The content of each post is solely written by that contributor and only expresses the contributor's personal views. Each post does not represent the views of all the contributors or Women of Color Living Abroad as an organization. Each contributor is speaking from their own person experiences and/or perspective.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Sistas in Oman: Part II

In Sistas in Oman:  Part I, our interviewees introduced themselves and gave you a glimpse of their life in Oman but they have much more to share!  Ranging from novice to expert travelers, here are some general reflections and words of advice from our “sistas in Oman”.  Enjoy!

What sacrifices have you made to live abroad and were they worth it?

Anya:  For me, the number one sacrifice is being away from family and friends.  Seeing my nieces and nephews grow up, missing graduations and family functions.  My parents are aging, so I think of this.  However, living abroad is best for me, my path, and my journey- it’s bigger than me.  This is God’s plan.  I wouldn’t change it but it saddens me at times.  Otherwise, professionally I would not be where I’m at, nor as financially stable.
“Maria”:  I cannot explain that.  I’ve always wanted to speak English, and speak it without a Venezuelan accent.  So, moving to the U.S. was never a sacrifice because it was something I wanted; a dream.  Then, when I came here (Oman), I felt right at home.
Stephanie:  My family has always been really supportive, so I haven’t made much of a sacrifice.  Living abroad has been a totally, awesome experience.  I have met other travelers and their experiences whet my appetite to see more.  Traveling has always been my dream.

Deniece:  I don’t think I sacrificed anything.  Everything I did, I decided to do- it was my own choice.  Overall, I’ve found that everything I need, I can access and I’m sufficient with that.
Ilwad:  I love this place, so I don’t feel like I sacrificed yet.  I miss my family, but it’s not a sacrifice.

What are your “can’t leave home without it” travel essentials?

Ilwad:  Ultra Glow Cocoa Bar.  No other cream works for my skin; it’s the only thing, so my family brings it for me.
Anya:  My Lonely Planet and my Bible.  My Lonely Planet is my travel bible.  And, I always travel with a pocket calculator because it takes time to get used to the currency conversion.
“Maria”:  My laptop.  I can’t live without it and my internet.
Stephanie:  My camera.  I really love photography and since I love to travel, I’ve taken lots of pictures of the places I’ve been.  Another thing is maple syrup because it’s really expensive here.
Deniece:  I don’t know.  There’s nothing that I need.  Probably a camera but I’m very flexible.  It’s not hard for me to adapt.

Are you the same person you were when you left home?

Ilwad: No way! I’ve grown in the past six months in ways that I never thought. I’m the youngest of a large family, so I’ve always relied on others and had a backbone. Coming here, I’ve had to ask,“Can I rely on myself?” I have to behave myself and be responsible for me.

Deniece: I’ve matured in the last four years. That comes with more knowledge and more experience with different people, walks of life, and faiths. As for me specifically, I grew more into myself, my spirituality and who I really am. There’s a lot of personal growth when you’re able to be outside of the U.S.
Anya:  I’m more disciplined.  There’s nothing to do in Oman, so I have my routines.  I’m cooking more and eating healthier.  I’m more disciplined financially and realizing that I don’t have to be a consumer.  In America, we’re such a nation of consumers but I gave that all up.  I don’t have to be “fly” all the time.  I wear my abaya everyday and that’s fine.  Also, I have a greater appreciation of Islam.

Ilwad:  I love hearing the adhan (call to prayer).  Hearing it makes me more spiritually awoken. 
"Maria”:  I’m not sure if it’s because of life abroad or life in general, but I’ve had to build a wall because people hurt me and betrayed me.  This has made me more responsible about “letting people in” because I’m afraid of getting hurt.
Stephanie: Well, I’ve changed because I’ve become more flexible. Traveling from city to city makes you have to adapt to different cultures, traditions, and customs. I’m reminded to suspend judgment and this has made me more open-minded.

What do you wish you knew when first leaving home, that you know now?

Ilwad:  Sort out any emotional conflicts before leaving the country.
“Maria”:  I just recently realized how much paperwork is needed and all the bureaucracy involved when having things apostled from abroad.  As far as life, I don’t think anything would have helped.  You have to learn for yourself.
Anya:  I wish I would’ve known that you can’t buy a children’s Quran in English here.
StephanieI wish that I had known and been smart enough to pack light and not pack too many unnecessary things.

