Archive for March, 2011

Hey you. Yes, you. Over there. The one who has been staring out the window for the past 15 minutes lost in a daydream. I’m not going to ask what you were daydreaming about because that would be incredibly rude, but I am going to talk to you about daydreaming anyway, especially if it’s about traveling.

I used to dream all the time. Still do as a matter of fact. I also follow my dreams. There is no half-assing it here when it comes to doing what I want. One of my dream anthems as of late has become “Same in any language” by I-nine. It’s all about wanderlust.

I blame my sense of wanderlust and my “liberal” leanings on my parents (yes, Dad, you are at fault). You know how some people keep porn magazines in a box in the basement closet? Yeah, my Dad keeps National Geographic in a box in the basement closet. I swear he must have every issue since 1975. He also kept some of his more useful college books, and by more useful I specifically refer to a book on Norse mythology. It was this early exposure to the world and other cultures, along with a distinct lack of being taught that other cultures are evil by my parents that I wanted to travel to all these amazing places I saw in magazines. Shockingly enough, not every place was outside of the US. I still have yet to see the Red Dunes in Utah, a place I’ve wanted to see since I was 9. However disapproving my parents are of my constant need to travel, it’s their fault.

However, it must be said, despite the fact that they think my money would be better spent elsewhere (paying my tuition loan for instance :P) , they have always supported my dreams, however far-fetched they may have seemed at the time (going to Australia for college for instance). When I got my acceptance letters to uni’s here in Sydney it was one of those “oh shit! She was serious” moments for my parents (and most everyone else I might add).

Not everyone is lucky enough to have a support network of people who believe in following your dreams, whatever it takes, like I did/do. At this point in time I would recommend seeking out someone supportive if you fall into that category. I would also like to pay homage to those who did believe in me and supported my dreams (other than my parents, who have been putting up with my outlandish dreaming since before I can remember, as evidenced above).

One of those people was my neighbour across the street back home. Cynthia, who was an English/Maths teacher (probably still is) was one of my summer companions. During the summer when I saw her working outside in her garden I would go over and sit and talk with her, maybe help her in the garden, help her clean out her garage or the house, or do other yardwork for her. She also made AMAZING cinnamon rolls and would always save one for me. One time her dog ate the last one that was being saved for me and I’ve held a grudge against that dog ever since. Anyway, she never discouraged me traveling and always believed that I would be able to do what I had been dreaming to do my entire life. When I would help her clean out the garage (when I was younger) I would grab up her broom (one of the old straw ones) and pretend to be flying around the garage saying which country I was going to next on the broom. Hence, traveling by broom. She remembered this, and before I left for Australia for good she came over with a card, $20 and a gift. The card included some of the best advice I have ever been given. “When you travel, always keep $20 in your shoe in case you are robbed or lose your money, that way you have a backup.” Lucky for me, most of my sneakers have a pocket on the side so the money is easily accesible and not sweaty. She also gave me a gift. She finally got rid of that old broomstick for a more modern (non-straw) one. However, with some of the straw from that broom she made a little mini broomstick for me to travel the world with. Thus far that broomstick has been to the United Arab Emirates, New Zealand, Australia and the US.

My traveling broom in NZ

Three other people I would like to pay homage to include my 3 US besties, Sara, Sara and Kris. Though we all have different dreams and have been taken to 4 completely different places (and the fact that 2 of those people think I’m completely off my rocker, and with good reason) they have always been there for me, always given me the brutally honest truth of any matter (or at least their opinion of that matter) and rolled their eyes at some of my more outrageous moments. If you don’t have at least 1 best friend who is there for you no matter what (and that includes when they completely disagree with you on any issue) who pushes you to be the best person you can be and tells you when you are being a bitch while still supporting you wholeheartedly then you need to question why you don’t have one of those and go find yourself one. Lucky for me I have 3 in the US and 3 in Australia.

So onto the three in Australia. Rob, Penny and Zara. Needless to say these 3 are COMPLETELY different from my US besties. And by completely I’d be hard pressed to find any similarities whatsoever. These people, however, completely understand my wanderlust (as they have it themselves and are all generally well traveled), support me in my endeavours and despite sometimes not agreeing with some of my more…interesting choices in life, are there for me no matter what. A girl couldn’t ask to find better friends when moving to a new country.

Another peron (who I am ashamed to admit I can’t remember his name) was my high school counselor. While he knew absolutely nothing about applying for schools overseas, he went out of his way to contact the necessary companies and government bodies to find out as much as he could for me about applying and going to school in Australia. He never once asked “Are you sure that’s what you really want to do?” or “Wouldn’t you rather stay closer to your family?” He wholeheartedly supported my dream and there is something to be said for that in a town where people very rarely move overseas permanently.

