Magic Kingdom

Some People Call Me Foreign Kid | Getting To Know Me Series by Rachel Abrahams

I am a big believer that our life's stories shape how we view the world and especially how we create art. I realize although many of you appreciate my photography and enjoy reading my stories, you may not really know all that much about me. Today is my first post in a series I’ll be doing in the hopes of giving you a chance to “see behind the curtain”. Along with these fun facts, I have decided to share some of my favorite photos I have taken so far in this photography adventure.

I spent the majority of my childhood until I was 9 years old living in the Middle East. We lived in Turkey and then Saudi Arabia and by being there I missed the 80’s (as I jokingly say). When I came to the United States, New Kids on the Block and L.A. Gear were all the rage, I had only seen a Nintendo once before, and I had no idea what MTV was (let alone a Bon Jovi or Def Leppard). Immediately upon my arrival in my class the girl I sat next to grabbed me, shoved a Teen Bop magazine photo of New Kids On The Block at me, and pointed at Danny telling me “we all picked our boyfriends and he can be yours”. I just wanted to fit in, despite my weird clothes and moving from a country none of the kids in my class had heard of, so I just nodded my head and said “Uh, sure, ok” and let them sweep me up into their play world of dating boy band celebrities I had never heard of (by the way – I figured out quickly the girls had given me the leftover member of the band, the one they didn’t think was cute. So generous). It helped to have this group of "friends" during this transition where kids would say "You lived in Turkey? Like INSIDE a Turkey? I bet that smelled AWFUL (yuck yuck yuck)". Smart kids, I tell ya. 

I pretty much spent the next 15 years of my life having people reference phrases, movies, and pop culture I had never heard of and then getting the wide eyed look when they would incredulously say “You’ve never seen THE BREAKFAST CLUB?!?!?!?” in a tone only dogs could hear and then they would take me by the hand to educate me on whatever essential U.S. pop culture I had missed out on.

Living overseas for my childhood is something I cherish every single day. I wear it like a badge of honor and embrace how it altered my perception of the world around me. I saw a mixture of cultures so very different than what I now knew as home (Florida) and, as a result, it made me constantly question the WHY of doing things. I push hard at the answer of “we’ve always done it this way” because I have personally experienced how others do things and know there can always be a better system to get stuff accomplished.

It also put me slightly on the fringe of my peers which, instead of hiding it away and trying to make myself blend as much as possible (like most teens), I embraced it fully and actually made it part of the package deal of my friendship. Oh, you want to be friends with me? Be forewarned I can sometimes be a bit of a foreign kid, local news doesn’t interest me but international news does, sometimes I have no idea what movie/phrase/pop culture you are joking about, and I will tell stories of things I experienced as a kid which you will think is SO WEIRD (Oh, it’s NOT normal to see camels riding in the beds of trucks down the street? You don’t sit around a platter using pieces of bread as silverware? There’s more than 2 TV channels here and they are ALL in English???? My mind = blown). You’re good with that? Cool – let’s do this.

I credit this altered perception of the world for influencing my photography as well. I feel like experiencing something so distinctive automatically gave me permission to just push my boundaries and not fear the possible negative feedback saying it’s too much or too different. I’ve SEEN different. I’ve lived in a world completely unlike where I am today – and I loved it. I know I am incredibly lucky. I realize not everyone has this freedom automatically ingrained in them and I wish they did. I feel like it’s for the better when we push back. Push the envelope, live on the fringe, think differently – because absolutely beautiful things come from behaving differently and embracing being the weirdo.

I like to think I am a good example of that.

P.S. It is definitely a small world. In high school I figured out the girl in my math class also went to the same school as I did in Saudi Arabia, at the same time, and I found her in my yearbook. Also, I am currently friends with someone who lives near me here in Florida that ALSO went to the same school in Saudi Arabia, although we were several years apart. In this tiny Florida town, twice I have found people who had similar adventures to mine. 

