Monday, December 5, 2016

The Planet Lovers Gift Guide



A collection of holiday gifts and stocking goodies for the eco-minded people in your life! 

1. Stay hydrated with this TEENY - 250 ML cute reusable water bottle! 

2.  Keep the 10 cents (that you would have paid for the bag fee) with a reusable Baggu!  

3. Gotta go! Because experiences = less waste.

4. "I'll take it in a steel to-go container please!" - Living trees *sighs* in relief.  

5. Just be cool with your reusable straws.

6. Goodbye cell phone radiation, hello cell phone headset!

*This post was not sponsored by any of the companies or products listed*



Friday, November 25, 2016

EXPLORING EGYPT



On my plane ride over I heard a cool story on a podcast about the women during the ancient Egyptian times. My takeaway from the story was that during this time women had power and were honored because they were the producers of life. This story gave me the feels and filled me with excitement to visit this country and explore its past.

EGYPT IN THREE WORDS:

If I had to describe Egypt in three words they would be:
Marvelous. Hustling. Precious.   

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

CAIRO- This city totally reminded me of Delhi minus free roaming animals. The city is busy, polluted, and endless amount of honking from cars winding and weaving through the streets as if the lines to separate lanes did not exist. My favorite cab ride, given by a driver who looked and reminded me of hip-hop artist, French Montana, in his pimped out taxi, blasting Beyonce’s 7/11, made Cairo fun. Thankfully being here felt familiar because my travels to India and China.

GIZA- Wow, definitely not what I had imagined. Driving through to get to the site I saw construction everywhere, plastic garbage lining the streets, and the foggy haze of pollution making the pyramids and sphinx barely visible.

LUXOR- Settled on both sides of the Nile River, relaxed, and totally different vibes from Cairo and Giza, Luxor, I’m a fan. I’m totally excited because there is so much here to see and explore!

WHAT SURPRISED ME ABOUT EGYPT?    

Here are a few things that surprised me about Egypt:

I know what many readers may be thinking, “Is it safe?”
The answer for me is, “Yes.”

If going through security checkpoints on the roads and metal detectors when entering sites and hotels scares you, then you might have a different response. Do these things make me feel safe as a tourist? Yes and no.

I spent seven days in three different areas of the country and felt safe. And with that said, to my surprise, I wasn't able to make it to Abu Simble due to protest activity. I was really bummed but guess I’ll have to visit it next time.

Egypt is home to one of the “ancient wonders of the world!” So coming to this country I was under the impression that all of the historical sites would be well kept. Between the touts, animals, and pollution my visit here left me feeling like, "Damn, if tourism is the main source of income for the Egyptians, the industry should take notes from Jordan." 

And the pollution for sure is probably what surprised me the most. Egypt was never really on my radar for having this issue. Spending time here in the haze of car exhausts and burning trash, had me again feeling really bad for the people who live here everyday. Yo, Elon Musk they could really use electric cars here bro!

I realize that I’m being a bit critical here, more so than my other travel posts. I know it’s not my place as a tourist to give my opinions and critiques but I’m writing with the intention and hope that this amazing place will last for many generations to come. Not just for tourists like me but in hopes for a clean, green, economy for the health and well-being for the people who live here.

The last thing I want to mention is… but first let me take a selfie! I would rather take one million selfies with the teens here than negotiate with touts. Some teens thought we were Bollywood stars and when we let them down by sharing we’re from San Francisco their reactions were even better. I was more than happy to talk and take photos with them it was a reminder of my celebrity days in China.  

WHAT DO VEGETARIANS EAT IN EGYPT?

Believe it or not the national dish of Egypt, Koshari, is vegetarian! And it’s a carb lovers delight! A rice dish filled with lentils, macaroni noodles, chickpeas, a tomato sauce, and topped off with crispy fried onions.  

You can find fresh veggies, hummous, baba ghanoush, delicious bread, foul, and a variety of different food to fit every tourist’s preferences.

There is also a wonderfully refreshing hibiscus drink called Karkade. It’s like cranberry juice but sweeter and less tang!

TIPS- In this section I've laid out tips if you're interested in traveling here...

DO:

Airports- There are many checkpoints within the airports. The first is with your printed paper-boarding pass. Before you rush off to your gate you’ll have to go to the airline counter because they have to print you an official boarding pass then you can proceed.

