Donald Trump’s America on Holocaust Remembrance Day

It has been a while since I’ve posted anything but I wanted this post to be preserved on another place other than my Facebook wall. Here are some of my thoughts on this day:

I have cried every day since November 9th. I cried alone in my room because I could no longer watch the election results roll in, I was angry that we could elect someone so hateful. About two weeks earlier, I cried because I found out that I would not be able to vote in our election. My ballot never arrived to the address I listed when I registered to vote abroad and when I arrived at the US embassy in Melbourne, I was told it was too late for me to vote with a Federal Write-In Ballot because it could not be post marked in time. Thankfully, I live in a state that voted for Hillary Clinton…I don’t think I could have ever forgiven myself if I lived in a state that went for Trump.

I cry every day for a different reason. I read an article that makes me fear for the lives of my friends or even for people I don’t know because I know whatever Donald Trump’s action I am reading about is, it is not right. I cry when I think back to my studies as an International Affairs student, specifically those surrounding human rights and ethics and think about how we used to not ratify certain conventions because they were not up to our standards. In one week, we have managed to violate many of these conventions (more so than we already had been, but that is a conversation for another day) and have a new Ambassador to the UN who is looking to make more enemies than friends through a body that was established on the grounds of peacemaking and international cooperation. I cry because I used to associate myself with the party that is backing Donald Trump and I so ashamed of that, especially since so much of what has happened seems to be directly at odds with many of the core values of the party (i.e. small government and free markets).

Today I cried because it is Holocaust Remembrance Day. On this day every year, I am thankful that Agnes and Herbert were able to escape Nazi Germany and made it to San Francisco where they met my mother. They practically raised my mother and in their honor, she converted and because of them, I am a Jew. Today I cried because on the very day we remember the religious persecution of the Jews in Nazi Germany, the president of my country chose to officiate a religious persecution of his own against Muslims. Lest we not forget that the Nazis also persecuted homosexuals, gypsies, blacks, the disabled and targets those who expressed dissent to the regime. In a press statement released by the White House, Trump didn’t acknowledge the Jews or the idea of religious persecution that was central to the Holocaust, I believe this is because he knows what he is doing is exactly that but does not want to use language that would expressly associate his actions with those of Adolf Hitler. I stood on Swanston St in Melbourne and cried because I couldn’t hold it in any longer; I couldn’t control my reaction to the fear in my heart that my country has become this place.

As a Jew, whenever we talk about or learn about the holocaust, we always say never again. Having directly experienced the impact of discriminatory and deadly policies, we vow to never again let this happen. But it is happening. Right in front of our eyes. We saw the warning signs over the last 18 months, but even I did not believe that Donald Trump was capable—specifically smart enough or as calculating—to enact such policies…part of me thought he would be all talk and no action, part of me thought that maybe he just wanted to be president so he could become the most important person in the world because he needs that sort of attention. But unfortunately, he is capable and he has surrounded himself with people who feed off of hateful groupthink.

I am crying, right now, because I feel so small and I feel so lost and I feel so much love for the diversity of my country and I feel so much anger that the value of that diversity is taken for granted but the most powerful people in the nation because they are all white and wealthy and Christian and mostly male and what they say and do does not affect them. I am angry because I know they will never know what it is like to be discriminated against based on something you cannot or will not change. I am angry because I see someone I know post a personal anecdote about the effect of these policies on them or a story of how Trump’s presidency has enabled the racist, misogynist, homophobic, and xenophobic parts of some people to shine through and be acted upon for no fucking reason other than the unfounded hatred that lies in their hearts.

I am crying and I am angry because I can’t decided if I can live in a place where the government is acting on such hate or if I can live with myself for not being there and raising my voice (and standing in solidarity with those directly affected by the racist, homophobic, xenophobic, and misogynistic plans and policies being put into law through the executive pen).

Finally, I want to say I love you to everyone who is affected and everyone who is fighting against the hate. Every day when I cry, I am able to smile again because your courage and your resilience inspire me and for that, I love you.

