One of my favorite weekends involved a road trip to the Coromandel to celebrate Nick’s birthday at the newly-purchased home of Andrew McLean. We had a complete blast making music with melodeons and djembes, rebuilding bonfires on the beach, and eating crazy amounts of barbecued meats and veggies. I have never witnessed such a unified affinity for nature by a country. Through the channel of our local contact, it felt like we got a taste of this focus on the outdoors and the joys of sharing it with friends. I endeavor to adopt a little of this and take it with me wherever I go next.
Archives: World Narratives
Returning to my first lemon leaf tea in five years, I happily settled on the grass mat with a Christmas mug. I was nearly out of the emotional woods with this favorite, sweet elixir and a few cold pancakes. I sighed and scanned the room, finally noticing two photos taped to the wall, one of my mother in the snow and another of my grandmother holding my baby niece. I should have just accepted that a breakdown was inevitable.
I reacted in amazement before the information reached my brain: Siteri was standing in front of me…at the market in Suva…spotted me the moment I arrived with no other knowledge than my flight time. I guess I could have anticipated this crossing of paths in retrospect, because we had been connecting on Facebook, little blue lines coming onto my screen from a dream I once had. Regardless of the plausibility of the chance encounter, I was now face-to-face with tangible evidence of my long and confusing stint in Fiji, a time I still chew on in my mind for more clarity and takeaways. Her name is Siteri, and she is my umbilical cord to Nakavika.
Pushing my hand toward a different direction, Alex led me square off the mountain face, straight down the slope. One footstep would push wheelbarrows full of little volcanic rocks down, obscuring the switchbacks like a toothpick through latte foam. In seconds, I was meters lower without much effort at all. I was skiing! No… I was screeing!
With these white lies, it became clear to me that climbing Kilimanjaro is completely mental. My leg muscles didn’t burn the way I thought they would. Other than my head and belly, my body felt strong and fine. But an able body was not the most important need for continuing up that huge, dark, daunting incline. I turned off my mind to simply put one foot in front of the other and to encourage others to do the same.
The ascent presented quite a few debilitating challenges–sun exposure, wind exposure, high altitude, blisters, dehydration–but their effects were hardly visible in these teens. I witnessed incredible grit in those fifteen [former] students, none of whom were weathered mountain climbers nor even teenagers who’d had adequate sleep for the two months prior. They looked out for each other and pushed through the monotony to savor the specialness of the opportunity.
From a state of unconsciousness to complete lucidity in three seconds, I sped to the realization that an earthquake challenges what I know to be true about my reality. A building trembling and swaying, a bathroom vibrating bottles off the counter, a need to brace myself between two beds …and none of this occurring on a ship, as I’ve experienced before. I was not at sea; I was very much on land.
Arriving at the bus terminal, I turned right back around and got on the Portliner train to try and get as close to the ship as possible. Having not traveled with my passport, and knowing the insanely tight restrictions on boarding, I knew there was no chance of talking my way on as a nostalgic alumna. As I rolled closer, I snapped pic after pic of increasingly higher quality until I found myself face-to-bow with my former nautical home.
There are many reasons why SASers develop a lifelong love of the program and the vessel. For me, Semester at Sea changed the whole course of my life. I don’t know who I would have become without my round-the-world voyage in 2007. I certainly wouldn’t have met Garrett and Alexis, wouldn’t have felt strong enough to take my Big Journey, wouldn’t have aspired for the STA internship, and wouldn’t have landed in Japan today with my job at THINK Global School.
While my job expects me to make high quality media, I also enjoy using social media to share the daily small joys that often don’t get a glossy coating. Using Storify, I curated a story of the previous year from my various online venues, resulting in the most ground level reflection of my experiences through Bhutan, Boston, and Hyderabad.
Have you ever been on a trip that you knew was so special: every detail seemed divinely delivered, every moment one to journal about, every vision worthy of an Instagram? This was the sentiment possessed by all involved in our trip. Lazy nights spent huddled around the fire were coupled with songs or thoughtful talks about travel. Even in moments where the students were out of their element, up before dawn, freezing, or pushed to their physical limits on hikes, they were still so engaged. The usual shyness of students in need of filtering questions through their teachers to the guides dissolved after a half hour on the ground. The students loved Ashika.
Though my steam was running low by the end, the students and I agreed that the trip was a bit of a mental recharge to engage with where we were living. I spent many hours chatting with the students about their upcoming first graduation ceremony, gender inequality in India, and traveling solo as a female around the world. I pretended to be a guru in a cave on the train, accepting students into my lair (joining me in my double seat) for questions about life and happiness. My answers were usually, “Write about it!”
Open blocks to explore hundreds more, we feel strong
moving into a space we somewhat know, a city we sheepishly call
our home, from our hostel for the homeless.
Bulk home goods to crispy street food, we were happy.
Dirty lake walks to all-star city specialities, we were happy.
We were happy by choice, equipped with freedom
and company that subscribed to the daily magazine of discovery.
