Archive for December, 2010

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Connie: 出発

December 28, 2010

Christmas was spent at izakaya, pestering John Lennon apparent look-alikes to stop writing their reports, going karaoke to sing songs like Burnin’ Christmas, eating French Toast and then eating Chinese food ala A Christmas Story. It snowed occasionally. Though it was a strange Christmas, it was a good one. If you can’t be with your family, you can at least make one! The snow from Christmas has turned into ugly rain. I’m going to leave this unpleasant weather soon. Tonight I’m hopping a night bus and going to Tokyo! I don’t know what I’ll do there, but get ready Tokyo!

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Brittany: The end is here

December 23, 2010

Soo….I am back from the beach. It was amazing—really relaxing and I got a lot of sun (maybe a little too much…)

It is hard to believe I have been here for 3 1/2 months! I am excited to see everyone, but am worried I may die from the cold! After the Amazon and then the coast I have lost all tolerance for cold. It is 50 degrees in Quito today, and I am freezing!

I´ll leave you with two quick lists…

Things I Miss from the USA:

  • Good chocolate
  • Real coffee
  • Washing machines and dryers
  • Flushing toilet paper
  • Driving myself anywhere
  • The food
  • Spices of any kind—anything but salt!
  • Drinking water from the tap
  • Having more than one week´s worth of clothes
  • Eating healthy
  • Independence
  • American boys
  • Animal Control
  • Brownies and cookies

Things I Will Miss from Ecuador:

  • Traveling on a whim
  • Fresh juice in the morning
  • Raspberry-coconut batidos (juice with milk)
  • $1.25 beers (and they´re nearly twice the size of the standard US bottle)
  • The music
  • Waking up to mountains or jungle or ocean
  • Cheap fruit (especially $.20 granadias)
  • The flowers
  • Kissing on the check to say hello and goodbye
  • Magnum icecream bars (yes, that is really their name)
  • So few responsibilities
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Connie: It’s begining to feel nothing like Christmas

December 22, 2010

Welcome to late December in Japan, where it doesn’t snow for more than 5 minutes and there is a 40 foot strip of Christmas lights on campus. That’s about it. You can go to bars and see Christmas trees tucked into the corner, and you can hear obnoxious MIDI renditions of Christmas music playing at the supermarket, but nothing more.

Christmas in Japan is a commercial holiday. It’s a lot like Valentine’s day actually—it’s a couples holiday. When it hit December, suddenly all the Japanese people who would normally show no affection for one another are holding hands. Apparently a joke in Japan is that the song “Jingle Bells” is actually “Single Bells”. Let me say, it’s quite strange to have a snow-less and couple-filled Christmas. There are Christmas things all over and yet, at the same time, they’re not Christmas-y at all.

After all, it’s not Christmas if you can’t see A Christmas Story on TV!

On Christmas Eve all of the exchange students are going to a party that includes going to an izakaya followed by karaoke. This is definitely one of the strangest Christmases I’ve ever had. A lot of people are opting out of the karaoke because it doesn’t feel right. But the way I figure it is what else am I going to do? “While in Rome” is the phrase. So while in Japan, sing karaoke?

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Natalie: Christmastime & I’m almost done…

December 15, 2010

It’s December… already! I have no idea where the time went, but I’m leaving Norway at the end of this month. It’s a surreal feeling. Home is within sight now.

I had to move out of my apartment this week. That meant packing. To my surprise all of my things fit in the 2 bags I brought them over in! Yeah! Now I’m staying on the couch in the living room. Super snazy. There is absolutely no sound barrier between the room and the kitchen. So when somones cooking at 3 in the morning (?) I can hear it!

This week I also spent revisiting some of the tourist sights in Oslo. Frank and I went to Vigeland Park:



I also did some Christmas shopping for all my lovies at home. I hope you like chocolate.

Friday, Magda, Jamie and I made cookies ALL day. We listened to Christmas music and made sugar cookies, raspberry thumbprints, peppermint bark, and peanut butter chocolate cookies. It took us all day! We also watched “Elf” that evening. Magda had never seen it. She thought it was hillarious.


