Archive for November, 2010


Britta: Cioccolato

November 30, 2010

From Wednesday the 24th to Sunday the 28th Bologna hosted its 7th annual chocolate festival Cioccoshow: “the magic of chocolate”

They started setting up the stands in Piazza Maggiore, through Via degli Orefici to Via Santo Stefano over a week ago and when they finally opened they were filled with chocolate delight.

I enjoyed all sorts of delicious treats throughout the weekend:

chocolate truffles in pistachio, coffee, rum, caramel, honey, hazelnut … hot chocolate, which is more like dark chocolate melted— so rich, filling, and almost sickening. Also chocolate covered strawberries and chocolate liqueur.

Along with lots of chocolate, there was lots of rain, sun, and snow. This makes winter now official.


Meghan: 12 year olds & Thanksgiving

November 29, 2010

During high school, I would spend hours imagining what my life would be like in the future. Just as, I’m sure, almost everyone reading this blog has done as well. I feel like a different person, from those days when all I wanted to do was work with animals, or travel the world as an anthropologist. I am a different person. I never would have imagined that during my Junior year of college I would be sitting in a comfortable, yet bare bedroom on the third floor of an apartment building, overlooking an ancient and unique city, reminiscing about the previous week as my pumpkin pie takes its precious time baking in the oven.

Thanksgiving has come and gone, and I don’t think I could have had a better one, aside from being home with my family. Each day leading up to Thursday seemed to drag on, as I monotonously went to class…too excited for upcoming weekend full of celebrations, food and friends.

Every Monday, Wednesday and Thursday I willingly set myself up to go slowly insane…via twenty-five extremely curious, and outright hilarious, Italian twelve year olds. For the last couple of weeks I have begun working at The Scuola Media Gandino, and Italian middle school about twenty minutes from my apartment, teaching English… or really, facilitating any form of conversation from the rowdy kids. The first couple of weeks were more than entertaining: filled with “getting to know you” games and hundreds of random questions about my personal life. Typically, the class begins with a simple “what did you do this weekend?”, followed by a serious interogation of their new American teacher. Here are some examples, in order of importance (according to them):

  1. “How old are you?”
  2. “Are you from Scotland?” No. “London?” No. “Australia?” Do I sound Australian? “New York?” Nope. But you’re closer! “Miami!” “California!” Too far! “L.A.!” I wish. Oregon!” Oregon? Really? “Texas!!” God, no.
  3. (Naturally, I had to tell them. Who knew that no one in Italy has ever heard of Milwaukee, or Wisconsin for that matter.)
  4. Have you Facebook? Yes. “What is your second name? How do you write your names?” (These are normal sentence structures for Italian kids…quite entertaining! Also, they only want to know how to spell my name in order to become my “friend” on Facebook. Pigs will fly before I “friend” 70 Italian twelve year olds!)
  5. “Do you have a boy?” Translation: Do you have a boyfriend? No.
  6. “Is your boy the boy of your dreams?”(All the boys look up expectantly. The girls all giggle. This is only proof that Italian’s are all romantics at heart—even if your only in the 7th grade. They need to time to hone their skills. Why not on an American teacher? Also, this is proof that they don’t listen.)

I could go on and on with the most ridiculous questions possible from 12 year olds, but I’ll let you use your imagination! Every hour that I spend with them brings not only new insight into the world of teaching (and discipline, for that matter) but the feeling that I’m doing what I love and feel passionate about! Be it lessons on movies, Thanksgiving, or the meaning of the American flag and the Thirteen Original Colonies (try to ask a 12 year old American today if they can list all 13 without looking… My Italian kids can!). I always leave the school happy and confident.

Now, to round things off because I’m tired and need to finish the never-ending blog post. This weekend I :

  • Had an amazing Thanksgiving meal at a local restaurant and ate so much food I pretty much had to roll myself home;
  • My friend Miche, from Tuscany, came to visit and we had an amazing time doing the following:
  • Going to three different markets, both normal and Christmas
  • Ate delicious Indian food
  • Watched three episodes of “Are you Afraid of the Dark” and “Monsters Inc.”
  • Had an American “Home-sickness Party” with the necessary Hamburgers!
  • Ate my weight in chocolate at the local chocolate festival!
  • Wandered around Bologna admiring the beautiful Christmas lights!
  • Pumpkin Pie!!!!
  • and finally: Played in the SNOW!!!



Claudia: Scotland Snow

November 29, 2010

Hey, wait a second… I thought it wasn’t supposed to snow in Scotland! Apparently, this is the first time in 17 years that there has been snow in December… So, while Minneapolis experienced its first snowfall-free March on records, Edinburgh gets a massive snowfall. The prediction is snow every day for the next week. WOOOO! I hope everything gets cleared out by the time Chelsea and I are meant to fly to London.