Flickers of lightning are faint but always to the left of my aim toward the horizon. They provide an additional layer of drama to my nighttime ride home from the city of Hyderabad. I booked a taxi with the help of a Hindi-speaking friend, someone whom I quickly and liberally offered my trust purely on […]
Vacation is when watery, oily, acidic
juices are plowed with crusty bread,
where butter comes in clumps and
goes down in littler ones, flavor bombs,
when you have time to pour the second
cup of honey with a punch of rose.
Aimless and timeless, there might be
no other method to managing a day for you.
1. I was able to seize a great opportunity to hear Al Gore speak (fo’ free!) at Harvard University. Always love a chance to hear troubling data about the planet in a Southern accent. That experience turned out to be the start of many great speakers in February, including two BBC World journalists, the exiled […]
While in Washington D.C. on a school trip, I used my moleskin notebook to record words and thoughts on speakers, visits, and work items. These are the words that repeated themselves.
Bhutan in the winter energizes the hunger for discovery that’s resident in children lucky enough to be young. It would take a dark closet for decades to produce this contrast anywhere else, the specialness clear with every sip of cold mountain air or gentle exchange. I can’t say this is what travel should always be, because it’s only through their unique set of occurrences that yielded such an outcome. But what they have set up, from my effortless post, has a wonderful effect. Wool is nowhere near our eyes, and we are learning individual lessons from the backgrounds we brought.
It’s cold, and my body begs to be energized beyond the limits of my water consumption; disregarding the extreme altitude difference, abused toes, conserved clothing, or painful, chapping skin. It’s the sloping of land that begs to be traversed. It’s Scotland. Switzerland. Bhutan.
Slow feet Slow eyes Slow decisions with little contemplation of options Nauseating excitement has slightly fermented into a smoother approach With time to wander the streets of Thimphu I mosey, no muscles or desires attempting to accelerate a slow discovery Light, open spaces, crowds, and amusing sounds I can’t remember but a handful of passing […]
We live very clear chapters that can be qualified
and measured, compared to other chapters that may
or may not build off each other.
A place with streets I couldn’t even visualize
became my next one, and hopefully one connected
to the ones for the following pages.
The upcoming term in Argentina will mark my 52nd country, and every once in a while I’m perplexed that this whole world obsession and world tour started from a town of 11,000 in rural Indiana. I talk about this town often–one I haven’t lived in for 12 years to the week–and it’s a weekend like […]
The immigration line stretched to meet me at row 35 on the 767-200. A strong arm could toss a tennis ball beyond the width of TXL’s international wing. Elbowing through the Red Rover chain that was a Canadian tour group, bags launched to my shoulders and bolted for fresh air. The weather did not mirror […]
Today, I fly to Berlin, Germany. I’m not ready, but my bags will be in a couple hours time. And by tomorrow morning, I will have landed in my new home for the next three months. Take away this woman’s sweet safari hat, nicely-pressed dress, and hat box, replace it with yoga pants, a sweaty […]
I keep mentioning to our students that this phenomenon occurs constantly, with no warning, regarding foods, flavors, experiences, and beyond. All of a sudden, we’re okay with what we formerly weren’t (and of course, the opposite is always possible). I’m inclined to believe these mini-epiphanies are more perceptible on the road where they can be constantly questioned.
Dear Internet, I’ve been horrible, saying I’m going to write and then rarely following through. And it’s not for lack of noteworthy developments; this was an unbelievably unpredictable and diverse 2011, with certain promise of continuation in 2012. Upon returning to Indiana this holiday season, to a world so different from my working one, I […]
My entire summer was a jig-saw puzzle to assemble. Trips, subleases, weddings, births, and work were spaced out just so, as to make every two-week chunk a mystery until it was present. All flights were booked dangerously close to the week of departure, some including feline carry-ons and 12 hour durations. On top of air […]
I haven’t traveled somewhere new for the sole purpose of leisure in a long time. Ironically, my mind doesn’t focus on potential trips I can take myself on without a ‘work’ angle – work being a very fuzzy concept often mistaken for hobby. Moving to New York and the east coast was a strategic escape […]
It’s been a long time since I landed in a new place and felt a strong connection. Luang Prabang was easy from the start, as we piled into a cheap bus from the airport to the most peaceful “populated” street I’ve ever witnessed. It felt like we entered the land without hassles. Especially juxtaposed with Vietnam, we were existing in a place with one face and no veneer.