Deniece: Yes! I took half of the stuff back home before coming to Oman. I also wish I knew to stockpile items and ethnic stuff that you can’t get outside of the U.S. For example, products for your hair or doing something with your hair that’s easy for you to keep up because some things you just can’t substitute.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Sistas in Oman: Part I

by:  eternitysojourner

Most people have no clue about Oman.  “Where is it?”  “What’s it like there?”  “Is it in Jordan?”  If you’ve seen a map of the Arabian Gulf, you would know that Oman is cuddled by Yemen, United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Saudi Arabia - a tight squeeze, to say the least!  Having seen all of these countries, Oman is truly at the center of them all, literally and figuratively.  In Oman, you’ll find humble hospitality akin to Yemen, opulent development akin to Saudi Arabia and a thriving tourism economy akin to the UAE.  The “sleepy sultanate” has progressed significantly in the last four decades, without getting “lost in the sauce”.  Omanis know who they are, and they have customs and rich traditions to remind them.  Not overly conservative, not frighteningly progressive, but a beautiful array as varied as her landscapes.  You can truly “get in where you fit in” and find at least one Omani that reminds you of a relative back home.  While Korea and UAE seem to be most popular with women of color as of late, a few sistas met Oman and fell in love.  Hopefully, you’ll get a taste of life here through an interview with five lovely ladies who call Oman home.

Tell us about your life abroad.  Where’s home?  Where and how long have you lived abroad?

Anya:  Home for me is Philadelphia, PA.  And, of course, New York- gotta represent Brooklyn!  The journey for me has been amazing!  It started in 1997 when I traveled Ghana to go to school and to teach, and I’ve been abroad ever since.  I’ve learned about different cultures and languages.  I also have an appreciation for different religions and practices.  I love seeing the interaction between religion and tradition and how they can go hand-in-hand.
Ilwad:  Home for me?  The UK is where I grew up.  My origin is Somalia.  My family migrated to Kenya, and when I was seven, we moved to the UK; so London is the only home I know.  Even though Somalia is my home, I can’t relate to it.  This is my first trip away internationally, and I‘ve been here for six months.  It has been such an incredible journey!  It had its ups and downs, but this is my first time away from home.
“Maria”:  I’ve been living abroad for 15 years now.  Home?  I’m originally from Venezuela but home?  I don’t know.  I lost a lot of my cultural identity.  I lived in the US for ten years and returned to Venezuela but couldn’t fit in.  My friends back home have the same life- just living in their comfort zone and never experiencing different cultures, so it’s tough.  I spent a year in Venezuela trying to get out and have been in Oman for five years.  I’m 200% Venezuelan but I’m barely American by citizenship, so I’ve become so international to my own detriment.
Stephanie:  Well, I’m originally from Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  I started living abroad in 2005.  I taught in Chiang Mai, Thailand at a K-12 school.  Then I went to Daegu and Seoul, South Korea and Istanbul, Turkey.  Now, I’m here in Oman.
Deniece:  I was born in Nassau, Bahamas and grew up in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.  I’ve been overseas since 2008.  I was in Egypt for two and a half years and now Oman.  Years ago, in 2001, I was abroad in Benin through Peace Corps.

How did you end up in Oman?  Did you choose Oman or did Oman choose you?

Ilwad:  I think Oman chose me.  I knew I wanted to leave the UK- that’s all I know.  I wanted to see a different life, particularly Arab culture.  Arab and Somali culture are very similar but I can’t return to Somalia because of war.  I sent my CV to universities in different gulf countries.  I had an offer in Saudi but I thought, “No way!  I can’t drive there?!?”  Then, I heard from a university here.
Stephanie:  Well, for me, I previously worked in Istanbul and, as everyone knows, Turkey is a Muslim country.  It’s very open and progressive, so I wanted to see what life was like in a more conservative Muslim country to get a different cultural perspective.
Deniece:  I came just for work, really.  It was time to leave Egypt and people told me Oman was a nice country with nice people and that it was very “low on the radar”.
Anya:  In undergrad, I took Arabic as a foreign language, and it was one of the most difficult courses I had ever taken.  In the back of my mind, I knew I would be in Arabia. Being here has given me a deeper respect for Islam and the beauty of its practice.  I’ve lived in East Africa, West Africa, South Africa, and Asia and hadn’t done the Middle East yet.  Oman was not my first choice, Dubai was but I came because I knew someone here.
“Maria”:  I had no idea where Oman was.  I had to look on a map.  I wanted Dubai but ended up in Oman.  I thought I would just stay two years for the experience but I fell in love with the students- they’re so pure and humble.  I fell in love with the Sultan and his country.  He’s the only leader of a country that I admire.

