Love in the dance world

When I was in the salsa world, I met a lot of people who were looking for love. When you’re “in the scene,” you can find love in a lot of different places (socials, classes at different studios, salsa gatherings, your dance partner, someone on your dance team) and unfortunately for some who were already in relationships, their relationships deteriorate because of this. I was one of them. That’s a story for another time though.

Any who, I observed some of my salsa friends fall in love with their dance partners and some salsa instructors fall for their students, and I observed them as they fell out of love and jumped to another person in the scene (was awkward social dancing sometimes). And eventually most of them realize that they had to drop out of the scene if they wanted to make their relationships work with the one they feel is worthy of their time (time that could be spent dancing/performing). Not because they felt that it was an obligation but at some point, they realized that a working and loving relationship takes TIME.

When we get sucked into something we love so much, we MAKE TIME for it. That’s not a new concept. But the time you make for your passion (for yourself, really), takes away time from making a romantic relationship work. But how do you know if the person is worth you putting your passion on the back burner for awhile (and I say for awhile because a worthy person will NEVER make you put your passion on the back burner forever)? You don’t, unfortunately. Until you learn you compromise and take time away from your passion to make time for him/her.

And then there are ones who have taken the risk before and have been hurt so badly that they refuse to compromise themselves, their time, and their passion for a chance at love again.

I see this in the pole world.

I know quite a few pole dancers and instructors who hide themselves away in pole studios, giving the love they could give to another person, to the art of pole. Because the pole can never break your heart. It’s an object that you can control. Heartache and emotions…not so much. I get it.

But if one of your goals is to start a meaningful relationship with another person, you have to let that fear go. And then MAKE TIME for it….even when you don’t know the outcome. For me, it’s like the spin pole….you just gotta go with it and sometimes it’ll toss you on your ass and make you hurl, but you went for it. You kinda expected it but it still hurts when it happens. But then one day, you get on it and…..oh my gosh…you’re still on the pole and the nausea is gone. And then it’s a whole new world. Relationships are like that.

Heck, I never expected to get married. I broke up with every guy that I felt was on the verge of proposing. And when Mike proposed, I almost blacked out. I saw red, then black, and started hyperventilating….from fear. I kid you not, But here I am, married. And we’re talking about having a kid sometime next year. Eeeek.

Anyways, I guess what I’m trying to say is that I want my pole friends and instructors to go out and seize love by the horns. You can draw so much inspiration from a healthy personal and work life. Make time for an outside life. Try online dating and go on lots of dates. Even if they’re bad ones, they make great stories. If you’re in a relationship, don’t ruin it with your obsession for pole. It’s great to have a passion, bad to have an obsession. :P

Live, laugh, LOVE, folks. LOVE!!!

Annie

Ellis Island Hard Hat Tour (Hospital)

One of my passions is NYC history. The birth of our country started with the 13 colonies and NYC’s history has always fascinated me. Last month, Ellis Island opened its unrestored hospital buildings to the public and Mike and I had purchased the tickets in August. The tour was 90 minutes long and there were about 10 people in the group. I think we were the only native NYers. You had to wear hard hats because the buildings were unrestored and some things were still falling down. We started off on a chilly morning. Be aware that if you do this tour, you need to get to Battery Park AT LEAST 2 hours early because the lines were RIDICULOUS to the security checkpoints. And there was one staff member of the Statue Cruises who was a complete idiot. He sent us to the wrong line and didn’t apologize when we came back because he was busy on his cell phone. Oh, and they don’t accept ticket vouchers on your smart phones either. You need to pick up actual tickets when you get there (which is a waste of time, if you ask me) at Castle Clinton. Anyways, once we were finally aboard the ship, we were treated with a beautiful view of the city before it stopped at Liberty Island. Please feel free to click on any images for actual resolution.

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You kind of forget how big the statue really is until she’s right in front of you.

We stayed on board for the next stop, Ellis Island.

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We wanted to look up Mike’s great-grandparents’ records (they came from Hungary) but they charge you $7.00 for it there. You can do the same research at home for free. We opted to do it at home.

