Finally Home!!

Finally home and it seems so different from the cool air of London!

The flight was extensively more comfortable then United Airlines. If I had to do it again, which of course I will at some point, I would fly Air Canada again. The screens on the seats were larger, the seats more comfortable, and the food was so very tasty.

Once arriving onto Oregon soil again I noticed many changes without even leaving the airport. I didn’t have to stand off to the side on the escalator because no one was trying to push past me! Many people also walked fairly slow, which was also different then the fast pace of the streets of London. Once stepping outside I noticed a clear weather change, as the hot air was muggy and unpleasant. However the one item that I missed was the CLEAN air!! There was hardly any cigarette smoke and it was lovely. I also miss the food, and how it actually tasted like real food, there are currently certain foods that I will not eat because it is not the same as the food across the pond.

Needless to say I will miss London, and I absolutely intend to go back as soon as possible!!

Home at last

Well WOU blog, this shall be the last post from me as I’m actually sitting in my own bed on my laptop to tell you this. Since we last talked, I met up with my family and we had a blast. We went in the Tower of London, the London Eye, the Globe Theatre, the zoo, and just had so much fun in England. In Paris we saw the Eiffel Tower, went in Notre Dame, went to Versailles, took a boat tour down the Seine and even went to Disneyland (on my 21st birthday too, best day ever).

As my time in Europe neared an end I was definitely getting a bit homesick. It helped having my family there, but I just wanted to go home and get some decent Dr. Pepper and decent Japanese food and see my cat. When we went back to London after Paris it got better because London definitely had started to feel like home, but I’m glad to be back. Five and a half weeks is a long time to be away from home.

By the time we actually got to customs in the U.S. my body was telling me that it was 3 in the morning so customs was not the most fun experience, luckily it went a lot smoother than customs in London did so it wasn’t too bad. I think that I’ve learned a lot about myself on this trip because I’ve proved that I can be independent and that I can live somewhere that I can’t go home every weekend. And I’m far more comfortable with public transportation than I was before considering I had to take the tube everywhere in London. I do miss London, but I’m glad to be home.

Anxious to get back home :)

Looking back on my pre departure post and the preconceived notions I had about Italian culture I realize some proved to be true and some proved to be false. The notion I had about Italians using their hands when they talked was extremely true and in fact I would think some Italians were using sign language because their gestures are so similar or the same as the Italian Sign Language we were learning. As for their culture being fast paced, this proved to be incorrect. They actually take their time doing things and compared to American culture they can be considered slow. Italian’s take their time for meals and take an hour or more for lunch where in American culture most people eat on the go during the day because of the fast paced culture. When interacting with Italians I tried using as much Italian as I could but when they knew English most times they would continue using English because it was easier for them. When I think about going home I am excited to go back and see my family and to sleep in my own bed but at the same time I am sad to leave such a wonderful adventure. At this point I am very thankful for my experiences but I’m ready to be home and see my family. This experience has proved to be filled with mixed emotions and I am so happy to have been able to return home with these treasured experiences.

Week 1 & 2: Abby Goes to Peru!

Hello, hello, hello! Greetings from Peru!

My time here so far has been absolutely incredible! I have met so many wonderful from countless countries. I have explored some parts of Lima and taken a trip to a nearby city. I have tasted food that have opened my eyes to the wonders of Peruvian cuisine and have tasted things that haven’t been my favorite. I have been learning more Spanish, learning how to interpret English accents from all over the world, and have been teaching others English. I have had days where I never want to leave and I have had days where I miss a lot of things about home. I have made new friends and acquaintances and have also met people that I don’t particularly like. I have began to form a bond with my host family and the other students living here with me. This has all been so truly incredible for me to experience.

Throughout my time here I have been noting down thoughts that I have along the way, both about the things I miss and the things I am curious about. I have not made a list of things I have enjoyed because that list would probably be a novel. Here are some of the things I’ve jotted down so far:

I miss breathing clean air. I don’t think there are any environmental regulations here. I wonder how bad the toxins in the air are for our lungs and our skin. I wonder if Peruvians who live in cities have higher chances of lung disease.

Why do so many of the billboards, commercials, and other advertisements I see have white people in them? I was expecting to see people from here in advertisements here. I later found out that the most likely reason is that companies are targeting to the types of people who can afford their product. A majority of the white people here are more wealthy than the rest.

