Friday, December 23, 2011

What are you waiting for?

It's that time of the year again. The Christmas music has come out. I'm a big Christmas music fan. It just feels cozy to me. But I'm a bit bitter at the moment, it seems, and I'm noticing a theme in my thoughts about a lot of the songs that have been coming up. Two in a row in particular that came up were women singing about wanting a man (whether a specific one or just one in general) and all I could think is how these women are waiting under the mistletoe for a man to come and find them (or for Santa to bring him), and I got to thinking about how much of our lives we spend waiting.
I'm not talking about waiting in line for coffee, or in traffic, or whatever menial thing we might have to do on any given day. I mean waiting to do what we really want to do.
And thus I want to ask you, what are you waiting for?
Once you've come up wit an answer to this question, I want you to stop waiting and do it.
This does not have to be something giant. I know there are some things you need to wait for. But that person you'd like a date with? Ask them out. That novel you want to write? Write it. That raise you want? Ask for it. The result will be the same whether you do it now or later, and waiting is only going to make you unhappy in the meanwhile.
Even with larger things, stop waiting quite so long. Want to quit your job? Start looking for a new one now. Want a new car? Pass up that night out and put those $20 in the bank.
Basically, we need to prioritize, what do you want, and what are you willing to do to get it? You can save money a lot more quickly if you're motivated. So know what you're saving for, and when you've thought it out, you'll realize that your daily coffee could be $1000 in the bank at the end of the year. And that's just a coffee. Get a coffee pot.
Maybe you might read this and think I'm naive, but hey, I'm moving abroad in less than three months,  I've figured out what I want, and I've gotten it. So what are you waiting for?

Monday, November 28, 2011

Pictures, #3

A few more shots.
Please share/use if you like.
Please give me credit/keep the ©
I have larger file sizes if you like.
Fly Away
Torres del Paine National Park, Chile

Torres del Paine National Park, Chile

Porque Piedras Trae
Torres Del Paine National Park, Chile

A Few More Pictures

I'm trying to limit the number of pictures per post down so it doesn't take forever to load.
I didn't mention in the last post, but I have these in larger size also if anyone wants them. Just don't forget credit/leave the ©
Out for a Cruise
Valparaíso, Chile

Valparaíso, Chile

Torres Del Paine
Torres Del Paine National Park, Chile

A Few Pictures

I've been meaning to put some of my photography up here. These aren't necessarily my favorites, just the first ones I got around to uploading.
Photography is something I love, so please let me know any thoughts you may have on my shots. And you can feel free to share/use them, but leave the ©/credit me please.

Unmarked graves of the unidentified victims of the Pinochet dictatorship:
National Cemetery, Santiago, Chile. 

Stairs to...
Viña del Mar, Chile

Valparaíso, Chile

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Prompt #23 - Tech

Prompt #23 of 30 Days of Indie Travel
Where would today’s travelers be without smartphones, GPS, iPods, iPads, or even the internet? Share one item of tech you can’t live without or tell us how technology has changed the way you travel.

Ok, so I know that over the last year and a half or so the iPad has become the cliche gadget of choice for, well, everyone, travelers included, but this is one of those times when the product really does live up to the hype. While I don't have an iPad 2 (nor any plans to upgrade), I feel like even the original product really does have exactly what a traveler needs. Translator? Check. Currency converter? Check. Lonely Planet guide? Check. Even flight trackers, Skype, and the super-important-when-your-plane-is-delayed Angry Birds. And, of course, and iPod. Battery life could be better, but I bring it everywhere.

Wherever you go, there you are.

This quote comes to mind when I think about my current complete lack of motivation. I spent a year on five continents, took part in a revolution, got a whole new family, learned a new language and greatly improved another, and now I'm in school. And it sucks, to be honest. But New Orleans is a great place,  and I wish I could enjoy my last month here, because for so many people this is a destination. So that's my goal for the next (almost) month. There is plenty of photographing to be done in this city, and I'm gonna do some of it.
If I ever write this paper so I have time.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Prompt #22 - Transport

Prompt #22 of 30 Days of Indie Travel
The word travel comes from a French word meaning “work” and sometimes, getting there is work. Between crowded buses, long airline delays, overnight trains and crazy rickshaw rides, transportation can be stressful, but it can also be a rewarding part of the tip. Tell us about a time when the journey became more important than the destination.

This prompt very quickly brought back a favorite memory of mine that I think pretty well conveys how accustomed I was getting to Cairo before I had to leave. 

On what turned out to be my last full day in Cairo before being evacuated, I took a minibus for the first and second times. Minibuses in Cairo are... interesting. Particularly when your Arabic leaves a lot to be desired. And particularly when you're a foreign woman. The first time, I was with my roommate Matt. We had bought some koshari and were bringing it to Tahrir with us, and our fellow passengers had plenty of questions for us, like why the hell foreigners were headed to Tahrir. But Matt handled most of the talking, since his Arabic is considerably better than mine, and pretended to be my boyfriend when the dude I was talking to turned out to be a bit too interested. But the ride back home was much more entertaining, for me at least.

On the way back, Matt was talking to an Egyptian friend he had made, and the dude kinda creeped me out, so I was walking a bit separate from them, further ahead. As we got back to the side of the river we lived on, where the roads were pretty much clear and a few minibuses were still running, I saw a minibus up ahead and dashed for it, not wanting to walk the rather long distance home from downtown if I didn't have to. I assumed Matt was behind me, but I was more interested in the bus. He wasn't behind me. Whatever, I got on. I was, of course, in the seat farthest from the door. I did have a window though, so I was fine with it as that meant sitting next to fewer possible creepers. I was ok with it until I realized I had to get off first, because this bus was going all the way to the 'burbs and I lived on the outskirt of the city, but still inside the city. In a bout of what I like to think of as Egyptian ingenuity, I climbed out the sliding window while we were stopped at a red light (we were one of te only vehicles on the road).

