Tag Archives: education

Six Summer Faves

Since this week marks the start of school for my area, I decided to reflect on my own summer. While I didn’t have any big trips planned and faced some difficult challenges, it turned out all right!

I decided to experiment with a different type of travel this year. Instead of taking time off work, I utilized my days off for maximum adventures. This mostly involved weekend road trips. Although my per-day costs of travel mostly increased with this style of trip, I wasn’t losing money by not going to work. I was also motivated to pack more into each day of these shorter getaways. As a result, here are my top six favorite trips of this summer!

6. Southern Oregon Staycations

5. Lava Beds National Monument

 

4. Bend, Oregon

3. Eugene and the Oregon Coast

2. Redding to Tahoe, California

1. Lion Sleepover at Wildlife Safari

Even though my schedule changes at the end of summer, I’m still determined to travel. I especially want to since it’s hard to travel in Oregon right now- everything’s up in smoke! Recommend where I should go next in the comments.

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Roars and Snores and So Much Mores!

Last weekend, I went camping. With lions.

Despite being only about an hour and a half away from my home, I felt as if I had somehow been transported to an African safari. I rode around in safari trucks with guides who knew a lot about the dozens of animals we passed. And before falling asleep in my tent, I listened to the carols of a pride of lions.

In reality, I was at Wildlife Safari near Winston, Oregon. I’ve been to this drive-thru safari experience a few times, but that wasn’t in the plans for this trip. I was there to take part in Roars and Snores, which involves a sleepover inside a lion enclosure, plus a jam-packed itinerary for animal enthusiasts. The event description on their website was somewhat vague, so I knew I was in for a weekend of surprises!

I arrived at Wildlife Safari an hour before Roars and Snores began. This was the perfect amount of time to enjoy the free Safari Village, which has a petting zoo, taxidermy room, and dozens of animals you can’t see in the drive-thru safari. There’s also an overlook to the lion enclosures, where I saw staff setting up for the night’s experience. Then I went to the gift shop to check-in. I was told to have a seat in the restaurant where guests would soon enjoy dinner and a presentation.

The barbecue-style dinner was delicious, with enough food and variety for everyone to eat as much as they wanted. Several zookeepers showed us slideshows about two animals we would see that evening: lions of course, and also bears. I learned a lot about these beasts, like how lions “carol”, which is a sort of role call using roars.

After everyone was stuffed, we walked it off on the way  to the nearby lion enclosure. The keepers explained how they don’t train Wildlife Safari’s animals to do tricks like a circus might. However, they do need to train the creatures in some ways to make sure that they stay healthy. For example, we got to watch the lions mimic their trainers by lifting up their paws, and that way they could be inspected for injuries. Each lion who did this was rewarded with raw meat kebabs. However, no one at Wildlife Safari forces the animals to do anything. These snacks were a good encouragement to get inspected and go into their nighttime shelter, but if a lion chose not to do this one night, then the staff would record this and try again the next day, but otherwise let the lion be.

Since these aren’t truly “trained” lions, we got to see some of their wild instincts up-close through the safety of a fence. When the lions saw the children in our group, or even adults squatting down, they would pace in front of that person. In the wild, lions often go after smaller prey because it’s a more guaranteed victory for them. But some of these lions’ habits weren’t the same as a wild lion. In this pride, a female was in charge. Typically a male would be the head of a pride, but since the two adult male lions were rescues, the females had more skills. The adult males are also kept separate from the cubs so that a male cub doesn’t try to overpower an adult male like they often do in the wild.

After the lions went to bed for the day, we hopped on the safari trucks and headed over to the bear enclosure. On the way, we passed through parts of the African and North American sections of the safari, so we got to see several species along the way. When we got to the bears, I watched them eat watermelon, play with boxes, and take their medicine. It was a great experience, but I hope I don’t get that close to a bear in nature!

By the time we were bussed down to the lion enclosure with all of our camping gear, it was getting dark. I don’t think I’ve ever set up my tent after sundown before, but it was accomplished! We were rewarded with a campfire and s’mores. Maybe the event should have been called Roars, Snores, and S’mores!

I really liked how the staff thought of everything to make the stay as pleasant as possible. Besides dinner and s’mores in the evening, ice chests full of beverages were available. This was especially helpful since I had left my water bottle in my car parked a mile away. An outhouse was places in our lion enclosure to use at night, but there were a few opportunities to use the Safari Village restrooms before that. (As a note, Safari Village is really cool after the park closes and the usual guests have left.) Even a continental breakfast was provided, which wasn’t mentioned in the information online.

Although this event is called Roars and Snores, neither of those happened until after I had crawled into my sleeping bag for the night. Lions use their roars as a way to keep track of everyone else, so when one lion roars, the others roar back. When the lions listen to this “carol”, they are able to tell if someone is missing, or if a stranger participated in the carol. They did this roll call (or is it a “roar call”?) several times at night before the roars of the lions were replaced by the snores of the other campers.

