World travel videos, photos, and blog.

More Images of Iran

I had to share with you my friend Azad's new photo blog where he's posting camera phone pictures of Iran every month.


Also, if you live in Los Angeles, you should think about checking out the Most Legendary House Party, May 5th in Studio City. Live performances by Super 700 and the Color Turning, free drinks, and good times.

April in Paris

Dear Mom,

I'm in Paris and it's beautiful here. Actually, the girls are beautiful. Send me more money and some charm.

Temporarily single,

I made it to Paris safely Monday afternoon. I met up with my "cousin" Valentina, dropped off my bags (one huge, heavy backpack and one medium duffel bag), and walked her to school. I spent the rest of the afternoon people watching (i.e. ogling girls) around the shops and cafes of St. Germain Blvd, strolling along the river Seine, and napping in the park at the palais du Louvre (I'll visit the museum later this week since I only spent an hour running around it last spring). We had Chinese food for dinner and now I'm writing this update before I pass out on the couch from jet lag. À bientôt. Oh, did I mention that every other girl on the street is attractive?


Somewhere Over Greenland, April 29

I'm starting to feel a little overwhelmed by what I consider to be a huge undertaking. I'm sitting here thinking that I'm six hours into this 240 day trip and my neck hurts, my head aches (either from the neck strain or mixing beer and wine, I'm not sure), and I just want to be in a cozy bed. I wonder how I'll feel one month from now. Then I realize that this journey really started the day I moved out of my apartment in Glendale. I've just been "visiting" ever since.

Make no mistake, this is not a vacation. A vacation involves comfort and escaping from daily responsibilities. This, friends, is a journey. I just hope my luggage stays with me along the way (I'm convinced my bags won't make it to Paris because the last two times I came to Germany, my bags went somewhere else)

** Lufthansa: San Francisco to Frankfurt. Chicken, Rice, Corn, & Brownie for dinner, Night at the Museum/ Rocky Balboa- in-flight movies, Omelet and Potatoes for breakfast.

5 hours to go.

Okay, pretty friggin' nervous now. A little sad, like there should have been someone trying to stop me from leaving. I'll see so much but I'll miss so much, too. Good luck everybody, I'm sorry I can't be there to help you celebrate your special occasions and to help you through the rough days.

Thanks for the meals, the money, and the words of encouragement.

- (ya like how I ended with a plug)

Last Day in the United States

In 24 hours, I'll be waiting to board a flight to Paris via Frankfurt. I haven't packed yet. I'm getting closer though. I just don't have the mindset for taking the bare essentials. I don't have much money so I'm trying to bring as much as I can so I don't have to buy it abroad. But that's not going to be very realistic if I actually want to be able to walk and carry my backpack at the same time. If you looked at the amount of stuff I have laid out right now, you'd laugh... well some of you would laugh because there's way too much and some of you would cringe because you couldn't imagine going more than a week with so little stuff. Think about it though, 8 months! More than a dozen different countries and climates. Blows my mind.

Now that I'm leaving, there's a tiny part of my brain that's realizing that I can let go of my "US fantasies"... the things that I desire here. By Monday, it'll all be out of reach. It feels more and more liberating to step away from these pursuits of mental and material needs. Over the next few days, I'll be thinking hard about what I hope to accomplish and where I'd like to visit on this journey. With so little preparation, I haven't thought a lot about cultural sights that I'd like to visit. In fact, I haven't really been interested in museums lately. I guess I'm more interested in people. But I've never been very good at meeting strangers. And now I'll be trying to make connections with people while we have a language barrier between us. (Things for me to keep in mind: smile a lot and do not mumble)

I'd also like to see. I want to look at my surroundings and see stories unfolding. Unique stories and universal stories. I love what makes us different but I also love what makes us the same. When I get past the logistics, the finance, and plain survival techniques needed for this trip, it's the discovering that gets me excited. So for everyone that keeps asking, "Are you excited?" I say, of course.

No Tengo Dinero

I think I'm pretty much done blogging about Cuba. Here's a quick little video I cut together today to close out my Cuban adventure with my friend Valentina. Enjoy. Next week, Paris and London.