What do you love most and least Oman?

Stephanie:  I guess for me, it’s a little too tame- too quiet for me.  There are some really pretty parts like Jabal al-Akhdar, the beaches, the corniche- it’s a pretty country and the people are really kind.  I also love my students.  They’ve been really sweet.  Some of them are extremely eager to learn and show you their work and what they know.
Deniece:  What I like most is the people and their hospitable nature. The authenticity of their spirituality is more prominent here.  I would definitely say the students too.  My current students are the best I’ve ever had.  What I like least would have to be…not enough culture for my taste.  I need more things to do, more places to go, more things to see- more cultural avenues. 

Anya:  I love the nature, the eco-tourism- it’s aesthetically beautiful.  I have a profound appreciation for Omani people.  They’re extremely congenial- very nice, extremely pleasant, and will exchange pleasantries with you.  What I love least?  Omani men.  I don’t want to generalize all Omani men but outside of Muscat (the capital city of Oman), at least!  The beeping, the staring, and looking at you with a discriminating eye.  Wearing the abaya (black, traditional gown) lessens it but I still have cars honking and slowing down.  I don’t get this in Muscat.
“Maria”:  What I love least is that everything you do is associated to your employer.  Something happened to me at 8pm one evening and by 7:30 the next morning, my students were asking me about it and I don’t like that.  What I love most are the people in general.  They have a closeness with God.  We do too but they live it and take it seriously.
Ilwad:  What I like most? The people- the way they practice their religion and how they welcomed me.  I was frightened by the mountains at first because where I come from is completely flat.  Yeah, the people may stare but I know their hearts are pure and they would never harm me.  Here, I can sleep at night and I know I’m safe.  As a young female, safety is very, very, very important to me.

Stay tuned for Part II!

Friday, April 20, 2012

Ladies, Do You Know Your Worth?

By: Meisha

Dudu Zuma's, President Jacob Zuma's daughter, Traditional Wedding**

One of the more interesting cultural traditions I have learned about during my time here in South Africa is the Lobolo.  It’s a traditional “dowry type” custom where the soon-to-be-groom compensates the soon-to-be bride’s family with cattle or cash to marry the bride. According to Wikipedia* (and yes I am quoting Wikipedia), “the custom is aimed at bringing the two families together, fostering mutual respect, and indicating that the man is capable of supporting his wife financially and emotionally.”

To my understanding, the “groom” will meet with the male heads of the “brides” family, i.e. her father, uncles, etc.  The males will then discuss and debate how much the bride’s Lobolo should be or in other words how much she is worth.  Her value is determined by how much and what type of education she has received, whether or not she is virgin or has any kids, her age, and her occupation amongst other things.    

My favorite response to someone hitting on me has now become, “you can’t afford my Lobolo.” OK I have to admit I haven’t said this aloud to anyone, but one day I really will, lol.  In the meantime, it has gotten me to thinking, what am I worth and have I been dating people that could afford my Lobolo? (I should state here that many South African couples date for an extended period so the man can save enough to pay the Lobolo)

I am 34, I have no kids, I have an advanced degree, once upon a time I had a “good” job, I speak 2 languages, working on learning 2 more languages, and I am well traveled.  So in this culture my Lobolo would be pretty high (and yes I have asked a couple people for reference).  BTW-I know these are somewhat superficial criterion, but I feel that my non-resume credentials and characteristics are high Lobolo worthy as well! :0)  

What I have realized during my time here is, how much I have dated people that probably couldn’t afford my Lobolo.  As a Black American female, I feel that American society tells me I need to “date down” in order to avoid the statistical plight of the single educated and successful Black female.   While, in South Africa I feel that I don’t need to be ashamed of my successes or feel that they are going to doom me to a life of singledom.  My successes just further increase my worth!!!

So to all my Single “Women of Color Living Abroad,” next time someone questions you about your relationship status or makes you feel guilty about forsaking pursuing a mate for traveling, just let them know you are working on increasing your Lobolo!!!  

*Wikipedia never disappoints and has a pretty good write up on the Lobolo. if you would like to learn more.

Village life in Georgia...the country not state!

