How to Survive the Texas Summer

Well, everyone kept talking about this SW Texas heat. I’ve been wondering when it would show up. 90 degrees hasn’t been too terrible. Well, here it is…

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Average of about 100 is a bit much for me. But sometimes I forget that I lived in Hangzhou, China for 2 years, which is considered one of the 5 furnaces of China. So I can handle San Antonio, right?

Here’s my tips so far for surviving the heat. I’ve learned these things quickly.

1) Always walk in the shade when possible.
– This helps avoid the sun’s blistering rays, especially right after leaving your air-conditioned workplace. Walk under the trees, slink in the shadow of that annoyingly oversized pickup truck, and do strange zig zags through the parking lot if needed. Your co-workers might question your sobriety, but, let’s be honest, they were probably already doing that anyway.

2) Don’t touch your steering wheel while driving.
– I’ll admit; this one is tricky. However, no one enjoys having their fingerprints melted off by that hot plastic. (If you’re a parolee and have been wondering how to accomplish this feat, you didn’t hear it from me.) I have not quite mastered this one yet. I’m still at the fingertip driving stage, but I’ll get there by the end of the summer.

3) Don’t ever leave your house.
– This one is like West Virginia in the winter. Stay inside a lot and resume your life in the spring. I’ve been told that April is the end of the nice season here and then festivals and outdoor activities will pick up again in September or October. I will look forward to wearing shorts on Thanksgiving Day, but, until then, I’m staying inside with my $249 electricity bill.

4) Drink lots of sweet tea.
Duh. We’re in Texas, y’all.

I hope these new-to-Texas tips will help you make it through the summer heat. Is it hot where you live? What kinds of things do you do to avoid burning alive?

San Antonio Museum of Art

I’m loving living in a new city and exploring it when I have the chance. San Antonio has so much to do and see! Today my friend Erin and I went to the San Antonio Museum of Art.

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It’s located in an old brewery downtown on West Jones Avenue with easy, free parking directly across the street.

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The museum has 4 floors of permanent exhibits and a separate special exhibit that can been seen for an additional fee.

The first floor boasts an Egyptian collection.

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And an area of Roman and Greek statues.

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There is an Asian art wing.

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And an Oceanic section.

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The contemporary art  was probably my favorite. It included an electric chair, some abstract paintings, trash turned into art, and a giant fish. (??)

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There’s so much to see that you can easily spend 3-5 hours there. We were there for about 3 hours, and it wasn’t quite enough. Regular admission is $10, children get in for free, seniors pay $7, and students and military have a discounted rate of $5. This museum is full of history and art and worth every penny. If you’re ever in San Antonio, be sure and stop by!
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Forget The Alamo

I’ve only been in San Antonio a few weeks, but I decided to make a quick trip to Spain.

Many parts of what is now Texas were colonized by Spain. Between the years of 1690 and 1821, “New Spain” acquired many cultural practices of Spain, including the Spanish language and religion. In an attempt to convert the “savage” natives of the area, the Spaniards set up churches. These churches were more than just churches; the Native Americans lived at the compound, learned the Spanish way of life, and participated in Catholicism.

There were 26 missions in Texas. The most well-known mission is The Alamo. Many people visit this landmark while in San Antonio, but most miss out on the other missions in the city. These 4 other missions, in my opinion, are grander and more beautiful than the Alamo.

San Jose, known as the “Queen of the Missions”, was built in 1720. It is the largest mission in San Antonio and once hosted over 300 Native Americans.

San Jose Mission in San Antonio

Inside San Jose

Inside San Jose

Prayer candles

Prayer candles inside San Jose

Spanish architecture at San Jose

Spanish architecture can really be seen at San Jose

San Antonio churches

Walls surround the entirety of the mission

Tourist at San Jose Mission church in San Antonio

I felt like I had left the US!

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San Jose Mission door and carvings

The carvings were extraordinary!

Prayer Garden at San Juan Mission

In the prayer garden before entering the actual mission

San Jose Mission

A look at the church from inside one of the other buildings on the compound

Mission San Juan was established in 1731. This one stuck out to me because of its white color. Visitors are able to go inside each of these missions and worship services are still held.
Mission San Juan

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Mission Espada has been around since 1731. There’s really not too many building left that existed before the US was even a country!

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Not the Alamo

I was in love with all the doors!

Mission Concepcion is the oldest unrestored stone church in the US. This mission is the one that looks the most like it did in the 1700s.

Mission Concepcion

Mission Concepcion

Fresco inside on church wall

Mission Concepcion

I loved the palm trees surrounding this mission!

