Thursday, August 24, 2006

Thursday Thirteen #5

13 Countries I've Visited

1) Sweden - I was born in Lund, Sweden, a relatively large city in the south of Sweden. In my junior year of college, I studied for one semester at Lund Universitet, the same college my uncle and my father went to before me.

2) United States - When I was six years old, my family (mom, dad, and younger brother, Frey) moved to Hohokus, New Jersey. We stayed there for only six months and all I remember is a plastic rocking horse that I used to play on in the yard. We later moved around New England.

3) Argentina - In high school, I went to Argentina for three weeks with my best friend Simone and her family. At her grandparents' hacienda we sunned ourselves topless in the back yard, and I road a horse for the first time; the next day I couldn't walk because my legs were so sore. In Buenas Aires, Simone, her cousin, and I went to a crazy club called "New York City." They let us in, even though we were years underage, when they realized we were Americans. That night was my first and only experience dancing in the middle of a plastic enclosed room filled with sudsy bubbles and foam. It was a blast.

4) Uruguay - During the same trip, we drove in SUVs from Argentina to Punta del Este, Uruguay, one of the most gorgeous beaches I've ever seen. Simone and I were dazzled by all of the latin boys paying court to us. In one photograph, Simone and I are standing in our bikinis, towels around our waists, in the midst of a group of boys, some of whom were her very attractive cousins. All of the boys are smiling, along with Simone's sister, who was also in the shot. I'm looking at the camera, torn between feeling shy and excited, trying to play cool. Simone has her mouth wide open and is looking straight into the camera as if to say, can you believe this?

5) Greece - The winter semester I spent in Sweden was the grayest, longest winter of my life. The first week the charter flights started flying out of Sweden in April, two friends and I flew down to Greece in search of sunshine and beaches. In Athens, I climbed the Acropolis and saw the Parthenon and the surrounding temples. That was awesome. Later, I was saddened to see bits of temples poking out of the earth in the city proper, surrounded by rusting chain link fences and debris. I also saw whole carcasses of skinned goats, with only their hairy tails left intact, hanging in butchers' windows for the Greek Orthodox Easter celebration.

6) England - I spent the summer following my semester abroad traveling around Europe on a eurorail pass with a friend from college. We started the trip in London, England. While my friend wandered around Piccadilly Street, I went on a tour of the Tower of London and then on to Stonehenge. Walking across the stones in the Tower where queens and princes had met their sordid, scandalous deaths, was fascinating. At Stonehenge I felt like an intruder among the quiet stones, surrounded by crowds held back by only a thin rope. So many secrets that we will never know, perhaps lost forever.

7) Switzerland - While traveling through Europe, I stopped to visit an eclectic friend in Zurich. She took me on a tour of the city and showed me the apartments filled with squatters. She also showed me the corners of buildings where the government had installed fluorescent blue lights in a creative attempt to counter Zurich's drug problem. The blue lights made it impossible to see the veins in arms, and thus, impossible to use needles.

8) Italy - On the same trip, my friend and I stayed with a family who 30 years earlier had hosted my friend's mother as a foreign exchange student. My god, that woman could cook. We saw Milan, Florence, and Venice. I scuba dived for the first time, around Elba Island, the island where Napoleon was imprisoned and penned his memoirs. On my very first dive ever, I went down with the crazy Italian captain, who could speak no English. Many meters down, he communicated through vigorous finger jabbing that my oxygen had run out and that we would have to share his oxygen on the way up to the surface. Because I was insane at that time, I went on 5 more dives with him, including a night dive around a sunken ship. Italy was also the place where my love affair with Parmesan Reggiano cheese began.

9) France - I love France. The Louvre and it's tiny Mona Lisa, the Musee de l'Orangerie with its wall-to-wall water lilies, the latin quarter with its fondue, wine, and romance, and towns like Lyon, where fresh-baked bread, markets, and savoring the sweetness of life is the norm. For any fans of the "freedom-fries" out there, please recall that France gave the US our Statue of Liberty. Without France and it's revolutionary spirit, our history would have been very different.

