Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Chattanooga, TN and updated travel plans

This past weekend my friend Luke and I went on a quick drive up to Chattanooga, Tennessee to take in the sights. It is a very pretty city which is surrounded completely by mountains. The downtown is quite pleasant to walk through, as you can walk along the Tennessee River, go in to the Tennessee Aquarium, or just shop around. We didn't have a chance to go into the aquarium though, as we had plans at Lookout Mountain, which overlooks all of Chattanooga. Inside of Lookout Mountain is a cave which contains Ruby Falls, a waterfall that is about 60 or 70 feet tall. We went on a tour of the cave and got to see a lot of pretty formations, and of course the awesome falls. The trip seemed to come and go, but overall it was a great day for the both of us!

In other news, I have put off my trip to Germany until next Monday as I have obtained tickets to the Davis Cup tennis matches this Sunday (March 1st) in Birmingham, Alabama. Once I am done there, I will be immediately on my way across the Atlantic, but I couldn't pass up the chance to see Andy Roddick.

Safe travels!


Friday, February 20, 2009

Albuquerque pictures

Below are the pictures from my recent trip to New Mexico. I really had a lot of fun while I was out there (of course I stopped for some drinking), and I'm beginning to learn just how many different cultures there are out there - not just around the world, in our very own country! I might be going out for a short excursion tomorrow, but after that I should be en route to Germany! I'll keep you posted on any updates as they come.

Take care!

New Mexico

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Ethiopia Journal

While I was in Ethiopia, I took many notes of everything I got to do while in Africa. Unfortunately, the list was far too long for me to try to transcribe. But luckily for me, my friend Christen was nice enough to transcribe my notes for me, and even put them in my voice! You can find my journal below after the jump(I've always wanted to say that!).

But even if you don't take the time to read my adventures from Ethiopia, make sure to keep track of Christen's ongoings at her blog:


Loyal fans and devoted admirers,

I've arrived safe and sound back in the United States, and, having finally shaken off this horrific jet lag (which, by the way, is even worse when you've traveled home packed inside a cardboard box), I'm ready to update you on my Ethiopian adventures!

My first international trip was a brilliant success. What a whirlwind month! I saw so many crazy things, went to so many beautiful places, met so many great people. Ethiopia is an incredible country, and Christen and the rest of my hosts made sure I got the full experience of it.

The journey began in Knoxville, Tennessee with an epic and overdue reuniting of Clemson friends - what can I say, bringing people together, it's what I do! I was carried through five different airports en route to Ethiopia - Knoxville, Atlanta, Zurich, Cairo, and Addis Ababa - which made for a long but eventful trip. I got to see the Alps as we flew out over them, got to snuggle with Christen for warmth in the over-air-conditioned Cairo airport where we slept for twenty hours on a metal bench....good times! It was sort of a relief to finally land in Addis Ababa, even if it was at 3:00 in the morning.

We blazed through the Ethiopian capital as soon as it got light, making our way to the central bus station. We happened to have arrived on the day of Ethiopian Christmas (December 29th on the Ethiopian calendar, January 7th by our reckoning....I don't know, I gave up trying to keep up with the day), so we headed immediately down to Christen's first Ethiopian hometown, a placed called Welliso (or Welisso or Wolisso or Wallisso or basically any way you wanted to spell it, since the Ethiopian language is written in its own separate alphabet anyway). I was a big hit with Christen's host family, and they treated me to some full-fledged Ethiopian hospitality. I was treated to Momma's FANTASTIC traditional cooking, and I partied at Big Sister's graduation celebration. There was a constant stream of people in and out of the house during the entire holiday week; I'm pretty sure I met the entire town. (People know me; I'm kind of a big deal.)

Once Christen decided we had stalled long enough, we made our way to Debre Markos, where she lives and works. She showed me around town (I think she was showing me off - no shame, Christen, no shame). We met the local characters, checked out all the local hot spots. I watched Christen "work", which I think I've determined is 10% actual work and 90% drinking various hot drinks. Her house is pretty sweet, though I had to get used to the lack of running water and the fairly frequent power outages, and I'm certain the dogs on her compound would have eaten me if ever left alone with me.

