Rapid Passing and New Encounters!

With another week gone by, I feel myself getting more comfortable with life here in Mexico. Of course now, right before my very eyes, I only have two weeks left. Even still, I have had plenty of chances to see a few new things and try some new things out.

One of the first things that caught my attention (for me anyway, since this is the first time I have actually put this service to use in a while), was the cab system here in Mexico. I never took a taxi before, not even in the United States. It was a good experience to see how the atmosphere would feel like. It was kind of small (especially for me), but it was managable. It also gave me an oppotunity to see how busy the streets usually are. i believed I may have mentioned it already, but streets in Mexico are usually pretty busy, at least those in the city. I could see myself making the relation to a more busy city area like Portland or Salem. The atmosphere is not too different, but things tend to be more close together, rather than more spacious. It made me wonder how tricky the parking must be. The less spacious feel is also reflected in the driving. Everyone seems so close together, I frequently worry a collision will occur, but many of the people here know how drive quite well in these situations. It also makes me think about the history of the designs and what their purpose was for making the stores and houses the way they are. Plus, there is also the question of the requirements for driving and how much more demanding they must be compared to the U.S. The taxi experience also leads to the my experience in a busy mall-like complex in Mexico.

A friend and I went to this mall in Mexico, and I was taken aback by its own similarities, as well as differences to the malls we have here. It was interesting that we discovered a fairly large parking lot area down in the bottom, it looked a lot like the ones that I usually see at the airport and other large complexes with lots of people either visiting or working. Upon actually visiting the inside, the appearance was uncanny. Plenty of food courts, game/book stores, and even a cinema too. We went to the cinema to watch the movie “Minions” and it was my first experience watching a feature length film in a theater in a different country. Since the movie was from America, I was kind of expecting the movie to be in English with subtitles in Spanish (I believe some movies released in other countries are like that), but the movie actually was dubbed in Spanish, which I think was better for the experience in the long run. The theater and the counter were organized in a similar way, though I think we were placed in specific before actually entering, however where we sat was still our choice,  I think this helps to control the sittings in the movie theater, and I think it is great for people to see if there are any good seats available, if not, then I am sure people would just choose not to go in the first place.  The rest of the places had some good food, though I d would not quite say it fit the typical Mexican style, it seemed a little more American. Though perhaps malls are usually good at attracting the tourists. Thankfully going back home was not too bad, in fact the taxi driver usually charge fifty pesos, which is roughly the equivalent to a little over three dollars.

Speaking of home, we actually had a visitor from the Peace corps visit our place and he was apparently living in the same place I was living in the past. His experience in Spanish was impressive; I could almost mistake him for a native speaker, even though he is an American. He studied abroad himself in Spain for five months and has been living in Mexico for two years. It really makes me think about the difference in experience between me and him. I have been exposed to Spanish practically my whole life, but John, the young man from the Peace corps has this natural flow to him that helps to really blend in. I was honestly a bit jealous. However, he has been using his Spanish for years, I am only here for five weeks, and I will keep practicing myself. If there is anything I have discovered, it would be that I need to continue practicing, because as a soon-to-be Spanish teacher, I need to be better. Maybe I will follow John’s lead and live abroad somewhere for a few years to improve my own language. Only the future knows for sure.

 

 

Galway Part Two

Not much has happened since the Aran Islands. We’ve stayed in Galway and toured around here. I went shopping today and got a cute tank top that I can wear tomorrow so I don’t have to dig through my laundry. Other than that it has mostly just been eating.

Yesterday we went to the Coole House. It was a rather pretty place that has recently been turned into a nature reserve. The house itself no longer stands, not because it was torn down during the Civil War. But instead because it was so decayed it was unsafe. I wrote more about Lady Gregory, who made Coole House famous, here: https://jenstravelsacrosstheworld.wordpress.com/ireland-big-house/coole-park/

Today I spent the day in Galway some more. The fabulous Courtney Richardson came up for the day and we hung out mostly in the morning. I introduced her to my class, and embrassed her in the middle of Eyre Square. I just clung to her wailing about how I’d never see her again there while everyone just watched and she tried to get me to stop. Good times. Added to that, I believe I have shown that Ireland is better than England because of how awesome everything here is! She better write about this on her blog or I will be quite cross.

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Also today we wathed Gaelic football in a pub. It makes no sense. Sometimes they carry the ball, sometimes they dribble it. And every now and then they throw it or something. Not sure why. But hey, I got to see more football. While watching I had my first shot of Irish whiskey. It tasted like death so I had a sip and refused to touch the rest of it. Nothing should be that horrible. Except math class.

