Life

Oh, hello, February – the first month of 2018 has gone awfully quickly. I mostly attribute this to my long work hours and studying as of late. I revamped this blog over Christmas and New Year’s, when everyone was out of the office and no one was responding to emails. I’m a much better blogger when I’m unemployed (shocker). Sigh, the life of a freelancer. Those people who keep elaborate gratitude journals and somehow do photoshoots of themselves everyday? Who even are you?

Toward the end of December, I found out about YearCompass from a friend. I promptly downloaded it, printed it out and started filling it out, only to abandon it halfway through. I did finally finish it last night. Not necessarily a planner, it is helpful for looking back on the previous year, learning from it, and sketching out what you want the coming year to look like.

But this week, I mixed up the due dates for my term papers for grad school – I thought it was due February 15, and actually it was due the first. After a couple nights staying up writing until 2 am, I thought maybe I need a better way to keep track of this stuff. They ended up giving us a last-minute extension until the 11th – but still. Continue Reading

Life, Middle East

Trauma, or at least stress, is something I think about a lot. My immediate instinct is to say that my job is not as bad as it could be – it generally involves me looking at or editing graphic images from war zones, filming, photographing or interviewing people who have undergone pretty extreme physical or psychological trauma, or on the “light end,” editing lengthy reports about issues like child poverty and child marriage. Because data and sociological reports are so much less taxing than the particulars of narrative work. I see videos of horror-stricken Syrian men holding children’s limbs in the aftermath of bombings – I’m not there myself. I meet children who will need physical therapy for years to come as a result of their traumatic injuries – but I’m not the one who was injured.

Which brings me to this quote I read recently:

“Almost every trauma survivor I’ve ever had has a some point said, “but I didn’t have it as bad as some people” and then talked about how other types of trauma are worse. Even my most-traumatized, most-abused, most psychologically-injured clients say this… What does that tell you? That one of the typical side-effects of trauma is to make you believe that you are unworthy of care.”

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Packing Lists, Travel

When moving between countries, I don’t always succeed in packing light, but I kind of feel like I’ve mastered packing my under-seat carry on bag. I don’t think I’ve ever gotten something out of the overhead bin during a flight, so I always like to have these items ready to go, easy to access from my seat. Some of these are necessities for any trip, but others will make long-haul flights in coach ever so slightly more luxurious, or at least comfortable. Continue Reading

Europe, Travel

I’m only exaggerating a little when I say I spent two weeks in a town as small as Muenster, Germany, and barely saw it. I have embarrassingly few pictures of the city, hit exactly zero historic sites – and that’s because for 14 days straight, I was in class from 9 am to 6 pm. When I left my Air BnB in the morning to walk the 20 minutes to the city center, everything was still closed, except for a few cafes and grocery stores. When I headed home in the evening, it was dark, and many shops were closing up. I was so busy I never even saw the main part of my university’s campus. Continue Reading

Food, Middle East

The Middle East, as you may be aware, has some amazing food. I’ll admit, I get sick of eating the same thing over and over, and right now, I pretty much can’t eat anymore felafel and hummus. But I have had some truly wonderful meals here, and most of them have been in someone’s home, in a hole-in-the-wall restaurant, or even cooked out in a field. But if all else fails, there is really nothing quite like a bowl of fresh figs, ripe to bursting, still hot from the sun hitting the tree in a village in western Turkey.

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Packing Lists, Travel

I’m not the kind of person who travels 80% of the time for work, but living in Jordan and doing a master’s program in Germany, I do travel internationally several times a year. It’s great, but costs add up (which I know now, since I made a grown up budget in Excel today) – and one way to save yourself time and money and general frustration is to pack light. Says the girl who almost never succeeds at this.

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Life

One of my big goals this year is to not buy any clothes (or unnecessary home decor/trinkets) for at least six months. Right now, the only thing I can think of that I might need is a water-repellent/windbreaker jacket for working in the field and frequent travel. Realistically, I could probably go a year or more without new clothes; I’ve purged a lot and could probably get rid of more.

