Dublin, Ireland Week 4 – Classes and adventures

I haven’t talked much about classes here, so I thought I should. I’m a communications major at WOU, and here at DCU I’m taking Press & Public Relations, Issues in Multiculturalism, New Media & Society, and Ireland Sex & Text, which are all working great toward my com/social science degree. I’m enjoying the content of all my classes, so that’s going really well. Classes are less often than at WOU, many are a single two hour session per week, and they all have less assignments throughout the term, usually just one final project, essay, or exam at the end of the term. This seems to give students less incentive for attending class, or, more incentive for grudgingly attending class, and then talking, texting, arriving late and leaving early, and sighing loudly and disapprovingly throughout. Lectures are fairly normal, always led by powerpoint, and involve group work and class discussion (though much less discussion than at WOU). Overall, classes have been easier and allowed me more free time than any I’ve taken since freshmen year, and this is both wonderful and dangerous. I’m struggling to make sure I don’t fall behind with the work I do have, and to not overbook myself later in the term when I have much more work to do in all my classes. Something each of my classes have done is teach me, indirectly, more about Ireland, about its current political and social issues, its organizations, and its role and position within Europe and the larger world, among other things. At the same time it’s brought attention, sometimes directly to issues, similarities and differences with the U.S., and has at times made me feel a bit ashamed to come from the U.S. This was a surprise, because in the U.S., we tend to think we’re pretty great, but because of where I am and why I’m here, and because of recent news and the ongoing presidential campaign, more attention has been brought to the fact that that just isn’t true. The realization of the sheer number and magnitude of educational, social, and political issues faced in the U.S. today was first brought to my attention when I began community college four years ago. In the last few weeks I’ve been given a new perspective on it all, and more importantly something to compare the U.S. situation to. I don’t want to get into it too much, that’s not what I intended my blog to become and it’s a bit depressing besides, but I needed to bring attention to it. I think this national reflection, if that’s what you want to call it, is one of the most important and impactful outcomes of my sojourn so far.
So, anyway, about my fourth week here in Dublin. I went on a few adventures during the week, small and large, and I’d like to talk about those.

First we went to one of the many Dublin parks, St. Stephens Green, and had ourselves an unexpected pigeon adventure! We walked by a man feeding dozens of pigeons on a bench and when I stopped just to take a picture he told me to come over. I said no because they kind of freaked me out, but I felt myself walking over at the same time because I told myself before coming here to do things I normally wouldn’t. He showed me how to hold my hand out and gave me some bird seed, then all of the sudden pigeons starting landing on my arms and eating from my hand. It was so weird. I had the phone in my hand and thought “Take pictures! Take Pictures! There are birds all over you!” and I watched as they flew on to Nathaniel too, and I felt them pinching my hand as they grabbed some seed, and one tried to land on my scarf, and I tried to pay attention as Daniel (the pigeon man) told us about the pigeons and how he nursed many of them back to health. The whole thing was very surreal and ended all at once as the several dozen birds, including the ones still on my arm, flew off in a loud and beautiful flurry that blew my hair back and made me literally gasp. Daniel said they warn each other and flock like that when they see a falcon around. The whole thing was strange and fun and taught me to be more okay with making unexpected decisions. I loved it, and the park by the way, was beautiful.

