Sunday, March 08, 2009

Wow. It's Been A While

I can't believe I haven't post since August.

We had a fabulous trip to Chile and Easter Island over the holidays. I have to post pictures soon. Our next destinations this year are Mexico, Australia, and Maui.

Work has been crazy busy lately. It's always busy but this time is different. The economy has a big impact on people's morale. It's the first recession I experience as an adult and it's not fun.

I've never seen the City this quiet. Even on a Saturday night, restaurants are empty. It seems like people are cutting back in a big way.

In this spirit, I canceled my gym membership. If I ever have an urge to run, I'll go outside. My membership fee was a little excessive anyway.

On the positive side, my contract with T-Mobile is coming to an end. Hello i-Phone! Spring and Russian River Valley Barrel Tasting are here. Barrel wine is actually not that great but it's cool! And we've also been working really hard on something... which I can't talk about just yet. Stay tuned!

Friday, August 15, 2008

Gym Bunny, C'est Moi

This past year has been intense. My job has been enjoyable for the most part but very demanding. A typical work week is at least 50 hours, too often 60 hours. I found myself exhausted and irritable with occasional mini anxiety attacks.

I had to break this unhealthy cycle so I decided to sign-up at the gym. The gym I joined has many locations around the City, including one across from my apartment and one in my office building. Perfect. The membership ($85/month,eek!) came with two free personal training sessions. Excellent, I was actually complementing getting a personal trainer. My first personal training session was a disaster and it took me weeks to recover.

The pain wasn’t physical, it was emotional. I made an appointment with a personal trainer recommended by a single female colleague of mine. She failed to tell me that said personal trainer was a 6’2 feet tall, 220lbs, ex-Marine Corps muscle man dude. That’s probably what she liked about him. Me, not so much.

My first session consisted of performing a fitness assessment. Calculating body fat was the first on the agenda. Let me tell you how unpleasant it was to have Mr. Ex-Marine Muscle Dude measure me. I had not been touched by another man in years. I was so uncomfortable that I was seriously shaking. What is wrong with me???

The second step was to measure my blood pressure which ended up being too high. No shit. Mr. Ex-Marine Muscle Dude was making me unbelievably nervous. Then we did some flexibility and balance exercises. The good news is that I am not fat. The bad news is that I apparently have “below average” balance. Euh, he was stressing the heck out of me so much that I couldn’t keep my balance! At the end, we talked about my goals and the next session.

I joined the gym primarily to relax. This experience was more stressful than work. For days, I worried about the session with Mr. Ex-Marine Muscle Dude until I decided to cancel it. I don’t need more goals, timelines and stress in my life. I have plenty at work.

So I’ve been going to the gym for a month now, on my own. I can run one mile in 9 minutes, not bad! According to US Army standard, I get an 81% score. In general, I think exercising has helped me remain sane. I feel much calmer. I have more energy and I am less irritable.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Soon Boarding Flight to Mexico

I have the travel bug! Our Chile trip is just too far away so we booked a trip to ...Mexico!

We're going down for a couple of days in November. We booked one of the rare 18+ couples only resort.

I've been working 12hrs/day for the past year and I am exhausted. This is exactly what the doctor prescribed!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Saying Goodbye to My Carfree Lifestyle

Until R got transfered to their other office down in Silicon Valley, we both worked in the Financial District, a short 12mins bus ride away. For two months, he tried this public transportation thing. His commute consisted of a 45 mins bus ride, a 40 mins train ride, and a 15 mins bus ride: 1.5 hrs/each way. The commute drove him nuts and his whining drove me nuts. So we bought a car. I was so sad to say goodbye to my car-free lifestyle.

Since renting a private parking spot costs $300/month, we opted for street parking. You'll understand that it is not an easy task to find parking on the streets of San Francisco especially on the weekend.
The ideal parking spot is precious. Friday afternoon, we totally scored. We found a perfect parking spot right in front our building. Great success!

We haven't used the car since then.
We even walked back from the the grocery store with a million bags. No way in hell we were going to give up this sweet parking spot!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Soon Boarding Flight to Chile

It's no secret that I profoundly dislike Christmas. This year will be the fifth one that we do not spend Christmas at home with our families. In 2004, we went to Las Vegas/Grand Canyon. In 2005, we went to Cuba. In 2006, we did a South East Asia tour which included Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia. Last year, we went to Morocco and the Sahara desert. And this year, the winner is...


We're starting our trip with a 3-day self-drive wine tour in the Colchagua Valley.

