Tuesday, September 1, 2015

HAPPY ANNIVERSARY!! A year ago today...

September 1st has a new significance in my life. A year ago today, I landed in Santiago, Chile to mark the first day of my 8 month solo travel/adventures in living abroad, and what a year it's been. I can't even begin to recount all of the amazing and not so amazing things that have happened, the great people that I met and made my year, the ridiculously beautiful things I saw, impactful conversations....

The thing about it is, every year is full of these things. I could say the same about every year of my life, but something about this past year has made me more aware of it all. There's something about being out of your element and taking in an experience as if it's the only time it'll ever happen that makes you realize how many days we take for granted.

A year ago today, I didn't know what to expect, if it would be easy or hard, if I'd meet lifelong friends or miss all those I left back home, if I'd return a different person, if I'd return at all. Well today I don't know anything about the year to come so I'm taking a moment to be thankful for all that happened since the day I left last year and using that as motivation to do the same in this coming year.

I will start a new journey as Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) Specialist at Michigan Organization on Adolescent Sexual Health (MOASH). As with the Bonderman Fellowship, this position is in it's first year and no one really knows how it will all unfold. I'm looking forward to taking this on with the same amount of adventure, strong will and open-mindedness as I did with Bonderman and enjoying each of the coming days and challenges as I have with this past year.

Cheers to new beginnings and in honor of my anniversary, I'll share a little reflection on Bonderman.

A few months back, the Bonderman fellows had a reunion of sorts with our advisors and were asked some reflection questions. In the end, we were asked 1) to describe Bonderman in one sentence, 2) what is your favorite story from your time as a Bonderman Fellow and 3) What is one photo that best captures the essence and/or ethos of your Bondsman experience? 

Here are my responses:
1. Bonderman in 15+ words: The ability to lose yourself on one half of the world and find parts you never knew existed on the other.

2. The Bonderman Fellowship is a collection of stories, it’s hard to find just one that is more worthy than the others and so many of them played a substantial role in how I experienced the world and the people around me. Like the time I met one of my best friends while disembarking a bus between Cordoba and Buenos Aires Argentina. There was the time I went snowboarding in the Andes and the time the Brazilian couple treated me to wine tasting in Mendoza Argentina. There was the time I got pushed in a wheelchair through O.R Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg because I got inexplicably sick on the plane. I can’t forget the time I the Ethiopian woman assertively questioned my gender during my 12 hour layover in Addis Ababa or when the Swazis questioned my American identity because I looked more like them than any American they’d ever seen on TV. I had a one of a kind experience at the Filipino wedding and family reunion in Bauan. And I absolutely can’t forget my road trip around the eastern coast of South Africa or through the north of Thailand. These events and stories of my eight months of travel are all my favorite and they don't even scratch the surface.

3. I love this picture because it could be anywhere in the world, taken by anyone in the world and it’s of me thoroughly enjoying a moment in a journey with no regard for where I am or  where I’m going next.

Somewhere in Argentina....I think. October-ish 2014??

Thanks for reading! And look out for more updates and throwback additions to the blog!

Monday, February 16, 2015

Life and Loss: To Theo

Slightly somber post ahead!

In the midst of organizing and planning a load of travel and updating you all on my South African adventures so far, I was hit with the unexpected; losing a loved one while abroad. Death is the only outcome that we know to be guaranteed in this life and it is such an integral and unwavering aspect of human existence yet, it never gets easier to accept.

What happened? Long story short, my uncle went into the hospital with one large issue, which was ultimately corrected as a slew of other issues came tumbling down (on which an autopsy will shed light, hopefully).

The thing about living this Bonderman experience is that your reality is skewed. While you’re building new relationships, experiences, ideas, beliefs, understandings and sharing them with your loved ones, their lives move too. People go to grad school, they get married, babies are conceived and born, people hurt, they discover new things, they find happiness, and sadly, people die, with you there or not. Though that seems pretty obvious, it became extremely apparent to me.

My family is so close and so loving and I know they sat 30 or more deep in this hospital waiting room for days, showing love and supporting my aunt. All I wanted to do was be there. I did have the option to go home but decided coming back to travel after going home in that time would have ruined me. Also, I was reminded over and over and over that my uncle NEVER would have wanted or ¨allowed¨ me to come home. Keeping in mind his unwavering jealousy of my travel experience (hehe) and even less waivering PRIDE that he never hesitated to express, I know that the best way to honor him would be to continue my plans and make the best of this experience.

I’ll tell you a little about the man. Theo was crazy! Haha, the good kind of crazy. The life of the party type of crazy. He was the over-sized, over aged kid that all the kids loved. The one that would never say no to them, had zero impatience for them and believed wholeheartedly in letting kids be kids in all their glory. He had a love for the universe and all things sci-fi and a voice so strong he could nearly get you to love it too. One could always depend on him to walk around the corner, from seemingly nowhere, and insert the most ridiculous, probably off topic comment into otherwise respectable conversations. And you could guarantee that he’d do anything for you if you offered a steak and a gallon of milk...not sure why he loved milk so much. Granted, he'd do it without those offers as well. This man is well loved and loves well. I have no questions about how much he loves me.