This is an account of some things that I have experienced living in a small village while teaching English abroad in the Republic of Georgia (an Eastern European country near Armenia and Turkey). My placement is in West Georgia in the Guria region which is situated near the Black Sea and known for its warm climate. My other group mates that arrived with me were so jealous, and they said it was unfair to put someone from a warm climate in a warm region. This hadn't been the case during my first few weeks here (locals say it was the longest winter in many years)!

Nasakirali is a quaint little community surrounded by evergreen bushy forests and a view of the Bakhmaro Mountains. There is only a school, clinic, and lots of little shops. Most the people do their own farming so there are lots of cows, pigs, and hens roaming the streets. I was shocked to learn that there is a large Muslim community here, but their practices are quite different from what you would think of. There is no Mosque, praying, and women covered up showing only their eyes. Some of the locals even drink wine, so this is definitely a Georgian version of the religion.

My village

Now to my village life experience:
My host family consists of just an elderly couple that teach at my school. This is very small and different since generations of family members usually live in one household in Georgia. They don't speak any English, but are very loving and have truly embraced me as a part of the family. I call my host mother 'deda' and my host father 'mama' which are Georgian words for mother and father. I wish I had started learning more Georgian before my arrival, but since I am surrounded by Georgian I'm picking it up along the way.

I live in a nice two-storey home, which is common in villages compared to cities where people usually live in apartments. Although my room is currently in the library with a double pull-out couch, now that we are in Spring I'll be in moving upstairs to my own private suite with a picturesque view of the village. I'm super excited! There is a wooden stove and no indoor heating, so this was a major adjustment during the cold these past few weeks. Many times I sat huddled by the stove to keep warm even with layers of clothing on so I am happy that Spring is finally here.

My home in the village

My diet consists of mostly starchy foods including bread, potatoes, and cheese, but we eat beans, fish, and chicken as well. Meat is very expensive here. The good thing is that these are organic products since my host family has a garden of vegetables and cows. I do watch my portion sizes and started walking now that the weather has warmed up.

Infrequent hot showers since pipes were frozen during the winter months. This having been a very long winter, I had to adjust to this. Two words WET WIPES!

Neighbors frequently visit my home, and I am invited to their homes often either for 'suphras' (dinner parties) or to simply show me their homes and introduce me to family members. They love to give guests coffee and chocolates. I'm not a fan of coffee but I drink it to be polite.

My 1st suphra!

I usually walk wherever I need to go in the village, which is mainly to and from school. My host parents and I take a short 12-minute trot there. It's great exercise so I don't complain. It was a bit of pain during the cold and snowy days (sometimes we would catch a ride with a passerby) but the Spring weather makes it much better!

To get in and out of the village, I have to take a marshutka (mini-buses that are very popular throughout Georgia). This is a 30-minute ride to the nearest town and I travel either by train or marshutka to my final destination. If I'm running errands or meeting up with other friends in town I walk. I'm still adjusting to this because the bus schedules are very limited so I have to be sure to get to the station on time or I will be stuck in town until the next day. I could take a taxi but they are very expensive and not being a local can mean additional costs. On weekends that I travel outside of my region, I'm usually able to stay at one of the school teacher's house.

The Marshutka

After school and on weekends in the village, I mainly read and watch movies on my laptop. Otherwise, I sit and watch tv with my host parents especially Spanish soap operas, Georgian Dancing with the Stars and Georgian Idol (their version of popular American shows), visit with neighbors, and take long naps.

Washing machines here have the modern look but do not work as such. I'd prefer to do laundry weekly, but these machines it takes hours to wash a load of clothes. The first time I did laundry I took a two hour nap and my clothes still were not done so I'm just thankful that my host family has a washing machine. There are no dryers and clothes are hung on the line (even in cold weather), but there's nothing like air drying clothes.

The washing machine

There is no internet access at my house, so I had to go to the nearest town to purchase a USB modem and internet package. Although it's the best internet service is quite and most likely to work in villages, the USB modem is quite expensive and I pay monthly by GB.

Curious stares and pictures are common for people of color so my village is no different, but being here over a month now everyone is getting use to seeing me. The people are friendly and always bid me hello 'Garmajoba.'

