My Seven Traveling Truths

August 26, 2011

It has been exactly 1 year, 3 weeks, and 2 days since I was last in Uganda, and boy have I felt every day of it. Since my great friend Alex recently stole this blog post idea from someone else, I figured I’d join in on the chain and steal the idea for myself on the one year anniversary of my staying put. So here you have it folks, seven big things I have learned about myself (and the world) – my seven traveling truths.

1. Food.
I travel by taste. I’ve found that acquainting myself with local food, street vendors, and markets is one of the best ways to get to know a place. Food staples and cooking styles often speak a lot to the way of life in a certain place. For example, much of the food in Uganda is designed to fill you up for a long time – like kal (millet bread) or matooke (crushed plantains). I’ve also found that the most delicious meals are had in friends (or strangers) homes. There’s nothing quite like being gorged on traditional Ugandan food and then taking the long way home to walk off a few (hundred) extra calories.

Vendor selling fresh caught fish in a small trading center in Luzira - December 2008

2. I come out of my shell.
It’s true that traveling breaks down some personal barriers and allows you to feel comfortable with things that you might not have before. A prime example of this is my inner haggler that comes out when being cheated by a matatu conductor. Sure, it’s only 10 cents to me, but it’s the principle of the thing, right?!

3. I uncover some truths about myself.
I find myself challenged to uncover who I really am. Without my friends, comfort foods, technology, or familiar surroundings I find myself having to peel back the layers to who I really am with all of that distraction getting in the way. Sometimes I’ve been disappointed in the truth about myself while at other times I’ve been impressed with my ability to keep my composure in challenging situations. Usually I’ve had to dig deep and uncover talents and skills I never knew I had.

4. I miss home.
I’d like to think of myself as the big macho traveler who never gets homesick, but like Alex, I find myself gaining a much greater appreciation for my home and how it’s connected to the rest of the world. While before Knoxville might have seemed like a po-dunk town with too many rednecks (well it often is), I also found myself reflecting on a chic Appalachian city with a fascinating history and cultural life to be proud of.

5. I enjoy medium sized cities.
I find that I get bored easily in the country side, but if I have a nice medium sized city with things to do plus amenities and not too much traffic, I am in heaven. Small towns tend to be too difficult to penetrate into the real fabric of the place whereas a city has many different aspects from which to fit in or discard. It’s nice to have the choices.

6. I love history and ruins – mostly ruins.
I seek out historic monuments or sites in almost every place I visit. It makes me feel more connected to a place when I can get familiar with how and why it was built, what happened there in the past, and most of all – who built it. When I went to Antigua, Guatemala in 2009 I couldn’t have cared less about the infamous jade – I wanted to see the ruins on the outskirts of town!

7. I don’t get car sick.
Here I get car sick at the drop of a hat. I’m that friend that sticks her head out the window and demands that the AC be turned on full blast in order to avoid puking my guts out on your fine leather seats. But abroad I can withstand the longest, bumpiest, hottest, most crowded bus ride without the slightest bit of nausea.

Those are my seven traveling truths… what are yours? Here’s to more adventures and more blog topics in the exciting year to come!

Lakeshore Mental Institute – A Jog and a Mystery

April 4, 2011

Recently I’ve been doing a bit of a lifestyle change – perhaps a side effect of the glorious Spring weather. This means stressing less, eating healthier, and exercising more. For one of my changes, I decided to start seriously jogging. I know for some of you this probably isn’t that big of a deal, but before this I had never run a full mile on an outdoor track. I mean, I did studio dance all through high school, but running was always a different beast. Anyway, I asked my friend where a good place to go jogging might be, and she suggested I go to Lakeshore Park, which is the grounds that surrounds Lakeshore Mental Institute. The park always looked nice, so I figured I’d give it a try.

