Parsing Pathways

(Photo) Essays by a Third-culture Twenty Something on Travel, Food, Languages & the Millenial Lifestyle.

Category: Uncategorized

From the hiatus

“As a single footstep will not make a path on the earth, so a single thought will not make a pathway in the mind. To make a deep physical path, we walk again and again. To make a deep mental path, we must think over and over the kind of thoughts we wish to dominate our lives.” -Thoreau

Where you are

I feel so behind. I feel that no matter what I do, how I write, who I am – I’m just not good enough to get to where I need to be. And it’s all well and good to say “you are where you need to be” because although that may be true, it is what you have to tell yourself to feel better. I get overly anxious and that usually doesn’t help me. So telling myself that I am where I need to be, allows me to be more productive and more positive compared to paralysed and pessimistic.

I’m 23 years old and I want to work with Internally Displaced Communities, specifically working on policy writing to provide access to education and mental healthcare to children who are in these situations. I’ve got my elevator speech down. I know how I want to spend the rest of my life, whether it’s alone or with a partner. I know how I can use my skills and talents and I know I can be ballerific – if I were just given the chance.

I see peers of mine finishing up with grad school or getting their work and internship opportunities that will lead them to where they want to be. I feel like my parents were right and that I never really took the opportunities and sought out how to do college right. Sometimes I wonder that if I had a specific major, like pre-med, if I would have been able to check the boxes and get to that final goal. I personally know friends who ticked all the boxes and now, they’re in Public Health or they’re working to be physician’s assistants instead of being MDs. I also know people who had the internship their sophomore summer, their junior year and by senior year, they knew exactly what they were going to be doing and where they were going to be for the two years after they graduated.
I had absolutely no idea where exactly I would be. At one point I thought I would be in law school. Two years later, after 2 months in DC, a year at my alma mater, I’m in Spain. And in a few months I’ll be in DC, starting my masters. Do I regret the last two years? Nope. I was at my healthiest (mentally), my most productive, and most content with my life. Somehow though, I feel like I became complacent and now I’m just totally off track. I apply for internships and I don’t get them. I apply for competitive opportunities, and I don’t get them. I used to be so good at being competitive. And now I wonder, maybe if I had been more precise and exact during college, I would have not lost my competitiveness and maybe my grades would be better, because we all know it’s a numbers game out there.

The good thing is I no longer associate these opportunities I didn’t get to my self-worth. I know I’m a highly capable individual and I have so much to offer. I just also feel that it is so difficult for me to get the things that I want the most. I try and I read and I even luck out and meet some of the right people who support me, and I still feel like I’m getting nowhere.

I feel that to get access to those opportunities, I’m just going to have to know the right person and have him/her recommend me highly. Or I’ll have to pay to get myself those opportunities. I’m going to go into debt for grad school, like everybody, and I have this fear that even with my professional degree it’s not going to be easy. To comfort myself, I tell myself that I have my whole life ahead of me to do what means the most to me and hopefully do more and help more people as I get to that point. I justify that my path is not one that follows a linear list of steps and it doesn’t have a carved out timeline because how many people out there are currently doing what I want to do? How many people know exactly what they want to do at this point in their lives? (for those who do and for those who knew a while ago, maybe I’m/we’re just lucky to have been around the same circumstances to get to know people like this – maybe we’re in a different pool of people who got to get to that part of their life sooner because they worked their butts off and they had a lot of support).

I just get scared that I may not get to do what I want to do. It’s silly for me to think that way because here I am, in Spain, doing what I want to do and what I absolutely love. And I’m only 23.
How do you know if you’re working hard and smart and your best or if you’re just being complacent? Do the results, getting what you applied for, matter? To me they do. I want to apply for fellowships and programs and jobs and internships, and I want to know, with security, that I will get the opportunity. Or am I just trying for things that, at some level, I know I cannot get? Or maybe I just don’t fit in when I’m in the US. The opportunities I seek seem closed off to a people who have a stellar gpa, the right standardized scores, the right opportunities on their resume/CV, or the right connections on their Linkedin profiles.

Or maybe rejection is just the way of life. Or maybe I need to re-evaluate what kinds of opportunities I seek out. Ok, I go back. I don’t want to have to re-evaluate the opportunities I seek out, because I seek them out for a reason. I seek them out because I know I can shine in them and I can perform them really well. Or maybe there are people who are just more qualified than I am.
I don’t know how this stuff works. I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels like this. I just wish I knew how to live through this and keep working towards what I want. I also wish there were some sort of affirmation from the universe that I’m slowly getting there. Or maybe I’m asking for too much.
Or maybe, I’m where I need to be: confused, anxious, happy, traveling, worried, complacent, despondent, optimistic, here.

