Archive for April, 2009


Allison: Quick Post in Chiapas

April 20, 2009
Thursday we left Oaxaca for Chiapas, a state closer to the Guatemalan border. Our trip began with a visit to Palenque, a pre-Columbian archaeological site. After visiting the site we took our bus to Agua Azul to swim in the natural waterfalls. It was the most beautiful site we have seen on our trip so far! The falls never ended, they just terraced down the mountainside and were wonderful for swimming!


Shannon: Emotional Roller Coaster

April 19, 2009

With the last week approaching (exam week), and the departure of all my new friends, leaving my new home, and my boyfriend looming in the air, I can’t help sporadically going from laughing to crying… and I can’t figure out why! Here are my thoughts to as why:

  1. Everything I have come to know and be comfortable with is about to change… once again.
  2. I am going to have to say good bye to people I have met and grown to love, not knowing when I will see them again.
  3. I need to decide if I want to stay on my own for 2 months or if I want to go home (its always on my mind and causing me a lot of stress… on the one hand, I know I will never have this opportunity to travel ever again, but on the other hand I really feel like I need to go home, I need familiarity, and a stable life for a while…)
  4. I think I’ve finally let myself realize that I am in fact in love with my boyfriend… just in time to leave him.
  5. I miss my family even more that I have seen my mom and sister and realize that I’m missing out on being a part of their lives
  6. Exams start in two days and I haven’t started studying
  7. I am just an emotional person

Tyler: Winding Down

April 17, 2009

So my time here in Kenya is dwindling. I can’t believe I’ll be home in about 2.5 weeks! It feels like I just got here and really haven’t experienced all that I should have. But the good news is that mother is coming in a week! Her and I will be traveling around Kenya for a week. I plan on taking her to Maasai Mara on a safari so she can see what everyone who comes to Africa wants to see: the animals. I also want her to see Kibera, Nairobi, Mombasa, Fort Jesus in Mombasa, Msambweni, and Lamu if there’s time. We have like 8 days to do all of this, which is pushing it, so one or two of the places might be bumped.

Much has been the same at the hospital since my last update. I have gotten to assist more in surgeries, mostly C. sections. Some of the surgeries, i.e. total abdominal hysterectomy, are a little too advanced for me to assist in. No worries though because I get to do more than most people with my amount of training. Next week is my last week at the hospital, and it’ll be sad to leave them. One of the doctors today said I look like I belong there. He meant that I looked like a regular and that I pretty much have the hang of things in the theatre. But, it does just feel right being in the hospital. The people there have been so nice and accepting that it doesn’t feel normal. It definitely is a different world here. And the fact that I’ve made really good friends with some of the doctors and they’ve been such good teachers will make saying goodbye not fun. It’s not every day you get to see an amputation or stick your hand inside an abdomen…

This past weekend, myself and four other friends from the program went to Lamu, which is on the North Shore. It was Easter weekend, so we got to stay there for 4 days. Lamu town is quite packed. There are no streets or cars. There are only 4 foot wide alleys that are occupied by a large amount of donkeys. In Lamu, the primary mode of transportation is by donkey. I got to ride one but the donkey was so short that my feet were only inches above the ground! I bet I looked like such a fool! After seeing the sights of the town and just relaxing on the hotel balcony, we headed down the island to Shela beach. There we paid about $6.50 for a 2 bed hotel room that had a balcony overlooking the ocean and beach!! Not bad, eh? The next two days were spent on the beach so we could get our tans on and play. We made friends with the hotel’s dog. We wanted to give her a name, and after much deliberation we settled with Bonnie (only later to find out her real name is Leila). Bonnie followed us all day and played and swam with us at the beach. My friend Eric and I built a massive sand castle that included a hexagonal protective wall with towers at each intersecting point, walkways, a moat, a bridge to cross the moat, and a gigantic center castle. As you can imagine, this sand castle was extravagant! It was named Bonnieburg, after Bonnie. haha It was fun to be little kids for a day. The ocean was amazing as ever and swimming was a blast. It was hard to leave Lamu and head back to our internships, but we had to get on the 7 AM bus Monday morning. Luckily it was really hot and smelled like fish. I found out when we got to Malindi that the whole compartment underneath the bus was filled with fish!! Jerks… On top of all of that, the bus ran out of gas 20 minutes away from Mombasa!! If you ever want to go to Lamu, don’t take the TSS bus line!


