Backyard Fun for the Undone

Here’s a not-so trick question: where is home to you? Is it where you are now? Or is it where you want to be?

Upon returning from my trip, this question has been the most frequent and frustrating thought to ever take rest on my brain. Home is where I am now; home is here where I am, where my family is, where familiarity and history is. Yet at this stage in my life, I am in the midst of deciding where my own home will be, separate from my family’s but inclusive of my career and goals.

To be truthful, I don’t know where that is – still. I went away not just with the intention to imporve my language skills, but also to find out if my place was someplace over there. I still don’t quite know, which is what continues to fuel my drive, my need to travel. Traveling is a dream, it’s a gift I wish upon the world; but it’s also something that must be taken in moderate doses.

I can’t keep trying to “find” my place; a never-ending search isn’t really a search after a point.

Algonquin Park - Canoe Lake: blue never looked so bright!

Algonquin Park – Canoe Lake: blue never looked so bright!

My level of quiet frustration has grown even more whilst talking amongst friends who share similar tales of wanting to go away, away to the “Land That is Not Their Own”. These could be permanent displacements or temporary ones (i.e. an exchange, vacation). And that brings me to my next question: what is so bad about one’s own backyard, absent from terrorful wars and violence, that pushes them away from it?

I in no way disclude myself from this statement when I say that we, in the days of increased globalization and accessible shared medias, have the urge to move – it’s in our nature as once nomadic creatures. Before, however, we moved for survival; now, we move for convenience. Don’t get me wrong, many of us are in the position and the right to do so; but have you not ever wondered of the the wonders that are your own?

I recently visited one of the many national parks in this beautiful country just three hours north, and my experience was spectacular, to say the least. I may have explored almost an entire continent, but I would never consider myself a world traveller – and that trip proved I had much more to see, and not too far from home either.

Algonquin Park - Lookout Trail: autumn at its best..

Algonquin Park – Lookout Trail: autumn at its best..

The Earth is too beautiful a place to have what goes on within it taint its appearance; the grass is just as green wherever you go. We were rooted in our origins for a reason; where we come from has treasure all of its own, even in all its surrounding rubble.

À la prochaine,
Moi

Music of the Moment:

A Hug for My Teddies

To feel ecstatic and all the while solemn, that is to live out of a suitcase.

Even when staying at a home, and not a hostel; with family, and not strangers; in comfort not unease, I still can not shake the feeling of wanting to finally settle, to be home again.

To sit or to settle?

To sit or to settle?

While I was on my exchange in France, things were different: my residence room was mine – temporarily, yes – but still, for the time, mine. I also had a family; not blood-related, but close enough; and I knew I had to settle since I would be there for such a long period of time.

Now that I have been constantly on the move for about two months, the need to return home is ever-pressing.

But I’m conflicted: I want to go home so badly, in desperate need to hug my family, friends, and teddy bears, but I’m also saddened to distance myself even more from the family I have made as well as discovered over here. Before I left, I had the fear of missing out on the fascinating changes at home, but now more than ever, I mourn the loss of chances to experience the changes and growth of my family abroad.

Yet, there really is nothing to mourn about. Thanks to certain technologies like Skype and FaceBook, I am able to easily stay in contact with others miles away – so long as they are willing. But that’s the thing; how many of those which I have befriended are actually willing to keep it so?

I recently watched a Tyler Perry video, a clip from one of his Madea plays on broadway, and in the clip Madea spoke of something very important. She said,

“Your life is like a tree. Some people who come into your life are like the leaves on the branches, only there to take from the tree and give shade every now and then, that’s the only thing they can do. Some people are like branches on that tree: you think that they’re a friend who will stay but the minute you step out, they’ll leave you high and dry. But if you find two or three people who are like the roots of a tree, they’re the kind of people that aren’t going anywhere. If those roots weren’t in there, that tree couldn’t live.”

Thanks to travelling, I understand who are the leaves and branches in my life, and I know who are the roots. I know that once that plane takes off, many a hands will be waving goodbye, until next time; but I also know that once that plane lands, even many more arms will be open to take me back.

