|Here's a hint for anyone looking to travel internationally: don't put your passport through the washing machine the day before you plan on crossing 2 international borders. I know what you're thinking. "Any idiot knows that." Well, not this idiot so it would seem.
For a budget traveler like myself, having free reign on a washing machine while on the road ranks up there with getting a dorm room at a hostel all to yourself or a currency's exchange rate going in your favor the day before you change lots of money. In other words, it is an exciting event. So it can kind of be understood how checking one's pockets could be overlooked. Nevertheless, it is not something I intend to do again.
Luckily, passports are pretty hardy little documents. With the exception of a significantly curled and frayed cover and a washed out stamp or two, everything seemed in pretty good working order. I put a few soup cans on top to flatten it out while it dried, and it turned out looking almost passable. The RFID chip* was probably toast, but I counted that as a fringe benefit.
All my worries regarding crossing borders with a laundered passport proved to be unfounded. While I got a few strange looks (esp. from the U.S. officials), the majority of people couldn't have cared less. One guard even make some joke to the effect of "forgot it in your pants pocket on laundry day, eh?"*.
The worn and torn look actually lends a little exotic traveler credibility. So while still not advisable, it is nice to know that passports don't need to be perfect to be functional.
|Sunday June 12 2011||File under: travel|
It turns out it is really hard to get a good picture of the monkey tail. Hopefully from these pictures, you get the idea. I submitted my photo to the website, but it got shot down. Snap! Oh well, at least it can be added to my ever increasing beard portfolio.
|Wednesday June 8 2011||File under: beard|
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|London is a great city, I'm sure. It can't have been such a business, cultural, and historical center for all these years without having its charms. But for me, I just wasn't feeling it. After being on the road for over 2 and a half months, my travel tanks were running low on the fuel needed to get out and "do" a city, so I just couldn't give it the fair chance it needs.
I did a very brief taste of most of the required sights and enjoyed them. I loved that the museums (Tate Modern and National Gallery) were free without long lines, metal detectors, etc. And all the buildings (Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, St. Paul's Cathedral, Parliament) were spectacular*. I rode a double decker bus and took the tube*. But my heart wasn't in it. I did, however, have a great time seeing some old (and new) chums who were kind enough to put me up, talk circus, and send me away with a wonderful new bananagram-esque word game.
This abbreviated visit to London, however, was planned this way. I fully intend on doing the city up properly someday, when I have the time and focus required, and I didn't want to lessen my motivation by seeing too much. Just a taste to get me excited to come back. And it did just that. See you later, Britain Greater.
|Sunday June 5 2011||File under: travel|
|Thursday June 2 2011||File under: travel, France|
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|One of the many fun things about traveling is learning, esp. learning about things you knew of before, but not so much about. So in the spirit of sharing, here are a few things I found interesting in my time in Paris. (To just tell you the trivia tidbits would be way too easy, so instead, I present it in quiz form.)|
1. What is the river that bisects Paris, and how is it properly pronounced?*
2. The popular Paris attraction, which, in French is known as La Joconde, is known as what in English? hint*
3. There is a smaller (but still largish) Statue of Liberty on an island near the base of the Eiffel tower. Was it made before or after New York City's statue of the same name?*
4. Moulin Rouge translates to what in English? hint: it's not "skimpily clad dancing girls"*
5. Who designed the famous pyramid at the Louvre (and, for bonus points, what other famous monuments has he/she designed)?*
6.For how many years was the Eiffel Tower the tallest building in the world: 0 years, 21 years, 41 years, 61 years?*
|Tuesday May 31 2011||File under: travel, France|
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|Friday May 27 2011||File under: travel, France|
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|Bosnia and Herzegovina is the official name for this country that I've been hanging out in the last couple weeks, although it seems that most people call it plain old Bosnia. But the duality implied in the name is well placed, as I have learned. Politics, geography, language, and more all seem to come in sets of two.
