Sunday, April 30, 2006

More Introductions

Hey all you dedicated readers,
This is a quick note to send some love and also introduce two new members. We really like building community among our world traveling companions.
First, welcome to Ms. Amelia Hight, Watson fellow from Scripps College in southern california and Taos, New Mexico native (imagine all the explaining she has to keep doing when people say what, you're from mexico? while she travels the world). Amelia is working on a project on genocide memorials in Cambodia and Rwanda. We met up while I was looking at coffee in Rwanda and she was looking at genocide. Since then, we have shared chocolate bars, banana pancakes and the OC Season 2, as well as awesome conversations on the world, life, and being a Watson fellow. In addition, we made friends with 13 mountain gorillas in Rwanda's northwest corner. They are super friendly and cool, I recommend a visit to them for anyone in the area.
Also, a welcome to Brit Chase, Hamilton's own Bristol fellow, star bicyclist and columnist. Brit is traveling the world investigating the use of bicycles in different cultures around the world, and has been writing hysterical things about it. She should have been posting here all year, but we look forward to hearing all the wisdom she has to offer also as we continue our adventures!
So, cheers to expanding this awesome community of even-awesomer people. I figured out we now have 10% of the 2005-2006 Watson class on one blog. It's awesome to get to know you guys before we see each other in three months. Keep the wisdom coming...

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Survival Tips for Newbie Watson Fellows (or other travelers)

So at the request of Danielle-this blog has yet a new feature. It's survival tips for newibie world travelers. In the spirit of sharing knowledge and passing the torch-the seasoned travelers on this blog will post up thoughts, ideas, warnings, suggestions and all the other good advice that someone getting ready to travel the world should know.

Now we're not claiming to be the authority on this. But between the 8 of us, our collective knowledge should count for something. We also invite comments and suggestions from our readers (if we have any). So anyway-here we go.

Survival Tips: Financial Stuff

Now for the one year trip, it's important to have access to your money everywhere you go. It can be a real pain in the ass if you can't get a hold of your money that easy. While I was in Ghana, I had to withdraw my money in large sums at a time-trust me it was a real pain. So here are some suggestions:

-if possible, carry all three major credit cards (Amex, Visa, and Master). I would say that unless you have good credit you'll have to make sure that one of those cards is your debit/bank card. I found that Visa is the best as a bank card cause it's the most widely accepted.

-Make sure to call your bank and credit card companies and tell them where you'll be. If not they could freeze your cards when you start withdrawing or charging in another continent.

-Check to see what traveler benefits your credit cards offer. My American Express gave me extra points for booking tickets on the card, gave me limited travelers insurance, and for an extra 9 bucks I got on years worth of travel related injury insurance. It may even be worth to shop around for a card that gives you maximum benefit for travel. Your going to be spending the money anyway-might as well get something out of it later.

- Check to see what international bank is in the countries you're going. You may even have to split your fund between two banks. Personally I went with HSBC cause I found that it was everywhere I was going (except for Ghana).

-Be sure to carry a certain amount of travelers checks for those time when you may get stuck without an ATM or Bank. Normally there are forex everywhere.

Thats all I got for now. I hope the rest will join in and make some suggestions.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Long Time Coming

Hi. I have been gone a while from the traveling beans blog...and although I don't have anything nearly as insightful and brilliant as most of my comrades, I do have some stuff on the brain. I apologize in advance for it's jumbled nature as there is so much swimming around upstairs, I can't type fast enough to get it down.

I've been here in New Zealand for nearly seven months now. And this country, despite its lacking size, has definiltey humbled an American, as an athlete, and simply as a person. It has also inspired me quite a bit and introduced me to a lot of new paths to choose from.

