Life on South Caicos at the School for Field Studies Center for Marine Resource Studies is certainly not dull. We have been here for close to six weeks now, and I have loved every minute of it. Our days here are never the same. We rise early in the morning and start off with breakfast and a morning meetings, and then we jump head-first into the day’s activities. This can be anything from scuba diving for a coral assessment, pretending to think like marine policy enforcement officers out in the Marine Protected Area, or sitting in the classroom for a lecture.
Wednesdays and Saturdays are reserved for waterfront activities and community outreach, and have come to be my favorite days here on South Caicos. On Wednesdays, I help teach a science class at the local high school. Currently, we are discussing biomes and the different geographical regions, characteristics, and properties of each. The students in my class are always so excited to have a student from The School for Field Studies in the classroom with them. It is truly a highlight of their week. On Saturdays, I teach adult swim lessons in the ocean near the center. One of the neatest things about living in such a small community like South Caicos is being continuously involved with different community members. The high school teacher that I work with on Wednesdays comes to my swim lessons on Saturday!
Wednesdays and Saturdays are also great because of diving. I have been an avid diver for a number of years, and the diving on South Caicos is some of the greatest I’ve seen. The reefs are rather healthy when compared to other sites around the Caribbean, and we see sharks, turtles, eagle rays, and stingrays practically every time we get in the water. It’s absolutely incredible!
The abundant ocean life here provides us with ample opportunities for our Directed Research projects. My project will involve interviewing local fishermen to gather local ecological knowledge and applying that to assessing the historical conch and lobster fishing patterns of South Caicos, the most important fishing community in the Turk & Caicos Islands.
I can’t believe that it’s already been six weeks here on the Big South, and I am looking forward to all that the next month and a half hold for us here at the SFS Center for Marine Resource Studies!
I’m sorry I haven’t blogged on here yet, but I have actually only really had time to update my previous blog twice, so you have not missed out on much! Here’s a link to those if you want to check them out: http://emmagottbrath.wordpress.com/.
The past two weeks have been pretty busy! I will start with my trip to Dingle in County Kerry two weekends ago.
I had heard a lot about Dingle from a couple people, but I was really sold on it while talking to my brother, Richie, before I left. This past summer he traveled around Europe for a month, so I asked him where I needed to go and he said that even if I could only take one trip some where that I had to visit Dingle. Initially I thought he might have been in cahoots with my parents on this advice since financially speaking going to Dingle would be about as cheap as it gets, but when I got there I knew he was not kidding. Dingle is basically the epitome of the typical Irish postcard picture: rolling hills, beautiful ocean scapes, little fishing boats, pubs, farmers’ markets, etc. Kelsi, Rachel, and I even picked the perfect weekend to go — the Dingle Food and Wine Festival–accompanied by amazing weather. We got in early enough the first night to go out on the town and enjoy some live music at the pubs and venture in to town with some locals who had been playing music.
It was really great to ride again, especially in such a beautiful place. Our horses were kind of stubborn and kept stopping to eat which was funny, but unfortunately ended with Kelsi losing her camera (that’s another story though). We then went back to town and explored a bit before returning to the hostel to get ready for the night and meet some friends coming up. We went in to town for the night again, walking around, and pub hopping. We accidentally found the band we had heard the night before and got a DJ to play Country Roads which was fun. The next day was mostly traveling, but the country side was so beautiful that I hardly did anything other than look out the window.
This past weekend, I went to Belfast through Arcadia. The trip up was long, but we still had enough time to get to know some of the other students from other colleges and went out to town with some of the UCD students we had orientation with. The next day was the best day of the weekend, however, because we went to see Giant’s Causeway. The pictures do not even start to do the place justice.
Unfortunately, my camera died right as we got to the most famous part of the Causeway so this is the only picture I got of that part:
It was very cold and windy, but a fun experience climbing on all the rocks and hearing about the legendary giant, Finn McCool, who supposedly created it many thousands of years ago.
After we were finished at the Causeway, we returned to the city and broke up to do things on our own. Kelsi, two girls from Cork, and I visited the Botanical Gardens and ventured around downtown Belfast and saw The Crown Bar, which is this very ornate bar that is often regarded as one of the most beautiful bars in the world. We did not stay for a drink though because it was a bit of an older crowd. That night we went out to a bar called Filthy McNasty’s which sounds bad, but was actually really nice! We met a local who offered to show us around town a bit. At the end of the night we ended up back at this restaurant called Wok-A-Mole which has Mexican and Asian cuisine. I had gotten a burrito there the first night which was rather strange but still hit the spot.
The next day we had a presentation about the murals in Belfast and the Troubles for the past 30 years. We learned lot about how the murals have evolved over time and continue to change according to the political atmosphere. Then we went on a bus tour of the city to see some of the murals and the divide of Catholics and Protestant. I was surprised to see how segregated it really was. It was very easy to imagine how it would have been scary to go to some places even a decade ago.
We also got to see the studios where Game of Thrones is filmed which was awesome even though we just saw it from the bus.
