Friday, June 22, 2018

How Eating Snails Changed My Life



As I grabbed my backpack and walked toward the van taking us to SeaTac, my friends and I were surrounded by crying, fear struck family members. There was this nervous air surrounding us, yet I didn’t quite understand why. Was going to North Africa really going to be that scary? 

When I get asked as to why I like to travel, the first thing I say is, “To experience new cultures and meet amazing people.” Having lived in America all my life, I started creating this safe little bubble. The starving kids or hurricane-ravaged cities seemed so far away. Those countries and people living in them started to become “others” to me.

When I began to tell people I was going to North Africa back in March 2016, the first thing they’d say to me was normally along the lines of, “Is that really safe?” Or “You should probably go somewhere more welcoming.” Yet, not one of these people had visited the country I was going to. 

While on my trip, some of my friends and I visited a woman living in one of North Africa’s larger cities. Without even knowing who we were, she welcomed us into her tiny home with open arms. Right away, we were sat down and given food. We laughed together as we watched Saudi Arabian soap dramas and drank mint tea. Through a translator, she told us her story, crying as she held up pictures of her loved ones. Her story was a sad one, with her husband having another family he lives with and the struggle to provide for her children, yet there was so much giving in her. Even with the language barrier, I felt so connected with this lady. Leaving was the hardest part, for as she gave me a kiss on each cheek, I couldn’t help but think that I would never see her again. 

This woman was one of the people my friends and family were telling me was unsafe, merely because she lived in North Africa and didn't have the same privileges many of us in Western cultures have. 


This is why traveling is so valuable. The people I met along the way showed me just how ignorant of a life I had been living. Suddenly, they became real people with real problems, feelings, and families. People with real lives. No longer was I an outsider, living on the other side of the world, pretending to know how these people live, act and interact with one another. Instead, I was being welcomed into their homes and treated like one of them. And not because I asked to, but because they wanted me to.

As I prepare to leave for North Africa once again in the fall, I call out the crying and the “it’s not safe over there.” I tell my friends and family about being welcomed into homes of strangers and being taught how to make traditional meals, or being brought to “secret” local places and tricked into eating snails. I talk about the friendliness and love I experienced by almost every single person I met. The laughs, tears, hugs, and blessings. But most of all, I urge them to go. 

I urge them to go out of their comfort zones and greet the world like friends. To not deem places of being unsafe because of appearance, the media, or prejudice. I urge them to go experience the world outside of the tiny bubble the people of America have created for themselves. Because that is what changed my life.

Will you let it change yours? 


What will you do? Don't feel like traveling is scary, or even unattainable. Go experience this beautifully diverse world we live in. Don't shy away from sharing the gospel and loving the people in every corner of the world you travel to. Step out of your comfort zone. Do it! You will never regret it.

If you would like to learn more about my upcoming travels, shoot me an email at whimsicalthoughtss@gmail.com

Happy Traveling!

Elizabeth



Sunday, June 10, 2018

Finding the Power in Poetry

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash
Poetry is something I've always been interested in. Back in middle school, it was writing angsty poetry about anger, or being rejected by a boy. As I grew older, it began to evolve. Had more depth to it. Yet, poetry still felt like it made little difference to how the people around me saw the world. I was made fun of for writing it, or liking it. Either that, or my fellow students and I were left to beat at a poem to discover some unseeable meaning. Poetry, to me, was special, yet not powerful.

On June 18th-19th, I got the amazing privilege to attend the Skagit River Poetry Festival, a poetry festival where poets from all over attend in the Pacific Northwest to talk about poetry, give advice, and read. According to Molly McNulty, executive direct of the Skagit River Poetry Foundation, the festival's goal is to be a "love letter" to the community. To sum it up? It was powerful. But don't worry, I enjoy writing much too much to just give you a summarized version of this event.

During my last quarter of college before graduating with my AA-DTA, I took a class with the intention to study poetry and how the written word interacts with performance and the audience. It was through this class that I got to attend the festival and shadow a poet for two days. The poet I got to shadow was Lena Khalaf Tuffaha. It was through her that I learned the power of poetry.