I miss the sun! Lima is covered in clouds most of the time during the winter season (the current season) and parts of the rest of the year as well. We took a two day trip to a city called Lunahuana and were able to soak up some sun in that time. Lunahuana is south and a bit more inland from the coast, so there were no clouds. Apparently there is sun there every day of the year! As we drove back under the blanket of clouds on our way home, we all felt a wave of depression hit us. We didn’t know when the next time we would see sun was. Besides our trip to Lunahuana we have seen 3 partial days of sun in the 16 days that we’ve been here. That’s a big change coming from Oregon’s unusually warm summer.

Also related to the weather, I miss being warm. Not only is it winter and almost always cloudy, Peruvian windows don’t have seals at all. That means we spend a lot of time bundled up in warm clothes and wishing for sun and warmth.

I’ll let you in one one other cultural difference. Peruvian social interactions are very different. I miss hugs. A lot. I come from a family and a friend group that hugs a lot, so coming to Peru where hugs aren’t very common was a bit saddening at times. Peruvians greet each other with a kiss on the cheek. For some reason that seems less affectionate than a hand shake or hug. Anyways, I am so glad to have become closer with those living with me, as some of us have started hugging each other. Thank goodness! Another interesting thing about social interactions is that when you walk around town you’re not really supposed to smile or say hi or make eye contact with others except for the group you are with. Especially the first two. This was also weird with coming from a friendly culture. It’s not that Peruvians are unfriendly, it’s just not necessarily the safest idea to be friendly with someone you don’t know. I have met so many friendly Peruvians so far and enjoy their company very much.

Anyways, that is all I will share for today. I’ll check bak in in a few days if I have time. My best to you all!

Ciao,

Abby

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A panorama view of the river and the beautiful blue skies at Lunahuana.

 

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The gray Lima skies on one of our beach days.

Back at Home

It’s always strange to return home after spending so much time in a different country. The adjustment period is always the trickiest part for me to deal with. Like my body suddenly deciding that it’s 3 am in Warsaw right now so obviously I should be reacting like that. Or forgetting that everyone around me speaks English so I need to remember that as well.

But the biggest has been having a room to myself at home again. For the last month, I have been spending 24 hours a day in the company of others. Now, back home, there are large chunks of the day when I am by myself and no one is talking to me. It’s taking me longer than expected to deal with it. I keep expecting to wake up sharing the bed with Sunny in a humid hostel with noisy neighbors getting back from the pub next door. But instead I go to bed and the only thing I have to worry about is fighting my cat for the space.

But other than that, its been amazing to be back at home. I get to hang out with my friends, I’ve started working again (yay money!) and my family has been doing day trips. Just this last week the four of us went to Santa Cruz  for the evening. And three days ago my parents and I spent the whole day in San Francisco. And this upcoming week my best friend and I are going to Napa for the day!

Which goes to show what I learned this time around with studying abroad. There are beautiful and amazing places all over the world. Both in the US and in foreign countries. But the become even better when you go and see them with the people you love.

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Things I Miss & Things I Missed

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This final post in regards to my London Summer Study Abroad trip will be a two-fer. The first half will be how I feel upon returning home and what I have noticed culturally that sticks out. The remaining half will be a tipsheet or guide of sorts for those interested in traveling to London in the future.

One thing that I greatly miss about the UK would be the lack of cell phones. Sure, you see them in the bustling streets as people chat on them on their way to work, etc., but they are not everywhere. People aren’t zombified and peering down into the screen as they wander about. One of the biggest differences I noticed while across the pond was that people were more invested in spending quality time together. At the pubs, men and women gathered around with their drinks and chatted and laughed – not a single phone visible. This could be recounted in cafes, university, and so forth.

I was more than happy to put my phone down and actually interact with my friends while I was over there – something I attempted to do upon being invited out to dinner by two of my friends so we could all catch up. But what happened actually aggravated me quite a bit. The two of them sat across from me. . .and instantly were on their phones. One of them would surface, ask me a question, then as soon as I spoke, go back to his phone while I talked, getting the occasional nod from either of them. Or sometimes no response at all. Are you kidding me?? Already I miss being able to just settle down for time with people and have their actual attention and interest.

There was another thing that I actually appreciated quite a bit about the UK – people do not pester you or hover around you while you are eating or shopping. While in the UK, you order your food at the bar, they bring you your food, and unless you call them over, you are left to enjoy your meal and company. Simple as that. The same goes for shopping. You are not asked if you are finding things alright, or if you are looking for anything in particular, or heckled about current sales. . .instead, they just let you shop, and there are plenty of assistants around if you need one. A beautiful concept, in my personal opinion.

