Archive for May, 2011

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Mark: Agua

May 30, 2011

On Sunday we made a day trip about 3 hours north to what is left of the ancient city of Teotihuacan (I will be posting those photos on Flickr in the next day or two).  At its epoch the city was home to around 250,000 people before it disapeared for thousands of years. Teotihuacan probably suffered an ecological disaster. The city’s year-round water supply came from springs at the base of the volcanic mountian that towers over it, just like Cuernavaca and countless other cities in the region today. During the rainy season, water falls on the mountains and gets caught in the forrests before being absorbed by the porus volanic rock. The people of Teotihuacan cleared imense ammounts of timber to build their roofs, cook their food and heat limestone to create the ornate cement that used to cover the pyramids of the sun and moon and nearly every other surface in the city. The result was that water rushed into the valley of the lakes instead of being absorbed by the rock and the springs could no longer support the rapidly growing metropolis.

I come from a place where clean, drinkable water is always plentiful. In our country everyone has nearly free access to potable water, even if its from the bathroom sink at McDonald’s. Yesterday I saw poverty on a scope and scale you just can not find anywere in the United States. Leaving the Federal District of Mexico City and driving into the State of Mexico I saw thousands on thousands of squatter camps stretching miles up both side of the valley. These families literally build their shelters homes overnight five hundred at a time on any available piece of land in hopes of staking a claim and after ten years being granted the title to their plot. Another student studying here has spent some time doing aid work in Monterrey.  He said one of the questions people ask him a lot is why he feels like he needs to help in other countries when there is so much to do at home.  His says they would understand in a heartbeat if they saw these places themselves.

When Will and I got back to our host mother’s house, we found out that the water was not working, and we were almost through our rooftop resivour. That means plastic dinnerware, rationed tiolet flushing and definately no showers after a day of climbing pyramids in the sun. Our area is in a drought, but the rainy season should be coming in the next weeks (or months) and our water within the next day or two. It did rain again last night. It was cold and quick, but it was the perfect way to freshen up after a long day.  Standing on the roof in our swim trunks.

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Lindsey: To market

May 30, 2011

We’ve heard that the markets here are just amazing, so yesterday we decided to visit one. We were planning on going to the famous Camden Market, but one of my friend’s bosses told us to skip that one (because of all the other tourists) and to go to Old Spitalfields Market instead.

On our way there, we stopped by a few other street markets that were absolutely crazy. And not good crazy. There were people everywhere and the vendors were all pretty creepy. This was about enough for us to turn around and skip Old Spitalfields, but we decided to stick it out!

When we finally found Old Spitalfields, it was amazing! It is held in a huge open-air building with vendors everywhere selling things from clothes, jewelry, art, and food. Everything is made locally by the vendors in London, so there is no way you could by these things anywhere else! We spent around 3 hours just looking at everything. If the exchange rate wasn’t so bad, I would have had to buy some more things! Here’s a picture of the market right when we walked in:

We felt like we were some of the only tourists there, which was awesome. Everyone was from London enjoying the bank holiday weekend! For lunch, we decided to try something new and try some Caribbean/jamaican wraps. They were delicious! Here’s a picture of their food stand:
Looks so good, right? Afterwards, since we were in central London, we thought it would be fun to go see the Tower of London which is the castle where many kings and queens were beheaded and where they keep the crown jewels. We were all exhausted, but decided to do it anyways. After finding our way there, we discovered it was 20 pounds for a ticket! No way. That’s like $40. Our feet hurt really bad and we were all pretty hungry, so we just decided to go home and get some much needed rest! For good measure, here’s a picture of the Tower of London (the little slits in the side of the castle walls that look like t’s is were where the guards would shoot their arrows out of if you were not welcome):
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Amanda: Coming Home

May 30, 2011

Something I have been putting off to write.  Because I don’t really want to believe I’ve landed home yet.

