Thursday, December 29, 2011

2011’s New Years Resolutions

Here’s an overview of how my goals for this year turned out:

I didn’t double my blog followers. However, I got a new site up and running here.

I didn’t make it out to New Caledonia. However, I think I went in French comprehension from a 1 to  a 3 or 4 by the time we left Guadeloupe in the Caribbean. Not too bad for just 6 weeks.

I didn’t get abs. However, I did do my first pushup and got into the best shape of my life.

Most importantly, I didn’t have to get more excited about having a baby than traveling, because we’ve decided to do both. Baby is due June 5th-ish. I’m already almost halfway there. We’re having the baby here in Mexico City and then hope to continue our lifestyle with baby in tow. We find out the gender in 2 weeks.



Monday, November 28, 2011

My Response to the “Should Christian Women Wear Bikinis” Video

A certain video has taken the Mormon Facebook world by storm.

What I mean is, it has been posted and reposted by both men and women alike, but they have all been LDS, at least on my Facebook wall.

Sometimes I wonder if I’m the only Mormon feminist in the world. I know I’m not, it just feels that way at times. Then I remember that, thank God, I know another one-- I’m married to a Mormon feminist. Yes, my husband and I have an egalitarian marriage where we share what we feel is equal responsibility at work and at home—and I’m sure the trend will continue in the future raising of our children. I’m so grateful to have a man who is comfortable enough with his own masculinity to respect decisions I make on my femininity, even if he also, of course, has opinions of his own.

The Youtube video is called, “Should Christian Women Wear Bikinis?”

jason evertIt’s a video given by a Christian preacher to a crowd of high school girls.

When I saw the video for the first time, I left this comment on Youtube, which will give a hint of how I felt about it:

So a one piece swimsuit doesn't cause the same reaction?... Somehow I doubt it. I think Muslims use this same argument on why they should cover. Men telling women what they should wear. Women having to take responsibility for men's reactions. That's so medieval.

I’ve been meaning to do a post on modesty for a long time, because my opinion of it, like so many other things, has been changed by travel. This video, and people’s responses, jumpstarted this post.

So I’m going to deconstruct the video bit by bit, showcasing why I have a problem with it, and why, if you believe in gender equality, you should too.

Issue #1: Because the word “science” was used, people assumed this was proof.

Reality: The science of the study was twisted to be used for this Christian preacher’s purposes. The women’s heads were cut off. This does not imply a real-life situation in any way. There were only 21 men in the study, all from the same socio economic background. This sampling is NEVER big enough to be an interesting study. It’s smaller than a high school class. We don’t know anything about the pictures: the postures of the women, the size of the swim suits, etc. We don’t know if the men were married. If they’d ever had girlfriends. If they were addicted to pornography. Why they volunteered for the survey. If they’d drank any alcohol before the test. If they were carpenters (and therefore with extremely developed parts of the brain devoted to “tool use” -can you catch my irony here?) If the women were supermodel-esque attractive or morbidly obese.

All of that is irrelevant in the end, though, because:

In any event, the speaker completely skewed the findings.


Here are the findings:

"Although men and women were, in general, slightly

faster to pair images of sexualized female targets with

first-person action verbs (e.g., push) and clothed female

targets with third-person action verbs (e.g., pushes) than

the inverse, the difference between the two pairings was

not significant for either sample"

and this seemed to be more frequent among the men who already scored higher in the "Hostile Sexism Score" ...

In other words, the findings were not statistically significant. So, actually, men were NOT more likely to objectify them.


The only ones who had the tendency were the ones who identified themselves as “hostile sexist.”

I sincerely hope that is not most of the LDS men I know. Although an awfully large amount of them seemed to resonate with the findings.

The preacher basically misled people in the video, and the study was flawed. People get so excited when they hear the words “scientific study” that coincides with beliefs they already have that they don’t think to deconstruct it and look at the method of the study. However, although in my mind that’s enough to conclude my case, this is an important subject to discuss so I’ll keep going.

Issue #2: There is often a double standard within religious communities.

I’m only speaking from personal experience here, but:

How many lessons have Mormon men had on modesty?

I’m guessing exactly zero.

How many lessons on how women should be respected as human beings no matter how they dress?

Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think not many.

How many lessons do LDS young women get on modesty?

Answer: probably weekly.

How many lessons have I been taught that women are in charge of men’s sexuality and it is up to us to say “stop” because men can’t control themselves?

I don’t know-- I’ve been told that on many occasions. 

How many studies have you seen or heard looking to see if women objectify men?

Personally, I’d welcome them. But it’s always the other way around.

How many LDS people would post a video about women objectifying men and men dressing immodestly that would go viral?

Somehow, I don’t see that even reaching most people’s radar.


Issue #3: There’s a reason why so many Muslims loved this video.

If you look at the comments in Youtube, a good part of them are Muslims saying this is exactly why they hijab, or wear burkas.

Countries whose official religion is Islam do not have the best record on women’s rights issues. In fact, the women in strictly conservative Muslim countries are among the least free in the world. According to studies, the worst are Benin, Pakistan, Chad, and Yemen. All practice Islam with the exception of Benin, which practices voodoo. I don’t think that has to be true, mind you. I see it in the world’s future to have much freer women--everywhere.  I love to visit predominantly Muslim countries— and personally I believe that no religion is closer to Mormonism than Islam. Nevertheless, in my mind it’s not a good sign when you have Muslims agreeing that “this is exactly why we tell women to dress the way we do.”

Issue #4: Women only wear bikinis or other kinds of similar dress to try to become a sex object.

Reality: This is a myth.

Women may wear bikinis because they are more comfortable to swim in, because it’s the style, because that’s the cultural expectation where they live, because that’s what their husband likes them to wear, because they love their bodies, because they are beautiful and look good in them, because it is difficult to find another swimming suit that fits correctly, to avoid tan lines, or many other reasons. If we all understand that, then we don’t all have to have a whore complex when we see women dressed differently than our standards.

Issue #5: It is bad for a man to find a woman sexually attractive.

Reality: This is wrong. It is completely normal for a man to find a woman sexually attractive. And vice versa. Weird idea, I know. What is not okay is to treat a woman or a man disrespectfully because of the way they are dressed. Fact: Women are beautiful beings. There is nothing shameful about that.

Issue #6: The video only mentioned women in bikinis. Not women in one piece swimming suits.

one pieceReality: Do you think men are still sexually attracted to women in one piece swimming suits? Let me drop a hint—they are. There are plenty of Swimsuit Illustrated editions of sexy women in one piece swimming suits. Does that mean that it’s still okay for men to objectify women, and that it’s the women’s fault?

Issue # 7: One piece swimming suits are also revealing.

Reality: They are as revealing as some lingerie. So, do men who agree with this video believe women should stop wearing one piece swimming suits, which look like lingerie? If they do…then they can go hide their heads in the sand. Women, in this day and age, should not be expected to swim in jeans and a t- shirt.

