Monthly Archives: July 2012

Abroad Blog(s) of the Week: Ones to Watch

This week I thought I would do something a bit different and highlight a few blogs that I’ve been following. What each of these bloggers have in common is that they are preparing to study abroad. They come from various places and each is headed some place different, but all of them are taking a great deal of time and effort to prepare for their journey, which I hope leads to a great abroad blog. Here are some new ones to add to your reader:

Mary in Haifa

Like me, Mary is a study abroad professional. She travels the country helping students study abroad affordably in really interesting locations. Mary is taking a year leave from work to study abroad again (jealous), but this time, she’s doing her Master’s degree in Haifa, Israel in Holocaust Studies. Mary’s blog has so much depth already because she knows what she is getting herself into. She is prepared and has even reached out to the local roller derby team in Haifa to meet friends. This is definitely one to add to your blog roll for this fall.

FREEdom Abroad

I happen to have the privilege of being the advisor to the lovely blogger of FREEdom Abroad. Katie is first headed to London at the end of July for a semester abroad with our university, then will be traveling through Asia independently, and she’ll finish out the year with a semester in Budapest, Hungary. As a journalism major, Katie’s writing is interesting and inquisitive. She is constantly wanting to try something new and she is highly adventurous (sometimes to the dismay of her study abroad advisor!).

Turkish Musings

This blog is written by Hayley, a senior at Grand Valley State University headed to Turkey for the semester. Hayley’s prep has been extensive. She posts regularly and goes into detail into everything from learning the Turkish alphabet, saying goodbye to friends, and the visa and financial aid process. I’ve allow noticed that Hayley is pretty active in the blogosphere and is reading a lot of abroad blogs to prepare. I’m pretty eager for Hayley to go abroad to read her personal Turkish musings. One more fun fact about Hayley – she’s a regional official for the US Figure Skating Association.

Adelaide for a Year

I’ve only been following Anthony of Adelaide for a Year for a about a week but I’ve enjoyed going back through this prep posts. From Essex, UK, Anthony just arrived in Australia to spend a year studying at Flinders University in Adelaide. There are so few men that study abroad and blog about it that I was excited to find Anthony’s site. His new camera seems to be serving him well and I really appreciated his first post about leaving home. Now that he’s just arrive in Adelaide, I’m sure he’ll have some great pictures up soon.

House Hunters International

Fresh off of house hunting in Oklahoma, I thought it might be fun to do a little perusing of the international real estate market. We can all dream, right?!

Perugia, Italy

Bed: 6
Bath: 5
Asking Price: 700,000 Euros
Listing Agent: Zetta Group

Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

Bed: 2
Bath: 3
Asking Price: $289,000
Listing Agent: Coldwell Banker

Da Lat, Vietnam

Bed: 6
Bath: 6
Asking Price: $350,000
Listing Agent: Move & Buy Vietnam

List, Germany

Bed: 8
Bath: unknown
Asking Price: 2,500,000 Euros
Listing Agent: EREN

Dubai, UAE

Bed: 3
Bath: 2.5
Asking Price: AED 2,100,000
Listing Agent: Better Homes

Patagonia, Argentina

Bed: 6
Asking Price: $3,500,000
Listing Agent: Sotheby’s

Villa Marigot, St. Lucia

Bed: 6
Bath: 7
Asking Price: $1,975,000
Listing Agent: Altman Rela Estate

So I’m pretty excited to say that this time next week, I’ll be global from Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Hubby and I are taking our first ever trip abroad together to celebrate the end of all his medical training and our move to Oklahoma. To plan for the trip, I asked for some advice from one of my favorite blogs, Travel. Culture. Food. Here are some things we plan to do!

Shop Good

When we found out we were moving to Oklahoma City, we immediately started liking the Thunder. The team is easy to like because they are good, but also because the entire city is crazy about them.

Originally I went out to our local sports store and purchased a championship shirt for Hubby, but it was too small and then they lost, so I figured I would keep looking. I’m glad I did because it led me to a great little shop called Shop Good.  Shop Good sells ethically made and social justice products which provide funding for local and international charities.  For example, this shirt (which I bought for Hubby) provides funds for Sunbeam Family Services, an organization that helps young mothers in OKC get on their feet. If you’re looking for fun tees, they have some great designs to check out.