The other side of Ellis Island was sectioned off to the public. The tour was $43pp but included the tour and the ferry to both islands. We also took the ferry to Liberty State Park instead of heading back to Battery Park because we had dinner party plans with friends in NJ (so we really got our money’s worth). Ellis Island is a museum now and though I’ve taught this unit to my students, I have not been to this island at all. It was amazing to see the Stairs of Separation and the Registry Hall.

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Can you imagine being separated from your family after a long journey? Can you imagine this beautiful hall being packed full of hungry and weary immigrants that traveled from all parts of the world? We see the grandeur but I see the trepidation and hope of the people in the past….

There was also some graffiti left behind by a lot of immigrants. Look at the dates carefully.

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I wonder if Mike’s great-grandparents’ signatures were here somewhere. Anyone recognize the languages?

But here are the pictures from the heartof our tour. The hospital treated immigrants who had potential diseases like trachoma, favus, and TB. Those who were mental/became mental were also treated here. Some would like to believe that it’s haunted but I didn’t get that feeling. It was just a sad place to be because it’s so run down.

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We were led to this covered hallway first. The two corridors separated those who had easily treatable illnesses (to the right) to those who needed extended treatments (to the left).

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First stop, the laundry room. The first thing doctors and nurses did was sanitize the people. These were the huge washers and dryers of the time and the water was scalding hot. We were told that there was a man who worked in the laundry room who died from his burns from the scalding water. There are 2 levels to this building but we were only allowed on the first. You can see why….

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We proceeded outside (bbbbrrrrr). The first building was the psychiatric ward. The second building was another ward that had a fence/cage to prevent people from escaping. However, because they believed that fresh air and sunshine would cure most people of their illnesses, they wanted to make sure that the patients had some outside time hence the fence/cage. The photograph cut-out was done by an artist (JR something) who got the images from the national archives. The Save Ellis Island people commissioned him to do this throughout this part of the island. I’d prefer to have none of this up because it ruins the authenticity but what do I know. The third picture is quite significant. Where the truck is parked today, was water then. The coastline was extended, I forgot when, but with this extension, the city was able to build a recreational area for its patients.

Below are pictures of some rooms of the hospitals. Just imagine how it was back in the days. It was eerie being here, to see this through the eyes of the patients. I can’t imagine being stuck here for months, looking at the Manhattan skyline, waiting for my treatment to be completed so I can move on with my new life in America.

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 And these are the rooms for people with TB. All these rooms were equipped with signal lights on the outside, should the patients need anything. They were locked in from the outside to prevent the disease from spreading and there were 2 sinks for this same reason. One sink for regular things but the other higher one was for the brushing of teeth so you do not splatter water around. The risk of contamination was less than 1% on this island because of precautions like this.

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Here is a picture of a bathroom and a picture of the morgue. Morbid but a very low percentage died here on the island given the fact that millions entered through it.

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An old notice by an administrative officer

Below is a shot that you can only get on our side of Ellis Island. It is the immigration building in its entirety.

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That ended our tour and we roamed around the main building (what was presented at the beginning of the entry) until our boat to Liberty State Park came. As we left, I was able to get some more beautiful panoramic shots of my city (click on them for the full resolution).

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SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESWith so much unrest in our country, this trip renewed my love for our country and this city. As we continue our battle with the issue of immigration, race, and democracy, I think all sides can agree that we’ve come a long way with a longer way to go.

Should you want to do this excursion, below is the link for you to purchase your tickets:

http://www.saveellisisland.org/

Enjoy! :)

Annie

I Like Make-Up

20141122_102016 ….yea…I said it…..I…LIKE….maybe even love….make-up.

Oh, and I’ve started wearing eau de toilette (parfum is still too strong for me…maybe a little later down the line).

GASP.

As a teen and young adult, all I’d wear is lipstick and mascara. Sometimes when I felt daring, I’d wear some eye shadow but then I’d f*ck it up and wipe it off. And because I used to f*ck up a lot with make-up, it really turned me off. It wasn’t because it took time to put on (I always wake up an hour to an hour and a half early on the weekdays so I have time to ease into my day) that turned me off of it. It was because I sucked at it. There was a time when I tried foundation and face powder and all that jazz…and I hated it (I still do, actually) because I’d end up either breaking out (damn you Shiseido) or the color was off.

Like I said, I didn’t know what I was doing.

Well then, what changed?

