Category Archives: Uncategorized

Selfie Sticks in Whiteman Country

Here is a look at what stole the show on my European vacation. The selfie stick. I couldn’t stop staring—and usually the user is too self absorbed to notice that I was photographing them.

Spring 2015 Barcelona and Marrakesh II 095

It was my first time out of Africa in two years so I knew some things would seem weird. In Cameroon, to explain where you come from, another name for Europe/America (which might be perceived as the same thing anyway) is “Whiteman Country” which actually succinctly gets the point across. And the main thing I found jarring was the unabashed self absorbed behavior of my peers. The foreignness of this selfie stick made giving it Whiteman Country distinction seem appropriate. Now to be honest, I see Cameroonians in cities taking selfies, but we aren’t connected enough to make it a daily/hourly habit and we certainly don’t need a stick to do it. Maybe this behavior just a human thing, and we didn’t used to have technology that afforded us the chance to make it so obvious. I never liked selfies, they always seemed contentedly narcissistic but the selfie stick makes a lifestyle out of this.

Spring 2015 Barcelona and Marrakesh 601

I asked someone staying at my hostel what the point of them was, and he replied “Well, you don’t want to just hand your phone to someone, what if they steal it?”. I thought, but what did we do before selfie sticks? 1) It’s a mathematically irrational fear and 2) this is one more reason for people to isolate themselves more and not talk to “strangers”. I hate everything selfie sticks stand more.

I get irritated sitting next to a couple oscillating between taking a selfie and ignoring each other in favor of their phone. It’s tacky and it has become a part of our culture. How about trying this: put your phone down and be present.

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A City by the Sea: Odessa

This park lights up at night.

My trip to Odessa was a rambling adventure. We took a night bus which was nearly impossible to sleep on due to the heat and crowds. Arriving in Odessa around 4am, we took a cab to the shoreline and spread out our towels on the beach and tried to grab an hour or so of sleep.

In the daylight hours, we found a place to eat some breakfast. At the next table was a Frenchman who worked at the world famous Ritz Carlton in Paris. Since the hotel was closed for renovations (I can thank Vogue for knowing this) he was in Odessa to learn Russian for a few months to increase his tips among Russian customers. After breakfast, we walked around looking at some of the statues, the one pictured at left shows that the gold parts of the engraving are rubbed clean. The superstition is that if you touch it, you will have money in your life. The image that comes to mind for me is the similarity to the Alice in Wonderland statue in New York City’s Central Park, with her finger rubbed clean.

Odessa is a gorgeous city on the Black Sea. With that, comes the “let your hair down and kick your feet up” attitude of a seaside town. Odessa locals are known for being happy and having an unusual sense of humor. In the photo below, two teenagers were practicing swing dancing as we walked by. Sometimes, being surrounded by joyous people can be contagious. The city has about one million residents, but there is no subway! The public transit options are these tiny, crowded buses. To get down to the beach, we took this contraption that looks kind of like a ski lift, it provided a great view of the city and the shoreline. The city itself is absolutely beautiful. It has a festive nature with an array of restaurants tucked into courtyards. Mostly, I feel that Odessa has something for both beach goers and city folks. Most of the restaurants had ample outdoors seating. Being able to walk through the streets and preview live versions of the food choices made picking only one place to eat difficult. Though part of me wonders if Odessa was so great to me because the busier streets looked more American,  I hope it’s not the familiarity that is so appealing.

The Park with no Maintenance Budget: Kiev Edition

When you look at this picture would you know that you are in downtown Kiev? Some of the city parks have trees that are so mature it’s like you are instantly shielded from the city. Do the photos show a park that looks a little shabby and overgrown? The city seems to not care for upkeep of the park in the some of the more expected ways (Weeds! Overgrown Shrubs! Entire patches of grass missing!) but once you get over this, the park is a great place to steal 10 minutes to yourself. This park, pictured above, is part of the city botanical gardens, but I was never able to get inside because (As I was told) you must have the right credentials. A botanist I am not. This park is so busy most days that you must look to find a bench that is not being used.

I used to spend a fair amount of time on these benches reading or eaves dropping on tourists. The number of pigeons in the city can be alarming but if you don’t sit next to one of the people feeding them, you can at least pretend not to hear the sounds of the city here. Reality will set in when you realize an exit to a major metro stop is just up the stairs. There is also a great shops just up the block that sells macaroons.

Yes, that water in the “pond” is more like a science experiment or algae smoothie. One of the acute differences between America and Ukraine is that the grass does not look like it was off a golf course–and sometimes it’s not there at all. Having a picnic on these grounds might be better enjoyed with a yoga mat between you and your tush.

