Posts Tagged ‘pictures’

NOTE: I’m a freelance volunteer. I have no affiliation. Which means that I can write and be totally open about everything I’ve seen. (HORRAY FOR NON-EXISTENT NDAS!) Being a “rogue volunteer” gives me a lot of pros and cons.

PROS:

-I was invited to stay/sleep at the mayor’s house.
-I meet a bunch of random people of the town that “are important”
-Ride a bus with a bunch of musicians
-Be interviewed by Channel 5 (at least 3 times).

CONS:

-I have to figure out where my meals come from
-I have to figure out where I’m going to sleep, my transportation, etc.
-I have to find jobs/tasks to do/help with.

I think if I ever do disaster relief again (and I’d like to) I want to be with an org of some sort. Just someone with a mission/purpose that is already established.

With all that said, however, I’ve been super busy helping a city (Bogo) and it’s surrounding “barangays” (villages) this past week. Before this I was helping in the food shelters packing (and repacking) food. I grew tired of this because of various reasons- mostly political. There has been a bunch of news stories (here in the Philippines) about “Repacking” and how it’s terribly inefficient. There are actually a few news stories on the topic that I’ll translate for you:

1) Organizations (Like DSWD. Department of Social Welfare) receive packs from donors. Then they repack them “to make them equal/all the same” and then mark the packs with “DSWD” on them, so it makes DSWD look good. (I help out with the DSWD and while I can’t verify that this happens- the second point DOES…. ALL THE TIME.)

2) Communities (disaster relief centers– like the complex I’ve been helping at) will receive packs from various locations and repack them to make them all the same (same amount of noodles/cans/etc) for when they get distributed. While this  is ok, it’s extremely time consuming. (A pack will be re-packed 3-4 times and every re-pack will add a day delay from that pack of food getting to a house/belly.

So- when I am lacking in work, I help at the complex, even though it’s inefficient and drives me crazy. It’s labor intensive and allows me to ignore the world for a while and just haul stuff and make all the Filipino men wish they knew what crossfit was.

When I’m not helping at the complex I’m helping Mayor Martinez and his army organize things. An example is that the Israeli army wanted to help rebuild a school. It was my job to talk to the mayor of that town, get materials bought (so the town has ownership… Not just a charity case) for the Israelis to rebuild the school. Another day I chartered a city bus from one town (Medellin) to Bogo (where the Israelis have a hospital set up) so everyone could have a chance to see a doctor. Another day, an NGO with Sawyer Water Filtrations came with a bunch of 55-gal drums, needed a team of volunteers to do work. (so I was basically the foreman telling people what to do). Not to toot my own horn, but I’m actually really good at “bossing” people around (read: making decisions, figuring out priorities, thinking creatively) and getting shit done. I guess this is why I’m helping the Mayor(???).
The next week, because I don’t have political or family ties here, the Mayor had me to go to damaged houses in each barangay to verify the reports that were filed. (Basically an insurance claims for the government). I was supposed to visit 18,454 houses, with a team of 4, in 3 days. With no helicopter. This was impossible. We did our best, but we only ended up seeing 28% of the houses. The reports from the barangay captains were pretty accurate- except the terminology. What they called “Majorly Damaged” I would consider “Totally Devastated”. (see pics). So currently the barangay captains are getting sheets to fill out of each person in their village who’s house needs assistance and I will go to each “address” and verify what they claim.

Major damage

Minor Damage

The term “address” is hilarious because the houses were (are?) built on the sides of mountains. No roads go to their house- and the “path” that is there is now a muddy trail littered with banana trees and palm-tree trunks. My brother made a great suggestion that I ask the US government for a drone and just use that to go around and verify all these houses. It’s not a bad idea.

While on the subject, I’m a little disappointed in the lack of response that I’ve seen from America being physically here, to be honest. Hell, I’ve seen more French here than Americans. (That’s just embarrassing…) To be fair, I guess I should say that I’m not in Tachloban or Leyte. Maybe that’s where they all are? Who knows. No one really seems to know- not even the news people. (“You’re American?! You’re the first one we’ve met!”) Until yesterday (Thanksgiving) I was the only American volunteer here in Bogo. Then the NGOs and another rogue volunteer came to help. Sad to say, this (American handshakes and accents) was the GREATEST thing I could ask for for Thanksgiving. 🙂

Sorry for the tangent…

The government has 3 phases here in place:

1) Food relief and assessment.
2) work for food, work for cash, work for materials. (A lot of their jobs (read reason for living) is gone, so work gives them purpose and HOPE.)
3) Rebuilding. (where they relocate people and/or rebuild their houses… This is where my assessment is coming in handy, apparently).

