Witnessing a Drug Smuggle & Other Asian Bus Blunders

Our travel time from Siem Reap, Cambodia to Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam, was posted at twelve hours. For anyone who has bumped down National Highway 6, the ditch-filled, partially dirt highway connecting Siem Reap and Phnom Penh, you know this travel time is simply impossible. By day, it takes at least seven hours to get to Phnom Penh, and it definitely would take more than four additional hours to get to Vietnam. As it was my friend’s first time bussing around Southeast Asia, I told her to prepare for a fourteen-hour ride.

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What the bus ride might have felt like

Mental preparation is a key part of sitting on a bus for endless hours in Asia. Inevitably everyone loses touch with sanity at some point, but by expecting to be on the bus for an extended time staves off the delirium for at least a short while.

So down Road 6 we jostled until we pulled in to the Phnom Penh bus station. We had approximately fifteen minutes to switch buses for the remainder of the journey, so we grabbed our bags, ran to the bathroom, bought some creepy fried chicken, and tried to get on the next bus. However, they had taken our tickets in Siem Reap and not given them back. This meant that we didn’t actually have tickets for the bus we were trying to get on, even though we had paid for them. Luckily they called the Siem Reap bus station and sorted this out.

We were given the last two seats in the back row of the bus. They didn’t recline, like all of the other seats did, nor did they have footrests. But we were heading to Vietnam, we had air-con, and at least we weren’t in the literal lawn chairs they pulled out for the next two people boarding the bus.

We stopped too many times for us to keep track of, and, by the time we had crossed the boarder (where they let Aly retrieve my passport for me—sketch), we just wanted to get to Ho Chi Minh. We were nearing hour fourteen, certainly nowhere near the city, and rapidly sinking into a restless craze. But we figured that we probably wouldn’t be stopping anymore—next stop, Ho Chi Minh! Thank god.

But just minutes after loading back onto the bus on the Vietnam side of the boarder, we stopped again.

Jesus Christ we both let out exasperated sighs, Why the fu*k are we stopping again?! We literally just stopped. The bus attendant ushered everyone off the bus for a “tea break.”

In some declining mental state between fed up, pissed off, and delirious, we told the attendant we would not be getting off the bus. We stayed in the back row with the two Indonesian ladies who had suffered through this entire journey with us.

We watched as he began unloading very suspicious brown packages from the bottom of the bus.

The lights in the bus went out, and we saw the form of the bus attendant approaching us. Somewhere a few feet in front of us, he pulled up a compartment in the floor and descended into it. This was not the first bout of strange behavior we had witnessed from this bus attendant; he had nearly forced us to abandon our phones at customs in order to get us back on the bus, physically ushering us along as we scrambled to grab all our cords.

We watched as he began unloading very suspicious brown packages from the bottom of the bus. Since we were in the last row of seats, only us and our Indonesian friends could see the packages as he lined them up next to the nearest window.

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This was too much for us to handle in our current state. The two of us burst out laughing, incredulously shining our phone lights around and taking pictures.

Soon after he emerged from the floor, he came over to the giggling pair of us, grabbed my arm and started shrieking “DELETE DELETE DELETE!!!” reaching for my phone.

Trying to push him away with one hand, I quickly deleted the pictures off my phone and irritatedly showed him they were gone. And for the rest of the ride, Aly and I exchanged theories about why he had reacted so strangely. The answer we came up with was that our bus was involved in some drug smuggling scheme. We agreed to watch the packages, and decided that if we made a random stop and he passed them out the window to someone then it was definitely a drug drop.

This is exactly what happened. Just inside Ho Chi Minh, around hour sixteen of this seemingly endless journey, the bus pulled over to the side of the road, all the lights went on, but the door did not open. The bus attendant handed the three brown parcels out the window to a man on a motorbike below. The drop was complete, the lights turned off, and we continued on our way.

An Evolution of Texting, and Why I Can’t “Text My Age”

One of the strangest things about being a recent college grad is realizing that, to the rest of the world, you look like an adult, even though, in reality, your life is in shambles and you have no clue what you’re doing. On being launched out of the academic bubble, one of the things I have struggled with is how I am supposed to text now that I am no longer a college kid but a real live adult.

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I don’t mean physically how do I text. I’m a millennial, even if it isn’t a term I particularly identify with—which ironically is supposed to be typical of most millennials… bit of a Catch-22, huh? I matured side-by-side with the Internet and have had a cell phone since the Sixth Grade. Texting is part of my daily life. But as I have undergone this shift from school to Real Life, I have begun to reflect on the way that I text.

