When a friend and I decided that we needed to experience Christmas markets in December 2014, we asked around about which ones are the best. Everyone had different opinions, and for a wide variety of reasons, but we eventually narrowed it down to Prague because we were told it was charming and classic European market (and also because I wanted to visit the Mucha Museum- see below). We did in fact love the markets, as well as the city at Christmas time.
One of the primary reasons I wanted to visit Prague? Two words: Alphonse Mucha. I've been a big fan of his artwork for years, and even contemplated a tattoo of one of his pieces (only to discover that it's been done- a lot). I had heard there was a museum dedicated to his work, as well as other sites designed or decorated by him. And I was not disappointed! If you love the art nouveau style, the city of Prague is steeped in it! Everywhere you turn, there are hotels, apartment building, shops, and churches decorated in that distinctive style. Some photos below:
The museum is small but contains many original pieces by Mucha. There is also a gift shop with an extensive collection of prints for sale. I bought two and had them framed back home; I still get effusive compliments on them both!
7, Panská 890, 110 00 Nové Město, Czechia
more information about Mucha Museum
Three words to describe Prague at Christmas Time:
festive cold! historic
Views & Sites
Old Town Square (Staromestske namesti)
more information about Old Town Square
more information about Prague Castle
When we arrived in Prague, we were not aware that the city virtually shuts down for several days over Christmas. Luckily, we purchased tickets in advance to Swan Lake on Christmas Day! We got dressed up to witness an incredible performance. And the opera house itself was a stunning work of art! We marveled at neo Rococo decor and the rich red velvet details. Perfect for those who celebrate the holiday.
State Opera/ Statni opera (currently under reconstruction)
Wilsonova 4, 110 00 Vinohrady, Czechia
more information about the State Opera
One of the best things about Prague at Christmas: trdelnik! It's a delicious strip of pastry wrapped around large wooden posts, covered in cinnamon and walnuts, and then roasted to a delicious golden brown. Perfect on a freezing cold, windy afternoon of shopping at the Christmas markets.
Though it has been several years, I haven't forgotten our dinner at Delice, which is now called Santini Gardens. We had the most amazing dinners and glasses of wine. If you're in Prague during the summer, their back garden looks divine... We also highly recommend dinner and drinks at the Dancing House and the Beer Monastery (see below in the Ultimate Experiences section).
Jánský vršek 323/13, 118 00 Malá Strana, Czechia
Prague is a very walkable city. Plan to stay downtown, and you can see most sites easily. If you stay further out, the metro is easy to use and runs very regularly. We felt safe using the metro even in the evenings.
Three of my favorite experiences:
III. nádvoří 48/2, 119 01 Praha 1-Hradčany, Czechia
more information about St. Vitus
The Dancing House
more information about the Dancing House
Strahovské nádvoří 133/3, 118 00 Praha 1-Hradčany-Hradčany, Czechia
more information about Pelko
Real world details
If you plan to go to Prague over Christmas, the city really will shut down from December 23rd to December 26th. Many restaurants and even the markets aren't open, or for limited hours. My friend and I were warned and made sure to get an Airbnb with a stocked kitchen, and shopped for the groceries we'd need for several days. It turned out to be an adventure... we made a full Christmas dinner of roast pork, scalloped potatoes, green beans, and baked apples on Christmas Day! We made sure to have some movies downloaded and had the chance to Skype with family back home... super cozy.
Here are a few other blogs to check out:
Something that Prague is well known for is their folk art, puppetry. This are a wide variety of marionettes for sale in the Christmas markets, but these are generally more generic. In the speciality marionette shops, you'll find traditional, modern, and artistic puppets of every shape and size. I spent much of my time in Prague checking out all the cool puppets and debating which ones to purchase for others and myself. I found Loutky Michael's my favorite. Eventually, I decided on a traditional Czech female puppet for myself and a postmodern, roughly carved male puppet for my brother. Both were unique and are pieces to display with pride. You can even buy them online here.
Cape Town is a town of dichotomies: beautiful yet run-down, chill but tense, modern yet steeped in history, rich but poor. It's a town that can challenge visitors but also enthrall them. I struggle to fully explain the sense of passion- for good and for bad- that pulses through this coastal city with stunning views and political undercurrents. It's a city you simply must visit.