The pollution here is no joke. Bring what you need to cleanse yourself from the dirt, cigarette smoke, and car pollution.

CAIRO & GIZA- Knowing what I do after this visit I’d recommend landing in Cairo and hit the ground running. Go to the Egyptian Museum and Giza to see the pyramids in one day then make your way to Luxor.

LUXOR- I enjoyed being in Luxor the most. Visit temples, there are many but here are my favorites: Medinat Habu, Valley of the Kings, Karnak, Luxor Temple. See the night show at the Karnak, they offer and different times for different languages. We went during the German show and they gave us headphones to listen to it in English. Definitely go on a hot air balloon ride, we went with a company called Sinbad. In the hot air balloon you’ll get aerial shots of the temples and see the sunrise over the Nile River.
 
EAT:

CAIRO- We stayed near the museum; note there are very few restaurants in this neighborhood. If a local didn’t literally walk us to one of the restaurants I doubt we could have found it on our own. For dinner we walked to the Intercontinental Hotel for an amazing buffet of Egyptian and western favorites.

LUXOR- I really enjoyed Sofra. It feels authentic and has great Egyptian food.

STAY:

CAIRO- If you stay near the museum you’ll be in walking distance and pretty close to Giza.

LUXOR- We stayed on the East Bank more hotels are located here and the market. We heard from a Canadian couple staying on the West Bank that it was quiet and quaint. They enjoyed it and felt like it gave them a break from the hustle and bustle.

Egypt was on my bucket list for sure because I wanted to awe at the sites to learn from one of the earliest civilizations on our planet. I hope these temples, the treasures that I’ve explored, remain forever.    

Sunday, November 20, 2016

EXPLORING JORDAN



Going to Petra was on my bucket list for sure and coming here meant that I would be able to finish seeing all of the “7 Modern Wonders of the World!” Jordan is a great country for outdoor adventures and the people are super hospitable. I really enjoyed this quick trip and all this country had to offer. 

JORDAN IN THREE WORDS:
If I had to describe Jordan in three words they would be:
Brotherhood, Lithic, Exhilarating. 

FIRST IMPRESSIONS
Wow, I can’t believe I’m here! Sprawled out but condensed and desert everywhere. Adventures to be had out in the rocky burnt orange/crimson colored mountainous desert, let’s do this!    

WHAT SURPRISED ME ABOUT JORDAN?    
Here are a few things that surprised me about Jordan, specifically Petra & Amman. I mentioned brotherhood above as one of the three words I’d use to describe this country and it's because on our drive from Amman to Petra our driver’s car broke down, thankfully in a city and not on the highway in the middle of the night/nowhere. Every car that passed us stopped and offered to help. Every interaction we had felt the same way too, locals going out of their way to make sure we had everything we needed. 

Many people asked me, “Are you sure you’re not Arab?” It reminded me of other experiences traveling and living abroad. I don’t mind being asked about my ethnic background and it’s also nice to see people’s reactions when I respond, “I’m Mexican.” 

WHAT DO VEGETARIANS EAT IN JORDAN? 
Hotels offer a buffet style breakfast with boiled eggs, breads, pancakes, cereal, pita, yogurt, coffee, and juice. Lunches include mezze platters with salad, hummus, baba ganoush, falafel, pita, French fries. My husband loved foul a fava bean dish with curry like spices.  

TIPS - In this section I've laid out tips if you're interested in traveling here...

DO:
Exchange money before you get here. Only use taxis and ask them to turn on the meter. If you use a credit card expect an extra charge. Also Jordan is expensive meaning transportation and accommodations aren't so cheap. 

PETRA- obviously the main reason all tourists come to this country is to see this historic site. Expect hikes especially up to the Monastery. You can ride camels and donkeys throughout if you aren’t feeling like hiking. Expect to get dusty, dirty, and sweaty it's best to leave your fancy clothes at home.

AMMAN- this is the country’s capital a bustling city with few sites to see. Go to the Roman ruins the theatre has a couple of museums. Wander through the city streets and eat a mezze platter and try some baked sweets.

EAT:
It’s so easy to find great food here and it’s super cheap! Just ask your hotel and they will direct you to great places. See my list above if you’re a vegetarian!