I cannot count the number of times I’ve been told that I text like a “ratchet thirteen year old” for using acronyms or not spelling out full words. Text your age!! Seems to be their silent plea. But it is so second nature for me to drop the “y” and “o” of the word “you” that I even hit my parents with a “love u” at the end of conversations instead of writing out its three letter form. If you know what I mean when I just type a letter, do I really need to spell it out for you?

Text your age!! Seems to be their silent plea.

As it turns out, my texting progression has come full circle as I’ve grown up. At first, using one of the countless Motorola Razrs I inevitably smashed, I would type as tersely as possible. I mean who really had the patience to click those little keys the thousand times it took to fully spell out a word?

Instant Messaging emerged on the computer and abbreviations quickly established a regular place in our lexicon. “Sup?” or even “wyd?” were commonly answered with “sos” “nm” “jc” and then the reply inquiry, “u?” We could speed type on both our computers and our phones, and understood each others’ shorthand perfectly.

Then high school hit. Now I was fourteen I didn’t need to text like the silly child I was in middle school anymore. I still had a navy blue Razr, but I was mature: I exchanged my single letters and acronyms for full words. Though I never had a Blackberry (I begged to be allowed to BBM my friends), I can imagine the advent of the full keyboard definitely influenced the resurgence of fully typed out words.

And finally, the iPhone: with autocorrect and autofill and the ability to type almost as quickly as you thought. But there’s the key part: almost as quickly as you thought, but not quite. The regression to letters was inevitable. Your phone would learn your frequently used abbreviations (it would also pick up your drunk typos and random capitalizations…) so using them became unconscious. By now, most people of our generation were typing pretty much in the same way, so shorthand was not only accepted, but it became a sort of norm.

It was not until this year that I experienced any sort of backlash for the way I text. My friends said that I typed in my own language, using “abt” instead of about, “esp” instead of especially, “tomo” instead of tomorrow, and, the classic, “u” instead of you. But otherwise I spelled most things out, my texting style hadn’t really changed much in four years, and people still knew what I meant, so what was the problem?’

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As graduation neared I lay in bed one night seriously contemplating the way that I text. Would that fly in the real world? I definitely wouldn’t type the way I usually do to employers, or even people that I was texting for the first time. My friends were already teasing me for my “ghetto” texting. Were my days of shorthand typing and abbreviations nearing an end?

The answer so far has been no. I definitely do type out full words more often than I used to, but some shorthand has stuck with me—and I know I am not the only one guilty of this!

We live in an increasingly digital age, and texting by some has come to be thought of as its own dialect within the English language. The way we text is considered more akin to the way we think or speak than the way we would write a paper or a letter. Just because I use my little shorthands doesn’t mean that I struggle with the English language—I literally was an English major. Maybe I am just a really lazy texter. Maybe it shows that I think faster than my fingers can move. Or maybe, just maybe, on some subconscious level it means that the “ratchet thirteen year old” inside of me isn’t ready to grow up.

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How to Not Get Snatched in India While Traveling

Disclaimer: This story takes place in India, a country often portrayed as dangerous, unruly, and in a generally negative light. This was just one experience I had during my five months there, and the only time I really felt I could be in danger. I know it feeds into the stereotype, but overall that stereotype was not at all my experience.

John Legend’s “Number One” chorused from my phone alarm, my eyes opening to my dark room in the small hostel we stayed at barely overnight in New Delhi, India. We had gotten in around midnight, just five hours ago; our train to Jaipur left in an hour from the Old Delhi station down the road. My friend, Emma, and I sleepily shoved our things back into our backpacks, brushed our teeth, and headed out the door.

The nine of us traveling around the North together met in the cramped lobby to make our way to the station. Two of my friends and I, feeling lazy, opted to jump in a rickshaw to go down the road—it only cost 60 rupees (1 USD) so we didn’t mind paying the cost of indulging in this small bit of luxury.

We paused as we entered the station, looking around for our six companions and trying to get our bearings. We figured our group would be fairly easy to find—we were pretty much the only white people we ever saw, even in our relatively busy city of Hyderabad, the split capitol of the Southern states of Andhra Pradesh and Telengana, India’s up-and-coming silicon valley.

A man approached the three of us and asked to see our tickets. We half-skeptically showed them to him, and he informed us that our sheets of paper were merely reservations, and that we would have to go upstairs to the international office to get our tickets printed out. Because this is how the airports worked in India, we let him lead us to the staircase in the back of the station.

My eye caught a sign right before we were about to walk upstairs that put me on guard. It said something to the effect of “Beware tourists, this office is only open from the hours of 8AM to 8PM. Do not be fooled by people saying it’s open outside of these hours.” So I knew the office was closed as we followed this man up.

