Friday Photo: Essaouira

This one time…. I rode a camel. To a Castle Made of Sand (word to Jimi Hendrix). True story.

Photo courtesy of Kristin – my friend/Peace Corps volunteer I was visiting in Morocco 🙂


Island Lessons (Dominican Edition)

We hiked to the breathtaking Trafalgar Falls (photo courtesy of Amirh)

 It’s taken me quite some time to write this post.  I’m partly in denial that I’m back in the States. Dominica is such a small island but there is SO much to see and do.  Dozens of waterfalls, the 2nd largest boiling lake in the world, the Indian River (where parts of Pirates of the Caribbean was set), the Carib Territory where the indigenous Caribbean people still live, the beautiful and refreshing Emerald Pool, the Old and New Markets, Purple Turtle Beach, tons of sulphur spas and sulphur springs, village festivals…. Should I keep going? Needless to say I’ll have to return to the “Nature Isle” very soon to cover all of the activities I didn’t get to do in the 5 days I was there – I didn’t even mention anything about the beautiful life-loving French Creole (or Patwa) speaking Dominican people and how could I could forget the rum??

Here are just a few of the lessons I learned and experiences I enjoyed while in Dominica: 

Amirh at Ti Kwen Glo Cho Sulphur Spa (photo courtesy of Alex)

Don’t Wear a White Swimsuit to the Sulphur Spas:

There’s an awesome little village called Wotten Waven just south of Roseau that has these amazing wonders of nature called sulphur spas.  I’ll allow you to simply wikipedia all of the benefits of sulphur, but as a hint it’s called “nature’s beauty mineral.” Yes, the smell is horrid – but I only noticed it in certain areas on the way to the spa and not at the spa itself.  I highly recommend the spa called Ti Kwen Glo Cho because not only does it have the big hot sulphur pool, but it also has relaxing individual cast-iron tubs with bamboo pipes bringing more hot water straight from the surrounding rivers and waterfalls. Note to self (and you guys) for future visits though: since the sulphur turns the water a yellowish -brown color, leave the white bathing suit at home.  I would probably be mad if that swimsuit weren’t almost 6 years old – but even if it was new, the sulphur spas were SO worth it!

Read on to hear about the other experiences. Continue reading

Next Stamp: Dominica

When's my next passport stamp coming?

I think about time in terms of travel. I’ll always remember 2006 was when I toured Western Europe. Junior year spring break was San Juan, Puerto Rico, and senior year was the Bahamas. I’ll be turning 25 in Brazil this December (hopefully!) and in 2 days I’ll be visiting Dominica in the Caribbean.  It’s always easier to remember time in terms of travel because trips are so much more memorable than memorizing dates or years or ages. That said, I’m always looking forward to my next trip – specifically those that will earn me a passport stamp. Within the next year, I hope to go to Brazil, take my first trip to the continent of Africa (visit the original Memphis), try to visit another one of my friend’s who’s in the Peace Corps in Cambodia, and maybe hit up Greece. Sounds like a lot, but there is a certain beauty of being a teacher with paid summers off (insert evil laugh here).

Dominica - the Nature Island of the Caribbean

I’ve said ALL of this to say: my next international trip is less than 72 hours away! I’ll be visiting my very good college friend who is a Peace Corps Volunteer in Dominica. NOT the Dominican Republic! I get that a lot. Dominica is a small Caribbean island near Martinique and St. Lucia. It’s called the “Nature Island” of the Caribbean and I can’t wait to just relax and enjoy everything nature has to offer – and I’m not even an outdoorsy person!  I’m looking forward to hiking through its rainforests and stumbling upon waterfalls (but definitely not the animals!).  Some other things you should know about Dominica is that it has the 2nd largest boiling lake in the world (big feat for such a small island) and cricket is THE sport here.  Hopefully, when I get back I’ll be able to tell you a lot more about Dominica. Until then, check out this site Discover Dominica. The tagline is “Defy the Everyday” – I already know I’m going to love it here!

What do you want to know about Dominica? What are some of your other favorite Caribbean destinations?

Who Knew Michelle Obama was a Study Abroad Advocate?

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The graduates of George Washington University earned a commencement speech by Michelle Obama this year. Earlier in the academic year Mrs. Obama challenged the university to complete 100,000 hours of community service, and if they were successful, she would deliver their commencement address.  So this past weekend, she delivered on her promise and gave an amazing speech to the graduates on the National Mall.  After acknowledging the incredible contributions of the students’ volunteer hours, Mrs. Obama used the rest of her speech to issue yet another challenge: “I’m just asking you to keep being you, to keep doing what you’re doing. Just take it global.”

Michelle Obama encourages these students, who are graduating to explore international service and work opportunities such as the Peace Corps since studying abroad as an undergrad is too late.  But she takes it a step farther and challenges them to encourage their younger peers to study abroad – expose themselves to other cultures in order to make themselves better people and America a better place.  She points out the fact that serving abroad not only helps out the country receiving the benefits of their volunteer work, but it helps America – it shows the people in that country the true heart, soul and generosity of Americans.  She acknowledged the countless benefits of studying abroad in this increasingly global world, especially among those who might not have access to opportunities such as international travel. “So many Americans either don’t have those opportunities or simply don’t consider them. And as interconnected as we are; as quickly as the 21st century global economy moves; we have to find ways to extend those opportunities to as many young people as possible.”

I love that Mrs. Obama uses her speech as an opportunity to speak about the importance of study abroad and international travel.  I only wish that she would also give similar speeches at schools like Howard or in other parts of the city and actually talk to those people who don’t consider those opportunities.  Not that students at GW won’t benefit from these words, but over half the undergraduates at GW already study abroad.  It’s almost like preaching to the choir.

Some of my favorite nuggets from the commencement address:

On ways to “take it global”: “It can mean continuing your own personal and professional growth by traveling far and wide. Or it can mean reaching back to convince the students behind you to try study abroad programs, especially students from communities and backgrounds who might not normally consider it.”

On the ultimate benefit of studying abroad and international travel: “In the end, the simple act of opening your mind and engaging abroad –- whether it’s in the heart of campus or in the most remote villages -– can change your definition of what’s possible.”

I am so glad that Michelle Obama, a woman who many people in our community look up to has stepped up as an advocate of studying abroad.  It makes my work seem a little more validated – like hey, I’m not the only one that thinks studying abroad is almost necessary for the success of our people as a community and as a country.  Thank you, Mrs. Obama and I hope to hear more about your ideas on study abroad and especially about how we can make it more accessible for those who traditionally don’t seek out those opportunities for any number of reasons.

For a full transcript of Mrs. Obama’s commencement address, click here.