About Melinda Skea

Melinda Skea

Melinda Skea got a taste for adventure as her family moved from America's West to its hospitable south and eventually settled in its fast-paced New England corner. She studied International Relations and Spanish at Brigham Young University and subsequently embarked on a round-the-world trip which included Asia, Oceania and Europe. She has since found a home base in Washington D.C. where she works as an editor for a non-profit publication, but still finds time to put a few stamps in her passport each year.

Melinda is also the founder of D.C.-based Fashion Freecycle, which strives to limit the growing problem of clothing pollution by making "One [wo]man's trash another [wo]man's treasure". These quarterly events encourage women to donate items and swap them for ones they find useful. Also an avid film lover, in 2008 Melinda began a monthly Foreign Film Night, which strives to create an atmosphere of openness, respect and learning as participants dine on the country-of-choice local cuisine and enjoy cinema outside of the usual Blockbuster.


Latest Posts by Melinda Skea

A Oui Bit of Paris

September 28, 2012 by  

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If you had a total of 32 hours in Paris, what would you do? Well, I’ll tell you what I would do. Under normal circumstances I would run around like a crazy person trying to see everything I could. However, if your vacation is along the same vein as mine, i.e. you’re taking it as it comes; no books, no real planning and no map, then here’s your list:Un: After dropping your luggage off at a hotel (and noshing at Angelina’s) make your way to the Louvre and take as many touristy photos as possible. Or just paparazzi your friends. *and thus disproving my early assertion. Missing: miming photo… how did we forget a miming photo?!

Deux: From the Louvre, cross the road and head toward Pont Des Arts bridge to witness the many declarations of love from around the world. My favorite: Love overcomes all barriers and distances (photographed below.)

Tois:Jump on the next hop-on-hop-off bus coming around the corner and (even if it’s cold) head to the upper deck for some great shots (besides the lambo):

Quatre:When you’re feeling a bit peckish, pull out your afternoon snack you wisely purchased at Angelina’s. Unlike me, however, you’ll be smart enough not to stick it next to your camera… right? I’d recommend the nutella and pistachio!

Cinq: When you’ve completed round one of the bus circuit, hop off to do a bit of Parisian shopping. Wander aimlessly, you really can’t go wrong! For example, we ran into the flower shop (right) and didn’t want to leave. I was drinking it in with my eyes an my nose… heaven!

Six: However, for the best shopping, I recommend wandering aimlessly in the direction of La Grande Epicerie. If you’re looking for true Parisian goods minus the tourist price, it’s a great spot. I bought two bars of soap (honey and almond) for 2 euro each, a packet of loose leaf tea (samarcande) for 4 euro, a shopping bag for 2 euro and some of the coolest multi-colored pasta I’ve ever seen for 4 euro. I really wanted some black and white stripped jumbo bowtie pasta and these multi-colored striped sombrero pastas but they were a bit more fragile, so maybe next time… if I have a suitcase.


Sept:
All major monuments should be done during the day and at night, in my opinion. Just because you’ve seen it once doesn’t mean you’re done.

Huit: After a good night’s sleep,hit the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower first thing in the a.m. Take some water and plan wisely. With limited time, it’s best to set goals for your artsy perusal.

Neuf: Pay your respects to Quasimoto at Notre Dame. If you have time, stand in line for the Bell Tower but if not at least view the main cathedral; it’s free, you have nothing to lose!

Dix: As you’re seated on the train back to London, make a list of the things you want to see but didn’t get to this round. For example, the Musee d’Orsay, Versailles, wandering the Champs-Elysees, the Sacre Coeur and the Rodin Museum (especially to see him!)

A Butcher, A Baker

December 23, 2011 by  

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Unclear if Sweeney Todd was also candlestick maker.On Friday my parents and I went into Reading to do some last minute Christmas shopping and explore (weather permitting.)We wandered around the mall, where I perused Zara–and miraculously only bought a bottle of perfume–acquired a disposable phone, and found the most amazing children’s book I’ve seen in ages. We also wandered around Marks & Spencers where we purchased some Penny Pigs, Rosy Noses and Percy & Friends to try (side note: so sorry to those I said I would buy some for, I didn’t get to go back…went to Switzerland instead!)

