Getting Cupped in Cambodia

So it has been a few Egyptian moons since I posted last but Jade and I are still living in Cairo and doing well. Not just well…really well. In fact, yesterday she told me that this year in Egypt has been her favourite year ever. Words to make a mom smile when deciding to alter the “normal” course for a high school Canadian teen.

Since my last post (November?!!) we spent Christmas in Cambodia. For those who know me, I used to live in Cambodia many many Cambodian moons ago. I was beyond excited to be able to explore the country this time through the eyes of a tourist who had the time to see and do things that my work existence hadn’t allowed so long ago.

While exploring, we came across a traditional form of medicine that I recalled from years ago. There was no way I could have forgotten the circle marks on my colleagues’ bodies as they came to work. The idea of cupping to relieve different ailments had never been on my bucket list nor was it this time!

However, as it was described as a relaxing form of treatment, something akin to massage, my husband was eager to give it a try. After reporting positively, Jade was eager to give it a try as well. The cups are attached to the back using a little heat and the resulting suction leaves a round circle for a couple of days. I must say that it looks much worse than it is! In fact, they both announced that it was a very enjoyable and relaxing experience. As to whether it works or not to help certain ailments, I will leave that for others to decide. In any case, it was an experience that none of us will forget!

My A to Z On Travelling

Age of 1st International Trip

My first international trip was a school trip to West Germany, Switzerland and Austria. I was 15 and stayed awake all night before I flew. I tried to imagine what cobbled stone streets would look like, what people would be wearing, what food I would be eating and these questions kept me wired until I landed. Once I stepped foot outside the airport, I was hooked!

Best Drink

My younger version would say the beer at the Hofbrauhaus in Munich, Germany simply for the fact that I was drinking under age! My older version would say the homemade lemonade in Cuzco that I drank by the gallon last summer.

Cuisine (Favourite and Least Favourite)

My favourite cuisine was in India but even then, at the end of the trip, I was eyeballing the pizzas coming out of Domino’s. Yes, there is such a thing as too much of a good thing! My least favourite was in South Korea. There is only so much red pepper paste and kimchi a person can handle and I had a year of it!

Destination (Favourite and Least Favourite)

This is impossible for favourites. I would go out on the travel limb and say Cambodia, Guatemala, India and Morocco. This will probably change but who knows? My least favourite is South Korea.

Event (most exciting/interesting)

I can’t narrow it down to one so it is a toss-up between the sandstorm in the Sahara desert, the ride through the jungle in Guatemala in the early morning on the way to Tikal listening to the howler monkeys, the first time I laid eyes on animals in the wild in South Africa, cycling down a mountain in Peru or hiking the Inca trail in Peru.

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Favourite Mode of Transportation

My absolute favourite mode of transportation is the back of a motorcycle. My mom and I hired motos in Cambodia and saw the country side with the wind whipping through our hair (or what I had left of it from my bout with malaria). My second favourite is the train which I loved in Vietnam and hope to love really soon, once again, in Sri Lanka.

Greatest Travel Feeling

My greatest travel feeling is when I shared with my family their first experience to travel overseas. There is nothing that beats seeing people you love have their eyes opened to what awaits them via travel.

Hottest Place I Have Lived

I have lived in some hot countries but Suriname takes the hot cake on this one! I would wake up very early in the morning and go to work ( a day care for children with physical and mental challenges) and then by noon, return home to fall asleep stuck to the couch. By 5pm, I would wake up and begin the day all over again. Usually I would go out very late in the evening and stay up most of the night with my friends dancing and partying and then begin it all over again the next day.

Incredible Service

I do not feel comfortable staying in fancy hotels where service is expected nor can I afford to do so! So given that, I would say service in restaurants both in Morocco and in India stand out from the rest.

Journey I Won’t Easily Forget

The ride on the camel in the Sahara Desert hurt the most physically (my butt says never again) and a bus ride in Morocco when my daughter needed to desperately use the bathroom and couldn’t might have been one of the most stressful!

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Keepsake

When we got married in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia (Canada) one of our daughters, aged 11 at the time, bought us an ornament of a bride and a groom getting married. It will always be very special.