 

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Buda Buda Budapest rockin everywhere

Welp, since I’m not ready to write my final thoughts about my time in Madagascar….I’ll tell you all a little about what’s been happenin out here in Budapest. I guess I really haven’t done much in the Buda parts but pest is mad chill.
This is my first time traveling with a friend ever which has been a very interesting experience. I am thankful that I love my friend Danielle and that she is easy to travel with but I still kinda love the freeness that is associated with traveling alone.
Anyways, we have done some pretty sick shit out here, all of which are things everyone has to do when they come to Budapest! We are staying at Carpe Noctem Vitae, a (party) hostel located centrally in the Jewish quarter with one of the chillest and most helpful staffs I’ve ever encountered at a hostel. We spent our first evening chilling at the Széchenyi Bathes and feeling like we were getting the serious spa treatment, and then proceeded to have a crazy fun night on the town with our hostel and the staff. Our staff helped us find out about this sweet puzzle escape room deal called Exit Point where you are locked in a room and have an hour to solve a series of puzzles and riddles in order to get out. We then explored some of the famous caves in Budapest, including passing through the ‘wormhole’ in complete darkness, relying on each other and the people around us in order to make it through the sometimes very tight tunnel. Today, we hope to make it to the House of Terror, which is a museum that commemorates the several communist and fascist periods in Hungarian history in which hundreds of thousands or people were tortured and killed….specifically in that building. After that, we hope to venture to Buda and finish our time here with some (more) traditional Hungarian cuisine.
Out trip here was short and sweet and lots of fun, but I know I am excited to return to Paris this afternoon and head to Amsterdam tomorrow morning for my last leg of international travel before I head home after this 4 month long journey around Europe and Madagascar.

Peace love and blessings from Budapest!

Feelin’ MADA Thankful

While Thanksgiving may not exist here and I have no plans to really celebrate, I want to take just a moment to reflect on everything that I am thankful for. I have a lot to be thankful for and unfortunately not too much time to write about it all so I am just going to talk about the things that my experience in Madagascar has made me thankful for.

I came to Madagascar believing that I lived my life with a very open mindset. I soon learned that this was not the case as there were many comforts that I had in the U.S. that I had a very difficult time giving up…so much so that it had caused me to look down upon the lifestyle here. Thankfully, that period of unwarranted superiority was short-lived and I learned that I needed to listen to the sticker I had plastered on my computer which read, ‘normal is relative.’ The first thing I am thankful for is the way in which my time in Madagascar taught me how to have a truly open mind. There are still things here that culturally do not sit right with me; however I have learned to accept that those things exist and that it is not my place to say they are wrong, they are just different. The normal here is not the normal in America, nor is my normal the same as your normal…the term really is relative and once you accept that, you will have a much greater capacity to adapt to your surroundings.

This leads me to how my time here has made me more thankful than I think any experience ever could have for everything that I have. I feel blessed to have the many luxuries that I do back home in the United States which, until I came to Madagascar, I viewed as absolute necessities. I am thankful that I always have access to clean water, a bed to sleep in, a toilet and that I am always able to be connected to my friends and family. I have spent the last year and a half ‘prancing around the world’ as my dad likes to put it, and my time here has made me more thankful and excited to return to the United States than I have ever experienced before. Of course, it wouldn’t be an excursion for me if I didn’t make a few stops along the way home…which brings me to how thankful I am to have the luxury to travel for pleasure. There are few things in the world that make me happier than getting on a plane, bus or train to experience somewhere new, and I am so thankful that I am able to have that experience again and again whenever I want to jet-set to another place in the world.

The next thing that I am thankful for is the how my time here with my friends and teachers, in classes and outside of the classroom, has significantly improved my French skills. This is so important to me because for the longest time, the one thing that kept me from ever progressing in my quest to learn the language of love was that I had absolutely no confidence in my knowledge of the language. While I am still nowhere near fluent, I am thankful for all of the people who have helped me realize that I am capable of speaking French and for helping to build my confidence to do so. The moral of this thing that I am thankful for is that anyone can truly do anything if they set their mind to it and have the support they need to complete their goals. Special shouts out go to my French group (Nick, Abby and Madame Martine) and my three goobery CEL friends with whom I normally had to speak French with in order to communicate/get my point across (Ginot, Julio and Tahiry). SO much love to those wonderful individuals, I am more thankful for you than you know.

