Thursday, June 30, 2011

You Ask, I Answer, Take 6

Today's You Ask, I Answer Question is from Jenny in Australia, a long-time reader of the blog.  She asked:

Overseas travel - what inspired you the most - sights, sounds, smells?

Yikes!  Another good question!

My first overseas trip happened when I was just a baby.  My parents led a short term summer team to Peru in 1984, and took me, their blond haired, blue-eyed baby with them to Latin America, where I celebrated my first birthday.  I'm no longer either blond haired or blue eyed (that had all changed by my third birthday to my current light brown hair and hazel eyes), and I don't have memories of that trip particularly, but to this day I have a deep love of the Spanish language and Latin culture, and I maintain that it is from having my unconscious immersed in it at such a young age.

I've traveled extensively in the United States and Canada (I've visited about 27 of the 50 states, and all 10 Canadian provinces), but my first non North American trip happened in my early twenties, just after graduating from university.  I joined a team of young adults and teenagers and traveled by bus from my hometown to Juarez, Mexico.  We worked on a building project in a colonia in Juarez, and did a bit of outreach in the colonia as well.  The moments I remember most from that trip are incredibly varied.  I remember being in a stuffy room, late into the evening, playing with small children, using my limited Spanish to help them with a craft, asking their names, ages, and what color paper pieces they wanted to use.  I remember the sign in the bathroom of the school we were staying in, reminding us that absolutely NO toilet paper should be flushed down the toilet.  I remember being absolutely coated, head to toe, in sand and dirt, after days spent shoveling sand and mixing concrete in a desert on the edge of a dump of sorts, in the midst of windstorms.  And I remember wandering through the market on our last day, choosing souvenirs, and then simply sitting with a few good friends, eating fabulous chips and salsa (is there anything so tasty as Mexican food?), soaking in the color, the culture, the language, and thinking that I could happily spend the remainder of my life absorbing and experiencing the beauty of other cultures.

My next overseas trip was three years ago, to Malta, Rome, and London.  It was a trip I'd dreamed about, having studied European history in university, and was full of unexpected things.  From that trip I'll never forget touring the Maltese President's winter palace (thanks to a connection with someone who was part of the Presidential guard), eating pastizzi at the city gates of Valletta and rabbit stew (another Maltese delicacy) at the home of a friend (incidentally, the pastizzi, both the pea version and the ricotta version, I loved, the rabbit stew, well, it was mostly just memorable!).  I remember the beauty of the Mediterranean, and visiting the ruins of some of the oldest freestanding temples in the world.  I'll never forget the majesty of St. Peter's Basilica in Rome, and taking part in an Ash Wednesday mass there.  I'll never forget the view from the top of the Basilica, looking down over the square, and the private Vatican gardens.  I'll never forget the Sistine Chapel, and simply soaking in the atmosphere of a place so truly ancient, a place full of beauty and history.  And OH. MY. GOODNESS.  You haven't had hot chocolate until you've had the stuff they serve in the little piazza cafes in Rome!  It's thick and rich, and topped with whipped cream if you want it, and truly amazing.  I don't drink hot chocolate very much in North America, but in Rome, it was divine! From London, where we only had a few days, I'll not forget the simplest of things, sitting on the steps of the British Museum, alone with my thoughts and journal for the first time in weeks as I waited for a friend, taking time to think and pray and write.

Just writing all of this has ignited the travel bug again!  That feeling from the market cafe in Mexico persists for me - I could happily spend much of the rest of my life traveling and absorbing the beauty of culture.  Cultural differences fascinate me - I'm continually aware of them, whether I'm simply in Chinatown here in Calgary, traveling in the United States, or on a different continent entirely.  The diversity and richness of culture and language speaks deeply to my heart and moves me to pray, to write, to read, to think and to create in ways that very few other things can.

Okay!  So, there's another answer!  Thanks for the great question, Jenny!  Are there more specific questions I can answer?  About this topic or anything else?  Leave them in the comments or send me an email (I've recently updated my profile so that there is an email address there again!).  I'll add them to my list!


Miss said...

Very evocative answer, Lisa - thank you! Wow, they sound like wonderful travels, and great that you went to somewhere so different when you were very young - your parents must be adventurers too!

I love the description of your two subsequent trips. Ah, to feel the same sun on your skin in a different land, the colour of the sky, the air, so different. I have a follow up question - why Malta? I don't know much about it, but it does seem like a beautiful country.

Where would you like to visit next, if money were no object (we can dream, eh?) and why?

This is fun!

PS I love being referred to as a long time reader - it has been a while now, hasn't it :0)

Lisa said...

You are a long-time reader :D

Watch future posts for the answers to your follow up questions!