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October 2008

Behind the Scenes---AFRICA


Here is the funny thing.  You never, ever really know the back story.  No matter how much you think you are looped into someones situation, you never really are.

A few years ago, I was working in Africa for months on end.  It was an amazing project.  OW was opening a girls school just outside of Johannesburg, South Africa and we were shooting a documentary on it.  And, as it is with ALL productions, chaos was king. 

But, me and the ENTIRE crew somehow managed to make it to this little bar called The Jolly Roger close to every single night.  No matter if we'd worked an 8 or 16 hour day, we'd roll in and create mayhem.  I would have these massively stout cuba libres with x-tra long straws placed before me by every dude in the joint while trying to keep the peace on overtime, 2nd meal, payday, budgets, etc...

All the while crushing on the South African's beautiful souls. 

So, here I am almost 2 years later and what do I remember about South Africa? 

Africa to me:

Cuba libres--2 shots of Captain Morgan with coke--3 limes

Friends from strangers in less than a minute

Conducting big business from the back of a golf cart, laughing all the way
Happy days in torrential downpours with a bottle of champ, cracking a tooth on it, wild animals watching
The most magical sunset I have ever had the honor to witness
A lone apple core in an elevator and laughing til I cried that my friend tried to pick it up and eat it
My hotel becoming a gear room with everyone traipsing in and out from dusk til dawn
Matis, massages, and glorious facials---then, befriending the masseuse and all her drama/stories
The best body guards ever--who understood the importance of a cooler full of Red Bull every day
Mutton, what do you mean mutton?
Many talked about trips to Madagascar--driving til the sand dead ends in the ocean
Africa by Toto
My Assistant Camera Op telling me that Africa Loves You, MST

That about says it all.... 

And, here begins a new series of posts from R-T-W things u just knew you know/saw/thought.  Or didn't.





The Boat + A Plan = Alabama


So, it's interesting how a plan forms almost without even trying.  It's like maybe they were hidden way deep down somewhere, just waiting to bubble up at any given moment.   Take for instance me and my good old boat.

Well, right now the boat is down in TN in a cute little marina, just a mere 45 min. from my parents home.  I, on the other hand am in Kentucky working.  And, then I'm back to LA in a month to finish up the job.  All the way til mid-Jan.  So, question becomes---keep the boat in TN or not.  And, if I do move it, move it to where? 

Magically, I came up with Mobile, Alabama and out of nowhere a plan was conjured up and the whole dang thing put into motion.  I'm gonna truck the boat down to Alabama and when I finish up the LA job and the PURE Mexico retreat in late Jan, well--guess where I'm headed?  Straight to the Gulf of Mexico gateway for buckets of Royal Red Shrimp and boat-loads of frosty cold beer~

I found the best marina down there to finish up all my little boat projects and then, of course before you know it, it will be time to head back to Indonesia for a little 4th World Love.  And, about Alabama...I have a lovely balm over my soul knowing that the boat will be down South, but at the same will be a weeks sail from Isla Mujeres, my fave island in the world.  What a fantastical journey that one will be.

I love plans. 

4th World Love Goes to Lombok


This is a very nice posting from the good folks over at Everything Indonesian, an all-Indo-all-the-time blog.

Since I reached out about the 4th World contest, we've been getting donations left and right, and I gotta say--I can't wait to travel with a complete stranger.  How fun (??) will that be!  And, for anyone who has not been to Indonesia yet, OMG--you have to register to win ($100 gets you 1 chance, $200 gets you 2 chances, and so on).  It will truly be an amazing trip!  Next Spring...plan on it~

Here's the post and the link to the shout out and for real, he nailed it--villagers know best what they need!
If ever you feel like you're not doing anything with your life, here's something to make you even more depressed.

Meet Misty Tosh, who in addition to producing film and TV projects, organizing pilates retreats, and sailing around the world, has set up a terrific NGO called 4th World Love. Looks like it's the flipside of traditional top-down international development, and promotes the radical idea that maybe those in developing nations know what their villages need the most.

