Overview of India

Loni is such a small town that it does not show up on the larger maps. I am using a map a past intern created roughly marking where Loni is located in the Maharashtra province. Loni is near the western border of India and will be a six hour drive from Mumbai, where we will be flying in. Image

Facts and Figures

  • Population – 1,210,193,422 people
  • Total Geographic Area – 3,287,263 sq. km
  • People per square kilometer – 368.2/sq. km
  • Electricity voltage – 220/240 volts
  • Exchange rate – 1 US $ = 51.4 Indian Rupees
  • Emergency number – 2611
  • Time zone away from home – +12 hours
  • Main cultural groups – Caste system: Brahmins, Kshatriya, Vaisyas, Shudras, and Untouchables
  • Main religions – Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, Jainism, Christianity, Islam

Politics

  • Year of Independence – Declared from the UK on August 15, 1947 and became a republic on January 26, 1950
  • Type of Government – parliamentary system of Government with a bicameral parliament and three independent branches: the executive, the legislature and the judiciary
  • Current Ruling Party – Indian National Congress
  • Head of Government – Pratibha Patil, President; Manmohan Singh, Prime Minister
  • Domestic Issues – Overpopulation, pollution, poverty, caste/religious violence
  • International Issues – Kashmir situation with Pakistan, Unrresolved territorial conflict with China
  • Election Date – 2014, but can occur earlier if the Prime Minister choses so
  • Major Political Parties – Indian National Congress, Bahujan Samaj Party, Bharatiya Janata Party, Communist Party of India, Communist Party of India (Marxist), National Congress Party

Pop Culture

  • Popular Sports – Traditional indigenous sports (kabaddi, kho kho, pehlwani), chess, field hockey (national sport), tennis
  • Popular Local Teams – Indian national hockey team, Indian national cricket team, Indian Davis Cup team
  • Famous celebrities – Rohan Bopanna, Kunjarani Devi, Nvya Nair, Maju Warrier, Vadivelu

la Mercè, Sitges, and Zaragoza

Wednesday was the last day of Festes de la Mercè, a festival held annually in Barcelona. Activities for all ages can be found in the streets, parks, and plazas throughout the city. I saw Castells and one of the many Parade of Giants that went on this week. It baffles me to think just where all these people come from! The entire population of Barcelona, along with the many tourists, gather in these plazas. I felt like a duck heading into the metro, waddling and taking baby steps to avoid stepping on the toes and heals of the people inches in every direction.

Photo Sep 24, 12 56 30 PM Photo Sep 24, 10 27 36 PM

Wednesday night I went to the firework show and projection at Plaça de Espanya where even more people crowded in to see a, mostly political- as everything in Catalonia is, musical video depicting Barcelona’s history. I think I sometimes forget that I’m living in a big city. I’m living in a city that has one million more inhabitants than Oregon’s biggest city! Just walking down the street on any regular day in Barcelona I don’t feel like it’s that big. Sure it has it’s moments, usually when I walk past the Gaudi museum, or wander into Plaça Catalunya, and see all the tourists bustling about with their shopping bags, backpacks, and cameras. It is going to be so weird to come home and drive ten minutes to get to town, a town that is one thirty second the size of Barcelona. I’m grateful for game days, festivals, and crowded tourist attractions, they remind me where I am. When I get onto an exceptionally crowded metro car I remember that I am living in Europe. This is my home for the next twelve weeks.

Okay, enough about festivals! That’s not all we do in Spain, though it sure does seem like it :) This week I went to Sitges, a city on the sea twenty miles south of Barcelona. It was beautiful! The sand was smooth, just like it is back home, but the day we went, the water was about like it is back home too; needless to say, our sun bathing was unsuccessful!