I visited Cape Town in March 2015 for a conference about child protection. I was fortunate to have a few days to travel on my own before the conference began, and then to spend time with co-workers experiencing the city together.
In the floor above the thoroughly sobering Iziko Slave Lodge Museum, one is shocked into modern life with a curving wall made entirely of brightly colored CDs. There is a sense of escape in the form of music and the passing of time. Another super cool discovery were the many upcycled crafts; I was delighted by sculptures of safari animals made of old soda cans, plastic bottle caps, or old flip flops glued together (pictured). And finally, the National Gallery housed a host of collections and temporary exhibits that confronted fear, racism, classism, and sexism (I found it emotionally wrenching and compelling... but was ready for a drink afterward! I ended up taking a walk in the Company Gardens to take a breather).
Cape Town in three words:
colorful breathtaking striving
Views & sites
The Labia Theater
One of my favorite places in Cape Town is the unique and vintage movie theater, the Labia. Named after founder Princess Labia, the theater was converted from the former Italian embassy ballroom in 1949. The theater not only shows art, historical and recent films, but also has a coffee shop, snack bar, and full bar! And it's located across the street from the Company Gardens, so it's a perfect stop after a day touring around.
Handspring Puppet Company
I couldn't get tickets when I visited, but this puppet theater for adults gets rave reviews! The photos from their FB page are intriguing, as well. The theater features massive puppets (and works of art in their own right!) and story lines to appeal to adults rather than children. I would definitely try to get tickets, if they are still up and running.
There were some great restaurants in Cape Town, but they may have changed in the past two years. Here's a list of foods and drinks to try:
Top three recommended modes of transportation:
3. Go on foot. If you don't need a lot of sleep, I recommend staying near Bree and Long Streets. They have an active nightlife that go into the wee hours. Many of the tourist sites are within walking distance, and the path through the Company Gardens might be one of the most beautiful urban walk ways in the world. Be safe and don't walk alone at night, even in these areas; take a taxi or Uber instead.
2. Uber. If you decide to stay further out (an excellent way to cut costs), then Uber is a quick and easy way to get to destinations efficiently. I've traveled to many cities, and this is one of the best (besides San Francisco) because there are so many drivers available. Tip: if this is your first time using the service, download the phone app before you go.
1. City Sightseeing bus. I have used hop on/ hop off buses in various cities, and the City Sightseeing buses in Cape Town have been- by far- the most efficient. They stop at all the neighborhoods and tourist sites you'll want to check out, and they run regularly and on time. I got a 48 hour ticket and used it to travel all over the city for one price- a great deal in my opinion! They have three routes from which you can choose, one taking you around the city, another exploring the peninsula (including penguins and Kirstenbosch Nature Reserve), and another focusing on the historical downtown area. I took the red line and was pleased at how much I was able to explore!
There were a lot of places to shop around Cape Town, but Heartworks was simply charming. The owner travels all around South Africa, collecting arts and crafts to sell to tourists. You'll find colorful wire baskets, hand-stitched dolls and elaborately embroidered pillows, gorgeous necklaces and earrings dripping with beads, and so much more! I purchased items for my own home, but many more items for friends back home- and everyone loved what I gave them! There are three locations. Be sure to visit at least one!
Table Mountain Cafe
We happened to visit the infamous Table Mountain in the afternoon. We headed up in a cable car, though those with more time and lung capacity could certainly hike, and decided to sit at the cafe with a few adult beverages to enjoy the amazing view! It was a highlight of my trip to sit back, relax, chat with locals, and drink in the sunset. But be warned that the last cable car down is at 6pm! Highly recommended experience... and one I will certainly never forget.
Real world details
Poverty and racial inequality are real and in-your-face even for tourists in Cape Town (I hear that it is worse in Johannesburg, though I have not been... yet). Be prepared to have children and adults approach you, and even follow you, asking for food, money, physical assistance, etc. I was approached for money for taxis and shelter by several adults, and at one point had a sandwich snatched out of my hand by a rough looking little guy (I figured he needed it more than I did). When I went to a book shop that has great reviews, I discovered a locked metal door and was only allowed entry once a bookshop worker had come to look me over. While I browsed, I saw him refuse entry to several visitors- all of them black (maybe that was a coincidence, but...). Another time, I stopped for a coffee at a crowded outdoor cafe near the crowded Greenmarket stalls. Several young children approached me to ask for food, and an older couple reprimanded me when I ordered something for them, saying I was encouraging street kids to be lazy and annoying (I gave them the food anyway). Be prepared for uncomfortable encounters and decide beforehand how you'll respond if such things happen to you.