STAY:
PETRA- I would definitely recommend Alanbat Hotel. Super friendly staff, great breakfast, and they will drop and pick you up to visit Petra. We also arranged our ride back to Amman with them as well.

AMMAN- I would suggest staying in the old downtown area, which is walking distance to the Roman sites.

Thanks for the quick adventure Jordan! You truly are a wonder of this world!

Sunday, October 30, 2016

What I learned at Bioneers 2016


This was my first time attending the Bioneers Conference. I really appreciated how this conference focused on solutions, connections, and healing people and our planet.

The performance I loved the most was a spoken word poem titled, “Being Human” by Climbing Poetree. I’m waiting for Bioneers to post it so in the mean time here it is from a previous year. I’ve also created images with parts of the poem on my Instagram so stay tuned!



On Sunday during the lunch break I was able to meet and hug Alixa and Naima. I thanked them for using their art to heal and reach out to connect more people to the Environmental Movement.

KEY NOTE SPEAKERS

I was really excited to see one of the Youth Leadership Keynotes by Ryan Camero. He is from my hometown of Stockton and is working to protect the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta ecosystem.

Another favorite was, Creating An Equitable Environmental Movement, by Vien Troung, Director of Green for All. She shared her life story and how she was the first in her family to go to college and I loved when she said, “The purpose of my education was not to escape poverty, it was to learn how to end it.” She talked about the future of the movement too, saying, “We have to go beyond eco-elites to working together… it’s not about solar panels and bus passes it’s about transforming lives.” I have so much respect for Vien and was so happy to see and hear her speak.   

PANELS

Latinas Leading Change for Climate Justice and Solutions
This was the first time I have seen an entire panel and topic dedicated to Latinas! The panel did a great job and in the Q&A I was happy to ask, “How can we promote Vegetarianism in our community?” They offered great answers including using social media. The moderator also shared with us at the beginning that "Latina" in South America has a very different meaning. It means that you identify with decedents from Europe rather than the indigenous.  So in the Q&A I was also happy to bring up Latinx. For me, Latinx, means that we are include members of our community who want to express themselves in the way they determine. And at the same time it recognizes the limitations of gender in language from the Spanish colonizers. 

Changing the Story: Media, Technology, and New Generational Waves of Storytelling
The biggest takeaway for me is that our youth really wants messaging that provides solutions to problems. They feel overwhelmed by the doom and gloom as well as hearing that they are going to inherit a world full of problems that they will have to solve.

WORKSHOPS

Engaging Leadership: From Insight to Impact
We talked about leaders as healers participated in experiential exercises. I was excited to attend this event to learn and strengthen my own leadership skills.

Youth of Color Caucus
The theme for this workshop was to “learn our past, to grow our future.” To me that was my cue from the Universe to start including a story I have from a recent trip to Mexico in my presentations. We also talked about how our ancestors were the first stewards of the earth and they are counting on us to be innovators for the future. I was also super happy to meet one of the youth who inspires me, Xiuhtezcatl Martinez, from Earth Guardians.

Networking | Educators for the Future
I love the work that I do and my team. I am so lucky to have a great mentor/boss that has created our program that has been awarded and recognized internationally in the environmental field. Many times when I am at events and talk about our program I’m reminded of the positive impact we are making. What I learned from others at this event is that it would be great to connect students to indigenous voices and actions to protect our planet. One person in the group said this would be a barrier because not all students can relate to indigenous communities and think of them as people who live without technology. I believe that every student has a tie to ancestors with rituals; educators can help students connect to this and if there are still no connections, look for ties where we live. Who lived here before us? Our water comes from Hetch Hetchy, how did we get that name?

Community Forum: Gender Equity and Reconciliation
At first I thought what does this have to do with the environment? As I went through the exercises I remembered that everything and everyone is connected. We bring our experiences everywhere all of the time. We had to ask ourselves how we could create a gender-balanced world. It was also made clear that gender was defined by how each individual wants to identify. This workshop was great, it provided a space for me to learn more about all the different ways gender impacts our lives and what we can do about it.


Throughout the three-day conference honoring Indigenous communities and our ancestors played a big role in how we can heal people and our planet. I was thrilled to see the diversity at this event and left feeling refueled. I also want to give a special shout out to a friend who gave me the free three-day pass to this event and hope to attend again in the future!

Saturday, September 17, 2016

EXPLORING GREECE!