The country is divided into two states, the Federation* and Republic of Srpska*, each with its own territory, its own political system, and even its own alphabet. Republic of Srpska generally uses the Cyrillic alphabet on street signs, etc. while the Federation uses Latin characters. They both spell out the same words, mind you, but in different alphabets.
The whole alphabet thing is pretty intriguing, but the thing that really gets me, that really makes this duality thing so hard to ignore is that they have two different versions of each denomination of paper money, one with a representative of the RS and one from the Federation. They have the same value, and can be spent exactly the same, but it is just that the country couldn't agree on who to put on their money.
I try hard not to judge this duality that is rather impossible to ignore. I know there are years of history behind it, and it is much more complex than I can imagine. But I can't help but wonder if this duality is sustainable. If I return to this area in 10 years, will I have to pass through passport control in going from Banja Luka to Sarajevo? Or maybe it will get all worked out through a charismatic leader that everyone can get behind.
However it pans out, for this trip, it has made for an eye opening experience.
|Tuesday May 24 2011||File under: travel, Balkans|
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|How do I sum up a week spent volunteering at the Most Mira festival, an arts festival for kids in NW Bosnia to promote peace by teaching children to play and create together? Well, I can tell you now, inadequately. But I'll try here with a 3 pronged approach.
Prong #1 - the Kids: Kids are kids the world over. They like to laugh, to play, and the circus*. The fact that we didn't share a common language* didn't stop them from learning just about every trick I could remember in my diabolo workshop. Gestures, high-fives, smiles, and a universal "bravo" go a long way. And at the end of the week, what a better way to celebrate new skillz learned, friendships formed, and smiles had than by putting on a show under the big top. (Oh, and it wasn't just kids that like to learn and play...)
Prong #2 - the People: One of the things that made Most Mira so wonderful was the other volunteers I got know. How often is it that in a single day, one can have a meaningful conversation about European politics, get a lecture on the gypsy language Romani*, give an impromptu clown/juggling performance with a perfect stranger, watch more hands than necessary go up for any task that needed to be done (no matter how unpleasant), and fall asleep to amazing drum music? Well, at Most Mira, that was pretty much every day.
Prong #3 - Bonuses: Outside of the magic of the festival, there were all sorts of hidden bonuses. Just one example: we got to attend a performance of traditional folk dance/music as the guests of honor (where, among others, I ended up on stage doing a club passing routine with some of my clowny friends).
See? A totally inadequate summary. But fitting an experience that big into just a few words is just downright impossible. I guess to get the full story, you'll just have to ask me about it sometime. I'm happy to share!
|Sunday May 22 2011||File under: Balkans, circus|
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|What happens when you get a mix of people who speak Romanian, English, French, and Serbo-Croatian* all trying to put up a circus tent together? Well, the tent gets put up all the same and we all get to know each other a bit better. Oh, and we all have a dry place to juggle!*
Did I mention that I'm in NW Bosnia volunteering with a circus at an arts festival to promote peace between the strongly divided communities of children here. (Clever segue, eh?) The festival is called Most Mira* and it is pretty awesome concept. In a country where people seem to dislike people only because of their religion or which alphabet they seem to prefer (which, if you recall, led to some rather extreme nastiness back in the 90s), focusing on teaching the children that we all like to play, create art, make music, and dance and building friendships between them before the hatred is too ingrained seems like a pretty good idea to me.
I feel infinitely lucky that I've found my way here, to help out and experience the magic in person. Plus, any place where I can juggle 4 hours a day (shoeless and shirtless no less) and not be out of place is a place for me!
|Sunday May 15 2011||File under: Balkans, circus|
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|I'm here in Vela Luka, Croatia, another sister city to my home town of Anacortes. (Previous coverage on sister cities here.) I thought what better way to find out about the town than to take to the streets. Special thanks to Horge for acting as translator, photographer, and motivator!
|Wednesday May 11 2011||File under: travel, Balkans|
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