Posts Tagged ‘beach’

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Sarah: Sunshower

October 19, 2011

Journal Entry #3 from Choroni:

There was a sunshower on the beach today. I wasn’t able to take a photo because I forgot to charge my camera last night, but just picture it. The sky and water were so blue, and the sand was so white in the sun. When the drops started falling, everything sparkled. Most people returned to their umbrellas, but I put my book down, wrapped it safely in my towel to stay dry, and walk out to put my feet in the water. It felt like beating sun, hot sand, warm rain, and cool seawater.

There was a blind man wandering around the beach today with a hand-carved walking stick seeking out people to talk to. He must have recognized my voice from the day before, because he walked straight towards me as he neared our chairs and asked to talk to me. He was dark, too thin, and wrinkled from spending his life wandering the beach under the sweltering sun. He told me that I had a pretty voice, very familiar, and that he could tell I was a good woman. He had about a dozen hand-carved wooden kitchen utensils hanging from a leather strap around his waist and he explained each one to me. What type of wood it was made of, and exactly what to use it for. They were nice, but rather than buying a hand-crafted butter and marmelade spreader, I gave him the change I had in my wallet – enough to buy him an empanada for lunch. He seemed ever more greatful than I’d hoped he would…everyone in Venezuela likes empanadas.

We also met another man today. He was fifty years old, he told us that, and he had a kind smile. You know how sometimes you get a feeling from someone, just by seeing them, that they are a really good person? Through and through down to the core? I think it’s universal, a feeling that occurs when you meet exceptional people everywhere. You could be any place on earth and when you met one of those people, you’d get the same exact feeling. That’s the feeling that overwhelmed me when he approached our small group of three girls walking down to the beach today. We were carrying our cooler and towels like usual when he must have seen us from the window of his tiny restaraunt on the side of the road. He walked outside and down the road toward us and asked if we were on our way to the beach. We said yes and he said that he was too. He asked if he could carry our cooler for us (it was heavy) since we were headed the same place as he was. When he insisted, we said sure. He carried it the whole way for us, about a 15 minute walk in the burning sun with bare feet and carefully set it down in our favorite sandy spot under a big blue umbrella. I thanked him and when I asked him what brought him to the beach today, he smiled and said “Nothing. I just thought you looked like you could use a hand.” He told us to be safe and to enjoy our time in Choroní before he waved goodbye and started the hot and sandy treck back to his restaraunt.

I’m pretty sure that these kinds of people do exist all over the globe, and even though I don’t know his name, I think he was one of them.

Tonight my friend Alex and I decided to spend a relaxing girls night together after our long day at the beach, so we went out to dinner at a little restaurant next to the river. We shared a delicious caprese salad – fresh tomatoes, mozzerella, and pesto. Nothing like eating a fresh dinner at a rooftop table that overlooks the river, filled with boats like the canals. It almost looked like Venice.

After dinner, I went back to my posada, opened the window next to my bed, turned on the fan, and finally finished reading Julie and Julia.

The moral of the story is that good books, good people and good food all make for a very successful vacation.


Delicious caprese salad.
River boats.
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Sarah: Choroni

October 16, 2011

I just arrived “home” in Mérida after a 15 hour busride from Choroní, where I spent my semester break vacation. I had an amazing time there and came back with some great new experiences and a lot of beautiful photos to prove it! Since I didn’t bring my laptop along, I decided to bring a journal instead so I’d be able to add some of my writing to my blog when I got home.

Day 1:

We arrived in Choroní this morning around 11 am. The busride from Maracay (12 hours from Mérida) was about 3 hours long through the jungle along winding mountain passes. There were bamboo stalks nearly scraping the sides of the bus – some of them were as tall as 3 story buildings and as wide around as telephone polls. The jungle was dense and full of plants and thick foliage in a variety of rich green colors, and lots of the leaves were bigger than I was! There were vines too. They hung from cliffs and overhangs somewhere above me and draped over tree branches, dangling down as far as I could see over the mountain’s edge. If the music on the bus hadn’t been so loud, I’m sure I could have heard noises coming from the jungle…the sounds of the flowing streams hidden somewhere off of the mountain roads, the birds which I’m sure hid camouflaged amongst the plants…and whatever else was out there. The busride overall was scary though, fast and jerky, but worth it. I got to see the Venezuelan jungle, and it was nothing short of magical.