We then went to my dad’s favorite pie shop, Sweeney & Todd, for another Cornish pasty. I’m somewhat of a purist so when I saw pie options like:

1. Steak and Oyster

2. Steak and Kidney

3. Venison and Boar

4. Chicken with Leek

5. Five nations (wha?!)

6. Vicars (double wha?!)

7. Pork and Apple

I was a bit overwhelmed. I played it safe and asked what the most popular pies were and settled on the rump steak and stilton. I’ll be honest, the stilton was too much for me so I switched with my mom for the chicken and broccoli.

love the British side salad…

However, there were others like:

1. Lamb and Mint

2. Chicken and Sweetcorn

3. Chicken, Honey and Mustard

4. Cheese and Vegetable

5. Chicken Cajun

that in hindsight I really wish I could try. Ah well; next time, right?

True Definition

December 17, 2011 by  

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You’ve never had chocolate until you’ve had Belgian chocolate.When my original plans to stay in Paris fell through, my parents were kind enough to let me crash their mini vacation. After the 1 hour train ride from Paris to Brussels (seriously, why can’t he U.S. get high speed rail already?!) I made my way to their hotel–located right next to the European Parliament I might add. They were just waking up from their naps, having arrived a few hours earlier on their flight, so I took the opportunity to jump in the shower to feel a bit better about life.Once we were all properly bundled up, we began our adventure to explore Brussels. However, we didn’t get very far. What was the road block, you ask? A chocolate shop… Neuhaus to be exact. I tried a bit of marzipan, a chocolate dipped orange rind (fav) and bought a square of chocolate with speculoos for us all to sample. After my parents made their purchases we continued on our way.Over the next two days we wandered by the Royal Palace, walked past the Brussels Park, up to the Church fo Saint Jacques-sure-Coudenberg, perused the Christmas Market, witnessed the Manneken Pis not pissing, and into many chocolate shops along the way. In the Grote Markt alone there were 10 chocolate shops… Godiva, Leonidas, Guylian, Cote-d’Or, Bruyerre, Jacques, Dolfin, Galler, Marcolini and more. I tried bits of chocolate in each shop, bought a tin from Bruyerre, somehow resisted a cone of Godiva chocolate dipped strawberries for 5 euros (kicking myself for that) and enjoyed the random assortments of heavenly –non waxy– chocolate. I’m a bit sad I didn’t try Marcolini… my taxi driver to the airport said it’s the best. Ce’est la vie. However, I did stop (twice) for a Belgian waffle. Ends up, the U.S. is totally doing it wrong… it was amazing! Slightly crispy, warm and not overly sweet. I tried it once with just chocolate then the next time with nutella and strawberries; I prefer the latter but definitely would not turn down a freshly made real Belgian waffle any scrumptious topping. I recommend if you’re in the area you don’t either.

Pretty Please, With a Tomato on Top?

October 18, 2011 by  

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*Sweet garnish subject to culture* Two years have gone by but I find myself once again back at the same wheel of fortune a la eating style. Or should is it more like Russian Roulette? Possibly. On my third dining adventure here in Tongxiang, China, I came equipped with my camera to try to capture why, despite the adventurous eater I am, I sometimes get overwhelmed with the food I’m supposed to eat (yes, I walked 20 minutes to a McDonald’s for lunch today with two businessmen from Michigan.)
This large lazy susan has affectionately been dubbed the Fear Factor Wheel by dining friends. Now, a lens provides somewhat of a barrier to your varying gag reflexes, appetites and judging senses; possibly a “it looks okay, what is it?” Well, don’t be fooled. Imagine dishes coming one after another with names like Red Cooked Pigs Knuckle, Sauteed Tree Mushrooms (yum) with Pig Tripe (no thanks) or Sauteed Eel in Fermented Black Bean Sauce. And that’s after starting off with appetizers of pig tongue, canned and pressed pigs ear, and what was either a vegetable or sea creature. Yes, one after the other. Every dishes that in a U.S. restaurant might make you say, ‘yum!’ are presented in very unique fashions–it reminds me of that scene in A Christmas Story where they are brought a duck with its face smiling up at them.To prove my point, here is one dining experience alone. My favorite is when I finally got a western dessert in an array of sweets to choose from, and it came topped not with a cherry but a tomato. Apparently the two are interchangeable (and while they may both have seeds, be round and red, in my mind they most assuredly are not re: this blog post.)




Bragging Wagah Border

September 1, 2011 by  

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Indian flag waving at the Wagah Border for the evening flag-lowering ceremony.

Hindustan! (I don’t know the rest)! In politics there is a theory called Tit for Tat, also called equivalent retaliation, where an agent will mimic the actions of the opposing agent. They cooperate, you cooperate. They bomb you, you bomb them. They stand at the border and yell, “I’m the best!” you stand at the border and yell, “I’m the best!”

