September 2015

Layover time: Georgia Aquarium

I had an 8 hour layover in Atlanta on my trip from Rochester to Amsterdam in August, so I left the airport and went to the Georgia Aquarium! The aquarium has four juvenile whale sharks and two manta rays in the big tank!
Georgia Aquarium, Aug 2015

It’s pricey (~$40 for adult admission), but I like to think that it’s both admission and supporting the aquarium’s conservation efforts, so I just sucked it up. Also, I was the only non-kid without a kid of my own there, but it seemed like lots of people brought their babies just to have an excuse to go themselves (because the baby doesn’t understand what’s going on and won’t remember any of it). But it was worth it! I strongly disagree with keeping dolphins in captivity, so I didn’t pay extra to see that exhibit.

I got there 5 minutes after they opened, so I didn’t wait in a line to get my ticket, but the aquarium entrance has some serious crowd-control set up outside, so there must be big lines later in the day and over holidays. I stuck around to watch them feed the whale sharks and sea otters — it was pretty cool.

This is one of two aquariums in the world with whale sharks (my boyfriend has been to the other one in Osaka, Japan!), and they have a clear tunnel under the big tank that some of the first pictures are from. It was so cool!!

Voting from Abroad for US Citizens

Batman Robin Vote for Bernie Sanders slap comic
In case you’ve been living under an internet-less rock, the US’s two-party political system is alive and kicking, and the primaries are happening soon. The actual presidential election isn’t for another 14 months (!!) but the primaries will take place in the next few months, and in many states you must be registered with the political party in whose primary you want to vote (and you need to be registered by about next month). Meaning, if you #FeelTheBern but are a registered independent voter like me, you need to change this! In addition, pay attention to local and state elections since those can have a quicker and more direct impact on your beloved last place of residence in the US (which, for me, is my hometown, and I care about how those elections play out).

I have recently discovered that I was wrong about which elections expats are allowed to vote in, and how they go about registering to vote absentee. Look into your last state’s laws on whether or not you can vote in local and state elections. The resources I want to pass along are:

  • Federal Voting Assistance Program, the official voting resource for US citizens living overseas.
  • Vote From Abroad, the non-partisan place where you officially register to vote and request your absentee ballot. Keep going through until you’ve downloaded the Federal Post Card Application — towards the end, if you don’t want to sign up for any newsletters just leave the boxes unchecked and click ‘Continue’. It takes 4 minutes! Do this now!
  • Democrats Abroad, the handiest point of contact for any US expats left-of-center and leftish-center. They make registering and applying absentee from your last US place of residence pretty straightforward via Vote From Abroad (linked above), and send you emails with updates on which elections you can vote in are coming up. You can probably opt out of the less helpful mailings. There’s also a Republican one.
  •, the site that kicked my butt into gear. It shows on a map when the primaries/caucuses are and gives voter registration deadlines and links. And, the prospect of a progressive socialist president makes me so, so happy.

Remember: no taxation without representation! They’re taxing you, so be sure to make your voice heard. (As a US citizen, even if you live abroad, you are required to file taxes every year.)

An informed, accessible democracy makes us free. Exercise your basic civil right. And get your paperwork in order beforehand.