Issue # 8: The message of this video is not the best way to get girls to be modest.

Reality: Many women will like the idea that they can be empowered by making men in their control by using their bodies. The most important part of modesty, for both men and women, is to teach themselves to respect their bodies and the feelings of those who are around them. To teach them that being comfortable in their own skin in the most important lesson of all. Guilt is not needed to do that. Shame is not needed to do that. Blame is not needed to do that. Teaching appropriate clothes for appropriate situations will do that. Teaching appropriate and modest behavior given the situation at hand will do that. A bikini is not appropriate to wear to the office. I believe it can be appropriate to wear on the beaches of Europe when 2,000 other women and girls are all wearing the same thing (or less, for that matter). The message of modesty is not bad. Of course it isn’t. The way it is taught, though, is often demeaning and unfair. The emphasis on external, clothing-oriented modesty is just another form of sexualization.

Issue # 9: Women (shocker) get sexually aroused by men as well.

men's adReality: If this were not true, there would not be so many ads with shirtless men on them. I’m not so naïve as to not know that -overall- men are more visually stimulated than women. Although I have known my share of very sexualized women. But that leads me to my next point:

Issue # 10: Men who are attracted to other men are never considered.

Reality: Can you imagine a religious lesson in which boys were taught: be careful the way you dress or homosexual men will lust after you? It would disgust and shame most men. Yet women have to listen to lessons like this on a regular basis. What if a woman told men, “Don’t take your shirts off, or you will become walking pornography to struggling homosexual men.” It is never said, but is it not equally true? Women don’t deserve to be made to feel dirty for being attractive and sexy. Or, put another way, if they deserve it, men deserve it too.

Issue #11: This idea is behind “rape culture.”

It’s harmful to young women to be saddled with not only their own growing and changing bodies, developing sexuality, and insecurities, but also with the responsibility not to tempt boys and men. Not only responsible for lustful thoughts, but for rape. It’s harmful for young men as well. Males should not be taught they are helpless victims simply responding to messages they think females are sending by their choice of clothing. Taken a little further, this kind of psychology leads to the justification of sexual assault. We should take care to steer clear of this kind of thinking in society. This, sociologists would agree, is part of rape culture.

Issue # 12: Modesty is cultural, and it changes over time.

Reality: Modesty, and how it is enforced, is not an eternal truth. Ankles used to be scandalous. If you sexualize arms and say they always have to be covered, arms will become shocking if exposed.

Issue # 13: Sexuality’s perception is cultural.

davidThere are many examples of women within indigenous societies that wear even less than what the bikini covers; if there were a study on their men's brains as well I think the response would be completely different for how they view near naked women compared to extremely conservative religious societies. Many other societies compared to the US allow women to breastfeed in public with no outrage because it is not sexualized to feed a baby. Concepts of sexuality are entirely dependent on society. What if we were all raised to look at human beings with an artist’s eye, appreciating their beauty without sexualizing them? Maybe we should all take a “life drawing” class where we have to draw women and men naked. I don’t think it would take too long to learn to control the primitive response and just get to drawing. Even BYU, amazingly, has a class where women pose in bikinis and students draw them.

Is this not why we can look at great, classical art of nude subjects and not feel that it is pornography? It’s because we’ve desexualized them, and reemphasized their beauty and the talent of their creator.

Issue # 14: Gender equality has a long way to go in the US.

Reality: We are ranked #17 in the world. #19 in other studies. Not bad overall, but terrible for developed countries. We moved up from #31 just this last year. We must be making progress. Of course this doesn’t have to do with bikinis directly, but it does apply to gender equality overall. One of the first cultural differences I noticed when I lived in Europe for the first time as a 20 year old college student was how Europeans found violence shocking and no clothes acceptable, whereas Americans find no clothes shocking but violence acceptable. European women have more freedom and less crime perpetrated against them than American women as a general rule. I prefer their mode of thinking.

Issue #15: Here is a response from someone on Facebook, I will address his questions in red:

I found some of the comments interesting. I'm sorry, but some responsibility is on the woman as well as the men.

Totally agree. I think in issues like these, it’s fair to give 50-50 responsibility. This video did not give 50-50 responsibility. It was 100-0.

To suggest that it's completely the man's fault, is like demanding someone not to swear around you when you, yourself, continuously expose them to foul language. Also, please realize that what you wear does have some effect on how you act.
I'm some what astounded by the cry of sexism, though. If the study demanded that all women must not wear bikinis and men are at no fault what-so-ever, then sure it's sexist. 

It is a man telling a large group of teenaged girls they *should not* wear bikinis if they are true Christians, shaming women for a personal decision. I could find nothing in it that said men had any responsibility. So yes, it is sexist.

But if it comes across as a warning that wearing such outfits may arose certain thoughts in men, then where's the sexism?

It doesn’t come across as a warning—it is stated not only as science, but as an inescapable conclusion. Men—all men, not just “hostile sexist ones” which technically was the findings of the survey, will not be able to help themselves.

Especially today when so many women are taken advantage of and when society--sadly to say--paints women as objects.

If women are taken advantage of, it is in societies which women do not have equal freedoms, equal rights, and which shame women into being modest. In societies where women are completely free, they have less crimes perpetrated against them, they experience less violence, and they are happier. Think Europe versus the Middle East.

And as Carric pointed out, they said women might be effected the same way as well and they plan to do the same study with women.

Great. I hope it goes viral like this one did within the Mormon community. Of course, if the findings were the same the findings would be that there was not statistical significance, which would be quite boring.

Would you find the findings more truthful--or not complain--if they came from women running the same experiment?

 I certainly think that the video—forget about the experiment, which was flawed anyway—would have been more truthful if both genders were being examined, if a woman was giving the lecture as well, and if men were present as well. 

Should I cry sexism, if a women tells me how a man should treat women?

You should cry sexism when genders are not treated fairly, one way or the ugly woman

Would you be okay with a man getting scantily clad women tattoos? He's "wearing" what he wants.

Yes, I would be okay with a man getting those tattoos. Why would I care? It has absolutely nothing to do with me. Just don’t tell me it’s my fault he got the tattoos.

I guess I'm tired of quick cries of discrimination, when there might not be any.

What makes you assume the cries are quick? I ended up reading every comment on every posting of this video, researching the man who made the video, and reading the entire survey which is more than most people did who have posted this video.

Plus, I don't expose any part of my male organs, so I think it's fair for me to say that women probably shouldn't expose themselves.

Wearing a bikini is not “exposing female organs” any more than wearing a Speedo is. Or the fact that men swim shirtless. I’ll be waiting for the shirtless and/or Speedo Study. An unbiased one.


