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Entries in travel (7)


My Summer Vacation and Facebook Brag Photos

Agra, IndiaIf we're friends on Facebook, you know that I traveled A LOT this summer. I went back and forth about sharing lots of photos on the page. I didn't want to appear to be a braggart. (Ew. Who even uses the word "braggart"? Apparently, I do.)

I think it's fairly universal -- that feeling when you see someone doing something awesome in a photo on Facebook and you're just sort of sitting around watching Netflix and, like, it's not even good Netflix - maybe the later seasons of Criminal Minds where it's basically the first five seasons with different characters-- and you think "Wow, this photo of this person doing awesome things is kind of making me feel bad about why I'm not doing awesome things." I can only speak for myself when I say that if I am not doing awesome things it's either because I'm physically tired or having one of my anxiety/depression/closeted introvert recharge moments. Did I say moments? Oops. I meant "weekends." So, I get it if you hated all of my vacation pictures, I totally do. But hear me out.

I promise you the sharing was not an effort to flash my "I'm so awesome" badge.

Seriously. Promise.

I posted the photos because I think international and transoceanic travel needs some normalizing these days. I can't count how many people greeted my travel plans with, "Really? Gosh, be careful."  The world is so incredibly crazy right now. It's not abnormal for someone to get anxious about boarding a plane for another continent. I was anxious. The anxiety isn't some out of the blue feeling either. It's grounded in a reality that anything could happen. There are people in this world who are so committed to their (skewed) ideology that they've crossed over to that place where they aren't exactly human anymore. They don't care about the collatoral damage that's associated with a news story. They just want to terrorize people. It can be hard to make the decision to leave your house in a world like this much less your country.

My iPhone regales me every day with news about terrorists and demagogues hell bent on creating a fractured humanity that is destined for peril and destruction. It reminds me daily that more and more humans seem to be becoming less human each day. While I don't dispute the accuracy of my iPhone with respect to specific stories, I do doubt the presentation of the proportionality of "awesomeness in the world" and "really terrifying shit that's happening."  If my every day has so much beauty in it, surely the rest of the world exists in a similar beauty.

So, the decision to travel to Oahu, Paris and New Delhi was a decision to push back against the narrative that the world is a dangerous place filled with inhumane people trying to kill us all. The decision to share these journeys on Facebook wasn't aimed at showing how I, personally, am awesome but reminding you that this is a world worth seeing

While I would not ever seek to diminish the violence that is done to innocent people daily, I know that hope lies in the knowledge that human kindness and beauty is still an actual thing all over the world. I didn't post the pictures to brag. I posted them so you would know that the world is still beautiful despite the dangers, injustices and unkindnesses that are present. I feel like if we forget that then maybe we might be in danger of being a little less human, too. 


7 Ways to Trot the Globe without Actually Globetrotting

Emma ... Not in East India... but East Memphis.

Traveling abroad offers opportunities to expand our understanding of different cultures, people and subsequently different perspectives. To me, a useful education has less to do with the levels of academia that have been traversed and more to do with successfully processing the existence of ideas outside of the paradigm of one's own thinking.

All that said, it's entirely possible to live a multicultural life without ever getting a passport.

The Internet, coupled with the rise of immigrant and first generation communities and populations throughout the world, presents most people an opportunity to sample the cuisine, clothing, food and some aspects of specific cultures without ever really leaving their homes.

1. Food. My fellow Americans, there are nations whose food is served within our borders that are not Mexico, China, Thailand or Italy.  Next time you go out to eat, don't let the "mood for Mexican" stand in the way of your expanding horizons.  Cuban, Argentine, Ethiopian...  The worst that could happen is that you don't like Ethiopian food which I think is better than not knowing what Ethiopians eat. Or thinking that they don't eat at all.  WHICH.IS.SO.ANNOYING.  It was a freaking region, not the entire country, the famine lasted two years, and it happened twenty five years ago, people.  Let it go.

2. Festivals. Ethnic communities put on a lot of "festivals." It's a way, I think, for us to feel connected to one another, but also an attempt to reach out to other communities and teach them something about us.  Just go. Bonus: there will be cheap, delicious food there. Food is a totally educational thing.  Just ask Anthony Bourdain.

3. Forging friendships. You're looking around for a someone to start a conversation with? Pick someone who looks like they're from somewhere other than where you're from. Is that politically incorrect?  Probably. I just think it makes for more interesting conversation and, you know, it could initiate world peace if people did it more often. Just.  Um.  Be cool, okay?

4. Books. Most public libraries have collections of international authors.  Book clubs are excellent sources. Not going to lie, Oprah's Book Club is my go to -- it offers a diverse range of authors in terms of national origin and race. You can search key words like "author" and "<a nation you'd like to visit">, too. A book isn't a substitute, but it is, again, better than knowing nothing.

5. Fashion. I'm not talking tunics from Target.  Nations like India, Japan, Malaysia, Kenya and yes, even Pakistan have thriving industries devoted to the haute couture that are directed at their own nationalities.  Scanning the international versions of Vogue that are available online offer insight into a culture's values concerning beauty, fabrics, industry and, of course, the feminine ideal.