I'd like you to picture that. A white, young 20s woman climbing out the side, rear window of a dingy Egyptian minibus at a red light. It was a small victory. But it was awesome. I was figuring out how to get along in Cairo. If only I hadn't had to leave the next day...

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Prompt #13 - Home

Prompt #13 of 30 Days of Indie Travel
For some people, no matter how much they love traveling, there’s always no place like home. Other travelers make their homes wherever they happen to be. Tell us about your home – where is it and why do you consider it your home?

I'm gonna start doing these out of order, but i'm really gonna try to get to them all.

Home for me is really something I've been wondering about lately. I'm not really sure I have one. But that's ok. When I first thought about it it depressed me, but I've come to realize I don't need a place called home to feel at home. I feel at home when I'm with people who make me feel that way. Whether that's hanging out with friends at a bar or  playing cards in a living room or studying in a cafe. Whether it's in New Orleans or Massachusetts or Cairo or Santiago de Chile. Home is about the people who are there, not the stuff, or even the buildings.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Prompt #8 - Learning - Take Two

Day #8 of 30 Days of Indie Travel - take two
Travel and learning go hand in hand. Travel teaches us not only about the world and the people in it, but also more about ourselves and our own ideas and values. What has travel taught you this year?

I started this post a few months ago, but I never finished or posted it, I think it goes well with this prompt, so even though I already wrote a post on that prompt, I'm gonna post this one, too.

A bit over a year ago, I left the US on an airplane that would take me to Cairo, the beginning of what was an amazing year, certainly the best of all I've had so far, but that's not saying much since I've only actually had 22 of them. But this is not an entry about the adventures I had over the last year, God knows I had many opportunities to write those entries, but I never really got around to it. This entry is about some of the lessons I learned over the five continents, twenty-something airplanes, six addresses, and uncountable cups of tea that have come and gone in the last year.
Never think you don't need anyone. Never need someone too much. People really will rob you, be careful with your stuff. Despite this, trust strangers. Be a trustworthy stranger. Know where you are, but not necessarily where you're going. Ask directions if you do not know where you are. You get what you pay for. In some cases this is ok, but you could never imagine all the things that could possibly be wrong with your cheap-ass apartment until you've lived there for a month and then find a room-sized puddle in your kitchen one morning. Tell the police. If you're ever wondering if you should, you should. Help a friend in need. Drop everything to do so if necessary. Trust until proven nieve for doing so. Believe that people can change, but don't be surprised when they're only human. Know how many drinks it takes for you to go from that guy to that guy. Be nice to your landlord. Always carry a phrasebook. Don't be afraid to make your opinion known, especially in an unfamiliar group. Confide in someone. Cry if you need to. Even if it's in public. Just do it. If you see a stranger crying and are in a reasonable position to think you can help them, offer to do so. Don't cry too much.
One thing that many travelers may not realize is the extent to which women are objectified in a sexually repressed culture. Though I do not mean to say that all middle-eastern men are perverted little predators, sexual harassment and assault (touching, of any kind) are far more common in the Middle East than one could ever imagine before going. Many men seem to be under the impression that western women are much more sexually... liberal... which obviously means they should grab our asses on the streets, because we're totally ok with it, or are even asking for it by not veiling. Never allow a man even an inch when it comes to inappropriate behavior. A dramatic (though justified) and immediate response brings humiliation, and is in my experience the best deterrent.

Saturday, November 19, 2011


I thought I'd take a break from the 30 Days of Indie Travel project I've been working on to jump back to my current life. I started teaching myself Korean!
I don`t know about other travelers, but something that I've discovered about myself is that I am much more at ease traveling somewhere when I speak the language. Really the only place I've gone where I didn't speak the language at all was Turkey, and luckily I had a friend there with me to make fools of ourselves and get lost together. And I was there for four days. Usually I travel alone, though, and that can be pretty scary when you don't speak the language.
I know that going to Korea I will be greeted at the airport by someone from my school who speaks English, but I will have my own apartment, I will be in a city that's not very known to tourists and only has a few hundred English teachers among its 600,000 residents. So I'm learning Korean. As of Tuesday.
I know most of the letters of the alphabet, a doezen food words, and 20 or so other words that were used as pronunciation examples as I was learning the alphabet, like "pants," "squid," and "bridge." I have no idea how to make sentences, but I can write and pronounce the word for rice, soup, and a couple other basics, and I know how to write kimchi! So far, I'm definitely that traveler who speaks in nouns and points and plays charades. But it's been three days, so I'm not worried. Hopefully by the time I leave I'll be able to find a bathroom, ask directions, and make a bit less of a fool of myself than the average tourist!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Day #11 - Feast

Day #11 of 30 Days of Indie Travel
For some of us, food isn’t just a part of our travels, it’s the reason why we travel. Whether you travel the globe to try new foods and use food to form a deeper connection with the culture or just eat to live, food plays a big part in the travel experience. Share a food-related story from your travels or describe your best meal.

I'm gonna digress a bit on this one, though it'll still be about food (I promise). Here I'm gong to tell you not how I enjoyed traveling more because of food, but how I enjoyed staying more. This is also related to the "related article" they have listed on this blog prompt - street food. What is this magical, mystical food that made me love staying, you ask? Batatas! For those of you who don't speak Arabic, it's a potato. Specifically a sweet potato. Even more specifically, bought from a dude who rolls around a giant metal cylinder with a chimney and will trade you a piping hot sweet potato wrapped in used paper for a Pound or two. No, not a Pound Sterling, an Egyptian Pound, about 0.17 USD.
Now, you may ask how exactly this man made me love staying, and you would probably not be alone in wondering that. But my roommate Matt and I had almost made a game out of finding the batata man - as his store was on wheels it was often rather a challenge - after we discovered his existence in our new neighborhood in December. We would actually make a point of telling the other when we found the batata man, even pointing him out if we were in a cab together and we drove by him.
I know this isn't exactly your average food story, but something I have neglected to mention, which I feel is obligatory for a post about food, is that the batatas were damn good. But that was totally not (all of) the point. Moving to an apartment in a new neighborhood with a landlady that barely spoke English, an apartment that was kind a piece of crap (you get what you pay for, we were ok with it, but still) in a neighborhood that's certainly not a popular tourist destination (and thus where I was subject to more prejudice for both being white and for being a woman, and also where much less English was spoken so I had to survive with my ever-improving but still much-to-be-desired Arabic skills) is kinda stressful. But the batata man was awesome. He had good food, cheap, didn't care that we were white, and made us feel local. So I was excited to be staying, because of batatas.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Day # 10 - Earth

Day # 10 of 30 Days of Indie Travel
At what point in your travels have you felt most in tune with the Earth? Share a story of how you interacted with the local environment or nature.