On Christmas Eve, we will join a group in Santiago. Over the next three weeks, we're going to visit the following places:

Santiago de Chile


Heading North to the Atacama desert

Valle de la Luna

Salar de Atacama

Heading South to Lake District

Heading even more South...
Glacial lakes and mountain ranges of Torres del Paine

And finally flying to Easter Island

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Road Trips: Northern California!

Over the past year, we have travelled all over Northern California. I haven't been great at updating my blog so here's my year-in-review, Northern-Cali style!

May 2007


July 2007

Camping in Yosemite National Park

October 2007

Wine tasting in Livermore (Harvest Time)January/February 2008

Skiing in Lake Tahoe

March 2008

Barrel Tasting in Russian River Valley

March 2008

Wine Tasting In Anderson Valley

March 2008


Friday, January 25, 2008

Marrakech, Morocco

On our way to Marrakech from Ouarzazate

Marrakech was our last stop. It's a very busy/chaotic town, one of the only place on earth where I have actually felt somewhat unsafe. We were even told to "go home to America".

Our riad (Riad Dar Pangal) was an oasis of calm in this chaos. Julio, the owner, is an eccentric man from Chili who opened this hotel 10 years ago. It's simple but tastefully decorated.

We spent New Year's Even in Marrakech. Most restaurants were fully booked and grossly over priced. In addition, I did not feel like hanging out in the main square. I noticed that garbage cans have a tendency to blow up on NYE. As such, we ended up spending NYE at our riad with a couple of guys from NYC. We had cheese, Pringles, red wine, clementine and a Kit Kat. Fun times!

Erg Chigaga, Morocco

From Ouarzazate, we drove in a 4X4 for five hours to M'hamid, had lunch and kept going for another 2 hours. That was a bumpy ride! This road is actually used for the Paris-Dakar rally.

Erg Chigaga is very different from Erg Chebi. I have affectionately renamed Erg Chigaga the "Disney Dunes". Our camp was much more comfortable than our tent in Erg Chebi. The 'bivouac' had mud walls which made the inside much warmer than camel skin with holes. It was more comfortable than a Best Western, seriously.

The dunes are much smaller. Quads reminded me of a sea-doo on a quiet lake in the summer. There are foot prints everywhere.

I was happy to see at least one desert creature! A little (I mean giant) beetle. I am glad I saw it on our last day otherwise I might not have slept that well. It's winter, all other insects were hibernating.

Ouarzazate, Morocco

On our way to Ouarzazate, we got a flat tire! It happened during the call to prayer so it's was a bit of experience.
This is an oasis in the desert. I know, it's very different than the ones we have grown up seeing in cartoons. The truth is that people have built cities around oasei. I've only seen one oasis during the whole trip.
I don't have much to share about Ouarzazate other than it's like a little Hollywood in the desert. It's a relatively big hub for movie studios when they are out in the Sahara filming.
Ouarzazate actually hosts the largest movie studio in the world. The city itself, meh.

Erg Chebi, Morocco

After a ten hour drive from Fes, we finally arrived in Merzouga where our two camels were awaiting our arrival. The drive was amazing in itself. I expected the Sahara to be all sand dunes. It's not. Most of it actually looks like Arizona. Large dune fields are known as 'ergs'. They are ancient lakes and seas. They suddenly appear in front of you like mountains do.

We left the bulk of our luggage at a Kasbah (hotel) nearby and loaded up the camels. It felt like a beautiful sunny day. Although we were only a few kilometers away from the Algerian border, it's still very much the most northern part of the Sahara.

We left the kasbah around 3:30pm.

Seeing the sunset in against 180 meter dunes was amazing. It was getting cold and dark and we were still riding. I was convinced our guide lost. Three hours later, we finally made it to the camp. A couple of tents made of camel skin with fashionable holes in them.

We had dinner with Ahmad, our guide. Tangine, of course. We fed the cat who had been brought there to chase the desert mice. Poor kitty. Judging by his hunger, my guess is that there aren't many mice there or he is not a very skill hunter. It was very, very cold at night. I am used to cold weather but I don't normally sleep outside when it's 2 degrees! I had a couple of layers on me plus five blankets. It was December 25 and we completely were alone in the Sahara desert.

We woke up early to see the sunrise next morning... a little too early. We were out by 6am. Little did we know the sun doesn't actually rise until 7am! We took our blanket with us and sat at the top of dune until the sunrise came. The sunset was amazing but the sunrise was incredible.

After breakfast, we decided to go hiking the dunes. They are much higher than they look!

After playing in the same, we rode back to the Kasbah before another long drive to Ouarzazate.