Inspirational travel videos!

Hey Guys!

I was just sitting here and procrastinating on twitter and came across these fantastic videos. Right off the bat, I’ll just come out and say that my artistic talents are so horrible that I couldn’t even pretend to take credit for these videos if I wanted to. In any case, here is my big disclaimer: I did not make these videos and they are not “mine”. In fact, they seem to belong to a group of three men who make us all want to pack our bags and travel the world again.

Enjoy!

MOVE from Rick Mereki on Vimeo.

LEARN from Rick Mereki on Vimeo.

EAT from Rick Mereki on Vimeo.

New show on the Weather Channel: The Edge with Peter Lik

Hey Guys!

I know I’ve been gone for a while, but I’m still here…just much more subdued than usual! :-) In any case, I got this great email from the folks at the Weather Channel about a new show coming out that seems like it’ll be a fun thing to watch for us travelers! Before we go right into the details, I’m throwing out a disclaimer: I didn’t get paid to put this out into the blogosphere…just thought it would be cool to let you guys know about it!

“From the Edge, the network’s first foray into original programming was
inspired in part by the thousands of viewers who share their passion for
capturing Mother Nature. This natural connection between photography and
weather comes to life through the camera lens of Master Photographer, Peter
Lik, whose unique point of view will give viewers an amazing look at the
country and some of its most treasured landscapes. The show documents his
odyssey across the United States in search of nature’s most dramatic
landscapes. The camera follows as he visits locations as varied as the
volcanoes of Hawaii to the snows of Alaska’s Denali National Park, often
while battling or embracing the weather in his quest for the perfect shot.
Throughout his travels, Lik reveals the country in a whole new perspective,
capturing its diverse climates and natural beauty through his lens.”

Premiere Date
March 31, 2011 at 8 p.m. on The Weather Channel

Show page: http://weather.com/peterlik
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/#!/TWCFromtheEdge
Twitter: http://twitter.com/#!/TWCFromtheEdge

Enjoy! :-)

How could I forget?

Yesterday, I realized how close I came to transforming back into a my past self. A self whose life revolved around my credit score and the cleanliness of my office desk. What I was like thirteen months ago.

Thirteen months ago, I embarked on a journey which took me through seven countries, three of which I called home. During this time, I witnessed poverty, death, post-colonialism, and racism. But I also experienced love, joy, friendship, and laughter, and I shared this with locals and expats, the rich and the poor, the black and the white.

It is a vast understatement and an injustice to these cultures to claim that I was “changed forever”; the truth is, I was ripped from my comfortable, western ideals and thrust into a conflicted understanding of life that I have yet to fully understand. I don’t really think I have the writing skills to explain the full range of emotions I worked through, but I suppose you understand.

I did attempt to convey these feelings to my readers, but the fact remains: how could I explain the vastness of emotion to an outsider, when the deepest of thoughts were barely understood by the active participants…namely, me.

In any case, I returned to America more wise and knowlegeable than ever before, intent on changing the world. I know, the thick layer of cliche smeared on that previous statement makes me want to cringe; I’m sure it wasn’t easier to swallow by my state-side friends and family. In their eyes, I left as a normal college graduate and returned with nothing but two bags of dirty, hole-ridden clothing and, thanks to my housing in Madagascar, a weird phobia of rats.

As the months passed, I worked tirelessly on my two African-themed novels (still a work in progress, by the way); reliving snapshots of my past over and over again. Reminding myself of why I was driven to write these books in the first place…to show what I had not been able to tell. To write, free of censorship, and imbue people with a sense of wonder for the world and a feeling of global civic duty.

Writing late into the night, I would think in French, breathe African air, and yearn to be back in Malabo, side-stepping potholes to visit with friends and lunching on plantains and chicken. But dreams don’t pay the bills, and so I accepted a fantastic job offer. A massive career boost, the wave of which carried me away from Africa and back into America. Not that America is bad. I love it here.

But I forgot. I forgot what it was like in Africa. I forgot all the lessons I had learned.

And then, I watched the movie “Biutiful”. I had no idea I was signing up for a 148 minute heart wrenching, soul beating, journey where I would see harsh reminders of the friends I left behind. The movie, which touches on everything from gay relationships to illegal African workers in Mexico, prostitution, cancer, child abuse, and alcoholism, is an expertly crafted piece of film history that is nothing short of miraculous.

A club scene filled with prostitutes and rich expats echoed of Malabo, Equatorial Guinea. A police chase and subsequent story-line involving illegal Senegalese workers reminded me of the Africans hawking goods just a few minutes from my home in Paris, France. The dialogue between the main, cancer-ridden character and an inept nurse holding a possibly contaminated needle tugged at my heart and I remembered the deplorable health care in Equatorial Guinea, and my five week illness in Madagascar.

Driving home, I was strangely quiet. I couldn’t stop thinking about why I’d traveled in the first place, and moreover, why I’d ever stopped. Obviously travel takes money, money takes work, and well-paid work appeared in America; but, why did I stop remembering Africa, why did I stop reading travel blogs, or stop seeking out like-minded friends?