A second man was standing on the landing outside the office. As we approached him he informed us that the office was currently closed. Good sign. After looking at our tickets for a moment he then told us that our train was actually canceled, but there was another train to Jaipur leaving from the New Delhi station at 7AM, and that it was about 8km to that station and a taxi could easily take us. We thanked him, our first thought being that we had to tell the rest of our group about our canceled train.

However, just as we were about to head back downstairs, a shriveled old woman passed us on the stairs, and, once she was behind the two men who were assisting us, she turned around and urgently, but silently, wagged a cautionary finger at us. Her message was simple: do not believe what these men are telling you. In our CIEE program orientation the directors had told us not to take directions from men, and to only ask women and families for help. The lesson from our program staff combined with the ominous warning from this stranger put us on guard, and we quickly thanked the men, grabbed our tickets from their hands, and rushed back down to the main lobby.

“Yo fuck that,” I said as we got out of earshot of the men, “did you see that lady? Let’s ask someone who works here, or a police officer or something. We shouldn’t believe what they just told us. And let’s find our friends.”

Assuming our friends were already inside the loading areas, we headed toward the platform entrance. A man who appeared to be checking tickets stopped us as we headed past him, and, surprisingly, relayed to us the same information the man outside of the office had: our train was canceled, but there was another one leaving from the New Delhi station, about 8km away, at 7AM. He ushered us over to the taxi stand to help us get a ride to the other station.

At this point we were extremely wary of what was going on around us. As we approached the group of cabbies, each of us pulled our little Nokia brick phones.

“Wait,” Emma said as the cab drivers attempted to load our bags into the trunk, “we have to call our friends.”

Here another red flag was raised. The cabby started rushing to try to get our luggage off our backs and us into the car as soon as he heard we were part of a group, and not just three white girls traveling alone.

Seconds later, my roommate walked over to us and asked what we were doing. We explained the situation to her, starting to move away from the swarm of cabbies and the second ticket man, but still amongst them.

“Our train isn’t cancelled,” my roommate said. “It just went up on the board, it’s leaving from platform two. I think everyone else is already over there.”

We turned to the cabby and told him we were just going to get our friends, and rushed off. Needless to say, we didn’t come back, but instead headed to platform two, found our friends, and were on our way to Jaipur within fifteen minutes.

As our train pulled away from the station, the three of us speculated over what could’ve happened if we went with those guys. We were delirious from a combination of sleep-deprivation and adrenaline. At best, we surmised, we would’ve missed our train and been ripped off by these cab drivers; we probably would’ve had to pay them a lot of money for transportation. At worst, we could’ve been mugged, kidnapped, countless other horrible things. But, as it turned out, we were totally fine, and because we trusted our instincts, and kept in mind the warnings and advice we were given early on, nothing bad happened to us.

Even so, I didn’t tell my parents this story until I was sitting with them in the car on the way back from the airport in America. I think they were grateful for that.

Just, No: Most horrifying Tinder Profiles Part 1

It’s really not that hard. Tinder rates people on a scale of 0-1 so if your first impression is somewhat OK, then you probably have a good chance of matching. But in my 2 years of Tindering, people are still having trouble grasping that concept. Here is what NOT to do.

Don’t confuse Craigslist and Tinder

Not sure what a money slave is? What does simple in this context mean? Hoping to match for more informations.

Being too honest

The LOL really helps.

Having the wrong hobbies

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Being annoyingly artsy

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J. Crew over here isn’t aware that picnics with bunnies aren’t the best ways to pick up a girl in NY city.

Wearing sequin dresses
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Being naked and hairy
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Nobody wants to see your headshot for the role of Adam in Genesis Book 1. Jesus Christ, kid.

Try not to be naked while straddling your dog who looks like he just enjoyed the sex

Mistakes We Made Camping So That You Don’t Have To: Part 1 – Road to Zion

The road-trip to Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon, and the Grand Canyon –  an epic week of camping where we learned a lot about what to do and what not to do, the hard way!

1 Volvo, 5 girls, 7 epic days of camping, you do the math.

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Lesson 1

Check campground availability. Although we did successfully plan our route beforehand using the wonderful www.roadtrippers.com and had a comprehensive packing list, our first mistake occurred early on in our trip: we didn’t realize that we would be camping over Memorial Day Weekend. This meant—you guessed it— everyone and their mother (literally) wanted to go camping this weekend, so there were zero campsites open at Watchman Campground in Zion National Park, our first stop.

