Shrewasia

What is Shrewasia you may be wondering? Shrew, a derivative of Sasha + Drew, not the more commonly used form of shrew, a small rodent, but the “celeb” couple name I gave me and Drew (much to his displeasure). Shrewasia is just Shrew in Southeast Asia. To the dismay of many of our friends, that’s what I’m calling our trip, but don’t worry I didn’t add that obnoxious couple-y hashtag to any of our photos #ily.

I’m writing this now from the side of a hotel pool in Can Tho, Vietnam, where we’re trying to escape the 93 degree heat for a quick sec.


To retrace our steps for a moment, Drew and I started our adventure first in Ubud, Bali, about an hour or so inland from the main airport on the island of Bali. We stayed in a fantastic hotel/Airbnb listing that sort of spoiled us in our first few days. We had free breakfasts (mostly amazing fresh fruit), two pools, and a free shuttle from the hotel into the main town of Ubud since we were about 10 minutes away in a quieter area. We did the typical tourist-y stuff there: visited the monkey forest, nearby temples, and the rice terraces.


Still a bit on the tourist-y side, we took a Balinese cooking class recommended to me by Julius, my German friend, that was one of my more favorite things we did on the trip. Our teacher, Puspa, has been running the class for the last 9 years and is an absolute pro at running it smoothly. She also fondly called everyone “honey” and liked to refer to Drew as my “honeybunny.” You can guess that nickname stuck around after the class. Also the food we made was BOMB.

We also decided to do the sunrise trek up Mount Batur. We went to bed at 7:45PM and woke up at the glorious hour of 2:45AM where we took a van with French couple to the base parking lot and met our guide who took us (slowly) to the top. I was mildly dying the whole time so Drew and I went suuuuper slow and made it just in time for sunrise. It was worth it though.


After Ubud we went to Canggu, a little north of the main tourist spot, Kuta. There we stayed in my favorite Airbnb I’ve ever been in. Our room overlooked the rice fields, had a little treehouse, and a gorgeous pool. The guest house was separate from the main house and even came with it’s own cat!


We (stupidly) thought it would be a good idea to rent a scooter (it costs about $4/day) to see the island instead of take taxis around but that ended up being a huge disaster. Drew took it out for a practice spin and basically didn’t make it out of our driveway – he drove straight into the ditch across the street and 4 Balinese strangers had to help lift the scooter out. It cost us about $47 in damage and we ended up taking taxis anyways.

Overall Bali was different than we thought. While it’s beautiful and lush and the people are so welcoming, it’s also quite busy and not as tranquil as I imagined. The island is completely inundated with tourists and expats now, so you can’t go far without seeing tons of white people. If I ever go back I want to explore the more untouched parts of Bali.

From Bali, Drew and I flew to Ho Chi Minh city for a night. I had the joy of experiencing (for the 2nd time in my life) some traveler’s diarrhea in the airport which was a real blast. We made it to Saigon in mostly one piece and returned back to the listing Shonna and I stayed in 2014. Our host there, Linh, is hilarious and loves to hang out and improve her English so I asked her if she’d take us to get breakfast at the market in the morning.


The next morning Drew and I had to take the bus from Saigon to Can Tho, the smaller town a few hours away where Taylor lives. After buying our tickets at the bus station the people sort of motioned to us so we packed into this teeny tiny van with about 15 other people about to prepare for the 4 hour drive. I thought to myself, “Alright, this is Vietnam. Gotta do it” and tried to get comfortable for the ride. About 5 minutes later they stopped the van and everyone got out and piled into another bus. There we had a bit more legroom and I was thinking, “Okay, this is better. I can handle this” until we were on that bus for a total of 5 more minutes and the same thing happened. This time we got onto a sleeper bus and I knew that was the final move. The ride ended up being only 3 hours and it wasn’t all that unpleasant!

Can Tho has been really lovely. My obvious reunion with Tay after 8 months of separation (the longest we’ve gone without seeing each other since their move to Paris when I was 7), riding around on scooters, eating at all her favorite spots, and getting my nails done for $6. Can Tho is pretty small in comparison to Saigon, but still the population is over 1 million. Insane.

I’m missing Passover at home this year, the first in my 24 years of life, but I’m lucky I got to celebrate Taylor’s last few days in her new home, meeting all her wonderful friends she’s become close to the past 8 months.

Now she and I venture off to Myanmar for a week, where I’m surely going to melt, so wish us luck!

#OtherPeoplesDogs

You should all know by now that I’m dog obsessed and that I started walking dogs part time a few months ago. I’m so happy spending time with all these furballs, talking to strangers in the park, and learning more about different dog personalities and how to work with them. Since I can’t have a dog of my own currently, I relish the hours of the day I get to spend with them, which have been so great for my daily step count and mental health!