I could go Life of Pi on you:
On my journey home a tornado hit the Delhi airport and all of the computer systems there crashed.  Since I never printed a boarding pass, airport attendants tried to deny the validity of my ticket.  Since the airport turned chaos thanks to the threat of dangerous weather, piercing screams by angry Indian women, and a food shortage, I bypassed security by taking an unguarded back door to the luggage room.  I threw away some extra kurtas and curled myself into my suitcase.  I overheard attendants speaking in Hindi and grunting as they loaded me through a tunnel: “This bag is supposed to weigh 23 kilos?  Bullshit!”  Somehow the pilot made the decision to fly despite previous weather concerns.  Once aboard the plane, I vomited thrice; bags below passengers aren’t secured very tightly.  I did, however, sleep well in my dark cocoon of a suitcase.  Careful not to break the hookah I was bringing home to share with my friends, I curled up in the fetal position and rested my neck on a rolled-up pair of sweatpants India’s steamy climate prevented me from wearing since January.  When the plane landed in Newark, I quickly found a way to escape before some pretentious American worker claimed me to be a terrorist.  While straightening my clothes and re zipping my bag, I did meet an Indian-American man in the room where luggage is stored before it boards the luggage transfer tram to change terminals.  Though I initially feared he would rat me out, after I described my plight to him in Hindi, he gave me his number and told me to call him if I was ever in New York.  With disheveled hair I boarded my connecting flight to Charlotte, then to Greenville.  No conversations with strangers.  No awkward American re-entry experiences.  Just me, and the wonder of my journey home.  When I finally met my parents on the other side of the Greenville airport, we shared a hug and a smile.  After four months in India, I was finally home.

Or, if you want a story that is more believable:
I paid too much for a taxi to take me to the airport in Delhi.  When I arrived and figured out where to go, my suitcase was 14 kilos overweight.  I scrambled to find another carry-on bag, transferred the scarves, tubes of mehndi, and hookuh I brought for my friends into it, and sweet talked the Continental attendant in Hindi to allow my suitcase to be a few kilos over the limit.  I made it through security with no problems.  I used my last 100 rupees to buy a McVeg in the food court.  I fell in love with an five year old boy waiting for the same flight as me who spoke perfect English and shared a picnic supper of chapati and palak paneer with his parents.  His dad whispered to his wife in Hindi and answered the boy’s many queries in English.  I slept well on the plane since there was an empty seat between me and an Ecuadorian-American woman from Newark who travelled to India because she’d always wanted to see the Taj Mahal.  I arrived in America 4 am, Easter morning.  A taxi driver offered to carry me all the way home to Carolina in his yellow sedan.  There were so many Indians in the airport.  I met a 30-something Indian who immigrated to the states 10 years ago.  I was the first American he’d ever met who chose to go to India.  I talked about Jesus to a couple on their way to the Bahamas on my connector flight to Charlotte.  I drank a coffee that was damn good.  I walked through the doors of the Greenville airport to see my parents.  My brother loaded my suitcase into my dad’s car.  My family drove me home…

Believe what you will.  As for me, I may have been home for the past month, but the journey continues…

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Lindsey: Cold, rainy countryside

May 29, 2011

Today we went on a day trip to Stonehenge and Bath. It has sure been a long day! After getting up at 5:45 and a two hour bus ride there, we got to see Stonehenge for a whole 40 minutes. Luckily there wasn’t a whole lot to see, but they were way bigger than I thought!

I guess there are many different theories about why Stonehenge was made around 3000 and 1600 BC. I personally like to go with the extra terrestrial theory. There are some pretty interesting stories about events that have happened there, like sacrifices and arrests, etc. I should really read up on it all before visiting it, but oh well, we got an informational packet instead. It would have been cool to actually be able to go up to the stones and go into the middle, but they have it all roped off so that all you can do is walk around it. Bummer. Here are some pics in the freezing cold am:

After Stonehenge we got back on the lovely tour bus for another hour long ride to Bath. Interesting fact: the people of Bath actually pronounce it like we do in America. Londoners pronounce it wrong for once, saying it like “both”. However, to make the ride there much more enjoyable, we got a great look at the beautiful english countryside. Even on a gloomy day it is so pretty! I promise I didn’t steal this from online:

Looks like a quilt right? Just picture this the whole way there, plus cute little valleys with random castles and historic buildings. Needless to say, we were all pretty mad the bus couldn’t stop for 5 minutes for us to take a decent picture, so this one was taken through a window on the speeding bus.

After getting a beautiful view of Bath from the top of hills while driving into the city we finally arrived! I thought all that would be there would be the Roman Baths and we would dip our feet in them and be on our way, but I was so wrong! The city is absolutely beautiful. I have never been anywhere this old before! Everything dates way way back. There is so many little nooks and crannies throughout the city with cute little cafes and shops. And for a rainy day there was sure a lot of people out and about! Here are some pictures of the city:

After a little walk around the city it was time to see the Roman Baths! Here’s a little history lesson for you all: When the Romans were passing through the area a while back, they stumbled upon these hot springs (about 80 degrees) that were full of minerals, etc. They then decided to build a city there. Later it became a luxury spot for the kings and queens of the time to go to escape the city of London and was a very prestigious place to live. Ok, now that you know what they are we can move on! There are many different pools you can visit, and since it was so cold out today, you could even see the steam rising up from them!

