I won a writing award from the Nevada Press Association (that’s me on the left side!), so Andrew and I hopped in my Fiat and drove down to Las Vegas for the weekend. I’ve been to Vegas a few times before but I’ve never made the drive–I drove once with a friend and her parents when I was a teenager, but I got the flu so I don’t remember the drive at all. There is very little to see on the drive except for a whole lot of desert. I love the desert and find it very beautiful and interesting (given the name of my blog). Rural Nevada is fascinating. If you’ve ever played Fallout: New Vegas, you know what it looks like. I’m not saying that to speak badly of the little towns along the way, but there are so many run down buildings and just plain odd things to see. At times it really does feel like the apocalypse swept through. It’s pretty surreal.
I’ve had Paris on the brain lately since I’ve been thinking about re-practicing my French reading and writing skills–considering I have a minor in it, oddly enough. French was my favorite subject in high school, so it was natural to incorporate it into my college education, but I ended up having a pretty miserable time studying French in college so it’s not something I think about very often. But for some reason, my interest in French has re-surged lately, and the desire to travel definitely came back in full force after going to Washington D.C. in June. Andrew and I are planning a trip to Germany next year, which I’m really excited about. And I just bought an Italian car with satellite radio so I’ve been listening to BBC World and the French music stations, so, you know, I’ve been thinking Euro lately.
Our first trip together–about two months after we started dating!–was to France and Holland. A pretty big trip for a new couple, but we had a great time. We went in 2009 so it was a while ago! Doesn’t feel that long ago, though… c’est la vie!
My favorite picture of the trip:
Okay, we’re pretty cute.
I am way behind on the poetry challenge so I will catch up tomorrow!
I’m not a very patriotic person, at least in a typical sense, since I’m a dirty communist or whatever, but after going to Washington D.C., some things about the United States have a different meaning for me now. Here are some of my favorite pictures from the trip. Happy 4th of July!
The flight over
American History Museum – Thomas Edison Exhibit
Air and Space Museum
Driving through Maryland
FDR’s monument (my favorite)
MLK Jr. monument
Yesterday, my boyfriend and I were itching to get outdoors, so we decided to hike the Coldstream Valley Trail in Truckee, Calif. Truckee is great–it has a Tahoe-like vibe but without the large crowds that swarm Tahoe’s trails during the summer. We thought it would be a good time to try out a hiking and trails app, too, so we downloaded My Tracks (available for Android and iPhone) to help us track our progress.
Coldstream Valley is a few miles away from the heart of Truckee, but it’s easy to find right off the freeway. The trail starts with a road that passes a campground, and eventually leads to the stream. Depending on how far you go, you’ll eventually hit a few large ponds along the stream. We hiked about two and a half miles in, and about a mile was uphill. It’s a great trail, well maintained and mostly shaded by trees.
My Tracks really came in handy while we were out trekking. It served as a map, and also kept track of our progress. When we got home, we were able to upload our path to Google Earth, and it played a video of exactly where we went! I’ll try to figure out a way to upload the video because it’s pretty cool (any idea on how to export a Google Earth file as a video?). Here are some of our stats.
This trail was a great find–it wasn’t busy at all, either, on the Sunday before Fourth of July, which is usually when people plan to go camping. We also stopped at the Fifty Fifty Brewery on the way back home for some locally brewed beer.
I’d say it was a successful adventure!
When I went on my first big trip in 2005 at age 16–a three-week long adventure in Italy and Greece–I had a notebook, an inexpensive digital camera, several heavy books, and a broken CD player. Fast forward seven years, and I now have an overabundance of gadgets that will help me plan, capture and document my travels better than ever before.
I’m heading out to Washington DC tomorrow morning, and I’m getting my technology together tonight so I don’t have to rush doing it in the morning. What I’m bringing:
- Smartphone–for general tasks like checking flight info, taking pictures, using apps, etc.
- Nook Color–for reading, primarily, but can also use to browse the internet if need be.
- Netbook–for uploading/editing pictures, keeping a travel log, watching videos, listening to music.
- PSP–for playing games (obviously).