Other than that, I have not noticed anything that bothers me too much. Instead, I just miss certain things – how easy traveling about was, the vast cultural and linguistic variety of people, and so forth.

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Now comes to quick guide to surviving London for those interested in the future:

  1. Always, always, always ask for tap water. Otherwise you get sparkling or bottled or magical water drawn from a unicorn horn – and none of those come cheap.
  2. Order at the bar! If you sit down first, you will be sitting forever. Go to the bar to order your food, and they will bring the food to you once it’s ready.
  3. Leave your table dirty & tipless. Of course I do not mean dirty, dirty – but leave all of your dishes and trays there. My friends and I would bring our coffee mugs back up once we were done at a cafe, and often times get very odd looks. Leave your dishes and such on the table to be cleaned up. Also, most places include tips in the cost of their food, so unless otherwise stated, don’t bother leaving a tip either.
  4. Don’t be that person on the Tube. No seriously. Don’t. Everyone on the tube is generally quiet and just trying to get to work. They are reading the paper, staring at your shoes for the millionth time, or doing anything other than generating noise. Try and do the same.
  5. Driving on the left equals everything else on the left. If you are on the sidewalk or going up or down stairs, or any other area where it may require two lanes of ‘traffic’ – mimic the laws of the road as we do in the US, but this time steer to the left.
  6. Don’t be a lemming. As pedestrians do not typically have the right of way at crossings, wait for the light to signal that you can go. Sure, it may be tempting to do the race across the road with other Londoners, but don’t do it just because everyone else is. Better safe than sorry – there were several times I saw even natives nearly get smeared by a large automobile or sneaky motorcycle.

Home again

My stay in London is over and I have returned to every day life. It is a change coming home to my family and being “mom” again. I had a great time and I would encourage everyone to consider studying abroad for a term. One of the best parts of my trip was the wonderful ladies from WOU that I got to hang out with. Thank you Joleen, Jenna, Alexis, and Courtney for all the memories.

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Last Week in London

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As my journey to Great Britain comes to a close, there are some things that I hope will stay with me, and other things that I miss about home. This trip has been a great way to not only form some wonderful relationships with other people, but to also understand myself in a deeper, more meaningful way. I am definitely someone who needs to be taken out of their habitat once in a while and given a break, because it is far too easy for me to get too bound up in work and school to really live my life.

One aspect that I had lost was the sense of enjoying my time. Back home everything is always as efficient as possible. Breakfast is boring and bland because it is something I do not put thought into – I merely make some oatmeal or grab some fruit and coffee before rushing to class or the office. There, I sit for hours at a time and work hard, only to get home and be too tired to put effort into a meal or do things that I enjoy. Being here, I have been able to wake up early and plan out a real breakfast, or go out to eat a real breakfast, and actually start the day off right. I find myself enjoying mealtimes more often, and actually wanting to put that effort into not only preparing my food, but sitting down and just focusing on eating it, rather than cramming more school or work in at the same time.

Another thing I need to take time for is myself. Easier said than done, as I am the person who sees free time as time I could be using to take care of things or give up to other people. Here, I was allowed to have a day to myself. To simply sit around the flat reading, cup of coffee in my hand, bundled in a blanket. Even though I was reading for class, I was allowed the time to read it at a pace I found comfortable, and to enjoy the process. I honestly miss reading above all else in my life. Being an English major, reading becomes a chore very quickly. Masses of essays, novels, poems, excerpts, and so forth, are shoved into a few weeks, deeply analyzed, and then the process is repeated over again in Sisyphean style. It has been ages since I simply picked up a book that I wanted to read for pleasure and actually finished it. This is something that I know I can make more time for, even if it takes a bit of rearranging of my schedule.
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London has taught me so many things in a nonchalant, underlying way. Lacking an international phone plan, I barely touched the thing. It stayed mainly in my pocket or backpack, and was only used as a camera during excursions. It was refreshing to go out to eat and see no one on their phones – everyone actively engaged in conversations with one another. I did not have to evade people with their noses pressed to the screens on the sidewalk, too busy to pay attention to their surroundings.

I also feel that once I return home, I am going to walk anywhere and everywhere, no matter how far. What’s a car again? Now I have grown accustomed to using the public transportation when necessary, but for the most part walking to anything I need. And while Monmouth may not be the best area to play out this plan due to the lack of public transportation or anything within reasonable difference, I still feel that this can be employed on a much smaller scale in the fact that I do not have to drive to everything all the time.

