Tag Archives: Marisa

Lesson Learned from Friends on the Road

  • You should always bring some of the clothes you love and rely on (Nellie) but should also buy/bring some basic stuff you don’t mind giving away (Rhiannon)
  • Of course, don’t be “that guy” who just gives away all their broken/dirty junk: give away the things you love, and it’ll come back to you (Deirdre)
  • Just do it, magn/There’s nothing you can do about it now, so have fun/shoes are lame (unless someone steals yours)/spend your nights under the stars (Kristina)
  • There is no right way to experience a country, so just do what makes you happy in the moment, and if you enjoyed the time while you spent it you can’t look back with regret (Abby)
  • Bring a book or two, and trade them away for others when you’re done.  After all, on the road, a new story is worth more than one you already know, and can easily find again (Emma)
  • If you really are the “whatever” person (like Avi The Army Guy or Julie The Yoga Girl) trust that everyone knows that already, and let them come to you if they want to know more (Julie and Avi. Duh.)
  • Bring all-purpose items, and travel speakers (Laurel, aka Leslie)
  • Don’t lend people your Coach/Ignore all negativity (Aliesha)
  • Be unapologetically ridiculous and enthusiastic, and you’re bound to make friends.  Even if you don’t, you’re probably already having a ton of fun (Brit and Kristina)
  • Sometimes the cost of something “lent” is worth the friendship or the conversation you get in exchange (Britito)
  • Really listen, and remember people (Nellie, Laurel, Julie)
  • Sometimes being the butt of the joke is the best way to put everyone at ease, and the quickest way to gain friends (Gumby)
  • Lack of language doesn’t mean lack of communication (Mike)
  • You can sweet-talk your way into (and out of) anything (Pasha Daoud)
  • You’re always surrounded by a million memorable moments waiting to happen (Allyson)
  • Trust strangers (Dylan and Taylor)
  • Always ask the parents before you give kids something, especially candy–and make sure you have enough to go around (Lori)
  • Don’t let anyone (or anything) hold you back from what you want to see or accomplish (Falconer)
  • Just eat it (Brit, Rhiannon and Falconer)
  • Be humble; laugh at yourself; always be learning (Janine)
  • Keep an open mind and try to put things into context.  Also, always have a notebook and pen (Ilham)
  • Even if you don’t have the words, you can always make friends with your talent (Justino y Míles)
  • Laugh and smile and you will make friends (Diana)
  • Ask questions (Julie–like you don’t know which!)
  • Always have a scarf and a sweater (Marisa and Cynthia)
  • Always bring at least one or two things that make you look hot–you never know (Sarah)
  • Packing is for overachievers (Erin)
  • Relax.  When the bus breaks down, have a photoshoot! play cards! work on your tan! (Profe)
  • When you don’t have something, whether it’s an object or a skill: outsource (Kate)
  • A good friend is always there for you, no matter the distance or time difference (Alex)

What are your best lessons, from travel or otherwise?  What have the people around you showed you?

Coming Out Party

I’m going to Cuba.  For a semester.  Starting pretty much right after New Year’s.


Sorry I’ve kept this way on the dl, for reasons both personal and logical.  I didn’t know if I would be allowed to apply, I didn’t know if I would get accepted, and I didn’t know if the trip would actually happen.

Even more surprising, is that this idea has been around for a while.  A little more than a year ago I mentioned it casually to my dad, who I assumed would shoot it down.  I should have known better.  As much as dad is always getting all worked up and worried that I’ll get myself into some sort of trouble with my curious, opinionated rabble-rousing ways, I know that we’re basically the same person.  Which means that he wishes he could go to Cuba too.

Since then, the idea was in the back of my mind.  After Egypt I knew I wouldn’t be staying in this country long, but due to co-op I would have to stay at least six months.  I casually mentioned the idea to a few friends as a “someday” possibility at the end of the summer, but then I let it drop.

One Thursday, I panicked and thought the deadline for Cuba was closer than it turned out to be.  At the idea of not being able to go, I suddenly realized the myriad reasons why I absolutely NEED to go.  By that Tuesday I had applied.

Since then it’s been my bizarro little secret, with only Sarah, Alex, Marisa and my immediate family in the loop.  I saw no reason to get everyone all worked up if I didn’t get in.  But now I’m going.  So there!

I feel like this is a press conference.  But given the last sentence of the previous paragraph, a press conference for a toddler.

I want this blog to be a lot more interactive.  I love travel, politics, language and culture, but I also love education.  I love educating myself and I love the act of spreading knowledge, which is a big part of why I started this blog.  Many of you will never go to Cuba or Egypt, or any third (or second!) world country.  But I will.  So much of what we hear about these places is misunderstood, over-simplified or flat-out false.

So live vicariously through me.  Leave comments with your questions.  Do you think I’ll be safe?  Do you think I’ll be able to send/receive mail?  Do you think people will hate us there?  Do you think people will speak English?  I want your impressions of Cuba.  Does it make you think of Scarface and cigars, or Hunter S. Thompson and rum?

I promise to answer the questions, especially the safety one.  I already know answers to some of them (especially the safety one!) but I would love to hear your impressions of Cuba, whether they’re based on books and movies or our President and the news.

Alan Khazei for US Senator

Monday night, Alan Khazei (rhymes with “hazy”) spoke at a women’s forum.  There are only 47 days left until the special election for Teddy’s seat, and Khazei is running against AG Martha Coakley, Rep Mike Capuano, and that guy from the Celtics

I am ever the delegate, so of course I analyze his speeches and q&a the way I would any member of my team. 