 

Country Hopping: Travel Tips

I am only 23 years old and dread builds up in me when I think “country hopping”. I think country hopping is not for the weak. I don’t know how delegates and diplomats and politicians and celebrities and business executives do this on a weekly basis. It probably helps to have fancy planes with plush interiors, some bubbly while you’re going over your work and your own travel team. Disclaimer: I am stereotyping all of this from movies and TV shows like Scandal.

For the rest of us, plebes, who try to budget travel and see the wonderful sights of the world, country hopping requires meticulous planning, mental preparation, dedicated time for physical rest and a lot of communication if you’re traveling with other people (especially people you may have never traveled with before). Here are some tips and observations from my country hopping trip with my dear old dad.

Types of Country Hopping

a. Country hopping while in transit

  • If your itinerary includes a stop over longer than 8 hours, I think it’s a good idea to go see the city around you. It can get boring, really quickly in an airport unless you’re reading the best book ever or you prefer naps.
  • Make sure you plan out enough time to get back to the airport to catch your connecting flight.
  • With advance preparation, you can get currency for the country you’ll be in, that way you don’t have to worry about high conversion rates, especially if you’re stuck in the airport.

b. Country hopping on purpose (for the real/seasoned/not weak travelers/clueless first-timers *like yours truly*)

  • Once you get to your destination, make sure you determine the best way to/from the airport. European countries have really reliable bus/metro/public transit systems that make it easy to get to/from. You probably want to research the schedules, the price, if you can pay by card, etc. If you’re traveling with company, you may want to split a taxi since a lot of taxis have fixed rates to/from the airport (at least that’s my experience in European countries)
  • You’re lucky if you know someone living in the city you’re traveling to! Since Copenhagen was my sister’s home for a month, we had our own tour guide receive us at the airport and take us around. Definitely reach out to people, even friends of friends, because it’s one less thing to stress about, especially if you’re traveling around a new country.
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Warm welcome to Copenhagen!

  • If you’re traveling with people (this deserves its own post), it’s a great idea for each of you to get a map of the city and go over important travel topics like what to do in emergencies.

In general:

  • It can feel like you’re running through a city, just to get to see all the touristy things. It can feel like a blur, especially if you’re in the country for less than a day. I don’t think there’s a way to remedy that especially if it’s the first time you’re traveling to the city.
  • Having sketched out a plan before you arrive to your cities can help you feel more organized and less chaotic. It is still a different experience living the plan for the trip, especially if you can’t speak the local language or are trying to figure out the public transportation system.
  • Look at the dates of your travel – is it during national holidays? what are the hours of museums/parks/etc? what’s the weather like? If you’re final destination is sunny southern Spain but you’re going to Iceland/the Alps first, you need to pack accordingly.
  • Always ask the people at your hotel/hostel for ideas for activities. They can help you plan a great trip for a short amount of time.
  • If your traveler personality is “go-go-go”, definitely do research before you get to your city. Early mornings and late nights will be a thing, but if that’s what floats your boat, then go for it.
  • If your traveler personality is “explorer”, do some light research and figure out what are the main spots you want to make sure you see. Try to get to those first and on the way, explore the city as you go.
  • If your traveler personality is “follow the leader”, still do some research, in case you find something cool you want to do and you can share with your travel companions. Or do the city tour, hop on-hop off buses. You get a lot of information and see most of the city.
  • Have a first aid ziploc with bandaids, ibuprofen, anti-histamine meds, alcohol swabs, etc.
  • Expect the unexpected. If this is your maiden voyage – you will feel rushed to get to the airport, but you’ll make it in time. Or you’ll lose a flight. If this is the umpteenth time you’re doing this, your flight can get delayed/pre-poned and then you miss the next flight. The airline could go on strike.

1. Review that Itinerary with a fine toothed comb, re-dot the i’s and memorize it. 

Building the itinerary usually depends on airline companies, your budget and the end goal of country hopping. Typically country hopping usually means spending an hour to fourteen at an airport while you’re in transit to your final destination. Or the other scenario is when you intentionally plan to travel around to different countries, like my father and I did. My sister was studying in Copenhagen, Denmark and I was moving to Spain for a year. My father, dear darlin’ dad, proposed we go see my sister (to curb any homesickness since it was her first time outside the country without family) and see another country. Since it fit well in our budget and timing, we planned the trip. This was our itinerary:

US — SPAIN (direct 9 hour flight to Barcelona) *connecting flight* — GERMANY — DENMARK (this was all in a span of 2 days)

DENMARK — SWEDEN — SPAIN (my final destination)

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Breakfast/Tea time in Munich Airport