For a location where I felt most in tune with nature I would say Patagonia, specifically Torres del Paine National Park in Chile. For a specific moment, though, I have to say San Pedro de Atacama, Chile.

I was on my way home from a late-night, "clandestine" party - the parties there have to be held outside of town because the tourists don't like to be kept up at night - and as we were walking through a field I looked up. Never in my life have I ever been so aware of the stars. The friend I was with, a Chilean, kept asking me why I had stopped walking. It was like he didn't see it. The stars, I told him, they're so beautiful. The Atacama desert - the driest in the world - is also known for one of the world's best views of the night sky. I knew this when I traveled there, but I didn't quite realize what that meant until I was string up at the 3AM sky, gawking like a child at the pitch black sky filled with more stars than I had ever imagined could be seen at one time. It was incredible.

Day #9 One Day - Sorta.

Day #9 of 30 Days of indie Travel
Travel helps us better appreciate the present moment instead of always looking to the next thing. Describe one perfect day you had while traveling this year. Where were you? What were you doing? And what made it perfect?

I surprised myself when I read this. I couldn't think of any particular day. I've had amazing days, but none of them would by any means be described as the stars aligning or even by me being lucky. Some of the best days I've had traveling were spent protesting against  a dictator - something that eventually got me evacuated from that country - or being amazed by the kindness of strangers after being robbed - two days I don't think anyone would count as lucky.

In writing this I did think of one day that went surprisingly well. And this day doesn't start at the beginning of a day but the beginning of a country, at the end of a day. I arrived in Morocco from Seville, and I'll leave that part of the story out, but once I got there I had a pleasant conversation in the passport check line with an American expat family. After I exchanged my currency the mother approached me to offer me a ride into town. Seeing as we'd arrived after dark and she had her two youngish children with her, I accepted. They told me a bit about Fez, and I told them a bit about myself, my travels, and the mother even came with me into the hostel i was staying at to make sure the room was acceptable (by my standard - it was a hostel in Africa, the standards weren`t too high), and then left, no expectation of anything in return. I did thank them profusely. The next morning I had a frustrating walk through the souq of Fez - I got lost, big surprise (as the largest motor-vehicle free urban area in the world, it is full of winding alleys and if you don't get lost you're not int he right place). The guide say's that`s half the fun. but only a few days out from being robbed, I wasn't having fun. I returned to my hostel - steps from the famous entryway from the souq - to sit on the small patio and people-watch. Suddenly, I turn around to see a familiar face. Two girls from the school I was studying at in Cairo were looking around the hostel, considering staying there.
This should not have been that big a deal, and at the time it wasn't, but I now realize that these two girls probably saved my vacation. I traveled with them for a few days - including to a city I had never even heard of - Chefchauen - where tourists are much rarer and the walls are washed BLUE. it was beautiful and on the side of a mountain, which we climbed a bit. I bought a rug that I will probably bring with me everywhere I travel, if only as bedspread. Most of all, though, I spent a few days of my solo trip with some english-speaking, friendly faces. It was a treat.

So I guess that`s not really a day, but turn around in what could have been a ruined trip.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Day #8 - Learning

Day #8 of 30 Days of Indie Travel
Travel and learning go hand in hand. Travel teaches us not only about the world and the people in it, but also more about ourselves and our own ideas and values. What has travel taught you this year?

I think the best thing I learned this year is that I don't miss home as much as I thought I would. Of course, a box of Cheez-its after 6 months abroad is always welcome, but something I hadn't realized until a discussion I had with some other travelers is just ow much most people miss home. When we were getting ready to leave Chile we had an optional event to go talk in English about reverse culture shock and returning home. Everyone talked about how much they missed certain people, places, foods, being in a place where the language spoken is our native one, etc. It was at that event that I realized that the fact that I get along just fine without "home" is not normal. I'm glad to be abnormal like that, because it makes traveling that much simpler.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Day #7 - Celebrate

Day #7 of 30 Days of Indie Travel
Joining in a local festival, holiday or special event is a great way to learn more about a local culture. Share the story of a celebration that meant something to you on your travels.

I feel like my stories for this one are not as cool as they have been for the others... o well.

When I arrived in Egypt it was the middle of the month of Ramadan. I knew a limited amount about it, but I learned fast. Mostly this involved stocking up on food to eat in the privacy of my room and getting used to the odd opening hours of stores and accepting that everyone slept all day. But it also involved some excellent conversations with some Muslim friends about  the holiday and what it meant to them. 

A second was Eid al Adha, when animals are slaughtered in the street and everyone is encouraged to donate what they can so that everyone has something to eat for the holiday. The giving was really nice, and the holiday in general kinda reminded me of Thanksgiving.