It was a slow transition. Because I started performing (salsa dancing), make-up was essential (I hated fake eyelashes…still do) but I would scrub it off as soon as I could because it made my face itchy. However, I became a little more daring and started using eyeliner. When that was painless, I played with colored eyeliner. But it wasn’t until I got engaged and looked at the cost of make-up artists that I decided to do my own make-up for our engagement photos. I came across From Head to Toe’s (LOVE HER) bridal make-up tutorial on YouTube and got everything she listed under the video. The day before the engagement photos, I took some time to practice with the tutorial playing on my tablet. On the day of, this was the result:

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I looked a little like an Asian-American news reporter in the first pic.

I actually had a make-up artist (hey Dawn Nicole!) for my wedding day but afterwards, I started watching more make-up (and nail art….those of you who know me know that it’s my latest thing) tutorials and became addicted to Sephora.

So the reason why I was overly dramatic at the start of my blog is because there seem to be a backlash against people who wear make-up. I mean, it’s still a multi-billion dollar industry but there are news articles with headlines like, “She Went Without Makeup for a Year and Never Looked Back,” that are popping up here and there. Suddenly, we’re shaming people who wear make-up. They’re either too ugly without, insecure about themselves, or high maintenance……..yeesh. I mean, I get it. There are some YouTube tutorials where the person at the end of the video looks nothing like the person at the beginning of the video. And some of these girls have on their best jewelry and hair but they’re filming in their rooms (I mean, it’s nice that you look great and are willing to share your wealth of knowledge but do you have to be subtle-ly obnoxious about it….??….) but make-up CAN be fun, inspiring, empower women, and bring us together.

For those of you who feel that make-up is not your thing, that’s totally cool. Just don’t judge us for painting our faces and I won’t judge you for not doing so. Yea, it takes time. Yea, the costs add up. Yea, some will go bad before you even get to it.

But think about a point in your life when you needed/craved a change. First thing I notice that most girls do is chop off their hair (I’ve been there many times). And sometimes, what you envisioned isn’t what you get (been there too). Why not use make-up to jump start that change? At least you can wash off the make-up. Bad hair…not so much. And it’ll take forever to grow back (especially when you’re older).

Anyways, enough rambling. Make-up or no make-up…that’s a personal choice. But don’t judge because when you judge, you’re a hater and when you’re a hater, you’re ugly with or without make-up. :)

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Today’s make-up session only took me 20 minutes. I know this looks like a lot but it doesn’t take that long to do…if you practice.

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Not the best angle, but I love me some smokey eyes!

Oh, and believe it or not, I’ll be dressed and ready to go (with my make-up on) before my husband is. *score*

The Heck Am I Doing?

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I’ve been doing this pole dancing thing for a little over 2 years now. Lately I’ve been questioning WHY I’m so gung-ho about it. What started as a hobby to kill time has become almost a part-time job…and to be honest, I’m not sure if I enjoy it as much any more.

The pole community in general is a very supportive group of women AND men and most us know that our pole journey is our own. But lately, I’ve been so discouraged because I can’t nail certain moves that my pole counterparts, who have been training in a lesser or equal amount of time, have. I know, I know, cry me a river, build me a bridge, and get over it…wah wah wah. But it’s true.

And then there’s the realization that I don’t want to be a pole instructor or own a pole studio. I also am not keen on competing. I just want to dance. But my need to dance is somewhat stifled by the amount of tricks and power moves I also want to do learn/do. I haven’t found the happy balance yet.

Basically, I’m insecure and confused.

I confided in my one of my friend’s/instructor, Ashley Fox, and she came at me with, “You don’t have to do all those things. Just don’t forget your journey and what YOU want to share.” She was right and tonight, I’m reading Bad Kitty’s interview with another one of my instructors, Danielle Romano. When asked about the biggest challenge in pole dancing, she said:

“After all these years of being totally athletic, or as a means to get through something, or just trying to be super sexy, I recognize it as just another form of art. Maybe because I am older I’m moving away from making it a sport in the eyes others.  Some of us are fighting so hard for it to be so legitimate. I find that outlook, in a passive aggressive way, to be of a separatist attitude. This search for validation through sport only excludes people – especially those of us who will never be able to execute things on an acrobatic or gymnastic level. I don’t think the best art is the most athletic or the most extreme. I think the most simple and clear art is the most beautiful. You could probably say that about a well done, no frills gymnastic routine, too, ironically.  I don’t want to exclude anyone who wants it to be a sport.  There is room for that! But pole dancing, at its core, is a means to express. You can express your strength, your beauty, your extreme nature. It is a platform. There is room for EVERYONE to gather around.  I would never want it to be looked at it one way. So I DO NOT like seeing that divide in the community.”