CONCLUSION: Until I traveled, I thought it was fair to think of girls who wore short skirts as skanks. Why? Because I was socialized that way. Then I lived in two different extremes. I spent about six months in the Middle East. I’ve spent nearly a year in Europe. The difference of being a woman between these two is so incredible I can’t even begin to explain. I was verbally assaulted in Egypt just because I didn’t have a headscarf on. (I was already very conservatively dressed.) Probably, to be honest, just because I was a woman. I was followed around and told: “I want to f*** you. How much do you charge?”  I was told by fellow women that they are used to it over there and you just have to learn to put up with it. I didn’t like walking alone there because I got far too much attention. Women in these kind of places have to cover their skin from head to toe. I did, while I was there. And these ideas reinforce themselves. Women think they have to dress that way or men can’t help themselves; they’ll molest them—and it will be the woman’s fault. And men feel justified that if a woman is dressed differently than what he is used to, she is asking for trouble.

beachIn Europe these days, a woman can wear whatever she wants and she won’t even get a second glance. No one will bother her. Men and women are free to dress according to the dictates of their own conscience. And I can tell you there that a large majority of women, LDS or not, wear bikinis and a large majority of men, LDS or not, wear Speedos. And guess what. People get over it. It’s fine.

The next time you see a woman dressed in a way which you feel is scantily, say a quick prayer to God thanking Him you live in a free society where women aren’t killed, raped, or stoned for not conforming to unequal laws that men have created.

I could keep going, but this post is long enough. I’m going to breathe easier after I post this, though. It’s distressing for me to see so many LDS people reposting this when its message is damaging, unfair, and dishonest. Let me know: do you agree?

And by the way, although this disclaimer isn’t necessary, I personally don’t prefer to wear bikinis. (Although I do at times because my husband likes me to-- he thinks I look good in them.) But I’ll defend my right to wear them with every feminist breath of my modestly dressed body.

I welcome your comments. Just so you know, my husband agrees with me. So this isn’t just a woman talking on this subject. Smile

A New Website Home

Well, I don’t know how to forward these posts to, so I am just going to post them here and there. I’ve finally moved all my old posts to the new site, so let me know what you think.

If you “like” Portable Professionals on Facebook, you’ll receive blog updates from there. You can like it here:

You can also click the facebook box, or the RSS feed box to receive updates to your blog reader (these are found on the left side of I don’t have too many Youtube video or Twitter updates at this point. I really like the way the site looks. I’m ready to start posting more and being more active in the blogging world than I have been for the last few months.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

17 Reasons TO live in America

I follow the blog of this Irish guy who wrote an ebook on learning languages. I met him briefly in Vancouver. He goes on three month language “missions” where he becomes conversational, even fluent, in the language by the end of the mission. His ideas are good, but nothing radical from what Jacob tells me (Jacob, of course, is a genius at learning languages.)

He wrote a scathing article about why he would never want to live in America. I'm fine dishing it out about my own country, but when someone else does it I feel the need to defend it. Especially since the reasons he lists are quite asinine, in my opinion. It’s gotten quite a lot of attention, especially from fawning I-hate-America Americans.So here are 17 reasons to live in America. You can read the original article here:

1. Americans are becoming minority friendly. America is making progress when it comes to political correctness. Yes, we're sensitive and probably over-the-top at times—but we're leading the way in changing the way minorities are spoken about. The civil rights movement was such a short time ago. We still have a long way to go but the fact that we're concerned about it is a huge step forward. Plus we’re super conscious on creating user-friendly things for people with disabilities.
2. Americans are endearingly optimistic, if maybe slightly naïve. I'm grateful for the can-do attitude Americans have.
3. Americans have the best smiles in the world, thanks to excellent dental work and oral hygiene. I'm really grateful to have had braces (thanks Mom). Braces are basically not seen anywhere else. No wonder we’re smiley! (This American has my favorite smile.)
4. Yes it's annoying the way waiters love to take your plate away before you're finished. Yet, universally Jacob and I have missed getting constant drink refills and not having to wave the waiter over if you need the check. Customer service in America, as far as convenience goes, is top-notch.
5. The prices for technology and other high end products are the lowest anywhere we've been—since a lot of them are produced in America and then exported elsewhere.
6. You can buy anything you want in the US. Anything. Whether it's online or thrift stores or Louis Vuitton, there's such a fantastic range of products as specific as you could ever want, and you'll be able to find it in the price range that you want too, and there will be competing products even within a niche market.
7. He thinks it's wasteful the way people upgrade to the next technology product. I think that's simply ignorant. I'm married to a chronic technology upgrader, and is it any surprise that he also is a technology creator? The US is a leader in technology, obviously. I don't see any major breakthroughs coming from Ireland. Maybe you should think about upgrading your devices.
8. Americans welcome outsiders. For the most part. The US accepts more immigrants than the rest of the countries put together.
9. Americans are a proud people. While of course it can go too far, people need to have pride in their heritage and Americans do. Plus I think we celebrate holidays dang well.  P1110218
10. If you like to cook, I can't imagine a better country to live in than America. The grocery stores are the biggest, there are specialty shops even in the smallest of towns, and even the poorer people's houses have fantastically large kitchens. You can cook Thai, Indian, Chinese, or Mexican food easily.
11. As an atheist, he was annoyed at the religious fervor of Americans. I can see how that would be difficult, but at the same time there are plenty of atheists in America. Every religion is well represented in the US. It's just one more way that the US has these sort of niche specialties. It can be nice, I think. For example I thought it would be nice to visit a Universal Unitarian church. There are none here in Mexico City. You can bet there are in the major cities of the US. It's a measure of US diversity, although of course the majority of people are Evangelical or Protestant Christian. Here Jacob, Grandpa Campbell, and I are at an LDS historical monument in the Midwest.

12. I love Walmart. As soon as I got to Mexico City I visited Walmart. I visited it four times in two weeks. Three different ones. It’s a little ghetto here compared to the American version but it’s better than nothing. It's really easy to dis on corporations until you never have access to them.
13. Okay, the no public transportation thing is a real downer, I'll be the first to agree with that. But on the bright side, there's gas stations with free bathrooms and drinking fountains wherever you are.
14. Efficiency is a value of Americans. Like any value, it can be taken too far—and I certainly used to take it too far, as do others as is evidenced by the high level of stress-related illnesses—but there's no denying that Americans accomplish more in their day than the majority of people around the world. Their methods of increasing efficiency, like in Cheaper By the Dozen, have increased efficiency for other people around the world as well.
15. Hobbies. In America, you have the space, the time, the materials and the means to practice whatever hobby you want. Woodworking, horse riding, piano, jumping higher, quilting...Americans by and large will each of them have a passion—a real obsession with a subject that makes for interesting and skillful people. If you happen to have a hobby for house decorating, which I obviously don't, but if you do I can't imagine a better place to do it than the US. Plus the US is the ideal place for a developing athlete.