After a morning of steel-grey skies, the sun is beginning to peek out, and the sky has become powder blue. It may just be the fact that I’ve spent the better part of the last three days reading Märchen (international folktales), but I feel like we’ve been dropped into fairy-world. The library looks out over the Meadows, and all of the trees are covered in snow and birds and squirrels are running around inside. The way the light is coming through the trees is just lovely. I’m sure all of this sentimental blithering is brought on by the fact that I’m in an essay crunch (okay, I have to write a conclusion, but I have 4 hours til I need to turn it in, so not that bad… but begs the question, “why are you blogging when you need to finish an essay?”), and I just want to go play in the snow.

My archaeology lecturer didn’t show this morning, so we all decided to leave after waiting around for 10 minutes. Good times. I think as soon as I finish this essay, I’m going to take a break before I start on the archaeology papers. Ahhhh procrastination, why do I constantly fall prey to your wiles?


Ellen: I’m back!

November 28, 2010

Thoughts from a village:

Bhojasar was AMAZING. The family I lived with for 16 days was delightful and we had so much fun! not speaking the same language, playing my ukulele, eating with our fingers, sleeping outside, chasing the baby goats, taking pictures, going for walks and drinking chai chai chai (my maximum was 8 cups in one day)

I visited schools in neighboring villages of Moriya, Denok, Khichan (school kitchen library!) I climbed a sand dune (mountain) in Aau, another one in Lahovat, and climbed 357 stairs to a temple and watched the sunset.

I observed the work that Urmul does in the schools—funding Room to Read libraries and facilitation, providing education in braille for blind children, and I met all the local weavers in the village.

I fetched water from the well every morning to take a bucket shower, washed my clothes on the floor and was careful not to hang them on the clothesline close to the cow (or else she would eat them).

I had lots of time to think and reflect and be an angsty teenager: “Nobody Understands Me!” literally. I have not spoken face-to-face with a native English speaker for a month. and that leaves all the processing to inside my own head. meaning my dreams have been crazy! Every single one is a whimsical combination of Kenyon/Petoskey/MCFYP/India. I go back to Jaipur on Saturday the 4th to be reunited with my MSID friends and for my final week in India!


Britta: An Italian Thanksgiving

November 28, 2010
This is definitely the best Thanksgiving and Thanksgiving meal I’ve had away from home. BCSP was very kind and helped us Americans celebrate one of our favorite holidays. We ate at Trattoria Scacco Matto, with all the students, and the professors from the pre-session and other people who have played an important role in making it possible for us to study abroad in Bologna this year.

We started out with a delicious pumpkin soup which tasted like the fresh innards of a pumpkin, flavorful but yet a light texture. Then they brought out the turkey, and the director and his son made the first cut. It was a turkey stuffed with a blend of ground turkey, onion, and other spices. And they did it just right by serving mashed potatoes, corn on the cob, green beans, and a salad. To finish off the meal we had apple pie in a sweet cinnamon sauce.

It was a delicious meal in the company of good friends made while in Bologna, full of laughter, and some embarrassment of our knowledge of U.S. history as one girl continued on her family tradition with a Thanksgiving quiz.


Brittany: Parque Amazónico internship

November 27, 2010

I enjoy my internship, although it has little to do with my academic/career interests or my final project for the semester.

As I explained briefly before, I am working the Parque Amazónico. It is on an island (well, technically a peninsula) in the river that goes through the center of Tena.  The municipal government runs it, and its purpose is environmental conservation and education.

It is free to visit, and one of my jobs is to give tours to visitors. There are a lot of plants and a decent amount of animals. (The only snakes I have seen are the boa and the anaconda they have here, both of which are safely secured in a cage). There is also a big observation tower from which you can see the Sumaco Volcano.

A flood in spring 2009 destroyed a lot of the park’s infrastructure, including the bridge that connected the island to mainland.  Now, people have to come across in canoes.  That is also how Anna and I have to get there. There are plans for a new bridge… but government moves slowly and there isn’t a lot of money for such a big project.

Anna and I also work in the office some days across from the island on the mainland, doing random jobs.  Most days we work a lot in the mornings, have two hours for lunch, and then spend the afternoon waiting for 4:00 so we can leave. Sometimes there just isn’t that much to do, or our boss doesn’t use us as much as he could. In a typical week we work Monday through Friday, 8 to 4.

