What’s In Your Suitcase?

Am I the only one who seems to be packing something both quirky and unique to the destination every time I go on a trip?

When my sister and I went to China, my mom packed us an entire suitcase (back when airlines weren’t greedy and allowed two suitcases on international flights) full of snacks!

This past winter, when I was coming up with a packing list for my semester in England, I insisted upon rain boots and a cute-but-portable umbrella after being warned constantly of the raining (not an exaggeration… at all). I was so sure that this was what I wanted that when my bag was over the limit at the airport, I took the rain boots out, put the tennis shoes in, and wore those big, rubbery, polka dotted suckers from Detroit to Paris to Manchester. Of course, I promptly took them off once I boarded the plane each time, but that’s beside the point. And it was SO worth it…

Look! My umbrella made it places! ;)

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Apparently this place is sort-of-a-big-deal. You’d think I didn’t know this since I’ve never wrote about it or even photo bombed this blog.

What’s sort of silly things have you dragged around the world with you? Any special item you always have to pack?

Canada 2012: Halal in Toronto

When I reverted last year, I thought I was lucky. Lucky, that is, because I live near enough to Dearborn, Michigan with its signs in Arabic, little hole-in-the wall Islamic wear shops lining the main streets, and halal food galore. I mean, you can buy halal beef jerky in the gas station for goodness’ sake. But we talked it over and… Toronto just might have Dearborn beat. You can buy literally any cuisine in halal (Thai food will forever have my heart after a wonderful experience that I promise I’ll have to talk about) and, when I say any, I mean any. See…

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Even the street food is in on the halal trend! ;-)

This was too much for me to handle, obviously, and I felt it necessary to rip out my camera and “ohmygosh” a million times and snap photos.

If you’re interested, this was right around from City Center off of Yonge Street… But we were stuffed to the brim from lunch and then smoothie drinks so I can’t even rave about it, :-(.

Has anybody tried these before? Street food in general, even? How is it?!

Note and Canada 2012: Photo

It looks like I’ve failed to keep up again; I’m still studying for that pesky MCAT. I take it in less than a month so I’ve very little time otherwise or, actually, I may but I feel far too guilty not spending it on prep. I sincerely hope to boost this blog once it’s complete though. I’ve got entry upon entry backlogged, either on paper or in computer files. I’ve got folders of photos. I mean, I hardly wrote about France — that list of sites seen is just not cutting it for me — and I went to both Italy and Ireland after that, had some awesome times around Manchester back in England, moved back to the United States, took some trips in the United States, and went to Canada. There’s totally some blog worth in there, right? But for now, I’ll postpone because if I really think about it, an atlas is a map or a chart or an illustration or a diagram on any subject. The “atlas” I’m using right now in my studying is guiding my future. When I’m done, I’ll pull out the old atlas and map out my past.

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Guess where? :D

*PS. I did that thing again where I forgot a memory card and had to use internal memory hence the photos set to super low quality.

Canada 2012: Five Things Visiting Toronto Taught Me

Here are the top five tips I wish I would have had before this last rendezvous in Canada to help save time, money, and panic.

1. Fill up on that tank. That town you’re staying in? The one with the hotel and some amenities around? Don’t leave without a full tank. I know, I know, petro is expensive in Canada… But seriously, don’t. And if you noticed your tank is even close to empty — I’m talking quarter tank close to empty — stop the first time you see signs for a station. That or you can realize you’re nearing empty… Wait, you’re gas light just flashed on… You’re just above E, on E, below E… And there seems to be absolutely nowhere to stop for gas. (Purely hypothetical, of course, we didn’t really put ourselves in this situation and nearly escape spending hours on the side of an empty Canadian freeway.)

2. Be picky with parking. Deciding between convenience and affordability is something you can do on your own, but if you go for convenience and drive into the city, parking is not cheap. I’m talking $23-not-cheap. Instead of parking right near city center, try driving down one of the streets running perpendicular to Yonge street. Dundas and Yonge is the main intersection and just a couple of blocks down on Dundas, we saw day parking for $6. We were not pleased. Also: Read the signs carefully! We were under the impression that our garage chared a maximum of $17, but it turns out that was between specific times.