I am 26 days fresh in New York City. Already recovered from the lower back strains of poorly lifting a 65 lb. military trunk, I’m finding real comfort in the room that houses my first purchased mattress and this neighborhood that seems to defy the modern-day NYC paradigms. As enjoyable as this month-long transition has […]
Gasping for relief and peace after leaving all of Nakavika in my wake, I finally turned to my taxi driver, a middle-aged, toothless Indo-Fijian with a cheeky grin ready to start some chit-chat. Once again, I had a conversation with a local that scored me points for America in their eyes, and knowing the consequences […]
We awoke in Suva, breathing in fresh the air of no obligation, feeling the tenacious pain of our misguided attempts, and knowing a change would soon come to our group. I broke off from Garrett and Jackie in the morning to visit the village carrier, as Abel and Daiana were navigating to the coast to […]
One side of the sky was navy blue and brilliant with stars and a succulent moon; the other side hinted at the curvature of the globe with shades of pink. The dew making my feet squeak in my flip-flops mirrored the moisture on my eyelids. There wasn’t a wavering thought in our minds about returning […]
I opened my eyes as if they’d been closed for only a few seconds. Stains decorated the holey mosquito net, which now ensnared a circling bunch of blood-filled bugs. Though I’ve never been physically beaten up, I imagine the next morning would have felt akin to how I felt there, in that bed, feeling the […]
What you’re about to read is the final event we took part in, created, or witnessed in the Fijian Highlands. It occurred on a Saturday, fifteen days before we were scheduled to leave the islands and thirteen days before we initially desired to leave Nakavika. It was because of this event and the clash of […]
Last I left the tales of this Fijian adventure, there was a major event that happened – one which led us to doubt the possibility of our project coming to be. After issues were resolved (in the eyes of the elders), we asked the Turaga ni Koro (village spokesman) to hook us up with a ride […]
How does that make you feel? Go on…let it out. It’s okay to feel these feelings. Let’s talk about that… We all shake our heads at the shoulder-patting, “aww gee”-inspiring cliches from the psychology world, but there’s no doubt they come from a necessary concept. When the traumatic, the all-of-a-sudden, the shocking occurs, our heads […]
It didn’t matter how many times people clarified the schedule for the funeral arrangements, they never began at the designated time. It wasn’t about timing, though. It was about flow. Only when one group assembled could they continue with the next event, and with weather that echoed the widow’s eyes, every moment was contingent on […]
Jackie, you’ve come into the village at an incredibly rare time. Gare, this is big. Abel just told me Elias, Mario and Eta’s father, just died an hour before we pulled up. He had a heart attack. I’m not sure what happens next, but all the boys are stressed and silent. I asked what we […]
It was odd seeing Garrett in such sour spirits on the road. The intense foot infection he contracted sapped him of his usual energy. I had no idea how to make him feel better. He needed a breather from the project and to relax in Suva for the days between doctor’s visits, but meanwhile, the […]
This post was written by Garrett Russell. We rely on our bodies to work. That’s a no-brainer. Traveling on a budget often involves staying in a hostel, taking public transportation, and very commonly using your appendages to get from place to place. I have walked all over this planet, and I expect my body to […]
Returning after our holiday, we had not only our backpacks but boxes worth of books, school supplies, and ingredients for a week of comforting menu items. Fane gave us no hint as to when she would return to the village, and we were given permission to run her household to our liking, to cook and […]
Even if the only information one is exposed to is from cable TV and the local newspaper, Americans know what makes them unhealthy, and many continue to live as though they don’t. 34% of us are obese, so to travel globally and point fingers at people’s awareness of their own health seems little hypocritical. However, […]
Aside from decapitation and/or childbirth sans-Epideral, I’m guessing nothing hurts as badly as putting aloe vera on freshly exposed burned skin. I nearly passed out from a woozy rush after an invigorating shower than revealed to me I hadn’t just crisped one layer of skin but many. Regardless, I threw on some make-up for the […]
This is what we woke up to. [This post is a continuation of Breaking Away to Rakiraki.] Garrett awoke me with a cheer, but I could barely move. Having not shifted an inch the entire night, my hardening body was attempting to fuse with the modest mattress like a mother to her long-lost-but-now-found son. It […]
I’m up before the crack of dawn. My family is enjoying Christmas brunch. I’m a pack mule walking a kilometer down the rocky road toward a bald cavern – one that I must then traverse. My niece is probably opening her first present from Santa (or at least watching since her motor skills aren’t Olympic […]
There’s only been one other time when my Christmas wasn’t filled with earmuffs, slick roads, and airings of National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. And the night we left for Maui with the rest of the holiday escapists was a tad doleful as we left winter in our contrail.
Regardless of our desires to infuse routine into our Fijian lifes, the days always promised to be unpredictable. Waking up in the morning, I could lie in bed, staring at the illuminated ceiling and think: Today, I could eat something crazy, go some where amazing, end up crying, hurt myself, receive a phone call, get […]
Stir at 7:30am to the sounds of giggling children, bossy dads, and falling billiard balls into play. Emerge from half-slumber at 9am to eat a pound of crepes and cups of lemongrass tea. Wash face. Brush layer of cane sugar off teeth. Contemplate what today will bring. This was our morning routine during those first few weeks in Fiji, when we had a host family and the sole mission of experiencing Fiji before our classes began in the afternoon. Some days we scribed on our computers until they died. But what we usually opted for were outings with our host mother or the children, and these trips always centered around satiating that primal desire to cool off.
Traditional Fiji is all about formalities, paperwork, and figurative curtseys. Sitting next to the Turaga ni Koro (village spokesman) one rainy afternoon, he invited us to come to the youth break-up party on Friday evening. The official invite came one hour later in the hands of one of his children. On a sheet of college-ruled […]
The aftermath of Cyclone Mick kept the skies gray and misty for the following three days. Nearby villages sent word of their damages; Nakavika was one of the luckier communities, thanks to their relocation. For decades, Nakavika sat in a nook of a river bend, level with the mighty Luva, until the mid 1950s when […]