What 2 Years Abroad Has Taught Me

What 2 Years Abroad Has Taught Me

It’s been two incredibly short, and yet incredibly long, years since I packed two duffle bags and flew from Nashville to Miami to Helsinki to Budapest to move to Lake Balaton in Hungary. Two freaking years abroad. Though I must add in my disclaimer that I did move home for a grand total of 4 months from the end of January to the end of May in 2017. But who’s counting? (Me, I am counting).

In celebration of two years, I am adding to my narcissism to tell you all, what I, a 24-year-old white woman has learned.

1. Your Mom Always Has the Answer

Seriously. When in doubt, just call your mom. When you’re stressed, call her. When you’re sad, call her. When you want to brag, call her. These past two years have been confusing, stressful, exciting, hard, emotional, and my mom was there for every step with the best advice.

Moms also are the best people to listen to your vent session. She will never betray your trust and tell any friend’s what you say.  Your mom also has been around the block a time or two. That annoying sexist boss? Your mom has wisdom. That boyfriend who has the personality of a wet blanket? Your mom experienced it too. That friend who always bails on you? Your mom knows it all too well.

2. Be Thankful for Social Media

Being away means, I’m really thankful for Social Media, but it also means, most of my information about my friend’s lives come from Social Media. I don’t hear about friend’s promotions over drinks, I read about them on Linkedin. I don’t go to the bridal showers, bachelorette parties, or even the weddings, but the pictures help me see how beautiful my friends look. I don’t get to be there for babies being born, but gosh darn it, do I love to watch some babies on Instagram Stories! I don’t get to be at graduations, but I see you getting your Undergrad, Masters, and PhDs!

Our 20s are a time of a lot of changes, milestones, and life-changing moments. I’m sorry I’m not around for all them, but please know I am keeping up with all of you, even if the time zones make it hard for me to text you regularly.

3. Just because You Don’t Talk Every Day, Doesn’t Mean You’re Not Friends Anymore

Friendship in your 20s is hard no matter what, but add in distance and time zones and it’s just down near impossible. One thing I am learning is that is okay to not talk every day. When I was 17, if I didn’t talk to my bff at least once a day, there was some beef. Now I take value in the conversations of a few texts, the random “can I Facetime you right now” at 1 am texts, the updates, the tags in memes.

I have learned that friendship is not linear, and neither will the paths we walk during our 20s. And that’s okay. I have friends getting promotions, friends starting their own businesses, friends in law school, friends with babies, friends teaching English all over the world. A few years ago, I think I would have resented them for not reaching out to me. But I’m glad I’m over this phase, and I am nothing but excited for them as they open new chapters, reach new goals, and progress in their lives. I hope they all know I miss them and think about them.

4. If the Ticket is Cheap, Book It.

This doesn’t have to be a plane ticket. Maybe it’s a big move across the country, maybe a career change, maybe it’s anything you need. All I’m saying is. Don’t wait. Do it now. But seriously. I may not know much, and I may be in a lot of debt. But I do know that life is really short. In my first weeks in Europe in June of 2016, I lost a friend to heroin. In June of 2017, I was in Sevilla, Spain with my brother and Adrian when I heard my grandfather passed away.

Life is really an incredible gift. My “childhood” fears were always rooted in what if I don’t see the world before I die, and while I’ve only seen two continents so far, I’m well on my way to living life in full motion.

5. The Brits Aren’t as Great As We Think They Are

No seriously. If you know me, then you know how OBSESSED I was with One Direction and my fantasy of the United Kingdom and a British Hunk. Essentially they’re just the Americans of Europe. They’re drunk obnoxious tourists, just like us all over the dang continent, especially Poland. No hard digs. I love my British mates and their incomprehensible accents.

6. Learn Hello, Please, & Thank You In a Country’s Native Language

If you travel abroad, promise me you will learn these three words. Americans are incredibly blessed with having English as a first language, we can go anywhere in the world and communicate perfectly. It shows so much respect to attempt the language of the country you’re visiting, even if it just a few words.

7. Book the Over Night Train, Bus, Ferry, You Can Sleep Later

Some of my favorite memories traveling have been overnight rides between cities, only to arrive completely exhausted. You save money on a hotel, can barely walk you’re so tired and have the best laughs in foreign cities.

8. Doctors in America are More Comfortable (And I think Better)

Look, if you’re going to move abroad, let’s just face the facts. Doctors visits are your worst nightmare. The different health care systems, different insurance systems, different ways of treating things, different pharmacy systems, and then the language barrier. If you can avoid getting sick, I highly recommend it!!!!! But seriously, do check-ups and regular doctor visits at home if you can.

9. Using the Internet to Make Friends Isn’t Weird!!!!!

It’s not weird. It’s not weird abroad and it’s not weird at home. It’s not weird to make friends online and meet partners online. It’s 2018. Using Facebook, Tinder, Bumble, Twitter, Instagram! Meet people. Get to know people not from your state, your country, your age bracket, whose first language isn’t English. It will change your life. And the internet can help you do that.

 

BeyChella Was Not a Celebration of Women

BeyChella Was Not a Celebration of Women

Beyonce’s performance, this past weekend at Coachella, was magical, powerful, breath taking, and absolutely not a celebration of all women, and that’s okay.

In 2011, Beyonce stood on an MTV stage with the word “feminist” in a bold pink shade against a black background which illuminated behind her. Chimanda Ngozi Adichi’s “We Should All Be Feminists” piece eachoed throughout the arena. And we claimed that as a feminist moment, and as I look back at it, as my feminism has grown, and I can see it was another moment we, in this movement, stripped the blackness away from a moment and claimed it for ALL women. (#AllWomenMatter)

I have seen a lot think pieces in the past few days talking about Beyonce’s celebration of womanhood as a headliner at Coachella, a first black woman achievement, yet it’s some how a celebration for all women. And not to be dramatic or anything, but I genuinely hate these people, because they literally did not pay attention to anything that happened on that stage.

White women truly suffer from FOMO (fear of missing out) whenever it comes to black women’s performance, talents, and successes. It’s like our brains instantly turn into the very men we mock about masculinity so fragile and being excluded. We, yes I say we because even if there are a few us of we still have to answer for the masses, we immediately claim black women’s powerful, successful, and magical moments as a collective celebration of womanhood, but we rarely stand with black women when they are suffering as the hands of systemetic oppression and not dancing around the most famous stage in the world.

Beyonce’s performance was not for us white girls. We can consume it. We can pay for it. We can engage with the content. We can champion it. We can celebrate it. But it was not a celebration of just womanhood for all. It was not our celebration. While Beyonce created, visualized, and prepared for this performance, she did not think nor care about white people. In fact, her mother told her she was worried the primarily white audience wouldn’t understand her references to black culture. She didn’t care.

Beyonce’s performance was a celebration of blackness, specifically of southern black women, and even more specifically in college cultures. It was a true artistic masterpiece of hard work, talent, representation all mixed together from years of Beyonce catering to an industry that has white washed music since the beginning of “pop music.” If you didn’t know record labels in the 50s and 60s stole songs from black artists, gave them to white artists, put it on the radio, and made them thousands of dollars. And as we progress into modern history we still continue to see that same appropriation through Miley, through Katy Perry, through the Kardashians.

Queen Bey graced the stage in Egyptian garments and vibrant hues of yellow and black to represent the first Black Fraternity, Alpha Phi Alpha, who also heavily uses Egyptian symbols in their clothing and logos. She added in marching bands, drumlines, cadets and step shows both are an experience of black universities (if you’re white and don’t know what this means to black culture, pleasewatch the movies Drumline and Stomp the Yard). She also has stated she will provide the Formation Scholarship starting this year at historically black schools of Xavier, Tuskegee, Wilberforce, and Bethune-Cook. A quick reminder that last week, a black student applied to 20 Ivy League schools, was accepted into all of them, and was called “obnoxious” on Fox News.

