Archives for August 2011

Hola, Peru!

[I’m still out traveling, but I have a new mini series to share! Believe it or not, I did a bit of traveling before blogging came in vogue. Over the next few days I’ll share posts about 3 trips I took pre-bloglife. The first is here and the second there.]

After finishing university, I was looking for my next big goal. It felt a little funny to not have something really obvious that I was working towards. One of my life goals is to visit all 7 continents, so I decided I should start working on that. I hadn’t been to South America yet and Peru had the cheapest airfare. I was going to Peru!

All I had to do was ask once and my good friend Shauna was ready to take the adventure with me. We took care to plan every little detail and had everything set weeks in advance. (This is a far cry as to how I travel now!)

My intrepid travel partner and me.

Our trip began in Cusco where we immediately hit the ground running and got a bit of the altitude sickness. Not a good feeling. I definitely recommend taking it easy your first day. The altitude is pretty intense.

Women in the main square in Cusco.

The view from the train on our way to Aguas Calientes (the city nearest Machu Picchu).

Our first big site was the incredible Machu Picchu. We didn’t have time to trek in but we did wake up super early to watch the sunrise over the ancient city. Incredible.


Sitting in a window at Machu Picchu.

Next we dropped in at Casa de Milagros. It’s really hard to describe Casa de Milagros. “Orphanage” is close but not quite right. The couple who run the home consider each of the children living there to be their sons and daughters. It’s a giant family that welcomes volunteers and interns and does work in the greater community. We were there to drop off some very heavy school supplies we collected and brought with us.

A colorful sign at Casa de Milagros.

Casa de Milagros is in an old and colorful hacienda.

We traveled south to Lake Titicaca where we participated in a homestay on the island of Amantani. Our hosts had a lovely and very comfortable home. We felt very welcome even though there were a few awkward moments. (Shauna asking in Spanish: “Does the toilet function?”)

Locals on the lake.

Grandma and baby Mildred of our host family.

Lake Titicaca from the top of Amantani.

Before leaving we took a flight to Puetro Maldonado, a town in the middle of the Amazon. From there we ventured further into the rainforest for a stay at an eco-lodge. Ummm… this portion of the trip was half amazing and half awful. Let’s just say food poisoning in the middle of the night in a hut with thin walls is not pleasant…especially when I found out the entire guest list heard my retching.

This is the outcome of a runny nose, scratchy throat, plugged up ear, vomiting all night, and still going on the 6 hour 10k trek through the jungle.

We finished off our trip in Lima where we accidentally stayed in a… um… how do you say… hooker hotel? Shauna did a great job of documenting our confusion and horror when we realized those men and women coming in and out of rooms were there for a very different reason than us. The porno shoot we stumbled upon was the tip off. So yeah, I’d say skip Lima if you can… hehe.

I only mentioned the most memorable moments of the trip. There was much more adventure and silliness jam packed in those few weeks.

More photos are in my flickr set.

xo, jill

Bonjour, France!

[I’m still out traveling, but I have a new mini series to share! Believe it or not, I did a bit of traveling before blogging came in vogue. Over the next few days I’ll share posts about 3 trips I took pre-bloglife. The first is here.]

When I was a senior in high school we were required to complete a Senior Project. The project was a combination of a research paper, volunteer hours, and a final presentation. I decided to use this opportunity to get myself to France. I researched anti-Semitism in the country, used my volunteer hours to organize a school trip there, and presented to the community the importance of recognizing both the good and bad in cultures. It was a lot of hard work… but who wouldn’t put out a little effort for a trip to France?

So, after studying French for 6 years, it was time to actually use it. Unfortunately, the most vivid language memory from the trip is a shopkeeper screaming at my friends and me. I’m not sure what we did to upset him, but I was proud that even through his shouting I could understand his words.

Our trip began in Paris. Seeing the Eiffel Tower for the first time was a pretty special feeling. We hit the major sites including Le Louvre, Montmartre, Sacre Coeur, Notre Dame, and of course Le Tour Eiffel.

I wanted to pee a little.

Part of our group. (I’m in the khaki pants and dark top.)

“Voulez-vous coucher avec moi?”

Below the steps at Sacre Coeur

Notre Dame and one of my favorite photos from this trip.

Stained glass at Notre Dame.

