Archive for March, 2009


Allison: At School

March 29, 2009
This is our school, “Instituto Cultural” in Oaxaca City. It is a language school for students and visitors to take Spanish classes. Fortunately, we also have our studio here as well. So we spend more time here than we like to.
Our spanish class is taught in this room. The group of 19 students from the UofM are divided into four levels according to our spanish skills. I bet you can guess which level I am in… Lessons are taught only in Spanish by teachers from the Cultural Institute, which made it very difficult to catch on to.

We play games often – teléfono caliente (‘hot potato’ with a cell phone), Spanish family feud, pictionary, charades, and sometimes we do role playing (which can be quite dramatic at times).

Our studio is in a gated area where nobody else is allowed. We have our own building with drafting tables, bathrooms, a patio and hammocks. It is a comfortable area big enough for all 19 of us, so we couldn’t ask for more!

Below is a photo of our instructors Daniel Lopez (Mexican architect) and Lance LaVine (U of M professor) at studio having fun with Daniel’s dog, Chufa. Both of them are fantastic instructors and maintain a good balance for the class. Lance likes to tear our projects apart (literally) and Daniel seems to like everything we do – he doesn’t have a mean bone in his body.


Ross: Rainy Days in London

March 29, 2009

So it’s a rainy Saturday in London town and like the true Minnesotan I am instead of stomping puddles in the street, settling down to a game of monopoly or renting a movie I set out to London’s answer to the American shopping centre.

Opened in October of 2008 Westfield London Shopping Centre is Europe’s largest mall. So how does it compare with our beloved Mall of America? It may not be bigger, but it is no doubt better. Sure it only has 255 stores compared to MOA’s 520, there’s no amusement park or massive food cafeteria. Rather it’s what this mall lacks that makes it better, I didn’t see a single gothed-out emo girl with her pathetic teenage bad-ass skateboarding boyfriend waltzing through a hot topic to pick out the most ripped up, silver studded rags that cost $80 so they can show everyone else just how unique their personal style is.

Westfield shopping center was one classy establishment, good brands decent prices, some unique food choices (I had a mock Chipotle that wasn’t nearly as good as the real thing). I honestly think if Isaac Adler visited this mall he may just renounce his U.S. citizenship.

This mall even featured a special section reserved for the top brands. “The Village” featured Dior, Prada, Gucci, Movado, etc. Naturally I picked out a few Mothers day gifts and birthday presents to bring home (NOT!). Below is a picture of me below 1 of 3 crystal chandeliers in the classier part of the mall. So if you’re in London on a rainy day (which can be quite often) give the Westfield center a shot. It’s right across the street from the BBC headquarters which offers free tours so you can make a day of it.


Shannon: Random thoughts…

March 24, 2009

I have been pondering on:

  • The fact that everyone needs to read the book 1984 by George Orwell. It has some crazy, amazing, relevant, and applicable ideas about politics in there that are still being practiced hoy en día (presently). We discussed one of the ideas in my Politics and Society of Latin America class, and I just beamed the entire time we talked about it ’cause I already knew what we were talking about! It goes like this: If the government is corrupt, or there are problems (ie financial crisis) they “create” a dispute/war/controversy/distraction with another country. This way they create a common and external enemy for the entire country to “hate” so the country will unify behind this new cause in order to beat this “said threat.” This is exactly what’s happening with Bolivia and Chile right now. Obviously there are some hard core financial problems everywhere in the world right now, however, to distract their people from the internal crisis, Bolivia has convinced them (with the help of a lot of press) that their strife is the fault of Chile who has robbed them of their access to the ocean/ robbed them of their ports. This happened… how many years/ centuries ago? And their now bringing it up? Anyways, long story short. George Orwell= smart man, and everyone should read that book.

  • After looking at everyone else’s facebook pictures I am now really excited to go sit on the beach of Mallorca for 5 days with Nicole! I’m ready to get some fun reading in

  • My spanish is actually getting better! I had a few compliments today, “How are you so good at Spanish” and “you have a really good accent” YAY

  • I can’t wait to see my mom and sister… they are coming in 17 days!!!! I miss my whole family and have decided that one of the major things that will ever keep me from living abroad for an extended period of time is my family. I would miss them too much, miss being a part of their lives, and seeing them!

  • I am very unsatisfied with the physical shape I am in right now. You know when you start getting lazy and you try to convince yourself, “oh, I don’t look that bad”…? Well I’ve been saying that for too long, time to get my big butt out and running, and stop eating so darn much.

  • It’s really hard to appreciate/enjoy a culture when you don’t enjoy the food.

  • I want to join a Spanish club when I get home… I don’t want to lose everything I’ve gained, and the only way to do that is keep talking to natural spanish speakers.

  • I already have a list of things to do when I get home: EAT copious amounts of mexican food, and papa john’s pizza, summerfest ’09, visit Chicago, WORK OUT, spend an unmeasurable amount of time with my family, visit my grandparents!, road trip?, six flags, valley fair, sit all day and read in my hammock, read, read, read… did I mention reading?, prepare myself for the coming semester, find a job, see new harry potter movie, catch up on all the movies I missed, camping, make my dream book, LIVE, LAUGH, LOVE.

