Keep your fingers crossed!

So in November I applied for a travel writing scholarship with World Nomads. The winner gets an all expenses paid 11 day trip to Japan in February to shadow a professional travel writer from Rough Guides and write their own chapter in the Rough Guide to Japan. I wasn't expecting to win, but my goal was to make the shortlist. Today I got word that I did, in fact, make the short list of 18 selected from hundreds of entries. The winner will be announced January 8 and the trip starts Feb 15. I've included my entry, which consists of a paragraph stating why I should win the trip, and a 500 word essary written on the prompt "A Strange Experience Involving Food in a Foreign Culture". I've also included the website, if you care to look. Keep your fingers crossed for me!

The original guidelines and info:

The short list:

Why I should get the scholarship:

I was raised a military dependent and have travelled all over the world, which has cultivated in me an insatiable, obsessive wanderlust. I consider myself a "third-culture kid"; I have the wonderful ability to fit in nearly anywhere on the planet, but lack strong roots in any one place. I have lived in Japan in elementary school, which I believe is an advantage as it was long enough ago that the novelty of travelling there would not be lost on me, but I have a basic knowledge of customs and social norms which would give me a foundation to build upon for my writing. I have a passion for language and writing; I am conversational in over five languages. I would love to work as a travel writer one day and combine my restless feet and my need to document everything I experience. This would be an incredible opportunity to introduce me to the world of travel writing and give me invaluable experience. My eventual goal is to write travel guides focusing on the Middle East/ North Africa which would help steer the reader through and illuminate beautiful, ancient and often misunderstood cultures.

The essay:

I looked down at the bun in my hand, cradled in a greasy brown paper, with a mixture of horror and awe. Overstuffed, meat, gelatinous fat, and a curious unknown brown substance oozed out of both ends. I was in Fez, Morocco, where I had been living and studying for the summer, on a weekend excursion to the market. I had been warned about "street meat" over and over, and over and over my stomach had suffered unspeakable devastation for my impudence. Here I was, yet again, on the verge of gastrointestinal desolation, holding a sheep's head sandwich, bought from a haphazardly-constructed kiosk picked at random among the rows which lined the walkway out of the souk. My friends gathered around me, convinced I would not eat it. Testing the proverbial waters, I cautiously squeezed the now-soggy bun. With a deliciously grotesque squish, a mess of brown and gray slop streamed out of the bun and splattered all over my worn sandals. I swallowed hard upon noticing a patch of sticky black hair which had adhered itself to my pant leg. Slowly, warily, I put the bun to my mouth, hesitated, and sunk my teeth into the sandwich. Tearing off the first bite, I reported to my friends that it was delicious, and they were obviously missing out. Emboldened, I hastily bit into the sandwich again. There was a glutinous, cold explosion which drenched my entire mouth in a bitter, basic taste: an eyeball. The vendor, having kept a watchful eye on me throughout the ordeal, offered me a bit of toilet paper to use as a napkin. I wiped the eyeball fluid off my chin and weakly returned the thumbs-up he offered, assuring him in Arabic that it was, in fact, the best sheep's head sandwich I had ever had. Briefly I considered giving up; I had tried it, and this sheep had defeated me from beyond the grave. It was then that a sympathetic friend of mine pulled a small bottle of Texas Pete Hot Sauce from her bag, which I snatched and doused all over the offending sandwich. Suddenly, the scorching summer fog of pollution cleared, the Saharan sun seemed to oppress me less, and all was right with the medina. This sheep's head was, unbelievably, delicious! It took me less than a minute to devour the remaining sandwich. Even pulling a small, sharp piece of skull from my mouth could not dissuade me from my savory endeavor. Shocked, my friends stood speechless as I licked my fingers, one by one. Then, in a collective group, they all turned to the vendor and ordered their own sheep's head sandwiches. Contented, with my stomach already beginning to collapse upon itself in cartwheels and acrobatics stomachs are most definitely not supposed to participate in, I mused to myself about my victory over my opponent from the East, parallel to the journey I had begun. Like all the very best things in life, it simply needed a little spice.

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