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The following day, I got lost. We had tickets to see a play, Dancing at Lughnasa, and Nathaniel was out of town late for a class trip. He got dropped off at the city centre and I had to get there by myself, which I hadn’t done before. I should have just taken a taxi right to the theatre since it was getting late, but I wanted to save some money so I decided to take the bus instead. I don’t have a smart phone and the Dublin bus app though, and I forgot which bus number to take. I tried to call and text Nathaniel but my phone ran out of minutes right then, figures. So I walked to the bus stop and guessed which number and got on the right one. I was already worried about time, the show was at 7:30pm and it was a quarter after when we got into the city centre, and I still had to walk from my bus stop. I got off at the wrong stop, as far as I could tell, but close enough to my marker, Trinity college, and I thought I should be able to find my way to the theatre on Grafton street if I’m quick. But I walked down the wrong road, still in the right general direction, but I didn’t exactly know what I was doing and it had just gotten dark which complicated the issue. I saw some signs toward the pigeon park and knew I could get where I needed to go if I just got to the park. So I kept walking down small busy streets I’d never been on, walking in no particular pattern, so that I was definitely going in circles, and walking past dozens of people all of whom I thought I should ask directions, but I think I must be close, and they look busy and I don’t want to ask, etc. I stopped on one corner and rubbed my head, sure I wouldn’t make it, and an elderly man asked if I had a head ache, and said to leave the suffering to the saints, so I told him I would and kept moving. After another circle around a block, at least I think it was a circle, I stopped in a small clothes store that was still open and asked where Grafton street was. To my surprise, she said turn right outside and walk all the way down, that’s Grafton. I was close, somehow. So I walked as fast as I could down that street and then on Grafton, shooting past people and trying not to trip and fall, and I noticed it was 7:29pm, no way I’ll make it now. But I turned the corner toward the theatre and saw Nathaniel who caught my eye and then ran toward the still open doors where other people were filtering in for last call. We made it. I was exhausted and frustrated with myself, but luckily the play was fantastic and did a perfect job of distracting me. From this fun little escapade alone in the city, I learned to trust my instincts more (after all I had the right sense of direction), especially if it means doing something I don’t want to like asking for directions, because it’ll make my life a lot easier. Also, I’m getting a paper map to carry with me before I go out alone again.
That weekend, we went on another adventure to Northern Ireland all on our own. Planning this fairly simple trip was surprisingly complicated, and took me two weeks to finally do and our originally two night trip turned into one night and a lot of travel time. We wanted to go to Giant’s Causeway on the coast, a beautiful and popular area I had heard about before. Nathaniel knew nothing about it so I was really excited to show him. So Saturday morning we caught a bus to the airport where we (after a lot of searching and running) found our booked bus to Belfast, the capital of Northern Ireland. After a two hour drive we had just enough time to catch a train from Belfast to Coleraine. So far we were doing great, it was only 11am and we didn’t need to be at our hostel by the causeway till 4pm, so we should have plenty of time for exploring. But, once we got to the small town of Coleraine we were slightly disappointed to find that, because the season was over, bus ran infrequently to Bushmills and the causeway, and the next bus that day was at 3:45. So, we waited. We ate at a cafe in town, and walked all over and asked three different people in town where we could find an atm. We finally got to one and took out pounds, because we were now in the U.K. I thought euros were interesting, pounds are even cooler. They have many interesting people, the bills are nice colors, and the coins are so many different shapes and sizes. American money is going to seem so boring to me now. Eventually we caught the bus to the even smaller coastal town of Bushmills. Now, we still had to get to our hostel and weren’t sure how, but with the help of some nice locals, we got a taxi in twenty minutes and arrived at Finn McCool’s hostel, recommended to us by our program coordinator. It was now 5pm and we had just enough daylight to go explore the beach. There were still other late tourists out walking the trail down to the grassy hills and beach below where they gazed and awed and snapped photos, and we joined them. It was still pretty warm out, and the tide had come in around the big boulders where waves crashed. It was lovely. We stopped at a sandy area for awhile, Nathaniel drew a picture of the beach in his little notebook that goes everywhere he does, and I took some pictures and sat and looked around, listening to the ocean and the conversation in different languages as people walked past on the path. We didn’t get to the famous hexagon-shaped rocks of the giant’s causeway because the sun set, it started to get cold, and we headed back up the trail to The Nook restaurant that promised hot food, just halfway between the trail and our hostel. It was delicious and there was a cozy fireplace, a great end to our long day. The next morning after breakfast in the hostel, we headed back down the trail and just a little farther till we got to the great, geologically-puzzling rocks. They were so impressive in person. We wandered around, amazed, and wondered at how the rocks were formed, how long ago, how many more are hidden in the cliffs or washed away by the sea, and how they will one day be gone long from now. We realized to our amazement, that we were in view of the rocks the night before, and had no idea. They are entirely different from a distance. So, we spent a few more hours there and finally headed back up to The Nook for lunch, and got ready to catch the bus and start the long and tiring journey back home. We left Bushmills at 4:30pm, and eventually arrived in Dublin at 12:30am. Even though it was complicated and short and stressed me out, I was so glad we went on this little trip on our own. It showed me that we were capable of traveling without someone holding our hand, and I think the next trip we plan will be easier. I was also just so happy to see more of the country and experience how close so many lovely and interesting things are in Ireland. I can’t wait to see more. At the same time, I’m getting more of an urge to explore home when I get back. I love Oregon, it is such a gorgeous state and I live so close to so many great places that I’ve never explored. This is helping show me that I can go explore them more easily and cheaper than I thought before.

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Lisa Goes to Ireland: Week 7

Week seven has come to a close and I’m already embarking on week eight. It’s hard to imagine that this journey is already half way through when really, I feel like I’m just beginning.

When I made the decision to study abroad I wasn’t prepared for how much this experience would change me. As mentioned in a few of my other posts, I had this ideology in my head of what studying abroad would like , and so far, It’s been nothing like I could have imagined. Studying in in Ireland has been a beautiful experience, but it’s not all roses and daisies like I expected it to be. Some days are really hard, I get home sick and begin to regret my decision to come here.  Some days are very exciting-I do exploring and learn more about this gorgeous country, and other days are just normal, where I watch Netflix and burry my head in homework. I also feel like I’ve learned so much about who I am through this process. I’m in a foreign country, alone and it’s kind of bad-ass. I’ve learned how to live a much simpler lifestyle, to be far more appreciative of things I have back home. I’ve learned that doing things on my own is not as scary as I thought and that traveling alone is extremely fun. I think I was very narrow minded in how I thought this experience would be, so to discover it’s nothing as I imagined was a beautiful and eye-opening realization to come to.

I’ve very much enjoyed reading through the blog posts of other students on here. It’s nice to see that I’m not alone in my experiences and that other people share in the similar things I’ve faced. It’s also been a great source to connect to people who understand what I’m going through this process. In fact, I connected with a girl from WOU who’s studying in London and we’re meeting up this weekend! I couldn’t be more excited!

This last weekend I had the chance to visit Dublin. I spent much of my time going back with Sarah before I left for Ireland trying to decide if I should go to Dublin or Limerick and after having the chance to visit Dublin this weekend, I’m SO glad I chose Limerick. Dublin is a gorgeous city, but it’s huge.  It didn’t have the “Irish-feel” I would have expected. Even while I’m Ireland I’ve spent a lot of time wondering if I should have studies in Dublin instead {I play a lot of ‘what iffs’ but visiting Dublin solidified how happy I am with my decision to be living in Limerick. Don’t get me wrong through, Dublin was a blast!