Need a gift for a girlfriend? This bracelet available at Shop Good is made by South American artisans and provided through the Andean Collection. Its $26 price tag provides fair wages and benefits to the artists.

Or want a little something to spice up a simple dress for a night out? This clutch from Sseko Designs helps employ young Ugandan women to make sandals and clutches while they learn business models and prepare for college. So far, Sseko has graduated three classes of women from their program and every single one of them is currently in college. Wow!

Of course Shop Good isn’t the only store that sells fair-trade and social justice products. If you are interested in looking at some other shops that have this humanitarian approach, scope out these:

If you know of any other great shops that help the international community, please share!

Speaking Italian

Last weekend I met a friend in Little Italy to roam through the farmers market (this is where I bought that cursed peanut butter). We ended our shopping with a drink at one of the local restaurants and I was pleasantly surprised to find that our waiter was actually Napolitano. Because it’s not often that I find native speakers in the U.S., I immediately started speaking to him in Italian asking where he was from and why he moved to the U.S. He answered back in Italian for a couple sentences, but then quickly switched back into English and explained everything he said to my friend. He also lightly scolded me that it was not polite to speak in Italian when not everyone present could understand. I’m sure I turned red. Perhaps I should have kept my Italian to myself, but the interaction did get me thinking.

Little Italy’s Farmers Market

In my two months working on this blog, I have not even mentioned language learning as a part of being global from home, mostly because I’m not doing it. I am ashamed to say that I was an Italian Studies major in college because my Italian has definitely suffered from disuse.  After encouragement from my boss, multiple bloggers’ posts, and the Italian waiter, I’m on a mission to revitalize my lost language skills by spending thirty minutes every day.  Here’s what I’m trying to commit to:

  1. Speak out loud to myself in Italian in the car on the way home. (I’m hoping people just thinking I’m talking on Bluetooth)
  2. Spend time every few days looking up words I don’t know. (I had a journal in Italy that I would write down words that I didn’t know the equivalent and then I would look them up every night. It worked great for me.)
  3. Order and read some Italian children’s books. (I once tried reading Harry Potter but that was a little difficult. I mean, how often do I need to know the word for witch or cauldron in Italian?)
  4. Find a language group in OKC once I move. (I’ve checked on Meet-Up but haven’t found one yet. I may have to start one up.)
  5. Practice vocab and grammar on Live Mocha. (I started a few weeks ago and for free, it’s pretty good.)

I’m looking for other ways to keep up my language. If you have any tips, please share!

I may need to brush up on these too.

African Reads

After finishing my first book (The Tapestries…really good, by the way) from my Asian list last night, I thought I needed to continue on with my book list and add books of African settings to my list. Thinking back, I can only think of one book I’ve read that took place in Africa: Monique and the Mango Rains. It just happens to be one of the best books I’ve ever read – I laughed, cried, and learned so much about Mali. Written by Kris Holloway, she recounts her Peace Corps experience in Mali working with a local midwife named Monique. I actually met Kris at a conference in February, but unfortunately my copy is in a storage unit in South Carolina so I couldn’t have her sign it (Boo!), but Kris was great!

In addition to Monique and the Mango Rains, here’s what I’ve found that I’ve added to my list:

  • Refugee Boy by Benjamin Zephaniah (2011)   So this book doesn’t actually take place in Africa, but does depict the story of Elam, a boy from Ethiopia who becomes a refugee in London. Alone in a strange place, Elam has to deal with social services, the Refugee Council, and the transitions of a refugee completely by himself. With my hopes to volunteer with the refugee community in Oklahoma, I thought this would be a good one. (Available on Kindle for $3.32)
  • Broken Glass by Alain Mabanckou and Helen Stevenson (2010)  Centered in a run-down bar in the Congo, a bar regular nicknamed Broken Glass is chosen to record the stories of all patrons. However, everyone wants to rewrite history and buff up their stories along the way. According to the review, Broken Glass speaks regularly of the great books of Africa, which may just be beneficial as I add to my reading list. (Available on Kindle for $9.99)
  • The Last Brother by Nathacha Appanah (2011)  Set on the island of Mauritius in 1944, the novel tells of an unknown aspect of World War II through the journey of two young boys. Since I had no idea that WWII refugees went to Africa, nor exactly where Mauritius is located, I thought this might be beneficial for my African education. (Available on Kindle for $9.99)
  • The Cairo Trilogy by Naguib Mahfouz (2008)  One of the most read Egyptian authors turns his writing to the stories of Ancient Egypt – love, war, and the pharaohs.  With my love of Egyptian artifacts, I think I’ll definitely enjoy these three. (Available on Kindle as a bundle for $14.99)

Any others I should add to my list?