Photo Sep 25, 3 21 47 PM  Photo Sep 26, 4 29 58 PM

 

Friday morning I went, with some of my study abroad group, to Zaragoza. Zaragoza is a city almost two hundred miles west of Barcelona in the Aragon community. On our overnight trip we took several tours of the city and its Roman ruins. I ate too much, made new friends, and saw the worlds third largest fresh water aquarium. I love big cities. I love the easy public transportation, good food, culture, and entertainment. However, there is something about smaller towns that makes them special. I don’t know what it is, if you have any ideas let me know ;). Not that Zaragoza is small…. it still has sixty seven thousand more people than Portland! It just has that smaller city feel compared to Barcelona. I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Zaragoza and I can’t wait to see more cities in Spain! I never have been good at conclusions… so, the end. El Fin, Elani

More festivals!

This weekend/week is La Mercè festival in Barcelona. The big day will be this Wednesday, most people get the day off and there are concerts, performances, traditional dance, and more castells! These events have been going on since Friday. It is such a different feel to be out on the streets this week. Normally the metro closes at midnight and all but a few of the restaurants and shops are closed by then, but this week the metro is open all night and there are people everywhere! It’s not hard to find food at 3am and the streets are filled with music. Every night they do a firework show by the water, I haven’t had the chance to see it yet but I’m sure I will tomorrow. I know every night when the show starts because my neighbors dog is not a fan!

Each week I see more of the city, and I’m beginning to realize how walkable it is. On Sunday I went for a stroll and I found a street with several Mexican restaurants! I cannot tell you how ecstatic I was to finally find a burrito!! They even sold hot sauce there, which is not so easy to come by in Spain. They don’t eat a lot of spicy food or sauce here, so hot sauce is nearly impossible to find! I have really enjoyed trying all of the food here, especially our home cooked meals. Even when I don’t like something I’m glad I had the chance to try it. That being said, it sure was nice to have a little taste of home yesterday!

photo

Adios,

Elani

My Return Home

Although it was only for a month, I feel like my time spent in Spain was a dream…On my return home I kept thinking, Was I really in Spain?!?! I was experiencing overwhelming waves of appreciation because I had been to a place (lived there for a month) that most people only get to hear about in history lessons. To go beyond that, I lived 10 minutes away from the Cathedral, a HUGE landmark on the Pilgrimage of Santiago that people from all over the world come to see. Despite having a fantastic time, I was happy to come home because my younger brother would be heading off to spend his junior year of high school in Germany as a foreign exchange student a week after I got back and I wanted to spend as much time with him. Needless to say, like my arrival in Spain, my arrival in Portland was a welcomed one but I was also instantly busy both times (the similarity was that I had dinner at midnight in Portland too). Everything was a rushed experience but that made it all the more exciting. It did take me a while to adjust the everyday life here because my mind was still wandering the streets of Oviedo and it was strange to realize that I wouldn’t be enjoying the social event of drinking sidra in the evenings. However I got plenty of chances to relive my Spain experience through sharing the stories with my family because shortly after my brother left, I traveled to the midwest to spend the rest of my summer with my extended family over there. Also, telling the stories was a good process of reflection for me as I thought about things that happened from a different perspective or my family would ask questions that added to my view of everything that happened. The adventures never end and like I said before, I plan to visit my home in Oviedo again. :)

Prior to Coming Home…

I had my reservations about traveling to Spain because of how I visualized the culture to be… that being said, I’m pretty sure that the culture of Oviedo was distinct and I can’t say that all of Spain has the same characteristics that Oviedo does. I noticed a lot of similarities in culture between Oviedo and when I live in the USA but there were definitely differences as well. Drinking the local fermented apple alcoholic drink (sidra) most nights as a social custom was of course an adaptation I had to learn to love. I was in awe at how they treat their children in Oviedo. I imagine that it’s not just in Oviedo, but they seemed to specialize in anything baby related so that those kids would want for nothing. The children themselves are beautiful cherubs and always had the nicest clothing….like the way we dress our kids for Easter…but this was an everyday thing for them. I could have spent hours people watching just because of this and looking at all of the cool gadgets they have. Beyond that, kudos to the mothers because they generally seemed flawless as well. Also, I appreciated the fathers’ unrestricted display of love towards their families that I unfortunately don’t see so obviously in the U.S.. These were some of my favorite differences of culture that I observed. There was also a little different twist on fashion in Spain but it obviously meant a lot to everyone….Especially the shoes. It’s very impressive that age doesn’t matter with regards to what highly fashionable shoe a woman (and sometimes man) chooses to wear. Fashion never retires in Spain. However, for me the most surprising cultural difference was perhaps the dogs. People usually didn’t have large dogs but the tiny dogs that they did have went everywhere with them. It surprises me that the dogs have a different personality in general because they were almost all extremely well behaved or trained and they wanted absolutely nothing to do with a stranger. American dogs will wander over to greet someone they don’t know, or at least bark at them…but the Spanish dogs could care less and will not acknowledge your existence unless they see that their human family accepts you into their family. Only then are they the sweet little companions that love unconditionally.

