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10 Year Anniversary

A random post on Facebook tonight reminded me that I’m due to celebrate a very special 10 year anniversary. July 28, 2002.

Only a week before, I had sold nearly all of my possessions and prepared two and a half suitcases for a move to a country I had never stepped foot in. The yard sale was one of the most liberating experiences of my life. And it set the tone for a more simplistic life. One where the layers of complexity were peeled away with each new cultural experience and every moment I settled into a completely new way of life.

My first year was a whirlwind of memories. There were a seas of new faces in not only my students and co-workers, but in all the other foreign teachers who came to the tiny country seeking new adventures, work experience, fun, perhaps even a delay of reality. I easily adapted to my new surroundings and loved my little apartment with the fabulous view of a very handsome mountain. Teaching high school students was often more challenging than any job I had ever held. But warm friendships were formed and I remain in touch with a good handful of the, then seniors who are now 28… some married, some with children.

I was apprehensive to transfer to my new job, but it turned out to be the best decision. It required some effort to get settled in all over again, but the pay off was a new office full of supportive co-workers and the chance to teach the tiniest and cutest kids imaginable.  For four years, I danced, sang and gestured to get the English meaning across. I played dodgeball almost every day at lunch. Lunchtime with teachers helped me better understand their language. I made so many new friends, big and small, old and young. I traveled. I listened. I absorbed. I laughed, cried, ate, drank and embraced that amazing culture. Along the way, I shared all the highlights with you.

When the time came for me to leave, I wasn’t ready for the journey to end. But it was clear that this was a chapter in my life and that turning the page would begin a different, yet also exciting adventure. A new story was ready for me. The goodbyes were bitter sweet, the sentiments genuine and special. The friendships were real and celebrated.

There are countless moments that are so easily recalled with great fondness and affection. A word might pop into my head, a photo will catch my eye as the cover of a digital album, or a craving for any number of specialty foods creeps into my belly. In those moments, I pause to honor the memory, remember a face, hear a voice or a laugh. I miss it. I miss that life, that work, those people, that version of me.

Ten years ago on July 28, 2002, I packed my bags and boarded a one-way flight to Japan. And it changed me forever. Surely, that’s something worth celebrating.


New Adventures

Since my return to San Diego, I’ve spent some time getting readjusted, some time relaxing and getting reacquainted with family and friends. I’ve also been looking to discover what it is I will do professionally.  While there is still part of me which wants to buy a one way ticket to Argentina, I’ve decided to stay in San Diego and set up my own business.

Getting settled in San Diego has been its own adventure.  This is my hometown, but I have not lived here for about 20 years.  All of my memories are from my childhood, so I don’t know the best restaurants, the hidden gems, the adult life in this gorgeous town.  So I’m approaching San Diego like it’s a new city I’ve moved to.  I’m keeping my eyes and ears open and desire to find all of my favorite places.

Starting a business is a whole different kind of adventure. It’s not the same as the little business, Hosting Helpers, I ran in high school!!!  And so this is where most of my focus has gone lately.  I’ve also discovered the world of WordPress and am setting up my news business website on this platform.  It’s a task, to say the least!  In the meantime, I’m meeting with friends who are entrepreneurs and others who have offered me great advice.  I’m working on leads and tailoring my efforts to determine the scope of my services. I’ll make more of an announcement when the time is right! (The photo here is the working version of the logo and name.)

I’m looking to move OTBS over to a WordPress theme as well.  However I am finding the theme I’m using a bit to stale for my personal blog. There is a lot of content here to consider! : )  And so I’m debating the switch and may just keep things going from the iWeb and MobileMe platform here.

Anyway…I just wanted to check in and let you know that there is a lot going on with me personally and professionally and that my attention will soon return to On The Bright Side.  Until then,



Errand turned exploration…

Today was another errand day, as I had to renew my driver’s license. Always fun to make a trip to the DMV! There’s probably nothing that could be a greater reality check than the lines, employees and procedures at the DMV.

I made an appointment at the one in North Park, as the others had a longer wait and I wouldn’t be able to get an appointment until the end of the month/after my deadline.  So off to North Park I went.

Surprisingly, the DMV was as smooth as pie.  I was in and out of there in, I kid you not, twenty minutes.  I even got to take a new photo, thank goodness. I decided to leave my weight at 120 lbs… incentive.

Since I was already in North Park, I thought I would check out a coffee house I had read about. Claire de Lune is on University Avenue, right near the North Park sign.  Great coffee, good food and a nice, open floor plan with lots of seating arrangements to choose from.  Only negative is that some of the furniture is a bit old, and therefore, a bit dingy.

After a couple hours at the coffee house, I drove on University headed West.  I really had no idea where the street went, and so decided to do some exploring.  University turns into Washington and ends up dumping you downtown near the railroad tracks. I drove further and ended up down near the Midway Pier, remembering that there was a regatta in town for the weekend.  I figured they’d be on the water practicing. Well, was I treated to some up-close views of really cool sailboats!

