North Carolina Museum of Natural History

We were up in Raleigh this past weekend. Asa had to work so I went to play. Of course the science nerd I am headed straight for the Natural History Museum.

This is the second time I’ve been there and it didn’t disappoint, again. The museum does a couple of things really well:

1. It’s free!

2. They have an amazing collection of live animals including snakes, fish, turtles, frogs, and insects.

3. They have a butterfly room you can walk through with lots of live butterflies. Warning – it’s closed on Monday’s.

4. They have a whole section of the museum dedicated to research and education. There are science labs with glass windows so you can look inside and see what the scientists are doing. In addition they have “meet the researchers and learn about the research” time.

5. Dinosaurs!
Great for kids and science nerds alike! I thoroughly enjoyed myself!

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JanTerm and the Wassaw Island National Wildlife Refuge

As a teacher at a fantastic school, I get the opportunity to do some pretty cool things. This past week was no exception. The Westminster Schools (high school only) decided last year to implement a January term; a three week learning experience for students to explore concepts that they normally wouldn’t be exposed to during the regular classes. Teachers were requested to design courses that were interdisciplinary, with focuses on meeting people, traveling, and interactive hands-on activities. Classes include The Science of Cooking, Biotechnology, DIY Culture, Sports Medicine, Entrepreneurship, Journalism, and my favorite class: Coastal Ecology and Culture of the Southeast.

51QQKSS3BALThe class I teach (Coastal Ecology and Culture of the Southeast) was designed to introduce students to the science of coastal habitats like salt marshes, estuaries, maritime forests, and barrier islands. Within this context students learned about the local people and culture (the Gullah-Geechee) by visiting museums, talking to locals, and reading God, Dr. Buzzard, and the Bolito Man By Cornelia Walker Bailey (a Gullah-Geechee woman that still lives on Sapelo Island, Georgia).

The highlight of this class is a week-long field trip to Skidaway Island and the UGA marine extension service. While there, students were able to interact with the communities they were introduced to in the classroom. They explored biodiversity, learned about the animals and plants, got their hands dirty, and explored.

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Sampling invertebrates off the dock at the marine extension service.

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Tromping through the salt marsh exploring and getting muddy.

 

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Under the Pier at Tybee Island.

 

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View from above the pier at Tybee Island.

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At the Pinpoint Museum, a Gullah-Geechee facility near Skidaway Island.

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Learning how to make a crab net from a Gullah-Geechee man at Pinpoint.

The week culminated in a trip to Wassaw Island, part of the Wassaw Island National Wildlife Refuge. Wassaw Island is a protected and undeveloped barrier island. People are allowed to visit without any permits, but no boats are allowed to stay docked or ashore and there is no overnight camping. Because of this, the island is pristine. The maritime forest is on its way to developing a climax community of live oak trees, alligators wander around in the holes they have dug for the winter, the wrack on the beach harbors little crabs, the birds stretch out in large flocks, and the beach is littered with shells and driftwood. There is not a footprint in sight.

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So, thanks to my school for making this happen. I can only hope that my students understand the opportunity they have been given to enjoy and interact with nature! I truly believe that experiences like these can shape people and help make them better stewards of the earth.

The World of Nations Celebration

Last weekend Asa and I and Asa’s mom, Merrill, went to the World of Nations Celebration here in Jacksonville. The festival has been in existence for a good 20 years and is a great place to go and experience some 30 different international cultures. Each country was set up in their own tent where they displayed crafts and doo-dads for sale, sold authentic (for the most part) food, and stamped passport documents given to each visitor. A main stage central to all the countries exhibited entertainment and ceremonies from each country and local stages had live bands or dancing.

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Each year the World of Nations Celebration is open on thursday and friday for elementary and middle school students to come learn about different cultures. Asa fondly remembers going to the celebration when he was a little tyke.

We had a great time wandering around, sampling local cuisine, and people watching. We even got to sample some empanadas from Colombia which were very different from the ones we had in Uruguay.

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Some fun facts we learned:

– The Ethiopian calendar follows the Julian calendar which has 12 months of thirty days each and a 13th month of 5 days. The calendar is 7 years and 8 months behind the Western calendar.

– The Taj Mahal only took 17 years to build with workmen working every single day.

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– Nollywood is what Nigeria’s booming film industry is called.

– The South Korean flag has a representation of yin and yang surrounded by depictions of the four elements: heaven, earth, fire and water.

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– Angel Falls in Venezuela is 19 times the height of Niagara Falls.

