Category Archives: Travel

Playing It Straight

Check out my latest published article! Last year, I pitched an article to Canada’s Verge Magazine, about “travelling while gay.” It was published online earlier this year, for subscribers, and has just been made public. Check it out!

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For the average cisgender white lesbian tourist like me, I’m not likely to experience those kinds of harassment, but it’s not impossible. For example, in 2014 a British tourist was jailed for four months in Morocco for committing “homosexual acts.” Luckily, he was able to fly home early after being released on appeal.

Before I left, I knew that for most of my trip I’d have to “play it straight,” to avoid endangering myself (but mainly just to avoid negative remarks or rejection from new “friends”). But I don’t think I realized how frustrating and disheartening it would be.

Read the full article here

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What a Difference a Year Makes

Last year, on Christmas Eve, my parents met my girlfriend for the first time. It was the first girlfriend they’d ever met, and they absolutely loved her.

In retrospect, it was too early for an introduction but it made logistical sense at the time.

This time, last year, I was happy. I was falling for someone I affectionately called the “hot doctor” – she was pretty gorgeous, and doing a psychiatry residency. I had a job I enjoyed, though I was on the lookout for my next step, career-wise, and I was renting an apartment with two amazing roommates and awesome neighbours upstairs and down.

Fast forward to this year, and I’ve moved out of my apartment on New Year’s Eve. On Monday, I’ll be starting my last two weeks at work. The girlfriend? We broke up in an unspectacular fashion early on in 2014.

So here I am, girlfriend-less, apartment-less, and soon-to-be-jobless and benefits-less.

Am I crazy?

No. I’m exhilarated!

What a difference a year makes. But even though I was in a great place last year and most of those variables have changed a year later, I’m STILL in a great place! And I have a grand adventure ahead of me, something I’ve always wanted to do. Something that’s scary and exciting all at the same time.

Here’s to 2015!

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Jazz with Leon the Llama

This weekend has been a bit like the calm before the storm. It’s been very relaxing, but I know that the rest of the week is going to be intense, when we really jump into the young leaders’ forum and what I refer to as “the big whigs” or “adult” conference.

I arrived yesterday and had dinner with several of the other young leaders here. They’re all pretty amazing, and from all over the world – India, Kenya, UK, USA, Australia, Burma, Jordan, Oman, Nepal, Turkey, Sierra Leone, Zimbabwe, Egypt and the list goes on.

Then my lovely friend Sarah Shepherd (I promised she’d get a shout out!) came over to meet us and we went to this lovely little jazz club off of Rue St Denis.

Drinking a Manhattan at a Jazz Club in Montreal

This morning, the organizers took us for a quintessential Canadian experience – the (maple) sugar shack. I was excited – I haven’t been to a sugar shack since I was in high school! And it had a petting zoo!! Albeit it was fairly anti-climatic. But at least we did get a big “Bienvenue!” from Leon the Llama.

Leon

Leon the Llama

There was some explanation re how llamas are not indigenous to Canada.

Anyway, we had a taste of Quebecois cuisine at the sugar shack, which ended up not being so accommodating for those who were vegetarian or couldn’t eat pork due to religious reasons. An interesting clash of cultures, I thought.

A relaxing evening, but of course I had to have a beer for St. Paddy’s Day! I think they take away your Irish citizenship if you don’t.

Happy St. Paddy’s Day to all!

Occupy London!

From the heavy & political to the light & fluffy, that’s how yesterday went. It began with a trip to Occupy London. After visiting Occupy Calgary last week, I was pretty excited to see what London had to offer. And I was not disappointed. I heard that the day before (I guess that was Friday?), the occupiers had all been served with eviction notices. But everyone seemed in good spirits, and there were lots of people visiting and talking with the protestors and bringing them food.

Occupy London!

Fitting signage

Police chatting with a protestor

My cousin (who lives in Ireland) was with me today, so after Occupy, we spent our time rather frivolously, wandering the streets, shopping, and drinking a glass of mulled wine at the Christmas market in Hyde Park.

Little Britain??

Last night, the two of us were joined by 8 of my friends for dinner and drinks in Soho. Dancing the night away, it was a great way to say goodbye (again) to London, as I prepare to face some very serious issues in South Africa.

Until then, Cheers!

Four of us out at a typical British pub

Day 1: London Calling

And now for my first actual post, though it’ll be more pictures than words b/c I’m way too tired. Arriving back in London, for the first time since I moved back to Toronto in June after 2.5 years of British living, was quite weird. It felt so surreal, like I was in a dream and had just wished to go back to London, so here I was.

The early darkness and Christmas lights everywhere probably didn’t help. But it was gorgeous.