I stood at the end of the pier and having just arrived just in time for a race. It was so awesome to see these racing boats whiz by right in front of the pier as they got in position for the start of the race. Since it was the middle of the day on Thursday, there were very few fans on the pier, which made it really easy to take pictures and get more information on the boats in the race. One sailing and photo fanatic gave me the scoop.

You know, today I set out to renew my driver’s license, but with an adventurous spirit and the will to go just a bit further, I ended up having a really great day and got to enjoy a unique San Diego event! Made me love my hometown even more.  And renewed my excitement to uncover more treasures of the city.

Some official regatta information:

RC44 Class Regatta

World’s best sailors to compete on San Diego Bay on March 2-6, 2011

The Highly Competitive RC 44 Championship Tour Will Visit California For The First Time.

The biggest names in the sport of sailing, including Russell Coutts, Paul Cayard, James Spithill, Rod Davis and Terry Hutchinson are coming to race against each other on San Diego Bay from March 2-6, 2011 in identical 44-foot sailboats, the RC 44.

“I love racing in San Diego and I am looking forward to a great regatta”, said Coutts, who won the America’s Cup in San Diego for the first time in 1995 before winning the Cup three more times.




Hanoi taxi adventures

Since I take a taxi everyday, I am considering a little mini-blog like Tales from the Taxi or Hanoi Taxi Tales. Vietnam Taxi Chronicles?  Hanoi Taxi Adventures?  (What would you name it?)  Anytime I step into one, there is always story. And I have to say that the taxi rides provide some of the most hair-raising experiences in this country.  So here is my little story (x2)from today.

When I looked out the window this morning, the color of the sky was still grey. I’m not sure I really expected that it would change.  It’s been grey for five months, why would it all of a sudden be blue?  But the darkness of the grey made me look at the rooftop across the way. Wet.  A rainy day.  Lately, the rain is just a drizzle, like the weather gods simultaneously sticking their tongues out to spit on everyone.  It is most unpleasant.  In any sort of rain, it is a challenge to get a taxi.  So I walked down to the Syrena shopping center where the parking lots usually host a few taxis waiting for their next fare.

When I walked up, there were actually still five in the parking lot.  A bit odd at almost 8am.  And they all looked at me.  I said, “Taxi please?” And they all looked at each other.  They didn’t know which driver was next in line for a fare.  So three of the drivers shouted at me at the same time, “Taxi?”  They wanted me to pick, but I know better than to get involved in that mess.  So I just stood there and answered their question with a question, “Taxi?”

Finally one driver took the initiative and pulled up to me.  I got in on the driver side door.  Just as we turned right out the driveway and started going along the road, the driver stuck his right finger in his nose, picked around a bit and caught a booger.  He rolled down the window with his left hand, stuck the gooey finger out the window crack and flicked.  I actually leaned into the car, fearful the booger may fly back into the car and land in my hair or something.

The driver wasn’t phased a bit.  For the rest of the drive I watched to see how many people I could catch picking their nose in the car or on their motorbike.  I got grossed out at ten, half way through the 15 minute drive.

Fast forward to this evening. It’s Wednesday.  And that is the American Idol & Glee night.  And you know, I’m a geek and I love these shows.  It’s a nice mid-week break and I do my best to be home by 7pm.  Mette was planning to join me, so I agreed to pick up the pizza and wine on my way home.  I had to first stop at the ATM which is at the Metropole just a block over.  And instead of taking the “normal” route, a straight-away from point A to B, the driver decides that he’s going to go the long way through town and gain an extra 20,000 Dong (yup, still laughing at that stupid currency name).  I asked him to turn left, not right, but as are most drivers, he was stubborn and wouldn’t listen and pretended he didn’t understand.

With lots of huff, puffs and grumbles from the back seat, he dropped me in front of the wine shop.  I didn’t even have time to yell at him, I just wanted to BE home! Got my favorite bottle, picked up the pizza I called in ahead of time and walked like a crazy woman on crack in my high heels, trying desperately not to twist my ankle on the uneven street, down and around the corner and through the mud-filled street of Lane 31.  I kicked my shoes off, picked them up and nearly sprinted up the stairs.  Got inside, threw everything down on the dining table and turned the TV on.  Just in time. Caught the final commercial before the show started.

Wine, pizza, my indulgent TV shows and my favorite friend.  Today was a good Wednesday, even though the taxi drivers are completely and frustratingly clueless and pigheaded.  Can’t wait for tomorrow!!!


Rock climbing 101

The intention was to go out to Halong Bay for a site inspection for a program we want to add on our tour.  The result was me strapped up in climbing gear, reaching the end of the rope with a big smile on my face.

Onslo greeted me at the pier and after hopping on the second boat, we veered in a direction where most boats don’t go.  The smaller boat allowed us to get much closer to the cliffs which jet out of the water in the most extraordinary formations.  Arms length away, I could easily see why this would be a climber’s playground of paradise.

After navigating through the floating village, we reached the beautiful cove where the team was set up and enthusiasts were getting intimately familiar with the limestone’s nooks and crannies, navigating higher for a spectacular view.  A few minutes later, I was strapped up and Onslo was giving me a basic lesson and teaching me the commands, reminding me to relax and breathe.

