Escape

From the outside looking in it can seem that traveling is something for the privileged, but the reality is that it’s for anyone who’s willing to try. When I jumped on my first plane, I opened my mind and heart to the beauties of adventure. After so many years I like to think I've learned a thing or two not only about how to travel, but also how to do so cheaply.

Travelling is a privilege. It is an honor for those willing to earn it, but it isn't always as costly as most people think. There is a stock list of excuses people give as to why they cannot travel, but the biggest by far has to be financial.

“I don’t have enough money.” or “It’s way too expensive.”

I can’t argue against that. I've scraped by with immigrants sharing sandwiches sleeping behind a train station, and I've been a guilty glutton pigging out on a steaks in 4 star hotels. Quality is quality. However, those seriously wanting to travel have more opportunities than ever if they’re willing to do a little bit of digging and have a bit of patience.

I've been spending a lot of time in my hometown of Houston, TX. There are a good number of my friends who travel, and I began to notice that they were disappearing on weekend getaways in a moments notice. I finally asked, and was delighted when they told me about www.EscapeHouston.com.

It’s a site by Pumarega Media, LLC.,and specializes in sharing extremely amazing deals for traveling from Houston and Austin. I just saw a posting for a round trip flight, Houston to Beijing, China for 549$. I have no plans to practice Mandarin, but with a deal like that I could work my way up to it.

image taken of www.escapehouston.com

image taken of www.escapehouston.com

Perhaps, China is just too far. I get it. How about Austin to Atlanta for 78$? or Houston to Denver for 77$? Houston to Monterrey, Mexico for 189$?

See where I’m going with this?

To share stories and experiences through writing is just as great a privilege as having been able to have those adventures in the first place. However, to help people travel and open their world, to the world, is a most precious and honorable endeavor. EscapeHouston is for escaping Houston (and Austin), but there are a good number of sites and blogs designed simply for finding cheap deals.

Use them!

Even if you’re not from Houston or Austin there are always deals worth searching and saving for. Google it. Siri it. Whatever. If you want to travel, then travel. It is as easy to make the decision to go as any other choice, but it’s the patience, saving, planning and follow through that count the most.


(A really good ticket price does go a long way. Literally and figuratively. Thanks www.EscapeHouston.com )

Je suis Charlie

Today in Paris, France two gunman stormed the offices of Charlie Hebdo claiming 12 lives and wounding several others who are not expected to live. The liberal magazine is no stranger to terrorist acts, as it was burned down in 2011 for publishing satirical images of Islam’s Prophet Muhammad.

7 time zones away, I can’t sleep. When I saw the headlines on social media, I couldn't help to think that the France in me had woken me to tell me it was hurting. I consider France my second home. With so many connections, family, and friendships made over the years, 12 lives lost in the capital city is a scary number, and high enough to consider that someone I know could be a victim.

I was living in France when the Sandy Hook shooting, which claimed the lives of 20 children and 6 adult lives, happened in December 2012. Friends would constantly ask my opinion about the events saying they didn't understand it. These things almost never occur in France.

“It seems like this is always happening in the United States,” they said.

“How can people be allowed to walk around with weapons like these?” they asked.

Yeah. It does seem like something like this is always happening. If not a Sandy Hook, it’s an Aurora. For the sake of dynamics, add on the Eric Garner tragedy and subsequent shootings of Officers Andrew Dossi and Aliro Pellerano. How can people be allowed to have these weapons? Well, the 2nd Amendment authorizes it, and the National Rifle Association (NRA) swears by it. Meanwhile, The US spends a good amount (640 Billion, 2013) on military expenses. 

If I had time I would tell those friends my theories on how my country simply was born of revolution and gun smoke, or explain my theories of societal indiscretions. However, sometimes I would have to settle for the simplest of responses.

“It’s just how it is.”

I’m not surprised by the headlines anymore, because stories about gun violence are on everyday. I don’t like it, but it happens. There are just as many, if not more, beautiful and interesting events happening in local communities and around the world, but, more often than not, sensationalism breeds rating and readers.

That 2nd Amendment has the potential to be a two way street, where at least, maybe, probably, a gunman has a second thought on the more than likely scenario that someone he is about to attack has a concealed weapon. It’s understood within the context of our society as a possibility, no matter the view on gun control.

It’s not understood the same way in Paris, because it's not the same place.  Maybe that’s why these events bother me so much. I know those old friends couldn't make sense of American violence, so I can’t imagine how they’ll fathom this. France is far from perfect, and French are probably the first to admit it. But this type of event is not ‘how it is’ there. There, like anywhere else, exists a specific breed of normalized issues , which in any other place would be obtuse. Two masked men running into a newsroom with Kalashnikovs is simply the nightmare Parisians wished had stayed in darkest depths of the catacombs.  


