Saturday, July 26, 2014

Slovak Roots

I spent Easter weekend in northeastern Slovakia, exploring the villages outside of Poprad where my ancestors lived for centuries and both of my grandparents were born. I had an amazing time eating, drinking, talking, laughing and touring with cousins and not-so-distant relatives I'd never met. It was one of the best trips I've ever been on and I came back with a completely different concept of my heritage. I'd strongly recommend a similar trip for anyone with roots anywhere else!

Monday, August 19, 2013

Kyrgyzstan | Got Som?

Respect your elders

Osh Bazaar, Bishkek


Komuz player at Karool-dobo


12 Club, atop the tallest building in Bishkek


Kol-ukok
The 10 mile descent from Kol-ukok

Soviet salt mines

Beer and vodka break

Inside a yurt


Kol-ukok


Kyrgyzstan, a developing, mineral-rich, predominantly Muslim country, is one of the most spectacular countries I've been to.  Its mountains, lakes, flowers and people are unlike any I've known, in a very good way.

The majority of the people I met were intimately connected to the food they ate, whether it was slaughtering goats, sheep and horses themselves or growing their own produce, and their art was bright and symbolic, as you can see in the picture of the interior of the yurt.  They were also friendly, efficient, appreciative and generous.

Beyond the beauty, I had a lot of quirky firsts on this trip: winning a live goat in a foot race, watching a Russian boxer eat a big black spider, sleeping in a yurt, eating a milk-soaked sheep's lung, having my fortune told using magic stones, drinking fermented mare's milk and missing a flight. 

The trip was a challenge, ripe with rewards.

Som, if you were wondering, isn't a typo, but the name of their currency.  Here's a bonus video of a mom feeding a baby a shot of vodka:

Vodka...he'll learn to like it
video 
Welcoming the in-laws to a wedding

On the way up to Song Kol

Kochkor


Prize goat

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Molto Monégasque

Monte Carlo, Monaco Grand Prix 2013
What do you think about when you see or hear the word Monaco?

Most people view it as the lavish land of luxury, rich in excess, steeped in sexiness.  Some mistake it for Morocco and others think it stinks of capitalistic con.
Aside from an African country, it's all of those things, and it's also surprisingly accessible.


Last weekend I returned for the first time since studying there seven years ago and timed it to coincide with the Grand Prix, an F1 car race where the world's best drivers speed around the tiny, twisted public streets of Monte Carlo.  It was wild, expensive, fun, impressive, offensive astounding and exhausting; everything I wanted it to be.

I've been told Ross Brawn is in this pic

I rubbed elbows with celebrities and flirted with models and didn't recognize any of them.  I sped around town in a car driven by a race car driver and slept on a yacht.  I had bottle service and tables at the poshest clubs, danced between millions of Euros worth of the most expensive booze and never went to sleep until long after sunrise.

On the plane home I reverberated between embarrassment and disbelief, wondering why I enjoyed it so much and how many of the world's problems could be solved with the money spent there.  Was the happiness of a privileged few really worth all that?

Then I started coming to my senses and a conclusion.  I've made some amazing friends in Monaco and had some of the best times of my life there.  For every unapproachable, arrogant person in the principality, there are a thousand beautiful souls basking on the southern coast of the spectacular, sunburnt state, as intelligent and kind as anyone you'll ever meet.  And this is what you're supposed to do at this age, right?  I'm looking forward to my next trip.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Strong and brave and inspiring and unafraid


Heroes live on, transcending space and time.
Embedded in the soul of the world
Forever on down the line.

Austen Everett's spirit will always inspire me.  What an incredible person.