  • Have printed copies of the itinerary. Have digital copies of it too.
  • Have your ticket info always ready.
  • Double check, especially when you’re in the booking process, how much time you have in each city/country. Sometimes airlines change their flights: delay/move ahead. Make sure you have a way to stay updated with that information so you can enjoy your trip. Some booking companies send you text messages. It could be worth it to have data while you’re traveling. Some airports have wi-fi for a short time and you could probably check/confirm your flight info.
  • If you’re traveling with people, make sure as a group, you are all aware of the itinerary. It makes everyone feel good and can help reduce tension while traveling.
  • Sometimes, you may travel through different means. For example: you fly in, but you have to take a train to your next destination. Know how to get to the train station from the airport or your hotel/hostel. Make sure you plan enough time for traveling to the next point to your connecting trip.
  • Scan your itinerary for plane to train to bus, so you can be prepared when you have to keep going with your trip.
  • Important: plan for rest in your itinerary. Don’t plan for a 2 hour nap during the plane/train/bus ride. Plan for rest in a warm/cool hostel/hotel room, in a yummy bed and for 5-7 hours. The worst thing to happen for short trips, that usually characterize country hopping, is falling sick because of exhaustion. You have to adjust to the time of the country and let your body also adjust. If you arrive to a country during the day time, when you’re usually asleep, walk around the center for a while and take a nap in the afternoon. A nap. If you reach at night time and you’re wide awake, drink some chamomile tea, slip on pajamas and read a book/journal till you sleep.
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On our final leg of the Journey – to Santiago de Compostela.

2. Finances.

  • Call your credit card company and let them know the countries you will be in, whether or not you use your card. It’s a good idea because credit card companies will not read your activity as suspicious and having a card is great for emergencies/just-in-case moments.
  • If you can, go to your bank and get some cash in the currency of your destinations. Airports charge a large fee and the conversion rates can be really high.
  • I don’t think people use traveler’s checks anymore, however, you could get some of those.

3. Get all your documentation – and copies (hard and digital). 

  • Passport/ IDs (on a USB, online drive, hard copies, etc.)
  • Itinerary (this is really important)
  • Accommodation confirmations for hostels/hotels/etc.

Since you may not have access to a data plan in another country, it’s good to have these back ups on hand. It’s just an overall smart traveler tip.

4. Luggage.

a. Pack lightly. Just do yourself a favor and pack the essentials, like this is what you would need to survive an apocalypse within the TSA guidelines. You will feel proud when you accomplish this feat (especially if you’re a girl). You will have this revelation that you can do anything, ever. You will feel invincible. I’ll link the “invincible jet setter” packing list to this post.

b. If you are traveling with checked in bags, especially if you’re travelling internationally, you can store your luggage at airports. It is a good idea to call these airports and confirm they have a luggage locker place/room, so when you travel you can deposit your huge bags and jet set off with your convenient carry on. Plus, if you had any reorganization of items to manage the weight of the bags, you can readjust for your mini-trips. My father and I left our checked luggage at the BCN airport and traveled with our carry-ons. I think most international airports should have this facility for a small daily fee. If you’ll be in the same city and for a few hours, I think you can also rent a locker on an hourly basis.

5. Electronics.

If you’re country/continent hopping make sure you have the converters and adapters for each place you will be visiting. Spanish electrical sockets are different from French ones and those are different from Indian ones. This should be an easy issue to tackle since many converter/adapter sets come with one for each world region. They do tend to be bulky but it’s totally worth it. It’s also a good idea to have extras, in case you forget one because you realize it’s the last call to board your plane.

6. Traveling with people: Communicate

  • It is very important you communicate with the people you are traveling. These short trips tend to be on the tenser side, especially if you’re trying to hit 5 countries in 2 weeks. (is that even possible?)
  • Talk about activities you’d like to do.
  • Talk about your travel nature (go-go-go/explorer/follow the leader).
  • Talk about the overlooked things, ie: diet restrictions, sleeping habits, etc.
  • Go over the itinerary. Better yet, if you can, plan it together. When people plan they tend to remember information better.
  • Make sure everyone knows what the entire trip’s trajectory looks like. (Memorize the itinerary) This way, if the natural leader gets tired and cranky, someone else can take over. Maybe you could assign people portions of the trip. Who knows?
  • If you’re traveling together for the first time, talk about why you like traveling. What do you want to get out of the trip? What are the things you know about traveling?

So if you are planning your country hopping trip, let me know if any of this helps. Or if you’re a seasoned hopper and gleaned some insight that wasn’t included here, please share! I’m getting ready for my next country hop with my lovely mom and need all the help I can get!

Happy Hopping!

Flying through Scandinavian skies.

Flying through Scandinavian skies.

Observations II: 2015 vol 1.