For solo travelers, you may experience the dichotomy of good and bad encounters. For the most part, I found that traveling on my own meant that people were extremely friendly! Many waiters and customers would sit and chat with me for long stretches, and several invited me along with them to other bars and public places. I found it easy to chat with people and felt comfortable dining on my own in restaurants or visiting tourist spots. I did, however, feel the need to be wary when traveling on foot in the evening, and I was careful to keep valuables locked away when walking through Company Gardens and on Long Street. Take the usual precautions and be aware of your surroundings, and you'll have a great time.
I was only in town for a few days, so I didn't get a chance to explore Boulders Beach (famous for penguins), the vineyard tours, Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, or Robbin Island. Check out these websites for more info on Cape Town:
One of my favorite memories from this trip was having dinner at a tiny little restaurant featuring local sausages on boerie rolls. The restaurant was right around the corner from my AirbBnB and the Company's Garden. I don't think the place exists anymore, but the main point of the story is about the staff at this place. I rolled in late at night, starving after arriving from the airport. The waiters were all very busy (the place was hopping), but they each took turns coming to sit down and chat for a few minutes. I didn't know them from Adam, but they were fascinated that I worked in Qatar and had a job that paid for me to visit a conference thousands of miles away. They recommended that I try the springbok sausage and a couple local beers, and then suggested what I should see and avoid around Cape Town. I didn't stay in touch with any of them, but their kindness made a positive impression on me. I spent the rest of the trip encountering more friendly people, which marks Cape Town as a warm and welcoming place to me.
Go! It has stunning views, delicious food and wine, friendly people, and an intriguing mix of dichotomies. You won't regret it.
I lived and worked in southern China for a little less than a year. During the 2003-2004 school year, I wrote a lengthy blog post nearly every day. Posts were about funny incidents with staff or students, delicious or exotic foods I’d tried, new discoveries of self, encountering the otherness of a foreign culture, etc, etc. It was incredibly cathartic to write, but also a great way to stay connected with friends and family back home.
Fast forward twelve years, when I decided to start a new blog to chronicle my experiences in a new culture: Doha, Qatar. And yet, after three months, I was struggling to describe my every day life here. I think there are several reasons for this. The first reason is that technology has changed. At the time, my little blog in China would not be easily accessible to anyone, and I was fairly confident that none of my students or their parents would ever see my writings. It all felt incredibly anonymous. Also, there was no such thing as Facebook (or even Myspace for that matter!), so email was really my only way to connect with people back home. Now people can get (and perhaps prefer) brief clips of news from Doha in a Facebook post, rather than reading a lengthy blog post.
I find my second reason hard to explain to people who have never been to Doha. First, let me share some facts: this country has developed quickly in the past 30-40 years, partly due to the number of expats coming to work in almost every industry you could name. There are large percentages of Indian, Filipino, North African, and British or American expats, and taken together they significantly outnumber native Qatari citizens. What this looks like in reality: the expats have carved out lives that look somewhat like the ones they had “back home,” and the Qatari people keep to themselves in an attempt to hold on to their unique culture. My life here feels strangely like my life in the States, except for unexpected moments when I realize I live in a foreign culture (i.e., standing in line at Starbucks behind a man dressed in a thobe). I must behave as a guest who respects the country’s laws and customs but often times, and especially at my American school, it is easy to forget I am not in the US. I speak English all day, eat American foods in the cafeteria, and use American programs and curriculum for students.
This is not to say that I am unwilling to learn about Qatari culture; in fact, the opposite is true. I have gone to every event or cultural site I become aware of in an attempt to gain a better understanding: the Museum of Islamic Art, the Souq Waqif (the market), Fort Zubara, the Falcon Souq. I hear that you can attend events at the cultural center that I’d like to attend. Yet, I don’t know of any restaurants serving Qatari foods, I know very few Qatari people (and certainly not well), and it’s been difficult to find any books about the culture. In other words, living here doesn’t necessarily mean being immersed in the local culture.