The answer? I think I felt a little stupid talking about something that so few people could relate to. And so I just stopped! I re-focused my energies on thoughts that other people could understand, and lost track of a part of myself which was only just developing.

So, here I am. I’m back…I’m really back. I started writing this travel blog two years ago, so that I could connect with like-minded individuals intent of traveling the world. On helping the world. On opening lines of communication between cultures to facilitate understanding and cross-cultural interest. And now…I’ve made a full 360, and I’m back for more.

I’m sorry I’ve been gone for so long. I just needed a reminder of what I was missing, and why I left in the first place.

Gay in Africa: Where is the closet and who is in it?

Last night I listened to an awesome techno version of one of my all-time favorite songs; the Amelie soundtrack…and I watched a very attractive transvestite dance along to it as well. Leaning against the bar, I was so happy to see a small, but enthusiastic crowd cheering and dancing along in this organized gay pride event. These girls were hot; I’m ashamed to say that they had better fashion sense than me!

As a side note, I will take this moment to throw out there that I was very proud of my outfit last night: this super cute jumpsuit thing, AMAZING heels that are really my work shoes…but needed to be showed off, and a pair of bright blue earrings. Before you judge me for wearing a jumpsuit, you should know that I was complimented on it by one of the more fashionable event participants. Awesome? I think so.

Anyway, somewhere after a quick salsa number and before a tear-jerker Celine Dion rendition, I fished an ant out of my caipirinha (only the second one in my whole life!), and thought about how long it’s been since I’ve seen anything resembling a gay, lesbian, or transgendered person.

In Equatorial Guinea, I was surprised to find out that being gay is not even a choice that people can make. In their culture (or at least I how I perceived their culture to be), it is literally unfathomable that someone would be gay; you’re either straight…or a monk. Questioning my EG peeps, not one person could name a gay friend. Nor could they remember the last time they had even heard of anything gay or lesbian related. One of my friends even remarked that he couldn’t tell me how many gay people there were in EG, because he didn’t know “what a gay person looked like”.

This attitude sort of pervades so many aspects of EG culture:

1)      You will sometimes see men holding hands; when you are in conversation with someone, holding their hand is a way to keep their attention (or so it was explained to me). Of course this isn’t considered gay; I don’t think it would even cross their minds that this contact is considered “gay” in the United States.

2)      Lesbianism is not considered attractive to many Equatoguinean men (or so they told me!). I believe this is very different from the United States; in EG it is almost viewed as being unnatural and simply unnecessary.

3)      Having children is very important to a lot of people in EG. Every person I met could not understand why I, personally, do not necessarily want to have kids. Upon hearing that I wouldn’t mind remaining childless, one of my friends got quite excited and said, “but what does your father think about that?”. I came to realize that there were many different cultural, societal, and social factors influencing people towards having children. If a culture views childbearing and rearing as an important goal of adulthood, I think it follows that it the culture might also be less open to gay and lesbian relationships.

4)      Being affectionate in public is taboo to begin with; gay or straight, you don’t see people touching or kissing in EG. Even if a person were gay, you would really have no way of knowing they are; I’m sure this doesn’t help unite the underground gay and lesbian community…if there is such a thing.

Here in Madagascar being homosexual is actually a lifestyle option (at least in Diego, which is the fifth largest city on the island), albeit not a popular one. That being said, my roommates, who have been here for several months, were flabbergasted when I told them about last night’s alternative talent show. In a city where gay pride stickers are unthinkable, it just seems so out of place to have an organized get-together.

I have to say, it was good for the soul to be a spectator to last night’s event. Sometimes it’s easy to get disheartened by the lack of open-mindedness or freedom both at home and abroad; seeing people proudly and openly celebrating who they are reminds me that progress is being made in communities worldwide.

And if nothing else, I at least felt like I was super stylin’ last night :-)

The shoes.

I went shopping in Africa for a cocktail dress and shoes. Ten stores later I found them. The dress came easy, the shoes came hard. Apparently African women have tiny feet because a women’s size ten was nowhere to be found. One shopkeeper literally laughed at me – that’s OK though :-)

The shoes I eventually bought actually still had a “Ross” sticker on them, which is a cheap outlet store in Florida. I guess that the shopkeeper got them very cheap (for $19.95, in fact!) and I paid…way more than that. Such is life.

So, as promised in previous blog-post, I’m posting pics of the buys. For your viewing pleasure, I’ve uploaded them here.

Thanks to a water shortage in the city, my hotel room became the showering place for a family that I became very close with. One such night, the kiddies passed the time playing dress up with my new clothes.

The shoes…and some hot models! :-)

Calvin Klein Dress: $100.

Shoes: Way too much money (my little secret…smart women never report real prices!).

Dressing up for the first time in four months in clothes that do not smell perpetually like a camping bonfire and that haven’t been washed on rocks and in hotel sinks: Priceless.

The dress. :-)

Reality: Life as a Woman.

The last few days have been akin to a roller coaster ride. I recently had my first negative experience being a solo, female traveler…which has taken some getting used to and more than a few beers. Thanks to the wonderful friends I have here, I’ve been able to talk about the incident and feel much better; you know who you are, and I am thankful! For more information on this event, as well as my thoughts on personal safety during my travels, check out an article I wrote for the Naples Daily News. Rest assured I’m going forward with my trip plans….I just love Africa too much to leave!