And now for some acknowledgement

I was surprised and flattered this past week when Jeanette of French Paintings nominated me for the One Lovely Blog award. Jeanette is a compassionate artist (painter) living in France, writing about her musings and artwork. Her blog is great for some cubicle daydreaming and peeking into the mind of an artist. Jeanette, THANK YOU for being supportive of me despite my rookie status in the blog world. Encouragement has been priceless for me.

Following the rules of accepting the award, here are 7 things you might not know about me.

1. I listen to NPR almost all the time, barring Prairie Home Companion (sorry PHC fans).

2. Since the age of 18 I have lived in 6 states.

3. My drink of choice is Organic Valley chocolate milk.

4. I don’t own a TV (proudly).

5. I love to talk politics. I also just love to talk.

6. My monthly budget has a separate category for my latte habit.

7. When not listening to NPR, I am probably listening to Van Morrison.

Part 2 of this is to share some of the blogs I spent (too much) time on.

1. Global from Home this website is for those who have some roots. A wonderful writer, and focus on multiple cultures. Elise, yes we share a name, has already received the award, but in the spirit of disclosure, this is a GREAT site.

2. prsnldvlpmnt they are travelling the States in a van.

3. schwingeninswitzerland a couple of expats in Switzerland. They give great cultural tidbits and have some great photos.

4. My Life is a Romantic Comedy a blogger new to Detroit, blogging about her experience. Her perspective makes me laugh.

5. Globally Misguided a woman is travelling after ditching the corporate ladder scene. The writer provides some great insight.

6. Alex Travel Bum I like this blog for it’s photo’s, perspective, and his choice in travel destinations. Who wouldn’t love to go to Granada and experience the caves!

7. Stupenders even if you hate travelling, go to this website. This girl has a wicked sense of humor and has left me laughing so hard I cried in public repeatedly. My favorite is her post “What even is packing?”.

8. Phil Diro This man has impeccable taste in men’s items. I am taking note for the upcoming holiday season.

9. Pictures Don’t Count a girl plans her escape to New Zealand. Gutsy. May we all remain this way.

Snoop around and see what these folks have to offer. Some are seasoned experts, some are new to the game. Enjoy!

Come Fly with Me: Tips for a Somewhat Comfortable Flight

Sometimes getting going just isn’t that easy.

How many people usually spend their time in the check in line reminiscing about the latest airport nightmare? For anyone who has flown in the past 10 years, they have probably been subject to unsolicited chaos. I’m going to add some spice to my regular posts about where I have been and share some of my hard won advice, some of it may be common sense, hopefully some of it will make your life easier.

1) Treat all airport staff like gold-they have can break your experience. This may be the most important advice I can give. Not only do they determine whether you can get an upgrade, but if they like you, a flight attendant can share insider information like the best restaurants and shops for your destination. If you are stressed out because of a delay or cancellation, remember that you are likely one of many and treating people like crap will not win you any favors.

2) Drink the complimentary wine on your international flight. You already have to sit uncomfortably close to a stranger. Airplane seats don’t go back far enough to sleep (or even sit like a normal person). Soften the edges. The wine is your consolation prize. It may not be good quality but as said by someone in the show Weeds “If it’s free, It’s me”.

3) Bring earplugs. In fact, bring three pairs. Teething babies and belligerent adults both have a right to ride the airplane, but you are not required to suffer with them. The first pair of earplugs is for you. The second and third are for your neighbors on either side of you (everybody needs allies).

4) Negotiate. You got bumped from your flight in Amsterdam and they airline only wants to give you $500 for your inconvenience? Try and negotiate for some perks like an upgrade on your next flight out, extra meal vouchers, access to the nap room,or some extra miles on your account. Some of these things are more fluid than an airline would like you to think.

5) Your carry on is for the unexpected. Pack what you would need for 24 hours of delays. This includes medication (both daily meds and things like aspirin to help with small issues), chargers, converter, a change of clothes and toiletries. You will thank me when you are checking into a hotel room in Denver at 2am after 7 missed standby flights.

6) Think outside your final destination. Sometimes it is cheaper to fly from Europe to New York City and then buy a separate ticket home, rather than buying a complete ticket. This comes with risks of missed flights that are not reimbursable (buying insurance might fix that). When considering if time or money is more valuable to you, if money wins, getting stuck in New York isn’t that bad, you can always Couchsurf.

7) Keep your most prized possessions in your carry on. This applies most to international travel. Have you ever seen suitcases coming in from Ukraine completely wrapped in plastic film? That’s because some airport security might like the sweater or watch you have in your suitcase. You have some level or control over what is taken out of your carry on. The other option is to wrap your suitcase in a thick layer of plastic wrap.