Speaking of hope/faith, it’s something they have a lot of. People will take time to write signs that say “roofless but not hopeless”. People are getting excited for christmas (xmas is huge here…. They put up the decorations in october) because all electricity will be restored by then (or so the estimates say. What they really mean is “if you live in a big city, it’ll be restored by Xmas. If you live in the sticks, you’ll have to wait until March.”).

The range of emotions is… drastic to say simply. It’s not enough that:

– no one is getting good sleep or
-drinking enough water or
-those working are over-worked… those not are underworked.
-still don’t have electric in their houses (so they can do stuff, like clean/fix their homes when they get home)

I so rarely see people cry, and when I do see it, it just breaks my heart. Because I’m crying every night (a waste of water, I realize) and I have a bed that I’m sleeping in. AND A MOSQUITO NET!

But some people don’t have that… They have nothing. They have less than a dog-house. (see pics) And they don’t get mad! Strike that. They get passive-aggressive. But in the games industry- you work for egotistical men who over-compensate so maybe I’m used to it. Actually, I think the only way that I’m actually helping is being a punching bag for people. They are stressed and frustrated and it’s easier to yell at me (someone who will leave) than it is to yell at fellow filipinos who they will see every Sunday at church. Not to say that I’m being treated poorly. I find the hospitality to be excellent. I’m fed 11 times a day (at least!). I get told, every day- by the women, how people appreciate my help. On the flip side I also get asked for money at every street corner. I get frustrated sometimes that people aren’t more willing to help clean up/do work-that I have to “con” them with money or hugs or high-fives. Some would call filipinos lazy, but I think they are mentally and physically exhausted. Chalk this up to another missed business opportunity: Psych students should flock to natural disasters and see PTSD at the source.

Speaking of PTSD— here’s a story: 

One morning I was being dragged around to useless/pointless errands of the Israelis (I didn’t need to be part of any of it… but they invited me. I thought it was important. It wasn’t. It was just dropping off water tanks to an island and taking a lot of pictures…. Useless mission for me, IMO.) Then I go to the sports complex. Channel 5 is there. They flock to me (because a) I’m white and b) I’m carrying sacks of rice. This never fails to impress people here. It’s like a free circus show) and invite me to help deliver food relief to a neighboring barangay. I agree and we load up a truck, jump in the back (redneck style) and head out.

Once the truck got to the barangay and slowed down, people flocked and screamed. At first it was children coming after us like we were an ice-cream truck.

Then it was adults and it got more ravage that just reminded me of zombie movies… Or India. (Pick one. Both are bad situations.) The truck stops and (after taking the picture below) I jump out and count them. 215… Not including kids.

215 hungry head-of-households. Everyone is smiling at me. Kids are running up, poking my butt and running off. I chase them for a bit. I don’t know why the news crew is taking their sweet ass time in getting out of their truck so we can unload– but they are. I play with the kids some more (yea. shutup. I play with kids now.)

And then someone yells at me to get back on the truck. We’re leaving… For whatever reason we aren’t stopping here. This was just a big fucking giant cock-tease. The people in line stare at me. Wondering what they did wrong. Did they not pray enough? Did they not say thank you enough? Did they not have cute enough children? They had the look of abandonment that can only be compared to the old dogs in the ASPCA shelters. The only hope I had was that we had 300 sacks and someone else was going to get them.

So then we stop up the road to a smaller part of the barangay. We actually had to knock on doors to get the people to come out. We give away 121 sacks, even though there are 135 households. When there weren’t enough takers, we went to another barangay where people lined up again. More of them this time. I was instructed to get out of the truck and hand people the relief sacks while being interviewed by channel 5.

