Archive for January, 2009

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Allison: Courtyards

January 31, 2009

We were assigned our first studio project this past week. For the first couple weeks we will be studying courtyards within the city. We will be measuring, hand drafting, analyzing and discussing several sites around Oaxaca to find what constitutes a courtyard by determining charactersics that make these spaces so wonderful (or not).

So far we’ve been measuring, photographing, sketching, and now drafting. The courtyard I’m studying is inside the hotel Camino Real which was a convent long ago. It has three large courtyards, and almost all of its original components and detailing. The best part about studying a courtyard for studio- you’re always outside!
Things are still going well outside of school. Our group found a couple promising bars with awesome music (jazz last night when we went out together) and great atmosphere. Still spending free time checking out the markets, looking for new restaurants, and hanging out in the Zocalo. Am I missing Minneapolis yet? Maybe a little…

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Emily: Rugby, the Beach, “Bikes ‘n Wines” Tour

January 30, 2009

On Sunday we went to the rugby stadium to watch the Stormers vs. Saracens pre-season game, and I discovered that I love rugby. It’s a lot faster than American football, and it seems a little more hardcore since they don’t use pads. The rules are a little more intuitive, and they do fun things like pick each other up, and gain ground in giant huddles – like the opposite of tug-o-war. The Stormers won, and everybody went home happy.

Monday morning we took the train to the Muizenberg beach, a popular surfing spot, and laid out on the cold, windy beach. The only cloudy day since I’ve been here, and we still got sunburned. Surfing lessons and board and suit rental are offered for cheap, and one of these days I’m gonna do it. Two friends went for a jog and saw a dead penguin and a dead (and rotting) seal on the way, so there’s definitely a lot of marine life to see, however I’ve been told that the water is too cold for the Great Whites here. On Monday night a few of us went out to eat at the Buena Vista Social Café, a Cuban restaurant with live music. The food was alright, but I’ll definitely be back for Salsa dancing on Sunday nights.

The next morning we took a taxi to Downtown Cape Town, and then walked to the Bo-Kaap neighborhood. There are colorfully painted houses on narrow roads, and it reminded me a lot of New Orleans. Bo-Kaap is known for its culture and history. It is a largely Muslim neighborhood, full of old Mosques. Many of the inhabitants are descendants of the people from Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India and Malaysia, who were captured in the 17th and 18th century and enslaved by the Dutch-East Indian Trading Company. We walked past a house that was being auctioned off after its owners couldn’t pay the mortgage. Unfortunately, tourism and gentrification seem to be displacing a lot of the original residents, and threatening the local culture.

Yesterday morning we got up bright and early for a bike and wine-tasting tour of neighboring Stellenbosch and its wineries. We signed up for our tour with Bikes ‘n Wines and met out tour guides in Cape Town. They took us on the hour-long train ride to Stellenbosch, where we rented our bikes and helmets. From there we took off to our first wine-tasting at the Spier Estate. They gave us a punch card for 5 different wines, and some people selected to try different cheeses as well. It was delicious and beautiful, and they had their very own Cheetah (?!?!). From there we biked gravel and sand paths to Stellenbosch Hills where we had our second wine tasting. We then biked UPHILL to our third winery and lunch destination, The Skilpadvlei vineyard. Lunch was delicious and inexpensive, and the place was gorgeous. We tasted 3 more wines before we left. Our pathway out was through deep, treacherous sand, and a lot of people wiped out. It was all downhill, so it was difficult to control your bike or stop on the slippery gravel. We finally made our last destination, short on time, and downed a refreshing glass of chilled champagne before we raced back to the bike rental shop.

Today I’m busy getting ready for the semester, running errands, and taking a break. We’re starting our orientation with UCT tomorrow, and it will last to the 6th (although some days are optional). I then have another week-long break during which we’ll (hopefully) be driving through the Garden Route and/or going on a safari before the semester begins. I’m both excited and nervous for classes to start, and it will be nice to get involved with some volunteer organizations (possibly Habitat), clubs, and maybe a women’s rugby team?

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Kari: First Week of Classes

January 30, 2009

I know this is a long overdue update, and for that I apologize. I have been pretty busy with the first week of classes, meeting new people and trying to keep up with the ‘Irish culture and lifestyle’.

Monday:
First day of modules! Today was a bit uneventful, but successful nonetheless. I had my first module (or class, as they call it in the States), and it was titled ‘Talk, Interaction, and Social Organization’. I had spoken to the professor last week about the module a bit, and it seems like the material will be challenging, but nothing I can’t handle. We have one presentation and one exam that makes up our entire grade, so talk about pressure! It is most definitely a change from the States, but a challenge that I am ready to take on. My module is from 9:15-11:15 AM, and after that I am free the rest of the day.