I thought it couldn’t get much more mysterious and beautiful, but shortly after arriving in Choroní, we walked to the edge of the Caribbean Sea.

Day 2:

We set off on the sunny twenty-minute walk past colorful little shops and restaraunts towards the ocean. I could smell the air and feel the ocean breeze before I could actually see the water, but when I did see it for the first time, I felt like I was standing in front of a larger-than-life postcard. The beating sun that I felt on my shoulders and the heat of the sand on my bare feet were the only reasons that I finally snapped out of my trance and moved toward a patch of shade underneath a gigantic palm tree.

Playa Grande, Choroní’s largest beach resting on the Caribbean sea, is an incredible place. It is cradeled in a nook by the green mountains and the sand feels like velvet under your toes. We all sat down under an umbrella just steps from the edge of the sea, and I read for hours. I think I just needed some time to realize that it was real – that I was really there, so I could appreciate it before jumping in to swim.

And I’m glad I did – feeling weightless in the middle of a translucent body of the bluest seawater you’ve ever seen, with waves rushing beneath you, mountains towering over you, and the sun soaking into your skin from every angle is overwhelming. It deserves preparing for, and even then it’s impossible to take it all in.

The beach is so lively here. There are people everywhere, many who are selling things like food and necklaces. One man was even crouching on the sand cracking open oysters and squirting them with fresh lime for people to eat! Another man selling jewelry was walking down the beach and started heading in my direction. He approached me while I was reading and asked to give me a gift. When I said “okay” he told me to hold out my wrist and he tied a delicate bracelet with a fancy knot made of blue string to it. As he was tying it on, he instructed me to think of three wishes, and as he secured three knots, he told me that he hoped each wish would come true for me.

These were my three wishes:

1. That I would never forget how exhilerating it feels to be in a place you never thought you’d be lucky enough to see.

2. That I’ll be able to retain some of the amazing qualities of the people I’ve met here and hopefully incorporate their positive attitudes, energy, and willingness to lend a hand into my daily life in Minnesota.

3. To achieve the two main goals I set for myself for this trip: to drastically improve my Spanish and to form lasting friendships with people I’ve met over the course of my time in Venezuela.

My wishes are well on their way to coming true – I’ve established a very close friendship with my roommate, my Spanish is improving every day, I’m continually being inspired by the positivity of the people around me, and I can’t imagine forgetting the feeling that consumed me when I first laid eyes on the Caribbean Sea.

I mean, it is pretty unforgettable…take a look for yourself.

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Sarah: Cabaña en las montañas

October 7, 2011

Cabin in the mountains.

That is where 7 of my friends and I headed last Saturday for an overnight stay in “la culata” or the valley of the chilly Andes. It is about an hour away from our homes here in Mérida, a perfect weekend getaway.

I found a bench and a good book…the only thing missing was my coffee (I DID ask at the front desk, it just wasn’t exactly a luxury hotel…)

Blue Skies.

Hotel Princesa (the Princess Hotel) that owns the cabins.

Last weekend’s cabin adventure was beautiful and relaxing, but now that I’m on my semester break (as of today) I’m getting excited for a 5 day trip to the beach on the beautiful Caribbean! We leave tonight for Choroní, a town on the coast of Venezuela, and have an overnight busride that takes something like 16 hours. The buses here are notoriously cold, so I’m planning to pack my northface and wool socks so hopefully I can get some sleep. WIsh me luck!

The five day trip probably means soaking up a lot of sun, reading by the beach, eating fresh seafood, and maybe taking a boat ride or two to the neighboring islands…but it also may mean that there won’t be another blog post for a while. However, I assure you all that I’ll be documenting my adventures diligently with my camera and my journal, so I’ll have something good to post when I get home!