So when you, my friends and family, ask about cultural experiences or even my typical day, I’m rather at a loss for the type of stories I used to share when I was in China. My typical day involves working at an American-style school (with admittedly a fascinating, diverse population of students and staff), going home to a spacious American-style apartment, grocery shopping for mostly American foods, and watching American TV, seeing American movies, or hanging out with my American (and some odd Canadian) friends. I can attend a Christian church freely. Most of the waiters and cleaners and taxi cab drivers are from other countries. Driving here is crazy, not because of Qatari laws, but because there are literally millions of drivers from all over the world driving the way they are used to from their old country. You must always be alert for some nutty person taking a right from the far left lane and such. Like I said, life here is not often coming into contact with the local culture, but a hybrid of many different cultures… sort of what is meant by “third culture” (See Third Culture Kids by Pollock and Van Reken).
One of the things I am grateful for is the overwhelming confrontation of my idealistic self with my selfish, privileged American self. Over and over, I have had to examine my motives and my biases, my desire to have things the way I am used to, the shocking realization that so many living around me are just struggling to survive. I find myself thankful for what I have, but also feeling guilty for the very same thing. Dynamics of wealth and power and privilege confront me daily, and I hope it will make me all the better for it… but I also don’t know exactly what that would look like. And I know that balance is necessary: I need to lighten up and have some fun every once in awhile, too.
When you ask me to describe Doha, all I can say to you is, “It’s complicated.” Feel free to ask more questions; I welcome the chance to better express what it was like to live in Doha!
the big news
My big news is that I am moving to India! I have accepted a school counseling job at an international school in New Delhi. I will be working with Pre-kindergarten to Grade 2 students. It will be quite a change from my last position at a school in Doha, Qatar!
a new format
While I was living in Qatar, I had many opportunities to travel, but I never blogged about my experiences. I'd like to take a look back at some of the super cool places I've visited, as well as continuing to chronicle my traveling adventures going forward. Here's a list of places I have been since August of 2014:
So I thought I'd try a new format. I'm going to use the acronym ADVENTURES to shape my thoughts:
Art: beauty, in all its forms, found at that site
Description of the location in three words
Views and sites to see
Entertainment unique to the location
Notes: history, background information, famous people, etc
Ultimate: site, art, restaurant, etc- whatever my absolute favorite person/ place/ thing
Real world details: anything you might need to know to make life easier as a visitor
Experts: books, websites, and other information to check out
Story: one fun story from my personal adventures
I look forward to looking back at some of the cities I've visited in the past two years. And you are welcome to join in!
In the months since I made the decision to move to Qatar as a school counselor, I have had many diverse reactions. They range from excitement to concern to complete disinterest, but there have been a few common questions that pop up repeatedly. So I thought I'd share a few of the questions I commonly receive, and an answer to each. Feel free to ask more in the comments below!
1. Where is Qatar? Is Dubai the capital city?
2. Why are you moving there?
The short answer to this is that I was offered a job at a fantastic school for expat children. The more complicated answer involves having the opportunity to work with students living overseas (I was an Army "brat" who experienced numerous transitions myself), being able to travel and live overseas again, expanding my professional knowledge by working with other wonderful counselors, and some great benefits! As I have been preparing for this move, I have also discovered a side bonus: I will have the chance to learn and understand more about Arabic and Muslim cultures and traditions… including the indulgence of delicious food and drinks!
3. Will you be teaching or counseling? With students from Qatar or other countries?
4. Is it safe? Are you worried about issues in the surrounding countries?
This might be the most common question I am asked. It is true that there are many struggles and even war in countries near Qatar; I am well aware of the current events. However, there is no reason to believe that Qatar will be involved. There is currently no evidence of political concerns in the country, even according to the US government. There is a U.S. military base and embassy in Doha. In fact, counselors and staff claim that they have felt safe living there, and very little crime is reported. Of course, all thoughts and prayers are welcome!
5. Isn't it hot there? Will you wear a burqa?
6. Where will you live? Is there a compound?
The school will provide a furnished, three bedroom apartment. It will be ready and waiting for me upon my arrival, and they have promised a starter set with needed items like dishes and sheets! All staff are provided with housing in various places around the city, but the school is currently building one place in which all staff will reside. I hear it will be ready in December 2014, and will be set up quite nicely with many amenities! We are not confined to the campus, and can travel freely around the city. I'll post pictures of my place when I get there!
