Friday, March 24th, 2017

AK Monthly Recap: November 2016

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TURKEY CARVES KATE

This is a hard recap to write. This was a hard month in a hard year. I finally feel like joining everyone in declaring that 2016 was THE WORST, THE WORST, THE ABSOLUTE WORST.

That and I took almost no photographs this month. Oh, and the fact that this is a week late, when I am usually ON IT with the monthly recaps.

But as bad as this month was, there was a lot of good, too. Perhaps even some life-changing good. We shall see how it all pans out.

I’m going to be brief this month so we can put this nightmare behind us.

Iced Coffee Broome

Destinations Visited

Broome and Perth, Australia

Reading and Lynn, Massachusetts

New York, New York

Allentown, Pennsylvania

Stamford, Connecticut

Favorite Destinations

Perth is a really cool city — and getting time to wander on my own made it better.

Kate and Beth Canvasing in Allentown

Highlights

Honestly, I had a hard time finding joy this month. But there were a few moments that I really enjoyed: going to Parks and Rec trivia at Videology in Williamsburg (my team came in fourth, no thanks to me who was THE WOOOOOOOOOOORST), going out in Chinatown with my buds Jessie and Anna, and experiencing early voting in Massachusetts (where I’m still registered but won’t be for much longer) for the first time ever.

From a travel perspective, I enjoyed my last days in Broome and Perth before embarking on a very long economy class journey home (Broome-Perth-Singapore-London-Boston — and I do not recommend flying for that long!). And I had three seats in a row free from London to Boston, so I actually got to lie flat and slept FIVE AND A HALF HOURS on a flight!

I was home for my first Thanksgiving since 2009! I spent 2010 in Koh Lanta, 2011 in Istanbul, 2012 in Glasgow and London, 2013 in Chiang Mai, 2014 in Unawatuna, Sri Lanka, and 2015 in Koh Lanta again. Turns out I actually do like Thanksgiving food after all.

Pretty much every conversation I had at home this month somehow came back to the topic of newly legalized marijuana in my home state of Massachusetts, which goes into effect December 15. I’m about to know a LOT of newbie pot farmers.

I Voted

Challenges

The election. I went into it with such high hopes. I worked so hard for Hillary — donating and calling and volunteering, even more than I did for Obama in 2008. My friend Beth and I went canvassing in Allentown on the day of the election and we ended up working with the local community mostly in Spanish (a huge thrill and one I’m happy to say we pulled off!).

Jet lag from Australia hit me on a severe delay, so I had slept from 5:30-11:30 PM the night before the election and just stayed up all night into morning, then went out to canvas. We had tickets to Hillary’s event at the Javits Center, but the crowds were so crazy we left and went to a bar decked out in Hillary signs in Hell’s Kitchen.

And Hell’s Kitchen quickly turned into Hell on Earth.

I couldn’t take it. Feeling like a zombie, I went home and fell into bed at 11, missing the worst of it. Then woke up at 4:30. I didn’t leave my bed for the next ten hours. Later that day, my heart raced for several minutes and I panicked, gulping air as hard as I could and feeling like I was drowning. I’m fairly certain this was the first panic attack I’ve ever experienced. Another followed a day later.

I didn’t eat anything for three days. Then spent the next three days eating nothing but junk: Easy Mac topped with crushed tortilla chips and Frank’s Red Hot. Triple chocolate donuts from Dunkin Donuts. Those so-bad-for-you soft sugar cookies with pink frosting and sprinkles from C-Town.

Then the recovery began. I wrote this post. I donated money to the ACLU and NAACP (I donate monthly to Planned Parenthood). I joined an anti-racism group in my neighborhood. I started following my local politicians, made call after call to Congress, and planned for political action privately.

For the record — my reaction was not just because my candidate lost. My reaction was borne out of genuine fear for our country’s most vulnerable: for blacks, for Muslims, for Latinos, for LGBT individuals, for women, for immigrants. For the wave of hate crimes that has hit our country. For our environment. For having a reckless president who doesn’t understand the job requirements and has already put our safety and security at risk.

I watched Bush get reelected in 2004 while studying in Florence, a pit in my stomach. Four more years of frustration and anger. But I didn’t feel a fraction of the fear I feel today.

This election was not normal.

Kate Wardrobe Text

Most Popular Post

The Best Gifts for Travelers (Awesome AND Affordable!) — My first-ever gift guide and I am DELIGHTED at how much you guys enjoyed it!