Tuffaha is a first-generation American and has Palestinian, Jordanian, and Syrian heritage. Many of her poems are about crossing cultural and political boarders. In an interview with her, I got to ask her a little bit about why she writes what she writes. She told me that as a writer, she feels a responsibility to tell the truth of what is happening in her homeland and the lives that are being affected there. Here's a little sample of her work:

"Run.
You have 58 seconds from the end of this message.
Your house is next.
They think of it as some kind of
war-time courtesy.
It doesn't matter that
there is nowhere to run to.
It means nothing that the borders are closed
and your papers are worthless
and mark you only for a life sentence
in this prison by the sea
and the alleyways are narrow
and here are more human lives
packed against the other
more than any other place on earth
Just run.
We aren't trying to kill you." (An excerpt of "Running Orders" from Water & Salt)

Tuffaha told me about her home. About the library her grandfather had and the countless hours she spent reading. The influence that had on her poetry. Yet, so much of that is being destroyed. It broke my heart. "How can I create a change?" I asked. She told me, to simply use my knowledge of the world to create a change in the people I know. In other words, don't let sexism, racism, and other offensive behavior go uncalled, especially with the people you know and who trust you. Use your light to shine in the darkness. But most of all, don't under estimate the power of the written word and a passion to create change.

Poetry is power.

I saw this in other poets as well. Tina Chang reminded the audience that every missing child could be one of our own. Ada Limon described the feeling of watching a life slip away right before your eyes. Quenton Baker used spoken word to transform the audience to slave ship. And every single time, I was right there. I was walking with the child and then he disappeared. I held the hand of the dying person until it went limp. I saw the shivering mass of bodies huddled in fear as the boat rocked violently. All it was were words, but it was what were in those words that mattered.

It's easy to think that your words don't matter. That no one will get, or even want to hear, what you have to say. It's not true. Your words, passions, experiences, they have so much power. Use them. Celebrate them. Embrace them.

Most of all, I invite you to find the power of poetry. Allow it to give you a different view of the world.

If you would like to learn more about Lena Khalaf Tuffaha, click here.
If you would like to learn more about the Skagit River Poetry Foundation, click here.
If you would like to read some of my poetry, click here.



What does the power of poetry mean to you? We all have something to say. Go ahead, pick up that pen, and write. But don't write for the world. First, write for yourself. 

Happy writing,

Elizabeth




Thursday, May 24, 2018

Backpacking Through Ireland

Hello friends,

As you may know if you follow me on Instagram (go do it), I went to Ireland over spring break. I'd always wanted to visit everywhere and anywhere in Europe, so after I found out my friend Chloe would be there over my spring break, I knew this was the time to go. My friend Sasha, who has been living in Russia the last few months, also was able to meet us. Honestly, seeing these girls and getting away from work and college was SO needed.

I've had multiple people ask me "So Liz, how was Ireland?" And honestly, I've never sure how to respond. Awesome. Great. Amazing. Adventurous. New. Tiring. Good, so so good. It was one of those experiences, that the entire time leading up to it, and even while I was there, I couldn't quite believe it. But what truly made the trip so memorable were the girls I spent it with. From getting dropped off on the side of the street in the middle of nowhere at night after missing a bus stop and getting snowed in at our airbnb, to sneaking in a third person into our hotel room (lots of giggles involved ) and visiting a Lord of the Rings themed pub with a "stalker" trailing us, there were so many crazy times where we just had to laugh (and frantically figure out what to do). I was so thankful they were by my side the entire time.


When I was preparing to leave, I knew I wanted to visit the Cliffs of Moher. Let me tell you, they were amazing! If you can get past all the tourists and are daring enough to venture past the walkway (ahem and ignore a couple signs) you will find yourself much more alone and with a better view.

I didn't realize just how much beautiful scenery Ireland had to offer, though, and my friends and I only explored a tiny scratch of it.


Can't get enough from just photos? Want to watch a weird video of my friends and I? Go for it darling.





Wow guys, it's been a long time. I got back from Ireland completely refreshed, but then work started again, and my final quarter of college before I graduate with my Associate's (three more weeks!!) and I just got so tired. Have you ever been so tired or overwhelmed that the things your normally love become a chore? That's what writing was becoming, so I had to take a step back for a little bit. But boy did I miss you all.

Have you traveled anywhere cool lately? Whether it's a camping trip, road trip, another state, or an entirely new country, let me know down below!

Have a wonderful rest of your week dear friends,

Elizabeth



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