First of all I've gotten an even better idea of just how obnoxious and arrogant Americans can be. That we're all so desperate to prove to everyone else and each other just how great we and our accomplishments are. I've been on a few little trips around both the North and South Islands, staying in hostels and meeting people from every walk of life. (This country is like a magnet for travel bums.) And everytime I've met an American I have been disappointed. Instead of finding some sort of interest in what he or she had to say I find myself removed, shrinking away from their trumped-up claims of greatness. Rarely do I meet anyone from my home country who is just happy to talk to me. Rather, once they realize I'm from the states, I'm accosted with a barrage of questions that seems more along the lines of a test. As if, they want to see if they've done more cool stuff down here, been more places, and have a more 'extreme' approach to life. And it's pathetic. I have met only two Americans who have been as gracious and lovely as the Kiwis...and both of them have been here for more than ten years.

On the crap side of this coin I recently met a guy from Washington State while tramping down south. Instead of agreeing with my thoughts about how amazing this place is and how lucky people are to come here, he goes on about himself and all the incredible mountains he's climbed, how he's almost died descending from peaks no higher than 1500 metres, how he'd biked from the top of the North Island to the bottom of the South. When I asked him whether or not he had a job he scoffed at me stating that "there is no way I want to work here for like 4 US dollars an hours" (just so you know, any moron can get an hourly wage for at least 8 US dollars an hour). And despite the fact that I was pretty pissed about how condescending and closed-minded he was towards this country's social and economic scene I figured I'd give him the benefit of the doubt.

So I took him into chatter about biking. And we talked about our bikes and the streets in Christchurch; ones that I ride up all the time and coincidentally ones that he rode up once or twice during his travels. And when I told him that I was familiar with and train on the same incredibly steep streets, he immediately changed his mind about how hard they were to "oh yeah, they're actually pretty easy hills to get up." Why couldn't he just admit they were hard? They really are DAMN hard climbs. Is it because I'm a girl or he wants to be the more hardcore tourist??

Finally, in one final effort to find some sort worthwhile reason to talk to this fellow American who had basically laughed away every single thing I had decided to do and openly expressed his supreme knowledge of how awful it is to work and live in NZ (something he's never even done), I mentioned other future travel plans to places like Peru and Italy. Maybe a fellow traveler would be glad to discuss the rest of the world..things we've not done yet. Alas no. Instead of responding with "oh that would be fun" I get "oh how lame, those places are so touristy now." Get stuffed mate.

Cue: End of conversation, Nicole walks away...and "no buddy I can't give you a ride back to Christchurch" (yes he did have the nerve to ask for a lift).

Enough to make me sick. He's not the only one...nearly every American (especially males..sorry guys) that I've met here have been so remarkably condescending towards me, my own adventures, and the beautiful culture that envelops this country. It's just plain gross and it got me asking a lot of my Kiwi friends what they thought about it.

And whether I've become more Kiwi that Yank, I don't know...but I do know that I was right in my assumptions. Many New Zealanders have found that most Americans seem desperate to prove immediately explain just how great they are and all that they've accomplished. And this is why I've been humbled: in taking an outsider's perspective on the situation, I've noticed just how ugly it can be. How pathetic. And I've learned that instead of coming off as someone already on the defense, it's time to take the offense. To stop trying to prove myself to people and rather just act like, well, me. I've found it's a lot more fun, for everyone involved.

Second of all, I've fallen in love with this place. The beauty that spans these two tiny islands is something I can't even describe in words or pictures. But the most beautiful thing of all is that it feels like home. It doesn't feel like a place I'm visiting anymore. The earth seems to call to me. It's so accepting and welcoming no matter where I go. The rain forests of the West Coast beg to be explored. The lakes and rivers, some of the deepest blue I've ever seen in natural bodies of water, flow fresh and clean. No one wonders if they are clean or safe to swim can drink the water for god's sake! The mountains look down on me, snow-capped and reflecting the sun, just waiting to be climbed. And the people...oh the people. Now that I've embraced this culture, instead of worrying so much about how I'm perceived, I've fallen in love with the people as well.

That all being said I think it's time for a change of plans.

