Archive for August, 2010

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Sam: ¡Achachay!

August 31, 2010

It is so cold (for August) – 54 F and raining. I am in my new home, which is a unique setup: I sleep upstairs along with my house brother (who will be here Friday or Saturday) while my house parents sleep below. In a separate house. Not to fear, There is a 12 foot gate around the perimeter, the windows have bars, there is a gate before the door can be accessed, and I am forty yards from an occupied barracks. Apparently I don’t even have to use public transportation. Since there is a certain number of students in this sector, it is easier to just carpool. Tomorrow starts real classes and right now starts sleep.

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Haley: I leave for Kenya

August 30, 2010

O’Hare is full of people I assume can’t speak English; scratch that, they DON’T. So I averted to speaking the universal sign language of Pointing. After 2 hours of waiting, we board the biggest plane I’ve ever been on. (Of course the whole time my Ma wants to be on the phone with me… If she had it her way she’d tell me to wait til the flight attendant is forced to get physical; so naturally I hang up asap.) SO I’m sitting on this plane with nothing but time. I start thinking. And I found that I wasn’t nervous about going to a different country. NO, I was worried about travelers Diarrhea. (yes yes “ewwww”) but I realized how badly I DID NOT want that… Of ALL the things to think about, THIS is what goes through my mind. Theo mou.

While the captain is speaking it takes me a good 30 seconds to realize it wasn’t in English… (DUMB HALEY). 3 movies and 8 hours later we arrive in Amsterdam. Within 5 minutes of arrival I run into 2 kids on my program… So naturally we go and grab a beer and *Free Chocolate.* (Don’t question…) I got a kick out of this breakfast sign outside of McDonalds. It was four pictures of McD breakfasts from 4 different places… London, Paris, Tokyo, America. London had a sandwhich with yogurt, Paris had fruit with theirs (all healthy things) and then the pictue of America was just TWO egg McMuffins; hahaha… We got caught up in so many different things that we lost track of time and had to run alllllllll the way to our gate to make it just in time. (One of the kids we were with got stuck behind a clan of grannies on the moving walk way, so he had to jump the rail and sprint the rest of the way; really funny actually)
I board the plane with 8 more hours to go…

Stepping off the plane I was greeted with a smell that was made up of musk, dirt, heat, and country… I’m nowhere from home… I’m tired… What time is it… where the heck do I go… WHY IS MY LUGGAGE TAKING SO DAMN LONG… oh, nevermind my luggage is upside down… there are a lot of girls on the program… Follow a woman holding a sign for MSID students (msid is my program)… I’m on a bus…. We arrive at a hostel for the night and will leave for our orientation in the morning. WHATEVER just give me a bed!!!!!!!

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Chris: New groove

August 30, 2010


Hello America,

A few weeks back, me and a few friends went to the National Park Chapada Diamantina, which is a really amazing place, located here in the Bahia state of Brasil. This trip happened at the start of August and we stayed in the nearby town of Lencoes. When we arrived, we were greeted by a large group of people expecting us, waiting to meet tourists and bring us to their respective Posadas, and offering tours of the various sights and trips within the park. Luckily, Danimal, one of the Americans on the trip, was in higher spirits than the rest of us, and found a cheap, quaint, and amazing place to stay. I don’t mean to say that it was amazing in the sense that it was super nice, full of backpackers, and ambiance; I mean it in the opposite way, in that it was off the beaten path, empty, and humble.

Once there we decided that for the three days we had, we would try to do a trip to capture the most of the park in a short time. After talking with our guide/son of the posada owner, we set out in his last eighties model Fiat, that was literally falling apart while we were riding in it, for a day full of sights and moderate adventure. Some of the things we saw: waterfalls, a cave tour inherently cooler than any other cave tour, monkeys, a lake with crystal clear water, and —well I guess the best term would be hill in English. Unfortunately, my camera broke on the first day, so my pictures are limited, but I’ll put up what I have. It is hard to put into words all the beautiful things that I saw that day, but I hope that the pictures give you some idea.

