Saturday, September 22, 2018

Perfect Pottery - a short story

Inspired by moments in pottery class. Enjoy. I'd love your feedback as comments.

Perfect Pottery
By Christina Kottmann

Sandpaper scratched the clay, shearing away a layer of dust onto the white tabletop. Other hands might have stopped at this point. The surface of the bowl was smooth. Though the object in her hands lacked craters, marks, or deviations of any kind, she continued to polish the surface roughly. It was not yet perfect.

Pottery can be more than an artistic hobby, it can be an experience in acceptance. But today the old familiar mantra was pulsating in her mind fervently. The hum of the fan overhead beat the rhythm as her fingers traced an invisible imperfection in the dried clay bowl. “Not good enough.”

Her hair was wild today, pulled up in a haphazard bun, bits springing up and out like weeds. The worn old black apron protected her blue t-shirt, though it was unnecessary. The shirt was stained and pockmarked by age and previous projects. She never wore it in public. Today, hidden in her corner room, her makeshift art studio, the blue shirt was a comfort she afforded herself. The soft cotton and loose fit allowed freedom of movement externally, in contrast to the internal rigidity. Every visual element of her appearance in this moment said that she didn’t care about perfection, yet the mantra beat in her skull and her hands obeyed the internal command.

A limp hand raised to wipe sweat from her brow. Clay dust splattered her face lightly like cosmetic powder. She resumed her endless task. “Not good enough.”

Pottery had been a good recommendation. A way for her to face the perfectionist mental block physically. Some days were better than today. She glanced at the far wall where a line of bowls, cups, and plates were displayed on a shelf. They were the ones she was proud of.

Unconsciously her eyes drifted to the cabinet in the corner. Closed behind the brown doors stood her unsuccessful works of art. A collection of failures, pieces that had not been correct and therefore were discarded to the darkness. She hadn’t thrown them away however, succumbing to the other mental block of wastefulness by convincing herself that she could reuse them or repurpose the glazed pieces in a future project.     

The bowl under her hands was done, but she continued to rub it with the sandpaper. It was destined for the display wall, if she didn’t screw it up like she had with the pieces in the cabinet. When they recommended pottery they likely didn’t anticipate that she would reject the imperfect pieces. They probably wanted her to display all her works equally, proudly showcasing her progress as an artist and presenting pieces that were wonderful alongside those that were terrible. An observing friend would likely praise all her work equally, ignoring the horribly malformed ones and those with scars caused by air bubbles in the glaze.

Pottery gave her control over the final product, but when the glaze was too thick, the clay too thin, or the color too streaky, she did not calmly accept the piece as a product of her meticulous control plus the randomness of circumstances. She blamed herself, beginning a mental diatrite of all the factors she should have calculated and adjusted accordingly but didn’t, because if she had, this physical piece in her hands would not be a disaster. It failed to be beautiful because she failed to control all of the factors perfectly. She was not good enough to make it good enough.  

Her hand slipped, the sandpaper scraping against the skin of her forefinger knuckle. She set the bowl solidly on the table and raised the injured finger to examine it. A tiny nick, but there was blood. Sharp blue eyes darted to the white polished clay of the dried bowl. There were a few infinitesimal specks of red on the lip of the bowl where she had been holding it. Blood would not affect the clay, and could be washed off easily. She moved to get a wet rag, but paused by the cabinet.

The scraped left hand reached for the doors and drew them open. The offending pieces greeted the light of the studio like guests arriving at a party. She peered at them critically, staring judgmentally at the nearest creation. A small bowl intended to be a dish for earrings. Glazed black, it had landed here because the color was uneven. The marked hand lifted it fully into the light.

The fired glaze had ruined this piece, but otherwise it was flawless. The sides were smooth, bottom flat, and the clay had taken the glaze evenly. She recalled the day she had dipped it. No touch-ups were needed. The black glaze had been new and she had been excited to try it. “You didn’t mix it right,” a chastising thought reminded her. It was true, something was wrong with the glaze mixture to cause this distribution. But, it was not as terrible as she had remembered it.

The black dish was streaky, but its dark color helped hide that from an untrained eye. It was not the quality she held herself too, even as an amateur potter, but it was a well-made piece structurally. She carried it to the display wall, setting it beside a tall vase. The vase was turquoise with a white glaze on the base, a drip design that she was very proud of. Setting the black dish beside it, the contrast highlighted a small nick in the clay of the vase. She lifted the prized object to question it further.