Brighton! - where the sun shines in the name alone!

Brighton! – where the sun shines in the name alone!

At the start of this trip, a reflection came to me and I’ve been using it to head this trip ever since: I’ll always be up for the adventure as long as home is the last stop. So yeah, it’s been a blast, but now I’m ready to go.

À la prochaine,
Moi

Music of the Moment:

On the ride

“So this cousin is your dad’s fourth cousin’s daughter-in-law’s brother’s uncle’s wife’s neighbor’s dog’s friend’s sister’s mom…”

I previously spoke of my background; where I come from, how I moved from there, and how I do not know my exact roots. I also spoke of becoming cultured by travelling and learning the cultures, and in turn, histories, of these new friends and “family”. I always thought my family to be a small one: my mom’s side was big, yes, but that was due mainly to extra family brought in by marriages, etc (I can count the number of cousins I have on her side on one hand – nope – let’s make it two fingers). But then on my dad’s side, what I thought to be just one cousin not even my age, I am now discovering is immense.

One of the many lochs of Scotand...

Scotland: Lochland

The opening line for this entry is exactly the sort of thing I have been hearing over and over for the past few days here in London, and I am absolutely loving it.

While living with my immediate family up north for the past decade and a bit, I always loved our closeness and small family-gatherings since all we have are each other up there; but now, to discover that I have a whole pool of people I can call cousins, second cousins, friends-of-seconds-who-are-like-family, it’s just such a heart-warming feeling!

Oslo Opera House: a view..

Oslo Opera House: a view..

I have changed my ways as I’ve grown and come to appreciate the same quality of love in smaller numbers, but for a time, I used to get really jealous – yes, jealous is the right, true word here – when a friend of mine would brag, if you will, about her weekend family gatherings, another wedding she had to go to or her new baby cousin. I kept wishing that I could experience a big family like that where the head count went on for hours if not days, but I never thought I would.

And now I am.

This just proves how much one can discover by getting out of one’s shell, from under one’s rock, and just giving the world a big hello.

I’ve been trying to meld well into life’s new adventures as I cope with the end of the last one: it’s been hard, I’ll admit, but these past few weeks venturing to Scotland’s gem highlands, the ABBA museum of Stockholm, and the statues of Oslo’s Vigelandsparken, and now discovering the extent of my blood have shown me that there is so much more to come.

What a rush!

Stockholm: What a rush!

I won’t forget yesterday but I must still look ahead to tomorrow.

À la prochaine,
Moi

Music for the Moment:

A Brothaman from the Mothaland

If there was one thing I could wish for that everybody could experience, besides life’s necessities like available food, unlimited clean water and genuine happiness, it would be the opportunity to be cultured.

I am physically cultured by way of birth, tracing my ancestry back to many different origins; but since I am unfamiliar with my exact roots, I have found the need to become cultured otherwise: through travel.

Moravian Karst: discovery of the unknown...

Moravian Karst: discovery of the unknown…


Though I have not seen all that is to be seen, I have gained so much more knowledge of the world in which we live and the actors that make their marks on it. I have been exposed to various means of communication between myself and the foreigner, the local and I, me and my distant family and friends. I have observed the different ways of survival, our main goal in living: some survive solely on the basic needs, others with the need for something ‘more’. And I have also come to appreciate how our differences, beyond borders and oceans, are what really make us quite similar.

Now, with all of this in mind, one thing which I had not really been exposed to in a while but which I came across during last week’s visit to the beautiful state of the Czech Republic is the behaviour of those less cultured. For the most part, my origins are of a minority race, thus, I hold a more flavoured appearance so to speak. I had been jokingly forewarned that due to this, I may receive a few double-takes or extra-long stares here and there, which I found understandable due to the restrictions of the nation’s past. However, once I was actually in the position to see it happen with my own eyes, the level of my self-comfort dwindled, and my frustration grew.