See you in 5 days, world!

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Hilary: A whole month gone

August 23, 2011

One month down and one semester to go!

Tomorrow I finish my first month of classes in Ecuador!  I can’t believe how fast this is going!  I have a final exam tomorrow and then need to finish reading that huge packet of articles over our 5-day weekend.  I am going to find a conservatory to practice voice on Thursday and then going to have a fantastic workout at the gym and get my censo (id card for residents who are non-Ecuadorian).

Below is a picture of the lunch I eat almost everyday: Ingredients: fresh bread, fresh cheese, kale, avocado, grapes, and a clementine. Cost: $3.50/week. 

Fun food facts for Ecuador! You can buy 25 mandarin oranges for $1, 4 or 5 avocados for $1, 2 big loaves of bread or 8 small loaves of bread for $1, almuerzo normal (classic lunch which consists of a delicious creamy soup, followed by rice and meat, and juice) for $1.50.  You can buy a beer for $2 but they only have Club and Pilsener… not my favs, but I’ll take a Club thanks! Things that are expensive here: chocolate, any alcoholic drink besides beer (unless its ladies night!) granola… don’t think I’ve tried to buy much else!  Oh they don’t have chocolate chips here!!  Soo.. if you want to send me something, send me chocolate chips so I can bake chocolate chip cookies with my sisters! (My Ecuadorian sisters, yes dad, they aren’t my real sisters)

Bueno, todo es muy bien aquí y estoy súper feliz y emocionada por este semestre!  Shout out to the LU Spanish faculty: Muchísimas gracias por todo su trabajo y apoyo en LU, con nuestras clases estaba preparaba para el tiempo aquí y estoy feliz que tuve la oportunidad practicar hablando durante clase junto con la gramática! 

This weekend I’m going to the provinces of Esmereldas and Manabí (aka the beach!) we are going to rent a car and drive the coast!  I am excited to have this adventure because once the semester starts I will have 4 classes, 5 days a week and lots of homework.. ah school, yay for my last year!! 

In the past month I have written several papers, the most interesting one is about an Ecuadorian Indigenous Woman named Transito Amaguaña (1909-2009) she died a month before her 100th birthday!  She has been recognized just this past year for her work fighting for indigenous and women’s rights. She was one of the first women in Ecuador to step forward and commit her life to human rights and she had many successes. Her testimony has been printed (in Spanish) for all to read. Her story is super interesting and it is a great book to go along with the testimony of Rigoberta Menchu (from Guatemala).

Spanish gets harder and easier depending on the day, but I finally figured out subjuntivo. Goodness, seriously we spent a week on it and I finally get it!!  (well really only the beginning, but at least it makes sense now!)  I hope that all who are able take advantage of studying abroad and learning a new language. It opens up so many possibilities in linguistics and in life! 

Something random that I just figured out today (just a side note, thought it would make you all laugh):  I am used to editing my papers on actual paper so I actually read the mistakes I am making out-loud and see them, I think my brain thinks that the computer words aren’t actually real…  Anyway, I need to adjust to my idea about saving paper and to not having a printer!  Hence, I have a new mindset with editing papers on the computer.  The words I type are real AND I read to the computer instead of to the paper!  Wow, sometimes I can really trick myself!

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Haley: Huckleberry Finn

November 21, 2010

So I wake up after sleeping in… oh wait no I didn’t sleep in because three churches that surround my house BLARE their wonderful off-beat music in the mornings as if competing to prove whose love for god is greater… You ALL WIN!!!! gahhh.

So yes I wake up knowing that today is definitely a day I am going to the beach because it is HOT as hell by 9 a.m. and there’s not a cloud in the sky. Conveniently my friend Katie had the same-idea. So rather than going to the convenient Pirates Beach, we decide to go to a beach further up the coast—a beach that requires 3 different matatu rides, and a total brain diffusion!