Overall, I believe that I did well in my host culture. It’s a little difficult for me to get a real taste of the culture in just a month and to fully adapt so that was the main challenge for me I think. I felt caught in between because just as I was starting to get the hang of Spanish living, it was time for me to return to the U.S.. I wish I could have stayed longer in Spain, especially to explore more parts of Spain and to experience the cultural differences just in Spain alone. I am really happy that I did get to stay in Oviedo though because from what I heard, Madrid is a very bustling city and I enjoyed the quaint everyday happenings in Oviedo. It was the perfect environment.  I absolutely want to come back one day to my home in Spain and explore the rest of it.

Departed, Arrived, and Settled in already!

I actually got to Germany a while ago, but I had forgotten about this assignment and I never received an e-mail inviting me to the blog so I guess I have some catching up to do…

The flight here wasn’t bad. I expected it to be way worse than it ended up being. Even though I didn’t hardly sleep at all on the flight, I didn’t have any jet lag whatsoever. It was weird, but it was really nice.

I moved into my dorm on the 27th of August. The view from my room is awesome! I can see the castle and, occasionally, I can see some people paragliding off of the hill across from my dorm.

This is the view from my dorm room. The castle is hard to see, but it is there! :)

This is the view from my dorm room. The castle is hard to see, but it is there! :)

So far, the weather has been pretty good. It’s been a little more rainy than I like, but on the days that it doesn’t rain, it’s beautiful and on the days that it does rain, there’s usually thunder and lightning too (which I like to watch from my dorm room).

I wish I were here on vacation so that I could travel the entire time and see all that Germany has to offer. However, I think it’s good that I’m here to study (not travel) because I wouldn’t have any money after about one week and one of my goals for while I’m here is to learn as much of the language as I can. That being said, I look forward to sightseeing when I can and I hope I don’t get completely overwhelmed by everything that is to come!

Auf Wiedersehen!

Sierra

Ara és l’Hora

Last Thursday, September 11, was the National Day of Catalonia. The day long festival pays tribute to the defeat of Catalonia during the war of Spanish Succession. Three hundred years ago, Catalan lost its independence to king Philip V of Spain. This year they gathered in the shape of a V up two main intersecting streets, they want the right to vote in November for their separation from Spain. I had the pleasure of joining in the festivities, it was amazing to see so many people from all over Catalonia gather in Barcelona to show their support. It is inspiring to see so many people standing up for themselves and their freedom as a nation. Ara és l’Hora, Now is the Time!

If you want to read more about the day and their fight for freedom click here.IMG_8886

The view from where we ended the day, where the two roads met forming the bottom of the V.

I must say I did feel like an impostor most of the day, wearing my red and yellow flag cape along with the rest of the natives. I suppose as long as I kept my mouth shut nobody had to know I didn’t really belong.

Que vagi bé,

Elani

Getting Lost In Edinburgh

DSCN2763[1]Never think that just because you are confident in your abilities as a walker and traveler that you can get around a new city without help, especially one as big as Edinburgh. I decided that I’d walk to campus from my dorm via the union canal path. Google maps informed me that it would be a 38 minute walk. I was confident but I was unprepared for what I found out. Google maps has no idea what they are talking about. I wandered in the canal for three hours into a seedy part of town and through several parks. I finally met a nice Bulgarian family who offered to take me a mile out of their way to the school. I am so grateful to them! The woman was very friendly. She explained that she too had once been foreign here and that she saw a bit of herself in me.

table

The day wasn’t all bad though. I got home and went over to the CIS-Abroad welcome dinner. I met a lot of people from the states and we instantly became friends. I even met one German fellow who  seems nice. After the dinner a few of us stayed behind to chat and eventually made our way back over to the dorms to a school-run rock show. They were playing quite a few American songs. I had a pretty good time. I even danced (awkwardly). We’re all going on a walking tour today of the city with CIS-Abroad. So, I’ll make sure to post pictures of that as well.

