10.03.16 When life give you lemons go to Vermont

Okay so that title has basically little or nothing to do with my story for today. Long story short basically on Friday I realized I was completely free on Sunday( today) so I should drive to Montreal to see the city. I ended up sleeping in about two hours too late to make the trip worth it so I had to make a spur of the moment destination change.

After waking up a little late I was slightly demotivated to actually go but after having not the best day yesterday I was really in the mood to just get away and get in my car and drive somewhere.

After playing around on google maps for the first 30 minutes of being awake, I realized that Lake George, NY was only a 5 hour drive, which would be perfect because that made up the time that I had slept in for. Basically, because this was a short drive I would still have the same amount of time to relax and explore.

Of course though, as soon as I reached Albany area I thought, hmmmm may as well just go to Vermont right? So I had a little spur of the moment change of plans and spent my afternoon surrounded my nature and fall colors.

As soon as I got out of Albany and passed Troy, NY, I started making mental notes of places where I would be able to pull over and go out into the woods. Once I crossed the state line into Vermont I basically just drove until I found a spot where I was allowed to park and also would be able to explore.

Fortunately I passed a little parking sign where a couple of trails began in what ended up being Woodford, VT, which allowed be to walk into the National Forest a bit and ultimately find a spot near the water where I could chill and let my brain unwind.

This whole process is so important for me because it truly allows be to take a step back and remember all the things that make me so giddily happy and passionate. It was the perfect trip because it reminded me that everything that had made me upset the day before truly wasn’t worth it because there is so much more to this life and this world then stupid nonsense. Sitting on a series of rocks by the water I was so full of peace and so content the 5.5-hour drive there and back was so worth it.

On my way home the last thing I wanted to do was attempt to grab a coffee somewhere from a local shop. I eventually fond this cute little drive through coffee shop right once you enter back into New York called Lumber Jacks and tried their specialty latte made with maple syrup. I was even happier to find out that they offered almond or soymilk to be put into your drink, which was nice because I didn’t have to turn around and keep searching. I need to post a little life update thing on here soon because I don’t think I’ve actually posted since my trip to Thailand. But for now, long story short, I have done the best job I can to eat a vegan diet for the past month. But I am very excited to potentially do some blogs about vegan eating on a college budget and whatnot.

Anyways, my day ended up being absolutely excellent and I’m happy I decided to use the just get in the car and drive tactic to solve my problems because otherwise I probably would have had a crummy day.

I wish you all well!!! Peace

Hannah

06.11.16 blowing leaf bubbles and trekking in the jungles of Thailand

By far, this was my favorite day of my trip so far. Everything about today was more than beautiful. We got picked up from the hotel at 8:30 and drove about an hour to a local market, where our guide gave us showed us and explained some of the things the locals like to eat.

IMG_4245First we came up to a stand where for 20 or 40 baht you could fill up a bag with various water bugs, some the size of my pinky finger… too bad I wasn’t in the mood for a snack yet.

IMG_4251As we continued, we got to a section where there was meat and seafood, fresh for purchase (although I’m not sure what category insects fall in). We were looking at one stand that sold what I think was bee larvae, which we learned later tastes great in eggs, chicken intestines, and something floating around in a bag of nearly black water. While I was trying to take a picture of the bee’s nest and larvae things one of the things in the black water bags moved and I’m still convinced it was a live snack. I can’t really tell you for sure though because I ran away too fast to unfortunately get a closer look.

As we continued we passed stands that were perfect for picky meat eaters because you could purchase any part of the chicken that was your favorite. Oh yah, if your picky with what part of the chicken, or any animal you want to eat head to market in chiang mai so you can take your pick between liver, intestine, foot, or regular meat. Yummy…

Then we passed a stand that had fish sitting on a table, some still catching their last breaths. I’m not going to lie, I do have a 10 second video on my phone of a fish gasping for air, which may be a little messed up, especially since I’m a vegetarian, but oh well, I can’t say I’m ashamed.