I’ve even (sort of) acclaimed dog-related fame: http://www.crowdalbum.com/album/561931af61707039e2000263/NorCal-CorgiCon_20151010.

Most days, you can find me at the dog park, a dog-related event in the city, or just petting a dog on the sidewalk. It’s a beautiful thing that there are more dogs in SF than there are kids! And a big thank you to all dog owners who let their little babies be such a huge part of my daily happiness.

Drool

With all this time on my hands lately, I actually have the time and energy to do things I love. I am writing, exploring, taking photos, and cooking.

I especially love to cook for others. Maybe it’s the hidden Jewish mom in me that thrives off feeding others, but there’s little to nothing else in life that compares to the feeling of true contentment I feel when others enjoy the food I make.

This last month has been a fantastic culinary exploration so far. I started on a pickling kick back in July and pickled my own red onions. I was putting them on everything, much to the dismay of my guests. While some people loved them (myself included), others weren’t such big fans (sorry, Shonna). I’m still hankering to make my own sauerkraut, but in due time. I found this awesome pickling device at a craft fair and I really want to get it!

Here are some of my favorite recipes so far. Click the links to pull them up:

And some I got ideas from friends or made up in my head…

  • Poke
  • Oven roasted salmon
  • Quinoa veggie salad
  • Roasted tomatos in pasta
  • Heart attack hamburgers
  • Shrimp fettucini with fresh pasta

Are you drooling yet? Let me attach some pictures.

Want a meal? Just ask. Bon appetit!

Do.

Yesterday while at work in the Ferry Building, a woman came up to me at my stand and put her hand down her pants and immediately started feeling herself and groaning. I realized she was clearly homeless and not mentally stable, so I grabbed our work phone and called the building security to have them escort her out. She kept following me around the stand and I got worried that she wouldn’t leave me alone. She finally walked away right as my friend was coming up to say hi to me. At that moment, she ran up to him and starting humping him and violently grabbed his arm. Luckily, he was able to get her off of him but not before she scratched his arm pretty badly. Security finally came over and was able to remove her from the building.

I was never worried for my safety as I was completely surrounded by people, but I know that some people walking around San Francisco definitely feel uncomfortable at times. The problem is not just that there are too many homeless people here, but that they are not getting the kind of attention and care they need in order to stay healthy. The mental health of people is the #1 problem in this city, and it only continues to grow.

I’m worried about this problem as I hope other people are, and always encourage people if they have the time to help organizations such as Glide, which offer mental health services to those in need: http://www.glide.org/page.aspx?pid=371.

Host(ing) with the Most(ing)

As if traveling for all of June wasn’t enough, I returned to my SF home and promptly had two Norwegian girls stay in my room with me for five days. They left on a Friday and that night I had a French-Swiss friend come and stay with me for another 8 days. From the end of May until after they had left, I had only slept in a bed alone a total of 6 nights out of 42. That includes one night where I also had 6 people sleep over in my full bed and twin-size mattress on the floor, but that’s another story.

Traveling and hosting are difficult things. It takes a lot to be a good, low-maintenance guest, as well as a comfortable and welcoming host. After all my years of traveling and learning how to be a good host from people I’ve stayed with or from the great examples given to me by my family, I can say for sure I am wise enough to pass my host knowledge down to those who may need some advice.

  • Always give your guest a towel up front. One of my biggest pet peeves is having to ask my host where I can find a towel. In fact, Taylor and I were trying to be such good guests while staying in Munich that we never asked for a towel and instead used our t-shirts to dry ourselves off for 3 days. That was interesting.
  • Have enough bedding. When Tay and I got to Hamburg, we immediately laid claim to the blankets Martin provided, because one was clearly greater than the other. We decided we’d alternate nights with them so we each got our turn with the better one. We found out a couple nights in that they didn’t have enough blankets for us so Martin used his window curtain and put a cover over it. Crafty, but not quite perfect. We appreciated the effort.
  • Have some food available for your guests. A lot of times I travel with snacks, but for those few days when I’m too lazy to go out and get something, I always appreciated having something that my host was willing to give me.
  • Anticipate sharing your bed and that your space won’t be as comfortable (and clean) as you might hope. People come with stuff and when they leave they’ll take it with them. Embrace the mess. Shit happens.
  • Don’t expect anything in return for hosting. It’s great when people visiting bring a small gift or treat you to a meal, but the best part about hosting (in my opinion) is knowing that whenever you want to travel, their home will be open to you.

It was amazing having so many generous people throughout my trip open their home to me throughout my June adventure. It’s for this reason that I came back to California and let the foreign girls stay with me – I felt like I owed it to my Germans to return the favor back out into the universe.

So there they are, my pearls of wisdom, take them or leave them. No matter what, opening your home to someone can only be a good thing. Even if your guest ends up being crazy (something I have yet to experience), at least it all makes for a good story.