Posts Tagged ‘arrival’


Brittany: Flat 7

January 11, 2012

Today was move in day and I’m already in love with this city. Our flat is located in Ealing, basically a suburb of central London, about 40 minutes away from downtown. I’m not sure how I feel about the distance from the city but I think it will be ok. In Minnesota, all my classes were in St. Paul so I think I can manage this commute! Tonight is pretty low key, the girls and I are going to drink a little wine and talk about places we want to visit this semester! Tomorrow we have orientation at the CAPA center bright and early so it will be my first time figuring out the tube (aka London’s subway system). I’m so happy to be here finally! Below are some photos of our flat.

 How about this view from the London Eye
our spacious living room with White Ikea couches — the walls definitely need some love to make it feel like cozy..   

tiny little room, tiny little beds, and three girls with lots of luggage  

smallest closet on earth

love this shower and notice the PINK toilet paper!

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!


Whitney: Home sweet home…finally!

October 1, 2011

After a 2.5 hour car ride to Chicago, an 8 hour flight to London, an 11.5 hour layover, and an hour and a half long flight to Berlin, I am finally in my new home! I slept for a solid 12 hours last night – slight embarrassing, I know, but I was EXHAUSTED and I got a little sick during the long journey. 

Today I plan on exploring my new neighborhood and having a relatively low-key day. I really want to get over the little virus I’ve picked up as soon as possible so it won’t deter me from getting things done in the coming days (visa, bank account, registering for courses, getting groceries, making friends, and the list goes on and on!).

Tshüss, bis bald!


Mia: Nairobi! Kenya believe it!?!

September 6, 2011

So getting internet took a really long time. I’m actually writing this on the 3rd, because I couldn’t get to an internet cafe, and the service stores close early on Sat and don’t open on Sun. So I’ll tell you about my day today!

I met my host mom, she’s an adorable Kikuyu woman with a 17 year old son. Her husband died about 16 years ago, and she lives alone with her son, but has a househelp come once a week to clean and do the laundry. We watched soap operas and the news all day, and had lots of rice and masala tea. By the way, the soap operas here are English-dubbed telenovelas (figure that one out), and EVERYONE watches them. It’s very odd haha, but I did enjoy watching them with her. Tomorrow I’m going to meet a group of women that she’s part of who loan each other money to start businesses and help each other out.

My mom also does HIV outreach in the slum (Kibera, it’s the biggest one in Africa), and I’m going to try to tag along one of these days. One of the boys, Jeremy, works in the slum with the Kibera Girls Soccer Academy, which tries to keep girls safe by putting them on soccer teams after school. It’s a great program, I might go see them too. I’m very excited by all of this, and I really like Kenya…it’s so beautiful, and the people are so honest with you. I get stares everywhere because people have never seen a whitey (‘mzungu’) before, but everyone I meet has been friendly.

The city itself isn’t that different than the worst parts of Kazan, and the house I’m in is actually bigger than anything I saw in Kazan. I’ve got my own room, desk, and queen sized bed. However, there’s rarely running water because the government rations it, and the electricity is sketchy. But it’s a good trade off—and I have a yard to play in! Also, I’m about 20 feet from a golf course…the Air Force followed me after all.

I doubt I’ll be drinking here. The city is reaaaally unsafe at night, and being drunk after dark, even in a group, is a really bad idea. Some guys got robbed last year, and some guys this year almost got carjacked, so I’m going to be keeping it real with the studying and telenovelas.

Update, 5 Sep 11

So I decided that running by myself during the day wouldn’t be too risky, and went for a 3 or so mile run on the streets. It’s hard to run here. It’s a mile higher than I’m used to, and there’s smog everywhere. But I feel much better now (it’d been two days since I ran).

I talked to Jeremy, and I’m definitely going to the slum with him tomorrow to work with the girls’ soccer school. We also have 4 hours of Swahili lecture tomorrow (the director, Jama, swears up and down that it’s 2 hours straight, then another 2 hours straight, but my experience with Kenyan time leads me to believe otherwise…). I’m very excited to start learning again. 

I’m thinking about getting braids with Barb next week. I know they usually don’t look good on white girls, but I’m hoping to find a style that don’t look too ridiculous. I’ve always wanted to try them, and everyone has them here so it won’t look out of place (even on a mzungu).

