This site contains the archives of my travel blogs from 2010-2016.

I'm now blogging via Medium. For other life updates, including opportunities or requests to collaborate, visit my personal website.




Saturday, February 28, 2009

40 states in 40 days

Wow, it's been about two weeks since I've had a chance to post anything! Busy busy! But a lot of things have come together in the past few days....one of those is the solidification of my participation in a domestic "study abroad" program this summer with classmates from Belmont.

So get this: 11 students. 2 professors. 1 sleeper bus. 40 states. 40 days. It's going to be an amazing trip.

Here's a visual... (click on the picture for a bigger view)
Some of the highlights include:
- New Orleans
- Overnight stay on a Native American Reservation
- 3 days at the Grand Canyon
- Las Vegas
- 3 days in LA
- San Francisco
- Seattle
- Salt Lake City
- Yellowstone National Park
- Mount Rushmore
- Chicago
- Indianapolis
- Detroit
- Cleveland
- 3 days in Boston
- 3 days in New York City
- Philadelphia
- 3 days in Washington, D.C.
- Williamsburg, VA
- Savannah, GA
- St. Augustine, FL
- Montgomery, AL

So it's going to be quite the trip! Belmont is putting together an online blog for us, so you'll be able to follow us as we discover America from sea to shining sea!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

un essaie sur les Grecs anciens...

Well, it's 2am, and here I am. I've been trying to sleep for three hours, but my brain is working overtime for some reason and I just can't stop it! What's more, I'm having tons of great ideas! I've solved numerous problems that popped up throughout the week, made important decisions, and even found inspiration for two creative projects and a video I must produce in the coming week.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, my Ancient World class has been mostly focused on Ancient Greece and Rome so far. We've read some really interesting texts; besides the textbook (The Humanistic Tradition by Gloria K. Fiero), I've read Plato's Euthyphro and Apology of Socrates, and will read Plato's Crito and Aristophanes' Clouds next week. The biggest text is The Classical World, a sometimes dry, but overall fascinating investigation of ancient Greek culture; it discusses everything from the concept of pantheism to the role of women and children to a history of the major wars, and of course architecture and the origins of the Olympic Games.

I find it really interesting that the ancient Greeks formed the basis-- I would argue even the canon-- for the Western worldview, standards of beauty, mathematics, philosophy, politics, and literature. Out of all the ancient civilizations, I wonder how the Greeks became so advanced both technologically and socially. What did they have that other civilizations didn't?

I think that what set them apart was virtue. From the information we have about them today, it seems that the Greeks weren't as engulfed in self-interest as, say, the Mesopotamian civilizations. This is reflected in the Greek ruling system: democracy takes into account the good and the interest of the entire group, while monarchy is so blatantly a one-man show. Even though the Greeks' true democracy ultimately failed, the updated models seen in the modern Western world seem to be working okay -- not perfect-- but okay.


Going back to my temporary insomnia, I've spent the last hour amusing myself by telling stories in all the languages I can think of. Then I got to thinking about it, and realized that what I do for fun is what most people consider homework.

My most recent contemplations all have to do with sources of inspiration -- this is why I mentioned the Greeks. This Ancient World class is having a much larger effect on me than I ever would have thought. I can identify sources of inspiration for the great Greek philosophers and architects that are the same as those which have inspired artists throughout history and even today: rhythm/music, sun/moon/stars/earth, relationships, symmetry/order, etc.

I've always been surprised by music's ability to both calm and soothe as much as invigorate and energize. It's no coincidence that, armed with my iPod, I can run faster and longer now than I ever could as a very fit teenager on the Jr. High cross country team -- a lot of what athletic performance depends on is mental, and music can help sustain a mental state even when a person's physical state is in decline.