Other Posts

Leaving is Easy. Fighting is Harder. — On choosing to stay and fight for my country.

On the Shores of a Pink Lake in Australia — SO PINK!

The Conversation We Would Be Having — All the burning questions people have for me, answered, so I can just send them this and not have to have this conversation a million times a week.

My Favorite Experiences in Western Australia — The best of WA, distilled into one monster post.

Rottnest Island

Most Popular Photo on Instagram

Look at that amazing beach on Rottnest Island in Western Australia! Even more amazing? That was taken through a window. (Don’t take the bus tour on Rottnest Island like I did. It killed me that we had to take almost all of our photos through glass.)

Reading in the Fall

What I Read This Month

Narrative of Frederick Douglass by Frederick Douglass — I haven’t read about Frederick Douglass since I was a kid, and today I live in a neighborhood where one of the main streets bears his name. It was time to dive into this memoir. To my surprise, this memoir is solely about his years in slavery; he didn’t write about his post-freedom life until much later.

And the accounts are heartbreaking. This is probably the single best account of enslavement, not least because Douglass lived slavery in so many different forms and different environments, all of them evil. From the mistress who taught him how to read then disowned him to him getting caught building a plan for escape as an adult, I found this to be one of the most difficult to read yet important accounts of this year.

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck by Mark Manson — I love Mark Manson’s writing (my favorite essay of his: Love is Not Enough), so I was looking forward to his book. This collection of essays is like an anti-self-help book, going against much conventional advice. The contrarian in me enjoyed that and much of the book had me thinking differently.

That said, like a lot of books I’ve read by celebrities and internet personalities this year, I found the book to be quite uneven. (As an internet personality myself, this is something that scares me about my own writing.) Some chapters were very good, especially the one about accepting death; others fell flat and the book took a long time to find its rhythm. I loved the vivid stories about actual people that illustrated some chapters; I wish there were more of them. Overall? Not life-changing, but thought-provoking and definitely worth the read.

Palm Trees in Broome

Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and a Culture in Crisis by J.D. Vance — This was my first book from the “trying to understand Trump voters” collection. Vance grew up a self-described hillbilly (a term he uses with pride) in Ohio with family roots in Kentucky. This memoir is a searing account of growing up in poverty amid substance abuse, physical abuse, and a rotating series of father figures, set in a mostly white working class town in decline. Vance escaped and went on to the Marines, Ohio State, and Yale Law, an anomaly to his peers.

I knew nothing about this segment of Americans, who are too often ignored, and reading about them gave me so much empathy for their struggles. That alone made it worth a read, and I’m grateful I understand more. It’s not a hardcore political read, so don’t go in expecting to read what explicitly drove people to vote for Trump.

Vance himself is a Republican. His conclusion is that the government can’t do much of anything to help people like his family because so much of their problems originate in the family structure. I don’t completely agree with him. I’ve heard of Family Intervention Projects in the UK where case workers regularly visit a family on a long-term basis, teaching everything from from how to cook simple meals to getting kids bathed, to bed, and to school on time. Years later, kids in this program had lower rates of anti-social behavior, truancy and substance abuse. There aren’t enough resources to provide this to every needy family in America, but I think a program like this would be worth exploring.

Hillbilly Elegy is a good companion to Jeannette Walls’s The Glass Castle, one of my all-time favorite memoirs, which also tells the story of growing up poor in America. It’s becoming a movie soon.

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi — Even though this book got so much buzz, I admit I had subdued expectations for another slavery read, thinking it couldn’t compare to Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad. Was I ever wrong. Homegoing is one of the most epic novels I’ve read in quite some time, and I can’t believe something this rich was written by a first-time author in her twenties.

Two half-sisters in what is now Ghana are torn apart: one is captured and sold into slavery, and the other is married to a British slaver, remaining in Africa. Seven generations on each side of the family have their stories told in vignettes, one side in Africa and one side in America, bringing in topics from British colonialism and mental illness to living as an escaped slave and heroin addiction. The stories end in the present day.

More than any other novel I’ve read, Homegoing encapsulates how slavery may have technically ended but whites have found different ways to keep African-Americans enslaved in various horrifying forms ever since. Sadly, the people who need to realize this are the ones who won’t pick this book up in the first place.

