Archive for October, 2011

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Whitney: Missing Halloween

October 31, 2011


So before I left for Germany, I was really worried about missing out on certain holidays that aren’t really celebrated over here – namely Halloween – so I carved an amazing kitten-faced pumpkin before I left. Thankfully, I was lucky enough to have the chance to carve another pumpkin this weekend with Christian and his friend Simon. We just went with a basic jack-o-lantern face, but I was so happy to get another dose of Halloween spirit this weekend 🙂 Happy Halloween everyone!

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Mary: Diwali

October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween! It feels so strange to be in a country that doesn’t celebrate one of my favorite holidays. I can’t even convey how much I miss seeing carved pumpkins, scarecrows, weird fake spiderwebs with little plastic creatures strewn about them and strangely dressed kids roaming the streets at night!  Although I did just get to celebrate the most important holiday of the year here in India, called Diwali. Hannah and I returned from out internship (more on that later) for a few days to spend the holidays with my host mom in Jaipur. Diwali is also known as the festival of lights and for good reason – the festival itself it seen as the triumph of good over evil and starting a new year with high hopes and good intentions. Everyone decorates their houses quite extensively with dozens of strands of colored and white lights and tiny little oil lamps are placed around the outside of the house, lining walkways, gardens and fences. Our neighbors on both sides have little kids in the family and they were setting off incredibly loud and crazy fireworks for hours on Divwali night; the whole city was in fact, Hannah and I camped out on the roof for a few hours, watching the never ending displays. Honestly, it would have put most American fourth of July shows to shame! (Except my dad’s annual show, of course.) My host-sister took Hannah and I on a driving tour of the city as well – all of the big malls compete with each other to see who can decorate their buildings the most elaborately. It was really crazy to see these huge, six or seven story shopping malls with hundreds and hundreds of lights strung about! There were tons of other families out looking at the sites as well, most of them dressed in the finest saris and shawls, taking family portraits in front of the displays! We also had a lovely family dinner with all sorts of special Diwali sweets and Hindu prayers during a special puja. It felt like experiencing an American Christmas in a strange, altered reality, viewed through the the colorful, brilliantly lit, shape-shifting lens of a kaleidoscope. All the traditional elements of a festive season were there – family coming together, good food, decorations – but they had taken on a distinctly Indian adaptation. It was a wonderful experience and one I will not easily forget! I’v included a few pictures from the celebrations below! I’ve also put in a few pictures (the ones of the temples and country landscapes) from my new internship site!  To better explain what I’m doing with my new internship, stay tuned.

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Chiyo: Back to reality

October 31, 2011

This morning my alarm went off way too early compared to what I was used to just last week, and it was back to reality for me. I did my normal “getting ready” routine, and was out the door to head to my internship after being away for 10 days on holiday. I arrived at my internship, with a full house on our floor, due in part to the start up of Sales Week for season Z. I checked my work e-mail, and found several e-mails with queries that I needed to take care of, and got to work on those right away. Once I finished with those tasks, I had to place several urgent orders for a few of our regular buyers, and checked accounts for the previous season to make sure we could go ahead and send out the merchandise. 

With Sales Week, I am constantly doing something, and there is never a dull moment. Now that I have gotten the swing of things with having one Sales Week under my belt, I think this time round it won’t be as stressful, but I know it will still bring on stress. Just because we have to make sure we get the orders right, placed on time, making sure the buyers like what they see, etc. There’s a lot that goes into Sales Week, and we are showing our Summer collection to the buyers. 

Tomorrow, I get to meet with a big buyer who will be looking at our Women’s EDC (junior line) with our head buyer Pete who runs EDC, and I am SO excited. I love meeting with buyers, and picking their brains, and I just love sitting in on appointments. It is invaluable experience that I am getting with Sales Week, and I’m looking forward to another chaotic day at the showroom tomorrow. 

