Archive for June, 2009

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Erica: Catatumbo

June 30, 2009

This trip was lots of fun, and different than the others because it was just me and two other americans who planned it last-minute.  It was totally worth it, though.

DSCI0167.JPGThis is a picture of the “Ranger’s Station” in our area of Lake Maracaibo.  For those not familiar with Venezuelan geography, this lake is actually the huge bay in northern Venezuela, but they all call it a lake because the inlet is small in comparison with how big the area of water is, and the species here (at least where we were, on the south-west edge of it) are fresh-water.

DSCI0161.JPGSunset from our boat.

DSCI0145.JPGThis is where we slept (yay for the return of the hammocks!) Luckily there was a breeze for most of the night so we didn’t get bitten too badly by the mosquitoes. My hammock was the one closest to the corner, and when it got dark I could see the stars from where I was laying down. It was really clear at night and was excellent stargazing conditions once the quarter moon retired. It was amazing, this picture is facing north, and that’s where the lightning phenomenon started and stayed for about two hours, then it moved to the southwest. So we had this awesome lights show in the distance (I decided it was a pretty good substitute for missing the 4th of July celebrations) and a clear sky above us.

At its peak, we would see flashes every two or three seconds. Most of it was cloud-to-cloud, but some of it was striking down too. It was too far away to hear the thunder, but that made it all the more mysterious and special. Most of the night I sat with my two other american girl friends talking about our Venezuelan experience. There were only five of us tourists there (two Germans were with us), with two guides and the boat driver.  I think I prefer smaller groups like this, you can get to know people better and generally have a more intimate experience. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Alyssa: Five Days Left in London

June 30, 2009

Only 5 days left…it’s all gone by so quickly and it has been an incredible experience. I’ve seen and learned so much about British history, design, and the culture itself. I still have quite a few places I want to see and could use another week or two but I only have 5 days left!

Anyway, enough about that. I’m working on my thank you card for my internship site. They have been great. I haven’t really learned much in the technical field of design, but have learned an immense amount international design and British culture. I really don’t want to leave this experience. I feel like I’m just getting into it. The projects they are working on are amazing. Huge clients—Harrods! It’s just great and the atmosphere in the design space is positive and you can really feel they love what they are doing. They are all really intelligent too. Really intellectual conversations about foreign affairs and the British economy and government happen daily. I usually listen quietly and nod along, pretty much just absorbing what they are saying.

I hope I have helped out with the work I’ve been doing and have added to their productivity a bit. I also really appreciate them taking a chance on me. I was the first CAPA intern they have taken on and I hope I have lived up to their expectations.

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Ben: El Centro

June 27, 2009

My summer in Venezuela is proving to be a very complicated balancing act between the need to study and the desire to experience. Although initially nine weeks sounded like a long time, the truth is that much of my time here is consumed either in school or studying for school. After all of the time I spend studying, there is not much left of those nine weeks. Let’s just say that I am very glad I will be staying down here an extra two weeks after my classes are over.

I am discovering that there is a strange relationship between studying a language and actually using the language. If I simply wandered the streets trying to pick the language up, I would not be able to learn the grammar required to pass my exams. At the same time, studying constantly and mastering grammar does not mean that you have consumed the language enough to be able to answer even simple questions in a conversational setting, regardless of how you do on your exams. So, like I said, it is a rather complicated balancing act.

That being said, this past week has been testing my sense of balance. Since it was the final week of my Spanish 1002 class most of the week was spent preparing for Thursday’s final exam. In addition, I also had to write two papers in Spanish. If you have never had to write a paper in a foreign language that you do not know all that well, I am not sure that you can ever really understand how difficult it is. I found out that I could not simply write in English and then translate because I do not understand the Spanish language well enough. I am not talking about vocabulary… you can always look a word up in the dictionary. What I am talking about is how the language itself is constructed… how you phrase things… how the language actually lives and breathes. The truth is that in order for me to write a paper in Spanish I need to start in Spanish and work with the limited grammar that I understand. It can be very frustrating and a little humiliating because you feel like you are writing like a child (which I suppose I am). It would be roughly equivalent to drawing well enough to receive an art scholarship, and then have someone hand you a coloring book and tell you to practice staying within the lines.

A small plaza hidden in el Centro.

A small plaza hidden in el Centro.