Watch on Youtube
Download Cuba2007.wmv (27mb)

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Cienfuegos, Santa Clara & Back, April 12-15

Another bus ride took us to Cienfuegos where we were picked up by Armando who ran a Casa in Punta Gorda with his wife Belkis. While they were cleaning our room, we snacked on fresh mangoes from their tree in the back yard. Later we walked out to the bus station to arrange a ride to Santa Clara the next day and found a street pizza stand. I also decided to try Pan con Hamburguesa- a ground meat patty on a bun (I assumed the meat was pork but from what parts of the pig, we'll never know). We killed some time around Parque Jose Marti where we dealt with some crazy old men. One gave me postcards and the other tried to convince me that he needed 50-cents because someone or another wanted him dead. Close to sunset, we took a 10cuc boat ride around Punta Gorda to watch the sunset. We had the whole boat to ourselves so we pretended to be rich world travelers on our yacht, sipping fancy cocktails (in reality we sipped tuKola which was included in the price).

We had dinner back at the Casa and talked to Armando and Belkis about life in Cuba. We learned that citizens couldn't really buy or sell houses, travel freely, or stay in hotels. Oh and the ability to salsa dance is in a Cuban's blood. After dinner, I passed out early while Val worked on her homework. Cienfuegos was a pleasant enough city but we decided we could have skipped it.

The heat finally got to me in Cienfuegos. At some point Valentina made a comment about the U.S. having concentration camps during World War II. I corrected her and said they were called Internment camps. She insisted they were the same and I explained that to call them concentration camps was like calling us Nazis. It was ugly. Tempers flared and the next thing you know people were staring at us, arguing like an old married couple. Too much sun and dehydration. Sorry Val.

After a short drive to Santa Clara the next morning, we found ourselves feeling stuck in nasty heat without a Casa to stay in. Valentina had wanted to visit the city as it featured some important Che Guevara sites, like the Monumento a la Toma del Tren Blindado where he captured 300 of Batista's troops, as well as the Che Guevara monument and memorial. Other than that, there wasn't much else to do in that town but sweat. We made our way back to the bus station and killed the rest of the afternoon watching Friends and the making of Lord of the Rings on Cuban television. Though I was delighted to have bumped into the two cute British girls we'd hung out with in Trinidad. We all agreed that Santa Clara was a **** hole. Sorry Santa Clara.

Back in Havana, I enjoyed one last taxi ride with the British girls and happily returned to Martha and Alfredo's Casa in Habana Vieja. We hit the sack pretty early and woke up the next day to take one last walk around Havana. Val and I were down to our last few dollars with just enough to pay for a taxi ride and the airport exit tax. We did visit the Museo del Chocolate for a couple of cold drinks. But most of the time, we walked through the super windy streets, trying to keep the dust out of our eyes. Before it was time for Valentina to leave, Alfredo invited me to have a glass of Havana Club Anejo 7 rum to commemorate the end of our awesome time in Cuba. I remembered thinking that the rum was like love on my tongue and fire in my throat. And this was just the beginning.

Valentina took off back to Paris and I continued to sip rum with Alfredo, discussing life, dreams, baseball, and women in Cuba. Although I saw Cuba as a wonderful and beautiful place, he reminded me that life is hard for a Cuban in Cuba. He has dreams of traveling to New York and Tokyo. I felt fortunate that I had the freedom and good fortunate to visit both of those places. He told me, "Cuban women think about sex all of the time". I told him that I had no idea and reminded him that I was traveling with a friend whom everyone thought was my girlfriend. Alfredo looked sympathetic for a moment and offered to discount my night's stay so I'd have some spending money that night to explore the other side of Cuba that single men discover. But I was much too broke and tired. Instead, I took him up on another serving of rum and started to drift into a haze as a heavy storm rolled in. Rain started pouring through the middle of the house and thunder clapped out on the empty street. Some of their friends came by and I sat quietly writing in my Moleskine notebook, scribbling down my thoughts since I knew zero Spanish and had no idea what they were discussing.

"A language barrier is life exclusion- being on the outside of inside jokes.

I'm just a human being far away from home. But where is home? Home is comfort. Home is a place of familiarity where you can walk through the hallway at night and not bump into furniture because you know where things are, even in the dark. Home is where your bed is, where you wake up and you don't ask yourself 'Where am I?' For the next eight months, people will welcome me into theirs but time will reveal where I will call home."