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Sarah: A good time to write

October 31, 2011

Today was a good day. I spent most of the day alone, whimsically drifting in and out of my thoughts, busy making green tea and eating bowls of bananas with peanut butter. I was productive too – writing a research report, making corrections on my resume, and getting my back-up class schedule prepared for registration on November 11. I did a blog post about oatmeal, looked up some new pumpkin recipes and watched an episode of Grey’s Anatomy. And now I’m sitting on my bed listening to the rain hit the metal roof of the neighbor’s house, half wishing that it would stop so I could go on a cool after-rain run and half hoping that it doesn’t stop, but that it rains harder and harder so I have an excuse to remain right here on my bed, lounging in my yoga pants, writing. I’ve been exploring different kinds of therapy lately. You know, life enriching, stress reducing, feel-good activities. Running is one that I’ve always known makes me feel good. Running is for making me feel strong and unstoppable and competent. Yoga is for making me feel centered, relaxed, clear-headed and sophisticated. Music is for brightening my mood, and cooking is for making me feel comfortable, creative and domestic. Writing is the one I still haven’t figured out yet. My favorite time to write is early in the morning – really early when no one else is awake yet. It’s best when it’s still chilly outside and I leave my pajama pants on and wrap up in a sweater. It’s when I’m in a unique state of mind – clear, but still dreamy. I’m able to convey my thoughts well; it’s like they come right out, they just flow. No editing, no stumbling over words. Just clear, whole thoughts. That’s why early in the morning is when I think about the things that are hard to think about – why I write about Africa at 6 am and decide to apply for a new job before I’ve eaten breakfast. Maybe I can call it reflective therapy, when everything comes together so I can calmly peer at my life through some external lens, reflecting upon all things beautiful and all things messy about my life. It’s revitalizing really, satisfying. When I emerge from my pre-breakfast trance I feel grounded and accomplished. And that’s when I finally stand up, stretch, and throw some eggs in the pan for breakfast.

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Lauren: Weekend in Selfoss

October 30, 2011

This weekend I had the wonderful opportunity to go visit my friend Berglind’s family in Selfoss. I have included Miss Berglind in previous posts but I usually just call her Begga. Anyways, Selfoss is a town in southern Iceland with a population of about 6,500. This lovely picture above is from Google maps. Point A is Reykjavik where I live and point B is Selfoss where I am writing this very blog post this very minute! You can also see in gold Iceland’s Ring Road. Hringvegur (Ring Road) is about 832 miles and I think it would be really cool to drive around it by the end of my stay here but gasoline is very expensive here and so are car rentals… go figure. Plus it is kind of dangerous to drive the roads in the winter… Maybe I will perfect my manual driving skillz over winter break and be ready to tackle Hringvegur by the time May rolls around…. maybe.

Enough about my potential maybe perhaps possible travel plans. So I am in Selfoss now, it was kind of spur of the moment but I am so glad it worked out. I had met Begga’s mamma before because she is a lopapeysa magician and she has come to Gamli Garður, where I live, to fit a few of my dormmates for sweaters she is making them. Lopapeysa is the traditional Icelandic wool sweater. Begga’s mamma sells the lopapeysur she makes and she is giving us a special bargain on our very own sweaters! Yesterday I got to go to the store and pick out the yarn for mine and I even got to watch her start the process for mine! I am pretty excited. Mine won’t exactly be traditional because she is making it more poncho-esque but it will still have a traditional pattern and be made with just as much love!

Begga’s mamma also made us delicious kjötsúpa for dinner on Friday night. Kjötsúpa is traditional Icelandic meat soup (Kjötsúpa= meat soup). This was the third time I tried lamb here and I really enjoyed it! It was so good! I think that I will make this for my family when I come home too! :)

This is not my own picture because I forgot my camera but it looked just like that. It was even better the second day and we had fresh baked bread. Mmmmm! Carrots, potatoes, rutabagas, and lamb.

Begga’s mamma and pabbi are soooooo nice and I really enjoyed my time here this weekend. I have been pretty homesick so it was nice to be removed from the dorm life and sleep in a comfortable bedroom, shower without shoes on, and have homecooked meals… not to mention the lovely conversation and cake.