In the Loire Valley we toured a few different chateaus but my favorite was Chenonceau. How beautiful. The ballroom stretches out over the water which creates natural air conditioning.

Chenonceau: Also known as the “Castle of Ladies” for all the women who put their touch on the chateau.

We took the TGV to the south and spent a few days in Nice, Avignon, and Eze. It was nice change from the cool weather in the north.

Roman aqueduct near Avignon, I think.

The walled city of Eze where they lock the gate at night.

Carousel in Nice.

A swim in the Mediterranean.

Traveling with a bazillion students is probably something I never need to do again, but it was quite the memorable trip.

xo, jill

Hi There, England.

[I’m still out traveling, but I have a new mini series to share! Believe it or not, I did a bit of traveling before blogging came in vogue. Over the next few days I’ll share posts about 3 trips I took pre-bloglife.]

My first big trip out of the country was when I was 16. I was super excited to go on a school sponsored trip to France. Unfortunately, no one else was. I was the only student who showed up at the informational meeting. Kind of a bummer. Instead of getting too upset, I rallied. I decided that if no one else was interested in a trip I would take one myself. But not to France (too scary since my language skills were just emerging), to England.
The start of my trip was a bit…oh, terrifying. I arrived at Heathrow ready to meet my host mom. She wasn’t ready to meet me. I felt a little anxious that no one was there to pick me up but I moved to the waiting area to wait. And wait. And wait. In between sobbing phone calls to my mom, I tried to ignore my rumbling tummy and get a little sleep. I was worried that if I went to buy food or water I’d miss my host. 13 hours later…she arrived! Something about an am/pm mix up or whatever…
host, Sheelah, and me
Thankfully, the rest of my trip was much less stressful. My host lived in a small town called West Byfleet, a bit south of London. She had several other travelers staying with her including people from France, Japan, Bahrain, and…UAE! My first time meeting an Emirati was on this trip.
Malmesbury House, complete with swimming pool
In hindsight, I wish I had been more adventurous on that trip. I wasn’t quite brave enough to navigate London on my own. Nevertheless, I still managed to see and do plenty.
My host mom took me to see Windsor Castle, Leeds Castle, Hampton Court Palace, Stratford upon Avon, the Cotswolds (love!), the Tower of London, the London Eye, and the Palace of Westminster… among other lovely things.

at Windsor Castle
at Hampton Court Palace
at Leeds Castle
London Eye
“It’s not the clock, it’s not the tower, but the bell that rings the hour.” Big Ben.
I joined a French youth trip (the leaders were staying at my house) and visited Tower Bridge and Cambridge.
at Tower Bridge
at Cambridge
punters at Cambridge
And Ahmed and his cousin, both from UAE, took me down to beachy Brighton for the day.
doesn’t look like England, does it?
I think it was a pretty good way to spend the summer of my 16th year and a pretty good indicator for my parents that there would be more traveling to come.
xo, jill
[pardon the photos, this was before digital cameras were the norm]

10 Questions: Kylie

[To keep the blog active while I’m traveling I’ve asked 3 of my favorite expat bloggers to answer 10 questions about their experience abroad. I’ve enjoyed reading their answers and am excited to share them with you!]

The third expat in this mini-series is Kylie of Spencer and Kylie. Kylie and her husband are expert travelers and are currently living and working in Ecuador (previously, Peru). The photographs they’ve taken while in South America are stunning. Kylie is also one third of the Traveling Triplets, a travel blog offering tips to inspire you to get out and see the world.

Here’s Kylie’s 10 Questions:

1. Current address:
Cusco, Peru

2. Pervious address(es):
Laie, Hawaii3. I landed here because…
I am doing an international internship filming and photographing the projects of a humanitarian organization. We work primarily in rural communities helping to create sustainable solutions to ascend out of poverty.

Aguas Calientes, Peru – my sweetheart and me at the incredible Machu Picchu.

4. The best part of living abroad is…
learning a new language, continual immersion in a new culture, observing lifestyles very different than my own, learning new ways of doing things, and building meaningful and lasting relationships with people in places throughout the world. It not only opens your eyes but it also changes you for the better – it builds character, confidence, and humbles you.
Amaru, Peru – A small village in the Sacred Valley performed dances, skits, and music for us when we arrived to their community. There were children everywhere dressed in colorful garb that was breathtaking.
5. The most difficult part of living abroad is…
managing living and travel expenses when you do not have an income, cultural differences that can create misunderstandings, missing my family, learning a new language, expressing yourself, and getting sick.