16. The best foodie scene in the world. You can get any kind of food even in small towns. Yes there's fast food too. But I don't blame Americans for having trouble with their weight. Food in America is plentiful and it's good. This picture is actually Egyptian food, but you know you can find that in the US too.
17. Americans are entrepreneurs. We are individualists, and we see problems and create solutions for them. So many of the traveling location independent people in the world today whose blogs I follow are Americans. I don’t think that it’s a coincidence. I think being American is ideal for helping people to become self-sufficient (another American value), free, and choosing your own path. Here’s the owner of Bioletics, a company that tests your vitamins in your blood for athletes. We met him in Bend, Oregon.

P1080929's that for a dose of positivity on America from this now three year abroad expat :) (Three years ago this week we arrived in Heiligenhaus, Germany…the start of our adventure. Times have changed since then!) Happy Thanksgiving! We'll be eating it with another LDS family here in Mexico City. Woo hoo!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Veteran’s Day

Dear veterans,

Thank you for dying for

                    killing for

                     surviving those wars you fought for me?


Because I think differently on this subject than most Americans, I’m choosing to share my thoughts. Before I get started, though, let me just say that I have veterans and soldiers in my family, and among my friends. I believe they are brave and desire the best for America. It is the system—the US governmental system, the US value system, the US propaganda system (the media)—which I am speaking about, not the soldiers themselves. Please don’t read further if this subject is too sensitive for you. If, however, you’re interested… let me ask a few questions.


Fill in the blank:


Indians value spirituality, therefore their most respected members of society are spiritual gurus. They have a  history of producing spiritual leaders such as Gandhi.

oscar wilde

Irish value literacy, therefore their most respected members of society are writers. They have a history of producing famous authors such as Oscar Wilde.


Austrians value classical art, therefore their most respected members of society are classical musicians and artists. They have a history of producing some of the most beloved musicians such as Mozart.

Americans value _________, therefore their most respected members of society are soldiers. They have a history of entering conflicts around the globe—a conflict per decade in the last century—and winning, or at least not losing.

(Obviously each country has more than one value and more than one type of hero. I venture to say, however, that in America no other group gets as much honoring as veterans and soldiers.)

Most Americans would fill in the _______ with freedom. I’m not saying that’s not the answer. I’m just saying to think carefully before assuming that.

Let me explain.

Many Americans believe theirs is the most free country in the world. This is not based on facts—it’s more based on history, because it WAS the most free country in the world. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still free. But so are many countries these days, some debatably MORE free. Look at these stats, which rate the US as the 19th most free in individual freedoms: or the 9th most free when it comes to economic freedoms:  Why is this distinction important? Because other countries, which are as or more free than the US, do not have strong militaries nor do they enter into wars with the frequency that Americans do.  Countries such as Switzerland and Singapore.

Yet they are free.

And conversely, of course, some countries have very strong militaries (the next strongest after ours is China’s) which are certainly not free.

So in my mind, fighting wars and supporting the military is not equal to valuing freedom.

Especially because, of any value I have, I think freedom is the highest. There is nothing I value more than my freedom. Maybe my family, I suppose. Anyway, freedom—free agency in Mormon lingo—is the most Godlike quality on earth. I just don’t believe that my freedom is bought with human blood on a regular basis. Nor, even more to the point, do I want it to be. I don’t want anyone to kill for me. I don’t even want anyone to die for me. And, what most Americans don’t seem to understand: it’s not necessary for anyone to die or to kill for you. If I became Canadian, or Estonian, or Swedish—no one would be killing or dying for me, and I would still be free.

This is not a statement most Americans are ready to hear, but:

I believe military worship is the single largest problem in America today- therefore, it is the single largest reason why I do not totally identify myself with Americans.

Here are the reasons why I believe military worship is dangerous:

1. The military is causing our financial problems. More precisely, the longest wars in history are causing our economic problems. These wars will continue as long as Americans allow them to. They are drawing Americans into an economic sinkhole.

2. Honoring institutional violence (i.e., killing in the name of the government) is sure to foster local violence. Take a look at America’s school shootings in comparison to other countries. Or its homicide rate. America’s value system says “mess with the best, die like the rest.”

America is a violent country in comparison to other developed countries. I believe this is rooted in its honoring institutional violence in the form of the military, government-sanctioned torture, and the death penalty. Our policies in these subjects would cause outrage, not worshipful respect, in more peaceful countries.

3. War begets more war. Despite the war on drugs, drug use in America has gone up dramatically in the last 25 years. A country which is constantly at war against something eventually turns into that which it wars against.

4. It promotes American superiority. If wars are always justified, and we’re always right, then someone else in the world is wrong. Wrong enough to be killed. More than someone. Millions of someones. And the dead Americans mourn are never foreign dead, only American dead. As someone who has lived among and loved so many different people of so many different backgrounds, this of all ideas is the most strange. Why do we mourn deaths more because they were American? A human is a human is a human.

5. It damages our relationships with other cultures. Many, many other people around the world are dismayed at the US’s foreign policy. For example, on my favorite travel website’s summary of the US it states: Too many closed-minded independent travellers object to American foreign policy…and don't bother with it. Their loss.


I don’t expect to change anyone’s mind with this post. Patriotism in America is so intrinsically tied with the military that I can’t imagine that changing. The only way it will change is if people visit these countries that have more freedom than the US and more peace, to get that vision.

I am proud of my country. I’m not anti-American. It’s a mark of America’s great freedom of thought that I can express my views on this subject, and I don’t take that lightly. However, because I do love my country I fiercely hope that one day people could get that vision…a vision in which America could once again be the most free country in the world, and the most peaceful.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011


It's been a couple months since I posted.

We've been moving a lot--we've gone from moving 3 times within Vancouver, to American Fork Utah, Dallas, Austin, Dallas again, London, Paris, like 10 cities within France, Barcelona, London, New York City, Miami, St Lucia, and now...

We're here in Guadeloupe. I'm finishing up the site (I decided on and that will hopefully be getting moving here pretty soon. We're keeping busy with our businesses, and I'm learning some French. Jacob's playing some ball. Same old.

Still, it's like I've left the room and I haven't even come in occasionally to say hello. Sorry about that. I'm just here to tell you, Jacob and I are relaxed, comfortable, and working. We have a nice place with actually two rooms in it plus a kitchen and a washing machine, and we have two grocery stores and the biggest beach on the island within walking distance.

Don't worry though, I'll be bringing back the controversy here soon. :)

Monday, July 4, 2011


Just so you know, yes we are still alive and yes we are still out of the States. We have been moving like crazy…within one month from Cairo to Dallas to Seattle to cruising in Alaska to Vancouver. We have moved beds in Vancouver 4 times and been kicked out twice because real estate is so precious here. We’re finally in an apartment and ready to do some work.

Here is our tiny tiny room with bunk beds. Jacob said it felt like we were college roommates. Jacob has devised a new system which he calls cabinets where we can hang all of our earthly possessions around the room instead of constantly burrowing through the suitcase.



Mournfully kicked out again, scrambling to find a new home.


Hooray! We found an apartment in time for Canada Day.