I know how it feels to witness something unfamiliar, unique, and foreign; I know how it is to be surprised by something new and different. But quite frankly, I also know that I am not the first black person to step foot inside this country, which made me the most confused. Black people have been exposed to many parts of the world, and there are various iconic members of the Black community who appear on global TV, in politics, and elsewhere which makes it quite hard for one not to be exposed to this culture. So when I received an extra-long stare or a double-take, I kept asking myself, “Have you really never seen one of me before?”

Pustevny: Green, green and more green!

Pustevny: Green, green and more green!


Which brings me back to the start: I wish culture upon everyone; whether it be physical or mental, knowing or sharing cultures is what helps keep this world as one. I am not mad at the behaviour of some of the people there. I myself had not previously been exposed to Czech culture, and besides the uncomfortable feeling of difference, the place itself is marvelous. The landscape is wondrous; I was surprised at the amount of green everywhere; and the food is one to remember (when ordering a side-dish, definitely go for the “dumplings ;” and for dessert, some “zmrzlina” or “lázeňské oplatky” goes a long way). Still, I am absolutely grateful for that trip; I had the time of my life with those who really mattered. And now I can say I know some Czech – so I’ll take that to the bank, thank-you very much.

It only makes sense to end this one off with a cliché quote from Ghandi: “Be the change you wish to see in the world.

Brzy na shledanou,
Moi

Music of the Moment:

Vingt-et-un

If anyone told me as a child what my life would be like now, I would never believe them.

The mystery of life is so enticing; we go on about our days not really knowing what lies ahead (no matter how much we try to plan every move) with a strong thirst for finding out where we are going and how far we’ll get.

Ever since I can remember, I have been curious about it all: how I got here, what I am here for, and who and what will I discover. That curiosity has led me into some trouble, I must admit; not everything needs to be understood, I’ve learned, but just accepted. On the other hand, that curiosity has led me to some of the greatest moments of my life thus far, and this exchange has been one of the greatest.

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La Tour Eiffel: ya d’autre si belle comme elle?

I honestly could not have predicted how this exchange would change my life. Looking back on it at the beginning, I was scared, frightened; I just kept assuming, imaging the worst once I got on that plane from home onward. I knew that change was coming, but as life’s mysterious ways play, I was not quite sure how or if I’d like it.

Yet, as Gail Sheehy once said, “If we don’t change, we don’t grow; and if we don’t grow, we aren’t living,” and that is my ultimate goal in life – to live; so with that, changes must come…and I must grow. I have slowly watched myself progress in academics, social and professional settings, but this exchange, like my previous travel endeavors, has shown me more of myself than ever before, and I do quite like it.

I like myself.

I feel some find it hard to say, to admit with humility that they appreciate themselves. But I do, I really do. And when I say I appreciate myself, that comes along with everything that makes me me. My mother, my father, my sister, my aunts, uncles, cousins, my friends, co-workers, even my laptop that I’m using to write this with.

I owe all that I have accomplished to everyone and everything that has helped me get there, and I am forever grateful for that support – there is nothing stronger.

So with that, I shall celebrate today by celebrating the lives that give life to my own.

With love.

À la prochaine,
Moi

Music of the Moment:

Pop Goes the Hatchling!

There is a time for work and a time for play; and so far I’ve had quite a bit of fun.

So! – on to the tasks at hand once again.

I finally got myself a (somewhat) new pair of glasses sent down here by my wonderful family, and now that I am once again with proper vision, I’ve been thrown back into the old routine of morning and night patrols along the beach.

A lot happened during the one month I was without glasses and only permitted on morning patrols: I saw my first ever hatchling, a leatherback baby turtle. It was absolutely ADORABLE, and just reminded me why my work here does indeed help. I say that because my coworker and I unknowingly stumbled upon the hatchling as we were checking the state of all the nests in the second part of the beach that we survey. Even more, this little hatchling was attempting to get to the sea from its nest, and was caught in some branches buried in the sand.