What I Listened To This Month

Back in 2008, I went on my first solo trip ever — to Buenos Aires. While there, I hung out with an American guy named Louis. And while I always knew he was into music, Louis now is Kind Of A Big Deal in the music world — he’s part of the band Autograf. (Oh, and fun fact, loyal readers, he’s in one of those ten stories you loved so much…)

I hadn’t checked out his music until this month, but I watched the above video and fell in love with that song “Dream.” I kept listening — and now I seriously love all of their music. What a find!

Nuremberg Christmas Markets

Image: charley1965

Coming Up in December 2016

German Christmas markets, here I come! I’ve visited Germany around ten times or so, but I’ve actually never been during the Christmas season!

I’ll be spending just over a week in the Bavaria region, visiting Munich, Nuremberg, Regensburg, and Passau. (I’m now in Munich as this is being published.)

That’s it for travel this month. I still feel exhausted from my six-week adventure this fall and I need to seriously stick to my goal of cutting travel down to 25% of the time! I’ll be spending Christmas with my family in Massachusetts and I hope to spend New Year’s in New York.

What are your plans for December? Share away!

Comments

43 Responses to “AK Monthly Recap: November 2016”
  1. Charmaine Ng says:

    That first picture with the turkey is hilarious! And it’s awesome you enjoyed your Thanksgiving back home. Where I live, it’s not a celebrated holidays, so I really do envy you Americans! Have fun at the German Christmas markets!
    – Charmaine

  2. chewy says:

    Definitely a hard month for many around the world 🙁
    I don’t think people who haven’t traveled much or met many international folks realize just how much the rest of the world was watching this election. I know it is said many times in the news etc., but it’s hard to really grasp how many normal human beings all around the world were/are sincerely concerned about the outcome of the election.

    I love Thanksgiving! I was glad to be home for it, especially since I won’t be back for a few more months!

    • Agreed – I’m (an American) in the UK and I went to a watch party for it. Then last week, post-election, saw a guy wearing a Bush shirt and Trump hat – not sure if he was trying to be funny, but I thought he was an asshole.

  3. S says:

    Ah, I can’t wait to read about your tips for visiting Christmas markets in Europe! I was thinking about making a (likely solo) trip to somewhere with them this year, but that ended up not being feasible due to timing with some work stuff I couldn’t miss. Maybe next year! I assume you’ll be visiting some of the NYC Christmas markets and decorations as well? I was just there last weekend and they were all crazy busy!

  4. Kate Storm says:

    I devoured Hillbilly Elegy this month as well, and also enjoyed it. It was less overtly political than I thought it would be (I first heard of it by reading a long interview Vance gave on a conservative website, the interview was more focused on the election than the book).

    Overall, a compelling read, and it reminded me forcefully of many of the people I used to work with during my time at the Oklahoma Department of Human Services.

    I haven’t read The Glass Castle–I’ll add it to the list.

  5. Nathanily says:

    Wow! Thanks for sharing that’s a good experience. I like that picture of turkey with a knife and the second picture. You just have to chill after screaming. But the lessons you got in your experience.

  6. Leah Lipka says:

    Hey Kate,
    Love your posts as always. I
    I’m going to stand strong with 10s of thousands of women who want to make sure our voices are heard and our rights protected on Janueary 21st. in DC Are you?

  7. Ola says:

    Have a good time in Bavaria! Christmas markets here are so nice! 🙂

  8. anjci says:

    Hey Kate : ) Hmm, really, you reacted so strongly to an election result? I’d say it definitely isn’t worth ruining your health over. And you live in NY and are pretty ring-fenced from most of the drama.

    I briefly cried the morning after the Brexit referendum, but life really does go on.

    • Some people may choose to barricade themselves from “the drama,” anjci, but I don’t. This is my country and I will always fight for those whose civil rights are being threatened.

    • Adrianna says:

      Kate,

      The way you put so much effort into this election is truly inspiring and even inspired me to do something about it as well! I commend you for caring about the issues going on in our beloved country. I know dealing with haters is apart of your job, but you must have had some kind of impact on them if they take time out of their day to comment 🙂

      Love your blog much, and keep fighting the good fight!

  9. Let’s just hope Trump is too busy tweeting about stupid stuff to ruin our country to his full potential – sigh.

    I’m heading to the Christmas markets but in Stuttgart and that surrounding area tomorrow. Very much looking forward to it! I hope you enjoy your time in Bavaria as well.

  10. Clare says:

    Love German Christmas markets!!! I highly recommend Munich’s Pink Christmas market and also the Medieval Christmas market.