These are merely a few things that I have noticed in the last week of staying here – small changes that have occurred in my daily life and my mindset towards the world around me. I can only hope that more travels await me in my future, as this would be a wonderful thing to experience every so often to ‘reset’ the old batteries.

Until next time, London.
Jenna

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There Was Nowhere to go but Everywhere… Jack Kerouac

Gloucester- The Docks  The London Eye- At NightBrighton The Thames- At NightGloucester- Historic Docks Gloucester- Cathedral CryptAfternoon Tea

 

From Left to Right and Top to Bottom: (1) The Docks at Gloucester (2) The London Eye at Night (3) The Coast at Brighton (4) The Thames at Night (5) The Docks at Gloucester, Without my Face (6) The Crypt at Gloucester Cathedral (7) Afternoon Tea at the Cambridge Pub


 

My last week in London was interesting, to say the least. I felt like I did more in London this week than I had done the entire time, though in reality I did less. I went to Gloucester, went on a Jack the Ripper tour, went on a small pub crawl, completed finals, wandered the city at night, and had afternoon tea. But through all of this, I was fighting mixed emotions. I felt extremely homesick, but I also felt sad that I was leaving; I wanted to experience even more than I already had. These mixed feelings were pretty exhausting. As I was having fun on my new adventures, I could not help but to count down the days until I would return home. However, although this was exhausting, it was good for me to experience. I have never really felt like this before; it was a new adventure.

I believe that the reason that I felt like I did so much more in the last week, even though I probably did less in reality, is because  I got to experience some of the cultural activities. I finally went to afternoon tea! I also wandered the city at night, rather than just walking through town to get home. And I rode on one of the famous public bikes.

Afternoon Tea was one of my favorite experiences in London. I went to the Cambridge Pub with Jenna, and we were served two little teapots (which contained three teacups of tea, each). We were also served a bowl of sugar cubes, both brown and white (how much more fun that loose sugar!). Then we were given a three-tiered food platter. The general rule is that you eat from the top down, so you eat the sweet scones, with clotted cream and jam, and then the savory finger sandwiches, and finally, the sweet desserts. All of the food was delicious, and the tea was some of the best I have ever had. During this little adventure, we also learned that Afternoon Tea was started by one of the Queens, who felt like there was too much time between lunch and dinner, and wanted something to snack on.

Taking a little stroll at night was so much fun. Jenna, Jenny and I walked down and back up the other. We saw so much on this little trip; it was unbelievable. All of the city lights were gorgeous, and there were buskers, (people playing the guitar, the oboe, the bass and the violin), filling the night air with beautiful music. We also saw many, different-themed party boats. There was an Indian wedding, a dance boat, and even a fetish boat (we don’t know what was going on there, but there were lots of people in leather costumes walking to it). As we were walking down the Thames, looking at all of the boats, we decided that we would finally ride the famous Santander bikes. These are bikes that are stationed all around the city. You take a bike, use it, and return it at any station. The first 30 minutes is free, and after that it is just two pounds for 24 hours. As fun as the bikes were, my favorite part of this whole night was standing on the bridge, looking out and London, and listening to beautiful guitar music. It made for the perfect last night and London.

I will definitely be traveling out of the country in the future, hopefully at least once every other year. And so I leave this post with a quote by Jack Kerouac:

“There was nowhere to go but everywhere, so just keep on rolling under the stars.” -Jack Kerouac

Pre-England Post

I’m getting ready for Study Abroad Round II in London, UK. After a fun-filled week at my sister’s home in NYC, I am getting ready for another round of goodbyes as I embark on the second leg of a year-long journey.

Although for weeks I’ve joyfully anticipated this trip, now, right before leaving, I’m beginning to feel nervous: what if I get lost? what if I don’t get along in my homestay? what if arrangements with my daughter fall through? The list of worries and uncertainties are never-ending. However, if I learned anything in México, it’s that it’s okay to not know everything and fall on your face a little. It really isn’t the worst thing in the world to fumble around, even when other people can see you! I know that no matter what this trip throws at me, I am up for the challenge (no matter how clumsily I do it).

I don’t know what to expect upon my arrival in England. I suppose I am a little nervous of being judged because I am an American and I’ve heard that many people in Europe judge us and feel superior to us. I’ve also heard terrible rumors about the food, which is a shame because I love me some yummies! Thankfully, I’ve also heard that the people of London are wonderful conversationalists and that many of them are very well-informed. I’m looking forward to wonderful conversations!

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