Vancouver is a very nice city—very easy to live. Like the US but with public transportation and less crime.

But it’s dang cold for the summer time! I miss me some Texas heat, water parks, and Otter pops.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

A two way street

A bigot is a person obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices, especially one exhibiting intolerance toward those of differing beliefs. The predominant usage in modern English refers to persons hostile to those of differing race, ethnicity, religion or spirituality…


Dear Facebook friend who posts provocative statuses and who shall remain anonymous:

This is a shot in the dark but, I’m guessing you might be so angry about opponents to gay marriage because you are secretly gay. Just so you know, if you are a closet homosexual I would not care. If you wanted to get married to a guy in New York, I would not care.

If you want to know the truth, I am happy for my other friend who lives in New York who is overjoyed at the prospect of being able to be married now…and for other friends of mine who would like to seal the deal legally but have not been able to…honestly happy for them…

I’ve been in countries where parents kill their children for being gay, such as Ethiopia…

I think that’s more sinister, obviously, than gay marriage.


The LDS Church has gotten a lot of flak about its stance on Proposition 8.

Personally, I find the published statement “marriage is defined as between one man and one woman” ironic since historically we are the only ones who have practiced nontraditional marriage in the US (one man married to many women), illegally to boot.

So I understand if you disagree with the traditional definition that one man and one woman makes a marriage, but…

Responding to perceived bigotry with hatred doesn’t really solve anything, does it?

I’m LDS and I would support your decision to be gay.

I’m not so sure you could say the reverse. (I’m gay and I support your decision to be LDS.)

Respectful dialogue is needed by both parties on sensitive issues.

Bigotry can be a two way street.

“Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends.” – Maya Angelou

Monday, June 20, 2011

To be clear

Because of a previous blog post, someone wrote me and said, “I have to agree with you. Blacks are cursed by God.”

Thank you for writing, so I can clear up what must have been a misunderstanding. What I said was a minister we know believes that.

I don’t.

I don’t know why Africa has so many problems, but I don’t personally believe God would curse an entire continent.

Instead I believe that men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam’s, or anyone else’s, transgressions (AofF 2)

African Americans and those with dark skin around the world have proved over and over again they have equal potential of being just as successful as anyone else.

I believe in being color blind and I believe God is too. In fact, I picture Jesus as having much darker skin than is normally portrayed in paintings—after all, he was Middle Eastern.

Religion has a very sad history of reinforcing racism. I want to distance myself from that. It embarrasses me.

I do not endorse anyone who has ever stated that people with black skin are inferior, interracial marriage is sinful, or racial prejudice of any kind is acceptable.

Just to be clear.


My friend from Sudan, K.G., one of my favorite people I met in Cairo.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Happy Father's Day

Let me tell you three things about my Dad that I hope I will be able to emulate as well as him one day:
Unconditional love: I know not everyone gets to experience unconditional love in their lifetimes. I know that whatever I did, my dad would love me. I could kill somebody and he would still love me. That’s very powerful. I wish that everyone could have that kind of support in their lives.

Humility: My dad might be surprised  but I think of him as a humble person. He has been a wonderful influence in a lot of people’s lives and he has given generously to so many but he does it behind the scenes and without expectation in anything in return. Nor do I believe that he sees himself as special in that regard, but I do.

Soft-hearted: I love that my dad is a softie. I love that he cried with us kids when our dog died. I love that he is empathetic and kind. I believe that is why he so often is called in our church to work with widows and other people who are in rough situations. He is not quick to condemn and he is someone I could always confide in if I knew someone needed help.

Thank you Dad for your example. I hope I can be an example of these traits to others as you have done for me.

Friday, June 17, 2011

I need your feedback

Please vote: Do any of these sound promising for a new travel/business website?

I’m looking to capture a crowd who wants to travel permanently and make a living—a good one, not just scraping by--while doing it. I’m going to make business cards with this website on it for every time someone asks how they can do it too. And eventually write an ebook on travel-related how-tos and sell it on the website. So with that in mind, do any of these catch your eye? Any of them seem like a bad idea? I’m open to other names too! As soon as I pick the domain, I’ll start the design and get moving so everything will be in place for the NYC internet marketing conference in August.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Why visit Africa?

Despite all of its problems, Africa, for me, is addicting.

I know I’ll want to come back.

Here is one reason:

When you go to Europe, everything is polished and perfect. You know exactly what to expect. You know the experience you’re going to have and nothing is going to be that bad. You’re not ever going to be in a traffic accident—not when you take the metro and not when traffic is so orderly. The worst that will happen is you will get pickpocketed, or that it will snow. You’re not going to get food poisoning. You’re not going to hold your breath as you carreen around narrow corners in an overstuffed minitaxi passenger van. The architecture will be beautiful, and people aren’t going to disturb you. Everything is going to be…perfect.


And everyone knows perfect can be boring.

Africa does its own thing and anything can happen. Whether it’s the side of the bus bursting off and falling into Jacob’s lap, or walking in a madhouse of a market where people are selling insects to eat, or experiencing overwhelming and powerful smells that have never greeted your nose before, or making friends who are sure in America there are no such things as lakes, Africa is a surprise.


I like surprises.

I like Africa.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

An email from Alalegn

Dear kalli

How are you? I am fin with my families. How was the tripe of Ethiopia special Lalibela?

Did you back your home? Did fine your families?

I hope you remember me very well I am alelegn you buy for me book you so kind and also your husband is kind I am pray for him to live long life .that book is good for my education and for my life

Please pass my warmest greeting to all of your family and friends

Wishing you all the best!

Please write me your current situation soon

May God be with you where ever you go!

Lots of love and peace

Your student alalegn

Greeting from Lalibela

Could it be that this kid actually is using his dictionary?? Was I being over-cynical? What do you think?

Maybe I’ll never know.

Thursday, May 26, 2011




That’s what it’s like to try and buy a plane ticket with Ethiopian Airlines.

It’s run by the government, which explains a lot.

I spent hours on the website, which the internet was going in and out so it couldn’t be booked and, when the page finally loaded, wouldn’t accept a credit card online. I went in 3 separate times to the office and it was frequently closed.

When I was finally able to get an agent, he booked my ticket, someone who came in after me, and someone on the phone all at the same time while his computer was going in and out of the internet network. I was just glad there was no one ahead of me in line. Nearly two hours later, I walked out the office with our tickets to Ethiopia—Lalibela in hand.

Now I have tried to book tickets out of Lalibela and back to Addis. The office, again, frequently and inconveniently closes, and the flights kept filling up. Someone from our hotel booked our flight, but neglected to tell us we had to confirm the same day, so it was cancelled. We finally have our flights booked to Addis for Thursday, but they won’t let us buy our tickets to Egypt until we get back to Addis. Because they think we need a visa. Which we don’t. It took me 45 minutes of sitting and waiting for me to be told that they weren’t going to give me a ticket. So I booked it online, then went to the office to ask them to print it out.