I joked when I first moved here about never coming home. Then all I wanted to do was come home. Then I just focused on making it to September. Now? Well, it looks like I really may not come home for a while. I've already begun looking into extending my Visa, figuring ways to get home and back during Christmastime and debating whether I should sell my Jeep now or later.

Yeah, it's pretty weird. 9000 miles from home and I kind of found...well, home. Who knows what will happen, right? A lot can change in six month's time and I do miss my family terribly, but I don't think that my love for this country, these wonderful people, and the natural beauty that surrounds me each and every day will disappear anytime soon.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

And the breakers were breakin'. . .

As of late there has been much material on my end to blog. Things just keep happening. I'm actually backed up on the bloggin' biz. I should wait to put these up. But they're just so damn good. So here's the story.

Jackie and I were suppose to go up to Seoul this weekend to meet up with Derrick (the new, new newbie-but he is very quickly becoming once of the coolest members of this blog and his newbie status will soon be changed) to check out this record archive north of Seoul. Well, we never made it to the archive-but we did catch up with Derrick. Derrick put us on to b-boy competition going on in one of Seouls hip hoods. So of course Jackie and I were in. Much to our delight, it was a proper underground, funktafied, b-boy battle that we witnessed. We walked in on a scene something like this:

Now you never can tell when taking pictures of these things. Most of the time they come out too blurry. But when I got home I realzied that I got a few choice shots. These are just a very limited selection of the better shots.

Now I have tons more to throw up. But because blogger is buggin' out right now and I feel like a blog hog as of late-I'm gonna leave you all with just a taste. I'll post up indviudal series on my personal blog (yes, a shamless plug) and I'm sure you can read more about it over at Derrick's blog. Anyway, it was one wicked night and I hope for more. It's times like this when I step back and think-I have one sweet deal. Peace and love.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

The Girl and the Beast

This one was brought to my attention via email from Bennett. It's a crazy story about a 12 yr old girl who writes to Manuel Noriega during a time in which he was America's most wanted. Now I don't want to spoil the story, but I will say this-the podcast is really powerful. It's a pretty long podcast-so grab a cup of coffee, pull up a comfy chair, and listen to the story unfold.

the Watson Fellowship

So on March 15, 2006 I got the Watson fellowship. I'm going to be upfront and say I had no idea I was actually going to get it. Just for the sake of never forgetting this historic moment I want to outline what happened:
I am at home (Portmore Jamaica to be exact) and I wake up at 8 30 AM knowing that I will find out if I got the Watson or not. I run to the computor....nothing there. So then afterwards, my father asks me to please accompany him and my mother to see a piece of land and I'm saying to myself: a piece of land?? okay, whatever. So I go...then I come back home. I go to the Watson website, Gabi (my friend from Romania) calls me because she's returing to the U.S and while Im on my cell with her, I see my name on the website and I just start screaming, screaming screaming: "I GOT THE WATSON! I GOT THE WATSON!"
Gabi starts screaming, my mother comes in and is excited, my father walks in slowly and says...(as only my father would say)"so you can give it back?"

The very next day, Wangechi, Josue and Aliya land in jamaica and I go pick them up. I decide to drive them to Dunn's River falls and when we are just about to turn: BOOM!
The guy driving on the opposite side of the road loses his tire and swerves into me.

My airbags came out and my car slams into someone else. He hit off my sidemirror and breaks right into my face.

Get to the hospital..a black eye and some bruises.

Everybody is okay. The next day, I put on some shades and celebrate getting the watson. Ok so fine I looked like a battered wife but getting the Watson is still a big deal.

Then we go eye and all:..yes I drove:

Just making it back to the U.S after finding out the good news was an ordeal..but at least it was a fun one. I feel like the adventure has already started.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

universal truth #8 - #11

#8 it's never a bad idea to bring extra underwear.
#9 look both ways before crossing the street. (you are conditioned to look only the way that matters- but when you go to a different country, you might be looking in the wrong direction!)
#10 picture menus are gifts from god
#11 never get a hair cut in china (they will not listen to what you tell them and will do whatever they think is best)

Monday, April 10, 2006

A new addition to our continously expanding community...

