Wednesday, May 20, 2009

My family! (The American one)

Me and Mom in the backyard, 2007

It's about time in my blog to give MAJOR credit to my parents. No matter what crazy exploration and travel schemes I come up with to fulfill my seemingly endless case of wanderlust, they are always behind me 100%, even though my globe-trotting probably gives them more restless night sleeps than they would like to admit. Surely, they don't hesitate in telling me their doubts, reservations, worries and practical concerns (all the important stuff that I try not to think about), but in the end, my parents have always supported my decisions - from summer camps, to spending a month at an art school Baltimore, to a month long girls roadtrip with no particular destination in mind, to week-long music festivals in middle of Tennessee and northernmost point of Maine, to a semester in Spain, to a month in Brooklyn learning to teach English, to a journey to the southern tip of South America, to a move across the country, and now, a year in a foreign country.

My sister Courtney & I in Yosemite Valley (2008)

Thinking about it, my parents have ALWAYS encouraged our interests in other countries and cultures. Even though we grew up in a pretty homogeneous town, Glastonbury, Connecticut, my parents always kept us open to different people, places and ideas. When we were really young, they were involved with an immigrant support program. Families from Sudan, Chad, Bangladesh, Japan -all over the place- came to share meals with our family, and we often visited their houses to experience their food and traditions. A teacher from Japan even lived with us for a whole year. My favorite part of that was learning the art of origami -- I can still make a paper crane!

Playing mandolin with Dad (2008)

I am the youngest of 4. Below is a picture of my three awesome older siblings, Courtney, Rhonda and Rod. They have always supported my choices, given me good advice (particularly in regard to cooking, music and art!) and a whole lot of laughs. I'm hoping that this year they'll use me as their UK travel guide -- I promise to do thorough research the scotch distilleries before you guys get here!

The girls - my niece Mackenzie, Rhonda, me and Court (2008)

I'm anxious to again travel somewhere so far from my roots, so am really looking forward to summer in Connecticut, hanging out with my family and friends, swimming and hiking at Cotton Hollow, eating food from the local farms and orchards, playing music, reading books, and helping out my parents tend to the house and garden. I rest assured knowing that, come fall, they will have a cool place to visit.

On exploring California.

Santa Barbara, November 2008

Pismo Beach State Park, May 2009

Exciting news! As of this month, I have officially traveled along every mile of California's coastal highway. This patch-worked journey started as a twelve-year-old, when my family vacationed in San Francisco and took (what I remember as being a rather torturous ) journey down from the bay to snap pictures of the Lone Cypress tree. I should mention, that our cousins/tourguides on this trip were kind enough to bring my bohemian sister and I to Haight-Ashbury, where we gave the cypress photos a run for their money by snapping pics of what might have been Janis Joplin's old house. (We weren't entirely sure what the address was, but who's counting?).

The coastal journey picked up again as a college student, when I spent a month driving across the US with some of my best girlfriends. We entered California from Oregon, at its northernmost coastal point, and headed south. What I remember most clearly about this trip is a walk through the Muir Woods. Being among these massive, holy trees was unforgettable. Incidentally, I was finally able to decide upon my favorite color (green).

In the three years since moving to Los Angeles, I've successfully covered all points south, including many a road trip to San Diego, and trips up the Central Coast, stopping in Santa Barbara, Jalama Beach, Morro Bay, Pismo Beach, and further on up to a new favorite, Big Sur.

Incidentally, I'm also proud of the job I've done visiting points inland. There have been family and beach trips to Orange County, work-related trips to the Inland Empire (which I'm happy to never visit again), a drive through the Mojave Desert (also, not a trip that bears repeating), and camping trips to Joshua Tree National Park, Shasta National Forrest, Sequoia National Park (my sister Courtney and I saw 6 bears!), and Yosemite National Park. They are all beautiful, inspiring places.