Limerick is fairly small and in the countryside, it has mountains and lush greenery everywhere you look. Dublin city is just much larger. Though they have far more shops and stores that Limerick does. They also have Starbucks and after going nearly two months without it, I was in Heaven! I had the chance to see a lot of iconic and quasi-touristy places while I was in Dublin too. I saw the Book of Kells, Trinity College, and The Guinness Factory. When my made the decision to study abroad I didn’t have my hopes up to visit many other countries in Europe because I wanted to be present in Ireland. I wanted to learn, visit, and see Ireland. Though I am traveling during my time here, I do feel that I’ve gotten very acquainted with Ireland and have seen much of what it has to offer.

Over the next few weeks I’ll be traveling to London, Belfast, which is in Northern Ireland and Scotland. I absolutely LOVE that that program I’m studying abroad through has trips included in the program. It’s a great way to see Ireland when I may not have otherwise had the opportunity.


Week 6: Abby Goes to Peru!

I like to call this post: Asthma, Anxiety, and the Andes

Hello world!

Sorry I’ve been so quiet lately. We have been gearing up for midterms and are in midterm week now. I have not forgotten about you though! I have decided that I would write this post about my trip during week 6 to the Andes Mountains. I wrote in my journal about it this trip (27 pages, to be exact), so even though it took me awhile to write electronically, I have a documentation of the weekend that I am passing on to you now!

So the weekend began as soon as we could possibly leave. I had class until 8:40pm that Thursday and right after class ended I rushed home as fast as I possibly could. I got home and had 20 minutes before we had to leave for the bus station. And in those 20 minutes I changed my clothes, emptied my school bag, put my clothes that I had already laid out the night before into it, took my trashes out, recorded and uploaded a three minute speech for my public speaking class, and ate dinner. It was crazy! Our roommate called us a secure taxi (it isn’t very safe to take a street taxi at night, especially without a male), and we were off! We made it to the bus station, picked up our pre-paid tickets, and boarded the bus. Eight hours later, I woke up in the city of Huaraz, which is in the Andes. I remember putting my winter coat on in the middle of the night and still being very cold when I woke up the next morning. Which is understandable, considering we were surrounded by mountains. We found a hostel, ate breakfast, and then embarked on a journey to find a tour. We decided on a three day trek called Santa Cruz. Included was transportation to the National Park, donkeys to carry our bags and the included camping gear, two donkey drivers, a tour guide, a cook, and all of our meals, all for 220 soles, or about 69 USD! I was a bit nervous because I had no idea what to expect, but it ended up being incredible.

We spent the next three days in the mountains. Not any mountains though… The ANDES Mountains! It still blows my mind that this is my life and that I am so blessed to do these incredible things. So why did I subtitle this post Asthma, Anxiety, and the Andes? Well, my dear friends, that is because I had some asthma issues while up in the Andes. Which occasionally resulted in a bit of anxiety issues. I have known for almost two years that I have exercise-induced anxiety. This basically means that when I exert my lungs, they become inflamed and this can progress into an asthma attack. I had never had an anxiety attack before. That is, not until I decided to trek through the Andes mountains at extremely high altitudes (the highest point we climbed to was over 15,000 feet). Luckily I didn´t have a full asthma attack. All three incidents when I began to have an anxiety attack, I was able to recognize and stop it. This also meant recognizing and stoping anxiety attacks, because every time my asthma started to get bad, my anxiety would start to rise. It´s kind of scary not being able to breathe, so this is understandable, I think. Also, I had never had an anxiety attack before, so diving headfirst into this scary unknown was terrifying. Not to mention that each time I happened to be way behind everyone else and wouldn´t be able to get help if I were to have a serious episode. Luckily, I was able to recognize and stop these simultaneous asthma and anxiety attacks all three times. I am so grateful for this and for my tendency to pay good attention to my body and the signs it gives me.

I struggled with frustration about my weak lungs the whole trip and was trying to understand why God would give me lungs that aren´t strong enough to support me and all of the things I want to know. In my pondering and in my time trekking all alone through the mountains, I did learn a few things, with the answer to this question being one of them. It was as I was standing in the valley alone (aside from the wild horses and llamas), looking back at the towering mountain peak that I had just climbed over. I realized that if I had strong lungs and that if I had been able to keep up with my group, I probably wouldnt be able to appreciate the moment quite like I was right then. I am grateful for my weak lungs because they require me to stop more often and enjoy the moment, something that many of us forget to do in our hectic lives.

I am so blessed to be able to have had this opportunity to spend a few days in the Andes Mountains. I learned so much about myself and was able to accomplish so much while also rejuvinating my mind. To this day it is still my favorite trip I´ve been on thus far, and I imagine that it will continue to be one of my favorites for the rest of my life.

With care,



London Living

I’ve been having trouble trying to find a time to actually sit down and write my blog posts. I have been so busy the past few weeks and I know my schedule won’t be clearing up any time soon (I can sleep when I die, right?)

