Archive for December, 2011

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Tyler: Intercambios

December 31, 2011

Here are some more pictures of our house. The house is kind of small but it is really comfortable. It is one of the better looking houses that are around here I think. Last night we had “pizza of Mexico”. Gloria likes to make food with the colors of Mexico and they are always delicious.

The past two days have just been filled with a lot of class stuff. I’m beginning to find it hard to write in English actually. Sometimes I will just type in Spanish or have been saying things in weird ways in English haha I guess I’m learning Spanish! Class actually doesn’t seem like its 5 hours at all. It always goes by really quickly. The teachers are a lot of fun and laid back. It’s like we learn a lot of different things but we always just hang out and talk a lot. Today our teacher told us to we were going to play a game. He told us to go buy some chocolate at the store that is at the school and then come back to class. After that he had us eat it and that was the entire extent of the game! After we just talked for about 30 minutes. We can tell that the teachers here just want us to do well without being intimidated or anything since it is a class.

Yesterday we also had our first intercambio. The guy that I meet with is really cool! His name it Pablo and he owns a bird breeding company for pet stores. He sells his birds to a pet store that is all over Mexico. During these intercambios, we talk for about an hour in Spanish and then we talk for an hour in English. We talked about a ton of things like music, where we have visited, places we want to visit, the differences of living in the states and Mexico, and just a bunch of other things. I will be meeting with him again on Tuesday. The only conflict is that is also the day that they have a trip to an orphanage…my roommate and I are going to try to get our intercambios changed so we can do both. 

I don’t really have much more to say…I am having a great trip so far. I can tell my Spanish is getting a lot better. Last night we went out and we made a lot of friends that live here. It was really cool being able to talk to them in Spanish! Of course our Spanish is still pretty broken but it’s getting better!

After class today we just came back to the house and ate lunch. After lunch we all slept for like 2 hours and then explored a little bit. We have our first test coming up so we just did homework and studied a little bit after dinner. I’m going to get some sleep tonight so I can do well on the test!!! Aaaaand have energy for tomorrow night!

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Whitney: Christmas in France

December 31, 2011

Oh dear. My life has rocked for the past week and a half, and I think it would take me a few hours to write about everything, so I’ll do my best to highlight the most exciting parts.

First, FRANCE! My first time flying with Easyjet went surprisingly well. My bag was the appropriate size and I found a seat quickly and easily (they don’t assign seats), and when I arrived at the Basel-Mulhouse-Freiburg airport I found Emilie, her mom, and her dog Velcro waiting for me! I was welcomed into their home with open arms and I cannot thank them enough for everything they did for me. Emilie showed me around Strasbourg and Obernai, taught me a few French words and phrases, and we spent some time with some of her friends. We also took a trip to the convent of St. Odile to get a beautiful view of the city – you could see all the way to Germany in the very far distance! Christmas Eve and Day were wonderful – I tried a bunch of new foods, the strangest being Foie Gras, which is duck liver that’s been fattened. I was skeptical, but it was actually really good! I was given some wonderful presents including earmuffs, chocolate, and a beautiful necklace from Emilie and her mother, all of which were completely unexpected and way too generous! It was really a fantastic experience to celebrate with a such a fun and loving family and see another culture’s take on the holiday season.

Yesterday was also a great day. James and I went to one last Christmas market in search of some discounted ornaments (which we successfully found), and it was really nice to get one last mug of delicious Glühwein. Tonight we’re celebrating Silvester (New Year’s Eve) together and I’m really excited to ring in the new year with fireworks and champagne!

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Hilary: 6 months has come to an end

December 30, 2011

So I am back in the United States after a twelve hour plane journey from Quito to Chicago I was picked up from the airport by the lovely Kendal Ann (Cupcake) and my mom.  I found my self stuttering with English and thanking the people that got me through customs in Spanish.  It is always great to come home, but weird at the same time.  I had a really wonderful experience abroad.  I am most proud of my language improvement and my academic work,  this study abroad program has advantages and disadvantages but i know that my monograph with serve me very well for future research proposals and grants.  I will miss saying ‘buen provecho’ and ‘que te vaya bien!’  I will be practicing my Spanish every chance that I get and I will hopefully stay in contact with the wonderful friends that I made.

Reflecting on my experiences I am bringing back a better sense of what sharing is, the knowledge that money really doesn’t matter (this one is hard to find in the states and in my perspective needs a lot of reflection), and i recognize that time moves quickly wherever you are so go with your gut and enjoy yourself.

