My new winter coat, inspired by Kate Middleton.

One of the best things about living in Shanghai are the textile markets.  There, you can design your own clothing; choose the fabric, the buttons, the collar, the trim, the lining.  The list goes on and on. The majority of us are so oblivious to how much work is involved in the production of clothing, since we just hop into our cars and go to the mall in the States.  After living in Shanghai, I really appreciate good quality and design more than I ever have before.

This is Mina and her team, working on the coat I bought. She does high quality work.  I highly recommend her shop!

The style, seaming and double-breasted style are the same as Kate's.  I choose blue to brighten up gray winter days, and to make my blue eyes "pop".  I don't have a proper, stiff pillbox hat, so instead I am using my beret.  I can't see myself buying a hat of that style.  I would probably only use it once.

So here are the side by side images of the coat I wanted, and the coat I ended up with...

 The collar looks a bit different, but it's a pretty decent replica...

It's definitely a different style for the collar, since most peacoats have traditional broad lapels.

 Now I just have to wait until next winter, since spring is here, and it's currently 75* outside today!

Happy Monday to you and yours!  

<3 paz.amor.felicidad.

EARCOS conference 2013

Here is a group shot of the international educators gathered for the pre-conference that took place on March 27th. It was such a wonderful opportunity to present at the conference and share my ideas for dance collaboration and improvisation with such an impressive group of professionals! I learned so much this year, and look forward to next year's conference!

Today's Fitness Challenge..

Your choice!!

Directing the flow of traffic..

one inefficient sign at a time!  Wouldn't it make more sense to have the left turning lanes be the farthest to the left?  Just a random musing for your Thursday morning! Have a great day!

Excerpt and reflection from "Undress Me in the Temple of Heaven"

I recently finished reading the book, Undress Me in the Temple of Heaven, by Susan Jane Gilman.  I found it to be an extremely funny book, and I loved the author's insights on backpacking through China in the late '80s.  I'm so glad I live in China now; it was certainly much more difficult then!

One comment she made in the book that has resonated with me as I travel around the world was regarding the West's obsession to quantify and classify everything that is different from our culture; how we use our culture as the baseline for measurement against all cultures.

I also find this certain supremacy weird in the regard that Westerners expect to be able to travel to any country and make a living teaching English.  While I appreciate that I grew up in the States, and speak English as my native language, I think it's culturally insensitive for people to expect to have jobs teaching English anywhere, and everywhere--especially without teaching credentials!! That just kills me!

I wonder what the States could have resembled if all our immigrants came and insisted on teaching their language and culture, and ignored English and American culture.  It is a shame that many children are discouraged from developing their communication skills in their own mother tongue, for the sake of being "English-fied".  Of course the bigger irony is that employers seek adults who have multiple language abilities!  I wish Spanish was more commonly spoken in the States, given that the "minority" is fast becoming the majority.  Yet schools are racing to implement Mandarin language programs, just for the sake of possible economic prosperity (remember that when I was in high school, the random push was for all kids to learn Arabic in response to 9-11 and uncover the terrorists that were supposedly in our communities).  This economic crisis would have been a perfect opportunity for Hispanic businesses to flourish in the States, and prove their markets are important too, which in turn would encourage people to learn Spanish.  So far, that hasn't happened yet. Will it ever?

Chatsila Market, Hua Hin, Thailand

My mom always took my sisters and I to craft fairs growing up.  Sometimes I enjoyed being dragged along--that is when the vendors had nice things and my mom would cave into my pleadings for something new.  Oftentimes the vendors would sell knicknacks and grandma-inspired items, like a knitted skirt.  Really!  So imagine my delight when I first visited Las Dalias in Ibiza in summer 2010; a crafting paradise for local artisans and hippies!!  As an adult, I like exploring markets and like to stumble upon quirky and unique items.  I do also prefer to vote with my wallet, and support local people versus big corporations. 

Living in China has made shopping less fun.  To begin with, negotiating is their national sport and I don't enjoy arm wrestling over prices. Second, the quality and authenticity of products is very inconsistent.  Third, I'm inundated with shopping options in Shanghai because there are shopping malls (normally with 8 floors of retail space) on every street corner, along with dozens of migrant workers selling items on the street.  It is absolutely overwhelming, and makes me want to run home and hide with the covers over my head.  Last but not least, I cannot bring myself to buy things made in China outside of China because the mark-up is astronomical.  It drives me bananas.

 So last night at the Chatsila Market in Hua Hin, I explored, but didn't buy much.  Mostly everything they had for sale (silk ties, plastic Buddhas, silk robes, Asian fans, etc) were things I can buy at the markets in Shanghai.  I did get street food (vegetable curry with Jasmin rice) and WOW! it was intense.  My face and lips were beat red from the spicy red and green chilies in the rice.  As I walked off my heartburn and sweated profusely, I caught some cute kids dancing in the street for money. I wish I thought of that when I was a kid!! Overall, it was a really fun night, looking at the bright colors and happy people of the market.  I hope you're having a happy and healthy day, wherever you are in the world.


Fabric sunflowers for sale... they grow wild here like grass in America!

Reminds me of Ibiza... *sigh* I miss Spain!

I was tempted to buy a lovely old couple because I love old people, but dolls terrify me.
Every market needs a crepe stand (with Nutella and bananas, of course!).

It turned out to be a crunchy crepe--not exactly the texture I was expecting!!
Thailand's best dance crew right here!

Sawatdee Thailand!!