But, as much as I love music, language is my primary inspiration. I don't know that I could ever adequately explain why, I just know that I love them! Each new language is a new system, a new code. I remember sitting in church as a little girl and creating new alphabets and writing secret messages in the new alphabets. I created codes and number systems to represent letters and sounds. I was convinced that there had to be more than 26 sounds and tried continuously to make a sound that couldn't be represented by our alphabet. Although I never found one on my own, I was thrilled when I started learning foreign languages and discovered that there are LOTS of other sounds that English fails to employ. So my first theory, (formed as a 7 yr old) was correct....I just wasn't genius enough to prove it on my own.

Here's another reason why I'm enthused by languages: they're entirely practical. Knowing the exact order of the planets in our solar system probably isn't going to be useful on a daily basis, but being able to communicate with fellow humans could really help -- especially if you're lost in a place far away from your home. I just think that languages are so much more practical to learn than most of the useless trivia I spent years reciting in public school. It's definitely proved true in my life, and if globalization continues at this pace, I'd recommend you learn one too! :)

Thursday, February 12, 2009

have you ever had one of those days where everything just went smoothly?

...you know, as if the day had been rehearsed and then played out to its fullest potential.
Yep, that day was today.

I woke up to the most beautiful sunrise. My apartment, conveniently located at the top level of the highest building on the biggest hill for miles around, features an east-facing balcony offering a 180 degree view of beautiful east Nashville. Every morning the fiery red ball shows up to beckon me out of a slumber and fills my room with a pinkish glow. The weather has been absolutely gorgeous this last week, so my early morning jaunt to the gym was more than pleasant. Something about the warm breeze, soft glow, and birds chirping this morning took me straight back to Australia.

Once situated at a comfortable pace on the treadmill, I pulled out some required reading for my Honors Colloquium and was pleasantly surprised by the good-natured tone of the book; before I knew it I had burned 500 calories, finished the assignment, and the time had flown! What a nice way to start off the day.

I got home and was treated to a hot shower since practically no one else in the building was up yet to use all the hot water; my hair somehow did exactly what I wanted it to do; I relatively quickly found something matching to wear; and my egg was cooked to perfection when I flipped it onto my plate. Bliss.

I left to campus early so I could meet with several faculty about different projects: First I stopped off at the university's Fundraising/Development department to get some fundraising tips for the 40 Days Across America trip I'm taking with the Sociology Dept. this summer. To my amazement, one lady offered to contact the university's Corporate Sponsorship and Marketing Departments as well as several other faculty in order to get the best advice and any new ideas for our group. How kind of her!

After an especially delicious hummus & veggie wrap in the caf, I headed up to the Entrepreneurship Center to go over my Public Relations Industry Analysis with my genius professor. This is the first class I've gone into without really knowing all the answers, so it's been a hard adjustment to have to work so hard to understand the material. But apparently I'm doing some things right -- Dr. S gave me a big compliment and said I'm actually way ahead of most of my classmates. So nice to hear...I can't stand falling behind!

As this especially productive afternoon got underway, I managed to get a ton of research done for several different classes. My only class for the day didn't start until 3:30pm and then got out early, so I had more than enough time to beat the rush hour traffic on my way to dinner with Whit. Convenient!

Oh and this is good....Whitney just happened to mention a new FroYo shop opening soon, so we checked it out online and it turns out they're an awesome company (featuring 100+ healthy flavors) and are currently hiring for the new location a few blocks from Belmont. I've been looking for a job for the whole first half of the semester, and I keep running into dead ends, so I would be so grateful if this worked out! I'll be calling them tomorrow morning :)

Some Russian girls came in while I was studying at Panera and it was so cool -- I understood a lot! I almost went up and talked to them, but from what I gathered one girl was having some serious relationship problems and was homesick for Russia, so I decided that an enthusiastic American girl with less than fluent language skills is probably not someone she would be interested in talking to at the moment. But it was still cool to see that I'm actually learning a lot in class!

And of course, to finish off a great day....all my favorite songs were on the radio on my way home :)

I hope your day was as full of joy as mine was!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

a little update....