After the bus tour we left to go back to Limerick for some much needed rest.
Other than my weekends away so far, I have been making lots of friends who have been helping me learn more about the country. My housemates occasionally talk about politics, but mostly about reality tv (The X Factor is really big here). Classes have been going well, but it is hard to say how I am doing in them since we only have two or three grades in each class that make up the total grade and I have not had any papers due yet. I would have to say the Irish Folklore is my favorite class. We had a story teller come in and tell us about his experiences with people who have told him their stories about fairies and the like. I’m even looking forward to writing my paper for that class which is about funerary tradition here. I actually have to go now though to write my first paper here! No need to wish me luck, I have the luck of the Irish on my side!
Well, I’ve officially been in Varanasi for five days. It’s been an interesting five days: probably the hardest but the most rewarding of my life. I’ve had to grapple with MAJOR culture shock, but have learned a lot about myself, about perceptions, and about this city in the process. I’ll try to explain throughout this post without being to psychoanalytical or anything.
We arrived on Saturday early afternoon. First we were taken to our Program Center where we will have class, breakfast, lunch, and a space to hang out in between classes in the air conditioning (it’s been VERY hot here). The program center is very nice and well designed for six American students. After a quick lunch, we took a tour of a nearby shopping district called Lanka, accompanied by a few of our Student Buddies, who are Indian students at Banaras Hindu University. The Student Buddies are very nice and it’s been helpful to have guides who actually speak the language showing you around.
After seeing Lanka, we were taken to our host families and shown around the house. My family is so nice! There’s Bhai-ji (Brother), my host-dad who works on computers around the city, Baba-ji (brother’s wife), my host-mom, who cooks amazing but spicy food, and Riti, our host-sister who is eight and adorable. Baba-ji and Riti don’t speak much English, but Bhai-ji speaks fairly good English.
India is very difficult to adjust to, especially a place as overly Indian as Varanasi. My first day wasn’t easy. I felt very overwhelmed. India isn’t exactly the romanticized version you see in movies and read about in books. It can be this, but you have to dig deep to find it. There is so much here to adjust to. My first night, I remember thinking, “I’m in a foreign country where I don’t speak the language, where I have to adjust to not using toilet paper, bucket bathing, eating with my hands, and understanding very strong accents in order to know what anyone is saying. This city is massive. Bikes, cycle-rickshaws, auto-rickshaws, and cars are constantly trying to run me over on the streets. My host family doesn’t really speak English. It’s hot, and I have to wear pants all the time…AND there’s a mouse that likes to frequent my room. What on Earth have I gotten myself into?” However, by this point I’ve realized that none of that is the end of the world. I’m learning the language. Bathroom stuff isn’t too difficult and is actually more eco-friendly, eating with my hands is fun and everyone does it, so no one judges you. The accents become easier to understand every day. I’m becoming more familiar with the city and how to safely navigate the streets. My host family and I can communicate through more than just words. The clothes here are really really comfortable, and, as long as I ignore the mouse, he doesn’t bother me. According to Baba-ji, he’s supposed to be my friend.
The adjustment period’s been challenging, but every day I find more to love about this city. I see past the trash in the streets and the crowded traffic in order to see roads that have existed for literally centuries. The more I see of the city, the more familiar I become with it. I know two neighborhoods now.
The best part of being here is definitely the Ganges. My house is a 7 minute walk away from Assi Ghat, one of the southern-most ghats in Varanasi. The river’s very flooded right now, so you can only access the top layer of steps. My first view of the river took my breath away in a way I’ve never experienced before. Last night, my friends and I sat on the ghat as evening came. We were harassed endlessly by the children selling the little boats with marigolds and candles in them. “What country?…Oh! Amrika! Amrika best country!…You buy me ice cream…You buy flowers. You take….You have coins from Amrika? Can I have them?…Come see my shop….Promise? Promise you’ll come.” At first it really is adorable, but after a while it can become exhausting. You know they’re only hanging around you because you’re a foreigner and have “tourist” stamped on your forehead. At 7 last night, some worshippers began the nightly puja (offering to the gods). It was one of the most beautiful things I’ve seen. There were marigolds and incense and fire and chanting and singing. It’s so crazy and wonderful to see such ancient traditions practiced so actively in a modern world. Someone has stood on those banks probably every night for hundreds of years and performed very similar rituals. The tradition is so strong.
Today, we had four classes. I’m slowly learning the Hindi alphabet in my Hindi class. In my Gender class we’re examining theories which parallel “women of color feminisms” and theories of how different feminisms apply to different women: both of which I’ve always been extremely interested in. In Religious Pluralism we learned that pluralism of religions isn’t a subject studied in India, so both our professor and us students will be learning a lot together. Then we had City of Confluence, where we are going to learn about almost every aspect of Varanasi. I think I’m most excited about this class and about Hindi.
