Second Weather Delay in 4 Days

For the second time in the first 4 days of a 42 day trip, I have been delayed by weather. Because of the Beast from the East, everyone in Edinburgh is stranded for the day (three days now, actually. A new friend from my hostel [shout out to Jane if you are reading this!] has been stranded here since Wednesday.) No trains, planes, buses, or even cars out, which means I will be in Edinburgh another night – perhaps it’s the universe giving me back some of the time that was taken away by my delay to Newark!

Even though it is horribly wet outside and I only have a pair of mesh tennis shoes, I didn’t want to spend the whole day indoors. So I decided to do my favorite travel past-time: Wandering, getting absolutely lost, and using that to get to know the city.

Now, if you know me very well, you know I am irrationally petrified of a zombie apocalypse (thanks to watching the original Night of the Living Dead. Not recommended for the faint of heart like me.) Because of this fear, I actively avoid going near cemeteries. It is a rare occurrence for me to willingly go traipsing around one – I always have flashbacks to that scene in Hocus Pocus where the zombie bursts out of his coffin.


Like I said – irrationally petrified. But today, I was so desperate for something interesting to do that I willingly went and explored a cemetary. Alone. Completely vulnerable to the zombies should they rise up in this devil of a snow storm. Picture evidence:

Hopefully the last photo is a good testament to how much snow Edinburgh has gotten. It is easily 8 inches, possibly more. There are times when you put your foot down into the powder and it goes all the way to your shin. It is not too surprising that essentially the entire UK is reeling, barely able to function. I just find it absolutely hilarious that the storm of the century would happen in the 3 days that I was set to visit Edinburgh. But hey, who can really complain about being trapped in a country filled with the best whiskey, gin, and bourbon in the world? And some pretty awesome dancing too.

P.S. Dad – thankfully the zombies did not rise up while I was visiting the cemetery, so I’m still alive!

Bonus pictures:

Ceilidh: Traditional Scottish Dancing

After spending the entire day sleeping the jet lag away (and hiding from the snow storm, aptly named the ‘Beast from the East’. I’m not joking. Google it.), I came to the conclusion that I had to do something outside of my hostel room to salvage the day. Lucky for me, hostels are awesome and often have nightly events organized for guests. And since the snow storm was so terrible, nearly every guest at this hostel planned on attending the ‘Ceilidh’ (pronounced ‘Kay-lid’ I think) organized last night.

So, with three inches of snow on the ground and the storm still coming down strong, myself and about 40 other twenty-something year olds bundled up and set out into the snow to make the trek to a pub about 10 minutes walk away where the Ceilidh was taking place.

Not our best idea in the world. By the time we actually got to the pub, our clothes were coated in snow (and the lions mane [my hair] was pure white and frozen solid). But it was worth it. I wish I had the words to describe how truly hilarious it is to watch a bunch of foreigners, most a few beers deep, attempt Scottish dancing, but unfortunately I don’t. So here are some videos instead:

Essentially Snowed In

Finally arrived to Edinburgh – one problem: the giant snow storm that took over the rest of Europe in the past week just hit the UK and has shut everything down.

Those are the view from the hostel window, which has basically been the only part of Edinburgh I’ve seen besides the places along the bus route here. After having to drag my suitcase up a giant, snowy hill to the hostel, I was exhausted enough to sleep all day.

Side note – I really should remember that if your hostel is next to a castle, that means it is at the top of a hill. And you should take a taxi.

Hopefully it’ll be better tomorrow so I can see more of the city, but as of now the city is shut down and I’m taking shelter in the hostel, watching the snow from a distance.

P.S. Dad – I’m exhausted and freezing, but still alive. (Yes, it is the return of the ‘I’m not gonna call my dad everyday so here is proof I am alive’ sign off)

A Bit of A Delay

When the plane broke yesterday, there was the usual massive group of angry passengers vying to get on the next possible flight to their destination. I, on the other hand, was very flexible – I’ll be in Europe 6 weeks, I don’t mind a day delay. So I decided to call customer service and have them rebook me, staying very calm and open to whatever works best for the airline. Maybe if I’m nice enough they’ll upgrade me, right? (It has happened before.)

