K = Kandahar

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I spent some time in Kandahar in 2009. Things weren’t great when I was there. But its history has seen much, much worse than what I saw.

Here are some interesting facts I put together about the city of Kandahar:

– It is one of the oldest human settlements in the world.

– Although it seems to be in a rather barren, uninhabitable area, it has held great strategic importance over centuries due to its location along important trade routes between the different edges of Asia.

– It was believed to have been founded by Alexander the Great in 330 BC and “Kandahar” comes from a local interpretation of “Alexander”

– Kandahar has been witness to alternating periods of war and peace and as such, the people have evolved to be resilient and adopt a survival instinct to keep their families alive.

– Kandahar International Airport was built in the 1960’s, by Afghans but under USAID support.  Over the years it has been controlled by Afghans, Soviets, Taliban and most recently, NATO, over the years. While the airfield was controlled by NATO, it was considered one of the busiest airports in the world with up to 5,000 military flights of all varieties coming in and out each week.Today, six commercial airlines service the airport and it is still used by NATO forces and the Afghan Air Force.

– Kandahar is also where my country spent a lot of time, effort and money trying to make things better after the Taliban were forced into hiding and NATO moved in to prevent them from using the area as a safe haven and training ground for terrorists. Canada put effort into eradicating polio, building schools and other infrastructure (such as the Dahla Dam), training teachers and security forces.  Kandahar Province is also where many Canadians gave their lives toward the effort: at least 130 young Canadians lost, and many more Afghans gone from this world because of constant conflict in the area. May they rest in peace.

I only hope that one day, Kandahar can be a thriving city in the crossroads of the world. Although, judging by its history, I’m not so sure that could ever be possible.
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J = Jamaica

  Jamaica was our most recent adventure. Usually when we travel, we travel on budget and a way where we can see as much of our destination as possible.  

This time we decided to try something different.  An all-inclusive resort was on the itinerary.  Nine days of doing anything, or nothing, eating and drinking as much as we wanted. We stayed at the Sandals Royal Caribbean and had a wonderful relaxing time!

The people in Jamaica were so friendly and laid back.  Nothing seemed to be a bother either on or off the resort property.  Of course if I lived on a tropical island in the middle of the Caribbean, I would be pretty relaxed too!

Sometimes, you just need to take a break and remind yourself what life’s all about. 

   

             

I = Iceland

II was intrigued by Iceland. It absolutely inspired me. I decided to spend two weeks in Iceland with my mom, travelling around the entire island and see what it was all about. What an incredible experience, and what stunning and gorgeous countryside.  This is a place of dreamers. There is so much majesty, you can’t help but feel the magic and imagine the generations of Sagas that tell wild and crazy stories of the country’s history.

I learned history, I tried local foods, I saw gnomes and trolls, I peered over waterfalls, I stood beside active geysers, I tasted million year old ice, I rode Icelandic horses (don’t call them ponies), I ate puffin (sorry birdie, had to try the local fare), and I met some of the friendliest people.

Enjoy the photos!

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H = Hectic

HI had this great idea about the A to Z Challenge.  I was going stay on track. I was going to find 26 great, outstanding, fascinating things to talk about and share with you.

Then I hit the letter “H”.

At first, I was going to write about my experiences in Hong Kong.  But I can’t find the photos from my week and a half there, staying with my dear friend who taught at the Kowloon YMCA.

Then I thought I would write about my 96 hours in Hungary (Budapest to be precise), and then realized that due to the morning train from Zagreb, Croatia and the beer cart rolling around at 8:30 am (It’s 11am somewhere, right?), that I don’t remember enough about my time there to accurately share my experience!

Then I went out of town for the weekend. I didn’t have access to any of my photos and I couldn’t think of another “H” thing to write about. Then, I realized that I was only two weeks away from the end of my current semester at Johns Hopkins University.  I’m taking two courses AND working full-time and I started to panic.  And since I didn’t have any photos to give you anyway, I hid from the A to Z Challenge.

A lot of people live hectic lives. Many are able to balance them successfully.  Others have difficulty. I am one who has difficulty but appears to have it all together. The truth is, I don’t. But I make it work. Sometimes to make it work, I do what I did this weekend. I just get away from it all. I dump it all from my mind and I do something completely different and unrelated. Then I return to reality.  And realize that I just put myself another three days behind schedule on EVERYTHING else in my life that I had to get done. But hey, it was a fun weekend.  And I’m happy. And that starts with H, too.

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Another thing I did when I was supposed to be doing homework. Origami. It didn’t work. So I doodles butterflies on it instead with highlighters meant for highlighting passages in smart people books.

