“There are no foreign lands. It is the traveler only who is foreign.” – Robert Louis Stevenson

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Greetings 2011


Dear Friends and Family,

As I lie awake exhausted but wide awake from jet lag, I'm reflecting on my year: another truly amazing one, filled with the upheaval of moving and the joys of friendships and travel! I didn't manage a Christmas letter last year, but had a great 2010 with trips to places like Samoa, Kurdistan in Iraq, and Alaska. Spectacular!

Cape Town's Table Mountain
White Sharks!
Penguins on the Cape of Good Hope Peninsula
I started 2011 in Cape Town, South Africa, where I was with my family to share in the celebration of my cousin Cherie's wedding. Had an amazing trip down the Cape of Good Hope peninsula, went out diving with the sharks, and joined a fantastic safari in Hluhluwe-Imflozi National Park (left), where I managed to catch a glimpse of the big 5.
Aside from small trips to the UAE to visit my parents (we had a great trip to the Musandam Peninsula in Oman one weekend), and to the UK for a job fair, the highlights of the first term included trips with friends to amazing Georgia and around picturesque northern Azerbaijan. Georgia, still possibly one of my favorite countries in the world with its warm, welcoming people, glorious good (which I miss considerably), and spectacular scenery, brushed with resilience through hardship.
Marquands on Musandam
Beautiful Tbilisi, Georgia
Azerbaijan near Xinaliq
For the Azeri new year (Novruz), I jetted down to Tanzania (via Dubai, of course!), and caught up with friends in Dar Es Salaam. While not quite fulfilling the dream of climbing Kilimanjaro, I spent a hot few days in Zanzibar diving and catching some sun, while taking many photos of Stonetown.

Stonetown, Zanzibar, Tanzania
My summer was spent visiting friends across North America and I delighted in Canadian cottages, Michigan sand dunes and beaches, VA dinners, DC museums, and even a Dave Matthews concert. I am truly astonished at the number of American foundations that are solely in existence to offer up fantastic lesson plans, courses, and general support for teachers. There was even one offering a free summer course (all you had to pay was transport and they covered room, board and training, and it was great training, too!). Thus I spent a week in Williamsburg, VA with the Foundation for Teaching Economics. If you had told me 5 years ago that I would be teaching Economics, I would have laughed at you, but I find that I love it.


After 3 fantastic years in Azerbaijan, I decided to embark on a new journey, and after pondering many places (thanks for all your tips and advice!), I chose Bogota, Colombia, where I’m working at the Colegio Anglo Colombiano, a bi-lingual school for Colombians. However, before I started, I decided to get my Spanish from non-existent to very basics at a Spanish language school in Antigua, Guatemala. What a gorgeous town it is! There I also visited the Lago de Atitlan and climbed a very active volcano!
Volcanoes from Antigua

Ancient Antigua, Guatemala
Lago de Atitlan
In August I moved to my new country where there are amazing new and old teachers whom I have loved getting to know and share the journey of a new place with. I have rediscovered salsa dancing, and enjoyed the new forms of dance and music like reggaeton, samba, rumba, merengue, etc. I still miss my rock bands in Baku with golden oldies and more, but particularly love the Cuban music in the lovely old suburb of Usaquen. 
Colegio Anglo Colombiano
 I went to the coastal city of Santa Marta (Taganga, left) in October to enjoy beach time with friends where I was introduced to ceviche (a delicious prawn salad mix) and completed my Advanced Open Water -- can't believe I didn't do it years ago - it was easy! I look forward to exploring the diving of the Galapagos, San Andreas, and Gorgona in the near future with whales in migration and other exciting things.
Taganga near Santa Marta

In October Andre got married and I had the wonderful honor of taking the photos. It took place in a romantic Dulwich, London setting. Immediately upon return, I took a group of students to the Colombian Amazon (pics, left). They were an amazing group of students, mostly girls by chance, and we did some fantastic things. I slept in the jungle in an ingenious hammock with mosquito net, rappelled up trees, went hunting for crocodiles and anacondas, saw the pink dolphins, tarantulas capybaras, blue parrots, monkeys, and generally had an amazing time. I think my favorite thing was the bird song in the jungle!
I have arrived into Dubai where I will spend Xmas with my parents and we will jet off to ancient Persepolis and Ghesm Island in Iran. I’m also really looking forward to visiting my old friends in Baku for a week in January as well.

I continue to be inspired by friends across the world's journeys and joie de vivre. Your lust for life is magical! My 2 Jos in Iraq, Graydon and Tamara's multiple bike rides across the world, Cara's marathons, Kate’s, Nick’s and Mum's art. I have also loved seeing other friends move to new places and experiencing the joys of travel. Other friends have had babies and families and it is a gift to watch these new lives emerge on such a fantastic tool as Facebook. I recently swapped over to the FB ‘timeline’ and it was wonderful to be able to go back in time and see all the memories and people that make life worth it!

May you all have Happy Holidays and best wishes for a fantastic 2012 where your dreams come true!
xxoo Natalya
   

3 comments:

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Musandam Khasab said...

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Ali Dhow said...

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