Obscura Day

I spent last Saturday exploring catacombs and rummaging through 1920s morphine prescriptions…

You might say that was a pretty morbid way to spend a spring afternoon, but I was more happy than anything to finally take part in Obscura Day. Obscura Day is an annual event held by Atlas Obscura that gives you access to lots of strange, historical, sometimes abandoned attractions around the world. Think in terms of tours to abandoned theme parks, walks through Chernobyl ‘ghost cities’ or visits to hidden beaches. Just like my obsession with Roadside America, I like to follow Atlas Obscura when I want to explore lowkey spots your typical travel guide wouldn’t include, hence my visit to a gravesite and an oddities shop last weekend.

This year, WONDER COMMONS hosted an Obscura Day event at the Westminster Burying Ground and Catacombs in Baltimore, a place where you can find the gravesites of Edgar Allen Poe and James Calhoun, the first mayor of Baltimore. I’ve been to Poe’s gravesite before, but it was an entirely new experience getting to poke around the catacombs beneath the church and have a guide share quirky historical anecdotes on body snatching.

About a 15 minute drive away was a little shop of oddities known as Bazaar, a store that offers up skulls, taxidermy, vintage Ouija boards and bone jewelry for sale (if you’re into those kinds of things). The shop hosted a “Find The Mole Hand” game for Obscura Day, which sounds more gross than it actually is because trust me, you’d spend a couple hours in there if you stopped by. I showed up too late to claim one of the eight prizes handed out for finding the mole hand, but still ended up spending a good while just looking at black and white photographs and air plants.

Obscura Day only comes around every April, but there are always tons of Obscura events happening all over the U.S. Check out their website before going on your next vacation!

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Current Obsessions

A Weekly Roundup of Kawaii Thangs, Jams and Interweb Finds. 

CULTURE: LeJuan James and his videos out here making us Latino-Americans laugh about the ridiculous things our families do and say. Here’s an article written about him by someone who gets it!

LIFE: Had a slow day at work and found myself watching a TEDTalks playlist on forgiveness. If you have any sort of soul, Anand Giridharadas’ talk on a mini mart employee forgiving a Texan white supremacist for shooting him a few days after 9/11 will have you crying your little eyes out.

MOVIES: You have most likely already seen this if you identify as a Potterhead… the trailer for Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. So so SO excited!

STUFF: Trying to jump back into creative writing again, and this book 642 Things to Write About is helpful in providing me with prompts so I can’t lie to myself by saying I don’t know where to begin..

The Beasts of England 

Chances are you’ve had to read Animal Farm at some point in your life. You know, that George Orwell novel you were assigned to read back in the 8th grade about a pack of pigs who overthrow farmers to establish an “equal” and “perfect” society? Well, Brandon Hill of No Kings Collective’s pop-up art installation “The Beasts of England” is a reinterpretation of the Orwell novel that forced us to examine socialism, class stratification and corruption — basically all things we’re still discussing as a society today.

Right off the bat, I knew I liked this exhibit because (a) the lit lover in me got to geek out over references to the novel like the words ‘HORSE GLUE’ written on wood/enamel letters (Poor Boxer!), and, (b) the large scale installations are not only very accurate depictions of pigs, but also plastered in color!

“The Beasts of England” is displayed at Union Market’s Lab 1270 until May 7.

Spring Things 

Recently I’ve been researching “most colorful places to photograph in America” and I’m pretty happy to see the Cherry Blossom Festival in DC makes it onto nearly every one of these lists. Finally something I won’t have to travel for! Although trying to make it downtown when the Washington Post says it’s a “peak bloom” day can end up being a huge headache, I definitely think the people watching and flowers make it all worth it.

Reykjavík Street Art 

There’s that one photo of Reykjavík that everyone takes from the Hallgrímskirkja observation tower because it’s one of the best view of the city and all its colors for miles. Because of these photos, what I expected to see downtown was a bunch of cute buildings with blue, green and red rooftops, but I was completely blown away by how much art is all over the streets of Reykjavík. I ended up spending a good few hours mural hunting out there during my recent trip to Iceland.

I’ll be sharing more photos from my Iceland trip later this week!
In the meantime, you can catch a few of them over on my Instagram.