This leads me to the last thing I am thankful for which is all of the wonderful people that I have met here in Madagascar, especially those that I must say goodbye to today here in Ft. Dauphin. To the CEL students, I hear about how other SIT programs do not get to work with local students and I honestly just feel bad for them because living and learning with you guys was one of the highlights of my time here (I would write this in French but I know none of them read my blog haha). To Tahiry, my favorite CEL student and my noodle, I am going to miss you so much and I am so thankful to have had you in my life while I have been here. You are the biggest goober ever (literally and figuratively) and I love being around you more than words can even explain. To my SIT homies, I literally could not think of a better group to have spent my time with here, learning both inside and outside of the classroom. I am thankful for all of the silly times and adventures we have had together and I can no longer imagine school without you guys and our small ass classroom at Libanona/makeshift classrooms whenever we are on the road. To my homestay families in Ft. Dauphin, Tanadava (Faux Cap) and Manakara, thank you so much for welcoming me into your homes and communities and taking the time to teach me Malagasy and allowing me to play with your children. You all did so much more for me, however, I am trying to keep this short.  To Casey, Mamitiana and the rest of ONG Azafady, thank you so much for bringing me in during my ISP period and teaching me so much about what I think I want to do with the rest of my life. And finally, to all of my teachers, you are literally the craziest bunch of teachers I have ever had however I would not want any other people to have been my teachers during my time here. I have learned probably more from you all outside of the classroom than inside of it which is exactly what I wanted when I chose and experiential learning program…so thank you for making my semester in Madagascar truly a period of experiential learning.

Today I am thankful for everything in my life, all of the people, experiences and luxuries that I have been afforded during my time here on this planet. I feel like one of the most blessed individuals in the world.

Peace, love and blessings to all my friends out there, I hope you will take this day to be thankful for all that you have and if you are in America, please eat an extra plate of thanksgiving dinner (sans gravy) in my honor…

Better late than never, right?

It has really been a while since I’ve written one of these but let that be an indication to you that I am safe and having an incredibly transformative time—not that anything is wrong. So much has happened to me and around me in the past month that it is kind of overwhelming to try and put it all into words and explain how far I’ve come from my last post about culture shock.

When I wrote my last post, I had been in Madagascar for only two weeks and had only gotten a small taste of what it was like to be here. Now, after having been here for nearly 7 weeks, I have reached the halfway point in my program. Since it has been a while, I am going to go through each of the major milestones for me during my time here thus far…

The first major experience I had since my last blog post was the hike that I took with our program up Pic St. Louis, the highest peak in Ft. Dauphin which allows you to see some of the most breath taking views of the city. The hike was particularly challenging for me after having had a mellow night on the town but I was able to pass through it. This hike was also the first time we engaged with the students from the Centre Ecologique de Libanona (CEL)—a group of absolutely incredible individuals whom we have spent a majority of our last 5 weeks with. While this hike was challenging, it was not the most challenging thing I experienced that day. I had been extremely dehydrated and had been walking down with the second group of students who had kept stopping to break, and I knew that I didn’t have enough energy to keep stopping and restarting and that something bad might have happened if I didn’t get down the mountain quickly, so I went ahead on my own. Once I met up with the first group and we made our way down to the bottom where we were met with water. At the bottom, we waited. It seemed as though it was taking a really long time until finally, one of our teachers came down and said something was wrong with one of the students. He said he was really not doing well and they were trying to rehydrate him and get him down the mountain. Slowly but surely, they got him down the mountain, but he was still in pretty bad shape. I was sitting with his head in my lap after he came down and his whole body was trembling. Our academic director was waiting to hear back from the doctor to see if they should take him to the clinic, and at one point I said to him that it was better to leave now than to wait to see if it gets worse. Unfortunately, it never got better. We reached the clinic where we waited to be met by a doctor. Once she arrived, it was a bumblefuck of French, English and Malagasy with more of a ‘do and hope it works’ type of attitude, than a ‘ask questions to inquire about what happened’ attitude. This was when I gained a whole new appreciation for Western medicine. It wasn’t until after she had stuck the IV in his arm (which she had me hold into place while she looked for the medical tape) and I had asked our AD the normal vital health questions about the student (For example: do you take any medications? Are you allergic to anything? Do you have any previous medical history? Family medical history?) that those questions were asked. I kept being left alone in the room with the student, holding him down as his convulsions worsened. The doctor hadn’t even noticed the seizures until I pointed them out. Finally, the English-speaking doctor arrived, and she seemed to understand the gravity of the situation and was able to truly provide the care necessary. In the end, the student had to be evacuated to South Africa because the health infrastructure available in Ft. Dauphin was not adequate enough to help the student. Even more intense was that this evacuation couldn’t happen until the late morning of the next day. Luckily, the student is now fine and safe back home in America, having suffered what seemed to be an extremely severe allergic reaction to a plant. My health became one of my absolute top priorities after this experience, and I gained a new perspective on health in the developing world and why studying global public health is so important for the developing world. After that rather traumatic experience, I was thankful for my health and the people surrounding me so much more. It is amazing how going through tough experiences like that can really bring a group of people together.