The dent was miniscule, covered by the white glaze and originally she hadn’t noticed it, probably because the mark was on the border of the white and turquoise. Now however, she couldn’t unsee it. She began to carry the vase to the cabinet, muttering internally that even her best work was shoddy. A realization interrupted her intentions. All of her works were terrible, even the ones she had thought perfect.

A moment later she had removed the contents of the cabinet and the display wall, placing the pieces of pottery on the large white table among the remaining dust of her latest project. The rash impulse to smash them all flooded her body with angry adrenaline. A blue plate caught her tense eyes.

It was square and medium-sized. Her face scrunched in question, “Which group had it belonged to?” The plate was not immediately offensive. The edges were smooth and equal. The base was sturdy and uncovered by glaze. The glazed color was radiant and clear. But an air bubble marked the underside of the plate, disrupting the glaze. This had been a reject.

Her critical eyes appraised the object, pleased to find the defect. But her hands were satisfied with the plate, and the mark was not immediately visible. She knew it was there, but was it enough to hide the plate in a dark cabinet? “Not good enough,” the sing-song mantra tap danced in her mind.

Tired fingers gently set the plate down. Surveying the rest of the pieces with a slow gaze, another realization grew in her soul. “They are all good enough”, she thought quietly. Each piece inevitably had some imperfection, some more offending than others. But they were all works of creation that she had spent time and energy on. They were all hers, and they did not deserve to be crammed in a cabinet. She couldn’t even tell by glancing at them which ones were the worst.

The analytical side of her mind offered to assess their value one by one, detailing their flaws so that she could display only the best ones. But the new understanding silenced that idea. They were handmade pieces of design, not measures on a chart. Their value was in their existence and expression in her life.   

Carefully she began to move the pieces onto the display shelf. The judgemental mantra fought back in her mind, struggling to regain its control. “They are not good enough,” it jeered. “They are all worth displaying,” she answered back calmly.

The display shelf grew full of art. The remaining pieces earned homes in her living space. A blue plate with an air bubble scar joined the kitchen. A streaky black dish became a home for earrings in her bedroom. A dented white and turquoise vase awaited flowers on the dining room table. With the placement of each one she felt more security in her new mantra.

Returning to the studio table, she picked up the dried clay bowl. The blood had dried and she didn’t want to wash it off anymore. It didn’t matter. This piece of creation was good enough.         

Monday, July 3, 2017

Arriving in the Rain - an Airbnb tale

Hi all,

So this story is about the time that I arrived in Munich, Germany during a downpour. It was summer 2016, and I was on my European Backpacking Adventure. Munich had won my heart back in December 2012, so I was excited to revisit it during warmer months. I was arriving on the Eurail train from Switzerland and had been traveling and journaling all day.

To set the scene, picture me wearing my large backpack on my back and the smaller one on my front. My umbrella is thankfully easily accessible in my backpack's pocket, and I'm wearing a comfortable travel outfit. My train has pulled into the suburbs of Munich and the rain has started to fall on the windows. I've got the directions from the Airbnb host as screenshots and have the apartment's "location" pinned on my Google Maps app.

The train pulled into a tunnel and then stopped at my station. I exited and crossed to the other track to take the short journey to the apartment's local station. I was underground now and naively hopeful that the rain would be light when I reemerged. No such luck.

I vividly remember climbing the stairs out of the station toward a grey plaza. The rain could be heard before I saw it. Sheets of rain. People coming down the stairs were shaking their umbrellas and coats off and looked miserable.

I gathered up my willpower, set my Google Map GPS to show the direction of the apartment, and walked up into the deluge. Okay, that's a little extreme, but my point is that I was really thankful that I had my umbrella. I had to stand at a corner to wait for the traffic light. My sneakers felt wet already. After crossing I headed toward a neighborhood area as the directions instructed. Here's where it becomes a story and not just a soggy arrival anecdote.

I couldn't find the apartment.

The rain continued as I walked up the street and down the street looking for the number and frowning at my phone's directions. (I should note that I've had this happen to me in other cities, so it's me not the directions (mostly), but still.) I found refuge under an overhang and tried in vain to message or call the host. This is a downside of not having (buying) internet access, aka a SIM card, when I travel. Feeling frustrated, I went to the only door on the street that looked open and found a German Kindergarten. It was after 4pm so only the secretary was there.

