Recognizing the International Day of Refugees

In 1951, the UN Refugee Convention was created in response to the thousands of displaced Europeans following the aftermath of WWII.  Thus, 2001 marked the 50th anniversary of the Convention and, consequently, the first year that June 20th would be recognized as the international day of refugees.

Today’s post is to recognize and consider that as you and I spend time planning trips for leisure, many far less fortunate travel for an acutely different purpose – to flee a life-threatening situation.

The BBC reported today that 2016 grievously boasts the largest number of refugees in recorded history – 65 million or 1 in 113 persons (visit the BBC article to read in full).  This includes 12.4 million displaced persons since 2015, 54% of whom are from Syria, Afghanistan, and Somalia, and half of whom are children under 18 years (all sited from the same BBC article, published June 20, 2016).

Having to give up my neighbourhood, my home, my job, my surroundings, everything I know to escape a horrific situation and find safety is a reality I cannot comprehend.  Much of this blog is devoted to careful preparation of travels – I cannot even begin to imagine the stress, the fear, the anxiety that unravels as these refugees move to unknown lands to stay for an unidentified length of time.

I am humbled by my ability to jauntily travel this world.

Stanzas From District Six (and other places) 

When humans steal humanity

Who does the keeping?

When humans steal hope

Who remains hoping?

When shame and loss intertwine

How do we unwind from the fate?

Is hate the absence of love,

Love the absence of hate?

Are these mutually exclusive

As we yearn to be inclusive?

How do we say we’ve learned from our past

When we still attempt to triumph against

Those different

Or seemingly different

All perception.

Does hate just have a different side?

We say we’ve learned

We say we’ve moved on

Yet our reflection still pierces through the shadow

In the window

On future’s door.


Enjoying Vineyards while Alcohol (or wine) Free 

One of the well-known facts about South Africa is the amazing wines that come from these lands, including the native Pinotage – one of my favourites to sip at home while curled up with a good book. 

A wine tasting was one of the events I was most looking forward to when planning my Capetown travels. And I’m excited to come back with my husband because we both share this love.  (Look how stunning these “sits” would be, wine in hand or not):

   
However, my friend with whom I am currently travelling is more a beer than wine person. I also grew up in a dry household and so am more than slightly aware that wine, and/or alcohol in general, is not on everyone’s list of things they either enjoy or choose to consume. 

On Tuesday when we were done our second wine tasting, Kristen elected to also do a beer tasting (side note: lots of craft beer in South Africa, so you can probably work in a tasting or 2 if you prefer your brew over your grapes…) 

It was in this moment that I thought – what would this day look like if I were here with my mom? My mom doesn’t drink, but loves travel, adventure, and beautiful places like the best of them! 

(Mom, this “sit” is for you):  
What I really liked about all the places we visited is that wine was the focus, but it was not the end point. Kristen and I purposely chose a wine tour that went to smaller wineries…more local and “greener”. In so doing, we didn’t just consume wine; rather, we walked into a chocolate tasting (including dark + strawberry and milk chocolate chai), meat tastings (various biltong and sausage assortments), and a cheese tasting!  All of these items were produced on or around the vineyard’s farm.  

   
Our lunch was overlooking beautiful hillsides and the distinctively rolling greens of the vineyards. Truly breathtaking!  

Below: meat and cheese pairings (I’m sure you would get more if you were only tasting the food) 

   
So, if you’re venturing to South Africa, or any country where wine is a major production, don’t shy away from visiting these beautiful lands. I’d even suggest getting in touch with a smaller travel agency, explaining you aren’t a drinker, and asking for suggestions. 

I love my vino, but even without it would have been a beautiful day with lovely meat, cheese, and chocolate tastings! Enjoy 🙂 

A few more beautiful pics….

   
   

EAT! Gluten Free Capetown 

Oh my goodness…I have eaten and eaten oh so well. From fresh fish to pap to Ethiopian to a gluten free pizza, eating gluten free in Capetown is extremely easy. 

Plus you’re surrounded by amazing vineyards (wine = naturally GF) AND any breweries we have frequented ensure they have cider on tap. 

In sum, ask for GF in Capetown and rest assured that you shall be fine.  

Photo evidence below 🙂 

   
    
    
    
    
   

Beautiful and Eerie 

Yesterday we went to Robben Island. This is where Nelson Mandela was incarcerated for well over two decades and where many other political prisoners (and criminals prisoners) were held. 

Our tour was undertaken by a former political prisoner himself. How he is able to return to this place where he was held captive I will never really understand. 

I have no words. It’s difficult to process something so tragic and also so known to societies.

I could not take pictures of the jail itself. People differ, but for me it did not seem appropriate. Attached is one scenic picture from this island. 

To end, sometimes there are no clear words, there is only mere thought and emotion. And the devotion to learning from history. Which we all can. 

Below – Capetown in the background, followed by a scene from Robben Island, featuring the Atlantic Ocean.    

 

What You Should Read Next

So I know the feeling.  It’s June 1st.  People are looking forward to school ending (if you’re in the teaching/instructing/or parenthood camp) or just setting out for their long-awaited vacations.

And part of you wonders “what should I get ready to read on my trips?!”

Or, “what book should I bring to the pool?”

Well, don’t worry…I’ve got you covered!!!!dubious

Rachel McMillan’s e-novella came out today and it’s INCREDIBLE.  Okay, well, I haven’t read it yet to be honest, but Rachel’s books are delightful and amazing and have amazing reviews because they’re all so divine…so I know this one won’t disappoint!