    We’ve also got some lovely Christmas markets up here in Düsseldorf and I would be happy to show you around if you have the time. Or better yet, save us a visit for when Karneval rolls around!

    PS – long time reader, first time commenter; I really enjoy your blog! Keep up the great work!

  11. Nicole says:

    ugh i am also depressed about the election.

    im headed to mexico this month (mexico city, puebla, oaxaca and sayulita!)

  12. Kathi says:

    Enjoy the Christmas markets. I didn’t like the one in Nuremberg much – Christmas markets in smaller towns like Goslar in Lower Saxony can be so much nicer. And while in Munich, head over to Tollwood if you have time.

  13. Regan says:

    Just got back from Germany on Tuesday! I visited 8 Christmas markets in 10 days! Do try to visit a small town Christmas Market if you can…the feel is so much homier and more unique than the big city markets. Rudesheim and Speyer (home of a UNESCO site!) are probably my favorites.

  14. Stacey says:

    I loved this recap. The days after the election were surreal and dystopian. I love the actions you’re taking to combat it. I also love that you don’t sugar coat your reality as a traveler, blogger or woman. That honesty is relatable and I’m grateful for it! Makes reading your posts a delight.

  15. Brittany says:

    I am glad to read that you had the same issues I did after the election. My mom came over to watch the results with me and my wife in hopes of a celebration. Instead we were up until 3am near tears. Its been a month and this past week I finally feel like I’m not sleepwalking. I actually started exercising again! I’m a lesbian, my wife and I got married 2 years ago and we are worried sick over what is to come.

    On another note, looking forward to all of your Germany posts. That is our next trip, first time to Germany for both of us so I’m excited to read your recaps.

  16. Lynn says:

    I really like these recaps you do. I only skim the travel part (because I usually read the actual posts on the places), but it’s fun seeing a wrap-up, especially the books you’re reading. I’m always looking for book recs.

  17. I like your picture with the Thanksgiving knife, necessary to get a little light relief!

    The election result in America was awful, and we were all really upset, and I’m not even from the USA. I’m British! Just like Brexit, as a British personality in Germany, it was difficult trying to explain what went wrong.

    However, you’re right. This year wasn’t all bad. There were good points too. I did a lot of travelling, I did some more Britsh monarchy media stuff, I was offered a new job, I got a Christmas invitation from the office of the Federal Republic of Germany, AND I get to experience a German Xmas Market every winter, for as long as I want lol!

    Have lots of fun in Bavaria! 😀

  18. Adrianna says:

    I’m headed on my FIRST SOLO TRIP to the U.K. for the holidays 🙂 Christmas will be in Edinburgh and NYE in Dublin… I almost bought tickets to Germany for the Christmas markets, I can’t wait to read about them! Have fun, and happy holidays!

  19. Dominique says:

    Christmas markets are my favourite!! I’m on my way to Switzerland to see my very first Swiss Christmas market!

  20. Katie says:

    I feel your pain and fear about the election. I voted a day early and left at 9am on Election Day for a 22 hour flight to Bangkok with my sister just knowing sanity would prevail, right? When we landed in Hong Kong for our layover someone asked a girl with 3G if she could check the election results. I’m not exaggerating when I say the entire plane fell silent. What a way to begin a first trip to Thailand!
    Despite everything it was the trip of a lifetime, but coming home was hard. Just now coming to terms with the fact that even though I feel utterly defeated it is more important now more than ever to fight for equality and tolerance.

  21. Jono says:

    Talk about overreaction to an election which will probably not even make much difference as they are all the same. So u prefer a corrupt career politician over someone who wants the country to grow and prosper and stay safe…thankfully some americans have sense

  22. I always look forward to your monthly recap posts and book recommendations. I’m reading the underground railroad now. Can’t wait to hear about the Christmas markets.

  23. Carolyn says:

    What were you doing in Allentown? I went to college there and am always curious on other people’s thoughts of the Lehigh Valley.

  24. Zascha Friis says:

    I was watching the election at a bar in Saigon, Vietnam. I’m not even American but my God, I felt like crying!

  25. Sharon Anck says:

    Hi Kate, I just saw this post and had to comment. I’m glad I’m not the only one who had such feelings on the day after the election. I also had a full blown panic attack with blood pressure so high I ended up going to the doctor. Like you, I’m trying to figure out what to do next. I guess being vigilant and vocal is a start. I agree that my reaction had nothing to do with my party losing. If any other experienced Republican would have won I would have been sad but not panicked. I feel so helpless.

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