Monthly Archives: October 2012

How the World Views Us

I’ll never forget standing in the Metro in Paris and being horribly embarrassed by the college kids who were a few cars down. They could be heard by every passenger as they swore and rough housed with each other. With their college t-shirts, flip-flops, and southern accents, there was no denying they were Americans. It made my friend and I start speaking in Italian just so we wouldn’t be associated with their bad manners. That experience has made me stress to my own students just how important it is to be aware of how we as a culture and people are viewed by others.

I came upon the Listening Project trailer just this week and it was reminiscent of my Metro experience. As I engage in the American Presidential Debate on foreign policy, this film has reminded me that we are not a nation that functions in a bubble, but one who is dependent and depended on by the world.

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Becoming a Foodie Penpal

A few weeks ago I found out about a great program called Foodie Penpals. Started by Lindsay of The Lean Green Bean about a year ago, the program creates an opportunity for people around the U.S., Canada, and the U.K. to send each other foodie-type items. I thought the idea was great and though it is a State-side program, it is still a way to share and experience culture.

This month was my first time participating and I just sent off my box which was of a Latin American theme (chocolate is from Mexico). I had such a great time looking up foods and shopping, I figured I should share so you can become a Foodie Penpal too.

If you live in the U.S., Great Britain, or Canada, you can sign up on the Foodie Penpal Form to join the foodie-sharing in November. The deadline to sign up is November 4th at 9pm EST. And definitely be sure to check out my post on October 31st on what I got in my Foodie Penpal box (lots of deliciousness).

Abroad Blog of the Week: willtravelwithkids

If you have children or not, this Abroad Blog of the Week is definitely one you should add to your reader. Even though Hubby and I don’t currently have children, I have been enjoying willtravelwithkids now for several months. The author blogs from her home base in San Diego but she is no stranger to travel with her two little girls. Her posts detail their adventures exploring God’s creation whether they be in Japan or Nova Scotia. My personal favorites so far include her exploration of cemeteries around the world and her reminisces of Anne of Green Gables while visiting Prince Edward Island. When not traveling, willtravelwithkids is a global from home expert and explores San Diego just like she were abroad. I caught up with the author via email and found out more about her family travel the globe with stroller in tow.

This is just after dawn in Istanbul, before the tourist buses arrive and the view is continually obscured.

Why do you think it’s important to include your children in your travels?

I want my kids to grow up experiencing the unfamiliar and understanding that just because something is new to them or different, it doesn’t need to be uncomfortable, scary or considered inferior to what they know.  Experiencing new things should be a normal, desired part of life experience.

From your experiences, what are some of the easier places to travel with kids?

We don’t usually pick our travel locations based on ease.  I could push my stroller down the aisle of the train in Germany, which made traveling in Germany with small children ‘easier.’  We had wonderful kid-friendly travel experiences in Germany utilizing public transport.  However, when we visited family in Africa, we took the baby carrier/backpack, knowing the stroller would not be practical.  Transport with a baby was not ‘easy’ and required significant pre-planning.  But, the people we came across in Africa were so glad to meet our baby and were thrilled when we let them hold and hug her.  They were more touched by our willingness to share our precious child with them and come all that way than anyone I came across in Europe.  They did not take our effort for granted.  In the same way that raising kids isn’t “easy,” traveling with them is also not easy.  But we know that raising children and also traveling with them are both extremely rewarding.  The positive outcomes outweigh any negative experiences along the way.

How does your faith play into how you see the world?

My faith is the primary component that impacts how I view the world.  People, cultures and geography were created by God to show us some aspect of his nature.  The more experiences we have outside of our cultural comfort zone, the more opportunities we have to learn something new about God or have God show us something new about himself.  Of course, most people can step out of their cultural comfort zone without spending a lot of money and globetrotting.  That why I like your blog, Elise!  It’s a good reminder that we can stretch ourselves and seek new experiences without owning a passport.  It’s a mindset.

Considering all the places you’ve lived and traveled, where do you feel the most at home?

Home is wherever we can be together as a family or, as I often say, home is where my toothbrush is.  Last summer we spent three months away from our house so we could be together while my husband worked on the east coast of the U.S.  I felt more at home in that hotel than if I had stayed at our house on the west coast with the babies (3 months and nearly 2 years old at the time).   No matter where we are in the world, when we are together as a family, it’s home.

What advice would you give other parents who are about to embark on family travels?

  • Focus on what is important – time together as a family sharing an experience.  If you show up to a museum and it’s closed or a visit to the zoo is cut short because of an ‘accident’ or your hike gets rained out, all is not lost.
  • Try new, local foods together.  You can even do this from home!  If it turns out you don’t like what you ordered, you will laugh later about the experience.
  • Germs are everywhere and are normal – get over it.
  • Don’t focus on the places, but focus on the people.  People matter.