1. I am terrified of writing. I think I love writing so much that it terrifies me. It’s been a while and I haven’t updated the blog with my drafts of things I did since arriving in Spain. I had really good reasons before: my computer broke down; the Spanish keyboard makes the flow of words too staccato; I didn’t want to leave the comfort of my flat to walk to the school and write. But I also overcame that when I made my iPhone 5 (RIP) my best friend and used it to write posts. I remember everything pretty well but something about sitting down and really giving myself into the blogging experience, scares me. I woke up this morning and decided to research how to delete this blog because there was no point in continuing since I was already so backlogged that I didn’t measure up to any of the things I set up before I left the US. I do this a lot. I get super excited about stuff and then I conveniently find things to just push it to the next day until I just don’t follow through. So, I’m terrified about writing and I’m still doing it. It took a lot of thinking to understand why I wanted to delete the blog. I’m not even sure if I’ll publish this post. But my goal is to do one thing everyday that scares me.

2. I think you need to be extremely disciplined to blog consistently. You have work on your craft and your thoughts and edit and proofread it and finalize it before you publish. And you have to want to do this every day. I think that is what overwhelms me. I see so many different parts about my writing that I want to improve that I get scared – even though it’s something I think about every day. So I spend the rest of 2014 and the beginning of 2015 reading and researching how to build your blogging process. It was supposed to make me feel better – that at least I was thinking about blogging, so it was just a matter of time till I blogged. I imagine this ideal scenario where I have a routine and like clockwork I write a blog post and I have to edit/proofread it once and then whamo! It’s published and it’s a great piece of writing. I actually need to write for me to get anywhere close to that.

3. With every year that passes, I realize that nothing ever turns out exactly how you planned it. That’s a terrifying thought, especially when you work hard to get to a specific outcome. It took a lot of time and retraining pathways in my brain to understand I can still achieve the same outcome while being flexible and spontaneous. This brings me to managing expectations. It’s great to have expectations and work towards your standards but it’s also necessary to manage them. Checking in on your progress and your expectations gives you a good idea of how far you’ve come and how you can adjust your sails for the future. Maybe there’s a more effective/efficient/fun way to get to your goals. So this is my check-in for the blogging. I am not as disciplined as I hoped I would be but I still want to write and so I’m going to figure out how to make that more possible this year. I only have 5 months left in this beautiful town, in this mesmerizing country.

4. When there isn’t that much sunlight in a day, the days seem to fly by or mesh into one. It makes it more difficult to tell time or how much of it has passed. I thought I experienced that in college – but it’s definitely faster once you graduate and you’re doing the life thing. I want to sleep for 4 hours at a time and call that a siesta. Then I want to wake up and eat food while watching tv. I can’t tell how fast time is going by but I can see it happening when I learn how to say new months in Arabic. There’s this pressure to fit everything in and make sure I’ve made the most of this experience because I don’t know when I’ll get to do this again. That feeling is quickly swept under by the ease with which I live my real life in another country accomplishing the things I don’t even remember planning. I also miss waking up to the sun shining through my window.

5. The tingly sensation you get when your feet are soaked in rain water reminds me of Standard 4 in my first primary school in Kenya. I would slowly feel my toes become numb, as they tried to grab onto the wet socks in the hopes they’d get some of the remaining warmth. It was a futile exercise because my feet would eventually feel like lead blocks that I had to muster effort to lift and move to take a step. I think I’m finally experiencing the Santiago that I read about before I got here. It rains, it’s cold and windy, and it’s overcast.

The One Thing You Should Know About How To Deeply Connect With Anyone

Parsing pathways that are different from yours, and how to strengthen them and yourself.

Thought Catalog

Shutterstock / RawpixelShutterstock / Rawpixel

August 27, 2000 was one of the most important days of my life.

I was loving my newfound independence and soaking in my second day of orientation at NYU. Little did I know that I would meet my future wife that evening. A group of guys I was with connected with a group of girls she was with. The night unfolded from there.

I often say it was the luckiest day of my life. If we hadn’t met then, we never would have. NYU has tens of thousands of students.

However, I recently learned that the story I’ve been telling myself is wrong. How we meet the most important people in our life personally and professionally (including how I met my wife) is not random.

According to research by Brian Uzzi, Professor of Leadership and Organizational Change at the Kellogg School of Management andone of the…

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Pathway #1: Hellos

I love airports.
I love the smell of cafés and freshly baked/heated pastries.
The sound of trolley and luggage wheels being pulled across the floor could easily lull me to sleep.
Most airports I’ve seen -been lucky to have been in- have an energy unlike anything else. There’s the influx of passengers through the airport doors, where you can still hear cars and loud chatter of ‘see you laters’ and ‘text me when you get through’. There’s the buzz and dings of airport personnel lifting bags, checking people in while the overhead speakers recite their warnings in many languages.
Then there are the passengers, having arrived at their temporary destination (every destination is temporary), leaving this beautiful chaos.

I love airports because there are so many different people. There are languages being spoken that I’ve never heard and there are so many goodbyes and so many hellos.