Tonight we had dinner at the King’s Head Pub. The pub was built on the spot where Charles I of England was executed on the order of Cromwell. Turns out the order was sent only to Scotland and Ireland because they didn’t think the Englishmen could kill their king. But the Irish had no problem apparently. I love this country so much. Murder a king in Galway? Awesome! Let’s drink alcohol here to always remember it.

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I only have two more days here, and they I travel onwards into London. So that will be a fun adventure!

Week 1 Zamora

The first week in Spain was not as stressful as I thought it would be. I have a great host family, who make me feel comfortable and I already feel like I am one of the family members. During the first week I found out that I have to walk 45 minutes just to get to class. The first day was horrible! I am use to running at least two to three times a week and now I am using all the walking I have to do here as my exercise. Besides the lots of walking, the heat is crazy. It feels like the sun is just shining all its heat right on you. When people walk here you can see them all just wanting to walk in the sombra (shade). The language barrier is still there. I try to communicate as best I can and most everyone understands what I am still learning and are very patient. I feel like I am a 2 year old trying to speak! The food here is very different then back home and compared to the Mexican food that my family makes. I was having trouble getting used to the food. I was not eating to much. At the time I was hoping that it would change and get better.

We had our first excursion to Braganza, Portugal. It was a very beautiful town with a lot of great history. We saw a old castle, churches, went to a museum about masks used during festivals, and drank wine with locals! That was my favorite part. People seem to like people from America and want to know more about you and where you come from.

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I also got to see bull fighting, which I will never do again. I went to see it just for the experience. It was very sad to know and then see that the bulls are killed at the end. I could not handle it that I had to leave half way though it. I will admit thatI cried like a baby when I saw the finally blow to the bull that killed it. It is so sad to see a animal die in that way and then with the crowd cheering just made it worse. I believe in keeping traditions, but I will never be apart of this one.

I was missing my family and friends a lot. It did not seem like I was in Spain. I wanted the program to go by faster. I am enjoying my time and keeping myself busy.

(A few weeks late for this post)

Week 1 Excursions

Tuesday
Today we visited King’s Cross and St. Pancras train stations. Both of these stations are important buildings historically in London. However, I found them particularly interesting places because of their connections to the Harry Potter film series. The book tells us that Hogwarts students travel from London via the Hogwarts Express leaving King’s Cross station. However, we learned today that the movies actually depict St. Pancras as King’s Cross – probably for style and the rich history behind its construction.

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Clock tower – St. Pancras Station                     King’s Cross Station

Thursday

Oxford is a town  that is home to one of the oldest working universities in Europe; it is made up of 38 individual colleges. Some of the most famous artists, writers, scientists, and other scholars were patrons of the school (including writers like C.S. Lewis and J.R. Tolkien). It was really amazing to see the location up close and personal, and to imagine how it served as inspiration to these brilliant minds.

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Christ Church College – Oxford University

First Week in London!

Life across the pond has been an adventure in the least! One of the most exciting of adventures was our class trip to Warwick Castle.

The Castle of Warwick showed the continuous nature of evolution in the realm of castle living, and lifestyle. It had the ability to capture an array of various time periods, from the Medieval Ages to the 18th century. The castle housed multiple areas of what would have been common rooms, equipment, clothing, and furniture of the Medieval Ages. For example you are able to see the stables with the horse adorned in armor for battle. Additionally you are able to see that fireplaces and the use of candles are about to give light to clothing makers, and other people of the house. You are also able to see buckets for washing clothes.

Further into the house you see an upgraded version of the household containing portraits, armor, weapons, glass cups and sliver utensils. Still at this point you are able to see candles on tables, walls, and chandlers as a means for light. The walls are adorn with silk tapestry, and the ceilings are decorated in fine carvings. At this point the portraits have frames of gold that are artfully done, as well as grand fireplaces. In this version as well you can see the craftsmanship in the wooden walls, and pillars. Tubs were used within the rooms, as servants stood to pour water in them for the masters of the house.

Following along to the opposite end of the house brings you to more modern lights with the use of lamps. With this also brought the evolution of musical devices as a piano was placed in the home as well. Other rooms included a variety of books, and different cakes among groups of people enjoying a hand of cards. The bathrooms were in separate rooms and included a tub that could produce water on its own. The hall ways were decorated with smaller film created photo’s in black and white, with inclusion of war medals and other such important objects. The walls were of solid paper, thin with a printed view of floral.

