Charleston, South Carolina

First of all, I wanted to thank you all for your heartfelt comments on yesterday’s post. The post was one of those that makes you scared to hit “publish” but I’m happy that I did and that you were all so supportive.

Charleston, South Carolina

Besides my somewhat uncomfortable experience, I enjoyed my time in Charleston. Most people were incredible friendly and hospitable and I found the cobblestone streets and delicious food so charming. Charleston is a great city for taking a walk or riding through on a bicycle. Although I didn’t take advantage of it, the city also has a free trolly that will take you around town, stopping at touristy spots. I found the Waterfront Park to be my favorite area of the city.

Downtown Charleston / Waterfront Park

The Waterfront of Charleston is one of the cutest places in the city. The park offers lovely little benches underneath beautiful trees that line the grass as well as along the water to watch the boats. The main attraction, however, is the giant pineapple fountain in the middle of the park.

Charleston, South Carolina

Actually, the whole town is full of pineapples. We would see them on houses, sidewalks, gates, and just about anything else you could think of. Those of you from the South (or anyone who hasn’t been living under a rock like myself) know that pineapples are the symbol of southern hospitality. We heard several different stories about how the pineapple came to represent hospitality, all of which centered upon the idea that pineapples were once very expensive and if you displayed one while having guests (or gave one to another person) it was seen as a grand gesture. My favorite story, however, was one that my friend told us: when men were away during a war, women would put a pineapple outside their house and neighbors / community members would stop by and bring them food / comfort them while the men were away. This story claims that at some point the pineapple outside the house transitioned from “my husband is away, please bring me food” to “my husband is away, other men are welcome to come over.” How’s that for southern comfort? A-boom!

Charleston, South CarolinaCharleston, South CarolinaCharleston, South CarolinaCharleston, South Carolina

The Waterfront park was a great place to take a little break between eating at restaurants. It was nice to watch the boats (and cutest little dogs) while sitting on the benches in the shade.

Wedding!

The highlight of the trip, however, was seeing my dear friend Abby marry the man of her dreams! Abby, your wedding was gorgeous, your family is amazing, and your friends were so welcoming to us outsiders from CA. Congratulations!!
Charleston, South Carolina WeddingSouth Carolina Wedding Sparkler Send Off

Overall, I enjoyed Charleston. I enjoyed going to the restaurants, learning history about the area, and getting my first taste of the real South.

[linked with Travel Tuesday with Bonnie & Megan].

The Politics of Traveling: How Do You Disagree?

The Politics of Travel: How Do You Disagree

So this is the post where I expect to see a drop in followers. But that’s okay.
Every travel excursion is unique and I’m so grateful for each one that I am fortunate enough to experience. But sometimes you experience something that catches you by surprise and makes you feel a little uncomfortable (like the time a man yelled at me in Cameroon because I wasn’t wearing the ‘appropriate attire’ for International Women’s Day). Sometimes these experiences are too uncomfortable to handle and others are just bearable. But in all cases, I think that they serve as an excellent learning experience and help us to grow. My latest uncomfortable travel experience came while visiting Charleston, South Carolina.

While I loved Charleston, there were bits of the city that made me feel a little uncomfortable. As a minority, I did feel that the city was a bit segregated. Don’t get me wrong – everyone was so nice and welcoming, but sometimes you get the feeling that there is more at play beneath the surface. Have you ever felt that before? I’m sure that those of you that are expats have experienced this. Interestingly, that was not uncomfortable aspect of the trip.

Hm. This is where the post gets a little, um, controversial.

I’m going to preface the rest of the post with a warning: politics are discussed. If you don’t enjoy or like reading about politics, please feel free to skip this post but do yourself a favor and at least keep up to date with current events (by following a wide range of sources – yay, triangulation). I don’t want this post to be a place to argue about specific politics but I do welcome (and encourage!) your thoughts on discussing politics in general. In an effort to be genuine and open, I don’t mind sharing my political opinions and views and therefore offer a second preface: I’ve identified with (almost) the entire political spectrum at some point: in the last 10 years, I’ve been registered as a republican, independent, and democrat. Opinions change, and that is okay. Third preface: I agree with both liberal and conservative politicians on various topics, but I if you haven’t already guessed, I am extremely liberal on social issues (as in one of the reasons why we’ve had a longer engagement is because we decided to not plan our wedding until all of our Californian friends could also legally marry).

Okay, enough with the prefaces.

Sometimes when I travel I’m reminded that California is a little liberal bubble (even though it is only the 9th most liberal state in the union and that varies by county) and that was emphasized while in South Carolina (the 7th most conservative state). While we were walking around the city, we strolled past the United States Custom House and stumbled upon a “liberty rally.” The individuals organizing the event made it clear to us several times that it was a “liberty rally” not a “political rally” even though all the speakers were either politicians or those running for office. I found that all of the speakers agreed on one thing: their disapproval of Ted Cruz’s ability to uphold Tea Party values. You can read more about the liberty rally here.