Ross: The British Sense of Humor

April 15, 2009

I’m scoping out the Orangrie at Kensigton palace to see if it’s a good place to have afternoon tea. There’s a line to get in and a well dressed host walks out to an American family at the front of the line and asks “How many today?” The father replies “five please” Host frowns ever so slightly, looks down at his table list on the podium for a moment and looks back at the family while his glasses are perched ever so snobbingly at the tip of his nose and says in a cold tone “now, would that be a high five or a low five?” The father looks confused and nervous as he has no idea how to reply and genuinly thinks if he doesn’t answer the question correctly he won’t get a table. After a 5 second awkward pause, the man’s 10 year old daughter sprouts a grin, raises her arm and eagerly says “HIGH FIVE!” The host and the girl slap hands and he then proceeds to seat the family. Perfect example of the British sense of humor!


Emily: An Epic Entry

April 12, 2009

I had an EXTREMELY busy couple of weeks before break with three papers and a presentation due within a week and a half of each other, but I pulled it off with a couple all-nighters (literally no sleep) and miraculously did really well on all of them. I celebrated the first two with friends and bloody marys over brunch at a restaurant above the train station in Muizenberg. It doesn’t look like the semester will be slowing down at all and I still haven’t caught up with all of my readings, let alone reviewing the material for the final that counts for a honking 50% of the final grade. I think I’ll have to start scheduling all of my waking hours in order to be ready for them when they come in June (I know it’s so far in advance, but seriously, South African students are robots… I don’t know how they do it).

During my hectic schedule somewhere, Interstudy took us on another one of their excursions. The first stop was the District 6 Museum. District 6 in Cape Town used to be a racially and religiously diverse area in the heart of Cape Town until the forced removals under Apartheid declared the area to be for whites only. Over 60,000 people were forcibly moved to the Cape Flats and their homes were bulldozed – the only buildings left standing were places of worship. The area had been left untouched until 2003 when the government began building homes for former residents to return to, however many refuse to move back. The museum opened in 1994 to display the history and culture of the neighborhood, including photographs, personal stories, murals, old road signs, the history of the area and the impact that Apartheid had on its destruction. The museum is owned and operated by former residents who give personal heart-wrenching anecdotes of their experiences there.

Next, our guides took us on a walking tour of Langa township where we were able to see firsthand the terribly impoverished lives of township residents. We visited various stores, neighborhoods, and shebeens (unlicensed bars) from the ‘nicer’ parts of the Langa where people own their homes or live in standardized government housing, to the poorer areas where people inhabited leaky corrugated shacks, sometimes containing 3 or 4 families. Interstudy provided us with candy to pass out to the kids who would run up to you with their hands out, snatch a piece, and run away to eat it. Some of them liked to have their pictures taken and would laugh hysterically when you showed them their pictures. Something about the whole situation felt wrong and exploitative, and I couldn’t get myself to pass out the candy or snap many pictures of people.

I felt ashamed coming off an air-conditioned tour bus in a big (mostly) white and privileged group, giant cameras in hand, gasping at the awful way people had to live and asking kids to pose so we could have cute pictures of poor children to put on facebook. Our guides, who were raised in the township and knew the residents, insisted that this was okay since the money that we spend there and on the tour benefits the community, however I still felt uneasy about it all.

Our last stop in the Langa was at a shebeen where we passed along a bucket (formerly a paint bucket?) of homemade beer at the amusement of the locals, who thought our disgusted faces were quite hysterical. I started to realize how the experience was more reciprocal than I thought, and that it was important and beneficial for us to interact with residents and them with us. I left feeling less guilty about the whole thing.

Sharing homemade beer at the shebeen

Our last stop was a tour of Robben Island and its maximum security prison, where Nelson Mandela and other political prisoners were held during the Apartheid era. All parts of the tour were guided by ex-political prisoners who at some point in their lives had occupied its prison. They shared their own experiences about the daily life there, as well as stories about Nelson Mandela and his influence there.