I picked up internet today, and I won’t mention names, but it’s awful. Splotchy, slow, and aggitating in general. But it works sometimes, which is all I need. The MSID office has wifi, so I’ll be skyping there. It’s about a 40 minute walk away, so it’ll be very rare.

I’m watching a random American movie with the host fam right now (my brother has lots of them, most of them are recent, and I don’t watch movies so I haven’t seen any of them). It’s great bonding. We watched ‘Friends with Benefits’ last night. It was interesting to watch it with my brother, he got almost all of the random American pop culture references, which I wasn’t expecting. American culture really has permeated Kenya.


Jon: Ahlan Wa Sahlan!

September 5, 2011

Ok so the taxi cab driver didn’t say that to us right away like all the guides say they will but after we asked him how he was doing in Arabic he said Ahlan wa sahlan to us and was very friendly. My plane ended up being about 4 hours late but on the ride I did meet 5 other CIEE students. We all hitched a bus to our hotel and crashed in two rooms (which by the way were very expensive. American hotels in Jordan are not cheap apparently). We ended up getting there at about 1am my time and tried to all cram on one computer in an hour to all contact our families and then crashed. The nice part about having a 26 hour plane ride is I don’t really feel jet lagged. Although my eating habits will take a while to get realigned. I have to say though I was warned about getting sick from food but one a whole I feel more bad for people who travel to the US from here. I cannot imagine their stomachs digesting all of our highly processed foods after eating simpler more raw foods they have here. For breakfast I had bread and tomato with cheese on both along with yogurt and orange juice, it was delicious. So now I just have the day to relax and tomorrow we start a very intensive orientations, this should fully exhaust me.


Chelsea: Hola Ecuador!

September 5, 2011

I can’t believe I’ve only been here a week—it seems like forever! I feel like I have known some of my fellow students for years —not days! I am already accustomed to greeting my entire family with a kiss every time I enter / leave / wake up / go to bed that it seems natural! I no longer have to consciously think about not putting the toilet paper actually in the toilet (that one took some adjusting) or dread choosing between temperature or pressure when I shower. 

Luckily, I have a fantastic family! They have welcomed me with open arms and I already feel so loved. From the first day my mom here has called me “hija” (meaning daughter). Today, we went to see the panecillo, which is a huge statue in Quito dedicated to La Virgen del Panecillo that you can see from all parts of Quito! It was a tremendous view of the city! In the same area, there was also a festival of some sort where everyone was listening to music and flying kites! I had so much fun with my family there flying kites & just looking out at the mountains – just a typical Sunday.

This past weekend, we went on a 2-day trip with our program to San Miguel de los Bancos. It was such a beautiful place! In only a few kilometers of land there is more biodiversity than in the U.S. & Canada combined! Unfortunately we didn’t see too many animals, but did get the chance to see a few birds and some beautiful butterflies. It was such a relaxing weekend and an experience to bond our group of 29 together. I did some hiking in the mountains, relaxed at the pool, ate my weight in delicious food, and swam in a river, which happened to be a tad cleaner than the Mississippi…and with a much stronger current! 

Now: Pretend this next part was posted last Tuesday. It was saved as a draft, and due to a few computer issues, I wasn’t able to post it until now.

I still can’t believe I’m actually here —it’s definitely still completely surreal when I look outside and see mountains!

A few minor delays and such, but overall, pretty smooth travels here! I did learn that I might have packed a tad too much. Note: it is super embarrassing when you can barely fit in the elevator by yourself with your suitcases (but, in my defense, the elevator was small: capacity 6).

After a short night at a small hotel & some chaos figuring out where we should be/when, we all boarded a bus and arrived at our school in Quito. We had a long day of our orientation and were shown around the school (which is super nice!) and talked to about expectations, homework, etc. It was then that I realized I was actually taking classes here, yikes. I definitely have not transitioned into school mode and I have a presentation in 2 days!

We had a traditional Ecuadorian lunch (some type of potato soup, corn nuts, fruit, etc.) before meeting our host families, which was a bit nerve racking!

I am already completely in love with my family! My parents, Roberto and Lincango, are quite possibly the sweetest people ever and are so excited to have me here! I also have a 7-year old host brother, Pablo, that is extremely active and might be my new best friend since he has a mountain of toys, including legos, in his room.

