However, all things even dreams coming true must come to an end and mine did on March 9, 2006 when I landed at the Newark International Airport.
I've been in the U.S. for 1 week. It feels completely normal yet a bit strange to be back home. I was abroad for over 2 1/2 years (two years in Japan).
People keep asking me, "how was it?" I actually have no words to describe the last 7 months of my life. I have been/was living my dream. I hope you have or will have the opportunity to make one of your wildest aspirations come true. It is an amazing and empowering feeling.
Please note that I plan on writing several more posts about my travels in the very near-future. Then I'm not sure about the future of this weblog because I've changed, things changed, and I can't figure out how blogging will fit into my current reincarnation.
I recommend these airlines, bus companies, and tour agents!
Air Asia (For budget flights in Southeast Asia)
Emirate Airline (The best international flights I've had in my life.)
Continental Airline (Got a one-way $193USD fare from Dublin to Newark!)
Ryan Airline (For budget flights in Europe)
I highly recommend these hostels!
Travel/Work Abroad Programs I used and changed my life!
Volunteering in India (no program fee)!
I have a quiet truth that I must share with you all. I'm in mourning. For what you ask? For my former life. I miss Japan but the bigger truth is that I miss what my life in Japan represented- opportunities to travel, exploration, adventure, and lots of fun.
Yes, I did work during my 2 year tenure as an English teacher. However, the teaching bit came a little easy to me. I'm a born organizer and planner, so I was always on top of my lesson planning. Work was easy for me. My after-school life was good, sometimes amazing. I miss knowing that I have 20 days of vacation to use for my pleasure and dreaming and making plans to go to countries in Southeast Asia, East Asia, or Oceania. How many Americans have jobs that give them 20 days of vacation a year? I've also realized that I'm a very social person. I have not having a significant social circle in my life. I have friends in the U.S. but most of the them are on the East Coast or West Coast. I have few friends in the Midwest.
Honestly, I feel like I had an amazing life in Japan. Now I'm back in the U.S. and I feel sentenced to a life of work and no travel. I miss having the opportunity, time, and funds to travel to different countries. I feel like a sort of travel lust monster was created when I landed in Japan.
Please note that the photo was taken by Dr. Mike S.
I've returned to the travel section of the bookstore and it isn't a good thing. I'm getting nostalgic. I'm getting worked up about places such as Tunisia, Kolkatta, and Ghana.
In television news, I'll admit that I watched Dateline's interview with pop star Britney Spears. As I watched the interview, I realized that the U.S.A. education system (K-12) has failed many people in our society. Why can't Britney talk intelligently? Matt Lauer, co-host of the morning talk show Today, asked Ms. Spears about the qualities that she values in her husband wanna-be rapper Kevin Federline, she said, "His heart is awesome." Yeah, ok!
I feel sorry for Britney because the U.S. tabloids have been very mean to her in the past few months. I check out Us weekly from the library and read Star as I stand in line for groceries, so I know these things. Of course, she couldn't have known that marrying someone who seems very loser-ish would bring on the contempt of American tabloids. I do think Britney needs some a little more media training so she doesn't chew gum and sound so dumb in TV interviews.
Today is a reading day. My goal is to complete On Writing Well which is a simple yet brilliant book about writing. However, instead of reading the book, I've been worried about my next step in life. What is a young woman with a fine education, strong writing skills, a love of travel, and no foreign language mastery going to do for money? I'm stumped too! I'd also want to continue indulging in my love of travel which means I need more than 2 weeks of vacation per year.
When my mind ventures into this territory, I kept thinking about applying to this organization. I even thinking about joining this organization too. During the fall of 2002, I applied for a Fulbright grant to study in India and to the JET Program for a teaching spot. I also signed up to take the Foreign Service exams for the U.S. State Department. I got my applications for the Fulbright and JET in on time. But I skipped out on the Foreign Service exam because I had no time to prepare for it (The Fulbright application took up all of my time when I wasn't working full-time or completing a business reporting course to finish my master's degree.). Now I think I could be State Department material but the next test is April 2007!
I consider myself an internationalist, therefore I'm gearing up for the World Cup 2006. I have no idea how I'm going to partake in football madness since I don't have satellite (cable) television. However, I will find a way to keep track of the madness of World Cup. I was hoping to be in Germany at this time getting an up close and personal experience of World Cup madness but it wasn't to be. The next World Cup is slated for South Africa which would be a great excuse to return to the mountainous beauty of Cape Town.
Here are my World Cup 2006 loves and winners!
Group A: Everyone says it is all about the hosting country, Germany but I'm going to root for Costa Rica. Why? I wouldn't mind traveling to Costa Rica in the near future and I can't root for Germany unless they are playing Brazil. I also have a feeling that Poland is very capable of beating the Germans butts!