The part that shook me up was when all the sudden our guide said look down and I saw what look like a laundry basket full of live fish swimming around. If you know me or read my blog about white-water rafting you know I hate fish and basically any critter that lives in the water. So similar to the snake scenario, I didn’t look long enough to be able to tell you what kind of fish they actually were. In fact, I straight up ran out of that section of the market, which our guide find pretty funny.

Right before we left I bought myself a little waffle snack thing for 10 baht, because obviously, seeing all the those bugs, swimming creatures, and chicken parts made me hungry again… okay maybe that wasn’t why I was hungry, maybe it was just breakfast time and this was all my stomach could handle after seeing these things.
IMG_4284We drove then drove the last thirty minutes into the jungle and then got out to begin our trek. We started down a dirt path that slowly took us into the jungle up the mountain. By the time we made it through the first little section of forest area my breath had been take from me. All the sudden we saw a clearing of trees and you could tell we were actually going up the mountain. After a little bit further, we were no longer completely surrounded by trees but surrounded by mountains and the most beautiful shades of green.IMG_4307

Our guide was absolutely incredible because every time we passed an edible plant or something we would casually point it out. Plus he spoke excellent English and was super funny. At one point he stopped next to a bamboo tree and started to shake it. After nothing had happened for a bit we asked him what he was trying to do and he said he saw a rats nest and was trying to shake them out. Thank god it didn’t work. Another point he stopped at a plant to show us some caterpillars. Right before moving on he said he had to stop looking at them because the caterpillars made him hungry. The very hungry caterpillar or very hungry hiking guide, we will never know.

Once we had reached the area were we were no longer surrounded by trees we stopped for a quick snack and water break and had time to take in the beauty of the green plants, brownish-orange dirt road, and the mountains.

IMG_4393That place we stopped on is most definitely my idea of a perfect place. Anywhere I am surrounded by lush greens and mountains is my happy place. In fact, if I ever go missing, that is where you can find me living in a hut, growing a banana tree and some other plants, alive and thriving.

We continued through the trails and every time I thought my surrounding were beautiful I was proven wrong my and even more gorgeous landscape. It truly felt like I was walking on a trail with a green screen in front of me.

On this trek was one of the first times I truly felt like I was somewhere far, far away. I felt as though I was truly IN and seeing Thailand because the nature is the one thing you can’t pick up and move somewhere else. These landscapes and different natural elements are truly unique to this country. You build things anywhere but you can’t pick up and take a mountain or forest back to the US.

IMG_4447.jpgEventually we got to the point where we were walking through a hill tribe area. We saw women hand weaving bags and scarfs, and a couple ladies selling hand made bracelets. After seeing how beautiful their craft was I had to buy something, and seeing their reaction was worth even more than the bracelet I bought because they were so thankful.

It was cute seeing both dogs and chickens causally running around the village area. The best part was when we passed by a group of little kids playing and as soon as they saw us they stopped, starting waving, and screaming hello, which, appeared to be the only English word they knew. They had the biggest smiles on their faces, which is an image I will never forget. Seeing other people smiling and expressing joy makes me feel happier than anything I could buy because it actually gives lasting happiness.

IMG_4434.JPGThen we passed one plant, which helped inspire the title for this piece. If you broke the stem of the leaf properly, it created a sappy bubble wand, which you could carefully blow bubbles through. How cool is that? So like the title says, there I was chilling in a jungle on a mountain blowing some super jazzy leaf bubbles.

We then got to the area where the eco kitchen was, where we would be eating lunch. We had yellow curry, rice, and some stir fry vegetables. This was probably the best food I had so far, probably because everything was so fresh. All of the food was so flavorful and absolutely delicious.

After we finished eating, the guide asked if we wanted to do another small hike and we all agreed to go. Once again, the scenery was incredible. The best part of this was we passed a variety of different mango trees. Of course, I had to ask if we were allowed to eat a piece and the guide said if we wanted to we could, it just may not taste super good because they may not be ripe.