When the rain stopped, I took one last walk to the Malecon. A couple of jinteros approached me and chatted for a bit but left as soon as they found out my wallet was empty. It was a beautiful walk at night with couple on the street and people dancing in windows. I snapped a couple more photos and I went back to pack my bag up for the 5am taxi ride in a few hours. As I undressed for bed in the dark, I saw a piece of 'lint' on my leg. It seemed to be stuck to me. I even thought it was some sort of weird mole I'd never noticed but I finally picked it off. When I turned on the light I discovered it was actually a tick. I quickly stripped down and examined the rest of my body for more stowaways. As disgusted as I was, it was a bit amusing to think of this Cuban tick, trying to make his escape to a different life in the US.


Havana to Trinidad, April 8-11

Valentina and I spent another couple of days exploring Havana, hitting "cultural sights". We wandered around the Plaza de Armas and headed to the Plaza de la Catedral to have a mojito and listen to a band play some classic Cuban songs. I have to say that I make better mojitos. I had two in Cuba and neither had the love that I muddle into the ones I fix up at BBQs. (my recipe: few lime wedges, few sprigs of fresh mint, splash of simple syrup, muddle it, add ice, one shot of rum, top with club soda, garnish with mint... mmm, refreshing) Anyhow, we headed to the Museum of the Revolution which was filled with Fidel, Che, and Camillo artifacts. I don't think I was in a very Revolutiony mood and lost interest after seeing one too many shirts or pens used by so and so during such and such. Outside, there were tanks and missiles used in various conflicts. Who doesn't like tanks?

"Cuba is for Lovers". I kept repeating this to Valentina throughout the trip because I noticed so many couples everywhere. Holding hands, looking very much in love. I think it's pretty easy to get caught up in the romance and energy of the city. As I walked around, I heard music coming from every corner, I watched people dancing in the street, dancing in their houses, men and women being affectionate, and everyone checking each other out. There's something in the air.

Val and I took another long walk out to see the Jose Marti Memorial which is a 129 meter tall star shaped tower and well guarded structure where Fidel Castro delivers some of his biggest speeches. Across the plaza is the Interior Ministry which features an interesting line-art portrait of Che Guevara on its facade. We hopped a cab back to the house and washed up before going to Casa de la Musica, one of Havana's popular night clubs.

The House of Music in Havana features a number of different performers and seemingly non-stop dancing. We went in early at around 6pm and things were pretty hopping. I can't imagine going anywhere in Los Angeles at that hour and seeing people salsa dancing with the same energy as the Cubans in this club. Especially considering that the party really gets going at around 11pm. Val and I didn't really go out late at night because we pretty much wore ourselves out, walking in the heat most of the day.

The next morning, we went to the Real Fabrica de Tabacos Partagas. I wanted to tour a cigar factory and I had read that Partagas cigars were a pretty good brand. The tour was 10cuc and pretty interesting. I was surprised to learn that cigars for many different brands are made in the same factory. These include Robaina, Cohiba, Montecristo, Romeo y Julieta, as well as Partagas. We watched tobacco being prepped, sorted, and rolled by rooms full of workers. (There's even a guy who has to smoke six cigars each day for quality control) Each roller earns a set wage and bonuses depending on the number that they rolled. They also received one or two cigars a day to keep or sell to tourists.

As you make your way through Cuba, you'll often hear locals asking you if you want to buy a cigar. "Cigar amigo?" "Cohiba?" They say that the odds of you buying a real cigar from someone on the street is one in a thousand. Most street cigars are fakes rolled from lower quality tobacco or even tobacco scraps. I've also read about people buying sealed boxes that are filled with paper instead of cigars. The more reliable source for authentic Cuban cigars are shops within the factories themselves. But here, a box of 25 cigars will run you around $150. Singles are anywhere between $5-$20 a piece.

We spent a few bucks on cigars in the factory shop before grabbing our things and hopping a 25cuc Viazul bus to Trinidad, another UNESCO World Heritage site nestled between the coast and the Topes de Collantes mountains. The bus ride was a pretty interesting. We passed through different towns and caught glimpses of life in quieter towns that didn't bustle as much as Havana. Things got pretty surreal when an attendant popped in a VHS copy of Speed (the Keanu Reeves/Sandra Bullock hit where Dennis Hopper puts a bomb on a bus in LA). You haven't lived til you've watched Speed on a moving bus through Cuba.