Then, when I went to confirm our flights just before our Thursday flight, I discovered the guy had only booked one ticket, even though Jacob was sitting next to me, and the flights were full again. I had a Home Alone mom moment.

I said quite dramatically, “I don’t care if I have to sit in the bathroom, in the aisle, or on Jacob’s lap, I want to get out of this city. Find me a seat. My husband and I are not going to travel on different days. And we have to get out of here.”

The worker, after searching the computer for about 30 more minutes, got me a seat. I walked out of the office, triumphant and relieved. I’d had to fight to get out of Lalibela and 5 days after the original planned departure date, we were finally going to leave.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Lalibela: Tastes like scam

Lalibela, as it turns out, is probably one of those tourist towns I mentioned, on par with Marrakesh, Morocco or the like. It’s THE holy city to Ethiopian DSC03507Orthodox Christians, on par with Jerusalem, but it’s also the number one town to visit as a tourist. Consequently, there are scams here. Apparently the “sponsor my education” is a well-known line here, and the people of this town are just professional beggars. If I weren’t such a bleeding heart, I’d stop falling for it. Jacob is around to remind me, though, which is good because I need someone to save me from my naïve generosity.

The dictionary trick is apparently so the boys can sell it back immediately to the shopkeeper and everybody makes a little kickback. And the boy with the pink flipflops seemed so sincere…

What are you supposed to do if you help them and they take advantage of you? When they lie, steal, and cheat you under the pretense of friendship?

I guess the answer is: Kalli, stop giving people something for nothing. Don’t give money without people providing a service in return, don’t buy gifts, toys, or candy for children, don’t “help” beggars. This is my take away message and I hope I can live with it. The fact is, though, based on past experience, catch me at the right moment with the right sob story and I’ll do it again. Sigh.

Ethiopia, to us, feels like a peaceful, passive-aggressive, lazy Nigeria. You know, friendly scammers.

Funny story: I was taken to a police station with the tourist guide who scammed us, someone who told us he was security but in fact was another tour guide, and a police officer who was part of the scam. It was 3 against 1 (me) and little hope of justice being served.

Do you know what it’s like to live in a country where the entire system is corrupt and police officers can be bought off? When you can’t trust anyone around you to be honest, when everyone around you is hoping to steal from you and mislead, and outright lie to you? Where there is no one to be your advocate—you are a rich farenji, you deserve what happens to you? Where even in the hotel you are staying in, the place that should be looking out for its customers, is full of tricksters who even state different prices than the manager has instructed them to?

At least in Ethiopia, unlike Central and South America, the scammers aren’t armed. They’re wimpy and a little pathetic, so you feel sorry for them even as you are frustrated with them. You remind yourself:

Their situation is so much worse than mine, I shouldn’t get mad.

But then after all-day pestering you still do get mad and you tell the young, bright-eyed, talented-at-scamming boy who has asked for something in the exact same lying way the last boy asked: “You know what? In America we work for what we receive! We don’t ask for something from strangers without providing something in return! And even if I did buy a soccer ball, I wouldn’t give it to you!”

Friday, May 20, 2011

Say a prayer for Ethiopia

God bless Ethiopia.

They need it.

Jacob says his experience of Ethiopia has been tainted for him because everyone here has a not-so-hidden agenda: begging. That it is “plasticy” because no one we meet can really be trusted to be our friend.

It’s difficult not to feel this way.

It does seem that many Ethiopians are kind people…their friendship is genuine….they just don’t know how to get out of the rough financial situation they are in, and the white people with their fancy cameras, name brand shoes and educated English come in… it’s difficult not to ask for a little money.

Well, it’s exhausting to be begged from by 10 people on every walk you take. It’s exhausting to make a friend and then 2 days into the friendship they start using words like “sponsor my education” and “I need help.”

I’d hardened my heart to it, because you have to, it’s too much. And then tonight made me sorrow a bit. One nice boy here in Lalibela nicknamed Champion has shown us around the town, without us asking him to, and a couple days later started to ask for sponsorship so he could go to college. That he can’t afford school. That he goes to bed hungry at night. Jacob gave him a stern lecture about how God gave him hands and abilities for a reason, that even if he helped Champion, what should Jacob tell the thousands of other beggars? and hugged him, and Champion started to turn away to hide his tears.

Jacob doesn’t know if he is just acting or if his situation is really that rough. It’s hard not to be cynical in those situations, although I’m much more likely to fall for a help-me ruse than Jacob. Because it’s too easy to believe that here in Ethiopia, their situation really is that rough.

We both agree, in any event,  that we really like Champion. He’s nice and good-intentioned.

What would you tell a guy like him?

I told him to start a business—he said he’d love to, if he had the startup money (it’s not like Ethiopians can get a loan.)

I told him about internet business—if only he had a computer, he said.

Despite our lectures about Americans making their own fortunes, inside I had to admit that actually I was “sponsored.” My education was sponsored by scholarships, LDS tithing, and generous parents. What would I have done if I had none of those things, no access to books or computers, and no option to get a loan? I don’t know. But goodness knows a college education doesn’t equal getting a good job, unfortunately. Jacob, as a college dropout and a successful one at that, is probably the wrong person to ask for money to go to college.

I broke my resolve not to give to people on the street and bought a fifteen year old kid a dictionary today. He really wants to learn English—he found my soft spot, which is books. I can’t imagine living in a city with no library. Well, actually we have—in Ouazazarte, Morocco, and it wasn’t easy. I’m not going to say no to a $12 book. Plus, I reasoned, you buy a person a meal and they’re hungry the next day. You buy them a book, they can learn for a lifetime…and even share that learning and that book with others.


The Dictionary Boy: See the pink flipflops he’s wearing? They were way too small for him.

Ethiopia, tonight, has made me a little teary.

God help Ethiopians learn to help themselves. That’s the prayer I’m saying in my heart tonight.

