Archive for June, 2011


Katie: Starting to feel like home

June 27, 2011

Whew. Where to start. Welp, I got back from Paris just about two weeks ago and boy have these past two weeks flown by. We are at the final countdown everyone. Only one more week of class/work and then I have 9 days free until I fly home. It is weird to think that I am so close to going back when London is starting to feel like home. I have gotten into my routine. I am getting comfortable with my internship and my class. My roommates and I have found a tv show we watch together every Monday night [Made in Chelsea – England’s version of the Hills. I know it is trash but oh so entertaining]. And I am trying to experience as much of the city as I can with my time left. 

I realize that I forgot to post where I’m living and working [forgot to take a picture of CAPA where I have class]. On the left is Home Sweet Home. Located about 30 min by tube outside of central London. On the right is Aftershock. I work at the Head Quarters. Yes it does look like a warehouse because it is. The Head office is also where they have all of the clothing and mail out the online orders.  


Below you have a picture of the Tube/London Underground. I actually miss riding it, though most would rather not. You see, the quickest and easiest way to get to work three days out of the week is to ride a red (single decker) bus so no tube for me until Wednesday when I venture into the city for class. The tube is often crowded and ho,t but the reason I like it is because the Metro and Evening Standard (free) newspapers are given out at Tube stations. So I don’t get to read the paper Monday and Tuesday which is quite sad. 


Today we went to Changing of the Guard. It was great except for some pushy people. 

While (the English say Whilst) we were there the Queen must have been sneaky and left for Windsor Castle, her other home. We arrived and the Queen’s flag was flying (on the left) and then we glanced up sometime later and what do ya know, Union Jack was up there. It was crazy packed. (I included the picture on the left because I think it is funny. There was a very vocal duck that kept trying to waddle into the Queen’s Gallery so the security guards kept having to chase it out)


The two guards that were changing played two songs each, it was cool to here them play and see them march and especially getting to compare their commands and marching styles to my experience in the U of M Marching Band. 


Sarah and I go to church at Hillsong United. It takes place on Sundays (obviously) at the Dominion Theatre where the musical, We Will Rock You plays throughout the week. Last week after church we explored the SoHo area and found a quaint little public garden. 

Transport for London hires/schedules musicians to play on these little marked areas in the Underground Stations. They definitely brighten any mood and make the Underground a more enjoyable place. 


Nutella is crazy popular over here. And can you believe I hadn’t tried it before coming to London? Well, big mistake on my part. It is delicious and apparently a healthy replacement for peanut butter (which they don’t have a lot of here). We decided to take our nutella craze to the next level and use it in puppy chow. All I have to say – delicious. 

It is that time of the year – Wimbeldon. If you don’t have a ticket (me) you can go to this mall that I stumbled upon and watch the matches in these lovely folding chairs on a big screen with the floor painted like a tennis court. It was great. Except Andy Roddick’s loss.

We decided to paint again. This time, Big Ben, our favorite clock tower. Painting this time was a whole different experience. No one came up to us (luckily), it was dark out because we did it after class one day, there were pigeons everywhere, and there was not a patch of grass in sight to sit on. Even though it was different it was just as much fun. 

Here we are all finished! Except for Sarah, she was feeling creatively challenged. 🙂

Mark: Mexico vs. USA

June 26, 2011

Last night Mexico played the US in the final round of the Gold Cup tournament, so we decided to go watch along with everyone else in the zócalo where they have a massive screen set up for football games and movie nights.  I don´t follow soccer much at all, but how often do you get a chance to route for your own team in a foreign country?  


During the second half it started to rain which messed up the satalite reception, which finally cut-out with about ten minutes to go and everyone ran for shelter as lightning moved in.  By that time the US has given up a two goal lead and was down 4-2 so the game was as good as over.


Shawnda: Traditional Healer, Evil Monkeys, and Michelle Obama

June 25, 2011

Today we went to see a traditional healer.  There was not much to the visit.  His room was quite small with walls lined with shelves full of jars with different herbs and mixes.  The man, whose mother was from Zimbabwe and father from Malawi, was a healer from birth.  He talked about how when he was younger, his ancestors would visit him in his dreams to teach him about healing.  He could sense sickness in people.

From a young age he became well known throughout the communities, and began to build a career out of traditional healing. He moved to Botswana and has remained there since.  Although I was not easily convinced of his abilities, I was surprised to hear that he does collaborate with modern doctors.  I think that compared to what I have heard about most healers, he is much more humble; all while remaining confident in his abilities.  I would have liked to see more examples of what he does on a daily basis, but that would take more observing than questioning.  

