Racism Abroad.

Throughout all my travels in my life as an Asian American woman, I’ve learned that, yeah, sure Americans are loud, self-righteous and racist. People tend to cringe when they see a bunch of Americans. And growing up in Westlake Hills, TX— I can say we are definitely racist. Not just the Texans but also those “self proclaimed woke” people in Portland (where I went to Montessori school as a toddler and went back for college). But the thing is, I think we are one of the least racist countries in the world—it’s just that we, in our typical American flair, make a big fucking deal out of it. And we should. And at least we are having a dialogue. It hasn’t always been the best dialogue or the most constructive but at least we are willing to say, “there’s racist fucks here” and our racist fucks are willing to say “hell yeah imma racist fuck and I even got a permit to march around public streets to express my racist hateful views”.

In other countries, racism is sometimes less obtrusive but just as, if not more, obstructive as some people don’t even know they are being racist (especially in countries that aren’t as diverse as the US). In some countries, they feel they are too polite to be racist (what a vulgar term)—UK, my side eye is at you— that there is no acknowledgement or dialogue around a very present issue. In other countries, racism is so pervasive that it’s not even a thing to get mad at but the norm.

But what other country has so many people willing to speak out against a misguided POTUS and question the justice system—that which is here to protect us from ourselves and each other. Hell, what other country has football players, heroes to so many children, say enough is enough? Whether this is outrageously unpatriotic (or an extremely patriotic gesture as the First Amendment is at the heart of every American), I’m not here to say. All I can say is that at least Americans are not afraid to make a public statement that—hey—there’s racism and it’s not ok.

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Packing.

Looking back on the past 2.5 months living abroad, I can’t tell you what you need to pack but I can tell you what you DON’T need to pack. And that’s about 80% of what you think you will need.

When you’re traveling as much as I was, you tend to live in a t-shirt, travel tights, sneakers, a sweater and Northface jacket (since it’s winter). In the summer, it would probably be everything sans the sweater and jacket. And it’s true, you only need one week’s of clothing since you actually do find time to do laundry.

I did bring my gym clothes, but they doubled as travel clothes. I had to bring 1-2 work outfits for the times I planned on spending in the office abroad. I also brought one cocktail dress and all my other dresses stayed stuffed in my suitcase. I had 1-2 “out on the town” outfits and a bathing suit (which I forgot to bring with me to the thermal baths in Budapest). I also brought a waterproof iPhone case (which I also forgot to bring with me to the thermal baths).

I brought vitamins, toiletries and melatonin (a must have with all the traveling, coffee chugging, late night working, etc. that happened). If I had to do it again, this is what I would pack:

3 cotton t-shirts

10 pairs of underwear (just in case you don’t get to the laundry. I brought 20–way too many)

1 pair of sneakers

1 comfortable pair of heels

2 workout tights (double as travel clothes)

2 work dresses (the type you can wad into a ball and still wear the next day without ironing that might also double as a brunch dress)

1 skirt

1 blouse

1 pair of jeans

1 pair of shorts (I have running shorts but girls can get away with yoga looking street clothes)

1 bathing suit

make up, lotion, allergy medicine, vitamins, melatonin, tooth paste, tooth brush (I also brought all my samples from Sephora since they are easy to pack and are within the liquid allowance)

headphones, power bank, phone, and laptops

If winter:

1 Beanie

1 Northface jacket

1 sweater

1 scarf

socks

That’s pretty much it. I could fit this  all into one backpack and one carry on rolly bag. If you aren’t going to be visiting the office like me, then your life will be easier since you can ditch all the work clothes.

clothes(The above was pretty much my travel uniform during the winter)

Budpest.

I can see why this ranks highly on Nomad List’s cities for digital nomads. There’s a huge expat community and everyone pretty much speaks English. Every bar, restaurant and cafe has free wifi (though it wasn’t fast enough to download my work email on my phone). It’s affordable though not incredibly cheap (not like Warsaw).

I first stayed near the river that separates the “Buda” portion from the “Pest” portion and it was gorgeous. The castles, buildings and bridges were beautiful to look out on. Other than that, it was very commercial and a bit boring. There is a huge shopping area full of tourists and overpriced stores. Tons of high end hotels and white linen restaurants that were bland and over priced.