10) Cambodia - During law school, I worked in Phnom Penh for a summer for a human rights NGO. It was an incredible experience, and my first exposure to South Asia. Sitting on the balcony of the F.C.C. (foreign correspondence club), looking out over the Mecon River, I could almost hear the faint sounds of helicopters; imprints left over in my mind from Vietnam-era movies that seemed to come alive in the mists hanging above the river. In Cambodia, I was surrounded by rubble-strewn streets, bombed out French colonial buildings, memories of the killing fields, and the bright smiles of the people, so many of them filled with warmth and generosity despite the atrocities they and their families have suffered. Angkor Wat was awe-inspiring.

11) Vietnam - Hanoi is a beautiful city, and, surprisingly, a shopping mecca. Literally every corner had a Vietnamese person trying to sell something. So much for communism, Ho Chi Minh. While riding a bus to Vietnam with a number of backbackers, one of the British travelers asked me how it felt to be visiting Vietnam as the United States had lost that war and been disgraced. I replied something along the lines of, probably similar to how it feels when you visit India, the United States, the Caribbean, and all of the other countries the British Empire no longer controls. I don't like Bushie, I believe the Vietnam war was misguided, and I have serious problems with a host of our foreign policies; however, I do have pride in the United States - our history, our principles, and our potential.

12) Belize - On a two-week vacation, Raj and I snorkeled around Tobacco Caye, got bitten alive by sand flies on the beach in Placencia, saw the Mayan ruins around San Ignacio, and traveled to Tikal in Guatemala to see the tallest Mayan ruins, buried deep within the jungle. My favorite part of the trip, other than the Mayan ruins, was a caving trip that we went on. Raj and I, two guys, and a guide went on a two-hour hike underground through caves that Mayan priests used to use to make sacrifices to the Gods. Despite my fear of dark spaces, I climbed through small rock passages, waded and sometimes swam through the waist high water covering the cave floor, and at one point sat in the dark in silence with my head lamp turned off to hear the sounds of the Mayan spirits inhabiting the cave.

13) Thailand - Last October, when I was near my mental breaking point due to work, I went on a much-needed rejuvenating vacation to Thailand. I spent one week on my own in a small wellness resort on an island in the south of Thailand. At the resort, I slept in a simple wood bungalow, surrounded by trees and flowers, took yoga classes, had spa treatments, and fasted for three days! It was one of the best trips that I have ever taken. During the next week, I traveled with my brother, Bacchus, to Bangkok and Chang-Mai, where we road on elephants, drank too many Singhas, and became fascinated by Buddhism.

Links to other Thursday Thirteens! (leave your link in comments, I'll add you here!)
  1. Caledonia
  2. Christine
  3. Nikkie
  4. Cindi
  5. Gypsy
  6. Pixieprincessmom
  7. Ash
  8. Ali
  9. Jerseytjej
  10. Amy
  11. Jenny-Ryan
  12. Sarah
  13. Mar
  14. Something Blue
  15. Ka-rista
  16. KarenW
  17. Shandra
  18. Southern Girl
  19. Tink
  20. Fisher Family
  21. My Two Cents
  22. April
  23. Kailani
  24. Raggedy
  25. Margaret
  26. You're next!

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!

The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others comments. It's easy, and fun! Be sure to update your Thirteen with links that are left for you, as well! I will link to everyone who participates and leaves a link to their 13 things. Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!


Caledonia said...

Gosh, you have been to so many interesting places. Makes me feel boring!

Christine said...

I just love to travel. My favorite stops would be #5,8, and 9!
Have a great Thursday!

Ally Bean said...

what a great list of places. i've never travelled very much so i love to read about places that other people have experienced.

and I agree with you whole heartedly about France's influence on America's birth. too many forget that fact.

Nikkie said...

wow, you've been to a lot of places! I'd love to visit some of the places you've been to!

Happy Mama to Three said...

WOW. You are quite the traveler. I have traveled alot but not hit so many countries. Amazing.


Gypsy said...