We get on our last matatu that we have to take in order to reach Mombasa Beach and 20 minutes later we are the only ones on it.
[ “Do they know where we’re going?”
] “Yeah… Mombasa Beach! We told them twice…..” (matatu stops…. driver turns around)
]”Sooo…. where are you going?”
[ “(sigh…Katie and I in unison) Mombasa beach…”
] “Ohhh… we passed it”— of course you did. So thankfully they turn around and take us there… well no actually they take us to a place they THINK is “there”.

Katie and I get off the Matatu and are on a rocky road, surrounded by unfinished buildings and palms trees. So we just start walking and come across tons of lavish hotels. “Screw it,” we said. “lets just walking into one of these hotels to cut to the beach!” So that’s exactly what we did. Only when we got to the hotel, the man at the desk told us we had to be staying at the Hotel in order to get to the beach… yes, absolutely HAD to be staying there in order to use the stairs for the beach. “… BUT since you’re here why not?”

So we walk into this hotel snickering over what just happened and as we hit the beach side we are just struck by AWE. We just walked into a honeymooners catalog. The most unbelievable hotels on the most amazing beaches and here two 20 year olds come toddling in laughing over the retired men wearing speedos. SUCCESS! We just walked and walked and kept on walking around these rocks/cliff to find even more beautiful scenery where now we are SURE that this isn’t real. Maybe things like Inception are real? Because places like this just are NOT real… We keep on walking further away from the busy beach and are suddenly ALL by ourselves on this never ending beach of white sand, NO seaweed, and a playfull ocean. There’s one shady shack open serving drinks (which we of course don’t hesitate to buy a coke from).

While we were just sitting on the beach wrapping our heads around the fact that “we’re in Africa… on the Beach… in November” (it never gets old), this guy, Abu, comes up to us asking if we would take his picture with his i-phone. After awkwardly talking to him for a couple of minutes, we discovered he is a student in Mombasa about our age, and he had nothing to do. Well he couldn’t be happier to linger around and talk to two foreigners, and we couldn’t find it any funnier. We are CONVINCED that this kid is some “Prince A-boo-boo” because he is of some middle eastern decsent (we think); he’s a native of Mombasa and-YET he does not know Swahili very well (that’s just unheard of); He goes horseback riding on the beach all the time; He keep on saying he lives where all the Indians do (whatever that means); He is obsessed with his I-phone; He’s going to school to try and steer away from the “family business” (perhaps the throne?); He continued to ask if we needed or wanted anything (in a sincere, not creepy way); Offered to drive us home, which was completely out of the way; And well, it made for a funnier time assuming all of this.

Katie and I go jump into the water to rinse the sand off (which is instantly replaced with salt) and seriously it was like swimming in bath water. The water is so blue and oil-leak free, and it took not even 10 meters for us to reach swimmable depth. It is one of my favorite places in the world. When we would look to shore we notice Abu kept re-arranging our stuff and just sat there waving at us every time we would look back. We couldn’t help but laugh at his kind-awkwardness. When we went back to shore we realized that he wasn’t rearranging our stuff—he was just moving it because the tide was coming in. I look at Katie and tell her we have to leave NOW!
] ” (?) Why?”
[ “… because we have to get to the rocks befor the tide does!”

So we grabbed our stuff, said our goodbyes to Abu, and started trucking our way back up north. We got to the first cliff as the water did too. We start climbing these rocks now laughing at how crazy of a day this has been. We also discovered that the rocks were crawling with Crabs! We ran from the rocks trying to make our way to the next cliff when these men came by on a boat shouting at us that we need to climb the stairs and take the road rather than stay beach-side trying to beat the tide.

We climb these hidden stairs that took us to this lavish hotel FULL of retired eurpeans and honeymooners, tables with nice tablecloths, more pools than needed, a club blaring American music, and a fancy lawn display. So we go back down the stairs to the, what now looks like an “Angry” sea and had to climb the rocks and shuffle our way across the cliff while carrying our stuff on our heads. The water would come up crashing against us at times throwing you off balance. If you fell you were pretty much screwed because your camera, phone, AND ipod was going in the water WITH you, and flipflops do no justice for balancing. As Katie was walking her flip flop fell off into the sea
[ “hahahaha that’s a goner… ahhhhhh we’ll just get you a new one!”
] “NOOOOO!!!!! (throws me her bag and jumps in)”
[ “ARE YOU CRAZY!!!!! You’re going to DIE over a FLIP FLOP!?”
she climbs back up the rocks after rescuing a distraught flip-flop smiling…..