To be honest, this was the only time in all my time in the Philippines I was terrified for my safety. I always tend to have “an escape plan”. Whenever I sit in a restaurant I sit with my back against a wall so I can see the door (or escape route). I am constantly making escape plan routes- mostly for the Zombie Apocalypse. Even when drunk (which ends up being really creative and hilarious, actually. It’s probably all for nothing, but it entertains me and isn’t hurting you, so stop judging!) Anyway- when I got out of the truck, I was pinned against the back of the truck with hundreds of hungry people’s hands reaching towards me from all angles. All the while I was being interviewed by Channel 5. After we gave 150 sacks (even though there are 130 households) I had the unfortunate job of telling a toothless woman (with an infected eye) that she couldn’t have food. That even though our truck was full, it wasn’t for her. She turned away and sobbed so loudly that I had to cover my ears, climb back into the truck and cry for myself. Someone eventually gave her a sack, but it was enough to shoot my nerves. All I wanted to do was drink a beer and lay in the fetal position for a few hours. I tried to meditate on the way back, taking puffs of a cigarette that someone else lit up to try to calm myself. Nothing seemed to help.

We get back to the complex and unload all the “unused” food sacks. There were litters of children who didn’t want to help. “I’m not strong enough” is what they all said. I told them that I bet they can- and handed them a sack. One girl said “hey. I bet I can carry more than you!” and they made a game. #AchievementUnlocked: Got kids to help even when they didn’t want to. This, apparently is my speciality. I usually promise high-fives, hugs or my phone number. (even though they don’t have houses, they all have cell phones. I get more daily texts from kids than from twitter telling me that The baby prince took a shit.) So the kids started to help. When we finished, we had a make-shift “talent show” on the gym floor. Kids were tumbling, kart-wheeling, doing handstands, playing hand-games, and jump-rope. This is when I split my pants because I was showing off…. Embarrassing. But every one just laughed and shrugged it off. I appreciated this. And hey! If I can make people laugh during this time, power to me.

I called my driver (yes. I have a driver… I’ll let you think it’s fancy- when really, it’s a hassle and I plan on renting a motorbike when I get back) and had him take me to my host family’s house (about an hour away). My plans were to just sit, read, answer Facebook* messages… You know… Relax. But instead I was hassled on why I’m doing myself a disservice by not believing in (the Muslim) God, how I should study the Quran, how even though I’m doing good work, I’ll still go to Hell unless I accept God into my life. blah blah blah. I tried my best to argue, but how do you argue with people like that? The ones giving you a roof, couch and food? The ones who are ignorant to how the rest of the world is, thinks, lives and believes that their way of life is applicable and valid for all?
I slept on an off that night. Going between anger, frustration, hope and sorrow. I tried all my yoga-relaxation techniques that I learned just over a month ago. I took sleeping pills. I swatted mosquitos. I thought of sex with Han Solo. Nothing seemed to help except the thought that when I die, it’ll be fine. And when I get home, I’m going to eat 3 pounds of streaky bacon. And it’s going to be the definition of glorious.
*fun fact: with most sim card plans, Facebook is free- but you have to pay for everything else…. why? No idea. Why didn’t Globe message EVERYONE in the Philippines “DANGER! TYPHOON COMING! EVACUATE IF YOU LIVE IN ___ AREAS!”??? I don’t know. There’s a missed business opportunity (or at least a life-saving opportunity) here.

This is way over-due, and for that I’m sorry.

Australia at first glance seems like the perfect place to survive the zombie apocalypse: it’s a massive island/continent/country that is mostly self-sufficient and has some of the coolest/most laid back locals ever… The differences of the cities is unlike anything that I have experienced anywhere else:
Melbourne- the hub of art, dance, theater and culture.
Adelaide- a sleepy and charming town with acres and acres of vineyards and amazing zoo,
cairns- the gloriously sunny beach town where it’s advised to not swim in the croc-infested waters but instead to gaze at the sunrises and go scuba diving in the Great Barrier Reef.
Sydney- where everyone goes for a holiday due to its mixed abundance of things to do,
Alice springs- with it’s super dry climate, heaps of wild life (camels!) and really laid back locals with the deliciously adorable accents,
Darwin- croc and party central. (Because those two things go together so well!)