It can be boring living such a laid back lifestyle especially with no English speakers around, but I'm making the best of it. Now that I am picking up the language and making friends with neighbors in my age group it's not too bad. Also, I have been traveling around the country on most weekends now that the weather is warming up. It's great to be in a place I don't have to worry about locking doors at night or crime and everyone knows each other. Also, I can always meet up with other English teachers in town or call them for free on my local cellphone as well as travel to other regions on weekends. I'm enjoying the experience of living here so far, and I hope to learn to milk a cow, make homemade dairy products, and plant and harvest vegetables!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Gaining Financial Freedom Living Abroad

April, 20112—Cha Jones

"Umm—I thought I came here to travel!”

When I first set sail to live abroad in Korea in 2009 I had one major goal at the time—“Become debt FREE.” Of course I had a desire to travel, but I really wanted to go back to America better off than I left. And for me, that meant that I had to have a “Game Plan.”

Pleasure vs Pain

It’s really easy to live life constantly seeking those things that make you feel good, but it takes some discipline to deny yourself things that gratify your senses. Travel for most of us is an indulgence, but it has always been so much a part of my life that without it I feel a little lost. However, while living in Korea I found that if I were going to give up something there needed to be a compromise while I worked toward my bigger goal, which turned out to be great—domestic travel. While I had to forego the pleasure trips, I was able to take smaller excursions within the country and discover the sights in and around the peninsula.

How I became debt free in a year

I’ll be honest most of my life I live very care-free, but when it comes to my money I always have a foreseeable plan. It isn’t very difficult for me to budget and save for the things that I desire to have or do. However, if you find sticking to a budget or saving for something that you want difficult, then let me give you a few little tips on how to save and still be happy.

1. Visualize it-for me I write it all out, but for you, you may want to create a vision board of what you want in the future.

2. Decide to live from the end- when you live from the end you act as if what you want is already here. So, if you want to owe nothing at the end of your contract, then you need to act the part. Think of how you will feel when that happens and focus on that feeling vs thinking about how much you are missing out on, especially when you see all the cute pictures being posting on FaceBook. Remember stay focused on what you want!

3. Decide what you can live off of- look at your entire debt and your entire income and make a conscience decision of what you are willing to live off of. Make this reasonable, because if you don’t you will be setting yourself up for failure before you get started. Don’t bite off more than you can chew.

4. Pay yourself FIRST-always pay yourself first because it does two things (1) it shows how value you believe yourself to be (2) when you pay yourself it allows you to set aside your portion of savings before anyone else gets a portion of what you worked for, look at it like you are rewarding yourself before you give anyone else a piece of the pie, “I mean you made the money, RIGHT?”

5. Create a budget and budget out your entire year- I know this may seem a little daunting, but the reason I suggest putting the whole year in a budget at once is (1) so you can see it (2) because most of us get paid once a month and you know what you are going to get paid, so in essence you already know what needs to be set aside in advance and this way you can stick to the plan with ease.

6. Celebrate you success- Don’t make saving feel like torture. When you are saving and paying off debt it may seem like jail time. If you view it as such, you will regret it and it becomes work-hard work, and most people hate hard work. Find ways to reward yourself for meeting your goals. Maybe you buy yourself an outfit when you make your 3 month goal, and maybe you go on a nice dinner outing when you hit another goal. Whatever you do, don’t sit around crying broke because you are working toward something great and you don’t want to resent the process in the meantime.

Example of my savings plan…

Based off of a income of $2,500 (after taxes monthly) with debt of $10, 000
Remember pay yourself FIRST, for those of you who attend church this is just like tithing (first fruit is yours and if you go to church and you tithe then you pay God too at this time.)

Self: $250
Credit card 1: $2,500 Credit card 2: $3,000 Credit card 4: $4,500
You still live off of $1075 a month
Month 1
Month 2
Month 3
Month 4
Month 5
Month 6
Month 7
Month 8
Month 9
Month 10

As you can see this is only 10 months, but I based the dollar amount off of a complete 12 months. You want to start with the smallest balance and pay it off first, then you move to the next smallest debt and you use the money from the paid-off debt to pay the remaining debt. When you do this, you pay off your debt faster and consistently, and you will notice that I increased the amount I paid myself as I paid off the debt. This creates free cash flow and I suggest if you spend money from your savings you pay yourself back with interest.

To become debt free you will have to sacrifice a little, but at the end you will be much happier and more fulfilled. If you complete this goal it makes all your other goals more successful, and if you want to extend another year and travel you will be able to do it without the weight of your debt on your shoulders.