Another celebration that was one of my favorite abroad was my own birthday. This past year I was in Chile for my birthday, living with a host family. The day before, I went out to dinner with a bunch of gringo friends at a Middle Eastern restaurant I had been wanting to try. The night of my birthday, I went out with a few gringos and a bunch of Chilean friends and we went dancing. The next day, the extended family came over for onces and they all bought me little presents. My sister made me a picture frame with family photos. 
This was the first birthday I'd spent away from home, and I realized that at home I have one group of amazing friends, but it's just the one group. Having several groups to celebrate my birthday with in different ways was a new and awesome experience. And being away from home is one I'll have to get used to since I'll be in Korea next year, I'm excited for it.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Day #6 - Fears

Just as travel can be fun and exciting, it can also have its challenging, or even downright scary, moments. Being in a new place pushes us out of our comfort zone and makes us face our fears. Tell about a time you had to face your fear when traveling, and what was the result.

I have a few for this one. They have varied types of discomfort, and varied lessons/rewards to go with them. They're not really in a particular order.

1. Creepy Cabbie in Cairo
Something I knew going to Cairo is that cabbies are not always the safest way to get home after a night out like they are in the West. But sometimes you don't have another option. My first experience with the expectations some (please don't take this to mean all, I met many nice Egyptian men) Egyptian men have for white women, especially at night. Everything turned out fine and it could have been much worse, but I didn't take a cab by myself for months, even in the daylight. 
I learned about myself and about my surroundings, and I told people about it and I hopefully helped some of them avoid having something worse happen to them.

2. Being followed in Marrakech
This one is a pretty normal fear, that exists for pretty much everyone pretty much everywhere, especially white women wandering by themselves. And this was in broad daylight. I'd decided that I wanted to explore a bit outside the regular souq. I was a bit lost, but nothing irreparable. I was a somewhat flustered, though. Then a man approached me and grabbed my butt. I pushed him. He stayed walking next to me. I sped up. He did, too. I turned a corner. So did he. I turned around to face him and ran back past him, toward the small souq I had recently passed. He thought it'd be a better idea to not follow.
I was really proud of myself after that. I was by myself in a somewhat secluded place where I only spoke a bit of the local language. And I handled myself pretty well.

3. Not speaking the language in Istanbul
My first experience traveling to a country where I didn't speak the language AT ALL was this winter in Istanbul. This was certainly a smaller fear than the others I've mentioned, but nonetheless an issue. I was supposed to be meeting a friend at a hostel, but I was running late as I had narrowly avoided losing my debit card. I couldn't find this hostel anywhere. It was much colder in January in Istanbul than Cairo, where I had come from. I had a giant pack full of all my stuff for 3 weeks. Eventually an English-speaking man came to my rescue.
On a side note, this man was awesome. He surely knew that I was alone in a foreign city where I didn't speak the language as it was getting dark. He never entered my personal space (a Western concept, something Turks are prone to ignore), he led me from a nice distance, making nice conversation but never asking intrusive questions. It was just what I needed. Thank you English-speaking Turk man (to go with the kindness fo the previous post).

4. Being robbed and alone in Madrid
See my previous two posts on mistakes and the kindness of strangers.

Day #5 - Kindness

Day 5 of 30 Days of Indie Travel
One of the greatest joys of travel can be the random acts of kindness you’ll receive from total strangers. Have you ever found kindness from strangers in unexpected places?

This post, for me, is very related to the recent one on mistakes.
I was at a pretty low point after being robbed. I had considered returning to Cairo early and calling my vacation a bust. I had been robbed at a club in Madrid and my prepaid days at the hostel were up because I was supposed to be leaving that day for Salamanca. The manager told me I could stay until I got everything sorted out. Thank you Mr. Manager.

I then set out, with 2 Euro given to me by the woman at the front desk, to the embassy. I explained everything to them and they were of not very much help. But as I was leaving the window to return to my hostel, a woman approaches me. She says she heard my story and she had the same thing happen to her a few weeks ago, except her passport was also stolen. She puts 10Euro in my hand and tells me to ave some lunch. Did I mention that I hadn't eaten all day? Thank you, random woman in embassy.

I returned to my hostel after having eaten a small lunch, hoping to save a few of my Euros for dinner, since I wasn't expecting my wire transfer until the next day. I headed to the computer room, which you have to go through the kitchen to get to, and there were people cooking dinner. I made a comment about it smelling delicious and another woman made some comment I don't remember (but that involved me spending money) and I told her I didn't have any because I'd been robbed. She then insisted on taking me to dinner. And wouldn't let me pay her back when I got my wire transfer the next day.  Thank you random woman in my hostel. I think her name was Tammy.

These bits of kindness made that terrible day a bit less terrible, and although being robbed did nearly ruin my first solo travel experience, these few people kept me sane that first day and that was a big help.

Day #4 - Mistakes

Everyone makes mistakes. We forget to ask for Coke without ice in Mexico and spend the rest of the trip in the bathroom. Or we arrive at the airport for a 7pm flight only to realize the flight left at 7am. Tell us the story of your worst travel mistake.

For me, the worst was a night this January. I was in Madrid, traveling solo for a few weeks during my winter break from classes in Cairo. We were at a club. Jackets were stupidly left in a pile. We went to leave and mine was gone. along with my camera and wallet (and a favorite tshirt) that had been in the pockets. It was stupid, but also unlucky. There were quite a few of us, and mine was the only jacket taken. I was supposed to leave in the morning for Salamanca, which I ended up skipping. I lost all of my pictures from Istanbul where I had been the week before, and my pictures of Madrid, Seville, and Morocco are from my camera phone. I had to have my dad wire me money and relied on several awesome strangers who bought me food while I was waiting on my dad. And I really could've used a camera for the revolution I arrived back to in Cairo, my pictures from that are all taken from my phone, too. 
It was a mistake that led to a lot of tears and a few ruined days of vacation, but I salvaged it and managed to make the most out of my vacation. Getting out of the Euro Zone helped with that, too.
So, that's my stupid mistake. Luckily my passport was safe in my hostel. This had been my first experience traveling by myself, so I learned a lesson and I survived the consequences. Thank god I was still in Spain where I spoke the language, my Arabic, while passable in daily situations, would not have gotten me far with being robbed.