However, after living there for 5 months I can tell you that while I ADORE oz, could see myself living there for a really long time, I would definitely leave the second z-day happened. Here’s why:

Australia in General:
46/70

*Location: 8/10
The location is actually pretty good. Keeping in mind that Australia is HUGE (bigger than the continental US) you have all sorts of climates to choose from. The weather stays about the same on the coasts (Sydney, Brisbane, Byron bay, cairns, etc.) as where Melbourne gets cold during their winter (June-sept) and hot (where the sun feels like a laser beam!) during the summer months (nov-feb). There aren’t any natural disasters except bush fires during the dryer months (which could be disastrous- but once the population dies off, you should be ok.) the only bad part of Australia is the HUGE desert in the middle (the outback). Unlike in the states and going through Nevada, you could go 300-500km without seeing anyone or anything. Including service stations. So be prepared. Being fuel and water with you if you venture into the bush.

*Water: 8/10
Most of Australia is in a constant state of drought. (It’s actually kind awesome that everyone i met only takes 7 min showers. and they do this instinctively.) however, while drinking/purified water is limited the place is an island- surrounded by water. Making it easy to get on a boat and sail away to somewhere else.

I should note: I never visited Tasmania- which may be a better option for the apocalypse- but I don’t know.

*Lodging: 9/10
The lodging (overall) is as sturdy as you would get in any first world country. Built to code, multiple accesses, some creative shops with apartments on top, etc.
In cooper pedy the houses are built underground (because it can get upto 45 (113F) degrees on the surface during the summer months.) I don’t know if zombies can melt- but this is the only place I found that is “bunker like” in Oz.

*Food: 8/10
Oh. Em. Gee. The food in oz is amazing. The agriculture is plentiful and is mostly organic/real food (no gmo food here.) the meat you can eat is also tasty and endless. Kangaroo, croc, emu, camel, pig, cow and lamb are all readily available. You would be able to plant/grow your own food- but you have to be careful during the summer months (which are the driest.)

*Costco/equivilant: 3/10
Big super-stores don’t really exist- but the towns are built in a way so you can walk down a single street and get everything you would need: grocery store, market, butcher, hardware store, 2-dollar store, pharmacies, banks, gyms, coffee shops, liquor stores, etc. all on a single block.

The first place that Australia loses my vote for “best place to be during zday” is because of the lack of guns. There is no where to readily get a gun/ammo. Unless you’re in the bush and you know a guy- there aren’t stores that you can loot to defend yourself against the ___12 million___ people/zombies that live in oz.

*Non-dead dangers: 1/10
Here is where Australia loses. Home
To crocs, sharks, 9/10 most deadly snakes, heaps of poisonous (and/or wicked scary) spiders, drop bears, mosquitos with dengue fever…. I’ve said it before and ill say it again: I think the Australian army should lease themselves out to fight wars with unstable living environments- because the Aussies are the most badass set of people that I know. Not scared of anything, really. However— with that said- do you really want to fight those types of people once they are undead and after your brains?

*Locals: 9/10
Oh, Australia. The winter gave me the blues hardcore when I first got there- but the people made up for it ten-fold. Depending on what your crowd is- you could party all night and day with Aussies- and they will love you. You could also just sit around a cuppa and talk until you’re blue in the face- and they will also love you. I lived in Melbourne for a while– and since I love “culture” (theater, music, dance, art, etc) this was heaven on earth for me.

Their craft beer selection is limited- but super tasty. their wine selection is bigger and even more tasty. Music sounds like western music (unless you talk about aboriginal music.)

I should also note that Oz DOES have some of the cutest animals (as well as some of the most deadly) on the planet. I mean– LOOK AT THIS FACE!

With all that said- the continent isn’t nearly as populated as other places (it has roughly the same population of texas) so you don’t have to get rid of a lot of people before having a whole place to yourself.

I went to a few areas in Peru: Lima, Cusco (Machu Picchu) and Arequipa (Colca Canyon). All are lovely as are the people and the food is out of this world. My whole time in Peru was based on hiking/trekking/outdoor-stuff. With that said, I will tell you briefly of Lima and then do a compare/contrast between Colca Canyon and Machu Picchu as far as places to go hiding after Z-day:

Lima is a great city. Here are the things that surprised me the most about it:

1) It looks like Europe. I guess it’s an old Spanish colony, so I shouldn’t have been TOO surprised, but the architecture did surprise me in how beautiful and ornate it (still) was.

2) The economy of selling STUFF is unbelieveable. If you wanted pencil erasers, there was a guy selling those. If you wanted small pink rulers, there was a guy selling those, too. If you wanted a blue ruler, there was a different guy selling those. If you wanted plastic made-in-china-anything, there was a whole mercado dedicated to it with alcoves upon nooks and crannies dedicated to everything and anything you could ever possibly imagine.