Wednesday was a national holiday so the school wasn’t open, but a friend and I hired our professor to meet with us at a café for a few hours of extra practice. After that, I went home to write my final paper, ate dinner, and then spent the rest of the night cramming for my exam. By 1:30 in the morning I fell asleep with flashcards in hand, hoping that it was enough. Although I exhausted myself, I ended up getting 96 out of a possible 100 on the final exam. Thursday night, after enjoying congratulations from my host family, I passed out in a tired heap on my bed. The long 24 hours of studying had done me in completely. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Erica: Los Llanos 4

June 27, 2009

This was the utterly breathtaking midsummer sunrise that I woke up to. I needed to go to the bathroom, and stepped outside to this magnificence.  There was also a chorus of birds and frogs to welcome the day. This was the only sunrise I’ve been awake to see here, and definitely the most amazing one of my life thus far.

n1597560085_30223988_7418462And here we are on the river tour, this fancy beetle decided to have a little visit on my shoe.

n1597560085_30224009_3178130Owl that we saw on one of the jeep tours.  I was surprised it was out that early.

n1597560085_30223982_618775Here we can see the frog that our guide found and decided to put on my back.  It was a good little friend.

n1597560085_30223934_3565539We saw some howler monkeys too. Pretty neat to see their arboreal acrobatics in the wild.n1597560085_30223921_6471076

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Erica: Los Llanos 3

June 26, 2009

Here are the local R.O.U.S.’s  (for those of you unfamiliar with The Princess Bride, that stands for “rodents of unusual size”). They are called Capybara and they travel in these herds all across Los Llanos. They have webbed feet too, and can swim really well.  Some of the bigger ones were the size of a labrador.

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Here is another one a little more close up, they’re adorable.  And kind of ridiculous.

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This was my super-high-tech fishing utensil for catching piranhas. That’s a piece of beef on the end. I didn’t end up catching any, but it was fun trying anyway. And after some people caught one or two, they just chopped up the pirana and used that as bait for the other ones. While we were fishing the pink river dolphins came and gave us a visit too. That was definitely one of the highlights of the trip. We didn’t get a great look at them because they don’t jump out of the water like ocean dolphins do, but we saw the hump on their back (they don’t have dorsal fins) and I saw one poke its head out of the water to peek at us. There is lots of local folklore related to these animals, and even some new-age-healing-swimming-with-the-dolphins therapy in Brazil.

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This is a crazy turtle that our guide jumped into the pirana-infested waters to show to us.  Pretty weird looking, it’s head goes in to the (our) left to hide.  It’s sideways and weird, but impressive and old.

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And finally, this shows the small area we had to work with in our boat tour.

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Erica: Los Llanos 2

June 26, 2009

Here is where we began our river tour on Sunday.

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There was an ocelot that hung around the farm where we started the river tour. It was really great seeing one wild/partially domesticated and not in a cage. But one dude wanted a picture with it and tried to hold it next to him but it growled and he had to let it go or suffer the consequences. Serves him right. Respect the feline. However, after it growled at him the ocelot walked over to me and briefly rubbed at my legs, so I got to pet it. I felt blessed.

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Gorgeous sunset coming back from Saturday’s jeep safari adventure.

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I don’t know why we were so fascinating to these cows, but they couldn’t stop staring at us.  And this picture makes me laugh, it’s currently the background on my laptop.

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Erica: Los Llanos 1

June 26, 2009

Los Llanos was absolutely amazing. It didn’t get as hot as I thought it would, and I had enough bug spray to avoid the worst of it.

Here are some of the other students that came with, we went horseback riding for about three hours last saturday. It was great, my horse was exactly how I needed it to be.  It normally liked to walk and follow the crowd, but it would gallop when I wanted it to and was generally responsive to my commands. It was also nice being in a bigger group with so much area, because we could stray a little away from the trodden path if we chose to.  And it was absolutely gorgeous. We saw lots of wild horses, and I guess all the horses they have at the “ranch” we stayed at were taken from the wild and “broke in”.DSCI0150.JPG

This is a picture of our shower. The running water was from a well, and it was the perfect temperature. However, this shower only had three sides (the non-wall part was facing the fence in this picture). Needless to say I only took one shower, and it was at dusk.

DSCI0138.JPGProbably one of the highlights of this trip was being able to sleep in a hammock.  You wouldn’t think it would be very comfortable, but if you sleep more diagonally it’s actually quite cozy.  There were eight of us here, each with our hammock in this small rounded building.  Really nice for visiting.

This is the view from the restaurant we stopped at on the way to Los Llanos.  We had an amazing BBQ and lots of different kinds of birds came around to eat the fruit we put out on the ledge.  Saw a hummingbird, too.

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