Thursday, May 19, 2011


Ethiopia is starting to drive me a little crazy.
Jacob and I are both agreed that, after 3 months of sub-Saharan Africa, we are ready for, as Jacob puts it, “some people who are a little more up and coming.”
The hassle is just starting to be a little much as a farenji, or white person. It’s not the danger—Addis Ababa is as safe as it gets for Africa—it’s the begging.
And it’s not the begging from the handicapped that really gets me. There are so many handicapped here. We’re told it’s because the polio vaccine is relatively new. Polio apparently until recently used to be a huge problem. So many strange skin diseases with bulbous growths all over the body, so many people without feet, so many blind mothers with babies sucking at their breasts, so many mentally handicapped walking naked through the streets, so many crutches and so many malformed bodies. Their situation is a constant reminder of how blessed I am to have access to adequate healthcare.
So many kids trying to earn their keep by shoeshining, some wearing pants with holes the size of tennis balls on the bum. Or by selling chewing gum, or by begging and making hungry motions. These kids, I can pity, even if they can be irksome in their aggressiveness.
But the hassle from grown, healthy men with jobs, asking me for money—begging shamelessly from me, a young woman—is too much. There are so many normal, grown people here who just sit around on their blankets and make begging faces.
The miracle is, they get money. They all get money.
The reason is Ethiopia’s socialist culture. If you have money, you should give to those who don’t. It’s its religion too. Ethiopian Orthodox. By giving to others, God will bless you. Sadly, this belief, though altruistic, is holding them back.
Ethiopia is in the 10 poorest countries in the world.
It’s like they’ve never asked themselves why they are so poor. Just that they are poor, and other countries are selfish for not helping them. So many of them feel helpless and they just want wealthy people to give them money. But the poor countries get that way for a reason. It’s not just fate. The ideologies that the poor countries embrace are not helping them any.
The government, like most African countries, has been in power way too long and it is merciless with its protesters. 200 people were killed and 800 injured the last time elections were protested in 2005. Some people deny those numbers and even like their president because he’s still better than the president before. I didn’t know until coming here that Ethiopia had its own genocide that ended only 15 years ago, where it is reported 500,000 people were killed. The man in power at the time was afraid of all the youth and intelligensia so he wiped out an entire generation. This is unimaginable to Americans and it makes me respect “the right to bear arms” -even though I hate guns, I respect the right for a citizen to own one.
We were told Ethiopians want Americans to come help them kick their president out of power. I don’t know how I feel about that…We won our own independence didn’t we?
That said, I don’t think I would have the courage to protest, knowing I might be shot. I’d emigrate, instead. I think the Egyptians and others who have protested are so incredibly brave.
No other country has made me so proud to have been raised American. In America, we believe that you reap what you sow. If you work hard, you’ll be successful. If you don’t, it’s your fault. Your success is up to you.
Here in Ethiopia, the helplessness is palpable. They believe their destiny is in other people’s hands—rich people’s hands, and right now it is, because they have not risen to their potential, and because experience has taught them white people are generous.
The lack of ambition in people can be so frustrating here. We even arranged for our friend to get a job. He hasn’t worked in 3 years and is being supported by his sister. We thought he’d jump at the chance. Instead, he made some excuse of it not being the ideal work environment. We pay for everything when we go out with him. He often can’t even afford to make a single phone call. He’s dependent on his sister. He asks me to have 3 birr, the equivalent of about 10 cents, for a ride home. And yet he’s turning down a job…It seems the people would rather live off of charity than take initiative. There’s no shame in getting freebies because their culture has taught them that those who have should give to them….that’s the unselfish thing to do.
The result is the poorest, most begging culture we have ever experienced.
Ethiopia has got pretty rough problems, but NGOs run by Americans I personally don’t think is the answer. More and more, Jacob and I have become disenchanted with NGOs. Often they are the excuse for the owners to live it up under the name of charity, living out of the Sheraton and paying themselves a handsome salary. There is corruption and mismanagement of funds and abuse, much more than a regular business because a service or product is not being traded for money, but a “do good deed” which can’t really be listed in the marketplace for a price. White people who have come before us have given to the beggars and made the people now even more aggressive and shameless in their overtures toward us.
More and more, we feel that business is the answer. People need to start businesses, create jobs, and provide value to the marketplace. I know that is easier said than done, but…there is so much that could be created here. Ethiopia is not the desert people imagine it is. In the highlands, where most of the people live, it’s extremely green and beautiful. We’ve been told there is enough arable land in Ethiopia to actually feed all of Africa—how ironic, its dependence on food aid.
Ethiopia has to be a democracy before it can rise above its destitute situation. Until then, the government’s control will never allow the people to get the education and confidence they need to better their lives.
And in the meantime, the internet breaks, the power goes out, the hot water runs out, elevators go in and out of service, websites are blocked, the store keepers scam you, the locals follow you, and the farenjis start dreaming of a hassle-free, technologically advanced society where people don’t expect you to give them money just because you have some, or because you look like you have some because you have white skin.
Even though we made friends easily here, we wonder here more than anywhere else if these friends aren’t hoping to benefit financially from us—if our friendship isn’t a little artificial. India’s people were just as poor—but they insisted on paying our taxis for us, in giving us gifts, in making gestures that made us unable to doubt their genuine friendship. When we go out with friends here, there’s no question who’s getting the tab. No polite offers, even, to pay for their own. I’m pretty sure they just tell the waiter in Amharic, “The farenji’s getting the bill.”
I’ve started wanting to shake the grown men and women by the shoulders and say, “You can create your own destiny! You can live a better life! Don’t ask other people for money! Have a little pride!” But it’s such a different mentality. The kind-hearted Ethiopians can’t understand the concept that giving to beggars means they will continue to beg. That if you don’t give, they’ll stop asking, and they’ll find another way to make money. It’s that simple. As long as it’s more profitable for them to beg than to work, though, you can be sure they’ll stay on the streets, tugging your sleeve, making faces, wailing, hobbling, persistently trailing behind you.
Cairo will hopefully be an improvement in this area.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Rafting the Nile

Here’s the story of our whitewater rafting in Uganda:

Jinja, Uganda is supposed to have the best white water rafting in the world.

I wavered at whether or not I wanted to do five grade rapids though:

But a friend I made said I had to do it, so…we did.

We got picked up outside of Nakumatt Oasis in a huge van that smelled like sweat which had “Nile River Explorers” painted on it.

We drove for a bumpy hour. I expected we would pick up others, but we never did.

Turns out Jacob and I were the only ones rafting the Nile that day.

This meant no photographers and no one to join us for the big barbecue bash that celebrates a safe ride down the river.

It could have been disappointing, but instead I chose to see it as romantic. Just Jacob and I on a private expedition for two Smile

The company is Australian-owned, but the guides were Ugandan.

Our main guide was sarcastic, tough, and had been rafting the Nile for 11 years. Tony, his grinning counterpart, made a perfect sidekick. Each rapid that advanced, our guide would say: “Tony, please don’t scream like a girl this time. You need to stop scaring the clients” or “Tony, don’t hide in the raft” and cute, grinning Tony would giggle and say, “Okay.”

We had some training. We learned no one had died, but several people had broken bones. We learned what to do if we got caught under the raft, what to do if we got taken away by the current, and how to ride the kayak if he came to rescue us. How to catch the rope if we had to get pulled in (not wrapped around the fingers—it could break them). How to float so we would be less likely to get tore up by a rock, legs in the air. We removed rings and watches because the water usually swallowed them up.

All of the information was kind of overwhelming, and I just knew I wouldn’t be able to remember it all in an emergency. Fortunately, we never  had to use it.

I dressed in a tee shirt and long spandex-style pants that turned out to be perfect for swimming—they protected from the sun but didn’t get baggy with water. We also had helmets and life jackets. The water was so pleasant—not cold at all. There were crocodiles, which we were told were vegetarian. Because white people hunt them, they get out quick when they see white people. Apparently they like to eat black people though. Which is why they didn’t like to swim in the water. Our guides said.