Following the visit, we all went to the game reserve for a braai.  As soon as we entered we saw ostriches, warthogs, and monkeys…too many monkeys.  At first we were all enamored by their cuteness and would have given anything for them to jump up on our shoulders for a picture.  This glee wore off quickly.  As soon as food was in sight, the monkeys quickly loss their fear of us.  They surrounded us in the trees, snuck up on us plenty of times, and managed to spill a Savanna Light and Heinekin and then steal several chips, pasta, a veggie burger, and whatever scraps were left.  I think they even pooped on someone.  I guess not many people could say they had the pleasure of being accosted or pooped on by a monkey, so I’ll appreciate it for what it is.

The end of the day was spent in Game City, buying some gifts and drinking coffee.  The trip back, however, was the longest yet.  As most people know, Michelle Obama is currently in the country and was on a safari tonight which was very close to where we were.  On our taxi ride back we made it out of the parking lot and were stopped for what seemed to be hours.  The police had shut down the main road for her departure from the safari, and we sat there between angry drivers for nearly an hour.  For what? To see about 30 cars speed by, unsure of which had our first lady in it.

This will be my last post for a week unfortunately.  I will be staying in Mochudi, a nearby village, for one week without my computer.  We will be in home stays, which I am incredibly excited for, and will be working in clinics for the whole week. Hopefully this will give me more insight into their culture and public health system.  I’m sure I will have novels to write after this, so expect a large amount of blogging soon.
But, now that I think about it, it may have to wait two Wednesdays from now.  Because as soon as we are back from Mochudi, we have class, then leave for a two night camping trip and the Rhino Reserve I believe.
Packed schedule. Can’t wait!

Connie: The Great Happiness Space

June 24, 2011

The title of this blog comes from the title of the documentary movie that originally sparked my interest in host clubs.

Because while I was in Osaka, I was finally able to make my dream come true and go to one!

Going to a host club is probably a strange dream. I can see where people will raise eyebrows at me. I suppose I can’t entirely refute this kind of skepticism—the beautiful men waiting on you hand and foot is nothing to complain about—but my interest goes slightly beyond this. Ever since seeing that movie, I was introduced to the darker side of the industry as well. It’s one that slowly decays the hosts lives (and livers), as they live full schedules and tell nice lies until they forget their own personality. The way these people can charm so flawlessly that they forget themselves, as well as the way some girls can fall so completely for this kind of lie, is fascinating to me. In all truth, I hope to write my final thesis on host clubs and the society that produces them and makes them work. That’s why I couldn’t leave Japan without going at least once, to understand how they work.

Now onto a far less academic look and into my own adventures.

Osaka is known for its night life. Of course, so is Tokyo, so one of the things that makes Osaka stand out to some people is the number of host clubs. Maybe it’s the outgoing Kansai personality that does it, but who can really say? I just know that Osaka is famous for host clubs, and if I was going to go to Osaka, I was going to go to a host club.

My first destination was a club in the Umeda district. Called Club Acqua, it’s one of the more famous clubs. There were, however, several problems with this club. First off, Umeda isn’t the top host district in Osaka, so it’s hard to just ask for directions. In night life districts in various cities in Japan there are free… let’s just say “entertainment guides”. As the district I was in was known more for its hostesses, asking these people would be hopeless. That was okay, I figured, since I had the address. But that’s the thing about Japanese addresses – they make no sense. After WWII the addresses were picked at what seems to be entirely random (they’re actually labeled by the spaces between streets rather than streets), so convenience store workers, cab drivers and whoever the hell else you ask will have quite a tough time of helping you. I asked at 5 convenience stores and 3 cab drivers, all of whom told me different things. I mean, I know I’m bad at directions myself, but if everyone tells you something different, people who live and work there, it can’t be just a personal problem.

It must have taken me over an hour to finally find the place in between the curving roads of the night life district. My feet were soaking wet from the pouring rain by the time I finally found the place, tucked in nice and quietly in a random basement. Neon blue letters stared up at me and told me the club’s name. I was relieved to have finally found the place after all that searching. I walked in and was engulfed in dim lights and men with tall hair and suits.

That’s when I found out to enter I needed my passport. In all instances other than this one, my alien registration card had sufficed. I wasn’t carrying my passport on me. “Isn’t there anything you can do?” I asked, quite annoyed at having come all that way through all those damp, winding streets for nothing.

“Sorry,” he said in that Japanese way that sounds polite, yet at the same time doesn’t at all.

I was quite unhappy when I got back outside. The loud music was still echoing in my ears and I was wishing I could be seated at a table full of men with hair-sprayed and dyed hair. I was worried that this might be the end of my search for a host club. I thought about going back, as I was quite exhausted from the day before. But then I figured there was no way I was going to abandon this dream again.

