Posts Tagged ‘USA’

I have this problem: I want to stay in touch with my friends when I travel. I get homesick and communicating with random strangers just isn’t enough sometimes.

I remember the days when I had these things called “pen-pals”. It’s a really old-skool thing where you would meet someone (or they would be assigned to you) and you would hand-write a physical letter to them. Then, because this wasn’t laborious enough you had to (also) write the address (perfectly and clearly) on the envelope, and place the letter (with a stamp that you magically found) in something called a “mailbox”.

Now we have email. But this isn’t enough, sometimes. I realize how much of a first-world-problem this sounds like. Stick with me for a minute.

We also have texting- but when you’re traveling internationally, this is also expensive (for me). Also, hearing my friend’s voice made such a difference on my own morale (there’s some sort of science behind this, I’m sure). So I’ve made it a mission to find/try every type of (free) communication device/app out there. Here is what I’ve found:

 

Skype: 

I’ve been using Skype since 2008 when I moved to Canada and wanted to call my (only) friends. The only thing I remember about Canada was how miserable I was and how I blame the whole entire nation for that (I’m mature!). Since then, I have stuck with Skype for a few friends and international calling.

  • SUPER EASY to figure out and use.
  • If you call skype-to-skype, it’s free.
  • If you call skype-to-phone number, the prices and quality (depending on your internet) is decent.
  • Depending on the hour/internet connection, the video can be really great or really crappy. (Compared against Google Hangout)
  • The “SMS” service (skype messenger) is reliable, fast and decent. It does auto-correct your crap, though.
  • The iphone app keeps getting better all the time.
  • No group calls (that I know of)

 

Google Hangout:

I started using Google Hangout because Skype was becoming increasingly more difficult and un-reliable. Especially through Central America. Few things to note: I’m not aware of an app-meaning that you have to log in on a tablet/computer to use GH. The learning curve is really steep, but once you have it, you got it. I should note that I’m not really a gmail user by default, so maybe that is the reason why.

  • Only allows GoogleHangout-to-GoogleHangout. (no phone support, that I know of).
  • They have a different video algorithm. Can’t say/decide if it’s better or worse. Sometimes it was great, others it was lousy.
  • The audio quality is ok. (not as good as a good-skype day, though)
  • You can give yourself funny hats/faces.
  • Allows group-chats – up to something redunk like 500 people or something- this makes live-chats/interviews possible.

 

FaceTime: 

I jumped on the apple bandwagon as soon as I heard that Siri could tell you where to hide the dead bodies.  Apple keeps improving their communication-devices/capabilities, and I’ll try that stuff, too. I have friends that use facetime all the time and told me to try it, but I just never did- until I was in the Philippines.

  • The facetime Audio is the best quality that I’ve found out of all voip (voice over IP) services.
  • Very easy to figure out. (only if you have an i-device)
  • You forget that someone can see you pick your nose.

 

Voxer: 

When I returned to the states, my friend’s phone kept going off like a walkie-talkie. The old kind from sprint. Remember those? I asked her what was going on and she exclaimed with glee: “Oh-em-gee! It’s this new app called Voxer! It’s great for when you are too drunk and can’t text anymore but you need to whisper-tell your girlfriends about the douche-canoe at the bar!”

I was sold-and downloaded it immediately. Not just for the drunk factor, but also when I’m taking a long-road trip and want to send a message- but it don’t necessarily need to call them, I can Vox them! Here are my favorite features:

  • Slight learning curve (to set up) but really easy after that.
  • a “push to record a message” function. Can’t get much easier than that.
  • You can tag your messages (location)
  • The app tells you when your message has been delivered and listened to.
  • You can “listen in real time” (basically, talking over Wifi)- except it forces you to listen actively because you can’t talk until they are done talking. (Good relationship practice!)
  • Downloading the message/sending/forwarding it onto your email/text is possible. (If I ever make a podcast, it’ll be full of Voxer stories). (Whatsapp doesn’t do this)
  • Ability to text, send pictures, videos, etc as well.
  • Forwarding messages is possible.
  • Group chats is possible.
  • Messages are stored on a cloud (forever….?)
  • It “connects” once and downloads all your messages in 1-go. If someone has sent you multiple messages it plays them right after the other automatically. (Whatsapp doesn’t do this)
  • “Notes to self” is also available- where you can, you guessed it! record notes for yourself! (Whatsapp doesn’t do this).
  • Finding users is dependent on them looking you up by a user name that is given to you. (Whatsapp uses a phone number).