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Ross: Vroom Vroom Italia

April 8, 2009

Every now and then life surprises you with something unforgettable. Sometimes it’s that crazy night out on the town, a teacher that inspires you beyond your expectations, or even a word of profound advice from your folks that really sticks with you. My trip to Italy was one of those moments in time I will always look back at as a “wow” experience. It was one of those times when everything that could have gone wrong DIDN’T, and any expectation you had was so greatly exceeded you forgot you ever had it. It was one of those moments where everything just worked. From leaving my flat in East London (without forgetting ANYTHING) to leaving the Ciampino airport, the journey was pure enjoyment. Surrounded by quality people, an outstanding travel itinerary , comfortable accommodation, an aggressive new travel challenge and not to mention a “cool it” I almost wish the trip didn’t end…

Alexander Abrams, Michael Kaplan and I rented a car in Milan and journeyed South to Florence. On the way we stopped off in a lakeside town to grab a bite. Taking a car through this area is like the scene in the original Blues Brothers where they drive the car through a shopping mall. I actually took the car over a moat bridge and through a castle entrance. My first Italian meal was splendid, cheese and mushroom stuffed ravioli with a side of insalata mista. From there we made our way down to Florence, along the way I began to understand the principles of Italian drivers:

  1. There are no driving rules, only suggestions
  2. The speed limit is at least double whatever the sign says.
  3. ALWAYS flash your brights before passing someone
  4. NEVER trust any other car, just assume everyone else has no idea what they’re doing on the road.
  5. Parking is one big game of who can find the weirdest spot to put their car and “no parking” signs are almost always disregarded.
  6. Know how to brake with your engine on the down slopes, otherwise you could burn out your brakes.
  7. If you ever need to yell at a another car from your window, make sure everyone in your car rolls down their window and participates.

Many people told us we were crazy for renting a car and driving with all those crazy Italians. Now I completely understand why, and would agree most Americans probably shouldn’t do this, but if you’ve got the right people with you to navigate, and you’re confident driving a stick then by all means do it. Driving through Italy is one of the best ways to see the country.

This was my second visit to Florence so I took some time to explore some alternative destinations. The Boboli gardens, the Museum of Science (which is awful), and Michaelangelo’s look out. All in all it was a great day, with some exceptional food, great company and of course Gelato.

The Duomo in Siena

The drive to Rome was truly fantastic. We headed to Rome on a small mountainous road stopping at any interesting down we saw along the way. We even ran into a nice Israeli couple at one of the lookout points (what are the odds of that??). On our way to Rome, we decided to stop in Siena. Siena was one of those cities you just know is authentic. One of our oddest experiences occurred in this town. In the areas central park two cars rolled up and eight guys dressed in suits and large blue feathered caps got out and walked around the park singing songs and chatting amongst themselves. Before they returned to their vehicles one of the guys retrieves the largest bottle of vodka I’ve ever seen and they each take shots out of the “lotion bottle” style nozzle and they drive off. If anyone can explain this please do, it was one of the oddest scenes I’ve witnessed and the funniest part of it was no one else in the park seemed to care.

My time in Rome was filled with the usual tourist destinations. The whole city is one big museum. I had great time seeing the sights and my only complaint was the touristy restaurants that are difficult to avoid. I saw the pope speaking at the Vatican—Funny side story, while I’m making my way through the crowd a giant dog tried to jump at me and let out a mean bark. Prob smelled the Jew on me.

If you every find yourself in Rome, a MUST SEE is the Jewish museum. It’s an absolutely stunning temple and the restaurants in the Jewish Ghetto are some the best in the city.

So that’s my post for Italy, as always I try to keep it brief so I’ll leave you with the Italy hot list:

  • Go to Siena, it’s lovely.
  • Driving in Italy is a great idea, but bring a GPS and trust no-one on the road (see rules of the road).
  • “Snack bars” are everywhere and serve some of the best espresso.
  • GELATO, need I say more?
  • When in Italy, talk with your hands.
  • McDonald’s has an amazing sandwich called the Napoli, I know you shouldn’t visit Italy for fast food but believe me it’s worth it.
  • DO NOT try to eat at a restaurant with more than four people if you intend on splitting up the bill.
  • Restaurants in Rome will tell you anything to get you in the door, and their food normally sucks.

That’s all folks,


Tyler: Update from Msambweni District Hospital

April 7, 2009

Not much new has been happening here as of late. Just been going to the hospital every day and working on papers and relaxing on weekends. I got decently sun burned this week. I was outside for less than an hour!! Didn’t take long, I guess. Next weekend, I’ll be heading to Lamu (see previous entry). It’s Easter weekend then, so they get four days off in Kenya. Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday. That will be a nice little break. I hear that they offer donkey rides around the whole town, making anticipation higher.