P.S: I learned that the streets of London are named purposefully from the originally city gates. Some names even originated from times of the black plague.

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Week 2 in Spain

I never want to leave!!!!

This second week here in Barcelona has been just as incredible and exciting as the first, and I am finally getting the hang of things! Throughout the week I did a lot more sight seeing, going to famous Gaudi buildings, old bull fighting rings, gorgeous parks, etc. I love how simple the metro system is, and also how extensive. It can get you within blocks of so many places and the trains run every 5 or so minutes, so the wait is minimal.

I am becoming much more aware of the political dilemma here, in regards to the split between Catalonia and the rest of spain. This became more apparent after discussing the issue with my class. The demand for a separate democratic country is rising with intensity, and the evidence is everywhere. The spanish flag, which as we know, yields red and yellow stripes. But the catalonia flag is flown just as much (if not more) from office buildings and private terraces. In fact, as you walk by the official buildings controlled by the government and local mayor, you can see these flags flown just beside them, as if to make quite a bold and powerful statement seeing as if the flag is not officially recognized

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. It contains the red and yellow stripes, but it also has a blue triangle-like section with a single white star in the middle (of which the significance I am unaware).

What I have come to love the most about this country is its welcoming vibes. I have now been to 3 different cities, Barcelona, Valencia, and just recently Sitges. Though they each differ quite dramatically, they are all so comfortable and accessible. I am not used to city life at all, and the dense population is much different than what I am used to.  But nevertheless I am continuously stunned at how quickly I fall in love with each new street or town square I come across. This is truly a beautiful place <3

On our day trip to Sitges, the program took us on an awesome Cava tour (which is basically spanish champagne), where we had an extensive tour of where, how, and when the make it, the history behind  it, and the specific taste it has. It was so delicious I ended up buying 2 bottles afterwards, and now have no idea how to get it home!!! Afterwards we went to the beach (which was much cleaner than Barcelona) and had a nice lunch and enjoyed the sun. It was a much needed break from the busy city.

Another thing I am super grateful for is the friends that I have gained in such a short amount of time. The two Aussies that I live with tend to stick to themselves, but my other roommate Amelia (from Seattle!) and I get along great. I can definitely see us continuing our friendship once back in the states. I have also grown fond of another west coastie named Bri who happens to be from Vancouver, which is only about a 2 hour drive from my hometown. She is always down to have fun and let loose! We also hang out with Rachelle, who’s from Ohio. She backpacked through Europe before arriving in spain, and plans to do more after the program is over! She is already planning on a road trip to the west coast to visit us next summer, and I really hope she follows through!

I still can’t comprehend that I am at the halfway mark, of my stay, but I am not letting myself get disappointed yet. This has been one of the best decisions of my life.

Inis Mor

So for the last portion of my trip, my class and I have been staying in the lovely city of Galway. I personally love it. It is beautiful. It looks like a traditional Irish village but it big enough that there is always something fun to do. Personally I’m just excited that I get to run around in a really cool city and have lots of fun. I like it even better than Dublin, which is awesome.

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But we haven’t just stayed in Galway. Yesterday out class was loaded into a bus and taken out to Inis Mor, an island off of the Irish coast. To get there we had to take a ferry ride and I believe the sea was mad at us. It was the most brutal boat ride I can remember, with us being tossed around and rolled. Even worse was the fact that I spent the entire time panicking. The waves threw us sideways at one point which sent me into a flashback of the accident I was in earlier this year. If that had been the end of it, I would have been fine. But instead we were thrown around for another 30 minutes so I had a panic attack and spent the entire time sobbing hysterically. But I made it off the ferry and was rewarded for my bravery with this…

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Ruins! Wonderful, beautiful 7-8th century ruins of the monastic community that once lived on Inis Mor! OHMYGODITWASAMAZING!!! I may or may not have run around the ruins like a hyper active six year old yelling at the top of my lungs about the great historic treasure we were seeing while everyone else stared at me like I was insane. But hey, it got my mind off the ferry ride.

Now I should probably describe the island for you all. Inis Mor is a god forsaken (get it? Cause of the abandoned monastic community?) chunk of rock off the Irish coast. It’s only ten miles length wise, and two across. The soil was created by the first settlers who made it out of seaweed and sand so they could live there. Hearing that, I began to question the sanity of these individuals. Ireland is just an afternoon boat ride away. You can see it from the island. And these people chose to stay there? Crazy.

