“Someone’s going to blow that place up soon.”

Said to me, in 2004, by a friend I hadn’t seen in ages. It was a few days before I flew to London, England, United Kingdom.  I answered him, “That’s why I have to go see it now.”  I got to see Big Ben, and Southbank, and the Inns of Chancery.  The next year, London was bombed.

As I write this, I am in Ataturk Airport, Istanbul, Turkey.  Forty-five people were killed here two weeks ago, by terrorists who apparently believed the same things as those who attacked New York City, London, Madrid, Paris, Brussels, Baghdad, THREE cities in Saudi Arabia, and as of TODAY, Nice, in the south of France.

I am in Istanbul waiting to catch a plane.  To Nice.

I have been teaching English for the last ten months in Southern China. Almost without exception, all of my students are from very wealthy families (and, obviously, because I’m teaching them, they’re learning a foreign language). Yet almost NONE of them has ever been outside of China, for a vacation, or to hear English. For Chinese citizens, visiting other countries is extremely difficult. My students are in awe when I’ve told them I have visited NINE places: Canada, the United States, England, Scotland, Ireland, Norway, Italy, Iceland, and China.

I’m not going to see Istanbul beyond the airport today, but I WILL. And I am scheduled to be in France for a month. I’m not changing that.

I speak English and Spanish. I’m learning Mandarin. One of my favourite books growing up, Mischief in Fez, was about Morocco. I adapted it into a play because I wanted kids to know more about Islam, because I think Islam, and Muslim people, and the places where they live, are cool.

And YOU will not change that. You don’t get to tell ME or ANYONE else what they are allowed to be.

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How I broke my hand and fell in love with Edinburgh

I’m taking a page from fellow blogger Andrea Beca’s virtual book—-I will be posting now and again about my adventurous four years in Scotland.

I lived in Edinburgh from November 2004 to February 2008. I was about to turn 30, and absolutely hated where my life was at, so I applied to film school, and for a UK Ancestry Visa. The visa is the one I got. I quit my job, gave away or sold all my stuff, and flew one-way to London in June of 2004. It amazes me now to remember I was THAT crazy.

Not completely crazy—I had the first two months there fully planned out before I left. I spent a week in London, took the train to Edinburgh, and after a week there I meant to visit some distant cousins (whom I’d never met!) in Belfast. On my third day in Edinburgh, I trudged up Arthur’s Seat, got caught in a rainstorm, and on trying to carefully pick my way down an extinct volcano of sheer granite, I slipped and did…something to my left hand. Understand that I had never broken a bone before in my life, and had no clue what it felt like. So when in just a few minutes I lost feeling in my hand and it swelled and, I thought: “You’re in a foreign country. BE a hypochondriac and find a hospital.” So I tracked down the double-decker bus and made my first of several visits to the Royal Edinburgh Infirmary, where they confirmed I had broken TWO metacarpals, the thin bones below my pinky and ring fingers. My visit to Belfast was pushed back, and I had a cast on my hand well into my Fringe job that August.

When I was told at the hospital that I wouldn’t be able to get on a plane to Northern Ireland until they had done a second X-ray, my reaction was kind of odd. (And yes, I was actually thinking about my own reaction at that moment, because it was so odd.) I was told I couldn’t leave Edinburgh, and I immediately thought: “Okay.” I had come to the UK with an Ancestry visa which would allow me to work there, but I by no means had a job lined up, or any plans at all, for after summer. But I had been in Edinburgh at that point for 10 days, and had already decided I never wanted to leave. My hand’s broken, my plans and job at a Fringe venue might have been screwed up, but I was “stuck” in Edinburgh, and I couldn’t have been happier.