Friday’s Olympian to Watch: David Rudisha

Yesterday Hubby and I flew to Oklahoma City (house hunting weekend) via United Airlines. All I had with me was my Kindle so while all electronics had to be stored away, I started reading through their magazine, Hemisphere. It had a nice spread about the olympics and highlighted several Americans to watch. Reading about the athletes of my own country, it made me realize that I am completely uneducated about the Olympians from anywhere else. So I started researching other Olympians to watch and plan to highlight a new one every Friday from now until the end of the Olympics.

This week’s Olympian to watch is David Rudisha

Olympic Sport: 800 Meter

Hometown: Kilgoris, Kenya

Birthdate: December 17, 1988 (age 23)

Height: 6’3″ (that is 14 inches taller than me)

Weight: 157 lbs.

His story: In the past three years, Rudisha has only lost 1 race.  Yep, just 1.  Pretty incredible, right?  He grew up as a member of the Maasai tribe in the Trans Mara region, a tribe known for a tradition of fearsome warriors and cattle-herders.  In fact, when David went home in 2010 to celebrate setting the world record, there were 5,000 people and 1.000 cattle in attendance. The Olympics are in Rudisha’s blood – his father won a silver medal at the 1968 games and David states that his dad’s achievements have encouraged his own success. Overall, David is loved by his country. Known by the nickname of King David, he makes his people proud and is definitely one to watch during the London Games.

Want to read more? Check out these articles about David.

Patted Down for Peanut Butter

I consider myself a seasoned traveler. Between traveling for a living right out of college, living 3,000 miles from family, and doing the regular long weekend out-of-town, Hubby and I fly a good bit; probably about 8 to 10 times a year at this point. In all my travels abroad and Stateside, I’ve never had anything confiscated or been patted down, that is until yesterday.

With our move to Oklahoma next month, we decided to use the holiday (plus a few extra days) to house hunt. So yesterday morning at 6am, we headed to the San Diego airport for our 8:15am flight. I had meticulously packed and tried to prepare for everything. Knowing we were having dinner with a couple tonight, I thought ahead and bought them a gift from San Diego – PB Peanut Butter. Now let me explain, this is not just any peanut butter. This peanut butter is toffee flavored, handmade in Pacific Beach, CA, and costs a whopping $9 for a small jar. It is amazing…and since this couple has three boys, I thought it would be a fun gift rather than a bottle of wine.

Well, TSA did not agree with my gift giving. Me, the well-seasoned traveler, put the peanut butter in my carry-on since I did not even think it would be considered a cream. I mean, it was chunky peanut butter. So first came the baggage check where they ripped the peanut butter from my beautiful wrapping job, rumpled through all my clothes, and let the entire airport see my bras and undies. When I told the TSA agent that he was ruining my packing job, he told me that it didn’t look like I had much of one to begin with.  Frustration. Next came the pat downs. Yes, plural. They patted me down twice because the first time I set off the alarm.

Feeling thoroughly groped and $9 of peanut butter lighter, I was able to re-pack my bag and head on to the plane where Hubby accidentally spilt coffee all over us. This goes to say that no matter how seasoned we are, disaster cannot always be avoided in travel. Fortunately the experiences we have when we travel make it worth all the while.

This is what started all the trouble

What travel disasters have you experienced? Make me feel better!

Abroad Blog of the Week: The Parallel Life

I started following The Parallel Life a few weeks ago through a chain of Versatile Blogger posts. They are living one of my secret dreams – a thirty-something couple who quit their jobs, saved their money, and are traveling the world for an indefinite amount of time. There blog shares their adventures and great tips if you want to recreate their journey. I was able to catch up with the bloggers, Ashley and Justin, for a virtual drink in Mumbai. Cheers!

Where are you now and what was your last meal?

We are in Mumbai, India at the moment.  Honestly, I have no idea what our last meal was.  No, really, I have no idea.  We don’t have much experience with Indian food, though we’ve eaten it a number of times back home with friends, we just are never in charge of the ordering so we never remember what the dishes are called.  We stopped in a random restaurant for lunch and, not surprisingly, didn’t have a clue what anything on the menu was. We ended up just going roulette style and picked two dishes at random.  We know they were vegetarian, rice on the side, one was definitely a curry of some kind, and they were delicious!