Okay, teary eyed me is done for the moment but I will share a few last things. Below are a few commercials that featured my uncle, and his voice as well as family photos.

Theo as Frank (we laughed about this for some time)

He is the voice of the Cavs App

Me photo-bombing my aunt and uncle
This is normal
Uncles, Aunts, Parents and Grandma bringing in 2015

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Hello from South Africa

The Cape!

Good morning from Storms River, Western Cape, South Africa. Boy, do I have some stories for you all. But of course, those will be found in story time, later.

I've been settling here pretty well and yesterday marked two weeks that I've been here (time flies). I spent my first week in Johannesburg after a pretty horrible travel experience. In that time, I was invited by another traveler to join her for am 11 day road trip up the coast of SA from Cape Town back to Joburg, and that's where I am now. Because we only have 11 days we're moving super fast with adventure filled days and it's been pretty freaking awesome. Once I settle again for a day or two I will update you all on my first 3 weeks in Africa.

On a more serious note.

A while back I decide to start keeping notes on my experiences and thoughts about my identities while abroad and how they compare to what I've thought or experienced at home. Since then, I've been asked by many others looking to apply for Bonderman as well as staff to chime in on identities abroad. This has turned into a pretty lengthy and multifaceted project and I will begin making smaller posts from it after I update. So look out for that.

In closing, I have nothing else to say :)

Hope you all have a beautiful day.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

VIDEO!!! Oh, and bye Brazil

Oi!! Today is my last day (now marks the final 12 hours) here in Brazil and I couldn't be more excited to make my way over to South Africa! As I mentioned before, I was working on a video and I have now posted it, well some of it. So, go check out my AMAZING ADVENTURES. Thanks!

Wednesday, December 31, 2014


   Happy almost New Year everyone! I hope the holidays were filled with love and family and everything you ever wished for. I'm doing well out here, currently in Rio de Janeiro where I decided to spend my holiday season with a special guest. I have had an amazing time here in Brazil and it is sitting at the top of my ¨Countries I will definitely revisit¨ list.
   I am working on a video to compile some of the amazing people I've met and moments I captured but technology has apparently taken a holiday break on me so things are taking a bit longer to upload. HOWEVER, it will be awesome. In the mean time, check out my 'cities' link in the toolbar (or the link here) for some info and pictures on my time in Salvador, Lençóis, and Rio de Janeiro. See you all in 2015!!

Até mais tarde. Tchau galera!

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas


            Merry Christmas, Feliz Natal and happy holiday season to everyone! From Rio de Janiero 

Friday, December 12, 2014


Hello blog! Long time no see.
I will start with this; I have found it hard to speak about myself, to write a blog about my travels and daily life when my mind has been so deeply thoughtful and I sit silently on the recent grand jury decisions, the conditions in Ferguson, and other things that hit home for me while abroad. With no words for those events, I didn't want to say anything at all. Standing as an representative of the Bonderman fellowship, the University of Michigan and the United States among many other things while abroad, I try my best to give the most accurate information and debunk as many stereotypes as I can while also telling truths that are often glossed over. At least 75% of the people I've had cultural conversations with think America is LA, Miami, New York, Hollywood, rich wild frat parties, rednecks, segregation, guns and freedom for all...among other things.
I have to explain that yes, those things exist but none of them are completely definitive of America(ns). As a person who fits almost none of the wide perceptions of the visage of America, I have no choice but to speak of the lesser known facets of my home. I try my best to speak for only myself and include that there are other people who have or have had similar experiences, but in some cases, that is not possible. I find myself having to tell people things like, no, there isn't just open fire all over the US with bullets flying at black people and that racism is no longer white hoods and burning crosses, while simultaneously telling them that it kind of is. And thing like, every kid in college isn't rich, and white and not every college (or high school) student is a sex crazed drunk. 'This happens but....',  'Some do this but...',  'There are people that....', 'I never had that...',  'I know plenty of people that...'. At times I've been so lost for words because I have lost so much respect.
In the midst of these conversations and the things happening at home, I am enjoying the world that I'm getting to know. Currently making my way through Brazil, mastering the Portuguese language, and falling in love with the culture of capoeira, all in the company of some amazing people from all over the world. I worked some time in an AMAZING hostel in Montevideo before making my flight up to Salvador, Bahia, Brazil for 2 weeks. My first weekend was pretty rough, after I spent my first day feeling really lost and displaced with a language I wasn't at all familiar with (in spoken form). That Monday I began my classes and created my new temporary social circle of awesome people who, in addition to my roommates, would make my entire time in Salvador so unforgettable.

I have some awesome picture adventures to share very soon. Until then, peace.