She sang “Lilac Wine” by Nina Simone and had a clip from Simone’s “Strange Fruit,” (watch What Happened Miss Simone on Netflix), and she included Malcom X’s famous quote, from “Who Taught You to Hate Yourself,”

“The Most disrespected woman in America is the black woman. The most unprotected person in America is the black woman. The most neglected person in America is the black woman.”

For more of the specifics about all the black culture in her set, I would prefer you read it from a black woman, Dee Locket, so read her piece here .

Because while I want to celebrate and address Bey’s celebration on Main Stage at Coachella, we also need to address the elephant in the room: white women.

Beyonce becoming the first black female headliner of Coachella was not truly a feminist moment, it should be, and if our feminism was truly intersectional, then maybe it could be. But it isn’t.

In a time of Trump’s America, an America where 52% of white women voted for Trump, full of police brutality, modern day slavery in our American prison systems, Flint, Michigan and where (on the same day Bey performed) two black men in Philadelphia were arrested and held over night in jail, because they were in a Starbucks for waiting on a friend to arrive. All of this caught in the cross fires of 3rd wave feminism, black excellence, black girl magic, black representation in media, Black Panther, Black Lives Matter, Get Out, Beyonce’s Lemonade, a black storm trooper, Kendrick Lamar, and Cardi B.

So these moments cannot simply be feminist. The success of black women cannot be just clumped together with Taylor Swift, Lena Dunham, Amy Schumer, and Jennifer Lawerence and their medicore acheivements. To deny these moments of their blackness is detrimental.

Across the field at Coachella, Cardi B performed in an all white jumper that beautifully showcased her baby bump. A woman who got her fame through Vine by being authentically from the Bronx, authentically “ghetto, ratchet, trashy,” and whatever other words white women would have called her not even 2 years before her rise to fame.  And the one thing about Cardi’s graceful entry in main stream pop culture, she never toned down her blackness, her bronxness, her ratchetness. So while we talk about her achievements as a female rapper, and we deny the layer of her blackness, then we strip her of her success, her hard work, and her ambitions.

Black women have historically been forced into a decision to either prioritize their race and put their gender on the back burner, or to prioritize their gender and put their race on the back burner. And we as allies, should be fully acknowledge the success and the moment for black women. We shouldn’t be making them choose between race or gender. We should be able to champion on these moments for them.

We don’t need to sound like “What about Men’s History Month,” as we see a moment is NOT for us, but neither is it inherently against us.

 

 

Please note I did not include any pictures of Beyonce or her performance, because her team has been really strict about images, and my little blog didn’t want to deal with that.

What the Football Coach Failed to Teach You About History: WWII

What the Football Coach Failed to Teach You About History: WWII

I recently had an idea to start a new series on my blog discussing main themes and points of certain historical events that our high school history teachers (yes your wrestling and football coach who taught history) taught us incorrectly.  I realize more and more how many people stopped engaging with historical content after Junior year of high school. And even if they did, then the history they engaged with was limited and focused way more on remembering “Great Men” or dates of certain battles. Which I find utterly useless to the proper understanding of history and application to our modern age. I may be biased, but I really am thinking a modern history course should be required in college, especially since almost all of us received our historical education from someone who wore sweatpants and a school football polo every day.

I had a professor, who is totally my Facebook friend because I’m a first-rate nerd, who taught me in my sophomore year how important history was in regards to understanding themes, moments, movers & shakers, and ordinary every day lives. While the winners of wars and the Great Men tend to write history, we can learn so much from looking at other points of view from the countries we waged war against to average civilians to women, poc, and LGBT.

I decided to start by discussing WWII, mainly because that is what I am currently surrounded by. And what both of my study abroad programs were mainly focused around.

Let’s jump into it!

Reminders

World War II was a war that, as historians have decided, started on September 1, 1939, and lasted until September 2, 1945. China and Japan began their war in 1937, but it did not become a global conflict until 1939 when Nazi Germany invaded Poland and resulted in France the United Kingdom declaring war. Originally, Soviet Russia invaded Poland with Nazi Germany with plans to divide the country, but they would soon become an ally against the Nazis and ultimately be a major factor in defeating them. It was fought between most of the countries of the world during the time. The two “sides” would become known as the Axis (Japan, Italy, Nazi Germany) and the Allied forces (Russia, France, Great Britain, USA). The United States would enter the war officially in 1941 after Japan attacked us in Pearl Harbor.

Why did Japan attack the United States?

Japan attacked the US in Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941. They attacked Malaysia, Gaum, Singapore, and a few other territories under British and American control. Their aim was to destroy our navy in hopes to keep us from interfering in Japanese attacks for oil and other natural resources in the Pacific. There was no declaration of war, which is why FDR emphasized “a day which will live in infamy,” it would later go on in the Tokyo Trials, (The equivalent of the Nuremberg Trials for the Japanese during WWII; the Nuremberg Trials were the trials for Nazi War Crimes), to be declared a war crime. The attack thrust the United States into the war, with America declaring war on Japan on December 8th. On December 11th, Germany and Italy declared war on the United States. The US responded with declarations, though before that moment the US had a non-intervention pact. (Which is why FDR won’t give Winston Churchill the ships and planes to borrow in Darkest Hour).

 

99b5546abc9aa4d4d2ce4fa6a912f02e
Japan attacks Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941

 

 

Why did America enter the war?

Before America entered the war FDR tried to persuade Congress to lift the non-intervention pact, as early as November 1939. He wanted to be able to provide arms to France and Britain. Once France fell in June 1940, he aggressively pushed and prepared for military action that he deemed inevitable. In 1941, Germany also asked the Soviets after making a pact; the Soviets then entered the War. Which eventually would be Hitler’s greatest mistake. And as most responses to the Soviets, the mindset of containment of communism became something the United States rallied around as they prepared for the war.

We went to War to save the Jews.

I’m really not sure where, when, how and why this narrative happened. And in fact, I find it incredibly detrimental that this narrative exists. Let’s get one point crystal clear, we did not at all go to war to save anyone, except maybe Britain’s ass. In fact, FDR met with Jan Karski, a Polish man who snuck into the Warsaw Ghetto to document what was happening and made it his life mission to tell the world what the Nazis were doing, in 1943. 2 years after the United States entered the war. FDR responded by asking about the horses in Poland. Most Americans discovered what was happening as the pushed the Third Reich further and further back, but our soldiers were not rallied around saving Jews as for why they should defeat the Germans. I think it is incredibly disrespectful to deny this important part of our world history. We as a world failed the Jews during this time. And it was never part of our Nation’s prerogative upon entering the war.

 

 

51xO4TImrYL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_
Jan Karski’s book “Story of a Secret State” addressing the horrors against the Jews, published in 1944

 

The Holocaust and WWII are two ENTIRELY DIFFERENT things

I don’t have much to say about this, but I find it pretty shocking how many people were never taught this distinction. The Holocaust started long before Hitler invaded Poland. And as I discussed above, the Holocaust and the Final Solution were the knowledge that was pretty much neglected by the rest of the world. Most historians will define the Holocaust as the Nazi German policy, enacted between 1941 and 1945, to exterminate the European Jews. Though other historians include the years from 1933 until 1945, which include the events in Germany pre systematic murder of the Final Solution. I follow the understanding of the latter.

 

kris8.png
Night of the Broken Glass, November 9-10 1938, a German pogrom attacking Jewish businesses, synagogues, and homes

 

The Soviets were our allies

I know this is shocking. Most people think we were against the Soviets during WWII. Which is amazing to me.  But they also think that the Cold War started immediately after Lenin took action, and this also isn’t true. But don’t worry, I will do a whole piece on the Cold War. The Cold War started in 1947, hugely due to what happened after WWII. The Soviets invaded Poland on a pact with Germany. Germany then attacked Russia, which would also be Hitler’s biggest mistake. The Red Army helped end the war, free thousands upon thousands of Jews in Treblinka, Auschwitz, Belzec, Sobibor, Stuthof, Sachsenhausen, and Ravensbrueck.

