Archive for May, 2011


Jessica: Time

May 23, 2011

The thing that has stuck out on this trip is the store hours everyone holds. There’s no guarantee that things will be open when you want them to be open. For instance, some friends and I went wandering Saturday evening around 7 for a dessert or cafe. Starbucks was closed, as were all the buildings around the area. Really?? In America things would almost be guaranteed to be open on such a busy day. People are going to go out on a Saturday. Here, pubs close at 11 most days. That would be absurd in America. 

But it makes me think, wow we really rely on places to go to when we do things, and we are on all the time. The average American works 9 weeks more than anyone else in the world. NINE WEEKS. We expect availability of services whenever we want, and that’s just not how it is here. We are often told the rest of the world thinks of time differently, and are often not in a rush. We have a different lifestyle. No wonder we are over stimulated and rely so much on time. 

I wish I could take this lack of rigid structure and whatnot home. But it’s just not my lifestyle. Without so many of my home obligations, I can just walk around and roam and explore. Obviously I have responsibilities and things to tend to when I get back, but it’s a nice little break from the crazy schedule. 

Another thing that strikes me is that I am exhausted from the full days since I’m not used to this kind of schedule. So it’s time to force sleep upon myself tonight to be ready for an early class, more presentations by community organizers and then a walking pub tour/crawl in the evening before we will probably stay out to watch a huge football game. 

I’m of course laughing at the irony that Minnesota probably has great weather right now. My positive energies lie with those affected by the tornadoes in Missouri and North Minneapolis.

Today we made a Starbucks stop and went to the Corrymeela Center in the city to learn more about what they do. Turns out with the deeply embedded prejudices and conflict between Catholics (also generally more Republican and wanting a separate Ireland) and Protestants (those who descended from and want to unite with England) Corrymeela tries to facilitate conversation between these people to build communities and make them realize they’re not al that different. 

In the afternoon we took a bus tour of the deeper layers of Belfast and toured the other more run down areas where there is a lot of social housing and murals. Its crazy because the town is segregated, not by race, but by religion—there are literally walls still up to separate them. You can tell if you’re in a Protestant neighborhood if there are red white and blue colors, while Catholics use green white and orange. The murals on the Catholic side criticize the racism and oppression while the Protestants have murals that commemorate British heroes. Both have murals for those who have died in the many bombings that have occurred against each other. From a country who doesn’t really segregate by religion (by name, anyway) it’s interesting to see such a physical split and such conflict that still lingers even now. 


Amanda: Kavitaji’s Words of Wisdom

May 23, 2011

I lived with two Indian families during the course of my stay abroad.  Most Indians value family a lot, and many live in large extended-family homes.  With servants, sibling quarrels, dogs with a vengeance, the drama of existence, and the strangeness of American boarders…there was never a dull moment in either of the houses I lived in.

What I loved most about my host families though, were my two Indian host mothers.  Like any good mataji, Krishnaji and Kavitaji made sure we were well-fed and happy.  I shared several interesting and insightful conversations with Kavitaji over tea. One of my favorites occurred when I commented on a Bollywood actress in the newspaper.  What ensued was a lesson on staying young and beautiful from Kavitaji:

Kavitaji:  We Indian women know how to look young and beautiful. How old you think my mother is?
Me: Eighty??
Kavitaji: Okay no.  She had hard life.  She is only 72.
Me: Oh. I’m sorry.

Kavitaji: How old you think I am?
Me: um…???  Forty?
Kavitaji: Nooo! Forty-seven…aha.
Kavitaji: You want to know secrets to staying young and beautiful?
Me: By all means!
Kavitaji: Three secrets. First, put mustard seed oil on your hair every night.  Keeps grey hairs away.  You already do this. Second, drink 8 liters of water a day.  Third, be happy, which you already are!

Words of wisdom from my sweet Kavitaji!  I am pretty sure drinking 8 liters of water a day would turn me into a human filtration system…but besides that, looks like I’m on the path to eternal youth and beauty!


Miles: Two weeks

May 23, 2011

Quick updates: I just got back from a weekend in Stockholm, which was amazing. The city is beautiful. I will say, though, that I think Norway still beats Sweden as far as awesomeness is concerned. This weekend I am going to Sognefjord on a hiking trip – fjord on Saturday, glacier on Sunday. (I’m pretty damn excited. It’ll be a great last weekend in Norway.)