We even got to taste the water at the end! It was very gross and sulfur and irony tasting, but it is believed to heal!

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Jessica: Scotland and back

May 29, 2011

Scotland was amazing. It was super packed though with it being Bank Holiday, so it was a little overwhelming at times. It rained a ton which was a bummer- today was the first day it didnt rain at all. But we saw amazing art, street performers, the castle, shops, it was wonderful. I was definitely consumed with nostalgia at times, and I for some reason got way homesick during this weekend. 

We had our flight at 8 am so we left the hotel at six. For those who know me, this is entirely way too early. We got there and there were about eight others who had been there since midnight or one because they didn’t get a hotel for Saturday night—cheap but they were all deliriously tired LOL. May have been worth the money for me. 

We got home and just slept so hard. It’s amazing how we have only been here a week and it felt like coming home. There is a comfort here and seeing the familiar buildings and stores. It felt good to not be so busy. 

We officially made friends with the Starbucks barista Daryl (does this surprise anyone??) and it turns out when we made friends in Facebook that he is best friends with the two brothers Connor and Callum. Small. World. So we hung out tonight at the Eg and celebrated their football team’s big win. Can’t understand them sometimes but it’s okay—apparently they barely can either LOL.

Daryl confirms that with generations passing, the conflict is resolving and people just want to move on, mix, and be done with it. Coming from a mixed marriage himself he actually isn’t religious and in Ireland being Catholic is easy—they go to church for like forty minutes and it’s the same thing every time whereas Protestants are seen as more extreme because they go to church more and it’s different and “people were speaking in tongues and I was freaked out.” 

He coaches a basketball team for Peace—meaning he coaches a team with mixed religions and tries to bring them together through the sport. How cool is that?? Its exactly where we are going tomorrow. Corrymeela is that organization we visited that focuses on creating peace and conflict resolution amongst Protestants and Catholics through many facilitations and conversations which will be awesome to see!

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Lindsey: Life in London

May 28, 2011

Hi all! Its been about a week since I’ve written in here last, I thought I better update you all on my week! So this week was the first week of classes and for my internship. I am interning at a fashion company as an ecommerce intern. Very fun! It’s a way different atmosphere than anywhere I’ve ever worked, and I enjoy every second of it. And I’ve already worked 20 hours this week! Wowza. 

I’m starting to feel way more at home here now. Since I ride the tube/bus everyday, I’m also starting to fit in, as long as I don’t talk so that they hear my accent. People from here say that we all speak American, not English. I’m not kidding, everyone says that. O well! I even grab a newspaper every morning to hide myself behind on the tube, just like everyone else. No wonder Londoners are so up to date on US current events—it’s all over their newspapers! However that might have been because Obama was here this week. Who knows. Also, in every single store I go into they are playing American music. AND on TV all they show is really old American reruns! Crazy. We may speak American, but they don’t seem to mind our culture. I’m also getting used to crossing the street. It’s such a difficult task. First, you have to remember to to look right first, NOT left. Then you scurry across to a tiny little median and wait as the cars go by on either side of you. Finally, you look left and run across. The cars drive like crazy over here, and we learned tonight that if they flash their lights at you, it means they will let you cross! 
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Mark: Lluvia y adventura

May 27, 2011

I’ve seen lightening from our roof almost every other night since we got here about a ago, even if we haven’t really seen any rain.  This time it was right above our heads.

My roommate and I hung out there for a while to watch until the rain started pouring, when we went to run back inside.  The problem was the door to the balcony and roof had blown shut behind us.  In Mexico people are very serious about protecting their property, and they have to be.  Every house in Cuernavaca is either surrounded by walls topped with barbed wire or the windows are barred, often both.  If you close a door behind you, you won’t get back in without a key.  Apparently that goes for doors on the upper floors too. 

We called for help but our  host-mother  couldn’t hear us.  Will thought he might have left his keys in pants pocket, in our bedroom.  Fourtunately with a little luck he was able to reach them through our window with a mop.  Unfortunately the roof door uses a different key.  So we thought about jumping to the neighbors roof and seeing if they would let us in.  And jumping the 15+ feet to the concrete sidewalk barefoot.  Will boosted me up and I  reached through a missing window pane in the door to take the keys from the other side.  But they slipped out of my hand.  About an hour after we went to the roof I finially managed, standing on Will, to use a stick to knock the handle on the other side over the open.  Me gustan adventuras!

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