Off to Namba I went, to an area more populated by hosts. I had brought another address with me, but once I got in the general vicinity, I realized I wanted nothing to do with address hunting. Instead I stopped at one of the free information booths and told the man working I wanted to go to a host club. His reaction was entertaining. It was a sort of an “ooh” of awe. He made a phone call, and soon a charming young man with a really thick Kansai-accent showed up.

“Would you prefer a big place or a small one? It’s your first time going? I have a recommendation. I used to work as a host, actually. I’ll call them. Do you have a passport? The alien card should work. I’ll call them. Okay, let’s go.”

After processing all of the rapid-fire Kansai-accent we headed off to a nearby host club. It was located on the edge of the main nightlife area, in another basement. The club was called Club キセキ (kiseki), which translates to Club Miracle. Of course, they always have cute names like this.

My guide passed me off to the host working reception. He examined my alien card and allowed me in. I was sat down in a comfy booth and told to wait. I nodded politely and watched the exchange that followed. It was hard for me to tell what exactly it was – it could have been, “Which host isn’t occupied?” or it could have been, “Which host is going to deal with the foreigner?” To be honest, I probably came off as something of a burden. Kansai’s accent is thick, spoken quickly, and hosts aren’t used to using simple Japanese. I took a while to take in the atmosphere while waiting. The music was loud, and there were of course groups of girls chatting in a lively way with their hosts. The space was incredibly trendy, though not as gaudy as some host clubs I’ve seen. I didn’t know what I was going to make of my experience. I’d heard stories of foreigners being treated not as kindly as Japanese customers, being left alone a lot of the time. Read the rest of this entry ?


Lauren: Ultra-exclusive trip to Vatican

June 24, 2011

Today turned out to be another quite exhausting, yet extraordinary day in Rome! 

Starting at 9 AM, I went to the Vatican for my Italian Media class.  Turns out my professor, Sean-Patrick Lovett, is the Communications and Media director for the Catholic City.  His high rank really helped speed things along, as we were able to walk to the front of the line past hundreds of waiting people, and with a show of his Vatican passport and ID, all 12 of us students were in! 

On top of the Radio T

On the tour, we were permitted to go a lot of places in Vatican City that normal tourists aren’t allowed to, specifically into the Vatican’s government building, the headquarters for the Vatican Radio (which is the most popular station in the world, and is broadcast in over 40 languages), and also to the top of the Radio Tower, which provided us with beautiful pictures with St. Peter’s as the backdrop. 

Simply put, the Vatican was beautiful!  The gardens in them reminded me of something one would see in an Alice in Wonderland moive.  Turns out the Pope has his own medieval waterfall!  Also turns out that the Vatican can’t decide which climate it wants to be – the city boosted a wide array of evergreens, cactus, palm trees, and maccaws.  The entire experience was quite surreal.

Pope’s private waterfall


Shawnda: Nothing that is worth knowing can be taught

June 23, 2011

“Nothing that is worth knowing can be taught.” –Oscar Wilde

Another day, another experience. 

Yet again I found myself in Extension 2.  This day I took advantage of the slow morning and asked as many questions as I could.  I’m finally getting to know people and they are getting comfortable enough to talk in English around me, which is a relief.  I asked Agnes, the nurse from Princess Marina Hospital, about the workers strike and why so many nurses from PMH have come to E2.  She explained how the recession affected Botswana’s economy and how the mining industry was shut down for a length of time because no countries could afford to buy diamonds.  In 2009, I believe, it started up again and Botswana slowly got back to developing, but the work force was still at a standstill. 

During this time, about 3 years, workers received no pay raises, yet inflation was raising prices everywhere. Employees were working just as much as they used to, but were not being paid to compensate for the higher prices.  How are they expected to get by even with lower prices when they make almost nothing?  Doctors only make P30,000 a month, about $4,500 compared to the >$100,000 US doctors make.  Also, the majority of Botswana’s doctors are not private practice, but are government employees.  So they finally went on strike.

What was supposed to be a 14 day strike turned into a 7 day strike and a court case.  The court was in favor of the government, and ordered the employees to return to work.  Many of them, angered in the meager 3% raise offer (when they were asking for 16%), did not return to work and were laid off.  Little did the government know, when you fire the majority of your health care workers, you then have no one to work in the clinics and hospitals.  So with a shortage of workers, many of the nurses were relocated, still with no raise.  There is obviously much more to the story that I know little else about, but I am trying to keep learning as I go.