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Let-Down Sight

Fish River Canyon in Namibia was this for me! After hours and hours of driving with little to see, we got there and I said, “This is it?”

Moment I Fell In Love With Travelling

When my parents returned from Central and South America and my dad showed me his blow dart gun from the jungles of Peru and my mom showed me packages of junk food that were written in Spanish. I knew I needed to travel.

Nicest Hotel Stayed In

Oh boy there are many.. the one in Ubud in Bali, the many in Morocco, but the one that has the most memories is in Santiago Atitlan in Guatemala (Posada de Santiago) where we could swim in the pool or soak in the hot tub and look over Lake Atitlan surrounded by volcanoes. Truly gorgeous and breath taking. At night we could step outside our little bungalow and watch it storm over the lake while eating snacks bought in the local town. Perfection.

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Obsession With This

Markets… I just love them. I love to take pics of markets, I love to wander them, and every now and then I even buy something. I enjoy pretending like I live there, imagining my life as a local or at the least, as an expat. I can never have enough markets!

Passport

I have had a lot of them in my life and some have been heavily stamped. I have never lost one or misplaced one… knock on wood!

Quaintest Place

I can’t choose just one. It might be Patzcuaro, Mexico or Bevagna or any town in Umbria in Italy or Ollantaytambo, Peru or Santiago Atitlan, Guatemala or Ubud (a long long time ago) in Bali or Luang Praband (a long long time ago) or Pleasant Bay, Cape Breton

Recommended Country

I highly recommend Guatemala if you live in North America and want an inexpensive shorter distance to travel to and a world of experiences to follow. I highly recommend Morocco if you live in Europe and want an inexpensive and shorter distance to travel to and a world of experiences to follow. And I highly recommend India to anyone who wants to have an experience each and every moment. You will never forget it and you may just fall in love with it!

Splurge

We splurged when we visited Niagara Falls in Ontario and took a helicopter ride over the falls. Best money spent. We also splurged in Morocco on nicer accommodations as the country is known for its beautiful older residences (riads) and this was money well worth spent. We don’t do it often but when we do, it is meaningful.

Touristy

Touristy places can be ruined if “tacky” prevails but sometimes touristy spots are eye-opening such as Alcatraz in San Francisco, Times Square in NYC, Angkor Wat in Cambodia, Machu Picchu in Peru, the Colosseum in Rome… just to name a few of my personal favourites.

Unforgettable

I will probably never forget my most miserable experiences (malaria, dengue fever, being robbed, Delhi belly, field hospitals, cockroaches) but it is the most exciting ones that keep me researching where to go next. Travel for me is an addiction…but I choose to see it as a healthy one…I never forget that feeling of a new place and am always looking to replicate it elsewhere.

Visa

Visas are a pain. A royal pain in the backpack! So many countries (particularly in Africa) are requiring visas to be obtained ahead of time. If a visa is needed, those given upon arrival at the airport are my favourites. Unfortunately they are becoming fewer and fewer. 😦

Winning At Travel

I used to think the perfect job was to be a professional travel blogger. Having joined a few FB groups, I have learned that this too has its stresses. Competition can creep into anything… even into travel blogging. I am happy to win at travel by doing what I want to do and not having to research constantly 20 Ways You Too Can Get Off The Beaten Path. Or maybe I am just trying to convince myself….

eXcellent View

I have been blessed to have experienced many views over the years but recently seeing Machu Picchu with my family from Sun Gate stands out as one of the great ones.

Years Of Travel 

Uhhmmm….nope not going to go there but I have had my share of years of travel but more importantly, hopefully, many more to come.

Zillion More Places To See

Well, there is maybe not a zillion more to see but at least a lot! As I get ready to move to Cairo, my travel wish list is becoming more of a reality. Sri Lanka, one destination that has been on the list forever, is soon to be checked off in September! I can’t wait 🙂

Anything you would like to share about my A to Z? I would love to hear from you 🙂

A Travel Interview With My 2 Teens

School is out! Let the travel games begin.

I have my first 2 travel victims, daughters Abby and Jade.

They have so “willingly” accepted my request for an interview.

Where do you want to travel to next?

A – India

J- Bali

What was your favourite Canadian travel experience?