I wasn’t strong enough to pull myself into the raft when we practiced falling out, so it was agreed Jacob would pull me in. I’ve been working on my upper body strength, too. Darn.

We started going down the river, and we could already hear the rapids before we could see them. My heart was beating faster and I was praying and saying, “What did we get ourselves into?” We approached the water as our guide began issuing commands. “Paddle harder!” And then, “Get down!” That was the signal to hold onto the rope and hide your head. The raft whisked around large boulders and belched us out onto smooth water. We hadn’t tipped over. It was adrenaline-pumping fun.

The next one the wave was so humongous there was no doubt we were going to topple. It was like an ocean wave. We watched it break over us like the monster it was. Soon I found myself under the raft, but I saw light, headed towards it, and only swallowed a little of the famous Nile. Jacob, however, was stuck under the raft for a while, and he came up after gulping water for a bit. That one was our worst one. We went on 8 major rapids. Others had been closed due to the dam that was recently built. There’s talk that these rapids won’t be around forever, so now is the time to go.

After that there were long stretches of nothing, where we could just sit back and observe the interesting birds along the river. Lunch was fresh pineapple, chopped with a large knife right in front of us. I never knew how tasty fresh pineapple could be. Jacob and Tony skipped chunks of it across the river. Jacob squeezed the pineapple into his mouth and all over his face, saying he could do that here because he could just jump into the river afterwards. (Jacob hates to get his hands dirty.) He backflipped off the raft, knocked us all off at one point or another, and was just having such a great time that I was laughing just watching him. We could just swim and play in the flat water. Jacob took me and kissed me in the middle of the Nile, an awkward kiss with two life jackets blocking it, but my favorite part of the day nonetheless.

Then the roar of the rapids could be heard, and we’d prepare again. I’d be just as nervous every time. I was only nervous about breaking a bone. That would have been a nuisance, what with our having plane tickets to fly to Ethiopia the next day.

On a couple of the rapids, he had us lean on one side as we rode a wave sideways to keep from toppling. Bump—bump—bump, we sat on the top of that wave like a rickety roller coaster ride.

I’ll tell you there’s nothing like the feeling of being on top of a wave, in a raft, screaming and laughing, before sliding down it and starting it over again, out of control, at the mercy of the water.

We finished and I was a bit relieved and proud at the same time.

I discovered white water rafting grade 5 rapids was like everything I’m scared of: I research it, read blogs about it, overanalyze it, weigh the risks, consider backing out until the last second, and then take a leap of faith and do it.

Then I discover it’s never as bad as my imagination made it out to be.

Despite slathering on sunscreen, we both got rocked. My lower lip puffed up to the size of an African’s. Jacob’s rosy cheeks got even rosier.

Jacob’s quote: “This is my favorite activity in all of Africa.”


Since we didn’t have our camera with us that day, here is a picture of Jacob on a different day in front of another part of the Nile.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Don’t love travel?

I have a theory that everyone loves to travel…they just don’t know it yet.

Most people think of travel as sightseeing. Although that is definitely enjoyable, that isn’t why I travel.

I travel because I have to know how other people live. How other people see the world.

I remember the week before I went to study abroad in Vienna. I was an emotional wreck. I cried a lot. I was scared to leave my friends, and Utah. I had no idea what it was going to be like. I wasn’t going, at that point, because I loved travel. I was going because it was going to allow me to escape the BYU music program for a while. Hey, the idea of use of travel for an escape is not a new one.

So I was really scared, but I remember my dad told me: “Kalli…I think you’re really going to like it.”

That turned out to be an understatement. You don’t live in the world’s number one quality of life city for three and a half months and not fall in love with it.


At a football match in Vienna

I woke up every morning energized and excited for what the day would bring. I’d never had my own car, so public transportation meant I could actually get around on my own. I went clubbing with my roommate and I even met an Austrian boy. I fell in love with Europe.

I came back to the States ready for more.

Which leads me to my secret trick to fall in love with traveling:

To really travel, you have to stay a while. In one place. Preferably a month. Preferably not a tourist city.

A tourist city is defined as a city which exists solely to cater to tourists. Cappadocia or Ephesus, Turkey are some. The islands of Thailand, any kind of luxury cruise, Cancun, Mexico, and Santorini, Greece, too. Not that these places shouldn’t be visited—they just aren’t the place to go to if you are thinking about “traveling” as opposed to “vacationing.” Living in a place versus doing a shop-til-you-drop, mad-running-about-to-see-every-site, the-locals-are-all-out-to–get-your-tourist-dollar scammers (or worse, there are no locals because tourists and expats have actually taken over the city), visit is completely different. In fact, that idea is exhausting to do full time. We just hang out. We spend a lot of time at our hotel. We do maybe one touristy thing a week. Then we’ll go on some stint for a few days where we’re basically full out tourists…then return to relax and spend the rest of the month just hibernating, hanging out with new friends, and working on the computer.

I know not everyone has the ability to travel for a month at a time, but if you get the chance, a month will give you a completely different feeling than a jam-packed four days will. For Jacob, that vision came when he stayed in New Caledonia for 2 years. Jacob had to convince me to travel slow at first. For me, as someone who is desperate to see the whole world, it definitely was a paradigm shift. But now I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Some would say even one or two months is too short, really…and in some ways it is. But it at least gives you that depth that can only come when you stay in one place long enough for it to feel like home.

Tourists don’t know where they’ve been. Travelers don’t know where they’re going.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Ethiopia, the warm heart of Africa

Sorry for the hiatus—I believe the Ethiopian government blocks blogspot.

Ethiopia is everything I have wanted from Africa. In fact, it feels like the warm heart of Africa, like Turkey was the warm heart of the Middle East, India, the warm heart of Asia, and to some extent, Macedonia was for Europe (though we had Jacob’s brother to thank for that, perhaps.)

It’s a mix of Africa and the Middle East. Everything about it is unique.

It has its own calendar, its own time system, and the people have their own look.

The weather is similar to Utah’s; dry, not too hot, and mountainous.


The cuisine is actually unique—beyond the chicken/rice/plantain fare so common elsewhere. It’s easy to  be vegetarian here: it’s called fasting in their religion, so food is plentiful and delicious for me.


It’s been easy to make friends here.


The religion, they believe, is the earliest version of Christianity and that the Arc of the Covenant is found here. They dress all in white when they go to worship for unity’s sake, which I thought paralled my own religion. Pretty neat.


The dancing is CRAZY


The music is percussive, rhythmic, and overwhelming.


There are more naked, blind, handicapped, and poor people than any place we’ve been to. Someone told us that this is because of the wars Ethiopia has had for the last 20 years.DSC02920

There is so much recorded history, of which Ethiopians are justly proud. This is Lucy, the oldest hominid ever found.


The traditional clothes feel Biblical—which they probably are.


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