Saturday, February 28, 2015

Goodbye Hello

Sweatshirt: Forever 21; Skirt: Sheinside; Boots: Stella McCartney, Beanie: Uniqlo, Photos: My patient boyfriend

There's nothing I like more than slogans on sweatshirts, especially if they're inexplicably in strange Engrish (despite being purchased from Forever 21). This sweatshirt seems to be a conversation starter with everyone - nobody seems to be able to stop themselves from making a joke about goodbye/hello upon greeting/leaving me. Socially shy/awkward people should take note: just buy a poorly written sweatshirt that doesn't really make sense and the conversation will come to you!

After three months of living in the frigid cold wasteland that is the Northern Hemisphere, from extreme child-like delight at seeing snow for the first time, I've finally come full circle. I'm finally over it. 'It' being winter, 'it' being sideways snow and frozen hair, 'it' being numb fingers and headaches from the cold. I'm ready for warmth, and i'm ready to bare some skin - call it a lack of Vitamin D, call it extreme whinging, but the weather is starting to drag me down a little - waking up every day and walking through relentless wind to get to work is a battle that happens every morning and I am aching for a little sun.

I've learned my share of tricks and skills this Winter, including: Mastering the art of the penguin walk the day or two after it snows and all the melted snow freezes across footpaths, the optimal amount of time I can keep my hands out of my pockets before they fall off (about 3 minutes), glove layering, skin maintenance in sub zero temperatures and entertainment while you're freezing your butt off waiting for the train (blowing out little hot air clouds, shifting your weight from foot to foot, admiring everyone else's Winter style game).

Quick life update: My boyfriend, Hartley and I are leaving our current living situation because our amazing housemates and their cats won't be renewing the lease - we found this incredible apartment building in Bushwick straight out of Girls (has anyone noticed that it's become infinitely more annoying this season, like that's even possible). The building has contemporary art in the front lobby (we met the artist behind them while looking at some places - when he's not creating amazing art he's standing in as temporary resident broker), it has a dog park on the roof, a movie theatre, a gym, a woodworking studio, a design office, a library and a mythical recording studio. Half those amenities aren't things that I would ever use myself, but it's great fun to think that if I ever did have the spontaneous desire to fashion a cabinet out of a piece of driftwood I found on the side of the road, I could do it. This will be my second apartment in New York, which is amazing and crazy and wonderful. Pretty much the ideal living situation - it even satisfied our half-serious requirement of living with pets (there are two adorable dogs called Zac and Zoe!)

Friday, February 27, 2015

Aloha to Superfoods

Chocolate from Aloha; Cat from Grumpyville

Subscription services are not usually something I'm down for - automatic payments, shipments of random things that accumulate on your bookshelf, gathering dust and destined for the garbage can two years from now when you have a spontaneous urge to "declutter". 

Aloha's chocolate subscription is an exemption to the rule - ongoing, regular chocolate deliveries are great. They're more than great, especially when the chocolate has about five hundred exotic ingredients all labelled with a different country (think Peruvian Cacao, Tahitian Vanilla Bean, Vietnamese Raw Cashews - a single Aloha bar has come from more countries than I have travelled to. That's not really hard to beat, but still) that form to create a bar of solid greatness. It's not very heavy, with 60% cocoa content, and a mix of coconuts, raspberries and other ingredients to give it more of a fruity taste. 

It's sweetened only with coconut sugar and apparently has "hundreds of nutrients from superfood greens" - that's justification to gorge on chocolate if I ever heard one ("I just worked out, I deserve it" is not). You can try it yourself for free - they offer a free trial that signs you up to their subscription, which I can almost guarantee you won't cancel when the time comes. Cat not included.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Summer Skin

Moto Jacket: Vintage; Green vest: Behave Behave; Boots: Stella McCartney; Necklace: Vintage; Shorts: Lantern Sense

So you're probably thinking two things from looking at these photos:

1. These photos were obviously not taken anytime recently, where's the snow, and how are you baring so much skin? Put some clothes on. 
2. Jess is a very impressive lunger and I am impressed she can jump that high with that constipated a face in thigh high boots.