Unfortunately for me, I got the world’s most incompetent representative. According to this employee, every flight for the next week is preemptively delayed and my only choice is to go to Charolette (a 3 hour drive away) to fly out; fly into Gatwick (a 1 hour train from Edinburgh); or refund my ticket (which would mean buying a $2000 last minute, one way ticket with another airline). Obviously none of these were acceptable options. 😑

Instead I spent 40minutes on the phone, and finally convinced the employee to put me on an early connection to Newark on the 27th, and get me on (accord to him) ‘the next 8pm connection to Edinburgh’. With a disturbingly long layover in Newark. Now, later I found out there is an 8pm connection every day, but at the time I agreed I did not know this. (Future update – all flights were on time and I had a sickening 5 hours to kill time in the most boring and expensive airport on earth.)

So essentially my Edinburgh trip is going to be cut short a few days, but I’m okay with it. I got to repack and take out some pointless things, go to the gym for an unnecessarily long run, eat some delicious home cooked food, and cuddle with Phantom more. But good lord, 7 pointless hours at the airport and a horribly incompetent customer service representative was not the best way to start a long trip.

Side note – if you ever have checked bags and need to be rebooked, only talk with the airline representative at the desk because you’ll have to talk to them anyway to get your bags back/changed to your new reservation. Not worth dealing with a person on the phone.

Attempt Number One

I was suppose to fly out of Raleigh today. I said goodbye to Phantom, packed my bags in the car, went to the airport, and sat there – for 4 hours. The weather front in the northeast delayed my flight from RDU to Newark to the very last second; any more time and I would have for sure missed my connection.

To my relief, we boarded the plane and I was off on my Grand Adventure 2018! The plane started down the runway, picking up speed fast. But right as the wheels were lifting off the ground, the plane came to a screeching halt, essentially taking off and landing at the same time.

The first thought through my head was ‘oh gosh, is another plane in our way? Will we have enough runway to stop?’ Ultimately I settled on ‘well, this is a new experience!’

It turns out the plane had a mechanical error where there was a massive flux in power to the engines in the middle of takeoff. Thankfully we were in a position to stop easily and no one was hurt, but of the thousands of flights I’ve taken – and of the thousands my best friend who works for the airline had taken – we had never heard of that kind of error.

No such thing as uneventful travel for me though, right?

My Next ‘Grand Adventure’ 2018 Edition

Well, Sebastian let the cat out of the bag! Starting February 26th, I will be back in Europe for a 6 week grand adventure – including my first trip to the Middle East! (I need a new title for this one… ideas anyone?)

The itinerary is:

  • 26 February to 2 March: Edinburgh, Scotland
  • 2 March to 7 March: London, England
  • 7 March to 12 March: Barcelona, Spain
  • 12 March to 15 March: Paris, France
  • 15 March to 20 March: Munich, Germany
  • 20 March to 25 March: Bonn, Germany (for the UN Sustainable Development Festival!)
  • 25 March to 30 March: Berlin, Germany

And finally!

  • 30 March to 6 April: Beirut, Lebanon!

Now, unlike my last few adventures, this time I have two amazing friends coming with me for (most) of the time – my best friend from high school, Lauren; and the amazing, intelligent Karol! Plus some other awesome meet-ups with amazing people along the way (shout out to the Balcony Police reunion in Barcelona!)

And as always – any and all friends in/near the cities I will be visiting, please let me know! What is traveling for if not to visit with lifelong friends along the way! ❤️🌎🌍🌏

New Orleans – A Food Guide

The past week I spent some quality time with my father in one of my favorite places in the United States: New Orleans, Louisiana.

