Muslims in Malaysia

I’m Ashamed of Something I Did Today: Confessions from an American Visiting Malaysia

I watched the large Muslim family walk slowly away from me today without an incident. For a moment I felt envious of their extended family gathering. Sometimes traveling alone can feel a bit lonely. They were most likely on holiday, enjoying the Chinese New Year in Malaysia. As they walked away I instantly felt relief, followed by utter shame. I had just lied to them.

It has been odd watching the political events surrounding the Presidential election in America from distant global destinations. For the last few months I have been a passive bi-stander of the unraveling of my beloved nation. I must admit, I’ve wept over it all on more than one occasion.

Asians fascination with westerners

People in Asia are fascinated by westerners and are always asking me where I’m from. “America,” I’ve always said with a sense of patriotism and pride. A year and a half ago when I first came to India it would have led to conversations about Walt Disney theme parks, hamburgers or pop stars. Now the conversation has changed. Every time, and I mean EVERY TIME, I tell someone I am from America now they ask me about Donald Trump. Frankly, I don’t want to talk about it anymore. I’m on vacation. I don’t wish to spend my precious time discussing American politics with foreigners that can’t possibly relate to my strong feelings about it anyway.

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Chandra Taal, India

5 Reasons Why I Like To Travel And Why You Should Too

For the first time in my life I have the freedom and means to travel a lot and it feels wonderful! Everyday my bucket list grows with new places I want to visit; Thailand, Malaysia, Africa, Croatia, Italy, the Greek Islands, Bora Bora….it never ends. Fortunately, this year I have scratched off a few destinations too; Nepal (check), Dubai (check) and Amsterdam (check).  Each time I set out on a new adventure I feel free to explore the world on my own terms. When the trip is over, I find myself longing for the next one. I wish more people would travel. It brings us together as humans and we learn things through our adventures. Here are the 5 reasons that I enjoy traveling and I hope they will inspire you to get out of your comfort zone and visit someplace new.

1. It opens your mind

When the boundaries of your world extend only to the next state or county, your perception is limited. Your world exists only within the confines of your own limited experiences.

The world is huge. There is so much to see and do, and every time I travel I see things from a fresh pair of eyes. Things are not black and white, right or wrong. There is a massive grey area when it comes to other cultures. They have different values, ethics and traditions. They see me through those limited perspectives as well. The only way to bridge these gaps and narrow our judgments of one another is through travel when you can experience such things for yourself. The Discovery Channel can’t make you feel what it’s like to see genuine poverty with your own eyes. It can’t make you feel the desperation from a street kid begging for money. Even the beautiful videos and pictures can’t make you feel the cold from the Himalaya Mountains or really appreciate the hardiness of the people that live there without heat and electricity. These things must be experienced first-hand to really be appreciated and understood. 

Himalaya Mountains in Nepal

Trekking in Nepal: A Hellacious Journey to a Heavenly Destination

Sitting in the airplane heading back to Delhi, flying high above the jagged snow topped peaks of the Himalaya Mountains, I realized I already missed Nepal. The five days had gone by entirely too fast. The beauty, culture and adventure had left a lasting impression on me and I was already thinking about the possibility of a return trip.

 

A couple of important things to note. Indians do not need a passport or visa to visit Nepal but they need a voter’s ID card and one other piece of ID. Also, if you are wondering if Nepal has recovered from the 2015 earthquake, the answer is both yes and no. There are obviously many buildings that were completely destroyed and still need to be dealt with, but not enough that it interfered with our trip in any way.

We arrived in Kathmandu late on Friday afternoon and wasted no time investigating all the cool places within walking distance to our guest house. Sporting goods stores specializing in trekking gear are everywhere, and their prices were incredible! Kirti needed some hiking boots for our three-day trek and we were pleasantly surprised to find a pair to fit his large feet. There were also tons of great Napalese handicrafts. We had a particularly good time in a knife store admiring all the intricate kukri knives. They had a range of sizes, from pocket knives to huge swords. Each one was handmade and we were so impressed that I bought one for my own collection. It has a jeweled sheath and is absolutely stunning!

ATM line in India

Banking Problems and Government Corruption in India

The Cause

There is a run on cash in India and it is creating huge lines at banks along with growing anxiety and hostility amongst the people. India is primarily a cash based culture. Only the upper classes have credit or debit cards. Foreign cards often don’t work at all. In a bold and unprecedented move, the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, announced late on November 8th that Rs 500 notes and Rs 1,000 notes would be illegal. The idea behind the ruling is to curb crime, corruption and the funding of terrorism that runs deep within India. They are giving everyone until December 30th to deposit or exchange their old bills. In the meantime ATMs have been closed for days and people are only able to withdraw a maximum of 10,000 per day or 20,000 in one week, assuming the bank has the cash to dispense.

I have witnessed the corruption here first hand. It is a common practice to bribe a policeman with a 500 rupee note when pulled over for a traffic violation. Once an ATM swallowed my debit card which left me in a world of hurt with no access to cash. The ATM guard told my assistant it was impossible to get my card back. He changed his story when she bribed him with a 500 note. I then got it back instantly. So you can see how common corruption is. Now imagine all these officials, criminals and terrorists with STACKS of cash that have been rendered useless. It may very well help stop corruption, but in the meantime it is causing sheer chaos on the economy and its people.