oh to travel

Someone asked me why I named the places I wished to visit.... 

A rich life is one full of experiences. It is a great tragedy that our short life is full of mundane activities that basically keep us trapped inside psychological cages and cubicles.  It is needed for structure and finance, but it is sad in a real way. The world is a vast place full of history, culture, and phenomena that I want to see. I love to travel because of this. To learn, to walk the footpaths of the thousands of people before me. To see places that at one point in time were thought to be the only places in existence. To see places where folklore was born. To taste the recipes of a lost generation.... to share knowledge, to gain knowledge, to see the sky from another land..... one world-one life. 

I want to go to the Black Forest. If it is permissible to camp, I want to camp there. Why see it for 15 minutes, when I can sleep there.? When I can be a traveler who uses the forest as refuge while planet Earth sleeps? To think about tales of witches and Grimms being born from the sounds and sights experienced in that forest. To breathe the air that has been recycled in the lungs of people from 2oo years ago... I want to stare into an orange flame that dances in the majesty of old trees in a place cloaked in mystery and myth. Teach me your ways old forest....

I want to go to Stonehenge and feel its magic. I want to see the highlands and have a picnic. I want to crawl on the grass like a child and see the vast world that lives under the feet of the hobbits. What does dirt feel like? Dirt so fertile and alive ; what dirt could create such a beautiful landscape? How happy the bugs must be to live there. The butterflies must dance like fairies- casting winged shadows on dew soaked green. I will be their dancer. My heart will burst with song and energy just from being there.

Let us not forget the vast hills and castles of Ireland. The old trees. The green hills rolling for miles. A land that has recently suffered war, famine, bankruptcy, but bounced back. A land where elves and dwarfs play. Why wouldn't I carry my pint to the nearest lake and dance to fiddles in the moonlight? Who would I ever want to miss such an opportunity?

Japan? A bustling city full of robot technologies that will surely take us over one day, yet so set in ancestry and family tradition that honor becomes a core value among men. Yet, so many distractions taking away from this value. A city full of lights and chaos bordered by the temples of the old. such a dichotomy. A world where old and new merge...where two are one, much like the minds and hearts of humanity...that constant battle....that constant search for balance... the yin and the yang.....Masters of discipline and mountains of glory. When the cherry blossoms rain crimson on my head, and I run through the branches dodging them like a gauntlet obstacle course, I will fell free and wild like a creature born into nature- Like what we were all meant to be. 

The sands of Utah’s National Park build beautiful structures full of tans and yellows matched against the blue sky- it makes for a western feel. A cross between the old west and a dune of the Middle East. To be hit in the face with abrasive winds until my eyes water would be a privilege given the circumstance. I would love to make sand angels in my footsteps.

The redwood forest has trees older than the bible, taller than buildings, and stronger than most people’s virtue. to touch one would be better than meeting 1,000 vapid hipster “activists”.

To revel in this world whose existence allows my own is true freedom. I want to experience mother earth. I want to love her. I want to see her. to talk about her. to spread her word. So many peoples. So many ruins. So many landscapes. Such a diverse planet on all scales and spectrum.

If only life weren't taxed out of us. If being a drone had a bigger reward than material things and security from the streets. If what we considered home wasn't just a tiny fragment of space on a tiny concrete slab….

This whole world is my home. Our home. And we only get one life to play house.

 

Villa del Palmar, Cancun

Villa Del Palmar- Cancun

View from my studio room

View from my studio room

I had the pleasure to travel to the Villa del Palmar resort in Cancun, Mexico this past July, 2014. The resort is beautiful! Each room has a balcony with a very comfortable hammock. I recommend getting an ocean view, as waking up to azure waters is a great way to start your morning. I traveled Tuesday-Tuesday and I must say I was quite surprised at how quiet the resort was. I’m not complaining, it was great having that space and it was easy picking for beach spots in the morning.

Location:

The resort is located about twenty minutes from the hotel district. There are pros and cons to this. The pros are that you have some extra peace and quiet and you get to truly get away from it all (not as much commercialism and fewer vendors walking up and down the beach.)

One con is that if you want to go out and about, it may seem like a task. I read a lot of other reviews saying people had to spend 30-40 dollars to get downtown and that they were bored from lack of activity. I will give some helpful hints on this.

First, there is an island across the way (you can see it from the beach) called Isla Mujeres. This island has bars, restaurants, a BEAUTIFUL beach (Playa Norte) and is a fun place to explore. Isla Mujeres is a small island that you can explore in a day trip. Once on the island , you can rent a moped or a golf cart (roughly 50 dollars for the day). I went with my boyfriend and we rented a golf cart and drove around the island. We stopped at a few fun places including: A turtle farm (3 dollars), Playa Norte (beautiful sand and water), Mogagua (fun restaurant with open walls and a very laid back atmosphere. The tacos here are pretty tasty), Villa la Bella (Great place to stop, relax, and grab a couple cervezas). Villa la Bella has chairs that overlook a cliffside where you can lay out and listen to the waves crash against the jagged rocks. There are also tables and a thatched roof sitting area. After all our stops, we dropped off the golf cart and walked up and down the main streets which were full of merchants. It is the usual items such as bathing suit covers, sunglasses, knick -knacks, souvenirs, etc. The island takes Pesos and American, however, they used an exchange rate of 10 to 1 rather than the current (at the time) standing of 12 to 1. So depending, you can save money by only bringing one type of currency.

How do you get to the island? Water taxis which can be found right next to Villa del Palmar near the ferry port cost roughly 40 dollars. We found a cheaper way. We paid a bus five dollars to take us to Puerto Juarez (about 10-15 min away) and hopped on a ferry. Round Trip the ferry was 139 pesos. One couple used the ferry port, Punta Sam, which is right next to Villa del Palmar, to get to the island. This ferry carries cars and trucks to and from the island. I am not sure the cost of this ferry. The car ferry from Punta Sam takes about an hour to get to the island. The ferry from Puerto Juarez took twenty minutes. It is up to you!

Second, Villa del Palmar offers free shuttle service to downtown Cancun. Ask the concierge about this and make a reservation. The only drawback is that the last shuttle returning to Villa del Palmar from downtown departs at 9:30p.m., so if you are trying to stay out late, you may have to take a cab back to the resort (but you still saved money by only paying for one way).

Third, there are excursions you can do. I did a pirate cruise which left from Puerto Juarez. This was so fun. We ate dinner, had cervezas, and got to watch the pirates fight with each other. Another plus is being out on the ocean during sunset. Other excursions include: snorkeling, Mayan ruin tours, and city tours. These will all cost extra of course, but why travel if you aren’t going to explore the area in which you are visiting?

Lastly, the resort puts on nightly shows from 8-10(ish). The shows range from Karaoke to a Michael Jackson show. The shows are pretty entertaining and they are interactive. So get ready to dance and/or sing!

The resort has other activities in the daytime. They have morning yoga, free paddle-boards and kayaks, a gym, and the pool/beach area (all free). If you have extra money, you can visit the spa and get a massage, enjoy the steam room, and relax in a Jacuzzi. You can also rent jet skis for half an hour (not free). The resort conducts free daily activities like volleyball, bingo, dance lessons, and mixology.

The resort was definitely quiet, and you do have to spend a little extra money to go downtown and around, but it wasn't too bad and if you do your homework, you can find cheap ways to get around.

Beach:

The beach has beautiful white sand and turquoise water. There is plenty of space to swim, though parts are roped off. The one drawback is that there is a lot of seaweed. I didn’t mind it much because I enjoyed sitting under the sun with my feet in the sand. The seaweed gets cleaned up in the morning, but by mid-day, it is noticeable, but in the end, its just seaweed.

The beach does not stretch for miles and miles. If you walk towards downtown, you will end up at another pier about ten minutes into your walk. From here, you pretty much have to turn around and go back towards the resort. If you like to walk beaches for miles and miles, you might be disappointed with this aspect. However, it is still a beautiful place and due to its location, it was not very crowded.

Pools:

Plenty of pool space! There is even a separate pool area for kids.I never had a problem finding a chair by the pool and I never felt crowded while swimming. The water was not too cold either, which was nice.

The infinity pool was reserved for elite timeshare members, however, there were two or three days when no one was checking ;)

Timeshare:

My mom owns a timeshare with Villa del Palmar, so I went as a guest on her account. The staff kept asking me if I had a VIP card (I did not get the all inclusive deal because I can eat/drink on less than 95 dollars a day) which apparently members get. The card gets you discounts at all the restaurants and the market. The concierge said that if we went to the timeshare presentation we would receive a VIP card. The presentation is 90 minutes and gives you a tour of the resort. They try and pitch you deals to become a member. I did not go to the presentation. I guess it would have been nice to get the discount card, but I didn’t want to go.