As I take a step my flip flop falls off over the edge… and without hesitation Katie now stands holding my stuff as I plunge in after my Old-Navy trademark. We miraculously defeated the Indian Ocean.

What a day, what a life, what a world. This is only a small story of MANY that us MSID students have accumulated while being in our internship phase. Every day that I have lived in Mombasa, I have learned or experienced something new. I wish I could have a video camera rolling at all times, because there is just SO much in life that passes us by. I am living the life of a modern day Huckleberry Finn with excitement, exploration, defeat, troubles, struggles, but most of all… discovery. It is never a dull moment while living out of your element, and I can honestly tell you that there is no way to FULLY explain or even display these experiences without having experiencing them yourself. So I truly hope, that the chance you get to try something new… do it. Don’t even hesitate… Jump from the rocks into the ocean to catch your golden flip-flop….

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Brittany: Serena day trip

November 7, 2010

Julia, Anna, and I attempted a day trip last Sunday. This German guy (maybe in his 40s) works in the municipal government office below me, and he gave us a list of fun day trips. We decided to try the one to Serena. He said it was short and had a really pretty place to swim.

We found the bus after asking a bunch of different people at the terminal. It wasn’t in the station with all the other busses but rather down the block—typical Ecuador logic.  It was hot and smelly on the bus. One family got on with two puppies and a plastic sack full of chicks, which didn’t help much with the odor…

Our friend had said it was only 40 minutes, so after an hour on the bus I started to get a little worried.  We were driving deeper into the jungle along little dirt roads. We passed some tiny communities, but we were pretty isolated. We finally got to what the driver said was the Serena stop. We asked for directions to the river at this little restaurant. The man there said we were close but needed to walk down the dirt/gravel road twenty minutes or wait for a bus (the one we had been on turned in the other direction). We decided to walk and of course it was a lot longer walk than 20 minutes. We walked for nearly 40. By now it was noon and really hot. A few cars passed, but none had room for three hitchhikers.

Finally we reached the river and a sign that said Serena. There was bridge and we decided to cross.  It looked like that was the only way to get down to the water. Once we started crossing, however, I began to seriously question our decision. It was really, really long and very high off of the water. And the boards weren’t nailed down!  They would wobble as you stepped off of them.  There were gaps between a lot of the boards, and you could see the water rushing by below. It was really scary.

Once our feet were on solid ground again, we felt like we were in the middle of nowhere. There was a narrow path and a few houses, but mostly just jungle. We guessed what direction to walk and by pure luck found a path that brought us to the water.

We weren’t sure if this was the place where our friend had intended to send us, but it was really beautiful. There was a stretch of beach on our side of the river and huge cliffs shot out of the water on the other.  It was just a little strange because there was no one around; it felt like we were the only people for miles.

We had a picnic lunch of fruit, juice, crackers and trail mix.  We tried to swim, but the water was moving really fast, so instead we spread out towels and lay down on the sand.

I was just getting comfortable when we heard the buzz of motorcycles. We looked up and four motorcycles came barreling down the beach carrying 15 teenage boys. We frantically pulled on t-shirts, but kept sitting on our towels. We didn’t want to call a lot of attention to ourselves, although obviously that was pretty unavoidable as we were the only other people on the whole beach. The boys went further down and basically left us alone, apart from the typical cat calling and one boy took our picture, which was pretty awkward.  Just as I was starting to relax again we heard a huge BOOM. The boys had set off dynamite in the river!  Luckily after that they all piled on their motorcycles and left.

Shortly after, we decided we needed to try to get back too. We had been told the return bus to Tena wasn’t until 5 pm…so we were thinking that getting back was going to involve a lot of walking and hitchhiking.