The next voyage we took was to study botanical methods at a littoral forest reserve in Sainte Luce. This excursion was rather uneventful for me because of my lack of interest in the subject matter, however it was one of the first times that I had really seen the effects of things literally getting lost in translation. Aside from the challenges of understanding scientific research methods, which are already far over my head, having to do it after it was explained to me in an odd mixture of three languages, one of which is still extremely difficult for me (Malagasy) and one which I was still struggling with majorly at the time (French) was an extremely confusing experience. However, the three days that we spent in Sainte Luce were so fun and relaxing otherwise, that the confusion was totally worth it. When we weren’t out in the field, we were supporting the local economy by completely buying out the collection of super cool embroidery from the ladies who work at Stitch St. Luce, bonding with the CEL students while playing the Malagasy/French version of truth or dare, singing songs and listening to music, turning UP and having deep conversations about the scope and size of the universe (major shouts out to Nick for that one). Overall, that excursion got a solid ‘A’ in my book.

Wow, this post is getting long…I really should work on the frequency of my postings—sorry friends, but I’m gonna keep going.

The most transformative experience thus far is absolutely, by far our village stay in Faux Cap, an area located in the Tandroy region of southern Madagascar. I don’t really know where to begin with this one except with to start by saying that this was one of the more pivotal moments for everyone on our program. I started out by being really hesitant about the people I was paired with so I was already really nervous about the stay. The name of the village that I stayed in was called Tanandava and it was comprised of about 12 families with over 40 kids living in the village. During our stay, we were meant to conduct three different forms of Participatory Rural Appraisal (a set of research methods geared toward improving development) and integrate ourselves into the village as much as we could. It was extremely difficult to do at times because both my partner and I got sick (I had food poisoning for just a day but she suffered from bacterial dysentery). I felt especially bad for her just because we were shitting in a hole in a cactus patch and had no access to any western infrastructure of the bathroom variety. Thankfully, that was really the only negative part of the stay for me…aside from when I would be bombarded every time I took out my camera. Each day we sang and danced, which at first was difficult because I didn’t know the dances and was just being pushed and pulled every way, but by the end when we entered into the dance competition with the other villages at the Pot D’Adieu on the last day of our stay, I knew it was all worth it (because we definitely won). The other aspect of the village stay, and for me was the most valuable, was that of language integration. Unfortunately, I did not become fluent in Malagasy nor did I come anywhere close BUT given that our translator, the magnificent Ginot, pretty much only spoke French and Malagasy to me, it forced my speaking confidence to improve because I had no other choice but to speak to him in French, especially because we chilled all the time during the stay. While I didn’t become fluent in Malagasy, it was also really interesting to realize the importance of body language and its universality. While I wasn’t able to understand the words coming out of any member of my family or my village’s mouths, I was relatively able to understand what they were saying or wanted from me by their use of body language and their facial expressions. Since the village stay, I have really picked up on the importance of language and its nuances as well as the usefulness of body language as a really useful tool for communicating without verbal language. And since the stay, I believe that my speaking confidence in French has gotten even better and I hope that this progress will continue.

After living in the village without running water, electricity, a western style bathroom and living out of my tent, I was more than thankful for my homestay family in Ft. Dauphin and the resources I had there…a pretty drastic change from the struggles I was having when I wrote my blog post on culture shock. My stay in the village really humbled me and made me realize how much more thankful I should be for my material things, however it also gave me more reason to believe the notion that less is truly more. Something that I have been really noticing about my life, and just the world in general, lately is that when people have fewer things, they always seem to be happier people. They laugh and smile more and spend their time doing things that bring them joy rather than get lost in things that don’t really add value to a person’s life. While it can always be argued that these people still live hard lives and need lots of things, I think the more important thing to take away is that when you concern yourself with less of your things and spend more time in the present and with people and the intangible joys of life…you are much more likely to be a happier person.