While riding to Trinidad, we noticed a lot of random fires in fields and around the mountains. I never did figure out what that was about. We even passed right through a brush fire with flames close enough to warm us through the windows. At one point we also witnessed the crabs of Baconao. Hundreds of red and orange crabs can be seen crossing the highway from the hills to lay eggs in the sea. Apparently a lot of them are smashed by passing vehicles. Fortunately we missed that part. When we arrived in Trinidad, we were greeted by Abel of Maritza's Casa Particular in Trinidad. Our hosts in Havana had set us up with this place and we were very pleased with our rooftop room.

The first thing that I noticed when I entered the bathroom in our Havana Casa Particular was that there was no toilet seat. Just the clean porcelain rim. I wondered, "Do Cuban dudes pee sitting down?" Even if you're careful, you'll usually make a little mess of the rim from back splash. In our Trinidad casa and a Santa Clara public bathroom, it was the same- no seat. How men pee in Cuba is still a mystery I have yet to solve.

We took a walk around the colorful little town, wandering around Plaza Mayor, and up to the Ermita de Nuestra Senora de la Candelaria de la Popa for a nice view of Trinidad and the ocean. Up there we met an old woman who invited us to her house to eat a big meal. We declined as I was being very cheap after the expensive bus ride. In fact, I think our host at the casa must have taken me for a cheap American as I also declined his home-cooked 7cuc dinner. (We would later learn that he made the best meal we found in Trinidad). That night we tried the Colonial Restaurant instead. While Valentina saved money by eating rice and fries, I tried the chicken, rice, and vegetables (sliced tomatoes). Not a great meal and not a great price.

Meals in Cuba are rather inconsistent. You can go to a touristy restaurant in Havana and find pretty good food for $7-$15. Local restaurants seemed to serve mediocre food that was pretty bland. People on the street will go up to tourists and invite them to a paladares. These are private restaurants run out of people's homes. These can be pretty hit and miss. The one we tried in Trinidad was a miss. We found that the best food was often found at the Casas we stayed at. Meals here run about 3cuc for breakfast (eggs, bread, fresh fruit and juice) and 7cuc for a chicken dinner (usually, chicken, plantains, rice, potato, cucumber/tomato salad, and fruit/dessert). Paladares near the coast often offered 10cuc lobster dinners although the government prohibits serving lobster, beef, and shrimp (these items are controlled and served to tourists and the privileged).

What really got us excited was street pizza. These little pizzas were pretty decent and often sold out of doorways and served up on a piece of thick paper (napkins are hard to find). Very often you could buy them using the national peso which meant a pizza for about $0.25US. Such a deal for a budget traveler.

We hit Ancon beach the next day, splitting a cab with a nice Australian guy named Matt, from Melbourne. The three of us cooked on the beach for about three hours, talking about French politics, world travel, and Cuban women. I took a walk down the shore and witnessed my first topless sunbathers ever. (That was sadly the most "action" I got in Cuba) We snacked on 1cuc pizza and finally headed back to town after I kept bugging Val about how bad our sunburns were going to be. That night, we went to an AfroCuban show with Matt at Las Ruinas del Teatro Brunet. After the band's set, we walked to the steps next to Iglesia Parroquial leading to Casa de la Musica. The steps are filled with tourists in the late evening enjoying salsa dancing and live music shows nightly. We had a couple of beers and watched sexy dancers (and cute tourists) move their hips.

You'll find two main beers in Cuba. A 4% abv, Cristal , which is a lighter pilsner and a 5.4% abv, Bucanero Fuerte which is a fuller lager blended with a touch of Cuban sugar. There's also a Bucanero Max which I think has a 6.2% abv and causes hangovers (so says the Irish).

Next for Valentony was horseback riding. For around 17cuc, we were picked up by a horse-drawn carriage at 9:30am. Along the way to Rancho de la Luna, we swooped up two Irish guys, Michael and Shay, and a Turkish-German girl named Jaylin. We rode horses (My first time! Unfortunately, the condition of the horses was pretty poor) for an hour up to Valle de los Ingeneous, a huge park in the mountains where we took a half-hour hike to a waterfall. The swim in the waterfall was refreshing though the swim into the bat cave behind the waterfall was creepy. While jumping off a little cliff, I met a super-cool Israeli girl named Mayann who invited us all to La Trove, a nightclub built inside a real cave. We decided to meet at the steps around 10pm that night.