In two weeks, I will, for the first time in 5 months, wake up in the US. I knew that I’d feel a lot of things at the end of my semester, but I wasn’t really prepared to feel this underwhelmed/overwhelmed about going home.

I mean, for starters, what the hell is “home”? My heart is divided into a bunch of little chunks – an endless supply of little pieces that I get to scatter. There is a chunk in Madison, and there always will be. There are pieces all over the twin cities. There’s a piece in Boston. There are pieces in Northern Wisconsin, where my family’s cabin was. Now there is a giant chunk in Oslo, with pieces in Bergen, in Stavanger, in Tromsø, on top of Preikestolen. This is a home. Norway is a home.

So am I going home or leaving home? And if the answer is both, what happens to that chunk of my heart? I have all the faith in the world that Norway will take care of it, and that I can come back here someday. Maybe I’ll live here, practice Norwegian, work at a daycare or for the state, and eventually the US will feel like an old photograph that I take out to look at occasionally when I feel nostalgic.

But more likely, at least for now, that’s what Norway will be. And that’s what scares me. I have a life here. I wasn’t just on vacation for 5 months, I lived here. How do you explain that life? I love so many people in the states so dearly, and I know that I can tell them all about my semester and they’ll listen and be excited for me, but ultimately, they just won’t get it. I can’t share the jordbær syltetøy at United Bakeries with them, I can’t take them to a kitchen party at Sogn, I can’t hike in Nordmarka with them or go on a skitur.

So I have this semester and it’s going to sit inside me and I get to decide how I remember it. It’s my job to keep it alive, and not let my Norwegian life disappear. I’ve changed during this semester. I’ve become stronger. I learned a lot about who I am. I can communicate much better than I used to be able to. I ask for what I need. I take care of myself, and I better know how to do that. I continue to improve at being social, and also knowing when I need space for myself. I pushed myself. I learned a brand new language, and practice using it every day. I fell in love with nature in a way I hadn’t before. I learned the pure, simple joy of climbing on a rock, skiing up a hill, or sitting by a lake. I am determined to not lose the person I’ve become. This semester was a beautiful experience because of what I learned and how I grew.

Because of all this growth, in a weird way, going back to Minneapolis seems like the worst sort of back-pedaling. I just experienced something amazing, something life-changing, and now I’m supposed to go back to the U of M and take required courses that only mildly interest me? Why? I know I need to finish my degree and do it at the U. I need to be an example for my younger sisters, who will be starting college in the fall. I need to complete that adventure, but I’m anxious. My head knows I need to, but my heart wants to keep moving forward. I think the next year will be a challenge in how to feel as though I’m moving even when my environment seems static, how to find the exciting in the familiar.

I was told that I’d feel culture shock coming back to the States. I’m as ready as I can be. I will be working a summer job at a day camp that I love in Madison for two months when I get home. I think all I can do in my first months back in the states is feel as productive and important as I can – to feel like I’m making a difference. Keep moving forward. Keep growing.

In these moments I remember the way I felt boarding my plane from Chicago to Oslo. I knew I was ready, but it almost felt like I was only ready because I needed to be- I was scared, but I made it.

I made it.

And I say all this now, two weeks before I go, because I won’t be blogging again until I get home. I need to really be here for these final days. I want to just take it all in, not process yet. I’ll have all summer to process.

So, Oslo, takk for alt.


Jessica: Sightseeing

May 22, 2011

Today was the busiest day ever, I was bone tired at the end of it—so I stress fr anyone going on this trip in the future, SLEEP and REST. 

We went on a nice scenic bus ride to the north shore of Ireland to Carrick-a-Rede. I’m not really sure what it means or what the significance is, but it has been amazing. We originally were going Saturday but the weather is insane so we changed to today. Which I am so grateful for because it was breath taking. We trekked a mile to the bridge and looked at the cliffs, crags, rocks and water crashing on the shore in the dazzling sunlight (when it wasn’t raining in spurts of five minutes). 

There were a lot of girls terrified of the rope bridge especially in the strong winds today, but it was really safe and easy to cross with netting and supports to support us. I felt like if I kept my arms up my body would fly away, I was even having trouble breathing. 

After that we went to the Giant’s Causeway, where legend goes that two giants from Ireland and Scotland built a causeway together or something. Aka a volcano erupted and created amazing hexagonal columns that cluster together to create cliffs and stuff. It’s beautiful with the ocean crashing in, but it killed me to climb around. 