If we weren’t out there, and the sun completely rose and exposed its often scorching heat, the poor little hatchling probably would not have survived.

08/07/13: Look at him go!

Jimmy the Leatherback Hatchling –             08/07/13: Look at him go!

Nevertheless, I took it out of the debris, placed it gently in the palm of my hand, and watched as it slowly crawled out of my palm, flopping onto the still warm sand, to finally float and get whisked away into the sea. It was magical.

I also got to see three hatchlings of the rare Hawksbill species dig out of a nest I was excavating. One could even say that I not only saw them, and helped lead them to sea, but I also swam with them (not literally, as my feet were the only things deep in the water, but the hatchlings did swim right by my knees, so it counts as such in my mind!).

Now that I’m back on night patrols, I get to have more close up action with the mothers as they lay their nests, which is always a fascinating sight. Two nights ago, I got to read the tracking tags placed on the turtles’ flippers to monitor their movement between nesting sights for the first time. I also attempted to stop the turtle, but was unsuccessful (this time, at least!).

Ah well, still a work in progress..but isn’t that just life?

Pura Vida,
Moi

Bienvenidos a la casa de los Ticos!

I absolutely adore Latin people and their culture.

I had this perception from while at home, but I had merely encountered Latin immigrants or those of Latin descent.

Interestingly enough, their culture runs strong through their generations and across borders, because in North America or in Costa Rica, their Latin flavour still runs thick.

This may be a general assumption I am making for a vast array of people, but I’ve met Colombians, Puerta Ricans, Pervuvians, and Spanish alike, and there’s an essence to them that I haven’t quite yet found in any other culture I’ve experienced (which I guess is why there are various cultures around the world that have their own differences and is why I’ll keep travelling to discover them all!).

Yesterday seemed to enhance that opinion when my fellow intern and I made our way over to Doña Blanca’s casa, a woman who lives near the station and who is in need of help learning English.

When we arrived, she welcomed us nicely and we immediately got to work.
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She sat us down in her makeshift hair dresser/craftsman workshop/mani-pedi office/patio and we began talking.

One thing I really admire about the Latin culture, specifically Ticas and Ticos in this context, is that they are very honest and open and will talk you up even if you don’t completely understand everything they’re saying. They are so animated with their words and expressions, and even though I may not be fluent in Spanish, the actions she did while speaking really helped me grasp the main idea.

At a point during our language session, Doña Blanca was comparing the two languages, English and Spanish, as we tried translating a part of a paragraph together. “One word in English,” she said, “can be translated into a whole phrase in Spanish. I guess it’s because Spanish love to just talk and talk, no?” Then she laughed.

What was also refreshing was her intent on learning our language.

She seems to be a woman of the world, dipping her feet in every job she can, and one of them is being a turtle guide, which seems plausible when one grasps the short distance from her house to the Caribbean Sea where the turtles we monitor come to nest.

She knew so much about the turtles and their activities without studying it as a degree in school, which showed me that the Ticas and Ticos that live here are very much in touch with their environment and their home is their livelihood and must be understood and taken care of, which I admire and respect greatly.

Her words became even more animated as she moved onto the art of her pedicures and crafts.

It was a very entertaining visit.

And what made it the sweetest for me was the ending.

As we got up to leave, she offered us some lemonade (“agua con limón en ingles es…?”) and then we talked about culture and why I supposedly have Chinese eyes if I’m not Chinese; and then when we were really ready to leave, she gave us both hugs and kisses and sent us off.

La hospitalidad era demasiado bueno! Comprende?

Gracias Doña Blanca y pura vida,
Moi

P.S. Saw my first leatherback turtle (possibly the last of the season) last night, while the moon was bright, and the night was cool. It was perfectly huge and a sight to see!

Music for the Moment:

You Get What You Paid For.

I hate customs. I hate it, I hate it, I hate it. But then… I like it too (to a different, smaller extent).

And yes; in speaking of customs, I finally commenced my travelling yesterday morning, and it really was nothing short of an adventure.