9fa308fade62f916433d8726c934faad

Winston Churchill was a good guy

Earlier I mentioned how those who win wars, write history, and Winston Churchill is no exception. While Churchill surely was Hitler’s matchmaker, I have always found it out the fantasy surrounding him. Churchhill openly had no issue using poison gas on Kurds and Afghans, saying “why so squeamish” and justifying it by stating they were uncivilized. During the war there was a famine in India, still a British territory, due to Japanese attacks in Burma, he did nothing, allowing millions to die. He was an avid Zionist, but incredibly anti-semitic. He believed the Jewish state should be far away from civilized and Christian Europe. He was incredibly anti-black, anti-Muslim, etc. While of course, this was the early 20sth century, and it was a much different culture, I urge you all to do some more research on the man so many calls the father of the British nation, who earned his stripes during WWII.

stalin_roosevelt_churchill_tehran_1943

 FDR, Stalin and Churchill met to divide up land

I am also super amazed at how many people just think “Oh the Soviets liberated that land so that means they got that land and that’s why communist land got bigger after WWII.” Uhm not entirely.  FDR, Stalin, and Churchill met in Crimea, at what is now known as the Yalta Conference in February of 1945. At this conference, it was decided to split up Germany into what we know as West Germany and East Germany, the plan for the wall was added later. It was also discussed to have open and free elections in countries of the East to decide if they would be communist or not and who their leaders would be. Stalin never allowed this to happen, which is what resulted in the beginning of the Cold War, anti-communist, and containment.

churchill-roosevelt-stalin-at-Yalta
Yalta Conference February 1945, Left to Right: Churchill, FDR, Stalin. 

 Hitler v Stalin

While we know Hitler and his horrors, it is less known that more civilians were killed by Stalin during the War. Roughly 85 million people died during the war, and most of them were on Soviet soil. Stalin strategically starved people in Poland, Ukraine, Belarus. Originally, Stalin wrote, “I would like to deport them all but 20 million is too many to move.” And he strategically created the Holodomor, the Ukrainian famine. Under the Soviets, Jews were also not welcomed or treated kindly. In fact the term, pogrom, the applicable for during the whole war, originated due to Russian Civilians killing, attacking, and torturing their Jewish counterparts.

Holodomor-Chicago

 Which country was actually Hitler’s first victim?

This is one of my favorite conversations about WWII. I would say Czechoslovakia was Hitler’s first victim. Hitler invaded in May of 1938, while this was inherently against the Treaty of Versailles, no nations batted an eye or got involved. Many historians would say Poland was the first victim, and their invasion led to the full start of WWII. But for some reason, Austria seems to take the place of the first victim. Austria was annexed into Germany in March of 1938, prior to the Anschluss, there was heavy support from people in both countries to unify the two countries. Keep in mind before WWI, Austria was part of the Austro-Hungary empire, who was defeated along with the Germans and lost a lot of land, resources, and citizens in their domain. Upon Hitler’s arrival in Vienna, Austrians cheered him on, in fact, one reporter wrote, and please excuse the language, “if Hitler was raping Austria, they were begging for more.” Hitler had fulfilled a lot of their dreams for a Greater Germany. One thing my professor explained was that the ballot to vote on a unified Greater Germany was very much a piece of propaganda, which voting yes much larger and voting no much smaller. It is a very complicated conversation with a lot of different layers which I barely scratched the surface of. But I hope it got you thinking about this interesting piece of WWII history.

267px-Stimmzettel-Anschluss

 

Unkown Facts about WWII

  1. WWII was the most destructive war in history with more lives lost, property damage, and money spent
  2. The Nazis did not call themselves Nazis, the word is a Bavarian word meaning “simple-minded.” It was a word used to mock them. The real shortcut name was Nasos
  3. 80% of Russian males born in 1923 did not survive the war
  4. The Nazis stole the Harvard fight song as their Seig Heil anthem
  5. More Russian civilians died during the siege of Leningrad than all British and American troops combined
  6. Once France fell, Parisians cut the cords to the elevators at the Effiel Tower. So to hang the flag, Nazis had to  climb all the stair to the top of the tower to flag the Swaztika, though most infamous is the photo with the banner saying “Germany is victorious on all fronts” hanging from the Effiel Tower
  7. Adolf Hitler’s nephew, William served in the US army during the war

 

This is my first post like this. I hope to do one every month. I really missed writing about history. And I truly hope you enjoyed it. If you have any ideas you would like me to write about, questions, or advice, please feel free to leave me a comment or message me!

Rose McGowan, White Feminism, and TERFS

Rose McGowan, White Feminism, and TERFS

If you’re like me, then you spend about 85% of your day online. I come across a lot of content from Twitter to Google Searches to working.

If you’re not like me, then the video clip that starting circulating of Rose McGowan having an “I’m not even sure what to call it” moment in a Barnes and Nobel hasn’t found its way onto your timeline yet. If you haven’t seen it, pause, click here and watch video 1 and video 2.

What we see is Rose at a booking signing in a Barnes and Nobel, and a trans women in the audience yelling at her. I’m not sure I want to use the verb yelling, but her voice was raised in anger and frustration. Rightfully so. I’m learning more and more the use of verbs projected onto specific groups while writing about them. So bear with me.

So, the first time I watched it I kept saying, “I don’t get what really happened. I clearly missed the first part of the video.” Then I finally got it. The woman in the audience, who I later found out is named Andi Dier, a prominent Trans Activist (and from what I have read today has SA assault allegations against her, but I do not know this information in detail and Rose did not know this when it happened), says this to Rose; “I have a suggestion. Talk about what you said on RuPaul. Trans women are dying and you said that we, as trans women, are not like regular women. We get raped more often. We go through domestic violence more often. There was a trans woman killed here a few blocks [away]. I have been followed home –.”

I missed the RuPaul part originally. So I went to find out what Rose said on RuPaul’s Podcast.

Screen Shot 2018-02-03 at 6.00.47 PM

This is what we call TERF– Trans Exclusive Radical Feminism. Which as we all know can’t fully be feminism, because if that shiz ain’t intersectional, then it is not really feminism. But let’s break down what Rose says here, but I think there are some really interesting points we can take away from this and learn as a community.

I’m not really sure what Rose was meaning to say, all I can read is what Rose said. But this is what I think on this subject. “That’s not developing as a woman, that’s not growing as a woman, that’s not living in this world as a woman.” Okay. Let’s pause here. If we ignore the layers of womanhood, then we will never ever be able to progress. My experiences a white, cis, upper-middle-class woman will DRASTICALLY differ from an immigrant Muslim, lower class brown trans woman. Does this discredit either of our experiences into developing into womanhood? No. Maybe Rose meant something else, but I don’t think she did. What she is projecting is that there is one singular experience of womanhood. Which is just absurd. Firstly, the question about the period…. What should I tell a trans woman who asks me? Yeah, it freaking sucked and my male teacher mocked me one time for needing to go change my tampon in High School? Or what about my friends whose cramps are so bad they want to remove their uterus or what about my friend who didn’t get her period until she was 19? My point is this is not an experience of womanhood that we cis women all experience in perfect unison.

So let’s move on to Rose and Andi in the bookstore.

Andi starts to address her questions and her voice raises, because well, who wouldn’t. But I as a cis woman can’t really imagine going into a Barnes and Nobel and yelling at a woman talking about her sexual assault, but again I am cis. So my perspective on this is meh, whatever.

So how does Rose respond? By saying we are all the same, “Hold on. So am I. We are the same. Point was, we are the same. There’s an entire show called ID channel, a network, dedicated to women getting abused, murdered, sexualized, violated and you’re part of that, too, sister. It’s the same.”