Day #3 - Travel Music

Day #3 of 30 days of Indie Travel
Music and travel memories often go hand in hand. A song can inspire our explorations, or it can take us back to a specific place and time. Tell us about your travel playlist and what it means to you.

My music is always super upbeat. I study to Mika and LMFAO. It's the same when I travel, with one addition. I love to listen to music in the language f where I'm going. So far most of my travel has been to places where I speak the language, at least somewhat, making that much easier. This is going to get more difficult as I head to Korea. Do I really want to listen to KPOP?

For Chile

For Egypt

And for the Egyptian Revolution

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Day 2 - I've got some catching up to do.

Day #2 of 30 days of Indie Travel
Change can be exciting and bring new joys into our lives. But it can present challenges that frustrate or annoy us. How has travel changed you in the last year? Did you welcome these changes or resist them at the time, and how do you feel about them now?

Change. I have no idea where to begin. How I've changed in the last year. A year ago almost exactly I was about to embark on a trip that would make me realize some things about myself that were kinda painful, and I realized some things about the people I thought were my friends that were just as painful. Even more than a world traveling change I've changed how I see people because I was really hurt by the people I considered my friends and I think that's made me a bit more reserved about who I want to have around me. 
That was just the change that happens to be exactly a year ago. 
I've also learned that I can handle myself when I've been robbed while traveling alone in a foreign country. That has given me the confidence to trust myself. And I learned from the mistakes that caused it in the first place.
That confidence helped me to dodge a creepy guy following me through some back alleys in a country where I didn't speak the language and to (mostly) keep my cool while doing it.
I've come to realize the importance of standing up for what you believe in.
I've learned what it's like to have a sister, even if she's not technically mine.
I've realized just how much I love to teach, to travel, and to be a photographer.
I've changed in so many ways.

30 Days of Indie Travel

I came across a 30 days of travel blogging challenge called 30 Days of Indie Travel, which has a different blog prompt for every day of November. I'm not too far behind, so I'm gonna give it a try.

Day #1:
What were your travel goals last year? Did you accomplish them? What travel goals do you hope to accomplish this year?

This time last year I was on a train from Cairo to Luxor. I had accomplished pretty much everything I could have hoped for as far as travel for the year: I was 2 and a half months in to what was supposed to be a 10 month stay in Egypt.

My goal was to learn Arabic and Middle Eastern Politics, and have the time of my life. 

In Egypt I saw ancient temples and tombs in Luxor, Aswan and Abu Simbel, watched the sun rise over Saudi Arabia and bathed in the Red Sea in the beach town fo Dahab, and saw and climbed inside the Great Pyramids of Giza, and learned so much about myself.

I also had the chance to travel over the winter, and spent most of January in Istanbul, Spain and Morocco. On these trips I was forced to learn some lessons about myself as I struggled to make the most of my trip after being robbed about a week in.

Upon my return to Egypt I got a lot more Middle Eastern Politics than I bargained for. A whole revolution full of Middle Eastern politics and the chance to be a part of history. The events of my last week in Egypt will probably be the most memorable of my life for a long time.

What I did not accomplish was the second half of my year. I did not learn as much Arabic as I had hoped, and I did not get to take the journey to Jordan Lebanon and Israel over my extended spring break. I never went to the Egyptian Museum, the Black and White Deserts, the Siwa Oasis, or St. Catharine's Monastary. These are on my list for when I can go back.

This is not to say I did not get something in exchange for what I missed out on. After being abruptly torn from my  barely month-old lease on the apartment I was just starting to call home for the second half of my year, I got to dash through Paris, had a brief week to see some friends an family, and then was whisked off to Chile, where I spent the next five months.

In Chile I had so many amazing experiences, gained a family I will never forget and friends who can't be beat. I got to drastically improve my Spanish and make friends with all kinds of locals, something I never got a lot of a chance to do in Egypt with my limited Arabic. I traveled from the mountains of Patagonia to the desert of Atacama, the driest in the world. I saw abandoned mines in Iquique and learned about the modern-day lives of indigenous peoples in Temuco. I saw two of Pablo Neruda's three houses, all filled with the most amazing collections of oddities and explored the costal cities of Valparaíso and Viña del Mar.

So did I accomplish the goals I had for myself at this time last year? I'd say yes. And so much more. What I've accomplished and learned about myself and the world in the last year is so far beyond what I could have expected.

So now for next year.

I've decided (during one of te breaks in writing this post, actually), that I will be accepting a job offer to teach English in Korea next year. I begin February 23rd. My goals for next year, then, are: 1.) To immerse myself in a culture that I am for the most part completely unfamiliar with, 2.) To travel to at least one other country while in Korea (hopefully Thailand!) and to do a lot of traveling within Korea, 3.) To learn Korean, 4.) To decide if living and teaching abroad is something I can see myself doing long-term, and 5.) If so, to figure out where to next.

I think those are good goals. 

Hopefully I remember to do these 30 days again next November and we'll see how they go.

I have a job?

I've been interviewing for positions in Korea for over a month now, and I am getting pretty close to signing a contract with a school. I spoke last night with the woman I would be replacing and It was a good conversation, I'm only still hesitant because I would be signing a contract so far in advance of actually starting work in late February.
For the moment it's seeming like Korea will be the next country on my list. From the Nile to the Andes to the Big Easy to... central Korea?