Okay so maybe you won’t find the last scenario in your theory book, but all theories are adaptable and that’s exactly how India and Pakistan have adopted these rules.

Every evening at sunset the wonderful citizens of both India and Pakistan flock to the Wagah Border, located between the Indian town of Amritsar and the Pakistani town of Lahore, and begin festivities that end in hoopin’ and hollarin’ and the retiring of the flag.

When you first drive into the area, you are surrounded by entrepreneurial salesman selling water, popcorn, fruits and teas to people waiting in line to enter the stadium a quarter mile down the road. However, as you pass through the various security check points, each one becoming more narrow and more squished, you’ll notice that the only thing you can take with your is a camera–no purse, no water and definitely no popcorn.

Now, I have a knack for being able to worm my way to the front of lines/concerts/maneuver through large crowds. Knowing this skill, my friends shoved me to the front, latched on and we got as close to the front of the chaotic mess as possible before it narrowed to the first check point. When I dove into the women-only line, some ladies were a bit angry with us. However, I was quickly absorbed into the hip-holding-hip line and began shuffling ahead. Amidst this elbowing and marching, I hear someone yelling “stop touching me! Why are you pushing me!” I turned around and 15 people back, my friend is yelling at a 4-ft tall little old lady, and our other friend is laughing as they scoot ahead. After some commotion and a flash of our foreign passports we were ushered into a VIP section of the stadium to watch the events unfold.

The crowd passes the time waiting for sunset by dancing, chanting “Hindustan! Zindaibad!”, and groups of two–young and old–running the Indian flag to the gate and back. Michelle and I wanted to participate in the festivities, not just watch them, so we joined a group of girls dancing and chanting at the top of our section. They loved that we came and immediately started teaching us the dances–it was FANTASTIC.

When the peeing match ceremony finally began, we stayed up top and watched (sneaky sneaky) instead of returning to our seats. The Border Security Force (BSF) and Pakistani Rangers almost simultaneously begin yelling, carrying the last syllable as long as possible until the last breath is completely spent, and then march menacingly towards the partitioning iron gate, stamping their feet and kicking legs high. Amidst the shouts of “Hail Mother India!” you here a sort of reverberation from the other side of “Long live Pakistan!” And this procession continues until each guard has had a chance to do their peacocking. Then, the flags are lowered, the gate is locked and the crowd is dismissed until tomorrow when they’ll do it all over again. Same time, same place, same high kicks.

An Induction into India

September 1, 2011 by  

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In a land where marriages, outings and festivals are all planned around auspicious dates, India is all about numbers. The decimal system and the concept of zero were both developed in ancient India, it’s a land of 1.2 billion people that speak one (or more) of twenty-five native dialects, is the seventh largest country in the world by area and the second by population, has economic growth of 7.7 percent annually, is 8.5 hours–don’t forget the half!– ahead of EST and its population spend on average eight joyful hours watching each cricket match.

It is also a land of contradiction. Over one million people are considered millionaires while 35 percent of the population are below the poverty line. In many homes a woman cannot show her arms or legs (let alone say her husbands name in public) yet it is home to kama sutra depicting temples like Khajuraho. Cows are found wandering aimlessly in the street (blocking traffic in some areas), yet single file lines are mandatory when entering any government area. And in a car you’ll get pulled over for not wearing your seat belt in the front seat, yet its normal for an entire family to be on a motorcycle or an entire village in a small van.

To add my own data to India’s tally, I have the following tidbits from my 15 days within order among the chaos:

7 cities visited
5 temples viewed
2 forts discovered
4 nature reserves meandered
8 bazaars conquered
6 government sites honored
1 Wonder of the World seen–check!
1 6-hour train ride
8 flights
5 personal drivers
8 bruises
(including one dinner plate-sized whopper)
3 servings of Malai Kofta
1 elephant ride
1 camel ride
1 horse ride
0 tigers seen (or ridden)
16 days (and counting) green hair
1 Bollywood video cameo
1.5 books read
1 Ayurveda massage (one too many)
1 seat belt ticket
9 mosquito bites
1 bout of food poisoning
3 days of Delhi Belly
3/8 cricket game watched
4 seashells procured
9 pairs of earrings purchased
2 scarves bargained
5 fantastic new friends made

Oh, and innumerable cows, lorries, photo sessions and wannabe tour guides.

No Longer a Dream

September 1, 2011 by  

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The new Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial in Washington D.C.