If we wanted to camp at Zion that weekend, we would have to drive nine hours overnight to snag a first-come-first-served campsite in the early morning at South Campground. Our trip went something like this…

 10:45PM: Los Angeles. With our Volvo bursting with our supplies for the week, we hit the road. Blasting Taylor Swift and Kendrick Lamar’s “Bad Blood Remix,” we drove-thru Starbucks for some venti coffees to start the night.

3 AM: Gas station on I-15, off the Vegas Strip. What started as an innocent candy refuel stop quickly turned into a disastrous gambling opportunity. $3 were lost at those gas station slots.  Still blasting Taylor Swift and Kendrick Lamar’s “Bad Blood Remix,” we went on our way. Our ‘Snapchat Stories’ continued to document the story of our increasingly delirious journey on the desolate highways connecting Los Angeles and Southern Utah: dollar bills of the Las Vegas geotag rained on tired heads resting on neck pillows, Nerds Ropes and Hot Cheetos refueled our spirits when we were in desperate need of a 5AM snack, dynamic stretching in an otherwise abandoned gas station helped energize us through the final hours of the drive, and a spontaneous purchase of matching raccoon hats had us cracking up as we greeted the sun that sleepily crept up through our windshield.

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Lesson 2

Know your time zones. We weren’t going to put this on the list, but sadly we struggled with this more than once. In this unfortunate mix-up (the first of two), we were forced to forgo a diner breakfast feast when we lost an hour crossing into Utah. Our two-hour window to get to the park and find an open campsite turned into a one-hour window, so our glorious feast turned into a quick stop at McDonald’s. But hey, not mad about Egg McMuffins. 7:30 AM (NOT 6:30): Zion National Park, South Entrance. We zipped through the waking town outside of South Zion, and were all surprised by the fact that we weren’t really “out here” in the wilderness. In fact, there were grocery stores, cafés, and even a movie theater. Blasting Taylor Swift and Kendrick Lamar’s “Bad Blood Remix,” we continued into the park.

We proceeded to unashamedly peer pressure a stranger out of his campsite; then crashed for the next few hours before the next phase of our adventure began.IMG_7363Credit: http://bit.ly/1V6TYN9

Lesson 3

REI is your friend. Even though we made some pretty basic mistakes, we didn’t do everything wrong!

If you’re camping on a budget (or not), REI is perfect for you since they have a great return policy and reasonably priced rentals. We rented a tent and a cook stove from these guys—the cook stove ended up being a huge lifesaver as the rainy weather we had for half our trip would definitely have prevented us from starting and maintaining our own fire. We also bought a lantern from REI for our trip, and when we returned it we got all of our money back! (Sorry we’re not sorry, REI).

1PM: South Campground, Zion National Park. We awoke after several hours’ rest, excited to explore the magical park we would spend the next two days in. How much success would we have, and how much more of a joke would our lives turn into? Stay tuned for the next installation of our camping trip, where we restock in nearby civilization and learn the hard way that not all windbreakers are waterproof….

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All the other pics are ours!

Really Good Music | Backyard BBQ Playlist

Getting together with friends on a sunny afternoon, grilling burgers, drinking a cold beer and anticipating a huge food coma sounds like the right ingredients for a perfect BBQ. But we all know it’s not complete without some really good tunes. I mean, it could be fun to listen to your Mom ask you if you’re really going to have another drink, but we’re pretty practical and old-fashioned. We ignore her, crack two in front of her, and turn up the tunes and share some good vibes all the way into the evening.

A good playlist really makes a difference, and it’s often overlooked. And I get it, your Dad might want to DJ. But when he’s done telling you how much he’s really liking T-Swift these days, and when you can’t handle him shredding the air guitar to the Free Bird solo, plug this playlist in and tell people you’ve got it covered, then hide the cord.

We hope to get you looking like this:paul rudd animated GIF

Also these can be listened to whenever and wherever so don’t discriminate.

Backyard BBQ Playlist

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Easy Campfire Meals to Survive The Wild

Planning what meals to eat for a camping trip is undeniably one of the most fun parts of the process.
Ideally, you would sit down before you go to the store, write out all your meals, and buy only the ingredients you’ve agreed upon. I’m sure this happens for people who are legitimate, relatively intense campers or backpackers who have to think about what they carry and for how long.

However for the rest of us independent twenty-something-year-olds, I say “ideally” because once you actually enter the store it’s more than likely that your purchasing process will become a free-for-all, guided by a love of snacks and an unspoken mutual fear of starving to the death in the wilderness. And yes, this impulse can, and probably will, take over even if you are consciously aware of the fact that you’ll only be in said wilderness for 24 hours. Because, c’mon, we both know you can’t survive.