Am I Too Old For Magic | Walt Disney World Photography by Rachel Abrahams

I absolutely adore reading. I have always been an avid reader and didn't let the "required reading" of school/college even try to beat that out of me but I also have learned when I get sucked into a book everything else in my world disappears. That can be both a good and a bad thing - I am engrossed in other worlds I could never imagine on my own but that also means my real life can get ignored. This isn't so bad if you can do it in healthy doses but healthy doses of reading is not something I am prone to do (so far this year, I've read 16 books. My goal for 2015 was 30.....).

It does mean I sometimes have to say to myself "you can read for 20 minutes AFTER you take care of X, Y, Z adult/boring life requirement" and the bargaining (typically) works. It's just like what my parents would have to do with me as a kid.  BTW - My mom once learned to be super specific in bargaining with me. She once said "No TV in the morning until you are dressed with your shoes on". The next morning she came out to me watching TV, in my pajamas, with my shoes on, and no socks. But I had my shoes on like she said!

I think it's healthy for adults to keep their childlike wonder and imagination. I absolutely admit I am the first to line up to see the movies with fantasy, superheroes, and magic (yup, I have almost every Disney animated movie, the extended edition Lord of the Rings trilogy, all the Marvel Avengers movies, and all of the Harry Potter movies as well and that's just the tip of the nerd-collection-iceberg).

I also love living near the theme parks and have been an avid lifelong Disney fan with annual passes and also recently added Universal Studios to my favorites list. I run inside just as fast as the kids and giggle and scream like I was 10 years old (to the embarrassment of those with me - I know they love me and tolerate my idiocy with some deep sighs and probably a little side eye too).

Books spark the flame of magic and then movies and theme parks take those amazing worlds even further by actualizing them into what you always imagined. I find it all to be perfectly complimentary, honestly.

As I was home sick for a week with a cold, I needed comfort and I reached out immediately to my favorite books and movies which I realized were all intended for young adults and kids. I wondered - is this lame? Am I seriously in denial of trying to be an adult and instead disappearing into these alternate worlds where I can fly, do magic, and even battle evil with superpower skills I could never have in real life?

My answer - a resounding hell to the yes. Why? Because it's awesome. Do I really need to explain myself? Nope. Am I too old for this magic and wonderment? Some might say yes but those are also people who are lame or unwilling to admit it's UBER FUN to be get sucked into these alternate worlds.

I know I am not alone in this.

Now, if you'll excuse me I am going to get back to my book I promised myself I could keep reading when I finished this post.........

I Heart Magic Kingdom in the Rain | Disney World Photography by Rachel Abrahams

I know I've said this before but there is nothing better at Walt Disney World than seeing the Magic Kingdom AT NIGHT. Most people never make it to the evening, especially when traveling with younger children, but I feel like you are really missing out if you don't go visit all those amazing lands of Magic Kingdom in the cloak of darkness. Dare I say, being there at night actually makes the fantasy and imagination even more intense and amazing (yeah, this Disney nerd is totally all for that).

Recently, my cousin and I decided to head to Magic Kingdom for the evening and hit up one of it's late night openings where you can wander the park until way past the midnight hour when Cinderella's coach turns back into a pumpkin (also known as the hour when those who hit the park at 7AM can't bear to be on their feet any longer). Typically, everyone makes it to the evening fireworks and then the masses start exiting the park and it gets much quieter and the lines more bearable.

So, what could make it not so fun at night? Rain. For the normal person, rain just makes thing all sorts of......soggy. I mean, walking around in wet shorts and soggy shoes is definitely on the list of torture somewhere. Well, this photographer was super STOKED when it was raining - especially when I knew it was going to pass and then leave an amazing reflective light on the ground. The rain did mean the evening parade was cancelled but I feel like I got the better deal. I saw a photographer I admire get some beautiful shots post-rain and I had been yearning to try my hand at it and fiiinnaaalllyyy got my chance.