#JesuisCharlie


In Search of Texas: Part 2

Finding Texas is an ongoing process. Austin helped bridge the gap between my Texan past, but coming back to Houston brings me face-to-face with who I am now. When I arrived from France I was desperate to hold on to my new found instincts, cultural attitudes, and language. This resulted in a circle of French friends who keep me culturally astute and constantly entertained by their responses to Texas culture and events. There is no spectacle bigger in Texas than the Houston Livestock and Rodeo. It’s the biggest rodeo of its kind in the world with a record of over anywhere from 60,000 to 110,000 visitors a night, and features barbecue cook-offs, carnivals, tent parties, and an ensemble of various international music acts.

I received a group email stating that Marine had received 4 passes to a tent at the rodeo. These pricey passes provide copious amounts of food and drink and it turns out that myself and two other french girls were invited.

“You must come,” says Marie. “We must experience the rodeo with a real Texan!”

I’m not sure after all my adventures how much of a Texan I still am, but to turn down a free rodeo with French girls is neither Texan or French. It’s criminal.

Our taxi drops us off within the sea of cars and people all seeking to pack into the Reliant Stadium parking lot, which will be the rodeo for the next 3 weeks. I’m eager to delve into the events, but most immediately I need to find a toilet. Fast. We buy our entry tickets and quickly navigate through the cowboys and cowgirls. Marie is constantly amazed by their outfits, while I am only amazed that I’ve been able to hold it this long. We arrive at security check and I see a row of several green portapotties. Never did wretched fecal boxes seem so heavenly.

“There they are! The toilets!” I say to them in French.

“Where? We don’t see them,” responds Marine.

“There,” I say pointing ahead. “They’re the green boxes.”

“What?! What in the world is that?”

I have no idea how to explain it in French, so I explain in English that it is a portable toilet.

“People use this?”

“Well, yeah. I know I am”

I rush into the first open one. It’s nothing special, and someone has left a present on the toilet seat. I do the deed, apply the antibacterial soap, and quickly leave. A woman tries to enter when I leave, but I  warn her of the surprise waiting for her. She says thank you, and heads to the next toilet. Meanwhile, I spot Marie standing in front of a portapotty as if to protect Aude from the next person in line.

“What are you doing?!” I yell.

“I don’t know! I am waiting for Aude!”

I laugh and turn to notice a woman wearing white pants. She very meticulously is checking every part of her outfit for porta-stains.

“Haha. You’ve got to be careful with pants like that,” I say.

“Yes, I know! I’ve gotta be lookin' good,” she replies. Meanwhile the girls arrive traumatized from their first porta potty experience.

“So how was it?” I ask.

“It waz so disguzting!” says Marie.

“Yez! It iz the first, and last time I use one!” says Marine.

The white pantsed woman looks at me perplexed.

“It’s their first time to use a porta potty. They’re French.”

“Ahhh, ok! Well ladies make sure you check yourselves nice and good.”

“Yes, you seem to know what you’re doing,” replies Marine.

“You bet I do. It ain’t my first rodeo! Haha. See ya’ll!”

We wave goodbye to the kindly lady. Suddenly it hits me. ‘It ain’t my first rodeo’ is a very common expression used simply to say it’s not one’s first time doing something. However, I have never heard it used at a rodeo!

“Isn’t this some kind of expression?” asks Marie.

“Yes...haha. It is,” I reply.

We finally enter and make our way to the tent. En route, I to run into several old high school mates who are all out for the opening night of this years festivities. Meanwhile, les françaises stop to take photos in front of anything that seems too Texan to be true.

We arrive at the tent and are led to the bar areas. We take our first couple of drinks and feast our eyes on the Texas folklore. A country band pumps out two-step worthy tunes, while young and old revel in the southern glory. Marie spots a man who she cannot stop looking at. He’s every bit of 6’5 and 300 pounds and is dawning a git-up worthy of the Wild West. She says she’s afraid, but wants to take a photo with him.

“Just ask him,” I say.

“No, no. I don’t want to be rude or something!”

“Girl, this is Texas. C’mon.”

I explain to the man the situation and he gladly poses with her. He even lets her put it on for her own photo op.

This tent is an eternal Texas haven. We dance line dances, and even take a plate or two of barbecue. I begin to feel a sense of pride that my friends are having such a great time, when I turn to see Andy, another friend from high school. He explains to me that his family has operated the tent for 20 years and welcomes us to specialty drinks. He leads us in a hearty Texas toast before getting back to his duties.

The strangest sensation comes over me. Maybe it was the recent barrage of reunions, or perhaps it's showing three french girls around a Rodeo, but it's the first time in five months that I’ve felt Texan. I turn to my girls and tell them the revelation, and they sandwich me like thick piece of spicy brisket between baguettes. I wanted to find Texas. My Texas. Somewhere between “Fried-Days” and rodeo nights, I begin to feel at home again.