I don’t know what it is. It might be the puja I witnessed last night. It might be that I’m becoming adjusted. It might be that I’m learning a lot of cool things in my classes. Whatever it is, it’s making me really happy today. I really love this city for the first time. I’m not ignoring the traffic and cow patties and trash and noise; I’m understanding them as part of what makes this city what it is today, and I’m enjoying that. I just am happier and more at ease here today. It’s a really nice feeling to be experiencing.
Currently I’m sitting in my room, taking a break from trying to learn Hindi, listening to Bollywood music (of which I still understand nothing) and putting a streak of henna dye into my hair. This is how you celebrate overcoming the first bouts of culture shock.
Tomorrow I start yoga theory class, and then Friday is yoga practice. This weekend we get to see more of the city with our student buddies. We’re going further North to places like Godowolia and IP Mall. A few of the girls from the group and I are also going to try to explore some more ghats, since there are so many here, and we’ve only seen one.
I’m much closer to feeling at peace in the middle of all this chaos. Thank all of you for your support. I really appreciate it. Until next time, yours, Carly.
I’m studying abroad in Varanasi, India! I had posts posted in a separate blog and am finally switching them over en masse to this blog, so they have the original title, and then their original posting date. I hope you enjoy reading about my adventures.
I arrived in Delhi on Tuesday night. The past 48 hours have been some of the most spectacular of my life. I’ve eaten amazing home-cooked food at the house/bed and breakfast in Delhi where we’re staying.
Our first day consisted of waking up to see green parrots feeding at the bird feeders in the courtyard. We have our meals out on the veranda and get to hear the combination of birds and traffic. I’ve slowly learning to eat with my hands, and don’t even necessarily need to wrap my food in roti to eat it, as long as it isn’t dal, and I have some rice. This day, Wednesday, was chock a block with excitement. First, we ate a nice breakfast and had our first orientation session. Then, we went on a little trip to the Lotus Temple, which is a Baha’i temple, one of seven in the world. It’s really beautiful and shaped like a giant lotus flower. After that, there was lunch and more orientation sessions (culture and health), followed by a trip to Connaught Place, which is a huge shopping area in very old buildings. Here, I bought two salwar kameezes which are both gorgeous (one’s green and red/orange and the other is blue and light blue). We ate at this “famous” restaurant (I don’t remember the name) for dinner where we got dosai (LARGE crispy pancakes) and also rice balls (idli) and things like potato pancakes, all of which you dip into sauces and eat. It was all so good!
Today was also a very exciting day! We woke up, ate breakfast, and then took a tour of Old Delhi. We were driving and passed this HUGE red sandstone fortress, which I found out is called the Red Fort. It was built in the 17th century under the Mughal Empire. Even though we didn’t stop there to tour, I’ve marked it on the map. You can see that the whole thing consists of most of the block that the marker is on. It’s really massive.
Our first stop was a Jain Temple, which also housed a bird hospital. We unfortunately but understandably weren’t allowed to take pictures in the temple, so I don’t have any, but it was very beautiful. The temple itself was covered, floor to ceiling, in brightly colored paintings and drawings of the different Tīrthaṅkara (which serve a role similar to a Bodhisattva, which is kind of similar to a saint, but for Buddhism) and monks. Interspersed between the artwork is bright gold bas relief and pillars. The worshipers in the temple were giving offerings of rice and visiting the many different statues around the temple. It was a very exciting environment to be surrounded by. After visiting the temple and meditation center, we went to the bird hospital, which was very depressing to see. Jains believe very strongly in non-violence and trying to aid the suffering, so trying to save birds who are near death, mostly pigeons, seems to them to be a very good thing to do, a good way to access and perform their beliefs. However, these birds undergo treatment, which normally involves getting their wings sewn back on, and then are put in small cages until they heal. Walking around these cages, one gets the sense that many of these birds won’t ever heal enough to go back to living their previous lives. Most of their wings simply won’t work well enough for them to fly. A few birds were actually even just laying in their cages, appearing dead already. It was really emotional to see. There was another section with larger birds: crows, a hawk, green parrots, and a few peacocks, all of which were in fairly good condition, which was really nice to see.
After the Jain temple, we walked through the streets of Old Delhi, which is even more chaotic than New Delhi. You constantly want to watch your feet to make sure that you don’t step in anything unpleasant, but at the same time want to look around, because on the street, you pass places where there are waist-high statues of the Buddha or Mahavira or of different Hindu Gods which are standing next to sacks of rice or flour. The sacks sometimes cover the deities. It’s an interesting contradiction to see.
En route to the mosque we were headed to, we stopped at a chai wallah for some chai (chai in Hindi just means “tea,” so it doesn’t necessarily mean that you are going to get Chai Tea like you would in the states.). The chai wallah was run by five boys, the oldest of whom couldn’t have been older than 15. The chai was amazing, and while we were sitting and drinking it, a few of the boys pulled out their cell phones to take pictures of the white girls.