Natural History Museum decked out for Christmas

Two things accomplished today:

(1) Consuming a Hummingbird Bakery black-bottom cheesecake cupcake. De-lish.

(2) Had an amazing dinner at Jamie Oliver’s Italian restaurant in Covent Garden with my two former flatmates.

Albert Memorial at Night

I love the Dickensian feeling to this photo (above). Thought I think Dickens died before this memorial was created…we’ll just ignore that fact for now.

Covent Garden ready for Christmas

Arriving in Nairobi

So, my first adventure to Africa has not exactly gone entirely smoothly. First of all, I had to pay at Heathrow for my luggage because one bag was overweight and even though the other was extremely underweight, I still had to pay. I wasn’t about to start re-packing in the middle of Heathrow airport. I was WAY too tired!!

Then, I arrived in Nairobi. Still exhausted. And the extremely underweight bag did not make it to Nairobi. But, I was assured it would arrive the next day. So that was fine. And it DID arrive today, but when it did, the sleeping bag I had attached to the back of it (in hindsight, I should have put it in my suitcase) was ominously missing. So, I tried to call the airport baggage desk three separate times and no one answered. So now I must brave Sunday Nairobi shopping tomorrow to buy a sleeping bag. AUGH!!!
But, my first official day, other than all the annoyances, was really amazing. I slept about 11 hours, which was amazing. Then, I went on a 4-hour mini safari, traveling to the Karen region of Nairobi (named after Karen Blixen, who Meryl Streep portrayed in Out of Africa). There, I went to Karen Blixen’s house – so cool! I just saw Out of Africa, so it was really neat to see the house where it was filmed (well, the exterior – not the interior). Then, I went to a bead and ceramic factory where there were gorgeous necklaces and earrings. So pretty!!
After that, we went to the Giraffe Centre. It was amazing. There were warthogs and giraffes, plus two rogue tortoises. Giraffes are such beautiful creatures – I got to hand feed them pellets, pet them (though they really only let you do this if they were getting fed), and even “kissed them.” This consists of putting a pellet in your lips, leaning over, and having the giraffe’s LOOOOOONG tongue take it from you. I kissed a baby giraffe and a grown female. They were both SO cute!!
Driving around Nairobi was also amazing. We passed street vendors, many of whom were selling furniture. There were also goats just milling about – and some baby ones too! There are also vast differences in standards of living. The starkest contrast was driving out of Karen, which is one of the richest areas (and used to be Whites-only) back into Nairobi, where we passed the slums – where about 1 million people live.
Tomorrow, I start the main safari – two weeks of fun-filled tourism in Kenya, Tanzania, and Zanzibar. Then it’s onto Rwanda!

Africa

I’m getting really excited to go to Africa! One month tomorrow, I’ll be on a plane flying to Nairobi. Cannot wait!

Right now, I’m waiting to begin exams. My first two are June 3 and 4, so I have LOTS of studying to do! But I’m getting really tired of waiting around, and studying. My last class with new information was March 19. We had a few review sessions in May, but really, it’ll be almost 2.5 months between our last class and my first exam. It’s just too long!! I’m getting burnt out! But, once it starts, it will be pretty quick – 4 exams in 2 weeks should fly by! And then, I have 9 days to move out of my flat, close my bank account, ship stuff home to Canada, and prep for my African adventure. I’m heading to Nairobi first – where I get to hand-feed giraffes and visit an elephant orphanage. Then, I join a 13-day safari through Kenya and Tanzania (which includes 4 days of relaxation in Zanzibar!).  I’m really excited to see the wildlife and the scenery, but am also well-aware of the human situation in these two countries. Recently, there was an article in the NY Times about maternal mortality in Tanzania. It is quite a sobering read.
After my time in Kenya and Tanzania, I fly off to Rwanda for three weeks to conduct research for my dissertation, which is on the rights of children conceived through rape during the 1994 genocide. I will be spending most of the time in Kigali, but will also venture off to a small village to conduct a case study. After some intense interviews and dissertation writing, I plan to visit the infamous Rwandan gorillas before beginning my 26-hour journey back to Toronto.
I’ve decided to come back to Toronto a bit early, (1) to save money on British accommodation, and (2) to spend time with my family and friends in case I end up working overseas in September. I do really want to get a job in Toronto, but am quite aware of the fact that this may not happen. So, I’ve applied to jobs and internships in Uganda, London, Washington, and Strasbourg so far. I will probably be applying to some in New York as well. Everyone keep your fingers crossed that I find something!! 🙂
Well, better get back to studying. At least my African adventure is only one month away. And then, in about 2 months, I’ll be back in my homeland, and able to visit all of YOU! Cannot wait!