So, what’s the first stop of many to come in the near future?
HOTLANTA – formally known as Atlanta, Georgia in ‘the land of the free’, USA. I have never been to Atlanta before (or much of America, for that matter), and this trip holds the purpose of a vacation and exploration; so after non-stop working for the past two years, I figured this is a much needed stop.

A few glimpses of the first arrival..

A few glimpses of the first arrival..

The title of this post is “You Get What You Paid For,” and yesterday’s mobile fiasco was the result of just exactly what we we paid for. It’s not just about where you’re heading, but how you get there, and my family and I chose the cheapest possible way.

Now, often times, cheap can be good. For me, the motto is “Cheap IS Good.” But that motto was very much incorrect this time around.

We decided to take a Coach bus across the boarder and then fly out to Atlanta, which seemed simple enough. I was dreading the long and early bus ride initially, but found it to be quite convenient as I slept most of the way.

The downside to that was that I (being the meticulous, over-worrier that I am) packed a crap load of food in my knapsack to eat on the bus ride before the plane.

Never happened.

And this is where customs comes in. All went well when we were stopped and checked at the border; once we arrived at the airport, however, I knew that trouble was coming. Ever since the feathers of law enforcement officers and airport officials have been ruffled with by terror attacks and mischievous criminals, everything is a danger hazard.

I know they are doing it for my and everyone else’s safety, but when a girl can’t even bring her MinuteMaid cranberry juice bottle into the waiting lobby, it’s like the sun ain’t shinin’ no more.

Okay, so that may be a tad bit over-exaggerated, but the fact of the matter is that things have gotten so tight, my somewhat angelic mindset feels like I’m already a criminal even before I’ve been questioned.

Yet the craziness continued as we got onto our plane. The airline we took as part of our cheapest-way-possible scheme was probably the worst I have ever taken. No. It is the worst I have ever taken and will never take again (after I take their plane back home on our return flight; wish me luck).

The pilot was just outrageous (and possibly intoxicated) and I actually had a few moments where my life flashed before my eyes during flight (yes, I said a few; not one, but a few). When the plane landed, the aircraft slammed against the pavement and was literally still flying WHILE on ground.

If this implies anything at all, no one clapped when the plane finally came to a halt.

Still, I am very grateful to have made it out alive and to be here, in the wonderful state of Georgia, appreciating the gifts life has to offer. The vacation has just begun, but the adventure continues…

À la prochaine,
Moi

Music for the Moment:

Every End of an Ending is the Beginning of a Beginning..

I’ve never really been good at goodbyes. Then again, I’ve never really been good at hellos.

I have been looking forward to the opportunity to travel for too long a time now; after completing five straight semesters of post-secondary education whilst working at a typical minimum wage paying job, and dealing with the oh-so-unsurprising social dramas of the young adult life, there was nothing else I wanted more than to put my current life on pause and live a new, different, other-worldly one.

The happenings of today, however, burst that perfectly round, happy, internationally-inclined bubble of mine: after working my last shift before my departure at my more recent job, it was time to say goodbye to everyone until four months. And at first, walking into my shift this morning, I thought, “Four months is no big deal, so today is no big deal.”

But…I might have miscalculated on that one.

I was on the brink of tears while driving out of the parking lot of my workplace as I realized that time (which seems to be a very significant asset in every event in life) allows so much to happen, even in the shortest of lengths, so no matter how long or short my absence might be, things are certain to change – without me – and I don’t know if I’m quite ready for that.

What hit me even harder was realizing that, though I’ve only known these people for such a short period, they’ve become like family to me.

So, when I left out the back door tonight, I made a promise to myself to cherish the moments with those I call family now, and those that I will soon meet abroad that I know I will call family soon; because after all, we are one world, and one people.

Still, I will not let my confused emotions or doubting thoughts deter me from my plans. The only difference between the future and the present is that one is being written and one is being read, and there is nothing else I can do but read on…

À la prochaine,
Moi

Music for the Moment: