Friday, October 23, 2009


Here are some scans from my travel notebook:

Friday, October 16, 2009

A trip to Germany in Alameda, to China in Oakland, to Mexico in Fruitvale -or- Around the world in East Bay

A couple weekends ago, JD wanted to explore Oakland's Chinatown. Now not to brag on this obnoxious travel blog of ours, but having been to San Francisco's Chinatown, Portland's Chinatown, Vancouver's Chinatown, Los Angeles's Chinatown, Lima's Chinatown, Buenos Aires' China and to China itself, Oakland's Chinatown was nothing to write "home" about... the pagoda roofs look more intriguing from 880 than from ground level. However, unlike some of the others I listed, Oakland's Chinatown seems to harbor a thriving community, complete with jostling sidewalk vegetable stalls, self-proclaimedly legendary dim sum palaces, and cheap FOBA fashions.

We continued east on our topologically incorrect tour of the world, to Alameda where we searched out east bay's German enclave: Speisekammer. As luck would have it, they just happened to be celebrating Oktoberfest that day complete with bratwurst, metric increments of beer, spaetzel, drindl, leiderhosen, oompa bands, and lots of sunshine. I drank the ever girly radler, a combination of beer and lemonade and John had an incredibly delicious apple beer and I unfortunately cannot remember the name. I give zwei thumbs up to Speisekammer and their Oktoberfest, which they amazingly celebrated for an entire month.

Jumping ahead a week, we headed south, both literally and figuratively, to Fruitvale to seek out el corazon de la mission de Oakland. Driving along International Boulevard seems entirely appropriate as you attempt to choose a taqueria in Fruitvale. Based on a graduate school classmate's recommendation, we settled on El Huarache Azteca, which sports amazing Apocalypto-style murals and some of the most delicious mole I have ever tasted in my thusfar brief albeit mexican-food-loving life. I ate a thing called an alambre, which seemed like a meat scramble without any eggs and it was delicious.

I hope to continue our global explorations of Oakland, but I am not sure where in the world we might end up next. One could cover just about all of these major ethnic food groups in one nook of Berkeley's vast network of college eateries, but that is neither here nor there. Next post will be about our mini taco crawl down Milpas in Santa Barbara, where we were ever closer to Mexico, i.e. the real deal.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Humble abodes

In an attempt to keep this blog alive while Shanny D. attends graduate school, I thought I would post some pictures of our new semi-permanent abodes. It has now been about two months since we became stationary and we have more or less settled in to our respective homes for (hopefully) the next two years.

Shanny's cozy studio:

Johnny D.'s San Clemente Graduate Student Housing:

Bikes! (You can almost see campus from here!)

Dining Nook!

More Bikes!

JD's Room and JD!

Kitchen and Living Room!

Stay tuned for other exciting developments in our presently stationary lives.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Asleep on the Greyhound

Our airlines are good, but because there is little demand for intercity ground transportation, my expectations for taking the Greyhound were low. Now that I am in Santa Barbara without a car, I have to get to the Bay Area to visit Shannon and back in time on Monday for school. I have two options, Amtrak and Greyhound. Both cost between $35-$50, but Greyhound has a much more flexible schedule, allowing me to leave at 8:45 or 11:30PM and get into Santa Barbara at 4:30 and 9:30AM respectively. This lets me sleep on the bus and head straight to class if I take the redeye.

In South America, there are a whole host of bus companies to choose from, too. Not in the US, we have greyhound and that's it. Amtrak runs a couple of buses, but that's only in conjunction with their train travel. The buses in Peru and Argentina were great. They were inexpensive and more or less comfortable, usually with a nice foot rest and in Argentina a meal and snack. Well, the Greyhound is not like that. It was crowded and at best as nice as the worst of buses we took in Peru. It also cost 3 times more than most of the comparable buses we took in Argentina.

I feel like the comparison to South America is more than fair. In the absence of a decent public train system, the local economy has at least stepped in to provide buses. America has no train (well there is Amtrak but its slower and more expensive than the bus!), air flight is expensive, so you'd think that more people would use buses. Que Lastima!

The ride wasn't awful, though. The bus station in Oakland is beautiful with 70 year old art deco flourishes. The people who rode with me were pretty normal, and I actually managed to get a little sleep, too. In the end, I got back to Santa Barbara on time and two large cups of coffee later, connected with the Bus to campus from the Santa Barbara bus terminal.