This week has just been incredibly busy, but in a good sort of way.
Here are just a few of the interesting things in the works:

  • 40 Days Across America: this innovative domestic "study abroad" trip has never before been atempted by any university. 11 students. 2 professors. 1 tour bus. 40 states. 40 days. $6,800.
    Yeah ok. So the price is a little steep. But the experience is going to be totally worth it. Right now I'm working on getting corporate sponsorships -- both personally, and for the group if possible. If you know anyone in any industry who might be interested....please let me know!!
  • ETP 3000 -- Foundations in Entrepreneurship: I won't lie, this eight-week course gets a little hard to sit through going on hour 3 of the 4-hour Tuesday night session. But overall I have learned an enormous amount about entrepreneurial activities and the business mindset in general. This is my first business class; I just changed my majors last semester from Sociology and French to International Business and Entrepreneurship. So, after 14 years of studying mostly the arts, it's been an interesting and somewhat challenging transition from a Humanities to a Business mindset.
    I'm currently investigating and putting together an analysis of the Public Relations Industry. It's an area I've been interested in for a while, but it's great to really get in and get familiar with how everything works. I'm amazed not only by the complexity of some aspects, but also by the simplicity of others.
  • Art & Music: I've never had very much of a passion for creative or fine art. I've always appreciated music, but haven't dissected the parts of a finished piece and looked at how they all fit together. It may be that Belmont's fine-arts-driven environment is influencing me; I've just been so inspired lately by paintings, photographs, music, statues, and even poetry (which, that right there is amazing in and of itself -- I've always loathed poetry!)
    Some of my recent favorites: Wynonna, who I saw in concert earlier this week; Jean-Michel Folon, a Belgian painter whose collective work I would describe as "peaceful" (see a few of his works featured in the left column of this blog); Yaël Naïm, a musician who sings beautifully in both French and Hebrew (listen to one of her songs at the top left of this blog); Joshua Bell, an amazing violinist -- his work is just breathtaking; Yannick Noah, a French-Jamaican Reggae pop singer; and various amateur photographers whose work is displayed privately and inconspicuously.
  • Seven Futures: Today Erik R. Peterson, Senior Vice President of the Center for Strategic & International Studies -- a Washington D.C. think-tank, spoke at Belmont. His hour long talk focused on the Seven Revolutions that will take place in the next 15 years. The question of the hour: What will the world look like in 2025? Peterson's scientifically- and sociologically-based argument featured seven areas which will undoubtedly help shape the world as we will know it in 2025. These areas include: Population Demographics (developed vs. undeveloped world, global aging, urbanization); Resource Management (Food, Water, Energy); Technology (Computation, Robotics, Biotechnology, Nanotechnology); Data Information & Knowledge (he predicts that by age 38 people will have gone through 10-14 major career changes -- how will we handle acquiring the specialized knowledge for each of those? Also, he stresses the opportunity people the world over will have to "innovate without having to emigrate"); Global Economic Integration; Conflict (Bioterrorism -- there is a high probability of increased conflict, so we need to focus on resilience); and Governance (who will be controlling what?
    It was a highly informative and thought-provoking presentation. If you want to know more about the concept or the agency, visit www.csis.org.
  • FYI: This little fact kind of jumped out at me during Erik Peterson's talk this morning-- Did you know that the World Health Organization's budget last year was $2.2 billion?
    Last year the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation gave away $2.3 billion.
  • P.S. -- My mom just had oral surgery this morning after being in a lot of pain for about a week....so if you're the praying type, please include her in your prayers! :)

Monday, February 09, 2009

So you can feel like you were really there...


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I may have a new fave....

I was intrigued when I heard Wynonna was going to be doing a free concert at Belmont. What I didn't know was how fantastic it was going to be! She's so real, it's very refreshing. The night started off with "The Insiders View" taped interview, which I assume will air on a major network sometime soon. She is such an interesting person, coming from a very modest background (as do many of previous generations' country stars) and then, by 16, having to deal with all the pressures that come from being rich and famous. She was very open about her spending problem that almost depleated her entire savings a few years, and I think was a great example--a big reality check--for many of the very talented students here at Belmont hoping to become rich and famous overnight.

Wynonna has such an amazing range, and her voice is really something special.
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Thursday, February 05, 2009

Plato's take on politics...