Food:

The resort has several restaurants to choose from: Hiroshi (japanese and sushi), Zama (Mexican), Davino (Greek and Mediterranean), La Cocona (steakhouse), and Bites Bar and Grill (eclectic and cheaper). I did not eat at Hiroshi or La Cocona.

Zamas restaurant 

Zamas restaurant 

I ate the breakfast buffet at Zama and Davino. I think I liked Davino a little better because they had more selection and spicy sauce!  Both places offer you a free drink with your breakfast whether it be an orange juice or a bloody mary. Only certain drinks are included with the meal, so be sure to ask. Also, the friendlier you are with the waiters, and the better you tip, the more likely you are to receive a second free drink with your meal :)

Dinner at Zama was pretty good. Keep in mind, dinner at these places can be pricey, so check the menu beforehand!

I ate dinner at Davino one night, I was not impressed. The food tasted good, but the portions were TINY, especially for the price. However, the calzones are hearty. I saw one on my way out and wished I would have ordered that instead! Do some research first to avoid disappointment. Also, ask to see the wine bottles first. My boyfriend ordered the cheapest bottle of wine they had ($20) and when it came out it was a mini bottle.

There is also a market on site. If your room has a kitchen, you can save money by making your own food. The market also serves food, ice cream, and coffees!

You can also take advantage of room service. The menus are in your room.

*If you wish to eat dinner at one of the restaurants, visit the concierge first thing in the morning (or the day before) and make a reservation. **  Dress codes may apply.

Overall:

The resort was clean and beautiful. The staff was nice and attentive. It was nice to be away from the crowd. I had a good time. Villa del Palmar, Cancun is the second Villa del Palmar resort I have visited. I went to the Cabo resort a few years ago. The layout of the resort was similar, but the location was more in the middle of everything. I enjoyed the location of Cabo a little more because I could walk up and down the beach passing other resorts and tiny restaurants right on the beach (I love food). I could stop at a random place (which didn’t have resort prices ;)  ) and order food while sitting in the sand. That was one thing I missed in Cancun. However, Cancun was beautiful and had things I wanted to see like Chichen Itza (really cool Mayan tour). I will return to Villa Del Palmar, Cancun one day. Everywhere has its pros and cons. Do a little research and I am sure you will find the place that is right for you!

The Steampunk World's Fair 2013

FANTASTIC!

I went to the World's Fair in New Jersey this year, and it was a lot of fun. This three day convention was full of games and cosplay as well as fantastic music, merchandise, and mystery.... ooohh the alliteration. 

Games:

 1. Several fun things on the agenda included: Cards Against Humanity, monopoly, and other board games that you and other steampunk enthusiasts could enjoy. I made several new friends while playing. We also swapped costume ideas and book/t.v show recommendations. 

2. One of the booth owners created an augmented reality game where folks would be given a starter pack of cards. Then he would text you clues throughout the weekend on where special events and cards would be held. People could challenge other members of the game at random, and the winner of the challenge collected all their opponent's cards. There were prizes for special cards. 

 3. Interactive improv was also part of this convention. If you want a good laugh, I suggest going to one of these. 

 

Cosplay:

Need I say more? Everyone looked incredible! From Steampunk Batman to civil war android soldiers, the World's Fair had it all! Cons are one of the few places where you can rev up your creative side into full GEAR. Walking around the hotel courtyard surrounded by hundreds of people dressed in  a "retro-futuristic style" really brought the whole convention to life. It was surreal. 

Fellow cosplayers

Fellow cosplayers

Of course, what is a convention without a cosplay fashion show? 

Music:

There were two tents with stages (Each location of this event may have a different set-up.)  I will be honest, I hadn't heard of many of the bands before the convention- aside from Steam-powered Giraffe, who by the way, totally rocked. 

Music added to the ambiance and gave the convention a positive vibe. Live music at a convention- definitely a plus.

Merchandise:

There were several large rooms full of merchandise, as well as many hotel rooms which were being used as booths for specific types of steampunk gear. There were old coins, metal trinkets, leather jackets, aviators, weaponry, jewelry, lingerie, and more. I would shop around before you make any purchases. The prices varied and a lot of the vendors were a bit pricey, but if you kept a keen eye, you could find what you were looking for for a decent price. 

Also, on Sundays, the last day of the convention, many vendors have sales. 

Steampunk guitars

Steampunk guitars

Mystery:

-I attended a murder mystery dinner. This dinner was fun, though I was sitting in the back, so it was hard to hear at times. The food was decent and had a lot of variety (buffet style.)  The mystery dinner is yet another way the World's Fair strives to immerse you into the steampunk universe. The hosts are fun and comical, and for you gentlemen out there, they have a pretty lady co-host. 

-There was also an absinthe tasting event. I enjoyed this event as I got to learn about French culture and the origin of absinthe. You get small shots of each brand offered. Our group was lucky as they had a few extra at the end of the event. We were also served snacks. 

Overall:

I had a lot of fun at this convention. If I would have brought more money with me, I would have purchased all kinds of things. I do recommend this convention for any steampunk enthusiasts, or even if you are just curious about it. The hotel was nice, the people were fun and open, and the events were well managed. 

Fantastic cosplay

Fantastic cosplay

Steampunk R2D2 That someone made

Steampunk R2D2 That someone made

locomotive that someone built

locomotive that someone built

Attack on Titan

Attack on Titan takes place in the popular post-apocalyptic setting. Though this trope is common in the anime kingdom, Attack on Titan does not disappoint, nor does it "cheese-out."  The world is captivating and the characters are likable.  The first season ended recently, and I cannot wait for more. If you enjoy anime, and you haven't seen this series, I recommend giving it a whirl.  

Episode one begins by  introducing us to the main characters and to the world in which humans live. Most of the population has been wiped out due to the Titans, giant humanoid beings whose only purpose seems to be to eat humans.  Humankind has adapted to this threat by building giant stone walls around their remaining cities. The cities have not encountered a Titan attack in years..... 

The next development.... you guessed it, a very unpleasant encounter with the Titans.  This is the catalyst for further story and character development which mostly centers around our main protagonist, Eren Jaeger. 

PROS- The story, the characters, the beautiful art, the opening theme, and the representation of the human spirit. 

CONS- How does the Survey Corps' maneuver gear propel in the way that it does? (Whether you apply physics or not, it's freakin' cool.)

The series is based off the popular manga series, which has sold millions of copies. The numbers do not lie. This anime is worth checking out. 

RVA WAKE N' SUN FEST 2013

Summer is swiftly coming to an end, but that doesn't mean it can't go out with a bang! This year, Rocket's Landing is proud to debut  the RVA Wake N' Sun Fest .  

This brand new festival will take place on September 1st at Rocket's Landing near the Boathouse Restaurant. The festival will include food trucks, beer trucks,  live music, water-sports, and over fifty vendors!  Tickets are around $10-15 dollars, but if you check Groupon or Richmond Daily Deals, you might find them cheaper.

 

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Music at this event includes:   DJ Williams Projekt, DJ Doodle, Eli Cash, Long Jawns, The Reinhold, The Polychrons,M.A.S.S. Fx, Agent, Phil Dice, The Handsmiths, Beatdown The Kid , and McGill Lee Jackson. It is also rumored that pianist Grayland Snead Jr will perform at this event. More talent could be added to the lineup; I will keep this page updated to the best of my knowledge.

Get your taste-buds ready- This event has some fantastic food truck options:

Grate Pizza

Mosaic Restaurant - Richmond

Chupacabra

Beagle's BBQ

Slideways Mobile Bistro

The Dog Wagon

Thai Cabin

Paris Creperie

The Official Gelati Celesti Ice Cream Makers

Soul-Ice Vending, Inc. 

King of pops

Feeling adventurous?  Ayers Extreme Watersports will be on the James renting out water jet packs and jet bikes. This is something you would not find at your ordinary RVA  festival.

There will also be sports such as paddle boating, kayaking, and water pong. Oh, and we can't forget the half- pipe :)

Whether your are a participant or a curious onlooker, fun is pretty much guaranteed :)

JOIN US IN THE FIRST EVER RVA WAKE N' SUN FEST!!!

So, if you find yourself craving good food, live music, and wholesome outdoor fun between the hours of 11AM and 9PM on September 1st, come on down to Rocket's Landing- be one of the first!