I have to say that I use Voxer as my most preferred device- because of the download feature. I use it for my podcast friend (Misti), my brother- who is now living in London, friends who live in Baltimore, Seattle, and down the street. I also use the “notes to self” religiously whenever I’m out/about and don’t feel like writing something down.

Whatsapp: 

Another “Walkie-talkie Messenger” app service that is the popular-version of Voxer. Here’s my beef with it:

  • Does everything above (unless stated)
  • You need to download each message before it plays (and hit “play” on the message).
  • Pictures that are sent via Whatsapp are saved in your PhotoLibrary. (kinda cool!)
  • Again, you find a friend on Whatsapp via a phone number, not an ID of some sort. (yay!)

Facebook Messenger:

So, I was late to the party, mostly out of annoyance to FB for shoving their app down my throat every 2 seconds, but my friend Craig finally convinced me of downloading FBMessenger. How? Because he sent me a voice-message- not just text. Just like Voxer/Whatsapp- except it goes off your facebook friends.

  • Only goes from Facebook-To-Facebook (that I know of)
  • It really wants you to have notifications!!! (Even though I don’t want to turn it on, the “reminder screen” pops up every time.)
  • Syncs to your contacts in your phone (not sure why).
  • You can’t save/forward messages.
  • Group chats are possible.
  • Tagging chats is possible. (don’t know why you would do this, but whatevs).
  • It’s a separate app from Facebook.

 

So, if you’re traveling, and you’re homesick, and you want some options on how to stay in contact with people- try some of these out. I’m still a fan of Voxer- but the others are good alternatives. Also- did I mention that they are all FREE? (cause they are!)

Today I went to Jab Crossfit near the University District in Seattle, WA. My friend Carissa works here (I’ll be taking her kickboxing class next week- so wait on a follow-up blog on that!) and convinced me to do the last wod of the open with her.

14.5…. guh. 21-18-15-12-9-6-3 thrusters and burpees. I’ll kevetch about that later.

Alpha Martial Arts is a kickboxing, karate dojo and crossfit box all in 1. They have kid classes and multiple spaces so nothing seems chaotic, but it’s awesome that you can drop your kids off and go work out yourself. (FAMILY WORKOUTS!).

They are a small box, so my class size was perfect at 8 athletes and one amazing coach (Tyler) who’s take on crossfit is that it should be fun, “yes, we’re getting a workout, but it doesn’t have to be so serious.”

As far as the culture, Jab felt like a mini-family that was there to have fun. To work out and get the “that kicked my ass!” accomplishment feeling while smiling. Not many (if any) are there to compete, but instead to build a healthy life balance.

In regards to the community that it spawns: everyone knew everyone and the intimate details of their lives. Exhausted and out-of-breath cheering occurred during the WOD, everyone got fist-bumps at the end. I will say that I always feel like Crossfit is a great way of networking and this box is no different. I met a bunch of people that I wouldn’t mind grabbing coffee (hey! It’s Seattle, after all!) with at some point.

In general, everyone has to go through a fundamentals class so nothing is new/scary for the new victim athlete. Tyler has the eye and drive to make your form more efficient, effective and perfect before moving onto something more difficult which I greatly appreciate. He also loves to make his programming fun. Like incorporating the PeeWee Herman dance into kettlebell swings. (Yea, you read that right!)

The WOD we did was the Open’s 14.5. It was terrible. Awful. Dreadful. I’m going to do it again tomorrow. 😛

Lastly, I won’t spoil it for you- but the cool-down was my favorite part. Especially after that wod.

 

So if you’re looking for a box that will treat you like family and that you can have fun with- go check out Jab Cross(fit)! I highly recommend them. 🙂

I’ve been to Infinity before as it is owned by an old High School friend of mine. I actually really like this box. It has the perfect mix of “hard-core workouts” and “the friendly place that you go where everyone knows (or wants to know) your name”.

I decided to go here to workout with my dad and ask Heather Lyons about Infinity. What makes them different (besides location/name/etc) and the normal questions that I ask… She completely surprised me when she said “well, we’re a corporate box.”
“huh?”
“This is a sister location of Regal Crossfit which is a corporate box.”
“What do you mean by that?”

Apparently, Regal is located with-in the Regal Beloit corporation which helps the company grow in multiple ways:
1) Their health insurance premiums go down by offering crossfit to their employees.
2) When normally the president of the company wouldn’t talk to a floor-worker, they do now! Everyone has a team mentality and works together better than they could have ever imagined.
3) There is a mutual enemy– and her name is Fran.