I awoke the next morning to more lion carols- quite the alarm clock! I got ready foe the day, tore down my campsite, and leisurely enjoyed the continental breakfast. Two African cranes noticed that all of us humans were caged up and walked over to the outside of our fence. It was like they had gone to the zoo to see the people exhibit!

Our first activity that morning was to go inside the enclosure that the lion cubs would use that day. We took cardboard boxes, spritzed them with perfume, and placed them around the enclosure. Apparently lions love playing with boxes and the scent of perfume interests them, but I think it also helped that the keepers placed meat in some of them! Once we were all safely outside of the enclosure, the lions were released and had a blast!

The last activity of Roars and Snores was with a big cat that can’t even roar. Everyone had the opportunity to get their picture taken with a cheetah. 

It’s hard to believe that thia all took place in less than 24 hours- they packed a lot into this short vacation! If this sounds like something you would like to do, check out Wildlife Safari’s website regularly for announcements about upcoming Roars and Snores sleepovers. They also sometimes offer an event that includes dibner for both you and the lions, bur without the campout. Your group could also book a private event that includes a lion encounter. Even if none of these are available for the date you want to visit, I’m sure you’ll still have a great time at Wildlife Safari at the drive-thru or in an animal encounter. 

PS- Discounted tickets are often available on Groupon, good for either drive-thru admission or an elephant car wash!

Transitioning to Travel Life

I’m going to guess that most people reading this don’t get to travel like it’s a full-time job, likely because they have a full-time job. However, many travel bloggers you can find on the internet do get to travel full-time, or at least most-of-the-time.

I am not one of those bloggers.

Although I was basically jobless for the three months I backpacked Europe (I made a little from freelance writing, but probably under $100), I have spent the rest of my adulthood scheduling travel around work. If I didn’t work, I couldn’t travel.

Now I’m thinking that most of you readers can relate to me better.

Most of the best travel blogs out there are written by people who travel like it’s their job, because it IS their job. When they go over how they manage things, it’s a little hard for the rest of us to relate.

I’d like to try something on this blog over the next few months that I’ve never seen successfully completed on other “indie” travel blogs. Instead of waiting until I am successful to tell you about my success, we’re going to start with explaining what I’m doing right here, right now.

Web Marketing for Booking Site

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I booked this stay at Sacramento International Hostel through Hostelz.com!

I got my newest job just a week ago! I now work for Hostelz.com as a web marketer. I’ve written hostel reviews and location descriptions for this site for years now, so it’s nice to finally work for them for more substantial pay. The biggest advantage of this job is that while the company is based in Texas, I’ve never been to Texas and won’t have to go there for any work reasons. I can work from anywhere that I can connect to the internet. Another advantage is that part of this job involves visiting travel blogs that I may have not noticed before, so I’m getting some new travel information. Of course, there are downsides, but they’re pretty typical of location-independent work. One thing I’m not sure is an advantage or disadvantage is that I only get paid for completing something. The downside is that, unlike most jobs, I don’t get paid to take breaks. The upside is I have more control over how much I make.

Travel Blogging

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While travel blogging doesn’t earn much, the perks are nice, like getting to review this Ellie Claire journal on my Mediterranean Trek!

This is still definitely more of a hobby, but I try to monetize when I can. For over a year now, I’ve included affiliate links to Hostelz.com, and recently when I’m trying to earn extra money with Swagbucks, although these haven’t been too successful yet. (But I do appreciate when you go through my links to book- it earns me a bit of money with no extra cost to you!)

You may have also noticed that I recently posted my first sponsored post. FatJoe contacted me a few months ago asking if this blog would be willing to host sponsored posts. My initial reaction was worrying that I would end up trapped posting subpar content advertising things I didn’t care about. But when I found out that I had control over what I could accept and that they would only submit things to me when they knew they were relevant for this site, I became more willing. Having only received one post from them over the past few months proves that they know their clients well, but resulted in only a few dollars coming my way.

It’s been somewhat profitable to guest post for other travel blogs. I recently was published for my third time on Travel Fashion Girl. I try not to write for free on blogs unless I can tell it will greatly help with networking. I think TravelingMom has potential for this. I’ve also joined a few travel writing networks such as The Aspiring Travel Writer, which has helped a lot with motivation.

While travel blogging hasn’t done much in terms of finances, it has always been nice to have sponsors!

Non-Travel Writing

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I’ll get to West Monroe, Louisiana eventually. But getting to interview Duck Dynasty stars may be the next best thing.

Who said the digital nomadic life had to be entirely travel-based? While I do write a lot online about travel, much of my writing is about different topics. Some of the recent work I sold will be used in Devozine and Young Salvationist.

I am also the editor of Girlz 4 Christ Magazine, a free magazine for teens. I’ve been working on it for five years as a labor of love, but I’ve been making connections for advertisers and review products. More recently, it seems like it will become more successful financially! As a bonus, I’m able to rework some of my content from this magazine for others. (Anyone want to buy an interview with Duck Dynasty stars John Luke and Mary Kate Robertson?)

Still Working Locally

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Sometimes you can even find faraway lands locally. How about this Japanese garden in Lithia Park?