I am still standing on both feet trying to find my balance in life; balancing the spiritual with the physical and mental, the spiced with the bland, peace with chaos, and work with play.

I missed all of my friends and family dearly, I can’t wait to truly reconnect and put my changing link back into my growing circle.

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Tyler: Class and Homestay

December 30, 2011

Morning in Cuernevaca

Yes, this is what I woke up to the first morning.

The guys that I am living with are great. We all bring a lot of different things to our household. The woman that we are staying with, Gloria, spoils us so much. We were talking with some other people that are here with us and it seems like their host families are nothing compared to how great Gloria is to us. Every meal we are treated like we are kings. She was explaining to us that when we are in Mexico with her, we will be getting authentic food. The food so far has been incredible. For lunch today, we had baked peppers that were stuffed with meat and for dinner we had these baked variations of tacos. I have become slightly addicted to Salsa Verde. It is a slightly spicier salsa but not too spicy. It is perfect for everything! This is a picture of our room.

Room in Cuernavaca

Pretty exciting picture but I thought it was worth uploading quick. I will get some more pictures of our house up soon. We have just been so busy that we are kind of always on the go.

We started our classes yesterday. They were not kidding when they were saying the classes are really intensive and fast. The schedule for classes is from 9-10:50 am we have one professor and then there is a 20 minute break. After the breaking, we have different professor from 11:10- 1pm. Then we finally end with grammar practice from 1-2 pm. Then we are free to leave. So far the mornings can get a little long. During those hours, the only time I hear any English is when we are on breaks. All of the professors are from Cuernavaca and most only speak Spanish. They know a couple of words in English but at times it can be really hard to figure out how to say something in Spanish. Every night we have homework. Tonight was a little bit longer than it was last night. All of the homework probably took us about an hour and a half but that is including a journal entry that we only have to do once a week that is due tomorrow. At the end of each week we have a test on the material that we just learned and then there is also a final as well. We are also doing something called a “intercambio” where throughout the 3 weeks, we will be meeting with someone that lived in Mexico and just speak with them in Spanish/English. Some of the people who we could have are professions like doctors and lawyers that want to be able to practice their English and then we are able to practice our Spanish with them. The school is awesome. It is more like a resort than an actual school. Our classrooms are outside either under a canopy or just outside in general. There is a swimming pool there too…no big deal.

School in Cuernevaca

 

We are always on the go. These past two days we have had to go back to the school for meetings and other things in the afternoon. It has been kind of a pain but it should be over soon. We went and explored the nightlife here a little bit last night. It’s amazing how nice everyone is here. We definitely stick out though…everywhere we go there are people just looking at us. Cuernavaca seems really safe though! I mean, it’s hard not to feel safe with you see police with huge guns riding in the back of trucks right? The language barrier can be really interesting. Tonight we stopped at this little cafe close to our house and out of the 10 of us there, no one could really figure out what our waitress was saying. Luckily a guy that was there knew English and came to help us out. It seems like everyone is more than willing to help anyone that needs help here which I think is awesome.

I think that’s all I’ve got for today. It’s weird, I have been getting way more sleep here than I usually get. I’m really enjoying it! I’ll try to post tomorrow but we have a really busy day and I think that we are checking out the city tomorrow night. 

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Sara: Christmas in Bolivia

December 28, 2011

I hope everyone had an awesome Christmas and are looking forward to the New Year! I spent my Christmas in Santa Cruz with my host family and extended host family. Here they open presents and do Christmas at midnight, 12a on the 25th. It was pretty cool to be part of another culture’s Christmas, but I definitely missed home a ton! 

I am finally back in Cochabamba now though finishing my last 2 weeks abroad. The trip back here was awful, 11 hour bus ride in the sweltering heat, although I can’t believe how fast this has all gone by!

I am super happy to be back in Cochabamba though, I really love my volunteer position here, I am working with the elderly and mostly I just hang out and hold their hands while they talk to me. Today I learned that Bolivianos (the currency) are used ALL OVER the world, including on the moon!  I hear some of the wildest things, usually we talk about where I am from and how long my hair is and that I should never cut it (at the center they specialize in Alzheimer’s and dementia) so we talk about the same thing every day. I love the old people though and the staff are great too!

I also am having a great time teaching English to the 13-year-old girl here named Sophie.  I am also thinking about visiting an orphanage here for a day too where I would just hang out and play games, helping the staff there.  I still have to talk to my supervisor here and get that set up for next week sometime.

