Posts Tagged ‘making friends’

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Sarah: November

November 4, 2011

I can’t believe that it’s November already. I’ve been in Venezuela for 11 weeks now and I have 4 weeks to go. Since I decided that writing is some sort of “reflective therapy” for me, it’s about time that I start looking at the big picture and reflecting on my experience here in Venezuela as a whole.

I came here knowing nobody. I sat in the airport with a steaming vanilla latte in my hand, read Julie and Julia and looking up from my book every three seconds to see if the person sitting down next to me could be someone from my program. I searched for college students with lots of luggage, but no one came for a long time. Just as I was starting to panick, I saw a girl my age walking towards the gate. She was balancing tons of luggage and looked exhausted like she had been up all night packing; prime candidate. After several minutes of analyzing each other’s luggage and pondering possible flight destinations, we both smiled. I asked where she was headed and she said exactly what I wanted to hear – “Venezuela”.

And that’s how I started meeting some of the people who would have a huge impact on the quality of my experience here in Venezuela. From that moment on, had a traveling partner – someone just as clueless about what we were in for as I was. All I knew when I applied for this program and wrote my scholarship essay was that I wanted to live in another country, escape the familiarity and comfort of Minneapolis, practice a foreign language, and meet new people. So after meeting Andrea in the airport, I was finally on my way to achieving my goals.

The second person I met was Jenni. I got onto the plane and saw her sitting in a window seat a few rows ahead of me. I recognized her from her Facebook photo and introduced myself as her roommate. She recognized me too, but it wasn’t until we arrived in Miami that I really started getting to know Jenni. We stuck together from the time we stepped off the plane. We were in different hotel rooms, but decided to leave the hotel and take a taxi to Miami’s South Beach to see the ocean. As soon as we were standing there amongst the crashing waves and jellyfish, rambling on about how excited we were for the semester ahead of us, I knew we’d get along.

And the rest is history (well not history, but it would make for a novel-length blog post). Jenni and I have continued to get along and have become close friends in addition to being roommates. I guess that means I accomplished my goal of meeting new people. As far as my other goals: I have lived in and explored a foreign country, battled against my desire for the familiarity and comfort of Minneapolis, and practiced a foreign language day in and day out, at school and at home.

Venezuela has been incredible, and anything else I gain from this experience is just icing on the cake!

4 weeks left of this adventure to put icing on the cake. That, I can do.

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Miles: A 15-person quartet

January 10, 2011

Walking across Sognsvann (not the greatest pic)Apparently in Norway they still believe in Sundays, so very little was open yesterday. I slept in (jet-leg was still kicking my butt) and hung around the flat for awhile.

When I finally decided to move around, my flatmate JB took another international student and me to Sognsvann, a giant lake near my student village. As we approached the lake, we were almost ran over by a stampede of cross-country skiers. I guess Sunday is Ski Day in Oslo. (Really though, every day is Ski day in Oslo.)

Currently the lake is entirely frozen so we walked onto it. I found myself surrounded by trees and white and beauty. I have much more patience for snow here than I did in Minneapolis.

In the evening I met Melvin, another flatmate. He grew up in Singapore and is getting his master’s in Ibsen Studies. He is more than I know how to describe. He’s definitely forcing me to question the way in which language is passed from place to place and how certain slang phrases can lose any sort of “coolness” quickly in the US, but retain validity in other places. (If you’ve read Everything is Illuminated—think Alex Perchov.) One of the first things he asked me was what I thought of the Norwegian girls. I guess its a good thing I’m only staying for 6 months—according to Melvin, after a while “they get stale. All the same face, you know?”

Because I have decided that I must have as many adventures as possible while I’m here, even though I was tired and feeling a little turtle-ish, I agreed to go out with Melvin, Elaine (another flatmate from France) and 5 of Elaine’s friends. We went to a club called Blå (pronounced Bluh—blue in Norwegian). The entrance to the club is in an alley illuminated by a gaudy, sparkly, amazing chandelier. The neighborhood we were in was described to me by Simon, a French student who’s studying Statistics in Norway, as “Alternative” and “full of street art” (Fear not, I made a mental note to return in the daylight with my camera!).

Blå was packed when we arrived. Sunday nights the entrance is free, and it is always the same band — The Frank Znort Quartet. FZQ is a 15 person bluegrass/jazz/weirdness band that sings songs written in slightly off English. Ex: “I love you Banana Split!” The music was dance-y yet something I’m sure I could take my mother to watch. They are constantly switching singers and audience members, some of whom clearly come every Sunday, all have favorites. At least two band members were dressed in drag. One sang a crowd favorite: “Sweet Penetration.” (It was indescribable.) Sadly, I did not win a free CD in their raffle.

Things I have learned:

THE WORD GOOFY IS BOTH DIFFICULT TO TRANSLATE AND A GIANT PART OF MY VOCABULARY. While walking back to the T-bane from Blå, I was talking to Charlotte, one of Elaine’s friends, and I described something as goofy. She asked what that meant. To describe goofy is one thing, to describe goofy with the endearing connotation I mean for it to have is an entirely different task.

I HAVE SOMETHING TO LEARN FROM EVERYONE. Maybe this was obvious to others. I think it becomes clearer when I have to slow down and listen—particularly when I’m speaking with someone who doesn’t speak English as fluently as I do. Simon and I had a great conversation on the difference between French and English. In his words “French has fewer words, so we use more imagery to create words.” (My damn English vocab. I blame you for my lazy writing!). JB and I had a great talk over breakfast on the similarities between our studies—He studies Architecture and oftentimes has to sketch ideas for buildings and designs. We talked about creativity and what sort of music we listen to while working.

(Un)fortunately today is Monday and I need to get out of my pajamas and go see my Campus. I have to pick up an info packet at a student desk. Then I plan to walk around, camera in hand. Also, I should probably go grocery shopping. I can’t be like Melvin and survive on Pizza. Unlike him, I enjoy a nice vegetable.

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