Follow Your Heart ♥

If you’ve ever watched the documentary (mockumentary?) Exit Through the Gift Shop, you may remember Thierry Guetta, the clumsy Frenchman with a video camera permanently attached to his hand. After Guetta discovers his cousin is the street artist Invader, he finds himself following along to film Invader + friends putting art out on the streets, eventually meeting guys like Banksy and Shepard Fairey, and compiling his footage into what eventually became Exit Through the Gift Shop. But another thing you may have noticed is by the end of the film, Banksy wants Guetta out of the way so he encourages him to work on his own art, and from that encouragement, the artist “Mr. Brainwash” is born.

I remember watching Exit Through the Gift Shop when it was first released in 2010 and thinking, All of this is cool, but I’m never going to see any of that art here in DC. Yet here I am six years after the release, and the coolest thing has happened! To celebrate International Women’s Day, Mr. Brainwash created a series of murals at DC’s Union Market that highlight Michelle Obama’s Let Girls Learn movement. Each piece of the mural has some inspirational phrase on it like “Follow Your Heart” and “Love is the Answer,” which are all meant to push the White House’s efforts to support access to education for the 62 million adolescent girls around the world who are not in school.

I visited Union Market just a little over a week after the murals were put up. Someone already has splattered paint across some areas of the work, so if anyone out there is interested in seeing these, I’d go soon! To view images of the murals, use the hashtags #lifeisbeautiful, #62milliongirls and #letgirlslearn.

Land of Fire and Ice

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It seems a little far-fetched to compare any place on Earth to outer space, but that’s exactly how someone described Iceland to me. Driving through roads of barren, steaming black soil, kaleidoscope-colored rock formations and enormous mountains will really give you the sense that the exaggeration is completely spot on. And maybe this is another point of exaggeration, but my seven-day roadtrip through Iceland and the Ring Road has to rank up there with one of the coolest things I’ve done in my 25-years of life:

Day One: My boyfriend Cesar and I landed in Iceland on a day of what I considered unpredictable weather: rain, sleet, snow, hail, sun and winds that shook our rental car… all within an hour. I quickly learned that fast-changing weather is actually the norm here, so I’d better have a plan A, B and maybe even a Plan C in case a snowstorm decides to show up on a day that was supposed to be sunny.

Cesar and I (along with our friend Andy) attempted to drive north to see Hvítserkur, but a heavy snowstorm passed through and we ended up getting stuck at a rest stop for a couple hours. Like many islands, there’s only one main road in Iceland, so once there’s an accident (or in our case a couple of accidents), it holds up traffic everywhere. When conditions cleared up, we drove up an icy, long and winding road through the mountains to find Kirkjufell

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Day Two: I walked down the stairs of our hostel to read a sign that said, “Snow storm expected in south Iceland on 12 March. Be cautious of hurricane winds up to 50 mph,” and instantly felt anxious. Despite the warning, I headed out to Reykjavik, and even ended up floating around the Blue Lagoon in the middle of a snow storm because there was no way they’d be giving me back a refund.

Day Three: The waterfalls Haifoss and Gjain were on the to-see list for the third day, but as I mentioned before, Iceland’s weather really had the final say on what we could see on our daily itinerary. As the blog Unlocking Kiki notes, visiting Gjain in the summer is difficult — even with a 4WD car. On a March day, it was practically impossible and extremely unsafe to try and drive over ice and through a couple feet of snow. We had to settle on only seeing Haifoss and Seljalandsfoss for the day.

By this day, I really began to realize just how gorgeous the Icelandic countryside is. One of my most favorite visual memories of Iceland is seeing Icelandic horses looking so free and regal just galloping around the mountains and hillsides. There is a reason why you see so many great photos of Icelandic horses and it’s because they walk right on up to you and pose! This guy with the perfect emo bang came right up to us during a pit stop on our way to Vík.

Processed with VSCOcam with s3 presetDay Four:  About two hours after we visited the famous Sólheimasandur plane wreck, the owners of the land where the abandoned plane is located decided to shut off access to the site. Apparently you can still visit as long as you are willing to park offsite and walk a couple miles, which I probably would have huffed and puffed about (literally and figuratively), so I’m glad I made it on time. That being said, I’m grateful I didn’t get out of climbing up Skogafoss waterfall because the view was amazing.