For most people New Orleans (pronounced “Nah-lens” by the locals; shortened to ‘NOLA’ by the tourism office) is a place to drink, party the night away, and barely remember the trip (essentially the southern version of Los Vegas). But for my father and I, it is a place to get some of the BEST food in the world. And the best beignets. I would kill for a fresh Café Du Monde beignet. (Beignets are essentially a french donut. But better than any donut you’ve ever had.) Now, there is an argument between Café Du Monde and Café Beignet for who has the best – but this is essentially a Dunkin Donuts vs. Krispy Kreme debate: it all depends on the person. And I’m for Café Du Monde all the way (they are less rich and doughy, analogous to Krispy Kreme).

Many years ago, when my brother and I were very young, my dad used to work in NOLA. He would leave my mom at home in NC to fly down for a week, then fly back up with stories of all the amazing food he ate. Which mom didn’t exactly love – she was stuck with two terrors for children (without fail, my brother would get sick right when my dad left; and I was just never an easy child – always too stubborn for my own good), while he got to have some of the best food in the world.

With all that time in NOLA, dad became a foody before a foody was even a thing. No joke – he took me out to dinner in NC to plan out every place we were going to eat – breakfast, lunch, and dinner – during our trip. We were eating while planning what to we would eat every day the next week.

A bit too much, in my opinion, but that’s how dad travels.

Anyway – to spread the food wealth, here is a list of our absolute favorite places:

  • Mother’s: 401 Poydras St; the best Southern breakfast I have ever eaten!
  • Saint Cecilia: 91 French Market Pl; this place is basically a mix of hipster-brunch and southern comfort breakfasts. We were going to go here for dinner, but thankfully we decided to go for brunch instead. Their Chicken and Waffles kept me full for I’m hungry even just thinking about them.
  • Gumbo Shop: 630 St Peter St; I’m not one for Gumbo normally (because outside of NOLA people make it much too spicy) but this place is just…incredible. Highly recommend the Chicken Andouille Gumbo – plus: its been voted the best by locals.img_3058
  • Café Sbisa: 1011 Decatur St; Built in one of the oldest buildings in the city, the food isn’t the only amazing thing in this restaurant. The mirrors are actually discolored by how old they are; its extremely interesting to see! And the food was to die for. Highly recommend the Prime Pork Ribeye!
  • Trinity Restaurant: 1117 Decatur St; At first I thought this place was a bit more hipster than I would like, but as usual for New Orleans, the food was better than anything you could find anywhere else. I decided to get a vegetarian dish, and I’ve never had any vegetables as delicious as here.
  • And my favorite:Broussard’s Resturant: 819 Conti St; this is one of the most famous restaurants in NOLA, and there is a reason for that. It is definitely more expensive, but I have literally never had a better meal in my life. Also, you must try the Bananas Foster (a dessert) and the Hurricane (an alcoholic drink):img_3073


Totally amazing trip! And now everything I eat tastes bland in comparison…

Is Global Zero Just a Utopia Impossible to Attain?

As President Obama stated in his address to the Security Council on 24 Sept 2009, the United Nations (UN) “was founded at the dawn of the Atomic Age in part because man’s capacity to kill had to be contained.”[1] Since its creation, the UN has been tasked with one of the most difficult processes of our area – total nuclear disarmament. For example, both the General Assembly and the Security Council, in articles 11.1 and 26 respectively, are tasked with the regulation of armaments for the purpose of maintaining international peace and security.[2] To date, ten nations have obtained nuclear weapons – the United States, Russia, the United Kingdom, France, China, India, Pakistan, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), Israel, and South Africa (not including former Soviet Union states who possessed weapons at the fall of the Soviet Union.) Only one of these nations, South Africa, has yet to fully disarmed its nuclear stockpile.[3]


At the beginning of the nuclear age, Albert Einstein wrote a letter to President Franklin D. Roosevelt warning of the dangerous of this new weapon. “A single bomb of this type,” he warned, “carried by boat or exploded in a port, might very well destroy the whole port together with some of the surrounding territory.”[4] This warning was effectively disregarded. Instead, after the devastation in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the global superpowers of the time began a global arms race to create and stock pile as many nuclear weapons as they could. In 1949, the Soviet Union (USSR) became the second nation to successfully test a nuclear bomb. Shortly after, in 1952, the United States took nuclear weapons a step further and successfully tested the hydrogen bomb, followed shortly by the USSR’s first successful test of the hydrogen bomb in 1953.[5]