 

EF Tour to China

This summer I had the wonderful opportunity to travel to China with a group called EF Tours(Education First). I am a teacher and I first heard about this tour through a county email.  You see, this tour wasn't only about site -seeing, but also about growing as an educator. The tour included a class that required pre-tour course readings and discussion boards, on tour analysis on topics of interest, and a post-tour survey, reflection, and final project composed of creating lesson plans based on what I had learned (The point is to bring knowledge back to the classroom and increase student global competency).


The tour was better than I could have imagined. First, the price for this ten day tour was fantastic. $3,000 bucks included the flight from the U.S to Beijing, Beijing to Xi’an, Xi’an to Shanghai, and Shanghai back to the U.S as well as all hotel accommodations, bus transportation, breakfast and dinner, and entrance into main attractions. I paid an extra $150.00 to upgrade the class to a three credit graduate course to go towards my staff development, and because this tour was part of a class/furthering my education, I can write part of it off on my taxes.

Our tour guide was amazing. He was charismatic, knowledgeable, and organized. He never missed a beat. His English was great and so was his sense of humor. Would I travel with EF again? Most definitely!

It is hard to fully describe everything that I ate, saw , and learned in China, but I will try....

Beijing-

Beijing is a large city with a population of 21 million. About 5 million own and drive cars on the road. Compared with traffic in the U.S, lights, signs, and crosswalks seem to be mere suggestions in China. Though I feared we were going to hit cars and pedestrians on several occasions,there were no accidents and apparently their accident record is low given the number of drivers in the city. One thing I learned: pedestrians NEVER have the right of way.  I did note that if the middle class continues to grow and purchase cars, Beijing will need to have a makeover in order to sustain all the additional traffic- one of the many problems that China will face in the future.

Tiananmen Square:

This was one of the most crowded places we visited. There were people everywhere, many were lined up to pray to the portrait/shrine of General Mao, the old Chairman of China who died in the 70s. The older generation gives thanks to Mao for liberating China and uniting the nation under the Communist Party. People will wait in line for hours just to pray to him. The younger generation doesn't seem as interested in Mao, but the country honors him in many ways via portraits, monuments, and printing his face on all their currency. I saw a lot of military presence at the Square, which I didn't see much elsewhere. It is also rumored that spies are prevalent on the Square; they will walk around and listen to citizen and tour group conversations. I visited the Square about  a week after the 20 year anniversary of the student deaths, an incident that was not talked about in Chinese news. In fact, I used this example of censorship as one of my topics to analyze and bring back home to my journalism class. The Square is a wonderful piece of history, but I wouldn’t plan on spending more than 30 or so minutes there, as there is not much to see.

Forbidden Kingdom:

The architecture was beautiful and symbolic. For example, a lot of the roofs were yellow, a color reserved for the emperor. Yellow/gold represents power.If a citizen wore or decorated with yellow, they would be punished for crimes against the emperor. Of course, times have changed and now yellow is just....yellow. A red roof indicates good luck. Green is the color of nature and the Earth. Blue roofs are typically reserved for temples, as it represents heaven in the sky. Most temples that I saw used these four colors, and only these four colors- as they have much symbolic meaning in Chinese culture. I loved how open the Forbidden City design was. I imagined people bringing gifts and dances to the old emperors. I saw the emperor’s chambers, gardens, and his concubine’s rooms (many, many concubines).  The city was also pretty crowded, but it wasn’t an overbearing crowd, for which I am thankful.

The Summer Palace:

The Summer Palace is beautiful and ornate. The same four colors capture a simple, but elegant beauty. The summer palace is in a nice location. The land is surrounded by a body of water,and there are hills and pagodas in the distance. It was serene. The Summer Palace is also the location of the world’s largest corridor, all of which is painted with beautiful pictures that each tell a story. The entire corridor is painted in great detail. Watch your step, it is hard to walk and take it all in simultaneously.

The Temple of Heaven:

The temple is located inside a park. The park was quite large and full of people. It was a great place to people watch.  I loved it. People were practicing Tai Chi and other morning exercises. Folks were also participating in “matchmaking”. Much of the older generation will go to the park and sit on the ground with a sheet of paper. The paper will include their name, their family’s name, their occupation, their age, and a few interests. Others will walk around and scout out each person based on  looks and the information on the paper. I saw a large group of about 100 participating in this matchmaking. Most looked to be in their 50’s or 60’s. I tried to take a few pictures, but that didn’t seem appreciated, so I observed from a distance. It was a sight to behold. It was like a pre-internet version of match.com.

Below are pictures of the Temple of Heaven

 

 

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The Great Wall:

For me, the highlight of Beijing was The Great Wall. Luckily, our guide took us to a less populated portion of the Wall. When we arrived we walked up a steep path. The path was full of vendors. There were tents and tables on each side where vendors set up shop. The vendors here were fairly aggressive. DO NOT MAKE EYE CONTACT. If you want a cheap souvenir, this is a good place to get it. Do not be fooled by any tricks- there is no real jade here. There is no real silk here. However, this is a great place to bargain. There are T-shirts, dragon relics, Buddha statues, “silk” scarves, and other knick-knacks. If you do strike a deal, be sure to count your change and double check that it is Chinese money , not Russian or Taiwanese.

Once we made it through the vendor street, we had to take a cable car up the rest of the way to the wall. The ride was about 2 minutes and offered a pretty cool view.

When I reached the top , I was thrilled...I was on the Great Wall!! The view was amazing. There were mountains and trees in all directions. I could hear birds, insects, and silence, something I hadn’t heard in a few days due to the incessant honking and beeping that so well describes a large Chinese city. It felt so peaceful.It felt so big. I am thankful that there were so few people on the wall- this allowed me to walk around and explore in peace.

miscellaneous

-Peking duck dish= wonderful

-all the food = so great

- a bit smoggy in the city

- met Chinese students at a school. The high schoolers spoke decent English. They were preparing for their exams. If they do not pass their college entrance exam (a grueling experience), then they cannot go to college. This is why Chinese students are so competitive. It seems they have two possible paths. The first is college. The second is blue collar work. It all hinges on their scores. About 60% of students get into college, so only a little over half their population.

-Chinese students must also take high school entrance exams. Scores determine two things: A) If they get into a good high school and B) If they get into high school at all. If they fail, they must go to vocational school for two years. They will not be able to attend college.

- The tap water in China is not drinkable, not even to the citizens.

Below are pictures of the Great Wall: 

 

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XI’AN

Terracotta Warriors:  

The excavation pits were awesome! I learned that the warriors were constructed because the first emperor,  Qin Shi Huang, thought that he would have many enemies in the afterlife, so he ordered an army to be buried with him. The clay warriors are very detailed  and each soldier has unique facial features. There are thousands of them, many still yet to be unearthed. As of now, the government is holding off on excavations until they can find a way to preserve the natural color of the warriors. Now, the warriors are a rust color (due to oxidation once they are unearthed). Apparently German scientists are working on a spray/chemical that will be able to preserve the blues and purples that are said to be on the armor of each warrior. I even saw the farmer who discovered the warriors. (He shows up every now and then to sign autographs in the gift shop- purchase of book required :) )

 

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The Wild Goose Pagoda:

 I like the shape and style of Chinese pagodas. While I was fascinated with the information about monks, Buddhism, and the ideas of fortune, I couldn't help but feel dirty (for lack of better word). This happened at several temples while in China. See, there we were, a group of tourists, surrounded by other Chinese tourists,inside the home of Buddhist monks and sacred relics and I’d be taking a picture and then notice someone walk by, light an incense, bow down and pray. Then I’d look to the left and see a gift shop. It felt wrong.

This was also the second time I saw beggars. The first time I saw beggars was as we were leaving the Forbidden Kingdom in Beijing. In Beijing, the beggars were across the street. Here, they were up close and personal. As we approached the gates to the pagoda, there were several beggars asking for money. Now, my experience with beggars in the U.S typically consists of a guy with a beard asking for money on a street corner. In China the only beggars I saw had afflictions (missing limbs, dwarfism, large growths on neck and face, contorted bones..etc).In fact, the only time I saw folks with afflictions, were when I saw beggars. As it turns out, China usually rejects those with afflictions. There isn’t any type of disability program either, and with the one child policy, well, those children are given up in hopes to have a healthy child. Outside the gates = the rejected and the suffering. Inside the gates= a sanctuary for those to pray and give thanks for good fortune.

It also felt strange to walk out of a pagoda , turn the corner, and see a Starbucks.. As it turns out, the temples and Pagodas in the city are government owned. So basically they need to make money in order to stay in existence, and I could feel that while I was there. Don’t get me wrong,it was educational, beautiful, and a good experience, but I wish we could have visited a remote temple high in the mountains.

miscellaneous:

-Hot pot dishes here = amazing. I have craved this ever since I got back home.

