Archive for August, 2010


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.


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!!!!!!!


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.


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.


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.


Natalie: First day of class

August 24, 2010

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.

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.

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!

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?!


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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