If you’re from Knoxville, you’ve probably heard stories about Lakeshore as if they were urban legends. No doubt many of the stories are. It sits at the intersection of Westland and Northshore on top of a huge hill, right next to Melton Hill Lake. You can see abandoned buildings just from the road and another building with some castle-like architecture. People tell tales of patient abuse, shackles, haunted buildings, fires, and straight up creepiness that will make almost anyone curious. I mean who knew Knoxville had our very own haunted mental health institute?

I’ve been trying to do some internet searching, but all I can find about Lakeshore is always on some paranormal site. All the different tales piece together to make a colorful history. I know the place has been around for a while, and it’s not surprising really that an old mental institute had patient abuse. There was a lot of misunderstanding about mental illness in the past. One of the more fascinating areas on the grounds is the former transitional subdivision. There are some pretty sizable houses with a church, a basketball court, a community center, and a pool just on the backside of the hill. I’m told it was for patients to see how they might do on their own after they graduated from the institute. The whole place has the feel of a 70s science experiment gone horribly wrong.

If you’re a jogger, I would definitely suggest checking this place out. The greenway is simply amazing, with stunning views of Melton Hill Lake and quarter mile markers to keep you going. Plus, the creepy buildings around the back provide enough intrigue to keep you distracted from your jog. I would also highly suggest you do a little exploration yourself. The abandoned high school in the back was straight out of a horror film, and I legitimately jumped after I looked inside to see the dilapidated building’s insides.

If you want to see some really cool pictures from my amazing photographer best friend, go check out Alex Bee Photo at this link. We had a little field trip to Lakeshore and did some poking around.

The Wide and Confusing World of Figuring Out What to Do With Your Life

April 1, 2011

Since this blog has been neglected for some time and it’s supposed to be about the adventures of a soon-to-be college graduate, let’s take a minute to talk about all the opportunities one has after college.

I used to think that I would go to Uganda and find a job, but recently this has changed. You see, I suffer from being interested in too many different subjects – human rights, refugees, war, politics, advocacy, sustainable agriculture, public health, environmental issues, anthropology, peace and conflict studies, and even archaeology. I used to think that there was only one career path that was right for me, but really I think I could be happy and very good in any of these subjects. The question is… which one do I want to pursue?

I’m fairly sure at this point that I would like to stay in the U.S. for a year while I intern/volunteer with various organizations and save some money (pay off loans). However, this brings up the question of which city to choose. My lease runs out pretty soon, and I need to figure out where to go. Part of me wants to stay in TN and volunteer with local initiatives that I know, while another part of me wants to move towards the East Coast (Savannah, D.C., New York) and pursue work with a larger organization – just experiencing the big city life.

All the Craigslist searching in the world can’t give me more direction. Even though I know I could do a job doesn’t mean that’s reflected in my resume, and there’s always someone with more experience that will land even entry-level jobs in the field of development/human rights.

Because of the trivial pursuit of job-searching with just a BA at hand, I know I would like to start grad school after taking a year off, but even this pursuit is confusing. Do I want to become an Anthropologist? Do I want to do Peace and Conflict studies? I’ve really had my eye on the Kroc Institute at Notre Dame, but I might want to pursue public health or agriculture. I think I could also do some good work in refugee resettlement. This range of interest makes me think I should really get some experience volunteering and interning in various organizations to really feel out what I might be best suited for.

So my question to you is what do you think would be a wise career move? Should I just pick a topic and pursue it or wait for some kind of divine intervention? What are/were your plans after college? Should I pursue entry level jobs or go for grad school? Are you all as confused as I am?!

« older posts

about erin

I graduated from the University of Tennessee in May 2011 with a Bachelor’s degree in Anthropology. I am currently taking the year off to enjoy a less stressful life while applying for graduate schools in Anthropology. Without sounding too cliche, it's true that we are all life-long learners, but I still miss the challenge and excitement of the classroom. This website is a combination of personal and professional so that anyone who wants to can get to know me better. I will also be keeping up with my blog, where you will be able to read about the life of an undergraduate student about to embark on the real world. Feel free to contact me; I’d love to hear from you!