A- Pleasant Bay, Nova Scotia because that is where our family started.

J- Pleasant Bay, Nova Scotia because of our emotional ties to it. Our whole family was there.

What was your favourite American travel experience?

A – Disney World because Splash Mountain cooled me off.

J- New York City because of its’ friggin massive buildings.

What was your favourite travel experience outside North America?

A – Sandboarding in Peru! It was so hard to keep my balance and when I fell sand flew everywhere.

J- Tikal in Guatemala when it was so dark and we were standing in the back of the pick up truck hearing the howler monkeys in the jungle.

What is the funniest family travel moment?

A – When Cheryl had a fit at midnight in the hotel with the man who gave our room away.

J- The Sahara desert fiasco when we were stuck in the sandstorm… the whole thing was a disaster!

Why do you love to travel?

A- Because I learn a lot.  I see different ways of living and it is fun.

J- Travel opens your eyes and mind to so many more things than a book or school education ever could. You see it all right there in front of you.

What is one item you never leave home without?

A- My camera

J- My phone

When you travel, what do you miss about home?

A- My friends

J- Homey food that I can find in my clean kitchen and eat at anytime like popcorn.

Anything you want to add to my travel interview?

A- Nope! (yelling in relief)

J- This was so much fun (dripping in sarcasm).

(I am now off to research travel destinations for next summer! Possibly somewhere in southern Africa that doesn’t cost a fortune (that is probably a travel oxymoron). I want to self-drive a safari as it is so much cheaper, but the South African school holidays are at the wrong time and Kruger will be packed! Maybe Namibia, but that is more expensive…. or India… but Abby doesn’t do well in the heat…. or…)

10 Things I Love and Hate About Travelling

Thanks to S.D. Gates whose blog shares the most amazing true ghost stories I have ever read, I have been asked to highlight 10 things I love and hate. Oh I could go on about how I truly hate how my bangs curl up and how I love the sound of rain on the roof but oh no… that would mean following the rules (why did I think law was a good choice for me, ever?)… so, I am going to focus on my true love (sorry to Chris and my family) which is, of course, travel.

10 Things I Love About Travelling 🙂

1. I love that feeling when you have just landed and step out of the airport, ready to face a new country, never knowing exactly what awaits you.

2. I love the “ordinary” within each country – the laundry, the stores, the houses, the animals, the markets, the squares, the food. Oh how I love the food!

3. I love when my choice in restaurant/ hotel is friendly, clean and cheap.

4. I love when the negotiating is done (I am rotten at it) and I walk away with something I love.

5. I love meeting new people who brighten up my life.

6. I love when I see something and it is way more amazing than I ever could have anticipated. (Taj Mahal, Angkor Wat, Machu Picchu, Sahara Desert, wildlife in Africa, souks in Morocco…)

7. I love waking up very early and wandering around when there are no tourists and only locals, getting ready for the day.

8. I love trying to speak a new language and someone actually understands (or pretends they do).

9. I love people watching. If this was an Olympic event, I would have medalled many times.

10. I love reading about a place and knowing that what I am reading is just outside my door.

10 Things I Hate About Travelling 😦

1. Leaving to come home

2. Seeing that cockroach scurry behind the hotel furniture, knowing that there are a million more in hiding

3. Wondering if the person “helping” me is really “helping” me or has other intentions (I usually try to stay on the positive with this one until proven wrong a few times in a place)

4. Getting that crampy feeling in my stomach and knowing that the “western style” toilet doesn’t work (as a result, I am a fan of squat toilets that do work!)

5. Choosing the wrong thing on the menu

6. Mosquitos (having had malaria and dengue fever, these are not a girl’s best friend)

7. Sitting at the back of the bus, suffocating for fresh air and nauseated from its turns.

8. Not being able to drink the tap water and wash with my mouth open (try showering and never getting water in your mouth….not easy… or am I just challenged in this area?)

9. Trying to learn the money and how much it is worth in my currency (after years of this, I still suck at it)

10. Packing and unpacking and packing and unpacking…

As I was always the one who broke the chain letter when I was a kid, I am afraid I still do as an adult. So if you would like to write about what you love and hate, just say that I nominated you 🙂 and go for it!