- Nikon D40 DSLR
- Sony Handicam
My boyfriend is bringing his tablet and phone, and my brother is bringing his phone and his PS Vita, so we should have no shortage of electronic entertainment on the six hour flight to DC.
While I’ve definitely never traveled with this much tech at one time, I’ve developed a list of tips throughout the past couple years that have helped me prepare my gadgets.
- Invest in extra batteries.
It’s great having an extra battery for your smartphone in the event that you can’t get to a charger. I plan to use my phone a lot throughout the next week, so having an extra charged battery will help keep it powered.
- Back up and clean off your memory cards.
If you plan to take a lot of pictures or record video, empty your memory cards on your phone or camera so that it won’t fill up. I’m a picture hoarder and never clean my camera card off in a timely fashion, so tonight I’m doing a complete wipe so that it’s all ready for me to take hundreds of photos of the White House or the view from the airplane.
- Bring extra cords.
When I went to Turkey a couple years ago, I only brought one USB cable to charge my phone, mp3 player and camera. And then I lost it for a couple of days, so I was totally stuck until it finally turned up. USB cables are so small that there’s no reason to not bring at least two. I have a lot of gadgets so I’ll have a few cords. I am bringing a carry-on bag and a messenger bag, so I will keep one main cord in my messenger bag, since that is the one I’ll be opening and closing the most, and a few others stashed in the carry-on luggage.
- Clean your tech.
- Make it easily accessible in the airport.
If you’re flying by plane, make it easy to take out your gadgets when you go through the TSA line. Last time I flew, I had a giant laptop that was a pain in the ass to keep taking out of my bag. This time, all of my gadgets are small, and I’m placing them in my tactical bag which has a designated space for them–so I can just tilt my bag sideways on the little tray and gently slide them all out so they can be screened. It helps to place all small items against a larger item. For example:
- Charge everything the night before.
This should be a given, especially since outlets in airports can be difficult to find. Plug in all of your stuff and pack it all up in the morning before your flight so you won’t be late catching the plane while trying to access your itinerary.
What’s your favorite gadget to bring on your travels?
This weekend, my boyfriend Andrew and I headed up to Tahoe to celebrate our third anniversary. It was a nice vacation because it only took us 30 minutes to get there!
The view from our hotel room:
We trekked around Emerald Bay:
Yes, I hiked around in a dress and stockings… which actually worked out great because it wasn’t very cold, and after I got wet from the snow, my clothes dried almost instantly.
Andrew suggested we ride the gondola up to Heavenly ski resort, which at first freaked me out a bit since I’m a wee bit afraid of heights, but it was really fun and totally beautiful!
I’ve been to Tahoe many, many times, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen as much of it as I did yesterday.
There were binoculars that you could use to look out over the lake, and we managed to find our car!
This is Part II of revisiting my travels in Istanbul, Turkey. Read part I here.
On the first day
After introducing ourselves to the local area, our professor Berch took us into the city and we went to a mosque. We were very lucky because we got to go inside and watch the service, which is extremely rare for tourists, especially women. They had scarves available at the door and we had to cover our hair, shoulders and upper arms. We also couldn’t let our ankles show. Despite the criticisms I have of Islam and its treatment of women, the service was beautiful and the mosque was absolutely stunning. I don’t mind doing my part to respect other cultures.
Going into the mosque was a really unique experience. I think it is going to be one of my favorite moments of the trip.
After the mosque, we got to spend some time by the water. I couldn’t help myself and bought a new scarf. We then went to dinner on a terrace overlooking the water and the mosque. It was a breathtaking sight and the dinner was really good. We had these fried feta cheese rolls that are pretty much to die for, and we had a lot of different dishes with eggplant. I have also eaten an insane amount of tomatoes since I have been here. I tried Turkish coffee for the first time and pretty much am in love. It comes in a tiny cup, almost like espresso, and about half of it is full of this coffee sludge, and the liquid is really rich and thick and flavorful. Dinner was great, but I was exhausted and jetlagged and ready to turn in for the night.