Then we saw the Dunluce Castle ruins—again on the coast it was breath taking. I dropped my camera so there’s a small dent in the lens thing, but again, beautiful to see the stone and structure standing there. LOTS of photos of me today wearing my work out chic clothing.

Everyone passed out on the bus and I am so grateful people are probably not going out tonight because we are trying to be smart for another busy day tomorrow. Attempt number two to cook tonight. We will see ow this goes !!


Jessica: Tips for travel to Ireland

May 21, 2011

For anyone thinking about traveling to Ireland… Here arer a few tips as I remember them. 

  • yes you actually need a raincoat with a hood. Because you get sick of umbrellas and my cheap one has started leaking
  • pack snacks from home
  • live in leggings. They’re easier to handle wet than jeans
  • book your travel weekends earlier than a week ahead of time…
  • sunglasses.
  • get a crossover bag—waterproof if possible
  • bring a watch and water bottle
  • Starbucks gift cards work here. I’m not sure how.
  • only a few straighteners or hair dryers from home ever work here
  • while withdrawing money, make it count if you’re withdrawing from the ATM because they’ll charge you like five dollars every time (or four pounds converting cash)
  • I have yet to see locals wearing rain boots.

Michelle: Spring Break Part 2

May 21, 2011

As I was saying…

After leaving Montpellier, my Uncle and Aunt dropped us off in Avignon to meet Susie and her family while they continued to Bourg en Bresse where they have a summer home. Since I’ve already written about Avignon, I’m not going to do it again. I will however say that we had an amazing meal at Restaurant Christian Etienne.

Note: everything in Italics was copied from my notes during Spring Break.

After settling in at Susie’s parent’s place in Caromb, the next day her parents took us on a grand tour of Provence. L’Isle sur la Sorgue is not literally an island however it is by the Sorgue river. One of the coolest things about this cozy little town is its bi-weekly market. It almost seems to engulf the entire town with vendors selling everything from olives to antiques to Indian scarves. Most people are not accustomed to bargaining for their goods. As Americans, the only things we tend to bargain for are homes and cars (and even that tradition is diminishing). At most open markets, it is expected that you bargain for everything except food products (which are sold by weight). One of the nice things about a market as opposed to grocery store is that you as the client have a one on one connection with the vendor. At a nougat stand, my mom was talking to the vendor and he asked where we were from. “Malaysia,” responded my mom. All of a sudden, I wasn’t the one who had to translate everything. It turns out, the vendor spoke a little Malay. He knocked a few euro off the price of the nougat.

After finishing our first market, we continued on through the Provençal countryside. Unfortunately, I cannot for the life of me remember the name of this next city. If anybody knows, please leave a comment.

Here, we looked at a lot of artisanal pottery that is typical of the region. This was definitely a situation of look, but don’t touch. Because it is all hand crafted, one of a kind, it comes with a one of a kind price. As with much of southern France, vestiges of the Roman empire are omnipresent. This is the Pont Julien that traverses the Calavon River. Pretty, right?

Next stop: Roussillon, “the Colorado of Provence” as Susie’s dad called it. We got to the top of this city on a hill just as the sun was starting fall behind the landscape. Seeing the light illuminate the ocher cliffs highlights the full majesty of nature. The beauty of the scenery seems to engulf every thought in your mind as you sit entranced by the view. Perhaps that’s a little hyperbolic, but it is really a simply breathtaking sight.


Stay tuned for the second half of my week with my parents and Susie’s family in one of the following posts. Right now, I’m getting ready to traverse Italy and I still want to right a wrap up of my stay in France. I promise, I will finish writing about Spring Break…eventually.


Jessica: ADHD weather

May 20, 2011

Well with the lack of Internet cafes I have succumbed to paying for the hotel Internet. Twenty four dollars for two hundred minutes. 

Pleased remember I am typing in an iPad. Not the greatest auto correct ever. 

Anyway its just crazy to think it’s only been two days here. I feel like it’s been a week! A group of us went on a mini tour this morning (after getting some sleep and feeling like human beings again) starting with Starbucks.  

After discovering that a super cute rain jacket cost a hundred and sixty pounds, I quickly searched for an alternative—Minnesotans don’t wear rain jackets anyway what was I thinking!! After a quick tour of Queens University a couple of us went to track down premart, aka Primark, way across town. In a span of forty minutes it rained, sunnied up, poured, stopped, then drizzled. If we thought Minnesota was crazy… we have met our match. And not to mention, the ladies still wear shorts and run in their tops when it starts to rain. Hence why I needed a rain jacket. I found one for five bucks. Woohoo!

