Archive for November, 2011


Chiyo: the world is your oyster

November 30, 2011

I love Wednesdays for two reasons. 1) Stylist magazine comes out and is FREE and 2) I have a 5 hour break in-between classes to spend exploring London. Today during my break, I went to my favorite “escape”, Covent Garden. I didn’t realize until this afternoon how much I do in London on a regular basis. I’m always on the go, and it was nice to just stay in one place for a few hours; especially one of my favorite spots in London.

I had some Christmas shopping to do, so I went to one of my favorite stores and bought some really great gifts for friends back home. I also made a stop at Apple Market, which in the winter turns into such a cute, festive, market. There is a HUGE Christmas tree, ornaments that are probably 6 feet in width hanging up all over the ceiling, and a giant astroturf reindeer. After spending some time at Covent Garden, I headed to South Ken to get away from the protests that were taking place nearby, and went to the Natural History Museum. There is a huge exhibit on dinosaurs right now, which made me think of my old roommate, and sorority sister Basalo. I took way too many pictures, and had a little too much fun for a 22 year old. My five hours soon came to an end, but overall it was a nice break from class and my internship.

In my LTI class today, we talked about the protests that were taking place here (1.5-2 mil ppl are protesting pension cuts), and then we had to form groups and draw pictures that described our experience here in London, but with no words. So we basically drew our adventures in Ealing since we spend so much time here it seems, and we’re just that tight of a group. Back at the flat my flatmate and I are enjoying some drinks, food, and jamming out to Jessie J. 


Margaret: 宜家家具 – yijiā jiājù – IKEA

November 30, 2011

After a rough week of exams and an even rougher weekend, Megan, my Jersey girl, and I set out for some therapy that only the Swedes can provide.  IKEA, or 宜家家具.  I adore this Chinese name.  宜 by itself means “suitable,” but it is more well-known as one of the two characters that make up 便宜, the word for “inexpensive.”  家 refers to anything to do with “household” or “family,” and 家具 means “furniture.”  Thus, we’re left with “suitable household furniture.”  When read aloud, it sounds something like yi jiā jiā jù.  Genius.

Our first stop, obviously, was the restaurant.  Two plates of Swedish meatballs and mashed potatoes later, my stomach was full but happy.  For the record: everything tastes the same as IKEA food in the United States and presumably the rest of the world.  Somehow I’d really like to go back there for Christmas dinner.  After about two hours of pushing through 人山人海 (rénshānrénhǎi – mountains and seas of people), I had about 580 RMB worth of necessary materials to IKEA-ize my room.  As usual, I felt a twinge of guilt spending that much at IKEA of all places, but that changed this morning: I woke up warm for the first time in many weeks, the harsh overhead lighting in my bedroom will never taunt me again, my feet didn’t go numb this morning on the ice-like tile, and I had a buddy to spend the night with.  I’ve named him 大王 (Dàwáng) or Big King.  I’ve known a few Americans with this Chinese name.  The English translation in itself is quite ridiculous, but the sound of the second Chinese syllable is really the entertaining bit.

IKEA is a phenomenon in China.  Many urban Chinese go there just for fun, and it isn’t uncommon to see people laying in the showroom beds asleep, with a book open, or cuddling with a significant other.  If you’re interested, check out this LA Times article:

Lately I’ve been falling slowly into the big black hole of a “Me against China” mood that swallows me from time to time.  Luckily, all of that changed today.  When asked if I feel I’m improving at Chinese, I always answer with a sharp “no.”  Frankly it doesn’t feel like anything.  I still can’t speak basic Chinese in simple situations, usually because I don’t feel confident enough to do so.  Today, however, my jaw dropped when laoshi handed me my intensive Chinese exam.  64 out of 70.  The high score in my class was 65.5.  I looked around at my class of Japanese and Korean students in disbelief.  How could this be possible?  I had always known I was the worst in the class.  My day got even better when I arrived at my speaking class.  Laoshi was rambling on about grades, but I was feverishly looking something up in my iPod Chinese dictionary, almost too distracted to hear 柯小玫, my name, in the same sentence as 听写 (tīngxiě).  So I had scored the highest in the class on my 听写, which literally translates into “listen” and “write.”  Nearly every night I sit at my desk with my book and whiteboard in hand, scrawling out each and every new character, stroke by stroke, and memorizing the sound.  The next day in class, the teacher reads the words aloud, and I write them.  It was no surprise to me I had scored so well on my 听写 – it’s the one thing I know I can do perfectly if I put the time in, which I always do.  I went back to my dictionary, only to hear my name again a few moments later.  I had received the highest score on my oral exam speech along with two other students.  Umm…..WHAT?  I can’t speak Chinese.  I had even awarded myself a 75% on my own performance of a five minute speech detailing the surprise I encountered when I arrived in China the second time to find out that actually not all Chinese people speak English, as I had stupidly and naively assumed after having my hand held for the entirety of my two week trip to China in 2008.  In true Chinese form, Peking University and presumably universities across China have an obsession with broadcasting who in the class are the best students.  Well, as of this point, 柯小玫 is number one, an announcement that was made all the more embarrassing by my loashi’s overly enthusiastic and my classmates’ underwhelming applause.