Group B: It is all about England and Sweden in this group but I'll be rooting for World Cup first-timers Trinidad & Tobago! The Trinis aren't betters favorites but England seems to be on the downturn due to some injuries of key players. And I think we Anglophiles finally understand that Beckham can't do it all by himself. I'll always have a little Anglophile in me but I'll be praying the Trinis can kick old England's butt on June 15th!
Group C: This is a tough group; third ranked Netherlands and fourth ranked Argentina in the same group with lower seated Ivory Coast and Serbia & Montenegro. I like the Orange and I'll take them over the Argentinians. However, I'm rooting for Ivory Coast because I'm a communard!
Group D: This is another grouping of two top 10 powerhouses; Mexico and Portugal, playing against World Cup first-timers Angola and respectably-ranked Iran. Can I root for 3 teams? Mexico, Angola, and Iran. I do plan on traveling to Portugal but I don't have to root for them. Has anyone noticed that this group includes the former world call colonizer Portugal and one of its former colonies, Angola? They will play on June 8th. If Angola can pull off an upset, I would love to be able to transport myself to Luanda for that celebration.
Group E: Some laughed, some snarled but the U.S. team has proven itself by getting a 5th place ranking in the World Cup. This group is mad competitive with the 2nd seated Czechs, the always on the verge Italians, and lower seated but competitive Ghana. This is such a loaded field for me I don't have a clue who to root for.
Group F: I hope Japan, Australia, and Croatia aren't quaking in their cleats because they are grouped with the legends better known as Brazil. Eighteenth-ranked Japan and Brazil will meet on June 22nd and I'll be rooting for my Japanese peoples. Honestly, I'm anti-Brazil. I hope someone can kick their butts in this group.
Group G: Les Bleus may have the blues! Everyone is talking about France has lost its aura of invincibility. Of course, all empires, including football ones, will eventually fall, except Brazil (at this point in time). This should be an easy group for France through with 3 lower-ranked teams: first-timers Togo, Korea, and Switzerland. I think Switzerland will give France a run for their francs. I'm rooting for Togo. And honestly, I'm not feeling France.
Group H: Another interesting quartet: Top ranked Spain, Tunisia, Saudia Arabia, and Ukraine. I'm cheering for 24th ranked Tunisia. Everyone thinks it is all about Spain and the Ukraine but I know Tunisia can surprise them all.
My last words, I hope anyone wins except Brazil or France. The English would sell Prince William for the that Cup but I think the Czechs have a good shot!
I had a bookstore rule when I first returned to the U.S.- I wasn't allowed to browse the travel section. Why? I knew spending a few hours paging through travel guides would get my wanderlust fired up again. I had been blessed to have a unique opportunity to travel around the globe for over 7 months after spending two years in Japan having a grand adventure and making money. And I still ain't satisfied? Honestly, no.
I have been eyeing this book every time I walked into Barnes & Nobles or Borders. Every time I opened the pages, I was transported into another world. I finally gave in and brought it today. I guess I'm coming to terms with my never-ending wanderlust.
This is a photo of me at the Lake Palace Hotel in Udaipur, Rajasthan, India. I took an overnight train ride from Mumbai's Bandra Terminus to Ajmer, Rajasthan, then a very nice Jain man pointed me in the direction of the bus station. I hopped on a bus to Udaipur. It was a bumpy yet pleasant ride through the dry terrain of Rajasthan. I did all of that to get this photo.
I had heard about the beauty of India's Venice but I wanted to see it for myself, especially Udaipur's crown jewel, the Lake Palace. However, I was more bowled over the sheer magnificent of the City Palace. Oh, I hope to come back in another life as Mewari royalty!
The Lake Palace is a spectacular former palace in the middle of the lake which has been converted into a posh hotel. The only way to see it up close is to stay there or dine there. (The boat tours will take you around it for ample photo ops.) There was no way I could afford accommodations (and continue my travels in Southern Africa) but I could afford a meal.
So, I got dressed up in my loveliest kurta, hailed a rickshaw, and arrived at the ferry pier. I took the hotel's private ferry over and arrived in grand style. Did I add that I was all by myself? I arrived in the middle on a traditional Rajasthani dance performance. I swore that I saw Mr. Naseeruddin Shah playing a board game with a young boy. Then I made my way to the restaurant where I had a nice meal in an extraordinarily decorated room. The service was amazing. I guess it pays to have the big bucks or rupees! The doorman took this photo for me.
Oh, I have a confession to make: I miss India.
My Cousin Jo & her family have been excellent hosts. And I've been enjoying the Irish feat of having multiple types of weather in 1 day! Dublin has blown me away with its beautiful architecture and abundance of living history, plus the streets filled with a multicult of people.