IMG_4481.JPGObviously I had to pick the fruit to try. The first one was a green mango, which tasted similar to an unripe pear, so I only had a couple of bites. It just felt so cool to think that I was walking in a jungle and casually grabbed a mango off a tree to eat as a snack for my walk. The next mango was a super mini one. This one was surprisingly ripe and super delicious because the mango flavor was more concentrated and the texture was a little softer. Delicious!!

Eventually the second part of the hike was over and we got back in our van and drove to the temple Wat Chiang Dao, which had a cave we were supposed to explore. Once we got there the guide explained and showed us how some of the architecture of the temple was inspired by the Myanmar people and it was super beautiful and definitely different from the other temples we have seen. Then we got to the part where the cave was.

I thought we were going to just go into a small cave; however, instead of walking up a flight of stairs, we walked what I think was 750 meters into this cave that also had statues inside, acting as another part of the temple. I have never been in a cave like this before so it was super awesome to experience this!! As well, we saw bats inside which was pretty cool. The stalagmite structures were incredible and it was just a overall a neat experience!

Since the cave part was closing soon, we finished up and got in our van for the approximately hour and a half ride back to our hotel. I slept the whole time and had the most glorious, nap ever.

Like I said at the beginning, this was definitely the highlight of my trip so far because I was completely blown away by how incredibly beautiful everything was. Absolutely outstanding. If you go to Thailand, you need to go trekking in the jungles and mountains.. why would you not want to do something that leaves you lost for words?

 

Anyways, to quote my sixth grade graduation song, I wish you well my friends!!

Have a great day!!!

 

Hannah

06.12.16 unexpected swims in the jungle

What a day (so far)!! I woke up at 8:30 and got into a van to go for a two-hour drive into the jungle for my first white-water rafting experience! During the days leading up to I was quite honestly a bit worried because there are a lot of things involved in white water rafting that completely terrify me because it involves water. Even before we booked the excursion I was a little hesitant and tried coming up with excuses of why I shouldn’t but I just told myself I had to do it. As well, I found out white water rafting was a little more intense than I had assumed. Sitting here now after, I can definitely say it was fun and I would do it again.

So, on the adventure.

Once we arrived we ate lunch, which was curry, rice, fruit, and a couple of other things I didn’t pay enough attention to because they were meat dishes. The food was awesome but not as good as the food from yesterday while we were trekking.

After, we got our life jackets and helmets and then had a quick little briefing where we learned the paddle commands and basically what to do if you fall in. My first wrong assumption of the day was that you simply sit in the raft and go down the river and the river guide kind of steers you. Nope, you are paddling the whole time basically. My second wrong assumption was that you sit in the raft and are better secured to the raft. Nope. You sit kind of on the edge with your feet lodged in a little raft crevasse and there’s a little rope on the raft, that if you are me, you hold on to for dear life.

Into the raft and down the river we went following about 6 other rafts of people. The water was kind of pleasant at first and the rapids were occasional and not super intense. Of course though, I screamed when we wend in every single one. The funniest thing is when you get stuck on a rock you have to kind of jump on the raft which feels like bouncing in a bounce- house, so of course I could help my die laughing every single time, which for our group was often because almost every set of rapids had us stuck on a rock.

The scenery was incredible. There is no way to properly explain the feeling of going down a river surrounded by trees and mountains. It was more beautiful than words, and in this situation, being scared for my life in the process is the cherry on the cake of the memory.

About halfway through we reached the point where the really big sets of rapids were one after another. You knew you were about to go through something intense and crazy when you started seeing the workers with cameras trying to capture your reaction.

These rapids had our boat stuck between rocks nearly completely sideways and then finally as we were unstuck, dropping down quickly. There were some points where we would be stuck on a rock in a rapid and water would nearly fill our entire raft, which was somewhat pleasant, somewhat refreshing, but most definitely the closest to being in the water I wanted to be. Even when we weren’t going through huge rapids I had a constant death grip on the rope and any other part of the raft I could latch on to.

Eventually we reached a point where the water was still, so we had a chance to just relax for a bit before the rest of the journey.