Sigh. No, we aren’t. My friends who are women of color will never experience the world like me full of privilege. My Trans friends will never feel my privilege. While I don’t like the idea of stating me and the Other, I note how incredibly important it is to acknowledge the Other’s experiences in these conversations. In one of my classes, my professor asked us what we saw in the mirror and I said: “I see a woman.” And a woman of color next to me responded with “I see a Black Woman.” That is something I will never experience, the color of my skin is part of my self-identification.
When we talk about White Feminism, we don’t inherently mean white people, though it tends to be, hence the name. White feminism means that you just don’t care about the layers of womanhood- race, religion, gender identification, sexual identification. A black woman fighting for the right to abortions, but is very anti-Trans woman can still be a white feminist. Though, I have only seen this a few times.

It usually looks more like pink pussy hats and Instagram worthy protest signs ignoring how many white women voted for Trump, ignoring fighting for policy changes that affect Black women and Trans women.

n2hhlyshn6plinfzehn7

But I must ask this,  and maybe this is TERFY of me, and it if is, then call me on my shit. Do I need to specify the differences between Trans women vs Cis women? This feels as if I am alienating Trans women, that I have to call you a Trans woman. You’re just a woman to me. Is this part of your self-identity like of my friend from class? Am I stripping you of something if I just call you a woman?

Andi then says words: “You do nothing for them. Trans women are in men’s prisons. And what have you done for them?” Rose responds with “What have you done for women?”

She then says “This is like the AIDS crisis all over again. This is white cis feminism,” as she was escorted out.

So this is something I have seen a lot in the Feminist movement recently. From Cis women of all layers–gay, bi, straight, Muslim, Jewish, Christian, Black, Brown, White. “What do Trans women do for Cis women?” And it’s an interesting question. Becuase while we should champion for each other, are we all meant to be activists for each other? I spent most of my years working as Rape Advocate and Anti Rape Activist, but I’m by no means a Trans Activist. I have gone to many BLM marches, but I would feel so wrong standing there being an activist in a narrative that doesn’t belong to me. Is it wrong for Cis women to take the back lines and allow Trans women to be the voice of their narrative? I am NOT saying we should say Transphobic things, but I’m also asking am I as a Cis woman fit to be a Trans activist? Do I need to have that self-identity to be an activist? I am literally asking you as my reader. I don’t know.

I do remember resenting the white male savior who walked into our discussions on teaching consent on campus. “I would love to develop a gender-based violence course,” he said. I remember the man who said, “my feminism wasn’t helping enough, but he knew the answers, he knew how I should express my pain.” But then I remember the men on campus who said: “I am here to support you.” My point being there is a difference between being an activist and being an ally. And is it right to be an activist for a movement that isn’t your identity?

Now. This tweet from Rose from this past October is NOT what I mean by the definition of being an ally. No. This is talking over the narrative. Of course, we need to fight for these things. Trans and Cis women need to fight for these things regardless of which one it affects. Same as we as Trans and Cis women need to fight to protect women who go to prison.

unnamed

 

So this is the part of the video where people get really upset. Rose says this as the Trans woman is leaving. “Don’t label me, sister. Don’t put your labels on me. Don’t you fucking do that. Do not put your labels on me. I don’t come from your planet. Leave me alone. I do not subscribe to your rules. I do not subscribe to your language. You will not put labels on me or anybody. Step the fuck back. What I do for the fucking world and you should be fucking grateful. Shut the fuck up. Get off my back. What have you done? I know what I’ve done, God dammit.” Specifically “I don’t come from your planet.” I think when we really look at this, this wasn’t Rose stating that Trans women come from a different planet; I think this is Rose stating she herself doesn’t come from our planet. I straight up think Rose is really unhinged, I don’t think she is okay. I don’t think she is stable. I think we saw this in the mindset that Rose herself is in a different world. But fuck. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe this is my privilege blinding me to something.

The next thing Rose says is that really upset people was “What I do is for the fucking world. And you should be fucking grateful. So shut the fuck up. Get off my back. What have you done?”

Damn. This to me screamed again she is so not stable. She isn’t okay. But also telling a Trans woman who is expressing her issues to shut up? Gross. Saying a Trans woman should be grateful when most of your activism has been for white upper class cis woman of Hollywood? Just….uhm, odd? Also if you’re in activism for praises, you’re doing it wrong.
“I’m mad you put shit on me because I have a fucking vagina and that I’m white [or I’m black, yellow or purple]. This also seemed to really upset the internet. Which to me, I found really interesting. Now, if we define sexism a little more liberally, then I would say “it is the hatred of a person with a vagina.” And even further, sexual abuse of women come as a result of having a vagina. So what I Imagine in Rose’s mind she is sexually abused, because she has a vagina. She then is hated for her sexual abuse aka her vagina in Hollywood. And now as she tries to tell this narrative, a Trans woman says she isn’t good enough because she has a vagina and is not fighting for women without a vagina. This is not what I think literally happened. But what I picture is her mindset for this statement.

Now obviously, Rose has a pretty open track record of saying Transphobic things, which of course is different than sexism. But it is still rooted in the same kind of hatred for “the Other.” Obviously, Rose is being attacked for her past quotes. Not that she is Cis. Not that she is white. But to note, that when we talk to someone who is clearly unhinged, they feel, they hear, the see the world a lot differently than someone else. I think Rose is hurting. I don’t think Rose is okay.

What amazed me was the tweets that followed. How blatantly Transphobic “openly proud feminists,” were.

 

Screen Shot 2018-02-03 at 6.00.34 PM

Like…girl what? Where did you even learn this “information.” There are tons of these tweets. Hundreds. Thousands. To different threads and didn’t personal tweets. And man did it bum me the hell out. I eventually just stopped reading them.

But I also gotta say, the tweets saying “fuck Rose she can die,” also seemed just not appropriate. Rose is harboring a lot of pain, anger, and violence. She is clearly not well. She is not stable. And well, I just don’t think some of those tweets were the most constructive. Has she said things like this before, well maybe not to this extent, but Transphobic things, yes? Has she learned? Clearly not. But I just also can’t imagine adding turmoil to someone’s life who is clearly sinking in her own pain of sexual assault. But again, as I said from my first comment–I am a cis woman so my overall stance on this is just meh.

I think as we grow as people and grow as in our movements, Me Too, BLM, Feminism, Trans Movement, Pride, etc, then we constantly need to strive to learn more and more. What Rose said was horrible, but did it lead way to a conversation a lot of white feminists in the movement need to self- reflect on? Are you fighting for all the layers of womanhood? Are you an ally to all women? Are you listening to what other women say and need for their survival?

Let’s Talk: Using the word ‘Gypsy’ in the travel community.

Let’s Talk: Using the word ‘Gypsy’ in the travel community.

Before we begin, I must state that I do not expect anyone with the name gypsy in their Instagram handle, blog name/URL, or branding to change their name. What I do expect is self-reflection upon the issue I am writing about. I used to be the angry PC keyboard warrior who would yell and cuss and try to shame others for not fitting into a perfect mold. But I quickly realized, this was for my own ego stroke. “Oh look how woke and educated I am compared to these other people,” I would subconsciously say. It was never fully and truly about helping the world, constructive conversations, and education. I think a lot of it had to do with growing up and probably a lot to do with living abroad now for almost 2 years.

So here is my education, and what you choose to do after reading it will be up to you.

If you google  “gypsy definition” the first thing that comes up is Google’s definition. And while yes the second definition is the one we probably are most familiar with, let’s read the first one, “a member of a traveling people traditionally living by itinerant trade and fortune telling. Gypsies speak a language (Romany) that is related to Hindi and are believed to have originated in South Asia.” Screen Shot 2018-01-15 at 1.29.59 PM

If you move on to the next two searches under the definition we see urban dictionary and dictionary.com and they look like this:

Screen Shot 2018-01-31 at 8.24.55 PM

Right there, the first line. “While normally considered a racial slur, the word gypsy refers to a person of Romani heritage.” Ever heard the verb “jipped?” Yes, it actually is just as offensive to say as “you j*wed me.”