Matt’s 2012 in Review

A Year of Uncertainty and Adventure

In January 2012, I left my job, sold almost all of my belongings, and said bye to family and friends to embark on a journey that I had no clue where it would take me.

In January 2013, I’m still on that journey, living on the opposite side of the world. This journey is transforming into a way of life, and different way of seeing the world.

We’re at a point in time that the internet allows us to create our own jobs, live anywhere in the world and work whoever we choose. Luckily, I’ve been able to keep in touch with friends and family online no matter where I’m at in the World. Skype, Google Hangout, social media, and this blog have been great at helping us keep in touch. PS: Thanks Randi for writing so much and pushing Asa and I to write a couple posts! 🙂

Here it is…

January was a month of getting rid of the last of my belongings (thanks to advice from Joshua and Ryan) and saying bye to friends, family, my job, most hobbies. Luckily, friends are always willing to throw a party, especially if it means it’s the last time they’ll see you in many months if not years.

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Thanks for the yummy cookie cake Michelle

I moved down to Palermo, Uruguay with Asa and Randi. They were pretty much the main reason I’m doing this. If they didn’t decide it would be alright for me to join them, I might have never made the trip. Asa and Randi, I owe you guys the World. You guys freakin’ rock! I hope you will come visit one day!

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This is a good hair day!

I became conversational in spanish down there. We could have probably been fluent in spanish in 3 months, but making fun of each other in English was so much fun.

I was bad at taking pictures in South America. I’m blaming it on the fact that I didn’t have a working camera most of the time since the lens’ dinner of choice was sand.

Carnival in Uruguay!!

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Candle Festival in Montevideo, Uruguay. They send boats with candles, flowers, and decorations into the water for good luck.

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I met Carlos, JuanMa, and Maru in Palermo after finding out there was ultimate frisbee in Uruguay. Luckily they spoke enough English to communicate with us.

12-hour travel to play in the Bahia Blanca Beach hat tourney

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I sang karaoke with 4 others in front of hundreds (it was the US National Anthem)

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Champions!

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I wrestled an alligator (crocodile)

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Hey Mom! I’m a foreign TV star… in 2 countries!

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I played in 4 Ultimate Frisbee tournaments outside of the US

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In the voice of 300 Spartans… This is CIMARRON!

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The AFDC and Spin Ultimate made it possible to donate 80 discs and jerseys to help South America further Ultimate Frisbee as a sport

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I learned to salsa in Argentina at 4am. (I wouldn’t call it learning, more like drunken wobbling side to side)

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We played fun tournament games

I learned how to play the piano… with my feet!

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I had another going away party. This time it was for leaving Uruguay.

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Viva Las Vegas!

I got back together with the family in Vegas. I went to my Sister’s and Blake’s (now brother-in-law!) wedding. It was a gorgeous and awesome wedding. It was a lot of fun. I lost money at poker (it was overdue) but had a blast with Derek, Blake’s family and my family! So many good times and fun things happened.

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Yum! In-N-Out Burger with a creeper in the background.

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Ziplining with Dad in Vegas!

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Off to Puerto Galera

After too much excitement in Vegas, I headed out to Puerto Galera, Philippines to get together with a bunch of people from the DC and the TropicalMBA. Joining the DC was probably the biggest game changer this year as far as business is concerned. I won’t talk about that now.

In Puerto Galera, I caught some amazing sunrises, had a birthday applechicken with the crew at Badladz and tried to swim with Dolphins.

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Birthday chicken apple lunch!!

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Taking a short break from work!

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Beautiful view of Puerto Galera from the top of the jungle trek

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Rented a villa with 2 friends for half a week in Puerto Galera. Our Dive master picked us up from our dock!

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Survived a water buffalo ride!

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The crew chillin on the beach

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Tuk tuk transportation

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Trying to swim with some dolphins

After this, I headed back to Manila for a few days to meet with some friends.

I slept on a boat in Manila

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Enjoyed the Manila Skyline at night

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Off to Bangkok, Thailand!

After the Philippines, I flew over to Bangkok for a big meetup of about 70-80 Dynamite Circle members from all around the World.

This was my view for three days in Bangkok.

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We met for three days in a convention center. I met people who hide from the public, well-known influencers, people just starting out on their entrepreneurial journey, and established ballers who are all living the lifestyle of their choice from wherever they want around the World.

I was bad at taking pictures here.

In Chiang Mai

Posing at a temple

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Words of wisdom at a temple

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Met up with Joel within my first few weeks in Chiang Mai. I was introduce to Melina and Orn then, two awesome people. Robert was laughing so hard he forgot to open his eyes.

Sick mustache, Joel.