All of the above is nice, but I’m not ready to leave local work yet. I did, however, leave the job that took up most of my time a week ago. I’m still doing childcare and working at the Magdalene Home.

Right now, I’m not willing to give up local work because of its many intangible benefits! It keeps me better connected and involved in the community. My hours are flexible enough that I can still travel. And of course, it’s nice to have a semi-regular source of income.

And What About Traveling?

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My backpack and I are always prepped for any adventures offered!

When I moved back to Oregon and started planning my European trip, I thought travel work would go right in hand with actual travel. Not so! Although I haven’t read any other travel bloggers admitting it, I think the secret to location-independent work is to make sure it works at one location before throwing travel into the mix.

So I haven’t done much travel lately, except for local day trips. I do want to make sure that my above location-independent jobs (especially Hostelz.com) are a viable source of income and keep my interest over the long term. Since my disposable income isn’t much right now (mostly because I bought a car), I’m having extra fun researching ways to travel for even less, or maybe free! But just in the past 24 hours, I’ve already started planning two different trips that I can take thanks to this kind of life!

As I continue transitioning to a more travel-oriented life, what details would you like to learn? 

A Tale of Two Parthenons

I have visited two Parthenons. What, you didn’t know there were two of them? You’re probably aware of the most famous Parthenon sitting atop the Acropolis in Athens, Greece. I visited that one a few months ago as part of my three-month Mediterranean Trek.

But this wasn’t the first Parthenon I’ve been to.

Several years ago, I took my first “official” solo trip to Nashville, Tennessee. Like most visitors to this city, I enjoyed the music scene, but I also explored other elements of Nashville, like its history, its Bible belt Christianity, and its parks. Yes, Nashville has some excellent parks that alone may be enough to warrant a trip! There’s the huge Bicentennial Park, the Riverfront Park along the Cumberland, and Centennial Park. The centerpiece of Centennial park is a full-scale replica of Athens’ Parthenon. Seeing this Parthenon is what initially motivated me to visit Greece.

Although Tennessee’s Parthenon is a copy of the one in Greece, each have their own unique characteristics. If you’ve seen one, you may want to plan a trip to go see the other. If you have yet to see either, maybe this comparison will help you decide which to see first!

History

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The Acropolis in the center of Athens

Athens: Obviously, Athens’ ancient Acropolis and Parthenon has a long, rich history, so I’ll just go over some of the highlights that makes it what it is today. The Parthenon was built in ancient Greece as part of the Acropolis, or “City on High”. However, it wasn’t actually a city, but a mountain in the center of Athens where several temples were erected for various gods. The biggest, the Parthenon, was dedicated to Athena, a goddess who is the virgin patron of her namesake city. After thousands of years, the building is understandably in ruins, but some events, such as thievery and an accidental explosion when it was used for military storage, left it in even further shambles.

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The Parthenon in the center of Centennial Park

Nashville: The Parthenon’s replica was one of many buildings constructed on a piece of acreage in celebration of the city’s 100th year. The land aptly became known as Centennial Park. If you visit today, the only building you’ll find in the park is the Parthenon. What happened to all the other buildings? All of the exposition buildings were made to be temporary, but Nashville citizens fell in love with their version of the Parthenon. They protested until the city officials decided to make some structural adjustments to the Parthenon so that it would stand the test of time.

Location

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Behind me is another temple dedicated to Zeus. If you look in the background, you can see that the Parthenon is visible from most other ruins.

Athens: The Parthenon is located on a hill called the Acropolis, in the center of downtown. Back in the day, it was a convenient reminder for the Greeks to pay respect to their religion, especially since they could only travel by feet or chariot. Today, it makes it conveniently located for travelers, who may not even need to take the subway to reach it! I stayed at two hostels in Athens. Most of my time was spent at Athens Backpackers, but one night was spent in AthenStyle. Both of these hostels had a rooftop lookout where you could see the Parthenon, which was especially beautiful lit-up at night. During the day, it was just a short walk (albeit uphill) from both of these places to reach the entrance.

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Downtown Nashville in the backdrop of the Parthenon

Nashville: Because this park was created one hundred years after the downtown area was established, it’s a couple of miles away from other city sites. That doesn’t mean that the Parthenon isn’t accessible, though! Since many people drive to Nashville, they will appreciate that it’s much easier to park here than it is in the city center. I did not visit with a car, but there were several days when I would walk both in the downtown and Centennial Park areas. I stayed at Music City Hostel, which was at an ideal location between the Parthenon and other Nashville attractions.

Condition

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Scaffolding to help preserve the ruins of Athens’ Parthenon

Athens: As mentioned above, the original Parthenon is in disrepair. However, there are people working on its preservation. Many of the original attached pieces of art were taken by the British. (I would love to see a fight break out in this post’s comments about whether or not they were stolen!) Other remaining pieces were moved to the neighboring Acropolis Museum. Regardless, this is in every sense an ancient ruin, and visitors have to stay behind the roped-off area which is several meters away from the Parthenon itself.