Screen Shot 2018-01-31 at 8.25.29 PM

So what is actually offensive about the word gypsy? A word we have heard almost our whole lives in America as free people who wear pretty boho skirts and lots of beads and head scarves? The Sinti Roma website writes, “When it is used in the context of historical sources, the clichés and prejudices behind this term must always be borne in mind. The term cannot be clearly derived etymologically. It comprises both negative and romanticized imagery and stereotypes which are attributed to extant people”

Well, let me tell you a little history about the Sinti-Roma people. The Sinti and Roma people originally migrated from the Punjab region in India towards Asia and Europe and more recently North America. They arrived in Europe anywhere from 8th to 10th centuries, but the name Gypsy originated in about the early 1500s when Europeans believed they came from Egypt, and the German word for Gypsy was “Zigeuner,” the original Greek meaning “untouchable.” Sinti people refer to the members living in Western and Central Europe, and Roma people lived in Eastern and Southeast Europe; Roma is often tied to the people outside Germanic speaking lands.

Both communities spoke Romani which is a language based in Sanskrit, the class Indian language. And both communities had Christian and Muslim members. By the 1900s both communities were referred to solely as the Roma people and/or as a racial slur “gypsy.”

kids in wagon

Up until about the 1900 Roma people were nomads who had a reputation for theft, swindling, and conning. But in pre-war Europe, many Roma people were settled working as craftsmen, blacksmiths, cobblers, and even shopkeepers. Some still continued performing nomadically as singers, dancers, and circus trainers.

By 1939, the year WWII would begin, around a million Roma lived throughout Europe. Half of these people were located in Eastern Europe in Soviet Russia, Romania, Hungary, Yugoslavia, and Bulgaria. In Germany, there were around 30,000 Roma people, and almost all held German citizenship, and 11,000 of these 30,000 were in Austria.

While the Sinti Roma did not face nearly the same numbers as the European Jews did, they met most of the same terrible fate under Nazi Occupation.

download

Many German Citizens had social prejudices towards the Roma people as any “us and the other,” type of racism. The Nazis deemed the Roma people to be racially inferior. Under the Occupation, Roma people saw arbitrary internment, forced labor, and mass murder.

I will not go into detail on what the Roma people faced during Occupied Europe, I will provide mainly links below if you are interested in more research, or if you would like to reach out and have a conversation about it.

Unfortunately, like every other group traumatized by the Holocaust, historians are unable to give an exact number of Roma people who lost their lives. Historians estimate that the Germans and their allies killed around 25 percent of all European Roma. Before the war, there were roughly shy of a million Roma people living throughout Europe, the Germans and their Axis partners killed up to 220,000. Let that number sink in. I know it is not the millions of Jews, but one thing I learned in my Holocaust class is after about 5,000 our brains can’t process that many people. 220,000 individuals lives were lost to a group of people who never learn about.

63359a

After the war, discrimination against Roma people continued on both sides of the Iron Curtain. Until 1979 Roma victims were not up to restitution, who had been incarcerated, forcibly sterilized, and deported out of Germany for no specific crime.

Even today the word is still used as a racial slur.

My host family in Hungary regularly called “poor” people “gypsies.” And they also loved Ronald Raegan and called Hillary Clinton a “gypsy.”

When my friend Grace and I were in Prague, we went to a small museum, and the tour guide had a weird gate made of PVC pipe that he called his “gypsy alarm system.”

For those who have not traveled to Europe, there is a small population of beggars in major tourist cities who have a very infamous reputation of sedating their children and covering them in dirt and begging for money. From what I understand these people are NOT Roma people.

Now, as I type this history out, I understood this is heavily neglected in our Western Textbooks. I was actually in my SECOND WWII class before I even touched on the Roma people. But I think as travel bloggers we have such a responsibility to promote education of places, cultures, and peoples. And it makes me very sad to see the word connected to bloggers who promote content in Germany, Russia, Poland, Hungary, Czech Republic, Romania, and Bulgaria. Maybe I am what some call a snowflake and too sensitive, maybe after I really should, as Ann Coulter said, “grow a pair.”

I don’t have the answers.  I really don’t. But the least I could do was use my platform to educate, and probably many of you didn’t even know this history or the racism connected to the word. Again, I am not asking you to change your brand, your name, etc. Anything you have worked hard on. I just wanted to share the trauma and pain an entire group of people faced, whose history is often neglected and romanticized.

Let me know your thoughts below.
Are you interested in more history lessons connected to travel? Or history lessons to be more educated as a person? Is this not fun, glamorous, or sexy for a travel blogger?

I don’t have the answers, but I’m really trying to find my voice in the travel community. And this is my first step.

Euro Travel 101

Euro Travel 101

I have been incredibly blessed to travel so many times to Europe in my short little 24 years of life, and even more fortunate to be able to live here. Luckily I grew up in a household where spontaneous adventure travel was just what we did. My mom allowed my brother and I to travel and skip school as long as we were on top of our school work. Seriously, in February when I was home my mom had to go to Disney for work, and she texted my brother and said, “wanna skip school and go to Disneyworld for the weekend?” And we did just that.  So if anyone ever wondered where my love for travel, adventure, and Europe came from, look no further than Mama Ginger.

Here I answer questions a lot of people have asked me, never thought to ask, I have seen false information being spread on forums, and maybe you’re just too embarrassed to google. No worries, I got your back. Here is all the information I think you would need to have before coming to Europe for the first time!

Passports, Visas, & The Schengen Zone

1. You do need a Passport

I know this seems really obvious, but you would be surprised how many travel forums I am in where people ask if they need a passport. Yes, you do need a passport for every country in Europe. Moving on.

2. You don’t need a visa to come to Europe

Europe is almost entirely travel visa-free for Americans and Canadians!

So what does this mean? When you are issued a US or Canadian passport this gives you a lot of freedom, we can access both 158 countries visa-free, though surprisingly neither country has the strongest passport in the world, Germany wins the spot for the strongest passport with 160 visa-free countries.

You do not need a travel visa to enter any country in Europe other than Russia and Turkey! Turkey’s can be issued on arrival or you can purchase one for 20 dollars before arriving and print it out. Russia’s visa is a little different unless you enter St Petersburg on a cruise ship, then you have to have a visa to enter Russia before arriving at border control. There was a governmental hiccup in fall of 2017 where Americans were no longer granted visas into Turkey, we are now again granted visas.

There was some scare earlier in 2017 where the EU was going to vote to abolish visa-free travel for the US because we did not grant 5 countries, who are members of the EU, visa-free travel access to the US. Don’t worry this has been dismissed!

3. What the heck is the Schengen Zone?

The Schengen Zone and I have a love-hate relationship. If you know me very well, you know while I am currently waiting for my Polish visa I have to leave the Schengen Zone every 90 days, but what does that mean ‘leave the Schengen Zone?’ Schengen is a small village in Luxembourg where the treaty was signed, and it essentially grants people free movement from these countries in the Zone.

You know how once you’re in the US you don’t need to permission to move around each state? Well, think of European countries as states within the EU (European Union), and the Schengen Zone allows people to move, travel, work freely between the borders.

Now, this will get a little confusing. Not every country in the EU is in the Schengen Zone (free movement zone), meaning you will have your passport checked arriving and leaving The United Kingdom, Croatia, Bulgaria, Cyprus, and Romania. And countries in the Schengen Zone aren’t always in the EU Iceland, Norway, Lichtenstein, and Switzerland all allow free movement but aren’t members of the European Parliment, but they are members of the European Free Trade Association.

Ultimately, my point is this have your passport ready when you travel to and from the United Kingdom, Cyprus, Bulgaria, Croatia, and Romania.

4. But what about those 90 days you mentioned?

Oh! Thank you for reminding me. So, while you’re allowed visa-free entry into the Schengen Zone you are only allocated up to 90 days in a 6 month period. A lot of people will tell you different information about this, and a lot of countries have different guidelines on these rules. For example, Spain and Italy’s economies depend on tourism so they tend to allow people to come and go as they please, as long as they didn’t stay their 90 days at one time. But good luck trying to enter into Germany or Norway after you exhausted your 90 days; they are just more strict about it.