The missions are part of the San Antonio Missions National Historic Park. Admission is free, and the inside of all of the churches are open until 5 each evening. Feel free to wander the outside of the missions after 5, but I highly recommend getting a look around inside each church. You will need to drive to each mission, unless you plan to spend a bit more time there by biking or hiking. We spent almost 4 hours there, so, if you go, make a day of it. Make sure you visit the visitor center first, close to San Jose. There is a neat 15 minute documentary that will explain some things to you before you begin.

So if you are planning to come to San Antonio, Texas anytime soon, please don’t miss out on these jewels of the city! And contrary to the infamous phrase, please do forget the Alamo!

Do Cruise Ship Stops Count?

Sometimes when people find out that I like to travel, they’ll let me know how many states or countries they’ve been to and which ones. And I am genuinely interested to hear about it. However, I’ve found that everyone has different ideas about what counts as having visited a place. Here are some situations people argue about:

– airports

-driving through

-cruise ship stops

-living somewhere

I know that I 100% don’t count airports. All airports are the same everywhere, no matter the state or the country. You can see as much culture and as many different nationalities in the Columbus, Ohio airport as you can see in the Beijing, China airport. You don’t even step on the land itself. You see people from other countries more than you see the natives of that place while in an airport. I have been in more airports than I can count on my fingers and toes, but I don’t count a single one of them. Yes, I have been to the LA airport; in fact, I have even stepped on LA’s ground because you have to walk outside to change terminals. However, I have never been to LA.

Driving through. Oh, this one is argued about quite a bit. If you drive through a state to get to another state, does this count as having been there? If you’re going to South Carolina and drive through North Carolina, does that mean you can check North Carolina off your list? But what about if you stop to eat there? Or what if you just open your car door and plant your 2 feet firmly on the ground. Does it count? In my humble opinion, no.

When people tell me their cruise ship stops, I am a little hesitant to count those as countries visited. Yes, you may have stepped on the shore of Puerto Rico, but does 4 hours there actually count as having visited the country? Especially when you have only seen the touristy parts that your cruise guides you to….I know when I only get to stay in a country for a week, I feel like I haven’t got to experience even 1% of the country- its people, its food, its culture. How can a few hour stop allow you to understand a country’s essence?

I also wonder when people speak of “living” in a country. I heard a student say that she lived in Italy once when referring to staying for 2 months of the summer during a study abroad experience. I would venture to say that a person needs to have a permanent address before they can say they lived in a country. I guess my best bet would be to see if the locals consider you a neighbor, if they see you as a permanent part of their space in the world.

To know a place means to experience its food, its language, its religion, its people, its traditions, and its government. Perhaps you don’t have much time to spend in a country or a state. Well, spend some time learning about the place beforehand, so that you’ll know what you’re seeing when the time comes. Every time I visit a new country, or even a new area of my country, I try to read the history of the place, know what the racial makeup is, learn what the dominant religion is there and so on. When you get there, browse the local market or grocery store, walk around a college campus, try the local cuisine, and talk to the people. This will help you know the place you are. Then, you can say you have been to a place.

What are your rules about where you’ve been? Am I being too strict? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

State lines

Beating Jet Lag (With Brass Knuckles If I Could)

Jet lag. I hate those two words, but they seem to find me several times a year and cuddle up beside me in bed while I stare at the ceiling at 3 am. I  returned recently from a 3 week trip abroad for work to Taiwan and South Korea. Since I’ve been back, my family, friends, and co-workers have all asked how my trip was and how I’m doing now that I’m back. My reply is usually that I am tired and grumpy because jet lag woke me up too early this morning,and that my body is confused so I ate the tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwich I was craving for breakfast. I discovered that many don’t know what jet lag is, because they haven’t traveled through time zones, so they don’t understand why I want to take a 5 hour “nap” or can’t go to bed until 4 am when I come back from a trip abroad. Please allow me to graciously explain so that you’re not offended next time jet lag causes me to snap at you. (No really, it’s not me!)

According to the Mayo Clinic, jet lag is a temporary sleep disorder when the body’s internal clock is confused about when it is time to be awake and when it is time to be asleep. Additionally, the body is confused about when it is time to eat.

If I arrive in Taiwan at 11 am, because of the 12 hour time difference, my body thinks it’s 11 pm and wants to go to sleep. When it’s 6 am and time to eat breakfast, my body thinks it’s 6 pm and dinner time and wants some pizza.

There’s also a general feeling of sickness. Many people compare it to having a hangover- a slight headache, nausea, a general feeling of unwellness. But imagine having a hangover for 2 weeks! Many sufferers also complain of stomach problems and difficulty concentrating.

Doctors say that it takes one day for your body to readjust for every hour of time zone change you go through. Taiwan was 12 hours ahead, and South Korea was 13 hours ahead, so it should take me about 2 weeks to fully get rid of my jet lag. I will admit that the first week is the absolute worst though.