But the view does make up for it.

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All around the island are these stone walls. At first we thought they were for farms, but they’re not. The island is so rocky that when farmers were planting their fields, they kept creating piles of rocks. Unsure of what to do with them, they then created all the walls we saw.

And one of the most impressive walls is the ancient fort: Dun Aonghasa. Built in the early broze age, it is the oldest fort in all of Europe. To get there, we had to climb straight up a mountain. I went nice and slow not to stress my leg and it was beautiful to look out over Inis Mor and see the landscape stretching out. The view at the top was just as spectacular as the rest.

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The fort once was away from the cliffs, but the years have eroded it so it hangs off over the edge of one. Now, you may be wondering why I look so ridiculous in this picture. The reason is simple. At the top of the mountain, gale force wind hits you. It knocked me back a couple of feet when I first got there. The entire time I was slanted sideways into the wind.

It really made me miss my little brother Spencer. He’s about a foot taller than me, so when we go to places like this he is my babysitter. His job in high wind conditions is to keep a firm hold of my hood so I don’t get blown off over the cliff. Without him there I had to make sure I didn’t get knocked over the edge.

It was a great little day trip. And the ancient history I saw made me ridiculously excited. Seriously. I was the most excited person once off the ferry of doom. I would love to got back there some other time when it is not super windy and spend more time poking aroung Dun Aonghasa and the surrounding shops.

Week 1

ah dear wou blog, so much has happened since we last spoke that I feel the need to be ridiculously overdramatic. Sunday we had orientation in the morning and then had the rest of the day to do whatever we wanted. I went with a group to see the changing of the guard, but we didn’t have a very good view so I basically just saw the parade. After that, my group went through St. James’s park and then over to Big Ben and Westminster abbey. The abbey was so gorgeous but we couldn’t go in because it was Sunday. That night I went with some friends from class out to dinner at this burger place down the street. They had fantastic milkshakes that reminded me of mike’s drive-in near my house so that was awesome. Monday was the first day of class and it was fairly interesting we learned about the basis of the English government system. That night we went out to Leicester square for dinner which was really nice, I know I’ll be spending loads more time out there later. Tuesday was my first day off and I went with some classmates to go see the changing of the guard. We got there early and got some pretty decent spots for the whole shebang, after that we went out to the barracks and goofed off there for a little bit before heading to Westminster. The line to get into the abbey was really long so we skipped it for now. That night we went out to the London bridge and then walked over to the tower bridge and the Tower of London. We would have gone in but they were closed for the evening so we just enjoyed the scenery. Wednesday was class day two and we talked more about crime in England and it was really cool learning about the difference between the U.S. and the UK. I was exhausted after class and decided to take a lazy day that ended with a show. There’s this really cool little theater not far from us and they were doubt productions of Shakespeare’s king Henry V. It was an all female production with everyone except Henry also being a member of the chorus. Not gonna lie it was really cool. Thursday marked our first field trip and we went out to battle to see the battlefield and battle abbey from the battle of Hastings in 1066. The British will tell you that that was the last time that they were successfully invaded so that’s pretty cool. I went shopping that night out in Leicester square. They have a big m&m store, not quite as big as the one in Vegas but pretty close. Today I went on a CCSA field trip to Salisbury and Stonehenge. At Salisbury they had the best preserved copy of the Magna Carta and had a big display because of the 800th anniversary of the document. Stonehenge was a bunch of old rocks in fancy positions and it was more interesting when you think about the history of the place and how old it is and how much effort must have been put into it. Tomorrow I’m off to Ireland to see the lovely Jen Hight while she’s over there. I wanted to see it anyway but since it’s her last weekend I’m going now to see it with her. Oh and I went to the first Hard Rock Cafe tonight and got my pin and shirt so I’m content for now.

 

Here, have some photos

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A gate at buckingham palace

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Me at buckingham palace

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Me me with my new buddy Big Ben

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The outside of Westminster abbey

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A tomb at Salisbury cathedral. I have no idea why the photo is upside down but I don’t care enough to fix it.

returning home.

Returning home was such a relief.  When I first showed up in Italy everything just felt very chaotic and rushed,  traffic was crazy, people trying to sell stuff.  Compared to America it was just walk right to my car without bumping into people, driving was normal again. It was nice.