I have become more of a pole athlete than a pole dancer. And even though I’m not a classically trained dancer, I’ve always loved to dance. My nickname is Annie Animal for a reason. I don’t drink but I can kill it on the dance floor, especially when the Latin beats come on (side note: I envy those who can do House because I can’t). I haven’t done any killing on the dance floor lately (well, okay, I did at my friend’s wedding but you know what I mean) and I think that partly contributes to my frustration. I’ve been so focused on the tricks that I’ve shoved the way I usually express myself (through dance) into a deep, dark hole. And the divide in the community? Danielle nailed it.

Then she said this:

“And just seeing people forget everything about their lives and say their whole life is pole dancing. When I went to PoleCon in 2009 I remember seeing a shirt that said “Eat Sleep Pole.”  I used to work a double shift and “eat sleep pole” in a club. I was lonely and in pain and tired as hell. I never saw the light of day for more than a few hours, I couldn’t afford fancy classes, and the highlight of my day was perfecting moves in front of strangers who mostly didn’t care. To see people glorifying this “All Pole or All Nothing” lifestyle? I laughed at it back then in 2009 because I was like, “You don’t know what it’s like to Eat, Sleep, Pole.” But, now, I do know. And I think it is super unhealthy. When I was recuperating from my leg being snapped in half, I realized that you have to have more to your life than your form of expression. What are you expressing after a while if you have nothing else stimulating you?  Where are you getting your information from?  It’s like watching TV all day and saying I’m going to write a TV show.  What have you got to base it on? Everyone else’s ideas? What about going for a walk, or family?  I think it’s unhealthy when it’s an obsession. And I think it limits what you can contribute to the community.  I think I was unhealthy when I thought pole was the most important thing in the whole wide world to me.  I see people become this whole other person if they don’t get this “move”; if they don’t look like this pole performer that they are failures.  It’s a vicious, self-destructive, self -limiting act.  After all that, you then lose what pole probably meant to you to begin with. That whole mentality worries me.”

THIS….THIS….THIS IS MAGNIFICENT. Every line resonated with me. Without realizing it, I was heading towards this direction. It started recently with weekend pole classes (I used to leave my weekends free to spend time with my husband). Then I started justifying not coming home early to walk my dog (my poor furry baby) every now and then. And I’ve missed family dinners and family BBQs because there was a class or 2 that I just couldn’t miss. It was becoming an obsession! And if anything, I became un-happier because I felt like there weren’t enough hours in the day to do what I want (yea, I’m spoiled) and would resent anyone who would take my time away from my training.  And she’s right about losing what pole meant to you in the beginning…because I can’t remember.

But I’m gonna try. I’m going to dance.

In salsa dancing we have a saying, “Beginners want to advance, but the advanced dancers want to go back to the basics.” This holds true to pole dancing as well. I’m going back to work on my handspring and maybe one day, there’ll be a body roll in it. I’m going back working on my Ayesha and will make it the prettiest you’ll ever see, so that one day, you’ll see my salsa feet dancing in the air. And I’m going to make a bigger effort to come into terms with myself and accept that I will never be the greatest pole athlete in the world, but I’m going to dance.

To see the rest of Danielle’s interview, click here:

http://www.badkitty.com/news/danielle-romano-tells-her-truth-about-pole-art-and-performance/

*I am a student of Foxy Fitness and Pole AND Body and Pole. My instructors at both studios are AMAZING people. :)

30-Day Ab Challenge

Before we left for our honeymoon, I saw a snapshot from a fellow pole-r on how her abs looked after the 30-day ab challenge. I mean, I always see the images for the 30-day something floating around but I personally don’t know of anyone who actually did them. I decided to try it to get that elusive 6-pack. So here’s my experience:

Day 1…after 5 sit-ups, I was done. That was jarring because I thought I had a pretty strong core. Apparently not, because I was exhausted after 5 sit-ups. The crunches and leg raises were easy peezy, lemon squeezey, not a problem. But the situps. Oivay. Maybe that’s why I couldn’t do the deadlift (see video below of Michelle Shimmy’s deadlift…parents, there is some twerking involved in this video) when I’ve been training myself to do it for almost a year now?