The things I love about airports hit all my pleasure centers, just at the mention of the word “airport.” I get really happy. Even knowing that I get to go pick up someone from the airport makes that pleasure pathway light up like the Eiffel Tower at night. The hellos are beautiful. It’s actually one of the biggest things I take for granted when I travel. I don’t take the time to appreciate a hello. It’s usually a quick-long hug with a lets-leave-the-airport-and-do-the-travel-stuff!

But when it comes to goodbyes, I mull over those for a while. It’s like I go through a mini-grieving where I prep myself with the knowledge that a change is about to happen, where someone I care about is going to be leaving, and then I work out the anxiety and finally come to terms with it when the moment approaches. But right after, my mind still dwells on it. In fact, I just said my umpteenth goodbye/see you later to my sister. And I’m writing about it.

Hellos are just as anxiety inducing as goodbyes. Or at least I think they are. They definitely have different dimensions to them and it always depends whether you’re the one visiting or the one hosting. Goodbyes are also a great reminder of hellos. The anticipation of finally meeting someone after years, friends or family is extremely rewarding. That hello is mixed with tears and hugs and kisses and so much joy that not many words can convey.

*Pleasure centers say what? Ding ding ding!*

While the anticipation of never having met someone can breed a hesitated hello, it also makes us aware of how brave we are.

Maybe hellos don’t get all the credit because they’re usually a positive feeling. Our brains tend to remember and recollect more negatively oriented things to protect us. Maybe it makes sense why more people dwell on goodbyes – or at least why I do.

I can say hello in a couple of languages but I think my favorite greeting so far has to be how Spaniards say hello. It’s also the way you say goodbye: a kiss on each cheek. It’s a little bit more intimate than a hug and usually accompanied with a ” ‘Ta luego” (hasta luego/see you later). Even though you learn “adios” in Spanish, you rarely ever use it. This greeting to me is more time consuming and personal – even when you meet someone for the first time. For someone who has lived in the US for a decade and used to personal space, where hellos are usually communicated verbally or formally with a handshake, it breaks those boundaries.

Hellos deserve just as much of attention as goodbyes. I think it’s taken for granted because most hellos are easy. They’re safe and they’re usually good experiences. But maybe if the pathways of Hellos are strengthened, you’ll look forward to them.

In the end it doesn’t matter whether you’re good at goodbyes; because you’ll always be great at hellos.

26 Rules To Live By That’ll Help Ease Your Overthinking Problem

Just deepening those neural pathways, in more creative ways.

Thought Catalog

Here’s my advice to you…

Porsche Brosseau/flickr.comPorsche Brosseau/flickr.com

1. Smile to strangers.

First of all, it makes you appear more confident. And as if this wasn’t reason enough, it also makes you appear more approachable (this is especially true at parties). There was a study that showed that people will perceive you to be smarter if your normal facial expression is a smile, as opposed to a grin. When you smile to strangers, not only are you being friendly, but you’ll be respected for it too.

2. Learn the names of the people you see every day.

And I don’t mean the people that are your superiors. Learn the name of the cashier of your local corner shop, the security guard outside your office, the janitors in your school, etc. These people are often thrown into the background and we underestimate the value of the work they do. By asking for their…

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I got my baby back!

So if you’ve wondered where on earth I am and why there haven’t really been any blog posts it’s because I didn’t have my laptop. It suffered some glitch in the harddrive, so I had to send it to get repaired and now it’s back in my arms and all the blog posts that I have scribbled in my journal and iPhone notes and scrap pieces of paper are finally going to be typed up and published.

I was able to write two posts through my iPhone but seeing as how I write a lot, it wasn’t a feasible idea. Plus, I liked going back to good ol’ pen and paper. It helped re-stimulate the happy pathways in my brain that made me fall in love with writing in the first place. So just as a preview of how much backlog I have on posts, here’s a screenshot of my blog-agenda:

blog agenda

 

Yeah I had to zoom out so you could see all the things that have been mulling in my head – and this is just the shorter version from what’s in all the scattered papers.

I’m also going to be super busy in the coming weeks because I’m going to be having visitors! yay! So this is going to be fun and challenging because my goal is to publish 3 times a week.

So major props to people who blog professionally because this takes painstaking effort and with all the details and meticulousness to get to the final draft of a post is nothing short of, in my opinion, writing a well crafted thesis.

lenovo

There she is – and I know it’s blurry but it was because I was too excited/happy/overwhelmed. Yay no more squinting!

PS: I also just realised how much emotion I have invested in a physical object and technology and that kind of scares me. The good thing about the past month and a half was, I could live perfectly well without my laptop. Oo…there’s another idea for a post.

Have you ever been stranded without your electronics? How would you fare?

Mil Gracias – An Overdue, perhaps never-ending, thank you note.