Val and I went for a drink at Bar Daiquiri and chatted about life, love, and the pursuit of happiness for a bit and met a French guy named Nicolas. We also invited him to meet us at 10. We did a little more walking around, snapping photos of kids playing ball in the streets and locals making window transactions. We'd often see bird cages hanging on walls or being carried by locals. Someone told us that they were just for entertainment. Little bird boom boxes I guess.

By 11 o'clock that night, our group was made up of people from the UK, Ireland, Spain, Israel, France, and the US. Valentina could not take her eyes off of a local dance instructor whose speedy moves hypnotized her into a high school crush filled with fantasies of moving to Cuba and having little salsa-dancing babies. Meanwhile, Mayann informed me that her Colombian friend thought I was the most beautiful guy she'd ever seen in her life. Fortunately, the girl was pretty good looking herself. At some point, everyone had decided that it was either too late or too early to go to La Trove and half of the group (including the Colombian) went to Casa de la Musica instead. Shay and I investigated the club and decided it may be worth checking out.

Valentina was pretty tired and decided she would rather go home and dream about her salsa dancer so I walked her back and quickly rushed back to the club to speak to the girl who thought I was the most beautiful guy she'd never actually met. Alas, they were gone. I had a Cuba Libre with Nicolas before the Irishmen and I decided the club was dead (I didn't think I'd have luck with the locals since they were throwing beer cans at my head. Oh well.)

So ended our time in Trinidad. Valentina's heart was cracked. Mine was intact, having narrowly avoided what may have been, with the mysterious Colombian.


Closing In

Things are starting to get a little frantic. All of the stuff that I kept stressing over packing, moving, and storing is now sitting in piles around my mom's house. The mess is suffocating me. I some how have to carefully select which items to pack in my Eagle Creek backpack, which weighs at least 10 pounds empty. I feel very ill prepared for this trip. It looks like I won't have any time to get the travel visas I need while I'm in the states so it looks like I'll be spending a lot of time in the queue at various embassies around London.

And I still haven't finished blogging about Cuba. I have lots of boring recollections that I'd like to record before they fade away.

Five days until I leave the country.

Just Arrived in San Jose

My mom said I looked ugly and need to shave. Home sweet home.

A Girl Keeps Me from Leaving

I was all set to leave Southern California when I found out Ingrid Michaelson was playing the Hotel Cafe in Hollywood. Late last year, she lent me a song called "Starting Now" for my film Missing Pieces so I could screen it on the Independent Film Channel. I had to go support her and thank her. It was a great show and she's awesome (and super cute) in person.

Now I'm getting ready to hit the road. It's a rainy day in LA. A perfect send off.

Goodbye LA

Thank you everyone who stopped by last night, it means a lot. I wish I could have spent more time with each of you but there's just not enough Tony for everyone in the world to be happy. Just kidding.


Longest Walk, April 7

My friend Valentina soon returned from watching some locals play basketball with a fellow traveler staying at our Casa. I hadn't seen her since last spring and here we were, meeting up in a foreign country we'd never been to. Everything seemed unreal. It just didn't quite register in my brain... I had left my job, traveled for 24 hours, and now standing in someone's house in Havana.

We wasted no time and headed out to explore Havana Vieja. Everything was bustling outside. People hanging out in doorways, cars squeezing between pedestrians, dogs wandering everywhere, music blaring from windows, the city was alive.

One of the striking things about Havana is the architecture. Parts of Old Havana are on UNESCO's list of World Heritage Sites. So you'll have these colonial buildings being restored and painted in bright, beautiful colors next to similar buildings in various states of ruin. Some of the streets are a little dirty but you'll find that Cubans keep the interior of their homes pretty clean. Between chillin' in doorways and watching television, you'll find a Cuban sweeping their floors or cleaning off their front walk. Unfortunately this means there's lots of dust blowing through the streets. Without my sunglasses, my eyes were constantly irritated.

After wandering the streets a bit, we moved towards the water and snapped some photos of the Castillo de los Tres Santos Reyes Magnos del Morro. The landmark of Havana Bay was built around 1600 to protect the harbor. From here we walked along the shore to the Malecon. This is another famous sight in Cuba where you'll see waves crashing over the sea wall as classic cars from the fifties cruise by. I loved the Malecon at night. Hundreds of Cubans hang out along the sea wall, couples canoodle, friends have drinks, and musicians play tunes.