She’s sexy and crazy strong. I haven’t tried the deadlift since I got back from my honeymoon. I’ll try it today at the studio to see if the sit ups made a difference with my pelvic tuck. :)

Anyways, back to the 30 day challenge. Because I’ve been doing planks for a while, instead of doing a 10 second plank, I did 1:30 minutes everyday until Day 19. Then I upped it to 2:00 minutes. So yes, while we were on our honeymoon, I was diligent in keeping up with the program. There are days when I saw cuts and outlines of my 6-pack but it was very faint. Then I got my monthly cycle and while I continued, you saw nothing because I was constantly bloated that week. That’s also something to keep in mind. I follow Dirdy Birdy and Michelle Shimmy ob FB and Instagram and they’ve taken snapshots of how their abs look in the day and then in evening, when you’re normally bloated. The look of your abs will change throughout the day…unless you already have the ripped 6-8 pack..but then again, I’m sure it wouldn’t look exactly the same as it did in the morning. Be mindful of the bloating if you’re working for a 6-pack!

By day 3, I noticed I was able to keep up with the sit-ups thing which was an accomplishment for me. I skipped the first and second rest day (not such a good idea because you need your muscles to recover to get the most out of your work out) and continued. Here’s my progress chart.

 

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As you can see, I planned out the dates as well. As you can also see, I stopped at Day 25. Why? Well, take a look at my progress pictures.

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You see how the definition stayed and went? Images 6 and 10, there are some noticeable cuts. All other days, they were just okay. Now compare image 1 to the last image….it doesn’t really look all that different does it? I mean, my little pouch on the bottom is tighter now, definitely not as bulgy but not a whole lot of difference. Also note, all images were taken in the morning before eating, post-work out with the exception of image 8. Now I use the words “images” because they don’t coincide with the number with the dates/days that is in my progress chart because remember, I skipped rest days 1 and 2 and I didn’t take a picture of day 1. Image 1 was Day 2 already.

Now, does that mean the 30-ab challenge does not work? NO. It works. Just not for me. Mike (my husband) started doing it during my second week in. He got up to day 13 and stopped. But in those 13 days, he lost SOME of his belly. If he had continued, I bet he would have lost more. My mother-in-law also tried it and yesterday I felt her abs and her upper abs are definitely tighter than mine but she didn’t lose the inches off her waist like me and we’re both small.  My friend Betty was going to jump on the bandwagon but I don’t know if she really did and I forgot to ask her about her progress, if any. So then what’s the bottom line?

1) DO do the 30-ab challenge if you excess belly fat that you want to cut down. Just don’t expect a 6-pack from it. If your abs/core is strong already, chances are, you won’t get the cuts that you want. BUT you are still working the muscles you don’t see! So do it!

2) DIET is key. I was on vacation and though I ate pretty healthily, I also enjoyed my fries and burgers and stuff. The days when I had definition on my ab muscles were the days that I really focused on eating healthy and eating small portions. I just can’t keep up with it because that’ll deny me the pleasure that is junk food (I LOVE potato chips). :D So if you want the definition of a 6-pack on the outside, DIET is key. If you’re happy with a strong core without the definition because you’re…let’s say…a pole dancer (me, me, me!!), or are pretty fit already because you have cardio AND weights AND strength training…then I’d skip the challenge.

3) PLEASE YouTube the correct way of doing a sit-up. We have a natural arch on our backs, and a lot of girls have a bendy back. When you do sit-ups incorrectly, you rub your coccyx raw and you’re putting a lot of pressure on your lower back and if you put a lot of pressure on your lower back, you’re not using all your core muscles. You have to FOLLOW THROUGH with your movements. You can do this several ways. You have to tuck your pelvis in when you’re on the ground, making sure your back is on the ground and slowly ROLL up to a sit up from your core and SLOWLY roll back down. Or you can roll up a towel to do this:

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4) The plank is the most effective exercise EVER. I love it. I hate it. But I love it. Make sure you’re breathing though. The breathing really activates those core muscles! And have someone check out your form. I’ve been doing it for awhile so I naturally get into it now but there were a few days that I yelled at Mike for cheating. :)

 5) The hardest part is the mental block. That, I can’t help you with. It’s one thing to be inspired but another to execute and follow through.

