Blogger Interviews: Abbie and Emilie

I’ve been really excited about writing this post for a while, because it doesn’t involve much writing on my part, and I get to feature two other blogger-friends of mine who have been on the other side of the world since this summer. When I was working on my undergraduate degree, I attended one of the Study Abroad fairs and grabbed several brochures and magazines for studying, volunteering, and sight-seeing in other countries through my university. Most of the information I picked up was for Egypt, South Africa, or Western Europe, since those are places I’ve always wanted to explore. Although I don’t think I would be able to do a whole semester in a different country (I’m too afraid of missing things), I wouldn’t have minded a two-week experience.

Abbie in Malawi, and Emilie in Istanbul

Abbie in Malawi and Emilie in Istanbul

I met Abbie, who worked as a Resident Assistant while she was in college, through my sister and her friends. She is currently in Malawi (in southeast Africa), teaching at a secondary school, and posts on her blog, Traveling and Teaching: Living and Learning. I got to know Emilie through all of our related activities and mutual friends while we were at YSU together, and got to work with her during my graduate internship. She is studying abroad in Istanbul, Turkey (at the same school where Sarah spent last year’s fall semester!) and blogs at overandout while preparing to apply to graduate schools. I asked them a few questions about their experiences in their respective locations…

Abbie's Form 2 Students

Abbie’s Form 2 Students

1. What made you want to travel to this location?

Abbie: I wanted to come to Malawi because I already had such a strong connection to this community as I had previously traveled here in 2010. I’m back in the same part of Malawi and working with the same NGO (non-government organization) as before. This time instead of two weeks, I’m here for a year.

Emilie: I chose Turkey for a number of reasons. For one, Turkey is one of those mysterious countries that it seems no one really knows anything about, and this obviously attracted me. I wanted to meet the people, eat the food, find out for myself if those silly stereotypes that people believe about the middle east are true. A second reason is because Istanbul is quite literally the center of it all. Half of the city lies in Europe while the other half is in Asia. It’s a mix of people from all over the world, 15ish million of them, all living in this crazy, historic, fascinating city. This also makes it easy/quick to travel almost anywhere in the world, with the exception of North/South America, of course.

View from the upper balcony of Hagia Sophia

View from the upper balcony of Hagia Sophia

2. What has been one of your favorite experiences?

Emilie: One of my my favorite experiences so far has been having a HUGE traditional Turkish breakfast with a wonderful, sweet family I met here through some people at home. We had never met before I came to Turkey, but they welcomed Ed (the other YSU student here with me) and I into their home, showed us all over the European side of the city, and have been so generous and kind to us. A few weeks after we arrived, they invited Ed and I over to spend the day and eat with them. It was the most incredible breakfast I’ve ever had, quite possibly the best meal I’ve ever had. Not only because of the food, but the company also made it unforgettable. I only wish I would have taken my camera… rookie mistake, haha.

Abbie: One of my favorite experiences actually happened the first weekend I was here. One of the girls, Alice, who hangs around the lodge/NGO where I stay frequently asked to take me on a tour of the village. As we were walking she asked what my surname was and I told her. She started to smile and talk in Chitumbuka to the other girl walking with us. I asked her to explain and she told me that my surname is the name of her sponsors. What that meant was that my parents sponsor her education. On top of that, I am her math teacher at her secondary school! Alice took me to see her house that is made of mud and sticks and has a thatch roof. Her family welcomed me and offered me a seat on their front porch. Alice told her brother that my parents sponsor her education. Her brother began to tell me in broken English how grateful they were for the sponsorship because by bettering Alice’s life with an education, it’s also bettering her family’s life, as well as the village. Education here is the only way out and a lot of the times it’s not possible because of money.

Victoria Falls in Livingstone, Zambia

Victoria Falls in Livingstone, Zambia

3. Have you had any trouble adjusting to anything?

Abbie: Everywhere I go I stick out like a sore thumb. When I go to the market, when I walk through the village, when I do my laundry in my back yard I am entertainment for most people. As I walk down the road, kids from everywhere will yell “Mzungu!” meaning, “white person.” I’m unable to be anonymous here and that has probably been the most difficult thing to adjust to.