The next day, we set our early after a breakfast of tapioca pancakes called Beijus, fruit and coffee, to see the tallest waterfall in Brasil, called Fumaca, or smoke because the water evaporates before it hits the ground. I am again sorry that my camera broke by this point, and I have no pictures, but let me try to paint you a word picture: After a relatively easy, two hour hike, we arrived at this huge cliff. I was actually not sure that we arrived, until i saw people getting on their stomachs and looking over to see the falls. Now the falls are so high, that there is a mist coating everything, and no matter what you do, you are damp. I, being afraid of hights to a minor extent, had to work up the nerve to go to the edge, and when I did, what I saw was amazing. One cannot see the bottom, all you see is water falling into a deep valley. I am sure that at the bottom, there is in fact a pool, but it is so far down that it is impossible to tell. It was amazing.

The next day as we went to buy our tickets back home for that night, we were told that there were spots available on the bus. So we met up with some other people from the CIEE group, hung out at a waterfall, and had mexican food (which in Brasil is really hard to come by). It was a relaxing way to end a great weekend.

This past week has been an amazing one also. I feel that I am finally feeling right in the world, and making the most of Brasil. This Thursday I said goodbye to a good friend, which was sad, but her going away party was pretty fun. Its always hard to say goodbye, but I feel that as I get older, and have therefore had to do it more often, it becomes easier. I hope that I see Luize again someday. Her party had a samba band, and despite my sad attempt at dancing, I was able to have a good time. By far the best part of the evening was the fact that everyone was able to make it. Now I know that we are two months into our trip, so the idea of not having hung out with everyone is weird, but it’s true. I think that’s a lot of the reasoning behind why CIEE organized the whole experience this way, as I explained in the last post. But I feel like now, finally, everyone is hanging with each other as well as making Brazilian friends.

Saturday was spent at a beautiful beach, with beautiful ladies, who are also becoming good friends of mine.

I am now volunteering in two places: One is teaching English to underprivileged kids, the other is an orphanage. I went to the orphanage on Sunday, and it was amazing. The kids have so much energy and want so much love. I really felt like I was making a minor difference in their lives by playing with them.

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Claudia: Setting the Scene

August 26, 2010

I know that having a blog for a study abroad trip is pretty cliche, but I’m doing it anyway. I will be spending my fall 2010 semester at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, UK. “Why Scotland?” you might ask. Because I love dreary, rainy, cold places. I do choose, after all, to attend the University of Minnesota on a regular basis. But seriously, when I was probably in fifth or sixth grade, I read some historical fiction book about Mary, Queen of Scots. From there on out, I read everything I could find about her, and I knew one thing: I wanted to go to Scotland. I wanted to see the castles at Sterling, Craigmillar, the Hermitage, Loch Leven, and obviously, Edinburgh.

Scotland appeals to me not only because there are places of great historical significance (going all the way back to Roman times!), but also because I hear the landscape is phenomenally beautiful. I mean, there is an extinct volcano in the middle of Edinburgh! How cool is that? So, when I was looking to study abroad, I took the facts that A) I do not speak any languages other than English, B) It would really help me eventually graduate if I could take a Latin class, and C) I wanted to enter a university, not just a study abroad center, and C) I wanted to be in a city, and arrived at the conclusion that Edinburgh was the place to be.

Since I have trouble understanding accents, I figure that being in Scotland will be sort of like being in a non-English speaking country, but one where I’ll be able to read signs directing me to the bathroom. Unfortunately, I have to wake up so early for that I haven’t been able to keep up with my Late Late Show habit for most of the summer, and so I haven’t been hearing the accent every day, though I assume that 1) Craig Ferguson’s accent is not too thick, since he’s been in America for quite a while, and 2) a Glaswegian accent is far different from an Edinburgher accent. After reading American on Purpose, I’m sort of bummed out that I won’t be in Edinburgh for the International and Fringe Festivals, but at least I shall be there for Hogmanay.

Academically, I am very excited to be in Edinburgh, known as the “Athens of the North.” I will be taking an oral folk history class (hopefully, as fun as my storytelling class at Minnesota!), Archaeology of Scotland, and a Latin class in which we will be reading early Vergil. I am looking forward to only having three classes, so that I can really get into each one, and have a bit of a break from trying to spread myself thin over all my science classes. I have had so few opportunities to do real reading and writing, so it will be nice to be doing the more liberal-artsy thing again.