I missed my family so much while I was in my village that it was so fun being able to spend time with them during my last week living with them in Ft. Dauphin. Even the small activities like cooking dinner and washing clothes became fun tasks where were able to bond and really enjoy each other. I am more than ecstatic to return to Ft. Dauphin and visit with them and share more fun times with them!

And now this leads me to the last 2 weeks. We left Ft. Dauphin with the CEL students to travel up to Vagaindrano and Ampasinakoho to do marine studies. The trek up to Vagaindrano took us 2 days to complete by taxi brousse (or bush taxi), which I will probably get to writing a whole blog post on about because it deserves that much space. Unfortunately we did not do much fieldwork because the weather did not allow—never did I ever think I would see hail in Madagascar…but this trip has been crazy unpredictable so now I truly believe anything is possible. The hardest part about the voyage, for me, was saying goodbye to the CEL students for 3 weeks because I had become so close to them and I miss them all so much. I am so excited to reunite with them in 3 weeks time!

Now, I’m in Manakara with a new homestay family and will post more about that later on because this post is getting TOO long haha. Thanks for bearing with me through this. Sending lots of peace love and blessings your way, my friends!

culture shock

I have never experienced it before….but it is more than real.

After having been here for 2 weeks and living in a Malagasy home stay for one of them…I have realized that culture shock is real and that no, I am not immune.

I came into this experience more naively than I probably should have. I presumed it would be just like one of my other trips…just longer. Boy, was I wrong. Firstly, I realized that while I had been to developing countries before, it was for just a few days if not just a few hours. I was staying in the nicest of places that were meant for tourists like me. I have experienced some ‘budget traveling’ or backpacking but absolutely no other experience comes close to this one. And the even crazier part is that we stay in homes that are considered to be more materially well off, because those are the only places that could truly sustain us or at least transition us into the extreme poverty that exists.

Before I let you in for a quick preview of all the things that I took for granted….I want to make sure that no one thinks this is me complaining or sounding spoiled. These are things that as an American we have access to everyday without even consciously realizing it. On the list of things that I now appreciate more than ever: toilet seats, running hot water, refrigerators, trash cans, washing machines, lockable doors, variety in foods/supermarkets, functional/widespread formal economic systems and relative safety in both the day and night time hours. These, for the most part, are all things that are rather material…but there is one thing that I miss more than anything–privacy.

I live in a house that is essentially one room which 6 people, including myself, currently live in. The large space is divided into two by a set of demi walls which seperate my bedroom (which 3 people sleep in a bunk bed) and storage space from our dining room/parents bedroom/tv room. The bathroom, kitchen and laundry areas are all outside which makes it so that going to the bathroom in the night is nearly impossible. We wake up between 5:30 and 6 in the morning and I go to bed between 8:30 and 9 on most nights. Therefore….private time is really not an option, which I didn’t realize how much I took that time for granted. I believe the first thing I will do when I get home is take a hot shower and lie in bed naked, alone. It really isn’t even a question, it has already been decided.

More than just that, I sleep with a mosquito net as my blanket but still manage to be covered in nearly if not more than 30 bites. I eat rice products at least twice a day and now feel blessed at the opportunity to eat a sandwich. I can’t walk down the street without being honked or hollered at….nor does a day go by when I do not here the word ‘vazhaa’ or foreigner yelled at me at least 10 times. Despite how difficult this has all been, I am more than thankful for this experience.

I am lucky to be surrounded by 12 other individuals going through the same experiences as me. I live in a beach town that is at the tip of a peninsula. I see mountains in the clear distance, seeming to be right on the beach itself….I literally walk on the beach to get to school. I am experiencing an entirely different and extremely rich culture in each of it’s facets, every single day. I can’t ever begin to explain all of the amazing experiences I’ve had in the past 2 weeks and I cannot wait for the next 13 more here in Madagascar and then for 4 weeks in China and Japan!

Until next time, peace and love my friends!