Just an updat for our readers and our bloggers. There is yet one more addition to this crew. He goes by the name Derrick the New, New, Newbie-unitl he starts bloggin some quiality stuff. Then we'll consider changing his name to something cool. I promise he won't disappoint. He's a Watson Fellow as well and has much to share. I'll let him talk for himself. But for now-check out his blog and let's welcome him to this bad ass crew.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Audio Bloggin'

So I've recently started an Audio Blog. I'm not sure how long it'll be up for-I have to pay for the service and I'm on a budget. But in any case it's up now and has some of the stuff I've been doing. Check it out from time to time. I'm gonna throw it up on the blog roll. But here's the link for those that are intersted. Enjoy.

Which home?

In response to the new guy, longing for home, and the big and little pictures...

What can I say in response to my fellow (brainiac) bloggers? I don't know where to begin. I'm right there with everyone that traveling and living away from "home" is painful and glorious at the same time --that when it's most overwhelming you just give someone a few minutes of your time and your mind is calmed by the connection you made with that person. However, with just four months left until I am back in the U.S., I feel the pressure to run around and experience as much as possible, to check off all the boxes on my goal list for Korea: teach something miraculous to my students, learn and cook Korean, find my father's family, investigate who my mother's family was in North Korea, decide whether I should identify as Korean-American or what? But then how does one achieve all those to-dos and leave room for inviting my students out to ice cream or taking time to talk to the next person who screams hello at me after hearing me speak English.

It seems as though my experience from the other bloggers is different. For the past 7 months I have lived on a block where the girls at the local Big Mart smile out of recognition and not just out of rehearsed politeness, in a city where it's impossible not to run into one of my students in any of its corners whether I'm jogging or having coffee with friends, in a country where the taxi drivers go out of their way to explain the beautiful topography of their town because my face is one of their own. But just as Bennet said, I could spend a lifetime --not just a year-- discovering all the plants growing through each crack in these mountains, and many more lifetimes trying to fully understand how those plants sustained Koreans through Japanese occupation and then famine and war just 50 years ago.

This is the moment where I take a deep breath and keep in mind Hilary's voice saying, just take it all in because whether we consciously process it now or not, it will remain with us and we will continue to unpack this for our lifetime to come. That thought of taking time to understand this year of living especially resounds with me because this year of being in Korea has placed so many pieces of my life into some kind of common-themed puzzle that can finally begin to be put together. Though a year could put so much into the light, it will certainly take longer to make sense of the history, identity, family, and home. I suppose I have just named both the painful and the glorious part of living a year in one place, which is pretty similar to living a year in many continents: there will always be so much to learn, see, and live and sometimes it hits you, sometimes it doesn't, othertimes its neither and life is working itself out.

I suppose you can see it as a supreme irony --leaving home to understand what is home and to want to be at home-- or you can see it as the pieces coming together in a time that follows different rules from the chronological one that we wake and sleep to. The latter is how I have to see it because I've never had a backyard (or have had too many backyards), and being in Korea where my students say I am one of them because I look like them and because I have the same blood, even the U.S. as my birth or cultural home is a stretch. I guess for me, I am always searching for home and sure, the more I travel the closer I seem to get to....being at peace that maybe there isn't one on this earth for me, or at least, there isn't a singular home for me. I rather just belong to the world, the universe, to God.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

on the little things and the bigger picture...

