Posted by Lisa Niver Rajna
Sept 3, 2012: Forty-five days before I turn forty-five, I am asking you to join me in donating to Jewish World Watch (JWW) for the Solar Cooker Project to help forty-five families. I hope to find at least forty-five people willing to donate $5 to $45 (or more) in honor of my forty-fifth birthday so I can share my gratitude about all the good things in my life.
$40 will provide one family with two cookers and with $1800 we can outfit 45 families. So if 45 friends each donate $40 I can provide 45 families with safety, security and solar cooked meals!
I have worked with JWW on several projects and their motto: “Do not stand idly by,” inspires me. I hope that together we can help many families no longer fear going out of the refugee camp in search of firewood and fuel and into the dangers of gang rape and death. After a long journey full of peril from Darfur in Sudan, people arrive at the camps in Chad traumatized having lost home, family members and any concept of safety into a bureaucratic jungle with only tarps for creating a “home.” Having given up my home by choice this year to travel with my husband, I hope to help others feel cared for no matter where they rest their head.
Please use this link to donate www.solarcookerproject.org
Note that your donation is in honor of Lisa Niver Rajna and JWW will keep track of the money we raise together! Thank you for making a difference today.
More information at http://www.wesaidgotravel.com/we-said-do-good
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August 20, 2012 | 6:52 am
Posted by Lisa Niver Rajna
I keep saying. “RELAX and see what happens!”— but when my laptop busted in Bali I was so not calm. I actually felt ill and really thought I might throw up. I knew that taking so many different kinds of electronics in a backpack on a trip with so many islands could pose problems. I knew to buy an external harddrive. I investigated cloud drive back-ups. I thought I was prepared.
On Day Five of my one-year adventure, I was not in any way prepared for my Macbook Air to break down. I turned it on and it should have worked, especially since this was the first week of our journey. We were at the Lovina Bali Beach Cottage, a steal at $38 USD, in Lovina, a sleepy town. The breakfast by the pool was relaxing and they gave us hard-boiled eggs instead of scrambled, and nasi puti (white rice) instead of toast. I love the sliced fruit and rest of my favorites: watermelon and pineapple. I even ate the papaya. I had great books on my Kindle and was enjoying relaxing by the pool reading. We strolled on the beach, found great places to eat, and listened to live music. How could it happen that the laptop would just die so quietly!
I felt greedy. We did not have free wi-fi at this hotel so I got inspired to get a USB hub modem. A shop in Kuta had a global one but we did not want to return there. One shop in Lovina had an Indonesian model and the other shop (this is a small one-street town) only had a used one that was international but the owner did not really know how to use it. His friend came to the shop to help and teh device still did not work. I was lazy and did not uninstall the hardware and then turned off the laptop. Later, it only showed the “gray-screen” with its spinning wheel of death.
If only I had left it alone, maybe it would still work. We tried several ideas. George looked up help for me on the Internet on his iPhone. I tried to restart, I tried to SMC and PRAM all to no aval. I freaked out. We went back to the shop and put the USB drive back in to see if the laptop would pull itself out of its zombie mode. Sadly, I wanted to cry because maybe I had ruined my biggest toy so early on in our travels.
I emailed a few tech-savy friends for help. I appreciated everyone who took the time to email me suggestions. I Tweeted and I Facebook’d; I was appalled. What would I do now? I read a lot of books and got lost in them to try to calm myself down. A friend sent the email of her emergency mac consultant who promptly wrote back to me and said, “You need to go to a shop.” I thought, “An apple store? There is not even a supermarket here, let alone an apple store.” As we left Lovina, we stopped in Sinaraja, a larger place and went into an internet café and a computer sales shop that sold mainly HP. The nice man told me, “You need the Apple store. There is one in Denpasar.” I felt better that at least there was one on the island even if that store was nearly five hours away by car. I had thought I might have to wait for Bangkok, Thailand but now I had hope that someone somewhere on this island would resurrect my laptop like a Phoenix it would rise from its zombie ashes.
We had a great tour on the way to Tulamben. It was about $6 more to go by private car than take the group bus and we got to see the Beji Rice Temple and Air Sante (a natural cold water spring)—-and we stopped to check on the laptop.