3. Try to avoid taxis. A taxi ride starts at $4.50 and accelerates fast. We thought we would save money by grabbing a cab to our second location (on Polson Pier) instead of parking again. We thought wrong.

4. Skip on eating at franchised chains. Local shops turned out to be cheaper, offer greater portion sizes, and, well, taste better. Toronto is a cultural hub — dive on in to one of the many tastes available. My favorite was Thai!

5. Print off return directions. City driving is always complex and Toronto is no different. Unfortunately, it was not a simple case of reverse-the-directions and cost us an hour of wandering the city. While the view was beautiful at times, the frustration was not.

Indianapolis 2012: Nationals

So… Why the trip to Indiana? Competitive cheerleading, of course! :)

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To be honest, up until university, most of my traveling came only as a result of my years and years with cheerleading. Travels around Michigan for regional and state competitions, travels around the country for national competitions. Tennessee, Wisconsin, the unfortunate year where nationals fell at home in Michigan, Mississippi, and on. (Oh, and that awesome time when our team won the opportunity to go to China. You know that, was awesome). Last year, my sister even went to Vegas though I honestly found it an inappropriate location for a family trip.

I no longer cheer and I no longer coach, but my sister does both and here we are for her. We’ve been exploring the city, beautiful old buildings and classic charm included, doing some shopping and a bunch of eating. Last night was the competition. Her team took second in the division, :). (Alhamdulillah.)

I’ll review some restaurants tomorrow but without a camera on me, it’s hard to share the charm.

Martesë 2012

No, Martesë is not some country you’ve failed to hear about your entire life (though apparently there is some village in Italy by the name). Instead, it means wedding or marriage in Albania and considering that my life has once again come to revolving around work, research, and this lovely MCAT addition, it’s the most cultural immersion I’ve got.

…But unfortunately, there wasn’t much of our cultural put into the wedding. But there *was* at least the valle (think of the Arab dabke and you’ve got the idea) and baklava. Who can complain about baklava? ;-)

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And here I am, in the mirror before the wedding. Just because, you know, I haven’t posted a photo in awhile and I’m trying to procrastinate studying for a minute, ;).

An Explanation and Haiti 2011: Daydreaming

I haven’t posted a single piece of substance since returning to the United States. My defense? I’m studying for the MCAT and if you know about the MCAT, this makes for a valid excuse.

However, right now, I need inspiration and when I need inspiration, I try to remember this darling faces and daydream about the ways I’ll (iA) be able to help one day…

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:)

 

Wales 2012: In Summary

My day trip to Wales lead me to Conwy and Caernarfon, both quaint towns and a nice escape from the business of greater Manchester, but also tourist hot spots with tiny souvenir shops spotting the streets. I brought home a Welsh love spoon, hand carved. According to tradition, each design represents something different. I hadn’t much cash at the time so I opted to pack lunch instead but I don’t think I was missing out on any classic Welsh food, iA.

Anyway, here’s my look at Wales in photos:

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Doesn’t this look like a scene out of a film?!

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I actually *really* like the Welsh flag, :).

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I love the ambiance in the blur of this! :)

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England too, ;).

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…Does this mean there’s a drug problem? Or a diabetes epidemic?

I’m home!

Alhamdulillah, I had safe travels! :)

I still have loads of posts to upload, but alhamdulillah, a good chunk of them are written so as soon as I type them up, I’ll set them on a queue if that’s possible on here. I suppose I should start back at Wales and make my way up…

The reason I have not posted in two weeks?

Italy, Ireland, and some in-England travel. It’s been a whirlwind, but I’ve kept some notes and even wrote entire posts in a notebook — perfect at-night-hostel-lounge or here-goes-another-flight activity — and will iA start to post them soon.

However, I move back to the United States on Friday so another whirlwind is coming my way.

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