Aside from that event, I’ve been working on a very exciting project, which will hopefully be ready to “reveal” next week! Stand by for more information :-)

 Finally, I would like to say that I continue to have amazing experiences everyday. Had a tarantula in my room two nights ago. A tarantula! Thankfully some friends helped me take care of it; unfortunately my conservation instinct flies out of the window when something with eight hairy legs is hiding in my bathroom. I also got to visit the city’s orphanage today – once again, I am made aware of how lucky I am! Truly.

Pictures coming soon…in four days I’ll be in Germany and will be catching up on work there :-)

Loving life, growing as a person, and eating way too much food…in Africa.

With Love,

-Yours Truly

Hello from South Africa :-)

Hello people of the blogosphere!

Just an update on how my life is going. I got to South Africa a few days ago and have settled in nicely at the research outpost on the Loskop Dam Reserve, where I’m working as an assistant for a study on the local vervet monkey population.

Living on the reserve is pretty freakin’ cool, if I say so myself. As researchers, we get to visit off-limits areas of the reserve, which includes hiking off the beaten path (well, there are beaten paths…well-trodden animal paths) and driving on service roads. The whole area looks amazingly beautiful; red, rolling hills sporadically dotted with shrubs and trees.

Driving down the road we see so much game; giraffes, zebra, antelopes, baboons, monkeys, wildebeests, and a lot of other animals I don’t even know yet. Hiking through the undergrowth is amazing; especially when I realized that I was standing in the middle of a dried out Rhino mud pit. If you must know, I totally freaked out when I saw my first giraffe and my first (and only) zebra – not too embarrassing though…I’m working on keeping my cool in these situations J

I also “met” Zazu from the Lion King; well, I at least have a resident bird exactly like him that hangs out by my cabin. I’m still waiting to see the crocs, hippos, and white rhino; keep your fingers crossed for me!

The people here are also extremely friendly. Right off the bat I noticed that the apartheid isn’t as forgotten as we Americans would tend to think; social integration and black empowerment are popular topics of conversation and opinions are like a certain body part – everyone has one. This is not necessarily negative, just completely unexpected. I have to admit that I was naïve enough to actually think that the end of the apartheid in 1994 actually meant that it must have ended in the people’s minds; one more lesson I’ve learned.

It’s been difficult basically jumping from one job to the next. I do miss my friends and family back home, not to mention the people I befriended while I was in the Bioko rainforest. Hardest of all is the continuing saga of finding internet and getting phone contact. In Equatorial Guinea I basically ran out of time to get a cell phone; here I finally have a cell phone but the charger to it doesn’t work, so I’m still without reliable a phone…three weeks after I first started to get one organized. As for the internet, it’s capped here; meaning, we have wireless, but as a camp, we only get a certain amount per month before we don’t get anymore. So I find myself rushing online, checking one or two things, and then getting off as fast as I can. Sorry…no more picture uploads of my trip until I leave this part of the job. It’s funny how even though I was without internet for three months, and now only have the bare minimum, that I can still get lots of information out to you guys!

Anyway, I’m not feeling homesick; just missing the act of having long conversations with people back home. It is strange to not have the traditional network of people around me. I am still not used to completely relying on myself to keep my spirit high. Whenever I feel at all down, I just think about how awesome my opportunities are, and that gets me through the moodiness.

Alrighty – that’s it for now! More stuff coming your way soon J

Bend it like Beckham…or the Bubis.

Some videos I took of the hired locals playing their daily soccer games, which were so fun to watch. The natural athletic talent was oustanding – the first video is a clip of the daily soccer game, while the second video is a clip from the large, full-length match that was played out on the beach on the last day of the expedition. Every local participated – the cook was the goalie and the boat driver the referee. Anyway, it was a good time :-)

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G2uqsul86rU&hl=en&fs=1]

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XHjj446yjzs&hl=en&fs=1]

The Bubis of Bioko Island: Not body parts…people.

Just a quick post to let you guys know about a great, great resource that’s available on the web. If you are interested in knowing more about the indigenous culture and people on Bioko Island, definitely check out The Bubis on Fernando Po. The website offers a complete online copy of the writings of Father Antonio Aymemi (a missionary on Bioko Island from 1894 to 1942) and his interactions with the Bubi tribe (pronounced like two round, female, body parts), which  are the indigenous people of this island (where I am currently living and working).

I learned about this resource from an exhibition team-member, who is a journalist-turned-anthropologist interested in doing her research on this tribe. She first learned about the Bubis when she was on assignment, and this initial contact propelled her to translate Father Antonio Aymemi’s book, and focus her Master’s thesis on the interactions of the Bubi people with foreigners.

Anyway, for those of you interested, her website (www.thebubis.com) has a free copy of the book, and is a great read. I’m sure she would appreciate any emails (questions, comments, thoughts, etc.) – right now she jokes that most of her internet traffic is probably the result of thirteen year-old boys on the search for more scandalous material :-)