Emilie: Ah, well, living in Istanbul has required quite a bit of adjusting. Not only is the culture overwhelmingly different, moving from small-town Ohio to one of the most overcrowded cities in the world was an eye-opening experience, to say the least. The traffic, the pollution, the (not always reliable) public transportation, lack of greenery, it was all pretty frightening at first. Now, I appreciate all of the differences for what they are, I’ve stopped expecting Istanbul to be just like Ohio, and it’s finally starting to feel like home. I guess if I wanted everything to stay the same, I wouldn’t have come. But I definitely know now that I can’t live without nature, it’s just so depressing!

Cappadocia

Cappadocia

Check out Sarah’s post about her impromptu cave camping trip in Cappadocia!

4. What is one thing you wish you could bring home with you?

Emilie: The one thing I wish I could bring home is the incredibly cheap produce. Seriously, the fruits and veggies and fresh bread are sooooo cheap here, and the quality is so good (assuming you know what you’re looking for). There are bazaars all over the city every day of the week full of vendors selling fish, produce, cheese, just about anything you could ever need. The bazaars and the produce are something I’m really going to miss.

Abbie: One thing I wish I could bring home with me is the kitten I recently got for my house! She is ADORABLE! Her name is Kim Jong Kitten and she eats all the nasty critters that lurk in the corners of my house. (she was named by a PCV friend). Also, I want to bring home ALL THE BABIES!!!!! They are soooo cuuuuute!

 

I wish I could share all the gorgeous pictures these girls have taken. I’m so jealous of each of their journeys and I hope they both continue enjoying themselves. I can’t wait to read more about them! Thank you, Emilie and Abbie! 🙂

“You don’t choose a life. You live one.”

I’m on Spring Break this week and, boy, has Spring made itself known today. The weather here in Northeast Ohio is beautiful, with the temperature forecast to hover near 70 degrees for the next week. This afternoon, after doing some writing this morning and spending a little time out in the sunshine, I decided to watch my latest movie from Netflix. I’m trying to be better about actually watching the movies soon after they arrive and then sending them back. I tend to let movies languish, and my list of movies isn’t growing any shorter.

I’d been looking forward to this movie though, so it wasn’t too hard to watch it.

The film in question is The Way, written and directed by Emilio Estevez and starring Emilio’s father, Martin Sheen. I  love both Martin Sheen and Emilio Estevez, the former from his days playing President Josiah Bartlet on The West Wing and the latter from the other movie he wrote and directed, Bobby.

The Way tells the story of Thomas Avery, a California ophthalmologist, who travels to France to retrieve his son Daniel’s remains after Daniel is killed during a storm while walking the Camino de Santiago. The Camino, also known as the Way of St. James, is an 800+ kilometer pilgrimage route from the French-Spanish border, through the Pyrenees Mountains and the northern Spanish countryside, to the city of Santiago and its Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela where the remains of the apostle St. James are (reportedly) housed.

Thousands of pilgrims have traveled this route for more than a thousand years, to find God, to find themselves, to find enlightenment, to see nature, to experience life. Thomas Avery doesn’t agree with his son Daniel’s choices, scolding that not everyone has the “luxury of just leaving it all behind,” but he loves his son greatly, despite their differences. After arriving in France and claiming Daniel’s body, Thomas, having no intention of staying, decides to walk the Camino and spread Daniel’s ashes as he goes.

His journey is deeply personal, but also communal as he shares experiences and his grief with other pilgrims walking the Camino. Thomas completes the Camino, both for himself and for his son Daniel, arriving at the Cathedral in Santiago to experience the daily Pilgrim’s Mass (a true sight to see). The Way has changed him, like it changes all of his companions.

I really liked the movie, but it may not be for everyone. It’s slow moving at times, very introspective with brief moments of comedy. But, it’s not about the movie’s pace, it’s about the overall meaning.

We’re all searching for something. Faith, answers, guidance, beauty, fresh air, history. We all go on journeys too. Maybe not walking the Camino or even going on a long trip, but we all take voyages – through nature, books, art, music, etc. Our purpose when embarking on that journey is hardly ever the same as we learn it was when the journey is over — we always learn something different or more than we expect.

But that’s okay.

That’s the point of the trip.

Where have you journeyed? Where do you want to journey to?

What do you think you’ll find along the way?