It’s called “Of Dubious and Questionable Memorable” – no one writes a title like that unless they’re a literary GENIUS!!!!!!

Head to Amazon here and you can download this baby!  It’s ONLY THREE DOLLARS!!!!!  So you’ll be fine.  And if you’ve read her other amazing books, including her DEBUT novel, The Bachelor Girl’s Guide to Murder, then you will be excited for the next adventure with Jem and Merinda.

I am flying to Capetown Friday night and this is going to be my plane read.  So excited!

Happy travels…and happy reading!!!!!  And thanks, Rachel, for your continual awesome prose.

How Technology Hurts Us: Unplugging Your Travels

I don’t need to convince you that technology has both benefits and drawbacks.  Ample evidence, including your own personal anecdotes, show that technology helps us stay connected…but too much ‘technology time’ and we risk:  lost sleep, heightened anxiety, depreciating quality of relationships, isolation, the list goes on…

Technology is also positive.  Ken and I spent our entire pre-marriage relationship in long-distance:  Skype + What’s App were huge advantages for us.

To be sure, technology has helped our society; it’s also hindered us.

Here’s a reality with which overseas internship coordinators must now contend:

More students are leaving overseas internships early since the advent of e-mail and other forms of electronic communication.

In fact, prior to e-mail, my own personal fact-finding ventures have revealed that Canadian students enrolled in overseas internship programmes only left programmes early in extreme emergency situations.  Now, students are abandoning their overseas adventures early despite being able to maintain connections both at home and abroad.

Read the last sentence again.  It is my belief that it is mainly because of the maintenance of those connections.

WHY?  2 key reasons:

  1. Culture shock, the unsettling feeling that occurs when one is thrust into a new environment and does not understand the underlying rules governing social behaviours, is an inevitable consequence of travel.  If you’re staying in a community for a longer period of time (2 weeks +) you will move beyond the first stage of culture shock – the honeymoon period (where you love everything and everyone and travel is so so so amazing in your new place!) into the next stage – frustration & anxiety.  You don’t understand anything…and negative emotions accompany this.

Culture shock includes social, mental, and physical symptoms.  So, a student may feel that (s)he is ill and must abandon the overseas experience and go home…when really (s)he simply has a perpetual flu/cold/new feelings of stress because of culture shock.  One of the best ways to overcome culture shock is to make new friends and engage in life in your new community.

The problem is that if you spend your post-internship hours glued to Facebook or Email or What’s App, you aren’t doing the very thing that could cure your cultural shock symptoms.

2. Life Goes On was a show that my sister and I would watch on Sunday evenings growing up, but only if we were sick and thus couldn’t go to the evening church service.  The whole premise of the show was that despite life’s hiccups, it goes on, and so must you (that’s a ridiculously short synopsis, but anyways…)

In our world of social media, comparing ourselves to others has become a heightened reality that we must fight.  This is true regardless of whether we are travelling or at home.  But when you’re travelling that comparison becomes much more acute.  Because now you also compare your life to those friends and family who are engaging in the life that was ‘normal’ to you.  For example: imagine you’re  a student who lives with 3 roommates who are also close friends.  You do everything together.  Now you are overseas.  Every time you look at pictures of these roommates you become sad/jealous/upset/anxious seeing pictures of them doing the very things that you would be doing were you back home.

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Yet of course staying connected is important.  In fact, some people are now more willing to travel because they can stay connected to back home.  So what can you do?

1 – limit your time on social media. and stop the incessant scrolling.  When you go onto Facebook/Instagram/Twitter/etc. have in your head (or write down) a list of objectives.  Stick to those.  Or, if you’d prefer, time yourself and stick to it!

2 – Find other ways to communicate.  When I first moved to the UAE, I deleted my Facebook account.  My big excuse for staying on at first was “how will people contact me?!”  Well, you know what – there are OTHER ways that people can contact you and, if they absolutely must, either: a) they already know that form of connection, or b) they will find a way.  Most of my closest friends and family had my email or phone number.  Someone wanted to get a hold of me but couldn’t, so she tracked down my SISTER to find out my information!  Maybe sticking to email is an easier way for you to keep ‘sane’ instead of relying on social media.

3 – Connect with home after you connect with your new country.  For example: make a rule that you can’t write a letter/check your email until you’re in your bedroom for the night.

4 – Learn the stages of culture shock and recognize them. You know that feeling of “I just don’t feel like doing anything” or “I don’t want to explore this country…I just want to stay in and read” or “I’m feeling extra tired lately – I can’t believe I’m not over jetlag after one month”…etc., etc.  This is culture shock.  Don’t freak out. Don’t jump on a plane. Get out of the house, even though you don’t feel like it, drag your feet to a museum/colleague’s house/grocery store/something and deal with it!

5 – Just like at home, use social media wisely. I LOVE Instagram and Twitter! And when I’m travelling you better believe I’ll be writing this blog as I go! But all those things you learn about social media – be extra cautious when you’re overseas.

6 – Lots of other things!  Leave your tips in the comments.

So there you have it…be wise, be considerate, be experiential…and don’t spend all your time on your phone while travelling!  According to evidence, it means you’ll enjoy your travels more, get over culture shock, more quickly, and be less likely to abandon ship early!

Happy travelling, readers!