From the Appalachians to the Caucases

I’m so excited for my dad. He’s going to Armenia and Georgia!

A year or so ago, representatives from Armenian municipal governments did a tour of US micropolitan areas (those with a population of about 50K of less) to see how they run their shows, and they hit it off with my uncle, the city manager in a medium-sized city in WV. To make a long story short, my uncle was just invited to be part of a contingent of US representatives to go over Armenia for a couple of weeks this summer and consult with them on their goverment and urban development processes.

A word about my uncle: The Armenians who came here rather enjoyed my uncle. In fact, just about everybody loves my uncle. It’s hard not to. He’s always quick with generosity and self-depricating humor. And when you put him and my dad together, they are endless entertainment for each other and everyone around them, bouncing jokes off of each other and swapping stories. They are a ton of fun. My dad is a retired marketing executive (or as he puts it “professional paper shuffler and bullshit artist”). And it’s a big deal for my uncle to get this kind of opportunity. He has never been out of the country, as far as I know. So, he asked my dad to come along as a consultant on business development stuff. Yes, the Hillbilly Smothers Brothers are taking their show on the road.

As a side note, my dad and his siblings grew up in a coal mining camp in West Virginia–true hillbillies–and my uncle is very much a hometown guy. Certainly not a world traveler. And certainly not travel to a developing nation. So, my dad is joking that it’s perfect that, when two hillbillies go on vacation together, they skip Paris and London and go find some other hillbillies to hang out with half way across the world.

They’ll go in June. My dad and I talked travel last night. I might help him put together something on the potential that the internet offers to microbusinesses and just generally give him pointers on how to travel in really foreign countries.

I’m so envious. There’s no better way to get to know a place and its people than getting that kind of insider tour.

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Meme – What It Takes to Work and Live Abroad

OK, here’s a timely (for me) little quizzie. It doesn’t have a pretty version of the results that you can paste into your LJ. But it’s still good info:

On the What It Takes to Live and Work Abroad quiz, I scored a

40

(It could go as high as 50 if I pick somewhere French- or English-speaking.)

If you scored:

More than 35 – GO FOR IT! You have what it takes!

25-34 – You may encounter some difficulty, but you will probably succeed

15-24 – Take a look at your weak areas and get yourself prepared for the challenge

Less than 15 – Don’t even think about it

Expatriatism

Yesterday was a low point in my faith and pride in my country and citizenship. Although I pay attention, I’m not much of a political activist. I tend to prefer dialogue and compromise. But, yesterday, this was just more than a sensitive person like me could bear …

From the battle to corporatize the internet (see the latest AOL controversy and the thwarted attempt in, I believe, Pennsylvania to supply all residents with free access) …

To the release of a video documenting that Bush knew about the inevitability of the levee breaches DAYS before he did anything about it …

To the nurse who got charged with sedition and had her computer seized by the FBI for simply writing an editorial letter about how Katrina and Iraq are being handled …

To the Egyptian man (a resident in the US) who was detained for several months, physically abused, and sodomized in a Brooklyn lock-up long after he was cleared of terrorism charges …

I had to fight off tears last night. It’s just too much. I have lost my patience for the glossing over done by NPR‘s Morning Edition but not sure I can stomach the stark realities on Democracy Now.

I’ve felt for a long time that I’d live overseas one day. That option is looking more appealing by the day. I’m taking suggestions on where I should move to. Requirements:
(0) Not a despotic state (although you might talk me into Singapore).
(1) Access to clean, modern health care.
(2) Access to the internet.
(3) People are friendly or at least not afraid of strangers.
(4) People don’t see independent women as a threat.
(5) Pace of life is slower.
(6) Climate isn’t largely subzero or swelteringly humid.

I did some of my undergrad overseas and I’ve traveled to about 20 countries, including uninsulated forays in India, Jamaica, and Morocco, and loved them all (except, maybe, pre-war Yugoslavia which was just creepy). I have graduate degrees and employable skills. I can acquire more, if needed. I’m willing to learn another language. So far, New Zealand, Italy, and Costa Rica have crossed my mind. But I can go even more foreign than that since I’d be taking a friend with me. (I have a feeling he’d probably be talking me into it just as much as I would him.)

Suggestions anyone?

India Pics

I’m still sorting through the explosion that was my suitcase. I have, however, shuffled through my 700+ pics and, fortunately for you, pared them down to the top 200. 🙂

You can peruse them here.

The copies on the photobucket site are about a quarter of the originals (so I could squeeze more on the web). If you see something that you want a closer look at, lemme know and I’ll email you the original.

Jiggety Jog

Home again. Ahhhhhhhhhh. The trip home went off without a hitch. Had pizza, wine, lots of laughs, and a show-and-tell with my housie, , and . My pets are just fine and seem to have forgiven my absence and we all can’t wait to cuddle together tonight. It’s great to be reminded how wonderfully cozy my little house is and how much love I have in my life. I’m looking forward to all of the art framing and hanging in the coming weeks, to long, hot showers, to the end of diarrhea, and the beginning of a whole new level of gratitude.

Mom and Dad, I’ll call you tomorrow. Can’t wait to show you my spoils and share my stories.

Love.

Funny thing, I was riding back to the hotel in Jaipur on the tuk-tuk the other night and realizing how used to all the chaos I am now. I’ve figured out when to turn my head when someone calls for my attention and when to just tune it out. I’ve learned to tune it out without feeling my heart harden. I’ve got a sense of just who I can have personal conversations with and for how long without them turning opportunistic. I don’t get over-stimulated and distracted by all of the dirt and poverty and need. I don’t feel so conspicuous. And now I’m going home.

The count down

Hi, all.

Doing well. I’m taking a break from group activities this afternoon to sit in an air-conditioned internet cafe and check in with the homies (and go in search of some ice cream).

Continue reading

Everything OK

Hi, all. I’ll keep this short because I’m sitting in an internet cafe that is hotter than hell and has a slow line.

In the good news dept, the tour group showed, I’m having fun, and I like my kiwi roomie (as well as just about everyone else). In the bad news department, I took a stroll on my own one afternoon and got harrassed for sex by two young men on a motorbike. I hate it when stereotypes prove themselves true. (So many women warned me before I left about sexual harrassment and violence in India, which is one of the reasons I opted for a tour. So disappointing to see my reasoning justified.) Anyway, I gave him the bird and the most evil look I have ever mustered and got myself back fast into a more crowded place and took the first rickshaw back to the hotel. When I was younger that stuff would scare me more. This time, it just pissed me off and I spent an hour back in my hotel room steaming mad and trying to calm down. Sam (Sameer), the tour leader has been outstanding in every way, and, of his own accord, took it up with the local authorities who promised to up security in that area of town. Overall, I’m glad I’m with a group and this one in particular.

I’m done with Udaipur and Ranakpur and Behnswara. Now, I’m in Jailsalmer. Tomorrow, camel safari and overnight in the desert. Ye gods, it is raining down my back; it is so hot. And this isn’t even summer time here! At least I’m out of the humidity.

Love.