The mosque, Jama Masjid, was absolutely stunning. It’s the largest mosque in India. It was also built during the same Mughal emperor as the Red Fort, so it also consists heavily of red sandstone, but also has beautiful black and white marble, as well as a small amount of alabaster from Spain. It’s an open courtyard mosque. The inside part can house 1,000 worshipers, while all together, 25,000 can fit for prayer, which normally happens on Fridays for the Jum’a congregational prayer, and for holidays. I took some great pictures of it, which will be on Facebook as well as my blog, as soon as I get that set up. There’s a section in the mosque which contains some relics of Prophet Muhammad. I saw a strand of his hair as well as one of his sandals. They also had two bits of the Holy Qur’an which are 1400 years old, written on deer skin. One was written by his brother-in-law, and one by his grandson, I’m pretty sure. They were all so beautiful. There are walkways on each end of the mosque which have gorgeous arches that you can see long distances from. There are stunning views of the Red Fort, as well as the top of the Jain Temple and a Sikh Temple, and then the markets of Old Delhi. There was one at the bottom of the mosque which had goats and sheep on its roof.
Driving is crazy here. The cars honk constantly, as if noise were just another dimension of cars which has always existed, as if driving would be unsafe without honking, which it probably would be. The lines on the road are more often than not ignored, and sometimes you find yourself facing oncoming traffic. Despite the chaos, I mostly feel I can trust the taxi drivers and I haven’t been as much of a nervous wreck as I thought I would be. The green and yellow auto rickshaws have signs on their rear bumpers which read “keep distance.” Seeing these makes me laugh. There is no distance kept between cars on Delhi streets.
Yesterday I got to try my first Indian mango. It was the best mango I’ve ever had. It was very flavorful and juicy. It makes me sad that there are only a few more days left to mango season.
Tomorrow is mostly information sessions. It’s also our last day in Delhi, which is pretty sad. I’ve enjoyed my time here, but am ready to get to Varanasi!
CIEE, the program I’m studying abroad with, organizes several trips for us throughout the semester. Our first one was to Rabuco, a small farming town about an hour out of the city. A lot of people skipped this trip because they thought it would be really lame, but I ended up being really glad I went. We learned how to make sopaipillas, delicious chilean pancake-like things but you make them for dinner and on rainy days. Then we took a tour of a paltaand lemon factory (palta means avocado in Spanish) and it was SO interesting! Chile produces avocados all year long, but when winter starts (around April, when we were there) their lemon crops stop making fruit, and they have to import lemons from California (which is funny to me since in OUR winter, the lemons we get all come from Chile). Here are a few cool pictures I snapped:
Above: They made us wear these jackets in the avocado factory, don’t I look pretttttty?
My first trip out of Chile was to Mendoza, Argentina in April. Some girls in my program asked me if I wanted to go on a Wednesday and we got on a bus the very next day. It was a 12 hour trip but we slept, mostly. Ten of us went, all from different study abroad programs. It was so last minute that we didn’t book a hostel ahead of time or plan anything; we just packed our bags and left. Honestly, travel should always be so easy.
Of course, getting there at 5am did complicate things a bit. Luckily, hostels are such a big business here in suramerica that hostel owners are almost always walking around the bus station looking for some guests. We ended up staying at a place that was in a really good location downtown but, well, let’s just say it was definitely not five star.
Above: A picture of our very sketchy hostel; I only wish I could show you the bathroom, the sink was literally sideways on the wall & there was a huge hole in the floor in front of the toilet!
Below: Those are my friends Jackie and Jessica in that picture, they’re the best.
Mendoza was so much fun! The city is really beautiful, it was big but the way it’s laid out made it seem like a really small, quaint town. The first day we walked around and got caught in the rain, so we had to dive into a little restaurant to dry off and we sad and drank a beer until the weather cleared up. On the second day, we went out to the Andes and rappelled off the side of a mountain, ziplined over a river, and rode horses through the mountains. It was seriously the most awesome experience I could have hoped for. No one could believe I rappelled off a mountain! I’m normally very averse to physical exertion (and, okay, a little afraid of heights).
The view of the Andes from the bus! Can you believe they are this amazing from the interstate? Just imagine them up close.
Above: Me ziplining!
Above: Me and the horse I rode; his name was Misery. The guy who owned the horses & I laughed about it because the horse & I were both in misery going so slow (I ride horses and prefer to go fast, you see, but no one else we were with knew how to ride).
On the last day in Mendoza, we were super exhausted, but we forced ourselves out of bed and went to the Mendoza Zoo, which is actually famous in South America for being one of the biggest and best in the world. I’ll save you the trouble of looking through all my pictures of animals, but I made special friends with this one monkey so I can’t resist showing you that one. They sold “monkey food” at the park, and most people gave it away to the monkeys right next to the food stand, but we saved ours for the very end and gave it to the lonely monkeys. Jessica also ate a few pieces of the monkey food (it was really just pita chips but we still teased her about it).