Enter Sembalun, a town on the island of Lombok and in the shadow of Mt. Rinjani. Fourth World has opened a community center there, which will house a library and fair-trade cafe as well as classes for English and computer skills. They're accepting donations of clothes, books, and school supplies for the village (as well as cash, natch); interested parties can even sign up to spend time in the village, as part of an ongoing rotation of Fourth World volunteers. And get this, those who chip in $100 get a chance to win a 10-day trip of a lifetime to Bali and Lombok.

Hats off to Misty Tosh and the folks of Lombok, who indeed are among the friendliest of the archipelago. But shame on you for making the rest of us look bad ...!

4th World Love Contest--Win FREE Trip to Indonesia in 2009


This just came out on one of my fave sites, Matador.  My pal Julie (who has her own little project sprouting up in Columbia) is spreading the love about my new NGO, 4th World Love.  Here's the deal--you donate $100 measly dollars (very easy to do on credit card via paypal) and you can win an all expenses paid trip to Indonesia next Spring to come volunteer in 4th World Love's very first community center on the remote island of Lombok.

We just opened last week and already have 70+ students (kids and adults both) in there taking 3x weekly English classes.  How unbelievably exciting is that?  I'm heading back in the Spring with my partner-in-crime Lisa to rock out Phase 2 of the project and one lucky winner will be coming with us. 

4th World is also a 100% 501 (c) 3, so every penny to donate is a complete write off.  I HOPE YOU WIN!!!  PS--Even if you donate just $5 bucks, it still makes a world of difference...I promise I will get you notes from the field on my next expedition over there!  Or better yet, come over and volunteer.  It will be one of the best things you ever do and I can help you organize the entire trip!  Hit me up for more details....

------------READ THE STORY HERE-----------**

I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: Matador members are incredible people.

They travel not just to see the world, but to take in what they see and then act as agents of positive change.

Maybe you’ve already met Misty Tosh.

She’s a regular contributor to the Matador Network… her most recent article, “The Ultimate Baja Escape,” left me ready to step away from the computer, get behind the wheel, and get on the road.

She’s a TV and film producer… currently, she’s on location in Kentucky, where she’s also found time to munch her way around Louisville (she’s a food critic in all her spare time. About Louisville’s eats, she says, “I’ve had some of the best food in my belly’s career here.”)

She also produces Pilates retreats in Isla de Mujeres each year–I’d give you the link for the next one, but it’s already sold out–, drives her solar powered travel trailer around the Americas, and sails her boat on the world’s seas.

And oh, she’s just launched phase 1 of her NGO– Fourth World Love. There’s a million things to say about 4WL, and you should definitely check out its website, which channels the Misty vibe just like any other project she pioneers. But the big announcement she’s asked me to make is this:

DONATE $100 and you can not only provide funding for the next phase of her project–which helps kids in Indonesia–you can also win an expenses-paid trip to Indonesia to see 4WL in action, snorkel in the ocean, trek a volcano, and, I’ve got no doubt, eat some seriously good local food.

That’s her up above in the photo, by the way–and I’m pretty sure that jaw-dropping, eye-popping scene in the background is where you’ll find yourself next spring if you win her contest.

Learn all about it here.

Julie Schwietert

Julie Schwietert Collazo is a writer, editor, researcher, and translator who lives in New York and Mexico City. She is the managing editor of the Matador Network.

Food in Louisville--You'd be Very, Very Surprised...


I've had some of the best food in my belly's career here in Louisville.  The best Vietnamese ever at Vietnam Kitchen (way on the south side); the most delicious $9 tuna sandwich ever at Ramsey's; the biggest and best ice cream cones ever at Dairy Queen; awesome chicken soup and shrimp cocktail at Los Azteca's. 

Just 5 more weeks of exploring and I'm outta here (back to LA til mid Jan...then to Mex and happy).  FYI, it's so hard to stray when you find the goods though...but I'll keep tracking down the perfect bites while I'm here.  Who knew Louisville was so dang global?








Misty Eat World: Chaiberg, Upside Down Cupcakes & Dong Ky


Travel brings on a whole new slew of addictions. For example, it wasn't until I arrived in Louisville a few weeks ago that I discovered the lethal Chaiberg. This diddy is churned out by a small local coffee shop just down the street from the hotel I'm living in while I work on this new TV show. It's like a blended chai tea frappe whipped so fine and crystallized, every single sip breaks my heart. I don't know if I will ever taste anything that good again. Except for the achingly soft upside-down cupcake at the nearby Pie and Ice Cream House. Imagine a buttery, billowy cupcake flipped upside down and dunked all the way down into a huge vat of chocolate. Killer beyond belief.