7. How will you get around?
Expats can apply to obtain a driver's license before renting or purchasing a car. Driving in Doha is supposed to be quite… active… and I am frankly a little nervous about it! Public transportation, walking, and biking are limited. I plan to hire a driver if it is at all affordable, or at least until I can find my way around (after all, Doha does not have street names or building numbers. Getting directions sounds a lot like, "Take a right at the Burger King roundabout, then take a left after the National Bank."). I'm decent with directions and finding my way around, but… this will be an adventure.
8. What is daily life like? What will you eat?
My understanding from other expats is that life is quite similar to Western culture in many ways. There is a typical commute to and from school, a regular work day, shopping for food at grocery stores like Carrefour, and the every day activities of life (i.e., socializing, dinners, movies, etc). There are restaurants serving- and grocery stores offering- every type of food imaginable, and even malls with stores that are familiar to you, like Gap and Nine West. One interesting fact: weekends are different from those in the US; I will be off on Fridays and Saturdays!
9. Do you speak Arabic?
I don't speak Arabic, though I hope to learn enough to show respect to Qatari people I meet! I have flashcards that help me to practice the letters and a few basic words, but I will need a lot more practice. Most signs are in both Arabic and English, and I understand that many people speak both in common areas such as shops and restaurants. Still, it is my hope that I can speak basic phrases within the first few weeks.
10. Will you be blogging about your travels?
Of course! I have switched to a different platform, but you can still connect with it from this address. The new travel blog is called wonder.wander.write! I hope to hear feedback and comments from you all… keep it coming!
Additional questions are welcome in the comment field below.
It doesn't feel like I started driving down to Arizona just yesterday. I am on summer vacation, so I haven't felt a need to rush. Also, I have a slight obsession with airbnb as a safe, budget-friendly way to get to know places in a more relaxed way (and with super friendly hosts!). The big debate then became: which route to take? There were so many options. I leaned toward the desert, where I could see Moab and Antelope Canyon… but I am moving to a desert for the next two years! Then I thought I'd stop by Crater Lake in southern Oregon, pass through Reno, and head through Flagstaff… but I am planning a trip to Flagstaff with friends once I get to AZ. And when would I get the chance to see the Pacific Coast again? So I chose the route using the 101 & 1 highways.
Turns out that I am glad that I did. Not only have the views (and thus the pictures) been fantastic, but my car did in fact have trouble. Or should I say troubles? As in plural? Before I left on Monday night, I noticed that a headlight was out. Then in Corvallis on Tuesday afternoon, I was rear ended at a stop light by a fluster-y older lady. No one was hurt and I think there is limited damage to my car, but we exchanged info just in case. After an hour talking to a super nice insurance guy over the phone (and getting a rather nasty sunburn on my freshly tattooed upper back), I took off again toward the coast. I was determined to see those waves crashing along a gorgeous shore… but alas, it was foggy and misted over completely. I took stretch break at Heceta Head and took the first picture below. As I reached Gold Beach as the sun was setting, it was finally clearing up. I discovered I could see the ocean and sky... and it was stunning! I took some time appreciating the striking colors and the sound of the waves rolling gently to the shore. Things were looking up.
Alas, my car would have none of such optimism. It started to make roaring noises that genuinely scared me as I drove through the winding roads in pitch black darkness. I began to think I was going to end up sleeping in my car on the side of the road (that was not meant to sound quite as ominous as it sounds upon re-reading it), but somehow the car made it to Crescent City. I arrived at my airbnb farmhouse, shaken but relieved. In the morning, my host convinced me that he was a good person by providing a delicious breakfast of homemade blueberry muffins and farm fresh eggs, as well as a tour of their mini-farm with bunnies and goats. I was thus persuaded to accept his reference for a local mechanic (name changed slightly to protect the unusual), Mondo Mike.