Although I didn’t follow through with the whole 30 day (but man, I didn’t see the results I wanted and I want to be able to eat the junk that I want to eat! LOL), I have pole dancing. I’m constantly tucking, rolling, working on my core. So it doesn’t bother me that I don’t have a six-pack through exercise. It gets stronger everyday. It does bother me that I can’t get a 6-pack without watching my diet though. Hehehehe. But *shrug* whatevs. :)

Notable Things

We had a small wedding so we could splurge on our honeymoon…and splurged we did. We were gone for 22 days and went to Dubai, the Maldives, Singapore, Malaysia, and Amsterdam. Here are some notable things during our travel.

In Dubai:

The airport looks like a Vegas casino. Everything is over the top in Dubai. Big this, big that. We saw a sheik having a mojito during Ramadan in what looked like a business meeting. Mike also saw westerners eating in a stall in a men’s bathroom because of Ramadan. The merchants also had to cover up their stalls. They could SELL food but they couldn’t show it. Westerners could also buy food TO GO only but you can’t eat in public until the sun has set. For me, the hypocritical sheik ruined it with his hypocrisy. The Burj Khalifa was another tower. Mike and I were underwhelmed with it. Yes, it IS the tallest building in the world but we’ve been to so many towers around the world already that they have lose their appeal.

In the Maldives (North Atoll/W Resort):

This was, HANDS-DOWN, the most amazing portion of our trip. The island only takes 10 minutes to walk around and you’re forced to relax and make friends. We met a couple from New Mexico, a couple from Pennsylvania, a couple from England, and two couples from Australia. We had a 2-story hut right on the beach complete with a pool as well. Because my body was still adjusting to the time change, I woke up at 3-4am in the morning…but it was all good because I’d go out to the deck, listened to the waves, and watched the sun rise. I snorkeled in the middle of the Indian Ocean, not once but twice! Not bad for someone who just had 6 months of swimming lessons. We went whale shark watching on a yacht. There were no whales to be found but we were on a yacht in the Maldives with wine and champagne provided by our new friends, Sarah and Manny. I’d never thought I’d be able to do that in my lifetime! We also made a friend from Japan who, at dinner, sent over 2 rounds of expensive as hell red wine to our table. We had the BEST W Insider EVERRRRRRRRRRRR who became a friend, Funky Chunky. I will forever be addicted to the pineapple iced tea from the island. The GM at the W Maldives, Jean-Marc, is a sweetheart! He contacted us while we were in Amsterdam (the last leg of our trip) to check on with us. In just 5 days, the resort was almost a new home to us.

In Singapore:
They’re really amp-ing up English literacy there. You see flyers and posters to encourage people to read more in English. Singapore also has the best Hainanese Chicken I have ever tasted…and for only US$3! Those hawker centres really are amazing when it comes to food. It’s also so very clean. I expected it to be more oppressive but it’s really not. It’s really like a super clean NYC! I’m very impressed on how their government run things. No bullsh*t, just straight up business and making sure their people get their shit together.

In Malaysia:
Traveling from Singapore to Malaysia was quite an experience. We bought first class tickets only for the guy to escort us up to the train before finally telling us that he overbooked the seats in first class and we were being dumped into second class. We got a partial refund but the train was SUPER old and second class was…interesting. Clean, but interesting. No wonder the Singaporeans looked at us like we were crazy when we told them we were taking the train to Malaysia. It was 8 hours on that rickety track and I half-expected to see someone bring their chicken onto our car. We did see wild monkeys eating out of a dumpster and tearing into plastic bags to get to the food. Yea….