Tonight my family drove me into the city center to see a huge basilica—the traffic was almost as bad as Chicago, but also had additional factors like city buses and the fact that when you cut someone off / almost collide, you just honk your horn and all is fine. Unfortunately, the basilica was closed, but I still got to see part of the city center, including a few beautiful churches and the government office of the president. We also stopped at the grocery store on the way home that was in a huge shopping mall. I was able to buy some turkey, cheese, and bread for lunch tomorrow – yay! 

I came back & helped my mom prepare dinner: green plantain soup & fried rice cakes with tuna/tomatoes/onions. From the vegetable & fruit non-eater, here is the update: I ate an entire banana this morning, green plantains, and tuna. I’ve grown so much already.

After dinner, I talked with my host family and showed them a few pictures from back home! They’re still amazed with hearing about Minnesota weather and laugh every time I say that it’s hot (and the rest of the family is shivering cold).

First day of classes tomorrow @ 8am. Guess I’m here to be a student after all.


Lauren: First week in Iceland

September 4, 2011
One word: Vöffluvagninn.

You just go up to this van, hand them 590 krona (like $5 dollars) and then BAM! You get heaven on a plate. I got a waffle covered in chocolate with whip cream on it and I knew that I found my place in Reykjavik. I belong in this van. They are just so good! In America, you don’t buy food out of vans unless you are on State Fair grounds but  here they hand of chunks of goodness and it is fantastic!! I think the waffle pictured here is the one called USA. That one has syrup and whipcream. I chose the Choco because if they really knew anything about the US, they would know that we LOVE our chocolate!!!

In reality though here are some words that can describe my first week here: stressful, EXPENSIVE, interesting, and pretty.

It is stressful because in order to register, set up a bank account, and basically be alive here in Iceland you need a kennitala. A kennitala is a number similar to a social security number, and everyone needs one if they are coming here to study. Even though I have a student residence permit, I need this number before I go any further. It is all out of my hands to get the number and everyone else (except people who have either been here for 4 weeks or are from Nordic countries) is in the same position. So until then we have to go to classes we want to take and then register as soon as we get the number. It is so different from America. At the U, if you dont attend the first day of class your ass is dropped like that! But here they are so relaxed… it is almost annoying. Almost. The worst part about not having a kennitala is that I cannot have internet in my dorm until I get it…. therefore, I have to go downtown to this coffee shop/bookstore and hangout and steal their wifi.

Life here is VERY expensive. Their currency is Krona and 1krona is similar to 1 penny… but a little less. So when I see something is 2000 krona, I know that it is a little less than 20 dollars… about $17.52. Its easiest to think of the prices as if they are in pennies because then just knowing it is slightly less expensive. However, things are very pricy. I paid about 15 dollars for 20 hangers, 20 dollars for shampoo and conditioner, etc. Alcohol and electronics have to be the most expensive though because of all of their taxes and tarriffs. For example, I bought Icelandic vodka in the US on my birthday for about 18 dollars… here, that same bottle would be about 70 dollars. IT’S INSANE. Beers are normally about 8 or 9 dollars and when its happy hour, they are about 4 or 5. Good thing I don’t drink often enough to be seriously disappointed. I went to a phone store the other day and my blackberry (which I got for free from Sprint/Best Buy) is about 1000 dollars. iPhones are about $2000. It’s so crazy. People send care packages to third world countries but we should really be sending iPhones to these people. Then they can afford to eat!

Reykjavik is very pretty though. I went on a short run today around the lake in the city and the sun was out and I felt great. 

This is a good picture of Reykjavik now. It is fairly sunny, there is cool crisp air, and lots of ducks and seagulls. I love in a building that would be at the very bottom right of this picture. You can only see the stairs to the building here but I am pretty close to the city. The lake in this picture is the one I ran around. It has seagulls, ducks, and swans in it! Lots of kids feed the ducks here. It is so cute. I really like Reykjavik so far. I will upload more pictures soon. Oh wait I do have a one picture I want to share that I just found because I remember I plugged my camera in after the first day!

That would be my mattress…. on top of a box spring. Just wait until I take a picture of my pillow…. ugh!

Well that is all I have for now!! I hope to blog more often once I am all settled in… maybe once I get a new pillow.

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