The last two weeks have been really busy. Last Wednesday was the first day of our “Day in the Park” program. We invited fifth graders from 10 schools around Tena to come to the island at different times over the next two weeks for a special program geared toward kids. The theme is the connections between animals, plants and humans, and we give the kids a tour and play a game, all connecting back to that theme.

So far it has been pretty exhausting. Sometimes the kids are super crazy. And last Thursday, a school came on the wrong day and two schools came late so we ended up having three schools there at once. That meant Anna and I were basically dealing with 100 kids at once!

Overall I enjoy the job. And, of course, getting to play with the park’s monkeys doesn’t hurt…

–Brittany Libra


Connie: Miyajima

November 26, 2010

Miyajima is a very famous tourist spot. It’s an island near Hiroshima city. Me and several friends took the trip out there last Saturday.

Some of the things Miyajima is famous for:

The red fall leaves. The whole island is lit up like a metaphorical fire of foliage. I remember back in Minnesota and Wisconsin they would have signs about the autumn scenery, but those were really nothing compared to Miyajima. I think it’s the mountains and the traditional Japanese architecture that really does it.

This gate. While riding the ferry to the island we spotted it standing majestically out of the water. Of course tourists were packed around the shores when we got off trying to photograph it. The group of us wandered around until 2:30, when the tide was lowest, and then walked out with everyone else to stand beneath it. I touched all four pillars (for luck) and stuck a 5 yen coin among the barnacles clinging to its sides. It’s amazing that people so long ago were able to build such a structure and have it stand for so many years. It’s still sturdy as ever.

The deer. They’re all really tame. You can pet or pose with them with little worry, though there are signs advising you take caution in doing so. They will sleep anywhere and ignore the hundreds of tourists passing them every minute. Some people say how horrifying they are. Their cute appearance is just a facade and they’ll maul you if you have food to offer. Actually I just thought they were cute, but I wasn’t carrying any food with me. We did see one trying to break into a food stand, however.

You can also do おみくじ (omikuji) at Miyajima. It’s like getting your fortune. You take this canister and shake it up until a stick comes out of a tiny hole on the bottom. There’s a number on the stick that corresponds with a drawer. You open the drawer and take out your fortune. It’s written in old Japanese, so there was very little I could read on my own, but I got a Japanese girl who came with us to help me translate it.

My fortune wasn’t very good. In fact just about everything on it was bad news. I would buy something expensive then lose it, my marriage would be terrible, I would lose, the person I’m waiting for won’t come. Things like that. Luckily, if you get a terrible fortune, you can tie it off and get rid of it for good. That’s what the picture above is – my bad fortune tied away.

So I’m not going to lose, and I’m still waiting.

Miyajima is a beautiful place, but I don’t know that I like feeling so touristy. I want to feel like I’m living here. Something more than endless sightseeing.


Natalie: D-Day!

November 25, 2010

Today I had my first exam. last night I was so exhausted I couldn’t study a minute more. Exhausted from studying! I’ve never studied so much… EVER!

We had 4 hours to answer one of 2 questions, I chose this one:
Describe shortly what Schanbacher means by the concepts food security and food sovereignty. Then discuss different strategies of reducing hunger in the world. Finally, state shortly your view on the most effective strategy in this respect.

Oh boy. My heart was definatly beating a bit faster, but I knew this stuff and thought I knew exactly how to attack it. Unfortunatley after what I thought was 1 hour, 3 hours had passed. Oops! Now 1 hour left to write 3/4 of the argument I still had to make. Lets just say the conclusion didn’t go so swell. It was odd also because all of the directions for the exam were given in Norwegian. Nice. So it was left on the little old lady who was assigned to watch us to translate for us. It was also weird because we were allowed to leave the room, even go outside with that woman following us… not that I had time for that, but just saying. We were also allowed to have food, maybe another one of the reasons for overestimating 4 hours. The clementines are sooo good here! I needed about 4 more to make the points I wanted to. Oops.
1 down, 2 to go!


Natalie: Home!

November 23, 2010

Norway, Norway, Norway. I am back in Norway. Things are the exact same as when I left except for that we have snow and the pressure of finals this week are crushing me.

I’ve started walking again. I really like going after its dark out. There are lights that illuminate a path around the lake. Even at 10 pm there are a lot of people out running or walking. The stars are so clear here. I find it hilarious that the path into the woods goes between an iced over hockey rink and a grassy green soccer field. People playing on both. Only in Norway do they have a machine that dethaws the ground so you can play soccer in the middle of winter.
Here are some pictures from around where I live:

Also the lake:

Some crazies decided to go swimming!

The sun rises at about 7 now… if you can call it that. There is a persistent gray haze that dominates Oslo’s weather. Snow maybe? The sun sets at around 3:30. Way, way too early.