TL;DR: If you want to get cheap knock-offs for cheap- go to Lima.

With that said- I did have amazing Cerveche here, and Pisco sours. If you are unaware (as I was), Peru is second to France in the number of “fancy 5-star food” dishes that they have available to the public. I was skeptical, but the only “bad food” I had was while on the treks, which I’ll describe later.

Later:

I flew from Lima to Cusco (mainly because a 1-hour flight was 92$ and the bus was 74$ and took 24+ hours. I may be self-employed, but my time is still valuable!) Once I got to Cusco, I was bound and determined to not get altitude sickness like I did in Quito and went for a 6k run. It took me over an hour– and I was tired, but I felt good. This proved to be a great idea- because I wasn’t nearly as tired as I was in Quito. I think the Coca tea also helped. (Gift from the gawds, I tell you!)

The Inca Trail tour (Cost 450+$usd) was all booked up for months, so I went on the Salkatay tour (cost 230$USD) which is MORE HARD CORE and WAY BETTER, imo. 5 days, 4 nights of trekking on uneven ground which the farmers now use to get live-stock/goods across the Andes to the various villages. We camped, ate simple food, ascended to 4,650meters above sea-level, woke up to roosters, hiked about 20k a day and I made some amazing friends.

Machu Picchu (59/70)  just as amazing as you would imagine. Or maybe you don’t know much about it- so that’s why you’re here… It’s a city where the Incas lived, high in the mountains, far from everyone else. The city was beautifully built out of rocks that were carved BY OTHER ROCKS and then SANDED BY ROCKS until they were smooth. Take the time to read that sentence again. Keep in mind they had no dynamite or sand-paper, no wheel and no iron/metal tools. This was 1100AD. All they had were pissed off Gods that they had to give sacrifices to, coca, chocolate, llamas and rocks. Oh yea, they didn’t even have donkeys at this time… Those were introduced by the Spanish. All the rocks were “harvested” out of the mountain and carried by either men or weak-ass llamas (who can only carry up to 50kilos).


Ok- moving on. Waynapicchu (is another mountain that over-looks Machu Picchu. This is actually the safer of the 2 places because it’s a higher mountain and has SOME structures that are left over. It’s also kinda difficult to get up to because the rocks and trail is strenuous for people with brains, let alone those without. (In the picture below- Wayna Picchu is the mountain peaking up on the right).

 

The location of WaynaPicchu is fantastic. 10/10. It doesn’t get too cold or too hot. Machu PIcchu has all the available means to do agriculture that held a civilization there for 300+ years. (9/10) There is plenty of water that falls during the rainy season, as well as natural springs. (10/10) The lodging is rustic, but could be adapted for common-day use. You need to replace the thatched roofs every 5 years, but your house can withstand the great tests of time, including earth-quakes! (9/10) There is not a lot of civilization. Aqua Caliente (a town named after a nearby hot-spring) is super touristy, but that means goods (like some of the best damn hot-chocolate ever!). It’s down the mountain, but probably has enough “stuff” that would tide anyone over during the apocalypse. (Except guns… I didn’t see any guns. Doesn’t mean that the farmers don’t have them, though….) 7/10. Non-dead dangers would include things the ruthless mosquitos, poisonous spiders and altitude sickness. Not too shabby over-all. (7/10) The locals speak Quechua and Spanish- but most of them speak a little English (enough to communicate with tourists). Quechua is a dying language, sadly, but their customs are not. They are kind and proud people of the Inca who still weave their own cloth, sing their own folk tunes and know how to convince the land to grow crops. (7/10)

 

(picture below shows the view of Machu Picchu FROM Wayna Picchu).

Colca Canyon is also a great place to go during z-day. If you travel south (8 hours by bus) to the big city of Arequipa you can get on another bus (for 3 hours) to the Canyon.

Be careful of local buses, though, because they tend to go off the side of the cliff often.

The canyon is the deepest canyon in the western hemisphere. It’s pretty desert-like, with not a lot of natural springs (but some!) and an impressive river at the bottom. The river is full during the rainy season (Jan-March) but starts to run dry after that.