-One of the oldest cities in China. The old city wall is still in tact. We only got to see it from the outside, but I would love to go inside.

-Lots of factories in this city- this is starting to affect smog/air quality

Below is a picture of the Wild Goose Pagoda: 

 

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Shanghai

Shanghai is a very modern city with a beautiful city skyline. The shopping districts include upscale stores such as Rolex, Gucci, Prada, and Apple. The prices here are more expensive than in other cities. You can find knock offs of all the nice brands, just be careful as some of the knock off vendors want you to follow them into an alley to look at their merchandise.

Sites of interest: The Bund ( a sort of New York Harbor boardwalk with a view of the cityscape), Yu Yuan Garden ( A serene garden with ponds, rocks, and flowers), Nanjing road (A bustling shopping and eating district), The World Financial Center (currently the tallest building in Shanghai and it includes a 100th floor skywalk), and the Jade Buddha Temple (Includes a beautiful statue of Buddha carved from jade).

Miscellaneous:

-Try Karaoke. Your group gets their own private room equipped with couches, disco lights, a large T.V screen,  2 microphones, a computer for song selection, and instruments such as maracas and tambourines!

- You can order beverage and snacks

- Not expensive

China is a very large and beautiful country full of history and culture. The people are nice and the food is incredible and affordable. I would love to go back to China and continue my journey in learning about this fascinating country.

 

City skyline from river cruise at the Bund

City skyline from river cruise at the Bund

fish in pond at Yu Yuan Garden

fish in pond at Yu Yuan Garden

Buddhist Monks on their smartphone

Buddhist Monks on their smartphone

Word Financial Center. Cannot see the top.

Word Financial Center. Cannot see the top.

Find an anime convention near you

J-Popcon
March 15-17, 2013 DGI-byen
Copenhagen, Denmark

Kawaii Kon
March 15-17, 2013 Hawaii Convention Center
Honolulu, HI

MegaCon
March 15-17, 2013 Orange County Convention Center
Orlando, FL

Naka-Kon
March 15-17, 2013 Overland Park Convention Center
Overland Park, KS

FARM - Farsang Miskolcon
March 16, 2013 Földes Ferenc Gimnázium
Miskolc, Hungary

Birmingham MCM Expo
March 16-17, 2013 The NEC Birmingham
Birmingham, UK

SpringFestNY
March 16-17, 2013 Polytechnic Institute of NYU
Brooklyn, NY

NECON
March 17, 2013 The Moon Gallery
Newcastle-upon-Tyne, UK

Anime Island Convention
March 17-18, 2013 University of Tasmania
Hobart, TAS Australia

Tora con -March 23rd-24th in Rochester, NY

Tokyo International Anime Fair
March 21-24, 2013 Tokyo Big Sight
Tokyo, Japan

Anime Salt Lake
March 22-23, 2013 Salt Lake Community College
Salt Lake City, UT

Con-nichiwa
March 22-24, 2013 Holiday Inn Palo Verde
Tucson, AZ

Kitsune Kon

March 22-24, 2013 Radisson Paper Valley Hotel
Appleton, WI

Triad Anime Convention
March 22-24, 2013 Winston-Salem Marriott
Winston-Salem, NC

Vericon
March 22-24, 2013 Harvard University
Cambridge, MA

Zenkaikon
March 22-24, 2013 Lancaster County Convention Center
Lancaster, PA

Animarathon
March 23, 2013 Bowling Green State University
Bowling Green, OH

J-Fest
March 23, 2013 Douglas College
New Westminster, British Columbia

Karoshi-con
March 23, 2013 Northern Illinois University, Holmes Student Center
Dekalb, IL

Mizuumi-Con
March 23, 2013 Our Lady of the Lake University
San Antonio, TX

Shobou Con
March 23, 2013 Greenbrier Library
Chesapeake, VA

SunnyCon
March 23-24, 2013 Seaburn Centre
Sunderland, UK

Tora-Con
March 23-24, 2013 Rochester Institute of Technology
Rochester, NY

Anime Matsuri
March 29-31, 2013 Hyatt Regency Houston
Houston, TX

Conbust
March 29-31, 2013 Smith College (Seelye Hall)
Northampton, MA

Middle Tennessee Anime Convention
March 29-31, 2013 Nashville Convention Center / Renaissance Nashville Hotel
Nashville, TN

Sakura-Con
March 29-31, 2013 Washington State Convention & Trade Center
Seattle, WA

CHS Otaku Fest
March 30, 2013 Centennial High School
Ellicott City, MD

NipponCon
March 30, 2013 McDaniel College
Westminster, MD

Middle East Film and Comic Con
April 5-6, 2013 Dubai International Marine Club, Mina Seyahi Hall
Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Animation & Gaming Ohio

April 5-7, 2013 Crowne Plaza Hotel - Cincinnati North
Cincinnati, OH

Arkansas Anime Festival
April 5-7, 2013 Holiday Inn Springdale/Fayetteville Area
Springdale, AR

FreeCon
April 5-7, 2013 Florida State University
Tallahassee, FL

Shuto Con
April 5-7, 2013 Lansing Convention Center / Radisson Hotel Lansing
Lansing, MI

Tekkoshocon
April 5-7, 2013 David L. Lawrence Convention Center
Pittsburgh, PA

Jaycon
April 6-7, 2013 Elizabethtown College
Elizabethtown, PA

Atlanta Anime Day
April 7, 2013 DoubleTree by Hilton Atlanta - Marietta
Atlanta, GA

Castle Point Anime Convention
April 7, 2013 Stevens Institute of Technology
Hoboken, NJ

Anime Conji
April 12-14, 2013 Town and Country Resort Hotel
San Diego, CA

Anime St. Louis
April 12-14, 2013 Gateway Center
Collinsville, IL

No Brand Con
April 12-14, 2013 Plaza Hotel and Suites
Eau Claire, WI

Sabaku Con
April 12-14, 2013 Crowne Plaza Albuquerque
Albuquerque, NM

Shinboku Con
April 12-14, 2013 Ramada Elyria
Elyria, OH

ALT*Con
April 13, 2013 Tallahassee Leon County Civic Center
Tallahassee, FL

Anime Park
April 13, 2013 Canton High School
Canton, MI

DOJ-CON
April 13, 2013 University of Dundee, Students Union
Dundee, UK

Kappa Kon
April 13, 2013 Milwaukee School of Engineering
Milwaukee, WI

NashiCon
April 13-14, 2013 Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center
Columbia, SC

Anime Detour
April 19-21, 2013 DoubleTree by Hilton Bloomington Minneapolis South
Bloomington, MN

T-MODE
April 19-21, 2013 Hilton Washington DC/Rockville Hotel & Executive Meeting Ctr
Rockville, MD

UBCon
April 19-21, 2013 University of Buffalo, Student Union
Buffalo, NY

Anime Days: Sabakon
April 20-21, 2013 Texas Station Casino
North Las Vegas, NV

FanExpo Vancouver
April 20-21, 2013 Vancouver Convention Centre
Vancouver, British Columbia

Quinni-Con
April 20-21, 2013 Quinnipiac University York Hill Campus
Hamden, CT

Lucky Con
April 26, 2013 The Priory Centre
Lincoln, UK

Aka-Con
April 26-28, 2013 Clarion Hotel Liffey Valley
Dublin, Ireland

Calgary Comic & Entertainment Expo
April 26-28, 2013 BMO Centre
Calgary, Alberta

Nadeshicon
April 26-28, 2013 Université Laval
Quebec City, Quebec

Kentokyo Mini-Con
April 27, 2013 Joseph-Beth Booksellers
Lexington, KY

Plymouth Anime & Comic Expo
April 28, 2013 Copthorne Hotel Plymouth
Plymouth, UK

Anime-zing!
May 3-5, 2013 Clarion Hotel Conference Center
Davenport, IA

Khaotic Kon
May 3-5, 2013 Sheraton Tampa East Hotel
Tampa, FL

ScreenCon
May 4, 2013 Parks Leisure Centre
North Shields, UK

Hanami
May 4-5, 2013 Pfalzbau Ludwigshafen
Ludwigshafen, Germany

Animefest
May 10-12, 2013 Brno Expo
Brno, Czech Republic

BAMCon
May 10-12, 2013 Crowne Plaza Pittsfield - Berkshires
Pittsfield, MA

BelleCON
May 10-12, 2013 Wyndham Jacksonville Riverwalk
Jacksonville, FL

LouisiANIME
May 10-12, 2013 Hilton Lafayette
Lafayette, LA

Bristol Comic Expo
May 11-12, 2013 Brunel's Old Station - The Passenger Shed
Bristol, UK