Love the list! The European locations had me remembering my own experiences (we rented mopeds on Elba). Lancelot and I have wanted to travel to Vietnam and Thailand for a while now but have yet to make it over.

My list is up!

PixiePincessMom said...

You're definately more of a world traveler than I'll ever be. I'm a bit jealous of your travels. I'd love to visit Greece & Switzerland, oh & Venice. *sigh* Maybe some day.

Thanks for visiting my TT. Have an awesome day! :-)

Ash said...

Hey! I am sooooooo jealous of your list!

Alana Davis "32 Flavors" on my blog.

Is it an Ani cover?

Ali said...

oh my gosh! i'm so jealous. i've been nowhere!

Buttercup said...

Gypsy, You guys should definitely visit SE Asia. It's incredible.

Ash, Yep, it's an Ani cover. On her Living in Clip CD, and maybe another one. She's one of my all time faves.

Ally Bean, America often has a short memory.

JerseyTjej said...

Well, I am holding it down for you in Sweden...zzzzzz believe it or not, we came from NJ!!!!!

Amy said...

Wow, you have been very lucky. Such wonderful trips to go on. I think I like your description of Thailand the best. Happy TT

Jenny Ryan said...

Wow-your travelogue is very impressive! :)

Buttercup said...

Jerseytjej - You mean you're american living over there? Have the winters been hard?

Amy, Thanks! Thailand was amazing. I can't do it, or any of them, justice.

Jenny-Ryan, Thanks!

Sarah said...

When people do lists like these, it makes me realize I need to travel more. Unfortunately, it's not in the budget right now (I'm a feminist law school dropout... lol), so I guess I'll have to settle for "I've been to Canada and Alaska". Cool list!

mar said...

Well, you have been around a lot!! lovely, I love to travel. Enjoyed your memories, specially the ones in the Southern Cone (Argentina and Uruguay)- Happy TT :)

something blue said...

I love how you combine history with your explorations. Utterly fascinating!

ka-rista said...

Wow. Thats all I can say. What wonderful experiences you have had!

KarenW said...

Great list! I might have been to 13 if you count layovers in an airport. LOL! My TT is up.

Buttercup said...

Sarah, Fear not. I was a feminist without a job a while back, and will be in 5 months.

Mar, My brother is even more enamoured with South America than I was. His next place to visit is Brazil.

Blue, Learning about the history of a place is one of my favorite parts about traveling.

Ka-rista, Thank my parents, they had me in Sweden and encouraged me to travel when I could.

KarenW, Layovers can count. :)

Shandra said...

WOW what a wonderful list. What a traveler you are.

Southern Girl said...

You know, I bet with that kind of traveling experience, you'd be a great racer on "The Amazing Race." ;)

Thanks for visiting my TT!

Geggie said...

Great list! I've been to some of your places, but not to Asia or S. America. They're on my list though! Have a great day.

Tink said...

Wow, my list would be lots shorter!
Thanks for stopping by to meet Freyja.

The Fisher Family said...

Wow! Awesome list. My husband and I plan to start traveling next
year...can't wait!

BTW~ Our TT is up. :-) 2 cents said...

I would love to go to all those countries also. The only one I have been to is Switzerland, but I'm always ready to go back again!!

Have a great Thursday!!

April said...

Wow, you are so lucky to have been all those places. I would love to visit all those countries too.

Great list!

Thanks for visiting my TT

Kailani said...

That's great that you've been to all these amazing places! I bet you have some awesome pics! Happy T13 and thanks for stopping by!

Raggedy said...

You have been to some wonderful places..
World travel would be awesome..
Loved your vietnam quip...
Great TT
My TT is up
Have a wonderful day!

Darla said...

Wow, that's great! I really need to take the opportunity to do more traveling.

Margaret said...

Wow! That is so wonderful that you've traveled. I have yet to leave the US, then again... it's so big each state could be considered it's own country. Great list!

Tracy said...

Wow! You've seen so many wonderful places in the world! Greece is definitely a place I'd like to spend some time. :)

Janet said...

Such an interesting life!