This post is in response to Bennet’s post about travel and appreciating and understanding where we are and all that. Don’t know if it may be at all enlightening, it’s just some musings of my own…
Bennet, I just want to start off this new entry by saying that I absolutely feel you about the transient nature of this whole experience. The fact is that as we move freely from one continent to another, one country to another, and indeed one community to another, we enter momentarily into lives and histories that we can only glimpse in the few Mondays or Sundays that we choose to spend there. Over and over I have been struck by the fact that lives continue as they did the days when I was there now that I am gone, that my family in Nicaragua is waking up early and making tortillas, that waves are still crashing, and the women on the street are still selling banana bread in San Pedro. I was there to become a part of their lives a few short days, and I garnered some understanding of what it means to wake up there, spend the day picking coffee or playing dominoes. But there is so much to know, to learn, to love, about each place.
Much of this has made me appreciate my home and where I come from, and the sheer number of things that there are to learn about it, but even more than that, I have been impressed, motivated, thrilled by the number of things there are to learn in each place I have visited. I alternate between feeling that I want to run around to learn and experience as much as possible and recognizing that many of the things that are most significant and most meaningful in a new place may be quieter; things like enjoying a cup of coffee or a cooking lesson. Over and over again, I am overwhelmed at all of the things that I want to do in each of these places, the connections I want to make, the cultures I want to understand, the lives I want to experience. In each, I come away feeling that the understanding I have amassed is meaningful but so tiny; as you say, there are lifetimes going on instantaneously all around us; each one, each moment, is worthy of a study in itself. We are glimpsing whole existences, in which people live and die, laugh, have children, love, work, buy groceries, and enjoy each other. I feel blessed when I get to participate in all of those actions, for a moment, their lives and my life cross and we share something that increases our understanding of each other.
A book I recently read made this statement about life: “To live is to be marked. To live is to change, to acquire the words of a story, and that is the only celebration we mortals really know.” This year, even as we get only hints at the lives and places that we visit, we become marked by them, they become part of our stories. I think that while in some ways the brevity of those moments or the smallness of the picture that we gather may feel irresponsible since there is so much more to know, these are the moments that make up our stories, and so cannot be irresponsible. Nor can the insights and experiences that we have be small or trivial; each allows us a better understanding of our own places. They broaden our stories even as we dig deeply into one focus. And in those moments, we learn something about the cracks in our own sidewalks in places where there are no sidewalks, about our flowers by smelling new flowers, by the molecules around and inside us that are the same everywhere that we go.
So as we step off one airplane or bus or street into another in a new country or a new continent, I think all we can do is take a deep breath and try to notice everything. The sights and smells and smiles. There will be plenty of time to think more about it when we get home. For the time being, all we can do is take in as much as possible.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Something to meditate on

I was going to post this on my personal blog. But I think this is something we can all share. I needed some truth so a fellow soul rebel passed this on. It comes from a man who I must admit-I don't know too much about. But from what I do know about him...I have to say I recognize him to be one of the few people of our recent history to have done a great justice for humanity. And I think that's what this world needs right needs more humanity. We need to dream bigger dreams and need to expect more from one another. So I invite others to medidate on this one with me.

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that frightens us most. We ask ourselves, "Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and famous?" Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that people won't feel insecure around you. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in all of us. And when we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” – Nelson Mandela

Saturday, April 01, 2006

WTF?!: From Jeju island...

comes this lovely picture that will have our Spanish speaking audience pleased. Jackie and I were walking to meet up with some friends and we come across this photo opportunity.

Now this kind of thing always makes me wonder. Did someone play a really bad joke on these poor restaurant owners or is it just an honest coincidence? we have it. La Pu Ta- A taste of the old west.

On another note. I'm adding a new feature to the blog's side bar. It's links to other blogs that aren't apart of the badass traveling beans crew-but are just as badass in their own way. If my fellow blog mates have some suggestions...send them over and I'll throw them up. The first one featured comes from my hometown. Not because my city is better than everyone else, but because the author of the blog is wicked cool. He's a NYC cab driver who chronicles his days on a blog called New York Hack ( To say the least, it's an interesting look at one of the worlds most diverse cities. Check it out and enjoy.