The last thing I wanted to blog about was the increasing lack of sunlight. I really didn’t think I would notice it until it was dark all day and all night but it is already starting to effect me. Lately it has been very rainy so I always just feel like wrapping up in a blanket and watching television. Iceland does not participate in Daylight Savings Time so next Sunday when all of my friends and family fall back one hour, I will stay at the same time and the time difference between most of us will be 6 hours instead of 5 hours. Kind of sad. But now that November is approaching sunrise is significantly later than when I arrived! I arrived in Iceland really early on Monday August 29th and according to my Google calendar sun rise was at 6am and sunset was at 8:55pm… tomorrow’s projected sunrise is at 9:06am and sunset will be at about 5:15pm. Each day the sun rises 3 minutes later and sets 3 minutes earlier. How crazy is that?!

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Sara: The Internship

October 29, 2011

So I just finished my first week at my internship at el Hospital San Luis de Otavalo, which is like 2 hours north of Quito. I live with a different family here, they are really cool though and have had tons of international students so they know the drill. I have a host mom (Alba), a host brother who’s 9 (Andres), and a host sister who’s 12 (Domenica), and my host dad works during the week so I haven’t met him quite yet, but from what I have heard he is a great cook and an awesome guy.

I spent this week in the ER in the hospital shadowing a doctor and investigating the situation of patient privacy in the hospital. It’s kind of a hard subject to study, but I am super motivated because I also will be writing a 20 page paper on it at the end of my internship.  But I have seen quite a few different things, I cannot believe how many people have appendicitis in the ER. It has been a really interesting experience for me though and I will be doing rounds in the entire hospital, so I wonder what the coming weeks will have in store for me!

Although next week I will be going to the Galapagos Islands for 4 days which I cannot wait for right now! I am so super excited, I will be heading back to Quito on Monday night and then to the Galapagos by plane on Tuesday morning!

Attached are a few pictures of my new house and the emergency room at the hospital,

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Alex: Tongariro Alpine Crossing

October 28, 2011

Yesterday, I did the Tongariro Alpine Crossing. It was life-changing in a way I thought not possible.

I am not a fit man. I am technically obese (I’ll spare you my rant on that system). I also do not handle heights well. I’m not petrified by them, but I certainly do not seek them out. So the idea of an 20-kilometer alpine mountain crossing was not the most attractive idea I have ever heard. I am so glad that I did it.
I’m having trouble articulating this experience in the usual way, which is to say circuitously. So, I’m going to cut straight to the action, and hopefully that will spring my brain into its usual florid, overly philosophical tone.

The Tongariro Alpine Crossing is 19.3 kilometers long. It climbs up between two mountains, Mount Ngaurahoe (Mount Doom) and Mount Tongariro (not Mount Doom, but also awesome). It takes somewhere in the ballpark of 7 hours, if one does not summit either summit. Experienced a walker as I am, this was massively daunting to me.

But I did it. I soldiered on up the full hour of stair climbing. I kept my cool when I felt as if the wind would literally rip me from the side of the mountain. I walked in shorts in snow up to my knees. I saw massive heights, and in the face of them choked back my abject terror and took in the most incredible scenery I’ve ever seen.

We were unable to summit Ngaurahoe, as it is quite steep and quite snow-covered, and requires crampons andice axes, of which we had neither. We did, however, summit Tongariro. It was perhaps the most terrifying thing I’ve ever done. The snow was deep, the wind was strong and the heights were dizzying. The sky was clear, and the view in every direction was overwhelming. As I crossed a small, snowy ridge blasted by the wind, with nothing on either side but a steep slope down to a rocky demise, I had to keep my hood closed tight around my head just to limit my periphery and keep my cool. Only once we reached the summit and I was able to sit and hold firmly on to some rocks could I relax enough to keep my heart from beating out of my chest.

The view was absolutely worth every moment of terror. From here, one can see what seems like the entire world. The desert on one side of the mountains, and the rocky scrubland on the other. Down to the forest, and lakes Rotoaira and Taupo. It is truly magnificent.

On the descent from this summit, I saw the the huge red crater and the gorgeous emerald lakes, just beginning to peak out from underneath their frosty winter covering. I was assaulted by the smell of sulfur from the many volcanic vents in the area. I slid down treacherous loose gravel trails.

After all of this there was more walking. Lots more. We descended down past the snow line, and further down to where the vegetation began again. Before we knew it we were walking through sub-tropical forest.