Charleston, South Carolina Liberty Rally

Basically, the rally was geared towards a Tea Party Movement crowd …. which is basically the exact opposite of what I believe. Being the ever curious individuals that Matt and I are, we stayed and listened to about 60 minutes worth of speeches. All of the speeches were very interesting, primarily because:
1) I disagreed with so much of what people said. You’re against marriage equality and go on about how it will “bring about the end of our great country”? Well there is clearly no room for you in my life, because I believe that “no State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States,” which includes the privilege of marriage. And no, that isn’t “liberal intolerance,” that is the 14th Amendment.

2) it was interesting to see that there were a few points with which I agreed. Okay, I think that one speaker made two points that I agreed with but at least that is something.

3) California was used as the ‘bad’ example for just about everything and the crowd seemed terrified that South Carolina might one day look like California (with our marriage equality, secular values, avocados, surfers, wine country, and all-around San Francisco Values) Oh the horrors!

 

Charleston, South Carolina Liberty RallyCharleston, South Carolina Liberty Rally

I’ve learned to be open to differing political views while traveling abroad (e.g. Cameroon = a socially conservative dictatorship that opposes marriage equality vs. Sweden and Denmark = um, the exact opposite). If I’m being honest, part of that tolerance, however, comes from a lack of understanding of the culture. I’m less … understanding … when it comes to political views within the states. I actually really enjoy listening to political views that I strongly disagree with because I think that it helps me to better understand how others think about issues that I view as important. I’m that liberal that basically only listens to FoxNews just to get fired up, a habit that I picked up from my fiancé. Plus, I think that it is dangerous to only listen to views that support your own since it generally doesn’t help to expand your knowledge.

When traveling, I almost always assume the role of an observer because 1) there are almost always too many contextual factors at play hindering my ability to fully understand situations, and 2) I am not the most informed individual in the world (but hey, neither are our elected representatives!) but I couldn’t help but giggle at all the references to the heathen state of California. Or clap and cheer when a speaker lamented over the fact that there are currently 17 states (plus DC) that recognize marriage equality (although I would have clapped even louder if I had seen any of these signs). I know, however, that these reactions wouldn’t be appropriate in all countries (as in it would get you deported from Zimbabwe). On the other hand, it would be welcomed in other countries (all the Swedes that I interacted with were very interested in my view of their political system).

The decision to openly disagree with locals while traveling can be a difficult decision ethically. We were faced with this issue several times when South Africans talked about how certain things were better under Apartheid; I’m sure that you can imagine our shock. There were times that we disagreed with our South African hosts and there were times that we kept quiet. In reflection, both decisions were difficult to make and I’m not sure if I made the right decision in either case.

Okay, I’m guessing that most of you don’t care about politics or my opinions so I’ll just wrap this up by saying that I’ve officially attended my first Tea Party rally in the South and lived to tell the tale. Check and check.

So what do you do as a visitor in a different country, state, or city? Do you take the role of the observer and keep quite when you disagree or do you openly disagree with political views because you feel it is the ethical thing to do?
 

[linked with Travel Tuesday with Bonnie & Megan].

OmmWriter: Distraction-Free, Focused Writing

OmmWriter: Distraction-Free,FocusedWriting

Do you find that you work better when you have a bit of background noise (like the sounds of a coffee shop) or is it easier to concentrate when you have pure silence? I have personally found that I am able to focus better when I have some light background noise and possibly some instrumental music. While finding music is not difficult, working from home makes it a bit harder to access soothing background noises unless I want to work from a coffee shop for the day. Coffee shops are dangerous for me, however, since I often find myself getting distracted by conversations around me.

My work-life changed when I discovered a few websites that allow me to have ambient sounds in my home office. While there are a ton of great ambient sound websites that you can use to provide background noise (I love soundrown, which offers a wide range of background sounds to pick from and superior to coffitivity in my opinion), I fell in love with OmmWriter about a year ago.

OmmWriter

(available for mac, pc, and ipad)

Basic Information

OmmWriter is one of my favorite pieces of software. While it was once free, they now suggest a minimum of $4.11USD to download the software (but you can donate more if you’d life). In my opinion it is totally worth it and donated for each of my computers.

What It Is

You will be presented with a blank screen and ambient music when you open up the software. A clean, distraction free slate for your work. Ommwriter presents you with a variety of options that can be tailored to help you to be productive. For example, you can change the background from a predominately white snow scene to one that is a dark gray, or even to one that is blue or green (I prefer the first one mentioned when happens to be the default). You can change (or remove) the background music and typewriter sounds (although I love both and find them to be very soothing) or modify the font size.

When To Use It

When you need a distraction-free setting for work. I use Ommwriter when I need to just sit down and write / type. For example, when I need to write up a brief report, blog post, or creative writing piece, I almost always open up this software.

OmmWriter: Distraction-Free, Focused Writing

When To Not Use It

From my personal experience, I’ve learned that Ommwriter is not a great for tasks that require multitasking in any way. The whole purpose of the software is to provide a distraction-free environment that allows you to focus on the task at hand. If you need to move between multiple screen or applications. For example, I would never use it for when I am writing a literature review that erquires that I site empirical articles, or even when I’m writing up the results section of a report.

Pro tip

Use headphones when working . I love the way that the typewriter effect sounds as I type away.

Have you tried OmmWriter or another distraction-limiting application or software?