5. But you just said 90 days in 6 months? How are you still there?

Ah, yes. Poland and America have a bilateral agreement. Which isn’t super bilateral, it’s more just America, because Polish citizens need a tourist visa to come to America, but this is a whole separate rant for another day. But essentially Americans can re-enter Poland as long and they never exceed 90 days. But this doesn’t really help you as I doubt you will spend this much time in Poland. So let’s move on.

6. What is Brexit? 

While this might not help you, I think this is something every American should know about or maybe you have heard about this one and didn’t really understand it. Essentially in August of 2016, the UK voted to leave the European Union–they were not part of the Schengen zone before nor were using the Euro. But they voted to leave. The Prime Minister stepped down and the man leading the campaign to leave the EU suddenly flipped and regretted it a lot. I’m not gonna get super political on this like I normally do, but essentially The UK now really doesn’t want this to go through. We shall see what happens. If you have more questions on this, then I would love to talk.

Money Abroad

7. Does every country use the Euro?

Nope! Surprisingly not even half of the countries in Europe use the Euro. Austria, Belgium, Italy, Cyprus, Finland, France, Spain, Portugal, Germany, Greece, Ireland, The Netherlands, Slovenia, Slovakia, Montenegro, Monaco, Malta, Luxembourg, Kosovo all use the Euro.

8. Are the Dollar and Euro the same?

The exchange between the USD/CAD and the Euro fluctuate daily by some odd change. Currently, as I write this every 1 USD, is worth .80 Euro. 1 CAD is worth .65 Euro. (Please note if you read this any other day besides January 31, 2018, this will not be the currency it was just an example). Google is your friend for this!

9. What currencies do countries in Europe use if not the Euro?

There are 25 other currencies in Europe. The United Kingdom used the Pound, Poland uses the Złoty, Czech Republic uses Koruna, Hungary uses Forint, Croatia uses Kuna, etc etc. I am not going to list these all out. Because we are all adults and can use google, but surprisingly this is the question I am asked a lot. Double check what currency a country uses, and how much that actually is in your currency.

10. Do I need to take cash out or use a card?

This is totally up to you! But I seriously would advise going to an atm and taking cash out. It totally depends how long you are there for but I would say about 150 dollars per city for about 3 days. The atm will charge you, yes. But not that much. You can, of course, ask your bank to order the currency for you beforehand in the States, but this is quite expensive. Even if you take too much out, don’t stress. You can easily find exchanges in every city. Remember the dodgier and sketchier and less easy to find the cheap their rates are.

And if you do use your card, remember to always choose the local currency. Your bank will charge you a cheaper rate internally than the rate the card machine will charge you. I cannot stress this enough. Sometimes you will see that it is x amount in xyz currency, which equals x in dollars. But if you charge dollars on the card machine it will charge you maybe 2 or 3 dollars per transaction. My bank charges me 1% of the total on price for exchange fees.

11. What about traveler’s checks?

It’s 2018. Nope. Europeans find it weird we even still use checks, to begin with.

12. Tipping and Taxes?

One thing my European friends like to joke about is the tax in America being added at the cash register. In Europe, the tax is included in the price which is really handy.

Secondly, tipping is not expected here, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t tip. Servers here make an hourly wage. But I still choose to tip.

13. Is travel health insurance worth it?

Nope. No. Nah. Even if you do get sick while abroad, then you can easily go to a private doctor (yes because everything is public here) and still only pay, maybe at most, 1/3 of what you pay in the States. Some visas do require you have it, and some don’t.

Phones & Electronics

 

14. Will my phone work abroad?

Besides currencies, I get this question probably once a week from someone traveling. My answer is yes and no. I have Verizon at home, and if I come to Europe I don’t have to do anything just turn my phone on and it will work, for 10 dollars a day, completely normal, meaning data, texts, and calls. But that gets pricey. You can also turn on international data plans which limit your data but are overall cheaper.

15. What is a cheaper solution for phones?

  1. Just use the internet! Everywhere has wifi, keep your phone on airplane mode and don’t use it unless connected. Seriously everywhere has wifi here–museums, stores, shops, restaurants, hotels, etc. My first two trips to Europe this is how I functioned. It works. I would also recommend downloading the google map of your city offline so you never have to worry about needing internet while getting from A to B!
  2. Buy a SIM card here. I have about 5 different SIMS from different countries, seriously ask my friends if they have me save in their phones as “katie england” “katie poland 1” “katie second england.” But this is a way cheaper option, you have internet the entire time, and a number to call places while you’re here. You have to call your phone company in America and ask them to unlock your phone and then presto good to go! And as of summer of 2017, the EU made it a law that your phone has to work in every EU member country (not just the Schengen Zone), so if you buy one in England you can use it in Spain, France, Germany, etc. They have them at airports, train stations, phone stores, etc. You can easily buy one anywhere. In Poland for unlimited data, texts, and calls a SIM card is 50 złoty (15 dollars), in England one for 4 GB is about 12 dollars. Do some research or ask me for advice, I would love to help you!

16. What about my plugs?

If you’re reading this, then we are probably around the same age. Thus meaning we all saw Just Married with Ashton Kutcher and Brittany Snow (Rest in Peace, my sweet angel). And of course, the scene where she blows the fuse. But! Shocker! There is no way her electronics would fit in the outlet. So you need to buy converters! England has its own outlet, but the rest of Europe all has the same. You can easily buy these at Target, Walmart, Amazon, etc. They’re about 5 dollars. I have about 10–curling iron, laptop, phone, hairdryer, etc.

Getting Around Europe

17. Is the rail pass worth it?

So, I have never done a rail pass. I think it has pros and cons. If you’re backpacking through Europe all summer I think it has its perks. But if you’re just here for one to three weeks, I don’t see the point of it.

If you don’t know what the rail pass is, it’s essentially an “unlimited” ticket on trains throughout Europe. I put unlimited in quotes because that’s how it is promoted, but it is far from unlimited. You pay by how many countries you will use it in, how many weeks you will use it etc. So, if you plan is to fly from America into London and have a trip for 2 weeks and you take the train to Paris and Amsterdam and Munich for example, I really don’t see the point. You would pay for 4 countries and two weeks and it would be about 500 euros a person. You can easily find cheaper train tickets on off hours or really cheap flights via discount flights. (For more information on discount airlines you can read my post here ) But if your plan is to hit up every country in Europe for 4 months, then maybe it is worth it. You don’t have to deal with airports, security hassle, you can have a bigger bag without checking it, it might be worth it. Especially if you’re backpacking with no itinerary and just hopping from city to city. But I would do a lot of research and prep work if that is an investment you are interested in making!  Even though I have never used one, I would love to help you research it, if you need help making the decision!

18. Booking a train

Now, taking a train is still a great option. Especially any trip from London to Amsterdam, Paris, Brussels, etc and vice versa. They drop you off directly in the city center, so you start at a great location. And they’re usually very fast. Things to know: You should book your ticket in advance, especially in hot season (spring and summer), you don’t have to go through security, you should get the train station about 30 minutes to an hour before, you can get food on the train in the snack cart, you don’t have to check a bag, and this is the most important just because you buy a ticket for the train does not mean you have a seat on the train. I have spent a few times standing on a train the entire way because it was so full and I didn’t get there in time to get a seat.

 

19. Does Uber or Lyft work in Europe?

Yes and no! Unfortunately, my Nashville friends at Lyft are not yet here in Europe. Counting down the days until they are though! But Uber is here, and it is my saving grace while abroad. Especially when taxi drivers do not always come from the country you are in. For example, my uber driver the other day was from Ukraine and we both could speak some Polish, but being able to type in my address without having to worry about miscommunication is a life saver. Another good app here is MyTaxi, I’m not sure if they are in the US or not. But it’s great, because you can schedule a Taxi for a certain time 3 days in advance.