She was incredibly helpful and let me use the phone to call the host, but there was still no answer. I sadly thanked her and stepped back into the rain, thinking about how my backpack's contents were surely completely wet. Note to self: Don't assume when feeling defeated.

I wandered down the street again and stopped at a cafe to try to use wifi. Again, no luck. The shop was empty and I felt guilty for not buying something, so I exited and started toward the bus shelter across the street.

That's when I saw a tall, lanky guy walking toward me and waving under his umbrella. My host! I admit that I wasn't the most likable person in that moment, but he tolerated my annoyance like a saint and invited me into the apartment. I found that my backpack was not that wet, I let my sneakers dry by the heater, and we had a nice cup of tea together and chatted.

All's well that ends well, as he would say. So that's the story of how I got discombobulated in Munich when trying to find my Airbnb apartment. I did help him write up clearer directions for future guests and I had a great, albeit rainy and cold, stay in Munich in mid-July. We even played soccer one evening! But that's another story.

Until next time... thanks for reading!

Happy travels!

Saturday, July 1, 2017

My love-hate relationship

Hi all,

I'm going to write about something I think most travelers have experienced. The love-hate relationship. Not with someone, or with the feeling of endless travel, but with a city. You adore this city, idealizing it as you plan your trip. But then you get there and it stomps on you, steals your money, and throws you overboard. This is a story about Paris, France.

I had visited Paris in June 2007 as the starting point of a group tour across France, Spain, Morocco, and Portugal for intrepid high schoolers. Well our plane from Virginia was delayed, we missed our flight from New York, and we spent the day at a Newark mall instead of on the Avenue des Champs-Élysées. But I'll tell that story later. Oh and then there was the MRD trip to London and Paris in 2011, in which my flight group missed the Paris part and had to meet up with everyone in London. Basically Paris was a blip in my memory, and a sore spot, and I was determined to visit it fully in 2016. As the start of my big European Backpacking Adventure!

Flying in was exciting and the first days were enjoyable. But cold. Parisians were wearing coats in the middle of June. I wandered, I recolored my hair, I sipped classy drinks and ate fine food. I tried to live as a local and experience Paris correctly. I had a plan to see the tourist sites on the weekend, after I moved from my current Airbnb to a hostel across town. A teaching family I knew was also going to be in Paris the day that I moved, so I planned on dropping my stuff off and then exploring with them. See I made good plans. I was nice to the city. And it repaid me by kicking me in the stomach.

*Here's where it gets TMI. You've been warned.*
I thankfully have a habit of packing up most of my stuff the night before I leave a place. Plus I'd only just arrived 2 days ago, so most of my stuff was still packed. My Airbnb was in a cool student neighborhood and the host (in messages, he wasn't in town) had recommended a pizza place nearby. I wandered naively down there, had a beer, and ordered what ended up being a full pie.

It looked fine. I took a photo of it for Instagram (later deleting it after the horror) and dug in. I was never going to eat it all, but I made a decent dent. Then my stomach felt... unsure. I had another beer to settle it. I decided not to have any of my wine when I got back to the apartment and got ready for bed. I remember listening to a Spanish CD from my laptop to lull me to sleep.

*Some of this story I wrote the day after the "incident", so let's now time-travel to my nice hostel in Paris (where I moved).*

June 17th, 2016.

I just realized today is my half-birthday. 25.5.

Sucky day to celebrate though because today... (graphic, read on at own "ew" risk) I woke up with what I assume has been food poisoning. Probably from the combo of pizza and beer last night. Throw-up count is at 4 (3am, 4am, 9:30am, 4pm) and my stomach was empty-empty when last I saw its contents (water). I've been dizzy all day and my muscles feel super weak and useless. 

I'm at a hostel now, and a very nice Argentinian woman bought me gatorade, which has helped. A French woman also gave me some strong paracetamol and stomach spasm medicine. I laid down on a couch in the hostel (room wasn't ready yet) for several hours midday. No lunch.

Tried to have the tiniest bit of banana when I woke up in the afternoon after incident 4pm and that was a trigger on my poor stomach. Last expulsion seems to have helped my dizziness though, and I now have a bed (bunk, so gotta be careful) so I'm down for the next several hours. Didn't get to see the teaching family today on account of trying to not feel like death.