I spent this past weekend in Paris with a tour group that Roehampton recommends to all study abroad students. Paris was alright but I highly doubt I will ever revisit it there unless someone pays for my trip for me. The weather was disgusting when I was there. There was an overcast every day and it was freezing outside. The trip really made me realize how much I love live in London. I feel so much more comfortable here than I did in Paris. Although I did enjoy the bike tour of the city we went on. That was actually pretty fun and I didn’t fall once which was nice. My favorite part about my trip to France was the Gardens of Versailles. They were beautiful and I loved being able to explore the history there.

My least favorite part of Paris (besides the weather) was the sketchy environment. Paris wasn’t as dirty or smelly as I have been told but there are a lot of pick-pocketers and loitering every where you go. I kept a close watch on all my belongings and unlike here in London, I don’t think I would have felt safe exploring the city on my own. But that might also have something to do with the language barrier. It was very eyeopening for me to be in a place where the main language wasn’t English. Even though most people I talked with spoke English, it was different for me to be on the Metro and not hear a word of English. Now that I look back I am wondering if my views on Paris would be different had I spent more time there. It was such a big culture shock that I bet it would take a lot longer than three days for me to begin to settle in.

The weekend before I left for Paris I went to the Harry Potter Studio Tour here in England. It was so great! I grew up reading Harry Potter and watching the movies so being on the actual set brought my childhood to life and I absolutely loved it! When I turned into Diagon Alley I was so happy I shed a few tears. It was unreal. I could have spent all day in there but unfortunately the studio was about to close and we had to rush through the last half of the tour. It was so neat being able to see the actual stage sets and costumes used during all eight movies.

The same weekend I went to the studio tour I also spent a day traveling outside London. Me and a group of my friends decided to travel to Eastbourne and Brighton, two cities on the coast of England. We hiked up a huge mountain in Eastbourne that looked over the ocean one way and the town the other way. It was beautiful but I really regretted not bringing my inhaler with me. In Brighton we ate at a restaurant on the dock and I had the most delicious fish and chips ever! I also had a Nutella, Banana, and creme crepe from a small booth on the dock and it was the most amazing dessert I have ever tasted. We spent almost the entire day walking around so I didn’t feel an ounce of guilt eating the whole crepe myself.

I cannot believe I have been living in London for over a month already. I absolutely love it here. It really is beginning to feel like home. If I could move my family and friends and my little puppy Lilo over here I would never leave. I probably said that in my last blog post but that is because it is sooo true! It is hard for me to write about my experience here because there are no words that can actually describe my experience.

Since being here I have found a new love for coffee and pasta. Pasta is cheap to make and coffee keeps me functioning.

I would like to thank my mom for sending me American mac and cheese. I can’t wait to receive the next shipment. I already have Spam waiting in my room to be added to the yumminess. paris 12141745_10207696112710423_2743473808731709275_n 12111996_10207688925690752_7795065185867159546_n 12088030_10207712582282152_1357744591824542435_n

Am I actually in Ecuador right now?

I can’t help but still feel stunned that I’m finally here, meeting such wonderful people, and participating in adventures I’ll carry with me for the rest of my life.

Before I talk about the week and my weekend in Banos, here are some pictures from my weekend in Mindo that missed the cut last time:

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Here was the old grandpa horse that I got to ride for my first experience.


And here is a shot of me making my way down a 135 foot waterfall. The picture probably speaks for itself, but I was sufficiently drenched.

The rest of last week went wonderfully. I had some of the best ice cream I’ve ever had at a place called Crepes and Waffles. Since then we have already returned for delicious crepes, and a chocolate fondue plate that would probably cost like $35 in the US. $11 here seemed more than doable.

This weekend we took a 4 hour bus ride to the city of Banos. Much like the rest of Ecuador, the city is surrounded by massive mountains that seem to go directly upwards no matter where you turn.


Banos is one of Ecuador’s destinations for extreme sports. After having 3 exhausting weeks, we decided to take advantage of the more relaxing aspects of the area, but kept a look out for the activities we wanted to do when we return.

In Banos you can get an hour long Swedish massage for about $30, and a pedicure or manicure for $10. These are also the more expensive prices for such offers. I was a party-pooper and didn’t end up getting either, but I doubt I’ll leave this place without doing something of that nature.

This town definitely has a sweet tooth. Candy shops on every corner. Here you can watch vendors hang massive chunks of naturally flavored taffy, then pull and spin them out until soft and smooth. After that, you watch them twist the taffy into different shapes which you can buy packaged up.


Here is a guy doing the spinning of the taffy. The taste is delicious, and it’s better to turn a blind eye when it comes to the hand hygiene of the person making your sweets. (What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger, right?)

There’s also beautiful scenery that you can hike around. And if you’re real adventurous, you can look at that scenery while jumping off of a 10 story bridge with a single rope harnessed around your waste. We decided to pass on that. However, on the way to a fun hike called El Pailon Del Diablo (Devil’s Cauldron), our cab driver stopped along the way to show off 7 of Banos’ most famous waterfalls. Now don’t repeat this, but Oregon definitely has Ecuador beat in this department. I had to keep my mouth shut as tourists from around the world “ooo’d” and “aww’d” at waterfalls (cascadas) that don’t even begin to compare to those we see just a short drive from Eugene or Portland.


However, the Devil’s Cauldron was spectacular. A short but steep hike takes you to a peek above an incredibly large and strong waterfall that gushes around and down into a canyon, making water spray up in every direction. From here you can take a slippery stairwell down into the center of the canyon and get your shower for the day, or you can crawl up through a dark canal to a higher lookout point, or you can take a slightly sketchy draw bridge across the cauldron and get a bird’s eye view.