What he got right:

  • Political lineage, AKA passing the torch.  He framed himself as a natural heir to such politicians as Lincoln, Teddy Kennedy, Tip O’Neill, Mayor Kevin White, Obama, and even (the relevent) Clinton
  • The trappings.  He had a cute little black girl sing the national anthem.  He let his daughter interupt him (adorably, after raising her hand) whenever she wanted.  He praised his wife endlessly, and let her have the last word. 
  • “Ask me about Alan.”  The constant use of his first name simultaneously makes him sound more friendly/approachable and less foreign/Middle Eastern.  I really dislike that he has to tread lightly around his Iranian heritage, but it’s a political reality and he has done it well.  He has played up the “son of immigrants/American Dream” narrative, and emphasized that his mother is Italian.  Whenever he mentions his father, he brings up that he is a doctor (read: respected, non-terrorist citizen) and that he raised him to love America, “the only country that accepted him with open arms.” 
  • His resume.  Co-founder of City Year, inspiration and protector of/for Americorps, founder of Be the Change.  This guy’s made a name for himself in social entrepreneurship.  How do you argue with that?
  • His treatment of Obama.  He showed how they are similar, but noted that he is also his own man.  He frames himself as a valuable member of Obama’s team who can play the role of the loyal dissident when the team needs him to, when Obama has to tow the line but needs to hear another perspective.  Well played, sir. 
  • His response to his competetors.  Coakley’s doing a great job as AG, we can’t afford to lose Capuano’s strength in the House, and after the Sox’ early elimination, we can’t afford not to have that guy running the C’s.  Entertaining, fairly truthful and it makes him seem like a helluva guy.  Whoever came up with it first deserves a raise. 


What I didn’t like:

  • Afghanistan.  This went over great with the crowd, but I’m hesitant about maintaining or declining troop levels.  That position is a response to domestic political pressure, but does not reflect the needs of the situation on the ground in Afghanistan.  I want them to come home, too, and I didn’t really want them over there to begin with, but I think we are dangerously close to seriously mishandling the Afghanistan question yet again. 
  • The lack of foreign policy discussion.  Aside from the one Afghanistan question from the audience, there was nothing.  His website is similarly lacking.  I know people like to think about what the senator from Massachusetts will do for Mass, but let’s not forget that the senate has things to say about place outside of the 128 belt.  Outside of the 495 belt, even. 
  • What about Gen X/Y/the millenials/anyone under 40?  I mentioned to Marisa how odd it was that Khazei referred to himself as the “younger generation,” the “new generation,” who was accepting the torch from the likes of Kennedy.  This dude is old.  MY generation is new and young.  Sadly, in politics, 40 is like a teenager or something.  Which could be why he only adressed babies, young children, the elderly, and people my parents age.  Right, because from ages 12-39 people cease to exist.  It’s cool, Alan.  We’re an unimportant demographic anyway. 
  • The softball from the woman down front.  Of course, if this were a conference and he were my guy I would throw him meatballs too, but I like to think I do a better job of crafting a positive, worthwhile question than that woman did.  Also, this was a group of Khazei supporters.  They’re ALL meatballs.  


Bottom line: I’m voting for him.

Backpacking is a good way to travel…

…But not a good way to do anything else.

Included in “anything else”?  Meeting locals, learning the language, getting to know the country, and becoming immersed in the culture.

Lately I’ve been reading a lot of literature (books, articles, blogs) written for, by and about backpackers.  I love travel and it’s all they talk about, so I thought it would be great and inspiring.

Not so.  I think the ’round the world’ deal is impractical.  I would rather go to one region at a time, with similar climates to save space with gear.  This of course would also allow for more time in each individual place.  But I also hate the idea of being just a tourist.  Many of these backpackers made comments about how it doesn’t matter if your clothes are dirty, because you’ll only be hanging out with other backpackers.  Or they made the bold suggestion that hey, every once in a while, you should try some local food.  But only if you’re feeling brave.  And of course, one of my personal favorites, is the total disregard for local culture and values, manifesting itself in attire.  Um no, a two piece bikini is not acceptable everywhere, and neither is a miniskirt. 

A lot of these backpackers seem mostly concerned with hooking up with people of as many different nationalities as possible, looking cute, and seeing tons of countries with no repeats.  So, yes, if you literally want to move from one place to the next, rapidly, while stopping only to sew your wild oats, backpacking is for you.  The physical act of travel (on the cheap) is their specialty.

But that’s not my deal.

I want to live in a bunch of different places, for a few years at a time in each.  The six weeks I spent in Egypt seemed short, and I’m eager to stay somewhere on a slightly-permanent basis.  Even in high school, I immediately knew I wanted to return to Paris for a few years. I was talking about the importance of being there for more than a year with Marisa.  You need to see the way the place cycles through every holidayand temperature change.  How activity waxes and wanes.

Travel shouldn’t be about checking things off your list.  It should be meaningful, it should inherently change who you are, adding to your personality and life story.  In my mind, a lot of experiences gleaned from backpacking are akin to a layover.  You might’ve been there for a bit, and you probably have a couple stories from it.  But what did it really mean to you?  One backpacker can say she went to India, true, but she spent the entire time in her room because it was so “uncivilized.”  In my mind, she got as much out of India as I did out of several hours in Germany.  I can check “drank German beer in Germany” off of my life list, but I don’t know what the countryside looks like.  I haven’t attempted German, or relaxed with locals to get their perspective on…anything, really.

So keep your 36 countries in 52 weeks.  I set my own pace.  I’ll cover the globe.  Eventually.  A place is like good food, and I savor it.