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. 

Hogsmeade In Real Life | Universal Studios Photography Harry Potter by Rachel Abrahams

Islands of Adventure Harry Potter - Hogsmeade Entrance - Spell Limits Sign by Aspiring Images by Rachel

I recently decided to re-read the Harry Potter series from start to finish. I was watching one of the movies and realized I was now remembering the stories based on the movie plot lines and forgetting a lot of the amazingly intricate details and characters from the books. I mean, there were entire plot lines and characters removed from the movies (Hello, Peeves the Poltergeist - you were sorely missed).  I'll admit, I read the first 4 books several times but the last 3, I read only once each so my memories were also a bit fuzzy due to lack of repetition.

I've been totally nerding out over the books and it has been getting me super amped over the expansion opening of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios, scheduled to open this summer. Yes, that means it's only MONTHS away before we get to see Diagon Alley, including Gringotts Bank, in super-sized real life. I know it's going to be slammed with visitors, so I will just have to be patient and wait a bit, like I did when the first part of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter opened with Hogsmeade Village and Hogwarts. At the beginning, they would actually start turning people away from just that section of the park (!) it was so full of visitors. That's redonkulous.

The movies were still pretty amazing. It was my first chance to see what I'd imagined now visualized but getting to actually walk around what I'd only imagine or saw in the movies? Absolutely fantastic.

My patience paid off and when I visited it was a perfectly pleasant amount of visitors. Don't let the photos fool you, even though the roofs are snow topped, it was pushing 100 degrees the day we visited (Yay, Florida! Blech). I even found a new ride that is my most favorite ride - ever - and that says a lot since I am such a Disneyphile. Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey (which takes place inside Hogwarts castle on the property) is an insane mix of visuals, movement, and storyline. It's very original and I was absolutely blown away. My advice? Don't drink adult beverages beforehand. Well, at least not too many.

You know the one thing I didn't try even though I'd been dying to do so ever since reading about it in the books? Butterbeer. The line was about 30 people deep and I was just not having it. I'm also spoiled with the mentality of thinking "Next time, I'll hit it up". Most people who visit don't have that luxury and have to now-or-never these things. I've seen some interesting knock-off recipes for butterbeer on Pinterest. Tempting, but I'd rather wait for the real deal. FYI - It's alcohol free. Yeah, I can hear the adults groaning now. There's nothing wrong with spicing it up yourself, right? Hmmm, what liquor goes with Butterbeer? I bet Google has the answer. I can't be the only person who has wondered this.

Islands of Adventure Harry Potter - Hogsmeade Entrance - Hogsmeade by Aspiring Images by Rachel
Islands of Adventure Harry Potter - Hogsmeade Entrance - Hogsmeade by Aspiring Images by Rachel

Who are my fellow Harry Potter obsessives? Raise your hand if you've only watched the movies and never read the books (ain't no shame)? Have you tried the real Butterbeer and did it live up to your imagination? Anyone else drink possibly one too many before riding a topsy-turvy-spinny ride and live to tell the tale?