Day two started off leisurely. I got a ton of sleep and was feeling great except for the heat, but even that hasn’t been too intolerable and for some strange reason I have been handling it better than the others, and I hate heat. The hotel serves breakfast in the morning which consists of large slabs of feta cheese, slices of tomato, wheat bread, cucumber and some sort of dates. There is also really good tea. There are two parts of the dispenser and one is for the tea itself and the other part is hot water needed to dilute the tea otherwise it is really strong. Breakfast is good although it takes a bit getting used to, especially to eat plain tomatoes. I have eaten sooo many tomatoes so far.
We went to a fortress after breakfast. It was right on the water and so beautiful! The views of the ocean are completely stunning. The fortress was built in 1452 by the Ottomans, a year before their invasion of Istanbul. We hiked all over the fortress and did some of our presentations there. I have to say it was a great place to have class.
We spent several hours at the fortress and then went to lunch. For lunch I had something called a karasik gozleme, which is like a flatbread toasted with cheese and sausage. It was pretty yummy. Oh, and their Coca-Cola is reallyyy good over here. Haven’t figured out which ingredients are different yet.
After lunch, we hopped on a boat and went to the Asian side of Istanbul! I am happy to say that I have now been to another continent. The part we went to was kind of like a giant market.
Once we got there, we went to a pastry shop and had some baklava which was amazing and extremely rich. There were also lots of bookstores and jewelry shops. I bought a present for Andrew and some earrings.
After spending a few hours in Asia, we headed back into the city and I pretty much just crashed because I was so tired. We spent a really long time on a hot and crowded bus, but I don’t mind so much because to me, it’s all part of the experience. I’m kind of tired being stared at everywhere I go and am doing my best to fit in by dressing modestly and not being loud but many members of the group don’t quite understand that.
Day three started off earlier and bit more hectic. We almost didn’t catch our bus to the first university we visited so we had to run across crazy traffic streets in order to get to the stop on time. Crossing the street here is pretty scary. I haven’t seen any speed limit signs yet.
We went to the university to hear a lecture by a man named Caglar Keyder who wrote the book we had to read for the trip. The lecture was about the effects of globalization on Istanbul, both good and bad. I am really enjoying the political discussions we are having and getting to put them into a tangible form of learning. After the lecture we went to the quad and more of the group members gave their presentations. The campus was beautiful… like most things we have seen so far, it is right on the ocean.
After the lecture, we went to a palace! It is called the Dolmabahce Palace and it is where the sultans and members of the harem used to live. We couldn’t take pictures inside so I only have one to show from the outside of the palace.
I was really excited to go to the palace because I wanted to see the library but the library was actually pretty disappointing. You’d think a palace would have a big epic library with beautiful decorations, but no. Maybe my future library will be better!
Poems written abroad
the miles are filling the space
between us -
an open palm held face up,
a longing arm outstretched
we are a ball of thread
pulled taught -
all knots pulled loose
we are tin cans
connected by a string -
your whisper reverberates in my ears
pick the petals
one by one
a coin for each
that falls into naive hands
blind boys with dirty soles
hear the jingle in your pocket
beautiful girls wearing dirty scarves
dance around your wallet
don’t give your soul to the street sirens
the real gypsy is inside you
(Part III coming soon!)
When I was younger, I had a case of insatiable wanderlust. Luckily, I was able to venture to a handful of great places around the world when I was in high school and college. I don’t think a love of travel ever leaves a traveler’s system, but for me, I have been able to keep the wanderlust at bay for a few years while I trudge through graduate school. When I chose to stay in Nevada for my Master’s (and most likely Doctorate) degree, I made it a point to explore my city more, and to appreciate all it has to offer–which is easy, because Northern Nevada is a wondrous playground with beautiful sites and a ton of activities happening year round. I love living here, and it’s been nice to slow down and enjoy it, especially since I dove straight into grad school after completing my Bachelor’s and relaxing is reallyyy important to keep me sane…
Plus, my boyfriend Andrew and I have made it a goal to do different kinds of traveling, including attending some cool festivals and conventions that we’ve been meaning to go to for a while. This year, we’re going to Maker Faire in May and the Penny Arcade Expo (PAX) later this year. We’re also going to Washington D.C. with my mom and my brother in June, which is a bucket list item of mine (mostly because I can’t wait to see the Library of Congress!).