Tuesday: Second day of modules! Again, today was a bit uneventful. I would normally have a seminar from 12:15-1:15 PM on Tuesday afternoons, but we don’t have seminars the first week. So I waited until 3:15 PM for my Interpersonal Communication theory module to begin. This module is a first year skills module and the lecture is probably about 300 people strong. This module involves a lot of hands on activities. There will be a lot of recording of ourselves, then analyzing how we said what we said and our body language, all associated with how we communicate with others. This module will be something that I have yet to experience and for that I am excited.

Wednesday: Third day of modules! Today, I had only one lecture, but I will have a seminar in the morning starting next week. This was my Modern Irish Society class. I was very intimidated at first from this class, because even though I took a European History class my senior year of high school, I regret to say that almost NOTHING stuck in my head. The professor kept saying ‘in last years set of modules’ or ‘you should know’, and I didn’t. I am quite nervous about the class, but excited nonetheless. I think it will help me be informed about Irish Society more completely in order to make the most of my trip.

Thursday: (Would have been the) Fourth day of modules! Today, I would normally have a practical session for my Interpersonal Communications class at 9:15, but again, no practicals or seminars the first week of class. So instead, I slept in. I had a meeting with my advisor at 12:30 PM to finalize my modules for this semester. After a huge runaround (going to 4 different places to get stamps and whatnot) and 45 minutes, I finally got registered and am an OFFICIAL STUDENT AT UUJ! I have my student ID to prove it!

After registering, myself and a few others stopped in the Chaplaincy to introduce ourselves to Cheryl (Presbyterian Chaplain) and Arlene (Church of Ireland Assistant Chaplain). We talked for about different things going on on campus. They told us about iCafe, which is a way for international students to come together and meet each other and Irish students. They also told us about the Christian Union. The Christian Union is a lot like Campus Crusades for Christ. It was amazing being able to speak to Arlene and Cheryl about the different opportunities to get involved with and able to meet Irish students (which we’ve all had a difficult time with so far). I also met some other students, two of which are in one of my modules, so that will be nice to see a couple of familiar faces. The Chaplaincy also works closely with Habitat for Humanity. It’s an organization that I’ve always wanted to get involved with at school, but haven’t had the time, so I hope to be able to work with Habitat while I’m here.

Kelsey, Amanda (from Texas), and I all headed over to the Christian Union (CU) that evening. We met some really great people, and I also decided to go out on a limb and join a small group (bible study). It’s my first time doing anything like this, but I figured it’s a great way to meet local students, and students that don’t necessarily want to party 24/7. Don’t get me wrong, I like to go out, but I don’t think I can go out 3 or 4 nights in a row. I don’t have the budget for that! The small group that us girls joined is on Tuesday nights on campus, so we don’t have to get a ride or walk anywhere, so it’s very convenient. Although it’s my first bible study that I’ve ever been apart of, I am excited to see what it holds for me. I was hesitant at first, but I figured I needed to put everything I have into this trip, and this is one other way to do so!

Friday:
That brings us to today. I don’t have any class today!!! It is currently 12:30 in the afternoon, and I am leaving for my home stay in a few hours. I have been looking forward to this since I got here. I think that it will give me a great insight to how Irish people live and it will be interesting to see the differences between how they and we as Americans live.

And just to leave you with some insight to how I am doing personally–The first few days of this trip has been pretty frustrating. Our program hasn’t really given us any guidance to anything so far, and I’ve been struggling, but I’ve realized that I can’t do that anymore. I have to put everything I have into this once in a lifetime opportunity, and after giving up all of my frustrations and allowing a plan to unfold before me, I have been 150% better. I am so blessed for everything I have, and I can’t spend my time worrying. I’m going to start this really foreign thing to me called ‘going with the flow’. Weird, I know, but I think that’s really the only way I’m going to be able to get everything out of this trip that I want!

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Ross: East London in the News

January 27, 2009

Today I spotted two articles that give you a good idea of the place I’ve learned to call home, East London. This multicultural neighborhood is a humorous conglomeration of Universities, Street Markets, Hospitals, pubs and of course many, many kebab stands. Queen Mary University is a clean, modern campus embedded in this ruff and tumble immigrant dominated neighborhood.

This area is however going through a revival to get ready for the 2012 Olympics. The Herald Tribune had a short article on the transformation occurring in the neighborhood.

As for the kebab stands, I just couldn’t understand how they all stay in business… I mean is the demand for kebab really all that significant? Well it turns out BBC news caught on to their secret, and this also explains why I spent last Monday night awake with a sour stomach until the very early hours of the morning. When I finally got to sleep, I was awoken at 8 a.m with a nice fire drill courtesy of the University’s fire brigade.

So if you find yourself hungry for a snack in East London, grab a bag of crisps instead. The mystery meat isn’t worth it.

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Zach: “ndànk ndànk moy jap golo ci ñay”

January 27, 2009

This Wolof proverb, translated literally, means “little by little one catches the monkey in the bush.” Translated less literally, the essence of the proverb remains and reminds one that things take time.