My exam results made me feel better and worse at the same time.  While it felt good to feel successful momentarily, I quickly reminded myself that I still don’t know how to order food without resorting to pointing at it, I still yell out “left” and “right” from the back seat of cabs because I don’t know how to say “turn,” and my eyes still glaze over blankly when someone tries to talk to me even when they say something that I’m perfectly capable of understanding.  Somehow I’ve managed to “try” my way around Chinese without learning it.  I’ve reached the top of the class with just enough effort to score well but not enough to actually have the language stick.  I guess it’s a good skill to have with regards to organic chemistry or physics exams, things that I will never have to use again, but it’s entirely useless when learning a language.  My test scores have left me feeling rejuvenated and with a clean slate, so these next few weeks, I’m really going to try to apply myself once more.  In fact, I think I’m going to start by looking up “turn” once this is published.


Chiyo: Chelsea vs. Liverpool

November 29, 2011


I am still on an endorphin high from the experience I had tonight. I went to a Chelsea vs Liverpool match with Jamie, Rene, and Curtis, and it was unbelievable. I was the only Chelsea fan out of the four of us, Jamie a Liverpool fan, and Curtis and Rene just reallyyyy love soccer. It made me think back to the days when I was a striker several years ago.

Football is INTENSE here, and the fans are loyal, loud, and bloody fun. Jamie and I had the better pair of tickets (since she purchased them), and we got to sit in the lower sections. I could literally make out every players face (Go Torres!). Both sides were roaring with cheers, and although you can’t really understand what they’re saying, because it’s like a battle between the two sides, it was awesome. Earlier this semester we went to a lower level league team, but that was nothing compared to the professionals. I was definitely screaming and cursing a lot, and I think I have said “oy!” about 20 times throughout the match. It was an intense game, with the refs making a lot of bad calls against Chelsea. At one point when Liverpool was ahead, they had to bring out the brigade of security guards because like I said before, soccer fans are loyal and loud. It gets to a point where you wonder if someone is going to storm the field if a bad call is made because they get that crazy. Jamie had to keep her comments to herself since she was surrounded by Chelsea fans, and I was thankful for that. She would have been torn to bits if she made it known she was a Liverpool fan. 

Liverpool ended up winning, and it was a big upset because Chelsea had made some really good attempts, but just failed every time. Torres choked as usual, but at least our players know how to stay up on two feet (Liverpool’s players kept falling down). On the way home, it was mass chaos. Trying to get to the tube station from the stadium was hard enough. We had people pushing and shoving, and the Liverpool fans were cheering things like, “Thank you for buying Torres, Torres, Thank you for buying Torres…” Just to get on the tube you had to fight your way through the crowds, and I used my “fun sized” body to my advantage. I saw a dad pick up his small child, shove himself on the tube, and he barely made it on, with his son in midair to keep him from getting squished. 

It was one of those nights where once you’re on public transportation, everything goes your way. After we got off our one train to get a connecting one, there was one right when we got to the platform. We had to transfer one more time to get home, and the train was there in less than a minute. And the 297, which is a bloody disaster half the time, was actually at the bus stop, and we hopped right on. I still can’t believe I was at the Chelsea vs Liverpool game tonight. I won’t forget it. 

Chelsea and Liverpool are rivals, and here is one of the Chelsea songs they sing. 


Max: Accents

November 28, 2011

In a conversation with two German students today, the topic of regional accents came up. Like many German students, they spoke enough English to hold a conversation. However, they don’t notice much of a difference between an American English and a British English accent, even though, as an American, I can tell the difference between the two in a second. 