But I’ve been watching a lot of Top Gear (UK, the best version… not to sound like a total hipster) and I’m so enthralled by their travel episodes, and it hit me the other day that I really want to go somewhere again. Andrew and I are discussing the possibility of going to China, and I’d also really like to go to Norway. I’m hoping we’ll be able to go somewhere next year!
Anyway, I was browsing through photos from my past travels, and I thought I’d share them. This first set is from Istanbul, Turkey, when I visited in 2009. I did a trip through my university and studied Turkish politics and Islam and gender dynamics while I was there. It was an incredible, memorable experience.
So without further ado, here is my travel journal and photos from my trip to Turkey a few years back.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
I am sitting in the San Francisco airport trying to reapply my smudged eye makeup because I have been crying. I have been here for a total of 30 minutes and the excitement is starting to finally sink in. Mixed with this excitement is immense sadness at the fact that Andrew is somewhere between Vallejo and Reno and nowhere close to me. Part of me is relieved that we finally got the leaving bit over with but part of me wants to run out of the airport and onto the freeway and convince him to come with me.
I’m okay now. And so totally STOKED that soon I will be in Istanbul, Turkey!
I am tired and happy that I am tired because it means that I can sleep on the airplane. Normally I can never sleep on flights because I am so jittery and excited but right now I could really use a nap. That doesn’t mean I am any less jittery and excited as I usually am but it’s nice to finally be getting used to international travel.
Airports make me feel lots of different things. Flying to Turkey alone is exhilarating, fun, scary and lonely all at once. I am grateful to have this opportunity to travel alone for once because I know it is something I need to do for myself. But… I still miss Andrew and can’t wait to see him in Paris.
I am listening to the new album by Meg & Dia called “Here, Here and Here.” I’ve already decided that it is going to be my soundtrack for the trip because it is such a fantastic, inspiring album and I think the title is eerily coincidental considering I am going to three new countries on this trip. Also, the lyrics just fit and the music just hits me in all the right spots.
“Here, here and here
He pointed to his heart and mind and ears”
Quick note: I have decided to write a travel poetry anthology while I am traveling so I will be posting poems as I write them. Just FYI.
I need to do some reading so I will write more later. The next time I write I will probably be in New York. Yay!
Lesson of the day: Don’t fall in love with someone right before you leave for an international trip… unless they are going with you! Le sigh.
I arrived in New York City about an hour ago. The flight was okay. I slept a bit but there was a scary amount of turbulence so every time I would start to nod off the plane would start shaking and my heart would drop into my stomach. Also, sleeping sitting up sucks. But I managed to get a couple hours, which is a start, at least.
Called Andrew. It’s 4:45 a.m.-ish in Nevada. He answered in his sexy sleepy voice, the one that makes my heart melt into a little puddle. I don’t think he was coherent for most of the conversation but it’s nice to hear a familiar voice and it’s still too early to call my parents. I’m still feeling a bit sad but mostly I’m feeling sleepy and really really really (did I say really?) excited to be in Turkey soon!
JFK airport is huuuge. I got off at Terminal 7 by British Airways or something and I needed to be at Terminal 1 for Turkish Airlines so I had to get on this little tram that goes around the whole airport. All of the major international airlines are here. It’s really quite exhilarating. The last time I was here was in 2005 when I was flying home from Athens, Greece.
For my class, I have to do two presentations on some chapters from a book called Istanbul by Caglar Keyder. The chapters I am studying have to do with the struggles of secular and Islamic Turkish women and the Turkish identity. It’s definitely the kind of topic I’m into studying – gender roles in Islamic countries. I have to do a Powerpoint and I feel a bit bad for being a slacker and waiting til the day before the trip to work on my presentation but at least it gives me something to do while I wait until 4:30 p.m. The exciting part is that we get to meet the author of the book during our trip! He is giving us one of the lectures we will be attending at one of Istanbul’s universities. We will be going to several universities in Istanbul and I can’t wait to see the different campuses. If I like Istanbul (and I am sure I am going to fall in love) I might consider applying there for grad school.