This memorial day weekend, I'm off to Catalina Island, which will probably be my last California excursion of the year before heading east before school begins. I'm guessing it will be the cherry on top of all of these other wonderful trips around the state.

After 3 years living in Los Angeles, I can assure you that everything you hear about the city is absolutely true. Here are the Top 5 Things I really WON'T miss about Los Angeles during my year in Scotland:

1. Traffic & Sprawl (they go hand-in-hand)
2. American Apparel Ads
3. The city's obsession with fame, fortune & celebs in rehab.
4. Aggressively flirtatious homeless men Downtown
5. Feeling like I need to dress up to go to my neighborhood Trader Joe's (in Silverlake) because everyone in this town is so darn stylish.

Los Angeles District 5280 Conference

Recently attended the Los Angeles Rotary District Conference. Here is my personal "Top 10" List from the District Conference:

1. Having the chance to officially announce my new & approved study location assignment: EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND, during President Elect Mark Leeka's excellent International Service section.

2. Catching up with my wonderful inbound and outbound scholar friends, including my "roomie" Karis Eklund, LA-5's scholar from last year. She has been a great source of information for all of my logistical questions about the upcoming year abroad.

3. Blowing away a group of Rotarians with my Hoola-hooping stamina on Saturday.

4. Managing to get unsuspecting Rotarians to pay for our overpriced glasses of nice wine after the sock-hop, in the hotel lounge. We quizzed them on our study locations, and they guessed wrong. There are penalties for these things! What can I tell you, after a year working in the non-profit sector, you've gotta think creatively if you want to drink the good stuff!

5. Joining David Bland and his wife for dinner during the sock-hop, and poking at his "old age" by assuming he would have been old enough to have seen the Beatles in concert. Sorry David, but come on, gray hair is gray hair.

6. That un-Rotarily sassy video clip advertising the Rotary Convention in Birmingham. Unfortunately, I won't be in the United Kingdom early enough to attend.

7. Making plans for "The best korean BBQ in LA" with the inbound scholars from Korea.

8. Having the chance to network with other Rotary Clubs. Over breakfast and lunch conversations, I secured 2 of my last needed pre-departure presentations. I have since presented at two great clubs: Historic Filipinotown and LA Cedars, a mostly Lebanese group.

9. Brainstorming with my mentors from my sponsor club, LA-5, about further fundraising and contacts for my year abroad.

10. Mostly, having the chance to be among this family that Rotary has created for me over the past year. Most of you know that my family is far from California, in a quiet town in Connecticut. Rotary has been an extremely important support system this year!

Friday, May 15, 2009


Though it is easy to complain, I have absolutely loved my experiences living in Los Angeles over the past 3 years. In mental preparation for my year abroad in Scotland, here are the Top 5 Things I'll Really Miss About Los Angeles:

1. Spicy Fruit Street Vendors
2. Waking up to Sunshine
3. Highway 1 and the places it brings you
4. Mexican Horchata
5. El Matador State Beach

The big decision

After considerable deliberation, I have decided on my location for my Ambassadorial Scholarship. In September I will depart for a year in Edinburgh, Scotland! I have been accepted as a candidate to a Master of Arts in Painting from Edinburgh College of Art.

Initially, my first choice of study location was Mexico. As our neighbor, and particularly after a year working in the field of Latino Civil Rights, I thought it was an important place to develop relationships and understanding.

Regretfully, Rotary has postponed programs in Mexico for this school year because of the heightened security and health concerns. This, along with the news that my assigned study institution did not offer advanced classes, made me begin researching alternate programs abroad.

After researching schools in Chile, Spain, South Africa, Italy and Ireland, I feel confident in my choice for Edinburgh College of Art. The school is world-renowned study institution for serious artists, and I am particularly excited about the granting of individual studio spaces for all artists. It is a thriving, friendly city, creatively inclined with an abundance of theater, galleries, literature,and public art events. The Rotary and Rotaract clubs in Edinburgh, and throughout Scotland, are strong. They have invited me with open arms.