Monday, January 5, 2009
Monday, October 13, 2008
But I was already irritated from a scene that occurred early in the show. The contestants reached Bolivia before dawn, and without proper accommodations, they were asked to camp in a plaza next to a statue of Simon Bolivar. As soon as the sun rose, the campers began their morning rituals.
I was shocked. Here they were in a public square treating it as if they were in their own bedrooms. Men were shaving with electric razors, while women were applying full-on war paint. Foundation, mascara, several colors of eyeshadow, the works. I know they're going to be on television so perhaps they want to add a little color, but I found this ridiculous. "You're traveling around the globe as fast as you can. You're sweating bullets, sleeping very little, and arguing with your partner for all the world to see. Will makeup really help?"
But then I started to get a bit more realistic. In humid weather, my crazy curly hair harkens back to Halloween costumes unless I employ the help of a little hair gel. I love the smell of vanilla, and even when I'm camping I like to have that dab of lotion to make me feel a bit softer, a bit girlier. I don't travel with a lot of jewelry, but I do wear earrings and a watch daily and sometimes a small bracelet.
I could do without the jewelry--except for my rings and a watch--and the vanilla lotion. The hair gel? I'm not sure I can give that up, for fear of scaring children. My question to you is this: when you're on a long trip and you're trying to pack light, what are those non-essential things that you still pack just so you can feel like you?
Wednesday, October 8, 2008
With a little more than two months still to prepare, I decided to make the most of my hour commute each morning. I bought "Learn French In Your Car!" The title is hokey, but I was attracted to the idea that the program was geared to the aural learner. I was also attracted to the reasonable price tag, considerably cheaper than that of, say, Rosetta Stone.
I was so excited yesterday when I decided it was going to be My First Day Of French. The course I purchased contains fifteen lessons. The first few are very basic and practical: Modes of transportation; Simple phrases and greetings, "Important" words (toilettes is very important).
Usually I keep a strict code for myself when I get a new CD and force myself not to skip around and instead to listen straight through. I couldn't resist, though...I wanted to learn how to order a meal. I decided to skip through the tracks for a quick sneak preview.
And that's when my purchase began to feel like something you'd expect to see advertised in a Saturday Night Live skit.
(chime) "Lesson Six: Numbers" (skip ahead)
(chime) "Lesson Seven: More Numbers" (skip ahead)
(chime) "Lesson Eight: Big Numbers" (skip ahead...seriously? why didn't they just put all the numbers together in one lesson...)
(chime) "Lesson Nine: Very Big Numbers" (What?!! are you kidding me?! @#$%$&*(#@)
Four out of fifteen of these lessons are just numbers. My husband, the king of moral support, reassured me by mentioning that you never know when you'll need to order 30,000 baguettes.
But the Very Big Numbers? They only go up to 99.
Sunday, October 5, 2008
Unfortunately, there is one memory of that adventure which my brother and sister will not let me forget. Ever. We were all standing in the MARTA station waiting to get on the subway. The place was packed with people, many of them from other countries, and it was hot, dark, and deafening in that station. After a long sweaty day at Track and Field and Baseball, we just wanted to get back to our parked station wagon and head home.
My dad was no exception. Like the rest of us, he was eager to get out of the city and into a cold drink. Impatience got the best of him and when the next train rolled into the terminal, my father charged through the throngs of people in order to climb aboard. What he failed to do was read the sign and realize the train was headed in the direction we didn’t want to go. Worried that my family would be separated (this was before cell-phones) I raced after Dad, grabbed his arm, and yelled at him to stop. He was determined to make that train, and after I grabbed and yelled a few more times and my family didn’t follow him, we had a knock-down drag-out fight in the middle of the MARTA station. Dad was pissed thinking we had missed the train, and I was pissed that he wasn’t listening to me. Mixed with thirst and fatigue, it was a terrible combination and we both showed our worst sides as a result.
I remembered our family blow-out as I watched this week’s episode of The Amazing Race. So many times these teams run into trouble simply because they don’t stop for a second and collect themselves. One brief moment to re-read a clue, listen to a partner, or ask for help would solve so many problems. Twice the divorced girls made huge blunders just because they were being careless. The southern blondes, the fratties, and the brother and sister team all drew blanks as they stared at the wall of phrases. People lost their tempers and their logic, but in the end what they lost the most was time. All that rushing around and scheming to get the first cab ultimately didn’t help them a bit.
When you travel, you’re undoubtedly going to encounter something stressful and maybe totally unfamiliar. Just take a minute, breathe, and think before you find yourself hopping on the wrong train.
"They didn’t even say HI to us!"
The cute African-American girl: "Our faces don't get red."
"I don’t mind playing dirty as long as I'm the one that benefits from it."
"Girls from South Carolina are not stupid. We might be a little slow but we’re not stupid."
"I have a lot of things in my life to be thankful for. I have my health, I have my parents, I have my looks, and I have Stephanie."
Tuesday, September 30, 2008
- speaks Spanish.
- is originally from South Carolina.
- loves to travel and does it often.
- is a fantastic writer and editor.
- puts others before herself, as you will gather from the following news...
Months ago, Julie and her husband started a project with some teens in Colombia. They've been slowly teaching the students about writing and videography for the Internet. These kids are putting together some terrific stories about their home and posting them on the web so others can learn about life in Mompox, Colombia.
A project like this requires equipment and some supervision. Julie's been collecting donations on her website, but it's slow-going. Recently she came up with a brilliant idea that will hopefully earn a bit more money for the Voices in Mompox operation.
In return for your small donation to the project, Julie and Francisco will let you stay in their awesome Mexico City apartment --rent-free! Give just a little money to the kids of Colombia, and you can be chilling in some swanky digs in Mexico, walking the same streets as Che Guevara and Frida Kahlo, and munching on tortillas you could never find this side of the border.
Go learn more about Julie and the kids. You will be impressed.
Sunday, September 28, 2008
I also love watching the teams either bond or break during the stresses of The Race. I’m a big believer in traveling with a partner—when I know that partner and his or her travel style. Each season, some of the Amazing Race teams are made of either people who haven’t traveled together much, or worse, people who haven’t know each other very long. I wouldn’t want to be stuck in a cab with them, but it makes for excellent televiewing. I think a couple that recently started dating might benefit from a trip together, but maybe they should start with a 4-day weekend in Maine rather than a nationally televised trip around the world. And the estranged couple from Tampa (I promise we’re not all like this!) should be working their issues out with a marriage counselor, not an American Airlines ticket agent.
Nevertheless, you can bet I’ll be watching.
Some random thoughts:
*Most girls from South Carolina can be classy without wearing pearls everyday. They are insane. I don’t own pearls, and I even know about Beethoven and shit. I got yer classy right here.
*I’m surprised to see the beekeepers on this show. I wonder if they even own a TV.
*How will the Tampa lady keep her hair bleached throughout the month-long trip?
*If I could ever convince my sister to do this, I can assure you we would not be wearing matching outfits.
*The Tampa women to her sorta husband, in Brazil: “You were supposed to know how to do the Spanish.”
*Terence, the running coach to his new girlfriend Sarah: “Can you not outrun me? I appreciate your speed, but you have lapped me every time.”
*Terence, again, tearing the girlfriend down: “You can’t climb and talk.”
*Beekeeper lady: “Bees are much calmer than all of this!”