The next week, we had another CIEE trip to Pucon, a town in Southern Chile. Everyone told me “Oh, it’s so beautiful there!” and I guess it was, but actually it looked a lot like Kentucky so I wasn’t as impressed as the kids from Colorado and California were. Still, we had a good time. The first day, we got to meet and hang out with some of the Mapuche people, which is the biggest group of indigenous people to Chile, who were here even before the Incas and long before the Spanish arrived. They taught us how to cook some old Mapuche recipes and showed us around a bee farm where they harvested honey. The next day we went on a tour of all of the waterfalls in the area (SO many) and then we went swimming in las termas, the thermal springs that are warmed up by the magma under the ground from the volcano nearby. The last day we could choose our activity; at this point I was running low on money because of some problems I’d been having with my bank, so I went horseback riding again because it was the cheapest. Some people went rafting or climbed the volcano, which sounded cool too but also potentially too much work for my floja (Chilean slang for lazy) self.
Above: a bunch of the girls from CIEE in front of one of the waterfalls.
Below: about a third of the entire CIEE group swimming in thetermas.
I went a while without traveling after that, mainly because of school (midterms, ugh) and money. A few weeks ago we had another CIEE day trip to Santiago, the capitol of Chile. Everyone in CIEE has to take one class directly through CIEE, and each class did a different activity. We all went to see Pablo Neruda’s house first, and then we split up. My class, “History, Film, and Literature of Valparaiso” went to go visit a local artist who makes reliefs on pieces of wood and then uses them for print-making. His art was so freaking cool, and afterwards they taught us how to make our own!
Above: Some cool graffiti outside of Pablo’s place, and one of my favorite pictures ever.
Above: Us making the art, you had to use the screwdriver-looking-thing to scrape your picture into the wood.
The next trip we went on was to Buenos Aires, Argentina. I had heard this city was dirty and the people were rude, but that was not the case. I loved it the minute we stepped off the ferry. Ferry, you ask? Yes. You see, there’s a fee for US citizens to fly into a lot of South American countries, and in Argentina it’s about $150. So instead of paying this, we flew to Montevideo, Uruguay and then took a ferry into Buenos Aires. It saved us money but actually I wouldn’t recommend it because we were traveling for over twelve hours and by the end we all hated each other.
Still, the city was great. We stayed in a cute little hotel, walked around and shopped at all the ferias artesanales (basically outdoor shops), went to a super cool cemetery, a tango-theater-turned-bookshop, the oldest cafe on the entire continent, a tango show, and took a bus tour around the city. It was amazing.
Finally, last weekend we went to San Pedro de Atacama, in Northern Chile. It’s the driest desert in the world, with some of the oldest cave and sand art in the world (which I just learned all about in my Prehistoric Art class so it was really cool to be there and see it). The first day, we got there at like 11am and we went on our first tour at 3pm, toLas Lagunas Salares, or the salt lakes. They’re 7x less salty than the Dead Sea, but 10x saltier than the ocean, so you can still float. We swam in them, but keep in mind that it’s winter here currently, and you MIGHT be able to imagine how cold we were.
The next day, we had to wake up at 3am to drive up to the top of a volcano (there were about a dozen in the area) to see some very cool geysers! They were all over 100 C (212 F) and the guide said that if you fall in them (people have), all of your skin is instantly burned off, your body goes into shock for a few days, and once that wears off and you start to feel the pain, you die because you can’t handle it. We were pretty scared after that, but we did take a few pictures. There was ONE really big geyser that was only 28 C (83 F) that you could swim in, but we decided not to since it was currently -15 C outside (about 5 F). After that, we went to an indigenous pueblo halfway down the mountain and walked around. It was really cool, but we hadn’t realized how thin the air was until we walked up a very very small hill to see their church and we had to stop three times to catch our breaths. (Picture of the hill below.)
After that (we were done at 11am!) we took naps, at lunch, and then head out for our next tour! I cannot describe to you how exhausted we were. By that point (1pm) it had warmed up to what felt like 60ish F, and we set out for Valle de la Luna and Valle de la Muerte (Valley of the Moon/Valley of Death). Northern Chile used to be basically one big salt mine, so these are both valleys and caves made almost entirely out of salt.
Now I swear this blog post is almost over. I just got back from that trip yesterday, after all. For now I’m back home in Viña, but not for long. Sunday I leave with my friend Kaci (the third one in the pictures from Atacama) to Easter Island, and from there we are going to Lima Peru next Wednesday, Cuzco Peru next Thursday, Aguas Calientes Peru that Saturday and then Machu Pichu Sunday! We get back to Chile just in time to pack, say our goodbyes, and come home, but I don’t want to think about that yet. I’m not ready to give up my days backpacking through the continent I’ve studied for so long. I’m not ready to come home.
… which means “foreign adventures,” namely because I’ve been visiting lots of places since I last posted here. In total I’ve been to Germany (duh), Austria, Italy, and Spain so far and intend to at least go to Ireland before I leave, though hopefully I’ll also have the opportunity to visit Switzerland and the Czech Republic. Let’s go chronologically.