Other things that make Infinity different is that on Monday I learned how to link my double-unders. Something that I’ve been working on for ….oh….2 years. It just takes practice and a good musical beat, apparently!

I was walking around aimlessly in NY with 3 hours to kill– when I stumbled upon Reebok 5th Ave. From the outside, it looks like a Reebok Crossfit retail store. Shoes, socks, shirts, jackets, etc litter the inside of the shop– but if you go downstairs you start to see and hear the familiar sounds of blood/sweat and tears.

I asked a lot of people what makes 5th ave different than all the other boxes in NYC… Everyone (and I mean EVERYONE) said “the trainers are the best in the world”(end quote). Of course, I’m skeptical. I informed them that I have been traveling around the world and, no offense, but the world is big… I mean, how can one even make such a claim? So I asked Bobby– the head coach.

“We’re the best in the world and we work hard to be the best.”

From what I gathered, all the trainers meet every week and we go over a principal. A lift/stretch/mobility exercise/something. Then they break it down, analyze the anatomy of the body when doing the principal, the muscles that are actually being used vs what we (humans/athletes) THINK are being used, what words should and shouldn’t be used when describing what is being done, scaling options, everything. This takes several hours. All the trainers contribute and they talk about the best way to teach this to athletes.

Because Reebok 5th Ave has anywhere from 10-40+ people per class, they have multiple coaches teaching each class so it’s necessary to have uniformity between all of the coaches.

This weekly coach-breakdown helps get that and helps them all grow significantly every week/month.

“If you don’t grow as a coach- you are a bad coach. That’s my opinion, anyway.”-Bobby.

In addition to having cool coaches (one dressed up as Rafael (from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles) during their explanation) they also hold Civilian Military Combine competitions and offer up their box for training for anyone who is signed up for tough-mudder/spartan runs, etc.

I should also note that, for downtown NYC, this box is HUGE! I can’t imagine what their rent is. Luckily for them, they have 450+ monthly members and have only continued to grow since opening up 9 months ago.

I was there on Wednesday– which means “partner wod” day.

Before the wod, though, we did a Split-Jerk skill for 20 minutes. Even though there were a lot of people, it was a great opportunity to practice muscle memory or PR (depending on where you grouped yourself). The coaches, like they promised, broke the exercise down into great “muscle-memory steps” that everyone (from beginner to advanced) could benefit from. The description of how to do the split-jerk (shown on PVC) was spot-on and thorough, which this (hopefully someday) trainer appreciated.

After 20 minutes of work, we got into the WOD. I found an awesome athlete (Jacqualine) who kept me excited and feeling accomplished the whole time— which just added to my overall “bad-ass/welcome feeling” of this box.

50-40-30-20-10
lunges
hand-release pushups
situps
double-unders

I should note that the following day I had to get on a plane and sit for 24 hours while I make my way to Australia– so lunges were a terrible idea… BUT! I’m so glad that I went and I’m sad that I can’t stay longer and hang out with this crew more often. I will definitely be returning when I’m back in NYC– and highly recommend it to anyone who is visiting/living there.

I think I’m in love with Nicaragua. The people, the atmosphere, the climate, the culture…. The sheer niceness of people just blows me away. Things that people do- when they don’t have to. I mean, why help the fluffy-haired gringa? When would that ever be a good thing to do?

I was reminded of this story from my college days where I sublet a room the summer. I needed a desk, so I bought one off craigslist, wheeled it down Boylston Ave and then it started raining… I ran faster with it, breaking off a wheel. When I got close to the apartment, I yelled out to my new roommates to help me, but they didn’t budge. Just sat on the stoop smoking cigarettes. I found out later that “where they come from” they –WERE- helping me by moving. (That is “helping” where they come from).

In Nicaragua I have had quite the opposite experience and I want to share my day yesterday:

I woke up early and, like every morning for a while, I went running around 7:30am. I ran up the mountain for about 20-25 minutes, then down. On the way down the mountain, I stumbled and fell right outside this pulperia (shop). Some old men saw me and rushed over to make sure I was ok. After I assured them I was fine, they offered me some coffee (that they, no doubt, grew/harvested/dried/ground themselves…. The best kind, IMO). I declined because I still had a mile or so to go.

Later that day, my friend Elyna and I left. We decided to hitch-hike from Jinotega to Sabaco. We stuck out our thumb and instantly a guy in a blue truck stopped. He told us he could only take us down 15K. We agreed anyway and hopped in the back. (note: the bus takes 2 hours to go 45km… so it’s better to hitch).  After a really fast ride, we hopped out and stuck out our thumbs again and got a semi-truck to stop. He opened up the back and we rode in the back of an empty semi-truck for the rest of the way.