Being sick sucks, but the positive factors are: 
1) I've learned I don't give a __ what strangers think of me.

2) I'm able to be respectful even when I'm white as a ghost and lacking stomach bile.

3) People are super nice, just, there are really good people all around. 

4) I'm in this hostel until Sunday morning when I'm planning on going to Monaco, but nothing is booked, so travel-freedom has taken that pressure off my mind.

5) This hostel is clean and the hosts are very helpful. One guy carried my ridiculous, huge purple backpack up the stairs for me and the main host let me sleep on the couch downstairs for those hours.

6) I honestly don't care if I don't see all the sites in Paris. Which I may well not. I got to Notre Dame. Yes the Eiffel Tower is special, but I won't cry about not getting to see it on this trip. I'll be in Europe again someday when I live here.

Stay hydrated and healthy my friends,

I don't think you really need the gory details, but if you've read this far apparently you want them.
Still reading? Okay I'll tell you.

My body rejected everything possible that night at the apartment. I thought I was okay in the morning, waking up around 7am, and even walked down the street to a supermarket to buy a banana and some yogurt as breakfast. Foolish me.

I packed up my bags fully and managed to walk down the street wearing my 20+ pounds of luggage (backpacks) on my poor body. Mind over matter, legs just keep moving. I got to the metro and held on to the railing as the train rolled and rocked in that usual way. Except that my stomach was not happy. I thank the universe that the doors of the train opened at a random, open-air station just as the banana and yogurt decided to leave me. That was the 9:30am incident. I managed to get my front backpack off before spewing my guts on a plastic chair bench and the wall behind.

This will make you laugh with pity - I felt so guilty for the mess that I tried to wash it all away with my water bottle. Then I found a station manager and explained that he should call someone to come with a hose to wash it away. So thankful it was an open-air station...

Now I wasn't crazy enough to try to get on another train and continue my journey to the hostel. My weakened body was going to have to make the trip on foot. At least it was a nice day and I felt capable to walking with my backpacks as long as I could breath fresh air and rush to a bush or trash can if needed. (My willpower is pretty strong some days. Still, I definitely wished I wasn't traveling alone right then.)

I had the GPS coordinates on my phone (Thanks Google Maps!) and started off on the longest trek of my life. Well it felt like that because I was slower than a snail and didn't feel I was getting any closer. I passed through a park that had a dinosaur statute in it. I dragged myself along a row of endless identical houses on an empty sidewalk. That's when I sat down and surrendered to the streets of Paris. Accepting that the city had beat me and that we shouldn't be together anymore.

I considered just booking myself into the next hotel I saw, but I didn't see any. I considered paying a driver however much was necessary to get me to the hostel but then worried about getting sick in their car. I considered ordering a taxi but my phone just had wifi access, not calling or instant internet. And again, the car movement worried me. So I sat there.

Eventually, superhumanly, I summoned enough energy to pull myself up and trudge on to the hostel. It was a very welcome sight. But it was like 11am and the room wouldn't be ready until 4pm. The host was lovely. She saw I was in a miserable state and let me collapse on the couch in the "game room" down some stairs.

I shamelessly covered myself completely in a blanket and lay still like a corpse on that couch for the whole afternoon. I probably creeped some people out. I tried to get up once in the afternoon and incident 4 told me that my mind was not going to win this battle of wills over my body. Luckily I was in a bathroom. Then, as the journal entry says, I met nice people who helped. I survived, got to my room, slept, and later got online to apologize to the family since we hadn't met up. It hadn't been a set plan, just a maybe.

The next day I was better. 24 hours of destruction and the poison was out of my system. Thank your body today - it knows what to do in these situations, even if disgusting.

So then I had a lovely weekend wandering around the sites in Paris, as I'd planned. Even met someone cute. But that's another story. See you later!    

Happy traveling!
- Christina

Thursday, June 29, 2017

My first trip across the border

Hi all,

So let's jump in, to the car. My first trip outside of the USA was to nearby Canada. I was 9 years old. We lived in upstate New York so the drive wasn't that bad, considering that my family often took road trips to the beach in Virginia.

My younger brothers and I (ages 9, 6, and 3) piled into the backseat and waiting for my dad to finally be ready. After checking the house for the 20th time, we were off. I remember being so excited to see Niagara Falls and watching out the window of our brown Toyota as we flew by trees, entered the grey highway, and finally approached border control.