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I then moved to the Jewish Quarter in District VII and I could tell right away why this was the “hipster”/night life area of Budapest. There were tons of “ruin bars” and the nightlife went on and on and on. I visited one of the largest outdoor bars I’ve ever been to (Szimpla Kert). It was on Lonely Planet’s top 100 bars. It was cute. It was different. It tried very hard to be different.

It’s what Portlanders and Seattlites would make if you gave them a huge outdoor area with tons of different rooms to decorate (though probably with fewer scabies). There is a huge line out the door if you get there after 9pm so if you just want to go and check it out, get there a bit earlier and walk around. There’s already tons of people inside earlier in the day grabbing a drink and having what seemed to look like a deep philosophical conversation.

Surprisingly, Americans weren’t the loudest ones there–the Brits definitely were!

 

I also visited the outdoor thermal baths in Budapest. I’m not one for touristy things so I had mixed feelings but afterwards, I was very happy I went. Everyone seemed to be in a great mood (not sure if it was because it was in the dead of winter and freezing while running back and forth from the lockers to the baths) that I really enjoyed myself. You don’t need to pay extra to get your tickets earlier. The line went pretty fast and they accept cash or card. I suggest getting a “cabin”, which is no bigger than a bathroom stall but you can change in there and it locks so you can keep your things inside. Remember to bring your own towel and flip flops. You can rent towels there but I brought mine from the AirBnB (which were bright green so it made it super easy to spot them when I ran out of the bath back into the building).

 

I did go to the beer bath and it was a bit boring and overpriced. I could see it being fun in undergrad with a big group of people as you get all you can drink beer for the 45 minutes you are soaking but I found it boring.

 

Beer is super cheap, like in most places. Wine was expensive (and often they charged you per dL, which is the size of a shot) and liquor was very expensive (especially if you wanted a mixer as you had to buy the mixer separately). 26850201_10154969900141300_8153351677462708224_n26952694_10154962983131300_3585496453126029312_nA guilty street food in Budapest is called langos. It’s a hungarian type pizza and it was delicious. The bread has the consistency of a funnel cake but it was savery. The traditional topping is with cheese, sour cream and garlic. And it was amazing.

 

I first tried to order one in a sit-down restaurant on a street that looked like the Budapest version of 5th Ave. After the service was super slow, I bailed and found this street vendor and it was one of the best things I’ve had. Another great little restaurant is a chain restaurant called Hummus Bar and this is where my love affair with shakshuka began.

19554959_10154968869441300_3696104756419948964_nIn short, I would have liked to spend more time in Budapest exploring the city and meeting more expats/digital nomads. It’s a very cute city and they love Star Wars there as well as Irish bars!

 

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And it’s a very beautiful city…

26733329_10154968892071300_7676550172811181588_n(Opera House)

Tourist tip: Unlike US or UK, you will need cash on you as not all bars/lounges accepts card. I would say that outside of the commercial/hotel area, about 60% of places take cards. Of the places that do take cards, they take Apple Pay or Android Pay so you never have to whip out your card (much like in the UK).

Cabs are relatively cheap but make sure they turn the meter on. Late at night, the cab drivers sometimes don’t turn it on and then try to overcharge you by about 300-500%. If you complain, they often times all of a sudden knock down their asking price because it’s probably a highly illegal practice. There are a few cabs that say they take card but then when you get there, they pretend they don’t and try to take you to an ATM. Don’t do it. They almost always have a credit card machine that they whip out after you threaten to walk off.

T minus 4

Leaving in less than 4 days. Most of my carry on and check-in suitcases are empty. I guess I travel light even with my sweaters, work-out clothes (aspirational thinking), and my endless collection of Sephora samples so I don’t have to lug around bottles of creams, serums, etc. The one heavy thing is my backpack with my work laptop and personal laptop and all the peripherals, wires, batteries, etc.

Embarking on a “Digital Nomad” (I’m starting to find that phrase annoying) life for the next few months.

How am I feeling? Excited? Adventurous? Yes…but more like “it’s about time”. Been stuck in a Houston, Tex-ass rut for too long. Vowed I’d only try living in Houston for ONE obligatory year to show my parents that I’m trying to live close to family. It has now been almost FIVE long, hot, muggy, gun toting, strip mall filled years. Before, I took off to the Pacific Northwest age 17, then to Asia,  NYC, Miami…then Houston? That can’t be right. But it is. But not for the next few months…!

Here goes nothing…!

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(The picture above is a canned photo from WordPress and I was too lazy to change it. It is kind of fitting. Whatever. )