I am starting my time abroad with a trip to London. Then on to Copenhagen for a few days there, and then I’m taking the train to Stockholm. I will be stopping in Malmo in between those two destinations, and maybe learning a bit about my ancestry, while I am at it. I won’t be able to get all the way up to Norbotten (where we, at least fairly recently, had some distant cousins), but that’s okay. I’ll return to London on September 6, take the train to Edinburgh on the 7th, get oriented on the 8th, and then start school.

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Chris: first couple months in paradise

August 25, 2010

A lot has changed in my life, namely I am in Salvador, Brasil. Let me start by saying that it is beautiful, and I am still thinking about extending my trip to be a year instead of a semester. I wish I had a good reason for not keeping up my blog, and I guess a lack of internet is a passable one, but truth be told, I am just now getting into the swing of things. I have had just two weeks of real classes at the University, and I am now finding myself with time to write. The way that the program I am on works is that we have a summer program with a culture and Portuguese class, then we can take actual classes at two universities. I think that this will have a great effect on my Portuguese, since I am taking actual college classes with real live Brazilians.

The classes I am taking are: Brazilian Manifestations, Intermediate Portuguese, Marketing Photography, Digital Advertising, and Ceramics. Now none of these classes will transfer directly into my PR major, so really I think I could have taken whatever I wanted and it would have been ok, but advertising and marketing classes legitimately interest me, and who knows, maybe i will take something out of it that I would not have gotten from a class at the U of M.

As far as to what i have been doing for the past months, the truth is that I cannot put everything down on paper, but I will write about what sticks out the most in my mind. The way that the program works has led to a very interesting set of emotions. I feel that as my second study abroad experience, it has led me to have a better understanding of what I am going though, and I can appreciate where I am at in the world. When i first landed here in Brasil, I was shocked at how many other Americans were with me on the trip. Well it turned out that all the CIEE kids studying in Brasil, from four different programs, were all going to be in Salvador at the same time for an intensive language and culture program. This was good and bad: it was good in that I made some potential life long friends, and bad in that after the programs ended, I found myself feeling alone. Between going to picturesque islands, and drinking beers at the gas station, it was a great couple of months.

Now that they are gone, I have a group of Americans to hang out with, but it lacks that same sense of family that it had in Venezuela. In the long term, this could be to my advantage, in that i have more incentive to meet Brazilians, and I recognize that no two programs are the same. I really wish that I had better documented my first few months, but what can you do? I dont have internet in my place of residence, and Iam actually typing this out at my neighbor’s house.
My family here is amazing. I have a mom, who is old, and a brother who is an oral and face sugeon. He is really cool. I think that one reason that he is still living at home, other than the cultural difference of Latin American families, is that he knows that his mom wants him there. Still I can’t imagine being 30 years old, having an awesome job, and still living at home. I can admire it though, as a noble thing that a son is doing for his mom. I guess to be fair, her cooking is amazing, and I can imagine that has a little to do with it.

I literally live right by the beach, and the funny thing is that I don’t go as much as I would have thought back in Minnesota. It is one of those beaches that would make a good postcard. It is amazing, and I hope now that i have more free time I am able to go there to read, or even just to work on my tan, and enjoy as much sun as I can before the Minnesota winter.

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Natalie: First day of class

August 24, 2010

Friday
This morning I woke up bright and early and headed to campus.  I was able to get my student card which enables me to use the library, get student discounts, and print. Classes start on Monday.

I then headed down town to do some shopping. I bought a 60 Liter backpack for my upcoming trips. I’m assuming it’s not the nicest backpack due to the fact I bought it at Clas Ohlsen, an everything store, but it was only 350 NOK ($50), so I assume it will at least get me through.

At 4, I went to international coffee hour at Chateau Neuf. There were a trillion people there and I felt really lost in the jumble. It was hard to just approach an already engaged group and introduce yourself. Luckily, my roommate spotted me. And so the rest of the afternoon we sat there with the rest of our flat mates eating free cookies and drinking coffee.