This was pre-9/11, and I guess the rules for border crossings were looser at that time. I'm fairly sure my parents didn't have passports. Us children certainly didn't. So we pulled up to the border control officer's roadside toll box. It seemed to me like we were just stopping to pay a toll, but then it took longer than usual.

The officer seemed to be telling my mom that she couldn't take us, her children, across the border without showing our birth certificates. Whether my parents hadn't researched this or it was a new rule, I'll never know. But we were halted there at the US-Canada border as my mom and dad tried to convince the officer, and soon his boss, that the 3 of us were not being smuggled out of the country.

I was bored with the wait so I fidgeted with my crank-down window handle, and ended up sticking pennies into a hole by the door handle. That door always jingled with cash afterward. My brothers must have been asleep because I don't remember any ruckus from them. I didn't know why we had been held up until my parents started talking about it back in the car later on.

After what felt like hours, but was probably more like 30 minutes, my parents signed some documentation and the border staff let us through. Perhaps it says something about my travel patience personality that my first experience involved waiting at a border.

So we got through and went to Canada. That weekend we stood by the massive Niagara Falls from the Canadian side and took photos. I'll save myself some humiliation by not posting them because 9-year-old me was not fashion-forward.

That was my first trip "abroad". I don't remember if I felt the travel bug then, but I do remember being fascinated that there were hotels and interesting things to see that I wouldn't have seen if we hadn't taken the trip.

So that was my start. And I'd like to stay that I've been traveling ever since, but it wasn't until 2005 that I got my next chance. But that's another travel story. See you later!

Happy traveling!

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Brave solo traveler: real or fake?

Hi all,

I have been told that I must be very brave to travel alone. But am I?

I don't feel brave, I actually usually feel like traveling alone is a cop-out. Like I couldn't be bothered to care about traveling with someone, so I just didn't put the energy into making that happen. Perhaps part of that feeling comes from being an introvert. Too much time around people exhausts me and I need personal time to recharge. That's the one big benefit of living alone. So maybe I travel alone so much because the introvert part of me feels it is safer, less emotionally draining. I can verify that traveling with family is not relaxing. Enjoyable, yes, but not relaxing. And I generally like to relax when I'm traveling.

I do like the anxious feeling of having to navigate a new city, the pressure of catching the train, and the rush of satisfaction when I find something great unexpectedly (i.e. quaint coffee shop, beautiful unnoticed painting, perfect lonely view).

So am I being brave when I travel alone, or cowardly? I do shy away from getting close to people. I don't like my personal space being invaded EVER (please ask for a hug and wait for permission) without warning, and I usually exist in the quiet silence of my lonely house. I don't mind it. I was never one of those folks who likes music on 24/7. Yes, I listen to music when I get up in the morning. It helps me get into a good mood. Yes, I like music/sound on when I'm writing creatively, running, or actively avoiding being productive (looking at you YouTube). But I'm okay with silence. I prefer silence most evenings. So maybe that's another reason I often travel alone, it ensures guaranteed silence time.

No buddy/roomie/friend to obligatorily chat with when there is nothing else to do. No one to explain your decisions to or worst, JUSTIFY your decisions to. I think we should take this road, why, because that's what I decided. I get tried giving reasons - which I happen to do a lot at school (i.e. "Why is that on the board? Why can't I have it? When are we going to do Writing today?"). Most of my school life is answering questions, so when I'm traveling - which is during my school breaks - it's one of the last things I want to do.

But when I travel alone, it is lonely. I don't think being brave and lonely go together. Maybe that's my own perception of what "lonely" and "brave" look like, but of all the times in my life I've felt "brave", none overlap with feeling "lonely".

So what does "brave" look like? Let me know in the comments.

Thanks for reading!

Saturday, May 21, 2016

For the love of maps

Hi all,

Does anyone else adore maps?
Basically I love maps, and compasses. There is something so intriguing about seeing the world on paper in front of you and being able to chart the places you've been. Speaking of, I love making maps of my travels. 

You can use this site to make a map of your travels: It is really easy because you just click on the country (or check off the name).
Here's mine (link): CK map May2016

I've made a bunch of maps over the years, but this one is probably the most detailed: Where in the World is Christina? map

My map of where I go in Europe will come out after my backpacking adventure there this summer (2016!).

Make maps of your own travels! Share them!