In Amsterdam:
BEAUTIFUL architecture but the streets are SOOO dirty. Litter everywhere. I think it’s even dirtier than NYC and that says a lot. We got to see clogs being made and windmills. The food was also really good (the beef…omg) in Amsterdam. After a day of touring the countryside, Mike’s friend sent him a message asking if he was okay because we were doing a lot of flying. That sent me on high alert and as soon as we got back to our hotel, we got a text from him mother and a few friends. We then finally heard about the Malaysia flight and I was in shock because had just arrived the previous day at 5AM from Kuala Lumpur to Amsterdam. I had a feeling something bad was going to happen on this trip but you never really quite expect it to happen. After that, we took a day trip to Brussels, Belgium and I insisted that Mike book us a flight home a day early afterwards. I felt apprehensive and I just wanted to be in the comfort of our home.

In Brussels:
We rented a car and drove 3 hours to do a day trip at Brussels. I didn’t like it. It was dirty and run-down, especially the main areas. We also walked into the middle of a Palestinian protest in Brussels before we even saw saw the news of the riots in Paris and London happening at the same time. People were on top of statues. There was a whole lot of shouting about Hamas. That depressed me a little further. There’s too much crazy going on in the world. So much hate. We live in a beautiful world but there’s so many ugly people.

I’m so lucky and blessed to go on these excursions with the love of my life. But I’m also really lucky that we have an awesome life here in NYC. And though I’m not fond of our president, I’m proud to be an American and appreciate the liberties that we have here.

Not a Fan of Japan

I’m surrounded by people who are IN LOVE with Japan and the Japanese culture. Because they’re so efficient and polite (on the surface…you’ll see why I say this later), and so damn good at whatever they do, I get it. They’re CRAZY efficient and OCD. They have a great sense of style and fashion. Everyone is well put together. And their food is also AMAZING. I get that. As a culture, on the surface at least, they’re damn cool. My entry is not about how cool Japan is because there’s so many articles about that and if you’re going to get all defensive about this country, stop reading right about…NOW. I did not enjoy Japan in terms of being impressed by their supposedly superior culture. I enjoyed Japan because it made me me appreciate my country, the USA, more. My Japanese friends, I don’t mean to trash your country but I honestly did not enjoy it. I like y’all just fine but not so much your country. So just stop right here because I don’t want you to hate me.

I didn’t understand the whole cosplay thing until my trip to Japan. After my trip to Tokyo, Nagoya, and Osaka, I have a newfound respect for cosplay. It’s how people escape from their reality. There is a reason why the suicide rate is so high in Japan. They’re SO repressed, it’s depressing. Work and efficiency DOMINATES their lives. There’s really no room to play because work is the end all be all. Can you imagine not spending time with your family? Because that’s what I was told. Family life is not as important as work life. Work-life balance in Japan is extremely hard. So anyways, back to the whole cosplay thing. Everyone wears pretty much the same thing, black suit, white shirt, an occasional blue tie for the men while the women are covered up at the top but wear short shorts or skirts and heels. They were heels ALL the time (more on this later). You cannot have any tattoos on display or else you’d be associated with the Yakuza (Japanese gangs). Those in cosplay gear were a welcomed sight for me because they broke the mold. We came across a group of bi-racial (black and Japanese) teens in Japan. They spoke Japanese to each other but were in cosplay gear and had the “I don’t give a SHIT about what y’all think about us. We know we’re different and we’re proud of it.” Everyone tried not to stare at them but I gave them a mental high five. Kudos to them for having such a commanding presence! The Japanese are also not so accepting of other races. Read up on how they treated the Brazilian Japanese. You’ll see what I mean.  My trip to Japan made me realized how much I appreciate America’s liberalism and focus on individuality.

What I also couldn’t fathom was how they don’t know how to deviate from the system. Case in point, we were standing at an intersection and it was the early morning on a weekend. There was NO car in sight but the DO NOT WALK sign was still on. Mike and I, being the Americans that we are, walked across. We got wide-eyed stares and people hesitantly stepped out of the crosswalk as well and hurried across the street. They would have WAITED until they were given permission by the traffic light. When we took the train around the city, we noticed that people stood in 2 directions and 2 directions only…shoulder to shoulder. Yes, this is a more efficient way of utilizing space but c’mon. They’re even polite in being pushy. This one guy backed into the train with his back turned and arms out and once he got in, straightened his tie, and no one said a thing. I’m sorry to sound judgmental, but man, they’re weird. I am very much an American/New Yorker. I would have been in his face about it. I would stand (and have stood) in a different direction. Yes, I am forcing my western cultures on a country overseas. It’s very American. :)

One disturbing incident was when Mike went to return the rental car at 7AM in the morning. I was at a convenience store around the corner and there were tons of Japanese businessmen reading porn manga and porn magazines before they head to work. As soon as I saw this, I made a beeline towards the exit.