Mondo Mike should be a character in an Adam Sandler movie (one of the older, funny ones). His garage is once-vibrant-but-now-faded hot pink with a giant fish and "Jesus is Lord!" sign. Broken down trucks and car parts and scruffy dogs were randomly placed around the driveway. Country music blared from the "office," but Mondo Mike was nowhere to be found. I stood for a minute, absently petting one of the greasy mutts that had wandered up to nuzzle against my leg. Then I finally discerned that there were two people sitting in one of the trucks … and they were chatting. The driver was an older woman, while a thin gentleman sat in the passenger seat. He waved me over, but continued to talk without acknowledging me otherwise. He was bald on top with long, wavy hair that reached past his shoulders, and he wore jeans and a greasy t-shirt that advertised a local charity run. He had tattoos and he NEVER STOPPED TALKING. It was great! He continued to chat with the driver about how his wife was getting rid of knick knacks in their house, then they talked about whether fish or chicken was better for dinner, then they discussed her truck, and then they were back to the injustice of his wife giving away his mother's Precious Moments collection (or something). I could not tear myself away. Finally, he said his farewells and we walked to my car. He whispered to me, "I just met that lady one time and she offered to give me her farm when she passes. It's ten whole acres! Ask and ye shall receive, am I right? I really know how to charm. If you are kind to people they give back. You come back here next year and you watch: I'll have ten acres!" This instilled a great deal of confidence in me. Mondo Mike checked all of the fluid levels, after asking me where they were located (even more confidence built!), and then asked if we could go for a drive. He talked the entire time about his buddy with six kids who goes to Portland to try to snag himself a wife (and yes, he did ask me if I am single, and no I declined to meet this charmer). Afterward, he agreed that the sound was indeed terrible but he was in no way qualified to fix the car. He then advised me to get a quart of oil and a pint of steering fluid -with which a gas station attendant later helped me- and to go to a bigger city where mechanics knew what they were talking about (his actual words). We parted as he asked me if I wanted a hug. I did not.
So I got some coffee, turned up my stereo over the noise of my car, and drove two hours through some of the most beautiful stretches of highway in the United States. I was shaking and nervous the entire time. I prayed a lot, too. When I made it to Eureka, I almost cried with relief. I started at a Firestone, but the lady behind the counter stated that I needed more extensive diagnostic work. She recommended a man named Ford at Pacific Pro (names not changed because they are amazing). When I arrived, a dynamic, short man named Javi greeted me and immediately got to business. On this test drive, he did not talk but listened intently to any noises, instructing me to slow or speed up. He looked under the hood and inspected what seemed like every inch of the car. I felt reassured that someone was taking this seriously. Within a quarter of an hour, he had determined that it was not the engine but something to do with drag or a wheel. When he was able to get it up on a rack, he came back shaking his head and telling me it was a miracle that I had made it to Eureka. Turns out the front left tire was nearly off the bearing and grinding all over the place (insert inappropriate twerking joke here). He seemed genuinely amazed, and I felt gratitude rush through me. He called around, got parts, and had it started before I could even cancel my airbnb reservations for this evening.
While he was doing all of this, I was sitting in the waiting room as the owner Ford alternated between making calls and talking with me. Ford has three college aged kids, remembered every detail of every customer who walked in, and is just incredibly entertaining. He told tales of his daughter in the Marine Corps and why he decided to be a mechanic, but my favorite was Javi's back story. Javi worked for Ford for eight years and, as Ford intoned respectfully, he knew the business and the customers better than anyone else in the town. A few years ago, Javi left to take over his mother's family restaurant but, despite his hard work, the restaurant failed. Javi came back to work for Ford, and for all that they gave each other a hard time, Ford clearly valued Javi as an employee and a friend. They bantered with each other and with me, and I thought about how I would love to have that kind of relationship with my boss at work! They got fatherly and protective as they advised me in finding a hotel room, then offered a ride there. They were the definition of professional- but friendly, too (the sarcasm was an added bonus).
I don't know if you've ever been in Eureka, but Javi and Ford and I were all surprised to hear that most hotel rooms were booked (why would people be here?, they seemed to imply). So I ended up at the local "historic" inn, which is supposed to be nationally registered and recently renovated. The lobby is impressive. The rest is… in progress. The perpetually flustered front desk worker was put out that she has to check people in rather than take her smoke break already! I am not sure how they define "historic," but I am quite sure they meant terrifying, or at the very least creepy. Walking through the hallways covered in peeling wallpaper would remind you of Jack Nicholson whispering "red rum," too. I am also about 75% sure the place is haunted (if you believe in that sort of thing). I'll report back later... if I survive (Okay, this may be a tad overly dramatic). Here's a picture of the Stanley Hotel, I mean INN in which I am staying:
Assuming that I survive the Shining and my car cooperates, I will be continuing my trip tomorrow. I assume there will be more adventures along the way. Stay tuned.