WELCOME TO MADA

First of all, I am going to apologize for having taken so long to publish this blog post….obviously, I have very little access to internet and even if I do, it is mad slow.
It is hard to believe that I have only been here for a week but here is what I have been up to since I got here! I arrived in Tana (Antananarivo, Madagascar) last Thursday after thoroughly enjoying a couple of days in DC and in Paris, I live a hard life…I know. Tana is where we began our orientation, we met Jim, who is the coordinator of our program and a total baller, and we met each other. There are 13 of us and we all go to different colleges, except for the two who go to Bowdoin, and we are all from all over the country. We truly are such a diverse group of individuals, which already has and I’m sure will make this experience even more interesting.
While in Tana, we went on a walking tour of the city, which was absolutely incredible, went to a zoological park and we even got to experience 2 different locust plagues. In Malagasy, the word for locust is Falala….what a fun word for such a weird looking thing. After these first two days of getting to know each other, we flew down to Ft. Dauphin, which is where we are going to be until the end of the month.
Ft. Dauphin is breath taking, but before we got to the city, we spent some time in a village called Manatantely. We were in Manatantely for 2 days and while we were their, we got a basic introduction to Malagasy life. We took two courses in Malagasy, learned a bit about our homestay experience, learned how to perform some of the daily tasks here (like washing clothes, pounding rice, cutting cassava, and carrying water ON YOUR HEAD), and learned some traditional songs and dances. Along with this basic introduction, we went on a forest walk in one of the protected areas near Manatantely and learned about a lot of the medicinal plants that exist there. About 80% of the plants in Madagascar are able to be used for medicinal purposes…which is pretty cool. We then swam and climbed around an absolutely epic waterfall with some of the adorable little kids that we had met from the village and met some awesome Peace Corps members, as well. My favourite part was definitely playing with the kids…they are so much fun and it is so interesting how you can communicate with little to no words. How people are able to read body language is absolutely incredible.
After our few days in Manatantely, we drove into Ft. Dauphin, which is an incredibly beautiful beach town where it feels like every way you look, you see ocean and beaches with mountains in the background. I have seen few things that are as beautiful as the views from this place. Even better, I have to walk on the beach to get to school. Its basically the worst thing ever….NOT! Well, I need to go to class now (via the beautiful Libanona beach), so I will enlighten you about my homestay experience at a later date.
Peace, love and blessings…Veloma and À Demain!

Entering into the unknown

Welp, it’s definitely been quite a while since I’ve been on this thing…..but it’s time that I return to the blog because I just began a new journey.

Today, I leave the United States to embark on a 20 week long journey in which I will circumnavigate the globe by continually traveling east. I began my trip a few days ago when I left California after having one the best summers of my life. I begin this completely new chapter in my life after living through one of the most important years of my life. Everyone keeps asking me about how I feel about leaving….which is the hardest question to answer because I can’t even describe my emotions in a concise way. I am treating this post as a place for me to explain and sort through the many feelings I am having….hopefully this will be really useful or insightful to me one, but probably not haha.

Am I excited? More than anyone could ever know. The unknown is the most exciting thing to me because you can never be truly prepared and it requires a person to be completely in the now in order to interpret the experience. Not to mention all of the cool cultures and traditions that I will get to experience in three completely new places.

Am I nervous? Am I prepared?!
Absolutely, like I said above, no matter how much I prepare I will never truly be ready for the experience. I have never lived in another country by myself for a long period of time. I don’t truly know how accessible all of the things that give me comfort will be. I frequently ask myself questions, attempting to prepare myself for any possible situation. The closest I will ever be to being prepared to live in Madagascar is the day I leave in December….

It’s also crazy how excited I am to go but also how sad I am to leave. Just a year ago, I was trying to figure out every way to get out of the country and stay out….but now the story is different. I still have an insatiable hunger for global experience but I also have so much love for my friends, family and homes in Berkeley and DC. Leaving DC was so difficult, I had to stay another day. I am so thankful that I got to begin this journey in the place where I was able to finally learn how to truly be happy.

It is also extremely exciting to me to know that in 12 hours, I will be in the city that changed my life. In the city where I found myself when I was lost in a sea of personal shit. I’ll tell you more about that later but for now….Au revoir, America! See ya in 5 months ✌️

Get high with meee

No. Not like that….come on guys.

In all seriousness, the best part about my adventures down under has probably been the fact that I get to truly act upon my love of heights.

As of late (the phrase doesn’t even work that well here, but I’ll say it anyway for you Kate Welch), I’ve been able to see Auckland from it’s highest point, the city’s Sky Tower, climb it’s harbour bridge and jump off it….via bungy cord of course, and finally zipline across the New Zealand bush on the island of Waiheke. And what a rush it has been.