So I relaxed somewhat. We spent five days in Tulamben where we snorkeled the USA T Liberty, Drop off and Pinnacles. We stayed at the Paradise Palm Beach Hotel –see our video of what a $17 hotel on agoda.com looks like!! I did not appreciate the day that ants ate my vitamins—on our last trip, rats ate had been the main critters to gobble them. Maybe that is a sign, not sure of what.
I lived without my laptop but hoped it would work again. George played two nights with the band, T WRECK (see the video!), which was great. I have posted one video so far of the band playing but have more videos in the wings. We made a website and video for the incredible Puri Madha Beach Hotel. I really enjoyed my time in Tulamben.
I think I may have actually needed the break from the laptop and the website. It was a mad rush before we left the USA. I had two weeks from the last day of school until we got on the plane. In that time, we moved out of three school sites (one for me and two for George), sold both cars (thanks Doran), fixed up our condo for our new tenant, moved out of our condo (for the fourth time in about as many years), packed and re-packed our backpacks and said a few more good-byes.
I found a savior to fix my laptop but will tell all the details next time. Suffice to say—I am BACK!
July 21, 2012
More Indonesia tales at www.WeSaidGoTravel.com
July 30, 2012 | 3:52 am
Posted by Lisa Niver Rajna
Budget or How do they travel for a YEAR?
Traveling in Asia long term is different than a week’s holiday in Hawaii or somewhere else close to home.
One important thing to consider on long-term travel is visa requirements and how long are you allowed to stay in different countries. Travel with a USA passport is generally easy; for our current trip we arranged a two-month visa for Indonesia before we left home.
But the thing that makes most traveling partners fight is usually money or different expectations about money and living standards while traveling. When George and I left for a year in 2008, we had very different ideas about what “great” travel was. George had been in Paraguay in the Peace Corps and dug his own latrine. During that same time, I traveled in five star luxury working for Princess Cruises.
When we arrived in Bali four years ago, George brought me to a “great” hotel and I burst into tears. I said, “This is the great hotel I have been waiting to see?” He had been there years prior with two male buddies and the three of them split the $10.00usd a night which magically included breakfast. I looked at the room with walls painted different colors, the threadbare window covering, the falling-apart single sheet on the bed, the lack of towels or toilet paper and the grimy bathroom and said, “This is where you’ve brought me?” We had many discussions during our trip about the difference between what we each thought made a great room and the importance of using the word cheap or good value instead of great as a modifier!
Over our years of traveling together, we have met people who kept track of their budget to the penny, hoping to save enough each day that their trip could be extended from a twelve-month trip to a fifteen-month excursion. We met a couple last summer in Tonga, who were mainly WWOOFING and couch surfing and managed to have a long trip starting with only $12,000. I have watched a group of three guys bargain a room down in Guiling, China from $15 to $12 and then go out and spend $10 each on beers. Everyone seems to have a different important luxury whether it is the room, the sites, the food, or the souvenirs.
This year like our last long trip, our budget is $100usd/per day for the two of us. So far we are doing great on our budget and staying in some really nice places. Bakung Sari in Kuta and Bali Lovina Beach Cottages in Lovina were both great and both on Asiarooms.com. We did find a lovely place in Lovina for 125,000Rp, which would be only 100,000Rp for multiple nights (about$10usd) with a fan and a beautiful garden and includes breakfast but I am not sure we are going to stay any more nights here.
Yesterday we ate at Bintang Bali, right on the beach, for lunch with free wifi and we enjoyed a large bottle of water, watermelon juice and two chicken satays for about $6 USD. For dinner we went to Triple 9 and enjoyed the live band and a great dinner with two juices (one pineapple, one watermelon) each 12,000Rp and a Cap Cay and a Fried Vegetables at 19,000Rp so, about $7 with tip. Including our trip to the store for some soda and a small bottle of rum, we spent about $65 for our room which includes breakfast and our day out in Lovina.