You are correct in both thoughts - there's one thing that has completely stumped me while living in this city, and its that I have absolutely no idea how any blogger can walk outside and take photos of themselves when its -9 degrees outside, and how are they dressing well in the first place? I've literally worn the exact same Amazon puffy coat for three months in a row. My inability to dress well when it hits below freezing is no fault my own, really - I'm way too broke to afford more than one coat that doesn't make me feel like I'm slowly dying - I'd much rather spend that money on the prospect of future $5 breakfasts in South America. Thus, the belated outfit post from September or something ridiculous like that. 

The other day I walked outside with wet hair and my hair literally froze into columns of hard ice. When does this EVER happen in real life? This New York Winter just continues to impress me. 

I haven't really been able to wear these boots in New York - there really aren't that many situations when I can wear thigh high boots, where its worth the incredulous stares in the kind of shady area of Brooklyn that I live in, and the sore feet that comes with trying to traverse the subway in them (nimbly avoiding piles of garbage and dead rats). I've pledged to break them out more when it comes Spring time, and to give my thighs the time of day that they deserve. Weird stares and ogling be damned. 

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Part 2: Peru & Bolivia

Valley of the Moon, La Paz, Bolivia

The tourist streets of La Paz

Continued on from my previous post, part 1 of the trip to Peru/Bolivia here.

Bolivia was incredibly cheap - we spent a lot of it holed up in a popular traveller’s cafe, Cafe Del Mundo on Calle Saganarga, treating ourselves to mounds of giant pancakes, cinnamon porridge, orange juice, coffee, coca tea and the freshest in-house baked bread basket for a total of $10 USD every morning. It was one of the only places we found with halfway reliable wifi, and it was the perfect spot to stretch breakfast into lunch, hoarding seats and catching up on real life after weeks of no internet (you don't need to remind me how first world that is).

$1 fresh juices at the local food market

View of Cusco

Calle Jaen - wearing all the random things at the bottom of my suitcase, and also the first time I've worn shorts in months

Pretty streets of Calle Jaen

$2 cappuccino ice cream from Dumbo's

 On one of our first times there, we fell into a conversation with another Australian guy who was just feasting on the biggest waffles with perfect rectangular mounds of ice cream - they cost about $5 and he said he had been having them for breakfast every single morning. I almost never eat ice cream or waffles or pancakes in real life, but when it costs $2 for four gigantic scoops of the most epic ice cream, "diabetes" falls out of your vocabulary into a giant puddle of cappuccino flavored dairy treats.

The Witches Market

Main Square in La Paz

 We wandered the Witches Market, which is this crazy alleyway of creepy shops - dead llama fetuses are du jour, and there are walls upon walls of potions to increase your sex drive. We were lucky enough to be in La Paz when the city was celebrating the Alasitas Festival, which is when you buy tiny replicas of what your dreams are, and offer them to the God Ekeko in the hopes that your tiny suitcase of dolla dolla bills, university certificates (for real, mini uni certs), tiny tractors and baskets of food (we spotted tiny cokes) will materialize.

 Unexpectedly, one of my favorite parts of La Paz was traveling on the Teleferico, a cable car system recently installed for the locals to get around, priced at a ridiculously low 3 bolivianos per ride (less than 20 cents USD). As you climb up the fringes of the city, the sprawling mess of La Paz is laid out below through the glass bottoms - stretched out with its winding roads, identically colored buildings and the crazy snow capped mountains sitting in the background like a wallpaper. Sydney/New York is probably ten-fold bigger but the vantage points around La Paz make it look enormous. Another weird highlight was watching Fury on the last day for $2.50 each with Spanish subtitles despite probably the only native English speakers in the cinema. The movie itself wasn't dubbed, but the trailers were in Spanish. Homework: Go watch the new Avengers trailer dubbed in Spanish and you tell me that's not a thousand times cooler despite not understanding a single word.