It's been a humbling experience, traveling to Thailand for spring break.  The heat in Bangkok was SCORCHING hot (95*F), humidity suffocating, and Thai hospitality overwhelming.  While I explored a few different tourist spots in Bangkok, I really just enjoyed walking around the neighborhoods, trying different street food and watching people move in their daily lives.  I really like the diversity here; street signs are both in English and Thai, store and shop names are written in English, Thai, Arabic and Chinese.  There are the famous yellow Thai flowers (Ratchaphruek) everywhere!  There are also shrines to the King and Queen, along with Buddhas in many building entrances.  For the sake of humanity, I think it's lovely to see people publicly praying to the Buddha and to see people visit the public Muslim prayer rooms. I didn't know they were so open with their religion here (another stark contrast to life in China!).

Tony, my tuk tuk driver from the metro to the hotel.

ALoft Bangkok Hotel, part of Starwood group.

Foot rub on Khaosan Road, aka backpacker central.

Smartest tuk tuk driver EVER--operates a fake handbag business out of his vehicle. See the poster above his head? LOL.

One of many "Wats" in the city--I forget which one this was.

Of course, a shrine to the King in front of the temple.

Temple souvenirs.

Sticky rice with black bean and sweet banana were inside this treat.

Cloth napkins inside the bathroom!  Genius!

Jewelry district in Bangkok.

My lunch at Mandarin Oriental Hotel. Super Plush!

I feel awakened from the anonymity of living in Shanghai; where taxi drivers don't care where I am from, where waiters don't care if I am thirsty, where people on the street never say hello.  I am so overwhelmed by the kindness of the people here.  It's almost an uncomfortable feeling, having such attention bestowed on me after 609 days of living in China (since Aug 2, 2011).  The Thai wai has also thrown me off! So much bowing and smiling!  The younger person is supposed to wai first, so I've been trying to remember that as these young Thai girls bow to me, just as I'm trying to bow to them--I hate feeling old!!

Blurry picture of Khaosan Road--I try to take pictures as I'm walking, and clearly the iPhone doesn't do well on the go!
This little lady was selling street food.. clearly past her bed time!

Inside the ALoft Bangkok Hotel Café.

Hotel Lobby

View of Bangkok from the 18th floor in my hotel room.

On the street.. scooters, food and flags.
Inside the train station where lots of barefoot, sweaty, hot people were waiting to travel. Do you see who I see in the background?
Love the VIP seating for monks! 
Group of Thai women chatting and eating.  Plump and happy!

What an equalizer to the human race!!  The rich and poor alike must remove their shoes before entering the temple.  If only that happened in church!

I love this shot, of mother and son walking with their shawl to beat the heat.

Those purple chandeliers are actually orchid flowers!  BEAUTIFUL!

View of the Bangkok Riverfront.

Yesterday afternoon I paid 90baht ($3.07) to travel five hours on a train that appeared to be from the 1800s, arriving to Cha-am at 8pm.  I was nervous to travel so far in such undesirable conditions; hard seat, no air conditioning, bugs, and sketchy-looking people.  Along the way, people were so generous-it made me feel sheepish for my initial reaction.  I was humbled by the yogis from India who were traveling all through the night for 15 hours!, who offered me some snacks in a Mickey Mouse bag, or the young Thai girl who offered me apples she had bought from the vendors roaming around the train cars.  They did it so naturally; so unlike everything I've accustomed myself to, living in Shanghai.  I felt guilty, trying to put space between us, averting my gaze back to my book, attempting to be swallowed up into another world.  They didn't take the hint, and kept trying to chat with me!

Vendors at the train station.

Vendor selling food and treats from the tracks as we stopped at different stations.
The countryside along the route was beautiful; scattered in the fields were blooming yellow and purple flowers and trees, glorious gold-gilded temples, and shanties and shacks.  The people at the crosswalks smiled and waved to us as the train passed through.  Children played in the tall grass while dogs roamed, looking for food scraps.  It was so unassuming; so unlike the fast pace of life in a big city.  

My iPhone didn't do the setting sun justice, but it was absolutely BEAUTIFUL!  It has been so long since I saw the sky lit up in a wonderful splendor of orange, pink and red!
When we finally arrived to Cha-am, it was pitch black dark as I lowered myself down the train steps. My feet were swollen from the heat, but the pebbled surface I found myself on, woke them up right away.  I panicked a bit, thinking I got dropped off at a random field, without a station, or any taxis, or any means of getting to my hotel.  The Indian yogis waved frantically to me, as the train rumbled onwards.  I waved back, with a big smile--their energy was infectious!  I followed a Thai boy, over the tracks to an area where people were waiting with mopeds.  While they exchanged some words, I showed one girl the phone number of my hotel, and she signaled for me to hop on her bike. With that, we were off, riding into the night, me with my day bag and no helmet; the girl wearing a helmet with a sticker that said, "Born Free" on it.  I couldn't help but marvel at the irony of it.  Is it true to say that those with limited resources really are the most liberated people? Or is it true that people with the most resources are the most free?  It is an argument that has no end, but certainly one could say that the internet and abstract thinking (the arts, creativity, problem solving) are equalizers in this fast-paced world.

I was happy to finally arrive at my hotel, and relax in a comfortable bed.  It was a LONG day, but extremely interesting, and well worth the effort!  Now I am off to the market in Hua Hin! Hope to find some bargains and some Buddhas.

Peace and love to you and yours in this beautiful world.