Once you have become debt free I suggest that whatever you charge you being to pay off completely every month, then you won't ever OWE anyone or find yourself IN DEBT again!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Traveling Sucks (Yeah, I Said It)

By Rukiya McNair

I miss my husband. As I am here in Puerto Rico enjoying the sunshine (see photo), he is in a war zone everyday… working away. Having two small children does make it a bit better, as I always have company and for the most part they are a joy to be around. Missing him also makes me think about some of the things that travel has forced me to miss out on.  I mean, don’t get me wrong, travel has changed my life and opened my eyes to life in a way that I can’t describe in words but it does also have its downfalls.

For instance, friendships have been formed in every place I have  traveled to, and I mean real friendships. So, moving away is hard when you realize years down the road that the people who mean the most to you are often spread out across the globe.  On one hand, this great because you always have people to go visit, but on a day-to-day basis this can make things quite lonely.  Although, I can say that I am grateful for technology which makes it much easier to communicate now-a-days. So I suppose I should be thankful right?

Something else I have realized, as I have packed up and moved around more than most people I know, is that being attached to material possessions is a waste of energy and time. You know that lovely broach your grandmother gave you for your fifth birthday or that necklace that’s been passed down in your family for generations? Leave it with someone you trust or simply prepare yourself for the reality that it will get broken, stolen, or lost…or some combination of the three.  At this point, I have managed to program myself to not become attached to anything that can’t love me back. Be aware that luggage does get lost, delayed and stolen. Understand that when you leave items at a hotel, they typically don’t call you to say they have it, especially if it’s of value. Yes, people do pick-pocket, this is something your typical American is not accustomed to, but it happens (in some places, it happens rather often). Left your cell phone in a taxi after a fun and long night out? Kiss it goodbye.  Ipods, purses, wallets…anything you can think of can and more than likely will turn up missing if you travel enough. Just be thankful for your health and keep it moving.

A bit of advice I do have is that when you take photos, upload them to a website, internet storage, your email or somewhere you can find them in the case that your camera and/or laptop breaks or disappears. I mean, one thing you don’t want to lose is all of the beautiful photos you have taken along the way, right?

Okay, so now that I've officially scared you off (I'm joking, if you're reading this I know it can't be that easy) let it be known that traveling and living abroad is not for the faint for heart. It will, however change your life for the better and you will belong to one of the best clubs around. 

Thursday, April 12, 2012

A Blogger's Collected Snapshots (The ABC's) of Travel

By:  Brittany S

I was searching for a way to sum up all of my travel experiences in one article and I stumbled upon the “ABCs of Travel” questionnaire.  Here’s my travel life wrapped in the alphabet.

A: Age you went on your first international travel
When I was in college, I was awarded a $6000 scholarship to go abroad.  I applied to a 6-wk study abroad program at Middlesex University in the UK (2007).  I was 19 when travel changed my life forever.

Does this count as a "float-thru?" (Bought Red Stripe here)

B. Best foreign beer you had and where:
I don't drink much, and I don't like beer.  However, Jamaica’s “Red Stripe” is pretty tasty considering.  The journey to get to it was interesting as well.

C. Cuisine (favorite):
So far, my palate was most satisfied in VIETNAM.  I'm NOT big on veggies or anything that people say “It’s good for you.”  But in Vietnam, I ate a ton of fresh/healthy food, even pumpkin leaves/stems, and it was delicious!  This is the ONE FOOD I've ever eaten that made me want to say “Tastes like chicken!”

Travel fatigue's no joke, especially when it's hot.
D. Destinations, favorite, least favorite and why:
My favorite country is Thailand (thus far).  I visited downtown Bangkok for 5 days on about $600 USD and had plenty of money to spare. 
My least favorite so far is Hanoi, Vietnam.  The local cuisine was phenomenal and my USD was stretched the farthest there.  The only downside was the weather.  I went there after traveling to two other countries that week and was running on fumes.  The hot weather completely wore me out and I slept most of my trip. 

E. Event you experienced abroad that made you go Wow
The Siam Niarmit is the best theatrical experience I’ve ever had.  There were two shows, a traditional village, and a wonderful buffet all included in the price of the ticket.  The “wow” moment for me was being stalked by both elephants!  I wasn’t trying to draw their attention like everyone else, but they were drawn to me and I was often trunk to face with one of the elephants.

