A belated Valentine’s Day experience… Tromsø, Norway. February 14, 2015.
It’s been eight years since I first flew across the great blue Atlantic. I was naïve when it came to European cultures, relying solely on what I had read or seen on screen, but it was due time that I became educated on the ways of the Old World.
The first and last days were spent in London, a city today that still captivates me with all her multicultural glory and architectural wonders. Especially the architecture. I admit that I was fascinated to the point of annoyingly photographing every structure I came across.
Once again, London is calling me. In two days, I’ll be returning to the city, meeting with schools from all over the world to see where my career in teaching will take me next.
Wish me luck.
Rancho Margot, Costa Rica.
I put a month of my life aside for some volunteer work and isolation from most of the outside work at an eco-lodge in north central Costa Rica a few months after starting an extended leave of absence from teaching. You could say I was living a dream, traveling through Latin America with just a vague destination and a vastly open mind as to what I would do.
While most of my days were spent sitting behind a desk, I envied the other volunteers that were able to work on the farm. Being a hindrance–I was answering phones, taking reservations and giving guests advice on their activities du jour.
I’d have rather been getting my hands deep into the soil, uprooting the vegetables I had planted, I’d have woken before dawn to milk cows. I’d have worn my hands building and sanding furniture.
But I would not have had it in me to be in charge of the pigs. It saddened me to see them. To keep them fenced up all day, with only a chance to leave those confines when it was time to eat… or to be eaten.
At least they had each other until the end.
Buenos Aires, Argentina.
The sky was bleak, as winter was ending its run before making its way to the northern hemisphere. The chilly air didn’t deter a group of individuals from gathering in the park that Sunday.
It was the first time I had the chance to play ultimate frisbee in a different country. A casual pickup game amongst mainly expats. But playing disc is a universal language; there’s not much you need to communicate beyond a love of the game.
So, with objects flying above, occasionally drowning out the cheers when someone scored, we all (some Colombians, Germans, North Americans…) continued speaking the international language of flying plastic that connected is one throw at a time.
Summer of 2007.
I was traveling through Europe for the first time.
I sat under this architectural wonder that has stood unmoved for centuries, enjoying chocolate caliente con churros… Crispy fried dough served with a rich hot chocolate so thick that it defies gravity when a spoon is placed in the middle.
I tried to imitate the structure before me with my breakfast, unfortunately, I couldn’t keep that churro standing for more than a few seconds before I consumed it.
I found something richer than Spanish history that day…
Gandalf the Cat couldn’t accept being left out the conversation. He persistently tugged at the door knob, believing that eventually it would open…
For the month I stayed in Buenos Aires back in 2010 with my old friend Andrés, who I hadn’t seen in the 15 years previous to this trip to Argentina, Gandalf and I became close. Belly rubs were on his terms, and his claws made sure I knew that, but there was definitely a bond that had been formed.
Once again, our guided tour of the area around Mardin and Midyat kept the pace at a rate that left us wanting to explore more of the Mor Gabriel Monastery, as they were about to close for the day when we arrived. With a history dating back to 397 AD, this is the oldest Syriac Orthodox monastery in existence. In addition to the benefits of the guided tours of the grounds, visitors are welcome to stay overnight in its residential accommodation. More importantly to Syriac Orthodox Christianity, though, the few residing monks and nuns provide schooling and community support to keep their faith alive in southeastern Turkey (where it originated). But a greater fight in recent years has been with the Turkish government (and the local Kurdish community) over land ownership. It seems that the monastery will win in the long run… Something tells me that it will still be around if I decide to return and explore more of this historical area of Turkey.