I really enjoy touristy towns for multiple reasons, but one of them is the fantastic vegetarian food offered that is no where to be found in Quito. Here in Banos they even offered pasta with tofu and quinoa burgers. Not to mention the fantastic freshly squeezed juice or smoothies you get all over Ecuador for about $0.75. With that price, it’s really difficult not to get one every day.


The greenery in this country feels like home in Oregon. Although the mountains are crazier than I’ve ever seen back in the states, the constant vegetation is incredibly comforting.

In Banos you can go to the Casa Del Arbol (house of the tree) and swing from a spot called “The Swing at the Edge of the Earth.” So of course, we couldn’t pass up the opportunity. After securing yourself into a swing attached to a tree house, you pick your feet up from a ramp and swing out over the side of a mountain. For the majority of the experience you’re truly flying through air, with nothing below you for hundreds of feet.


While waiting your turn on the unregulated swing, you could also try and balance on some random pieces of wood that remind me a lot of the kid’s jungle gyms at the preschool.


Banos was fun and interesting, but it was nice to make it back home on Sunday to relax, get some dinner, and prepare for the upcoming week that is currently my last with the kiddos.


Although they can be incredibly aggravating, they can be even more sweet. I’m going to miss getting tackled by 30 little bodies every morning yelling “Buenos Dias Profesora McKenzie!” And having to wash my hands a million times because they pick their nose then hold my hand. They also love to “wash” their hands and then shove them straight in my face because they think I need to smell the antibacterial soap.

The letters “McK” and “McC” never appear together in the Spanish language (too my knowledge). This makes my name exceptionally difficult for most adults here to pronounce. So it’s pretty adorable listening to the little ones try so hard to call me by my name. They end up pronouncing it: “MAH-KHAN-SY.” Close enough :)

Some other random but interesting pieces of the culture:

-Even if you pay for a non-stop bus ride, you have to be prepared for multiple stops on what seem to be random highways to pick up hitch hikers that wave money to show they’re willing to pay the bus driver. If there are no seats available, they’ll be invited to sit up front with the driver. Most bus drivers also allow street vendors to climb on the bus and shove products in your face while you’re trying to sleep. Obviously I’m not much of a fan of that.

-Ecuador, and I’m assuming the majority of Latin America, has a very beautiful appreciation and acceptance for the human body. You’re likely to find murals and sculptures in almost any town of pregnant women captured as Mother Earth, couples dancing, and even just poses of the naked body. Even the women here seem to be accepted for all their shapes and sizes much more than you would ever see in the United States. There’s definitely a sensual vibe to the majority of the artwork, but I think it’s pretty beautiful. They have even found preserved pottery and paintings from the Incas and early humans in South America the capture the vulnerability of the human body and sexual poses in a very matter-of-fact way. I think it’s somewhat ridiculous that the United States is so obsessed when it comes to sex in pornographic ways, but so prude when it comes to appreciating the human body without over-sexualizing it or accepting it in its natural forms.

-Movies here are absolutely all North American films. Then you either have the choice of Spanish subtitles, OR Spanish voices dubbed over the English speaking actors. Sometimes that means the same voice for every character in the movie, no madder the age or gender.

-Every hostel we have been to here has had some sort of pet roaming the halls and entertainment areas. I LOVE it. I miss my kitties a lot, so it feels nice to snuggle up to an animal once in a while. Even if that animal’s name is Tarzan and wants nothing to do with you.

-For being the very religious, and what I would consider conservative, country that Ecuador is, there are a decent amount of actions and laws that surprise me. Here, both prostitution and marijuana are legal. I’m not fully up to date on the rules that it entails, or whether or not this is seen as progressive by anyone, but it’s not what I would typically expect. The bathrooms in the school that I’m working at are also gender-neutral. One big bathroom shared by all kids without the unnecessary emphasis on gender roles and expectations. I love it. (I also worked with the 5 year olds today on the human body. I was so happy to see the teacher speak about genitalia just as casually as you would an arm or a leg. It’s totally unnecessary to add all this explicit adult content to a body part to make the child get the impression it is somehow dirty or wrong. So way to go public schools in Ecuador for just teaching it how it is).

-The sidewalks in Quito desperately need some attention. If I’m not constantly looking down at my feet, I’m rolling an ankle. I wear my calf-high boots when walking longer distances to try and protect myself from breaking something (knock on wood).


(that’s a sidewalk)

-After beginning my research about health in the United States and Ecuador, I wanted to share a few statistics that hopefully remind us back in the US how lucky the majority of us truly are: Ecuador’s childhood mortality rate is 24 in 1000 kids, over three times higher than the US. Over 92% of children in the United States have access to a measles vaccines while less than 65% of kids in Ecuador have that opportunity. Ecuador’s maternal mortality rate is over 5 times higher than the US’s, and while very few deaths have been due to tuberculosis in the US, the numbers in Ecuador are over 35 times higher.


Many of you may know by now, but I have recently purchased plane tickets to Cusco, Peru in December to cross Machu Picchu off my bucket list. Traveling with me is my Aunt Anna and friend Blake. It will be so nice to travel with some familiar faces.


Alright, that’s it for now! Chao from Quito!


