Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Traveler Spotlight: Eve the Educator

Eve actually approached ME for an interview! After spotting some of the other Traveler Spotlights in the hostel, she decided that her story should be shared too. So here it is..

What are you doing in Chicago?
I have my niece’s wedding on Saturday. I think it should be pretty posh – I got a new dress! I’m also giving a talk at the Harold Washington Library this afternoon.

Oh really? What are you speaking about?
Well, I was contacted by Jerrie Wilborn to give a talk on parenting education. I’m the founder of an organization called Parents Forum, a parenting education program based on eight original questions about family life issues. It’s been around 18 years and counting.

Impressive! Is this your full-time gig?
It’s my full-time volunteer gig. I haven’t quit my day job yet. I work at MIT as an editorial assistant to a Nobel Prize winning Theoretical Physicist named Frank Wilczek. Doesn't get much more brilliant than that. He actually attended the University of Chicago.

Sounds interesting…how did you get into that job?
Well, I was an ESL teacher for awhile, but when my children were little I decided that I didn’t want to teach – I wanted to save that energy for my own kids. I had typing skills and I ended up at MIT.

So what kind of travel experience have you had?
I’ve traveled a boatload around the US for Parents Forum. I’ve also taught English in North Africa and Portugal.

Wow! Tell me more about teaching in North Africa.
Well, it was the Peace Corps era, and I got a call to service to Turkey. But then my father passed away unexpectedly and I went back home instead of joining PC. At that time I just couldn’t commit to the 2 years of service. Luckily, I had a back-up job in Tunisia, where I spent one year. I came back to the States, got a graduate degree in French, then ended up teaching ESL in Cambridge.

So what did you take from that experience?
I learned French very well. It gave me a bigger picture of the world. I also made some lifelong friends, one who I’ve just reconnected with recently.

And how did you end up in Portugal?
My husband had a sabbatical and we ended up there – he was supposed to be learning Portuguese, but guess who ended up being the one to learn? (laughs and points at herself). We also took our two oldest sons. So they are official “Global Nomads.”

What do you mean by Global Nomad?
That’s anyone under the age of 18 who has lived for a year or more out of their passport country. They used to be called "3rd Culture Kids", but it was decided that didn’t convey what this experience gives to, and takes from them. We all have a strong sense of being from a certain place. You get a different sense of your place as a Global Nomad. You’re more ready to make friends, but perhaps less confident in making long, life-term friendships.

Sounds like you’ve got a lot of international experience, both abroad and with foreigners in your home country.
Yes, very much so. I also provide a host family for international students. I’ve taken in host sons who I become a mentor to. The latest is from Burkina Faso. He just got his master’s degree in Economics, we’re so proud of him!

How long do the visiting students stay with you?
The longest was our host son from Ethiopa. He lived with us for 3-4 years of college and then he came back after college.

Is your entire family supportive of taking in host children?
Oh yes. My entire family of 3 sons and my husband are supportive. It’s armchair travel. It has been great for them; it gives them a sense of the world and their place in the world. They’ve gained the ability and willingness to set aside cultural misconceptions.

That’s great. So what do you like about staying at hostels?
I’m in the minority as an older person. I like the chance to conversate with people. I assume I’ll be surrounded by friends or people that will soon be my friends! For example, at breakfast I sat down with a couple of people from China and had a great time getting to know them. Waiting in line to check in, a guy from LA asked if it was my first time staying at a hostel, which led to eating lunch together. It’s just really neat.

Sounds like you have a great attitude!
Oh yeah. I recently got invited to a conference in Iran, and I was unsure if I’d go because of all the difficulties getting a visa and what not. Finally I decided to go after my son said, “Mom, you make friends where ever you go. Just GOOO!”

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Volunteer Spotlight: Katie Gombas

What volunteer position do you hold at the hostel and how long have you been doing it?
My volunteer position at the hostel is a Chicago Guide, and I've been doing it since April.

What motivated you to to become a hostel volunteer?
My motivation to become a hostel volunteer was ultimately to give back to the hostel community, because I have stayed at quite a few hostels, and at many of these hostels there were very helpful volunteers from whom I benefited. I have been on historical tours and pubcrawls led by volunteers, and being a Chicago guide allows me to give back to fellow travelers. Also, I had a feeling I would like being a guide, as I enjoy the hostel culture of socializing with people from all over the world when I stay in hostels myself.

What has been your most fun or interesting outing so far?

It's hard to choose what has been my most fun or interesting event has been so far, but I would say the concerts in Millenium Park and pubcrawls have been the most fun. Those outings always allow a lot of interaction while enjoying music and dancing.

What is your top travel destination (a place you’ve already been or your dream place?)
Right now I'd say my top travel destination is Brazil-to both Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. The best friend I made while studying abroad in Liverpool lives there, and I would really like to visit her and have her show me around.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Traveler Spotlight: Emily from Perth

During the ice cream social last week, I started talking to Emily when she asked for a recommendation of where to check out some great street art (I recommended Pilsen). She was nice enough to tell me about her travels and her own experience with street art!

What’s your name?

Where are you from?

Perth, Australia.

What do you think of Chicago?
Oh, I love it. It trumps New York in my opinion. New York is too big, too busy. Chicago is really big but I prefer it. Then again I’m from a small city.

What have you done here so far?
Well, I just got here, so not much yet. But I have been walking around… I walked across the River and then went to Navy Pier, and came back and walked around Millennium Park, which was really cool!

What are you doing in Chicago?
Pretty much just visiting. I mean, actually…I can tell you, I don’t think you’ll care. I’m actually using tiles that I’ve bought in Australia, and putting them up as public art in different cities in the States.

Hmm…so what exactly do you mean?
Well, I’ve bought tiles in Australia, and I’m doing sort of like an art series. I find a good spot in every place – I’ve been to DC, Philly, New York, Oregon, Lake Tahoe, and now Chicago – where I think it’ll fit, and I put adhesive on the tile and put it up somewhere.

So it’s kind of like guerilla street art?
Yeah, have you heard of Banksy? It’s a similar concept to that. I guess it’s classified as graffiti but I think of it as street art.

So do you study art in Australia?
Yes, I’m studying in Perth, although I deferred a year to spend it in the States.

Is this tile street art related to what you do in school?
No, not really. More than anything it’s giving me a purpose in this year-long trip. It’s quite fun to put them up. I’m also documenting them on a private album and basically dedicating some of my installations to certain friends. It’s really for me, though. I’m not trying to get famous or noticed or anything, it’s just special for me.

What about chronicling these? Do you plan to turn it into an art series when you get back to Australia?
I don’t think so. But I’m taking photos of each of them. And then I just write every day. I’d love to do travel journalism, actually.

Have you had any close calls when putting up the tiles?
Not really. I just act really casual when I find my spot, you know, I just put the glue on, kind of lean against the wall and bam, it’s on the wall! When I was putting it up in New York a cop drove by, but you know, it’s New York and there’s so much going on already, so they didn’t notice.

So what are you doing after Chicago?
I’m actually planning on moving out to LA to work. I have some friends there and I have a work visa. I just want to work as a waitress, something like that to help me get by.

Have you hostelled before?
Yeah, in Australia. I’ve noticed that in Australia the hostel culture isn’t as big. In Australia you can find them for cheaper and it’s more of a drinking and partying environment. But here, they’re nice and cleaner. And you’re paying double, but for double the quality.

Well, thanks for sharing your story with me!
No problem, thank you too!