We had several long walks on the beach. We did not go on the Dolphin tour as we rarely participate in adventures that include that word “Sunrise.” At Angkor Wat, we did wake up to see the temples at dawn and the experience was worth it. But at Mt. Bromo, we went at 11am and saw no crowds and nor need for jackets. Last summer, we went on a whale-swimming adventure and swam with humpback whales as well as spinner dolphins—so no sunrise wake up for us in Lovina.
This sleepy beach town is enjoyable with great restaurants, live music and lots of room for relaxing. Do not worry about shopping, the vendors will find you. We are a great disappointment to the ladies on the beach as we do not shop while we travel unless we need to replace something, and we rarely buy items to bring home.
Will we stay another day in Lovina? Are we off to Tulamben? I know we will have breakfast at our hotel and then we will see what the day brings as we relax and let the journey unfold.
July 9, 2012 More at WeSaidGoTravel.com
Loving Lovina: Video
July 24, 2012 | 4:18 am
Posted by Lisa Niver Rajna
While in the town of Kuta in Bali, we stayed for two nights at Bakung Sari Hotel, booked online at Asiarooms.com. On our last trip in 2008, we did not carry much electronics with us—only a digital camera, new Kindle (they came out in 2008) and an iTouch. We had no phone or computer. One couple we met in Thailand had, three phones, two cameras, a computer and a video camera. They called us brave for traveling without a phone. We said we remembered traveling before there were cell phones! We told them they could do it too.
Over the last four years during our travels, we have noticed fewer Internet cafes and more Wi-Fi zones. For many reasons, we decided that on this trip we would bring more toys: we now have a Macbook Air laptop, an iPhone 3Gs unlocked, an iTouch, a Lumix digital camera, a flip video camera, and a new Kindle 4. It seems like a lot of technology to drag about!
Using Asiarooms.com gives us more options because on the last trip we opened up the Lonely Planet, tried to follow the maps, and hoped the hostels we chose would still exist and have an available room. Sometimes events worked out and sometimes they did not. But now, with Asiarooms.com and other online booking sites, there are so many deals to discover.
Bakung Sari Hotel has a lovely setting in a temple site, with gardens and a pool. The rooms could use some care; our bathroom seemed to have termites and needed a bit of an upgrade. We did have air conditioning, a TV (albeit one with no real working channels) and a refrigerator. The breakfast was nowhere near as extensive as Bali Kuta Resort but was quite good and included in our room price of $28 a night (we did meet a couple who had gotten it for $23 on the same site!).
Using Google maps, we figured out how to walk the 1.4 kilometers from one hotel to the other. I think the locals were shocked that we never took a taxi. We did arrange transport today to Lovina from Kuta with Perama on their shuttle bus.
Private transport would have been 200,000Rp per person (about $20, exchange is generally 93000Rp for $100.00 USD) with a pick up at our hotel at 9am. Group bus transport was 125,000Rp per person and you needed to show up at the office at 9:45am. They claimed the ride took three or four hours depending on traffic, but we arrived at 3pm at the Lovina station. We were fed fried rice with egg and they showed interested guests to their rooms, which are located two kilometers from the town and the beach. Quite a few people chose to stay at the Perama rooms.
We continued by bus to town and walked 100m to our new hotel, Bali Lovina Beach Cottages which was 294,000Rp online or $31 but with all the taxes and fees turns out to be $38.00usd which does include breakfast, air conditioning, a balcony, refrigerator but no wifi. Wifi is 50,000 per day. At both our Kuta hotels, wifi was included and fast.
One last thing for today, we usually get all our local currency at the ATM as that gives the best rate so we do not have to carry much cash. On this trip we have changed some money with money changers. A few things to know: you get a better rate for larger bills (as in $100 bill will get the 9300 rate and a few $5 bills will get a lower rate perhaps 8500), if the exchange rate seems too good to be true, it probably is. I do not recommend changing money in alleys or sketchy places; remember to bring your common sense along with your suitcase.