What do you love/hate the most about travelling?

From Garbage Dump To School In Guatemala

Vultures circling above, garbage trucks roaring in, our 12-year-old daughter’s eyes were opened. Concerned, she watched as men, women and sometimes children chased each truck into the Guatemala City garbage dump to claim the trash inside. Rifling through the rubbish, the people begin their daily routine of sorting, lifting, guarding and selling trash so it may be recycled and they, in turn, can eat. Years ago, more children worked and fewer went to school. Today, more go to school and fewer work. Thanks to one woman, Hanley Denning, an American who made a difference.

“Be the change you wish to see in the world.” – Mahatma Gandhi

Hanley was first introduced to the slums adjacent to this garbage dump during a tourist visit to Guatemala. Upset and determined to support the families and children working in the dump, she sold her car and her computer to begin Safe Passage (Camino Seguro). Today 600 children and 100 mothers receive educational and social services support to improve their living and working conditions. Sadly, Hanley was killed in a traffic accident but her dreams and goals continue today as Safe Passage continues to grow.

This half day tour was the best part of our family trip to Guatemala. After visiting the garbage dump and driving in the impoverished surrounding area, you arrive at Safe Passage where both children and their parents receive classes and training so they can rely less and less on a life involving the garbage dump. After touring the facilities and eating a lunch of tortillas and beans with the students in their cafeteria, we left Safe Passage feeling a little lighter, happier and more optimistic about the world around us.

This experience will remain with you long after you return from Guatemala. Much longer than any other sightseeing endeavor.

8 Reasons Why I Hate Travelling

1. I have to stay in a hotel! You mean I can’t stay in my own home, the one infested with mice and now spiders?

2. I have to eat in a restaurant! You mean I can’t eat in my own kitchen (the one that is 23 inches by 53 inches) and cook another uninspired meal that would make food bloggers shutter in their aprons!

3. I have to shop in a local food market! You mean I can’t go into my own grocery store and buy imported products 10x the local price and 10x older?

4. I have to people watch in a town plaza! You mean I can’t just sit in my living room and watch Miss Neighbor walk her cat for the umpteenth time down the sidewalk?

5. I have to speak another language! You mean I can’t just keep practicing my own language over and over in the hope that someday I sound sophisticated and overly educated?

6. I have to buy authentic handmade souvenirs! You mean I can’t just go to Walmart and buy the latest plastic toy guaranteed to break in one play date?

7. I have to use real money! You mean I can’t just mindlessly use my debit card and then forget how much it cost?

8. I have to take my kids along! You mean I can’t just tell them I will be out and forget to return?

Conflicted, Once Again

Travel fills my heart

I love exploring newness

Until I see you

Sitting there with your palms out

Conflicted, I look away.

(I wrote this poem after seeing people begging in downtown Toronto and Ottawa this weekend. Some people give food. Some give money. Some even provide work. Some support organizations who work directly with those in need. But even when I have done some of those things, I don’t do them all the time for each and every person in need. I feel ashamed and guilty when I choose not to and ask myself why not this time? Conflicted, I whisper a soft sorry as I hurry to escape both my discomfort and their’s.)

I have pondered this for years. And I suppose, I will continue to do so. How do you respond to begging? 

Airlines and Baseball – Same or Different?

It was my husband’s birthday which means only one thing, baseball. He is addicted to baseball and (please don’t hold this against me) the Red Sox. And the birthday gods were shining upon him as the Red Sox were in town to play the Blue Jays which means seats that are available and affordable (unlike Fenway in Boston – sorry Bostonians).

Jade is a Blue Jays fan and Chris is a Red Sox fan. They agree to disagree. Jade came out the winner this time.

Jade is a Blue Jays fan and Chris is a Red Sox fan. They agree to disagree. Jade came out the winner this time.

What Do Baseball and Airlines Have In Common?

Entering a baseball stadium is like getting on a plane.