Week 5 London 2k15

Hello all,

This week has been a bit less exciting, but still wonderful. At the beginning of last week I spent some time in Central exploring Buckingham Palace and the stuff nearby and then met up with a friend for dinner. (Note: the guards/police here look really scary but are actually incredibly friendly and are always happy to take a selfie with you.) Most of the rest of the week was spent with school and partying. We had an international students dinner Friday and then went to a bar afterward. Saturday was social programme. Sunday was spent with one of my flat mates exploring Hyde Park and then grabbing some dinner in Central.

As I said, Saturday I had social programme and this week we went to Cambridge! It was stunning. In England each individual university is made up of some number of colleges. The one I am studying at has four, while Cambridge has 31! Most of the colleges were closed but we were able to tour one. I felt like I was in Harry Potter. All the walks were cobblestone, the buildings were all brick, and there was an adorable canal running right through the middle. Many of the students at the uni spend the weekend punting to make extra money. This is a way of pushing a boat in which you dig a large pole/stick into the ground over and over again to make your way along the canal. Tourists pay to be pushed around in these little boats and that’s how they make their money. Although I did not ride in one of the boats, I did spend quite some time watching.

My sleep schedule is a complete mess. I usually go to bed around 2-3am and then don’t wake up until mid afternoon. I keep telling myself that I need to get this under control but it is so hard. Everyone here stays up late and a lot goes on at night. I think it is part of the culture as no matter where you go, public transportation is always busy late at night no matter the day of the week. A friend and I were joking that we will be on fairly normal sleep schedules when we return home, except me a day behind and him a day ahead (he is from Australia).

This upcoming weekend is my first trip out of the UK and I am SO nervous as I will be spending half of the trip traveling solo. Next week is reading week which means we do not have any classes, so I figured it was the perfect time to do my first trip. I am going to Brussels, Bruges, Amsterdam and Berlin. I will be gone for six nights. I am really looking forward to seeing more of Europe and experiencing life outside of London. I hope that everything goes smoothly and that traveling alone ends up being not as scary as I am imagining. Wish me luck!

Cheers, Mackenzie


Buckingham Palace


China Town- where we had our international students dinner


Cambridge. The people standing on the back of the boat are doing the punting.

Lisa goes to Ireland: Week 6

It’s hard to think that week five have already passed me by, and I’m embarking on week six. My journey is almost half way over and yet I feel like I’m just beginning. I had this ideology in my head of what studying abroad would look like and if I’ve learned anything over the last few weeks, it’s that things aren’t always how they appear.  Although I’m an introvert who doesn’t drink, I imagined that would suddenly change while I was here. That would suddenly go out to parties all the time, meet new people constantly, drink in bars till all hours of the night and that regardless of what I was doing, it would always be an adventure. That too is not the case. Studying abroad has been a beautiful experience, I’ve met new people, I’ve had adventures, but I’ve also spent quality time inside, with my self. I haven’t drank or gone to bars that many times while I’ve been here, and though that was how I imagined it to be, I’m okay that it’s not.

The last few weeks have been stressful, hence my lack of writing on my blog. I’ve more or less quit my job back home, have been applying relentlessly for new ones, while also trying to find a new place to live (bless my sister’s heart who has taken the reigns on finding me a place to live and moving me in while I’m gone). I was also offered a job, but because I’m in Ireland I had to decline. I’ve felt as though my life was passing me by in Oregon, and here I am in Ireland unable to do anything about it. I almost began to regret traveling abroad. I’d see pictures of my friends back home and I so desperately wished I was with them. It was as though I was trying so hard to live my life as if I was back in the states, that I forgot about the life I have here in Ireland and the incredible opportunity I have to be studying over here. A friend of mine has a tattoo that says, “breath in the moment”. I use to mock him relentlessly for it, but now I finally understand the meaning behind it. It’s the idea of being present wherever you are,to soak in and appreciate the here and now.  Since coming to that realization, my outlook on this experience has certainly changed.

This last week I decided to take full advantage of being in Ireland. My roommate and I visited the sweet little town of Ennis on Friday which is about an hour away from Limerick.  My favorite part about visiting new towns is the bus ride getting there. I love driving through Ireland and seeing the beautiful scenery. Ennis was a picturesque town with colored houses and adorable shops. Everyone was so nice too. Correction, everyone in Ireland is nice period, not just in Ennis. We visited a small coffee shop that had drinking chocolate. {if you don’t know the difference, I highly recommend you try it. It’s like hot chocolate but it’s made with real chocolate. Once you try it, you will never drink regular hot chocolate again}. The owner also set out complimentary blankets outside so you could drink your beverage outside and still be warm.   On Saturday my study abroad program went to Kilkenny which is about two hours from where I live.  There was only 2 people from my school going (the rest go to Dublin University so the taxi driver was so thoughtful and made stops along the way so we could see more Ireland. We stopped at a couple of castles along the way, which was fun. In Kilkenny we went to Kilkenny castle which a phenomenal sight to see. We also visited the Smithwick’s brewery. Smithwick’s is a very popular beer here. Personally, I thought it tasted like Bud Light, which is gross. No thank you! We did however get a free pint so I don’t have much to complain about (: The great thing about doing a study abroad program is that there are trips included in the cost. It really gives you the opportunity to see places that you may otherwise not have the chance to see.