It is unfortunate that people are not getting paid for being overworked and for providing vital services to the public.  How can a nation develop when it isn’t healthy?  I think this is one of the lessons you don’t want to learn after you see the bad end of it, which I think Botswana may be reaching with its high rates of chronic disease and STIs. 

I also learned about why many of the doctors are not from Botswana.  The government pays its citizens to go to school, so many doctors went abroad for medical training.  However, most of them did not return, which led to a net loss for the government.  Also, for reasons I’m not sure of, foreigners receive more benefits than the citizens.  I don’t understand the specifics, but foreign doctors are paid more and receive better accommodations than people who have lived in the country their whole life.  Why should non-citizens reap the benefits?  I’ll have to look into this more.

The exciting parts of the day consisted of seeing a man’s head wound get sutured and going to PMH in an ambulance.  The head wound was about 3 inches long and maybe 1cm deep.  It was odd to see how tough the skin on your head is, but somewhat relieving to know you have that protection.  Going to the hospital was very interesting to say the least.  The woman unfortunately had a “missed abortion,” which in our terms is a miscarriage.  Reading her records, which were written with poor penmanship, I believe she had a previous ectopic pregnancy.  She was given an IV at the clinic and we transported her to PMH.  On the way there and back the ambulance driver and male nurse, Stan (his middle name, I couldn’t pronounce his first), taught me some Setswana terms. 

I toured the hospital and it was surprisingly much more accommodating than I had expected.  The hospital is mainly one level, and consists of multiple buildings that are connected by an outside path that is covered by ‘canopy roofs’ for a lack of a better term.  One thing I noticed was the lack of technology.  When you walk into a hospital in the US, it is buzzing with heart rate monitors, telephones, computers, ambulances, and simultaneous beeping noises; and it just has that “hospital” smell.  It was rather calm in the ER, with many nurses and ‘blocks’ divided by curtains for each patient; no particular sterile smell.  The waiting room was insufficient with no chairs; beds were brought in when needed.  They call their OR’s “theaters”, but also had many of the wards that you would find in the states.  They only just recently got a cardiac surgeon, and for most other larger surgeries, patients are referred out of the country. 

By the end of the trip I saw most of the hospital, learned how to formally refer to an adult, and got hit on by Stan.  I also met an oncologist who referred to me as his wife; I don’t think monogamy is possible here with so many marriage proposals. 


Lauren: First few days in Rome

June 22, 2011

Buorngiorno!  Pardon the lack of updates since I have landed in beautiful Italy, but much of the last few days has been devoted to making new friends, catching up on sleep, and seeing some of the sights!

Much of my first day simply consisted of pushing through exhaustion and then ultimately catching up on sleep.  Once we landed we were transported as a group by coach bus to the Piazza Mazzini.  From there, we were divided up according to where we were living and sent to our apartment for the day to get some sleep!  I was able to really converse with my roommates, Molly, Janel, and Heather for the first time.  They are all incredibly nice and I think we are going to have an extraordinary time together!

Piazza Navona

Friday was a much busier day.  At 10 am we met for the first time at our ACCENT student center in the Piazza dell’Orologio.  Our first experience with the public transportation, much to my surprise, did not end in disaster and we were not only able to find the center alright, but we were on time as well!

After our orientation we were free to walk around.  A couple of us walked around the beautiful Piazza Navona (which is right next to our school), and at six we met once again for evening drinks with our (super cute Italian) guide, Francesco!

My boyfriend, Brody, and his friend, Mike, were in Rome as well, having spent the last part of the month traveling around Europe and visiting Brody’s mom (who lives in Luxembourg).  They met up with us too, and it was incredibly nice to spend time with him!

Rome is so beautiful.  Even walking down side streets you can see ancient columns sticking out of buildings.  I love that the aquaducts here can be used for bubblers, and the tap water is simply AMAZING!

Sunday morning included a walking tour of the area around our student center.  On this tour, we made a stop at the Pantheon.  The inside of the building is gorgeous.  So far I have been very snap happy with my camera!  I will have to post pictures soon!

Sunday night was Brody’s last in town, and we went to both the Spanish Steps and the Trevi Fountain with a couple others students.  I was underwhelmed by the Spanish Steps, although I have to admit that I didn’t quite know what I was supposed to expect—so I think that confusion added to that.

The Trevi Fountain, however, was SPECTACULAR!  We all made sure to throw our coins over our shoulders and into the fountain to ensure that we would one day return!

Monday was a day of rest for myself, up until getting lost on public transit for two hours while trying to meet up with friends for dinner.  Today, I have started my classes, which consist of Italian Media and Communications, and Art History.  Both seem as though they will be really enjoyable and interesting.  Thursday I will be heading to the Vatican for my Italian Media class.  Stay tuned!

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