From the canyon, you can drive up to summits of 4,900 and hike up volcanos (where the Incas held most of their sacrifices to the Gods). There aren’t many permanent structures here, but they do have a great vantage point.

 

(this trek was brought to you by Troy Meat Shop)

I’ve been sick for the past few days (my first cold since I’ve been traveling! not bad for third world countries!) but I decide to suck it up, get some drugs (that was an adventure… you can’t just walk into a drug store and get something off the shelf. You have to talk to a pharmacist to get everything. Including cotton balls/toilet paper!) I get my drugs and rode the metro downtown to the Bogota Gold Museum. 
The whole down-town area was PACKED! SO MANY PEOPLE!

And llamas!

And other bizarre things.
So I go through the museum and look at all the figurines and stuff, but it was really crowded (the museum is free on Sundays, so I should have known). After that, I went through the markets (flea-market-types) and then decided to walk the 50+ blocks home. It’s a long walk, but I wasn’t feeling great and needed some air.
On my way home, I finally get hungry. My appetite hasn’t been all that great since I’ve been sick. I go into a place that has “Bandeja Piasa” Which is this huge oval plate with avocado, rice, pork and beans, cherizo (like spicy italian sausage), pork, steak and a fried egg all on top. (basically, it’s to die for).
The price? 3.50$. Yea. That is to die for. So I’m eating my lunch and I see this girl try to go into the bathroom… She’s fumbling with the door and then all of a sudden she goes stiff and falls/collapses onto a motorcycle that was behind her! I jump up and grab/support her head/move her legs, do my “first-aid” thing and try to tell other people what to do. “support her head! CABEZA!”

the girl that fell then looks at me (she has a nasty cut on her head and isn’t focusing too well) and says “CAAAABeza”. Then she throws up. 
 
The drunk/drugged girl corrected my pronunciation… 

My friend Suzanne and I went to Italy recently. This isn’t part of my RTW trip– more of a recon mission to

a) see if all my international devices worked

b) carb-up on delicious food before I left to eat who-knows-what for a year+.

c) hang out with Suzanne one last time before I left.

It was a huge success! 🙂 Here are some of the highlights:

The first night we get into Monterossa (part of the Cinque Terre). She had been there before and found us a nice room with a fridge and! STOCKED WITH PROSECCO! *score*

We pop open the bottle and proceed to drink, uh.. a lot. I can’t remember how many bottles we had but it was a lot. After visiting with her friend (who helped us with the room) we went skinny dipping in the Mediterranean. 😀

*ACHIEVEMENT UNLOCKED: went skinny dipping in the mediterranean*

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The other highlight (besides all the amazing food and culture and life and being on “italian time” (which is WAY different than American time) was in Rome. Suzanne and I were trying to find a club. We ventured out and found a bar with free wifi and, of course, prosecco. We ordered a bottle and got our bearings. Ordered a cab and went to the club district. The cab-ride over there was amazing! Every turn was a famous statue followed by ancient ruins followed by a beautiful church and then BAM! HELLO COLOSSEUM! Absolutely stunning. (especially in the dark). The cab driver dropped us off and we picked a random club (called Alibi).

It was, apparently, gay-night that night. Not that we noticed or cared. We danced our butts off until about 5:30am and got back to our room right in time to have a delicious pastry and cappicino and watched the sunrise. Just in time to go to bed. Image

Overall- I love and miss Italy greatly. I will return someday… soon.

Look at the really cute Italian nutella glasses!

First- yay snatches!
Second- you turn into a cow? Magic!

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On my 30th birthday I decided to (attempt) to walk 30-miles around Manhattan and across all the Manhattan bridges. (15 of them).

So I started by catching a subway to City Hall Park (in manhattan) and ran/walked the following:

  • Brooklyn Bridge
  • Manhattan Bridge
  • Williamsburg Bridge
  • Queensboro Bridge
  • Ward’s Island Bridge
  • Randall Island footbridge
  • Triboro (RFK) bridge
  • Willis Ave Bridge (not accessible at this time by foot)
  • 3rd ave Bridge
  • Madison ave Bridge
  • 145th Bridge
  • George Washington Bridge
  • Marine Parkway Bridge (by subway)

Full Album is here

I didn’t quite run/walk 30 miles, but it ended up being 19 miles- which is 30K! 🙂 So I’ll take that.