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?