Ross: Thinking of you…

March 24, 2009

Dear U.S.A.,
I’m sorry we haven’t stayed in touch in the past few weeks. How is has everything been going? I want you to know that everything is just peachy over across the pond. The weather has been fantastic, which has lead me to do some more in-depth exploring of the city. My lectures and seminars will be over this week and then I’m off for all of April to study and fill my craving for some much-needed travel adventures. Next week I’m off to a whirlwind tour of Italia, I will be visiting Milan, Florence and of course ROMA! The last leg of my April holiday will be a short trip to Dubrovnik, Croatia. This should be interesting, I signed up for this trip with London International Student House so I’m sure to meet a wide range of people from all over the world.

Well USA what else can I tell you? Things are good here, and I wish I had more to say… but instead I’ll just leave you with some pictures.

The Gherkin Building (apparently gherkin is a type of cucumber, I guess if the building were seaside it would be a pickle)

Canary Wharf from the Queen Mary campus


Natasha: Alba

March 22, 2009

StreetI headed off Friday afternoon for a weekend in Scotland and had a really good time. I flew from Montpellier to Gatwick, waited two hours, then caught a flight to Edinburgh, arriving just after 8. I took the bus into city centre and walked to my hostel, only a few blocks from the bus stop, and just off Prince’s Street, one of the main thoroughfares of Edinburgh. Since it was late and I wasn’t feeling well, I just took a short walk to get some dinner and then called it an early night.

I got up around 7 Saturday morning, with the intention of using every last second of daylight to see the city. I first walked down Prince’s street to grab some breakfast, then I headed towards my farthest destination: the Royal Botanical Gardens of Edinburgh. The first and only time prior to this I was in Scotland in May of 2002, my mom and I spent quite a while there, but the only things I remembered about it was that it was a really long walk to get there and that their café had excellent carrot soup. The walk wasn’t nearly as long as I remembered, probably because I’m more accustomed to walking places now. I spent well over an hour there, admiring the scenery and taking plenty of pictures of flowers. I did make it back to the café, and while they didn’t have any carrot soup, I tried their minestrone, which was quite good as well. The bread they served it with was what sold it for me.
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Tyler: Msambweni District Hospital

March 21, 2009

I am now on Kenya’s coastline. I am very close to the Tanzanian border in a town called Msambweni (m-sam-BWAY-nee). It’s a cute little town with barely the essentials. My house has power, running water, a TV, and toilets (they don’t flush; you have to rinse the bowl with a little bucket of water). I am living a whopping 2 minute walk away from the Indian Ocean. It’s like looking at a post card when I walk to the beach. There are palm trees and then sand and then blue water stretching to the horizon. Mrembo sana (very beautiful). I’ve gone swimming in it a couple times and the water is so warm that it isn’t refreshing. It is like going in warm bath water. I can’t wait to scuba dive here. Still working on that though…

I started working at Msambweni District Hospital on Tuesday the 17th. It’s hard to describe the differences that there are between the medical facilities here and back in the States. In the men’s ward, the patients are all in the same room in beds with less than white sheets. For the most part of the day in that ward, we just went around and checked on patient management and progression. Basically, we just talked for 30 seconds and wrote on their records, which are $0.50 notebooks, “continue management.” 

On weekends, I plan to do a little traveling, but not as much as when I was in Nairobi. I don’t know why, but I feel that the need is not there and I would just prefer to sit here on the beach. I want to go to Lamu, which is another coastal city north of Mombasa. It is an old city built hundreds of years ago and is supposedly one of the most beautiful places of Kenya. Other than that, I really want to scuba dive a lot. I’m working on arranging that today, so my fingers are crossed.


Allison: Hiking Day 3

March 17, 2009
We left the village of Latuvi at 9:00 Sunday morning. We had to hike 8 miles to the last city to catch our bus at 4:00, so the earlier we left the better our chances getting back to Oaxaca City. Busses only pass through these cities twice a day – once in the morning and once in the afternoon. What we found too is the busses are not exactly busses, but vans. So seating is limited and so is standing space.

The last hike was the most beautiful of the three day trip. Clear blue skies, moss hanging from trees, enjoying the quiet. We stopped for a quick lunch and to switch our tour guides. A little later, we stopped along a creek to relax, have a snack and cool off in the afternoon. The water looked inviting, but was way too cold to take a dip. Well, that was for everyone except for Jonathan. I don’t know how or why he did it, but he swam in water that couldn’t have been warmer than 55 degrees. He didn’t last more than 3 minutes, not even enough time to get a picture.

When we arrived in the last village, we had a wonderful lunch and laid down in the grass for a siesta. We finished our hike at 2:00 and had a couple hours to ourselves. We found a beautiful church and were unable to go inside – as an alternative we decided to climb the bell tower (as if we hadn’t had enough climbing yet.) Our bus arrived a little after 4:00 and we had another adventurous ride through the mountains back to Oaxaca City. The ride was bumpy, hot and most of us were nauseous. After two hours, we were set free on the street side in Oaxaca City in our smelly clothes and large backpacks. Two things were on our minds: food and shower.

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