Monday, August 22, 2011

Hawai'i to Philadelphia, and everything in between.

Living on Oahu was a very big blessing in my life.  Between obtaining my MSW, the friends that became family, and the beauty of the land, it was a year of my life I will hold very close to me for eternity.

A few friends at our MSW graduation..
After a lot of consideration and going back and forth, I decided it was best for me to return to Philadelphia.  I spent all summer living in West Philadelphia working as a nanny full time and enjoying being back in the same city as many good friends.  I took a 2 week long road trip across the USA and back with my friend Allison.  I started in Philadelphia, took a bus to Akron, Ohio (where she lives) and we began our trip.  Our route:  Akron, OH-->Columbus, OH-->Newport, KY-->Memphis, TN--> Bella Vista, AR--> Albuquerque, NM via Oklahoma and Texas-->the Grand Canyon, AZ-->Salt Lake City, UT--> Yellowstone, WY-->Denver, CO-->Kansas City, MO-->Newport, KY-->Columbus, OH-->Akron, OH-->and back to Philadelphia for me.  We had a really wonderful trip around the country, staying with friends and family and family of friends.  We experienced southern comfort food, the weirdness that is Texas, the beauty of the southwest, the isolation of the midwest, and the company of each other. I have traveled a lot, but have not done the cross-country road trip that I have always wanted to, so it was a great experience.
Allison and I at the Grand Canyon 

Let us go to present day.  I moved into a new house in West Philadelphia with 4 wonderful humans and I am staying here and working as a nanny until March.  What happens in March? I leave to go to Morocco for 27 months to serve as a youth development Peace Corps volunteer. I leave March 21, 2012 after a weekend long training somewhere in the United States.

I have struggled with the decision to join the Peace Corps for the past couple of years.  I have always been to back and forth about it--to go or not to go? "27 months is too long to be gone." "I'm in a relationship and I do not want to leave this person."  "I don't want to work for the feds." The excuses did not stop there.  Finally, I found myself single, newly graduated, in need of an adventure (like I don't get enough of those) and ready to commit. I got word a couple of weeks back that I had been accepted for this position, and I accepted their offer that day.  Since then, I have been feeling...

I have been feeling committed, excited, nervous, anxious, happy, and everything else in between.  I have not yet regretted my decision, as I know it is absolutely want I want for my current life.  The doors this opportunity will open for me professionally as well as personally are really endless.  I dream of being an international activist-- human rights, womens rights, community development, and all that jazz. So... here we go.

I have 6 1/2 more months to enjoy being home.  I am going to enjoy the heck out of my time surrounded by family and friends, and welcome the approaching date that will be the beginning of my new life in Morocco.

I will keep this updated with my travel plans and adventures.
I sure hope all is well wherever you are. 

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Hawai'i thus far: Oahu, Kaua'i, and Moloka'i

dolphins swimming next to us off of the
Na Pali coast in Kaua'i 
I have been living on Oahu for 5 months now, in a 4 bedroom house on a hillside in Makiki overlooking downtown Honolulu.  I have some wonderful roommates and a colorful room that gives me such good energy every second I am in it!  My second semester of graduate school is 6 weeks from ending (thank goddess) and I have one more semester to go before I have my MSW!  The MSW program at HPU needs a lot of work...it is a rather new program and there are a lot of kinks to work out, but at the end of the day I will have my master's degree from a great university in Honolulu, Hawai'i.  I do appreciate the different cultural context here on Oahu...I have been enjoying the large Asian influence.  White people are called "haoles" here on the islands, which translates to "without breath," but is not really derogatory.  When somebody is speaking about a white person (minority here) they will say, "oh, the haole girl on the bus..."  Heck, I even call us white folk haole.

Wailua Falls, Kaua'i
I have been able to get to 2 neighbor islands: Kaua'i and Moloka'i.  Kaua'i was absolutely stunning...it is called the Garden Isle and definitely lives up to its name.  It is so lush, very green, and absolutely what one thinks of when they think Hawai'i.  I went with two of my girlfriends and we spent four days kayaking, laying on the beach, cruising up the Na Pali coast, hiking through the jungle, swimming under waterfalls, and exploring sea caves.  Kaua'i is smaller and way less populated than Oahu, which is exactly why I loved it so much.  There is very little nightlife, if at all, which leaves plenty of time for full days galavanting around.

Moloka'i was really great too.  We spend 2 days/nights there camping on the beach and in a state park.  Moloka'i is way less populated than eve Kaua'i and there is not so much to do besides hike, camp, hang on the beaches, and relax.  There were 6 of us total and we set up camp(s) and had fun around our fire creations.  It was raining almost the entire time we were on the island but still had a wonderful time.

beach on Moloka'i 
Up next: Maui for Thanksgiving.  I also have a trip planned for Europe/North Africa over winter break for 3 weeks.  Figuring out my next move after graduate school...anything that lets the traveling continue!

Hope all is well wherever you are!

A summary of our China adventure...

I was originally going to have this blog just to relay my thoughts and feelings to all of my loved ones while volunteering in and exploring India.  There have been many travel adventures since that trip, so I figure I will keep this blog up to date from now on, with stories from my various travel destinations.  That being said...

at the Great Wall of China

Leif and I booked a trip to Shanghai, China the day after I returned from India in January.  I was just poking around on the internet for various flights to various locations and came across $800 return tickets from New York to Shanghai on Korean Air.  I could not believe how cheap it was so we booked that night--why not?  Leif's older brother has been living in Shanghai for a couple of years, so we had a great excuse to go visit him and meet his lady friend.