Monday, October 17, 2011

Seeking suggestions

I'm trying to make a list of things that I'd like to have/remember to bring with me for my journeys that would make life/packing easier. I've tried to separate into sections of clothing, tech, and general utility. Some of these things are clearly just something to remember, and others I need to look into buying, and that's where the suggestions begin. I would also love suggestions/additions in the general utility items to remember. Remember we're going for minimal packing, so combining things/ having multi-use items is important)'

Stylish and comfortable walking shoes
Hiking footwear (possibly combinable with previous, but I need something somewhat stylish, and hiking and stylish don't mix too well)
Rain Jacket (brand suggestions?)
comfy-chic dress (horney toad's panoply has been recommended, but I'd love other multi-purpose suggestions)
smart layers (suggestions for utilitarian and attractive?)
Black V-neck Sweater (or similar - useful for anytime)
White button-down (when can't you wear this?)
Convertible pants (,default,pd.html has been suggested, accepting alt. suggestions)
Walking sandals (Teva or similar)

Zoom lens - I just have to buy one, already have DSLR
Sony CyberShot DSC H100V (or similar, looking for snazzy features and compact size)
Audio recorder (inexpensive, digital)
Polarizer lens - Again just have to buy
Tech case - just bought one from Lowepro, let you know how it is when I get it.

Packing/General Utility
Eagle Creek Pack (I like the ones with the zip-off daypacks, anyone know of another brand that does this??)
Self-inflating mattress - looking into NeoAir at the moment, want comfort and low weight more than warmth.
Sleeping Bag
Pack cover - rain, rain, rain
Air pillow (brand?)
Drylite towel (brand?)
Travel clothesline
Duct tape
pain reliever, allergy meds, tums, toilet paper, hand sanitizer, Neosporin, clothes detergent, water purification tablets, shake light/wind-up torch, baby wipes
Swiss army knife
Protein bars, peanut butter (other filling small snack?)
Game: uno, etc. (suggestions, preferably language independent?)

That's my list for now. I'm sure it'll grow.

Back in an English speaking country? What?

So I kinda failed at blogging while I was there, but I had an amazing semester in Chile and am now about halfway done with my last semester at Tulane (aaahhhhhh!!). And since I'm back in a boringly English-speaking country I am, of course, trying to figure out how to get somewhere else as soon as possible. My current top possibility is teaching EFL in Korea.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Sorry, I've been busy having fun

Things I've been up to:
I went to Patagonia (southern tip of the world) two weekends ago.I went to Temuco last weekend, also south of here but not quite so far, for a trip with my entire program.
I'm going to see Chico Trujillo next weekend.
I'm going to Fantasilandia tomorrow.
I had a paper from hell due yesterday morning.
I'm picking classes today for next semester, trying to graduate.
I met my tandem partner yesterday, he seems nice.
I had a field trip with my Human Rights class to a museum Wednesday, and I have to write a paper on a memorial and use some of the information from this museum, I think.
At the museum there was a video of some protesters getting beaten and I literally couldn't watch it.
I still get flashbacks when I see armored police vans on the streets of Santiago (luckily I don't see them very often)
I started my application for the Peace Corps, Teach For America and a Fulbright Scholarship.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Getting used to life in the middle of ñowhere (though don't get me wrong it's much less the middle of nowhere than New Cairo)

It's been far too long. I need to get better at this.
Alright, the last 2 weeks. I... went to a lot of classes, aparrantly mostly for nothing, because the ones I selected and signed up for today I have, for the most
part, never been to. Of the four ramos I plan on taking I have been to two of them zero times, one once, and one twice. One class I'm not taking I've been to three times... Also, I am incredibly emocionado (excited) to finally be (almost) done selecting classes, it is a process that I would not wish on anyone.
Two weekends ago I went to Valparaíso, a costal city, and wen
t to the beach. I had a great time in the (huge) waves and got very VERY burnt. That sunday I did absolutely nothing because, well, owwwww.
Last weekend was a lot of going out. I went out
Thursday night to do karaoke with some friends, and then we ended up going to a club and dancing. Friday we went out because, well, it was Friday? Saturday we went out so that we could start of my friend Greg's birthday with a drink at midnight. Sunday, for Greg's birthday, we went to Fantasilandia, a magical place that I am absolutely in LOVE with. It was the most ridiculous day I have had so far in Chile, and far too much craziness happened for me to describe it all here, but we had an epic day, and we assume that videos of our craziness are probably up on Youtube somewhere. We're that cool. After that we went to Greg's house for cake and stuff, and had more good times reminiscing over music from our childhoods.
Tonight SHAKIRA is in town, but I can't go beca
use I went to buy my ticket the other day and all the cheap tickets are sold out =(. I was SO excited for this concert and I'm really bummed that I can't go. My friends are all on their way there now. ='(
This weekend, I'll be going RAFTING. As in white water rafting. I'm super psyched and hope it'll be awesome. There's an asado after with grille
d food and beer and I feel like it should be a good day all around.

At some point this week (I can't keep the days straight) I had onces with my extended host family, many of whom I had never met before. I took this picture so that y'all could see my family. On the far right is Daniela, my hermana (sister) Daniela (Dani) and second from the left, on the couch is my host mom Margarita. They're the two I live with. O, and:

This is our gatita. She's adorable and fluffy.

Monday, February 28, 2011

If you don't speak Spanish, don't worry, there's nothing impotant in here.

De ves en cuando creo que voy a escribir unos de estos en Español porque muchas de las cosas que hago acá son e Español y por esto es más facil hablar sobre ellas en Español. La primero de estas cosas que quiero anotar son los Chilenismos. Los chilenismos, o la jargon de Chile, es muy dificil entender para todos los hispanohablantes. Además, todos los hispanohablantes hablan muy rapido (creo que es verdad en todas las lenguas) y por eso es dificil entender para los extranjeros. Pues, es muy dificil entender a los chilenos, específicamente para los extranjeros que no son hispanohablantes.
Por eso, creo que va a ser dificil entender a mis profes y a mis compañeros chilenos cuando necesito hablar con ellos sobre mis clases. No se, i espero que no va a ser así, pero ahora creo que sí.

