Going vegan is easier DONE than said. It honestly isn’t as difficult as most people think. And this is coming from a carnivore!
Living in California, the “healthiest state,” makes it really convenient as well. Almost all the restaurants have vegan options, and our grocery stores have them too! The food is really good, super tasty, and pretty healthy. It didn’t give me vegan super powers, nor did it make me feel like I was better than anyone else… But it made me appreciate and love veggies! As a matter of fact, even after my two weeks was up, I couldn’t help but keep eating the stuff I got used to. Broccoli, Corn, Potatoes, Fruits, Tofu… It wasn’t until about 3 weeks later that I ate a baby back rib. It was gooood! But I threw up afterwards. Too much too soon, I think.

So will I become a vegan? No… I don’t think my body or even my DNA will survive without meat. I’m Filipino. And Filipinos eat lechon (roasted pig with an apple in its mouth) and crispy pata (pork hind legs with knuckles) for breakfast. They have been for yeaaaaars and yeaaaars… Meat is part of who I am, and I don’t think I can deprive myself from something my people have been devouring for decades. I know that now. Even if I had fun and was pretty successful (meaning I didn’t cheat) in my vegan experiment, it felt a little unnatural… you know?

I did learn to appreciate the food though. I ate things I never would have thought of choosing in a menu or a grocery isle… and I loved them! It taught me how to cook dishes I never would have thought of serving! And going to the bathroom was always a delight! Because even if I did stuff myself with corn and potatoes, I also ate more vegetables in those two weeks than I have the past year! I’m proud of myself for being able to at least stick with it without cheating. Veganism isn’t just a concept anymore. I discovered that it isn’t really my style … but at least I can say I tried. And I’m okay with that.

Oh and as for my friend, J? He only lasted a few days.