Saturday Magda and I went to the Christmas market at the folk museum. It was one of my favorite experiences here in Norway other than the fact it was freezing cold out! There were stands selling everything from hand knit mittens to candied apples.



After the christmas market I came back and did some studying for my last final, Norwegian Life and Society. I think I did really well. The only thing I had trouble with was naming the top 3 political parties in Norway. Labor, Conservative… no clue.

After the exam a couple of us took the new T-Bane up to Holmenkollen. It was freezing, but so beautiful. We even spotted some Norwegians in their natural habitat! The woods. There is an amzing sledding hill here in Oslo. You can slide for about 10 minutes! Afterwards you just hop on the T-Bane and ride to the top again. It’s amazing! You have to pay to rent one of their sleds though.



Afterwards we rode to the city center and went to another Christmas market. The lights were really beautiful.
Here are some photos:


Tuesday Cecil came over and we made a wonderful lunch. Basically we threw every vegetable and leftover into a wok and stirred it into a lovely sauce for some rice. Coming down to the last couple days in Oslo is tough food wise. I’m sick of Ramen noodles and I only have 8 packs left to eat! Afterwards we went out to Sognsvann and walked around on the ice and out to a small island.




The frosted over trees are absolutly breathtaking.

And now I have to say goodbye to everyone I know here as I am leaving for Rome and Paris. I have this panicked feeling. This is the end of the most amazing journey in my life. I DON’T want it to end.

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Sam: The end

December 15, 2010

The last week in Quito and in Ecuador was a success. Everyone seems to be content in our accomplishments. We celebrated the foundation of Quito, contracted a chiva, finally saw el Panecillo…

Something something apocalypse

Nuestra Virgen de las Pesadillas

…ascended the basilica…

You can almost see Quasimodo from here

From above the city

…and said goodbye to our favorite spots in La Zona. Today we gave our final presentations, handed in our bound works, and said goodbye to the CIMAS staff, the city, the country, and most importantly each other. In only a matter of hours I will be on a plane over the Gulf, hopefully sleeping, en route to the homeland.

It will be difficult leaving all of this behind since I’ve grown and changed so much over the course of the semester, but I’m also ready for the comforts and familiarity of home. I’ll miss the beans, but not the rice. I’ll miss the sierra, but not the city. I’ll miss the scenery, but not the transportation. Mainly I’ll miss everyone and everything that has made this such a meaningful and complete experience. If I had to go back and do it all over again, I’d do it exactly the same.

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Britta: Milano

December 13, 2010
Saturday I took a day trip to Milan with my friend Hope. We went with the intention of seeing two exhibitions: Caravaggio, an Impossible Exhibition, and Salvador Dalì, Il Sogno Si Avvicina.  We first stopped at the Carvaggio exhibition and the woman working asked us if we knew that all the paintings were replicas. We hadn’t known so we didn’t spend the money and we skipped it- so unfortunately we didn’t see any Caravaggio.

Dalì’s work is breathtaking and inspiring. Destino is a short animation film he worked on with Walt Disney.

At this time of year Milan is crawling with markets full of trinkets and the such for potential Christmas gifts and lots of goodies like chocolate covered nuts, dried fruit, and cheese.

We stopped at the  famous Panificio Luini and got delicious deep fried panzerotti filled with spicy salami and mozzarella. This is a hot spot for lunch or a snack in Milan—two lines spill out the doors and there is a bouncer, all just for a delicious traditional pugliese calzone.

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Ellen: Where am I?

December 12, 2010

Yesterday I was in 70 degree weather in Old Delhi,  exploring the Red Fort, shopping at Main Bazar and mastering the metro.

Today I drove for 6 hours through a blizzard and am back in Petoskey, MI.

My body has no idea what time it is or what it is supposed to do.

I can drink the tap water.
No one is staring at me!!
I am typing this on my own computer.
snow snow snow cold cold cold
I am going to go sit down at a table with my parents and eat food with a fork.

I am tired and happy but so confused by the weather and familiarity of everything.