From here we headed to Coppelia's ice cream stand. Valentina's guidebook insisted our trip would be incomplete without a trip there. The ice cream tasted like... ice cream. I wasn't entirely impressed by the hype but ice cream on a hot evening is always pleasant. At this point though, we'd been walking at least four miles and I was really regretting the decision to wear flip flops. We decided to have dinner at El Aljibe whose specialty was a chicken in orange sauce. I was pretty hungry at this point realizing that other than the scoop of ice cream, I hadn't eaten since my 7am stopover in Mexico City. We made our way through the Vedado section of Havana walking through dark streets that would have made us fear for our lives anywhere else in the world. We joked that we were walking where most tourists would never explore. Four more miles later, we ended up near Parque Miramar where the restaurant was located. As we walked up, the valet asked us where our car was. We laughed maniacally a bit at our sore feet and the seven or eight miles we'd just voyaged to get to El Aljibe's chicken. The restaurant had a nice tropical open air dining room. The meal was around $12 for a decent chicken plate with generous portions of rice, beans, plantains, (french fries maybe) and a salad of cucumber and tomato. It was supposedly all you can eat but our server never offered more. I ate everything on my plate and finished Val's chicken as well. Another long walk would have been great but we opted for a taxi instead. Back at the Casa, I was relieved to find my feet blister-free, though dirtier than they've ever been in my life. I slept better that night than I had in weeks.


Burbank to Havana

There's something really amusing and exciting about leaving straight from my office and ending up in a different country 24 hours later. On April 6, I left Mickey Mouse's house for the last time, clearing out my desk, returning company property, and grabbing my last paycheck.

I shot straight down to San Diego for dinner with my friend Pranee and then hopped a flight from Tijuana to Mexico City. I remember the lights of Tijuana taking off were beautiful, as were the lights of Guadalajara as we stopped over for a bit in the middle of the night. Mexicana airlines provided cookies, some sort of cheese/ham bread, and potato chips which I snacked on sitting on the floor of Mexico City's international airport. I watched cleaning persons constantly maintaining shiny floors and observed backpackers also sitting on the floor around the terminal. I wondered where they'd come from and where they were headed. Then I wondered the same about myself.

A few hours later, I landed in Havana. The palm trees and sunshine reminded me a bit of Hawaii. Jose Marti Intl. Airport seemed old and slightly bare. Flags of countries around the world hung from the ceiling of Terminal B. I didn't see one for the U.S. I was a little nervous going through Mexican and Cuban customs. Throughout the trip, I was being sent to windows here and there to pay fees and fill out forms. I don't speak Spanish so I felt very stupid for not being able to understand instructions. Cuban customs sternly sent me away the first time to finish filling out my visa form as I had neglected to do so. When the agent returned, she angrily asked, "Anthony?", with a serious face. When I responded yes, she smiled disarmingly for a moment. Weird. But all was well and I was sent through. Thankfully, my luggage made it safely and I was off to find a taxi.

Much like Mexico, there are groups of taxi drivers waiting at the exit to take your business. I found one who said it was $25 to Havana. I told him no and said $20 was more reasonable (fortunately, my friend Valentina had emailed me and mentioned this was the fair price, though if you're lucky/cute, you can bring it down to $15). As we exited the airport, I realized that I hadn't exchanged currency.

Cuba uses two forms of currency, the National Peso and the Cuban Convertible Peso or CUC for short. Essentially, only Cubans use National Pesos for food and non-luxury items and foreigners use the CUC. In 2004, as a response to the US's stricter sanctions, there was an added 10% fee for exchanging US dollars to CUC. I had anticipated this and carried Euros with me to get a better rate.

Speaking of exchanges, I had no idea what the clerk at the money counter was asking me. I looked at her dumbfounded. "(something in Spanish)" she asks. "Uh, four? All of it? Viva Fidel?" I respond with no luck. Finally she takes my money, counts it out and points to her computer monitor. I somehow communicate that I need smaller bills. And I'm out of there and into a taxi.

On the way to Havana, I get to know the driver. I tell him how beautiful Havana is even though we've barely left the airport grounds. I learn that he was schooled as a computer engineer but drove a taxi because the money is better. From my understanding, one can train in just about any field of work but the pay is low. A doctor will make something like $45 a month while a taxi driver can pull in twice that in a day (though most of it goes back to the government... Americans aren't the only one's screwed by high taxes).