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One of the art pieces inside Nashville’s Parthenon

Nashville: Unlike the Athens version, this replica invites people to come inside! While it’s not made with expensive marble like Greece’s, it is structurally sound and fully intact. In addition, of the original Parthenon’s sculptures were replicated and displayed on this Parthenon’s exterior. In other words, it is not a replica of the Greek Parthenon as we see it today. Other than the material it’s made of, it looks exactly like what the Parthenon would have looked like shortly after its construction.

Features

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I’m standing on Areopagus with the Acropolis entrance on the hill behind me

Athens: Surrounding the Parthenon are several other ancient Greek temples. Because it’s on a hill, the views of the city are stunning from up here. Although you can’t touch any of the buildings, you can walk among many pieces of original marble lying around. On the side of the hill is also a historic site that includes two theaters. If you’re into art, you will only see replica sculptures at the Acropolis, but visiting the Acropolis Museum down the hill may be worth the admission. My favorite thing to do at the Acropolis was listen to Rick Steves’ audio tour, which you can download for free onto your phone. On this tour, he even mentions the merit of the other Parthenon, located in…

Nashville: Entering through the basement of the Parthenon, you’ll find lockers and a gift shop. You can then walk up through the next several floors, which is a history museum. The displayed history is a combination of Nashville history (particularly pertaining to the Parthenon) and ancient history of the Athens Acropolis. When you reach the top level, you’ll find yourself face-to-face with a 42-foot statue of Athena, the tallest indoor sculpture in the western world. This is a replica of what was originally found in the Athens Parthenon, but no one knows what happened to that one. It’s even painted in the gold and bright colors that all the Acropolis statues were once painted with. (Though they did use fake gold instead of the real thing!)

Cost

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Athens light up the Parthenon

Athens: Admission to the Acropolis is typically 12 euros, or free for those under 19. I was fortunate enough to be in Athens during European Heritage Days. During this last weekend in September, all visits are free! (A few other Greek holidays also provide free admission.) The ticket also includes admission to other ancient Greek sites around Athens, so this ticket alone may be your only expense in Athens besides, food, accommodations, and transportation. If you don’t want to see the Parthenon up-close (although I don’t see why you wouldn’t want to!), there are several surrounding hills and buildings that offer a great view.

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Nashville lights up the Parthenon

Nashville: Normal admission is $6 for adults or $4 for children and seniors. There are sometimes events outside of normal museum hours that would involve a different rate. However, if you don’t want to go inside (again, I don’t see why you wouldn’t want to!), no one can stop you from enjoying the exterior, and the rest of Centennial Park, for absolutely free! Unlike the other Parthenon, you can touch, walk on, and get up close to building at no expense. It’s even lit up at night like the original! The only caveat is that it’s not on a hill, so you can’t see it outside of Centennial Park.

Which Parthenon would you like to visit next? Let me know in the comments!

 

What to Expect with a Letter to Juliet

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Before even watching the movie “Letters to Juliet”, I was excited to go to Verona as part of my Mediterranean Trek. So I planned out my visit to this city mainly by borrowing the movie from a friend. The only mistake I made was that I booked a mere two nights in Verona, leaving me with just one full day to experience all that this quaint city has to offer.

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My first night in Verona was spent arriving by a delayed train, then struggling in the dusk to find where my BnB was before finally giving in and taking a cab, so I didn’t see much in the midst of that stress. I started the next day bright and early with a walk to Juliet’s courtyard. This is what you see in “Letters to Juliet”, and it’s the perfect place to write a letter to Juliet! Because I got there early enough, there were only a few other people there. I found a quiet place by the grafitti wall of love to write my letter. In the movie, you can see women sticking their letters into the cracks of a wall. You can still do that, however, to make sure that a secretary of Juliet receives your letter, there are better practices in place now. The best thing to do is stick your letter in the red mailbox. Alternatively, if you go inside the house, you’ll find computer kiosks where you can e-mail her!

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I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go inside the house at the time, so I headed over to the area where you can find Juliet’s tomb. It turns out that you can get a discount by getting a combination ticket to Casa de Giulietta and the museum with her tomb, so I did that. The tomb was the best feature of the museum it’s housed in, but there are other art and artifacts to enjoy as well.

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I eventually went back to the house, Casa de Giulietta. Inside were a lot of artifacts from some of the Romeo and Juliet movies, such as costumes and a prop bed.

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But the best part of the Casa was getting to stand on Juliet’s balcony, and pondering “Wherefore art thou?”

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While foot traffic inside the Casa wasn’t so bad, the courtyard was getting jam-packed with tour groups and other visitors. Here’s a tip: If you want a truly magical and meaningful experience with Juliet, go in the morning before the day trippers roll in!

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I went to the courtyard for a third time in the evening, and it was even more crowded then! But this is when I enjoyed putting my own graffiti on the wall entering the courtyard. I’m not a vandal, it’s actually encouraged!

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In another spot of the courtyard is the only place in Europe where it’s actually encouraged to place a love lock, as it will eventually become a part of an art piece. (But seriously, don’t put a love lock anywhere else! I saw locks on every fence and bridge in every city I went to, and it just looked inconsiderate and trashy.)