I was completely shocked when people were getting out of the raft and going for a swim in the brown, ambiguous lake. In fact, I was the only person who didn’t get out of their raft. During my relaxing float I still had a death grip on the rope because there was a good chance someone was going to flip my boat into the water, forcing me in. I made it clear that I was not a fan of the water and wanted absolutely nothing to do with going in. I already have a fear of fish and fish like creatures and I don’t like being in water that isn’t clear so why would I ever want to be in this brown water where only god knows what kind of strange river monster critter beings are. I had a lovely time floating. It was very peaceful I could have fallen asleep.

After all the boats had re-gathered, we started down the river again to an even bigger strand of rapids. As we were going through a set of rapids, I looked down at the current the raft was about to go through and all of the sudden my body became much more slippery and I flew into the disgusting water I wanted nothing to do with.

My third wrong assumption. If I fall out I’ll quickly be able to fling myself back into the boat before I realize I’m in the water. Nope. Not when you’re in the rapid.

So there I am, I would say floating but that sounds too pleasant. I was in the water going down the river through a little rapidy area low key, yet high key freaking out in a panic. As I’m floating under the pretty bridge I look up and see the workers recording me on their go pro camera and I just keep floating down the river because I had no idea what to do. At that point I thought I would just float until my raft caught up to me but then the workers started yelling and pointing to swim to the side where I ended up sitting on a slimy rock in the water completely caught off guard, and seconds away from full on panic.

The emergency kayak came over to make sure I was okay because I guess I looked like I was really struggling and then my raft came over and saved me. Getting onto the raft from the rock was simple; however made challenging because my whole body was shaking. After about a minute in the boat calming down, we continued down the rest of the way.

Honestly, if anyone were going to fall in it would be me because I am just unlucky like that, and I said that numerous times before. So I guess I kind of knew it was coming and it was more of a when rather than an if.

For being one of worst things that could have happened in my mind I’m not really sure why I was laughing after or how I can say I would gladly go white water rafting again, but Thailand has seemed to be having that kind of effect on me.

The entire journey was super fun!! I am still laughing about falling in to the river and floating away but then again, now I have another fun trivia fact about myself, I fell off a raft and floated through rapids in the middle of the jungle… That’s kind of interesting I guess.

As the rapid areas slowly went away, we came closer and closer to the end.

My fourth wrong assumptions, we would only be out for about an hour because it is only a 10 km trip. Nope. We were on the water for probably 3 hours and every second was incredible. Whether I was blown away by the beauty of where I was, or adrenaline coursing through my veins going through the rapids it was absolutely wonderful.

After having our post-rafting snack, we got back in our van and drove the 2 hours home. After about 10 minutes I was passed on and didn’t wake back up until basically we were at the hotel, which was nice. Now I am sitting in the hotel waiting to go to the Sunday night market to explore and eat some more incredible food.

Have an absolutely wonderful day!!!

 

Peace

Hannah

06.09.16 Second week of classes at CMU

It’s crazy to think my 2nd week of classes in Chiang Mai has just finished! It’s even crazier to think that I am now about halfway done the program. Where did the time go? Although, when I look back and think about how much I have done THIS far, I am pretty satisfied. As I write these blogs I don’t really have an outline of what I am going to write or about how long things are going to be so fair warning, this may be a long one.

Waking up Monday morning I was a little bit scared for Thai class because I hadn’t practiced too much over the weekend, so I though I forgot what I learned. It turns out after a quick refresher in the beginning of class I was good to go! It is satisfying to say that learning Thai does seem to be getting easier, although it is still very challenging. The most strange part of this class though was when we learned how to ask for blood in our soup. My professor was completely serious too. She said she prefers it with blood cause it has a much better flavor. On the other hand, I was completely nauseous and if she mentioned it one more time I would have ran to the bathroom to throw up. I think the problem was that I was thinking there was a slight chance I could have already eaten blood soup because how was I supposed to know the difference and how was I supposed to know that was even a possibility? Even writing this now and reflecting I find myself a little sick to my stomach.

For Monday’s lunch I decided to have Khaw Soy, which is basically crispy and soft noodles in a curry. The curry was amazing; the only problem was it was SO spicy. It was baffling to think that there were people adding extra heaping amounts of chili powder to it to increase the spice. I on the other had, had to go buy myself a coconut smoothie to soothe my mouth and throat so I could actually finish my meal. Both were amazing.