You go through security. You pray that your electronic ticket works. You struggle to look for your seat for fear of getting settled in only to learn that you haven’t found it yet. You drag a bunch of crap with you only to have nowhere put it. You make a list of the pros and cons of the aisle seat versus the others only to learn you chose wrong. You spend a lot of time getting up and down to let others out only to the annoyance of others around you. You hope to God you get a polite seat mate beside, in front and behind you who stays within his or her boundaries. You can’t afford to eat. You can’t afford to drink but you do anyways, especially if you are the nervous or partying type. You eye those who have to work as they go up and down the aisle, secretly feeling sorry for them, at the mercy of those who sit and demand their attention. You pray to (insert your choice) for a successful outcome and give that sigh of relief when your prayer is answered.

What Could Airlines Learn From Baseball?

  • Wouldn’t it be fun if travellers wore jerseys and ball caps of their favourite airlines just to cheer on the pilots and airline attendants?
  • Wouldn’t it be interesting to begin the flight with the national anthem sung, all the passengers standing?
  • Wouldn’t it be comforting to know that the seat you bought actually meant you got a seat?
  • Wouldn’t it be yummy to eat arms length hot dogs, ice cream, pretzels and popcorn sky-high?
  • Wouldn’t it be hilarious if everyone got up to stretch and sang Take Me Out To The Ballgame around 3/4 of the way to your destination?
  • Wouldn’t it be wonderful if some dude wearing no shirt, “half in the bag”, began the wave in seat 1A and the rest of the passengers continued it, maybe even the attendants and the pilots?
  • Wouldn’t it be sweet to cheer, rap on each other’s seats, high-five and stomp on the floor when the flight is running smoothly?
  • Wouldn’t it be cool to get the attendants’, the pilots’ and the mascot’s autographs upon disembarking the plane?

So cheers to many home runs as you fly around the world, exploring from base to base. I hope you don’t strike out in your choices. Need some advice?  Just ask and I will coach you along the way.

What do you think? Should the airlines consider and take on some of these baseball routines?

In the meantime, I will continue to be a huge fan of baseball as I go to people watch, the audience, that is. 🙂

Z is for Zillion

I love to ask questions.

Just ask my family… or maybe don’t…I already do that a lot and that drives them crazy.

I have been known to ask a zillion questions about everything and anything; a trip, about what happened in school, about how that spoon ended up in the sink instead of the dishwasher for the zillionth time, and a zillion more etc.

But my all-time favourite question to ask is:

If you had all the money needed and the time to travel, where would you travel to first? And of course, why?

And surprisingly for a question that I ask so frequently, I don’t have a definitive answer myself.

I tend to waiver between an African country such as Zambia or Botswana (for the animals) and India, usually. But then, I get indecisive and want to put all of Europe on the list (because Europe gobbles up a lot of money). OH and then there is Antarctica and The Galapagos Islands too!

So since I love to ask questions, I will repeat myself (not that I ever do that of course) and ask you, my reader:

If you had all the money needed and the time to travel, where would you travel to first and why?

Thanks for travelling with me and the Family C from A to Z this month. Oh no! I can feel alphabet withdrawal coming on. 🙂

U is for Used

Dear RJ,

I feel so torn when I think back to that day. I often think of you, leaning against that fence watching me go down that river. Me, in the boat, wondering if I had made the right decision.

It all began so long ago. When we first met, I was shy and hesitant, unsure if you were the right one for me. You weren’t quite the right fit, you felt a little different from my others but I took a leap of faith and hoped.

As time went on, we grew to love each other; maybe out of routine but I prefer to think we put our differences aside and focused on our positive attributes instead. I kept you close to me; cherishing you when I had little else around me. In return, you comforted me, always.

When that day came, you were at the end. So tired, worn out, and heavily used, you didn’t complain. You let me go as I let you go. I miss you so.

Fondly yours,

Me

(I had a very large (too large) red jacket that I have travelled with for years. The lining was so ripped and torn that only the surface of the jacket remained and any rain would leak through. Its last days in the jungle of Guatemala were met by the invasion of red ants. Taking one last look at it, my family convinced me to leave it behind. I set it on a fence and turned away. Sadly… Since then I haven’t been able to find another that is even half the jacket my red one was. I am still searching….)

Me and my red jacket sharing happy moments travelling.

Me and my red jacket sharing happy moments travelling.

Have you ever had something that you so adored that you didn’t want to throw it out or give it away?

See you tomorrow.

The Family C from A to Z