G = Garden of the Gods

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When I moved to Colorado Springs, the first ‘touristy’ thing I did was visit Garden of the Gods. Despite all the other super cool things about Colorado Springs (Pikes Peak, Cheyenne Mountain, The Stargate, The Olympic Training Center), Garden of the Gods is perhaps one of the most popular attractions in the area. Even TripAdvisor rates it #1 of 140 things to do in Colorado Springs!

So, here’s the story: Garden of the Gods was formed millions of years ago due to some crazy upward activity around a fault line. Today, massive red rocks jut out of the landscape as if they either landed there from outer space or pushed their way through the earth like large, solid rock daisies.

The name Garden of the Gods was given back in the mid 1800’s by two surveyors who, while discussing how the land would make an ideal beer garden, proclaimed that it would be a garden fit for a God. Later, railroad tycoon, Charles Elliot Perkins purchased the land surrounding the features in 1879 to build a summer home. When he died, his heirs handed the land over to the City of Colorado Springs with the caveat that it always remain open and free for the public to enjoy.

Pictures do not do this place justice.  There is a silence uncanny to urban areas.  Birds have made their homes in the outcropping of rocks.  People walk through the park daily, alone with their thoughts, or amazed by the beauty, or sharing this treasure with family and friends.

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F = Fear

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There are a lot of things in the world that you could be afraid of.  Some people have irrational fears of things, while other fears are logically based on a past experience. One thing I have learned over the years is that fear can hold you back.

Being afraid to move to a new city. Being afraid to search for a new job.  Being afraid of getting up in front of people and delivering a speech. Being afraid of climbing a ladder. The list goes on.  But if you constantly live in fear, you are not living, truly.

You can be afraid of things, it’s a natural reaction, but it’s how you allow fear to control your life is what’s the most important.

I recall when I applied to college.  I was accepted into both colleges I applied at.  Advertising and Public Relations at St. Lawrence College, and Recreation Leadership at Loyalist College.  Going to Loyalist College would have meant that I would have to move, find a new place to live, find a new job, and make new friends.  I was terrified of the change, considering I didn’t even own a car. I chose to stay in Kingston and go to St. Lawrence.  In the end, the diploma from St. Lawrence likely better served me in my future career as a Communications Advisor, but at that time, all I could care about was the unknown and how scary it seemed.

Since then, I have learned to muscle my way through irrational fear.  I am not a fan of heights. Even seeing someone on the edge of a cliff gives me physical butterflies. But I learned to skydive.  I climbed that ladder on the side of the Mayan ruin in Tikal, Guatemala. I’ve rappelled off of platforms and down rock faces.

Here’s a video I want to share of me kayaking over Pozo Azul waterfall in Costa Rica. No one who has run this waterfall can say that they weren’t afraid and no one should blame me for the 10 minutes I spent in the eddy above psyching myself out, saying “Okay, NOW!”  “This time for reals. Go!”  “Okay, NOW!”  “No seriously Jen, do it!”

At the end of the day, if you hide from those things you are afraid of, they will define you. But, by the way, there is a difference between fear and a legitimate sense of a bad idea.  I’m not saying you should just jump over the edge, but I’m saying you should carefully calculate whether your fear is legitimate or psychological and determine which way to go with those feelings.

D = Dubrovnik

DAs part of the A to Z Blogging Challenge, once we post our blog entry for the day, we are supposed to go through this list, visit other blogs and comment.  I’ve been checking out the next four blogs after mine,and one (TR) or Travel blog each day! The other day I found this great blog entry written by Jeremy about traveling alone. Travel can be a completely different experience whether you’re in groups, as a couple or on your own.  I quite enjoy “lonesome traveling”.  It prevents distractions and allows me to see things more clearly and better immerse myself in the local culture.

One place I visited alone was Dubrovnik, Croatia. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Dubrovnik is a fascinating walled city on the Mediterranean. Despite its protected status, the Yugoslav People’s Army didn’t seem to care and besieged the city for seven months in 1991 and 1992, destroying more than half of the city’s infrastructure. It didn’t take long following the most recent Balkan’s conflict to begin rebuilding efforts in the original style and originally used material.

Back to traveling alone:  I spent four days in Dubrovnik, simply walking around the city, taking in the sights and sounds, and concentrating on the remnants of a not-forgotten war. It was amazing how much was reconstituted in only eight years and how quickly the city gave the appearance of returning to a normal life.

** Neat Fact: Most recently, Dubrovnik has been used as various sets for the television show The Game of Thrones, depicting the city of King’s Landing.

Enjoy my pictures.  Taken in 2000, before I could afford a digital camera!

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Walled city with Lokrum in the background

Walled city with Lokrum in the background

Narrow streets and stairways

Narrow streets and stairways

Dubrovnik from above

Dubrovnik from above

Dubrovnik from above.  Looks like they had cable cars prior to the war - see bottom right corner of photo.