All in all, it was a great day. I am happy to be out of the traffic of Kuta and enjoying the rice fields and beach town of Lovina. Hope you are enjoying sunsets and summer vacations. July 9, 2012
Bakung Sari Hotel: Video
July 17, 2012 | 9:42 pm
Posted by Lisa Niver Rajna
July 3, 2012 in Los Angeles at 6:31pm, July 4th, 2012 9:31am in Kuta, Bali, Indonesia
Our Year Adventure Begins: Three Flights to Bali, Indonesia from Los Angeles, California
What a trip! Three flights from Los Angeles to Bali; with the help of modern chemistry we slept through most of the first 12 hour flight from LAX to PEK. I think I slept nearly 10 hours. I even fell asleep before we took off. Our flight was at 1:40am July 2nd. My cousins, Eric and Krystie, who just moved to Los Angeles on the day before we left, took us to dinner and from there to the airport. We passed Air China in Terminal 2 at Los Angeles Airport because we were so sure we would leave from Terminal 4 the Tom Bradley International Terminal—but we were wrong. Luckily together our two big packs aren’t so heavy—so schlepping back to the other terminal was not too painful. One of the TSA men commented on how most people pay extra so that each of their bags can be over the fifty-pound weight limit yet together we have less than one person might have. All in all, the Los Angeles airport is an embarrassment compared to other countries’ international hubs.
We marveled at how modern, big and spacious the Beijing airport felt. Not like LAX. We went through immigration and on the tram to pick up our next two boarding passes. Honestly it was a bit confusing but we survived and we got help from a few officials. The tram and all the other signs were in English and Chinese; we really did not think we had to go through immigration as we were in transit and had no visa. We found a Starbucks had a snack and wandered about until our next flight. We could not log in to the “free Wifi” but we did not have much to say yet to anyone back home anyway.
Our paperwork for the three flights said “no meals” on all three flights which seemed odd for international flights but in fact there was food on all of them. The Air China B777-300ER was surprisingly nice. I had thought that our two legs from Beijing to Singapore(6 hours) and Singapore to Bali (2 hours) would be the most enjoyable segments of the trip, but our twelve hours on Air China were the best. Biggest seats in economy, nicest amenities, and better movies. If I’d wanted to pay the big bucks for First Class, the sleeping pods for Air China looked phenomenal!
Other than the thirty-minute line to get a taxi coupon at the Bali airport, and the half an hour of bumper-to-bumper traffic to our hotel in Kuta (which reminded me of Los Angeles evening traffic although in Los Angeles no one creates an extra lane), the whole journey could not have been much better or easier. And that fact that our three flights were paid with United Frequent Flyer Miles made the start to our year’s journey in the East very pleasant.
We are excited to be back in Bali. More about the Swiss Bel Hotel: Bali Kuta Resort soon! Lisa
Video from our flight to Bali: Click here
July 6, 2012 | 3:30 am
Posted by Lisa Niver Rajna
Northern Ireland. It warms every hand that stretches, and it thaws the frozen seas within us. There is something eternal about the light of this land, a radiance that unshadows the future, like the pillars of a bridge supporting what we see into the delights of what we soon will. So praise this bridge that carries us over, because here is a peerless berth of beauty, bread and song, of castles, culture and cheer. It is a place of ambition big enough to build the ship of dreams, and to craft huge legends, tales and unsinkable stories. It has an eye for the natural, and a heart that doesn’t waiver to protect it. It is almost criminally rich in splendor, aptitude, customs and passion. It is an adventure big enough for giants, where water and time have done nothing but saturate the soil with inspiration. For it is a land of artists, from poets to painters, from designers to distillers. Art, it could be said, is the unceasing effort to compete with the innate beauty of this acreage—and never succeeding. Some would say this place is better than Irish whiskey—it intoxicates both the holder and the beholder, and it beckons back for more.
Check out this short video from Richard’s “mini-quest” to Northern Ireland during the Titanic celebrations.
More from Richard Bangs at http://www.richardbangs.com/
Credits: Music by Aidan O’Brien (http://www.youtube.com/user/musicaid1).
More stories from Lisa and George at http://www.wesaidgotravel.com/
June 29, 2012 | 5:52 pm
Posted by Lisa Niver Rajna
The only thing Belfast does in moderation is moderation.
Always, it has been Brobdingnagian in spirit. Always, it has lived large.