Every part of my body hurt at the end of the day. I was sun-burnt on every exposed piece of skin. My hips, knees, feet, legs, and back all ached from a level of exertion they rarely, if ever see. I am still sore, and I suspect this burn will last some time.

It was fantastic.
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Chelsea: Surviving without internet

October 28, 2011

On Monday, I moved to Latacunga, a smaller city about 2 hours south of Quito. I have been working at an organization called Codesarrollo that works with small communities and cooperatives to offer loans and credit to people in rural areas or community groups. This week I was just observing different people in the office, but I hope to be visiting some communities in the next few weeks!

With this move also came a new host family! I am living with the director of Codesarrollo and her family! She isn’t home much since she has meetings a lot at night, but I’ve spent a lot of time with my host dad this week! He used to be a body guard for a few Ecuadorian presidents and has lots of pictures with famous people, so he’s pretty legit. I have yet to meet my host mom since she spent the week in Quito, but am excited to meet her when I return! My host dad here is a lot of fun – he took me around to try a lot of new foods this week and has enjoyed educating me on the greatness of the Barcelona soccer team here. We also had a random dance night last night in the middle of the living room, so that was a lot of fun! You definitely haven’t lived until you have seen a 70-year old man dance to a reggaton song/imitate young people dancing to pop music – let´s just say he knows how to drop it down low. Hilarious.

Anyway, off to the airport I go! Sorry no photos this week as I don’t have internet at my new house (BOO) and didn’t bring my laptop with me! I surprised my family in Quito this morning and spent the afternoon with them here! SO good to be back ¨home¨ again! Here’s to a great trip in Peru. Off to explore Lima, Nazca, and Cuzco and climb Machu Picchu!!

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Thomas: Spring break in Peru

October 27, 2011

For my week-long Spring break I set out for the indigenous nation of Peru, located in West-Central South America. I knew it would be a long and mostly spontaneous journey, so I chose to make it alone. My main reasons for traveling to Peru: experience one of the more indigenous regions of the planet and of course visit the ancient “lost city” of the masterful Incan Empire, Machu Picchu.

Day 1: I started my long journey by running to catch a bus to the International Airport here in the Buenos Aires Province, which is about a 30 minute drive from the heart of the capital city. After arriving at the Airport outside of the city, I jumped on a plane to Santiago, Chile. There I would experience a 4 hour layover until my next flight to Lima, Peru. I arrived in Lima at about 8:30 PM and my 3rd and final flight to the interior city of Cusco wouldn’t leave until 6:45 AM the following morning. I took a car into the bustling capital city of Lima to only sleep a few hours so I could be at the airport at 4:45 AM. I finally got to sleep in my 4th floor hotel room at around 11:30 PM to thumping music down below, only to wake up about 4 hours later to the exact same thumping. Lima is a very active city, with a thriving nightlife, which explains the loud music.

Day 2: I made it safely to Cusco, Peru in the morning and took a taxi to my hostel, which was located in the center of the city. Cusco is the old Incan Capital city and currently has about 300,000 inhabitants. It’s a beautiful city. My hostel was very nice as well. It had a gigantic courtyard in the center with rooms surrounding it. The beds were surprisingly comfortable and the staff accommodating. My 6 person room only cost $10 per night, which included a small breakfast and 24 hour tea. Upon arriving I took advantage of the complimentary Coca Tea, which helps with the extremely high altitudes of Cusco. Peru has long been a huge producer of the three coca trees used for chocolate, coffee, and coca (which unfortunately has been sometimes processed into cocaine and shipped to North America). For centuries, coca leaves have helped Peruvians with the altitude. Chewing on coca leaves or drinking coca tea has a similar affect on the body to drinking a cup of coffee.

Already on my first day I was able to meet people from all over the world and quickly become friends.

Day 3: I spent mostly exploring the city of Cusco with my new friends and hiking up a local mountain which offered great views of the city and Incan ruins. I would take the same hike all but 2 days of my time in Cusco. It was great exercise, even if it left you gasping for breath every step due to the thin air.

Day 4: I was asked to explore the countryside and more ancient ruins via horseback. Why not? My horse, Capricorn, was very tame and we were able to get along well.