6. Before living here (abroad) I never realized…
how little we really need to live happily.

Amaru, Peru – When we work in the villages we teach classes on health and business as well as build a school and plant trees to help sustain the villages.

7. An addition to my day to day vocabulary is…
cuanto cuesta [host much?], ciao [bye]
Amaru, Peru – when we filmed in Amaru, a rural community outside of Cusco, we stayed in the home of Gregorio and his family. It was a humble room, made of mud. The weather was deathly cold most of the time and Gregorio was extremely hospitable and always bringing us tea to stay warm.
8. Three words to describe my host country are…
colorful, humble, and beautiful.
Amaru, Peru – this couple was hilarious. They kept asking for photos and only spoke Quechua (the language of the Incas) so we couldn’t communicate Spanish to understand what they were saying. We snapped this photo right before we realized they were asking for food and gave them a candy bar.
9. If I could live anywhere (hometown excluded) I’d choose…
Southern France where my family roots are, or an Oceanside town in Greece.
10. A traveler or expat (famous or not) I admire is…
National Geographic photographers – the load they carry is immense, not to mention expensive. They get to see incredible parts of the world and document it all – which can be a daunting task to keep thousands of dollars worth of camera gear safe and protected when you’re hiking around crazy places in all kinds of elements.
Make sure you visit Kylie’s blog to see more of her fantastic photography. There are videos too! And for even more travel inspiration, find her at Traveling Triplets.
xo, jill
[All photos by Kylie and Spencer Turley]

10 Questions: Anne

[To keep the blog active while I’m traveling I’ve asked 3 of my favorite expat bloggers to answer 10 questions about their experience abroad. I’ve enjoyed reading their answers and am excited to share them with you!]

The next 10 Questions is with Anne, a travel writer from The Matador Network. Two of my favorite articles written by Anne are on the easiest and most difficult languages for English speakers to learn. She also writes a personal blog about living and teaching in South Korea. I was especially happy to see that Anne also likes to novelty snack!

Here’s Anne’s 10 Questions:

1. Current address:
Ulsan, South Korea.
2. Previous address(es):
Ottawa, Canada (the motherland), Thailand and Turkey (TESL jobs and general wanderlust).
3. I landed here because…
apparently, I couldn’t get enough.
I taught in Korea 3 years ago and met my boyfriend here. We left in search of other adventures, but Korea stayed on our minds. I was so excited to come back.
Catching up on new K-pop groups was a real party. The boyfriend didn’t love that part.
My talented students pretending to enjoy the theatre portion of their winter English camp. We put on “Alex in Wonderland.” At their request, there were K-pop dance intervals.
4. The best part of living abroad is…
finding novelty and wonder in day-to-day stuff.
Just going to the corner shop or post office is a new process, and you can glean so much about the culture in those small events. How honorific speech is used with customers, or how no one minds that the 7-Eleven clerk’s baby is napping behind the counter.
A tourist rests in Gyeongbokgung, a palace complex in Seoul.
5. The most difficult part of living abroad is…
feeling deracinated from the culture you’re in.
I’m Canadian, urban born and raised, and multiculturalism is all I’ve ever known. It’s jarring to go into a homogenous culture where I’m so starkly classed as a foreigner.
In any country, I think it can be tough for an outsider to define their role. It’s hard to delve into the culture and make local friends. It’s easy to wear the tourist hat, hang out in expat bars, mock the bad English on shop signs.
I think most expats want to be involved in the local community, but meet a lot of hurtles with language, culture, social expectations. Is there a happy medium? I don’t know. I’ve been teaching ESL abroad for five years and I still haven’t figured out the “role” of the expat.
Initials carved into bamboo stalks in Damyang Bamboo forest.
6. Before living here (abroad), I never realized…
how much people love pale skin!
In the west, we love our tans and bronzer. I’m Celtic-pink and burn like bacon, and used to get teased for being so pasty.
My first teaching job was in Thailand, where local friends would hold their arms next to mine and point out how pale I was. Thinking they were teasing me, I would join in. “Jeez, could I be paler? I’m like a ghost!” They were actually complimenting me, and I sounded like a jackass rubbing it in. Yipes.
7. An addition to my day to day vocabulary is…
갑시다(gapshida) means “let’s go!” I hear it constantly. “Let’s go eat.” “Let’s go home.” “Let’s cross the street quickly.”
This is Geoje island, which has beautiful beaches and mountains, as well as an immense shipbuilding industry.
8. Three words to describe my host country are…
Proud, reverential, mountainous.
A family feeds the pushy seagulls at Sonjeong beach, north of Busan.
9. If I could live anywhere (hometown excluded) I’d choose…
Portugal. It’s beautiful, and the people are heaven. The revelation that teaching is my career path came while working at a summer school, teaching the most thoughtful, creative, lovely group of Portuguese teens. They absolutely inspired me. It was Dead Poet’s Society in reverse.
10. A traveler or expat (famous or not) I admire is…
Sarah Menkedick. Her essays about travel and expat life are smart and poetic. Every time I read her writing, I find myself nodding. She can take a tiny detail, like a mango vendor on the sidewalk, and make beautiful narratives that give you a vivid sense of culture, and how she interacts with what’s around her as an expat. She’s very bright and opinionated and self-aware.
For many interesting articles about culture and travel visit Anne at Matador. For more on her life in Korea, check out her blog.
Thanks for sharing, Anne!
xo, jill
[All photos by Anne Merritt]