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Marvin was traveling through so we went to the sticky waters where you can climb them. We decided some sort of Yoga pose would be best.

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Cliff jumping in Chiang Mai.

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Lantern release – sending bad thoughts away. Bringing in good thoughts.

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Thousands of lanterns released at Yi Peng lantern festival during Loi Krathong. This moment was incredible. At one point in time, I couldn’t even see the sky there were so many lanterns right above my head.

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Celebrating Turkey day with Apple Pie Shots

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Temple in Chiang Mai

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Manila Spirits 2012

Cabs R Here losing the 3rd place game to Derek Ramsey in Rock-Paper-Scissors

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Was introduced through a Sam to Sam. Played with him in Manila

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Dancing with the Aussies and Canadian!

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Photobomb #1 – Beer me!

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Photobomb #2 – epic makeout scene

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Photobomb #3 – Like a Boss

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Surviving the Mayan Apocalypse in style!

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Taking pictures of myself… as always

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Cabs R Here!!!

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What the Deuce in Chiang Mai’s first ultimate frisbee league.

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Family sent me awesome christmas presents!!

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White elephant present – awesome Thailand Tshirt

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Meeting up with cousins Jimmy and Janie and friend Sandy after their domination runs in Chiang Mai.

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Coffee at Ristr8o with the #DCCM crew on Christmas day

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White elephant gift exchange

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Christmas day street food dinner with cousins Jimmy and Janie!

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Some lessons learned:

People all around you have a strong influence on who you are as a person. Surround yourself with people you look up.

Different cultures around the World can take a while to adapt to. By having a strong core, open eyes and ears, and the ability to see other’s points of view, you can go extremely far in life and be extremely successful (no matter what “success” means to you).

When you let yourself be open to opportunity, doors start showing up in front of you and you just have to choose which ones your going to open and which path your going to go down.

Learning a language is hard, but you’ll get a lot more respect and your stay will be easier if you learn some basic language and show you’re trying. You’ll also get good mental benefits from learning to speak a new language.

Leverage your hobbies to create strong and lasting friendships wherever you go.

There is something unique about Ultimate Frisbee and spirit of the game. If you play ultimate frisbee, make sure to look for ultimate everywhere you go. You will instantly create awesome friends and people all around. I have made so many friends this past year through ultimate and everyone is awesome in their own way. Whether I was partying in Uruguay at 6am with you, dancing/drinking in Argentina, surviving the Apocalypse with the Aussies in Manila, or playing league in Chiang Mai, you guys have been freaking awesome!

This journey would not be the same without ultimate and all the people I’ve met playing ultimate along the way. If there is anything I can ever do for you guys, you know where to contact me!

The same can be said for anyone in the DC. #DCCM, you guys rock! I’ve had a blast in Chiang Mai. Now, it’s time to move it to #DCPai and get more serious about health, fitness, work, and productivity.

It’s not as easy as it seems…

Going out and traveling sure does seem like fun, but there are a lot things that make it difficult. In the beginning, you have to give up on a lot of things like going out and drinking with friends a lot, skipping over to another country for fun, doing expensive dinners. You really have to be the boring friend sometimes who sits inside on a Friday evening and throughout the weekend getting the work done. Your good friends will understand, but most won’t.

Whatever you do, just make sure you follow Derek Sivers’ motto: it’s either “HELL Yeah! or no.”

Most people won’t understand what you do. They see the great pictures, the travel, the fun, but they don’t understand the struggles and the work you do.

Leaving friends is hard. Sure, I’ve made great friends along the way, but with everyday I make a new friend, that’s a day that’s passed that I haven’t seen an old friend from backhome.

The hardest part is probably leaving family. Luckily I can video chat and skype with my family back home, but it’s definitely hard celebrating birthdays, holidays, especially Christmas without the family. Technology doesn’t always work and frustrating times come along that. You just have to accept the fact that s#!@ happens sometimes and there will be another time to say hi!

You have to be like water in a stream, flowing over and around the rocks, the hard times. I think there’s a Chinese proverb about that.

The biggest lesson I’ve learned this whole trip, and it’s something I knew and learned from Mo, quality relationships are pretty much the most important things in life. Without trust, friendship, support, prodding, and pushing from peers, mentors, mentees, friends, family, others, life can be A LOT harder than it has to be.

Go out and create great relationships. Keep in touch, help others, and connect people when you can! Be good to others.

I could write this post about business stuff, finances, etc, but the most important thing to me is connecting, helping, and having fun with people.

2012 was a year of travel and creating incredible friendships. 