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There are a lot of other things to do in Verona, such as go to the Arena, walk by the river, or explore the castles. I did some of these things, but since none of them are directly related to Juliet, I’m going to fast forward to today.

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I had heard it would take a long time to get my letter back from Juliet. I was hoping it would arrive to my house around the time that I came back from the Mediterranean, but such was not the case. I kept it in the back of my mind, and thought about it sometimes when I went to get the mail. But today, I was totally not expecting it!

I opened the mailbox and grabbed the letters out. One had an Italian postmark, and the return address said it was from “Club di Giulietta”! I squealed in excitement. I scared my dog by my squealing. I hope the neighbors didn’t hear me squealing. I raced back to the house so I could carefully open the envelope.

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I don’t remember exactly what I wrote to Juliet, but it was a decent-sized letter that could be summed up as “where is he?” I was honestly just expecting the response to be a canned sentence on an index card. I was surprised at how much thought was put into the letter I received! Here are a few of my favorite quotes from the letter.

“Finding love isn’t easy. In fact, it should be something they teach in school along with how to manage your finance and finding a job that you like.”

“Some people fall in love quickly- others warm to it slowly. But there is one common thing about it- that love doesn’t happen if you don’t take action.”

“Take the plunge- and live it, not dream it.”

By the way, while I would definitely encourage a trip to Verona if you can, you don’t need to go there in order to get a letter from Juliet. Just send your letter to:

Club di Giulietta
Corso Sant’Anastasia, 29
37121 Verona, Italy

In an age where it’s rare to receive a beautifully handwritten letter, it’s even more special to receive one from a fictional character!

Letter from Juliet

“Wish You Were Here!” and Other Travel Articles

 

Traveling has allowed me to widen opportunities as a writer. Most of my published work has been devotionals or advice for running camps. But recently, more of my work has become travel-related. Here are a couple to share:

The Essential Travel Packing List for Moving Overseas

This is from a really cool site with resources on how to travel, especially if you’re interested in moving overseas or teaching English abroad. I wrote two pieces for them, and here’s the first to be published, The Essential Travel Packing List for Moving Overseas!

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Wish You Were Here!

I write a lot for Girlz 4 Christ Magazine. I kind of have to, being the editor! I wrote several articles for the Winter 15/16 issue, including an interview with the Silver Ring Thing National Touring Team, a review of my latest favorite devotionals, a handbook for babysitting, and the secret that will have everyone forgetting about their diets as they indulge in your Christmas treats, plus a few others. For the final article in this issue, I decided to take a step back from my traditional writing and make my first-ever photo essay! I really like how it turned out. You can read all of the articles I just mentioned, plus columns from other incredible writers, by getting a free subscription to Girlz 4 Christ Magazine. Click here to visit the website and sign up!

 

How to Survive the Language Barrier

multilingual language barrier

What do I think is the biggest barrier to worldwide travel? Languages. Ugh! Sometimes I just have to throw my head back and ask God if He could have possibly done anything different to take care of the Tower of Babel issue without spurring all these different languages. I mean, really. If everyone in the entire world spoke the same language, wouldn’t you be much more comfortable traveling in foreign countries? Of course, language is one of the cultural differences that helps make each location unique, but there certainly is an advantage to knowing the native language! And a big problem with Europe is that, with each different country I hope to go to, I’ll be exposed to a completely different language.

I have taken multiple trips to Latin America (Mexico and Peru), all which were done during my high school and college years. Because I knew while I was still in middle school that I wanted to visit one of these countries, I began studying a bit of the Spanish language. Having a purpose for learning a language certainly does help when it comes to studying! Fortunately, I had already been given a program that would be a huge help:

rosetta stone

Using Rosetta Stone was a good primer for Spanish vocabulary, and I do appreciate that it uses pictures to help you identify rather than English words. (It’s almost, but not quite, like immersion.) This program was my only real Spanish study experience before my first trip to Mexico. It turned out that everyone in the tourist ports I visited would speak in English, but I was able to decipher many of the signs. Still, I don’t think I would be able to hold a conversation at all!

The next school year, I began taking Spanish class, and would continue to do so through college. I did have a bit of an advantage thanks to my foundation with Rosetta Stone, but the Spanish class itself was taught much differently, and I will say much more effectively. I’m sure it helped a lot to have that face-to-face interaction with someone who was actually fluent! My first year of Spanish class was by far the most effective, and although I was barely conversational at the end of the year, I had all the tools I needed to interact with the people I visited in Peru that summer. I’m not sure if it was because I learned so much by immersion in Peru, or because I couldn’t get my original Spanish class teacher for the following years, but the subsequent years did not seem as effective for me. Sure, I learned some, but not as much as I would have liked. Fortunately, I’m not actually supposed to know Spanish during my time in Spain. (Shh! Don’t tell anyone!)

diverbo

Diverbo is a Spain-based one-week language learning program… for learning English, that is! Spaniards who are book-smart in their English studies, but may not be comfortable in English conversation, come to this retreat where no Spanish speaking is allowed. So how do they improve at their conversation skills? Diverbo gets volunteers from English-speaking countries to spend a free week at a Spanish resort in exchange for talking, talking, and talking. I have been accepted to be on the waiting list for an upcoming program. I really do hope I get selected. Besides, it’s been so long since I last took a Spanish class, I won’t be tempted to utter a word of it. Let’s just hope I retained enough to survive in the city!