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Brittany: Leaving Tena

December 11, 2010

Photos with my family from my last day in Tena.

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Connie: Immersion

December 10, 2010

I haven’t blogged in a while, and now my head is full of things to type about. I don’t know whether I can say the past few weeks have been particularly eventful, but given a bit of free time I feel like I can take this time to reflect on them.

They say when you move to a foreign country, you go through this scale of emotions. You start out in what they call the “honeymoon phase” where everything is new and amazing. I definitely went through that. I took pictures of everything, was in a good mood to everyone, and woke up every morning with some sickeningly cheery song in my head.

Then sometime around Thanksgiving you’re supposed to go into a downward spiral and get homesick and whatnot. Actually, I haven’t felt particularly homesick. Thanksgiving didn’t even feel like Thanksgiving—I spent it eating Japanese food in a traditional-style restaurant with one American, a Brit and a Fin, finishing up the night at the game center. But the newness has worn off. Sometimes I don’t feel like eating at any of the restaurants around. Sometimes I wonder what the heck my close friend has been doing and why he hasn’t bothered to contact me. Sometimes I get tired of the people I see every day, since it feels like we’ve closed ourselves off, and I can’t get the immersion I want. It doesn’t help that the people I do want to talk to in Japanese don’t seem particularly interested in talking to me lately.

Not that I want to complain so much. This feeling of isolation has actually lit a fire under me to get more immersed.

Last Thursday I spent most of my day with a Korean who wants to study English. I could probably write a blog on him—a very animated guy with a pretty face, but someone who likes lies and is somewhat of an airhead. As he insisted I should tell him an ‘interesting story’ I ended up talking about how I’d played the flute for about 10 years before entering university. It was with this that he brought me to his jazz circle. Not only did I get to play with a group for the first time in 3 years, but I got to speak only in Japanese and listen to music talk in Japanese. I’ve been wanting to join a circle since I got here. I’m glad I finally found one.

I really like the two Japanese students I played a trio with. I’ll have to practice so I can get good enough to really play.

Friday was a party for my friend who was finally released from the hospital—at least that’s what the party’s organizer claimed it was. Our theory was that he just wanted to have a party. Our parties before had been at the lake near our dorm, but since the weather has turned cold at night we moved to 大島大 (Ooshimaoo), a bar that the exchange students lovingly call the “yakuza bar.” Apparently, Japanese gangsters were spotted there firsthand by my classmates.

The highlight of my night was talking to random Japanese people who happened to come in after us. The first two were introduced to us and were very pleasant to talk to. The second pair we conversed with actually started the conversation with us. Shocking— most Japanese people are very tight-knit and appear to prefer to stay that way. Both pairs were very friendly (though the guy who told us he’d once been offered a job as a host was a bit full of himself). The chance to talk to ‘normal’ Japanese people seems to be a rare one that I’ve come to relish. It tends to make my nights better, even if they end in me beating up a Korean and calling him a liar repeatedly.

I suppose I should quickly elaborate on the aforementioned ‘normal’. I was talking with one of my closer Japanese friends, one who had studied at my university in America prior to me coming here. He asked me what I thought about the group who attends the English Cafe circle. After thinking about it, I realized they were slightly different from your average Japanese person, though me not knowing the ins and outs of Japanese society it was hard for me to put an exact finger on. It still is, but I can see the difference.

I love the people I know, but I want to see more of this ‘normal’ side of society. That’s what immersion is all about in the end.

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Brittany: Almost the end

December 9, 2010

It is my last week in Quito. The program ends tomorrow and then I’m off to the coast for a week and then returning to the US on December 20!

I got back from the Amazon during the Fiestas de Quito, a weeklong celebration of the founding of Quito. There were a ton of events throughout the city and the nightlife was on steroids.

I also went to my first soccer game (finally!) with my host family. My host dad’s team lost, but it was still fun. We ate at Pizza Hut after, which was way fancier than in the United States and they had a play place. I’ve been doing some last minute site-seeing with my friends, too.

Here are some photos of the past week:

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