The airports in America I feel are way more nice and helpful. I had a problem when returning and they helped solve the problem right away.  Compared to Italy I had a hard time with some workers they were really rude  just because I didn’t speak Italian,  then I had two Italian boys try the same request for me and they helped them no problem (it was not a language barrier thing.)

I was super tired when I got to Italy I fell asleep and slept in the next day for like 13 hours.  When I got back to America I was surprisingly not as tired as I thought I would be, I tried to stay up for 24 hours so when I went to sleep here I could get back on a normal sleep schedule.   That really helped with the jet lag.

First Impressions

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Halfway through my first week in London, and I can still hardly believe that I made it here. Today has been my first real shot at ‘down time’ upon arriving.

My trip here was long, but decent. An eight hour flight took my friends and I from Oregon to Iceland, where we soon boarded a plane from Iceland to London, which ended up being nearly three hours. Our arrival at the place we would be staying was not until late afternoon. By then, we barely had time to unpack before we opted into a walking tour of the area to see where everything was in relation to our rooms. Once that was finished, we immediately walked the few blocks to the college for a dinner and orientation with everyone involved in the program – the three of us nearly falling asleep the entire time due to our overnight travels.

To say I slept like the dead that night would be an understatement.

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On Sunday, we had another morning orientation, then headed off with a group of people to see the Spitalfields Market. There, we saw crowds of vendors and sampled delicious foods. I personally had lunch from an Eritrean food stall since it is one of my favorites and hard to find around my home town. In our walking around, we experienced multiple cultures and languages just in passing — much more than an average day in Oregon. On the way out, we sampled some chocolate coconut tea that was to die for, and a friend and I purchased a few grams of it to have in our rooms and take back to the states. It tasted as if you were eating coconut chocolate. . . quite a delicious flavor for a tea, if you ask me.

Monday was my first class for Myth, Legend, and Horror. The professor is wildly intelligent and often times gets carried away with random subjects as he knows so much about everything. A welcomed resource in this foreign town. So far, I have yet to have trouble finding food that is acceptable for vegans. A lot of their foods are labeled clearly in relation to whether they are vegetarian friendly, and so forth. Of all the foods I have sampled so far, there have been no disappointments. Everything is so fresh and delicious compared to back in the states. My little group even noticed that their expiration dates come sooner, probably because they do not load it with preservatives and so forth.

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Tuesday was our first field trip day for Myth, Legend, and Horror. The first stop on the map was Warwick Castle, a beautiful, well-preserved chunk of history. The castle was enormous and each room within it held various time periods to show how life changed within its walls throughout history. There were manicured rose gardens and even a working trebuchet – ultimately making the trip worth it.

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From there, we hopped back on the train to head for Stratford, where Shakespeare was born and buried. The little town was so cute and almost seemed set back in time – the buildings old yet well taken care of. There were statues around erected in memory of Shakespeare, and places boasting more amazing food and random items for sale. My friends and I even entered a magic shop, complete with hilarious host and scrumptious butterbeer.

Wednesday was laid back in the sense that my friends and I planned out how we would be spending our weekends – concluding that this weekend we would do local things around the area, only to take the train to spend next weekend in Scotland. We have yet to decide whether we wish to head for Paris or Ireland, considering the cost of everything (don’t even get me started on the £ to $ conversions. . . ) Outside of that, we decided to attend one of the local pubs in the area known as The Thirsty Bear. We chatted with some locals and merely sat to eat our dinner and observe London life around us, as well as discuss what we thought of it all so far.

We have learned that people put much more effort into how they look here, and almost suspect that they can tell we are tourists by the way we dress. Women here are constantly in heels or dressy shoes, skirts or dress pants, and dressy tops. The men are almost always in suits, or at least something close to that range. Our group almost wishes we would have known this beforehand, as in our debriefing, they had said jeans and shirts would be fine – but now we feel we stick out like sore thumbs amidst the crowds. Another thing we have noticed is that despite it being an English-speaking country, we often have to slow down or repeat what we say due to our different accents; something we would have never thought about otherwise. Considering the language and cultural variety in this city, it makes sense.

Today (Thursday), I merely went to a local cafe on my own and brought my books to read. It was pleasant to settle into a chair at an outside table, sip at my coffee, and whittle away some of the reading required for class.This way I am getting in small breaks while still experiencing the area and getting a feel of it, without always having the ‘go go go’ mentality.

Overall, I am excited to see what the next few weeks bring.