If Spanish and English were the only languages spoken in Europe, I would have packed my bags and headed out long ago. But, oddly enough, none of the countries I’m going to are primarily English, and Spain is the only one with primarily Spanish. If I really wanted to converse like a local, I would have to also learn French, Italian, Greek, Turkish, and perhaps a couple more languages. So how to deal with that?

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I recently started taking lessons from Duolingo. At first, I thought it would be most beneficial to learn French. But after a few lessons, I got frustrated with the way words are pronounced and figured that Paris is close enough to England that all I would need was a convincing British accent. So, just while taking a break from French, I started the Italian course. Wow, I grabbed a hold of that language MUCH easier! And while I can’t figure out how to drop French from my Duolingo languages, I don’t have to worry about giving up that commitment. Duolingo is completely FREE and you can choose from many different learning languages including Portuguese, German, and, coming soon, Klingon! Lessons can be completed on a computer or with the phone app. And I’m not sure about other brands of smartphones, but with the Android app, you don’t even have to be online to work on lessons! There are some downsides to Duolingo, though. A biggie is that, unlike Rosetta Stone, it does not try to simulate immersion and heavily relies on translation. I also downloaded the Rosetta Stone app, and while I haven’t really used it since it works slower than Duolingo, I probably should compare the two to see which one will teach me better Italian. Overall, I think Italian will be the best third language for me in Europe since I will spend more time in Italy than any other country, and it will probably be useful in Italy’s surrounding nations as well. One problem is that it has a lot of similarities to Spanish, and I’m already getting them mixed up in my mind!

However, with all this language learning, I have yet to set foot anywhere close to Europe. From what I understand, most Europeans learn English in school as it is the language of business, so maybe I could get by with just that. Or maybe hand gestures and miming would suffice. But I don’t know. What do I need to know about surviving the language barrier in Europe? 

Note: None of the programs mentioned in this post are affiliates or sponsors. I just wanted to voice my opinions about the studies I’ve experienced and I’m interested in hearing about the experiences of others!

Happy (Chinese) New Year!

Chinese New Year is officially on February 19th this year, but the city of Jacksonville, Oregon decided to celebrate it a couple weeks early. Each year, the historic town honors the Chinese workers who contributed so much during the formation of the town during the gold rush by celebrating all the culture and festivities that go along with Chinese New Year.

Several years ago, I managed to get a day off of work to attend the festivities with my sister. I hadn’t been able to do it any other year that I lived in Oregon, but it sure was fun! I wanted to make a point of attending this year, but it just so happened that I was scheduled to work. Fortunately, my job for the day was my childcare job. After asking the mom, we both thought the kids would benefit from a fun day at the Chinese New Year festivities. As an added bonus, it saved a bunch of money by learning about Chinese culture just a few miles away instead of heading on a trip to China!

The main attraction is the parade. Tons of local businesses and organizations get involved. Since it was hard to find a parking space at one of Jacksonville’s most populated days of the year, we had to walk a ways to get to the main street where the parade was taking place. We found a nice empty space of curb near the end of the route just as the parade was beginning.

It started off with some cool classic cars.

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The Southern Oregon University Raiders used this opportunity to promote some of their programs, like foreign exchange.IMG_20150207_103821_909

And then there’s one of the Jacksonville trolleys. I took a tour of Jacksonville in this trolley several years ago, and it sure is fun! During the parade, the seats were filled with orchestra members. That sure beats playing in a marching band!

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Being a parade to mainly celebrate Chinese culture, there were several of the traditional dragons. Some of the dragon cast members had fun getting up in kids’ faces and pretending to bite at them!

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There were several different dance groups. Here was the first one in the lineup:IMG_20150207_105108_982

And there were a few costumed characters. The dragon one was more elaborate, but nothing beats the adorableness of a panda!

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Although this is more British than Chinese, these were performers from the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, so I guess it sort of made sense.

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Several school groups got involved too, such as the school one of “my” kids attend. Another school made their own Chinese dragon costumes.

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And how can you resist the cuteness of a young girls’ cheer team? They did “Go Rams” cheers, since this upcoming Chinese New Year is the Year of the Ram.

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There were quite a few dragons considering that it wasn’t even the Year of the Dragon. This could be a scary parade for some children!

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One group paraded all the animal years, starting with this year’s Year of the Ram. Although I was born in the Year of the Ram (so does that make this year some sort of special anniversary for me?), I think I would prefer to be Year of the Bunny!

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And some old fashioned cars. I think the drivers had fun breaking all the rules of the road as the zigzagged the entire width of the street!

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And bagpipers. Bagpipers are pretty nifty, even though that’s really more Irish than Chinese.IMG_20150207_110410_225

Then again, the parade celebrated many different cultures, not just Chinese. These flamenco dancers seem to prove that…

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…And hula dancing originated from a different land as well!