Dubrovnik from above. Looks like they had cable cars prior to the war – see bottom right corner of photo.

C = Cross Canada

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I found this awesome opportunity posted on my Facebook feed and wanted to share it with everyone.

Woods Apparel is holding a contest for two people to win the ultimate Canadian dream job: follow the Trans Canada trail  for five months and test their gear. I want this job so bad!  What an incredible opportunity this would be! Unfortunately I have a career that is 4 years away from a permanent pension, and although being spontaneous is often great, being smart and planning for your future is also very important!.

Here’s the link: http://woodsdreamjob.com.  All you have to do is submit a 60 second video of why you should win this job by April 17th if you are a Canadian resident over the age of 18.

Although this sounds amazing, it reminded me of my cross-Canada journey in 2003.  Myself and 19 other riders bicycled across Canada, starting in Victoria, BC and ending in St. John’s, NL. It was an incredible opportunity to see my own country up front and personal, and further enforced my desire to travel and see not only the world, but take an in-depth look at my roots.

White River, ON is known as the birthplace of Winnie the Pooh!

White River, ON is known as the birthplace of Winnie the Pooh!

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Heading up Signal Hill in St. John’s, NL. Final stretch!

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Stopped for a photo op on the north shore of Lake Superior

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Cycling through the Canadian Rockies was no easy feat!

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Contrary to popular belief, riding through the prairies was more painful than the mountains. Endless field and oh! that headwind!

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B = Bullets

BNot just any bullets, which I’ve noticed you can find just about anywhere across the United States (this Canadian is still in awe at the relative ease of accessibility of weapons and ammo here).  These are special bullets.  They tell a story. One that happened before most of us were born.

In mid to late August, 1944, Canadian Major David Currie’s armoured battlegroup near St. Lambert-sur-Dives, France managed to repel attacking German forces with a final tally of approximately 2,000 German casualties.

In one tightly controlled corridor,the majority of the action resulted in a ton of casualties and incapacitated military equipment and vehicles. So much, in fact, that when I did a France Battlefield tour in 2007 (63 years later), we didn’t have to dig very deep to find artifacts from that very battle. The interesting thing about the bullets I found was that two were rather heavy, while another was significantly lighter.  Our guide explained that due to the numerous explosions, one of the bullets was so hot that the lead leaked out of the casing.

What is the story behind these bullets?  Are they strays that were simply fired downrange? Did they hit someone, or something?  We will never know, but they hold a small piece of history in them that will remain forever encapsulated in these artifacts.

It is incredible to think of the remnants of war that stay for decades and generations after peace has been achieved.

WWII Bullets from Falaise Pocket

WWII Bullets from Falaise Pocket

The story: there was an armoury explosion and this rifle got stuck in a tree and grew with it for 60+ years.

The story: there was an armoury explosion and this rifle got stuck in a tree and grew with it for 60+ years.

Digging for artifacts in Falaise Pocket

Digging for artifacts in Falaise Pocket

My collection of sand and rocks from various beaches

My collection of sand and rocks from various beaches

My collection of sand and rocks from various beaches

My collection of sand and rocks from various beaches

A = Aspen

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One of my Colorado Bucket List items is to check out Aspen, Colorado.  The place where all the celebrities go to show off their cool ski suits, stay in their million dollar condos and generally live the good life!

I was able to snatch up this sweet deal for the last weekend in March. $250 got me a room in a luxury condo, 2 days of lift tickets at any of the three nearby hills (Aspen, Snowmass, Buttermilk), a Wine & Cheese welcome, and shuttle transportation to and from Colorado Springs.  Sweet! How could I say no?

So here’s what I found.  Aspen is pretty darn cool. The area is simply gorgeous, the condos are out of this world (I shared a three bedroom, four bathroom condo with five friends), the shops are amazing, the restaurants are divine, and the overall vibe is one of relaxed enjoyment.  Even when we went to the Ajax Tavern for dinner (which had amazing food, but not-so-amazing service), as I looked around the restaurant I noticed every table was full of conversation, laughter and interaction. There was a decided lack of smartphones – people were actually conversing with each other AND having fun!

Here are a few photos from my super weekend!  If I can snag a deal like that again next year, I’ll be all over it!

Aspen was a bit steep for this newb boarder...

Aspen was a bit steep for this newb boarder…

Hello from Snowmass Village!

Hello from Snowmass Village!

Yes, I made it look like I was posing, but really I fell down.  A lot.

Yes, I made it look like I was posing, but really I fell down. A lot.

The best Snowmass/Aspen shuttle driver ever!

The best Snowmass/Aspen shuttle driver ever!

Enjoyed a flight of beer at Glenwood Canyon Brew Pub!

Enjoyed a flight of beer at Glenwood Canyon Brew Pub!