I’m looking forward to 2013 to be a year of creating and deepening relationships and fine tuning my habits and rituals to be more productive and grow my business efforts this year. 
Don’t worry, Mom! I’ll work on taking more and better pictures and keeping everyone updated!

2013 is a year for shipping. Get your work out! Go big or go home (going home isn’t an option here). Do something that matters and the world will reward you for it.

Jacksonville Light Parade

This year Asa and I were privileged to be a part of the Light Parade here in Jacksonville. It is a festival of sorts where local boat owners decorate their boats with lights and parade them around the St. Johns River in downtown JAX. The parade of boats is then followed by one of the best fireworks shows of the year. There are competitions for a variety of boat classes to see who will take home the prize. Rumor has it that in past years the prizes consisted of boat motor oil. While not a very glamorous prize, it certainly is practical!

Anyway, Asa and I were commandeered to help out in the boat of a family friend. She ingeniously decorated her boat in lights shaped like an octopus and needed help moving legs (yes a lot of legs!) and changing colors of the remarkably large octopus body.

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It was certainly a site to behold from the dock and close up on the boat, but was even more astounding in videos taken from the shore.

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“Octopus’s Garden” by the Beatles was also on repeat and blaring from speakers on the deck of the boat, hopefully loud enough for those on the shore to enjoy.

Check out this awesome video of the light parade on youtube!

After we made our two mandatory loops around the downtown area, we settled in at a local dock nestled between two of the downtown bridges to enjoy the fireworks. We had the perfect spot to enjoy the “waterfalls” of fireworks set off from both bridges during the firework finale.

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It was a fantastic night out on the water! Oh yeah, the octopus won first place in the sailboat category!

Surprise Electricity Bill

Electricity is an expensive component of Uruguayan living expenses. The main reason being that a large percentage of electricity in Uruguay is imported from Argentina and Brazil. As with everything else that is imported, it’s expensive. Most of the electricity generated within the country comes from hydroelectric sources, and the electrical industry in Uruguay is controlled solely by the national company, UTE. As always wikipedia has an interesting article about the production and use of electricity in Uruguay if you’re interested.

When we got our electricity bill this month we were a little surprised. We have been paying on average about $50 US a month for our electricity. The electricity bill the month before last popped up to about $100 US. We figured it was because it started to get cold and we started to use the heater a bit more. Well, the bill this month came to a whopping $243 US. I guess that’s the price for having the heater on all the time.

Out of curiosity, we calculated what the same usage would cost us in our previous residence in Atlanta, GA. The answer: about $100 US. This matches closely to the amount we paid for electricity in the winter months in Atlanta in a 3 bedroom house. This means two things: 1) that the heating system here is super inefficient and 2) electricity costs more than twice as much in Uruguay than Atlanta.

I’d like to say that we could just turn the heater off to save money, but I work from the house. If it’s too cold I can’t get much done because I’m completely uncomfortable. I guess if I was working in an office space the money we are spending on electricity would just go toward transportation and office space instead, and we wouldn’t really be saving money.

I Like My Lettuce With a Little Dirt On It

Last Friday while I was making dinner I realized that I really enjoy finding a bit of dirt on my produce. It means it’s fresh, no one tried to shine it up for me, and it wasn’t processed.

Friday is farmer’s market day, the day that we stock up on every little bit of fresh produce that we think we can manage to eat before it goes bad. We would much rather go to the farmer’s market to procure fresh produce because 1. it’s fresh and 2. its cheap.

Not only is the produce available at the farmer’s market fresh, but most of it is naturally or “responsibly” grown. In fact about 10% of Uruguay’s GDP is agriculture. Uruguay is a small country with a lot of undeveloped land that can be used for agriculture, and much of that farming is done without the use of pesticides and insecticides. Considering that it takes about 7 hours to reach the borders of Uruguay, most of the produce is also produced very locally! Uruguay even made ChinaBusiness’ top 10 Organic Farming countries list.

This tendency to work the land naturally also carries over to the cattle industry in Uruguay. The cattle raised in Uruguay, giving rise to the two biggest exports for the country, beef and leather goods, are all grass-fed, never given hormones, or kept in pens. The USDA has also granted Uruguayan beef grass-fed certification for U. S. markets.

Obviously it’s a great start and there’s always room to improve, but I gotta say that the produce available in Montevideo tastes much better than what we find in U.S. grocery stores.

Next time you prepare a meal, think about where your food is coming from. Find out about farmer’s markets in your area and think about eating locally. Also, for people in the U.S., think about checking out the Union of Concerned Scientists who are making concerted efforts at improving farm bill legislation to make it easier for organic farmers to survive and prosper.