Regardless of which category of camper you find yourself in, here are some easy campfire meals to survive the wild.


Hobo Dinners

Credit: http://bit.ly/1PHU3jd

Ingredients

  • bread
  • carrots
  • onions
  • cheese
  • potatoes
  • veggie/meat patty
  • ketchup,
  • mustard
  • mayo
  • salt
  • pepper
  • + 21-flavor mixed seasoning
  • Tin foil (necessary)

Instructions

  • First take a big sheet of tin foil and lay it out on the table.
  • Next, chop all of your food into small pieces and organize them onto different plates (like a buffet). This will make them cook faster. Take as much as you want of each ingredient throw them into your tin foil.
  • Add your desired amount of condiments/seasonings, and a drop of water to help the veggies cook.
  • Stir it all up inside your piece of foil, wrap the foil around the food (the longer and flatter they are the better they cook!), just make sure you make handles with the ends of the foil so it’s easier to pick up.
  • Now set it on the embers of the fire. Your hobo should be done within fifteen or twenty minutes, depending on surface area and food density.

Credit: http://bit.ly/1PHU3jd

Pro-tip: If you’re nervous about your embers or eating raw meat, or just getting hangry, go for the veggie patties – they’re usually pre-cooked so worse comes to worst you can eat your semi-cooked meal safely.


Pita Pizzas

Credit: http://bit.ly/1PHU3jd

Ingredients

  • Pita bread
  • mozzarella cheese
  • marinara
  • pepperoni (optional)
  • Tin foil (necessary)

Instructions

Remember those awesome pizza lunchables we had in middle school? Well this is the same idea.

  • Take a piece of foil and create a circular indent a little bigger than your pita size. Take your pita and fit it into the space.
  • Next, generously spread sauce, cheese, and pepperoni on your piece of pita bread.
  • Now wrap the foil around the top of the pita, but try to create some separation between foil and pizza top so the cheese doesn’t get stuck, and watch it cook.

Pro-tip: Open up the pita and shove all your ingredients in there to make a pizza pocket.


 Hot Dogs

Credit: http://bit.ly/1PHU3jd

Ingredients

  • Wieners
  • Buns
  • Ketchup
  • Mustard
  • Relish

Instructions

  • Stick a skewer, or if you don’t have a skewer then a stick, in that bad boy and get roasting. This one you do over the open flames.
  • Put your buns over some tin foil and let them toast.

Pro-tip: Cheddar-infused or bacon wrapped hot dogs make you feel fancy…And they taste bomb.


Cake Batter Oranges

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Credit: http://bit.ly/1KZ0JWt

Ingredients

  • Orange
  • Cake batter mix
  • Water/milk
  • Tin foil (necessary)

Instructions

  • Slice off the top of an orange and cut/scoop out the inside. Try to leave as little orange and pulp left in the skin.
  • Mix the cake batter mix with water or milk. Pour the cake batter into the empty orange skin about ¾ of the way to the top. Wrap it in a tin foil ball with a handle and place upright on the grill/fire over the flame.
  • Should take about 30-40 minutes to cook, depending on desired consistency. Feel free to open up the foil and check on your little cake. The cake will be orange-infused, and you don’t need a plate!

Pro-tip: Bring frosting, or mix up the type of cake that you make in the orange for different delicious treats. You can also do brownies!


Banana Boats

Credit: http://bit.ly/1NJNG1n

Ingredients

  • Banana
  • Marshmallows
  • Chocolate chips
  • Tin foil (necessary)

Instructions

  • Cut your banana in half vertically, leaving the skin on.
  • Stuff the middle full with marshmallows and chocolate chips.
  • Wrap in tin foil and place on a grill or on embers. It should just take a few minutes for everything to melt.

Pro-tip: Think peanut butter chips. Nutella is also delicious in these! And whipped cream is great on top. Let your imagination run!


S’mores

Credit: http://bit.ly/1X8GsH8

Ingredients

  • Hershey’s chocolate
  • Graham crackers
  • Marshmallows

Instructions

  • Roast a marshmallow on a stick til it’s a golden brown (if you’re patient) or set that sucker on fire (if you’re not).
  • Place it between two graham crackers with some chocolate. A campfire classic.

Or just watch this, and pay attention Smalls!

Pro-tip: Stick the chocolate inside the marshmallow so it roasts with the chocolate melting inside. Or switch out Hershey’s for Reese’s peanut butter cups for an amazing alternative!

Now if it’s between you or the over-confident guitar player, I’ll say you are the real winner on this trip.