When I was a little girl, our home had a nice big tree in the front yard which I just loved to climb. The one in the back was fun too, but the higher branches weren’t so sturdy and I just never gained the affection for that tree as I did for the one in the front yard.  There was this one branch in particular which forked at one point, creating a perfect chair for me and the perfect arm rest.  I’d get all cozy in that nook and hang out there for hours, me and the tree.

I tried to be that little girl for a few moments while climbing this massive rock, the girl who had no cares or worries, no reason to climb up, just the wherewithal that I could and it was fun to do so.  And with that enthusiasm, I climbed the first bit of the cliff pretty easily, although enjoyed the reassurance from Onslo, who’s calm and encouraging voice served as super motivation to keep moving.

Then I got stuck.  There was a bit of a round boulder which had just enough of a curve outward that I couldn’t see my feet.  And so I couldn’t figure out which foot to step up with, nor where to put it.  Onslo could see that I was “in a moment” and reminded me to breathe, that I was safe and even if I totally let go, I wouldn’t fall and that I just needed to turn my body to the right and step up, that I had to trust that my right foot would find something to push off of.  A few minutes past and I finally sucked up enough courage to do so.  My muscles at that point were a bit shaky, as well as my nerves, as I had gone way past my comfort zone in physicality and in height.

I’m stubborn, though, and I was not about to quit.  And so I silenced the “What are you doing?” voice in my head and finished the route, reaching the top of the rope and taking Onslo’s advice to admire the view. Woo hoo!

The rest of the inspection included a tour of the island, some nature walking, and another view of adventurous people climbing up really big rocks.  Separate from the work stuff, I was glad to get in touch with the little girl in me to never had fears, who never questioned why, who just skipped out the front door, and randomly, for no reason at all, jumped up in her favorite tree, swung over branches and pushed her way higher to hang out in “her” spot.  My muscles may hate me today for the torture they received on that rock, but I’m so delighted with my experience, I just can’t stop smiling.  It was a GREAT day!


Part of the adventure is the journey through Halong Bay. Here’s a shot of two men who live in one of the numerous floating villages. Fascinating to think of that lifestyle!


When in Morocco

I had to do it.  I’m in Morocco, at the beach and there are camels.  It was very touristy, but it was a hell of a lot of fun.  A full day camel trek on the beach did my back no favors, but I am so glad I did it!  I mean, when the hell am I going to ride a camel on the beach again?

Hello Essaouira

With all of the work piling up in my inbox and back at the office, I felt more than guilty to be staring at a few days of “me” time.  I nearly changed my flights and returned early.  But I remembered with distinct clarity that in the year I’ve worked with Apple Tree, I’ve taken just 2.5 days of annual leave.  That fact alone helped me not feel so guilty.  I planned for the free time when I booked my flights, just not all the internet connectivity problems in London, of all places.  That glitch really threw me out of whack.  It did nothing but put me WAY behind in work.  I already have enough to do.  I didn’t need the pressure of being so behind nor to feel culpable for taking much needed (and deserved) vacation. I stuck with my original plan and took a few days to myself.

As soon as the car peaked the hill and the ocean was in sight, my cares seemed to be swallowed up by the strong breeze from the sea, and I knew I had come to the right place for rest and rejuvenation.


(Borrowing from Wikipedia for a moment)

The present city of Essaouira was only built during the 18th century. Mohammed III, wishing to reorient his kingdom towards the Atlantic for increased exchanges with European powers, chose Mogador as his key location. He directed a French engineer, Théodore Cornut, who had been captured and enslaved, and several other European architects and technicians, to build the fortress and city along modern lines. Originally called “Souira”, “The small fortress”, the name then became “Es-Saouira”, “The beautifully designed”.

The Medina of Essaouira (formerly “Mogador”) is a UNESCO World Heritage Listed city, as an example of a late 18th century fortified town, as transferred to North Africa.

The fishing harbour, suffering from the competition of Agadir and Safi remains rather small, although the catches (sardines, conger eels) are surprisingly abundant due to the coastal upwelling generated by the powerful trade winds and the Canaries Current.

There are only a handful of modern purpose-built hotels within the walls of the old city. The medina is home to many small arts and crafts businesses, notably cabinet making and ‘thuya’ wood-carving (using roots of the Tetraclinis tree), both of which have been practised in Essaouira for centuries.

I found Essaouira to be quaint and charming.  It was low season, so there weren’t many tourists, some of the shops were closed, the cooking class wasn’t on due to the major holiday, but I enjoyed fewer people.  The weather was splendid, if a bit windy on two of the days there.  I particularly enjoyed my long walk on the beach.  Nothing like sand between your toes and the sounds of the waves to lift your spirits.  Its the San Diegan in me.  I will always love the beach.  I will always enjoy traveling to new coastlines, dipping my toes in waters all over the world.

Essaouira was just the medicine I needed.  I have been so overly freaked out about work, stressed to the max and just not myself lately.  That walk on the beach in particular was a chance for me to reconnect with the Shanna I enjoy being.  A me that I need to reclaim. Desperately.



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