IMG_4104.JPGFor Buddhist Philosophy, my teacher took us to the temple Wat Suandok, which also happens to be a university specializing in Buddhist studies. It is also rather interesting because it is about half regular students and half monks studying here. While our professor was showing us around and showing us the uniforms for the regular students, I learned that the general uniform is pretty standard, the only thing that changes is the shirt buttons, pins and belt buckles students wear depending on what university they go to.

The temple was very beautiful! My favorite part was how from the parking lot there was a beautiful view of the mountains in the background, with the temple in the fore ground!

Later that day we took another venture around the old city; however, instead of going right towards Thae Pae gate, we took a left to see what we would find. We ended up turning down one of the main roads and then making a right down a smaller road when we saw a sign for a vegetarian restaurant. This ended up taking us almost through a residential area, and the vegetarian food was simply a stand in front of someone’s house. Because we wanted to sit down to eat something we continued. It was really neat seeing people come home from their days or whatever they were up to and listen to them having conversations I couldn’t understand. What a strange concept: eavesdropping but not being able to understand a word someone is saying.

Eventually we made it back out and realized we were only about a block from where we had made the right into the square. Just before we left the old city square area, we realized we had were passing a place one of our friends was telling us about with terracotta statues, so we decided to take a quick stroll around.

Apparently the grounds are being turned into a gastropub and I think a coffee bar. Once it is all finished up this place is going to be awesome! It has a wall around it and is filled with plants and statues so you completely forget about the hustle and bustle going on outside. Once we realized there wasn’t much more for us to see or do here, we continued on to the Chiang Mai gate Market where I decided to try and avocado mango smoothie and boy it was delicious!!

After, we continued strolling around new slightly different areas until we ended up back at the hotel. I love seeing this small city at night. I love the way the lights of buildings and cars reflect into the water of the moat. I love how the smells of delicious foods from street vendors are always present and you can smell the shift in different flavors as you pass down a street. I love how this city never fails to make me smile and my heart happy.

Tuesday was great because during our break in Thai class, said my entire coffee order in Thai. Now that’s a pretty cool trick or interesting fact to be able to say about yourself… I can order coffee in Thai. I was feeling pretty good about myself because I had actually learned something and was able to apply this knew knowledge.

In Buddhist philosophy today, we went to the temple Wat santi tam where we were able to meet with one of our professors monk friends, who ended up giving us a quick tour and then sat down and talked with us for about an hour.

In this temple, they have a museum room with relics of various monks and meditations masters. The museum even apparently had a relic from the Buddha himself, which is pretty amazing!

After when we were talking with the monk, it was super neat to be able to hear some of his stories, as well as learn a lot from his outlook on life. Something that is definitely going to stick with me for a while is when he said “If you are suffering or angry it is because you created it, if you are happy or feeling joy it is because you created it.” Maybe it’s silly, maybe it’s not but I think it is so true; we can interpret situations however we want and if we want to look at it positively and be happy then we can, if we want to be miserable then we can. We are in control of how we feel, no one else.

So, after that I was super blissed out, the rest of the day I took a quick walk to the market for another mango-avocado smoothie, 2 spring rolls and a samosa, which I enjoyed in the hotel while editing photos, uploading photos, writing, and most importantly, smiling. I ended up going to bed around 9:30 and falling asleep probably by 11. What a nice day!

Wednesday we had our first class cultural field trip for Thai class. Our professor took us to the Thai market that David and Pat took us to when we had to try and find various fruits. We had the morning to look around and explore and use some of our knew Thai words and phrases. Because it was hot out and we were stuck in our uniforms I was covered in sweat by the time the van came to take us back to school. I know it’s kind of disgusting to admit to but this was probably the most sweaty I has been the entire trip. It was hot and humid and I was stuck in a uniform that did not breathe one bit. I am not sure if it is fortunate or not but everyone else was the same way so I was not the only sweaty American.