it's been a busy week

This week was my Contemporary Chile class, which involved lectures in the mornings and field trips in the afternoons. The lectures were all pretty standard, different topic of contemporary Chile every day, from economics to poetry. In the evenings after class let out generally a few of us would wander around for awhile before going home, or we would all just flee the heat to go take a nap.
Listening and thinking and speaking and writing in a foreign language all day is exhausting, and it is much worse here than I found it to be in Egypt because my classes were in English and my roommates were American and I never had to speak Arabic if I didn't want to. Here, on the other hand, I live with Chileans, listen to lectures in Spanish, have to converse with the program directors in Spanish, and oftentimes we gringos even speak amongst ourselves in Spanish.
In addition I am learning the way of life of Chilenos, something that is different enough from our own daily habits that it requires some getting used to. The food is different (but delicious, in general), the Metro is different, the music is different, the alcohol is different, the culture in general is just different. I'm getting used to it, though. It's definitely much more western than Egypt, so it's less culture shock than before.
I went yesterday to Valparaíso, which is a coastal city about an hour and a half bus ride from here (no problem for me, since oftentimes it took longer than that for me to get home from class last semester). We went to the beach and did some wandering, and I got a pretty painful sunburn that luckily felt somewhat better when I woke up this morning.
I can't believe that classes start this week and I am actually going to have to start going to multiple lectures a day, all in Spanish, read Spanish lecturas, make friends with Chileans, and write term papers, IN SPANISH. Hopefully this will not be as ridiculously difficult as I'm imagining it will be, but I'm already seeing that this semester's GPA will be nowhere near as nice looking as last's, and I'm going to hae to work a lot harder for it.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

The article I wrote for the Tulane paper... A more detailed account to come.

Revolution. For so many Americans today, it is a very strange thing to think of. In the United States we have a consolidated democracy.

We vote into office those who we believe will lead our country in the right direction in free and fair elections at scheduled interviews. We have welfare programs and subsidies to help alleviate poverty and aid the disabled. We have laws entitling everyone to healthcare in emergent situations, even if they can’t afford it.

So why would we ever think of revolution? Well, we wouldn’t. As far as the state of the world is concerned, we have it pretty good.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock recently, though, you may have noticed that this is not true in all parts of the world, and the act of a street vendor setting himself ablaze in the streets of Tunisia has in turn lit a fire in the hearts of many across the Middle East and the world.

I know it has lit a fire in mine.

Unlike most Americans, however, who have trouble comprehending revolution, I have taken part in one. I was five months into my year abroad in Cairo, Egypt, when the Egyptian people decided that President Hosni Mubarak had been in power 30 years too many, and they were going to do something about it.

I took part in many protests, but by far the most memorable were those of Friday, January 28, 2011. It did not matter if we were Muslim or Christian or none of the above. Rich or poor, doctors or students or taxi drivers or fruit vendors, we all gathered outside of mosques for the afternoon prayer – the Friday afternoon prayer is the most important of the week, like Sunday morning mass for Christians – whether we planed to pray or not.

Immediately after the prayers, we all stood up and began chanting in Arabic against the regime. For the most part I had to ask my Egyptian friends what many of the words meant, but it wasn’t even necessary, I knew exactly what was being said, and so I chanted. I chanted until my voice went hoarse. I chanted because this was a cause I believed in. Democracy. And not imposed from the outside, but one that was being demanded by the people.

The government did everything in its power to stop us, from water cannons and tear gas and rubber bullets to cutting internet and even cell phone service. But we were not deterred. We all banded together in a showing of solidarity the likes of which I had never seen.

We passed out procedure masks, the closest thing to gas masks that my friends and I were able to acquire on short notice. Others came with liter bottles of vinegar or of Pepsi, or with chopped up pieces of onion to share, all of which help alleviate the effects of tear gas when applied to the face (there’s a few facts I never thought I’d learn while studying abroad).

People I had never met thanked me, clearly the whitest around, for my support, although many were confused why I was there. Even further, one of the chants that was interspersed with the (clearly) more common, stereotypical “fall of the regime” stuff was my favorite, “Muslim, Christian, we are all Egyptian.” In a country that only weeks prior had been split along religious lines by the bombing of a new year’s service at a Coptic (Christian) Church, this show of solidarity proved to me that this was truly a revolution of Egyptians, regardless of any other identity one may have held.

I’ve shed many tears in the last few weeks. I cried because for several hours I thought my friend was among the over 300 people who were martyred fighting for freedom in Egypt alone. I cried looking though photo slideshows showing makeshift memorials of people I had never met. I also cried with happiness when I found out that Mubarak had finally stepped down after 18 days of protests because I am so inspired by what I have seen and been a part of that could not contain myself. While I could not be happier that no more people have to die for the Egyptian cause, thousands have been killed across the region fighting for similar freedoms, and I cry for them, too.

I understand that for many Americans the concept of revolution is a foreign one – why wouldn’t it be? For me, though, when I watch the news from half a world away, evacuated from the history I so wanted to be a part of, I feel that fire burning in my heart and I know that I have been forever changed by what I have been a part of.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

I'm trying to blog more

Ok, so today I got a new SIM card (chip) for my Blackberry (no plan, just regular talking and texting). Had more boring presentations, had lunch, more presentations, met in groups and got ice cream, got introduced to our teachers (tutores) for our mini-course, and then went out in groups with Chilean cultural ambassadors (university students who signed up to come show us around). My group got ice cream and got serenaded by a street performer.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Made it!

I made it to Chile. We had a long day of orientation yesterday and another today, but today's ended with meeting our families!! My sister came to get me, her name is Daniela, and my mother just got home from work a little while ago. and we have a cat. Named Blackberry. My room is cute/nice, I unpacked all my stuff and I'll probably take pictures soon. I think I'm going to like it here. Also, the whole Spanish thing isn't as difficult as I was expecting it to be =), hopefully I won't completely die in my lectures like I was thinking I would.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Ready, Set...