So, around the end of April I went to visit two of my very good friends (Emily Shirley and Rachel Kimbrough, who also happen to be Transy study abroad students) in Italy. Zoë Snider (another of Transy’s study abroad students and my girlfriend) flew over from Spain to meet us all there. I took a night train and stupidly asked for a Sitzplatz (normal seat) instead of a Liegeplatz (basically a bunk) on this 11-ish hour train ride.
I was amazed at how hot and humid it was in comparison to Germany; it was like being in the middle of a Kentucky summer all over again! I’ve also decided that Italy is exactly as pastel (and yellow) as I’ve seen in pictures, though I’m told that’s a Tuscan thing. And of course much gelato was consumed (Nutella-flavored gelato specifically combines two of the most wonderful things this world has to offer, in case you didn’t know).
This is a cathedral near Emily and Rachel’s apartment, though I’ve unfortunately forgotten the name. Emily pointed out to me that this pretty part you see here is actually a facade that was just kind of stuck onto the front of the gothic building, and the rest was left alone.
Over the river!
A rather nice view of the city from the top of a hill we climbed.
PALMA DE MALLORCA, SPAIN
A couple weeks after I’d gotten back from Italy, I flew to Spain to spend the weekend with Zoë. It also happened to be my birthday weekend (20 years old now, woo?). It was also rather hot and humid, though more bearable due to the constant sea breeze (it being an island and all).
Me, standing on one of Palma’s rocky shores
Palma’s cathedral. It almost looks silly to have that sort of a building in a place so tropical.
We passed some guys making enormous bubbles, and I managed to catch one of the more impressive ones with my camera right before it popped. It’s all one big bubble, in case you can’t tell.
A view of the coast from the cathedral
Shortly after I arrived, one of the two dogs belonging to the family Zoë lives with was getting very upset with me for being a stranger in his home. Less than half an hour later, this is what happened. His name is Whisky, and the other dog’s name is Gato (Spanish for cat). It’s quite the special family.
The family sang happy birthday to me the evening before I left Spain (I left early in the morning on my birthday), which was both adorable and hilarious. None of them speak very much English, but they tried to sing it in English anyway, which turned out… interesting (one of them kept singing “happy happy to you!”). That’s a delicious carrot cake with the 1 candle in it, in case you were wondering. This was also the first of two birthday celebrations I had this year, which took place across two countries (Spain and Germany).
The delicious pasta two friends and I made for my birthday dinner back in Germany. Between dinner and dessert we watched a movie called Joyeux Noël (that’s the English title; the German title is Merry Christmas), which has become one of my favorites. It’s about the unofficial “Christmas treaties” during World War I,\; in the movie it’s specifically between the Scottish, French, and German troops.
The Hello Kitty cake my friend baked for me that turned out a little bit… sad. It was, however, full of cherries and wonder.
Later I received a book of poetry by the German author Joachim Ringelnatz from my program coordinator. I’d never heard the name before, but the bits of it I’ve read so far I really enjoy.
REGENSBURGER MAIDULT (REGENSBURG, GERMANY)
For almost two-and-a-half weeks during the month of May, Regensburg hosts an event they call the Maidult (or, as all the Regensburgers refer to it, the Dult), which is basically just a Regensburg-sized Oktoberfest. It’s also got some state-fair-type stuff going on too, like rides and food stands and whatnot, so it was pretty entertaining to go a couple times. Of course, though, the main attraction is the very expensive beer (that, seemingly without exception, comes in one-liter mugs).
Some of the rides and other attractions. I think the bumper cars were immediately to the right from where this picture was taken.
Inside the Hahnzelt (“chicken tent;” one of the beer tents on site). It was extremely crowded and remained so the entire time I was there. This picture was taken from the far back of the tent, and at the front there’s a stage with a band that plays a variety of music, mostly different German tunes that everyone seems to know. I’m fairly certain a couple of them were in the Bavarian dialect, since I couldn’t understand a word. Also that big pole in the middle has a bell at the top, and people can try to climb up the pole (with nothing but the safety harness) to ring the bell. I saw a little girl manage to do it, and the man that tried right after her didn’t even get a third as far.
I rode this with a few friends despite my fear of heights, and though I was still kind of scared, it was quite fun.
GROSSER ARBER, GERMANY
Three friends and I decided that we’d go climb a mountain over the weekend, since we had a couple extra days off. It was Memorial Day weekend in the US, but here it was a holiday called Pfingsten. I have no classes on Fridays normally, Monday is the actual holiday, and the university gives everyone the following Tuesday off too, so I had a five-day weekend on my hands. We had our adventure on Sunday, and I really needed the next two days for recovery. We walked/hiked approximately 9 – 10km (5.6 – 6.2 miles) in total that day, and we were all completely worn out afterward, not to mention a bit sunburned.
On our way up the mountain. This was almost at the base.
Literally “nature protection area,” which I think we’d call a “nature reserve” in the US
I still haven’t quite figured out what this sign is supposed to be telling people, but I assume it’s asking you not to cut off the treetops with your skis by being too awesome for your forest.
