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All Posts By

Cara T.

night lights

By | 2010, Asia | No Comments

Saturday evening of last week was a moment here in Thailand that I will never forget as I pushed my krathong (cylinder of a banana tree trunk) decorated with banana leaves, flowers and lit with a single candle into the river and it joined the thousands of others as they floated down stream. Then on Sunday night I stood out on the balcony of my homestay with one of my fellow travelers and watched thousands of flaming lanterns float into the night sky of a full moon together with fireworks spontaneously cracking in every direction. This is the time of Loi Krathong and Yi Peng here in Chiang Mai, two combined festivals that makes for one large celebration. I am told by my homestay uncle that the Krathongs are offered to the river as an apology to the goddess of water they have done to hurt the river while the lanterns are sent up as an offering to Buddah. Having this opportunity to participate in such a example of Thai culture has been amazing. It seems as though everywhere you travel there are always traces (sometimes very obvious, other times more subtle) of western influence. I have begun to appreciate experiencing festivals and other such holidays in various countries as it is a moment when they have pride in and exemplify their own culture and its traditions and the western impact gets pushed aside.

Cara

Loud Music and Colourful Rice

By | 2010, Asia | No Comments

As I attempt to write this blog, an odd combination of Indian and pop music is blaring outside my window as it has since we arrived, and competing with the music is the repetitive banging of drums; the sounds of Little India located just out our door. A true benefit of staying in Little India is the food! Many evenings and lunch breaks have been spent trying out new Indian cuisine. Sweet lassi’s (a delicious yogurt drink) and naan bread (which according to Elizabeth Gilbert in Eat Pray Love is the Indian equivalent to the best Italian pizza, and I completely agree) have become staples. There are moments when I feel as though I am experiencing Indian culture more then Malaysian. But as we study the history and society of Malaysia I am reminded how significant this Indian culture is to Malaysia. Even though it has become apparent that tension occurs between the varying ethnicity’s here you would not be led to believe that as you go through the city and see all sorts of decoration including colourful, intricate rice designs on the floors of malls, shops and restaurants to celebrate the upcoming Indian Deepavali festival. As a few of us attended a free speech event on one of our first nights here in Kuala Lumpur we noticed that many people here do not feel as though there is enough freedom of religion here in Malaysia. I am sure that in many ways this is true, however, as I see these rice designs on the floors of the busiest malls, Punjabi suits and sari’s for sale in store after store and hear the music blare night after night I also find evidence towards the opposite. I will leave my random thought at that as I head off to enjoy a refreshing sweet lassi before bed.

** benefit of staying in Little India #2: as I was sitting on the stairs where I could access the internet to send off this post and trying to come up with the perfect witty title,  a large fireworks show began going off less then a block away in celebration of Deepavali! This was the second time this week.

Home and Hospitality

By | 2010, Asia | No Comments

From the moment we were greeted at the airport to every restaurant, building or home we enter, we are greeted with the warmest smile by those who are eager to welcome us with hospitality that has blown me away. It seems everywhere we go, while visiting the house of representatives or the church of Paoay (one of the oldest churches) we are swarmed by school children so excited to see us and wanting pictures and autographs with no idea who we are. They work so hard to make us feel at home. One morning at our homestay I came downstairs for breakfast curious what would be offered that day. To my amazement on top of their standard of rice, eggs and meat our homestay mom had set on the table cereal and buns with a large tub of peanut butter beside them. I have been enjoying exploring new tastes and foods but biting into that bun with peanut butter spread on the top brightened my morning like you would not believe. She had gone out of her way to provide us with foods that we were comfortable with. However much I appreciated this moment of hospitality I also enjoy how much our homestay mom smiles when she shares the Filipino dishes with us and watches us try them and says “oh you so cute…like dolls”

Cara

Unable to Avoid

By | 2010, Asia, Europe | No Comments

Now that I’ve returned to Canadian soil and answered the repeated question of what my favorite moment and place was, life is ‘normal’ again. This feels strange and I find myself bringing up anecdotes and quotes whenever I can slip them into conversations. Aside from the obvious great experiences gained from a trip like this, this trip taught me to process my experiences. I have always been one to avoid sharing my thoughts or writing them down in a journal, I would simply brush it aside and move on. The problem, I now realize, with this method is that I lose opportunities to grow. Through the mandatory journaling and debrief sessions througout the trip I was no longer able to avoid processing what I was experiencing.  I am far from being natural at this, I have yet to be a nightly journaler, but now I can at least tell you reasons that make my favorite moments so significant to me.

Great Moments

By | 2010, Europe | No Comments

Today we walked past barbed wire fencing, rubber boots, coveralls, and various other farming equipment strewn all over the ground, in addition to large tractors blocking the road. It was on our day outing to Brussels, as we were making our way to the European Parliamentary building, that we found ourselves in the middle of this agricultural demonstration. This random timing was able to reveal more to me about the atmosphere of Brussels as a “capital” of the European Union then any tour of the Parliament could do (although that was very informative as well). Even though the demonstration was nearing its end, witnessing the chaos and seeings police standing guard at the blockades, I got the sense that this is not an uncommon occurrence. Random opportunities such as this have not been scarce on this trip. So many times we have been blessed with having perfect timing. These include, being in Vienna on the night an enchanting boys choir is singing in St. Stephen’s Cathedral, and arriving at town square in Strasbourg just as traditional French dancers were performing.  There have been so many chances to be a part of great moments, and for this I am so appreciative.

Cara T

A Taste of Italy

By | 2010, Europe | No Comments

As I write this, the bus is silent as everyone listens to Vivali’s Four Seasons while we make our way towards romantic Venice. This represents so much of what I love about this trip. As we travel from country to country, city to city to city, we all crouch under the often scarce shade and listen to a lecture on the Sagrada Familia, hear about the life of van Gogh, randomly listen to the beautifully chilling voices of a quartet singing in a 6th century basilica as we prepare for a lecture on the mosaic behind them; the list goes on. I enjoy these occurrences and how they help enhance the way I experience a country or city, how they help me experience Europe as more than an average tourist.

One of the most striking experiences I have had so far was our trip to the Chianti region of Tuscany, Italy, for a vineyard tour and wine tasting. I had been told ahead of time that the vineyard was owned by the Capponi family, one of the most prominent names of Italy next to Medici, so I prepared myself for a commercialized and crowded gift shop, but I was happily wrong in my expectations. We arrived and were greeted by a friendly smiling woman who right away brought us to this rustic picturesque building where we began with a white wine and a toast against the backdrop of an amazing view of surrounding vineyards. We then got a tour of the 17th century wine cellar joined with a brilliant explanation of the vinting process. This whole morning provided such a close connection with the region and I felt as though I received a true taste of Italy.

Cara T.

The Second Time Around

By | 2010, Europe | No Comments

Well I’ve never been much of a blogger but here it goes…

I joined the last Europe trip two years ago in 2008, however, that time it was more of an audit/tag along situation. I listened to the lectures and presentations but did none of the work. Having now completed the first portion of the homework I realize I had a pretty sweet deal. However, I am looking forward to viewing the artwork and exploring the cities having now studied so much more about the places we’re going and the things we are seeing. I am also appreciating the fact that I know the group I am traveling with prior to embarking on this journey. One thing that I am apprehensive about is my past experiences forming expectations that could get in the way of how I choose to do things along the trip. I need to remind myself that this is a fresh experience and that I am with a new group of fellow travelers and I myself am not the same as I was the last time I was in these places. This trip will be unlike any other, and it will be a challenge and a blast!