Anime Central

May 17-19, 2013 Hyatt Regency O'Hare / Donald E. Stephens Convention Center
Rosemont, IL

Otafest
May 17-19, 2013 University of Calgary
Calgary, Alberta

Big Wow! ComicFest
May 18-19, 2013 San Jose McEnery Convention Center
San Jose, CA

CloverCon
May 19, 2013 Somerset County 4-H Youth Center
Bridgewater, NJ

Animazement
May 23-26, 2013 Raleigh Convention Center
Raleigh, NC

Phoenix Comicon
May 23-26, 2013 Phoenix Convention Center
Phoenix, AZ

Anime Boston
May 24-26, 2013 Hynes Convention Center
Boston, MA

Anime North
May 24-26, 2013 Toronto Congress Center
Toronto, Ontario

Anime Odyssey
May 24-26, 2013 El Tropicano Riverwalk Hotel
San Antonio, TX

Florida Anime Experience
May 24-26, 2013 International Palms Resort & Conference Center
Orlando, FL

London MCM Expo
May 24-26, 2013 ExCeL Convention Centre, Royal Victoria Dock
London, UK

Anime Oasis
May 24-27, 2013 Grove Hotel / CenturyLink Arena
Boise, ID

FanimeCon
May 24-27, 2013 San Jose McEnery Convention Center
San Jose, CA

JABEcon!
May 25, 2013 Cumberland University, Edward Labry Hall
Lebanon, TN

A-Kon
May 31 - June 2, 2013 Hilton Anatole Dallas
Dallas, TX

Anime 2013
May 31 - June 2, 2013 World Forum
The Hague, Netherlands

HamaCon
May 31 - June 2, 2013 Von Braun Center
Huntsville, AL

Knightrokon
June 1-2, 2013 University of Central Florida Student Union
Orlando, FL

Wie.MAI.KAI
June 1-2, 2013 Bürgerhaus Kastel
Wiesbaden, Germany

Sac-Con
June 2, 2013 Scottish Rite Center
Sacramento, CA

Colossalcon
June 6-9, 2013 Kalahari Resort and Convention Center
Sandusky, OH

AnimeNEXT
June 7-9, 2013 Garden State Exhibit Center
Somerset, NJ

Anime Mid-Atlantic
June 14-16, 2013 Chesapeake Conference Center
Chesapeake, VA

AniMegaCon
June 14-16, 2013 Riviera Casino and Hotel Convention Center
Las Vegas, NVDesucon
June 14-16, 2013 Sibelius Hall
Lahti, Finland

Mizucon
June 14-16, 2013 Sheraton Miami Airport Hotel and Executive Meeting Center
Miami, FL

OMGcon
June 14-16, 2013 Julian Carroll Convention Center
Paducah, KY

PortConMaine
June 20-23, 2013 DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Portland, ME
South Portland, ME

Ancient City Con
June 21-23, 2013 Hyatt Regency Jacksonville Riverfront
Jacksonville, FL

Anime Blues Con
June 21-23, 2013 Hilton Memphis
Memphis, TN

SoDak Anime Convention
June 21-23, 2013 Rushmore Plaza Civic Center
Rapid City, SD

BotCon
June 27-29, 2013 Town and Country Hotel and Convention Center
San Diego, CA

Cosplacon
June 27-30, 2013 Truman Hotel & Conference Center
Jefferson City, MO

Animaritime
June 28-30, 2013 Fredericton Convention Centre
Fredericton, New Brunswick

Anime Evolution
June 28-30, 2013 University of British Columbia
Vancouver, British Columbia

AniMinneapolis
June 28-30, 2013 DoubleTree by Hilton Bloomington Minneapolis South
Bloomington, MN

Hetalia Con!
June 28-30, 2013 Wyndham Indianapolis West
Indianapolis, IN

Hoshicon
June 28-30, 2013 Winston-Salem Marriott
Winston-Salem, NC

Q-Con
June 28-30, 2013 Queen's University Belfast
Belfast, NI UK

Seishun-Con
June 28-30, 2013 Hilton Atlanta Marietta Hotel & Conference Center
Atlanta, GA

BayouCon
June 29-30, 2013 Chateau de Calcasieu
Lake Charles, LA

Senshi Matsuri
June 30, 2013 Chelsea Studios
New York, NY

Japan Expo
July 4-8, 2013 Paris-Nord Villepinte
Paris, France

Anime Expo
July 4-7, 2013 Los Angeles Convention Center
Los Angeles, CA

Florida NetCon Postponed
July 4-7, 2013 International Palms Resort and Conference Center
Orlando, FL

lorida Supercon
July 4-7, 2013 Miami Airport Convention Center
Miami, FL

Anime Midwest
July 5-7, 2013 Hyatt Regency O'Hare
Rosemont, IL

Anime Overload
July 5-7, 2013 Holiday Inn Austin Midtown
Austin, TX

London Film and Comic Con
July 5-7, 2013 Earls Court 2
London, UK

Oz Comic-Con: Melbourne
July 6-7, 2013 Royal Exhibition Building
Melbourne, VIC Australia

Ai-Kon
July 12-14, 2013 Winnipeg Convention Centre
Winnipeg, Manitoba

Anime Festival Wichita
July 12-14, 2013 Hyatt Regency Wichita
Wichita, KS

Anime SouthEast
July 12-14, 2013 Sevierville Events Center
Sevierville, TN

BroCon
July 12-14, 2013 University of Limerick
Limerick, Ireland

ConnectiCon
July 12-14, 2013 Connecticut Convention Center
Hartford, CT

Delta H Con
July 12-14, 2013 Crowne Plaza Houston Northwest Brookhollow
Houston, TXI

kasucon
July 12-14, 2013 Grand Wayne Convention Center
Fort Wayne, IN

NemaCon
July 13, 2013 Middlesbrough Town Hall
Middlesbrough, UK

ReAdCon
July 13, 2013 Reading University Students Union
Berkshire, Reading, UK

Comic-Con International: San Diego
July 18-21, 2013 San Diego Convention Center
San Diego, CA

SukoshiCon: Pokécon
July 19-21, 2013 Crowne Plaza Airport Expo Center
Louisville, KY

Manchester MCM Expo
July 20, 2013 Manchester Central
Manchester, UK

KuroNeko Con
July 20-21, 2013 Spokane Convention Center
Spokane, WA

London Anime Con
July 20-21, 2013 London Metropolitan University, The Rocket Complex
London, UK

Omnicon
July 26-27, 2013 McAllen Convention Center
McAllen, TX

AnimeIowa
July 26-28, 2013 Coralville Marriott Hotel & Conference Center
Coralville, IA

Chiisaicon
July 26-28, 2013 Paroquet Springs Conference Centre
Shepherdsville, KY

ConBravo!
July 26-28, 2013 Hamilton Convention Centre
Hamilton, Ontario

Metrocon
July 26-28, 2013 Tampa Convention Center
Tampa, FL

Ryu-Con
July 26-28, 2013 The Conference & Event Center Niagara Falls
Niagra Falls, NY

TFcon
July 26-28, 2013 Delta Meadowvale Resort and Conference Centre
Mississauga, Ontario

Kintoki-Con
July 27-28, 2013 Holiday Inn Sacramento - Capitol Plaza
Sacramento, CA

Anime Festival Orlando
August 2-4, 2013 Wyndham Orlando Resort
Orlando, FL

Fandemonium
August 2-4, 2013 Nampa Civic Center
Nampa, ID

Go!Daiko-Con
August 2-4, 2013 Auburn Hills Marriott Pontiac at Centerpoint
Pontiac, MI

Harbour Con-Fusion
August 2-4, 2013 Saint John High School
Saint John, New Brunswick

Tokyo in Tulsa
August 2-4, 2013 Tulsa Convention Center
Tulsa, OK

Tokonatsu
August 2-5, 2013 Ampthill & Woburn District Scout Ground
Milton Bryan, UK

AniBash
August 3-4, 2013 Seneca Park
Rochester, NY

Animethon
August 9-11, 2013 MacEwan University
Edmonton, Alberta

Auto Assembly
August 9-11, 2013 Hilton Birmingham Metropole Hotel
Birmingham, UK

Cos & Effect
August 9-11, 2013 University of British Columbia
Vancouver, British Columbia

Kin-Yoobi Con
August 9-11, 2013 Newark/Fremont Hilton Hotel
Newark, CA

Otakon
August 9-11, 2013 Baltimore Convention Center
Baltimore, MD

SaikouCon
August 9-11, 2013 Fernwood Hotel and Resort
East Stroudsburg, PA

SMASH! Sydney Manga and Anime Show
August 10, 2013 Sydney Convention Centre
Sydney, NSW Australia