I’ve made it a point to start exploring more of Ireland. It hit me the other day that I only have two more months is this beautiful country. The way of life is just completely different. It’s a slower pace, people are so friendly, friendly, generous, and always happy to strike up a conversation. People are traditional in their ways, and the kindness that is shown to strangers is unreal.  I’m feeling nostalgic for it and missing it already.

The most adorable little coffee shop in Ennis.

The most adorable little coffee shop in Ennis.

The sweet little town of Ennis.

The sweet little town of Ennis.


I have never seen anything as beautiful as Ireland in the Fall.

I have never seen anything as beautiful as Ireland in the Fall.

A few of my friends from Dublin University. It's crazy to think that at the end of this journey I will have friends froma all over the word.

A few of my friends from Dublin University. It’s crazy to think that at the end of this journey I will have friends froma all over the word.

Smithwick's brewery. The beer wassn't so wonderful, but it was awesome to learn about its history see the facility.

Smithwick’s brewery. The beer wassn’t so wonderful, but it was awesome to learn about its history see the facility.

Killkenny Castle

Killkenny Castle

Rolling hills of Ireland. This is exactly how I imagined Ireland to be. The pictures don't serve as justice to how beautiful this country is.

Rolling hills of Ireland. This is exactly how I imagined Ireland to be. The pictures don’t serve as justice to how beautiful this country is.

Week 4 London living

Currently in bed after a great but veerry late night last night. I feel so much more lively here than at WOU, hope that is okay to say…

It was a but of a rough week with actual assignments due for the first time which included a 1200-1500 word paper for my Philosophy of Religion class and worksheets for Linguistics. Very happy to be done for the week.

Probably going into Central tomorrow for a wander and to pick up my new pair of glasses I apparently need. Also my friends from Sweden are in London for the weekend so spending the day with them on Saturday and showing them around London and doing a pub crawl in the evening which will be lovely.

I am so happy here but I suppose the only thing is having a proper routine. I stayed up so late last night which means I woke up really late and still might have a nap or go to bed earlier than normal. A nighttime routine is proving difficult for a lot of my friends though because some of them go out every opportunity. I don’t know if I will just get used to it or I will eventually have some kind of routine. All part of Uni life though :)

Week Three!

Yet again, a week late with my blog post!

Third week of classes gone by, the year is already going by so fast. My classes are starting to get more demanding and I will have more independent work this weekend but having classes only two days a week means I have plenty of time!

I went into Central on my own on Monday which was so nice. I love London so much and as hopefully my future home, I want to get it to know it more. I needed a book for French so I found a bookshop on Charing Cross to get it, having lunch on the way. The weather wasn’t ideal but being from Seattle a little rain was’t a big deal. It was nice to be in Central on my own and go at my own pace and even getting lost once or twice was fine because then I will learn more about the city.

Need to go in again on Friday for an eye test at Specsavers and then spending the say with aunties in Surrey which I am really looking forward to. It is amazing how comfortable I feel here and how much like home it feels.

Weekend in Mindo

**I was not able to rotate some of the pictures for some reason. Sorry, so frustrating.**

Despite getting over a stomach bug and then developing a small cold, I had a fantastic weekend–probably in the top 10 best weekends of my life.

The four of us interns spent all of Friday exploring Quito because Kristina, the latest intern to arrive, had yet to really see the city. We toured La Basilica, Ecuador’s tallest church, and climbed all the way to the top and looked out over the entire city.

image3 image4

Lauren has a friend from the United States that lives in Quito, so we got to spend Friday evening with her, her boyfriend, and her boyfriend’s friend. As much as I enjoy hanging out with our Spanish teachers and Rosita, the house mother, it was nice to spend time with people our own age that knew the city. While with these people we got into a tiny fender-bender in a parking garage, where we MAY have gotten our car’s paint onto another parked car. I spent the next 45 minutes using my sweater and some dish soap getting the paint out, and sure enough, the security guard let us leave without leaving our information! When we came back, he said the owner never noticed a thing…Now perhaps this was SLIGHTLY unethical, but in our defense, I guess that’s just kind of how things roll over here.

We planned on taking the Teleferico, a cable car, that goes up one of Quito’s highest mountains that looks over the city, but at about 5pm Quito got it’s first rain in months, and the cloud cover was too thick for a good view. So we will have to go back another time. However, I DID see a 10 foot tall, glow in the dark, dancing robot at a bar that night. So that kind of makes up for it.

Saturday morning we went to Mindo, which is 2 hours North West of Quito and puts us right in the rainforest. SO BEAUTIFUL. Our hostel was a cabin, and we got to our room by climbing up a ladder. Once inside, there were huge windows looking out into the trees…it was literally like a treehouse. We had a blast. It was also right next to the river where I got to see an amazing sunrise and tons of birds.

This was the view from our beds. Told you, totally a treehouse. AND HOT WATER — best part about hostels is not having to take cold showers.


While in Mindo we made sure to fill our time with as much activities as possible. Lauren and I went horseback riding through the forest/jungle, which is a really big deal for me. Not only am I terrified of horses, but it was also my first time riding one. It’s probably safe to say I won’t have a better experience in that department. Which I’m okay with.