Happy teaching and traveling,

Friday, October 30, 2015

My Memorable Travel Experiences List

Hi all,

I was inspired to make this list by this post. This is not an exhaustive list, but it lists some of the memories that I obviously remember. I'm going to restrict this to travel-related experiences. I'm trying to be chronological, since that's how my brain works.

**June 29th, 2017 note - I want to revamp this blog to be my travel stories. I think these will serve my as starting list.**

---          ---          ---
The mist and noise of Niagara Falls.

Setting foot in a foreign country (London, 2005). It was like the pictures in a book had come to life around me.

Standing on the metal plate in front of Notre Dame and committing to traveling as much as possible (apparently if you stand there, you're destined to return to Paris).

The overnight train from Paris to Madrid.

Spending way too much on a purse I never use in Madrid.

Having the BEST chocolate gelato ever in Seville. Repeatedly.

Standing on (almost) the edge of a cliff in Ronda, Spain.

Trying to do a flamenco dance with our hosts on a rural Spanish ranch.

Getting lost in the beautiful winding streets of Toledo.

Swimming in the Mediterranean for the first time.

The monkey that stole the Snickers in Gibraltar.

Having rabbit (they lied and said it was chicken) in Portugal.

Buying a small bottle of Port in a shop in Porto and feeling so sneaky.

Standing at the lighthouse on the western-most point of Europe (Portugal) and holding my skirt down because of the wind.

Swimming on the other side of the Atlantic. Also finding out that my parents were visiting the beach on their side of the Atlantic the same day. I waved. (Pun intended)

Wandering through some streets in Lisbon and marveling at the copper-orange color of the roofs.

Exploring landmarks in London by myself soon after arriving and already feeling "back" in a city I knew.

Playing and dancing at the end of the London New Year's Day parade.

My disappointment in LAX for not having food options closer to the gate.

Valentine's Day on the beach in Lorne, Australia.

O-week in Australia. All the fun and community building. All the events with my new best friends.

My weekend schedule of going to work at the YMCA, coming back to Uni to change, then out to explore Melbourne with my best friend.

Sky-diving and bungee-jumping on the same day in Cairns.

Finding a beautiful green space in the headlands near Sydney and taking tons of photos.

Missing our flight in the Gold Coast and spending a rainy day in Coolangatta. At least we saw the newest Harry Potter movie.

Amazingly good salmon hotdogs in a Farmer's Market in Hobart.

The full day we spent exploring the Dove Lake/Cradle Mountain area.

Frustratingly searching for a lake at night only to wake up to find that we parked right next to it (New Zealand). *There's a lesson there*

Driving the west coast of the South Island. It's just incredible.

Learning the amazing community spirit of New Zealanders when we stopped at a very rural pub to call for a tow-truck for a couple we'd passed.

Claiming a private spot over Lake Taupo for a few nights.

Just watching the stars outside of Hamilton, New Zealand.

My host's mother welcoming me by purchasing a huge case of Mexican beer (Mexico City). It was a great idea.

Climbing to the top of the Pyramid of the Sun in Teotihuacan.

The afternoon I spent on the plaza in Guadalajara just sketching.

The drive to Zacatecas through central Mexico.

The sticky humidity and tourist atmosphere of Puerto Vallarta. Swimming in the Pacific was really cool though.

Conquering my own fears on the Alps (skiing) after falling many, many times.

The thermal baths in Erding, Germany, especially the Persian-inspired pool room that I had all to myself.

Watching the surfers on a river in Munich in December.

Driving a manual on the autobahn.

Experiencing the Nurnberger Christkindlesmarkt a few days before Christmas, complete with gluhwein and sausages.

Christmas Eve in a bar in my friend's hometown in Germany.

Being alone in the quiet of the snowy Czech woods in ski gear.

Getting scammed out of 20 euro each for a NYE event, then wandering a residential neighborhood.

Being interviewed as a tourist who came to Berlin for New Year's Eve by a German tabloid-newspaper.

Stopping along Skyline Drive in the Shenandoah Valley, to take photos and talking with a father-son duo on motorcycles.

Experiencing (most of) a Yankee's Game in NYC with friends of friends and best friends.

Walking down Coney Island's Broadwalk only to slowly discover that the mass of people were there because we'd visited the same day as the Mermaid Parade!

Checking in my luggage when I moved abroad to Saudi Arabia. "Are you moving?" Yes I am.