I am thankful.

More than you can imagine. This post may not be completely grammatical because I am just writing from #allthefeelings, so I hope, if you’re reading this, you can see/feel my gratitude because, if it’s not overflowing in my words, it’s overflowing in my heart and in my head.

I am safe and sound at my final destination (the process and the journey will soon be written).

Like my grandmother says, no one comes before your parents. It’s a very common belief and it is the truth in a lot of different cultures, but recently spending time with her and watching these old VHS style Hindu Puranas/Vedic stories on tape, I’ve been reminded time and again, that parents come before everyone, even God.

So, THANK YOU to my parents. They are awesome. They make me work hard for everything and even though it can get to be extremely tense and unfailingly chaotic, they back me up 100% all the time. They will pester me with questions, they will doubt my decisions, they will make me change my behavior, they will not speak to me in kind words, yet they will follow through with me every ridiculous dream I want to make tangible, whether it’s taking piano classes (that I never finished) or making sure I’m prepped for my year abroad. We fight and we argue and we are candid with each other. According to my dad, there is no need for formality with your family – you say it as it is. When I’m upset, I don’t agree, but always after some distance, his words ring true. And my mother says even better that like pots and pans that are stacked in a kitchen – or for that matter any kitchen items – when you go to remove one, they always clash and bang, but they are still always placed together, they are family, so it’s only natural for family members to have this noise, to have these arguments. It is because of my parents sincere and strong love that I can sit here and realize and act on my dreams. I am privileged. I carry this privilege and I move through the world with it, every single day. And if I have ever taken it for granted, I was being a small person. Mom and dad, I will only make you proud, that is my promise for the whole of my life. I also want to let you know, y’all have done an AMAZING job as parents, especially within all the constraints, idiosyncrazies (new word), and unfortunate events. I can’t even begin to comprehend how you did that when you were adults and parents at my current age. I hope I can be a fraction of awesome, as you guys are. Also, I love love love you and please don’t worry about me (ok I’m sure that won’t change but still, you can try), all your best has been invested in me and your ROI (return of interest) is only going to be the best.

Dear Mansi, thank you. You are a wonderful sister and your support is immeasurable and I will thank you appropriately with hugs and cuddles and love and games and parks and playdates and other things you like. I won’t write a paragraph for you because you probably won’t read it..plus I’m sure you know I love you and I’m always going to thank you.

A huge, huge, shoutout to my supportive network of friends and colleagues. I was going to write out your names but since I have no idea how blog privacy rules work, I’ll send you each a personalized message (and don’t worry it won’t be long) soon. But to my friends who know me better than I know myself and who have unabashedly always supported me and my crazy ideas, thank you for anchoring me and making me commit to myself. I don’t really know how to be selfish, especially when it comes to putting myself first. So without your support, your kind words of encouragement, your constant excitement of my future plans, and most importantly the constant, ever-present reminder (verbally or otherwise) of how much you believe in me leaves me speechless. And I LOVE to talk. Whether it’s my inner demons and anxieties or my weird little pity-party tantrum thingies, or my endless jaded philosophical questioning of what life means or how we determine anything, you lot are always there to listen to me. I am going to practice a lot (and have been for a while) to become a better listener, so that I can hopefully be as good of a friend to y’all as you have been to me. In addition to listening to me, you are always there to practically help me sort out issues and work on things so I can get to that next stage. You are nothing short of family. You mean the WORLD and more to me. Without you as my companions, who read and edit my cover letters, who take 3 hour too long coffee breaks, who accompany to quaint little, expensive bars, who readily get excited to go new places, who will spend hours escaping and exploring with me, I would not be here. I am here because of you. I feel so, so loved – even though there are times I will say I don’t. Don’t listen to me (by now, I know y’all don’t). And this is a shout out to my friends ALL OVER THE WORLD. So in whatever corner we met, whether it’s that awesome Australian chick from two years ago or the Island guy who plays the guitar or the sweetest twins from Mexico or the girl who sat next to me in Civics and Economics, or the girl(s) I spent hours talking to in car driveways, please know I love you and please know how much you mean to me and please know that distance is no match for our friendship.

My cousins – I’ve got to tell you, that y’all are my equals. Basically in the same boat as I am, navigating your own personal waters of hell, uncertainty and murkiness of life. Yet, you never hesitate to answer my bazillionth question or tell me what you think unabashedly. I’m 23. I’m young and I don’t know a lot and whatever wisdom you gain, especially since you and I share the same spaces of this world (not necessarily physical) I learn a lot. And y’all know that you are the people that I love and that your advice is priceless but so are your stories of struggle and triumphs. It makes me feel less alone, especially since we share the same family. If I can ever, ever be there for you, just let me know.