Theatre is my favorite part of the hospital. It gets repetitive with some of the procedures, such as prostatectomy, hysterectomy, C. sections, and herniorrhaphy. C. sections are fun though because I get to receive the baby after is removed from the uterus and cut its cord, clean it, and show it to the mama. There are quite a few orthopedic cases too (fractures – pin and plate insertions). Those are really interesting to watch. I took some videos of them, so when I get home some of you can view them! I even got to assist in one procedure, meaning I scrubbed in and wore everything the surgeon does. I was with the head surgeon, so that was a little intimidating, but it was only like 20 minutes anyway.

On Monday and Tuesday, I’m in the wards and we go around and check up on the patients and refer them if necessary to the proper senior medical officers. If we’re lucky, we’ll draw blood, send things to the lab, put in IVs, or stitch a wound to spice up the day. The outpatient clinic (Thursday) is more of the same in that we do check ups of patients who had been previously discharged from the hospital. Basically, these days are filler until its Wednesday or Friday. Every experience here has been great though and really educational because of my supervisors’ tutelage. They’re always explaining things and showing me how to do procedures. I really couldn’t ask for more!

Internet is sketchy here, so no luck with the photos. You might have to wait until I get home to see more…


Kari: Yes Dad, I am actually learning something…

April 5, 2009
March 23rd-March 25th

I had to write a paper for my Modern Irish Society class. My topic was the downfall of the Churches in Ireland in relation to sexual morality. I found the topic is be very interesting, and I learned so much by simply writing this 2,000 word paper. I found myself procrastinating, as always, so my dear friend Amanda changed my password on facebook for about 48 hours so I couldn’t get on. What a blessing that was. It’s funny how much work can get done if you just sit down and focus on it for a couple of hours!

March 26th- I ran to class at 9:15 AM and luckily we got done extremely early, so I ran to the library to edit my paper. I then went to class from 11:15-12:15, watched a couple presentations, then came back to the library ready to print my paper. Of course the printers had to be broken that day. I found Kelsey, we worked out a plan of action and figured out where the other computer labs were with computers. I had to go through a complicated process of turning in my paper through a plagiarism website because plagiarism is a big problem here, then I had to print out my paper and turn in a hard copy to the school office. After waiting around for a good 10 minutes, I just left my paper in Bill’s mailbox and prayed that he would get it. After I walked with Kelsey to turn in her paper, I came back to my flat to pack for LONDON! Our good friend, Johnny Stewart (you can call him J-Stew), came and picked us up at 4:30 PM to give us a lift to the Belfast City Airport. We were a bit early, so J-Stew dropped us off at the curb, went and parked his car, then came back and joined us for a cup of tea before we went through security. It only took us about a half hour to get through security, and in a matter of ten minutes after we went through security, our flight was ready to line up…

I will have to finish my London adventures when I return. I have to go catch a cab with Bethany and Baz to the International airport because we are heading to Amsterdam for a few days!

Until next time…


Allison: Santo Domingo Yanhuitlan

April 1, 2009

This past Friday our Mexican instructor, Daniel Lopez, took our group on a 12 hour day trip to the Mixteca Region of Oaxaca. Mixteca is about 100 miles north of Oaxaca City and is known for its churches from the XVI c. built by the Dominicans following the Gothic tradition of construction.

The first site we visited was Santo Domingo Yanhuitlan. It sits upon a hill in a small village in the countryside. The church is currently under construction, therefore we needed a guide to lead us through the scaffolding and plastic tarps. However, the construction was not in the least a distraction. The interior vaults were beautiful and everything looked fresh from the current restoration project.

This photo was taken facing the church entrance. You can see light coming from above behind the choir loft. The church was long, narrow and tall. Being built upon a hill in the countryside, so much light was let in through the few windows and doors. It was 10:00 in the morning and the entire nave was lit up so beautifully. Yanhuitlan is one of very few XVI century gothic style churches in the Americas.

To the left is a view from the base of the altarpiece in the front of the church. It is beautifully crafted and stands out with great contrast to the creamy white walls of the interior. Statues and paintings towered from floor to ceiling on the golden altarpiece.

We were lucky enough to go behind the altarpiece through a small side door hidden in the structure. behind they were making minor repairs to the structure holding up the decorated front.
We also visited two other churches of the Mixteca Region. They are just as wonderful as Yanhuitlan… so check back for these posts!
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