But quickly scientists raised the alarm, alerting politicians to the potential negative affects nuclear weapons testing could have on the air, soil, and water supplies.[6] This lead to the creation of the Partial Test-Ban Treaty (PTBT), negotiated through the auspices of the United Nations in 1963, calling for the end to all nuclear weapons testing. However, despite the PTBT, China and France – neither of which ratified the treaty – continued to test nuclear weapons for many years.[7] Thus began a long history of nations limiting aspects of nuclear weapons use, though never actually banning nuclear weapons in totality; and nations choosing not to ratify or comply with the treaties, therefore disregarding the international law and effectively classifying the treaties as functionally rhetorical documents.


After the PTBT, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) was creating in 1968, and came into force in 1970. Currently, 191 states have joined the treaty, including all five permanent members, which is the largest number of states party to any arms limitation and disarmament agreement.[8] In theory, this largest participation would be a signal of the treaty’s success; however, four nuclear-weapons-possessing states are currently not states party to the treaty – Israel, DPRK, India, and Pakistan. Unfortunately, these are also four of the world’s nations which are most likely to use their weapons due to current conflicts in their region (or, in the case of the DPRK, current policy by the ruling government).


In addition to the efforts of the international community during the Cold War, the United States and the Soviet Union entered into a series of bilateral agreements with each other. These include the Strategic Arms Limitations Talks (SALT) in 1972, which led to a ban on ballistic missiles and limitations on offensive nuclear weapons; and the SALT-II negotiations in 1979 to strengthen and finalize SALT-I. However, it is notable that the SALT-I negotiations were limited to offensive nuclear weapons only – therefore allowing both nations to continue research on and stockpiling of nuclear weapons for ‘defensive purposes’. Further, SALT-II was never ratified by the US Senate (and therefore never entered force) due to concerns over the Soviet Union’s nuclear weapons in Cuba.[9]


In the 1980s, the United States and the Soviet Union entered into bilateral negotiations again with the Intermediate Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, which banned all nuclear armed ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges between 500 and 5,500 kilometers, and their infrastructure. This was the first nuclear agreement to reduce arms numbers, rather than establish ceilings that could not be exceeded, and led to the destruction of about 2,700 weapons.[10] However, after the fall of the Soviet Union, the INF Treaty had to be multilateralized to apply to the twelve successor states of the USSR. Six of these states – Belarus, Kazakhstan, Russia, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan – contain inspectable INF facilities in their territory. Of these six nations, however, only four – Belarus, Kazakhstan, Russia, and Ukraine – are active participants in the INF implementation process.[11]


The 1990s also saw bilateral negotiations between the United States and the Soviet Union. In 1991, the two states signed the first Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START-I), which reduced the strategic nuclear weapons by 30-40%.[12] The second round of negotiations, START-II, furthered the reductions. However, the Soviet Union ratified START-II under the condition that the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) treaty of 1972 remain in force.[13] In 2002, the Bush Administration withdrew from the ABM, causing Russia to no longer be bound by START-II.[14]


This was of little importance, though, as the START-II had never entered force – it was effectively superseded by the Moscow Treaty on Strategic Offensive Reductions (SORT), which was negotiated on May 24th, 2002.[15] While SORT contained provisions similar to that of START I and START II, and went further by calling for the destruction of warheads, SORT lacked a timetable for reductions, simply stating both the US and Russia would implement their reductions by December 31, 2012 – the date that the pact expires. This has lead some to conclude that the treaty was technically impossible to violate.[16] As international law’s coercive enforcement mechanisms can only be used should a state violate a treaty, SORT effectively becomes solely rhetorical – there is no way to ensure implementation.