Once it was the largest linen producer in the world. And had the largest ropeworks. It was the largest manufacturer of fizzy drinks; largest shirt maker; had the largest flax machine works; largest tobacco factory; largest handkerchief factory. Jonathan Swift, when he was living at Lilliput Cottage near the bottom of the Limestone Road in Belfast, imagined the nearby Cavehill Mountain a sleeping giant. Big in Belfast is the roar. Annalisa Wray of Belfast holds “The Guinness Book of World Records” for the loudest shout on Earth, a deafening 119-decibel effort.
My friend Virginia Moriarty, born and bred in Belfast, has a theory, which she espouses while I pay a visit. She calls it the “Second Child Syndrome.” Throughout the 16th century, the Noble families of the British Empire (Barons, Viscounts, Earls, and Dukes) would grant their first son title and estate inheritance. Second sons were out of luck. But since 1603, when a victory over the Irish in Ulster allowed Britain complete control of Ireland, the Lords of Scotland and Wales and other parts of the Empire would often send their second sons to the remote, rocky, incommoding land to stake claims. And, these second sons, denied the attention or privilege of their older brothers, set out to prove themselves. Pop psychologists call it an ingrained inferiority complex that drives a compulsion to do things bigger and better, often, though, without self-examination. Sigmund Freud said the Irish were “the one race of people for whom psychoanalysis is of no use whatsoever.” When I ask Virginia, who happens to be second in birth order, about this she says there are many manifestations of the Second Child Syndrome, and certainly over-compensation is one; equivocation is another. “I used to be indecisive; now I’m not sure,” she volunteers.
Whatever the reasons, Belfast remunerated with bigness. Beyond-the-pale amplitude. It was a town with few natural resources…everything from coal to timber to iron had to be imported. And yet for a time, a century ago, it was the world’s leading industrial city, anchored by the biggest shipyard in the world, and there it created the biggest man-made moving object in history….the ocean liner Titanic.
Writer Andrew Wilson in a 2012 article in “Smithsonian Magazine,” speculated that “Titanic” is the third-most widely recognized word in the world – trailing only “God” and “Coca-Cola.” Daniel Allen Butler said the same thing in his 1998 book, “Unsinkable.” My reaction: Really? Outflanking 9/11 or Michael Jackson or JFK (of Irish descent), Barry Obama (his great-great-great grandfather was Irish), Bono, Van Morrison or Guinness? What about Noah’s Ark? Regardless, I would hazard that most, until recently, would not have associated the city of Belfast with Titanic. Certainly Southampton where most of its passengers made way into the fatal ship; or Liverpool, where it was registered, and which was emblazoned high on its stern to be seen in a raft of recreations and films, including James Cameron’s little contribution. Or Cherbourg, where it made its second stop and some of the wealthiest and best known passengers boarded. Or even Queenstown (Cobh), in the south of Ireland, its final dock, where a large number of third class passengers emigrating to the United States fed into the bowels, sort of like the lower-deck passengers on an a380 today. And then there is Newfoundland. The doomed ship was in near constant communication with Cape Race on its Marconi wireless prior to hitting the iceberg as passengers passed along greetings to folks all over North America; and Cape Race coordinated the rescue efforts with other vessels after the incident, just 300 miles off the Newfoundland coast. So, at the end of the day, Belfast was not a big part of the popular story, its coordinates invisible to most narratives.
And after the disaster, Belfast went quiet. Titanic was a dream not remembered.
Beforehand, the city was unbelievably proud of what it had created in Titanic and its sister ship, Olympic. Some 15,000 shipbuilders won a living fashioning the “unsinkable” ship, something aloof to weather, with the strength to ignore such bagatelles as icebergs. It was not just the biggest, but the most luxurious liner ever willed to existence, incorporating the most advanced technologies of the time. Belfast beat the world. It was their place, their time.
It’s easy to imagine the inflated chests, the crow and brag that infused the city on April 2, 1912 when, at 8:00 pm, Titanic’s giant screws thrashed through the waves and the ship blinked its farewell as it vanished into nothingness.