I’ve never had a fear of heights…I mean I essentially grew up in the sky because I’m an angel, duh (actually on airplanes but I like to think I have angelic qualities). But while I was going to bungy, the girl who went in front of me had a serious fear of heights. Watching her have the courage to jump off a platform/a bridge was seriously awesome. While she was still pretty freaked out after the fact, the amount of courage that she exhibited is extremely commendable. This brings me to the point/insight/story I have to share along with my experiences.

I faced my biggest fear last summer when I embarked on my journey to Europe on my own. While most people are extremely surprised when I tell them this, my biggest fear in life was/is being alone. I developed this fear when my mom passed away nearly 7 years ago because at that time I had never felt so alone. I then did everything in my power to constantly keep myself busy and surrounded by people and given my extroverted nature, it was not too difficult to never be alone. This trip was the first time since my mom had passed that I would be alone in a place that was unfamiliar to me. It was a very scary thing, but I never told anyone how I truly felt about it because I thought it made me seem weak. Facing your fears straight on is the best way to rid yourself of them.

The strangest part about the whole trip was that I was so much happier when I was alone. Of course, I still surrounded myself with people from time to time but as my trip progressed, I chose to spend more and more time on my own. Being alone became a choice, I finally became comfortable just being by myself. Facing this fear and overcoming it made it possible for me to go through my whole happiness-lifestyle change over this past year. I used to feel trapped inside a box of loneliness when I was alone, but now I feel liberated.

So, if you were to take anything from this post I hope it is that you will only get over your fears if you face them head on. Therefore, I challenge you to focus on one of your fears, big or small, and do something that is completely out of your comfort zone. You might, as I did, find that you rather enjoy that thing, whatever that thing may be.

Peace, love and blessings my friends

Piece of my heart and marks on your soil

As I sit in my cab on the way to the airport, I don’t exactly know how to sort out my feelings about leaving australia today. I have actually had the time of my life over the past month and I literally can’t believe my trip is almost over. I’m truly at a loss about how to even write about this experience so please bear with me…..

I think I’ll start this out with a quick shout to the east coast. I had some of the craziest and weirdest experiences while traveling up the east coast. Whether it was hanging out with 40 year old ladies by the Sydney Opera House, listening to a man play 4 instruments in one song while always playing at least 3 at once (guitar, drums, voice and didgeridoo) in Byron Bay, drinking true purple drank on Fraser Island, insanity on the Noosa beaches past midnight or scuba diving with turtles in the Great Barrier Reef in Cairns….every place I visited allowed for such a unique and memorable experience. Thank you to the cities and towns I tore apart and the many beautifully amazing people who I corrupted with my crazy ways…..you all will always have a little piece of my heart. Special shouts out got to my Fraser Fam because you guys wanted it and also because I love you all and you totally deserve it (hi Mel, Lexi, Gab, Nic, Lianne and Martin).

And now onto the city that completely stole my heart from me. Melbourne…..there is no number nor are there any words that could truly quantify my love for and thanks to you and my experiences within you. Our little love affair started when I arrived at the Nunnery.

Everyone told me that I had to stay at the Nunnery so I changed my plans and booked my stay there. Everyone was right….I don’t think I have ever stayed in a better hostel and to all of my future hostel stays….you have A LOT to live up to. It’s not just the home-y feel of the hostel but the people that it attracts. Shouts out to Nick and Jen for being incredible beings and the best hostel staff I’ve ever had the pleasure of dealing with. While the people that stay in the Nunnery are crazy, they all are absolutely amazing. I need to just proclaim my love for Lisa really quickly as well because of all the people I met in Australia, you were definitely my favorite. I appreciate our talks and times together more than you know. You are an absolutely beautiful, fun and silly person and I am so blessed to have met you. I look forward to traveling with you in the future (were still on for Japan in December, right?!). I send so much love to you and the rest of the Nunnery crew. Thank you welcoming me into your lives and fuck you all for making me never want to leave (in the most endearing way, of course).

While I wasn’t actually when I was on the Great Ocean Road, I still associate it with my time in Melby. I know I already posted about the beauty and awesomeness of that experience but I just wanted to remind you all that it was probably the best excursion I ever went on. And while I may be a bit angry with you right now, Al, I am so thankful that I met you. I really enjoy spending time with you and I love the way that a lot of the little things you say make me think in a much bigger and deeper way (I know that doesn’t make that much sense to anyone but it makes sense in my brain so…it stays).