A couple of my teachers, also deserve a mention. Now that I look back on it, it was mainly my English teachers (and one English teacher I never had but developed a close relationship with). If there is one thing to be said for the public school system in the US, it is that Montana has a great education system (in general, there are a few teachers who could do with getting the sack). The teachers at both my K-8 school and my high school were generally very supportive people who went out of their way to make a connection with students and to help them out, even if some of those students (ie me and my brother) were excessively annoying. Said teachers were generally very open minded people who did their utmost to give us a leg up in the world. I’m going to take this moment to push my agenda and say that these teachers don’t get paid enough. The education they helped bestow upon me has been priceless and I am forever indebted to them.

Last, but most certainly not least is my extended family (and brother), of which I include many of my friends (and who says you can’t choose your family?). While I may be the odd one out, traveling the world and basically getting as far away from home base as it is possible to be, I have never been considered the black sheep of the family. My social and/or political views may be far different from those of my extended family, but they still support me wholeheartedly and I love them to bits for it. When I tell people here about my family back home, lifestyle, choices, beliefs, etc they tend to be rather shocked and I often get a “how did you end up this way?” reaction.  Well, when you have the support of people who love you, even if they do occassionaly think you are a bit on the odd side, anything is possible.

So, dear dreamer, go find yourself a broomstick and people who support you, like the one’s above and anything is possible. It even becomes easier, because the perceived obligations you feel you have at home, are no longer obligatory and a whole new world opens up to you.


Q: What do all these things have in common?

Lale means “tulip” in Turkish, nazar boncuğu is “evil eye” and belly dancing is belly dancing (hehe). So why am I bringing this up? Well, as pretty much none of you know, I’ve been invited to participate in a global leadership symposium in Turkey during my 2 week mid-semester break in April. This is an amazing opportunity to learn more about Turkish culture, meet experts in the fields of education, law, human rights, conservation and environment issues, politics and Turkish history and culture. It’s an opportunity I don’t think I’ll be passing up as programs like this don’t come around everyday and it is extremely exclusive. Only 10-14 people are invited to participate every semester.

There have been other opportunities to attend a global leadership symposium in different parts of Asia, however Turkey has always held a special place in my heart. I have always wanted to spend time traveling around Turkey and had plans to go there with someone else, but those fell through so I will be heading there for this GLS series.

So why mention lale, nazar boncuğu and belly dancing?

Lale, or tulips, are my absolute favourite flower and have always been my favourite flower. Any guy who buys me roses is out the door if tulips are available for purchase (which sadly, they aren’t during my birthday in Australia). April and May also happen to be host to the Istanbul Lale Festivali (Istanbul tulip festival) where the government plants over 3 million tulip bulbs which bloom throughout April and May. Needless to say I will probably come back with hundreds of picture of tulips. On that note, I think I need a better camera. Shame I’m selling my soul to come up with the money just to pay for the trip and won’t be able to get one.

Nazar boncuğu, or the evil eye, is a very important amulet in Turkey and throughout the Middle East*. It’s also about the only thing I am superstitious about. The idea behind the evil eye is that frequently attached to the idea of jealousy. For instance, it is inappropriate to tell someone “you have such a beautiful baby” in the Middle East as you are seen to be gazing upon the child jealously and bad things may happen to them as you are casting them the evil eye. Instead, they say “Mashallah” or “What God wills” when paying a compliment.

In Aegean region and Middle Eastern countries, where light coloured eyes are very rare it is said that those with green eyes (like myself) bestow the curse whether intentionally or unintentionally (Usually intentionally if we are talking about myself). Therefore, Greece and Turkey especially have blue eye’d amulets that are generally worn around the neck to ward of the evil eye and ‘turn away’ or reflect the curse back to he who bestowed it. Needless to say, I don’t go anywhere without my evil eye around my neck. I’ve been wearing one since 2007.

*The evil eye is an object based on superstition and is not mentioned in the Qu’ran at all. Many devout Muslims do not wear the evil eye and actually get the “heebie jeebies” from it (as explained by my Kenyan Muslim friend Yasmeen) because it is an object of superstition and not an object of Allah (God). While Turkey is 98% Muslim, it is a secular country, and possibly due to globalisation and being a meeting point of East and West, the larger cities are much more like European cities and many Muslims only go to prayer on Friday (their day of worship) and other holy days as per the Islamic calender.

The third thing on the list is belly dancing. The one thing I dislike about Turkish belly dancing is the fact that they use zills very heavily (the finger cymbals). I am not a fan of things I am not good at and I am not good at the zills (we have to learn them in dance) and therefore I don’t like them. Some of you may know that I have been belly dancing off and on since I was 18. I’ve recently started it up again and am very much looking forward to going to Turkey and finding myself some belly dancers to watch. Most places in Istanbul focus on Turkish pop/house music as that is what the crowd is there to listen to, but I’m very much looking forward to seeking out belly dancers. I have heard tell that you are more likely to see belly dancing in the more rural areas where they still do folk dancing, but I’ll check the guidebooks all the same.