He points out different buildings along the way. Ministry of Information, Ministry of Communication, Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Ministries... seriously, there are a lot of ministries there. We zig-zagged through Habana Vieja (or Old Havana) for a bit before finally finding Alfredo y Martha's Casa Particular at 668 Calle Habana between Sol and Muralla.

Throughout Cuba, you can either stay in hotels that run $70 and higher per night or you can stay in Casa Particulars which are rooms rented out by families. Some are licensed with the government and some are 'underground'. The benefit of stay at a Casa is that rooms run for a standard $25 per night. I was meeting my friend Valentina there to share a room so our rate was $30/night. Some Casas offered breakfast and/or dinner for an extra charge. Ours served a delicious breakfast of eggs, bread, and plentiful fresh fruit. Anyhow...

I was greeted by the very lovely Martha who told me Valentina was out for a bit with one of the other guests. I went to my room and rested a little. I took off my shoes and slipped my flip flops on. I was in Havana. WTH?


Getting to/from Cuba

A lot of people didn't know I was heading to Cuba. This is mainly because Americans aren't supposed to be traveling to Cuba unless they have a proper license issued by the US Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control. Constitutionally, we have the right to travel anywhere we'd like but due to our economic embargo on Cuba, it is illegal to spend our money there.

If one wanted to go to Cuba, one might travel to the Mexican border at San Ysidro, cross the border on foot, hop a $15 taxi to Tijuana International Airport and fly to Cuba via Mexico City. There is a $22 tax to travel through Mexico, by the way. You pay this before boarding. You'll also need to pay $15 for a visa into Cuba before you exit Mexico. When you arrive in Cuba, they'll stamp this paper visa instead of your passport. When you leave Cuba, you'll need to pay an airport tax of 25CUC to leave and they stamp your boarding pass.

When you return to Mexico and cross the border back into the US, you present your driver's license as identification (starting in 2008, a passport will be required to cross, I believe 2007 is the grace period) because there is a chance that US Customs will notice your entry and exit stamps from Mexico and wonder where you went.


Cuba in pictures

I just finished uploading and captioning a bunch of photos from the Cuba trip. I'm in desperate need of food now. Blog you later.

Cuba gallery.


Back in the US...

of cold. After nine hot days and nights in Cuba, I forgot what it was like to be chilly in LA. I'm taking a little nap right now but I'll write up the blog of blogs when I have the energy.

LA people, tomorrow's my last night in Los Angeles. Potluck Happy Hour Farewell at 3146 in Studio City. Call me.

Havana, Cuba

I made it safely to Havana, Cuba on Saturday. Everything's beautiful. Hanging out in Trinidad for a few days. Then to Cienfuego and Santa Clara before my last night in Habana Vieja.

To the beach!


I was driving to work today and every radio station was playing somber Smashing Pumpkins tunes. I felt kind of empty. Actually no, not empty, full. Full of sadness. And then I got to work and had leftover Rice-a-roni (the San Francisco treat). Now the emptiness has turned into panic. 5 minutes until unemployment, wish me luck.

People don't leave when they're happy.


My brain is full. There's so much I want to get done. I had to force myself to sleep around 3am last night. And then I was up at 8am. I ran to get 1-quart zip lock bags to carry-on liquids. (3-1-1?) When I can't carry sun block and hair product, the terrorists are definitely winning.

I also had to pick up antimalarial pills. $81 for an 8-week supply. The costs are mounting. And then in a stroke of genius I bought a ticket to Grindhouse tonight. A 3 hour film. I couldn't resist. Anyone want to roll with me? Grauman's Chinese Theatre, 10pm. I better power nap. [update: I should have skipped Grindhouse and hit up the club instead]

Hope people don't mind my links opening in new windows. That's just how I roll.



One more day of work. One last pay check after five years of weekly pay checks.

I can't quite put my finger on what I'm feeling right now. It's not quite happiness though. I feel ill prepared for such an undertaking. What I hate the most is my inability to get excited about the trip. Anytime I discuss it with someone, I have a look of extreme discomfort on my face. I think as I start my travels, I'll have to really figure out what my objective is. I probably won't start thinking seriously about this trip until I'm in the middle of it. Screwy. I don't know what to feel about the whole thing, I've never done anything like this. Every step is unknown. I may be focusing on the negative but that's just the way I prepare. I need to know the risks, assess the possibilities of bad things happening, and figure out how I'm going to deal with it. People try to reassure me all of the time. 'You're going to meet so many people, see so many things, etc. etc.' Well, hell, I can deal with that. I'm not worried about the amazing experiences I'll have. I'm not worried about how much fun I'm going to have. You get what I'm saying? So until then, pardon the frown on my face when you ask me whether I'm excited about the trip.