But, not wanting to get rid of a whole lot more just yet, I’ve pulled about half of my clothes out of circulation and put them in storage, so I have about 35 items in my wardrobe to wear currently, and I’m going to try hard not to add anything (even from existing clothes) to that until the end of March (unless summer arrives freakishly early, in which case, we’re all screwed). Yes, I am three years behind this trend, but this is me writing about a capsule wardrobe.

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Life

This New Year’s Eve was spent almost exactly the same as the previous year: me and Layth on the couch, under blankets, watching movies until we dozed off. Since he’s recovering from a cold, that means he was snoring by 8 pm.

But this time last year we were bracing ourselves for him moving to Saudi Arabia for work, which meant I’d be more or less on my own in Jordan. We dated long distance for a long time, but after a year or so when we hadn’t spent more than a few days apart, the distance was daunting. But we both knew it was the best thing to do. At first, I cried a lot and kept making coffee for two people in the morning instead of one, and cried over the wasted coffee.

But family invited me for lunches and sent me home with tupperwares of leftovers to make sure I wouldn’t starve, I still had my job and friends, and in mid-January, I brought a pet rabbit home to keep me company. Said rabbit is now best friends with my mother in law’s cat, and they hang out on the regular.

2017 took me to Jordan, Turkey (twice), the United States, Malaysia, the Netherlands, and Germany.

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Asia, Packing Lists, Travel

So, it’s been a while, and I’m not very good at blogging unless momentous life changes are taking place, or if travel is on the horizon – and both are true at the moment.

More on the life events later, but in less than three weeks me, Layth, and our friend Mohammed will be off to Malaysia for 10 days of city sightseeing, jungle trekking, beach time, and eating all the food. And we’ll all be coming in from different places: Amman, Riyadh, and Singapore.

So naturally, my backpack is nearly ready to go already – but this isn’t totally ridiculous given the amount of shooting and editing work I have to wrap up before I jet off and leave my laptop at home. And actually, since we did make our plans a bit last minute, we just barely made the cutoff to sign up for our trekking tour.

Ta da! The lightest I have ever packed – I get to automatically shed 20 pounds just by not carrying my computer and camera gear. I also have an awesome, giant purple Osprey Aura 65L pack, but I think I am gonna go with my smaller 40L backpack from REI. This one is solidly carry-on size, will keep me from bringing too much there, and will be easier to lug around for the hiking portions.

The list:

Windbreaker jacket (will wear on the plane)
Black cardigan (for cooler weather in the highlands/ covering up for mosques and temples)
2 pair cotton pants
1 pair Columbia pants for hiking (quick dry)
1 black knee-length dress (might wear with leggings)
1 pair cotton shorts
1 pair athletic shorts (not pictured; for sleeping and/or getting wet)
2 cotton t-shirts
1 athletic shirt (quick dry)
2 tank tops
1 scarf (for covering up in mosques and temples)
1 swimsuit (not pictured)
1 Turkish hamam towel (Layth decidedly does not believe in towels, so I’m not packing one for him)
1 REI quick dry travel towel
2 Buffs (one for me, one for Layth)
1 headlamp
Bandages & basic first aid supplies
Glasses & Sunglasses (don’t want to deal with the extra liquid involved in carrying contact solution, keeping them sanitary, etc)
Umbrella (not pictured, stowed in the water bottle holder of the backpack)
4 pair socks
underthings
1 pair Merrell Tough Mudder trail running shoes (for hiking and such)
1 pair Crocs sandals (surprisingly comfy and lightweight – may look around for other sandals in KL)
Kindle Paperwhite
Fujifilm X20 camera + charger and extra battery
Small crossbody purse
Toiletries bag
Canvas tote – extra space for souvenirs on the way home (yay Trader Joe’s)

Even looking at this now, there are more odds and ends I need to bring, which might push the bag to the limit, or force me to ditch a pair of pants or the cardigan or something. Then there’s all the toiletries (planning to pick up shampoo and soap there), migraine medicine, Cipro and water purifying tablets just in case…

But considering at any given time I’ll be wearing one of these pairs of pants, a shirt, and shoes, I think this’ll be ok.

So. Excited.