After that we repelled down a waterfall, which I didn’t expect to be so scared of, but once I got up there, saw the equipment, saw the 135+ foot WATERFALL, and then the guide only spoke in Spanish to explain the procedure, I started to panic. And luckily, I have a gopro video of the entire thing capturing my moments of pure terror. However, it did NOT capture the moment where I saw the person below, that was supposed to be securing the other end of the rope, NOT holding the rope, and TEXTING. Thank goodness I didn’t let go right? :)


View of the Mindo rainforest


Post-waterfall repelling

Oh, and this was our method of transportation all weekend:


Riding in style

After cleaning up from repelling, and taking a zipline swing across the river, we toured a local chocolate factory. There they grow the fruit, cut it open, harvest the beans, ferment them, then turn them into chocolate. We got to see the whole process, and the best part was the samples at the end. Who knew chocolate, chili powder, and ginger went so good together?

We finished the evening with a fantastic dinner (freshly made pizza, we watched the guy go cut off the vegetables) and some dancing. The people here are amazing dancers. It’s seems to be part of growing up. Like learning to tie your shoes, you learn to dance. There was live music in the park and I watched a 3 year old with way better dance moves than I will ever hope to have. Luckily, the majority of the locals find my two left feet endearing–or at least they pretend to :)

Sunday was filled with more relaxing activities. We visited a butterfly reserve, hiked in a nice German couple’s back yard (the bugs were not so nice. I was bit by fire ants), drank lemon grass tea on a balcony, and observed some of Mindo’s many bird species.



We also spent the time taking advantage of some of the best snacks I’ve been offered. I had helado de paila (kind of like a sorbet) inside quinoa pudding…very interesting. But the food that stole the show was the grilled corn and bananas, dunked in sauce and cheese (not cheddar cheese–I wish). The corn here, called “choclo,” is massive, much lighter in color and texture, and almost fluffy. SO good. A lady and her husband sold them at a small market along with chicken kabobs.


Grilled bananas are really common here. It makes the texture very interesting, and makes them about 5 times as sweet. The sauce and cheese was a good touch to taming down the sugar.

We got home late Sunday night, the bust taking almost two hours longer than usual due to the massive amount of wrecks on the road. It was a holiday weekend over here, so there were at least triple the amount of travelers. Sadly, that created some fatalities.

As I already told some family members, I’m not yet homesick, however I miss the normalcy and familiarity of home, where things are just easy. Stores have more than one product, I don’t have to worry about who prepared my food and how they did it, I could drive myself around when I wanted, where I wanted, etc. It’s exhausting being in a new country, learning so much EVERY DAY. I’m constantly being aware of my surroundings, watching the culture with curiosity, translating everything I can in my head, all while making new friends and working and going to school. However, today I was able to find a Subway and it was a little piece of heaven. Funny what 15 minutes in a familiar setting can do for your psyche.

The preschoolers are hilarious. And by hilarious I mean devil children. Haha no they’re sweet…but then sometimes they’re not. Half of them just want to love on me and share their snacks and hear “muy bien! Lindo!” when they show me their coloring books. The OTHER half want me to cry myself to sleep at night I’m pretty sure. :) They have caught on that I don’t know a ton of Spanish, so when I give orders they’ll be like “what was that? I don’t think you’re saying that right. I don’t understand you.” Even though I KNOW my classroom commands are fine…I use them A LOT. They’re a handful, but I love them all. Even when they take sewing needles and put them pointing upwards on the carpet under my desk…

However, today I started to notice some of the issues the kids and teachers are facing. Although the school puts on a good front, they’re very poor. The teacher I’m helping was distraught today when she realized she only had enough funds for either 1) classroom paper or 2) a clean water dispenser for the kids. A little boy also showed me bruises on his arms and told me he was scared to go home because he “wasn’t strong.” This brought me to tears. Protecting children here doesn’t work like it does in the US. The parents would be notified about the accusation and likely take their kid out of school. If there truly is abuse in the household, it would likely get worse in this situation, and then the child wouldn’t have the five hours of a safe place to play. So unfortunately, it’s likely safer for the child if action was not taken. So while wrestling with this dilemma, I just reminded him that he was safe here and very loved.

Tomorrow I start a research project analyzing the children’s health and comparing it to children’s health in the United States. Then I will look at the accuracy and availability of vaccinations in both the US and Ecuador to draw further conclusions on why their health may differ.

Here are some more things I’ve noticed while being here:

-There are just as many female police officers as male police officers…Maybe even more. Which is SO unlike the United States. I’d like to know the reasoning behind that trend, but whatever the reason, it seems pretty cool.

-You can only buy liquid yogurt here. Like in a cup that you drink.

-Ecuadorians like to put pineapple in everything apparently. Which isn’t awesome for me, considering I’m allergic and all.

-The snacks and sweets lack all the additives and artificial ingredients that are in the US. I’ve unintentionally lost a little bit of weight from the fresher food and the huge amount of walking we do.

-Taxi drivers don’t pick you up if it’s raining and you’re soaked. So you’re screwed.

-Sometimes what get’s lost in translation can be hilarious. The Spanish verb “molestar” means “too annoy” or “too bother.” Luckily, we knew this in Mindo when a store owner came up and told us in English he was not trying to “molest” us. We didn’t have the heart to tell the guy he wasn’t saying what he thought he was. We just thanked him for telling us his intentions. Lol it’s fine because last week I was trying to ask if the juice had pineapple in it (pina) but instead asked if it had penis in it (pene). Awesome.

Well that’s all for now! Happy Wednesday!