We finally met some Norwegians tonight! They filled us in on all the great places to ski in the area as well as a few new phrases. They were a little frightened though, when after having a quick gab session in Norwegian I informed them jokingly that I had understood every word that they had just said. Haha. I wish. One thing that is a bit annoying here is that the international students are never mixed with Norwegian students. We all live together and take classes together. It’s a bit sad. I wish I could learn more about their ways from actually spending time with them. Another thing that is sometimes tough is that I am 19. No complaints other than to get into a lot of events, 20 is the minimum age. This means I have to stay behind sometimes.

Saturday
Again, I woke up to the sound of rain pounding outside. So there was no choice but for a lazy morning. Suddenly the sun decided to come out so I went for a jog around the lake. There were people everywhere! After, I decided just to dip my feet in the water. Haha, that turned into a swim after I slipped on a rock and was completely soaked. It was quite the embarrassing walk home, barefoot and dripping, through a busy sports university campus.

Later, Jamie and I went downtown to see what was happening. Due to the fact it was Sunday many shops were closed or closing. We did stop in a few tourist shops and looked. It’s funny how now when there is a crowd of tourist we get annoyed. Walk faster people! We also saw the Royal Palace.

Sunday
Already this morning the sun is shining and I am ready to go. We have a lot of over ripe/ smashed bananas so I’ve decided to make banana bread. The kitchen is filled with the aroma of it. I sense that fall is about to break loose soon.
We took a trip up to Holmenkollen today. There lies the site of ski jump from the 1952 winter Olympics and a ski museum.

It is the number one tourist attraction is Oslo. The site was under construction due to the fact that they are hosting the FIS World Cup Ski Championships this year and the jump didn’t meet height requirement for the organization so it is being completely rebuilt. We were still able to tour it though. The tour cost 80 Kr and took us to the very top of the jump. The view was spectacular.

One can see all of Oslo being that the jump is the highest point in the city. The museum was also very informative. There was a display showing how skis were made 5000 years ago until current. There was also a lot of information about the ski movement in the 1900’s when the Norwegian government made skiing the national sport and created multiple campaigns to encourage people to get out and enjoy nature. The crown prince was even a skier himself!

Monday
I woke up at 6 am to take a shower, eat, and gather my things. I hadn’t even bought notebooks, textbooks, or pens yet! My roommate was probably a little annoyed…

I was lucky to have gotten to class so early, I guess. There are 300 students registered in the class and only 200 seats in the auditorium. I guess like my professor said, “They aren’t expecting 100 students to show up a day.” Eh? My first and only class for the week was American literature. It was odd sitting in a class of 300 Norwegians learning about America. Lewis and Clark… I know them! California? Where is it? I’ll show you! I really enjoyed the class though, and am excited to start the reading list, which is extensive! I bought the textbook for the class: 3 inches wide and weighs nearly 10 lbs! The other reading I plan on borrowing from the library in order to save some money. The teacher spoke really great English. I wouldn’t be surprised if she is from the US.

One thing I will say is that I am thrilled that classes are starting. Finally I’m starting to realize how lucky I am to be a student. Not only is it an opportunity that not reachable for everyone, but also the fact that we are able to spend time learning about the world around us and not worrying about much else in extremely special. We are given the tools and knowhow to pull of some pretty amazing things and come up with some incredible thoughts. This time is fast fleeting though as I’ve learned from my roommate who only has a year left in her master’s program. So I must appreciate it.

After class I went down town to Grønland where I picked up some more things from the market and took a look into a couple other stores. I needed notebooks, colored pencil, copy paper, and a broom. When I checked out the woman flat out laughed at me as I placed a pad of paper covered with a clown picture, a pink canister of colored pencils, children’s themed notebooks, and a neon blue broom on the counter. They were cheap all right?!

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Sam: 5 things I will miss while abroad

August 24, 2010

Finally, less than one week before departure, I have received my homestay information. I will be living with Alberto, a teacher, and his wife and son, Amanda and Santiago (who is 23). For the first time, I realize that this fantastic voyage is imminent. Knowing the names and address of the people with whom I will be living has eased my mind just enough that maybe now I can finish my shopping and begin packing (but probably not).