I found this strange at first, but then realized I’m not really that good at telling some regional German accents (with the exception of Bavarian and Swabian, which are more like dialects than accents) apart which are distinct to most German speakers. I have even more trouble with French, a language of which I know a small amount. I’ve been told that French spoken in the Provence has a strong accent compared to, say, French spoken in Paris, but I can’t hear a difference. My hypothesis is that a person has to learn to tell accents apart by hearing people speak in other accents than their own; this ability doesn’t come naturally. However, this still doesn’t exactly explain why I’m readily able to tell a native speaker apart from someone who learned the language another way, in both English and German.


Chiyo: Keep calm, and carry on

November 28, 2011

There’s a saying in Britain, that can be found on posters, tea mugs, oyster card holders, you name it, it’s probably on there. My life motto is probably “Keep Calm, and Carry On,” and today that motto definitely came in handy when I needed it most. 

Waking up to my alarm after a rough night of sleep due to my cough attacks keeping me up, was not pleasant. I arrived at work a few minutes late because of delayed trains on my side of town, and was given my first task for the morning. It is actually one of my favorite tasks. I was given several orders to place for a buyer, and for some reason this task keeps me calm and centered. But before I could get to that, one of my supervisors asked if we could talk in private. Now, I don’t know about you, but when I was little whenever an adult pulled you aside to “talk in private” it was never a good thing. So I wasn’t expecting her to be all unicorns and rainbows and life is FANTASTIC! We sat down, and she asked me if I was happy at Esprit. I was thrown for a loop, because all I do is rave about my internship. After some talking and some other things said, I was pretty torn apart, and let’s just say it ended with me “meditating” for a good 20 minutes in the hallway. 

After  collecting myself, and with a Keep Calm and Carry On mindset, I went back to work. It felt like the longest 8 1/2 hours of my life. I was so happy to see the clock tick 5, which signaled that I was free to go home for the night. I got home and was delighted to have an empty flat, and found out that my friend is taking me to the Chelsea vs. Liverpool game tomorrow night! So that turned my horrible day around. 

I’ve learned that through the negatives, you just have to turn them into a positive. You can either sit and mope, and not do anything about it, or you can take what you have been given, and use it to make you a better person in other fields of life. So that is exactly what I am going to do. I have 1 1/2 days left at my internship, and plan on making the most of it, even though this afternoon I wanted to give up and shut myself down. I want to go out strong, and show them that I can overcome what I’ve been told, and use it to my advantage. 


Our holiday campaign, with new door front at my showroom


Sarah: Pueblito Sueño del Abuelo

November 27, 2011

Yesterday my friends and I went on an adventure up to la culata (the valley) about a 45-minute drive up into the mountains from Mérida. I’ve been up there before, and I love the drive up because it gets colder by the minute. You get in the car wearing jeans and a t-shirt, and then about 20 minutes up into the mountains everyone is putting their sweatshirts on. Another 20 minutes goes by and the windows are rolled up and some people are getting out their gloves.

We stopped in la culata, but if you were to keep driving for another hour or so, you’d reach el páramo, which is a place high up in the mountain peaks where it’s freezing cold and snowy. I’ve been there once at the beginning of the trip and it was absolutely beautiful. Anyways, the drive up to la culata is on a winding mountain road that passes through little pueblitos (towns) on the way. They are so quaint – the road is lined with colorful little cottage-like shops that sell home-made raspberry wine and candies. It is a popular weekend day-trip for Venezuelans to drive up to la culata to drink wine and admire the beautiful scenery. There are also hundreds of little family owned cabins in la culata that people rent out for the night. My group of friends and I have done that too – it’s a nice get away spot for the weekend, and it’s especially pretty if you can get up early enough to see the sun rise.

On our drive up, we were almost to our destination spot (a quiet spot at the end of a dirt road that is popular because of its beautiful view of the mountains), when we saw a little sign off the side of the road that said “Pueblito Sueño del Abuelo”, which means little town called Grandfather’s Dream. We were curious, especially after following the arrow on the sign down a tiny twisting dirt road that disappeared behind a line of colorful houses. We decided to take a detour and check it out.

We clunked along the dirt road and eventually drove over a little wooden bridge that spanned a babbling creek. We could barely see in front of us due to the fog (clouds, really, we were pretty high up in the mountains at this point) and thick greenery surrounding the skinny dirt road. We wound around another bend and climbed up a steep hill (thanks to 4 wheel drive) until we saw this sign:

“PUEBLITO SUENO DEL ABUELO, Un Rincón para Soñar…” Translation: Town of Grandfather’s Dream: a corner for dreaming…”

So, we parked the car and set out to explore this tiny dream town, tucked away in a corner and hidden by the clouds and mountains.