While shooting b roll at DyrholaeyCesar’s Canon 5D Mark II took a dip in the ocean when an enormous wave came out of nowhere and knocked him over. You can actually watch the video of it happening over on his Instagram, where you’ll hear me running for my life in the background. We found out his camera was unrecoverable, so that definitely put a damper on the day for all of us.

Day Five:  Our fifth day in Iceland was all about visiting the places the Beibs hit up in his “I’ll Show You” music video, such as Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon (though we were smart enough to not roll down any mossy hills or swim freezing waters like he did.) The three of us also ventured out to Black Sand Beach to see Reynisdrangar, which are basalt sea stacks located under the Reynisfjall mountain. Legend has it three trolls attempted to pull a ship to shore, but when dawn broke, the early morning sunlight turned them into needles of rock.

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Day Six: On this day, I felt very Nat Geo-esque visiting the Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon  and catching some seals pushing seagulls off the glaciers, but most importantly… We saw the Northern Lights! It took a couple of hours of sitting outside in the freezing cold and pitch darkness at Jökulsárlón, but it happened! At first glance, the lights just looked like wispy smoke floating through the air, but with every minute that passed, the green became more and more visible. I always thought the phrase “seeing the Northern Lights ‘dance'” just couldn’t be true, but it turns out it is. I watched a beautiful green, white and purple streak of light travel in a wave across the sky and it was the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen.

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Day Seven: The road trip  we had stretched out over the course of six days had to be driven in just a couple hours because we had to fly out of Iceland on Day Seven. You actually can drive around the entire country in just 24-hours, but with all the places we wanted to see, a day obviously wouldn’t have been enough. We said goodbye to our cute little cabin in the mountains and headed back to Reykjavik for a quick mural tour.

Iceland was one of the most beautiful countries I’ve ever seen. I’ve got a loooong list of other countries on my bucket list, but this is one of those places I’d be willing to experience twice. A visit to Iceland in the summer is definitely something I’d be down for.

 

(Photos by Andy, Cesar and I)

EmporiYUM

Way back in November, I attended The Emporiyum, which I completely forgotten to post about it, but then two things happened that reminded me of my experience. First, someone at work brought up where to find “authentic” tacos in Northern Virginia, to which I responded with, “Uh, nowhere.” I considered rambling on about how nothing beats DC and Maryland, but I remembered tasting this amazing Taco Bamba tostada for the first time at the Emporiyum, so I swallowed my words.

And second, I found out Ekiben — one of the Emporiyum exhibitors — is opening a brick-and-mortar shop in Baltimore’s Fells Point. Ekiben was created by Nikhil Yesupriya, an old pal from my middle school days, and two other UMBC students as a concept revolving around the street food of Taiwan and Southeast Asia. Over the last few years, I’ve seen Nikhil post Facebook statuses about grabbing a bite of his creations at the Fells Point Farmers Market, and now his efforts have grown into this! To see someone who was always so kind to everyone around him reach the success of having his own restaurant at our age is actually kinda amazing.

BUT to give you all more of an idea of what the Emporiyum is… It was a food marketplace laid out very much like a craft fair where you could go from booth to booth taste testing things. The YUM I attended was in DC’s Union Market, but next month another YUM will take place in Baltimore. If you’re anything like me, and you end up stopping by the Baltimore edition, just know your daily diet may look a little something like this:

  • A Korean fried chicken sandwich.
  • Buredo’s “sushirito” sushi burrito. Tempura to be exact.
  • Pork and cabbage dumplings by Pinch Dumplings.
  • Probably one of the most moist cupcakes you’ll ever taste if visit the Savannah Cupcakes booth.
  • A couple of District Doughnut balls.
  • One of milk bar‘s infamous cookies.
  • Some La Tasca sangria to wash it all down.
  • And, of course a Thai chicken meatball steamed bun sandwich from Ekiben.

And whatever other random assortment of cheese, chips, pasta, pizza, cookies and drinks you can find at any of the other booths. In short,  you’ll  feast like a king.