Another shot at the Great Wall
Our experiences in China were really fantastic.  We went at the perfect time, as the World Expo (world fair) was taking place in Shanghai.  We ate out for every single meal (even breakfast) and enjoyed some cheap massages and exciting nightlife.  Cole and Song Yue were absolutely fantastic hosts who showed us all around Shanghai.  We all spend some time in an old river town called Xitang for a couple of nights to get out of the city and under the country skies.  It was absolutely breathtaking and we had a magnificent time.  The 4 of us also flew to Beijing for a few days in order to climb the Great Wall and see the capitol city.

The Great Wall--wow.  It was incredible.  I must admit that I did not get that overwhelming "holy crap" feeling like I did when I first saw the Taj Mahal, but I was excited and grateful nonetheless.  Hiking the Great Wall is not walk in the park.  It is extremely steep, long, tall, slippery, and awesome!  We had an absolute blast and I was thrilled to have seen another "Wonder of the World" only 5 months after the Taj.
Cycle rickshaw ride through Beijing
I wish I could convey our experiences a little better, but since it has been almost 7 months since our trip I am having a difficult time with details.  Learning from this...I will post sooner rather than later on other travels. Up next: Hawai'i!

Hope all is well wherever you are...

Friday, January 15, 2010

Thank you, people of India.

Well, I am home. We are home. I was unable to blog during the last week of our adventures as internet wasn't very available and when it was it was crap. So now I will take the time to fill you all in on our final days in India.

The Taj Mahal
After we left Jaipur we went to Agra, city of the infamous Taj Mahal. The bus ride was 5 hours long but very easy and comfortable. We got to our hostel in Agra, which was decent and settled in. We went out to dinner at a restaurant with a variety of foods as I couldn't stomach any more Indian. We watched movies and went to sleep. The next day we went to the Taj! WOW! It was amazing and beautiful and crazy awesome, even though it was a cloudy day. Photos are posted. :) We also went to Agra Fort, which was really cool as well. Afterwards we did some walking through bazarres but didn't stay out long. Agra is a pretty disgusting city with nothing to do but see the Taj and the Fort. Monday morning we took a bus to Delhi. Delhi was awesome!!!!

We stayed at a homestay while in Delhi with a seemingly friendly, large family. We did some sight seeing the 2 1/2 days we were there and also went out one night drinking/dancing. I had a blast while in Delhi. Overall it was a much cleaner city than Jaipur and definitely Agra. It was way more modernized than previous cities and we enjoyed wearing "western" clothes for the first time in 2 weeks. We did not see one person poop on the street!! Crazy, huh? Anyways, our flight was at 2am on Thursday morning so we went to the airport Wednesday night around midnight (after eating at the hardrock cafe) and our flight ended up being delayed because of Delhi's crazy fog. We eventually flew out around 4am, got to amsterdam, and then to Newark without any problems. Customs is CRAZY these days, especially getting into the US. We were hounded by several security people in Amsterdam and Newark but not nearly like foreigners coming into the states. They are taking eye scans and finger prints of most foreigners, even europeans. I support it all, as it limits racial profiling because even the white folks are being hounded. Anywho, I spent the night at my folks house in NJ and am now back in West Chester. I started to unpack but it will probably take the weekend to get readjusted to...life.

I came home to news of the Haiti disaster and immediatly felt called to go there. After spending some time in India, helping those in need and experiencing a completely different way of life, I want to continue to do so in other parts of the world (and India again some day.) The thought of sitting in the classroom and working in north philly the next 4 monthes really pisses me off, but obviously I am going to finish my degree.

Heather and I are presenting some key issues we witnessed in India in March...at the annual national social work conference in Atlanta. We are going to be on a panel speaking about international social justice. We have to submit our abstract soon and hone in on what we want to focus on. What do we want to focus on? There is so much to speak about in regards to social justice. Although India has a VERY far way to go in regards to the conditions of its people, I have to commend the culture of the nation. Seriously, what a place! The Indian men, women, children and families that I encountered are so deeply conserving their culture, its inspiring! I very much appreciated Delhi because it is modern but not western. I hate that term by the way....westernized. No, not every place that is modern is western. And why should a place be westernized????? Anyways, Delhi was super cool because of the thick culture but openess to new ideas all at the same time.

Where will my next adventure lead me?
Hope all is well wherever you are...and please, do what you can for Haiti.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Namaste, Jaipur. Namaste, Agra.

Yesterday was incredible. We had SO much fun. In the morning we went to the animal rescue to talk to them about getting the puppies at the village. They need the address and then they said they could probably go get them and the mama. It is a really great organization and they are really helping a lot of animals.

my hand, such beautiful work
At work the girls did Mehndi on our hands, it is looking so fabulous. Then we drank soda and ate chips. The girls were burping all over the place and thought it was the funniest thing. Afterwards, we did some dancing. Dancing of all sorts! We did some dances we know from the US, then the girls showed us Indian dance. We went into the neighbors living area and she put music on, blasted the music and we all started dancing. I know plenty of you reading who love kick ass dance parties and let me tell you this was the best freakin' one I have ever experienced!!! These girls were wonderful, the dances so seductive...Heather and I gave it a shot and were laughed at many times by the girls. I have some video of the women so it will be cool to show you all.

Another young woman came to the program at 5am this morning. We are taking her to a bazarre today and such. Its our last day in Jaipur so we are going to go to Bapu Bazarre and the mall (I need a new book.) Tomorrow morning we leave for Agra, a 5 hour bus ride. Yipee! Things have been incredible here. I can't wait to see ya'll. Well, I can wait...but still excited. :) Today is the last day with the girls and I will freaking miss them. What a beautiful bunch of smart women.

Hope all is well wherever you are. :)