Archive for ‘Travel’

January 3, 2014

Polaroids and Double-Exposures

I took these photos with a Kodak featuring my friend in the Mission District, then I found this old journal entry dated five years ago from when I was traveling in the Middle East.

January 1, 2009:

“Bombs were being dropped maybe 25 miles away in the Gaza Strip.  I really don’t know.  But over the heavy desert storm, I couldn’t tell the difference from thunder.  When I awoke to the new year the storm had calmed, then I heard the detonations – a loud boom a minute or two after the F16s swept by us overhead. It was a strangely timeless experience; I don’t think she or I will ever remember properly.  None of us will. Now though, palm trees are swaying with the tide, and the setting sun looks like a blanket over the red sea. I think I want to eat banana pancakes tomorrow.  I wonder what I will be doing in five years?”

Then there was this one, dated October 25, 2010:

“Mmm.  Emptiness.”

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December 12, 2013

The Decisive Element

“I have come to the frightening conclusion that I am the decisive element. It is my personal approach that creates the climate. It is my daily mood that makes the weather. I possess tremendous power to make life miserable or joyous. I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration; I can humiliate or humor, hurt or heal. In all situations, it is my response that decides whether a crisis is escalated or de-escalated, and a person humanized or de-humanized. If we treat people as they are, we make them worse. If we treat people as they ought to be, we help them become what they are capable of becoming.”

-Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749 – 1832)

Train

December 12, 2013

Winter or Remembering

If your life were a museum, what would it look like?

In one room, half-filled journals intermix with photos of close friends, and other photos would feature multifarious snaps from a dozen countries. The journals would be filled with lustful pursuits, intangible desires, endless quandaries and constant realizations. In another, vibrant bicycle frames of every hue would dangle from hangers with eclectic handlebars and missing back wheels. In the third, an old movie reel would play on repeat, showing all the would-be home-runs from my childhood that I couldn’t quite land, intermixed with shorts from hundreds of bike rides. There would be drawings everywhere, colorful markings bursting off of the page like shrapnel from a grenade – but none of them would be dated after 2004. Somewhere though, in that third room, there would be two finished pieces: the off-kilter, forest-green vase I made when I was 13. It’s the one with the painted bamboo on the sides. The other piece, an empty journal – the one I bound with dental floss and gave away.

Angela Matt

Bikes

Camping Table

Hannah Bridge

Ice Truck

Labyrinth

Le Poop

Snow

Tahoe Shore

Snow Tahoe

August 18, 2013

Several Hours South of Here

I took a few weeks off in Guatemala and Belize in June.

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A girl in Belize

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May 22, 2013

Leave Your Expectations at the Door

I wrote this one for a student exchange nonprofit.  Basically, if you’re still in college, do yourself the favor and study abroad.

“The best part about air planes”, my friend began, “is the take off.  How will you know? It’s a sudden release – just, boom.  The engines roar like an avalanche, and within seconds you’re suddenly being propelled at several hundred miles an hour.  And just as suddenly, you’re in the sky.  You will know.”

I was 18. I had never boarded a plane.  I had never left the country, and I had only visited one state outside of my native California – about 8 miles in to adjacent Nevada.  So when I stepped on board the Italy-bound Lufthansa 737 airliner, I was eager, overwhelmed.  I sent out a final text message to my closest of friends, something to the effect of “See you all next year…Italy here I come!”  It was late August, and I would soon be peering down at distant landscapes and the Atlantic Ocean from 36,000 feet for the ensuing 14 hours of my life, finally to pop up on the other side of the world.

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In 2007, I left for Italy as a Business Administration major concerned with some day living in an affluent neighborhood with an expensive car.  If I met an embodiment of that person now, I do not think I would recognize him.  Before leaving, I had no expectations of instilling within myself a more informed understanding of global issues, nor developing a more universal perspective needed to balance challenges both local and international in scale.  Really, I just wanted to expose myself to something new.  I was not sure if this opportunity would ever again present itself – I was young, and the time seemed ripe. And so it was, that I decided to study abroad in Italy for the 2007 fall semester.

I returned from my Italian experience 5 years, 4 months weeks and 17 days ago. I have a degree each in International Relations and French.  I have cycled through the alps of Switzerland, cooked breakfast with the mountain-dwelling Bedouins of Jordan, learned about sustainable agricultural practices while volunteering on French farms, attended free sailing lessons in Croatia, and spent a year of my life attending university in Paris.  But none of this came without tremendous effort.

Studying abroad, visiting another culture is not easy.  In fact, it is downright challenging.  It requires a incredible amount of maturity, openness and self-discipline. But with all of this comes unparalleled growth and reward.  Sometimes, I remind myself of what Clifton Fradiman, a 1900s author and intellectual said. “When you travel, remember that a foreign country is not designed to make you comfortable. It is designed to make its own people comfortable.”

188_37830710160_1890_nThe significance of study abroad in shaping a generation of global diplomats, promoting cross-cultural tolerance and international relations was highlighted by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in a message aired during the 2012 Open Doors briefing on international education exchange in Washington D.C recently.  “The ties of friendship and understanding you’re building are the most effective forms of diplomacy,” Clinton said.  “They truly will help shape our common future.”

Opportunities are abound and unprecedented for American and international students alike.  Youth already make up for 20% of all international travellers, with expectations for the international education industry to double by 2020, says CEO Samuel Vetrak of StudentMarketing. U.S. Senator David L. Boren reiterates, “Never in our history has it been more important for America’s future leaders to have a deep understanding of the rest of the world. As we seek to lead through partnerships, respect for and understanding of other cultures and languages is absolutely essential.”

Forget your prejudices, and accept newness.  Ask questions, collaborate, and get involved. Embrace your life, embrace diversity, take initiative and expand the world.  Study abroad. Challenge yourself. It’s worth it.