Around the time I turned 12 years old, my mother decided to go from being a full time mom, to a full time mom plus middle school Spanish teacher. This made sense given her social and compassionate nature, as well as her native language abilities. As a side note, for those of you that know and have seen me (a “gringa” as my dad puts it), this may come as a surprise but Spanish is the first language of both my parents—Dominican/Puerto Rican Spanish and Honduran Spanish. So, despite my fair skin and Mid Atlantic drawl, I grew up eating arroz con frijoles and yuca regularly, watching Sábado Gigante and dancing salsa and merengue when my parent’s Latin American guests came to town.
Let’s not digress… Around the same time my mother started working again, she got this crazy notion that it would be fun to not only teach Spanish, but to take 50 middle schoolers to Spain and France each year, with the help of only a handful of parents and the French teacher in her school. While other adults thought it nuts of her to take on such a responsibility, my mother continued to lead annual European pilgrimages and treated the trips as is they were sacred for over 15 years. Lucky for me, she always got enough students to sign up, that the tour agency she used, always gave her a free ticket and hotel stays for a guest of choice—me for 3 years, my sister for 4 years and after that my father.
The first year I went to Europe (as an eighth grader), I thought I had gone to heaven. All of a sudden my world went from being a typical Virginia suburb (football, apple pie, and soccer moms) to what seemed like an infinite world of possibility and unknown delights (bull fights, tapas and European young men). While other tourists looked forward to visiting sights like the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre and Museo del Prado, I was more interested in seeing how people lived—grocery store produce sections, familial interactions, back alleyways and colored laundry hanging from door to door. My first 10 days abroad were more than magical; they were life changing. In fact, the day I returned home, I spent the remaining 355 days of the year looking forward to my next 10 day overseas adventure and made a vow to myself that I would move overseas the second I graduated from college (FYI: the city of choice—Osaka, Japan).
Today, nearly two decades after I took that first excursion abroad, I still feel the same excitement and anticipation I felt as a middle schooler every time I set foot on an airplane. Due to work and a wonderful first wedding anniversary, in the last two months I’ve been in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Sharjah, Fujairah, Muscat, Amsterdam, Washington DC, San Juan, Mayagüez, San Germán, Charlotte and my hometown Burke, Virginia. Needless to say, I think life is a lot of fun, especially now that travel is no longer a 355 day aspiration, but a way of existence!
What continues to amaze me day in and day out is that no matter whether in a tiny village in the mountains of the UAE, a Puerto Rican university town, or a cosmopolitan city like Washington, DC, I see SO much kindness, helpfulness, goodwill and kids on roller shoes everywhere I go! (The person that invented those beautes—pure Genius!) Despite what CNN likes to broadcast across its global networks, I still firmly believe that there is more good on this Earth than bad—by a long shot!
It is Independence Day in the United States and I just happen to be in my hometown celebrating.
To the freedom to explore the world and its people!
Next time, I’ll be jotting from Gulf,
P.S. The video above is a montage of recent excursions to Abu Dhabi, UAE and Muscat, Oman. Do I recommend that you visit?! You betcha!
P.P.S. The awesome soundtrack for the video is titled, “Salsa di Soy” (FabiuS Remix) by Boom Boom Beckett.