10 Questions: Flora

[To keep the blog active while I’m traveling I’ve asked 3 of my favorite expat bloggers to answer 10 questions about their experience abroad. I’ve enjoyed reading their answers and am excited to share them with you!]First up is Flora from Jeffrey and Flora: Living in Singapore. Flora’s blog is full of valuable information on moving to and living in Singapore. She was even a finalist in the Singapore Blog Awards for the Best Travel Blog category, so you know it’s good! Thanks to Flora, I’m confident that if I ever visit Singapore I’ll know just where to go and what to do.

Here’s Flora’s 10 Questions:

1. Current address:

2. Previous address(es):
San Jose, California, USA

At Pulau Ubin, a small island just a short ferry ride from Singapore. You can rent bicycles and ride around the entire island. It is green, peaceful, mostly undeveloped and completely unlike Singapore.
3. I landed here because…
My husband Jeff had an opportunity to move to Singapore for his work. We were ready for something new and the chance to move abroad came at the right time.
4. The best part of living abroad is…
All the new places we travel to. Singapore is a great jumping off point for travel in Asia. We’ve been to Vietnam (twice), Indonesia, China, Malaysia (several times), Australia and Thailand in the past year. We are trying to plan a few more trips in the near future, too.
5. The most difficult part of living abroad is…
How expensive everything is. Shopping used to be fun for me, but now it hurts! I don’t shop the way I used to. Singapore “sales” aren’t that great and things are marked up ridiculously. Even going to the grocery store can be really painful at times.
The building in the forefront is government housing called an HDB flat. This type of building can be found all over the island.
6. Before living here (abroad), I never realized…
How bad durian smells. I catch a whiff of the stinky fruit at least once a day and I’m still not used to it. It also has a funky aftertaste that I can’t get used to.
7. An addition to my day to day vocabulary is…
Lines are queues (as in “line forms here”). Plastic bags are carriers. Garbage cans are bins. Trucks are lorries. Sometimes I use the Singlish terms “can” instead of yes and “cannot” instead of no.
Satay and chili crab for dinner from a hawker center. Chili crab is a famous dish in Singapore.
8. Three words to describe my host country are…
Vainglorious, modern, competitive.
The Singapore skyline is beautiful at night.
9. If I could live anywhere (hometown excluded) I’d choose…
This is a tough question to answer. I would probably choose a big city though, like New York, Santiago or London. I love city life!
10. A traveler or expat (famous or not) I admire is…
Agnes Newton Keith. I first learned about her when I was reading about the world’s largest flower. I saw the Rafflesia Keithii, the species named after her husband, in person when I was in Borneo. She lived in Borneo in the late 1930s and 1940s with her husband and wrote a few books about her time there. She was also imprisoned at a Japanese internment camp for a few years during World War II with her family and wrote about it after their liberation. She makes living abroad as an expat today in a country as modern as Singapore look incredibly easy!
To see more of what it’s like to be an expat in Singapore, visit Flora’s blog.
Thanks for sharing, Flora!
xo, jill
[All photos by Flora Moreno de Thompson]
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