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This picture didn’t turn out so great since this tractor was going fairly fast, but this daycare turned a cute little tractor ride into cute little rams!

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A historic-futuristic mashup tourist attraction in Jacksonville is their Segway tours. Oh, how I want to try out a Segway!IMG_20150207_111106_339

And even more dragons…

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The parade ended with a decked-out motorcycle!

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When the parade ended, the festivities were nowhere near complete. Special activities all over town were taking place. One advantage of Jacksonville is that nearly everything is within walking distance, even if you have a couple of tykes tagging along! If I had gone by myself or with someone closer to my age, I probably would have enjoyed the artifact exhibitions and the martial arts self-defense class. Since I was with kids, we ended up jumping in a bounce house (well, I didn’t, although it did look like fun!), making crafts, playing games, and learning origami. Although we only went to the activities marked specifically for children, I even had a bit of fun with the challenge to try to transfer marbles in a bowl to another bowl using only chopsticks!

After several hours, we had to leave the festivities, but the events in my day weren’t over yet! After bringing the kids back to their house, I headed over to my own home to get ready for my next event of the day. But I’ll wait until tomorrow to share that experience!

#ThrowbackThursday: SnowEMT

How’s the weather, East Coasters? Haha, I know it’s cold, stormy and snowy there. But I won’t brag about how nice the weather in Oregon has been and how I could walk outside without a coat yesterday. Instead, I’ll talk about snow!

Winter 2012 was my first real snowy winter experience. It was my first winter in Nebraska, and although it was more snow than I had ever experienced, all the seasoned Nebraskans said that it was one of their mildest winters ever.

So on Superbowl Sunday three years ago (wow, was it three years already?) a large amount of snow finally came and I was trapped at the camp I was living at. I wasn’t really trapped because of the snow, but I didn’t have a car. And no one wanted to brave the weather to visit me or pick me up, so I got to eat all the cookies that I made for my one-person Superbowl party. Anyway, I didn’t mean to tell you about my pathetic party. I wanted to tell you what happened afterward…

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You see, I was taking my EMT class at the time, so that was something that was always on my mind. I had gotten a pretty bad leg injury a few days prior since a giant log fell off of a tractor bucket and onto my leg, so I wasn’t able to do much outdoors. But it was snowing for crying out loud, and I needed to build a snowman!

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“Do You Wanna Build a Snowman” was not yet a song on everyone’s lips, but I certainly would have been singing that as I went out to find a good spot to build my creation. I had decided that I wanted something kind of Calvin-and-Hobbes-esque, like an army of snowmen or a snowman missing a head because another snowman used it as a bowling ball. Unfortunately, the snow was too powdery to roll any snowballs. I did, however, find a few chunks of snow compacted from being plowed off the road, so I sculpted those into a round shape. After stacking a few of those together, my first snowman was complete!

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I had problems building a second one. The snowballs did not want to stack on top of each other. The top one kept on rolling off until the snowballs were side by side on the ground. That’s when it hit me: this snowman was suffering an injury! And of course, the standing snowman must be an EMT!

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I hadn’t intended to make my snowmen as gruesome as the ones Calvin made in the comic strips, but I had to show that the snowvictim clearly needed help. I didn’t have any coal, but I did find some peppermint patties in the camp kitchen that made for good eyes, as well as carrots for the nose. I turned one peppermint eye sideways to represent an avulsed eyeball. Then, with the watered-down remains of a bottle of red hair dye, I splattered “blood” on the helpless snowpatient. But not to worry…

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Soon it was SnowEMT to the rescue! Both of the snowmen feature arms made out of marshmallow roasters, but I put a pair of gloves on the EMT (since that’s always the first thing to do at any scene!) I wanted to put my uniform shirt on him, but was afraid that it would get wet, or worse, freeze to the snowbody. So I found a garbage bag and put that on the center snowball before putting my shirt on. I finished the effect with my stethoscope, but of course, I removed that after taking the photos so it wouldn’t get damaged.

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I don’t much care for freezing weather, and I’m sure that someday I’ll create a lifestyle that will allow me to release my inner snowbird. But I know that snow can also bring about some fun adventures.

What’s an adventure you’ve experienced in snowy weather?

#ThrowBackThursday: Winter Weekend at the Creation Museum

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, last year I spent a few days in Petersburg, Kentucky. But I did so much more than just spend a night in a BnB!

The weekend started when I had to drive to Columbus, Ohio to take a test. This test would determine whether I would be able to continue my EMT certification, so the weeks leading up to it were filled with lots and lots of studying! Since I wouldn’t know for several days after taking the test whether I passed or failed, I decided to eliminate the exam result anxiety by leaving the testing site afterward and, instead of heading back north where I was living, continue south. Then I would at least have a wonderful memory of a weekend trip, regardless of whether I passed or failed. (Spoiler alert: I passed!)

I had never driven south of Columbus before, and it was mostly farmland until I passed King’s Island park. Then I swung around Cincinnati and into Indiana for a few minutes before crossing the border into Kentucky. From there, it was a short drive to arrive in small town Petersburg.

