“Happiness is like those palaces in fairytales whose gates are guarded by dragons: We must fight in order to conquer it.”

In the last few posts I wrapped up my time in Thailand, so it seems high time to check in with a real-time update on the program as I begin the last term of my master’s program. I am currently in Switzerland, having visited Malaysia, Japan, Mexico, and Portugal and studied a term in Cuba since leaving Thailand. Posts about each of these places will be forthcoming in due course, starting tomorrow. The pictures in this post are a random sample from those places, some of which you may have seen if you follow me on Instagram @midwestmagellan. Now I have 8 weeks to write my capstone and finish my degree while exploring Geneva and its environs.

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Building art in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
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Women shopping in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Today marks the start of the summer term. We had orientation here in Geneva and started classes this evening. This is my fifth campus, and I am looking forward to developing a routine of sorts here. It’s so different from Thailand or Cuba, the last two places we have studied, that it will take some getting used to. Rest assured, I can acquaint myself with high-quality chocolate in no time at all.

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At the Inari Shrine near Kyoto, Japan
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Businessmen queueing (on the left!) in the Tokyo subway
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Sendai Castle, Sendai, Japan
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Imperial Palace Complex in Tokyo, Japan

I’m not sure what I expected to feel at this stage of the trip. To be honest, I doubt I gave it much thought. I think the momentum of travel was moving me along, so it’s good to  pause and collect my thoughts. I’m infinitely thankful for this opportunity. I have seen so many things, met so many people and experienced what feels like every emotion along the way. Here are a collection of my thoughts about this deal so far:

  • Many things, like the refugee crisis in Europe or the embargo/blockade in Cuba, have been eye-opening and adjusted my stereotypes with the truth of the real situation from another side.
  • Hearing others talk about my country has given me a perspective I thought I could anticipate, but I was wrong.
  • Visiting a variety of developed and developing nations laid out the needs and inequities of the world in rather stark contrast in ways I’m still trying to understand.
  • Realising that my Spanish is muy terrible was humbling and motivating all at once, and learning to communicate without English was a challenge I thoroughly enjoyed, in spite of the frustrations. It gives me new respect for anyone who moves to a new place without knowing the language.
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Playa de Santa Maria, Cuba, near Havana, one of the Atlantic beaches
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Before a long horse ride in Viñales, Cuba
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Central Havana, Cuba
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When in Cuba…
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Viñales Valley, Cuba
  • I am infinitely thankful for and humbled by the friendship and kindness my friends offer me on a daily basis, both those I have known for years and others I have met on this journey. I don’t know what I did to deserve you all, but I’m so glad you’re part of my life.
  • Having the Internet is a great thing. Being tied to the Internet 24/7 is destructive in the way only addictions can be. Cuba taught me the painful isolation of Internet withdrawal (a comparison I draw with no disrespect for people who struggle with addictions of various kinds).
  • There are places in the world that are so massive you get lost in their scope, like Angkor Wat or the Tokyo subway, obviously in very different ways. Other places are intimate and quiet, like a beach in Cornwall at sunrise or Milford Sound with its drapes of mist. I find life is like that, too.
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With the Capitol and National Theatre in Havana, Cuba
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Massive Che Guevara image in Plaza de la Revolución in Havana, Cuba
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With two rainbows in Trinidad de Cuba
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On the road between Cienfuegos and Trinidad in Cuba
  • I feel ever more like Frodo at the end of Lord of the Rings when he comes home but doesn’t know where he fits anymore. I think though that the Shire can still be saved for me. I always thought it was weak sauce that *spoiler* Frodo went off to the Grey Havens at the end. Pluck up your courage; stay and forge a home; make a life, man. The courage to go on an adventure is no greater than the courage it takes to be a good spouse, parent and member of your community. And that, my friends, is why Sam is the hero of Lord of the Rings. This is something to which I’ve given much thought in recent weeks. I am also a huge dork, so there’s that.

Title quote: Alexandre Dumas

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The view on descent into Cancún, Mexico
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Dam selfie at the Castelo de Bode Dam near Tomar, Portugal
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Carmo Ruins and Archaeological Museum in Lisbon, Portugal
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Above Lisbon, Portugal
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The road into the Douro Valley near Porto, Portugal
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Porto, Portugal
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In the Douro Valley near Porto, Portugal

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