There are so many opportunities available in life. I don’t know how people aren’t going crazy all the time with all of the choices we have available to us! It’s really exciting. Traveling always opens my eyes to all of the things I could do with my life. Essentially, I want to travel, write, teach and be surrounded by books and the people I love. And bake cupcakes.
Still listening to Meg & Dia. Andrew gave me an old mp3 player so I didn’t have to lug a bunch of CDs with me on the plane like I usually do. Here is my list of music artists:
Blue Oyster Cult
Death Cab for Cutie
M2M (oh hush)
Meg & Dia
I wish I would have put Jack’s Mannequin and Peter Gabriel on before I left but at least it forces me to branch out a bit by listening to other albums. Although this M&D album might be on repeat for the next month…
“I’m a ship like you
One sail, one sea
You and me
And I left my soul next to the shore
One sail, one sea”
So, when I was packing my carry-on, I had a really hard time choosing which books to pack. My book obsession is getting ridiculous.
I packed my Istanbul book for school (and it’s actually a good read). I also packed The Caged Virgin by Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Last summer I read Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali, which is a memoir about her childhood in Somalia, Saudi Arabia and other strict Muslim countries, and her struggles with Islam and the culture surrounding it. It is an astonishing and fantastic and thought-provoking read and ever since then I’ve tried to read everything I can by her. The Caged Virgin is a collection of essays challenging Islam and trying to shine light on Middle Eastern culture so that the Western world can better understand that part of the world. Ali is a really powerful writer and despite the essay form it really reads more like poetry.
I also brought my copy of Habibi by Naomi Shihab Nye. Habibi is my favorite book of all time. I have had my copy since I was nine and it is completely worn and tattered and there are thirty pages missing in the middle.
This book changed my life in many different ways. The story is about a young girl named Liyana who moves from the US to Jerusalem with her younger brother, father and mother. The character of Liyana is one of the first literary characters I ever truly identified with and the book fueled my passion for writing (the character is an avid writer and reader), as well as my interest and desire to learn and travel to the Middle East. I thought it was an appropriate book to bring with me. I started rereading it on the plane. I’m sure I’ve read it 1000 times (not kidding). I’m over half-way finished with it. There are a few passages that really stood out to me. I’ve been marking them along the way so expect lots of quotes throughout my journal. This one in particular fits right now:
“Poppy would pass through the house lifting his nose to the air, saying, ‘There it is, there’s my country.’
Well, where was hers? Was she on the verge of finding out? Sometimes Liyana felt she had passed her own country already and it was an age, not a place.
She wrote it down in her notebook.
An age, not a place.
What did it mean, exactly?”
In my big luggage I packed my copy of The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. I read The Alchemist a couple of years ago and it is one of the best books I have ever read. It is all about finding one’s Personal Legend, or purpose, in life. I make it a point to bring it with me to all of the places I travel to and so far it has only been to Salt Lake City, Utah and London, England.
I took a nap on a bench and I feel a little bit more rested but not a whole lot. My feet are cold and I should have worn socks but it is so much easier wearing slip-on shoes at the airport since they make you take off your shoes through security. I am getting the pre-international-flight jitters that are making it hard to eat anything or sit still for too long. In about five minutes I am going to go get in line to get my boarding pass and go through security… always fun. I don’t know when I will be able to get online but it will probably be sometime tomorrow since I need to get on a taxi ASAP from the airport to get to our hotel. I will be writing a lot on the flight over (all 11 hours… eek) so I’m sure I will have a lot of updates when I am back on the interwebs.
Okay I lied. I was planning on doing my homework while waiting to board but instead I got sucked in to browsing the web and I’m in a writing mood so I figured I might as well blog more. Plus I have an 11 hour flight to do homework… plenty of time to read four chapters and write outlines.
I’m soooo excited! Everything still feels so surreal. It’s a weird feeling when something that you have been planning for so long actually happens. All day I’ve been pinching myself.