From the top of the mountain. That lake is the Großer-Arbersee (the Big Arber Lake, as opposed to the Small Arber Lake which is on the other side of the mountain).
The four of us atop the mountain, finally!
On our way back down the other side, we happened across some type of spruce tree that is apparently 250 years old. Way to go, tree.
Almost at the bottom on the other side of the mountain, we found this pile of logs. Did you find the special one?
This is the Kleiner-Abersee (Small Arber Lake) that I mentioned before. There’s a nice, touristy cafe right there too, where we stopped and had some cake while we waited for some of the those little paddleboats to come back in so we could rent one.
Going to school in Chile is always a little bit crazy, but it’s especially unpredictable right now because of the Movimiento Estudiantil, or the Student Movement. A few years back, there were big protests all across Chile to get students free transportation via the system of busses (or micros); they were mildly successful, and now students can travel for $150,00 Chilean Pesos instead of $300,00 or $440,00 that everyone else pays.
These same students that protested for free transportation when they were in middle- and high-school are now in college, protesting something much bigger: tuition. The Movimiento Estudiantil has been protesting for over a year (don’t quote me on the time frame) for free college tuition. They seem to want this everywhere, not just in the public universities (in case you’ve forgotten, I’m attending a Catholic university here). The protests have been fairly mild this semester, with registered marches ever 2-4 weeks in Valparaiso, and they’ve only cancelled class for them twice I think. Last semester, it got so bad that protesters took over the university buildings (of my Catholic university) and stopped classes for several months. Most students didn’t finish the semester, while some classes met in secret in hotel rooms or the houses of their students/professors. There’s still graffiti inside a lot of the buildings of La Catolica leftover from when the protestors were camped out there.
This is a picture of the student marches in Valparaiso on April 25th; can you believe how many people there are?!
As a foreigner, I’m not allowed to participate in protests here of any kind, but I’m not sure I would side with the students on this one anyway. I understand that education can be expensive probably better than any of the Chilean students (what they pay for tuition here is probably similar to what in-state students pay at UK), and I know that student tuition is absolutely necessary in order to pay professors, maintain building upkeep (and that is even more important here, with earthquakes every week), and etc. On the other hand, the average income in Chile is so incredibly low compared to what Americans (including myself) are used to, that paying the equivalent of several thousand dollars tuition each year could leave a family struggling to put food on the table. I know this can be the case in the US as well, but I don’t think it’s nearly as common, and for someone like me,, it’s a really difficult concept to understand.
I think that money is a tough subject for anyone to breach, and although I don’t think it’s logical for the students here to ask for free college education, I do think the system needs to change for them. My host parents told me that a long time ago, the cost of tuition was adjusted based on each family’s annual income; students from richer families paid more, and poorer students paid less. This seemed similar to FAFSA and the system of loans, grants, and scholarships that we have in the US to me at first, but then they explained that it wasn’t a scholarship (because they gave those out separately) and it wasn’t a loan or a grant that had to be payed back. It was just an adjustable cost, and to me, considering what (little) I know about the Chilean household, that seems like a much more reasonable goal for the students of Chile.
The other reason I definitely won’t be participating in any student marches any time soon is, of course, the tear gas. The marches are legal, of course, but the students tend to get pretty rowdy (i.e. graffiti, public nudity, being rude to the carabineros or cops, etc.) and the police usually end up spraying everyone with giant hoses of water that has been laced with tear gas. Picture Lexington the night after UK won the national championships, and that’s Chile every time there’s a protest. Luckily, my facebook skills are such that I was able to find the facbeook page for the Movimiento Estudiantil and I always know in advance when and where to avoid. It’s actually a very interesting and exciting time to be a college student in Chile, and totally safe as long as you’re smart about it!
These are both pictures of some of the rioting at the student marches; if you’re interested in seeing more, definitely check out the facbook page!
… and that was all the motivation I needed to enter its massive arched doorway to further explore that gem of a palace.
And what a gem, indeed! The interior was filled to the brim with historical Renaissance treasures. Grand paintings filled every wall space and any gaps were filled with decorative molding and elaborate sculptures. And wallpaper? Who needs that when you can have the walls painted to match your imagination? I caught my self touching the wall to see if the marble texture was real on several instances but, to my dismay, my hands were usually met with smooth flat wall.
In such an extraordinary place, I began to feel anxious and claustrophobic in no time. The countless interpreted faces seemed to see right through me and I had to remind myself they were only paintings and sculptures. In addition, the walls weren’t even being honest about their material character and depth, and not to mention the ceilings… oh the ceilings.
Then I paused and inhaled deeply.
I looked straight ahead…
and had an honest moment.
I had happened upon a painting frame, with no painting!
It was like a breath of fresh air. I smiled and appraised it for a few long minutes before heading outside.
Having been surrounded by such a magnitude of fantastically crafted works dosed me with a heart-heavy reality check. I’m sure we’ve heard time and time again that, for example, a still-life painting is a painting of an object and not the object itself. Call me sentimental, but I find that knowledge very sobering. I could create all sorts of beautiful images featuring elegant figures, viscous animals, or relaxing landscapes with soft waves bringing in the tide… but none of them would be the actual subject they represent.
