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

Danshui River Walk

Taipei City is a huge metropolitan of more than 2.6 million people. There always seems to be hustle and bustle. And heat. On the weekends, many city dwellers like to go a little outside of town to get away from it all, cool off  from the ocean breeze, eat some snacks, and play a few games. Recently I had a chance to visit Danshui, where the Tamsui River meets the Pacific Ocean. It was a perfect respite from constantly being in the city center. travel in Taiwan

Taiwan Danshui mountains

The mountains were beautiful!

Snacks in Danshui Taiwan

Yum?

Yum?

Danshui Taiwan

Is this not the tallest ice cream you’ve ever seen?!

Taiwan Beach

Playing games

Playing games

Temple in Taipei Taiwan

There were even a few temples there

 

Danshui Danshui Taiwan

Man's Silhouette in Taiwan

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!

 

Taiwan, Are You a Country or Not?

Well, it depends who you ask whether Taiwan is a country or not. Most of the world will unofficially say it is. It has its own government, issues its own currency, and has its own flag.

Image from Wikipedia

Image from Wikipedia

Yet, only 23/191 members of the United Nations officially recognizes it. Taiwan has a population of over 23 million, and its sovereignty is disputed, yet Vatican City has less than 900 people and is a sovereign state. Why is that?

China puts a great deal of political pressure on the world to support them in saying that Taiwan is just another province of China. No one wants to make China mad. In fact, China has said they will invade of Taiwan ever tries to officially state its independence. After living in China for 2 years, I can tell you firsthand that it is a very sensitive subject. Chinese people refer to Taiwan as Chinese Taipei.

Modern-day Taiwan, officially known as the Republic of China,  began when the communists took over China in 1949. Over 2 million Chinese nationalist fled to Taiwan and began a government there. That’s why the language is Mandarin Chinese, the food is similar to Chinese cuisine, and many aspects of the cultural are identical to mainland China. I’m very interested to see exactly how similar or different these two places are for myself.

So, what makes a country a country? This short video does a good job at explaining it.

Most will agree there are 196 countries in the world, Taiwan included.

 

 

Someone Tried to Buy Drugs From Me?

I had a pretty sketchy night last Friday. And I blame it on the Greyhound bus system, every single bit of sketch on Greyhound.

Take almost any city around the world- Tokyo, middle of nowhere China, Paris, Bogota…you can easily catch a bus and go anywhere you want to go. You just go to the station, purchase a ticket, and hop on. Usually the buses are a safe way to travel and fairly cheap.

This is not the case in the good ol’ US of A. Most of us don’t take long-distance public transportation. It’s really uncommon and can actually be expensive. We are a car nation, unlike many other countries where public transportation is the norm.

Want to take a train in the US? If you take Amtrak round trip from Pittsburgh, PA to Washington, DC, it can cost you $197! And that’s if you live in a big city that actually has a train system. In the small city in which I live, there are no trains to anywhere. You would actually have to go to Pittsburgh to take a train.

If you want to take a Greyhound bus, it’s a bit cheaper. $58 to go from the capital city of West Virginia to Lexington, Kentucky. It’s usually a 3.5 hour journey by car but takes almost 10 hours by bus. I have helped 2 of my international friends take buses here in the US, and they’ve both had trouble and were a little scared of the whole experience.

Recently, I took a Japanese friend to catch a Greyhound bus here in town. She tried to describe to me where the bus station was. Well, it turns out it was in a defunct CVS parking lot in the bad part of town. I told her I would wait with her until the bus arrived. We witnessed quite a few strange things while waiting. First, a car pulled up beside us and the guy in it tried to talk to us. I yelled at my friend not to look at him and keep the window up. I was confused about what was going on, but then another car pulled up to his, they both got out, handed each other something, and then left. It struck me! He didn’t know who he was buying drugs off of, and he thought I was it! Someone tried to buy drugs off me! If you know me at all, that’s pretty laughable.

Later on, we saw an old man walking around with no shoes carrying a bag of chips and a glass of water. I don’t know what was up with that. And then a woman approached us, the only other person waiting in the dark parking lot. She was from Finland and had been backpacking the US. (Although I don’t know why she ended up in small town, West Virginia.) She told us she had been waiting in that parking lot since 2 pm hoping any bus would come through and she could hop on. It was 10pm, and not a single bus had come. After THREE HOURS of waiting for my friend’s bus, we finally left. It never showed! And since there was no real station, we couldn’t ask anyone about it or get a refund or anything. It was so frustrating! I’m so glad I didn’t just drop her off!

So, the lesson learned here… if you are ever looking to score drugs, don’t ask me!

I’m getting ready to go on an exciting journey to Taiwan and South Korea for work. I’ll do my best to blog all about it. Be on the lookout!

public transportation in China

Bus in China

Salut and Ahoj Infographics!

I’m pretty sure I’m obsessed with infographics. I mean, what could be better than learning something in an easy-to-understand, visually-pleasing format? I’ve done a post with some before, which became quite popular. And now, I’ve found a site that has tons of them- http://visual.ly/.

Here’s a sample. How to say hi in 21 languages. Useful for all us travelers and all us language nerds!

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How many of these did you know? I knew 6. Do you have any really interesting infographics that you think I’d love? Please share the link in the comments section below.