My first day as a teacher in Grade 1.

Navigating by instinct (to my friend who was driving) through the streets of Abu Dhabi since our electronic maps were just showing a blue dot on a blank tan field.

Swimming in Yiti, Oman, hoping to see turtles, and finding happily scurrying crabs on an empty beach.

Having help from very nice local women with wrapping a hijab so I could enter the Grand Mosque in Muscat, Oman.

Hitting the slopes with my brother in Colorado.

Returning to my favorite restaurant in Mexico City for a michelada, made correctly, and good sushi.

That first glimpse of Petra through the gaps in the Siq.

Climbing up endless stairs and dry creekbeds to The Monastery early in the morning (Jordan). It was all worth the sight and the endless views over the mountain range.

Experiencing a hot air balloon ride in Cappadocia. Delayed gratification!

Having a great Turkish bath and massage in Kudadasi, Turkey.

Climbing down the cliffs at Pamukkale with a new friend.

The sunset view of the Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque from a ferry in the Bosphorus, Istanbul.

The high-above-the-city view after climbing a "mountain" in Istanbul (Asian side).

Swimming in the freezing pool in my hotel in Istanbul, the Hagia Sophia looming down and the moon high above.

The Fourth of July fireworks show in Houston, Texas.

Experiencing Business Class on a Singapore Airlines flight from Houston to Moscow.

Scuba diving off a long boat off Belitung Island, Indonesia. Just the guide and I in the water.

Following the local procession through the village streets to celebrate the end of Ramadan in Yogyakarta, Indonesia.

Exploring a waterfall with new friends outside of Yogyakarta. Also jumping off a cliff edge into the river.

Randomly having dinner with several Italian travelers on the beach on Gili Meno, off of Bali.

The spectacular sunset I experienced in Ubirr, NT, Australia.

Having a beer at an old haunt north of Melbourne with my friend.

Doing yoga on the beach in Koh Lanta, Thailand.

Wandering Bangkok until my feet hurt, including circling a street market several times (both to avoid rain and because I kept missing the turn out!)

Randomly deciding to eat lunch at a shop in a Bangkok street market, only to notice that there were clippings on the wall talking about it being a great restaurant. Yay instinct!

Lounging across 3 economy seats on a very empty Qatar Airways flight from Bangkok to Doha mid-day on a Monday.

The fire in Dubai on New Year's Eve.

Going up the Burj Khalifa for sunrise on January 1st, 2016.

Food poisoning in Paris. It was ugly, but people were wonderfully helpful.

Finding an amazing burger in Monte Carlo.

Wandering Genoa during a Saint holiday and having the city to ourselves.

Walking down a mountain with a happy dog in Switzerland.

Hunting for my Airbnb in the downpour in Munich.

Playing soccer with locals in a park in Germany.

Exploring the Turkish side of Berlin and finding familiar, yummy treats.

Seeing a beautiful sunset in Prague over a very underrated building.

Feeling happy in the summer breeze at a viewpoint over Prague.

Taking the overnight train from Prague, via Budapest, to Split. Quite the ride.

Scuba-diving in Bol, Croatia and meeting a small octopus!

Celebrating Saudi Arabia's National Day on the corniche with a new friend who trusted me way more than she probably should have.

Spending a weekend in Dubai to see Cirque du Soleil- Varekai with friends.

Thinking how surreal it was that I was in Virginia in October to see two friends marry each other.

Successfully interviewing in Dubai and over Skype for my new job!

My birthday celebrations in Bahrain and then Doha.

Revisiting my favorite spot in the world over Winter Break.

Waiting in the airport for 10 hours for a flight that never left. A stay-cation happened instead.

Showing my best friend all my favorite corners of Barcelona and being so grateful for good people.

Revisiting Toledo and being, once again, stunned by its beauty.

Seeing The Lion King in Madrid and being blown away.

Wandering Lisbon all day and feeling so happy to be back and thankful that this is my life.

Packing up for my move from Saudi Arabia and questioning why I ever thought I needed this much clothing.

Rebooking my flights because Doha was now out-of-bounds.

Returning to the USA and driving through those back country roads, marveling at how crazy-gorgeous Virginia is.

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Many other recent adventures are chronicled in video form on my YouTube channel. Check out my playlists and please subscribe!

That's all for now!
Happy teaching and traveling,