Once we got back to school, I had some sticky rice and a Thai tea for lunch and then headed on up to Buddhist Philosophy class.

Today we actually stayed on campus and chatted about the Buddhist perception of time, and talked about ego. Buddhists believe that your mind has two parts: your eo and then your true self. Your ego is what prevents you from being your true self, or seeing things just as they are rather than your perception of things. After talking back and forth with the professor and the other two girls, I was taken back when the professor said I have a very low ego. I took this as a major compliment because basically the professor was saying I make little judgment on the world and simply just see things and take them in as they are. What a kind thing to say about someone.

IMG_3797In my opinion the best compliments a person can receive is when their attitude is complimented. For example, someone complimenting a person’s smile or laugh, or in this case, the way you perceive things, and your attitudes about them because at the end of the day, what else really matters.IMG_3821

Once we got back, we decided to check off walking around the entire moat and Old City walls from our bucket list. Before we started walking, we grabbed smoothies and I chose dragon fruit, which had a subtly sweet yet earthy flavor. As we were walking there were various tents with chairs set up. Once we reached a tent that had a small buffet outside with the centerpiece of two pig heads, I had to ask what was going on. Apparently in was a celebration for the city’s birthday so later there was going to be some dancing and other sort of events.

IMG_3826

The walk eventually took us an hour and forty minutes, which is pretty good because it did not feel that long at all! As well, it was nice to get a much better orientation and sense of where everything is. I also learned that there are a couple temples on the opposite end of square that I would love to be able to take a closer look at.

IMG_3824Once we were back at the Chiang Mai gate market it was time to eat dinner and I found myself in another mood to want to try a whole bunch of different things. First I got what was listed as vegetarian Turkish pizza. It basically came out as almost a quesadilla filled with spinach, mushrooms, onions, and something else. It was so delicious!! Then, I continued on to have another samosa and a vegetarian noodle soup. It was refreshing to finally have a soup that I knew for sure wasn’t going to have meat in it and was something I didn’t need to make a special request for.

IMG_3836After that my friends and I were finally full so we took the quick walk back to the hotel and went to bed a little bit earlier.

Today was a good day!

Thai class went well again and I actually got something else a little more interesting for lunch because the special was fried rice with shrimp! I had this with a cappuccino and then went on to our highly anticipated Buddhist Philosophy class, because we were going to be trying a device that simulates the deepest level of meditation. The device does work a little differently on everyone depending on the way his or her brain works; however, we were all excited to give it a go.

I decided to go first because I as just super curious. The device uses flashing LCD lights, which apparently trigger various functions in your brain such as creativity, calmness, alertness, and then your subconscious. The whole time my eyes were close and the lights were going I was super jittery and hyper focused. I was following the blinking lights around in my head and noticed every single change whether it was 7 spinning blinking circles, 4 spinning squares, circles moving vertically and horizontally, or a honeycomb of circles moving all at once. Even though it was supposed to make me calm and relaxed, I found myself unable to focus because there was so much happening at once and changing every so often.

After comparing results with the other girls in the class and my teacher, apparently I was the only one this happened to, everyone else had various levels of calms because I think the lights focused them. The professor said next time he would change mine up a bit so that hopefully I was able to experience the complete zen feeling.

Even after it was over and we were walking to our red truck for the way home I still felt a sense of hyper-focus. For example I noticed every single sound around me and everything I say seemed extra clear. I could hear the sound of my feet brushing against the road, every bird in the trees, every car horn, the wind in the trees, etc. I felt like I could see every single leaf on the tree and every brick on building even far away. Eventually I mellowed out a bit more but I am very happy with my experience and am excited to try it again next week.

The best part was as lights took certain patterns it triggered so many great memories that seemed super simple or like things I wouldn’t remember. It was also curious how certain people kept showing up in my memories and people who I thought would did not. The whole time I just felt super happy and even now writing this I still am.

Tomorrow for Thai class we are going back to what suan dok for a monk chat program the temple and university runs. I am excited to hear what the monk has to say and learn from their insights on life.

Hope you all have a wonderful day!