Alright, I'm almost finished packing. Except of course for all the things that have separated themselves from my possession in the last month. Including but not limited to my wallet (replaced), camera (upgraded), makeup (replaced-ish), toothbrush (replaced), laptop charger (replaced), bracelet (not really replaceable), watch (still hoping to find somewhere) and life in Cairo (might return to someday?). Now all I have to do is finish packing my carry-on, go to the doctor in the morning to make sure my toe isn't going to fall off, find stuff to do all day, and then get on a plane to Dallas at 5:50 and another to Santiago less than an hour after that lands. Not to tough, right? Except I can't picture myself moving to yet another country. I don't want to be on another plane tomorrow. it'll make planes number 9 and 10 of 2011. and it's only been a month and a half of the year. And 4 of those flights will have been 5+ hours long. To quote something I said earlier today that seemed to resonate well, "I just want to be in one place long enough to get my head screwed on straight."

Monday, February 14, 2011

New Blog

I might continue to post things here, as I get around to writing about my winter break and, y'know the revolution, but seeing as I am not longer in Egypt, Amanda In Egypt is being retired. I've created a new blog for my semester in Chile, which can be found here.


Well, I was planning on still being in Egypt this semester (You can see last semester's blog here), but it seems the Egyptian people finally decided that Mubarak needed to go, and apparently that means it's too unsafe for me to study there, according to Tulane. I'm not going to complain, because he did need to get out, and I could not be happier that the revolution succeeded and that I got to be a part of it, but I wish I hadn't had to leave.
So I've been home for a week and a half, and I jet off tomorrow to Chile. I'm kinda freaking out, because all of my classes will be in Spanish, and I haven't spoken much Spanish since lat year. Also, I feel like everyone else has been preparing for this a lot longer than the week I've had to prepare.

Saturday, February 12, 2011


I can't believe it. I know I haven't been updating (I'll fix that soon), but Hosni Mubarak just stepped down as Egyptian president after two and a half weeks of protests, the reason that I am no longer able to study in Egypt. I can't believe he's gone, I literally cried with happiness for what I think was the first time ever. I still have trouble believing that the country I lived in for such a short time became so close to my heart, but it certainly did. These last three weeks have been such an emotional roller coaster, and I am so incredibly ecstatic that Egyptians will finally be able to get on with their lives... without Mubarak.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Winter break

Break so far has certainly been interesting. I wish I had been keeping up with blogging, because I'm not really sure where I left off.
My friends leaving was sad, but all of their departures were incredibly strange and almost awkward at times. Think "I've hung out with you every day for the last couple months but I might never see you again." Weird, right?
Christmas was pathetic. We had a delicious dinner at our friend Omar's house on Christmas eve, but that was definitely not a foreshadowing of how the next day would go. I had some pretty good plans but they didn't really pan out; I spent the day shopping at City Stars, the massive mall in the outskirts of the city, with Tamera. I felt it was somewhat ironic to spend Christmas shopping, both because everything in the US is closed and because we were being, as we liked to cal it, "materialistic whores" lol. I spent the evening (and into the morning) with my few friends that were still left in town, wearing santa hats, eating chinese food and at a bar. Sadly the chinese food was as Christmas-y as my Christmas got. Well, actually Tamera and I bought each other Arabic music CDs at the mall and wrapped them in whatever we could find and gave them to each other. lol. Certainly different.
In the days between Christmas and new years we spent a lot of time at Horreya, which is a difficult place to explain to those of you who have never been there. Technically the place is a bar, because its basis is the drinking of alcohol, but it's more of a place for socializing than for actually drinking (though don't get me wrong, you can't really go there and not drink, the overly assertive and obnoxious host [I guess that's what you'd call him] Milad will make sure you always have a beer or I.D. [in my case] in your hand). Literally translated as "freedom," Horreya is a great place to meet interesting people. Tamera and Mostafa and I made some friends there and hung out with them several times this past week.
On new years eve I met Greg, who is studying here from Tulane next semester and for the winter term. he had just arrived the previous day and so I showed him around Zamalek and then he joined Tamera, Mostafa and I for our new years plans, which hadn't actually been made as of that point. After a somewhat infuriating day of dealing with different shit, we finally got to the place that we had chosen a bit before 11, only to be told that there were only VIP tickets remaining, so we were forced to pay 250LE instead of the 100 we were expecting, but we got an extra drink and some decent tasting Lebanese food. Whatever. We were dancing at midnight, but the countdown was... I guess as new years countdowns tend to be, less dramatic than expected and somewhat off-time. We then ended up on a houseboat on the Nile, where Tamera accidentally dropped one of her heels in the Nile (lol), and then proceeded to throw the other one in after it (What's the use of one shoe?).
I've now fully moved into my craptastic apartment (as of the 24th). Let me tell you some of the ways in which it is craptastic, not for the sake of complaining but for the sake of illustrating. I havent taken a real shower with hot water and/or any decent amout of water pressure since moving in. Today, our kitchen sink started leaking everywhere. We have ants, and cockroaches. Our internet still isnt set up. We live in a walk-up, when every other building in the city basically has an elevator. The walls are paper thin, aka i can hear every sound on the street 4 stories down. My heater doesn't work. The washing machine is from the 50s (no joke, I described it to my dad and that's what he said) and there's no dryer. But I'm not letting it bother me, and so far I think I'm dealing with it pretty well. It's just one of those things that I need to get used to, and one more reason that I will be excited to go home in May. I do have to say that if this is living like an Egyptian, I am glad that I'm American. As shallow as that may make me, technological advances have happened and they make life easier and I like being able to take advantage of them.
Oh, I forgot to mention that Tamera got a kitten. her name is Jasmine. Well, it finally got to be Jasmine after going through several others for about a day each. Its adorable.
On a final note, I'm leaving for Turkey, Spain and Morocco on Wednesday. I won;t be able to call anyone via Skype until I get home, most likely, so I will try to update this blog regularly. As always, there should be regular Facebook updates. I would put out my plans for what I'm going to be doing on here, but I don't really have cemented plans, so it will probably work better if I just update about things after I've done them.