6. Film.  Netflix is rocking it with the foreign films. Bollywood selections alone will take you on a veritable tour of the entire subcontinent.  Be warned, though, if you do ever go to India, few women look like Aishwarya Rai and pretty much nobody is dancing (well) in the streets.  If you're on a budget or don't have Netflix, did you know libraries lend movies!? For free?!  True story.

7. Avoid caricatures and remember that a micro-experience isn't a substitute for the real thing. Disclaimer: Keep in mind that experiencing a culture outside of its national origin is experiencing a representation of that culture. As Americans, what's our national food?  Our national dress?  Our national culture? My response to that is, it depends and yours may be more specific.  While we may have an unusually high diversity factor in the U.S., it's a mistake to assume that other nations are homogeneous in their ideals and culture.

These things aren't specific substitutes for travel, but often we set aside our dreams because there isn't time or money to do and see all the things what we want to.  Truth is, though, you can do a little bit now while working towards making what you really to want happen, too.

Have you traveled the world recently without really leaving home?  How?
P.S. Oh. Yeah. Happy Birthday, Adam.

The Arcade in Memphis, Tennessee

If you walk out of my building, take a right and walk about a block, you'll find a trolley stop.  Have a dollar bill ready and get on. Unless it's lunch on a weekday... then... FREE!

The Riverfront trolley takes you up Main Street, past the Civil Rights Museum and the Hotel Lorraine, where Dr. King was assassinated.  Then, it stops at the corner of G.E. Patterson and Main.

Get off the trolley and cross the street and you'll be standing in front of the Arcade Restaurant.

It's not a place where you play video games, but rather the name refers to an architectural style that incorporates arches and columns.  The arcade is the oldest restaurant in Memphis and was founded by a Greek immigrant family in 1924 and is run by that same family today.

That's my favorite part of the story of this National Historic Landmark.  It was made by immigrants and it's an integral part of Memphis history.  It's one proof of thousands, I believe, of how so many  individuals have contributed to what we now take for granted as natural outcomes of being "plain, old" Americans.  None of us are plain, old Americans, are we?  Like the Arcade restaurant, we have a little story that somehow connects us all to some other place besides the one we now call home.

While you're sitting in that restaurant munching on sweet potato pancakes and feeling like you're a part of living history, it might blow your mind when someone tells you that Elvis used to chill out here all the time.

Maybe even in the booth you're sitting in.

What a trip.

This is Memphis, baby.


Sweet potato pancakes. I have one word for you: share. I never met a plate I couldn't inhale, but I could NOT finish these. Very rich. But delicious.

Also delicious, but not on the menu.

Tell me about the places in your town that have stories linked to the past.  Do you visit them often?

Photos taken and edited on my Motorola DROID X.

Home Sweet High Rise

We're here.

I'm going to do a run-down in the form of a bullet post because, hi, I just moved away from my home state that I lived in my entire life and I do not need the pressure of writing a whole post, so why don't you back off already...

Um.  So, that was me talking to myself.  Okay... bullets...

  • Road trip. We split the drive to Memphis up over two days this past weekend.  It would've been 13 hours straight, but someone in this family hates road trips.  That someone is also the only other licensed driver in the family.

  • Tariq drove. The entire time.  I suggested this was because he's a control freak.  He explained that it was because he wanted me to relax and didn't want me to stress about having to drive, too.  He apparently does not have any problem with making me feel like the biggest jerk on the planet for saying that other thing.

  • We stopped in Atlanta. Where some of THE coolest and most awesome people I know live.  I'm a huge jerk.  Again.  In my defense, we got in at 8p.m. and left at 11a.m.

  • The kids were terrific. Seriously.

moving to memphis "My kids at hour seven of their second day of traveling."

  • Weather.  Checking the weather before you leave is a good idea and something I will remember to do before the next road trip we take.  We drove through a tropical storm for about a third of our trip.  Good thing we're Floridians and we eat tropical storms for breakfast.

  • Alabama, I love you, but your road signs are bipolar. One minute I'm horrified by the sign that is proclaiming homosexuality to be a sin, another moment I'm equally horrified by the sign that's boasting that their strippers were featured on "Jerry Springer," and I just shook my head at the one with an older black lady, a young white woman and an older white man proclaiming that they were Republicans.  These signs were all within ten minutes of each other.  I guess the section of Alabama we drove through is fine with straight Republican strippers of various races and ages.  Everyone else?  Move it along.

  • We finally got to our place on Monday evening.!!!  Let me put it this way, we have a concierge. I totally belong in a building like this.  It's like my mother ship, really.

"This is my hood, yo."

  • Oh, and there's a law school around the corner, too.

"Calm down, Dad. This is not going to happen."

  • I kinda love it here already. It's only been two days, but I think downtown living suits me.  Every day is an adventure.  In fact, yesterday, Tariq drove to Arkansas just to get to the nearest Wal Mart. He returned from this trip every bit as horrified as you're imagining.  It seems that while he was in the electronics section, someone asked a salesperson what a "ringtone" was and how they could get one.

arkansas bridge memphis "The bridge to Wal Mart. In Arkansas. As seen from our building's roof."