Certainly there are a number of people I will miss and it will be strange to not be able to wake up in my own room (at home or in a dorm), but I made a little list dedicated to the things I will miss the most while in Quito. Plus, this is a good way to get me in the habit of actually writing in this online journal.

5. Terrible food

I don’t mean food that tastes bad since that is missable wherever I go in the world. Rather, I mean the heart-stopping, stomach-churning, sleep-inducing garbage that makes my home country so famous. Burgers, hot dogs, chips, anything from a Paula Deen cookbook, etc. I don’t eat a whole lot of these foods as is, but when I do I go all out…


4. Seasons
Quito is a balmy 45-70 F year round (source: Wikipedia. Take that, college education.). It is in a plateaued valley and experiences cool and pleasant weather most days. Nevertheless, I will be missing fall this year, which just happens to be my favorite season. Spring and fall are about the only things Pennsylvania’s climate does well, so it is somewhat of a shame to not have that even for only a year.

3. Transportation
I have the luxury of being able to walk, bike, or drive anywhere I need to go. This will not be the case in Quito. I am going to be relying on buses, taxis, planes, and other assorted mass transit options to get around. Since Quito is a city this won’t be as frustrating as if I were studying in a rural area but still…I like to be in control.

2. My Stuff
Packing light is mandatory. Everything I could possibly need has to fit in one suitcase and one backpack. That said, I’m going to miss some things that won’t quite make the cut, such as a bed or a bike. Luckily, I’ll have a computer, so most intellectual property will be available to me, but I have a feeling the program frowns upon packing a Nintendo “just in case.”

1. English
This entry would have taken about an hour if I had to write it in Spanish. Obviously I very much enjoy speaking and reading and writing and learning in Spanish, but it does take significantly longer to accomplish anything than if I were utilizing my native tongue. I also won’t be able to quickly deploy some of my favorite colloquialisms and expressions because they just wouldn’t make sense. I’m sure I will find plenty of time for English even in a Spanish-speaking country, but there will be something lacking when I can’t seamlessly go through my day as I would at home.
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Brittany: Why MSID Ecuador?

August 20, 2010

One reason I chose Ecuador and the MSID program was to write my summa cum laude undergrad thesis.  Here is one topic I’m considering:

Blackmail or Innovation? Ecuador Says No Drilling in Amazon Reserve for $3.6 Billion

Early in August the United Nations Development Program and Ecuador signed a pioneering accord that will protect a part of the Amazon from oil drilling for ten years, leaving an estimated 20% of Ecuador’s crude oil reserves untapped.

The specific location, the Yasuni National Park, was named a World Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in 1989.  In addition to the diversity of plant and animal (and human) life, it is estimated to hold 846 million barrels of crude—Ecuador’s biggest export.

As part of the agreement, Ecuador wants $3.6 billion from other nations to go into an UN-administered trust fund for it to refrain from drilling in the Yasuni reserve.  That might sound a bit like blackmail, but the amount covers only half of what Ecuador would have likely made from selling the oil found there.

In addition, officials say avoiding drilling in Yasuni will prevent more than 400 million metric tons of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere, a factor in climate change.

So far Spain, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, Norway, Italy and the United States have expressed interest in giving to the trust fund.

The UNDP’s Rebeca Grynspan said the accord is “innovative, audacious and important for the whole planet,” and that the UNDP is interested in duplicating it in other places such as Nigeria, Guatemala and Vietnam.

The agreement would only protect one part of Ecuador’s Amazon for a limited time, a region that has already experienced significant destruction from the oil industry…but could this be an emerging model for protecting natural resources and the environment?

[Reported by the BBC and LA Times.]

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Eric: Thanks & some feelings

August 20, 2010

So, I am pretty much back to my normal life. I am sleeping in pretty much every single day (not the best habit to get into before school starts). I am cooking stuff that I am used to eating, and most of all, I am living with people who can understand what I am speaking. (I’m also thankful for the working shower). I have so many people to thank for supporting me throughout my 10 weeks of studying abroad. Without them, I don’t think I would have made it.