My family – never ending support, constant encouragement and dher saara pyaar (tonnes of love). What more could I ask for? I can’t. I physically can’t even begin to start my thank you because the network is so old and so strong, that again, I find myself privileged and I hope you know that all your wisdom and advice and care packages of Indian food are what keep me going.

Special, special shoutout to my Spanish family in Barcelona – in emergency and when I was personally going through a rough time (the first time I visited you all), I am forever grateful for you. At a time when I needed to feel at home, you three were there. Who knew I’d be getting to meet another sister? I don’t know how to show my appreciation but if you ever need anything ever from me, and if it is in my ability to make it happen, you can count on me.

My colleagues. You wonderful, wonderful, wonderful, people. For a first year professional experience, I have been extremely lucky. To have had a chance to contribute to something bigger than myself, while working with some of the most amazing, talented and sincere people in the world is a dream come true for me. I hope you all know that I have learned so much and that without your guidance and support, I really wouldn’t be here. I mean it – I physically would not be in Spain. So thank you for your generosity, for inspiring me, for an unforgettable experience. I hope, that in my short time with you all, I was able to help you in some way possible, even if it’s just a tiny bit of how much you all have done for me.

The Auxiliary Facebook group – thank you for never having a dull moment. Thank you for sharing your practical wisdom, your blog finds (And thanks to the blog authors) and your advice. It made a lot of difference being armed with all that knowledge and thank you for being specific. I hope to be just as specific about my experience and hopefully also as helpful as y’all have been. Special thanks to Trevor Huxham, Noe Hernandez and Jarrett McDowell.

My CEIP Family, mil, mil, mil, mil, mil gracias a la directadora del colegio y al profe, con quien trabajo. Desde el principio, con el email de JMa, me sentia mejor. El programa auxiliar que teneis aqui, aunque es el primer ano, es perfecto. Solo hace 5 dias que estoy aqui, pero en estos cinco dias no me ha dado cuento que estoy lejos de mi casa o mi familia. En cada paso, con su apoyo, podia hacerlo todo facilmente y sin problemas. Tambien, mil gracias a quedar con mi padre. Estoy segura que el y mi madre no van a ser preocupados. Es que deciros gracias no pueden caber lo que siento yo en mi corazon. Sin casa, sin saber la cultura, sin conocer la comunidad, en unos dias me habeis dado todo lo que necesitaba y todo lo que no sabia que necesitaria. No creo que es tan facil adivinar y ayudar a una persona, mejor una desconocida, en la manera que estais haciendo. Siento que no me falta nada. Para lograr este sentimiento, suele llevar anos y anos, pero con vosotros, es como conociamos desde hace siempre. Espero que les pueda ayudar en cualquier momento y que pueda contribuir a este ambiente de buena gente en el cole. En pocas palabras, Mil mil gracias por siempre.

Finally the community in Santiago. I have made lots of friends. These include hotel owners, the banker at La Caixa, a Gadis employee and two movistar employees and my awesome roommate. These people have helped me in my complete process here in Santiago – from helping me figure out which busses to take, to patiently allowing me to translate my father’s questions/conversations & their answers, and even helping me figure out housing for the next year. They went above and beyond, every time. I feel like I am part of the community and not someone from outside. They never let me feel like that at all. I cannot wait to see how these new friendships grow but I will do my best to let them know that they are some amazing people.

Ok, now to thank whatever all mighty being there is. I am thankful to the universe for listening to me and for helping me out. Maybe I’ve stumbled on some luck but it is not going unnoticed. I want the universe to hear me, loud and clear, THANK YOU. There is so, so much gratitude flowing from me and I don’t know how infectious it is, but if there’s someone you’ve been waiting to thank or express how much they have helped you, even if it’s been a while, I hope you let them know.

Before I end, another thank you. Thank you readers for reading this long, long post.

Moving to Spain 101

Check list from the conference I organized earlier this year. Look up GO! Global Orientation at UNC- Chapel Hill.

 

Course-Blog Description: Considering relocating? To another country? I’ve only ever moved countries & continents once, but as a wide-eyed 12 year old, a lot of the process resembled a Disney-movie adventure. Thanks to my parents, who have done this several times in their lives, I have had a chance to glean from their wisdom the tricks of the traveling trade. Moving to another country, in this case, moving to Spain consists of a lot of short-term and long-term goal management. Through this blog, I hope to provide some insight to the overwhelming yet exciting process of moving abroad. I’ll be including a lot of the resources I found especially helpful when I was going through this as well as some tidbits from what I actually did. If you’re considering a move or if you’re in the process of making your move, I hope this blog gives you some comfort, makes you feel a little less stressed out, and makes you feel as prepared as you possibly can be before you leave. I’ll also be detailing my time abroad as a Language and Culture Assistant in an elementary/primary school in Santiago de Compostela. That’s primarily why I’ll be in Spain for the next year. There’ll be posts about culture, lesson planning, children, travel, fashion, food (lots of it), languages, and random thoughts.