  • And, finally, I AM COMPLETELY UNPACKED. Yes.  In one day.  All my stuff.  Out of sixty (big) boxes.  I didn't realize this was a big deal until Britt told me she was impressed, like, four hundred times.

That's all I have for now.

Photos taken with my SONY DSLR-A230. Cough::SEE, Britt?::cough.


ABCD & FOB / Really You're Not That Different To Me...

I got an interesting e-mail from a reader the other day.  "N.A." is a Bangladeshi American and somehow we arrived on the topic of marriage.  I gather that, like me, N.A. is married to someone who didn't grow up here.  She writes:
There is one thing that I think desi people don't really talk about. It's how abcds (I know it's not the best term:)) feel about fobs. ... I really wish people would just understand that we are all human.

It's like they think they are better than those who are immigrating from the subcontinent. The first thing the girls ask when trying to find a suitor is whether or not they grew up here. I understand that people feel that if both people grow up in the states they will have a better understanding of each other. That doesn't mean that people from India/Pakistan/Bangladesh are unmarriageable.

If you don't know what "desi" means or "ABCD," feel free to read this post to catch up.

When I was growing up, I knew one thing: I would never, ever marry an immigrant from the subcontinent.

Seriously, it's true.

I think I felt that way because there were so many times in my life when my parents treated my American-ness as a liability.  We will ignore the irony, for the sake of discussion, that they traveled thousands of miles from their homes to get to America and then spent the next several decades worrying that their kids might actually turn out, gasp, American.

I guess they saw my brother's and my growing up here as a direct obstacle to their ability to transmit their values and heritage.  As if somehow eating peanut butter and watching MTV were in complete opposition to Pakistani values.

Maybe my parents were motivated by a deep fear that on one of our many visits to Pakistan, we'd get off the plane smacking our gum too loud, wearing a pair of ripped jeans and a T Shirt that read, "Shit Happens," and thrust an open palm in the faces of one of our grandparents and and say, "How's it hangin', Gramps?"

All that fear of us being too American translated into me thinking that "desis," a term used for people from the Asian subcontinent, were totally lame.  It's true.  I'm not embarrassed to admit it.

Okay, I'm a little embarrassed to admit it.

I think I felt that way because the only way "desi" culture was presented to me was in the context of superiority.  See, we're family oriented, our parents would say... we have better morals, we have better manners, we work harder, we are less entitled... and, we definitely have better food.

It wasn't a deep love for all things American that prompted me to reject immigrants as social peers or potential spouses when I was younger, either.  It was that I hated that thing... that thing where you make someone else's stuff look bad in order to make yourself look good.  I imagined being married to some desi guy and having him drone on about... "Well, in Pakistan it's like this and that's so much better because..."

Of course, the central part of becoming an adult is realizing what a moron you were when you were a kid.

Also, for me at least, it was realizing the ugly truth that most people do that thing... the thing where they make other people's choices and values bad in order to make themselves look good.  You know and I know that my parents weren't alone.  I'd say, in fact, that they're representative of most people who are placed in cross cultural situations.

Just think about the last time you spoke with someone who visited a foreign country.  My favorite example is the one about my friend who visited Paris and all she could come up with was how much it smelled, how stupid it was that they asked whether you wanted your water with gas or not and how much NOT like New York City it was.  Hello.  It's Paris, not New York City.  Interestingly, I believe that's why they, in fact, call it "Paris" and not "New York City."

So here I am, well into my thirties, and married to an immigrant from the subcontinent.

To a fob.

And, he, too, is married to an ABCD.

A hyphen.

He could probably write a post similar to this if he was so inclined.  Something about how he never thought he would marry one of those girls who grew up in America, smacking their gum, wearing T shirts, faintly smelling of peanut butter and constantly high five-ing at the most inappropriate of times.

I think deep down, it's not about being an immigrant or not, about being born here or being born there.  It's about who you are, as a person.

Are you the kind of person who knows that there is value to be found in everyone, in every place or in every culture?  And are you willing to see that value?

Or are you a person who is so afraid of "different" that you would close yourself off from other people in order to preserve a sense of security about how you think the world is?

I know lots of people who have been all over the world, yet because of their way of thinking, they have never really left home.  They experience the world and the people in it within a very narrow and specific frame of reference.  They never let go enough of what they think the world should be like or what people should be like.  As a result, they will never experience the pleasure of being proven so entirely wrong that they find themselves head over heels in love with the very thing they thought they would never want any part of.  This is not the domain of immigrants or natives, it is simply the domain of people who are unwilling to see past their own noses.

So, N.A., what do I think of "ABCDs" who don't want anything to do with "fobs"?

I think they're not much different than most people who have resigned themselves to never wanting to find out what else is out there.

I think they suffer from the worst kind of limitations that any human can suffer... the ones we impose on ourselves.