I don’t like how they treat women in Japan. We were seated across a couple having dinner. They were nicely put together but the man was leaning back on his seat, legs spread opened, hand thrown out, and was not using a very nice tone of voice to the woman. The woman was sitting ramrod straight and eating from her bowl of rice daintily with her head down. It was clear he was not being very nice to her. He was a scrawny piece of shit and I wanted to go over there and slap the woman to get her shit together and have some self-respect and to give his scrawny ass a beating. When they left, she walked behind him, head down. This scene still burns me after 2 months.

So going back to the women and heels thing. The Japanese women wore heels even to Tokyo Disney. It’s crazy. They were limping and hobbling but they trooped on. That’s insane! And then there were those who walk inwards. I heard it being referred to as “pigeon-toed.” I thought it was because their feet was in pain but my friend told me that some women do it purposely because women, in Japan, are equivalent to children there and men find this attractive. W…T…F. Y’all are doing this for attractiveness? Like the snaggle tooth trend? SO weird. Is that why the Japanese women are so squeaky and high-pitched? It’s SUPER DISTURBING that the men would find women attractive if they behaved like children. Pedophile-rs galore in Japan! I was told recently that Japan JUST passed anti-child pornography laws LAST WEEK. Are you friggin’ kidding me?!!!

Now what led to my rant against Japan? This headline caught my eye this morning:

Japan’s Women Told to Breed, Not Lead

Ayaka Shiomura, a 36-year-old member of the opposition Your Party, called for the Tokyo metropolitan government to support women who need assistance while pregnant or raising children during a June 18 assembly session. She also suggested that the government should help Japanese women who have fertility issues to conceive children.

Japan is wrestling with a declining birth rate and growing elderly population. It has one of the lowest fertility rates in the world.

While she was speaking, men in the section for the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) began jeering at her with lines like: ‘“Hey you, should hurry up and get married!” and “Can’t you have babies?”’

It should be noted that this isn’t the first time the leaders of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government have made sexist and inappropriate remarks; it’s almost a tradition. LDP backed Shintaro Ishihara, who was governor of Tokyo from April 1999 to October 2012, remarked circa 2001, “It’s a waste and a crime for women who have lost their reproductive powers to go on living.” (PDF) The current governor of Tokyo, Yoichi Masuzoe, also backed by the LDP, has said in the past such classics as “Women are not normal when they are on their period. They are abnormal. You can’t possibly let them make critical decisions about the country [during their periods], such as whether or not to go to war.” He also has commented that women elected to office were “all a bunch of old middle-aged hags.”

Link to the rest of the story here: http://news.yahoo.com/japan-women-told-breed-not-lead-021921285–politics.html

I’m SO glad there are SOME men standing up to the treatment against women. I think the bulk of my trip was un-enjoyable because I was very aware of my limitations as a woman there. That is in most countries, I know, but in such a supposedly evolved country like Japan? I wasn’t expecting it. And the whole kiddie porn industry thing is sickening. See below:

Sexually explicit Japan manga evades new child pornography laws

“While no link has been made between anime, manga and child abuse, Japan is facing a “serious” child abuse problem, according to a White Paper issued by e National Police Agency in March.

The paper said the number of child abuse victims jumped 20% between 2011 and 2012, and the number of victims, arrests and cases are at their highest levels since they started compiling statistics in 1999.

At the same time, the number of cleared child pornography crime cases rose to 1,596, the highest ever recorded, the paper said. Most — 85% — were Internet-related. The figures inspired the U.S. State Department to label Japan as an “international hub” for producing and trafficking child pornography.”

Link to story here: http://wtvr.com/2014/06/18/sexually-explicit-japan-manga-evades-new-child-pornography-laws/

What did I like about the trip? The bullet trains, the food, the humble restaurant workers, the efficiency, and the cleanliness. Man, are they clean. But they’re also dirty underneath it all. I hope that the country does more for women and to protect children. Sorry friends, but I’m not a fan of Japan. I do, however, loved how they cleaned up after the World Cup game!