Late last month, I went on an adventure in San Diego. I'd spent the previous few months sorting out a one bedroom apartment's worth of worldly possessions. I divided it all by what I most need to take with me in my impending around-the-world move, what could be put in safe keeping for 2+ years, and what should be purged (the latter being remarkably painful, btw. Who knew I'd be sad to part with worn sweaters or my pretty-but-warm duvet cover?) The storage items were heading to a family members' home in Arizona via minivan… and that meant: ROAD TRIP!
There was no rush to get said storage to Arizona, but I was not going to miss my friend Karen's nuptials for the world! It was set for June 28th in San Diego. My brother and I packed up a minivan in Portland and headed down a few days before, then he dropped me off in San Diego and continued on to Phoenix on his own. I then had a few days to roam San Diego, exploring and seeing friends at Karen's wedding. It was a gorgeous, joyous event and I am thrilled that I was able to attend!
It was a conversation that happened the evening following the wedding that got me thinking about this blog, but also about what makes me most passionate. During dinner with the newlyweds, my old friend Karen reminded me of a (now defunct) Yahoo group I maintained while teaching in southeastern China, and asked why I had never had the stories published. I called that Yahoo group "Adventures in Yulin," named after the city in which I resided from October 2003 to July 2004. I had posted stories from my experiences there almost every day. This moniker actually inspired the name of this blog & website, The Adventurous School Counselor. My friend requested that I chronicle my adventures in Qatar in a similar, storytelling manner… and this is where I stopped to reflect.
So here's the thing. I love storytelling; it's one of my passions to read, listen to, tell, and write stories. Funny stories, serious stories, suspenseful stories, fictional stories… even rambling stories that make you wonder if they will ever end but somehow come together in this frenzied, coincidental, satisfying end. I particularly love stories about people and about travel, and about people who travel. But I am a sucker for transformational stories in particular. It was a delight to write down the stories from my life in China, and share them with others.
…but as I started a blog about school counseling, I found myself hesitant to write personal stories about the people and students with whom I work- even if they were positive or inspiring (and that can be so hard to pass up when big changes occur!). So I stuck to the "facts:" the structure, organization, and techniques that were implemented in the counseling program at my school. Then I got the overseas position and I thought, "it can't work to throw my personal travel stories into this structure, can it?" So I started another blog on the same website in an attempt to separate the two- not just separate topics, but different style & tone, too. I'm thinking that the school counseling blog will be geared toward fellow school counselors & educators and will stick to a more structured, professional format. On the other hand (or page), the travel blog will focus on the more personal aspects of my experiences in Qatar and will be more storytelling in nature. I am hoping this will work! What do you think? Is it confusing to have two blogs? Which one(s) would/will you follow?
Now I am wrapping up my last couple weeks in Oregon (possibly forever?), living out of suitcases, trying to check times off my bucket list and saying my goodbyes to lovely friends. Then, I will head down to Arizona for another month of catching up with family and friends before heading off to Qatar and a new school counseling job. This means many more nomadic stories to share on the travel blog in the coming weeks and months!
Here's to new adventures in blogging!
Above are a few pictures from my adventures in San Diego, June 2014.
I created a separate page on the site to gather information about Life in Doha. It is geared toward students, in case children would like to follow along and learn more about Qatar. Of course, I hope it will be informative to friends and family, as well.
So far, there are sections about:
What topics would you like to see? Please comment below!
As I am preparing to move across the world, I am finding that there are two distinct audiences for any blog posts I send out. One is to counselors in hopes of sharing ideas, but the other is geared toward students, families, and friends who are hoping to follow along on the travel portion of my move. Thus, I thought I'd create two distinct blogs at the same website. I am planning to dedicate this blog to the move, including preparation and research, and any other places I will travel. Please feel free to leave comments requesting information or topics you'd like for me to cover!