Anime Revolution
August 16-18, 2013 Vancouver Convention Centre
Vancouver, British Columbia

Motaku
August 16-18, 2013 Holiday Inn Kansas City SE / CoCo Key Water Resort
Kansas City, MO

Otakuthon
August 16-18, 2013 Palais des congrès de Montréal
Montréal, Quebec

San Japan
August 16-18, 2013 Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center / San Antonio Grand Hyatt Hotel
San Antonio, TX

Ani-Jam
August 17-18, 2013 Fresno Convention Center
Fresno, CA

FanExpo Canada
August 22-25, 2013 Metro Toronto Convention Centre
Toronto, Ontario

AM2
August 23-25, 2013 Anaheim Convention Center
Anaheim, CA

Geek.Kon
August 23-25, 2013 Madison Marriott West
Madison, WI

Intervention
August 23-25, 2013 Hilton Washington DC/Rockville Hotel & Executive Meeting Ctr
Rockville, MD

MatsuriCon
August 23-25, 2013 Hyatt Regency Columbus
Columbus, OH

MechaCon
August 23-25, 2013 Hilton New Orleans Riverside
New Orleans, LA

Mythicon
August 23-25, 2013 DoubleTree by Hilton Orlando at SeaWorld
Orlando, FL

ONECon
August 24-25, 2013 Middlesbrough Teaching and Learning Centre (MTLC)
Middlesbrough, UK

Meta Con
August 30 - September 1, 2013 Hyatt Regency Minneapolis
Minneapolis, MN

Sac-Anime
August 30 - September 1, 2013 Sacramento Convention Center
Sacramento, CA

Sogen Con
August 30 - September 1, 2013 Sioux Falls Convention Center
Sioux Falls, SD

AnimeFest
August 30 - September 2, 2013 Sheraton Dallas Downtown Hotel
Dallas, TX

Dragon*Con
August 30 - September 2, 2013 Atlanta Marriott Marquis, Hyatt Regency Atlanta, Atlanta Hilton, Sheraton Atlanta, Westin Peachtree Plaza
Atlanta, GA

Kumoricon
August 31 - September 2, 2013 Hilton Vancouver Washington / Red Lion Vancouver at the Quay
Vancouver, WA

Saboten-Con
August 31 - September 2, 2013 Renaissance Glendale
Glendale, AZ

Alcon
September 5-8, 2013 De Montfort University
Leicester, UK

Kentokyocon
September 6-8, 2013 Clarion Hotel Lexington
Lexington, KY

Kishi Con
September 6-8, 2013 Palm Aire Hotel and Suites Weslaco TX Hotel
Weslaco, TX

UmiCon Daytona
September 6-8, 2013 The Plaza Resort & Spa
Daytona Beach, FL

Scotland MCM Expo
September 7, 2013 Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre
Glasgow, UK

Anime USA
September 13-15, 2013 Washington Marriott Wardman Park
Washington, DC

Nan Desu Kan
September 13-15, 2013 Marriott Denver Tech Center
Denver, CO

Nauticon
September 13-15, 2013 Provincetown Inn
Provincetown, MA

Mississippi Anime Invasion
September 14-15, 2013 Oxford Conference Center
Oxford, MS

J-Con
September 20-21, 2013 The Riverside Centre
Derby, UK

CampAnime
September 20-22, 2013 Camp Woodstock
Woodstock Valley, CT

Animeland Otaku Mex
September 20-23, 2013 Crowne Plaza Albuquerque
Albuquerque, NM

Anime Weekend Atlanta
September 27-29, 2013 Renaissance Waverly Hotel & Cobb Galleria Centre
Atlanta, GA

Senshi-Con
September 28-29, 2013 William A. Egan Civic & Convention Center
Anchorage, AK

ShadoCon
October 4-6, 2013 Grand Hyatt Tampa
Tampa, FL

Tomodachi Fest
October 4-6, 2013 Boise Hotel and Conference Center
Boise, ID

New York Comic Con
October 10-13, 2013 Jacob K. Javits Center
New York, NY

Akai Con
October 11-13, 2013 Clarion Inn and Suites
Murfreesboro, TN

Tsubasacon
October 11-13, 2013 Riverfront Ballroom and Conference Center
Huntington, WV

Another Anime Convention
October 18-20, 2013 Radisson Hotel Manchester Downtown
Manchester, NH

FAN:dom
October 18-20, 2013 University of West Florida Commons
Pensacola, FL

F.A.C.T.S.
October 19-20, 2013 Flanders Expo
Ghent, Belgium

Oni-Con
October 25-27, 2013 Galveston Island Convention Center
Galveston, TX

Youmacon
October 31 - November 3, 2013 Detroit Marriott at the Renaissance Center / Cobo Center
Detroit, MI

Bakuretsu Con
November 1-3, 2013 Hampton Inn and Event Center
Colchester, VT

Nekocon
November 1-3, 2013 Hampton Roads Convention Center
Hampton, VA

WasabiCon
November 2-3, 2013 Jacksonville Marriott
Jacksonville, FL

Pacific Media Expo
November 8-9, 2013 Hilton Los Angeles Airport
Los Angeles, CA

Animaine
November 8-10, 2013 Best Western Merry Manor Inn
South Portland, ME

Doki Doki
November 9, 2013 Sugden Sports Centre
Manchester, UK

Quinte Mini Con
November 9-10, 2013 Travelodge Belleville
Belleville, Ontario

Gobble-Con
November 15-17, 2013 Sheraton Stamford
Stamford, CT

Kollision Con
November 15-17, 2013 Crowne Plaza Chicago O'Hare
Rosemont, IL

BanzaiKon
November 29 - December 1, 2013 Schlitterbahn Beach Resort
South Padre Island, TX

Sac-Con
December 8, 2013 Scottish Rite Center
Sacramento, CA

Anime Crossroads
December 13-15, 2013 Indianapolis Marriott East
Indianapolis, IN

DomoCon
December 13-15, 2013 Wyndham Lisle-Chicago Hotel and Executive Meeting Center
Lisle, IL

Otakon Vegas
January 3-5, 2014 Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino
Las Vegas, NV

Animé Los Angeles
January 10-12, 2014 Los Angeles Airport Marriott
Los Angeles, CA

KotoriCon
January 11-12, 2014 Gloucester County College
Sewell, NJ

Ring of Fire Con
February 28 - March 2, 2014 Holiday Inn Virginia Beach - Norfolk
Virginia Beach, VA

Shuto Con
April 4-6, 2014 Lansing Convention Center
Lansing, MI

Anime Central
May 16-18, 2014 Hyatt Regency O'Hare / Donald E. Stephens Convention Center
Rosemont, IL

San Japan
July 18-20, 2014 Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center / San Antonio Grand Hyatt Hotel
San Antonio, TX

MechaCon
August 1-3, 2014 Hilton New Orleans Riverside
New Orleans, LA

Anime Weekend Atlanta
September 26-28, 2014 Renaissance Waverly Hotel & Cobb Galleria Centre
Atlanta, GA

Southwest Animation & Gaming Expo January 30 - February 1, 2015 Hyatt Regency San Antonio:San Antonio, TX

Southwest Animation & Gaming Expo info

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Find a Steampunk Convention Near You

Steampunk is gaining popularity all across the board. There are many Steampunk Conventions and cosplay events all over the world. I hate it when I hear about an event after the fact., but let's face it- sometimes these events fly below the radar within the mainstream media. Here is a list of upcoming events for steampunk and cosplay lovers everywhere; I hope this helps :) 

1. Steampunk at the Seaside on March 22nd-25th: Camber Sands England, UK

2. AnomalyCon3 on March 29th-31st, 2013: Denver, CO

3. Thingamajigy Fayre on March 16th-17th : San Antonio, Tx

4. Steampunk at Gettysburg on March 29th -31st : Gettysburg, PA

5. Steampact on March 30th -31st : Rome, Italy

6.Steamwerk Ball on April 6th, 2013: Lancaster, PA

7.Florida Steampunk Exhibit East on April 13th-15th: Daytona Beach, FL  

8. Sakura Steampunk Celebration on April 7th :Shibuya, Tokyo, Japan

9. Steampunk Empire Symposium on April 26th-28th,2013 : Cincinnati, Ohio

10. Divine Decadence on April 26th-28th,2013: Somerset, NJ 

11. Steampunks in Space on April 26th-28th, 2013: Santa Clara, CA

12.Gaslight Gathering on May3rd-5th, 2013: San Diego, CA

13. Aethercircus on May 4th-5th, 2013: Stage, Germany

14. Steampunk Soiree on May 10th-12th, 2013: Lafayette, LA

15. The Watch City Festival on May 11th and 12th: Waltham, MA

16. The Steampunk World's Fair on May 17th-19th: Piscataway, NJ

17. Up in The Aether Steampunk Convention on May 24th-26th,2013 : Detroit, Michigan

18. Clockwork Alchemy on May 24th-27th,2013 : San Jose, CA

19.The Brass Screw Confederacy's Steampunk Hootenanny on June 7th-9th, 2013: Port Townsend, WA