20. What does Public Transportation look like?

Every city is different! Not every city has a metro, but almost every city has a bus system and/or a tram system in Europe. Luckily Warsaw has all three, so its moderately easy to get around. But of course, places like London and Paris have the best metro systems. But I think Budapest wins for most extensive metro, tram, and bus systems.

21. Can I drive in Europe?

If you rent a car, then probably yes. Some places might require an International License, which is good just to have in case of anything. But you can usually call and ask the company beforehand to see if they will require one.

Planning

22. When should I start planning?

It’s never too early to start planning a trip to Europe! I suggest giving yourself about 6 months to pay for flights and hotels separately and then time to save you money while being here. Flights are proven to be cheapest on the Tuesday and Wednesday 12 to 8 weeks before the departure date. I have a whole post here about it!

23. How much money should I bring?

Dang, I don’t like this question. Look if you’re a backpacker you can get by with about 30 dollars a day in Western Europe before hostels/hotels. In Eastern Europe maybe even less. But if you’re trying to travel like The Blonde Abroad I might suggest saving a lot more money. It really depends on your travel plans!

24. When should I go?

Really depends on what you like! Low season is winter. Hotels are cheaper, but there tends to be less happening in cities. And walking around can be miserably cold. Summers are more expensive and way MORE crowded. But the weather is more enjoyable and there are lots to do and see. I really enjoy traveling in the fall and winter months. Plus, hello, CHRISTMAS MARKETS IN EUROPE! But then spring and summer Europe is a floral dream world.

25. Hotels v Hostels v AirBNB v Couchsurfer?

Ahhh! Such a difficult choice. Hostels are FUN! Okay? They’re freaking fun. You meet so many people from around the world, they have events so you can make friends, and they usually have food and a bar there. So for solo travelers/backpackers, I always suggest hostels. There are tons of sites to find hostels in cities, some have girls floors and boys floors, some are coed, etc. They’re a great way to save money too. Hotels in Europe will be different than what you are used to, but they’re still very nice and sometimes can be super affordable. An Air BNB can be super fun too, usually, your host has great secret spots and will spend time with you in the city. I know a lot of people who stay with hosts and don’t do the private house Airbnb, and it works out great for them, though I have never done it. I have pros and cons with Couchsurfer, if it works for you, then great! But I tend to defer women from using it as I have heard one too many stories of sexual assaults when friends use this app. So if you’re looking for free, please only stay with someone you know or are friends with. Ultimately, trust your gut!

Random

26. Is food different?

Yes. Simple as that. Think of going to a Mexican restaurant in the Midwest versus California. Food changes drastically in the borders of our own country. Food will also be different in Europe. (Though London has 3 Chipotle’s which I’m so excited to move back to London for).

PS: Drink refills are not a thing, so you are gonna pay for each drink you buy. Water is not free and sometimes can be more expensive than beer. Also they don’t use ice.

27. How do you deal with the language barrier?

Good news. In a globalized world where there are hundreds of languages, we have to be able to communicate with one base language, lucky for us Canadians and Americans it’s English. Almost everyone under the age of 35 can communicate effectively with you in English, the ticket counter, the passenger, the cashier at the store. With that being said, my best advice is to learn “do you speak English” in whatever the native language of the country you’re visiting is. People will love the courtesy, and usually, they will gladly respond in English. Also please learn “hello,” “thank you,” and “please” in the native language. Especially in countries with less popular languages but have destination Hot Spots –Hungary, Czech Republic, Poland, Croatia, etc.

I also live and die by the Google Translate app. You can type, speak into it, and take photos of things to be translated, though sometimes terribly, instantly. You can download the languages of the countries you are going to so you can use it offline as well!

28. Should I carry my passport around?

No, you shouldn’t. But you should have a photocopy of it, a pdf scan of it on your phone, and a picture of it on your phone. I have to carry mine around Poland because they actually require it. But most places you shouldn’t!

29. Is Vegan food hard to find?

N O P E. London, Paris, Berlin, Warsaw! These cities all have great vegan options. They typically are a little pricey. But they are completely accessible. If you’re vegan I am sure you know about Happy Cow, but if you are newly vegan it is a great site to vegan all the vegan goodness around you or in new cities!

30. What should I do in x, y, z?

My LEAST favorite question! I haven’t been making itinerary blog posts for a reason. I can tell you a few places to try for food or to go see. But part of the fun is stumbling into places.  Some of my favorite meals or memories have been by accident. I don’t want you to map out every waking moment of your trip! But apps I use for food or cities are Like a Local, which my lovely friend Grace showed me last year, or simply Trip Advisor. Go Explore!! Of course, I will help you, but don’t plan everything down. It’s no fun!

 

So here you have it! The 30 most asked questions and their answers. Is a question missing? Is there something I didn’t touch on? Reach out to me! Or drop the question on my Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or drop me a comment below! I would love to help you plan your dream vacation to Europe!

OPINION: Let’s Talk about Aziz Ansari

OPINION: Let’s Talk about Aziz Ansari

TW: Sexual Assault, Rape, Sexual Misconduct, Self Harm

Look, I’ve had my fair share of witch hunts from celebrities to hardcore to college frat boys. In college, I started down a route, which was the first of many in my feminist awakening, in which I proudly and daringly defended victims of Sexual Assault. I was not afraid to call them out and support women who fell victim to the abuse of men. But I soon become swept up in this movement where I always chose to side with women, and this became dangerous.

I remember one account on Twitter from a woman I didn’t even know about a man I did know who used to send me under pictures with hard-ons and say “I wish you were here,” I would brush him off and reply with “‘I’m studying lol shouldn’t you be studying.” He lived 1,200 miles away from me. And this girl lived near him. Apparently, he tried to kiss her one too many times after she rejected him, and she wrote a lengthy post on her Apple notes page and posted it on Twitter. (I say apparently, because, well, I can’t even remember their names or what it actually said). But surely enough, the internet turned on him. He went from a couple thousand followers on Instagram and Twitter to nonexistent. I don’t remember if I personally partook in this event of publicly shaming him, but as I reflect back I remember he was called a rapist and abuser. But why, he didn’t actually rape anyone? Was he gross? Yes. Did he not give up when we wanted him to? Yes. If he did it me and some other girl was he probably pushy towards other women, I can’t say yes, but probably.

I had men ask for nudes, and quickly respond with “okay well you’re fat anyway.” This ability to shame them on Twitter became a sort of power for me, and maybe other women as well.  It also became a platform of justice for many women who would never see the inside of a courtroom. Has anyone seen that episode of Newsroom where Don goes to find the woman at Princeton and talks to her? I really think maybe this is where my wake up call came from.

Let’s fast forward to about 2 years ago. Where many of the people reading this will remember, I made a terrible mistake and lost friends over it. A woman decided to share a piece about a man who pushed far too many limits, involving alcohol, etc. But when she posted her piece on Twitter she never once used the word rapist or abuser, but what did I use? Rapist and abuser, yes you guessed correctly. It was wrong of me, but that person and I have a long history of hatred between us so I Ignored her points and went for my own justice, and apologies are due that I have not given.

I quickly became the one thing I didn’t want to be: someone hurting the feminist movement. I threw words like abuse, rapist, racist, around like no tomorrow. A few years ago the worst thing to call someone was a racist, but as we slowly called more and more white people against BLM a racist their eyes kinda glazed over as we talked about racial issues. And this is what happened as we used rapist and abuser: people stopped listening.

This is when we stopped using Twitter as our courtroom for the Justice we would never see, and we turned it into the punching bag for all men that made us feel violated.

So how does this tie into Aziz Ansari? Well, I am sure at this point we have all read this post written by Katie Way and posted at Babe. If you haven’t read it, pause and read it before continuing to read my post. Yesterday, the witch hunt began. “Well, Aziz is canceled.” “We don’t support this in this house.” “Aziz is a rapist.”

This young woman, 22, covered by anonymity as Grace shares her details of her date with Ansari, and the internet went crazy. And I read post after post calling him a rapist.