We headed down the narrow path again and then back to the bridge.  I had been dreading the return trip across the bridge all afternoon but I set off, keeping my eyes on the boards ahead of me and trying to get through it as quickly as possible. I looked up toward the end and realized Julia and Anna were getting on a bus! We got lucky and somehow the direct bus to Tena (the one we now realize we should have taken from the beginning) was right there at the end of the bridge. We jumped on and in thirty minutes we were back in Tena.

–Brittany Libra

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Haley: Going to the beach

October 30, 2010

Finally after sweating half my body weight off, me and some of the other Mombasa students are going to the beach… I don’t even care if it is thundering, snowing, or sever hurricane weather. We arrive at Pirates beach after a 30 or 40 minute matatu ride and of course the sky is gray. We’re walking down the entry way and it is just stand after stand selling fried chicken, chips, fries, potatoes, food I’ve never seen before, and essentially everything fried. Then there were also people standing there with scales asking you take weigh yourselves. Well we thought it was like a game at 6 Flags or something where you have to guess a weight and win a prize. So we were looking around and didn’t see any prizes, just the scale. Silly us. NO, you had to PAY so you can weigh yourself (if you wanted to). Uhhhh No thanks!

We get closer because I can smell the salt water over the fried dishes and all of a sudden I see it! The most beautiful beach and ocean…! Oh what’s this? It’s raining…. But it cleared up within 10 minutes and turned into a beautiful day! So we picked a spot in the sand and it was here that I realized that in my fit of joy that morning I forgot to bring my towel. Oops.

The girls decided to tan a little bit and so of course the inner child in me comes out, so I play in the sand. Well this man came up to me speaking nothing but Swahili so naturally I speak back (with the limited Swahili I know) and we have a very eventful conversation. At first he wants me to buy a popsicle. I tell him I have no money and I don’t want one, goodbye! Well no he INSISTS on giving me the popsicle and literally was shoving it at me. After countlessly playing the “No!-Yes!” war I finally asky him WHY he’s giving me this popsicle for free? All he could respond with was YES! Now the popsicle is in my hand half melted. He wants to watch me eat it (red flag) So I tell him that since he was “So kind” I would love if he ate it first (smile). He wouldn’t take it back nor would he eat it. So I told him I’d eat it on the way to the bathroom and ended up chucking it on the garbage on the way back. For all I knew this guy could have been trying to drug me, not happening.

We had so much fun hanging out on the beach, playing with the camels (you could ride a camel… we just took pictures and pet them. I also kissed one) But it was around this point I noticed this one guy just standing and STARING at us, and I realize he’s been there for a good 30 minutes. So I don’t take my eyes off this man… something is up. After another 20 minutes, I’m irritated,because the girls are back to laying on their towels and he’s just standing there. I finally just whip around and ask him what the HECK he was looking at! He said he was just standing there (uh-huh for an hour straight buddy) and after another 5 minutes I told him to “go stand somewhere else please.” It wasn’t until I looked back into my camera that I noticed he was standing there a little before the popsicle man, and well after the popsicle man left. I don’t know if that popsicle thing was a set up. If he was just hoping we’de leave our stuff alone, or if he just was THAT amazed to see white girls… Yeah, and definitely don’t ever take food or open drinks from people you don’t know—that’s just bad news.

On the walk out Lacey and I stopped and asked a woman with a scale how many people does she get in a day to pay her to have their weight taken. Surprisingly she said she will sometimes get up to 200 people. We asked how mcuh it was… and 5 shilings later we were weighing ourselves in kg’s. When in Rome I suppose… or in this case Kenya.

On the Matatu ride home Lacey and I were just joking around and in just such a good mood from having an AWESOME day and just laughing about all the stupid stuff (like the fact that we caved in and paid 5 shilings to find out how much we weighed) when this Indian guy turns around smiling and asking
[ “Excuse me!… Are you guys from America?”
] “haha… uh, well Yeah! how’d you know?”
[ “You’re very outspoken!”
Well that is just the nicest way I’ve ever been called loud. Kudos to that man and also for his recommendations on good Indian restaurants.

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