While that thought may bring in the rain clouds, art is not only a means for producing false realities to boast in kind people’s faces. I believe art has the power to influence one’s perception of reality in a unique way as it allows one to focus on a detail that has been previously overlooked and consider it in fresh light.
Between waking up and the everyday shuffle of modern living, it’s hard to pay attention to the small details here and there. A crumpled discarded coke can on the curb, rusty hinges, details of draperies, the wind caught in tree leafs, the sun waking up Spring flowers…
I think it’s a safe assumption that we don’t really care about the things which we don’t give the time of day to.
Art takes time, energy, brainpower, and sheer determination from planning to completion. If an artist dedicates several hours to drawing a goose, that goose becomes significantly more important than before it was drawn. With artwork, it’s important to consider the why factor. Why a goose? Why did the artist choose to draw this goose in this fashion? Why did they color it green out of all colors?
Sometimes all it takes is one individual to love (and dedicate some of their limited time to) something that seems very insignificant and lost in the world for others to follow suit. In this regard, art can serve as a trigger to an array of experiences such as deeper understanding, compassion, sensations, and the list goes on…
After touring the many rooms of the Palazzo Pitti, I wandered around outside (and wound up completely lost) in the Boboli Gardens. Unlike the interior of the Palazzo, this spacious garden is full of nicely spaced sculptures. I was able to appreciate them one at a time. I would walk past a hedge, and discover a new sculpture!
In my journey to find my bearings, I came across this interesting sculpture. At first, it struck me as violent but I was immediately drawn to the facial expressions and poses of the figures. I knew I wanted to draw this for my next final in Sketching Florence! I took out my sketchpad and drew a quick sanguine study for refererence.
On my latest projects, I have been experimenting with the effects of chemicals (kerosene and alcohol) on different media but I decided to break back to traditional methods for this one. My intention was to have a nice traditional sanguine drawing that closely resembles my study drawing.
As I worked on this piece I realized I wanted to add more depth, so I worked in charcoal, soft black pastel, and white conte.
The meaning for this work (for me) changed throughout its process… which was only two class days! For now, simply enjoy! I would love to hear feedback on what you see in this image.
Fragile Real. Approx 42″ x 30″. Sanguine and White Conte, Willow Charcoal, and Soft Pastel on Paper.
Until next time,
I’ve already been in Viña for over a month now, but I wanted to wait to write about it until I could post some pictures as well. (My computer is sort of on the fritz and won’t let me upload any, but I’ve managed to overcome such tiny obstacles.)
When mi familia picked me up at the hotel, I knew immediately that we would get along. Esteban,
my 7 year old host brother, gave me a huge bouquet of flowers (oh! I forgot to take a picture of the flowers!) and an even bigger hug. The whole family had shown up to take me home and they all hugged me and offered me coffee and were so nice.
We live in a condo on Cerro Recreo, one of the hills in Viña del Mar, pretty close to a lot of the other CIEE students here. My family is by far the best, though. They’re very tipico Chileno, true Chileans, and they’re always asking me what I need, or want, or if they can do anything for me. Here is a photo of me with the entire family:
My room is pequeñita but lovely! I was shocked that I fit everything into the closet (and on only 8 hangers!) but I managed to, somehow. The house is also very cute, it’s split up into two condos and Abuela lives in the condo next door so she’s basically a package deal. I super love her; she cooks lunch almost every day and she’s always telling me these awesome stories about Chile. Here are the pictures of my room and the house.
The first week I moved in here, the beaches, the streets, and the tiendas were all full of people (turistas). After I made a comment about how crowded it was for being (supposedly) a pretty small town, my family explained to me that we were in the middle of ‘La Festival de la Cancion.’
This is also known as the Festival de Viña; it’s held every year in Viña del Mar, where I’m lucky enough to be living, and I was here for the very tail end of it. The city-dwellers were literally going crazy over all of the celebrities in town. There were barricades in front of every hotel, on the beach, and blocking certain streets. The most popular Chilean morning show taped every episode that week on a set that I could see from my house! (You know, on the beach that’s five minutes away…)
Apparently this is the biggest music festival in South America. It’s been going on since the 60s and really huge stars always come to it (like Pitbull, who came last year, and Morrissey came one year but he was a drama queen they say). We watched it on TV every night and interviews, paparazzi talk shows and gossip about the festival were basically the only things they played during the day.
Anyone who knows me will tell you that I’m not really into music; I’ve had the hardest time explaining my musical apathy to all of my new Chilean friends, but I really just like whatever I like and even I don’t know what or why. But I was pretty glad to get to be in town for this festival, because I would never spend my own money to go to one and I basically got to experience it for free. I’ve learned a lot of Spanish music (which I love!) and celebrity watched as we passed by a few hotels.
The beach that is literally a 5 minute walk from my house; be jealous.