I stayed there for two nights, one night for each of the two accommodations available in Petersburg. The first night was an incredibly unique location: a bank! Well, at least a former bank remodeled into a guesthouse. Deborah’s Guesthouses provides unique places to stay in Petersburg, but The Bank sounded the most appealing. Although there were three rooms that you can sleep in, the most coveted one is the former vault!

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Because I arrived well after dark, I spent my first night just enjoying The Bank’s amenities before falling asleep. In the morning, I found a guide that provided information to take a historical self-guided walking tour of the town. It was nice to see how this friendly town looked in daylight.

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I then headed to the Creation Museum, which is just a short drive out of the town and a big attraction for Northern Kentucky. It was surprising to go from small town and farmland to immediately hitting a huge parking lot filled with cars! The dinosaur footprints led me to the front door.

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Inside the Creation Museum is a wide variety of displays supporting the creationist theory of how the world was made.

There was an exhibit on what “Lucy” (often considered the missing link) might have looked like…

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There were Biblical wax characters.

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…and lots of Bibles and other ancient Christian work…

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A recreation of the Garden of Eden allowed a glimpse at what the world might have looked like when it was first formed…

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…along with what kind of animals may have existed back then!

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And then there were displays of how the Earth changed once sin entered. (I especially like the display of how Adam and Eve were eating some sort of berry or grape-like fruit, because there is no evidence to show that the forbidden fruit was an apple!)

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Then there was the Ark Room, where 1% of the ark was displayed. (Answers in Genesis, who owns the Creation Museum, is now building a second attraction called the Ark Encounter, which will feature a full-scale version of the ark, complete with all the Biblical requirements of its features!)

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For lunch, I ate the “Eden Wrap” at Noah’s Cafe, which was ah-mazing!

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There were also some outdoor exhibits, that anyone can visit for free. I loved the petting zoo, with adorable, funny-looking animals like alpacas and camels!

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Because it was winter, the pond by the outdoor garden trails was frozen over. Nessie sure looks cold! DSCF5935

Because this trip took me to the Greater Cincinnati Area for the first time, I had to celebrate by going to Gold Star Chili and ordering my first-ever Cincinnati chili. An interesting combination, but it worked! I like it!DSCF5936

For my second night, I stayed at First Farm Inn Bed and Breakfast. I think I’ve only stayed in a BnB once before, when my church youth choir traveled, the very first year I was in it one of my host homes was actually a BnB. This one was a very different setting, being on a farm. One of the house cats followed me everywhere inside, and even insisted sleeping in my bed (until he attacked my feet in the middle of the night, when he was kicked out into the hallway). I stayed in a very nice room.

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But this BnB had more than just nice rooms. And even more than just nice breakfast. One of the hosts was an actor, and I was given a ticket to attend Godspell where he played John the Baptist/Judas. I had never seen the play before, and after hating the musical Jesus Christ: Superstar, I was expecting a disappointment. Boy, was I wrong! That was a great play, made even better by the cast at Footlighters! Another perk of staying at First Farm is that they have horses. I even got to go out on a riding session with the horse Sundance.

Because all Creation Museum tickets are good for two days, I was planning to spend Sunday at the museum as well. The problem was, overnight, a horrible ice storm hit! Everything was covered in ice; it took several tries until I could get any of my car doors to open, and it took even longer to defrost the windows enough that I could at least see a little bit! All that time, I had to be careful not to slip on the road. I considered just heading straight home for safety, but I thought that the road conditions may get better later in the day, so I carefully headed to the museum. (I stopped along the way for a geocache, but when I found it, I couldn’t even open the container because the layer of ice surrounding it was thicker than the actual geocache!)

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I’m not sure if it was because of the storm, or because it was a Sunday, but hardly anyone was at the museum that day, so I was able to spend as much time as I wanted at each exhibit without having to wait to get a good view or worry about someone waiting behind me. This was a much better day at the museum, and I noticed a lot more throughout, like the live creatures near the entrance… DSCF5949

…or Adam and Eve in the garden right before the serpent came down to tempt them…

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…and this creepy door that kind of stood out from its surroundings like a sore thumb…

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…and how there were workers that built the ark just because they were employed, yet they still thought Noah was crazy…DSCF5968

…and having just taken my EMT certification test, the medical diagrams supporting creationism were of note…DSCF5973

…and even though the “Confusion” exhibit featuring the Tower of Babel was small, it had beautiful art.DSCF5974

Of course with the weather, all the outdoor things were closed that day, but here’s one of my favorite animals from their petting zoo: a zonkey! (And the animal behind him is a zorse.)

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There was an almost-hidden exhibit showing different species of dinosaurs…2014-03-01 17.10.37

…and even some geological finds…

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All in all, it was a busy, jam-packed travel weekend, and the snow-covered drive home just made for another adventure. In closing, here’s a picture of me with “Lucy”.

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Don’t forget to sign up for your $25 AirBnB credit, so that you can stay in some crazy cool accommodations like the ones featured above!