As SORT had superseded START, the New START negotiations of 2010 superseded SORT. Under the New START, the United States and Russia have until 5 February 2018 to meet the limitations in nuclear arms set out by the treaty. The treaty does not, however, limit testing, development, or deployment of current or planned missile defense programs or long-range conventional strike capabilities.[17] As of September 1, 2017, six months before the treaty is to lapse, both nations have declared their arms capabilities to be within the agreed upon limits.[18]


After the Cold War, while the United States and Russia have been conducting bilateral agreements with each other for the reduction of nuclear weapons, the United Nations has been used to complete two important nuclear arms agreements. In September 1996, the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) was opened for signature. However, the treaty states it will not enter into force until “all 44 States listed in Annex 2 of the Treaty have ratified it.” This has caused serious complications that have led the treaty, 20 years after opening for signature, never to enter into force. Today, 8 of the required 44 nations continue to refuse ratification of the treaty, namely: China, DPRK, Egypt, India, Iran, Israel, Pakistan, and the United States. This list also includes 6 of the 9 nuclear-weapons-possessing states. Despite regular conferences to persuade these nations to sign and ratify the CTBT, held in 1999, 2003, 2007, 2001, 2005, 2009, 2011, and 2013, the CTBT still lacks the ratifications required to enter into force.[19]


The next attempt by the United Nations for a multilateral agreement banning nuclear weapons worldwide occurred 20 year later, in July of 2017. The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons prohibits ‘all efforts to develop, test, produce, manufacture, acquire, possess or stockpile nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices, as well as the use or threat of use of these weapons.’[20] With 122 nations voting in favor of this treaty, it would appear to be a success. However, this overlooks the nations who chose to be absent from the negotiations of the treaty, namely: the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Russia, China, India, Pakistan, Israel, and the DPRK. As you will recall, these are all of the nuclear weapons possessing states. Also absent from the negotiations were many of the ally states of these nations, who could – in theory – persuade the governments of these nations to assent to the treaty. In a joint statement, the United States, the United Kingdom, and France clearly declared their intention not to sign, ratify or ever become part of the treaty, stating that the treaty is “incompatible with the policy of nuclear deterrence, which has been essential to keeping the peace in Europe and North Asia for over 70 years.”[21] This statement summarizes the current reality of the international stage – no matter how long the international community works towards nuclear non-proliferation; no matter how many treaties are negotiated for this purpose; as long as nuclear weapons nations maintain nuclear deterrence as a cornerstone of their foreign policy, these nations will retain their nuclear weapons.


A further complication for nuclear weapons use is the reality that nuclear materials are not solely used for creation of weapons; these materials are also used for the creation of an alternate form of energy, for medical uses, for agricultural uses, and for industrial uses. In the late 1990s, around 17% of the world’s electricity was nuclear-generated.[22] Today, that number has decreased slightly to 11%; however, some countries, such as France, are almost completely reliant on nuclear energy.[23] While there is controversy towards the risk of the use of nuclear energy that has led to the decrease in its use, there is little controversy towards the use of nuclear techniques in treating medical diseases, such as cancer.[24] Nor is there much controversy towards the use of nuclear techniques to improve agricultural techniques, or to advance our industrial capabilities with new products created through the use of nuclear materials.[25]


As long as the use of nuclear technology pose some benefits to the world that cannot be achieved by other means, nuclear materials will continue to exist. And as long as nuclear materials exist in the world, whether they are currently used for weapons purposes or not, there is a risk of the materials being weaponized. This therefore casts serious doubt on the possibility of global zero for nuclear weapons being achieved. After all, even if all nuclear weapons are disarmed and disassembled, as long as the materials exist it will be possible for powers – either state actors or non-state actors – to reconstruct the nuclear weapons. And as long as there is a risk that an enemy of a state can obtain nuclear weapons, nations – such as France, the United Kingdom, and the United States – will maintain their foreign policy of nuclear deterrence, therefore refusing to relinquish their defensive nuclear weapons.