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Chiyo: Adjusting

December 27, 2011

I have been back in the states for a week now, and I am still adjusting to my life stateside. At first things were more difficult than they currently are, but I am slowly getting used to my lifestyle back in the states. The first night I arrived home, I was super tired from traveling for 18 hours straight, and was hit with “reverse culture shock.” Everything I had once known, was somehow different to me. I hadn’t seen the cities in months, and it was like a whole new world. I had gotten so accustomed to the gorgeous, architectural buildings in London and all over Europe, and then I came back to the states and everything just seemed…blah. 

It also took me some time to see things in dollars instead of pounds, and I still find myself looking at a clothing item, or something at the grocery store and seeing/saying pounds instead of dollars. My sleep schedule is all messed up as well, but that is what comes with the jet lag and trying to adjust to a completely new routine and schedule. I remember my first night home you’d think I would be so tired and want to sleep, but I ended up staying awake until 5 am, and then being wide awake again around 7:30. It is not abnormal for me to fall asleep around 7 pm now a days, and until I can get my sleep schedule on a more normal path, it will be like this for awhile. My body wants to stay on London time!

I am looking forward to the future and what lies ahead, and am already making big goals for myself. This coming Saturday I am helping host a NYE party at my place, and already have plans to meet up with friends before the big day to catch up and shop since I haven’t seen some of these people in months. This blog was meant to be all about London and my travels, but I figured since I am back in the cities and trying to find my niche in the fashion world, I would take a stab at making this a fashion blog come January 1st, 2012. My goal is to blog about styles I saw on the streets, in stores, particular window displays that caught my eye, and to take lots of photos to post. I will also try and put together a mood board every month to blog and post about. Wishing you all luck with your future endeavors! Here’s to the year 2012. 

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Tyler: Day one: longest day of my life

December 26, 2011

Today was for sure one of the longest days of my life. First of all, I pretty much decided last night that I just wasn’t going to sleep before leaving for the airport because I knew I wouldn’t be able to fall asleep anyways. I was actually quite impressed with how fast I got into the actual airport. I left my house at 3:50 am and was in the actual airport, past security and everything right at 5:00 am. Being 2 hours early for my flight, I just kind of hung around and ate breakfast. The first flight I was stuck with the dreaded middle seat, it wasn’t the worst thing ever but it really ruined my plan to sleep on the plane. After I got off that plane, the entire group that was coming to Cuernavaca met up outside of the terminal because they didn’t print the gate number on our layover tickets. We got that all squared away and then began to actually talking and we all ate lunch together (airport food is way too expensive). 

Our flight from Dallas, Texas to Mexico City then took forever to actually get boarded and we ended up taking off like 20 minutes after we were supposed to. After going through customs in Mexico City, we were supposed to meet someone in the food court that would have a U of M sign with them. They were the representative that was going to take us to the bus to get us to Cuernavaca. The only problem was no one could find me! We waited for about 30 minutes and finally we decided to give the program a call with a toll-free number they gave us for problems like this. This is where my Spanish skills were put to the test. I offered to make the phone call. When I finally figured out how to use one of their weird pay phone things, I got a hold of someone that is a part of a program and the first thing I asked was if they spoke Spanish. The reply was, “no hablo inglés”. This is when it got interesting….after talking to the guy for about 5 minutes, he told me to call him back in 10 minutes if the representative didn’t show up. Then about right when I got back to the rest of the group that was waiting for this guy, he finally comes out of nowhere! I wish I could say I saved the day but I think that the guy who I talked to on the phone called him when he was taking down our names. I was just a little short. 

After finally meeting up with this guy after waiting for 45 minutes, we began our bus ride to Cuernavaca. The ride literally felt like it took days. Everyone was extremely tired by this point and mostly sleeping. The ride to Cuernavaca was incredible though! We kind of drove up this mountain and then back down the other side of it. The view from the top of the mountain looked awesome. It was like we were above the clouds. I wish I would have gotten some pictures of it but the camera was in my luggage in the bottom of the bus. 

After arriving to the school that we will be taking classes at (which is awesome btw), we meet up with our host mother. It is 3 guys and I staying with this 5 foot 3 little Mexican woman. She is great! She is so talkative and has a lot of energy. She also speaks a good amount of English which is good for us! We got the tour of the house and were taught how to use the keys to lock up when we come in at night. Tonight she made us chicken fajitas and this soup that was delicious (no idea what it was). 

I am insanely tired since I have now officially been up for 36 hours straight. Tomorrow we have to be at the school at 8 am for some info session thing and then we have our first day of class from 9am-2pm. It shall be interesting! I will post pics tomorrow of our house here and the school that we will be studying at. Now it’s time for bed!

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