I believe a large part of the American population have been waiting for this. In conjunction with the 48th anniversary of his I Have a Dream speech, the Martin Luther King Jr. memorial will be dedicated this Sunday, August 28. However, it was unveiled today to the public at large.

Located on 1964 Independence Ave., –1964 chosen as a direct reference to the 1964 Civil Rights Act– it lies between the Jefferson and and Lincoln memorials and makes MLK the first non-president to be honored around the Tidal Basin.

Since it was an unusually fall-ish day (and the fact I’m trying to soak up any ounce of freedom I have before school starts) I decided I should take a stroll into the District to see it. Was I thinking how crazy parking would be? no. But my parking luck seemed to be on because after a few D.C. wrong turns, we found “close” parking and began the trek to the new monument.

A lot of the normal pathways were closed off for the Sunday ceremony and police were teaming the streets. There was a buzz of nervous energy from the thousands of people flocking to the site, but as you entered the memorial you were struck with an air of reverence. The centerpiece for the memorial is based on a line from King’s “I have a dream” speech: “Out of a mountain of despair, a stone of hope.” The artist Lei Yixin sculpted a 30-foot high statue of King named the “Stone of Hope”, which stands past two other pieces of granite that symbolize the “mountain of despair.”Visitors will literally pass through the Mountain of Despair to the Stone of Hope.

I loved wandering around and seeing the emotion brought out in people as the soaked in the setting and read the various quotes chiseled in the walls. In particular I love that the African American community has a memorial that they clearly embrace. I took the above photo of a man talking to his little daughter and (as voyeur) smiled at what a special moment that must be for him. As I looked around at the diversity of people chatting, crying and taking photos, I felt like we, as humanity, are getting closer and closer to making MLK’s dream a reality for all people around the world.

Let us not wallow in the valley of despair, I say to you today, my friends.

And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

 


Amritsar’s Golden Temple

March 24, 2011 by  

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Where are all the women? I realize India has a greater percentage of men than women, but even with a skewed ratio you’d think you’d run across some women every once in awhile. Yes, every once in awhile we did but it’s easy to feel outnumbered in certain areas of India, like Amritsar. Thus, I’ve henceforth dubbed it Manritsar.

I’m not sure when I became aware of the Golden Temple (proper name: Harmandir Sahib), the holiest gurdwara in the Sikh religion. Maybe it was the movie Bride and Prejudice or some National Geographic documentary, either way I was obsessed with seeing it one day. When Michelle and I began our India planning in November I kept mentioning it among my top three MUST SEE–Taj Mahal, Holi, Golden temple. She’d never heard of it before and luckily added it to the list. Thus, when I was following our bodyguard/driver to the temple from the Jallianwala Garden, I was filled with nervous excitement.

We put our shoes in the storage area, our driver gave us holy water to drink (I admit I promptly threw it on the floor), we walked through the foot baths and into one of the most breathtaking views I’d seen in India. As you walk out the east gate there is a balcony where you can get a higher view of the temple, which stands in the middle of a small lake. As you descend the series of steps onto the marble pathway surrounding the temple you see groups of pilgrims (men) both young and old bathing themselves in the holy water.

We made sure our veils were on properly and began wandering around observing people in their spiritual rites. And while there is a constant buzz among the worshipers: those participating in langar, prayer or bathing themselves, everyone speaks with a sense of reverence.

During our wanderings we actually even met a woman who was visiting from London with her husband for the SEVENTH time. We chatted about their beliefs, the importance of the Golden Temple within the religion, the strength religion gave to their marriage and even participated in prayer with her. I was impressed to learn that Sikh Gurus have advocated equal rights for women since the 15th century and later read a quote by Guru Nanuk stating, “”From woman, man is born; within woman, man is conceived; to woman he is engaged and married. Woman becomes his friend; through woman, the future generations come. When his woman dies, he seeks another woman; to woman he is bound. So why call her bad? when she gives rise to nobility.” Props from within a cast system society! I also discovered that women could bath in a covered section of the lake if they desire–more props. After taking some photos we parted ways with a few hugs and, on the husbands end, a jab to go find some honorable men.

As I returned to the eastern gate and ascended the stairs to find our driver (we were 30 minutes longer than we’d told him) I was filled with a sense of gratitude. Gratitude for the opportunity to see something I’d always wanted, gratitude for kind and open people, and gratitude for the reminder that this world–regardless of religion–is filled with good people. Truth is truth, no matter whether it’s worshiped and acknowledged through a turban or some funky jammies. I’m honored that in such a spiritual place to so many people in the world, I was able to feel that principle.

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