As outlined in this essay, despite extensive efforts to limit nuclear testing, offensive nuclear weapons stockpiles, and to ultimately completely eliminate all nuclear weapons, there have always been obstacles too great for the international law to ultimately succeed. Further, the world relies on nuclear materials to achieve important advancements in agriculture and industry, and to treat deadly diseases like cancer. However, until the day that all nations are willing to completely relinquish both their offensive and defensive nuclear weapons, and nuclear materials are no longer used in any capacity in any part of the world – two preconditions that are highly unlikely to ever be achieved – a global zero for nuclear weapons will remain a utopia, impossible to be achieved.




[2] UN Charter


[4] Albert Einstein’s Letter to President Franklin D. Roosevelt



[7] Ibid.




[11] Ibid.


[13] Ibid.



[16] Ibid.





[21] Ibid.

[22] Blix, H. (1997) The Good uses of Nuclear Energy. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Vienna, Austria.


[24] Ibid.

[25] Ibid.

A Global Citizen

A few months ago, I read an article deriding the use of the term ‘global citizen,’ suggesting that the moniker should no longer be used. And it has really stuck with me. According to the article, the use of this classification is misleading – everyone has citizenship in one country or another, there can be no such thing as a ‘global’ citizen.


I disagree – true, the phrase as a moniker has been used too widely; however, it does classify a specific population of people. A global citizen is a person who has experienced the world; who has lived in multiple countries; who has travelled extensively and has taken time in each place to learn the culture of each group of people. A global citizen is a person who no longer can classify themselves as simply their original nationality, nor can they accurately classify themselves as any of the nationalities in which they have lived. A global citizen is a person stuck in the middle ground – not totally A, but also not totally B. After 18 years of living in the United States, 6 years living in Canada, and assorted months in between living in Australia, Colombia, and Netherlands, I fully classify myself in this middle ground. I am not longer fully an ‘American’ – but neither am I a Canadian (or Australian, Colombian, nor Dutch.) In this strange middle ground, I encapsulate habits of all the countries I have lived and many of the countries I have visited. I still maintain a collection of behaviors from my American upbringing, while also often speaking like a Canadian; I continue to use Australian slang from the months I lived on the Sunshine Coast, while also maintaining habits I learned in the Netherlands. I am, therefore, ultimately placed in the middle ground of not truly being any one nationality – and there is only one title which I can claim: global citizen.


After my time in the Netherlands, I was speaking with a close friend of mine who has also lived in multiple countries and has travelled extensively. I explained to my friend how difficult I found it to describe my nationality – she agreed. She has the same trouble. While she is originally Singaporean, she is also a Canadian. Having grown up in Singapore, she is identifies as Singaporean – but she also was taught at an American school, and has spent the past 7 years in Canada. And she has the same trouble as me – she is not fully classified as any of the nationalities of which she claims. So what is she then? She is as I am – a global citizen. A person who has travelled extensively, lived in multiple countries, and observed the cultures of each place she has lived.


In a time such as the one we live, where people can easily traverse national borders, it is understandable that the idea of ‘global citizen’ can be applied too broadly. Any person who travels, who learns of different cultures in an academic setting, can call themselves a ‘global citizen’. And it is understandable why this over classification could cause problems. That being said, should said person travel, live, and absorb the cultures in which they explore, the moniker of ‘global citizen’ is not a false one – for some people, it is the only moniker to which we apply.

Life Update – Introducing Phantom, the Toy Australian Shepherd

Two years ago today, I lost my best friend and baby girl, Carma. Last year today, I was escaping my grief by preparing to leave on my Grand Adventure in Europe. This year today, I have finally gotten enough courage and faced enough of my pain that I decided I could finally have another puppy in my life again – meet Phantom (because his face reminded me of Phantom of the Opera and I’m a nerd), a toy Australian Shepherd.

Not going to lie, its been a bit hard having a new puppy because it reminds me how much I miss my Carma, but I know she would be happy as long as I am happy – and I know she would have loved to play with her little brother!


Little baby, Phantom (yes, he is that tiny!)
My Carma and I, Christmas 2011