Oh Greece! With your emerald blue waters, stunning islands, green silver shimmery Olive Trees, history, and food! How could a traveler not fall in love? While hiking and walking through all of the sites I tried to be in the moment as much as possible imagining what life was like when many of the sites were first created. That led me down the rabbit hole of deep thoughts, like, “When and why did we stop being hunter/gatherers? What made humans want to create communities? What made some humans explorers? Why do all cultures around the globe have similar myths?” I channeled my inner philosopher vibes. This is what traveling does to me, it makes me question and get deep especially when I visit places like Greece.
  
GREECE IN THREE WORDS:

If I had to describe Greece in three words they would be: 
Gritty. Historical. Picturesque.

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

Wow! It feels like Athens goes on forever. The city isn’t dirty but rather it looks and feels as if it has been lived in for 2500 years. And Delphi, talk about a true hidden treasure! Crete Island has so many cute villages to discover! I was mostly thrilled to swim in the Medediterrian Sea. The economic crisis is real here folks the graffiti expressing it, strikes, and protests that probably didn’t make your local news broadcast, all of these things make you feel it. And I am willing to bet that change will be coming soon to Greece because the people are for sure going to make it happen!  

WHAT SURPRISED ME ABOUT GREECE?    

Here are a few things that surprised me about Greece. On our tour to Delphi our guide told us that half of the population of Greece lives in Athens. She also told us that the Ministry of Culture has mandated that all historical sites remain as is, I wondered about this when I saw copies made of broken artifacts. The reason for the mandate is to show what has happened historically, like it or not. And a lot of the artifacts are housed at the History Museum in London and at the Louvre in France! So keep an eye out on your future visits. Another surprise is that I already really loved Greek food and when you’re here it’s at another level! I also learned that Greece is one of the world’s largest honey exporters. And nature surprised me on how beautifully blue water can be and of course the pink sand and really all beaches!  


WHAT DO VEGETARIANS EAT IN GREECE? 

Lots of Greek food! My faves: souvlaki: a pita filled with falafel, tzatziki, lettuce, tomato, and fries. Mezze plates with hummus, tzatziki, smoked eggplant, cheese dips, and veggies usually olives, tomato, and cucumber. And pies filo dough layered with cheese, zucchini, or spinach. And for my sweet tooth loukoumades (Greek  doughnuts), bougatsa, baklava. Don’t forget Greek coffee, bagels, and yogurt with honey and walnuts.


TIPS- In this section I've laid out tips if you're interested in traveling here...

DO:
ATHENS- Know that the airport is far and in the afternoon traffic can be bad. Don’t take day tours to nearby historical sites, rent a car and go at your own pace instead. You can buy a pass to visit many of the touristy things, just know that three of the six sites are intact not rubble and buying this pass is worth it if you want to skip the lines. Ride the Metro it’s cheap and easy.

CRETE- Rent a car when you land, driving is really easy on the main National Highway. On the old road and through the villages the roads can be narrow and windy. Stay in Kissamos or Chania to visit Balos and Elafonsi beach. Balos has some fees (cash only) entry is one Euro per person, parking is a couple more. The road to get to Balos is a bumpy dirt one so if you get car sick easily pack a bag. Getting down to the lagoon is a hike, easier going up than down. At the lagoon you can rent chairs. And it’s really dirty there because of the people, donkey poop, and this algae that looks like shredded paper. All sites in Crete get really packed when the tour buses load in another reason to get your own car and be early. You could visit Balos and Elafonsi in a day but I would go separately. Another reason why I loved renting a car is going to different villages/towns. The ports at some of the towns are so nice! Having lunch or dinner catching the sunset was really great. So when you leave this side of the island go to the other side to check out the Dikteon Cave and Knossos Palace. And drivers beware, locals have changed some of the signs so that you will pass through their village to stop and make purchases.

EAT:
See my list above. Crete wasn’t impossible for vegetarians but didn’t offer as many options as Athens.

STAY:
ATHENS- You’ll be fine staying anywhere near the Acropolis. Plaka is a cute neighborhood and what you imagine when you think of Greece.

CRETE- As mentioned stay on one side of the island and then go to the other side. We were able to rent a car landing in one airport and drop it off at the other airport on the other side of the island. My most favorite town was Rethimno.

I know I’ll be back to Greece and hopefully soon!