After a solid week at her site (nice work), we traveled up north to Gonder, at the foot of the Simien Mountains, for Ethiopian Epiphany, or Timkat. Timkat is the largest Ethiopian religious holiday after Easter, and Timkat in Gonder is one of the largest religious celebrations in the country. On the day before Timkat, I watched a huge parade through the streets. Groups of teenagers ran around chanting and carrying sticks, priests and nuns walked in procession with their gold-fringed velvet parasols, while church musicians beat drums, blew horns, and sang religious songs. There were so many American and European tourists in town for the big event! I sat up on a hotel balcony with Christen's friends to watch the parade, and I met people from the U.S., Canada, the UK, Germany, and the Netherlands.

The next day, Timkat day, we dragged ourselves out of bed (or, rather, out of sleeping bag, as we were crashing on a Peace Corps Volunteer's floor, along with a couple of couch surfers from Maine) at 4:30 AM to walk to the Fasilades Baths, where the Timkat ceremony would take place. We staked out seats on some rickety wooden bleachers, amidst the assembled crowd of Ethiopians, all dressed in their white cultural clothing. The bleachers overlooked the bath, where the castle-like structure in the middle was decked out in colored lights. Through the dark, early morning hours, people chanted and prayed in unison, and the mood was very solemn. (I have to admit, I mostly just slept inside Christen's bag.)

Around 8:00 AM, the priests entered the baths, to drum beats, cheering, and applause. They lined up shoulder-to-shoulder around the bath, wearing brightly colored robes and large metallic crosses around their necks. There was a ceremony that, being in the Amharic language, went mostly over my head, but after lots of singing, drum-beating, and chanting, the priests blessed the water and placed floating candles on it. Then the place went crazy. Young men took it as their cue to run out from the crowds and fling themselves into the water - from trees, from the bleachers, from wherever they could. It was chaos. At one point, one of the lower bleachers audibly cracked, and Christen decided it was time to go. We had to physically push our way through the massive crowd to get down off the bleachers, then literally ram our way through the small doorway to the Baths, where crowds were attempting to push through from both directions. Somehow Christen managed to shield me from the mobs, and we escaped unscathed, alive to tell the tale.

Unscathed, of course, not counting my previous injuries. As you have already heard, the only dark spot on our Gonder vacation was my breaking both legs on a local minibus. Again, I have to thank the dedicated team of Peace Corps surgeons that worked tirelessly to put me back together. Though there were some pieces of me that were never recovered, I am slowly working my way up to full strength, and no amount of damage will keep me away from future adventurings!

On the way back from Gonder, we stopped through Bahir Dar, a large town beside Lake Tana. It was Presidential Inauguration day when we arrived - or, as the local Obama Cafe announcements called it, "The exciting moment moving to white house". We chilled that night on the patio of the Obama Cafe, where the ceremonies were being shown on CNN International broadcast, projected onto a big outdoor screen. I had the privilege of meeting Miss Obama, who had been crowned the night before in the "Miss Obama Beauty Contest and Celebrity Culture Show." I'm still not exactly sure how one becomes Miss Obama...perhaps by showing the most excitement and love for the man. Though from what I saw - the t-shirts, printouts, and even mudflaps bearing Obama's face - that would be stiff competition among Ethiopians, for sure.

Back in Debre Markos, I attended a wedding, visited Christen's local mill project for people living with HIV, drank ridiculous amounts of coffee, played foosball with the boys on the street, and was generally an outstanding ambassador for American Gnomish culture. Real connections were made, my friends. Bridges were built. Before long, though, it was time to head back to the capital and start the journey back home again.

I'll never forget the great times I had in Ethiopia! Thanks again to my spectacular hosts, and to my loyal fans out there, remember to support your Peace Corps volunteers (preferably through the sending of delicious American junk foods to PO Box 141, Debre Markos, Ethiopia)!

Love and peace,

PS - To see more about the things I saw and did in Ethiopia, check out Christen's pictures and blog at

Back from New Mexico

I returned home to Atlanta on Tuesday, and wow am I glad to be back - it's so dry out there in the dessert! My skin started to crack (as though I don't have enough problems with that as is!), which made things very interesting, but I still had a great time. I'll be uploading pictures from that trip sometime in the next day or so.