Mi Teleferico

Baby burrito

Volleyball game with the locals

Local kids

We sailed through Lake Titicaca (with some serious motion sickness - I found out that one of the ways you can overcome it is by playing card Monopoly) and stayed in the homes of the Llachon people, a peninsula two hours by boat from Puno. Our temporary ‘mummas’ dressed us up in traditional attire for dinner that we helped prepare (by prepare I mean peel potatoes really poorly), and we accompanied the locals on their daily fishing trip. At one point, Hartley and I even took part in helping our mumma build a WALL out of random rocks lying around. We glanced over at our neighbor, Ronan, who was literally breaking giant rocks with a hammer. Inexplicably, we also partook in a Volleyball game, the women in their long, tiered skirts and traditional headwear set against an infinite lakeside horizon, executing serious Volleyball moves and laughing into the afternoon.

Playing with some kids on The Floating Islands of Uros

Sheep gang

The Floating Islands of Uros

Salar De Uyuni

 Salar de Uyuni was a milestone travel moment that I’ve been daydreaming of since I was about 10 years old. Witnessing the surreal grandeur of sweeping salt plains as far as the eye can see and driving 100km/hr into a never ending horizon was everything I had imagined it to be, and more. What didn’t feature in my pre-pubescent starry-eyed travel wishes was the 12 hour overnight local bus ride down a pitch black dirt road, a Spanish guide that didn’t speak a word of English and who acted more as a taxi driver rather than any semblance of a tour guide and serious sunburn from the reflective surface of the salt plains. My shoulders are five shades darker than any other part of my body, giving this weird illusion that I'm always wearing strap on brown shoulder pads.

Another highlight/terrifying experience was mountain biking down Death Road, once labelled the Most Dangerous Road in the World, with over 300 deaths per year. Since then, they’ve gotten rid of most of the traffic and it exclusively lies empty for tourists to downhill mountain bike over rocks on the side of a cliff. I have a freak out of major proportions simply trying to navigate on a Citibike in Manhattan, so the concept of flying down a mountainside with no training wheels was a serious hell no for me. We didn't end up booking it in, and then our flights back to New York were cancelled by Juno, the blizzard that never was, and we found ourselves with extra days in Bolivia. Some of the other guys in our tour group raved about it, said it was awesome and it was so so safe we booked ourselves in the next day.

Local kid at the Floating Islands of Uros

Casual train skeleton pull ups

 Flying down a mountainside from 4000m above sea level is stunning - the landscape shifted from snowcapped mountains to roadside villages, cliffside waterfalls and sweaty jungle vegetation. It was there and it was magnificent - butI barely noticed what was going on around me for fear of flying off the bike and literally dying. I honestly have never felt so unsafe in my entire life, and lost control of the bike a few times while turning corners precariously close to the cliff edge (muttering under my breath: fuck fuck fuck fuck WHY fuck) - all the while being the slowest person in the group, trailed by three vans who couldn’t travel more than 40km/hr because of my granny biking speed demon antics. I’m embarrassed to say I actually burst into tears towards the end of it, and I gripped the bike handles so tightly was so tensed up that I could barely move my wrists to pick up a 1L bottle of water the next day. It was the most terrifying experience of my life, which is an indicator of how sheltered and precious I am.

 A week after my return to New York from my first real travel adventure as an adult and I’m still struggling to process the profound effect that the two weeks in South America has had on me. Writing it down definitely helps me understand the grubby grip marks that Peru and Bolivia left on my sheltered self, and I finally understand the term “Travel bug” bandied around on Instagram bios and proclaimed by millennials in #TBT social media posts. Coming back has made my appreciation of working toilets and the comparatively ridiculous everyday luxury of first world life achingly evident. The trip only served to whet my appetite to continue adventuring, and I've already started trawling for the next one. Maybe without downhill mountain biking this time.

Random cactus island in the middle of Salar de Uyuni

These cacti grow 1cm a year and can get up to 20m tall

A view of La Paz from Mirador Killi Killi