Usually when I am on the trip, I do better with jet lag because I am there for a purpose, have things to accomplish, and am generally excited to be there. When I come home though and have to go back to the daily grind, it’s much harder to readjust.

So here are a few tips I have for beating jet lag.

– When you get to your destination, if it’s night, you must go to sleep even if you’re not tired. If it’s day, you must stay awake, even if you’re about to pass out. You need to get your internal clock adjusted to the time at your destination. This also means trying to take as few naps as possible, which trust me, is SO hard!

– Get as much sunlight as possible. This will help your body produce more melatonin to regulate cells in your body. It’s all very scientific. Don’t ask me the details; just get more sunlight!

– Cool it on the caffeine. Caffeine messes up sleep, so it’s no wonder this can enhance the symptoms of jet lag. Also, drink as much water as possible. Dehydration makes jet lag worse.

– Take sleep aids. But, be careful with this one. Usually for the first 2 or 3 nights I’ve crossed a considerable amount of time zones, I take a few Tylenol PMs or the like to help myself sleep through the night. If I don’t, I’ll wake up at 3 or 4 am no matter how tired I am. Doing this helps me sleep until at least 6.

Well, I’ve been back from my trip for about a week now. I’m still consistently waking up at 6 am, but at least I’m not taking naps at 7 pm anymore, because I just can’t keep my eyes open for a single second longer. I’ve been eating breakfast food for breakfast and dinner food at dinner time. I don’t feel nauseous for no reason, and I haven’t yelled at anyone today because I’m grumpy. I’d say I’m on the up and up!

Until next time, jet lag. Until next time.

United Airlines 777

Why Did I Just Pay Someone To Injure Me?

Tonight I had a Taiwanese/Chinese foot massage.

When I lived in China, a few American friends and I used to get a massage almost weekly. I don’t know if it’s that I’m not used to them anymore or if this one was just extra intense, but yowzer! Did I really pay someone to hurt me?! Did I actually hand a man money for jabbing his elbow into me?

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One can clearly see in this picture that my dude was trying to break my ankle.

Ok, ok. It wasn’t too bad. There were times when he pressed on certain parts of my feet, and it hurt though. You know how your feet are supposed to correspond to certain parts of your body? Well, maybe my spleen is bad, or perhaps my windpipe is in bad shape. (Hey, it’s on the list, along with genital gland!)

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Chinese massages are said to be healing. They can increase blood flow, remove blockages, help the lymphatic system, and remove toxins and waste. Maybe they’re not supposed to be pleasurable but just beneficial. My friend thought it would be a great idea for me to have one tonight since I’m sick. Traditional Chinese medicine for the win!

And I’m kinda obsessed with the sounds that are made during a Chinese massage. Watch my ultra, super-secret iphone video to see what I mean.

While living in China, I also had fire cupping done on my feet, and I also had a blind massage (massage done by a blind person). There was also that one time we had Chinese women hanging off ropes on the ceiling and walking on our backs, but that’s a whole other blog post! Have you had a Chinese massage before? If so, how did you like it? I fully expect my diaphragm to be feeling better by the morning!

I Now Know What A Taiwanese Hospital Is Like

Yesterday I started feeling really poorly, and I mean pretty bad, so my friends insisted I go to the hospital today. Doctors’ offices are closed on Sundays, so off to the Taiwanese hospital it was for me!

American goes to Taiwanese hospital

Turns out I have an acute respiratory infection, probably from the high humidity, a low-grade fever, and am very close to having heat exhaustion. I was prescribed 3 medicines and sent on my way.

Taiwanese Cough Medicine

 

I was also told not to stay outside so much and to drink more water. I wasn’t kidding when I said it was hot here! And when you’re out walking around in it for 9 hours a day, that doesn’t help much either.

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And my colleague thought it’d be a fun idea to take a picture of me during this adventure.

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Thanks Mackay Memorial Hospital for helping me get on the road to recovery! Oh the adventures I always seem to have while traveling!

 

Modern Toilet Restaurant- Taipei, Taiwan

I ate out of a toilet today. So, there’s that.

The Modern Toilet Restaurant is just one of many themed restaurants in Taiwan. There are others, such as hospital or airplane-themed, but the toilet-themed must be the strangest and most unique of them all.

                           toilet restaurant Taiwan                   toilet restaurant Taiwan

 

They serve drinks out of urinals and food out of toilets, both the Asian-style “squatty potty” and Western-style toilets. The most popular are chocolate ice cream and also curry, and you can see why. You sit on toilets instead of seats, there are showers are on the wall, and you can buy poo themed souvenirs.

 

toilet restaurant Taiwan

 

curry in Taiwan

toilet restaurant Taiwan

 

toilet restaurant Taiwan

toilet restaurant Taiwan

If you’re ever in Taipei, visit this restaurant. The food is actually quite good, you’ll get some great pictures, and have a few laughs!