In sad news, I was not able to get done with Albuquerque soon enough to make it to Italy. I will still be going to Germany, though, so I am very excited to leave! If all goes according to plan, I should be on my way starting this coming Monday.

In the meantime, I will post additional pictures of my Florida trip that I received from my friend Stacy a few days ago. Enjoy!

From Florida

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Seattle/Bellingham, WA (September 08)

These are the last pictures I have of my past trips - from my first west coast visit! It was very beautiful out there, and I can't wait to visit the Pacific Northwest again when I go to Portland, OR in May!


Helen, GA (08.23.08)

Here are some more pictures from my recent past - a trip my friend Luke and I went on to the mountains of Georgia, and the small town of Helen. If you ever imagined "what would a small town in the mountains look like if Walt Disney tried to make it look like a town in Germany", you would get Helen, GA. We had a blast up there, and can't wait to head back to the mountains again!


Saturday, February 14, 2009

Clemson trip (07.26.08

Here are some pictures from my last trip to Clemson - I'm sure this album will have more pictures added to it as time goes by. After all, I need a picture at an actual Clemson game!


Friday, February 13, 2009

Trip to Syracuse (06.12.08 to 06.24.08)

Continuing my theme of posting old pictures, here are some from when I spent two weeks up in New York traveling through Syracuse, Cooperstown, and Darien Lake back in June of 2008. I got to visit the Baseball Hall of Fame, Ommegang Brewery and a theme park! It was a really fun trip, even though I got busted by the cops...but that's another story for another day!

New York

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Beer Trip 05.27.08 - 06.3.08

So while I'm getting comfortable in Albuquerque, I figured I'd go through some old albums from before I started this blog. I found a whole lot of pictures, so over the next few weeks I'll be adding albums from 2008. Today's album is from a tour three of my friends went on that took them from Atlanta all the way up to Wisconsin! They stopped at breweries all along the way, tried different beers, tried different foods, took in the sights, and managed not to have to go to the hospital (even though one of them had severe burns on his foot!). The pictures have decent enough explanations on them - hopefully you can get the idea of how much fun we had!

Beer Trip

On The Road Again

Just as soon as I got back to Atlanta, it's back to the skies as I head west-bound for Albuquerque. My plane leaves Atlanta around noon, and I have a quick layover in Houston before arriving in New Mexico. Later tonight I'm hoping to get some time to add some details to the photos in my photo album (there are so many good stories from my trip), so keep an eye out for that.

I'll be immediately leaving from New Mexico to Italy (via Germany) and will be staying in Europe for a while. Once I return from that trip, however, I should have a few weeks in Atlanta to relax. Hope to see you on the road!

Monday, February 9, 2009

Back in Atlanta & Pictures from Ethiopia

I just arrived back home from Ethiopia - boy, am I tired! And a little bit worse for the wear...but that won't slow me down, as I'm hopping on a plane on Wednesday! But as you can see below, I uploaded my photo album from my trip. Next up for me is updating my map with my new pictures and location, and then a much needed rest. Hopefully I'll have more to report on later, but for now...sleep.


Thursday, February 5, 2009

When in Gnome...

While discussing plans for my trip to Germany in March, my new friend Matthias informed me that he will be traveling to Rome, Italy for the week prior - only catch is I have 5 days between Albuquerque and him leaving for Italy for me to get there. But I will try my best to work some magic!

The biggest plus side about potentially going to Italy is all the awesome puns I'll be able to make! If you don't believe me, just reference the title of this post!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

European Adventures!

I just received word from a friend in Germany that I will be going there in early March! I am very excited about this, as my only experience in Europe has been in airports en route to Ethiopia. I've updated my map accordingly, and will be adding pictures once I get home to Atlanta.

I'm hoping that I can get back to Atlanta by the weekend so I have some time to explore around town before I head off to Albuquerque for the better part of a week. After having my injury in Ethiopia, it might be a good thing for a little R&R...