20.ConTemporal on June 28th-30th, 2013: Raleigh , NC

21GearCon July 5th-7th, 2013 Portland, OR 

22. Salt City Steamfest on July 26th-28th,2013: Salt Lake City, Utah

23.Wunderkammer Festival on August 25th, 2013: Santa Rosa, CA

24.Skybourne Presents: A Carnival Menagerie on September 13th-14th : Dallas, TX

25. The Asylum on September 13th-15th, 2013 : Lincoln, England, UK

26. International Steampunk City on October 12th-13th, 2013 : Morristown, NJ

27. NH Secret Swan Masquarade on October 27th, 2013 : 5 Park St, Tilton, NH

28. Steamcon V on October 25th-27th, 2013 : Seattle , Washington

29.Teslacon IV on October 31st - November 3rd, 2013 : Madison , WI

30. Emerald City Steampunk Expo on November 1st- 3rd, 2013 : Wichita, Kansas

31. OctopodiCon on November 1st-3rd, 2013 : Norman, OK

32. Upstate Steampunk Extravaganza on November 15th-17th, 2013 : Anderson, S.C

33. Steampunk Unlimited on November 16th- 17th: Strasburg Rail Road, Lancaster County, PA


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Boneshaker by Cherie Priest- A steampunk/zombie thriller

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My first experience with Cherie Priest was when I stumbled upon the Clockwork Century Series, of which, the first novel is Boneshaker. The world described is quite easy to envision, not because of any lack of imagination, but rather because the book is full of originality and tone. This novel combines a mechanical steam-punk world with a twist- zombies!!!! While the main story is one of adventure and your typical conflict/resolution story arc, there is another story about the search for identity and lineage. The book was an enjoyable read and the author's style flowed coherently.  I thought the decision to label zombies as "rotters" was fun.  The idea of being trapped in a foggy, blight-infested, rotter ridden town is terrifying to me! One blast of blight to the face and I'm a goner..or rotter that is...

Most characters are likable or at least interesting in some manner or another, which is always a plus.  As each page turned, I thought to myself : "How would this story fare as a movie?!" Well, someone out there must agree with me on this one; news hit Film School Rejects on November 11th, 2012 that studios are planning on transforming Boneshaker into a motion picture. John Hilary Shepherd is writing the screenplay for this Hugo Award winning novel. I do hope the film does the book justice. I loved the story and think it would make a great film if put in the right hands. 

I plan on continuing my literary journey with the Clockwork Century Series and I recommend that others do the same. :)

"Gearin''' up for the Steampunk World's Fair

Got plans for May 17th-19th? Too bad! :) It is time for the Steampunk World's Fair. This grandiose event will be held in Piscataway, New Jersey. The location of this event spreads across two hotels- The Radisson of Piscataway and The Embassy Suites of Piscataway.

 (**Note ** As of now, these two hotels are sold out, but the overflow hotel still has rooms. The overflow hotel, The Somerset Bridgewater Hotel, is located in Somerset, NJ which is roughly thirty minutes from the event. While this is the recommended overflow hotel, there are hotels closer to the World's Fair event. If you are like me and are planning on walking most of your stay in Jersey, then here is a good starting point for your hotel search : See the link below)

The World's Fair caters to creativity, theatrics, and fantasy. Events such as the Goblin Market and the Victorian Dinner captivate the imagination. We all need a bit of an escape every now and again, right? Why not become part of another world? A majestic, artistic , and bizarre world! Get your gears and top-hats ready- this Victorian  event is right around the corner.  Get ready for live bands, eerie marketplaces, and enthralling ensembles. The steampunk world is coming to New Jersey. I hope they are ready! 

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Steampunk Fashion

Steam-punk combines the Wild West, the Victorian Age, and futuristic science fiction into one unique style. Steam-punk is not just a genre of fashion, but a genre of literature, art, and film. Some essentials of this genre include brass everything, Victorian garment, top hats, worn leather, belts, gears, buttons, and the staple variation of aviator goggles.  This style combines creativity, science fiction/fantasy, and even a post-apocalyptic survivalist approach to life.  The literature and film industry have created vast steam powered worlds that capture the imagination,including anything from steam powered air ships to floating cities in the sky. The canon includes many books, manga, and anime that embody the steam-punk world. Not only do the settings and plots intrigue us, but the art, clothing, and architecture are something to behold. The ingenuity involved with taking ordinary items and transforming them into this "pseudo-Victorian mechanical style" is something to be respected. Though steam-punk is often considered a sub-culture, many mainstream stores and artists are beginning to explore more and more of this genre.  If you are interested in exploring this genre, it is easy to create your own steam-punk style with a little arts and crafts...

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The hat above, I made using an $8 top hat, vintage trinkets, and feathers.

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To the right, we added computer parts including: memory sticks, a hard drive, and a processing chip to a store bought top-hot.. We also added some gears and gadgets to the coat. The coat is also lined with brass buttons.  Rather than wearing goggles, Mr. Wyatt chose gold framed sunglasses to match the brass on his jacket.

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The blue dress was purchased at a yard sale. The vintage look really fit the steam-punk style. I added some accessories and store-bought goggles. Any thrift store or yard sale is a good place to search for the vintage look. Just add some imagination and you have got yourself a steam-punk wardrobe.

Below are some ideas for jewelry. Anything vintage or Victorianesque  will work. Try gold or copper lapels to really accessorize. Amazon and other sites such as Etsy have jewelry rendered to the steam-punk style.

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Otakon 2013

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Are you a fan of anime? Do you like dressing in cosplay? How about getting lost inside a stunning world of animation, culture, and adventure? Of course you do! Fear not fellow Otakus- the 2013 Otakon Anime Convention is on its way. Otakon , simply put, is a must on the  to-do-list of any anime or manga lover.  Even if you are an anime noob, Otakun has a lot to offer. The people-watching is a feat in of itself. Just picture it- thousands of people hording in the streets of Baltimore dressed as T.V and video game characters. It is truly a sight to behold. Most convention goers have elaborate and creative costumes, everyone is friendly and willing to pose for pictures, and the "normals" walking the street who have no idea what an anime convention is-well, their facial expressions are priceless!  :)

The convention will be held August 9th -11th at the Baltimore Convention Center. Hotels sell out fast, so get yours as soon as you can. Oh, and speaking of hotels, another great part of this convention is the hotel party block. If you book your hotel at an Otakon sponsored hotel,  your room will be in the anime block, so you and your anime cronies can keep the party going all night long! 

Otakon features concerts, contests, art expos, anime screenings, and a large bazaar. 

The hardest part is choosing who to become. I have a hard enough time deciding what to have for dinner! So many good characters, so little time.  

>.<

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Tips for first time cruisers

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First, I'd like to say congratulations for deciding to go on your first cruise. I have been on eleven cruises and I have loved them all! Cruises combine the freedom of the open air, the adventure of the mighty sea, and the taste of delicacy.

Money on board-

*Each stateroom will have a safe for you to secure your valuables and excess cash. 

*Your room key will be your on ship currency. Upon arrival, you will either link a credit card or cash account to your ship card. Each purchase you make on the ship will add to your ship account. At the end of your stay, you will be given a final bill which can either be paid with cash or credit, depending on your preference. 

*I would suggest bringing cash for the stops. You will want this cash for cabs, excursions, food, beverage, shopping, etc. Remember to bring small bills so that change can be made easy (especially true when traveling to islands in the  Caribbean and Mexico). 

*Tipping: Tips are typically built into the bar service. I suggest asking the bartender to make sure. However, tips are not included for your waiters or cabin maids. Cruise lines typically suggest that each passenger set aside $10 per day  to go towards tip. The $10 will be divided among your waiters and cabin maids. You will receive instructions for tipping when you receive your final bill. Of course, you may adjust the $10 dollar recommendation at your discretion. 

What is Included?

*FOOD, FOOD, AND MORE FOOD!! Cruises are well known for their abundance of food. Luckily for you, now that your trip is booked, you can plan on eating like a king! All food (with the exception of specialty on board restaurants) is included in your vacation price. The dining room delivers themed dinners each night (Italian, Spanish, etc). This will include a five course meal, so undo that top button!  