A woman met us at the gate and opened it for us without saying a word. We all walked through the heavy red door, as a little girl stared silently from her perch on a stone wall amongst a blue hydrangea bush. We walked along a skinny maze-like pathway, under a trellis covered in roses, and over a tiny bridge and trickling stream. And then we were inside the pueblito. It was full of miniature-sized houses and buildings in every color – there were cafes and castles and stores, but no people in sight. So we set off silently with our cameras to explore.

I felt like I was in a dream.

After visiting the pueblito, we continued on our journey further into the mountains to catch the view we’d been waiting for – my goal was to be high enough into the mountains to see the clouds rest on the ground around me. And we did it. We got there before sunset and even met a man on the way who let us take turns riding his horse. I’d say it was a successful trip! Now take a look at what I mean when I say “I felt like I was in a dream” and “we had our heads in the clouds”.


Chiyo: Blink and you’ll miss it

November 27, 2011

I almost forgot about a really cool event going on in London today, and I’m glad that I remembered it last night, or I would have missed out on something that only happens once a year. I told my flatmate about it last night, and she wanted to come along as well, so around 11, after sleeping in we left the flat and set out on our adventure.

The event that only takes place once a year, is on Leake Street, where there is a tunnel. Blink, and you’ll miss it. This is the tunnel known for graffiti artists to express their inner ‘artiste.’ After visiting Berlin and seeing all the graffiti there, I really gained a better appreciation for wall art, and so when I heard about this event via Twitter, I knew I had to go see it. This event is a two hours long, and the theme changes every year. You literally get to watch them “do their stuff” live, and see the process from start to finish. There was music bumping, and they were all drinking beers. It was just a very laid-back environment, and you could tell they were in the moment. I’m not sure what the theme is this year, but I was glad I got to take part and be a witness to such a cool form of art. After we hung out in the tunnel watching the artwork come to life, Katie and I were hungry so we went to Slug and Lettuce for lunch before heading to our next destination. 

Once we finished with lunch, we were off to Kingston, which is a good 40 minutes from Waterloo station. Ever since I got out of London the first time a few weeks back, I haven’t been able to stop. It’s just nice to explore new cities, and it is a nice change of pace. The main reason why we went to Kingston was due to an attraction that we had heard about. There are these telephone booths that are tipped over like a domino effect, and the title of the work is called, “Out of Service.” It’s located right on Old London Road, and quite the attraction. Kingston was quite the lovely town, and on the way to Kingston via the train, there is a town called Strawberry Hill. After taking our pictures, we grabbed Starbucks (I spend wayyy too much money there…) and walked around the town. All the Christmas decorations are up, and I oohed and aahhed at them because they were so pretty. We stopped in a shopping centre nearby, and there were these Christmas decorations that at the top, open up like a blooming flower, and there’s characters inside of them(see facebook for pics). Katie and I popped into Esprit, where I have gotten her hooked on the clothes, and we both ended up making purchases. Shops close around 5 pm on Sundays in the UK, so we made our way back to the station to head home to get to our term papers. 

Back at the flat it’s just me, Katie, and Allie. We only have two weeks of school/finals left, so we’re all absorbed in writing our term papers. Time to get back to work!


One of the artists hard at work




Chelsea: Thanksgiving in Quito

November 27, 2011

I spent this weekend at “home” in Quito with my family – all in all, it was a fantastic weekend and just what I needed 🙂

On Thursday, our school held a Thanksgiving celebration for all of the students here. It wasn’t quite the same – but it was a nice thought and a great time to reunite with friends. It was held in a nice banquet room and everyone brought a dish to share! I attempted to make apple crisp, and despite a few different ingredients, it surprisingly turned out better than expected! Right after eating a lot (mashed potatoes and turkey!!! …and some not-so-traditional Thanksgiving food), the music started and I was grabbed to dance as I was still chewing dessert! Quite the change from the sweatpants and football game. So, we danced the night away and had a lot of fun!

The Thanksgiving feast!

My family definitely rocking the dance floor 🙂

The next morning there was a band competition between the neighborhoods here, that of course started at 5am right behind my house! A little later, at a normal hour, I went with my aunts and the kids from the daycare to go watch! It was a lot of fun, especially dancing with the little kids – adorable 🙂 And, our band won so we were even on the news that afternoon!

Also, later that night around 8:00, there was an Earthquake in Quito! It happened about 45 minutes from us and was magnitude 4…and I definitely felt it! My whole house shook for almost a minute – such a weird feeling!