Once we arrived in Sabaco, we ate (an amazing plate of chicken, rice, potatoes, plantains and a drink for 2.50$USD) we found a bus to take us to Esteli. That’s when we looked at a map and figured out that Esteli is NO WHERE NEAR Leon (where we both wanted to go. Elyna was trying to go north anyway, so she got on another bus to go north (to Honduras) and I hitched back down to San Isidro.

I should note: My Spanish is elementary at best. I can half communicate with a 3 yr-old, which I’ll talk about later.

So when I was hitching, this guy kept saying “ares moy mimosa” (it wasn’t until later that I figured out he was calling me beautiful (Eres muy Hermosa)… stupid accents). I just giggled and made faces or rode in silence. 30 minutes later, we arrived and he dropped me off at the bus station. I tried to pay him some money (for letting me ride in the cab and dealing with my piss-poor Spanish, but he wouldn’t even consider it. He told me to hurry (well, ok.. he just talked really fast and pointed) and I got on a bus where I sat next to a girl holding a chicken and took out my knitting needles and continued to knit my much-needed-belt. All these kids stared at me… in awe. I was, hands down, the most entertaining thing on the bus. I kept pointing to things outside (cows, chickens, goats, horses) and saying stuff like “el perro va woof!” and they would say “no! bow bow”.  “El Vaca va mooooooo!” and the kid would go “mawwww”. It was downright adorable/entertaining for all.

 

Why am I telling you all this?

Because most of the world things of third world countries as dangerous. They think that all these people living in “poverty” are crooks, criminals, thieves, rapists, murderers, or some other negative and awful words. I have found the complete opposite. In the states, we have a very “dog eat dog” mentality. In Central America (especially in Nicaragua) they do things that are kind. Simple things mean more to these people than anything else.

Also, fun fact, Nicaragua is considered the 2nd safest country in the western hemisphere (next to Canada.)

Juneau is an old Indian phrase for “amazingly beautiful” (ok, I made that up). But it is! Probably all of Alaska is, but I only visited Juneau.

I went for a 2 day weekend, which is no where near long enough to spend immersed in nature.

I will note that I went there during the solstice, so the sun went down, but it never really got dark. I think it was darkest around 3:15am.

The amount of nature was also amazing! There was a point when my friend and I were kayaking and saw a bald eagle swimming (we suspected there was something wrong with him, actually) meanwhile, a seal popped his head up out of the water and looked around on the side of our kayak!

I was natured out by this point.

“Enough about this… LN! I want to know if Alaska is a fit location for the zombie apocalypse!”

Alrighty then… We’ll get started.

Location:
The weather in Juneau is very similar to Seattle. It was (thankfully) sunny when I was there, but apparently it’s dark/rainy/gloomy most of the time. During the summer it can get warm (upper 80s) but this is rare. It’s usually pretty mild in the summer (high of 50) and during the winter it gets pretty cold (-20F). They are pretty protected by mountains and water for any big gusts to come through, but Juneau does have a glacier that causes some crazy weather patterns.

“Due to a jokulhlaup (glacial outburst flood) I hardly worked at all today & might not work at all tomorrow. So I make no money, but I have time off. River’s up like 6 ft.” -Kit

Water:
There is water all around, and most of it is ice/glacier/fresh water, so it is drinkable- however sanitation is necessary, obviously. As far as escaping, the city is in an enclave (read:no crazy tide) that makes it easy for cruise ships to get in/out, which means other modes would work just fine, too.

Lodging:
Juneau is a mining and logging community so there are no shortage of natural resources. Trees of all sizes and tools to manipulate them are a plenty here. The buildings are able to (if there is electricity) withstand all kinds of climates and elemental surprises.

Food:
there is also a ton of wild animals! Like I said before, bald eagles (not good for eating) moose (ok for eating) salmon (ommnommnomm) are also prevalent. The down side is farming/gathering.
Citrus doesn’t grow here easily, and a lot of stuff is shipped in.

Costco/equivilant:
There were walmarts and gun stores, but again, a lot of things need to be shipped in from the states/somewhere else. Juneau is also a small town of 30,000 so supplies are limited, but so is the inevitable zombie population.

Non-dead dangers:
The mosquitos were just like teenage boys. They could smell fresh young blood and attacked it with a purpose! Make sure to pack deet!

Locals:
Beach parties and guitar music were pretty common during my visit. Not a ton of culture, but great company.