What are the best and most challenging aspects of traveling with your spouse?

The best thing is that we get to spend so much time experiencing all these new places together. It’s hard to believe now, but there were weeks when we were living in New York where we were so busy that we barely saw each other except for a few minutes of overlapping schedules either late at night or early in the morning.  Now we get to hang out all the time!  That’s sort of the most challenging thing also…we have to hang out all the time.  We both had a great set of friends back home and we spent lots of time being social, sometimes together but often with our own separate groups of friends.  Now, it’s just us.  Sure, we meet loads of people along the way in hostels and whatnot (and we’ve met some truly great people that we know we’ll be friends with for years to come), but on a day to day basis it’s only the two of us.  We have nowhere to turn on days when we are really grating on each other’s nerves, so that’s taught us a lot about being patient with each other and learning how to avoid big meltdowns.

What tips would you give on saving money for a trip like yours?

For us, the first thing we had to do was get a realistic grasp of what was coming in and out, budget wise, each month.  Once we sat down and really looked at our financial situation we were able to get an idea of what we might be able to set aside each month with a few changes to our spending habits.  Set a goal for yourself, and really commit to it.  I think that’s the hardest part – the commitment.  If you want to save big and you don’t make a lot of money, you are going to have to sacrifice some things, but keep in mind that there’s a bigger picture and that small sacrifices add up to huge rewards in the end.  We changed little things, like making coffee at home instead of buying it on the way to work, that saved more that you might expect.  We also changed some big things, like that I got a second job once night a week, that helped boost our income.  I wrote a whole post about this before we left (back when my mom was our only reader) and you can find it here:  It says part 1 because I always meant to write another post on how to actually make a budget in the first place…I should probably get on that!

Of all the places you’ve visited so far, if you could go back to just one spot, where would it be and why?

Gah!  This is like the “If you could only eat one food for the rest of your life…” question!  There are so many places that we have loved visiting, it’s practically impossible to pick one.  At this moment though, I’d pick the southern coast of Turkey.  It’s got fantastically beautiful beaches on the Mediterranean, great food, nice people and ancient ruins all over the place.  Justin would like to chime in that while he also loved the coast of Turkey, he might pick Buenos Aires, Argentina.   He liked the European feel of the city, the nightlife and of course, the steaks.

Ashley and Justin at Iguazu Falls

Thanks for the interview, Ashley and Justin!

Paris by Film

Marion and Jack try to rekindle their relationship with a visit to Paris, home of Marion’s parents — and several of her ex-boyfriends.

This past weekend I was in need of a good movie to entertain me while ironing so a friend recommended that I watch 2 Days in Paris. I took her advise and was thoroughly entertained. Marion (played by Julie Delpy) is a French woman living in New York who has been with her American boyfriend, Jack (played by Adam Goldberg) for two years. For a romantic getaway they go together to Venice followed by a two-day trip to  Paris where they experience a string of awkward moments and hilarious “worst date” scenarios.

I was especially amused by two aspects of Marion’s character:

1. She was completely nonchalant about sharing her personal sex life with her family. (Very not American)

2. She regularly got in pretty serious fights with just about anyone but  just as quickly brushed them off as nothing. 

I’m not sure if these are just qualities of this particular character or if these qualities are particularly French, but either way, I found them interesting. If you’re looking for a movie laden with culture, humor, and relationship chaos, this is definitely a film you should check out.

While I was at it, I thought I’d make a list of the other Paris based films I’ve liked. Let me know if you have any other recommendations!

Amelie, an innocent and naive girl in Paris, with her own sense of justice, decides to help those around her and along the way, discovers love.






A family travel to the French capital for business. The party includes a young engaged couple who are forced to confront their differing views of a perfect life.






Fashion photographer Dick Avery, in search for an intellectual backdrop for an air-headed model, expropriates a Greenwich Village bookstore.






Set in 1930s Paris, an orphan who lives in the walls of a train station is wrapped up in a mystery involving his late father and an automaton.






Three friends struggle to find work in Paris. However, things become more complicated when two of them fall in love with the same woman.






Descriptions and pictures taken from IMDb