Last night, since we didn’t have any classes this morning, my housemate decided that he was going to stay out late and explore the city with a girl in the MSID program and her Senegalese brother. As I got ready for bed rather than heading out (it was after 11), I asked myself if I was getting to most out of my experience here in Dakar. I haven’t really seen much of the city yet. I’ve gone out at night only once to a jazz club called Just4U (the musicians were extremely talented, especially the guitarist), and most of the time I’m at home, either talking to Khadim and Diama and their friends or helping Daba with her English homework (she is also helping me learn Wolof). Even the program staff seems to assume that the students go out a lot; they warned that going out unannounced could create tensions with our host families.

Anyway, I came across two different questions: (1) what Senegal did I actually come here to experience, and (2) am I just getting ahead of myself? I suppose I’m not really a big fan of night life, and I like to sleep at night to enjoy the day. With that in mind, I feel that, though I haven’t even gone out to explore the markets yet, I am experiencing the Dakar I wanted to all along. I’m meeting real people, and living as close to a real Senegalese life as an American college student can get. I take showers with a bucket so that the water isn’t frigid, I can wash my clothes by hand, and I am slowly working my way into the kitchen. As for the second question, there exists another Wolof proverb which states “lu nit di donn daf ca séntu njeriñ,” which, roughly translated, means that if you exert yourself for something then you expect to gain from it. One does not undertake tasks or activities without a good reason. Additionally, the Wolof response during greetings is “maangi fi” or “maangi fi rekk”, which means “I am here only.” My brother Khadim has told me that I shouldn’t even try to buy clothes at the HLM market until a couple weeks from now, when my Wolof is sufficient for bartering.

Life may be slow at the moment, but I am extremely happy and trying to suppress my fidgety side. I have many adventures ahead of me, including HLM, the pilgrimage to Touba with Diama, and a possible trip to St. Louis, and the whole internship living with a marabout thing. For now I’m just going to keep relaxing and enjoying being here only.

Ba beneen yoon,
Zach

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Shannon: Madrid

January 27, 2009
Royal Palace of Madrid

Royal Palace of Madrid

Well the whole school has off on Fridays so we can take class trips. This first school sponsored trip was to Madrid! We arrived around 10:30 am and headed straight to the Palacio Real. With in minutes, while waiting in line to enter the Palace, a girl got her money stolen right out of her purse! For the rest of the day we all looked around suspiciously, guarding our bags with our lives!! Swiper no Swiping! (again… why do I do these things?). Needless to say, the Palace was FREAKING SWEET! All of the original carpets, tapestries, artwork, and furniture was still there! We had a personal tour of about 30 of the 2800 rooms in the palace and got to see the armory, and royal pharmacy! We then had a short bus tour of the city before heading to lunch at el Museo de Jamon (the ham museum… which isn’t actually a museum) where we were served fried chicken and french fries… AUTHENTIC! The day only got better ’cause the rest of the day was free time to explore. The girls and I went to find our hostel, checked in, and Nicole and I went on a wild goose chase to find a Movistar (cell phone company) so I could add more money to my pay-as-you-go phone.This search went on for about 3 hours, but I also think we went into EVERY shoe store that was selling botas (boots) too. Boots are all the rage… you can’t find a woman NOT wearing boots. Even 6 year old children are wearing them! (So of course we got some en rebaja!).

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Natasha: Provence

January 25, 2009

Yesterday our programme organized a day trip to see some of the historical sights of Provence, namely the ones it would be hard for us to get to on our own. We piled into two buses and headed out on an hour long trip towards Nîmes for our first stop.

The Pont du Gard is part of the remains of the Roman aqueduct system, which was built in the first century AD. It’s huge, and the view both of it and from it is absolutely breathtaking. Unfortunately because our schedule was so tight we didn’t have much time to climb and look around.

Next up was Fontaine-de-Vaucluse, a small village named for the magnificent waterfall which is the source of the Sorgue river. The water had a fascinating bluish green colour, and the fountains which gave access to the water for drinking tasted so clean and refreshing, I was glad I had brought my water bottle with me and filled it up.

After that we headed towards Avignon and Les Baux de Provence. This is an area that has evidence of life dating back to 6000 BC, as well as the remains of a 10th century castle destroyed in 1632, but the medieval city around has been restored enough to house shops and cafés.

For our last stop we headed towards Arles and the Moulin Saint Pierre, the most famous of the windmills of Fontvielle. Also known as “Ribet” of “Alphonse Daudet’s windmill” it was built in 1815 and was functional until the first world war. It was then restored in 1935 and has since become a symbol of the writer Daudet.

Afterwards we got back on the bus for Montpellier. It had started raining again, and we saw an amazing rainbow out the window… Biggest I’ve ever seen. However, the wind had also started picking up, and for literally miles there were semi trucks on the side of the highway, told to stop because closer to the Spanish border the winds and rain were so strong that trucks had tipped over. I heard later on the news that at least 15 people had died in Spain and France because of this storm, which didn’t hit Montpellier with full force but I could definitely feel on my walk home. I saw a dumpster blown out into the road!

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