We had our first class discussion about the differences between Seven Corners and Cedar Riverside. It provoked some good conversation before we talked about the next few days: farmers market tomorrow and then traversing a giant rope bridge over a chasm the next day. Twice. We will see how that goes. 

Dinner was at an amazing Italian place. This was the first time I truly felt like we stood out because we were SO LOUD. It bordered the line of embarrassment for a little bit. Also, their whipped cream is literally that. No vanilla. I scraped it off my amazing caramel sundae onto a napkin. Woof. 

A huge group of us went out to see what pub life was like. We stopped by a really popular one, The Bot, to start. I tried some Guiness… Just not my thing. Smooth but I guess I’m still not into beer. Instead I ordered something called a Fat Frog. It was three bottled Breezers together, something yellow, something blue and something clear so it became green!


Lindsey: Tea Time

May 20, 2011

Alright, day three. It seems like I’ve been here for a week already! Today we had a safety orientation from a London police officer. He was a funny guy, but wow am I tired of orientations! Today was more of a low key day. After the orientation we were starving like usual and discovered our new favorite restaurant! It’s called Paul and is a french-style cafe-but super cute! If this doesn’t make you want to eat there I don’t know what would:

After lunch we rode around the tube to find our internship locations so we don’t get lost by ourselves. So no worries, I won’t get lost now on my way to my interview. Then it was time for our welcome reception with some afternoon tea! I definitely felt like a true brit at this point, without the accent:

Later we went to Primark, our new favorite store! Everything is super cheap and really cute! Like sundresses for 5 pounds (about 10 US dollars) and sunglasses for 1 pound. The clothes reminds me of an H&M or Forever 21. Definitely need to stay away from that store or I will buy too much. But I only bought a 3 pound bag and an awesome pair of sunglasses!

One thing we take advantage of in the US is that stores are open past 6:00. Here, they are all closed by then! Talk about inconvenient. This just shows the American work ethic vs. Europe’s. You can also tell in restaurants. Not much customer service or friendly salespeople! They need to start working on that.


Katie: London Calling

May 20, 2011

It’s a weird feeling, traveling alone. I’ve been on a plane plenty of times for school trips and family vacations and I have ventured out and discovered the bus system in Minneapolis but I have never traveled more than 4500 miles on a plane, all alone. I traveled all by my big self across the Atlantic Ocean to good ole London, England for a study abroad and internship, and I don’t know anyone. The situation is very similar to my adventure from Urbandale, IA to Minneapolis for college. I didn’t know a single person and that was my goal. To branch out and get out of my comfort zone. To meet new people and build new relationships. And that is my plan for this trip. I am excited for what God is planning on teaching me while I’m 4500 miles away from anything that is familiar. 

I met my first Brit before I even left the midwest! I met Oliver while getting off the small plane from Des Moines at the Minneapolis airport. He had been visiting his brother in Iowa and was on his way home. We chatted while walking to gate G6 (yes I started singing the song in my head when I heard the gate number). He loved his time at Living History Farms and Adventureland and showed me the souvenir mug he had purchased at the amusement park. It was so weird finding him so excited about the places I grew up going to, but I guess it is the same thing with me and my excitement to see Buckingham Palace, ride the Tube, and keep an eye out for the Queen (in my dreams). 

I am so excited for the next 7 weeks of this journey. 

Next up this week: Buckingham Palace, A Panoramic Bus tour of London, and Camden Market!


Parker: Dîner chez ma professeur

May 20, 2011
My French class in the gardenLast week, amid all of the preparations and stress that surrounded the last week of school, finals, and our last week in Paris, my French professor invited our whole class over for dinner at her house. To be honest, none of us were really excited; we had a lot of work to do, we were tired, she lives almost an hour away from where some of us live in Paris, and we didn’t think she would feed us much-there were 12 of us, plus her, her husband and her daughter. We were completely wrong. Not only did she have tons of food and drinks for us (aperitifs, appetizers, lots of delicious ratatouille, charcuterie, cheese, baguette, and wine), but it was a fantastic time, and a great end to our semester. It was a good opportunity to chat, eat some good food, and relieve stress. We also got a chance to peek into our professor’s life, and see the cute little suburb where she lived (in a HOUSE, with a GARDEN-something I haven’t seen in quite a while…)
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