But, with the unfathomable death of Titanic, swallowed by the sea as if a pill, accusations were leveled at all parties, including the shipbuilders and their materials, the design, the size of the rivets and general craftsmanship. The reply was, “there was nothing wrong with the ship when she left.” But, again with the pop psychology, the second sons, under the pressing weight of conscience, felt ashamed and Titanic was a subject not to be broached in Belfast for many, many years. Optimism and sense of purpose drained away like water from a punctured container. Greatness had passed.
Cut to the present. Now, it might be said, the city should be called Titanic Town. Just as James Joyce jibed, “It would be a good puzzle would be to cross Ireland without passing a pub,” it would be a puzzle today to cross Belfast and not pass the word Titanic.
Somewhere along the way somebody had the bright idea of turning lemons (there were 16,000 on Titanic) to lemonade, not only embracing the Belfast association with the tragedy, but turning the “built here” stamp into its main tourist magnet. It was an attitudinal sea change. Today the official slogan is “Our Place, Our Time,” and the city is awash in exhibitions, tours, cruises, concerts, collectables, drinks (Titanic Tea, Titanic Whiskey and Titanic Quarter Ale), snacks (Titanic potato crisps) and folderol, all branded Titanic. There is the Titanic Light Show, the Titanic Bike “N” Boat tour, the Titanic iPad app, the Titanic suite at the Europa Hotel, the Titanic Road Rally, Titanic Triathlon, Titanic Cemetery tour. Down the road, at the Grand Opera House, “Titanic, the Musical” is playing. Even the grocery stores feature iceberg lettuce.
The cornerstone of the jamboree is Titanic Quarter, formerly Queen’s Island, and the great display case is Titanic Belfast, an angular, silver-colored construction that some think suggests an iceberg rather than the bow of a mighty ship, as was intention. I mistakenly call the 150 million dollar, ineluctably grand edifice a “museum,” and am promptly chastised by one of the staff… “It is not a museum. It is an Experience.” That approach might be because there is little actually of Titanic to see in the building, or even around town. On the whole, Belfast is more about the spaces Titanic left behind.
One, of course, is the 880 foot-long Thompson Graving Dock, where Titanic was hauled to check and clean its hull and fit the propellers. Standing on the edge of this naked 44-foot deep footprint one at last gets a sense of how huge this ship was, or at least it allows imagining. And Colin Cobb, a self-professed Titanorak who runs Titanic Walking Tours, brings it home sharing that the dock could hold 21 million gallons of water, or, in terms better understood in Ireland, 168 million pints of Guinness.
But that’s just it…Belfast is more about the idea of Titanic than the tangible. It’s the absence that teases, inviting us to color in the book, to put ourselves in the story.
Part 1 of 5: More of the series will be presented here or click here for the series at Huffington Post.
June 8, 2012 | 11:46 am
Posted by Lisa Niver Rajna
What inspires you? Where will you go next?
Join us for a travel meet, mingle and get inspired happy hour!
Meet us at XBAR in Century City. Hyatt Regency Century Plaza
2025 Avenue of the Stars Los Angeles, CA 90067
PARKING: $8 with validation or 2 hrs free at Century City Mall
June 12, 2012
Have you seen Caine’s Arcade yet? We are having a raffle to raise money for the Caine’s Arcade Foundation!
An overnight stay at the gorgeous Hyatt Regency Century Plaza
TOURificEscapes Sites & Bites of Hollywood Tour for 2 ($200 value)
$100 in travel with Groundlink, the next generation car service
Enjoy an evening in the XBAR at the Century City Hyatt ($50 value)
(2) bottles of Napa Wine from the Napa Valley Wine Project
Signed TRAVEL LITERATURE
: The Voluntourist by Ken Bud, Radio Shangri-La by Lisa Napoli, Richard Bangs, Red Goddess Rising by Halle Eavelyn, The Good Girl’s Guide to Getting Lost by Rachel Friedman,
Video 101: Tips & Tricks for Awesome Visual Storytelling by Lisa Lubin
Memberships: MemberTravel ($99 value)
TrekR Travel Washcloth
Giftbags from Jetset Extra
More about this event at http://www.wesaidgotravel.com/los-angeles