Yesterday, I attended a “school program” for my brother Pablo. I was expecting a meeting at the school…and that was definitely wrong. We went to one of the students’ houses and basically had a party! We all danced (even the YMCA), played some intense musical chairs (where you eliminate chairs, but just sit on other people), tug of war (with a pool in the middle), and more dancing! So much for just the afternoon – we were there for about 7 hours (1 of which was the actual “meeting” of the parents between dances)

…musical chairs 🙂

All in all, it was a fantastic weekend here at home in Quito. Now, I’m heading back to Latacunga for my last week of my internship and on Friday, I’ll be back in Quito for my last week of the program! I absolutely cannot believe I will be home in just 3 weeks – this semester has flown by so fast! I’m excited to see family & friends and be home for the holidays…but I’m definitely not ready to leave Ecuador nor return to reality…


Whitney: Continued homesickness

November 27, 2011

Tomorrow is the 28th of November and it marks the two-month anniversary of my departure from the U.S. I wish I could say that in that amount of time I’ve traveled to seven different countries, tasted crazy foods, tried dozens of new activities, and made friends that will last a lifetime, but I really can’t. These first two months have been an immense struggle for me, and I fear that the water up ahead may be just as rocky. I have had good days and bad, but the good ones are always just good and the bad ones are usually really bad. I’ve found myself seriously considering just giving up and flying home to where I’m loved and people are there to hold me when I just need to cry. I sometimes get tears in my eyes when I see a plane leaving Berlin because I know that some of the people on that plane are about to be back in their loved one’s arms, and I don’t get to be one of them. It’s so hard to convince myself that I’ll eventually find close friends and true happiness here while simultaneously holding on to my life back home. But even harder, I think, is the fact that I am ashamed of how homesick and sad I am, because I thought I was strong enough to fight through it with a deep breathe and a smile. I hope I can write another post in a few weeks about some new friends who help me pull through this major slump, but even if that’s not in the cards for me fight now, I’m going to try my best to be content on my own.


Chiyo: Turkey Day in London

November 25, 2011

Unlike everyone else back in the states who is on Thanksgiving Break, my life stayed the same here in London since they don’t celebrate Thanksgiving. Although we don’t get off school or internships, I can’t really complain considering we had a 10 day Fall Break at the end of October, so it’s a fair trade off. My voice sounded horrid this morning from being sick, and I was not ready to take on the day. 

We got our final case study in my int’l mktg class, which I’m super excited about because it is about Ferrari. And I absolutely LOVE cars. We did a small group exercise like we normally do every week, and this time it was a little different because it was about pricing strategy and after we gave what we thought were the correct multiple choice answers, our prof gave us the author’s answers and we were given a score from 1-5. Well…our team apparently is not very good at pricing strategy because we came in dead last. After class got out i had a field trip for my pop culture class in Camden Town, so I headed out of school and onto the tube for the gajillionth time.

Today our field trip was a trip to the Jewish Museum, which was surprisingly a fun field trip. We had a de-briefing by this cute old man who volunteers at the museum once a week, and he was so cheeky and lovely. My favorite section of the museum had to of been the memorial to the holocaust, because it was different from every other museum I have met on the holocaust, and way different from the concentration camp I visited when I was just 15 years old. This memorial stood out because it focused on one survivor from the holocaust, who is from Britain and after he was liberated, spent the rest of his life giving speeches about what happened during those awful years. It was such a moving section of the museum, and they have a video running of the man telling his story. I think the one thing that I will take away with me from that memorial was how after his wife, him, and his son got shipped off to the first of many concentration camps, 15 minutes later the papers that proved they were British citizens and which would have kept them safe from being deported had arrived. Fifteen minutes. That just breaks my heart, because his little boy and wife were taken to the gas chambers, and he didn’t find this out until he was liberated. 

I was looking forward to CAPA Thanksgiving, and even though I knew it would not even come close to what it would have been like back home in the states, it was still really great of them to put on a dinner for all of us. At my table, it was all Newman kids, and we went around the table and said what we were thankful for. It was then that I really missed being home with my family, where I would be cooking up a storm with my mom and sister. In the hotel where we had dinner though, they were showing the Packer game which I thought was awesome. I couldn’t really tell if the food was any good or not to be honest, because I have lost all sense of taste and smell due to being sick. I did however, take full advantage of eating lots and lots of mashed potatoes, turkey, and cranberry sauce. It may not have been the Thanksgiving that I am used to, but I will always remember “Turkey Day” in London 🙂


My school put decorations up for us 🙂

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