Required materials: Tea, wine, coffee, coffee-shop ambience, cellphone, computer/laptop, snacks – all editions.

Blog Format/General Info: There are several blogs and bloggers out there who’ve detailed their experiences and so I’ll be drawing from them (with due credit), hopefully consolidating information in an accessible and organized way. I’ll probably also be posting ThoughtCatalog articles, links to other pieces I read (I read a lot) with a mood I’m in – just for fun. I’ll plan to post every Sunday evening when I’m working on lesson plans/planning the week, unless I’m doing more fun, adventurous things. I tend to write about everything, especially my feelings and thoughts because it’s easier to analyse and understand when it’s in ink. Moving to another country means assimilating to a new culture, being extremely observant and learning to thrive in the inevitable chaos that is living on your own in a country.

Specifically, I plan to focus on writing narrative essays and photoessays. If I feel inspired, there may be some poetry, some nonfiction/critical analyses of articles I’m reading/contemplating or some anecdotal snippets. There may also be lesson plans & evaluation style worksheets.

Pre-requisites:  I have a Bachelor’s degree in Hispanic Linguistics and Psychology. I’ve been a tutor since primary school when I was the teacher telling my students (friends/classmates) to turn in their homework, which they did with inventively using a stick for a pencil and paper for a leaf. I have worked in an education/mentoring/instructor position for more than 5 years. Last year I organized a conference on global and cultural competency, and through that learned about international education. I love working with children, young adults, college kids and adults. I’m always learning and they’re always helping me. I’m Indian and was born in Nairobi, Kenya (lived there till about 12 years old) and moved to the US 11 years ago. I’ve been a part of four different education systems and so I look forward to exploring this one. I’m interested in access to education mental healthcare policies, specifically in Internally Displaced Communities (IDCs) and refugee populations. You’ll probably be reading a lot about this stuff.

Expectations:

(Mine) I want to learn how education works. I want to learn how to better work with students from anywhere in the world. The more exposure I gain as an educator, working in different education systems, the more I’ll learn about what works and what needs to be worked on. I want to observe and engage with the community around me as fully as possible without disrupting what’s around me. I want to better myself as an educator, as someone who works with kids I realize that I have a lot of things that I could be working on and it always keeps me on my toes. I hope to improve as a communicator and a writer. I am scared to be alone and in a new place, naturally. I hope to build new relationships and networks. I hope to meet people, from other auxiliaries and travelers to local people, students and colleagues. I hope to learn Gallego. I hope to stay in touch with my friends across the ocean and I hope to travel and see my friends on this side of the pond. I want to be AMAZING at Pasapalabra (don’t worry there’ll be a post about that soon). I hope to write & implement effective lesson plans.

(The reader’s) Please engage with the blog (and me)! As any educator knows, the most difficult aspect of teaching and education is ensuring that the students are engaged and productively so! So, if you’re a NALCA prospect and you found something particularly helpful please let me know! If you thought some of the information was discombobulating, please let me know! Feedback is great, especially since I’m practicing my writing and trying to be as concise and clear as possible. If you’re friends and family, comment! Tell me how much you wish you could be there with me! Or tell me how you can’t wait for me to come back! Engaging with the blog will help me tremendously improve in ways I can’t even imagine. I also tend to write a lot, so if you think my posts could be shorter then please let me know! It’s all the Jonathan Swift I used to read once upon a time (yay verbosity!)

Grading: I don’t know how grading is considered an effective way of measuring learning and growth. So assessing and evaluation are extremely crucial, especially in real life. Below is a draft of the components in which I hope to assess myself. I don’t plan to use a concrete system of A-F, but a flexible range. I’ll have a better idea of where I want to see my growth once I’ve hit the 1-month mark (or at least I hope so). So check back to see what I’ve updated!

Writing

confusing/not grammatical –> engaging, responsive, original

Communication (Gallego + Castellano)

beginner/Guiri –> mixed proficiency/hesitation –> Spanish&Proud

Teaching/Education

beginner –> effectively engaging kids —> personalizing their growth

Healthy lifestyle (food + Physical + mental)

Tourist20 —>  5 months of semi-consistency —> EatPrayLove

Blogging

not-so-consistent/helfpul —> always ready Sunday pm w/ beverage

Exams/Quizzes: This is going to be cheesy y’all. In life there are no make-up exams/quizzes. I guess these will be the trying/frustrating/all the feels moments that I encounter this year. To quote Eminem:

“You only get one shot, do not miss your chance to blow/ This opportunity comes once in a lifetime”

Syllabus (to be updated)

Date                                       Topic

9/18/14                                 Fly out to Barcelona

 

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