A Working American

Well, dear readers, I’m happy to say that I am once again employed in the field I love. In fact, I’m over-employed and working part-time for both a study abroad company and as a study abroad advisor at a small Christian college here in OKC. While the freedom of unemployment was somewhat enjoyable, I am thrilled to give it up in return for working with students again and helping them experience the world beyond. I’m also looking forward to blogging again about all the cultural events of a college campus. Hopefully the lunch series will be back up and running soon!

This week is Global Vision Week at the college I am working at and with that came the study abroad fair and international cuisine in the cafeteria. I spent the day meeting students and talking about their dream destinations. Unfortunately the international cuisine was nowhere near as good as the conversation. I would not recommend the college cafeteria as the appropriate place to try ceviche. I’m just hoping it didn’t scare anybody off the idea of studying in Peru!

Let’s just say that this ceviche needed a lot more chips to be enjoyable.

 

Giving the Bird

I have to say that working with the children in the refugee community has been quite a learning experience. It’s funny what comes from their mouths and just how innocent they are.

Before I started volunteering, I did my research on Burmese and Iraqi customs. Don’t touch their heads. Don’t point with my feet. Don’t give the thumbs up sign. I was reminded this week that just as I am learning their cultures, these kids are learning ours.

As I was playing with a group of children at the playground this week, an interesting topic came up. The middle finger. All the sudden one of the little girls runs up to me and says, “I can’t use my middle finger, right?” Before I could even answer, several of the little girls are pointing their middle fingers in the air and saying, “You can’t do this, but you can do this.” And then they quickly switch to their pointer finger. From there a whole conversation ensued about why we don’t use the middle finger in America. Thinking back on the conversation, I’m sure it became a topic of our discussion because one of these little ones unknowingly gave “the bird”. I can imagine one of these little girls raising their own middle finger to read a book or scratch their face, and being met with discomfort, discipline, or distraught behavior by their fellow American peers or teachers. If I were in their shoes, I’m sure I would make the same mistakes. If I went to Iraq, could I stop giving a thumbs up? If I was in Myanmar, could I ensure that I never touch a child’s head? I highly doubt I could. I just hope and pray that I can give the patience and guidance to these little ones, just as I would need if I were learning the customs of their home countries.

The Non-Fighting Irish

My Hubby loves American football. If his life weren’t so busy, I am sure he could watch games all of Saturday and Sunday. He even partakes in a game called Pigskin Pick’em with my brother and cousins. I, on the other hand, could take football or leave it. While I’m happy to watch a game in person, watching it on television just doesn’t excite me very much. However, I do like spending time with Hubby so this past weekend we decided to find a win-win solution.

I love cultural food and activities. Hubby loves football. We both love to hang out together. So we compromised and watched the Falcons beat the Redskins at Dan McGuinness, a local Irish pub here in OKC. While Roddy White made touchdowns, Hubby and I enjoyed fish and chips and a corned beef sandwich while traditional Irish music played in the background. While I sort of doubt the authenticity of Dan McGuinness, I still enjoyed myself and so did Hubby. Which in the end, I guess that’s all that matters.

Time Capsule

When I was last home I spent some time in my parents’ basement. Its large and unfinished and my brother, cousins and I have consistently used it as a storage unit. The fun part is that it’s like going through a time capsule every time I go down there. As a kid, whenever my closet got full, I would just gather up all my pictures, mementos, yearbooks, etc., put them in a bin and take them down to the basement. I’ll admit that I was kind of a pack rat back then. But years later, as I begin to go through all the things I kept, I have to say I’m glad that I had some hoarder tendencies. In those boxes, I found some great memorabilia from my childhood through my years of studying abroad. Here are just a few things that stuck out from my time capsule.

My friends and I have decided that there are two things that women who travel wear: scarves and hats. As you can see at the age of 5, I was already embracing my future as a traveler. Or I was trying to be Anne of Green Gables. One or the other. I’m the shorty on the right.

When I was a junior in high school, my family made a trip across the Atlantic for the first time to visit my big brother who was stationed in Germany. Upon getting off the airplane, this was my first picture. The airport bathrooms in Germany had the self-cleaning toilets and I was beyond amazed with German ingenuity. Now having traveled with lots of students on their first experience abroad, I’ve discovered that foreign bathrooms are a common interest. And I’m not going to lie, I know for a fact this isn’t the only toilet I’ve taken a picture of in my past 14 years.

Also buried in the basement were all my old study abroad journals. This one was from my second summer in Italy. It was written in (poor) Italian and was full of my vocabulary, sketches, and the daily challenges and triumphs. As I read through the words that I decided to look up, the questions I wrote down, and the experiences that I struggled with as a 21-year-old college student, I see how much I grew up through my time abroad.

But of all the pictures and notes, this one is beyond far my favorite. After I graduated from high school, I spent four weeks in the mountains of KwaZulu-Natal attempting to teach economics in the local high school. As I look at this photo, it is a reminder that we all need to leave our comfort zones for a while, take risks, and that often what we are most afraid of is actually quite harmless.

Have you kept journals and pictures from travels gone by? Read and look through them and share your old memories that have come back!