And I will spare you and not go in depth about all of the other amazing things I did and places I went in Melby, but I want you all to know that if you have the chance to experience Melbourne’s charm, you absolutely have to take advantage of it. No ifs, ands or buts about it.

I think the most important part about my entire experience in Australia is what it taught me about myself and about spontaneity. I learned that my favorite part about myself is my ability to be spontaneous and do whatever makes me happy. Every time, which actually was a lot more times than it should have been, I changed my travel plans….I didn’t regret it for one second. Going with the flow became my motto and I want it to stay that way for many many many days….I really just had to throw that in there for rhyming’s sake. The ability to be spontaneous is the best quality in any human so I cannot stress it’s importance enough. It’s important to be spontaneous in all facets of your life because with spontaneity comes adaptability and those who also posses the ability to adapt to a situation will always be stronger when faced with tough times and/or in the face of adversity.

Lastly, I just need to share a really beautiful quote that I came across while I was at a museum in Canberra. It’s a quote from an aboriginal elder about welcoming people in and the affects that we have on the places we go. Pastor Yarrandu Jackson said, “As we walk across this country, we each leave our mark in various ways.” I hope I left as amazing of a mark on Australia as it did on me.

Thank you all for bearing with my rather long post but now you’ve made it to the end. In summary for those of you who need it: I love Australia and I am coming back, all the people I met were awesome, I saw a lot of beautiful stuff, and being spontaneous is important.

Lots of love, peace and blessings from my last day on Australian soil for a while.

we can save the (natural) world

So this is my second to last post about/from Australia which is kind of crazy to me. So I thought it was only fitting and proper to dedicate it to my home girl, Mother Nature. If there was anyone or anything that I would dedicate a lot of my experiences too, it would definitely be her.

I was looking through my note about all my different thoughts and blog ideas and a major motif was that of earthly or natural beauty. Through my entire time here in Australia, I have only seen beautiful things. Whether I was in the bush or on the beach, or even somewhere in between….there was always beauty to be seen.

This was extremely important to me today when I went SCUBA diving for the first time ever and had the opportunity to do it along the Great Barrier Reef. Before I was meant to dive, I couldn’t decide if I wanted an underwater camera because I couldn’t decide if I wanted to just absorb all that I was seeing or capture it for eternity and the world to see. Ultimately, I decided on using the camera but I already know that the pictures on that camera do not do justice to the beauty that I witnessed.

As I was swimming, I felt like I was actually inside Finding Nemo, I even got to see some Nemos (or clownfish as some people might call them) and a turtle!! It was also so amazing to me how all the different fish and the coral and other organisms all lived and worked together so peacefully. If only humans were like that…am I right? Anyways, as I swam alongside all of these extraordinary organisms, I couldn’t help but want to thank Mother Nature for blessing me with the opportunity to see all of what I was seeing as well as all that I had already seen. I really just wanted to give Mother Nature a shouts out and many thanks because I feel so blessed and I want her to know that all that she has created and watches over does not go unnoticed and is greatly appreciated.

With that being said, I think it is important that as humans on her earth the we help Mother Nature out by keeping her beauties beautiful. I know that after seeing the many areas that I keep hearing are being destroyed by careless human behavior, I now will be even more conscious of my actions and how they affect this world and I challenge you all to do the same. Pick one environmentally detrimental action and focus on reversing it’s impact. There are so many little things we can all do that will make a big difference.

I know we have been hearing this since we were kids but it is so true. Next time you want to throw away that bottle instead of put it in the recycling, think about how that could be reused instead of sit in a smelly landfill. Even more so, stop using plastic bags because turtles think they are jellyfish and eat them and them and can then die. Let our turtles eat real jellyfish and live forever (at least 150 years like Crush, right??). Let’s all do our little part and help the planet. We can all be Mother Nature’s little minions.

I sign off this blog with lots of peace love and blessings going out the earth and Mother Nature and lots of positive vibes to reverse our negative effects. Let’s save the world, my friends, because we can do it.

P.S. Since this blog post is already super cheesy I am going to add a photo and a fun fact to make it ten times better. The photo is of me taking a selfie underwater while I was diving today and the fun fact is that turtles get high when they eat jellyfish because jellyfish are meant to have narcotic like properties when digested! I hope you enjoy 🙂