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Going for Broke in Morocco

In late March, a group of us went to Morocco for spring break. (Listen, I know what you’re thinking: “Har, you graduated from university a year ago, you can’t just arbitrarily celebrate spring break anymore!” Let me live. And my karma came to me. Stay tuned.)

I left Ireland with a heavy heart and not a lot of money to work with, but I was pumped to finally see Morocco, and be back on my favorite continent for the first time in over a year. We had a long, complicated flight path (as usual. Help me, I’m poor!). Finally got to Rabat after dark. Our Airbnb situation ended up being a little ways out of the city, but all the more adventure it became. That first day, we briefly stopped in Rabat (and struggled greatly with buying train tickets, so a silent nod to the young guy in the train station who helped us buy them and physically guide us to the train) before heading to the city of Meknes for a mini-excursion. The train ride was a total ego boost—I spent all two hours chatting with this charming old archaeology professor and really crushing it with a bunch of French I didn’t know I could speak. The old city center (a UNESCO Heritage Site!) of Meknes was beautiful. A labyrinth of streets and vendors and homes and colors, encapsulated by the “Old Gate to the City.” We went to a restaurant with a lovely view of the city called Le Collier de la Colombe. It is upstairs at a hotel, there’s free wifi, the food is phenomenal and cheap, and the women that work there are all super nice. They helped us hail a cab back to the train station so that we wouldn’t miss the last one back to Rabat. (Didn’t, but then gloriously missed the last train back to Bouznika from there and had to take a taxi. Live and learn in Morocco I guess!)

The next day I left the group to go to Marrakech. I was doing the trek alone to meet Shelby, who was flying in that evening. I’ve become very good at traveling alone, and though it is typically more stressful, I live for it. Made it to Marrakech with ease (and a couple hours early), so I walked from the train station to city center. I think if I would have informed my friends that I was doing this alone at dusk, they would’ve been pretty pissed—there is a lot of stigma behind the idea of women traveling alone in Africa, and just in general, for a bunch of different reasons. And a lot of it is valid—we live in a gross world and women do have to look out for their safety in ways that men have no concept of. But I also feel very confident in my ability to take care of myself (like, I carry a knife and know how to kick someone’s ass). So I walked across Marrakech in the twilight alone. And got a lot of cat calls, and a few guys stop or slow down their cars to try and get my attention. Comes with the territory of exploring developing countries (and developed countries. Let’s be real, people can be disgusting). I had the time of my life! Seeing Marrakech in my favorite way—leisurely and alone. Got to city center right as it was getting dark. Walked around the world-famous market (and got called a fashion disaster by an exasperated vendor who really wanted the attention I wasn’t paying him) for a while before Shelby hopped off her shuttle and we booked it to the hostel we reserved.

We stayed at Dream Kasbah—I would say it was a dream for sure. The hostel itself is cute, and the people that choose to stay there all seemed very fun to talk to and down for adventure. There was free breakfast, and they offered tours of different parts of Morocco. We walked to and through the market for a few hours (the shopping is fun, get your game face on for hardcore bargaining, and expect to be hassled if you look like a “foreigner”) (oh, and try the orange juice. Life changing.). We then hopped on a train back to Rabat.

It is then that my memory of the trip becomes a bit more of a blur—we only really had one day left, and right as Sam and her friends were leaving to head to the airport, I lost/had my wallet stolen. Aka all of my money, my debit cards, the works. Like, I was 24 hours away from moving to Asia for the rest of the year, and I had literally not a penny to my name. I am absolutely certain that if Shelby hadn’t been with me on that last day, I would have popped a blood vessel. Needless to say, the next couple weeks of my life were very complicated—full of loans and favors and money-transfers and packages being frantically sent across the world. I want to take an extra second to virtually hug any- and everyone that helped me out. Going broke as a nomad is actually terrifying, but there’s always a way to fix things!