F. Favorite mode of Transportation
The Tuk Tuk’s in Thailand feels like the adult version of boxcar racing in the middle of traffic!

G. Greatest feeling while traveling
I am just thankful for the simplicity in travel.  Seeing the same flower from all of its angles with all the different ways the light can hit it makes it all the more beautiful.

H. Hottest place you traveled to
Hanoi, Vietnam.  See (D).

Our cook, housekeeper, and Rasta tour guide with some of us.
I. Incredible service you’ve experienced and where
I took a trip to Ocho Rios, Jamaica with my (older) cousin and some of her girlfriends.  From the time we arrived at the airport we were just completely spoiled.  Even though they catered to us so heavily, they made us feel like welcome guests in their home and a part of the family.

J. Journey that took the longest
My journey to S. Korea was exhausting.  From start to finish it was a little over 24 hours.

K. Keepsake from your travels
I collect elephants, so anytime I can find an affordable and unique elephant that is small/light enough to travel with, I scoop it and a few of its friends up!  Trunk up always!

L. Let down site: when and where
Roppongi Hills--Tokyo, Japan.  To be fair, the majority of this let down was on my part, not theirs.  Japan's currency is really strong.  Roppongi Hills has endless shopping and dining, as well as places for wellness and fitness, entertainment, and sightseeing; almost all of which were out of my price range.  To top it all off, I purchased a combo ticket for the “Tokyo City View” and Mori Art Museum, but it wasn’t until I was about to go to the museum that I was told it was closed and wouldn’t be open until next month. 

Became Friends: Summer 2007
M. Moment where you feel in love with travel
In the UK, I reinvented myself there and realized that no matter where I am in the world, people are just people.  I've kept in touch with my friends I made there (who were from all over the world) and recently went to one of their weddings in Hong Kong.


Reunited: Winter 2011

N. Nicest hotel you stayed in
Arnoma Hotel in downtown Bangkok, Thailand.  The hotel was beautiful, staff was friendly, and the BREAKFAST WAS FANTASTIC!


 O. Obsession – What photos are you obsessed with taking pictures of while traveling
Sooo...style stinks?
"Horn Removal"? Is that common?
Funny signs!  I’ve seen everything from a sign that resembled the “Advance to St. Charles Place” Monopoly card to something with teddy bear trench coat flashers.  Bad English translations are funny, too.  Yesterday I saw a “Crap Salad” sign at a restaurant. :-)

P. Passport stamps, how many and from where
I currently have 11 stamps from:  London, Paris, Jamaica, Korea, Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, China (layover flight), Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Japan (in that order).

This is slightly erotic according to "Loveland" O.o
Q. Quirkiest Attraction you have visited and where
In Jeju, S. Korea, I visited “Loveland,” a sex museum/park.  I’ve never seen genitalia as tall erect statues (no pun intended) with polka-dots all over them.  The quirkiest part of it all is that it was a school-sponsored trip.

R. Recommended sight, event, or experience
Siam Niarmit.  See (E).

I can't swim or float, but I can do this
S. Splurge: Something you have no problem spending money on while traveling
If I have the opportunity to do one of those once-in-a-lifetime type of things like an “Aquanaut Voyage” or fly a plane, then I do it as long as the ticket isn’t TOO high and the intrigue is great)!

T. Touristy thing you’ve done
“Dr. Fish” is a special fish that eats dead skin.  There’s a cafĂ© I visit often but I notice I never really see locals doing it.  Fish are eating my feet while everyone else is drinking coffee.

U. Unforgettable travel memory
I was sitting around with a group of people from all around the world and I felt I learned more about their countries and cultures one night over dinner than I'd learned my entire time in school.

V. Visas: how many and where
Korea (work) and Vietnam (travel).

W. Wine, best glass while traveling and where
I like Moscatos.  I’ve only had moscato in the States though, but it was during one of my roadtrip visits, does that count?

X. eXcellent Views and Where

The ocean view from my villa in Jamaica.  It was hard to distinguish the water from the sky and for a moment, all I could hear were my heart beat and the gentle waves.

Y. Year’s spent traveling
I’ve been in S. Korea for a little over 15 months.  Also, I've traveled domestically most of my life.

Z. Zealous sports fans
I’ve seen a lot of zealous sports fans in different places, but still, none seem to top those in my family.  While others are just extremely excited about winning and a little discouraged by losing, I’ve seen members of my family almost break a TV, chair, table, etc all at the thought of losing.