My Honors course this semester is entitled Ancient World, and appropriately so, because we are simultaneously investigating the development of culture through the ancient civilizations of Egypt, Mesopotamia, India, Greece, Rome, and China. Most of us have studied these ancient civilizations individually at some point or another-- but rarely do we compare and contrast them all on one time line.

Right now we're just moving into ancient Greece; today's preparatory reading includes an excerpt from Plato's Republic. This specific piece is called the "Allegory of the Cave" -- many of you may be familiar with it. If you're not, let me briefly put it in context: Plato was a student of the great Greek philosopher Socrates. Shortly after Athens government was defeated in the Peloponnesian Wars, Socrates--who flagrantly disliked the new regime and wasn't afraid to say so--was brought to trial (at over seventy years of age) for "subversive behavior, impiety, and atheism". He was condemned to die by drinking hemlock, a poisonous herb.**

Although Socrates was a great thinker, and took on students who would become themselves great philosophers, Socrates never wrote down any of his theories, conjectures, or ponderings. What we know of him is only what was recorded by his students. Plato especially seemed to have an affinity for his teacher, and went on to write most of his treatises as dialogues wherein Socrates delivers the major philosophical arguments of the text.

Ok, so now to get to my point. In Republic, Plato has Socrates impart this wisdom...

"...The truth is that you can have a well-governed society only if you can discover for your future rulers a better way of life than being in office; then only will power be in the hands of men who are rich, not in gold, but in the wealth that brings happiness, a good and wise life.

All goes wrong when, starved for lack of anything good in their own lives, men turn to public affairs hoping to snatch from thence the happiness that they hunger for. They set about fighting for power, and this internecine conflict ruins them and their country.

The life of true philosophy is the only one that looks down upon offices of state; and access to power must be confined to men who are not in love with it; otherwise rivals will start fighting. So whom else can you compel to undertake the guardianship of the commonwealth, if not those who, besides understanding best the principles of government, enjoy a nobler life than the politician's and look for rewards of a different kind?"

I feel like the man was on to something here...
This principle has been proven over and over and over throughout the course of history.

So why, I ask, do we--right now, here in America--focus more on healthcare plans and attractive economic stimulus packages than on each candidate's general satisfaction with life, their moral character, and overall wisdom??? In my opinion, the office of President should only have one main qualification: good discernment. He has more than enough peeps to do the research, crank the numbers, and fill him in on the latest from the nation. All he needs to do is be able to understand the information coming in, and make a good decision.

Isn't it a bit outrageous that we look for a presidential candidate thinking that it's possible for one guy (or lady) to have all the answers and strategic moves to advance and maintain the entire nation!? Division of labor and brainpower is a good thing; what we need is a good thinker that can look at the big picture and make good choices.

So I'm siding with Plato on this one...I'm not interested in leaders who are in it for the "bennies" (as mom always says)....private jets and general self-glorification shouldn't be primary motivators for a candidate's run for office.

And that's my political statement for the day.

**Source: Fiero, Gloria K. The Humanistic Tradition: Prehistory to the Early Modern World. 5th Ed. 2006.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

my credo

Today in my Freshman Colloquium class we were asked to review the credo (statement of our values and beliefs) that we wrote as our first assignment last semester. As I reread it, I was disappointed at how the busyness of school and life has contributed to me loosing sight of a few of the elements of my credo. I'm prepared for it to change--some--but for the most part, I think it is a well thought out representation of my current situation.

Today is the 6th month mark of me being back in the United States. My life has changed so much, and so frequently during the past four years....It's hard to imagine myself sitting as a freshman in a high school classroom just four years ago, trying to endure the system that was holding me back. I'm so thankful for the opportunities that I took to get out and see the world. Those experiences have changed my life drastically, and influenced my view of myself and the world in a powerful way. I'm not quite sure how it's possible that I'm homesick for so many countries, but, reflecting on my time overseas, I genuinely enjoyed the slower pace of life. I walked to school, sports, the grocery store, and friends' houses out of necessity; I did arts and crafts at home with little kids because our schedules weren't booked to the limit with extracurricular sports and activities; I walked in the park and wrote in my journal every day because I enjoyed it and actually had the time; and going out to dinner was so delightful because it was literally a once-a-year event. I yearn to immerse myself in that simple way of life that is markedly driven by community solidarity and rare indulgences--so different from the life we're used to here in the prosperous United States.