Magic Kingdom Storybook Circus Sign in the Rain by Aspiring Images by Rachel
Magic Kingdom Storybook Circus Sign in the Rain by Aspiring Images by Rachel

My poor cousin was then dragged all over Fantasyland (original and new) with me while I tried to get the shots I had dreamt of in my mind. I tried to pay him in Turkey Legs but he preferred bottles of Coke and those chocolate covered pineapple desserts at the Big Top Souvenirs and Treats in Storybook Circus. Haven't tried them yet? They are beyond fantabulous and they go quickly. I like to pick a wall to sit on and eat them while watching the Dumbo Ride. I promise - you'll become addicted too and then you can join the club.

On a side note, I do have to say, my family and friends deserve medals and great honors in their name for their patience with me while traveling. They always let me indulge my photo taking needs, which typically includes me saying "Wait, I want to take a pic here" and everyone then stop and finds a place to lean or rest. Seriously, they are the best. You guys know who you are.

See the very first picture of the fireworks? In my eagerness to find a better spot to stand while watching them, I wasn't watching my step (it was also already dark and I was ignoring the warnings over the speakers saying it was dark and to be cautious) and I did the infamous step forward but it was actually a step DOWN. My cousin was behind me and one moment I was moving forward and the next I just dropped like a rock about 4 inches below where I was and did the wheeble-wobble-regain my balance and arms flailing while falling forward to avoid face planting thing.....in the semi-dark.....with tons of people around. When I regained my balance, I looked around and many people had that "Yup, that's what you get for shoving yourself into a better spot" look on their face. In the end, it was worth it so phooey to those people I'll never see again. My cousin said it was beyond hilarious to watch. I am here to entertain, folks.

What's your favorite time to visit the parks at Disney? Do you have a favorite "must have" treat whenever you visit? Does anyone else avoid the water rides, like me, to avoid the soggy torture?

Fantabulous Fall Fun At The Magic Kingdom | Disney Photography by Rachel Abrahams

AspiringImagesbyRachel-WaltDisneyWorld-MagicKingdom-FallDecoCastle

During the fall season, I get very jealous of the beautiful weather happening up north. Florida's fall weather consists of cooler temps (70's), some rainy days depending on the fronts moving through, and the official ending of Hurricane season (yes, we Floridians celebrate the end of Hurricane season - especially the "dry" years). The major photographic bonus of fall are some amazing sunrises and sunsets.

As a result, I fill my home with red/orange/yellow hued fall decorations to help get myself in the spirit of the season and I also make the time to go to Disney to see their wonderful fall and Halloween decorations. When I see their decorations up, then I know fall has arrived!

Magic Kingdom always adds the sparkle with multiple decorations, especially up and down Main Street. Mickey pumpkins are in every corner, fall leaves abound, and it definitely gets you in the spirit. When these decorations go up, it's not only seasonal but it indicates Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party has arrived! This is a specialty party requiring a separate admission ticket and I love going because it means adults can dress up too and trick or treat! I'm all about socially accepted adult trick or treating. Yet another reason why Disney is awesome (yup, just letting my Disney nerd flag fly right now).

At night, the park gets even more into the Halloween spirit with specialty lighting and Halloween music playing. I truly believe Disney's most magical time in the parks is at night. If you haven't seen the park at night (or only when you're crazy exhausted from hoofing it through the parks all day), then you're missing out. I am such a fan of visiting at night. Can you tell?.

........And here's a bonus set of pictures showing my cousins and I dressed up for Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party. We had a blast coordinating as a group and made lots of people smile and laugh with our colorful nerd costumes. EVERY SINGLE character we met tried to spin the propellers on our hats. Buzz Lightyear did it repeatedly, which cracked me up. It was loads of fun. We have already started throwing around some ideas for next year.

FYI, I'm in the green.

20131112-105125.jpg