Right now I'm dealing with giving up (or putting on hold, I should say) everything I had going for me here, everything I was working to obtain, every goal I was trying to reach. I'm dealing with leaving family, friends, colleagues. If you know me, you know I pride myself in being there for people (yes, there are times when I'm too caught up but we all get caught up). And now I'm taking off.

Not having ties to much of anything or anyone is allowing me to take this opportunity right now... but honestly, I can't wait to make some ties when I get back.

Global Warming Tour

I thought it would be useful for me to have links to weather forecasts for the different places I'll be going. Each city on the "Travel Itinerary" list to the right is linked to a 10-day forecast.

It's already in the 100s in places like India. I'm really going to have to get used to being sweaty and uncomfortable for many months on the road. If you know me, you know that I'm a bit of a clean freak. I hate being sweaty. I'm going to miss the comfort of clean showers whenever I feel like it. The heat of last summer in LA is going to pale in comparison to the humidity that I'll hit through Asia. But you know, a few billion people put up with it, so I'm just going to have to adapt.

Chicago Walk

I'm testing the pipeline for cutting videos, encoding them, and posting them on YouTube. This video is a clip that my friend Azad shot in Chicago last summer while we were making Return to Sender. It's a video about nothing featuring music by Home Video. I just like the way the city looks in the background. We walked a long way to a club called Funky Buddha but it looked pretty dead so we turned around and headed back towards downtown. Thank goodness for Smithwicks.

Speaking of Azad, check out his photo blog of Iran:



It’s crazy how much we consume in our lives. Do you ever just sit and wonder how we can just keep producing stuff and dumping it somewhere when we’re done (or in my case, when I can’t keep it anymore)? Incredible. It’ll be really fascinating to visit places where people don't have so much "stuff". I hope I'll be able to learn about how they see the world.

I picked up my tickets for the trip yesterday. It was kind of exciting to see tickets for 20 flights print up. I'm going to be flying a lot. Something like 36,000 miles.

Life feels a bit strange. I've got a slight sense of liberation that comes from having to sacrifice one set of desires for another. That is, I wanted certain things in Los Angeles and because of this choice to give up my job, my home, and many of my possessions, I can no longer have certain things. Not now at least. Knowing that I can't have what I desire seemed to relieve some of the pressure of trying to obtain it.

Fatigue is already getting to me. I may be stressing too much over handling my move but I just want everything squared away in California before I take off. I don't want to have to worry about burdening people. Being as independent as I am, it gets to me to have to ask people for help. Most of us are willing to give each other a hand but honestly, we'd be just as happy using our time, energy, storage space, etc. for ourselves, right? It's not selfishness, it's just comfort.

Yeah, I don't know what I'm saying anymore either.

Wiped out

I moved out of my apartment this weekend. One truck and two car loads. I have no idea why I have so many clothes. I swear I wear the same six outfits over and over again. My buddy Manash has generously lent me space to store the contents of my apartment for a couple of weeks before I head back to San Jose before my trip. I'm crashing at his place in Studio City for a few days. It's a drag to not have a place to come home to that is mine, but hopefully the next few weeks will help me adjust to sleeping in new places every week for the rest of the year.

Tomorrow I start my last week at work. It's a pretty crazy feeling to be saying goodbye to the place I've been going to for 40+ hours a week over the last five years. Since I moved to LA, this job has been the only thing that's lasted.

Right now, I need to sleep. If I start thinking too much, I'll never get any rest.

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Location: United States A 29 yr old filmmaker from California traveled through Europe, Africa, Asia, and Australia/NZ over ten months from April 2007 to March 2008.

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    April 6:
    April 30:
    Czech Republic
    June 3:
    June 20:
    June 22:
    June 27:
    June 30:
    July 22:
    August 9:
    August 27:
    September 10:
    October 3:
    October 30:
    December 3:

    January 23:
    New Zealand
    February 26:
    March 1:
    Florida, North Carolina,
    New York, England, Spain

    December 29:
    January 9:
    New York City
    January 17:
    Washington D.C.
    February 18:
    March 18-23:
    New Orleans