*On board entertainment- all shows and live entertainment, with the exception of BINGO, are included in your fare.

*Use of the gym is included in your fee. However, any classes such as Yoga or Pilates will cost extra.

*Spa treatments are not included in your cruise fare.

*Alcoholic drinks are not included in your cruise fare. However, most ships allow a wine bottle per passenger free of charge (Either a twist off or bring your own cork-screw as they will charge a "corking fee" ).

*The casino is not included in your cruise fare. If you plan on hitting the slots, bring some extra change.

*Excursions are not included in your fare. You may book excursions online or at the costumer service desk on board. 

*Most ships have an internet cafe; internet use is not included in your fare. Check your ship's rate.

*Water, orange juice, and tea are included. Sodas are not typically included. If you are a soda drinker, or have a child who drinks soda, you may want to ask about the "soda card". This is when you pay a down payment on soda for the week. The clerk will put a soda emblem on your ship card to indicate that your sodas are "free". This card typically runs $10-15 dollars for the week, which is a good deal if you drink a lot of soda. Each ship may vary on soda policy.

*You keep mentioning food, what are my options?

*Late night or 24 hour room service (Usually included with fare)- grilled cheese, fruits, cereal, toast, jelly, chicken nuggets, etc... 

*Dining room - The breakfast option typically consists of french toast, egg entrees, fresh fruits, coffee, pastries, bagel and cream cheese/lox etc...

*Dining room- The dinner option includes a five course meal. The wonderful thing is you can order as many of each course as you'd like. I ordered two lobster tails one year- no additional charge.  Courses generally include a soup, salad, small appetizer such as a shrimp cocktail or escargot, a main course (Italian dishes, Indian dishes, fresh seafood, steak, etc...) , and a delicious dessert.*** Vegetarian entrees are often offered.

*The windjammer or (insert top deck buffet restaurant name here)- This area of the ship will serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner. This area is buffet style and will usually also include a wok or grill. For breakfast you can expect: eggs, an omelette station, bacon, sausage, yogurt, fruit, cereal, corn-beef hash, oatmeal, etc. For lunch you can expect:  burgers, sandwiches, fruit, mac n' cheese, burritos/tacos, various pastas and pasta salads, salad bar, dessert trays, etc. Note, each ship will have some sort of specialty lunch line like a WOK . For dinner you can expect: pasta dishes, cooked beef, salad bar, burgers, pizza, various sides, soups, and hot entrees. Portions of the menu will change daily.

*24 hours pizza and ice-cream machines- Most ships include a 24 hour pizza place.

*Most ships will have a midnight buffet. The midnight buffet will be themed such as chocolate buffet or taco buffet. 

*Some ships will include a specialty restaurant such as  Johnny Rockets or a fancy steakhouse (these restaurants are not included in your cruise fare)

What is there to do on the ship? Will I get bored?

*I assure you, there are plenty of things to do for all ages.

*There are children programs that are supervised by staff members.

* scavenger hunts, hairy chest contest, live music, live shows, casinos, pools, hot tubs, live comedians, bingo, eating, working out, dance parties, captain's dinner, island excursions, lounge areas, gift shops, movie nights, (some ships also include mini-golf, basketball, ping pong, video arcades, and shuffleboard).

*Check your daily planner for each day's activities and times. You will receive a daily planner on your pillow each night when you return from dinner. The cruise director also does a great job of announcing on board activities. 

*Excursions can be booked through the cruise website , at the customer service desk on board, or through a third party if you choose. (Typically $35-110 p/p depending on the type of excursion).

What should I pack?-

*Pack what you would normally pack on a vacation, but be sure to include:

*Comfortable walking shoes if you are planning on an excursion

*A light jacket or long sleeve shirt (even if you are traveling somewhere warm) because the decks can get windy, especially at night.

*Formal wear for Captain's Dinner. One night for cruises under 7 days and two nights for for cruises 7-9 days. Lookin' good. 

*Sunscreen and aloe (for those traveling to beachy locations).

*cash and your credit/debit cards.

Other:

*Some ports may require a ferry to and from land- be sure to get to the departure deck early to avoid lines and congestion. 

**Be sure to listen to the captain about ship time vs. island time. For example, the time zone may change at your destination. This means the clocks on the ship (or your watch) will not match the clocks at your destination. If you do not keep up with the correct time, you may miss your last ferry back to the ship or miss ship departure. 

**Always keep your ship card with you. This card is your passenger identification for getting on and off the ship, your room key, and your on board currency.

** There will be a drill performed on day one of your vacation. Each passenger will have an assigned deck or location to go to once they hear the siren. This is a protocall in case of a real emergency. All passengers must participate. From my experience, the crew will come find you if you decide you'd rather be doing something else. The drill doesn't take long and it is better safe than sorry :)

MOST IMPORTANTLY, HAVE FUN AND TAKE LOTS OF PICTURES!!

Carnival Dream Vacation 2012

July 2012 marks my second group cruise and this post is an ode to a  truly great experience with truly wonderful people. The Carnival Dream was our home for seven days. This was not our first trip together. In fact, our newly found traveling tradition began in May of 2011 with our first cruise on the Carnival Glory, but that is a different journey altogether...

Cruises are all about the freedom, the fun, and the food. The freedom comes from the beautiful scenery and open air. The sounds of the ocean blanket me in bliss. The sunny days and cool trade winds conjure feelings of peace and security.  Of course, being away from work, traffic, and daily chores are a bonus. On this particular adventure, I had the privilege of being surrounded by close friends. I really enjoyed the time I got to spend sharing new experiences with those close to me. We all had the freedom to choose how we wished to entertain ourselves, yet we had the convenience of proximity. That is what I love about cruises. There is so much to do on the ship, yet it is like you never have to leave the conveniences of "your own home".

  We sailed to several places and got to explore ports at our leisure. One particular excursion worth mentioning is the Chacchoben Mayan Ruins in Costa Maya. This was my first encounter with Mayan Ruins. I did not know exactly what to expect.  I was afraid the tour would be overcrowded, short, or perhaps in some way limit the freedom to truly explore. Overall, I was satisfied with our choice. Don't get me wrong, this tour, as with any tour, would have been better had it been a private expedition for just my friends and me. However, the location of the ruins was open which gave an advantage in crowd control. We all received a brief history lesson about the area from a seemingly knowledgeable guide and were given time to walk around and get a closer look at each structure. We were only allowed to walk on the steps of certain monuments. Age has weathered the ruins, so I suppose this was in the best interest of the ruins as well as the tourists.

On bus ride back to port, we all received a beverage (your choice of alcoholic or non, age permitting) and a snack. The tour guide told us about the areas nearby and shared Mayan and Mexican culture. Overall, I had a good time, but the tour could stand to be a little bit cheaper :)

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I remember thinking what would it be like to stand in this very spot 2000 years ago? What would I see? What would I hear? What insight would I gain?  I thought about how these structures were made. If I could be a fly in the jungle what could I learn? Did hundreds of citizens line up to work countless hours in order to accomplish a common goal? Or perhaps slaves were forced to complete this manual labor. How long did it take? Did they really build their cities according to star locations, or was it coincidence? If it wasn't an accident, how did they have such a vast knowledge of astrology? What could they teach me?

I remember picturing sacrifices at the top of the temple. Did people gather around and cheer sadistically as they have for public executions in the modern era? Perhaps they were scared, desperately holding hands and genuinely hoping that this sad, but honorable sacrifice would appease the gods and save them. Maybe this particular civilization did not practice such a ritual...

I wanted to feel a majestic presence. I searched for it while I was there. The experience did not feel as magnific as I had hoped it would. Perhaps it was the people , perhaps it was the voice of the tour guide, perhaps it was the heat..... in any case, I was still fascinated.

Ruins are a living history. There are many lost civilizations that I would like to see and explore.

One day....

Spirited Art

See if there is a location near you!

This establishment combines friends, food, and art in a humble environment. The studio is conducive to families, couples, friends, or private events. The instructors are very nice and helpful. Each week, the studio holds a class featuring a new piece of art; the artwork ranges from instructor originals to recreations of famous pieces such as Starry Night. Another appealing aspect- the classes are for all ranges of ability and talent; one does not need experience to join the fun. The canvas and paints are provided by the studio. Price isn't too bad either- typically in the $30-35 dollar range. If you love art, or if you are looking for a new hobby, I would suggest looking into Spirited Art; just remember to listen to their slogan: "Don't drink the paint-water!" :)