First and foremost, I want to thank my family, particularly my parents. You really have to give them credits: what kind of parents would pay money to let their son go off on his own to Europe and Africa for the summer. I am thankful to have them support me financially and mentally while I was abroad. Most of the financial resources that paid for my program fees, tuition, and other related costs came from the university financial aid (federal, state, and school) and scholarships, in particular the Gilman Scholarship. Thanks to them, my family doesn’t have to go bankrupt sending me abroad. I want to thank the Ben Yassin Family in Fès who welcomed me to the city when I couldn’t even effectively communicate with them. They have done so much for me and I am truly grateful. I also want to thank the U of M Learning Abroad Center for setting up wonderful programs for students to attend. I want to thank Dr. M. E. White for making the Florence program the best class I have ever attended. I want to thank Dr. Ianeva-Lockney (who was my first Norwegian instructor) for writing me that recommendation letter that allowed to me be accepted to the Morocco program. Last but not least, I want to thank whoever has been, was, is, or will be reading my blog.

Now we are done with the touchy feelings, I just have a few comments. Regarding the Cordoba House to be built in New York City… I am usually not a very political person, and I am not a supporter of any political parties. But having just returned from a Muslim country, I have to say that Americans aren’t showing as much tolerance as they should, not to mention that it’s not even a mosque they are building. I walked on the streets of Fès and was never ever harassed because I am not a Muslim. There are Christian churches in the Kingdom of Morocco and you don’t see anyone having a problem with them. Yes, 9/11 happened and yes, those who attacked America were Muslims. That doesn’t mean people should generalize the entire Muslim population as terrorists and hate on them. If we can’t even tolerate a Muslim community center, how can we expect people of other countries to understand that the US is a country proud of its “freedoms” and tolerant of all people regardless of their religions? We always fear what we don’t understand, so why not use this opportunity to show that the US actually opens her arms to all religions and melt the hatred and fear that led to 9/11 in the first place?

With regard to people who are still wondering whether they should studying abroad, I say, stop wondering and go apply for a program already. It really will be a life-changing experience.

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Lindsay: Te Papa museum & farmer’s market

August 16, 2010

This past Sunday I went out with my friend, Jamie, to the Te Papa museum and to the farmer’s market.

Te Papa is the nation museum of New Zealand. It’s full of everything: marine life, art, Maori culture and history, migrant history, etc. We only explored a portion because as we went further and further we realized how huge it was. I couldn’t take pictures in a lot of the exhibits, unfortunately.

We saw the native animals part of the museum, where they have a huge sperm whale skeleton hanging from the ceiling. I tried to take some pictures but it was too dark and they didn’t turn out very well. We also saw a large portion of the Maori section and some of the Pacific Islanders section. We walked around the art exhibit and the current exhibit: Paper Skin, the art of tapa cloth making. For those who don’t know, tapa cloth is a type of cloth made in the Pacific from the bark of a tree (can’t remember what kind) and is beaten to a pulp and smoothed out. It can take a very very long time to make a suitably sized piece of tapa cloth. Thank you, cultural anthropology class.

After we were done in the museum we walked to the other side of the building where they have the Sunday farmer’s market. The farmer’s market is pretty much my favorite thing to go to in Wellington. They have seemingly endless stalls of fresh fruits and vegetables, all for incredibly cheap. I got 8 mandarins, 6 tomatoes and 4 apples for a grand total of $5 NZD. How amazing is that?! Besides fruit and veges, they have other artisan food stands. For example they have fresh sausages and lamb and other meats, homemade peanut butter, jams and preserves, all kinds of honey (New Zealand honey is great!), fudge (I bought a stick of creme brulee fudge. SO tasty), it goes on and on. They also have food stands selling food ready to eat. They have all sorts. Indian food, German food, Chinese, even a Mexican food stand! There’s a stand that sells different kinds of stuffed churros (like chocolate or caramel) and coffee. Jamie and I got some roti lamb wraps from the cheapest Indian stand. A bit spicy but very good. We’ve decided we are going to go to the farmer’s market much more often. Also since Jamie lives in a flat, she’s invited me to come over a cook whenever I want to use her kitchen! So maybe next time we go to the farmer’s market I’ll just get ingredients and cook dinner for her and her flat mates.

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