 

Departed and Arrived!

School starts Monday! I feel like it’s the first day of college all over again. In a new home, in a new town with new roommates… starting at a new school with all new classmates. Which is crazy enough on its own, without the added bonus of being in a country where I don’t speak the language! (Please excuse the excessive use of exclamation marks… I can’t help how I feel :))

I arrived on Monday night with my friend from back home and stayed in a hostel. Tuesday I met my host mom and roommate, Katie from Ohio, at our new home in Barcelona! From the get go I realized I probably should have listed to a few more lessens of spanish before leaving home. Like, maybe all of them! Everyone is so friendly though and willing to communicate using mime and body language. It’s been a crazy week, but so far all is mostly as expected, surprisingly. I guess the one difference is that I wasn’t expecting to be able to understand or communicate so well. Don’t get me wrong, communication is tough; my host mom doesn’t speak english and my spanish dates back to two years in high school. Miming can only get you so far :). However, we get by just fine! She is so sweet and willing to slow down just a bit and chuckle at our poor attempts at conversation. Each day gets easier, and I grow more comfortable speaking the little spanish that I remember.

Today was our last day of orientation and we took a day trip to Tarragona (photos attached). Spain is so beautiful, I’m so glad that I didn’t let my fears (mostly of the language barrier) get in the way of coming here. There is so much history in all of these cities! I forget, when I’m in the US, that some places have such a long and diverse past. Tarragona is a city that was built on top of Roman ruins. New ruins are still being uncovered as the city buys old empty houses and takes them down to see what is underneath. Back when the houses were built they just reused what was already there, turning old roman walls and floors into part of the new construction.

I’m looking forward to seeing more of the sights in Barcelona and around Spain for the next three and a half months. I just hope that I don’t forget to do the touristic things while I’m here, as I already feel at home.

La playa

New friends and me at the beach in Tarragona. The sand is similar to our Oregonian sand but the water is much warmer :)

Castell

In Catalonia, the region where I am staying in Spain, they build human towers called Castells. This was a statue of a castell in Tarragona, the man in the foreground is playing music while those in the background form the base for a human tower, sometimes reaching nine bodies high. Children climb to the very top and wave to the crowd. I’m hoping I will see one at one of the several festivals that takes place in September here in Catalonia.

¡Hasta la próxima!

Elani

First Few Days in Scotland

The view outside my window

The view from outside my dorm window.

The plane rides over to Edinburgh from Portland, OR were horrible to say the least. I’ve got several bruises from my bags, bumping, and the airplane bathroom sink I clung to while sick with food poisoning. To tell you the truth, I’m not sure how I did it. I’ve never rode an airplane by myself before let alone internationally. Yet- somehow I managed to figure it out and arrive here in one piece. I’m proud of that! I sucked it up and did something even though it terrified me.

I met some other girls from around the world on my way to the dorms. They are really nice and I hope we can hang out later. The dorm is not what I expected but I soon adapted with the help of some of the people that were already living here. I found out where the stores were located and walked the two miles to them- much to the surprise of one of the fellows that was trying to get a rise out of me. I feel quite accomplished about that as well.

I tried haggis and tatties. I do not like it. It tastes like bad sausage. I’m never eating that again. I also bought some steak and kidney pies, and some blood pudding. We’ll see how that goes over. Tomorrow I start the harder stuff – the socialization and integration into the University environment over here at Napier. I’m really fretting it. I barely have a handle on things at WOU, how am I supposed to manage here? I guess I’m feeling culture shock because all I keep thinking about is home. It’s lonely here.

Perhaps it will get better with time?