But it was also encouraging to look back over my credo; it's a grounding experience to revisit a personal statement of values. So I'll post it here below, maybe my statement will prompt you to ask some questions about your own priorities in life.

My Credo
Created September 2, 2008

"This is what I shall do:
Greet each day with vigor;
Put time, work, and energy into familial relationships;
Live below my means and conserve whenever possible;
Nourish my body with wholesome foods;
Exercise often;
Have meaningful discussions with people in their own language;
Show my appreciation for nature by spending time therein;
Pass a considerable portion of my life abroad, without the comforts of life in America, that I might better appreciate everything that God has blessed this country with;
Support American soldiers and revere the flag always;
Think for myself and exercise critical thinking daily;
Not underestimate the power of a smile;
Be optimistic;
Remember the ones who came before me;
Weigh the facts and avoid hasty decisions;
Pursue truth, wisdom, and knowledge 'til the day I die;
Put others before myself;
Let God be the judge;
Take opportunities, even risky ones, as they are presented to me;
Rise with the sun;
Go above and beyond my duties to others that they might know my respect for them;
Periodically evaluate the accordance of my actions with these said values."

Although many of the values expressed in my credo were instilled in me by my parents from a young age, a large number of them have been acquired throughout the past few years. I have spent the last twenty-four months living and studying overseas. During my time in countries such as Australia, Belgium, Bosnia, China, England, Italy, and Switzerland, not one of my values or beliefs was left unchallenged. Whether they were outright opposed or simply unacknowledged and misunderstood, the values I hold today have run the cultural gauntlet.
In addition to having my already-established values put to the test, I came to value and appreciate many new ideas over the course of my travels. For example, in line eight of my credo I mention my appreciation for nature. Growing up in California and Oregon, I was never far from a forest. My family owns 350 acres in northern California and we have spent many summers in the deer cabin, picking blackberries and building dams in the creek. It wasn't until my fourth month in Belgium that I realized the absence of forests; there is not one undiscovered stretch of land in that country. It's simply too populated to devote prime real estate to such a frivolous concept. In fact, you couldn't get lost in Belgium if you wanted to--you're bound to run across someone or something within a few miles.
Within four days of my return to America I drove from Oregon to Tennessee and cherished every mile of undeveloped countryside.

Another deep conviction which surfaced during my year in Belgium is my commitment to "put others before myself." Despite the hundreds of hours of community service I had accumulated by the age of sixteen, I still had not discovered the real blessing which lies in serving. It took an almost complete emotional breakdown to see it; serving was the only means of getting my mind off my problems and interacting with other people. In this way I learned that it truly is better to give than to receive.
It's unquestionable that my time abroad has broadened my worldview and deepened my appreciation and understanding of other cultures, but what is perhaps less predictable is the effect my exposure to other cultures has had on the view I hold of my own country. I now see America through the eyes of the immigrants who so valued our freedoms and economical opportunities that they were willing to give up their homes, friends, and tradition to pursue a new life here. I have a new respect for our soldiers after spending time in some of the dangerous and inconvenient places they are posted.
All this has resulted in an increased sense of patriotism and a new, deep appreciation of our history, national identity, and legacy. One reason I value spending considerable amounts of time abroad: the American lifestyle is that much sweeter every time I return.

The last line of my credo expresses my commitment to "periodically evaluate the accordance of my actions with these said values." That is to say, I know I'm not perfect; I strive to live up to every one of these virtuous concepts, but realistically, it's not going to happen all the time. I think self-reflection and progress reports are an important part of achieving any goal. With this closing thought I provide room for temporary shortcomings, but more importantly, long term success.

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