Balance has been restored, no worries. And I am living in Taiwan for the rest of 2016! I’ll be posting a few odd blogs about the different things to do in Taiwan that I have found this year at some point. Until then, I miss everyone and hope you all are doing great!! Much love.

I love you, Taiwan

It’s been quite some time since I have written a post for this blog. I’m sorry! Part of that has to do with how busy I was, working at camp in Wanli and exploring the streets of Taipei. Another reason is that articulating my experiences here is nearly impossible. I’m really going to try, though.

When Sam and I first arrived in Taiwan 9 weeks ago, we were delusional and exhausted. We stepped off the plane and my glasses fogged up from the humidity. We were immediately sweaty, and have been since. We slept in a backpackers hotel and marveled at the communal showers. The next morning we convened with the rest of the camp’s summer staff in the MRT station and headed to camp. After a week of staff training, we dove in to the unknown (except for the returning counselors, without which we would have been lost and confused for much longer).The first two weeks were amazing, I talked a lot about them in my last blog post. But the deeper we got in to the summer, the more magical the experience became. We got better at the job, became closer to our team and learned how to navigate Taipei on the weekends with ease. We even experienced a (very mild and non-dangerous) typhoon. We were evacuated to a local elementary school and spent our time crafting and watching movies. And by the way! Most of my time this summer was spent leading arts and crafts! Hundreds of pirate ships, bracelets, Lego beanbags and Lego shaped soaps were made. Even the most unruly of campers transform into focused artists in the craft room!! I loved every minute of it.

There are a million things to do in Taipei. I had the chance to do a bunch! Some of it was typical tourist attraction type-of-stuff, but some of the best experiences we had occurred when we tagged along with locals to hang out in their favorite spots. We spent some time at a board-game bar called Diagon Alley, found an ice cream parlor where the cones are shaped like half a heart and you’re supposed to buy one with your partner to pledge eternal love (Sam and I obviously did), visited a handful of night markets, went on a huge neon Ferris wheel on Chinese Lovers’ Day, hung out at a bar called Tickle My Fantasy, and ate at Barbie and Lego themed cafés. I’ll shamelessly plug my Instagram and Twitter now, because pictures of all those experiences reside there… *cough* @harleemai *cough*

Beyond the things I have done and seen in the past 9 weeks, this summer has done something for me that transcends even the best night at karaoke. The people I have met and befriended for life, the interactions with children and adults alike who do not think in the same language as me, the small, tacit experiences that not even my journal can capture… These moments have made me a better version of myself. I have a better understanding of the world around me. More so than I have ever felt, I believe in the good in people. I know how to rely on modes of communication beyond words. And in less than 24 hours I will be on the other side of the communication line. Instead of helping my peers work on their English, I’ll be trying my hardest to immerse myself into the French and Wolof language cultures. All of my trips flow together perfectly in that way. I know what both sides of a communicative relationship feels like now. I will be patient, I will be appreciative, and I will be as hardworking as those who surrounded me this summer.

I leave Taiwan inspired and unafraid. I leave Taiwan knowing that someday I will see these people again, which makes my heart less heavy. I leave Taiwan to meet my mom in Paris for my birthday. La vie est belle.

Housekeeping:  I am pretty sure I will have more wifi access from now on! And I have a new address once again so if you’d like it, let me know. I am good at sending postcards and letters!

Talk soon! Love you guys.miss you already!!

Omnigenous in Oahu

Resfeber (n.)

Origin: Swedish

The restless race of the traveler’s heart before the journey begins, when anxiety and anticipation are tangled together

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Greetings from Oahu, Hawaii! I have officially began my six-month escapade around the world. It is such a strange feeling to finally embark after months and months of planning, preparation and anticipation.