Every time I get a boarding pass I want to quote The Fifth Element. “Leeloo Dallas multi-pass?”
I am really excited because I am assigned a window seat! There are pros and cons to window seats; pros are that the view rocks and it’s really nice having something to lean against while sleeping. Cons are that I have to pee like every 30 minutes which means I have to squish and sit on like five people on my way to the aisle. But I think having a window seat on international flights is totally the way to go.
I am sitting by my gate and I board in about an hour and a half. I am in the international terminal where the flights designated for the Middle East and Asia take off. Right now I am watching the gigantic Air China plane pull up to the gate right outside my window. It’s huge! I would like to go to China. My grandmother and great-grandmother have been to China and it looks like a really interesting country to visit.
I just talked to Andrew over Skype and it was nice to hear his voice and I miss him but I’m really looking forward to Paris. It will be an interesting experience traveling to two very different countries. I hope my French is good enough but I guess we shall see.
Anyway, I’m going to wrap this up now for real this time. Next time I blog it will be from Istanbul.
I am in Turkey!!! Here is a list of things from the plane ride until now… I will do a more full description (with pictures) later:
1) Long flight… but Turkish Airlines has awesome food!
2) I watched “Anastasia” and “Confessions of a Shopaholic” on the flight… haha.
3) I met a grad student from Columbia U named Nur who is awesome.
4) The taxi ride from the airport to the hotel was the scariest experience of my life… no joke.
5) Our group is awesome!
6) Jetlag kicked my ass yesterday but I am feeling better after a long night’s sleep.
7) I am desperately missing my parents and Andrew but other than that I am okay.
8 ) Went to a mosque for the first time… had to cover my hair and shoulders and arms. We heard a man singing during the service and it was an incredible experience.
9) We ate a fantastic dinner on this terrace overlooking the water and the mosque last night… it was absolutely beautiful and I have cool pictures to show later.
10) We found a nightclub on top of a building and our awesome old Turkish-Armenian professor danced with us… it was awesome.
11) Have a bit of a headache because of the heat (it’s sooooooooooooooo hot) but otherwise feel great!
12) Turkish electro-pop music rocks.
13) Turkish men are extremely forward about checking out American girls. We get stared at EVERYWHERE we go!
14) Turkish women are gorgeous. I’m envious!
That is all I have time for, for now. I promise a more thorough description of everything. I am so overwhelmed and excited to be here and there is so much to see and do that I am just trying to keep up!
A recap, a few days later
So much to write about! I am going to try to recap the events of the last few days using pictures and the list of things I wrote the other day. I will start with the flight.
The flight took off right on time. I am pretty sure I was one of three non-Turkish people on the flight, which surprised me. The flight attendants all spoke Turkish and their English wasn’t always very good. I sat next to a woman named Nur, who is a graduate student at Columbia University. She spoke English and we talked through much of the flight. Overall, the flight was good, long and uneventful. The food was really good.
When we were pulling in to the airport, I glanced out my window at the city as we were driving by and the first thing I noticed was all of the mosques. Their pointed pilars are very visible from the sky. There are a ton of them scattered throughout the city.
On the airplane, Nur taught me how to say basic things in Turkish and she said I had good pronunciation. However, Turkish is a really hard language for me to understand and remember. I am trying to keep track of the names of everything but for some reason it is difficult.
Getting through the airport was easy enough. Nur helped me get a taxi, which was good because it is hard to get past the language barrier here, much harder than I excpected.
The taxi ride from the airport to the hotel was one of the scariest experiences of my life. Not only are there a million cars everywhere, but the taxi drivers (and bus drivers, I later found) drive about a centimeter away from everything in sight.
I arrived at the hotel safe and sound, but I ended up paying the taxi driver more than necessary because I only had American money. To be honest, I would have paid him $100 just to get me back safe and sound.
Once I met up with the group, we took a walk around the neighborhood. Our hotel is nice by Turkish standards but it isn’t anything spectacular.
(Stay tuned for Part 2 of my adventures in Turkey coming soon!)