Let’s be clear, Aziz has disappointed a lot of us, but point blank he did not commit rape. Point blank.

Aziz has painted him as a feminist, an ally, and monetized for years of being these things. I think that is where it struck a deep chord with most of us. It made me cringe. I also think for most of us, we can remember situations like this. I can think of one night in particular where I met a guy at a party, and he kept kissing me, and I felt guilty to say no, as I had danced with all night. I was too afraid to say no, to some ugly frat boy. So I can’t even begin to imagine the fear Grace felt at 22 articulating the word no to an older man, let alone a man of Ansari’s fame status. I also think for men, this is such normal behavior for them, that they can’t begin to understand why this would be bad. Isn’t this the hookup culture we created? Even in his apologies he wrote “I thought it was consensual.” And I think this speaks volumes. Why does he think coercion is consensual? Why do men think this is consensual? This is the root of the issue here. The heart beat of rape culture.

Much like the piece Cat Person published by the New Yorker. That piece really stuck to us, because well, it is now part of our generation. Vapid and shallow conversations via texts and sharing memes don’t mean we know someone. And I think Grace was hoping for something more intimate, as we see that she hoped he would play with her hair or back. And I think Margot was too.

I read a few tweets this morning, from an account I will choose not to share, because of the witch hunt. While she had some great points, she also had some bad points.

Her first point was that men aren’t responsible to learn our social cues. And to be honest, that is bullshit. You’re adults, you can tell when a woman is uncomfortable. And surely after the sentence “I won’t enjoy it if I’m forced,” Aziz knew she was uncomfortable as she sat on the floor wanting affection and then suggested oral sex from her. Nope. He knew better right here. And I can’t imagine the fear and uncomfortableness of wanting to say no, but not knowing how to get the words. You know we are uncomfortable. And consent isn’t no is no, consent is an affirmative yes. Grace only felt comfortable or safe once she left Aziz’s presence. Which is his fault. He had a responsibility on that date, especially in his own domain of his home, to make her feel safe. She was younger, non famous, and a woman. She repeatedly demonstrated she was not interested and kept hoping he would be better. Haven’t we all been in a situation like this?

The second point from her was that 22 is around the age we start learning about sexual experiences we don’t want or do want. And yes and no, we don’t know this woman, this could have been her first time kissing a man or maybe millionth time. What we do know is she was a nonfamous 22-year-old photographer from Brooklyn in a room alone with one of the most famous comedians from our generation. Who had the power in this dynamic? But ultimately yes, she is right. At 22 we are wading the waters figuring everything out, but I think for this argument to be on point we have to be at the same level.

Her third point was one that made me really upset. She discussed that the woman needed to crowdsource her feelings. This might have been the first time this woman ever felt violated, but by the sentence “you’re all the same.” I highly doubt that. Look here and listen, some women take days, months, years to process their rape and sexual assault, and typically they do it outwardly–talking, self-harm, drinking, etc. This isn’t unusual, and this sure as shit does not negate her feelings of being violated, or any woman’s experiences of rape and assault.

Now let’s get to the Atlantic’s piece and holy shit was this piece awful, but also my thoughts. Flanagan writes this, ”

Was Grace frozen, terrified, stuck? No. She tells us that she wanted something from Ansari and that she was trying to figure out how to get it. She wanted affection, kindness, attention. Perhaps she hoped to maybe even become the famous man’s girlfriend. He wasn’t interested. What she felt afterward—rejected yet another time, by yet another man—was regret. And what she and the writer who told her story created was 3,000 words of revenge porn. The clinical detail in which the story is told is intended not to validate her account as much as it is to hurt and humiliate Ansari. Together, the two women may have destroyed Ansari’s career, which is now the punishment for every kind of male sexual misconduct, from the grotesque to the disappointing.

Twenty-four hours ago—this is the speed at which we are now operating—Aziz Ansari was a man whom many people admired and whose work, although very well paid, also performed a social good. He was the first exposure many young Americans had to a Muslim man who was aspirational, funny, immersed in the same culture that they are. Now he has been—in a professional sense—assassinated, on the basis of one woman’s anonymous account. Many of the college-educated white women who so vocally support this movement are entirely on her side. The feminist writer and speaker Jessica Valenti tweeted, “A lot of men will read that post about Aziz Ansari and see an everyday, reasonable sexual interaction. But part of what women are saying right now is that what the culture considers ‘normal’ sexual encounters are not working for us, and oftentimes harmful.”

I thought it would take a little longer for the hit squad of privileged young white women to open fire on brown-skinned men. I had assumed that on the basis of intersectionality and all that, they’d stay laser-focused on college-educated white men for another few months. But we’re at warp speed now, and the revolution—in many ways so good and so important—is starting to sweep up all sorts of people into its conflagration: the monstrous, the cruel, and the simply unlucky. Apparently, there is a whole country full of young women who don’t know how to call a cab, and who have spent a lot of time picking out pretty outfits for dates they hoped would be nights to remember. They’re angry and temporarily powerful, and last night they destroyed a man who didn’t deserve it.

Here is my opinion, half of this is really mean, and half of this is spot on.

First, we don’t know if Grace wanted to be his girlfriend, but in the first few weeks of texting and dating don’t we all get caught up in that? So I dislike that the writer added that thought in there.

Aziz apologized immediately, which partly I think is bullshit. He knew he pushed some limits. Why else would she so abruptly leave? Come on, you’re an adult. But also, when she texted him, he apologized immediately. But at the same time, Aziz has been famous for a while now, and in that culture, I don’t doubt that he wasn’t surprised she didn’t want to have sex with him. Meaning, I’m sure he feels like a trophy fuck, and a nonfamous girl wouldn’t be excited for an opportunity to have sex with a celebrity. And it’s the world he is wrapped up in Hollywood.

Referencing the Newsroom again, but remember that episode where Hallie wrote a really personal piece about her and Jim for likes and retweets. Yup. This is ultimately what this piece reminded me of. It was solely aimed at likes and retweets for a magazine that wasn’t on the map.  As for the woman? I’m not sure her full intentions, but it didn’t fully seem pure or to warn and protect other women. This truly seemed a chance at destroying a man that, as Flanagan wrote, didn’t deserve it. Meaning he didn’t deserve to be called a rapist and the spotlight of anger and canceling him online. He deserves backlash and education to grow.

If we are so quick to write people off for mistakes, will we ever become better? We need to educate, and honestly, Aziz is at an age where he has a lot to unlearn. Just like most of us. The whole point of the movement is to make the world a better place, and we have to ask ourselves if this is the best tactic and approach to making the world a better place– canceling people on social media. Take for example, the internet called Emma Watson a white feminist and many wrote her off. But she took that time to learn about how her behavior was supporting white supremacy. In fact, calling her out, calling out a woman in power,  helped her grow and learn and hopefully use her power to help.

Aziz was wrong. And I hope he learned. I hope other men use this experience as an educational situation and not a scare tactic to understand what consensual sex is, that coercion is 100% not consensual, and that it is your responsibility to learn social cues in a world where saying no often leaves women dead. I know this woman feels violated and hurt. But I just have a gut feeling about this article and the social media response that followed.

I truly hope we take this an educational moment. Because the only way we will be better is through education. As I wrote to a friend “why did he think this is consensual? Why do men think this is consensual? I think that is the root of the problem here. And not a means to destroy him for the sake of destroying him. But to destitute him to teach other men: this isn’t okay. This isn’t consensual. Because this is muddy. This isn’t exactly rape. But it is something almost all of us have experienced. And it’s even more heart breaking coming from a man who painted himself an ally in public. But I also think we need to use this as an educational moment and not a scare tactic.

Here is Aziz’s Response. 31 hours after the post.

Aziz is a learning curve for men who don’t understand or know why their sexual behavior is wrong. Here is your chance to step up to the plate.

I would really like to hear everyone’s thoughts on this. I know this is muddy and grey water we are trekking into. But is this hurting the feminist movement or helping the feminist movement?