And then there's that amazing vegan restaurant I just discovered this last trip out to Los Angeles. The sparkling-clean Veggie Grill has the most delicious meat imitations I have ever discovered. Crispy fried chicken fingers and a carne asada sandwich that truly put the real deal to shame. Why can't there be something like that in Chicago? Or maybe there is? And, guaranteed whoever busts out the first Chaiberg in Chitown will have some major lines going gangbusters out the door.




Continue reading "Misty Eat World: Chaiberg, Upside Down Cupcakes & Dong Ky" »

Meet the Expat: Larry in Baja


I met cutie-pie Larry while traipsing up and down the Baja peninsula a few years back.  Me and a few girlfriends got the bright idea to drive from Chicago all the way to the bottom of the Baja peninsula (7,000 miles on my good old Ford Explorer, thank you very much) and along the way, we stopped in a tiny seaside town called La Ventana. 

On our 2nd night there, we were walking around the dirt-street village on the hunt for tacos and margaritas and I saw Larry scooting around on his rickety old moped.  We shot the shit for a minute (as strangers always do in Mexico) and the next day, he showed up in the kitchen of Baja Joe's, our rough-n-tumble (yet AWESOME) hotel on the beach.  Since me and the girls were shooting some footage for a TV show, later that week, we sat him down in his trailer and grilled him on being an expat in Mexico.

Turns out, he spends half the year in Baja, and half the year in the US.  He basically builds houses and chases the wind...La Ventana is one of the best places in the world to wind surf and at certain points of the year, the minuscule village swells up with loads of boys and girls looking to drink, wind surf and god knows what else. 

Larry had just bought a spit of land over looking the Sea of Cortez and was about to build a house on it.  Meanwhile, he was living out of an old trailer and enjoying the view and the population of gals that rolled thru town.  I though La Ventana was a pretty special place--it was the first time I'd seen the moon rise; the first time I'd tried to wind surf; the first time I'd really gotten to the bottom of what it's like to become an expat; and the place that I re-fell in love with the Mexican way of life. 

These little villages exist all over the world.  They are my favorite ones because they have a sprinkling of an expat community and are still pretty off-grid.  Best of both worlds.  And...they are all somehow magically wi-fi connected! This one was cool because there were so many young people there, truly living the good life--thank god for the wind, eh?

I wrote a blog about the whole driving Baja experience for MSNBC, so if you are interested in Baja adventures, check it out here:  Tracking Expats in Baja





Meet the Expat: Ben in Bali


One of the coolest places on the face of the planet has got to be the new Green School on the Indonesian island of Bali.  In short, it's a brand new school for local kiddies and expat children who live on the island...and has the most amazing campus you've ever been on  (this coming from a girl who was at OW's Leadership Academy in South Africa when it opened). It's all green--with a huge water vortex from the Ayung River that creates energy; all organic fruits and vegetables grown on-site; and every single thing on the campus made from bamboo.  Truly a beautiful spot.

I met dear Ben when I was in Indo a few months ago.  He is the Head of Admissions and when I showed up on campus for a little tour, he was bounding around, tired and happy as a little puppy.  A few month before, he'd completely uprooted his wife and small baby to Bali to help run this school.  What a dream job!  Though he was totally exhausted, his sheer and utter enthusiasm for the project was so dang inspiring.  Who wouldn't want to be this young, move to a beautiful tropical island, and help start one of the most incredible schools in the world?   We became fast friends and on-the-spot, I seriously considered dropping my life back in the US and moving to Bali to just be somewhere near this school (among other things).

As you can see, expats come in all shapes and sizes.  Young, old, on a boat, on an island, some retired, some starting over.  It's such beautiful stuff, the things people do to get them selves out of the grind.  In the end, why not?  You know...who has time to abide by all these crazy rules and regulations in life?  It's all about finding the swifter path to something totally enchanting for your soul.  Sadly, not many people do it. 