Day 5: I decided to play futbol (soccer) with some people from the hostel. My team was horrible. Having never played soccer outside of gym class, I didn’t help much. My team consisted of 2 Danish, a German, a couple Peruvians and myself. We lost every game to our opposing teams which were made up of all Peruvian players who were actually quite talented. You could tell they have been playing for some time.

Day 6: Time for Machu Puccu, the moment we’ve all been waiting for. I woke up at 3:30 AM to taxi into a small town outside of Cusco called Poroy. From there I would take a 4 hour train through the mountains and the jungle until the small town of Aguas Calientes at the foothills of the Lost City of Machu Piccu. I finally arrived in Aguas Caliented in the late morning and quickly wandered around until I found the buses that take people up the winding rode to Machu Piccu. If this sounds like a lot of steps, work, and money, you would be right. Machu Piccu is so hidden and deep into the jungle that it’s very difficult to visit and required a lot of work and different forms of transportation. A lot of people choose to hike the Incan Trail which takes 3 or 4 or sometimes 5 days and costs $300-600. Initially I wanted to try to hike up to Machu Piccu for the experience, but after doing some research I quickly decided against it. Also, you much book your trail hike close to 6 months in advance.

When I arrived at the gates of Machu Piccu, alone I had no idea what to do or see. I was alone, it was misting rain and foggy. There were tourists everywhere of course and it just seemed like a cesspool of people wanting your money. There is one restaurant and hotel next to the ruins where one can spend $20 for a burger, which would cost about $2 in Cusco, and $600+ on a hotel room. Seeing those things, the large crowd of tourists, and feeling the light rain at the gates put me in a soggy mood. Immediately, one of the many tour guides approached me for a tour of the ruins. He said I need a guide, because the city behind the gates is huge and complex. I realized then he was probably right, it would be no fun to wander alone with knowing what I was looking at. So I bargained with him on a price and he begrudgingly accepted my offer, even though I was still about to pay 10 times more than what other tourists were paying in their large group tours. Relatively, I paid a lot, but got a personal tour of Machu Piccu. To say the least, it was breathtaking.  The masterful craftsmanship, engineering, and pure genius displayed by the Incas is nothing to sneeze at. They somehow managed to build an extremely high-tech and well managed society on a mountain side, hundreds of miles from other civilizations with handmade tools and no heavy equipment. It was a nearly perfect city and perfect society. Amazing, indeed.

Of course, the Spanish conquest in the mid-16th Century brought an end to the empire and the city was abandoned. It was only re-discovered and publicized in 1911 by an American professor at Yale who was conducting research in Peru. Hiram Bingham was searching for a lost Incan City, needless to say, he found it.

Day 7: My own journey to visit Machu Piccu would come to an end eventually. Three flights back to Buenos Aires and school on Monday!

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Sara: Banos and the move to Otavalo

October 26, 2011

This past weekend I went to Banos! It was so much fun, and everyone has been asking me what we did in Banos… the answer EVERYTHING! We got there on Friday night and ate some great Filet Mignon and then on Saturday we walked around the city, took a tour of the waterfalls in an open-aired party bus then hiked up and down a mountain to see the waterfalls, had a 2 hour massage and facial for only $35!, rented a go-cart, drove that to the hot springs, then had another amazing dinner at this restaurant called “La Casa de la Abuela.” Then on our way back to returning the go-cart we got stuck behind a 15 minute long funeral procession! Then on Sunday we went white water rafting (this is waaay more intense then a little river) with wet suits, life jackets, and helmets. We were in a boat with 3 guys from Poland which was super cool too! Although, the guide pushed me into the river and I had to get rescued by one of the Polish guys. It was fun nonetheless. We then took the bus home after saying goodbye to the awesome old couple that ran the hostel we stayed in and helped us with everything on our journey…we made record time back to Quito (3 hours).

But today I was up early and packed.  I moved to Otavalo (2 hours north of Quito) and am currently living with my new host family.  I have a mom, a dad, a sister who is 12 and a brother who is 9.  I start my first day of my internship in the Hospital tomorrow which I am really excited but a little nervous for!

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