The christmas food has come out at the grocery store! They have lutesfisk in the freezer section! and Marspian chocolates and pepperkaker and julebrus and glogg and CHristmas beer!

Finals! I have 3 finals in the next 2 weeks and it’s only November. Then I am free as a bird for a month and a half. Yipee!

The last 3 days I have spent in the library. I get there before the sun rises and don’t emerge until way after the sun sets. I’ve been meeting Lauren and Britt there. I really adore these girls. Time actually flies by while we’re “studying”. We all have the same course, the North and South divide and we’re all a little nervous for the final. Most of the time we sit in the study rooms conversing transnational corporations (geese Monsanto is the devil), free trade v. fair trade, and the reasons for poverty in the global south. I have never learned more than from talking with these girls. They bring the best out in me. For that very reason I’ve started to feel very, very sad about leaving . . . or maybe I’m homesick. I can’t make up my mind. Why can’t you all just move here!?

This evening I watched ‘Leap Year”… filmed in Ireland. I seriously NEED to go back. I just can’t get Ireland out of my head.

I’ve discovered Google chat. Completely free for calls to the US. I’ve just loved calling people to see how they’ll react. I’ve had a few scream, a few tell me I have the wrong number, a few start crying, and a few just utterly confused and speechless. Haha. My mom was so excited she even held the phone out the door so I could hear my dad snow blowing the driveway. Read the rest of this entry ?


Claudia: Do you realize?

November 22, 2010

This entry will be another interruption of the regularly scheduled programming. This has been the hardest month and a half of my young life. It is not that I do not love Edinburgh with all my heart, because I love it here, and I love being here, and I love my friends here, and the way the sun shines in the late afternoon, and how the leaves are still golden, and how the crags and Arthur’s Seat stand over the city, but the distance from my home is quickly becoming unbearable.

Skype, while it solves some of the problems caused by a lack of physical closeness, cannot make up for the fact that my mom cannot give me a hug. My grandpa Richard died a few days ago, and the last month has been a roller coaster of emotion. After the first week of uncertainty and anxiety, I could breathe when he went home and he was okay. Last week, with the numbers (I hate that expression. A kidney is not made up of numbers. We are not made up of numbers. People talk about “the numbers” like they know what it means, but I am sure that we have no idea) headed in the wrong direction, he was given a very negative prognosis, and now he is gone.

It is incredibly hard for me to grasp this. When I left home, he was fine. We chatted away about the adventures on which I was about to embark, and I was certain that I would be back to see him again and share my adventures with him like he shared so many of his with me. As a matter of fact, I am taking a course called Scotland and Orality because I thought that learning about the oral tradition would help me in my recently discovered quest to piece together all of the parts of my grandfather’s life. Only a few years ago did I begin to appreciate all of his stories: from growing up, from college, from his days in the merchant marine, from raising my mother and aunts, from seeing me grow up. He saw so much, and for a very brief period, I had the sense to take advantage of his experiences and learn from him. I only wish that I could go back in time, and learn to listen at an earlier age. At least I still have our correspondence. There is not much, but it is precious to me. I have a postcard on my desk that I bought this weekend in Saint Andrews. The thought is simple, the stamp is affixed, but when I was at the post office, I didn’t know his ZIP code, so here it sits. I don’t know what to do with it. I can’t throw it away, but I don’t want it here.

My dad set up a Skype account for him so that he could talk to me. We never had the chance to use it, but somebody is still signing in on the account. That unholy notification “Richard Marcus has signed in,” is haunting me.

Jeff said that last weekend, with everybody together, was fun, and that it helped him realize how amazing Grandpa was, and how he should strive to be more like him. Yeah, that would have been helpful. The entire family was gathered together, but I was alone, and being alone, thousands of miles away, makes this so much harder. I had no idea of the situation at any given point. The last I had heard, he had one to three months to live, but here I am two weeks later, and here he is not. I can’t adjust to this idea that I will never see him again, never speak to him again, never write to him again. I take comfort in the thought that he was still lucid in our last conversation, and our last words to each other were to send love. I am reminded of the wise words of Wayne Coyne of the Flaming Lips:

Do You Realize – that everyone you know someday will die?
And instead of saying all of your goodbyes – let them know
You realize that life goes fast
It’s hard to make the good things last
You realize the sun doesn’t go down
It’s just an illusion caused by the world spinning round

His atoms will be somewhere in the universe, perhaps mingling with those previously belonging to my grandma. They are the world, and we walk amongst them.

In the memory of my Grandpa, the caper must continue, and for the memory of my Grandpa, I will continue to make it extraordinary.

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