Meanwhile, I just read Ben's bio and he is a 3-time winner on Jeopardy.  How wild is that?  Would love to know how much dinero.  And, please check out these houses on campus.  They are for the school leaders, teachers, etc...what a lucky place to be!  And, dig thru their website, I promise you will educate yourself on some pretty advanced (yet simple) ways of living.  Lots of good video on there, too~ 











Meet the Expat: Captain James Maddux


I met the good Captain this past January whilst producing a Pilates Retreat on Isla Mujeres (a tiny island off the coast of Mexico).  Me and Lis were chillin' in our fave hang out spot, Manana, and he happened to saunter by and see me furiously typing away on my computer.  He offered to buy us a beer because he wanted to quiz me on my wi-fi capabilities on the island and before you know it, we were all fast friends.

Now, Capt'n Mad had just sailed his newly purchased boat down from the USA.  He'd never been much of a sailor but one day he just up and decided to do it--to finally live the dream.  He sold everything, left the job, bought a lovely 40+ sailboat and took off on the first leg of his new life.  By the seat of his pants, he made it from the Gulf of Mexico to Isla Mujeres and he had a trillion funny stories to tell us. 

Of course, he was so proud of his new lifestyle, he invited us out to go snorkeling with him the next day, which we gladly took him up on.  Life on a boat is cool because you usually have a dinghy that can whirl you around to places that are difficult to get to otherwise.  We snorkeled around wrecks and through little caves and laughed for hours and to this day, I still keep in touch with Mad.  He's now down in Guatemala, on the Rio Dulce (a fantastic hurricane hole) and says he is having the time of his life.  He literally can't believe he didn't do it sooner.

I often shoot him emails to gather intel about what I might need to be aware of for my own upcoming journey via my new sailboat. I want to go thru Mexico, down to Belize, over to the Rio Dulce and all the way down the Eastern Coast of Central America (for starters).  He shoots back details like:  Bring a gun!  Trail a hook of the side of your boat from Belize to Guat and you'll have loads of fish to eat!  Get a huge lock for your dinghy, there are thief's down here!  Bring lots of canned fruit and vegetables--stack 'em 8 deep!

Such funny stuff.  Point being here--no matter how old you are, you're never too late to live the adventure.  The years can thunder by so becomes tough to remember what your dreams were in the first place.  But the good thing is, you can constantly adjust--you can always alter and tweak and make it work for you.  Just like Mad did. He told me that there are a group of expats down on the Rio that get together about 5pm every day for happy hour and they talk about sailing secrets, new discoveries, etc...and when I'm ready to make the trip, they've all done it and can't wait to help guide me in.  That knowledge just makes me happy. 

Meanwhile, I just saw that the DOW is below 10,000.  That is scary--is the shizz about to hit the fan?  No matter, don't wait too long...and most of all--don't think anyone is watching out for you.  You just have you, your family, your dreams, and your goals.  Not much else is there. 

So, like Mad says--go for it and you might just have the best time of your life!






Meet the Expat: Shelly in Mexico


They way people ultimately choose to live absolutely fascinates me.  Most people are pretty dang cut and dried:  they need/want the regular income so they can live the life they think they are supposed to live.  Which usually entails a fat mortgage, a couple of kiddies, a dishwasher and a whole lotta debt. 

I just don't think you have to do it that way, and I love running into people who have taken it to the extreme.  Take Expat Shelley for instance. 

I ran into her buried in the woods in a small town in Mexico.  I was cruising through, saw a sign that said cold beer and ended up way down a long, muddy trail at a lakeside eco-camp.  She was living behind the camp in a house she'd just had built piece by piece (due to low fundage)--with only candles to light up the place.  She painted by day and drank alarming amounts of alcohol by night (just to round off the edges).  She was quirky as hell and simply fighting her way through the world--rousing mad south-of-the-border struggles perched on the tip of her lips the whole way.

She was funny and charming and I wish I'd had more time to spend with her.  When I first saw her paintings I was blown away; who knew this was being churned out in the woods of Veracruz?  Next time I head back down for oysters, I gotta stop in a see the Shells.  But, more important, you gotta just keep these alt. lifestyles on the front burner. I'm not the only one, and Shells ain't the only one...there must be gobs of us doing a little something different.

All I'm sayin' is--Don't just make living the good life something you talk about.  Or dream about.  Or think about.  Really go out and do it, it's not rocket science.  It's a choice. Pure and simple.