I’m in Hawaii with Sam (who will be guest-appearing on this blog within the next couple weeks), and we are so, so pumped to start this trip! One thing we have not been able to stop talking about is an idea that one of our inspirations, Dan Eldon, once said: the journey is the destination. Every step is critical. It’s not just about the end result, it’s about everything in between. Every stop-over, every person we meet, every fleeting emotion. It’s about never becoming desensitized to the beauty that’s all around us. It’s about always being ready to experience something life changing and never turning down an opportunity to get your feet wet. The journey is being constantly in love with where you are, who you are with and what you are doing. It is missing those you’ve left behind, but knowing that they’re always with you. It is finding home in every place you rest your head. It is constantly being out of your element. It is difficult. It is worth it. And it has begun.

P.S. If you’d like to contact me, try a Facebook message or download the texting/calling app called Viber.

For those of you who know who I am (95% of you), hi there. Thanks for stopping by! These next several months are going to be an adventure for all of us, so hold on tight.

For those of you who do not know me directly (or need a refresher), here are the basics:
Name: Harlee
Age: 19 and three quarters and retaining my youth brilliantly
Schooling: my home school is Humboldt State University, this fall I will be at Université Cheikh Anta Diop de Dakar (in Senegal)
Major: International Studies with a concentration in Global Cultural Studies

What in the world are you going to do with a degree like that, Har?: Great question. Literally, anything. Everything. It’s a very versatile and self-driven degree. I’ve had career goals in mind since before I started college, they are extremely hard to articulate. Something regarding social justice, education, or book publishing in developing countries. But how am I to know, really? I have seen so little of the world. I have no idea how I can contribute best. Not yet.  


 

Imagine sitting down with a box full of puzzle pieces, but the box has no image of what you’re supposed to be creating. You open the box and turn it upside down. All the pieces land in a pile that has no rhyme or reason to it. With no guide, the first logical step would be to find all of the corner and edge pieces—together these give dimension to the image you are creating. Even with extra definition, these pieces take time to fit together. And we haven’t even got to the meat of the puzzle yet—the pieces that need to be linked on all four sides! As the puzzle begins to take shape you start to realize that the image is something unfamiliar to you. Not a celebrity or a landscape. It is a barrage of colors—every tint and hue of every color on your spectrum is represented. At some point, the inevitable moment of panic that always accompanies a puzzle arises. It looks as though you only have a few pieces left to configure, but there is only one piece left in your hand. WHAT PIECES ARE YOU MISSING? WHERE HAVE THEY GONE? THERE IS NOTHING ON THE FLOOR AROUND YOU. SERIOUSLY, WHAT HAPPENED? After a brief moment of sheer panic, it’s time to focus. Maybe this is what the puzzle maker had in mind! Maybe this is a test of innovation. Sure, you can put together a puzzle of pieces that were given to you. But what do you do when that’s not enough? Close your eyes. Think about the journey this has been. How close you are to the end. What the very beginning of your journey felt like. Literally. THAT’S IT. You run to the kitchen to grab a pen and scissors. The blank box this puzzle came in is now an empty vessel just waiting to be utilized. Trace the missing pieces from the puzzle onto the cardboard, cut them out, and push them into place. An electrifying display of color has been revealed. This puzzle makes you feel complete. It forces your eyes to move around it constantly; it evokes sadness and happiness and confusion; it is unpredictable but has dimension; and though it is finished, will it ever be complete?


What component of that metaphor am I?  A corner piece? An edge? A middle piece? A Missing piece? An innovative piece? Am I the person solving the puzzle? I have no idea. This trip is going to help me start figuring it out. About a year ago I attended Invisible Children’s Fourth Estate Leadership Summit at UCLA. The mantra of the entire experience was delivered by Jason Russel when he said: “Your life is bigger than your best dream for it.” Now’s my time to start living my dream.

This blog is going to be a window into what I’ve got going on. I’ll be posting as many pictures as I can, as well as text updates like this one! Beyond that, this site is still open for interpretation. Stay with me. Thank you so much for all of the love and support I’ve received so far.

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